Hearing the voice of the shepherd

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. — John 10:27

Erik Raymond has written a great post today and a great reminder that we can never make Jesus more appealing than he is. I cannot take Jesus and make him clearer and more appealing than he is in the Bible. As I read through John 10 today, I saw Jesus boldly make claims that offended his hearers and led them to want to kill him. I thought, “If Jesus himself can be rejected by some of his listeners, what makes me think I can do better?”

It took a miracle of God to break through my own resistance to him when I became a believer. He made what was heart of stone become alive to him and changed my passions. Did that mean that others didn’t play some part? By all means, no! But the final, saving action was done by God alone and I responded to that work of God.

We believe because we hear the voice of the Shepherd and follow. The fact that Jesus preached his message while he was on earth and we have the Bible points to the fact that, while we are saved by God alone, there are means he uses to bring us to that point. To those who don’t believe, this is all foolishness, but the hope is that it will one day be clear to them through Jesus Christ.

 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. — I Corinthians 1:22-25

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Lectures on ‘The Pastor as Scholar, and the Scholar as Pastor’

On Thursday, April 23, 2009, at Park Community Church in Chicago, IL, the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School hosted Dr. John Piper ofBethlehem Baptist Church and Dr. D. A. Carson of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Titled “The Pastor as Scholar, and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry with John Piper and D.A. Carson”, the evening featured hour-long lectures by Drs. Piper and Carson offering reflections of a theological and personal nature on the work of the pastor and the scholar, respectively. Below are video links to their talks.

Carson talk

Pastor as Scholar


The benefit of living in fear

One devotional I read is Daily Light on the Daily Path, which is a collection of similarly themed verses broken into a morning and evening reading. It is beneficial in that a) it is the Word of God, which speaks tremendously to you and b) it provides a good wellspring for prayer. You should be able to find it in several versions as a book as well as in an online form.

The reading for this morning was titled “Consider what great things he has done for you,” but I couldn’t help but notice how the idea of fearing God was woven into them as well. Verses like “Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you” (I Samuel 12:24) and “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;” (Psalm 103:11). Mixed with those were verses talking about how God afflicts those he loves and disciplines them such as Deuteronomy 8:5, which says “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you.”

That isn’t what I want to hear as a sinful person. I don’t want to hear that God disciplines me or tests me to see whether my love is genuine. But I need it because otherwise I will fall in love with myself and not God. When Jesus was tempted in the desert by Satan, the verses he cited were from Deuteronomy where God says he is testing his people (Deuteronomy 8:3).

What is so good about being fearful? When you live in fear you live in a state of awareness. You are aware of your surroundings, what your state is, what you need to do. You are alert. Obviously, we should not live in fear of everything because that is not how God has commanded us to live. But we are also to be aware that there in one final Judge, and that is where we should fear.

Living in fear of God is not an oppressive thing because he loves those who fear him, that is, living in a way that you are alert to what he wants and not what you what. As it says in Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” And with that knowledge comes a joy that is beyond anything this world offers.

Today my prayer is like Nehemiah as is written in Nehemiah 1:11: “O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”

The euphemism of ‘choice’ and why it’s something else

Kevin DeYoung writes a great post today, “Lincoln’s Legacy and the Unborn,” in which he discusses how America’s most popular (arguably) president was not a fan of ‘popular sovereignty,’ which would have allowed each state as it entered the union the choice of whether it would be a slave state or a free state. DeYoung writes:

The connections with the pro-slavery argument and the pro-abortion argument should be obvious. Both argue for choice. Both, at least in their more civilized forms, pretend moral neutrality. And both rely for their inner logic on strikingly similar propositions: blacks are not human persons with unalienable rights; and neither are the unborn. To quote from Lincon’s 1864 speech in Baltimore with only a slight tweak, subsituting ‘choice’ for ‘liberty’: “We all declare for choice; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word choice may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor. While with others the same word may mean for some men [and women] to do as they please with others, and with other men’s labors. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name–choice. And it follws that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names–choice and tyranny.”

News about The Hobbit movies

 

The latest news surrounding “The Hobbit” movies, due out in December 2011 and 2012, comes recently from The Empire. The question that had been floating around the world of Tolkein fans was that the first movie would be “The Hobbit” and the second would cover the span between “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.” Producer Peter Jackson and director Guillermo Del Torro clear that up:

“We’ve decided to have The Hobbit span the two movies, including the White Council and the comings and goings of Gandalf to Dol Guldur,” says Del Toro. “We decided it would be a mistake to try to cram everything into one movie,” adds Jackson. “The essential brief was to do The Hobbit, and it allows us to make The Hobbit in a little more style, if you like, of the [LOTR] trilogy.”

HT: Tim Challies

Hysteria about torture answered soberly

Porter Goss, who served as director of the CIA from September 2004 to May 2006 and was chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from 1997 to 2004, wrote Saturday in the Washington Post about the current political climate concerning perceived torture by U.S. interrogators dealing with al-Qaeda suspects:

A disturbing epidemic of amnesia seems to be plaguing my former colleagues on Capitol Hill. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, members of the committees charged with overseeing our nation’s intelligence services had no higher priority than stopping al-Qaeda. In the fall of 2002, while I was chairman of the House intelligence committee, senior members of Congress were briefed on the CIA’s “High Value Terrorist Program,” including the development of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and what those techniques were. This was not a one-time briefing but an ongoing subject with lots of back and forth between those members and the briefers.

Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as “waterboarding” were never mentioned. It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience.

Let me be clear. It is my recollection that:

  •  The chairs and the ranking minority members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, known as the Gang of Four, were briefed that the CIA was holding and interrogating high-value terrorists.
  • We understood what the CIA was doing.
  • We gave the CIA our bipartisan support.
  • We gave the CIA funding to carry out its activities.                              
  •  On a bipartisan basis, we asked if the CIA needed more support from Congress to carry out its mission against al-Qaeda.

I do not recall a single objection from my colleagues. They did not vote to stop authorizing CIA funding. And for those who now reveal filed “memorandums for the record” suggesting concern, real concern should have been expressed immediately — to the committee chairs, the briefers, the House speaker or minority leader, the CIA director or the president’s national security adviser — and not quietly filed away in case the day came when the political winds shifted. And shifted they have.

Related to that, in the video below, Liz Cheney absolutely destroys MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell as O’Donnell tries to feed more slop about the whole torture debate. Watch as Cheney uses sound argument to head off hysterical bluster.

Liz Cheney
Click on image to view video

Remembering William Cowper: Don’t trust the certainties of despair

The life of William Cowper is one that causes you to give pause and wonder. On this day in 1800 he passed on from a life filled with pain and darkness. For a man who wrote many inspiring hymns and poems, he suffered much in his life. He found Christ in his 30s, yet suffered for decades with a kind of debilitating depression that left him paralyzed with doubt. Many times he tried to take his own life.

In his message at the Bethlehem Pastors Conference in 1992, John Piper said that one of the lessons learned from the life of William Cowper is that we must “all fortify ourselves against the dark hours of depression by cultivating a deep distrust of the certainties of despair. Despair is relentless in the certainties of his pessimism. But we have seen that Cowper is not consistent. Some years after his absolute statements of being cut off from God, he is again expressing some hope in being heard. His certainties were not sureties. So it will always be with the deceptions of darkness. Let us now, while we have the light, cultivate distrust of the certainties of despair.”

The video below (click to view it) is from Mars Hill Church in their series The Rebels Guide to Joy entitled “The Rebels Guide to Joy in Loneliness.” Let us not abandon those around us who are saved but struggle mightily against the darkness.

william-cowper

This is what compassionate liberalism looks like

From an earlier post, we talked about how the White House — the Obama White House — stayed silent to help kill a D.C. program that helped poor kids — 90 percent black and 9 percent Hispanic — go to decent schools. Just recently the president talked about cutting wasteful programs. George Will talks about how that happens:

The president has set an example for his Cabinet. He has ladled a trillion or so dollars (“or so” is today’s shorthand for “give or take a few hundreds of billions”) hither and yon, but while ladling he has, or thinks he has, saved about $15 million by killing, or trying to kill, a tiny program that this year is enabling about 1,715 D.C. children (90 percent black, 9 percent Hispanic) to escape from the District’s failing public schools and enroll in private schools.

The District’s mayor and school superintendent support the program. But the president has vowed to kill programs that “don’t work.” He has looked high and low and — lo and behold — has found one. By uncanny coincidence, it is detested by the teachers unions that gave approximately four times $15 million to Democratic candidates and liberal causes last year.

Not content with seeing the program set to die after the 2009-10 school year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan (former head of Chicago’s school system, which never enrolled an Obama child) gratuitously dashed even the limited hopes of another 200 children and their parents. Duncan, who has sensibly chosen to live with his wife and two children in Virginia rather than in the District, rescinded the scholarships already awarded to those children for the final year of the program, beginning in September. He was, you understand, thinking only of the children and their parents: He would spare them the turmoil of being forced by, well, Duncan and other Democrats to return to terrible public schools after a tantalizing one-year taste of something better. Call that compassionate liberalism.

After Congress debated the program, the Education Department released — on a Friday afternoon, a news cemetery — a congressionally mandated study showing that, measured by student improvement and parental satisfaction, the District’s program works. The department could not suppress the Heritage Foundation’s report that 38 percent of members of Congress sent or are sending their children to private schools.

The Senate voted 58 to 39 to kill the program. Heritage reports that if the senators who have exercised their ability to choose private schools had voted to continue the program that allows less-privileged parents to make that choice for their children, the program would have been preserved.

And you thought Republicans were the mean, uncaring people.