150th Anniversary of "The Late Unpleasantness"

Regimental Colors of the 61st Ohio Volunteers

  In recognition of the start of the greatest trial the United States has faced, I want to acknowledge my ancestors who served their country in this war.

My great-great-great grandfather Samuel Leet Fite who served in Company C of the 66th Indiana Infantry.
My great-great-great grandfather Thomas Beasley who served in Company A of the 12th Indiana Infantry.
My great-great grandfather who served in Company B of the 61st Ohio Infantry.
My great-great-great grandfather Henry Dunn who served in Company K of the 159th Ohio Infantry.
You can browse photos from the National Archives here.
12 Indiana Infantry Monument at Vicksburg

61st Ohio Volunteers Gettysburg Monument

150th Anniversary of "The Late Unpleasantness"

Regimental Colors of the 61st Ohio Volunteers

  In recognition of the start of the greatest trial the United States has faced, I want to acknowledge my ancestors who served their country in this war.

My great-great-great grandfather Samuel Leet Fite who served in Company C of the 66th Indiana Infantry.
My great-great-great grandfather Thomas Beasley who served in Company A of the 12th Indiana Infantry.
My great-great grandfather who served in Company B of the 61st Ohio Infantry.
My great-great-great grandfather Henry Dunn who served in Company K of the 159th Ohio Infantry.
You can browse photos from the National Archives here.
12 Indiana Infantry Monument at Vicksburg
61st Ohio Volunteers Gettysburg Monument

150th Anniversary of "The Late Unpleasantness" was originally published on Grace Presbyterian Church

Counterfeit Gods: Money Changes Everything

Greediness was often categorized by the Medieval philosophers and theologians as either covetousness (avaritia) or gluttony (gula). As an excessive love, greed is either the excessive love of pleasure/comfort or the excessive love of power/welfare. Keller brings out the two-sidedness of greed when shares the illustration about the husband and wife arguing about money. The wife, according to the husband was a spendthrift and took no care or thought to their financial needs while the husband, according the wife, was a miserly hoarder who oppressed his family with his scrupulous budgeting. Though the manifestation of the idol of money in either miserliness or prodigality look different, in both the heart is consumed with the object of having money. Whether I use money for my comfort (pleasure) in what I purchase or I use money for my comfort (security) in what I have stored up for myself, money is the answer as to whether I experience safety and peace–money has become my savior.
The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) are a helpful commentary on that which will really satisfy, sustain, provide, and trust. These beatitudes are an exposition of what a disciple of Christ values and trusts. In Matthew 5 Jesus says,

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

How does the love or worship of money undermine these blessings? Can someone be poor in spirit, yet wealthy in dollars? Can they be mournful in life and yet comfortable in situation? Can they be meek, and yet have great possessions? What are the traps and dangers for each? How might money be the thing which frustrates one’s ability to enjoy their place in the kingdom or their eternal comfort and inheritance?

Questions for Discussion

  1. Which are you, the miser or the spendthrift?
  2. Which are you seeking comfort or security? How so?
  3. How generous are you with your money and possessions?
  4. Share a story about money. Did you have money growing up? Did you ever resolve to always have money?
  5. How do the different characters in Luke 19 show an excessive love of comfort, security, power, control, or welfare?

GPC DGroup: Chosen by God, Chapter 1

As we start Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul there are a number of things that we must consider at the onset. Firstly, we need our faith to be conformed by what is true and not by what we understand. As both Protestant and Reformed, the scriptures are the foundation upon which we build our faith and practice. Secondly we must recognize that the subject is potentially divisive. As a professor of mine has written, even for John Calvin himself (probably the theologian most recognized as teaching predestination), predestination was both “a horrible decree” and a “very sweet fruit.” In spite of the potential conflict, nevertheless, predestination is a category that comes from the Bible, it is not one forced upon it. So, as we look at predestination, we would do well to remember the counsel of the Westminster Confession of Faith which warns,

“The doctrine of this high and holy mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men, attending to the will of God revealed in His Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election. So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the Gospel” (WCF III.8). 

Lastly, Calvin defended the teaching of this doctrine by reminding us that God would not give us something that was not for our good. As the Confession states, this doctrine is for our assurance and strengthening of faith, not for the confusion and destruction of it.

If it would be of help, you can watch R.C. Sproul’s lectures based on this book here.

Read chapter one and we’ll discuss the following questions on Sunday.

  1. Who are the philosophers and theologians addressed?
  2. How would you define the doctrine of predestination?
  3. What questions about the implication of the doctrine of predestination do you have?
  4. What do you hope to come to learn through this study?

Deep Church Discussion, Chapter 1

In Chapter 1, Jim Belcher explains how this book is the consequence of a very personal quest as to a biblical ecclesiology. As he pursues this quest, he comes to realize that there seems to be a tension which pits two caricatures as two unbridgeable and divergent options: Emergent/Emerging OR Traditional. Though out the book he will employ the tension and mediate a third option.

Postmodern or Hyper-modern?
There is an ongoing discussion as to whether postmodernity is something completely different or if it is the logical consequence of modernity (a.k.a. hyper-modernism). You can see this continuity worked out in several instances in the chapter as Belcher moves into discussing his frustrations with the Gen X movement especially as it employed pragmatism and homogeneity.

Pragmatism is, I believe, a modernist category. Though doing what works is not inherently bad (it is common sense), it does not mean that if it works it is necessarily good. For example, while establishing a Gen X worship service, Belcher writes, “…we launched our new alternative service, The Warehouse. We had figured out the recipe for a Gen X service inside a large church, and it was working.” A “working recipe” is a modernist concept — it’s a law, principle, or rule which, if applied correctly, will always yield the desired outcome.

Later on, Belcher acknowledges this tension. He notes that this working recipe bisected society generationally. In fact this homogeneity or demographic targeting of a population is one of the marketing techniques employed by the Seeker Movement. In speaking of his unease, Belcher writes “We had misgivings about the worship of the early Gen X movement. It seemed overly contextualized. In an attempt to reach the culture around it, the worship looked too much like the world and was not counter-cultural enough. Gen X worship seemed like a hipper version of the boomer’s seeker worship.” And so, you are left with Seeker Worship the Next Generation. Sadly, though, because you have so targeted a generational demographic, you cut yourself off from the wisdom of the life-experienced. Belcher (and his wife) recognized this critical flaw and were drawn to something more.

The Day that Gen X Worship Died
Belcher does not go into great detail about this, but as an aside, he does mention that pre-2001 the proto-emergent church was commonly called Gen X ministry. After 2001 the movement begins to be called the Emergent Movement or Emerging Christians. Though this shift may have occurred because of the
formalization and organization of discussions around blogs and gatherings, I can’t help but think that 9-11 also marked a significant shift in American cultural life and the church. So much, it seems, that made sense before suddenly lost meaning and purpose.

Here are a few questions for discussion:

  1. What has been the best community you’ve ever been a part of or experienced? Why?
  2. How have we been helped by or engaged in the following at GPC: diversity and non-homogenity? our denomination? worship? and gospel centeredness?

Here are some links to those people mentioned in the chapter:

  1. Jim Belcher and Redeemer
  2. Emergent Village
  3. Rob Bell
  4. Brian McLaren
  5. Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill
  6. Tim Keller and Redeemer.

twenties Counterfeit Gods Discussion, Chapter 2

In chapter two of Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller addresses the contemporary cultural idol of love an romance. Employing Jacob’s relationships with Rachel and Leah, Keller shows how making romantic love a centering purpose for you life ultimately undermines and even destroys meaningful and healthy relationships. Here are a couple of questions for you as you read and apply the chapter.

Questions

  1. What are the stories and movies which feed the graven image of love and romance?
  2. Keller exposits Genesis 29. Read that chapter and note any passages which speak to you and any passages which you do not understand or stir up further questions.
  3. Each person mentioned in Genesis 29 is dealing with some level of idolatry. What idols do Jacob, Laban, Lean, and Rachel serve?
  4. If idolatry can lead you to “break any promise, rationalize any indiscretion, or betray any other allegiance in order to hold onto it”, how does this play out in the character’s lives? How does it play out in your life?
  5. Are there gender differences? How do men and women approach their desires and dreams differently? How do men and women approach love and romance differently?
  6. What idols do you face? How can you discover what they are?
  7. Share a story when you faced cosmic disappointment or disillusionment. How has God employed that circumstance in your life?
  8. How does one free one’s heart or self from the love or pursuit of an idol?
  9. How does knowing the “true bridegroom” change you?

Resources

  • Company, by Stephen Sondheim was shown on Great Performances last
  • Thomas Chalmer’s sermon, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection” can be read here.

Dawn Treader’s Conclusion

The High School Dawn Treader’s finished the Voyage of The Dawn Treader last night at Panera. As always, I had a great time.

Though I often drone on and on about Lewis, the Chronicles of Narnia have been very helpful as a source of illustration (as the congregation of GPC can well attest). I have enjoyed tremendously our sojourn in Lewis this past summer and fall.

The Dawn Treader is all about the virtues which the poet’s ascribed to Sol or the sun. I was struck last night by the scene in which Caspian, much to his crew’s dismay and displeasure, decides to go with Reepicheep into the utter East. After being confronted by Aslan in his berth, Caspian relents and submits to his crew’s wise counsel. I was perplexed as to why Lewis would put this curiously negative story at the very end of the book. I was perplexed until I read again Lewis’ lines from his homage to the planets in a poem by the same name. Sol is the one whose “sword of light hurts and humbles.” Ah, that’s it. Nothing hurts and humbles like standing in the light, and there is no better response to the Light than repentance and humility. I think this is why Lewis put this story at the end: the most important virtue imbued by Sol is not liberality, knowledge, or gold, but rather a humble repentance.

In honor of our completion of the book, here are Lewis’ words on Sol from “The Planets”

“…Far beyond [Venus]
 The heaven’s highway hums and  trembles,

Drums and dindles, to the driv’n thunder
Of SOL’s chariot, whose sword of light
Hurts and humbles; beheld only
Of eagle’s eye. When his arrow glances
Through mortal mind, mists are parted
And mild as morning the mellow wisdom Breathes o’er the breast, brodening eastward
Clear and cloudless. In a clos’d garden
(Unbound her burden) his beams foster
Soul in secret, where the soil puts forth
Paradisal palm, and pur fountains
Turn and re-temper, touching coolly
The uncomely common to cordial gold;
Whose ore also, in earth’s matrix,
Is print and pressure of his proud signet
On the wax of the world. He is the worshipp’d male,
The earth’s husband, all-beholding,
Arch-chemic eye…”

 Incidentally, the church in which I first served as youth pastor has an homage to Sol in it’s sanctuary. For their part the building is one of the last remaining Art Deco school buildings in the state. In case you were wondering, Sol is flanked by attending angels and the remaining planets. Dante has both philosophers and theologians inhabiting the sphere of Sol in his Paradiso.