Christian Living

Book Review - The Doctrine of the Christian Life

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For those who are familiar with and have enjoyed John Frame’s A Theology of Lordship series this third volume, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, will be a welcome addition. This book deals with the Ten Commandments and their relationship with ethics. While one might not naturally think that the doctrine of the Christian life is summed up or founded in the Ten Commandments, Frame connects the two when he describes the core of the Christian life “as living under God’s law, in God’s world, in the presence of God himself” (p. 3). Thus, if the Christian life is lived “under God’s law” and the Ten Commandments are God’s law, then the latter provides the foundation for the former. Therefore, this book provides the foundation of the Christian life as seen through ethics and should not be seen as an exhaustive treatment of the biblical doctrine of the Christian life.

Part One: Introductory Considerations

At the outset Frame seeks to define ethics and explain what he sees as its interchangeable relationship to doctrine and theology. Avoiding, though not dismissing, theoretical or propositional definitions, Frame defines these terms in relation to their practical nature. In this light both doctrine and theology are defined as “the application of the Word of God to all areas of life” (p. 9). For Frame “ethics is theology as a means of determining which persons, acts, and attitudes receive God’s blessing and which do not” (p. 10). In the second chapter Frame turns to defining and briefly discussing numerous related terms such as immoral, value, norm, virtue and duty, just to name a few.

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All the Way Home

January, 1945. U.S. troops battle for the liberation of the Philippines. As they make their labored advance, the occupying Japanese army burns alive 150 American prisoners of war at a camp on the island of Palawan. Fearing a similar atrocity, Lieutenant General Walter Krueger assigns Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci and his Sixth Ranger Battalion the mission of rescuing the allied prisoners held at Cabanatuan.

On January 30, Mucci moved. 127 Army Rangers under the direct command of Captain Robert Prince, supported by 200 Filipino guerrillas, led a daring raid upon the compound at Cabanatuan. In a stunning tactical victory, Prince’s unit killed 523 Japanese troops—losing only four men in the process—and freed 511 frail, starving and disease-ridden prisoners of war. At 8:15 pm, Captain Prince shot a flare into the night sky signaling that the improbable mission of liberation was complete.

Yet as that victorious flare lit up the night sky, the task was long from finished. You do not free 511 infirm prisoners behind enemy lines and say, “Gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure; good luck to you all,” and walk away. Through the remainder of that night, the soldiers who liberated their comrades escorted them to safety through many dangers, toils and snares. The mission was not complete the moment the prisoners were freed. It was complete when they were delivered safely home.

It is this kind of complete deliverance the Bible promises the followers of Jesus Christ. By His death in the sinner’s place, and by His triumphant resurrection from the dead, Jesus stormed the gates of hell, liberating those who turn from their sin to trust in His rescue. This cosmic victory over sin and death accomplished the most glorious liberation in history.

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The Neglected Power of Christian Joy

We are into the thick of the baseball season; teams compete in their divisions. Some will meet expectations, some will exceed them, while others will disappoint. We are used to competition in sports, business, and even regarding military preparedness.

We rarely think of virtues as competing with one another; instead, we prefer to think of them as complementing one another. Paul lists the three great virtues, “faith, hope and love” in 1 Corinthians 13:13, yet he informs us that “love” is the greatest of the three. This does not mean that faith, hope, and love are mutually exclusive. They work together.

Two books of the Bible are devoted to the virtue of wisdom: Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. How can anyone underestimate the importance of wisdom in light of this? The fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22-23) and the armor of God (Eph. 6:14-18) are two more examples of the many “virtue lists” found in God’s Word.

With all these virtue lists floating around, we can end up dizzy. What do I pursue: love, faith, holiness, graciousness, zeal, knowledge, joy, peace, goodness, gentleness, or self-control? The answer is “yes.” These attributes are complementary, but they can be examined individually. After examining them, we need to integrate them into the whole package of who we are. In a sense, being a balanced Christian means being a complete Christian; we attain balance by including all these virtues and excluding none. None of us attains this perfect balance; indeed, we probably cannot even agree as to what that perfect balance should be.

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Should We Suffer Fools Gladly?

Holbein - Folly

Just about everybody complains about the quality of discourse on the Internet. In my experience, it isn’t much worse than the quality of discourse most other places—with one important exception. Foolishness of the verbal variety has always required cheap and easy forms of communication in order to really thrive. The talk of fools is not merely ignorant but impulsive, spontaneous. So, for centuries, the cost of publishing has been a mitigating factor, filtering much of the worst sort of foolishness out of the world of the written word. Printed error tended to at least be thoughtful error.

But decades of steadily-improving Internet technology have changed all that. Now any idiot who can click a mouse can publish his insights for the eyes of millions at the cost of pocket change. And since the Web also facilitates rapid interaction (of the sort previously limited to conversation), fools can now speak or write their minds (Prov.18:2) at each other at a rate, and with a passion (Prov. 12:16), previously undreamt of.1

So it’s probably fair to say: there’s no foolishness like Internet foolishness.

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You Can't Quit! It's a Marathon!

heart issuesAppeared originally at SI on June 18, 2005 (archived version, with comments).

I admire the speed displayed by Asafa Powell. He’s 22 and runs like lightning. Possessing the fastest feet in the world for the 100 meters, he clocked an amazing 9.77 seconds in the Super Grand Prix in Athens. That’s fast.

Revved-up speedsters are fun to watch, but I wonder, can they go for the long distance? Can a sprinter endure prolonged tribulation? It might be easy to make a mad sprint in the full sun, but how does one look when the wind is tearing at the clothes and half-dime sized hail is pelting the scalp.

Personally, I don’t like hard testings. I would rather be sitting by the fire in a mountain cabin reading a good book or floating with exotic fish in the Sea of Eilat. But that is not how life usually works. It pounds and grinds; just look at the countenances of people as they drive home in rush hour traffic (yes, we even have this in Idaho, too many spud trucks).

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Shortcut Christianity

Duty binds me to inform my readers of some astonishing news. If you’re not sitting down, you may want to do so. We received a fax at our church office recently announcing—and I quote—“A Genuine College Degree in 2 weeks! Have you ever thought that the only thing stopping you from a great job and better pay was a few letters behind your name? Well now you can get them! BA, BSc, MA, MSc, MBA, PhD. Within 2 weeks! No Study Required! 100% Verifiable! These are real, genuine degrees…Order yours today! Just call the number below.”

There you have it: a PhD without study! You’re but one phone call and two short weeks away from unlocking the door of unprecedented opportunity and taking a quantum leap in societal status. Cheers!

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Book Review - Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality

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Homosexuality. The word stirs many reactions today. Many Christians who don’t know homosexuals personally remain puzzled and scared by this term. Many suspect the word does not picture a reality, only an intentional perversion of God’s created order. Pat answers are easy, and when it comes to homosexuality a simple Bible-based condemnation seems all that is in order. It is easier and more convenient for us to file the word, and whatever reality it represents, away into a tidy corner—far away from our experience.

But in today’s world, we can no longer afford to ignore homosexuality. It is all around us, and if we open our eyes, we’ll see it is affecting people we rub shoulders with at work, it’s in our children’s schools, and has even entered our churches. The debate is here—and more. It’s not just a debate, there is a secret battle being waged in countless hearts around us. A battle to believe in Jesus despite personal homosexual attractions.

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