Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Joy to the... Moon?

At the Christmas Eve service I was wondering if my wife had ever sung traditional Christmas songs before when in Joy to the World she sang,

"No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the plow."
The plow?

Or on the ride home, Away in the Manger:
"The cattle are lowing,
The poor Baby wakes,
But little Lord Jesus,
No dying He makes."
Well, not until Good Friday at least...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Suffering and Rick Warren

I watched this interview excerpt of Rick Warren on suffering and I am speechless... kind of.

Pastor Rick says that he would ask God why there is so much suffering on Earth; however, as the video demonstrates, Pastor Rick thinks he already knows the answer to the "unanswerable question."

"God's will is not done most of the time on Earth."

Paul warns against this thinking:

As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?


Suffering, for the Christian, is a calling. We are called to walk as Christ walked; Christ suffered. We are called to suffer.

Those who are not in Christ are not "innocent," as Pastor Rick put it. They are guilty and the wrath of God is upon them. 

It's not "my will" that causes people to suffer; it is the warning that God's wrath is pending in order for God "to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Lay My Hand On My Mouth

Sometimes I feel pretty good about myself.

Stupid.

It really doesn't get me anywhere when I am trying to get my car out of a parking lot in -13 degree weather when I have a battery that has been dead and frozen for three weeks, a thick cover of snow on everything under the hood, a frozen shifter, surrounded by cars on each side, and a AAA membership that can't get me a tow for 18 to 24 hours in Fargo because of the blizzard.

After driving on the sidewalk with another vehicle to attempt a jump, melted jumper cables, battery swaps, tools so cold they feel like they are on fire, extension cords, flashlights, and blow dryers I'm not feeling good about myself anymore.

In fact I feel like an idiot. Whoever said "if you believe you can achieve?" That's pretty stupid.

I guess it's like God told Job:

Has the rain a father,
    or who has begotten the drops of dew?
From whose womb did the ice come forth,
    and who has given birth to the frost of heaven?
The waters become hard like stone,
    and the face of the deep is frozen.


I should put my hand over my mouth like Job (40:4-5) when God has said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your hand" (1:11). Why? Because God wants me to know that He alone is God:

Will you even put me in the wrong?
    Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?
Have you an arm like God,
    and can you thunder with a voice like his?

Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity;
    clothe yourself with glory and splendor.
Pour out the overflowings of your anger,
    and look on everyone who is proud and abase him.
Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low
    and tread down the wicked where they stand.
Hide them all in the dust together;
    bind their faces in the world below.
Then will I also acknowledge to you
    that your own right hand can save you.

Feeling good about myself can't save me. That is the direction I begin to travel when I start to trust in my abilities. I can't even get my car out of the parking lot.

Tree of the Week (12.16.08)



Sunday, December 14, 2008

Frozen Fargo

It is currently -9 degrees here in Fargo with a wind chill of -39 degrees. It is snowing like crazy and everything in the city is closed for the day. Rebekah and I decided that it would be a good idea to document the event for future generations.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bad Ideas at a High School Choir Concert

Last night my wife and I attended the Christmas choir concert of my brother-in-law and his girlfriend. And although it was an excellent concert I observed a few bad things occurring in the audience. While some of the following are completely tongue-in-cheek, some could be turned into serious suggestions. I will leave you to decide which are which.

  1. Paper Programs: These are the single most disruptive force at a choir concert. People fold them, crinkle them, drop them, and wave them. They are, in short, a terrible idea.
  2. Audience Participation: I like to sing. But being asked to participate in singing a song that no one else knows but the choir, is a little awkward.
  3. No Coat Check: When you live in the frozen tundra of the north, having a place to either check your coat or simply hang it up is imperative. Not providing this leaves people dragging their coat around and turns one person into approximately one and a half people.
  4. Allowing Cameras and Camcorders: Constant flashes get annoying and someone should tell the people with the cameras that the pictures don't even turn out because it is impossible to get close enough for the flash to be effective in the near complete darkness. And no camcorder has the ability to turn off that obnoxious beeping.
  5. Making the Concert Longer Than Four Minutes: Four minutes is apparently the threshold for sitting still at a choir concert.
For a slightly better perspective on choir concerts, check out Josh's blog post "Evangelism."

Do Not Neglect Warning Against Satan

"Certain theologians, nowadays, do not believe in the existence of Satan. It is remarkable when children do not believe in the existence of their own father."
-Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Friday, December 12, 2008

Resolution 13

Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.

The Christian should desire to find worthy causes to give to generously with both his or her time and money. 

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Water and Choice

Here is an article my wife pointed out to me entitled "Too Much Water Nearly Kills Infant."

In short, the article discusses a mother who watered down the formula for her baby causing the child to be malnourished, suffer a seizure, and cease breathing. The baby is recovering after being rushed to the hospital.

In another news (but not in the St. Petersburg Times or any other periodical for that matter), choice kills approximately 1.25 million infants each year in the United States.

Why is it that a mother is ostracized for making the mistake of watering down her baby's formula while another mother is praised for exercising her right to choose? Only one of these results in a dead baby and unfortunately it is the one that is ignored.

Tree of the Week (12.9.08)



Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Good Investment

I have lots of thoughts in a day. And out of those thoughts quite a few I wish I could remember at the end of the day. Having a simple place to write down my thoughts is always a good idea, but I never want to lug around a full-sized journal or a backpack with a notebook in it. A solution to this conundrum recently presented itself.

While at the Desiring God National Conference in September everyone was given a pack of three Don't Waste Your Life Journals. Perfectly sized, this journal fits nicely in my back pocket and provides a place for me to write down a thought that I don't want to forget.

"Keep a journal and write out your thoughts as you meditate on the Scripture. Writing is a way of seeing that is deeper and sharper than most other ways. We see more when we write than when we just read. You don't have to use the journal every time or every day. But do it sometimes and you will soon see the fruit, so that I won't need to convince you." 

The journals are reasonably priced at $5.99 for a pack of three or $4.99 if you buy ten packs or more. And of course free shipping on all orders over $25 at the Desiring God Store.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Intergalactic Christmas

Here is a great combination of two things rarely coupled: Christmas and space.

The Big Picture has put together an advent calendar, but instead of candy, you get a new photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

It's a call to marvel at the majesty and immensity of the handiwork of God and be grateful for granting us His Son in the most humble of circumstances. It might serve to put things in a little perspective this holiday season...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Christmas Music

Nothing can send me into a blind rage as quickly as Christmas music in October, but since Thanksgiving is over, now would be an agreeable time to talk about my preferences.

There is a serious lack of good Christmas music. For the most part I respect the musical choices people make. But when holiday season rolls around, any standards that are adhered to for 320 days out of the year suddenly go out the window.

This does not need to happen. Here are three suggestions to begin the holiday season while maintaning standards.

  1. Bing Crosby: My wife has a nice collection of Christmas songs performed by Bing. Very classy and representative of a person with uncompromised Christmas music standards.
  2. Vince Guaraldi: He wrote the music featured in A Charlie Brown Christmas, the best Christmas production of all time. Christmas trees and smooth jazz were made for each other.
  3. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra: Christmas tunes with face-melting guitar licks. What more could you ask for?
Please, please, please don't listen to that lame, non-stop Christmas music radio station any more. You wouldn't listen to a non-stop stupid music radio station in July, so why now?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Battle Despondency Like Jesus

Taken from Future Grace by John Piper.

  1. Choose some close friends to be with you (Matthew 26:37).
  2. Open you soul to your friends (v. 38).
  3. Ask for your friends to intercede and partner with you in battle (v. 39).
  4. Pour out your heart to God in prayer (v. 39).
  5. Rest your soul in the sovereign wisdom of God (v. 39).
  6. Fix your eyes on all that God has in store for you (Hebrews 12:2).
Remember:
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
     and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
     the night is bright as the day,
     for darkness is as light with you.

Tree of the Week (11.25.08)


Monday, November 24, 2008

Resolution 12

Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.

Satisfaction in self can never be the end for a Christian. Nothing can possibly be as delightful as the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Obama and a Three-Legged Dog

Let's hope this photo is not a manifestation of the stability of the impending Obama administration.

Read more about the photo at Animals & Politics.

Take That, Papists!

"Who does not love wine, women, and song, remains a fool his whole life long."
-Martin Luther

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Importance of Scripture As Shown by President-Elect Obama

In a 2004 interview with Cathleen Falsani, now President Elect, Barack Obama, was asked who Jesus was to him. Here is how he responded:

Jesus is an historical figure for me, and he's also a bridge between God and man, in the Christian faith, and one that I think is powerful precisely because he serves as that means of us reaching something higher.

And he's also a wonderful teacher. I think it's important for all of us, of whatever faith, to have teachers in the flesh and also teachers in history.


A couple of other interesting quotes were generated in the interview.

I'm rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people. That there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward, and there's an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived.


And:

There's the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven't embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they're going to hell.

I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell.

I can't imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity.

That's just not part of my religious makeup.


When asked about the consequences of sin in his own life, Obama answered:

[I]f I'm true to myself and my faith that that is its own reward, when I'm not true to it, it's its own punishment.


The interview is interesting to me not because of his beliefs; they would seem to be in step with a lot of Christians in the United States. It is the reason why he thinks this way that fascinates me. When asked if he has read the Bible, he answered: "Absolutely. I read it not as regularly as I would like. These days I don't have much time for reading or reflection, period."

Christians should take heed of that. An absence of Scripture leads to a world-view shaped and molded by culture, as is the case here with President-Elect Obama. The Word of God needs to be the lens through which we view all things. Senate and Presidential campaigns are not more important than a Biblical world-view for Christians.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Winter is Coming to Fargo

Here are five tell-tale signs that winter is on Fargo's doorstep:

  1. The sun was shining and it was snowing at the same time today. Indiscriminate snowing is always a sign of winter. Go figure.
  2. It is finally cold enough outside for the drunk guys in our apartment complex to go shirtless. Any warmer and it just would not be manly. Or smart.
  3. The line to rent a movie takes no less than twenty minutes. There is nothing better to do in Fargo once the temperature dips below tolerable.
  4. My lips are chapped.
  5. I have listened to "Somewhere In My Memory" from Home Alone approximately 16,000 times.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

More Than Sanctification

During the weeks leading up to it, I thought a lot about marriage as a means of sanctification. God uses a spouse to shape, grow, and refine in His truth. And while your spouse is probably the person who has the most significant impact on sanctification, the impact can be attributed also to interactions with other Christians.

But it doesn't stop there. Our interactions with our brothers and sisters are not simply to sanctify us, but also to save us. It's an easy concept, but one that carries a whole lot of weight.

But "The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord" (Psalm 37:39), right? How can our interactions with humans save us?

It all boils down to is this: God uses means to accomplish ends. For example, when Israel wallowed in idolatry the Lord was upset and gave them up. He did not perform any supernatural outright act, but rather He allowed them to be conquered and taken into captivity (2 Kings 17:7-23). Or when Philip came upon the Ethiopian eunuch. The eunuch had no idea what he was reading until Philip came along and explained. The eunuch was converted and baptized right there (Acts 8:26-40). The Lord used Philip to explain the Scripture, rather than granting the eunuch immediate understanding.

So, God uses human means to accomplish His purposes here on Earth which is a means to the end of His glory.

That is an agreeable statement when thinking about conversion. Why else would God call us to evangelism? But do we agree with that statement concerning perseverance?

We should. Paul says, "the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18). The key there is "being saved." What does that phrase mean? Our salvation is not immediate, but ongoing; perseverance is entirely as important as conversion. This heightens the importance of proper interactions with other believers.

Perseverance is hard for depraved humans. God knows that. And often His answer is human means.

This is why we must foster correct fellowship within our churches and Christian circles. Our conversation cannot be limited to the weather and the football game. It must be Gospel-saturated. Keeping the Gospel central will ensure that our brothers and sisters are persevering. "The word of the cross" is the "power of God" for those of "us who are being saved." Often times we back-burner the Gospel and need a brother or sister to put it back in front of our face. Those are the human means contributing to our ongoing salvation.

God has these means planned out and in place to accomplish His purposes to the end of His glory, but we must strive to persevere. We must strive to keep the Gospel central in our dealings with other Christians. I would contend that our interactions with brothers and sisters in Christ are equally as important to our interactions with unbelievers.

Now, I am not saying that salvation can be lost. If God so desires us to persevere, He will provide the means. And if a so-called Christian does not persevere, He was a false convert to begin with.

The emphasis rests on the fact that perseverance is not governed by some magical formula that carries us to the end once we are converted, but rather on the centrality of the Gospel in our lives which is often spurred by our interactions with our Christian brothers and sisters. We must be attentive to the Spirit and do what He prompts us to by reading Scripture and seeking the Lord in prayer. Then we must pass it on to those around us.

Therefore, in conclusion, strive to persevere in your own life and strive to help others persevere in their lives. God has given us weighty tasks. We need His strength and guidance to perform them. And we will give Him the glory.

Abort73

Since a few of my recent posts have focused on abortion, here is an excellent resource in the fight against the biggest injustice in the United States: Abort73.

Also check out Randy Alcorn's blog, which I quoted in an earlier post, Eternal Perspectives.

Monday, November 10, 2008

California Propositions

California had some interesting propositions on their ballot this election season. Prop 2 was concerned with the treatment of farm animals. Prop 4 required a waiting period and parental notification prior to the termination of the pregnancy of a minor. Prop 8 limited marriage to a man and a woman.

Prop 2 passed. Congratulations farm animals. You can turn around in your cage.




Prop 8 passed. Partially because religious groups poured millions of dollars into making sure that it did, including many Christian groups like this one:


This has been hailed as a great victory by the religious community. Opponents of Prop 8 have shown their outrage. With Prop 2 in mind, I read a political cartoon that showed an animal in a large cage and then two gay men in smaller cages. The caption read "what California will do with all the unused cages."

But Prop 4 failed. $35.8 million was poured into ensuring a "yes" vote on Prop 8. $2.6 million was scraped in for a "yes" vote on Prop 4.

While I am an advocate for traditional, biblical marriage, I will not be excited about a Prop 8 success considering a Prop 4 failure.

Resident Thorns poet and frequent dinner guest, Jordan, explains exactly why:

Prop 2 creates a new state statute that prohibits the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.

Prop 4 would prohibit abortion for unemancipated minors until 48 hours after physician notifies minor’s parent, legal guardian or, if parental abuse has been reported, an alternative adult family member.

Prop 2 passed and prop 4 failed. Go figure.

I understand that there are details to each proposition that I'm overlooking. But consider with me the principle. Compassion for animals is championed while technicalities are questioned over the murdering of humans. Has anyone realized that aborted children are killed before even getting a chance to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs?

Or are we to count limbs fully extended when they go limp?

This is incredible. It's horrific, I know, and I can't stand it anymore.

Gay marriage never killed anyone. The failure of Prop 4 will.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Tree of the Week (11.4.08)



Election Day, One Final Consideration

I have cast my ballot and made my decisions; however, I can't ignore one of the comments left on my last post.

The comment referred to an argument against the Republican party and their views on abortion. The cited article, from the Fargo Forum, entitled "Republicans Pro-birth, Not Pro-life," makes the case that, while the Republican party is viciously pro-life, once birth happens life is very much taken for granted. The author puts it this way:

Looking at the abortion issue through the actions of Republican lawmakers, one must change the term “pro-life” to “pro-birth.” They want to make sure a fetus makes it from the womb to the delivery room, but beyond that, they generally walk away.

If you believe life begins at conception, you must believe it does not cease at birth. Nor does a child cease to exist at age 3, 10 or 17. All too frequently, a child born into poverty – an almost certain circumstance for single mothers – is ignored, vilified, even despised by those who sought that baby’s full-term birth.


Indeed this is an issue. Personally I do not necessarily feel that it is the role of the government to make sure life is always cherished, but I do think it is a direct result of a failure within conservative Christianity, which--as much as I hate to admit it--is represented imperfectly by the Republican party.

There is a theological argument that needs to be explored here. Jesus says a lot about the rich and the poor. Jesus also did not look to government to fix that problem. As Christians we need to be following that example and acting on behalf of the unborn and on the behalf of the poverty stricken.

While I do not entirely agree that this is the reason we should not vote in favor of the Republican party, I do think the argument could be used to support a third party vote.

My final thought is that abortion, unfortunate as it is, has become a government issue. It must be fought on a legislative or judicial level; a level on which our individual vote matters. Poverty needs to be fought on a community level, with our churches leading the way; a level on which our individual action matters. That thought is why I would not let this particular argument, valid as it is, sway my vote.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Why I Would Not Vote Third Party

It is the night before the election and I still have not entirely decided which way I will cast my vote in the morning. I am still considering third party, but there is a looming issue that is keeping me from diving head first into that plan.

Abortion.

I hate the idea that I may be voting for a single issue; however, I hate murder all the more. For this point I simply turn to Randy Alcorn's blog Eternal Perspectives. Here is a snippet from his post "Why I'm Voting for 98% Pro-life John McCain rather than 100% Pro-legal-abortion Barack Obama."

One of the commenters on my last blog said, “God didn't call us to win. He called us to do what is right.” Well, to me this has never been about us winning. I don’t even know who us is. To me, it’s certainly not about Republicans winning, or John McCain winning. My concern is whether unborn babies will be protected. Sure, I want to be able to sleep at night because I did the right thing. But I also want millions of babies to sleep (or cry) at night, because my vote actually helped them live. That, I believe, is the right thing for me to do—not to vote for an ideal unelectable candidate, but to do what I can to help children live even if I have to vote for a flawed candidate to do so.
I don't see casting a vote on the level of unqualified absolute endorsement… All of us become pragmatic (choosing one imperfect candidate over a more imperfect one) at some point or we never vote at all, which some of my prolife friends never do. I give them consistency, but I wonder if they ever choose a less than perfect pastor, insurance program, or loaf of bread.

In my opinion, that is a good reason to forgo my third party argument. Maybe I will...

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Consider Voting Third Party

There are several reasons why I am considering voting third party. People have told me not to waste my vote, but I feel like a third party vote might be a good choice for me.

First I will address the wasted vote argument.

  • In my opinion, a conscience vote is not a wasted vote. When I have brought up the fact that I am considering voting third party, most people tell me not to waste my vote. How am I wasting my vote if I am casting it for the person who I feel is most in step with my ideals? If anything I feel that I am actually making my vote count.
  • In the primaries I voted for Mike Huckabee. I voted my conscience. I felt that he would be the best candidate for the Republican Party, which is the party within which I typically vote. North Dakota went to Mitt Romney. The Republican endorsement went to John McCain. Did I waste my vote? I don't think so.
  • Since a third party candidate is such a long shot, it is said that I would be better suited simply to vote along party lines and make sure that the other party doesn't assume office. But, as this video points out, "The greatest power the people have is their vote and in supporting the lesser of two evils each election voters ensure eternal evil." To me, both of the main party candidates represent incorrect policy. Why would I not vote for the policy that I agree with?
  • Voting third party is ideal; however, voting in this country was not conceived by realists, but by idealists. A realistic vote is a safe vote; an idealistic vote is not willing to settle for "good enough" or the "lesser of two evils."
So why do I think that voting third party would be a good choice for me?
  • I am not a proponent of big government. Government is not the answer for most of the issues that we face in this country. The main party candidates do not understand this. Small government has been a staple of the Republican Party for a long, long time. When did the party lose that concept? John McCain definitely does not seem to want to reduce government. For example, his idea of fixing a mortgage crisis is having the government buy up mortgages. Barack Obama seemed to be heading the right direction when he claimed that he supported the expansion of faith-based organizations as a means to fight poverty. But now it would seem that his "spread the wealth around" concept has overtaken that idea. Those are both big government solutions. Voting third party would not promote big government.
  • The Constitution is a good document. In fact it is the document. Why have the main parties abandoned it? They don't seem to care what it says or why it's important. Voting third party would ensure that the document written as guidelines for this country would at least be attempted to be adhered to.
  • Voting third party would allow me to choose more issues that I agree with: abortion, government spending, taxation, gun control, health care, immigration, and the list goes on. Why would I be willing to settle for "close enough" with a main party candidate when I can say "right on" with a third party candidate?
  • Third party candidates are serious about their platform. A flippant platform waivers to get votes. A serious platform is unwavering despite how many votes it will receive. That's conviction I can respect.
So, which third party candidate would I vote for? After weighing the options I would cast myvote for Chuck Baldwin. Of course I have not entirely made up my mind yet even if I am going to vote third party, but if I do, it will be Baldwin. I agree with him on almost everything except foreign policy which I only partially disagree with him on. He was endorsed by Ron Paul, who, if it weren't for Mike Huckabee, I probably would have voted for in the primaries.

Like I said, I don't know what I am going to do yet. But I am considering voting third party. And I think that third party candidates deserve more consideration.

Joe the Photographer

Joe Wigfall has an interesting way of doing photography. Take a look at this video and his Flickr Photostream.



It's Saturday at 7am

So, it's Saturday at 7am. I am sitting here at my computer listening to WNYC and reading a Ron Paul supporter blog, the Daily Paul.

How come six days of the week, when I have to be somewhere in the morning, I can' t drag myself out of bed, but on Saturday morning by 6:45am I feel like I am wasting my time if I haven't gotten up yet?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I Didn't Really Throw Up, But...

Ok. So I couldn't leave yesterday's post alone; I just have to revisit it.

First I would like to share a comment by my blogging brother, Jake.

I understand the stomach-churning you are experiencing and say to you with hard-conviction that I can relate!

It is one thing to express doubt or affirm that there is and will be a lack of FULL understanding that we will have on this side of eternity... after all.. we are human... frail... finite...

"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?"

But with Boyd... he uses a sophomoric interpretation to portray, as you put it, "a putrid expression of who God is."

Because, it seems, in Boyd's mind... the chief end of God is to make man's life better... if He can!

Jake's last remark is the one that I want to address. The God that Boyd is protraying is a God who--just like Jake says--exists to make man's life better. Once this is acknowledged the rest of Boyd's arguments really do make sense.

But that is not the God I know. The God I know does not share His glory. All glory is due Him as Scripture shows.

When speaking of a rebellious Israel:

For my name's sake I defer my anger,
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.
In Paul's introduction to the Romans:

...Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ...

In John's appeal to his Christian brothers:

I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake.

In David's request for the removal of sin:

For your name's sake, O Lord,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.

Within this smattering of verses we see that God is not most concerned with our well being, but rather His Glory. Now we also have a great promise in Romans 8:28:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

So as God's perfect will is carried out by His power, the good and the bad (Lamentations 3), He also works it for the good of those who love Him.

However, if God's glory is not the chief end of man, but rather the well being of man is the chief end of God, then it is easy to say that God's will is not the sole determining factor in the universe; neither the glory of God, nor the good that God promises are a guarantee. That would make God out to be a liar.

God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

So, Boyd's comments are coming from a different underlying canon which is driven by man-centeredness. And as long as his comments are built on a foundation where God exists without the intent that His glory is the most important end in all of everything for all of time, then we cannot expect any more than statements like the ones made in the sermon quoted in Christianity Today.

I pray that the cannon I am driven by is one that is God-centered and is seeking to glorify Him in all that I do.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Something That Makes Me Want to Throw Up

It is not in the least bit surprising that a post with that title would be driven by an article in... (drum roll)... Christianity Today.

What is surprising is that this post has little to do with what Christianity Today is doing, but rather what someone in Christianity Today is saying. Well, he's not just saying it in Christianity Today. He has been saying it for quite some time. And it makes me want to throw up.

I had forgotten where Greg Boyd really stands; the words that really come out of his mouth. They make me want to throw up.

Here is an excerpt from the article.

Inside the spacious, one-level sanctuary, Boyd bounds onto the stage, shirt untucked, wearing jeans but no shoes. His text is Luke 13:1-5, where Jesus responds to concerns about the Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus also mentions the 18 on whom the tower in Siloam fell. "Do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?" Jesus asks. "No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

Boyd explains that we cannot know anything about why bad things happen.

"Everyone say squat," Boyd directs. The congregation dutifully responds. "That's what you don't know. You don't know squat."

Boyd then strings together a series of scenarios: one person is healed and another is not; one nation prospers and the other suffers.

"All we know is that in this unfathomably complex war zone, crap happens," Boyd says. "It hits the fan, sprays everywhere, and once in a while you get hit."

He elaborates to make sure no one misses the point. No one plans to come down with cancer. Nor should we pretend that cancer fits within God's will, he says.

"This wasn't in your daily planner. It wasn't in God's daily planner. This wasn't God's perfect script for your life," Boyd continues. "It's a war zone. There are a lot of wills that affect what comes to pass other than God's. Now of course the sovereign Lord of history is infinitely intelligent. So he anticipates every possible mess from all eternity, and he has a plan in place so that when the mess happens he has something in place to bring good out of it, to redeem it, to use it to his advantage. He doesn't cause messes for a purpose, but he brings purposes to the messes."

What a putrid expression of who God is. What makes Him God if lots of other wills affect what comes to pass? God has to shift this way and that to make His will work within everyone else's?

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”
I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Maybe I will continue this discussion in future posts. If I can stomach it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tree of the Week (10.28.08)

Here is an original "Tree of the Week." This lovely piece of vegetation is in the pasture across the street from Rebekah's grandparents house in Florida.

Monday, October 27, 2008

God Answers All Types Of Prayers

Rebekah and I spent this weekend in Florida visiting her family. On Saturday night, as we were going to bed, we prayed together. The Lord prompted me to pray out against materialism in our lives. And the answer came quickly.

Today, upon returning home, we received a completely unexpected medical bill for $282.72 and immediately any talk of "it would be nice to have this or that" was squelched.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

In relation to the latter Scripture reference, when fish is asked for, a serpent is not given. It is also then implied that if a serpent is asked for, a serpent is not given. God is not sitting up in heaven waiting for us to ask for the right thing. He knows what's best and He executes it. "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). The idea is not that we get when we ask, but rather that God knows the good that we need. So if I were to request affluence and God gave me a medical bill, I had requested a serpent, but God delivered a fish.

With this in mind the medical bill is more encouraging to me than affluence. Why? Because when I prayed with my wife for God to mitigate against materialism, He heard my prayer, and it was in line with His perfect will. I asked for a fish and I received a fish.

Thank you, Lord.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Before The ESV Study Bible, There Were... Cars

Since my first post entitled "Before The ESV Study Bible, There Was..." was such a big hit, I decided to keep the ball rolling. The photos in this blog segment are not necessarily reflective of the views of this blog.



Sunday, October 19, 2008

Resolution 11

Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances don't hinder.

When we have a thought about God, an attribute or action we do not understand, we should seek to know God more through that thought. And not by thinking, but by studying His Word. Study, study, study, and make Isaiah 55:9 your last resort.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Resolution 10

Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

I think that we would probably refer to this today as "keeping things in perspective." Edwards understood that the pain he felt was probably nothing in comparison to the pain the martyrs felt. For example, John Huss, as accounted in Foxe's Book of Martyrs:

Then was the fire kindled, and John Huss began to sing with a loud voice: "Jesus Christ! the Son of the living God! have mercy upon me." And when he began to say the same the third time, the wind drove the flame so upon his face, that it choked him. Yet, notwithstanding, he moved awhile after, by the space that a man might almost say three times the Lord's Prayer. When all the wood was consumed, the upper part of the body was left hanging in the chain, which they threw down stake and all, and making a new fire, burned it, the head being first cut in small gobbets, that it might the sooner consumed unto ashes. The heart, which was found amongst the bowels, being well beaten with staves and clubs, was at last prick upon a sharp stick, and roasted at a fire apart until it was consumed. Then, they cast them into the river Rhine, that the least remnant of that man should not be left upon the earth, whose memory, notwithstanding, cannot be abolished out of the minds of the godly, neigther by fire, neither by water, neither by any kind of torment.

This godly servant and martyr of Christ was burned at Constance, the sixth day of the month of July, A.D. 1415.
Edwards also knew that the temporary pain he felt here on Earth could be nothing in comparison to an eternity bearing the wrath of God.

To remember the martyrs and the torments of hell, when taken to its conclusion, will lead us back to the Cross of Christ and the knowledge that we have been freed from all pain and suffering. And that brings us joy.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Heart's Cry

My wife started blogging today. She has dubbed her blog Heart's Cry.

I guess she wants a muntjac deer.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Two Things I Learned About/From Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Yesterday I picked up Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers From Prison at the library. I read approximately the first ten communications that he had with his friends and family and here are two things I learned:

  1. He enjoyed a good smoke. At one point he requests his mother to bring him his pipe and some cigarettes. I would have never guessed it. "Respected people from the history of the Church can't smoke." I thought. This thought may be a good indication of how our current culture has shaped how I think.
  2. Although his situation was less than ideal, Bonhoeffer made it sound quite tolerable. The bed wasn't too hard and there were even a few varieties of dry bread to eat. And when they let him outside for a few minutes each day to smoke he claimed that he barely remembered that he was in prison. Wow. That is hardly the perspective I have. I complain about getting up at five in the morning and not having enough natural light at work. And I have not been persecuted for anything. I need to be more thankful.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Resol-you-tions

Resol-me-tions? No, resol-you-tions are Scottish resolutions as demonstrated by Sinclair Ferguson at the Desiring God Conference National Conference.

In his message, The Tongue, the Bridle, and the Blessing, Sinclair outlined twenty resolutions drawn from the book of James concerning the tongue.



Here is the list:
  1. I resolve to ask God for wisdom to speak out of a single-minded devotion to him (1:5).
  2. I resolve to boast only in the exultation I receive in Jesus Christ and also in the humiliation I receive for Jesus Christ (1:9-10).
  3. I resolve to set a watch over my mouth (1:13).
  4. I resolve to be constantly quick to hear and slow to speak (1:19).
  5. I resolve to learn the gospel way of speaking to both rich and poor (2:1-4).
  6. I resolve to speak in the present consciousness of my final judgment (2:12).
  7. I resolve never to stand on anyone’s face with the words I employ (2:16).
  8. I resolve never to claim as reality in my life what I do not truly experience (3:14).
  9. I resolve to resist quarrelsome words as evidence of a bad heart that needs to be mortified (4:1).
  10. I resolve never to speak decided evil against another out of a heart of antagonism (4:11).
  11. I resolve never to boast in any thing but what I will accomplish (4:13).
  12. I resolve to speak as one subject to the providences of God (4:15).
  13. I resolve never to grumble. The judge is at the door (5:9).
  14. I resolve never to allow anything but total integrity in everything I say (5:12).
  15. I resolve to speak to God in prayer whenever I suffer (5:13).
  16. I resolve to sing praises to God whenever I’m cheerful (5:14).
  17. I resolve to ask for the prayers of others when I’m in need (5:14).
  18. I resolve to confess it whenever I have failed (5:15).
  19. I resolve to pray with others for one another whenever I am together with them (5:15).
  20. I resolve to speak words of restoration when I see another wander (5:19).

Tree of the Week (9.30.08)


Monday, September 29, 2008

Shoot the Wolves



Driscoll included five contexts and what kind of words should be used in each.
  1. Feed the sheep
  2. Rebuke the swine
  3. Shoot the wolves
  4. Bark at the dogs
  5. Pray for the shepherds

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Resolution 9

Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

I am not quite sure what this resolution means. My guess has to do with James 4:14.

If you have an idea, go ahead and make a remark.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pastor Steve Sighting

For those of you who attend Metropolitan Baptist Church in Fargo, I have found what Pastor Steve did before joining staff.


If you happened to miss it, here is the screen shot of him singing backup:

And you thought he was in Seattle...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sifted

Please join me in welcoming my friend and brother, Josh, to the blogosphere. His new blog, Sifted, has begun gracing web-browsers all across the country, nay, the world. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Sarah Palin Distraction

Everyone is throwing in their two cents on Sarah Palin and I am beginning to feel left out. So I will join the I'm-gonna-throw-my-two-cents-in-on-Sarah-Palin party.

Sarah Palin has been a success as a vice-presidential pick. Why? Because she has distracted the media from Barack Obama. I think that's why John McCain picked her. And it was brilliant.


It doesn't matter if you think that Sarah Palin is a good VP choice or a horrible one, she has distracted the "Great Eye" of the media like Aragorn marching on the gates of Mordor while John McCain tries to slip into Mt. Doom/The Oval Office unnoticed. 

Here is some media to show how this is happening:
Palin is front and center of the New York Times home page.


And observe the "Latest News" section for September 11 on CNN.com. Note occurances of "Palin" versus occurances of "Obama" or "Biden."






























Some are even saying that Obama Can't Win Against Palin and adsiving Obama to Just Leave Her Alone For Now

Would Sarah Palin be a good vice president? It doesn't matter. Could the Sarah Palin choice pay off? It already has. She has fulfilled her duty. We are less than two months from election day and the Obama/Biden ticket is old news. 

Sarah Palin is a distraction. A successful distraction.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Phil Wickham

Resident Thorns poet, Jordan, recently pointed me to a free download of Phil Wickham's album, Singalong. I have really enjoyed the album in its entirety, but this song has stuck out to me, especially the final stanza.


"Beautiful"

I see Your face in every sunrise,
The colors of the morning are inside Your eyes,
The world awakens in the light of the day,
I look up to the sky and say,
You’re beautiful.

I see Your power in the moonlit night,
Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright,
We are amazed in the light of the stars,
It’s all proclaiming who You are,
You’re beautiful.

I see you there hanging on a tree,
You bled and then you died and then you rose again for me,
Now you are sitting on Your heavenly throne,
Soon we will be coming home,
You’re beautiful.

When we arrive at eternity’s shore,
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more,
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring,
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing,
You’re beautiful.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Don't Equate Faith And Family

Often times when people are asked what they value most, they answer "faith and family." That's a cute cliche, but should we really put faith and family on the same level?

Don't get me wrong here. I think family is very important. I love my wife, someday kids (Lord willing), my parents, and my sister. That's not to mention my in-laws and my extended family. However, the reason I think that family is important is because it is a means to an end.

So, don't equate faith and family.

Faith represents a connecting agent; the God-granted allotment that allows us to be right with God. When we are justified by faith we are adopted as sons and daughters into a much larger, much more important family.

Take Jesus' words in Matthew 12:

While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
And in Mark 10:
Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Maybe when people say that "faith and family" are the most important things to them, they actually mean that faith is a far superior number one and family is a distant second. Maybe. But somehow the proximity seems unwarrented.

Faith is such an amazing gift. It is an awakening to the knowledge that we can be completely satisfied with all God is for us through Jesus. And when we have faith, we are sure of what we hope for, that is, that God is faithful to all the promises that He has made. We hope in God.

Family, while not on the same plain, is also a gift. But take note: the spouses, children, parents, and siblings God has put into our lives, good or bad, are only means to reach an end. The end is the belief that we can be completely satisfied with all God is for us through Jesus connecting us to a right standing with God, or in fewer words: justified by faith.

Praise God for each of these gifts, but don't equate faith and family.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Like Keanu Reeves

While driving home from the Twin Cities, Rebekah made a phone call to inquire about a job that had been offered her in the recent past.

"Would you like my name as it appears on the application?" she asked since she had applied before we were married.

"Yes."

"First name Rebekah," she answered fervently, "last name Reeves..." and then with a little less fervor, "...like Keanu Reeves."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Come As You Are

For some sagacious Labor Day reading, seasoned with wisdom, take a look at my father-in-law's new blog: Come As You Are Productions.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Resolution 8

Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.

Edwards clearly wrote this resolution to foster humility in his life. He is sure that no matter how terrible another's sin is, he is capable of worse. When we hear the shortcomings of others we should be brought to a place of repentance knowing that our condition is no lesser than the one who gave into temptation. We should repent and thank God for His Grace.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Moral Issues, Social Action, And Christ's Fame

Social action is becoming more popular than moral issues as the next generation enters midlife.

Rhetoricians love to discuss the old hat "Religious Right" and their obsession with the morally questionable abortion and gay marriage. And the hip, new political crowd adores talk about the poor, the rich, and the gap between them.

Those who desire reform in the moral issues arena rely heavily on informing, while those who desire social issue reform rely heavily on acting.

Looking at both from a political perspective, despite popularity level, neither can be legislated.

Looking at both from a Christian perspective, despite popularity level, both call for attention. Diminishing the importance of one is wrong. Christians who desire to see social action can say, "Don't forget to do" to Christians who desire to see morals preserved. And Christians who desire to see morals preserved can say, "Don't forget to think" to Christians who desire to see social action.

Let us seek to strike a balance.

Social action Christians and moral preservation Christians should not undergo attacks from the other group.

Considering all of these things, let us ensure our number one goal is to make Christ famous.

Tree of the Week (8.26.08)



Friday, August 22, 2008

Running For More Than President?






When people say that Obama is the antichrist, I usually just laugh.

Nevertheless, people are hanging on his every word and this blog has me thinking twice...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Should I Tolerate Or Have Tolerance?

Are tolerance and to tolerate two different concepts?

How can tolerate mean: "
to allow the existence, presence, practice, or act of without prohibition or hindrance; permit," or "to endure without repugnance; put up with," and tolerance mean: "a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry?"

I am very capable of having a "fair, objective, and permissive" view of differences. And for the most part I do. But having a "fair, objective, and permissive" view of differences and calling it tolerance is simply a poor word choice. Call it acceptance.

For example, I am pro-life. I put up with people who are pro-choice. I do not in any way prohibit their "existence, presence, or practice." However, I do not feel that requires me to have a "fair and objective" attitude toward the pro-choice concept. I think that it is wrong and I will defend that position and attempt to reason with pro-choicers from my point of view. And if at the end of the day they still have the same opinion, that is just fine. I do not consider them a bigot or myself a bigot. I think that they are wrong, but that is not bigotry. Bigotry is removing their status as a human because of their opinion.

If we have weighed the options we do not need to continue to have a permissive attitude toward concepts that we feel are blatantly wrong. But we can tolerate them; we can put up with them. And know this: we should always be accepting to people. But that does not mean we have to like their beliefs. In that way we have tolerance as defined above. And we should always tolerate as defined above.

John 4:1-45

Friday, August 15, 2008

Resolution 7

Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Death By Love

Mark Driscoll has a new book coming out on September 30, titled Death By Love. And the Re:Lit people have put together a trailer for it.



If you are interested, you can pre-order the book on the Crossway website. And of course you can become a fan on Facebook.

Tree of the Week (8.12.08)



Monday, August 11, 2008

Red-Letters and the Ranking of Scripture

Not too long ago I got a new Bible. I began paging through and I noticed something different from my previous ESV Bible: the words of Christ were not in red.

At first I thought nothing of it. I read my new Bible and was quite content. However, recently I have been thinking about it. And I have questions.

In 1899, a man by the name of Lous Klopsch decided that a red-letter Bible would be a good idea.

Modern Christianity is striving zealously to draw nearer to the great Founder of the Faith. Setting aside mere human doctrines and theories regarding Him, it presses close to the Divine Presence, to gather from His own lips the definition of His mission to the world and His own revelation of the Father… The Red Letter Bible has been prepared and issued in the full conviction that it will meet the needs of the student, the worker, and the searchers after truth everywhere (Red Letter Origin, ESV.org).

But is the red-letter Bible really a good idea?

I am not sure that I have the correct answer or a complete answer, but after much thought I am in definite opposition to a red-letter Bible. And here is why.

First, Paul tells Timothy that "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Tim 3:16). He does not say, "Only Jesus' words are breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." Or, "Most importantly Jesus' words are breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." No. Paul says "all Scripture."

Second, Paul says to the elders at the church in Ephesus, "I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). He did not say, "I did not shrink from declaring to you the words of Christ."

Third, the author of Hebrews tells us that "the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). The "word of God," not only the words of Christ. Sure, the words of Christ pierce divisions of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, but I do not see here that they are a more effective "two-edged sword."

Forth, the Gospel of John clearly tells us that Jesus is the Word. And John tells us that the "Word became flesh" (John 1:14). If Christ is the Word, and was with God in the beginning, and is God, why would we focus on only the words Jesus spoke in the flesh? And in that case I would hope that all of the words in my Bible would be red because they are all spoken by the preeminent Christ, where "all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell" (Col 1:19).

Fifth, I believe that Scripture interprets itself. Sometimes I use Paul's letters to understand the words of Christ. Sometimes I use the words of Christ to understand the prophets. Sometimes I use the poetic books to understand Paul. Elevating the words of Christ may diminish the symbiotic relationship Scripture has with itself.

Overall, I think that we must consider that all Scripture is equally as important. It is hard to place any of the words "breathed out" by an all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present, infinite God on a hierarchical scale.

Doing away with red-letter Bibles may not be the proper reaction to these thoughts; however, being aware that the red-letters do not necessary mean "more important" and understanding that all Scripture is equally beneficial is, at the least, an important conclusion to draw.