Friday, October 28, 2011

God, Glory, and Giving

As a young man in my teen years, I was privileged to attend church with an elderly saint named Mr. Chodan. I admired his godly wisdom gained through many years of following Christ, and I never tired of listening to him pray. His prayers were never fiery or passionate. No, they were deeper than that. They were quiet, substantive communion with God. Mr. Chodan's example taught me much about knowing God.

But in John 17 we find a prayer that is infinitely deeper than Mr. Chodan's prayers could ever be. Here we listen to God communing with God, and by the Spirit we are drawn into the true knowledge of God which is eternal life. I hope you will join us to listen to this prayer this Lord's Day.

Give to Our God Immortal Praise (#53)
Blessing and Honor (#10)
O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing (#69)
Psalm 118b

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 14; Psalm 136
New Testament: Romans 9:1-18

God Giving Glory - John 17:1-5

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tastes in Noise

Every body has their taste in noises as well as in other matters; and sounds are quite innoxious, or most distressing, by their sort rather than their quantity.

Jane Austen opens up another one of her many insights into human nature. We might restate it this way - what we love in our hearts is much more significant to our happiness than the circumstances in which we find ourselves, even when those circumstances are as simple as noise.

Unveiling the Idols

It is fascinating to observe how the underlying paganism of our society is working its way out more and more consistently into our public practices.

On a scholarly level, some advocate re-appropriating the polytheism of Homer's era. These scholars see clearly how enlightenment has brought emptiness, so they advocate a different kind of idolatry.

On a popular level, we are watching the deification of Steve Jobs.

As I was re-reading J. Gresham Machen's Christianity and Liberalism just a little while ago, I came across something I had forgotten. Machen wrote:

...despite all superficial continuity, a remarkable change has come about within the last seventy-five years. The change is nothing less than the substitution of paganism for Christianity as the dominant view of life. Seventy-five years ago, Western civilization, despite inconsistencies,was still predominantly Christian; to-day it is predominantly pagan.

This work was published in 1923. If Machen was right, and I think he was, then twentieth century America was, at bottom, a pagan society. Her public institutions, practices, and mores have progressively removed the drapery which shrouds her real gods.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Amusing Ourselves to Death Discussion 5

Chapter 8: Shuffle Off to Bethlehem
1.      After watching religious programming on television, Postman came to two conclusions (116-7). What are they?

2.      What characteristics of television make authentic religious experience impossible via television broadcasts, according to Postman (118-21)? Do the same criticisms apply to radio broadcasts or live streaming videos of preachers in multi-site churches?

3.      Is Postman correct when he says “It is an essential condition of any traditional religious service that the space in which it is conducted must be invested with some measure of sacrality” (118-9)? Why or why not?

4.      Why does Postman think that televised religion has a strong tendency toward idolatry (122-3)?

5.      “I believe I am not mistaken in saying that Christianity is a demanding and serious religion,” Postman writes. “When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another kind of religion altogether” (121). What Scriptures would support his belief?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Real Discipleship in the Home

Overheard this morning in the next room:

And so we can see that God always provides for his people.

A split-second later:

M----, go get on the potty!

I love family life and homeschooling.

Coming from Nowhere and Going Nowhere in Particular

That about sums up the view of mankind working through Western society for the past few centuries. Charles Taylor says that the “Modern Moral Order”
“…starts with individuals, and doesn’t see these as set a priori within a hierarchical order, outside of which they wouldn’t be fully human agents. Its members are not agents who are essentially embedded within a society which in turn reflects and connects with the cosmos, but rather disembedded individuals who come to associate together. The design underlying the association is that each, in pursuing his or her own purposes in life, act to benefit others mutually. It calls for a society structured for mutual benefit, in which each respects the rights of others, and offers them mutual help of certain kinds” (A Secular Age [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007], 447).
The gospel changes all of that.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Only Form of Sexual Union

The only remaining safeguards of family life in modern urban civilization are its social prestige and the sanctions of moral and religious tradition. Marriage is still the only form of sexual union which is openly tolerated by society....But if we accept the principles of the new morality, this last safeguard will be destroyed and the forces of dissolution will be allowed to operate unchecked.

Christopher Dawson, "The Patriarchal Family in History" - 1933

And what is the cardinal weapon that in our day is being deployed against the gospel of triune grace? It is sexual confusion. It is sexual brinksmanship. It is sexual accommodation. It is sexual grammar parsing. And whatever else it is, it is now upon us.

Douglas Wilson, "Cardinal Sexuality" - 2011

The historian Dawson was concerned about the decline of our society; our concern, though related, is more radical. It is a concern about the gospel and the right relationship of men to God. God created male and female and established the only form of sexual union precisely to point men to the wonder of his relationship with his church (Eph 5:32). The diabolical attack upon the only form of sexual union is an attack upon the gospel and the core truths of Christianity.

Who Are They?

Pastor Bryan Brock of Lifepoint Baptist Church, applying Hebrews 13:17:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

"Who is the 'them' and 'they' in your life?"

"It could be argued that active church membership in good standing was one of the best NT tests of genuine Christianity."

The Gospel News Is Sounding

We welcome you to join us this Lord's Day as we rejoice in the spread of the good news of Jesus around the world.

Salvation! O My Soul Rejoice! (#291)
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (#137)
From Depths of Woe (#337)
Hark! the Gospel News Is Sounding (#293)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 13; Psalm 114
New Testament: Romans 8:18-39


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Proverbs on Education

What is the message of Proverbs concerning education and learning?

In the final analysis Proverbs is a book of education. It is the textbook of Israelite paideia (Greek, "education"). What is the Hebrew ideal of education?...

First, Proverbs does not subordinate the education of the individual to the needs of the state. This is remarkably different from the later Greek paideia. For the Greeks devotion to the polis ("state") was a fundamental element of education....In Proverbs, however, such notions scarcely surface at all. Patriotism is not regarded as evil, but no attempt is made to glorify Israelite culture. Instead, everything is subordinated to the Israelite God. If God is honored, all will be well with the state; if he is not, things will not go well....

Second, Israelite wisdom does not promote any particular occupation or trade. This contrasts with Egyptian instructional literature....

Third, education is primarily the task of parents. The family is the first and best school (Deut 6:4-9). The son is exhorted o heed his mother and father (23:22-25), and the parents are commanded to invest time and attention in their children (29:15, 17).

Finally, biblical wisdom stresses the limitations of human knowledge. The gulf between human perception and divine reality is never really closed....The learned must never forget their limitations (30:2-4) and that they are prone to error and conceit. Above all, they must subordinate their quest to the Word of God. For "every word of God is flawless" (30:5).

Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (NAC), 57, 59

P.S. Those in our seminar on the wisdom literature in the Bible may be interested in this post, "What is Hebrew Poetry?"

Friday, October 14, 2011

Songs and Scripture for the Coming Lord's Day

Christ, the Lord, Is Risen Today (#156)
Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness (#400)
It Is Well with My Soul (#371)
May the Mind of Christ My Savior (#476)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 12:28-51; Psalm 135
New Testament: Romans 8:1-17

Returning to the Father so that You May Have Peace - John 16:25-33

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Amusing Ourselves to Death Discussion 4

Chapter 6: The Age of Show Business
1.      As he begins the second section of the book, Postman states the questions which the rest of the book will address. What are they (84)? Keep these questions in mind as you read.

2.      What distinction does Postman make between technology and a medium (84)?

3.      “It is possible,” Postman writes, “for a technology to be so used that its potentialities are prevented from developing and its social consequences kept to a minimum” (85). He then goes on to say, “But in America, this has not been the case. Television has found in liberal democracy and a relatively free market economy a nurturing climate in which its full potentialities as a technology of images could be exploited” (86). Assuming Postman’s point for the sake of argument, does this mean that the greater problem we face is “liberal democracy and a relatively free market”? If we reformed these problems, would television as a medium convey a different meaning?

4.      “Entertainment is the supra-ideology of all discourse on television” (87). Agree or disagree? Two further thought questions. Is entertainment bound to be the ruling ideology of television, as such? Is entertainment bound to be the ruling ideology of television in America?

5.      Would it be accurate to make this charge: “Entertainment is the supra-ideology of all discourse on radio”? Or, “Entertainment is the supra-ideology of all discourse in news magazines”?

6.      Postman says, “I do not say categorically that it is impossible to use television as a carrier of coherent language or thought in process….After all, it is not unheard of that a format will occasionally go against the bias of its medium” (91). But he goes on to state, “But this is not television at its best, and it is not television that most people will choose to watch” (92). Does this mean that the greater problem we face is what most people want to watch?

7.      “How television stages the world becomes the model for how the world is properly to be staged” (92). Would it be more accurate to say that how producers stage the world using television’s inherent qualities becomes the model for how the world is properly to be staged? Is this what Postman means? What difference does it make?

8.      Most would agree that “our culture has moved toward a new way of conducting its business, especially its important business. The nature of its discourse is changing as the demarcation line between what is show business and what is not becomes harder to see with each passing day” (97-8). What would you suggest is the source of this shift in our society?

Chapter 7: “Now…This”
1.      I think it is evident by now that this book forces us to meditate upon our human nature as much as it does upon the nature of television. What fundamental presuppositions do we as Christians bring to the table regarding human nature?

2.      Does the format of the typical television newscast communicate that the world “has no order or meaning and is not to be taken seriously” (99)? Do the constant interruptions of commercials render the news “banal” (104)?

3.      Is the following true in all forms of communication? “The perception of the truth of a report rests heavily on the acceptability of the newscaster” (101). Is it wrong for our perception of truth to be influenced by the messenger? Also, does television make us rely more heavily on this perception?

4.      “What has music to do with the news? Why is it there?” (102).

5.      How do we combat “disinformation” (107)?

6.      Postman says that “television is the paradigm for our conception of public information” (111). Does the growing influence of the internet and devices such as the iPhone change this? If so, in what way?

7.      What does the book of Ecclesiastes have to say about what Postman is wrestling with in this chapter?

Friday, October 07, 2011

Sorrow and Joy

Although the church marches on through suffering in this present world, she is already partaking of the blessing and fullness of true life that comes from Jesus. We will reach for that joy this Lord's Day, as we call on the heavens and the earth to join us in our jubilation.

Behold, this is our God;
 We have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord;
  We have waited for him;
Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation! (Isaiah 25:9)

Joy to the World (#92)
Psalm 100
God Is the Treasure of My Soul (#632)
Rejoice, the Lord Is King (#13)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 12:1-17; Psalm 81
New Testament: Romans 7

No One Will Take Your Joy Away from You: Living in the Joy of the Resurrected Christ - John 16:16-24

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Amusing Ourselves to Death Discussion 3

Chapter 5: The Peek-a-Boo World
1.      Postman argues that in the middle of the nineteenth century two ideas came together which formed a new metaphor for public discourse. What are those two ideas?

2.      Do you agree with Postman that telegraphy “destroyed the prevailing definition of information, and in doing so gave a new meaning to public discourse” (65)? Why or why not?

3.      Postman asserts that “information derives its importance from the possibilities of action” (68). Is this true? Can you think of counter-examples which do not fit his assertion? What is the danger of this viewpoint?

4.      What is the real value of information measured by?

5.      Christ taught us to not needlessly multiply words (Matt 5:33-37). Do we debase our cultural conversation simply by the sheer volume of talk?