Russell and Duenes

Archive for April 2011

One Great Lesson Al Mohler Has Learned

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I agreed with this assessment by Al Mohler and thought I’d post it here for your musing.

I think the one great lesson the Lord has taught me over these years is that the importance of the family and the local congregation supersedes every other relationship to which the Christian is called. Christians demonstrate the glory of God and the power of the gospel by the way we marry and stay married, by the way we raise our children, by the way we love each other, and by the way we live faithfully in the congregation of believers. In the end, I fear that far too much energy is devoted to and far too many hopes are invested in institutions, programs, and projects that will not last. The centrality of Christ’s purpose to glorify himself in His church and the blessings of God that are directed to the precious gift of the family — these far exceed our other allegiances.

-D

HT: Justin Taylor

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Written by Michael Duenes

April 29, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

Enter Every Trembling Heart

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I’ve been discussing some of the great hymns of the church with my high school juniors, and this week we’ve been looking at “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” by Charles Wesley. I’ve always been moved by one line in particular from the first stanza:

“Visit us with Thy salvation; enter every trembling heart.”

The “trembling heart.” I thought of Isaiah 66:2, “This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and who trembles at my word.” Or Philippians 2: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

I think we’re afraid of the trembling heart, perhaps in the same way that the Israelites were afraid of Mt. Sinai. As John Piper once pointed out, we so badly want to give people assurance in their faith that we no longer have any tolerance for the “trembling” heart, the heart that fidgets and twitches in spiritual struggle. We want a God who is tame and we want his word to be something that rests lightly upon us. We fear the reality that God’s Word is, as Jeremiah writes, like a hammer that breaks through rock. We fear a word that is “sharper than any two-edged sword.”

How do we again come to a place where we “tremble at God’s Word,” where God enters trembling hearts? I’m not sure, but something tells me that much of what we find discouraging about the western Christian church today follows from the fact that our hearts are not trembling before God.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

April 28, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

NY Times Columnist David Brooks Hits One Out of the Park

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New York Times columnist, David Brooks, truly hits one out of the park with his recent column entitled: Creed or Chaos. While reviewing the Broadway play, “The Book of Mormon,” Brooks makes a point which I don’t think can be made often enough, namely, the only kind of Christianity that’s worth anything and that has anything to offer humanity is the doctrinally rigorous and orthodox kind. He writes,

The only problem with “The Book of Mormon” (you realize when thinking about it later) is that its theme is not quite true. Vague, uplifting, nondoctrinal religiosity doesn’t actually last. The religions that grow, succor and motivate people to perform heroic acts of service are usually theologically rigorous, arduous in practice and definite in their convictions about what is True and False. That’s because people are not gods. No matter how special some individuals may think they are, they don’t have the ability to understand the world on their own, establish rules of good conduct on their own, impose the highest standards of conduct on their own, or avoid the temptations of laziness on their own. The religions that thrive have exactly what “The Book of Mormon” ridicules: communal theologies, doctrines and codes of conduct rooted in claims of absolute truth.

Read the entire column here.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

April 26, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Posted in Duenes, Theology

William Cowper: Welcome Cross

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I was doing some research for a unit I want to teach in my 11th grade Bible class on hymns, and I dipped into John Piper’s book The Hidden Smile of God and came across this gem by William Cowper called Welcome Cross.

‘Tis my happiness below
Not to live without the cross,
But the Saviour’s power to know,
Sanctifying every loss;
Trials must and will befall;
But with humble faith to see
Love inscribed upon them all,
This is happiness to me.

God in Israel sows the seeds
Of affliction, pain, and toil;
These spring up and choke the weeds
Which would else o’erspread the soil:
Trials make the promise sweet,
Trials give new life to prayer;
Trials bring me to His feet,
Lay me low, and keep me there.

Did I meet no trials here,
No chastisement by the way,
Might I not with reason fear
I should prove a castaway?
Bastards may escape the rod,
Sunk in earthly vain delight;
But the true-born child of God
Must not – would not, if he might.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

April 24, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Posted in Duenes, Poetry

G.K. Chesterton and the Resurrection

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‘God raised Jesus from the dead!’  This was the fundamental and unalterable testimony of those who had physically seen Jesus dead and then alive again.  The historical fact of Jesus resurrection is the ground and basis of all true love, hope, and joy; for if Jesus is still in the grave then all of humanity will remain in the grave too.  But he is not in the grave, and this makes all the difference.  Now those who put their hope in Jesus may find their way into a fullness of joy: partially in this world; fully in the next.  May praise to God and joy in Jesus be the main thing in your Easter.  He is risen indeed!  Chesterton concludes,

Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial.  Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul.  Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live…The sceptic may truly be said to be topsy-turvy; for his feet are dancing upwards in idle ecstasies, while his brain is in the abyss.  To the modern man the heavens are actually below the earth.  The explanation is simple; he is standing on his head; which is a very weak pedestal to stand on.  But when he has found his feet again he knows it.  Christianity satisfies suddenly and perfectly man’s ancestral instinct for being the right way up; satisfies it supremely in this; that by its creed joy becomes something gigantic and sadness something special and small…Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian. 

     The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels [namely, Jesus] towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall.  His pathos was natural, almost casual.  The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears.  He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city.  Yet He concealed something.  Solemn Super-men and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger.  He never restrained His anger.  He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell.  Yet He restained something.  I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness.  There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray.  There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation.  There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth. (“Orthdodoxy,” the last chapter)

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

April 23, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Posted in Duenes, Theology