Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Reading through Calvin's Institutes in 2009

Reformation 21 is going to be blogging through John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion in 2009. I'll probably follow it some.

What I'm most excited about is simply reading through Institutes. It's something I've wanted to read for some time, since it is one of the most significant theological treatises ever written.

I realize that Calvin was Calvinist (go figure) and I'm not, but that doesn't mean I can't profit immensely from his writing. Besides, much of the Christian scholarship I read comes from Calvinists.

I've obtained a reading schedule and am ready to go. The reading schedule is for the John T. McNeill edition (2 vols.), but I'm sure it can be arranged for other editions (and there are much cheaper editions); the only thing that would change would be the page numbers.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

An Instance of Anti-Semitism

Simon Wiesenthal describes some of his experiences in concentration camps during WWII in his book, The Sunflower. He also relates some of the anti-semitism he endured even before the war in his hometown of Lemberg, Galicia.

When at Technical High School, the radical students had invented “a day without Jews,” “whereby they hoped to reduce the number of Jewish academics, to interfere with their studies and make it impossible for them to take examinations” (24).

These were usually scheduled on examination days when all the students, including the Jews, had to show up in order to continue their education. Several of the non-Jewish students wore ribbons, which read “a day without Jews,” and felt a lot freer to physically express their disgust for Jews.

A literal gauntlet of armed students was often established between the gate and the school’s door.

The school itself was outside of police jurisdiction. Ambulances typically waited along the streets, sure their services would be required. Police also hung around in order to make sure the violence didn’t spread outside of the school.

“Although the Radicals formed a mere twenty per cent of the students, this minority reigned because of the cowardice and laziness of the majority” (24). The same percentages and apathy held true to the faculty as well.

Can you imagine the terror these Jewish students felt? Can you imagine the anguish their parents experienced?

Postscripts to the Previous Post

1) Karl Rove also mentioned that President Bush reads the Bible from cover to cover each year along with a daily devotional.

2) The bloggers over at RedState are already anticipating how the Left is going to spin Bush's love of books:

Let’s begin the stop watch. At some point Keith Olbermann or someone like him is going to accept that this is true and will then state that the President has been reading while Rome burned, or some other such nonsense.

Meanwhile, more people on earth will be freed from tyranny because of the “distracted” book worm than because of any talking head.

Monday, December 29, 2008

President Bush Reads a Ton of Books

President Bush is a book lover. So reveals Karl Rove, his former deputy chief of staff in a Wall Street Journal article. In 2006 President Bush read 95 books, 51 in 2007 (1 a week), and this year around 40. (Ninety-five books!?)

How does he get so much reading done? Well, for one thing, he "reads instead of watching TV. He reads on Air Force One and to relax." The other reason? He simply loves to read; "he's curious. He reads about the tasks at hand, often picking volumes because of the relevance to his challenges."

Rove shows that Bush's reading interests are wide-ranging, including biographies of Lincoln, Carnegie, Mark Twain, Babe Ruth, King Leopold, William Jennings Bryan, Huey Long, LBJ, and Genghis Khan; also A History of the English Speaking Peoples Since 1900, Manhunt, and Mayflower as well as several novels by authors such as John D. MacDonald, Michael Crichton, Vince Flynn, and Albert Camus. Almost half of his reading in 2006 was history and biography, 8 were on current events, and 6 on sports. (See the article for a sampling of his '07 and '08 reading.)

Rove states: "There is a myth perpetuated by Bush critics that he would rather burn a book than read one. Like so many caricatures of the past eight years, this one is not only wrong, but also the opposite of the truth and evidence that bitterness can devour a small-minded critic. Mr. Bush loves books, learns from them, and is intellectually engaged by them."

The media has always portrayed President Bush as an intellectual lightweight. Lies! And his love of books is one piece of evidence that the media doesn't know what it's talking about.

Personal Note: I am so glad Rove wrote this article. One, because I am a book lover. Two, I have an incredible respect for President Bush, believing him to be a man of integrity and wisdom. Three, because I am so sick of him being portrayed as a simpleton. As Rove puts it, Bush "plays up being a good ol' boy from Midland, Texas, but he was a history major at Yale and graduated from Harvard Business School. You don't make it through either unless you are a reader."

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Arminian Myth #1

One of my favorite reads this year was Roger E. Olson's Arminian Theology. The book is helpfully organized around 10 myths about Arminianism. It is my intention to summarize each myth and its correction over a series of posts.

Myth #1: Arminian theology is the opposite of Calvinist/Reformed theology.

Truth: Jacob Arminius and most of his faithful followers fall into the broad understanding of the Reformed tradition; the common ground between Arminianism and Calvinism is significant.

Arminius considered himself Reformed and often underscored his common ground with the teachings of Reformed theology.

Arminius studied under Theodore Beza, Calvin’s successor, and Beza gave Arminius a letter of recommendation to the Reformed church of Amsterdam.

Reformed theology at that time was generically Protestant with room for theological diversity in the particulars of salvation.

Controversy reared its head when Franciscus Gomarus, a colleague of Arminius at the University of Leiden, started tightening up Reformed theology and attacking the moderates, including Arminius.

John Wesley, an Arminian, saw his own theology as “within a hair’s breadth” of Calvinism (p. 55).

Common ground between Arminius’s theology and Reformed theology:
Both assert “that the supreme purpose of God in creation and redemption is his own glory, and that the creature’s greatest happiness lies precisely in enjoying God” (p. 51).

Both teach covenant theology. “According to Arminius, all the ways of God with people in history begin with the covenant of works that God established with Adam and his posterity” (p. 52). The second covenant “centers around Jesus Christ as the mediator and grace as the means of redemption” (p. 53). “For Arminius, ‘legal theology’ correlates with the covenant of the law with Adam as head of the race, whereas ‘evangelical theology’ correlates with the covenant of grace with Christ as the head of the race--insofar as people accept him by faith” (p. 53).

Both teach total depravity, that every aspect of human nature is tainted by sin. Arminius believed that sinful man could not choose to follow God without grace first being exercised in his life. He believed that sinful man had no free will to follow God, that his mind was darkened, and that he was dead in sins.

To be sure, there are differences between Calvinism and Arminianism, but it is important to see that they share much in common, too.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Scattered Gems

Here's some things I've come across on the Internet:

Listen to "O Holy Night" like you've probably never heard it sung before (unless you hate the song; then you probably have heard it sung this way).

Not too long ago, this was the world's deepest pool.

But now this is.

Finally, I always enjoy most if not all of Thomas Sowell's random thoughts.

9 Things I Liked about This Christmas

  1. Watching the kids open their gifts
  2. Opening my gift from Sara
  3. Watching Sara's reaction when she opened her gift from me
  4. Talking with friends at Pancakes with Pastor
  5. A 2-hour nap right smack dab in the middle of the afternoon
  6. Having my parents and brother's family over for supper
  7. Harassing my niece Audrey over her toy puppy
  8. Reveling in the joy of God's love for us
  9. A few minutes of quiet reading before turning out the light

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Luke's Three Kings

The opening verses of Luke 2 outline the circumstances that account for the birth of Mary's baby in Bethlehem (as opposed to Nazareth). It all started with Augustus; he decreed a census. Instead of census officials going door-to-door, everyone had to return to their hometown. Joseph was a descendant of David, and so he had to go to Bethlehem, the town of David. Mary went with him.

Three kings. Augustus, David, and Jesus. And the greatest of these is Jesus.

David was a great king. Augustus was a great emperor. But they both pale in comparison to the King of kings. His earthly life and trappings were far more humble than theirs, but when he comes in his glory, David will bow, and Augustus will, too. He whose birthplace was determined by them will determine their respective fates.

Christmas Spirit

Sara's parents sent me the following:

Christmas Is Starting Off Great!

My wife has been on my case to get the Christmas lights up for a couple of weeks now. They are up now and for some reason she will not talk to me.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Nativity Story in Our Heads Isn't Thoroughly Biblical

How many times have you heard someone say "The Bible says" and then follow that up with some drivel that you couldn't even find in The Message?

When it comes to the Nativity accounts in Matthew and Luke, many Christians assume certain details are biblical when in fact they are not.

The Bible does not specify the number of Magi. The tradition of 3 wise men probably arose from the number of gifts presented to Jesus. Nor are the Magi specified to be kings. The Magi were most likely educated men who counseled kings. The counselors in Daniel 2 come to mind. A further note on the Magi--they are not named. Balthazar, Melchior, and Caspar are extra-biblical traditions.

The Bible does not specify that Jesus was born in a barn (stable). Some suspect he was actually born in a cave, a more likely environment in first century Judea where animals were kept. Animals aren't mentioned as present at the birth, either, but Jesus was laid in a manger, so possibly animals were present.

The innkeeper never appears in the biblical account. All we know is that there was no room for them in the inn (Lk 2:7). How they found this out is a matter of speculation.

The Bible does record that Joseph and Mary traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, but it does not say that Mary rode a donkey. Perhaps she did.

Luke does not specify that the angels sang to the shepherds. All the text says is that they were "praising God, saying, 'Glory to God in the highest.'" Perhaps they were singing, though.

Many people understand Mary to be a teen and Joseph to have been quite bit older, but the Bible does not say. (It could nonetheless be true.) What we know is that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived, and she remained so until he was born (Mt 1:25). However, contra Roman Catholicism, she did not remain a virgin (again see Mt 1:25), for she later gave birth to daughters and at least 4 other sons (Mk 6:3).

Elizabeth's age, however, is commented on. She is "well along in years" (Lk 1:7), or "in her old age" (Lk 1:36).

So what is in the Nativity accounts? Read them in Mt 1-2 and Lk 1-2.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holocaust Horrors

Simon Wiesenthal was a successful architect in Galicia (part of Poland today). Arrested by the Nazis in Oct, 1943, he lost his freedom and was treated as less than human for the next year and a half. He survived, but his family did not fare as well. Nazis were responsible for the deaths of 89 of his relatives!

I've been reading his book, The Sunflower, in which he relates some of his experiences during that year and a half. The aim of his book is a dilemma he faced when forced to listen to the confession of a dying Nazi (more on this in a later blog post), but all the other descriptions are enlightening and sobering.

At one point he describes walking through Lemberg, his hometown, as a prisoner. These were streets he had known well as a citizen, and now he was a prisoner of a foreign invader; a foreign invader who had taken over the streets and the buildings. For example, the technical high school where he had earned an education was now a Nazi hospital, and it was very weird walking the halls as a less-than-human instead of as a student.

In one concentration camp the prisoners had to sleep four to a bunk. They were completely dehumanized. If they appeared to be weak or lame, they were ordered to the pipe, a fenced-in area that led to a hill where shootings took place. Sometimes men in the pipe would stay there, exposed, 2-3 days before their executions--the Nazis would wait until they had enough men in the pipe to make it worth their while to trudge back up the hill.

A very sobering read.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christ Is Still in "Xmas"

For several years now I have often abbreviated Christmas as Xmas. Our X looks exactly like the Greek letter chi (pronounced "key"). X is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ. So for me it was an abbreviation that made sense; I wasn't using the term in order to take Christ out of Christmas. I explained this to the youth group early on, and we were fine.

I learned today I'm not the only one who does this. Don K. Ferguson (Grammar Gremlins, p. 235) explains that this tradition dates back to the 16th century and truly represents an abbreviation of Christ's Greek name (though of course many today use Xmas for other reasons).

(My own habit of writing Xmas developed from my older practice of simply writing X in place of Christ in my personal notes.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Things Change Prayer

The reality of a failing economy and the reality that I don't know what 2009 holds for me and my loved ones has led me to some new emphases in my praying:
  • Give us today our daily bread.
  • Thank you for giving us food today.
  • Thank you for heat, for electricity, and for clean drinking water.
  • Thank you for enabling us to pay our mortgage this month.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Not the Way I Planned It

My plan for yesterday (Sunday) afternoon and evening: nap; Christmas cards; reading; finances.

Upon arriving home from church, Andrew asked about going to the mall. Uuuhhh, okay; maybe later. After lunch, I did get a bit of a nap. That's the part of my plan that worked.

Sara wanted to work on our budget. Okay, that took longer than I expected, and we didn't even finish. Then I took Andrew to the mall where he bought himself an air soft gun. On the way home from the mall (around 5:30), I discovered that we were (probably) vandalized while at the mall. Something very sticky had been poured on our windshield and probably other parts of the van. So I told Sara I needed to head out to Mike's Car Wash. "Hey, could you stop by Meijer and get some milk and chips?" Sure. Got back, and as I pulled in the driveway, I thought about the fact that I hadn't yet hooked up the Christmas lights (yes, I left them up all year, but they're really tiny, so it's cool; trust me). And I thought about the fact that it was warm and that it was supposed to get cold yet overnight. So I got out the ladder to get the plug end of the lights out of the gutter. That took some doing, because the plug was firmly packed in the debris that overflowed my gutter. I plugged it in, and only half the lights came on. Great. Well, it was warm. Why not clean out the gutters? (Yeah, it was dark at this time.) While cleaning out the gutters, all of a sudden--because that's how quickly Fort Wayne electricity works--the other half of the lights came on. Well, why not complete the yard work? I rolled up the garden hose and put that away, too. Back inside I ate supper with the family and was going to work on my original plan for the day when we got a call from Caty at Avalon's youth group. Would one of us come pick her up since she wasn't feeling well? Originally, my brother was going to bring her home. But OK. Back in the van for the drive across town to get Caty. Home ... and time to go through the whole (long) put-the-kids-to-bed process. Finally, time to read or do the Christmas cards or something. (Yawn) Man, I'm tired.

I went to bed.

Advent Thinking #5

Jesus is going to bust up the undertaker racket

Dwight L. Moody relates the following experience:

When a young man, I was called upon suddenly, in Chicago, to preach a funeral sermon. A good many Chicago business men were to be there, and I said to myself, “Now, it will be a good chance for me to preach the gospel to those men, and I will get one of Christ’s funeral sermons.”

I hunted all through the four Gospels trying to find one of Christ’s funeral sermons, but I couldn’t find one. I found He broke up every funeral He ever attended! He never preached a funeral sermon in the world. Death couldn’t exist where He was. When the dead heard His voice they sprang to life. He will smash up the undertaking business when He comes to reign.

The Best of Dwight L. Moody 243-44

Friday, December 12, 2008

Less Preparing, More Enjoying

What frequently happens to me during Advent is that I spend so much time preparing for Christmas that I leave little time for enjoying the holiday. I spend so much time preparing that, before I've fully come down from the preparation mode, the holiday is over.

I don't want that to happen this year. There's already less than two weeks until Christmas.

How am I going to do that? Not sure. I think it involves just enjoying the family. I think it involves sitting in the living room near the Christmas tree and reading after the kids go to bed. I think it involves getting the cards done now so that it doesn't hang over my head. (For next year I think it may involve paring down the address list.)

The Joy of Study

Mondays - Wednesdays I leave the church at 3:25 in order to either take Andrew to basketball practice or Anna to gymnastics. So I usually take work with me. It works out fine, but I like studying in my study/office as opposed to on the road.

It's Friday afternoon. All my other work is done, and now I can settle in to study the passage for my Sunday School class this Sunday, in my own study. There's heat, there's the Bible, there are books, and there's the computer. Here goes ...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

9 Christmas Shows I Like

  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  2. Elf
  3. White Christmas
  4. It's a Wonderful Life
  5. The Year without a Santa Claus
  6. A Christmas Carol (with George C. Scott)
  7. Fort Wayne Philharmonic's Holiday Pops Concert
  8. 11PM Emmanuel Lutheran Christmas Eve Service
  9. Christmas with the Kranks

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Best Books of 2008

At John Wilson reflects on a year of personal reading and comments on the books he liked most. Since I like books, I thought I'd do the same.

In A Mother's Ordeal, Steven W. Mosher tells the true story of a Chinese woman who served as a population control official and then eventually bucked the system to have a second child of her own here in the US where she was harassed from overseas. She eventually received political asylum from the US. It is a very revealing look at life in China and especially life under Mao. Things that stick out from the book include the horrible way girls are treated, government officials having children spend whole days killing birds, the public posting in villages of every woman's cycle to make sure women aren't illegally pregnant, awful stories of pregnant women being hunted down in order to force abortions, and the horrible violence encouraged against fellow citizens disapproved by the government.

Scot McKnight delivers a persuasive argument for developing a rhythm of prayer in Praying with the Church. Many Christians pray at set hours each day (some as many as 7 times, and these are given different names, like compline, nones, vespers, etc.). A second advantage (besides a rhythm of prayer) is that, even praying alone, you are actually praying with the Church, who prays at certain hours each day.

I received a great education on classical music in Classical Music for Dummies by David Pogue and Scott Speck. A fantastic, well-organized introduction.

Roger E. Olson's Arminian Theology clearly explains Arminianism by carefully debunking 10 myths about it; myths such as "Arminian theology denies the sovereignty of God," "Arminianism is not a theology of grace," and "Arminians do not believe in predestination."

Gladys Aylward's autobiography, Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman, is an inspiring little book of a woman who felt called to China and went, even when a missions board turned her down. With no training, she entered China solely with confidence that God would guide, and her impact was significant. She knows how to tell a story, even if it's her own. A very enjoyable, soul-searching read.

Okay after that random rambling, let's get down to brass tacks. Here are my favorite reads of 2008:

Favorite Non-Fiction Book: A Mother's Ordeal, by Steven W. Mosher

Favorite Novel: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen -- a great story told by a great storyteller

Favorite Children's Book: Once Upon A Cool Motorcycle Dude, by Kevin O’Malley -- Anna and I discovered this tale of a boy and a girl who have to work together to tell a story, and they have opposing visions of what a good story is

Favorite Bible Book: 1 Samuel -- studying this book for several months on Wednesday nights has impressed upon me the importance of careful obedience and the reality of God's prevailing providence

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Shows

What's one of your favorite Christmas movies or shows?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Is There a Message Here?

So Pat left me an article in my office today entitled, "Confessions of a Fat Runner."

The article was well-written, both informative and entertaining, but ... is there a message here?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Advent Thinking #4

I visited Lillie today. Lillie raised her family at Northside and still attends there, though all five of her boys have moved away.

Lillie was born in Nazareth, the Nazareth. Her father, a Syrian, moved to the US and opened a grocery store. He married one of his employees, an American, and they moved back to Nazareth to open a tire store. Lillie was born there, but when the tire thing didn't work out, Lillie's dad moved the family to Flint, Michigan. Lillie was 3 or 4 months old. I have always thought it cool that one of our church family was born in Jesus' hometown.

Lillie's heart breaks for one close to her who will not trust Christ. This week, in a Bible study she attended, the teacher and the chosen Scripture text described the horrible realities of Hell. "It was almost more than I could take," she said, as she thought about her loved one. We prayed for him, adding that prayer to the thousands that have already been offered up on his behalf.

I also visited "John," a gentle elderly man who recently moved to a nursing home because of dementia. It was obvious he didn't remember me, though he couldn't bring himself to admit that. His wife told me that when he used to drive truck for a local company, he would write Scripture passages on the backs of his business cards. Those business cards became his flash cards as he committed several portions of God's Word to memory. I asked him about it today, and he confirmed that was his practice. I asked him if he still remembered some of those verse. He said "Yes" but didn't offer to quote any.

Lillie's sorrow and "John's" diminishment strengthen my yearning for the Lord to come back and make everything the way it's supposed to be. When Christ comes back the second time, he will usher in the kingdom in its fullness--peace, righteousness, wholeness, and joy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Advent Thinking #3

He said to them, "Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent. (Luke 19:25-26 NIV)

Genuine heroes come along from time to time, doing good and helping to lift the down and out. Unfortunately, the established powers are often threatened by the new hero, and they use all their power to discredit the new hero, especially in the eyes of the hero's followers.

Jesus was perceived as such a threat, but no matter what the establishment did to trip him up, they could not. His wisdom was perfect. He knew their motives and their hearts perfectly. They would try to be one verbal step ahead of him, but the truth was he was always several steps ahead of them.

Here's something to dwell on for a moment: Jesus never misspoke. How many of us wouldn't love that particular gift? His wisdom was always a source of wonder. He was the Houdini of verbal traps; there were none that could hold him.

And it's not that he was simply really good at spin. His wisdom always sprung from and expressed truth. He did not trick and deceive in his verbal mastery. What he said was always true.

Praise God that his Son, our Savior, was filled with wisdom.

And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. (Luke 2:40 NIV)

Remembering Grandma Batdorf

My maternal grandmother died 22 years ago today, 2 days after turning 61.

DeLores was born at the end of 1925 and grew up in Hartford City. She was the youngest of Floyd and Emily Everhart's children. She had a brother—his name was Earl—and a sister, Eleanor. Eleanor lives in Hartford City to this day.

DeLores, known as Dee, moved to Fort Wayne and worked at GE Supercharger during WWII. At the end of the war she married Forest Batdorf. Forest was a war vet of both world wars and was Dee’s senior by 24 years. (Picture this: the first war he served in ended 7 years before Dee was born.)

My grandpa was also a marriage vet, having been married at least twice before. They first lived on Pontiac, then moved to Mauldin Drive, and then moved back to Pontiac, purchasing a house between Reed and Winter and staying there for almost 20 years. They had two girls, Tierney (my mom) and Tonne.

While living on Mauldin Drive, someone told Dee about Eastwood Chapel, a little church over on the next street south of Mauldin. That’s when she started attending Eastwood Chapel, her church home until she died. (Eastwood Chapel became the place where my mom met my dad, where my dad eventually became the assistant pastor and then the only pastor, and where my brother and I grew up.)

Towards the end of the girls’ time at home, Dee started working: at South Wayne Elementary School, then at Bishop Luers High School in the office, and then at the Fort Wayne Community Schools kitchen on Catalpa. (At South Wayne she worked under Principal John Steiner. In 1991 the same John Steiner, then principal at Croninger Elementary, hired me as a part-time custodian. I only yesterday learned that my grandma and I had the same boss.)

My grandparents moved to a house on Baer Road in Waynedale, staying only 2 years before buying a duplex on Hessen Cassel across from McMillen Park’s golf course.

Then Grandpa divorced Grandma around 1976. I was around 7; my mom was around 30. Grandma went to work at the Hospitality Inn, now torn down, but then located near the intersection of Lima and Ley, just south of I-69. She was a hostess in the Inn’s expensive restaurant. I remember eating there only once.

She was diagnosed with MS in the late 70s, but it took a long time for her to get on disability. She had a brain aneurysm around ’84, and she went to a nursing home for a while. She moved in with us Sept 1, 1986, and she died 3 months to the day later of an infection.

I loved spending the night at Grandma’s house, sometimes by myself, sometimes with my brother, sometimes with one of my cousins, Danielle or Cori. I remember watching TV with Grandma, especially game shows. I remember tapioca pudding, homemade custard, and Neapolitan ice cream. I also remember large hot breakfasts. I remember taking a bath upstairs. (Our own house had only one floor.) I remember searching for golf balls in her front yard and going to visit her friends, Frank and Ethel. Later it was Lloyd. And I remember playing lots of Scrabble with Grandma.

Grandma Batdorf’s possessions of note to me when I was young included a very small organ, a large China cabinet, an enormously long blue green couch, a desk (which is now mine), and a little blue Chevette.

Grandma was soft-spoken, gentle, and had a servant’s heart. She died 3 years before I met Sara. I wish they had met and gotten to know each other before Grandma moved on to her final home, because I think they would have hit it off. One day I think they will.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Advent Thinking #2

Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. (Psa 5:1 NIV)

I sigh when I hear bad news, like when I hear about a husband I know walking out on his wife. I sigh when I observe someone I care about making a foolish decision. I sigh when I realize I just did something foolish, like saying something I can't instantly undo. I sigh when faced with a difficult decision and the best choice isn't clear.

Sighing is part and parcel of living in a messed up world and being messed up ourselves.

But Jesus came to straighten out the mess, the mess without and the mess within.

One day, because of Jesus ... no more sighing.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Advent Thinking #1

I really like the description of the Thessalonian Christians in 1 Thess 1:9-10:

They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (NIV)

I think it's a great description of what a Christian is, and some day I'll probably preach a 3-point sermon on it:
  1. A Christian has turned from idols.
  2. A Christian serves the living and true God.
  3. A Christian waits for his Son from heaven.
This simple description helps to distinguish the difference between cultural Christians and true Christians. Mental and verbal agreement that Jesus died on the cross for one's sins is not enough. True biblical faith impacts the life and lifestyle.

True Christians actually put away their idols, their lives are actually characterized by obedience to God's commands, and they are actually heavenly-minded.

Should You Mark in Your Bible?

I was reading remarks by D. L. Moody yesterday on why and how people should mark up their Bibles. It was very interesting. He suggested cross-referencing, taking sermon notes in the margins by the passages preached on, noting promises, highlighting meaningful passages, and so forth.

How he started the article even got my attention: "Don't be afraid to borrow and lend Bibles. Some time ago a man wanted to take my Bible home to get a few things out of it, and when it came back I found this noted in it ..." He goes on to list several notes the man wrote in his Bible. And he notes this with approval!

Please don't ask to borrow my Bible and then write in it.

Back to the issue of marking up your Bible. I know there are different preferences.

My own preference is to mark sparely and rarely. Sermon notes, insights, commentaries--those are all for other paper.

Why? A couple reasons: 1) When the Bible gets worn out and I have to move on to another Bible, then all my notes are lost. 2) I don't want previous notes to keep me from seeing new things in various texts.

The only kind of notes I take usually only have to do with translation issues. For instance I think the NIV footnote on 1 Cor 7:1 is a better translation than the NIV text, so I noted that. I also noted a better translation of the prepositions in Col 1:16.

I'M CURIOUS: What about you? Do you mark your Bible? Why or why not? What kinds of stuff do you mark?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Second Advent Completes the Work Done in the First Advent

We are in what is sometimes called "the now and the not yet."

Christ accomplished so much when he came the first time. Indeed, just before he died, he said, "It is finished." And it was. The cross was the signal, key event that defeated the devil, dealt with sin, liberated creation, created the Church, and opened Heaven.

Because of the cross I am saved from sin, reconciled to God, and delivered from death and the devil. (These are all mine by God's grace and through faith, which appropriates Christ's work.)

But in my experience I still struggle with sin, am sometimes not as close to God as I would like to be, am still subject to decay and will probably die (if Christ doesn't come back first), and the devil still tries to deceive and distract me.

This is the tension of the not and the not yet. When Christ comes back the second time, then all of these things will be fully realized. The work begun at the First Advent will finally be completed at the Second Advent. Or perhaps a more precise way to say it is that the work done at the First Advent will be fully and finally effected at the Second Advent.

In the meantime, I can still cry with Isaiah, "Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you!" (64:1 NIV)

  • In the meantime, I am now free to serve God and not sin (Rom 6:15ff.), but I still sin from time to time (1 Jn 2:1-2).
  • In the meantime, I enjoy a rich relationship with my Heavenly Father, but it will be far better when I am at his throne (cf. Ps 16:11).
  • In the meantime, the sting of death has been removed (1 Cor 15:55-57), and death does not hold the terror that it once held (Heb 2:14-15), but death still takes people away from me, and I will probably go through it.
  • In the meantime, I can resist the devil and he will flee from me (Jas 4:7), but he is nonetheless still on the prowl for a little while longer (1 Pt 5:18) until he is finally silenced (Rev 20:10).

Praise the Lord that we enjoy the fruits of the First Advent! Praise the Lord that there will be a Second Advent!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

People at My Thanksgiving

My dad and his twin sister, Rita

My cousin Clinton and Callie

Anna and Reagan
(Yes, Anna climbed up there herself.)

Aunt Rita and Don, Clinton, Caty, Oliver
Audrey, Reagan, Callie, Anna

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I planned to sleep in today, but Callie's foot in my back had me up a little after 6:00.

That was fine, though; I had a number of things I wanted to get done. I took some notes on Deut 10. I made my journal entry for yesterday. I sat down at the computer and began to type a Thanksgiving prayer to the Lord. (It's an annual thing.)

As I got started (around 6:45), Caty and Anna came downstairs; both of them had been awake for a while. Caty got started on her homework, and Anna started drawing a picture on newsprint.

When I was done with my prayer, I did an alphabet Thanksgiving list as I had the kids do yesterday. It was fun doing stuff with the girls.

Eventually, Sara and Andrew got up. The last to get up was Callie. At least she got to sleep in in my bed, the very thing I had hoped to do.

I went for a run at 9:00. It was invigorating and tiring at the same time.

Now at 10:20 I'm waiting for the shower. I have over an hour yet before we join the festivities at my parents'. So maybe I'll get a couple things done in addition to the shower and the obligatory shave.

My brother's family will be there, as will my Aunt Rita and her new husband Don and my cousin Clinton. Aunt Rita is my dad's twin sister. (I hope it won't be so hard to tell them apart this year.)

My goals: Give thanks to the Lord throughout the day. Enjoy my family. Eat wisely.

Give thanks to the LORD for he is good; his love endures forever.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

For Me, Sermon Preparation Is Struggle

Sermon preparation is struggle. It's other things, but it's definitely struggle.

Choosing the Scripture text is often half the battle. Preaching is a serious matter, a holy matter. Choosing the text (or topic) shouldn't be done lightly. What does the One I represent want me to preach? If I were in a series, it would be easier. But I don't preach much. So I pray and think.

Next, I study the text. Read it closely several times, outline it, take notes on it, note the context, try to discern the thrust of the passage, read it in several translations, read commentaries. Occasionally stop to pray, "What is this passage saying? What do you want me to communicate to your people?" Part of this process includes the realization that the text doesn't exactly say what you thought it said. Overall, I usually find this step to be the most enjoyable.

The next step is to develop a preaching outline, beginning with the proposition and my objective. The proposition is the sermon in a sentence--what is the main point of my sermon? The objective is what I want to accomplish with my sermon--what is it I want the hearers of my sermon to do as a result of hearing my sermon? Developing the preaching outline is also a struggle. I want to make sure I'm accurately representing the text, and I also want to make sure I'm presenting the text in a way that connects with the congregation.

Next, I type up the sermon. This is my least favorite part of sermon prep, but it's important. Yes, I use a manuscript when I preach. I don't read it from the pulpit (though I do read parts of it), but I do preach from the manuscript. Typing up the manuscript forces me to make logical connections between points, and it forces me to develop even the wording in how I want to communicate various points. This usually takes a few hours (5-8?), and it's a time when I often distract myself away from writing it. Some of the hardest parts are developing the introduction, conclusion, and illustrations.

Finally done, I print it up and review it, cleaning up all the errors.

Then I review it 2-3 times (Sat. morning, Sat. evening, Sun. morning) before preaching it.

There are those few occasions when, after typing it up, I completely revamp it. That happened last week. Feeling increasingly dissatisfied with my sermon, I typed up a revamped sermon on the same text Friday night, 9pm-1am, and that's the one I preached.

Sermon prep. is definitely a struggle, but it's well worth it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

9 of My Favorite Comic Strips

Andrew and Caty love to read comic strips. Andrew looks forward to getting the papers over the weekend and reading the funnies. Both of them regularly check out comic compilations from the library, such as Garfield and Little Lulu.

I'm not much of a comic strip fan anymore, but I have had my favorites. There's no question as to my top 3 favorites.

The best comic strip of all time, in my opinion, is Calvin & Hobbes. Calvin is hilarious. One of my favorite panels is when his mom runs into the living room where Calvin is pounding nails into the coffee table. His mom shouts, "What are you doing?!" Calvin, obviously puzzled, looks at his mom, then at the coffee table, then back at his mom, and answers, "Is this a trick question?"

My second favorite is The Far Side, and my third is Peanuts. I enjoy gathering the kids together to watch the Peanuts specials around holidays.

Rounding out my other nine--and I had to scratch my memory to get the last 2--

4. Non Sequitur
5. Garfield
6. Mother Goose & Grimm
7. Beetle Bailey
8. Hi & Lois
9. Heathcliff

Sunday, November 23, 2008

9 Things I Thank the Lord For

  1. Andrew being involved in basketball
  2. Adoption process is over and Callie is a part of the fam
  3. Eyesight
  4. Weekly trash collection
  5. The Word of God being composed of a variety of literary genres
  6. A reliable van
  7. My Call to Northside Missionary
  8. Indiana's four seasons

Friday, November 21, 2008

How Daniel Responded to Disappointing Legislation

The new law? All prayers for the next month must be prayed to the king and no one else.

Daniel's response? Well, you know his response. He continued to get down on his knees three times a day and pray to God.

But there's a little bit more than that. "Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before" (Dan 6:10b NIV).

The situation had never been great. He had been a prisoner in a foreign land under three kings now. And now, under the most recent king, his freedom to pray to whom he wished had been outlawed. But Daniel still found reason to thank God. And well he should.

And so should we as well. For some of us the days ahead look dark, but they aren't as dark as they could be, because our Lord Jesus is alive and well and God is working in our world to move history toward that time when Christ will return.

At this Thanksgiving season, there is much to praise the Lord for, including such things as
  • salvation
  • the Scriptures
  • the indwelling Holy Spirit
  • family and friends
  • church family
  • our daily bread
  • employment
  • modern conveniences
  • the rule of law in the US and the freedom to worship
  • the sure hope of Heaven.

Recommend Some Obscure Reading

What is some reading you would recommend that you're guessing we aren't familiar with?

(Idea came from 22 Words.)

The Problem with Low Gas Prices

Our budget and my half-starved wallet love the lower gas prices. But the problem with low gas prices is that I think the pressure has been removed from Congress to allow drilling in the US. Congress was showing signs of bending in that direction, I think.

Low gas prices are another symptom, albeit a nice one, of our slumping economy. Less business, less gas, less demand, lower prices. When and if the economy picks up, gas prices will too if current production stays the same. We need to drill here in the US to both increase our supply and reduce our dependence on other, sometimes hostile, countries.

I'm Kent Scantlin, and I approved this message.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bad Movies

What's the worst movie you have ever seen?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

E. M. Bounds Challenged Me Today

As I was thinking through my sermon for this week, I read this today:

How can a man preach who does not get his message fresh from God in the closet? How can he preach without having his faith quickened, his vision cleared, and his heart warmed by his closeting with God? … As far as the real interests of religion are concerned, a pulpit without a closet will always be a barren thing.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

9 of My Favorite Actors

  1. Russell Crowe
  2. Cary Grant
  3. John Wayne
  4. Jimmy Stewart
  5. Harrison Ford
  6. Sean Connery
  7. Sam Waterston
  8. Sean Bean
  9. Liam Neeson

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Movie Recommendation & I Love My Wife

Stuffing bulletins at home today, I started watching Premonition with Sandra Bullock. And I was hooked and watched it to the end.

There are times when the Lord uses some piece of art, even secular art, to all-of-a-sudden fan into flame my love for Sara. Premonition did that. (To those of you gasping right now, I'm not saying there are times when I don't love Sara, but I'm talking about emotional passion, and it comes and goes in most, if not all, marriages.)

Premonition is a psychological thriller with an intriguing, albeit implausible, plot. But a secondary theme is marriage-affirming: "remember why you fell in love," or "a slouching marriage is worth fighting for and saving," or (I think there's a better way to word this).

Bullock's character learns of her husband's impending death and also of an impending physical affair that will grow out of the seeds of his current emotional entanglement with another woman. Does she fight for him and fight for her marriage or not? She chooses to do so, and the ending is what you hope for, but it's also not what you expect, nor is it what you think it is right now (unless you've already seen it).

I love Sara, and this movie today reminded me of that fact, and it reminded me of a reason for that love: the longer we travel together, the more we are involved with one another, the more we are one.

I'm glad I saw Premonition. It may not have the same affect on you, but it's still a good movie.

Additional Note: Mr. Holland's Opus (movie), The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler (book), and a James Blunt song: these have all done the same thing for me as Premonition. Maybe sometime I'll tell you how.

My Commentary Picks, Ezekiel - Romans

Here are my go-to commentaries for Ezekiel-Romans.

(View my picks for Genesis- 2 Samuel and 1 Kings-Lamentations.)

Ezekiel: I've done very little commentary study in Ezekiel. On my shelf are Ezekiel (Tyndale Old Testament Commentary, or TOTC) by John B. Taylor and The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 1-24 (New International Commentary on the Old Testament, or NICOT) by Daniel I. Block. I've read a little of Block, and it's good ... and big.

Daniel: Absolutely no question on this one. Daniel (NIV Application Commentary) by Tremper Longman III helped me understand Daniel like very few commentaries have helped me understand any book. It is instructive in understanding apocalyptic writing (Daniel 7-12 is apocalyptic), and it highlighted well the themes that crop up in each of the 12 chapters of Daniel.

Hosea-Malachi: How about 1 commentary for all 12 minor prophets? I recommend The Minor Prophets by James Montgomery Boice. I think these are actually sermons he preached in a series on the minor prophets. Very well done. As to other go-to commentaries, I'll just highlight 1 other: Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (NIV Application Commentary) by James Bruckner. I've read the Jonah and Nahum sections, and they are very helpful on both of those "Nineveh" books.

Matthew: I have lots of commentaries on the gospels. No question which is my favorite for 3 of the gospels. For Matthew, it's Matthew (Expositor's Bible Commentary, or EBC) by D. A. Carson. (Any commentary by Carson is going to be good.) He really helps you understand the true intent of each text.

Mark: The Gospel of Mark (New International Commentary on the New Testament, or NICNT) by William L. Lane. One of the things I appreciate about this volume is Lane's focus on why Mark arranges his material as he does. The gospels aren't necessarily chronological, and the gospel writers select material and arrange it to communicate various themes and truths. Lane explores that well.

Luke: Probably Luke (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, or TNTC) by Leon Morris, though I think his book almost too brief; he doesn't answer some of my questions. I could also recommend Commentary on Luke (New International Greek Testament Commentary, or NIGTC) by I. Howard Marshall to fill in the gaps. But he's probably too technical for most.

John: Definitely The Gospel according to John (Pillar Commentaries) by D. A. Carson. A wonderful help in understanding the fourth gospel.

Acts: There are many good commentaries on Acts, and you would do well to pick up any of the following: The Spirit, the Church, and the World: The Message of Acts by John Stott; Acts (TNTC) by I. Howard Marshall; Interpreting Acts by Everett F. Harrison; The Book of the Acts (NICNT) by F. F. Bruce; or Acts (EBC) by Richard N. Longenecker. If I could only keep one though, it would probably be Acts (NIV Application Commentary) by Ajith Fernando.

Romans: Douglas Moo seems to be the Romans scholar anymore with volumes in the NICNT series and the NIV Application Commentary series, and he's good. But the indices in the NICNT volume start on p. 942, and I don't own the NIV Application Commentary volume, so my recommendation is Romans: God's Good News for the World by John Stott.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Happy Birthday, Anna!

My daughter turns 8 today!

The kids each have different personalities, of course. Anna is generally the quietest of the 4, though there are times when I have to tell her to tone it down--usually at home or in the van.

Anna is more compliant than her older siblings, and she's ever ready to pitch in and help. Yesterday she took care of the leaves for me, and I didn't even tell her to; she just did it.

She is also very witty. He humor, unlike many 8-year-olds, is actually funny most of the time.

Anna and I have a bedtime routine that we both enjoy:
  1. review her memory verses
  2. read from the Bible story book
  3. read a library book (either fiction or non-fiction: in the non-fiction category, we've read about China, snakes, making cheese, etc.; last night we read about Pugs)

Anna is quite athletic, quickly learning gymnastics. She likes to exercise (100+ sit ups the other day).

I love my daughter. The Lord was very good to me in giving her to me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It is difficult to read the story of Joash

I reread it today (2 Chron 24) while all the time thinking I was reading about Josiah, the other boy king. But I was quickly jarred to the truth of Joash in the aftermath of the death of Jehoiada.

Let me go back up to the beginning. Jehoiada's wife saved Joash as a baby when his grandmother went on a murderous rampage to secure the throne of Judah for herself. When Joash turned 7, Jehoiada led a coup that brought Athaliah to her end and established Joash as king, as was his right.

Jehoiada was a godly man and had a godly influence on Joash. Joash purged the land of Baal worship and was the impetus behind the repair and cleansing of the temple in Jerusalem. (In fact, when Jehoiada dragged his feet on the temple repairs, Joash took him to task and sped up the project.)

A few decades into Joash's reign, Jehoiada died.

Then, amazingly, through the influence of others, Joash led the country into Baalism. God moved in the heart of Zechariah to stand up against the religious idolatry of his day. And what did Joash do? Persuaded by others, he gave the order to have Zechariah executed.

The irony? Zechariah was Jehoiada's son! So Joash owed his very life (as an infant) to Jehoiada's wife. He owed his enthronement and training to Jehoiada. And he kills Jehoiada's son because he proclaimed God's truth!

A tragic story.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

9 First Sentences

First impressions are often considered important. In a novel, the opening sentence is considered to carry a lot of freight. To read others' input on this, read my brother and a guy named Abraham.

Here are 9 intriguing first sentences from 9 novels on my shelf.

In the shade of the house, in the sunshine on the river bank by the boats, in the shade of the sallow wood and the fig tree, Siddhartha, the handsome Brahmin’s son, grew up with his friend Govinda. (Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse)

The music-room in the Governor’s House at Port Mahon, a tall, handsome, pillared octagon, was filled with the triumphant first movement of Locatelli’s C major quartet. (Master and Commander, Patrick O’Brian) At this performance begins the friendship of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin that is developed over 20 books.

Five friends I had, and two of them snakes. (Godric, Frederick Buechner)

The cabin-passenger wrote in his diary a parody of Descartes: ‘I feel discomfort, therefore I am alive,’ then sat pen in hand with no more to record. (A Burnt-Out Case, Graham Greene)

Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York. (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith) But serene was not the word to describe the life of the young protagonist.

A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments and gray, steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, some wearing hoods, and others bareheaded, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes. (The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne)

Elmer Gantry was drunk. (Elmer Gantry, Sinclair Lewis)

All happy families are alike but an unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion. (Anna Karenin, Leo Tolstoy)

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. (The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Click "Comment" and Say Hi

I'm a blogger, and I like comments. Comments indicate people are reading your blog. They also give an indication as to whether people are enjoying your blog or not.

So why not introduce yourself? Let's make it easy: What's your name, town, and favorite season of the year?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Trying to Get a Handle on the Election

While I am delighted with the results of many parts of the election this past Tuesday, it is the national elections for which I was most concerned, and while Congressman Souder was reelected here in the 3rd district, the Democratic position in both the House and the Senate were strengthened, and the presidency will pass into the hands of not just a Democrat, but a very liberal--communist-thinking, it would appear--Democrat.

Here are some of the thoughts that are settling out of the whirlwind in my mind:

1) I will give to President-elect Obama my respect. 1 Peter 2 says:

Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.... Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. (2:13-14,17 NIV)

2) I have already begun praying for the president-elect, and I will continue to do so. 1 Timothy says:

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior ... (2:1-3 NIV)

I am praying for his salvation, for wise counselors, that he will govern righteously, and that any of his plans that are wicked and foolish will be frustrated.

(See John Piper for a look at 1 Tim 2:1-4 from a slightly different angle.)

3) While showing him respect and praying for him, I will nonetheless oppose his policies which are evil and/or foolish. Rightwingnews uses crisp, clear language to get this point across.

4) I love my country. That's what makes these election results so hard, because I fear I'm going to lose my country. I've been reading American history for a few years now, and I am impressed with the wisdom and the protection God has given to our country since its inception. Not that America has ever been perfect, but ...
  • I am impressed by the wisdom, faith, and character of our founding fathers.
  • I am impressed with the wisdom that went into the Constitution--the balancing of powers marvelously checks the reality of sin and the sinful nature of man.
  • I am impressed by the providence evident in the ragged Constitutional Army holding its own and defeating the polished and vastly more numerous British army.
  • I am impressed with the singular conviction and perseverance of Abraham Lincoln and how through him this nation threw off its back the horrible sin of slavery.
And the list goes on. We have a noble history, and I fear that all too soon that may all change.

5) I nonetheless wonder that God hasn't yet wiped our country clean off the map. We are guilty of many crimes as a nation, not the least of which is 200+ years of slavery (1619-1865). But especially abortion: well over 40,000,000 babies have been murdered since 1973! How can God not destroy us?! Despite the "bad news" Tuesday's election signals to me, we are far better off than what we deserve. That's not to say we should sit back and do nothing. We should be actively opposing evil policies in biblical acceptable ways where we can. But it's good to remember we're far better off--because of God's mercy--than we should be. (See another John Piper post for a similar perspective.)

6) I have been praying for sometime for revival in our church and in our country, for a deepening of holiness within me and the people around me, for help to trust God more. If morality continues to plummet and freedoms continue to disappear, this election may be God's way of answering that very prayer.

Obama Irony

"It's remarkable to me and deeply ironic that our first African-American President will be our country's strongest defender of treating unborn babies as less than fully human."

--Steve McCoy at Reformissionary

Thursday, November 6, 2008

9 Reasons Why I Don’t Want to Be Abducted by Aliens

  1. If they did a brain scan, they would find that I rooted for Earth while watching Independence Day.
  2. I weigh almost 200 lbs. I’m concerned that their tractor beam would drop me half-way up.
  3. My insurance doesn’t cover experimental procedures.
  4. If I’m gone long, who will log the all-important attendance data at the church?
  5. I’m not interested in making an annual pilgrimage to Area 51.
  6. I don’t believe in aliens, so getting abducted by them would really rock my world.
  7. You know how they say people don’t like change? I’m one of those people.
  8. Even though aliens and I both have 6 mouths to feed, my 6 mouths are on 6 separate people.
  9. I have no desire to meet either Bill Maher or Al Franken.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Good Reference Book for Writers

I came across a handy book at the library today. Grammar Gremlins highlights over a hundred grammatical conundrums that baffle many writers.

I love the format: 1 grammatical issue per set of facing pages. The left page contains one sentence illustrating the particular issue. The right page briefly explains the issue and gives you correct usage.

For example, page 16 has one sentence that reads:
"The conference begins at 8 a.m. Wednesday."

The facing page then briefly explains the usage of "a.m." and "p.m."

The body of the book is organized into 5 sections:
  1. Punctuation, Mechanics, and Spelling
  2. Grammar
  3. Usage
  4. Pronunciation and Misused Words
  5. Vogue Words and Terms

This is a great book for anyone concerned about grammatical precision (like me). Of course, there probably aren't many of you, if I have Internet lingo to judge by.

US Election Thrills Iran and Palestinians, Concerns Iraq and Israel

From Joel Rosenberg's blog post today:

"I'm paying particular attention this morning to how people in the epicenter are reacting to Sen. Obama's victory. Leaders in Iran are thrilled since the likelihood of decisive U.S. action to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program has just dropped dramatically. Leaders in Iraq, by contrast, are trying not to be worried given that the likelihood of rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces has just increased dramatically.

"Palestinians seem to be thrilled, since they seem Obama as pro-Palestinian and open to dividing Jerusalem and pressuring the Israelis to make further concessions of "land for peace." Many Israelis feel quite unsettled this morning, concerned that they will be all alone in the Middle East as the U.S. begins to pack up and go home from Iraq. They are also concerned that Obama and his team do not appear to fully understand or appreciate the seriousness of the threat of Radical Islam. Sen. Obama told us during the campaign that Iran was a tiny country that did not pose much of a threat. Israelis are not convinced he will stand with them in a nuclear showdown with Tehran."


All things being equal, the next time I participate in a presidential election ...
  • Callie will be 6,
  • Anna will be in 7th grade,
  • Caty will be 15,
  • and Andrew will be a senior.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Well Done, Senator McCain

I am watching Sen. McCain's concession speech, and it is a fine one. Noble and dignified and well-spoken. Also sincere. It seems very clear that he means every single word he says. Well done, Sen. McCain.

I was not excited about Sen. McCain. My first choice was Ronald Reagan, but issues relating to the Constitution and to life and death preventing, my second choice was Fred Thompson. When he bowed out, I threw my support, lessening in enthusiasm, behind Mitt Romney.

Over the years Sen. McCain has revealed himself far less conservative than I would like him to be. Nevertheless, he had some great moments in his campaign, not the least of which was his choice of Gov. Palin, a true conservative. And perhaps the greatest moment is this speech that he just gave.

He referred approvingly to the elation that African-Americans must be feeling at this moment. He referred to Sen. Obama as his next president, and he clearly stated he will support him and his good friend Sen. Biden. And he referred to the privilege of serving his country, and he will continue to remain "her servant."

No Trouble Voting

Well, I voted. With warnings of long lines, I took a book. Four precincts voting at my polling place (University of St. Francis) and seven voting machines.

I didn't get crank phone calls telling me my voting location had changed at the last minute, nor did I see any Black Panthers wielding nightsticks at the front doors. So perhaps the biggest challenge was ...

A six-page ballot?! Whew! Everything went smoothly though, and it took about 30 minutes altogether. Hats off to the election officials there.


Mom's Birthday Today and in 1980

Today is my mom's birthday, and she's spending all day working the polls, as she has been for several years now.

Twenty-eight years ago, another presidential election took place on her birthday. I noted in my journal then that she had a great birthday because Ronald Reagan was elected over Jimmy Carter for the presidency, Dan Quayle was elected over Birch Bayh for the Senate, Orr was elected over Hildenbrandt for governor, and Dan Coats was elected over Walda to the House of Representatives.

Though my parents are both devoted to the Scriptures and to prayer, I think they have impacted me differently. Dad's example has led me to love the Word of God, and Mom's example has taught me how to pray. I have learned to pray more and to pray about more things from my mom. She doesn't consider herself a prayer warrior, but I do.

Happy Birthday, Mom! I hope the elections go your way again as they did in 1980.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Skinny on My Weight Loss Efforts

I've been working on losing weight again. Back in 2003 I started limiting my eating. I lost 31 pounds over the period of a few months, dropping from 226 to 195. That was great! Since then I have slowly, very slowly, been creeping back up.

At the beginning of September this year I weighed 210, so I started doing the portion control thing again. I dropped 3 pounds a week for the first 4 weeks, and for the last few weeks I've been hovering between 195 and 199. I'd like to go lower for the fun of it. Target weight is 189, at least for a day.

In addition to portion control, there's exercise. In January 2007 I started running; that is, I started engaging in a physical activity that is faster than walking. I'd never really run before, primarily because I despised it. But I had a concern about having a degree of cardiovascular fitness.

I found a plan on the Internet, "From Couch Potato to 5K in 9 Weeks." It took me longer than that, but I eventually could run 3.1 miles, even 5 at one point. I kept running until we went to China back in May; then I stopped. I started up again in September. That also helps keep the pounds off. That, along with frequently riding my bike or walking to the church.

I dare not neglect to mention one other factor: the Lord. Prayer has been a huge factor in my running. Most mornings when I start running I ask the Lord to help me run. And I have asked him to help me control my eating, and he has helped.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

New Definition of Torture

Having to take a test on 47 different kinds of fabric

A girl in our Sunday School class this morning asked prayer for this upcoming test. (She's majoring in interior design, I believe.) We should've laid hands on her and prayed for her to be delivered from this demonically-inspired device, that the demon of fabric testing might be cast out.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Richard Dawkins Says Religious Education of Children Worse Than Physically Abusing Them

Richard Dawkins, evolutionary proponent, atheist, is planning to study the effects of fairy tales, including Harry Potter, as well as the "Judeo-Christian" myth on children. He perceives these to all be negative effects.

He goes on to state that teaching kids religious tenets is to abuse kids. In fact, it is worse than physical abuse.

The UK Telegraph reports:

Speaking recently at a conference of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, a group of Britons who have renounced Islam, Prof Dawkins said: "Do not ever call a child a Muslim child or a Christian child – that is a form of child abuse because a young child is too young to know what its views are about the cosmos or morality.

"It is evil to describe a child as a Muslim child or a Christian child. I think labelling children is child abuse and I think there is a very heavy issue, for example, about teaching about hell and torturing their minds with hell.

"It's a form of child abuse, even worse than physical child abuse. I wouldn't want to teach a young child, a terrifyingly young child, about hell when he dies, as it's as bad as many forms of physical abuse."

I'm curious by his statement about a child being too young to know what its views are about the cosmos or reality. Isn't that why we teach children? A child's views are wrong until he is educated, and then they may still be wrong depending on what he is taught. A child learns its views by being taught. Probably at issue is Prof. Dawkins desire to teach my kids atheism and evolution.

I'm further curious by Prof. Dawkins' moral concerns. If God does not exist, to what authority is he appealing when he says that teaching children religion is abuse. Says who? And is this "who" someone I am obligated to listen to?

Further, his moral structure is stratified: somehow he knows that religious education is worse than beating a kid. Where does this moral system come from? (And if there is no hell, why does it matter?)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

9 Actual Names of Mediocre Horses

I checked out from the library The Best American Nonrequired Reading (of 2007). A potpourri of absolutely unnecessary reading, but some of it is humorous, like the section "Best American Names of Horses Expected to Have Undistinguished Careers." Here are my 9 favorites:
  1. Colic the Wonder Horse
  2. Daddy Drinks Because I'm Slow
  3. Shoulda Bought a Monkey
  4. Stupid Gypsy Curse
  5. This Is Your Horse on Drugs
  6. Tripsy McStumble
  7. Luck o' the Amish
  8. Torpor Unbound
  9. Limp to Victory

My Commentary Picks, 1 Kings - Lamentations

Here are my go-to commentaries for 1 Kings - Lamentations.

For my picks on the first books of the Bible, click here.

In the first part of this section, I have little critical input because I have so few commentaries on these books (in some cases, just 1), but here's my list.

1-2 Kings: I recently discovered I had no significant commentary on these two books, so I found John Piper's recommended and bought his favorite, 1, 2 Kings (New American Commentary) by Paul R. House. I've perused it, and it looks good.

1-2 Chronicles: I really like the two volumes by Martin J. Selman, 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, or TOTC).

Ezra and Nehemiah: Ezra & Nehemiah (TOTC) by Derek Kidner. The TOTC commentaries are slimmer, but they're packed with good stuff. And Derek Kidner is very readable. His insights are pithy and profound.

Esther: Esther (TOTC) by Joyce Baldwin, another good scholar

Job: I have 3 I go to, but if I had to pick 1, it would probably be Job (Everyman's Bible Commentary) by Roy Zuck. If you want to fall in love with the book of Job, this is your commentary, because it highlights the wealth and grandeur of the book. The Everyman Bible Commentary series is more of a layman's commentary, and the series does a great job of explaining texts, at least the OT books do; I don't believe I've read any of the NT ones.

Psalms: For serious study in Psalms, it's hard to relegate myself to one commentary. So I'll break my rule (again) and mention 2: Psalms 1-72 and Psalms 73-150 (TOTC) by Derek Kidner and The Treasury of David by Charles H. Spurgeon. Kidner has a way of capturing the outline and gist of each psalm, and Spurgeon helps you see the wonder and beauty of each individual verse.

Proverbs: Proverbs (TOTC) by Derek Kidner

Ecclesiastes: Either Ecclesiastes (in Vol. 5 of the Expositor's Bible Commentary) or Ecclesiastes (Bible Study Commentary) by Louis Goldberg

Song of Solomon: I've never done anything in ministry with this book. I read A Song for Lovers by S. Craig Glickman in college, and that was very good. I also have Song of Songs (in Vol. 5 of the Expositor's Bible Commentary) by Dennis F. Kinlaw, but I've not consulted it, though I do like Kinlaw.

Isaiah: Tough call because there are many good ones, but I'll go with Isaiah (NIV Application Commentary) by John Oswalt

Jeremiah and Lamentations: Jeremiah & Lamentations (TOTC) by R. K. Harrison

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ron Paul Facts

Came across some Ron Paul facts, in the Chuck Norris facts genre:
  • Ron Paul has so many morals, he has to pay for two seats on a plane.
  • Ron Paul could lead a horse to water AND convince it to drink, but he doesn't believe the government has the right to so he refuses.
  • It was going to be called the Paul of Rights.
  • When fascism goes to sleep at night, it checks under the bed for Ron Paul.
  • Ron Paul has no alarm clock, but instead wakes every morning to the call of freedom.
  • Ron Paul doesn't cut taxes. He kills them with his bare hands.
  • Ron Paul can recite Pi to 1776 places.
  • Ron Paul is not watching you.
  • Ron Paul's car doesn't turn left.

I think I could like Ron Paul. I like conservative, which is why I like Gov. Palin.

Monday, October 27, 2008

9 Reasons I'm Glad I Don't Live in Chicago

Times occur when I either don't have time or ideas for blogging. In those cases I like the lighter side of my lists of 9. You may not enjoy the lighter side. Oh well. At least it's a quick read if you feel absolutely compelled to do so.

We went to Chicago for a long weekend. While it may be fun to visit, still there are reasons I'm glad I don't live there.
  1. Traffic
  2. Not much of a big city boy
  3. Toll roads
  4. Cost of living
  5. Would probably feel like my voting a waste of time
  6. Chicago probably a priority target for terrorists
  7. Long commute to Northside
  8. Not sure how to celebrate Casimir Pulaski Day
  9. I'd miss my wife and kids

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

On Politics

Thomas Sowell notes that October is typically characterized by polls that give Democrats a good margin. Then, in order to be considered credible, they make their polls more accurate shortly before election day. Why the inflated numbers beforehand? To create a general impression that the Dems. are winning. Perhaps to discourage Republicans from voting, too. It's an interesting article and perhaps worth a full read.

One blog post asks why, with all the good things in Obama's favor (record campaign contributions in Sept., record crowd in St. Louis, Colin Powell's endorsement)--why is McCain closing the gap?

Gov. Sarah Palin is coming to Fort Wayne Saturday, reportedly in the evening at the Coliseum. That is one rally I would consider going to if I weren't going to be gone.

Just a reminder to vote, no matter what the polls say. Do your civic duty. If you don't know who to vote for, feel free to give me a call.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

You Can Only Accept or Refuse Salvation

Hebrews 12:25: "See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks."

D. L. Moody comments on this text:

"You can only do one of two things, take it or refuse it. You have all been in a house where the waiter passed ice-water to a number of people sitting together, and seen how some would take it and some would not; so the cup of salvation is passed among you to-day. How many of you will accept it? Are you almost persuaded? Remember a hair's breadth from heaven is not an inch from hell."

--The Best of Dwight L. Moody

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

9 Hobbies I Could Take Up but Haven't

  1. jigsaw puzzles
  2. baking
  3. gardening
  4. writing poetry
  5. trees
  6. visiting Civil War battlefields
  7. traveling state routes to take in rural America
  8. book discussion group
  9. hiking

Sunday, October 12, 2008

October 12, 1492

"Columbus's fleet consisted of only three vessels ... and a crew of ninety men. Leaving port in August 1492, the expedition eventually passed the point where the sailors expected to find Japan, generating no small degree of anxiety, whereupon Columbus used every managerial skill he possessed to maintain discipline and encourage hope. The voyage had stretched to ten weeks when the crew bordered on mutiny .... Finally, on October 11, 1492, they started to see signs of land: pieces of wood loaded with barnacles, green bulrushes, and other vegetation. A lookout spotted land, and on October 12, 1492, the courageous band waded ashore on Watling Island in the Bahamas, where his men begged his pardon for doubting him."

"Columbus was the first to set foot on dry land, carrying the royal standard.... The men kissed the white coral beach, which was almost too bright to look at in the noonday sun. Then their eyes filled with tears, as they knelt and bowed their heads. Columbus christened the island San Salvador--"Holy Saviour"--and prayed:

"'O Lord, Almighty and everlasting God, by Thy holy Word Thou hast created the heaven, and the earth, and the sea; blessed and glorified be Thy Name, and praised be Thy Majesty, which hath deigned to use us, Thy humble servants, that Thy holy Name may be proclaimed in this second part of the earth.'"

1st paragraph: Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, A Patriot's History of the United States, p. 4.
2nd & 3rd paragraphs: Peter Marshall and David Manuel, The Light and the Glory, p. 41.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Why I'm Looking Forward to Men's Fraternity

Our church started Men's Fraternity this week, a 3-year course developed by Robert Lewis in Little Rock. The purpose of the course is to help men understand what it means to be a man, and specifically, what the Bible says it means to be a man.

I am excited about this course. Lewis talked (via DVD) about the fact that most men cannot give you a clear definition of what it means to be a man. There is a great deal of confusion of what masculinity and manhood at its essence is.

Why am I looking forward to this course?

For one thing, reading two books a few years ago revealed the importance of understanding what manhood is so that I can communicate that to my son. Robert Lewis's own Raising a Modern-Day Knight showed me the importance of rites of passage in a boy's/man's life.

Lewis talked today about 1 Corinthians 13:11, "When I became a man, I put away childish things." When does a boy become a man, and how does he know when that occurs? That's part of the burden of Modern-Day Knight. One of the tangible results of that book is that every year, on the anniversary of his baptism (June 13), I take Andrew out to eat and basically say to him, "Remember your baptism!" I remind him of what he committed to and of who he publicly declared his Lord to be.

James Dobson's Bringing Up Boys reminded me and impressed upon me the truth that men are vastly different than women. I know that seems like a ridiculous understatement, but the truth is (as even Lewis pointed out today in the DVD), feminism has effectively taught us the falsehood that, apart from anatomical differences, men and women are essentially the same. No, we are different, and manhood properly understood is to be celebrated, just as womanhood properly understood. Celebration of manhood is virtually unknown in our culture.

Dobson raised my awareness to this when he got me thinking about how men are portrayed today in movies and TV: childish, idiotic, stupid, and so forth. Consider in the past such shows as Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, and The Andy Griffith Show. Dad's generally wise. Consider today such shows as The Simpsons, Everybody Loves Raymond, Home Improvement, The King of Queens, and Family Guy. Consider commercials where men are portrayed as immature, childlike individuals--consider electronics commercials and beer commercials for instance. Men are stupid and juvenile; that's what is generally portrayed in movies, TV, and commercials.

I want to pass down a biblical understanding of masculinity to my son. I have to actively do so, because the world is bombarding him with messages that men are simply boys who make more money and have bigger toys.

Unfortunately, there are many 20-, 30-, and 40-year-old men who have not put away childish things. Their lives revolve around "living for the weekend" or video games or watching sports
on TV. I don't want that for my son. It's empty and falls so far short of the potential dignity of manhood. It's the difference between the knight and the jester.

Another reason I am excited about Men's Fraternity is that it's an opportunity to connect with other men on a regular basis about men-related issues (and I don't mean how the Colts or the Cubs did). I have longed for this kind of setting because I think that sharing seriously with other guys about our struggles and accomplishments can go a long way in making us better husbands, better fathers, better Christians, better citizens, better neighbors, better men.

Just as we don't understand all the issues relating to womanhood and femininity, women, despite their claims and their amazing perception, don't fully understand some of our struggles and drives (and I'm not just talking about sex). "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

Friday, October 10, 2008

North Korea Worse than China for Believers

The Voice of the Martyrs comments on the zero religious freedom allowed by the North Korean government:

"It is difficult to comprehend a place so terrible that Christians must flee to Communist China for a modicum of religious freedom. But make no mistake--for Christians, North Korea is hell manifested on earth."

"North Korea is more than a dictatorship. It is a totalitarian regime where its citizens must not only support their communist leaders, but they must worship them as if they were living gods."

"North Korean children are taught to sing worship songs found in a book of 600 'hymns' that give praise to Sung and his son Kim Jong Il, the nation's current leader." [Kim Il Sung was the founder of modern North Korea.]

--October 2008 issue, pp. 3-4

My Commentary Picks, Genesis - 2 Samuel

I often get the question, "Kent, what is the best commentary on __________?"

(Okay, I don't know if I've ever gotten that question. But in our current cultural climate of answering questions that no one's asking, I propose to give my answers over the space of a few posts. Besides, it may in fact be helpful to someone.)

So here are my number one go-to commentaries for Genesis-2 Samuel.

Commentary on the whole Bible: Matthew Henry's Commentary. If I could only have one commentary period, this is the one I would want. He's exegetical, though his scholarship is 300 years old or more, and he's also devotional.

Genesis: Hard to narrow down to one. My first pick is Creation & Blessing by Alan Ross. A close second is Genesis (NIV Application Commentary) by John H. Walton.

Exodus: Exodus (NIV Application Commentary) by Peter Enns

Leviticus: The Book of Leviticus (New International Commentary on the Old Testament, or NICOT) by Gordon J. Wenham

Numbers: Leviticus, Numbers (NIV Application Commentary) by Roy Gane

Deuteronomy: The Book of Deuteronomy (NICOT) by Peter C. Craigie

Joshua: The Book of Joshua (NICOT) by Marten H. Woudstra

Judges: Okay, confession time. On some of the books of the Bible, I have quite a few commentaries, on some I have very little, and on the rest I have just adequate stuff. Judges falls in the last category for me. When I've been in Judges, I've found that Keil and Delitzsch's Commentary on the Old Testament has served me well, and John J. Davis's Conquest and Crisis: Studies in Joshua, Judges and Ruth has also helped.

Ruth: Same as Judges

1-2 Samuel: I have the opposite problem here: I have too much to recommend. One book on each book of Samuel? Get 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart and 2 Samuel: Out of Adversity, both in the Focus on the Bible series, both by Dale Ralph Davis. Davis is both scholarly (in an accessible way) and applicational. If you can't find Davis, get 1 & 2 Samuel (NIV Application Commentary) by Bill T. Arnold.