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?