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Showing posts from 2009

Os Guinness on evangelicalism

This is good -- an interview with Os Guinness... " Where have all the evangelicals gone ?" He concludes part 1 with ... So the collapse of the Religious Right has not led to the rise of a more responsible position, except for the minority, but to something which is horrendous. The trouble is, if this goes on, it will tarnish the church for a generation and that’s the tragedy. I put it even deeper. If you look at Europe, Europe is the most secular continent in the world because of reactions to corrupt state/church powers in the past. America never had that problem because of the genius of the First Amendment until the rise of the Religious Right and the culture wars, and you can see that in the educated classes, a steadily rising equivalent of the European repudiation of religion climaxing in the new atheist. We have created the monster we dislike, and it’s our fault. When asked what the greatest problem facing evangelicals today, he answers, The biggest problem is not specifi

evangelicalism over the next decade

I've been contemplating Michael Spencer's blogs on the future of evangelical churches in America ( iMonk blog ). His three articles on his predicted collapse of evangelicalism are found here . It is important, I believe, to read all three articles. I find myself in agreement with much he has to say. Here are a few quotes... The determination to follow in the methodological steps of numerically successful churches will be greater than ever. The result will be, in the main, a departure from doctrine to more and more emphasis on relevance, motivation and personal success….with the result being churches further compromised and weakened in their ability to pass on the faith. ... For some time, we’ve been at a point that the decision to visit a particular evangelical church contained a fairly high risk of not hearing the Biblical Gospel. That experience will be multiplied and expanded in the years to come. Core beliefs will become less and less normative and necessary in evangelic

God given

Christmas means gifts. In the wide, wheeling universe There has been only one-- One gift once given, One infinite, eternal, perfect joy-- One baby boy. (Elizabeth Rooney)

O Simplicitas! (the folly of the Lord)

An angel came to me And I was unprepared To be what God was using. Mother I was to be. A moment I despaired, Thought briefly of refusing. The angel knew I heard. According to God's Word I bowed to this strange choosing. A palace should have been The birthplace of a king (I had no way of knowing). We went to Bethlehem; It was so strange a thing. The wind was cold, and blowing, My cloak was old, and thin. They turned us from the inn; The town was overflowing. God's Word, a child so small, Who still must learn to speak, Lay in humiliation. Joseph stood, strong and tall. The beasts were warm and meek And moved with hesitation. The Child born in a stall? I understood it: all. Kings came in adoration. Perhaps it was absurd: A stable set apart, The sleepy cattle lowing; And the incarnate Word Resting against my heart. My joy was overflowing. The shepherds came, adored The folly of the Lord, Wiser than all men's knowing. (Madeleine L'Engle)

like every newborn

"The Lord is King, and hath put on glorious apparel; the Lord hath put on his apparel, and girded himself with strength." (Psalm 93:1) Like every newborn, he has come from very far. His eyes are closed against the brilliance of the star. So glorious is he, he goes to this immoderate length To show his love for us, discarding power and strength. Girded for war, humility his mighty dress, He moves into the battle wholly weaponless. (--Madeleine L'Engle, A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation )

Judah's Lion

Where does the lion, Judah's golden lion walk? Stealthy under star by winter night his soft paws stalk. Out on lonely hills a cold wind howls and darkness scowls; Shepherds shiver -- danger in the dark! --some wild beast prowls. Suddenly up springs a light; a voice rings like a bell: "Joy, O men of Judah! Come and see! Noel! Noel!" Where lies Judah's longed-for lion? "Come and see the sight! Fear not--your golden one is couched among the lambs tonight." (--Keith Patman, from A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation )

too much to ask

it seemed too much to ask of one small virgin that she should stake shame against the will of God. all she had to hold to were those soft, inward flutterings and the remembered sting of a brief junction--spirit with flesh. who would think it more than a dream wish? an implausible, laughable defence. and it seems much too much to ask me to be part of the different thing-- God's shocking, unorthodox, unheard of Thing to further heaven's hopes and summon God's glory. (--Luci Shaw, A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation )


A friend sent me Luci Shaw's poem, "Mary's Song", and I posted it on the blog. We remembered we had that poem and others in a book entitled, A Widening Light: Poems on the Incarnation, Luci Shaw, ed. We enjoyed reading through them today. I plan to post some of these poems between now and Christmas. Here is one called "snow" by Keith Patman: Was it a cold awakening Christmas morning In a wooden trough, In spite of straw and swaddling clothes and angel songs? That was not to be the last time You'd be laid upon the wood. (There were Herods, Judases from the start Among the stars and shepherds). And did they smile, those simple folk, And kiss your tiny hands and weep delight? They'd touch those hands again someday, Believing you through cracks and scars. Then oh! the million Christmas mornings When you'd lie, a babe again, Beneath a million million trees And hear the countless tongues chanting your name. And oh! the white snow on

Mary's Song, a poem

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast keep warm this small hot naked star fallen to my arms. (Rest . . . you who have had so far to come.) Now nearness satisfies the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies whose vigor hurled a universe. He sleeps whose eyelids have not closed before. His breath (so slight it seems no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps to sprout a world. Charmed by doves’ voices, the whisper of straw, he dreams, hearing no music from his other spheres. Breath, mouth, ears, eyes he is curtailed who overflowed all skies, all years. Older than eternity, now he is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed to my poor planet, caught that I might be free, blind in my womb to know my darkness ended, brought to this birth for me to be new-born, and for him to see me mended I must see him torn. [by Luci Shaw, from A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation , 1984]

only he can fulfill the promises

I'm enjoying Colin Smith's advent blog . He's taken several days to cover the biblical theology of the OT, the narrative of redemption promised. It's definitely not your typical advent meditations. But in so doing he shows the story line behind the incarnation, and thus the reason for the season: In the blog this week, we have looked at the broad sweep of God’s promise. * To create people in His image. * To deliver His people from evil. * To bring people from every nation into His blessing. * To reconcile people to Himself through the sacrifice offered for our sins. * To establish the Kingdom of His Son forever. * To cause His people to walk in His ways, and now, * To give new life from the grave. Those who question the uniqueness of Jesus underestimate the promises of God. Who else could accomplish what God has promised? God makes promises so great that only God Himself can deliver them. So God took human flesh. The Creator entered His

essentials, non-essentials, chart included

Michael Patton has written an interesting article on essentials and non-essentials in Christian doctrine. And with a chart, that's a bonus! These lines aren't infallibly drawn. But this is a good introduction to a subject that many Christians should think through.

Saying "Merry Christmas" 33 ways...

Afrikaans - 'n Geseende Kersfees en 'n voorspoedige Nuwejaar Afrikander - Een Plesierige Kerfees Albanian -- Gezuar Krishtlindje Arabic - I'D MIILAD SAID OUA SANA SAIDA Armenian - Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand Azeri - Tezze Iliniz Yahsi Olsun Basque - Zorionstsu Eguberri. Zoriontsu Urte Berri On Bengali - Bodo Din Shubh Lamona Bohemian - Vesele Vanoce Breton - Nedeleg laouen na bloavezh mat Bulgarian - Tchestita Koleda; Tchestito Rojdestvo Hristovo Celtic Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda=13=DF Chinese - (Mandarin) Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan (Catonese) Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun (Hong Kong) Kung Ho Hsin Hsi. Ching Chi Shen Tan Cornish - Nadelik looan na looan blethen noweth Cree - Mitho Makosi Kesikansi Croatian - Sretan Bozic Czech - Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok Danish - Gladelig Jul Dutch - Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! English - Merry Christmas Esperanto - Gajan Kristnaskon Estonian - Roomsaid Joulu Puhi Farsi -

the big question for the university

This is the big question that the postmodern university needs to answer... "Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives. This incredulity is undoubtedly a product of progress in the sciences: but that progress in turn presupposes it. To the obsolescence of the metanarrative apparatus of legitimation corresponds, most notably, the crisis of metaphysical philosophy and of the university institution which in the past relied on it. The narrative function is losing its functors, its great hero, its great dangers, its great voyages, its great goal. It is being dispersed in clouds of narrative language elements--narrative, but also denotative, prescriptive, descriptive, and so on. ... Where, after the metanarratives, can legitimacy reside?" (-- Jean-Francois Lyotard) A "metanarrative" is a grand narrative, or a singular, overarching plan over history. Or, ultimate purpose to all of history. Postmodernism likes narratives, but reje

reasons for preaching

Craig Larson lists reasons why Christians should listen to, and be under, the preaching of God's word: 1. Preaching brings us before God’s Word in the presence of the Holy Spirit, who indwells the gathered church. 2. Good preaching rescues us from our self-deceptions and blind spots, for left to ourselves, we tend to ignore the very things in God’s Word that we most need to see. Preaching is done in community, covering texts and topics outside of our control. 3. Good preaching brings us into the place of corporate obedience rather than merely individual obedience. This is a uniquely corporate discipline that the church does together as a community, building up individuals and the community at the same time. 4. Good preaching contributes to spiritual humility by disciplining us to sit under the teaching, correction, and exhortation of another person. This strikes right to the heart of individualism, which is such a plague on the church. 5. Good preaching gives a place

dignity and depravity

"A paradox, this man: both son of God And rebel, stellar powers bursting out Through spirit mean and shoddy, cloaked about With fine creative genius, yet a clod Of dirt, compounded equally of sod And everlasting consciousness, a lout With moral aspirations, clutching clout In empty power scrambles, sordid, odd. Reflecting the Creator, given high Preferment, ever served by angel hosts, This son of wrath, preferring darkness, died, His true paternity a barren boast. God spoke: in his own image he made man; And blemished though that image be, it stands. " (D. A. Carson, Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century )

this is part of the solution?

From the New York Times today ... SAN FRANCISCO — In January, Mike Rowland was so broke that he had to raid his retirement savings to move here from Boston. A week ago, he and a couple of buddies bought a two-unit apartment building for nearly a million dollars. They had only a little cash to bring to the table but, with the federal government insuring the transaction, a large down payment was not necessary. “It was kind of crazy we could get this big a loan,” said Mr. Rowland, 27. “If a government official came out here, I would slap him a high-five.” So... how is this solution different from the problem?

from solitude to community

I have appreciated the insights of Henri Nouwen on " Moving from Solitude to Community to Ministry ." Here are a couple of thoughts on the relationship of solitude and community... Why is it so important that solitude come before community? If we do not know we are the beloved sons and daughters of God, we're going to expect someone in the community to make us feel that way. They cannot. We'll expect someone to give us that perfect, unconditional love. But community is not loneliness grabbing onto loneliness: "I'm so lonely, and you're so lonely." It's solitude grabbing onto solitude: "I am the beloved; you are the beloved; together we can build a home." Sometimes you are close, and that's wonderful. Sometimes you don't feel much love, and that's hard. But we can be faithful. We can build a home together and create space for God and for the children of God. ... This is where celebration, the second discipline of community,

Great concert

This weekend we really enjoyed the music and ministry of Doyle Dykes, and his daughter, Haley!

pop's garden

a brief history of bcf

Blacksburg Christian Fellowship, or BCF as it is popularly known, was founded in November 1969. Prior to this time several families had been meeting for Bible study and prayer, with a particular concern that the Lord raise up an effective biblical ministry to the students of the Virginia Tech campus. Growing from these meetings, the Lord led them to begin a public ministry on Sunday mornings. The Wesley Foundation agreed to the rental of their facilities, and the first meeting was held in November 1969, with about 30 people in attendance. Since the first meeting BCF has been greatly blessed by the Lord and has seen a steady growth in ministry and in numbers. Two other local churches were formed in part from BCF. In 1974 the Lord led Houston Couch, who at that time was an Elder in BCF, to leave and start Dayspring Christian Fellowship. In 1980 Max Harris, who was a regular attender at BCF, was encouraged by the Elders and members to start a ministry which has now become Grace Cov

Sunday notes

“Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:15-20) The Holy Spirit [part 1 review] 1) He is a Divine Person (Rom 8:9, 14-15; Eph 4:30; Jn 14:26) 2) He brings God’s presence (John 14:26) 3) He brings supernatural power (Acts 4:31) 4) He has a holy purpose (John 16:14) The baptism of the Holy Spirit, a one-time event that places us into the Body of Christ and fills us initially. (Matt 3:11-12; Acts 1:4-6; 2:4; 11:15-16; 1 Cor 12:13) “No one may ask a believer whether he has been ba

not faith in faith, but faith in Christ

Been thinking about my salvation in Christ, and more specifically about justification by faith. The reformation underscored that we don't trust our own works for salvation, but it must be maintained that neither do we trust in faith, as if faith is something of merit. Solus Christus comes before sola fide. Oswald Chambers said it well in today's My Utmost For His Highest : For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life . (Romans 5:10) I am not saved by believing; I realize I am saved by believing. It is not repentance that saves me, repentance is the sign that I realize what God has done in Christ Jesus. The danger is to put the emphasis on the effect instead of on the cause. It is my obedience that puts me right with God, my consecration. Never! I am put right with God because prior to all, Christ died. When I turn to God and by belief accept what God reveals I can accept, instantly

Ageism (like Logan's Run?)

The assignment for one of my kids was to clip pictures from magazines which showed people in all stages of life. Problem: no old people. Now, these were not magazines like Vanity Fair or Vogue , where you would expect only beautiful people. These were magazines like Family Fun , Southern Living , and Better Homes and Gardens . Where are the older people? There were a few, but they looked... well, good for their age. Nice weight, trim, youngish, still jogging. That is, old-er with a touch of gray and a glass of wine. Are we so enamored with youth and beauty that we are afraid to publish pictures of people in wheelchairs or with walkers? (Thank you, UP !) I'm reminded of the old movie, Logan's Run, where everyone over 30 is expected to pass out of existence. They just disappear, leaving the world young and beautiful. Now that I'm a grandparent I am becoming more aware of ageism. I'm thankful that where I am, in a college town, I still get many requests to mentor

Modern FPs not usually from U.S.

I prefer collecting and restoring vintage fountain pens (which began when I inherited my grandfather's pens). Most of these are U.S.-made, such as Parker, Sheaffer, Conklin, and Wahl-Eversharp. Not many fountain pens are made in the U.S. anymore, except by smaller, specialty pen-makers, like Bexley and Edison. Here are a few of my modern fountain pens, mainly from other countries: From the left: Hero 100 (Chinese) Parker 45 (UK) Sheaffer Balance II (US) Haolilai 801 (Chinese) Pelikan Technixx (German) Aurora Ipsilon (Italian) Pelikan m250 (German) Waterman Kultur (French)

Receiving the Nobel Peace prize

I was totally surprised to hear our president being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. For what accomplishment? Not that he won't one day deserve it, who knows? But I agree with the assessment given by Ross Douthat in this New York Times Op-Ed ... Here was a place to draw a clean line between himself and all the overzealous Obamaphiles, at home and abroad, who poured their post-Christian, post-Marxist yearnings into the vessel of his 2008 campaign. Here was a chance to establish himself, definitively, as an American president — too self-confident to accept an unearned accolade, and too instinctively democratic to go along with European humbug. He didn’t take it. Instead, he took the Nobel Peace Prize. Big mistake. And Douthat's conclusion... .... the prize leaves Obama more open to ridicule. It confirms, as a defining narrative of his presidency, the gap between his supporters’ cloud-cuckoo-land expectations and the inevitable disappointments of reality. It dovetails perfectly w

God's rivals, as it were

"See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your f

The case for the deity of Christ

Jesus replied, "Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." "You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!" "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I AM!" At this, they picked up stones to stone him. (John 8:55-59 NIV) Outline and quotes from David's sermon last Sunday: 1. The Importance of the Doctrine a. It is central to Christian faith. b. The fact that Jesus Christ is God distinguishes Christianity from other major religions c. If Jesus was not God, than His death had no special significance, and we are still the objects of God’s wrath. d. If Jesus was not God, than He is not coming back again to establish His kingdom. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Thr

Reconfiguring the Lutheran church

I have so appreciated the faithfulness and tireless efforts of Bob Benne and others (including Gerry McDermott) as they have sought to keep Lutheranism true to its biblical foundations. Bob wrote this after the CORE meeting in Indiana to chart a new course for conservative Lutherans. I was especially moved by the last paragraph. My Interpretation of the CORE Assembly at Fishers, Indiana, Last Weekend I haven’t been so excited about church life beyond the local parish for a long time. The camaraderie, the singing, the hospitality, the powerful talks, the affirmation of biblical and confessional truth, the focus on the future……all were expressed in almost overwhelming portions. The 1,200 souls present were full of life and determination. The CORE assembly was quite an experience. For the first time in 25 years I felt liberation from the arduous struggle for the soul of the ELCA and freedom for the shaping of a future church life in which I could joyously participate. I had hoped fo

briz & his boys at thompson field

Looking forward to taking in the VT men's soccer game v. NC State on Sunday afternoon. Great field; great coach; great team.

Sheaffer Snorkel

Finally finished restoring this fountain pen, one of the most complex made, but one of the coolest. First the parts, then the finished product. Fills perfectly with a tube that extends when you twist the cap. And it writes like a dream -- a Sheaffer Statesman with a Triumph nib made of Palladium/silver. Made sometime between 1952-56. I picked it up from a flea market for $3. Worth much more than that now.

do you pray?

Came upon this good quote today, from "the bishop" (of Liverpool)... This I do say, that not praying is a clear proof that a man is not yet a true Christian. He cannot really feel his sins. He cannot love God. He cannot feel himself a debtor to Christ. He cannot long after holiness. He cannot desire heaven. He has yet to be born again. He has yet to be made a new creature. He may boast confidently of election, grace, faith, hope, and knowledge, and deceive ignorant people. But you may rest assured it is all vain talk if he does not pray. From J.C. Ryle, “A Call to Prayer.”

On the Trinity

Wayne Grudem gives the simplest description of the Triune God: “God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology ) Berkhof gives a little more, adding the important distinction that Person is not an Individual, but persona (Latin). This may be more in the direction of Karl Barth's eternal semi-modalism. (Not to be confused with old Modalism.) “The Bible teaches that, while He exists in three Persons, called Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, these are not three persons in the ordinary sense of the word; they are not three individuals, but rather three modes or forms in which the Divine Being exists. At the same time they are of such a nature that they can enter into personal relations. The Father can speak to the Son and vice versa, and both can send forth the Spirit. The real mystery of the Trinity consists in this that each one of the Persons possesses the whole of the divine es

St Patrick's breastplate

Sometimes people think the doctrine of the Trinity is a speculative and irrelevant formula, far removed from daily life. But here's how Patrick (aka St. Patrick), missionary to the Irish in the fourth century, applied God's Triune nature at the beginning of the day. Very realistic and practical... I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through the belief in the threeness, Through confession of the oneness Of the Creator of Creation. I arise today Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism, Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial, Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension, Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom. I arise today Through the strength of the love of Cherubim, In obedience of angels, In the service of archangels, In hope of resurrection to meet with reward, In prayers of patriarchs, In predictions

Pleasure reading

Man, I just love sitting down with a volume of Martyn Lloyd-Jones sermons! No printed sermons feed me like his. In fact not many other books, period. I can even hear the words in my mind with his Welsh accent. This is the first volume of his series in Acts , preached at Westminster Chapel in, I think, the mid- 1960s. Here's timeless presentation of the gospel and biblical truth. Highly recommended. I have many biblical and theological works I need to read, but this is what I read for sheer pleasure. It's soul-searching, but so very enriching. With such a large view of God, Lloyd-Jones puts all human pride and problems in their place.

Another reminder

As I plan for another year of ministry I need reminders of what it is I'm called to do. There are soooo many needs and opportunities for Christian leaders. I go back to passages like this: "But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:4 ESV) And Psalm 23, describing to us God's ministry as a Shepherd who 1) feeds, 2) guides, 3) protects, and 4) cares for the flock. Banner of Truth posted this today, a pastoral charge by John Murray , where he summarizes our calling: You have been called as minister in this congregation and you have been ordained in pursuance of that call. There are many functions which devolve upon you in that particular capacity, but I want to draw your attention particularly to two of these functions because I believe they are the two main functions which devolve upon the minister of the gospel. And these two functions are the preaching of the Word and pastoral care . Read the rest of the charge here .

Remembering Beslan, Sept 3

Last year we spent three hours at church one afternoon with Russian representatives from North Ossetia, talking on the subject of faith in the aftermath of tragedy. Many of these delegates were psychologists or social service professionals who had dealt with the aftermath of the Beslan School Hostage crisis , September 1-3, 2004. At the end of this siege on September 3, there were nearly a thousand casualties, including the death of 334 hostages, of which 186 were children. These workers had come to Virginia Tech a year after our 4.16 to dialogue with us. Most of the representatives were Russian Orthodox and spoke freely of their faith and relationship to the church. It was a precious and intensely moving time. One of them, a social worker, said that there is no problem for mental health professionals to advise their counselees to seek God and attend church, something not usually allowed to American mental health professionals. They said, "There is no possible answer in this lif