Monthly Archives: June, 2011

Coffee with A’Kempis: Part One

Although I am aware that Thomas A’Kempis (1380-1471) represents the much-in-need-of-reformation Roman Catholic Church of the middle ages, I cannot help but be encouraged by the observations and exhortations of his Imitation of Christ.  I agree with Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) in his assessment that we find in these words of A’Kempis an “unartificial piety” (found in the 1980 Moody Press edition introduction which was written by Paul M. Bechtel).  As a result, this summer, along with my personal study of the Scriptures, and my continued reading in Charles Hodge’s three-volume Systematic Theology, I have decided to have coffee with A’Kempis again.  When I do so, I hope you won’t mind my sharing a few of his thoughts.  I think you will find them helpful.  Here’s the first installment:

“What will it avail thee to dispute profoundly of the Trinity, if thou be lacking in humility, and art thereby displeasing to the Trinity?” (I.1.3)

“Who hinders and troubles thee more than the unmortified affections of thine own heart?” (I.3.3)

“Truly, at the day of judgment we shall not be examined by what we have read, but what we have done; not how well we have spoken, but how virtuously we have lived.”  (I.3.5)

Would you expect less from a 15th Century monk–humility, a deep sense of the indwelling sin, practical faith?  Yet are these not also New Testament themes?  Indeed they are!  (I noticed yesterday that Titus, chapter two begins with a stress on “sound doctrine” followed by several commands Paul describes as “good deeds” (Tit. 2:14).  A’Kempis may have had somewhat of a misguided reason for not being of the world while living in the world, but I appreciate his stress on “makin’ it real” (fleshing out the faith). 

Let’s do that today!

Reference key:  I.1.3 means: Book I, Chapter 1, Section 3


Passin’ it on: How much have you complained today?

Found this helpful blog entry this afternoon.  Thought I’d pass it on to you!

Musing in the Morning: The Absolute Absurdity of Bohemian Rhapsody

If it’s been a while since you listened to Queen’s legendary song Bohemian Rhapsody, watch it here before you read any further (this a capella rendition is very good and mildly humorous):

Oddly, two lines from this song often run through my mind.

“Can anybody find me…somebody to love?”

“Nothing really matters…to me.”

It is ridiculous–in the logical sense of the word–for me to sing either lines.  “Can  anybody find me…somebody to love?”  I don’t need anyone’s help to know whom to love!  I am surrounded by people that need my love.  So are you!  The question isn’t whom to love, but how well am I loving those people?  “Nothing really matters…to me.”  Yeah, right.  On the first night of my Ethics class, I put the following image on a slide:

What’s wrong with that sentiment?  Everyone has “ethics.”  We all have a morality, even if our worldview is consistent naturalism (committed atheism).  We all have a value system which determines that which we consider to be right and that which we consider to be wrong.  Such considerations then lead us to our actions and reactions throughout a given day.

Allow me to quote the second line as it appears in context within Queen’s song:  “Nothing really matters, anyone can see, nothing really matters, nothing really matters to me.”  Well, beloved, no one can truly make that statement.  Something matters to all of us.  In my case, there are many people, many things which “matter to me.”  It’s my hope that “anyone can see” that that is genuinely the case.  I very much desire that people experience my care, my love, and receive my attempts to be a blessing to them.  As others view my life, it remains my prayer that they observe me to be a humble, imperfect man striving for reality.  Like Jesus as a youth, I want to grow in favor with God and man (Lk. 2:52).

As we reach the end of another month, please let me ask you:  Are you loving the individuals God has placed in your life?  You don’t need help finding them.  They’re all around you.  Put your love into action today. And–are you so living your life that those around you (family, friends, co-workers, etc.) easily see those things which matter to you–your priorities? 

Love and live to the glory of God. 

Think about it.

Reflections on the Quest: Kill sin before it kills you

“Kill sin before it kills you” is a loose translation of a John Owen quote.

I taught Business Ethics again last night.  As we concluded, I briefly discussed how important it is for us to understand the concept and reality of sin in the context of both corporate and personal ethics. The following quotes were included in my handout:

Literally sin means “lack of conformity to a standard” (R.L. Dabney, Systematic Theology, Banner of Truth, 2002 [originally published in 1871]).

“Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Zondervan, 1994).

“Sin, in short, is that vast moral disease which affects the whole human race, of every rank, and class, and name, and nation, and people, and tongue; a disease from which there never was but one born of woman that was free” (J.C. Ryle, Holiness, Charles Noland Publishers, 2001 [that one exception, of course, is Jesus Christ]).

“My country, family, church fare worse because of my sins” (Unknown author, The Valley of Vision:  A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, Banner of Truth, 1989).

If these assertions are true, and I am convinced from the Bible that they are, what must we do?  Here’s the final quote I placed in the handout:

“Flee from sin as from a snake; for if you approach sin, it will bite you.  Its teeth are lion’s teeth, and can destroy human lives” (Sirach 21:2; Apocrypha).

I’ve always liked that quote because of my fear of snakes (shoot–I’ll run from a Garter Snake!).  Sin, however, is far worse than a gentle, even helpful, snake.  It more resembles a vicious rattler!  But unlike a quick-striking, venomous snake, we cannot outrun our sin.  It keeps pace with us!  That’s why John Owen’s quote is more appropriate.  Since our sin is always with us–isn’t that the argument of Romans, chapter seven?–we must be actively engaged in the fight.  If we are not, we will easily be defeated!  But how can we most effectively fight our sin?   Only with the aid of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:13)!  Renewing our minds, setting our thoughts on things above is also a necessary activity (Rom. 12:1,2; Col. 3:1,2).  Might I also suggest reading books by authors who bleed Bible, men and women who have consistently remained “in the fray” (the battle with their own sin).  The Puritans stand out to me in this particular issue.  As the grandchildren of the Reformation, they clearly grasped the truth that justifying grace is necessarily worked out in the lives of God’s people (Phil. 2:12,13).  I’ve included several recommended titles on the Quick Takes page.

So–do you hate sin?  If so, how’s the fight going?

For further study, check out the very helpful links on this website:

Confessions and Denials: She’s gonna need another surgery

This morning the bell rang three times in a five-minute span.  Since Celena is not supposed to raise her voice, we gave her a bell to get our attention.  Now–on day the fifth day since her surgery, I have to admit that I am becoming a little irritated by the tink-ding, tink-ding, tink-ding coming from the blue chair in the front room.  I’m tellin’ ya, if it doesn’t stop soon, she’s gonna need another…I jest, of course.  But it sure would be nice to hear the tink-ding, tink-ding, tink-ding followed by, “I don’t need anything.  I just want to thank you for helping me so much since my surgery.  I love you, Dad.” 

Can’t hurt to daydream, eh?!

As I reflected on my bell irritation today, I wondered if that isn’t what God the Father “feels” about my prayers.  I typed up a new prayer list last week and–believe it or not–there isn’t anything on the list related to praise and/or thanksgiving.  Sure, much of the list can be described as “intercessory prayer” (praying for others).  But it dawned on me that I need to be praising God and thanking God more than I do.  He truly does deserve my praise, and I am grateful. 

Next time I ring the bell, I need to tell Him.

What are you doing when you ring your “prayer bell”? 

PS–Thanks for praying for Celena.  At this morning’s follow-up appointment, the surgeon gave Jodi the impression that Celena is progressing at a good pace.  However, she does have a nasty yeast infection (which often accompanies a tonsillectomy).  Hopefully the meds will work fast and Celena will get her strength back soon.  Thanks again.

I Think: The New York State Same-Sex Marriage Law

Our world is changing before our eyes.  It really shouldn’t surprise us, but it does.  Consider the following quote I found online Sunday (the link is at the bottom of the page):

“We are currently in an all-out war regarding marriage and God’s plan for the family. Over the past 40 years, our culture has turned marriage into little more than a legal date, tried to redefine what marriage is, and openly mocks God’s Holy Institution on television and in the movies. Satan has done his best to destroy marriage and thus destroy God’s plan for the family.”

True words, though a bit audacious if no authoritative source stands in support.  However, there is an authoritative source–the Word of God.  Blog author, Bill Keller, mentions that fact later in the article. 

This morning my pastor and I had a brief discussion of post-millenialism (the end times position which teaches that the influence of Christians and the gospel of Jesus Christ will  so transform culture that Jesus will return to a theocracy [the spiritual kingdom of God expressed physically in the world]).  As you might imagine, that particular understanding has waned in popularity over the past century.  At the conclusion of the 19th century, many more believers held to post-millenialism than they do today.  Although the gospel continues to spread to the Arab world and to unreached people groups, the world simply is not “getting better all the time” (Sorry, I couldn’t resist including that line from the Beatles).  Our nation and our world are becoming increasingly hostile to Christ, Christians, and the Word of Christ.  The Bible’s doctrine of salvation is “too narrow” to be politically correct.  The view of Scripture that clearly teaches what many have labeled “traditional marriage” (one man-one woman-for life) is no longer acceptable, considered by our culture as “old-fashioned.”  Each day we are bounding towards the utopian universe presented in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek series (continued in Star Trek:  The Next Generation).  If there is a god, he/she/it is of no consequence.  Religion is a personal matter, and no religious system is superior to any other because absolutes were shed at the scientific enlightenment of man (beginning with the likes of the pre-Socratic philosophers embodied in the person of Thales).  We eventually reached the pinnacle of our evolutionary potential.  We arrived.

You are seeing the seeds of that arrival. 

Are you impressed?

God isn’t.

From all accounts, 2011 is a year of celebration for the gay, lesbian, transgender, etc. community in the United States and around the globe.  Friday’s events in the New York state legislature are just one example.  Surely this particular minority will see more victories in the coming six months.  And, as the months progress into years and the years collectively become decades, we will continue to see our nation’s moral decline.  Similar to the Roman Empire, the United States is collapsing in upon itself.  Bill Keller rightly accused Satan.  He could have also mentioned our incessant proclivity to sinful actions and reactions; our thoughts, words and deeds.  When God begins to remove His restraining hand from a nation, laws and practices become more and more defiant, increasingly ungodly.  That is an expression of God’s wrath (see Romans, chapter one).  An even more frightening wrath remains to be unleashed if we continue to refuse to repent, scoffing at the revealed will of God, the Bible.

Is there a glorious future for our country?  Politicians will lead us to believe so.  I have my doubts.  The powerful Chinese and Egyptian dynasties eventually ended.  Ancient Greece and Rome are now the stuff of legend.  What will happen to the United States?  Perhaps the better question is:  What will happen to the United States if her leaders and citizens refuse to repent?  The forecast is ominous. 

What can we do?

Is there anything we can do?

Yes.  We can pray and live righteously in our unrighteous culture.  In reality, it may not make much of a difference.  Lot lived a righteous life in Sodom, and Sodom was destroyed (Gen. 19; 2 Pet. 2:7).  But he did the right thing.  We should do no less.  We should do no less–starting today.  God may not be glorified in us as a nation, but He can be glorified in us as individuals.  I guess that’s a great place to start.

Never a Dull Moment: Blacked Out and Bad Wasps

I should not find the events of this afternoon so humorous.  At the very same moment, Celena “blacked out” in the shower (probably passed out) and TJ was stung by two bad (mean and spiteful) wasps outside.  Celena was white as a sheet, wondering why exactly her daddy thought it was a good idea she get clean (five days…need I say more?).  TJ was howling like a hurt Ferengi (if you don’t know what that is, you’re more on the normal side than me–which probably doesn’t shock you–[a Ferengi is a character on Star Trek]).  Lest you begin to worry, the kids are fine.  Celena is recovering nicely from her surgery on Wednesday.  And her color has returned (along with a pleasant odor).  TJ–who is allergic to bee stings–is well now that we eliminated the stinging sensation  (in fact, he crashed due to the Benadryl).  The little ones are mellowing out as a long but productive week inches its way to its conclusion. 

It was an eventful week.  I am thankful for the strength the Lord provided and for all I was able to accomplish.  More than that, I am thankful for how well Celena’s body and her spirit responded to the surgery.  You are surely aware that even minor surgeries can have major complications.  Some kids do not wake up after anesthesia (I know it’s extremely rare, but I know of one, in particular).  Some children respond poorly to surgeries like Celena went through and end up hospitalized.  There were no promises.  But God was gracious, not treating Celena as her sins deserve, not treating her parents as their sins deserve.  At the end of a full week of family responsibilities, ministry and work, I am overflowing with thankfulness.

I do very much hope you had a great week.  Did you black out?  Were you attacked by bad wasps?  Sure hope not!  Think of all the ways in which God blessed you over the past seven days, and lift up a “Thank You” prayer to heaven.  It’s fitting and proper that you should do this.

And–if you think of it, pray for my ministry in the Word on Sunday.  I will be preaching at our church this week–Grace Reformed Baptist Church.  Pray that Christ will be exalted and God’s people edified (built up so that they can do the work of the ministry).  Thanks!

FYI–This is Quark–a famous Ferengi:

Passin’ it on: Big God Prayer

I received an email from a woman of faith today.  She is losing her job due to the economy and included the following prayer from Thomas Aquinas.  If you have a moment, read it slowly.  You might even want to pray it. 

Grant us, we beseech Thee, Almighty and most merciful God, fervently to desire, wisely to search out and perfectly to fulfil, all that is well-pleasing unto Thee this day. Order Thou our worldly condition to the glory of Thy Name; and, of all that Thou requires us to do, grant us the knowledge, the desire, and the ability, that we may so fulfil it as we ought; and may our path to Thee, we pray, be safe, straightforward, and perfect to the end.
Give us, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards; give us an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out; give us an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Bestow upon us also, O Lord our God, understanding to know Thee, diligence to seek Thee, wisdom to find thee, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace Thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Reflections on the Quest: Earthly and Spiritual Wealth

I am convinced that I cannot promote excitement for the cause of Christ worldwide in my children if they are not around missionaries.  That’s why I was excited to host a friend from college Tuesday night.  David Tilly, serving at RVA (Rift Valley Academy), joined our family for a BBQ.  I baited the children by letting them know that those who had a good question would receive ice cream.  They ended up asking far more than four questions!  In the process, one aspect to modern-day African life and life as a missionary stood out.  We (our family, in particular; Americans, in general) are wealthy.  David stated that our house with our property equates to a mansion in rural Kenya (that assessment is probably true for the whole continent).  Sometimes it can be hard to imagine that air conditioning, lights in every room and indoor plumbing are luxuries.  So–this week I am reminded of my earthly wealth.  I am thankful for it and desire to use it to the glory of God.

But I am also grateful for my spiritual wealth.  This morning, the Apostle Paul reminded me that I am rich in Christ.  He stated that great wealth comes by understanding the true knowledge of Christ (Col. 2:2).  Furthermore, “all  the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are hidden in  Christ (2:3).  The Lord Jesus (2:6)–God-dwelling-in-bodily-form (2:9)–completes and rules me (2:10).  He made me alive (2:13), forgave my sins (2:13) and freed me to focus my attention upon reality (2:17)!  He is my Prize (2:18).  In Christ, I am wealthy indeed!

It’s a dreary Thursday morning here in Southeast Tennessee.  I suppose–if I choose to–I could expend my mental energies focusing my attention on the negatives of life (what isn’t going as I had hoped).  Or, I could choose to walk in Jesus (2:6), thankful for all the blessings I experience, those physical and those spiritual (2:7).  I could also spend my hours today self-consumed (2:18, 23).  Or, I could follow the example of the Apostle who struggled for his fellow believers, doing what was in his power to help them grow in their faith (2:1-2).  That sounds better, doesn’t it?  This blog is one attempt to help you–my friends.  If I can pray specifically for you, please let me know. 

Compared to the majority of individuals in the world, you are probably very wealthy.  If you are a Christian, you are indeed very wealthy.  Overflow to gratitude! 

“Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.”

PS–Speaking of blessings…Celena is doing remarkably well a day after her surgery.  Thank you for praying!

Celena Update: Fear and Tonsils gone

Thank you for praying for Celena.  All went well early this morning.  She is home now, beginning the healing process.  We are very much hoping that she will begin feeling better soon and that strep will not be such a frequent occurence in our home. 

Too tired to pontificate. Thanks again for praying for our big girl!