March 24, 2011

"Unto the Coming of the Lord"

While studying and reading through the commentaries that Study Light offers on James 5:7-11, I came across this quote from Barnes Notes on the New Testament concerning the phrase, "unto the coming of the Lord."
Unto the coming of the Lord. The coming of the Lord Jesus--either to remove you by death, or to destroy the city of Jerusalem and bring to an end the Jewish institutions, or to judge the world and receive his people to himself. The "coming of the Lord" in any way was an event which Christians were taught to expect, and which would be connected with their deliverance from troubles. As the time of his appearing was not revealed, it was not improper to refer to that as an event that might possibly be near; and as the removal of Christians by death is denoted by the phrase "the coming of the Lord"--that is, his coming to each one of us--it was not improper to speak of death in that view.
It is a good thing to understand that all of the New Testament writers weren't confused about the return of the Lord.  I have heard people say that before, that those authors were expecting Christ's final return to be within their lifetimes. Whether or not they did, I felt that this quote brought a little more clarity to the instances in the N.T. that refer to Christ's return.

March 23, 2011

Functional Universalism

Universalism is defined as the theological doctrine that all people will eventually be saved.  Evangelical Christians do not believe that, but I think that all of us Evangelicals could pick something up from David Platt in this video clip.  He is making an excellent point with this idea of "functional universalism."


Do We Really Believe What We're Saying? from The Church at Brook Hills on Vimeo.

It is not the religious act that makes the Christian...

It is not the religious act that makes the Christian, but participation in the sufferings of God in the secular life.  That is metanoia [repentance]: not in the first place thinking about one's own needs, problems, sins, and fears, but allowing oneself to be caught up into the way of Jesus Christ.
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as quoted by Timothy Keller in The Reason for God.

March 22, 2011

Reading Through Desiring God With John Piper

Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist
Purchase through Amazon
I have started to read through Desiring God by John Piper more than a couple of times.  I would start the book, but at some point, though I would be completely unaware of this moment, the book ended up back on the shelf. I don't want you to get the wrong impression though, I didn't sit the book down because it wasn't interesting or because of poor writing that didn't "just grab my attention."  On the contrary, the book usually ended up on the shelf because it required more thought.  It wasn't, for me, a book that I could just pick up and read a few pages in my free time, I knew I would have to plow through this one with extended thought, purposeful intent, and an intellectual curiosity.

With all of that said, I am going to pick this book up again, and here is why: (From the Desiring God Site)

Beginning Thursday, March 31, 2011 from 12:00-1:00 PM (EST) John Piper will be hosting a series of five interactive roundtable discussions with the guys at Bethlehem College and Seminary based on his book Desiring God. And we’re live-streaming it on the web. 
This is a great opportunity to reacquaint yourself with Desiring God, or to read it for the very first time (and with John Piper leading the discussion!).  
If you’re unable to join us for the live-stream, we’re rebroadcasting the video and audio the same day at 3:00 PM (EST). A perfect lunch break. Or, consider watching the video with a small group in the evenings, working through the book together.
Here is a little video of John Piper giving an additional explanation:



If you hurry, they may still be giving away free copies of the book.  Go to this link and scroll down the page.

March 16, 2011

The sad story of religious liberalism in my generation.

If you haven't been following along, Rob Bell, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Michigan, has caused a bit of a stir with his new book, titled Love Wins.  In the book, he denies... well... here it is in his own words:
A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better…. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.
I got that quote from Tim Challies, who offered up the first review of the book that I could find. I would attempt to offer up some thoughts on the book myself, but I haven't read it yet.  I did find this interview of Rob Bell from MSNBC to be extremely interesting and revealing to Rob Bell's beliefs.



I don't know about you, but watching that video just made me sad.  A while back I was a fan of the Nooma videos that were produced by Rob Bell.  There is still some good stuff in those videos, but seeing this departure from the truth was disheartening.  I begin to understand what Christians from previous eras felt as they saw Christian leaders and institutions give way to liberal theology.

There are some men who are much smarter than me that have offered up their critiques of this book.  Here is a short list, in case you are interested.

Tim Challies book review on challies.com.

Albert Mohler's review of the book from his blog.  I found this one to be quite interesting.

Christianity Today has a review of the book.

Ligon Duncan has some thoughts about hell and how we should talk about it.

Aaron Armstrong  offers some thoughts as well.  He has a blog called Blogging Theologically.

Josh Harris shows his concern and shares some quotes from Denny Burke.

USA Today has an article with some revealing quotes from the book.

CNN has a blog post highlighting some of the details.

Kevin DeYoung, a blogger with The Gospel Coalition, offered one of my favorite reviews of the book.

Carl Trueman offers up some extremely enlightening thoughts on Rob Bells ability to support his claims.  I found this post to be one of the most helpful.

Most of this was brought to the table because of Justin Taylor, another Gospel Coalition blogger.

There are more blog posts and tweets out there, but these would keep anyone busy for a little while.  One of the most interesting aspects of all of this is the compassion that I get from most of these Christian leaders that I have spent the last few years following via their blogs.  They are concerned about truth, but they are also concerned about Rob Bell.  To me, that is astounding.

Are you ready to have a discussion with a Geometry teacher?

click to enlarge
I am posting this because I thought it was funny.  Being both a preacher and a teacher, I don't agree with the statement that says lectures and sermons are a waste of time.  
The picture is from 22 words.

worth every penny

click to enlarge
A friend of mine forwarded this picture to me the other day.  Usually when I get forwards, I give a little chuckle, then archive the message.  I felt this one deserved to be passed along.  I don't know who to give credit to for the image, but here is the caption from the e-mail:

House Minority Leader  Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, pictured standing, far right, speaks while colleagues Rep. Barbara Lambert, D-Milford and Rep. Jack F. Hennessy, D-Bridgeport, play solitaire Monday night as the House convened to vote on a  new budget. (AP) 
The guy sitting in the row in front of these two....he's on Facebook, and the guy behind Hennessy is checking out the baseball scores.  
These are the folks that couldn't get the budget out by Oct. 1. Should we buy them larger screen computers - or - a ticket home, permanently?  
This is one of their 3-DAY WORK WEEKS that we all pay for their salary, which is about $179,000 per year. 

I don't want to be overly critical, most of us have played solitaire in a meeting before... but c'mon!  At least be discreet about it.

March 15, 2011

Challenging Passage

At my church, we are making our way through the Book of James.  We just finished chapter 4 and are heading into chapter 5, the final chapter of the book.  This chapter begins with, what I feel, is a challenging passage.  Here is that first section of chapter 5:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
(James 5:1-6 ESV)
I feel, though you may not, that this is a challenging passage because (frankly) we are all rich over here in America.  I don't think of myself as rich; I live paycheck to paycheck, but if I compare myself to the world, instead of my own little neighborhood, I am rich.  In fact, according to the Global Rich List I am in the top 2.59% of the world's population.


Combine that thought with some pictures of children from around the world with their sleeping arrangements:  (All of these pictures come from James Mollison's book, Where Children Sleep.  I found them through the blog 22 Words.)








Or what about these pictures of the amount and type of food that different families eat around the globe?  Each picture is a real family and the food in front of them represents a typical week's food consumption. (Pictures from Time's What The World Eats.)





Or what about these pictures of Ah-Long, a 6 year old chinese boy who, since the death of his parents, now lives alone.





We are rich, we are well-off, we live very comfortably, many of our miseries are better than the vast majority of those in the world.  So what do I do with this passage from James?  Is it referring to us?  Are we guilty in any of these regards?

There is more that could be said on this topic, but I leave you with this passage and these images for now, because that is where I am.

Update:  I couldn't find this earlier... Here is a link that discusses the sorrow that is increased because of our ability to connect (at least through stories and images) to the rest of the world.  There is heartache and suffering everywhere, and I am overwhelmed by the immensity of it and my inability to do anything about it.  Read this snippet: Sorrow Overload

March 13, 2011

Before and After in Japan

Google has uploaded several before and after pictures from Japan. These are satellite pictures and really show the devastation that has impacted this country. Some of these pictures show whole neighborhoods... whole towns washed away. Here is a sample:

Before
From Google's Media Tools Gallery

After
From Google's Media Tools Gallery
The New York Times uses these same photos for an interactive collection.  It has the photo with a slider bar that you can slide back and forth to compare the before and after.

John Piper has posted an excellent prayer for the people of Japan.  I would like to share a snippet of the prayer.

Father in heaven, you are the absolute Sovereign over the shaking of the earth, the rising of the sea, and the raging of the waves. We tremble at your power and bow before your unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways. We cover our faces and kiss your omnipotent hand. We fall helpless to the floor in prayer and feel how fragile the very ground is beneath our knees. 
O God, we humble ourselves under your holy majesty and repent. In a moment—in the twinkling of an eye—we too could be swept away. We are not more deserving of firm ground than our fellowmen in Japan. We too are flesh. We have bodies and homes and cars and family and precious places. We know that if we were treated according to our sins, who could stand? All of it would be gone in a moment. So in this dark hour we turn against our sins, not against you. 
And we cry for mercy for Japan. Mercy, Father. Not for what they or we deserve. But mercy.
(Read the rest of that prayer by clicking here.)

March 10, 2011

Can't Hardly Watch This.

The Khan Academy

Really, really getting closer to finding ways to incorporate the Khan Academy into my math curriculum.  There is so much to this site, that it is hard to explain.  So, instead of trying to explain it, I will let you watch a video of Salman Khan, the founder of the Khan Academy.

Swimming in Computers

I feel like I am swimming in computers right now.

Two years ago my parents bought me a laptop.  It was a 17" Toshiba Satellite with Windows Vista installed.  It has been a really great computer.  We have used it at church for the power point and sometimes for the sermon recording.  It has also spent an extensive amount of time on Netflix.

Right now my wife is the primary user of this computer, but my boys have spent a little bit of time using this to play webkinz and starcraft.

Before Christmas I received a CR-48 from Google.  I got this one for free!  I signed up for the Pilot Program from Google to try out their new Chrome Operating System.  This is a web-only computer and takes some getting used to.  I am used to it, so I love it.

These computers are not for sale yet, but are rumored to be coming out this summer.  The CR-48 is a very basic computer, but I believe that the ones that hit the market will come with a little more punch.  This one has been great for me, so I have no complaints.  Plus, did I mention it was free?

This morning when I came into school there was a hp mini on my desk.  I heard that all of the teachers were getting these, but didn't know when they were going to show up.  This little laptop has Windows 7 Starter edition installed, but I have to give this one back at the end of the school year.

The school also purchased (through some grant) a projector for each of the classrooms.  They aren't installed yet, but I am trying to figure out how I could incorporate this each day.  (Could I just download other people teaching each day and just project that? hmm.... could work.)

I have yet to mention the old Dell computer at the other school where I work and the desktop computer that was already there and the old computer that I have at home for my son to do his home schooling on.  I am just swimming in laptops!

Truth is... I am not sure if this is a good thing.

March 9, 2011

Video Games are Stupid



It is interesting to me that this argument would work very well on the topic of watching sports... also stupid. Playing sports has some profit (I Tim. 4:8), but I think only if it is used to further the gospel.

March 8, 2011

Westminster Larger Catechism (Q2)

Q. 2. How doth it appear that there is a God?
A. The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a God; but his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation.
What does this mean?
Simply put: God reveals himself through nature and also through the awareness of man.  It is obvious and evident that He exists, but He does not reveal Himself fully through these avenues. It is only through the written word and the actions of the Spirit that God is revealed in a saving way.  In other words, a person may realize that there is a God, but apart from the Word of God and the quickening of the Spirit, that revelation will never be personal and will never lead to true spiritual regeneration (salvation).

What does this mean for me?
 There are great personal implications in this Q and A of the catechism.  The first is inward, if not for the work of the Spirit, I would not be saved.  If not for the Word of God, there would be no salvation.  Therefore, there should be a deep gratitude to God for His revealing word in the scripture and through the Spirit for my own Salvation.

Also, outwardly, this should drive us to spread the Word.  As it says in Romans 10:14-15 -

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
We must go and preach the word, without it and without the moving of the Spirit, none will come to salvation.

God is Complex. Don't put Him in a Box.

I am quoting Justin Taylor, who is quoting John Piper’s essay, “Are There Two Wills in God? 

Putting it in my own words, Edwards said that the infinite complexity of the divine mind is such that God has the capacity to look at the world through two lenses. He can look through a narrow lens or through a wide-angle lens. 
When God looks at a painful or wicked event through his narrow lens, he sees the tragedy or the sin for what it is in itself and he is angered and grieved. “I do not delight in the death of anyone, says the Lord God” (Ezekiel 18:32). 
But when God looks at a painful or wicked event through his wide-angle lens, he sees the tragedy or the sin in relation to everything leading up to it and everything flowing out from it. He sees it in all the connections and effects that form a pattern or mosaic stretching into eternity.  This mosaic, with all its (good and evil) parts he does delight in (Psalm 115:3). 
God’s emotional life is infinitely complex beyond our ability to fully comprehend. 
For example, who can comprehend that the Lord hears in one moment of time the prayers of ten million Christians around the world, and sympathizes with each one personally and individually like a caring Father (as Hebrews 4:15 says he will), even though among those ten million prayers some are broken-hearted and some are bursting with joy? How can God weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice when they are both coming to him at the same time—in fact are always coming to him with no break at all? 
Or who can comprehend that God is angry at the sin of the world every day (Psalm 7:11), and yet every day, every moment, he is rejoicing with tremendous joy because somewhere in the world a sinner is repenting (Luke 15:7,10,23)? 
Who can comprehend that God continually burns with hot anger at the rebellion of the wicked, grieves over the unholy speech of his people (Ephesians 4:29-30), yet takes pleasure in them daily (Psalm 149:4), and ceaselessly makes merry over penitent prodigals who come home?
Who of us could say what complex of emotions is not possible for God? 
All we have to go on here is what he has chosen to tell us in the Bible. And what he has told us is that there is a sense in which he does not experience pleasure in the judgment of the wicked, and there is a sense in which he does. 

March 4, 2011

Found: God's Will (Book Review)

Found: God's Will (Find the Direction and Purpose God Wants for Your Life)Found: God's Will by John MacArthur was my most recent Christian Audio Book.

Found: God's Will was a fairly short book.  According to Christian Audio, it had a listening time of 1.42 hours.  Even though it didn't take that long to listen to this book, I found that it was packed full of good truth.

The subtitle of the book is "Find the Direction and Purpose God Wants for Your Life."  So, you go into this book expecting the author to give you a road-map of decision making skills.  The author, of course, knows that most people are coming to the book expecting God's will to be all about who you marry and what you choose for your occupation, so he purposefully avoids direct contact with these subjects until near the end of the book.  This is done because God's will for our lives isn't primarily about those decisions, it is about something else.  This emphasis can also be seen in the chapter titles of the book.  Titles like, "Is God a cosmic killjoy?" and "The priority of purity."

The voice talent on this audio book does a great job of drawing the listener into the narration.  The end result was a book that was not only easy to listen to, but it increasingly grabbed my attention as I drew close to the conclusions that the book was getting ready to make.

March 1, 2011

Roku

Roku HD Streaming PlayerJust bought my wife a Roku video player for her TV.

I had heard about these through Netflix, but hadn't really considered getting one yet.  But since I wanted to get her something that she would really use for her birthday, this came up again in my mind.

I did a little research, found a good price for one... the cheapest one they had... and made the purchase.

So far I really like it.  Here are some of the "channels" that I have added so far:  Netflix and Hulu Plus, which we already had a subscription to.  Amazon Instant, which is pay per use.  You can rent movies for anywhere from $.99 to $3.99.  I added a free newscaster channel which has news updates from CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, NASA, and a couple of others.  My wife watched the Today show this morning.  I also added Pandora, a Facebook Photos channel, Picasa photos, and a few others.  It is almost like watching a regular TV, except everything is "on demand".  For those of you that care, there are also several sports channels...

If something goes sour with it, I will make sure to let you know.

The excuses are getting better!

While collecting homework, one of my students actually handed me this piece of paper.


(Enjoyable kid.  Really enjoyable!)