- Wayne Grudem
Trevin Wax offers this album-by-album guide to the work of Andrew Peterson.
Andrew’s work resonates with me for several reasons.
First, Andrew expresses a childlike wonder toward this world and our place in it, waking us up and seizing our imaginations until we see—truly see—the wonders of existence. I gravitate toward music and books that lead me in the way of wonder.
Second, Andrew’s albums are steeped in biblical allusions and Scriptural imagery—all of which grow more powerful the more you study Scripture and the more you put his songs on “repeat.” There’s a richness to his lyrics that rewards the contemplative listener.
Third, Andrew’s songs bear the mark of authenticity, giving voice to a faith that is firm in its grasp of the truth and yet honest in its experience of doubt or suffering. The result is a compelling portrait of Christianity in all of its messy glory.
I enjoy this music too and have long wished Peterson great success. His music is marvelous. I’ve tried to burrow this song in my head since buying the album a couple years ago.
I’m looking over some lost quotations and proverbs tonight, lost because they are collected in W. Gurney Benham’s A Book of Quotations: Proverbs and Household Words, published in 1907, an ugly volume I plan to throw out because I’ve wasted twenty years of my life with it sitting on my shelf.
Great Scot! The Interwebs have revealed their Mastery of All The Things by producing a copy of Benham’s book in its archives, so I guess it isn’t lost after all — if buried under 305 billion pages of Interweb means it is not lost.
But what was I saying? I’ve kept this book because of its curious collection. After the typical Bartlett’s stuff, it has a section of “waifs and strays,” “naturalised phrases,” and toasts, followed by Greek and Latin quotations, French and Spanish quotations, and then a long list of English proverbs. It’s the non-English language quotations that seemed most valuable to me. Where else would I find a curated list of pearls and miscellany from the past?
Quid enim salvis infamia nummis?
What indeed is infamy as long as our money is safe?
Going to ruin is silent work.
Omnis homo mendax.
Every man is a liar.
C’est l’imagination qui gouverne le genre humain.
It is imagination which rules the human race.
Quid Romae faciam? mentiri nescio.
What can I do at Rome? I do not know how to lie.
Vulnus alit venis et caeco carpitur igni.
She cherishes the wound in her veins and is consumed by an unseen fire.
But whether we have less or more,
Alway thank we God therefor.
It was the 2008 Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. This was the early days of this movement called The New Calvinism and this conference was meant to introduce all of these enthusiastic young Calvinists to the old guard, to those few men who had been faithfully preaching these truths for many, many years. It was only right that R.C. Sproul was there, it was only fitting that he was asked to preach. And did he ever! His sermon is the subject of the next entry in the Great Sermon Series.
This video is brought to you in part by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can download a free book from Southern, and learn more about training for preachers at sbts.edu/challies.
Tim: It was the 2008 Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. This was the early days of this movement called The New Calvinism or The Young Restless Reformed and this conference was meant to introduce all of these enthusiastic young Calvinists to the old guard, to those few men who had been faithfully preaching these truths for many, many years. It was only right that R.C. Sproul was there, it was only fitting that he was asked to preach, and did he ever. His sermon didn’t have the catchiest title of all time, it was called “The curse motif of the atonement”. But don’t be fooled by that simple title, this was not a cold or detached theological musing, this was an unforgettable proclamation of truth. It had some spine-chilling moments like this one.
R.C.Sproul: May the Lord curse you and abandon you. May the Lord keep you in darkness and give you only judgment without grace.
Tim: See, this sermon was far from a dry lecture, this was signature Sproul. This was a passionate plea to consider the horrors of the cross and thus the splendor of God’s grace. In this sermon, we see exactly what made Sproul’s teaching ministry so powerful for so many years. He reminded us of who we are. Even more importantly he reminded us of who God is. Let’s give it a closer look.
This video is brought to you in part by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can download a free book from Southern and learn more about training for preachers at sbts.edu/challies.
In the history of the church, there are momentary sparks and there are enduring flames. Momentary sparks, they’re like the one hit wonders of the music world. They appear overnight in a flash of viral sensation, but after a few short months, they disappear just as quickly as they showed up in the first place. But the enduring flames, they stick around. And as time passes, their influence only ever grows, and yet, it’s so hard to pin them down to one memory, to one sermon, to one flashy moment. They’re enduring flames because their entire ministry was marked by consistently showing up, by relentlessly fighting for the truth, by standing firmly on the Word of God. Since R.C.Sproul passed away it has become ever more clear that he was, in the words of his friend Al Mohler, a bright and burning flame. And he was brilliant, not because he introduced anything new to Christian theology, actually quite the opposite. Over the course of more than 50 years of ministry, he challenged trendy, novel theology to instead bring us back to, time and time again, to the unchanging truths of scripture. Every time Sproul spoke, every time he wrote, he was strong, he was steadfast, he was scriptural. And that’s why it’s so hard to pin him down to just one sermon or to one viral clip, but let’s try anyways. It’s fair to ask why of all the topics Sproul could have addressed at this conference, he chose to speak on the curse motif from Galatians chapter 4. We don’t have to wonder though because he actually told us.
R.C.Sproul: But there is one image, one aspect of the atonement that has receded in our day almost into total obscurity. We heard earlier of those attempts to preach a more gentle and kind Gospel and in our efforts to communicate the work of Christ more kindly, we flee from any mention of a curse inflicted by God upon his own Son.
Tim: The reason Sproul is preaching on the rare topic of the curse motif is actually because we’re the ones who’ve made it a rare topic. In our attempts to soften the brutality of the cross, we’ve strayed away from one of the harshest images of the atonement, that on the cross, God the Father cursed the Son. In fact, Sproul says that this disregard for the curse motif of the atonement, it actually betrays a serious misunderstanding of God himself. Our manmade God who loves all people and blesses all people, he’s incapable of cursing anyone, much less his own Son.
R.C.Sproul: We believe in a God who is infinitely capable of blessing people, but is utterly incapable of cursing them.
Tim: Because we’ve ignored God’s ability to curse people, we’ve relegated curses to the realm of magic, to the realm of superstition, and we’re unable to grasp what it means for God to inflict a curse upon us. Sproul explains that if you want to understand God’s curse, you need to think of it as the opposite of one of God’s blessings. If you simply reverse that well-known benedictional blessing of Numbers 6, you have a horrifying picture of the curses of God.
R.C.Sproul: May the Lord turn his back upon you and remove his peace from you forever.
Tim: It’s stunning to think that a divine curse like this was put upon Jesus Christ, and yet Sproul shows this is exactly what Jesus had to endure on the cross in order to redeem us from the curse of sin.
R.C.Sproul: The Bible tells us that God is too holy to even look at sin. And he cannot bear to look at this concentrated monumental condensation of evil. And his eyes are averted from his Son. The light of his countenance is turned off. All blessedness is removed from his Son whom he loved. And in its place was the full measure of the divine curse. It was as if there was a cry from heaven, excuse my language but I can be no more accurate than to say, it was as if God, Jesus heard the words, God damn you. Because that’s what it meant to be cursed, to be damned. To be under the anathema of a Father.
Tim: There is no doubt this was one of the most earnest, one of the most solemn sermons ever heard by that audience. I was there that day, I can tell you, there was a holy hush over that room as we were all forced to consider the sheer horror of what Jesus Christ endured on our behalf. Why did Sproul dive so deeply into God’s curse put upon Christ on the cross? What was he hoping his audience would take away?
R.C.Sproul: And I know every person in this room and every person outside, in this hotel, and on the street, across the world who has not been covered by the righteousness of Christ, right this minute draws every breath under the curse of God. If you believe that, you will stop adding to the Gospel and start preaching it with clarity and with boldness because, dear friends, it is the only hope we have.
Tim: This is Sproul’s big point, and it was the big point of his entire ministry. We will only know and preach and believe the Gospel rightly when we understand who God is in all of his holiness, and when we understand who we are in all of our sin. It’s only when we understand the curse of the world that we’ll preach the true message of God’s salvation. It’s only when we look at the horrors of the cross with Jesus bearing the curse that we should have born that we’ll rightly understand the magnitude of God’s grace. When we see God for who he is and ourselves for who we are, that, that is when we’ll set our hope fully on Jesus Christ for his salvation. After this sermon, Sproul went on to have nine more fruitful years pastoring St. Andrews Chapel and working with Ligonier Ministries to spread the truth of God’s Word around the world. With each video teaching, a book and radio broadcast, he continued to bring people back to the holiness of God, back to the depravity of man, back to the greatness of the Gospel which reconciles holy God with sinful man. On December 14, 2017, Sproul’s ministry was complete and he went to be with the Lord, but he never feared that day. No, he anticipated it with great joy. In fact, in the beginning of that 2008 sermon, he was pondering that day.
R.C.Sproul: I suspect that when my eyes open in heaven, in the first five minutes of my beginning of eternity there, I will be absolutely staggered by the sudden increase of understanding that will come to me when I behold the Lamb that was slain.
Tim: What he merely suspected then, he knows now. And I suspect that he is beholding the Lamb at this very moment. Freed from the curse of sin, he’s gazing at the One who bore the full measure of the curse for him. As for us, we can best remember, we can best honor R.C.Sproul by doing exactly what he’s doing now, beholding God in all of his holiness, worshiping God for all of his grace.
If you’re passionate about preaching like I am, I want to tell you about a seminary I’ve grown to trust and appreciate because I know they care deeply about preaching the Word of God. I’d encourage you to visit Southern Seminary which has been under the leadership of Al Mohler for decades now. Southern is absolutely committed to training pastors to know and defend and exposit the precious Word of God. If you visit their site, they’ll give you a free book that can serve as a resource to help you with the kind of bold preaching that we’ve been talking about here today. Simply visit sbts.edu/challies.
It is a bit of a slow day for Kindle deals but I did manage to dig up at least a few.
(Yesterday on the blog: How To Tell if it’s a Prosperity Gospel Church)
Courtney Reissig: “One year ago today I checked into the hospital and didn’t go home for a month. Starting today, for the next four weeks, my Timehop will remind me of moments I’ve spent the better part of this past year trying to process and accept. It will remind me of the hopeful times and the terrifying times. It will remind me of the things God taught me and the ways I struggled. It will be good. But it will be hard.”
Many people appreciated the sermon delivered at the royal wedding on Saturday, but few knew of its deep significance within Anglicanism. “When Justin Welby suggested Michael Curry as the preacher on this astonishing world-wide stage, he was also signing up one of the most effective street fighters for progressive, distorted Christianity who – with great charm and verve – presents his own preferred version of Jesus to the real one we find in the Gospels.”
Here’s one to ponder: “I don’t know what’s worse: the rich, miserable man who is attached to his wealth or the poor, miserable man whose great hope in life is to become wealthy.”
You may enjoy this poem. In order to capture the format it’s in PDF format.
John Piper looks back on his famous “seashells” sermons 18 year later. (It was the subject of one of my Great Sermons videos.)
Sadly, none of those things is good…
Carl Trueman isn’t a big fan of the comparisons between Pope Francis and Martin Luther. “Roman Catholics should worry less about the current pope’s resemblance to Luther and more about his resemblance to Erasmus. To debate the content of particular dogmas is one thing; to debate the importance of dogma in general is quite another.”
Creflo Dollar is one of the foremost proponents of what has become known as the prosperity gospel. This doctrine teaches that God has promised his people financial and other forms of prosperity in this life, if only God’s people will take the necessary steps to claim it.
Parents who know how to repent in front of their kids give them a greater gift than a Harvard education. —Scotty Smith
Here’s an intriguing passage from an article I’ve posted on the bulletin board about theologian Stanley Hauerwas.
“No task is more important than for the Church to take the Bible out of the hands of individual Christians in North America.”
Perhaps the only surer way to enrage an American Christian than threatening to take the Bible out of his hands is threatening to take away his gun (no doubt, Hauerwas would bid both farewell gladly). Hauerwas wants to remove bibles from the pews because he is worried that individualism—the conceit of self-sufficiency—has thoroughly corrupted American Christians’ ability to interpret Scripture.
Lost in the smoke, American Christians “feel no need to stand under the authority of a truthful community to be told how to read.” This despite centuries, if not millennia, of church teaching that a rule of faith is necessary to preserve orthodox theology. In the end, it was not so much a commitment to Scripture that separated out the world-hating gnostics from those who worshipped God enfleshed, nor raw assent to scriptural authority that separated out the Arians from the Trinitarians. All sides used the Bible to make their arguments. In the end, it was the rule of faith, the pattern handed down across time by the apostles, that enabled Christians to interpret Scripture rightly.
By taking the Bible out of the hands of Christians, Hauerwas hopes to remind them that the Bible can only be read well when it is handed down. Interpretation, where it is faithful, always occurs within a tradition. As G. K. Chesterton would remind us, “Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead” (Orthodoxy). Hauerwas has no patience for individualism, for it denies the necessity of thinking with those who merely happen to be dead. But even more crucially than Chesterton’s point, individualism forgets that we are indebted to the dead, those whom the tradition gives voice, for collecting, preserving and passing the Bible, as well as its proper interpretation, along to us. We inherit a set canon from those who came before. Without the tradition, we would not have a Bible.
“I do not want students to think for themselves[.] I want them to think like me.”
At the beginning of a course, Hauerwas never fails to tell the classroom, with grinning candor, that his goal is not to make them independent thinkers but instead little Hauerwasians. His point, beyond quite literally desiring to make a peaceable army of minions, is this: we never think for ourselves; we learn to think by submitting ourselves to instruction by others. As John Maynard Keynes warned any would-be freethinkers, “practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” Individualism pretends as if humans were actually capable of independence, forgetting that we owe our life and our ability to think to others. Insofar as individualism is a refusal to submit to the authority and critiques of others, individualism is a refusal to think.
Together, individualism and liberalism eat away at the conditions and virtues necessary for community, leaving Americans incredibly lonely and without any story by which to make sense of their sad condition. As Jesus warns, when an unclean spirit is driven out of a man, “it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself … And the last state of that person is worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26). So it is when liberalism drives out religious narratives from our self-understanding. Just as Legion is the name of the myriad demons Jesus drives out in Mark 5, Nationalism is the name of the many demons that have taken residence in American churches.
I get Hauerwas’s point, I really do.
However, I think he is not necessarily describing a problem within most churches, a problem of the parishioners themselves. Oh, it’s there of course, but even in congregations that are filled with people holding their own Bibles, those folks have bought into the narrative of their tradition and are not thinking for themselves as autonomous individuals. They generally toe the party line instead. Having a Bible of one’s own doesn’t change a thing.
Regardless of our rhetoric, I don’t think we can avoid this. Most people will only think for themselves up to a point. They will bind themselves to a story and submit to it. The people who really are thinking for themselves are the ones leaving the church and attaching themselves to other narratives.
Perhaps it is more a problem that our institutions are being led by people making up their own stories rather than submitting to the received tradition?
Or, perhaps the real problem is that our narrative has been found wanting?
Or, perhaps the church has done such a poor job of tending to the health of our narrative that we have been found wanting?
Princess Arabella Mixes Colors by Mylo Freeman.
Princess Arabella’s Birthday by Mylo Freeman.
I’m a black Dutch author and illustrator of picture books and I’d like to tell you something about my work. The idea for my main character Princess Arabella came from a story I heard about a little black girl who was offered the role of princess in a school play, which she declined, simply because she didn’t believe that a princess could be black. I decided then and there it was high time for a black princess to appear in a picture book!
Several months ago I received review copies of the two books listed above from the Princess Arabella series by Dutch author Mylo Freeman. It’s taken me a while to get around to reading the books and reviewing them, but now that I have read them, I am a fan. These books have been around for about ten years and there are ten books in the series. They are just now being translated into English and published in the United States by Cassava Republic Press.
In Princess Arabella Mixes Colors, Princess Arabella is bored with the white walls and white ceilings and white floors of her bedroom.
“I want lots and lots and LOTS of paint,” says Princess Arabella, waving her arms around. “Paint in every color of the rainbow.”
The princess’s footmen bring several pots of paint in white and black and all the primary colors. But Princess Arabella isn’t satisfied: she wants pink and and purple and orange and gray and green. So Princess Arabella begins to mix the colors to satisfy her desire for more and more colors. (If there’s a subtext here about diversity of skin colors and mixed racial heritage, the metaphor remains in the background while the story engages the reader in a color romp.)
In Princess Arabella’s Birthday, the question is: “what do you give a little princess who already has everything?” Princess Arabella asks for a very special gift, but she eventually finds that the gift itself has its own ideas about who’s in charge and what the princess’s gift should be.
Both books make a lovely additions to my library and add to the diversity and joy of the princess genre in my book selections. More Princess Arabella books available in English:
Princess Arabella Goes to School
Princess Arabella and the Giant Cake
Also by Mylo Freeman:
Hair, It’s a Family Affair: “A celebration of black hair, through the vibrant and varied hairstyles found in a single family.”
I’m working my way through Chris Collett’s Detective Tom Mariner series of police procedurals. Our commenter Paul revealed to me after my last review that Collett is not, as I had assumed, a man, but is in fact a woman. Kudos to her for doing an excellent job creating plausible male characters, something that – in my experience and prejudice at least – most female authors have a hard time doing.
When Innocent Lies begins, DI Mariner is working on the disappearance of a lower-class teenaged boy. He has history with the family, and so is upset when his temporary boss pulls him off that case to work on another disappearance. This one is the daughter of a well-to-do Muslim family. Mariner feels, with some justification, that there’s discrimination in the allocation of resources.
The story turns out to be baffling and complex – the missing girl had secrets from her parents, and racial tensions make themselves visible.
I didn’t enjoy Innocent Lies as much as the previous two I’ve read in the series, but it’s a compelling story. I think what I mainly missed was more of Mariner’s girlfriend Anna, who appears to be the most understanding girlfriend in history. I’m not sure I believe in her, but I like her.
One thing that troubled me was what looked like factual a reference to a hate crime in America. To the best of my knowledge, it never happened.
Oh yes, I figured out whodunnit.
Still, recommended. Cautions for the usual.
Today I got my complimentary copies of Viking Legacy, the book I translated.
It’s always a strange and wondrous thing to finally handle a book you’ve only known in the abstract up till now. I’m not the author this time (in fact there are bits I don’t entirely agree with). But I worked long and hard on it, and did a lot of polishing. The translation still looks a little rough to me, especially at the very beginning, the worst place for it. The body of the text looks much better though. I like to think the “flaws” are the fault of the editors, but I’m not entirely sure of that.
Anyway, it’s grown up and left the nest now, and I look at it, not as a father but as a sort of uncle, I suppose. I hope it does well in the wide world.
In point of fact, this is an important, groundbreaking book. If it finds its audience it will be controversial.
Buy it now and see why!
Today’s post is written by Joshua D. Chatraw and Mark D. Allen and is sponsored by Zondervan Academic.
When I (Josh) was growing up in the southeastern part of the United States, there were two dominant religions: Baptist and football. It would take a visitor little time to realize which faith had captured my community’s heart and elicited their deepest devotion.
The work of James K. A. Smith has helped us reflect more deeply on the religious nature of these Saturday afternoon spectacles. Go to a SEC (Southeastern Conference) college campus on a Saturday in the fall, and you will witness devoted worshipers of all ages citing liturgy (cheers), singing praises (fight songs), and participating in ordinances (tailgates and other pregame rituals) that have been passed down through the generations. You need only view the reactions of the losing and winning teams’ fans after the game to realize how many of them wrap up their identities in their team’s success. I have witnessed highly educated and respected church leaders almost physically fight over a game. The hostility and resentment between different fan groups still amaze me. Idols are powerful forces; they appeal to us in profound ways and at multiple levels.
Our point is not that college football is evil—anything can become an idol. But if you spend a few weeks around this football culture as an outsider or take a step back as a devoted fan, it may seem bizarre to you. Why are so many people so intensely devoted to a group of twenty-year-olds throwing a leather ball around?
College football followers would rarely think to make an appeal to the “skeptical” by simply listing player stats or reasons you should become a fan. Instead, they would tell hero stories of legendary players from yesteryear or perhaps some human-interest stories about current players. They would explain the long-standing traditions associated with game day, or they would just invite the unconvinced to a game. As the newcomer joins the faithful fans for a ritual-filled and boisterous pep rally the night before the game, the communal tailgate in the morning, and the sing-along with the band as game time nears, they start to feel a twinge of excitement. Then, after they’re ushered into the stadium with an electric atmosphere of 90,000 fans hanging on every play, it isn’t long before they find themselves high-fiving the random woman in front of them and hugging the stranger beside them. For most fans, it was these kinds of experiences that led to their conversion. True conversion is never simply an intellectual experience.
Christian persuasion should be holistic. Neither responses to objections nor any of the arguments for Christianity should be abstracted from the genuine discipleship and worship of the church. The church is both a living apologetic appeal and the formative context out of which apologetic arguments are supported as plausible.
To use another analogy, imagine trying to convince someone to enlist in a war on behalf of a distant nation they are antagonistic toward. You approach them and say, “I have five airtight arguments for you to leave your current way of life—all the things you love—and join us in battle.” They would probably say something like, “I don’t care how good you think your arguments are; I have absolutely no interest in them!” It’s not even plausible for them to imagine doing what you are asking of them, so they are not interested in hearing whatever supposed “rational” reasons you might be able to produce for taking such actions. Logic alone is incapable of inspiring us to risk our lives for a cause. In a similar way, people find Christianity implausible for a variety of reasons that we cannot adequately address by simply giving them what seems to some Christians to be “five airtight reasons.”
As Christians living in the late modern era, we should not simply give an unbeliever logical arguments and then walk away, imagining we’ve done our apologetic job. For as philosopher Charles Taylor reminds us, “We are in fact all acting, thinking, and feeling out of backgrounds and frameworks which we do not fully understand.” It is these frameworks that we must learn to interact with, even when they are difficult for us to understand and—as is normally the case—have not been given much thought by the person we are trying to lead to the gospel.
In light of a holistic understanding of how humans make decisions and the importance of unarticulated frameworks, our book, Apologetics at the Cross, charts a vision for a multidimensional approach to apologetics. It calls the church to (1) live out an apologetic that undermines misconceptions of Christianity and embodies a more compelling and beatific vision of life; (2) help others see the problems with their own backgrounds and frameworks that cause them to approach Christianity as implausible; and (3) offer intelligent responses to objections and reasons for committing to Christ. Rather than a narrowing of the apologetic task, Apologetics at the Cross broadens the enterprise, developing the multiple kinds of apologetic seeds within the Bible and retrieving the insights from the rich sources within Christian tradition to engage effectively in our present secular age.
This post is adapted from Apologetics at the Cross. Order the book or learn more about the course. Take a look at the FREE introductory videos:
The prosperity gospel is a diverse, popular, and worldwide movement that understands faith to be the instrument through which Christians can attain physical health, material riches, and divine favor. There are countless thousands of these churches around the world with various levels of adherence to the key tenets of the wider movement, yet they rarely advertise themselves as prosperity gospel churches. So how can we know if a church is part of this movement? In Kate Bowler’s book Blessed, she provides some helpful guidance.
Look for Keywords. There are certain keywords that may demonstrate an association with the prosperity gospel. The first place to look is in the name of the church since most churches have names that reflect their ethos. Words like “victory,” “abundant,” or “conquerors” provide what may be key information. Beyond the name, look at the language used either in the church’s material or in its services. In different ways these churches will emphasize their core conviction that faith is the instrument through which believers attain their desires. This leads to language like, “releasing your faith,” “speaking your faith,” or “believing God for” things.
Look for Publications. These churches will probably provide or promote publications associated with other prosperity gospel teachers or organizations. Most notably, it will likely offer books by some of its leading personalities, so look for a bookstore or recommended reading list and see if it contains titles by Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Benny Hinn, or T.D. Jakes. If it does, that may well indicate an alignment.
Look for Personalities. Prosperity churches tend to align their identity with their senior pastor. If a church’s web site or other material prominently features the pastor, it may be an indication the church is part of the prosperity movement. In fact, “71 percent of American prosperity megachurches use the image of the senior pastor as the primary advertisement on the church’s homepage.” This is substantially higher than non-prosperity churches and megachurches. This adds to the likelihood that people know the church not so much by its formal name as by its pastor—“Joel Osteen’s church” or “Paula White’s church.”
Look for Education. The prosperity gospel tends to draw graduates of a limited number of educational institutions such as Rhema Bible Training College or Oral Roberts University. The movement also hands out an unusually large number of honorary degrees, often from these two institutions or others like them. Within the movement you are likely to find as many honorary degrees from Rhema or Oral Roberts as earned degrees from ones that are more reputable.
Look for Affiliation. The majority of prosperity churches are not aligned with denominations, so there may no denominational affiliation to look for. However, many are bound together in less-formal networks or associations that provide “legal qualification and spiritual accountability to hundreds of member churches.” The Association of Faith Churches and Ministers is an example of one, while Creflo Dollar’s Ministerial Association is an example of a group through which a major personality offers some level of guidance or support.
Look for Connections. There are relatively few superstars in the prosperity movement, so those few people tend to appear at the majority of the big events and to endorse the majority of the prominent books. These people also regularly trade pulpits and appear at each other’s conferences. In this way it is possible to quickly see who is willing to align themselves with the movement and its main voices by simply looking for connections.
What I find particularly interesting about this set of criteria is that it could as easily be applied to other movements such as church growth or even New Calvinism. The keywords, publications, and institutions would change, the centrality of the senior pastor might be a negative rather than positive indicator, and so on. But on the whole, these criteria could be applied to almost any Christian movement to help identify a church within a wider context.
(For an alternate set of criteria, consider John Piper’s Six Keys to Detecting the ‘Prosperity Gospel’.)
Today’s Kindle deals are an all-Crossway affair with a few interesting books listed.
(Yesterday on the blog: How We Worshipped (One of my Favorite Services Ever))
David French writes, “Writing in 2015, Malcolm Gladwell wrote what I think is still the best explanation for modern American mass shootings, and it’s easily the least comforting. At the risk of oversimplifying a complex argument, essentially he argues that each mass shooting lowers the threshold for the next. He argues, we are in the midst of a slow-motion ‘riot’ of mass shootings, with the Columbine shooting in many ways the key triggering event. Relying on the work of Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter, Gladwell notes that it’s a mistake to look at each incident independently.”
“God helps those who help themselves.” We know how not to use this phrase, but in this article we learn how Matthew Henry used it very well.
“If we’re interested in discovering (and maintaining) an orthodox understanding of the Trinity, there are some principles we need to understand. These 11 things you need to know about the doctrine of the Trinity.”
Samuel James writes, “The problem I see is that everyone’s fine talking about guns, but practically no one wants to talk about why, literally hours after the deaths of 10 people, cable news outlets are promoting (yes, promoting) the alleged murderer’s Facebook profile, interviewing his classmates and friends, pasting his name atop the internet, and doing in-depth psychological profiles of his clothing and music. Let’s face it: This stuff is either a celebritization or else it’s a form of pornography, a soft-core concoction of tantalizing details and insinuations that titillate the imagination. Either way, this is a carb-rich media diet for desperate and violent men.”
“On the 25th May Ireland votes to retain in or repeal from its Constitution the equal right to life of the unborn child.” Mark Loughridge writes movingly.
This article aptly summarizes both the highlights and the concerns with Bishop Curry’s sermon at the royal wedding. “Did Michael Curry say some things that were true and helpful? Yes. Did he speak too long? For a wedding, probably yes, but every preacher know that temptation. Was it positive to see an African American preaching at a royal wedding? Absolutely. Maybe in the future we’ll see a Chinese or Persian Pastors preaching the Gospel at such an auspicious occasion. Did the bishop say anything unhelpful or untrue? The answer is, yes.” (See also What Would Jesus Say About Bishop Curry’s Royal Wedding Sermon?)
Yes, apparently some do.
You can be utterly tone deaf and sing beautiful music in the ear of God when the gospel is dwelling richly within and when you are singing to exult in the Savior.
Because He lives, I can face yesterday. —Jared Wilson
Every few weeks I like to share an example of one of our worship services from Grace Fellowship Church. I hope that by doing this others will begin to share their services as well. We have a lot to learn from one another, I’m sure.
This service’s cast of characters included Paul as our service leader and preacher, Steve as the elder who read the Scripture text and prayed, Joshua as our lead worshipper, and Thushara as our Scripture reader. Our band consisted of two guitars, piano, viola, and cajon accompanying a male and two female vocalists. The various elements of the service are in bold with the name of the person who led the element in parentheses. Items in quotes represent roughly what the person said to the congregation. Items not in quotes are explanatory. I’ll say it in advance: This was one of my favorite worship services ever.
Call to Worship (Paul)
“We like to start our corporate worship services with a call from God to come and worship Him. Today’s call to worship comes from Psalm 96. Listen for what God is calling you to do today.”
[Paul read Psalm 96:1–6]
“He is glorious. Great. Majestic. And Strong. He is our Creator and the Saviour. He is to be feared and sung to, glorified and praised. He is a holy God.”
Opposite Text Reading (Thushara)
“Listen to the Word of God”
[Thushara read Hebrews 12:18–29 without announcing the reference.]
“This reading was from Hebrews 12.”
(Note: For these opposite-text readings, we do not announce the text because we want to accustom people to listening to the Word.)
Singing, Confession, Assurance of Pardon (Josh + Paul)
“Our God is holy. We are not. But He promises to forgive those who confess their sins. Let’s use this song to corporately admit our guilt before God.”
We sang the song up to the part that is a reprise or response, then Paul came to the front and read this assurance of pardon: “If you are in Christ, hear these words of Assurance from Psalm 103. They apply to you.” [Paul read Psalm 103:8-14]
We then finished singing the song. “As far as the east is from the west / so far have I removed your sinfulness…”
- “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”
- “All My Ways Are Known To You”
Pastoral Prayer (Steve)
Steve brought the pastoral prayer. He prayed specifically for mothers on Mother’s Day; he prayed for our HOST teams (the teams that serve before, during, and after our services); for the nation of Egypt as we pray around the world; and for various other concerns related to the church.
Scripture Reading (Steve)
“Please take your Bible and turn to Exodus 24. If you do not have a Bible, please raise your hand and one of the ushers would love to bring you one. If you have one of our church Bibles, we will be reading from page 64. This is what Holy Scripture says…”
[Steve read Exodus 24]
He closed the reading with, “This is the word of the Lord,” to which the congregation responded, “Thanks be to God.”
Paul preached a sermon titled “Come To the Feast.” It followed this outline:
- The Covenant Invitation (1-3)
- The Covenant Ratification Ceremony (4-8)
- The Covenant Meal (9-11)
- The Covenant Terms are “Set in Stone” (12-14)
- The Covenant Mediator is Established (15-18)
Steve tied the message of the sermon into a “commission” that challenged the church to live out its truths throughout the week. That included these elements:
- If you have thoughts or questions about today’s sermon, you are invited to join Pastor Paul at 11:45 in the Overflow Room for a brief sermon discussion time
- Prayer and GraceKids are tonight at 5PM
- Man2Man and GraceYouth meetings will be held this Wednesday at 7PM
“Receive this blessing of the Lord from His Word: ‘Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.’”
Today’s Kindle deals include a few books—some new, some old–you’ll likely want to browse through.
(Yesterday on the blog: Two Questions To Ask About Your Apps)
Matthew Hosier: “Harry & Meghan represent a very modern shape of love though. She previously married, both from broken homes, both with previous romantic entanglements hiding in the background. There is a lot of complexity being brought into this marriage, as is the case for so many marriages. But the narrative is that love conquers all: the prince has found his princess, and (hopefully) they all live happily ever after.”
Equally timely today is this video showing some of the royal weddings that shaped European history.
This is an important warning from H.B. Charles Jr. “There are some convictions that define who we are. They shape our worldview and philosophy of ministry. We don’t hold these positions. They hold us! To deny what you believe would be sin.”
Sinclair Ferguson answers briefly.
We assume a lot about the Old Testament, but this article/video tells us how it came to be. “The Old Testament is thousands of years old, and contains accounts stretching back to the beginning of time. This ancient collection of books provides the foundation of both Judaism and Christianity. So where did it come from? How did these age-old traditions, stories, and commandments make their way to modern times? These are important questions.”
There have been many reviews of this book, but I rather enjoyed this new one from Tabletalk.
This is an extraordinarily beautiful video highlighting American landscapes. I have no idea what the narration is about, but sure enjoyed the images.
Where is God asking you to simply wait and trust? Where have you lost faith, or where is your faith wavering? Where is God slow to fulfill his promises to you, slow to answer prayer, slow to grant you the gift of understanding? Look right there and you may see displaced and then misplaced faith.
I’m grateful to The Master’s University for sponsoring the blog this week. Sponsors play a key role in keeping this site running, so I’m thankful for each and every one of them.
It is my ignorance of God’s design that makes me quarrel with him. —John Flavel
This weeks giveaway is sponsored by The Master’s University, who also sponsored the blog this week.
There will be five winners this week. Each will receive a copy of God in the Shadows: Evil in God’s World by Dr. Brian Morley and The Gospel According to God by John MacArthur.
God in the Shadows: Evil in God’s World by Dr. Brian Morley
Crime, famine, disease, war, earthquakes, floods; we open our newspapers, or switch on our television sets, and are confronted with pain and suffering in the world. And that doesn’t include a myriad of lesser hurts: daily ones which, while they don’t show up on the news, tear at us nonetheless – relationship breakdowns, disloyalty, rejection.
We all experience pain and evil to some extent and are affected by others who experience it as well. Our suffering is made worse by being unable to understand or explain why it is happening – Where is God in this? Why doesn’t he do something? Is he cruel? Is he there?
Even many Christians, who should know some of the answers, can only offer pop-theology clichés to the question of ‘Why bad things happen?’ Can’t we be more helpful than that?
We should have more confidence. The Bible sheds light on the ultimate resolution of the problem of evil, a problem so central to human experience. Dr. Morley explores how there can be a God who is loving, just and righteous in spite of the fact that the world is full of pain and evil.
Are you putting the blame in the right place? Morley looks at the major reasons for pain and evil: investigating misconceptions about God and illness, the origins of poverty, birth defects and the causes of war. You will be gripped by the thought-provoking nature of his arguments and enlightened by a coping strategy for pain and evil – one that builds a fully-connected world-view into a realisation of our personal part in resolving the problem of evil.
God has understandable and wonderful reasons for bringing about a world like ours – a place of tragedy… and a place of grace.
Dr. Brian Morley is the Professor of Philosophy and Apologetics at the Master’s College, Santa Clarita, California. He has taught in European and American Graduate Schools and been an European government consultant on education.
The Gospel According to God by John MacArthur
“He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
Often hailed as one of the greatest chapters in the Bible, the prophecy of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 foretells the crucifixion of Jesus, the central event in God’s ultimate plan to redeem the world.
This book explains the prophetic words of Isaiah 53 verse by verse, highlighting important connections to the history of Israel and to the New Testament—ultimately showing us how this ancient prophecy illuminates essential truths that undergird our lives today.
Giveaway Rules: You may enter one time. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon. If you are viewing this through email, click to visit my site and enter there.
The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize is the United Kingdom’s only literary award for comic writing. Last year, it went to Bridget Jones’s Baby by Helen Fielding. Two works tied for the prize in 2016, The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray and The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild. I believe we mentioned these works and the Alexander McCall Smith’s 2015 win earlier in this space.
But the 62 novels submitted for consideration this year were only funny enough to produce “many a wry smile,” not the “unanimous, abundant laughter” the judges were hoping to have.
Judge and publisher David Campbell said, “We look forward to awarding a larger rollover prize next year to a hilariously funny book.”
“There were a lot of witty submissions, bloody good novels, but they weren’t comic novels. The alchemy was not there.” (via Prufrock News)
Recent headlines and revelations are causing a lot of us to think deeply about the apps we use, and especially the ones categorized as social media. We are beginning to question whether they are as beneficial and essential to our lives as perhaps we once assumed. As I’ve thought more and more about my apps and my commitment to them, two questions have been both challenging and illuminating. I’ll apply them to Facebook since it is the most prominent and wide-reaching social media app, but they apply as well to the many competitors.
Here’s the first question: How much did you pay for that app? This is a good question to ask because it helps clarify the relationship between the user of the app and its creator.
In general, we exchange money for the goods and services we want. If we want electricity, we expect to receive an electric bill; if we want cable, we expect to receive a cable bill; if we want to read a book or magazine, we expect to have to pay a few dollars for the privilege. But that app that commands so much of your attention and claims so much of your time, how much have you paid for it? I expect you’ve never paid a cent.
Facebook has 25,000 employees and an army of contractors, each of whom expects to be paid at the end of the month. If you’re not giving them money, who is? What’s the product they sell and who is their customer? Simplistically but essentially, you are the product and advertisers are the customers. Facebook sells you to advertisers. More properly, they sell the right to influence you. This is not a unique relationship and has been the backbone of television and newspaper advertising for years. What makes Facebook so much more powerful is that they specialize in collecting massive amounts of massively personal information and then allowing advertisers to carefully target people based on it. It’s their endless quest to gain information about you through countless thousands of pieces of data that have made them so successful and made their founder one of the richest men on earth.
Because you don’t give money to Facebook, advertisers do. Because you don’t exchange money with Facebook, you exchange information which is then used to target and influence you. This isn’t necessarily bad and some of that influence may be good, helpful, and desirable. But it’s important to understand the nature of the relationship. Until you are paying in money, you’ll continue paying in information.
Here’s the second question: How much would you pay for that app? This question is useful because it clarifies what is often a vast disparity between the attention we give an app and the value we place on it.
Imagine that tomorrow Facebook announces they are turning off all the ads and instead moving to a subscription option so that by next month, you will need to pay a fee to use it. How much would you pay every month? Probably not very much. And when times get tough and belts have to be tightened, it will probably be one of the very first things to go. Now imagine that Twitter and Instagram and Messenger and Snapchat and all the rest did the same thing. How much would you pay? It’s hard to imagine using all these apps, and perhaps even any of these apps, if it came down to a financial decision.
What’s interesting to me is that for many of us, the answer to both questions is the same. How much did you pay for that app? Nothing. How much would you pay for that app? Nothing. The fact is, these apps have only gained such prominence because they have no monetary cost involved. There was a time we were willing to assume that keeping our money but giving our information was a fair trade. But many of us are now living with a measure of regret, wondering whether we’ve given away something that was actually far more valuable than we thought. It’s worth asking: If the app isn’t valuable enough that we would pay for it in money, it is valuable enough to pay for it in information and, of course, in the time and emotional energy we commit to it?
- Living for Jesus, a life that is true,
Striving to please Him in all that I do;
Yielding allegiance, glad-hearted and free,
This is the pathway of blessing for me.
O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to Thee,
For Thou, in Thy atonement, didst give Thyself for me;
I own no other Master, my heart shall be Thy throne;
My life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for Thee alone.
- Living for Jesus Who died in my place,
Bearing on Calv’ry my sin and disgrace;
Such love constrains me to answer His call,
Follow His leading and give Him my all.
- Living for Jesus, wherever I am,
Doing each duty in His holy Name;
Willing to suffer affliction and loss,
Deeming each trial a part of my cross.
- Living for Jesus through earth’s little while,
My dearest treasure, the light of His smile;
Seeking the lost ones He died to redeem,
Bringing the weary to find rest in Him.
In view of this prophecy I enjoyed this sermon series from Andy Hubbard, Senior pastor at North Hills Church in Greenville, South Carolina. He started with an illustration about his brother and family having to be ready to go and ready to stay when they were flying overseas. I will post the links for the 2 videos as Andy explains II Thessalonians 2 about the return of Jesus. Click on this link http://northhillschurch.com/sermon/ready-for-delay/ Then click on this link to watch #2 http://northhillschurch.com/sermon/ready-for-delay-2/
Are you ready to go and also ready to stay?
This week: 13 things you want to do this summer.
- Actually make use of the popsicle molds I bought last summer.
- Might dye my hair; stay tuned.
- Road trip somewhere in Texas.
- Pitch an article somewhere.
- Power through the reading list I made.
- Survive the summer reading program at work.
- Perseid meteor shower?
- Hit up all the museums in town
- Go on a mural tour
- Get out somewhere and go hiking
- Go to my local farmer’s markets
- Finish a big knitting project
Flying Colors: A Guide to Flags from Around the World by Robin Jacobs and Robert G. Fresson.
What a beautiful and detailed guide to the design and history of flags around the world! This book is a fairly new volume, published in London in 2017, but it has the traditional attention to style, layout, and accuracy that characterizes older, vintage books for children. (Oh, I see. Amazon says that illustrator Robert Fresson is “inspired by the work of Herge and ‘Boy’s Own’ illustrations of the 1940s.”)
I can picture children poring over this book for hours. It answers many, many questions that budding vexillologists will be pleased to have illuminated:
What is the oldest national flag in the world?
Why are there 13 stripes on the flag of the USA?
Why is the French flag blue, white, and red?
Why is there a big red circle in the middle of the flag of Japan?
What is fimbriation?
What are the saltire, the triband, and the canton on a flag?
What two flags of the world’s nations do not use red, white or blue?
What country’s flag features a dragon? A lion? A parrot?
Why is the British flag known as the Union Jack?
Not all of the countries of the world have their flags pictured and the history of that flag explained, but a majority are included. The book could also unseen index for those who are looking for a particular nation’s flag or a detail of terminology. Nevertheless, I would recommend Flying Colors for any child with an interest in geography, flags, and vexillography (the art of designing flags).
(last Sunday’s sermon is here)
We become what we love–so say the wise.
And looking at my life, it becomes clear:
I’m shaped by wealth, praise, comfort, compromise,
And fame, not joy and truth I should hold dear.
I want to be a servant, to desire
To follow Jesus even to the cross;
I want to lead for glory, to inspire,
To be adored, no matter what the cost.
This is the conflict, isn’t it, of all
Of us that want to go to love and serve:
We hear and try to obey separate calls,
And from the narrow road we turn and swerve.
And in the wreck, all we know how to do
Is cry out: Help us fall in love with You.
This week: In honor of summer and 90 degree weather being right around the corner, 13 things you do to stay cool.
- I don’t wear jeans after the first 85 degree day. Denim is hot as heck.
- Libraries are especially air-conditioned because books (and computers) hate heat and humidity, so I think I chose wisely as far as professions go, as far as keeping cool is concerned.
- Lots of dresses. And when I can’t do a dress, chinos. (Chinos are lighter weight fabric than jeans, so I don’t feel as sweaty in them.)
- Sweet tea, lemonade, iced coffee, water.
- Despite the superstitions of my homeland, I sleep with the ceiling fan turned on blast.
- The occasional gin and tonic outside on my porch. (And also maybe white wine.)
- POPSICLES (I bought a popsicle mold last year and never used it; time to fix that this year.)
- Air conditioning in the car on the highest setting.
- Movies at the movie theater.
- Rinsing off with cold water at the end of showers. (This is apparently supposed to be good for one’s hair, too.)
- You know those little paper folding fans? I kind of want to get a whole bunch and just carry them around in my purse.
- Sometimes, though, you have to just give up and embrace the heat, which ends up happening anytime I’m outside for more than ten minutes.
This YA thriller came in the mail for possible review here at Semicolon. I was in the mood for something fast-paced and absorbing, so I picked it up out of my TBR pile and read it. Although it requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief, it was high interest, and I finished the novel in one day.
“Nobody believes Jake. Except the terrorists.
After witnessing an act of domestic terrorism while training on his bike, Jake is found near death, with a serious head injury and unable to remember the plane crash or the aftermath that landed him in the hospital.
A terrorist leader’s teenage daughter, Betsy, is sent to kill Jake and eliminate him as a possible witness. When Jake’s mother blames his head injury for his tales of attempted murder, he has to rely on his girlfriend, Laurissa, to help him escape the killers and the law enforcement agents convinced that Jake himself had a role in the crash.”
I really kind of liked the book, even though I had to stretch to believe many of the things that happened to Jake. His girlfriend, Laurissa, does rescue him: at one point she carries him down a rope in her lap, rappelling from a second story hospital window. It’s the kind of thing that happens in action movies and TV shows, but I find it hard to visualize.
Betsy, the terrorist’s daughter, is part of a right-wing, anti-immigrant online group called Stormbreak, and she is also moderately unbelievable. She attempts to assassinate Jake at least twice, and both times she flakes out at the last minute. Part of the story is told from Betsy’s point of view, and I just found it difficult to understand her or sympathize with her. She and her terrorist dad attend a church called Dry Run Creek Baptist, and they somehow manage to reconcile their murdering, terrorist ways with their weekly attendance and the teaching received at that Baptist church. They used to attend Two Swords Baptist (where did that name come from?), where the pastor was sympathetic to their politics but also sort of a good guy? The church stuff was confusing and not very believable either.
At any rate, the entire book is like that, interesting but sort of hard to swallow. There’s a rogue FBI agent, also not very believable, and the things Jake manages to do, even with TBI and nails through his hand (don’t ask!) are amazing!
If you’re looking for a YA thriller, not much sex talk (but enough to make it definitely YA) and not much cursing (but enough that it was offensive and could have been left out), then this one will pass the time in the airport while you’re waiting for your flight to board. On second thought, that’s bad timing for this novel. Do not read before flying in an airplane if you have any fear of terrorists and airplanes . . .
Jes has added another memory of his time in Japan. Here he relates a tale about his bike ride around the country town where he lived when he was teaching English as a second language...
This is just a really really old picture now from the back roads near where I lived in Japan on a circa 2004 Sharp cell phone (I still have it. It's bright blue and has a satisfying click when you open it that Japanese phones of this era had). Back then I was riding my bike a lot. The routes near my house were pretty amazing with mountain views, lush vegetation, nice old grandmas walking around with their strollers and some oddities like this along the way. There was little traffic and in a pinch if you ran out of water in the 95 degree heat and full humidity, a vending machine was always nearby.
I’ve been watching the BBC TV series Merlin, a new take on the old Arthurian legend, for about a month now. I watch an episode or two while I cover my book jackets with Mylar plastic covers or while I process and stamp the books for my library. I’ve finished through season three and the first two epodes of season four, and I have a rather mixed review.
I wouldn’t have watched three seasons plus, 41 episodes, of the show if there weren’t something there. I have lots of questions that I would love to take up with the writers. My frequent thought is: but why don’t they just . . . ? What? Really? Why is King Uther so unreasonable, and why are many of the characters so loyal to him anyway? Why is Merlin so loyal to Arthur? And Lancelot? Oh, my goodness, what happened to Lancelot? And Morgana? How did she start out good and end up evil? The motivations for some of the characters seem highly inadequate at times. And “red shirts” and other expendable characters abound. I don’t see how Camelot has any people left; so many have died in what seems to be the end of the world, in episodes called L’Morte d’Arthur, To Kill the King, The Beginning of the End, and The Darkest Hour, among others, that annihilation can only have been avoided by a very rabbity birth rate (not shown or mentioned on screen).
Then, there are the religious/spiritual aspects of the program. The story takes place in a Camelot before Arthur becomes king. Arthur’s father, King Uther, has banned magic from the kingdom because he used it to get Arthur born (kind of like Henry VIII used the Reformation), and the results were tragic. Arthur’s mother died in childbirth to pay the price of the magic used to conceive Arthur. So, magic is bad. No, wait, Merlin has magic, and his destiny is to protect Arthur. So, magic is good, but Merlin must hide his ability to do magic because Uther is bad and will execute anyone who even has a whiff of magic. Actually, this version of the Arthurian story tries to do without any Christian symbolism or foundation and relies on good magic versus bad magic to create the conflict. The moral underpinnings of the story are a little shaky. Why shouldn’t Uther ban all magic from his kingdom: most of the magic in the show, except for Merlin’s limited attempts to fix things that go wrong, does look like a bad deal. We’ve got bad fairies and witches and goblins and unpredictable dragons and deathless, enchanted warriors and spirits that freeze people to death. Oh, and there are traitors and druids who use magic to try to overthrow Uther and kill Arthur. I’d ban all that stuff, too.
Merlin’s powers come from the “old religion” and so do the powers of other, more malevolent characters in the story. Unfortunately there is no “new religion” in this story to counter and defeat the “old religion.” And there is no God, no prayer. (Sometimes a character will accidentally say something like, “God help us!”, but it’s not meant as a real prayer.) Light holds some evil at bay. Blood sacrifice is the key to defeating other evil magical creatures. But really, there’s only bad magic, good magic, and non-magic. The “knight’s code”—which comes from who knows where—seems to be mostly concerned with who gets to be a knight and who doesn’t. Noble-born guys get to become knights; commoners don’t. Then, the writers try to stick some modern ideas and sensitivities into the mix by making some women as good at riding horses and sword-fighting as the men and by giving Arthur the idea that all men are created equal. (Except Merlin. Merlin is always and forever a servant.) Where would Arthur get that idea, other than Christianity? And where would he get the idea of sacrificing himself for the sake of the kingdom and its people?
So, why am I still watching this ridiculous and often poorly written television show? I think it’s the actors. The boy who plays Merlin, actor Colin Morgan, is adorably goofy and sincere. Each episode begins with this tagline:
In a land of myth, and a time of magic, the destiny of a great kingdom rests on the shoulders of a young boy. His name… Merlin.
And the show really is about Merlin. Arthur (Bradley James) is good-looking and brave, but it’s Merlin who captures our hearts. Merlin is committed to goodness and to protecting Arthur, and by gum, he’s going to do it, come hell or high water. Why? Because the Great Dragon told him that protecting Arthur is his destiny. So, “destiny” takes the place of God, and it’s worth sacrificing one’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
The series is fun, family-friendly (unless you hate magic and mildly scary scenes), and quite implausible if you over-think it. So, don’t think about it too much. Just enjoy the bromance between Arthur and Merlin, the slow-burning romance between Arthur and the lovely Guinevere, and the defeat of evil just in the nick of time. Oh, and the Great Dragon has a nice voice (John Hurt).
Building a RAFT
Wheels’ up is six weeks from today. While we’re flying out of The Bahamas, I’m more focused on building a RAFT with the kids, in preparation for the move.
“Building a RAFT” is a tool developed by TCK pioneer and sociologist David Pollack. I first came across this idea about two decades ago in the book Raising Resilient MKs (<– free e- version!), and have been implementing this technique in the seven moves since! The “logs” of this raft are Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewells, and Transition/Think Destination.
Sidenote: When I started writing this, I thought I’d give a brief overview of each of the of these aspects in one blog post. Haha! Of course, writing brings to the surface much of what I’ve been pondering and so today I’m going to just focus on Reconciliation.
In the Eighties, my family moved from the tropical, Mayberry-like base of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the busy (and cold!) suburbs of Chicago. In the midst of my junior high emotions and junior high struggles, I remember my mom admonishing me that there are no “location cures.” Ouch.
My mom knew me, and knew that in typical military kid fashion I had begun to view moves as a solution to problems. She shared her wisdom that when we move, we bring our struggles with us.
The R in RAFT stands for Reconciliation. I apply this in two ways — making sure I seek to make right any disrupted relationships, and looking inward to see what within myself is upset and and needs reconciling.
As I type this, I feel a tightening in my chest and a local friend comes to mind. This is someone I care about, and I wish I could deny the relationship was disrupted. But when I am honest with myself, I know that I have not been the friend to her I want to be, and that I’ve prematurely retreated from the relationship. We have no big conflict which needs to be addressed, but I do need to reconcile before we leave. I know that if I don’t attend to this now, it will be something that will continue to burden me when we move. And I do care about her! I don’t want to leave her with any unresolved stress either. Moving brings an opportunity to consider how, so far as it depends on me, be at peace with all. (Rom 12:18)
Similarly, I’ve talked with my teenagers — what can they do to leave on the best of terms with their friends? Are there any people to whom they need to apologize–or forgive? What problems do they expect to change when we move? My teens are pretty self-aware and know there are no “location cures” — but it’s easy to have that idea infiltrate our subconscious.
A Clean Slate
One of the perks of moving is being able to implement in a grand way what Gretchen Rubin calls the Clean Slate strategy. Yes, I do get a fresh start when we move. I can design a new routine, new habits, a new me! — the possibilities feel endless!
But as my Mom tried to counsel me in junior high, a clean slate is not a “location cure.” I bring my own self wherever I go. My internal struggles come along me.
Moving often brings to the surface unresolved internal conflicts. I see my own weaknesses writ large, under the logistical pressures of the move. Unexpected emotions surface.
My hopes for a fresh start when we arrived, feel unfulfilled by the reality of how my days have unfolded in this place.
I’ve found it is important to give time and space during the moving prep, to allow reflection. I take this as time of reflection to see what God has done in my life, as we’ve lived in this place. My struggles, my growth; the stresses, God’s faithfulness. When I actually do this and bring these internal conflicts to the Lord, He brings reconciliation to my soul.
My friend Karen Campbell used to start each of her podcasts with the reminder of the promise that is true not just for when we move, but for every day:
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
After my Little Britches binge-read, I returned to the other series that is capturing my heart, Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons adventures. In Winter Holiday, the Swallows—John, Susan, Titty, and Roger Walker—and the Amazons—Captain Nancy and First Mate Peggy—are joined by two new companions, Dick and Dorothea, aka The D’s. Dick and his sister Dot are from the big city, but they have come for a visit to the Dixon farm during the winter holidays.
The Lake District is all abuzz because it looks as if, for the first time in many years, the lake is going to freeze completely to allow for skating and winter sports all up and down the lake that is usually the site of the children’s summer sport of sailing. In spite of mumps and miscommunications and an imminent date of return to school, the children manage to have a grand adventure as they pretend to be Arctic explorers on an expedition to the North Pole.
Their role model is said to be someone name Nansen, an explorer of whom, in my ignorance, I had never heard. I looked him up, and he is a real Norwegian explorer, Fridtjof Nansen, who led an expedition across Greenland in 1888-89 and also attempted an expedition to the North Pole in 1895, reaching a farther north latitude than anyone else had done at the time. Nansen’s ship was called the Fram, and the children in Winter Holiday name their Arctic vessel, borrowed from Uncle Jim/Captain Flint and frozen in port, The Fram also.
Winter Holiday is a great adventure story, and it will make even those of us who are not acclimated to real winter weather and icy adventures wish for a little bit of ice and snow to build an igloo or mount an expedition to the Pole, either North or South. It made me think of winter fondly, for a little while anyway.
Captain Nancy really comes into her own in this book as the leader of this gang of explorers and adventurers, even though she’s somewhat sidelined for most of the book. You can’t keep a good man—or woman—down, and Captain Nancy is still bossing and pushing and imagining new exploits and adventures, even when she’s physically removed from the action in the story. I also liked being properly introduced to the D’s, even though I read the stories out of order and had already met them in Pigeon Post. Dreamy, scientific Dick and imaginative writer-to-be Dorothy make good additions to the already established cast of characters.
Being questioned by immigration after an insanely long pregovac flight, from Kenya to the U.S., traveling with a passel of kids…
“What do you do?” the agent asked.
I was so tired.
Looked at him blankly. Thought it must be a trick question.
Glanced at my huge belly and replied, “Make babies?”
(Sermon from last Sunday here.)
There are no famous farmers, or not many.
Most plow and plant their fields quietly.
They wait for rain, they wait for growth, with plenty
Of work that mostly goes by silently.
And harvests come and go–some bad, some good,
Some profitable, full of healthy fruit;
Some others, despite all your sweat and blood,
Are thin and dry, the crops all turned to loot
For drought and ravens. All the same,
The farmers get no glory for their toil.
They plant the seeds, and wages are their gain,
But much depends on time and sun and soil.
So let them pray, and let them watch and trust,
Despite abundance, plenty, famine, dust.
This autobiographical memoir/novel is actually the first in a series of such books written by the adult Mr. Moody about his childhood in Colorado, Boston, and later as a young adult, the West and Midwest. Ralph is eight years old as the story begins, but one has to remind oneself just how young he really was as the books progress through Ralph’s long life and he takes on more and more adult responsibility.
SPOILER: Ralph’s father dies at the end of the first book, Little Britches, but not before Ralph manages to learn some very important lessons from his almost saintly father.
A man’s character is like his house. If he tears boards off his house and burns them to keep himself warm and comfortable, his house soon becomes a ruin. If he tells lies to be able to do the things he shouldn’t do but wants to, his character will soon become a ruin. A man with a ruined character is a shame on the face of the earth.
Little Ralph takes this lesson to heart, not so much because the words are so impactful, but because he sees this character-building project as it takes place in his own father. Father is straight-talking, creative and innovative, hard-working, and above all, honest. And Ralph, aka “Little Britches” as the other boys and cowboys in Colorado call him, learns to be the same kind of man his father is, with a few mishaps and mistakes along the way.
The Man of the Family. Nine year old Ralph and his older sister, Grace, work with their mother, an industrious and faith-filled example in her own right, to take care of the family after Father’s death. They start a baking business, and Ralph finds other ways to work and contribute to the family coffers. Life is hard, but good, and the family pulls together to recover from the tragedy of Father’s death.
The Home Ranch. Ralph finds new friends and mentors as he takes a job on a ranch for the summer.
Mary Emma & Company. Mary Emma is Ralph’s mother, and the family has moved back east to Boston in this fourth book in the series. The older members of the family must find new ways to support the family, and they start a laundry business while Ralph works as errand boy in a small grocery store. Over and over again, the lessons of diligence, faithfulness, and honesty are taught and learned through experience as Ralph, Grace and Mother work through illness, accidents, and mistakes to win through at the end.
The Fields of Home. In this book, a young teenage Ralph goes to live with his grandfather in Maine for a time. I didn’t read this one because I don’t have a copy of it yet.
Shaking the Nickel Bush. In 1918, Ralph is nineteen years old, thin and losing weight. The doctor diagnoses Ralph with diabetes and sends him west to work in the sunshine, follow a very restricted diet, and hope for the best. But everyone, including the doctor and Ralph’s family, knows that a diagnosis of diabetes (pre-insulin therapy) is practically a death sentence. Ralph manages to “shake the nickel bush”, support himself, and send money home—and survive and even thrive in spite of a ne’er-do-well companion and an ornery, broken-down “flivver” (automobile). Ralph does lie to his mother in his letters, to protect her from worry, and his friend, Lonnie, is a thief and a slacker. These aspects of the story are disappointing; nevertheless, the period details and the pure adventure of two young men traveling about and supporting themselves by their own hard work and ingenuity (mostly) are worth the read.
The Dry Divide. Ralph takes a laborer’s job on a wheat farm with a very cruel and dictatorial farmer, but by the end of the harvesting season, Ralph is a young entrepreneur with a thriving business and money in the bank. He works hard and smart, and everyone around Ralph shares in the prosperity that results from Ralph’s ingenuity and tenacity.
Horse of a Different Color: Reminiscences of a Kansas Drover. In this last book of the series, Ralph is a farmer/rancher himself. I still have this one to read in the future after I get hold of a copy.
I really loved these books, as evidenced by the fact that I read six of them in a week’s time, one after the other. I would have read all eight books that Mr. Moody wrote in his extended Bildungsroman if I had owned them all. Ralph “Little Britches” Moody and his friends and companions are not always perfect—there is some swearing and gambling in some of the books, condemned by Ralph’s mom, but still tolerated—nevertheless, I wish I had known about these books when my boys, and girls, were younger. I may still send one of my young adult sons a Ralph Moody book, if I can decide which one would most capture his interest and inspire him.
National Day of Prayer is May 3, 2018. To find an event in your area click here. May our Nation once again call on God to help us.
An early American congressman “suggested confining diplomats on their return from assignments, “as we quarantine foreign rags through fear of cholera.””
Glad home leave isn’t like that now! Looking forward to family, friends, and food this summer!
This quote from “War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence” by Ronan Farrow (aff) — my current Kindle read. Highly recommended.
We have another big transition looming — we’re leaving Nassau, the Bahamas, after making it our home for three years.
I feel like I’m in a good place. I’m ready for the change, and at the same time not longing for it. I’m preparing, but not rushing to be gone. Each day I’m content, happy to be here — but the days are going by too quickly.
I’ve started my goodbyes.
We’ve moved frequently enough for me to know that I start withdrawing from people and my regular routine about six months before we move. This time I very consciously chose to not think about move logistics or disengage from life here that early. I compartmentalized — even scheduled it on my calendar! — I won’t start planning the move until April.
Yet, life intervened and a series of mild illnesses and guests started in January and disrupted our normal routines. In spite of my planning, we did start withdrawing from our regular routine about six months before the move.
Building a RAFT
One of the strategies I’ve leaned on for helping my kids (and myself!) through transitions is TCK pioneer and sociologist David Pollack’s strategy of “Building a RAFT” (pp. 77-78)I first read about this nearly two decades ago by Jean Larson in the book Raising Resilient MKs <– you can get a free copy is this great resource! (In fact, I first blogged about Building a Raft in 2005 when we getting ready to leave Kyiv the first time.)
As a mom in a family that frequently moves, I really prioritize helping to nurture each family member through transitions. Each of us, in our own way, will go through the ups and downs of moving internally. I can’t weather the storm for them. But I can be with them, and help them build that raft that will help them navigate the rapids of this river of change.
Frequent travelers know, “put on your own oxygen mask first” — I am well aware that I’m not exempt from the challenges of moving. Yet I’ve found that helping my kids process their transitions in the move helps me process my own.
What is this RAFT?
In the coming days, I’ll be writing more about what RAFTing looks like in our family, especially for our teens. And I’m interested in what you’ve found helpful for your family when saying goodbyes. . . But it is time for me to get off the laptop where I’m pondering the emotional side of moving, and start sorting through stuff and prep for the material side of moving.
MKs – Missionary Kids
TCKs – Third Culture Kids (Growing up outside of their passport country, like many military, diplomat, and multinational corporation families)
PCS – Permanent Change of Station, i.e., moving
Adrienne Hedger captures the zeitgeist of spring cleaning, but for me it sums up PCS’ing season. PCS is one of the myriad military acronyms which bleed over into my life — Permanent Change of Station.
It’s April. We pack out and the kids and I leave in June. Hubby follows in July.
I actually scheduled on my calendar that I would only prep for the move starting in July. I didn’t want to focus on leaving too soon. I wanted to be present, in the moment, in this place. . . Yes, goodbyes and move logistics take time, but like many big tasks, they expand to fit the space I give them.
Now it is the end of April, and move prep is in full swing. We did a pre-move inspection and are repairing the odds and ends around the house that are normal wear and tear for a family of eight (but not normal wear and tear for a typical renter!) We’re sorting through clothes, books, misc. . . I’m at the point at which part of me wouldn’t mind if our container slipped to the bottom of the ocean and we had no more things. And then I see our family photos, special artwork, and other sentimental items and I know that isn’t really what I want.
In addition to the physical preparations, we are in the midst of the emotional and relational preparations. Those are a bit more complicated. I’ll write more on that and Building a Raft later.
But for now, it’s time for another cup of coffee, harnessing my motivation, and culling more of possessions to get under 7200lbs before we pack out.
So what is it all for
if you say all the correct things
like a contestant
on the universe’s biggest quiz show
teeth white and blank
clothes neat but not freakishly so
is all this an attempt
to distract us from the cracks
in your surface
one more layer of paint
because it doesn’t matter
when the light shines on it
we can see all your broken places
if God picked you up
only to drop you
would you shatter like
a porcelain doll
so we could all see how
hollow you are inside
keep pushing your own button
and repeat the same phrases
with your tin-can computer chip voice
over and over again
don’t think we don’t notice
this week: things that you’re working on right now (if you can come up with that many).
- trying to eat better. i’ve thought about my diet for the past few days and it’s been…not good. more veggies, fewer fried things out of a vending machine.
- i signed up to do the asian pacific heritage month display at work, so i’m printing photos and putting books on hold for that.
- also work-related: we’re doing a mini comic-con next month and we’re all running around like headless chickens trying to get that done.
- and the summer reading program draws nigh, so i am trying to get a couple of things together for that. (i proposed a pub trivia night and a spelling bee.)
- related to the comic-con, i’m knitting a slytherin hat as a possible giveaway. i’m planning on making hats for the other three houses, but i need to get going on that.
- trying to make my way through the marvel cinematic universe in preparation for infinity war, which comes out at the end of the month.
- also reading four books at the moment; i am nothing if not ambitious with my reading.
- ^ two of those are being read in efforts to complete some reading goals: read more asian authors, read all the books from this year’s tournament of books, and finish all the series i’m in the middle of.
- started (for the umpteenth time) couch-to-5k.
- my apartment is a mess, as usual, so i need to spend some time cleaning tonight.
- my church is going through the book of 1 corinthians, and my small group is thinking about meeting to discuss a study guide together, so trying to figure that out
- looking into going to new york or california in the fall…
- i have the beginnings of a writing project in the back of my head; i just need to sit down and do it.
I first noticed that Jay had trouble relating to other kids when I was five. The neighbor kids had chained him to a tree in our back yard. He enjoyed being wound up with chain. It must have been like a hug to him. In the Temple Grandin movie she enjoyed being hugged in much the same way they hold cattle still with a devise. So this and other observations of Jay's life lead me to believe that he had struggles that the rest of us don't.
Evy's first job, Wayne thinks, was working as a waitress at an I Hop restaurant. Davy's first job was probably working as a newspaper carrier. And Wayne worked as a lifeguard.
The movie "I can only Imagine" was a surprise hit at the box office over the week end. Above is a You Tube of the title song. Below is a link to an article telling about the showing. Click here to read.
We know that those who believe in Jesus will have a prepared room and a feast when they see Jesus face to face. I hope and pray that God will be able to get through to these poories before it is too late.
Man lives in truck
Productivity gurus say, “Only do what only you can do.” As a mom, I’ve found that encouraging. No one can nurture my kids quite the way I am called to do.
I find this article from S. D. Smith similarly encouraging. Worth the read.
I believed in Jesus from the womb so to speak. I don't remember not believing in Jesus. I enjoyed attending church and always felt loved there. So when I attended a "Youth For Christ" rally I felt no need to go forward to make a public declaration. The message was simple-- John 3:16. I had memorized this verse at a very young age. I trusted in Jesus to save me.
When I listened to Billy Graham on the radio or on TV I knew what he was preaching was correct. But I, like others, wanted in depth teaching from the Bible. Billy pointed us in the right direction but his message wasn't going to help us defend our faith.
Here is a podcast from Breakpoint where the life and legacy of Graham is discussed. It is about 25 minutes long. At one point, the difference between fundamentalism and evangelicalism is explained, in relation to Billy Graham. I come out as an evangelical. Are you one or the other?
Today is the 12th anniversary of the death of Sean Paddock.
Twelve years ago, sweet little Sean Paddock died. He was just four years old, and at that time my boys were ages five through ten. Like my boys, he had sandy hair and was full of energy and fun. Like my boys, he got into mischief and had to be told to get back in to bed a hundred times.
Sean died of asphyxiation after being wrapped so tightly in blankets that it interfered with his breathing. His foster/adoptive mother stated that it was to keep him from wandering at night.
Lynn Paddock was convicted of first-degree murder and felony child abuse, and the court later found that Johnny Paddock “aided and abetted” the abuse in the home. The couple agreed that Lynn would “discipline” the children because Johnny had anger issues. The Paddocks were influenced by Michael and Debi Pearl and their book “To Train Up a Child.”
Today the Pearls still teach these harmful parenting practices.
Sean Paddock was a victim of what sadly can be too common within the Christian subculture — parents who may want to do everything “right,” but listen to harmful advice and seek to completely control their children under the guise of discipline.
Consider this teaching of the Pearls:
“If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.”
The Pearls teach parents that they should use whatever force is necessary to restrain a child, to hold him there until he is surrendered. . . defeat him totally. Using blankets to do that as Lynn Paddock did definitely fits the “spirit” of what is taught, though the Pearls do not give that specific example.
Furthermore, Michael and Debi Pearl promote striking children with “a light, flexible instrument [that] will sting without bruising or causing internal damage. Many people are using a section of ¼ inch plumber’s supply line as a spanking instrument.” The autopsy showed that Sean’s body was covered with “layers of thin, long bruises — old and new — stretch[ing] from Sean’s bottom to his shoulder blade,” consistent with the plumbing supply line and wooden spoon found in the Paddock home.
Sean’s death was twelve years ago. Why am I still writing about this?
Because we can not allow child abuse in the name of Jesus to continue.
Unfortunately, Christian parents are still vulnerable to the high-control, “break the will” practices taught under a veneer of biblical-sounding phrases. The Pearls are not the only ones, but they are still quite prominent. While these parenting practices don’t usually result in the extreme cases of abuse and death, they commonly cause fractured relationships and harm.
Christians, we can do better than this.
Christians, we can do better than this. We MUST do better than this. We need to speak out about the false teachers in the church. We need to speak out for the least of these.
Equip yourself to raise your children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Serve those in your community who are raising children. Come alongside those who are struggling. Seek the Lord.
Good parenting resources:
(Use discernment — You are the parents God gave your children, and no ones knows them or loves them the way you do! Most, but not all, of these resources are explicitly Christian.)
More about the Pearls / No Greater Joy:
From the TG archives:
My generation was told that over population was a threat to our survival. My brother Jay always said, "we are supposed to obey God and be fruitful and multiply." He was correct. A book written in 1968 incited worldwide fear of overpopulation. Here is a blog covering the subject.