Blog Update (Summer 2015)

Marshall McLuhan once said, “I have been slowly accumulating a private arsenal with every intention of using it.” Such is this blog for me. It is the accumulation of reading notes and ideas gleaned from such. McLuhan also said, “I don’t agree with everything I say.” That might apply as well.

With that said, I have been slowly decreasing the amount of content pumped into the blog as I have transitioned to a new phase in my life. This is actually good news (at least for me personally). Since February, I have transitioned in my professional work to the field of instructional technology and instructional design. This has been a big change that has required me to drastically adjust my schedule. Also, still preach at a variety of (PCA) churches nearly every Sunday. I haven’t had a Sunday off from the pulpit since March; that’s a good thing as well. This Lord’s Day, for instance, I preached at two different churches at 9 and 11am. That’s something that occurs regularly.

But, even beyond all this, and this is the point, I am resuming my graduate studies this Fall. We’ve been praying for this for the past five years and have finally found ourselves in a position for it to happen. My employer is supportive, and that helps. I’m really excited. This is the answer to numerous prayers – fasting days and sleepless nights.

For those of you unfamiliar with the process of seeking a Master of Divinity, it can be an arduous task to say the least. The degree I began seeking nearly 10 years ago, the M.Div at my particular seminary, is a 106 hour Master’s Degree along with requirements of learning the entire Westminster Shorter Catechism, gaining field experience, and passing a comprehensive Bible exam. The grading scale requires you to gain a 97% in a class to have a 4.0. I managed to finish 92 hours, pass my catechism exams, and complete my field education requirements before circumstances lead to a break in my studies.

Finally, I find myself in the position of resuming my studies and I’m extremely excited for the Fall. With that said, new content on this blog is going to continue to slow down. I will still make posts, but they will be far less frequent for the time being – at least until I get comfortable with my busier schedule. I’ve been able to balance my family and church life along with school and work pretty well for the past decade; pray for me that I’ll be able to continue to do so for the next year as I finish up the remainder of my M.Div program. I hope to begin seeking ordination after that; that’s been the goal all along, but it hasn’t been easy. I’ve sensed God’s call to the ministry of the Word since I was twenty years old, as a brand new convert, and while I’ve had God’s people regularly affirming that call on my life, it’s been a long period of testing and patience. I remain patient, but am ready to put this big step behind me.

In the past month I’ve read Tim Keller’s new book on preaching and a couple of random biographies, along with some Neil Postman. I’ve also been enjoying the late Dr. Knox Chamblin’s series of lectures on C.S. Lewis (I had the pleasure of being a student of Knox Chamblin before he passed; in fact, he is the man who turned me on to C.S. Lewis to begin with). I recommend them very highly. In the midst of all that, I’ve found very little time to write about what I’ve read and listened to. I think that’s going to continue to be the case for a while. You can probably look for me to post about once a week for the indefinite future (perhaps there will be a few spurts here and there). I’ll still respond to comments and all of my old content will remain available.

I basically just wanted to give those of you who actually read my blog regularly a heads up. Let me know going forward if there’s anything in particular that I can help you with as far as discussion; and, as always, let me know if you read something you really like and think I should read it as well. As one of my other professors used to say – pray for your brother.

Christ Builds His Church

Ministers may preach, and writers may write, but the Lord Jesus Christ alone can build. And except he builds, the work stands still…

Great is the wisdom with which the Lord Jesus Christ builds his church. All is done at the right time, and in the right way. Each stone in its turn is put in the right place. Sometimes he chooses great stones, and sometimes he chooses small stones. Sometimes the work moves fast, and sometimes it moves slowly. Man is frequently impatient, and thinks that nothing is happening. But man’s time is not God’s time. A thousand years in his sight are but as a single day. The great Builder makes no mistakes. He knows what he is doing. He sees the end from the beginning. He world by a perfect unalterable and certain plan. The mightiest conceptions of architects, like Michaelangelo, are mere insignificant child’s plan, in comparison with Christ’s wise counsels respecting his church.

-J.C. Ryle, Warnings to the Churches

I saw a video tonight with a church-planting-minister explaining how he had ‘built’ his church. I’m thankful that ministers don’t actually build churches – Christ builds his church.

Sleeping in Church (Jonathan Edwards)

This is one of those random posts I do specifically for preachers, though it may be helpful for others. I found this via one of my former (and favorite) professors, straight from the Yale archives of Jonathan Edwards, in a sermon on Acts 19:19, entitled When the Spirit of God has been remarkably poured out on a people, a thorough reformation of those things that before were amiss amongst them ought to be the effect of it. Somehow I find this encourage, though perhaps it shouldn’t be.

Could it be that Jonathan Edwards had folks sleeping during his sermons?:

6. The & the Last thing I shall maintain is sleeping

of [mu ting]. There is a thing that as been

found amongst us in times past, but

it may well be Expected that we should [ma stip]

G. with Great Reverance & Diligence since

G. has P. Remarkbaly Poured out his Sp.

upon amongst us.

________________

if that he may [as is effectual] here [ ned]

there is an assembly that appears to be asleep

in their seats in the time of divine savlation marginal

this will be a thing that strangers will observe

those have had what a time there has been

an in the Town. when they [come] have with

naturally take notice how People appear as

their Publick was [sting] whether they seem

there seems to be an Evident & Remarkbabl

diff. between them & other People whether

they seem to Give better oftentimes & to at-

tend with Greater Reverance & dilig. &

whether they dont sleep as much as they

do at other Places if they observe that men

sleep at meeting as much as at other places

It will doubtless bring much discord it will

them an what they have heard of us Let me

theref. Indicate that this [moving] be laughly Re-

formed amongst us & Let I would desire the

that Persons would avoid Laying down than standing

in their seats in time of Publick

as it [stands]

worship tis a very [Inderant] Perfect marginal

& it opposes Persons to Go to [they] a [Gailva]

the Congregation [P asion] to think they are

asleep. & Let neighbors & [but] makes

[useo] [Redieane] to another as to when [Great]

other when asleep. & Let us rember

_________________________

what it is Like to since G. has been so ab-

undantly mercifull to us Let us Labour

[for] him in a way the most decent &

Reverant manner & in the Becoming of

Holiness.

It would appear that Edwards had folks not only sleeping, but occasionally actually laying down in the pews. Ironically, it is a chapter later in the New Testament, in Acts 20, that we read of someone falling asleep, and falling out of a window, during a sermon of the Apostle Paul.

The Next Charlie Parker Would Never Be Discouraged

Busy days. I have zero time to write, so I share a link. Here’s a sermon by a friend on the difficulty of the Christian life. It’s a sermon for those who have thought about giving up but found that that they can’t. It’s worth listening to. If you listen to it, let me know; I’d be glad to post more. Visit the link HERE.

You Can’t Fire Me

  • Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

I racked my brain all last week trying to preach the fact that we have been crucified to the world and the world to us. This is the best I could come up with.

We are so invested in this world, so convinced that this world is ours, that we cannot take criticism or calmly accept the fact that non-Christians don’t bear spiritual fruit. We cling to our symbols and laws as if they really help us to keep our stronghold in this world. We boast, and find our identities, in so many things other than Christ. It wouldn’t hurt so bad when the world takes away if we weren’t so invested in what it gives.

When the world is against you, when you feel the need to fly off the handle and lash back, when you feel the need to spew anger and venom, remember this – they can’t fire you, you’re already fired. They can’t kill you, you’re already dead. You’ve been crucified with Christ. The world holds no sway and it has no final say.

In the movie Walk the Line, someone tells Johnny Cash that his black clothes make it look like he’s going to funeral. He responds, “Maybe I am.” We should walk around with a mentality somewhat akin to this; but instead of walking around as if we’re going to a funeral, we should walk around as if we’ve already been to our own funeral and come out on the other end alive.

Exiles

Just an observation: In the Old Testament, exiles were cast out by God. In the New Testament, exiles are cast out by the world.

Jesus was cast out by God so that we might be cast out from the world but accepted by God.

  • 1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…

So Quick to Introduce Jesus

I have sometimes formerly, in reading the apostle’s discourse to Cornelius, Acts 10, wondered to see him so quickly introduce the Lord Jesus Christ into his sermon; and so entirely dwell upon him through the whole of it, observing him in this point very widely to differ from many of our modern preachers: but latterly this has not seemed strange, since Christ has appeared to be the substance of the gospel, and the center in which the several lines of divine revelation meet. Although I am still sensible there are many things necessary to be spoken to persons under pagan darkness, in order to make way for a proper introduction of the name of Christ, and his undertaking in behalf of fallen man.

-From The Life and Diary of David Brainerd

 

Recent Reading: The Search for Delicious, by Natalie Babbitt

We liked Tuck Everlasting so much that we decided to get another book by Natalie Babbitt. We weren’t disappointed.

-Natalie Babbitt, The Search for Delicious (1969)

The Search for Delicious is a fairy tale of sorts. It involves an attempt at defining the word ‘delicious.’ Each member of the kingdom has his or her own opinion. Delicious is an apple; delicious is fried fish, etc. Needless to say, no one can agree on a way to describe what delicious is. This leads to a massive polling of the kingdom, carried out by the main character, a young man/boy named Vaungaylen.

There is  a wicked villain in the story who attempts a massive coup. There are dwarfs and mermaids. It’s a great fairy story. But the argument over what is delicious is the central running theme. Arguments break out everywhere the question is asked, until they surprisingly find something that everyone in the kingdom can agree is delicious. Many of the reviews of the book I’ve read emphasize the attention on diversity and disagreement, and how everyone can ‘find a way to get along in the end.’ But I don’t really think that’s the point at all. They really do agree in the end. There really is something delicious that all can agree on, despite their differing tastes. I won’t spoil the story, but I’ll say this: the thing they all agree is delicious is something that they do not appreciate until it is almost taken away.

This is a beautiful children’s story. It’s funny, it’s serious, and it tackles the interesting issue of objectivity and subjectivity, and how there is something that is objectively delicious, but we often fail to realize it because of our subjective situations. This one goes onto my recommended reading for children list.

Have You No Shame?

…Without a well-developed idea of shame, childhood cannot exist.

-Neil Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood, p. 9

I bought this book used. The person who owned it before me made a comment in the margin that the sentence I have quoted above is ‘disturbing.’ I don’t think they understood the point.

Throughout the book, Postman is making the argument that the concept of childhood is a relatively young one that began to develop in the 16th Century after the invention of the printing press. With mass amounts of printed material becoming available, Westerners decided that children needed boundaries to protect them from the flood. Before that time, he argues, children essentially lived in an adult world. They did not go to specialized schools; they didn’t live lives essentially distinct from their parents. By the age of seven, they were a part of the work-force – whatever that looked like at the time.

The sense of shame he writes of is the sense that some things are shameful, or inappropriate, for certain groups of people – children in this case. Over the centuries, it became agreed that some things simply weren’t suitable for children, and parents were entrusted with being gatekeepers of such things.

Now, especially with the internet, but even with television before it, this task is all the more difficult; and even beyond the difficulty, Postman is asserting, we are losing the sense that many things are inappropriate for children to begin with. We are losing that sense of shame – the sense that there are boundaries, the sense that parents are to discern the acceptability of content introduced to their children. That is what is disturbing.