Awesome Aussie Finals

Super excited for the upcoming Australian Open men’s final on Saturday, between #1 ranked Novak Djokovic and #2 Rafael Nadal. As this is a consistent rematch, it promises to make some great tennis.

Djokovic is coming off a once-in-a-lifetime 2011, putting up numbers that seem inconceivable. I was watching SportCenter’s pre-final coverage, and they put up a stat that showed Nadal beating Djokovic nearly 2 to 1. I had to chuckle at that “fact,” since those numbers don’t clearly display how completely dominated Nadal has been since Djokovic entered his top-level tennis a few years back. Nadal himself even admitted that Djoker was in his head, and he looked very anguished at the losses he’s been taking from the new #1.

I do hope Djoker wins, and I think he has the tools, ammo, and skill to do it. I can’t say I’ve ever been a huge fan of Rafa, but if there is a way for him to beat Djokovic, I’m convinced Rafa will find it. Even if you don’t care for any other part of Nadal’s game, his careful studies – first to learn to take down Federer – put him in a category where nothing seems to outwit him for long. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if Nadal had concocted some new game plan to take revenge for his previous year’s losses.

Either way, should be great tennis.

Abigail Adams on Slavery and Union

I’ve finished David McCullough’s riveting John Adams, and I’m continuously struck by Adams moral fortitude, discipline, and character as he fulfilled a variety of economic and political roles in the birth pangs of America. I’ve been especially intrigued by McCullough’s differentiation between Adams’ view of America – land-owning, thrify, plain, honest, pious, and somewhat rural – and Thomas Jefferson’s view – slave-owning, indebted, lavish, cosmopolitan, and Enlightened. Surely there are generalities here, but it has been fascinating nonetheless, and I hope to reflect more on it in the future.

Abigail Adams, wife to the second President, was known as an emotional and intellectual symbiote for Adams, the “ballast in his ship.” I was struck by her words in a letter to her sister:

I firmly believe, that if I live ten years longer, I shall see a division of the Southern and Northern states, unless more candor and less intrigue, of which I have no hopes, should prevail. (p. 434)

What is most striking is to remember that Abigail was writing in 1792, seventy-three years before the Civil War would end. Further, before a trip to France when John was the foreign minister there, Abigail had never set foot outside of her county, and travel terrified her. That leads me to conclude that the well-read Mrs. Adams had not only read of the differences between North and South, but some of her experiences with Southern gentlemen & ladies led her to a fairly certain conviction. The context doesn’t appear to be only, or merely, slavery; but also various forms of other cultural differences.

Clearly, the “War Between the States” was addressing differences that were a long time in coming.

Sovereignty, Providence, and Good Works in 2012

Dear Zion,

There’s no use denying it any longer: 2012 is here! As we enter into this “New Year,” all sorts of new experiences come with it: new hopes and new fears for what the new year may bring; new possibilities – as well as the feelings of regret and loss that can come as time marches on. With all of the unknowns in the future, feelings of anxiety, fear, curiosity, or hope can settle into all of our hearts. But no matter what 2012 brings with it for good or for bad, Christians have a rock-solid confidence in two important doctrines: God’s sovereignty over 2012, and God’s providence for 2012.

The Sovereignty of God over 2012
No matter what the new year brings, we can be sure of this: God is in control of 2012. All times are in His hand, and since He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last (Revelation 1:8), we know that He makes the ends known from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). Every day that we live in 2012 has already been written in His book (Psalm 139:16), and nothing that happens to us can happen apart from His will. Life and death, health and sickness are in His hands (Deuteronomy 32:39). Neither a sparrow (Matthew 10:29 – 31) nor a hair from your head (Luke 21:16 – 18) can fall apart from God’s will. So for those who love God and are called according to His purpose, the future of the new year doesn’t need to be a scary thing, because He has promised that all things will work together for our good (Romans 8:28). As we make our plans for 2012, we should recognize God’s absolute power and control over all the decisions we make, and ultimately entrust ourselves and our plans to Him (James 4:13 – 17).

The Providence of God for 2012 Continue reading

449 Years of Our “Only Comfort in Life and Death”

A Wordle of the Catechism

On January 19, 1563 the first edition of the Heidelberg Catechism was sent to the printers by Elector Frederick III. The catechism, penned by Zacharius Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus, has served as a masterpiece of theological and pastoral wisdom from God’s Word for Reformed Christians for centuries.

Q. 60 How are you righteous before God?

A. Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that – though my conscience daily accuses me, that I have greatly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil – nevertheless, God, without any merit of mine, but only by His mere grace, grants and imputes to me: the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefits with a believing heart.

What’s so great about the Heidelberg Catechism? Here are ten characteristics for you: Continue reading

Reforming lectio divina

Spirituality is still a huge topic with evangelical Christians, and increasingly practices such as lectio divina are encouraged even for Reformed Christians. But is this practice helpful? And how can it be used by Christians in the Reformed tradition?

Lectio divina (or, divine reading) as described by Kenneth Boa in his book Conformed to His Image, (Zondervan, 2001), 96-97.

The ancient art of lectio divina, or sacred reading, was introduced to the West by the Eastern desert father John Cassian early in the fifth century.

It consists of four elements.

  1. Lectio (reading). Select a very short text and ingest it by reading it several times. Normally, one chooses a verse or a brief passage from the chapters read from the Old and New Testaments in morning Bible reading.
  2. Meditatio (meditation). Take a few minutes to reflect on the words and phrases in the text you have read. Ponder the passage by asking questions and using your imagination.
  3. Oratio (prayer). Having internalized the passage, offer it back to God in the form of personalized prayer.
  4. Contemplatio (contemplation). For the most of us, this will be the most difficult part, since it consists of silence and yieldedness in the presence of God. Contemplation is the fruit of the dialogue of the first three elements; it is the communion that is born out of our reception of divine truth in our hearts.

I think there is much to appreciate about lectio divina, especially its Agassiz-like focus on a text. Further, that Scripture ought to bid us pray and that our prayers ought to be filled with Scripture is an axiom of this discipline, so to the extent that the lectio divina encourages this is a boon. I would even go so far as to say – due to the importance of prayer in the Christian life – that anything that encourages prayer in the life of believers is a good thing. But having said all of this, let me turn to a few concerns. Continue reading