More Cheap Music!

If you read this blog for more than ten minutes you’ll figure out that I love music, especially if I can purchase that music for very cheap. Which is why I love Amazon, because every month they sell 100 albums for $5 each.

In January they’re going crazy and selling 1,000 albums for $5 each. Here are some you might be interested in.

Rehab by Lecrae

The Ladder by Andrew Belle

The Shelter by Jars of Clay

We Cry Out: The Worship Project by Jeremy Camp

Until The Whole World Hears by Casting Crowns

The Orchard by Ra Ra Riot

You can see the rest here.

You Say You Want A Resolution…(Part 2)

pastors

Have you made your New Years’ Resolutions yet?  If not, no pressure.  Jonathan Edwards has done all the hard work for us.

For as I mentioned in my last post, he created a whole list of resolutions that are far more godly than any we could ever contrive. And like every good Puritan, he peppered his resolutions with phrases like “devout frames” and “henceforward” which only John Piper understands, and would take too much effort to text someone.  So because I care for all our loyal readers I have selected a few of Edwards’ resolutions and added brief and helpful explanations which you need not be smarter than a fifth-grader to understand. Let’s pick up from last post…

11. Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder.

You probably didn’t know that divinity had theorems. These theorems are sort of like physics problems, only spiritual, like, how did that donkey start talking anyway?  Or how could Adam and Eve sew fig leaves together without needles and thread?

15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings.

Jonathan Edwards must have owned dogs, which would explain why he’d be tempted to “suffer…motions of anger towards irrational beings.”   I too am tempted to “suffer motions” when I leave the house for literally 60 seconds to get the mail, then come back in only to have our 2 dogs start barking insanely and running about in a frenzy like I’ve just come back from 6 months in Singapore.

Husbands, “irrational beings” does not include your wives.  Do not go down that road.

19. Resolved, never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.

Contrary to popular belief, Edwards was not against card playing.  What he means here is he wouldn’t do anything in any round he wouldn’t do on the last hand.

20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance, in eating and drinking.

I’m right with you, J.E.  I will drink no more than 15 cups of coffee a day, and eat no more than half a dozen Krispy Kremes before lunch.

23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.

I want to talk to my lawyer.  I think this means that if I’m caught snowboarding, I must immediately pay off all my credit cards.  Or something like that.  This is what is called a “Puritan Conundrum.”  It was an early form of Sudoku.

31. Resolved, never to say any thing at all against any body, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of this Resolution.

This means don’t call anybody a “dufus” unless they deserve it.

33. Resolved, to do always, what I can towards making, maintaining, and preserving peace, when it can be done without overbalancing detriment in other respects.

This means whenever you can, make peace with people, unless you can give them a quick rabbit punch in the face.  That’s what “when it can be done without overbalancing detriment in other respects” means in Puritan.

34. Resolved, in narrations never to speak any thing but the pure and simple verity.

This means when telling stories tell the truth.  Puritans were fond of extra syllables, so instead of “stories,” they’d say “narrations,”  and instead of “truth” substitute “pure and simple verity.”  Using these words will win you friends in the office breakroom.  Next time someone is telling you a story, say, “Bill, I appreciate your narration, but can you give me just the pure and simple verity?”  If he asks you what that means, say, “It means, Bill, can you please shut your yapper?”

Well, we’ve only reached number 34 of Jonathan Edwards’ 70 Resolutions. Maybe we’ll take up the rest at a later time.  But for now, I’ll close this narration, lest I overbalance my detriment.

photo: Me and Jonathan Edwards enjoying a hike together

Originally published Dec 30, 2009

Homosexuality, Derek Webb, and Following Jesus

I’m a big fan of Derek Webb’s music. It’s catchy, enjoyable to listen to, and it doesn’t fall into the musical ruts that so much Christian music falls into. Musically speaking, he’s a breath of fresh air. Which is why I was disappointed to read a recent interview with Derek, in which he made several statements that really bothered me.

For example, when answering the question: “How do you think the Christian community can build bridges to the LGBT [Lesbian/Gay/Bi-Sexual/Transgender] community?”, he says:

The church has spent so many years dealing publicly in the morality of the issue, in a way that misrepresents the response that I believe Jesus would have, that Christians have forgotten, or maybe never really [knew] in the first place, that whether your moral response to the gay issue is that it is perfectly permissible in the eyes of the Bible, or that it is totally reprehensible, your interpersonal response should be absolutely no different to gay people.

The response, by the way, is love. Period. It’s love and open arms, regardless of your position on the morality.

I want to be careful that I don’t misrepresent what Derek is saying. He seems to be saying that the problem is the church’s emphasis on the morality of homosexuality, and that we’ve ignored the fact that we’re supposed to love people. This may have some truth to it. I really do want my friends and relatives who are homosexual to know that I love them and care for them.

But, I think we need to be careful about driving a wedge between loving people and calling people to righteousness. We do need to love people, but not at the expense of God’s commands. If someone that I love is engaged in sin, and I believe that homosexuality is sin, at some point I need to call them to repentance. If I don’t do that, I’m not loving them.

Scripture makes it clear that God’s grace always leads to righteousness. Titus 2:11-12 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” God’s grace and love have come to us, and they train us in righteousness. There is no division between God’s love and a life of righteousness.

Now, do we need to be careful about the way we communicate God’s call to righteousness? Yes, absolutely. All our discussions should be flavored with love and grace. But we need to stand firm on the issue itself.

A little later in the interview Derek says:

I have a lot of friends and family that have suffered because of the church’s judgment; my best friend in the world is gay. I felt a lot of people around me drawing lines in the sand, and that year I decided: I don’t want to draw lines and have to be on one side or the other, but if someone’s going to push me to one or the other side of the line, I’m going to stand on the side of those being judged because that’s where I feel Jesus meets people.

He’s absolutely right, in that Jesus does go after the weak and the suffering. Jesus spent time with the tax collectors and the prostitutes, and he loved them, and I want to be just like Jesus. But Jesus never left people where they were. He called tax collectors like Zacchaeus to give money back to the poor. He called the adulterous woman to sin no more. He didn’t just love sinners, he also called them to godliness. That’s what God’s love does. It meets us where we are and then draws us to godliness.

We must love homosexuals, and we must identify with them as sinners. We’re sinners, just like them, who desperately need a savior. There has to be a place in our churches for those who struggle with homosexuality. We shouldn’t be shocked or surprised or fearful if someone we know is a homosexual or struggles with homosexuality. But if we are really going to love homosexuals, we also need to speak the truth of God’s word to them, which clearly states that homosexuality is wrong. This isn’t an either/or thing. It’s not that we either love homosexuals or we call them to righteousness. It’s both.

I may have misunderstood what Derek was saying. I hope so. And I hope that I have the grace to treat my homosexual friends and relatives with kindness and compassion, and the courage to call them to godliness.

You Say You Want A Resolution…

jonathan-edwards

It’s that time of year again when many of us make bold resolutions to do things like quit smoking, start exercising, or quit smoking while exercising.

I have never found making New Years resolutions helpful though, because:

1) I don’t write them down, thus forgetting what I resolved by January 2nd,
2) I make resolutions I can never possibly do, like “Do Iron-Man Triathlon,” or “Memorize book of Habakkuk in original language” or,
3) I make resolutions I feel I “should” do but have not the least whit of actual desire to do, like “Raise organic free-range chickens.”

In the 1700s when there was no HDTV, YouTube or Twitter, people passed the time by making resolutions, as did the famous theologian, Jonathan Edwards.  He made approximately 5,000 mostly unkeepabable resolutions, such as “I resolve always to clean the kitchen sink before going to bed,” but narrowed them down to 70 keepable ones, like “I resolve to witness to 342 people a day.”

Yearly I examine the Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards whenever I want to remind myself what a loser Christian I am.  But in addition to reminding one of how spiritually pathetic one is, the Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards have great value to inspire.  So I thought it would be good if we looked at a few.  And because we are a full-service blog, I’ll make helpful and insightful comments and interpret his Puritan into language any common Pittsburgh Steeler fan can understand.  Let’s get started.

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

What a great beginning. We can’t do anything apart from God’s grace and help, so J.E. prays for grace.  I regularly fail to pray before doing things, so often I find myself looking at a toilet I’ve installed upside down, or hot water coming out the cold water spigot after I’ve repaired it, and my wife Kristi asks me, “Did you pray about it?” To which I reply, “No!  And I’m not going to!”  But let’s move on, next J.E. says:

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

J.E. hasn’t even made his first resolution and already I know I’d fail to do this.  I’ve entered weekly reminders into my Google Calendar, like “Jog” or “Clean Gutters” and though they pop up like prairie dogs before my eyes every week, after 2 pop-ups they become invisible, like the exercise equipment in my basement.  On to the first resolution.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.

Here’s a great example of Puritan language: “never so many myriads of ages hence.”  This means “a heck of a long time.”  Here Jonathan Edwards resolved to live completely for God’s glory, for his own and others’ good.  But Puritans always made things sound more impressive by using words like “hence” and “soever.”  One of their favorite words was “duty,” which roughly means “that which is boring and tedious like flossing”.

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the aforementioned things.

Again, it makes you sound more spiritual to your friends if you use Puritan words like “endeavoring”, “contrivance” and “aforementioned.”  What he means in plain English is: “Git ‘er done.”

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

When Edwards says, “nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it,” he means he will avoid things like snowboarding and swing dancing because he could throw his back out.

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

Obviously he could only have kept this resolution because Facebook hadn’t been invented.  No one today can possibly do this.

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

Let’s see, in the last hour of my life, I’d be afraid to light myself on fire, eat a live scorpion (Bear Grylls couldn’t make this resolution), or sing “The Impossible Dream” in front of Simon Cowell.

Well, so as not to overwhelm you, to be continued…

Originally published Dec 28, 2009

Cotton Ball Snowmen and Weak Coffee

“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9)

I aim to please God, yet much of the time I feel like my efforts are lame.  Like someone who wants to serve dark, rich espresso, but winds up serving weak coffee.

For Christmas, my 3-year old granddaughter Charis gave me a picture of a snowman made of cotton balls. What makes it so special is not that it’s such an incredible work of art, but that in her little heart, she had some desire to please me.  And her very desire to please me blesses me.

We should seek to please Jesus by pursuing and obeying him, by loving and serving and seeking to share the gospel with others.  But as much as we try to please God, our best efforts are like a little child who makes a cotton ball snowman for the Artist who designed the galaxies.

Our offerings may not seem like much, yet Jesus is pleased with them.

He is even pleased with our desire to please him, because for those who are born again, that desire comes from him.  Our love for Jesus is feeble, yet it springs from God. Our service to others is weak and flawed, yet Jesus has moved us that service.  So we make it our aim to please him.

Someday my granddaughter may make me a cup of weak coffee to please me. And that desire to please me will make that coffee sweet to my taste.

Narnia in Three Dimensions

Okay, it’s time for a little Narina nerd talk. Last night Jen and I saw The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and since I know that everyone cares so much about my opinion, I thought I’d share it. So, in no particular order, here are my thoughts on the movie.

First, it was the first 3D movie that I’ve seen, and I was thoroughly unimpressed. I paid $23 dollars for us to see the movie, and for that price I was expecting a live centaur to be in the audience. Not so much. I had to wear those bulky, dorky 3D glasses over my glasses, which wasn’t especially fun, and the picture quality wasn’t all that much better. I probably won’t pay to see a 3D movie again. It just wasn’t worth it. However, if you want to pay for me, I would be glad to go.

Second, I thought Eustace was a fantastic character. Will Poulter played the role of Eustace really well. He was obnoxious, hilarious, arrogant. Overall he was pretty close to the Eustace found in the book. He was probably the highlight of the movie for me.

Third, I was really disappointed by the way the original plot was distorted in order to turn the book into a movie. The whole idea of the evil mist just seemed…well kind of lame. It changed the whole feel of the story from a rip-roaring, high-seas, exploring unknown worlds adventure, into a battle against an unknown evil mist that did unnamed bad things. The mist became the unifying element of the story, rather than exploration and discovery. The anonymity of the mist was also a weakness. The movie never identified who or what the mist really was, and by the end, I didn’t really care if they defeated the mist or not.

Fourth, as other have pointed out, the movie totally missed it when it came to Eustace becoming a dragon. In the book, the whole point of Eustace becoming a dragon is that Eustace needed Aslan to save him, NOT that Eustace had a hero inside of him. Eustace’s need for Aslan was almost entirely written out of the movie, except for one brief clip toward the end.

Finally, is it just me or is Aslan slowly getting written out of the movies? I think that Aslan was in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader for a grand total of five minutes. It’s so disappointing.

Overall, I thought that Voyage of the Dawn Treader was a good movie, but bad adaptation of the book. Yes, I realize that I’m being a total Narnia dork, but that’s just who I am. As a movie, I thought it was actually pretty good, but it just wasn’t the Narnia that I know, which was disappointing.

So should you see it? Yes. Just have reasonable expectations.

What about you? What was your impression of the movie?

God Loves Our Accompaniment

It might surprise some to know that much of our fight against sin involves worship.

And every stroke of the appointed staff that the LORD lays on them will be to the sound of tambourines and lyres. Battling with brandished arm, he will fight with them. Is 30.32

God’s job is to crush our enemies.  Our job is to worship, celebrate and trust him.  While we worship him, he lays his strokes on our foes.

When I first got saved, I struggled a lot with fear at night, probably because a teenager I’d watched every horror movie I could. At times in the middle of the night I’d feel a presence in the room. The more I rebuked a spirit of fear, the more I felt gripped by fear.

Then someone told me I should pray, resist the devil, then begin to praise and thank God.

So when I experienced fear at night I’d pray then praise: “Father, thank you for your protection.  Praise you that you are my refuge and strength, my strong fortress. Thank you that you say in your Word that you give your beloved sleep and the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them.”

When you’re tempted to fear for the salvation of your loved ones, in addition interceding, praise God for his great power to save, that he is greater than their sin, that he doesn’t want any to perish but all to come to the knowledge of the truth.

When you’re tempted to lust, pray, “Jesus, deliver me!”  Then say, “Praise you that you will cleanse me and make me pure.  Thank you that you will give me victory and make holy as you are holy.”

Obviously, the Bible commands us to put sin to death.  But ultimately, the Lord fights the battle.  And let us not forget to add the sound of tambourines and lyres to our requests.

He loves to be accompanied by our worship while he is conquering his enemies.

photo by MarkyBon

The Dying Trust The Dying

“Remember, he [the thief on the cross] was crucified. It was a crucified man trusting in a crucified Christ. Oh, when our frame is racked with torture, when the tenderest nerves are pained, when our body is hung up to die by we know not what great length of torment, then to forget the present and live in the future is a grand achievement of faith! While dying, to turn your eye to another dying at your side and trust your soul with Him is very marvelous faith.” – Charles Spurgeon, The Power of the Cross of Christ

What a stunning example of faith we find in this beaten and battered thief. When the thief looked upon Jesus, he saw a man who looked much like himself. He saw a man covered in blood, beaten beyond recognition, and groaning with the pangs of death. He saw a man who had been abused by Roman soldiers, mocked by the Pharisees, and deserted by His disciples. From external appearances, the thief had no reason to trust in Jesus.

Yet the thief recognized that Jesus was his only hope. The thief saw Jesus hanging from the cross, blood dripping from His brow, completely drained of all strength, and realized, “I need this man.”

What an example of faith for us! We know the end of the story. Christ is risen. He has beaten death, triumphed over sin and the grave, and now reigns from His throne. Christ is on our side, eager to save those who come to Him, and eager to dispense grace to us in our time of need. In Christ is all power, all grace, all mercy, all kindness, and all strength. Why would we ever doubt our Savior? How can we not trust Him?

Let us be provoked by the dying thief who trust in the dying Savior. The thief trusted when all he could see was a dying Jesus. We know the living Jesus.

Originally published July, 2007.