November 2007

26 Nov 2007

Several years ago, I was walking across a courtyard on the campus of Temple University in Philadelphia. I was alone, minding my own business, on the way to the faculty lounge in the School of Theology, when suddenly out of nowhere a gentleman stood in front of me blocking my movement. “Are you saved?,” he demanded. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to this intrusion and the first words that came into my mouth were, “Saved from what?” … When I said, “Saved from what,” I think my friend was as surprised by my question as I had been by his and he kind of lost it. He stammered and stuttered and wasn’t quite sure how to respond to the question, “Saved from what?” “Well, you know what I mean,” he replied. “Do you know Jesus?” That brief encounter left an impression on me. –R.C. Sproul

A local secular station has started playing Christmas songs, and during a commercial various artists gave variations of “happy holidays.” After a series of generic comments by several musicians, Amy Grant capped if off by by saying something to the effect of “Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, remember: peace on earth and good will toward men.”

Of all false sentiments, aren’t the most damaging said by reputed Christians like Amy Grant, all washed down with pleasant music? The peace spoken of in Luke 2:14 isn’t the absence of war between men, it’s the peace between God and men. And that peace comes only through Christ.

Sproul says:

What do you need to be saved from? You need to be saved from God! Not from kidney stones, not from hurricanes, not from military defeats. The thing that every human being needs to be saved from is God.

Ligon Duncan sums up more fully:

We are ‘saved’ from God, by God and for God. That is, we are saved from God’s just judgment (against ourselves and our sins), by God’s gracious gift of His Son (who bore our deserved penalty in our place), for God’s own glory and eternal fellowship with him (since he made and redeemed us for himself).

20 Nov 2007

I hadn’t seen The Apostle in years, but it is one of the great movies of my lifetime. We can balk at self-anointed prophets, an unconfessed crime, and shoddy theology, but this film does some things better than I have ever seen in a movie: it presents a real, complex character; it shows Christians as messy but serious people in the process of sanctification; it presents the church as a place of fellowship, love, and even a vehicle for salvation. It is tremendously moving.

Sonny is a deeply flawed man, but he’s no phony. Most people aren’t wanted by the law, but can any of us not relate to conflicting desires and be uplifted by Sonny’s love for the lost, his understanding of the eternal stakes, his willingness to throw a punch for his people, his ceasless motion, and his unbounded desire to proclaim the truth?

Hollywood’s movies once showed Christians as nearly perfected saints (see Crosby, Bing). Idealistic, but at least it was respectful. Now they show Christians as either pious frauds or, even worse, universalists whose Christ-less faith is really just a phony humanistic counterfeit. A man without the cross may be a Unitarian, a humanitarian, a liberal, or a conservative. But he’s not a Christian.

The Apostle is a film that stays with you. The music was great, too. There were a lot of unprofessional actors in the film, which made it more authentic. Why doesn’t Hollywood do that more often?

12 Nov 2007

My sister-in-law prayed with many people: People at her church, people she met at the park, etc. When you tell someone you’ll pray for them, or that you have been praying for them, you’ll almost invariably see gratitude in their eyes. Offer to pray for them then and there, and does this not open up opportunities? A life of prayer, shared with others, is powerful evangelism.

05 Nov 2007

My sister-in-law went to be with the Lord yesterday morning. In any Christian home where death comes, it is supremely painful to see the suffering and the wailing, and yet also a soul-expanding joy to see compassion, hearts filled with grace and tenderness, and a quiet hope. These are things we see through suffering. Perhaps it is for this reason the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes 7:

A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

I’ve posted this quote from Lewis before, but it is so true:

The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us, but joy, pleasure, and merriment He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in the world and [pose] an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.

Many of our prayers are not answered because they are things that God has not promised to answer (like when I prayed that the Indians would finally win the World Series). But what does God promise we can pray with total confidence: that all things work together for good for his children (Rom 8:28), that our light and momentary afflictions prepare believers for an eternal weight of glory, and that the dead will live again (1 Thess 4:13-17). There are a hundred others. Think on these things (Phil 4:4-8) and rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory (1 Peter 1:8).

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. -Colossians 3:1-4

02 Nov 2007

We’ve all heard pretentious talk (usually from public “servants”) about the wonders of “higher education.” It may indeed round some edges, but I think college — at least the public, liberal arts variety that I’m familiar with — is a colossal waste of money.

The workforce is where you will really learn a trade that people will pay you to do. I think of a college degree as a piece of paper that opens additional doors to employment. Many employers — often for no good reason, in my experience — will simply not hire those without a degree. Therefore, a degree is wise for many people. Just keep in mind that after you’ve been employed in the workforce for a few years, most employers will only care about your job experience and aptitudes (the best job training is a job).

Therefore, I have counseled several kids to simply go where they can afford a degree. It is absurd to go $100K in debt for a bachelor of arts. Does it really matter if you have a BA from Ohio State after a stint at a community college versus a similar degree from an expensive small college? It may not be exciting, it may mean classes in big barns with projectors, but in my opinion the cheapest route is generally preferable to many years in debt. You won’t miss dragging that ball-and-chain around into your thirties. (Does it make any sense for a young woman in particular to go tens of thousands of dollars in hock? When a young fellow meets that lass, is he going to be thrilled to take that debt into a marriage?)