Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Hope for Latin Students

Can you imagine St. Augustine having trouble with his Latin? He did.

"Now here I used the word "cupi:" will you tell me whether it should be "cupi" or "cupiri?" And I am glad this has come in the way, for I wish you to instruct me in the inflexion of this verb "cupio," since, when I compare similar verbs with it, my uncertainty as to the proper inflexion increases. For "cupio" is like "fugio," "sapio," "jacio," "capio;" but whether the infinitive mood is "fugiri" or "fugi," "sapiri" or "sapi," I do not know. I might regard "jaci" and "capi" as parallel instances answering my question as to the others, were I not afraid lest some grammarian should "catch" and "throw" me like a ball in sport wherever he pleased, by reminding me that the form of the supines "jactum" and "captum" is different from that found in the other verbs "fugitum," "cupitum" and "sapitum." As to these three words, moreover, I am likewise ignorant whether the penultimate is to be pronounced long and with circumflex accent, or without accent and short." (Letters of St. Augustin, Letter III, to Nebridius, AD. 387)

A Lamb-killed Dragon

"China's moment of its greatest achievement-and of the most benefit to the rest of the world-may lie just ahead. That moment may occur when the Chinese dragon is tamed by the power of the Christian Lamb." (Jesus in Beijing, D. Aikman, p. 292)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

New Faces of Christianity-Philip Jenkins

More Jenkins Quotes

"Between 1900 and 2000, the number of Christians in Africa grew from 10 million to over 360 million, from 10% of the population to 46%."

"By 2050, we can predict, there should be around 3 Billion Christians in the world, of whom only around one fifth or fewer will be non-hispanic whites."

Quoting African belief in the integrity of Scripture, "We do not have the same problem about the Bible as white people have with their scientific mentality."

"Only in the 1960's did Bible reading acquire its exalted status among Latin America's lay Catholics, while the massive growth of Protestant and Pentecostal communities begins in the same era. Today, though, Latin American nations-above all, Brazil-are among the world's greatest producers and consumers of Bibles."

One more on the supreme place of the Bible in these cultures. "As in the first Christendom of medieval Europe, the shift from orality to literacy gives an enormous symbolic power to the written text, to the Book, which in many cases might be the only book in a given household. In much of modern Africa, even many pastors might not own any books except a Bible."

New Faces of Christianity-Philip Jenkins

From Here to Timbuktu

Jenkins' basic thesis is that Christianity is rapidly going south, the Global South. This expansive growth seems to bother both conservative and liberal Western Christians. It bothers the libs because Southern Christianity is well, conservative, or what might be called by American liberals, fundamentalist. Mainly speaking, southern Christians are opposed to homosexual lifestyles, ministers, and practice. Many are also opposed to ordaining women and have a deep sense of the integrity and authority of Scripture. In all of these issues, they think they have the Bible on their side.

American conservatives, although they have more in common with southern Christians, may also be a bit bothered. Southern Christianity in China (not in the south but it is), Brazil, and Africa is full of Pentecostals, healing, miracles, charismatics. This does not fit well with a stodgy, informed Presbyterianism. It may not fit well with modern American Baptists either. But the church is exploding in these areas. They ARE Christians. God is doing something really huge, perhaps bigger and more meaningful in a shorter timeframe, than anything globally that He has done thus far. How will we view this?

"By 2025, Africa and Latin America will vie for the title of the most Christian continent. A map of the statistical center of gravity of global Christianity shows that center moving steadily southward, from a point in norhtern Italy in 1800, to central Spain in 1900, to Morocco by 1970 and to a point near Timbuktu today."

Calvin Said It

Yesterday, after school, Calvin, Rick Davis, and myself were sitting in my office prior to heading home. Calvin got to go to school today because he has now finished over one hundred pages of Alpha Phonics. Usually, he is just a Friday boy but some weeks, when he finishes another twenty-five pages, he gets to be a Monday and a Friday boy. So, Monday boy is gazing at my books. I've got a few, not expansive. The office is largeish and most of two walls are taken up with my books. I suppose to a five year old, it looks like a library.

Calvin starts off the conversation with Mr. Davis.

"Dad has a lot of books."

"Ya, he sure does."

"When Dad dies, I'm going to take over."


Covenant Succession.

Just hope there are no thoughts towards my early retirement.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Communion Meditation-God is Here

Dear saints, I hope we have learned two things from our sermon on Moses. The first is for you. The second is for your elders.

First of all, you have been brought near the Rock of Christ. The blessings are about to flow. Though You are in the wilderness and thirsty, you are not in danger of perishing. Blessed are all those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. And the righteousness of God is revealed in your midst. Be glad that you are hungry, for God provides a meal. Be glad that you are thirsty, for there is water and wine in abundance for all.

Because this is true, you must learn not to complain and grumble. You can let the Lord know that you hunger and thirst but do so in faith not doubting His provision. Look upon the food of God’s sustenance. The Rock has poured forth and food and drink are here in abundance. We are not just speaking of spiritual food and drink. God has amply supplied your every need. AND He even provides for your spiritual needs. He feeds you body and soul. What complaints can you make to Him? Are you still hungry? Then come and eat. Are you still thirsty? Then, come and drink, and be ye filled.

And the second thing we, your elders, must learn, is faith. Not faith in you, the people, but rather, faith in God on your behalf. We must implore Him to meet you in this place, feed you and nourish you. And we must not grow weary in this, our task. Do not grumble. But if you do, we will talk to Jesus for you, asking Him to flow over you in abundance of the Holy Spirit. Do not doubt that God is here among us. But if you do, we will remind you that He is near and therefore you must come to Him and dine and drink. Stop your doubting. Believe God. But if not, believe us. God is here. Come and eat.

Finishing Faith

The essence of being a Christian is living by faith. We are to be people who see by faith and not by sight. This is an odd thing to say. How can we see what we cannot see? For faith is the essence of things not seen. But we are to see something. What is it? We are to see Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. And even seeing Jesus is a metaphor because we do not really see Him but we do see Him with eyes of faith.

Now, to say that He is author and finisher is saying a lot. We do not only see Him for salvation. We must see Him for that. That is our first duty. We realize that we cannot save ourselves and so we look to Him for salvation. We believe that He has come, represents the Father on our behalf, calls us to union with Himself, sends the Holy Spirit to be with us always.

But then, He is the finisher of our faith. What does this mean? It means that He is always there. It means that we are to see Him in every area of life. Every doubt, every struggle, every sin, every need, every joy, namely everything and every event is part of what Jesus is finishing in us. We must do it all by faith. When we sin, we must look to Him in faith. When we do well, we must give Him credit in us by faith.

Sometimes you complain and grumble about the life the Lord has given you. Stop doing that and look to Jesus in faith. Sometimes you are discouraged in hard times. Look to Jesus and be encouraged. Sometimes you sin outright, even blatantly. Stop, look to Jesus for forgiveness. Sometimes you do not trust Him to provide for you needs, even though He said that He would. Stop worrying and being anxious and look to Jesus in faith.

We should confess our unbelief. Lord, we believe, help our unbelief, and then expect that Jesus will build us up to believe in Him to finish our faith.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Reformed Ranglers

In my recent studies, one fact has revealed itself very clearly to me. I don't particularly like it but there it is. We, the Reformed Christians of the world, are a stunningly huge minority. This is true, even if we factor in all forms of Anglicanism into the mix. To which, I reckon, a whole lot of my TR brothers would strongly be opposed. But, for the sake of argument, let us say that the Anglicans, all forms of Presbyterians, and Reformed Baptists are among the Reformed. If we count them ALL as in OUR camp, then, compared to the worldwide church, Catholic, we are still a small minority.

Worldwide, the Roman Catholic church continues to grow. In Africa and South America, the Pentecostal Church is exploding. In China, house churches, mainly under five main groups, are expanding dramatically. Many of those, to the tune of tens of millions, in the Chinese house church movement are some form of Pentecostal or charismatic.

What are we to make of this? Do we rejoice? Do we lament? I dare say, in our own Reformed camp, we probably do neither. I am not sure we even care. We Reformed folks have a tremendous heritage. We really do have a fabulous set of systematics. Many of our churches have a highly developed biblical liturgy. Some are even teaching, expecting and enforcing godly Christian behavior. This is good. But what is our role regarding the rest of the world? Are we to merely bury our talent, the great understanding of biblical doctrine that we have inherited from the likes of Calvin and his many successors? Or, shall we simply continue to rangle over ridiculous internal squabbles? How will we ever bless the rest of the world (and they need it so badly), if we cannot even be a blessing to the brothers and sisters in our own family. It is shameful.

God loves doing things in an ironic way. I think the growth of the church, the way that it is currently growing worldwide, is a cosmic farce. God is making fun of us. He is using the base things of the world to confound the wise. We have our suped up Nascars ready to go but would rather use them in our own sadistic crashup derby than get them out and make a go of it on the track. Meanwhile, the churches militant in South America, Africa and China are all driving Ford Fiestas and they are kicking our butts!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

America Alone?

I just finished Mark Steyn's, America Alone. This is a fine book and should be read by all who want to get a grasp on what is happening, religiously, in Europe. He boils the whole mess down to two main issues. Fruitfulness and will. In Europe, white people don't have babies, and Arabs do. More specifically, Christians don't have babies and Muslims do. The ethnic makeup in Europe is changing and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The most popular baby name in Europe will continue to be Mohammad. The fact is that the European nations are being invaded, there are no arrows in the quiver to defend her, and this bodes ill for the West, as we know it.

Although this is a terrific book, it is depressing. Steyn does offer some solutions to this dilemma. He is trying to give European and American politicians a wake up call. But it is clear that these solutions will not be followed. The powers that be have crafted a view of the world that is utterly powerless against such a natural invasion.

Having depressed myself sufficiently with Steyn, I moved on to two other books that are as encouraging as Steyn's book is discouraging. Jesus in Beijing by David Aikman is an account of the growth of the Christian Church in China. It is quite stunning. Europe as a Western, and by historic definition, a Christian force, is in trouble. Christianity, itself, is not. The Church continues to grow and flourish. The example of what God has done in China while Europe was gearing up to commit suicide, is a lesson we all should note. It strikes me as divinely ironic. As a WASP, I have reason to be discouraged. As a Christian, where all my first allegances should lie, I am greatly encouraged.

The Next Christendom by Philip Jenkins is perhaps even more powerful. Amerca's people are also darker. Latinos from Mexico, central America and even South America continue to stream across the border. Our national media, and perhaps especially many conservatives, continue to paint this as a very sad and dangerous situation. But many of these people are Christians. While the face of the country is changing dramatically, what does this mean for the growth of the kingdom of God?

Perhaps we should not be so interested in protecting our national borders as we are in seeing the kingdom of God in Christ expand to the very ends of the earth. We were once that 'ends of the earth'. But now the church is expanding in dramatic fashion in Africa and Latin America, what Jenkins calls, Southern Christianity. By mid-century, the greatest centers of Christian population will not be in Europe. In order, the masses of Christians will reside in the USA, Brazil, Mexico, Phillipines, Nigeria, Zaire, Ethiopia, Russia, China and Germany. No Britain, no France, no Italy. But imagine a billion Christians in Africa by 2050, another billion in Latin America, perhaps another billion in Asia, and you begin to get a very encouraging picture.

God is doing something big and for the most part we are missing it. Or at least, just not paying very close attention. We need to look at this situation with new eyes, embrace what God is doing and figure out how to be participants in this new Great Conversation. If we don't, we will simply get swallowed up by this glorious brown wave and be another footnote of history.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Lord's Prayer-Our Father

We ought to pray the Lord's prayer, if for no other reason, than to begin it. For it begins so wonderfully, Pater, Father. In english we say 'Our' first. Not so in the Greek. Father comes first. The beginning of this prayer says much. We speak to God as Father. Not just any father, not somebody's father, but Our Father. Is this not wonderful?

I understand for some of you that it is NOT wonderful. You cannot imagine the joy, fear, reverance, strength, kindness, mercy, grace, gladness, and peace of father. Maybe only fear and strength stand out to you. But that is not our God, that is not our Father.

Our Father is the prodigal's father. He watches for such wretched sons and daughters as we are to return from our revels. He longs to grant forgiveness and with forgiveness reconcile us to Himself. To say Father is to admit that He is over us and that we are at His mercy. But we also appeal to His mercy for He is Our Father. Mercy is His business. Where sin abounds, even among God's children, grace does much more abound. So, when we sin and know that we have done ill, we should not shrink from God, but run to Him. He is Father. He is safety.

When my children were young, I often played Tiger with them. I would chase them, growling, roaring, pawing, scratching. They knew that I was father but they were also afraid of Tiger. At around 18-24 months old, the children could not quite grasp how much was just fun and how much was really dangerous. Sometimes, when Tiger dad was exceptionally effective, the toddler child would be terror stricken. This is where we begin to understand father from a child's perspective. What is a terrified child to do? To run is too scary. Tiger will catch me from behind. To stand still means instant death. Perhaps dad really is Tiger and will kill me. But, maybe, Tiger really is dad and will save me. After this complex thought process the child makes the right decision. Run to Tiger. Run to dad. Run to father.

It is only when we will not say Our Father, that we must tread in real fear of Him. Jesus said, Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. (Matt 10:32-33)

If we will not call God Our Father, then we deny true brotherhood with the Son and Jesus will not vouch for us before the Father. When we pray Our Father, we make ourselves out to be brothers and sisters of Jesus. This evokes God's pleasure towards us just as He is always pleased with His beloved Son.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Praying Gambler

Okay, Calvin is at it again. This time, sister Leah was the object of his spirituality. My lovely wife, Katie, chanced by the bedroom door just in time to see Calvin praying up a Backgammon storm. She, and I must say me, too, are still not sure what to make of this. She had another talk with Cal about praying. She suggested to him that praying for the right numbers to put his sister on the bar was perhaps not the best use for prayer.

He listened respectfully and then made a request, "May I just pray about it one more time?" His wise mother replied in the affirmative.

Our Calvinist begins, "Heavenly Father, thank You for this day. May I please roll a four and a one." Roll the dice. Four and One.

No kidding.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Newly Resolved

For the three of you who regularly visit this site. Thank you! I've got news for you. I'm making a sort of New Year's resolution. As I am not very good at that sort of thing, I suppose the result will be disastrous. However, since there are only three of you who read this blog, then the disaster will be fairly well contained.

Here's the New Year's resolution. I plan to actually make posts on this blog. Go figure. Part of my reluctance to blog much is that I am not certain that I have much to contribute to the Great Conversation. However, I am old enough, now, pert near 42, that I am now under the delusion, that having made it to 42, almost, that THAT fact qualifies me as a contributor.

Don't you remember how your grandpa figured that he qualified for the very same reason? But when you were fifteen or sixteen, it seemed a ludicrous qualification. You didn't have time to listen to grandpa and didn't really care to. But when you are 42, like I almost am, and Grandpa has long since passed on to meet his Maker, the wisdom of age seems a bitter loss. If I could only listen to him NOW.

So, styling myself a grandpa wanna be, and in a sincere effort to raise my blog readership to 4, I intend on posting regular entries. At least two per week.

Quick, go tell your friend!

The Power of Prayer

Our five year old Calvin was playing Backgammon with his mother today. He noticed that a two would put her on the bar. Before he rolled the dice, he solemnly closed his eyes and said "Heavenly Father, please give me a two."

My wise wife then gave Calvin a short lecture on prayer, praying for important things, not making light of God’s providence and such good motherly advice.

After nodding respectfully, Calvin promptly rolled a two.