Monday, July 13, 2020

A Cure for my Runner's Blues

I’ve discovered a cure for my runner’s blues, when I really don’t want to lace up and hit the pavement.

It’s found on Keith and Kristin Getty’s album, Facing a Task Unfinished, and the title of the number is “Beyond These Shores.” 

Now, I’m not a music critic, being quite challenged to play the footnotes on a shoe horn. Notes are things I leave on my bathroom mirror, half-measures are how I approach running, and rests are what I do when done running. Movements are what I do to get from my chair to the cookie jar. I cannot make heads or tails out of a musical score.

But I love music—it moves me, frequently transforming my mood. And it often cures my runner’s blues (the wimpy pity-party I indulge in when I really don’t want to run—which is most of the time). Music takes my imagination on flights of fancy, transporting me to far-away places.

Now, for those poor benighted souls reading this, for whom imagination is a superfluous luxury you left behind in grade school, you might as well stop reading now, because you really won’t get what follows.

Here we go: in the first movement of Beyond these Shores, I imagine someone giving me a pointed, sarcastic rebuke. He’s playing a violin, and saying something like, “Aw, poor little Chris. Feeling sorry for ourself this morning, are we? Don’t want to lace up the running shoes?At this point I’m usually slogging along, wondering why I ever started running to begin with.

But the music makes a sharp (but smooth) transition into the second movement. The self-pity violins morph into a fast-paced Italian sort of celebration, something you might hear in Momma Mia’s Pizzeria. Before long, in my imagination, I can see Snoopy dancing for joy on top of his doghouse—self-pity transformed into jubilation. My running pace picks up, I can’t help it.

The third movement is like a free-wheeling jam session with strings, banjo, bass, keyboard, and percussion—almost a jazz feel to it. Not only am I running faster, but I’m smiling while I run.

And by the time you get to the fourth movement the violins are more accurately described as fiddles, and it’s a high-energy Nashville hoedown. I am running with a big grin on my face, sometimes clapping in time with the music, woes forgotten, enjoying the blue sky, the clouds, the sunshine, the farmers’ fields, and just celebrating life as I run, thanking my Creator and Redeemer for such a beautiful day.

Try it. If you enjoy music and have an active imagination, you’ll probably love it. You can listen to it on youtube here:

Friday, June 26, 2020

Book Review of Nancy Pearcey’s Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes

Nancy Pearcey is one of those authors the breadth and depth of whose research is simply astounding. It would take me five lifetimes to read the books and authors she cites in Finding Truth.

The modern evangelical church (in general—there are exceptions) has not done well in dealing with the honest skepticism of young adults. Rather than being eager to field tough questions and face intellectual challenges, it seems we have become fearful of them—perhaps even intolerant of hearing them. Nancy Pearcey shows us how to recover the honest intellectual punch that Christianity actually possesses to interact fruitfully with non-Christian worldviews and belief systems.

Pearcey assembles a methodology in five principles by which alternate worldviews can be examined and then respectfully but firmly repudiated. The first principle is Identify the Idol. All non-biblical worldviews have some sort of starting point—some faith-based assumption on which the rest of their worldview is built. Some God-substitute (inevitably, a limited part of creation) is elevated to ultimate or divine status.

The second principle is Identify the Idol’s Reductionism, and it is based on the fact that “when an idol absolutizes some part of creation, everything else must be explained in terms of that one limited part” [98]. The result dehumanizes people. “When we define God as a something instead of a Someone, we will tend to treat humans as somethings too” [98, emphasis original]

Principle three is to Test the Idol: Does It Contradict What We Know about the World? I once heard Dr. Bill Edgar (Westminster Seminary) describe a similar approach as climbing inside someone else’s worldview and taking it out for a spin, to see if it works. News Flash: it won’t. No one can live consistently with an idolatrous worldview—at some point their life will contradict their professed belief.

The next principle is more philosophical: Test the Idol: Does It Contradict Itself. Pearcey walks through a number of worldviews and unmasks the fact that they are internally inconsistent and self-refuting. For instance, she takes aim at logical positivism:

What happened, though, when the test of logical positivism was applied to itself? Its central claim was that statements are meaningful only if they are empirically testable. But is that statement empirically testable? Of course not. It is not an empirical observation. It is a metaphysical rule—an arbitrary definition of what qualifies as knowledge. Thus when the criterion of logical positivism was applied to itself, it was discredited. It stood self-condemned. [185]

The final step is Replace the Idol: Make the Case for Christianity. One of the ways she makes the case is to help people understand that other worldviews are free-loading on Christian principles, most frequently Christian morals. They are assuming Christian principles, but have no logical support from their own worldview to do so. In her words, “You might say they function as if Christianity is true” [220, emphasis original]. Her point is to gently confront the individual by showing them their ethics cannot arise out of their worldview, but only out of a Christian one.

The clarity of Pearcey’s writing, the extensive use she makes of the books and statements of non-Christian thinkers, and the comprehensive documentation of all her points and citations makes this book an invaluable resource. Highly recommended—five stars.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

A Guide to Psalms for the Depressed

Some years ago I developed material for a seminar on depression. One of the useful handouts was this annotated guide to the Psalms for people wrestling with depression. Perhaps you might find it useful. Click here to open the PDF document.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Book Review: Lutzer's God's Devil

In God's Devil: The Incredible Story of How Satan's Rebellion Serves God's Purposes, Lutzer writes about our great enemy Satan, calling on both the Scripture and his experiences in helping troubled souls to make his points. He does a good job demonstrating the reality of Satan's existence and the dangers he presents to Christians as well as to the unsaved world. The book delivers on the title: Satan is shown to be wholly confined to acting only under God's permission, and what Satan intends for evil God always turns to accomplish His own good purposes.

Though there are places in which doctrinal precision is lacking, nonetheless the book is a good contribution to believers who are struggling to understand how God can use the purveyor of evil to accomplish His good intentions. Lutzer writes in a very clear and accessible style.

 If you are going to read this book, be sure to read David Powlison's Power Encounters: Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare which has a much more exegetically sound perspective on spiritual warfare. That book is, unfortunately, out of print and a little harder to find. Safe and Sound: Standing Firm in Spiritual Battles by Powlison is in some ways the application of the exegesis in Power Encounters, and is excellent. Both of these volumes contain what I consider to be a more doctrinally precise presentation of spiritual warfare.

Lutzer's book is four stars. Recommended.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Do Jesus’ actions in the temple condone the destruction of property as a legitimate form of protest?

In recent days our country has witnessed once again that racism still reigns in corrupt hearts. We have seen a recent flurry of horrific injustices being committed against law-abiding black citizens of the US. The most recent outrage was the sadistic murder of George Floyd by a dirty cop, a man wearing a uniform that is supposed to speak of protecting and serving the citizenry, not murdering them. Given the past history of the USA, these evil acts simply reinforce to many people of color the idea that they never will get fairness or justice in a country that nonetheless proclaims on the equality of all men.

All Americans should be concerned about this. All Americans should be heart-broken about injustice of any form, particularly when an entire race is on the receiving end of it. It calls for a continued struggle to enact just laws and to pray that individual hearts are changed by the Gospel of Christ.

One of the dangers when we see injustice is that our righteous outrage can easily become sinful anger—anger that provokes us to respond in a way less than Christ-honoring. I believe that the meme floating around on the web which displays Jesus cleansing the temple is an example of a reaction that does not honor Jesus. The meme implies that since Jesus destroyed property, therefore destruction of property is a valid form of protest.

Because of the gross misrepresentation of Scripture—and of Christ’s actions—such a train of thought presents, I feel it necessary to respond rather pointedly to that meme.

Like most twisted applications of Scripture, the meme ignores the biblical context and amounts to little more than a hijacking of Scripture to assert something that Scripture actually condemns as sin.

The biblical event is recorded in John 2:13-22.

Let’s begin examining the issue by asking some questions, starting with, who is Jesus as compared with who are we? Jesus is God, we are not. As God He can judge, condemn, and punish in ways we cannot. As God, all His ways are just—that is simply not true of us. One of the interesting points from the temple cleansing text in John is that the Jews asked Him by what authority He took action. Jesus answer in verse 19 is instructive: Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” This is essentially a claim of deity: Jesus was claiming to have the power of self-existence, the power of ultimate being. His disciples later understood it properly as a reference to Jesus power to raise Himself from the dead. In other words, Jesus’ claim to the authority to wreak such destruction in the temple was tied directly to the fact that He is God Himself.

Who owns the temple, the tables, the money changers, and the sheep on a thousand hills? Jesus does. It was “My Father’s house.” So Jesus was destroying property that belonged to Him, property that was located in the temple, not out in Jerusalem neighborhoods. That property was only in temporary possession of the money changers as a stewardship (one they were abusing!). It was not a random act of destruction.

Who laid down the law with respect to the proper use of the Temple? Yahweh did, and guess who Jesus is: Yahweh Himself. So in the cleansing of the temple Jesus was punishing the violators of both the sanctity of the temple and the sanctity of the Law. It is clear in the text (vv. 14-16) that Jesus was punishing the specific violators, not random individuals.

In any case, Jesus routinely did things in His earthly ministry that we are forbidden to do, such as forgiving sins (Matthew 9:1-6). While we are enjoined to forgive one another, we ourselves are not the forgivers of injustices committed against God Himself. Jesus could do what we cannot. Notice that Jesus’ action of cleansing the temple was never duplicated by the apostles—even though the temple corruption and money-changing persisted.

Not only is there a deep biblical context to the cleansing of the temple, there is also a contemporary cultural context to posting this meme, and it brings up more questions. What is our contemporary cultural context? In cities across America, random property is being destroyed as people give free reign to their anger at the horrific injustice of the murder of George Floyd. This anger is now manifesting itself in unlawful ways, and is working against justice.

So, what is someone saying when they present this meme on social media, given the current context? Are they simply stating a propositional truth, Jesus destroyed property? Or are they making the claim, Jesus destroyed property therefore it is a legitimate form of protest that aggrieved people can participate in? What is the agenda of posting the meme: the first statement, or the second?

To claim that former is all one means is possible, but what is the point in broadcasting that Jesus destroyed property if there is no larger meaning attached? It’s a little like randomly spouting facts: Jesus walked on dusty paths; Jesus drank water. Light bulbs are sold in Walmart. Uh-huh. So what? Unless you are attaching some theological significance to the statement, such as Jesus is Lord of all, therefore He may do as He pleases when He cleanses the temple, there’s not much point to such a statement.

Given the context of what is happening in America today, most people will read the meme and jump to the second agenda (regardless of what the poster actually intends): Jesus destroyed property therefore it is a legitimate form of protest that aggrieved people can participate in. If that is the subtext of the meme in most cases—and it is pretty obvious that it is—it raises more questions.

If destruction of property is a legitimate form of protest, on what grounds do you decide whose property is to be destroyed? Must the owner be personally connected with the event that caused the aggravation, or is random destruction acceptable?

If random destruction is acceptable, where is the God-honoring justice in that? On the other hand, if the owner (of the property to be destroyed) is guilty of actions that caused the riot leading to such chaos, is that a matter for the law to handle, or for mob justice? Do we really want mob justice? Does not this meme bring to mind that verse in Judges 17:6, “every man did what was right in his own eyes”? Judges was a time of perverse moral chaos. That verse is a rebuke, not a commendation.

One cannot evade these questions. Justice demands an answer. Posting this meme in our current social context at best displays a misunderstanding of Scripture, and at worst a devious twisting of Scripture. The temple text is not teaching us anything about means of legitimate human protest.

When I resort to the destruction of someone else’s property, it is sin. It is not an option for any Christ-honoring believer. Jesus did what He did in the temple because He is God and He owns it all—for Him it was not sin. We are not God, and destroying someone else’s property is the equivalent of theft. Ignoring this crucial distinction not only twists the Scripture in the worst way, the meme encourages more sin and violence from those who now think they have biblical permission to destroy things. What we need to destroy is hatred. What we need to change, are hearts.

The Bible should have the last word: Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17–21, NASB95)

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Review of Cormac McCarthy's All The Pretty Horses

All the Pretty Horses is the first book of McCarthy’s critically acclaimed Border Trilogy (the other two books are The Crossing and Cities of the Plain). It is a book and trilogy I have been looking forward to reading. 

Whether or not you enjoy this book will depend more on whether you enjoy literary fiction than on the author’s skill. Cormac McCarthy is beyond dispute an award-winning and very skillful author, and the book was a national bestseller.

First, the strengths. I like the tale itself: set in the early twentieth century, two young men decide they’re going to cross the river and head south into Mexico on horseback. On the one hand they are runaways, but on the other they are competent young men, skilled in ranch work and back country living, wanting to live the life of the Old West. With no destination in mind (other than south) , they wind their way through Mexico and end up breaking horses on a ranch far south of the border. Their various adventures are interesting and very believable.

The setting seems very authentic, especially regarding the Mexican ambiance (it helps if you speak Spanish—I don’t). In many passages I felt like the author was himself experiencing what he was writing about—it seemed viscerally real. The book is gritty with the dust and dirt of the desert south—there is nothing romantic about the portrayal.

The English dialog is quite strong for the most part. It fits well with the way McCarthy has constructed the characters. I don’t recall reading a single line of dialog and thinking, “John Grady Cole would never say that!” Same for the rest of the characters. I love the laconic drawl of the cowboy character, and McCarthy has captured it exquisitely.

The strongest part of the book is the characters and their development. McCarthy has just the right touch, and the growth of the characters through the tale is very well done and, again, very believable.

Unfortunately the weaknesses of the book are significant, in my opinion. I am not a fan of literary fiction, finding it at times pretentious, and Pretty Horses is no exception. He has many paragraphs of high-flying description, composed of really, really long run-on sentences that are occasionally near to incoherent. Sometimes the similes he employs seem to be constructed of words picked at random—they don’t contribute to the picture being painted in your mind by the rest of the narrative.

For me (and I realize this is just my opinion and other readers may vociferously disagree), Pretty Horses became simply tedious in the middle of the book. I put it down for several weeks because it had become boring. Finally I made myself finish the volume (and I must confess to skimming), though the story does pick up with better pacing toward the end.

I love McCarthy’s minimalist style in The Road, an outstanding story. Some of that fine, tight, minimalism persists in No Country for Old Men. These are his later works. Pretty Horses is a different story and for me, a little disappointing. Three stars.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Why Richard Dawkins is wrong

Dawkins recently made the claim that, because facts are facts, if we put aside the moral questions, eugenics would work. Presumably what he means by ‘work,’ is that a program of eugenics would create superior specimens of human beings, in the same way that it creates superior beef cattle.

“It’s one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds,” Mr. Dawkins tweeted to his 2.8 millions followers. “It’s quite another to conclude that it wouldn’t work in practice. Of course it would. It works for cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses. Why on earth wouldn’t it work for humans? Facts ignore ideology.” [“Richard Dawkins slammed for saying 'of course' eugenics would work,” by Jessica Chasmar in The Washington Times digital edition, Monday, February 17, 2020]

Putting aside the moral argument (which cannot be truly set aside, because we are morally accountable beings), there are two blazingly obvious ways in which he is—factually—wrong.

1) Dawkins is operating from a purely evolutionary paradigm, in which advances happen in spits and spurts, sometimes moving forward a step, sometimes backward a step. Natural selection eventually eliminates inferior models. But in advocating eugenics, Dawkins is suggesting that each specimen is an advance over the last one. But that is not how evolution works. Good Specimen A unites with good Specimen B, to produce Specimen C. But Specimen C does not always completely reflect the genetics that produced it. Things go wrong, whether it might have been a hidden weakness in the genes of A or B, or perhaps an [evolutionary] mutation that went in the wrong direction.

In order for Dawkins’ eugenics to truly work, it must be—has to be—tied to euthanasia, so that inferior Specimen Cs can be gently, lovingly, mercifully… killed. Otherwise, they will continue to pollute the gene pool.

And how are we to evaluate Specimen A’s or B’s genetic potential? Must their DNA be studied to evaluate their reproductive value? How good is good enough, in order to license them to reproduce?

2) Dawkins is also wrong in that eugenics is the worst form of materialistic reductionism. People are far more than their genes. Perhaps the best illustration of this is his fellow atheist Stephen Hawking. Would Dawkins’ endorsement of the usefulness of eugenics have denied the world Stephen Hawking, or say, Helen Keller, or the numerous artists and brilliant people who are on the autism spectrum, or wrestle with manic-depressive disorders? The world is full of the accounts of people born with disabilities who rise far above their limitations to contribute mightily to human flourishing.

There are many other refutations to Dawkins’ eugenic fantasy—these are just two that are obvious no matter what worldview or ideology you hold to. Facts are indeed facts. And Dawkins is conveniently ignoring them.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Review of Francis Chan, Letters to the Church.

This is a hard book to review. What bleeds through every page is Francis Chan’s love for Christ and his desire to serve Him passionately. If there is anything Francis Chan is not, it’s lukewarm. The man pulses with a passionate desire to glorify God. Letters is personal to the point of being intimate. It is Chan’s self-disclosure of what’s been at work in his heart for the last couple decades. It’s so personal that to critique the book is inevitably to critique the author, and I shudder to think of that—I’m not sure it’s fair.

First two disclaimers: Chan hits me right where I live. I will freely and shamefully admit I do not have his passion. I want to serve Christ and glorify Him, but it feels more cerebral and less visceral, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing. So how much of my critique is subjective and not objective? I can’t honestly answer that.

Secondly, I have some doctrinal concerns about some aspects of Chan’s theology of the Holy Spirit. How much of my critique is theological nit-picking? I can’t honestly answer that either.

Positively, this is a good book. It takes a critical, sometimes emotional look at the modern church and finds it wanting. Chan’s commitment is to do church right, which is an excellent commitment in my opinion. He is also concerned that the American church is filled with nominal Christians, perhaps people we can’t even call Christian. I agree. His vision of doing church differently is innovative, intriguing, and well within the bounds of Scripture. He also admits it is not the only way of doing church.

Chapters 6, 7, 8, and 9 are excellent, dealing with what makes a good pastor, with suffering as the normal experience of a Christian, with turning people loose to use their gifts, and principles for remaking church so that it more closely fits the Scripture, respectively.

Much of Chan’s critique is spot on. “Part of the reason we have created a culture of non-committal Christianity that avoids suffering is that we don’t treasure Him enough. We want Jesus, but there are limits to what we will sacrifice for Him. We want Him, but there are lots of things we want in life” [140].

The negatives are significant, but not sufficient to cause one to pass this book by. One of the biggest turnoffs for me, particularly in the first half of the book, is how self-referential Chan’s writing is. That the book has autobiographical features is only part of the explanation. Chan seems to write with a rather self-conscious view that he has been called to reform the church. In fairness to him, this perspective becomes a little less pronounced as the book draws to a close.

There are places in the book in which Chan displays a biblically deficient, rather gauzy view of the first-century church. According to Scripture it was a church that included women who could not get along, church leaders who demanded preeminence, church members involved in sexual immorality, churches that were disputing Paul’s authority, factions, people who were lying about their giving, and so on. Chan laments on page 9 that the modern church looks nothing like the first-century church. Perhaps he should look again.

He repeatedly paints with an exceedingly broad brush. On page 128 he says, “If you listened only to the voice of Jesus, read only the words that came out of His mouth, you would have a very clear understanding of what He requires of His followers. If you listened only to modern preachers and writers, you would have a completely different understanding of what it means to follow Jesus.” But this is simply not true. Is it true of some modern preachers (can anyone say Joel Osteen or name the signs, wonders, and prosperity preachers)? Certainly, but Chan treats the fringe as though it is the mainstream. To take just a few examples of orthodox popular modern writers and preachers, I don’t believe Piper’s Don’t waste your life, or MacArthur’s writings on Lordship salvation undersell the commitment Christ demands.

But Chan uses this broad brush so frequently it makes me wonder what circles he walks in. The church as he describes it seems to be painted in the style of a megachurch that panders to its congregation’s whims and whose main commitment is numerical growth. That sort of church is common enough, but it is not representative of orthodox American Christianity. That is not the model that I see in my church or in other local Bible-believing assemblies here in western Ohio. At times, Chan’s style is shoot-from-the-hip and mischaracterizes biblically faithful churches.

In one particularly telling paragraph, he writes “When I looked at what went on at Cornerstone, I saw a few other people and me using our gifts, while thousands just came and sat in the sanctuary for an hour and a half and then went home” [15]. The implication was that they went home and did nothing. The fact of the matter is that Chan has no idea what they went home and did—he couldn’t possibly know. Some probably did do nothing. Others probably went home and continued to live lives for God’s glory, witnessing to neighbors, friends, and co-workers, ministering to hurting people, inviting folks to Christ and to church. Does Chan think Cornerstone was built only on the strength of his preaching? Does he not realize that perhaps a significant part of the “thousands” were going home and telling others where they could find the answers that they so desperately needed? Perhaps it was the faithfulness of Cornerstone’s members that was behind a significant portion of the church’s growth? Maybe it wasn’t him.

In my own experience at my church, I am regularly finding out (to my delight and surprise) how the average individual in the pew is carrying on faithful ministry to their family, neighbors, and coworkers, far beyond the campus. It’s not the result of a program and it is unheralded, but it is happening all the same.

I’m giving this book three stars. It’s worth the read, but read it with discernment. While Chan is undoubtedly aware, theologically and experimentally, of the diversity of people and personalities God has created, I am not convinced he has allowed his awareness to inform his perspective. Chan is very emotional and very passionate and it’s on his sleeve for all to see. But God also has faithful servants whose love for Christ manifests itself in ways less volatile. What some believers could take away from this book is the mistaken idea that unless they are made in the emotional mold of Francis Chan, there might be something wrong with their confession of Christ.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Book Review: Safe & Sound: Standing Firm in Spiritual Battles, by David Powlison

David Powlison entered the presence of Jesus on June 7, 2019. The church lost one of its modern-day giants with his passing. But he left behind a great legacy of material for troubled souls, and those who minister to them.

His final gift to the church was this little, 103-page book about spiritual warfare. While intended primarily for those who minister to others, Safe & Sound is an excellent resource for those who are suffering themselves.

Part One deals with the reality and description of spiritual warfare. The first chapter urges the reader to acknowledge and accept the truth that Satan is real and life is a spiritual battle in which the enemy of our souls plays a terrible role. The following chapter consists of an exploration of the key passages in the Pauline corpus that instruct us as to how to understand and wage spiritual warfare. Chapter three examines the weapons of the whole armor in Ephesians 6, and shows us that the imagery is not drawn from the panoply of the Roman soldier (which is how most teach this passage), but rather from images of the Messiah in Isaiah and the Psalms. Jesus is our Divine Warrior (a term I first heard from Tremper Longman) who both battles for us, and shows us how to conduct spiritual warfare.

Part Two of the book applies the teaching of the first part to specific struggles. Powlison introduces this section by showing how, first, Jesus models this mode of warfare, and second, how Paul himself—taking his cues from Jesus—also employs this manner of fighting. For counselors and counselees—as for Paul and Jesus—prayer takes a central role as we seek the Lord on behalf of those who are suffering the moral and situational evil of this fallen world.

This chapter is followed by a selection of major issues that a counselor will encounter with those he helps. Fighting the normal battles of anger, fear, and escapism; the battle with the shadow of death; conflict with the occult; and the battle with animism; these are the chapters in which Powlison demonstrates that the classic mode of ministry—finding our answers in Christ and His gospel rather than some sort of direct encounter with a demon—is first of all that which Scripture commends, and secondly, able to deal with any problem God’s people face regardless of the presence or absence of demonic involvement.

Chapter 9 contains a case study of a truly bizarre encounter with a very troubled individual. Powlison’s intent is to show that the classic mode of ministry (as opposed to what he labels EMM—the ekballistic mode ministry which focuses on casting out demons) is called for even in such situations. By focusing on the person rather than the demonic aspect, and applying the gospel to that suffering heart with all its combination of hurts and sins, genuine deliverance is accomplished. “True spiritual warfare looks beyond the problems and sees the person” [76].

The last chapter is Powlison’s testimony of his own final battle with cancer, one that ultimately took his life. In it he demonstrates that Jesus Christ and the gospel are sufficient to enable us to meet with—and defeat—all of our troubles.

The book closes with an appendix in which Powlison contrasts classic mode ministry with EMM, and shows how classic mode is what the New Testament urges upon us. This brief appendix is a condensation of his larger exegetical studies on the matter, which are contained in a different, somewhat larger volume entitled Power Encounters: Reclaiming Spiritual Warfare. That volume provides the foundation for the applications Powlison makes in Safe & Sound.

Safe & Sound is a book every biblical counselor should have. Five stars, highly recommended.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Clothes Horse

“Surely you’re not leaving the house like that. That tie doesn’t go with your shirt.”

These are among the most dreaded words a husband hears, normally spoken by his wife as a formula: “that <piece of clothing A> doesn’t go with that <piece of clothing B>.” I must confess, I hear these words frequently.

“What are you talking about?” I rejoined. “Of course the tie goes with the shirt. I’m wearing both of ‘em, so where ever I go the shirt and tie come too. The tie goes with the shirt just fine,” I insisted, knowing that I was fighting a losing battle. As surely as the day is long I was about to be sentenced to return to the bedroom to examine the contents of my closet and try again.

“That’s not what I meant,” she clarified. “I mean they don’t match.”

All I can figure is that there is this comprehensive color and pattern matching program running somewhere in every woman’s brain. There’s no other way to explain why she can dismantle in a glance what took me ten minutes of staring blankly into my closet to assemble.

Apparently there is this mystical rule book wholly unknown to the male species, a book containing an exhaustive list of what fabric patterns “go together,” and which do not. How else could someone come up with such an arbitrary rule that says plaids don’t go with polka dots? Why not?

Part two of the book contains the same sort of mysterious information about colors—which ones go together well, and which ones trigger an epileptic seizure if used together. To make matters worse it uses weird names for colors that men have never heard of, like mauve and puce.

But there is hope, men. After thirty years of indecision I have finally solved the sock problem. Simply buy black socks, maybe ten identical pairs. First, that limits your choices, shaving perhaps twenty minutes off your daily pondering of what will pass inspection. Second, as an added bonus, since your washing machine always eats just one sock (never both socks), just throw the single into your sock drawer, knowing it has eighteen more identical friends in there.

I also have helpful information about suits. The really great thing about a suit is that you don’t have to decide which jacket will go with your trousers. That decision has been made for you. Hurray!

But the really bad thing about suits is that, it is, after all, a suit. You never get near as much work done wearing a suit as you do in a pair of jeans. And besides, suits are magnets for catsup, pizza, and spaghetti. Your wife might make you wear a bib with your suit when you’re eating.

But of this you can be assured: the bib will match the suit. Perfectly.