Category Archives: Observations

The Name Below All Names

by John Perritt
Desiring God, September 12, 2017

I have distinct memories of holding each of my five children for the first time. My wife and I never found out the sex of our children prior to their birth, so holding them and naming them in that moment always brought about waves of emotion that were too strong to overcome. Although each of my children were light and fragile in my adult hands — some lighter than others — I knew the weight of this new life required strength I did not have.

In considering the birth of a child, it’s sobering to consider the point in history when a man and woman held their child for the first time and said, “We will call him Judas.”

What were their hopes and dreams for him? What were the moments of laughter they shared with this young boy, the memories they repeatedly shared at the table? Consider the moments of pride the Iscariots shared as their boy learned to speak and took his first steps. Surely they felt similar emotions to most parents as they witnessed the maturation process of a boy becoming a man.

Notorious Name

The name Judas is one that’s familiar to most ears. Like Hitler, Stalin, or bin Laden, it conjures up many feelings of disdain and disgust. It leaves a haunting notion of betrayal, that seems more grave than that of Brutus and Benedict Arnold. Other traitors pale by comparison.

When it comes to notorious names, Judas is the name below all names, and appropriately so. While the aforementioned names deserve to be names that remain despised throughout the annals of history, Judas remains in a league of its own. Each of the men listed committed atrocities, some large-scale, others smaller. But Judas committed the most grievous act in the history of the world: the betrayal of the second person of the Trinity. The firstborn of all creation. The One by whom, and through whom, all things were created (Colossians 1:15–16).

In the words of John MacArthur, “Judas is the most colossal failure in all of human history. He committed the most horrible, heinous act of any individual, ever. He betrayed the perfect, sinless, holy Son of God for a handful of money.”

The name Judas is forever tarnished because of his egregious sin. But it’s not the only one.

Judas and Me

Whether it’s Judas, John, or Jennifer, all of our names have been tarnished by the sin that poisons every human heart. It may not have traded for thirty pieces of silver, or earned historical notoriety, but I too have betrayed the Son of God. There are times I’ve denied knowing him, like Peter. There have been moments of adultery, like David. I’ve murdered. Gossiped. Lied. Stolen. I’m unable to love God with my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

For Christians to grasp the weight of our sin, we must stop looking down on the name Judas as though we are on higher ground. The same temptations, cares, lusts, and greeds of Judas’s heart are in yours and mine. I get the sense that Christians often think of Judas like some character from a myth or fable. He’s just a villain, perhaps. In doing so, we separate ourselves from him, and when we do that, we are in danger of the same mistakes of Judas.

As J.C. Ryle once said, “A right knowledge of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity.” Or Christ himself, “The tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” (Luke 18:13). Only those who know their sin are justified (Luke 18:14).

As John Piper has preached,

If we are ever to grasp the gospel, we must grasp the ugliness of our sin. If we never admit that we don’t just do bad things — we are bad — the gospel will never land in power. Our sins will always be healed lightly. I need to crawl into the cesspool of my heart and claw my way to the bottom, believing there’s Jesus’s blood down there, not hell. But it’s at the bottom of our sin, not only part way down.

Those who know the saving work of Jesus Christ look at the life of Judas and see themselves. Instead of seeing a person they scoff at, they look upon Judas with sobriety and even a kind of empathy, knowing that the only thing that separates them from Judas is grace.

A New Name

The life of Judas should foster thoughts of humility and discernment. We are not above this man in the sense that our hearts are just as broken as his at the most basic level. Nevertheless, Christians are not Judas. We have been given a name that clothes us in righteous robes that will never fade. Even now, though broken sinners, we are heirs to an eternal throne of riches beyond our comprehension.

While we find many commonalities shared between the world’s greatest traitor, we have the name “child of God” placed upon us. Just as our birth name was placed upon us apart from our doing, the name given to us at our new birth was also given apart from our doing. The name of “enemy” was removed, and “child” was bestowed. It has been fixed upon our hearts and “no power of hell, no scheme of man” can remove it.

We have been given this name because that one with the name above all names, Jesus Christ, left his throne, came to earth, lived a perfect life, and died an atoning death in the place of his children. He has conquered sin, he has conquered death, and he has secured a place for those children who still act a bit like Judas at times.

Christians are sobered by the sin that remains in our hearts. We feel sorrow from the price our Savior paid to remove our stained garments. But we also rejoice in the finished work of Jesus Christ and know that, one day soon, we will feel his embrace and thank the God-man who gave us a new name

A Prayer in the Path of Hurricanes

by John Piper

O Lord God, mighty and merciful, we are asking for mercy — mercy amid the manifestations of your great might. We are asking, for Jesus’s sake. Not because we deserve anything better than calamity. We know that we have sinned. We have exchanged the high treasure of your glory for trinkets. We have not loved you with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. We have sown the wind, and reaped the whirlwind. We are pleading for mercy.

We make no demands. You are God, and we are not. We are bent low in submission to your just and sovereign power. Indeed, we are prostrate before the unstoppable wind of your justice and wisdom.

We know that you, O Lord, are great. Whatever you please, you do, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. You make clouds rise at the end of the earth. You bring forth the wind from its storehouses.

You have commanded and raised the mighty wind, and it has lifted up the waves of the sea. The floods have lifted up, O Lord. You have tilted the waterskins of the heavens.

You sweep us away as with a flood. You kill and you make alive; you wound and you heal; and there is none that can deliver out of your hand. You sit enthroned over the flood — enthroned as King forever.

We are like a dream, like dust swept off the street in a torrent.

But you, O God, are mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea. It is our peril and our hope that you can do all things, and no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

O Lord, do not sleep through this storm. O Lord, let not the flood sweep over us, or the deep swallow us up. Rise up! And do what only you can do amid these winds and waves. Rebuke them, as you once did. When they have done your wise and needed work, let them not have one minute more of strength. Command them, O Christ, to cease, we pray. And make a holy calm. For you are God, all things are your servants.

And give us ears, O God. Your voice, O Lord, is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. O God, forbid that we would not give heed.

Open our ears, you who once brought Job to humble silence, announcing from the whirlwind who you are, and that, when all is lost, the story then unfolds that in it all your purpose was compassionate and kind.

Whether we sit waste deep in the water of our Texas homes, or wait, uncertain, with blankets on a church pew, or nail the plywood to our Florida shop, or sit secure and dry a thousand miles from any sea, teach us, in mercy, what we need to learn, and cannot any other way.

And woe to us who, far away from floods, would point our finger at the sufferer and wonder at his greater sin, forgetting how the voice of Jesus rings in every tragedy: “Do you think that they were worse offenders? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” The very word of God to all Americans.

And now, O Lord, unleash the common grace of kindness from a million hearts and bank accounts, and grant as great a mercy in rebuilding as you once gave verdict to destroy. Restrain, O God, the evil hearts of those who would bring sorrow upon sorrow by looting what is left behind, or exploiting loss for private gain.

And in your church awaken this: the truth that you once gave yourself for us that we might be redeemed, not first from floods, but sin and lawlessness. That you once died, not first to put us out of peril, but to make us pure. Not first to spare us misery, but to make us zealous for good deeds. And so, O mighty Christ, unleash from us another flood: the blood-bought passion of your people not for ruin, but for rebuilding lives and homes.

O Father, awaken every soul to see where we have built our lives on sand. Show us from every storm the way to build our lives on rock. Oh, are you not our rock? Our fortress, our deliverer, our God in whom we take refuge, our shield, and the horn of our salvation, our stronghold. How great the fall of every life built on the sand of human skill!

And yet, how great the sure and solid gift held out to everyone in Christ! For you have said more wonderfully than we can ever tell:

Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword — or wind, or waves? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through your great love for us.

For you have made us say with deep assurance: Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor hurricanes nor floods, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And all in Jesus’s name,

Amen.

What It Means To Be “In Jesus”

Being “in Christ Jesus” is a stupendous reality. It is breathtaking what it means to be in Christ. United to Christ. Bound to Christ.

If you are “in Christ” listen to what it means for you:

In Christ Jesus you have become a new creation and a son of God. Second Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Galatians 3:26, “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

In Christ Jesus you were chosen by God before creation. Ephesians 1:4, “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.”

In Christ Jesus you are loved by God with an inseparable love. Romans 8:38–39, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In Christ Jesus you were redeemed and forgiven for all your sins. Ephesians 1:7, “In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.”

In Christ Jesus you are justified before God and the righteousness of God in Christ is imputed to you. Second Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

In Christ Jesus you have become a new creation and a son of God. Second Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Galatians 3:26, “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

by John Piper, Solid Joys, August 29, 2017

Romans 8

       Personalized and Re-phrased

+++Because I am in Christ Jesus, I cannot fall under any condemnation; the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in me as I walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For when I live according to the flesh, I set my mind on the things of the flesh, but when I live according to the Spirit, I set my mind on the things of the Spirit. For to set my mind on the flesh is death, but to set my mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

+++When my mind is set on the flesh, it is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law — indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. I, however, am not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in me. If I didn’t have the Spirit of Christ, I wouldn’t belong to Him. But since Christ is in me, although my body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Since the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in me, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to my mortal body through His Spirit who dwells in me.

+++So then, since I am a Christian indwelled by God’s Spirit, I am a debtor, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if I live according to the flesh I will die, but if I walk in the Spirit and put to death the deeds of my body, I will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons and daughters of God. For I did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but I have received the Spirit of adoption as a child of God, by whom I cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself bears witness with my spirit that I am indeed a child of God, and if I am a child, then I am an heir—an heir of God and a fellow heir with Christ, provided I temporarily suffer with Him now in order that I may also be glorified with Him in the future.

+++For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to me. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons and daughters of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in the hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

+++For I know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but I myself, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as I wait eagerly for my completed adoption as a son or daughter and the redemption of my body. For in this hope I was saved.

+++Now, hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what they see? But if I hope for what I do not see, I wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps me in my weakness. For I do not know what to pray for as I ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for me with groaning too deep for words. And He who searches my heart knows what is the mind of the indwelling Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for me according to the will of God. And I know that, for me, as one who loves God, all things work together for good because I am called according to His purpose: because He foreknew me, He also predestined me to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.

+++What then shall I say to these things? If God is for me, who can be against me? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for me, how will he not also with Him graciously give me all things? Who shall bring any charge against me? I am one of God’s elect! After all, it is God who justifies me. Who is to condemn me? Christ Jesus is the one who died for me—more than that, who was raised from the dead for me—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for me. Who shall separate me from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

++++++“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
++++++we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things I am more than conqueror through Him who loves me. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Don Cadwallader

The democratization of manipulation

 

by danah boyd, an excerpt from her Apophenia blog:

http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2017/01/06/hacking-the-attention-economy.html

danah boyd is founder/president of Data & Society (datasociety.net) and author of the book “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens.”

Note: Apophenia is the spontaneous perception of connections and meaningfulness of unrelated phenomena. The term was coined by German neurologist and psychiatrist Klaus Conrad (1905-1961). Conrad focused on the finding of abnormal meaning or significance in random experiences by psychotic people.

In the early days of blogging, many of my fellow bloggers imagined that our practice could disrupt mainstream media. For many progressive activists, social media could be a tool that could circumvent institutionalized censorship and enable a plethora of diverse voices to speak out and have their say. Civic minded scholars were excited by “smart mobs” who leveraged new communications platforms to coordinate in a decentralized way to speak truth to power. Arab Spring. Occupy Wall Street. Black Lives Matter. These energized progressives as “proof” that social technologies could make a new form of civil life possible.

I spent 15 years watching teenagers play games with powerful media outlets and attempt to achieve control over their own ecosystem. They messed with algorithms, coordinated information campaigns, and resisted attempts to curtail their speech. Like Chinese activists, they learned to hide their traces when it was to their advantage to do so.

Of course, it wasn’t just progressive activists and teenagers who were learning how to mess with the media ecosystem that has emerged since social media unfolded. We’ve also seen the political establishment, law enforcement, marketers, and hate groups build capacity at manipulating the media landscape. Very little of what’s happening is truly illegal, but there’s no widespread agreement about which of these practices are socially and morally acceptable or not.

The techniques that are unfolding are hard to manage and combat. Some of them look like harassment, prompting people to self-censor out of fear. Others look like “fake news”, highlighting the messiness surrounding bias, misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda. There is hate speech that is explicit, but there’s also suggestive content that prompts people to frame the world in particular ways. Dog whistle politics have emerged in a new form of encoded content, where you have to be in the know to understand what’s happening. Companies who built tools to help people communicate are finding it hard to combat the ways their tools are being used by networks looking to skirt the edges of the law and content policies. Institutions and legal instruments designed to stop abuse are finding themselves ill-equipped to function in light of networked dynamics.

The Internet has long been used for gaslighting [manipulating someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity], and trolls [a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages] have long targeted adversaries. What has shifted recently is the scale of the operation, the coordination of the attacks, and the strategic agenda of some of the players.

For many who are learning these techniques, it’s no longer simply about fun, nor is it even about the lulz [beginning as a plural variant of lol, lulz was originally an exclamation but is now often used as a noun meaning interesting or funny internet content]. It has now become about acquiring power.

A new form of information manipulation is unfolding in front of our eyes. It is political. It is global. And it is populist in nature. The news media is being played like a fiddle, while decentralized networks of people are leveraging the ever-evolving networked tools around them to hack the attention economy.

I only wish I knew what happens next.

Jonathan Edwards on beauty, desire, and the sensory world

A theological paper by Belden C. Lane

Jonathan Edwards perceived the natural world as a school of de- sire. He thought that by carefully attending to the sensory splendors (and terrors) of creation, believers learn to apprehend God’s glory, which is itself more sensory than anything we can imagine. The human task of bringing the world to a consciousness of its beauty in God is full of ecological implications. As George Marsden says in his new biography of Edwards, “The key to Edwards’ thought is that everything is related because everything is related to God.

BELDEN LANE received his Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is currently the Hotfelder Professor in the Humanities, Theological Studies, at Saint Louis University. He has recently published Landscapes of the Sacred: Geography and Narrative in American Spirituality (Johns Hopkins University, 2001) and The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality (Oxford University, 1998). He is now working on a book provisionally entitled Nature and Spirituality in the Reformed Tradition from John Calvin to Jonathan Edwards.

Edwards:Beauty.pdf

Seven mysteries revealed in the New Testament

1.  The mystery of Christ in you, the hope of glory: the mystery of the Church. (Colossians 1:27)

2.  The mystery of godliness and Christ the God-man. (Timothy 3:16)

3.  The mystery of the hardening of Israel. (Romans 11:25)

4.   The mystery of the resurrection of believers. (I Corinthians 15:51)

5.  The mystery of the gospel. (Ephesians 6:19)

6.  The mystery of lawlessness. (II Timothy 2:2)

7.  The mystery of faith. (I Timothy 3:9)

Hananiah Part II: Prepare for the long haul

Jeremiah 28:12-17

Hananiah’s message to the people was a positive one, proclaiming God’s triumph over the Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar.  The message was packaged with tasty details (“within two years” and “I will…bring back…Jeconiah”) and heroic images of release from exile.  Jeremiah in so many words said, “Great message — I wish it were true!”  But it was a lie and the people believed it and, in the end, it constituted “rebellion against the Lord.”

For me, I understand the desire of God’s people (including myself) to sound heroic on God’s behalf.  But maybe He is planning a period of darkness before the light finally dawns.  I may not even see the light in some cases!  Many Israelites must have died before they could see what they wanted to see: God take away the 70-year iron yoke of Nebuchadnezzar.

Therefore I need to keep working on my daily relationship with God and making sure it’s genuine and not drift off into pleasant-sounding diversions because, in the end, God’s ways can be a mystery, and I need to be prepared for the long haul.

What shall we do if we take ignorance to be knowledge?

From Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

In America, everyone is entitled to an opinion, and it is certainly useful to have a few when a pollster shows up. But these are opinions of a quite different roder from eighteenth- or nineteenth-century opinions. It is probably more accurate to call them emotions rather than opinions, which would account for the fact that they change from week to week, as the pollsters tell us.

What is happening here is that television is altering the meaning of ‘being informed’ by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation. I am using this world almost in the precise sense in which it is used by spies in the CIA or KGB.

Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information–misplace, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information–information that creates the illusion of knowing something but which in fact leads one away from knowing. In saying this, I do not mean to imply that television news deliberately aims to deprive Americans of a coherent, contextual understanding of their world.

I mean to say that when news is packaged as entertainment, that is the inevitable result. And in saying that the television news show entertains but does not inform, I am saying something far more serious than that we are being deprived of authentic information. I am saying we are losing our sense of what it means to be well informed. Ignorance is always correctable. But what shall we do if we take ignorance to be knowledge?