Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Book Review: Help Mom! There are Liberals Under My Bed

One of the struggles that Christian parents face is finding appropriate books to read to their kids or to have kids read on their own. Just as Hollywood uses movies to push a politically liberal agenda, children's literature suffers from the same over-abundance of political themes running through their books. Thankfully, Katharine DeBrecht has decided to do something about it with her Help Mom! books.

The first title in the series, Help Mom! There are Liberals Under My Bed, follow the adventures of Tommy and Lou as they try to earn enough money for a new swingset. Their parents believe (correctly) that the swing set will be much more special if they have to earn the money to buy it rather than it being bought for them. But as Tommy and Lou begin their enterprises they run into a number of liberal politicians who thwart them at every turn.

With an engaging and humorous manner, Ms. DeBrecht exposes the fundamental beliefs of liberal politicians that seem to frustrate many ordinary citizens. With this book, she has provided a valuable tool for parents to help their children recognize the pitfalls of liberalism.

I hope Ms. DeBrecht writes many more book in this series. This book was one that I will gladly share with my children.

This book was provided to me for review by World Ahead Publishing through Mind and Media. No other consideration was received for this review apart from the book.

Farewell to Don Knotts

Danny Carlton alias "Jack Lewis" has a tribute to Don Knotts who was known to many as Deputy Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith Show who passed away this past weekend at age 81. As Danny explains, Knotts' career reflected the changing values of Hollywood in the '60s and '70s.

Don, you will be missed.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Check out the new Wide Awake Cafe

I've been travelling all week and haven't had time to post anything new. If you're looking for a cool site to check out, take a look at Laura Lee Donoho's new and improved The Wide Awake Cafe. She's just moved to her new digs and the design looks terrific. Stop by and say hello to Laura.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Are You Getting Enough Rest?

I'm pretty tired all the time these days (or at least that's what I tell my wife). No matter how little or much I sleep, I can't seem to find a way to really rest. Then I discovered today while reading an article by Alex Kirk at Building Church Leaders that I haven't been seeking the rest that God prescribes for us. In the article, Alex mediates on Exodus 33:12-17 and finds some key lessons for us in this passage. Here's a brief excerpt:

In this conversation, God promised Moses his presence and rest. Rest is a significant word for leaders. Most leaders I know, including myself, aren't good at resting. We haven't worked out the spiritual discipline the way Scripture invites us to. Our culture holds out all sorts of promises for rest, but it simply can't give the soul-caliber rest that God promised Moses.

A couple of years ago, I was meditating on this passage in preparation for a conference that I was going to help lead. I would be speaking on this passage and wanted to make sure my points were tight and my presentation flawless. As I thought about this promise to Moses of presence and rest, the Holy Spirit convicted me. I wrote in big letters in the margin: Where do I go for rest? My honest answer? I had been living for days off and vacations. My sin of over-scheduling, controlling, and making poor decisions with my time had led to the sin of looking for rest in all the wrong places.

The world looks for rest from weekends, holidays, media, and vacations. Moses' assumption in this passage is that God's people are to be different. Don't misunderstand me—time off, holidays and vacations are all good things. God made the Sabbath, the original weekend. In the Old and New Testament, celebrations lasted for days and weeks, and one even lasted a whole year. These rhythms of resting and celebrating were God's idea from the start. But these times are gifts, intended to point us to the giver. To join in building our golden calves out of days off, computer games, DVD players and vacations is to cast our souls in with the tide of our culture's greatest vacuum. This world has nothing for us, even as it has everything. Ultimately and always, God is our good and our rest. Leaders must learn to enter into this rest and lead others into it as well, or they will burn out and descend into anger and bitterness.

It has been said that life is a marathon, not a sprint. However, I recently heard someone challenge that maxim. Life is not a marathon; it is a series of sprints. The key to surviving a series of sprints is to know when to push yourself, and when it's time to rest. When it's time to sprint, we need to have the energy and resources to do so. When we don't need to sprint, we need to build in healthy disciplines of resting and renewing our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energies. (Jack Groppel, Willow Creek Leadership Summit, 8/12/05). Where are you spending your best energies? When are you resting? In these Scriptures, Moses had just come down off of the mountain with the Ten Commandments. Commandment number four was the command to rest on the Sabbath. For the Israelite nation, a nomadic people, God built into every week one day to refuel, worship, and rest.

Sabbath rest was foolish. The Israelites were dependent on agriculture for survival. In farming communities when the conditions are right for the harvest, everything else stops. The window of opportunity is small and specific. Given this, it was madness to declare a regular weekly day of rest with no regard for the season. Sabbath rest was a reckless rest of faith. It trusted God to provide the crops in his good timing. Sabbath rest was a weekly faith-stretching exercise. It reminded them that God was the sovereign provider, and they were not. This Sabbath-rest posture of leaning into the provision of God was to carry them into the work of the other days of the week.

As the saying goes, read the whole thing.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Love the Lord

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. - Deuternomony 6:4-9

Recently, I ran across a song that was built around the familiar verse 5 in the passage above (Click here to listen). As I have been meditating on this passage, there were several things that God was revealing to me about what it truly meant to love Him.

First, loving God means to obey His commands with every aspect of our being. Humans are created not just with physical bodies but with an intellect (our minds) and a spiritual being (our soul). As verse 5 commands us, we are to submit to God's will for our lives in all areas. Nothing is to be withheld from God who created us. This is what sanctification is all about: bringing every aspect of our lives into submission to His will.

Second, obedience should be modeled and taught to our children (verse 7). It is not just our own duty to obey God but to teach our children to obey him as well. God is concerned about multiple generations coming to know Him.

Third, instruction in the Lord is continuous (verse 7). Instruction should happen at all times and at every opportunity. Instruction in the Lord is not just about what happens on Sunday morning or during school hours. It's also not just what we say but what we do that will teach our children. We've not only got to teach God's commands to our children but we need to show His love to them as well.

Fourth, our obedience should be visible to others (verses 8-9). In Jewish tradition, phylacteries were tied to their heads and left arms. These small wooden boxes would contain the Old Testament law. They would also attach mezuzot (small wooden or metal containers in which passages of Scripture would be placed) to the doorframes of their houses. By these symbols they would be proclaiming their allegience to God.

Does this mean that we should be tying boxes to our heads? I don't think so. Indeed, Jesus criticized the Pharisees for this practice because they were focused on gaining attention through the symbols and not obeying God's commands. But the principle behind the practice is still clear: If we love the Lord, it should be visible even to those who do not know Him. Our displays of love are a testimony to His power.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Book Review: God is the Gospel

When I first learned I would have the opportunity to review God is the Gospel by John Piper, I was really excited. I had heard lots of good things about his books but never had the opportunity to read one. Plus, I was intrigued by the subject of this book: an attempt to show the inadequacies of our understanding of the Gospel by showing that it's really about the all-satisfying gift of His love.

When I started to read the book, though, I had a shock. I couldn't get into it. There was no doubt that Piper was doing a good job of making his points by carefully working through Scripture to show that the Gospel is about more than simply salvation from the penalty of sin. Still, I struggled to work through the book until I finally gave up.

My struggles with the book had little to do with Piper or his writing style. Life has been rather chaotic of late in our household (as my infrequent posts here can attest). This is not a light read. It is a book that needs to be read and studied carefully. Unfortunately I haven't had the time or inclination to carefully read anything and as a result I really wasn't able to give this book a fair shake.

No doubt this is a book that I will need to come back to when I have time to carefully read it and think through the implications of Piper's arguments. Based on the subject matter alone, it is clear that this is an important book and one that should be read by every Christian. I plan on revisiting this volume and will post further thoughts here once I get the chance to give it a fairer reading.

Thanks to Crossway and Mind and Media for allowing me to review this book. No consideration was received for this review apart from the book.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Together for the Gospel Blog

C. J. Mahaney, Ligon Duncan, Albert Mohler, and Mark Dever who are the four men behind the upcoming Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, now have their own blog. This is a blog that you will definitely want to check frequently as these guys represent some of the brightest minds in evangelical Christianity.