Friday, December 30, 2011
You can watch it unfold:
Read the story from the Israeli paper, Haaretz (HT: BiblePlaces)
When I saw this, it reminded me of my own visit to the Holy Sepulchre. While reflecting on the death of Christ, I found myself quite suddenly inserted in a conflict between a desperate old woman and an angry Armenian priest (see Luke 20:46-47). For a brief moment, I thought I was going to have to tell my wife to run and go for his beard, but fortunately it was diffused before it came to that.
Though this fight is further proof that Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) remains relevant, even at the spot where He died for those who cannot possibly justify themselves. By God's grace, I hope to expound it on the first day of next year.
NB, also coming in 2012 are some significant changes to this blog. So you six readers, stay tuned!
Sunday, December 25, 2011
John Murray, that stalwart Presbyterian theologian of the previous generation, made the following comment from the library at Westminster Seminary in a letter written to Valerie (who eventually became his wife) on December 24th:
I hope to be here all day tomorrow. I have not even accepted a dinner engagement for what they call ‘Christmas.’ I hate the whole business.Let's just say that Prof. Murray was not hurt if he did not make it on your Christmas card list! Though we can be assured Murray's his time was well-invested in that library and finishing his (still authoritative) Romans.
- Collected Writings of John Murray, Vol 3.
Then are responses like that of C.H. Spurgeon, The Incarnation and the Birth of Christ:
This is the season of the year when, whether we wish it or not, we are compelled to think of the birth of Christ. I hold it to be one of the greatest absurdities under heaven to think that there is any religion in keeping Christmas-day. There are no probabilities whatever that our Saviour Jesus Christ was born on that day, and the observance of it is purely of Popish origin; doubtless those who are Catholics have a right to hallow it, but I do not see how consistent Protestants can account it in the least sacred.We are with Spurgeon, leave the superstitions to the superstitious and take the good from God's providence to meet again with friends once more. I hope this Lord's Day, assembled with the saints, was edifying and that time around that family hearth is enjoyable (even if it it is now electric!).
However, I wish there were ten or a dozen Christmas-days in the year; for there is work enough in the world, and a little more rest would not hurt labouring people. Christmas-day is really a boon to us; particularly as it enables us to assemble round the family hearth and meet our friends once more. Still, although we do not fall exactly in the track of other people, I see no harm in thinking of the incarnation and birth of the Lord Jesus. We do not wish to be classed with those
"Who with more care keep holiday
The wrong, than others the right way.”
The old Puritans made a parade of work on Christmas-day, just to show that they protested against the observance of it. But we believe they entered that protest so completely, that we are willing, as their descendants, to take the good accidentally conferred by the day, and leave its superstitions to the superstitious.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Speaking personally, I have long since stopped shopping at the nearby Christian bookstore. They almost never have the books I want and even if they did, I would pay quite a bit for them and spend a lot of time driving there and back. And then there’s the fact that so much of what they carry is junk—not just trinkets and toys, but material that is opposed to sound doctrine. The last time I went to a Christian bookstore there was a section for Roman Catholics and a section for people who need their fix of Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn. And I thought, “This is no more Christian than Amazon.” In fact, I think it is actually worse; under the banner of “Christian” things are being sold that claim to be Christian but are deceptively anti-Christian. That may have been the moment I realized that I felt no obligation to support that business.
Read The Local Christian Bookstore.
Let me be brutally honest: Visiting a local Christian bookstore feels like visiting a has-been business (as is the case with pretty much any other bookstore). The whole publishing industry is changing and the little family-owned Christian bookstore seems to be increasingly obsolete. And at least as it pertains to me, I don’t think I will lose anything when the last local Christian bookstore has closed its doors. I feel guilty saying that and I truly feel for the people who own those stores. But unless they can radically change what they do and how they do it, I don’t see most of them making it in this new world.
Providentially, I came to the exact same conclusion just last week. After finding myself in a local Christian retailer I realized that this place is over-priced, poorly-stocked, heresy-filled, and packed to the gills with nonsense. I'm done.
Challies is right, most of them will not make it. But neither is that a bad thing. We need less (anti)Christian bookstores on the market.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Can you believe it's almost shutters on 2011? We have come to that time of year when many begin to reassess their life-patterns and even make one or two of those pesky resolutions. I've never been a fan of that particular New Year's ritual, but I like considering how to habituate better activities (in hopes that considering will one day lead to doing).
As Lionel Windsor points out, we are "creatures of habit," because we are, well, creatures:
We all develop habits, because we are creatures. That common expression, ‘creatures of habit’, points to an important truth. Habits are an aspect of the way God has made us, as creatures who live in his good creation. God has created us from the ‘dust of the ground’ (Gen 2:7). He’s placed us in time and in space. He’s given us minds and bodies that are suited to this world; we respond to familiarity, regularity, cycles and seasons. Because of this, we’re all constantly forming habits—often without even realising it. Our habits are a key part of our character, of who we are; and so they are closely bound up with our decisions and our desires. Even our seemingly spontaneous decisions are highly influenced by our character and habits.Windsor continues by offering 13 tips for developing habits:
- Motivate yourself by preaching to yourself the gospel of grace.
- The ultimate goal in developing a particular habit is coming to the point where you love to do it.
- Realise, though, that the goal I mentioned in the previous point (to love what you’re doing) will probably take a very long time to develop.
- Don’t be a hero—you’ll only set yourself up for failure.
- The flipside of the previous point is to start small.
- Start now. Just do it.
- Think creatively about ways to fit your habits into your life circumstances.
- Learn from the habits of others, but don’t follow them slavishly.
- When it comes to habits, simple regularity is much better than sporadic brilliance [that is gold, my friends].
- Make your habit-developing plans simple.
- Develop the super-habit of regularly reviewing your habits!
- Use the relatively good or easy times in your life to work hard at developing your habits. When the hard times come, and/or when life changes, you’ll have spiritual resources to use.
- I said it at the start of the list, and I’ll say it again at the end: keep coming back to God’s grace.
In war (I’ve been told), very little time is spent waging glorious battles and smiting the enemy. Most of the time, warfare is about training, preparing and honing skills. The effectiveness of a soldier is only as good as his habits: his reflexive reactions developed through constant, repetitive training. The same applies to spiritual warfare. Our main task in spiritual warfare is to get prepared: to put on the “armour” of truth, righteousness, the readiness of the gospel of peace, faith, salvation and the word of God through prayer (Eph 6:10-18). Putting on this armour is, in large part, about developing good habits.Read all of Creatures of Habit, because the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle.
Friday, December 16, 2011
For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, declares the Lord God. Therefore, repent and live (Ezek 18:31-32)
Last night, Christopher Hitchens - the vocal and articulate atheist apologist - succumbed to esophageal cancer and stepped into eternity. Though I oppose everything he advocated, and that with every fiber of my being, I oddly enjoyed his writing. Perhaps it was the honesty with which Hitchens presented what was at stake - more honest than many "evangelicals" with rooms of elephants that I know of.
Justin Taylor, reflects:
He once expressed incredulity at the platitudes of a Unitarian minister who saw the beauty of Jesus’ moral teachings while rejecting his divinity:Read Taylor, Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011).I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.He was no admirer of C. S. Lewis, but he did agree with Lewis’s statement about Jesus: “Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse.”
Hitchens' sparing partner in Is Christianity Good for the World? - and the subsequent documentary, Collision - Douglas Wilson made the following insightful comments on his death:
Christopher knew that faithful Christians believe that it is appointed to man once to die, and after that the Judgment. He knew that we believe what Jesus taught about the reality of damnation. He also knew that we believe—for I told him—that in this life, the door of repentance is always open. A wise Puritan once noted what we learn from the last-minute conversion of the thief on the cross—one, that no one might despair, but only one, that no one might presume. We have no indication that Christopher ever called on the Lord before he died, and if he did not, then Scriptures plainly teach that he is lost forever. But we do have every indication that Christ died for sinners, men and women just like Christopher. We know that the Lord has more than once hired workers for his vineyard when the sun was almost down (Matt. 20:6).Read Wilson, Christopher Hitchens Has Died. The Judge of the earth will do right, taking no pleasure in the wicked one's death, but delighting in the exercise of His own impeccable justice.
... Christopher Hitchens was baptized in his infancy, and his name means "Christ-bearer." This created an enormous burden that he tried to shake off his entire life. No creature can ever succeed in doing this. But sometimes, in the kindness of God, such failures can have a gracious twist at the end. We therefore commend Christopher to the Judge of the whole earth, who will certainly do right. Christopher Eric Hitchens (1949-2011). R.I.P.
If you have not seen Collision, do so - perhaps invite a friend to watch it with you. (You can view it for free here). It is worth discussing the exchange in the final scenes when Hitchens says he would not convince the last Christian on earth, even if he could... even the most virulent atheist can never fully erase the image of God.
Repent and live.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Predictably, perhaps, I blame "mindless exhibitionism" on Facebook and Twitter. Of course, it's been around a lot longer than social media.
There have, however, been Christians with the opposite concern of exhibiting their victories:
For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me (2 Cor 12:6).This is good for Christians to keep in mind. Showboating is stupid and graceless on and off the field. And even more so for children of His grace.