Posts

Showing posts from 2017

Book in Review: The Vanishing American Adult

Image
As a 24 year old, I have long observed a general lack of maturity both in myself and in much of my generation. We may be able to get married, have children, and even purchase homes—but the vast majority of us lack traditionally “adult” qualities. This can be observed in the amount of money we spend on a monthly basis, the amount of time we spend playing video games and scrolling through social media, the avoidance of responsibility, the lack of work-ethic, the fear of long term commitment, the general softness and entitlement that characterizes us, the “self-centric” view of life we possess…etc. I could go on, but I will spare you.
We, and I include myself in this pronoun, have a big problem. We are not growing up. And that means America has a problem.
Senator Ben Sasse writes The Vanishing American Adult to address this problem and to give a few keys to break free from this forever young, “Peter Pan” syndrome. His tone throughout is not the “get off my lawn” old man rhetoric that you m…

Informing Emotions

Image
Yesterday's broadcast of Ravi Zacharias's "Just Thinking" was excellent. So excellent that I decided to put a link here for your enjoyment. It is about the need for us as Christians to inform our emotions. Why? Because emotions fluctuate daily, for some of us hourly. Sometimes we feel the Lord's presence and respond with joy, and other times--we don't feel anything. And while a religion that does not manifest itself in the emotions in any way is likely not genuine, a religion that is founded on emotions alone will quickly collapse, for it rests on sinking sands.
This is an area that I personally struggle with, as my personality is one that is apt to grow melancholy or gloomy surprisingly frequently. Ravi reminds us that while "feelings are a vital part of our being" we must always "condition them and bring to them information". So while we may be predisposed to feel a certain way by personality or even circumstance--we have no excuse. We mu…

Cast your bread upon the waters

Image
Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return. Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land. If clouds are full of water, they pour rain on the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie. Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well. ***
Ecclesiastes is an interesting book of the Bible, a book which my young adult group has just completed a study on. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes has undergone a thorough deconstruction of things most valued in his time. His findings are sobering,…

Book in Review: "The Prince"

Image
The Prince is a short classic where author Niccolo Machiavelli looks at lessons learned from political leaders (princes) of the past and looks to give some advice for an aspiring price.

I will begin by saying: Machiavelli is not known for his morals. He sports a pre-Nietzschian “will to power” philosophy in which the expedient, self-advantageous option is always the right one. For Machiavelli there is no undergirding philosophy to which he is fastened to. There is no absolute ideal to which his prince is to daily strive. There is only power. There is only the acquiring, preserving, and expanding of your kingdom by any and every means necessary. Cruelty and deception are no worse than compassion and justice—as long as it serves your personal aims it is a tool to be used.

Such pragmatism is a brutal philosophy that has assailed the human race for as long as there have been humans. It also sounds to me like an exhausting, miserable way to live; not to mention quite contrary to a Biblical w…

Be Real with It

Image
Stories are powerful things. I was encouraged this past Sunday at church as several members stood up in front of the congregation to share what God has been doing in their lives. What followed from one person in particular was a personal story of severe brokenness and addiction—and how the church and the gospel of Jesus Christ never let Him go.
I think it is important that personal stories of Jesus’s victory over the chains of sin are shared frequently in the church. More frequently than is common. Too often we dress up in our “Sunday bests” and put on our happy faces when we go to church. We clean ourselves up; and ensure that everyone sharing our last name looks good and is on their best behavior. There, of course, is nothing wrong with cleaning up and looking good for church, and I am quite thankful the people who sit next to me in church don’t smell too bad! The problem is the motivation: Why are we so concentrated on putting our best foot forward when we go to church? While some …

Life Change

Image
So, I am going to be a father. Montana and I announced on social media a few weeks ago that we are expecting a third member of our family this November. That is what we call a big change. One might even call that life changing.
We are both excited, a little scared, and Montana at least, has been really sick for the past several weeks with nausea and dehydration. We have since got her on some medication so she has been doing better this past week as she enters her second trimester. Life is coming at us the only way life knows how to come: fast.
Bring it on.
My wife will tell you that I am a slow guy, and generally big life changes and major risks freak me out. In a perfect world I would like to know everything at a minimum 5 years prior; that way I could then comfortably prepare for the next chapter of life. If I could somehow catch a glimpse of 2022 I could see what sort of job I would have and make the necessary preparations today. If I could peer into the crystal ball and see myself se…

Book in Review: "Endurance"

Image
Imagine being sentenced to months of polar exposure with nothing but seal blubber and penguin steaks for food. Your sleeping bag is perpetually wet. Your last remaining pair of clothing is continually soggy with ice water. Imagine further still being over a thousand miles from any remnant of human civilization, left on a God-forsaken pack of ice without any hope of being found. Your only chance at survival is to hope your ice flow drifts close enough to one of the Southerly islands, where you and your crew can make a mad break for it in three 20 foot boats--on the roughest, most unpredictable seas in the world.

Yeah, count me out.


Yet this was the sentence of Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 expedition that got stuck for months (and who's boat eventually was crushed to bits) in the Wendell Sea. As the journey homewards follows, every discomfort, every breaking wave, every stormy gale—becomes a desperate battle between life and death. The crew must face it all: the frostbite, foot amputation…

Zeal

Image
In his book Knowing God, J. I. Packer quotes J. C. Ryle on zeal:
"Zeal in religion is a burning desire to please God, to do His will, and to advance His glory in the world in every possible way. It is a desire which no man feels by nature--which the Spirit puts in the heart of every believer when he is converted--but which some believers feel so much more strongly than others that they alone deserve to be called 'zealous' men...
“A zealous man in religion is pre-eminently a man of one thing. It is not enough to say that he is earnest, hearty, uncompromising, thorough-going, whole-hearted, fervent in spirit. He only sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God. Whether he lives, or whether he dies--whether he has health, or whether he has sickness--whether he is rich, or whether he is poor--whether he pleases man, or gives offence--whether he is thought wise, or whether he is thought fool…

Hard Sayings

Image
I had the opportunity to do some lay-preaching about two weeks ago (April 9, 2017) at my local church, Faith Bible Church. I preached from John 6, where Jesus begins to speak some "hard sayings" to the people which then causes many of his disciples to leave and "no longer walk with him."


John 6 is an incredibly relevant passage to where we are at today in America 2017. We have come to a place culturally where much of what Jesus says is hard for us, and we can no longer reconcile his words with the world at large. As a result, many are leaving the church, including large numbers of millennials.


But Christianity is not just hard for us to swallow on a societal level. There will be times and seasons where the words of Jesus will seem very hard for us as individuals. When those times come we each will have to answer Jesus's tempting question: "Will you go too?"


3 Uses of the Law from Calvin

Image
As Christians we affirm that we are saved by grace through faith. That our salvation is not of ourselves, but rather it is a gift of God, not of works so that none of us can boast. We rejoice in this truth, for we know that if we played a role in winning our own salvation we would remain forever lost.
But if we are saved by grace, why is so much Scripture devoted to laws and rules? What are we to do with the long Old Testament books that repetitively give restrictions of "Thou Shalt Not"? (I am not speaking here of the Jewish ceremonial and societal laws which we understand to be no longer part of the new covenant, but to the moral laws anchored in the Ten Commandments)
Many Christians make the mistake of throwing out the law entirely. This is what is called "antinomianism" or "against the law". They reason that if the law contributes nothing to our salvation, and legalism is such a frequent temptation--why don't we do away with it and simply live under…

Every Moment a Gift

Image
About a week and a half ago I got to see my sister act in her final High School play which was entitled: "Our Town". Though I had never heard of it before I saw it, I hear Thornton Wilder's play is fairly well known.
Now I am a man very much in control of my emotions, and as such I am not one to sob in movies. I am not one disposed to emotional ecstasy over a theatrical performance. I can appreciate a good, well conducted play. I can enjoy quality acting, but I rarely go much further than that.
But this particular play was different. And when it ended I sat unable to look to the right or to the left as my eyes were welling up with tears. I was close, way too close to losing it.
There were some excellent performances in the play (and my sister did a great job), but it was more the message of "Our Town" that resonated with me more deeply than anything else. "Our Town" is in short a play about life. It is about how precious life is. How brief life is. It …

Book in Review: The Problem of Pain

Image
There is much good in Lewis's attempt to reconcile a benevolent God's existence with the reality of a painful world that we see everyday. In Problem of Pain he assaults any pretext for mankind understanding himself to be "basically good" with precise brutality. With a prophetic voice he speaks to a post-modern world where no one else understands themselves to be "depraved" and suggests how to recapture that foundational presupposition to Christianity. In my favorite chapter entitled "Human Wickedness" Lewis shows how the elevation of the virtue "kindness" over and above all other virtues, and the eradication of any sense of shame--have helped make modern man see himself as unworthy of hell and therefore no longer needy of a saving.

Lewis also shows how evil and pain often lead to good ends, ends we would not arrive at were it not for the struggle and hardship experienced. He writes, "Pain as God's megaphone is a terrible instrume…

New Blog Layout

Blogger just came out with some pretty sleek new blog themes, so I changed some things up on here; and I am pretty impressed! I think the home page now looks a lot more cleaner than it was before, and the subscription button (front and center) is a lot easier to find. I also like how my profile is quite easy to see on the left hand side of the panel. It looks very nice!


Another thing about this new "theme" is that it encourages sharing posts on different social media outlets with the "share" button located on the top right and bottom left of every post. This means if you read something on here that encourages you or makes you think, it is a lot easier for you to share it with others too. No excuses.


So let me know what you think. If you run across any problems with the new layout, let me know and I can do my best to address them. I am trying to tinker a little with some of the bugs (make sure a lot of my older posts transitioned well to the new format). I think this …

Using Technology Wisely

Image
Living in a modern world has its benefits. We can communicate with practically anyone anywhere with just a few taps on a screen. We can access unlimited information by asking Siri. We can share instant updates of our lives with our friends with a simple photo upload to Instagram.


But as Uncle Ben once told Peter Parker, "With great power comes great responsibility." Technology indeed gives us great power, what we lack is the responsibility to healthily utilize that power. The average person in the US spends about 3 hours a day on their smart phone. Over the course of a lifetime that 3 hours a day come out to over 10 years spent staring at a screen (and this statistic does not account for other forms of technology such as TV, computer monitors, or Ipads). But time, as precious as it is, is not the only thing that suffers. Sleeping disorders are on the rise globally due to cell phone usage before sleep. Face to face social skills have plummeted in youth, parent child relationsh…

Book in Review: "Thomas Jefferson Art of Power"

Image
Thomas Jefferson has always struck me as an interesting American figure. He was the author of the Declaration, the architect of Monticello, and the third President of the United States. But despite the indelible imprint he had left on this nation at so formative a period in American history, Jefferson has still remained largely a mystery to me.




Jon Meacham’s biography Jefferson: Art of Power helped largely to uncover that mystery.




And the Jefferson that is revealed is both remarkable and complex. He is someone who was devoted to his ideals of democracy and liberty; someone who was quite optimistic about humanity as a whole and yet ever fearful of monarchy of the past resurrecting in New World from. He was an incredibly driven man, an actor and a mover: Never satisfied by the status quo—ever reforming his government and himself. In Jefferson we see a blend of the idealist and the pragmatist. He was a man of romantic vision, yet he never hesitated to move forward when something less than …

Reader Question: "Is Repentance a One-time Thing?"

Image
A reader of the blog recently asked me: “is repentance a one-time thing?”
Often we associate repentance as part of our conversion experience. The word implies a turning away from a former way of life. The old path is done for and when we repent we are now going in a different direction and pursuing a new object. Frequently in the sermons of the New Testament we see Peter, Paul, and John the Baptist conclude with the imperative application: “repent and believe!” The two are dependent on each other: to truly believe in Jesus for salvation is to repent and turn from your sins. To turn from your sins, to repent, is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
So in one sense, yes, repentance is a one-time thing that we do when we first believe the gospel. A natural response to the work of the Holy Spirit at salvation. If we do not experience this reorientation of direction away from sin and towards Christ at conversion, it would be wise to re-evaluate where we stand with the Lord.
But in another se…

Don't Be Jerome

Image
I recently read Dr. Stephen Nichols' new and encouraging book A Time for Confidence. In the opening chapter Nichols provides us historic case studies of two early church fathers: Jerome and Augustine. Both were widely successful in their day. Both were incredibly scholarly. Jerome famously translated the Bible into Latin (known as the Latin Vulgate) and Augustine contributed greatly to church theology and Western Civilization alike with works like The Confessions and The City of God. Augustine also famously expunged the Pelagian Heresy in his day that denied the inherent depravity of man.
But despite the impressive accolades of these two men, they both had conflicting perspectives on the great calamity of their day: The fall of Rome, the downfall of a city that they both loved.
Case Study # 1: Jerome
Nichols writes the following:
When word of the sack of Rome by the Visigoths reached Jerome, he played Chicken Little. Jerome learned that in the mayhem surrounding the sack of Rome, a pi…