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Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

The Shack: “You have even judged the value of a person’s life by the quality of your concept of beauty.”

Comment: Judging is a self-centered concept, in that, it is done according to your (distorted) perception of beauty, value and worth. On the other hand, God who does not have a distorted view of beauty, value and worth can see past and through the things we are hung-up on. We assign value to a person according to such fickle things, such as, looks, occupation, behavior, mannerisms, language, odor, etc.

Judging is not among those attributes bestowed to us by God. We are simply not gifted with the ability to make judgments according to appearance. We lack discretion to make (good, accurate) judgments, therefore, the judgments we do make are neither justified or precise according to truth.

(Hasty) Judgment is a sign of foolishness and immaturity. Judgment is a sure sign of something wrong within. Our estimations of people are always wrong in some way, because we refer to our definition of beauty which is culture driven, performance driven and preference driven.

Our “reference center” upon which draw from the make judgments is limited and incomplete, therefore we stand on insufficient grounds when we judge. We draw from nothing but (mere) appearance to construct our pronouncement, which overlooks a person’s “raw material,” i.e. their genetic predisposition, life experiences and intentions.

We can not judge the “bad” in people and we can not judge the “good” either. Even when there is outward evidence which we critique as “good,” thereby we judge the person as “upstanding,” we can not observe private character, conduct and thoughts of a person. The most telling things about a person are hidden in things we can not observe. Only God can look on the heart.

J.C. Ryle says, “A nugget of gold may be covered with dirt, and look (like) worthless rubbish.” He continues, “One man’s work may look good at first, and yet turn out to be from the basest motives. Another man’s work may look very questionable at first, and yet at last my prove Christ-like and truly Godly.” The Vine’s Concise Dictionary reiterates Ryle; “The merely natural mind cannot estimate the motives of the spiritual.”

The Shack: “Who doesn’t jump to conclusions about others from the way they impact us?”

Comment: We all jump to conclusions about people simply by the way they impact us. If a person “rubs us the wrong way,” it is likely due to our problem (our judgment). Perhaps they strike a chord, or remind us of someone whom we didn’t (or did) like from the past. Most likely, we need to change our thinking about them, not that they need to change who they are in order to please us. We assess people by how they make us feel; which is supremely subjective, and, in essence, consider them a person of high worth or low worth based on our arbitrary appraisal.

The Shack: “Judging requires that you think yourself superior over the one you judge.”

Comment: Judging is a natural expression of self-righteousness. This is the opposite of humility; which is pride, which is in opposition to God. We are not fit to decide a case because we judge with self-based evaluations. It is in pride that we assume the office of judge. Judging is discrimination; prejudice based on faulty arbitrary notions.

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The last “Weekly Notables.”  I have resolved to read more edited, published writing rather than spontaneous “off the cuff” blogging.  I’ll still send some good links along sporadically.

Reading: Francis of Assissi said what?  Preach the Gospel, Use Deeds When Necessary.

Health:  Do you think you know pain?  Check out this guy‘s visibly wincing pain at mile 22 of the San Diego Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon.

Reading:  Lot’s of it.  D.A. Carson’s contribution to the church is real nice, and so is making nearly all of it availabe for free.

Listening: Free audio download from Christianaudio: Eugene Petersen’s Christ Plays in Ten-Thousand Places.

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So I went running sunday afternoon.  Thunderstorms were forecasted for the afternoon and evening so I checked the doppler radar, which showed a line of developing storms just south and east of Lincoln moving northeast.  The cold front was approaching and it was now or never to get those miles in before the nice, muggy 50s would depart. I jumped in my car and headed to the Mopac east trail.

The beginning of the run went well.  I headed east out of Lincoln and could see a few weak storms in front of me.  I only felt a sprinkle here and there, but vowed that if it started to downpour before I reached my turn around point, I would make it to the next mile marker and head back.  This vow was based solely on the assumption that the line of development, as I depicted from the radar, was just east (or in front) of me.

Then I reached my turn around point and was nearly stopped in my tracks.  What I saw was precisely what I used to love to photograph but then take cover from during my storm chasing days as a college student.  About a mile from me was a classic shelf cloud which usually marks the front boundary of a line of thunderstorms with heavy rain, wind, and possibly hail.  If you can see a shelf cloud, it is heading towards you!

Needless to say, the rest of the run was in the midst of some strong winds and heavy, heavy rain.  I felt like such an idiot for being out there.  For one, having a degree in meteorology, I have been to way too many seminars and lectures about lightning safety, survivial stories, and not-so-survival stories.  And two, my wife and I had not yet paid our first premium for our life insurance policies (which was done the next day!).  Doh!

All that intro to bring up vows with God.  I am not going to lie, there was some strong pleading with God out there on that trail.  Especially when it seemed lightning was striking very close by.  But I refused to make a vow with Him, such as, if you keep me alive, I will do such and such.

One of the stories I was thinking about constantly on that run was that of Martin Luther.  Luther, after being caught in a severe thunderstorm, became so scared that he vowed to join the cloister if he would make it safely.  The storm did not kill him and the rest is history.

One of the pastors I admire most is John Piper.  In a recent message he gave at Park Community Church called The Pastor as Scholar, he mentioned that growing up he was deeply and physiologically terrified of speaking in front of people.  This continued until his senior year at Wheaton College, when he was asked to give the opening prayer at some summer school event in front of 500 people.  Piper said before the event, he vowed with God that if God would enable him to say the prayer, he would never turn down another opportunity to give a speech due to fear.  Once again, the rest is history.

It seems strange to me to make vows with God.  I know I have made them in the past.  They were usually immature things about sports, or girls I liked, or something I thought I really wanted.  I made a vow with my wife on our wedding day, and each day is its practical unraveling.  But what about with God?  Is there a place for it?  Is it biblical?  Has anyone else made a specific vow and kept it to the best of their knowledge?

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I’ve taken this title from the marginal notes given by editor James M. Houston in my 1982 edition of William Wilberforce’s Real Christianity.  Although it was originally written in England over 200 years ago, this book has plenty to say of Christianity in America today.

In the first chapter, Inadequate Conceptions of the Importance of Christianity, Wilberforce outlines the ignorance of cultural and hereditary Christianity.  He observes of those around him

The study of Christianity has formed no part of his education.  His attachment to it – where any attachment to it exists at all – is too often not the preference of reason and sober conviction.  Instead his attachment to Christianity is merely the result of early and groundless prepossession.  He was born in a Christian country, so of course he is a Christian.  His father was a member of the Church of England, so that is why he is, too.  (p. 2)

He then turns toward the view of Scripture:

Scripture everywhere represents the Gospel by figures strongly calculated to impress on our minds a sense of its value….Though…we scarcely accept this heavenly treasure even when it is poured in our lap in rich abundance.  We turn from it coldly, or at best possess it negligently as a thing of no estimation.  (pp 4-5)

In a great measure, the bulk of the Christian world knows so little, and mistakes so greatly, the foundational principles of the religion which it professes! (p. 5)

How similar this can be seen in our country today.  I cannot comment on the nature of Christianity in larger cities or along the coasts, but I could easily be quoted observing the same of the Midwestern U.S, especially those that grow up going to church regularly like myself.   This is precisely the attitude that both I carried for 21 years, and was very prevalent in those around me in small town, Nebraska.

Wilberforce ends the chapter with two philosophies that he believes under gird this behavior.  The first is that belief does not matter or “man’s opinions will not influence his practice.”  We see this everywhere in our culture today.  Science claims complete objectivity, even though bias and politics play a massive role in research funding.  And just recently, President Obama claimed that politics will finally be settled by science (objectivity) rather than political ideals, by signing the executive order on opening up stem cell research (See news article).  Wilberforce recommends

We need to remind these advocates of this fallacious principle that one’s judgement often receives a corrupt bias from the heart and the affections. (p. 6)

The second theme is “sincerity is all in all.”  How often do you hear people say “as long as you believe in something” as if it is some redeeming, feel good, nugget of truth.  Or “whatever your beliefs are, you just need to stick to them wholeheartedly.

Never indeed was there a principle more general in its use, more sovereign in its potency.  Instances can be found in secular history of persons committing greatest crimes with a sincere conviction of the integrity of their conduct.  Scripture offers us parallels.  It was to guard against the error we have now been exposing that our blessed Savior forewarned His disciples: “The time cometh, that whatsoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (John 16:2). (pp 6-7)

What do you think?  Are Wilberforce’s words accurate for our culture today?

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A great way to listen to Scripture.  I’m really liking this…download your favorite verses, chapters, or books to your ipod (or other mp3 device) to aid in your study/meditation/memorization of scripture.  B.C. has a really nice site, by the way. (HT: JT)

Why I’m Not Emergent.  An excellent essay on the Emergent Church by Allen Yeh from The Scriptorium Daily.

Are taking Vitamins worth it? “The public’s belief in the benefits of vitamins and nutrients is not supported by the available scientific data.” An article from NYT.

Who are the NeoReformed? Part 1, Part 2.  2 articles from Scot McKnight that I’m not sure how to make use of – especially his comment: “the NeoReformed are those who are obsessed with God’s holiness and grace and have not learned that grace makes people gracious.”  I thought obsessing over God’s holiness and grace was a good thing…maybe I’ve missed the point.

Regulating CO2 as a pollutant. Roger Pielke lists some articles if you want to get more in depth with the issue.  If not, just read his brief comments and you’ll realize the implications of such a move from our government.

Finally Alive. Tim Challies gives a great review of Piper’s new book.

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Echoes of Bable: Our New National Sin.  A convicting observation from Trevin Wax on our nation’s current position.

Ligon Duncan and Albert Mohler offer some excellent prayers for our new president.

Prosperity Gospel on Skid Row. Is the recession affecting the prosperity teachers?

Wireless Electricity.  I’m really excited for this…the efficiency and cleanliness of fewer cords and plugins! (HT: Matt Perman)

Life.  Please watch this video.  This is an ad airing in select markets on Black Entertainment Television.  (HT: JT)

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Stocks squeeze seminaries.  Read how the financial crisis is affecting seminaries.

The Pulpit Magazine is back.  Put this one back in the feeder…after a long time off, MacArthur and co. are back and begin with a series called “Clarifying Calvinism.”

D.A. Carson’s mp3’s are now free.  All 443 teachings of Carson are now available at the Gospel Coalition website.

Trying to avoid a cold? Studies show the effectiveness of sleep.  Should be old news, but interesting nonetheless.

Trying to read more and better? I always am, so thanks to Tony Reinke for his practical tips on being more efficient.  Tip 2. Tip 3

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