Archive - June, 2009

Michael Jackson (1958 – 2009)

Michael Jackson passed into eternity today. With phenomenal talent, he debuted on the professional music scene at the age of 11 as part of The Jackson 5 and began a solo career at the age of 13. In time, he would become one of the most celebrated pop stars of all time, with a series of best-selling albums and a worldwide audience. He would amass a mind-staggering amount of money. He literally lived in a Fantasy Land. Yet he remained (and in all likelihood died) confused (about his gender, his race, his very human identity), without hope, and without the Greatest Treasure in the universe.
Ecclesiastes 7:2 reads, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” Jackson’s death is an occasion for reflection–for those of us who know Christ, that we would take greater pains to make Him known in our words and deeds. And for those without Christ, that they might consider the certainty of death and their desperate need for a Sin-Bearing Savior, Lord, and Treasure.
Andrew Sullivan offers this powerful reflection:

There are two things to say about him. He was a musical genius; and he was an abused child. By abuse, I do not mean sexual abuse; I mean he was used brutally and callously for money, and clearly imprisoned by a tyrannical father. He had no real childhood and spent much of his later life struggling to get one. He was spiritually and psychologically raped at a very early age – and never recovered. Watching him change his race, his age, and almost his gender, you saw a tortured soul seeking what the rest of us take for granted: a normal life.
But he had no compass to find one; no real friends to support and advise him; and money and fame imprisoned him in the delusions of narcissism and self-indulgence. Of course, he bears responsibility for his bizarre life. But the damage done to him by his own family and then by all those motivated more by money and power than by faith and love was irreparable in the end. He died a while ago. He remained for so long a walking human shell.
I loved his music. His young voice was almost a miracle, his poise in retrospect eery, his joy, tempered by pain, often unbearably uplifting. He made the greatest music video of all time; and he made some of the greatest records of all time. He was everything our culture worships; and yet he was obviously desperately unhappy, tortured, afraid and alone.
I grieve for him; but I also grieve for the culture that created and destroyed him. That culture is ours’ and it is a lethal and brutal one: with fame and celebrity as its core values, with money as its sole motive, it chewed this child up and spat him out.

HT: JT

Not Watching TV and Rarely Going to Movies

A great word from John Piper on the dangers of TV and movies. An excerpt:

I think relevance in preaching hangs very little on watching movies, and I think that much exposure to sensuality, banality, and God-absent entertainment does more to deaden our capacities for joy in Jesus than it does to make us spiritually powerful in the lives of the living dead. Sources of spiritual power—which are what we desperately need—are not in the cinema. You will not want your biographer to write: Prick him and he bleeds movies.
If you want to be relevant, say, for prostitutes, don’t watch a movie with a lot of tumbles in a brothel. Immerse yourself in the gospel, which is tailor-made for prostitutes; then watch Jesus deal with them in the Bible; then go find a prostitute and talk to her. Listen to her, not the movie. Being entertained by sin does not increase compassion for sinners.

But do read the whole thing. It has massive relevance for non-preachers. Piper unpacks the spiritual dangers, mind numbing and time wasting effects of TV.

A Prescription for American Health Care

Looking for some perspective on the health care issue, currently on the table in the U.S. Congress? John C. Goodman, President and CEO at the National Center for Policy Analysis received his Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University, and has taught and done research at Columbia University, Stanford University, Dartmouth College, Southern Methodist University and the University of Dallas. He writes regularly for such newspapers as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Investor’s Business Daily and the Los Angeles Times, and is the author of nine books, including Patient Power: The Free-Enterprise Alternative to Clinton’s Health Plan and Lives at Risk: Single-Payer National Health Insurance Around the World.
Goodman wrote a helpful overview essay for Imprimis this past March. An excerpt:

Prior to the 20th century, we handled risks with the help of family and extended family. In the 19th century, by the time a child was nine years old, he was usually paying his own way in the household. In effect, children were their parents’ retirement plan. But during the 20th century, families became smaller and more dispersed—thus less useful as insurance against risk. So people turned to government for help. In fact, the main reason why governments throughout the developed world have undergone such tremendous growth has been to insure middle class families against risks that they could not easily insure against on their own. This is why our government today is a major player in retirement, health care, disability and unemployment.
Government, however, has performed abysmally. It has spent money it doesn’t have and made promises it can’t keep, all on the backs of future taxpayers. The Trustees of Social Security estimate a current unfunded liability in excess of $100 trillion in 2009 dollars. This means that the federal government has promised more than $100 trillion over and above any taxes or premiums it expects to receive. In other words, for Social Security to be financially sound, the federal government should have $100 trillion—a sum of money six-and-a-half times the size of our entire economy—in the bank and earning interest right now. But it doesn’t. And while many believe that Social Security represents our greatest entitlement problem, Medicare is six times larger in terms of unfunded obligations. These numbers are admittedly based on future projections. But consider the situation in this light: What if we asked the federal government to account for its obligations the same way the private sector is forced to account for its pensions? In other words, if the federal government suddenly closed down Social Security and Medicare, how much would be owed in terms of benefits already earned? The answer is $52 trillion, an amount several times the size of the U.S. economy.
What does this mean for the future? We know that Social Security and Medicare have been spending more than they are taking in for quite some time. As the Baby Boomers start retiring, this deficit is going to grow dramatically. In 2012, only three years from now, Social Security and Medicare will need one out of every ten general income tax dollars to make up for their combined deficits. By 2020—just eleven years down the road—the federal government will need one out of every four income tax dollars to pay for these programs. By 2030, the midpoint of the Baby Boomer retirement years, it will require one of every two income tax dollars. So it is clear that the federal government will be forced either to scale back everything else it’s doing in a drastic way or raise taxes dramatically.

Read the whole thing.

Why Doug Wilson at Desiring God National Conference?


HT: Desiring God
I had the privilege of editing a book a few years ago in which Doug Wilson contributed a chapter. Doug has a sharp and witty mind, not to mention a great ability to engage with words.

The Stoning of Soraya M

Looks like a great movie, based on a true story, coming to select theaters this Friday:

This film is based on a true story that occurred after the Iranian Revolution of the late 70s. A village persecutes an innocent woman, and another dares to challenge the injustice. The movie shows the true, wicked face of Islamic Sharia Law as it is applied unjustly against women. Staring Jim Caviezel.
Update: Peter T. Chattaway writes about The Stoning of Soraya M in Christianity Today .

The Whole Counsel of God – Richard Gamble

The Whole Council of God.JPGThis new book, The Whole Counsel Of God by Richard Gamble, is one that I have not yet seen but which looks really good. The Publisher’s description:

Richard Gamble offers a comprehensive theology attuned to the methodological advantages of biblical theology combined with the strengths of historical and systematic theology. Drawing on the best work in these disciplines throughout church history, he leads us in an integrated pursuit of the whole counsel of God.
This volume, the first of three, recounts God’s mighty acts in the Old Testament, disclosing the theology of the Old Testament within the progressive and historical development of the Bible. It contains a survey of the entire Old Testament with discussions of many diverse topics.
This volume, the first of three, recounts God’s mighty acts in the Old Testament. It discloses the theology of the Old Testament within the organic, progressive, historical development of the Bible. Gamble blends a survey of the entire Old Testament with discussions of topics as diverse as the canon, days of creation, faith and reason, covenants, the Ten Commandments, Old Testament ecclesiology, the nature of God, justification, and Old Testament apologetics.

The endorsements:
“My colleague Richard Gamble has begun a very comprehensive theological project, embracing the disciplines of biblical theology, historical theology, and systematic theology. Nothing comparable in scope has been done in the last hundred years, within the circles of Reformed orthodoxy. Knowing Rick, and having read some of the first volume, I’m convinced that he is the man to do this job. With a doctorate from the University of Basel and an international reputation as a Calvin scholar, Rick has a formidable grasp of theological issues. His theological convictions are thoroughly biblical and Reformed. He’s also a humble man of God who can write winsomely to the hearts of many sorts of readers. I hope this series has wide distribution and great influence in this time of theological confusion.”
– John Frame, Reformed Theological Seminary
“Very few people living today are as capable as Richard Gamble at grasping and expressing the theology of the entire Bible. His work represents decades of reflection on interpretive issues that have perplexed scholars for over a century. He bridges the gap so many have identified between traditional systematic theology and biblical theology. He devotes himself in helpful ways to the unity and diversity of biblical revelation. Yet, throughout this work, he penetrates beyond scholarly concerns to life issues that every believer faces. I highly recommend this book. You will be glad you read it.
– Richard L. Pratt, Jr. Adjunct Professor, Reformed Theological Seminary, President, Third Millennium Ministries
“A ground-breaking piece of biblical scholarship. Modern theological scholars tend to specialize in a specific field . . . [and] tend to be unfamiliar and uncomfortable delving into other spheres of theology. Therefore, modern theologians generally do not produce comprehensive or integrated works on theology … [and] and tend to be unfamiliar and uncomfortable delving into other spheres of theology … Dr. Gamble’s work is pioneering in that it is an attempt at integrating the major theological disciplines. . . .
Gamble has no theological axe to grind; rather, his goal is to be faithful to the Word of God. His efforts in this regard are not only commendable, but truly enriching. This volume, and this set, will be a must-have for Reformed pastors and many others.”
– Anthony Selvagio, Reformed Presbyterian Witness

Memorial Service For Dr. Ralph Winter

On May 20, 2009 at 9:05 p.m., Ralph D. Winter died in his home in Pasadena, CA. There will be a memorial service and celebration of God’s work through Dr. Ralph Winter’s life in Pasadena, CA on Sunday, June 28 at Lake Avenue Church from 3 – 5 p.m.
Read Dr. Winter’s obituary.
In the 23-minute video below, watch Dr. Winter talk about the concept of finding your vocation and intentionally pursuing difficult things for God’s glory. He also shares extensively on the book Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations, which I was happy to endorse. Dr. Winter also addresses the concept of retirement.

Do Hard Things from U.S. Center for World Mission on Vimeo.

Homeschooling Movement Grows

Albert Mohler and USA Today (HT: Josh Harris) chronicle the growing number of American children being homeschooled. Dr. Mohler:

Homeschooling was the choice of families for 2.9 percent of all school-age children in the United States in 2007, involving 1.5 million students. By comparison, in 1999 only 850,000 children were homeschooled. By 2003, that number was up to 1.1 million. This report indicates significant jumps in homeschooling as compared to other educational options. In fact, the report reveals that the actual number of American children whose parents choose homeschooling for at least part of their education exceeds 3 million. According to the report, 1.5 million children are exclusively homeschooled while another 1.5 million are homeschooled for at least part of the school week.

What’s particularly interesting is that the dominant motivation among homeschooling parents is “a desire to provide children specifically religious or moral instruction.” Also, 6.8% of college-educated parents home-school, up from 4.9% in 1999.

Looking to Christ for Assurance

William Gurnall:

“When thou trustest Christ within thee, instead of Christ without thee, thou settest Christ against Christ. The bride does well to esteem her husband’s picture, but it were ridiculous if she should love it better than himself, much more if she should go to it rather than to him to supply all her wants. Yet thou actest thus when thou art more fond of Christ’s image in thy soul than of Him who painted it there.”

From William Gurnall, Christian in Complete Armour, Banner of Truth Trust, 1974

The Meaning of Man’s Will

It appears that the Ligonier Ministries team is posting sections of a helpful R.C. Sproul book I recently read entitled How Can I Know God’s Will?. Here’s a three-part series on the meaning of man’s will. (And before that, they have a five-part series on the meaning of God’s will.)
The Meaning of Man’s Will – Part 1
The Meaning of Man’s Will – Part 2
The Meaning of Man’s Will – Part 3

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