Christmas is a holiday, indeed the world’s most joyous holiday. It is
called a “holiday” because the day is holy. It is a day when
businesses close, when families gather, when churches are filled, and
when soldiers put down their guns for a 24-hour truce. It is a day that
differs from every other day.
Every generation has its abundance of Scrooges. The church is full of
them. We hear endless complaints of commercialism. We are constantly
told to put Christ back into Christmas. We hear that the tradition of
Santa Claus is a sacrilege. We listen to those acquainted with history
murmur that Christmas isn’t biblical. The Church invented Christmas to compete with the ancient Roman festival honoring the bull-god Mithras, the nay-sayers complain. Christmas? A mere capitulation to paganism.
Celebrating a Calvinist Christmas with a Clear Conscience
‘Tis the season to be informed–sometimes in gentleness, often with vigor–by a variety of Christians (and others )
claiming that it is wrong to celebrate Christmas. I have no desire to
force anyone to celebrate Christmas against their will. Indeed, it would
be insulting to the high holiday to pretend that it needs enforcement.
It offers to Christians an opportunity for praise and thanksgiving for
Christ’s incarnation, good music, family fellowship, the giving and
receiving of gifts, and a great many other blessings. What more could
anyone want? Taste and see that the Lord is good! (This doesn’t
necessarily apply to the fruitcake, but you can participate in the
thanksgiving without that!) If anyone, for reasons of conscience, wishes
to abstain from the festivities, that is his or her right. But I am not
willing to let go unanswered the all-too-common assertion that
celebrating Christmas at home or in Church is somehow sinful and
Badminton Rules: Doubles – what’s in and what’s out?
During the main part of a badminton doubles rally, every part of the court is in.
However, the serve must fall into the ‘short and fat’ area
diagonally opposite the server. The side tramlines are in, but the rear
tramlines are out during the serve.
This means that a singles player and a doubles player have similar
amount of court to cover when receiving serve (the service area in
singles is 24.4m2, while in doubles it is 24.2m2).
The short and wide doubles service area makes it harder to catch an
opponent out with a flick serve, therefore allowing the service receiver
to stand further forward and attack the short serves as aggressively as
possible. Which makes doubles rallies fast and aggressive right from the first stroke – one reason why badminton doubles is so exciting, whether you’re watching or playing!
How to capitalize on the inexhaustible riches of Scripture in your preaching without sounding like a Bible commentary.
Foundational to all good exposition is the conviction that where the
Word of God is faithfully taught, the voice of God is authentically
heard. In a generation demanding a "now" word from God, as though that
would be in some way separate from, or even superior to, the living and
enduring Word of Scripture, the expositor believes that everything God
has said he is still saying. The preacher's task is not to try to make
the Bible relevant; it is relevant, precisely because it is the living
Word of the unchanging, present-tense God. Nor is the task to "do
something with the Bible," so as to make it palatable to the
contemporary scene. Rather, the task is to let the Bible do something
with the preacher, so its truth is incarnated in the expositor's life,
as well as words, which become the channel of its powerful message to
Somehow the Sabbath idea had not come alive to me before. Sabbath was
perceived as a wild Sunday of spell-binding preaching, growing crowds,
and successful programming. I never imagined a Sabbath experience of
majestic worship, joyful quiet (instead of noise), interior
"conversation" and a reordering of the pieces of my life. No wonder I
felt so messy. I knew none of these.
As I sit with my suffering wife as she battles leukemia I have two great
comforts. First, Jesus has gone before her. There is no suffering we
can experience that He did not experience before us. Second, because He
suffered, those days will indeed come back once more. The specter of
death that haunts us wears a leash. Jesus has conquered the Grim Reaper,
and so his bloody scythe is the very chariot that carries us home. When
we are home we will know sin no more. We will be children again. We
stand innocent, in Christ, before His judgment seat now. But then we
will be innocent in ourselves. Then we will be back in the Garden, to
stay. Those days, for we who are in Christ, are coming again.
What Ten Commandments, what rule of preaching-life, do I wish someone
had written for me to provide direction, shape, ground rules, that
might have helped me keep going in the right direction and gaining
momentum in ministry along the way?
Once one begins thinking about this, whatever Ten Commandments one
comes up with, it becomes obvious that this is an inexhaustible theme.
My friend, the Editor, could easily run his journal for a year with a
whole series of “My Ten Commandments for Preaching.” I offer these ten,
not as infallible, but as the fruit of a few minutes of quiet reflection
on a plane journey.
We have had enough “apostles,” “prophets,” and “Moses-model” leaders who
build ministries around their own gifts. We need to recover the beauty
of Christ alone upon his throne as the Priest-King of his church,
exercising his ministry by his Spirit through preaching, sacrament, and
discipline in mutually accountable communion with the wider body of
Christ. Reformed theology is not just the “five points” and “sovereign
grace,” but a rich, full, and systematic confession. It’s a human and
therefore fallible attempt to wrestle with the whole counsel of God—in
both doctrine and practice, soteriology and ecclesiology. Until we
rediscover this richness, “Reformed” will mean “whatever my leader or
Because the church consists of sinful people, the reality is that we
will be faced with the challenge of dealing with schismatic behavior
from time to time. While it is usually an unpleasant experience, we
should not despair. By being vigilant in our confession of faith and
“with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one
another in love” (Eph. 4:2), we can protect the unity that the Spirit has given us.
Obedience is a rather narrow road. Disobedience, on the other hand, has a great, sweeping plain of options. Because we are like the Pharisees, we find it easy to convert the law of God into sundry sins of omission. We’re much better at not doing what we’re not supposed to do than we are at doing what we’re supposed to do. Thus, we reduce the Sabbath to all the things we’re not allowed to do. We work at fine-tuning the definition of “work” so we can make sure we don’t do it on the Sabbath. In so doing, as is our wont, we miss the point. Were we to divide the Ten Commandments not according to duties toward God and duties toward man, as many do, but instead on the basis of prohibitions and commands, the Sabbath commandment would end up with the commands. It is less about what we are forbidden to do and more about what we are commanded to do.
Contemporary Music: The Cultural Medium and the Christian Message What kind of Christians do contemporary services produce? D. H. Williams
While church leaders rightly want Sunday services to be accessible, they should also be asking about the limits of this strategy. Ironically, a common complaint 20 years ago was that churches alienated visiting nonbelievers with too much Christian jargon. This was a legitimate criticism. But now it seems the impulse toward accommodating the surrounding culture has pushed churches into making the opposite mistake. Has a passion for inclusiveness deluded churches into supposing that doctrinal or liturgical particularity threatens their mission to a religiously pluralized world?
Of course. Even Judas was sorrowful over his sin, according to the Bible. The world is full of people who are disgusted at at least some of their sins, who seek to put particular sins behind them. This kind of sorrow is not how we have peace with God. While repentance is intimately connected to how and why God forgives us, it is not at all by itself a sufficient cause.
Is church attendance necessary for me to grow spiritually? Joseph H. Hellerman | posted 5/31/2011
Spiritual formation occurs primarily in the context of community. Persons who remain connected with their brothers and sisters in the local church almost invariably grow in self-understanding. And they mature in their ability to relate in healthy ways to God and to fellow human beings. This is especially the case for those courageous Christians who stick it out through the messy process of interpersonal conflict. Long-term relationships are the crucible of genuine progress in the Christian life. People who stay grow.
People who leave do not grow. We all know persons consumed with spiritual wanderlust. We never get to know them well because they cannot seem to stay put. They move from church to church, avoiding conflict or ever searching for a congregation that will better satisfy their felt needs. Like trees repeatedly transplanted from soil to soil, these spiritual nomads fail to put down roots, and they seldom experience lasting, fruitful growth in their Christian lives.
Preaching is not merely the art of textual exegesis, contextual analysis, and creative writing—though it involves all of these. Performance lies at the heart of proclamation.
In literal terms, the word performance means to bring a message through (per) a form. It is a tool for expression, not a means of drawing attention to the performer. Our suspicions of performance are based on a caricature of the real thing, a performance pathology.
Ultimately, if the preacher's words are to become the Word of life, they must be presented in a way that creates a world for listeners to inhabit. This has to do with delivery, but there is more. To truly understand performance requires a theological understanding of human responsibility in the equation of incarnation.
It also means accepting that the call to preach demands submission and humility. Preaching is always about God; preachers must keep it from being about anything else, especially about them.
Good preaching comes alive and speaks to the heart precisely because it is well presented, with proper gesture, vocal technique, and bodily presence. People in the performing arts call this "stage presence." We might call it liturgical presence, or pulpit presence. All effective communicators realize that they must master numerous techniques in order to impact their audience.
There are 5 things that men must know about women. Women desire to “feel” these things, not just know them logically. In her book, For Men Only, author Shaunti Feldhahn goes into great depth addressing these five, and a few others men need to know.
Men must know that:
1. Women want to feel loved. Many women feel insecure about our love for them. There are two things we men can do about it. First, reassure her. In times of conflict with our wives, we should tell them we love them no matter what and that everything will be okay—“I love you. We’ll get through this.” When she’s upset, she doesn’t need space,” she needs a hug and to be held. Second, pursue her. Women need to be pursued throughout the relationship, just as we pursued them before we got married.
2. Women want to feel understood. Women need us to understand how they think and feel, even though that is virtually impossible. It would help us to understand that most women’s thought lives are like computers, with multiple windows open and processing all at once. Unlike men who can only process one thing at a time, women are constantly juggling multiple thoughts and emotions all at the same time. On more than one occasion, I’ve watch my wife, daughters and their friends having a conversation where three of them were talking at once about three different things. And guess what, they all understood each other! So, hopefully, if we can generally understand how women think, we might be better able to understand how they feel.
3. Women want to feel emotionally secure. Women want security. Yes, financial security is important, but it comes second to emotional security. Women do think about the house, bills and tuition, but feeling emotionally connected and close to us; and knowing we are there for her, no matter what, is what really matters.
4. Women want to feel listened to. Men, she doesn’t want us to fix it, she just wants us to listen. She doesn’t want or need our solution to the problem, even if she asked for our opinion. She does want us to understand how she’s feeling about the problem and identify with her in that feeling—“Thanks for sharing that with me.” or “I’m so sorry that happened.” might be good words to consider saying to her.
5. Women want to feel beautiful. She needs to know, deep within, that we find her beautiful and that we only have eyes for her. She doesn’t just want to know, “Am I beautiful?” but, “Am I beautiful to him?” There may be many mirrors in your home, but the mirror that means most to your wife is you.
Why would anyone love the law of God? Why would we love that which constantly tells us what miserable wretches we are, daily points out all our shortcomings, relentlessly reminds us of all our death-deserving sins, and keeps knocking us down to our knees, leaving us crying out for help?
The truth of the matter is that not just anyone loves the law of God but only those who have been set free by our law-giving, law-keeping, and law-liberating Savior. We love the law of God not because we possess some sort of inherent self-inflicting, self-deprecating sadistic disposition towards our sin but because, in His electing grace, God set His glorious and enduring love upon us, laid His eternal claim upon us, took hold of us and clutched us in His strong hands, and made us His dutiful bondslaves that we might be free to delight in His law (Rom. 7:22) and in all the commands of Christ (Matt. 28:20), who by no means abolished the Law but in fact fulfilled it perfectly in our behalf (Matt. 5:17). His death is our life. His fulfillment is our freedom. His duty is our delight.
“How Good People Turn Evil” – Corruption in the Philippines
Posted on January 31, 2011 by Maria Ressa
Sometimes doing the wrong thing seems to be the only way to get ahead. I’ve heard so many Filipinos say that – particularly the street-savvy operators who are trying to get you to do the wrong thing!
You have to find the courage to say no. You have to do what’s right – not just for your company, but for yourself. You have to find and set this line – a line you promise yourself you will never cross – because crossing that line means you’re turning from good to evil. It’s that simple. And you must make it that simple.
The most dangerous decision is that first one – when you move from being perfectly clean and idealistic … to being tempted … to wanting it… and then accepting it. Don’t do it. Once you do, it’s a slippery slope. Define that line and DO NOT CROSS it. If you’ve already done it, pay special attention to the four step program at the end, ok?
The reasons for unbelief are more complex than many atheists let on.
Jim Spiegel | posted 2/10/2011 09:28AM
Most atheists would have us think they arrived at their view through cool, rational inquiry. But are other factors involved? Consider the candid remarks of contemporary philosopher Thomas Nagel: "I want atheism to be true …. It isn't just that I don't believe in God, and, naturally, hope that I'm right about my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that." Could Nagel's attitude—albeit in a more subtle form—actually be common among atheists?
Christian apologists have responded to the New Atheists' arguments—which are often nothing more than a rehashing of traditional objections—with rational arguments of their own. However, they have not talked much about non-rational causes of unbelief. We humans are not only reasoning beings. We also have emotions, desires, and free wills, and these influence our beliefs. As important as it is to remind atheists of the rational evidence for God, the real problem in many cases is moral and psychological in nature.
Such a suggestion is potentially offensive to unbelievers. But we still need to ask if it is nonetheless true. According to Scripture, the evidence for God is overwhelming. The apostle Paul says that "God has made it plain" that he exists; his "invisible qualities … have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (Rom. 1:19-20). And the psalmist writes, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands" (19:1). This naturally prompts the question: If the evidence for God is so abundant, then why are there atheists?
How should the New Testament believer relate to the Old Testament law? I was brought up in the tradition of Biblical interpretation called Dispensationalism. Under that interpretative structure the Old Testament law was considered useful for history of creation and of Israel, and prophecies of Christ. I do not recall hearing a single sermon on any commandments of the law as a source for direction to Christians for our behavior. Louis Chafer, in his book He that is Spiritual, stated that though the Old Testament had many things in common with the New Testament, it was actually the Acts, the epistles, and half of the Gospels (presumably the events recorded after Matthew 13) which were the marching orders for the New Testament believer.
While I was attending Trinity Divinity School and studying the Older Testament under Walter Kaiser, I began to think through the issues more carefully for myself. After reading Luther and Calvin, and others, I developed my own ideas which I have used in the writing of this book. The starting point of my thinking was to take seriously the writings of St. Paul when he said:
2 Timothy 3:16 Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 3:17 that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work. (NET Bible)
It is highly unlikely that Paul is using the word “Scripture” any differently than does his Master, Jesus, and Jesus specifically speaks of Moses as being included under that term:
Luke 24:27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things written about himself in all the scriptures. (NET Bible)
For His part, Jesus said of the Law…
Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them. 5:18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place.5:19 So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (NET Bible)
We have also noted that in the Sermon, Jesus comments on each of the commandments from 6-10 and backwards from 5-1. In doing so, He implies that the Commandments are relevant to His disciples—insofar as He commissions them at the end of that Gospel to use all His teachings to disciple the nations. Paul could arguably be said to have employed the structure of the Ten in outlining his only ethical treatise: 1 Corinthians. That letter is, of course, directed to the Church.
But Paul also clearly rejects putting the Christian “under the Law” (Galatians 3). Jesus is also said to have removed the kosher laws by declaring all foods clean.
Mark 7:18 He said to them, “Are you so foolish? Don’t you understand that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him? 7:19 For it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and then goes out into the sewer.” (This means all foods are clean.) 7:20 He said, “What comes out of a person defiles him. 7:21 For from within, out of the human heart, come evil ideas, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 7:22 adultery, greed, evil, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, pride, and folly. 7:23 All these evils come from within and defile a person.” (NET Bible)
How then do we harmonize these texts? Some suggest that all in the Old Testament law is assumed to be applicable to the Christian unless it is specifically disallowed by a statement of the New. The early Church seems not to accept that approach. In Acts, the Church is concerned that Gentiles understand that they need not become Jews in order to become Christians.
Because of the traveling part of my preaching and teaching ministry, I worship the Lord in a different church most Sundays of the year. My experiences in churches nationwide, together with my years of teaching a seminary course on worship, cause me to think a great deal about the worship of God in the local church.
One observation I have made is that most churches could make dramatic improvements in the quality of their worship event by making some changes that are relatively simple. After a quarter-century of pastoral ministry and leading worship services, I do realize why "simple" changes are sometimes difficult to make. However, if you are a leader who senses the need for freshness in worship, you should consider these recommendations because (a) they each have a direct or indirect biblical basis, (b) they are specific enough to be practical, and (c) they can be accommodated to any church, regardless of size, location, culture, or worship style.
Focus on God in every element in worship.
Worship is, by definition, the worship of God. So why would you include something in your worship service that doesn't focus on God? Go through your order of service and ask of every element, "Does this focus on God?" If not, either remove that element or push it to the beginning or end of the worship gathering. Specifically, items like the announcements, the welcome of guests, and greeting one another may have a legitimate place, but they should be accomplished in a way where they won't break people's focus on the Lord. Schedule them just before or after the time when God is the exclusive focus.
Have clear Biblical support for every element in worship.
Go through the order of service once more and ask of every element, "Is there a Biblical basis for doing this in worship?" (An element of worship is a worship activity, such as singing, preaching, praying, etc. This differs from a circumstance of worship, such as the time the service begins, its length, the color of the carpet, whether you use air conditioning or microphones, etc. The Bible doesn't speak to these issues, but it does address the activities of worship.)
Don't settle for generalities like, "The Bible tells us to reach people, and I think this aspect of our worship helps us do that." Require stronger scriptural warrant than that. God knows better than we how He wants to be worshiped, and He hasn't left us to guess what He wants us to do. Come before the Lord with the confidence that everything you do in worship has a Biblical command, example, or clear inference which supports it as a worship activity. Discontinue every part of your public worship for which you can find no solid scriptural foundation. If churches practiced just these first two principles, great reformation would occur in their worship.
Crises, while unwanted, are windows of opportunity for the Cure of Souls.
John Ortberg | posted 1/31/2011
Imagine you're handed a script of your newborn child's entire life. Better yet, you're given an eraser and five minutes to edit out whatever you want. You read that she will have a learning disability in grade school. Reading, which comes easily for some kids, will be laborious for her. In high school, she will make a great circle of friends, then one of them will die of cancer. After high school, she will get into her preferred college, but while there, she'll lose a leg in a car crash. Following that, she will go through a difficult depression. A few years later she'll get a great job, then lose that job in an economic downturn. She'll get married, but then go through the grief of separation.
With this script of your child's life before you and five minutes to edit it, what would you erase? Psychologist Jonathan Haidt poses this question in this hypothetical exercise: Wouldn't you want to take out all the stuff that would cause them pain?
If you could erase every failure, disappointment, and period of suffering, would that be a good idea? Would that cause them to grow into the best version of themselves? Is it possible that we actually need adversity and setbacks—maybe even crisis and trauma—to reach the fullest level of development and growth?
"Work" problems involve situations such as two people working together to paint a house. You are usually told how long each person takes to paint a similarly-sized house, and you are asked how long it will take the two of them to paint the house when they work together. Many of these problems are not terribly realistic (since when do two laser printers work together on printing one report?), but it's the technique that they want you to learn, not the applicability to "real life".
The method of solution for work problems is not obvious, so don't feel bad if you're totally lost at the moment. There is a "trick" to doing work problems: you have to think of the problem in terms of how much each person / machine / whatever does in a given unit of time.
Luther did the right thing, standing on the Word at Worms. And we, too often, do all the wrong things in his name. We think that the glory of that story is that he stood his ground, that he was courageous, immovable, a rock. And so we go in search of the same opportunities. We boldly stand, and walk out of our churches because this possible inference of that potential trajectory of the other postulation in the pastor’s off-the-cuff remark might impinge on an important doctrine. We boldly defy the American empire, refusing to tell their census taker how many toilets are in our house. We boldly dishonor our parents, because we think them to be not quite as honorable as we are.
Linux Mint is the 4th most widely used operating systems in the world after Windows, Mac OS and Ubuntu, as claimed by the distribution.
Even though it's an Ubuntu-based system, Linux Mint features only one panel at the bottom which looks closer to the taskbar in the Windows system, and a well-organized start menu complete with a useful Search box. It also pre-installs some proprietary software, including the Adobe Flash plugin and necessary media codecs, by default so that you can view streaming media, such as YouTube videos in a browser, and play mp3, mp4 or most other media files with a player right away out of the box.
If you have the Linux Mint system which comes with the default Gnome desktop environment installed in your PC, you might find these tips and tricks useful for working with the system.
MANILA, Philippines--Growing up GROWING UP in the years after the war, I was taught to recycle things. Curtains morphed into tablecloths and aprons, clothes were handed down from sister to sister or from brother to brother, and oil containers became sprinklers. Of course, in those days we didn’t call what we were doing recycling. We thought we were simply and sensibly making the most of everything, since various resources were scarce after the war.
I remember that the garden was my favorite spot, and even then, I held close to my heart the principle of “waste not, want not.” We grew our own vegetables on the compost soil that we generated. There were no garbage collectors (basurero) back then, so we put our garbage to good use. Kitchen waste and yard waste (dried leaves and twigs), mixed with a little bird poop, made good fertilizer, and out of the rich compost soil came the vegetables that nourished us. The garden pots were used cans and the compost was mixed in used rubber tires. It was a natural cycle that we appreciated.