“He is Faithful” covers a range of topics relating to Christian faith, practice, and thought, as well as the authors’ life experiences. It seeks to testify to God’s faithfulness and love, demonstrated most importantly in sending His son Jesus Christ to provide forgiveness and salvation to all who believe in his name.
A while back, I started a series on worship and argued that why we do things often matters as much to God as what we do. God wants our love and worship, not just outward conformity. Then, I went on to talk about how these ideas have helped to see I need to focus less on externals and superficial obedience, and more on obeying from the heart. Today, I want to wrap up that series by connecting it to a couple other ideas. I’d planned on doing this back in March, but COVID-19 intervened so I’m only now revisiting it.
Recently, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our May 17 sermon, based on John 15:1-11. We’re currently in a series on Jesus’ “I am” statements in the book of John. These are key statements he uses to reveal his person, work, and relationship to God and they form a core part of the gospel of John.
Recently, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our May 10, based on John 15:1-11. We’re currently in a series on Jesus’ “I am” statements in the book of John. These are key statements he uses to reveal his person, work, and relationship to God and they form a core part of the gospel of John.
There’s been much talk of curve-flattening in the context of COVID-19, but I realized there’s another type of curve-flattening going on that doesn’t really get as much attention. I first started thinking about this in the context of my work, and put together this cartoon:
Recently, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our May 3, based on John 13:36-14:6. We’re currently in a series on Jesus’ “I am” statements in the book of John. These are key statements he uses to reveal his person, work, and relationship to God and they form a core part of the gospel of John.
Today I’ve got a few links I’ve been accumulating on diverse topics to share – some directly COVID-related, some not so much.
I’ve noticed a lot of polarization in people’s responses to COVID-19. While a good fraction of folks I know seem to be taking a reasonable approach, I also see a good deal of polarization from different places on the political spectrum – and not just from end end or the other. If you’ll allow me to oversimplify a bit, I’d say that some seem to think the whole thing is an overblown, overhyped artificial catastrophe created by the liberal media and folks who stay home are essentially cowering in fear. Others seem to think the entire thing a fiasco created by a combination of Trump, science deniers, and a lack of universal health care/adequate support for the poor in our society. And many seem to be trying to figure out how to blame someone for our present predicament.
Recently, I began blogging on our Sunday sermons to help myself review; today, I’m continuing that by covering our March 19 service, based on John 8:12. We’re currently in a series on Jesus’ “I am” statements in the book of John. These are key statements he uses to reveal his person, work, and relationship to God and they form a core part of the gospel of John.
I’m convinced that, in a post-COVID world, the new normal will look quite different than the old in a number of ways. Many of these are as yet unclear, but today I want to look at a few ways that things might change, as well as some ways in which I hope they will change. These span a wide range, from work and work-related travel, to academic publishing and online education. I’ll look at that last topic in a later post, as I’ve got a lot to say on it. For now, though, it seems save to say that, as former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote:
This pathogen has altered history and changed our world.
Recently, I wrote about the need for us as Christians to take a Biblical lens to our culture, examining what we do, why we do it, and whether it’s Biblical. As I pointed out, we pick up our own culture from how we grew up, and from those around us – both inside the church and outside it – and it’s important to test that against the Scriptures. Times of culture shock provide a good opportunity to reassess.
Tim Challies just had a nice post, I Miss the Ordinary the Most, in which he argues that part of what’s so hard for Christians in this time is that we lack one of the great means of support God has provided for us – that of meeting together, one of the “ordinary means of grace”. Meeting together as a church body, in Christian fellowship, is part of how God provides for us so, in a way, we *ought to feel something is wrong when we cannot do this.** Challies writes:
Over the years, I’ve grown a lot in my faith and life through moving to very different places. It’s forced me to do something I think every Christian should do – take stock of which of my habits are truly Biblical versus which I’m doing just because they conform to the surrounding culture, whether it’s the church I’m part of or the surrounding society.
I’ve been trying to build a habit where I reflect, mid-week, on the Sunday sermon so that it will stick with me better and I’ll benefit more. This week, I realized I could better reinforce that habit by writing about it as well, since writing about something helps me get even more out of it. So today marks the first in what I hope will be a weekly series of posts about Sunday sermons from my church, Berean Community Church.
I just finished Eric Metaxas’s excellent biography, “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy”, and wanted to highly recommend it. I’ve mentioned it a couple of times already on this blog – including how I was challenged by his death and how he wanted to worship with his fellow believers even when apart – but it’s time to provide a proper review and note some more of the things I took away from the book.
I’ve had a few things piling up that I wanted to share, so today I’ll do a bit of a mish-mash. I’ll give a few more resources I’ve run across that seemed helpful, share a way in which God was challenging me today, and link to a number of news/analysis articles about COVID-19 that I thought were worthwhile.
As a bit of a statistics and numbers geek, I wanted to provide a set of links to the resources I’ve found most helpful in understanding the latest on COVID-19 and where it’s likely headed, in case they are also helpful to others. Some of these give direct access to regularly updated stats and data, and thus I find them particularly valuable. Others give key pieces of analysis, which will go out of date, so I’m separating these.
I’ve been reading Metaxas’s excellent book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, and wanted to share something from it which connected with Sunday worship today as we gathered separately to live stream our worship service. The book is great, and makes me want to read more of Bonhoeffer’s works – but I’ll write more about that after I’m done with it.
COVID-19 has upended daily lives, work, and livelihoods for many of us. Entire industries are shutting down at least temporarily or dramatically changing, unemployment claims are surging, and people worry about their futures and how to make ends meet. As Christians, we can trust God’s sovereignty and cast our cares and concerns on him (Romans 8:28-30, Phil. 4:4-7, etc.) but this doesn’t mean we or those around us won’t have material needs. Today, I want to remind us – and me – to look for and be ready to help meet those needs.
Our kids are already feeling isolated from their friends, even though we homeschool so this is less disruptive for us than I imagine it is for others. I think the same thing is going to happen for us adults, though perhaps not as fast. I’ve been trying to collect some ideas for activities the kids can do online with their friends so they will still be connected, rather than just watching movies and playing computer games, etc. Our kids range in age from 3 to 13, so I’m mostly thinking of kids in that age range.
My friends, church leaders and workplace take COVID-19 quite seriously and have made drastic moves towards social distancing, so I thought it was time to shift towards figuring out how best to cope with the new reality – until I ran an errand and saw how many people are still out and about. Yesterday I went out to the library to return our books before they go overdue, and was horrified to see how crowded it was. On the way, I passed by the playground in our neighborhood, and it was busy with kids and families playing together. Some of my contacts on Facebook also mentioned that they haven’t changed anything voluntarily, and recommended going on with life as normal except for avoiding large crowds and doing extra handwashing. This is dangerous, and I want to explain why. For a visual illustration, check out this Washington post simulator where you can see the effects of different containment strategies.
Yesterday, I wrote about how we need to take COVID-19 very seriously. Today, I want to give some additional information I’ve found helpful and also express my concerns about the school system – in general but also specifically here in Orange County.
Previously, I wrote about COVID-19 and noted how we should take reasonable precautions, trust God, and not be overly concerned. While I still agree with much of that, I think the situation now appears to be significantly more serious than it appeared at the time, and more drastic “reasonable precautions” seem warranted.
I read a few things lately that I thought were helpful or interesting and wanted to comment on:
Recently, I started a series on worship and argued that why we do things often matters as much to God as what we do. God wants our love and worship, not just outward conformity. Today, I want to explain how this realization has impacted my life and my understanding of what church should be like.
*Update March 11, 2020: The situation now appears far more serious and I have an updated post on this.**
Errors usually come in pairs, offering two “ditches” on opposites sides of the path of truth which we must avoid in order to ensure we truly follow Christ. I am not sure that every truth occupies the middle ground between two wrong extremes, but certainly in Christian doctrine this is true of a great many truths. Thus I find this idea of the two ditches extremely helpful in trying to ensure that I don’t fall into one error (ditch) by trying to avoid the other.
A while back, some of the dads from our church had a video call to discuss family devotions with kids, and to encourage one another in doing these. Today, I’m posting a summary of what we talked about, including some of the materials which were suggested, in case it’s helpful.
In the last several days, I read a couple other things which I thought were worth passing on:
I’ve learned a lot in the last few years about the importance of the heart in the Christian life – that my motivation often matters to God as much or more than what I do. For example, I might go and help fix something at church for various reasons. Maybe I go because I was asked to and I’ll feel guilty or disappoint someone if I don’t. Or maybe I go because I believe it’s the right thing to do. Or perhaps I go wanting to help take care of the church because the church matters to God, and I want to express my gratitude and worship to God. My action might be the same in each case, but my motivations are very different. And my motivations determine whether my service is downright sinful, or simply an act of going through the “right” motions, or true worship which I really enjoy and which pleases God. Today, I want to look at why this is.
Today, I’m doing something I haven’t done before on this blog – linking to a few things I enjoyed and only commenting on them briefly. It’s my first post in what might be called the “mishmash” category.
As you scroll through this on your Samsung S10 or iPhone XR, XS, or 11, I’m here to tell you why to don’t need it. If you were to ask me five years ago which phone to get, I would have probably prescribed a “flagship” phone of some kind. A “flagship” phone is a phone from a given manufacturer with the latest and greatest features, best performance, and flashiest style. For these reasons, these are the most expensive phones in that manufacturer’s line up. For my first three smartphones, I used flagship phones, namely an iPhone 3GS, a Google Nexus 4, and then a Google Nexus 6. And to my liking, they were indeed excellent phones. But for my latest phone, I opted to change course and try something new – a midrange phone, namely a Moto G6+ There a lot of reasons that motivated me to opt for one of these over a flagship. Here are a few:
I grew up in a very moral family, but not one where I learned Christian teaching as truth. I thought life was about being a good person. I grew up with at least some exposure to different religions, one of which was Christianity. I learned some of the basics of the Bible, but I thought Jesus was a good teacher, like all of those other guys - Buddha, Mohammed, Gandhi, and so on. Christianity was just one of many religions, all teaching about how to live a good life, I believed. God has made his existence plain through creation, so deep inside I knew that He existed, but I would not admit this. Rather, I argued that there was no way to know that God exists. I was one of those people who would tell Christians that they were wrong, that there was no God, or at the very least that there was no way to know for sure that there was. But, secretly, I knew He existed, but I remember this being almost a subconscious knowledge – one I wouldn’t admit to anyone, not even really to myself. At the same time, I grew up around a good number of professing Christians, partly because I was home-schooled and many others homeschool for religious reasons. If anything, though, this exacerbated my opposition to Christianity. I could easily see that many of these professing Christians did not live out their faith. Many of the “Christian” kids my age seemed less loving and moral than moral non-Christians, and they would lie to their parents about their interests and priorities. So, I thought that even if God did exist, I would be fine since I was living a more moral life than most of these people. Although I denied God’s existence and lived a selfish, self-centered life, I lived in an outwardly “moral” way. That is to say, my great sins were pride, arrogance, a sense of superiority, being a know-it-all, that sort of thing. As I entered college, I was beginning to grasp the emptiness of living a moral life. I had been taught that living a moral life was “better”. But, if there is no God, no real right and wrong, why not just live how I please? I was ready to start chasing my desires.
Recently, one of my posts kicked off a discussion of worldviews. In my last post, I began by explaining what worldviews are, but this didn’t really answer the question I was asked, so today I want to recap the question and then get to the meat of it. Here’s the question:
After my post on how internet search results often come with a worldview, I fielded this question on Facebook and will be posting the response here as it may be of broader interest. Here’s the question:
Nowadays, we easily and instantly access a vast percentage of the world’s knowledge online via a simple Google search. Gone are the days of browsing card catalogs and digging deep in the library to find out basics of a topic of interest. These changes empower us, give us access to vast stores of information, and can dramatically improve our quality of life in many areas.
[Editor: This is a guest post by my friend Paul Pak, who posted this on Facebook and gave me permission to repost here. I liked his sentiments and perspective. - DLM]
Recently, I wrote about how God’s design includes using a flawed church to help me grow. In other words, in His sovereignty He wants me to be part of a flawed church in part for my good. Just as God used conflict in marriage to help me grow, He uses challenges in church to sanctify me. I believe this is part of His plan for church. And, of course, all churches are flawed, so I don’t have to worry about missing out.
At times, the number of things I need to do gets nearly overwhelming. I think the main reason I still manage to stay afloat, aside from the grace of God and the huge amount of help I get from my wife, is a reliance on systems to keep track and organize things. These have helped me a huge amount.
The Bible pictures church like a family, and Christians are adopted into that family when we are born again in Christ. That family is, first and foremost, a global or universal family, consisting of all Christians everywhere. All Christians are now fellow citizens and members of God’s household (Eph. 2:19). We are even called members of Christ’s family — siblings, as it were (Mark 3:33-35, Ro. 8:29, etc.). However, we are also called to belong to a local community of believers, a local church. Today, I want to talk about what that means and how I got it wrong for some years.
We live in a time of great division, it seems. The rhetoric, hatred, and blame-casting in politics seem to get worse each election cycle. In academia, even to mention conservative ideas or certain other topics often earns a tongue-lashing or can seemingly ruin a friendship. Many seem to see the world in terms of “us versus them” and if you’re not with “us” then you’re the enemy.
The Bible takes a clear, strong position on sexual sin and lust: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28, NASB). Jesus explained that we’re breaking God’s commandments if we so much as lust, let alone act out sinful sexual desires.
Life is busy. Some days it seems we’re just barely staying above water, and others, not even that. Maybe the to-do list ends the day longer than it started or, worse, maybe I didn’t even get to look at it. Surely you know the feeling. It’s a feeling that can get overwhelming, at times.
A decade or more ago, I wrote a blog for a year or two. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and this was no different. I covered a wide range of topics, from politics, to science and faith issues and Christian apologetics, to current events and even aspects of theology. However, my writing lacked real purpose, unless it was to make a name for myself within some circle of blogs.
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