Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
There have been professing Christians who have promoted similar kinds of thinking and practices concerning Christianity, but the true God rightly displayed by biblical Christianity doesn't advocate violence or war to bring about conversion to Christ.
Nevertheless, there is a Holy War that goes on daily. It is the Holy War referred to by John Ball which he alludes to in his Treatise on the Covenant of Grace (1645)-
“The conversion of the nations to the faith of Christ is made by a holy war, destruction, and desolation; Wherein the King of Kings fighteth against, subdueth, and bringeth under the disobedient, which formerly did rise up against him. But this wasting or desolation is not the loss of temporal life, or spoiling of worldly goods, or any outward desolation which is seen with the eyes, or heard with the ears; but a most happy desolation, whereby pride and haughtiness of mind is depressed, and the mind lifted up to things above; the power of the flesh is quelled, and the Spirit doth gather strength; the edge of vices is dulled, and all kind of virtue doth bud and blossom; and where the flesh did rule, the Spirit doth rule.”
We have a picnic every Sunday night after our service. There's an old barn in the corner of our property not too far from where we eat. A bunch of kids were playing soccer (of course) and the ball went behind the barn. Sure enough, good ole' Bambi was munching on some mulberries and utterly unfazed by the group of church people who walked over to see her.
Next thing you know the doe is strolling freely in the middle of the soccer game walking up to people like a dog. She spots some plates with food on the picnic table and helps herself! See below. Notice my wife (dark pants), the mighty hunter from two days prior, getting a kick out of Bambi's boldness.
Am I the only one catching the providential irony of this whole situation? Our church is in the middle of subdivisions. There are woodlines not too far from us, but there's not a whole lot of deer activity right near our property anymore due to all the construction that has happened the last 10 years. So, believing God ordains whatsoever comes to pass- He sends this deer to taunt two pastors who very much enjoy harvesting her relatives. This deer is like a big dog. She even came up to me and tried to nibble on my shorts with a good number of Redeemer congregants getting a big laugh out the whole episode. We couldn't get rid of her. Utterly ridiculous.
I admit to be a touch soft at this point. I don't think I could shoot this deer now. I believe the deer has seen Nathan and I target shoot and senses danger with us. Her plot is to endear herself to the church body as a whole. She believes a connection will be made with the emotionally weak in our midst effectively eliminating the possibility of me shooting her. Think about it- when she turns up missing and some little covenant child, who I probably baptized, asks me where the deer went, what could I say? "Well Suzy, Pastor Tony ran an arrow through both of Bambi's lungs and we're eating her in next year's mission trip fundraiser (via the meat sauce for the spaghetti, of course)". How do you think that would go over?
But Pastor Nathan? Well, let's just say he may do most of Redeemer's counseling, but don't let that fool you, he's not so mushy as I. Bambi ain't anywhere near out of trouble.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
My jokester wife got one of my sons target bows out of my office and stalked the doe to within 10 yards. PETA advocates can chill, this bow can't shoot at lethal strength and the tip of that arrow is blunt. Beyond all that, my wife couldn't hit the broad side of a barn from the inside. Bambi is quite safe...for now. Apparently Shari hasn't seen the dog-stomping deer I posted just over a week ago, she might not have been so bold.
I believe this is an orphaned yearling doe. It's not a fawn. The likelihood of her making the Redeemer property and the immediate area her home range is pretty good. We have water (pond), lots of clover, acorn trees and subdivisions next door full of luscious flower beds and the like.
I'm torn, should I take care of her on day one of the bow season opener or should I wait and see if she draws in a big buck to my office door come November?
Friday, June 25, 2010
I only wish there was better quality footage of the Brazilian legend-
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Regarding Apostles, Prophets, and Evangelists, Calvin states-
“The Lord raised up the other three at the beginning of his kingdom, and still occasionally raises them up when the necessity of the times requires.”
Calvin believed the office of Apostle was uniquely tasked with bringing back the world from its revolt to the true obedience of God, and establish His Kingdom the world over by the preaching of the Gospel. To Calvin, Apostleship was uniquely tied to the days of the early church and her supernatural expansion. Regarding the office of Prophet, Calvin meant “those who excelled by special revelation.” Obvious examples of Prophets were those men called to preach to Israel in the Old Testament and also a person like John the Baptist in the New Testament. They spoke the Word of God by His authority, many of the Prophets were writers of Holy Writ. The office of Evangelist to Calvin referred to were deputies of the Apostles like Luke, Titus, Timothy, etc. They functioned alongside the Apostles to fulfil the same goal of reaching the world with the Kingdom of God through the preaching of the Gospel.
What proves interesting is Calvin’s declaration that these three offices are not meant to be perpetual. He states apostles, prophets, and evangelists served an initiatory process in the life of the Church, to establish the Church where it did not already exist. Intriguing is Calvin’s lack of finality about these offices allowing for their improbable, but possible continuation. Calvin’s qualification of these offices reveals his view-
“Those three functions were not instituted in the Church to be perpetual, but only to endure so long as churches were to be formed where none previously existed, or at least where churches were to be transferred from Moses to Christ; although I deny not, that afterward God occasionally raised up Apostles, or at least Evangelists, in their stead, as has been done in our time. For such were needed to bring back the Church from the revolt of Antichrist. The office I nevertheless call extraordinary, because it has no place in churches duly constituted.”
It seems one could rightly conclude that Calvin viewed these offices as unnecessary and non-existent in places where the Church is established, yet possibly existent in new frontiers of the Church still being entered. It would be extraordinary for there to be apostles, prophets, or evangelists in the biblical office sense of these offices today, but not impossible, according to Calvin.
Calvin’s more poignant focus is on the offices of pastor and teacher, both of which were perpetual and ongoing in his view. Very simply, Calvin saw two offices here listed, not one (Pastor-teacher). Pastor is given a manifold task of discipline, the administration of the sacraments, admonitions, and exhortations (all according to Scripture), while the teacher is tasked solely with the “the interpretation of Scripture only, in order that pure and sound doctrine may be maintained among believers.”
Calvin shows a high regard for the office of pastor as he devotes two sections to explaining the purpose and role of the office. From several passages of Scripture Calvin constructs a vivid picture of pastoral ministry. Four chief passages that guide Calvin’s thoughts are as follows:
1 Corinthians 4:1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.
Titus 1:9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
Acts 20:20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house…
1 Corinthians 9:16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
These passages contain the twofold focus of the office of pastor according to Calvin- preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments. Regarding the preaching of the gospel, the pastor was to do so with public addresses (sermons) and private admonitions (personal warnings and counseling). One might object to Calvin’s use of passages that may seem to be concerning apostles rather than pastors, however he points out the several hats Paul wears as an Apostle, one was certainly that of a pastor. Furthermore, Calvin makes this interesting and noteworthy comparison between apostles and pastors-
“What the apostles did to the whole world, every pastor should do to the flock over which he is appointed.”
While Calvin gives special attention to the office of pastor, he reveals more of his particular view of church offices when he explains the general designation of “presbyter” or elder in section 8 of this chapter. He has already noted two offices- pastor and teacher, he then breaks down the office of elder a bit further. Calvin notes Scripture’s synonymous use of the terms bishop, pastor, and elder. All the designations so far noted by Calvin are to be about the ministry of the Word of God. Calvin however notes another designation or office differing slightly with pastors and teachers. He refers to the presence of presbyters (elders) who are older and possessing special spiritual wisdom. Note Calvin’s description of such presbyters-
“By these governors I understand seniors selected from the people to unite with the bishops in pronouncing censures and exercising discipline. For this is the only meaning which can be given to the passage, 'He that ruleth, with diligence,' From the beginning, therefore, each church had its senate, composed of pious, grave, and venerable men, in whom was lodged the power of correcting faults…and therefore we are to regard the office of government as necessary for all ages.”
So it is that Calvin denotes three distinct offices in the church having to do with the ministry of the Word of God- pastor, teacher, and elder. Pastors have a more complex role than teachers and elders, but all are given to the church for her edification and growth.
I'll give a word on Calvin's view of deacons in a future post.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
I don't mean hope for Team USA to advance much further, but rather there is hope that America might yet embrace the greatest sport on earth.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Nico said while giggling, "who's that chubby guy"? After realizing he wasn't referring to me, it struck me that he just called Diego Maradona chubby. That's not acceptable.
It's true, since his playing days Maradona has battled the bulge (I feel his pain), not to mention a host of other personal problems, but I couldn't let my boys disrespect the second greatest soccer player of all time (Pele is the first). I told my boys of what you are about to see below.
In 1986 Maradona, almost single-handed (there's a story there, ask the English), won the World Cup for Argentina. This goal below is widely considered the greatest World cup goal ever. The Spanish version audio is better, but the video quality of this clip is the best I've seen. I remember watching the goal like it was yesterday.
I told my boys, "We don't call Diego chubby any more...capeesh?"
Here's the Spanish version I alluded to:
Monday, June 21, 2010
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Here's the newly release trailer (sorry about the frame getting cut off)-
Reepicheep figures heavily in the book, I hope he does in the movie.
Friday, June 18, 2010
The longest, most involved sections of his magnum opus, "The Institutes of Christian Religion" are as follows (in descending order):
3. Of Faith. The Definition of It. Its Peculiar Properties (31 pages, 43 sections)
2. Of Prayer- A Perpetual Exercise of Faith. The Daily Benefits Derived from It. (47 pages, 52 sections)
1. Of the Lord's Supper, and he Benefits Conferred by It (50 pages, 50 sections)
I think this serves to illustrate what doctrines were actually most important to Calvin. His chapter on prayer is absolutely brilliant and blessed. I find it ironic that Calvin is often painted as a rigid, cold, fatalist (due to his doctrine of predestination), yet his second longest chapter in the four full books of the Institutes is on prayer.
To prayer, then, are we indebted for penetrating to those riches which are treasured up for us with our heavenly Father. For there is a kind of intercourse between God and men, by which, having entered the upper sanctuary, they appear before Him and appeal to his promises, that when necessity requires they may learn by experiences that what they believed merely on the authority of his word was not in vain. Accordingly, we see that nothing is set before us as an object of expectation from the Lord which we are not enjoined to ask of Him in prayer, so true it is that prayer digs up those treasures which the Gospel of our Lord discovers to the eye of faith. The necessity and utility of this exercise of prayer no words can sufficiently express. Assuredly it is not without cause our heavenly Father declares that our only safety is in calling upon his name, since by it we invoke the presence of his providence to watch over our interests, of his power to sustain us when weak and almost fainting, of his goodness to receive us into favour, though miserably loaded with sin; in fine, call upon him to manifest himself to us in all his perfections. Hence, admirable peace and tranquillity are given to our consciences; for the straits by which we were pressed being laid before the Lord, we rest fully satisfied with the assurance that none of our evils are unknown to him, and that he is both able and willing to make the best provision for us.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
I am in the middle of an intense study of John Calvin and his writings. I am currently, at this moment (though breaking to write this post), reading through his magnum opus, The Institutes of the Christian Religion. I have read it several times in my life and refer to it regularly. As I have been reading it these past few days, I have been tempted share quotes with you literally dozens of times. There is just so much richness and blessed insight contained in this unprecedented work. Of all the theology I have read in the past 20 plus years of formal study, I have never read a work more careful, accurate, and well-ordered than Calvin's Institutes.
What's my point? For Christians to speak ill of Calvin or come off as opposing him in some general way, I submit the following must be true: They have never actually read much Calvin, and certainly not the whole of his Institutes.
I understand if a Christian doesn't like Calvin's explanation of this or that particular doctrine, but the whole of his writing is just so biblically solid, something else must be at work when a Christian voices disdain for the Swiss reformer. I know Calvin's explanation of the biblical doctrine of predestination ruffles some feathers, but anyone who has actually read Calvin knows this wasn't his key doctrinal emphasis. Calvin's chief focus was Christ. Period. To me, being a Calvinist means an emphasis on the sovereignty of God manifested most clearly through the work of Christ. Calvinism is utterly God-centered and Christ-exalting. Keep these descriptions in mind when I use the word Calvinist going forward. True Calvinism is not adequately described simply as a term synonymous with predestination. Yes Calvin carefully taught the doctrine of predestination (as Scripture lays it out), but to say it was his primary emphasis is just plain wrong.
OK, I have a few theories as to why a number of evangelical Christians speak ill of Calvin:
1. They have heard characterizations of Calvin through isolated quotes keying on predestination and have decided they don't like Calvin. Based on this malformed dislike, they never actually read Calvin for themselves.
2. They have actually read some of Calvin's teaching, probably on predestination, and it has rightly convicted them to think more biblically, however they are resisting the truth. What they have read has tweaked their perceived autonomy and they don't like it. Speaking ill of Calvin is a way for them to put off facing biblical reality.
3. They have been exposed to some modern professing Calvinists who act like obnoxious jerks, therefore they won't give Calvin a fair hearing or reading.
If the first reason for angst against Johnny C describes you- I plead with you to pick up Calvin and read. You've been duped. You have to believe me. You must read Calvin for yourself. Skip any references to predestination if you want. I'm telling you that life is too short to not read Calvin because some ignoramus mis-characterized him for you. Read Book 2, Chapters 15-17 and see if you're not hooked.
If the second reason for shunning the long bearded Frenchman describes you- you're in a dangerous place, so be careful. It may not be Calvin you're resisting, but rather God Himself. I was once where you sit, but I won't try to apply the usual biblical arguments in favor of God's sovereignty in election and predestination at this point. Again, pick up Institutes and read Book 2, Chapters 15-17 for starters. Christians love Christ. There's no way you won't love these chapters.
If the last reason for dissing the Calvinator describes you- please forgive them (us). It's not Calvin's fault. Try to understand however, many new to what Calvin emphasized (the sovereign grace of God through Christ) feel as though they have been set free. It's common for people who come to understand sovereign grace, and what it means for life, to react poorly against their old way of thinking and those who taught them. Some Calvinists can tend toward an apparent arrogance because of confidence about their position. Arrogance and pride are sinful demeanors and not in any way a reflection of John Calvin himself. Frankly, the doctrines Calvin emphasized will work to humble us when understood correctly. Often times it's not arrogance or pride at all, but rather a genuine zeal for all Christians to be liberated as we (Calvinists) have. Again, pick up his Institutes and read.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Bill O'Reilly and his highly viewed cable infotainment show, The O'Reilly Factor, have been riding high for the past several years. No other such show is more viewed in the United States. I rarely view his show on TV but I do check out his "Talking Points" segment online several times a week. I don't care for his personality, he comes off as arrogant and somewhat pompous. At the same time he has his hand on the popular pulse of many people in America, so I am intrigued to hear what he says are the primary issues of the day. From time to time I think he is right on.
This past weekend I was at my in-laws home and saw O'Reilly's latest book, "A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity", so I picked it up and read it. The title comes from something a nun said about him when he was a kid. If you like O'Reilly's style on his show, you'll like this book. If you, like me, find his style mildly to very annoying, you'll hate this book. Frankly I wish I could get back the the few hours I spent reading Bold, Fresh. It's just not a good book. Sure, it's a "best seller", but that doesn't make it a good piece of literature. It reads like O'Reilly "bloviating" (a favorite term of his) on camera. He comes off as the constant hero in every anecdotal interchange he records. The book is basically a manifesto of O'Reilly's worldview explained through a series of experiences he had growing up. While I don't think he made up the various stories he relays from his life, I do think they were recasted to fit what his very marketable message is today. In comparison, when I read Tim Russert's book, Big Russ and Me, it felt genuine and accurately descriptive of who Russert was. Bold, Fresh seems contrived and crafted to contribute to the modern money making persona of Bill O'Reilly. You won't really know the real Bill O'Reilly any better by reading this book.
The book states many times and in many ways the following challenge or thesis that betrays his worldview:
"Design your own life. Never give up trying to make it on your own. Get back up when you get slapped down, and don't waste time buying in to ideological nonsense. Expect- and accept- nothing from anyone. Do it yourself." (p.36)
O'Reilly basically sets himself up to be the perfect model of the aforementioned ideology (while bidding us not to buy in to a particular ideology). When you read this book you can picture O'Reilly saying, "I am an independent thinker..I am balanced..I am a fountain of wise common sense...I am bold..I am fresh..I am convicted based on some innate common sense that was somehow shaped in my upbringing." I think he intends the book to be a sort of self-help tool as we are inspired by his incredible rise.
The book depicts a common weakness in the worldview of many people today, especially those who think of themselves as conservative. The foundation for the various conservative positions promoted is nothing more than some kind of mysterious personal conviction that apparently came from a certain traditional upbringing. This book promotes a common conservative ethic, you know, the "do it yourself, expect a hand out from no one" individual responsibility idea. Why? Well, just because. It feels common sensical enough, but upon analysis, it's hard to know why O'Reilly holds this view other than it being somehow woven in to his childhood and young adulthood. There appears to be no authoritative reason for holding such generally conservative views, just that such a mindset has worked for America for a long time. There is a definite sense that America possesses some kind of innate goodness. Yes, our country isn't guilt-free, but compared to all the others, we're the best. Connected to this ideological commitment it is regularly maintained that our manifold problems as a country are because we have abandoned so many of our traditional views and practices. This is certainly a drumbeat of O'Reilly.
Before this post goes longer than it should, I'll just say there's nothing wrong with viewing O'Reilly in the proper light and with a realistic understanding of what he's out to do- make money entertaining. For Christians however, I hope positions we hold come with more than an argument from tradition. Desperate times can tend to make us romanticize the past to the point of total distortion. I submit one of the main reasons our country has found itself in such a quagmire of challenging and seemingly insurmountable issues is the lack of foundational, demonstrable, timeless, core beliefs. Simply saying "it was better then" with no understanding or explanation as to why, will not ultimately translate in to any positive shift in the way things are going. Frankly, if such a positive shift did ocur, what would O'Reilly (and others) do for a living?
Friday, June 11, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
I'm only moderately techno-savvy and I'm definitely not a device/gadget fiend. Brian Hough is both of the above. He has also drunk deep of the APPLE Kool-Aid and NEVER admits any machine, device, or system may be better than Apple.
He got a new HTC EVO that also runs on the Android platform and has seemed to admit how awesome this non-Apple phone is. The EVO is even faster than my HERO and it has a sweet camera and HD video camera as cool added features (mine has a camera, but not as nice as the EVO's) Admittedly, we both are somewhat forced in to using an Android phone due to the cheaper cost, but he concedes Android can challenge Apple.
Brian Hough endorsing a non-Apple product? Is the Apocalypse upon us?
People have recommended this book to me many times over the past 10 years, but very honestly, I have little time for "pleasure" reading, which stinks. After I finish this degree I'm working on, I plan to read lots of books I have been putting off.
The book is Krakauer's depiction of the story of Chris McCandless. The description on the book says it perfectly- In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet and invented a new name for himself. Four months later his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. The picture above was taken by McCandless at the beginning of his Alaska journey. He took several rolls of film with many self-portraits. He grows more and more gaunt with each haunting picture. Here's one of the last ones-
The book covers more than his final four months however. It covers a period of over two years where this young man graduates from college then becomes a drifter/adventurer finally dying of starvation in Alaska. Krakauer digs in to the psyche of McCandless, which proves to be one of the more interesting aspects of the book. There is no indication that McCandless was a Christian, so reading about such people prompts me to think of how his fate might have been different if he knew Christ. Did he come to know Christ in his last days as his strength left him? He certainly knew of Christianity and it's claims, he was very well read and spent time in Christian homeless shelters over the two years he wandered. There's no way for me to tell.
In telling McCandless' story, Krakauer causes the reader to think of many issues- social structure and acceptance, parent-child relationships, the "call of the wild", self-worship, self-reliance, over confidence, adventure, wealth, poverty, self discovery, the necessity of human relationships, etc.
For me, a wanna-be adventurist, Into the Wild caused me to see how pointless and futile life is apart from God's grace and guidance.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Big Burr Oak Tree (on left) near Columbia
Need a rest
Brian heading out...