Sunday, January 29, 2012

These Past Twenty Years

Today, I have been alive 20 years. Wow.

What a peculiar, fascinating, and ponderous thing life is.

God is good! And has been with me for every one of the 631,138,519 seconds I have been alive. And will be through every one to come, until seconds themselves pass away.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Peculiar Problem of Pride


Today, I had a peculiar thought that is worth sharing, I think. I was reading through C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity at Starbucks (where I received a free coffee!) and started pondering the nature of compliments and some interesting problems they create.

We hand out compliments rather freely today, it seems to me. For instance, children in elementary schools (and beyond, I dare say) are praised for work that they might not have done themselves or that may have merited some constructive criticism. Friends tell other friends, sometimes facetiously, that they have done something rather well or that so-and-so looks very nice today. These, when said authentically, are not bad. They are necessary parts of relationships that allow winsome sentiments to be said and felt. I have learned the value of a truly-said compliment in brightening my own day and the days of others.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Just Keep Swimming: Our Imperfect Hindsight and the Perfect Grace of God


Lately endurance has been on my mind quite a bit. I've been thinking about it, reading about it, writing about it, and seeing it in my life and in the lives of others. You see, the past year has been one where I've learned more about enduring than I have at any other time in my life.

God has been good to direct my mind to think and dwell upon the idea of endurance even while leading me through trials. He could have done it quite differently, you know. He could have prepared me for endurance in another time and in the midst of trials caused me to think on something else. It would not be wrong or even less effective, I suppose. But in His wisdom, and as is usually the case with our great God, He has appropriately blessed me at the appropriate season with grace that is perfectly and abundantly sufficient. (That's a peculiar idea, abundant sufficiency, isn't it?)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rantifestos Series: Why I Love the Church And Why You Should Too


Readers,
Something I have been thinking a lot about recently and something that has been on my heart is the church. As such, I've decided that I will be doing an ecclesial series on the church, plain and simple (not really, but at least it will be straightforward). It will in part be my thoughts on APU students' perception of church, the challenges that come with going to a Christian college, and lastly a series of reviews of Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. I borrowed from their title because 1) I liked it and thought it was clever and memorable, and 2) because it is true. I hope this will be an experience of spiritual growth for me and you!




blessings,

—Mark


Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Need and Goal of Systematic Theology

What a profound paragraph from Berkhof!


The Need and Goal of Systematic Theology

This simple observation, from the opening paragraph of Louis Berkhof’s Introductory Volume to Systematic Theology, has always struck me as profoundly right:
God certainly sees the truth as a whole, and it is the duty of the theologian to think the truths of God after Him. There should be a constant endeavor to see the truth as God sees it, even though it is perfectly evident that the ideal is beyond the grasp of man in his present condition.
—Louis Berkhof, Introductory Volume to Systematic Theology [orig., 1932], in Systematic Theology: New Combined Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), p. 15.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sitting Is Good News


Readers,

I thought Kevin DeYoung's short but poignant post about "sitting" is worth reading!

blessings,

—Mark


Sitting Is Good News

Hebrews 1 tells us that after making purification for sins, Jesus “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs” (3-4).  It’s striking imagery if you think about it.  Picture an attorney making his closing arguments to the jury, and then after a crescendo of rhetoric he says, “I rest my case” and sits back down next to his notes.  Or think of a mom who has had no time for herself all day.  She’s made meals, cleaned the house, changed diapers, folded clothes, helped with homework, played in the backyard, raced to the grocery store, and now finally has the kids snoozing in their beds.  She walks wearily down the stairs and for the first time since she woke up 14 hours ago, she sits down.  Sitting down, in both examples, is more than an act of rest.  It is representative of completion.  All that was needful has been accomplished.
That’s why it’s thrilling to think that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God.  His work is finished.  He accomplished all that was needful for our salvation.  And having shown himself to be the victor over sin, death, and the devil, it is given to him to sit, not in any old place, but at the place of honor and exaltation at God’s right hand.  All things have been placed under his feet (Eph. 1:20-22).  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him (Matt. 28:18).

Friday, January 20, 2012

National Penguin Awareness Day

In Honor of Penguin Awareness Day...I give you this. A little late in the day, but still worth a watching for the laughs. Enjoy!

—Mark

Do All Jobs Have the Same Impact Value?


Readers, Tim Challies' post on the comparative value of jobs is worth reading. Matt Perman's answer was insightful and informed—and God-centric. Read up!!!
original post here
—Mark

Do All Jobs Have the Same Impact Value?

In his answer last week as to whether all jobs have the same intrinsic value,Matt Perman made the distinction between economic value and moral value: Not all jobs have the same economic value because, clearly, some jobs pay more than others. But this doesn’t make some jobs more important than others, because all jobs have the same moral value—that is, we are able to serve God fully and completely in any job (assuming it isn’t unethical by nature).

I Am the Pharisee: Pondering Past Hurts and Current Controversies


Hello World,

I read this on the Gospel Coalition's blog a few days ago. I've been thinking a lot recently about how my heart's been tainted by faint and yet pungent streaks of legalistic, Pharisaical self-righteousness. Now, this isn't something new that I've discovered—as I read the Bible and walk with God I am made well aware of my sinfulness—but I have recently noticed the roots of certain areas of sin in my life. And I've found that I all too often do not humble myself before the Lord. Reading this was convicting for me and I hope it will be for you as well.

—Mark

You can find the original article here

And find Zach Nielsen's blog here 

I Am the Pharisee: Pondering Past Hurts and Current Controversies

by Nielsen
We have all been burned. We have all been subjected to situations where wish things had been different. Different words, different tones, different lines of reasoning, and different levels of respect. We have all been subjected to other people's sin issues and weaknesses. This is just part of being human. Maybe it was a boss at work. Maybe it was a friend. Maybe it was a parent. This creates hurt in our lives.
In addition to hurt from our past, we are constantly processing and assessing different situations, personalities, and controversies. He said, she said. That leader did what? Did you hear about so and so? We live with the front page news staring us in the face.
As I attempt to diagnose my own heart, these two scenarios form one of the great battlegrounds of pride. As I consider those who have hurt me in the past or situations today where someone "just doesn't seem to get it," my assessment can quickly default into the Pharisaical position of smug superiority. I have practically memorized the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, and yet I still find myself, over and over again, in the position of the Pharisee.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

You Are The Beauty

I am so glad God made beauty a part of life.

—Mark



You are the beauty
You are the light
You are the love, love of mine

Love, love, love of mine
You have caused the sun to shine on us
Music fills our ears
Flavors kiss our lips with love divine
You are the beauty
You are the light
You are the love, love of mine

Breath and sex and sight
All things made for good in love divine

You are the love, love of mine
Are the love, love of mine 





Why Some Prayers Fail

Have you ever been asked that or asked that yourself? Spurgeon has some good things to say about why some of our prayers fail. Are your prayers filled with faith in Him who has promised to hear our prayers and provide for us always? Be sure to pray rightly and with the faith that is due to God.


By Josh Etter at the Desiring God blog—find the original post here



Permalink

Charles Spurgeon:
Many prayers fail of their errand because there is no faith in them. Prayers which are filled with doubt are requests for refusal. Imagine that you wrote to a friend and said, “Dear Friend, I am in great trouble and I, therefore, tell you, and ask for your help because it seems right to do so. But though I thus write, I have no belief that you will send me any help. Indeed, I should be mightily surprised if you did and should speak of it as a great wonder.”
Will you get the help, do you think? I should say your friend would be sensible enough to observe the little confidence which you have in him and he would reply that, as you did not expect anything, he would not astonish you. Your opinion of his generosity is so low that he does not feel called upon to put himself out of the way on your account.
When prayers are of that kind you cannot wonder if we “have not, because we ask amiss.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fighter Verses: Using Your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad To Glorify God


Chances are that you either own have used at one point some sort of smartphone or iPod. They are pretty cool, there's no denying it. However, with unlimited access to the internet in the palm of our hand, we need to be careful—we could be tethering ourselves to constant temptation.

So, the decision we Christians need to make is this: how can we use our technology to glorify God? We need to decide to either eliminate our contact with the technology or figure out how we can use it to grow in our walk with the Lord. Jesus spoke in no uncertain terms about how we are to react to temptations to sin:


[43] And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. [45] And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. [47] And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, [48] ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’

(Mark 9:43-48 ESV)

Why Hollywood Loves Itself: A Guest Post (Sort of...)

This is something that Reed's older brother Kent wrote for Relevant Magazine. Thought it was worth sharing! Goooooo Woodyards!

Original article here

Kent's site (The Talking Mirror) here




... And why we love to watch the Golden Globes and other awards shows.
With the exception of 2000 (when I was grounded from television for the month of March), I have watched every Academy Awards broadcast sinceTitanic. I’ve watched most of the Golden Globe broadcasts during that same period, including last night’s. There may even have been a few SAG Awards that snuck in over the years. I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for Awards Season.
Every year, it's the same thing: sitting with friends (possibly by myself), watching the ceremony, eating five different types of dip, tracking my performance in the various wagering pools I have entered and laughing at whatever Madonna is wearing. And then, when it’s all said and done, I’ll ask myself the same question I ask every year: “Who cares?”
And yet, after 15 years of clapping, crying and cleavage, I still can’t quite figure out why.

Scribblings in Seville

My girlfriend is studying abroad in Spain this semester. I am so excited for her! God will be doing big things while she's there. Read her blog! She's a brilliant writer and will be studying in Seville, so there will always be plenty of interesting things to write about.

Here's the link: http://scribblingsinseville.tumblr.com/

















Seville, Spain.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Questions Universally Asked

I wrote this essay for an English class I am taking this semester. The class is all about Mere Christianity—it is our text book for the semester and we are focusing on it. My professor asked us to answer two questions in this somewhat informal essay:

1)Does God exist? 
and
 2) How can we know?

What follows is my attempt to answer these questions. We were not allowed to use any written texts either as references or to influence our thinking. I do not know whether this is either my best or work yet as I am not dead and cannot tell you whether it gets much better or much worse from this point on. I hope you are blessed by this! Please let me know what you think.

Questions Asked Universally
Does a God exist? Are there many gods? How can we as people know the presence and qualities of one or more deities? Furthermore, can we definitively prove the existence of God or gods? Men and women, both those who have made philosophy or theology or some similar field of study their profession and those who have not, have struggled to answer these questions. These people have been of all colors and creeds, hailed from every nation and all corners of the earth, and lived at all times throughout history. It seems to me, then, that since these questions seem to be universally asked and pondered, that they are rather worth answering.

I have always admired the way that a lawyer proceeds about proving a case before judge and jury. An evidentiary, logical, cogent approach seems to be a sound way of approaching a problem and solving it. However, what people have sought to do in understanding God is different from what lawyers do in advocating for a client. Laws put in place by countries and cities are subject to change and do not necessarily reflect truth. What people seek to know about God, however, is truth, an objective reality that exists independent of our varying perceptions. Despite having different goals, a logical approach is useful in both cases. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Jeff Bethke and His (Maligned, Loved, Provoking, Encouraging and slightly erroneous) Viral Video

Jeff Bethke's video is spreading across the internet very quickly. Here's what Kevin DeYoung has to say about it! I would have written something myself, but couldn't have said it any better. I've also included a link to a follow-up post that includes some of Kevin DeYoung and Jeff Bethke's email correspondence. It was very encouraging! And I think you'll be encouraged by it, too!

The follow-up post: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2012/01/14/following-up-on-the-jesusreligion-video/

And here is the original post!


Does Jesus Hate Religion? Kinda, Sorta, Not Really

UPDATE: Since I posted this article, Jefferson Bethke and I have had a chance to talk by email and over the phone. I included some of our conversation in a follow up post. I hope you will be as encouraged by the exchange as I was.
******
There’s a new You Tube video going viral and it’s about Jesus and religion.
Specifically how Jesus hates religion.
The video—which in a few days has gone from hundreds of views to thousands to millions—shows Jefferson Bethke, who lives in the Seattle area, delivering a well-crafted, sharply produced, spoken word poem. The point, according to Bethke, is “to highlight the difference between Jesus and false religion.” In the past few days I’ve seen this video pop up all over Facebook. I’ve had people from my church say they like it. Some has asked me what I think. Others have told me there’s something off about the poem, but they can’t quite articulate what it is. I’ll try to explain what that is in a moment. But first watch the video for yourself.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Social-Medical Network: Learning a New Digital Language for New Digital Age

I recently wrote and submitted this essay for a contest put on by the New England Journal of medicine...it's not theologically related, but still interesting, I think. So...enjoy!
-Mark

 In the last 20 years, the internet and especially social networking have brought profound changes in how information is communicated. We now communicate rapidly, fluidly, and dynamically through email, Facebook, and other digital avenues. This paradigm shift is not temporary; the internet has forever changed the way that we exchange and process information. The medical community has also been affected and we need to determine how we can best utilize this new technology. If we can learn to fluently and frequently speak this new digital language, we will be able to communicate better with both our patients and each other while improving health on a grand scale. 

Responses from the medical community to social networking have been spotty and ineffective. Doctors are not going to interact with their patients over Facebook because of HIPPA restrictions and the nature of doctor-patient relationships. As such, they have resorted to Twitter or other sites to spread information and interact–if they have done anything at all. The number and type of people reached by physicians using Twitter is not large or diverse enough to reach critical mass and it has not been an effective platform. A social networking site where doctors can anonymously interact with each other, Sermo.com, shows promise but is limited by anonymity and its physicians-only setup. All things considered, the medical community’s response to social networking has been paltry at best.

Why Lewis Loved the Law

It's been a long time since I've posted anything on here; essentially since the end of last semester. I'm going to be writing a lot more this semester, at least one post every few days. I'll be taking a very interesting class focused on CS Lewis' Mere Christianity. In that class, at some point in the semester I will be asked to develop my own systematic theology or statement of faith or whatever you would like to call a paper that sums up what I believe about God. I'm looking forward to writing and being able to share how God is moving in my mind, heart, and life. For now, here's a post from Kevin DeYoung that also happens to include CS Lewis in it. Enjoy!

grace and peace

Mark


Why Lewis Loved the Law

Many moons ago when I was a little more svelte and the fast twitch muscles twitched a little bit faster, I ran cross country and track. I was either so good or so bad that I think I tried every event in track at least once. I especially liked distance running. Today long distance means running for thirty minutes straight and trying not to empty my inhaler in the process, but back in high school and college I could run for eight or ten or twelve miles and talk the whole way.
One of the things we talked about, I must confess, is how we might trim the day’s workout just a wee bit. I was of the Malachi school of running—no harm in cutting a few corners (Mal. 1:6-813). I specialized in straight lines through rounded parking lots. Some of my friends, however,