Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Some Thoughts from a Friend on Lent:

(If you aren't a regular follower of this blog--and that would include most of you--you won't have any context for the well-thought--primarily because they aren't my thoughts--comments that follow. I wrote several short spots about Lent "from a guy who is more likely to have lint on his sweater than ashes on his forehead." These were sent out as daily Somethings to Think About, and can be found at I also posted some articles in an earlier entry on this blog.)

A friend who identifies himself as one of the "younger, thinking Christian[s] who is turning back to tradition," that I mentioned in one of the earlier article. I can tell you that he is a thouhtful person. LIke many young people, he is in a time of transition. His thoughts are worth considering.
While I have been enjoying your reflections, there is something lacking that I would like to comment on. There is very little discussion on the aspect of community in Lenten tradition, as well as other liturgical tradition. Is Lent Biblical? In the strictest sense, certainly not. However, it is a long standing church tradition that has been observed my many different theological traditions in the Church. It varies of course. I am giving up meat, so should I eat fish on Fridays? Or is Sunday a Sabbath from my fast where I can eat whatever meat I want? But you have covered all of that.

What I think is lacking in STTA is a reflection on the drawing into community that Lent and other traditions bring to traditions. There are certainly people who practice Lent in isolation. But I would argue that that lacks a fundamental understanding of liturgy. Tradition [liturgy] is necesarrily tied to community. It is its fundamental means of continuation. Tradition does not come about because individuals engage in a practice. It is passed from one person to another historically. That is how it becomes tradition. It is passed through community. This can be cross-applied to a contemporary community as well. An individual engages in tradition as a member of a community. Without a broader community engaging in the practice, there is no tradition. For Lent that broader community is the Church. (Hopefully, it is also a local church, such as mine, that is practicing aspects of liturgy together and being drawn together through that practice.)

So I guess what I am trying to say, is that community is at the heart of Lent, and tradition. That is what makes it beautiful. That is why it is important to me. In practicing Lent, I am being drawn in to Church tradition and taking part in a specific practice with others world-wide. I am also taking part in this with my local church community in a way so that we can engage in communal reflection and repentance. The individual sacrifice is important, but it's not a draw for me. I am far from an ascetic. But once you bring in the broader community, there is an aspect of 'should.' Not in a "I'm a better Christian because I don't eat meat for the next 40 days," kind of should. But in a "As a member of this community, you should join with us in practicing Lent, whether that means giving up chocolate, TV, or something else." So that's what I think about.

I would have to say that my young friend is right, not only specifically in regard to a missing element in this discussion, but more generally and profoundly, in that God never intended for Christianity to be a solo performance. While my assembly of believers is not one where we encourage one another to observe the Lenten Season, it is an assembly that nurtures me in pursuing a more Godly life. That is an aspect of Christian experience that I need more of, and I need to do more of.
So, thanks to my young, thinking, backward-looking (in a good sense) friend, for giving me something to think about.
By the way, as I get my heart ready for the somber observance of Christ's death and the joyful celebration of His resurrection, I'm planning to read through--using a Gospel Harmony--the life of Christ.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Different View from My Keyhole:

As I type, I'm looking out on green, and flowers, and palm trees. I'm a guest of my friends David and Joyce Owen. They are missionaries with Liebenzell Missioun USA, and Dave is the President of Pacific Islands University. We just finished our annual, three-day Board meeting.
Serving on the board of PIU is great privilege. It has given me opportunity, in a very small way, to have an impact on the growth of the church, and indeed the entire future, in this unique part of the world.
I'll share some more later, but let me simply say right now, I'm reminded of the little children's song we sing, "Red, brown, yellow, black, and white . . ." Not only does Jesus love all the people of the world, but in their heart all the people of the world have the same needs.
You folk back home, enjoy the brisk air.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


For the next several days I'll be sharing some daily thoughts about Lent on STTA. If you don't receive it via email you can find these thoughts on the STTA Blog. It is linked on this site. I guess you could call these posts, "Thoughts on Lent from a Guy Who Doesn't Do It."
I'll be putting some additional information here.
I'd appreciate your thoughts.

Here is an article from the Catholic Encyclopedia, which will likely tell you more than you want to know about the subject of Lent, but hopefully will contain somethings that will interest you:

Here is an article from one of the more thoughtful Evangelicals of our day, John Piper, about some ways you might want to consider that might help you accomplish some of the good purposes of Lent in your heart:

The Reformers made these points against unreformed Rome, but they were well aware that in making them they were fighting over again Paul's battle in Romans and Galatians against works, and in Colossians against unauthentic traditions, and the battle fought in Hebrews against trust in any priesthood or mediation other than that of Christ. And (note again!) they were equally well aware that the gospel of the five "onlies" would always be contrary to natural human thinking, upsetting to natural human pride, and an object of hostility to Satan, so that destructive interpretations of justification by faith in terms of justification by works (as by the Judaizers of Paul's day, and the Pelagians of Augustine's, and the Church of Rome both before and after the Reformation, and the Arminians within the Reformed fold, and Bishop Bull among later Anglicans) were only to be expected. . . .
To the Reformers' doctrine of justification by faith alone Reformed theology has held down the centuries, maintaining it to be both scriptural in substance and life-giving in effect.17 This tenacity has, however, involved constant conflict, as it still does. Two things have long threatened the truth as stated: first, the intruding of works as the ground of justification; second, the displacing of the cross as the ground of justification. Both are familiar weeds in the church's garden; both express in very obvious ways the craving for self-justification which lurks (often in disguise!) in the fallen human heart.

Read the entire article by J. I. Packer,SOLA FIDE: THE REFORMED DOCTRINE

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Helping boys become the right kind of men:

Right after the Superbowl I posted a Something to Think About piece that spoke about an obvious theme in the Superbowl ads--the struggle with being a man in today's world. (Click here, and scroll to Monday February 7) In that post I referenced an article by Al Mohler.
Since then several readers commented on the my piece. One mom of a young teen guy, after commenting on the difficulty of encouraging guys to defend the honor of women in today's nonviolent era, said of her son, " He is very protective of [his sister]. I get that this is an internal "thing," a built-in impulse, probably a God-given reaction to defend, but isn't it just easier to give the kid a bottle of masculinity? [referring to a new line of "hyper-masculine" cosmetics for guys, mentioned by Mohler in his article]Problem noted--yes, but solution found--no."
I also noticed since I wrote the article that I actually had missed a couple of commercials about the issue. Several talking heads on TV have also picked up on the theme. I'm not sure if he intended it as such, but Mohler posted another piece about young men that is a good follow-up.

OK there is the background for what can be a great conversation. I am confident that my friend is not the only one who has questions about guiding boys into becoming solidly Christian men. Some books by good people have been written on the subject.
What ideas do you have?
What has worked?
What books or other resources have you found helpful and why?

Try to keep your input short. Check back, read the comments, and let's help one another.

Let's see where it goes.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A review of the book by Dale S. Kuehne, SEX and the iWORLD:

In a world where the Ten Commandments are banned from court houses and social Mores are consistently ignored or overthrown what rules are there to guide us in our social interactions? Dale S. Kuehne observes that there are three taboos which govern the “iWorld,” his descriptive title of the dominant culture of the West in the Twenty-first Century:
1. One may not criticize someone else’s life choices or behavior.
2. One may not behave in a manner that coerces or causes harm to others.
3. One may not engage in a sexual relationship with someone without his or her consent. (p. 71)
Brave or not, this is the new world in which we live.
In Sex and the iWorld Kuehne contrasts three paradigms for finding meaning in life—the tWorld, traditional, the past; the iWorld, individualistic, the present; and the rWorld relational, proposed. While a discussion of sexual matters is very much a part of the book, the presentation of the three worlds is much broader than that. Sex, being an important part of who we are and our relationships, serves in the text as a window into relationships in general.
The first four chapters provide a description of, and contrasts between, the tWorld and the iWorld. The fourth chapter is devoted to an examination of “humans, human relationships, and sexuality” in the iWorld (p. 44). The rest of the book is devoted to describing the rWorld. While Kuehne is not heavy handed in his treatment, he does make it clear that a world in which relationships, with our God and others, dominate is superior not only to the individualistic way of life that dominates the West at the beginning of this millennium, but to the traditional patterns that gave meaning to life from the Greeks through the Cleavers (Ward, June, Wally, and The Beaver).
The difference between the three worlds can be seen by asking a denizen of each realm a basic question: How does one achieve happiness? The tWorlder would reply that one achieves meaning in life by accepting the role into which she or he is born, respecting the boundaries that define how one lives in that realm and then living life fully in that capacity. The citizen of iWorld is all about removing all impediments to freedom and self-expression as the means to achieving the good life. While the rWorld advocate would say that we were made to relate; we are at our best when we respect and develop relationships—with our Maker, with family, and others. While the tWorld and rWorld have some key similarities, Kuehne makes plain:
I do not want to return to the tWorld, and this book does not recommend that we try. The tWorld contained much that was good and that is consistent with my faith, but unfortunately it also contained many evils. . . . Instead I am arguing that in rediscovering the relational essence of Christianity and in seeking to live accordingly, society would actually be doing something that has never been done well. In short, I am asking you to be open to the possibility that what I am about to describe is something that has been often misunderstood and never fully lived. (p. 97-98)

Anyone who is aware of the radical changes that took place in our world around the 60s will be familiar with most of what Kuehne has to say about the contrast between the t and the i Worlds. Anyone familiar with the Bible’s teaching on sexuality, relationships, and meaning in life will likewise be disappointed if he is looking for something new in the author’s proposal for a new paradigm. But, then, didn’t Solomon say that the quest for the novel is a fruitless search? In spite of the book dealing with mostly familiar material the organizational matrix Kuehne provides is worth the read. Actually, if a reader figures that he already mostly knows about the information referenced above, what he might want to do is read the introduction, then read chapter 10, and then decide whether to read the rest of the book.
The author labors the point that this is not a Christian book per se. Kuehne identifies himself as a pastor and professor of politics. He claims to be writing primarily as the latter. A non-Christian will likely find the disclaimers disingenuous. As a conservative Christian I found them unnecessary. As one who preaches from and seeks to live by the Bible, I found little if anything with which to disagree. The author is in favor of traditional marriage, does not accept homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle, and rejects the idea that for a person to not fulfill his sexual desires—whatever flavor they be--is the sure road to unfulfillment, if not downright neurosis.
From my perspective in the pastoral trenches it was a worthwhile 220 page read.