Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Music Reviews and News

Concert Review:  U2 iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour at the United Center in Chicago – June 25, 2015

U2The first U2 album I bought was 1983’s War. I was a relatively new Christian at the time and had read about this mainstream band in Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine in which some of the members were Christians. (Note: Bono mentioned in 2005’s Bono in Conversation with Michka Assayas that all were now believers, with bassist Adam Clayton being the last to come to faith). Among the songs on War was “40”, which contains the words of Psalm 40, and is a song that the band has closed their shows with often over the years. I’ve been a fan of U2 ever since, especially enjoying the spiritual aspects of their music.

Thursday’s concert at Chicago’s United Center was the second of five at the venue on their iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour, featuring seven songs from their latest album Songs of Innocence, which Rolling Stone magazine named as the top album of 2014. The album, their first since 2009’s No Line on the Horizon, was also my top album of 2014, narrowly edging out Lecrae’s excellent Anomaly. This was the seventh time I’ve seen my favorite band in concert and the first in an arena setting since the 2005 Vertigo tour, with outdoor stadium shows at Chicago’s Soldier Field and St. Louis’ Busch Stadium since that time.

U2 often does unique things with their stage. This time, the stage had two large locations at each end of the arena, with a long walkway across the United Center floor connecting them, where just a few nights before the Chicago Blackhawks had won the Stanley Cup Championship. Our seats were supposed to be in the lower section at the end of the main stage. Due to a mix-up (either the wrong floor map was posted when we purchased tickets through the band’s fan club, or the stage was flipped) our seats were actually behind the stage. Those sitting around us were all very disappointed with this, but as it turned out there were some benefits to sitting only about 25 feet from drummer Larry Mullen. It was amazing to watch him working (behind the scenes) throughout the show. The close proximity to the band was a stark contrast to my last U2 concert, when we were more than three hundred feet away from the U2 360 stage placed in center field at Busch Stadium.

The two and a half hour concert started with Bono in his trademark black leather jacket and sunglasses appearing alone on the far end of the arena. As he walked toward the main stage he began singing “Oh, Oh, Oh…” from “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” as the rest of the band (Edge, guitar and keyboards; Adam Clayton, bass; and Larry Mullen) took their places on stage. The concert did not include an opening act and had only a short intermission of Johnny Cash singing “The Wanderer” from Zooropa on the video screen; it featured twenty four songs, including three during the encore. Here is the complete setlist, which changes a bit each night as the band plays multiple dates in each city on the tour.

Although the concert featured seven songs from Songs of Innocence – which sounded even better in concert than on the too perfectly produced album – the band did a nice job of playing songs from throughout their thirty-five year career. Here are the albums that the songs originally appeared on:

Boy (1980) – Out of Control, I Will Follow

War (1983) – Sunday Bloody Sunday

Unforgettable Fire (1984) – Pride (In the Name of Love), Bad

The Joshua Tree (1987) – With or Without You, Bullet the Blue Sky, Where the Streets Have No Name

Rattle and Hum (1988) – Angel of Harlem

Achtung Baby (1991) – Even Better Than the Real Thing, One, Until the End of the World, Mysterious Ways

All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000) – Beautiful Day

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004) – Vertigo, City of Blinding Lights

No Line on the Horizon (2009) – Moment of Surrender (portions performed before and after “Bad”).

Invisible 2014 single (not available on an album)

Songs of Innocence (2014) – The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone); Iris (Hold Me Close), Cedarwood Road, Song for Someone, Raised by Wolves, Every Breaking Wave, Volcano

The band’s main stage was directly in front of us at one end of the United Center. A long catwalk/walkway with a huge see-through video screen above it, added much to the experience, but also created some challenges as only those on the sides of the arena could fully see the band when they were inside the screen. That’s right, the band would enter the screen and be part of the video experience. The screen would move up and down throughout the concert. However, when it was down, it made it difficult for people seated at the ends of the arena to see the band.

The band also set up at the far end of the arena for a few songs. By moving around and playing at a number of different places on their stage they added variety and gave everyone unique views of the band.

The show featured a few themes. The first half of the show featured many of the new songs from Songs of Innocence, so growing up was a theme – much as it was with Lecrae on his recent Anomaly tour – as Bono sang about his mother Iris (“Iris (Hold Me Close)” and his neighborhood growing up “Cedarwood Road”. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” with Larry playing a sobering snare drum effectively led into “Raised by Wolves”. Later, Bono would say that after grief comes anger as he led the band into “Volcano”. With songs like “Bullet the Blue Sky” and “Pride (In the Name of Love)” there were references to “I can’t breathe”, Ferguson, MO and Charleston SC. Later, the theme of surrender came up with parts of “Moment of Surrender” sung before and after “Bad”.

A few other thoughts:

  • The couple in front of us were from nearby (to Chicago) Grayslake, Illinois. This was her thirteenth U2 concert. When Bono introduced their second song “Out of Control” as their first single, she was completely overcome emotionally, with tears streaming down her face during the entire song. I’ll never forget how the song impacted her.
  • “Every Breaking Wave” is my favorite song on the new album. I actually prefer the alternate version released on the deluxe edition, so Bono performing it with only Edge on piano at the far end of the stage was a highlight.
  • Bono pulled a young woman from Costa Rica out of the crowd to help him film “Mysterious Ways” and “Angel of Harlem” around the world as Twitter comments from literally around the world were projected up on the large video screens above us.
  • My favorite song was “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, which was followed by “Beautiful Day”. The energy in the building during those two songs was incredible.

Though Bono seemed less energetic than past tours (could be due to his recent bike accident, or what the Chicago Tribune referred to as his bout with “nagging bronchitis”), it would not have been noticeable to those who hadn’t seen him on previous tours when he would sprint around the stage.

Thirty-five years after their first album U2 is still relevant and going strong. Incredibly there have been no band member changes during that time. I hope to see them on the next leg of the tour with songs from the rumored Songs of Experience album.

 Song of the Week

Jubilee by Michael Card

Michael’s Card’s ministry (music, books, teaching) has had a profound impact on my life for thirty years. This is one of my favorite songs of his. I particularly enjoy the line:

To be so completely guilty, given over to despair
To look into your Judge’s face and see a Savior there.

Here are the lyrics to the song:
The word provided for a time for the slaves to be set free
For the debts to all be cancelled so His chosen one could see
His deep desire was for forgiveness
He longed to see their liberty
And His yearning was embodied in the year of Jubilee

(Chorus)
Jubilee, Jubilee
Jesus is that Jubilee
Debts forgiven, slaves set free
Jesus is our Jubilee

At the Lord’s appointed time His deep desire to give a man
The heart of all true jubilation and with joy we understand
In His voice we hear a trumpet sound that tells us we are free
He is the incarnation of the year of Jubilee

(Chorus)
Jubilee, Jubilee
Jesus is that Jubilee
Debts forgiven, slaves set free
Jesus is our Jubilee

To be so completely guilty, given over to despair
To look into your Judge’s face and see a Savior there.

Watch Michael perform this wonderful song in concert here.

musicnewsMusic News

  • Angels of Fenway. Watch James Taylor perform this song (about his Red Sox defeating my Cardinals in the 2004 World Series) from his excellent new album Before the World on Late Night with Seth Myers.
  • Charleston Shooting Comes From Deeply Rooted Racism & Injustice. Lecrae writes “We don’t need a cliché and a proof-text for every social issue. We need hands and feet in the cities, institutions, and infrastructures. The same gospel that frees the soul, frees us to live selflessly toward others with genuine compassion.”

4th-Of-July


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Book Reviews and News

You Must ReadBOOK REVIEW ~ You Must Read: Books That Have Shaped Our Lives. Various Authors. Banner of Truth. 304 pages. 2015
****

This book brings together more than thirty well-known Christian leaders and gives them the opportunity to talk about a Banner of Truth book that has made a lasting impact on their lives. The book is dedicated to Iain and Jean Murray, whose vision, dedication, ministry, and encouragement has undergirded the publication of every book selected.

As a book lover, and having read several books published by the Banner of Truth, this was a book that I loved. I was familiar with many of the contributors (R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Derek Thomas, Jerry Bridges, Mark Dever, Sinclair Ferguson, etc.), but many of the contributors were people I was not familiar with. Each shares a book that has made an impact on their lives, tells about the book and why it made such an impact.

The book is broken into 33 chapters. A few that I particularly enjoyed were:

  • What Is an Evangelical? Written by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones – Alistair Begg. Begg writes about reading this book with his elders early in his ministry at Parkside Church in Cleveland.
  • D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Vol. 1: The First Forty Years; Vol. 2: The Fight of Faith by Iain H. Murray – John MacArthur. This was my favorite chapter of the book. MacArthur writes “I had never encountered another pastor whose biblical convictions and philosophy of ministry rang so true with me. No pastor I had ever encountered so closely paralleled my own thinking about the church, the gospel, doctrine, conflict, cooperation, and especially preaching.”
  • The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended by Jonathan Edwards – R.C. Sproul. Sproul writes “I studied his classic work The Freedom of the Will in depth and found his arguments, especially on Romans 9, compelling and irrefutable. I fought him tooth and nail, but in the end, I was convinced that I had been teaching and believing what I wanted the Bible to say rather than what it actually said. To this day, I owe Edwards a huge debt of gratitude.”
  • Tracts and Letters of John Calvin – Ian Hamilton. Hamilton writes “It is in his Tracts and Letters that, perhaps most memorably, we see the heart of Calvin the pastor, and it was a large and capacious heart.” He also states that “No pastor more faithfully laboured to defend the sovereignty of God’s grace—not only for the sake of God’s glory but also for the good and security of his flock.”
  • Revival Year Sermons (1859) by C. H. Spurgeon – Stuart Olyott. Olyott writes “Spurgeon’s opinion was that ‘there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.’”
  • The Glory of Christ by John Owen – Sinclair B. Ferguson. Ferguson writes “It is safe to say that he goes down deeper, stays down longer, and comes up with greater spiritual riches than can be found in the vast bulk of contemporary Christian literature.”

An Epilogue is included which looks at the books from three perspectives – from Latin America, the Philippines and from the Grey House, Edinburgh.

Two key verses for the Banner of Truth are:
Psalm 60:4 (which gave rise to their name): You have given a banner to those who fear you, that it may be displayed because of the truth.
And Psalm 127:1: Unless the Lord build the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and got several recommendations for future reading.

BOOK NEWS:

  • ChristianAudio.com’s Free Audiobook Download -“Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up”.   This is a story about God’s miraculous love of Ian and Larissa Murphy. It’s a story of their relationship, sustained by God’s patient and persistent love, through tragedy and into a Christian marriage. In that way, it’s a miraculous story, because in every sentence, there’s a whisper, then a word, then a celebration shout that always speaks of that persistent love in Jesus Christ.
  • Why You Should Read Moby Dick. R.C. Sproul encourages his readers to “Read Moby Dick, and then read it again.”
  • Bestsellers ≠ Best Books. Matthew Maule writes “The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association has compiled a list of the best-selling Christian books of 2014. If these books are characteristic of the thought and theology most associated with Christianity in America, perhaps it is not surprising that many are leaving and fewer people are joining.”
  • 5 Best Books on Apologetics. Bryan Baise writes “The following are my 5 favorite,not the 5 most seminal works of apologetics.”
  • David Brooks Charts the Road to Character. Collin Hansen interviews David Brooks, author of the new book The Road to Character, which I’m reading now.

Prayer by Tim KellerPrayer Book Club– Won’t you read along with us?

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller

Christians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. But few receive instruction or guidance in how to make prayer genuinely meaningful. In Prayer, renowned pastor Timothy Keller delves into the many facets of this everyday act. Won’t you read along with Tammy and me? This week we look at:

CHAPTER ONE ~ The Necessity of Prayer

  • Kathy’s jolting challenge, along with my own growing conviction that I just didn’t get prayer, led me into a search. I wanted a far better personal prayer life. I began to read widely and experiment in prayer. As I looked around, I quickly came to see that I was not alone.
  • You are with Another, and he is unique. God is the only person from whom you can hide nothing. Before him you will unavoidably come to see yourself in a new, unique light. Prayer, therefore, leads to a self-knowledge that is impossible to achieve any other way.
  • In a sermon on the gospel, Owen gave due diligence to laying the doctrinal foundation of Christian salvation. Then, however, he exhorted his hearers to “get an experience of the power of the gospel . . . in and upon your own hearts, or all your profession is an expiring thing.”24 This heart experience of the gospel’s power can happen only through prayer—both publicly in the gathered Christian assembly and privately in meditation.
  • In my pursuit of a deeper prayer life, I chose a counterintuitive course. I deliberately avoided reading any new books on prayer at all. Instead, I went back to the historical texts of Christian theology that had formed me and began asking questions about prayer and the experience of God—questions.
  • I found guidance on the inward life of prayer and spiritual experience that took me beyond the dangerous currents and eddies of the contemporary spirituality debates and movements.
  • There is an intelligent mysticism in the life of faith . . . of living union and communion with the exalted and ever-present Redeemer. . . . He communes with his people and his people commune with him in conscious reciprocal love.
  • As I pondered that verse, I had to marvel that Peter, in writing to the church, could address all his readers like this. He didn’t say, “Well, some of you with an advanced spirituality have begun to get periods of high joy in prayer. Hope the rest of you catch up.” No, he assumed that an experience of sometimes overwhelming joy in prayer was normal. I was convicted.
  • We are not called to choose between a Christian life based on truth and doctrine or a life filled with spiritual power and experience. They go together.
  • Rather, I was meant to ask the Holy Spirit to help me experience my theology.
  • I made four practical changes to my life of private devotion. First, I took several months to go through the Psalms, summarizing each one.
  • The second thing I did was always to put in a time of meditation as a transitional discipline between my Bible reading and my time of prayer. Third, I did all I could to pray morning and evening rather than only in the morning. Fourth, I began praying with greater expectation.
  • I have found new sweetness in Christ and new bitterness too, because I could now see my heart more clearly in the new light of vital prayer. In other words, there were more restful experiences of love as well as more wrestling to see God triumph over evil, both in my own heart and in the world.
  • Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change—the reordering of our loves.Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life. We must learn to pray. We have to.


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Movie Review ~ Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying GirlMe and Earl and the Dying Girl, rated PG-13
***

This film is based on the 2012 novel by Jesse Andrews (who also wrote the script), and is directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. It was a big hit at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, winning both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award. It is creative, quirky, and never seems to do what you expect it to do, which was refreshing.

The film is primarily about Greg (Thomas Mann) and his senior year of high school. Greg serves as narrator throughout the film. He recognizes different “nations” (groups) of kids in his class, such as jocks, stoners, theatre dorks, etc., something we can all relate to. His plan is to be casually friendly to all, but a part of none of them. He’s there, but not really. He’s just trying to survive his senior year by being off the radar – invisible. He’s insecure and thinks he’s ugly.

The only classmate who really knows him is his only true friend Earl (RJ Cyler), who provides comic relief (as well as much of the profanity) in the film. They have been best friends since kindergarten, though the socially uncomfortable (hard not to be in high school) and self-centered Greg refers to him as his co-worker, unwilling to even call him his friend.

Greg and Earl love old movies and have made forty or so parodies of them with titles like A Sockwork Orange. The parts of the film showing their awful films are funny and creative.

Greg’s mom (Connie Britton) asks, more like tells, Greg to go visit Rachel (Olivia Cooke) a girl from school he is familiar with, but doesn’t really know (because Greg doesn’t really know anyone except Earl). Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia, and he is told to go cheer her up. He doesn’t want to go, but he does to get his mom off his case.

Greg is greeted by Rachel’s mom Denise (Molly Shannon) who lustily hugs him, and has a drink in her hand in almost every scene in the film as she tries to deal with her daughter’s illness. Rachel’s parents are divorced, and her father, who is now deceased, was never a big part of her life. Greg doesn’t really want to be there, and Rachel doesn’t want him there – and thus starts their relationship.

The relationship between Greg and Rachel is awkward at first, to say the least. As her illness progresses and she loses her hair from the chemotherapy they slowly become friends. For perhaps the first time, Greg focuses his attention on someone other than himself.

I found myself emotionally relieved when Greg tells us that Rachel will survive – she won’t die. So will they become boyfriend and girlfriend, get married and live happily ever after? Sorry, I’m not telling. That would be called a spoiler.

Nick Offerman plays Greg’s father. He is a strange character always at home in a robe offering Greg and Earl exotic foods. Katherine C. Hughes plays Madison, the hot girl at school that Greg has a crush on. The film features a creative animation every time she talks to Greg. Jon Bernthal plays Mr. McCarthy, a history teacher that Greg and Earl eat lunch and watch movies with in his office each day.

The film includes a fair amount of adult language and sexual dialogue, and the characters unfortunately abuse God’s and Jesus’ names a significant number of times. Rachel’s family is Jewish, but you don’t see their faith impacting their lives in any way.   Much of the inappropriate language comes from Earl, but I thought he was an excellent example of what a friend should be.

I appreciated the uniqueness of this film. There were many details, such as camera angles that I appreciated. It’s not a perfect film, and parts will be offensive to some, others depressing, but it’s also a film that will impact you, and you’ll want to talk about afterwards with those who have seen it with you.


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Book Reviews and News

You Must ReadBOOK REVIEW ~ You Must Read: Books That Have Shaped Our Lives. Various Authors. Banner of Truth. 304 pages. 2015
****

This book brings together more than thirty well-known Christian leaders and gives them the opportunity to talk about a Banner of Truth book that has made a lasting impact on their lives. The book is dedicated to Iain and Jean Murray, whose vision, dedication, ministry, and encouragement has undergirded the publication of every book selected.

As a book lover, and having read several books published by the Banner of Truth, this was a book that I loved. I was familiar with many of the contributors (R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Derek Thomas, Jerry Bridges, Mark Dever, Sinclair Ferguson, etc.), but many of the contributors were people I was not familiar with. Each shares a book that has made an impact on their lives, tells about the book and why it made such an impact.

The book is broken into 33 chapters. A few that I particularly enjoyed were:

  • What Is an Evangelical? Written by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones – Alistair Begg. Begg writes about reading this book with his elders early in his ministry at Parkside Church in Cleveland.
  • D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Vol. 1: The First Forty Years; Vol. 2: The Fight of Faith by Iain H. Murray – John MacArthur. This was my favorite chapter of the book. MacArthur writes “I had never encountered another pastor whose biblical convictions and philosophy of ministry rang so true with me. No pastor I had ever encountered so closely paralleled my own thinking about the church, the gospel, doctrine, conflict, cooperation, and especially preaching.”
  • The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended by Jonathan Edwards – R.C. Sproul. Sproul writes “I studied his classic work The Freedom of the Will in depth and found his arguments, especially on Romans 9, compelling and irrefutable. I fought him tooth and nail, but in the end, I was convinced that I had been teaching and believing what I wanted the Bible to say rather than what it actually said. To this day, I owe Edwards a huge debt of gratitude.”
  • Tracts and Letters of John Calvin – Ian Hamilton. Hamilton writes “It is in his Tracts and Letters that, perhaps most memorably, we see the heart of Calvin the pastor, and it was a large and capacious heart.” He also states that “No pastor more faithfully laboured to defend the sovereignty of God’s grace—not only for the sake of God’s glory but also for the good and security of his flock.”
  • Revival Year Sermons (1859) by C. H. Spurgeon – Stuart Olyott. Olyott writes “Spurgeon’s opinion was that ‘there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.’”
  • The Glory of Christ by John Owen – Sinclair B. Ferguson. Ferguson writes “It is safe to say that he goes down deeper, stays down longer, and comes up with greater spiritual riches than can be found in the vast bulk of contemporary Christian literature.”

An Epilogue is included which looks at the books from three perspectives – from Latin America, the Philippines and from the Grey House, Edinburgh.

Two key verses for the Banner of Truth are:
Psalm 60:4 (which gave rise to their name): You have given a banner to those who fear you, that it may be displayed because of the truth.
And Psalm 127:1: Unless the Lord build the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and got several recommendations for future reading.

BOOK NEWS:

  • ChristianAudio.com’s Free Audiobook Download -“Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up”.   This is a story about God’s miraculous love of Ian and Larissa Murphy. It’s a story of their relationship, sustained by God’s patient and persistent love, through tragedy and into a Christian marriage. In that way, it’s a miraculous story, because in every sentence, there’s a whisper, then a word, then a celebration shout that always speaks of that persistent love in Jesus Christ.
  • Why You Should Read Moby Dick. R.C. Sproul encourages his readers to “Read Moby Dick, and then read it again.”
  • Bestsellers ≠ Best Books. Matthew Maule writes “The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association has compiled a list of the best-selling Christian books of 2014. If these books are characteristic of the thought and theology most associated with Christianity in America, perhaps it is not surprising that many are leaving and fewer people are joining.”
  • 5 Best Books on Apologetics. Bryan Baise writes “The following are my 5 favorite,not the 5 most seminal works of apologetics.”
  • David Brooks Charts the Road to Character. Collin Hansen interviews David Brooks, author of the new book The Road to Character, which I’m reading now.

Prayer by Tim KellerPrayer Book Club– Won’t you read along with us?

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller

Christians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. But few receive instruction or guidance in how to make prayer genuinely meaningful. In Prayer, renowned pastor Timothy Keller delves into the many facets of this everyday act. Won’t you read along with Tammy and me? This week we look at:

CHAPTER ONE ~ The Necessity of Prayer

  • Kathy’s jolting challenge, along with my own growing conviction that I just didn’t get prayer, led me into a search. I wanted a far better personal prayer life. I began to read widely and experiment in prayer. As I looked around, I quickly came to see that I was not alone.
  • You are with Another, and he is unique. God is the only person from whom you can hide nothing. Before him you will unavoidably come to see yourself in a new, unique light. Prayer, therefore, leads to a self-knowledge that is impossible to achieve any other way.
  • In a sermon on the gospel, Owen gave due diligence to laying the doctrinal foundation of Christian salvation. Then, however, he exhorted his hearers to “get an experience of the power of the gospel . . . in and upon your own hearts, or all your profession is an expiring thing.”24 This heart experience of the gospel’s power can happen only through prayer—both publicly in the gathered Christian assembly and privately in meditation.
  • In my pursuit of a deeper prayer life, I chose a counterintuitive course. I deliberately avoided reading any new books on prayer at all. Instead, I went back to the historical texts of Christian theology that had formed me and began asking questions about prayer and the experience of God—questions.
  • I found guidance on the inward life of prayer and spiritual experience that took me beyond the dangerous currents and eddies of the contemporary spirituality debates and movements.
  • There is an intelligent mysticism in the life of faith . . . of living union and communion with the exalted and ever-present Redeemer. . . . He communes with his people and his people commune with him in conscious reciprocal love.
  • As I pondered that verse, I had to marvel that Peter, in writing to the church, could address all his readers like this. He didn’t say, “Well, some of you with an advanced spirituality have begun to get periods of high joy in prayer. Hope the rest of you catch up.” No, he assumed that an experience of sometimes overwhelming joy in prayer was normal. I was convicted.
  • We are not called to choose between a Christian life based on truth and doctrine or a life filled with spiritual power and experience. They go together.
  • Rather, I was meant to ask the Holy Spirit to help me experience my theology.
  • I made four practical changes to my life of private devotion. First, I took several months to go through the Psalms, summarizing each one.
  • The second thing I did was always to put in a time of meditation as a transitional discipline between my Bible reading and my time of prayer. Third, I did all I could to pray morning and evening rather than only in the morning. Fourth, I began praying with greater expectation.
  • I have found new sweetness in Christ and new bitterness too, because I could now see my heart more clearly in the new light of vital prayer. In other words, there were more restful experiences of love as well as more wrestling to see God triumph over evil, both in my own heart and in the world.
  • Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change—the reordering of our loves.Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life. We must learn to pray. We have to.


Leave a comment

This & That and Favorite Quotes of the Week

This and ThatCHRISTIAN LIFE:

CHURCH LIFE:

  • Anatomy of a Sick Church – 10 Symptoms to Watch. Thom S. Rainer writes “While there are many potential symptoms of a sick church, I have found ten to be consistently common. These ten are not listed in any particular order.”
  • An Appeal to Elders. Carl Trueman writes “The task of the elder is to pastor the pastor.  If they do not do it, nobody else will.”
  • When Leaders Fall, All Are Punished. In light of another high profile Reformed pastor’s resignation as a result of moral failure, Marshall Segal writes “The collapse of a leader’s ministry does not signal the collapse of Christ’s church. No, not even hell can prevail against her (Matthew 16:18). Heaven is not thrown into crisis with a scandal, however shocking or hard the fall.”
  • Books to Read in the Ministry. During the 2015 Inerrancy Summit, three Banner Trustees (Ian Hamilton, Iain Murray and Sinclair Ferguson) addressed a gathering of seminary students on the topic of ‘Books to Read in the Ministry’. Steven Lawson, a professor of expository preaching at The Masters’ Seminary, introduced the students to the Trustees present and to the ongoing work of the Banner. Listen to a one-hour audio recording of the address, which includes 20 plus book recommendations and a “Question and Answer” period between the students and the trustees.
  • Workers for Your Joy: Why Christ Gave Us Leaders. David Mathis writes “Christian leadership exists for the joy of the church. Such a vision changes everything, first for pastors and then for their people.”

RESOURCES:

JUST FOR FUN:

  • The Definitive Ranking of Pixar Movies. Kelly Lawler ranks the Pixar films from 15 to 1. Agree?
  • I bet after you eat a camel you are so thirsty. Jim Gaffigan
  • At this point people should announce when they are not running for president.  Jim Gaffigan
  • We can all look at life and agree that there are some parts that have no purpose—like neckties or cats. Matt Chandler
  • If the college you visit has a bookstore filled with t-shirts rather than books, find another college. Albert Mohler
Doug Michael’s Cartoon of the Week

Doug Michael’s Cartoon of the Week

Favorite QuotesFavorite Quotes of the Week 6.28.15

CURRENT THEOLOGIANS:

  • Welcome to the valley of the shadow of death…thank God grace reigns here. Tullian Tchividjian   (after he admitted to committing adultery and resigned as lead pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church).
  • There is a danger that grace can become a topic we discuss rather than a power we experience. Heath Lambert
  • I find that if I pray for the people I’m most angry with, my anger turns into something more redemptive. Jack Miller
  • If God is not at the center of your life, something else is. Tim Keller
  • Faith is not primarily a function of how you feel. Faith is living out, trusting, and believing what truth is despite what you feel. Tim Keller
  • We’ve replaced the proclamation of Christ with an easy-listening legalism of do more and try harder. R. C. Sproul
  • The God of popular religion is not holy. R.C. Sproul
  • Jesus, many of us know what holiness is not; but we need you to show us what holiness IS. Help us to discover the beauty of gospel-holiness. Scotty Smith
  • The Father did not require the death of Christ to persuade Him to love us. Christ died because the Father loves us. Sinclair Ferguson
  • A quiet heart is content with what God gives. It is enough. All is grace. Elisabeth Elliot
  • The greatest work God ever performs was not the creation of the universe out of nothing, but is the new creation of saints out of sinners. Steven Lawson
  • The Bible knows nothing of a healthy Christian who does not or will not pray. Tim Challies
  • Every time you get on your knees and pray to God, ‘Holy’ keeps the respect and reverence while ‘Father’ brings Him close & intimate. Ravi Zacharias
  •  We should be so joyful from God’s grace that others would respond by saying, ‘I wish I had your God. Francis Chan
  • We want awesomeness more than we want faithfulness. Michael Horton
  • Grace has uprooted us from a barren wilderness of sin and transplanted us by streams of living water. Steven Lawson
  • Charleston was where America split apart in 1861. Maybe it’s where America comes together in 2015. Russell Moore
  • Sin claims to free but in fact it kills. Mark Dever
  • Correct division should be preferred over corrupt unity. Mark Dever
  • Prayer is the burden of revival; repentance is the breakthrough of revival; evangelism is the blessing of revival; holiness is the bounty of revival. Steve Camp
  • God’s will is what we would choose if we knew what God knows. Nancy Leigh DeMoss 
  • God is not embarrassed by his wrath or ashamed of his judgment, so we shouldn’t be either. Thabiti Anyabwile
  • True maturity does not mean repenting less. It means repenting more, and repenting more quickly. Scott Sauls 

THEOLOGIANS FROM THE PAST:

  • The eternal everlasting God has become our Father and the moment we realize that, it transforms everything. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • Spiritual depression or unhappiness in the Christian life is very often due to our failure to realize the greatness of the gospel. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
  • The whole man is involved, the mind, the heart and the will, and a common cause of spiritual depression is the failure to realize that the Christian life is a whole life, a balanced life. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • The Holy Spirit is the bond by which Christ efficaciously unites us to himself. John Calvin
  • Unless men establish their complete happiness in God, they will never give themselves truly and sincerely to him. John Calvin
  • He makes those just who are unjust, forgives those who deserve to be punished, and favors those who deserve no favor. Charles Spurgeon
  • However little we may be, if we are the Lord’s, we may rejoice that we are preserved in Christ Jesus. Charles Spurgeon
  • The God who has been sufficient until now, should be trusted to the end. Charles Spurgeon
  • To me, Calvinism means the placing of the eternal God at the head of all things. Charles Spurgeon
  • Sin is not so sweet in the committing as it is heavy and bitter in the reckoning. Richard Sibbes
  • We should take our discouragements as means of grace. Andrew Bonar There are many persons that seem to be converted, that are not so really. Don’t rest in any appearance of grace. Jonathan Edwards
  • Free will without God’s grace is not free at all, but is the permanent bondservant of evil, since it cannot turn itself to good. Martin Luther

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

 Faith-and-Work

Faith and Work News:

  • How to Decide about Your Next Job. John Piper writes “In 1997 I put a list of Bible texts together to help folks think through what job to pursue. Below I have taken that list and added comments to flesh out more specifically what I had in mind.”
  • God’s Will and Your Job. R.C. Sproul writes “If the Bible teaches anything, it teaches that God is a calling God. The world was created through the call of the omnipotent Creator:” ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” God also calls his people to repentance, to conversion, and to membership in his family. In addition he calls us to serve him in his kingdom, making the best possible use of our gifts and talents.”
  • Pursue The Gifts You Have, Not The Ones You Want. C. Patton offers four lessons for leaders based on a lesson on using your gifts from Dave Anderson’s book How to Run Your Business by THE BOOK.
  • Why We Can–And Should–Grieve at Work. Kristin Brown writes “For anyone who has gone through grief, you know it lasts much longer than you anticipated. You must return to your workplace and continue to serve to the best of your ability amidst the swirling, unpredictable emotions. How do you function? And how do you support those who are grieving in the cubicle next you?”
  • Leadership Gold. John Maxwell offers a series based on his book Leadership Gold. Lonely, Listen, Connect, Choices. Note: I fondly remember Maxwell having a draft of that book with him when my friend Kirk and I took him and a mentee to and from our local airport when he came in to do an event for us back in 2007.
  • Who’s Right and Who’s Wrong? Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes “Forget the “who” question and focus on the “how” question. How are you going to deal with the other person? You’ve got two choices. One is to confront the other person. The other is to confront yourself.”
  • Great Leaders Serve. Mark Miller writes “My biggest personal insight over the last three decades regarding leadership is… Great Leaders SERVE.”
  •  No, You Don’t Need to be Great at Everything – And You Shouldn’t Even Try. Michael Hyatt writes “You don’t need to do everything in your business. And if you try, you’re just holding yourself back. If you need some help discarding a few of those hats and finding out which one you should wear at least most of the time, just ask yourself these three questions.”
  • Happiness or Joy… or Both? Randy Alcorn, in this three-minute video, talks about the artificial distinction made by many Bible-believing Christians between happiness and joy. He will address this in his forthcoming book Happiness, which will be published October 1.
  • 5 Lies Too Many Christians Believe. C. Patton writes “Once you stop accepting what you have been taught all of your life and begin comparing it to God’s Word, you will likely see that you have been operating on a shaky foundation in some areas. You will begin to seek more of God’s truth and how to apply it to every area of your life.”
  • Everybody Matters Podcast: Seamus Lafferty. Seamus Lafferty, president of Accraply is featured in this edition of the Everybody Matters podcast. There are 200 team members within Seamus’ span of care. Seamus shares his insights into what it means to be a truly human leader, one who is learning something new every day as he takes very seriously his responsibility for those lives.
  • What’s in Your Future? Mark Miller writes “What should Five Years Out look like for your organization and how do you decide? Here are a few ideas to help you get started.”
  • What Nashville and Denver Have in Common. Bethany Jenkins writes “Dr. David Miller acknowledged the dangers and limitations of the faith and work movement being isolated from the church, but he imagined only two ways for churches to get involved—either “develop an in-house FAW group” or “participate in an existing group.” Churches in Denver in Nashville, though, are trailblazing a third way.”
  • What to Do When You Are Completely Overwhelmed at Work. This article from the High Calling states “If you are at all challenging and stretching yourself, you will inevitably run into situations where you feel completely over your head. It’s the most natural thing in the world. But rather than beating yourself up for being such an idiot for not knowing how to handle it better, here are some useful steps to take when you feel snowed under at work.”
  • Why You Don’t Have to Be a Jerk to Win at Work. Michael Hyatt writes “I’d put my money on a kind boss over a meaniac any day. There are several reasons. One is I just don’t like jerks very much. But there are legitimate business reasons for backing the kind boss. Here are four ways kindness can give you an edge in business.”
  • The ‘Screwtape Letters’ on Gratitude, Discontentment, and the Focus of the Christian Worker. Jessica Schaeffer writes “Seeking to “climb the ladder” is antithetical to practicing thankfulness for your present job situation. It is impossible to give thanks while acting out of discontentment.”

Faith and Work Quotes:

  • The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up. John Maxwell
  • People need to know that their job matters and they make a difference in the world. Ken Blanchard
  • People Matter. Treat your spouse, kids, co-workers and customers like they matter. You will see incredible results. Dave Ramsey
  • Our passion is to know that we are fulfilling the purpose for which we are here on earth. Os Guinness
  • As a leader, thinking is your primary responsibility. Mark Miller
  • A leader is a person you will follow to a place you would not go by yourself. Joel Barker
  • Servant leadership is something very different from the “kind boss” model of leadership. It means you empower–transfer power to–followers. Matt Perman
  • Deep in our hearts, we all want to find and fulfill a bigger purpose than ourselves. Os Guinness
  • Employees who don’t get a sense that they make a difference, have trouble valuing their work. Create an environment of praise and value. Ken Blanchard
  • Leadership is a form of Stewardship. Ron Edmondson
  • When an organization becomes healthy it’s almost impossible for it to fail. Patrick Lencioni
  • People do get better at living, at least if they are willing to humble themselves and learn. David Brooks
  • When we are slow to tend that which is most central to our calling, and speedy to tend that which is not, our business is actually laziness. Zack Eswine
  • The “WHY” behind your goal gives the goal nobility. It causes you to be willing to sacrifice to win. Dave Ramsey
  • To be successful you must accept all challenges that come your way. You can’t just accept the ones you like. Coach K
  • Let me give so much time to the improvement of myself that I shall have no time to criticize others. John Wooden
  • Worry attempts to convince our faith that God doesn’t have this under control. Ron Edmondson

The Conviction to Lead Book Club – Won’t you read along with us?

The Conviction to Lead by Albert MohlerThe Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters by Albert Mohler

We’re reading this excellent book on leadership principles from a renowned agent of change, Albert Mohler. It is one of the best that I’ve read on leadership and is broken down into 25 relatively short chapters. Won’t you read along with us? This week we look at:

Chapter 20 ~ The Leader as Writer

  • Leaders who want to make a difference, and to make that difference last, must write. You can write this down—leaders are writers.
  • When matters central to the organization’s mission and convictions are at stake, leaders must write with care and concern. Words matter.
  • Leadership is about communication, and much of that communication is necessarily written, but far too many leaders undermine their leadership with poor writing.
  • When the leader writes, he writes to inform, to motivate, to explain, and to inspire. Sometimes the leader has to clarify, correct, or even sound an alarm. Whatever the context, words matter, and the effective leader works hard to develop the ability to write clearly, cogently, and powerfully.
  • For Christian leaders, the commitment to words is a matter of discipleship and personal devotion, for our faith is communicated by words. As John Piper has memorably said, we have to be willing to die for sentences. We even have to put ourselves on the line for single words.
  • Average leaders are satisfied to use average words in an average way. Effective leaders, those who aspire to lasting and extended influence, will learn to use words as arrows fired from a bow, carefully chosen and aimed in order to accomplish a purpose.
  • By a careless use of language, leaders can end up miscommunicating or failing to say what they mean at all.
  • Leaders write because words matter and because the written word matters longer and reaches farther than the words we speak.


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Reflections on the Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage

CarnacCharleston, The Rebel Flag and Gay Marriage by Tammy Pence

Do you remember Johnny Carson as Carnac the Magnificent? He would make diverse statements and ‘magically’ open an envelope to tell you the answer as to how they tied together.

I’ve been mulling over these three things, and believe they reflect how Christians should respond to the recent Supreme Court decision. In case you’ve been having a screen-fast (abstaining from using TV, phone, computer screens) here’s a short synopsis from Allen West:

…. five justices on the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) redefined what marriage is in America and also found the time to violate the concept of federalism. They decided that an individual’s behavioral choice was grounds to create a new “right” in the U.S. Constitution. … The Court used Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to justify its argument, which reads: Amendment XIV Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law, which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

It will be interesting to see how the gay agenda proceeds from here, now that they feel powerfully affirmed. At one time in recent history they felt oppressed. But now will they take their power to oppress others or will they use their past experience to bring healing and unity, not boycotts and harassment? We shall see. Mark Oppenheimer’s recent article in Time magazine entitled, “Now’s the Time To End Tax Exemptions for Religious Institutions” might be a sample of coming attractions.

But take a deep breath! Our calling as Christians hasn’t changed one iota, and is not dependent upon circumstances or the government or its laws. See Tim Brister’s article, “How Christians Live in Post-Christendom”.

We were given a horrible yet wonderful example in the murders in Charleston, SC. What were the families and community’s reactions to their loved ones being gunned down? The members of the media were salivating, hoping to see protests, riots, looting and violence; these were previous responses to people being killed by white police officers.

But what did we see happen in Charleston? People gathering in churches to pray together and support one another; lamenting the loss of loved ones together. An Outpouring of Love, Grace, Peace and even Forgiveness.

The media didn’t get their expected story, so they had to create it. Enter the Confederate flag controversy, along with the usual anti-gun protests. All of a sudden the focus is taken off of families grieving together and put onto a controversy. (By the way, are there any news stations that just report the news, not just spend the entire day hammering on one news story?)

Diversion from focusing on the good is a classic tool of the devil. It even happens in churches – you could be sitting in a meeting, excited about setting the vision for the future, when someone chirps up to get you off track onto controversies within the church. Next thing you know, hours have gone by, you’re deflated and tired, and never once talked about the church’s vision.

God is still sovereign (Proverbs 21:1 ~ “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He will.”). We as Christians are still to be salt and light, regardless of circumstances and current controversies: Speaking the truth in love – not wavering from Biblical truth but continuing to love our neighbors as ourselves. While giving the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus preaches to us about the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. In verse 16 He says: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Convictions

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Written by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

Written by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

  • Top 10 Quotes from the Dissenting Justices on Same-Sex Marriage. Thanks to Trevin Wax for compiling these quotes.
  • We’ve Been Here Before: Lessons for the Marriage Debate from the Pro-Life Movement. Russell Moore writes “The pro-life movement’s victories were only possible because its champions understood that legal consensus is never the final word. Imagine how much different the cause for life and dignity would look today if that first generation of pro-life advocates decided that being on the wrong side of the Supreme Court and the wrong side of history was just too high a price to pay. Thank God that was not them, and God forbid it should be us. Let’s follow their lead onward.”
  • So-Called Same-Sex Marriage: Lamenting the New Calamity. John Piper writes “What’s new is not even the celebration and approval of homosexual sin. Homosexual behavior has been exploited, and reveled in, and celebrated in art, for millennia. What’s new is normalization and institutionalization. This is the new calamity.”
  • The Briefing Special Edition: Supreme Court Ruling on Same Sex Marriage. Albert Mohler offers his thoughts on the ruling that redefines marriage.
  • Here We Stand: An Evangelical Declaration on Marriage. The Ethics & Religious Liberties Commission released “Here We Stand”, a statement of dissent signed by a number of Christian leaders including Bryan Chapell, Trip Lee, Mark Dever, Kevin DeYoung, Albert Mohler, Matt Chandler, David Platt, Russell Moore, Rosaria Butterfield, D.A. Carson, J.I. Packer and many more.
  • Why the Church Should Neither Cave Nor Panic about the Decision on Gay Marriage. Russell Moore writes “The Court now has disregarded thousands of years of definition of the most foundational unit of society, and the cultural changes here will be broad and deep. So how should the church respond?”
  • But What Does the Bible Say? Kevin DeYoung writes “The cultural breezes are blowing against us. The worldly winds are stiff in our faces. But the hard parts of the Bible are no less true for being less popular. The Bible says what it says, so let us be honest enough to say whether we think what the Bible says is right or wrong.” See my review of Kevin’s book What Does the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality?
  • Everything Has Changed and Nothing Has Changed — The Supreme Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage. Albert Mohler writes “The Supreme Court’s decision yesterday is a central assault upon marriage as the conjugal union of a man and a woman and in a five to four decision the nation’s highest court has now imposed its mandate redefining marriage on all fifty states.”
  • CBMW’s Official response to the SCOTUS Ruling. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood writes “The U. S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges tragically continues the culture’s shift away from biblical wisdom. As the board and leadership of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, we are not moving an inch from our fundamental commitments to biblical marriage, to manhood and womanhood, and to the God-created natural family.”
  • The Only Decision That Matters. Hershael York writes “Because of this Supreme Court ruling Christians who have contented themselves with a nebulous theology and a generic commitment to the parts of the Bible they deem palatable will now be pressed to probe the Scriptures and their own presuppositions like never before. Congregations who have survived on a cultural predisposition toward churches are about to discover what it means to thrive on Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ. Believers who have worked to keep their faith separate from the rest of their lives will discover that they can no longer be secret disciples because they are going to be asked bluntly and sometimes with great hostility.”
  • A Prophetic Word from Eleven Years Ago about Today. Denny Burk writes “Eleven years ago, John Piper delivered a message about “Discerning the Will of God Concerning Homosexuality and Marriage.” The message made an impression on me, and for many years now I’ve been reading a portion of this sermon every semester to my undergraduate hermeneutics students.”
  • D.A. Carson on The Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Decision. Listen to Tony Reinke’s interview with D.A. Carson on the “Ask Pastor John” podcast.
  • Is Gay Now the New Black? In this four-minute video, Voddie Baucham explains the similarities between the Civil Rights and so-called Gay Rights Movement, while highlighting the significant differences between ethnicity and sexual orientation.
  • How Did We Get Here? Desensitize, Normalize, Demonize, Legalize, (Victimize)! Caleb Kolstad writesFor many decades the LGBT movement has worked tirelessly in effort to fundamentally transform America’s conscience with regards to sexuality and gender.  This has been achieved, in large part, with direct assistance from Hollywood.”
  • What Your Church Needs to Know – And Do – About the Court’s Marriage Ruling. Erik Stanley writes “In coming days, the threat from these non-discrimination laws will materialize in numerous ways as same-sex couples marry. But there are proactive steps your church can take to protect itself.”
  • Four Ways Christians Need to Respond in Love to the Supreme Court Decision on Same-Sex Marriage. Our friend Kevin Halloran writes “One of the chief ways Christians influence the culture and shine the light of Christ is by their love. Here are four ways.”
  • John MacArthur’s Letter to Master’s Seminary Alumni. MacArthur writes to fellow pastors to help them frame the issue in a biblical way. He writes “In the final analysis, your greatest contribution to your people will be to show patience and a steady confidence in the sovereignty of God, the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and the authority of Scripture. Turn their eyes toward the Savior, and remind them that when He returns, all will be made right.”

QUOTES:

  • I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian — for me — for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix. Barack Obama (April 17, 2008)
  • What did John need to see in the crazed, out-of-control, spiraling downward world of Rome? The occupied throne of heaven: Rev.4:1-2 Us too! Scotty Smith
  • America is changing, the Word of God is not. Burk Parsons
  • The gospel of Jesus Christ has not changed. The church’s mission has not changed. Albert Mohler
  •  Marriage was not invented by men but by God. R.C. Sproul
  • There is only one power strong enough to turn around our nation, the soul-saving, life-changing power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Steven Lawson
  • On the wrong side of history? We started on the wrong side of history—a Roman Empire and a cross. Rome’s dead and Jesus is fine.  Russell Moore
  • God is love, but He also defines what love is. We don’t have the license to define love according to our standards. Francis Chan

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