Elders Shepherd // Leading Worship // Bono Sings Psalm 23

After a hiatus, I'm back with articles I think build up Christians in their faith and how to bear witness to Christ in our culture.

Peter Jones, CREC pastor in West Virginia, lays out what church elders need to do as shepherds.

Practical tips on how to lead worship.

Bono and Eugene Peterson on the Psalms.
On singing the Psalms in church as a kid: "Great words, shame about the tunes," except for Psalm 23.
At 11:10 Bono sings Psalm 23B, from the Book of Psalms for Singing.
At 14:30-16:10, the importance of feelings.
At 16:10 Peterson says "We need to find a way to cuss without cussing."  The answer?  Imprecatory Psalms.


Spurgeon on writing // Pride in a church, and its leaders

Nice writing tips from Charles Spurgeon.

"Some of the most difficult issues many churches encounter revolve around men who feel entitled to the office of deacon, elder, or pastor."  Tabletalk ably addresses pride in church officers.

"What if we prayed for revival and God gave it, but He gave it at another gospel-preaching church in town?  Would we rejoice or be disappointed?"  Tabletalk, on congregational pride and praying for other churches.

Wall and Tongues // Parents Freaking // Answering the Cult at Your Door

Doug Wilson connects Trump's wall with speaking in tongues and the judgment of God.  Hmm...

Kevin DeYoung reminds parents not to freak out.

I appreciated this harder line taken to the cultists at your door.  Specific and firm, doesn't paper over major differences.  He has some footnotes to Scripture that had me rethinking the more welcoming approach.


Forgetting the Past // Trump Dishes Out Faux Honor // Manners as Honor and Love

Ed Welch has a helpful take on "forgetting what is behind" (Philippians 3:13-14).

Kevin DeYoung weighs in on Trump.  We crave honor today, and Trump gives us a false feeling of it.

Doug Wilson shows how manners are an important expression of honor and neighbor love.


History of the Kings of Britain

The History of the Kings of BritainThe History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Monmouth tells the history of the Britons, coming as refugees from Troy until their defeat by the Saxons in the 7th century. This is a history of conquest and rule, with a recurring theme of wanting to be free of bondage or tribute-paying. Rome plays a minor role when Julius Caesar sought to subjugate them. Geoffrey proudly recounts the Britons’ rebuff of Rome.

He gives us Arthur and Merlin’s prophecies. Merlin is more legendary than Arthur in Monmouth – the Arthur legends get bigger later. Arthur was known as a great and courtly king, though. Monmouth doesn’t cover up the faults of these kings, especially Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon. Could this be a David-Bathsheba-Solomon parallel?

By ending the story with the Saxons’ overwhelming of the Britons, Monmouth rebukes his own people’s civil strife, brutality and questing greed, using Cadwallader’s words,

“Woe unto us sinners for our monstrous crimes with which we never stopped offending God, as long as we had the time for repentance. The vengeance of His might lies heavily upon us, even to the point of uprooting us from our native soil.”

View all my reviews


Wednesday Wars

The Wednesday WarsThe Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Best modern fiction I’ve read in a long time.

The author is a Calvin College English professor.

The plot involves a 7th grader who has to spend an hour alone with his teacher during the 60s (Vietnam War features prominently). She teaches him Shakespeare, and he loves it. It becomes part of his vocabulary and thought process in interesting ways. He realizes his teacher is a person with her own griefs and troubles. She helps him in personal ways, and he returns the favor.

The writing is excellent word-craft. Strings you thought dropped reappear several chapters later. The frustrations of a typical Junior Higher come alive. He masterfully weaves Shakespearean themes and quotes with early adolescent troubles. You’re giddy laughing one minute and near tears the next.

Themes include dealing with flawed parents, reconciling with friends after reckless words, runaway teenagers, racial prejudice, war in the news and casualties that hit home, and more. It has a Forest Gump feel for a while – deaths of Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Paul McCartney, etc.

Read this book out loud to your 11-14 year olds, especially after taking them through some Shakespeare.

View all my reviews


MacbethMacbeth by William Shakespeare

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of Shakespeare’s crowning achievements. This play shows why the author is known as a great human observer. Why do we do evil things? Simply because we want to, and we want things we shouldn’t have.

The tragedy of MacBeth explores what it means to be a man and to have blood on your hands. The opening line sums it up nicely: “What bloody man is that?” MacBeth kills that speaker to take the throne himself. He gets away with it, but is driven to distraction and tyrannical isolation with a guilty conscience. His wife, who put him up to it, thinks at first that the deed is easily forgotten. But over time she is overcome to the point of suicide. They both are frightened at the slightest sound after they do the deed – another sign of a guilty conscience. Not only peace of mind, but all meaning and coherence are lost when we cling to sin:

“Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”

This is not Shakespeare’s view of life, but the despairing Macbeth at the news of his wife’s suicide, as he clings to his sin.

There is a lot of biblical imagery, connecting MacBeth and Adam. It’s another fall from a high place, tempted by an evil spirit but responsible himself. Paradise is turned to hell. MacBeth is also like Saul, jealous of Banquo and his children and seeking both their deaths. He seeks out a witch in the end and falls in battle soon after.

Read it and weep. Read it and be convicted of where cherished sin will lead you.
But there is also a positive note in Malcolm of sin avenged, grief borne “like a man,” and rebellion set right.

View all my reviews

The Case for Easter

The Case for Easter: A Journalist Investigates the Evidence for the ResurrectionThe Case for Easter: A Journalist Investigates the Evidence for the Resurrection by Lee Strobel

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Strobel is a popular apologist for truths of Christianity.

He weaves reasons to believe the Biblical account of the resurrection, in with the story of his investigation, interviewing some experts and playing the skeptic. This weaving is fairly clunky, and the dramatic description of the experts is a bit cheesy. Most of the reasons given are sound, but there’s too much reliance on expertise and the view of current scholarship.

View all my reviews

Edward III

King Edward IIIKing Edward III by William Shakespeare

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A play published anonymously, and only recently seen as written by Shakespeare. So it isn't in most of the collected works of Shakespeare!

This felt in my amateur judgment like an early nationalistic piece. The King begins badly, by pursuing adultery, but repents before following through. Then he fights France and conquers, sending his son the prince into battle to win his spurs. He does. End of story.

This play doesn't have the depth of most other WS plays.

View all my reviews

That Hideous Strength

That Hideous Strength (Space Trilogy, #3)That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A thinking man’s “science fiction” predicting the post-modern preoccupation with power politics. “Despair of objective truth” in the sciences and academy generally leads to “a concentration upon mere power” (539).

Lewis contrasts well the hideous strength of the kingdom of darkness – its intimidation, threats and bondage leading to death – with the kingdom of light’s power to free and give life. As usual he injects a heavy dose of philosophy, which might lose the more casual reader. Many characters represent movements. Fairy Hardcastle is Sadism. MacPhee is the skeptic. Filostrato is modernism’s revulsion against organic things. Arthur and Logres are the Kingdom of God.

A major theme is what Lewis calls the attraction of the “Inner Ring.” Many people spend their lives trying to get in to the circle of influence they are yet outside of. This makes them very susceptible to be manipulated and willing to compromise their principles. Most men are afraid of being excluded from some set, and will do almost anything to avoid it. This is the hideous strength for which he titles the book.

He also shows the connection between ideas and political consequences. The evil Institute sets up shop next to a college in a small town. The ideas asserted by the progressive professors fit well with the Institute’s plans, though in the end they are just using the college to grasp power.

The conversion of the main character at the end is well done. The veil of self-deception drops. He sees his ugly sin for what it is. He (and she) “descends the ladder of humility” (last page). “He knew now what he must look like in the eyes of her friends and equals…. How had he dared?.... the loud-voiced or tongue-tied creature, all boots and hands, whose true place was in the stable” (717). But it isn’t just self-loathing. They also come to true love for one another that leads to serving each other, joy, and life. While the Institute beheads and kills one after another until nothing is left, those who find Truth wind up making love and having children.

Part of Lewis’ brief against modernism includes the Pendragon, Merlin and the gods of Mercury, Venus, Moon, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter. The Christian reader today is likely uncomfortable with such magical elements and forces. We may abstract them today as the power of rhetoric (Mercury) or love (Venus), but few deny the very existence of such forces. Lewis, following the old Medieval view, connected them with angelic principalities and powers.

Read this book.
Relativism leads to intimidation politics and death.
We are self-deceivers to the core.
We share the world with animals and angels, but it is occupied by the enemy.
Fight against the hideous strength within and around you, with humble obedience to your Creator.

View all my reviews

Ransom's Bestiary of Logical Fallacies

The Amazing Dr. Ransom's Bestiary of Adorable Fallacies: A Field Guide for Clear ThinkersThe Amazing Dr. Ransom's Bestiary of Adorable Fallacies: A Field Guide for Clear Thinkers by Douglas Wilson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A witty and engaging logic "text."

For each of 50 fallacies, there's an adorable beasty described and drawn. This creatively shows the attraction and danger of each fallacy.

We read one at a time (about 5 pages, including pictures) at the table as a family - helpful format.

View all my reviews

A Small Cup of Light

A Small Cup of Light: A Drink in the DesertA Small Cup of Light: A Drink in the Desert by Ben Palpant

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A compelling account of a journey from self-reliance, to a crash in the dark, to an encounter with God and a bit of light.

This short book was enormously convicting and encouraging to me personally, as Palpant has the same idol I tend to have: self-reliant productivity. The dangerous tendency to believe that I am my work, and can do it on my own.

He hits every note well: how our fears drive us, the need to surrender to God, His sovereign control in trials, how He gives us just enough manna in our desert to make it, how He is teaching us in our suffering.

Get this book to recover your anchor in the Lord in the fiery trial God takes you through. Depend on the Lord, as a servant looks to his master (Psalm 131).

View all my reviews


United voice and heart // Restored by Gospel not Law

NPR reports what happens to your body when you sing together.

An interesting discussion here on whether the mother who aborts should be charged and prosecuted.
The last paragraph of this one by Doug Wilson is gold (emphasis mine):
"Where do ideal biblical republics come from? They come from evangelism, reformation, and revival. There would be no way even to discuss such things with profit without a massive cultural consensus. That consensus will in fact happen, but it will be the gospel that does it, and not law. One of the most glorious verses in the Bible speaks to this issue wonderfully. 'For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” (Rom. 4:13).'
Not through the law, but through the righteousness of faith."


The Burning Edge of Dawn - an Album Review

Product Details

Andrew Peterson is one of my favorite contemporary Christian musicians.

Last October he released a new album, The Burning Edge of Dawn.  I finally got around to listening to it today while studying.

Peterson's music is tender, obviously touched by wrestling with God through hard times.  The lyrics are grace-soaked, Scripture packed, and resonate clearly with real life.

A main theme is death and resurrection, hope that God is bringing good out of pain and trouble.

Give a listen here.

And don't forget about his lesser known book trilogy.  Worth the read.


Praying for your church // After immorality // A Legalist's Anthem

How to pray for your church, by a Capitol Hill Baptist elder.

What's a Christian to do after having pre-marital sex?  Piper gives some good counsel.

A hymn rewritten for the legalist.  I hope you don't think this way about God!