Thursday, October 31, 2013

An Ol' Fashioned Iowa Farm Halloween

Some interesting points on Halloween from Galen Dalrymple. What was Halloween like in yesteryear's farm country of northwestern Iowa? His answer may surprise you.

As my mind recalls, at Halloween every year, the sky was dominated by a bright orange harvest moon that held me spellbound as I gazed over the freshly harvested fields of corn. The corn stalks stood like ghostly shadows as the moon beams touched the face of the earth. Leaves skittered across the gravel in the barn yard as the breeze stirred, casting a chill wherever it journeyed.
We lived too far away from neighboring farms to walk to trick or treat, so our parents had to drive us from one farm house to the next. Unlike today when kids will visit upwards of 100 houses in a night, we were grateful to visit say, 10 neighboring farms. We knew the people well. It was the kind of community where everyone helped one another in time of misfortune or harvest. We didn’t need to fear razor blades or poison in the candy. The love of family and friends surrounded us every moment of those early, innocent years.
You can read the rest here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cessationist Review of John MacArthur's "Strange Fire"

I found a notable reaction to John MacArthur's Strange Fire book/conference in the form of a book review, written by Thomas Schreiner, self-dubbed fellow cessationist, professor at Southern Seminary (Louisville) and the author of a book on Pauline studies currently sitting on my office shelf.

"Despite my fundamental exegetical and theological agreement with MacArthur, however, Strange Fire suffers from a focus on the extreme adherents of the charismatic movement. (I did wonder, incidentally, whether Joel Osteen should be labeled a charismatic, for one can be a prosperity preacher without being charismatic.) MacArthur says early in the book he doesn’t distinguish between the three waves of the charismatic movement, but this failure to make distinctions is problematic. He claims the extremes and abuses characterize the movement. But who really knows what the numbers are? Certainly, there are extremes in the movement, and obviously many who have gone astray. But many charismatics reject the likes of Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland.

"Despite qualifications here and there, one could get the impression MacArthur thinks almost all charismatics dishonor the Holy Spirit and are opposed to God. Certainly that is true of false teachers like Benny Hinn, but there are also many charismatics who repudiate the teaching and practices of people like Hinn, and hence the rhetoric of the book should be modified. MacArthur seems to acknowledge as much in his open letter to continuationists who have sound theology, though he believes they are a very small minority. Nevertheless, the clarion call of warning should be modified with clearer and more forthright admissions that many charismatics adhere to the gospel and are faithful to God’s Word."

You can read the rest here

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Fun: Packer Fan Dedication . . . or Insanity

So, a 6th grade Packer fan hailing from a small town of southwestern Wisconsin has been his Aaron Rodgers jersey constantly. For three years. You can read about it here and here.

Hope he hasn't forgotten how to take a shirt off.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

9 Things to Know About Down Syndrome

From Joe Carter, who writes for The Gospel Coalition and Patheos.

As an older brother of someone with Down Syndrome, this hits close to home.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A New Form of Worship War

From Stephen Miller, author of Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars. (I should have posted this two months ago).

Ours is a generation marked by war.

I’m not referring to a war with guns and tanks, though we have certainly seen our share of that as well. We are a generation that grew up witnessing the church fight over the very thing that was supposed to unite us: the worship of Jesus.
The Good Old Hymns vs. Modern Worship Choruses.
Organ & Piano vs. Those Demon Drums.
Few of us emerged from these consumerism driven worship wars of our younger years unscathed. Their impact has been profound, both personally and corporately.
Fast forward a decade or two and, at first glance, the worship wars that once plagued the church seem to have died down. So it might be easy to chalk it all up to a problem from a bygone era.
Until we walk out of a church service that didn’t meet our own standards.
We have become professional critics of corporate worship. We complain about everything.
The volume is either too loud, or not loud enough. The lighting is either too bright or not bright enough; too showy or too bland.
We grumble about song selection, saying things like, “They introduce too many new songs,” “Why do we keep doing the same songs over and over,” or “I hate that song.”
From key signatures to instrumentation; from the worship leader’s fashion sense to vocal tone – it’s all fair game for our consumer-driven critique.
We are the fast food slogan-slinging generation of “Have it your way.” We are American Idol’s panel of expert judges.
Read the rest here. Thoughts?

Monday, October 21, 2013

What Millenials Wanted to Be When They Grew Up

This Huffington Post article has been making the rounds in cyberspace.

Some very interesting points that strike a chord with many an old millenial (e.g. my peers).


Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Fun: Composer Insults

And you thought Shakespearean insults were brutal. In college, I studied music composition and philosophy of the arts, so my colleagues and I were used to such exchanges of constructive criticism in sharpening our music-writing. But not this nasty, especially from Tchaikovsky. Wow. The Nutcracker composer (and one of my faves as a kid) really had an axe to grind.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Jesus's Temptation and Worship

I'd like to apologize to both of my faithful readers for not posting the last few days. I was at a very wonderful and rejuvenating worship summit in Minneapolis. (Props to my wife for holding down the 3-kid fort so well). While I was there, I really enjoyed this excerpt from D.A. Carson, connecting Jesus's temptation in the desert to worship ministries. The following is from the presentation notes:

When Jesus was tempted by Satan, the ultimate issue was allegiance, true worship. As they looked over all the kingdoms of the world, Satan said, "All this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus's answer was clear and strong: "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" (Matt. 4:8-10; cf. Lk. 4:5-8; Dt. 6:13). D.A. Carson writes about this exchange: "This was not an invitation to change styles of 'worship' - to move, say, from pipe organ to guitars. In fact, it was not an ecclesiastical or corporate matter at all. It was private and personal; more importantly, it dealt with the fundamental question, the question of ultimate allegiance; Whom do you serve?

"This, surely, is where all questions about worship must properly begin. The critical issue is not the techniques of worship, or the traditions of worship, still less the experience of worship, but who is being worshipped, and who is worshipping.

" . . . If the heart of sinfulness is self-centeredness, the heart of all biblical religion is God-centeredness: in short, it is worship. In our fallenness we constrict all there is to our petty horizons . . . The sign that self is broken is true worship: God becomes the centre, the focus of delight, the joyfully acknowledged King, the Creator, the Redeemer. In this sense, none but the transformed can truly worship - and they too discover how much more transformation is still needed. Thus all worship becomes an eschatological [end-time] sign, a marker of what will be in the new heaven and the new earth, the home of righteousness, when the children of God have been 'glorified' (Rom. 8:30), and God is all in all. In anticipation of that day, and 'in view of God's mercy', we offer our bodies 'as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God,' for this is our 'spiritual' (Rom. 12:1)."

("'Worship the Lord your God': The Perennial Challenge," in Worship: Adoration and Action, ed. D.A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), 13-14).

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Fun: A Worship Leader's Nightmare

Our church's tech director Twittered this goodie. Don't let this video inspire any pranksters at your church. (I wish it had audio).

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"Erasing Hell" Author Writes for Pacifism

For those that remember Rob Bell's Love Wins and the controversy and ugly quibbling that ensued from its theological ramifications, the most pastoral, informed and well-written response was the book Erasing Hell, co-penned by Crazy Love author/speaker Francis Chan and his fellow Simi Valleyan Preston Sprinkle, who is also Professor of Biblical Studies at Eternity Bible College.

Sprinkle has now written a book arguing for pacifism, which CT reviews here. Fight: A Christian Case For Non-Violence was released in August, and may have been overlooked, due to its arguably recently-neglected and unpopular topic.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Outrage Hunger and a Healthful Emotional Diet

After reading the CT piece on “outrage hunger” last month, I have some expanded thoughts on what types of literature, blogs and memes to which we, as Christians, subject ourselves. 

We ought to bring into serious question what our “emotional diet” contains.

Outrage is the obvious and best current example. According to the CT article, Christians in this country (but they’re not alone in this habit) peruse cyberspace to find links of articles, editorials and memes (that vary extremely in accuracy and logic) that will enrage them, usually regarding a socio-political issue. Usually, the conversation that ensues from the reactive post (or “re-post”) on social media is less than Christ-like, to put it mildly.

Beyond outrage, there are works and kitsch out there that can make us disturbed and fearful enough to never let our kids outside the house. Some fluff can put us on a temporary and false euphoria. Other works will challenge belief in God. 

There’s a variety of consumable works out there, so I encourage that one strives for a balanced diet. Just like an individual prone to heartburn, try to foresee the for-sure consequences of what you consume, and be wise and practical about when (or even if) you should partake. 

I’ve had to strive for this balance, too. When I’ve just had a tiring day, for whatever reason, it isn’t the best time to read, for example, an atheist’s vitriolic editorial. That can wait until tomorrow. When I’m about to drop off my kids to school, it isn’t the best time to read a fear-mongering blog about violence between students. My kids are in God’s omnipotent hands. And I could be wrong, but popular political rants on Facebook aren’t going to do squat to change the minds of the politicians responsible for causing/fixing a political situation, so why bother jumping on the soapbox?

The truth is that certain emotions are just plain exhausting: fear, bitterness, anger, anxiety, unforgiveness, sadness, etc. They’re not how we’re called to live our daily lives, they don’t do anything to solve the situation that usually caused them, and they hinder us from living the life of holiness and service that Christ died and freed us to live.

This world is marked by unspeakable horror, wrongdoing and tragedy. We cannot be in denial or ignorance about that. But, as Christians who believe in the selfless sacrifice, suffering and sovereignty of Jesus, we have something that overpowers all such parasitical emotions: hope. Let’s maintain a healthful intake of truthful, reasonable objective material, meditate on God’s Word, and not react to events in this world as those who have no hope.

Love one another. Pray. Serve. 

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” -Philippians 4:4-9


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pope Francis and Culture

Some interesting points and pondering from Ross Douthat on Pope Francis's general reception, and how it pertains to the recent past, present and future of the relationship between religion and culture.

It’s been the story of religion in the West for over 40 years. The most traditional groups have been relatively resilient. The more liberal, modernizing bodies have lost membership, money, morale. And the culture as a whole has become steadily more disengaged from organized faith. There is still a religious middle today, but it isn’t institutionally Judeo-Christian in the way it was in 1945. Instead, it’s defined by nondenominational ministries, “spiritual but not religious” pieties and ancient heresies reinvented as self-help.
Of late, this process of polarization has carried an air of inevitability. You can hew to a traditional faith in late modernity, it has seemed, only to the extent that you separate yourself from the American and Western mainstream. There is no middle ground, no center that holds for long, and the attempt to find one quickly leads to accommodation, drift and dissolution.
And this is where Pope Francis comes in, because so much of the excitement around his pontificate is a response to his obvious desire to reject these alternatives — self-segregation or surrender — in favor of an almost-frantic engagement with the lapsed-Catholic, post-Catholic and non-Catholic world.
You can read the rest here.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Senate Chaplain Prayer . . . During the Shutdown

Interesting article a friend of mine showed me. The chaplain of the Senate has seemingly done an admirable job of being non-partisan and ministering in current post, but his recent invocations have been particularly convicting. As much as things need to be said, is it questionable use of prayer? What should be the role of the non-partisan Senate chaplain during the shutdown?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday Fun: Chicken Chuggables

With the recent release of KFC's "On-the-Go" Cup, Jimmy Kimmel suggested "Chicken Chuggables," slightly reminiscent of Brian Regan's PB&J in a squeeze bottle.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Contemporary Source on God and Suffering

Tim Keller, a Manhattan pastor, a shepherdly intellect and a book-making machine, recently released a book on theodicy entitled Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering. At first, I was amazed again at the prolificness of Keller, but then I noticed who reviewed and recommended his book: Joni Eareckson Tada.

For those who don't know Tada, she became a quadriplegic after a diving accident in the Chesapeake Bay in 1967, when she was 17 years old. She's since become a wife, professional painter (with her teeth), singer, author, and speaker. Tada is an authority on suffering (her story was an anchor for Philip Yancey's first recognized work, Where is God When It Hurts?) and an advocate for the disabled.

"Walking with God through Pain and Suffering may be the most comprehensive contemporary book on the subject. And for me, that’s saying something. I’ve even ordered copies for a few friends who gag when they hear the God of the Bible is not embarrassed to say he’s sovereign over suffering. That’s what irks them: that sticky, inconvenient propensity of God to tuck everything under his overarching decrees without explaining why (or getting himself dirty). That’s what drives them crazy.

"It drives us Christians crazy, too. Admit it: like pickles in a jar, our minds are soaked with all sorts of secular subtleties. We are infected by our culture of comfort and convenience, and would rather erase suffering out of the biblical dictionary. We want a God who supports our plans, who is our “accomplice”; someone to whom we can relate as long as he is doing what we want. If he does something else, we 'unfriend' him."

So yeah, I might be adding this to my bookshelf.  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Prince of Thieves to Prince of Peace; Christian Bale is Moses

I've already written about biblical and post-biblical stories making it into the big screen or the TV screen, but today I'm writing about two more:

Kevin Reynolds (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)) has signed on to direct "The Resurrection," the story of Jesus's 40 days between his resurrection and his ascension, which is slated for release in Easter 2015. Christian Bale, having recently retired the Batman cape, will play Moses in Exodus under the direction of Ridley Scott (Gladiator, American Gangster), shooting for a December 2014 release.

It is good to see biblical stories portrayed visually and to more people, especially when they're true to the historical context and the author's intent. Since both those aspects can be diverse and often implausible, Bible movies can be a wild card at the box office. Yet, it seems a lot of them are in the works.