Memento mori

Memento mori.

I first heard that phrase in grad school. The professor was challenging us to consider that we’ve got a finite number of days on this earth, and that we should make the most of them. Psalm 90:12 reinforces this sober appeal: “So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

In the past few weeks, I’ve been reminded of our temporariness here. Like that jug of milk in my refrigerator, I’ve got an expiration date. And you do too. Every day there are new obituaries in our newspapers, listing the elderly and the young, the famous and the obscure. Each life loved by a parent, a spouse, a child, a friend. Their time has come to an end; they “have shuffled off this mortal coil” and moved on.

I confess that I do think about my untimely death sometimes, even though my wife doesn’t want to hear me admit that. I think about the day my two daughters will no longer be able to see their papa. I think of all the things left undone, the opportunities missed. And I’m reminded of two things: that death is an unfathomable tragedy, and that I must embrace today as a priceless gift from the Lord — a gift to be relished and a gift to be shared with others.

May we savor today, while being heartened by that day of hope when we finally see the Lord and our other loved ones face-to-face. May we live today in light of that day.

Memento mori. Remember that you too will die.

Excellence

I realize this is a long article, but I thought it would be a good thing to share as it was convicting to me. I realize I have slacked off a bit on my blogging principles. Rather than using my blog to edify and encourage, I often use it as a source of venting. Granted, as a human I will always struggle and I need to be honest with others about those struggles; however, I think I need to be more careful that I am pointing to the answer to all of my struggles-Jesus. This is something I sadly often don’t do.
In addition, I believe I have slipped into some, um, shoddy blogging. Rather than pursuing excellence in writing, I am jotting down some random thoughts or confusing news and pressing post. Even if it means posting a little less, I plan on taking more time on my posts. In other words, I might try some proofreading. 🙂
I guess one might call this a New Year’s resolution. Wow, I believe this may be my first.

Blogging to Worship God
by Bob Kauflin

Why blog?

That’s the question I asked myself back in November of 2005, when I began a weblog called Worship Matters, devoted to issues of music and worship. After leading worship for 30 years, I figured I’d made enough mistakes to keep me going for a couple hundred columns.

At that time, Technorati.com said there were 10 million other blogs in existence. I wasn’t sure the world needed one more.

That was then. Technorati.com now claims to search over 50 million blogs. On top of that, the Washington Post recently reported that MySpace.com hosts over 100 million blogs. I have no doubt the number of blogs is going to continue to grow.

Why are blogs so incredibly popular? I can think of a few reasons. Sites like MySpace, TypePad, WordPress and Blogger have made starting a blog easy. And blogs are a great way to keep in touch with family and friends. My daughter and daughter-in-law live near us, but I still read their blogs that include personal reflections and pictures of the grandkids (always a plus).

I read a number of blogs daily. Al Mohler (albertmohler.com) gives me quick insightful and biblical commentary on the news. Justin Taylor (theologica.blogspot.com) provides helpful links to sites dealing with “Theology, Philosophy, Politics, and Culture.” Some blogs make me laugh (purgatorio1.com), others help me think through issues biblically (challies.com).

More than anything, blogs have enabled us to communicate what’s in our hearts and minds to anyone in the world who wants to listen. And you can do all of this sitting at home in front of your computer.

If you’re reading this, there’s a good possibility that you read blogs, comment on blogs, or write one of your own. If you never go near blogs, I wouldn’t be too concerned. But for the rest of us, here are some things to keep in mind as we inhabit the blogosphere.

For Those Who Blog or Want To

Christians might blog on a variety of topics and for a number of reasons, but they share one common goal:

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31)

If God wants us to eat and drink for his glory, He certainly wants us to blog for the same reason. That means God has something to say about our content, attitude, and motive in blogging.

It’s not hard to find blogs that are filled with foul language, pornographic material, and useless information. But as Christians, we’re commanded to think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). That includes quite a bit. What it doesn’t include is saying whatever I feel like saying, rehearsing how lousy I feel, wallowing in self-pity, or stirring up unnecessary controversy. God says we’ll be held accountable for every word we speak — and blog.

If you’re going to write a blog, write about something that matters. Unless you don’t expect anyone to read what you’re saying, ask yourself if what you’re writing will serve your readers in any way. It might be funny or serious, your own reflections or thoughts from others. Your blog might simply point to resources, books, or music that has encouraged you. But the content should in some meaningful way bring glory to God.

Here are a few subjects that should be absent from our blogs:

Lies. Sitting in front of the keyboard, it’s amazing how easily we type things that we aren’t completely sure about, that we never would want to be held accountable to, or that are slightly modified to make us sound more persuasive. As those who follow the One Who is the Truth, we should avoid any kind of falsehood, exaggeration, or unsubstantiated claim.

Gossip. One of the most common blogging temptations is to spread information about people we’ve never spoken to directly. This isn’t the same as referencing public knowledge for the sake of illustration, which can build discernment. But too often, we gossip simply to exalt our own ego. “Why was Katherine hanging out with Michael?” “How can my boss be so insensitive?” “I’d never say what Drew said.” “What a loser.”

Intimate details. I stumbled across some blogs a while back that read like uncensored diaries, full of crude language, sinful desires, and sexual disclosures. What holds true for our speech, holds true for our blogs:

“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” (Eph. 5:3-4)

Another factor to consider in blogging is links. While it may look impressive or cool to have a long list of “Blogs I Read,” keep in mind that you’re recommending the content of those blogs. Unless you trust the source implicitly, you should only recommend blogs that follow the same standards you do.

God is also concerned about our attitude when we blog.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Eph. 4:29)

I read a newspaper article not too long ago about a woman who wakes up every morning and begins her day by blogging her anger against conservatives. While most of us wouldn’t go that far, I wonder how often we use blogs to sin in a way that doesn’t seem quite so sinful. “Corrupting talk” includes biting sarcasm, arrogant condescension, and harsh anger. We might rename them wit, experience, and justified venting.

It never seems very sinful when we’re writing from our heart, striking a few keys and, pushing “post.” No one’s there to give us feedback and we’re just happy we said what we wanted to say. That’s why Christian bloggers need a generous dose of humility. The nature of blogging implies that I think I have something worth saying. That’s misleading. The ability to post my thoughts on the Internet is no guarantee that I have any idea what I’m talking about.

Recently Tim Challies live-blogged the WorshipGod06 Conference we hosted. One commenter took issue with some of the things that reportedly took place at the conference and launched into an attack on me, Sovereign Grace Ministries, and charismatics in general. I’m happy to say that after a number of folks came to our defense, the original commenter saw his sin and wrote this:

“Please forgive this over-zealous brother who spoke too soon, and without thinking through all of this first … and please pray that God would grant me wisdom and discernment in all things, so that I might not hurt another brother or sister with the kind of comments I posted earlier.”

That was a turnaround that is rarely seen in the world of blogging and a clear demonstration of humility. But it’s even better to consider our hearts before we open our mouths, remembering Solomon’s counsel in Proverbs: “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Prov. 29:20).

Finally, we need to examine our motives for blogging. Sometimes my motives are godly, sometimes not. Often they’re mixed.

When I started Worship Matters I was painfully aware of a desire to impress people. I had difficulty getting started and confessed in my second blog entry:

“Undoubtedly, pride has held me back. I don’t simply want to write a blog on worship. I want to write THE blog on worship (it helps that there aren’t very many out there to begin with). In my worst moments I’m hoping worshipmatters.com will be quoted, blogrolled, referenced, acclaimed, recognized, and well, worshiped. The fear that that WON’T happen, and that my blog will die after two weeks due to lack of interest, gives me pause.

“Ironic, isn’t it? One of my motives for writing a blog on worshipping God seems to be gaining glory for myself. Come to think of it, one of my motives for almost everything I do seems to be gaining glory for myself.”

Fortunately, God gives grace to overcome our sin. But if we don’t acknowledge it, we’ll never be able to repent from it. Here are some possible signs that I’m blogging for my own glory:

  • I start a blog because all my friends have one
  • I enjoy seeing my name in print, especially on someone else’s blog
  • I’m crushed by criticism
  • I’m flippant in criticizing others
  • I check my visitor counter every hour
  • My emotional state is related to the number of people who visit my site

I’m sure you can think of others. God’s words to us in James are relevant to blogging:

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” (James 3:13-15)

The two motives we are called to fight here are bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. Bitter jealousy is grieving that I don’t have what someone else has — a cooler site design, more links, more comments, more visitors. It’s when I only want God to be glorified through ME, and don’t naturally rejoice when he chooses to use someone else.

Selfish ambition is similar to bitter jealousy, only more blatant. I want to be approved, applauded, admired. I want people to say kind things about me, whether or not I actually deserve it. I fear any kind of correction or feedback because it appears as though I’ve said or done something wrong. At root, selfish ambition is challenging God for the right to be worshiped. Sadly, it can motivate what we write.

God tells us that these sins are “earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.” I have to admit, I typically don’t think of my desire to be noticed in such radical, harsh terms. But then, I never see my sin like God does. As one Puritan said, “You see more defilement in my duties than I ever saw in any of my sins.”

God’s solution is simple, but impossible apart from the work of the Savior in our hearts. Be humble. Be wise. Be “pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). That kind of blogging will bear fruit for eternity for the glory of Jesus Christ.

On Reading Blogs

When I first discovered blogs, I was amazed how much time people spent reading them. I still am. Yet, I’ve too often sat down to read a blog and been shocked to look up at the clock and see that two hours has passed.

For all that’s good about blogs, there are some down sides. The majority of blogs promote transient, light, emotional, and unreflective communication. Unlike great authors, no blogger I know spends years figuring out what they’re going to say on their blog. For the most part, blogs focus on what’s new, fashionable, or controversial. They can encourage quick and mindless responses that only feed our tendency to value temporal, passing things.

Of course, blogs can be beneficial if we use them wisely, understanding that they’re only one slice of the way God intends for us to relate to the world. And a small slice, at that.

Before I read a blog, it’s always good to ask a few questions.

  • Is there a better way I should be spending my time?
  • Have I set a limit on how long I’m going to do this?
  • Do I plan to guard my heart as I read?
  • How much time do I spend each day reading blogs?

My 17-year-old daughter started a blog where she posts pictures she’s taken. She sent out an e-mail to let people know about it, and a portion of it said:

“If you ever have any free time and you’re wondering, “What in the world am I going to do now?” don’t go to my blog. Have extended devotions, or read some good book on our Savior, or serve your family. And once you’ve done that, come and visit my blog.”

That’s great counsel.

The blogosphere is a mixed blessing. Used wisely we can benefit from the lives, insights, and creativity of others. Used without discernment, it can be a temptation and distraction for anyone who wants to please God.

Whether you read, write or ignore blogs, I pray that God gives you grace to do it all for the glory of our Savior.

Tape to the Forehead

I think I need to tape this one to my forehead. 🙂

Paul instructed us on how we can always rejoice, and his first word of counsel was to be “full of care” for nothing. Jesus, of course, gave the same advice when He said, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on” (Matthew 6:25). In both instances the same word is used, which we translate “anxious” or “careful.” Christians are called to be free of care, but we find such a way foreign to us. We have been trained since we were two years old to be full of care. We shout to our children, as they run to the school bus, “Be careful,” i.e., be full of care.

The spirit of celebration will not be in us until we have learned to be “careful for nothing.” And we will never have a carefree indifference to things until we totally trust God. This is why the Jubilee was such a crucial celebration in the Old Testament. No one would dare celebrate the Jubilee unless they had a deep trust in God’s ability to provide for their needs.

When we trust God we are free to rely entirely upon Him to get what we need: “By prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Prayer is the means by which we move the arm of God. Hence we can live in a spirit of carefree celebration.

Paul, however, did not end the matter there. He proceeded to tell us to set our minds on all the things in life that are true, honorable just, pure, lovely and gracious. God has established a created order full of excellent and good things, and it follows naturally that if we think on those things we will be happy. That is God’s appointed way to joy. If we think we will have joy only by praying and singing psalms we will be disillusioned. But if we fill our lives with simple good things and constantly thank God for them, we will know joy. And what about our problems? When we determine to dwell on the good and excellent things in life, our lives will be so full of those things that they will tend to swallow our problems.

The decision to set the mind on the higher things of life is an act of the will. That is why celebration is a discipline. It is not something that falls on our head. It is the result of a consciously chosen way of thinking and living. As we choose that way, the healing and redemption in Christ will break into the inner recesses of our lives and relationships, and the inevitable result will be joy.”

“The Art of Celebration”, Richard Foster. http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0001398.cfm