Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why Christians Are Online Jerks

I saw an interesting article by Jonathan Acuff over at today. Acuff blogs at and is the author of the similarly titled humorous book Stuff Christians Like.

In the article, Acuff makes the observation that Christians are often jerks in their online communications with their bitter Twitters and hateful blogs. He goes on to ask why this is is the case, seeing as we serve a loving God who has told us that the among the greatest of commandments is that we are to love our neighbor as ourself.

Acuff suggests two reasons:

  1. The Business Traveler Approach, which believes, "What happens online, stays online." Sometimes we buy into the idea that our internet life somehow "doesn't count," and we are free to become jerks in this forum.

  2. Room Cleaning Christianity, the strong desire to do certain tasks (like cleaning one's room when you're in college) as opposed to more difficult tasks (like getting started on that final paper that is due). We tend to criticize others instead of doing the difficult work of loving one's neighbor. After all, as Acuff puts it, "Loving your neighbor might be simple, but it’s not easy."

Thankfully, as Acuff points out, there is a remedy for these phenomena:

Jesus came for the mess-ups like us. Jesus came for the failures. Jesus came for the jerks. (That’s not in the King James version of the Bible, I remixed it like Timbaland.) And the truth is, grace is the antidote to being a jerk online.
You can read the whole article here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The NBA, Redemption and Manute Bol

The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting column the other day regarding the life and death of Manute Bol. If you are familiar with Bol, it is probably because, at a height of 7 feet, 7 inches, he is the tallest player to have played in the NBA. Throughout his ten year career, he established himself as one of the greatest shot-blockers of all time. He is perhaps even more remembered by many who saw him for his spindly frame (though 7’7”, he weighed only 225 pounds) and his extremely awkward looking three point shots.

But it was what Bol did off the court that truly set him apart. A Christian Sudanese immmigrant, Bol believed that his life was a gift, entrusted to him so that he might serve God and others. He gave away most of the money he earned throughout his career (approximately $6 million) to assist Sudanese refugees.

In a sports world where the term “redemption” is tritely overused, Bol understood and found true redemption in Jesus Christ, and it motivated everything he did in his life, including the way he died. May we all, like Manute Bol, know where redemption is truly needed and where it can be found. And may we all, like him, humble ourselves and be willing to be “fools for Christ.”

You can read the Wall Street Journal column here.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Book Review: The Good News We Almost Forgot

"The only thing more difficult than finding the truth is not losing it. What starts out as new and precious becomes plain and old. What begins a thrilling discovery becomes a rote exercise. What provokes one generarion to sacrifice and passion becomes in the next generationa a cause for rebellion and apathy..."

With these words, Kevin DeYoung begins The Good News We Almost Forgot, which serves as both an overview of (and a sort of love letter to) the Heidelberg Catechism. I say this, because DeYoung's love for the Heidelberg Catechism shines brightly throughout the book, outshone only be his obvious love for our Savior.

The book follows the pattern of the Catechism with 129 question/answer combinations, divided into 52 groups, intended to be covered one per Lord's Day. DeYoung begins his chapters with a simple statement of the questions and answers to be covered and then goes on to provide commentary for that material.

Those who are unfamiliar with the Heidelberg Catechism will be blessed as they follow it's gospel trajectory of "guilt...grace...gratitude" as it covers the Apostles' Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer. Those who already love it will be pleased to find in DeYoung a kindred spirit, who describes the Catechism as "trustworthy and beautiful, simple and deep." And those who grew up memorizing the Heidelberg but remember it as a dry, lifeless, rote obligation, just may be surprised to see the Catechism come to life as DeYoung presents it with a passionate zeal.

Too often a high dedication to theological precision leads to a cold crustiness which neglects the Christ-like love that we are to possess, and instead leads us down a pharisaical road of smugness and superiority. What I appreciate about DeYoung (and about the Heidelberg too, for that matter) is the fact that he is quite passionate about theological depth and precision, but at the same time he maintains a winsome, lively and active faith. He sees it this way:
If it is worth anything, our theological heart will pulse throughout our spiritual bodies, making us into people who are more prayerful, more godly, and more passionate about the Bible, the lost, and the world around us. We will be theologically solid to the core, without the unecessary crust. Kind of like the Heidelberg Catechism. And kind of like Jesus too.

Take up Your Cross and Sing!

Zac Hicks is the Minister of Worship and Liturgy at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Denver. Cherry Creek hosted the EPC's General Assembly last week and Zac did a great job leading music in our various worship services.

Over at his blog, Zac has started a series on John Wesley's rules for singing. The other day he had a great post on congregational singing and the need for us to refrain from a consumeristic approach to it. Zac warns us against "the individualism and idolatry of self" in making reference to John Wesley's exhortation that we all sing in worship, even if we are personally uncomfortable doing so:
For the person who says, “I just don’t like singing…I don’t get a lot out of it.” Wesley’s answer is, “It’s not about you. Deny yourself and take up your cross.” What a different approach to worship! Worship (specifically singing) is not a product to be consumed by some and left on the shelf by others. It is something we all must do, even if it means it is at times (or permanently) difficult for us.
You can read the whole post here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Fun...Swagger Wagon

In honor of my sister (she'd want me to specify younger sister), who recently purchased a Toyota Sienna...

(HT: Kevin DeYoung)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Great Father's Day Gifts

Well, my family took heed to Friday's post and got me a Father's Day gift that was a great gift for me. Many others might not have enjoyed it quite as much as I did, but for me, it was perfect. What was this gift of gifts? Why, it was a genuine John Calvin bobblehead doll!

What are the best Father's Day gifts you've ever gotten or given? Please leave a note in the comments to let us know.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Fun...Cosby on Father's Day

One of the all-time great TV dads was Heathcliffe Huxtable, played by Bill Cosby on the Cosby Show. In honor of Father's Day being Sunday, I thought I'd post this clip to spur us all on to getting thoughtful gifts for our dads! The first four minutes are especially in view.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Adopted for Life

A few months back I was fortunate enough to win a package of books from Crossway Publishers. I recently began reading one of them, Russell Moore's Adopted for Life. Dr. Moore is the dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. In addition to this, he is also a wise and gifted pastor and author. I had heard many good things about this book and so far I have not been disappointed. Whether or not you have any interest in adopting a child, Moore shows in this passage (from pp. 29-30) how adoption is at the very heart of the gospel:
Imagine for a moment that you're adopting a child. As you meet with the social worker in the last stage of the process, you're told that this twelve-year-old has been in and out of psychotherapy since he was three. He persists in burning things and attempting repeatedly to skin kittens alive. He "acts out sexually," the social worker says, although she doesn't really fill you in on what that means. She continues with a little family history. The boy's father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather all had histories of violence, ranging from spousal abuse to serial murder. Each of them ended life the same way, death by suicide--each found hanging from a rope of blankets in his respective prison cell.

Think for a minute. Would you want this child? If you did adopt him, wouldn't you keep your eye on him as he played with your other children? Would you watch him nervously as he looks at the butcher knife on the kitchen table? Would you leave the room as he watched a movie on television with your daughter, with the lights out?

Well he's you. And he's me. That's what the gospel is telling us. Our birth father has fangs. And left to ourselves, we'll show ourselves to be as serpentine as he is...But the New Testament addresses former Satan-imagers with good news. It's not just that we have a stay of execution, a suspension of doom. It's not simply that those who trust in Christ have found a refuge, a safe place, or a foster home. All those in Christ, Paul argues, have received sonship. We are now "Abraham's offspring" (Gal. 3:29).
It is only when we come to grips with the heinousness of our sin, that we can truly realize the enormity of God's grace. Thanks to Dr. Moore for his blunt and vivid portrayal of this fact. I look forward to reading the rest of the book.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Movie Trailer)

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third installment in the adaptation of C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, is set to be released in theaters December 10. Here is the official trailer for the film:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dude Perfect...At It Again

Perhaps you've heard of Dude Perfect, a group of college students at Texas A&M who apparently have WAY too much free time on their hands. They have gained considerable notoriety from the basketball trick shots they've completed including this one from the third deck at A&M's Kyle Field:

Well, the guys at Dude Perfect are at it again. Here is their latest effort...

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blessed...with every spiritual blessing

I came across a real nice post on the implications of Ephesians 1:3 -
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places."
The post treats this verse in terms of its relation to marriage in particular, but the points it makes pretty much apply to all of life. Check it out.

(HT: Doug Wolter)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Fun...Chick-fil-A

One of my favorites, Tim Hawkins on Chick-Fil-A...

Monday, June 7, 2010

John Wooden...A Lesson in Love

This past Friday, former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden passed away. Coach Wooden was considered by many to be the greatest coach in the the history of sports. No detail escaped his attention. The story goes that the first day of practice, he would teach players how to properly put on their socks (so as to avoid blisters).

In these days of ever decreasing fidelity to commitments, what made Coach Wooden such a compelling figure was not just his ten national championships, but the fact that he was such a great example of loyalty, commitment, love and faithfulness.

Watch this story done earlier this year by ESPN’s Rick Reilly:

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Book Review: Filling up the Afflictions of Christ

Filling up the Afflictions of Christ is book five of John Piper’s series “The Swans Are Not Silent.” Each of the books in this series is a set of three short, introductory Christian biographies tied to a certain theme. In this installment the theme is Colossians 1:24, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”

Piper contends that, “Afflictions are not merely the result of missionary fruitfulness, but also the means,” and that, “Paul’s sufferings fill up Christ’s afflictions not by adding anything to their worth, but by extending them to the people they were meant to save…So the afflictions of Christ are ‘lacking’ in the sense that they are not seen and known and loved among the nations.”

He goes on to introduce the reader to William Tyndale, John Paton and Adoniram Judson, three men whose afflictions God used to make know the afflictions of Christ to many. His telling of their stories is by no means in-depth biographical work, and is not intended to be. Rather each is a brief sketch of the sorts of trials faced by these men in their lives as missionaries for the cause of Christ.

Piper concludes the book by calling us all to examine God’s calling on our lives. For most of us, he states, our calling is “radical obedience for the glory of Christ right where (we) are.” For others though, he suggests, perhaps God is calling us to fill up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, the church.

All in all, this short book is worth the read, especially for someone unfamiliar with its three subjects.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Fun...The Cookie Monster Alphabet

One of my favorite bloggers (and authors, and pastors, for that matter) is Kevin DeYoung. Each Monday, Kevin includes a blog post titled Monday Morning Humor. In it he shares a clip or two that help you get the work week off to a good start with a smile on your face.

With apologies to my friend Doug Graham, who recently wrote a doctoral thesis on pastoral plagiarism, I've decided that I am going to blatantly copy off Kevin and try to have a weekly injection of humor into my blog. I figure Kevin's got the beginning of the work week covered, so I'm going to take care of the other end.

That being said, I present to you the premier installment of Friday Fun:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Perfection Lost, Perfection Gained

Last night I turned the Detroit Tigers game on TV to find out that it was the ninth inning and Armando Galarraga was pitching a perfect game. For those of you who are not big baseball fans, this means that every batter he faced he had gotten out. Not a single Cleveland Indian had reached base. In the last 110 years, this has occurred only 20 times (although, oddly, two of those times were last month).

Galarraga got the first two batters out in the ninth inning (thanks in part to a sparkling defensive play by center fielder Austin Jackson). Then Jason Donald stepped to the plate. He hit a ground ball toward first base. Miguel Cabrera fielded the ball and threw to Galarraga covering first base. He appeared (as replays later confirmed) to touch first base about half a step before the Donald and the Tigers began to celebrate.

Unfortunately for all involved, this is where things went all wrong. The first base umpire, Jim Joyce, recognized throughout baseball as one of the best umpires in the game, signalled “SAFE!” After the game, Joyce would (having seen the replay) admit that he blew the call, go to the Tigers locker room, and personally apologize to Galarraga.

Jeff Pearlman suggests today at CNN that had Joyce made the correct call and Galarraga been credited with a perfect game, that would actually not be history-making at all, what with 20 people already having accomplished the feat. This point is debateable depending on your semantics.

But what Pearlman went on to say was less debateable:
You want real history? You want genuine history? Take a 28-year-old journeyman pitcher with a 20-18 lifetime record. Have him throw a perfect game, then have that perfect game taken away on a literal last-breath call. Watch him accept the umpire's apology afterward with class and heart; watch him hug the man as he cries in his arms; watch him earn the respect of a nation eternally longing for heroes.

Watch him become a singular beacon of righteousness.

That's Armando Galarraga.

That's a hero.

That's historic.
I don’t know anything about Galarraga’s personal faith (if indeed he professes any). I do know this though: He dealt with the situation with the kind of grace and class that should mark Christian behavior. Christians are reminded in God’s word, “(A)s the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13), and, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

May we all be reminded through this good example of a baseball pitcher of the even greater (in fact, perfect) example given to us by Christ Jesus. And let us remember too that Jesus was not only an example for us of godly living, but also (and more importantly) an offering for us of sacrificial death.

As the Apostle Paul writes, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), and, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In this we see, just as surely as Armando Galarraga had perfection taken from him, so we have perfection freely given to us!

Book Review: Hello, I Love You

Hello, I Love You: Adventures in Adoptive Fatherhood is the most recent book from award-winning author Ted Kluck. Ted and his wife Kristin have adopted two sons from Ukraine, and this book is a memoir of their experiences dealing with the highs and lows of international adoption.

Full disclosure here: I know Ted and I like Ted. We’re friends. Maybe not the closest of pals, but certainly more than just facebook friends. I admit, my opinion may not quite reach the standard of complete objectivity. But I not only know and like Ted, I also know and like his writing style, his sense of humor and his heart. Having enjoyed his work as an author before ever having had the opportunity to meet him, this is not merely the effect of bias. As such, I’m convinced that even if I didn’t know and like Ted, I would definitely like this book. This sense was buoyed when my wife read Hello, I Love You. She’s never met Ted, but she enjoyed the book very much as well.

It’s a funny book as Ted’s ironic sense of humor is on full display. It’s a painful book as Ted openly and honestly talks about his own sinful attitudes (specifically lack of trust in God) as he and his wife dealt with the struggles of infertility and international adoption. It’s a convicting book, causing me to recognize my own lack of gratefulness for all of the blessings that God has poured out upon me. But most of all, it is a good book, a memoir in which he manages to somehow seamlessly weave together deep theological truths with the occasional reference to the classic film, ¡Three Amigos!

Those who have gone through infertility or adoption will no doubt find this book compelling. I would recommend it though, whether or not you’ve ever dealt with either of these, as Ted’s treatment of them stands to teach us all a number of lessons. Among these are the beauty of our adoption as children of God, how very much God has blessed us as such, and the glory of the gospel.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pray for Boldness

Michael Kelley authors a great guest post for Zach Nielsen today over at one of my favorite blogs, Take Your Vitamin Z.

In it he offers a helpful corrective for our prayer lives, suggesting that in the midst of difficulties, the focus of our prayers ought to be boldness to proclaim the gospel in the midst of our circumstances as opposed to deliverance from them.
Boldness, not deliverance. Extension of the gospel, not a change in circumstances. Courage, not comfort. Maybe I ought to spend a little more time praying for that type of thing rather than a band-aid for my perceived problems. Because if I did, it would show that I had a much more full grasp of how big and important the gospel really is.
I recently finished preaching through Ephesians, and I am likewise reminded of the example we find there of Paul. Though he was under arrest, his prayer request was actually not that he would be released, as I'm quite sure mine would be. Rather he asks for prayer "that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak" (Ephesians 6:19-20).

You can read Michael's whole post here. By the way, be praying for Zach that he would proclaim the gospel boldly in Madison, Wisconsin, as he is in the process of moving to be part of a church plant there.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Glorifying God

I saw this post last week and meant to share it, but never got around to passing it along. In it, Trevin Wax considers John 17:4, where Jesus, on the night he would be betrayed, prays, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” He points out,
Jesus could boldly say that God the Father had been glorified, because – as the Son – he had finished the master plan that had been set out for him from the beginning of time. We, in turn, must not relegate our worship to a passive, once-a-week event that makes us feel good.

Instead, we must exemplify the lifestyle of worship that has at its center, the will and purposes of Almighty God, who has loved, saved, and regenerated us “according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”
You can read the whole post here.

Sermon Audio/Podcast

One of the great blessings I have had in my almost four years at Calvary is the opportunity to preach with a good deal of regularity. I am very appreciative that our Senior Pastor has, from the very beginning of my time here, given me the opportunity to preach in the area of 10-12 times per year.

One of those times was this past Sunday as I finished up the book of Ephesians, which I have been going through on the Sundays when I get the opportunity to preach. I'm not sure about what anyone else gets out of it, but each time I prepare and deliver a sermon, I am amazed at the grace of God which has been lavished upon me. That I should have the opportunity to share with others its beauty is truly grace upon grace.

Realizing that most (all?) of my readership consists of friends and family members, I wanted to post this link so that you would know where to go if you wanted to listen to my sermons or if you desired to subscribe to a podcast for them (which we just recently set up). It is my sincere prayer that should you listen to any of them, that you might be blessed by God even a fraction of the amount that I've been blessed by him in preaching them.