gratitude & hoopla

gratitude & hoopla

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton


Closing Shop

Gee, I think I'm going to do it. Close down Gratitude & Hoopla. As a more than a few people have now and then noticed throughout the centuries, "all things must pass." The time seems to have come for good old g&h. The fire seems to have gone out under this one.

Nevertheless, I will be tinkering with a new blog, just to keep my hand in, called In the Clearing. As I said, I don't seem to have much time for this anymore, but I'm expecting about a once a week post over there. I anticipate the feel of the thing being somewhat different than g&h. We'll see. Stop by In the Clearing now and then. Not much there yet, just a first experimental post or two, and no blogroll at all. But we'll see. . .


Onward Sidewise: Musing about a Blogging Change

Well, it certainly has been hard for me to keep at this blogging thing lately. This has been the first unplanned extended gap in my blogging since I began 3 years ago. But it's good to remember that, well, it's just no big deal. After all, blogging, like so many things, is destined to pass away. You did know that, didn't you?

So I'm thinking about a drastic change. I kind of feel as if the posting had become somewhat forced and joyless in the last few months anyway. So I'm getting that feeling that what I ought to do is close g&h down at last, and possibly begin diddling around with a new blog!

Yup, there you have it. Blogging has always been somewhat whimsical for me--an extended whimsy, to be sure--rather than clearly planned and intentional. I started blogging several years ago at Mr. Standfast, where I posted about 600 times before starting gratitude & hoopla. Now I've posted about 300 or so at g&h, and I'm once again feeling like the time is right for a change. So you see I've just about talked myself into closing this blog down and starting a new one. This isn't the last post here, but probably pretty close. I'm going to think about the mission of a new blog, and of course a good name for it, then I'm going to make the official "announcement" (not earth-shaking, certainly, but perhaps "fringe-rippling") when the time comes.

Another advantage of this, btw, is that I can use the new Blogger beta, which is a big improvement. So stay tuned for the news of the next blog, unless some other whimsy, riding a cross-current, interrupts my intention.

Does it sometimes seem like I keep moving onward sidewise?


Storms on Christian Superstars

Sam Storms has been working his way through Colossians in a running online commentary, and he has reached the letter's closing verses (Col. 4.7-17). Check out this opening to his latest post:
here's a sickness in our society that has infiltrated and infected the church. I have in mind our modern obsession with superstars. Whether they be Hollywood actors, Wall Street moguls, or overpaid, egotistical athletes, they seem to fill our newspapers and dominate our headlines and have become, tragically in most cases, role models for our children.

The Church is by no means immune to this infatuation with celebrity. Mega-church pastors, health-and-wealth advocates, and best-selling authors are promoted and praised as if they are in better standing with the Lord than the faithful but unacknowledged housewife or the quiet pastor who tends a flock of less than a hundred folk in rural Alabama.

I think Paul would have been disgusted with it all. In fact, I know it. One need only read 2 Corinthians (especially chapter 11) to observe his disdain for those who fancied themselves "super-apostles" (2 Corinthians 11:5). It's also evident from his commendations at the close of most of his letters. The kind of folk that most impressed him didn't necessarily hold ecclesiastical office or write books or have their names bandied about among gossipers.

The people who impressed Paul were the likes of Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Justus, Epaphras, Luke (O.K., there's one famous name), and Archippus. And the things Paul took note concerning them would hardly get their names on the evening news or generate enough money to subsidize a program on TBN.


Willard Alert!

Dallas Willard's new book is entitled The Great Omission. It sounds to me a little like a rehash of his earlier work, but I'm sure it will contain much Willardian wisdom. I found out about this book when I stumbled upon a bunch of guys blogging it. Great idea, that. Makes me kind of wonder about the possibilities. Give me a book rich in wisdom, and four or five guys who want a blog it, and I'm there! Any suggestions?


Well, I had a great time at the Men's Retreat. Mostly because the setting was so dang pretty. I did a lot of walking in the woods alone, kayaking, swimming, and hiking with friends. These things made the retreat a true joy. The teaching component was okay, but I'd have been happier if I could have spent more time swimming, to tell you the truth.

More on all this later. My new work-schedule is really cramping my blogging style, so I can't promise when.



I'm off to a men's retreat for the next couple of days. Hanging around with about 60 guys in the woods. Ergo, I won't be roundabout till Saturday evening. I've had great times at these in the past, and sometimes not so great. Hey, I think when you put those two things together, great and not-so-great, you could call the resulting concoction "life"!

Anyway, I'll be looking for Jesus there. More specifically, I'll be looking for, listening for, and seeking to apply, the good news of Messiah Jesus, Lord of all. If I don't see or hear that, if I see and hear an alternative plan (human imperatives without Gospel indicatives), well, hey, maybe I'll just go for a walk in the woods.

Seriously, I have no expectations about this retreat. With regard to the teaching, I'm taking a "wait and see" attitude. But at the very least there will be fresh air, good friends, conversation, and perhaps even time to curl up with a good book.

In the meantime, Dan Cruver has a clearly-written and truly debris-clearing article called Gospel-Centered Men and Women. A very good and useful read.


Marriage and the Atonement

Update on the recent church dissatisfaction post: some Sundays are more devoid of the Gospel than others, and I'm happy to report that this past Sunday was somewhat better than usual. The worship was actually not entirely self-referential and our pastor preached a pretty fair sermon concerning marriage, based of course on Ephesians 5:21-33. I have no desire to criticise my pastor, who works dang hard for his pay, but this post from Ligon Duncan at Together for the Gospel reminded me of the often-overlooked connection between the Gospel and, yes, marriage. For those many who don't seem to "get" that the Gospel really is fundamental to every important issue we can preach about in church, please read this paragraph carefully:
Martyn Lloyd-Jones taught me something about Ephesians 5:25 that I had never before grasped. How many times have I read, and preached, this verse and missed it? Then I read his pastoral words of application: "How many of us have realized that we are always to think of the married state in terms of the doctrine of the atonement? Is that our customary way of thinking of marriage?. . . Where do we find what the books have to say about marriage? Under which section? Under ethics. But it does not belong there. We must consider marriage in terms of the doctrine of the atonement." (Life in the Spirit, 148)
Well, so maybe I'm NOT just being snarky and peavish about church. Maybe the Gospel really IS missing (or at least significantly under-valued and under-applied) at my church and many others. In any case, finding oneself in accord with Martyn Lloyd-Jones gives one a warmly affirmed kind of feeling.

[Hearty Hat-Tip: Justin Taylor]


The Gospel, Not Happy-Talk

Mark Lauterbach's GospelDrivenLife is one of the most consistently valuable personal weblogs in the Christian Blogosphere. Lately Mark has been running a series called "What hill to die on?" Especially for those who call themselves soldiers, that's an an important question, don't you think? This little series of blogposts is full of riches, but I want to draw your attention to #5 in the series.
Here is where all this lands -- are we being clear about the Gospel? That is what is most urgent and I believe clarity on the Gospel brings resolutions to hundreds of other problems. We are often sloppy on the Gospel -- soft-pedaling sin, not dealing with God as the offended party, not speaking of the death of Christ as a sacrifice for sin. All too often I have found the fruit of poor "labor and delivery" -- supposedly new Christians who were clueless about the Gospel.
Mark goes on to list important aspects of the Gospel that are often soft-pedaled by earnest evangelists. When Mark says he runs into many Christians who don't seem to know what the Gospel is, well, that's a bitter pill, but I've seen it enough times myself. The Gospel and just any old happy-talk are not synonymous.

BTW, Mark Dever at Together for the Gospel makes a similar point here.
One part of clarity sometimes missed by earnest evangelists, however, is the willingness to offend. Clarity with the claims of Christ certainly will include the translation of the Gospel into words that our hearer understands, but it doesn’t necessarily mean translating it into words that our hearer will like. Too often advocates of relevant evangelism verge over into being advocates of irrelevant non-evangelism. A gospel which in no way offends the sinner has not been understood.
Good word!