john-donneToday is the commemoration of John Donne.  Timothy George over at First Things has written a nice article, Flesh and Dust, to mark the day.  An excerpt follows:

Donne would be a lot more popular today if he had been a “name it and claim it” kind of Christian. But however ecstatic his experience of God might have been, the dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral continued to struggle with such disagreeable realities as sin, suffering, repentance, sickness, decay, and death. We prefer a Lent with all lilies and no ashes. But Donne knew that the difficult disciplines of prayer, fasting, self-denial, and cross-bearing, together with the holy discontent of waiting for an answer that does not come—such rigors are necessary medicines for what he called the “insatiable whirlpool of the covetous mind.”

John Calvin once wrote that “we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety” (Inst. 3.2.17). Donne had lots of doubts and anxieties within—and they were matched by the cosmic angst without, in the universe where not even God’s love could move the sun around the earth anymore, as Dante had once assumed. But Donne also knew the forgiveness and freedom that flows from God’s grace and mercy. Such consolations drew him closer to God as he grew weaker in body, languishing away in the illness that would lead to his death.

Here is a bit more biography, a smattering of his writings, and a collect for the day.

Excellent article from Carl Trueman:

Satire has often been the first and most discerning enemy of power and tyranny which is why it is so hated by the powerful and the tyrannical. And it is also thrives upon the most basic of liberal freedoms, that of speech.  Think of Karl Kraus and his satirizing of the Nazis. Think of those who in the West today are most subversive of politically correct pieties: is it not the great satirists who simply refuse to allow the great and the good to take themselves seriously without challenge?

Read the rest.

A Timeline For Holy Week

March 29, 2015 — 1 Comment

With help from the ESV Study Bible, here’s an attempted harmony/chronology of the words and actions of Jesus in the final week of his pre-resurrection life.

Read it all.


In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas
Hands down the best article I read this week.  From the NYT; the article address the conviction, increasingly prevalent among college students, that their schools should keep them from being ‘bombarded’ by discomfiting or distressing viewpoints.

iPod Preachers and the Local Church
From Barnabas Piper: A few years ago my iPod was filled with sermons from the usual gospelly suspects, and I listened to them fairly regularly. But I realized something wasn’t quite right.

God Doesn’t Want Matt Chandler to Be Your Pastor
From Stephen Altrogge: The massive availability of fantastic preaching presents a problem as well. It can tempt us to be discontent with our own pastors.

The Short Life-span of Contemporary Worship Songs
Because of the increasingly short shelf-life of modern worship music, worship leaders should make sure we . . .

Keep Writing
From the NYMag: Ask seasoned writers to come up with an ending to an unfinished short story, and their brains seem to switch into a sort of automatic story-sculpting mode.

Sabermetrics for the Church?
Every year [Anglican] churches prepare parochial reports, which are aggregated and become the basis for the assessment of the health of dioceses and of the national church. We measure membership, attendance, total activity (number of services), and giving. But are we measuring the right things?

What the English of Shakespeare, Beowulf, and King Arthur Actually Sounded Like
From the Washington Post: Let’s hop into a time machine and go back to the England of yore!

9 Traits of Mean Churches
From Thom Rainer: I collected characteristics of these (mean) churches, and I found nine that were common.

The Integrity of Our Words and Confession of Faith 
From Albert Mohler: In the end, theological education–and preaching–is all about the stewardship of words. So it was when Paul commissioned Timothy. So is it now.

With Race-Together Starbucks is Using the Worst of Evangelical Techniques
The campaign was aborted but Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz still declared it mission accomplished.

An excellent offering from Chris Rosebrough at Pirate Christian Radio.

Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, the public bulletin board of his day. In like manner, we post these 95 theses on the door of the internet. Like the original theses, these are debatable, for we believe that it is through vigorous debate that the spirits are tested and truth is revealed.

In publishing these theses, we do not intend to foment division, but to expose those who are creating division within the body of Christ. We invite all who love the Gospel of Jesus Christ to engage in this debate. We do so in the spirit of the great Reformer, Martin Luther, as we implore the mercies of God upon His Church, for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Church and shepherd of our souls. 

Read through them here.

What do you think?


For My Nephews

March 24, 2015 — Leave a comment

Thought this was pretty neat.  Prioleau Alexander uses the mini-series Lonesome Dove to pass along life lessons to his nephews.

Like most Uncles, it is my desire to be remembered by my nephews when they are older, and I am gone.

I will never hold a place in their lives remotely as important as their parents, but then again I am spared the difficult task of actually raising them. Their parents enjoy the most intimate, wonderful times, but must also endure the difficult times. They have their role clearly defined by societal norms, while mine is vague. I can be the cool uncle, the crazy uncle, the generous uncle, the carefree uncle…or, if I choose, the aloof and distant uncle.

I don’t know what combination of these I will be remembered as, but I’ve made certain it will not be the latter. I had one of those, and when we buried him I didn’t shed a tear. After all, one rarely cries over a stranger.

Anyway, a while back my brother’s son won the Exceptional Citizen Award from the school he attends. There was only one recipient, and it was a very big deal. The award shocked me, because it was so different from my behavior in school…. I was a popular kid, but I used my popularity like a self-centered pop star. I surrounded myself with the cool clique…I teased the unpopular kids…I scorned the un-coordinated kids…and I spoke nary a word to any girl I didn’t consider cute. 

In short, I was a jerk, and I’m ashamed of it to this day.

My nephew, on the other hand, is an athletic and popular kid, but has used his popularity in a way that reveals an exceptional man in the making. The award he won sited the fact that he never speaks badly about a classmate…he is the first to encourage and compliment the class underdogs…he is the student who always reaches out to a classmate in need… and he is courteous and respectful to his teachers. He doesn’t know it, but he now holds in his mind the memories I wish I had from those years.

I wrote my nephew a letter to tell him how proud I was of him. I wrote a letter as opposed to stopping by and talking to him because no one writes letters anymore, and I knew it would have a deeper impact on him. I didn’t, however, just tell him I was proud of him; I told him why I was proud of him, and discussed at length some of the trials and tribulations he would encounter as he grew older…I did my best to help him understand how rare his gifts are, and how those gifts could serve him in the future…I talked to him like an adult, and said, “You’re on the right track. Be proud of yourself, and don’t change for anyone.”

Then, to my surprise and amazement, my sister’s son recently won a similar award. Different parents…but obviously this nephew has the same sort of gifts, and attitudes towards his fellow man.

And this got me to thinking…as an Uncle, what could I possibly offer these lads that might have an impact on their lives?

Then, on a long bike ride through the hills of Western Maryland, it occurred to me: Boys learn from their parents…and through good parenting become good men… but the one thing they usually fail to do is listen to their parents on matters concerning the years ahead. Parents have the ability to offer them decades of wisdom paid for with significant quantities of personal pain, but there’s something about the human psyche that causes us all to reject this most obvious and valuable of gifts. Like a moth to the light, it is our fate to bump up against that smoking hot orb called experience until we learn, or die.

So, on this bike ride, I decided my gift to my nephews would be wisdom.

There are, of course, several drawbacks to this plan . . .

Read it all.

When Cranmer was on trial for his life because of his views of Holy Communion he made clear his thinking:

“We should consider, not what the bread and wine be in their own nature, but what they import to us and signify . . . that lifting up our minds, we should look up to the blood of Christ with our faith, should touch him with our mind, and receive him with our inward man; and that, being like eagles in this life, we should fly up into heaven in our hearts, where that Lamb is resident at the right hand of the Father . . . by whose passions we are filled at his table.”

J.E. Cox, Cranmer on the Lord’s Supper, p. 398

There’s been a bit of a flurry in the news (Post & Courier and the City Paper) about the increased panhandling in Charleston in light of the ACLU’s successful challenge to the restrictions imposed by city ordinances.  Much of it has been, frankly, ugly.

Somewhere (I don’t remember where) I ran across a website, Rethink Homelessness.  I don’t know much about the organization other than they’ve collected a good number of community leaders to develop a common plan addressing the problem of homelessness in Central Florida.

I thought about the panhandlers in conjunction with the recent video, Human, that Rethink Homelessness produced.  It reminded me of something I’ve always known; there are real people behind the “problem” of homelessness.  I think that simple truth is forgotten sometimes.

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