Thursday, December 31, 2009

December reading list

73. Elisha's Bones (pb), Dan Hoesel
74. The White Dragon (ua), by Anne McCaffrey
75. Novel Ideas (pb), by Barbara Shoup & Margaret Love Denman
76. A Brief History of Theology (pb), by Derek Johnston
77. Blood of the Fold (ua), by Terry Goodkind
78. Batman: The Ultimate Guide to the Dark Knight (hc), by Scott Beatty
79. Kiss of Life (hc), by Daniel Waters
80. Acacia (ua), by David Anthony Durham

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Life Verse (#2)

God calls us to know Him, but tells us he is unknowable. He calls us to walk with him, but he is wholly other. These tensions -- and the faith contains many tensions -- once frustrated me. Now they invigorate me.

I love what he says of himself in Isaiah 55:8 & 9. In the NIV, the verses read, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

This liberates me as I study and meditate on the Lord and his word. This liberates me from totally understanding the Trinity, or the dual natures of Christ, or free will and the chosen. I cling to those 2 verses in Isaiah when my mind gets stuck trying to unravel one theological paradox or another.

These verses have taught me how small I am in comparison to him. And they have taught me to be suspicious of any theology that seems too easy. If I could understand God, he wouldn't be much of a God, would he?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

He is coming

From a devotion by James H. Kurt:
Has he not said, 'my kindness is established forever?' and in Heaven confirmed his faithfulness? And should be not enter His house, enter His Heaven, and praise His holy name?

Here we stand, with His word, with His body and blood. Here we have His teaching and His food. What more need we?

And this day, the child who is the house of God approaches. Are we ready now for His coming?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Life Verse (#1)

The first Bible I owned had a list of memory verses in the back, and one of the very first I memorized was Jeremiah 33:3, which I immediately became a personal favorite. In the NIV version, this verse says "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."

What I love about this verse are the multiple promises that it contains. First, if we call on the Lord, He will answer. That alone would satisfy my parched and lonely soul. But the verse does not end there. No, he will tell us things we do not know. He will bring clarity, He promises revelation. And not just ordinary things. No, he will tell us great and unsearchable things.

Early in my walk, it stunned me to realize the vastness of the God I was in new relationship with, and this verse crystallized that notion. Years later, I am still stunned.

Monday, December 14, 2009

From St. John of the Cross

Today is the feast day of this great Doctor of the Church.
We must then dig deeply in Christ. He is like a rich mine with many pockets containing treasures. However deep we dig we will never find their end or their limit. Indeed, in every pocket new seems of fresh riches are discovered on all sides.

For this reason the apostle Paul said of Christ, "In Him are hidden all the treasures of the widsom and knowledge of God." The soul cannot enter into these treasures, nor attain them, unless it first crosses into and enters the thicket of suffering, enduring interior and exterior labors, and unless it first receives from God very many blessings in the intellect and in the senses, and has undergone long spiritual training.

All these are lesser things, disposing the soul for the lofty sanctuary of the knowledge of the mysteries of Christ. This is the highest wisdom attainable in this life. Would that men might come at last to see that is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and the wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul find there its consolation and desire.

The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first and in truth to enter the thicket of the cross. Saint Paul therefore urges the Ephesians not to grow weary in the midst of tribulations, but to be rooted and grounded in love, so that they may know with all the saints the breadth, the length, the heighth, and the depth, to know what is beyond knowledge, the love of Christ so as to be filled with all the fullness of God.

The gate that gives entry into these riches of his wisdom is the cross. Because it is a narrow gate, while many seek the joys that can be gained through it, it is given to few to desire to pass through it.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Book Review

A Life With Karol, by Stanislaw Dziwisz.

In this delightful little book, Dziwisz details his forty-year friendship with the man who became Pope John Paul II. Dziwisz started his career as the personal secretary to Father Wojtyla, then stayed by his side as he advanced through the Polish church as Bishop & Archbishop, then as Cardinal and eventually as Pope.

Dziwisz, now himself a Cardinal, tells the story of Wojtyla's career as an anti-communist in Poland, detailing many of the indignities he faced in the officially atheist regime. He tells a humorous story of the trouble then-Cardinal Wojtyla faced trying to to attend the second conclave of 1979. He received permission to leave Poland, but was told that he would have a difficult time returning to his country. Little did the minor communist functionary who gave Wojtyla his one-way visa know that he would not be returning to Poland for a year. And then he would be returning as leader of the worldwide Catholic Church.

I found stories of these early years, specifically the fight against totalitarian communism, to be fascinating reading. It is the level of detail and "insider" stories that makes a very worthwhile book to read.

Monday, November 30, 2009

November Reading List

70. A Life With Karol (ua), by Stanislaw Dziwisz
71. Loitering with Intent (ua), by Stuart Woods
72. Angel Time (ua), by Anne Rice

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Happy Advent

I am relatively new to the concept of the "Church Year," and as it is new to me, I am finding value in the rhythms that it brings to my spiritual life.

So now we turn to the time of preparation, to the time when we reflect on what it means to live in anticipation of His coming, trusting in His deliverance of us without yet experiencing it.

Advent is not wise men. Advent is not shepherds. Advent is not angels.

Advent is patience. Advent is waiting. Advent is anticipation.

Enjoy Advent.

Prepare for His coming.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Prof Rah vs. Zondervan

Zondervan deserves credit for responding boldly and decisively to the charges of cultural insensitivity that Professor Soong-Chan Rah brought to their attention regarding the content and marketing in the book "Deadly Viper: Character Assassins."

Issues of race and culture can spin out of control quickly in our modern world, but the way this was handled by Professor Rah, the authors, and the publisher in the spirit of Christian reconciliation was inspiring, and should serve as an example.

Professor Rah's reactions to Zondervan's action are reported here

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Podcast Review

More Than One Lesson

This is simply the best podcast I've run across that reviews film from a Christian perspective. Host Tyler Smith is a film school graduate living in Hollywood, and looks at film equally from those two perspectives of cinema quality and Christian worldview.

What I like about the show is that Smith knows what he is talking about when it comes to examining film, and he knows what he is talking about when it comes to analyzing Biblical themes and concepts in cinema. Smith is not a fundamentalist in his biblical worldview. To my way of thinking, this separates his podcast positively from too many that I have run across.

His podcast successfully manages to intelligently discuss both faith and cinema. And I appreciate that greatly.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

October Reading List

65. Shadow Over Kiriath (pb), by Karen Hancock
66. FlashForward (pb), by Robert J. Sawyer
67. Genius Squad (ua), by Catherine Jinks
68. Divine Justice (ua), by David Baldacci
69. Dexter in the Dark (ua), by Jeff Lindsay

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mike Warnke Lied

I became a believer in the mid-1980s, just when conservative Christians were turning against Halloween. Much of the impetus for this came from speaker and comedian Mike Warnke.

He showed up on a 1985 episode of 20/20, at the height of Satanic hysteria. His extravagant claims of being a high priest of Satan were later released in his book The Satan Seller. It was these works, with had lurid accounts of Warke's participation in Hallween sacrifices and Black Masses, that gave momentum to the anti-Halloween movement.

Just one problem ...

It was all lies.

Cornerstone Magazine debunked all of the dramatic claims in the Satan Seller, which after attempting to defend himself for years, Warnke later admitted he had fabricated. The Cornerstone investigation was released in 1991, but the anti-Hallowween movement was off and running. And it hasn't slowed down yet -- Hell Houses and other "alternative" events dot the evangelical landscape to this day.

My response as a relatively conservative evangelical believer in Christ to this fear-based approach can be summed up in 2 words:

Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Luke 7:36-50

This is the story of the sinful woman who comes directly to Simon the Pharisee's house, who has invited Jesus to dinner. She interrupts their meeting, and extravagantly worships Jesus, wetting his feet with her hair, drying them with her hair, and pouring expensive perfume over them

Simon is scandalized, and attempts to "correct" the Lord for allowing "this kind of woman" to touch him.

In many ways, I am bent to be Simon. But I need to be Jesus, offering grace and mercy to all.

The gospel is not moralism. The gospel is not judgment.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

from "Never Forget The Cross"

As performed by the seminal Christian punk band One Bad Pig:
No major gain without no loss
No resurrection without no cross
No golden crown without no nails
Trade my life for a love that never fails

Monday, October 05, 2009

From St. Francis

Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.
Where there is patience and humility, their is neither anger nor vexation.
Where there is poverty and joy, there is neither greed nor avarice.
Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September Reading List

58. The Whiskey Rebels(ua), by David Liss
59. The Baby Chronicles (pb), by Judy Baer
60. Restoring Broken Things (ua), by Steven Curtis Chapman & Scotty Smith
61. Sticky Church (pb), by Larry Osborne
62. The Coming (ua), by Joe Haldeman
63. Black Powder War (ua), by Naomi Novik
64. Stone of Tears (ua), by Terry Goodkind

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Podcast Review

Inside Worship

This excellently-produced podcast comes out monthly from Vineyard Music, and runs 20-30 minutes. The podcast features an interview each month with a worship leader, focusing specifically on one particular song and how it was written, the inspiration behind it, etc ...

The target audience of the podcast is other worship leaders -- chord charts are provided for each featured song. And though I do not fit that criteria, I am always intrigued by the insights that the songwriters express about their music.

Monday, September 21, 2009

St. Augustine on ...... some modern preachers?

More than 1500 years ago, Augustine preached a sermon on "negligent shepherds"
The negligent shepherd fails to say to the believer: My son, come to the service of God. stand fast in fear and in righteousness, and prepare your soul for temptation. A shepherd who does say this strengthens the one who is weak and makes him strong. Such a believer will then not hope for the prosperity of this world. For if he has been taught to hope for worldly gain, he will be corrupted by prosperity. When adversity comes, he will be wounded or perhaps destroyed.

The builder who builds in such manner is not building the believer on a rock but upon sand. But the rock was Christ. Christians must imitate Christ’s sufferings, not set their hearts on pleasures. He who is weak will be strengthened when told: “Yes, expect the temptations of this world, but the Lord will deliver you from them all if your heart has not abandoned him. For it was to strengthen your heart that he came to suffer and die, came to be spit upon and crowned with thorns, came to be accused of shameful things, yes, came to be fastened to the wood of the cross. All these things he did for you, and you did nothing. He did them not for himself, but for you”.

But what sort of shepherds are they who for fear of giving offense not only fail to prepare the sheep for the temptations that threaten, but even promise them worldly happiness? God himself made no such promise to this world. On the contrary, God foretold hardship upon hardship in this world until the end of time. And you want the Christian to be exempt from these troubles? Precisely because he is a Christian, he is destined to suffer more in this world.

For the Apostle says: All who desire to live a holy life in Christ will suffer persecution. But you, shepherd, seek what is yours and not what is Christ’s, you disregard what the Apostle says: All who want to live a holy life in Christ will suffer persecution. You say instead: “If you live a holy life in Christ, all good things will be yours in abundance. If you do not have children, you will embrace and nourish all men, and none of them shall die”. Is this the way you build up the believer? Take note of what you are doing and where you are placing him. You have built him on sand. The rains will come, the river will overflow and rush in, the winds will blow, and the elements will dash against that house of yours. It will fall, and its ruin will be great.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Book Review

Sticky Church, by Larry Osborne.

Osborne, lead pastor at San Diego's North Coast Church, accurately diagnoses a problem facing many churches today -- the wide open "back door." To Osborne, the key to church life is not bringing as many people as possible into the church, but keeping them in the church. He wanted North Coast to be more "sticky."

The solution that they implemented, to strong results, was sermon-based small groups. The church previously had small groups, but re-orienting them to be a discussion of the prior week's sermon increased commitment to the groups and to the church. Basing small groups on the sermon made entering existing small groups easier for new attendees. From an educational standpoint, reiterating a message in a different form a few days later should increase comprehension and retention of the lesson.

I can see how this idea could be effective, but I've left the book unconvinced that they are the best answer for every church with a wide "back door." But to the extent that pastors and church leaders consider the unique characteristics of their church, Osborne's book presents a tool worth considering.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

N.T. Wright on Liturgy

There is nothing wrong with having a form of words composed by somebody else. Indeed, there is probably something wrong if you don’t. Some Christians, some of the time, can sustain a life of prayer entirely out of their own internal resources, just as there are hardy mountaineers (I have met one) who can walk the Scottish highlands in their bare feet. But most of us need boots, not because we don’t want to do the walking ourselves, but because we do.

This plea, it will be obvious, is aimed in one particular direction: the growing number of Christians in many countries who, without knowing it, is absorbing an element of late modern culture … as if it were Christianity itself. To them I want to say: there is nothing wrong, nothing sub-Christian, nothing to do with “works-righteousness”, about using words, set forms, prayers, and sequences, written by other people in other centuries.

Indeed, the idea that I must always find my own words, that I must generate my own devotion from scratch every morning, that unless I think of new words I must be spiritually lazy or deficient – that has the all-too-familiar sign of human pride, of “doing it my own way”, or yes, works-righteousness.

Good liturgy can, should be, a sign and means of grace, an occasion of humility (accepting that someone else has said, better than I can, what I deeply want to express) and gratitude.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Glory of Solitude

Paul Tillich, as quoted in Marcia Ford's Traditions of the Ancients:

"Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word 'loneliness' to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word 'solitude' to express the glory of being alone."

Monday, August 31, 2009

August Reading List

51. Mounting Fears (ua), by Stuart Woods
52. Generation Dead (hc), by Dan Waters
53. 52 (ua), by Greg Cox
54. Traditions of the Ancients (pb), by Marcia Ford
55. Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of the American Church (hc), by Matthew Avery Sutton
56. Magician's Gambit (ua), by David Eddings
57 What Would MacGyver Do? (ua), by Brendan Vaughan, editor

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Book Review

Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America, by Matthew Avery Sutton.

One thing that biographers must avoid is taking a side in presenting their subject, falling into either of the equally troubling traps of defending or criticizing. Professor Sutton avoids these temptations, and has produced an intriguing look at the equally intriguing evangelist, who dominated the cultural landscape in the USA during the first half of the twentieth century.

Despite the 50 pages of endnotes that give this work the appearance of being an academic tone, this is in fact an accessible and readable work. Sutton covers the high points of Sister Aimee's biography -- farm girl, missionary, widow, founding the Foursquare denomination, the still-mysterious kidnapping, the quick marriage and divorce, her social activism -- and puts these events in the context of a post-Darwinian America, where traditional Christianity was on the ropes.

Sutton portrays McPherson's many contradicions with keen insight. His fair and balanced work portays a woman who constantly defied gender norms and religious expectations, while advocating a biblically-based and culturally-engaged evangelicalism.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Anselm on the Prayer Closet

Good advice from a man who lived more than 9 centuries ago:

"Enter into the inner chamber of your mind. Shut out all things save God and whatever may aid you in seeking God; and having barred the door of your chamber, seek Him."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Looking Back

This passage, from Marcia Ford's Traditions of the Ancients, resonates strongly with me in terms of my interest in the Ancient/Future practices of the church.
"We're so sure of what it means to be Christian - how we're supposed to behave and how we're supposed to worship - that we rarely venture out of our spiritual comfort zones. The beauty of the early church, by contrast, lies in the very fact that there was no comfort zone, no carefully crafted formula for living out the Christian life.

No one had come along yet to tell believers that they should "dress nice" for the 11:00 a.m. service on Sunday. In fact, no one bothered to tell the desert dwellers that they should bathe once in a while; it would have done no good, because they considered bathing to be sinfully self-centered.

No one had told them yet that they needed to schedule a daily quiet time and spend fifteen minutes each morning at their devotions, nor had they been told that they should create an ongoing praryer list. For many, the whole of their interior life was their "quiet time," and they saw every moment of their lives as their devotional time as unceasing praryer to God."

Friday, August 07, 2009

Seven Petitions to the Holy Cross

An ancient Anglo-Saxon prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ,
For the sake of Thy holy Cross, be with me to shield me. Amen.
By the memory of Thy blessed Cross, be within me to strengthen me. Amen.
For Thy holy Cross, be ever round me to protect me. Amen.
For Thy glorious Cross, go before me to direct my steps. Amen.
For Thy adorable Cross, come Thou after me to guard me. Amen.
For Thy Cross, worthy of all praise, overshadow me to bless me. Amen.
For Thy noble Cross, be Thou in me to lead me to Thy kingdom. Amen.

Friday, July 31, 2009

July Reading List

42. 24 days (hc), by Rebecca Smith & John Emshwiller
43. Breaking Dawn (ua), by Stephenie Meyer
44. Everything You Need to Know Before Colelge (pb), by Matthew Paul Turner
45. The Rules of Deception (ua), by Christopher Reich
46. Pension Dumping (hc), by Fran Hawthorne
47. Wizard's First Rule (ua), by Terry Goodkind
48. The Bellmaker (ua), by Brian Jacques
49. A Cat of One's Own (ua), by Lydia Adamson
50. A Cat With the Blues (ua), by Lydia Adamson

Monday, July 27, 2009

From the Liturgy

This hymn/poem was in tonight's evening reading:

Lord Jesus Christ, abide with us,
Now that the sun has run its course
Let hope not be obscured by night
But may it face darkness, and be as light

Lord Jesus Christ, grant us your peace
And when the trials of earth shall cease
Grant us the morning light of grace
The radiant splendor of your face

Immortal holy, three-fold light
Yours be the Kingdom, power & might
All glory by Eternally
To you, Life-giving trinity

Friday, July 17, 2009

Great Panel from C-Stone

I did not make it to Cornerstone 2009, but was able to track down this this fascinating panel on the future of evangelicalism. Michael Spencer (the Internet Monk, from both the blog- and podio-spheres) hosts this conversation on the future of evangelicalism. Participants include Professor Soong-Chan Rah, Tony Jones, Phyllis Tickle, and other.

The link is to the first of seven parts. The entire panel runs about 50 minutes total.

Thought-provoking stuff.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, John Calvin

On July 10, 1509, John Calvin was born in France. After breaking with Rome during the Reformation, he moved to Switzerland, from where he published the classic "Institutes of the Christian Religion." This work is arguably the first Protestant attempt at systematic theology, and his thoughts are still influential today -- and that influence seems to be on the rise. Everywhere you look, especially online and in the podcast world, Calvinist theology is dominat.

I personally appreciate the fact that Calvin was able to separate his disapproval of Roman Catholic mariology, from his positive view of Mary herself, and that he did not hold to a number of the Protestant views on her that became common after the Reformation.

The quincentenary is being observed around the globe with the Geneva-based World Alliance of Reformed Churches acting as a central organizer of "Calvin 09."

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Music Review

Progress, by Nathan Long.

Long's first studio effort ia a six-song acoustic rock set that he has made available as a "donations optional" download.

"If You Love Me" is my favorite track, a fast-moving song expressing Jesus' heart for his disciples in the days before his Crucifixion. Another solid tune, "Love Picture" is a commentary on current social problems. "Progress" shows off Long's sense of humor and lyrical skills. The final three songs cover more tradtional worship themes, although the musicianship lifts them above the ordinary.

Check Nathan out. Download the songs.

Keep the ones you want, and pay what you think is fair.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June Reading List

33. Daredevil: Visionaries (gn), by Frank Miller
34. The Black Shadow (ua), by Steve Saylor
35. Sunrunner's Fire (pb), by Melanie Rawn
36. Throne of Jade (ua), by Naomi Novik
37. Rejected (pb), edited by Jon Friedman
38. The Fall of the Evangelical Nation (hc), by Christine Wicker
39. Too Fat to Fish (ua), by Artie Lange
40. The Reformed Vampire Support Group(ua), by Catherine Jinks
41. Magic, Mensa, & Mayhem (pb), by Karina Fabian

Friday, June 26, 2009


A devotion from James H. Kurt on Abram and Sarah laughing at the thought of their being parents at such advanced ages:

"It’s an understandable reaction. Who would not find the thought humorous? Abraham does something more than laugh. He prostrates himself before the Lord, face to the floor. How many of our modern scoffers would do such as this? It is human to question, to doubt, but it is godly to humble oneself in faith. There is a world of difference between a laugh of wonder and the scoffing of the skeptic. The latter shall remain barren, never finding the living water that would make him fertile and fruitful. The former by his fear of the Lord, opens himself to his favor, to his blessing. And such life-giving breath of blessing will make him bear fruit abundantly."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jon & Kate plus Zondervan

Evangelical publishing has put out some embarassing stuff over the years, but this may be the worst I've ever seen. This is from the book jacket of Jon & Kate Gosselin's recent book, put out late last year by the venerable Zondervan House.

"Kate and Jon Gosselin have learned that through God, all things are possible-though sometimes slightly improbable. Just three years after giving birth to twin daughters, Kate and Jon learned she was pregnant again-with sextuplets. In Multiple Blessings, Kate candidly chronicles the emotional and exhausting challenges she and Jon faced from the time the babies were conceived through the first two years of their lives. This amazing story of faith provides a heartening lesson in what it means to trust the faithful hand of God to provide the strength and courage to make it through life's seemingly impossible situations."

Question: Why does the world mock and look down on us?
Answer: Because we so often deserve it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Scripture and tradition

We evangelicals are proud of how we eschew tradition, bragging that we find our rule of faith in "sola scriptura" -- the Bible alone.

I love the way this sounds, the certainty with which I can mouth these sentiments. Until I remember that the specific books that make up the Bible were argued about for the first 2 centuries of the church's existence, and not finally agreed upon until into an ecumenical church council. And the books those church fathers determined we take from granted as Scripture, as God-breathed, inerrant, inspired.

In other words, it's our tradition to accept these books as canon.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Podcast Review

Full Circle

Jerry Bryant hosted one of the very early "Jesus Music" syndicated radio programs in the '70s. A few years ago, he began Full Circle, playing the same music he played three decades ago. Looking back "on where it all began," Full Circle -- available in podcast as well as syndicated radio -- plays classic Jesus music from the early 70's through the early 90's.

I came into the Christian music scene shortly after becoming a beliver in the mid '80s, so the songs that Bryant plays from that era (DeGarmo & Key, Petra, Farrell & Farrell, Allies, Mark Heard, 77s, Bruce Cockburn) definitely bring back the memories. I appreciate the stuff from before that era (Andrus Blackwood & Co, Honeytree, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Randy Thomas) but I don't recall most of it specifically.

The show runs right at an hour, and comes out every week. It's fun.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book Review

Justice in the Burbs, by Will & Lisa Sampson.

I want to be sympathetic to the "emergent" movement, and indeed am sympathetic to many aspects of it -- the ancient-future movement, the 500-year cycle, creation care. But I do have a problem with the attitude of many in the movement, who extend little grace to those who are not 100% on board. It seems that with many emergents, if you agree with them on 4 out of every 5 issues, they consider you a 20% enemy, not an 80% friend. Their judgmentalism is not the harsh and hurtful type, but more of the sanctimonious variety.

This book typifies my relationship to the movement. Much of the time I read the book, I saw the value of what they were saying -- that God cares about what we eat, where we live, how much electricity we use, and to who we minister to. Some of the economic analysis was simplistic, but much of the material was interesting and challenging. But then they would stereotype the (non-emergent) church, insult me for where I worship, where I work, and much of how I live.

Many of the chapters open with brief introductions from a range of interesting authors, and I find these a strength of the book. But on a purely stylistic note, I found the mix of fiction and non-fiction annoying, and (again) more than a little condescending.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Charles Lwanga (d. 1886)

One of 22 Uganda Martyrs, Charles Lwanga is remembered for defending himself and his faith at the hands of King Mwanga, the Bagandan ruler. Lwanga served in the Mwanga's royal court as the head of court pages. In addition to instructing the pages in their duties, he trained them in his Christian faith.

King Mwanga demanded that all converts to Christ renounce this new faith. Lwanga and the others resisted the homosexual advances (eventually demands) of King Mwanga and for this refusal, was impriosoned. In prison, he continued to instruct his pages (aged 13-30) in the church's spiritual and moral teaching.

For his unwillingness to submit to immoral acts and for not renouncing his faith, Mwanga ordered Charles and 21 companions killed.

He was burned to death on this day in 1886.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

May Reading List

26. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (hc), by Brian Selznick
27. Santa Clawed (ua), by Rita Mae Brown
28. A Case of Nosy Neighbors (ua), by Lori Copeland
29. Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, vol. 2 (gn), by Sean McKeever, et. al
30. Murder Inside the Beltway (ua), by Margaret Truman
31. The Last Days of Krypton (ua), Kevin J. Anderson
32. The Expected One (ua), by Kathleen McGowan

Monday, May 25, 2009

Music Review

Shine, by Jeff Capps.

This is the second release from the Ft. Worth-based Capps, and is an excellent effort. The 4-song EP features Capps' interesting take on modern worship.

A pair of more mellow rock tunes, "Anchor of My Heart" and "Only the Blood" fit in with the hard-driving "Shine" and "Merciful King." The lyrics are well within the norms of worship -- it is tempting to consider the lyrics "traditional," although the instrumentation is very 21st-century.

Capps has made the album available on a "pay what you want" basis through his mySpace page. Check the album out and send him what you think it's worth.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ascension Day

Today is one of those days that I realize just how much I've missed by being in a Christian tradition that does not attend to the liturgical calendar. With the possible exception of Pentecost, many Protestants, certainly most evangelicals, just glide smoothly from Easter to Advent. I am part of the majority of evangelicals who have never paid much attention to the rhythms of the church calendar. But I'm trying to learn.

Today is Ascension Day.

Without the Ascension, Jesus is just Lazarus, albeit with miracles and insightful teaching. What separates Jesus from others in the New Testament who were raised from the dead -- and from those in the church age who have been raised from the dead -- is that they will all die again. Jesus did not. Because 40 days after the first Easter, in the sight of many followers, he was caught away to the heavenlies, from which he will one day return.

Of course the hinge-point of human history is the Crucifixion, but it matters only because of the Resurrection. And the Resurrection only matters because of the Ascension. It is not outrageous to claim that the Ascension is the clearest proof of Jesus' divinity.

Points to ponder. Happy Ascension Day.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Thanks Be To God

From this week's liturgy:

For the fruits of His creation, Thanks be to God
For the gifts to every nation, Thanks be to God
Silent growth while men are sleeping
Future needs in earth’s safe keeping, Thanks be to God

In the just reward of labor, God’s will is done
In the help we give our neighbor, God’s will is done
In our worldwide task of caring
For the hungry and despairing
In the harvest men are sharing, God’s will is done

For the harvest of His spirit, Thanks be to God
For the good all men inherit, Thanks be to God
For the wonders that astound us
For the truths that still confound us
Most of all that love has found us, Thanks be to God

Saturday, May 02, 2009

St. Athanasius

May 2

The life of St. Athanasius, my favorite church father, is celebrated today. An Egyptian, he eventually rose to the position of bishop of Alexandria. His major contribution to the faith – and the main reason he has been declared a doctor of the church – was his fight for theological orthodoxy, especially his defense of the doctrine of the divinity of Christ.

Many take this doctrine for granted now, but in the early 300s, many church leaders were Arians, deniers of this doctrine. Athanasius’ steadfast defense of this key tenant of the faith led him to be exiled by Arian bishops and emperors five separate times.

During one period of his life, he enjoyed 10 years of relative peace—reading, writing and promoting the Christian life along the lines of the monastic ideal to which he was greatly devoted. His biography of St. Anthony of the desert laid the groundwork for the monastic movement of the next three centuries.

This combined understanding of deep theology and Christian living makes him a wonderful role model.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

April Reading List

18. The Hand You're Dealt (hc), by Paul Volponi
19. Justice in the Burbs (pb), by Will & Lisa Sampson
20. Eclipse (ua), by Stephenie Meyer
21. Runaways, vol. 2 (gn), by Brian K. Vaughn, et. al.
22. Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, vol. 1 (gn), by Sean McKeever & Takeshi Miyazawa
23. The Associate (ua), by John Grisham
24. The Baseball Economist (hc), by J.C. Bradbury
25. Scarpetta (ua), by Patricia Cornwell

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Podcast Review

The Praxis Podcast

This is a semi-regular podcast of interviews and discussions that focus on doing the "deep Kingdom" work of Jesus -- ministry to the poor, missionary work, etc ... The podcast averages about 2 episodes per month, and each runs anywhere from 30-75 minutes. Each episode ends with James Liption's 10 questions from "Inside the Actor's Studio," which are bizarrely insightful.

They manage to interview a range of interesting people doing a range of interesting things. My favorite episodes are 11-13, interviews with Karen Sloan, author of the terrific "Flirting with Monasticism." I briefly reviewed the book here:

Good listening.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter Thoughts

I know it has been a few days since the big event, and we should have moved on to less confrontational things . . . but I am still thinking about Easter. The Resurrection is what validates the teachings and worth of Jesus; as a matter of fact, it is the only thing that matters in the whole of the story. The Resurrection is the first domino of the Christian faith. Without it, everything else come crashing down. The empty tomb matters.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Oh Happy Day

He is risen
He is risen

He is risen indeed

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March Reading List

13. Forced Out (ua), by Stephen Frey
14. Babylon 5: The Wheel of Fire (pb), by Jane Killick
15. New Moon (ua), by Stephenie Meyer
16. The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy (ua), by Pietra Rivola
17. The Next Christendom (hc), by Philip Jenkins

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Podcast Review

The Internet Monk Podcast

I have been listening to Michael Spencer's podcast for more than a year, so his "coming evangelical collapse" piece in the March 10 Christian Science Monitor did not surprise me. In both his blog and podcast, Spencer has been sounding this clarion call some time now. His podcast comes out approximately weekly, runs about 30 minutes, and features Spencer's observations on culture, politics, society, and the church.

I found myself in the "post-evangelical wilderness" for more than a decade before I found Spencer's terminology. His path and mine are similar, and I find his insights wortthwhile, and unavailable in other forums.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

N.T. Wright on the Bible

It’s a big book, full of big stories with big characters. They have big ideas (not the least of which about themselves) and make big mistakes. It’s about God, and greed, and grace; about life, lust, laughter, and loneliness. It’s about birth, beginnings, and betrayals; about siblings, squabbles, and sex; about power and prayer and prison and passion.

And that’s just Genesis.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bert Waggoner on the Trinity

First, we must grow in our relationship with the triune God -- Father, Son & Holy Spirit. The relationship with God is a relationship with all three members of the holy Trinity. Sometimes there can be a problem in spiritual development due to all the focus being on one member of the Trinity -- e.g. within Evangelicalism, the Son; within the Pentecostal/Charismatic context, the Holy Spirit; or within historical Protestantism, the Father. Our growth in relationship with God must be with the Father, and with the Son, and with the Spirit. Our growth takes place in the dynamic of love that exists in this divine community.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Sts. Perpetua & Felicity

Among the most powerful stories of the early church is that of Perpetua & Felicity, whose martyrdom around the year 200 the church remembers today. My favorite part is when Perpetua tries to explain her choice to face death to her father.
"Do you see this vessel—a waterpot or whatever name it may have? Can it be called by any other name than what it is? So also I cannot call myself by any other name than what I am—a Christian.” So wrote Perpetua, a beautiful, well-educated, noblewoman of Carthage, mother of an infant son and chronicler of the Emperor Septimius Severus' persecution of the church.

Despite death threats, Perpetua and Felicity (a slavewoman and expectant mother), and others, refused to renounce their Christian faith. For this, they were imprisoned, and sentenced to death in the public games in the amphitheater.

Perpetua’s mother was a Christian and her father a pagan. He continually pleaded with her to deny her faith. Not willing to renounce Christianity, she comforted her father in his grief over her decision. “It shall happen as God shall choose, for assuredly I depend not on my own power but on the power of God.“

As part of the games, Perpetua and Felicity were beheaded. Felicity gave birth to her girl a few days before her death.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

February Reading

7. Simply Christian (pb), by N.T. Wright
8. Death du Jour (ua), by Kathy Reichs
9. Salamandastron (ua), by Brian Jacques
10. Off The Page (pb), edited by Carole Burns
11. Death's Half Acre (ua), by Margaret Maron
12. Archangel: In The Valley of the Shadow (ua), by Scott Roche

Saturday, February 21, 2009

more from the Choir

Interesting verse (and the chorus) from a great song peformed by The Choir. Lyrics by Steve Hindalong.

Did the dead man arise when she entered the room?
Did I smell love decaying and call it perfume
Should a justified man know the grave from the womb

When I turn from your face
Render mercy
Render mercy and grace
Red blood rain from the sky
God have merciful eyes
Merciful eyes

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Book Review

A Comedian's Guide to Theology, by Thor Ramsey.

Musician Brian Healy was known for the humorous comments and stories were a regular part of his concerts. A review from a show of his (from approximately 1990) included a line something to the effect that "Healy is different from those on the Christian comedy circuit only in the fact that he is actually funny."

That comment applies to Thor Ramsey today.

And his first book is an intriguing blend of humor and solid, conservative theology. His main opponent is the post-modern views of the "emerging" church. Parts of the book are laugh-out-loud funny, and many parts contain interesting takes on the fundamentals of theology. He covers the Bible, Sin, Hell, and End Times. You know -- the funny stuff.

Ramsey does take on people from all across the spectrum, so you and church and your favorite Christian TV personality are made fun of. But if you can take a joke, you'll find plenty of good points and even insights tucked in between the jokes.

Friday, February 06, 2009


Well, now that the yaer is about 10% over, it seems about time I posted my "things to do" list for the year. Consider these my Plans / Hopes / Aspirations / Goals / Objectives for the year:

Maintain my devotions plan for the rest of the year
Walk 500 miles, and bike 200miles
Drop my Wii Fitness age by 25 years
Attend an academic conference (Oklahoma City, end of February)
Attend a writers conference (or 2) with a finished version of Identity
Seek out an agent and/or publisher for Identity
Finish watching Babylon 5 and start watching Battlestar Galactica
Visit North Carolina twice and Richmond once
Plan and hold daughter's graduation party
Get daughter off to (and settled in to) college
Walk one (hopefully 2) couple through our church's "Parent Coaching" program

Saturday, January 31, 2009

January Reading List

1. The Fourth Order (ua), by Stephen Frey
2. Rough Weather (ua), by Robert B. Parker
3. Eclipse (ua), by Stephenie Meyer
4. His Majesty's Dragon (ua), by Naomi Novik
5. Panic!, (hc), edited by Michael Lewis
6. Hot Mahogany (ua), by Stuart Woods

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Proud to be an American

It makes me proud whenever we transition national leadership from one political party to the other. Very few countries do this without bloodshed, without revolution, even in countries that are nominally democratic. But we do it regularly, and we always do it peacefully.

That's a good thing.

And the historical significance of this transition cannot be ignored. For the first time in human history, a population has elected as its leader a member of a non-majority race. That's something to be very proud of. And if this election can help heal the wound of our greatest national sin, that could be a good thing, too.

God bless America.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Podcast Review

History of Christianity

This is a series of classes conducted by Dr. Maxie Burch, under the auspices of a Baptist church in Arizona. At this point, they have 3 classes available on iTunes, for a total of 31 separate lectures, each running about 60-90 minutes.

There are 9 episodes (about 11 hours) in the Early Christian History series, covering roughly the time period from the apostles to the 8th Century. I would judge the level of the lectures to be an advanced adult Sunday School class, or perhaps a freshman level college class. Topics covered in this class include the age of martyrs, Constantine's reforms, early heresies, the canonization of the New Testament, the early councils and creeds, hermits and monasteries, and Celtic Christianity. I learned a lot in these lectures, and found nothing that either contradicted what I already knew, or that seemed "off the track." It struck me as a balanced and well-informed review of that period of church history.

I have not gotten far in the second class yet, Medieval and Reformation Christianity, which runs 11 episodes (about 17 hours). I have found it so far to be as solid and interesting as the first class. The topics surrounding the Reformation tend to create fissures in the Christian community, but I continue to trust that the class will remain well-balanced and fair as it discusses those theological controversies.

The third class, which I expect to get to later in the year, is an 11-episode (about 17 hours) class called Introduction to Historical Theology, and looks like it covers a range of theological topics, such as the Trinity, Sin and Sanctification, Sacraments, the Church, and Last Things. It looks fascinating.

I heartily recommend this podcast to anyone who wants to fill up some gaps in their knowledge relating to the history of the church.

Monday, January 05, 2009

2008 reading in review

I have been keeping track of my annual reading for about 5 years now (thank you, LibraryThing). In 2008, I read 110 books. This is down from the past few years, which hit around 140-150. This is because I got an iPod for Christmas last year, and listened to an absolute ton of podcasts. I have always been a fan of audio, and 60 of the 110 books I read this year were via audio.

The 68 novels I read break down as follows: (note that the total exceeds 68, as many books fit into more than one category)
Thriller/Adventure -- 31
Fantasy/SF -- 17
Mystery -- 12
Christian -- 11
YA -- 10
Historical -- 4

The 42 non-fiction works I read break down as follows: (note that the total exceeds 42, as many books fit into more than one category)
Christian/Theology -- 18
TV/Entertainment -- 12
Business/Technology -- 6
Memoir / Biography -- 5
Family -- 4
Reading and Writing -- 4
History/Politics -- 3

Friday, January 02, 2009

Podcast Review

Daily Audio Bible

This is a podcast that takes the listener through the entire Bible in a single year (twice through the Psalms). I did it in 2008 and highly recommend the site to anyone else who learns best via audio. I encourage anyone who is still working out their devotional or bible reading plans (or resolutions) for 2009 to check out this daily audio resource.

The daily podcast runs from 20-35 minutes, and follow a constant format. The actual Bible reading is the first 15-20 minutes of each episode. These are read each day by the same person, Brian Hardin (unless he is sick or traveling, in which case his wife, singer Jill Parr, handles the reading). He uses 5 or 6 translations for the readings, rotating through them a week at a time.

After the reading, Brian spends a few minutes reflecting on some part of the reading -- this is not quite formal enough to be termed a "devotion," but it's close. Brian then prays, makes a few announcements, and then plays a prayer request from someone who has called in a request.

2008 was a good year for this podcast, and in 2009 they are growing: In addition to the flagship English edition, which will be Hardin's 4th time through the Word, they are adding editions in both Spanish and Hindi.

If the time commitment is too much for you, check out the related Daily Audio Proverb or the Daily Audio Bible for Kids (just the new Testament), both of which run just 5-10 minutes per day.