"People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated."

- D.A. Carson
Posts From Our Blogroll
From internetmonk.com
Saturday Ramblings: October 1, 2016


1955 Nash Rambler 4-door Cross Country wagon

October has always been my favorite month to ramble. When we were first married and living in Vermont, the fall was the best time of year — mountains ablaze with color, sapphire blue skies, fresh apple cider, and all manner of quaint little villages to visit as we wound around those ramblin’ roads.

I still love it, and would love to take this autumnal-looking ’55 wagon on a road trip.

Whaddya say? Let’s ramble!

• • •

I always think of the Reformation and Martin Luther when October arrives. So, each week during the month here on SR we will include a Luther insult that you can enjoy and use in your web interactions (in Christian love, of course). These come from that awesomely magnificent site, The Luther Insulter.

My friends, this is what Sola Fide will get ya.


• • •


A baby with three “parents” — is this ethical?

What was the real offense behind the Great Schism?

Did you know the real story behind those amazing Dyson hand dryers?

Are Tullian Tchvidjian and ExPastors playing it straight?

What is the scariest things about health care in America today?

What are the best pop/rock songs of the 2000’s? (Hard for me to take this list seriously when “Impossible Germany” isn’t even on it.)

• • •


Arnie would have loved this…

American golf fan David Johnson was watching Team Europe golf pros on the practice green at the Ryder Cup this week. Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson were struggling with a 12-foot putt that neither of them could make, despite repeated efforts. Johnson yelled out that he could make it, and to his surprise, Stenson pulled him out of the crowd and gave him a chance.

Teammate Justin Rose turned up the pressure by laying a $100 bill on the ground next to the ball.

Remarkably, in front of the watching crowd and a team of some of the best golfers on the planet, he sized up the putt…and sank it!

To the replay:

Afterwards, Johnson said these immortal words, words everyone who has stood over a meaningful putt will understand: “I closed my eyes, swallowed my puke and hit the putt, and it happened to go in.”

• • •


220px-esvstudybibleCrossway has reversed its decision to make the ESV Bible text permanent. Jeremy Weber at CT reports:

The publisher of the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible has reversed its controversial decision to finalize the text after tweaking 29 verses.

“We have become convinced that this decision was a mistake,” stated Crossway president and CEO Lane Dennis in an announcement released today. “We apologize for this and for any concern this has caused for readers of the ESV, and we want to explain what we now believe to be the way forward. Our desire, above all, is to do what is right before the Lord.”

Last month, Crossway had announced that they had “closed the book” on future revisions, saying, “We desired for there to be a stable and standard text that would serve the reading, memorizing, preaching, and liturgical needs of Christians worldwide from one generation to another.”

However, scholars such as Tremper Longman criticized the decision, saying that (1) advances in scholarship regarding the text will be ignored, and (2) the ever-changing nature of the English language will render the ESV outdated for future readers.

No word about whether they would ever consider changing their controversial decision to re-translate Genesis 3:16, which critics asserted reflected the translators’ complementarian position on gender roles and not an accurate translation of the text.

• • •



The owner of the famous Manhattan Jewish restaurant, The Carnegie Deli, announced this week that it would be closing on Dec. 31 this year.

Though in recent years, the deli has become more of a tourist destination than a favorite hang-out for New Yorkers, this announcement marks the end of one of the city’s most recognized landmarks.

Alan Feuer at the NY Times describes it like this:

With its linoleum floors and animal protein odors, the Carnegie Deli was never fine dining, but the seedy lighting and eclectic checkerboard of celebrity photos (from the quarterback Y. A. Tittle to the Fonz, Henry Winkler) gave the place a homey sort of drop-ceiling charm.

The brand will carry on through a family-owned meat processing facility and commercial bakery in New Jersey, along with a scattering of licensed locations around the U.S.

The Carnegie Deli elicits a sense of old New York nostalgia in one of my favorite films of all time, Woody Allen’s Broadway Danny Rose. Here is A.O. Scott’s video review of that film, and as, you can see, the deli plays a prominent role in bringing back a world that may never really have existed, except in our minds and hearts.

• • •








• • •


Finally, I have never had kidney stones, never wanted to have kidney stones, hope I never have to deal with kidney stones. I have a female friend who has been suffering with one for the past couple of weeks and I know even more than ever, I don’t want anything to do with kidney stones.

Hear that, kidney stones?!

But if, by some chance, I ever get kidney stones (no! no! please! no!), I know what I’m going to do.

I’m going to have someone drive me over to Cedar Point, the amusement park in Ohio, home of the world’s finest roller coasters. And I’m going to go straight to the greatest roller coaster I’ve ever ridden: The Millennium Force. Why? Because a team of Michigan State researchers has determined that riding a roller coaster can help people pass kidney stones.

So, kidney stones — beware! Because this is what I’m gonna do to you if you ever come around…

From Overcoming Our Genes

Philippians 2:10-11

What in the world is going on?  There are shootings, twitter wars, road rage, disobedient children, serious crime, and war in the news every day.  Christianity is declining and atheists, Marxists, and communist are looked up to.  Well, now we know why humanity can never get it right.  We have free will.  God will give us over to depraved minds if we don’t repent and turn to Him, (Romans 1:28).

Somebody needs to do something about all those who have been given over to depraved minds and are wondering around confused.  Maybe a “net force” should be formed. If someone is acting irrationally a net could be thrown over them.  (We really do need some spider men.)

It was back in the 60’s that I quit teaching because I discovered that the majority of children are strong willed and I did not have the energy to deal with them every day.  They need boundaries to push on and I was tired.  I’m amazed that God hasn’t gotten tired and just zapped humanity.  But it is coming. 

Meanwhile we hold on to Jesus and keep our eyes on Him because looking at the circumstances keeps us up at night! Here is a well-written blog about the current race problem that is going on in our nation. 

From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: October 1, 2016

“All her life, Sophie had been taught that books are precious. Each one holds people and worlds. Each one is a piece of someone’s heart and mind that they chose to share. They were shared dreams.” ~The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst


Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

From Jared C. Wilson
Video: The Pastor as Shepherd


I was honored to close out the third annual For The Church Conference at Midwestern Seminary this week with a message from John 21 titled “The Pastor as Shepherd” (the fifth of five sessions making up the conference theme, Portraits of a Pastor). Video of my message is embedded below, or you can visit here to see an index of all the messages.

From Brandywine Books
Who Has Authority to Speak on a Subject?

Min Hyoung Song, an English professor at Boston College, focuses much of his time on Chinese-American literature and has written this review of book that contrasts two China-focused authors, one a Pulitzer and Nobel winner, the other struggling for any attention at all. He asks:

What does it mean to be serious? Or, more specifically, how does a subject get to be something (or someone) worth speaking about? Who gets to speak about this subject and be accepted as someone who knows what he or she is talking about? What forms can this authority take, and in what kinds of contexts? Pearl S. Buck’s wild successes and H. T. Tsiang’s wild failures are the two extremes.

Those are good questions for any subject, and the answer seems to have much to do with personal trust and connection. An author or teacher may have good, or what would be fair to call “the right,” answers on a topic but fail to connect with his readers. Without such a connection, no one will trust him to know what he’s talking about. On the other hand, that person who has gained his readers’ trust can be wrong about many things and still be considered an authority. Personal trust is the key. (via ALDaily)

From Brandywine Books
Report from Minot

I’ve taken a few pictures here, but I’ve done that on my Kindle Fire. And I haven’t worked out how to get a photo from there to WordPress. So you may have to wait until I get home for visuals.

In the two years I’ve been away from Norsk Hostfest, Minot, North Dakota, the Viking exhibit has changed. We’re now in a new building (a horse barn) which we share with the Sami cultural people, in relative amity and accord. Various Viking groups are now represented, which makes the whole thing more educational and interesting, at least in my opinion.

A problem with this venue is that it’s a little remote. We’re a long way from the entrance, and people seem to have trouble making their way through the two covered walkways that eventually lead to us.

I’m not doing any fighting this year. They imported some Canadians for that purpose. Although I found the interruptions for fight shows annoying in the past, I’m finding it a little boring this year just to sit through the day, trying to impersonate an author.

Book sales, I fear, have been from hunger.

From Semicolon
The Skeleton Tree by Iain Lawrence

Alaska. Boat capsized. Two teens marooned on the coast with no means of communication. Survival fiction. If these are your buzzwords, The Skeleton Tree should be your next read. It’s not as feel-good as the classic, My Side of the Mountain, but it is a well written, as far as I can tell well researched, survival story about two boys who learn to cooperate in spite of their deep differences.

Chris is twelve. His father just died a year before the book begins, and his Uncle Jack wants to take him on a sailing adventure down the Alaska coast from Kodiak. When Chris arrives to join Uncle Jack on the boat, he finds that there is another person on the boat, a sixteen year old boy named Franklin. Almost immediately after they cast off, with the boys’ questions about each other still unanswered, a storm overtakes the sailboat, and tragedy strikes. Uncle Jack is lost at sea, and the two boys must survive in the wilderness with bears, wolves, and imminent starvation as their immediate adversaries. Unfortunately, Frank is a bully and a braggart, and Chris is a boy who is used to being bullied, but tired of taking it. So, their relationship and lack of cooperation threaten to be more of an impediment to their survival than the outside dangers.

I was impressed with the details in this book about how to (or how not to) start a fire, how to treat an infected wound, how to catch salmon and preserve it, and other survival skills. The author says that he lived on the coast of British Columbia for many years within sight of Alaska and that he learned a lot about living in that “surprisingly wild” environment. The title, Skeleton Tree, is taken from the tree that the boys find that is a Native American burial ground, for lack of a better term. The skeletons of dead people are in coffins wedged in the tree, not buried and not on the ground. According to the author who got his information from a book about Alaskan history by Charles Haddock, “tree burials were once common in Alaska.” Mr. Lawrence also recounts his story of once having seen a still-living skeleton tree himself somewhere on the Northern Pacific coast.

The book is older middle grade or young adult with some difficult family situations referenced, but not described in detail. I’d say any fan of survival stories from age twelve to sixteen or seventeen might want to check this one out.

From Brandywine Books
Friday Fight: Spears Deul

From Overcoming Our Genes

Jared C. Wilson is one of my favorite writers.  I followed his blog that he wrote with some friends called "Thinklings," until they abandoned it. (Yes, I forgive them.  I'm not bitter!) They are all fans of C. S. Lewis.  In his blog today he writes about how Christians flourish when they give all the glory to God.  Other religions flourish when they try to work their way to heaven.  

It is not a guarantee that Christians will do everything right when they are under pressure.  I know that real believers will get caught up in trying to run the race without God, and will blow it.  David in the Old Testament, was a Jew of course, but he had been anointed by Samuel to become the next king of Israel.  He almost blew it when he threatened to kill Abigail's husband and all of her family because her husband would not give David any food for him and his men.  She saved her family and her husband by giving David food.  He thanked her for preventing him from making a big mistake.  So Christians need to stick together so that we can hold each other accountable and grow in faith.  Click here to read Jared's blog.

From Semicolon
The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlan

Patricia MacLachlan wrote the wonderful, Newbery award winning book, Sarah, Plain and Tall. Sarah is her most successful and most read novel. The books for children that she has written since Sarah, aside from the sequels to that novel, have mostly been innovative and different and even quirky, but just not as accessible and not as captivating as Sarah.

The Poet’s Dog follows in this same vein, interesting but not exactly an instant classic or even a best seller. The story is about a talking dog, an Irish wolfhound, who rescues two children who are stranded in a snowstorm. I don’t quite understand why the children decide to leave the car where their mother left them when she went to look for help. They say, “People came and knocked on the car windows, telling us the car was going to be towed off the road before it got covered with snow.” So the children left the car in a blizzard? Why would people knock on the car windows and then leave two children there in the snow? Why would the children not wait for the tow truck to help them get to somewhere safe? Or wait for their mother to come back? Nicholas is twelve years old, old enough to know better than to go off with his little sister into a blizzard.

That bit of illogic aside, the dog is sweet. He used to belong to a poet named Sylvan who lived in a cabin in the woods, low technology and high on the poetic, free spirit, Wendell Berry kind of a life. But Sylvan is gone, and the dog, Teddy, lives alone in the cabin until he finds the two children. Teddy can talk, but the only people who can hear him are poets and children. Nice touch.

I also liked the references to picture books and the recognition that many good picture book texts are also poems. Specifically, Sylvan says that Ox-cart Man by Donald Hall is one of his favorite poems. Other poetic picture books: Summer Is . . . by Charlotte Zolotow (almost anything by Charlotte Zolotow), Wake Up, City by Alvin Tresselt, The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown, Umbrella by Taro Yashima, A Good Day by Kevin Henkes, Madeleine by Ludwig Bemelmans. Actually, most of the picture books that are more about the language, and the rhythm of reading the book aloud, and the word pictures than they are about plot and characters are really little illustrated poems. That’s not an original thought with me or with Ms. MacLachlan, but it was a nice thought to be reminded of.

In the end, though, this book had several “nice touches” but not much substance. I can’t see it being popular with dog lovers, in spite of Teddy’s cuteness, or beginning readers, in spite of the large, sparse text and abbreviated length (88 pages), or poetry fans, in spite of the poetry connection. Maybe eight to ten year old poetry fans who like short books with talking animals? How many of those are out there?

From Jared C. Wilson
How Christianity Flourishes

desertChristian mission has always thrived by surging in the margins and under the radar. When we somehow get into positions of power, the wheels always come off. This is pretty much the way it’s always been. I once heard Steve Brown relate this story on the radio: “A Muslim scholar once said to a Christian, ‘I cannot find anywhere in the Qur’an that it teaches Muslims how to be a minority presence in the world. And I cannot find anywhere in the New Testament where it teaches Christians how to be a majority presence in the world.’”

Indeed, as Christianity spread throughout the first few centuries as a persecuted minority people, the conversion of Constantine paved the way for its becoming the official state religion of the Roman Empire by the end of the fourth century. That’s quite a turnaround for some backwater sect splintering off an oppressed Palestinian Judaism. But as my old religion professor in college, M. B. Jackson, used to say, “When everyone’s a Christian, no one is.” And once Christianity became the official religion, the church lost its prophetic voice and its vibrancy.

Many religions, like Islam for example, seem to thrive on conquest and power. Christianity grows best under hardship. There are more Christians in China today, for instance, where free expression of faith is illegal, than the total population of the United States. Christianity is in decline in America, and Christendom is already in ruins in Europe, but in the East and in Africa, where it is new, a grassroots movement, and/or under persecution, it is spreading like wildfire.

I sometimes wonder if God has set the growth of Christianity to work this way to keep in the forefront of our minds the treasure and glory of heaven over and above the treasure and glory of earth. Jesus sets the tone for Christians’ quiet mission this way:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matt. 6:1–4)

Unlike other religions, where good works are central to success, Christianity proclaims the glory of Jesus Christ and his work, and the good works of his followers become the beautiful dust stirred up in our following him wherever he goes. Christians are not earning their salvation with their good deeds; they are working it out (Phil. 2:12).

Since Christians believe that the work of salvation is already accomplished by Jesus, and there is nothing left for them to do to contribute to this work, they are now free to unselfconsciously love and serve others without worrying about recognition or reward. They will be vindicated in heaven, even if they are violated here.

Christians are called to good works. This is how people know we are Christians. But they also know we are Christians—and not charitable Buddhists—because we don’t make good works our boast.

(This is an excerpt from Unparalleled: How Christianity’s Uniqueness Makes it Compelling)

From Brandywine Books
Americans Hold Many Confusing Beliefs

Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research surveyed three thousand Americans on their theological beliefs. The results show a great need for godly churches to reach their communities with the gospel.

Many self-professing evangelicals reject foundational evangelical beliefs. The survey results reveal that the biblical worldview of professing evangelicals is fragmenting. Though American evangelicalism arose in the twentieth century around strongly held theological convictions, many of today’s self-identified evangelicals no longer hold those beliefs.

You can browse the findings yourself on their website.

The same percentage of respondents (62 percent) agree or somewhat agree with the statement, “By the good deeds that I do, I partly contribute to earning my place in heaven,” as well as “Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.” Slightly more of them (64) would say “everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature,” but 73 percent disagree or somewhat disagree that “even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation.”

That conviction is fundamentally a conviction about the character of God. If he is perfectly holy and just, he cannot let sin go unpunished. But God is no longer holy—in the minds of six out of ten Americans.

From Brandywine Books
Google Is Reading to Expand Its Mind

Researchers at Google Brain are having their artificial intelligence read 11,000 novels to improve its sense of language.  At least one author thinks that a weird idea and wonders why she wasn’t asked for her permission before her book was used. The books used were supposedly unpublished and free for download. Should a company like Google be expected to pay for the books its machine reads, or does it matter since the books were all available as free downloads?

Another question we might ask is whether reading all these books will help Google drive better.  It’s language translation skills are definitely improving.

From Brandywine Books
How Can I Read When I Have No Time?

My wife and I do not have cable, so we have picked up the practice of slowly plodding through books by reading them aloud to one another. We don’t place elaborate or super intense goals on how fast or how many books we read. We just choose a book, begin reading, and then finish whenever we finish.

Sam Bierig, who has a fairly busy schedule, recommends this and five other tips for consuming more books in the time you have, including reading a few books at a time. He says it helps to read a couple small books while plowing through a large one. What do you think? How do you squeeze reading, which includes listening to audiobooks, into a busy schedule?

From Semicolon
Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers

A society is built on the foundation of legalized murder, purchased assassination, killing as an offering to the goddess. Nine families serve the goddess Safraella. They are her acolytes, killing people in her name with the promise of resurrection to a new life for those who die in the goddess’s good graces. Lea Saldana is one of Safraella’s clippers, those who clip people’s lives short in the name of law and order and the goddess.

In this book, murder is good, family loyalty is the paramount value, and revenge is an obligation to one’s own honor and to the gods. This world turned upside down could have been worth exploring. What happens to a society in which murder is legalized within strict boundaries and rules? Is it possible to become a cool, dispassionate murderer for hire and at the same time retain a passionate love for family and for friends? Or does that kind of conscience-bending to the breaking point carry over into all relationships? Why does one of the nine Families decide to follow the God of Light instead of remaining true to Safraella, the Goddess of Death and Resurrection? Is it possible to worship death and resurrection (life) at the same time? Does legalized murder really make a more well-behaved populace because people are afraid to offend anyone lest they be marked for assassination?

Lots of questions to explore in this story, but the emphasis is on Lea Saldana’s love life, her revenge for the murder of her family, and her assassin skills. The deeper questions are sometimes raised, but not pursued. Instead, Lea rather blithely falls in love while plotting her revenge, and why she is able to trust one stranger when another lover has just betrayed her and her entire family is barely questioned and unresolved.

Because I misread a review, I started this book thinking it was a middle grade fiction novel. It isn’t. It’s definitely Young Adult, but I wouldn’t recommend it for that age group either. There’s a Romeo and Juliet-type love affair in the beginning pages of the novel, but for that plot and characterization, teens would be better off with Shakespeare’s play or with watching West Side Story to get a much more realistic view of the consequences of star-crossed lovers in a lawless and honor-based society. Assassin’s Heart gives readers a cold-blooded assassin with a tender, loyal, and trusting heart, not a likely combination. And it turns traditional morality upside down without really asking the important questions about what such a revolution in moral standards would do to individuals and to a culture as a whole. Cheap thrills and unexamined rebellion are not an adequate foundation for a good novel, just as assassination and revenge are not adequate values to sustain a society. In fact, these things undermine good novels and good communities.

From Brandywine Books
Superman’s Actions Speak Louder Than His Words

Recommending All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, Jace Lington points out the odd contrast between the Man of Steel’s words and his actions. He writes,

At one point in the story, Superman faces two Kryptonian astronauts who arrive on Earth and begin to subjugate humanity. They mock Superman for serving the “barbaric” humans and for refusing to establish Kryptonian dominance. They say his actions betray his homeland. Superman responds, “What right do I have to impose my values on anyone?”

He asks what right he has, but then when the bad guys come, he shuts them down. Does he not doubt his right to smack around bad guys, or are his actions merely emotional and therefore unaccountable? No, his actions demonstrate that he believes there is a proper time for standing up for what is right, or to put it another way, to impose your values on others.

It’s remarkable moral relativism has any traction at all, because no matter how you attempt to justify it, it falls apart. Moral relativism is not a moral framework. It only poses as one, because its fundamental assertion is that morality does not exist. Every moral question is defined as personal preference, no more significant than any other preference. If I say I prefer blue shirts, will you argue that I should choose white shirts instead? Of course not. And yet relativists want us to believe that a college student who feels intense guilt for hooking up with someone the previous night should feel no more guilty than if she had begun to second guess her choice of dessert.

Regret sleeping with someone? Don’t worry about it. There’s nothing wrong with that. But wait, isn’t that imposing your values on someone? If someone feels guilty for casual sex or for choosing apple pie over chocolate cake, isn’t that their choice? How could a relativist suggest anyone’s morality is misinformed on any point?

And there you have the theory’s incoherence. Even common sense questions about morality cannot be asked because relativism’s only criteria is what appeals to you? Do you prefer cookies to crackers? Achievement to dependency? Abuse to love? Whatever.

But as the writers of Superman appear to know instinctively, when you see evil, you must fight it, especially if you’re a super. You must impose your understanding of goodness on those who choose evil, even if you couldn’t support that understanding with words on the previous page. Life actually is precious; justice is a real thing.

Superman used to know such things.

From Semicolon
The Lost Compass by Joel Ross

In Book one of this series (or maybe it’s just a book and a sequel), The Fog Diver, Chess, the foggy-eyed tether boy, and his crew escape from the slums of evil Lord Kodoc, and the slum kids make it to the “promised land” of Port Oro. However, in The Lost Compass, Chess continues to be a target for Lord Kodoc’s diabolical plans to rule the world above the fog. And the Fog itself continues to be both a menace and a possible concealer of rich and useful secrets. Furthermore, the citizens of Port Oro may want Chess to pay them back for their rescue of Chess and his friends and for their healing of Mrs. E, Chess’s mentor, by doing something that will risk the loss of everything that they have gained.

The characters in this series are the draw for me. Chess is brave and bold, yet self-effacing and unsure of what his true destiny is. Hazel, the crew’s captain, is described as “bossy”, but she’s bossy in a good way. She usually has good ideas and knows what to do and how to do it. Bea, the gear girl (engineer), is my favorite. She talks to engines and other machines—and they talk back to her. Swede is the pilot, more than competent and kind of grumbly. And Loretta, a raw and uncivilized slum brawler, is an extreme example of what a kid without a home or family or love could turn out like. Her attitude is summed up in this quote from a discussion of information found in books: “Books . . . What’s the point? You can’t wear’em, you can’t eat’em, and you can’t even stab someone with’em.”

The Lost Compass depends on the same kind of sci-fi and pop culture jokes and the same kind of non-stop action as The Fog Diver. If you read and enjoyed The Fog Diver, you will also enjoy this more than adequate sequel. The ending feels complete to me, but Mr. Ross may have one or even a dozen more novels in this series yet to be revealed. The very last words in the novel are: “Maybe our story wasn’t over. Maybe the world was bigger than I’d ever imagined.” Take from that what you will.

From Overcoming Our Genes

Jonathan Cahn believes that God is warning the United States of coming judgment by the "harbingers" that are appearing in America. He explains the unveiling of an arch in New York City that led to the temple of an ancient god.
 Click here to read the blog.

U.S. Military Academy pulls postgame prayer video following a complaint.  Click here.

From Brandywine Books
No One Can Set Up a Theocracy

“It is easy to think the State has a lot of different objects — military, political, economic, and what not,” Lewis wrote. “But in a way things are much simpler than that. The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life.”

Peter Wehner of the Ethics and Public Policy Center shares some good thoughts from C. S. Lewis about Christians in the political world, but I think I may have strong disagreements.

Certainly, to create a specifically Christian political party could cause problems, because while the Bible has many applications to civil society, it does not give us a platform for twenty-first century governing. Wehner says Lewis “believed that theocracy was the worst form of government and detested the idea of a ‘Christian party,’ which risked blaspheming the name of Christ.”

I can see that danger, but who among us is even capable of establishing a theocracy? If God were to descend on Washington D.C. and declare his regulations from the Lincoln Memorial, if he were to charge his followers with discipling those who refuse to obey him and blessing them with divine gifts for carrying out his will, then we would have a theocracy. What are the Lord’s trade and immigration policies? How does the Lord want us to handle our crime-ridden cities? Let’s ask him directly.

No. We can’t get there from here. We could set up a “Christian” party. I’m pretty sure we have. And we have several Christian candidates for various offices, but none of them can reconstruct our government to submit to the direct decrees of God. What Wehner and Lewis, I suppose, are criticizing is a government ruled by priests who claim to speak for the Almighty–the Holy American Empire, in other words. 

And yet should Christian lawmakers support Christian morality in the laws they write and endorse, or are we going to pretend that laws generally have nothing to do with anyone’s morality or that morality is a matter of personal preference, not demonstrable reality?

[Image] ..Put all your money in pitchforks!

Christians in government have many biblical principles to which they can appeal for guidance in running their campaigns and accomplishing their duties. One of them is Micah 6:8.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Walking humbly with God would naturally require one to understand the limits of his perception. No one can speak for God, but he can apply God’s Word to the best of his ability. Can we ask anything less of any politician?

Every law is a moral law to some degree. Every law legislates a moral principle at some level. It isn’t slouching toward theocracy to apply religious principles to public policy. Are our many welfare entitlements compassionate support or paternalistic entrapment? When businessmen argue in favor of enabling Iran to proceed build their nuclear infrastructure in exchange for the purchase of new airplanes, is this an amoral deal or a situation that requires mature moral judgment?

The state may exist to promote and protect our ordinary happiness, but defining that happiness and who should have it takes a mature morality. I want public servants who have had their morality formed by the Bible, who recognize pride for what it is, and provoke the country to live out justice, kindness, and godly humility. That’s nowhere near a theocracy. It’s just good governance.

From Brandywine Books
Not Entirely Unlike a Book

After seeing Norm MacDonald 2/21/09 at the Wilbur Theater

Hans Fiene works through the mechanics of an elementary book review on comic Norm MacDonald’s new book, Based On a True Story: A Memoir, which he says is a bit of a challenge.

Don’t get me wrong, Macdonald’s first foray into the literary realm has many book-like features. It has pages with words on them. It has a dust jacket with the title on the front and endorsements on the back. It generally abides by the rules of English grammar . . .  But in substance Based on a True Story is not a book.

. . .

Despite being labeled “a memoir,” Macdonald has no interest in writing a genuine account of his life’s events or allowing the reader to get near him. Rather, he’s firmly committed to amusing himself by irritating you into fits of guffaws.

From Semicolon
The Goblin’s Puzzle by Andrew S. Chilton

The Goblin’s Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice by Andrew S. Chilton.

I was reminded of the movie and book The Princess Bride while reading this debut middle grade fantasy novel, and that is high praise indeed. For a book to remind one of The Princess Bride, it must be clever in a similar way to the the wit and wisdom of that classic. It is. I can also say that I wanted to see The Goblin’s Puzzle as a film and that I think it could be a good one. Other than The Princess Bride, which may or may not have been an inspiration, Mr. Chilton’s sources seem to be good and quite varied:

From the author’s website at Penguin Random House: “Andrew S. Chilton drew inspiration for The Goblin’s Puzzle from a wide variety of sources, ranging from The Hobbit to Monty Python to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. As a kid, he gobbled up fantasy novels and logic puzzles, and as an adult, he spent over ten years as a practicing lawyer before launching his career as a writer.”

The book stars a nameless slave boy, a girl called Plain Alice (to distinguish her from all the other Alices in the kingdom), Princess Alice, heir to the throne, and a goblin named (something long and complicated), Mennofar for short. The Boy is running for his life from an unfortunate incident that ended in the violent death of his master’s son. It really wasn’t The Boy’s fault, but it will be blamed on him anyway, and he feels quite guilty about breaking a lot of the 99 rules for being a good slave, most of which he can’t even remember. Meanwhile, Plain Alice, who wants to become a sage but can’t get an opportunity because she’s a girl, has been kidnapped by a dragon. And Princess Alice, who should have been the object of the dragon’s kidnapping, is worrying King Julian, her father, with her frequent giggling and lack of a serious education. The goblin, Mennofar, is running away, too, and he owes The Boy for his help in the goblin’s escape from captivity. But Mennofar is indeed a goblin, and “it is hard for a goblin and a human to be friends. Goblin honor and human honor are so very different.” Mennofar feels obligated to do something for The Boy, but his “goblin honor” also demands that he make the whole thing into a particularly difficult and complicated puzzle.

There’s a afterword to the book that explains a bit about the basics of the study of logic, which is the main theme and framework for the story. But it’s a subtle use of logic, not an in-your-face teaching of logic. (Don’t worry. If you aren’t at all interested in the study of logic, it’s still a great story, and you won’t be tricked into learning logic—much. Although goblins are kind of tricky that way.) I enjoyed the discussions between Mennofar and The Boy and between Plain Alice and the dragon, Ludwig, that were illustrations of the different aspects of logic, which is the study of how we prove things, according to Mr. Chilton. I might have guessed, if I had thought of it, that Mr. Chilton was a lawyer before he decided to write a book for middle grade logicians and fantasy lovers.

I also just liked this story. Do I have to prove that it’s a good book for this to be a good review or for you to believe me when I say that you would probably enjoy it, too? I don’t think so. After all, we’re humans, not goblins. We don’t have to be strictly logical. Or tricky.

From Brandywine Books
Minot, ho!

I will be traveling to, and attending, the Norsk Hostfest in Minot, North Dakota all next week.

I’ll be checking in from the festival as I am able, depending on available technology.

Blithering Heights, my palatial home, will be guarded by my renter and his psycho biker friends.

From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: September 24, 2016

“What I like best is a book that’s at least funny once in a while… What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” ~Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger


Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

From Overcoming Our Genes

Mark Hitchcock is a pastor from Oklahoma.  He has written over 20 books.  Here is his latest.  I learned from him that Alexander the Great is in Revelation.  The book is available on Kindle in my local library.  It may be purchased in the store at http://www.olivetreeviews.org/ or on Amazon.

From Semicolon
Viking’s Dawn by Henry Treece

Henry Treece (b.1911, d.1966) was a British teacher, editor, and Army intelligence officer who became a poet and playwright, then a writer of historical fiction for children. Many of his books are set in early Britain, before the Norman conquest. Viking’s Dawn is the first book in a trilogy about the Vikings and their incursions into the British isles during the mid-eighth century.

In this novel Harald Sigurdsson, a Norse boy, signs onto a Viking ship, The Nameless, and agrees to serve its master, Thorkell Fairhair. As the ship sails out to plunder the coasts of England and Scotland, Harald sees men injured, drowned, and killed in battle, and Harald himself kills his first man with his Viking sword. I won’t give too many spoilers, but suffice it to say that voyage does not go as planned and the plunder is somewhat lacking.

Viking’s Dawn is a violent book, but the Viking life was a violent, and sometimes short, life. The story feels authentic, not watered down for young readers, but also not steeped in gratuitous blood and gore. If your young reader, middle grades through young adult, wants to get an idea of how real Vikings lived and fought and thought, this book is well-researched and detailed, without getting bogged down in too much explication to the detriment of action.

I would be interested to find and read Mr. Treece’s other two books in his Viking trilogy, The Road to Miklagard and Viking’s Sunset.

From Overcoming Our Genes

Tomorrow, September 23, there will be a free simulcast of a Nationwide Prayer Event for Women.  Click here to go to the website.  I encourage all women to tune in to hear the prayers for the United States.  Registration is required.  I filled out the form and then was able to see the video.

From Semicolon
Grayling’s Song by Karen Cushman

Just like her Newbery award winning book, The Midwife’s Apprentice, Karen Cushman’s new foray into fantasy/magical realism has a touch of medieval wisdom and a cartload of feminist historical perspective to bring to middle grade readers. The image of medieval “hedge witches” and “cunning folk” and “wise women” is rehabilitated and given respectability and even honor as Grayling, the daughter of one such herbalist and witch, goes on a journey to rescue her mother from an evil magic smoky shadow that has rooted her to the ground and is changing her into a tree.

Although it reminded me of the book I reviewed yesterday, Red by Liesl Shurtliff, this book was just a little too “witchy” for my tastes. In addition to Grayling’s mother, Hannah Strong, and Grayling herself, the story features a grumpy weather witch, an evil wannabe witch, an alluring enchantress, and a professor of divination, all of whom team up with Grayling to help her on her quest. I can like stories with witches—Baba Yaga, The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, Narnia’s White Witch—all are perfectly good stories in their own way. But this feminist version of medieval witches that reimagines them as harmless but wise healers and herbalists, and yet at the same has them wielding powers that are far from harmless . . . It’s just not my favorite storyline or characterization.

Grayling is the typical “strong female” character that’s all the rage nowadays. She tells a young man who tries to rescue her from drowning to quit rescuing her and let her rescue herself. She learns to rely on her own strength and courage, even when she doesn’t feel strong or courageous. One of the several songs that Grayling makes up during the course of the story to work her own kind of magic goes like this:

You cannot just sit here,
Dreaming and hoping,
March forward to battle
With pennants unfurled,
I call on your courage,
No fretting or moping.
Stand tall.
Stand tall.

If we stand alone,
It still must be done.
If it must be done,
You are the one.

That’s OK, as far as it goes, but something about it feels like a pep talk and leaves me wanting.

Nevertheless, there’s nothing really wrong with this coming of age story about a girl who leaves home to save her mother’s life, succeeds with the help of others, and returns to find that she’s outgrown the home she left. Amanda at The Willow Nook has a much better, and more positive, review of the book, and she makes some excellent points about the redemptive and heroic themes to be found in this short novel, only 200 pages. I predict it will find an audience, just not me.

From Jared C. Wilson
Older, Restful, and Reforming

A photo by Ilham Rahmansyah. unsplash.com/photos/DwTZwZYi9WwI never set out to “join a movement.” I hadn’t even set out to jump on on a new church strategy bandwagon. I was simply in recovery mode and discovered a larger context that helped make sense of my growing unease with church as it was.

Let me back up.

I learned from Tim Challies that today marks the 10-year anniversary of Collin Hansen‘s landmark Christianity Today article “Young, Restless, Reformed”, which later became a book with the same title. The article featured some now better-known figures in the YRR (or gospel-centered, neo-Reformed, neo-Calvinist, whatchamacalit) camp like John Piper, Josh Harris, Mark Driscoll, et.al. I remember where I was when I first read the article.

Wait- let me back up again.

About twelve years ago I was suffering from the ruins of a life built on private sin and outer falseness. Everything was broken. (I tell most of this story in the last chapter of my book The Prodigal Church.) I was depressed; I was suicidal. I was begging God for some kind of help, any help. And one night the Holy Spirit intervened in a special way, a unique way. I had an experience I have since referred to as gospel wakefulness. I did not get a vision for a new church methodology at a conference; I did not become awakened to Reformed theology. I had come to see God’s grace like oxygen and suddenly realized I’d been suffocating in my current life (and church).

It was this experience that began to create a strong dissonance in my church fellowship. As my wife and I both became more sensitive to the good news of Jesus Christ in our lives, the absence of this good news from our church life became more and more pronounced. We felt like aliens. Everything was so upbeat and peppy — the music was “rockin’,” the creativity was turned to 11, and the messages were inspirational — but we were starving. I had tasted and seen the glory of God in the gospel and was heartbroken to feel like my community was having this withheld from them on a regular basis.

I was still in that church and leading a young adult Bible study one evening at a friend’s home when I looked down at the coffee table to see that issue of CT. The cover had a picture of a guy wearing a Jonathan Edwards T-shirt, which I thought was weird, but the cover story title caught my attention: “Young, Restless, and Reformed: Calvinism is making a comeback and shaking up the church.” As I started reading the article, I suddenly felt like my world was opening up. I had been a Calvinist for a while — “converted” in college, actually — so it wasn’t that part that really intrigued me. And a few of the leaders discussed were familiar to me. In fact, the preaching of John Piper and Mark Driscoll had been especially helpful to me during my depression. It wasn’t a new theology or new people to learn from that Collin’s article gave me — it was a feeling of not being alone.

I was in a huge church but felt utterly alone. Nobody saw what I was seeing. Nobody listened to what I was hearing. It was a strange feeling. And while the YRR piece named the tribe, so to speak, for me, it was about not feeling like what I had experienced was isolated. As I said, I hadn’t been looking to join a movement. If anything, I was grateful to discover I might have been a part of one without knowing it! The CT article was a doorway into sensing that the gospel renaissance that God worked in my life and was working in my ministry was actually something he was doing on a larger scale.

And he continues to do it. I confess there have been times where I’ve been exceedingly frustrated with my tribe. I still think we struggle too much with fear of man, especially as it pertains to “celebrity worship,” but I actually think we’re doing better. It’s one of the severe mercies, I suppose, of some rather notable “falls.” I think we’re getting a little grayer. I think we listen better now. I think we have benefited from international expansion and contribution, ethnic minority leaders, and the test-driving of our theology and praxis in local churches and communities, church plants, and in the open marketplace of ideas of the blogosphere and social media.

I also think, ten years later, the younger members of our tribe seem less restless than we did when we started. For all the flack the millennials take in the wider culture, the millennials I meet in the gospel-centered tribe seem more mature, more settled. They love the gospel and the local church and seem less enamored with big names and big ideas than my generation (X) was, as we were still not fully weaned off what the Boomers fed us.

The gospel-centered seminaries are on the increase. The gospel-centered churches continue to multiply. The gospel-centered tribe continues to feast on the gospel, and it can’t help but have grown us up a bit, settled us down a bit, reformed our hearts and minds a bit.

There will always be room to grow. And perhaps, 10 years later, we still don’t know if this is just a fad. I suspect not, but of course, “but by the grace of God” and all that. But we have seen the emerging church emerge into thin air. Their writers and “thought leaders” have joined Glengarry Glen Ross, disappeared into obscurity, or are off surfing with Oprah or whatever. The mainline’s decline continues more swiftly than most. And while professing Christianity in the west is on the decline across the board, a movement built around the gospel still seems wise. And still feels like home.

Semper Reformanda, friends.

And Collin: thank you.

Young(ish), Settled, and Reformed

From Semicolon
Red by Liesl Shurtliff

Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtliff.

In her author’s note at the end of the book, Ms. Shurtliff says that she wrote this story about Red and her Granny, the Witch of the Woods, in honor of her own grandmother who died while the writing of this fairy tale reimagined was still in progress. Somehow her grandmother’s death shook something loose in Ms. Shurtliff’s mind and enabled her to finish the book with its themes of living and dying, facing fear, and seeing things from different perspectives.

When Red goes to stay with her granny while her parents are away, she is happy to depend on Granny’s magic to ease the way and make things grow. However, when Granny falls sick, Red is determined to find the secret of eternal life, not for herself but for her beloved granny. Red is so afraid of life without Granny and of her own clumsy and sometimes dangerous attempts to make magic that she will do anything, except magic, to find a way to prolong Granny’s life.

With the unwelcome help of a blonde, curly-headed chatterbox named Goldie, Red sets off on a journey through the Woods on her own special magical path to find life for Granny. Along the way she learns about friendship (even with annoying chatterers), appearances (things are not always what they seem), and fear. What if a wolf can be Red’s closest friend? What if fear, not death, is the greatest enemy of all?

I really enjoyed this story of Red who is afraid that Granny will die and leave her alone, without Granny’s magical presence to comfort and sustain her. There were some wise themes embedded in the story, even though I’m not a fan of the whole “circle of life” philosophy that is employed by the author to explain the inevitability of death. Red does overcome her fears and come to accept that Granny, like everyone else, will die someday. And she does learn to see life and events from the perspective of others, including a grumpy dwarf and a harsh beast.

Favorite quotes:

“Some mistakes need to be made. Sometimes we have to fall down before we can stand up.”

” . . . you should never give up. Unless, of course, you’re doing something wrong, in which case you should give up entirely.”

“Fear doesn’t only twist our magic, it also makes us forget. It made me forget who I was, the strength and goodness I had inside me. But when I let go of my fear and faced what was before me, the memories came rushing back.”

“Funny, that we always told stories with wolves and beasts and demons as villains, but in real life it seemed the humans were always the worst enemies. You could be your own villain.”

From Jared C. Wilson
Where I’ll Be 2016-17

speakingFor those who care about such things, I thought I’d share some of my upcoming speaking dates. If you’re in any of these areas and able to attend, would be great to meet you.

September 26-27, 2016 – For The Church Conference. Kansas City, MO. At the third annual FTC conference — themed Portraits of a Pastor — I am tasked with presenting on “The Pastor as Shepherd.”

October 3-5, 2016 – Spurgeon Fellowship. Western Seminary, Portland, OR. I will be speaking 4 times at this event on the topic of pastoral ministry and the gospel.

November 3-5, 2016 – Doxology & Theology Conference. Louisville, KY. Hosted at Southern Seminary. This year’s D&T Conference is held in honor of the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and I will be preaching a plenary session on “Faith Alone” and leading a breakout on gospel-centered worship.

November 14-15, 2016 – Acts29 Europe Pastors Conference. Belfast, Ireland. Details still TBA.

January 27-28, 2017 – Ready Conference. Kansas City, MO. I’ll be speaking at this student conference hosted at Midwestern Seminary along with Trip Lee, Owen Strachan, and John Mark Yeats.

My full speaking calendar is available here. And if you’re interested in having me speak or preach at your church or event, inquiries may be sent via here.

From Overcoming Our Genes

Here is a blog by Stephen Witmer from Desiring God.  It is a shame how Christians have allowed themselves to be deceived by the Deceiver.  I pray that all will come to their senses and spend more time studying the Bible and praying, and less time watching TV. Click here to read the blog.

From Overcoming Our Genes

More terrorists attacks on the U.S. talked about on Fox and Friends.

From Jared C. Wilson
The Gospel Past and The Gospel Future Make Your Gospel Present

pastThe oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi:

“I have loved you,” says the LORD.

But you say, “How have you loved us?”

“Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.'” Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!” (Malachi 1:1-5)

There is past tense and then future tense. There is “I have loved you” and there is “Your own eyes shall see . . .”

God through Malachi is addressing a half-hearted, spiritually corrupt covenant community. They have predicated their polluted religion on all that God is not presently doing. They are struggling financially and politically. They are muddling through while their enemies seem to prosper.

And God doesn’t say, “Hey, look around. Everything’s great!” No, he knows that “looking around” is exactly their problem. He beckons them to look back and then to look forward.

This is a great reminder to us about how the gospel empowers us for daily living, even when we are in a bind or a grind. When our world appears to be falling apart, when we can’t see our way out of the predicament or the grief we are in, the gospel bids us look back to what God has done in Christ on the cross and out of the tomb for his own glory and for us. “I have loved you” this says to troubled souls. And then he bids us in the gospel to look forward to the blessed hope of Christ’s glorious return, our gathering together to him, our resurrection, our placement in an eternal wonderland where there are no more problems.

This is the already and the not yet of the gospel. This is the fantastic remembrance of what God has really done in history to save us and the fantastic anticipation of what God will really do in history to save us.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received [past tense], in which you stand [present tense], and by which you are being saved [present-future tense], if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.
— 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

From Overcoming Our Genes

 Some students believe that America is evil so they tore down American flags representing each person who was killed on 9/11.

From Overcoming Our Genes

Disrespecting America

Some NFL Players are disrespecting America.  
The Seattle Seahawks linked arms showing support for America and for each other. They won the game!

Seattle Seahawks Demonstrate Unity by Linking Arms During National Anthem

From Overcoming Our Genes

Tony Evans pastor and Bible teacher

As it has been said, “Everybody has a God shaped hole in their hearts,” and this causes people to fill it up with God, or some other god-- like drugs and alcohol, children, money, food, music, and so on. One of the best ways to know God is through Bible study.  I highly recommend “The Message,” a paraphrase of the Bible by Eugene Peterson.  If you have never read the Bible, I would recommend starting with this.  I believe that the Bible is a love letter to us from God.  

Bono of U2 visited Eugene Peterson who is the author of “The Message.” Here is a You Tube of some of their conversation.  It is about 20 minutes long. Also, you can catch Tony Evans on the radio. Go here to listen.

As I watch the news I see the sadness in the lives of those who don’t know God. Without God their worldview has become twisted.   A best selling book by Ta-Nehisi Coats called “Between the World and Me,” is beautifully written, but has no hope expressed throughout.  This author’s father was a member of the Black Panthers.  Again that organization as well as Black Lives Matter has no hope in God.  They are covering their fear by becoming angry and dismissive of others.  With God, through faith in Jesus Christ, perfect love casts out fear—I John 4:18. 

Christians must turn to God in prayer and seek Him for the lives of the lost.  We can do nothing else.

From Jared C. Wilson
8 Hallmarks of Attractional and Gospel-Centered Churches

Processed with VSCO with t1 presetWent on a bit of a Twitter run yesterday with some thoughts on the essential defining characteristics of the church model I call attractional, followed by some constructive alternative hallmarks of gospel-centered churches. Hopefully they will bring more clarity to thinking through the relevant issues in evangelical ecclesiology. These are important times to get this sorted.

Unfortunate hallmarks of the attractional church:

1) Sermons driven by what Christian Smith calls “moralistic therapeutic deism”

2) Functional ideology of pragmatism. (Not “what’s biblical?” but “what works?”)

3) Truncating of the gospel or relegation of the gospel to background/afterthought

4) Equation of bigness with success, contrary to numerous biblical examples otherwise

5) Treating membership solely or mainly as a means of assimilating volunteers

6) Wide open back door for those needing to be discipled beyond conversion

7) Reduction of the Bible to a source for good quotes

8) Claiming relevance/innovation while insulating from critical challenges to assumptions.

Hallmarks of gospel-centered churches:

1) Trust not just in authority of Scripture but sufficiency of Scripture

2) Sermons that emphasize “It is finished!” over “Get to work!”. Jesus is the star, not a bit player

3) Meaningful membership encompassing whole-life discipleship, pastoral care, and church discipline

4) Emphasis on members as missionaries & emphasizing “go and tell” over “come and see”

5) A total trust in the gospel to be the power of transformation that no amount of inspiration can be

6) Regular commitment to the Lord’s Supper

7) Reliance on robustness of the gospel to apply to the believer, justification & sanctification

8) Church as community of saints, not merely a worship service or resource center for programs

(I’ve expanded on all this stuff and a lot more — and offer some constructive correctives — in The Prodigal Church)

From Jared C. Wilson
S.E.T.I., Glory, and The Signal from Deep Space

gracesecretOn August 15, 1977, a man named Jerry Ehman came across a radio signal from deep space that confounds scientists to this day. Ehman, a volunteer for SETI — an organization dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence — was monitoring the Big Ear radio telescope at Ohio State University. Looking over the printouts of what that Big Ear had been hearing, Ehman could see all the typical background noise of outer space: the standard movements of satellites, the signals emanating from earth refracted off of space debris, and the like. But then something stood out. There was an anomaly. A big one.

6EQUJ5. That was the sequence on the printout indicating a strong, unique signal from outer space. It did not match the background noise. In fact, it looked much like you’d expect a radio signal from an intelligent source to look. It came from the region in the sky where the constellation Sagittarius is found, and its frequency appeared to match the “hydrogen line,” a promising trait for SETI researchers who figured intelligent beings might use the most common element in the universe to broadcast a signal.

Blown away by what he’d discovered, Ehman took a red pen and circled the 6EQUJ5 sequence on the printout, writing “Wow!” off to the side.

Scientists have never found the source of the Wow! signal. They have never heard it again, despite consistently listening in over the years to the same region of space with radio telescopes much more powerful than the Big Ear. They have so far heard nothing like it. And yet the Wow! signal continues to captivate, stirring curiosity and fueling hope that somewhere out there someone is listening to us, that someone is sending out a signal.

Why does the search for extraterrestrial life entertain us so much? Since the earliest days of UFO sightings and the burgeoning genre of science fiction in the likes of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, what itch does yearning for outer space scratch?

One of my favorite movies is Stephen Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Though overshadowed by Spielberg’s other sci-fi masterwork —- a little movie called E.T. the ExtraterrestrialClose Encounters follows similar themes but on a much larger scale. In E.T., Spielberg uses the science fiction conceit really to speak to the ideas of fatherlessness and family. In Close Encounters, he speaks to man’s universal search for meaning.

As the aliens get closer to revealing themselves to mankind’s official spokespeople in a stunning climatic scene at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, key characters inexplicably find themselves making replicas of the tower or seeing visions of it. Richard Dreyfuss starts with his mashed potatoes at dinner. Eventually he’s pulling up the landscaping to make a minitower in his living room. A little boy shares these compulsions. A scattered group is drawn together by their inner yearning for this extraterrestrial contact. It seems to speak to something missing in their lives, to promise an answer to everything that is unsettled in them.
When the aliens do finally arrive, for these aching souls it is like heaven has finally come to earth. Dreyfuss’s character goes with them in their spaceship to lands unknown.

Of course, for many, many people, interest in science fiction and little green men and rockets to the moon aren’t a reality at all. But I still think the inner human ache for the search for life in outer space is universal. We may seek to satisfy it in different ways, but we’re all really trying to solve two fundamental human problems: loneliness and insignificance.

Deep down, though many do not realize it or admit it, human beings carry a deep-seated need to know and to be known, a need to feel worthy, to be part of something bigger, as if all that is around us is more than it seems. This is a collectively human problem, not just an individual one. We feel lonely as a species, not just as people, otherwise the community offerings all around us would do the trick. And being in community with people is extremely helpful and necessary. But our hearts still yearn for more. This is why we find it so hard sometimes to live with each other.

Humanity also faces the problem of insignificance. Consider how each generation, at least in the United States, identifies so strongly with cultural milestones like WWII or Woodstock. It isn’t simply that we want to be thought great as individuals—though we do—but that we also want to be known as a great people. Tom Brokaw even wrote a book called The Greatest Generation. We identify strongly with our generations, our colleges, our states, and of course our nations. But these collective identities don’t ultimately satisfy either. So what is the last frontier for man to be seen as great, to feel a part of something grand, universal, and important—not just in the world but the universe? Well, outer space, of course.

Volunteers around the world today have set up their computers to take part in a vast SETI network, harnessing their collective strength to provide a great big listening grid aimed at the heavens. Every day these noble souls diligently scan computer screens and paper printouts looking for that next Wow! But what is it, really, that they are looking for?

I think we are all really looking for connection and significance, and we’re all looking for them in ways we can’t quite get a grasp on with the ordinary stuff of earth.

But the good news is that the answer really is out there.

God’s plan to bring lasting, satisfying connection and significance to mankind, to cure the angst for more that we all feel deep inside, to make us feel less like aliens and less like searching for them — is found in this thing the Bible calls grace. Grace is God’s modus operandi in the world. Not everybody gets all the grace God has to give, but everybody who wants it does, and everybody else gets some grace just for being a human creature trying to get by in the world. (Christian theologians call this “common grace.”)

Living our lives driven by appetites, seeking to gain as much pleasure or comfort or power as we can, does not solve the deep need for significance. It might medicate us against it for a while, but it just doesn’t last. Alternatively, living on the religious duty treadmill, trying to earn credit with God through personal righteousness, basically just trying to be “good people,” doesn’t solve our deep need for connection.

But the signal is coming from deep space. It transmits on lots of frequencies, some stronger than others. God is doing something with us. He is meaning something with creation. The message of grace — unmerited favor — hits the universal need with a specific message. And it bids us turn our gaze to the heavens to see God’s impressive strategy for the whole world.

The problem of loneliness and insignificance is actually a lack of glory. The glory of God solves those problems (and a million others besides). It actually cracks the code of human existence and the future of creation. See, God has not been silent. He has declared these realities. He actually tells us what he’s going to do with everything! Like a Wow! signal straight from heaven, Habakkuk 2:14 announces, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

This is God’s endgame for everything. Glory. He wants his glory to fill the earth, to drench it, really, making all the dry places alive again and all the dull places shine again.

This is the secret of the universe. The “thing” that makes sense of everything is the glory of God brought to bear by the grace of God. And God’s modus operandi, his plan to reveal this secret, is the proclamation of the message the Bible calls “the gospel,” the good news that the glorious God has sent the radiance of his glory to restore men who have sinned and fallen short of his glory (Rom. 3:23). As Martin Luther says, “For what is the Gospel but a declaring of the glory of God and his works?”

The gospel is the Wow! signal from deep space that changes everything.

(This is an edited excerpt from The Story of Everything: How You, Your Pets, and The Swiss Alps Fit Into God’s Plan for the World)

From Jared C. Wilson
Top 10 Things I Love That Worship Leaders Do

worship2I wasn’t surprised by the big reaction to my recent post “Top 10 Things I Wish Worship Leaders Would Stop Saying” because I know that the subject is a particular hot button for evangelicals. And while I think too often we inappropriately insulate our preferences/traditions from criticism, I am of course sensitive to the request for a more positive, proactive help. I’ve actually written quite a bit on worship, both online and in print—The Prodigal Church and my Gospel Coalition church resource Gospel Shaped Worship are the most notable examples—but new readers triggered by yesterday’s blog post are not likely to be familiar with that work. I was already planning on writing the list below but decided to hasten its appearing. Here’s to hoping this list reaches the same audience as the last.

I love it when worship leaders . . .

10. Lead more than perform.

I am grateful for talented vocalists and musicians serving as worship leaders, but I’m especially grateful when our leaders don’t treat their position as a showcase for their gifts but as an opportunity to shepherd the flock. I love it when worship leaders choose songs that lend themselves more to congregational singing than band performance and lead in such a way that it’s easier to follow along—appropriate keys and pacing, not over-improvising, following the printed or projected lyrics, and so on. And speaking of shepherding, I love it when you . . .

9. Approach the worship gathering with a pastoral sensibility.

The worship gathering shouldn’t be some bland, un-creative exercise in avoiding anything remotely artistic, but I’m grateful for worship leaders who think primarily about what the flock needs more than what the flock wants—because they are not always the same thing—and seeks to steward the music time and other worship order elements with Christ’s glory at heart and Christ’s church in mind. (And pastors, this is why often the most gifted singers/musicians in your church are not the best candidates for worship leaders.)

8. Let theology drive their decision making.

Too many worship services are driven by a consumeristic or pragmatic ethos. Too many worship leaders (and their pastors and creative teams) over-busy themselves asking, “What else can we do?” as if the worship gathering is a blank artistic slate for creative expression. But as Jeff Goldblum says in Jurassic Park, “You were so busy asking if you could do something, you never bothered to ask if you should.” This is why I’m grateful for worship leaders who know how to evaluate songs for theological soundness, biblical coherence, and doctrinal clarity. And I like it when this commitment to theology is reflected in a fearlessness about old songs and a discriminating taste about new songs. But I also love it when you . . .

7. Think about the service beyond the songs.

And I don’t mean simply videos or whatever. I am grateful for worship leaders who think about the worship order as a whole, who think about the story a worship order tells. Every church has a liturgy, even if they don’t like that word or they’ve never even heard of that word! Your worship elements and their order communicate something about God about his Word and about your church. I love it when it’s clear the worship team hasn’t just busied themselves picking good songs but has also thought about the progression of song content in relation to the different elements of the service (confession, prayers, communion, sermon, and so on) and how all the pieces together point to God in Christ as our hope.

6. Aren’t afraid of silence.

Not every space has to be thick with sound and visuals. I know silence between songs can sound like awkward transitions, but not every square inch of the worship service has to be “produced.” Is that fuzzy synthesizer ambiance in between songs and during prayers there to create a mood? Why? What for? I love it when worship leaders “embrace the real.” One thing my church’s worship leader does—after the sermon has been preached and before he leads us in the closing song—is give us a time to silently reflect on the message. It’s not a long time, but it’s long enough to start to feel awkward to those who are new to the practice. But there’s no ambient music. No vocal prayer. Just silence. You can hear those scattered coughs. Kids whispering. A Bible hitting the floor. The rustling of paper. But mostly just stillness and quiet. In our daily lives we are awash with noise. We are hurry-sick. Even when we’re alone, we’re taking in the “noise” of the internet or something else. I think it’s wonderful to take this into account in our worship services, not feel inclined to mirror the constant noise of the world, and give us some time to hush. It’s good for our souls.

5. Pray for real.

I love it when worship leaders are God-conscious and their prayers sound like they’re actually talking to their Father. Sometimes it is easy for worship leaders to lapse into “stage prayers,” where the prayer is simply filler, a way to introduce the next song, or full of verbal tics that don’t make it sound like the leader is well-versed in prayer outside the worship service (“FatherGod we just love you FatherGod and we just FatherGod just want to just…”). When you “pray naked,” even in your skinny jeans, I am inspired and encouraged to bring my true self before God. I am led to cry out to God myself when it sounds like my worship leader is crying out to God.

4. Prioritize the Word.

Feelings are great. It is unChristian to deny the importance of feelings. But it is unChristian to prioritize (idolize) our feelings. Our life is not to be dictated by our feelings—even spiritual feelings—but by the inspired, infallible Word of God. So I love it when worship leaders choose songs that reflect biblical truths, echo the full-hearted human experience of the Psalms and other biblical texts, and read or recite Scripture in their introductions and transitions. I love it when worship leaders being the gathering not with a rockin’ song to loosen (or wake) everybody up, but with a Scriptural call to worship. This is a reminder that our worship gathering is a response to God’s active work in the world and his specific summoning of us through the gospel of Christ. I also love it when worship leaders remind me that the worship time doesn’t end when the songs do, and that the preaching of the word is both the continuation of—and the apex of—the worship gathering.

3. Lead with serious joy.

I always feel like I’m on a cruise ship or at a cocktail lounge—not that I frequent either one of those places!—when the worship leader is up there constantly cracking jokes and treating his banter like practice for his improv class. You don’t need to treat the service like a funeral, of course, and about the only thing as annoying as a constantly silly worship leader is a constantly humorless one—but I love it when worship leaders capture both the gladness and the gravity of responding to the Lord’s call to worship. So instead of taking on the personas of gameshow host on one hand or “I’d rather be alone in my room with my principles” artiste on the other, I love it when you are both happy in and humbled by the holiness of God.

2. Don’t try to out-preach the preacher.

Okay, this is just a minor point, but I’ve heard this additional critique from enough folks in response to the previous post to know that it’s not just my own “pet peeve.” I love it when worship leaders shepherd the congregation well by introducing songs by giving theological context, praying in transitions, reciting Scripture, and of course using non-singing time for equipping the congregation. But sometimes you guys just talk too much! This is especially notable after a sermon, when a worship leader will sometimes try to re-preach a particular point. The subtext sometimes appears to be “Let me take a crack at this, because the preacher whiffed it.” Worship leader, I love it when you leave the sermon to the preacher (and when the preacher leaves to the songs to you).

1. Point me to the gospel.

This is why I’m there, whether I remember it or not. This is what I need. I need the announcement of the historical work of Christ on the cross and out of the tomb more than I need oxygen! So I’m very, very grateful when your song choice, banter, worship order, and everything else makes it clear that the grace of God given to sinners through Jesus is your reason for being. I love it when you take care not to distract from the gospel, whether by content or creativity. I love it when you take care that your artistic efforts adorn the gospel and don’t obscure it. And I love it when you rehearse the gospel with us. It is the greatest gift you have, and it’s the greatest gift you can share.

For all those who labor faithfully in these things—including many, many friends of mine who serve their churches so well this way, some perhaps in the face of weekly criticism and complaints—I am eternally thankful for you. I love you.

From Jared C. Wilson
Top 10 Things I Wish Worship Leaders Would Stop Saying

worshipIn which a crusty old curmudgeon rants a little about annoying songleader banter. Don’t take this too seriously, except maybe do.

10. Are we ready to have fun this morning?

The answer is, “Probably not.” The truth is, when this is your welcome at the start of the music time, it tells me where your head’s at. Nobody goes to church to have a bad time, of course, and I’m sure plenty of people go to “have fun,” but is this the point of worship? Is “having fun” where you want hearts directed as you lead people to exalt God? No, it’s where you want hearts directed when you’re just trying to “crush your set” or “rock it out for Jesus” [see #5]. “Are we ready to have fun?” is just slightly worse than this next common opener:

9. How’s everybody feeling?

If I wanted to stretch to justify this statement, I could say that what you’re asking the congregation to do is self-reflect on their spiritual condition and present their real, whole selves honestly and submissively to the glory of Christ as you lead them in adoration of him. But my guess is that 9.9 times out of 10 what you’re really trying to do is get people to say, “Woooooooo!”

8. You can do better than that!

Or some other form of nagging about how we’re not singing or participating to your liking. It’s never really on my mind at a church service to think of ways to impress the worship leader. Similarly shaming is:

7. I can’t hear you!

Well, maybe turn the volume down. We can’t hear us either.

6. [Introducing a hymn] Here’s an oldie we dusted off.

Please don’t apologize for leading us in the rare song that is theologically rich and doctrinally solid. Apologize for not leading us in them more often!

5. “Rockin’ worship.”

Please stop. I know you’ve got a good drummer and amps that go to 11, but referring to church music as “rockin'”—or using the phrase “rockin’ it out”—is somewhere in the category of fanny packs and duck-face selfies.

4. Lord, we invite you to be here.

This is the worship leader’s equivalent of “asking Jesus into your heart.” I think I know what the phrase means, but it reveals something about our thinking related to worship. For instance, is it true that God is summoned by our worship? Or is it actually the other way around? He calls us—we then respond in worship. God isn’t a genie and worship isn’t like rubbing a golden lamp. Nor is he a cosmic butler to be summoned. Don’t invite the Lord into a space like he doesn’t already own it and isn’t already there.

3. God showed up.

Again, I think I know what is meant by this phrase. It can be a way of saying “we felt emotionally touched during the music time,” which can be an okay thing—it would be weird for Christians to never feel engaged emotionally in worshiping God—but it can also be a way of equating emotional reactions with God’s presence in an unhelpful way, in a way that inadvertently communicates to people that when they don’t feel good, God must be absent.

2. Let’s give God a hand.

Translation: I would like to hear some applause.

1. Turn to your neighbor and _____________.

There’s really nothing wrong with this approach, but as a socially awkward introvert, this kind of instruction is a huge heaping bowl of panic attack soup.

Related: Top 10 Things I Love That Worship Leaders Do

From Jared C. Wilson
5 Words of Advice for Young Seminarians

seminarianToday at Midwestern Seminary we are hosting our new student orientation. After the typical lull of summer, it’s great to see the campus bustling again with students new and returning. For those starting college or seminary education, I know it can sometimes be intimidating or overwhelming. And for those who don’t feel a little intimidated or overwhelmed, you may need to prepare yourselves, lest you get caught off-guard by the challenges of your studies and the seminary culture. Maybe the following few words can serve in this regard. Respectfully submitted:

1. Attend and serve in a local church.

Seminary is not a sabbatical from discipleship. If you’re attending school away from home, the temptation can be great to go on ecclesiological autopilot, and the sad fact is that many Bible college students and seminarians do. So while they spend most of their days for two to four years thinking about theology, worship, discipleship, and church ministry, they do so totally disconnected from the only God-designed context for these things. Don’t let your studies be purely theoretical. Biblical studies are bogus without the spiritual formation they are meant to foment.

Join a church and get involved. Serve in the kids or youth ministry or on the tech team or as an usher or greeter or parking lot attendant. Get your armpits sweaty with regular ol’ church work. It’s good for your heart and can help you stay grounded as your studies alone might keep you wrapped up in your own thoughts. Being involved in church community also helps you learn to love people, which, oddly enough, some seminarians need help with. Remember, the Lord has not called us to build empires, plant cool organizations, or strategize missionally apart from a faithful love and care for the sheep. The church is people, not a Big Idea. If feeding sheep is not your primary motivation, your seminary education will be worthless.

2. Spend 10x as much time listening as speaking.

You’re learning a lot. You’ve got a lot of ideas and strategies. Your theology is getting deeper and stronger. And of course you know exactly how to fix the church’s problems. The only problem is you really have no idea what you’re talking about. There will be plenty of time later to fix everybody. Right now, while you’re young and inexperienced, it’s not time to hand out pastoral advice, write gigantic thinkpieces on The State of the American Church, or argue with every Tom, Dick, and Harry about every strand of theological minutiae you can think of. Just sit there, and open your ears. Don’t stop talking. But don’t talk more than you listen. You don’t have all the answers. You aren’t here to “fix” your church, your pastor, your professors, or anybody or anything else.

3. Chase the right things.

Holy ambition is a good thing. It is sometimes great for young Christians to have “stars in their eyes” as it pertains to following Jesus on mission. But too many young seminarians are thinking more about platforms, fame, notoriety, followers, book deals, speaking gigs, and so on than they ought to. Chances are, you shouldn’t be thinking about these things at all, except to help steer clear of idolatry. “How can seminary help me advance my career?” is not the first question you should be asking. Instead, ask “How can seminary help me be a faithful citizen of God’s kingdom?” How can your studies help you embody John 3:30? How can this special time in your life help you lean into the Lord and pursue personal holiness? Keep your eyes on the right prize. If you will be faithful in little, the Lord may then trust you with much. On that note:

4. Do not despise the day of small things.

The spirit of Zechariah 4:10 will haunt you day by day. Seminary will get old. You will just want to move on, already. You want that ministry position. You want to be selected for that group or team. You are ready to get beyond reading the books you reckon beneath yourself or behind your advanced learning. You want to bite off more than you can chew. One thing you will learn when you serve in a ministry role over time is that a lot of the things you do are things you have to do but don’t want to do. Ministry is unfortunately often driven by the tyranny of the urgent. There are emails to answer, voicemails to return, forms to complete, calendars to organize. In my last pastorate, I had ten books published and a speaking engagement every month, and I still had to photocopy my own handouts, set up tables for deacons’ meetings, and pick up stray bulletins in the sanctuary after services. How does this translate to your seminarian life? How about making sure you turn assignments in on time, keep your room or apartment clean, show up to your appointments, let your “yes be yes” and your “no be no,” and not think yourself as generally above the routine tasks and duties of ordinary life?

5. Pray.

The strong seminarian is the one who acknowledges his weakness. If you try to do theological education in your own strength, you fail, no matter how good your grades are. It is more likely, however, that this experience will expose your weaknesses, reveal your idols, exacerbate your insecurities, test your patience, challenge your intellectual and emotional capabilities, and push you way beyond your comfort zone. What a wonderful opportunity, then, to take every little thing to the Lord in prayer! What a great opportunity to embrace the sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit, upon whom you are always relying anyway. Don’t shrink back from the challenge of your studies or the difficulty of distance from home and family. Press in with the Lord’s help by praying without ceasing.

From fingerpost

Whenever people agree with me 
I always feel I must be wrong.

- Oscar Wilde

From The Living Room
the living room recommends.

*dusts off the blog*

United by Trillia Newbell and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Two books on race, from very different perspectives–Mr. Coates writes for the Atlantic and is an atheist; Mrs. Newbell works for the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Both are brief, very important reads for anyone who is working through the tangles of race and culture in America.

Pass the Mic and Code Switch
Like the above books, but podcasts instead. Pass the Mic’s run by the Reformed African American Network, Code Switch is produced by NPR.

Onward by Russell Moore
Important for the American church as we’re losing political capitol, which Dr. Moore and I both argue is not really a bad thing.

Christ and Pop Culture
I will hammer on about this website until the day I die or it dies. Home to some of the best writing on faith and culture on the Internet.

Quick to Listen and The Calling
Two podcasts produced by Christianity Today. Quick to Listen is about hot topics in the news; The Calling is interviews with people who lead in the Church and sometimes their church.

Surprisingly Awesome
A podcast recommended to me by my friend Chris which takes seemingly boring topics and shows you how interesting and mind-blowing they are. The episode that hooked me is about the Chumbawumba song “Tubthumping.”

Not having “It’s Quiet Uptown” stuck in your head
I’ve had this song stuck in my head all week and I’ve been low-key sad as a result.

You Are What You Love
James K.A. Smith wrote these two really excellent books called Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom that are about how we’re formed by our habits and practices, and what Christian educators and churches can do to counteract the ways the world tries to shape us. The only thing is, those books are super-dense and pretty academic (he makes a lot of references to Kant and Wittgenstein, for example), so he wrote a more accessible, more application-heavy version called You Are What You Love and it’s so, so good.

From MzEllen – For the Life of Me
Penzey’s and Gay Mirage.

I got this email this morning and I'm about ready to boycott Penzey's. - update:  I sent an email letting them know that as soon as they stop shoving their politics down my throat, I'll start shopping with them again.

It reads like this

In our celebration of the one-year anniversary of Marriage Equality we've arrived at Garlic/Yellow and Parsley/Green recipes. If you missed our previous Cayenne/Red and Now Curry/Orange recipes click here:Guacamole, Butter Chicken and Cumin Rice with Saffron or Curried Potato Salad with Craisins. As part of our celebration, now through June 27th with any $5 purchase you can get a free half-cup jar of your choice of any of our featured Rainbow Spices (up to a $6.95 value).

And yes, Marriage Equality is totally about cooking. What separates humans from everything else that came before us here on earth is our million-year symbiotic relationship with cooking. Once we were animals. We could see the benefit in looking out for ourselves, and looking out for the herd, but that was about it. Through tens of thousands of generations of mealtimes spent together around the fire, we became something more. Those trillions of meals created a much larger circle around the fire, and in that process so much more was set in motion.

Without cooking, we would never have come to understand how much we all benefit when we take care of everyone, even those we do not even know. The gift of cooking is the gift of our humanity. Without cooking, there would be no religions teaching us that how we treat others is every bit as important as how we treat ourselves. Without cooking there would be no governments ensuring that even the least privileged among us also have a pathway to success.

Cooking is the best thing ever. And now, through cooking, we've arrived at this day where everyone has the right to be married, where everyone has the right to be a family!

Well, there you have it.  Every time you cook, keep in mind that you made gay mirage possible!  Through evolution.

From home is behind, the world ahead

I haven't known what to pray for many years. I sit near my bed each night and stare at a wall. I conjure up a couple of words that I don't usually mean. But, today, I start to understand what they mean by the groaning of the Holy Spirit. My prayers are without many words. Just an aching of the heart. A leaning in toward God. Whispering the names of those I love. Begging for relief. Because, I need prayer more than ever right now. I need to believe that God is real. That He is here. And that He is working. That's what prayer is. It's a desperation for God. An acknowledgement of some sort of faith. I have no idea what you're doing, God. But if I don't trust you are doing something all I have is despair. And so I pray. Because I have not much left.

From home is behind, the world ahead
Trying to Do Something With My Thoughts

The number of days
in between these brutal frays
grow too few
we can't get some relief
it threatens our belief
that hope is here
that God is real
that love can heal

I am crippled by my sadness
I am paralyzed by the madness
I've forgotten the face of gladness

It eats at me
like a disease
my eyes glued to a screen
is darkness our new reality?
I can't get some relief
my joy stolen by a thief

What a mystery
Surely not just my history?
Can it be my present and future
can it close these wounds as a suture

I should number my days
but I am numb in my ways
I should stand and fight
but that demands some might

I am so fragile
with shaken faith for quite awhile
All I can do is keep breathing
Lacking in motivation
to do anything of meaning
Just being
Sleeping through the light
Blinded by the night

I hate this state that I relate to
sedated by my own fears
I admit I'm hiding, I'm not
crying for change
or justice for the slain
but I can't take the berating
and hating and fighting

Sad for the lives I never knew
that left this earth too soon
Sad for the meaningless arguments
That lead us not a step toward agreements
but push us farther into isolation
so much for a united nation
Sad for my personal enemies
Oh me of selfish tendencies
the demons that are stored inside
that I keep alive
because it's easier than to try

No easy way out
But surely there is something
we can do about
these evil acts
lay off the facts
the statistics, the data
look in the faces
they are not nameless
and weep, that's a
brother, a mother, a friend
ask for this to end

And Lord, help my unbelief
You are my only relief

From fingerpost

I will pour water upon the thirsty one.
- Isaiah 44: 3

From fingerpost

Til sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.

- Thomas Watson

From The Living Room
Songs in ordinary time: Trinity Sunday.

All along the watchtowers of the walls around
The city of man, the jokers and thieves shout
The songs of their sacred temples
And we all muse that there must be some way out of here

And the Dancer still dances His threefold dance
While we are only specks in the eye of the universe
That He forms into one new Man and fills with His breath
Paradox, mystery, unexplainable ineffable light

One and one and one make one
While the rebels shatter and scatter like Babel

From The Living Room
Songs in ordinary time: Pentecost.

If I still have any readers after not posting for almost six months, I’m going to try something and write a poem every Sunday from now until the Sunday before Advent, the space the church calls ordinary time. Let’s see how this goes.

“Take a deep breath,” he said,

“and think the phrase ‘Jesus is Lord’

while you do it.


“Inhale on ‘Jesus,’

pause on ‘is,’ and breathe out ‘Lord.’

And repeat that for five minutes,

every day, when you wake up

and before you go to sleep.”


This, offered as, if not a cure,

Then at least a brief reprieve from

The fear that took over my body–


And I breathe in Jesus

And I breathe out his kingdom

And in between I pause in the present tenseness

Of him


And somewhere in the breathing

The cry turns to song

Even if sometimes it’s still lament