Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Torture in North Korea

Camp 22
The North Koreans, many of them our brothers and sisters in Christ, suffer terribly.  This link takes you to 9 brief videos (each 1-2 minutes) describing the suffering.  It's not easy to take in, but it is motivation to pray against the regime.

HT: Justin Taylor

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Stark Contrast in the Nativity


The biblical accounts of Jesus' birth reveal both the glory and the humbleness of the event.

What especially strikes me each time I slow down to read the nativity accounts is the abject plainness of the birth on the one hand, and all the celestial announcements on the other hand.  It's like Jesus must become like one of us, even to the degree of being born no higher than a commoner, but Heaven simply cannot allow the birth of the Savior go unnoticed, and so there are the angels and the star.

On the humble side, the announcement that she will bear the Messiah comes to a common woman in an Israelite village far away from the prestigious Jerusalem.  Nazareth isn't even known to the biblical reader until the birth announcement.  And the chosen mother-to-be is betrothed to a carpenter (not a prince or priest or prophet).  Yet the Messiah is of the lineage of the house of King David.  And he is to inherit the throne of that ancestor.

There's the obscurity into which he is born: in another small town on the outskirts of Jerusalem, in a place unfamiliar to his parents.  Yet a star in the sky marked his location, a celestial GPS for some impressive men.

Unless family came along with Mary and Joseph, he was born away from the interest and support of his extended family and friends.  To whom would his Galilean parents turn to share the good news of his birth in this Judean country?  Obscure and unnoticed.  Yet his Heavenly Father doesn't hold back.  He sends angels to declare his birth: "today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David." 

His first visitors were shepherds (yawn); shepherding was a humble means of employment in Israel.  Yet these shepherds had been supernaturally informed of Jesus' birth and significance.  And another set of visitors showed up some time later, men of higher social rank, magi from the east.  These also had been notified of his birth and status, and they had come to worship him.

The Son of God become an unknown baby.  The Joy and Center of heaven become a common citizen in the backwaters part of the country.  The Creator become a nursling.  Master become servant.  God become man.  The Center of all worship become the periphery of obscurity.  But Heaven could not let that go completely unnoticed.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Divine Killjoy?

I don't think so.

Thou didst live to bless,
                    die to bless,
rise to bless,
ascend to bless,
take thy throne to bless, and
now thou dost reign to bless.

The Valley of Vision

Why the Shepherds?



Why the shepherds that first Christmas night? 

Well, they were poor and lowly, and the Lord often chooses the weak and the insignificant to reveal himself to (cf. 1 Cor 1:26-29).


The shepherds also pictured what Jesus had come to do.  Even as they tended their sheep that night, so Jesus had come to shepherd his people.
  • I will appoint over them a single shepherd, My servant David, and he will shepherd them. He will tend them himself and will be their shepherd (Ezekiel 34:23 HCSB).
  • He will stand and shepherd [them] in the strength of Yahweh, in the majestic name of Yahweh His God. They will live securely, for then His greatness will extend to the ends of the earth (Micah 5:4 HCSB).
  • I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11 HCSB).
  • Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep—with the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with all that is good to do His will, working in us what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ. Glory belongs to Him forever and ever. Amen.   (Hebrews 13:20-21 HCSB)
They were humble and received the angels' announcement with wonder and joy, and they followed the angels' instructions "with haste."
They were not afraid to share the message with others, giving glory to God in the process.

Linus & Lucy

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

More Better Proverbs


Here are some more of the "better than" sayings in Proverbs.  (See yesterday's post.) 


All these are from the NIV.

Better a poor man whose walk is blameless
than a fool whose lips are perverse.  (19:1)

What a man desires is unfailing love;
better to be poor than a liar.  (19:22)

Better to live on a corner of the roof
than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.  (21:9)

Better to live in a desert
than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.  (21:19)

A good name is more desirable than great riches;
to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.  (22:1)

Better to live on a corner of the roof
than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.  (25:24)

Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.  (27:5)

Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father,
and do not go to your brother’s house when disaster strikes you—
better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.  (27:10)

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Better Proverbs


I've always been intrigued by the "better than" sayings in Proverbs.  They put matters in perspective and help us to value things that we tend to overlook in our striving to obtain something else that often isn't as good.

Below are some of these proverbs.  I'll post some more tomorrow.

Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant
than pretend to be somebody and have no food.  (12:9)

Better a little with the fear of the LORD
than great wealth with turmoil.  (15:16)

Better a meal of vegetables where there is love
than a fattened calf with hatred.  (15:17)

Better a little with righteousness
than much gain with injustice.  (16:8)

How much better to get wisdom than gold,
to choose understanding rather than silver!  (16:16)

Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed
than to share plunder with the proud.  (16:19)

Better a patient man than a warrior,
a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.  (16:32)

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet
than a house full of feasting, with strife.  (17:1)

Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs
than a fool in his folly.  (17:12)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens Died

Douglas Wilson & Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens died last night.  Journalist, atheist, author, etc., I first became acquainted with him a few years ago when I heard of a spate of books being published by the new atheists—Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens.  Hitchens’ book was irreverently titled, God Is Not Great.  Cancer took him.

I became enamored with Hitchens when I watched Collision, a documentary which focuses on a series of debates that Hitchens and Pastor Douglas Wilson engaged in after they co-wrote, Is Christianity Good for the World?  I’ve watched Collision at least three times.

Hitchens struck me as an honest intellectual, at least as honest as a non-Christian intellectual can be.  He did not tow any particular line all the way.  While in some respects liberal, he was in other respects conservative.  He whole-heartedly supported the war in Iraq.  The enemy that defined him and his response was not specifically the notion of God; it was totalitarianism, whether that took the form of a god or of a dictatorial regime.  He promoted freedom.  He loved and wrote on George Orwell, and no doubt was influenced by Orwell’s own concerns on the subject.

I love the debates themselves for a number of reasons.  1) Douglas Wilson, no intellectual slouch himself, quite capably holds his own in debating Hitchens.  2) The behind-the-scenes repartee and friendship between the two men is heartening and humorous and stimulating.  3) Hitchens seems at least honest about his views, about how he came to those views, and about his own (selfish) motivations.

I mentioned that I was enamored with Hitchens.  I liked him, despite his positions and sometimes offensive statements.  I’m not the only one; many Christians came to like him and pray for him as a result of his appearance in Collision.  Unfortunately, Hitchens worked even harder to ensure his spiritual doom.  When asked about all the Christians who were praying for him after his cancer became known, he indicated that any deathbed conversion would not truly be him.  If there were a deathbed conversion, it would no doubt be a lesser mind ravaged by cancer.

I can imagine that the possibility of “succumbing” to a conversion would be a horror to such a vocal opponent of faith as Hitchens.  It would be a betrayal of his life’s work, an undermining of his legacy, the only part of him that would survive his death.

Hitchens’ death is a tragedy.  What a mind and what gifts the Lord gave to him!  And he used them against the Lord.  The Lord Jesus died for him, but Hitchens refused what had been so richly and lovingly provided for him, denying the reality of a God to whom we are responsible and the reality of the cross.  Mr. Hitchens, if only … 

The Lord is gracious and merciful, and he pursues men and women to extraordinarily great lengths.  The blame here lies not with the Lord but with Mr. Hitchens.  How tremendously stubborn people can be.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Adults Learn to Hate Weather



C. S. Lewis had the gift of looking at things differently (and maybe more accurately).  Here's a different perspective on our attitude toward weather:

     "We both like Weather. Not this or that kind of weather, but just Weather...."    

     "How ever did you learn to do that, Mr. Denniston?" said Jane. "I don't think I should ever learn to like rain and snow."

     "It's the other way round," said Denniston. "Everyone begins as a child by liking Weather. You learn the art of disliking it ...as you grow up. Haven't you ever noticed it on a snowy day? The grown-ups are all going about with long faces, but look at the children--and the dogs? They know what snow's made for."

     "I'm sure I hated wet days as a child," said Jane.

     "That's because the grown-ups kept you in," said Camilla. "Any child loves rain if it's allowed to go out and paddle about in it." 

--That Hideous Strength, chapter 5

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Perspective

Dreadful harm has indeed been done by those who have taken the sword in Christ's name, against his specific command.  Yet the holocaust in Nazi Germany and Stalin's purges in the Soviet Union warn us of the even deadlier danger that lurks in renunciation of a divine standard for thought and life.

Edmund P. Clowney, The Church 103

Monday, December 5, 2011

Not Our Call


[T]he church is Christ’s.
We cannot exclude those whom he welcomes,
or welcome those whom he excludes. 

--Edmund P. Clowney, The Church 97

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Book about Sleepovers

Peter Lovenheim was stunned when a husband killed his wife and then himself in his Lovenheim's neighborhood.  Their neighborhood is a very upscale neighborhood with large homes and manicured lawns.  How could this happen?

Investigating, he realized that virtually no one in the neighborhood knew this couple and their children, though they had lived there for some time.  Further, no one knew any of their neighbors, Lovenheim himself included.

Deeply concerned about the almost-total absence of neighbor-neighbor relationships, Peter decided to take a creepy approach (at least I think it's creepy, though fascinating).  He decided to get to know his neighbors by spending the night at each of their homes.  Such was the genesis of his book, In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time

When I first saw the book at Barnes & Noble, I was fascinated by the premise.  I personally find the stories of "ordinary" people fascinating and intriguing. 

Chapter by chapter, Lovenheim relates what he learns about each of his neighbors.  In truth, he did not spend the night at every neighbor's house.  Some had reservations.  (Imagine that!?)

Part of Lovenheim's motivation was guilt.  The neighborhood failed this tragic couple, particularly the wife.  In fostering community, he was trying to "redeem in a small way our neighborhood's failure" (232).  Part of his motivation was a felt emptiness, a sense that he was missing something in living in a community-less neighborhood.

His efforts were moderately successful.  He and another neighbor, Lou, started helping a third neighbor, Patti, who was struggling with cancer (and eventually succumbed to it).  Lou, widowed and retired, said that Patti was helping him, too, by allowing him to drive her around and help her.  Further, when Lovenheim's own relationship with a girlfriend fell apart, breakfasting with Lou for several days helped him through that grief.

Community is important.  Lovenheim is not a Christian, but the importance of community that he senses is biblical.  Is the neighborhood the prime place for community?  There's something to that: "when disaster strikes you--better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away" (Prov 27:10 NIV).  For me, the church is my primary community. 

And yet ... God has put me in my neighborhood.  That is my immediate geographical community.  What joys ... and help ... and opportunities to minister (and be ministered to) am I missing by not knowing my neighbors better than I do? 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Not Especially Helpful

News item: The Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Midland, MI, is teaching its students this year to scale back expectations of kiddies this year in light of the bad economy.  Santas are essentially encouraged to profile a kid's financial situation and answer accordingly.  Another news item:  There's a Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School, and it's the oldest in existence.  Who knew?!

Wish list: Someone hard to buy for on your list?  I bet he doesn't have a concealment mantle clock!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Van Milestone

The odometer on my van this past Wednesday



Thursday, November 24, 2011

Finally Finished

A year ago I blogged about President George W. Bush's autobiography, Decision Points, at which point I was some 170 pages into.  (See those two posts here and here.)  With only a few chapters to go, I just set the book aside.  Only recently did I pick it up again and finish reading it.

It's a good book, especially for seeing the man and the plan behind all the policy decisions during his 8 years as president.  I did not feel he was especially good during his administration at communicating with the public, and so we were left at the mercy of the news media.  This books helps to explain his point-of-view.

President Bush in a nutshell?  Humble, putting the interests of the country above his own, willing to lead and make tough decisions, guided by principle and not public opinion, always giving credit where credit is due, honest about his failings.

Some points of interest for me included the following:

Admitting little knowledge of stem cells, he investigated the issue thoroughly and interviewed many scientists and lobbyists and religious men to learn all sides of the issue before reaching a decision he knew would be controversial but also he believed right.

Reading his side of the story with regards to the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina.  (Remembering his governorship days, he did not want the federal government stepping in with relief until he [the state] had asked for it.  He did not step in until Gov. Blanco signed off on it, though he did press her for a decision.)

Worst moment of his presidency: when it was suggested he was a racist because of the apparent slow response to Katrina.  That was “an all-time low.  I told Laura at the time that it was the worst moment of my presidency.  I feel the same way today.”  (326)

Biggest regret: "I wanted badly to bring bin Laden to justice.  The fact that we did not ranks among my great regrets."  (220)

Greatest achievement: "On 9/11, I vowed that I would do what it took to protect America, within the Constitution and laws of our nation.  History can debate the decision I made, the policies I chose, and the tools I left behind.  But there can be no debate about one fact: After the nightmare of September 11, America went seven and a half years without another successful terrorist attack on our soil.  If I had to summarize my most meaningful accomplishment as president in one sentence, that would be it."  (180-181)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mornings with Condemnation

Mornings I've been slowly working my way through Jeremiah (I'm ready for Jer 13), summarizing verses and noting themes--slowing down just enough to pay attention to more of the details.  Once I get through a chapter, I give it a title. 

I did not realize how relentless Jeremiah's prophecies against Judah's sin were.  From ch. 2 to ch. 11, there is almost no break against the railing against Judah's sins, though there are the occasional bright spots of future redemption.  (And in the darkness of the thick condemnation, those spots are indeed very bright.)

So is the reading of these chapters dull?  No, not at all, because each chapter comes at Judah's sinfulness and her imminent judgment from various angles.  At one level, there is a certain art to this that is satisfying.

The chapter titles read a little like headlines:

Jer 2: Israel's Astonishing Rejection of God and Her Passionate Idolatry
Jer 3: Israel Faithless, God's Call to Repentance and Glorious Promise of Healing
Jer 4: The Almost-Sure, Almost-Total, Deeply Painful Destruction to Come against Judah
Jer 5: Israel's Thoroughgoing Rebellion and the Almost-Total Devastation That Is Coming As a Result
Jer 6: The Judgment That Is Coming Is Deserved
Jer 7: Judah Does Her Own Thing, and God Promises Wrath
Jer 8: No Human Repentance, No Divine Relenting
Jer 9: Why Israel Provokes Weeping
Jer 10: The Folly of Idolatry
Jer 11: The Broken Covenant
Jer 12: The Future of Judah's Oppressors

Too much condemnation? 
  • No, not if God really hates sin. 
  • No, not if sin is really harmful to us ("your sins have kept good from you" Jer 5:25 ESV). 
  • No, not if our souls are in danger if we do not repent (see my paraphrase of Jer 4:1-4 below).
  • No, not if that's what it takes to finally move us off the dime of continuing in our sin.

These passages have reminded me of God's hatred of sin.  (Let me not become comfortable or cozy with it.)  But they've also reminded me of God's incredible mercy to me, a sinner who was immersed in sin and is not yet completely extracted from its filth and repugnance.

("The LORD says, If you return, return to me.  If you get rid of your idols and are not wishy-washy about it, and if you swear by me in truth, justice, and righteousness, then other nations will benefit and glory in me.  Give attention to your souls and not your flesh.  Dedicate yourselves to the LORD from the inside out, unless you want to experience my unquenchable wrath."  Jer 4:1-4, my paraphrase)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Amazing Love


Gracious God,
My heart praises thee for the wonder of thy love in Jesus;
He is heaven's darling, but is for me the incarnate,
              despised, rejected, crucified sin-bearer;
In him thy grace has almost out-graced itself,
In him thy love to rebels has reached its height;
O to love thee with a love like this! 

--The Valley of Vision, p. 138

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Critiquing Christian Mysticism

“Mysticism”
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Sermon on 1 John 1:3

Two main ways in which men have sought fellowship with God: the mystical way and the evangelical way

Some combine both ways.
·         Bernard of Clairvaux was clearly mystical, and he was evangelical.
·         There is a great deal of the mystic in Charles Wesley, although he was primarily evangelical.
·         Also true of John Wesley

Many subdivisions of mysticism: pagan, religious, and, in a sense, Christian

Definition: Mysticism is the theory that the purity and blessedness to be derived from communion with God are not to be obtained from the Scriptures and the use of the ordinary means of grace, but by a supernatural and immediate divine influence, which influence is to be secured by the simple yielding of the soul without thought of effort to the divine influence.

Basically feeling, not understanding or reason, is the source of knowledge of God.

The evangelical places primacy on the Word of God, but the mystic focuses on his sensations and susceptibilities.

Three main types of mystics:
1.    Theopathic—concerned about pure feeling and sensation
2.    Theosophic—concerned about experience and who want to examine their knowledge
3.    Theourgic—interested in phenomena

The history of mysticism shows that it invariably comes as a protest to formalism and deadness in the church.
·         In the early church, when there was (necessary) wrangling over theological precision—mysticism in Egypt.
·         In the Middle Ages with Bernard, when the Rom Cat Church was philosophizing 
·         The Quakers, in response to the Puritan theologians

Mysticism concerned with the reality of the knowledge of God and communion with him.  How does it do so?  Two main schools:
·         Quietism, pure passivity: Madam Guyon an example
·         Active, introspection and meditation

The evangelical criticism of mysticism
·         It is a claim to a continuation of inspiration.  The mystic claims a new and fresh message.
·         Scripture becomes more or less unnecessary.
·         The Lord Jesus tends to be made unnecessary.
·         It is so concerned about the Lord’s work in us that it forgets the Lord’s work for us.
·         It’s not strong on the doctrine of sin.
·         It leaves us without a standard as to who is speaking to me.
·         It tends to fanaticism and excess.

The evangelical way to come to this knowledge of and fellowship with God
·         It starts with the Scriptures.  Don’t look into yourself but into the Word of God.
·         It must start with Christ’s work for me.  There is no true knowledge of God without Christ.  I must come to God by Christ and by the cross.  Having dealt with the guilt of my sin, then God gives to me life when I put my faith in Christ.
·         The experience of fellowship with God is not something to be sought directly.  It comes as a by-product of following God: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Mt 5:6).

“The evangelical way of fellowship with God, therefore, is to come straight to the Word, to know its truth, to believe it and to accept it—to pray on this basis and to exert our whole being in an effort and an endeavour to live it and to practise it.”

Friday, November 4, 2011

Molly and Joyce

Today (actually yesterday by a few minutes), my church family welcomed Molly into the world around 4 A.M., and we said goodbye to Joyce around 6 P.M.

Molly is our pastor's fourth grandchild, his first granddaughter.  We have been praying for her and for her mom for some time, looking forward to this day.

Joyce is our beloved sister in Christ.  She has battled cancer for six years.  She's fought it, and she's fought with a faith and confidence in the Lord that never seemed to waver.  We have been praying for her for some time, trying to stave off this day.

Molly can do little for herself.  For the last few weeks, Joyce could do little for herself.
Molly will require her parents' constant care for some time as she grows.  Joyce required her husband's constant care as she died.

The conjunction of birth and death in one day causes one to think.

It causes one to rearrange one's concept of "birth and death," for in the truer sense, Joyce did not die; today she entered into a new life.  This earthly life was the womb that pushed her into a new life today.

When Molly was born, we rejoiced and she cried.  When Joyce moved on, she rejoiced and we cried.

The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.  Today he gave Molly, and today he took Joyce.  But he also gave Joyce--he gave to her joy and rest and so much more.

Birth and death, the bookends of this life.  The conjunction of the two remind one of what's really important.  What is really important?  What is crucial?

It's Christ.  It's one's position relative to Christ, one's stance toward him.  Death hinges on Christ.  Faith in Christ leads to eternal joy in his presence.  Unbelief leads to eternal shame and suffering apart from him in hell.  When one dies, we earnestly hope they were trusting in Christ.  In Joyce's case, we know she was trusting Christ.

Jesus didn't die for nothing.  The cross isn't just a riveting storyline; he died for a reason.  The human race was in a pickle; no other solution for their sins could be produced.  Thus did Jesus take the drastic action he did, going to the cross.  Ignoring the necessity of the cross is a devastating bit of foolishness. 

Molly and Joyce.  We look forward to seeing Molly as she grows up.  We look forward to seeing Joyce when we go up.

In many ways, Joyce's position today is the enviable one.  From one dismal perspective, Molly has entered onto a road that leads inevitably to the grave; but Joyce is past the grave.  Molly's condition is terminal; not Joyce's.

"Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NIV)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Big Boy Article: Learn about Oneness Pentecostalism

T. D. Jakes
T. D. Jakes is perhaps the most famous representative of the United Pentecostal Church, a denomination that is represented in my own city by the large Abundant Life Tabernacle.  But the UPC is not Christian; it is heretical, for it holds to its own brand of the old error of modalism.

Modalism denies the Trinity by teaching that the one God manifests himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but not in the orthodox teaching of traditional Christianity, which says that the persons of the Godhead exist eternally and immutably. 

Modalism moves in the opposite direction of the more familiar error of subordinationism.  Subordinationism (held, for instance, by the Jehovah's Witnesses), teaches that Christ is not divine, or at least not divine in the same sense as God/Jehovah.  Modalism holds to Christ's divinity, and to such a vigorous form of Christ's divinity that Christ is all of God that there is.  The Father and Spirit and Son are simply projections of Christ's deity.  As Fred Sanders notes, "while we can easily see how this doctrine [of the deity of Christ] could be under-emphasized, it is hard for us to imagine how it would be possible to over-emphasize it."

Big Boy Article: To understand this heresy better, I highly recommend Fred Sanders' article, Oneness Pentecostalism: An Analysis.

Perhaps the occasion of this article is the controversial invitation of T. D. Jakes by Pastor James MacDonald to attend his next "Elephant Room" conference.  MacDonald has come under attack for thus seeming to endorse T. D. Jakes and his apparently heretical (anti-Trinitarian) view of God.

MacDonald denies that inviting Jakes is endorsement, nor does he believe Jakes to be a modalist, though as I understand it, Jakes has been notoriously reluctant to clarify his theology at this point.

Carl Trueman takes issue with MacDonald's claim that creedal Christianity's conclusions on connecting the divinity of Christ with the monotheism of the Old Testament is overly precise, because the Bible meant to leave such conclusion somewhat cloudy. 

Thabiti Anyabwile deals with questions of separation and association raised by MacDonald's invitation to Jakes.

A. J. Carter (I think that's his name) believes that only T. D. Jakes wins in The Elephant Room.

Where Would You Live?

One of my friends asked me yesterday, "If you could move anywhere you wanted, and everything else (jobs, family, etc.) fell in place, where would you go?"

Well, I know where I wouldn't go. 

Not Florida.  Not Louisiana.  Not Mississippi.  I do not want to be hot and sticky all the time.

Not Arizona.  I realize it's a dry heat, but it's still hot.  Not interested.

I've always wanted to visit San Antonio, and I think there are some aspects of Texas I would enjoy, but the heat would not be one of them.

Before I'd decide, I think I would check out the political, social, and economic situation of the state as well.  (A few years ago, this probably wouldn't have been an issue.)

So not California.

Definitely not a major city, like Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, or New York.  Though San Francisco is beautiful, I understand, I don't think so.

My answer to my friend was "Probably out west, like Montana, Wyoming, or Colorado."  I traveled out west as a teen in the summers of 1984 and 1985, and I loved the mountains.

Honestly though, I love where I'm at.  I love having four seasons.  I love the variety.  I enjoy breezy Springs, crisp Autumns, and white Christmases.  I like warm Summers (though not hot).  The idea that Santa might have to deliver in shorts and a tank top loses something for me. 

Here I don't have to deal with hurricanes or forest fires.  Tornadoes, yes; but they're hit and miss.  The occasional blizzard, yes; but if you're prepared, there's a certain fun in waiting them out.  The power-crippling ice storm a couple years ago: not so fun.  There are down sides to every place.  There are here in northern Indiana, but for me the pluses far outweigh the minuses.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How to Have Full & Unshakeable Joy

Below is Martyn Lloyd-Jones's outline of 1 John, the central theme of which he believes is obtaining and increasing one's joy in the Lord, no matter what's going on in the world around us.  This is taken from his sermon "How to Know the Joy."

I.              The conditions essential for obtaining this abiding joy (1-3)
A.   Believe on Christ and know him; have fellowship with him (1:1-3)
B.   How to maintain fellowship (1:3-2:28)
1.    Sin and unrighteousness hinder us (1:5-2:2)
2.    Lack of love for the brethren hinders us (2:3)
3.    Love for the world hinders us
4.    False teaching about Jesus Christ hinders us
5.    But a great source of comfort and strengthening for us is the Holy Spirit
C.   Another essential is a conscious possession of eternal life (2:28-3:24)
1.    Failure to keep God’s commands hinders us
2.    Lack of love to the brethren hinders us
3.    False teaching about Jesus hinders us
4.    We’re reminded again of the Holy Spirit (3:24)

II.            Exhortation to practice these principles in an active manner (4:1-5:9)
A.   Make certain of the spirits (Make sure the one in you is the Holy Spirit)
B.   Make certain you are dwelling in the love of God (4:7-21)
C.   Make certain you are actively keeping his commandments and overcoming the world opposed to you
D.   Make certain you hold right views of Christ and are in a right relationships with him (5:5-9)

III.           The results of doing all this (5:10-21)
A.   Consequence #1: You will have assurance that you are a child of God
B.   Consequence #2: You will have confidence in prayer
C.   Consequence #3: You will have victory and conquest over sin and the world
D.   Final result of it all: You will know in the very depths of your life and being that you are a child of God

The doctrines brought up in the letter
The incarnation
The atonement
Regeneration and the rebirth
Sanctification
Sin
The devil
The second coming and the return of the Lord

Friday, October 28, 2011

Awesome Baseball


David Freese

Josh Hamilton
What a great World Series this has been!  I have so enjoyed it.

In the first two games both teams seemed tight, and both were low-scoring.  But the hitting opened up after that, especially with that high-scoring game where the Cardinals did double digits.  Pujols had 3 homers in the 3rd game, and then--mystery--went hitless in games 4 and 5 and most of 6 (until the 9th inning).

The mystery of Tony Larussa's pitching mistake in the 5th game seems to defy explanation, but it was fine with me: Texas won. 

And tonight's game: Wow!  Bobbled balls, dropped balls--several errors that have translated into unearned runs.  Then, 1 strike away from the World Series, Freese hits a long ball to right field that allows 2 to score and tie up the game.  Into the 10th, and Josh Hamilton hits a 2-run homer for TX, his first homer in his last 82 at bats.

Now the Cards have men on 2nd and 3rd with only 1 out.  Another pitching change for TX ...  Theriot hits, makes out #2, but bats in a run, 9-8.  TX then intentionally walks Pujols.  Can the Rangers get Berkman out (who homered big in the 1st)?  Hoping for it! 

But no.  Berkman bats in a run, and the score is tied, 9-9.

11th inning: David Freese, the guy who tied it up in the 9th hit a homerun in the bottom of the inning to win it for the Cards.  The final game tomorrow night.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Intriguing Picture of God

The description of Diedrich Van Horn in Ten Days' Wonder, by Ellery Queen, strikes me as a great picture of God's majesty and inevitable effect on his surroundings.  Of course, no extra-Biblical analogy to God is perfect, but this one certainly excites the imagination.

(Apologies for the length of the quote)

And then Diedrich Van Horn came quickly down the staircase with outstretched hand and a “Hello!” that caromed off the handhewn beams.
            His son followed him, shuffling.
            In an instant the son, the wife, the house grouped themselves around Van Horn, reshaped, reproportioned, integrated.
            He was an extraordinary man in every way.  Everything about him was oversize—his body, his speech, his gestures.  The great room was no longer too great; he filled it, it had been built to his measure.
            Van Horn was a tall man, but not so tall as he seemed.  His shoulders were actually no broader than Howard’s or Ellery’s, but because of their enormous thickness he made the young men look like boys.  His hands were vast: muscular, wide-heeled, two heavy tools; and Ellery suddenly remembered a remark of Howard’s on the terrasse of the CafĂ© St. Michel about his father’s beginnings as a day laborer.  But it was the elder Van Horn’s head which fascinated Ellery.  It was large and bony, of angular contour and powerful brow.  The face beneath was at once the ugliest and the most attractive male face Ellery had ever seen; it struck him that Sally’s remark about it had been, not a conversational whimsy, but the exact truth.  What made it seem so ugly was not so much the homeliness of its individual features as their composite prominence.  Nose, jaw, mouth, ears, cheekbones—all were too large.  His skin was coarse and dark.  In this disproportioned, unlovely composition were set two remarkable eyes, of such size, depth, brilliance, and beauty they illuminated the darkness in which they lay and transformed the whole into something singularly harmonious and pleasing.
            Van Horn’s voice was as big as his body, deep and sexual.  And he spoke with his body as well as with his voice, not disconnectedly but in unconscious rhythm, so that one was drawn and held; it was impossible to escape him.
            Shaking hands with Ellery, putting a long arm quickly around his wife, pouring cocktails, telling Howard to touch off the fire, sitting down in the biggest chair and hooking his leg over one arm—whatever Diedrich Van Horn did, whatever he said, were important and unavoidable.  Simply, the master was in his house; he made not point of it—he was the point.
            Seeing him in the flesh, in relation to his son and his wife, what they were became inevitable.  Anything Van Horn turned his vitality upon would eventually be absorbed by it.  His son would worship and emulate and, unable to resolve his worship or rival his object, would become … Howard.  As for his wife, Van Horn would create her love out of his, and he would preserve it by engulfing it.  Those he loved attached themselves to him helplessly.  They moved when he moved; they were part of his will.  He reminded Ellery of the demigods of mythology, and Ellery uttered a voiceless apology to Howard for having been merely amused in Howard’s pension studio ten years before.  Howard had not been romanticizing when he had chiseled Zeus in his father’s image; unconsciously, he had been sculpturing a portrait.  Ellery wondered if Diedrich had the gods’ vices as well as their virtues.  Whatever his vices might be, they would be anything but trivial; this man was quite above pettiness.  He would be just, logical, and immovable.
            And Sally had been right; you didn’t think of him in terms of years.  Van Horn must be over sixty, Ellery thought, but he was like an Indian—you felt that his coarse black hair would neither thin nor gray, that he would never stoop or falter; you could think of him only as a force, prime and unchanging.

--from ch. 2, “The Second Day"