Monthly Archives: April 2012

Redeem Us from Gluttony: A Personal Trainer Speaks Up

You know how there’s a ton right now on “The Gospel and X?”  Not all of those pieces are helpful, because some of them don’t move from theology to practice.  Good thinking and preaching always bears down on everyday life.

I was deeply encouraged, then, to read this excellent post on “How the Gospel Overcomes Gluttony.”  It’s by a personal trainer from Maine named Matt Wallace.  Check it out:

Having worked professionally as a personal trainer for over 15 years, I know millions of people resolve each year to get control of the overeating that has haunted them and perhaps threatens their health. And I’m not talking about enjoying an occasional dessert, but rather a desperate dependence upon food.

In attempt to fix the problem, millions of dollars are poured into the fitness industry, gym memberships expand, and every manner of diet book and fitness product. No doubt these books will be full of easy-to-follow principles. Nevertheless, a month or so later we learn the five easy principles are anything but easy. The constant failure reveals that the problem with chronic overeating goes deeper than we have ever imagined.

Here’s what Matt says is the real problem:

Because Adam and Eve didn’t trust in their exalted status, approval, and security in God, they sought to establish their own righteousness. It was the forbidden fruit that promised salvation. So, in rebellion, they ate to satisfy their deepest longings. Although they had plenty of food in the garden, it wasn’t enough. Their hope was that food would give them a better existence than being loved by God. That is the root of gluttony. It is a deep seated rebellious affection based on the lie that food is more pleasurable than God. Gluttony is not merely a lack will power, it is religious in nature as it is service, devotion, and worship of the pleasure of food instead of God. In short, gluttony is idolatry.

Read the whole thing.

(Image: The Resurgence, HT: Josh Cousineau)

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Breaking News: Writing Notes by Hand Is Good for You

The Wall Street Journal confirms one of my suspicions (and classroom practices!): writing notes by hand in class is good for you.

Read this:

Using advanced tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development.

It’s not just children who benefit. Adults studying new symbols, such as Chinese characters, might enhance recognition by writing the characters by hand, researchers say. Some physicians say handwriting could be a good cognitive exercise for baby boomers working to keep their minds sharp as they age.

Studies suggest there’s real value in learning and maintaining this ancient skill, even as we increasingly communicate electronically via keyboards big and small. Indeed, technology often gets blamed for handwriting’s demise. But in an interesting twist, new software for touch-screen devices, such as the iPad, is starting to reinvigorate the practice.

Here’s the whole thing.  And here’s some information on the subject from Wheaton professor Alan Jacobs, whose comments on technology I enjoy.

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Anna Quindlen on the Agony of Writing

Very much enjoyed this Wall Street Journal piece from Anna Quindlen on writing.  She gives many practical thoughts:

If I go out for lunch and interrupt my rhythm, I’m sunk. I think that all of those lunches were what diminished Truman Capote’s output.

Or maybe it’s that he talked too much about his work. If you talk it, you won’t write it; it’s as though the words turn into vapor in the air. If you write other stuff, you won’t write it either. One of my Barnard writing professors, B.J. Chute, used to tell us not to take jobs that included writing of any kind because there was no chance we would then go home at night and take up our own material. But she predated the Internet, which is more dangerous than a copywriting gig.

I’m convinced that there are only so many words per day in the human body: If you do some longish emails and a few tweets, you feel done.

Read it all.

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Ghosts of New England: An Essay on Ministry

Just posted a short essay entitled “Ghosts of New England” on the perils and prospects of gospel ministry in New England at Gospel Alliance New England.

My friend Josh Cousineau, a church planter in southern Maine, runs the site.  Here’s a snatch:

The sight that always catches my attention, though, are the churches, or rather the church buildings.  They always draw my eye.  They are invariably noble.  Sheer white, usually.  Two hundred years have passed, and still their spire is the highest point in the town.  New England has changed a great deal.  But the town fathers cannot bring themselves to discard the dictates of the past.  The steeple is a symbol, signaling that the church, that God, has the preeminence.  There is something about this statement, written into the architecture of the area, that vexes the modern skeptical mind.  We can gut our doctrine and overhaul our liturgy.  But the wood and stone and steeple—that is a different matter.  Words are not sacred, but edifices are.

Elegant churches abound in New England.  The book White on White, containing some of the finest ecclesiastical photography available, displays this in abundance.  Many of these buildings are not used, or barely so.  Some of these structures have been torn down; others, like a magnificent house of worship in Brunswick, my college town, have become houses of pizza.  Yet many structures maintain a stubborn witness to their irreligious surroundings.  If Flannery O’Connor saw the South as Christ-haunted, we might see New England as God-absent, or more provocatively, God-expectant.

Here’s the whole thing.  (To whet your appetite, I mention whoopie pies and Amato’s italians, two regional culinary delights you need to sample before your earthly sojourn ends.)

And here’s an interview I did with GANE, published earlier this week.  I share these links in hopes that they will stir up hearts for the very hard but very meaningful work of gospel ministry in New England.

(Image: Perceptive Travel)

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Rap You Must Listen To: “Through Hymn” on Church History

Steve Forst, one of my students at Boyce College, just clued me in to a rapper I had never heard of: Through Hymn.  He specializes in hip-hop on church history.  You never know what to expect with under-the-radar rappers.  It took me one listen, though, to know that Through Hymn is the real deal.  He is an excellent rapper.  His production is polished and sharp, and his content is straight-up historical theology and church history, with a decidedly pro-Reformation bent.  Yet another album that proves in abundance that Christians can use rap for edification and pleasure.

You need to listen to this whole album.  It’s free and available here.  Through Hymn has a different style than some of the more well-known Christian rappers, but that’s part of the fun of gospel hip-hop.  I am looking forward to more from this very talented artist.  Hey TH–can you do an album for me on Jonathan Edwards?  Hook a brother up!

Here’s more on Through Hymn from his website:

Ronald Johnson (Through Hymn) is a servant of Jesus Christ and member of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Orlando, FL. He seeks to glorify God, spread the Gospel and edify the Church through Christ-exalting lyricism. In 2011, he graduated from Florida Christian College with a B.A in Biblical Studies and Humanities and plans to continue his theological studies.

Several of his musical influences are Olafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, shai linne, Evangel, Christcentric, Timothy Brindle, Will Passion, Zae Da Blacksmith, FLAME, Json, Hazakim, EonsD, Jerrell Johnson, Orlando Aska, Erased Tapes, Emancipator, Equalibrum, Kid Called Computer, Commissary, Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears, Peter Broderick, James Sire, John Stott, Thomas Watson, Charles Spurgeon, Jerry Bridges, Francis Schaeffer, C.S Lewis, Plato, Hans Zimmer, Annie Dillard, John Calvin, Augustine, Justin Borger, Mark Noll, Richard Sibbes, John Owen, Neil Postman, Gene Edward Veith, Jr. and many more. “On Word and Sacrament” is a free project about the significance of the Word, particularly the Gospel (its misconceptions) and the proper administration of the sacraments for the edification of the Church.

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Band of Bloggers 2012 Audio Available: Bethke, Elephant Room & Trayvon

Audio from the 2012 Band of Bloggers panel is now live and listenable.  Justin Taylor, Collin Hansen, Tim Challies, and Timmy Brister all contributed wisdom to a diverse array of topics.  I moderated the panel.  We had a blast.

Here was the event’s central topic:

Six years ago, two movements began to gain significant traction–blogging and the young, restless, and reformed. Additionally, 2006 was the inauguration of the Band of Bloggers fellowship, and since that time God has brought gospel rental in many ways to evangelical life, including the development of organizations like Together for the Gospel and The Gospel Coalition, the upsurge of gospel literature in publishing houses, the growth of church planting and revitalization networks, and continued reformation in local churches. Throughout this period, the role of the internet, blogging, and advances in technology have played no small role. At the 2012 Band of Bloggers gathering, we will take a look back at the past six years and consider the impact–good and bad–of blogging and technology in the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement.

Apparently there’s been some dustup over the panel’s discussion of the Elephant Room.  I’m not sure I see the point, but I’ll invite you to listen in and form your own opinion.  I thought there were many helpful takeaways from the four panelists.

 

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An Essay on the Awesomeness of Men

Denny Burk has just announced the release of the latest Journal for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood.  Here are the contents and Burk’s introduction to the journal:

The Spring 2012 issue of The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is now online, and you can download the entire issue from the CBMW website. This issue includes articles from Russell Moore, John Piper, and more. There are several book reviews, including Heath Lambert’s take on the controversial book Real Marriage. Owen Strachan has contributed an excellent article about the interchangeability of men’s and women’s roles. Louis Markos has some important reflections on gender-neutral translations of the Bible. The table of contents is below, and you can download individual articles from there.

Standard Fare
Denny Burk Editorial
Various Odds & Ends
Essays & Perspectives
Russell D. Moore Women, Stop Submitting to Men
John Piper “The Frank and Manly Mr. Ryle”: The Value of a Masculine Ministry
Owen Strachan Of “Dad Moms” and “Man Fails”: An Essay on Men and Awesomeness
Louis Markos From the NRSV to the New NIV: Why Gender-Neutral Language Represents an Enforced Agenda Rather than a Natural Evolution
From the Sacred Desk
Denny Burk How Do We Speak About Homosexuality?
Gender Studies in Review
Heath Lambert The Ironies of Real Marriage // A Review of Mark Driscoll,The Truth about Sex
Kenneth Magnuson The End of Sexual Identity … or Sexual Morality? // A Review of Jenell Williams Paris, The End of Sexual Identity
Todd L. Miles Cultivating Womanhood in a World of Competing Voices // A Review of James Dobson, Bringing Up Girls
Andrew David Naselli and Jennifer J. Naselli Give Them Jesus: Parenting with the Gospel // A Review of Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, Give Them Grace
Courtney Reissig A Valuable Historical Study // A Review of Diana Lynn Severance, Feminine Threads
Here’s a teaser from my essay on “Dad Moms” (Denny asked me to revisit the original blog in a longer essay–it was pretty fun to write):

In November 2011, I was watching a football game, minding my own business, when a Tide commercial popped up on the television. It is not a commonplace that I pay great attention to advertisements for laundry detergent. But there was something different about this one. It began by showing a man folding clothes in a cheerfully lit bedroom. He introduced himself with this odd statement: “Hi.  I’m a Dad mom.  That means while my wife works, I’m at home being awesome.” This was interesting. I had not heard of a “Dad mom” before. This commercial suddenly had my full attention.

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Saturday Awesomeness: A Gerald Green Dunk

It’s good to see Gerald Green, a former draft pick of my Boston Celtics, back in the league and flying high.  On this dunk, his head was above the rim.

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Interview with Eugene Peterson on Reading Rich Literature

Recently in Manhattan I had the opportunity to sit down with venerable pastor and author Eugene Peterson and interview him.  Peterson has championed a rich reading life on the part of pastors over the years, and I had the chance to talk with him about how to cultivate such a life.  Not everyone will agree with all of Peterson’s stances and theological ideas, but I commend his comments to you.

A selection from the pastor:

Good writers are people who pay attention to language, are interested in telling the truth, and are in some ways finding themselves inoculated against the fads of what will sell, what will please. Good literature almost always goes against the grain of the culture: interpreting it, subtly criticizing it, maybe not polemically. Pastors are right in the center of deceit and corruption and bad use of language. We have a commitment to use words accurately and honestly.

Good writing does not come easy; it takes a lot of discipline, a lot of self-criticism. A lot of people in my position want to know how to write, and after talking to them for a while I realize, “You don’t want to write, you want to get published; you’re not willing to go through the disciplines, the rejections.” Rejections are often compliments, because we’re not writing for popular taste or the stuff that just titillates people, what makes them feel good or bad or whatever. Propaganda is the worst kind of writing; there’s almost something pornographic about it. It just dehumanizes what’s going on, and we’re just filled with it right now politically, so I think of the importance of poets and novelists, because I think of poets as the high priests of the language. No poet writes in order to get published, not in America, so anybody who takes the path of poetry is going a lonely way and a not lucrative way.

Read the whole thing.  If you haven’t read his book The Pastor,  you might want to give that a look to become familiar with his material.

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God Is Not a Genie in a Bottle

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Eric Bargerhuff, author of The Most Misused Verses in the Bible: Surprising Ways God’s Word Is Misunderstood (Bethany House).  The interview was published in Christianity Today.  Eric is a keen thinker (and a fellow PhD graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School).  He’s written a helpful, readable book that I commend to you.

Here’s a swath of the CT interview:

You critique prayers that uncritically expect God to grant us, well, anything. Like John 14:13: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

God is not a genie in a bottle. Yes, he has a good, pleasing, and perfect will. But this doesn’t mean we should pray for whatever we want. We are sinful people and don’t even know what’s best for us, as the Book of Romans says. Sometimes we pray with wrong motives. Praying random prayers that are self-centered is not God-honoring. We should seek his will when we pray.

What would you say to athletes who latch onto Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all this through him who gives me strength”)?

In that passage, Paul is teaching on contentment and arguing that no matter what our situation is, we should learn to be content. The ability to be content, whatever the situation, is contingent on what Jesus gives us. This verse doesn’t necessarily mean that Jesus will give the player victory, but rather that he can be content either way because of God’s strength in him. It’s not about God giving you the strength to dunk the basketball as much as it is him working in you to be content no matter what happens in the game.

Read the whole interview.

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