Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Wishes

As I seek to wish everyone a Wonderful Christmas I want to pass on a piece that I received from The Trinity Forum.

The Trinity Forum Update

December 7, 2011

In this update, we offer a reflection on the wonder of Advent, report on Trinity Forum Europe's recent Rhodes House Forum for Rhodes and Marshall Scholars, and announce new internship openings.

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Tidings of Wonder

    Whatever else may be said of it, Christmas is a wonderful holiday, properly understand: a holy day, full of wonder.

    Wonder may be said to be at the heart of Christmas. For what the day claims to celebrate – the physical, incarnated entry of God himself into the goings-on of this earth around two millennia ago – staggers the mind.   Whether one believes it or not, the very idea that an infinite deity would stoop to human limitations (not to mention the encompassing constraints and needs of a newborn) in order to offer a deeper relationship with those humans seems fantastic, incredible, even impossible.

    As G.K. Chesterton noted, “A mass of legend and literature, which increases and will never end, has repeated… that single paradox; that the hands that made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle. Upon this paradox, we might almost say upon this jest, all the literature of our faith is founded…When that contrast between the cosmic creation and the little local infancy has been repeated, reiterated, underlined, emphasized, exulted in, sung, shouted, roared, not to say howled, in a hundred thousand hymns, carols, rhymes, rituals, pictures, poems, and popular sermons, it may be suggested that we hardly need a higher critic to draw our attention to something a little odd about it…”

    There is also the “scandal of particularity” – why would God choose to come to earth at all? Why would He choose to be born in the nondescript town of Bethlehem? Why in a stable? Why that particular stable? Why there and not elsewhere? Why then, and not now? There may have been Old Testament prophecies, but there are no explanations. Not only the fact of his coming, but the manner of his arrival, is a mystery, and a wonder.

    There is therefore a certain irony that Advent is among the busiest, most chaotic, and distracted of seasons. Between buying gifts, wrapping presents, sending cards, hosting parties, travelling, trimming trees, and decking halls, it can be difficult to find time, inclination, or energy to ponder the greatest of all mysteries: the idea that “God became man, and dwelt among us.”

    Socrates asserted that “wisdom begins in wonder;” millennia later, his words seem fitting: if wisdom can be understood as properly discerning and responding to reality, there is wisdom in contemplating the great mystery that changed all reality, the silent night that forever altered our place in this world.

    We wish you a wonderful Advent!

    Warmly,
    Cherie Harder
    President

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bonhoeffer Quote

[Living by faith means] "living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities."  Dietrich Bonhoeffer while in prison (arrested by the Gestapo for conspiracy in a plot to assassinate Hitler) at Tegel Prison.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bloodlines

Finally I am reading Piper's book, Bloodlines.  It is quite different in approach than the Post-Racial Church (referred to in an earlier blog entry) as it tends to be a bit more on the testimony of his own racial sins and efforts to overcome racism (in life and ministry) than in surveying Scripture.  However, he does have an excellent section in looking at the elements of the Gospel and how an understanding of the Gospel demolishes ethnocentrism (and hence racism).

A statement earlier in the book caught my attention as well, "one of the ways I think about the aim of this book, and the aim of my ministry, is that I labor to multiply a certain kind of person - persons who are committed to live for a great biblical cause, not a great earthly comfort."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Back from ETS

I'm back from the Evangelical Theological Society and my first venture into presenting an academic paper.  The presentation went well, and as always I enjoyed having my brain challenged by papers presented on a host of biblical and theological subjects.

Picked up a newly released book, the Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams by Heath Lambert.  In the book Lambert traces the beginnings of the biblical counseling movement with Adams, looking at his strengths and weaknesses but then continues to growth in the movement by later figures such as David Powlison.  He does a very good job of interpreting Adams in his original historical moment, highlighting the great debt we owe to him but then showing how the "second generation" has definitely strengthened, developed, and corrected some of Adams' original work, while also at the same time maintaining a basic continuity with what he started.

If you are interested in the history of the movement, or even a good summary of Adams, strength and weakness, along with later figures, strength and weakness, this is an easy to read (i.e. not academic writing) way to start.




Thursday, November 3, 2011

More Latest Reads

Ok, I read this one and was more than halfway through and then was distracted by reading I had to do for a course I'm teaching.  But I did finally pick it up and finish it two weeks ago, and find it such a challenging story - Outcasts United by Warren St. John.  The book chronicles the plight of newly setted refugees from all over the world in Clarkston, Georgia and how one woman, Luma Mufleh (from Jordan) addreses the poverty and struggles by forming soccer teams for the children and teens.  Hers was not a Christian quest but the book points the way to how we can and should be seeking to reach the world that God is bringing to our very communities.  See www.outcastsunited.com for information, a short video documentary and other information.  And the best thing is that you can usually find this book at used prices (as we did!)



Latest Reads

Finished a new book, The Post-Racial Church: A Biblical Framework for Multiethnic Reconciliation by Kenneth Mathews and M. Sydney Park (both from Beeson Divinity School).  I've been trying to find a supplementary book for a Cross-cultural Counseling class that I teach which looked at the biblical data to form an approach to the subjects of race and ethnicity.  J. Daniel Hays wrote a book a number of years back (From every God and Every Nation) which these authors reference and although it was a good book, it was not quite thorough enough for what I wanted.  I did not walk away from this book saying to myself it was a great book but they do a thorough job of looking at the teachings of Scripture (from Genesis to Revelation) which reveal racism and ethnocentrism as the sins that they are.

And no, I have not yet checked out John Piper's new book on the subject, Bloodlines, I've only looked at a one page summary of it.

Helpful Truth in Past Places

My thanks to those who have purchased and/or read my book - Helpful Truth in Past Places: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Counseling.  Not exactly ready for the NYT best seller list as it is only around 1300 copies sold but I'm thankful for those and a couple of nice reviews online.  I'm presenting a paper based on the book at the Evangelical Theological Society in San Francisco, Nov. 16-18.  My wife, Teresa, is coming along for once so we're going a few days early for a short vacation including finally taking a trip to Alcatraz while we're there and showing her one of my old "haunts" - Coast Guard station Petaluma where I trained after boot camp.  If you find the book helpful, please do refer others to it!

Here is Bob Kelleman's review (which I think is fair): http://www.rpmministries.org/2010/06/review-of-helpful-truth-in-past-places-the-puritan-practice-of-biblical-counseling/