Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A stirring song...Johnny Cash


The Man Comes Around

"And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder
One of the four beasts saying,
'Come and see.' and I saw, and behold a white horse"
There's a man goin' 'round takin' names
And he decides who to free and who to blame
Everybody won't be treated all the same
There'll be a golden ladder reachin' down
When the man comes around
The hairs on your arm will stand up
At the terror in each sip and in each sup
Will you partake of that last offered cup
Or disappear into the potter's ground?
When the man comes around
Hear the trumpets hear the pipers
One hundred million angels singin'
Multitudes are marchin' to the big kettledrum
Voices callin', voices cryin'
Some are born and some are dyin'
It's alpha and omega's kingdom come
And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree
The virgins are all trimming their wicks
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree
It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks
Till armageddon no shalam, no shalom
Then the father hen will call his chickens home
The wise man will bow down before the throne
And at his feet they'll cast their golden crowns
When the man comes around
Whoever is unjust let him be unjust still
Whoever is righteous let him be righteous still
Whoever is filthy let him be filthy still
Listen to the words long written down
When the man comes around
Hear the trumpets hear the pipers
One hundred million angels singin'
Multitudes are marchin' to the big kettledrum
Voices callin', voices cryin'
Some are born and some are dyin'
It's alpha and omega's kingdom come
And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree
The virgins are all trimming their wicks
The whirlwind is in the thorn trees
It's hard for thee to kick against the prick
In measured hundredweight and penny pound
When the man comes around
"And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts
And I looked, and behold a pale horse
And his name that sat on him was death, and hell followed with him"
Songwriters: JOHNNY CASH
© BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

"We're broken, but we won't bend."

What does it mean to be a Christ-follower?

Such a question creates a series of debates. Those on the left claim those on the right "aren't real Christians," and likewise, those on the right question the legitimacy of those on the left. Catholics dubbed Protestants the "estranged brethren" who meet in "eccliastical communities" (which aren't a part of the real Church nor are real churches). Protestants wonder if Catholics have drowned the gospel in a sea of Papal Encylicals, Dogma, and Sacramants.

The banner I'm choosing to wave is that "Christ followers are broken before God but unbending before the world." Those who come to God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit believing that salvation is by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9) can be assured of God's mercies. As the great St. Augustine reminds us, “God gives where he finds empty hands.” When we come broken before God, we find a God who loves to save.

But with brokenness, there must be a courage to not bend. If there is a God, a God known, and thus known through the written Scriptures, we must heed that voice above all others. We bow and bend before God and His Word, but we do not bow or bend to the influences of the world (Note: the Bible uses the term "world" to refer to the fallen, God-opposing, God-repellant culture that permeates every society, generation, and century.) 

So, whether left, right, Protestant, or Catholic, can you cry out with me, "We're broken, but we won't bend."

Jesus says anyone can come, with any burden, for a rest that no one else can give. He also says that if we refuse to honor His name and Lordship before our earthly audiences, he will refuse to honor us before the heavenly audience.

Matthew 11:28-29 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 10:32-33 "Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Christians, remember that those who identify as "transgender" are people...

Despite a person's cultural, moral, and religious views on transgenderism and gender dysphoria, we must continue to uphold the dignity of human persons. Jesus warns against anger, name calling, and "blowing off" other persons (Matthew 5:21-26). Those who lash out with cruel lips are in danger of the fires of hell. Rather, let us engage people and issues with tenderness and truth.

I particularly appreciated this recent post by Andrew Walker,
5 Things Every Christian Must Know About the Transgender Debate

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Insights from Pastor John Welch

“Pray for your pastor. Pray for his body, that he may be kept strong and spared many years. Pray for his soul, that he may be kept humble and holy, a burning and shining light. Pray for his .ministry, that it may be abundantly blessed, that he may be anointed to preach good tidings. Let there be no secret prayer without naming him before your God, no family prayer without carrying your pastor in your hearts to God.”

Please lift up your pastor (and me) in this way :)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Delight


The faith of a child is a faith that says this moment is enough; I'm safe; I'm protected; I'm loved.

I saw this dependent delight as I rode for the sixth time down the same water slide in the Wisconsin Dells with my 5 year old. He was with his dad, on a mini yellow raft, and the joy was palpable. The joy didn't weaken after each ride; it deepened.

Like others before me, my mind went to some famous paragraphs from the pen of G.K. Chesterton:

The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life.

The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.

It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.

Orthodoxy, 1908

Thursday, July 06, 2017

How Christians Should Celebrate Independence Day...

Those who know me personally know that I'm not keen on trying devotion to Jesus and patriotism. Certainly, patriotism in and of itself isn't a vice. It is much better to love your fellow citizens and honor government, than to embrace martial law and indifference to civic responsibilities.

That being said, morality exists on a fluctuating scale. For instance, isn't loving all people and nations and honoring all people and nations more noble than giving favoritism to a particular people group (even your own)? Why should Americans have the right to life and liberty but not Liberians? I'm not saying that America has any plan to destroy life and liberty globally, but I do wonder sometimes if our attitudes and expectations for American freedoms extend beyond our geographic borders. Likewise, I wonder sometimes if we baptize American action without comparing it to honor, character, virtue, and love. Thus, this blog post gives a bit of my political meanderings on the back side of our nations' 1776 declaration:

#1: We should mourn the beginning of rebellion and bloodshed. 1776 was a day when mostly British citizens rebelled against their king and country, committing treason, and entered into mortal combat with their nation's comrades. Was their action justified? Well, that depends on if you believe a country has a right to tax and control its colonial interests over a large body of water (think Guam and Puerto Rico). Now, since the Enlightenment, the rule of the governed is supposedly given by consent, so yes, citizens have a "right" to revolt. But the same arguments were used by the Confederacy during the Civil War when the Federal Government acted in similar British fashion to believe this type of succession was not justified. All this to say, beware of a black and white history. The choice to declare independence was a grave one (even if justified). Lives, families, and nations were torn in two at a very high cost. This should be a holy day of profound sobriety, not a reckless day of jubilation and glee.

#2: We should honor the honorable actions of both Americans and Brits, and deplore the heinous actions of both Americans and Brits. On both sides of this conflict, many men and women distinguished themselves with heroism and sacrifice. On both sides of this conflict, guilt and cruelty abounded. Thankfully, good historians have corrected the history books to show that we had a mixed bag on both sides of the conflict. This sort of attitude should extend to the almost 250 years of war history of our country. Not every conflict and not every soldier have distinguished themselves with honor. Certainly, many have been noble, but not all. Woe to Christian Churches, in particular, who ignore this reality. Our hero is Jesus Christ who gave himself for the guilty. We do injustice to the Gospel when the greatest honors on Sunday mornings go to military personnel. Soldiering is just as morally challenging as business and parenting and plumbing. You can do it sacrificially, or selfishly, heroically, or hedonistically. I've been personally blessed by the great veterans of our country, and I thank you. You've entered dangerous zones to serve those who cannot defend themselves. Note well, that I am also certain that some of your actions were done sinfully. The shed blood of Jesus Christ can cover your sins. You can be free of guilt for your actions. No calling, even soldiering, is rosy or baptized, but the cleansing power of Jesus (marked by baptism) is for all peoples and all callings. Grace is available to you. Lord, forgive us as well, for the sins of our nation. We are not guiltless. Be merciful, yes, O God, and bless America (and Great Britain, China, and Indonesia).

#3: We should hold our country's privileges with gratitude, discernment, and humility. First, say thank you, that this country has things many countries do not. These are gifts from God. Second, hold all privileges with discernment. It's possible we use freedom to lose freedom. We can grant so much indulgence to individuals that we become slaves to our indulgence. Freedom, like electricity, is costly and powerful and should be held carefully. Finally, be humble. Seeming peace and order can be stolen in a moment. Bombs fall, dictators rise, and rebellions spring up. At a fundamental level, all these spring from the condition of individual human hearts. So, how's your heart? Are you caring for your neighbor's soul? Are you willing to speak hard words in hard situations so we don't fall prey to the mindless, "patriotism" that has sprung up in countries that began to believe their country had the right to extend itself into other lands "for their good" or "the global good?" Oh, that we'd be grateful, discerning, and humble. Give us wisdom when we seek to help other nations. Give us grace when we fail.

Pray for our leaders. They have a difficult job. Pray they know the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Three sermons still resonating in my soul...

I just read a blog about one person's 5 most impact sermons in their life, so it got me thinking and I could think of 3.

1. First, I remember attending my first or second college meeting of the Iowa State Navigators in the Memorial Union. Ron Shimkus, a mid-50s, staff leader spoke from Revelation chapter 2. The passage included Jesus' direct words to the 1st century church in Ephesus. The entire sermon focused on Jesus' declaration that the church in Ephesus had "lost its first love." A "Christian church" that had quit loving Jesus is a church about to become defunct. It's true of churches and it's true of Christians. I was convicted that Jesus needed to be my first love. I needed to pursue Him in prayer, the Word, and obedience. The temptations of college grew dim in the light of the glory of Jesus.

2. The second "sermon" that stands out is actually a recorded lecture by Tim Keller that he first presented in 2003, but I listened to it sometime in 2008-2009. It's one of the few things I've ever listened to that I immediately relistened to, and then again, and then again. I've told people over the years that I've had 3 or 4 conversions in my Christian life. I believed in Christ Jesus for the first time around age 10-11, when I first heard of God's forgiveness through the Cross of Jesus and my need to personally repent and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. I had "another conversion" when I was 15 or 16 when a preacher helped me totally rest in God's grace for salvation. I didn't need to "do good, Christian things" to be saved; I needed to find my only hope, peace, and joy in the Triune God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then in college, I was converted again through the various teachings of John Piper and college pastors and ministries in Ames, Iowa, that rightly taught that God is glorified most when I find my deepest satisfaction in Him. Worship was no longer duty, but a delight. My 4th conversion occurred, while jogging on the South Platte River trail in Littleton, CO, while listening to Pastor Tim Keller talk to me about the depths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You too can be "reconverted" by listening to this powerful lecture: http://www.gospelinlife.com/what-is-the-gospel-4621 (After you listen to this lecture, spend some time on the gospelinlife.com website, taking in all the free sermons available.)

3. The third "sermon" is once again, not a sermon, but a short message from Larry Austin to a leadership training class on a random Thursday evening Spring 2007 at the First Evangelical Free Church in Boone. I don't remember much, but I remember this line, "There is a huge difference between productivity and fruitfulness." That is, Christians and churches and pastors can do a lot of stuff, but it might end up having no eternal or spiritual value. All fruitfulness flows from intimacy with Jesus Christ (cf. John 15). If our souls become disconnected to Jesus, we offer nothing to those under our care. The teachings of Peter Scazzero (a fantastic 2-day event while I was at Denver Seminary plus his books), Dallas Willard (a week long class in seminary and a 2-day encounter in Green Lake, WI, plus his books), and Henri Nouwen (books alone) have helped me believe and practice this more and more.

I listen to 3-10 sermons per week while driving and jogging. Though I can't at the moment think of another sermon that stands out, I am indebted to the preaching ministries of Dan Leman, John Piper, Tim Keller, Mark Dever, and so many others (Dick Lucas, Alistair Begg, Paul Tripp, Zack Eswine, Don Carson, and the print sermons of Charles Spurgeon, Charles Simeon, Jonathan Edwards, Alexander Maclaren, John Calvin, John Wesley, and so many others.)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Pain of Ministry

The pain of ministry ever lingers,
  As sheep shepherds keep watch,
The Enemy reaches with creeping fingers,
  Condemning all for every botch.

We spy wolves seeking success,
  Attack the fold, they make a mess,
The flock sees not persistent duress,
  They mistake claws for sweet caress.

Oh my finite impotence,
  Oh my inability apparent,
I save none outside the fence,
  Nor bring any into God's tent.

Like all, my weakness I must bring,
  Each transgression's weight too much,
To the bloody cross of suffering,
  I seek healing, a potent touch.

There alone is the soul's content,
  There alone each sheep must flee,
Where the Father commanded Son sent,
  Where life bought for me, for thee.

So, now I go and bring my sorrows,
  To a King crucified, not dead,
The one who holds all the morrows,
  I, a member, He, the Head.

Friday, June 16, 2017

A fascinating USA Today Article that questions "Born This Way"

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/06/16/born-way-many-lgbt-community-its-way-more-complex/395035001/

On about page 4, one researcher (labeled as an "activist-academic in sex") argues that sexuality is biopsychosocial (related to biology, psychology and the social world). That's one of the best descriptions I've ever heard from someone in the scientific community regarding the dynamic of human personality, preferences, orientation, etc. 

One key difference in the scientific community and Christianity is that science studies what "is," and has no category for what "should be." Christianity believes in ethics and norms. Genesis chapters 1-3 reveal that the world is not as it "is" supposed to be. We've lost our connection to God, the earth, and one another (we see these explained in Genesis 3). There's been a breakdown within our selves. The term for this is "original sin." There's also a breakdown in the world; it is "fallen." It doesn't function as it is supposed to (think natural disasters, climate change, disease). Likewise, relationships are corrupted by shame, pride, and abuse.

So, let's go back to this term biopsychosocial, which I think is a useful label for the make-up of a human person. Christians would be ok with this term, but put it in the context of original sin and a fallen world. Thus, our biology is corrupt; our minds are corrupt; and our social world is fallen. Thus, we should question the summation of our biopsychosocial make-up. Every aspect of our world and lives and minds is "off" at some level (including our gender and sexuality--whether LGTBAQ, Straight, or something else). 

This is why we all need Holy Scripture to detail what is right, good, true, and beautiful (because we need an accurate scale to judge our world and souls). Likewise, we need the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin and unrighteousness and then empower us by His grace to turn away from all that is "off" from God's Word and turn toward the path that leads to life, beauty, holiness, and love. We see life, beauty, holiness, and love most preeminently in the life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, a perfect human who honored the commands and teachings of God and then offered His life for the sins of others. He lived the life we were supposed to live, and then He took the death we deserved.

Heal us Jesus. We're all off at multiple levels, prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love...take our hearts and seal them, O Lord, seal them for the courts above. Praise God, His grace is big enough to save and sanctify anyone.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Nine real solutions to feeling tired all the time

One of the recurring things I hear from my own soul and from people both within my church and among friends and family is they feel persistently tired, never fully rested, and always out of sorts.

So, I see a recurring pattern of people being asked at work, church, or a community organization to give up a few more hours to serve or help or participate. The person feels overwhelmed and says, "I can't," and that they need a night, a week, or a month to recover from this sense of fatigue.

But it turns out this person is always tired, always out of sorts, always needing more hours, more nights off, more personal time, more "me time," and the like. Clearly, the solutions they have taken haven't really dealt with the fatigue. Where might they turn?

Here are some collected thoughts from someone who has read a lot on health, rest, the Sabbath, spiritual growth, and maintaining a healthy balance on life:

#1: Make choices for the good of others. One of the most draining, life-sucking, soul-destroying things we can do is live for ourselves. Jesus warned that if we attempt to gain the whole world (think personal happiness and peace) we will lose our soul. The only way to truly save our soul (the greatest peace and rest imaginable) is to lay our lives down. I believe many people are exhausted because they spend an exorbitant amount of their lives trying to satisfy their soul. They keep saying they're tired and need to rest, but it's only feeding the me-monster that will only get more hungry for more personal pleasure and happiness. Contrast this way of living with Jesus. He sacrificially died for you and me and the sins of the world. He did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). This is why Jesus can give peace and rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28-30; John 14:27-28). If you want deep rest, you'll probably be physically tired. Mother Teresa was tired. Every good, young mom is tired. Great Presidents are tired. Great humans are tired. But, they know a deeper rest, something sweeter than sleeping in, a day-off, or a Chinese buffet.

#2: Avoid screens at least 1 hour before a predetermined bedtime, if not entirely. The light of screens and the suspense of TV shows and sports all work against actually going to bed and resting peacefully. The guy who says, "I can't fall asleep until midnight," is the guy who keeps watching shows until his eyelids droop, well beyond when they would droop if the lights and TV were off. Maybe you thought this additional Netflix show would make you happy, but it turns out, it just made you tired.

#3: Find your sleep rhythm. Most people sleep best if they go to bed and rise at the same hours every night (including weekends!). Adults should find their best pattern, and that usually falls in the 7-9 hour window. Less than 7 or 8 is normally a killer, but more than 9 is more likely to cause lethargy than a sense of restfulness. Know thyself, and then accept the hand God's dealt you.

#4: Take a full Sabbath every week, on the same day (if at all possible). God designed the human body for 6 days of work and one day of Sabbath. Sabbath is a day to remember God's good gifts. Sabbath is a day for play, enjoying creation, getting outside, eating good food, and avoiding work-for-pay activities. Sabbath is always a day to pray, to worship God in community, to worship God individually, to worship God with your family, and to remember His grace and mercy. Feel free to be creative. Our family goes from 5PM Friday to 5PM Saturday (I work Sundays). Others go 5PM Saturday to 5PM Sunday, or from 7AM Sunday to 7AM Monday. If you work on the weekend, see if you can find an employer who will give you a consistent day for a Sabbath.

#5: Work hard the other 6 days. Generally speaking, humans were made to work during all the daylight hours. So when the sun is out, we should keep working. If we work hard when we're supposed to, our body will go to bed when we want it too. Some experts speculate we don't rest well because we aren't working well. We play or doddle when we should work, and then when we should be resting and relaxing, we have to catch up on the work we missed earlier.

#6: Take strategic breaks during the day. The reason most of us never feel rested is we are actually in a constant state of motion, attention, or work every minute of every day of every week. We go from work, to home, to projects, to housework, to kids' activities, to long trips, to church meetings. But since it is humanly impossible to not rest and recuperate, we accept poor substitutes to break up our day that never satisfy our body or soul. For example:
  1. The internet: We feel overwhelmed, so we check our email or social media or the news. Such things are never restful. We replace one unrestful activity (our actual responsibilities) with another unrestful activity (internet). Sure, we got a mental break from our actual responsibilities, but we never rested truly. It would have been better to go for a fifteen minute walk outside or a 5 minute prayer break, but since those things don't look like work, we avoid them.
  2. Eating: Our bodies get run down and so we want to appease that feeling with food, but too often we stuff our bodies with bad fuel. We need vitamins and nutrients, but those don't taste as good or have as quick of a reaction as sugar, fat, and caffeine. As a result, we eat foods that cause drastic highs and lows (which tax the body on both ends), and now we don't have enough energy to fuel a good day, nor the kind of health that allows for good sleep.

#7: If you are feeling tired, today, eat supper and then go to bed. Many studies suggest that "sleeping in" has limited to no value on getting caught up on sleep (for instance click here).  Take a night or two and just go to bed after supper. If you wake up in the middle of the night, stay off your phone, computer, or TV, and keep the lights off. Breathe easy, don't panic, and just wait till your body goes back to sleep.

#8: Exercise regularly. You can walk, run, life weights, swim, or play a sport, but you probably should do something (for longevity sake, jogging is the hands-down winner). Especially, if you work in the white collar world, odds are your body hasn't used enough energy. And just in case you haven't heard, sitting IS the new smoking. So move, your body everyday, and 75 minutes a week at a vigorous level. You'll sleep and feel better, and you'll probably live longer too.

#9: Embrace your humanity. This is really the point to all the eight solutions that proceed it, but just in case you haven't picked up what I'm putting down, let me get specific. You are a finite, human person who has limits. You can believe the lie that Adam and Eve believed in the Garden that you can go your own way and do your own thing and still feel happy and restful. Or you can confess your humanity, your selfishness, and your unwillingness to submit to God. You can confess that you've blamed God for feeling tired or unhealthy or unrestful, and look in the mirror and see your own pride, presumption, and unwillingness to live based on reality. Your demands for happiness and control expose a sinful heart, a desire to take God's place. So confess this as sin, nonsense, and death. Cry out to Jesus for forgiveness. Ask the Holy Spirit to come and rule in your life, and then live according to your finite position. Obey God; follow His commandments; honor the body He's giving you; use it to serve others; and don't worship at the gods of television, entertainment, and self. Let God be God, and yourself an undeserving recipient of His grace.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Why Christianity Should Die...

Reasons why Christianity should die...

Reason #1: Jesus and the first Christians were lunatics. Jesus claimed to be one with God, able to forgive sin, and preexistent to the Jewish patriarch Abraham. The early Christians claimed that a crucified Jesus had resurrected and appeared to many, including 500 people at one time. They died (some murdered even) professing this to be true, even claiming Jesus was a divine being worthy of worship (something no sane Jew would ever do). They even put these ideas in stories Christians call the New Testament, which leads me to reason #2...

Reason #2: The New Testament is full of contradictions. One gospel account says there were 2 angels at the resurrection of Jesus, another mentions only 1. Some gospel accounts have Jesus having supernatural abilities to read minds and predict the future, others depict Jesus as ignorant of future events and unable to do miraculous works. Clearly, the lunatics (see reason #1) did not sit down to collaborate and ensure we'd have a consistent story-line. If they were smarter, they would have worked out these kinks in the first century to ensure consistent ideas and practices. This naturally leads to reasons #3...

Reason #3: Christians are inconsistent practitioners. Christianity is a divided mess. They have pacifists and war-mongers. They have Mary-worshipping Catholics and Bible-worshipping Evangelicals. They allow Mother Teresa and George W. Bush to both claim to be Christians. In history, the Catholics kill Lutherans, the Lutherans kill Baptists, and the Baptists kill liberals (at least in the voting box). Why does such a divided, confused, and inconsistent religion still exist in the 21st century? Why hasn't this thing died off yet? It almost proves Christianity's belief in sin, ignorance, and the fallenness of humanity (but we can't give them that). It's almost as if something (or Someone) is behind all this. This makes me think of yet another reason...

Reason #4: Christians believe God is the power behind everything. Christians believe God created the world. Christians believe God is the ultimate cause behind all that happens in history (some Christians even say, God plans and purposes the evil actions of humans and demons). Such backward, pre-scientific, premodern, neanderthal ideas should have died. Surely, science and human thought can work out the origins of the universe, morality, and human dignity without looking to answers outside of space and time. Who needs God to know what's right and wrong? Hasn't all the wonderful things of the 20th century proven that science and atheism make countries more wholesome and peaceful? (Just don't look at the Soviet massacres, the evolutionary morality that propelled Hitler's Aryan race and the Holocaust, or the horrors of communist China and Vietnam, or the culture of death that has slaughtered millions of babies in the name of progress in the "enlightened" nations of the West.) Keep pointing those fingers at the lunatic Christians and their belief in a single deity who rules the cosmos. Such idiocy...oh, and one final reason.

Reason #5: Christians will never know till death if they are right. You can't test their beliefs in a laboratory. All their ideas are "pie in the sky," hopes of heaven. They think future happiness is to be postponed, that personal sacrifice and acts of love now are the way to ensure long-term, eternal joy. Such fools turn away from certain forms of physical pleasure and sexuality. They miss out now on what could be theirs, putting all their hopes in a future they won't even know is true until they die. They prize martyrs who gave up their lives for love and religion, but we know those martyrs were just lunatics. Mother Teresa was a fool. Eric Liddell an idiot. Christian doctors giving their lives among Ebola patients are crazy. Missionaries who give up the bliss of Western civilization to feed the hungry and share the message of Christianity don't have a clue. Darwin is right: it's all about survival of the fittest. The way to honor my species is to grow strong, populate widely, and ignore the weak. Let science be king and all else proven liars.

#satire


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Book Review: 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke


Neil Postman’s classic on the nature of television received the intriguing title, Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985). Jacques Ellul penned The Technological Bluff (1990). Now in 2017, Tony Reinke writes a fantastic book, filled with penetrating theological insight, rigorous research, and probing analysis on the nature of the smartphone and its users, and the only thing that falls flat is the less-than-alluring title, Twelve Ways Your Phone is Changing You.

In 2016, Time magazine declared the iPhone as the most influential gadget of all time. The world of smartphones is far different from the world of silent movies or Atari. To minister in such a world, the church needs an army of servants, teachers, and shepherds who can personally find freedom from lurking smartphone dangers. Only then can we assist others to handle these amazing gadgets to the glory of God.

But what if you struggle with smartphone abuse as I do? For instance, my smartphone overuse at home is the most common argument between my wife and me. My kids will sometimes stand in front of me and say, “Dad, I thought you weren’t working today,” while I sneak in a quick email. Quite unconsciously, in the middle of meetings (that in my pride I have determined as boring) I will pull out my phone to check my favorite teams’ sports scores.

To whom shall we go? Answer: Jesus, and Reinke’s book can help. This book cannot save you, but the God to whom this book points can.

Each chapter stirs our affections, challenging us to look away from our device and instead toward our satisfying Redeemer and Creator. In the end, Reinke’s counsel related to the smartphone turns out to be a tutorial on human engagement with all technologies.

With compelling sentences, Reinke forces theological inquiry in the face of technological temptation: “What if the rhythms of Snapchat selfies and our star-studded Instagram feeds are exposing the dimness of our future hope?” He offers a well-crafted turn of phrase, one after another, such as, “The clicks of our fingertips reveal the dark motives of our hearts, and every sin—every double-tap and every click—will be accounted for.”

Later in the book, Reinke argues, “It is better to lose the capacity to scroll for pornography than have your whole body thrown into hell.” Fitting words for someone like myself, greatly thankful that God freed me from a pornography addiction before the onset of smartphones. Sadly, this dark sin still shackles others with Tinder, chat rooms, and images squalling feverishly for lost souls in cyberspace. Others racked with crippling loneliness turn to their phones to deal with relational fears, believing the lie that through a few million microprocessors and network connections isolation will end.

So, read the book. Find freedom in Christ. And Crossway, after this book goes through its first printing, consider a retitling of the book (the existing title can serve as a subtitle), such as, Swiping Our Souls to Death, Seeking a Screen Savior, or iSwipe Therefore iAm.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

A Review "Revenge of the Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter"

In 1989, I spent hours playing "Think Quick" on my father's new computer (the Atari got put aside to investigate this new game fought out on keyboard instead of joystick). This adventure/learning game captured my attention. It was the dawning of digital for me personally. It promised adventure, excitement, and the thrill of victory. I mastered the game, tasted sweet victory, and now almost 30 years later, I wonder if I was the thing mastered, if the technology took more than it gave, if it over promised and under delivered?

These are the running concerns in David Jax's 2016 work Revenge of the Analog. Jax's journalistic talents show up throughout the book. You feel the tension of the digital download generation. You feel the sense of lostness in a world of constant streaming sound. Soon you too see the hope of owning a record player, touching the plastic mold, marveling over the album cover, and placing that needle carefully upon the record so that sound flows forth.

Jax includes the insights of technology gurus such as MIT Professor Sherry Turkle who observes, “It [technology] promises friendship but can only deliver performance.”

He takes you on a tour of the famous Camp Walden, where technology is still nearly banned for weeks of a kid's summer. Then, he askes the Camp director why technology is at odds with the purposes at Camp Wadlen. “[Sol] Birenbaum [head of Camp Walden] didn’t hesitate to answer. ‘We look at the heart of what we do, and it is interpersonal relationships.’” (page 236, epilogue)

Sure, the iPhone has it benefits, but to bow before its (near-idol like) promises and power can only mean a loss of humanity. Life was meant to be felt, shared, and experienced with human persons. Or as Jax explains, “Ultimately, analog pursuits connect us to one another in a vastly deep way than any digital technology can. They allow bonds to form in real time and physical spaces, which transcend language and our ability to communicate with just words and symbols.” (239, epilogue)

Jax's book is a fun tour of several aspects of life (schools, work, music, games, films, etc.) that all show that digital cannot and should not be received without a wary eye. What Jax's book lacks is thoughtful theological and philosophical reflections on why digital doesn't satisfy (Turkle is one of the few exceptions).

For those looking for deeper answers than a journalistic tour of the world, you'll need to turn to the likes of Neil Postman's classic, Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985) or Jacques Ellul's The Technological Bluff (1990). And there's a fantastic new book (2017) by Tony Reinke (don't let the less than thrilling title fool you) Twelve Ways Your Phone is Changing You.

Here are a few nuggets to encourage you to read Reinke's book:

 “What if the rhythms of Snapchat selfies and our star-studded Instagram feeds are exposing the dimness of our future hope?”

“The clicks of our fingertips reveal the dark motives of our hearts, and every sin—every double-tap and every click—will be accounted for.”

Jax's book is a fun snapshot of culture. It's the other books that better ask and answer why culture and souls cannot find hope or salvation in the promises and patterns of digital living.













Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Quote of the Day: John Chysostom (349-407)

“The gospel produces the exact opposite of what people want and expect, but it is that very fact which persuades them to accept it in the end."