For reading and reflection

current reading 2From Alan Jacobs at Snakes & Ladders:

1. “Reconsidering ‘Evangelical'” [link] and

2. “Accountable” [link]

And, continuing the conversation started by LeCrae and John Piper, from Raymond Chang, The Exchange:

3. “Open Letter to John Piper on White Evangelicalism and Multiethnic Relations” [link]

(for earlier parts of this conversation — called to my attention by my older daughter — see LeCrae’s conversation at Truth’s Table [link]; and Piper, “My Hopeful Response” [link].  If someone has the link to LeCrae’s written piece, please send it to me).

Born at the Right Time

What the Incarnation Means for Us All

December 18, 2016 | Galatians 4 (“In the fullness of time . . .”)

born-at-the-right-timeTaiwan, it seems, has one of the highest rates of Caesarian births in the world, which leads to two questions.

“What are you talking about, Al?” and “Why is that?”

A Caesarian section is an operation whereby a baby is born by surgically opening the womb of the pregnant woman, usually because of some medical emergency. It was done in ancient times, nearly always at the cost of the life of the mother. I would have guessed that it was called a Caesarian birth because Julius Caesar was born that way, but that is apparently a myth. In any case, it is relatively common these days, and not terribly dangerous.

It is apparently very common in Taiwan, even when it is not medically indicated.

A study followed 150 women in Taiwan who were pregnant with their first child, and found that 93 of them had caesarean deliveries before 39 weeks, though none of them had any complications.

This seemed decidedly odd, since of course pre-term Caesarean births require more medical and surgical intervention, require longer hospital stays, cost more money and are somewhat more dangerous for mother and baby. To be clear, these were not emergency Caesareans, these were elective Caesareans by women who had never been through childbirth before. Continue reading Born at the Right Time

Perception and acceptance

“And Grace calls out, ‘You are not just a disillusioned old man who may die soon, a middle-aged woman stuck in a job and desperately wanting to get out, a young person feeling the fire in the belly begin to grow cold. You may be insecure, inadequate, mistaken or potbellied. Death, panic, depression, and disillusionment may be near you. But you are not just that. You are accepted.’ Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted.”

Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

God’s rights, and ours

Jesus says, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” but it is easy to kid ourselves that he makes no demands whatsoever.  The dividing line between believer and non-believer isn’t a matter of fine theological detail, or practical living as a kind, loving person, it is recognition that the Creator has a right to ask something of me that I do not want to give, and that my compliance is flawed.  The fine theological details come in deciding what he actually requires.  The practical living comes in deciding whether I will give it, and what needs to be done when I fail or rebel.


Holy hands, unholy world
Mark 5:21-43
In 1976, a particularly nasty contagion took the lives of 151 people in Sudan and another 280 in Zaire. The disease recurred in Sudan and took the lives of another 22 people. It lay dormant for 15 years, then took 97 lives in Gabon and 254 lives in Zaire from 1994-1997. The virus took two years off. From 2000-2004 Central African countries lost 484 more people to this disease. Two more years without deaths. We are up to 1,288. From 2007-2012, another 291 people died: 1,579 in all. The most severe outbreak of all occurred in December 2013, leading to 11,385 deaths in Africa and beyond. Last week there were another 20 confirmed cases of the disease in Sierra Leone and Guinea.

In all, about 13,000 people have died from one of four strains of the Ebola virus. The most deadly strain — Ebola Zaire — has a 90% death rate. It is a hemorrhagic disease, transmitted by blood, saliva, milk, semen, urine, vomit.

It is a horrible disease. I am not going to explain it. We live in a seriously messed up world.

Let’s pray.

* * *

I invite you to turn to the book of Mark, chapter 5, verse 21. Jesus is in the early part of his ministry, teaching in and around the large lake in the north of Israel which is called the Sea of Tiberius, of the Sea of Galilee. It is about a.d. 30. He had been on the eastern side of the lake and was returning to the western shore, perhaps near the town of Gennesaret or Capernaum.

521And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. 22Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23and implored him earnestly, saying, My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.

A great crowd surrounds Jesus, who is in danger of becoming a celebrity. He is in the midst of a large number of people who have heard of his teaching, his exorcisms and his healings — they are interested in seeing what he will do next.

Continue reading Contagion

Fool’s Talk: “The Grand Secular Age of Apologetics”


Everyone defends their viewpoint, says Os Guinness in a fascinating new book:

From the shortest texts and tweets to the humblest website, to the angriest blog, to the most visited social networks, the daily communications of the wired world attest that everyone is now in the business of relentless self-promotion— presenting themselves, explaining themselves, defending themselves, selling themselves or sharing their inner thoughts and emotions as never before in human history. That is why it can be said that we are in the grand secular age of apologetics.”

Guinness, Os. Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion (Kindle Locations 153-156). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.