Monday, December 31, 2012

Great New Book!

I AM READING a great new book, Eyes Wide Open, by a midwest pastor named Steve DeWitt. The book is about the importance of seeing the handiwork of God in everything about us 24x7. As the subtitle says, it is about enjoying God in everything. It is very Jonathan Edward-esque. I am loving it, and I heartily recommend it to anyone reading this blog.

My wife, Judy, is also enjoying it, and in typical female fashion, she found a Vimeo of pastor DeWitt proposing to his new bride. Not only will you love this book, but I also think you will love this vimeo

If it doesn't bring tears of joy to your eyes, something is wrong with your tear ducts.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Motherhood: The Highest Calling

Mother and Child
We have five children. When they were young my wife, Judy, was often abused in the grocery check out line with comments like,  "Don't you know what causes babies?"

It has not gotten better. Today the animosity is worse.

Doug Wilson's daughter, Rachel, has penned an excellent piece on the dignity and importance of motherhood. This article is medicine for our modern predicament.

Her essay matters greatly. The crucial craft of motherhood is slowly disappearing. In a recent survey of High School girls less than 5% indicated that they wanted to grow up and be stay-at-home moms. By contrast,  Charles Murray notes that in the 1960s, ninety percent of High School girls wanted to be stay at home moms.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas: A Celebration of Infinite Humility!

Infinite Humility & Self Emptying

Some of Jesus' statements were especially useful as measures of our sin and his love.  Matthew 23:12 is an example. "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled. Whoever humbles himself will be exalted." This idea appears repeatedly throughout scripture.

To many this text is "fly-over territory." However, this is a mistake, for it is a principle of  universal, divine justice. Understanding it unveils the gospel.

Pride must be humbled, and humility must be exalted. In God's economy there are no exceptions to this principle. It is immutable, eternal, uncompromisable. That is one reason that Christ descended from infinite realms of glory to a squalid stable in Bethlehem. God was humbling him in our place.

You and I are proud. It is the universal root of sin. All disobedience expresses pride. It says, "my way is better than God's." Disobedience is a declaration of personal deity. But our pride appears in more subtle ways. It provokes self-righteousness, crtical speech, selfishness, and a host of other evils.

Because God is just this pride must be humbled. When one believes the Gospel their faith unites them with Christ and his humbling becomes ours. This should shake us; for his humbling was infinite. It is not measurable. His status before the incarnation was infinite. Any descent from infinity to a finity is an infinite distance. Therefore, his humbling for us was an infinite humbling. The babe in the manger shows us Infinity reduced to finiteness.

This truth is the measure of our sin. If it took an infinite humbling to atone for our pride then our pride must be infinitely serious in God's sight.

It is also the measure of God's love. What kind of love is willing to descend an infinite distance to save infinitely odious creatures? Only an infinite love descends like this, a love that Paul writes, "surpasses understanding" (Eph 3:19).

It is also the measure of our hope. Because justice demands that the humble be exalted, God the Father exalted his Son. He raised him from the grave and seated him at his right hand. This is Good News. Because we are united with him by faith his exaltation becomes our exaltation. God so loved the world that he has made a way for proud sinners to get the exaltation that Christ's infinite humility deserves.

How should we respond? Pursure humilty. Hate pride. Thank God for the gospel. Revel in the unmerited grace of God. Delight in his love for the unworthy!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Anselm, Why God Became Man

Anselm (1033-1109)
Christmas is coming, the day we celebrate the Incarnation, the doctrine that God became man. This raises a great question. Why would God become man? Wasn’t there an easier way? Surely God could have forgiven sin without taking on human flesh. 

Like many before and after him, Anselm, the great medieval theologian, raised and answered this question. In his epochal work, Cur Deus Homo, he wrote, “No one, however, ought to make satisfaction for the sin of man except man; and no one can make this satisfaction except God Himself. He who makes satisfaction for human sin must therefore be God-man.”

Here is the idea. Because God is infinitely just, a man had to atone for the sins committed by man. But, because God is also infinitely holy, no one but God himself could make satisfaction to God for the infinite weight of human sin. Therefore, God had to become flesh. 

Anselm’s crucial proposition is a window through which we see the infinite greatness of both God’s justice and his love. Both had to be satisfied, and God was willing to become man to get the job done. 

Rejoice! This is no small God. It is the God we worship during this holiday season.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Short Bio of J.R.R. Tolkien

In the summer of 2010 I was privileged to share lunch with my son-in-law at the renowned little Oxford Pub, The Eagle and the Child.  For almost 20 years J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, with a few others, met there every Tuesday morning from 10:00 to 12:00 to drink beer and read and critique each other's writings. They called themselves "The Inklings."

Little did they, or anyone else, know that out of this little gathering of friends would come some of the greatest literature of the twentieth century. At the time they were unknown, struggling, Oxford Dons bound together by a common love of Christ and literature.

The Plaque at the Eagle and Child
I was initially unimpressed. The pub was small, seating maybe fifty, un-remodeled, and looking probably just as it did fifty years ago. In one corner was a small plaque announcing that this was the table at which the "Inklings" routinely sat. My son-in-law and I grabbed a traditional English lunch, beef and potatoes, a pint of good English ale, and sat down to enjoy our meal at this revered table. A few minutes later a group of tourists arrived, headed for our corner, and began snapping pics, so we moved to another table.

Despite this it was a special day.

Christianity Today just published an article on the life of J.R.R. Tolkien. Anyone who has read his epic works will want to take a moment to read this important chronicle. It doesn't discuss "The Inklings," but compensates by detailing his love life, family, and some of the influences that produced "Middle Earth."


The Hobbit Reviewed

Here is a great post from  Christianity Today on the theological message in the newly released movie, The Hobbit.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Breast Feeding in Public!

Careful Modesty!
With our minds on the Nativity and the wonder of God-become-man, a recent article in Christianity Today raises an important question. Why is it that, in this hyper-sexualized culture, we are anxious about breast-feeding in church? Mary nursed the Son of God. What could be more natural?

The author has a point, especially with the advent of "hooter-hiders," etc. Never has the event been more modest. Today we require special rooms into which men are not allowed, and this despite the fact that the moms are carefully shielded from observation. Read the article here. It is something to think about!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Don't Assume the Gospel!

In Matt 16:5-11 Jesus warmed his disciple to "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees." The "leaven" that concerned him was the teaching of the Pharisees and Saducees. What was their teaching? It was religious pride, pride in their virtues. I will go to heaven because I am a good person, because I have tried hard, because I am sincere, at least as sincere as the average person. 

But Jesus also used "leaven" in another sense. He called the gospel leaven. "The Kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened" (Matt. 13:33). In both cases the "leaven" in mind is a set of assumptions about life, a worldview, an understanding of reality, an approach to life. 

Leaven is a good image. It works silently and gradually, and it affects the whole loaf. Whether through the promotion of arrogance or the Kingdom of God, leaven has this property: It spreads unnoticed, but it ultimately affects everything.  The leaven of the Pharisees was religious pride, but the leaven of God's kingdom is humility. 

However, the leaven of the gospel is at a disadvantage. The leaven of the Pharisees is natural to the flesh.  Therefore, the leaven of the Pharisees spreads easily––without resistance. It is welcomed by the loaf. By contrast, the leaven of God's Kingdom is foreign to the loaf. The loaf must be changed by the miracle of new birth before God's leaven can do its wonderful work. 

Because the leaven of the Pharisees is natural to the loaf, it must be continually and aggressively displaced by the gospel. This means that assuming the gospel will be fatal, or that neglecting the gospel will be terminal. To counteract the leaven of the Pharisees, we  must preach the gospel to our selves daily. We must preach the gospel to our congregations repetitively. If we don't the leaven of the Pharisees will overcome it. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Real Hate Crimes And How to Stop Them

In the last twenty years "hate crimes," have become the great social evil. It has become a matter of "political correctness." Anyone who objects to the normalization of homosexual behavior, for example, is guilty of a hate crime. Anyone who shares an opposing opinion is guilty of "hate." They have committed a "hate crime."  

Many wield this word with venomous and pius authority, little knowing that they have hijacked an important word from the Bible. According to God's word, it is not homosexuals that are hated. It is God himself. Sinners hate God, and this is the real "hate crime," the one that should ultimately concern us. Here is how Jesus put it. 
 (John 15:18–19) “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.

(John 15:23) "Whoever hates me hates my Father also.

(John 15:25) "But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause."

The extent of the first-century world's hatred of Christ was truly astounding. They manifested their animosity by nailing him to a cross. They slowly, painfully, tortured him to death in mind-numbing agony. Meanwhile they mocked and belittled him. Here is real hatred. 

Why did the world hate Jesus? For the same reason that it hates him today. He stood between them and the thing they love...their sin. "The world hates me," said Jesus, "because I testify about it that its works (e.g. homosexual behavior) are evil" (John 7:7). 

Here is the shocking truth! Jesus poured out his life in love for those who hated him. He loved his enemies. He gave his life for them. He forgave them. He suffered infinite torments to advance their ultimate happiness. Wow! What do we do with this? 

Brothers and sisters, if the world hated Jesus, it will hate us also. About this subject we should be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. And like Jesus, we must be ready to return their hatred with sacrificial love. Are we ready for this? 

When we think of hate crimes, these are ultimate, these are the real "hate crimes" that should deeply concern us all. 

As always, I would love your response. 

The Real Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas
The fictional Santa Claus is a chimera that has morphed from a real person who actually lived in the fourth century, Saint Nicholas. A new post at Christianity Today asks the question "Was the Real Saint Nicholas better than Santa Claus?"  I think you will find the answer surprising. You can read it here. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Scale of the Universe!

God is big, and we are small!
Psalm 19 teaches us that the "heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." According to an amazing web page that you can access here entitled "The Scale of the Universe," this is an understatement. The glory of God revealed by creation is off the charts. Take five minutes to review this material and then bow in worship.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Cure For Alzheimers?

Common grace comes to us in many ways. We should be thankful. For example, Swiss researchers have recently experienced a breakthrough in the search for a cure for Alzheimer's disease. You can read about it here in the Science Daily. This is  great hope for millions worried about this disease afflicting themselves or someone close to them.