Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year Greetings fron the Bluesman!

Wishing all my friends, family and acquaintances a very blessed, joyful and peaceful New Year filled with the discovery of 2000 year old, 200-proof grace. Its time to blow aside the hangover of condemnation that hangs over us with the strong wind of gospel grace. You are not under law but under grace. Jesus is real; grace is defiant; life is short; risk is good. Happy New Year!

Eric Clapton & B.B. King- Key To The Highway

Walking Blues - Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Scuttle Buttin

If You Believe, You Shall Have All Things

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
Martin Luther concisely expounds on the “two words of God”–showing how the Law of God is intended to bring about desperation, a kind of desperation that only the Gospel of God can deliver us from. The Law reminds us that we’re a lot worse than we think we are; the Gospel tells us that God’s grace is infinitely bigger than we could have ever imagined.
Now, when a man has learned through the commandments to recognize his helplessness and is distressed about how he might satisfy the law–being truly humbled and reduced to nothing in his own eyes–he finds in himself nothing whereby he may be justified and saved.
Here the second part of Scripture comes to our aid, namely the promises of God which declare the glory of God, saying, “If you wish to fulfill the law, come believe in Christ in whom grace, righteousness, peace, liberty, and all things are promised to you. If you believe, you shall have all things; if you do not believe, you shall lack all things.”
Martin Luther, On Christian Liberty.  
Tullian Tchividjian

Friday, December 30, 2011

Corcovado - Oscar Peterson Trio - We Get Requests

"Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars)" - Antonio Carlos Jobim Piano - Oscar Peterson Double-bass - Ray Brown Drums - Ed Thigpen

Muddy Waters - I Feel So Good - Live at Newport

What to Do If You Wake Up Feeling Fragile

There are mornings when I wake up feeling fragile. Vulnerable. It’s often vague. No single threat. No one weakness. Just an amorphous sense that something is going to go wrong and I will be responsible. It’s usually after a lot of criticism. Lots of expectations that have deadlines and that seem too big and too many.
As I look back over about 50 years of such periodic mornings, I am amazed how the Lord Jesus has preserved my life. And my ministry. The temptation to run away from the stress has never won out — not yet anyway. This is amazing. I worship him for it.
How has he done this? By desperate prayer and particular promises. I agree with Spurgeon: I love the “I wills” and the “I shalls” of God.
Instead of letting me sink into a paralysis of fear, or run to a mirage of greener grass, he has awakened a cry for help and then answered with a concrete promise.
Here’s an example. This is recent. I woke up feeling emotionally fragile. Weak. Vulnerable. I prayed: “Lord help me. I’m not even sure how to pray.”
An hour later I was reading in Zechariah, seeking the help I had cried out for. It came. The prophet heard great news from an angel about Jerusalem:
Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and livestock in it. And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the Lord, and I will be the glory in her midst. (Zechariah 2:4–5)
There will be such prosperity and growth for the people of God that Jerusalem will not be able to be walled in any more. “The multitude of people and livestock” will be so many that Jerusalem will be like many villages spreading out across the land without walls.
But walls are necessary! They are the security against lawless hordes and enemy armies. Villages are fragile, weak, vulnerable. Prosperity is nice, but what about protection?
To which God says in Zechariah 2:5, “I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the Lord.” Yes. That’s it. That is the promise. The “I will” of God. That is what I need. And if it is true for the vulnerable villages of Jerusalem, it is true for me a child of God. God will be a “wall of fire all around me.” Yes. He will. He has been. And he will be.
And it gets better. Inside that fiery wall of protection he says, “And I will be the glory in her midst.” God is never content to give us the protection of his fire; he will give us pleasure of his presence.
This was sweet to me. This carried me for days. I took this with me to the pulpit. I took it with me to family gatherings. I took it to staff meetings. I took it to phone calls and emails.
This has been my deliverance every time since I was first marking my King James Bible at age 15. God has rescued me with cries for help and concrete promises. This time he said: “I will be to her a wall of fire all around, and I will be the glory in her midst.”
Cry out to him. Then ransack the Bible for his appointed promise. We are fragile. But he is not.
John Piper

T. S. Eliot Reads “Journey of the Magi”

First published in 1927, and read aloud by Eliot during a BBC interview broadcast during World War II:

 You can read the text here. A rare recording taken from a live interview T. S. Eliot did for the BBC, broadcast during World War II. The thing that comes through most clearly is that nobody reads Eliot like Eliot.

Presence Of The Lord - Gleen Kaiser with Larry Howard and Daryl Mansfield.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Albert King -- Everybody Wants to go to Heaven, But Nobody Wants to Die

Albert King - Angel of Mercy - 1972

No, Virginia, There is no Newt Gingrich

Know What the Therefore Is There For

One of the principles I learned about Scripture memory from the Navigators is that is that verses should be memorized “word perfect.” As Jesus reminded Satan by quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).
Take the Golden Rule:
Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them. (Matt. 7:2)
Right? Not exactly. It’s missing the first word: “So” (Greek: οὖν).
More fully, Jesus said:
So [or therefore], whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them. (Matt. 7:12)
This little word signals that you can’t understand this verse without understanding what precedes it. Jesus made arguments, not bumper stickers.

The word “so” shows that obeying this command depends on understanding the previous verse — verse 11 –
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Here Jesus promises that whenever we ask, our Father in heaven will always do good for us (especially the greatest good of giving us more of Himself).
We first must understand that God will always do good for us (v.11) — so therefore we can devote ourselves to doing good for others (v.12).
How to obey the Golden Rule
Jesus does not want us to obey the Golden Rule by gritting our teeth and ignoring our own needs so we can care for the needs of others.
He wants us to obey by first trusting all our needs to our Father in earnest prayer — resting in the fact that He is rejoicing to do us good with all His heart and soul.
Then — trusting that God is passionately pursuing us with good — we can devote ourselves to doing good for others.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I have known the Golden Rule for decades but failed to see the connection with the previous verse. At his new blog, Steve Fuller explains why the first word is actually the most important word in the Golden Rule if you want to apply it with gospel freedom.
I encourage you to read the whole thing. You’ll know what the “therefore” is there for!
Justin Taylor

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Little Walter - Chicken Shack

Little Walter - Everybody Needs Somebody

Christmas is God’s answer to the slavery of self-salvation

I hope and pray that today is a day of restful reorientation for those of you who are being crushed under the weight of trying to make it on your own.
For those who feel the acute pressure of thinking you have to change your spouse if you’re going to be happy, you have to be on top of everything if you’re going to make it, you have to infallibly protect your kids if they’re going to turn out OK, you have to control what others think about you if you’re going to feel important, you have to be the best if your life is going to count, you have to be successful if you’re ever going to satisfy the deep desire for parental approval, and so on and so forth…Christmas is for you.
The Incarnation frees us from what Paul Zahl calls “the law of capability”—the law, he says, “that judges us wanting if we are not capable, if we cannot handle it all, if we are not competent to balance our diverse commitments without a slip.” Because of Christmas, we are now endowed with the strength to admit that we can’t make it on our own–that we’re weak and needy and restless. Since our identity is now anchored in Jesus’ strength, our weaknesses don’t threaten our sense of worth and significance–our security. We’re now free to admit our faults and failures without feeling like our flesh is being ripped off our bones.
The Incarnation of Christ serves as a glorious reminder that God’s willingness to clean things up is infinitely bigger than our willingness to mess things up. The arrival of God Himself in the flesh sets us free from the pressure we feel to save ourselves from loneliness and lostness, despair and dejection.
In short, Christmas is God’s answer to the slavery of self-salvation.
Whether it’s by trying harder or giving up, being good or bad, pursuing wisdom or foolishness, sacrificially giving or selfishly taking, we suffer under the weight of looking to ourselves for life’s answer.
 Christmas celebrates the glorious truth that no matter how hard we try, we can’t do it. Apart from the Incarnation we are left to our own devices. But Jesus came to liberate us from the pressure of having to fix ourselves, find ourselves, and free ourselves. He came to rescue us from the slavish need to be right, rewarded, regarded, and respected. He came to relieve us of the burden we inherently feel to trust in ourselves in order “to get it done.” Because Jesus came to secure for us what we could never secure for ourselves, life ceases to be a tireless effort to establish ourselves, justify ourselves, validate ourselves.
Because of Christmas, we have nothing to prove or protect. We can stop pretending. We can take off our masks and be real. We hold the wining hand. We have nothing to lose.
The liberating power of Christmas frees us from trying to impress people, appease people, measure up for people, or prove ourselves to people. The Incarnation frees us from the burden of trying to control what other people think about us. It frees us from the miserable, unquenchable pursuit to make something of ourselves by using others.
The Incarnation is God’s shout: “You’re free!”
As Everything, he became nothing so that you–as nothing–could have everything.
Tullian Tchividjian

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Emmylou Harris - Deeper Well

How The Gingrinch Stole Mittmas

There are no Ordinary People - The Importance of Loving Others

The first, from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together:
The beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them.
We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.
God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.
We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks, as the priest passed by the man who had fallen among thieves, perhaps—reading the Bible.
The second, from C.S. Lewis’s The Weight of Glory:

It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.
All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.
It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.
There are no ordinary people.
You have never talked to a mere mortal.
Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.
But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn.
We must play.
But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.
And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.
Justin Taylor

John Popper & Eric Clapton - Christmas Whithout You

Monday, December 26, 2011

Howlin' Wolf / Worried About My Baby

The Dim Bulbs Of Congress

Without the “Holy Night,” There Is No Theology

Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
No priest, no theologian stood at the manger of Bethlehem. And yet all Christian theology has its origin in the wonder of all wonders: that God became human. Holy theology arises from knees bent before the mystery of the divine child in the stable.
Without the holy night, there is no theology. “God is revealed in flesh,” the God-human Jesus Christ—that is the holy mystery that theology came into being to protect and preserve.
How we fail to understand when we think that the task of theology is to solve the mystery of God, to drag it down to the flat, ordinary wisdom of human experience and reason! Its sole office is to preserve the miracle as miracle, to comprehend, defend, and glorify God’s mystery precisely as mystery. This and nothing else, therefore, is what the early church meant when, with never flagging zeal, it dealt with the mystery of the Trinity and the person of Jesus Christ…
If Christmas time cannot ignite within us again something like a love for holy theology, so that we—captured and compelled by the wonder of the manger of the Son of God—must reverently reflect on the mysteries of God, then it must be that the glow of the divine mysteries has also been extinguished in our heart and has died out.
Trevin Wax

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Michael Bublé~Have yourself a merry little Christmas

What Child Is This - Mercy Me

Christmas in a Nutshell

Scrooge, Overjoyed - Christmas Cannot Be Contained

We have short memories of poor, wretched Ebenezer Scrooge. Here was a fallen man in desperate need of redemption, with absolutely no desire to turn from his egregious ways. Then three spirits visited him, and all changed overnight. But the Scrooge we remember is not the forgiven one. It is not the redeemed curmudgeon whose joy on Christmas morning led him to leap through the air like a drunken man, exclaiming "Glorious, glorious!" We like to keep Scrooge locked in our hearts as the greedy, depraved, unregenerate sinner of his pre-visitation, using him as a cautionary tale about the damning effects of pursuing money and gain.
Ebenezer found joy, but we rarely let him have it. Yet when this joy was finally loosed in him, it knew no bounds.
Bob Cratchit, Scrooge's lowly employee, had a joy that transcended his earthly circumstances, which included a sick child, intolerable working conditions, and a salary that barely afforded him the essential provisions to feed his family. But it was Cratchit's joy that led him to hope for his son, feel charity toward his boss, and celebrate Christmas with an overflowing heart. Bob Cratchit had a joy that could not be contained.

Joy Diminished

Christmas cannot be contained, because the gospel can never be silenced. The world cannot shut out the light of Christ shining in the hearts of his children. But sometimes we find the light has dimmed. Writing in A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens tells us that Cratchit's wife initially refused to participate in a toast to Scrooge on Christmas. We're tempted to follow her example. We let bitterness, anger, and discontentment dim the light of Christ's birth from shining brighter in our lives. Though God has given us every good thing through the birth of his son, we have chosen instead to harbor doubt and distrust and condemn the very spirit of Christmas. Angry that Christmas has morphed into a commercial spectacle devoid of meaning we must defend, some of us have become angry little elves.
Even though Christmas has been somewhat corrupted, there's almost no other time of the year when talking about the gospel is so acceptable. It is stunning to turn on CBS and hear Linus reading from the Gospel of Luke in A Charlie Brown Christmas, or watch Christmas at Rockefeller Center and hear a pop star sing Joy to the World. When else is the gospel so prominently proclaimed?
Yet we want to play the Christmas police and protect the "real meaning of the season." Why do we expect a world that lives in darkness to understand Christmas in a way that only believers can? Are we Pharisees who want people to say the right words with the wrong hearts? Do we replace love for disgust, joy for disdain, peace for confusion, patience with intolerance, kindness for selfishness, faithfulness for ignorance, gentleness for harshness, and self control for selfish ambition?
May it never be said of us. Instead, let us display the heart of Christ to a world that desperately needs changed hearts.
Dickens did not write a gospel story, but A Christmas Carol still gives us a glorious model of a sinner's transformation from darkness into light. From a contaminated heart to joy uncontained.
For Ebenezer Scrooge, there was no Christ in Christmas until after he was redeemed. Let us all remember Scrooge for what he became to remind ourselves of who we once were.
Gospel Coalition

Satellite Image of North and South Korea

The area of the map with no light is North Korea.  The lit up part is South Korea.  Northeast of North Korea is China.  A picture says a thousand words.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bob Dylan 1986 - It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) (With Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers)

Bob Dylan Live 1986

Gerhard Forde, Walter White and Aggressive vs. Passive Death (and Resurrection!)

I’m in the middle of both reading Gerhard Forde’s Justification by Faith: A Matter of Death and Life and watching Breaking Bad on Netflix. It’s quite a combo. And it has me thinking about how addicted we are to our notions of free will and how deeply that addiction affects our relationships with each other. I was expressing some thoughts along these lines to a friend the other day – how our wills maybe aren’t as free as we’d like to think and how good works may not be something we’re ultimately capable of, in and of ourselves – and she reacted as if I was telling her that I’m an alien from another planet. “I make choices everyday, I’m not a robot,” she insisted, inadvertently confusing what I was saying with the idea of free agency. (Free agency has to do with the obvious choices we make everyday, like getting out of bed and going to work – good things that keep our society functioning and safe, but which are fundamentally distinct from the question “are we able to choose to DO good of our own free will?”).
Breaking Bad, as you may know, is the story of an over-qualified high school chemistry teacher named Walter White who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and decides to cook methamphetamine in order to provide for his family after he’s gone. The moral ambiguity is there from the start: he breaks the law, but there are some undeniably good intentions at work. I won’t spoil it with any more details (disclaimer: it has inappropriate material for all kids and some adults). My wife calls the show a car accident in slow motion. We keep watching this downward spiral of man trying to DO some good for the people he loves most, that have been entrusted to his care, and yet the harder he tries, the deeper and deeper he plunges into an enormous mess.
 Forde’s book offers a very different understanding of Christianity than what most of us perceive it to be. The message we commonly hear, not just in church pulpits but on Oprah to Dr. Phil, is essentially a boiled-down Golden Rule: a code to follow that will change our behavior, improve the world, and get us closer to God. “Do onto others as you’d have them do onto you.” Of course, we also find this message in the Bible, and from the mouth of Christ specifically – in his articulation of the Law. In Matthew (22:36-40), when a man asks Jesus what the greatest commandment is, he replies “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Since the Law is written on the heart of every man, the rules resonate with us and even seem like good news. If we think we’re capable of fulfilling them on our own, that is. What I’d like to explore in this post is what we often hear about on Mockingbird: What if we aren’t capable of fulfilling the Golden Rule or Greatest Commandment perfectly? What do we DO then?
To get at the root of the issue we need to understand passive death, passive resurrection (which sounds a bit silly, as who can resurrect themselves?), and future hope. The Christian “Life,” or should we start calling it the Christian “Death,” is a period in history when we have the opportunity to follow what early Christians called The Way, to live as Christ lived, holy and righteous and perfect. If we are free and capable of loving as we should, then the advice “Be like Jesus” is good news. But if our will is compromised, these words have a different effect. They crush us like a giant hammer over the head, “BE LIKE GOD!” It’s the Law turned up to its highest degree. Forde puts it like this:
“For the point is that the unconditional declaration of justification, the imputation, the flat-out declaration, that which offends and shocks us so, that which shatters all our ambitions for “something to do” –that declaration is our death and our life, the new beginning. It is the act which recreates, redeems God’s creation. Death, you see, is put in the position of not being able to do anything according to the ways of this world—the law, religion, the upward climb—with all its plans and schemes. They suddenly stop, come to an end: “I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.” Both our vices and our virtues come to a full stop. The justification declaration is precisely that: a full stop “You have died,” says Paul. It is all over!”

 “We receive his Holiness”, “We are made perfect in Christ,” “He clothes us in His righteousness,” “We have died.” These passive words actually describe the Christian Life…. I mean Death...: how to die well and hope in the Gospel. Die well, what a silly notion. Talk about a marketing message that won’t put bodies in the seats at church! “Come by Sunday morning at 10 o’clock for coffee at the Sunshine Café, jam out with our praise band, and, oh yes, learn how to die well.” It just doesn’t fit.
By “die well” we are not talking about “aggressive death,” which is actually the active, conscious, and desperate refusal to die, the death of the narcissistic, me-focused, selfish, desperate person that doesn’t want to die. (I can’t help but think of the final scene of Scarface). Aggressive death shows no mercy and always demands a pound of flesh. It forgives only those who can change their behavior. It can’t risk love due to self-preservation. We’ve all engaged in this, flailing around, refusing to give up and hurting those closest to us. This is Walter White. Aggressive death contains no hope of life or resurrection!
Again, the question we need to answer is, “Are we free to love as we should? Or is our situation a bit more complicated/compromised?” If our will is bound and we can’t live a perfect righteous life (as Christ did), maybe we can die as Christ died, a “passive death.” Of course, sometimes it’s easier to SEE NO EVIL.
So what does the life – I keep doing that (it takes a miracle to change the way we think) – I mean the passive death of a Christian look like? A passive death might look like acquiescence and sacrifice. It might even look like the MOTH Story where a person in need of help from someone who seems to be their enemy

So how do you forgive people that continue to take advantage of you over and over? How do you show mercy to someone you know will turn around to another and force them to “PAY UP!”? How do you trust someone that has no track record of being trustworthy, or worse, a record of compulsive lying? How do you love the unlovable unconditionally? This I find to be the hardest because when those you love the most can’t change a behavior, to love them anyway requires a great sacrifice and huge risk in rejection. Talk to any family member of someone bound to an addiction. To love someone unconditionally risks everything. So why would anyone spend time dying (didn’t say living this time!) like this?
The only answer I’ve found lies in understanding my own addictions/bound will and the Hope in believing that Christ was crucified for my transgressions and raised for my justification. And that, by faith, I’m now free, free to die and therefore free to live.

Mary, Don't You Weep- Aaron Neville

Aaron Neville - Please Come Home For Christmas

The Difference Between A Giant And A Dwarf

What Is True Spirituality?

“The evangelical orientation is inward and subjective. We are far better at looking inward than we are at looking outward.”
Sinclair Ferguson
The word spirituality conjures up all sorts of images and ideas. For non-Religious–or secular–people, spirituality is nothing more than “an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being…aspects of life and human experience which go beyond a purely materialist view of the world without necessarily accepting belief in a supernatural reality or divine being.” Of course, Christians reject this idea of spirituality. Whatever we Christians believe about spirituality, we assume that it has something to do with intimacy with a personal creator God who exists outside of us and has revealed himself to us.
There is, however, one area in which–it seems–both Christian and secular people agree when it comes to spirituality. Spirituality for both is purely subjective and private.
Whether it’s a secular or Christian version, a spiritual person (in the minds of most modern people) is a person who focuses on “the inside of life.” Most Christians I talk to think about spirituality exclusively in terms of personal piety, internal devotion, and spiritual formation. The focus is almost entirely on individual, inward renewal and private disciplines: praying, reading the Bible, meditation, spiritual retreat, contemplation, and so on. True spirituality, we conclude, is predominately quiet–focusing on the interior of life.
To be sure, personal disciplines are indispensable aspects of staying tethered to the truth of gospel (you’ll shrink without them), empowering and nurturing love for God and others. But it’s interesting that when James makes his strong point in 2:14-26 about faith without works being dead, what he describes are not works of subjective “spirituality” but selfless service:
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (James 2:15)
As Mike Horton wrote recently, “True spirituality may be personal, but it’s not private. It is wildly, unashamedly, thoroughly public.”
Similarly, in James 1:27 he writes (the only place in the Bible where the word “religion” is used positively):
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Even in that last phrase “keep oneself unstained from the world”, he’s not talking about monastic retreat, private meditation, or even personal piety. The contextual implication there involves the need to “wash our hands of worldliness” which, throughout the book of James, is defined as self-absorption-a “my life for me” approach to life in contrast from a “my life for you” approach to life. Worldliness, according to James, is me thinking always about me (see James 4:1-3).
 Therefore, in both James 1:27 and 2:15, he’s making it clear that true spirituality actually take us away from ourselves and into the messy lives of other people–it’s “down to earth”, focusing primarily on the outside of life rather than on the inside of life. It is not simply introverted, but extroverted—it doesn’t take me deeper into me; it sends me away from me. Real spirituality is forgetting about yourself, washing your hands of you.
One serious consequence of concluding that true spirituality is exclusively introspective–that it’s all about internal betterment–is that we fail to see the needs of our neighbor and serve them, which is James’ definition of “good works.” After all, as Martin Luther said, “God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does.”
As I mentioned in a post last week, the biggest difference between the practical effect of sin and the practical effect of the gospel is that sin turns us inward (homo incurvatus in se) and the gospel turns us upward and outward.  We were designed to embrace God and others, but instead we are now consumed with ourselves. The gospel causes us to look up to Christ and what he did, out to our neighbor and what they need, not in to ourselves and how we’re doing.
The beautiful irony, of course, is that you and I are renewed inwardly to the degree that we focus not on inward renewal but upward worship and outward service.
Excerpt from Jesus + Nothing = Everything
Tullian Tchividjian

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

John Coltrane - What Child Is This? (Greensleeves) Live @ Village Vanguard (1961)

"What Child Is This?" is a popular Christmas carol written in 1865. At the age of twenty-nine, English writer William Chatterton Dix was struck with a sudden near-fatal illness and confined to bedrest for several months, during which he went into a deep depression. Yet out of his near-death experience, Dix wrote many hymns, including "What Child is This?", later set to the traditional English tune "Greensleeves."

Christmas In Heaven - B.B. King

Forever Forgiven

From Sam Storms' meditations on Colossians, The Hope of Glory...#20, p.72...

"God has taken your sin and placed it out of sight behind his back. All he sees now when he sees you is the blessed righteousness of his own dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Such is the love of forgiveness.

Still not good enough? Still not convinced? Still afraid that your sins will do you in? Then pay close attention to the word of the prophet Micah...He has something important to say about the kind of God we have:

 "Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea" (Mic. 7:18-19).
How much more graphic do you demand God to be before you enter into the joy of his forgiving love? All vestige of condemning guilt is gone. Again, "just as God said he put our sins behind his back, so here he says he will hurl them into the depths of the sea. They will not 'fall overboard' ; God will hurl them into the depths. he wants them to be lost forever, because he has fully dealt with them in his Son, Jesus Christ."
Glimpses of Grace

All Shook Up - The Jeff Beck Group

The Hobbit Official Trailer #1 - Lord of the Rings Movie (2012) HD

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Drifters - Santa Claus Got The Blues

Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin' - Albert King

Poster for Tim Burton's upcoming Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter is a thriller/horror movie coming June 2012.
 President Lincoln’s mother is killed by a supernatural creature, which fuels his passion to crush vampires and their slave-owning helpers.

The Difference between Union and Communion with God

Kelly Kapic:
It is important to note that Owen maintains an essential distinction between union and communion.
Believers are united to Christ in God by the Spirit. This union is a unilateral action by God, in which those who were dead are made alive, those who lived in darkness begin to see the light, and those who were enslaved to sin are set free to be loved and to love. When one speaks of “union,” it must be clear that the human person is merely receptive, being the object of God’s gracious action. This is the state and condition of all true saints.
Communion with God, however, is distinct from union. Those who are united to Christ are called to respond to God’s loving embrace. While union with Christ is something that does not ebb and flow, one’s experience of communion with Christ can fluctuate.
This is an important theological and experiential distinction, for it protects the biblical truth that we are saved by radical and free divine grace.
Furthermore, this distinction also protects the biblical truth that the children of God have a relationship with their Lord, and as a relationship, there are things that can either help or hinder it. When a believer grows comfortable with sin (whether sins of commission or sins of omission) this invariably affects the level of intimacy this person feels with God. It is not that the Father’s love grows and diminishes for his children in accordance with their actions, for his love is unflinching. It is not that God runs from us, but we run from him. Sin tends to isolate the believer, making him feel distant from God. Then come the accusations—both from Satan and self—which can make the believer worry he is under God’s wrath. In truth, however, saints stand not under wrath, but in the safe shadow of the cross.
While a saint’s consistency in prayer, corporate worship, and biblical meditation are not things that make God love him more or less, such activities tend to foster the beautiful experience of communion with God. Temptations and neglect threaten the communion, but not the union [Works, 2:126]. And it is this union which encourages the believer to turn from sin to the God who is quick to forgive, abounding in compassion, and faithful in his unending love.
Let there be no misunderstanding—for Owen, Christian obedience was of utmost importance, but it was always understood to flow out of this union, and never seen as the ground for it. In harmony with Bunyan and other Dissenters like him, Owen “insisted upon a very personal and emotional experience of union with Christ and the Holy Spirit,” and out of this union naturally flowed active communion.

Kelly M. Kapic, “Worshiping the Triune God: Insights from John Owen,” introduction to John Owen, Communion with the Triune God, ed. Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor; foreword by Kevin J. Vanhoozer (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), pp. 21-22.
Justin Taylor

Monday, December 19, 2011

Jeff Beck Group - You Shook Me

Gregg Allman - House Of Blues

Logic Illustrated at the Breakfast Table

The “square of opposition” is a nifty way to see several logical relationships between four types of propositions. Substitute something in for S (subject) and P (predicate) and you can see how this works.
Let’s use “Evangelical” for “S” and “Republican” for P.
There are four possible relationships.
Two universal propositions:
  • A: All Evangelicals are Republicans (universal affirmative)
  • E: No Evangelicals are Republicans (universal negative)
And two particular propositions:
  • I: Some Evangelicals are Republicans (particular affirmative)
  • O: Some Evangelicals are not Republicans (particular negative)
There are multiple observations that can be made, but here are a just couple of practical implications.
1. If you want to refute a claim, identify what kind of thing is being proposed. In a sense, the stronger the claim the easier the potential refutation. For example, if someone affirms a universal (A or E), one only needs to find a single example to count as a “contradiction” (follow the diagonal line). In other words, if I claim A (All Evangelicals are Republicans) you only need to provide one counter-example of an Evangelical Democrat to demonstrate O (Some Evangelicals are not Republicans). Similarly, in responding to E (No Evangelicals are Republicans) you only need to find one Republican Evangelical to demonstrate the contradictory I (Some Evangelicals are Republicans).
2. In making a claim, avoid universal claims unless there can be no possible exception. Make a claim that you can defend.
A couple of years ago at the breakfast table my 4-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter provided a nice example of the square of opposition in action:
4-year-old: I know everything.
6-year-old: No, you don’t.
4-year-old: Yes, I do!
6-year-old: Ok . . . then what do cheetahs eat?
4-year-old: (Long pause.)
6-year-old: See, you don’t know everything!
Score one for the 6-year-old. She took his propositional claim (“I know everything”) and intuitively recognized that in order to refute it, she did not need to prove the contrary claim (i.e., “You know nothing”) but only had to show a contradiction with his proposal (i.e., “There’s at least one thing you don’t know”).
And of course if he had given the right answer—they eat eat gazelles, impala, deer, and also rabbits, frogs, birds, lizards, eggs, and watermelon—that still wouldn’t have proven his claim. She would just need to figure out another contradiction.
Justin Taylor

Nike Santa - Just Do It!

Mass hysteria and weeping in North Korea at the death of Kim Jong Il

The news of the North Korea's leader death has put the 24-million population on the verge of insanity, hyped up by unceasing TV broadcast of mass mourning throughout the country. ­North Korea's national flag is flying at half-mast today on every flagpole in the country. As Johnny Cash sang, sooner or latter God's gonna cut you down.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

George Harrison and Bob Dylan 'Love minus zero/no limit'

Concert for Bangladesh 1971 at Madison Square Garden NYC

Steve Earle - Jerusalem

Does Grace Produce Disobedience?

There seems to be a fear out there that the preaching of grace produces serial killers. Or, to put it in more theological terms, too much emphasis on the indicatives of the gospel leads to antinomianism (a heretical version of Christianity that believes there is no place for God’s law in the life of a Christian). My problem with this fear is that I’ve never actually met anyone who has been truly gripped by God’s amazing grace in the gospel who then doesn’t care about obeying him. When our hearts are genuinely grasped by God’s unconditional love, the last thing we want to ask is, “What can I get away with?” Those who conclude, “Goody, I can now continue in sin til my heart’s content” prove that they don’t get grace. As I’ve said before: antinomianism happens not when we think too much of grace. Just the opposite, actually. Antinomianism happens when we think too little of grace.
Tullian Tchividjian

The Nanny State Strikes Again

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Muddy Waters - "Soon Forgotten"

Muddy Waters "Blues And Trouble" (1969)

From his 1969 album "After The Rain" Muddy Waters - Vocals, lead guitar tracks 3, 5, 6 & 8 Phil Upchurch - Guitar Morris Jennings - Drums Otis Spann - Piano Louis Satterfield - Bass Pete Cosey - Guitar Charles Stepney - Organ Paul Oscher - Harmonica

4 Alaskan deer saved from drowning by local good-Samaritan boaters

This is a crazy story with a fortunately happy ending that took place back in October, 2010.
From Northern Sports Network
A foursome of young button bucks fell upon some good luck Sunday as they were pulled from the icy waters of Stephens Passage by a group of locals out to enjoy the last few days of recent sunshine.…

 Once they reached the vessel, Satre said they began to circle the boat and looked obviously distressed. The typically skittish and absolutely wild animals came willingly and once on the boat, collapsed with exhaustion. They were shivering.

Witnesses reported all the deer recovered fully from what appeared to be exhaustion and a bit of  hypothermia.
Read more at Juneau Empire.

Why Then Must We Still Do Good?

Q. We have been delivered from our misery by God’s grace alone through Christ and not because we have earned it: why then must we still do good?
A. To be sure, Christ has redeemed us by his blood.  But we do good because Christ by his Spirit is also renewing us to be like himself, so that in all our living we may show that we are thankful to God for all he has done for us, and so that he may be praised through us.  And we do good so that we may be assured of our faith by its fruits, and so that by our godly living our neighbors may be won over to Christ. (Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 86)
One of the common objections to the Christian view of salvation, especially in its Reformed expression, is that salvation by grace alone through faith alone leads to moral license.  If we can’t earn one tiny iota of deliverance from sin by our good works, then why do good at all?
The Heidelberg Catechism gives five reasons why those in Christ must still do good.
First, we do good because the Holy Spirit is working in us to make us more like Jesus (2 Cor. 3:18).  The same Spirit who caused us to be born again and enabled us to believe will also work to make us holy (Rom. 6:9-11).
Second, we do good out of gratitude (Rom. 12:1-2).  This is not to suggest that God saves us and then we work the rest of our lives to pay him back for the favor (Rom. 11:33-36).  Rather, we do good because the wonder of our salvation produces such thankfulness in our hearts that it is our pleasure to serve God.
Third, we do good so that God might be praised by the works we display in his name.  “By this my Father is gloried,” Jesus said, “that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8).
Fourth, we do good so that we can be assured of our right standing before God.  Faith alone justifies, but the faith that justifies is never alone.  By bearing good fruit, we show that we are a good tree (Matt. 7:15-20) and make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10).
Fifth, we do good in order that we might adorn the gospel (Titus 2:10) and make it attractive to outsiders (1 Peter 2:12).
Clearly, the Bible is not indifferent to good works.  Christians who live in habitual, unrepentant sin show themselves not to be true Christians.  Of course, we all stumble (James 3:2; 1 John 1:8).  But there’s a difference between falling into sin and jumping in with both feet.  It doesn’t matter the sin—pride, slander, robbery, covetousness, or sexual immorality—if we give ourselves to it and live in it with joyful abandon, we will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Simply put, people walking day after day in the same sin without a fight or repentance go to hell (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; 1 John 3:14). And on the flip side, people walking day after day in the light of the gospel and in view of their union with Christ, will–imperfectly, but truly–learn to do good, be good, and get better.
Kevin DeYoung

Friday, December 16, 2011

Norah Jones: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

Eric Clapton - Somewhere Over The Rainbow HD

Examining Our Thirst for Social Justice

Doug Wilson:
You have a button in front of you, placed there by a helpful genie. But instead of giving you the standard three wishes (and why doesn't anybody ever wish for ten wishes?), the genie has limited your options.
If you push the button, the real income of all the "have-nots" in the world will double overnight. Their health care will be twice as good as it is now, their disposable income will be twice as large, their houses will be twice as nice, and so on. But another consequence of pushing this button will also be the fact that the "haves" will see their prosperity increase ten-fold. They will all be ten times richer, thus enabling them to swank around all day.
To spell it out, this means that the divide between the rich and poor will widen, but will do so in a way that leaves the poor undeniably better off.
This is your ethical "dilemma," and part of your test is whether or not you even think of it as a dilemma. Would you refuse to push that button out of hard principle? Would you push it, but with a guilty conscience? Or would you, like me, push it while whistling a cheerful air, with your hat on the side of your head?
If you would not push it, or if you would push it reluctantly, then that urgent yearning for social justice that you feel all the time in your gut is not compassion at all, but cancerous envy. It is evil. It is a deadly sin that must be mortified. You don't love the poor at all -- you hate the rich, and you want to use the poor as a club. And why would this malevolent genie want to take your precious club away?
HT: Chris Gensheer

Good Question From Jimmy Kimmel

Barbara Walters named her 10 most fascinating people of the year last night here on ABC. The list included the Kardashian family, Donald Trump, Simon Cowell and Katy Perry. Is that a list of the most fascinating people or a list of the reasons the terrorists hate us?

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011)

Christopher Hitchens died on Thursday night at the age of 62, after a 18-month battle with esophageal cancer.
He was a brilliant and entertaining man. He was enormously gifted, and in his final years he took those gifts and used them to mock God, using his considerable wit and sharp tongue to convince as many people as possible to do the same.
When I had a crisis of faith my freshman year at a secular university studying religion, I was deeply convinced that there were only two options: full-blown Christian orthodoxy or atheism. Liberal theology—with its fantasy of rescuing the “kernel” (or essence) of Christianity from the (disposable) “husk” of dogma—had no appeal to me. And this is one of the things I appreciated about Hitchens. He once expressed incredulity at the platitudes of a Unitarian minister who saw the beauty of Jesus’ moral teachings while rejecting his divinity:
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 wrote:
Absent a direct line to the Almighty and a conviction that the last days are upon us, how is it “moral” to teach people to abandon their families, give up on thrift and husbandry and take to the stony roads?
How is it moral to claim a monopoly on access to heaven, or to threaten waverers with everlasting fire, let alone to condemn fig trees and persuade devils to infest the bodies of pigs?
Such a person if not divine would be a sorcerer and a ­fanatic.
He saw the choice before him, and he rejected the Savior.
Hitchens suspected there would be rumors of a deathbed conversion—but even more he feared that he might actually call out to God. Speaking perhaps truer than he knew, he sought to give a preemptive strike against such a possibility, explaining that would not be the real Christopher Hitchens doing such a thing:
Even if my voice goes before I do, I shall continue to write polemics against religious delusions, at least until it’s hello darkness my old friend. In which case, why not cancer of the brain? As a terrified, half-aware imbecile, I might even scream for a priest at the close of business, though I hereby state while I am still lucid that the entity thus humiliating itself would not in fact be “me.” (Bear this in mind, in case of any later rumors or fabrications.)
The section that sticks with me most from the Hitchens/Wilson debate-documentary Collision is the final scene. It is a telling moment, especially given that the subtitle of his bestselling book God Is Not Great effectively summarized the thesis of the book: How Religion Poisons Everything. More specifically, he wrote that organized religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children.” But in the back of this car with Doug, he reveals a difference between himself and Richard Dawkins:

Our heart and prayers go out to Christopher’s younger brother Peter—the author of The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith—in his time of grief and sorrow.
Douglas Wilson’s obituary is worth reading, especially as he explores the possibility of Christopher turning to Christ at the end.
Justin Taylor

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Getting Ready For Christmas Day | Paul Simon

Here's Paul Simon's "Getting Ready For Christmas Day" from his Spring 2011 album release, SO BEAUTIFUL OR SO WHAT. This is one of my new favorite Christmas songs. The preacher in the background is from a recording Paul found that he uses as background.

Who Thought This Was A Good Idea For The Navy?

Dying without Christ

From Christopher Hitchens’s latest article in Vanity Fair, written from a cancer center in Houston where he is undergoing chemo:
I am typing this having just had an injection to try to reduce the pain in my arms, hands, and fingers. The chief side effect of this pain is numbness in the extremities, filling me with the not irrational fear that I shall lose the ability to write. Without that ability, I feel sure in advance, my “will to live” would be hugely attenuated. I often grandly say that writing is not just my living and my livelihood but my very life, and it’s true. Almost like the threatened loss of my voice, which is currently being alleviated by some temporary injections into my vocal folds, I feel my personality and identity dissolving as I contemplate dead hands and the loss of the transmission belts that connect me to writing and thinking.
When our identity and our idolatry become one and the same, the prospect of death can only lead to “unyielding despair.” Let us continue to pray for mercy and grace that would open the eyes of this enormously gifted man to see the Lord and Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.

Justin Taylor

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Zombies and Democrats - Very Funny Line!

Bob Hope delivers a very funny line. From the movie "The Ghost Breakers".

Steve Earle - Feel Alright

Delbert McClinton - Blues as Blues Can Get

How To Stop Being Neurotic And Self-absorbed

Ironically, what I’ve discovered is that the more I focus on my need to get better the worse I actually get–I become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with my performance over Christ’s performance for me actually hinders my growth because it makes me increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective–the exact opposite of how the Bible describes what it means to be sanctified. Sanctification is forgetting about yourself. “He must increase but I must decrease” (John 3:30) properly describes the painful sanctification process. “Decreasing” is impossible for the one who keeps thinking about himself. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis reminded us that we’ll know a truly humble man when we meet him because “He will not be thinking about humility: he will not, in fact, be thinking about himself at all.” When we spend more time thinking about ourselves and how we’re doing then we do about Jesus and what he’s done, we shrink. As J.C. Kromsigt said, “The good seed cannot flourish when it is repeatedly dug up for the purpose of examining its growth.”

Tullian Tchividjian

Snow makes people park like idiots


God’s Funeral

An exchange between Martin Luther and his wife Katharina:
“Once, when Martin was so depressed that none of Kate’s counsel would help, she put on a black dress.
Luther noticed it and asked, ‘Are you going to a funeral?’
‘No,’ Kate replied, ‘but since you act like God is dead, I wanted to join you in your mourning.’
Luther got the message and recovered.”
—Rudolf K. Markwald and Marilynn Morris Markwald, Katharina Von Bora: A Reformation Life (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2002), 139-140.

Justin Taylor

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Alec Baldwin a Man Who Overestimates His Own Importance

Hot-head Alec Baldwin was kicked off an American Airlines flight this afternoon in Los Angeles because he was playing a game on his phone apparently past the point when passengers are supposed to have turned off their devices.
"On an AA flight at LAX. Alec Baldwin was removed from the plane. We had to go back to the gate. Terrible that everyone had to wait."
Baldwin was aboard AA Flight 4, which was delayed an hour, when the "30 Rock" star was booted for not listening to the flight attendant.
Passenger Steve Weiss, who was sitting across the isle from Baldwin, described the scene.
"Apparently he said he was playing a game, but he was actually talking on the phone. She [the flight attendant] was very nice. The door was closed they just announced that they were pulling away from the gate. He got up threw his papers on the floor stormed into the bathroom slammed the door closed, beat on the wall and then came back."
"He said 'If you want to kick me off, kick me off.' He was just crazy, he just flipped out, the guy has problems."

Muddy Waters - Corrine, Corrina (Live in Chicago, 1979)

Albert King - Gonna Make It Somehow

Is God Helping Tim Tebow Win?

The other night Bob Costas raised—and ultimately dismissed—the possibility of God’s role in the nearly unbelievable string of Broncos victories with their unabashed evangelical quarterback Tim Tebow at the helm:
The combination of Denver’s continuing late heroics, and today, the Bears’ otherwise unexplainable errors, is enough to have some at least suspect divine intervention. Except that Tebow, whose sincere faith cannot be questioned, and should be respected, also has the good sense, and good grace, to make it clear he does not believe God takes a hand in the outcome of games.
Most of us are good with that. Otherwise, how to explain what happens when there are equal numbers of believers on either side? Or why so many of those same believers came up empty facing Sandy Koufax? Or hit the deck against Muhammad Ali? Or why the Almighty wouldn’t have better things to do?
Which raises the question: how should believers think about this improbable season? About sports games in general? Why would God care who wins and who loses? Isn’t it dangerous to think God is pulling for one team over another?
We need some thoughtful theological reflection here, and I’m thankful that Owen Strachan has provided exactly that. After providing some important background and clarification, Strachan writes, “we’re positioned to answer a question that, as we can see, requires more care than your average drive-time call-in show may gave it.”
Here’s the upshot of his piece:
God oversees and ordains all that comes to pass. This includes, as surprising as it may initially seem, football games. The outcome of every football game ever been played was planned by the all-wise, all-seeing mind of God. But this is not saying what some might think. God has also planned every haircut you’ve ever had, and every shopping trip you’ve ever taken. He is lord of football, and he is lord of produce. Nothing happens outside of his sovereign direction.
We err, though, if we equate his general superintendence of this world—the falling of sparrows, the numbering of hairs—with the special working of his kingdom. This is what Costas seems to be protesting, and in a much fuller sense than he understands. God has a special interest in promoting his gospel and building his church (John 3:16; Rom. 10; Eph. 1). This is not to say that he is uninterested in the ordinary things of the world, but rather to note that the mission of salvation begun after Adam’s fall holds preeminence for God and, by extension, for his followers.
We must also say that for Tebow, the way he plays football is necessarily a matter of God’s glory. In the same way that God gains glory through the work of a faithful accountant, a sacrificial, sleep-deprived mother, and a repentant cellist, God gains glory through righteous athletes who work hard in his name and seek to be a light in dark places. God directs the life and exploits of Tim Tebow, football hero. But he also directs Owen Strachan, Boyce College professor, or my friend Colin LeCroy, a Dallas lawyer, or my friend Emily Duffus, an Atlanta schoolteacher. Tebow may reach more people in his work, but we are all working for the glory of God, who directs and blesses our work so as to magnify his name.
I encourage you to read the whole thing. It’s an important, careful answer to a question that is rarely this front and center in our culture.
Justin Taylor

Monday, December 12, 2011

Jeff Beck Group - Shapes Of Things

Jeff Beck - Let me love you

Great guitar playing. Always one of my favorite albums.

I Don't Think She's Coming Back

But I Will Always Help You

'I do really wish to destroy it!' cried Frodo. 'Or, well, to have it destroyed. I am not made for perilous quests. I wish I had never seen the Ring! Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?'

'Such questions cannot be answered,' said Gandalf. 'You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.'

'But I have so little of any of these things . . . !'

. . . Sam passed along the path outside whistling. 'And now,' said the wizard, turning back to Frodo, 'the decision lies with you. But I will always help you.' He laid his hand on Frodo's shoulder. 'I will help you bear this burden, as long as it is yours to bear. But we must do something, soon. The Enemy is moving.'
--J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, ch. 2
Dane Ortlund

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Junior Wells - Tobacco Road


Santa explained with a venn diagram

Self-salvation Engineers

Believing that “it is finished”, that everything we need in Christ is already ours and therefore we need nothing more, is the hardest thing (so much harder than modifying our behavior) because we are all seasoned “do-it-yourselfers.” Self-salvation engineers (that’s all of us) find it much easier to make a moral “to-do” and “not-to-do” list and try to live by it, then they do trusting, believing, and resting wholly in the work and provision of Another.  “To be convinced in our hearts”, said Luther, “that we have forgiveness of sins and peace with God by grace alone is the hardest thing” because “the sin underneath all sins is the lie that we cannot trust the love and grace of Jesus and that we must take matters into our own hands.”
Failing to believe the gospel leads to slavery because now finding peace, joy, meaning, and satisfaction is up to me. I’m on my own. This is why we give into temptation–we’re desperately looking under every rock and behind every tree searching for something to make ourselves happy, something to save us, something to set us free.
The gospel declares that I don’t need to save myself, defend myself, legitimize myself, justify myself, free myself, or in any other way, ensure that the ultimate verdict on my life is pass and not fail. The gospel frees me from the obsessive pressure to avoid the judgement of joylessness, the enslaving demand to find happiness. Walker Percy has described humanity as waiting for news. Christianity announces that the news has come: I’m not on my own. It’s not on me. We all know that “further, better, and more aggressive living” on our part isn’t producing life for us, and so the gospel comes as good news to those who have crashed and burned. What I need and long for most has come from outside of me–from “above the sun”–in the person of Jesus.
Real freedom in “the hour of temptation” happens only when the resources of the gospel smash any sense of need to secure for myself anything beyond what Christ has already secured for me.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bob Dylan - All Along the Watchtower (Original Version)

A simple guide to cute and appropriate holiday family pictures

The Most Important Christian Thinker Since Calvin?

John Frame says that Reformed theologian and philosopher Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987) “is perhaps the most important Christian thinker since Calvin.”
Frame offers several qualifiers to his provocative claim:
To say that Van Til is the most important Christian thinker of our time is not to say that he is the most comprehensive thinker, or the clearest, or the most persuasive.
Certainly it is not to say (as some of his more fanatical followers assume) that he is beyond criticism.
Nor is it to say that he has had a greater impact on present-day Christian thought than anybody else; indeed, his isolation continues, and his influence remains relatively small.
So what does he mean?
It is, rather, to say that he has made the Christian community aware of its only appropriate epistemology, thus laying a necessary foundation that ought to be the basis for all subsequent Christian reflection.
To explain, Frame compares Van Til with the most important philosopher of the modern period, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Frame points out that Kant argued for the autonomy of the human mind—that the human mind is its own ultimate authority and the author of its own moral standards.
Frame writes:
Kant saw, of course, that none of this could be proved in the usual sense of proof. He adopted what he called the “transcendental method,” which seeks to determine the necessary preconditions or presuppositions of rationality. He reached his conclusions concerning human autonomy not by proving them by the usual philosophical methods, but by showing our need to presuppose them. Kant’s philosophy, therefore, does not merely assert or assume human autonomy, as did many previous philosophers; it explicitly presupposes human autonomy. It adopts human autonomy as the root idea to which every other idea must conform. That is what makes Kant unique and vastly important: he taught secular man where his epistemology must begin, his inescapable starting point for all possible reflection.
In other words, Kant
showed “modern man,” secular, would-be autonomous man, what he would have to presuppose about knowl­edge and the world in order to be consistent with his presumed autonomy. In other words, Kant made the modern sectarian “epistemologically self-conscious.” If modern man is not to bow to God, he must bow before himself; to that extent at least, he must be a Kantian.
How does this relate to Van Til?
If Kant taught the world of secular unbelief the essentials of its own (until then, subconscious) theory of knowledge (“epistemology”), Van Til did the same thing for the Christian.
As Kant said that we must avoid any trace of the attitude of bowing before an external authority, so Van Til taught that the only way to find truth at all is to bow before God’s authoritative Scripture.
As Kant presented his view transcendentally, as the inescapable ultimate presupposition of human thought, so Van Til made and defended transcendentally the same claim for the revelation of God: that God’s Word is the only presupposition that does not destroy the intelligibility of human thought.
Hence Frame’s application:
Because of Van Til, we can at last define the essential philosophical differences between the Christian and the non-Christian worldviews.
If Kant’s achievement makes him the most important secular philosopher of modern times, should we not say that Van Til’s achievement makes him the most important Christian thinker of modern times?
—John M. Frame, Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1995), pp. 44-47.
I’m tempted to provide a short bibliography of resources by and about Van Til, for those who might be interested in learning more. In addition to Frame’s careful work cited above, let me recommend just one resource: Greg Bahnsen’s Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis. Few books in my library are as marked up and indexed as much as this one. Bahnsen’s work presents Van Til’s work in its clearest and most logical form.
For those who want to see what this form of apologetics looks like in action, you may want to check out the 1985 debate between Greg Bahnsen and Gordon Stein. You can read a transcript of the two-hour debate here, listen to the MP3.
Justin Taylor