"To be a follower of Jesus, you must renounce comfort as the ultimate value of your life."

- Mike Ayers, Counting the Cost (sermon)
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From internetmonk.com
Sundays with Michael Spencer: August 2, 2015


“We didn’t crawl out from under no rocks. We didn’t have no tails. And we didn’t come from monkeys you atheist pinko meathead.”

“It ain’t supposed to make sense; it’s faith. Faith is something that you believe that nobody in his right mind would believe.”

• Archie Bunker

• • •

I used to watch “All In The Family” with my dad. It was strange. Strange because my dad was the virtual clone of Archie Bunker (and my mother the twin of Edith), and all the comedy- which I increasingly found both hilarious and truthful — usually went right past him.

Archie was perhaps the greatest practitioner of the art of argumentation ever portrayed on stage or screen. He had all the necessary gifts. He believed himself to be more knowledgeable on any subject than anyone else in the room. He had a vocabulary that ran circles around a normal person. He was never daunted by logic, compassion, or mercy. No, he pressed on, wagging his finger–or cigar–in your face, making his points, calling Mike a meathead or the neighbor an idiot or worse.

Archie loved an argument the way most people love dessert. At the slightest provocation, he bullishly inserted his opinion and denigrated yours. Reality, facts, common sense, sheer numbers of opponents–none of it made a dent in Archie. Inventing and redefining terms was an art form with him. It was Archie who explained that male behavior was determined by khromostones, and later discovered both his-mones and her-mones. When he found humility, it was always his special variety: “The only thing that holds a marriage together is the husband bein’ big enough to keep his mouth shut, to step back and see where his wife is wrong.”

I’ve decided that Archie Bunker is the patron saint of Christians who can’t stop making their point. Christians who love to argue. Christians who can’t stand it that someone somewhere disagrees with them. Christians who are caught up in theological controversy like University of Kentucky basketball fans are caught up in defending their team. Christians who have to correct everyone the way obsessed Lord of the Rings fans must correct any deviation from the Holy Canons of Tolkien. Christians who can’t rest easy if someone somewhere is not understanding, reading, or getting “it,” whatever “it” happens to be.

. . . The little brothers of Saint Archie Bunker, I call them.

I meet Calvinists who have no control over their need to make all Biblical discussions turn into debates on predestination. There are young earth creationists who hunt down anything that smells like a less-than-literal view of Genesis one and label it evolution. Pentecostal/Charismatics have all varieties of little brothers of Saint Archie who can’t stand it that someone isn’t riding the latest wave of the Holy Spirit into last days revival. Seminary students who can’t understand why there is anyone refusing to read N.T. Wright, and hand-wringers staying up nights writing letters to people who do read N.T. Wright.

There are political types who won’t shut up, and Dobson types who won’t leave you alone, and don’t even start on those people caught up in the euphoria of the latest evangelical product, and have to make sure any peaceful gathering is subjected to commercials and testimonials.

Are religious enthusiasts just naturally obnoxious? Or do certain forms of Christianity attract people who have an insatiable need to impose their beliefs on others? Do some of us simply have nothing on the the mental dashboard that registers “too intense?”

. . . A few years ago, I started to figure something out. There were people who didn’t want to be around me. Not many, but some. Now it wasn’t hard to engage in all the usual justifications and criticisms to deal with that, and I could easily blow it all off. It wasn’t that I was being rejected, just avoided. At some point, through an offhand comment made by a much older friend, I realized something clearly. I was always making these people listen to my opinions, my arguments, and my insights about everything. They were uncomfortable. I thought it was all important and insightful. They wanted a pleasant lunch.

These were some of the people we’d had in our home for meals who had never reciprocated, and I was starting to suspect why.  I was too much. I came on too strong. My opinions. My insights. My own horn being played loudly and too long in your ear.

Could it be that that if your religion has turned you into a neurotic, others might not want to join it? They might turn out like you.I’m better now. (I’ve given up on real people and just write all my arrogant wise-yammering on here).

. . . It would be far better if we enjoyed the truths we believe, rather than if it appeared we are made anxious by the need to convert others to those truths. Delighting in, exulting in and savoring the truth we believe is a God-honoring witness free from the ministry of Saint Archie. If we yearn for others to know the truth, then may that truth satisfy our own yearnings, even the yearning to be heard and be right. May it bring, as Peter said, the welcome questions that seek to know of the hope that is in us, and why it is a source of joy. It really helps when it IS a source of joy.

And if it doesn’t bring us to that fountain of joy, and bring us delight, trust, worship, and peace, why are we talking about it anyway?

From Brandywine Books
Most Popular Books By Location

Maps showing the most popular books set in each U.S. state and European country.


From internetmonk.com
Saturday Ramblings, August 1, 2015

Hello, imonks, and welcome to the weekend. Gay emojis banned in Russia, Rambo turkeys, re-directed art and ricocheting armadillos. Ready to Ramble?

66 convertible

66 convertible

Marvel continued their amazing run: Antman was the 12th Marvel movie in a row to open at number 1. Yes, Antman. A movie about a superhero whose special power is…to shrink to ant size. Yeah…avengers3small

How’s the weather in your neck of the woods? NOAA announced this week that June, 2015 was the hottest month on record. Ever. And that the first six months of the year also set the record for the hottest beginning half of a year. Ever. This is after 2014 previously set the record for the hottest year. Ever. Man, it’s almost like we’re experiencing some kind of global warming or something. Eh, it’s probably nothing.

New Yorkers have already noticed a difference...

New Yorkers have already noticed a difference…

Oh, but this will help. Maybe. Hard to tell. But a new model of solar activity is predicting a cool-down period in the decades ahead. The models suggest that solar activity will fall by 60 per cent during the 2030s to conditions last seen during the ‘mini ice age’ that began in 1645, according to the results presented by Prof Valentina Zharkova at the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales. However, despite headlines this generated about the sun “going to sleep”, a 60 percent decrease in solar activity would only equal a decrease in solar output of roughly 0.1 percent, according to James Renwick, a professor at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. “If things played out as described in Zharkova’s paper, and we did see a decrease in solar output roughly as happened in the 1700s, there would be some cooling for 20 or 30 years,” according to Renwick. “But the levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases are so much higher now (and will be even higher in 2030) that temperatures would not drop much below where they are today. And that drop would last only until 2050 or so. Then we’d have a bounce upwards again.”

 The Seattle Mariners pulled off a rare triple play last weekend. It went 3-6-2. Whatever that means. I told you I don’t watch baseball.

This, at least, gives me a segue-way into our weekly “tweaking Chaplain Mike picture”: b4fa48886c879cc04ae1c616f262272c

School is starting this week here in Indiana. If you have trouble getting your kids out of bed on school mornings, then this latest invention is for you:

An 18 year-old college student got two million hits on a video he posted on YouTube last week. What was the video of? A drone firing a handgun. No one was harmed, nor has the teenager been arrested or charged. Apparently no-one has thought to make a law about this, because whoever heard of attaching a weapon to a drone, right? Still, the video has stirred fresh debate about the use of, and dangers posed by, drones. “There would be no physical evidence. Perfect crime. This can turn into a video game for sick people,” said Mike Bouchard, former assistant director of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “They can play this out like a video game on their computer and just shoot people without ever looking them in the eye.” So, if they re-make West Side Story the Jets and Sharks can settle their differences in a more high-tech way…yoda-drone-wars

Have you ever wandered around Goodwill [what, you’re too good to wander around Goodwill???] and glanced at their “art” section? You know, the one filled with washed-out kitsch paintings? This guy buys them, and gives them a few creative “additions”. He calls it “redirected art.” Here are a few of my favorites:

1489199_10152890440298186_371168976301453844_n 10502128_10153319936588186_3323772470923037112_n 10615998_10152883988098186_7902722286276584157_n 11156357_10153213800693186_7917070100971409371_n 13372306_12190793_pm 19161766_10464351_pm 19452978_13616289_pm (1)11182104_10153258285293186_5570763601076097943_n13249258_15533397_pm
11025196_10153089053373186_1116599528426180434_n 11043090_10153121816583186_8758044291295608656_n 11401564_10153370267223186_35179900211187827_n 13373467_11429338_pm

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2015-07-29 20:54:15Z | http://piczard.com | http://codecarvings.com

The graph to the right is from Christianity Today, showing the percent of people in the world unfamiliar with the gospel. Why is the baby doing chin-ups? To illustrate the reason for the trend line has ceased to go down: Christians aren’t having as many babies (proportionally) as non-Christians (especially Muslims). In 1900, 45.7 percent of people everywhere were aware of the gospel, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. More than 100 years later, that number has grown to more than 70 percent. But by 2050, it predicts only another 2 percent of the world’s population will be evangelized, totaling 72 percent. This is mainly because of birthrates.

The effect of births eclipses conversions by far. Pew states that before 2050, about 9.4 million Muslims will leave Islam, while about 12.6 million will join, adding up to a 3.2 million increase—not much when considering the overall leap Islam will take from 1.6 billion adherents in 2010 to 2.76 billion in 2050.

At the same time, Christianity is set to gain 40 million adherents but lose 106 million to religious switching. Christianity’s much smaller overall growth, from 2.17 billion to 2.92 billion adherents, will also come primarily from babies.

The other factor here is that mission groups are now prioritizing discipleship over conversion:

In recent years, mission groups have focused on strengthening churches in countries that have already been introduced to the gospel, according to the CSGC. From 1974 to 2000, 9 out of 10 new missionaries were sent to plant churches or disciple new believers among reached people groups.

Hulk Hogan has been banned from the WWE after a recording surfaced of his racist rant. “In the storm I release control, God and his Universe will sail me where he wants me to be, one love. HH,” he tweeted on Friday. Hogan is a professing Christian and closely follows Joel Osteen. He has offered praise to the megachurch pastor on his Twitter account in the past. “Joel Osteen always has God’s perfect words to help you have a perfect vibrational match with God’s universe,” said Hogan on Twitter in 2012. “Much love.”

Caption contest in the comments!

Caption contest in the comments!

Did you know there have been 29 cases of church arson so far this year, according to Pew Research? This is actually a decline. Arsonists love churches. In 2013, only about one in ten nonresidential fires—and one in twenty residential fires—were caused by arson. The rate for churches: well over half.

Only in America…

download (24)Amnesty International is finding itself opposed by an unusual coalition: prominent faith leaders and A-list Hollywood stars. AI is drafting a policy advocating the legalization of prostitution, which will be voted on next month.  The coalition sent an impassioned letter to Amnesty.

Growing evidence shows the catastrophic effects of decriminalization of the sex trade. The German government, for example, which deregulated the industry of prostitution in 2002, has found that the sex industry was not made safer for women after the enactment of its law. Instead, the explosive growth of legal brothels in Germany has triggered an increase in sex trafficking.

Decriminalization of the sex trade renders brothel owners “businessmen” who with impunity facilitate the trafficking of very young women predominantly from the poorest countries of Eastern Europe and the Global South to meet the increased demand for prostitution.  Last year, leading trauma experts in Germany petitioned their government to repeal the 2002 law, underlining the extensive psychological harm that serial, unwanted sexual invasion and violence, which are among the hallmarks of prostitution, inflicts on women. Harm reduction is not enough, they explain; governments and civil society must invest in harm elimination.

The primary goals of UNAIDS and other agencies that support limited harm reduction policies in the sex industry seem far more concerned with the health of sex buyers than the lives of prostituted and sex trafficked women. On the other hand, medical professionals, including gynecologists and mental health providers, confirm that regardless of how a woman ends up in the sex trade, the abuse, sexual violence and pervasive injuries these women endure at the hands of their pimps and “clients,” lead to life-long physical and psychological harm — and, too often, death.

Amnesty International has heard the coalition, but says it has not made up its mind on its stance on the issue.

Russia may ban “gay emojis” from social media if an investigation by the state media watchdog rules that they infringe laws against “gay propaganda”. The investigation was prompted by a complaint from Mikhail Marchenko, a Russian senator. Mr Marchenko claims the symbols – which depict smiley-faced same-sex couples – violate a controversial 2013 law which prohibits promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships.

Russia last week also became the first country to ban the main website of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Imonk readers with a great memory may recall a story printed here last April about strange incident: Larry McElroy, of Georgia, fired his 9 mm pistol at an armadillo  and the bullet bounced off the animal’s armored skin and went through a fence, a door and a chair to strike mother-in-law Carol Johnson in the back. At least, that’s how Larry said his mother-in-law got shot. Well, we have another armadillo ricochet incident to report, this one in Texas: The Cass County Sheriff’s Office said a man told deputies he was shooting at an armadillo just before 3 a.m. Thursday when his bullet ricocheted off the animal and hit him in the head. The man was wounded, but will survive. The armadillo, like armadillos often do, washed away his trouble with booze. Funny-Armadillos-ZooOdd headline of the week: ‘Very aggressive’ turkey terrorizes University of Michigan campus. The deputy chief of police warned students and faculty to steer clear of the turkey. “Do not try to approach the turkey,” Overton said. “We’ve gotten calls from people who have been trapped and unable to move because he’s cornered them.” Really? You’re telling me 40,000 Wolverines can’t handle one turkey? Is this some type of avian Rambo or something?


Well, that’s it for this week. Let’s end with a music video (as always, blame this on Robert F.). We try to be culturally inclusive at imonk, so I give you, from the early Telugu (Tollywood) film ‘Adavidonga’, this excellent dance scene with bizarre animal masks…enjoy!


From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: July 31, 2015

“I would urge upon every young man, as the beginning of his due and wise provision for his household, … to obtain as soon as he can, by the severest economy, a restricted, serviceable, and steadily — however slowly — increasing series of books for use through life; making his little library, of all the furniture in his room, the most studied and decorative piece; every volume having its assigned place, like a little statue in its niche, and one of the earliest and strictest lessons to the children of the house being how to turn the pages of their own literary possessions lightly and deliberately, with no chance of tearing or dog’s-ears. ” ~John Ruskin


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 home is behind, the world ahead
Renovation of the Heart Week 9 Recap

Transforming the Body

I know what you're thinking: "You weren't in class on Sunday?!" Calm down*. Actually, most of you probably weren't thinking that. Most of you had no idea because you don't ever notice me in the class and some of you don't even know who I am. It's cool, I don't know who you are either. But, alas, here I am: recapping the lesson because I can read minds and see the future (and/or the past).

Does anybody else secretly want to throw this book in your fireplace and stop this series? I hope so so I don't feel like a horrible person. I mean, I thought I was doing pretty well until I started coming to class. Now, I am convinced of how completely totally depraved and heretically I am. (I am using dramatic language on purpose). It's annoying.

I thought Ms. Shawn did an awesome job with the lesson. She tackled another super lofty lesson and made it relatable and, just like every other lady who has taught, her personality shown through.

We can't have full, complete redemption without any of the pieces we have talked about so far. The body being one of them. We can be slave to our body just like we can be slave to our emotions, our thought, or our will. We must not give in to our bodies but we must give over our bodies to the Lord to let him begin a deep work in us. A beautiful, but daunting work. Just like every other element, you can't just simply throw your body away or even ask for a new one. You're stuck with the one you got. Uneven nostrils and all. But, the body is amazing. It breathes while you sleep! It doesn't need us to tell it what to do. It just reacts. And to sum up what Shawn unpacked in 23 (20 pt. font) pages... We have to train and program our body to react right. If we don't train, we'll never react right in the moment.

Have you ever thought "Okay next time that happens, I will react this way". I do all the time and when that thing happens I react in the same way I always do. Cause I don't really train. I just try to have good will power. Which, we learned last week, no one has good enough will power. Our body is a very powerful tool. But it can be trained. And we must train it.

Shawn used Roger Federer and computer programming as her example of training our bodies. Federer has won like a million trophies for his tennis playing but he has also probably spent a minute for every trophy he's won (that's a million minutes) training his body to do exactly what he wants to do under pressure. It's not easy. Nothing about renovating the heart is easy. And that's why I want to chunk this book against a wall. But it will be worth it!!!!

God is gonna do his part in caring for our body. But we have to do our part too. Take care of your body. Watch what you put in it (both physically and emotionally and spiritually), watch how you use it, watch what you say to it, and let it use its muscles every once in a while.

(That above paragraph needs its own book in expansion because it is easier said than done. But, alas, I am trying to make these slightly shorter.)

There is hope yet. I like thinking of my body as a computer because it kinda calms my angsty ways. My body is just a machine, it is not a monster that is constantly trying to destroy me. It can be trained like a dog. When you say "sit" the body will sit. (Wow, I was using that as a metaphor but that is quite literal). So once I start inputing the program Holiness 3000, I will output gold and doves and peace and love. Your body is just a machine. You can transform it.

How do we train it? Heck if I know. But, you gotta use it to train it. Journaling is the example Ms. Shawn brings up. The actual act of taking your thoughts through your veins to your fingers through the pen onto paper is a powerful thing. And, it slows you down. (which I hate but I try to do it). Write down Bible verses, say them till your blue in your face. And get on your knees. Make your body low. Pray, pray, pray. And wait. God is faithful to answer.

Also, service. Using your body for someone else's gain is an easy way to put your body in it's place.

Jesus came down and put skin on his deity and that is more significant than we'll ever realize. If we want to transform our body, don't you think we should look at what Jesus did when he had one? Ms. Shawn says that to train our body we have to follow Christ's overall lifestyle and take on his disciplines of prayer, solitude, fasting (denying the body), etc. And I love that Ms. Shawn says the difference between Federer and Jesus is that Jesus comes inside of us and transforms us from the inside out. Don't we all wish that Federer's spirit could maybe come inside of us too? Give me some body coordination please!!

I didn't really do this lesson justice. This just barely touches the surface of the complexity of the body. But, hopefully it will get you thinking and will lead you to the truth. Or hopefully it just makes you laugh.



From The Boar's Head Tavern

John, we blessedly got rid of the necktie dress code about 25 years ago. When I was a new hire in 1999, part of my orientation packet was a photocopy of the original memo sent out in the late 80s officially removing that requirement.

When our old (former military) CEO retired last year and the new guy (career engineer and good Iowa farm boy) took over, the code got updated again to permit wearing jeans on Fridays (though most engineers can get away with jeans every day if they’re otherwise competent).

What is this world coming to?

From Brandywine Books
Birthday Meditation

Icon of the Good Shepherd. Public Domain.

Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
carried from the womb;
even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save. (Isaiah 46:3-5, ESV)

Today is my birthday. I will not tell you my age; suffice it to say that I have reached the age at which I expected to die, when I was a kid. (I place no prophetic weight on that expectation, by the way. Nothing else in my life has gone as I expected, why should this?).

The passage above is from a chapter that intrigues me, because its meaning is implicit. It’s not spelled out. You have to put two and two together. The message of the chapter as a whole is, “The heathen have to carry their gods from place to place with them. Our God carries us.”

This is the testimony of a man who has reached the full span of years he expected in his youth — Jesus Christ has carried me all the way. If I had not been carried, I would not have made it this far.

From Brandywine Books
Edward Gorey’s Cover Art

“Commercial book cover design is a minor portion of Gorey’s award-winning legacy, but not a lesser art. His linear expression and droll comedy are integral ingredients. There are also covers that are stunning for their hidden allusions. The barren landscape, for example, on the cover of The American Puritans evokes an otherworldly quietude, but speaks to concealed psychological demons as well.”

Steven Heller writes about a part of the much-loved illustrator’s work that has been overlooked. “Gorey’s covers and jackets were not done anonymously or as mere throwaways, as many others were. Nor was this a strategic compromise until he found and embraced his true calling.”

I want to look into that Puritan book.

From Jared C. Wilson
Preaching As Expository Exultation


Expository means that preaching aims to exposit, or explain and apply, the meaning of the Bible. Every sermon explains and applies the Bible. The reason for this is that the Bible is God’s word, inspired, infallible, profitable—all sixty-six books of it. The preacher’s job is to minimize his own opinions and deliver the truth of God. Therefore, it is mainly Bible exposition—explanation and application.

And the preacher’s job is to do that in a way that enables us to see that the points he is making actually come from the Bible. If they come from the Bible and you can’t see that they come from the Bible, your faith will rest on man and not God.

The aim of this exposition is to help you eat and digest some biblical truth that will make your spiritual bones more like steel, and double the capacity of your spiritual lungs, and make the eyes of your heart dazzled with God’s greatness, and awaken the capability of your soul for kinds of spiritual enjoyment you didn’t even know existed.

Preaching is also exultation—expository exultation. This means that the preacher does not just explain what’s in the Bible, and the people do not simply understand what he explains, but the preacher and the people exult over what is in the Bible as it is being explained and applied.

– John Piper, “God So Loved the World, Part 2″

From internetmonk.com
Damaris Zehner: Yielding Rights

White Crucifixion, Chagall

White Crucifixion, Chagall

Yielding Rights
By Damaris Zehner

When discussions occur on Internet Monk defending abortion rights, contraceptive rights, rights to same-sex marriage, rights to divorce, even rights to receive communion in a denomination not one’s own, I tend not to take part.  One reason I refrain has to do with the rules for ethical argument, at least as I teach them to my students.  I define argument as a means of working together to find the truth; if I do not anticipate being able to change my views no matter how compelling the opposition, then I would be entering into an argument under false pretenses.  So I mostly stay out of the arguments that exist or (with a few exceptions) refrain from starting any myself.  Does that imply that I think I’m right in these areas?  Well, it implies that I think the position I have accepted is the right one – which is why I accepted it, after all.   It says nothing about my own righteousness, which is as filthy rags.

So I stay quiet on Internet Monk, but I feel like a hypocrite.   I have considered quitting the site from time to time and finding more congenial surroundings (assuming there are any), but I would then be isolated from those I disagree with, which is an unhealthy positionMost importantly, though, my refusal to take up an opposing position to those commonly expressed on Internet Monk is an insult to all of you, as if I thought that you weren’t worth the effort of honest discussion.  I regret these sins of mine and resolve to do better.

Here goes:  I cannot condone abortion.  I do not accept same-sex unions as marriage, although I support laws to allow individuals to establish legal relationships of inheritance, sharing of benefits, etc., as they choose.  I believe that divorce is rarely an option.  You know how I feel about artificial forms of contraception.  It has never occurred to me that any denomination is obliged to give me communion when I do not share their beliefs or practices.

Rather than explain my reasons for each of those positions separately, although I have many, I think I can say that they all rest on the same foundation, as do my positions on suicide, extreme aids to conception such as sperm banks and in vitro fertilization, and other issues.  That foundation is not political conservatism; I am not a political conservative, and in fact, politics is as opaque to me as music is to the tone-deaf.  It is a conviction based on Scripture, that when we become Christians, we yield our rights in exchange for grace.

One passage that outlines this idea clearly is from the Gospel of Matthew:

But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.  And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

• Matthew 5:39-42

It seems from this that when we follow Jesus, we don’t have a right to be treated well, to hang on to our belongings, or to defend ourselves from annoying interruptions.  We are not our own; we are bought with a price.

It’s not that we become chattel when we yield ourselves to God, however.  We get something better from him than our rights.  God showers us with grace, grace in full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over; but the problem comes when the grace he gives us is not the grace we thought we wanted.  God, instead of rubber-stamping our plans and desires, offers us suffering as an invitation to grow into the image of his son.  But rather than embrace that suffering, we want to legislate it away, and in the process we lose the opportunity for holiness and death to self.  We have the wrong picture of how the Christian life works.  It’s less like the life of lead characters in countless rags-to-riches movies who “succeed” by following their dreams and always believing in themselves.  It’s much more like George Bailey’s in It’s a Wonderful Life, who time and again gives up his dreams for the sake of others.  Like him we are not the masters of our fate or the captains of our soul as we imagine we are; we grow and are judged by our reactions to what God puts before us.

So when I think about what it means to yield our rights before God, I conclude that if I am pregnant against my plans or desires, even as a result of rape, I should embrace that baby’s life with love and give up my own rights to the life I had planned.  If a woman experiences same-sex attraction and cannot endure a heterosexual marriage, she should take up her cross of enforced chastity and ask God to make her burden as light as possible.  If a man feels stifled in his marriage, he should stay for the love of others and not seek to “maximize his own potential” through divorce.  If you struggle with sexual temptation, you should offer it to God and resist redesigning morality and natural science to let you do what you want.  And if we are denied communion, we should accept the authority of religious leaders rather than demanding that they accord us rights without the mutual obligation of an ongoing relationship.

Jesus’ words present us with the stark difference between the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God.  None of what he says in Matthew or what I’ve said above is practical, or even sensible, by worldly standards.  But God is calling us to sainthood, not to sensible behavior.  Do I really think that people can live according to such “unrealistic” ideals of holiness?  Probably not, but what I think is not the point.  I’m not the one asking people to accept suffering – I have a hard time sacrificing my desires in little matters, much less in huge ones such as unwanted pregnancy or sexual temptation.  God, not I, is asking us to die to ourselves.  And arguing in favor of abortion, same-sex marriage, no-fault divorce, and open communion is, it seems to me, an attempt to avoid dying to ourselves.

It’s tricky, however.  I’m not saying we should wipe out the concept of civil rights.  Christians should work for just laws, for social equity, for the good of mothers and children and all who are oppressed or in need.  We have the responsibility to ask for godly practices in our churches.  It would even have been a good thing if the Romans had repented of their hubris and carried their own packs for that mile or two.  But the issue I want to stress is not our civil rights as citizens of a nation.  In the kingdom of this world, abortion may remain legal, for example, but then Christians should neither avail themselves of it nor change their religious beliefs to justify it.  We should seek justice, but we cannot hide behind laws of our own making when God asks us to take up our cross and die.  We mustn’t think that the laws we pass or the social norms we overset will have anything to do with our defense before the dread judgment seat of Christ.

The result of giving up our rights and relying on grace is that we will spend the rest of our lives in tension – being in the world but not of it, being, for a time, citizens of two kingdoms.  The Kingdom of God, unlike the kingdom of this world, is not subject to movements or fashions.  It is not a democracy.    We can’t vote to change aspects of it that we find uncomfortable or retrograde.  None of us get to dictate the terms of entrance.  To enter the Kingdom of God we must die.  For some of us, death means staying in a difficult marriage or never being married at all; for some it means giving birth to a child who will change our lives in imponderable ways.  It always means suffering – the Bible, and the pattern of Jesus’ life, promise us that.

So if you post comments approving of abortion, no-fault divorce, sex outside of sacramental marriage, or the right to trump church authority in order to find happiness and avoid suffering, I can’t go along with you, whether I join the discussion or not.  However, if you want to work to help mothers and children, to reconcile unhappy couples, to befriend the lonely, or to strive toward church unification at whatever cost to your own desires, then I will work with you as God gives me strength.  In either case I acknowledge that you are my brothers and sisters; please pray for me, and I will pray for you.

From Jared C. Wilson
Win “Gospel Shaped Worship”: Giveaway 3

gscworshipkit_medium.w5ieh3xp7f2wdu5omi3kd2456imy6c4cI’m giving away 5 copies of the Leader’s Kit for my new study Gospel Shaped Worship, published by The Good Book Co. in conjunction with The Gospel Coalition.

For today’s free copy, tell me the silliest thing you’ve ever seen passed off as “worship” in a church service. (No names, please!) I’ll pick the most terrible example from the comments by tomorrow (7/31).

From Semicolon
Booker Prize Longlist

The Booker Prize, awarded in England, used to be limited to authors of the British persuasion, including authors from Commonwealth countries all over the world. Now, it’s open to U.S. authors, too, and five of the twelve authors on the prize’s longlist this year are American. Here’s the list:

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg.
The Green Road by Anne Enright
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma
The Illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan
Lila by Marilynne Robinson
Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy
The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota
The Chimes by Anna Smaill
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Of the twelve books listed, I’ve only read one, Marilynne Robinson’s Lila. I didn’t like it as much as I did the first two books in the series, Gilead and Home, maybe because I found it more difficult to identify with or sympathize with the fiercely independent Lila. Her demons are not my demons, whereas pastor John Ames, the elderly man reviewing his life for evidence of its faithfulness and meaning, is a man after my own heart. And sometimes I think I know Glory Boughton of Home, albeit I am married with eight children whilst she was a spinster. The story of the elder brother in the prodigal son parable has alway been a poignant and tragic reminder of how I can miss the Father’s love while living in His very house.

I looked up the remaining eleven books on Amazon, and honestly, not one of them was appealing enough for me to add it to my ever-growing TBR list. There were lots of books with multiple narrators, lots of family dysfunction, some “experimental” stuff that I’m pretty sure I would not understand or appreciate. Maybe I’ve “outgrown” contemporary literary fiction, or regressed, or something.

From The Boar's Head Tavern


 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

From The Boar's Head Tavern

In theory, the idea of doing a bunch of research and writing a long paper sounds like fun to me.

In practice, I’m really happy to be in a career where I get by just fine with my undergrad engineering degree.

It’s possible at some point my employer will suggest that I pursue an MBA, which at the moment sounds like the least interesting sort of graduate level degree I can think of. Maybe my impending move to management will eventually adjust my view on that.

From Jared C. Wilson
Too Earthly Minded to Be Any Heavenly Good?

c-s-lewis-348“A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in': aim at earth and you will get neither.”

— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

From The Boar's Head Tavern
Dissertations are funny things….

When I first started my Ph.D. program, I heard about all the ABDs out there and I laughed them to scorn. Why, I thought, would you go through all the trouble to finish your course work and then not complete the dissertation? I got through my course work quickly, and then took a year longer to finish my comps than it should have. Then when it got to the dissertation, I went for almost two years where I literally could not force myself to work on it, or even think about it. I have no idea why. Shame, guilt, and increasing anxiety finally pushed me to crack down and finish, but I have a lot more empathy for ABDs now.

From internetmonk.com
Miguel Ruiz: New light on the oldest profession

Judah and Tamar, Gassel

Judah and Tamar, Gassel

Note from CM: After thinking about the way many Christians today devise their moral theology, our friend Miguel offers a “modest proposal” about reconsidering “the oldest profession.”

• • •

The history of Christianity is a twisted tale of conflict over sexuality and the suppression of those who dissent the party line on bedroom ethics.  These days, it is commonly argued that there is only one correct approach, from sound exegesis of Scripture, to human sexuality and appropriate boundaries.  However, we still must concede that what is commonly accepted as “right” today is not exactly how we have always taught.  Throughout the centuries, various sexual practices have gone in and out of favor with the church catholic at various times and in various cultures, as external influences have doubtlessly impacted how the relevant Scripture passages were read and understood.  We’ve run the gamut from repressing to libertine, and everything in between.  It is nothing short of confounding how difficult it is to get the Bible to speak directly and consistently on these matters.  If we truly value and respect the Word of God, we would be wise to continue listening and respectfully consider alternate interpretations, especially those coming from fellow believers as a matter of conscience.  We’ve all made mistakes in Biblical interpretation before, probably not for the last time.  So I challenge you to listen with an open mind as I explain how we’ve been largely wrong about a particular issue for a number of years:  Prostitution.

Prostitution gets a bad rap in our culture today, and as a result, women in this profession are grossly mistreated.  When we think of sex workers, the stereotype that comes to mind is a scantily clad woman, working a corner, wearing too much makeup.  She renders her plunder to a psychologically manipulative and physically abusive pimp who doesn’t take very good care of her.  It has truly become a dangerous profession in our day, largely because a judgmental spirit against it fosters a suppression of its legitimacy, resulting in occupational trauma.  Unfortunately, this is often done in the name of Christianity.  It doesn’t have to be so.  The exegetical scholarship on this issue is no longer as conclusive as we once thought.  Let’s take a look at what the Bible really has to say about prostitution, from the beginning.

The first recorded prostitute is Tamar.  She slept with Judah after his three sons died without knocking her up.  Oddly enough, Judah did not realize it was his three-time daughter in law.  When it was discovered that she was pregnant and she gave proof that it was at his doing, his response was (and I quote the ESV), “She is more righteous than I.”

Consider the significance of this.  Judah is not just one of the patriarchs of Israel.  Neither is he the firstborn, from whom the Messiah was expected to come.  Rather, the first three sons were passed up in favor of Judah!  The very father of the tribe of Jesus, an essential link in the genealogy of salvation, has declared a prostitute to be more righteous than him!  What does that say about how he viewed them?  It reminds me of something Jesus used to say;  “The tax collectors and prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.”  From the popular Christian sexual ethic of today, you would expect a much more sever evisceration of this demographic, but these words seem rather flattering.

Further down the history of salvation we see Rahab, who assisted the spies in Jericho at the beginning of the Israeli conquest.  The spies had no qualms heading to her place to hide, which may even have been construed as a “business transaction.”  They showed her respect and promised her both safety and a secured place among the people of God.  Did I mention she also became a part of the lineage which led to Christ?  The holy family is not too good for hookers.  (See Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 for more praise of her.)

Jesus openly elevated the status of prostitutes.  He called many of them as followers, and nary a word is recorded of his chastisement of their livelihood.  Instead, we see “Wherever the Gospel is preached, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”  Jesus went out of his way to honor and uplift these downtrodden members of society.  And all we have for them judgement and condemnation?

Tamar, beautiful daughter of Judah, Chagall

Tamar, beautiful daughter of Judah, Chagall

“Oh, but isn’t prostitution adultery?”  Not according to Webster’s dictionary, which defines it as, “sex between a married person and someone who is not that person’s spouse.”  So prostitution can be adultery, but only if the John is married.

Sure, the Levitical code condemned prostitution, along with the eating of shrimp and the wearing of clothing with mixed fabric.  Unless you hold to those other restrictions, there is no reason to assert some of them as mandatory for today.  What would be the basis for that such a selective reading?  Prejudice.

What about New Testament condemnations of fornication?  The word commonly translated as “fornication” (pornea), actually refers to sexual immorality generally, not fornication specifically.  Many modern translations have reversed this err, effectively removing the word  from the New Testament!  You could, potentially, make the case that fornication is defrauding, in the sense that it is often achieved dishonestly:  promising commitment, feigning infatuation, blindly following temporary feelings of romance.  With a professional, however, the exchange is consensual and contractual.  Everything is mutually agreed upon, transparent, and up front.  Would that all our relations proceeded thusly!  If society were freed from this stigmatization, far fewer would resort to deception to meet this need.

1 Corinthians 6:9 is the ultimate “clobber verse” that is whipped out to shame professional sex workers and prove that God hates them:  “…prostitutes shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  And yet, several of them clearly have:  Rahab, Mary Magdalene, etc.…  Perhaps this verse doesn’t mean what is might seem.  Could it refer to temple prostitutes in the fertility cults of the time, whose pagan worship was mutually exclusive with the worship of the one true God?  It fits the textual evidence so much better than writing off an entire discriminated demographic whose line of work has left them in oppression for millennia.  It also fits with examples from the Old Testament:  When righteous kings of Israel led a revival and return to faithfulness, they always drove out the shrine prostitutes.

Verse 15 mentions prostitution in a seemingly derogatory light, but the passage is about sexual immorality generally.  It lists no specifics besides prostitution.  Surely adultery, rape, etc… are also forms of sexual immorality.  So the intent of the passage clearly isn’t to spell out a definitive list of what is or is not sexually immoral.  Rather, sexual immorality is, analogously, a prostitution of ourselves to the God of pleasure, rather than the one true God.  From this passage alone, prostitution itself may or may not be considered “sexual immorality.”

It is time for Christianity to move beyond this mistreatment of hard working young women, if we want anybody to take our faith seriously in contemporary society.  Let us consider, as an example of the Gospel’s transformational effect on society, the arrangement in parts of Nevada, where prostitution is legalized and regulated.  The girls receive medical benefits, vacation time, and can freely advertise their services with business cards and websites.  What does this do for the industry?  For one, their services are much more fairly compensated.  We should not take lightly the benefit that their labors provide society.  Those running back-alley operations to hide from the law are far more likely to get dirt for pay.  This results in a higher client load in order to make ends meet, which takes a much more severe toll on their health.  And when society is done with them, we toss them aside like yesterday’s garbage, while the rest of us enjoy our retirement plan.  Is this justice?  Does this model the compassion Christ taught?  We’re so busy patting ourselves on the back for having obtained more “respectable” vocations that we don’t even notice how our systems have trampled them.  Surely these “least of these” would receive a much stronger hand up from Christ Himself; they did when He was walking the earth.  Why not work to transition as many of them as possible from victims of thuggery and abuse to respectable entrepreneurs who run their own escort service?  After all, a women’s body ought to be her own business, not somebody else’s.

Enough with occupational discrimination.  In the past, the church has also shunned bartenders, casino operators, lingerie manufacturers, and goat herders.  These are honorable professions that are widely accepted and valued by Christians today.  The church has changed its mind on other issues, such as polygamy, once permitted and later overturned.  It is time to overturn this ancient prejudice as well.  Sure, prostitutes are sinners, like everybody else, and need forgiveness from Jesus.  But according to the Scriptures, their job isn’t the problem.  The story of God and the Christian prostitute isn’t done being written yet.

Who knows?  Maybe Jesus and Paul really meant to condemn prostitution, but didn’t choose their words carefully enough.  It’s always possible that they were simply wrong on this issue.

From Brandywine Books
Some Commentaries Read Like This

A parody of biblical exegesis by New Testament scholar Moisés Silva:  “The author of this piece, moreover, makes clever use of word associations. For example, the term glamorous is etymologically related to grammar, a concept no doubt reflected in the comment about Marilyn’s ‘verbal skills.'”

From The Boar's Head Tavern

I’ve been paying for the hosting since this month 2012. Someone else has been paying for the domain.

I’m months behind on my dissertation and have two classes in October that are overseas in addition to numerous other responsibilities. I’ll give the BHT some much needed love in about 10 months if I’m lucky. Blessed. Whatever.

From Jared C. Wilson
Win “Gospel Shaped Worship”: Giveaway 2

gscworshipkit_medium.w5ieh3xp7f2wdu5omi3kd2456imy6c4cI’m giving away 5 copies of the Leader’s Kit for my new study Gospel Shaped Worship, published by The Good Book Co. in conjunction with The Gospel Coalition.

For today’s free copy, tell me why the Christian’s worship needs to be shaped by the gospel. I’ll pick the strongest answer from the comments by tomorrow (7/30).

From Semicolon
Reading and Thinking on my Birthday

So, what have I been reading and thinking about on my birthday and the morning after?

I spent some time yesterday morning listening to Ravi Zacharias’ recent podcasts. That man is an inspirational speaker, preacher, and thinker. I enjoy listening to him speak much more than I enjoy his books, however, even though I like his books well enough.

Then, I read some in Walter Wangerin’s Paul: A Novel. It’s an interesting perspective, or rather multiple perspectives, on the life of the apostle Paul. The novel switches narrators every few pages from Luke to Timothy to Barnabas to James the brother of Jesus to Priscilla to Titus, maybe others. It’s rather disconcerting, but maybe not a bad idea.

Noel DeVries has a good post at Never Jam Today: we rest in Thee, and in Thy name we go.
Also this older post about the limitations of the “Charlotte Mason Method” of child training.

And this morning I read Julie at Happy Catholic on the feast day of St. Martha, and I was reminded to “choose the better part,” to choose Jesus.

I’m going to spend today working in my library, studying my Bible, praying, eating leftover birthday food (lots of leftover birthday food is here!), reading some more, paying bills, rejoicing in another day with Jesus. I wish you something similar for your day. I’ve learned to appreciate the mundane, event-less days as opportunities for joy and thankfulness.

From The Boar's Head Tavern

We seem to have bursts of energy followed by weeks of torpor. Thanks for breaking the ice, Randy.

I shall renew my efforts to post here… surely we can find something interesting to discuss…

From The Boar's Head Tavern
Anybody here?

It’s been over a month since anybody posted anything here. Who is footing the bill for hosting? Who is maintaining the site? Is it worth it at this point?

I’m willing to post some of the stuff that I mostly consider tweetable if anyone else is willing to make an effort.

From Jared C. Wilson
Your Sin Will Find You Out, But So Will His Righteousness

newspaper_shutterstock_124029454… be sure your sin will find you out.
– Numbers 32:23

In the news a couple of years ago I read a report from Kennebunkport, Maine that a fitness trainer had turned her business into an underground prostitution ring. I am not clear on whether there were multiple prostitutes available or just her, but the primary focus was on the “johns,” a variety of local men, some of them quite prominent figures, whose names were listed in the newspapers. The ensuing debate is over whether such a practice is appropriate. Won’t it ruin these men’s lives and devastate their families? The public shaming is part of the attempt to crack down on prostitution in the area.

I confess I’m not sure how I feel about the publishing of the names. I feel similar in my reaction to those who hang out in the parking lots of adult bookstores and strip clubs, snapping photos of the patrons as they come and go, to print their pics in the local paper, “outing” them. It’s an effort to “take back” neighborhoods, which I certainly sympathize with. In the latter example, nothing illegal (theoretically) is taking place, while of course in the former case, it is. And I guess I can also see the logic in publicizing the names of those soliciting prostitution as way of creating parity with other crimes, whose suspects are regularly named in the media.

And I suppose this is essentially a modern fulfillment of the biblical principle: “your sins will find you out.”

Your sins will find you out. You won’t get away with it. There will be justice. In this life or the next. Or both.

I think many of us who have tasted of the Lord’s holiness have a degree, some more than others, of the shame of sin. We envision the day when we will stand before the Lord to give an account of everything we’ve done. I recall preachers past suggesting a giant movie screen will play before God and everybody of all our sins, the ones external and internal, the ones we remember and the ones we don’t. Every single drop of bitterness, unkind word, every single second of lust, every hateful thought, every self-indulgent theft of the glory belonging only to God in stunning color and panoramic vision. Like a list of names in the newspaper or only infinitely worse. “This man! This man is a pervert” the broadcast will reveal.

But then there is the promise of my holy God himself—that his Son is not ashamed to call me his brother (Hebrews 2:11). He oughta be! But he’s not. He has satisfied justice by taking the endless list of my sins upon himself, bearing my shame on a public cross beneath a paper vindictively, sarcastically publishing his name. I stake everything on that promise and the promises from which it is derived. There is the promise that he will present me blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy (Jude 24). Oh, he will read a list, all right. He calls it the Lamb’s Book of Life. And because this ferociously holy and glory-jealous God has foreknown me, elected me, justified me, sanctified me, is sanctifying me, and will glorify me, my name will be found in it.

“This man! This man is a good and faithful servant” the broadcast will reveal. For I have been covered in the righteousness of my precious Redeemer. He has cast my sins in to the depths of the sea to remember them no more. (Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!)

Christian, be sure his righteousness will find you out.

From internetmonk.com
Another Look: That for which every heart yearns


This is the time of year a Midwestern boy like me looks forward to with all his heart.

It is, without a doubt, the very best time of year.

For this is the season when the three most wonderful words in the English language fill the air.

Three simple, sublime words.

They are everywhere. These three magnificent words come to mind whenever you drive down the road, almost any road around here. When you are out and about, when you go to the store, when you come home and walk in the back door, you think about these words and they make you smile.

They are the most splendid, the most appealing, the most astounding words ever spoken.

They represent what I believe may be the greatest gift in all of God’s creation.

These words bring the promise of satisfaction, delight, and wonder. They capture our hopes and dreams, the yearning we all have deep within us.

As far as I am concerned, there is no greater three-word phrase in all the world. 

Fresh sweet corn!

Makes me want to break into song: ‘Tis music in the sinner’s ear! ‘Tis life and health and peace.

Barely two, yea three other phrases are like unto it…

  • Fresh green beans.
  • Fresh tomatoes.
  • Fresh cantaloupe.

Yet even these wonders do not rise to the level of “fresh sweet corn.”

I love sweet corn. It truly is better than sex! I’m not lying! All across the Midwest tonight, a husband and wife will finish what husbands and wives do, and the wife will ask the husband: “How was that?” And, if the man is honest, he’ll say “Well, it wasn’t sweet corn, but it was nice.” It’s a fact! Sweet corn is better than sex!…fresh sweet corn!…Store bought sweet corn, yes, sex is definitely better than that!

• Garrison Keillor

Sweet corn is, of course, best when picked fresh from the field or garden, then immediately placed in the hands of the fastest sprinter in the county. While cheered on by eager onlookers to set a new land speed record, said sprinter makes a beeline for the kitchen, peeling and slinging off the husks as he races toward the screen door. When he reaches the house, his teammates fling open the door, and our heroic runner breathlessly crosses the finish line, transferring the naked ears into the hands of dear old mom in her checkered apron. With a sure, experienced touch, she drops them at once into a large pot of boiling water.

The harvesting team repeats this routine as often as necessary until the pot is full and the air becomes sweet with steam.

When the golden ears are tender, mom whisks them to the table on a platter. Impatient, hankering hands grab the sacred treasure, slather it in butter, sprinkle it with salt, and devour it as soon as humanly possible. We grip the steaming ears by our fingertips, and like the carriage of an old typewriter we crunch our way down the first line, hit the return and reset, then start chomping down the next row. Over and over again.

Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. Return.

Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. Return.

Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. Return.

The gods look down on us with jealousy. They follow the action like spectators at a tennis match.

As for we who feast, we hardly pause to breathe, and the full ears on the plate are quickly replaced by the colorless cobs of those we’ve decorticated.

Once more, the track and field harvest team is deployed. The screen door slams behind them.

While they go about their business, we who are alive and remain turn our attention to the secondary parts of the meal: grilled chicken or pork chops, green beans, fresh tomatoes, jello salad. We slake our thirst from large, sweating glasses of iced tea.

Then the door flies open and the next batch is dropped into the pot.

The Messianic Banquet can continue.

Amen. Maranatha. Even so, boil quickly!

And there amid the laughter around the family table, the clinking of plates and silverware, the raising of glasses, and the sweet heavenly “crunch” of summer in the Midwest, the song of St. Garrison fills our hearts…

As we travel along on our earthly path
Through this beautiful world God has made
Tramping along at a stately pace
Like elephants on parade.
We discover the pleasure of grass and sun
And music and light and talk
And the joy when a day of hard work is done
And you’ve cleared five acres of rocks.
The joy as you climb in your bed at night
The joy of the brand-new morn
But of all these pleasures the greatest delight
Is a supper of fresh sweet corn.

O that fresh sweet corn that the Lord sent down
So we know how heaven will be,
No grief, no tears, just the young golden ears
Plenty for you and for me.
Though the road be hard and deep is the night
And the future we cannot see
Take my hand, dear Lord, and I’ll be all right
If you’ll save a few ears for me.

…We praise you Lord for this good good life
And praise for the day we were born
And the gifts you have given including this heaven-ly
Fresh sweet corn.

• A Prairie Home Companion script—May 7, 2005

From Brandywine Books

Twitter is channelling writer angst, gripes, and chuckles over things people say to established writers.

“Oh, you’re a writer? When I retire, I want to write a book too.”

“So are you still writing or are you working now?”

“I really like your work! Will you write for us? Oh, we don’t pay.”

How do you spell conflabigation? You’re a writer, aren’t you?

I love your work. It’s just like, oh, that other guy, you know?

And then there’s this one from Guy Gavriel Kay.

From Jared C. Wilson
Win “Gospel Shaped Worship”: Giveaway 1

gscworshipkit_medium.w5ieh3xp7f2wdu5omi3kd2456imy6c4cOver the next week or so, I’ll be giving away 5 copies of the Leader’s Kit for my new study Gospel Shaped Worship, published by The Good Book Co. in conjunction with The Gospel Coalition.

For today’s free copy, tell me the funniest thing you ever witnessed in a worship gathering. I’ll pick a winner out of the comments by tomorrow (7/29).

From Jared C. Wilson
What Does Job 31:13-15 Tell Us About the Unborn?


“If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant,
when they brought a complaint against me,
what then shall I do when God rises up?
When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him?
Did not he who made me in the womb make him?
And did not one fashion us in the womb?”
—Job 31:13-15

This passage tells us at least three things about the unborn, and thus about abortion:

1. The foundation of civil equality is traced to the womb.

Really, it is traced to God’s having made mankind in his image, but the well-to-do Job is asserting an equality of personhood with his servants based on their equal status as unborn children. Therefore, the unborn are persons with civil rights. This makes abortion a dehumanizing injustice.

2. The development of the unborn is a work of God.

Job says he and his servants were made in the womb, fashioned in the womb. Coupled with Psalm 139-s words on God’s creative work in the womb, we learn that abortion is therefore a tearing apart what God has joined together.

3. The treatment of persons as non-persons is something for which we will give an account.

“What shall I do when God rises up?” Job asks about unjust treatment of his servants. And what will we say? Injustice of this kind will be reckoned with. We will have to give an account to our holy God for the murder of millions of unborn persons he is forming in his image.

No law can be just if its justice for one is predicated on injustice to another.

From Brandywine Books
An Artist’s Failure to Work

An artist’s failure to work is rarely mechanical—fingers that fail to curl around a pen or a brush—but spiritual: a fear that has rendered them artistically blind or deaf. The solution to them all is to draw closer to God, the source of all order, rest, and freedom, and of every image, sound, and word. — Carey Wallace

From Jared C. Wilson
The Quest for Gospel Holiness


The Puritan John Owen wrote: “Holiness is nothing but the implanting, writing and realizing of the gospel in our souls.” What Christ seeks in his church is what the gospel promises and provides. The quest for gospel holiness cannot mean acquiring confident expertise in the practice of the virtues. When Benjamin Franklin proposed to reform his life by shedding once vice at a time, he prepared an unintentional caricature of a Puritan spiritual journal.

The life of holiness is the life of faith in which the believer, with a deepening knowledge of his own sin and helplessness apart from Christ, increasingly casts himself upon the Lord, and seeks the power of he Spirit and the wisdom and comfort of the Bible to battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. It is not a lonely or cheerless struggle, for Christ gives the Spirit to the members of his body to help one another… . Maturing in holiness means maturing in love, love that knows God’s love poured out in our hearts, and answers with love that tastes the goodness of the Lord.

– Edmund Clowney

From Brandywine Books
‘I, Ripper,’ by Stephen Hunter

Stephen Hunter, after years of writing successful sniper novels, has taken a flyer with a change of genre—a historical thriller. I, Ripper is a fictional retelling of the Jack the Ripper murders which is not intended to solve the historical mystery, but to illuminate the history of modern ideas.

The story is told through the eyes of three characters. One is a young London reporter who calls himself “Jeb” (we don’t learn his true identity until late in the story). By luck he’s the first newspaper man on the scene of the initial prostitute murder in Whitechapel, and he becomes his paper’s chief man on the story. He even bestows on the murderer the nickname by which he’ll be known to history.

The other narrators are the Ripper himself, in a fictional journal in which he does not reveal his identity, and a young prostitute who describes in a series of letters how she and her fellow streetwalkers react to the killings.

Jeb wants to do more to uncover the killer, in the absence of effective work by the official police. He makes the acquaintance of a renowned linguistics scholar, who produces what today we’d call a “profile” of the killer. Armed with this profile, Jeb and the professor reduce the pool of suspects to a few men, and then one.

Then the investigation explodes in surprises and a dramatic confrontation.

I, Ripper isn’t a bad novel on its own terms. I found it difficult to read at the beginning, because the murders are described in unpleasant detail. The final working out of the story was much to my liking, however.

But I don’t think I can recommend it to our audience, unless you have a strong stomach.

From home is behind, the world ahead
Renovation of the Heart Week 8 Recap

The will. A much more abstract and wide-ranging topic than I first thought. Also, a more important topic than I first thought. Thankfully for you, the reader, this topic appeals more to my logical, practical, thinking side so it won't sound like a 13 year old emo kid who just discovered what a diary was (although, as Marilyn pointed out, your thoughts, feelings and will are all connected. So this week is not void of emotion). Marilyn spoke this week and it was a simple message, but a powerful one.

So what exactly is your will? Words that were thrown out were: drive, desire, determination, stubbornness, and control.

Letting go of your own will and giving into God's will requires trust. You have to trust God to want to follow him. And for someone who is a control freak, like me, I only trust myself. (Who is the LEAST trustworthy person cause I deceive myself like a boss). So, to give up the will is to give up control. For me, at least. But, as my mom said, I am not alone in this. Getting off my chair is really acknowledging that I'm not in control. And saying that I am okay with whatever happens. But, control freaks aren't okay with "whatever happens". They want to know what is going to happen. Even if it's not what I would want, necessarily, I want to consciously decide to do that thing and know exactly the outcome. But, that's not how God works. And there's the rub. Giving in to God is supposed to bring you peace but it literally causes me to shake.

I remember my freshmen year of college I had to make a big decision (it was actually pretty petty) and I was kinda new to walking with God through my decisions so I really wanted to be super holy and spiritual and just ask God and whatever he says I wanted to do. But, I was completely riddled with anxiety. The second I would open up my Bible I would start shaking and my heart would pound because I was afraid of the answer. I was "hearing" all these weird things that were probably the devil messing with me. I couldn't see straight and I ended up making the decision that I would have wanted to make. I think that it was the right decision- for that time- but I never came to a "peace" that that was what God told me to do. But, I thought my heart might actually explode if I prayed about it anymore. That happens to me more than I would like to admit. I want control. I want God to bend to my will and bless me through it all, but I don't want to bend to his. If I knew the answer to how to fix this, I would. And I would share it with you right here. Alas, I don't.

Marilyn said that it isn't about "will power". It's about the "want to" factor. Our will, when aligned with God, is our desire to do what God's will is. And God's will is the things he wants to see happen in this day and age.
There is a timeline for conquering the will: Willard states it as Surrender  Abandonment  Contentment  Participation.

Surrender: Losing control. (See above).

Abandonment: Living life with open hands as I like to say. Knowing we deserve nothing so being thankful for everything. And living like we know the end of the book (which we do). One of my favorite lyrics in a worship song is from the song Strong Love by Jon Thurlow (everyone admire my hipsterness). He says: "I know the end of the story I come up from the wilderness, leaning on my beloved." I love that so much. That's all I wanted to say about that.

Contentment: Peace with God and peace with ourselves.

Participation: God is cool and gracious and loving enough to let us take part in his will. It's much better than ours.

Marilyn made a good point that it's not about getting past step one and never returning. You will go in circles with this. You will have to start over. And... I say that to be comforting. To better explain these points, Marilyn made her own timeline: I don't want to  I have to  I want to want to  I want to  I get to.

What would your life look like if you were completely abandoned to the will of God? Think about that. Me? I'd probably have more peace and more joy, which is ironic because those are the things I desperately want. If I am honest, right now I am in the "want to want to" stage and about some things I am in the "I don't want to" stage. But the first step to freedom is admitting you have a problem, right?

To be honest, I don't remember where this fit into the lesson because I take really vague, horrible notes, but it's an important point: We've got to talk about what is going on in our head. (Which I hate doing). We have to get it out, we have to process, and we have to not believe that we are the only ones thinking these thoughts. So, start talking about your thoughts (no matter how scary, dirty, awful, crazy they are). Do work today and don't let this lesson collect dust on the shelf.

From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: July 25, 2015

“Don Quixote, perceiving that he was not able to stir, resolv’d to have recourse to his usual Remedy which was to bethink himself what Passage in his Books might afford him some Comfort.” ~Don Quixote by Miguel Saavedra de Cervantes


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
What’s New in My Library?

I have a private, subscription library in my home—sort of a school library for literature lovers and homeschoolers. It gives me an excuse to purchase and rescue those treasures of books that I find in the thrift store or at the garage sale. I bought lots of books this week, first at the Books Bloom seminar with Jan Bloom, then at the thrift store. Something for everyone!

Picture books:
Wombat Stew by Marcia K. Vaughan. A dingo captures a wombat and decides to make himself a gooey, brewy, yummy, chewy wombat stew. But the wombat has a few tricks up his sleeve. This is a great Australian classic picture book for those who want to make a quick trip Down Under.

Moy Moy by Leo Politi. Politi was an Italian American author and artist who was both a devout Catholic and a pacifist. His books celebrate cultural diversity and children living within those diverse cultures. Moy Moy is a Chinese American girl living in Chinatown in Los Angeles. Most of Politi’s books are set in California, near Los Angeles and future loving families, ethnic celebrations, and colorful scenes.

Listen to the Rain by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault. “the slow soft sprinkle, the drip-drop tinkle, the first wet whisper of the rain.” A rain poem, with beautiful illustrations by James Endicott, this book is one of the many recommended in my preschool curriculum, Picture Book Preschool.

Also, I found paperback copies of the Picture Book Preschool books Galimoto by Karen Lynn Willliams, A House Is a House for Me by Mary Ann Doberman, and The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack.

Easy readers:
The Littles by John Peterson. I also bought copies of The Littles Take a Trip, The Littles to the Rescue, The Littles and Their Amazing New Friend, The Littles Go to School. These books about “little people” are for beginning readers who are not quite ready for The Borrowers, my favorite little people series.

Shoes for Amelie by Connie Colker Steiner. The story of a French farming family during World War II who take in and hide little Jewish girl named Amelie, based on the true story of the rescue of Jews by the people of the French region of Plateau Vivarais-Lignon.

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss. I didn’t have a copy of this classic Dr. Seuss romp, but now I do. In fact, most of my Dr. Seuss books were read to death by my eight lovely children a long time ago, so if you have any to donate, they would be well-loved and well read, I’m sure.

Middle Grade Fiction:
The Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport by Laura Lee Hope. The first of the Bobbsey Twins series, and I have a few others in the series in the library, too. If you have any of these books you’d like to donate to Meriadoc Homeschool Library, I’d be happy to have them.

The Fox Steals Home by Matt Christopher. In this sports story Bobby plays baseball and deals with his hurt over his parents’ divorce.

The Thief by Nancy Rue. This episode in the Christian Heritage Series, The Williamsburg Years, shows readers the deep enmity in the 1780’s between loyalists to the British crown and patriots who were determined to make a new nation, separate from England. Can the two sides ever come to agreement on anything, even the meaning of right and wrong?

The Black Stallion Legend and The Black Stallion Revolts by Walter Farley. I now have five of the many Black Stallion books in my library. If you have any others you’d like to donate, I have some horse-loving readers who enjoy these books.

The Rescuers by Margery Sharp. The mice of the The Prisoners Aid Society rescue a Norwegian poet, with Miss Bianca as interpreter and Bernard, the humble pantry mouse, and Nils, his partner, as mice-to-the-rescue.

The Mississippi Bubble by Thomas Costain. One of my favorite history writers tells the story of land speculation and emigration gone crazy in France and French Louisiana in the 1700’s. Speculative and economic bubbles are nothing new, as this true history in the Landmark History series demonstrates.

The Family Nobody Wanted by Helen Doss. A family in the 1950’s adopts a diverse group of children of mixed race and heritage. This book was one of my favorites as a teen, and although we never adopted children, I think the lessons learned of acceptance and indiscriminate love from this book and other similar stories helped me to understand and affirm the multi-racial families of many of my friends and neighbors.

Corn Is Maize: The Gift of the Indians by Aliki.

How Animals Talk by Susan McGrath. National Geographic Books for Young Explorers.

More Than Moccasins: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life by Laurie Carlson.

Kids Around the World Create! The Best Crafts and Activities from Many Lands by Arlene N. Braman.

Collecting good books is such a fun hobby, or maybe even a calling or vocation. I am immensely thankful that I get to preserve and share these books with my community. (These are only few of the books I found this week. I’ll tell you about more in another post soon.)

From Jared C. Wilson
Jesus Did Not Say “Teach the Sheep to Self-Feed”

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 6.18.01 AMIn John 21:15, Jesus asks Peter a question. Basically, “Do you love me?”

Peter says yes.

And Jesus didn’t say, “Then teach my sheep how to self-feed.” No, he tells Peter, “Feed my lambs.”

Jesus is referring to a shepherd’s personal care for the flock, and specifically he is helping Peter see that his (Peter’s) role must reflect the work of Christ himself. “If you love me,” in other words, “you will do for others what I have done for you.” And we do not see Jesus simply handing out resources and programs to his disciples, but sitting with them, walking with them, eating with them, praying with them, touching them and encouraging them and counseling them and correcting them. He does not hide behind his office door labeled “Messiah for Preaching and Vision.” He is sweating and crying and sleeping in front of them. And he dies for them.
Jesus the pastor knows that the sheep need a shepherd (Matt. 9:36).

This doesn’t mean an end to programmed provision. It doesn’t mean we abandon our classes or our resource centers. What it does mean, though, is that we ought to put an end to the notion that The Program is the key to spiritual growth. It means we cannot install an event, and when we see it doesn’t work, install another event and hope it succeeds.

Systems may aid the discipleship process, but discipleship is not a system. Discipleship is following Jesus. It requires help that is much more personal and relational.

The programmatic approach, and even the self-feeding approach, assumes that what people lack is a set of skills to address their felt needs for success or competence. But what any Christian enterprise ought to assume is that, beneath all our confusion and ignorance, what people really lack is a heart for God and neighbor. Underneath our felt needs is an entire industry of idols emerging from a foundation of sin and longing for glory. Only the gospel can get to that level and deal with it. This is why Jesus doesn’t say, “teach my sheep,” although he certainly wants us to teach. He says, “feed my sheep.” Because he knows what we all really need first and foremost is the word of life that satisfies and sustains.

Isn’t it odd that for so long we have begun with the idea that we must demonstrate how practical and applicable to everyday life Christianity is, yet so few people are actually being matured by the process that begins that way? I think it has something to do with the fact that we aren’t beginning by addressing the real problem. We assume it is dysfunction or lack of success, when really it is sin. We need skills, sure. But we need grace first and most.

What good is it anyway to win people to the life of a church’s programs if they aren’t in love with Jesus? The attractional church too often holds up Jesus as more of a role model than the sovereign God, not so much as the Door as merely the doorman to success and happiness.

And so we have to give permission for someone to ask us the uncomfortable question at any given time: Are we trusting our programs, or are we trusting God?

I don’t believe the right response to “the programs aren’t working” is to conclude that the life of the church is not the place for Christians both new and “old” to be fed. I don’t believe the right response to “our goods and services aren’t having their desired effect” is to work on creating more independent Christians, trusting them to get it right somehow all by themselves. Whatever our programs, our churches’ leaders need to take seriously the command of Christ—in as many ways as possible—to feed his sheep.

But this may require a radical reorienting not simply of programs or expectations but of the leader’s aims. If we simply want more people or better people, a different set of programs and events might accomplish that. But if we want Christ-exalting, Christ-loving, Christ-following people, we have to get more personal and go deeper.

We have to get beyond simply trying to move warm bodies around through the systems and actually try moving the gospel into the system of those bodies. And that means figuring out the difference between managing people’s activities and pastoring people’s hearts.

– from The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo (pp. 144-146)

From Jared C. Wilson
What Does a Baby Do to be Born?

imagesJesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God . . .” The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
— John 3:3,8

What does a baby do to be born?

The Spirit moves as the wind—free, unfettered, invisible. The Spirit is sovereign over regenerative quickening as the Father is sovereign over the election unto it, granting new hearts to everyone predestined to receive them at their appointed time. This speaks to the Spirit’s control over rebirth. A person cannot “will himself” a new heart any more than a baby can will himself to be conceived.

From Semicolon
Yellow Copter by Kersten Hamilton

For those helicopter and airplane-loving boys and girls in your life, Yellow Copter is sure to please. The story is rather slight: Yellow Copter, the rescue helicopter, rescues the schoolteacher from the top of the ferris wheel. The end.

Still, the pictures are bright and simple. The story is short and sweet—with sound effects and some rhyme and rhythm. So, toddlers and younger preschoolers should enjoy looking at his one over and over again. The blurb in the back of the book refers to Ms. Hamilton’s first “action-packed adventure for young readers”, Red Truck. I haven’t seen it, but if your child likes Yellow Copter, and you’re looking for more of the same, Red Truck might be a good choice.

I wouldn’t give either book to “young readers”, but I would buy it for those who are just past the book-chewing age and who love vehicles of all kinds and shapes. Maybe a toy helicopter to go with the book would make it a perfect gift.

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
Damerosehay novels by Elizabeth Goudge

The Bird in the Tree by Elizabeth Goudge.
Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge.
The Heart of the Family by Elizabeth Goudge.

I read these three related novels in the wrong order. I read Pilgrim’s Inn and reviewed it before I read The Bird in the Tree, the book that begins the saga of the Eliot family and their association with the house, Damerosehay. Then I found a mass market paperback copy of The Heart of the Family at a thrift store for 50 cents, and I brought it home and read it. Each of the three books in the ongoing story was a delight, a joy, and a wonder. I now want to re-read them all in the correct order, just to see what I missed the first time through. But I think I’ll wait a year or so, maybe read them in the winter rather than in the summer, just to see if that changes my appreciation of these novels or my thoughts and feelings about them.

The Bird in the Tree is the story of a man, David Eliot, who has fallen in love with his uncle’s young wife. The wife, Nadine, also loves David Eliot passionately and her own husband, George Eliot, not at all. Unfortunately, or fortunately as the case may be, there are children: sensitive Ben, rambunctious Tommy, and shy diminutive four year old Caroline. And also there is Lucilla Eliot, matriarch of the family, to consider. Lucilla has made the country home, Damrosehay, a sanctuary and a place of community for the Eliots and those who love them. Lucilla, with the help of her spinster daughter Margaret, raised David after the death of his parents during The Great War. And Lucilla will not be pleased with the idea that David and Nadine plan to disregard family ties, tradition, morality, and the children, to follow their own hearts in consummating this love of a lifetime.

Elizabeth Goudge shows how this new “freedom to be true to one’s own heart” is not so new, after all. We hope to call the old adultery and sexual immorality by new names such as “truth” and “beauty” and free love and thereby make them palatable and without negative consequences for family unity and especially for the children. One of the reasons I love this trilogy is that each book, in its own narrative way, shows the falsity of that lie. Sin, whether we call it sin or whether we call it freedom and truth, has its consequences, and the only way to live through the consequences is to accept the suffering and offer it up to God as prayer and sacrifice.

I wrote about Pilgrim’s Inn here. Such a wonderful and romantic story, in the best sense of the latter word. Goudge does not gloss over the difficulties, treacheries, and tragedies inherent in the best of families and the best of marriages. In fact The Heart of the Family makes those deep sorrows vividly clear, and I was reminded that there are many hurts and betrayals that are never completely healed this side of heaven. We fail one another abominably. But one can, with God’s grace and assistance, create a sort of a respite or a haven of home and family to help encourage the weak, cast down the proud, and heal the broken-hearted. I am always interested in the idea (and the ideal) of family and community and how to make those healing connections happen in our very imperfect and broken lives.

I do think the first two books of the trilogy are the best, with the third book trying to say too much with too little story. None of these books is filled with action: people go for walks and drives, have lovely philosophical and theological conversations, make decisions in the middle of the night, and visit each other in the day. They drink a lot of tea, of course, since this is set in merrie old England. Yet some how all the descriptive passages and the long conversational interludes work for the most part. However, I would warn readers that in the third book, The Heart of the Family, Ms. Goudge becomes a little too philosophical/mystical/esoteric for even my tastes. And I like all those things. Nevertheless, if I just kept reading, the story came back and the characters said and did interesting and thought-provoking things, and my own interest in the the novel was renewed.

I highly recommend this series of novels, as well as The Dean’s Watch, The Rosemary Tree, Green Dolphin Street, and Gentian Hill, all novels that I have read and enjoyed by this author. I do believe that this is my Year of Elizabeth Goudge, and I plan to read her children’s book, The Little White Horse, next. Elizabeth Goudge’s writing reminds me a little bit of Madeleine L’Engle’s adult novels, which is high praise for me since Ms. L’Engle is one of my favorites.

In case any of the rest of you want to go on a Goudge binge:
Another review of the trilogy at ShelfLove.
Review of Island Magic by Goudge at Worthwhile Books.
Review of I Saw Three Ships by Elizabeth GOudge (a Christmas story) at Worthwhile Books.
The Valley of Song, recommended at Charlotte’s Library.
Little White Horse, recommended by Amy at Hope Is the Word.
Janet at Across the Page on The Little White Horse.
The Scent of Water, reviewed by Janet at Across the Page.
The Dean’s Watch, also at Across the Page.

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
Saturday Review of Books: July 18, 2015

“I’m late, I’m late for a very important date! No time to say hello/goodbye! I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!” ~Disneyfied version of Lewis Carroll’s Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland


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 home is behind, the world ahead
Renovation of the Heart Week 7 Recap

Spiritual Formation and Our Feelings.

You know, I give Jeannine major props for tackling this lesson. Trying to just dictate what she said has been days of anguish and rewriting and thinking and reading. I'm gonna go out of order for this recap, if you will let me. To begin the lesson, Ms. Jeannine stood behind a decorative chair and delivered a scripted, but not lacking in honesty and meaning, monologue urging us to climb out of the chair of our hearts and place God on it for he is the only one worthy. But I wanna save that for later. (Hopefully my 1am brain will get there and will make sense.)

I read the chapter. And I would say that, if you read only one chapter in this book, you should read this one. (I am saying that only having read this one and sorta the first one). And, like I said, props to Ms. Jeannine. Willard does such a great job at unpacking feelings and emotions that it's kinda overwhelming. But, I think Jeannine captured the essence well. I will try to capture the essence of the essence somewhat coherently. Though I filled up about 5 pages in my journal, my notes aren't that great.

Feelings are important. We got 'em. We ain't getting rid of them. We have to understand that. Feelings are powerful. They will carry us into sin if we are not careful. We can't deny they are there, repress them, or try to starve them. We have to reorder them and let God renovate them to be the healthy, beautiful gifts he made them. (Just like everything else). Faith, hope, love, joy, and peace are the key to a spiritual transformation. Faith and hope give us the confidence in Jesus and his word. Love is the foundation. And it is a circling flow. God first loved us so we love him which in turns makes us love others and those other's love us because we are the other's others. Make sense? We don't have to worry about being loved. We already are by God. And if we focus on loving our brothers and sisters we will be loved if the body is the body. Joy is our strength and our anthem that shouts "all is well" in hard times. We gain joy through thankfulness and meditation on the goodness and love of God. Then comes peace. We have peace with ourselves, with God, and with others. And that helps us love more. Thus the cycle continues. All we have to do is let go. Loosen the grip and let go.

That recap is short and sorta shallow and for that I do apologize. But I can't go into any more depth without a) my brain exploding and b) being completely overwhelmed with feelings. Talking about feelings makes me have a lot of feelings and those feelings usually start with 'a' and end with 'ngsty'. But, honestly, her lesson was less about feelings and more about God. And that's how it should be.

So what I really wanna talk about is the first five to ten minutes of the lesson. Like I said, Ms. Jeannine used a chair to illustrate her point of us being on our own throne. She encouraged us to get off of it. I remember tracking with her and doing the holy-agreement-moan, but I also thought it was a strange place to start. What does this have to do with feelings? I mean, sure, sometimes (all the time) we put our emotions on that chair, but that's not the only thing we put on the chair. But I realized it was the perfect place to start. For every single lesson. Because if we don't get that part right we might as well stop. Close the books and go home. God cannot renovate our heart with us still inside. No one is going to bulldoze a house with the former owner still inside. They cannot renovate it. No one's gonna cut down the tree with Butterfly staked up in it in protest. When we are on the "chair", we are in constant protest of what God wants to do in our hearts.

And that's when it dawned on me. I've been focusing more on changing my behavior and less on just walking out of the stupid house or getting up off the stupid chair. It's so simple, right? But, that's the thing. We always act like surrendering our lives to Jesus is simple and easy. That's why we get so defeated when that doesn't work. If I knew how to actually literally surrender my life to Jesus I would do it. Because I have prayed the prayer, I have stood up in countless sermons and shouted, whispered, prayed, or raised my hand in surrender so many times. I have again and again fully committed my life to Jesus. I have sang "my life is yours" "take my life" "you're all I want" probably a million times. And some of those times were truly moments of myself walking out of the house. But, it's annoying how I can feel like I really learned something or took a step forward and then I walk out of the room and it all just fades. Honestly, I'm not worthy to write these recaps. Because how many times have I listened to my own words? About 0 times. It's like in the movie Father of the Bride. (I think it's in the second one but I can't remember exactly). (if you haven't seen those movies please stop reading and go watch them.) They sell their house to this couple who wants to demolish it. They have the bulldozer and they are about to bulldoze the house down when Steve Martin's character runs in front of the bulldozer to save the house. How many times have I done that? I walk out of the house and give over the keys, and God finally begins the renovation process. But, at the last moment, I run in front of the bulldozer- almost destroying my life- to protect the house. And the work stops.

If we were just honest with how hard it is and how much work it takes... maybe more people would begin to see transformation. Spiritual transformation and surrendering to Jesus is gonna be hard. It's gonna take time. But, it's work that has to be done. And God is doing all the hard work! We just have to stop digging our finger nails into our palms. Literally, Jesus is like "dude, come chill at my super cool party 24/7" and we're all like "it's too hard! Wahhhh".

But who can really blame us, right? Life is confusing. Our hearts are deceivers. Our emotions are stealthy. They protect us so we trust them and then they attack us from behind. And so many sermons tell us that God gave us our emotions, so feeling isn't bad. And that's completely true. But I can't keep straight was is good and what is bad and everything in moderation and take your thoughts captive to the Lord and so forth. But my thoughts are kind to me. On a good day. Yeah, they can be kinda harsh sometimes... but they never lie... right? And what can I trust besides my thoughts? I can't trust my circumstances. I most certainly can't trust in relationships. Because they'll leave. And that's not fair. Most of the time I don't even know if I can trust God. He's the only one with a perfect track record of faithfulness but he is the least trustworthy. (I seem to believe).

But I know I don't actually believe that. Because I am sitting at my kitchen table feeling empty and lonely for the umpteenth time. I don't consider myself a lonely, depressed person until someone I care about leaves or just simply doesn't care as much as I do. God has been so good to constantly provide a group of friends in my life but I use them to mask the loneliness I feel in my heart. I don't know where or when or why the loneliness began but I think I've felt it most of my life. I won't try to explain it away because it doesn't need that power. Anyway, I've been shaking my fist at the sky and succumbing to cynical ways about how nothing in this life is safe and I can't trust anything but my pain and blah blah blah when God simply, in his goodness, whispered to me to stop using people as Band-Aids. No one will fill the deep holes in my heart the way God will and no one was meant to. But, I have gone from person to person to temporarily fix my aching and I have continually ignored God's call in the morning to let him love me. I have pushed it away for years. And I always thought it was just because of laziness or business or some small excuse that I could easily fix tomorrow. Like, I really do wanna accept his Love but I gotta run out the door. But, honestly, I don't want to be satisfied in God alone because it's scary and it's not secure because it's not based on feeling. And feelings are all I know. They are all I have listened to my whole life. They are my false sense of security. God will definitely give you feelings, but he will not let them master you. Because there is only one master. So, when it boils down I am more afraid of not feeling than I am confident in the goodness of God's love. And that is the ruined condition of my heart. I won't let God take away my feelings. But, still, despite my doubts, he's so freaking good. (pardon my language, mom). Because he just lets me go and lets me make dumb mistakes. But he's always ready to run to me when I come crawling home. So, at 2 in the morning I know in my mind that he is the only trustworthy source. I do know it. I just hate it sometimes. Because, God is risk. He is a safe refuge. But he is a risk. With God, your life is a hard-hat zone. (that metaphor I just came up with sounds brilliant in my current state of mind.)

So, for me, I have to raise my white flag. And I am learning more and more through this book and this class that I don't think I truly have. I still sit on my chair. And I'm stubborn. So, my simple prayer this week has been: "Jesus, teach me how to live." I just need him to teach me what it means to live this life with him. Because, I don't know.

From The Wilsonian Institute
Deacon: 12 Month Update

20 lbs 15 oz (66th percentile)

30.25" (63rd percentile)

Clothing Size:
Just now starting to move into 18 month clothes!

Bubba & Buster

He started sleeping all the way through the night right around his first birthday! Still getting 11-12 hours, just without the middle of the night dream feed (praise the Lord!) He's still taking 2 solid naps a day, around 1.5-2 hours each.

We officially made the transition to whole milk this month! He wasn't fully weaned until 13 months, but the process was surprisingly easy (even if it was a little bittersweet). In terms of regular food, he's still a pretty good eater overall. Favorites include graham crackers, yogurt, blueberries and bread.

Walking!! He started taking steps shortly after his birthday.

Having to stay still.

The most noteworthy is definitely walking! He also cut two more teeth and has started to really understand more commands and respond accordingly (ex. "Can you bring me the car? Do you want milk?")

Best Moment:
His first Christmas, first birthday and first steps were all the same month! It'd be impossible to pick just one, so I'll just call it a three way tie :-)

Worst Moment:
Lots of bittersweet moments this month as he hits milestones and starts the toddler transition. It's hard on the parts of me that want him to stay little forever!

Other Tidbits:
- He is constantly on the move! Any time someone is around him for a decent amount of time they remark on how "busy" he is. Haha
- We officially have more toys than we have space (after Christmas and his birthday), and he is loving it. Favorites right now include his batmobile, instruments and any ball he can get his hands on.

The Confederate Stumbling Block

I was born and raised in Paris, Tennessee. Being a native of west Tennessee, I used to heartily embrace the Confederate flag as a symbol of my “southern-ness.” I had a license plate carrying the phrase “American by birth, Southern by the grace of God.” I thought it (and I) was pretty clever with that thing in the back of my first pickup truck.

I am extremely grateful to be from the South (capitalized on purpose). It's a deep, deep thing engrained in the DNA of people who were born and raised there. If you’re not from the region, you may not understand it and that’s OK. However, it's a very real pride that can’t be quantified.

The South and its history is not pure and pristine. Neither is America and its history. There is much shame running throughout our entire nation’s past. We have done wretched things to one another. Slavery and its sister, the Civil War, being toward the top of that list. You can get into semantics over where today’s incarnation of the “rebel” flag came from. You can honestly debate state’s rights and all sorts of things. It’s a rabbit hole you may never escape from. The Civil War was fought over the right of one man to own another man as property. Don’t let that get clouded in any other argument over this very dark portion of our nation’s past. Men fought and died for a cause. There was great valor and honor spent and much blood spilled to protect the right to own another human being as property.

The flag and its various Confederate incarnations was — and is — a symbol of this horrifying fact.

In the past, my embrace of the flag carried no connotation of slavery, in my mind. But, when I became convicted by the Holy Spirit of the very real pain and hurt the flag’s prominence caused friends, family, and many Christian brothers and sisters, I could no longer embrace it with a clear conscience.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you should recognize the term “stumbling block.” Plain and simple, that’s what this flag is. It simply is highly offensive to many of our brothers and sisters as well as to many who aren’t followers of Jesus. The life of a Christian is marked by laying down one’s life for others, including preferences, oftentimes. Are my preferences to laud my southern heritage more important to me than people? Surely not. This should not be.

Be aware of your history, your heritage, your roots. In many cases, a healthy amount of encouragement should come from those things. I am encouraged by my family’s history and the work ethic and determination passed down from my Scots-Irish, Southern roots. I am comforted by the “way” things are in the South in regards to everyday life and faith, family, and friends. I’ve spent nearly 15 years above the Mason-Dixon in Indiana and I’ve often joked about being a missionary to a foreign land of Yankees (of the German-Catholic variety).

However, the pain of this symbol of my “homeland” is all too real. As Christians, we should never embrace symbols of oppression and symbols of hate. Just as the swastika was not originally a Nazi symbol, it is now. Just as the Confederate flag may, to you, be a symbol of Southern pride, the pain it carries now is one we should reject.

If we truly believe all men are made in the image of God and life is sacred, followers of Jesus can not embrace the symbols of ownership of our fellow man. We can’t embrace the symbols of a certain skin color being superior to another. We can’t embrace the Confederate flag.

Trust in God and the ‘how long?’

Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me! Psalm 35:1 (ESV) 

Our nation is in rapid moral and spiritual decline. There’s not many left arguing against this thought. The shift in our nation’s spiritual climate in just the past 25 years has been jarring for most believers. Thankfully, American Christians are not currently suffering any real persecution, contrary to some arguments, however, the day looks much closer than it did when I was a younger man. In other parts of the world, though, persecution is a daily reality. 

How should we respond? There are various ways and no shortage of opinions. In reading, Psalm 35, David provides a model for us. Facing imminent (physical) harm, David cried out to our heavenly Father for help. 

He shows us in his prayer we can’t win this battle on our own. Instead, we need God to contend on our behalf. 

First, we simply ask God to fight for us. How often we overlook this and skip straight to our own methods, our own plots, our own schemes, leaning on our own understanding. We are small, however. God is infinite. 

Next, we pray the schemes of the wicked would fail, that they would suffer shame, and, ultimately, destruction. Of course, we desire everyone to repent and follow Christ. But the reality is, our protection means harm for our pursuers. In this, we are not to be vindictive, but instead to pray for our enemies as Jesus instructed. Praying for the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts of stone and make them hearts of flesh, but ultimately, trusting that God is the ultimate judge, not us. Hear more about this from (the much smarter and more eloquent) John Piper, below.

Third, believe. We trust God will deliver His children. Scripture is rife with these promises from Genesis to Revelation. Do we trust God and his word? He. Will. Deliver. He shows us this in the cross. We can trust His faithfulness because the promise He made to Adam and Eve and all throughout the Old Testament is fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He lived the life we could not live. He took the wrath for sin that was ours to take. He rose from the dead, defeating our ultimate enemy in death. If we can’t trust this, we have no hope for any other battle in life.

Proclaiming this faithfulness is the apex of Psalm 35 as well as the apex of our lives and all battles. We should proclaim this faithfulness to ourselves and to the nations.

In the meantime, we long for the defeat of evil. We long for God to rescue us from those who would pursue us and wish us harm (seemingly more and more of our culture actually does seek our harm). Unfortunately, we live in the very present world and waiting is hard. Joining David, we cry out with the familiar refrain of ‘how long?’

How long until rescue? How long until things are set right?

It’s not an easy wait, but trusting in God’s faithfulness and Jesus’ defeat of Satan, sin, and death is necessary. Take heart. Our perfect father has won the victory for his rebellious kids.

From Out of the Bloo
“And they devoted themselves . . .”

This is based on a short talk I gave at our college lifegroup night of worship last night.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

- Acts 2:42-47

I’ve read this passage hundreds of times. Today as I read it again I noticed the first four words as if for the first time: “And they devoted themselves”.

One truism about people in general (and perhaps young people in particular) is that many of us are looking for something to devote ourselves to. Something worthwhile. Something meaningful. Something we can live for and die for. You may be feeling that today.

Acts 2:42-47 is an invitation to devote yourselves. To set aside this summer to taking new steps, large steps in your relationship to Jesus. If you are in Christ, it’s an invitation to own your faith more, to devote yourself to Jesus more fully and more deeply than ever before. If you aren’t yet a believer in Christ, what better time than tonight to take that first step? Let’s speak the good news of Jesus to ourselves and to each other. I deserve God’s wrath for what I’ve done in life, to be separated forever from Him in hell. Yet he devoted himself to the salvation of me and you and to the salvation of the whole world. He died the death I deserved to die and rose again in new, eternal life and offers me that as well! This is such good news, something that we can feast on together!

Lifegroup is not a house on one night; it’s a group of people who are alive. Our hope for College lifegroup is that it will be an experience in Jesus that you can devote yourself to this summer. Not just for yourself, but for others; to devote yourself to teaching and friendship together, to eating together, praying together, worshiping together, being in awe together, seeing God together, helping each other, sacrificing for each other, making your relationship to Jesus an every day thing, an all the time thing. Devoting yourself to being glad rather than angsty, generous rather than selfish, to praising God rather than idols, to being truly alive, and to watching the Lord add daily to you and to us and to himself those who are being saved.

That’s the invitation! We’re ready to devote ourselves to it, and I hope and pray you are too.

From The Living Room
places on the Internet where you can learn stuff!

I am a public librarian and so I like finding neat stuff to share with people. I also believe that learning is really important and you should keep it up over a lifetime; I’m also an active citizen of the Internet. All that to say, here’s a list of websites and YouTube channels you should visit–whether you’re a parent who wants your kid to retain their knowledge over the summer, or if you’re an endlessly curious adult like me:

Crash Course

Crash Course does 10-minute (give or take) videos about the humanities and science–right now, they’re running through astronomy, anatomy and physiology, government, and intellectual property law. Throw in some fun animations, plus jokes, and they manage to make even chemistry interesting (seriously!). (Bonus: The humanities track is hosted by John Green, of The Fault in Our Stars fame; the science track is hosted by his equally brilliant brother Hank.) They also have one geared for grade schoolers called (wait for it) Crash Course Kids.


Factoids, news, quiz shows, answers to frequent questions (e.g., how does your hair know how to stop growing), show and tell with random animals (corn snakes! chinchillas! [not at the same time]). Also comes in a junior version, SciShow Kids, as well as an astronomy-exclusive version called SciShow Space.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Pride and Prejudice + 21st-century video blog + did I mention EMMY AWARD?

The Kid Should See This

If high-speed Internet had been a thing back when I was a kid, I would’ve probably parked myself in front of this site all the dang time. A mom and her two kids curate these videos that are (mostly) not specifically made for kids, but are super-great for kids anyway. A lot of them are STEAM-related, if you’re into that, but they’re mostly set up so that you’re not really aware that you’re learning. I’m currently obsessed with this:

What about you? Anything else I should know about?

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 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 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 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 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.