Friday, September 30, 2011

People, please

For my disclaimer on this series, see here

“One of the unintended consequences of contemporary church strategies that revolve around performances, places, programs, and professionals is that somewhere along the way people get left out of the picture. But according to Jesus, people are God's method for winning the world to himself. People who have been radically transformed by Jesus.”— Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, page 90.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Let's state the obvious

For my disclaimer on this series, see here

“We are not the end of the gospel; God is.”— Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, page 71

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Only God can do it

For my disclaimer on this series, see here

“It is the way of Christ. Instead of asserting ourselves, we crucify ourselves. Instead of imagining all the things we can accomplish, we ask God to do what only he can accomplish. Yes, we work, we plan, we organize, and we create, but we do it all while we fast, while we pray, and while we constantly confess our need for the provision of God. Instead of dependence on ourselves, we express radical desperation for the power of his Spirit, and we trust that Jesus stands ready to give us everything we ask for so that he might make much of our Father in the world.”— Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, page 60

Blind spots

I just ran across an interesting post here about home schooling blind spots, but I think you could just as easily say parenting blind spots (via Joel Watts). Here's a particularly good snippet:

As I was looking back on this experience [of his son's first job] several years later, something my son said shortly after he started his job kept coming back to me. When I picked him up the second night of work, he got in the car with a big smile on his face and said "They like me!" As I dwelt on that comment, it suddenly came clear to me - my son had finally met someone who liked him for who he was. Few others in his entire life had shown him much acceptance, especially not his mother and I. It is no exaggeration - in our efforts to shape and improve him, all we did was find fault with everything he did . We loved him dearly, but he constantly heard from us that what he did (who he was) wasn't good enough. He craved our approval, but we couldn't be pleased. Years later, I realized he had given up trying to please us when he was 14, and from then on he was just patronizing us. [italics original]

The reason our son wanted to adorn himself like his work associates, was because they accepted him for who he was. He wanted to fit in with those who made him feel significant. He wanted to be like those who gave him a sense of identity. The problem wasn't one that could be solved by extended sheltering - he could have been sheltered until he was 30 and he still would have been vulnerable. The problem was that we had sent our son into the world insecure in who he was. He went into the world with a hole in his heart that God had wanted to fill through his parents.

<idle musing>
Do yourself and your kids a favor, love them—and tell them repeatedly that you love them. And assure them that your love is unconditional; that you will always love them. God's business is changing them and molding them.

Now, don't think I'm saying not to discipline them, because I'm not. You can end up with just as big a mess that way :( But, for better or worse, most of the time we don't tell our kids we love them enough. Or, we say it but don't show it.

The results can affect them for years afterward. Please, tell them you love them—and show it.
</idle musing>

It creeps in and consumes you

Have I started writing horror? No, but that is exactly what technology can do. Check out this post by Andy Le Peau from IVP:

I was at a conference recently where often, when there was a break, the participants tended not to get up, stretch, get a cup of coffee, chat with those nearby or even go to the bathroom. Instead they sat there. They were not mesmerized by the presentation they had just heard. They were mesmerized by their screens—handheld or laptop—checking email, tweets, Facebook, news feeds and more.

<idle musing>
I've seen the same thing. In fact, I've seen people walking in the woods with their faces buried in a smartphone. What's the point of walking in the woods?

I'm no stranger to technology—in fact, I ran the IT department at a previous job—but, I have chosen to limit my technology. We don't have a TV set, nor a computer at home. I don't have a smart phone and only got a cell phone because of business needs. It's a choice. Debbie and I have chosen to spend our time in different ways that we believe are more productive. You should try it, you might find out that it is a worthwhile change :)

Just an
</idle musing>

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What Holy Spirit?

For my disclaimer on this series, see here

“I am a part of a system that has created a whole host of means and methods, plans and strategies for doing church that require little if any power from God. And it's not just pastors who are involved in this charade. I am concerned that all of us—pastors and church members in our culture—have blindly embraced an American dream mentality that emphasizes our abilities and exalts our names in the ways we do church.”— Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, Pages 48-49

<idle musing>
Yep. Generally speaking, if the Holy Spirit failed to show up in our life today, we wouldn't even notice—practicing atheists.
</idle musing>

Monday, September 26, 2011

The american dream and the gospel

For my disclaimer on this series, see here

“The dangerous assumption we unknowingly accept in the American dream is that our greatest asset is our own ability. The American dream prizes what people can accomplish when they believe in themselves and trust in themselves, and we are drawn toward such thinking. But the gospel has different priorities. The gospel beckons us to die to ourselves and to believe in God and to trust in his power. In the gospel, God confronts us with our utter inability to accomplish anything of value apart from him. This is what Jesus meant when he said, 'I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.'”— Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, page 46

<idle musing>
Amen! I think he's at his best when he is critiquing how culture has infiltrated the church.
</idle musing>

Friday, September 23, 2011

A new creation

For my disclaimer on this series, see here

“We are saved from our sins by a free gift of grace, something that only God can do in us and that we cannot manufacture ourselves.

“But that gift of grace involves the gift of a new heart. New desires. New longings. For the first time, we want God. We see our need for him, and we love him. We seek after him, and we find him, and we discover that he is indeed the great reward of our salvation. We realize that we are saved not just to be forgiven of our sins or to be assured of our eternity in heaven but we are saved to know God. So we yearn for him. We want him so much that we abandon everything else to experience him. This is the only proper response to the revelation of God in the gospel.”— Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, page 39

<idle musing>
Amen! That we are new in Christ is the good news. Everything else he mentions is the fruit of being new and being in Christ.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sinking sand

For my disclaimer on this series, see here

“We have been told all that is required is a one-time decision, maybe even mere intellectual assent to Jesus, but after that we need not worry about his commands, his standards, or his glory. We have a ticket to heaven, and we can live however we want on earth. Our sin will be tolerated along the way. Much of modern evangelism today is built on leading people down this road, and crowds flock to it, but in the end it is a road built on sinking sand...”— Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, page 38

<idle musing>
And we all know what happens to roads (or buildings) built on sinking sand...
</idle musing>

Friday, September 16, 2011


My computer died today. All the posts were on first they thought it was the video card, which was under warranty. It's not :( It's the logic board...bummer. Ah well, in and for everything give thanks!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I'm a good person

For my disclaimer on this series, see here

“My life is not going right, but God loves me and has a plan to fix my life. I simply need to follow certain steps, think certain things, and check off certain boxes, and then I am good.

“Both our diagnosis of the situation and our conclusion regarding the solution fit nicely in a culture that exalts self-sufficiency, self-esteem, and self-confidence. We already have a fairly high view of our morality, so when we add a superstitious prayer, a subsequent dose of church attendance, and obedience to some of the Bible, we feel pretty sure that we will be all right in the end.”— Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, page 32

<idle musing>
Self-this and self-that...Jesus says death to self, so we just ignore him or redefine what he meant. The latest Barna poll (sorry, can't remember the link) showed that while religious belief was decreasing over the last 15 years, certainty of heaven was increasing. Explain that!? Obviously it ain't coming from the biblical text...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stop and look

For my disclaimer on this series, see here

“The gospel reveals eternal realities about God that we would sometimes rather not face. We prefer to sit back, enjoy our clichés, and picture God as a Father who might help us, all the while ignoring God as Judge who might damn us. Maybe this is why we fill our lives with the constant drivel of entertainment in our culture—and in the church. We are afraid that if we stop and really took at God in his Word, we might discover that he evokes greater awe and demand deeper worship than we are ready to give him.”— Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, page 29

<idle musing>
"the constant drivel of entertainment..." I quoted that to Debbie last night. I think it describes our culture too perfectly. As a society, we're afraid of silence, of being face-to-face with ourselves.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The American Gospel

For my disclaimer on this series, see here

“Fundamentally, the gospel is the revelation of who God is, who we are, and how we can be reconciled to him. Yet in the American dream, where self reigns as king (or queen), we have a dangerous tendency to misunderstand, minimize, and even manipulate the gospel in order to accommodate our assumptions and our desires. As a result, we desperately need to explore how much of our understanding of the gospel is American and how much is biblical.”— Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, page 28

<idle musing>
Amen! Good preaching!
</idle musing>

Monday, September 12, 2011

Poor Guy

I feel sorry for Guy. He's back in the US and is being subjected to the standard way of doing "church" in the US. Read his observations and see if you don't think they make more sense than the current way of doing things. To whet your appetite, here's one:

Prayer. Probably the most striking thing I have noticed after years of being away from legacy churches is the almost non-existent place of prayer in the gatherings of believers. Prayer is used more as a way to begin and close meetings, but I have seen little real praying when believers gather. Singing praise and worship songs is certainly a way of addressing our Lord, but there are so many other aspects of our communion with God that are going unaddressed in our gatherings: prayers of repentance/confession, prayers of united intercession and supplication, prayers for laborers (Lk. 10:2), prayers for wisdom/guidance/discernment, spiritual warfare, prayers for healing and for the sick, prayers for those who do not know the Lord, etc.

I suspect the reason prayer is downplayed is that prayer takes time. Maybe the problem is we have to cram everything in between 11am-12noon. There simply isn't time for prayer if we are going to sing for 20-minutes and listen to a 30-minute message. But then, is it any wonder we have such little spiritual power in our midst?

<idle musing>
Read them all and consider how much more scriptural they are...and then head on over and read this
</idle musing>

Which Jesus do you want?

For my disclaimer on this series, see here

“...we are starting to redefine Christianity. We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with.

“A nice, middle-class, American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn't mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who would not expect us to forsake our closest relationships so that he receives all our affection. A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts, because, after all he loves us just the way we are. A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes, and who, for that matter wants us to avoid danger altogether. A Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live out our Christian spin on the American dream.”— Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, page 13

<idle musing>
That's a version of christianity I've seen far too often...
</idle musing>

Friday, September 09, 2011

Telling it like it is

For my disclaimer on this series, see here.

“I am convinced that we as Christ followers in American churches have embraced values and ideas that are not only unbiblical but that actually contradict the gospel we claim to believe. And I am convinced we have a choice.”— Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, page 3

<idle musing>
Well, he certainly doesn't waste any time beating around the bush, does he? I think he is right, and he will defend that claim for a good part of the rest of the book. Stay tuned :)
</idle musing>

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Advice from a teacher

Somebody posted this link on Facebook, I think, but it bears reposting. As someone who taught High School Latin, I can agree with him. The whole thing bears reading, but here's a short little snippet about grades:

This one may be hard to accept, but you shouldn't assume that because your child makes straight A's that he/she is getting a good education. The truth is, a lot of times it's the bad teachers who give the easiest grades, because they know by giving good grades everyone will leave them alone. Parents will say, "My child has a great teacher! He made all A's this year!"

Wow. Come on now. In all honesty, it's usually the best teachers who are giving the lowest grades, because they are raising expectations. Yet, when your children receive low scores you want to complain and head to the principal's office.

Please, take a step back and get a good look at the landscape. Before you challenge those low grades you feel the teacher has "given" your child, you might need to realize your child "earned" those grades and that the teacher you are complaining about is actually the one that is providing the best education.

<idle musing>
When I was in college (once I got serious), I would seek out the teachers who had the reputation of being the hardest; I knew I would learn!
</idle musing>


For my disclaimer on this series, see here

“Jesus apparently wasn't interested in marketing himself to the masses. His invitations to potential followers were clearly more costly than the crowds were ready to accept, and he seemed to be okay with that. He focused instead on the few who believed him when he said radical things. And through their radical obedience to him, he turned the course of history in a new direction.— Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, page 2

<idle musing>
He sounds like Bonhoeffer here—not for the last time, either.
</idle musing>

A different book

Late spring or early summer—I can't remember which—while we were returning the grandkids, someone or two suggested a book to me that looked interesting. So, I read the first 60 pages. It was fascinating and deadly accurate, so I asked if I could borrow it. They let me, and I set it on my desk at home.

Six weeks passed before I got back to it. By that time, I had forgotten the first 60 pages, so I started over again. I still found it fascinating and deadly accurate. The author hit the nail on the head, time after time. He was diagnosing what was wrong with the church in America—and he isn't a far-out on the limb house church or Emergent author either! In fact, he is a mega-church pastor.

I found myself devouring the book, hoping he would offer the cure to all the ills he was highlighting. When he got to the prescription, I found that his cure was as bad as the disease. Where was the power of the Holy Spirit? Where was the presence of God in your moment-by-moment life? Where was the vibrant life of the book of Acts? He recommended reading the Bible through in a year, making a financial sacrifice, going on a mission trip, and getting involved in a meaningful church relationship. Same old same old, just a different package :( Not that there is anything wrong with any of them, in and of themselves. But, when you remove the emphasis on the Holy Spirit as the motivating, living factor in your life, you end up with another program.

What was/is the book? Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. Not that the book is all bad; as I said, his diagnosis is spot-on. So, I have decided I will extract the stuff that I found good from the book over the next so many days, but always link back to this caveat.

Feel free to show me where I misread him or where I am wrong; that's what the comments are for.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

In the Assyrian chariotry...

“It is remarkable that, after the fall of Samaria, the Assyrians redeployed a large Israelite chariot force to fight as a unit of the royal army on its northern borders. It is also significant that the king of Assyria selected an Israelite equestrian to train the crown princes and designated many Samaritan charioteers as officers in the Assyrian army. This speaks volumes about the level of equestrian expertise in Israel.”—The Horsemen of Israel, page 143

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


This Saturday, I picked a bushel of Gala apples. We've been drying them ever since; we should be done by Saturday, just in time to pick some more :) Last year we dried 2 bushels and made apple sauce out of a couple bushels. This year we plan to dry 3 bushels—1 Gala and 2 Jonathan. That should give us enough to eat and give away.

In other gardening goodness, I canned 8 pints of pickle relish and 4 pints of beet pickles. My second planting of cucumbers is full of blossoms; I just hope this cold weather (high of 65º yesterday and 60º so far today) doesn't keep them from producing. I still would like to can another 10-15 quarts of bread & butter pickles.

I should take a picture of the canning shelf in the basement to match last year's. I don't know why, but it seems to be fuller this year than last. There's room for the dried apples, but the space for the apple sauce is full of other things. Not sure what I did differently...

In the "this didn't work so well" department: The cabbage butterfly caterpillars are devouring my cabbage. I should have left the row cover on them :( They also are enjoying the Brussel sprouts and kohlrabi, but the cabbage is the big sufferer. I might not get any to speak of. Oh well, next year.

We dug our first potatoes last week. I did straw potatoes again this year; low maintenance, high productivity :) They sure beat store bought potatoes—even organic ones.

High-tech in the Iron Age

“In our nuclear age of sophisticated electronics and high-tech weaponry, it is easy to lose the sense of the astounding power of the horse that people in the ancient world witnessed routinely. Unfortunately in modern times, false notions about the horse and riding have infiltrated historical analysis—for example, that the lack of stirrups and saddles prevented superior horsemanship in battle, or that horses required stables to survive and were prohibitively expensive to maintain, or that Israel was unsuited for raising and training horses. In fact, the archaeological and epigraphical evidence as well as basic equestrian knowledge prove the contrary. The horse was key to the survival of nations, and every country, including Israel and Judah, did whatever was necessary to support and train its war-horses and equestrian warriors.”—The Horsemen of Israel, page 142

Friday, September 02, 2011


“Iron Age Israel and Judah were far better suited to accommodate a large chariotry than their surrounding neighbors. They had a varied but compact terrain with open plains for chariot training, rich valleys of pastureland, more than adequate barley and oat production, and hilly areas appropriate for breeding and rearing foals. More importantly, both Israel and Judah were geographically small with short distances between cities, forts, and battlefields. Horses could be moved from one area to another in a matter of hours, rather than the weeks required to cross a much larger country such as Assyria or Egypt.”—Contrell, page 63

<idle musing>
This is from a professional equestrian, so it would be a good idea to listen...
</idle musing>

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Final post from Severe Mercy

“This journey through the Old Testament has consistently revealed the importance of the character of God for remedying sin, and it is this character that makes sense of the variety of remedies. God’s character is consistently emphasized, especially focusing on the recitation of elements from the character creed found in Exod 34:6–7. There, God’s character is identified as both gracious and just; God forgives and yet punishes, that is, he displays a severe mercy. This character has been consistent throughout the Old Testament. Yahweh is a God who takes sin very seriously and does not leave the guilty unpunished, and yet he is a God filled with grace and mercy expressed through his patience and forgiveness. It is his justice that explains his regular discipline of sin but his grace that offers hope to a disciplined people. His justice has gracious intent, as he seeks to eliminate the sin that threatens human existence and severs relationship with him. His grace is seen in his constant mitigation of punishment and expressed in his reticence to discipline. This severe mercy, however, cannot be controlled even by the character creed, which is carefully qualified by Yahweh himself as being always under the control of his sovereign will (Exod 33:19).”—A Severe Mercy, pages 522-523

<idle musing>
That's the final bit from A Severe Mercy. I put off starting the book for nearly two years because it was so monstrous in size, but once I started it, it was well worth my time. I hope you've enjoyed the snippets—maybe even enough to buy/borrow the book. I know some of you have, because you told me. I know others looked at the shear size of the book and got scared—just like I did initially. Don't let the size overwhelm you, it is worth the read.

If you don't know Hebrew, some of it will go over your head, but it will still repay your time reading it. Next up will be some snippets from The Horsemen of Israel. The book doesn't lend itself well to excerpts, but it certainly reads well (and quickly at 160 or so pages). I've learned a lot about horses and chariots and ancient warfare. After that, I'm not sure what; I've got 2-3 books going right now.
</idle musing>