Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Faithful Flirt?

Some time ago when I was at one of our many Dollar Stores here in town, I spotted a couple books, each for a dollar, and because I knew the authors I thought, "I'll give it a shot."

One of them was Herman Wouk. I knew him as an accomplished author, having penned The Winds of War (which I read) and also a history of the Jews (which I had recommended to me). The dollar book, a novel, is A Hole in Texas.

I understand why it was in the Dollar Store. This was written by the celebrated Herman Wouk? The pacing for the first several chapters was slow, part of it because I was looking for the conflict. Where was the conflict that made this story a story?

It finally came, but man! This book seemed the work of an amateur in some ways. The characters were not quite flat but far from compelling.

And yet at some point in the book I had a hard time putting it down. The last half was read in a couple days' time. Did the story get better? Not really. But the main character faced an interesting conundrum that perplexed me.

Guy Carpenter, American physicist, seems to be a happily married man. Yet he's been corresponding with a first love, a Chinese woman who returned to China many years back. And he gets entangled with a congresswoman who needs his expertise and later helps him with some legal/political trouble.

What I'm mystified about is that Guy is pictured as happily married but still sort of pursues an old flame, and, at the same time receives a kiss from the Congresswoman and later flirts with her. Mild-mannered physicist he may be, but his heart is off, though I'm not sure but that Wouk is portraying him as normal. After all, who wouldn't be technically faithful to his wife and yet cultivate some sideline distractions? And in the end, the guy, Guy, is vindicated!

Certainly not a biblical definition of marital faithfulness.

First line: We all have bad days, and Dr. Guy Carpenter awoke to rain drumming on gray windows, with a qualm in his gut about what this drab day might bring.

Last line: She wrapped her arms powerfully around him, and the Deep Throat Physicist was home.

My ranking (on a 5-point scale): 1 1/2

Saturday, May 29, 2010

God's in Control of the Economy

My Sunday School class last Sunday began a study of Elijah and Elisha. Here's a summary of last week's discussion.

Economic Downturn
1 Kings 17:1-16

Baal and Baalism
Baal was among other things a storm god. His worshipers believed that he made rain, a significant power in agricultural communities.

Baalism got a boost in Israel when Ahab (king) married Jezebel, princess of Tyre. Jezebel worshipped Baal, and Ahab built a temple for Baal. No longer was Baalism just an influence in Israel, it became a state-sanctioned religion; in fact, Jezebel pushed to have it replace the worship of the true God.

1. The word of the LORD brings economic downturn (1).

  • Elijah bursts on the scene.
  • His word on dew and rain strikes right at the heart of Baalism.
  • His word makes it clear that the LORD is the real storm god.

It was God’s will that the country suffer. God controls the weather and he controls the economies of nations.

It is suggestive of current economic situation.

  • God is being displaced.
  • God is not allowing the prosperity to continue.

2. The word of the LORD brings provision in economic downturn (2-6).
Ravens brought meat, and the brook brought water.
Notice Elijah’s obedience. Elijah’s obedience put him in the way of God’s provision.

3. The word of the LORD brings provision in economic downturn in surprising ways (7-9).

The brook dried up, but God didn’t stop providing. This time he sends Elijah to Zarephath.

  • An unlikely place – right in the heart of Baal country, near where Jezebel was from
  • An unlikely source – a widow

Who would think of provision of coming from there?

How many times has God surprised you in the way he provides for you?

Look closer at what God might be saying in this text. In the heart of Baal country, God provides for a widow there, her son, and his prophet.
Baal invades God’s territory, and God invades Baal’s.
Only God proves himself sovereign, and he proves Baal’s mystique to be nothing but smoke and mirrors.

Two applications:

1. Recognize that whatever explanations there may be for our current economic downturn, the Lord’s hand is behind it.

2. Rest in the care of the Lord.
1 Pt 5:7; Ps 33:16-19; Mt 6:25-34

Friday, May 28, 2010

Was Souder's Adultery "Sin"?

In an exclusive interview with out-going-because-he-was-outed Congressman Mark Souder in Sunday’s Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Sylvia Smith, no fan of Souder, at one point comments, “But if he was struggling to find the reasons behind what he calls his sin, Souder had no questions about other decisions he had reached.”

I’m puzzled by her clause “what he calls sin.” Does she think what he did was wrong? Does she not call it “sin”?

She probably doesn’t call it “sin.” I’m guessing sin to her denotes disobedience to God, and I’m guessing she doesn’t believe we’re accountable to God.

But then, does she think what he did was wrong? If she does, on what basis? What makes it wrong?

I agree with the following statements.

"If there is no God, everything is permissible. And if everything is permissible, a moral code would include everything, because nothing is impermissible." (Fyodor Dostoevsky)

"Without God, all activities are equivalent." (Jean-Paul Sartre)

9 Recent Points of Personal Interest

  1. After a couple years on Facebook, I have around 160 friends. In the 2 weeks since she opened a Facebook account, my daughter has 175 friends.
  2. Walking down the sidewalk yesterday morning, I passed a contractor’s van that had just parked. The window was rolled down and the guy was singing along with an oldies tune on the radio. As I passed, I waved at him, and he waved at me as he continued to sing.
  3. Sitting here at McDonald’s typing on my computer, I heard a kid puking in the booth behind me. “Are you all right?” his mom asked. Then he vomited some more. There’s nothing quite like that sound. Amazing thing is I never smelled it.
  4. Right now in the booth on the other side of me I cannot help but overhear a woman lecturing a teen about how to be a better help to his mama, an asset to her, by keeping his room clean, mowing when the grass gets tall, etc. I wonder how this woman is connected to him. More power to her! Good for her!
  5. I love coming to this McDonald’s and working at a table while the kids are practice. The setup? The kids have sports practices 2-6pm Mondays and Wednesdays on the other side of town. So I just pack up the laptop and some work and hang out at McDonald’s, usually purchasing a large drink and 3 cookies ($2.16 total). It’s interesting seeing the regulars, the employees, and the non-regulars.
  6. Interesting, though, it’s 5:30pm right now, and I am the only customer in the restaurant!
  7. My wife is taking a real estate class, the primary purpose of which is to prepare her to pass the test to be licensed. Then she’ll probably begin working out of the office of our realtor.
  8. Spicy chicken is coming to Chick-fil-A. Andrew’s store has a 1-hour training event this Sunday afternoon to learn all about it. He gets paid as well as a free spicy chicken value meal.
  9. I'm looking forward to a Memorial Day weekend grill-out Sunday evening at our house with my parents, my brother's family, and possibly Sara's brother's family.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Inappropriate Advertising on This Blog

I got involved with Google's advertising mechanism on this blog as an easy way to generate some income. Income was generated as people clicked on the ads that were on my blog. (Incidentally, no income was in fact generated. Seems you're more interested in my posts than in the ads, which is fine.)

The ads that were placed on my blog I paid little attention to; only saw that they were similar in content to my posts. Further, I was not allowed to click on my blog's ads and try to self-generate my own income.

My brother emailed me today informing me that one ad that has shown up on my blog occasionally was heretical. So I watched it via another means. He's right.

So I pulled down the advertising. I do apologize for the ads that promoted error.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Mechanic with a Sense of Humor

I had Caty snap this picture the other day when I was taking her to volleyball.


The Cumbersome, Delightful Writing Style of William Faulkner

I quit reading William Faulkner’s The Hamlet for the second time. I first quit reading part of it a few years ago because it was difficult to understand. I got further this time and quit because of the content it was getting into.

I was disappointed, because I was enjoying Faulkner’s writing style much more this time, coming to appreciate it.

Characteristics of his writing style: good characterizations, fun stories within the overarching story, long sentences, and a large vocabulary filled with obscure words. I'll give you some examples of the latter two.

My friend Mandy and I have a long-standing inside joke over the word “indefatigable” and its forms, and we have on occasion notified each other when we've come across the word in our reading. I bet I came across that word (or "indefatigably") at least half-a-dozen times in The Hamlet. That's got to be a record.

In fact, I was coming across so many unusual words that for a spell of my reading I started jotting down words I didn’t know the meaning of. I found six in just a span of 30 pages:

tumescence (p. 147)
sybaritic (151)
suppurant (168)
meridional (171)
meretricious (173)
debouched (174)

As for long sentences, try this one from p. 19 on for size:

When he passed beyond the house he saw it—the narrow high frame like an epicene gallows, two big absolutely static young women beside it, who even in that first glance postulated that immobile dreamy solidarity of statuary (this only emphasized by the fact that they both seemed to be talking at once and to some listener—or perhaps just circumambience—at a considerable distance and neither listening to the other at all) even though one of them had hold of the well-rope, her arms extended at full reach, her body bent for the down pull like a figure in a charade, a carved piece symbolising some terrific physical effort which had died with its inception, though a moment later the pulley began again its rusty plaint but stopped again almost immediately, as did the voices also when the second one saw him, the first one paused now in the obverse of the first attitude, her arms stretched downward on the rope and the two broad expressionless faces turning slowly in unison as he rode past.

I’ll probably try another Faulkner sometime and hope for better content.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sermon on the Church (Conclusion)

(See previous 2 posts for introduction and first main point.)

Belonging to the Church (Sermon #1)
1 Peter 2:4-8

2. The Church is a people, not a building (5).

5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

We already talked a little about this in the second preliminary comment.

The biblical understanding of the Church is that it is a people. It is not wrong to call this building a “church.” It is not sinful.

But what we must not do is think that when the Bible is talking about the Church that it is referring to a building or a worship service. It is referring to the people of God.

Notice what the text says.

a. We are like living stones being built into a spiritual house.

Peter uses the idea of a building in talking about the Church. But the reality is that the Church is the people of God, not the building they worship in.

You and me, Brother Christian, and Sister Christian, are like living stones, being built into a temple, a spiritual house, wherein God dwells. Christ is the builder, incorporating us together into a beautiful dwelling for the Triune God.

There’s some wonderful things about this Church of which we are apart.

God dwells within it. Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple. 1 Cor 3:16-17 (NIV)

What does Jesus say about where 2 or 3 believers are gathered? For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. Matt 18:20 (NIV)

You and I, fellow believers, are built together, joined together by Jesus himself into a dwelling place where God himself is pleased to dwell. Hence is the Spirit of God in the midst of a group of believers wherever they are meeting together.

Further, Christ is the one who fits us for this building, and he is the one who joins us together.

ILL. My mom and aunt went to a church in Hartford City last week, and my mom told me how wonderful it was to worship with other believers—believers whom she does not know personally, but who nevertheless share the same commitment to Christ and therefore share—legitimately—the same family name: “Christian.”

Christ brings people together from all walks of life,
  • with all kinds of different backgrounds,
  • speaking all kinds of different languages,
  • exhibiting all kinds of different personalities,
  • possessing all kinds of different talents and abilities;
  • he brings them together, and he makes them one, uniting them into one spiritual building, the Church—the body of believers.

They say blood is thicker than water. Well, Spirit is thicker than blood, and those who have been born again by the Spirit of Christ have more in common with a North Korean Christian or a Colombian Christian than they do with their unbelieving parents or siblings.

A few of us got together at a friend's house a few weeks ago to celebrate another friend's birthday. There we met 3 African believers whom we had never seen before.

Highlight the differences? Our skin color was different. Our experiences were surely different. (Arrested in the Congo when revolution swept through; didn’t see their children for 7 years; reunited with their children here in the US)

Those differences didn’t matter because our common bond in Jesus Christ ran deeper than those differences.

Don’t you know that our time was quite sweet as we listened to them testify to their faith and love for the same Savior and Father whom we love and trust?!

We are being built together into a spiritual house. What a master craftsmen Christ is to take
--bricks from India
--bricks from Kenya
--bricks from Thailand
--bricks from El Salvador
--bricks from Puerto Rico
--bricks from Indiana
and so work them that they all fit masterfully together into one building!

b. We are a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices.
The picture switches a bit. Not only are we the spiritual building in which God dwells, we are also the priesthood who bring offerings to God.

The fact that the Church is a holy priesthood implies a number of things. I want to highlight two:

First, all believers have access to God.
A priest is someone who has access to God. The priests in the OT worshiped approached God in ways that the average Jew could not.

Now who are priests today?
--The Church is a holy priesthood.
--The Church is made up of all believers.
--So, all believers are priests.
--Thus, all believers have access to God. Direct, immediate access.

Turn your mind and heart to God. Call out “Abba, Father,” and you have his ear. Come near to God, and he will come near to you.

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matt. 6:6 (NIV)

Andrew Murray says about this verse: “The first thing in closet-prayer is to meet the Father” (With Christ in the School of Prayer, ch. 3).

Second, all believers are able to please God.
Verse 5 says that we offer “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Doing that which is acceptable to God; pleasing God. Making God happy and not making him mad. Isn’t that a wonderful capacity?

Many indicate they aren't interested in pleasing God,
or they don’t believe there is a God to please,
or they don’t believe he cares enough about us to either be pleased or displeased.

All such notions are wrong. There is a final judgment for every single individual. At the final judgment it will become clear that
Ø there is a God,
Ø he does care about how we live our lives,
Ø and everyone really should have been interested in pleasing him.

Ever have the problem of trying to get on the good side of a grumpy person?
Some wives strive to do all they can to please their husbands, but they fail.
Some husbands can do nothing right by their wives.

But we, as the Church, are able to please God. How? By offering spiritual sacrifices through Jesus Christ.

What are these sacrifices?
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. Heb. 13:15 (NIV) PRAISE

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Heb. 13:16 (NIV)
DOING GOOD TO OTHERS, SHARING WITH OTHERS

But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. Phil. 2:17 (NIV) FAITH

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Rom. 12:1 (NIV) DEVOTION TO GOD; LIVING OUT HIS WILL IN YOUR LIFE

The spiritual sacrifices that we offer to God and he finds acceptable can be anything in life that is done according to his will by the power of his Spirit.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col. 3:17 (NIV)

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Cor. 10:31 (NIV)

Summary:

The Church, the one true Church, is made up only of those who are connected to Jesus Christ. If you have not come to Jesus Christ, and you are not following him, you are not a part of the Church, the people of God. Your name may be on the membership rolls of Northside or some other congregation, but that doesn’t make you a part of the true Church. A relationship with Jesus is the key—a dynamic, vital, growing relationship.

The Church is more than an association or club. It is the group of people among whom God is pleased to dwell. They are the people whom God is with in ways that he not with others. The Church, so despised and denigrated and ignored and mocked and persecuted—that Church is the very body where God is most pleased to dwell; it is the people who make up the spiritual house of God.

The Church is the very people who please God, the only people who offer the sacrifices that are pleasing to God. The sacrifices offered by all others are not acceptable to God; they are not pleasing to him.

Conclusion: It is a good thing to belong to the Church, which is the same as saying, it is a good thing to come to Jesus Christ and know him. The Church is a glorious institution. And Peter has more to say about her glory, which we’ll look at next week when we pick up with v. 6.

The Church has her problems, yes, but these problems neither outweigh her virtues nor will they last.

If you are a Christian, give thanks to God that you belong to his Church.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sermon on the Church (2)

(See previous post for introductory comments.)

Belonging to the Church (Sermon #1)
1 Peter 2:4-8

Exposition: What do we learn about the Church?

1. The Church starts with Jesus Christ.

4As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— 5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house ... (NIV)

As people come to him, the Church is built. [O]n this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matt 16:18 (NIV)

This is also evident later as we read about Jesus as the cornerstone, the foundation stone of the Church.

People who come to Christ are transformed by him (into something like living stones) and incorporated by him in to the Church.

a. Jesus is the living Stone.
“Stone” has reference to what Peter will have to say later about him as the cornerstone in 6-7 and the stone over which unbelievers trip and fall in 8.

By “Stone” he also means that he is part of the construct of the Church. There is no Church without Jesus. No Jesus, no Church.

“Living” makes clear that Peter isn’t talking about a literal building. Jesus as the cornerstone and believers as stones being built into a house is a metaphor for what the Church is.

And one of its characteristics is that it is alive. Jesus is the living Stone. He is not dead. He has been raised from the dead. He is very much alive, and he is very much at work in the world, especially in building his church.

And the life he has is a powerful life, an eternal life.

And he communicates that life to the Church. There is a Spirit that animates the Church that doesn’t animate the Rotary or Kiwanis or the UN or any other organization—it is the living Spirit of the living Christ.

b. There are opposing evaluations of Jesus.

He is rejected by men, but he is chosen by and precious to God.

Both of these truths are attested throughout Scripture. Christians in any age shouldn’t be surprised that Jesus isn’t embraced by the masses. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Jn 1:11 (NIV)

But what the masses think about Jesus is irrelevant. What matters is what God thinks of him. And to God he is chosen and precious. And therefore the cornerstone of the Church.

The bottom line here is that the Church starts with Jesus Christ. To be a member of the true Church, the universal Church, the one Church, one has to come to Christ. You cannot be a member of the true Church without being a member of Christ. You must be a true Christian in order to be a part of the Church. You must be trusting Christ for your salvation, and you must be entrusting your life to him.

Why doesn’t the true Church have many, many more members? Because many men reject him. But he is approved by God, and those who love him and embrace him as their Lord—they are the ones who are the Church.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sermon on the Church

Below are some excerpts from a sermon I preached last year on the Church. These will probably be spread over a few posts to avoid reader fatigue.

Belonging to the Church (Sermon #1)
1 Peter 2:4-8

In the passage that we’re looking at today, the Word of God has some instruction for us about the Church.

A couple of preliminary comments before we dive into our text:

First, a word about the definition of “church” –
--When we use the word “church” we are often referring to a building: “Our meeting will be held at the church.”
--Or sometimes we mean the worship service. “I go to church every Sunday.”
--But in the Bible, the word “church” never refers to a building or a worship service. It always refers to a people, whether the whole people of God, or a body of believers in a particular community.

18And he is the head of the body, the church ... Col. 1:18 (NIV)

17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church … Matt. 18:17 (NIV)

5So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. Acts 12:5 (NIV)

2To the church of God in Corinth, … 1 Cor. 1:2 (NIV)

Second, a word about the reputation of the church –
--Peter is writing to a group of believers who are “scattered throughout” the world, as he put it, and they were suffering.
--Little regard for the Church
--Believers persecuted … by government, their local communities, even by their own families.
--The Church had a bad rap in many areas of the known world in that day.

The same is true today. The Church has a bad rap around the world, and many of the rulers of the world do their best to keep the Church down, whether through propaganda or outright persecution.

The Church also gets a bad rap in our own country.
Ø Some see it as weak and ineffective, while others see it as a powerful political monster that will eventually take over the political arena and foist an unenlightened vision and a strait-jacket morality on the American people.
Ø The Church is seen as scientifically backward and anti-intellectual.
Ø It is seen hypocritical.
Ø It is seen as greedy and power-hungry, unloving and uncaring.
Ø And we constantly hear cries from some radio preachers—not all— how the local churches are not doing their job—they should be preaching against this and this and this and this and that.

“The Church? Pshaw! Who wants to belong to something like that!?”

I think part of what Peter is trying to do here in his discussion about the Church is remind his readers that it is a good thing to belong to the Church; it is a glorious, wonderful thing.

I think it’s the same thing the Lord Jesus would have you know today as we look at this text: It is a very good thing to belong to the Church.
Ø The world around us would have you believe that being a part of the Church is a waste of time. But as we’ll see next week, in fact, the opposite is true. Those who don’t belong to the Church will have wasted their time.
Ø No, the Scriptures here show us that to belong to the Church is a very good thing.
Ø It may not look like much to the untrained eye, but to the eye of faith, the Church is the very Bride of Christ, and she alone, of all the institutions and organizations that exist and thrive throughout the world, she alone will never close her doors. She alone will never fold or collapse or fall or be destroyed.

Disclaimer: I am NOT talking about church membership. I am NOT talking about joining this church.

(The next post will get into the exposition of the 1 Peter text.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gain a Good Knowledge of God by Reading Tozer's Classic

Different sub-categories of theology arouse the interest of different people. My dad, for instance, loves eschatology. One of the sub- sub-categories that fans into flame my affections for God is the study of his attributes, the aspects of his character that are revealed to us all throughout Scripture, like, for example, Psalm 86:5: “For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you” (ESV).

One of the best books on the attributes of God is the slim volume by A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy. The book opens with an excellent discussion on the importance of meditating on the nature of God, then proceeds through several brief chapters, each one reverently unpacking one of God’s attributes, and closes with a call to not just study God but to enter into a relationship with him.

You want insight into the nature of God? Read this book, barely more than 100 pages.

Throughout his discussion of God’s attributes, at least three themes become clear.

1. We have a tendency to think wrongly about God, to get him wrong.

Therefore, we need to be in the Scriptures regularly, renewing our minds continually with regards to our understanding of who God is.

2. What God is he is eternally.

When we talk about God being merciful, for instance, we must understand that he has always been merciful, and he will always be merciful. God’s character does not change or evolve or progress (or digress, for that matter).

3. The attributes interplay with one another, but they never compete with one another.

For example, God is just, and he is eternally and immutably just. He is also loving, eternally and immutably so.

These attributes do not compete with one another in the Godhead, first God feeling wrathful in his holiness, then the next moment love welling up within him. They are all perfectly manifested in him at all times.

The cross for instance demonstrates his holiness and his love, his righteousness and his mercy, and also his wisdom in being able to judge sin and save sinners.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hunting Hindrances

A question in my mind and Hebrews 12:1 have converged recently to badger me. They've gotten stuck in my craw, I guess.

The question is, Are some of my pursuits/interests dampening my affections for Christ? Are there some things that, by spending the amount of time on them that I do, actually serve to throw cold water on my enthusiasm for the Lord?

Hebrews 12:1 goes, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (NIV).

The phrase in that verse that gets me at the moment is "everything that hinders." I understand that to be the non-sin stuff, the amoral things, the things not necessarily good or bad, but they can nonetheless become hindrances.

What things might those be?

Washington Irving on Hen-Pecked Husbands

I was entertained by these comments when I read the story.

From his story Rip Van Winkle (the title character himself being a hen-pecked husband):

[T]hose men are most apt to be obsequious and conciliating abroad, who are under the discipline of shrews at home. Their tempers, doubtless, are rendered pliant and malleable in the fiery furnace of domestic tribulation; and a curtain-lecture is worth all the sermons in the world for teaching the virtues of patience and long-suffering. A termagant wife may, therefore, in some respects, be considered a tolerable blessing; and if so, Rip Van Winkle was thrice blessed.

[A] sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use.

... and it is a common wish with all hen-pecked husbands in the neighborhood, when life hangs heavy on their hands, that they might have a quieting draught out of Rip Van Winkle’s flagon.



--Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle;
The Complete Tales of Washington Irving,
ed. Charles Neider;
New York: Da Capo Press, 1998

Saturday, May 15, 2010

9 Songs I Loaded on to My Grooveshark Playlist

Sara and I took a trip back in time as we listened to some songs we enjoyed long before we were measuring our lives in decades.
  1. Superstitious (Stevie Wonder)
  2. Oh Yeah (Yello)
  3. Owner of Lonely Heart (Yes)
  4. The Heat Is On (Glenn Frey)
  5. Footloose (Kenny Loggins)
  6. I'm a Believer (Smash Mouth)
  7. Mission Impossible (Soundtrack)
  8. Got to Keep on Moving (Men at Work)
  9. Ghostbusters (Ray Parker, Jr.)

Check out Grooveshark yourself.

Friday, May 14, 2010

That's One Way to Put It

Here are some snatches from my reading that have caught my eye. For your reading pleasure ...

First, three descriptions of characters from three different novels:

[He had] the face of the breathing archetype and protagonist of all men who marry young and father only daughters and are themselves but the eldest daughter of their own wives. (William Faulkner, The Hamlet 9)

… for a man as proud as Stephen (and Lucifer could not hold a candle to him). (Patrick O'Brian, H.M.S. Surprise 358)

And look at this next one. What a great way to say, "Your friend laughs at the dumbest things."

There are times when I understand your partiality for your friend. He derives a greater pleasure from a smaller stream of wit than any man I have ever known. (Patrick O'Brian, Master and Commander 297)


Now here's some sanity in a sport-crazed culture:

If 19-year-old boys are ruining your day because of what they do with a ball, that's a problem. (Matt Chandler in a Christianity Today interview)


Finally, an arresting statement from Wikipedia:

A fourth novel was planned by author Stieg Larsson, however his sudden death in November 2004 prevented him from finishing the book.

More Than Just Intellectual Assent

A. W. Tozer paints a good picture of what it means to believe in Jesus.

"... there must be an utter committal of the whole life to Christ in faith. This is what it means to 'believe in Christ.' It involves a volitional and emotional attachment to Him accompanied by a firm purpose to obey Him in all things. This requires that we keep His commandments, carry our cross, and love God and our fellow men."

--The Knowledge of the Holy 115

Thursday, May 13, 2010

An Ancient Universal Flood Hard to Deny

"The history of the earth (so geologists tell us) has been punctuated by great catastrophes which apparently wiped out entire categories of life forms. But only one echoes down in the words and stories of a dozen different races. We don’t have a universal story that begins, 'And then the weather began to grow VERY, VERY COLD.' But at some point during the living, storytelling memory of the human race, water threatened man’s fragile hold on the earth. The historian cannot ignore the Great Flood; it is the closest thing to a universal story that the human race possesses." (Susan Wise Bauer, The History of the Ancient World 10-11, emphasis added)

There is a Sumerian version of the flood story, where Utnapishtim (also known as Ziusudra) is warned in a dream by the god Ea, and he escapes in a boat with his family and some animals when “the gods of the abyss rose up … [and] the land was smashed as a cup / water poured over the people as the tides of battle” (11).

There is a Babylonian version, the “Poem of Atrahasis,” where Atrahasis, a wise king, is warned of the flood, builds a boat, but is only able to save a few of his subjects, which grieves him.

Of course, there’s the Genesis account of the flood and Noah.

In China, “a treacherous warleader tears a rent in the sky’s canopy and water rushes through, covering the whole earth and drowning everyone.” A “noble queen” and a few warriors are the only ones who survive on a mountaintop.

In India, a fish warns King Manu to build a boat. When the waters rise, he climbs into it and is the only one to survive.

On the other side of the globe, the Mayans tell of 400 men who survived a flood by becoming fish. After the flood, these 400 celebrate, become drunk, and ascend to heaven to become the Pleiades.

In Peru, when a man asks his llama why he doesn’t eat, the llama warns the man that a flood is coming in five days. So the man climbs a high mountain, survives, and repopulates the earth.

So what do all these stories tell us? Bauer suggests at least a bare outline of events that we can assume to be true. “Water flooded man’s world; and someone suspected, before the flood crashed down, that disaster was on its way” (14).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Little Levity

SUE: "See that woman over there? She's been married four times -- once to a millionaire, then to an actor, then to a minister, and last to an undertaker."

SALLY: "I know! One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go!"

Source: My dad. (Who else?)

Liberal Opposition to Oil Drilling in US: Is It Hypocrisy?

A friend of mine is a conservative in a liberal workplace. One of his co-workers suggested that because of this oil spill in the Gulf, there’s probably not too many people still wanting to drill for oil in the US. My friend said, “Oh, I hope that’s not so,” at which the liberal was clearly surprised.

I must say I’m surprised at the liberal. I genuinely do not understand his position. My friend said that, yes, this liberal co-worker of his does drive to work. If he had a moral objection to oil, I assume that he wouldn’t be driving.

So maybe the objection is specifically against drilling for oil here. If that’s the case, is it part of the professed liberal credo of care and compassion to do this potentially disastrous oil drilling in other countries of the world? Is there position, when boiled down, something like: “We don’t mind oil. We just don’t want the potential problems (like the current situation in the Gulf) here. So let other nations do it and we’ll import it.” That doesn’t square very well with care and compassion. It seems like the "not in my backyard" argument, (but his backyard's okay).

[I stated this more concisely 2 years ago: "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."]

My friend and I were theorizing that maybe it’s a tactical thing. They’re thinking is, “Let our enemies drill for oil, and maybe in the process they’ll have ecological disasters that will ruin them.” But knowing libs’ angst over warfare, we’re pretty sure that’s not it.

Looks like hypocrisy to me, kind of like Al Gore’s enormous carbon footprint. Maybe one of you can point out the consistency between their rhetoric and their practice.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I love it when a quorum doesn't come together

Church board meetings do not find a spot on my top ten list of fun things to do. So when I pulled into the church parking lot Monday night and saw only 3 other vehicles in the lot, my attitude got a little boost. A quorum has to be present in order for us to conduct church business, and I already knew of 2-3 guys that were not going to be there.

When we gathered, the chairman announced that we needed one more person for there to be a quorum, and that we would wait 15 minutes to see if one showed up. So we talked. After 20 minutes, he dismissed us, but one of the other members said, “Wait, I have a couple questions.”

At this point I’m thinking, “Nooooo. I want to get home to Sara and the kids. What if someone pulls up in the next 5 minutes, then we’ll have to meet, and worse--we’ll be starting the meeting 25 minutes late … and therefore ending 25 minutes late!”

But we made it through his boring questions (something about moving the air conditioning and something else about keys and locks). We walked out of that room a half hour after we first sat down. I was elated! A few men left immediately, and then one of the board members we were waiting for showed up. Whew!! That was close!

But, you know, … 30 minutes?! Even our non-meetings are long!

Monday, May 10, 2010

9 Animals I've Encountered

  1. Rabbits in my yard
  2. Chipmunks living in my van
  3. Buck running down our street
  4. My cat Wilbur was my favorite pet growing up (despite the rich liquidy warmth he left on my bed one New Year’s Eve)
  5. Rode a horse named Big Red out west
  6. Deer almost diverted my car and me into a ditch the night Andrew was born
  7. Killed a snake and a frog during one mowing job when I was a kid
  8. Seven to eight cows in our front yard one morning when I was a kid
  9. Suzanne’s cat Precious attacked me for no good reason

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Random Thoughts

Why do some of the stores at Glenbrook Mall not take the mall gift card?

Reading a book a second sometimes enhances understanding, sometimes enjoyment, occasionally both. I attempted William Faulkner for the first time a few years ago--The Hamlet. I struggled understanding it and finally gave it up. I came across a recommendation for The Hamlet recently (by Eugene Peterson), so I thought I'd give it another try. I'm understanding it and enjoying it much more this go-around.

I want to be my kids' friend. I've often heard, and we've often said, that we aren't our kids' friends; we are their parents. The point is that we will do what's right and best for them regardless of their opinion. We're not out to win popularity polls. But I'm finding that's true only to a certain extent. The truth is, while I will try to do what's best for them, I also want to be their friend. I want a free, enjoyable relationship with them. Even our Master Jesus calls us friends.

McDonald's does a good job of keeping its business relevant. I've always thought of McDonald's as a kids' restaurant. But over the last few years, I've found that I personally enjoy it, even when the kids aren't around. They continue to be innovative. The renovations that the various McDonald's have undergone around us (some of them razed and rebuilt!) have made them adult-friendly, what with the free wireless, the mounted TVs, the coffee drinks (though not appealing to me, appealing to many adults), the lounge and overstuffed style seating. The dollar menu is a good thing, too, and they have some good stuff on the dollar menu. And what about the large drinks for a dollar? A small drink at Arby's is $1.49. When I want to get away from the church to study, McDonald's is my typical choice.

How typical of the English language that "raising a building" and "razing a building" have opposite meanings.

Friday, May 7, 2010

"Even Her"

In Same Kind of Different as Me, Ron Hall relates his wife Deborah’s horrific struggle against colon cancer of the liver. Both Ron and Deborah were people of faith (Ron still is).

Shortly before she passed away in November of 2000, Deborah called Ron and her two adult children into their bedroom and told them, “Your father has been a wonderful husband and father, and I want you to know that I am releasing him to find someone, date, and even marry.” Ron protested, but Deborah continued talking to the kids. “I know it’s going to be hard for you, but I’m asking you to honor his decisions and let him be happy again.”

As I read this to Sara a couple days ago, we commented to one another about what a gift that was from this dying woman to her husband and to her kids. Neither group wanted to hear that at the time, but one day it could be quite a gift, knowing that wife/mom had given her approval to husband/dad remarrying after her death.

But there’s more. After the kids had left the room, Deborah whispered in her husband’s ear, “Even her.”

Ron writes that he knew exactly who she meant. Eleven years prior he had had a brief fling with another woman. At the time Ron confessed to Deborah what had happened. After going into a rage at the time and then meeting with their pastor, Deborah called the woman, identified herself, and then told her that she didn’t blame her for the affair; she blamed herself for not being the kind of wife Ron needed, but that was going to change (68-69). From that point on the Halls began to work on their marriage.

Now, eleven years later, Deborah gave Ron permission to marry that woman after she was gone. Ron vehemently protested, but Deborah said—and I find this amazing—“It [the affair] was a good thing, a thing that turned out good for us. Look at the last eleven years … if she hadn’t happened, our life together would never have been as wonderful as it has been. And now you have my permission to go back to her.”

Now there is a woman of grace, a woman close to the heart of God.

--Ron Hall and Denver Moore with Lynn Vincent, Same Kind of Different as Me 174-176

Thursday, May 6, 2010

9 More Preferences

I generally prefer …
  1. the ESV over the NIV
  2. Autumn over Summer
  3. teaching a passage over teaching a topic
  4. Cold Stone Creamery over Dairy Queen
  5. reading a book over reading a magazine
  6. playing tennis over swimming
  7. folding the laundry over cleaning the kitchen
  8. cats over dogs
  9. museums over beaches.

(See my first list here.)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Apologies to Sherlock Holmes


I recently saw Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey, Jr., and Jude Law, twice; once with Andrew in Jan. and once with Sara last month at the $3 theater. It was entertaining, but I commented often on the liberties the movie took with Holmes’s character. Sure he was brilliant and deductive, as in Doyle’s stories, but he seemed to be portrayed as a modern (or postmodern) detective with his foibles and his flaws. For instance, he enjoyed boxing, his apartment was a mess, he frequently shot his pistol at the wall of his apartment, and he languished in a sort of depression between cases, keeping the curtains drawn for days at a time and refusing to go out.

Now I by no means have read all the Sherlock Holmes stories, and perhaps I have been more influenced in my conception of the famous detective by the few movies I have seen than by the stories I read years ago, because I discovered recently I owe the director of the movie an apology. P. D. James, in her Talking about Detective Fiction, explains that in fact Holmes was “an expert boxer and swordsman,” that he was quite active while working on a case but otherwise “often spent days lying on a sofa without uttering a word,” that he sometimes injected cocaine into his system, and that he led an “erratic lifestyle,” habitually shooting holes “to pattern the wall” (37).

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Shepherds Dying for Sheep?

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11 ESV).

I like some of the comments of Leon Morris on this verse. He says that shepherds dying for the sheep “must have been a fairly rare occurrence among Palestinian shepherds. But for Jesus it is the characteristic thing.”

“[W]hen the Palestinian shepherd did die in defence [sic] of his sheep that was an accident. He planned to live for them, not die for them. With Jesus, however, death for the sheep was the set purpose.”

“Finally the death of the Palestinian shepherd meant disaster for his sheep. The death of the Good Shepherd means life for His sheep.”
--Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, NICNT, 509-510

Monday, May 3, 2010

9 Reasons to Read the Whole Bible

1. If you’re a Christian, it’s embarrassing to have to admit to unbelievers that there are parts of your holy book you’ve never read.

2. “ALL Scripture is God-breathed and is [profitable] for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV)

3. It’s the #1 best-seller of all time.

4. All the Scriptures point to Jesus (Luke 24:27).

5. You’ll not only know about Adam, Moses, and David, but also Maher-shalal-hash-baz, Uzzah, and Shether-bozenai.

6. It’ll help you understand Shakespeare.

7. When someone says to you, “As the Good Book says, ‘The Lord helps those who help themselves,’” you will be able to confidently tell them, “No, it doesn’t.” (Same with "Cleanliness is next to godliness.")

8. You’ll be able to answer all “Bible” questions on Jeopardy.

9. You’ll see for yourself that the Bible isn’t simply a bunch of dull, moralizing platitudes, but that it is a treasure chest of all kinds of literary jewels: action and adventure, war and peace, intrigue and heroism, romance both wrongful and righteous, good guys and bad guys, saints and sinners, angels and witches, history and prophecy, poignant poetry, pithy proverbs, and hell-fire preaching, self-indulgence and sacrifice, lust that takes and love that gives, greedy misers and generous maidens, prostitutes who believe and believers who prostitute, donkeys and demons and darkness, floods and fools and famines, slings and swords and spears, blood and beasts and betrayals, the beginning of time and the end of the age, the first Adam and the last Adam, Heaven and Hell.