"We degrade Providence too much by attributing our ideas to it out of annoyance at being unable to understand it."

- Fyodor Dostoyevsky
We Were Young

I was cleaning out an old crate tonight and found these two picture prints. These are from one of our first Moots, I'm guessing from the late 90s or early 2000s, pre-blog.

We were young. Actually, the other guys still are young, and basically haven't changed a bit. I've, unfortunately, gone from spry, to venerable, to geezer, to coot in the intervening years.

Gosh, these were good times.

I think this Moot was at the original BloDingle

Rod, rocking the Blackaby

European Soccer Tour

Last summer, I was extremely blessed to be able to go to Oxford, England, to visit my oldest son during his five-week semester at Christ Church College, Oxford University. It was an awesome trip.

Ridiculously . . . I got to go to Europe again this year. This time on a nine day tour with my youngest son's soccer club (they are in red in the picture to the left. The other team is a British club). We saw four professional matches - including an amazing game (the Spanish Super Cup) featuring Barcelona versus Real Madrid, and showcasing Messi and Ronaldo, arguably the two best players on the planet. Blake's team also played four matches, two in England and two in Spain, and won three out of four!

It was exhausting and incredible. If you're interested in seeing some pictures and reading about it, I posted daily reports on my solo blog, here.

Rich Toward God

The kingdom of God operates on a completely different currency than any other kingdom in the world. As Jesus unfolds the great blueprint of the Sermon on the Mount, we find him then instructing us to hold stuff loosely. If somebody asks for your shirt, give him your coat too. Give and lend to whoever asks. These are not ways to become rich . . . unless the reward we have in mind is not monetary.

Consider this parable from Jesus found in Luke 12:13-21:

Someone from the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me."
"Friend," He said to him, "who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?" He then told them, "Watch out and be on guard against all greed because one's life is not in the abundance of his possessions."
Then He told them a parable: "A rich man's land was veryproductive. He thought to himself, 'What should I do, since I don't have anywhere to store my crops? I will do this,' he said. 'I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods there. Then I'll say to myself, "You have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself." '
"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared—whose will they be? '
"That's how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."
In this parable we find a perfect example of a man so caught up in the pursuit of bigger and better, he has neglected to invest in things that ultimately matter. All of the foolish rich man’s energy was tied up in improving his property, and when he felt that was accomplished, he became lazy and gluttonous. The problem isn’t really in improving one’s financial state or even in resting and enjoying one’s self. The problem is in only doing those things and not preparing for eternity. He has stored up treasure for himself, but was not rich toward God.

John Piper drives this point home with a real-life parable of his own:
Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader’s Digest, which tells about a couple who “took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.” At first, when I read it I thought it might be a joke. A spoof on the American Dream. But it wasn’t. Tragically, this was the dream: Come to the end of your life—your one and only precious, God-given life—and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells. Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: “Look, Lord. See my shells.” That is a tragedy.
What has happened? This couple is earth-rich but God-poor. When the day of accounting comes, when the kingdom’s currency is requested for entrance into paradise, these wealthy, fun-loving, permanent-vacation-taking souls come up totally empty-handed.

Some may read this parable of the foolish rich man or John Piper’s tale of the retired couple and think to themselves, “Ah, they should have cared more for others. If they had given more money away, they’d have the treasure of having done good.” And it is imperative that we do good to others, but that kind of saving is a poverty all its own. When we reach the gates of Paradise and are asked for the currency of the kingdom to prove our entry purchase, we best not try to hand in our own righteousness. The Bible says “all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment" (Isaiah 64:6).

No, when the opportunity to present our justification for entry into everlasting rest presents itself, we need only present an empty hand, saying, “I have nothing of my own to offer. But I am clothed in the righteousness of Christ which I have received through faith, which makes me totally vested in his unsearchable riches. My Savior in the great grace of God has purchased my entrance for me.” That would be rich.

7 Ways to Kill the Thanksgiving Impulse in Your Life

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

-- Philippians 4:5-7
This is an excellent recipe for what it itself describes: a Spiritual settling of the heart, thankfulness, closeness to God. But let's suppose you didn't want those things, you didn't want to be thankful in all circumstances (as God commands through Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5). How would you design your system in order to crush any impulse of thanksgiving in your heart?

1. Freak out about everything.
Let your unreasonableness be known to everyone. Be unreasonable about everything. Turn everything into drama, everything into a crisis.

2. Practice practical atheism.
The Lord is at hand, which is certainly something to be thankful for. Our God isn't just transcendent, but immanent. He wants to be known. You could therefore intellectually acknowledge God is there, but act like he's not. Assume he has no interest in you or your life. If you pretend like God’s not there, you don’t have to thank him for anything.

3. Coddle worry.
Be anxious about everything. Really protect your worry from the good news.

4. Give God the silent treatment.
The best way not to give thanks is not to talk at all. That way you’ll never give thanks accidentally.

5. Don’t expect anything from God.
Don’t trust him for anything. Normally we do this so we don’t have to feel disappointed, but another reason to do it is so he won’t give you anything to be thankful for. If you pray for something, he just might say yes, and then you’d be obligated to thank him.

6. Relentlessly try to figure everything out.
The peace of God is beyond our understanding. He is bigger than our capacity to grasp him. The closer we get to God, the bigger he gets. An immense vision creates immense reaction. So if you want to crush that reaction before it has a chance to start, ask as many "why" questions as you can, and don’t settle for the answers Job or Habakkuk or David did. Best to think you’re better than them and deserve an explanation from God. If you really want to kill thanksgiving, act like God owes you. Leave no room for the possibility you might not know or understand something. And one of the best ways to crush thankfulness is to take credit for everything you can.

7. Focus on anything other than the gospel of Jesus.
God owes us nothing but has given us every good thing in Christ. If you’re not interested in thanksgiving, by all means, pay no attention to that. Concentrate on your problems. Don’t concentrate on Jesus, or you might accidentally end up thankful in all circumstances.

Writing that Exults

Justin Taylor shares fantastic words on what words can do in service of our Savior:

In an address on Christian eloquence John Piper wrote:
The attempt to craft striking and beautiful language makes it possible that the beauty of eloquence can join with the beauty of truth and increase the power of your words. When we take care to create a beautiful way of speaking or writing about something beautiful, the eloquence—the beauty of the form—reflects and honors the beauty of the subject and so honors the truth. The method and the matter become one, and the totality of both becomes a witness to the truth and beauty of the message. If the glory of Christ is always ultimately our subject, and if he created all things, and if upholds all things, then bringing the beauty of form into harmony with the beauty of truth is the fullest way to honor the Lord.
John Calvin is an exemplary model of this. His beautiful and arresting prose, saturated with biblical truth, can capture the mind and heart more than prosaic prose which clunks to the ground.

For example, consider this section of his preface to Pierre-Robert Olivétan’s 1535 translation of the Bible.

“To all those who love Christ and his gospel,” Calvin writes:
Without the gospel

everything is useless and vain;

without the gospel

we are not Christians;

without the gospel

all riches is poverty,

all wisdom, folly before God;

strength is weakness, and

all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.

But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made

children of God,

brothers of Jesus Christ,

fellow townsmen with the saints,

citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven,

heirs of God with Jesus Christ,

by whom

the poor are made rich,

the weak strong,

the fools wise,

the sinners justified,

the desolate comforted,

the doubting sure, and

slaves free.

The gospel is the Word of life.
Or consider this section from Institutes 3.16.19, where he explains that “We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ [Acts 4:12]. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else.”
If we seek salvation

we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is “of him.”

If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit,

they will be found in his anointing.

If we seek strength,

it lies in his dominion;

if purity,

in his conception;

if gentleness,

it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects that he might learn to feel our pain.

If we seek redemption,

it lies in his passion;

if acquittal,

in his condemnation;

if remission of the curse,

in his cross;

if satisfaction,

in his sacrifice;

if purification,

in his blood;

if reconciliation,

in his descent into hell;

if mortification of the flesh,

in his tomb;

in newness of life,

in his resurrection;

if immortality,

in the same;

if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom,

in his entrance into heaven;

if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings,

in his Kingdom;

if untroubled expectation of judgment,

in the power given to him to judge.

In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain and from no other.

Like, You Know, Sound Speech

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

-- Titus 2:7-8

Titus was told to model sound speech -- which probably meant that he never said things like, "Like, dude, like, an awesome thing, dude, is the fact that, man, I like, totally don't know what to say."

-- Doug Wilson, Future Men (Canon Press, 2001), 43.
Here is Taylor Mali with a good reflection-via-representation on this phenomena:

What do you think? Does this sort of youthful manner of speech apply to Paul's words on sound speech?

I think Mali's parting shot helps us see that it might, particularly as it relates to speaking with authority and conviction.

Soul Surfer's Quote-Unquote "God"

"If you have faith, anything is possible. Anything at all."

That's a line from Soul Surfer one of the more recent "Christian movies" to enjoy some measure of success. The good news is that it is a fair bit better in quality than most films that bear the modifier "Christian." With a cast that includes Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, Kevin Sorbo, and Craig T. Nelson, you can be guaranteed some serviceable performances, even if the script stunk. And the script isn't great, but it doesn't stink.

There are a few maudlin moments, where the movie loses its tone for real life, but in general it is easily watchable, which is a rarity for this genre. The only exception is the performance of Carrie Underwood who plays a youth minister. Underwood might be able to knock the crud out of a song, but she is a huge acting fail.

Anna Sophia Robb plays Bethany Hamilton, the real life teen girl who loved surfing until a shark attack took her left arm. Then she loved surfing more. Hamilton and her family are devoted Christians, and their faith -- and its motivation in Bethany's life to relearn surfing and compete -- is the basic plot of the film. It is a story about triumph over the odds.

But is it a Christian movie?

Here's my beef, and I'm sure I will take some flack from somebody for this. Bethany Hamilton's story is inspiring and encouraging, and I'm sure she has real saving faith in Jesus Christ, but the message of the movie Soul Surfer appears to be "I can do all things through moralistic therapeutic deism which strengthens me." This doesn't make it a bad movie; it just makes it as easily a Mormon or Jehovah's Witness movie as it does a Christian one.

The quote that opens this blog post is a line that closes the movie. It is a good summation. But it begs the question: faith in what? At one point in the movie, as Bethany is summoning up the courage to reenter the water with one-armed gumption, she quotes Philippians 4:13. Well, not the whole thing. Just the first part that says "I can do all things." Not, you know, how.

There is plenty of God talk in the movie, actually, but I don't remembering hearing the word Jesus once. I could've missed it, but the overwhelming point appears to be that if you work hard enough, God will bless you with being able to do cool things like surf with one arm.

When I was a kid I had a poster on my wall of a dude dunking a basketball with Philippians 4:13 as a caption. I got pretty good at basketball as I got older, but I'm sorry to say that, despite my earnest faith, not literally everything is possible.

I don't think that every movie (or book) created by Christians ought to have the clear plan of salvation in it. That is not how I discern a movie's "Christianity." BUT. If you're going to put explicit faith-in-God talk into a movie -- and call it Christian -- I think you ought to go all in and have the courage to make it Christian talk.

Of course, the way Soul Surfer approaches faith is exactly how many Christians in real life do. This is a real problem and it's not the movie's fault. But in the end, if the explicit message about God you're communicating is that believing in yourself can help you succeed because of a benevolent God, you ought not call your movie Christian. Soul Surfer posits a quote-unquote "God" palatable for any religious soul itching to be inspired without any uncomfortable gospel of Jesus stuff. It's for the same "evangelicals" who don't understand what the big deal is about Mormons being considered Christian. (None of us has perfect theology, right?) And it's for the Mormons too.

I am guessing Bethany's remarkable story deserved much better.

Having Love in Your Heart for Those Greedy Oil Companies

This graph is revelatory.


In his typically cheeky way, Doug Wilson comments:

For every gallon of gas that is sold in the United States, on average, the local, state and federal taxes come out to 48 cents. The average profit taken away from every gallon of gas by Exxon is --brace yourselves for unsavory news about the oil buccaneers -- 2 cents. If you don't like oil profiteering, then you really have to learn how to see our public servants as the equivalent of 24 Exxons, stacked on top of your travel plans like they were so many leeches.

Exxon feels free to take that 2 cents because they explored, researched, drilled, transported, refined, transported, and sold the gas that you were interested in buying. The government is entitled to it . . . why?

God says not to steal, and not even to think about stealing by means of coveting. We have to learn that our bad attitude toward free enterprise is caused by the larceny in our hearts. We think the way we do about oil companies because we want a piece of the action, for nothing. We don't think that way about predatory taxation for the same reason that one thief doesn't see the larceny in the heart of his fellow thieves. We are looking for the kickback.

As a wise man posted somewhere, "It's not theft if you have to fill out a form." So the devotional thought for the morning is that Jesus wants you to feel sorry for Exxon. And when we hear this call to radical discipleship, our faith staggers. Who can do these things? And the reply comes, comforting our hearts, that with God all things are possible.

On the Mind of the Good Soldier

Paul addresses Timothy:

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!

(2 Timothy 2:3-9)

A good soldier joins the fight for the faith, committing to be faithful to the cause of Christ, his brothers in the church, the church as his family, and the elders to whom he's accountable. He has the cause in view, understands the mission -- if not totally, at least to the extent of his role in it -- throws off distractions and entangling temptations, eager to please that and whom to which he is pledged.

A good soldier follows the rules, not merely out of duty but out of his guts, out of an understanding of the importance of the rules. He doesn't just obey the Law, he delights in it, having lost his taste for the way of the world. He rejects passivity, puts his nose to the grindstone, gets his hands dirty, develops blisters on his feet, then callouses. He spends himself for the glory of God.

A good soldier ponders the Word of God, he mulls it over, chews on it, eats it so that he will bleed it when cut.

But a good soldier will keep foremost in his mind not his own wherewithal, gumption, or courage. That will all be sapped. In the chains of hardship, persecution, imprisonment, sin, or suffering, a good soldier will resolve to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Good soldiers, if you are flagging, dragging, or slacking, "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David" as preached in the gospel. As you strive, remember you are also seated with him in the heavenlies. And while you use your body up, perhaps even to the point of death in service to the Lord, your heart is expanding to fit the scale of eternity. The risen, glorious Christ shines in you, over you, before you, supplying his approval, his grace, his glorious might so that you will finish the race, reap the harvest, and receive the soldier's highest honor.

You, then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus...
-- 2 Timothy 2:1

The body they may kill
God's truth abideth still
His kingdom is forever.

-- Luther, "A Mighty Fortress"

The Racket of Unforgetful gods

Janet Reitman has written a provocative book detailing the inner workings of the very secretive world of Scientology. Having read up a bit on L. Ron Hubbard’s science fiction-slash-religion creation before, I was familiar with the charge that in the early “auditing” process, budding Scientologists reveal their deepest darkest secrets to the church, who in turn may eventually use those to emotionally blackmail would-be deserters and dissenters. In an interview reprinted by Reuters, Reitman elaborates:

Q: There are all these rumors that celebrities like Cruise remain Scientologists because the church knows all their secrets and they fear blackmail. Any truth to that?

A: I didn’t go into that too much in my book, but it seems obvious. They have the goods on everybody. A great part of the Scientology experience is the confession that happens in the auditing experience. You are constantly being asked to write up your transgressions, maybe even your unspoken transgressions. They know everything about you. They would know everything about Cruise in the same way that they would know everything about me if I were a member.
What a racket.

And what a wonder, then, that Christians are forgiven and saved by a God whose filing cabinet of records against us is empty. Or, rather, is filled with the obedience of Jesus.

I, I am he
who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
and I will not remember your sins.
(Isaiah 43:25)

No Adjectives

“The gate of Mercy is opened, and over the door it is written, ‘This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.‘ Between that word ‘save’ and the next word ‘sinners,’ there is no adjective. It does not say, ‘penitent sinners,’ ‘awakened sinners,’ ‘sensible sinners,’ ‘grieving sinners’ or ‘alarmed sinners.’ No, it only says, ‘sinners.’ And I know this, that when I come, I come to Christ today, for I feel it is as much a necessity of my life to come to the cross of Christ today as it was to come ten years ago—when I come to him, I dare not come as a conscious sinner or an awakened sinner, but I have to come still as a sinner with nothing in my hands.”

-- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, preaching on John 3:18, 17 February 1861.
HT: Ray Ortlund

The Doorbell

If you think I'm being political here, you're wrong. This isn't primarily a political issue. It's a moral issue.

And since ours is a government of the people, those of us who have been of voting age for more than a few election cycles are complicit.

[H/T Instapundit]

"I Refuse Henceforth To Compete With Any of Thy Servants"

“Dear Lord, I refuse henceforth to compete with any of Thy servants. They have congregations larger than mine. So be it. I rejoice in their success. They have greater gifts. Very well. That is not in their power nor in mine. I am humbly grateful for their greater gifts and my smaller ones. I only pray that I may use to Thy glory such modest gifts as I possess. I will not compare myself with any, nor try to build up my self-esteem by noting where I may excel one or another in Thy holy work. I herewith make a blanket disavowal of all intrinsic worth. I am but an unprofitable servant. I gladly go to the foot of the cross and own myself the least of Thy people. If I err in my self judgment and actually underestimate myself I do not want to know it. I purpose to pray for others and to rejoice in their prosperity as if it were my own. And indeed it is my own if it is Thine own, for what is Thine is mine, and while one plants and another waters it is Thou alone that giveth the increase.” - (A.W. Tozer, The Price of Neglect)

[H/T David Guzik's commentary on Haggai 2]

Thought Experiment

A thought experiment for you:

Is there any event in your life that you would not miss in exchange for $1,000,000?

Thought Experiment Rules: the event still happens, but you're just not there. Everything else, though, before and after the event, is the same.

For example, it could be your wedding: If you take the $1,000,000, you will miss your own wedding, but when the wedding's over, you're married.

Can you think of anything? I have a couple. One that I'm thinking of right now, because it's fresh on my mind: I recently was honored to walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding. If you had offered me a million dollars to miss that (heck, ten million), I would have told you to stick it in your pie-hole.

How about you? Is there anything you would not miss in exchange for a million?

This One's For Bird

Even though he probably already knows this.

The knight on a chess board can visit each square exactly once.

HT: Abraham Piper

OK, I'm Man Enough to Admit It

Big Time Rush is strangely compelling . . .

Wisdom from Tom Sawyer

From The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (Bantam Classic Edition, 1981):

Tom joined the new order of Cadets of Temperance, being attracted by the showy character of their “regalia.” He promised to abstain from smoking, chewing, and profanity as long as he remained a member. Now he found out a new thing — namely, that to promise not to do a thing is the surest way in the world to make a body want to go and do that very thing. Tom soon found himself tormented with a desire to drink and swear; the desire grew to be so intense that nothing but the hope of a chance to display himself in his red sash kept him from withdrawing from the order. (138)
A page later Twain through Tom gives us an approximate illustration of how the gospel’s freedom from sin diminishes the attraction of sin.
He handed in his resignation at once . . . The funeral was a fine thing. The Cadets paraded in a style calculated to kill the late member with envy. Tom was a free boy again, however — there was something in that. He could drink and swear, now — but found to his surprise that he did not want to. The simple fact that he could took the desire away, and the charm of it. (139)
Cross-posted at Justin Taylor's blog, where I'm a guest blogger this week.