Sunday, February 22, 2009

Interview with Wayne Grudem

C.J. Mahaney recently interviewed Wayne Grudem - Parts 1, 2, 3, & 4.

Grudem was my mentor during my studies at Phoenix Seminary and many of the things he shares in these interviews are very important to me. When I first met him in person, what amazed me most was not his intellect (though profound) nor his humility, but his prayer life. I had heard few people talk about their prayer life with such clarity and intentionality.

In 2001 I spent a summer in Santa Cruz, California with Campus Crusade for Christ. While there I developed a close friendship with a man that I admired much. He was athletic, had a sharp mind, was hard charging, yet compassionate towards the hurting. One day we were on a hike in Yosemite and he said, "John, when I think of you, I will always pray that you become a man of prayer." That meant the world to me to know another man would be praying so intentionally for me. I think of that often and ask for the Lord to help me grow in my prayer life. Grudem's example, Tom Nelson's practice of keeping a prayer journal for the members of his church, and my parent's example of faithfulness in prayer have all been a great encouragement.

Friday, February 20, 2009

52 Men Trying Part 4 - Origen

Few early church fathers have drawn more personal intrigue than Origen. He was a man of amazing intellect, severe passion, and thorough dedication to the cause of Christ.


Origen was born in Alexandria around 185 AD. His parents were believers in Jesus and at an early age he too committed his life to following Christ. The strength of his commitment was evidenced by his willingness to join his father as a martyr. Though only a boy, he had made up his mind to go to his father in prison, where death for the faithful man was imminent. But Origen was spared by the love of his mother, who hid his clothes and thus kept him from departing the home. In response, Origen wrote his father a letter urging him "to allow no thought for his family to shake his resolution."

But his yearning for martyrdom would eventually be satisfied. After years of preaching and writing, he was captured and tortured during the reign of Gallus and died within a few years after his release.


Origen was a man of great intellect and abilities. One historian noted that Origen wrote in the range of 6,000 books in his lifetime. His productivity was likely due to his ability to use up to seven scribes to record his dictation at a time, along with as many female secretaries who helped with his work. His books included commentaries on every book of the Bible, the first attempt at a 'systematic theology' in the history of the church

But likely his greatest literary accomplishment was his work on the Hexapla. This was a collection of six different versions of the Biblical text, copied in parallel columns to allow for easy comparison. The project was so enormous that he gave twenty-eight years of his life to seeing it completed. His purpose in writing "was to settle the dispute between Christians and Jews about the biblical text."

One of the more puzzling aspects of Origen's intellect was his allegorical view of interpreting scriptures. Though he had a high regard for the accuracy of the text, He held to a "threefold meaning in the text… a literal (historical), moral, [and] mystical." So although the plain meaning of the text holds much value and truth and lays the "foundation for theology," Origen believed the goal for the more spiritual Christian was to "move beyond these doctrines, as long as they do not contradict them."

Difficult, indeed, for how does one know when you have moved far enough beyond the 'doctrines' without going too far? What is even more puzzling, as you will see in the next section, is how he avoided allegory in one very important area of interpreting and applying the Bible to his life.


During his life, he was constantly troubled by the lax spiritual nature of his surrounding community and took note of the hypocrisy among the Christians. Thus he stood out as a man of great commitment to asceticism, as church historian Philip Schaff notes:

He refused the gifts of his pupils, and in literal obedience to the Savior's injunction he had but one coat, no shoes, and took no thought of the morrow. He rarely ate flesh, never drank wine; devoted the greater part of the night to prayer and study and slept on the bare floor.

This commitment to a denial of the flesh and devotion to a holy lifestyle would lead him to a drastic decision. He was so overwhelmed with the text of Matthew 19.12 and a desire to "secure himself against temptation… with [his] many female catechumens," that he castrated himself, a decision he would later regret. Thankfully, the council of Nicea, in 325 AD, condemned the act of self-castration, so no need to contemplate following his example.

Oddly enough, Origen shares this particular cutting edge quality with a modern hero – Boston Corbett. Who is he? He is the man that shot John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln's Assassin. Corbett, a recent convert motivated by a desire to avoid the temptation of prostitutes, used a pair of scissors to perform the act. He then ate a meal and went to a prayer meeting before going for medical treatment.


It seems that Origen, being a man of great abilities, pursued his studies and theology with the most noble of intentions, seeking merely to enter into closer communion with Christ. In this process, he explored concepts and questions that few of his contemporaries possessed the 'balls' (pardon the pun) to ask. Some of his conclusions lead to his being declared a heretic and contradicting himself in places. Thus one is left with the realization that when a man writes so many volumes on so many topics, contradiction is inevitable.

His life, his asceticism, and his commitment to Christ is inspiring, yet at the same time his distant dances with many ideas reminds one to heed the words of Proverbs 10.19, "When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent." Or one of my favorites, Proverbs 17.28 "Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent."

*As for the delay on my "weekly" posts: We are in the process of packing up and moving 1500 miles back to Little Rock Arkansas. As you can imagine, finding the right reference book has been a challenge at times.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lincoln's 200th

Today is Lincoln's 200th birthday. Make sure to take time to celebrate with others: Invite them over to split rails, recite the Gettysburg address, or read the Bible by candlelight.

You may also want to consider reading one of the following about him this year:
  • Lincoln by David Herbert Donald - Gives insight into many of the forces at work in America politics shaping Lincoln's decisions. Shows how he was wise and witty with his down-home colloquialisms. Increased my respect for his bravery and endurance to stand for the right thing no matter how hard it was
  • Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin - Lincoln's cabinet was made up of some of his sharpest critics. Why would he do that? (Can you imagine Obama making McCain his Secretary of State?) This book analyzes the wisdom and the danger in such a practice.
  • Manhunt by James Swanson - The story of the chase for Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth. The most amazing part of this story was the reality that Booth most likely would have escaped if not for breaking his ankle when jumping from the presidential box at Ford's Theater. Since most news only traveled as fast as horseback at this time, he was able to stay ahead of the story for a while, until his broken body could last no longer. This story was recently featured on the History channel and is worth watching.

Monday, February 9, 2009

How to Get the Most out of Your Time with Your Kids

Not long ago, A fellow "Trying Man" confided that one of his greatest struggles is getting fully engaged with his children when he is home. This man is a professor, is very bright, and has a hard time disengaging his mind from the projects he has at the office. My response was "just do it." My, that is helpful isn't it?

This weekend I took my son for a trip on the brand new Light Rail in Phoenix. Until this escapade, he has regularly slobbered all over our automobile windows each time we passed by the train in its infancy. For months prior to the launch of the electric wonder, every pair of parallel lines painted on the road elicited wild screams of "LOOK! TRAIN TRACKS!"

My, what an experience - the ultimate sensory overload for a 4 year old and his father. The metal tube plummeting down the track merely served as an electron particle accelerator, of which all said particles energized the little nuclear reactor that runs his body. To say he was bouncing off the walls would be an understatement on par with saying Lance Armstrong is not very hairy.

But as the wheels whistled along I reflected on the tricks that help me get fully engaged and make the transition home. When not holding the handrail or my nose, I jotted a few thoughts down:
  • Begin by setting aside dedicated time to spend with your children. Jerry Jenkins, in his book Hedges, describes how he had no other agenda than connecting with his kids between the time he arrived home and their bedtime. During those hours, he did nothing for himself and just focused on them.
  • If you are able to establish a regular routine like Mr. Jenkins did, take it a step further by telling your children of your commitment. The accountability will do much to help you make the transition faster.
  • Eliminate the distractions that can occur during your time with your kids. Turn off your cell phone and let it roll to voice mail. If you answer the phone, you are telling the kids that the person who is calling is more important to you than they are. This may not always be practical, but let it become the norm. Also declare those hours to be a computer and TV free zone. Nothing will make your mind more scattered than trying to check a few emails while trying to get engaged. This will also give your kids good reasons to find ways to connect with you. This practice is similar to focusing on one task at a time - contrary to popular opinion, you cannot multi-task with children.
  • Build lots of time into your schedule to make transitions well. If you try to rush from one activity to another without LOTS of explaining, then you are setting yourself up for frustration. A child's mind does not work as fast as ours, nor can they read our minds.
  • Take your environment into account. We walked into a convenience store to get some snacks for our trip. I had my favorite cliff bar and sparkly water in seconds and was ready to go. But when you are 4 and look up at a WALL OF SNACKS twice your height, you need time to ponder and reflect. I was a fool to rush him. Would I want to be rushed in a bookstore?
  • Get down on their level and look in their eyes when talking to them. Much of my frustration with him is usually rooted in either him not hearing me, or me giving him a worthless response to try and stop the constant question asking. But God made his mind to ask, ask, ask, and learn, learn learn. Praise God for that, since I have often prayed he would be hungry to learn!
  • Pick activities that they like and learn with them.
  • Pick activities that you like and be very intentional to teach them.
  • Plan your weekend out in advance and build up excitement for the event. Most families let the weekend float up on them like an island of ocean trash, instead of making the most of the time they have. This often leads to frustration and boredom.

Remember, the cats in the cradle.* Time is running short. Make the most of every moment you have with your children. 2 turned into 4 entirely to fast here.

*(Yes, I know Harry Chapin did the original version, but this one is much cooler. I still cry every time I hear that song. For more tears, check out this pro-adoption version by rapper DMC.)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Theologian Card Game

If you'd like to do a better job of remembering some of the early church fathers, then download the "Theology Card Game" on this website. Scroll down the page for the card game - the cards at the top of the page are more like flash cards.

This approach really works - I remember unententionally memorizing the names of many different fishing flies by playing the card game "Go Fly Fish."