Where the Reformation Found No Takers

Farel, Calvin, Beza, and Knox in Geneva, Switzerland

For those that don’t know, it’s Reformation Day. This is the day that the Church commemorates the nailing by Martin Luther of his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. Specifically it was a protest of the practice of the selling of indulgences within the Roman Catholic Church, but it came to be so much more than that. Luther wasn’t the first person to suggest reform, but became one of the most famous because of several other things that were going on around him. Most notably was the fact that his ministry coincided with the development of the printing press. This meant, of course, that his ‘revolutionary’ thoughts could be widely circulated.

In this context, the Reformation caught like wildfire and spread all around Europe, and, through the Puritans, to America.

There’s one place, however, that the Reformation never took hold.

Ireland.

While there were pockets of worshipers impacted by the Reformation in Dublin; most were members of the ruling class which meant that the message of Reformation never trickled out into the open country to the masses. The message of the Gospel was seen as something for the rich and powerful, and was, thus, ignored by the common man.

Fast forward to today and Ireland is still a land that is in need of the Reformation. So, spare a prayer for a country in Europe on this Reformation Day that needs, desperately, to hear the message that Scripture alone makes clear: that mankind can receive right-standing before God by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone.

Daddy Dates

Daddy Dates is a great book for any dad who is interested in capturing the hearts of his daughters. The philosophy is simple: Wright decided that, in order to prepare his daughters for the future, he would pursue them in order to win their hearts. He did this by spending time getting to know them. Novel, right?

Wright wanted what most dad’s probably want. He wanted to be his daughters’ main squeeze until they met that man one day who would love them as much as he did. The difference is, he began to intentionally pursue that goal. He taught them what to look for in a man; what it meant to be genuinely loved for who they were; and what relationships were all about. He began making the deposits early so that, by the time they were older, they would be ready.

This is a good book. It’s an easy read. The two things that make it good are that 1) it is concrete and 2) it is motivating. Seriously, anyone can do this. It just takes effort and humility. And Wright really helps us along by giving examples, tools, and resources so that any dad who is interested in this noble goal can give it a go.

I’ve never tried this before, but my Kindle highlights are here if you want to try to read them.

Bonhoeffer Biography

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is, in many ways, a mysterious figure. Because he died so young at the hands of Hitler’s Nazis during World War 2; he didn’t have an opportunity to develop his academic career. Much of what we have today is the product of letters, small essays, sermons, etc. In fact, what might be considered his magnum opus, Ethics, was largely assembled and edited after his death by his very good friend, Eberhard Bethge.

Because of this mystery, it is difficult to peg Bonhoeffer theologically. Theologians of many different stripes have claimed Bonhoeffer as one of their own (or raised him up as an enemy of orthodoxy – depending on their position). He studied under von Harnack (the famous German liberal) at the University of Berlin and spent some time at Union Seminary in the States (also theologically liberal). And yet, he seems to have resisted the pull of liberal theology and, instead, came to identify himself most with the neo-orthodox (read anti-liberal) theologian Karl Barth.

For Bonhoeffer, Christ was the center-point of theology (also Barthian), and he couldn’t bring himself to think about Christ the way the liberals had.

Metaxas paints Bonhoeffer as more conservative than liberal. Of course the question is if this is just another example of a historian filling in the gaps as he sees fit. There have been several negative reviews of this book in which this is asserted. I don’t know enough about Bonhoeffer to really say one way or another; but one thing is sure: Metaxas paints Bonhoeffer in a favorable light, theologically. Whether this is warranted is a question for someone smarter than I.

I really enjoyed this book because it wasn’t about theology, but the life of a man who wrestled with what part the Church should play in a corrupt and evil regime. Bonhoeffer’s story cannot be separated from the cultural context of post-Versailles Europe in the late 30s and early 40s. Bonhoeffer wrestled with the question of when should the Church stand up and stand against a government that was on the verge of evil. He wrestled with the question of when he should become personally involved in the plots to rid the earth of the man who became, in his mind, the very embodiment of evil.

This is a very good book; full of Bonhoeffer’s writings as he wrestles with these issues, and taking us all the way to his death in Flossenburg concentration camp some three weeks before the end of Hitler at the age of 39.

If you don’t know anything about Bonhoeffer, you can start with the Wikipedia entry.

Comfort

A few weeks back we took the kids to the dentist and, as I’m laying in the chair getting my teeth cleaned, Emma comes in and grabs my hand. I think she thought I was scared. I wasn’t, mind you, but she was comforting me the way Mandy had comforted her 10 minutes earlier. Funny.

Starbucks junkie

It’s not that I’ve become a coffee snob or anything, but I have gotten in the habit of hitting Starbucks on a mostly daily basis. Here’s why:
– Free Internet! When you’re living in a house that gets 384kbs you must get out and find a faster on ramp to the Internet superhighway.
– space to think: i’ve discovered that it’s far easier to think amongst the white noise of Starbucks than it is inside our house with 4 little kids.
– free refills! I’m somewhat sad to admit but I am now “Gold” at Starbucks based on my frequency. That means that I get free refills on their drip coffee (which is what I always get).

So I can come and nurse several cups of coffee while steaming along on a fast and free wireless network for hours at a time! Greatness.

Stuck

stuck car

this car is going nowhere

Because of the work I do, I make it a habit to always be on the lookout for things around me that I can use to illustrate spiritual principles. It’s my achiles heel, but comes in handy when I need an illustration!

This car has a story to tell. I walk by it, typically, at least once a week. The funny thing is that I have been doing so for about 4 years now!

Here’s the story: This car has actually been in this spot as long as I can remember. About 4 years ago, however, the building that I am standing beside as I take the photograph was being constructed. For some reason, whoever owned this car never bothered to move it. There were bright stickers placed on it, clamps, notes; anything and everything to warn the owner to move it or else. I would love to know why, but the owner never did anything about it.

Now here’s the amusing part: rather than remove the car, the workers who constructed the new building and the road beside it simply did so with the car still there! I guess they couldn’t be bothered with picking up the phone and calling a tow truck. What was left was a once fine running car rendered useless as the road was built up around it. As you can see from the picture it is, literally, hemmed in from every side. I don’t know if it could be removed now even if someone wanted to. So there it sits, exposed to the elements, windows broken out…stuck.

As I think about my life in Christ, I am reminded that there are times where I flirt dangerously close to things that could potentially be quite dangerous for me. Maybe you like to flirt with lines, looking to see how close to them you can drift without going over, only to wake up one day so far past the line that you don’t even remember crossing it. You’re stuck. And the longer you stay there stuck, the more destructive it becomes.

Well, the good news is that, while we can’t unstick ourselves, there is One who can. God desires to reach in and pull us out. God’s heart is to make old, broken ikons new.

I often wonder if there will ever come a day when I walk down that road and no longer see that old stuck car. I wonder the same for some of my friends who are stuck in destructive patterns of living. I guess, for the latter, I can only pray and hope.

 

Coming and Going

This was a post on our church pastors’ blog (although “pastor’s” might be more accurate as I’m the only one who ever posts – yes, Kirk, Mark, and Tim that was a slam on you – in love, though) but I thought I’d post it here too.

One of the benefits of taking notes when reading through a book is the ability to go back very quickly and revisit some of its ideas without having to do a full reread. I’ve been reading through my notes of a book I read a few years back and absolutely loved, R. Paul Stevens’ The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective (here’s my original blog post). Many Christians wrongly view their experiences of Sunday worship as punctuation so that Sunday becomes sacred beginning (or ending) while the rest of the week remains secular. I wouldn’t argue that Sunday isn’t a special day; certainly the gathering of the redeemed people of God for corporate worship is a special event. I would only argue, with Stevens, that it is not the division between the sacred and secular parts of our week, but rather the event that turns the whole of our weeks into sacred days. It is the time in which we are nurtured together to then be sent out to all the different places God has called us. Here’s how he put it:

“The church, like the gathering and dispersion of blood in the body, is a rhythm of gathering (ekklesia) and dispersion (diaspora)…The church gathered must not be separated from the church dispersed any more than the heart and lungs can be separated from the body. Gathered, the blood is cleansed and oxygenated. Sent out, it fights diseases and energizes” (p. 211).”

So come and go, Church. Come to be energized, equipped, and encouraged; then go and be salt, light, and priest to those around you.

 

Greeting the Light

Have you ever been somewhere that was so dark that you felt paralyzed, trapped, unable to move. A place where the darkness was almost oppressive. I remember as a boy traveling to Carlsbad Caverns with my family. 1600 feet underground! Light doesn’t reach that deep, in case you were wondering. As if to taunt us with that fact they turned off all the lights. That was scary. You wanted to make sure you were holding on to something. It was so dark that you couldn’t even see your hand waving in front of your face. It was so dark you kind of forgot you even had hands! Or a body for that matter. It was like you were this disembodied spirit floating around. It was scary. Thankfully they turned the lights back on.

Have you ever experienced darkness like that? Darkness – be it literal or metaphorical – can be daunting and, almost, oppressive at times? In fact, sometimes the figurative darkness is even scarier than the literal. The economic outlook is, at the moment, shrouded in darkness. Many are living in the darkness of unemployment. Sickness and death are daunting reminders of the darkness that we must endure as humans. If you’ve ever faced the darkness of an uncertain future dealing with a disease, you know that it can be paralyzing.

We’ve come along way as human beings. Technologically we can transmit information all of the world in the blink of an eye. Medically we can take organs out of one person and put them in someone else. We can even transplant a face! We have machines that can do the work of every part of our bodies. And yet, at the end of the day, the darkness overcomes us. There’s nothing we can do about it. The darkness reminds us that we are frail, broken, needy creatures. It reminds us that as big as we think we are, there are forces outside of our control that exert power over us. That as much as we have accomplished as a people, we are still small.

Enter Christmas. Christmas is the story of an invasion. At Christmas, God invaded the domain of darkness. The Prophet Isaiah said it like this, “The people who have walked in darkness” – that’s you and I – “have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined.”

God didn’t dodge the darkness that we find ourselves in. He met it head on. He invaded and conquered it. The Light of His Son has appeared in the midst of our darkness. This is what we remember at Christmas.

Christmas isn’t just a distraction from the darkness. It’s not just a drug that we take once a year to relive the depression with which we live in the other 11 months of the year. The realities of Christmas Day invade everyday because that baby grew to be a man. No, the beauty of Christmas can only be fully appreciated in the light of the Cross. It’s at the Cross where that God-man died in order to once and for all destroy the power of darkness.

Jesus didn’t simply invade the darkness around me. He invaded the darkness within me. The eternal Son of God wrapped Himself in broken humanity to rob us of the penalty that we owed because we had done wrong to God. The Light of Life met the darkness of sin head-on. And so we remember that dark lonely night all those years ago when an eerie silence was shattered by the cry of a baby. It was on that night that the Light of Life, the Son of God, veiled in flesh, invaded our darkness.

Christmas is recession-proof because of the Cross. He invaded our present in order to secure our future. The Jesus that came at Christmas is good enough…forever. There is no darkness that He cannot overcome – albeit sometimes ultimately. That’s what makes Christmas so fantastic. It’s not the trees, the gifts, the food. It’s the reminder that Christmas was the beginning of the end of sin’s domination over us. Christmas is all about light. The Light of Life who came into the world to forever destroy our darkness.

“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” – John 1:3-5, 9-13

That’s what Christmas is about.

 

Fat Head

So I’m not the kind of guy that goes around waving the banner of the latest thing i’ve heard. In other words I tend to approach most things I encounter with, what I consider to be, a healthy amount of skepticism. Which is why when I watched Morgan Spurlock’s documentary, Supersize Me, I didn’t bite. For one thing, I couldn’t get over the fact that choice ultimately resides with the consumer. Anyway, I digress. I still eat at McDonalds (mainly because I meet with a guy for breakfast weekly and it’s about the only place open in Galway early in the mornings) and I like it! All that to say that I’m not easily sold on the latest conspiracy theory to come down the pike.

Well, recently someone recommended another documentary about food (there are so many). It’s called Fat Head (it’s available on Hulu if you’re interested). Perhaps the best way to describe it is to say that it is the bizarro Supersize Me. The writer and star attempts to debunk Spurlock’s conclusions. But he doesn’t stop there. In the second part of the film he goes after everything that we have been told about cholesterol, fat, carbs, etc. Nothing sacred is spared! Of course he pulls in a lot of men and women in white coats who are saying the same thing. Here’s the premise: he decides, mimicking Spurlock, that he will eat fast food for each meal for a month. But (and this is the important bit), he limits his total daily calories to 2000, his total daily carbohydrates to 100g, and continues his normal routine of light but consistent exercise. Anything else goes. In the end he loses weight, body fat, and his cholesterol stays steady. At the end of the film he ups the stakes a bit. He decides that he will zero carbohydrates and nothing low fat. The results are pretty amazing.

So here’s the thing…

I’m not saying I’m sold, and I’m certainly not interested in being an evangelist (I could probably assemble some white coat guys to say anything I wanted). I’m just saying that I’m interested in doing some more research. There are some great explanations on cholesterol, why high cholesterol can be good (which is what I’ve always thought :-)), and why a relatively fatty diet can actually increase the level of good cholesterol in our blood. Can you imagine? What a world that would be!

Anyway, it’s at least worth a watch.

One highlight: In the very beginning he conducts an experiment at several different McDonalds, Wendy’s, and Taco Bells where he stands outside the door to see if any employees will drag him inside and force him to eat. Classic.

Again, if you’re interested, it’s available on Hulu.

Well, I’m ready for a nice juicy steak topped with bleu cheese and garlic. mmmmmm