One way to answer this question is to look at what the early church prayed for. Here is a list gathered from the New Testament. It can guide you in how you pray. I suggest that periodically you pray through this list just to test whether your prayers are leaving out anything the New Testament included. We don't have to pray all of these each time we pray. But over time it would be good if our prayers had the breadth and depth of the New Testament prayers.Read the full list here.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
If you meet with a Christian for Bible reading and prayer for the next 12 months, what will happen? You don't know exactly, but you can have certain hopes and prayers. Both of you will grow in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Perhaps you will encourage others to start meeting one-to-one. Perhaps you will both continue to meet with different Christians for the next 40 years. Just imagine what could happen if it was commonplace for Christians to meet for one-to-one Bible reading and prayer! What would happen if our society was peppered with thousands of such meetings? What growth in godliness might we see?
Joseph Bottum has a good article in First Things on Abortion after Obama. Here's the conclusion:
After every election, out in full howl come the voices declaring that the fight over abortion is over. And, after every election, those voices prove wrong. That’s because, in the long run, the fight will never be over until the slaughter of the unborn ceases. And it’s also because the supporters of abortion will not rest with their electoral victory. They are going to push and push until, at last, we stop them.Read the whole thing.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
- Gordon D. Fee in NICNT
- James Grant in PtW
- Jeffrey Weima in BECNT
- Seyoon Kim and F. F. Bruce in WBC ~2011
- David E. Garland in NCCS ~2012
- web (a new reading each day appears online at the same link)
- RSS (subscribe to receive by RSS)
- email (subscribe to receive by email)
- iCal (download an iCalendar file)
- mobile (view a new reading each day on your mobile device)
- print (download a PDF of the whole plan)
Here are the three I would recommend:
ESV Study Bible (ESV Literary Study Bible contains the same plan)
With this plan there are four readings each day, divided into four main sections:
- Psalms and Wisdom Literature;
- Pentateuch and the History of Israel;
- Chronicles and Prophets; and
- Gospels and Epistles.
In order to make the readings come out evenly, four major books of the Bible are included twice in the schedule: the Psalms (the Bible’s hymnal), Isaiah (the grandest of the OT prophets), Luke (one of the four biblical Gospels), and Romans (the heart of the Bible’s theology of salvation).I plan to print out this PDF, which is designed to be cut into four bookmarks that can be placed at the appropriate place in your Bible reading.
The list of readings from the Psalms and the Wisdom Literature begins and ends with special readings that are especially appropriate for the opening and closing of the year. The list of readings from the Pentateuch and the History of Israel proceeds canonically through the five books of Moses and then chronologically through the history of the OT, before closing the year with the sufferings of Job. The list of readings from the Chronicles and the Prophets begins with the Chronicler’s history of the people of God from Adam through the exile, followed by the Major and Minor Prophets, which are organized chronologically rather than canonically.
Daily Reading Bible
With this plan you go through:
- the NT twice,
- the Psalms twice, and
- the rest of the OT once.
E.g., on January 1 you are to read Genesis 1-2, Psalm 1, Matthew 1-2. When you open to Genesis 1, you'll see in the outer margin a notation that says in bold, JAN 1. That's where you start reading, until you get to JAN 2 at Genesis 3.. At the bottom of the page of Genesis 1 there is a box that says, JAN 1: Ps 1; Matt 1-2--which indicates the other readings for that day. Hope that makes sense. (Here's a sample from Matthew.)
M’Cheyne One-Year Reading Plan
With this plan you read through:
- the NT twice,
- the Psalms twice, and
- the rest of the OT once.
If you go with this route, I'd recommend D.A. Carson's For the Love of God (vol. 1 and vol. 2 are available--vols. 3 and 4 are forthcoming). Carson's introduction and preface--which includes a layout of the calendar--are available for free online.
Since there are four readings each day, it's easy to modify this one so that you read through the Bible once in two years, by reading just the first two readings each day for the first year and the second two readings each day for the second year.
And here are a couple of plans from NavPress:
The Discipleship Journal Reading Plan
With this plan you read through the entire Bible once.
The unique advantage of this plan is that there are "catch-up" days:
- To prevent the frustration of falling behind, which most of us tend to do when following a Bible reading plan, each month of this plan gives you only 25 readings. Since you'll have several "free days" each month, you could set aside Sunday to either not read at all or to catch up on any readings you may have missed in the past week.
- If you finish the month's readings by the twenty-fifth, you could use the final days of the month to study passages that challenged or intrigued you.
Book-at-a-Time Bible Reading Plan
This book-at-a-time approach takes you through the whole Bible once in a year. It has two readings each day:
- the first reading alternatives between OT and NT books (about 3-4 chapters a day), with the Gospels spread throughout the year;
- the second reading is about a chapter a day of the wisdom literature and Isaiah.
- What are the top three needs of the church today?
- What legacy would you like to leave with the leaders, with whom you have been involved?
- Which is the most important book you have written?
- What are the top five most influential books in your life?
- How do you shape your devotional life?
- How have you been so productive in writing?
- What advice have you for us in learning to communicate across cultures?
Hadley Arkes, Pornography: Settling the Question in Principle
Roger Scruton, On the Abuse of Sex
Pamela Paul, From Pornography to Porno to Porn
Norman Doidge, MD, Acquiring Pornographic Tastes
Jill Manning, The Impact of Pornography on Women
Ana Bridges, Pornography's Effects on Interpersonal Relationships
Kirk Doran, The Economics of Pornography
Gerard V. Bradley, Moral Principles Which Govern the Legal Regulation of Pornography
James Stoner, Freedom, Virtue, and the Politics of Regulating Pornography
Hamza Yusuf, Climbing Mt. Purgatorio: Reflections from the Seventh Cornice
Their website has a helpful collection of links to equip students to understand the arguments.
Monday, December 29, 2008
We now have the entire curriculum of The Theology Program for free on iTunes as well as all the electives.I encourage you to check it out.
- Introduction to Theology with C. Michael Patton and Rhome Dyck
- Bibliology and Hermeneutics with C. Michael Patton and Rhome Dyck
- Trinitarianism with C. Michael Patton and Rhome Dyck
- Humanity and Sin with C. Michael Patton and Rhome Dyck
- Soteriology with C. Michael Patton and Rhome Dyck
- Ecclesiology and Eschatology with C. Michael Patton and Rhome Dyck
Here is a list of the electives.
- Introduction to Apologetics with Robert Bowman
- Apologetic Methods with Robert Bowman
- Christian Philosophy with Paul Copan
Be sure to subscribe to these on iTunes as we will be updating them with new courses soon.
Also, here are the COMING ELECTIVES:
- Church History through the Reformation with Sam Storms
- The General Epistles and Revelation with Mark Hitchcock
- Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons with Robert Bowman
Read the whole thing.
Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.
But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.
HT: Matt Harmon
Saturday, December 27, 2008
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got quite a few Bibles lying around your home—Bibles that have been replaced at one time or another and are now just gathering dust. You don’t want to throw them out, but also don’t quite know what to do with them. Well here is one way of putting them to good use. You can bare your bookshelf and send the books to pastors in other parts of the world. Christian Resources International has a program in place that will help you do just that. “Just enter your name, address, and denomination in the form below, and then we’ll send you—free—all the mailing materials you need to send a Bible to a specific pastor, Christian worker, church member, or seeker overseas. We’ll send you the recipient’s name and address, so you can pray for the recipient by name.” You can go to the post office (if you’re in the U.S., at least) and send that envelope anywhere in the world for only $12. And, because ” the mailing materials bear CRI’s return address, you need not worry that you’ll be personally contacted by anyone overseas.” Take a look at the program and see if it may be a good way of finally clearing out some of those old Bibles.
Here's an excerpt from Gerald Bray's foreword:
Today the world has changed in many ways, but at bottom it remains the same as ever. The hearts of people, including many church people, are cold and led astray by an array of false gods. Material prosperity has dulled the spirits of many, and our civilization is drowning in intellectual trivia and moral turpitude, while at the same time it convinces itself that it is the highest form of life yet achieved by the human race. In this world, Calvin’s voice needs to be heard again. God will not be mocked, and in the end we shall discover that he is our Sovereign Lord. What will he say to you on the day of judgment? Calvin had no doubts about this—he knew that he would be welcomed into the joy of his Lord as a good and faithful servant. John Piper has brought that message to life for a new generation, and I hope and pray that this study of the great reformer will stir the hearts of all who read it to seek God’s face again, and turn to him and live.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Here are the lyrics:
It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David's town
And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold
It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love
Noble Joseph at her side
Callused hands and weary eyes
There were no midwives to be found
In the streets of David's town
In the middle of the night
So he held her and he prayed
Shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move
It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love
For little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
It was a labor of love
Monday, December 22, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
You can have the hippest soul patch in town, and quote Coldplay lyrics till the cows come home; but oppose homosexuality and the only television program interested in having you appear will soon be The Jerry Springer Show when the audience has become bored of baiting the Klan crazies. Indeed, evangelicals will be the new freaks.Read the whole thing.
There are two temptations here which must be resisted at all costs. The first is to compromise biblical standards. The mainline denominations and seminaries are already doing this. As usual, as soon as religion's cultured despisers find something else to despise in religion, the mainlines, with their various seminaries and colleges, abandon it and join in the general anti-orthodox chorus, as radical, original, and revolutionary as a trust fund kid with a Che Guevara teeshirt and a Lexus. To apply a quotation from Michael Heseltine, like a pathetic one-legged army they march along, `Left, left, left, left left.'. They are merely part of the problem, not the solution. But there is a problem here for the orthodox too. The pro-gay issue is carried along by a veritable cultural tidal wave, with everybody from high-powered political pundits to soap opera screenwriters helping to create an environment where to be opposed to homosexuality is regarded as irrational, implausible bigotry. This can only be resisted in two ways: mindless anti-gay bigotry built on hatred, which is sinful and unbiblical; or a vigorous commitment to high biblical standards of morality. Such a commitment can only exist where there is a vigorous commitment to a high doctrine of scripture. There's the rub for Christian colleges, seminaries, and denominations: the winds of cultural change on this issue are so strong that they will very quickly expose the strength of the commitment to scripture amongst these various groups. My view? When church leaders, faculty, and the movers and shakers of the evangelical world find themselves excluded from the reputable avenues of power and cultural and professional influence and preferment, then we will see what their doctrine of scripture is really like, whether it really is solid, whether it really shapes their lives, their actions, and their priorities. The question is: will those in positions of authority in the schools, colleges, denomination and seminaries have the backbone to do what is necessary? Will they be willing to consider the reproach of Christ greater than the treasures of Egypt? When the invitations to the Larry King Show dry up, to be replaced by those from Jerry Springer, will they hold the line? I wish I had seen more evidence that that was the case and could be more confident about the future. As Don Carson commented recently, American Christians have yet to wake up to the fact that the gospel really is despised by the world. And I would add: in a culture where everyone seems to need to be liked, affirmed and, above all, agreed with, that realization is going to be very hard and challenging for the evangelical establishment to take on board.
The second temptation is to become what the pro-gay left are saying we are already: hatemongers. It is vital we remember that nobody can be reduced simply to their sexuality. No heterosexual person is simply heterosexual; no gay person is simply gay. We are all complex human beings, defined by the basic category of image bearers of God, not sexual preference. As soon as we start thinking of people as a sexual preference, not as image bearers, we lose sight of them as individuals. They become mere labels or slogans, not persons. It is hard to love a slogan; indeed, it is very easy rather to hate such. Even as we are being labeled and turned into mere sound bites, we must not respond in kind. Let us stand firm on biblical ethics, but let us also reach out to gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals with the love of Christ. As Luther would remind us, our task is not done when we simply preach the law to the lost; we must then also preach the gospel to them and point them to Christ. For such, as Paul once said, were some of you; and, thankfully, somebody treated you as a lost person not an abstract moral category or a sexual preference.
John Seel writes a mini-review on Tullian's blog. He writes:
The Tale of Despereaux is a compelling morality tale where themes of acceptance, sacrifice, forgiveness, beauty, light, and love find their narrative voice and compelling action. It is a disservice to the young to think that these adult themes or heroic choices are limited to the grown-up world. In fact, reality knows no age limit to nobility of purpose, no size limit to the expanse of the heart. It’s best to learn these lessons when one is young – to work them out on the playground, in the classroom, around the kitchen table, or in this case, through a beautifully told adventure about a tiny mouse with big ears…and an even bigger heart. . . . Few movies depict forgiveness as central to a virtuous heroic life. . . . Imagination always precedes knowledge. It’s better to illustrate this lesson in a story, than teach it as a rule. For when the heart is engaged, the feet follow. The Tale of Despereaux is tale of redemption.Read the whole thing, which also includes discussion questions.
What role does the Ph.D. student or the professor play in the local church? Do they consider their role restricted, for example, to teaching the adult Sunday school or leading a Bible study, such that other duties–less 'sacred' callings–like the clean-up team or the tea rota or the nursery are considered off-limits and infra dig? On the contrary, the church is the church, and it is a privilege for anyone to be involved at any level in any of her manifold activities. We Protestants have, in a sense, regressed to the Middle Ages with our view that certain tasks (the ones involving brainpower and intellectual qualifications) are somehow more important than others. Just try teaching Sunday School in a classroom that's filthy and full of litter. A Ph.D. or a place in a graduate program does not exempt you from getting your hands literally dirty for the Lord.Read the whole thing.
In addition, such involvement in the everyday tasks of the church also helps to ground theology in real life. For example, teaching Sunday school to young children can be both humbling and challenging: humbling, because sometimes young children ask in all innocence some of the most profound and searching theological questions to which the greatest minds might struggle to respond; and challenging because communicating theological truth to young minds can make exacting demands upon both our theological knowledge and our communication skills which cannot be experienced anywhere else; indeed, I have found my poor theology and poor communication skills to have been more ruthlessly exposed in the junior SS class than in the doctoral seminar. And, of course, teaching kids can help to keep us humble: they do not understand academic qualifications, but they do understand boring, irrelevant, and pretentious–and they punish such unmercifully.
Session One: Legacy and Meaning
- The Meaning of Theological Education – Dr. Timothy George
- The Meaning of Southern Seminary – Dr. Mark Dever
- American Religion (in Search of Itself) in the Age of D.L. Moody – Dr. Stephen Nichols
- James P. Boyce's Vision for Southern Seminary – Dr. Thomas Nettles
- Liberal Theology, the Social Gospel, and the Invention of Social Ethics – Dr. Gary Dorrien
- Liberalism and Orthodoxy at Southern Seminary 1870-1910 – Dr. Greg Wills
- J. Gresham Machen, E.Y. Mullins, and the American Religion – Dr. Darryl Hart
- E.Y. Mullins, Pragmatism, and Experiential Religion – Dr. Albert Mohler
- Billy Graham's America – Dr. Grant Wacker
- American Culture and the Reshaping of Southern Seminary – Dr. Russell Moore
Friday, December 19, 2008
Here is the deep irony -- Rick Warren has devoted enormous energy toward the goal of defusing the culture war and creating common ground. He has attracted the criticism of many conservative evangelicals who have been concerned about how these efforts have been positioned and for what often appears as comments at their expense. At times, Warren has even had to issue clarifications in order to make his generalized statements more specific. If the President-elect wanted to choose a figure recognized as an evangelical in the public eye, but sympathetic to much of his stated agenda to unite, he could scarcely have chosen a more recognizable figure than Rick Warren.Read the whole thing.
But now many of Obama's own supporters attack Rick Warren as if he is a hate-driven homophobe, which he clearly is not. All that was necessary to bring on this opposition is Warren's opposition to same-sex marriage and his support for Proposition 8. Now, he is grouped along with the most strident and careless apostles of hatred.
It doesn't take much. We would all like to be considered cool. Cultural opposition is a tough challenge and bearing public hatred is a hard burden. Being cool means being considered mainstream, acceptable, and admirable. Believing that same-sex marriage is wrong is enough to turn "uncool" in an instant, at least in many circles.
I am not throwing Rick Warren to the wolves over this. He now finds himself in a whirlwind, and he will not be the last. Pastor after pastor and church after church will face a similar challenge in short order. No matter how cool you think you are or think that others think you are, the hour is coming when the issue of homosexuality -- taken alone -- will be the defining issue in coolness. If you accept the full normalization of homosexuality, you will be cool. If you do not, you are profoundly uncool, no matter how much good work you do nor how much love and compassion you seek to express.
Mike Mckinley and Greg Gilbert offer their thoughts, including some helpful counsel to churches.
Despite the predictability of characters, setting and plot of apostasy lit, and despite the grating self-assured stance of its author protagonists, apostasy lit is one of the most valuable genres for those who, despite all the potential pitfalls, actually take their Christianity seriously. What's more, apostasy lit is valuable for those Christian parents who care for their children and hope that their children embrace and not run away from the faith. Among the many potential teaching moments apostasy lit provides, two stand out: the warning against sternness or harshness and the warning against creating a stifling environment. And herein lies the lesson that should not be ignored by readers of apostasy lit. If harshness and sternness coupled with a stifling environment are what make a piece of literature apostasy lit, then those two may be guilty of causing the apostasy in the first place.Read the whole thing.
The book is thoughtfully set out, and the writing is clear. Many more details are evaluated than can show up in this brief review. One wishes that the editors had set the three principal writers not only five questions that they had to answer, but also, say, ten specific instances, of various kinds, where the New Testament cites the Old. One would have had a much better grasp of the outworking of theory in the less forgiving terrain of exegesis. In any case, the volume is useful for students first breaking into these debates, though they should be warned in advance that the three positions advocated here are far from being the only ones. It is doubtful that any informed reader will change his or her mind as a result of reading this book.Read the whole thing.
Inevitably, I kept wanting to ask my own questions to one writer or another. For example: Even if we accept that (at least some kinds of) types in the Old Testament are clearly predictive, would the human author of the first entry in a series of events/institutions that become a repeated pattern (i.e., a type) have understood that he was laying the cornerstone for a type? Doubtless God would know, and presumably the more discerning of later human authors would sooner or later discern the pattern, but why is it necessary or even plausible to assert that the author of the first entry would be so discerning? Or again: Is it not the case that the more one insists that the New Testament authors' interpretive methods exactly mirror those of Second Temple Judaism, the harder it is to explain why their understanding of what Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) actually says differs so much from theirs? If one responds that this difference is entirely explained by "Christotelic" commitments that are themselves entirely independent of distinctive exegesis, then neither the Jewish nor the Christian exegesis has much to do with the determination of meaning. More questions spring to mind, but perhaps it is unfair to give the impression the authors should have written a different sort of book.
As an academic and a culture critic, I am not given to gushing over new publications. But Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, brought me pretty close to doing just such a non-scholarly thing! Odd, too, because of the subject. With so much coming out these days on religion and culture, one becomes a bit jaded about the possibility of something really fresh emerging. Well, this book is fresh, compelling, and engagingly written. More important, it goes deeply into its subject. Or should I say, subjects? For while there is unity to the book, it is wide-ranging, moving easily from theoretical to theological to practical considerations.Read the whole thing.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Scarcely less important than speed of access is the Internet's sheer intoxicating addictiveness–or, more broadly, we might be better to think of the intoxicating addictiveness of the entire digital world. Many are those who are never quiet, alone, and reflective, who never read material that demands reflection and imagination. The iPods provide the music, the phones constant access to friends, phones and computers tie us to news, video, YouTube, Facebook, and on and on. This is not to demonize tools that are so very useful. Rather, it is to point out the obvious: information does not necessarily spell knowledge, and knowledge does not necessarily spell wisdom, and the incessant demand for unending sensory input from the digital world (says he, as he writes this on a computer for an electronic theological journal) does not guarantee we make good choices. We have the potential to become world citizens, informed about every corner of the globe, but in many western countries the standards of geographical and cross-cultural awareness have seriously declined. We have access to spectacularly useful information, but most of us diddle around on ephemeral blogs and listen to music as enduring as a snowball in a blast furnace. Sometimes we just become burned out by the endless waves of bad news, and decide the best course is to turn the iPod volume up a bit.I'd encourage you to read the whole thing. Here's the conclusion:
I shall not here review the Christian resources God has kindly lavished on us to enable us not to conform to the pattern of this world. If we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, then we must be reading the Scriptures perennially, seeking to think God's thoughts after him, focusing on the gospel of God and pondering its implications in every domain of life. We need to hear competing voices of information from the world around us, use our time in the digital world wisely, and learn to shut that world down when it becomes more important to get up in the morning and answer emails than it does to get up and read the Bible and pray. We may also learn much from church history, where we observe fellow believers in other times and cultures learning the shape of faithfulness. We begin to detect how easily the "world" may squeeze us into its mold. We soon learn that adequate response is more than mere mental resolve, mere disciplined observance of the principle "garbage in, garbage out" (after all, we are what we think), though it is not less than that. The gospel is the power of God issuing in salvation. Empowered by the Holy Spirit and living in the shadow of the cross and resurrection, we find ourselves wanting to be conformed to the Lord Jesus, wanting to be as holy and as wise as pardoned sinners can be this side of the consummation.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
A coalition of pro-choice organizations has sent Barack Obama and his transition team a document titled “Advancing Reproductive Rights and Health in a New Administration,” which has been posted on the president-elect’s website.
The document “urge[s] the next President to articulate and implement a vision for a new, commonsense approach to the nation’s and the world’s pressing reproductive health needs,” and outlines the actions they would like to see him take toward that end — including improving access to abortion worldwide, increasing funding for comprehensive sex education and defunding abstinence-only programs, pushing for the Freedom of Choice Act, and appointing pro-choice judges and government officials.
The Obama website is accepting comments on this document. Click here to read it and to give your opinion.
It is hard to believe that while my wife and I are desperately doing everything we can to make sure our baby, at 23 weeks, survives and continues to grow in the womb for the next few months, there are others who in this country actually have abortions at this stage.(For those of you praying for the Grants and their baby son, see this encouraging update!)
Think for a minute about what James writes above. What is the difference between the baby growing inside Brandy Grant's womb, and a baby growing inside the womb of a mother undergoing abortion. (In the time it takes you to read this post another baby will have been killed.)
The difference comes down to one word: want. Few words carry more power in the world today than these: I do not want this child at this time.
Listen to John Piper address this issue:
. . . in a world without God, the will of the strong creates (or nullifies) the personhood of the weak. . . . And the awesome thing is that we endow her will not just with sovereignty over her unborn baby, but with the authority to define it: If she wants it, it is a baby, a person. If she does not want it, it is not a baby, not a person. In other words, in our laws we have now made room for some killing to be justified not on the basis of the rights or crimes of the one killed, but decisively on the basis of the will, the desire, of a stronger person. The decisive criterion of personhood and non-personhood, what is right and wrong, what is legal and what is illegal, is the will of the strong. Might makes right. Might makes personhood. Might makes legal. This is the ultimate statement of anarchy. It is the essence of the original insurrection against God, and against objective truth and right and beauty.
No culture can survive this kind of anarchical thinking indefinitely. Part of the remedy is to spread the truth: Might does not make right. Desire does not define duty. Wanting does not create worth. All of us know intuitively that if someone desires our destruction, that desire does not justify our murder. We know this. We should say it over and over again.
The latest issue of Themelios is different (available as a 129-page PDF or in HTML). Every single article looks well worth reading.
Here's the table of contents:
- Editorial [on not conforming to the world of technology], by D.A. Carson
- Minority Report: The Way of the Christian Academic, by Carl Trueman
- The Gospel and the Poor, by Tim Keller
- Shared Intentions? Reflections on Inspiration and Interpretation in Light of Scripture's Dual Authorship, by Jared M. Compton
- The Center of Biblical Theology in Acts: Deliverance and Damnation Display the Divine, by James M. Hamilton Jr.
- Salvation History, Chronology, and Crisis: A Problem with Inclusivist Theology of Religions, Part 2 of 2, by Adam Sparks
- Ezra, According to the Gospel: Ezra 7:10, Philip Graham Ryken
- Book Reviews
In the Chicago Tribune this morning John Kass summarizes what happened:
A federal jury convicted him on 18 corruption counts, including allowing the deadly licenses-for-bribes scheme to continue under him when he was Illinois secretary of state and cynically quashing an investigation into whether a truck driver paid a bribe for his license before being involved in the horrific, fiery explosion that claimed the lives of six of Scott and Janet's children.Ryan has never apologized or expressed remorse--until last week. Hoping to receive clemency from President Bush, the former governor, wrote a letter offering a "heartfelt apology" for his "mistakes." (You can read the letter here.)
Scott Willis, the father, is a pastor. Janet, the mother, is the author of a wonderful children's book on forgiveness. Together they have offered consistent, Christian witness in the light of sin and tragedy. (You can read online a Crossway tract in which they give their testimony: Through the Flames: The Willis Family Story.)
The Chicago Tribune's Kass tracked down the Willises to get their reaction to Ryan's news conference:
"That news conference put us in a difficult position," Janet said. "We were kind of caught. Do we say, 'Yes, we forgive him,' and they get what they want without any accountability? Or do we say, 'No,' and then we're treated as prideful and angry. The burden was put on us. And because Ryan was vague and unclear, we were left in a no-man's land."Read the whole thing.
"This is not for our sake. The kids aren't going to come back," Scott said. "I don't want to make things emotional here. Really, this is for his benefit. He talked about a clear conscience. But I don't understand how you can have a clear conscience and live with a lie. So if we meet, it's for his sake, to clear his conscience. Not for our sake."
Scott said he and Janet prayed on it, and thought about it some more, and, finally, set down some requirement for their meeting.
"We wanted to talk to your readers and to Mr. Ryan about what forgiveness is about," Scott said. He told me of a book that has given them comfort, "Unpacking Forgiveness" by Chris Brauns, which includes this definition:
"Forgiveness is the commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated."
I asked them to explain.
"It means that there are consequences for our actions," Scott said. "He's paying for those actions. But if he'd truly like to be forgiven, then we'd have to sit down with him and go over the specific counts, like when he killed the investigation into the crash that took our children. And we'd have to see if there is true repentance. There can only be true repentance if he does admit he did all these things and that they were wrong.
"If he wouldn't respond positively, it wouldn't be maddening as it would be pitiable. I'm not going to get into saying, 'I forgive you,' if he doesn't want to admit it. If we meet, I will ask very specific questions. I would like to know he knows he's done wrong. If he doesn't take responsibility, then there is no reason to continue."
Janet and Scott believe, from a lifetime of reading the Bible and practicing their Christian faith, that many of us have it all wrong when it comes to forgiveness. Someone does something wrong, they admit sorrow for some vague offense and we feel pressure to forgive them. It's all wrapped up in a neat package. That's too easy.
"It doesn't work that way," Janet said. "Mistakes are mistakes. Children make mistakes. We all make mistakes. But if a person were truly repentant, then it's not a mistake, it's not an accident, it was deliberate. God doesn't forgive us unless we repent. But how can we humans know? That's the tricky part. You have to be willing to accept the consequences."
The consequence is that Ryan must accept the idea that he serve out his prison sentence, they said, not for any offense against the Willises alone but for breaking his oath to the people of Illinois.
"He should do his time. He did criminal acts," Scott said. "And still we're concerned with him, with his well-being. God does work in people's hearts to change them. This could be a dramatic instance of that."
"If there is a change of heart," Janet said. "If his heart has truly changed."
I'm glad there are people like the Willises to teach us, that there are people who believe that politicians like Ryan can change their hearts, that the door to forgiveness is always open, but that those who truly seek it must repent and accept the consequences that flow from what they've done.
I again commend Chris Brauns's excellent treatment of these issues in Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds. Here is the endorsement that the Willises wrote for the book:
“Grieving the loss of our six children in a van accident and then being reminded of that loss throughout thirteen years of subsequent battles forced us to search the Scriptures concerning the issue of forgiveness. Chris Brauns not only has confirmed answers that we had found but has thoroughly sorted out what it takes to be right with God and man. This is a diligent work with heart.”
Dripping sweat on the paperback's pages, I speed-walked and read for one hour and twenty minutes holding this book in my hand so that I could finish it before my routine was over. That was two weeks ago. Since then I have been trying to figure out how to describe the way it has affected me. It’s mainly because of the Dad, Jeremiah Land.Read the whole thing for why Piper liked it so much. Here's the closing:
I am talking about Leif Enger’s first novel, Peace Like a River. Abraham said I should read it. If my sons tell me to read a thing, I do—at least so far.
I fear saying something trite. I read one reviewer who said, “heartwarming.” Like a rifle bullet in the head, it’s heartwarming. The heart needs something bigger and deeper than warming. And this book helps.
What do I make of it? Wrong question.I've been reading Enger's second novel, published earlier this year: So Brave, Young, and Handsome. It's set in the early 20th century West and is an adventure story of sorts as an outlaw seeking redemption.
What is it making of me?
More alive to everything true, I hope. More steady in the wind. More hopeful. Less anxious. Eager for Christ to show up.
Yes. This is a recommendation. Ask for it for Christmas.
I'll be joining the other Ref21 contributors--Ligon Duncan, Derek Thomas, Carl Trueman, Iain Campbell, Steve Nichols, Thabiti Anyabwile, Phil Ryken, Rick Phillips, and Sean Lucas--in providing a 250-word summary/reflection each day of the week from the Institutes. Paul Helm and Sinclair Ferguson will also help us blog through it.
Here's a good snippet from Derek Thomas on why he appreciates Calvin so much:
What is it about Calvin that so inspires me? This: his disciplined style, his determination never to speculate, his utter submission to Bible words as God's words, his submission to Christ's Lordship, his sense of the holy, his concern to be as practical as possible; the fact that godly living was his aim and not theology for the sake of it. In a forest of theologians, Calvin stands like a Californian Redwood, towering over everyone else.He also has a good word here:
I know that the word 'Calvinist' is a theological swear-word in some circles. I am convinced that folk who use the word that way have never read Calvin at all! They may have read about him; but they have not read the careful, reverential way in which he wrote.Read the whole thing for some clarification about the way, for example, that Calvin approached predestination.
Ligon Duncan offers a Top 10 reasons to read the Institutes this year:
1. Because it the most important book written in the last 500 years.If you don't own a copy of Institues, you can get the 2-volume set from Westminster for 35% off. It also may not be a bad idea to also pick up a copy of A Theological Guide to Calvin's Institutes.
2. Because it is foundational for every Reformed systematic theology ever since.
3. Because Calvin was the best exegete in the history of Christianity.
4. Because Calvin is one of the five greatest theologians in Christian history.
5. Because he wrote it as a "sum of piety" not as an arid, speculative, dogmatic treatise.
6. Because it gave J.I. Packer the idea for Knowing God.
7. Because Calvin thought and wrote succintly and clearly. "Brevitas et claritas" was his motto - brief and clear!
8. Because you will know God better, if you read it prayerfully and believingly.
9. Because it's the 500th anniversary year of Calvin's birthday. Don't be a party pooper.
But I confess that even I was a bit taken aback to see that Disney World is now recognizing his talents, setting up a special day in his honor:
Congratulations, my friend!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
At the end of the book there's an FAQ. (Free advice to academicians: do this more often!) One of the questions is the thorny issue of the role that the Mosaic law plays in the life of the Christian. Here's how she concludes the dicussion:
In sum, I think we can identify at least three categories of Mosaic law which, in their specific expectations, no longer apply to the Christian: those involving the regulation of Israel's government, those involving the regulation of Israel's temple, and those laws that the New Testament specifically repeals or changes. I would still argue that the values that shaped these regulations express the character of God and therefore must be attended to by the Christian, but the specifics of their application are no longer our responsibility. Thus my contribution to the conundrum named above is that rather than attempting to delineate the law of Moses based on categories foreign to that law itself ("moral/ethical" and "civil/ritual") perhaps we should address the question through a lens that is more native to both Old and New Testaments--Jesus' redefinition of certain major institutions of the Mosaic covenant. And for all the Mosaic law, be it superseded or not, we need to recognize that we can (and must) still learn a great deal about the character of God through these laws, even if we can no longer directly apply them to ourselves in this new covenant. So rather than thinking in terms of the Mosaic law being obsolete except for what Jesus maintains (as has been the predominant view), perhaps we should begin to think in terms of the law being in force except for what Jesus repeals. [pp. 228-229; italics mine]Undoubtedly there's much more to be said, but I think this is a helpful way to put matters.
I've mentioned this before, but if you're looking for a relatively concise survey of how the NT treats the continuity/discontinuity question regarding the law, a very helpful book is Frank Thielman's The Law and the New Testament: The Question of Continuity.
The link above takes you to the full transcript. For an index of various topics covered, here you go:
- The purpose of Christmas
- Who goes to heaven
- Talking with God
- His own doubts
- His questions for God
- How prayer works
- The economy and faith
- Gay marriage and divorce
- Evangelicals and poverty
- Christianity's negative image
HT: Tim Challies
This of course confirms what I have taught so many times from God’s word . . . the effects of sin visit themselves randomly upon the creation in varying degrees and at various times (John 9:1-3). God promises only that His grace will be sufficient as His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10), and that He has a purpose in the life of His child that will advance our good if we submit to what He has lovingly allowed (Hebrews 12:5-13).Here's the closing:
So that’s it! I have cancer and I can diagnose the theology as well as any oncologist can diagnose the pathology. But here’s the great part. I truly believe those things. I am not especially anxious, I am not struggling with God’s goodness or asking a lot of penetrating ‘why’s?’ I am more aware of my pending mortality and the brevity of this life by eternal standards.
I have a tenderness to the pain of others and a deeper burden for those closest to me. I am more acutely aware of my sin and much less willing to weigh it or measure it or manage it. I just want to be clean and close and consecrated in my walk with Christ; and I am, more than ever. Truly!!! And for that I am very thankful. I have experienced an outpouring of love from our congregation and beyond that has made me more appreciative than ever to pastor a church and belong to the body of Christ. God is good, I’m gonna get through this in God’s way and in His time and I love Him more than ever. Today is a good day, and because of it, no matter how this ‘day’ ends, tomorrow will be even better. Isn’t it great to know the Lord and love His word and walk in fellowship with His followers? How blessed I am! I will keep you up to date.Let's remember to lift up our brother in prayer.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Martin Luther's conception of the Nativity found expression in sermon, song, and art. This beautiful new gift edition of a classic collection combines all three.
In thirty compelling Christmas excerpts from his sermons, Luther vividly portrays the human realism of the Nativity: Mary's distress at giving birth with no midwife or water; Joseph's misgivings; the Wise Men's perplexity; and Herod's cunning.
Throughout, Luther suggests the question: If we had lived in Bethlehem when Jesus was born, would we have believed that this newborn baby was God in human form? And he reminds us that keeping Christmas is a year-around mission of caring for those in need.Nine elegant illustrations by Luther's contemporaries—including four by noted engraver Albrecht Durer—capture timeless scenes from the Christmas story. And two of Luther's beautiful Christmas carols are included on the final pages of the book.
How should a study Bible be used?Read the whole thing.
1. Read the text of the Bible first. Meditate upon the text and read it with care. Apply your own knowledge of the Bible in order to understand the particular text within its context and place in the biblical story-line. Consider and note other texts that come to your mind as directly related to this text. Read the text with full attention and conviction.
2. Look carefully at the cross-references linked within the study Bible to this text. Do not look only to the citations, but read the actual passages. This assistance is still the main contribution of the study Bible -- making related and parallel passages more accessible. A first principle of interpreting the Bible is to interpret the Bible by the Bible. In other words, to allow the Bible to interpret itself text by text.
3. As a third step, take full advantage of the notes, articles, and other helps printed with the text. In some cases, short articles will help in understanding contested issues or matters that might otherwise require a Bible dictionary or encyclopedia. Where appropriate, maps can be very useful, along with tables of measurement and similar points of reference. The very best of the study Bibles will also offer some level of commentary within the notes.
Of course, it is the Bible that is inspired, inerrant, and infallible -- not the study materials included in study Bibles. Therefore, judge the notes by the biblical text, and never the other way around. Where possible, use more than one study Bible in order to maximize this learning process.
In the wake of Blagojevich's arrest, many Americans are left wondering once again how intelligent people can do such stupid things -- especially when they've achieved the pinnacle of power.Read the whole thing. He closes in this way:
The answer comes down to pride.
I now realize that every human being has an infinite capacity for self-rationalization and self-delusion. Those who serve in public life are faced with enormous peer pressure and don't always take time to stop and think carefully about what they're doing.
Sometimes -- absorbed in accumulating political power -- they're not interested in stopping to think. But as I learned firsthand, self-obsession destroys character. It has to.
Tragically, America is continuing to rear its young to become not only self-obsessed, but obsessed with personal power. Quaint-sounding virtues such as courage, honesty and prudence -- historically considered the elements of character -- are no match for a society in which the exaltation and gratification of self becomes the overriding goal of life.
If Blagojevich is guilty, the best thing that could happen to him is to be tried and convicted. He's going to have to reach rock bottom -- just as I did -- before he will be able to escape his own prison of pride, self-delusion and self-righteousness. But that's a transformation we can never accomplish on our own. I can vouch for the fact that human pride is simply too strong.
Lewis was right: Pride is a spiritual cancer. And the only cure, for any of us, is to stop looking down and to look up. The cure can only be brought about in someone who has come to realize that the will and power to do good and not evil comes from God alone.