Monthly Archives: January 2006

The Human Penchant for Destruction

It’s always interesting to try and see things objectively. We claim an objective stance, often, but rarely do we actually succeed in holding such a position. One of the areas in which we humans are least objective is that of lifestyle evaluation. In these days when right and wrong are a matter of taste, not truth, the determination of one lifestyle as objectively “better” than another is hard to come by. Yet it is my contention that if we do try and look honestly at the way people live, we can see certain ways of life as fundamentally better than others and thus reflective of a sound worldview.

Think of the ideal lifestyle of the twentysomething American male, the societal group to which I belong. As it’s portrayed in the media, life consists of excess. Chasing girls, drinking, watching sports, taking vacations are all run through the grid of “as much as possible.” And yet when one examines these behaviors from most any standpoint, one sees that these patterns of living do not tend to self-betterment. They tend to self-destruction. Sex with multiple partners in various states of consciousness invites all sorts of disease and emotional pain. Drinking mindlessly and endlessly brings early corrosion to one’s body and weakens one’s ability to perform the basic tasks of life–work, domestic responsibilities, the conduct of relationships. Plunging into pleasure without check, and smothering one’s mind in a continual parade of entertainment, takes away one’s respect for responsibility and discipline. Far from freeing one to experience true happiness, the lifestyle of indulgence and excess in fact traps many a twentysomething in a shallow, guilt-ridden, wasted life.

This is not even to mention the extremes of the problems outlined above. What above all the twentysomethings who don’t make it to the front pages of glamorous magazines? What about the divorces, the births out of wedlock, the abortions, the pill addictions, the pornography addictions, the credit card debt due to unchecked spending, and the deaths that come from mindless partying? What about all the feelings that are hurt along the way, the parental hopes that are dashed, the siblings who yearn for an example but end up estranged? What about the world problems that go untackled, the society that erodes, the families that die off? No, the lifestyle of excess as pursued by many twentysomethings is not equal to others. It is objectively bad. It leads, perhaps slowly, but surely, to destruction. It has no checks, it has no balances, it sees no signposts. It brushes conscience aside and tramples shame, leaving its only helps crushed in the dust. All lifestyles are not created equal. Instead of arguing for this idea, might we consider it honestly? And what about the life philosophy that creates such a life? To guage its validity, don’t look to its glamour. Look to its wake. Find your answers in the dust, not the dazzle.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Stopped Time Theory

One of the interesting aspects of life is following the passage of time. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I struggle to stay on top of the current date. Yes, I’m that bad. I often don’t know what date it is. Then, when I find out, I’m shocked. “The 25th! It can’t be the 25th! It was just the 12th!” Has that ever happened to you?

After conducting an intensive one-person study over a matter of days, the consumed staff has determined that people do suffer from a phenomenon we call “Stopped Time Theory.” People afflicted with this debilitating problem struggle acutely with keeping up with the natural progression of time. They are bound to an unrealistic optimism in which time, for multi-day periods, apparently stops. Sufferers of the disorder commonly discover their symptoms at key points in life, including, but not limited to, bill payment periods, family birthdays, relational anniversaries, paper due dates, and the like. Here’s a good way to determine whether you suffer from “STT,” as some call it. Have you ever showed up for class, found out you had a test that period, and thought, “That’s impossible! It’s not the 29th! Isn’t it, like, the 4th?” Or, have you ever looked at a bill on, say, the 25th, saw it was due on the 2nd, and calculated the distance between the two dates as much larger than it was? “Oh, I’ve got like two weeks to pay that. No sweat.” If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may well suffer from STT.

The bad news about STT is that if you suffer from it, you are an idiot. You have little hope for a cure besides regular injections of good old common sense, available in large quantities from people you’ve historically ignored, including, but not limited, your mother, grandmother, teachers, aunts, uncles, older siblings, and all other adults. You will likely have to accept a drastic treatment plan which will include extended sessions with a planner/day-timer/Palm Pilot. These sessions will drain you, but they will also cure you. Then, you will put STT behind you. At least, that’s what many survivors say. I said it once, but I can’t remember when. Then again, time does pass so quickly, doesn’t it?

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

I’m in between series right now and so am taking a few days to spotlight interesting things. Today’s interesting thing is the Together for the Gospel blog. For those who don’t know, Together for the Gospel is a conference sponsored in part by 9Marks ministries and Sovereign Grace ministries. It will be held in Louisville, KY in late April 2006 and will feature such speakers as pastor John Piper, Southern Seminary president Al Mohler, pastor Mark Dever, author C.J. Mahaney, pastor John MacArthur, and others. The conference focuses on the basic idea of the Christian faith, the gospel, and approaches this topic from the perspective of a pastor.

There are numerous cool things about the conference. Firstly, it is bringing together a number of men that God has used to positively influence evangelicalism in recent times. John Piper has changed the way many evangelicals think about the living of their faith, John MacArthur has tirelessly advocated expositional preaching and changed many a mind as a result, and Mark Dever has refigured the evangelical conception of the local church in countless minds. The other speakers are no less significant. Secondly, there’s nothing quite like this. The speakers are from all corners of evangelicalism. C.J. Mahaney is charismatic, Ligon Duncan is Presbyterian, Al Mohler is Southern Baptist. Yet all of them share a profound love for the gospel. Thirdly, the material will be uncommonly rich and thoughtful. I can’t think of another conference that promises to spur more thought in its attendees than this one.

Fourthly, the speakers have started their own blog. Here’s the official word on it, straight from 9Marks headquarters: “Mark Dever, CJ Mahaney, Lig Duncan, and Al Mohler have recently launched a Together for the Gospel (T4G) blog where they will discuss a variety of topics (from preaching to culture to theology) in the context of warm friendship. Their desire is to hold up the gospel as the matter of first importance, demonstrating its primacy by their public cooperation, friendship, and interaction. The T4G blog is a part of this vision, serving also to promote the upcoming conference in April, and continue the conversation afterwards.” Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? Check out the blog, and all the Together for the Gospel stuff, here: www.togetherforthegospel.com. It’s a great idea, a great blog, and it will be a great conference.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

I’m in between series right now and so am taking a few days to spotlight interesting things. Today’s interesting thing is the Together for the Gospel blog. For those who don’t know, Together for the Gospel is a conference sponsored in part by 9Marks ministries and Sovereign Grace ministries. It will be held in Louisville, KY in late April 2006 and will feature such speakers as pastor John Piper, Southern Seminary president Al Mohler, pastor Mark Dever, author C.J. Mahaney, pastor John MacArthur, and others. The conference focuses on the basic idea of the Christian faith, the gospel, and approaches this topic from the perspective of a pastor.

There are numerous cool things about the conference. Firstly, it is bringing together a number of men that God has used to positively influence evangelicalism in recent times. John Piper has changed the way many evangelicals think about the living of their faith, John MacArthur has tirelessly advocated expositional preaching and changed many a mind as a result, and Mark Dever has refigured the evangelical conception of the local church in countless minds. The other speakers are no less significant. Secondly, there’s nothing quite like this. The speakers are from all corners of evangelicalism. C.J. Mahaney is charismatic, Ligon Duncan is Presbyterian, Al Mohler is Southern Baptist. Yet all of them share a profound love for the gospel. Thirdly, the material will be uncommonly rich and thoughtful. I can’t think of another conference that promises to spur more thought in its attendees than this one.

Fourthly, the speakers have started their own blog. Here’s the official word on it, straight from 9Marks headquarters: “Mark Dever, CJ Mahaney, Lig Duncan, and Al Mohler have recently launched a Together for the Gospel (T4G) blog where they will discuss a variety of topics (from preaching to culture to theology) in the context of warm friendship. Their desire is to hold up the gospel as the matter of first importance, demonstrating its primacy by their public cooperation, friendship, and interaction. The T4G blog is a part of this vision, serving also to promote the upcoming conference in April, and continue the conversation afterwards.” Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? Check out the blog, and all the Together for the Gospel stuff, here: www.togetherforthegospel.com. It’s a great idea, a great blog, and it will be a great conference.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

I’m in between series right now and so am taking a few days to spotlight interesting things. Today’s interesting thing is the Together for the Gospel blog. For those who don’t know, Together for the Gospel is a conference sponsored in part by 9Marks ministries and Sovereign Grace ministries. It will be held in Louisville, KY in late April 2006 and will feature such speakers as pastor John Piper, Southern Seminary president Al Mohler, pastor Mark Dever, author C.J. Mahaney, pastor John MacArthur, and others. The conference focuses on the basic idea of the Christian faith, the gospel, and approaches this topic from the perspective of a pastor.

There are numerous cool things about the conference. Firstly, it is bringing together a number of men that God has used to positively influence evangelicalism in recent times. John Piper has changed the way many evangelicals think about the living of their faith, John MacArthur has tirelessly advocated expositional preaching and changed many a mind as a result, and Mark Dever has refigured the evangelical conception of the local church in countless minds. The other speakers are no less significant. Secondly, there’s nothing quite like this. The speakers are from all corners of evangelicalism. C.J. Mahaney is charismatic, Ligon Duncan is Presbyterian, Al Mohler is Southern Baptist. Yet all of them share a profound love for the gospel. Thirdly, the material will be uncommonly rich and thoughtful. I can’t think of another conference that promises to spur more thought in its attendees than this one.

Fourthly, the speakers have started their own blog. Here’s the official word on it, straight from 9Marks headquarters: “Mark Dever, CJ Mahaney, Lig Duncan, and Al Mohler have recently launched a Together for the Gospel (T4G) blog where they will discuss a variety of topics (from preaching to culture to theology) in the context of warm friendship. Their desire is to hold up the gospel as the matter of first importance, demonstrating its primacy by their public cooperation, friendship, and interaction. The T4G blog is a part of this vision, serving also to promote the upcoming conference in April, and continue the conversation afterwards.” Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? Check out the blog, and all the Together for the Gospel stuff, here: www.togetherforthegospel.com. It’s a great idea, a great blog, and it will be a great conference.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Don’t Believe the Experts

There is a natural tendency in America to unobstructedly believe the experts. To make up our minds, we need know little save what the PhD’s tell us to think. There is obvious good and bad in such a tendency. It’s right that we value what educated people say about things they study alot. There’s an appropriate humility in such deference. Yet we must also balance our trust of the experts with careful analysis of what they say. Do their findings accord with reality? Such is the question we must ask. It is not rare, I think, that we find the experts’ discoveries, or the conclusions they draw from their discoveries, to be lacking.

We see one such example in the opinions of educational experts who tell us that the current generation of Americans cannot concentrate in an educational setting for longer than 20-25 minutes. Yeah, that’s what the PhD’s say. But I think it’s bunk. I myself am somewhat hyper and able to multi-task. I love research, which is what I am paid to do, because I can mentally flit all over the place, discover new things, and actually be thanked for it all. I profit from my hyperness. That’s a beautiful thing. And yet I regularly sit in lectures that last 90 minutes without a break. Do I find such experiences unbearable? Do my cognitive faculties shut off at the 30 minute mark? Do my eyelids flutter uncontrollably such that I cannot take notes? To each of these questions, the answer is a snorting “no!” Yeah, I get a bit squirmy. Yeah, I have to concentrate hard to stay with the professor. Yeah, I would love to get up and run around every twenty minutes. But that’s ridiculous. How can I learn anything if I’m constantly switching my mind off and changing to a new task? Far from what the experts say, it’s actually a really good thing that I, a self-confessed hyper person, sit and listen.

As with all of life, there’s a deeper issue here. There are certainly psychological and physiological factors at work in the task of concentration, but the primary factor is that of patience. Put frankly, noone wants to be patient anymore. And noone is willing to step up and tell children that they must pay attention–or else. Over against past educational theory, which emphasized the authority of the teacher, it seems the student is the authority nowaday. The student’s whims and wishes drive education. Such a philosophy works for shopping. Businesses structure their products according to consumer taste. But this ought not to be so for education, where there is a body of learning to be handed down to students. They ought to be given propositional content to consider that is selected and delivered as best serves their educator, in order that they might profit from their education. The educator, not the twitchy ten year-old, knows best. What happened to such thinking? Let the teacher set the time limit for the lessons, and let the moldable attention spans of the youth follow suit. Trust me–they’ll learn. They’ll pay attention. Just look at movies–noone has a tough time getting kids to bore their eyes into a film for two hours. Oh wait–what do the experts say about that?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Don’t Believe the Experts

There is a natural tendency in America to unobstructedly believe the experts. To make up our minds, we need know little save what the PhD’s tell us to think. There is obvious good and bad in such a tendency. It’s right that we value what educated people say about things they study alot. There’s an appropriate humility in such deference. Yet we must also balance our trust of the experts with careful analysis of what they say. Do their findings accord with reality? Such is the question we must ask. It is not rare, I think, that we find the experts’ discoveries, or the conclusions they draw from their discoveries, to be lacking.

We see one such example in the opinions of educational experts who tell us that the current generation of Americans cannot concentrate in an educational setting for longer than 20-25 minutes. Yeah, that’s what the PhD’s say. But I think it’s bunk. I myself am somewhat hyper and able to multi-task. I love research, which is what I am paid to do, because I can mentally flit all over the place, discover new things, and actually be thanked for it all. I profit from my hyperness. That’s a beautiful thing. And yet I regularly sit in lectures that last 90 minutes without a break. Do I find such experiences unbearable? Do my cognitive faculties shut off at the 30 minute mark? Do my eyelids flutter uncontrollably such that I cannot take notes? To each of these questions, the answer is a snorting “no!” Yeah, I get a bit squirmy. Yeah, I have to concentrate hard to stay with the professor. Yeah, I would love to get up and run around every twenty minutes. But that’s ridiculous. How can I learn anything if I’m constantly switching my mind off and changing to a new task? Far from what the experts say, it’s actually a really good thing that I, a self-confessed hyper person, sit and listen.

As with all of life, there’s a deeper issue here. There are certainly psychological and physiological factors at work in the task of concentration, but the primary factor is that of patience. Put frankly, noone wants to be patient anymore. And noone is willing to step up and tell children that they must pay attention–or else. Over against past educational theory, which emphasized the authority of the teacher, it seems the student is the authority nowaday. The student’s whims and wishes drive education. Such a philosophy works for shopping. Businesses structure their products according to consumer taste. But this ought not to be so for education, where there is a body of learning to be handed down to students. They ought to be given propositional content to consider that is selected and delivered as best serves their educator, in order that they might profit from their education. The educator, not the twitchy ten year-old, knows best. What happened to such thinking? Let the teacher set the time limit for the lessons, and let the moldable attention spans of the youth follow suit. Trust me–they’ll learn. They’ll pay attention. Just look at movies–noone has a tough time getting kids to bore their eyes into a film for two hours. Oh wait–what do the experts say about that?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Don’t Believe the Experts

There is a natural tendency in America to unobstructedly believe the experts. To make up our minds, we need know little save what the PhD’s tell us to think. There is obvious good and bad in such a tendency. It’s right that we value what educated people say about things they study alot. There’s an appropriate humility in such deference. Yet we must also balance our trust of the experts with careful analysis of what they say. Do their findings accord with reality? Such is the question we must ask. It is not rare, I think, that we find the experts’ discoveries, or the conclusions they draw from their discoveries, to be lacking.

We see one such example in the opinions of educational experts who tell us that the current generation of Americans cannot concentrate in an educational setting for longer than 20-25 minutes. Yeah, that’s what the PhD’s say. But I think it’s bunk. I myself am somewhat hyper and able to multi-task. I love research, which is what I am paid to do, because I can mentally flit all over the place, discover new things, and actually be thanked for it all. I profit from my hyperness. That’s a beautiful thing. And yet I regularly sit in lectures that last 90 minutes without a break. Do I find such experiences unbearable? Do my cognitive faculties shut off at the 30 minute mark? Do my eyelids flutter uncontrollably such that I cannot take notes? To each of these questions, the answer is a snorting “no!” Yeah, I get a bit squirmy. Yeah, I have to concentrate hard to stay with the professor. Yeah, I would love to get up and run around every twenty minutes. But that’s ridiculous. How can I learn anything if I’m constantly switching my mind off and changing to a new task? Far from what the experts say, it’s actually a really good thing that I, a self-confessed hyper person, sit and listen.

As with all of life, there’s a deeper issue here. There are certainly psychological and physiological factors at work in the task of concentration, but the primary factor is that of patience. Put frankly, noone wants to be patient anymore. And noone is willing to step up and tell children that they must pay attention–or else. Over against past educational theory, which emphasized the authority of the teacher, it seems the student is the authority nowaday. The student’s whims and wishes drive education. Such a philosophy works for shopping. Businesses structure their products according to consumer taste. But this ought not to be so for education, where there is a body of learning to be handed down to students. They ought to be given propositional content to consider that is selected and delivered as best serves their educator, in order that they might profit from their education. The educator, not the twitchy ten year-old, knows best. What happened to such thinking? Let the teacher set the time limit for the lessons, and let the moldable attention spans of the youth follow suit. Trust me–they’ll learn. They’ll pay attention. Just look at movies–noone has a tough time getting kids to bore their eyes into a film for two hours. Oh wait–what do the experts say about that?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Do Education Experts Lead Us–Or the Opposite?

Hello from the road, everybody. I’m currently in South Carolina on a recreational tour of this most interesting, and warm, state. Posting will be a bit sporadic this week. It will resume en force next week. No series for the time being, though I’ve got some cooking. Today we’re thinking about educational philosophies: to accept or not to accept?

One of the more interesting debates I’ve had in recent times came in a class on leadership I took a little while back. In the class, my professor argued that people today are conditioned to pay little sustained attention to, well, anything. According to “experts” that he cited, people can only pay attention to a lecturer/speaker for about twenty minutes before they need a break or switch in activity. He used this data to argue that Sunday School classes in churches ought to be discussion-oriented, particularly for people (he noted his wife) who cannot pay attention for long periods of time. His data-fueled educational philosophy, that people can’t long stand lectures, drove the way he organized his church curriculum.

As with much of conventional thinking, I would surmise that there is an element of truth here. People today do struggle to stay attentive. We all know why. We do little activity these days that requires sustained, unbroken attention. Mirroring the tv we love so well, we flit from place to place, writing an email here, changing our laundry there, watching a show in between, talking on the phone for ten minutes, and then repeating the whole cycle. At work, or in school, we begin a task, discover it more difficult than we thought, and so switch to another. Then it’s time for a meeting, then it’s lunch, then we take a call, and so on. We’re not just hyperactive with the remote control. We’re hyper with our very lives.

All of which does pose a challenge for the church pastors, the elders, who are responsible for drafting curriculum and teaching lessons that engage their congregation. The church teachers do not receive blank-slated listeners when they open the Bible to teach. They teach a people who are continually being conditioned by their world and who thus have their own peculiar struggles and challenges impeding the comprehension and activation of truth. Knowing this, though, are leaders to give way to the culture? Are they to acquiesce to the demands of a jitterbug mind and unfocused intellect? Or, are they to lead the way in helping such devices of learning to focus? This is not a throw-away question. All over the country, and indeed the world, churches are structuring their services according to a postmodern attention span. Is this right? Tomorrow, consumed offers an answer.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Altar Calls

Better than an altar call in which someone makes a one-time decision and then puts their trust in that decision for the rest of their life is the simple proclamation of the gospel and subsequent exhortation to all to believe and live by the gospel. We’ve become convinced in evangelicalism that noone can be saved without praying a prayer. This is simply not true. Our assurance of salvation does not root in the subjective moment we recall as signaling our repentance. Repentance is a work of the Holy Spirit. He converts us in a blink at some point in our hearing of the gospel. He doesn’t work only when we feel it. He regenerates, and we respond. But the timing of our response does not always correlate exactly with His regeneration. Sometimes we struggle to see our salvation. Sometimes depression hides its light from us. Sometimes sins obscure the marvelous work within us. Sometimes we just plain don’t know we’ve become a Christian because we’re not yet in a church that can affirm our walk with Christ and offer us assurance based on our lifestyle. To think, then, that we are saved at the first second we feel we are saved is unhelpful.

Better, I think, to lead people to conviction on a regular basis. Better to teach them to rest in Christ’s work. It is better for Christians to follow the old Puritan syllogism–I am saved if I believe in Christ and obey Him; I do believe in Him, and I do obey Him; Therefore, I am saved–than to follow their intuition. I remember questioning the day I made a profession. Well, I thought later, did I really mean it? What about the outstanding sins in my life at that point? Maybe I wasn’t sincere enough! Maybe I’m not a Christian! Oh, what a terrible state to be in. We evangelicals need to teach people not to trust in a prayer or a walk down an aisle but in Christ! We need to help people root their assurance in their belief and the proof of their belief–their fruit as a Christian. The mark that someone is a Christian is not that they prayed a prayer twelve years ago and had a powerful experience. The mark that someone is a Christian is that they love Jesus Christ, His church, and His Word, and they follow Him in holiness and love. There are countless people out there living like the darkness who think they found they light because they saw it one night. There are lots of evangelicals who are so very, very confused because they witnessed such one-time professions and now think that people are saved who live in gross sin and wickedness. This is deplorable, and at its root lies an “altar-call” and “cheap-grace” mentality.

If you know someone who prayed to receive Christ years ago, and who seemed earnest at the time, but who has since showed no love whatsoever for God, His church, and His Word, do not think them to be a Christian. Many followed Jesus out of excitement and interest. Many claimed to be His. Many became very emotional about Him and professed love of Him. But many of this stripe fell away. Look at John 6. Jesus makes the audacious claim to be the “bread of life” and many fall away. They simply stop following him. What is the lesson here? That many in this world will at one time come forward, pray earnestly, and scribble their name on a card. They will pledge with great emotion to live for Jesus. They will sing, and throw their hands in the air, and go on youth group or college ministry trips. But sadly, terribly, they will one day stop, just as the crowds stopped following Jesus. By the time He got to Calvary, there was almost noone left.

So it is in our day. Many find Jesus and Christianity attractive for a season. But the luster fades, and the world and its pleasures call, and many fall away. How important, then, that we not tell such fair-weather followers that they are saved! We need to faithfully preach the gospel to all, but to preach the biblical truth that works follow from true faith. No exceptions. So, as much as you and I want to believe that uncle Larry and cousin Julie and best-friend-forever Tyler is a Christian because they prayed at one time, we must conform our emotions to Scriptural truth. There is no other option. Let the altar call die, and the gospel ring forth.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized