Friday, November 13, 2009

I like the E Street band and all, but...

...I don't know if I'd go this far. From the Big Man himself on being in the E Street Band and playing in concert: "For me, it is a church. It is my religion. It is my belief. To bring joy and light to the world is my purpose in life, so my spiritual teacher tells me. So when I go out on that stage, I'm bringing that spirit of joy to a lot of people, and it's just wonderful."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Athanasius on Praying the Psalms

Read the whole piece here. The part that struck me was this:

In the Psalter you learn about yourself. You find depicted in it all the movements of your soul, all its changes, its ups and downs, its failures and recoveries. Moreover, whatever your particular need or trouble, from this same book you can select a form of words to fit it, so that you do not merely hear and then pass on, but learn the way to remedy your ill. Prohibitions of evildoing are plentiful in Scripture, but only thePsalter tells you how to obey these orders and refrain from sin.

But the marvel with the Psalter is that, barring those prophecies about the Savior and some about the Gentiles, the reader takes all its words upon his lips as though they were his own, written for his special benefit, and takes them and recites them, not as though someone else were speaking or another person’s feelings being described, but as himself speaking of himself, offering the words to God as his own heart’s utterance, just as though he himself had made them up.

Lost twins?

This was funny. I particularly like the comparisons to Bob's Big Boy and Tim Allen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Walking in Memphis (this weekend)

I'm looking forward to preaching and teaching at Riveroaks Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Memphis (Germantown, TN) this coming weekend. I'll be doing two sessions from On Being Presbyterian on Saturday and a third for Sunday school. Plus, I'll be preaching on grace from Ephesians 2:1-10 in the morning and evening. Should be a good weekend although I'll miss being at FPC H'burg, listening to Derek Thomas who will be filling the pulpit for me.

Post 600: Review of Counsel from the Cross

On these hundredth anniversary posts, I typically write on Wendell Berry. Instead, I offer you a review of Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson's book, Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ.

Friday, November 06, 2009

George Robertson in the blogosphere

Our FPC folks got to know Dr. George Robertson, senior minister at FPC Augusta, Georgia, at my installation back in August when he preached a stirring message from Hebrews 13. Now it appears that George is in the blogosphere at the appropriately named "Pastor Robertson's Occasional Blog Entries." Looking forward to following my friend week by week as he posts.

Why do we use our words?

An insightful post from Tim Keller. The key part:

There are two very different motivations for adapting and accommodating our message to the sensibilities of a group of people.

The first motive is 'ambition' -- we do it for our sake, for our own glory and approval. The other reason we may accommodate people is for their sake, so that we can gradually win their trust until they become open to the truth they need so much.

The first motive will so control us that we will never offend people. The second motive will help us choose our battles and not offend people unnecessarily.

The Farels of the world cannot see any such distinction -- they believe any effort to be judicious and prudent is a cowardly 'sell-out'. But Calvin wisely recognized that his friend's constant, intemperate denunciations often stemmed not from a selfless courage, but rather from the opposite -- pride.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Counterfeit Gods

As I've grown in my knowledge of the Reformed faith, I've come increasingly to appreciate the Heidelberg Catechism. In its exposition of the Ten Commandments, the Catechism wisely notes that the first commandment requires shunning "all idolatry" (Q94). When it defines idolatry, the Catechism states that it "is having or inventing something in which one trusts in place of or alongside of the only true God, who has revealed himself in his Word" (Q95). Such an understanding has not only served to make Old Testament texts understandable, it actually reveals the basic problem in the human heart: our tendency to trust in other things alongside or in place of the God who has come near to us in Jesus.

Not only has the Heidelberg Catechism proven useful for me in this regard, but Tim Keller's new book Counterfeit Gods has also served as an excellent resource in thinking about idolatry and how it remains the basic problem of the human heart. In less than two hundred pages, Keller helpfully unpacks heart-idols, especially our fundamental trust in money, success, power, and love. He also deals with cultural idols such as racial superiority, national excellence, or religious accomplishment.

The book concludes with a discussion of how to deal with idolatry. Keller pastorally gives suggestions for how to identify heart idols; but he especially assists in recommending how to deal with this most basic human problem: by falling more in love with Jesus which, in turns, leads to deeper and more thorough repentance. "Rejoicing and repentance must go together," Keller observes. "Repentance without rejoicing will lead to despair. Rejoicing without repentance is shallow and will only provide passing inspiration instead of deep change. Indeed, it is when we rejoice over Jesus's sacrificial love for us most fully that, paradoxically, we are most truly convicted of our sin" (p. 172).

Obviously, no book is perfect. I wish that Keller had spent two or three chapters expanding the gold found in the concluding epilogue on "finding and replacing idols." I found myself longing to hear how God's grace triumphs even if the face of my persistent idolatry. (Maybe there is a future Keller book that will do this.) And yet, I found this book to be wonderful companion this past week in my morning worship. I will use this in my ministry, read and re-read it for my own benefit, and recommend it highly to others.

Above all, Keller's book helped me in keeping the first commandment in the way the Heidelberg Catechism suggests: shunning all idolatry and "sincerely acknowledge the only true God, trust him alone, look to him for every good thing, humbly and patiently, love him, fear, him, and honor him with all my heart." I'm very thankful for this book and its contribution in helping me understand my basic problem and the real solution.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Walking through the Valley

This is an amazing interview with Steven Curtis Chapman about his new album, written in the aftermath of the tragic death of his adopted daughter, Maria.

I especially appreciated this:

I'll refer again to the Psalms, specifically those where David is crying out, God, how long before you take away this pain, before you right these wrongs? And then almost in mid-despair, you get this sense of David literally making the choice, again, in saying to his own soul,Why are you so downcast within me? Remember this. Hope in God. Trust in God. This is your anchor. I've used that analogy, too, so many times—having this hope as an anchor.

We have absolutely questioned God and had our doubts and said, "Is this whole thing true? Is this real?" I sat on our tour bus last summer and called Scotty Smith
, my pastor, after spending a very difficult night of wrestling with God. We were getting ready to go do an interview with People magazine or Larry King or somebody, and I was just in tears. We've come to realize dropping that anchor has been, and will continue to be, a daily, sometimes an hourly, process. It's not a one time thing: I've dropped that anchor. It's, man, wait a minute, I'm getting blown away here by the hurricane of grief and questions and doubt. What am I going to do? Am I just going to drift out to sea? Or am I going to drop the anchor again?