Mr. Standfast

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

August 29, 2005

Like a Goodbye, but Not

I'm starting up a new blog. Well, actually, I just did so. It's called Gratitude & Hoopla. Why have I done such a thing? I don't know exactly, except that it just seemed time for a change. I've been blogging here at Mr. Standfast for a couple of years now, going on 600 posts. I've acquired many blogging friends here and I've held forth at length on the grace and love of God. I'm going to keep doing that at G & H. If there's a difference, it will only be the difference that time makes, and my own growth in the love and grace of God.

What will happen to Mr. Standfast? I'm not sure. I haven't actually decided with certainty that I won't ever post here again. I'm still waiting for that answer. In the meantime, over at Gratitude & Hoopla I'll continue sharing whatever good things come my way. I'll meditate on Scripture, and speak often of the sheer wondrous and abundant grace of God, the Father of Lights. As I mentioned in my first post there, I am entering upon a new season in my own life. A new season requires a new song. And a new blog!

Finally, I should simply mention, this is just me talking. Me. Not some great authority, not some voice of great wisdom, just me. I'm sitting here, letting the words come, speaking, however imperfectly, out of my heart. If there's wisdom, it's mixed well with foolishness. But it's me. I'm in love with God, and in all truth I should be forever in his debt, and yet I'm not. You know why? Because He's wiped the ledger clean. He's not keeping an account any more. And this incomprehensible grace is all because of the cross. Because of the cross, God has not only wiped the ledger clean, He's broken it in a thousand pieces. Therefore, the only natural response is . . . Gratitude & Hoopla!

August 23, 2005


My Internet connection will be down till the end of the month, so it looks like posting will be infrequent at best for the next week or so. Consider this a temporary stand-down for Mr. Standfast. To all my regular visitors, great thanks for your support and encouragement. See you in September!

August 21, 2005

The Finch

Yesterday morning I got together with a group of guys from church. We went to a park by the ocean to talk and pray. [Go here for pics of the actual site.] The sun was rising over the Atlantic, and the lobsterman were heading out among the islands. We were standing near a ledge, about thirty feet above the waves, which seemed on this morning not so much to crash against the rocks but to feel their way among them, for the sea was gentle this day.

After a while, chatting and sipping coffee, we stood in a circle and prayed for one another. I kept my eyes open and watched the boats as I listened to the words of intercession, and then I saw the yellow finch. It leapt from a nearby branch of sumac and poured itself into ecstatic circles of flight, just over our heads. Around and around it raced, now intensely beating its wings and twittering, now folding them back so that its body took the shape of a small torpedo, then suddenly beating and twittering again, but always in a bobbing and wavering circle above our heads.

When we were done praying it flew away.

August 17, 2005

Two More

1. I really admire the writing of T. Austin-Sparks. Austin-Sparks, who died in 1971, was a prolific author and preacher, whose complete work is gradually being made available on the Web at From the website:

THEODORE AUSTIN-SPARKS (1888-1971) left behind a treasury of writings filled with the Wisdom, Life and Revelation of Christ. He felt that whatever was given by the One Spirit of God should be freely shared with the One Body of Christ - what belongs to the One, belongs to all. He did not want his writings or tapes copyrighted; freely giving to the Body what was freely received from the Head. Having greatly appreciated his writings ourselves, we offer them here on the web for the further establishing and strengthening of the Body, that in all things CHRIST might have the preeminence.
I urge you to explore this man's writings. He has a profound and deeply-felt way of delineating the many facets of the life in Christ.

2. RZIM is the ministry of apologist Ravi Zacharias. Lots of good stuff here, but I want especially to recommend their daily email column, called "A Slice of Infinity." The Website describes these engaging articles this way:

"A Slice of Infinity" is aimed at reaching into the culture with words of challenge, words of truth, and words of hope. So often in our society we are presented with rather disconcerting options when it comes to dealing with matters of great importance such as truth, good and evil, and the meaning of life. The assumptions that shape the ideas of our culture often go unchallenged. Many people today find themselves wanting something to hold onto, but do not know who or what to believe. Many find that they have an unshakable knowledge that there must be meaning in life, but haven't yet discovered it.

We have a genuine burden to offer a powerful option of hope and meaning. We understand the confusion and cynicism that are so much a part of our world, and we recognize the longings of the human heart. By stirring the imagination and engaging the mind, we want to share the beauty and truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "A Slice of Infinity" is essentially our gift and invitation to you, that you might further examine your beliefs, your culture, and the unique message of Jesus Christ.
Browse the archive and see for yourself. There's gold in these hills!


1. Both Worlds, who is borrowing from View from the Firehouse, has a memorable five-part quiz on the subject of abortion.

2. Scanning the blogroll of Both Worlds, I gave Dark Glasses a try. The blogger here is a pastor named Tommy Ham. The subhead: "Though we see through a glass, darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV), we're doing our best to work it out. Thoughts about life, culture, current events, and the church from a biblical perspective. I hope..." You should take a good long browse here. Check out Tommy's recent posts, Barbarian Visions and Pastoral Listening Skills (which asks the utterly significant question, Why don't pastors listen better?).

August 16, 2005


I love a good paragraph, don't you? Certain writers are simply masters of the form. Each paragraph brings a sense of completeness and fulfillment, like a painting in a frame; nothing need be added, nothing omitted. For example, I've always thought that Patrick O'Brien, author of the famous Aubrey/Maturin series of sea-going adventures, was one of these. Charles Dickens, of course. Eudora Welty, probably my favorite American short story writer, is also a master in this regard.

When I come across such a paragraph I have a tendency to read it aloud to someone, usually my "delovely" wife. But as she's not around at the moment, I'll share this one with you instead!

It's from David McCullough's John Adams (p. 342). McCullough is a historian with a novelist's concern for story and pacing. Here, he is describing John and Abigail's impression of London, where John has been appointed America's first ambassador to the Court of St. James.

The extravagance of the ruling class was notorious. At such exclusive clubs as Brooks or Boodles on St. James's Street, fortunes were reputedly gambled away at the turn of a card, and, nightly, young men drank themselves into a stupor. This was not quite true, but the stories would never die, and the clothes, carriages, the sheer weight of gold braid and the livery of servants, left little doubt as to how vast was the wealth of the wealthiest. Yet, as the Adamses found, one could hardly go anywhere without encountering such spectacles of poverty and misery as to tear the heart--people in tatters, hunger and suffering in their faces, as Abigail wrote. And who was to answer for the wretched victims "who are weekly sacrificed upon the gallows in numbers sufficient to astonish a civilized people?" Compounding her sorrow was the realization that every night and in all weather abandoned children by the hundreds slept beneath the bushes and trees of Hyde Park.

August 15, 2005

Another Challies Giveaway

Tim Challies is giving away a free copy of The Valley of Vision on CD (recorded by Max McClean), along with a copy of Don Whitney's Simplify Your Spiritual Life. That's a nice package! But you've got to enter the draw to win.

An Unexpected Question

What did you learn on line today? I learned about komodo dragons. Visit James and Amanda at Wittingshire ("A unique blend of science, faith and lyricism, reading it is a bit like having tea with an educated, Christian hobbit," says Gary Bourque of Both Worlds), who ask the unexpected question: "Why do we nurture our children, rather than eat them?"

August 13, 2005

My Favorite Internet Radio Sites

For part of my workday I have the opportunity to listen to Internet radio at my desk. Man, does that ever make the work-experience more pleasant. I like for praise and worship music, and Cross Rythms for contemporary Christian music (but I get tired of that pretty quickly, to tellya the truth). Still, the DJs have pleasant British accents and at least the music is not merely the same old same old from all the usual CCM suspects (I'll mention no names). But some of my favorite music is at Bluegrass music from all over the world! Yes, it really has become an international musical language!

Check it Out

I started a post just now about unity among believers, or the lack thereof, but I didn't like what I'd written and deleted it. I dunno, too preachy or something. So then I decided to scan the blogroll, looking for something I could point my readers to. My first click took me to Frosty Kaiser's Paint at Play. And guess what's on his mind today. Unity. Frosty's words are really better by far than my deleted stab at profundity. Read them here at Love like Family, and while you're at it have a look at Playing Nice. Mr. Kaiser has a way with words as well as with paint. Well done, Frosty.

August 11, 2005

2 Timothy 1:7

Paul writes to Timothy, "God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and self-discipline."

What a wonderful trinity of attributes that is. It occurs to me that any one of them without the others would be severely hampered or stunted. We know well enough, for example,of power exercised without love and self-discipline. These folks are rather easy to spot.

But then again there are those who love without power. I think we have all been in this boat, especially if we've parented teenagers. Our love may have seemed to make no impact, to meet with only blank expressions. Perhaps, lacking power, we even acquired a "spirit of timidity" about expressing that love. Then again, there are those who love without self-discipline. They love, but their love is not channeled into any particular actions or deeds. Such deeds are always in some way costly, and we shy from them perhaps out of mere laziness or lack of discipline. We let opportunities pass. We love, but it's never more than a feeling. Our love "dies on the vine."

How about self-discipline without love or power? We hit the weights every day or run our five miles, constantly whipping ourselves into shape, but only so as to win the approval of men or our own vanity. It is self-discipline that may even carry with it a semblance of power, but it is entirely devoid of Kingdom-purpose. We have much of this in our world. We are far more faithful to exercise than to seek God. Our self-discipline is merely self-love.

But Timothy was given a spirit of power AND love AND self-discipline. This made him a mighty man of God, I believe. With these, he could proclaim the Gospel without shame and without fear of men, even in a time of persecution. He pursued his calling, he did the work of the Lord, because he knew he was equipped by the Lord.

What a great man Timothy must have been. What a great mentor was Paul, even here in his last days, after so many former friends had deserted him. Awaiting his death in his second Roman imprisonment, he writes to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy, and reminds him for one last time, be courageous. "God did not give us [neither Paul nor Timothy] a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and self-discipline." May it be so also with us.

August 10, 2005

The Book Nerd Strikes Again

Man, we're having a real honest to goodness summer in this part of the world, where such is not always the case! What a lovely turn of events! I've heard of the concept of "summer reading," but I honestly don't understand it. Summer reading is light fare, even Potter-ish. A co-worker asked me yesterday if I wanted to borrow her copy of the latest Harry Potter opus, but I'm afraid I haven't yet read the first one (summers just haven't been long enough, I suppose). Nothing in particular against it, mind you. Just haven't gotten round to it. I'm presently reading David McCullough's John Adams, which I suppose is a winter-time, fireside type of book. Yet I'm finding it deeply inspiring. The book has two primary "story lines": on the one hand, Adams' courageous and steadfast dedication to his principles; and on the other, his great love for Abigail, and hers for him. These two story-lines are actually closely related, it seems to me, and McCullough's genius is to show that both are tied to the nature of the man, his character, his heart. Once, during a session of the Continental Congress, at a time when the prospects of the newly-declared republic were at a particularly low ebb, Benjamin Rush turned to Adams and asked if he thought the country could be saved. Adams replied, "Yes, if we fear God and repent of our sins."

August 09, 2005

A Few New Faces

I'm still messing with the blogroll. Actually, "messing with the blogroll" is one of the secondary pleasures of blogging. Anyway, I think I'm destined to be continually changing the labels, adding and subtracting bloggers, etc. In any case, here are a few recent additions.

First comes Jesus Creed. For those of you unfamiliar with Scot McKnight's work, the "Jesus Creed" is, in a nutshell, to love God and love your neighbor. Scot, like so many others, is engaging critically and "generously" with the emergent church movement. Now, I myself tend to flee from the mere mention of the e-word, but you can't help but like McKnight's writing, which is refreshingly free of religious cant. And BTW, he recently suggested 10 books that might serve as a theological corrective to the errors of the "Left Behind" series. I'm going to take advantage of Scot's list real soon.

Next, Rooted in Him. I discovered this blog through a comment in response to a recent post. Lots of encouragement from Scripture, occasional word studies, and a general attitude that is fundamentally Word-centered. That's the sort of stuff I will always want to return to frequently, which is the fundamental reason for a blogroll, right?

Zayd's Dad has his mind on things above. He is a missional blogger at heart, with a focus on the church in the developing world. His recent post on taking risks had real resonance in my own heart:

Paul was the ultimate RISK TAKER for God. We need more risk takers. Many want to define risks solely on the basis of adrenaline that pumps through ones veins after jumping out of a plane but can we risk for something greater? I am hungry to listen to the voice of God and instruct me and lead me, not knowing everything that is ahead of me BUT RISK for the sake of His name/fame in places of the world where few call him Lord.

August 07, 2005

Dilligence and Rest!

The following quote comes from Bob Hoekstra's excellent daily devotional, Day by Day Grace. Considering the idea of God's rest as a promise to his people, coupled with the call for dilligence in pursuit of God's kingdom (two seemingly contradictory concenpts), Hoekstra writes:

For those who believe in the Lord Jesus, spiritual rest is promised. This rest begins with a divine rescue from the crushing burden of sin and guilt. Then, it is intended to develop into heavenly relief from the unbearable load of self-generated Christian living. Entering into this daily spiritual rest is neither an optional nor a casual matter. "Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest." The Lord wants to stir and maintain in us an eagerness for this daily rest in Him. He wants us to earnestly and attentively seek Him for the rest that He alone can give. Our God wants to bring us along into a maturing assurance (a comprehensively developing confidence in His promises). "And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end." If we are unwilling to cry out to the Lord for such diligence in seeking His rest daily, we will eventually become spiritually lethargic: "that you do not become sluggish." God's rest is designed to produce spiritual fervency, not laziness: "not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11).

August 06, 2005


1) I think maybe you should read these: Christ, Community, Culture, and You.

2) Let's say my brain is an office. There's a balky 1980s PC on the desk, and old gray filing cabinets lining the walls. Since I've never invested in a waste basket, nothing gets thrown away. Though the room itself is remarkably small, those filing cabinets contain apparently endless drawers. Nevertheless, the files in them (thoughts, memories, images, ideas, old jokes, etc.) long ago overwhelmed my rather half-hearted "filing system." Anyway, I was going to say that . . . socked away in one of those endless drawers, no doubt wildly mis-filed, is a carefully-worded "statement of faith." The problem is, I can't find it. And I don't think I ever will. Oh, well. At least the short version is easy to remember. It's very much like what blogger Jeff Garrett said here.

3) The cross. It offends. It causes us to glance aside, to go home by a different way, to change the subject. Even our churches are embarrassed by it. Although we were happy to flock to Gibson's filmic rendering, that was just another Christian fad, apparently. We reveled briefly, then forgot. If you don't think so, why is it that, one year later, Osteen is our best selling author?

4) A couple of Mormons came to the door last week. I had some friends over, and we were just getting ready to open our Bibles when the two LDS evangelists showed up. We heard them out more or less politely, asked them a few questions they couldn't (or wouldn't) answer, and then we prayed for them to know the truth. Sweet kids, making their folks proud. Deluded, but sweet. Incoherent theology, flaky history (i.e., Indians descended from runaway Jews). I wanted to say, "Children, Children, but where is the cross in all this? What ever made you decide that Golgotha just wasn't enough?"

5) The Cross. I'm sorry, but without the cross, nothing matters. On the other hand, in the light of the cross, everything else comes into perspective, takes on its proper hue and proportion. Which reminds me of the statement Rusty asked over at Believer Blog: "As believers, we're reading Revelation well when the reality of Jesus Christ as He really is starts to break through to our hearts. We know we're on to something when our interpretation causes us to conclude that Jesus is more real than anything else."

Ah, well said.

Africa on My Mind

Scot Harrison is a photographer on a Mercy Ship. Want to know about the Mercy Ships ministry? You can go to On a Mercy Ship, or you can check in with Scot's blog at Notes from West Africa. Here is a simple statement. People like Scot and like Jenni at Vessels of Mercy see things every day that we in the pampered and sheltered West (I speak for myself) hope we will never have to see at close hand. Scot's photography is a window into the world of West Africa. These pictures, sometimes graphic and difficult to look at, are clearly important and necessary.

Under the Acacias
has been bringing our attention lately to the growing famine in West Africa. This slide show provides images that will help us understand what's going on. Also take a look at Niger Watch, or the following BBC report, called Africa's Tiny Victims of Hunger.

Go to Disaster Emergency Committee to find out how to send help. And pray.

August 05, 2005

Brief and Shallow

Well, clearly I have little to say. That's a rare mood indeed for Mr. Standfast. But yesterday's post was a sure sign that I'm in a blogging lull! So I think it'll be similarly brief and "shallow" posts for a while. Should I tell you what I'm listening to just now?

Dr. Ralph Stanley: Live at McCabe's Guitar Shop.

August 04, 2005


This is what I've been listening to lately:

Old Blind Dogs. Some very satisfying Scottish ballads, jigs, reels, and whatnot.

And Short Trip Home: simply 4 of the best musicians on the planet (IMHO).

August 01, 2005


A triple tip of the hat (or how about "doff of the cap") for Aron of Some Thoughts. Through him I've just discovered a couple of sites that seem very promising. I've browsed both of them only a little, but I like what I've seen so far. Check out reformation21 and Reformed Perspectives Magazine.

But that's only the first two hat-tips. The third is for sharing this: Al Mohler's From Father to Son--J.R.R. Tolkien on Sex. A fascinating read. So, a well-deserved thrice-over doff of the cap to Aron of Some Thoughts.

The Problem of Love

Love is the problem. To love, to be loved. Everyone who has ever lived has faced this problem and run into difficulties trying to solve it. The problem of love. This problem, this difficulty, lies at the root of all our other problems. It is not a Christian problem. It's a humanity problem. And although Christians say they have discovered the solution--Jesus--the problem still besets them, even as much as it besets those others who go on trying to solve the problem of love by some other means, or through some other power.

So it's a humanity problem, this problem of love, but the great Christian recognition is that it is also a God-problem. That is, it's a problem only God can solve. The great Christian recognition is this: we cannot on our own, through wisdom acquired from men, solve the problem of love. Our best "solutions" are too wrapped up with selfishness and sin, too burdened and entangled, and the weight of it brings down even our highest and best intentions. Like Paul, we know what we must do. We have high ideals. But when we try to carry it off, we make a mess of it.

So love is the problem. Everyone I know is trying to deal with it. Everyone. Even those who have hardened their hearts and sunk into cruelty and rage, they're trying to cope with the sheer magnitude of the problem of love. They have been devastated by its lack.

It was once fashionable, back in the hopeful sixties, to say that love is the answer. But it turned out, as experience was to demonstrate again and again, that we mortals botched the job. Badly. Consistently. The lesson of experience is, we always botch the job. No, love was not so much the answer, but the problem, the unsolvable Rubik's cube of life. It is the problem at the very root of Paul's heart-cry: "Oh who can save me from this body of death?"

Paul knew it was a "who" question, not a "how" question. That is the great Biblical revelation concerning the problem of love. The answer is a person.

Yes, but it must be candidly admitted, we who say we know this person, we who have him in our hearts, nevertheless somehow we're still--so often--stumped by this problem of love. The solution, it would seem, does not solve. Again and again we become aware that we have interposed ourselves, our own thinking, our own striving, our own will and our best intentions (which are always a mixed bag anyway) between the problem and Christ. We shove him aside and say, I'll take it from here. We do not let the solver solve.

Are you facing the seemingly unsolvable problem of love in your own life? Let me tell you, all the wisdom of men falls woefully short. Furthermore, never believe that, now that you're a Christian, this all becomes easy. It's not "a piece of cake." It was not even easy for the Apostle Paul. It was a lesson Jesus needed to teach with his very blood. "Love covers a multitude of sins," said the Apostle John. But such love cannot be found just anywhere. Repair to the cross, my wounded friend. Repair to the cross again and again. There is no other solution.