Wednesday, April 29, 2009

9 Heroes Who Are No Longer Alive

  1. Abraham Lincoln
  2. King David
  3. Ulysses S. Grant
  4. Charles H. Spurgeon
  5. A. W. Tozer
  6. Jonathan Edwards
  7. Ronald Reagan
  8. America's Founding Fathers
  9. Missionaries to China Hudson Taylor, Jonathan Goforth, and Gladys Aylward

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wonderfully Lost in the 1860s

A simple pleasure I've enjoyed recently is reading at McDonald's.

For the last several Thursdays I've taken Caty to volleyball practice at Brookside Community Church.

Too far to drive back (don't want to waste the gas), I would then drive up the road a mile or so to the nearest McDon's, order a large pop (only $1.08 total), and sit in a booth and read the first volume of Shelby Foote's magnum opus, The Civil War.

The cares of the week forgotten, for 100 minutes each Thursday I was immersed in another world, a world where the names Lincoln, Grant, Davis, Beauregard, Lee, S. A. Johnston, J. E. Johnston, Sherman, Foote, Halleck, Forrest, Pope, Polk, and Buell were the heroes and villains of the day.

But alas, Caty's last day of open gym was last Thursday. (Sigh)

Sidenote: Because they ended up on opposite sides of the battle lines, Sidney A. and Joseph E. narrowly missed creating an entrepreneurial venture called Johnston & Johnston.

What if "laying down our lives" is literal?

1 John 3:16 is stark and total.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. (NIV)

Commentators will tell you that what is meant is that we ought to be willing to lay down our lives for our brothers. And the idea of laying down our lives for our brothers may not be as extreme as Jesus' example, where he actually died; rather, it may involve giving up things or time for the good of our brothers.

That's all true, but the willingness in fact may lead to death, and the laying down of our lives may, for some of us, actually mean laying down our lives.

Well, so what? Is this world and this life not temporary, little more than a prelude to the real business of living?

A. W. Tozer wrote, "We can afford to suffer now; we’ll have a long eternity to enjoy ourselves." (“Joy Will Come in Its Own Time")

Risk my life? Are you kidding?! I'm unwilling to risk a lawsuit. Sometimes, I'm unwilling to risk inconvenience.

Father, use your word to remove my grasp from the things of this world and place it on the sure hope and reality of the next.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Casinos Harm Local Economies

Friday, I had the opportunity to hear Earl Grinols, professor at Baylor University, speak about the economic impact of gambling, and especially casinos, on communities.

The bottom line: His research leads him to the following conclusion: Economically speaking, the social costs of casinos exceed their benefit by a ratio of $3.10 to $1.00.

When a casino comes to town, the economic health of the community decreases because of an increase in judicial costs and social costs. The judicial costs rise because casinos bring an increase in crime. The social costs rise because gambling tears at the moral fabric of families and communities. Gambling addiction increases, and family savings are gambled away, and family possessions are pawned.

Two other reasons that casinos do not raise the economic health of communities:

  1. Most casino revenues (75%) come from the surrounding community, thus not attracting as much out-of-town business as normally thought.
  2. Any out-of-town revenue is dropped at the casino and nowhere else. There is no spillover money to other businesses in town with one exception. Gas stations close to the casino always seem to do well. As an example, 3 towns in Colorado allowed casinos to come to town in order to attract tourist money. In truth, there has been no spillover tourist money; it's all ended up in the wealthy hands of the casino owners.

We don't want a casino in Fort Wayne.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Paul's Attitude. Our Attitude?

Paul sat in prison as he penned his famed letter of joy, Philippians. Consider 1:20.

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (NIV)

Paul exemplifies the attitude of mature believers.

1. True Christians want Jesus to be exalted. (I eagerly expect and hope that ... Christ will be exalted.)

2. True Christians work to exalt Jesus in their own lives. (in my body)

3. True Christians accept that exalting Jesus may come through suffering, or even death. (whether by life or by death)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dedication Day for Solomon's Temple

Two things struck me as I read 1 Kings 8 this morning.

First, during his initial remarks at the dedication of the temple, he says,

... the LORD said to my father David, "Since it was your desire to build a temple for My name, you have done well to have this desire. Yet you are not the one to build it; instead, your son, your own offspring, will build it for My name" (18-19 HCSB).

In the obvious sense, Solomon is the fulfillment of that prophecy (as v. 20 indicates). Solomon built the temple.

But in the ultimate sense, it could be a reference to the Son of David, Jesus.

In John 2, Jesus has an exchange with the Jews in which he says to them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days" (19 NIV). They think he's talking about the physical temple in which they are standing as they debate Jesus. But John makes clear that Jesus had a different temple in mind.

The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" But the temple he had spoken of was his body (20-21, emphasis added).

The whole incident in John 2 shows that Jesus replaces the temple. Jesus becomes the new temple, the place where people meet with God.

So, yes, Solomon, David's offspring, built the first temple, but (an even bigger yes) Jesus, David's offspring, build the final ultimate temple. It is in Jesus that we come to God the Father (see John 14:6).

Second, Solomon has built a "house" for the LORD (vv. 13, 16, 17, etc.), but he recognizes that unlike a human house, the occupant of the LORD's house will not be primarily confined to it: "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!" (27 ESV)

This is no quaint theological creed that Solomon slips in and out of. The fact that God does not dwell primarily in this temple is evident throughout his prayer. Throughout the various scenarios Solomon specifies in his dedicatory prayer, he peppers eight specific requests to "hear from heaven" (emphasis added), sometimes referring to heaven as "your dwelling place."
  • Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive. (30 NIV)
  • ... hear from heaven and act. (32)
  • ... hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them back to the land you gave to their fathers. (34)
  • ... hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. (36)
  • ... hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act ... (39)
  • ... hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you ... (43)
  • ... hear from heaven their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. (45)
  • ... from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. (49)
Solomon understands that his God is not a local deity, like the gods of the nations around them. His God is the God, the Creator, the One who is everywhere present. No temple, no matter how glorious (and it was glorious) could ever contain him.

In a similar vein, let us understand that our Lord is not like the leaders of other religions. He is not equal to Mohammad, or to Moses (or David), or to Buddha. He is the supreme one whom everyone will worship (Rev 5:8-14; Php 2:10-11). "God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name" (Php 2:9 NIV, emphasis added).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wisdom from D. L. Moody

“I have more trouble with D. L. Moody than with any other man who has crossed my path.”

“If you find a man that has very high thoughts of himself he will have very low thoughts of God.”

Monday, April 20, 2009

Me in Black and White

The whiteboard we use for math became the tool for the kids to express themselves on their view of Dad. Where was Caty during this time of artistic rebellion? I'm happy to report she was doing her schoolwork. Did you hear that, Andrew and Anna?!


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

9 Things I Like about Wednesday Night Bible Study

  1. I get to teach the Word of God.
  2. The people who come have some really good insights into the Word.
  3. The people who come respect the Bible as God's Word and want to line up their lives with it.
  4. Audrey almost always brings doughnuts.
  5. There are many light-hearted moments mixed in with the serious study of Scripture.
  6. I like doing series through books of the Bible.
  7. The people in class love doing Old Testament books just as much as New Testament books.
  8. I love having to spend a lot of time studying the Word of God in order to prepare for Bible study.
  9. When we start a new series, I generally have to buy at least one new book in preparation.

Monday, April 13, 2009

9 Authors I Never Plan to Read

  1. John Shelby Spong--retired Episcopal bishop who doesn't believe in Christianity. He believes theism is dead and Christology is bankrupt. He also denies the virgin birth, the resurrection, and the ascension. Why does he call himself a Christian, then?
  2. President Barack Obama--I'm not a big fan of his brand of change.
  3. Philip Pullman--The man who hates C. S. Lewis and wants to dissemble his Christian worldview as portrayed in Narnia ... I think I can do without him.
  4. Eckhart Tolle--There's a strong desire in me to not read anything on Oprah's Book Club list, except that she has chosen some books that are good in their own right. But Tolle's brand of religion is known in the Bible as the "doctrines of demons" (1 Tim 4:1 NASB).
  5. Ed Young--Nothing rock hard solid against him, but his books look more like self-help books, and I'm not interested in that.
  6. Al Franken--I think I would starve for truth.
  7. Bill Maher--The guy drives me nuts (and I think he would be happy to know he drives a pastor nuts), though I would welcome his conversion, as with any of these authors.
  8. Janet Evanovich--Her books don't look appealing.
  9. Umberto Eco--I've stumbled through two of his novels now, and I don't plan to subject myself to that literary vertigo again.

The Maturity That Suffering Brings

John Stott, in The Cross of Christ, first cites this remarkable statement of Paul Tournier's:

"One could also say that it is not suffering which makes a person grow, but that one does not grow without suffering."

Stott goes on to say,

"There is always an indefinable something about people who have suffered. They have a fragrance which others lack. They exhibit the meekness and gentleness of Christ. One of the most remarkable statements Peter makes in his first letter is that 'he who has suffered in his body is done with sin' (4:1). Physical affliction, he seems to be saying, actually has the effect of making us stop sinning."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Reading Irony

On this day before Easter, "Tomb Day," I finished reading The Resurrection Factor, a novel by Craig Parshall. The storyline includes a 1st-century parchment that indicates where the corpse of Jesus of Nazareth is buried. A good read, though I don't think it trumps the other novel I read along the same lines, Paul Maier's A Skeleton in God's Closet.

I'm also poised to finish in the next couple days John Stott's non-fiction work, The Cross of Christ.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Exchange

My Saviour
wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,
groaned that I might have endless song,
endured all pain that I might have unfading health,
bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem,
bowed his head that I might uplift mine,
experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,
closed his eyes in death and I might gaze on unclouded brightness,
expired that I might for ever live.

O Father, who spared not thine only Son that thou mightest spare me,
All this transfer thy love designed and accomplished;
Help me to adore thee by lips and life.
O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise ...

(The Valley of Vision, Ed. Arthur Bennett, p. 42)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Loving the Whole Christian Thing, But Not Living It

The prophet's words are disturbing.

30 As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.’ 31 So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. 32 Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. (Ezekiel 33:30-32 NKJV)

Father, there are times when this is true of me. O, forgive me and cleanse me from this wickedness. Rein in my heart, and reign in my heart.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Query

Why do the streets look worse after the street cleaner has swept through?

Monday, April 6, 2009

What was the purpose of the Law of Moses since everyone failed to keep it?

God gave to Moses his law, and everyone in his day broke it repeatedly. So has everyone done since then as well.

So did God screw up? Did one of his plans fail ... and fail big?

Nope. Because the purpose of the law wasn't to save mankind.

Instead, the purpose of the law was to show man how sinful he really was. It was to show him how far from God he was.

Paul says, "I would not have known sin if it were not for the law" (Rom 7:7 HCSB).

On average, people think they're pretty good Joes, because they compare themselves to the slobs around them. And so they think they're good in God's sight. But they're not.

So how does God get them to see that? He gives them the law, which is the expression of his will for us. Then, when they see the law, they see how sinful they are.

Paul gives the example of coveting. He didn't realize he was a sinner until the law told him, "Don't covet," and then he realizes, "Wow! I'm a coveter" (see Rom 7:8).

The purpose of the law is not to save us, but to show us how sinful we are so that we do, in fact seek out salvation. But salvation is not found in the law. It's found in Christ, through faith in Christ. This is the gist of Gal 3:19-26. "So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith" (Gal 3:24 NIV).

One final illustration. The law is like an annual physical at the doctor. You're feeling fine, but you go get your annual physical because it's a smart thing to do. And the physical reveals you have something drastically wrong, a dreaded disease. So your doctor sends you to specialists, and the specialists take charge of your care, and in a few months' time, the disease is gone.

Now what did the physical do? It didn't fix the problem. Instead it revealed the problem so that you could get it fixed. That's the law. It reveals, but it doesn't fix. It merely shows you that you really need Christ and his salvation.