Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Song Recommendation: Let Justice Roll Like a River

This past Sunday, we studied Isaiah 58 together. Afterwards, Pastor Tyler told me about the song, "Let Justice Roll Like a River." It's a meditation on the words and context of Amos 5:24, but it's also a great complement to the call of Isaiah 58.

I'd encourage you to listen (HERE) and meditate on the words (HERE): 

Let Justice Roll Like a River
Bobby Gilles and Rebecca Elliot

Forgive us Lord, for passing by
When children cry for bread
Forbid it Lord, that justice lie
In tatters, cold and dead

Outside these walls run desperate streets
Where greed is law and life is cheap
We bar the doors, refuse to see
Or hear the words You said:

Let justice roll like a river, Like a river, let it roll
Let justice roll like a river. Like a river, let it roll

Convict us Lord, we dance and laugh
Ignoring those who weep
Correct us Lord, our golden calf
Has lulled our hearts to sleep

The gap between the rich and poor
Grows ever wider, shore to shore
There's racial hate, religious war
And wolves among the sheep

Indwell us Lord, and purify
Our hands to work for You
Enlist us Lord, to serve nearby
And ʻcross the waters, too

Your image-bearers on the earth
Will never know how much theyʼre worth
Unless we love and help them first
And show the way to You.


©2007 Bobby Gilles and Sojourn Community Church
CCLI Song #4974842

CCLI License #1888971

Friday, August 12, 2016

Who Was Right: Orwell or Huxley?

In 1985, Neil Postman published the book Amusing Ourselves to Death. I read it 10 or 15 years ago. It was prophetic then. It still is.

In the foreword, he spells out what his book is about. He does so by contrasting George Orwell's vision in his famous novel 1984 with Aldous Huxley's in Brave New World.

Here's what he says (emphasis added): 
We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn't, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares. 
But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another - slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. 
Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one
Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much (information) that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism
Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance
Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies...and the centrifugal bumblepuppy (or, Pokemon?). As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." 
In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure
In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us. 
This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.
 So, what do you think? Is our greater danger totalitarianism or a sort of Stockholm Syndrome

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Olympic Parable

The greatest thrills and joys come not from validations of our own self-worth, but from the sight and enjoyment of glory and greatness.

John Piper has shared many times this illustration (my paraphrase):
How many people go the Grand Canyon to look in the mirror and enhance their self-esteem? Not many. They go to see and drink in a greater glory outside themselves. And it is profoundly thrilling and satisfying.
His point is this: God's supremacy and transcendence is true, but it's also good news. We don't find the highest joys by looking in at ourselves. The greatest joys come from beholding and experiencing the glory of God (out there in the world and in the Word and in his Son).

The Olympics actually provide a window into this reality. Piper gave the following illustration at a Desiring God National Conference in 2006 (entitled “The Supremacy of Christ and Joy in a Postmodern World," and found here):
What if we asked someone, “Would you want to watch a football game (or an Olympic event) where all the players were no better than you? Or watch a movie where the actors could act no better than you and were no better looking than you? Or go to a museum to see pictures by painters who could paint no better than you?” 
Why are we willing to be exposed in all these places as utterly inferior? How can we get so much joy out of watching people magnify their superiority over us? 
The biblical answer is that we were made by God to get our deepest joys not from being superior ourselves but from enjoying God’s superiority. All these other experiences are parables. God’s superiority is absolute in every way, which means our joy in it may be greater than we could ever imagine.

The greatest and highest good for our souls is not found in our souls. The path of joy is not lined with mirrors, but windows. The answer to our ache and longing is not self-esteem, but God-esteem, not self-glory, but self-forgetfulness. Things get really good when we stop trying to be the center of the universe, and start enjoying the fact that God is. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Feeling Stuck?

Four words of wisdom from Paul Tripp when we find ourselves in this all-too-familiar place.

His first point:
  1. Feeling stuck reminds us that God is most important. Feeling stuck often reveals how highly we think of ourselves and what we think we're entitled to. When we get angry in traffic, we're declaring that no one deserves to be on the road more than us. The spiritual reality of the universe, however, is that we're never on center stage; this world was created to serve and celebrate its Creator (Psalm 19:1).

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Sower's Song by Andrew Peterson

Here's the song by Andrew Peterson that we played on Sunday on the heels of Isaiah 55.

The lyrics while you listen:

Oh God, I am furrowed like the field
Torn open like the dirt
And I know that to be healed
That I must be broken first
I am aching for the yield
That You will harvest from this hurt

Abide in me
Let these branches bear You fruit
Abide in me, Lord
As I abide in You

So I kneel
At the bright edge of the garden
At the golden edge of dawn
At the glowing edge of spring
When the winter's edge is gone
And I can see the color green
I can hear the sower's song

Abide in me
Let these branches bear You fruit
Abide in me, Lord
Let Your word take root
Remove in me
The branch that bears no fruit
And move in me, Lord
As I abide in You

As the rain and the snow fall
Down from the sky
And they don't return but they water the earth and bring they forth life
Giving seed to the sower, bread for the hunger
So shall the word of the Lord be with a sound like thunder
And it will not return, it will not return void
We shall be led in peace
And go out with joy
And the hills before us
Will raise their voices
And the trees of the field will clap their hands as the land rejoices
And instead of the thorn now
The cypress towers
And instead of the briar the myrtle blooms with a thousand flowers
And it will make a name
Make a name for our God
A sign everlasting that will never be cut off
As the earth brings forth sprouts from the seed
What is sown in the garden grows into a mighty tree
So the Lord plants justice, justice and praise
To rise before the nations till the end of days

As the rain and the snow fall
Down from the sky
And they don't return but they water the earth and they bring forth life
Giving seed to the sower, and bread for the hunger
So shall the word of the Lord be with a sound like thunder
And it will not return, it will not return void
It will not return, it will not return void
It will not return, it will not return void
We shall be led in peace
And go out with joy

And the sower leads us
And the sower leads us
And the sower leads us

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


C.S. Lewis on calibrating our expectations:
"If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable; think of it as a place of training and correction, and it’s not so bad. 
Imagine a set of people all living in the same building. Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable. ... 
The people who try to hold an optimistic view of this world would become pessimists; the people who hold a pretty stern view of it become optimistic."
From “Answers to Questions on Christianity,” in God in the Dock (Grand Rapids, 1970), 52

Steve Saint, who has known more suffering than most:
"Suffering is your expectations divided by your experience. ...  
Come to think of it, so is blessing."

Jesus gets the last word (John 16:33):
"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ernie Johnson - A Moving Story of Fathers and Sons

Tired of nothing but bad news in the news?

Take 20 minutes and watch this ESPN E:60 story of Ernie Johnson, Jr. You'll want to have some tissues nearby.

Johnson is one of the most respected and successful sportscasters today, but his story is about much more than his professional success. He and his wife Cheryl have six children, four of whom they adopted, one (Michael) with special needs. He also survived a battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma from 2003-2006. His story is a testimony of the grace of God, a steady and quiet faith, and the powerful influence of a faithful father.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Why I Am A Democrat

C.S. Lewis:
I am a democrat [i.e. a proponent of democracy, not a member of the political party in the US] because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. 
A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that every one deserved a share in the government. 
The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they're not true. . . . I find that they're not true without looking further than myself. I don't deserve a share in governing a hen-roost. Much less a nation. ...  
The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.
"Equality," in C. S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces, ed. by Lesley Walmsley (London: HarperCollins, 2000), p. 666.

And again: 
I believe in political equality. But there are two opposite reasons for being a democrat. You may think all men so good that they deserve a share in the government of the commonwealth, and so wise that the commonwealth needs their advice. That is, in my opinion, the false, romantic doctrine of democracy. On the other hand, you may believe fallen men to be so wicked that not one of them can be trusted with any irresponsible power over his fellows. ... That I believe to be the true ground of democracy.

-C.S. Lewis, “Membership” in The Weight of Glory, (New York: Touchstone, 1996), p. 126.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

God Put Your Ears On The Outside

Ray Ortlund, Jr. gives the answer (Isaiah: God Saves Sinners, 333-334):
Why do we have ears on the outside of our heads? Why not on the inside? Because we’re not supposed to listen to ourselves. I wonder how much of our misery stems from our almost religious devotion to our own thoughts and feelings. But that inner personal world where you and I live constantly – what relation does it bear to the atmosphere that the gospel creates? We spend every moment of our entire lives within a mental universe. The quality of that environment matters. Are our ears open to the in-flowing blessing of God? Do we understand what it means to listen to God? He wants to re-tune our ears so we can hear the word of God again. That alone is how we escape our fantasies and enter into reality with God.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, commenting on Psalm 42, unpacks it further (slightly edited): 
The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. 
Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. 
Now this man's treatment [in Psalm 42] was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself, 'Why are you cast down, O my soul?' he asks. His soul had been repressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: 'Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you'. Do you know what I mean? If you do not, you have but little experience. 
The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: 'Why are you cast down'--what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: 'Hope…in God'--instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: 'I shall yet praise Him, my salvation and my God'.

Monday, July 11, 2016

"What's Going On?" - Thoughts on Last Week's Bloodshed By Tony Carter

A number of you have asked for the piece by Tony Carter that I read yesterday. Carter is the lead pastor of East Point Church, near Atlanta, GA. He posted the piece on The Front Porch, a site devoted to "Conversations about biblical faithfulness in the African-American churches and beyond."

Here's the link to the full piece.