Babblement — the perfect word for so much of our culture

Tuesday is for Thinking

Found a new old word today. It has dropped out of use but we need to revive it for our time. 

BABBLEMENT (n.)

“Senseless prattle” or “unmeaning words,” according to Webster. 

Seems like a perfect word for most of what appears on the Evening News, most of what comes out of Washington and a lot of what comes out of the pulpits of America too.

“You’ve Changed” : : The Difference that Gratitude Makes

Tuesday is for Reflection

Ann VoskampRereading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, an entire book exploring the “intentional embrace of a lifestyle of radical gratitude,” (from the backcover). This is a discipline that is not easy, but it is a discipline that transforms life, all of life and Ann is a good guide to what the process looks like. 

Read the book. Re-read it if you already have. And keep exploring the process. Let gratitude to the Father for all that we have in Christ and all that he gives us each day transform your heart for the glory of God and the joy of the world.

“You’ve changed.” She turns to me, and I turn to catch the words.

“I have?” She’s caught me off guard. I’m thick-tongued and the cheeks flame and I reach for the pitcher, to pour the cups full and distract from her catching me trying to take wing.

“Yes . . . you’ve changed.” Shelly sets her pot on a trivet, her eyes on me, and I can feel them and I just set out the glasses.

I don’t say it, but I am thinking she may be right and I had felt it for months, the maturing, the swelling, the something different that had begun to happen. But I had thought the re-creation was still embryonic, a bud of hope. I hadn’t thought it had fully bloomed. I hadn’t thought that anyone could see the light in the eyes.

“It’s that list you’ve been writing, isn’t it?” She clatters down bowls.

I concentrate on pouring the water steady into each empty cup.

A fly cuts the surface on one full glass. I can see it—the wounding of water.

“Yes . . .” There. A moment. And yes. “It’s The List.”

— Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, 43.

“The List” was a growing record of things for which Ann was thankful. Notebooks spread around the house to record the little and large, the unexpected and surprising evidences of God’s grace. Maybe starting your own list is part of a transforming pattern for your future. Here’s a link to some of the things on my growing list to prime the pump of your own thinking.

A Priority Ambition for the People of God

Sunday Musings

HarvestLuke 7:9 (ESV)

When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said,

“I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

Questions:

  1. Is there anything about your faith that would cause God to “marvel”?
  2. Shouldn’t that be a priority ambition for the people of God?

A Prayer before a Preacher

Friday is for Heart Songs

Augustine Icon

Orthodox Icon of Augustine of Hippo

I still remember my Latin professor at the University of Maryland saying, “No man can consider himself educated who has not read The Confessions of Augustine.” Great men like Augustine deserve to be read in every generation. But not everyone has the time or opportunity. That is one of the reasons I appreciate ministries like Kairos Journal that plumb the writings of history’s great minds and pull out gems like this one below.

Remember to pray for your pastor this weekend.  The following is from Kairos Journal.

“A man of prayer before becoming a man of words’”
—Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354 – 430)

Augustine of Hippo—famous bishop, pastor, theologian, and philosopher—was a superlative preacher. In On Christian Teaching, he shares with his brother pastors his meditations on the sacred art. This famous pastoral manual remains worthy of sustained study, the fourth chapter containing Augustine’s most developed understanding of preaching. This extract contains words that may find an abiding place in the heart of the pastor, as Augustine calls for prayer before preaching, a turning to God before turning to the congregation.

The aim of our orator, then, when speaking of things that are just and holy and good – and he should not speak of anything else – the aim, as I say, that he pursues to the best of his ability when he speaks of these things is to be listened to with understanding, with pleasure, and with obedience. He should be in no doubt that any ability he has and however much he has, derives more from his devotion to prayer than his dedication to oratory; and so, by praying for himself and for those he is about to address, he must become a man of prayer before becoming a man of words. As the hour of his address approaches, before he opens his thrusting lips he should lift his thirsting soul to God so that he may utter what he has drunk in and pour out what has filled him.1

Footnote:

1 Saint Augustine, On Christian Teaching, trans. R. P. H. Green (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 121.

Pastors: Let’s be men who thirst for Christ in prayer before we thrust our words at his people. Let’s be thirsting souls for God before we speak to souls about him.

What to Make of This? “The World is Getting Better”

Thursday is for Thinking

ISIS Executions

ISIS Executions

Interesting article from Relevant Magazine early last week.

The article was by COLE NESMITH, titled “Yes, the World is Getting Better”.  Whether he is right on the conclusion, some of the information goes against the grain of the nightly news about the “fearful” world in which we live. In other words, ISIS, Ebola, Government incompetence, Ukraine are not the whole story.  Seems like the media thrives on creating distorting-perspectives. Or is there some other explanation?

Below is an excerpt from the article as well as a link where you can read the whole piece.

The World is Getting Better

While some Christians wait for the world to fall apart, there are many working to eliminate sickness, extend life expectancy, and increase the quality of the lives we’re living. Just take a look at a few of the statistics:

Peace: Since 1945, there has been a steep decline in inter-state wars, deadly ethnic riots and military coups in Europe and the Americas. In the 1950s, the average death per conflict per year was over 65,000. Today, there are less than 2,000 deaths per conflict per year.

Health: In the last century, we have seen amazing advances in medicine through the understanding of biology and the way our bodies work. Deadly diseases have been eradicated.

Globally, infant mortality has fallen from 46 per 1000 in 2004 to 34 per 1000 in 2013.

Poverty: In their 2014 Annual Letter, USAID announced their plans to eradicate global poverty by 2030.

These aren’t simply arbitrary statistics, unrelated to God’s agenda for the earth. At the coming of Christ, the angels declared, “Peace on earth. Good will toward men.”

What do you think? Is the world getting better?

An Atheist Helps Me Understand Why I Believe

Wednesday is for Prayer

I’m in a conversation with an atheist over on Twitter. He is asking me for a proof that God exists. “Give me your best proof,” he says.

I told him I don’t believe because of “a” proof. I believe because of a compounding of various proofs and evidence and ultimately because of the evidence for the resurrection.

Still, he presses. So I give him one proof that I have found as a compelling reason for faith in God—the Kalam cosmological argument on the nature of time having to have a beginning. It is an ancient Arab argument that I don’t need to go into now. Then he asks this question:

“If I can show you that your best argument (Kalam) is poor, would that cause some reflection?”

I told him that I would have to think differently about that particular argument but that my faith didn’t rest on one line of evidence or proof, or experience, Eventually, I parried back,

“Cuts both ways. If I could show U that your arguments against KALAM do not rationally hold, would you believe?

But my new friend doesn’t seem to grasp that we who believe don’t believe because of arguments (alone), or proofs (alone), or evidence (alone) or experience (alone) but because of all of these things together. All have their part in sustaining our confidence in what the Bible proclaims. [And of course, the Holy Spirit witnesses to our spirit that he is there.]

And things like this when something else is going on.

Monday I went to a conference in Chesterton, IN. I used my GPS to get there. It worked flawlessly. Later, I started home and the GPS keeps losing signal and it’s not long before I’m lost. At one point, I could see two cell towers and yet the little female voice on the phone kept saying, “signal lost.”

Even though I had skipped lunch, I decided that I would wait till I got home to eat.  But after driving around in circles for a half hour, making only minimal progress south and west, I re-thought that decision. I was thinking McDonalds put couldn’t find one. Pulling into a Wendy’s, I was going to use the restroom, then grab a sandwich and see if I had a map in the trunk.

It made no sense but when I got into the building, I saw the line at the counter and decided to get in line. There was a woman in front of me tearing off a coupon. 

“That’s what I need.”

.       “Here, take one.”

“No, those are yours. I was just joking.”

With a friendly scowl:

 .      “Man, take it,” she said forcefully, then, “I’m sorry, I work with a lot of men and sometimes I have to be more forceful.”

Something changed when she mentioned the men at work. Then her countenance changed, her head dropped, and from under her cap she said:

.       “My husband died two days ago.”

Think of the steps that got me to that Wendy’s at that particular moment:

  • GPS works then doesn’t.
  • No lunch
  • Getting lost.
  • Getting hungry
  • Deciding to rethink waiting till I got home
  • No McDonalds
  • Stopping at Wendy’s instead
  • Choosing to get in line to order rather than using the restroom first.
  • A woman with a coupon book
  • Me playing around with a stranger and making a comment about her coupon book

Probably a thousand other small things fell into place to put me in the presence of a woman, in a line, in a town I shouldn’t—wouldn’t have been in if my GPS was working, who needed to know that God loved her and hadn’t forgotten her in the midst of her pain and sorrow and memories. Why did I turn down that street? Why did I double back after making a U-turn? Why didn’t I drive further or stop sooner and go to another restaurant? Why wasn’t there one more person in line so that I never would have seen the coupon book, never started a conversation?

This is already over long. 

But like the movie Ben Hur, where you never see the face of Christ, and yet the perceptible hand of God is there guiding Judah Ben Hur toward his destiny. I don’t understand all of how it was done. But of this I am sure. 

God put me in that place to comfort a stranger named Trudy in an hour of need.

Why do I believe?

Because of the resurrection of Christ, and the accuracy of the Bible, and the strength of philosophical arguments, and because of things science (wonderful as it is) cannot tell me, and because of questions that my soul knows can’t be answered by anything in this world, and 40 years of watching and experiencing God work sovereignly behind the scenes to do things that only a supreme being could do.

One more thing.  

After I left Wendy’s and Trudy, I ate my sandwich and headed home.

My GPS that wasn’t working before meeting Trudy, now worked perfectly.

An atheist has no explanation. A believer believes. 

How Extravagant Should Our Forgiveness Be?

Sunday Musings

forgiveForgiven people ought to be great forgivers. We ought to be the most forgiving people on the planet. And here is part of the reason why.

“In Matthew 18:22 Peter asks, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive someone who sins against me? Up to seven times!’

Jesus responded, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times (italics added). What did Jesus mean? Most of us immediately check the footnote in our Bible, which says “Or, seventy times seven.”  We like the fact that 490 is so much larger than 77. So that’s what Jesus was saying! Believe it or not, we are still missing the punch line.

The key to understanding Jesus’ meaning is embedded in the passage to which he alluded. The phrase ‘seventy-seven times’ is found in only one place in the entire Bible–Genesis 4:24, in the ancient son of Lamech. But who was this obscure biblical character? Lamech was a descendant of Cain who had inherited his forefather’s murderous instinct, but who in his shocking lust for revenge, outdid even Cain:

I have killed a man for wounding me,
.       a young man for injuring me;
If Cain is avenged seven times,
.       then Lamech seventy-seven times.

Anyone who crossed Lamech would have been paid back big time—not just seven times, but seventy-seven times! In Scripture, seven is a significant number. It symbolizes completeness. But Lamech lusted for a vengeance that went far beyond completeness.

Once you catch Jesus reference, you understand the contrast he is making. He is saying that his followers should be as eager to forgive as Lamech was to take vengeance. … We should be Lamech’s polar opposite, making it our goal to forgive as extravagantly and completely as possible.”

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus,  38-39.

Let’s be the polar opposite of Lamech. Let’s be like Jesus.

Reaching for the Book from the Belly of Depression

Another video from my son. This one is a help to those who suffer from depression. 

Check out Marty’s newest book: Captain Tomahawk and the Sky-Lion

“Carpe noctem” Using the Night for the Glory of God

Thursday is for Discipleship

Night skyCarpe noctem, “Seize the night.” The days are getting shorter and the nights longer. The wind and wetness of October have arrived. Fall is here.

Here in the midwest, that means many of us will be spending a lot more time inside for the next 6 months. 

Why not make some plans now to do one thing a month. One thing every 30 days, who can’t do that? So here’s a grab bag of ideas to “Carpe Noctem” (Seize the Night):

  1. Have a soup night for a few friends from church. Enjoy your fellowship around the warmth of your home and the joy of Christ. Try to include the newest family you can find, or one of the widows of the church, or … (let the Spirit of God guide you.)
  2. Have a soup night for a few of your neighbors. 
  3. When you are burning brush from trimming your bushes and trees, invite some friends over and roast some hotdogs, or marshmallows.
  4. Invite your friends over to watch the Bears game. 
  5. Have a classic movie night in your living room. Pick an old film and share the evening with friends and popcorn.
  6. Start a Bible study on the life of Christ and invite everyone on your block to participate. Keep it short, maybe 2-4 weeks, and Christ centered. 
  7. Have Christmas wrapping party. Make an investment and invite your neighbors to your house for free paper, Christmas music and a lot of fun.
  8. Bundle up and take a prayer walk around your neighborhood. Pray for God’s blessing upon your neighbors and an openness to the gospel.
  9. When the snow is forecast, take the whole family out and shovel the neighbor’s driveway first.
  10. Go and serve in one the local food pantries. 
  11. Put the local high school basketball team on your schedule and support the local community. See what God does with both your own heart and your conversations.
  12. Do a cookie exchange in your neighborhood for Christmas. See where the conversation takes you.
  13. Offer to watch kids for a young mom in the neighborhood so she can grocery shop, Christmas shop, or go on a date with her husband.
  14. Turn your garage into a workout room and invite your fitness-enthused neighbor to use the space.
  15. Start a mystery book reading club and meet once a week to discuss the plot and structure. Pick “the books of _____________” approach. Some suggestions for authors? Dorothy Sayers (Murder Mysteries), G.K. Chesterton (Father Brown Mysteries), Bret Lott (a contemporary writer featured on Oprah but a solid Christian), C.S. Lewis (the Chronicles of course, but a space trilogy, and Till We Have Faces are great options), or for much lighter fare, the Jan Karon books (The Mitford series). All of these will lead to natural discussions of Christian themes.

Really, there is no limit to ideas that you might try to reach out to your neighbors and friends both inside and outside your church family. I would love to hear your ideas or examples of things you have done to carpe noctem