Monthly Archives: December 2011
Of the Father’s love begotten
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the Source, the Ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see
Evermore and evermore.
Oh, that birth forever blessed
When the Virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bare the Savior of our race,
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face
Evermore and evermore.
O ye heights of heaven, adore Him;
Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him
And extol our God and King.
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert ring
Evermore and evermore.
This is He whom Heaven-taught singers
Sang of old with one accord;
Whom the Scriptures of the prophets
Promised in their faithful word.
Now He shines, the Long-expected;
Let creation praise its Lord
Evermore and evermore.
Christ, to Thee, with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee
Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
And unending praises be,
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory
Evermore and evermore.
– Prudentius, A.D. 405
No priest, no theologian stood at the manger of Bethlehem. And yet all Christian theology has its origin in the wonder of all wonders: that God became human. Holy theology arises from knees bent before the mystery of the divine child in the stable.
Without the holy night, there is no theology. “God is revealed in flesh,” the God-human Jesus Christ—that is the holy mystery that theology came into being to protect and preserve.
How we fail to understand when we think that the task of theology is to solve the mystery of God, to drag it down to the flat, ordinary wisdom of human experience and reason! Its sole office is to preserve the miracle as miracle, to comprehend, defend, and glorify God’s mystery precisely as mystery. This and nothing else, therefore, is what the early church meant when, with never flagging zeal, it dealt with the mystery of the Trinity and the person of Jesus Christ…
If Christmas time cannot ignite within us again something like a love for holy theology, so that we—captured and compelled by the wonder of the manger of the Son of God—must reverently reflect on the mysteries of God, then it must be that the glow of the divine mysteries has also been extinguished in our heart and has died out.
Here’s the audio from a performance of Handel’s Messiah.
Links for your (holiday!) weekend reading:
2. Aaron Armstrong interacts with my post on podcasts and pastoring. A good word.
He moved to Kalawao – a village on the island of Molokai, in Hawaii, that had been quarantined to serve as a leper colony.
For 16 years, he lived in their midst. He learned to speak their language. He bandaged their wounds, embraced the bodies no one else would touch, preached to hearts that would otherwise have been left alone. He organized schools, bands, and choirs. He built homes so that the lepers could have shelter. He built 2,000 coffins by hand so that, when they died, they could be buried with dignity.
Slowly, it was said, Kalawao became a place to live rather than a place to die, for Father Damien offered hope.
Father Damien was not careful about keeping his distance. He did nothing to separate himself from his people. He dipped his fingers in the poi bowl along with the patients. He shared his pipe. He did not always wash his hands after bandaging open sores. He got close. For this, the people loved him.
Then one day he stood up and began his sermon with two words: “We lepers….”
Now he wasn’t just helping them. Now he was one of them. From this day forward, he wasn’t just on their island; he was in their skin. First he had chosen to live as they lived; now he would die as they died. Now they were in it together.
One day God came to Earth and began his message: …
I guess I’m saying that I’m concerned (Summit Church included) that our efforts to produce numbers that look good on blogs, get us on lists, and sound good in introductions may be (inadvertently) damning many people to hell by keeping us from focusing our energies on producing the disciples who go all the way with Jesus. A good thing (excitement of initial decisions) is keeping us from the best thing and the only eternal thing (making disciples).
So by all means count the numbers. Just celebrate the right ones, and give producing those numbers the proper weight in your church.
David Mathis recently extracted some practical ideas from the book in connection to all the family gatherings accustomed to the holidays. Here are those ten points again, or in his words, “a few thoughts from a fellow bungler to help us think ahead and pray about how we might grow in being proxies for the gospel, in word and deed, among our families.”
One serious consequence of concluding that true spirituality is exclusively introspective-that it’s all about internal betterment-is that we fail to see the needs of our neighbor and serve them, which is James’ definition of “good works.” After all, as Martin Luther said, “God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does.”
As 2011 draws to a close it’s the perfect …
Nine years ago today, Corina and I were married at Emanuel Baptist Church in Oradea, Romania. A couple years ago, I listed several reasons I am thankful for my wife. Today, I’d like to add two additional reasons that have become clearer to me in the past two years.
I am thankful for my wife because…
1. She prioritizes the kingdom of God over personal comfort.
Nine years ago, when we said our vows, Corina quoted from Ruth:
Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.
My wife meant those words. We spent the first three years of our marriage in her own country. But when the day came for us to move to the States for an indefinite period of time, she willingly said, “Let’s go.”
We’ve had conversations about the future in which she has made it clear that she would be willing to go to Africa if God called us there. Accumulating wealth and establishing comfort and security are not what appeal to her. She cares much more deeply about relationships and about God’s kingdom than her own comfort.
2. She does what she does well so that I can do what I do well.
Corina thought it odd that I dedicated my first book to her. After all, I wrote the book the summer we had our second child. “I wasn’t able to help very much with that book,” she says.
She has no idea.
My wife chose to …
N.T. Wright reviews three books on Jesus, including the Pope’s Jesus of Nazareth:
What we have, rather, in general and in the writings surveyed here, is a bewildering range of viewpoints, which with only a slight stretch could be described as pre-modern, modern and postmodern: in this case, a German, an Englishman and a North American. As Barack Obama said of a different trio (recent guest speakers in Westminster Hall), this is either a very high bar or the beginning of a very funny joke.
Alan Jacobs: “Christianity and the Future of the Book”
In this history one can discern many ways in which forms of religious life shape, and in turn are shaped by, their key technologies. And as technologies change, those forms of life change too, whether their participants wish to or not. These changes can have massive social consequences, some of which we will wish to consider at the end of this brief history. Christians are, as the Koran says, “People of the Book”; in which case we might want to ask what will become of Christianity if “the book” is radically transformed or abandoned altogether.
Kevin DeYoung – Wither YRR?
We should read deeply into our tradition, not just broadly across the current spectrum of well-known authors. We need to learn to be good churchmen, investing time in the committees, assemblies, and machinery of the church. We need to publicly celebrate and defend important doctrinal distinctives (e.g., baptism, the millennium, liturgical norms) even as we …
Francis Schaeffer (from Letters of Francis Schaeffer):
Marriage is wonderful, but unless both are children of God through faith in Christ, and unless both put Christ first as Lord in their lives, then a marriage can never be what the Lord meant marriage to be. This would always be true, but it is doubly true in a day such as our own which is so filled with confusion and tensions. It is only when each one puts Christ first that there can be a sufficient base. And though at first it might seem as though this would be disruptive to a marriage – to have even Christ put before the other one – yet it is not this way. This is so because, if we put Christ before the other person, we will then be able to love and be thoughtful of the other person in a way that would not be possible if that person was put first.
Tim Keller from The Meaning of Marriage:
As a pastor I have spoken to thousands of couples, some working on marriage-seeking, some working on marriage-sustaining, and some working on marriage-saving. I’ve heard them say over and over, “Love shouldn’t be this hard; it should come naturally.” In response, I always say something like, “Why believe that? Would someone who wants to play professional baseball say, ‘It shouldn’t be so hard to hit a fastball?’ Would someone who wants to write the greatest American novel of her generation say, ‘It shouldn’t be …