Thursday, July 31, 2008

After Seeing the Movie, I Want to Read the Book

Movies often lead me to read books.

Andrew, Caty, and I went and saw Prince Caspian (from C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia) on Saturday. I read the book as a teen, and there were several details and character traits that I thought might have been different from the book. So for the past couple days, I've been rereading the book.

Other examples:
  • I read the The Prestige after watching the movie. That movie got me interested in Nikola Tesla, so I read a biography about him.
  • Seeing Pride and Prejudice got me interested in the book, which I just recently read.
  • Watched Master and Commander, then read the book. Twice. (The series, by Patrick O'Brian, is high quality literature in my opinion. The series extends to at least 20 books.)
  • After watching Braveheart, I read In Freedom's Cause: A Story of Wallace and Bruce.
  • Saw Paycheck, based on a short story by Philip K. Dick. So I read his I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon, which includes "Paycheck." (Note 1: This was one of the few cases where I thought the movie was far better than the book. Note 2: Philip Dick also wrote "Minority Report.")
  • Seeing The Picture of Dorian Gray years ago (with a very young Angela Lansbury) eventually led me to read just a few years ago the Oscar Wilde book of the same title.
  • Even Andrew's play last year on the Revolutionary War last year led me to start reading 1776.
I know. I'm highly suggestible.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

7 Christian Books I Would Like to Read Sometime

  1. The Glory of Christ (John Owen)
  2. The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (John Owen)
  3. Religious Affections (Jonathan Edwards)
  4. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 2 vols. (Iain Murray)
  5. George Whitefield, 2 vols. (Arnold Dallimore)
  6. Institutes of the Christian Religion (John Calvin)
  7. The Preacher: His Life and Work (John Henry Jowett)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

God Knows Each Star by Name

He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. (Psalm 147:4 NIV)

How many stars are there in the universe? NASA's answer back in 1997 was 1 sextillion.

A sextillion is
  • a 1 with 21 zeroes after it
  • 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
  • one billion trillion.
Now to consider that number, consider that there have not been 1 trillion seconds since the birth of Christ. Less than 70 billon in fact. A trillion is an incomprehensible number. A sextillion is a billion such trillions.

Psalm 147:4 says God determines the number of the stars, and he has named them, and he remembers their names. Wow! I have four kids, and I get their names mixed up all the time. What an awesome God!

Postscript: CNN reported in 2003 that Australian scientists increased the estimate of stars to 70 sextillion.

Friday, July 25, 2008

False Prophet, False Christs

I'm confused. When Todd Bentley said that Jesus physically appeared to him, was it

José Luis de Jesús Miranda


or Vissarion?


At that time if anyone says to you, `Look, here is the Christ!' or, `Look, there he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect--if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time. (Mark13:21-23 NIV)

Christ-Likeness Key to Church Growth

Martyn Lloyd-Jones commenting on "the essential, utter difference between the Christian and the non-Christian:"

It has become blurred; the world has come into the Church and the Church has become worldly. The line is not as distinct as it was. There were times when the distinction was clear cut, and those have always been the greatest eras in the history of the Church. We know, however, the arguments that have been put forward. We have been told that we have to make the Church attractive to the man outside, and the idea is to become as much like him as we can. There were certain popular padres during the first world war who mixed with their men, and smoked with them, and did this, that, and the other with them, in order to encourage them. Some people thought that, as a result, when the war was over, the ex-service men would be crowding into the churches. Yet it did not happen, and it never has happened that way. The glory of the gospel is that when the Church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first. That is how revival comes. That must also be true of us as individuals. It should not be our ambition to be as much like everybody else as we can, though we happen to be Christian, but rather to be as different from everybody who is not a Christian as we can possibly be. Our ambition should be to be like Christ, the more like Him the better, and the more like Him we become, the more we shall be unlike everybody who is not a Christian. (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

'08 Book-Reading Goal Reached

Sometime in the mid-90s I set a goal of completing 20 books a year (personal self-improvement, you know). I don't stipulate much. It doesn't have to all be non-fiction, and I don't mind having some audio books throw in once and a while.

I completed my 20th book (for this year) yesterday. In addition to the 12 I already listed, here are the other 8:

  • Eragon (C. Paolini) --I read that one to Andrew
  • Scoop (R. Gutteridge) --I read that one to Sara
  • The Murder Room (P. D. James) --audio book
  • The Blessing Way (T. Hillerman) -- audio book
  • The Squire's Tale (Gerald Morris) --I read that one to Andrew
  • The Bible (God) --English Standard Version
  • Pride and Prejudice (J. Austen)
  • The Marquise of O-- and Other Stories (H. von Kleist)

Friday, July 18, 2008

God's Miraculous Provisions

My brother posted recently that God's provision of gas for him is something akin to the miracle Jesus performed when he fed the 5000 with five loaves and two fish. I commented on his blog that my thoughts were running along similar lines.

Sara and I have not increased our gas budget though prices, as you know, have risen dramatically. And yet we marvel that at the end of a month we have gas money left! And that didn't usually happen when prices were a lot lower just a few months ago. Granted, we are driving a lot less, but it's still a miracle in my book. My brother compared it to the feeding of the 5000; I tend to think of the widow's oil that didn't run out. (Sometimes I wonder if he's giving our van better gas mileage, or if he's multiplying the cash in our gas envelope.)

But let me magnify God more. Our recent adoption of Callie was super-expensive. But since God called, we trust that he will provide. We had been informed of many grant opportunities for foreign adoption, grant opportunities available from several Christian organizations. Sara spent a great deal of time applying for several grants. Aaaand, we were turned down for each and every one.

However, we have been blindsided by various large gifts, the largest one completely anonymous and given to us in a most unusual manner. I have wondered if perhaps God prevented us from receiving grant money because he wanted to show us how he can provide even when all avenues seem to be closed. It seems like he's saying, "Grants? No, you're expecting that. That's the doable. That's the possible. But I'm the God of the impossible, of the undoable."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Providence during Private Worship

Background: During my devotional time, I am currently singing through the Worship and Service Hymnal (1 hymn a day) and reading the New King James Version.

Today I sang "Ivory Palaces," and then I read Psalm 45. I quote briefly from each:
"Ivory Palaces"
My Lord has garments so wondrous fine,
And myrrh their texture fills ...
Out of the ivory palaces,
Into a world of woe ...
His life had also its sorrows sore,
For aloes had a part ...
His garments too were in cassia dipped ...

Isaiah 45:8 (NKJV)
All Your garments are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia,
Out of the ivory palaces, by which they have made You glad.
What a happy providence!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Guys' Weekend

Andrew and I did a guys' weekend this past Friday and Saturday.

Friday, drove to Detroit, checked into a nice suite at Embassy Suites, then drove into the city to Comerica Park. After a good supper at Subway, we went into the ballpark and watched the Tigers take on the Minnesota Twins. Unfortunately, the Twins won, 3-2, but we still enjoyed ourselves, including the fireworks afterwards. It was a quite a show.

Since we had an early supper, we stopped at Subway, and bought ourselves hot dogs, chips, and slushies. Then we settled down in front of the flat screen in the suite and watched a movie until 1am.

Embassy Suites has a fantastic breakfast buffet, and we availed ourselves of it. Then we headed home, and because of a burning semi on I-94 (a semi containing hazardous materials), it took us 5 hours to get home instead of 3.

On the way to Detroit and on the way back we listened to Dobson's set of tapes, Preparing for Adolescence.

Andrew and I had a great time together. He loved every aspect of the trip with the exception of the traffic delay.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

High Gas Prices Not Really a Mystery; Neither Is the Solution

The high gas price problem doesn't seem like much of a mystery to me.

Why are gas prices going up? It's a simple matter of supply and demand. More customers are clamoring for oil (such as China and India). Therefore, the price goes up. (The U.S. oil companies are not to blame.)

many customers + limited supply = higher prices

(This is illustrated by something that happened at CDYC this year. Kids from my church took energy drinks. Indiana Wesleyan had a very limited supply. Our kids could--and some did-- sell their drinks at much higher prices.)

Is there a solution to the problem of high gas prices? Yeah. We're sitting on a whole bunch of oil in our own country, enough to support our nation for years and years. Let's drill for it.

Why won't our Congress let us do so? If it's truly an environmental issue, it seems rather selfish to allow other nations to be despoiled for our oil needs rather than despoil our own land.

If I'm missing something, please explain it to me.

A Birthday & an Anniversary

Yesterday was my mother-in-law's birthday. Happy __rd birthday, Mom Inniger! I hope Dad spent a lot of euros on you!

Today is my parents' 43rd anniversary. They were married at Avalon Missionary Church in 1965.

Things I remember about my parents when I was a kid:
  • Dad always complimented Mom on supper.
  • Dad worked outside the home: Kmart Warehouse during the week, pastoring on the weekends.
  • Mom worked inside the home: cooking, cleaning, taxiing.
  • They were PTA co-presidents one year at Waynedale Elem.
  • Dad earned the income; Mom kept track of it.
  • Dad played rough-and-rowdy games with us; Mom played board games with us.
  • Mom listened to Christian radio; Dad talked about Bible prophecy.
  • Mom and Dad taught us how to play tennis by playing tennis with us. We had a lot of fun playing doubles matches.
(Much more could be said and probably will be said in future posts.)

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, MOM & DAD!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Struggling with Worry

Throughout my life threats of dramatic life-altering, world-changing events have shattered for a time my temporal peace of mind. Such happened again today as I read an email from Joel Rosenberg. He cites sources that believe that Iran and Israel will be at war before the end of the year, which will likely have world-wide repercussions. I quote in part:

The U.S. does not want Israel to strike. After all, the repercussions of such a war with Iran would be global in nature. Israel would face tens of thousands of incoming missiles not just from Iran but likely from Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza and possibly the West Bank. Some of these missiles could have chemical and/or biological warheads, even if the nuclear warheads in Iran are not yet ready. Ballistic missiles would also be likely fired from Iran at the oil fields in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, at oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and the Straight of Hormuz, and at U.S. bases and forces in Iraq. Tens of thousands of suicide bomber cells could be activated in the region -- especially in Iraq and Israel -- and perhaps even in Western Europe and the U.S. and Canada. Iranian efforts to topple Jordan's King Abdullah II and/or Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in favor of radical Islamic regimes friendly to Tehran could also be set in motion. Oil prices could shoot from $140 a barrel to $300 a barrel or more. U.S. gas prices could spike to $7-$10 or more, with horrific domestic and global economic repercussions.

When my peace of mind is shattered, I worry about how I will care for, feed, and protect my wife and kids. In such times I turn to the Lord and am reminded of his sovereignty and his care for me.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. (Psalm 46:1-3 ESV)

Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! (Psalm 46:10 ESV)

O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might so that none is able to withstand you. (2 Chronicles 20:6 ESV)

So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33 NIV)

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19 NIV)

When Friends and Fellow Christians Hurt Me

We all have times where we have been hurt in one way or another by things that have been done or said. Many times the hurt comes from people who are close to us. Here are some verses that I want to shape my response when I am hurt.

You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. (Colossians 3:13 NLT)
If I expect the people in my life to be perfect, then I haven't made allowance for them. If I am shocked and hold on to feelings of betrayal when a friend or fellow Christian does something that hurts me, then I have not made allowance for their faults. The closest of friends will say and do hurtful things from time to time. Why? Because we all have faults. No one is perfect. Hence the wisdom of this verse: "Make allowance for each other's faults."

Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart know that many times you have yourself cursed others. (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 ESV)
Here is real insight into reality. This Scripture truly hits the nail on the head. I've said and thought things about people I deeply love that have come from the frustration of the moment (but have been sinful nonetheless). Not taking to heart a hurtful comment about me is simply extending to a friend the same courtesy I would want him to extend to me when I say something hurtful.

Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? (1 Corinthians 6:7b NIV)
The Bible almost seems to be speaking a foreign language at this point. Who would ever say this in our day and age? Our drive is to right the wrong and reverse the cheating. But this text says, when it comes to being wronged by a fellow believer, absorb it.

O may I yield to the authority of the Word of God at these three points! Will you?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Favorite TV Shows of the Past

  • The New Twilight Zone
  • Star Trek
  • Home Improvement
  • Matlock
  • In the Heat of the Night
  • Rockford Files
  • Lois and Clark
  • Fantasy Island
  • Sledge Hammer
What are yours?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Novels I Would Like to Reread

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
  • Dominion (Randy Alcorn)
  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy (J. R. R. Tolkien)
  • Ivanhoe (Sir Walter Scott)
  • Cry, the Beloved Country (Alan Paton)
  • The Living (Annie Dillard)
  • The Great Divorce (C. S. Lewis)
  • Lilith (George MacDonald)
  • The Curate's Awakening (George MacDonald)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Greatest Rescue Operation

The worth of Jesus is supreme. "Supreme" means greatest. I am captured by the text,

"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name." (Philippians 2:9 NIV, emphasis added)

Military leaders who have ably defended their nations or who have successfully led righteous ventures in delivering an oppressed people are often revered. Their names are remembered, and often they are placed in leadership. (Think in our own nation's history of men like Washington, Jackson, Zachary Taylor, Grant, and Eisenhower.)

Jesus has accomplished the greatest rescue operation of all time. For that reason these lyrics have been composed for him:

"Worthy are you ..., for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." (Revelation 5:9 ESV).

As I was reflecting on this passage this morning, I thought about how my parents (as an example) have devoted their lives to this one person for decades. Is it reasonable to so commit your time and resources, to so generally and comprehensively bend your life in that one direction? It's remarkable what people will do for Christ, will endure for him, will sacrifice for him, is it not?

But such devotion is not abnormal or excessive; it is an appropriate response to the action of Jesus on our behalf. We have been ransomed from eternal suffering--eternal suffering that we deserved--by Christ's blood (that is, his sacrificial death).

How can I do less than so devote my life?

Friday, July 4, 2008

A Dark Kind of Freedom

Today we celebrate our freedom as a nation. But in what sense are we free?

Here is a disturbing Scripture:

"Therefore, this is what the LORD says: You have not obeyed me ... So I now proclaim 'freedom' for you, declares the LORD--'freedom' to fall by the sword, plague and famine. I will make you abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth." (Jeremiah 34:17 NIV)

Admittedly, in context, this is a word specifically to the Jews of Judah for a failure to release their fellow Jews from slavery. But the principle seems to be characteristic of God's dealing with nations (see Deuteronomy 28).

What grabs me is the word "freedom." We value our freedom, but there is a nightmarish kind of freedom, a freedom from God's protection and care. That freedom comes when we turn from God and fail to obey him.

Allow me to paraphrase 2 Chronicles 15:2:
"The LORD is with you, America, when you are with him. If you seek him, America, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, America, he will forsake you."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Quotes That Make You Go "Huh?"

Here's a frustrating quote on the eve of our nation's Independence Day:

“If you are a follower of Jesus, a middle eastern man living in an occupied country who was crucified by the global military superpower of his day, and the leader of the global military superpower of your day, in celebrating victory and occupation of a middle eastern country, quotes hymns in the military victory speech about Jesus, if you are a Christian, this should make you nervous.

"The Bible is a story of people living on the underside of military super powers. The Bible comes to us from a small minority of peoples, who are conquered peoples. So when you read this story, and you read this book, as a citizen of the most powerful empire this world has ever seen, you may miss some of it’s central ideas. Because when it says some trust in chariots but we trust in God and you have 42.8 percent of the worlds weapons, You’re the one with the chariots. My interest is in how we understand the story of the scriptures, and in some way separate the cross and the flag, just long enough to make sure that we haven’t bought into some things that are the very type of things that Jesus came to set us free from.”-
Rob Bell

First of all, does Mr. Bell understand the U.S. mission in Iraq? To help establish a democratic government and thus freedom for Iraq citizens. We're not taking over. We're helping them govern themselves, and then we're out of there. They beg us to stay. (There's a story that doesn't make the nightly news.)

Second, I don't see how the capture and trial of Saddam Hussein is comparable to the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Hussein was guilty of many violent, despicable, heinous crimes. Jesus was the sinless Son of God.

Third, there were times in Israel's history when she was the military superpower, and that with God's help! Consider the conquest of Canaan under Joshua and the reigns of David and Solomon.

I'm all for making sure our patriotism doesn't trump our faith. While I pledge allegiance to the flag, I recognize that it is a conditional allegiance; my ultimate allegiance is to the Lord Jesus, and that is unconditional. But that doesn't mean I don't love my country. I do love it, and I work and pray to make it great--great God's way.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Church Music Myth #1

Myth: Old songs (hymns) are about God; new songs ("choruses") are sung to God.

10 "choruses" that are about God
  • "Holy Is the Lord"
  • "How Great Is Our God"
  • "Let It Be Said of Us"
  • "How Great the Father's Love for Us"
  • "In Christ Alone"
  • "Sing to the King"
  • "Days of Elijah"
  • "We Fall Down"
  • "Be Bold, Be Strong"
  • "Majesty"
10 hymns that are sung to God

  • "My Jesus, I Love Thee"
  • "Be Thou My Vision"
  • "Fill Me Now"
  • "Come Thou Fount"
  • "How Great Thou Art"
  • "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"
  • "I Need Thee Every Hour"
  • "Nearer, Still Nearer"
  • "Draw Me Nearer"
  • "Old-Time Power"

The truth is that both songs sung about God and songs sung to God are abundant in the old church music and the new.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

"Seekers" Eventually Should Find

American spirituality, including no small portion of American Christianity, is populated by "seekers," people seeking, but seemingly never finding. But then the point, so they say, isn't to find; it's the journey that's the thing, not the destination.

But hear the words of Tertullian, an early church father:

My first principle is this. Christ laid down one definite system of truth which the world must believe without qualification, and which we must seek precisely in order to believe it when we find it. Now you cannot search indefinitely for a single definite truth. You must seek until you find, and when you find, you must believe. Then you have simply to keep what you have come to believe, since you also believe that there is nothing else to believe, and therefore nothing else to seek, once you have found and believed what he taught ... ("Prescription Against Heretics;" quoted in David Wells, Above All Earthly Pow'rs)

One wonders if we like seeking better because we have a truth problem. Our truth problem is we don't believe in absolute truth. Truth is relative, and even many professed Christians believe that.