You’ve got to read this book

For Lent I took up once again John Kleinig’s Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today. That has to be one of the most helpful books I have ever read. I have been a Christian for a long time, and I am not unconversant when it comes to spiritual subjects. But I found myself learning fresh insights into the Christian faith on every page of this book.

Dr. Kleinig, an Australian theologian and Bible scholar, is simply the most illuminating contemporary Christian writer that I have come across. His subject here is “Christian spirituality,” what mystics and those seeking a deeper spiritual life all crave. But what he does is to open up that deep spirituality that can be found in the everyday life of the Christian: in the Gospel, in going to church, in reading the Bible, and in prayer. Grace Upon Grace has chapters on Christ and what He has done and continues to do for us; on how to meditate on God’s Word; on prayer; and on spiritual warfare.

Go to the Amazon site, which has a “look inside” feature for a sample. Go on and buy it there and the Cranach blog will get a commission. Some time ago I posted excerpts from the book on this blog. Do a search for “John Kleinig” and you can find them.

Reading it this time had an even greater impact on me than before. I was struck especially with what I was learning about intercessory prayer–praying for other people–and what it means to pray in Jesus’ name (praying as His agent for what He wants to happen). Also what he says about vocation, with his application of the New Testament’s military metaphors, with the garrison soldier not being responsible for the whole battle, just the plot of land where he was stationed.

Dr. Kleinig is Lutheran, but if you aren’t Lutheran, don’t let that keep you from reading it. All Christians can benefit from reading this book–pastors, young people in confirmation classes, lay people, new church members, everybody. If they do, they will be introduced to the riches of the Christian life. Seriously. Trust me on this. Read this book.

Tiger Mothers vs. Vocation

One of the best things I’ve read on the Tiger Mother controversy is this column by Pam Nielsen in the Lutheran Witness:

If you are a parent, your children are your vocation and your most important calling. God sets the standard for you: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). To raise your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord is to raise children with God’s Word, in His Church, where His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation are given to all who believe. These are the “first things” for Christian moms, dads and children.

In sharp contrast, Ms. Chua and many others have determined quite a different standard or set of “first things” in raising their children. We’re familiar with them because we have been tempted to make them primary in our homes too: good grades, first place, social standing, perfect performances and winning championships. These are the world’s marks of success, but they are not God’s. In our efforts to achieve these worldly standards, sometimes the “first thing” of bringing our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord becomes a second, third or fourth thing.

How? When we frequently skip church and Sunday School for team practice or tournaments. When we complain that Pastor’s assignments and requirements for confirmation are too much, even as we pay for extra tutoring in math for our child. When we disdain helping our children with learning Bible verses and the catechism while spending long hours creating the perfect science project.

The doctrine of vocation puts these things in their proper order. Our efforts are always in view of who we are in Christ, forgiven and saved ones, who share their God-given gifts with their neighbor. Practices, tournaments and tutors are not bad things; they just aren’t the “first things.” It’s God-pleasing to urge our children to do their best in all that they attempt, not for their own gain or glory, but for the good of their neighbor. The child who excels in math and science might help find a cure for a disease or design a new safety feature for a car. The child gifted in music provides beauty and joy and might one day lead the church’s song. The child that learns to condition his body physically might become the soldier or fireman that saves someone’s life.

God in Christ gave His life for us and our children. We teach them to do their best, not for themselves but for others. In living out our vocations, God provides countless opportunities to tell our neighbor about the “First Thing,” His Son, Jesus Christ, who saves us from sin and death.

via The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod – The Lutheran Witness.

Nuclear heroes

The Fukushima 50 are the fifty workers who are trying desperately to prevent a nuclear meltdown in the four reactors damaged by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  They have had to go into the plants, subjecting themselves to massive radiation.  They reportedly expect the radiation to kill them.  But they keep going in.

Workers at the disaster-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan say they expect to die from radiation sickness as a result of their efforts to bring the reactors under control, the mother of one of the men tells Fox News.

The so-called Fukushima 50, the team of brave plant workers struggling to prevent a meltdown to four reactors critically damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, are being repeatedly exposed to dangerously high radioactive levels as they attempt to bring vital cooling systems back online.

Speaking tearfully through an interpreter by phone, the mother of a 32-year-old worker said: “My son and his colleagues have discussed it at length and they have committed themselves to die if necessary to save the nation.

“He told me they have accepted they will all probably die from radiation sickness in the short term or cancer in the long-term.”

The woman spoke to Fox News on the condition of anonymity because, she said, plant workers had been asked by management not to communicate with the media or share details with family members in order to minimize public panic.

She could not confirm if her son or other workers were already suffering from radiation sickness. But she added: “They have concluded between themselves that it is inevitable some of them may die within weeks or months. They know it is impossible for them not to have been exposed to lethal doses of radiation.”

via Japan’s Nuclear Rescuers: ‘Inevitable Some of Them May Die Within Weeks’ –

This, my friends, is self-sacrifice in vocation.

Preaching “the King’s speech”

I was glad that The King’s Speech took all of the top prizes at the Academy Awards:  Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, and (the critical but much neglected category) Best Original Screenplay.

The Lutheran Church of Canada has a nice reflection on how that movie about Prince Albert and his stuttering problem has parallels to what pastors have to do when they, in their stammering way, preach God’s Word, the true “King’s speech.”

Read it here:  Canadian Lutheran Online » Blog Archive » Stuttering kings and imperfect pastors.

Let us now praise the internet

A new study has found that young people who are active on the internet are actually more engaged with civic affairs than those who are not.  As opposed to the stereotype of teenagers plugged into their own virtual worlds and never interacting with real people and oblivious to the outside universe.   See  Does the Internet make for more engaged citizens? – MacArthur Foundation.

We have often criticized the new information technology for its baleful cultural effects–doing so, of course, using the new information technology–so let’s look at the other side of the coin.

How has the internet made you more involved with issues, improved your relationships, helped your church, or otherwise been an actual blessing, a good gift from the hand of God through the vocation of those who made all of this possible?

HT:  Webmonk

Romantic love and marriage

For St. Valentine’s Day. . . .

Did you realize that romantic love, as it blossomed during the Middle Ages, was originally nearly always outside marriage (e.g., Dante and Beatrice) and often adulterous (e.g., Lancelot and Guinivere)?

And did you realize that romantic love was brought into marriage, both as a precursor and as a fruition, by the Reformation?

See C. S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1958), pp. 13-15, , and  Justin Taylor, “Martin Luther’s Reform of Marriage,” in Sex and the Supremacy of Christ ed. John Piper and Justin Taylor (Wheaton, IL:  Crossway Books, 2005), pp. 239ff.