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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles" by Kathy Keller. A Review

Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles: A Case for Gender Roles in MinistryJesus, Justice, and Gender Roles: A Case for Gender Roles in Ministry by Kathy  Keller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This short little work, 48 pages, covers the issue of men's and women's roles in the church. It is not an exhaustive, in-depth study but written on a serious yet popular level; therefore it's very readable. The author, Kathy Keller, is the wife of Tim Keller, co-founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and co-author with her husband of "The Meaning of Marriage".

The book is autobiographical, exegetical, theological and anthropological. In the autobiographical she tells of her own conversion, her journey as she sought ordination, and the epiphany she came to with regard to the authority of Sacred Scripture. Once she came to submit to Scripture she removed herself from seeking ordination. Since then she has worked with women who want clarification on their role in Christ's church.

Exegetically Keller takes on 1 Corinthians 14.33-38 and 1 Timothy 2.11-12, though she does draw in other passages in passing. It is clear and obvious that the author holds both passages as authoritative and part of God's infallible design for his church. In the end she sees them as prohibitive, but prohibitive in a narrow sense, "what is being forbidden to kind of teaching that carried with it an authority not found in other, allowable forms of oral discourse" (19). In other words, the position of pastor and elders is not open to women because that position requires teaching that speaks judgment between truth and heresy, and carries the power of discipline (20). This brings her to conclude that from Scripture women "are encouraged to be active, verbal participants in the life of the church - teaching, exhorting, encouraging, and contributing in every way except in the office of elder..., where teaching and doctrine are judged according to the canonical deposit of truth, the Scriptures" (29-30).

With regard to the theological and anthropological Keller shows that in the ontological Trinity there is equality in power and glory, yet economically the Son submits to the Father (36). This becomes the ground for differing gender roles of men and women in the church and in the home, in distinction to the egalitarianism in society (36-8). Rightly she then observes that the "justice behind God's creation of male and female and his arrangement of the different roles he chose for them may not always be apparent to us. Why one and not the other? But should we expect our finitude to understand the infinite, omnipotent, wise, good, lovely, gracious justice of God" (38-9)?

"Jesus, Justice and Gender Roles" is a quick read through a subject cluttered by a society that stands in judgment of God, Scripture and Christianity. Therefore it does not answer all or many of the issues. Nevertheless Keller does get to the heart of the matter and generally takes it in hand dealing well with the subject. Though I find myself in disagreement with her narrow, limited applications to 1 Timothy 2.11-12 and 1 Corinthians 14.33-38 (I see them as actually prohibiting more actions than she does), yet the core of this teeny booklet takes the reader to the right questions and in principle leads to the correct answers. It's a book worth reading.

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"Future Crimes" by Marc Goodman. A Review

Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everything Is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About ItFuture Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everything Is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paranoia will quickly set in, and if it doesn't it probably ought to! That's the immediate effect of reading "Future Crimes: Inside the Digital Underground and the Battle for Our Connected World". This 608 page paperback reprint, and light expansion, of the 2015 hardback, was penned by Marc Goodman. Goodman is the founder of Future Crimes Institute and holds the chair of Policy, Law, Ethics at Singularity University, and has been a Law Enforcement Officer, Futurist with the FBI, and Senior Adviser to Interpol. As readability goes, the book is very accessible. My 19 year old son gulped it down in a week. As for content, it is overwhelming and inundating with details and designs.

"Future Crimes" is a dossier compiling gigabytes of factual exemplifications showing the interconnections of our cyber-world's "Internet of Things" (IoT), and exposing how deeply vulnerable we are to cyber-crimes. As Goodman notes, the "nature of the Internet means that we are increasingly living in a borderless world. Today anybody, with good or ill intent, can virtually travel at the speed of light halfway around the planet" (15). But the Utopian giddiness of this http:// world is quickly exploded because cyberspace is outpacing the ability to build in substantive security measures. The hyper-speed advances have therefore left colossal holes that can be, and are, exploited by malign forces. The huge bulk of the book gives case study after case study, example after example, and illustration after illustration of how connected we are, and how truly assailable we have become. The author approaches a plethora of levels of susceptibility, whether its through hacking and viruses, fake news and tweaked social media, cell phones turned on their owners to spy on them, compromised automated homes and automobiles, arson through network-connected copiers, infiltrated robotics, prosthesis and biometrics, to name a few. "The cyber threat is thus morphing from a purely virtual problem into a physical world danger. The result, as we have seen throughout this book, is that science fiction is becoming science fact before our very eyes" (442).

But "Future Crimes" is not a diatribe against the internet and technology. Rather, Goodman's intent is to show how susceptible we are to the assaults of rogue governments, Crime, Inc., hackers and the malevolent, and to work toward remedies. Goodman catalogs several workable antidotes that range from government actions, to corporate incentives, down to the personal. This section of the book is thought-provoking and gives some sensible stability after almost 400 pages of paranoia producing information.

In the end "Future Crimes" is a deluge of alarms that appear to be well grounded and require reasoned responses. This volume should be required reading for college courses, IT departments, VPs, CEOs, CIO's, law enforcement agencies, and intelligence bureaus. But also individuals who want to preserve themselves from identity theft and intellectual-property fraud. It's an extremely important book that should be in the hands of the masses. Rush out and snatch up a copy ASAP!

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"My Shepherd" (Psalm 23).

(I initially presented a version of this at Heritage Presbyterian Church in Edmond Oklahoma on 3 March 2017; and then presented this version to the Capitol Bible Forum at the Oklahoma State Capitol on 26 April 2017)

My Shepherd
Psalm 23

With regard to Psalm 23 you could definitely dissect Psalm into several parts, nevertheless it easily and effortlessly falls open into three petals (Want, Way and Wellbeing) with the pistil being the middle of v.4 (“with me”). Hopefully by the end of this sermon you will be reminded of many old reasons, and gain several new reasons for trusting our Shepherd.

Want (23.1-3): The primary point out of which flows the remainder of 1-3 is this first line: “The LORD is my shepherd”.  In a day and an age when police protection was non-existent, to say “The LORD is my Shepherd” is a claim of utmost trust. When wide prairies, pathways, wildernesses and wastelands were spaces and places wide open for animal attacks – both the four legged and the two legged predators – then to submit to and trust in the LORD as Shepherd was clearly a way of claiming that in the face of dangers where no other help could be had David trusted that the LORD was his security, and so “I shall not want.” The next two verses have four “He” statements that work out David’s confidence in the Good Shepherd’s safekeeping. “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” There is some planning on the part of any shepherd in this regard. Once a shepherd heads out in the wee morning hours with his flock, he has to know where the green pastures are, how best to get there, and where to find quiet, still waters. Apparently sheep don’t take to rolling streams. And so, David describes his reliance on the LORD as a sheep who entrusts himself to his shepherd to work out those details and draw him to repast, refreshment, and rest. “He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Both the Hebrew yeshovev and the English “restore” give a clear indication that David is saying that when he had strayed from his Shepherd that the LORD brought him around, and is now guiding him forward. David, a shepherd himself, likely spent many significant evenings combing the hillsides and hollows looking for, and listening for, that lamb or sheep that had meandered thoughtlessly away from the flock and endangered itself and made itself vulnerable to predators or peril. The LORD can be trusted to hunt us down, even in our waywardness, to restore us and right us. And he does it not only for our good, but also his glory, “for his name’s sake”.  It is quite a satisfying to know that when we pray “Our Father, who art in heaven, hollowed be thy name” we are also praying that the LORD will continue to track us down when we stray and turn us right! David explains here that we can trust our Shepherd as our security, and to be confident so as to say, “I shall not want.” Then he gives us further reasons as he shows that the Good Shepherd is with us in the way.

Way (23.4-5): The Valley of the shadow of death includes walking into the grave, but also refers to other dangers. Shepherds knew that the way to green pastures and still waters was often through valleys that would have narrow footpaths where the sheep could only go one or two abreast. On the one hand, at any moment a mountain lion or marauder could swoop down and snatch a victim; and on the other hand, at any moment the footing could become treacherous and a sheep plummet to its death on the rocks and ragged edges below. But even in the face of death or disaster David can confidently say of the Good Shepherd, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” Here is the pistil in the middle of our pedals. This is the summit of the Psalm 23 climb. It is the Immanuel principle: Immanu-el, God with us! How fitting that our Lord Jesus picks up this shepherd imagery and applies it to himself in Luke 15 and John 10! Jesus is “YHVH my Shepherd” who provides, preserves and pilots us! And one way you know “YHVH my Shepherd” is with you is by his rod to defend you and staff to preserve you, which comforts/consoles you. Though I go through the valley that is dark-as-death where evil lurks above, about or below, I can go through it with no fear of evil. Our Shepherd uses his rod to defend us and his staff to preserve and pilot us, and so to comfort/console/calm us.

Now the metaphor changes (v.5), but it is still expounding on the Immanuel principle, and it is the next two “you” statements. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Notice that the Lord’s hospitality is set up intentionally and spread out in a conspicuous place, to the shock and surprise of enemies! And it’s not a bare minimum hospitality, but a lavish and lush conviviality, “you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Because of our Good Shepherd’s provision, protection, preservation and piloting we can feast, and find that we are flush in his faithfulness; even if his and our enemies hauntingly hover around! And so, “I will fear no evil for you are with me.” Then the Psalm ends with our wellbeing.

Wellbeing (23.6): This whole Psalm is beautiful and boosting and this last part as well. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Even when I must walk through the valley dark-as-death, his goodness and his chesed (his steadfast love and mercy) follow me. That Hebrew word for “follow” is more aggressive than the English makes it sound. It means something like this: His goodness and mercy follow me like a hound dog hot on the trail; they follow me to be with me and overtake me! Our Good Shepherd sends his sheepdogs, Tov and Chesed**, Goodness and Mercy, to herd us, keep at our sides, steer us and shield us; not once, not twice, not thrice, but “all the days of my life”! And so we end up in the delightful destination at the end of v.6. The Good Shepherd will walk me through all of the insecurity and unrest and will not lose me. He will walk me through and bring me in to dwell in his house, to be with him for “length of days” or forever. And isn’t that the promise Paul hammers home in Romans 8?!

Thanks be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which you have won for us, for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us. O Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen (Richard of Chichester, 13th Century).

**After I presented this at the Oklahoma State Capitol, one of the women came to me and excitedly recounted how when she went to Ireland they ran across a shepherd, and he had 2 sheepdogs that were named "goodness" and "mercy".

Sunday, April 23, 2017

"I Will Never Forget You" - 23 April 2017

Lord, you once asked this question, and then replied to it: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49.15-16). To think that you have inscribed us onto your hands with the ink of indelible grace, never to forget us or lose us! Amazing pity, grace unknown and love beyond degree! “When all your mercies, O my God, my rising soul surveys, transported with the view I’m lost, in wonder, love, and praise” (TH #56.1).

Give ear, O Lord, as we implore your mercy and care for your one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, this congregation, and Real Life Fellowship; Redeemed Missionary Baptist Church; Redeemer Church of OKC; Regency Park Baptist Church; and Resurrection Lutheran Church. Take notice of where your church has been bloodied; give relief where she is depleted; provide correction where she was tumbled off the path; raise her up where she lies in the dust; encourage her where she faithfully fulfills her vocation; so that your church can forever say, “When all your mercies, O my God, my rising soul surveys, transported with the view I’m lost, in wonder, love, and praise.

Give ear, O Lord, as we implore your mercy and care for these United States of America; for all residents who out of many are made one; and for all of our leaders, to include our State Representatives such as Carl Newton; Monroe Nichols; and Jadine Nollan. Bring us to be a people who speak the truth to one another; render in our gates judgments that are true and make for peace; who do not devise evil in our hearts, through social media, or in our broadcasts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things you hate, O LORD (Zechariah 8.16-17). And make us a nation that rejoices in you and will ever sing “When all your mercies, O my God, my rising soul surveys, transported with the view I’m lost, in wonder, love, and praise.

Give ear, O Lord, as we implore your mercy and care for the nations and leaders of the world, such as President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine; President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama; and Prime Minister Peter O'Neill of Papua New Guinea. Make firm all legitimate causes of justice and goodness; Resolve the conflicts and preserve humaneness. And hasten the day when all nations, tribes, tongues and peoples will raise their voices praising you, “When all your mercies, O my God, my rising soul surveys, transported with the view I’m lost, in wonder, love, and praise.

Give ear, O Lord, as we implore your mercy and care for those in weakened or worsened conditions …; Visit them in their need that all their days they may declare, “When all your mercies, O my God, my rising soul surveys, transported with the view I’m lost, in wonder, love, and praise.

Give ear, O Lord, as we implore your mercy and care for those perishing in their sins…Turn their hearts, minds and bodies around that they may see their need of Christ, call upon the name of the Lord and be saved, and acknowledge for all eternity, “When all your mercies, O my God, my rising soul surveys, transported with the view I’m lost, in wonder, love, and praise.

We securely settle our petitions into your hands in the name of Christ, strongly affirming that “Through all eternity to you, a joyful song I’ll raise; for oh, eternity’s too short, to utter all your praise.” Amen.

Friday, April 21, 2017

"The Disruption of Evangelicalism" By Geoffrey Treloar. A Review

The Disruption of Evangelicalism: The Age of Torrey, Mott, McPherson and Hammond
Geoffrey R. Treloar
InterVarsity Press
PO Box 1400
Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426
ISBN: 978-0-8308-2584-4; $35.00; March 2017
Obtain a Copy and Dive In; 5 Stars of 5
Reviewed by Rev. Dr. Michael Philliber for Deus Misereatur (

Hot and steaming off of the press, with the fresh smell of newness, comes “The Disruption of Evangelicalism: The Age of Torrey, Mott, McPherson and Hammond”. It is the fourth volume in a planned five volume series chronicling a history of evangelicalism. The author, Geoffrey R. Treloar, is director of learning and teaching at the Australian College of Theology, visiting fellow in history in the School of Humanities and Languages at the University of New South Wales, and veteran writer.  This volume readably recounts approximately 50 years of evangelicalism’s story as it moves from the 19th into the first half of the 20th Century. The style makes the material accessible for savants and beginners alike.

Treloar lays out “The Disruption of Evangelicalism” into three neatly folded stacks: 1900-1914, then 1914-1918, and finally 1919-1940. Though none of the sections are exhaustive, they are representative (viii) and insightful. Each timeframe covered develops the main parties, concepts, approaches, frustrations and successes of the movement. The author follows Bebbington’s quadrilateral of enduring qualities that marked the boundaries of evangelicalism: conversionism, Biblicism, crucicentrism and activism (6-7).  Yet by the end of the book it becomes clear that two lesser qualities could be added: the reach to maintain social/national influence and the pursuit of ecumenism.

As readers ride the current flowing through the book, they will begin to pick up, page after page, how the center was becoming threadbare and unknotted. Diversification in evangelicalism deepened over the decades, separatist tendencies were strengthened, and cultural influence slipped from their hands. Altogether, evangelicalism became “more divided, less coherent and less credible.” In other words, the first half of the 20th Century was “the disruption of evangelicalism” (284).

On a personal level, I found several aspects of the book informative and edifying, of which I will only mention two. First, in this centenary season of the Great War (the First World War) it was gratifying and timely to delve into the three chapters covering 1914-1918, and some of the material dealing with the aftermath. Treloar beneficially shows how evangelicalism was influenced and affected by the Great War in three ways, “first in their readiness to become involved spiritually as well as materially, and then in the conduct of evangelical servicemen ‘under fire’ at the front and also in the manner evangelicals fought ‘the war within’ at home” (118). But further he maps out the numerous ways the Great War and its consequences aided in dislocating and disordering evangelicalism.

Secondly, it was refreshing to read that our early 20th Century evangelical forbearers had a strong view of the Lord’s Day, and “generally retained a high view of the Sabbath as a day set apart for physical and spiritual renewal on which the moral and spiritual power of both church and the wider society depended” (264). And how, further, they perceived that the neglect of Sunday by the population was “an index of the spiritual state of society.” That the relaxation of Sunday as a day of rest, and the “encroachments of newspapers, sports and popular entertainments” on the Lord’s Day “was a clear sign that a major cultural change was taking place” (167). Unfortunately much of this way of thinking and way of living has been lost in 21st Century churches. Nevertheless it was encouraging to be reminded that a high view of the Lord’s Day is not a foreign concept, but is in the evangelical background.

“The Disruption of Evangelicalism” is a good read, being both astute and educational. Seminarians would benefit by reading it, along with pastors and professors. In fact, by perusing this book Christians and evangelicals of all stripes and strides will gain a deeper perception and appreciation of a significant slice of Church history in the West. I strongly encourage you to obtain a copy and dive in!

Thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing, upon my request, the free copy of the book used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).

Sunday, April 16, 2017

"You Will Swallow Up Death Forever" - 16 April 2017

O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure…And you will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. You will swallow up death forever; and you, O Lord GOD, will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of your people you will take away from all the earth, for you, O LORD, have spoken” (Isaiah 25.1, 7-8); “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15.57).

On this great day as your Church all around this globe, in the Presbyterian Church in America, and in the greater Oklahoma City area, rejoices in the victory you have brought through the resurrection of Christ, we pray for those who have and are suffering horribly on behalf of our Lord that you would wipe away their tears and remove their reproach. Bring us all together in Christ Jesus, and bring us all to stand in one Spirit, with one mind, striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel; to stand and strive and live and love unflinchingly because Christ is risen, he is risen indeed! “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Look mercifully and compassionately on those who are worn and weary…, sick and sore…, despondent and dispirited…, pitiable and penniless…; bring them to know that Christ is risen, he is risen indeed! “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Look mercifully and compassionately on those who need to repent of their sins and embrace your Son in genuine faith…. Bring them to declare in faith that Christ is risen, he is risen indeed! “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Look mercifully and compassionately on these United States of America, upon all citizens and inhabitants whether free born, foreign born or unborn, and upon all of our leaders, to include our State Representatives such as Matt Meredith; John Montgomery; Lewis Moore; Glen Mulready; Cyndi Munson; Casey Murdock; and Jason Murphy. Secure our safety and wellbeing from all enemies foreign and domestic; rouse a sense of wholesome industriousness in business and education; continue to smile on our medical establishments and advancements; restore the important value of marriage – one man and one woman married for life; remove all selfishness and greed. And bring all in this country to proclaim with lip and life that Christ is risen, he is risen indeed! “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Look mercifully and compassionately on the nations and leaders of the earth, such as Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said of Oman; Mamnoon Hussain of Pakistan; and Tommy Remengesau of Palau; may borders be safe, wealth bountiful, health abundant, peace plentiful, good health care ample, quality education extensive, and livelihoods reliable; and bring all to rejoice that Christ is risen, he is risen indeed! “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

All of this we ask with assurance that you hear us, and confident that you will answer us because Christ is risen, he is risen indeed! “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, April 10, 2017

"Five Years One Kata" by William Burgar. A Review

Five Years One Kata: Putting Kata Back at the Heart of Karate
William Burgar
Martial Arts Publishing Limited
ISBN: 978-0954446604; March 2003; $29.95
4 Stars out of 5

Many martial art schools use katas, Poomsae, or forms, with minimal instruction as to what each technique is for. Some traditions seem to do better than others in this regard. One of my most memorable moments in kata came when an instructor spent a whole class session walking us through the five opening steps of an advanced form. During this time he explained each movement’s defensive and assaultive uses. And then he worked us through applying the techniques on our fellow karateka. This left a lasting impression on my mind as to the value of, and intent behind, kata learning. Several years back William Burgar, sixth dan in Shotokan karate, complied “Five Years One Kata: Putting Kata Back at the Heart of Karate”. This 336 page manual chronicles his five year experiment of focusing on one single kata (Gojushiho), and what he acquired in the process.

“Five Years One Kata” walks the reader through the history of kata, and Burgar’s theories about their initial origin, purpose and present value. According to the author, the kata “was originally a civilian art of defense as opposed to a martial (battlefield) method” (30). Further, the kata was not crafted to teach techniques. Rather it was a mnemonic device, a memory aid, for helping a person to recall the tactics they had already learned. The goal is to move the student from the learning and practicing stages, to the drilling phase when “the technique is second nature” (37). By taking this approach, the present value of kata lies in preparing the karateka to respond and react to habitual acts of violence.

Burgar then spends the bulk of the book unpacking Gojushiho kata, and its application. This center piece of “Five Years One Kata” is packed full of black and white pictures showing each technique and how it might be used in normal violent settings. Accompanying the pictures are printed explanations and directions describing what one see in the photographs. The book would be seriously enhanced by higher quality photographs.

The manuscript wraps up with simple plans for building your own kata and setting up a training regimen around your form. The final chapter pulls the book together where the author explains his own idea on this subject. Since “the primary goal of the karateka is to learn, practice and perfect a system of civilian self-defense to combat the habitual acts of violence…that one may face in common scenarios” (317), then a person must develop their own unique memory device. If the reader didn’t grasp the point of the book earlier, it all becomes clear in the last part: make your own kata out of the techniques you’ve learned over the years, and slowly add to it as you gain new defenses and skills.

“Five Years One Kata” is an encouraging volume. It was helpful in explaining the significance using poomsae, delving deeply into it, and working at its application in normal self-protection situations. Though the book is over fourteen years old, nevertheless it is still applicable. Even if a karateka doesn’t desire to craft their own kata, it will give them inspiration for making the forms they know more personal and practical. I recommend the book.