Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Expansion, original and final version

Here is the final version of our expansion:

Here is the original version, which some have felt bears a remarkable similarity to Minas Tirith...

Automatic, you say?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Just released / just arrived

What a treat: Gerry sent me an autographed copy of Understanding Jonathan Edwards. These are essays given at a conference last year in Budapest. This was the first European conference on Jonathan Edwards, who is increasingly being seen as America's greatest theologian.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Our tree

My wife & kids did a great job decorating it, as I was laid low with a virus. (That was good timing, huh?)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

doing Tuesday home sick. I sure hope this is the flu, I'd hate to think a cold could feel this bad. Maybe I should just call it a virus.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Doing Monday...

What I like to do on my day off (when I take it & when kids are in school)...
  • Read the Word
  • Catch up on other reading
  • Journaling
  • Blog and facebook
  • Get lunch or coffee with my wife
  • Work on old fountain pens. I'm currently stuck in my repair of this old (pre-1956) Sheaffer Snorkel TM with palladium Triumph nib:

I appreciate the work of Dave Walker, a UK Anglican, for his humorous insights into the life of the church...

Jeremiah 3:15ff, marks of true revival

Jeremiah's first prophecy of the new covenant comes in chapter three:

"'And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, declares the LORD, they shall no more say, "The ark of the covenant of the LORD." It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again. At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the LORD, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart. In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers for a heritage. (Jeremiah 3:15-18 ESV)

I think there will be a literal fulfillment of these conditions in the millennial reign of Christ, and it certainly foreshadows the new heavens and new earth. But it strikes me that these same characteristics are true of the revivals that God sends us in the church age:

  • A return to clear and powerful exposition of God's word which will truly feed his people. There will be a hunger for truth and understanding, and for godly leadership.
  • The presence of the Lord will be sensed in a way that is different from the old covenant or past ceremonial forms. The living Lord Jesus Christ is far better than a return to past forms of worship. (Interesting: Jeremiah notes that there will be a day when the ark of the covenant will be removed.)
  • The throne of God (his kingdom) will be established in the hearts of his people. There will be a true desire to follow the Lord rather than the evil bent of our hearts.
  • The nations (all people groups) will notice and be attracted when such a work goes on in the church. The presence of the Lord will be sensed and will attract all kinds of people to it. Evangelism will take place with power.
  • There will be a breaking down of old divisions. The walls which separate people will come down and we will recognize our true oneness in Christ.
The question here: is this true of our church today? Should we not pray for this?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Subordinated to the economy

Reading David Wells' Above All Earthly Powers this afternoon, and came upon this quote from Reinhold Niebuhr, written back in the 1950s:

"We are somewhat embarrassed by the fact that we are the first culture which is in danger of being subordinated to its economy. We have to live as luxuriously as possible in order to keep our productive enterprise from stalling."

Is that prescient or what?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sheaffer Balance, 1940s

Taking a distinct liking to vintage Sheaffer Balances. They write so well. This black Balance was made sometime around 1940.

Read it a lot

"My son, be attentive to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.
Let them not escape from your sight;
keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
and healing to all their flesh."
(Proverbs 4:20-22)

My friend Ambrose at The Evangelism Institute writes...

But do you treasure the words of God?

Do you really believe that God's Word has value?

One of the great Puritan writers, John Owen, said this: "The principal end of the Scriptures is... to beget in the minds of men faith, fear, obedience, and reverence of God - to make them holy and righteous... Unto this end every truth is disposed of in the Scripture as it ought to be. If any expect that the Scripture should be written with respect unto opinions, notions, and speculations, to render men skillful and cunning in them, able to talk and dispute... they are mistaken. It is given to make us humble, holy, wise in spiritual things; to direct us in our duties, to relieve us in our temptations, to comfort us under troubles, to make us love God and to live unto Him... Unto this end there is more glorious power and efficacy in one epistle, one psalm, one chapter, than in all the writings of men..."

Is Jesus our First Love? Do we want to know what it means to love him and to follow him? Do we want to know what he is like and what he wants us to be like? Do we want to know God? Do we want to be like him - like Jesus?

Don't start with John Calvin or The Shack. Don't seek God in Joel Osteen or Rick Warren or John Owen or John Piper. Don't start with devotionals.

Start with God's very words.

Start with your Bible.

Read it - read it a lot...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Jeremiah 1:12

Really been thinking about this verse. The almond tree has early blossoms and hence its branches "watch" (šäqëd) for spring. God also "watches" (šöqëd) over his word, to see that it is fulfilled. What a promise!f

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Go, Orion!

Orion Martin, seen here making a tackle vs. Georgia Tech, just scored a defensive touchdown against Boston College in the ACC championship game!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Young love (Jeremiah 2)

"Thus says the LORD, 'I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.'"
(Jeremiah 2:2)

Jeremiah is a big book, containing many prophecies, both in warnings and promises. But his judgments begin here: the loss of youthful love for the Lord. He refers to the devotion of a new bride to her husband. That is, the willingness to follow anywhere and to have no other joy than in her new lifelong companion. It is a love like that which often characterizes the first months of betrothal and marriage. This is what the Lord really wants from us -- and the source of all good things to follow -- our fervant and devoted love, that we personally delight in him like no other:

And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD... And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, 'You are my people'; and he shall say, 'You are my God.'" (Hosea 2:19, 20, 23)

At that time in her wilderness wanderings Israel, in spite of the many other faults she had, had only the Lord and was truly and fully satisfied with him. All the blessings of the new land were yet in the future, and they had not yet been distracted (or entranced) by prosperity and success. It seems as if the gifts of God, his blessings, have the potential of becoming idols, or distractions to our devotion to God. Even good things can corrupt when they become ultimate things.

Christians are no different. The longer we serve the Lord the easier it is to find our pleasure in other things, even his blessings, rather than in him. We become devoted to lesser things, or false things, and so become deceived:

"I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:2-3)

And it is imperative that we find, recover, or return to our first, true, young love:

"I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first." (Revelation 2:3-5)

God wants my love, first and foremost.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Word-based ministry (Jeremiah 1)

Reading Jeremiah, chapter one, about his call to be a prophet. Noticing...

  • The word of the Lord "comes". (1:1, 4, 11, 13) It is not thought up, dreamed up, arrived at... but rather is delivered by revelation from God and is to be delivered in that form. God says, they are "my words" which he will put in Jeremiah's mouth. (1:9)
  • God "watches over" his word, in order to see it fulfilled. (1:11) Whether judgment or promise, God assures that it will come to pass. We often think of God watching over his people with care, but he also watches over his word and its proclamation with great care.
  • The ministry of the Word involves both tearing down (cf 2 Cor 10:4-6) and building up (1:10). There will be both negative and positive aspects, warnings and promises, and truths both convicting and comforting.
  • The one who delivers God's word will himself be delivered. (1:8) The minister of the word is not be be dismayed by opposition but should "dress himself for work" (1:17). Deliverance means that the word and its minister will ultimately prevail (1:19)
This agrees with the New Testament, as well. The Lord Jesus said, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32). Later, the apostles committed themselves to a Word-based ministry: "...we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:4) The apostle Paul also said, "...devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching." (1 Timothy 4:13)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

One more time

... we see that technology is not the answer to our deepest human problem of sin, darkness, hate, and rebellion:

The heavily armed attackers who set out for Mumbai by sea last week navigated with Global Positioning System equipment, according to Indian investigators and police. They carried BlackBerrys, CDs holding high-resolution satellite images like those used for Google Earth maps, and multiple cellphones with switchable SIM cards that would be hard to track. They spoke by satellite telephone. And as television channels broadcast live coverage of the young men carrying out the terrorist attack, TV sets were turned on in the hotel rooms occupied by the gunmen, eyewitnesses recalled... (The Washington Post, Dec 3)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Quotes from Sunday's sermon

"But just as you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us-see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." (2 Corinthians 8:7-9)

“Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.”

(--Martin Rinkart, 1663. This hymn was written at the close of The Thirty Years' War by Lutheran minister Martin Rinkart who, at one point when his city was under siege and the plague was rampant, was conducting fifty funerals a day.)

“God wants your heart. He isn’t looking just for 'donors' for His kingdom, those who stand outside the cause and dispassionately consider acts of philanthropy. He wants people so filled with a vision for eternity that they wouldn’t dream of not investing their money, time, and prayer where they matter most.” (--Randy Alcorn)

"Generosity is more a function of the richness of one’s relationship with God than of the size of one’s bank account. It is more of an attitude than an amount given.” (Scott Pearson)

“God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.” (Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle)

In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus says, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
"Notice that Jesus does not say that treasure in heaven will be the unexpected result of generosity on earth. No, he says that we should intentionally pursue treasure in heaven. Lay it up! It is not selfish to pursue the rewards that Jesus promises. In fact, it is foolish not to! The principle of sowing and reaping means that there are rewards for giving generously --the Bible teaches that storing up treasures in heaven through generous giving offers both greater safety and a higher rate of return than any other investment. It is not just nice to give / it is not just good-hearted to give / it is not just the Christian thing to do -- more than that, it is the wisest use of money with the greatest gains." (Scott Pearson)

"I fear, wherever riches have increased (exceeding few are the exceptions), the essence of religion, the mind that was in Christ has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of true religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality; and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches.

"What way then can we take that our money may not sink us to the nethermost hell? There is one way, and there is no other under heaven. If those who 'gain all they can,' and 'save all they can,' will likewise 'give all they can,' then the more they gain, the more they will grow in grace, and the more treasure they will lay up in heaven." (--John Wesley)

Truth in swaddling clothes: God stoops to metaphor

Read and pondered John Bunyan's defense of using story-line, parable and metaphor to communicate truth. Was struck by his reference to God's own incarnation and humiliation as an apologetic for imaginative literature:

That they will take my meaning in these lines
Far better than this lies in silver shrines.
Come, truth, although in swaddling clothes, I find
Informs the judgment, rectifies the mind...

"Well, yet I am not fully satisfied,
That this your book will stand, when soundly tried."
Why, what's the matter? "It is dark." What though?
"But it is feigned." What of that ? I trow
Some men by feigned words, as dark as mine,
Make truth to spangle, and its rays to shine.
"But they want solidness. Speak, man, thy mind.
They drown the weak; metaphors make us blind."
Solidity, indeed, becomes the pen
Of him that writeth things divine to men:
But must I needs wants solidness, because
By metaphors I speak? Were not God's laws,
His gospel laws, in olden time held forth
By types, shadows, and metaphors ? Yet loth
Will any sober man be to find fault
With them, lest he be found for to assault
The highest wisdom! No, he rather stoops,
And seeks to find out what by pins and loops,
By calves and sheep, by heifers and by rams,
By birds and herbs, and by the blood of lambs,
God speaketh to him; and happy is he
That finds the light and grace that in them be."

(--John Bunyan, preface to The Pilgrim's Progress.)

Many years later Jonathan Edwards, in his work on typology said, “I believe that the whole universe, heaven and earth, air and seas, and the divine constitution and history of the holy Scriptures, be full of images of divine things, as full as a language is of words” (Types, p. 152).

Metaphors and images speak to us and God has created a world that abounds with them. These are "truths in swaddling clothes."