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Think Christianly

Think Christianly: September 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

What does real trust look like?

I think this is as true as it is convicting...

“Trusting Christ does not take the form of merely believing things about him. Moreover, knowing the “right answers” does not mean we truly believe them. To believe them means we are set to act as if these “right answers” are true. Perhaps the hardest thing for sincere Christians to come to grips with is the level of real unbelief in their own lives: the unformulated skepticism about Jesus that permeates all dimensions of their being and undermines the efforts they do make toward Christlikeness.”—Dallas Willard & Jan Johnson

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008


...That is the advice of evangelical Dr. Ben Witherington....

"The percentage of Christians who could vote but don’t is high, much too high, and the end result of such bad behavior is that we often get exactly what we’ve voted for--- Nothing! Or at least, nothing good. Do not let the fact that at this juncture there may seem to be no obvious candidate for a truly conservative Christian to vote for, for this office or that, deter you. There is better and there is worse, and you’d better figure out which is which, or what we will get is worse. This is particularly an urgent matter since in the last eight years things have certainly gotten worse economically and it terms of our relationships both with our allies and enemies. The politics of fear is trumping the politics of faith and sound reasoning repeatedly, and this leads to disastrous results in the long run for our country-- both economically and militarily."

He has other insights worth taking a gander at A VOTERS GUIDE FOR THINKING EVANGELICALS

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Hurricane Ike Relief in the Name of Jesus Christ

Monday, September 22, 2008


Hello, just wanted to let everyone know that a chapter I submitted as part of a book project has just been released. The book is Foundations of Spiritual Formation: A Community Approach to Becoming More Like Christ. I contributed the first chapter, Introducing Spiritual Formation, in which I attempt to lay the theological framework for how God changes us to become more like Jesus. Among others, I address questions like do we do the changing or does God? and where does the Gospel fit in with this?

Howard Hendricks wrote the foreword and several notable scholars contributed to the work: Darrell Bock, Klaus Issler, and Richard Averbeck among others.

God opened this door for me to walk through and I am thankful to have been invited to participate in this team effort by Paul Pettit, the director of Spiritual Formation at Dallas Theological Seminary.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Evangelical Manifesto

Just what is an Evangelical? And what is the responsibilty of evangelical Christians towards culture and politics? This is worth reading, thinking about, and interacting with.

"An Evangelical Manifesto is an open declaration of who Evangelicals are and what they stand for. It has been drafted and published by a representative group of Evangelical leaders who do not claim to speak for all Evangelicals, but who invite all other Evangelicals to stand with them and help clarify what Evangelical means in light of “confusions within and the consternation without” the movement. As the Manifesto states, the signers are not out to attack or exclude anyone, but to rally and to call for reform.

As an open declaration, An Evangelical Manifesto addresses not only Evangelicals and other Christians but other American citizens and people of all other faiths in America, including those who say they have no faith. It therefore stands as an example of how different faith communities may address each other in public life, without any compromise of their own faith but with a clear commitment to the common good of the societies in which we all live together. For those who are Evangelicals, the deepest purpose of the Manifesto is a serious call to reform—an urgent challenge to reaffirm Evangelical identity, to reform Evangelical behavior, to reposition Evangelicals in public life, and so rededicate ourselves to the high calling of being Evangelical followers of Jesus Christ."

Read the manifesto.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Is there just one true religion?

Interesting exchange....Deepak Chopra vs. Greg Koukl (watch)

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Facing the Pain of Dementia

As one whose Mom wrestles with mental illness, I wanted to share an article I came across that helps put some difficult struggles in perspective. Click here for link to whole article. (by Dr. Walt Russell of Talbot School of Theology)

My 83-year-old mother has dementia. To help me work through the pain of this living death, I recently gave her a gift she was not able to receive: a letter commemorating her 10th anniversary in the nursing home.

Ten years ago this past fall is the day that Dad calls "the worst day of my life.” It’s the day he had to concede defeat in his long, hard struggle to care for my mom and move her into the Alzheimer’s unit of the local nursing home after 51 years of marriage. He still speaks of that day with great sadness, regret and, unfortunately, shame.

Observing my dad’s deep pain and wrestling with my own, I’ve come to some conclusions about facing the pain of dementia in those we love.

While it is not an inherent strength of mine, the first and most significant thing I can say is to face the pain of dementia fully and feel it deeply. Dementia is layered with multiple levels of emotional agony, especially for the primary caregiver. My dad has talked to and fed my mom three meals a day, missing only those few days in 10 1/2 years when we insisted he come and visit his children and grandchildren. However, even on those days away, his thoughts were never far from his wife. When others note his intense focus on my mom, he jokingly says, “I spent $2 on our marriage license, and I’m going to get my money’s worth!” My dad’s wry humor has helped him to face his daunting task.

While my own pain is very pale compared to my dad’s, it’s still very real. It has been so painful for Dad and us to look into her familiar eyes and see a look of total unfamiliarity. She is still with us bodily, and we can pat her, kiss her, and hold her hands. But in a very real sense, Mom is not with us. So we are left with the painful irony of dementia: simultaneously being with her and yet not being with her. It is the unique pain of a living death, an open wound that continues to throb day after day.

Over the years I have often wondered if it was as painful from my mom’s perspective. Has it been deeply sorrowful to lose her recognition of her husband of five decades? Is it troubling to her that this man, who dotes on her three times a day, has the same status as a health care worker? Has it been painful to forget her two children and their mates? Has she wept over the fading away of her four lovely grandchildren? As I weep for us and our loss, I don’t want to forget to weep for my mom and her losses. She has lost almost everything precious in this life over these past 10 years.

Another decade-long lesson has been to wrestle with the hard questions surrounding dementia. For example, I’ve often wondered what my mom’s long-time relationship with Christ has been like as her brain has lost many of its capacities. Has she continued to enjoy His loving care and the presence of the Holy Spirit? Has God fathered her and cared for her, Spirit-to-spirit, in spite of those damaged brain cells? Has she experienced Jesus’ promise to never leave and forsake her in the depths of her soul? Does her soul still have the capacity to will — to choose to trust God — in spite of her dementia?

My sense is that she would probably answer “yes” to all of my questions if she were able. I lean that way because we have seen her soulish qualities bubble up in her spontaneous eruptions and expressions of dry humor that transcend a dysfunctional brain. My sense is that her inabilityto express an awareness of God’s tender presence with her has had no effect on His abilityto be with her in her struggle. My hope and prayer is that she has never really been alone in her dementia these 10 years.

The harsh reality is that dementia brings open-ended pain and many unanswered questions this side of heaven. These circumstances have driven us to cling to the reality of our hope in Christ. Quite frankly, there has been no other meaningful option over the past decade. In these final words of my letter to my mom, I try to capture the vividness of our hope as Christians in facing the pain of dementia.

Dear Mother, One of our great expectations in the midst of all of the losses is that for you “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” We know that when you depart and are with Christ, that this “is very much better.” We long for you to leave behind your earthly tent, decaying as it is, and to be clothed with your dwelling from heaven. Through our tears we fix our hope on your sowing of your perishable body in weakness and dishonor so that God can raise it as an imperishable body in power and glory. Anticipating our separation from you, we long for the moment, “in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” when all of us in Christ “will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” and “Death is swallowed up in victory.” Mom, we love you so much that we want this better state for you. Ironically, that entails seeing you experience the defused victory and sting of death. As the time of your death draws near, we pray, dear Mother, that you have the unshakeable comfort and confidence that God Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” You are not alone. May His Spirit Whom He has invested in you as a guarantee of the redemption of your body give you a deep, abiding, soulish peace.

And so, Mom, through my tears I give this remembrance to you even though you cannot comprehend it. I picture you in your little brown wheelchair and Dad trying to pry your head up to drink some cranberry juice or feed you some stiffening mashed potatoes.

Perhaps today will be one of those increasingly rare moments when you recognize him for a moment and start to smile. He lives for those moments. We all do. I love you and miss you, dear Mother.

Walt Russell is a New Testament professor in Biola’s seminary, Talbot School of Theology.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

"Freedom" and what we allow access to our minds

What we think about matters greatly. We cannot be too intentional about what we dwell upon. I came across a quote by Dallas Willard, in Renovation of the Heart, that is perceptive.

"Our present American culture boasts of complete freedom in what one sees, says, and hears. Many professing Christians are paralyzed or even destroyed by adopting "freedom" as a lifestyle. For they allow images into their that eventually overwhelm them. If we allow everything access to your mind, we are simply asking to be kept in a state of mental turmoil and bondage. For nothing enters the mind without having an effect for good or evil."

A good word...

By the way, thanks for the comments...i will interact with them soon...keep 'em coming.

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Comparing the Platforms - Democrats and Republicans

Here is the tale of the tape. The presidential race is heating up - Vice Presidential nominee, Gov. Sarah Palin was dynamic and compelling in her speech at the RNC.

So what is the difference between the parties? Christianity Today has put them side by side for you to investigate. They decide ;)

Comparing the Platforms

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Are the Gospels Trustworthy?

Ben Witherington (one of my favorite NT scholars) makes the case in a short interaction with a a skeptic.

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