Saturday, December 04, 2004

Chuck Colson's BreakPoint Commentary - A couple of days ago, on the anniversary of the birth of C.S. Lewis, Colson and his very gifted editorial team sent out a particularly provocative piece:
C. S. Lewis was born on this date (November 29) in 1898, and forty-one years after his death, one thing has become startlingly clear: This Oxford don was not only a keen apologist but also a true prophet for our postmodern age.For example, Lewis’s 1947 book, Miracles, was penned before most Christians were aware of the emerging philosophy of naturalism. This is the belief that there is a naturalistic explanation for everything in the universe.Naturalism undercuts any objective morality, opening the door to tyranny. In his book The Abolition of Man, Lewis warned that naturalism turns humans into objects to be controlled. It turns values into “mere natural phenomena”—which can be selected and inculcated into a passive population by powerful Conditioners. Lewis predicted a time when those who want to remold human nature “will be armed with the powers of an omnicompetent state and an irresistible scientific technique.” Sounds like the biotech debate today, doesn’t it?Why was Lewis so uncannily prophetic? At first glance he seems an unlikely candidate. He was not a theologian; he was an English professor. What was it that made him such a keen observer of cultural and intellectual trends?The answer may be somewhat discomfiting to modern evangelicals: One reason is precisely that Lewis was not an evangelical. He was a professor in the academy, with a specialty in medieval literature, which gave him a mental framework shaped by the whole scope of intellectual history and Christian thought. As a result, he was liberated from the narrow confines of the religious views of the day—which meant he was able to analyze and critique them.Lewis once wrote than any new book “has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages.” Because he himself was steeped in that “great body of Christian thought,” he quickly discerned trends that ran counter to it.But how many of us are familiar with that same panorama of Christian ideas “down the ages”? How many of us know the work of more than a few contemporary writers? How, then, can we stand against the destructive intellectual trends multiplying in our own day?The problem is not that modern evangelicals are less intelligent than Lewis. As Mark Noll explains in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, the problem is that our sharpest intellects have been channeled into biblical scholarship, exegesis, and hermeneutics. While that is a vital enterprise, we rarely give the same scholarly attention to history, literature, politics, philosophy, economics, or the arts. As a result, we are less aware of the culture than we should be, less equipped to defend a biblical worldview, and less capable of being a redemptive force in our postmodern society—less aware, as well, of the threats headed our way from cultural elites.You and I need to follow Lewis’s lead. We must liberate ourselves from the prison of our own narrow perspective and immerse ourselves in Christian ideas “down the ages.” Only then can we critique our culture and trace the trends.The best way to celebrate Lewis’s birthday is to be at our posts, as he liked to say—with renewed spirits and with probing and informed minds.

Monday, November 08, 2004

I received a email from John Armstrong the other day that had a statement from Dr. Monte Wilson:

For well over 100 years, the Christian religion of the U.S. has been more cultural than biblical. While we were arguing about serving wine in communion, the Gnostics and the Germans (Pietism and Higher Criticism) stole our soul and our brains. While we were arguing over prayer in (public) schools, millions of unborn children were being murdere. While we argued about which dispensation we were living in, our neighbors’ families were falling apart.

Somewhere around the 15,000th denomination we became a tired, worn out national joke. We took our kids out of public schools only to send them to ones’ that taught Sally and Johnny how to live in the 1700s.

We complained about the lawyers coming out of Harvard but refused to send teachers or students to such schools. We condemned physicians who failed in their oaths to protect the unborn child, but rarely encouraged our children to even go to college; much less become physicians.

We complained about and condemned the welfare state, while the vast majority of us failed to either tithe or give offerings. We rebuked the state and its excessive taxes, but we did little to help the poor in our own communities or to care for the elderly in our own families. We spoke out against pandering politicians, while attending churches whose theological core was predicated on pleasing the largest number of people.

In the sixties, while our nation was drowning in debauchery, we decided this was a sign of the end times and told everyone, “Jesus is coming back any day now.” While the Nixon administration was tottering, we were telling people that Christians had no place in politics. While the nation was dividing into special interest groups that would eventually tear out the heart of our singular national identity, our churches ceased being communities and families and became way stations where individuals came to get their needs met. In Revelation, the writer speaks of “leaving your first love.” Note he did not say, “Losing your first love.” We do not “lose” our relationship with Christ; we “leave” it.

We did not “lose” this war: we left the battleground. May God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and raise up a generation of warriors.

Monday, September 20, 2004

George Grant recently wrote this article.

The spate of violence in Iraq this past week got me to thinking about an article I wrote for Table Talk magazine this past year about the place of persecution in the history of the Gospel. I don't know about you, but my comfort and affluence often numbs me to the real nature of spiritual conflict in this poor fallen world. Thus, every so often I find I need to think about Ziwar:
The assailant fired off nearly thirty rounds. He shouted, “Allah akhbar! Allah akhbar! God is great!” He turned on his heel and left the taxi driver to die. And thus, on February 17, 2003, the Iraqi church had yet another martyr. Ziwar Muhammad Isma'il, a believer from the city of Zakho, not only left behind a wife and five children, he left behind a remarkable legacy of faithfulness in the midst of adversity, discrimination, oppression, harassment, and persecution.
Ziwar, a Kurd, came to saving faith seven years ago. “Since then he has been faithful to, and open, about his faith. Many times he was threatened and twice arrested, though never charged,” reported his pastor. Though practically illiterate, he had memorized large portions of the Scriptures and served as a deacon in the fledgling Evangelical church. Thus said his pastor, “he was always very well aware, as are all of us in the church here, of the fact that at some point, martyrdom is all too likely. He accepted this without reservation.”
I confess that when I received the e-mail reporting Ziwar's death, I was shocked. But, I know I shouldn't have been. Long ago the Apostle Paul asserted, “All those who desire to live godly lives will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). There is no way around it. No amount of compromise can divert it. Persecution is inevitable.
Jesus explained this fact to His disciples saying, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the Word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My Word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:18-20).
Ziwar understood, perhaps better than most of the rest of us, the ever-present danger of Christian profession in the midst of this poor fallen world.
Everyone loves a winner. The sweet smell of success draws nearly all of us like moths to a candle flame. Popularity, celebrity, prominence, and fame are not only the hallmarks of our age, they are just about the only credentials we require for adulation or leadership.
As a result, we are generally not too terribly fond of the peculiar, the obscure, or the unpopular. At best we reserve pity for losers. In fact, we view with suspicion anyone who somehow fails to garner kudos from the world at large. If they have fallen prey to vilification, defamation, or humiliation we simply assume that they must somehow be at fault.
There was a time when martyrdom was among the church's highest callings and greatest honors. Early on, Christians embraced the truth that "all those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12). The heroes of the faith have always been those who actually sacrificed their lives, fortunes, and reputations for the sake of the Gospel.But no longer. There is almost a kind of shame that we attach to those who suffer persecution or isolation or oppression. If their cause does not meet with quick success, we are only too hasty to abandon them. Maybe they didn't try hard enough. Maybe they just made a couple of dumb mistakes. Maybe they had faulty theology. Maybe they just failed to marshal effective public relations techniques. But however they got into the mess they're in, we are all but certain that they are not the kind of models we ought to follow.
E.M. Bounds, the great nineteenth century pastor and evangelist who penned several classic books on prayer, asserted it was "all too often the case" that "when the church prospers it loses sight of the very virtues from whence its prosperity has sprung." According to Bounds those virtues "invariably have sprung out of either the suffering of believers or their response to the suffering of others."
Throughout the history of the church, believers have suffered both fierce persecution and enforced obscurity. They have been beaten, ridiculed, defrocked, and defamed. They have suffered poverty, isolation, betrayal, and disgrace. They have been hounded, harassed, and murdered. Through it all though, they bore testimony to the fact that they found solace in the realization of genuine hope-a hope that did not depend on the confirmation of worldly notions of success; a hope that did not need to adjust to the ever-shifting tides of situation or circumstance. They were somehow able to comprehend that the blood, toil, tears, and sweat of the faithful are the seeds of real success and that our diligent, unflagging efforts on behalf of the despised and rejected are our most potent caveats to the worldly-wise.
Though that may be an alien notion to us today, it has been the common experience of virtually all those who have gone before us in faith: apostles, prophets, martyrs, confessors, pastors, evangelists, missionaries, reformers, and witnesses. They tasted the bittersweet truth that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to "those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness" (Matthew 5:10) and that great "blessings" and "rewards" eventually await those who have been "insulted," "slandered," and "sore vexed" who nevertheless persevere in their high callings (Matthew 5:12-13).
And so, though they often suffered the slanging ridicule and irate torments of the world, they remained steadfast, continued their course, and walked in grace. Like Ziwar, they were willing to risk everything for the sake of truth.
The fact is, our response to the "fragrance of oppression," as historian Herbert Schlossberg has dubbed the persecutions and sufferings of our world, is perhaps the single most significant indicator of the health and vitality of the church. It is in "afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, sleeplessness, and hunger" (2 Corinthians 6:4-5) that our mettle is proven.
E.M. Bounds said it well, “The easy smile, the temperate deportment, and the contented visage of a successful and prosperous Christians can but impress few, but the determined faithfulness, the long-suffering fellowship, and the stalwart compassion of yokefellows in hardship is certain to convey the hope of grace to many.”
Everyone loves a winner. That's not all bad--as long as our understanding of who the real winners are conforms to Biblical standards. But then that's the rub, isn't it?
I loved Ziwar before. But now, he is my role model.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

I received this in a newsletter this week and found it a very thought provoking article by John Armstrong.

“Lord Acton and Labor Day: The Relationship of Freedom and Virtue”
by John H. Armstrong

Several weeks ago I received a major lesson in political theory and economics. No, I am not making a late career change. The “dismal science” of economics (unjustly labeled I think) is not my cup of tea. But I do like to engage issues, especially those that relate directly to my Christian faith in the world. I also believe biblical reformation includes more than the church getting its doctrine right in private. And discipleship includes much more than private submission to Jesus in one’s heart.

Economics is a subject that has always puzzled me. I somehow missed taking a course in economics in college. I was preparing to preach so what did business have to do with me anyway? Like many I find wealth and poverty vexing issues. I have generally been inclined toward free market capitalism, but I have always felt guilty about it since it doesn’t seem to line up with some of the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels. Isn’t wealth, especially large amounts of it, dangerous?

When a Christian professor of economics at a major university engaged me in dialogue last year about economic theory and Christian faith I was a bit surprised by how little I really understood. Thus, when this professor later encouraged friends to invite me to observe a conference sponsored by the Acton Institute, held in the beautiful mountains of northwestern Connecticut, I gladly went. The theme of this three-day event, designed for seminarians and graduate students in law and government, was: “Toward a Free and Virtuous Society.” Since this is Labor Day in the United States, it might interest many of you to know more about Acton and its philosophy of public theology and economic practice.

Let me begin with a few historical details about Acton Institute. It is a nonprofit educational and research organization named for Lord Acton (1834-1902). It was begun in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1990 by a Roman Catholic priest (who had been a socialist) and a businessman. Its purpose statement is: “Promoting a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.” The desire is to connect the often-separated worlds of business and religion. The Institute brings religious principles to business leaders and economic knowledge to the community of faith, promoting greater understanding of market principles and economic freedom. Acton works both in the United States and abroad, bringing these principles to developing nations so that they might connect Christian values to an economy that will lift them out of poverty. You may learn much more at: Some of you would profit from Acton’s resources and some of you might also want to support this worthwhile endeavor.
Lord Acton was an English historian and popular writer on political, social, and theological issues. He was born in Naples, Italy, and lived on both the continent and in Great Britain, becoming fluent in German, French, Italian and English. When he applied to Cambridge University he was barred because of his Roman Catholicism. He eventually studied at the University of Munich under a famous church historian, Ignaz von Döllinger. Through this influence he embraced a mixture of Catholic and Reformed theology that led him to see the dangers posed to individual conscience by religious or political persecution. At the age of twenty-five he pursued electoral politics and entered the House of Commons in 1859. Prime Minister Gladstone rewarded him for his efforts on behalf of Liberal political causes by offering him a peerage. A participant in Vatican Council I, Acton became known as one of the most articulate defenders of religious and political freedom of his day. He argued that the church faithfully fulfills its mission by encouraging the pursuit of scientific, historical, and philosophical truth, and by promoting individual liberty in the political realm. Acton spent the decades of the 1870s and 1880s working on a universal history that would show the relationship between religious virtue and personal freedom. He even spoke of this research as work on the question of “theodicy,” meaning a defense of God’s goodness and providential care for the world.

In 1895 Acton was appointed the Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University, the very school that had barred his admittance in the 1850s. But Acton was more than a researcher. He had a passion to demonstrate his view that the historian is required to make moral judgments about historical events. (This is almost universally rejected in the academy today, even by most evangelical historians!) The most famous observation of Lord Acton is the well-known quote that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” You will hear this quote in almost every election year, one side accusing the other of grabbing for more power. The truth is that both sides grab for power and the public suffers accordingly.
What is interesting is both the context of Acton’s famous quote and the longer version, often lost in the dust bin of quote books and historic rhetoric. The context was church power, specifically his particular ecclesial communion, the Catholic Church. Acton was an opponent, at least initially, of the doctrine of papal infallibility. (He was even threatened with excommunication at one point.) Here is the long version of the famous quotation, now given in its historic context:
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.
Wow! Read that again, and read very slowly. This man not only believed in total depravity, he believed it still impacted religious leaders. And he believed religious leaders often went “bad.” Though this may sound cynical, I find Acton’s insight to be proven true time and again. Acton also wrote, “There is no error so monstrous that it fails to find defenders among the ablest men.” What is of chief interest here theologically is that in both of these Acton citations you can see the best of both Catholic and Reformed doctrine. Leaders, both religious and political, would benefit from this kind of biblical anthropology. So would followers who are inclined to “trust” good men too deeply.

Acton’s beliefs were deeply rooted in foundational truths of Judeo-Christian civilization: The human person bears the imprint of freedom as God’s gift, and this freedom will find its fullest expression when it is correctly ordered by God-given moral precepts, especially in what has been traditionally called “natural law.” A defining aspect of human nature is the person’s ability to choose, decide and regulate his own behavior. With this divine gift comes the most basic question of all: How does one best use this freedom? Acton argued that true liberty is not the freedom to do what one wants, but rather the freedom to do what one should. The doctrine of human nature is at the foundation of any just and well-ordered society. (This is why scientific naturalism and social Darwinism is so destructive of Judeo-Christian culture.)

The classical worldview, advanced by the Romans and Greeks, and taught most explicitly by Christians, is that the soul is divided into powers, or faculties, of will, heart and intellect. Human nature is rational and thus humans make their best decisions when their will is informed by their intellect. The heart will provide passion for action but the very human action will be intelligently informed by a well-taught mind. Simply put, freedom is not absolute. The modern age has lost this classical insight and sees freedom as license, or the personal right to do whatever I am pleased to do. There should be no restriction placed upon my personal freedom unless my expression of my rights disturbs your own personal freedom directly.

In our world passion rules! Just listen to the debates about abortion, homosexual marriage and related discussions about values and virtue. Give in to your heart, go with the flow. Do what feels good. Pleasure rules and the results are manifest. “What is truth?” If this ancient question is asked in our world you will be met with a blank stare. The traditional conception of truth went like this: There is a proper correspondence between our judgments about reality and our actions. Rather than following our passions and desires, we find ourselves in a world where we seek an objective order because of the prior work of the Creator. In the words of Gregory M. A. Gronbacher: The stress placed on diversity in the past few years has increased the power of subjectivism. Truth has been relegated to cultural perspectives. Now with the multitude of cultures, ethnic groups, and sets of minorities there is also a multiplicity of truths. Political pluralism has resulted in moral pluralism. There is black truth, white truth, Catholic truth, Jewish truth, and so on ad nauseam.

This subjectivism makes it nearly impossible to engage in serious public theology in our time. The Christian Right seeks to bash down the opposition at the ballot box and in the streets while the increasingly immoral world sees nothing but intolerance and bigotry in these actions. Questions become: Whose morality? Whose values? And in the context of niceness and toleranc,e strong views held by politically conservative Christians are seen as worse than dangerous.

We have come a long way. How shall we seek the reformation of public virtue when the church itself is corrupted by this cultural shift? How do we seek to make the claims of Christ over every sphere of human life known in our time?

The argument articulated by the Acton Institute is rooted in what is called “subsidiarity” in Roman Catholic theology. In Reformed theology the same idea is called “sphere sovereignty” and was most completely articulated by Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), the famous Dutch theologian who became prime minister of The Netherlands.

The principle of subsidiarity is derived from the Latin word subsidium, meaning to help or aid. The idea is that one state or order should not usurp the function of another. Thus the family is to rear children, not the state. Higher orders cannot generally intervene in the affairs of lower ones without serious damage. Thus the government might, under certain well-defined circumstances, aid the family but as a rule it is a relationship that will corrupt, forcing a “top-down” social structure that leads to abuse in the area of personal freedom. In the words of Father Robert Sirico, founder of Acton Institute, “The authority between spheres of influence and power within society are internally legitimate and not merely derivative. The state, for example, is better suited to the provision of national defense than to the provision of income security; the authority for the state to provide such national security is not derived from other institutions” (emphasis mine). This principle, as you can readily see, sets limits for state intervention and on all forms of collectivism, both economic and social.

But isn’t this a crass way of saying that capitalism and free markets are the highest authority in a free society? Not at all. What it does say is that a “bottom-up” social structure, one that begins with the individual person, the family, and the church, is best suited to preserve our liberties and foster a free and open society. Government can properly rescue people in distress and should help when others cannot do the job. (Think about the massive hurricane damage upon Florida or the suffering people of New York after 9/11/01 and you get good illustrations of how government can aid many people temporarily.) The problem with government seeking the solution to poverty is that it almost never does a good job. The hard data, gathered now for over two generations, suggests that the most of the social programs of the New Deal and the Great Society failed to lift people out of poverty precisely because they destroyed personal freedom, thus human responsibility. Political humorist, P. J. O’Rourke, notes that “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” And again, expressing considerable mistrust of what government can really do to lift people up: “A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them.”
The Acton Institute believes that people closest to the problem can make the strongest moral claim on solving it. This means Christians are called to be directly and personally involved in issues related to the poor. But wise Christians will not look for bigger and bigger government to solve the problems that require personal sacrifice and hands-on compassion. It is right to be concerned for ordinary workers, especially those crushed by grinding poverty. Government can do some good. But the most good is done when those closest to the problem take responsibility for family and community needs by getting involved in ways that properly regard the right ordering of society, with proper attention given to both freedom and virtue. The Acton Institute gets the big picture right. I learned a great deal and give thanks for their needed contribution to reformation in both the church and society. Such clear-headed thinking is far too uncommon. The Christian Right would be much better served if it worked more intentionally for cultural change, allowing the political ramifications to work themselves out through the religious and social changes rather than vice versa. This approach may not engage partisan politics as directly but it stands to reason that it offers the distinct probably of winning the hearts and minds of people, which is the only real way to change a society.

Friday, May 14, 2004

I found a review by Aaron Sands who plays for the the band Jars of Clay. He is reviewing a book called "Expecting Adam" I think you will like this:

A month ago I dined in Boston with a group of about 10 people. A variety of backgrounds and worldviews were represented in this room as we discussed the topic of social justice. In particular, we were focused on the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa and all of the issues surrounding it. We considered the vital roles of the global church regarding HIV/AIDS, and looked for ideas to help connect the church body to this opportunity to see God’s hand of mercy firsthand. One of the Harvard students shared how he is currently exploring Christianity because knowledge and reason were coming up short in and of themselves when considering social justice in this world. If one is to ignore the problems in society and simply dismiss them as defective and disposable, then why should he desire to change the world (recognize and work with the problems and find solutions) and make it a better place?

Later that evening I was challenged by another of the students to read Expecting Adam by Martha Beck. I was given a brief synopsis of the book: a true story about a family that has its world turned upside down, about the way real life events shape our view of the world more than the highest acclaimed education. The author and her husband have walked the Harvard road for years, caught up in an environment that gradually shuts out more and more of what they want to hold most dear. Despite the challenge, they are intent on surviving and winning the prize, breaking convention by investing in family and other “outside” interests while maintaining their path to certain success.

I tracked down a copy of the book and read it over two days, taking advantage of hours sitting in airplanes and airports, and I must admit that I devoured the book. It was difficult to put down, to remove myself from the beautiful and mysterious story of this family. Their Harvard journey took an unexpected turn as they found out they were expecting another baby. They were already looked down upon by faculty and peers for having of the distraction of one child at home, not to mention a marriage to sustain. The pregnancy also brought with it horrible effects on her body that she had experienced with the first pregnancy, greatly hindering her studies and ability to function in all parts of life. Then the still point arrived: Early in the pregnancy they were told that the baby had a high probability of having Downs syndrome.

For any mother and father this must be conflicting and confusing news. Why? How? What does it mean? The questions are endless and without much resolve. Considering all of their knowledge and learning, this family dealt with an extreme amount of pressure from all sides. Without a moment’s pause they should have an abortion, said the assumptions of faculty, mentors and colleagues. There should be no feeling involved because it is a matter of principle. Emotions only cause illegitimate confusion and headaches.

But the story is broader than simple facts and words. The subtitle is A Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Magic. From the first chapter Beck expresses the mystery and all-encompassing scope of this life-altering crisis. We learn about the love shown forth, often without provocation, by some new friends. There are visions and unexplained experiences that connect both parents to this baby before he is born. This is real life with real people in real time in a real place, and the answer is not cut and dry like it should be.

During the intense strain on her body during the pregnancy, Martha writes, “I am amazed at how flat-out stupid I was not to acknowledge, or even recognize, my body’s desperate attempts to communicate to me that something was seriously wrong. The only self-defense I have is that our entire society celebrates people who push themselves to extremes, who force themselves onward through pain, fatigue, and injury to achieve all kinds of improbable objectives…if you just try a little harder, bear a little more agony, ignore a little more of your desire to quit, you would be fabulously rich and successful and get away from the bad guys every time.” (150-151) The only thing on her mind was a story about a Harvard student who was told by his professor (and future Harvard president), “My boy, you will find that most of the great deeds in human history were accomplished by people who weren’t felling well.” (149) Harvard joins society in celebrating the Stoic, the unmoved in the midst of struggle and pain. Weakness is not an option. Failure is unacceptable.

But here are some glimpses into her journey from reason alone to her newfound faith: “In the face of such uncertainty, the only things that seem to us worth doing are the ones that allow us to experience the strange and eventful journey of life in its full richness.” (109) Further, “This is the part of us that makes our brief, improbable little lives worth living: the ability to reach through our own isolation and find strength, and comfort, and warmth for and in each other. This is what human beings do. This is what we live for, the way horses live to run.” (136) She has come to a conclusion that collides directly with everything she has treasured in her education and worldview thus far: “The meaning of life is not what happens to people…The meaning of life is what happens between people.” (186)

So perhaps it is cut and dry, just not the answer they expected. From the moment the news came from the doctor, Martha had little doubt about what to do…any doubt had more to do with the surrounding issues than the actual decision. Her husband John eventually felt the same, and not just because he wanted to support his wife and avoid confrontation. He too went through a transformation that personally changed his view of the situation and of the world.

Though the journey is not necessarily safe, often uncomfortable, and very disorienting, it is hard to picture the story without all of its contents. Every small piece of the puzzle contributes to the end result and complete picture, and the reader embarks on the journey hand-in-hand with the Becks. Martha shares an early moment with Adam: “He looked back at me with steady eyes, and I knew what I had known—what I should have remembered—all that time: that his flesh of my flesh had a soul I could barely comprehend, that he was sorry for the pain I felt as I tried to turn him into a “normal” child, and that he loved me despite my many disabilities.” (71) Only the story as it is told in its fullness can explain such a worldview shift. Imagine the look on her professor’s face as she shares how this “defect” has brought her new life, not to mention other people as well.

This story of birth and rebirth is familiar in scope and effect to the experience of any human. The magic some may have difficulty with, since the supernatural can be an uncomfortable territory. Rightly so, perhaps, as Martha herself claims to fear the exclusivity of Christianity and sees her decision apart from the opinions of anyone else, possibly even God. “What mattered was that I had made a choice that felt as though, in the end, it would bring me to the place I needed to go.” (242) Later she adds, “the way back to my real environment, the place where my soul was meant to exist, doesn’t lie through any set of codes I will ever find outside of myself. I have to look inward.” (289) In light of her Harvard education and family background (which is explained in depth), turning inward is contrary to all that she has known her entire life. Yet only turning inward can be just as misguided as only looking outward.

The enchantment added tremendous validity and vulnerability to the story. There is a sense that even Martha doesn’t always understand the who, the why, the how; But she sees the mystery and magic as a valuable element of the story, the “real” aspects of the story. There is a unique and beautiful relationship between mother and fetus that no one except for the mother understands. Expecting Adam enhances that relationship while truthfully retaining the unknown and mysterious.

The Becks do pray for a miracle, especially towards the final days of pregnancy. Without losing joy and excitement even if the child has Downs Syndrome, they plead with God to “fix” their baby in the womb, recognizing that anything is possible and believing that God hears and answers prayers. After the child is born, John and Martha realize a miracle has taken place: “Maybe he didn’t need fixing. Maybe he’s the only one of us who was never broken.” (310) Their lives have been changed forever. The lives of family and friends surrounding them will never be the same. The power of love has been experienced and held fast. “Whoever said that love is blind was dead wrong. Love is the only thing on this earth that lets us see each other with the remotest accuracy."

Friday, May 07, 2004

I found this article by Al Mohler that gives some insight about young children and television

Television and Children---Rewiring the Brain?
From the very moment of its invention, television has been a focus of concern for America's parents--and for good reason. Research studies have consistently affirmed that the average child spends more time watching television than he spends in school, at church, or talking with parents. For many children, television is an electronic babysitter, and an entertainment engine of almost mesmerizing power.

Over the past three decades, a series of academic studies has considered the impact of television programming on children. The nation has gone through recurring waves of anxiety over television programming, concerned with the impact of violence, sensuality, and negative role models on young minds.

Just recently, attention has turned to a more fundamental question. Does watching television actually change the way children think, not just how they think? A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics should set off alarm bells around the nation.

Under the direction of pediatricians at the University of Washington, researchers considered the connection between exposure to television and a loss of attentiveness. After studying over two thousand five hundred children, the researchers determined that one hour of daily television exposure in children from birth to three years old is directly tied to as much as a ten percent loss of attentiveness when the children reach age seven.

The article, "Early Television Exposure and Subsequent Attentional Problems in Children" traces the influence of early television exposure to the fact that "the newborn brain continues to develop rapidly through the first few years of life and that considerable plasticity exists during this period." In other words, the actual process of watching television tends to "rewire" the brains of very young children, so that they grow accustomed to visual stimulation and multiple visual exposures. As the researchers determined: "The types and intensity of visual and auditory experiences that children have early in life therefore may have profound influences on brain development."

Television does not merely replicate everyday life and customary ways of experiencing the world. In the real world, our eyes are directed at objects around us, and we see from one perspective at a measured pace controlled by our own eye movements. Television, on the other hand, controls attention by offering multiple scene shifts, electronic visual stimulation, words accompanied by sound track, and stimulation by other visual cues presented on the television screen.

As the researchers explained the problem: "In contrast to the pace with which real life unfolds and is experienced by young children, television can portray rapidly changing images, scenery, and events. It can be over stimulating yet extremely interesting." In clinical terms, the researchers theorized "that very early exposure to television during the critical periods of synaptic development would be associated with subsequent attentional problems."

The research project verified the theory, and validated parental concern. The risk of television impact was actually greater than the researchers had feared. Exposure to television at age one was associated with as much as a 28 percent increase in the probability of having attentional problems at age seven.

The research data makes for compelling reading. Of the one-year-olds, thirty-six percent watched no TV, thirty-seven percent watched one to two hours daily, fourteen percent watched three to four hours each day, and the rest watched at least five hours of television each day. Those who watched from one to two hours demonstrated a twenty percent increased risk of attention problems. Those who watched three to four hours had an increased risk of from thirty to forty percent.

Dr. Dimitri Christakis, the projects lead researcher and a pediatrician at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, explained to CNN, "The newborn brain develops very rapidly during the first two to three years of life. It's really being wired," he said. "We know from studies of newborn rats that if you exposed them to different levels of visual stimuli...the architecture of the brain looks very different." Television can fundamentally change the way the brain responds to visual stimulation, Christakis believes. An over stimulation of the brain during the critical period of early development "can create habits of the mind that are ultimately deleterious," the researcher explained.

Over the past several years, millions of American children--primarily boys--have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorders. As a matter of fact, the pervasiveness of attention deficit problems has reached epidemic proportions. While some of this can no doubt be attributed to over zealous diagnosis, the problem really does exist.

Television is one of the most influential technologies ever to be invited into the American home. For adults, the television offers what amounts to an intellectual break from every day life. That's why the television is often described as "video Valium." Generally speaking, television makes few demands of the viewer and stimulates the brain, providing the sensation of thinking without the discipline of actually using the mind's intellectual powers.

With children, the dangers are only increased. When television is used as a video babysitter or "electronic pacifier," parents put their children at risk. Even before issues of program content are brought into question, the physiological and neurological impact of television must already be a pressing concern. When issues of content, moral values, violence, and ideology are added to the mix, the full picture of television's impact comes into clearer focus.

Christian parents should be especially mindful of this problem. For years now, many Christian parents have sought to replace toxic children's programming with Christian alternatives, believing that the content of the television experience is of first importance. This new research should offer an additional and urgent caution. Exposure to television--regardless of the program content--can harm children by changing the way the mind works in receiving and processing information.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has offered an official advisory cautioning parents to protect children under age two from all television watching.

Another study raises an entirely new issue. Researchers can now document the impact on children overhearing programming watched by their parents. This problem of "secondhand television," like secondhand smoke, indicates that a spillover effect happens when young children overhear or see programming parents believe they are watching alone. Children are drawn to the visual and auditory stimulation of the television medium, regardless of the programming. When children are in the room, they will watch programming even when parents think the content is "over their heads" and unnoticed.

According to industry reports, as many as one third of all American children have a television in their bedroom. That probably says more about the state of America's families than we would like to know, but it represents a truly frightening statistic in itself. "The truth is there are lots of reasons for children not to watch television," Dr. Christakis argues. "Other studies have shown it to be associated with obesity and aggressiveness," as well as anger and intellectual passivity.

The next time parents scratch their heads wondering about a lack of attentiveness in their children, perhaps they should look in the living room and see the real culprit, blaring away in living color.
Famous quotes from Augustine:

“You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in You.” Confessions

“Trust the past to God’s mercy, the present to God’s love, and the future to God’s providence.” City of God

“Love God, and then do what you like.” Confessions

“Too late I love you, beauty so old yet always new. Too late I loved you. And lo, all the while you were within me—and I, an alien to myself, searched for you elsewhere.” Confessions

“Where there is not that justice by which the One Supreme God rules over a city obedient to His gracious will, there is not a fellowship of people united in a common sense of right and community interest. And where that does not exist, there is not a people—nor is there a state, because where there is no people there is no commonwealth.” City of God

“It is all too possible to want gifts from the Lord, but not the Lord Himself—which seems to imply that the gift is preferable to the Giver.” Commentary on Psalms

“He could have come down from the cross, but He preferred to rise up from the tomb.” Enchiridion

“To see God is the promised goal of all our actions and the promised height of all our joys.” City of God

“The things of the Spirit do not come naturally to us like our mother tongue. We are fallen, and the things of God are therefore strange to us. Of course, interest, joy, and delight will help me learn, but behind them there needs to be the divine compulsion, the pressure of the Holy Spirit’s firm but loving discipline.” Confessions

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

I was reading George Grant's blog on Islam the other day and I found it very fascinating.

"A flurry of new books on Islam and its prophet, Mohammed, has led to a surprising revelation among historians: most of what we thought we knew about the fierce tribal cult is probably false. Indeed, according to I.M. al-Rawandi, the life of Mohammed chronicled in the Sira and the Hadith is likely “baseless fiction.” It was made up. The prophet never lived in Mecca. He never fled to Medina. He never instituted the haj. He never taught a group of disciples principles of faith. He was never really a religious leader at all. Instead, al-Rawandi argues in The Mythic Origins of Islam, Mohammed (which was originally a title not a name) was probably "just a bandit chieftain named Ubu’l Kassim who lived in what is now southern Jordan."

But that is not all. Scholars are beginning to realize that the Koran was probably made up as well. It may simply be a series of stories and quotations from scores of varying sources and authors stitched together over the course of a century or two by succeeding sultans and caliphs--for the purpose of justifying the terrifyingly brutal conquests of their militant Arab imperial armies. According to a host of historians, including Mohammed Ibn al-Warraq, John Wansbrough, Kenneth Cragg, Michael Cook, John Burton, Andrew Rippin, Julian Baldick, Gerald Hawting, and Suliman Bashear, the evidence is more than a little compelling.

The very first sources for the Sira, the Koran, the Hadith, or any of the other early Islamic texts actually appear no earlier than two to three centuries after Mohammed supposedly gathered his motley followers under the shadow of Mount Hira. According to Patricia Crone, formerly Lecturer in Islamic Studies at both Oxford and Cambridge and currently Professor of Near Eastern History at Princeton, "textual and historical evidence for Koranic authenticity is altogeter non-existent. The documents were cobbled together many centuries after the events they purportedly describe." She argues in The Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam, that Mecca was not the center of the Arab world at any time within two hundred years of Mohammed's life, that it was chosen simply for symbolic and mythic reasons much later, and that the militant ideas of ji'had are thus merely aspects of a much more recent "propaganda effort created by Caliphate militarism."

If these suppositions are true, they would certainly help to explain Islam's perpetual impulse to violent, revolutionary, and imperial terror. According to Craig Winn the narratives compiled by Islam's founding ideologues in the eighth and nineth centuries were essentially tools of war, inducements for further conquest, and thus are purposely "immoral, criminal, and violent." In Prophet of Doom, Winn takes the words of the prophet, as recorded in the five primary Islamic holy texts and shows that instead of portraying Mohammed as a great and godly man, "They reveal that he was a thief, liar, assassin, mass murderer, terrorist, warmonger, and an unrestrained sexual pervert engaged in pedophilia, incest, and rape. He authorized deception, assassinations, torture, slavery, and genocide. He was a pirate, not a prophet." Osama has quite some model, eh?

So, is Islam a pernicious myth after all? It appears that a growing number of reputable historians around the globe are actually beginning to think so. Gee. Waddaya know!

For more information on these ideas visit these sites: Ji'had Watch, Dhimmi, Daniel Pipes, Prophet of Doom, To the Point, Islam and the Church, and Tell the Truth.

Friday, April 16, 2004

I read this from a blog by George Grant and found it a very insightful article:

Americans rarely ponder the Punic Wars. In the midst of a host of spiritual, political, social, economic, and intellectual problems, we probably should not lament this negligence of the ancient conflict. But I am in the midst of teaching Ancient History, so the Punic Wars are more relevant to me than the overdue Spring weed-eating job beckoning me outside.

The Punic Wars were a series of three wars fought by the then up-and-coming expansionist Roman state against the mercantilist Carthaginian empire. Rome was a land power, interested only in whatever lands were adjoining their own property lines. Given time, this would place Roman legions and tax programs over a huge expanse of land stretching from Britain to Egypt. Carthage, an offshoot of the Phoenician trade empire, was the Ancient World’s equivalent of Wal-Mart and Sam’s Wholesale Clubs. If it could be bought, sold, or traded for, the Carthaginians wanted it. The Punic Wars, which took place between the years 264 BC. and 146 BC, mainly centered on the question of “Whose pond is the Mediterranean Sea?” The final answer was either “Rome” or “Rome,” take your pick.

The most commonly remembered image and story of the Punic Wars is Hannibal crossing the Alps with elephants. It really happened; it was an ordeal to move an army of 50,000 men with horses and elephants through the passes between snow banks and landslides, across rivers, and over mountain crags. To make matters worse, the locals weren’t too hospitable. Hannibal had to fight both natives and nature to cross the Alps. The elephants did not fare too well; along with about half Hannibal’s army, a number of elephants perished in the making of that historical drama.

Hannibal is the most fascinating figure out of the Punic Wars. The son of a great general, Hamilcar Barca, and the brother and brother-in-law of other great Carthaginian generals, Hannibal pledged his life from his youth to opposing Rome. For fifteen years, he roamed up and down the Italian peninsula turning Roman armies by thousands into spaghetti sauce. For fifteen years, little children had the spadittles scared out of them by the whispered words “Hannibal ad portas”—“Hannibal is at the gates.” For fifteen years, he dominated the local gossip and political news as his armies alternately won allies, creamed disloyalists, pillaged wheat fields, and ravaged the land.

Hannibal was one of history’s all time great military leaders. Whatever characteristics we associate with Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Genghis Khan, Cortez, Robert E. Lee, or Douglas MacArthur that made them military geniuses can be found in Hannibal. He was courageous, tactically brilliant, innovative, sneaky, recklessly bold, ruthless, and most often successful. He typically drew the Roman army onto ground of his own choosing. At the Battle of Lake Trebia, he ambushed an entire Roman army. At the Battle of Cannae, he succeeded in a textbook-perfect double envelopment of the Roman army’s flanks. In that one engagement, he slaughtered 40,000 plus Romans.

Whether bribery or threats, diplomacy or intimidation, cavalry raids or set battles, Hannibal was the master of the art of war. Years after the Punic Wars, Scipio Africanus (the only Roman to truly defeat Hannibal on the battlefield) asked Hannibal to name the three greatest military leaders in history. Hannibal gave first place honors to Alexander the Great, second place to Pyrrhus, a king of Epirus, who invaded Italy in 280 BC, and third place to himself. “And what if you had defeated me?” Scipio asked. “In that case, I would place myself as number one,” Hannibal replied.

Yet, despite his greatness on the battlefield, despite his perseverance, despite his unswerving dedication to opposing Rome, Hannibal joins the losers of history. He is a brilliantly attractive loser, but still a loser. There are no second place honors on the battlefield.

With that in mind, we should focus a bit of attention to the winners; that is, we should look at the Roman generals and Roman system that did triumph in that war. Hannibal will not lose his attractiveness as a historical figure, anymore than will other losers like Napoleon or Rommel, the Desert Fox of World War II fame.

G.K. Chesterton, in his wonderful book The Everlasting Man, makes the point that the defeat of Carthage and the triumph of Rome was a great blessing to the world. The Baal religion of the Carthaginians was, he said, much more pagan and oriented to human sacrifice than were the Roman idolatries. The Carthaginians were Phoenicians, of whom we read in the Bible, and Hannibal’s very name meant "the grace of Baal." The victory of Rome helped prepare the Ancient World for the advent of Christianity—when the fullness of time was come.

Maybe Chesterton was right; he quite often was. His defense of Rome against Carthage is entertaining and thought provoking. But whether the Carthaginian paganism and commercialism (which does not sound all that foreign to us) would have aided or inhibited the later spread of the Gospel is a question of speculation only. God is His wise providence predestined that Carthaginian strip malls and human sacrifices would be buried under Roman sandals, salt, and sand. Meanwhile, the Gospel would travel through the cultural conduits devised by crafty Greeks and controlled by imperialistic Romans.

How did Rome win? Obviously, they did not have anything like the modern American media broadcasting defeatism and pessimism while Hannibal and his multi-national army terrorized Italy. Rome had its peace-at-any-price party, as did Carthage. But Rome had enough of a long-term commitment, enough of a stable structure, enough of an eschatology of victory (to borrow a title from Marcellus Kik), that it sustained over a decade of defeat before it decisively defeated Carthage. Rome survived battles like Cannae, which destroyed not just the flower of their youth, but a large number of political and military leaders. Rome survived economic disasters that make the American Great Depression look like a bull market. Rome even survived an inept political system that put two rulers in at a time for a period of one year, giving them divided, often incompetent leadership. Thus Rome survived political incompetence of a magnitude that can only be found in a gathering of Democrat presidential hopefuls every four years in Iowa. Rome survived a terrorist attack on their soil for a decade and a half; Rome did not have a 9-11; Rome had a 218-203.

Rome obviously never knew such alternative courses of action as those made famous by an unnamed Gallic nation in the second half of the Twentieth Century that has its capital located in a town called Paris. Had they known such, they could have opted for any one of the following responses: Retreat, surrender, collaboration, adoration.

Two men of the Roman army presented different, yet complementary, approaches to the threat that Hannibal posed. These two men were Quintus Fabius Maximus and Publius Cornelius Scipio. Fabius became known as ‘the Cunctator’ or ‘the delayer.’ From Fabius, we get the term “Fabian tactics.” Unlike his more bold predecessors and successors, Fabius avoided direct confrontation with Hannibal and thus avoided allowing himself and his army to be ‘the delicate feasting of dogs, and all birds.’

Ernle Bradford said, “The one thing that Fabius had to do, he realized, was avoid defeat.” Just like the Russians in their later campaigns against the French and Germans, Fabius practiced a ‘scorched earth policy.’ Every field, every delicious animal, every warm shelter, and every farm that lay within the reach of Carthage’s mercenaries was destroyed. Fabius was dedicated to the long-term, gradual wearing down of Hannibal’s army. Just like President Bush’s campaign against Iraqi terrorists, Fabius’ campaign came under severe criticism. But he avoided his critics, just as he avoided Hannibal.

While Fabius never won the acclaim and honors of the battlefield victor, his methods worked. He made use of resources that Hannibal did not have: Time, supply sources, patience, and long-term objectives. Bradford says that Fabius ‘had done more than any other to teach the Romans the way to wear down and finally defeat’ Hannibal.

In later centuries, Fabian Socialists borrowed Fabius’ name and methods to ‘successfully’ bring about a socialist evolution in Britain. ‘Fabian Tactics’ refers to the use of methods of slowly wearing down the opposition.

The other and more prominently successful Roman was Scipio. Unlike Fabius the Cunctator, Scipio was confrontational. Like all great men, Scipio studied his enemy. He had plenty of opportunities. He saved his wounded father on the battlefield during one of Hannibal’s early battles in Italy. Later, he fought in and survived the Battle of Cannae.

Like all great men, Scipio figured out the vital, but weaker chinks in the armor of his enemy. Scipio’s early successes were not against Hannibal himself, but against the Carthaginian army fighting in Spain. He tilted the military fortunes in Spain toward Rome. The loss of Spain to Carthage meant the loss of money and metals. The metals were used to forge weapons and the money was used to pay armies. Carthage, as implied throughout this essay, depended on a hired band of assorted warriors. After turning the war in Spain to Rome’s favor, Scipio began to draw away Carthage’s key ally, the North African Kingdom of Numidia.

Rather than fielding an army in Italy and adding to the ever-increasing list of deceased warriors for Rome near Rome, Scipio ported his army across the sea to the outlying areas near Carthage. By whatever methods of contact available, Carthage ‘e-mailed’ Hannibal and said, “Please come home. Now.” At this time, Hannibal’s raid into Italy was in its fifteenth year, and his near invincible army’s heyday had long since passed. Whatever ragtag troops he was able to load onto ships then went with him back to Carthage.

Amazingly, Hannibal the Carthaginian was geographically disoriented back in Carthage. He knew Italy better than his home turf. Meanwhile Scipio had used his time in North Africa to build up his army, win allies, and bruise the locals. Before actually confronting Scipio on the battlefield, Hannibal tried to wheedle a peace agreement out of the Roman general. In doing this, Hannibal in effect revealed his vulnerabilities. Scipio used even the negotiations to his advantage by drawing up his allied units to the battlefield while he and Hannibal talked.

So, in 202 BC at the Battle of Zama, the world changed forever as Scipio defeated the Carthaginians and Hannibal. The tactical elements of Scipio’s success consisted in arranging his army in such a way that Hannibal’s front line of elephants proved ineffective. After the confused and injured elephants lumbered off the battlefield, Scipio hit Hannibal’s flanks with the skilled Numidian cavalry units, which once served under the Carthaginian flags. As lines of Romans and Carthaginians converged with the clashing of swords, spears, and shields, the Carthaginians slowly got pushed back. When they realized that the enemy cavalry had flanked their army, a rout ensued. Hannibal escaped death both death and capture. He lived on to rule Carthage for a time, until later pressures sent him into exile. Scipio, for his accomplishments, was given the title “Africanus,” the only Roman given a name of the land he conquered.

What, if any, are the ‘lessons of history’ for us? Personally, I tend to want to find my lessons from Hannibal. He’s a historical loser, an underdog, and a brilliant man who is bested by a bureaucratic organization. But for the Christian in today’s culture wars, we would be better served by observing history’s winners. Christ promised us that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His church. We tend to read it as though it says that we shall not be totally defeated by the enemy who is camped at our gates. Jesus issued a victory-oriented image, not a defeatist or underdog or loser image.

Christians need to learn from Fabius (and even from the Fabian Socialists). We need to fight long-term battles, avoiding foolish defeats, destroying enemy resources, and using time and patience to our advantage. Why battle for prayer in public schools? The Fabian approach would be to build a Christian school and concentrate on changing the next generation or the one after that.

Wear down the opposition. Preach, pray, evangelize, build churches, and support Christian education, read Christian books, live Christian lives. Abortionists and homosexual unions and hedonists and atheists cannot produce either families or culture. Don’t despair if unbelieving modern-day Hannibal’s are camped outside the gate. Hannibal never got inside Rome’s city limits and Christ’s church will never succumb to His enemies.

Aim toward producing Godly grandchildren. Have a long-term vision of victory. Be Fabian, be Augustinian, be Medieval, be anything, but impatient. Focus on Cathedral building and be multi-generational in expectations.

Along with this, Christians need to learn from Scipio. Study about and from our enemies. If unbelievers develop better universities, write better novels, create taller skyscrapers, and make more money, learn from them. Anything they do right, they accomplish because they have stolen from God. Take back the technology and artistry.

Find the sources of the enemies ‘metals and money’ and win it back. Again, Christian schools are battlefields for confronting the enemy—both short-term and long-term. Mel Gibson’s movie has done more to draw the enemy out of Italy and back to North Africa than anything else Christians have done in decades.

Whether it’s Hannibal’s elephants or Mordor’s oliphants, the bloated enemy forces are vulnerable. It may take a few more arrows than usual, but big ugly things die when punctured enough times. Fascism and Marxism did not last out the last century. Darwinian Evolution, Freudianism, Nietzsche’s notions, unbelieving Existentialism, Humanism, Feminism, Abortionism, Homosexual fanaticism, and whatever other deviations are lined up for battle, are all easily outflanked or directly defeated by a vigorous Christian confrontation with faithful doctrine, life, and culture.

Victory is often simply a matter of not having a culture of defeat.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

I have been reading "The Weekly Messenger" by John Armstrong. I always enjoy reading his thoughts. His thoughts this week was about his ministry for many years. He said, "I was practically unloving, unkind and a tenacious Reformed theologian for many years. I cut myself off from brothers (and especially sisters since I was often a misogynist in my attitudes) if they did not believe in “sovereign grace.” The emphasis in my life was not grace as a relational truth, but “sovereign” grace. By this mental turn I could conveniently reject a host of Christians (while admitting privately they were my brothers and sisters) by saying to myself, “I am being faithful to the gospel of grace here and they have compromised the faith.” I even had my select quotes from the history of the Protestantism. (After all, all the martyrs were on our side, all the truth was proclaimed by our special heroes, and all the errors were taught by those on the other side.) If you did not hold my convictions I would tolerate you but I would not embrace you freely, gladly, graciously, as a mature, serious Christ-centered brother/sister.

I can hear the response of a few. Doesn’t the truth matter? Are you just buying into love, sweet love? No, the truth really matters but don’t forget that John 13:34-35, is the truth too. And don’t forget that Jesus prayed John 17:20-24 and really meant it. (All the special pleading for an invisible Church here simply doesn’t work.) The divisions that separate Christians are sometimes necessary but quite often they are more the result of sin. As one reminded me recently, “When we celebrate annually the birth of our respective denomination we would be more faithful if we repented and grieved over the historical facts of our past.”

When the truth of love and relational unity is compromised, on the altar of vigorous theological opinion, the result is that a lost world does not see or hear our message as it should. Christ’s kingdom suffers violence. I bring grief to my Lord’s heart."

John has made me see that we are to hold to the truths of the gospel, but our calling to to love one another also. This is a tough balance but it can be done. Scripture says, "they will know we are disciples by our love". How well are you able to minister to all the people of God? That will say more about your faith in Christ, than all the books that you have read.
I have had the privilege of being in revival this week at the Trinity Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. Trinity is one of the older churches in Fort Worth and the membership of the church is mainly that of Senior Adults. The Lord has richly blessed the week of revival. The one thing that has jump out to me during the week is the hunger of God's people for hearing the word of God. I have been amazed at the receptiveness of the congregation to the great truths of God's Word. It simply reminds me again that the sheep of God just want us to feed them the word of God. They want something of substance in order that they can deal with the difficulties of life in a godly way. I have come again to the fresh realization that faith comes from hearing and hearing the Word of Christ. I pray that God would raise up more men who will faithfully teach the Word of God to the people of God.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

I saw the movie "The Passion" on Friday night. It was one of the most powerful films that I have ever seen. It drives home the amazing love of God for sinful mankind as Jesus suffers and dies on a cross. The film presents the sufferings of Christ in a very powerful way. But the amazing thing to me is the Lord Jesus Christ's faithfulness to the very end. He did all that the Father told him to do and he was faithful to the final breathe. Such power and love is overwhelming. I walked out of the theatre thanking God for the grace that he has shown me through His Son.

You do not want to miss this film. I pray that God will use the powerful message to open your eyes to the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.