Monthly Archives: March 2010

Trials are Fiery Windows: A Personal Update

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may already know that my wife’s father has been diagnosed with cancer. His situation is serious, and he will begin radiation treatment this week. Corina and our 21-month-0ld daughter Julia left for Romania yesterday to spend a couple weeks with her family. Timothy and I are sticking it out at home for now.

We’ve always known that we could wind up with ailing parents in the U.S. while we are in Romania or with ailing parents in Romania while we are in the States. People with international marriages face this kind of trial often.

What we didn’t expect was for Corina’s dad to get a bad diagnosis so soon. He’s only 60 and has been in good health all his life.

Reflecting on the difficulties of this present moment for us, I am beginning to see trials as “fiery windows.”

Why windows? Because they reveal to us the faith we have (or too often, our lack of faith!).

Why fiery? Because they not only reveal our faith, but they refine our faith as well.

So I’m up against a windowsill that’s burning, and this is what I see:

    I see that we have too often assumed that we are in control. We think we are in charge, and it shows in the way we make decisions and map out our future.
    I see that we take for granted our health and relationships. We’ve always thought that since there’s longevity in our genes, we wouldn’t have to worry about death …

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Worth a Look 3.18.10

Romanian Baptists are embroiled in a controversy over whether or not to accept government funding:

Refusing funds would not doom churches but may scuttle certain projects, said Paul Negrut. “Just follow the future development of those churches that have accepted money to see which is doing better in witness, integrity, and impact. Western Europe speaks volumes.”

In the meantime, Danut Manastireanu said, “Some think there is nothing wrong with state subsidies. Others see this as getting the first finger; then the state will want to control matters of faith and church life.”

15 noteworthy websites that changed the internet:

There are millions of websites out there. Many of them are unique, either in small ways or in large ones. But the individual impact of any particular site on the overall Internet is generally negligible, if there’s any impact at all. Not so with the fifteen sites here. These sites changed the Internet, mostly for good, in substantial ways…

Speaking of websites, what happens to your social media if you die?

Today, many of us keep our profiles, blog posts, and musings entirely online, leaving family, friends, and service providers stuck trying to figure out what to do with a deceased user’s digital bits.

Author Tim Stafford offers these predictions for the future of publishing:

It’s all changing. It’s exciting and aggravating—especially to us small-holders who try to make a living from it. For what it’s worth, here are my predictions of the future…

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Learning from the Great Theologians: An Interview with Gerald McDermott

Today I have the privilege of interviewing Gerald McDermott, professor of religion and philosophy at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia. His new book is The Great Theologians: A Brief Guide (see my review here). He is also the author of Seeing God: Jonathan Edwards and Spiritual Discernment and God’s Rivals: Why Has God Allowed Different Religions? Insights from the Bible and the Early Church.

Trevin Wax: Your new book profiles eleven theologians throughout Christian history. Why are these theologians (many who lived more than a thousand years ago) relevant to the Christian today?

Gerald McDermott: Let me try to answer that question with an illustration.

Suppose you know there is a great woman of God in your church who has read the Bible and theology for forty years. She not only has deep knowledge of Scripture and how to interpret it for life and culture, but she also walks a holy life. People often remark on her humility and love.

What if you were to take the attitude, “I’m going to construct my own theology (which, remember, is your view of God) on my own, simply reading the Bible and theology books by myself.”

Wouldn’t that be odd, when you have a godly theologian in your midst? In fact, doesn’t this seem to illustrate sinful pride? It calls to mind the warning of Proverbs: “Fools despise wisdom and instruction” (1:7b).

To ignore the great and godly minds of the church who have been ruminating on God for …

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Worth a Look 3.17.10

More on Peter Hitchens’ (brother of atheist author Christopher Hitchens) extraordinary conversion to Christianity:

Why is there such a fury against religion now? Because religion is the one reliable force that stands in the way of the power of the strong over the weak. The one reliable force that forms the foundation of the concept of the rule of law.

The one reliable force that restrains the hand of the man of power. In an age of powerworship, the Christian religion has become the principal obstacle to the desire of earthly utopians for absolute power.

Professionalism in ministry and the need for equippers:

The way to fix a church suffering with professionalism is not to do away with the gifted, well-trained, and experienced ministers but channel their ministry in a different way.  This is the genius of the early church leaders.  They understood their calling not as ministers but equippers.  Their end goal was to have apprentices who can duplicate their life, work, and calling so that as the church continues to grow and multiply, there are new laborers and competent leaders for the mission.

C-Span archives are like YouTube for political junkies. I wonder how video tape will help future historians do their task.

Albert Mohler’s 10 books every preacher should read in 2010.

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The Evidence for Life After Death

Most people affirm the idea of life after death. But could it be that this idea is merely a persistent legend? A comforting thought that has no basis in reality?

In Life After Death: The Evidence (Regnery, 2009), Dinesh D’Souza builds a scientific and rational case for the reality of the afterlife. When I realized what D’Souza was attempting to do here (prove the afterlife without appealing to faith or revelation), I doubted it could be done effectively. And while “prove” might be too strong a word, D’Souza definitely makes belief in the afterlife intellectually reasonable, and even compelling.

Life After Death engages atheists and materialists on their own terms. That’s why D’Souza cannot limit himself to speaking only about the afterlife. He first makes the case for the existence of God by showing how naturalism is biased in favor of atheism. D’Souza pokes holes in the atheist’s argument, in order to bring the atheist down to the same level as the theist. Interestingly enough, he accomplishes this feat while advocating epistemological humility!

D’Souza points to a variety of facts that bolster his view of the afterlife, including the near universality of this belief. He writes a fascinating chapter on near-death experiences, in which he gleans pertinent evidence for life after death without succumbing to a naive gullibility regarding all of these testimonies.

In another chapter, D’Souza delves into the “physics” of immortality, using intelligent design to make “space” (pun intended) for the concept of the afterlife. At one point, he uses …

Posted in Book Reviews | 6 Comments

Worth a Look 3.16.10

Albert Mohler on Glenn Beck’s recent suggestion for Christians to flee churches that talk about social justice:

The church is not to adopt a social reform platform as its message, but the faithful church, wherever it is found, is itself a social reform movement precisely because it is populated by redeemed sinners who are called to faithfulness in following Christ. The Gospel is not a message of social salvation, but it does have social implications.

Faithful Christians can debate the proper and most effective means of organizing the political structure and the economic markets. Bringing all these things into submission to Christ is no easy task, and Gospel must not be tied to any political system, regime, or platform. Justice is our concern because it is God’s concern, but it is no easy task to know how best to seek justice in this fallen world.

The Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is now online!

The Jonathan Edwards Center is a ministry of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  Located on the campus of TEDS (Deerfield, Illinois), it exists to promote and serve the conversation unfolding onJonathan Edwards, America’s preeminent pastor, theologian, and philosopher.  It has a special burden to engage the life of the church, though it is engaged on multiple levels with scholarly study of Edwards and his world.

Celebrating 25 years of dot.com domains:

But there was hardly a ripple when Symbolics Inc., a Cambridge, Mass., maker of computer systems and software based on research done at …

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"Is it Me, Lord?" Humility at the Table of Grace

In the Gospel of Mark, each time Jesus predicts his suffering, the disciples demonstrate their pride and weakness.  The scenes are sadly comical. Jesus talks about going to the cross, and the disciples begin trying to one-up each other for glory in the kingdom.

But there is one scene that stands out. At the table during the Last Supper, Jesus tells the disciples that one of them will betray him. Based upon everything we know of the disciples, we might expect them to begin looking around at each other, trying to figure out who is the villain.

Maybe it’s Peter. He thinks he’s so devoted…

I bet it’s John. He loses his temper and can’t control himself. Maybe he’s mad at Jesus…

It’s probably Simon. Jesus isn’t a Zealot, and Simon might be wanting to go back to his old life…

Maybe it’s Levi. The money from the tax booth is calling him again…

We expect to see the disciples looking suspiciously at one another, trying to figure out who might be the betrayer. We expect them to point the finger and say, “Is it him?” Instead, they point the finger back at themselves and say, “Is it me?”

If there’s any encouragement in this passage, it’s that the disciples immediately start looking at themselves and their own hearts. They don’t immediately judge the others.

Whenever we see someone fall into sin, our temptation is to puff up and think, “I’m glad I’m stronger than that.” Often, when we hear a sermon that should step on our …

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Worth a Look 3.15.10

Dostoevksy in the context of Eastern Orthodoxy:

By considering the context of Eastern Orthodoxy in which Dostoevsky wrote, Williams enables the reader to look more perceptively into the depictions that emerge from Dostoevsky’s literary and religious imagination. While Dostoevsky’s writing does not offer the direct gaze of the Orthodox icon, neither does it mime the askance view of Holbein’s dead Christ. Instead, it is “a sort of icon,” a genuinely searching and demanding literature that is deeply indebted to the Christian faith.

Did Jim Sikes’ Prius actually have an accelerator problem? The rest of the story:

Now here’s the potential smoking gun: Sikes told the reporters that “I was reaching down and trying to pull up on the gas pedal. It didn’t move at all; it was stationary.” That’s awfully daring for somebody who insisted he didn’t even want to take a hand off his steering wheel, notwithstanding that he did so to hold his phone. …

Have we arrived at the end of the road for pro-life Democrats?

What are Democratic leaders saying? “If you pass the Stupak amendment, more children will be born, and therefore it will cost us millions more. That’s one of the arguments I’ve been hearing,” Stupak says. “Money is their hang-up. Is this how we now value life in America? If money is the issue — come on, we can find room in the budget. This is life we’re talking about.”

CJ Mahaney: “Hard Thoughts about God – in Parenting”

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Praying for Michael Spencer

I am deeply saddened to hear that Michael Spencer (the Internet Monk) has been told that his cancer is too aggressive and advanced to expect any remission. (See his wife Denise’s update here.) Michael has encouraged me on a number of occasions, regarding blogging, writing, and ministry.

My father-in-law has recently received a cancer diagnosis. There are several people in my church who are battling cancer right now. Let’s take a few moments to pray for Michael and for others who are struggling during this time. This prayer comes from the guys at the Boars Head Tavern. It’s specifically about Michael, but you can also use these words to lift up others who are suffering.

Our Father,

First of all we acknowledge You as our God, our Maker, and our Saviour. We are awed by Your majesty. We are comforted by Your presence. We are grateful for every good and perfect gift from Your hand.

We are also sad and upset. Our friend Michael is sick. The news concerning him is not what we want to hear, not what we hoped to hear. We love him. Our hearts are heavy.

Lord, You know and love Michael so much more and better than we do. You know his frame, You know his mind, You know his heart, You know the burden he carries. Please be with him. Work in his life. Comfort his heart with the gospel. Heal his body. Lift his burdens.

Give him sweet sleep, a growing appetite and happy days …

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The Beauty of Jesus' Love

“The sacrificial, costly love of Jesus changes us. When we see the beauty of what he has done for us, it attracts our hearts to him. We realize that the love, the greatness, the consolation, and the honor we have been seeking in other things is here. The beauty also eliminates our fear. If the Lord of the universe loves us enough to experience this for us, what are we afraid of?

- Tim Keller

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