"As they passed the rows of houses they saw through the open doors that men were sweeping and dusting and washing dishes, while the women sat around in groups, gossiping and laughing. "What has happened?" the Scarecrow asked a sad-looking man with a bushy beard, who wore an apron and was wheeling a baby-carriage along the sidewalk. "Why, we've had a revolution, your Majesty -- as you ought to know very well," replied the man; "and since you went away the women have been running things to suit themselves. I'm glad you have decided to come back and restore order, for doing housework and minding the children is wearing out the strength of every man in the Emerald City." "Hm!" said the Scarecrow, thoughtfully. "If it is such hard work as you say, how did the women manage it so easily?" "I really do not know," replied the man, with a deep sigh. "Perhaps the women are made of cast-iron.""

- L. Frank Baum, "The Land of Oz"
Posts From Our Blogroll
From internetmonk.com
Sundays with Michael Spencer: May 24, 2015

Pentecost, Giotto

Pentecost, Giotto

If you haven’t read them recently, the relevant passages on Spiritual gifts are 1 Corinthians 12-14, Romans 12, and 1 Peter 4.

Most of us who are old enough recall when we first heard teaching on the subject of “spiritual gifts,” or charismata. For me, it was in the Charismatic movement’s first wave, which involved me both with Catholic charismatics and with charismatics in the mainline churches. That teaching almost entirely dealt with the gift of tongues and other “supernatural” gifts of the Spirit.

Later on, many of us encountered evangelical teaching on spiritual gifts in teaching that seemed heavily influenced by various kinds of secular personality theory, especially the identification of various personality characteristics as they pertained to work, relationships and self-understanding.

The Biblical material on spiritual gifts took a back seat to questions of fulfillment and happiness. I’ve known many Christians who were on a permanent quest to be accurately defined in terms of spiritual gifts/personality type/vocational preference and style.

More recently, “spiritual gift” seminars and inventories have become a standard part of the megachurch’s appropriation of Biblical material for its own programmatic needs. Spiritual gift inventories were not so much about finding who had the gift of “helping” as getting adequate cameramen for the 11 a.m. service.

I’ve always thought that despite the exegetical mysteries we’ll probably always face with these passages and this topic, the practical application of spiritual gifts was not really in question. But because of the connection with controversial topics many don’t want to explore and because spiritual gift inventories are assumed to be the best application, little new is ever said about spiritual gifts.

A recent sermon by my pastor/friend Fr. Peter Mathews boiled the essentials of these passages down to these four points, all with application.

1) The Holy Spirit gives charismata.
2) The Holy Spirit gives diverse charismata.
3) The Holy Spirit gives diverse charismata to diverse people.
4) The Holy Spirit gives diverse charismata to diverse people for the common good.

After hearing that message, I found myself thinking about the one thing I find missing in most evangelical teaching on spiritual gifts. I’d insert it as point “3.5”

3.5) The Holy Spirit gives diverse charismata to diverse people in diverse situations.

Much of the teaching on spiritual gifts that has morphed into “inventories” and such seems to be about my own possession of a gift so tied to my own identity that no matter what situation I am in, that gift is my one offering to the community.

So if my gift is teaching, then I am gifted for teaching in every situation. And I’m justified to say “I would like to help, but that’s not my gift/calling/ministry.”

Instead, I’d like to suggest that the Holy Spirit manifests a diversity of gifts in diverse people in diverse situations, and what may be my spiritual gift in situation “A” may no be at all what I am gifted to do in situation “B.”

The applicable prayer here is not just “What can I do?” but “Father, how can I be a gift from you to this situation?”

We actively seek out the manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s diverse empowerment, but we have a spiritual sensitivity that if toilets need to be cleaned more than Leviticus needs to be taught, then I am gifted, called and empowered to do that very thing.

I believe that the economic downturn and the situations we all may face as families, neighborhoods, churches and ministries may provide a much needed opportunity for us to rethink “charismata,” and be much more open to what God would have us do and be in a new situation.

The current economic downturn provides many opportunities for kinds of “giftedness” that aren’t that valuable or appreciated when times are good. How many of us think about offering rides to others, or sharing a meal, or creating a food pantry when times a good? How many of us see our gifts in terms of program rather than in terms of what the Spirit is doing and yearning to do in very unusual situations?

I’d welcome your thoughts on spiritual gifts, and particularly on having a more flexible and less deterministic view of how they function in the church, the Kingdom and the world.

From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: May 25, 2015


“‘When you open a book,’ the sentimental library posters said, ‘anything can happen.’ This was so. A book of fiction was a bomb. It was a land mind you wanted to go off. You wanted it to blow your whole day. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of books were duds. They had been rusting out of everyone’s way for so long that they no longer worked. There was no way to distinguish the duds from the live mines except to throw yourself at them headlong, one by one.” ~Annie Dillard

SatReviewbutton

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.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.

From internetmonk.com
Saturday Ramblings, May 23, 2015: Memorial Day Edition

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1968 AMC SCRambler

Saturday Ramblings, May 23, 2015: Memorial Day Edition

Greetings iMonks. Today, Dan is away at the Moody Pastor’s Conference, you know, the one where all the moody, grumpy pastors congregate and complain. That leaves me, one unworthy to tie Dan’s hiking boots, to lead us in rambling on this Memorial Day Saturday.

We’ll start with a Top Ten list of quotes from David Letterman’s final show:

DL goodbye10. “We’ve done over 6000 shows and I was here for most of them, and I can tell you, a pretty high percentage of those shows absolutely sucked.” (DL)

9. “I’m just glad your show is being given to another white guy.” (Chris Rock)

8. “Thanks for letting me take part in another hugely disappointing series finale.” (Julia Louis-Dreyfus)

7. “Earlier today we got a call from Stephen Hawking, and he, bless his heart, had done the math, because he’s a genius and stuff, and 6,028 shows and he ran the numbers, and he said it works out to about eight minutes of laughter.” (DL)

6. “Honestly, Dave, I’ve always found you to be a bit of an over-actor.” (Jim Carrey)

5. “You want to know what I’m going to do now that I’m retired? By God, I hope to become the new face of Scientology.” (DL)

4. “Your extensive plastic surgery was a necessity and a mistake.” (Steve Martin)

3. “When we started the show there were mixed responses. Half of the people said, ‘That show doesn’t have a chance.’ The other half said, ‘That show doesn’t have a prayer.’ ” (DL)

2. “My fellow Americans, our long, national nightmare is over” (President Ford). “Our long, national nightmare is over” (President Bush). “Our long, national nightmare is over” (President Clinton). “Our long, national nightmare is over” (President George W. Bush). “Our long, national nightmare is over. Letterman is retiring” (President Obama).

1. “It’s beginning to look like I’m not gonna get The Tonight Show.” (DL)

2015_DixonOnTrackUpClose_1600x800
The month of May in Indianapolis may not be what it used to be, but it’s still all about “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” — the Indianapolis 500. This year is the 99th running of the race (next year should be amazing), and Scott Dixon will be on the pole after winning qualifications with an average speed of 226.760 mph. Dixon won the race in 2008.

MemorialDay_Banner1Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Andy Stanley and the North Point family of churches must have decided it’s time to “engage the culture” again. Shutting down Sunday services is no longer just for Christmas — North Point will be closed this year for Memorial Day as well.

I’m not sure they even do that in Indianapolis.

franklin-graham2-351On his Facebook page this past week, Franklin Graham posted prayers for each of the Supreme Court Justices, urging Christians to petition heaven that the court will make the right decision regarding same-sex marriage. Here is his appeal for Justice Sonia Sotomayor:

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was born to a family of immigrants and grew up in public housing in the Bronx. She is a great example of someone who reached the American Dream through hard work and determination. Unfortunately, she is also an example of someone who seems to be very misguided on the issue of same-sex marriage. She voted to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2014, and homosexual advocates consider her an ally in their fight to make same-sex marriage the law of the land. Let’s pray for Justice Sotomayor to have the wisdom to know that as a society we cannot survive if we turn our back on God’s standards and His definition of marriage.

07/05/2015 Marriage Equality Referendum. Pictured are Yes and No Posters on street in Dublin. Photography: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Photography: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Meanwhile, the New York Times anticipated yesterday’s national vote about this issue in, of all places, Ireland.

If there was any doubt about the pace at which acceptance of gay rights is taking root in societies around the world, consider Ireland.

On Friday, voters in this once deeply Roman Catholic country will decide whether the Constitution should be amended to add a tersely worded declaration: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

If the amendment passes, Ireland will become the first country to legalize same-sex civil marriage by popular vote.

Here are some samples from what will surely become everyone’s favorite new website: Pinterest, You Are Drunk.

If nobody can tell if you are really good at it, or really bad at it,
it’s probably time to pick a new craft.

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And then you invariably have to spend the second half of the BBQ
watching Aunt Bernice walk around with a bottle cap stuck
to the back of her pale meaty thigh.

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 Hairy leg hosiery, because my husband tried to keep me
from coming to meet his coworkers at the work picnic.

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Last week, we lost two great extreme athletes, Dean Potter and Graham Hunt, in a BASE-jumping accident. The pair had attempted to jump in wingsuits from Taft Point, a 7,500 foot cliff overlooking Yosemite Valley in California.

Potter once wrote of his childhood dreams: “I dreamed of feathers sprouting on my arms, fields rolling far below in waves of cloud-streaked green, distorting into burnt wastelands of faint sand dunes and dust storms. Other winged humans flocked toward me. They were gesturing, making high-pitched squeaks. They arched their backs and brought their arms down to their sides, shifted slightly to control their flight and looked at me, encouraging” (“Embracing Insanity”).

Here is a remarkable 2009 National Geographic video featuring Potter making the world’s longest BASE jump:

Christianity Today reports that:

Progressive-Christianity-Fact-or-Fiction-3-300x123A feud over theology has led an unusual ecumenical project in a small Arizona town.

Eight churches—including Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and non-denominational congregations—in Fountain Hills have teamed up for a campaign of public banners and sermons aimed at the theology of a nearby Methodist church.

These churches in Fountain Hills, Arizona have come together in the light of a fierce public debate in the local media surrounding the teachings and positions of Pastor David Felten of The Fountains, a United Methodist Church. Felton advocates what he calls “progressive Christianity.” The other churches will be preaching a coordinated sermon series on “Progressive Christianity: Fact or Fiction?”

Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday in the Western Church, so here’s a Pentecost Special (from Lark News)…

When he prophesies, it’s in pirate

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — Sam Brobst took a “Learning Your Spiritual Gift” course at Full Life Center, a charismatic church, and felt the Lord leading him to prophesy during meetings. But when Brobst opened his mouth the first time, he and others were surprised by what came out: pirate speak.

“We were in the middle of worship, when this voice rings out, ‘Yar! Hear the word of the Lord — the Lord of the mighty seas!’” says one witness. “It was straight out of a Disneyland ride.”

Brobst says he can’t help it: when the Spirit moves upon him, he clamps one eye shut and his voice becomes gravelly and menacing. On a recent Sunday, he prophesied, “Avast ye, mateys! Hear the word from our Cap’n: No fear have ye of storms and scallywags, says ye? Argh! But I be seein’ your true hearts. For I see below quarterdecks, says I. Ye be tremblin’ in the face of scurvy dogs. But pay them no heed. For I be preparin’ to pour down plenty o’ booty upon ye. So be of cheer, me hearties! Ye be loved of the Cap’n.”

The people of the church by now are accustomed to it, though first-time visitors often giggle.

“It doesn’t even sound like pirate to me anymore,” says one regular attendee. “My mind translates it.”

Others say it’s preferable to past prophetic styles they have witnessed.

“One woman would wail her prophecies,” says longtime member Darlene Bright. “Another man would thunder in a deep voice like he was trying to impress us. All in all, I prefer pirate.”

Finally, a brief tribute for Memorial Day. This video, from Arlington National Cemetery, describes an honor trip made there that was sponsored by Vets Roll, an organization that thanks America’s veterans by making it possible for them to travel to Washington, D.C. at no cost. These trips are designed to help bring healing and closure to these veterans as they remember the extraordinary and difficult times when they were called upon to serve their country in battle.

From internetmonk.com
Religious Switching 2.0

RelgiousSwithching2014-2
ReligiousSwitching2014-legendWell, last week I promised you, the full Religious Switching in America Graph along with commentary. The graph is complete. Click on the image for a better view. The commentary and related data tables… well I guess I will have to discuss with Chaplain Mike when that will be coming. The graph took a little longer to finish than expected.

To understand that graph, 54,000 Americans were surveyed in 2014. The top of the graph represents what they said their faith group was in childhood. The bottom of the graph represents their faith group today. The lines between the top and the bottom represent the changes between childhood faith group and current faith group. The legend for the smaller faith groups is to the left. The blank space at the right of the graph represents those faith groups where not enough data was provided to determine changes. All data was derived from the Pew Forum’s Religious Landscape Study.

My apologies for not having the commentary ready. I will have it soon. Please contribute to the discussion my leaving your own thoughts and comments and I will answer them as best I can in my next post. For comparison purposes the 2007 graph is provided below.

religiousswitching2

From Brandywine Books
‘Police at the Funeral,’ by Margery Allingham

I’ve been interested to read one of Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion books ever since I saw Peter Davidson’s portrayal on a BBC television series some years back. Books in the series have recently become available for Kindle at low prices, so I bought Police at the Funeral.

Albert Campion, the amateur detective of these books, bears a resemblance to Dorothy Sayer’s Lord Peter Wimsey, and it’s not by accident. Campion began as a parody of Lord Peter, but took on a life of his own. Nevertheless, they’re still alike enough to be brothers, except that Campion wears horn rimmed glasses instead of Wimsey’s monocle.

In Police at the Funeral, Campion goes to stay in a great house in Cambridge, at the request of a friend, and of his fiancee who is a lady’s companion there. The resident family is an eccentric and crotchety assortment of elderly siblings and cousins, all constantly quibbling and chafing under the iron rule of a formidable great-aunt. One of the residents has disappeared, and soon his body is discovered, bound with a rope and shot to death.

The story is perfectly a perfectly adequate example of the “cozy” English variety of mystery, but I found it less interesting than I hoped. Perhaps my tastes have been spoiled by the ugly realism of the modern mystery, or perhaps I just compared it unfairly to Dorothy Sayer’s books, which are (in my view) a notch brighter and more interesting.

Not bad, though. I’m sure many of our readers will enjoy it.

From Brandywine Books
A Portrait of Shakespeare Made During His Lifetime?

ShakespeareMark Griffiths, a historian and botanist, was writing a book about English horticulturist John Gerard, who was a contemporary of Shakespeare, and decided to work out the ciphers and symbols on a famous book of Gerard’s. His study has convinced him that he has found the only known portrait of Shakespeare made during his lifetime. Many clues point in this direction. For example:

A figure four and an arrow head with an E stuck to it. In Elizabethan times, people would have used the Latin word “quater” as a slang term for a four in dice and cards. Put an e on the end and it becomes quatere, which is the infinitive of the Latin verb quatior, meaning shake. Look closely and the four can be seen as a spear.

“It is a very beautiful example of the kind of device that Elizabethans, particularly courtiers, had great fun creating,” said Griffiths.

The discovery was published in Country Life, which apparently is enough to make scholars mock its veracity.

First up, Michael Dobson, director of the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham.

“I’m deeply unconvinced,” he said. “I haven’t seen the detailed arguments, but Country Life is certainly not the first publication to make this sort of claim.” (via Prufrock)

From Brandywine Books
Here’s a “Great” Idea

The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks brings us signs with curious punctuation. There’s a sign for a nursing home that people say is “20 minutes from here,” a place with (quote, unquote) parking in the rear, ice cream that’s “homegrown” somehow, and this notice written by someone who doesn’t appear to have any idea what quotation marks are for.

Have you ever seen this kind of thing in the wild? I think I’ve only noticed misplaced apostrophes.

This reminds me of a note I put in the copy room where I once worked. “This is a Lanier copier,” I said. “You cannot ‘Xerox’ on it.”

They loved me for that.

19th St (% Valencia||Guerrero)

From The Boar's Head Tavern
Jaredd was right

Read the book. More frustrated.

From internetmonk.com
More on “Playing the Music”

MS Band 1

Picking up on yesterday’s post, here few more thoughts on “playing the music”…

• • •

Last night we went to a spring intermediate school band and choral concert (5th and 6th grade). My grandson was playing and we knew several other children and families who were involved. I have four children and have been to many of these events before. I’m not being unkind when I say that concerts at this age are usually events to be endured rather than enjoyed. At least with regard to the music, that is.

There is, of course, much to be enjoyed and celebrated. Just looking down at that gymnasium floor and seeing all those energetic, eager, dressed-up, awkward pre-teens navigating their first tentative steps toward adulthood is entertainment enough. Then, take a glance back at the bleachers. Some of their parents are barely thirty years old, many are holding drooling newborns or squirming toddlers, and there they are watching their little man or woman play an instrument, sing in the choir, maybe even do a solo in front of a huge crowd. That can be a wake-up call! There are plenty of grandparents like me, too, the old veterans, who chuckle with recognition when the jazz band strikes up “Ben’s Blues,” the same piece we’ve heard played by every first time combo we’ve witnessed. A blest community of ordinary people in all shapes and sizes and seasons of life, gathered to hear the music come alive through our kids.

The young choral director in her twenties always throws in a surprise or two to delight the crowd and show off the kids’ energy and emerging talent: a solo or two in a contemporary pop song, a swinging rendition of “Rockin’ Robin” with movements and gestures, an African folk tune that impresses everyone with the children’s ability to sing in a foreign tongue. The band’s not left out either — they rock the joint (oh so slowly) as they don sunglasses and play the theme from “Mission Impossible.”

Of course, the tempos are tedious, entrances and cut-offs are anything but precise, the tuning is questionable and instruments squeak here and there, often at the most inopportune times. A vocal soloist misses her cue and the choir has to start the song over. The audience begins to clap at a pause in the music rather than at the end. Mics feed back on the teachers who introduce the numbers and there are awkward silences between performances as the groups rearrange themselves and their equipment and music. The teachers always tell bad jokes. Parents and grandparents like me crawl around the floor and bleachers trying to find the best spots from which to capture the memories through pictures and video. It’s a scene right out of Mayberry, I tell you; small town charm at its best.

But somehow it all comes together, and the audience and participants end up thoroughly enjoying the show. Afterwards the community mills around, we visit with our neighbors, snap pictures, admire each others’ children, and touch base with the teachers, some of whom are getting to know yet another generation in our families.

MS ChoirYesterday, we talked about “virtuoso spirituality.”

Maybe that word threw some of you a bit. I for one don’t think I’ve felt like a “virtuoso” for a single second in my life of faith. More like the kid who hit the cymbal on the wrong beat or the one whose clarinet squeaked or whose voice cracked when trying to hit that note that was just out of reach. When it comes to following Jesus, I’m not sure I’ll ever leave the awkward middle-school stage.

But I’ll give it to those kids and this community. They may represent exactly what “playing the music” is all about. Putting yourself out there. In all your awkwardness and naïveté and self-doubt. Trusting the music and the practice you’ve had. Keeping your eye on the director or conductor. Listening to the others and trying to blend in. All the while knowing that there is a big community around you that takes delight in you and your growth, that is there to applaud every step of progress and to encourage you after every mistake.

I tell you, I saw a lot of grace, forbearance, kindness, joy, and encouragement at a 5th and 6th grade concert last night.

I also saw a lot of awkward, half-grown kids who made a bunch of mistakes and produced a lot of mediocre music — it surely wasn’t “virtuoso.”

Or maybe it was, in its own way.

However you want to look at it, music came alive here last night, we were all a part of it, and the joy was tangible.

From Brandywine Books
Museum of Biblical Art Closing

Museum of Biblical Art

The Museum of Biblical Art in New York will be closing June 14. Founded by the American Bible Society in 1997, the museum needed to find a new venue soon and could not do it.

“I believe that MOBIA contributes a unique element to the cultural landscape of New York and the entire country, and it is with tremendous sorrow that we close our doors,” said Co-Chair of the MOBIA Board of Trustees John Fossum.

Mike Duran states, “It is indeed a tragedy if we can’t acknowledge the Bible and its influence as one of the great sources of modern Western art and culture,” but he wonders “whether the mainstream evangelical perspective of art has created an impassable breach.” Is a secular museum on biblical art an uncomfortable topic for Americans, particular New Yorkers?

The Atlantic answers this way. “The absence of religious context for religious art in American museums was not, as one might assume, a product of the culture wars or a precocious expression of the new atheism. It was actually the result of several hundred years of aesthetic politics.”

They quote Marcus Burk, senior curator at the Hispanic Society of America, saying, “This is just a torpedo at the water-line. It’s an enormous loss to the cultural life of New York and the whole country.”

From internetmonk.com
Eugene Peterson: Virtuoso Spirituality

Violin

What comes next is very important: I am sending what my Father promised to you, so stay here in the city until he arrives, until you’re equipped with power from on high.

• Luke 24:49, MSG

• • •

Pentecost is the next great Sunday on the Christian calendar: it falls this Sunday for the Western Church and on May 31 for the East. The Holy Spirit has always been one of the great mysteries of our faith and throughout church history entire movements have been devoted to trying to capture the essence of the Spirit-filled life.

Today, I want to share a passage from Eugene Peterson, whom I have found to be a reliable guide for my life in Christ. This passage is from his book, Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading. Though it doesn’t speak of the Spirit directly, I find it to be one of the most enlightening texts I have read describing what, it seems to me, the Holy Spirit has come to do in our lives as Christ-followers.

See what you think. Let’s talk about this as we prepare to celebrate Pentecost.

Virtuoso Spirituality

Frances Young uses the extended analogy of music and its performance to provide a way of understanding the interrelated complexities of reading and living the Holy Scriptures, what John experienced as eating the book. Her book Virtuoso Theology searches out what she names as “the complex challenges involved in seeking authenticity in performance.” It is of the very nature of music that it is to be performed. Can music that is not performed be called “music”? Performance, though, does not consist in accurately reproducing the notes in the score as written by the composer, although it includes this. Everyone recognizes the difference between an accurate but wooden performance of, say, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 1, and a virtuoso performance by Yitzak Perlman. Perlman’s performance is not distinguished merely by his technical skill in reproducing what Mozart composed; he wondrously enters into and conveys the spirit and energy — the “life” — of the score. Significantly, he adds nothing to the score, neither “jot nor tittle.” Even though he might reasonably claim that, with access to the interrelated psychologies of music and sexuality, he understands Mozart much better than Mozart understood himself, he restrains himself; he does not interpolate.

One of the continuous surprises of musical and dramatic performance is the sense of fresh spontaneity that comes in the performance: faithful attention to the text does not result in slavish effacement of personality; rather, it releases what is inherent in the text itself as the artist performs; “music has to be ‘realized’ through performance and interpretation.”

Likewise Holy Scripture. The two analogies, performing the music and eating the book, work admirably together. The complexity of the performance analogy supplements the earthiness of the eating analogy (and vice versa) in directing the holy community to enter the world of Holy Scripture formationally.

But if we are “unscripted,” Alasdair McIntyre’s word in this context, we spend our lives as anxious stutterers in both our words and actions. But when we do this rightly — performing the score, eating the book, embracing the holy community that internalizes the text — we are released into freedom: “I will run in the way of thy commandments when thou enlargest my understanding” (Ps. 119:32).

• Eugene Peterson
Eat This Book, p. 76f

There are many things I love about this and how it speaks to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

  • The Spirit is closely linked with the Word, reminding me that my relationship with God is a conversational one. As in all relationships we deepen our friendship by listening and speaking to one another. It is my special place to listen in this relationship.
  • God’s Word, however, is not just a “rule book” to be slavishly followed. It is a text to be performed in life by individuals and communities with personalities, contexts, gifts, and unique perspectives.
  • The Word has no actual value except in performance. The Story calls us to live within it, to carry it on, to live it out.
  • In reality, we add nothing to the Word. However, the “sound” of the Word that emanates from each individual’s and community’s performance brings out fresh nuances and perspectives that can make it “new” and invigorating, no matter how many times we hear it.
  • When we “perform” the Word with virtuosity, having not only “learned” it but having also “internalized” it, we then “interpret” it through our performance in such a way that it does not, in the end, draw attention to ourselves, but to the spirit and energy — the “life” — of the score itself.

It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us that enables us to “perform” the Word in our daily lives. I’m not one who thinks of this process as merely monergistic. We actively participate in it, we “work,” we cooperate, we practice, we learn, we internalize, we grow. It is a messy process filled with failures and setbacks. Any sense of “progress” may be invisible to us. It’s a lot like life and nothing at all like a mechanical process of production. Disciples are not made, but grown.

Seems to me that I spend a lot of time learning the notes. I probably should be doing more performances. Putting it out there, in front of the audience. Playing the music. Letting it live.

From Brandywine Books
‘The Stranger,’ by Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben is a remarkable writer of thrillers. It has been noted that he avoids profanity in his dialogue, and his use of violence is pretty restrained. Nevertheless he is capable of producing books as shocking as any you will ever read, in their own way. The Stranger is Hitchcockian in its portrayal of a very ordinary man thrust into a world of lies and mortal danger, and raises societal and existential questions as well.

Adam Price is no man of action. An easygoing type, he’s a successful eminent domain lawyer, living in a prosperous New Jersey suburb. He loves his beautiful wife and his two teenage sons. He’s “living the dream,” as one of his friends likes to say.

But, as the author is careful to emphasize, “dream” is precisely the word for their lives. Their security is insecure, their happiness fragile. Adam learns this first hand when a stranger sidles up to him after a youth lacrosse league meeting at the local American Legion, and tells him, “You didn’t have to stay with her.” Then he gives him information to prove that his wife has lied to him about something that matters deeply in their relationship.

It’s not just him who’s receiving such messages, Adam learns in time. There are people who search the internet, ferreting out secrets and blackmailing people, self-righteously believing they’re fighting the good fight against hypocrisy.

And they’re not even the worst ones….

Besides questioning our illusions of security and secrecy in the modern world, The Stranger also raises interesting questions about what they call “hacktivism” nowadays. This book is as relevant as anything you’ll read this year.

It drew me in. It fascinated me. It broke my heart. Highly recommended.

From fingerpost

I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.

-Helen Keller

From Brandywine Books
Extra Jolt in Coffee: ‘Like Red Bull and Vodka”

Marijuana infused coffee pods are now for sale in select stores on the left coast. One store owner said, “I liken it to a Red Bull and vodka. I had more energy, but I still had the relaxation you get from cannabis.”

Energetic relaxation, folks, can be yours with one special cup of coffee.

From Jared C. Wilson
For The Church at SBC

mbts_sbc_ftc_tw
If you are attending the Southern Baptist Convention next month in Columbus, Ohio, I’d like to invite you to join me, Mark Dever, Matt Carter, Jason Allen, Ronnie Floyd, and Paige Patterson for our For The Church conference luncheon on June 16 at 11:45 a.m.

Each of us will be giving a short “TED talk”-like address on a particular topic, and we’ll also be giving away to all attendees Dever’s epic new work with Jonathan Leeman on Baptist foundations.

Just $10 if you register early.
Hope to see you there!

ftc_speaker-topics

From Semicolon
Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge


I am so enjoying my discovery and exploration of Elizabeth Goudge’s novels. In February I read The Dean’s Watch, and I wrote that it might the best book I read this year. I read The Rosemary Tree last summer–and relished the author’s insight into human psychology. I also read Gentian Hill in 2014, and I put it on my list of ten best adult fiction books I read last year. Charlotte of Charlotte’s Library has recommended Valley of Song to me, and many, many readers have recommended Ms. Goudge’s children’s fantasy The Little White Horse. I think Goudge is the sort of author that I’m going to enjoy stretching out and reading in a leisurely manner, two or three of her books per year, spaced out over the course of the year.

That said, Pilgrim’s Inn was lovely, and it made me crave more Goudgian writing. I’m trying to think what actually happens in the story. A family buys an old inn and moves to the country. One character struggles with a “mental breakdown” in the aftermath of World War II. Various characters struggle with their own secret sins and temptations. One married couple falls in love with each other all over again, and another man and woman learn to love each other in spite of the difficulties and impediments to their union. Children act like children and do very childlike things, but the insight into child psychology and children’s thought lives is amazing. Altogether, it’s not at all a plot-driven novel, and I can see how today’s readers, trained by television and movies, would find it slow and somewhat sentimental, perhaps becoming restless and even bored. I had to consciously slow myself down and appreciate the unhurried pace of the story and of life in the English countryside with people who are still trying to build new lives after the hour of the war.

The inn itself is a sort of a magical place, and several encounters and chance meetings in the woods m=nearby produce healing and psychological breakthroughs. The air and atmosphere of the novel is Christian without the spiritual underpinnings becoming intrusive or didactic. The characters grow and learn and make surprising decisions and revelations, just as people do in real life.

I can’t imagine a more enjoyable summer reading book than Pilgrim’s Inn. Slow down and enjoy a sojourn in post-war England with some really intriguing people living in a wonder-filled place. Oh, I forgot that there’s a matriarch in the story who begs to played in a movie version by Maggie Smith. They had better hurry up and make the movie because I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part. Do you ever cast the characters in your favorite books?

“As this world becomes increasingly ugly, callous and materialistic it needs to be reminded that the old fairy stories are rooted in truth, that imagination is of value, that happy endings do, in fact, occur, and that the blue spring mist that makes an ugly street look beautiful is just as real a thing as the street itself.” ~Elizabeth Goudge

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

From Brandywine Books
First priorities

I’m late to the game, but I’d like to share some things I was thinking a couple weeks back, when everybody was talking about “Draw Muhammad Day” (is that the acceptable spelling this week? It’s hard to keep track). Chances are you’ve thought similar thoughts, but I haven’t seen the argument framed in exactly the terms I’d wish.

First of all, I’m all for civic courtesy. Going out and purposely insulting somebody’s religion (even if it’s Islam, which I consider a delusion of the devil) is bad taste, bad manners, and bad behavior as a neighbor. As a Christian, I consider it not only unloving but counterproductive for evangelism purposes. I would never do it, if all things were equal.

But there are events and statements that do make all things unequal. Like a planet dropped into a solar system, they change all the orbits and disrupt the orderly functioning of things.

Violence is the most radical of these. When violence is added to the mix, everything is altered.

When somebody declares that they intend to exercise a Murder Veto on the First Amendment, offending them ceases to be a faux pas. It becomes a kind of a duty for everyone who cares about freedom of expression. If you can’t insult the source of the threat yourself, you have to at least support those who will. Even if, under normal circumstances, those people are scuzzballs.

Because constitutional rights are more important than civility. Incivility will not destroy freedom. The threat of violence can.

The Murder Veto must not be tolerated, or we are lost.

From Brandywine Books
Hugh MacLeod and Seth Godin

Artist Hugh MacLeod asked author Seth Godin several questions last month. Here’s one of them.

HM: Back in my advertising days, a “Freelancer” was mostly considered a second class citizen- somebody who didn’t have the chops to hold down a proper, full-time salaried gig with an equally proper, established agency. A mere hired gun, maybe useful in an emergency, but no real lasting value. And here’s you, saying “No” to all that. Here’s you saying, “The reason you’re a freelancer is because it actually allows you to do important work.” Please elaborate.

SG: Think about the people who are truly great. The programmer who can save you months. The cartoonist who draws life-changing images on the backs of business cards. The guitar player who can sit in on a recording session and change everything… These people are first class. They’re in charge. Top of their game. The best of the best. That’s the freelancer each of us is capable of being.

Street Poet

From Jared C. Wilson
It Is God Who Justifies

5005665898_1cd56f72ee_oIt is God who justifies. — Romans 8:33

“Behold the eternal security of the weakest believer in Jesus. The act of justification, once passed under the great seal of the resurrection of Christ, God can never revoke without denying Himself. Here is our safety. Here is the ground of our dauntless challenge, ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God who justifies.’ What can I need more? What more can I ask?

“If God, the God of spotless purity, the God of inflexible righteousness, justifies me, ‘who is he that condemns?’ Sin may condemn, but it is God that justifies! The law may alarm, but it is God that justifies! Satan may accuse, but it is God that justifies! Death may terrify, but it is God that justifies! ‘If GOD is for us, who can be against us?’ Who will dare condemn the soul whom He justifies?

“How gloriously will this truth shine forth in the great day of judgment! Every accuser will then be dumb. Every tongue will then be silent. Nothing shall be laid to the charge of God’s elect. GOD Himself shall pronounce them fully, and forever justified: ‘And those He justifies, He also glorifies.'”

– Octavius Winslow, Morning Thoughts (February 1)

From fingerpost

Five Basic Truths:

1. God has spoken to man, and the Bible is his word, given to us to make us wise unto salvation.
2. God is Lord and King over his world; he rules all things for his own glory, displaying his perfections in all that he does, in order that men and angels may worship and adore him.
3. God is Savior, active in sovereign love through the Lord Jesus Christ to rescue believers from the guilt and power of sin, to adopt them as his children and to bless them accordingly.
4. God is triune; there are within the Godhead three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The work of salvation is one in which all three act together, the Father purposing redemption, the Son securing it and the Spirit applying it.
5. Godliness means responding to God’s revelation in trust and obedience, faith and worship, prayer and praise, submission and service. Life must be seen and lived in the light of God’s Word.             This, and nothing else, is true religion.

-J.I. Packer, Knowing God

From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: May 16, 2015


“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.” ~William Styron

SatReviewbutton

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.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.

From Semicolon
Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey

I guess I wanted just one valuable takeaway nugget of truth or advice or wisdom from Mr. Yancey’s meditation on the dearth of grace in our world and even in our churches, and what I got was a meditation on the lack of good news of grace in our culture and in our churches. Expectations meet sad reality.

“What ever happened to the good news?” “Why does the church stir up such negative feelings?” “How can Christians make a positive, grace-filled difference in a world of desperate need?”

Rod Dreher talks about his Benedict Option. I feel as if I’m living the Benedict Option to some extent, and it’s not enough—because the need is, as Mr. Yancey says, desperate. My children and my eventual grandchildren don’t have centuries to wait to see the culture, the world redeemed and made right by Jesus’ mercy and by grace-filled Christians living simple grace-filled lives in Christ.

Yancey nails the problem: a world without Christians who are filled with Christ’s grace and love is a world without hope. But the world doesn’t necessarily see it that way. He gives examples. Then, he gives some suggestions on how Christians can begin to interact with the world, “a series of observations and suggestions for Christians to consider as we interact with a world that does not always share our views”:

1. “Clashes between Christ and culture are unavoidable.” Well, duh. The question is how to act when those “clashes”, more like crashes, happen. I am to act in love. But what that looks like is difficult and confusing.

2. Christians should choose their battles wisely. Absolutely. I think that cake-baking and flower providing are not where I would draw the line, but then, I’m not in the cake-baking or floral business. When people are being deliberately provocative and hoping to trap you into saying or doing something that can be used as bad publicity or example, the best way to respond is the way Jesus did to the Pharisees. A soft answer turns away wrath. The problem is being prepared when I don’t know when or where the attack might come. One good plan might be to think (and pray?) before I post a snippy (any?) comment on Facebook or other social media.

3. Christians should fight their battles shrewdly. This one goes along with #2. “Wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” We should pray this daily for one another because the only way I’m going to be either wise or harmless is by the grace and empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

4. In engaging with culture, Christians should distinguish the immoral from the illegal. Again, duh. We have laws against murder and theft, not against blasphemy and coveting. Why? Because we live in a pluralistic society in which not everyone agrees on a definition of blasphemy or that to is wrong to blaspheme God’s name. Everyone pretty much agrees on a definition of murder and agrees that murder is wrong. However, even that consensus is being endangered with the continued drumbeat for euthanasia and abortion. Where do we draw the line? If the culture says killing children up to the age of one is OK, do we continue to agitate for laws protecting young children, or do we just content ourselves with not killing our own children?

5. The church must use caution in its dealings with the state. More caution every day.

This book provides a beginning point for discussions about “how then shall we live”. But it’s not the definitive answer-book on the subject. I guess for that one would have to go to The Book.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

From Semicolon
Twelve Bright Trumpets by Margaret Leighton

Published in 1942, this collection of twelve stories illuminates various events and eras during the time we call the Middle Ages. The first story takes place in Roman Britain about 400 A.D., when the Romans were withdrawing their legions from their colonial possessions in order to defend Rome itself from the barbarians. In the story, a ten year old Celtic boy, Gaius, is awakened in the middle of the night when his village is attacked by Northern pirates, Picts and Scots. He attends a meeting of the Celtic chieftains in which they learn that the Romans who have been their defense are leaving, and they decide to accept help from the friendly Angles and Saxons, many of whom have made their homes in Roman Britain.

The rest of the stories in the book are just as exciting and just as informative as the first:

“A Blackbird Sings” (about 800 A.D.)
The monastery where the peasant boy Remy is going to school receives a visit from the Emperor Charlemagne.

“The People Remembered” (about 870 A.D.)
Just after the Danish invasion of Britain has been stopped by King Alfred, Cedric, a young Saxon, meets the brave king.

“Hail, Normansland!” (about 900 A.D.)
Astrid, in Norway, awaits the return of her father who, with other Vikings, has been attacking the northern coast of France.

“The Conqueror” (about 1075 A.D.)
Edith , a Saxon girl, and Alix, a Norman girl, become friends when they are both attending a convent school in Normandy in the time of William the Conqueror.

“The Great Journey” (1095-1099 A.D.)
Denis, a young squire, accompanies his master on the First Crusade and is rewarded for his part in the taking of Jerusalem. (This one is a bit dated in its perspective, maybe correct but definitely not in tune with contemporary attitudes about the Crusades. The Christian crusaders are described as “as shrewd as they were bold and fearless” and “young, valiant and keen for battle”; the Turks are “unspeakably cruel”, “without mercy”, “infidels”, and “heathens.”)

“Twelve Bright Trumpets” (about 1150 A.D.)
At the death of her mother and father, Rohais is left alone to protect the castle until her brother from the Crusades. (My favorite of the twelve stories and the story from which the book’s title is taken. I thought the ending was clever and memorable.)

“Echo Over Runnymede” (1215 A.D.)
Geoffrey, page to an earl who objects to King John’s tyranny, is present at the signing of the Magna Carta. (Watch Disney’s Robin Hood, which features a greedy King John, after reading this story?)

“Town Air Is Free Air” (13th century A.D.)
Jacques, a young serf, runs away from the feudal manor village to escape the terrible anger of the baron’s game warden. (My second favorite story in the collection. Jacques finds a home, and the story could lead to much discussion of slavery, freedom, human rights and dignity, and similar topics.)

“Marco and the Marble Hand” (14th century A.D.)
Caught by a reawakened enthusiasm for art in Florence, Marco, a peasant boy, finds something to show the artist, Master Antonio.

“A Noble Magic” (about 1450 A.D.)
Karl, a copyist’s apprentice who is tired of copying books by hand, finds at the establishment of Master Gutenberg a noble magic.

“Queen of the Sea” (about 1500 A.D.)
Camilla, at home in Venice while her brother is on a voyage with Vasco da Gama, almost misses the great water festival.

These would be wonderful read aloud stories to accompany a study of the Middle Ages and leading into Early Modern times and the age of exploration. I recommend the book ages seven to twelve, if you can find a copy. (I see that Amazon has used copies, and Rainbow Resource has it in stock.)

From Semicolon
Silent Alarm by Jennifer Banash

Silent Alarm is a young adult novel about a school shooting as experienced by the shooter’s sister, also a student at the high school where the shooting takes place. The strength, and the main weakness, of the novel is that it never answers the basic question left in the aftermath of all school shootings: why? In this case, why did Alys Aronson’s older brother, Luke, kill fifteen people and then turn the gun on himself? How could the brother that Alys loved and learned from do such a thing? Of course, I have no answer to the question of why one man’s sin leads to death, for himself and for others, while another’s equal sin leads to repentance, mercy, and life.

What the novel does well is present the predicament of those who are left behind in the families of murderers, in particular. Alys is devoted, conflicted, and victimized. Because Luke is not around for them to hate and to blame, the victims’ families blame Alys and her family. How could they have let Luke do such a horrific thing? How could they not have known?

Alys also blames herself. Maybe she should have known that something was wrong with Luke. Maybe she should have not enjoyed being the favored child, the one who followed the rules. Maybe she should have died, too, when Luke pointed the gun at her, but didn’t shoot.

Silent Alarm is not an enjoyable book. It ends with some small wisp of hope for Alys, but not much more that that.

“And even as I lie there hoping, hoping with everything I am that somehow I have the right to go on, to make a life for myself apart from what Luke has done, I also know that it might just be a fantasy, a moment of wishful thinking. A story I tell myself in moments of quiet contemplation, when the wind outside shifts through the trees in a whisper, rustling the curtains, and lulling me into sleep.

But in spite of everything that’s happened, I would like to believe it.”

Don’t read for answers, and don’t read if you are prone to or connected with depression or depressive violence. But if you’re interested in a different perspective on school shootings and their aftermath, Silent Alarm is a well-written interpretation of a tragic event, sans nasty language and gratuitous violent description. (Of course, the central event itself is quite violent.)

From The Living Room
psalm 27 (not quite a sonnet)

My heart would seek a hiding place,
A refuge strong against my foes;
So may I see Thy lovely face
And in my soul Thy praises grow.
Though armies rise to wage their war
Against my flesh and heart and mind,
Though all my kin forsake me, Lord,
A home in Thee I know I find.
So hear me as I cry to Thee
From depth of woe and war and pain;
Be faithful now to hear my plea,
That I may see Thy love again.
For in Life’s land, there Goodness dwells,
And there may I, by grace, as well.


From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: May 9, 2015


“If you cannot read all your books…fondle them—peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them, at any rate, be your acquaintances.” ~Winston Churchill

SatReviewbutton

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.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.

From Semicolon
I Dared to Call Him Father by Bilquis Sheikh and Richard H. Schneider

I Dared to Call Him Father: The Miraculous Story of a Muslim Woman’s Encounter with God by Bilquis Sheikh and Richard H. Schneider

I read the 25th anniversary edition of this classic testimony of a well-to-do Muslim Pakistani woman, Bilquis Sheikh, who came to faith in Christ at the age of sixty-five through a series of dreams and visions and through comparison of the Koran to the Christian Bible. Bilquis’ study of the Bible was very confusing to her, but her breakthrough came when a Catholic nun suggested that she talk to God “as if He were your father” and ask Him to show her the truth. She did, and she sensed the presence of God as she prayed.

“‘I am confused, Father,’ I said. ‘I have to get one thing straight right away.’ I reached over to the bedside table where I kept the Bible and the Quran side by side. I picked up both books and lifted them, one in each hand.’Which, Father?’ I said. ‘Which one is Your book?’

Then a remarkable thing happened. Nothing like it had ever occurred in my life in quite this way. For I heard a voice inside my being, a voice that spoke to me as clearly as if I were repeating words in my inner mind. They were fresh, full of kindness, yet at the same time full of authority.

In which book do you meet Me as your Father?

I found myself answering: ‘In the Bible.” That’s all it took. Now there was no question in my mind which one was His book.”

Bilquis went on to leave Pakistan and travel around the world, telling people of how God had spoken directly to her to lead her to Christ. It is an inspiring story and would pair well with Nabeel Qureshi’s Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus which tells about a more intellectual route to faith in Christ for a Muslim seeker. The two converts have in common, besides their Muslim background, their great devotion to family and the deep pain of estrangement from family that their conversion cost them. However, both Mr. Qureshi and Bilquis Sheikh write that Jesus is worth the cost, that following Him and living in His presence is the ultimate treasure.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

I have no bone to pick with any generation but I think the point of the tweet I shared was along the lines of “nothing has changed”. Same circus, different performers.

From Jared C. Wilson
An Open Letter to Tom Brady

FullSizeRenderDear Tom,

Bro. Seriously. I love you, bro. And I take a lot of heat for it. I mean, like, an excessive amount of heat for it. But I don’t care. I am probably the only pastor outside of Boston to have a study full of Brady memorabilia. I love you like Gisele loves nature conservation. You must be protected, because you are an extremely valuable natural resource, the removal of which would upset the delicate balance of the ecosystem of awesomeness in the universe.

I’m writing this not as a BradyHater™, but as a full-on fanboy. You are my favorite sportsman ever — in any game, from any era. And I’ll tell you why. Your exceptional talent on the field is only matched by your exceptional work ethic. I love the way you command your teammates’ respect. And one thing I’ve always respected about you, up until now, is the leadership you’ve shown at the podiums and in front of the press. Unlike a lot of athletes of your stature, when things haven’t gone well on the field, you take responsibility. You don’t shift the blame to anybody else. And when you succeed, as you often do, you share the credit. This kind of leadership maturity is as rare as your talent.

So here’s the deal: I think you ought to do the right thing here and own up to wanting those footballs under-inflated, pressuring your equipment guys to handle that for you, and now insisting that you don’t know what anybody’s talking about. I think what you lose by doing that is much less than what you lose by not. And in any event, whatever is gained or lost, it’s just the right thing to do.

You and I both know that won’t win you any new fans. Your loyal opposition will always oppose you. But your fans will forgive you. Heck, I already do. I promise you — I already do forgive you. But I couldn’t root for you the same way, couldn’t talk you up to my grandkids like I planned to, couldn’t celebrate your championships as I have before, if you don’t do what real men do, which is take responsibility.

Tom, your reputation among many probably cannot be repaired, no matter what you do. I hate that for you. That’s just life, I guess. But I don’t believe “Deflategate” will tarnish your legacy in the eyes of fans like me if you’ll be brave enough to just get transparent with us. Confession of this kind won’t be the worst thing that happens to you in life, even though I’m sure it might feel that way at the moment.

But all the protection, all the spin, all the image management — it’s just making the situation worse. I know that once those footballs were restored to acceptable psi, your torching of the Colts only intensified. I know you beat the Seahawks in the big game fair and square. I know the pressure of those pigskins cannot account for the amazing things you’ve accomplished on the field over your long career, and perhaps have left to accomplish. But the longer you let this go on without owning up, the worse it’s going to get. It won’t go away. It will always haunt you.

So come into the light. We won’t hold it against you. And once you’re out here in the honest clear, I think you’ll find that huge weight off your shoulders, and I think you may see that trying to protect something you can’t keep anyway is a losing game.

I’m a big fat stinking sinner, so I can’t throw stones at you. I’ve done much worse than game the system to gain an advantage. But when I realized trying to protect my image was an ultimately devastating strategy, I embraced the forgiveness I’ve found in God, who through Jesus Christ forgave all my sin (1 John 1:9) and — get this — doesn’t even remember it any more (Isaiah 43:25). There’s real freedom in that light.

So anyways, just some thoughts. Love ya, bro.

Signed: Your biggest fan,

IMG_0754

From The Boar's Head Tavern
this and that

So as a stats teacher, I was thrilled to see that this list shows that stats continues to be one of the best jobs in America. I also found that an MDiv is one of the 10 worst degrees to get. Given how these 2 topics are juxtaposed in my life, I really chuckled.

I’ve recently discovered James K. A. Smith and am really enjoying Desiring Kingdom. Although if you’re at an evangelical church and are kind of frustrated with your lack of liturgy/attention to the church calendar, avoid this book unless you want to be more frustrated. I’m finding Smith’s thoughts to be an extended version of The Medium is the Message, as applied to the Christian walk. You are what you do. You can’t just dump 45 minutes in your head on Sunday and expect that to overwhelm all your actions the rest of the week. Refreshing ideas (for me to hear).

I’m noting an odd incongruity “out there”. Many of us came to BHT because we agreed with Michael’s critique of the current state of the evangelical church/circus. We think that many parts of evangelical church culture are broken/poorly done. But now there’s this backlash against millennials when they pick/start different churches based on their problems with evangelicals. I think it was Matthew who yesterday retweeted a criticism that millennials are just enacting consumerism when they pick a church that is has Y instead of X. And when I posted here about their desire for true community, I was quickly told that they don’t really want that.

It seems we’ve put millennials in a lose-lose situation. We’ve got a broken church culture and yet when they go try and make their own new church, we tell them they’re full of it.

Personally, I recently left evangelicalism and am super happy at a new church. We follow a 9-step liturgy every Sunday that includes Confession, Passing of the Peace and communion. And to beat it all, all 3 of my kids eagerly discuss the service every Sunday and learning and growing in bounds. The church is probably 60% to 70% millennials, so I’m thinking there are mentoring opportunities in my future. Plus the body is delightfully mixed in ethnicities, which for my neck of southern California is just awesome.

From Semicolon
Diamond Boy by Michael Williams

When fifteen year old Patson Moyo and his family head for the diamond fields of Marange in eastern Zimbabwe, Patson is sure that his family’s fortunes are about to change for the better. Even though Patson’s father plans to teach school in diamond country as he always has, Patson knows that there are diamonds for everyone in Marange. As soon as Patson finds his girazi, that special, costly diamond that everyone is looking for, he and his family will be set for life.

If you just read the article on Wikipedia about the Marange diamond fields, you will know that Patson’s story probably won’t have a happy ending. In fact, although the events in the course of Patson’s adventure are harrowing, violent, and frightening, the story does contain more hope than perhaps the facts warrant.

From Wikipedia and linked sources:
“The government launched police crackdowns against illegal miners and smugglers several times since December 2006. Up to 150 of the estimated 30,000 illegal miners were shot from helicopter gunships.”
(2009) “The Zanu-PF government has mulled plans to forcibly move nearly 5 000 families from Chiadzwa area to facilitate the plundering of diamonds. The families are to be dumped at an Arda farm in Odzi as the President Robert Mugabe-led government intensify looting of the precious minerals.”
“The BBC, the British state broadcaster, claims Zimbabwe’s security forces have a torture camp in the Marange diamond fields; methods include severe beatings, sexual assault and dog mauling according to alleged victims.”
“A 2012 study . . . found that operations at the diamond fields are releasing dangerous chemicals into the Save River.”
“Human Rights Watch says while it has seen an improvement in Marange, it also believes questions remain over who is involved in running these mining companies.” CNN, 2012.

Author Michael Williams, a South African writer and Managing Director of Cape Town Opera, has already written one book set in Zimbabwe, Now Is the Time for Running. Diamond Boy is a sort of companion novel to that earlier book, and some of the characters in Now Is the Time for Running show up in minor roles in Diamond Boy. As I intimated, Diamond Boy is a fascinating but shocking look at life in Zimbabwe, particularly the appalling effect of the possibility of sudden riches in a country filled with poverty and not much economic opportunity.

The ending to the story is unrealistic, but maybe necessary to make up for the unrelenting gloom, greed, and cruelty of the preceding pages. This book is not for younger teens, nor will it be for all readers, even if they have the maturity to handle the subject matter. No, the author doesn’t use graphic language or lurid description, but the events themselves are disturbing enough. Sensitive readers will be haunted, as I am, by the thought that the greed and brutality of man is still making life a living h— for many children and young adults around the world, even if, possibly, improvements have been made in operations at Marange.

Yes, I recommend this book for those who are interested in knowing about one of the horror stories of the twenty-first century, but I suggest you enter with prayer and exit with renewed compassion and more prayer.

From Semicolon
Butterfly Counting by Jerry Pallotta

Jerry Palotta’s ABC and counting books have been favorites of mine and of my children for quite a while, so when I was offered a review copy of Mr. Palotta’s latest, Butterfly Counting, there was no hesitation on my pat in saying “yes!”.

ZERO
“This Emperor penguin has never seen a butterfly. Butterflies live in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa–but there are not butterflies in Antarctica. Zero is a number, but it has no value.
Let’s learn what butterflies are called around the world. A butterfly in Italy is called a farfalla.

So, in this butterfly counting book, readers get facts about butterflies, beautiful pictures of different kinds of butterflies by illustrator Shennen Bersani, and about twenty different ways to say “butterfly” in twenty different languages. The book would make a wonderful read aloud book in a butterfly-themed story time. Wouldn’t it be fun to have the children repeat back the words for butterfly in different languages and see if they remember any of them at the end?

I wish I had all of these books in my library, but I do suggest that if you purchase any of them, buy the hardcover edition, or the board book that some of them are available as. I have a few paperback versions of Pallotta’s books, and every one of them is losing pages and coming unglued. I don’t know whether to attribute that to overuse or poor quality glue, but I’m happy that the review copy of Butterfly Counting that I received is “reinforced for library use.”

Jerry Palotta’s Alphabet Books: (*means books that I own)
The Airplane Alphabet Book
The Beetle Alphabet Book
(There are Beatles song titles hidden in the artwork of this book. Fun!)
The Bird Alphabet Book
The Boat Alphabet Book
The Construction Alphabet Book
The Desert Alphabet Book
The Dinosaur Alphabet Boo
The Extinct Alphabet Book
The Flower Alphabet Book
The Freshwater Alphabet Book
The Frog Alphabet Book
The Furry Animal Alphabet Book
The Icky Bug Alphabet Book*
(Mr. Pallotta’s second, best-selling alphabet book)
The Jet Alphabet Book
The Ocean Alphabet Book*
(Mr. Pallotta’s first book)
The Sea Mammal Alphabet Book
The Skull Alphabet Book
(All 43 presidents are hidden in the illustrations for this book.)
The Incredible Crab Alphabet Book
The U.S. Army Alphabet Book
The U.S. Marines Alphabet Book
The U.S. Navy Alphabet Book
The Underwater Alphabet Book
The Vegetable Alphabet Book
The Yucky Alphabet Book*
The Yummy Alphabet Book

Jerry Pallotta’s Counting Books:
I think these are all great for primary math instruction, “living books” for math.
Count to a Million
The Crayon Counting Book
The Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar Fractions Book
The Icky Bug Counting Book
(also a backwards alphabet book)
Icky Bug Numbers
Adding Fractions
Pizza Fractions
Weights and Measures
Ocean Counting: Odd Numbers
(The 50 state capitals are randomly hidden in the pictures in this book.)
Sharks: Big, Bigger, Biggest
Underwater Counting: Even Numbers

More hidden secrets in Mr. Pallotta’s books.
About Jerry Pallotta, who was an insurance salesman before he began his second career as an author f children’s books:

I wrote my first book in 1985 when I was 32 years old. I came up with the idea, wrote it, designed it, researched it, edited it and my cousin illustrated it. I published it myself under the name of Peggotty Beach Books. What fun! It was first printed on July 7, 1986. I’ll never forget that day. The book eventually became the #1 best-selling book at the New England Aquarium. I was afraid that only my mother would like it. Teachers and kids told me they really liked my book.

I really like his books, too.

From Jared C. Wilson
This Is My Manifesto

The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo from Crossway on Vimeo.

The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo is my newest book and the culmination of my thoughts on and practice of ministry over the last twenty years. It is also my most vulnerable book, and the only place where I tell my story of gospel wakefulness in fullest detail.

There are lots of rants out there against the so-called “attractional church.” I know I have engaged in my fair share. But I think the stakes are too high to simply preach to the Amen corner in the “young, restless, and Reformed” movement. My hope for this book is that it may challenge the status quo outside my own tribe, or at the very least, help men and women in the kinds of churches addressed in the book think through and even articulate some of their internal concerns and questions.

We have a great God who loves his church dearly. We have nothing to fear — any of us — in questioning our own assumptions about ministry and holding them up to the light of Scripture. But I also feature in the book research on the last three decades of the modern church movement’s effectiveness.

In The Prodigal Church, I simply want to thoughtfully and gently help brothers and sisters evaluate the way they do church. Because you don’t have to be a legalistic, traditionalist church to be stuck in the mindset of “this is the way we’ve always done it.”

From Jared C. Wilson
The One Source of Total Salvation

Natural_springs1From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.
— John 1:16

There is no end to the cascading blessings of grace flowing from our Savior Jesus Christ.

The finished work of Christ is that beautiful spring from which flows our forgiveness from sins, our justification before God, our receipt of Christ’s righteousness, our adoption as sons, our reconciliation with the Father, our reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, our sure sanctification, our grounds for the Spirit’s fruit, our position as a royal priesthood, our serving as Christ’s ambassadors in the advancing kingdom of God, our resurrection from the dead, our eternal reward, our enjoyment of the new heavens and the new earth, and our participatory witnesses of God’s restoration of all things.

The gospel of first importance produces a myriad of blessings I suppose that were every one of them to be written the world itself could not contain the books. Grand thing, then, that God is remaking the world to broadcast them best.

The large tree of salvation, with branches enough for bird of every kind and from every place, grows from the mighty mustard seed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

From fingerpost


                                                                             
The first thing Christianity does is to make people think... The (Holy) Spirit always leads people to think. And, as I want to show you, the greatest trouble in life is that men and women do not think. They just go through life. They think for a moment but it is painful so they stop, moving on to a bottle of whiskey or television or something else; anything but to think. But that is unintelligent. Christianity is something that always calls upon you to think, to face facts, and to reason. The Spirit makes you do this; we will not do this until the Spirit makes us. And is it not obvious that the world is in a spiritually and intellectually doped condition? Men and women are just evading the facts. They do it in all sorts of ways. They can be very, very energetic in doing it, they can be very intellectual, but ultimately they are not facing the facts and they always end with nothing.

- Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

From Jared C. Wilson
No Little Disturbances!

pouli-in-ephesus
About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. — Acts 19:23

These men who have turned the world upside down . . . — Acts 17:6

We desperately need to change the subject in our cities. The Church has become wallpaper in too many of them. We recede into the background, staying indoors, safe and avoidable in our religious cubbyhole.

The Ephesian idolmakers rioted because they were put out of business, not by Christians protesting their industry in the parking lot, but by the pervasive spread of the gospel in the city.

We are not responsible for fruit. We are responsible for faithfulness.

God, no little disturbances, please. Please send big ones. Come down, disrupt, break things. Make us dust to breathe new life into us again. So that the Way may create no little disturbance for your glory again.

Help us to want what your servant Spurgeon calls “a glorious disorder.” Make us want to be bowled over. Cultivate astonishment in us.

Teach us how to and empower us to change the subject.

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. — Titus 2:15

From Jared C. Wilson
Only Christ Counts for Anything

ledger72“. . . neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything . . .” – Galatians 5:6

Most people assume there are really two categories: good people and bad people. There are people who are trying and people who aren’t. Most religions, including some identifying as Christian, operate according to these two categories. There are religious people and irreligious people.

There’s a local cult group in Rutland, Vermont called the Twelve Tribes that teaches that in the afterlife, bad people go to hell, people in the Twelve Tribes go to heaven with Jesus, and good people who don’t know Jesus occupy a renewed earth. (It’s somewhat like the Jehovah’s Witnesses that way.) They want to accommodate the two categories in their creation of three categories, because they know “good people” and “bad people” are the categories that “work.”

But the Bible puts a red x on this categorization. All people are born condemned. We all know apathetic licentiousness won’t rectify that. But the Scriptures tell us being good won’t either. Good works don’t get us in any more than doing “whatever” will. There is only one category for us.

We don’t need a “good people” category. We need a whole new category. Christ supercedes our plausibility. The gospel is the other category, because only Christ counts for anything.

From Jared C. Wilson
If We Are Lost, It is God’s Loss

“A young minister, wsickbedhile visiting the cabin of a veteran Scotch woman who had grown ripe in experience, said to her, ‘Nannie, what if, after all your prayers and watching and waiting, God should allow your soul to be eternally lost?’

“Looking at the youthful novice in divinity, she replied, ‘Ah, let me tell you, that God would have the greatest loss. Poor me would lose her soul, and that would be a great loss; but God would lose his honor and his character. If he broke his word, he would make himself a liar, and the universe would go to ruin.’

“The veteran believer was right. Our only real ground of salvation lies in God’s everlasting word.”

– Theodore Cuyler, “Wayside Springs”

From The Living Room
for Your name’s sake.

Well! I seem to have taken an unintentional hiatus…

Things got even crazier after the last time I posted–I can’t really go into it here, but I hope it suffices to say that some people I love and I have been going through a lot of change and a lot of very difficult things, and God has been doing a lot of healing work, and a lot of tearing down of idols in the process.

My church does this thing called Kaleo College, where we link to some audio and we collectively listen to it and try to get together to talk about it. For this month and next month we’re listening to this class called The Bread of Adversity, based on Isaiah 30, and it’s been reframing how I’ve been thinking about suffering and the presence of God.

With all the chaos, too, there are signs of life: A couple of friends had a kid, another couple of friends are about to have their first kid, some other friends are in the thick of the foster-to-adopt process. Some friends just got engaged. I just ran a really fun program at the library where I work. I’m having a lot of good conversations with my new roommate, with other friends, and most importantly with Jesus.

I was thinking about Psalm 23, about how the shepherd’s rod and staff comfort us, and how even when I thought I’d been utterly abandoned by God at times, He was still there, protecting me, and guess what? As terrible as some things in my life have been, Jesus took the greater force of the impact for my sake. He dressed Himself in my shame, and my sorrow, and my sin. So if nothing else, in this season, I am learning not to be afraid, and I am learning to open up myself to other people for His name’s sake.


From Jared C. Wilson
“I Couldn’t Worship a God Like That”

117048243_7cc6bb0b87“The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defence for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it.”
– C.S. Lewis, “God in the Dock”

“I could not worship a God like that.”

It is one of God’s eternal blessings that he is a good God, a loving God, a merciful God, a beautiful God. And we ought to worship him for these attributes and more. But we also ought to worship him because he is God, and we are not.

This imperative is no time more crucial than when God reveals himself in ways inscrutable and uncomfortable, when God is being seeker-insensitive.

When God is like that, we are inclined to put him in the hot seat. To say things like “I couldn’t worship a God who allowed this” or “I couldn’t love a God who did that” is in essence to say, “I will worship the God that meets my demands.” But God doesn’t fill out job applications. You can try to, as C.S. Lewis says, put “God in the Dock,” but he neither belongs nor fits there. He does not have to justify himself to us. It is a boon that he reveals himself to us.

God will meet our needs, and while he may answer our cries, he will not answer our demands. Because he is God.

And the LORD said to Job: “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.” – Job 40:1-2

From Jared C. Wilson
Listen for the Gentle Clatter of Hooves

tf-ref-022from Russell D. Moore, Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ (Crossway, 2011):

“Forces are afoot right now, negotiating how to get you fat enough for consumption and how to get you calmly and without struggle to the cosmic slaughterhouse floor. The easiest life for you will be one in which you don’t question these things, a life in which you simply do what seems natural. The ease of it all will seem to be further confirmation that this is the way things ought to be. It might even seem as though everything is happening exactly as you always hoped it would. You might feel as though your life situation is like progressing up a stairway so perfect it’s as though it was designed just for you. And it is.

“In many ways the more tranquil you feel, the more endangered you are. As you find yourself curving around the soft corners of your life, maybe you should question the quietness of it all. Perhaps you should listen, beneath your feet, for the gentle clatter of hooves.” (p.59)

From The Boar's Head Tavern

Ever watch the tv show, “Hoarders”?

Some examples include, “the trauma of dealing with Joanne’s hoarding was so bad for her daughter that she has developed post-traumatic stress disorder. After two divorces and experiencing the horror of assault, Kristy began shopping to escape her pain, but her hoarding drove her daughter out of the house and forced Child Protective Services to remove her son.”

And, “Anna tried to hide her hoarding from her family, but when her suspicious daughter snuck into the house to take pictures, Anna’s secret was finally exposed. Claire and Vance love to collect books, but they’ve overdone it–their house contains an astounding half-million books, and they even sleep in little burrows carved out of towers of their books.”

Another is, “Terry’s fridge is packed with dead cats, and she has another 50 live ones. Her son thinks her problems stem from the time her father died of a heart attack right in front of her she was just a small child.”

We are all hoarders. Every one of us. We may not hoard dead cats in our freezer, or bottles of human waste in our living rooms. I’ll tell you what we do hoard, we hoard pride in our lives, lust and greed in our hearts, wicked and perverse thoughts in our minds. As gross and morbid as hoarding dead cats in our freezer would be, our hoarding of sins in our hearts and minds even more so.

In every episode of hoarders, there is someone on the episode who is a specialist in junk removal. This persons or persons assists the hoarder in bagging up all the “HOARD” and provides dumpsters and a multiple person crew to clear the HOARD.

There is also on each episode, a psychologist or sociologist to analysis the “hoarder” with the family’s help to determine what factors or live events caused the “Hoarder” to begin his or her “HOARDING”. This person works with the “hoarder” and the family to counsel and encourage, with follow-up, etc. to make sure the “hoarder” can move on and be free from that which prompted the “hoarding” in the first place.

There has been provided for us someone who specializes in SPIRITUAL junk removal. There is also been provided for us someone who has not only analyzed our source of hoarding, but is there to provide constant follow-up (and continual) cleansing of our tendency to hoard “our SINS”.

Rev. 1:5-6 To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 John 4:9-10 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Romans 5:6-10 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

Chaplain Mike put up a good conversation starter on the church and our place in it today, especially for those who are wandering. It’s odd to be in a place where I’m serving out of a sense of calling/giftedness/whatever-you-want-to-call-it, but where I choose to keep the institutionalization of it as far from me as possible. I want and need to be connected in faith to real people in my area, but at the same time, I reject everything about the culture of so-called leadership, growth, success, etc. that permeates so much of the American church experience.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

The church belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. Its ministers belong to Him. All things pertaining to following Jesus, from greatest to least, is to be built upon the truth that Jesus Christ is LORD over His church, as well as the entire world. It is by His Holy Spirit that He calls, equips, guides, rebukes, warns, encourages and strengthens His people (including ministers, elders, deacons, pastors, evangelists, teachers, etc.). The church is His. (I am paraphrasing NT Wright here).

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Assault on Christianity

We've been considering buying our own stock of "pew Bibles" so that we know that we will have enough ESV Bibles for the Sunday School class that we teach.  We'd bring them with us, or store them in a locked cabinet for our use.

I was looking for Bibles, and (when looking at a book, I find the 1-star reviews more useful than the 5-star reviews) I saw a few 1-stars.  There were a couple of "the print is too small" and "the binding fell apart."

But the majority of 1-star reviews were people who simply reviewed a variety of Bibles in order to mock Christianity.

In what is supposed to be a country based on liberty and religious tolerance, there is an increasing amount of vitriol aimed at Christianity.

It's not going to stop and American Christians are simply not prepared for the coming "worst hard time."

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Psalm 23

I'm trying to get my Sunday School class to "get" the importance of Scripture - bringing their Bible to class and memorizing God's Word.

Our March "Sword Passage" is Psalm 23 - which I learned in KJV.  This is a really good illustration about how what you learn when you're young stays with you!  My commitment is that whatever I'm asking them to learn, I'll come to class ready to recite.

Re-learning Psalm 23 in ESV is harder than I thought it would be...

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Philippians 2

I was reciting the chapter today and stopped short.

"even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering..."

I've heard it many times...but today something more...drink offering upon WHAT?

the altar?  no, although that's what I'd always been taught, but it's really, really obvious.

Memorizing the whole book has taught me a lot about the "therefores."  Paul adds on to the add-ons, building on the previous part to make a point.

I had been taught that Paul was referring to becoming a martyr, being tortured and burned for the gospel.

But *offerings* are made by the religious adherents *to* God.  If somebody else sacrifices *you*, it's hardly your offering!

the "drink offering" was not poured on the altar.  It was poured on the sacrifice!

Throughout this letter, Paul has been referring to the fact that he is currently imprisoned for the gospel, and he has been urging the Philippians to act out their faith...  The people that he is writing to are sacrificing themselves for the faith of the gospel.

Jews would have been familiar with the offering system.  The animal sacrifice was made, and burned - a symbol looking forward to Jesus' final sacrifice.  Then, a specific amount of wine (the drink offering) was poured over the burning meat, symbolizing the blood of Christ.  (This is important:) the drink offering was only offered to God after His people entered into their promised land.

Paul knew that he would be killed for his faith; so put the drink offering in the context of that.

His beloved students were given Christ as an example who was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross...therefore, his students should also obey.  As their obedience becomes their sacrifice Paul himself would be the drink offering adorning that sacrifice.

The drink offering was not poured on the altar.

for me to live is Christ and to die is gain...my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better...

Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering up the sacrificial offering of your faith..."

You also should be glad and rejoice with me...

Paul was ready to die.  As his students laid their faith down, Paul's life would be the libation that adorned their faith.  And he was glad.

And they should rejoice with him.

 

 

From fingerpost


And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses, whereas grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
Amos…

From time to time I run again across this minor prophet in the Old Testament.

Once more reading Amos reminds me that God uses who He wills, including mere shepherds.  Amos was in the fields when God spoke through Him.

This time through, I looked at what God judged these nations for.

"threshing" (we would call it "trashing") Gilead, kidnapping into slavery a whole people, fighting among brothers, targeting the weak (pregnant women,) desecrating the dead...

Then Israel and Judah:

Rejecting the Law of the LORD, and exploiting the poor.

Sexual immorality and idolatry.

And this:

“But you made the Nazirites drink wine,
    and commanded the prophets,
    saying, ‘You shall not prophesy.’

Nazirites were bound by conscience and by oath to certain behavior (abstaining from alcohol, for one) and the state of Israel had forced Nazirites to violate their conscience and break their vow.

Knowing that prophets were the ones who warned the people that they were sinning and God's judgment was on the way, they were told to "shut up"

This impacted me on this day, we live in a state where people of faith are being told by the state that they must violate their conscience, and those who would speak up are being told (in an attempt to shame or scare into silence) to "shut up."

Food for thought...

From MzEllen - For the Life of Me
On Lent and the practicing thereof

A couple of weeks ago I heard a sermon that surrounded "tradition."

There is a tendency in "Modern Evangelicalism" to reject all things "tradition" because...well...tradition.  (NOT saying that's what this sermon said, just making a starting place for this post.)

At the same time, I read a few posts about how practicing Lent might was well mean going back to Rome because...well...tradition.

What both positions mean is "legalism" - by making "tradition" into "Law" we miss the point of both.

Law holds us to a standard.

Tradition (at its best) gives us the platform by which to connect  with 2,000 years of Christians who have gone before us.  Tradition connects us.The "anti-Lent" folks needed to treat all practice of Lent into "law."  That is a straw man that leaves no room for the right use of the practice.Lent, as a spiritual discipline that prepares us for "Holy Week" (including Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Resurrection Day) is a good thing.The "anti-Lent" folks also needed to make a poke at feast days, etc., tying them to the Law, therefore saying that to use a church calendar is crucifying Christ all over again.  Again, a straw man.God have us seasons, and he gave us time.  Life moves in cycles, and it's okay if we use those cycles as periods to mark spiritual time.I don't practice Lent every year.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.  Sometimes I fast from something, sometimes I add something, other years I don't.  Sometimes I simply use a Lenten devotional to refresh my spiritual memory of the last days of Christ.  Some years I do that same devotional at other times of the year!Bottom line:  I'm not going to jettison Lent because...tradition; I'm not going to practice Lent because...tradition.For clarity, this year I had every intention of going through a devotional, and it fell apart...after about 2 days.  But, since it's not Law or tradition, I can pick it up anew!