Noel Cordle: The Desires of My Heart

Today I would like to direct your attention to a post by Noel Cordle about God’s will and the desires of our heart.

What is God’s will, anyway?  Is it something that is all written out for us already in invisible ink, where all we have to do is find the right thing that will reveal the hidden message?  Or is it something that we are free to choose, as long as you live according to the Bible’s teachings and live in a way that honors God?

Read Noel Cordle’s The Desires of My Heart

And while you’re at it, be sure to check out the rest of her blog.  She is a very good writer.

Why I Am Proud to Be From Louisiana

As many of you probably know, I am originally from the great state of Louisiana.  And today I would like to show you something which makes me really proud of this.

As a native Louisianian, I can assure you that this is not atypical of what goes on in the Louisiana legislature.  So if you are wondering why Louisiana is at or near the bottom in almost everything, here it is–it is because the Louisiana legislators spend all day doing what you see here.

Les Miserables 19: Father Fauchelevent

Last time we met Javert and we saw that he was one man who was not taken in by Father Madeleine.  There was one other, and that would be the man whom we will meet today:  Father Fauchelevent.

Father Fauchelevent was a well-educated notary, but by the time Father Madeleine came along, his business had begun to decline.  He felt a serious twinge of jealousy:  This mere artisan was growing rich, while he, an educated professional, was only going downhill.  So he took every opportunity he could come across to injure Father Madeleine.  Eventually he went bankrupt and lost everything but his horse and cart; this left him with no choice but to try to make his living as a carter.

One day he had an accident.  He fell under his cart; his horse was injured in the fall and could not get up.  The streets were wet that day from recent rains; the cart was sinking fast and soon he would be crushed.

A crowd had gathered around to watch.  Father Madeleine was walking down the street and he saw this.  Someone had sent for a jack to lift the cart off of Fauchelevent, but it would be fifteen minutes before the jack arrived and the cart was sinking so fast that by that time he would long since have been crushed.

When Father Madeleine became fully aware of the situation, he asked for someone–anyone–to go under the cart and help to lift it off him.  But there were no takers.  Javert, who was there as well, told him that there was no one there who was strong enough to lift that cart.  The only person Javert knew who would be strong enough to do that was a certain convict from the prison at Toulon. Continue reading “Les Miserables 19: Father Fauchelevent”

Michael Spencer on Worship

Today I would like to direct your attention to another post over at Michael Spencer’s blog.  (What?  Another Michael Spencer post?  Yeah.  Gotta problem with that?  Tough.  Deal with it.)

The post which I have in mind for you is on worship.  It is about the commercial and professional enterprise of worship music which has developed within evangelical Protestant-dom over the last couple of decades, and how this is an extremely unfortunate development.  This meshes quite well with what I have said about worship in previous posts.

Notice that he is not saying anything about traditional versus contemporary worship.  Rather, what he is speaking to is the idea that when anyone says “worship”, our very first thought is “Crank up the band and let’s all get crunk for Jesus!!!!!”  We don’t have anything to say about the idea of worship as participation in an ordered liturgy, acts of service to the least among us whom Jesus clearly identified himself with, or any other facet of a life lived to the glory of God in its totality.

Read “The Big Worship Goof” by Michael Spencer

Les Miserables 18: Vague Flashes on the Horizon

Last time we saw how the town of Montreuil-sur-mer had changed drastically in Fantine’s absence, and we met the man responsible for this drastic change, Father Madeleine.

Father Madeleine was respected and admired throughout MSM.  He had his share of cynics and detractors as well, but in time even the staunchest of these were won over.  All except for one man.  This one man was a high-ranking police inspector, and his name was Javert.

Victor Hugo introduces Javert by setting up, in his usual eloquent prose, the idea that every person represents at least one animal, so that all species of the animal kingdom are represented among the human race.  Now, certain peasants believe that in every litter of wolves there is one cub which is killed by the mother for fear that when it grows up it will devour all the others.  This wolf’s cub would be Javert.

Javert was born in prison, the son of a gypsy mother.  It seems that he was ashamed of this for some reason or other, because he grew up with an irascible hatred of gypsies.  Here is what Victor Hugo has to say about him: Continue reading “Les Miserables 18: Vague Flashes on the Horizon”

NextReformation: Leadership as “Vision”

Today I would like to direct your attention to a short post over at NextReformation about the whole “vision” thing which seems to have swept through evangelical Protestant-dom during the last couple of decades.  Basically it says that this whole “vision” thing is nothing more than a fancy way of saying “I am the alpha wolf around here; you need to just submit to me.”  A far cry from the kind of leadership which Jesus modeled and expected His disciples to implement.

As always, your comments, suggestions, dirty jokes (Well…I don’t know about that.  We’ll have to see), etc. are welcome.

Les Miserables 17: Madeleine

Last time we saw that the whole village of Montfermeil thought Cosette had been abandoned and forgotten by her mother Fantine.  But what was the truth of the matter?  We get some advance indication that things will not turn out well for Fantine, when we see that she began to fall behind in her payments to the Thenardiers.  Now we get to see the whole thing from Fantine’s perspective.

Having left Cosette safely (so she thought) in the care of the Thenardiers, Fantine continued on to MSM and found that the town had changed drastically in her absence.

Montreuil-sur-mer was a small coastal town in northern France.  If you look on Mapquest, you can find a town called Montreuil located about seven miles in from the coast and about eighty miles north of downtown Paris.  I have no idea if this is the same Montreuil-sur-mer which appears in the story, but it seems to be in the right part of the country because it is thirty miles from a town called Arras which will figure into some of the later action.

At any rate, MSM had staked its living and livelihood on making imitation jet beads and black glass trinkets.  But in order to make the black, they had to use a certain kind of resin which was very expensive and hard to come by.  This made the beads and trinkets which they produced very expensive, and as a result business was extremely slow for them. Continue reading “Les Miserables 17: Madeleine”

Digging Into the Vault: Joe’s Deep Dark Secret

I joined Facebook a couple of months back.  Since then I have been amazed at how I have had the opportunity to reconnect with people from college, high school, and even elementary school whom I have not seen or heard from in ages.

I have also been amazed at the amount of change that has taken place in the lives of my friends since the time that I last knew them.  Many are now married, some have kids, and some have moved to faraway places.  Some have undergone even more major changes than this, such as changes in religious belief and even changes in sexual orientation.

I have undergone some major changes as well.  One of the most serious changes is that in recent years I have come to terms with certain developmental issues which have been part of my life all along.  Those of you who have already been tracking with me here for some time, feel free to take a pass today; this is not for you.  But for those of you who are just now finding me, whether through Facebook or otherwise, this is for you.  Some of you have already found this without any help from me; thank you for your responses.  As for the rest of you, go ahead and read on.

Those of you who knew me back in high school and elementary school, you probably knew all along that something was weird about me.  At last you will have the opportunity to put a label on it.

Read Joe’s Deep Dark Secret

The Gospel According to the Four Spiritual Laws

I don’t suppose I have any business knocking the Four Spiritual Laws.  It was through the Four Spiritual Laws that I came to be a Christian back when I was in college (the first time around).  And I would venture to say that a lot of you came to be Christians by way of the Four Spiritual Laws as well.  So any critique of the Four Spiritual Laws on my part would be biting the hand that feeds me.  But I will not let that stop me.

The problem is that what passes for the Gospel message in most of evangelical Protestant-dom, and what an awful lot of us believe to be the Gospel, is largely derived from the Four Spiritual Laws, Billy Graham, Evangelism Explosion, or some other attempt to condense all of God’s redemptive plan for humanity into a few short and memorable statements.  I would like to begin by directing you to this post by Scot McKnight in which he lays out some of the problems which are associated with this view of the Gospel.  Here is his outline of what these basic statements all boil down to:

Many readers of the Bible read the whole Bible through the lens of the gospel they believe and this is what that gospel looks like:

God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.
But you have a sin problem that separates you from God.
The good news is that Jesus came to die for your sins.
If you accept Jesus’ death, you can be reconnected to God.
Those who are reconnected to God will live in heaven with God.

You probably recognize these statements as the basic outline for the Four Spiritual Laws and a whole host other methods which evangelicals have used to present the Gospel.

There are big problems with this gospel.  Each one of these statements is true, but is not the whole truth of the matter.  And if you put them all together, you get an incomplete gospel which leaves out some elements which are crucial parts of the Gospel message. Continue reading “The Gospel According to the Four Spiritual Laws”

Les Miserables 16: The Lark

Now that Fantine has left her daughter Cosette in the care of the Thenardiers and we have had a little introduction into what the Thenardiers are really like, we get to see how Cosette made out while in the Thenardiers’ care.  Heads up:  Not very well.

Fantine left Cosette with good clothes; the Thenardiers sold them all to pay off some debts and dressed Cosette in hand-me-downs from Eponine and Azelma, which by the time they reached her, were in dreadful shape.  The Thenardiers took all the money which Fantine sent them for Cosette and spent it on their own business and their own debts.  For meals, Cosette ate leftovers from the family dinners along with the pets.  Whenever Fantine wrote (or rather had a public letter-writer write, since she was illiterate) to inquire about how Cosette was doing, the Thenardiers responded that she was doing very well, and never even began to let on to the truth of the situation.

No doubt Victor Hugo was inspired by the story of Cinderella when it came to describing Cosette’s fortunes at this point in the story.  The evil stepmother, the two step-sisters, the loving father who is powerless to help, the rags to wear and leftovers to eat, are all elements of the Cinderella story which appear here; the evil stepmother as Madame Thenardier, the step-sisters as Eponine and Azelma, the loving but ineffective parent as Fantine. Continue reading “Les Miserables 16: The Lark”