My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

30 August 2006


I've never been "tagged" before, and I probably wouldn't respond, except with this one I get to talk about books. Thanks Josh.

1. One book that changed your life: The Attributes of God by A. W. Pink and a New Systematic Theology by Robert Reymond. The first because it reintroduced me to the greatness of Biblical doctrine, the second because it made meaningful theology within reach.

2. One(or Two) book(s) that you’ve read more than once: I read the Chronicles of Narnia about every year-ish.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island: Other than the Bible...The Collected Writings of John Murray (is that cheating?)

4. One book that made you laugh: H.L. Mencken's Chrestomathy. That dude's craaaazy. If only more of us could write like that...

5. One book that made you cry:
I did tear up a couple times during Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. Take and read!

6. One book that you wish HAD been written: How Zwingli and Luther Settled Their Differences and Made Everything Easier for All Reformed Folks, by Ima Dreamin.

7. One book that you wish had NEVER been written: Lewis Chafer's Systematic Theology. Plus all those really bad books everybody else has mentioned.

8. What you're currently reading: Sex & The Supremacy of Christ, John Piper, Justin Taylor et al. Pascal's Pensees for nighttime reading. Flannery O'Connor's complete stories.

9. One book you've been meaning to read: I've got a stack two feet high...I think next might Chesterton's biography of St. Thomas Aquinas.

10. Now tag 5 people: Any of our Purdue grad students. They always find the randomest and coolest things to read. (That's right, I said randomest.)

11. One book do you wish YOU had written: Church Planting in 12 Easy Steps

The Saga of the Wall, as Told by Lyrics You're Ashamed You Know

First, the wall must come down...

A wall of denial is falling down
Whoa it's fallin' so hard, down to the ground
Never knew something so strong could
be washed away by tears
But this wall of denial was just built on fear

(Stevie Ray Vaughan, Wall of Denial)

I'm gonna knock it down
Any way that I can
I'm gonna scream, I'm gonna yell
I don't want to have to use my hands
(Minor Threat, Screaming at a Wall - I must admit, I don't really know who they are)

When the walls come tumblin' down
When the walls come crumblin' crumblin'
When the walls come tumblin' tumblin' down
(John Mellencamp, Crumblin' Down)

Alas, we were too busy smashing and hauling and being generally manly that we neglected to take pictures of the wall's demise. Onto the new wall...

It wasn't very complicated:

We don't need no education
We dont need no thought control
(Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall Part 2)

And now it shall remain, untouched upon pain of something bad, yet permanently scarring my fragile psyche:

There's a lot of strange men, in cell block ten
But the strangest of em' all
Was a friend of mine who spent his time
Starin' at the wall..
Starin' at the wall..

As He looked at the wall
So strong and tall
You could hear him softley curse
Nobody at all ever climbed that wall
But I'm gonna be the first..
I'm gonna be the first..

Well the warden walked by and said son don't try
I'd hate to see you fall
For there is no doubt that they'll carry you out
If you ever touch that wall..
If you ever touch that wall..

Well a Year's gone by since he made his try
But I can still recall
How hard he tried and the way he died
But he never made that wall..
He never made that wall..

Well there was never a man who shook his hand
But I know a man who tried
The newspapers called that a jailbreak plan
But I knew it was suicide..
I knew it was suicide..

(The Man in Black, the Wall)

p.s. - Forgive my obtusity. We tore down a limestone and mortar wall and put up a new mortar-less block wall. It took way more time and way more sweat than I thought it would. But now we might be able to sell the house someday. The wall belongs more to Josh Bright than me. He did an astounding amount of ridiculously hard work for me.

24 August 2006

I think your wallet is looking too heavy...

My friend and fellow-wall builder (coming soon!) Josh Bright is taking part in a Walk for Life, raising money to fight for the unborn. If you are at all able, go here and donate!

Words I had to look up up while studying today

Panegyric: a lofty oration or writing in praise of a person or thing; eulogy.

Litotes: A figure of speech consisting of an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite (i.e., this isn't a bad blog at all).

As in, this litotical pangeryic is not a little great. Got that?

22 August 2006

Why Church History

Sunday morning the college class began a semester-long overview of church history, mostly using the outline provided by Mark Noll in Turning Points. The big discussion on Sunday was, "Why should we study church history?" This is most helpful to me, a recovering church-history scrooge. Here are some of the reasons Noll gives to study church history, to which we added a few more:
  • Studying church history shows the historical character of the Christian faith. Unlike many other religions which are based on philosophies and various theologies, Christianity is not simply a collection of doctrines or a comprehensive worldview. Rather, it is first and foremost about what God has done and will do in real time and real space.
  • Looking to the past will give us perspective on interpreting the Scriptures. It keeps us from assuming that way we read the Bible is the way it's always been read - not that church history should make us constantly doubt our exegesis, but should give us valuable perspective. We should be very careful when we find ourselves understanding Scripture differently than the church has for 20 centuries.
  • Perspective itself is a benefit of studying church history. How often do we hear that the modern world is the worst it's ever been? Or that we've finally found the one answer to our theological problems? Such histrionics, whether pessimistic or optimistic, would be tempered if we took seriously the study of Christ's church.
  • We have a heritage to claim and enjoy, so let's get to it. Whether it's our specific heritage, like the Covenanters, or the heritage enjoyed by the whole church, like the church fathers, we ought to honor those who have gone before us and claim that heritage.
  • We can learn great lessons from the saints in the past. As we learn about how our mothers and fathers of the faith faced down the pressures of the world and walked wisely (and sometimes unwisely), we will find wisdom and conviction.
  • Similarly, most of the battles faced by the church have already been fought. If we forget that and neglect to pick up and wield the weapons forged by our ancestors, how much the poorer are we! The most recent and painful example of this was the church's frantic arm-waving over the Da Vinci Code. Yes, it's bad and blasphemous and all that. But it's already been answered - all this heresy and silliness wasn't invented by Dan Brown. Were the church instructed in her history, would so many be so tempted or worried?
  • Studying church history will lay bare the great grace of God in sustaining an imperfect church through many centuries.
  • Perhaps more than most generations, our Christian generation operates in a historical vacuum and hast lost the power of the historic Christian faith. The church must find a stronger foundation than the self- and chrono-centric one she stands on now.
  • Finally, as hinted at by Psalm 78 and Hebrews 11, studying the history of Christ's reign with His people, studying church history builds faith. There is strength and courage and belief to be had when we lay hold of these stories - who doesn't need more faith?
Would you add any more reasons?

17 August 2006

Ignoring History

From an interesting interview with President Jimmy Carter:

Yes. That would be certainly satisfactory to me personally, and I think most people believe that enough time has passed so that historical facts can be ignored.
(He's speaking of whether or not Germans should be allowed into the UN peacekeeping force headed to Lebanon, but the quote is precious. I wish we could ignore the historical facts all the time!)


File under "Francis Schaeffer's Two-Story Thingamajig"
Francis Schaeffer and Nancy Pearcey wrote/write a truckload about how our society is keeping Christianity under wraps by restraining people's faith to an "upper story" of life, where it can bring personal peace and fulfillment, but not real change in the world around us (that would be the "first story" of facts and realities that can be brought to bear on others around us).

In an editorial in the WSJ today, Roger Scruton discusses "Islamofascism" and does, quite honestly, a great job of exploring questions many people have about the "religion of peace" (it's worth reading just for the first half). But then he says this:
Christians and Jews are heirs to a long tradition of secular government, which began under the Roman Empire and was renewed at the Enlightenment: Human socieities should be governed by human laws, and these laws must take precedence over religious edicts. The primary duty of citizens is to obey the state; what they do with their souls is a matter betrween themselves and God, and all religions must bow down to the sovereign authority if they are to exist within its jurisdiction.

Much could be said; this is a perfect example of what Pearcey and Schaeffer are talking about. "What you do with God is your business, but don't let it affect me. Now...let's get on to making laws that are purely areligious." Nothing humans do is non-religious. Everything we do is an act of worship to one god or another. Every law we make is a religious law (pssst - remember that the Supreme Court has acknowledged secularism as an official religion).

Perhaps more problematic is the assertion that religions must "bow down" to the authority of the state if they are to exist there. The church should indeed obey all laws that don't require disobedience to God; likewise, the church doesn't have direct authority (i.e., ability to enforce its will) over the state. But where is the ultimate authority in this discussion? Is it not with Christ, who is the King of the Nations? Aren't all leaders exhorted to "kiss the Son, lest He turn and you perish in the way"? We need to spot and name comments like Mr. Scruton's for what they are: reflections of our society's version of tolerance for Christianity. As long as we don't evangelize or preach Christ's kingship or call the nations to repent or call for laws based on Biblical morality, we're fine. But a faith that is merely personal is not the faith Christ has called us to.

16 August 2006

A great cello concerto by Edward Elgar.


African missionaries to England. This is both encouraging, in the missions-mindedness of the African church, and discouraging, in the reliance on "African exuberance" that many missionaries are showing.


Our friend Meg gave me a link to this guy over at A "non-observant" Jew reading through the Bible for the first time and writing about it. David Plotz claims some familiarity with the Bible, but his writings show that his familiarity was only surface level. The reason these posts fascinate me is that they're honest, detailed pictures of what people really think when coming into contact with Scripture for the first time. He confesses that his writings are probably somewhat inaccurate and blasphemous; I would have to agree. But they're interesting nonetheless - and helpful, insofar as they are a picture into the unbelieving mind's view of God's Word.

Here's his first post on Genesis. He's up to somewhere in Numbers now. ...if only Christians paid this much attention to Scripture!


Cool bookstore: Splintered Light Bookstore. They have some connection to Ken Meyers, of Mars Hill Audio fame. Apparently, they carry all the books he talks about on the Journal.


This fall I get to teach the college class at church. We're doing an overview of church history using Mark Noll's Turning Points. I hope I can get the students into it; if you're coming this week, be thinking about why we should study church history. Brownie points (maybe even candy) could be awarded.


Last week we held a picnic for new international grad students. We fed about 250 folks and had some great conversations; my son learned some Chinese and made a lot of new friends. And we got to worship with five of those students on Sunday! Purdue ranks second in the nation in the number of international students enrolled per year. What a treasure at our doorstop! Pray that God might teach us how to love them like Christ would.

09 August 2006

Catching Up

It feels like too much has happened to catch up well - but let's try anyway, bullet-style.
  • My younger brother got married on a beach in Cabo, Mexico. A fine reason to celebrate and a fine reason to go to the beach.
  • My friend Zach is getting married. Congratulations!
  • My friend Josh is featured in this article. He's a policeman in downtown Indianapolis; I got to ride with him for a shift. According to the article, they're doing some good work, trying to stem the tide of homicides in Indy. Doesn't he look handsome in his uniform?
  • Church planting what-nots:
    • We're still hunting for a good place to worship.
    • We're putting on a picnic tomorrow night for several hundred international graduate students. Hopefully, some will come to church on Sunday.
    • We've got some talented folks getting together our website, stationary, etc.
    • My study leave went well. It was so enjoyable and I got so much done that I'm wondering why more pastors don't have a study leave every year.
  • Family conference was great this summer. I got to teach the junior high class again; what a great age! They're a lot of fun, they listen well, and they're still small enough to be afraid of me.
  • Our 2 1/2 year old: his vocabulary and syntax have really taken off lately. It's quite fun to have more "real" conversations with him these days. I was reading a book the other day and he asked, "What book is that?" After I told him the title and what it was about, he said, "Looks like a pretty cool book." (You have to imagine that whole sentence coming from a 2 year old to make it funny.)
  • I'm finally getting back to preaching in Proverbs this week, after a 5-week interruption. Right now I'm just hoping I can finish before we're sent out with the church plant. I suppose it depends on how many sermons I preach about the "Proverbial" woman of chapter 31.
  • No real book reviews to share; most of my reading this summer has been snippets of this and that book. Studying worship, I've really benefited from Liturgies of the Western Church, by Bard Thompson. Someday soon I'll read a whole book again.
  • Last night was the first night of our neighborhood Bible Investigation. Alas, no one came. Several neighbors told us they might make it next week, so we'll try again next Tuesday.
  • Monday was our 7th anniversary. The year of perfection! What a blessing my wife is.
Sorry for the disjointed news-session. Hope you're all doing well.

08 August 2006


Several people have asked us for the catechism we're teaching to #1, our 2 1/2 year old. We started with a couple questions from the classic children's catechism, but quickly realized that those questions were too involved for him. So we just kept making simpler questions up on our own.

A couple notes:
  1. This list is definitely in process - when we're doing family worship consistently, I like to add a new question a week or so, depending on how he's doing.
  2. The first few questions can be answered with simple hand gestures, so #2, our 1 1/2 year old has started too.
  3. I try to avoid "yes" and "no" questions, though you'll find several of them in the list. Too many of them gets confusing and I'd rather them learn the content and idea.
  4. I'm trying to find a balance between getting doctrine across and getting them involved in the story behind the questions. "Questions time" often includes a lot of clapping and cheering, especially when we get to the part about the resurrection (Long live the king!).
  5. I don't always add questions at the end; right now, I'm working to flesh out the story of Jesus' life and death in ways #1 can understand.
  6. Several of the questions about sin and forgiveness are quite helpful in the process of discipline.
Here it is:

Q: Who made you?
A: God

Q: What else did God make?
A: All things

Q: Why did God make you and all things?
A: For His own glory

Q: How many persons are there in God?
A: Three

Q: Can God do all things?
A: Yes

Q: What is God?
A: A Spirit

Q: Can you see God?
A: No

Q: Who is our Helper?
A: The Holy Spirit

Q: Who is our Savior?
A: Jesus

Q: Where do we learn how to love and obey God?
A: The Bible

Q: How do we talk to God?
A: Pray and Sing

Q: Who was Jesus’ mom?
A: Mary

Q: Did Jesus ever sin?
A: No

Q: How did Jesus die?
A: On the cross

Q: Whom did Jesus crush?
A: The serpent

Q: What happened after Jesus died?
A: They put Him in the ground

Q: Did He stay in the ground?
A: No

Q: What happened?
A: Jesus rose from the dead. Long live the king!

Q: What day did Jesus rise from the dead?
A: Sunday

Q: So what do we do on Sunday?
A: Worship

Q: Where is Jesus?
A: Heaven

Q: Is He coming back?
A: Yes

Q: Who were our first parents?
A: Adam and Eve

Q: How did God make man?
A: In His own image

Q: What did God give Adam and Eve?
A: Body and soul

Q: Do you have a body and soul?
A: Yes

Q: How long will your soul last?
A: Forever

Q: God made a promise with Adam; it was called the covenant of _______
A: Life

Q: What did God want Adam to do?
A: Obey

Q: What did Adam do?
A: Disobey

Q: What’s it called when we disobey God?
A: Sin

Q: What does God have to do to sin?
A: Punish

Q: Do you sin?
A: Yes

Q: So what do you need?
A: Forgiveness

Q: Where do we get forgiveness?
A: Jesus’ blood

Q: How do we get Jesus’ blood?
A: By faith

Q: How do we get faith?
A: By grace

Q: How do you know that you belong to God?
A: My baptism