Thursday, February 28

Ben's Blog

There are lots of blogs that really are worth reading. The very personal tribute to William F. Buckley in my friend, Ben House's blog, is most assuredly the former and not the latter.

Wednesday, February 27

William F. Buckley (1925-2008)

One of the pioneers of modern Conservatism, William F. Buckley, has died at the age of 82. He was the founder and editor of the National Review Magazine, was a nationally syndicated columnist, and was the host of Firing Line, one of television’s longest-running talk shows. He was also the author of more than five dozen best-selling books in almost every conceivable genre--indeed, he was still at work when he was found today at his desk. Many credit "his sharp wit, his polysyllabic exuberance, his refined demeanor, and his perspicacious mind" with helping to "elevate Conservatism to the center of American political discourse."

According to the New York Times, though "the more than 4.5 million words of his 5,600 biweekly newspaper columns, On the Right, would fill 45 more medium-sized books," his greatest achievement "was making Conservatism--not just electoral Republicanism, but Conservatism as a system of ideas--respectable in Liberal post-World War II America." I disagree. His greatest achievement was simply that as the tireless mentor to two generations of thinkers, writers, politicians, social reformers, moms, dads, cousins, and neighbors, most of whom he never met, he nevertheless made himself a beloved friend.

Monday, February 25

Larry Norman (1947-2008)

Larry Norman, the legendary Contemporary Christian musician, died early yesterday morning at his home in Corpus Christi, Texas, from heart failure. During his remarkable and often turbulent career, he was variously referred to as the "Father of Christian Rock" and the "Frank Zappa of Christian Rock." According to the appreciative obituary in Harp Magazine, the Portland-based Arena Rock label already had plans to issue a 20-song retrospective of Norman's work.

Norman's groundbreaking album, Only Visiting This Planet, popularized the Martin Luther phrase, “Why should the devil have all the good music?” making it a kind of raison d'etre for the fledgling Contemporary Christian Music movement. In 2001 he was inducted into the Gospel Music Association’s Hall of Fame. Then just last year he was also inducted into the San Jose Rock Hall of Fame.

Knowing that his all too short "visit" on this planet was nearing its end, he posted a farewell on his website:

Goodbye, farewell, we'll meet again
Somewhere beyond the sky.
I pray that you will stay with God
Goodbye, my friends, goodbye.

Wednesday, February 20

Dumb Certainties

A review published today by The Claremont Institute argues that a revival of a marriage culture in modern America depends on convincing women that marriage should precede childbirth and that children need their biological fathers at home. Ummm, well duh! Apparently though, these dumb certainties have somehow eluded most Americans.

Rare Easter

Easter is early this year. Very early. Unusually early.

The "Great Pascha" is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. This is based on the lunar calculations of the Hebrew calendar--because, of course, it is connected to the Passover festival. That is why the observance of the holiday moves around on our Western solar calendar.

So, while it is actually possible for Easter to be a day earlier than it will be this year, that is more than a little rare. In fact, this year’s celebration of Christ’s resurrection is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see for the rest of our lives. Indeed, only the most elderly members of our churches have ever seen it this early before--they'd have to be 95 or older because the last time Easter came so soon was in the year 1913. And the next time it will be this early will be more than two centuries hence, in the year 2228.

Thursday, February 14

Keller in Newsweek

Not surprisingly, Newsweek got several essential facts wrong in its profile of Tim Keller, the articulate and influential pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Nevertheless, I have to at least give the newsmagazine "style points" for recognizing the fact that Keller has broken the mega-church mold--and that his new book from Dutton, The Reason for God simply cannot be ignored.

Wednesday, February 13

On the Nightstand

Spurgeon's Lectures

For several years on Friday afternoons, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great "prince of preachers," addressed the students of his Pastor's College (founded in 1857 to train young men for evangelistic, pastoral, and parish ministry). Quite a few of the talks were published and made famous as Lectures to My Students. It has long been a mainstay in my library and I have read it again and again over the course of my life and ministry. Some of the omitted lectures were collected separately in The Art of illustration; still others in Commenting and Commentaries. Those too, I have long found to be invaluable.

But amazingly, a complete and unabridged, single-volume edition of the lectures has never been published. Until now, that is. Thanks to Banner of Truth, transcriptions of all the talks have finally been brought together in a beautiful, newly-typeset, smyth-sewn, hardback volume. A century and a half after they were first delivered, the lectures are as profound, powerful, and pertinent as ever. This is must-reading for all pastors and teachers.

What I'm Reading

Saturday, February 9

Grace and Covenant

“We do not often enough contemplate our salvation in the form of a covenant—yet, it is so represented in Scripture. From the beginning of God’s dealings with men, covenant is set forth as the relation in which He and the people who are peculiarly His own are made to stand with each other. It is well for us to look more upon this, to dwell more on this—the very condition and state of the matter between Christians and our God—so that instead of the vague and loose and general views that take no real or practical hold of a man, we are able to precisely and distinctly understand the things which the great God of Heaven and Earth has bound Himself to do for us, and to what, on the other hand, He has bound us. Instead of this faith of ours floating before the eye of our mind in the form of a slight, shapeless, shadowy imagination, we can clearly apprehend it as an express and definite plan, both of what God is engaged by promise to do for us, and to what we are engaged by promise in return. Comprehending this covenantal overture of mercy is the means by which we may know the greatness of an amazing grace.” Thomas Chalmers, 1847

Thursday, February 7

He Said What?

According to a BBC News story, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the adoption of certain aspects of Islamic Sharia law in the Britain is "unavoidable."

Rowan Williams, the titular head of the worldwide Anglican communion, asserted that the UK has to "face up to the fact" that some of its citizens "do not relate to the British legal system." Indeed, he argued that adopting parts of the Muslim law code would actually "help maintain social cohesion." According to Williams, the argument that "there's one law for everybody" is actually "a bit of a danger."

His comments come just a month after the Bishop of Rochester suggested that non-Muslims might soon "find it hard to live or work" in some areas of England.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Wednesday, February 6

Friends and Foes Alike

The current issue of the City Journal has a fascinating article by James Q. Wilson about why most Liberal Jews don't really like the Evangelical Christians who really like them.

Sunday, February 3

Substantial and Dependable

"When all visible evidences that He is remembering us are withheld, that is best. He wants us to realize that His Word, His promise of remembrance, is more substantial and dependable than any evidence of our senses." C.G. Trumbull

"Groanings which cannot be uttered are often prayers which cannot be refused." C.H. Spurgeon

"Beware in your prayer, above everything, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things, above all that we ask or think. Each time you intercede, be quiet first and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do, of how He delights to hear Christ, of your place in Christ; and expect great things." Andrew Murray

Saturday, February 2

A Flitting Thing, A Lasting Thing

Opinion is a flitting thing
But truth, outlasts the sun;
If we cannot own them both,
Possess the oldest one."

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Friday, February 1

God's Megaphone

"Our blessings rarely arrest our attentions. Our adversities almost always do." Tristan Gylberd

"Does God want us to suffer? What if the answer to that question is 'yes'? The fact is, I don't think that God particularly wants us to be happy. I think He wants us to love and be loved. He wants us to grow up. You see, we are like children who think that our toys bring us all the happiness there is, and that our nursery is the whole wide world. But something has to drive us out into the world of others, and that thing is suffering. Put simply, pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world. We are like blocks of stone from which the Sculptor carves a form. The blows of His chisel which hurt us so much are what make us perfect." C.S. Lewis