Christian Living

Four Things I Learned from Dad

First appeared at SharperIron on July 24, 2009. Larry Blumer, the “Dad” in this essay, went to be the Lord August 17, 2011.

An old adage says that when you’re sixteen your dad doesn’t know anything, when you’re twenty-six he’s occasionally sensible and when you’re thirty-six he’s one of the wisest people you know. I can testify that there is some truth in that observation. Though I still rarely seek my dad’s advice, it’s because—at age forty-three—I have come to realize how much of his advice I’ve already absorbed from growing up around him.

Our Savior bought us with His own blood in order to redeem us and remake us His image. That transformation is central to His great gospel purpose. In my life, He used my dad to accomplish some important parts of that purpose.

Four values

I don’t think my dad sat down and planned “I need to teach these four values to my kids.” He did it mostly by just being there and speaking his mind (sometimes quite passionately!) in the context of a life that made what he meant unmistakably clear.

1. Dependability

Bob Jones Sr. was fond of saying “The greatest ability is dependability.” But that concept was familiar to me long before I read it in high school. I remember hearing as a kid, “If you say you’re going to do something, you do it. If you say you’re going to be somewhere, you be there,” and other variations on that theme (See Prov. 25:19). Dad wasn’t trying to preach, but his words drove a biblical principle deep into my young mind.

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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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