Monthly Archives: January 2011

"The Past Offers No Refuge"

From Jay Watts, via Zach Nielsen:

I have been studying the history of abortion for about a year now, and one thing that I have confronted is that there are no “good old days” when people treated other human beings, unborn or born, with the dignity and respect those bearing the image of God deserve. Our history is filled with violence upon the young for the sake of the mature, it is just a different kind of violence to a slightly older human being. If anything, modern abortion is a sanitized version of an old evil. If the garbage bins of public streets were littered with the bodies of newborns rather than the “medical waste” of the unborn perhaps it would be unnecessary to explain to a self-professed “pro-life” gentleman why that identification impacts his daily life as I recently had to do. Perhaps the grim reality of the world we live in would be clearer to him. Seeing the daily killing of newborns is harder to live with than hearing about the statistics of the daily deaths of the unborn.

Though the past offers us no refuge to which we can point and say,”if only we could get back there”, we can at minimum remind our friends and adversaries that the laws once served to limit evil and inform our people of the nature of abortion. It would be easier to say that abortion has always been around so lets make it safe, but we would scoff at the …

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The Purpose of the Church

“The Church exists for no other purpose but to draw men into Christ. . . If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other reason.”

– C.S. Lewis

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15 Talking Points on Abortion

by John Piper:

1. Existing fetal homicide laws make a man guilty of manslaughter if he kills the baby in a mother’s womb (except in the case of abortion).

2. Fetal surgery is performed on babies in the womb to save them while another child the same age is being legally destroyed.

3. Babies can sometimes survive on their own at 23 or 24 weeks, but abortion is legal beyond this limit.

4. Living on its own is not the criterion of human personhood, as we know from the use of respirators and dialysis.

5. Size is irrelevant to human personhood, as we know from the difference between a one-week-old and a six-year-old.

6. Developed reasoning powers are not the criterion of personhood, as we know from the capacities of three-month-old babies.

7. Infants in the womb are human beings scientifically by virtue of their genetic make up.

8. Ultrasound has given a stunning window on the womb that shows the unborn at eight weeks sucking his thumb, recoiling from pricking, responding to sound. All the organs are present, the brain is functioning, the heart is pumping, the liver is making blood cells, the kidneys are cleaning fluids, and there is a fingerprint. Virtually all abortions happen later than this date.

9. Justice dictates that when two legitimate rights conflict, the limitation of rights that does the least harm is the most just. Bearing a child for adoption does less harm than killing him.

10. Justice dictates that when either of two people must be inconvenienced or hurt to …

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Christians and Internet Presence

Brandon Smith recently hosted a virtual roundtable discussion with Steve McCoy, Trevin Wax, and myself on topics related to the church and social media.

A snippet from one of Steve’s responses:

we can’t just stand back and listen to the hum of a million tweets with short shelf life. We have to focus in on thousands of relationships, and down to one relationship between two twitterers, and see what’s happening right now between them that’s going to last.

Read the whole thing.

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Pornography as "All That is in the World"

What makes pornography so powerful? How is it such a perfect storm of sinful appeal? I believe it is because it combines the trifecta of worldly lusters, what John calls “all that is in the world.”

1 John 2:16: For all that is in the world — the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions — is not from the Father but is from the world.

This is the same three-part temptation that Eve found so undeniable (in Genesis 3:6).

The Desires of the Flesh“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food . . .”

The Desires of the Eyes“and that it was a delight to the eyes . . .”Pride in Possessions“and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate . . .”

Pornography contains original temptation’s nucleic acid.

The Desires of the FleshIs this not obvious from the sexual lust it arouses and claims to satisfy?

The Desires of the EyesPornography sinks its hooks into the heart through visual appeal.

Pride in PossessionsThe spiritual retardation pornography wreaks is complex. Because it exalts self-gratification, use of it is an act of pride. Because it requires more and more of it to gratify, like any drug promising a high, it encourages accumulation. One picture or video scene is enough at the beginning. The further one goes into pornography, the more pictures and scenes he or she needs to reach gratification. And there is a “secret knowledge” …

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Covered!

Final version of the cover for my next book Gospel Wakefulness (Oct. 31, Crossway) released yesterday. The train track thing is a play off an illustration in the first chapter, and the whole vibe of the cover kind of reminds me of the (hardback) covers for Paul Auster’s Book of Illusions or Travels in the Scriptorium. Which is a good thing.

Book is already available for pre-order:CrosswayAmazon

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Pastoral Ministry is a Life, Not a Technology

Evangelicalism suffers under the leadership of those who treat ministry like a technology and church like a business.

The Church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and the brethren . . . Pastoral authority can be attained only by the servant of Jesus who seeks no power of his own, who himself is a brother among brothers to the authority of the Word.

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I discovered the spending a day reading thrity pages of Karl Barth’s Dogmatics helped me more in my pastoral work than a hundred of pages of how-to literature.

In my church history reading I ran into a biography of a pastor, The Life of Alexander Whyte; a personal narrative of a pastor, The Letters of Samuel Rutherford; and a fictional account of a pastor, Father Zossima in Feodor Dostyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov . . .

These books helped me a lot. But I didn’t know why stories about pastors who lived centuries ago could help me so much. I thought I was supposed to be a modern pastor, relevant to the world around me; and these books were from different worlds. But as I read these stories I felt myself caught up in the protagonists’ struggles to follow Jesus Christ in their daily lives.

These narratives pointed me to the fact that pastoral ministry is a life, not a technology. How-to books treat pastoral ministry like a technology. That’s fine on one level — pastoral ministry does require certain skills, and I need all the advice …

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On the Christian’s Literary Frequency

Someone once wrote Roger Ebert and asked him why critics loved Sofia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation so much while audiences in general didn’t even appreciate it. Ebert responded that the film transmitted on a different frequency than audiences are accustomed to receiving. (I was reminded of this tidbit from Ebert’s “Movie Answer Man” column only a couple days later while overhearing a conversation in a restaurant in which two men discussing of the movie revealed no hints of even knowing what it was about.)

It works the same way with books, I think, particularly as it relates to the dulling of the evangelical artistic palate. Is it too much to say that Christian readers have a distinct taste for mediocrity? I know evangelicals take a lot of hits for poor artistic sensibilities, but maybe the critique is a cliche for a reason?

Is it a supply problem or a demand problem? I think it’s both, which means the Christian publishing industry (and Christian retail in general, really) is in a vicious cycle of sorts. Publishers print what sells and until readers start buying substantive literature, publishers won’t produce it. But if publishers aren’t producing it in the first place, then readers don’t even have the opportunity to buy it. So basically, Christian readers are consuming what’s available because they don’t perceive any other option (in the Christian bookstore, that is).

The unfortunate side effect of that, though, is that we are producing generations of Christians whose literary appetites are for junk food.

Quickly …

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10 Best Books I Read in 2010

Not all these books released in 2010, but these are the best books I read in the previous year. They are in no particular order, but the bolded title was the best of the best.

Counted Righteous in Christ by John Piper

World War Z by Max Brooks

Vermont: A History by Charles T. Morissey

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

Too Far to Go by John Updike

For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper ed. by Sam Storms and Justin Taylor

Commentary on Galatians by Martin Luther

Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer

The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes

What Did You Expect? by Paul Tripp

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Never Late, Never Early

Galatians 4:1-7:I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come . . .

What a wonderful phrase! “When the fullness of time had come.” It is the gospel counterpart to the biblical lament “How long O Lord?”

That there is a fullness of time reminds us that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness” (2 Peter 3:9).

I am reminded of Gandalf’s words to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring: “A wizard is never late, nor is he early; he arrives precisely when he means to.”

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie.If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

– Habakkuk 2:3

There’s a date set! It will not delay.

Are you waiting for deliverance from something? Are you longing for the Lord’s return?

God’s timing is perfect. He’s never late nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.

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