Saturday, January 31, 2009

9 Observations on Parenting

  1. Whenever you pick up a kid with a runny nose, he or she will wipe it on your shirt.
  2. When asked 6 times to pick up their dirty laundry, the kids will fail to do so and say, "I never heard you;" but when you whisper in the privacy of your bedroom to your wife, "Do you want to take the kids to Fazoli's?" You'll hear 4 voices cheering downstairs, "Yeah, we're going to Fazoli's."
  3. When it's dessert time, they'll all want the same dessert item. When it's video time, they'll all want to watch different videos.
  4. Children are morally indignant if they have to pick up after others; they are not morally indignant, however, when you pick up after them.
  5. Bedtime is actually 12-25 minutes after what the parents state.
  6. The kids will usually beg for more food than what you purchase at the restaurant. Then when you actually buy them more than usual, they're not hungry.
  7. Children are most endearing to their parents when they are sleeping, unless they are sleeping in your bed.
  8. When you ask, "Who left the milk out?" you will not get a positive answer; instead you will hear, "Not me." "I didn't do it." "Not me."
  9. Kids love bologna until you buy the large value pack; then they're tired of it.

Friday, January 30, 2009

9 Tasty Menu Items

Here are some restaurant dishes that I've purchased more than once. (Items may not be worded exactly as found on the menu.)
  1. blackened chicken alfredo (TGI Friday's; Chili's)
  2. cheese soup (Cheddar's)
  3. peanut butter cup perfection (Cold Stone Creamery)
  4. crispy chicken bacon & swiss sandwich (Arby's)
  5. cheese bagel (Bagel Station)
  6. roast beef trio grinder (Mancino's)
  7. sweet and sour chicken (Taiwan Express)
  8. sweet onion chicken teriyaki sub (Subway)
  9. triple thick milkshake (McDonald's)

Arminian Myth #2

From Roger E. Olson's Arminian Theology. See also Myth #1.

Myth #2: A hybrid of Calvinism and Arminianism is possible.

Truth: In spite of common ground, Calvinism and Arminianism are incommensurable systems of Christian theology; on issues crucial to both there is no stable middle ground between them.

The gap between the two has to do with the 3 middle points of the TULIP scheme:
Total depravity
Unconditional election
Limited atonement
Irresistible grace
Perseverance of the saints

Classical Arminianism ...
--teaches total depravity.
--teaches conditional election.
--teaches Christ’s atonement was universal in scope. It’s for everyone who believes.
--teaches grace is necessary for salvation, and prevenient grace is given to all men to free their will to chose for or against Christ; but that grace is not irresistible according to God’s own design.
--teaches the perseverance of the saints who persevere in faith.

Both Calvinists and Arminians believe that God is great and good.

Calvinists start with God’s greatness. Thus do they find it difficult that man would have any say in his salvation, even to say “yes” or “no” to the gift. For that, they say, diminishes God’s greatness.

Arminians start with God’s goodness. Thus do they find it difficult that God would choose that some would not be saved and go to hell for an eternity of suffering.

Not only that, but if God is sovereign in such a way so that man has no free will, then all sinful acts have been ultimately caused by God, and man cannot be held responsible.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Can you show me why I shouldn't be pessimistic about the future?

I have a friend who doesn’t see much good in America’s future. She thinks the country is going to hell in a hand basket. Some call her a pessimist.

I know the label. My wife has applied it to me before (but in a loving way, because all her actions toward me are loving [I’m serious]). My friend dodges the label and calls herself a realist instead. I usually do the same.

But when it comes to the future of America, I’ll accept the label “pessimist” for now and find out later if I’m a realist or not. I sincerely hope I’m wrong about the future.

I have no idea what America’s future is right now, but I have guesses, and they’re not fun ones.

I love this country. I love her history. I love her heroes, her constitution, the freedom she gives, and the power for good she has been in the world, the beacon of hope that she has offered to millions.

But of late she does not seem so lovely. She has the blood of 50 million babies on her hands, and there’s no sign of stopping that horrific, Hell-inspired practice of killing, of torturing human beings by slicing and burning and crushing. How can God bless a country that does that?

Homosexual agendas continue to advance despite the majority opinion in America that believes it to be wrong. How can God bless us for this?

I don’t see our economic woes turning around in the near future, especially because of the solutions that are being proposed and/or pursued. If someone came to me and said, “I’m in debt. What should I do?” I would never counsel them, “Spend a bunch more money, and you’ll get out of debt.” But that’s our government’s approach. In the past printing a lot more money eventually led to inflation. I don’t see how that’s going to change this time around.

Reagan believed government was the problem and needed to be curbed in order to fix the economy. It worked. Obama believes government is the solution; I’m don’t think that’s going to work.

Government used to work for the people; now we are working to sustain the government. We are heading away from democracy, and we are heading toward socialism. The transition is taking place because the idea that government should solve our problems is taking hold in more and more citizens.

There is a growing antagonism toward Christianity in America. As our country runs away from any sense of Judeo-Christian inspired morality, she finds herself at increasing odds with the Church, at least with that section of the Church that isn’t slipping loose of the law of Christ in order to keep up with the culture.

So what’s the future of America? I don’t know. I pray God intervenes, that he brings revival, that he brings economic renewal, that our runaway immorality is halted and reversed. He could do that, but I don’t know if he will.

Short of that, though, how can he not judge us? In fact, I think he is judging us. Read Romans 1:18-32, and see if that is not an apt description of where we are as a country. Has he not given us up to sexual immorality (Rom 1:24), to homosexuality (Rom 1:26-27), and to a depraved mind (Rom 1:28ff.)?

Israel was told that if she failed to follow God’s commands, she would become a debtor nation, she would become a poor nation, and she would become a weak nation, prey to foreign attack and invasion.

So I’m not optimistic about America’s future. Can you show me why I’m painting the picture darker than it should be?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Maybe This Makes Too Much Sense

"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

"The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

"When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is the end of any nation.

"You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."

--Dr. Adrian Rodgers (paragraph breaks added)

Maybe this makes too much sense for many in Washington to grasp.

Monday, January 26, 2009

President Bush's Legacy

With regards to President Bush's "legacy," Thomas Sowell hit the nail on the head several days ago.

President Bush's number one achievement was also the number one function of government— to protect its citizens. Nobody on September 11, 2001 believed that there would never be another such attack for more than seven years.

Unfortunately, people who are protected from dangers often conclude that there are no dangers. This is most painfully visible among those Americans who are hysterical over the government's intercepting international phone calls, in order to disrupt international terrorist networks....

That a President of the United States protected us from deadly enemies may not seem like much of an accomplishment to some. But it may be more fully appreciated when we get a President who eases up on that protection, in order to curry favor at home and abroad.

We can only hope that it will not take the sight of an American city lying in radioactive ruins to wake people up to the dangers that George W. Bush protected us against, despite an unending chorus of carping.

(I commented on Bush's achievement in this area June 16 and June 10.)

Sowell's assessment isn't blind to Bush's mistakes as president. He cites Bush's greatest areas of "dereliction of duty," too.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Star 88.3's Playlist

I've joked with my friends that Star 88.3's playlist has a basic 3-slot rotation that goes like this:
  • "Shine" by the Newsboys
  • a Third Day song
  • a different song
"Shine" gets airplay on Star 88.3 all the time even though it is 15 years old, and I wonder if Third Day owns the station somehow. Now actually, the song and the group are both great; I just can't believe how much airplay they get.

I mentioned my tongue-in-cheek conception of Star's playlist in a youth newsletter. Since then, I have discovered I have a host of friends. They call me when "Shine" is playing on Star. The latest incident occurred today when Pat called me. Upon answering the phone he put his phone up to his radio so that I could listen to "Shine."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What would Martin Luther King have thought about the inauguration?

I find Micah Clark's comments regarding the inauguration interesting. Cited below are my favorite excerpts:

... the media seemed to go over the top on not only their constant and unprecedented adoration of the new president, but on the historic nature of his race. While it really should not matter, for far too many the fact that the new President had an African father was all that mattered. In that sense, perhaps the racial activists are unwittingly correct. Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream is not complete. He urged us to view people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Yesterday, too many people and media commentators were all about the atter and nothing about the former.

When asked for an observation of the day, [Tom] Brokaw said he was thinking about all the bigots and rednecks in the South today . . . so much for encouraging national unity and color-blindness.

No one knows what Rev. King would have thought of the inauguration had he lived.... there’s no doubt that he would be pleased that a person of African descent was finally elected. Yet, in light of a Biblical worldview that clearly seemed to drive him in 1963, one has to wonder if the Reverend King would also be disappointed that the most pro-abortion, pro-gay rights president in our history had just taken office. (Dr. Alveta King, who refused to vote for Sen. Obama, insists that her late uncle would in fact be very troubled by President Obama’s moral positions on abortion and same-sex marriage.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Nightmares Stop an Abortionist


Stojan Adasevic was Yugoslavia's premier abortionist, performing up to 35 a day during a career that spanned 26 years.

Then the nightmares started. He dreamed of a field of children and young people laughing and playing, but they all ran away from him in fear. A man dressed in clerical garb simply stared at him in silence.

In one of the nightmares, Adasevic asked the man who he was. "My name is Thomas Aquinas."

"Why don't you ask me who these children are?" Thomas asked. "They are the ones you killed with your abortions."

That same day a cousin came to the hospital with his girlfriend who wanted her 9th abortion. He performed the abortion. When he removed the baby, it's heart was still beating. He knew then he had killed a human being.

Adasevic stopped doing abortions--at great personal costs in a communist country--and became Yugoslavia's premier pro-life advocate. Read the whole story here.

Sidenotes: 1) He performed 48,000 abortions! 2) Adasevic has converted to the Orthodox faith.

Praise God that he works in wondrous ways to accomplish his purposes. President Obama looks to be the most extreme abortion rights president in our history. But God is not stymied by such things. Let's continue to pray against abortion!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Kids Aren't Socially Stunted

How on earth will home school kids be socialized?

This is one of the arguments against home schooling that has at times amused me and at other times caught me at the wrong time.

Now I realize that there are home school situations that are not good, where kids are not educated, and where kids never leave the home, but that is not the norm.

Andrew is on a home school basketball team. At his game tonight, I watched all the kids interacting with one another, on the court, off the court, in the parking lot. I listen all the way home to my kids talk about this conversation, that conversation, who's doing what, and who likes whom. And I think to myself, "Yeah, my kids are struggling with socialization."

My kids are connected at home school basketball, home school gym class, our youth group, another youth group, and in the neighborhood.

I don't get the argument, unless people are arguing from the extreme cases and not the norm.

Another thing, what does the Bible have to say about socialization? As near as I can tell the primary means of socialization is the family. The Bible says that parents are to teach their kids God's law, talking about in all sorts of settings, throughout all the routines of life (see Deut 6 and 10).

So perhaps in terms of socialization, if anyone is to be taken to task, it should be those who hardly ever see their kids throughout the week because their kids are involved in 15 extra-curricular activities or are sequestered in their rooms in front of the TV.

Monday, January 19, 2009

From Reagan's First Inaugural

Part of Ronald Reagan's first Inaugural Address caught my attention as I read it. Unfortunately, I cannot picturing Barack Obama coming at our current economic crisis with the same outlook. Here are just a few excerpts from the Great Communicator (and I don't mean Obama):

"... These United States are confronted with an economic affliction of great proportions. We suffer from the longest and one of the worst sustained inflations in our national history....

"You and I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means, but for only a limited period of time. Why, then, should we think that collectively, as a nation, we're not bound by that same limitation? ...

"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem....

"So, as we begin, let us take inventory. We are a nation that has a government--not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government, which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.

"It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the federal establishment ...

"It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government...."

And you think we're cold?!

Check out this 1-minute video of a condition 1 storm in Antarctica.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Seeds of Israel's Destruction in Joshua

Joshua is a book of conquest. It's a book of victory and glory days.

Joshua is the opposite of Judges, where "everyone did was right in his own eyes," where Israel religion ran amok with syncretism and idolatry and its consequent experience of foreign oppression.

This has been my view of Joshua.

But as I've been reading it again, I've noticed that's not quite accurate. The truth is, there is some of the spirit of Judges in the book of Joshua. There are victories, yes, but there are also failures--failures that foreshadow the spiritual waywardness that comes to characterize Israel's history.

Consider the alternating pattern of highs and lows:
  • Josh 6: Israel conquers Jericho!
  • Josh 7: Defeated by Ai--sin in the camp; uh oh.
  • Josh 8: Israel conquers Ai!
  • Josh 9: Deceived by Gibeon--lack of prayer; uh oh.
Consider the account of the circumcision of Israel's men in chapter 5. The question is, why aren't these men already circumcised according to the stipulations of the law of Moses? This event reveals an inattention to God's law.

Somewhat humorously I would also ask you to consider 1:17 where the Israelites promise Joshua, "We will obey you, just as we obeyed Moses in everything" (HCSB). Considering how well the Israelites obeyed Moses, I don't know how Joshua could consider that good news.

The point is, Israel was hardly ever "on its game;" they were hardly ever the people God wanted them to be. Even in Joshua they demonstrate spiritual waywardness, doing things their own way. They fail to circumcise on the 8th day. They covet things that don't belong to them even though God has promised them abundance. They slack in prayer and suffer the consequences of relying on themselves rather than on God.

Lessons for us: 1) Be reminded that we all need to pray to Christ, "I need Thee every hour." 2) Praise the Lord for his grace, for "prone to wander, Lord, I feel it"!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

How Becoming a Foot Inspector Was an Answer to Prayer

When Gladys Aylward arrived in China in the early 1900s, she met elderly missionary Jeannie Lawson, who quickly introduced her to Chinese culture and to missionary work. A year later, Jeannie was dead, and Gladys was now the only European within miles and miles and miles.

Broke and directionless, Gladys pleaded with the Lord for guidance.

A few days later, the mandarin entered the roadside inn where Gladys had ministered alongside of Jeannie Lawson. The mandarin was the sovereign of all the villages in that district. He was responsible for law and order. Upon being introduced to Gladys, he informed her that he needed her help.

The Chinese government had recently forbidden the ancient practice of footbinding, and they expected the mandarin to enforce the new prohibition in his district. He came to Gladys because of her big feet. Gladys was shocked as she looked down at her feet--she wore a size 3!

He wished to employ Gladys to be his enforcer. The deal? She would travel from village to village, reminding villagers of the new law and checking to make sure everyone was complying. She would receive a mule for travel and a modest salary. Two soldiers would also be provided to accompany her.

Gladys explained that if she did this, she would also tell the people stories from the Bible. That was fine with the mandarin.

She had been broke and directionless. She prayed, and she was broke and directionless no more. Further, what a great opportunity to spread the gospel, going from village to village.

The Lord works in mysterious ways, and it is a delight to see how he's going to answer prayer.

Friday, January 16, 2009

An Antidote to Anxiety about the Economy

One way to cope with the economic downturn that we are experiencing is to combat anxiety and worry with the Word of God. Memorize passages that talk about the Lord's promises to provide for and take care of his children, no matter what the circumstances.

I have memorized some, and many times in recent weeks, the Lord has brought to mind his Word at the right time to quell the anxiety rising up within me.

Here are some of God's promises that give courage to the Christian:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13, NIV)

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

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. (2 Chronicles 16:9, ESV)

For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11, NIV)

Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever. (Psalm 23:6, NIV)

25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:25-34, NIV)

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
"Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you."
So we say with confidence,
"The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:5-6, NIV)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Commentary Picks, 1 Corinthians - Revelation

Here's my last installment of my #1 go-to commentaries on each book of the Bible. You can view my other picks:

Genesis - 2 Samuel
1 Kings - Lamentations
Ezekiel - Romans

1 Corinthians: The First Epistle to the Corinthians (New International Commentary on the New Testament, or NICNT) by Gordon D. Fee. The problem with Fee is the length—over 800 pages of commentary on an epistle of 16 pages (but then again, see Philippians below). But it is difficult for me to imagine not at least perusing this commentary when studying 1 Cor. If you need a shorter book, try 1 Corinthians (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, or TNCT) by Leon Morris.

2 Corinthians: 2 Corinthians (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, or EBC) by Murray J. Harris

Galatians: Though I’m nervous about my former professor’s apparent embrace of Emergent stuff, Scot McKnight’s commentary on Galatians (NIV Application Commentary) seems very solid to me.

Ephesians: Woefully short on Ephesians commentaries, I was glad to acquire Klyne Snodgrass’s commentary on Ephesians (NIV Application Commentary).

Philippians: Peter T. O’Brien’s Commentary on Philippians (New International Greek Testament Commentary, or NIGTC) averages 100+ pages of commentary per chapter in Philippians, but it’s good stuff. (I remember being assigned to read O’Brien’s commentary on Php 2:5-11 one night and discovering it was 85 pages long!)

Colossians: Colossians/Philemon (NIV Application Commentary) by David E. Garland. A wealth of good analysis and application.

1-2 Thessalonians: F. F. Bruce’s 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Word Biblical Commentary, or WBC)

1-2 Timothy, Titus: Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (NIGTC) by George W. Knight III

Philemon: Colossians/Philemon (NIV Application Commentary) by David E. Garland

Hebrews: I’ll mention two: The Epistle to the Hebrews (NICNT) by F. F. Bruce and Hebrews: A Call to Commitment by William L. Lane. The latter one is slimmer and helpful in understanding the overall structure of the book and the intent of each section.

James: Commenting on Romans I mentioned that Douglas Moo (one of my former professors) seems to be the Romans scholar. He’s close to being the James scholar as well, with two commentaries on it. I only own one of them, James (TNTC), and it’s my pick.

1 Peter: 1 Peter (IVP New Testament Commentary Series) by I. Howard Marshall

2 Peter: 2 Peter, Jude (NIV Application Commentary) by Douglas Moo. It’s very good.

1-3 John: I want a better commentary on these books. The best I have right now is John Stott’s The Epistles of John (TNTC).

Jude: 2 Peter, Jude (NIV Application Commentary) by Douglas Moo

Revelation: I really like Grant Osborne’s Revelation (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). Osborne was my Greek professor at Trinity as we worked through 1 Peter and Philippians. He is also a fellow graduate of Fort Wayne Bible College.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

One Week From Now ...

With inauguration one week away and the new Congress already at work, what do we have to look forward to in the weeks and months ahead?

  • Reversal of all abortion restrictions? Abortion on demand? Infanticide?
  • Gay marriage legalized across the country?
  • Hate speech legislation forbidding ministers to condemn homosexuality and even requiring them to marry gay couples?
  • Fairness doctrine severely curtailing talk radio?
  • Socialized medicine?
  • Escalating taxes and the resultant economic inactivity?
  • Escalating unemployment?
  • Negotiations with terrorists? Withdrawal of our support of Israel?
  • Lessening vigilance for terrorism and subsequent terrorist attacks on American soil?
  • Coal capping which leads to escalating electric bills which leads to further escalating food prices?
Have I missed anything?

God's Still in Control

I've already run for dear life straight to the arms of God.
So why would I run away now
when you say,

"Run to the mountains; the evil
bows are bent, the wicked arrows
Aimed to shoot under cover of darkness
at every heart open to God.
The bottom's dropped out of the country;
good people don't have a chance"?

But God hasn't moved to the mountains;
his holy address hasn't changed.
He's in charge, as always, his eyes
taking everything in, his eyelids
Unblinking, examining Adam's unruly brood
inside and out, not missing a thing.

--Psalm 11:1-4, The Message

Hell Doesn't Exist

In this 3-minute video, watch John Shelby Spong deny the existence of Hell, dismiss sin, decry being born again, assert that religion is about control, set aside the Bible, and other such things.

He doesn't cite his authority or sources for these truths. How does he back this up? Are we to take his word for it? Why should I believe in the gospel according to John Shelby Spong as opposed to the gospel according to the Bible?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Knowing One's Self and Knowing God Are Connected

John Calvin begins his Institutes by arguing that one must know himself in order to know God, and one must know God in order to know himself. These two realities obviously have to be interrelated.

If one doesn't know himself, he won't be driven to seek after God. Without self-examination, we think we're pretty decent people, and we think that our talents and abilities are our own, derived from no one else. But upon examining ourselves, we recognize that our talents and abilities are hardly our own, but our derivative of another source. And we also begin to recognize how broken we are, how depraved, corrupt, and morally bankrupt. Then we begin to seek God. "We cannot seriously aspire to him before we begin to become displeased with ourselves."

But the reverse also holds true. We don't truly know ourselves until we know God. Apart from God, we are satisfied with our own righteousness, for the standard we have to compare it to is the impure standard of the world around us. "Just so, an eye to which nothing is shown but black objects judges something dirty white or even rather darkly mottled to be whiteness itself."

But once we behold God in his majesty and holiness, we suddenly become quite ashamed; worse, undone, as Isaiah was (Isa 6), as well as Peter (Lk 5), Job (Job 40:1-5; 42:1-6), and John (Rev 1:17).

Saturday, January 10, 2009

They Call Him "Dean"

Last night the Northside youth group headed down to Ossian to play some b-ball and dodgeball with the youth at Living Faith. My son and my nephews went, and they had a great time.

Of course on the way home I get an earful about the event, and they started telling me about Dean, what a great basketball player he is. They were impressed, because a) he's a fantastic rebounder, and b) he's older.

Andrew also clarified with me that he was talking about Mr. Stuckey, but he was referring to him as "Dean" because that's what everyone else calls him at Living Faith. (Andrew has in fact many times spent the night at Mr. Stuckey/Dean's house, hanging out with Mr. Stuckey/Dean's son, Dustin.)

Then tonight my nephew Calvin starts talking to me again about Dean, that when you're on Dean's team and you put up a shot, you don't really have to worry if it's going to go in or not, because you know if it doesn't go in, Dean is right there under the basket to grab the rebound and make a score. In fact, Calvin called him a "black hole under the basket," because a loose ball to be rebounded can never escape his grasp.

Dean, congratulations! You impressed my son and my nephew! Good job.

Friday, January 9, 2009

My Brother Turns 38; That's Special

I know you didn't realize anyone else had a birthday today besides Richard M. Nixon (who would be 96), but my brother Jeff also regards this day as special. Well, maybe he doesn't, but we his family do.

For the first 18 months of my life, I loved it. And then Jan 9, 1971, rolled around, and well, things changed. He was born, the means of my practical sanctification.

'Nuff said, and all in fun. I love my brother:

9 Things I Love about My Brother

1. He is a creative genius. I think any creativity in me has been given to me by God, but I think Jeff has been one of God’s primary instruments in bringing some of that creativity out. I have learned a lot just by watching him.

2. He only lives 3 blocks away.

3. He’s humble.

4. He married well; I’m glad to have Diana as a sis-in-law.

5. I love his kids, and each one of them—Calvin, Oliver, Audrey, and Reagan—is so unique.

6. He believes the Bible is true, and he believes prayer works.

7. He knows a heck of a lot about computers.

8. He can be downright funny.

9. He’s not a sports fan, AND he likes to watch the Colts. Okay, I have to explain this one. He has never been a sports fan. In a world where sport is a god, that makes him unique and his own man in some sense. But in the last few years Calvin has gotten him interested in the Colts. It is the weirdest thing to hear my brother talk about the Colts from time to time. And there’s something neat about that, too, how his son’s interest became his.

Happy Birthday, Jeff!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Are there any good books you don't like?

Abraham Piper asks some good questions at 22 words. This is one I liked. So why don't you click "comments" and answer the question.

The Gospel New?

In the preface to his Institutes, John Calvin defends his doctrine against several accusations lodged by opposition [including Papists] to Reformation teaching. One of the charges is that Calvin's teaching is "new," and therefore bad.

Calvin: "Indeed, I do not at all doubt that it is new to them, since to them both Christ himself and his gospel are new. But he who knows that this preaching of Paul is ancient, that 'Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again for our justification' [Rom. 4:25], will find nothing new among us." (Preface 3)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Can't Trust the Gospels?

It's interesting when a non-believer writes Christian history:

Materials are lacking for any adequate biography of Jesus. The Gospel records are primarily testimonies to the divine event of Jesus the Christ, and their details have doubtless been colored by the differing experiences, situations, and memories of early Christian communities. (emphasis added)
--Williston Walker, A History of the Christian Church
But fortunately we have a church historian who is not colored by his unbelief and naturalistic presuppositions.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sober Visual of the Blood on Our Hands

Mississippi Baptists have put together a Memorial for the Missing, a glass building holding 50 million pennies, each penny representing 1 abortion in America since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

God Answered Many Prayers in 2008

Tonight in our small group Bible study, John, our leader, reviewed all the prayer requests of the past year, starting with January.

It was thrilling to realize the number of prayers that had been answered, the number of issues that had been resolved, the number of situations the Lord Jesus had walked us through. The percentage was high. What an awesome God we serve!

Invigorated by the vivid reminder of God's answers to our prayers, we then spent 45 minutes praying for new concerns and unsaved souls.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Calling Sin "Sin" Vital in Overcoming It

D. L. Moody:

A lady came to me some time ago and said she had great trouble with her temper now, and she was more irritable than she was five years ago, and she wanted to know if I didn’t think it was wrong.

I said, “I should think you are backsliding. If you haven’t better control over yourself now than you had five years ago, there is something radically wrong.”

“Well,” she said, “I should like to know how I am going to mend it. Can you tell me?”

“Yes.”

“How?”

I said, “When you get angry with people and give them a good scolding, go right to them after you have made up your mind that you have done wrong, and tell them you have sinned and ask them to forgive you.”

She said she wouldn’t like to do that.

Of course she wouldn’t; but she will never get victory until she treats it as sin. Don’t look upon it as weakness or misfortune, but sin. No child of God ought to lose control of temper without confessing it.

A lady came to me some time ago and said that she had got so in the habit of exaggerating that people accused her of misrepresentation. She wanted to know if there was any way she could overcome it.

“Certainly,” I said.

“How?”

“Next time you catch yourself at it, go right to the party and tell them you lied.”

“Oh!” she said, “I wouldn’t call it lying.”

Of course not, but a lie is a lie all the same, and you will never overcome those sins until you treat them as sins and get them out of your nature.

--Dwight L. Moody, The Best of Dwight L. Moody 236-37

Friday, January 2, 2009

Grisham, Who Do I Root For?

I finished reading John Grisham's The Brethren. The storyline was moderately interesting.

The biggest problem I have with the book is the matter of a hero: there is none. There are definitely two sides. On the one hand there are the 3 judges (known as "the brethren") incarcerated in a federal prison who are working a blackmail scam. "Okay," the reader thinks, "these must be the bad guys."

On the other side is a congressman, Aaron Lake, who is approached by the head of the CIA to run for president. Lake is clean cut and has no vices or skeletons in his closet as near as the CIA can tell. "Here's the good guy," the reader thinks. "Here's who I root for. So what's the connection between Lake/CIA and the brethren?"

The connection is that Lake becomes ensnared by the brethren's blackmail scheme when he responds to a personal ad taken out by the brethren in a gay magazine. Though carefully using a different identity, the brethren discover his true identity and decide to lean on his multi-million dollar campaign for a lot of hush money and release from prison.

There's no one to root for. The brethren are obviously not heroes. CIA Director Teddy Maynard is essentially buying the election and is very cynical about all politicians. Lake is not who he appears to be; and he's campaigning on an issue that is a political winner, not on one that he has necessarily been passionate about in the past.

The reader comes away from the book more cynical (if possible) about politics, judges, the CIA, everything the book touches upon.

I didn't like the first Grisham book I read, either, Runaway Jury. It took a while for me to put a finger on why, but it was the same reason: there's no hero, no good guy. Sure there are two opposing sides, but neither wear white hats; both are tainted in big ways.

Beware: The Brethren spoiler
Everyone fares well in Grisham's conclusion. The judges are bought off. They are released from prison and spend the next couple years as millionaires in Europe. Lake escapes public embarrassment and goes on to win the election. CIA Director Maynard gets what he wants. The only thing that suffers is the reader's sense of justice.

Our Relationship to the Surrounding Culture Hasn't Changed in 3500 Years

The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'I am the LORD your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD.'" (Leviticus 18:1-5 NIV)

Implications:
  • Our culture's ways and God's will for us are at odds.
  • We must obey God, which means we will be out-of-step with the culture around us.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Reading Goals for 2009

Read at least 30 books this year, including:
  • The Cross of Christ, by John Stott
  • Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin
  • 2-volume biography of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, by Iain Murray
  • History of the Christian Church, by Williston Walker
  • The Civil War Vol. 1, by Shelby Foote
  • Macbeth, by Shakespeare
  • On Being a Pastor, by Derek Prime & Alistair Begg
  • The Return of the King, by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Declaration of Independence and Other Great Documents of American History, ed. by John Grafton
  • Middlemarch, by George Eliot OR Don Quixote, by Cervantes