May 31, 2011

Through the Clouds

From Life's best photos of the week, here is the final Space Shuttle mission as it broke through the clouds.

click to enlarge

May 26, 2011

The Sabbath Breaker

In my daily Bible reading, I came across this passage of scripture in Numbers 15:
While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. And the Lord said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as the Lord commanded Moses.
I want to offer up a blog about this passage, a profound blog, but frankly, I am at a loss.

I know that as I read this, the words of Francis Chan, from that video I posted a couple of days ago, came to me.  I don't have time to re-watch the video right now to make sure I am word-for-word, but I remember him saying something along these lines,
"We have a tendency to say things like, 'God wouldn't do this or that, because WE wouldn't do this or that.' ... Have you ever stopped to think that maybe God's sense of judgment and mercy and compassion is better or more accurate than yours or mine?"
Here was a guy who was out gathering sticks.  He either rebelled against the law that had been revealed about the Sabbath or he simply forgot, so he went out to pick up some sticks, presumably for a fire. Some people caught him in the act.  His punishment? As mandated by God -- Death.

I have walked away from this passage with a more hearty, more robust understanding of God's Law.  Every time I have broken the law, I have deserved the same punishment.  Compound that time and time again that I have erred in these clear commands.

I am thankful for His grace.

May 21, 2011

Challenging Words for a Pastor

I am in the middle of receiving a triple (or potentially quadruple) punch combination from some of the books that I have been reading lately. I am being hit with various forms of the question, "What are you doing with your time?"

The first punch came from the book Worldliness by CJ Mahaney and friends. It may have been several small punches combined, but I definitely received a wallop from this book. Especially the chapters dealing with various forms of media consumption. If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it ... if you want to get smacked in the face with some serious truth and relevant questions.

The second punch is coming from my current Christian Audio book titled, The Next Story by Tim Challies. This book is dealing with the advances of media and technology and what affects it is having and could potentially have. It is a challenging book, and as he moves past the interesting, intellectual and instructional portions of the book, he brings it home with some penetrating questions that you can tell come from a heart that is also dealing with these same questions.

To let you know a little better how the Lord is working on me, allow me to share a couple of quotes that might put it into perspective. The first quote is one that really reveals my heart's condition as it has been for quite a while. It confronts laziness, which I have confronted within myself many times over. I currently feel like I am winning the battle against laziness (maybe), but this quote puts to words my own thoughts better than I could voice them.
Some pastors and preachers are lazy and no good. They do not pray; they do not read; they do not search the Scripture…The call is: watch, study, attend to reading. In truth you cannot read too much in Scriptures; and what you read you cannot read too carefully, and what you read carefully you cannot understand too well, and what you understand well you cannot teach too well, and what you teach well you cannot live too well…the devil…the world…and our flesh are raging and raving against us. Therefore, dear sirs and brothers, pastors and preachers, pray, read, study, be diligent…This evil, shameful time is not the season for being lazy, for sleeping and snoring.
In this quote, in the battle against laziness, I am also challenged to consider how I am battling that laziness. Is it right to simply fill that time with activity, even good activities? What should I devote myself to as a Pastor? If I find that I am not lazy, but instead busy, is that actually a good thing? Consider this next quote, by Eugene Peterson, and you will understand where I am at in this internal inquisition.
The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront…. [It is] a blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for him.

I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands on my time are proof to myself — and to all who will notice — that I am important.

How can I lead people into the quiet place beside the still waters if I am in perpetual motion? How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule constantly to make everything fit into place? (The Contemplative Pastor)
Both of these quotes came from a blog titled Dash House. His whole blog post is worth the read and a bit better put-together than mine. The post is titled, The Pastor who jogged while mowing his lawn, and you can click here to read the whole thing.

If you made it through this entire post, then I will ask you a couple of questions.  The first question is, "Are you struggling with laziness?"  The second question, the potentially more challenging question, is, "Are you struggling with that other form of laziness called busyness?"

[HT: Tim Challies]

May 20, 2011

erasing hell

Excellent book trailer for a new book that is coming out by Francis Chan called erasing hell.

If you have 10 minutes to spare in your life (which you do), then this would be a worthwhile use of those 10 minutes.



ps. Anyone want to buy me this book? If you buy it for yourself, use my link so I at least get a percentage from Amazon.com! :)

[HT: Tim Challies]

I choked on my Coca-Cola watching this!


[HT: 22 words]

May 17, 2011

Knowledge and Happiness

Lord God of truth, is whoever knows these things by the fact pleasing to you? No, unhappy is the man who knows all this, but does not know you; happy is he who knows you, eve if he does not know such things. Indeed, a man who knows both you and these things too is not the happier because of them, but because of you alone is he happy, if knowing you, he likewise glorifies you, gives thanks to you, and does not become vain in his own thoughts. 
A man who knows that he owns a tree, and gives thanks to you for its fruit, even though he may not know how many cubits high it is or how wide it spreads, is better than one who measures it and counts all its branches, but does no own it and does not know or love its creator. 
It is thus with the man of faith, to whom all things serve, is as one having nothing yet possessing all things, although he does not know even the circles of the Great Bear.  It is folly to doubt that he is far better than one who measures the skies, and counts the stars, and weighs the elements, but neglects you who have "ordered all things in measure, weight, and number."

St. Augustine, Confessions

May 14, 2011

Reading Classics Together (With Tim Challies)

Christianity and LiberalismTim Challies, over at Challies.Com, used to do a series of blog posts titled "Reading Classics Together."  While doing these posts, he would invite his readers to... well... read a classic together.  I always wanted to follow along with his posts, but I never had the book and/or I didn't have the time to add  another book onto my current reading list.

A couple of days ago he posted again that he was going to start another classic.  He posted a poll for his readers to decide which classic to read, and the one that was decided upon was Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen.

At first I was disappointed because I just don't have the funds to purchase another book, but at the end of his post he had a link to reformedaudio.org that has a free pdf version of the book and a free audio book version of the book.  (Click here to go to the Machen page to download the audio book or the pdf.)

Challies is planning on starting this book on June 2.  To read more about Reading Classics Together, go to his site and read this post.

May 13, 2011

Confess Your Sins

I just finished preaching through the book of James at church.  It took me nearly a year to exposit my way through this amazing letter, but we made it.  Near the end of the letter you will find this command:

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another..."
(James 5:16a ESV)
I don't have the whole verse here, and I have excluded the surrounding verses which are important for understanding the context of this verse, but they don't change the "punch" found in this command.  I'll put it to you this way...

There are some men that I know (and I've been one of them) who have never... Never... been obedient to this command.  There are many other men who are so seldom obedient to this command, it might as well be disobedience.  In fact, there are men that I know who, at the thought of this command, will (voluntarily or not, I am not sure) roll their eyes at the prospect.

We could talk about what it means exactly and how this would take place and what the purpose would be and which sins should be confessed, but regardless of how accurately one obeys this command, it should be obeyed.  I challenged the men at my church, and me along with them, to consider ways to be open about our sins in order for us to be obedient.  I also challenge you my blog readers... if there are any... Are you obedient to this command?

May 9, 2011

Worldliness by C.J. Mahaney

Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen WorldI just finished the audio book, Worldliness by C.J. Mahaney with contributing authors: John Piper (Foreword), Dave Harvey, Bob Kauflin, Jeff Purswell, and Craig Cabaniss.

The book begins with a challenging first chapter by Mahaney, wondering if the verse, I John 2:15, which says, "Do not love the world or anything in the world." is in Your Bible.  Is it?  What does this verse mean?  This is the basic premise of the book, God's call to be in the world, but not love the world or anything in the world.

The following chapters deal with different areas of life and how to incorporate this command in a real way.  Chapter two deals with the media.  Chapter three focuses on music.  Chapter four challenges the place of stuff in our hearts.  Chapter five discusses clothing.  The final chapter of the book really brings it together with a discussion on how to love the world.

As a whole, I found this book to be especially convicting.  The questions that were being asked in each section probed deep into my daily practices to reveal different areas where the love of the world could be creeping in or has already built a lodge within my heart.

I also found this book to be exceptionally practical.  There were real, tangible ways to put the supported principles into practice.  And amazingly, the book didn't degrade into a legalistic mess.  Many times when authors attempt to illustrate principles they tend to be legalistic in their approach.  These authors were able to avoid that trap, and I believe that it is because of their great love for the gospel message that infiltrated every page.

I highly recommend this book... unless of course you aren't interested in being challenged and possibly convicted.

May 4, 2011

Is God Glad Osama Bin Laden is Dead?

I wanted to do a blog post about on this topic, but once again someone else beat me to it and did a way better job explaining than I would have... or could have.

Here is a link to John Piper's answer to that question. (Found it via Randy Alcorn's quoting of it.) Piper's article begins with these statements:
In response to Osama bin Laden’s death, quite a few tweets and blogs have cited the biblical truth that “God does not delight in the death of the wicked.” That is true.
                                 
It is also true that God does delight in the death of the wicked. There are things about every death that God approves in themselves and things about every death that God disapproves in themselves.

There is much more to the article, but you will need to click through to see is explanation and Biblical support.

Another great resource on this topic is Andy Naselli's blog post titled Don Carson on Osama Bin Laden.  (Don Carson is one of my favorite writers/speakers.)  In this blog post Andy Naselli, of the Gospel Coalition, discusses a portion of the book Love in Hard Places by Don Carson.  This post ends with this conclusion:
Therefore, in the present struggle, even while we must try to prevent the terrorists from doing more violence, we must eschew a vendetta mentality. Love demands that we do not demonize Osama bin Laden. He is a human being made in the image of God. He is an evil man, and he must be stopped, but he is a man, and we should take no pleasure in destroying him. Vengeance is the Lord’s alone. Do not offer the alternative, “Should we weep for Osama bin Laden or hold him to account for his genocide and prevent him from carrying out his violent intentions?” The right answer is yes.
The rest of the article builds into this conclusion, so you should read the whole thing.  Also, if you go there, they are offering a free downloadable copy of the book!

May 3, 2011

Galileo - Christian Encounters Series - Book Review

GalileoI just finished the book Galileo by Mitch Stokes from the Christian Encounters Series.  I received this book from BookSneeze.

I am going to start this review by telling you that I immensely enjoyed this book. I don't normally read biographies, but I was drawn to this one because I feel some small amount of kindred with all mathematicians.  I can't say that I had any specific curiosity about Galileo in particular, but all of the historical scientists and mathematicians grab some measure of my attention.

As I started this book, I noticed immediately a couple of things about the author, Mitch Stokes.  First, I noticed the amount of work that must have gone into this book from the immense amount of footnoting.  The book ends with the 16 pages of referenced footnotes.  When an author goes to that much effort to validate what he is saying, you walk away feeling like you have read an accurate account and not simply one author's opinion.

The second thing I noticed about the author is his, for lack of a better word, personableness.  I don't think that is a real word, at least the spell-checker is telling me that it isn't, but that's the best I could do.  I tell you this because I felt, while I was reading this, as if I was hearing the story from a close friend of Galileo's, someone who really knew him, and someone who cared about his story.

To be able to write about someone in such a way that you walk away feeling you got all of the historical facts in an accurate manner and at the same time you feel as though you were talking to an acquaintance is a hefty task.  Whether or not Mitch Stokes was attempting to accomplish that goal or not, I have no idea, but that is how I walked away from this book.  This leads me to my next point, because of this book, I have a new appreciation for Galileo.

As much as Galileo was a scientist and sought to have his mathematics and his science to correlate perfectly with the observable world, he also had great respect for the church.  This book included example after example where Galileo demonstrated his submission to the authority of the church.  This is one area where the legends have misconstrued the reality of the story.  In Galileo's book, titled Dialogue, he begins to draw to a conclusion his arguments for Copernicanism by also stating that there is an argument before which one "must fall silent."
I know that if asked whether God in His infinite power and wisdom could have conferred upon the watery element its observed reciprocating motion using some other means than moving its containing vessels, both of you would reply that He could have, and that He would have known how to do this in many ways which are unthinkable to our minds.  From this I forthwith conclude that, this being so, it would be excessive boldness for anyone to limit and restrict the Divine power and wisdom to some particular fancy of his own.
In other words, Galileo, after arguing for the motion of the earth (which we now know is true) by saying that the tides were caused by the motion of the earth (which they aren't, they are caused by the gravity of the moon) he states that what he has observed could be explained in an infinite number of other ways because there is an infinitely powerful God.

Galileo also argued for the church (or at least the believers) to be able to give a believable account for what they hold to be true from scripture.  He put it this way (by quoting Augustine):
The distressing thing is not so much that an erring man [i.e., the believer] should be laughed at, but that our authors [of scripture] should be thought by outsiders to believe such things, and should be criticized and rejected ignorant, to the great detriment for those whose salvation we care about.  For how can they believe our books in regard to the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they catch a Christian committing an error about something they know very well, when they declare false his opinion taken from those books, and when they find these full of fallacies in regard to things they have already been able to observe or to establish by unquestionable argument?
This way of thinking presents some challenges and hurdles when considering the consensus science that is around today.

Anyway... Read this book.  It is worth the time.


I review for BookSneeze®

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May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden is Dead.

In case you hadn't heard this yet, Bin Laden was killed during a raid into Pakistan.  Here is the White House press release:



I had mixed reactions to this announcement.  What did you think when you heard it?