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December 05, 2010

One of the joys of my work with Ligonier Ministries has been in reading through most of R.C. Sproul’s books, trying to get a sense of what he has written about over the years. Along the way I’ve found that Dr. Sproul is quite a storyteller. There are several times in his books that he tells really poignant stories, all of which point to some great truth. Such is the case in his story of a journey to Mount Moriah. Give it a read as I’m sure it will touch you as it touched me.

I find it difficult, if not impossible, to get inside the head of Abraham on his journey to Mount Moriah. I have never had the experience of being called to slay my son for the glory of God. The closest thing to it in my own experience pales into insignificance by comparison. It occurred not with my son, but with my dog.

When I began Ligonier Ministries in 1971 I was given a special gift of two German shepherd puppies by the benefactress of our work. Mrs. Dora Hillman gave our family two puppies that had been born on Palm Sunday. She named them Hallelujah and Hosannah. Hallie was the female, and Hosie the male. They were bred of champion stock; the sire of the litter was the Canadian Grand Victor, and the brood bitch was the champion of the noted Mellon family of Pittsburgh. Hosie was an especially magnificent animal, a classic sable German shepherd.

When Hosie was two months old he came into the kitchen through the doggie door one morning with his head swollen to almost twice its normal size. He was staggering and obviously disoriented. I quickly assumed that somehow he had encountered a bees’ nest and had suffered multiple stings to his head. I rushed him to the veterinarian’s office for treatment. When the vet examined him he discovered three deep fang wounds to his head that had obviously been made by a poisonous snake, either a copperhead or a rattlesnake. The snake had injected enough venom to be fatal to the young dog. The vet declared that it was the worst case of snakebite he had ever seen in an animal, and he gave me a grim prognosis. He explained that the ability for poisonous snakes to kill was vastly overrated and that the potency of their strikes depended upon several factors including the physical size of the animal stricken, the area of the body where the venom was injected, and the amount of venom the snake injected. On all these counts the puppy was in serious danger. The vet went on to explain that Hosie would have to go through some serious crisis stages in order to survive.

The first crisis was to survive the initial shock and the impact of the venom itself. The second was the crisis provoked by the severe swelling. He said that when animals’ eyes are swollen shut and they are reduced to temporary blindness, they simply seem to lose their will to live. He explained secondary reactions that also could prove fatal.

He administered antivenom shots and other medications and told me the next forty-eight hours would be critical. Two days later the vet phoned to inform me that Hosie had survived the initial crisis stage but that he would have to remain in the vet hospital for two weeks. After that period elapsed the vet called again to report that Hosie was sufficiently recovered to come home. I was enormously relieved by the news.

Read the rest at Ligonier.org

December 04, 2010

Yesterday a friend sent me this prayer from The Valley of Vision, one called “Peril.” I’m grateful that he did not send it to me because I am going through such great distress at the moment. But what a great prayer it is when harassed by doubts, fears, unbelief and darkness, when the heart is full of evil surmisings and disquietude. Here is a prayer that begs God for his presence and finds comfort in his sovereignty.

Sovereign Commander of the Universe,
I am sadly harassed by doubts, fears, unbelief,
    in a felt spiritual darkness.
My heart is full of evil surmisings and disquietude,
    and I cannot act faith at all.
My heavenly Pilot has disappeard,
    and I have lost my hold on the Rock of Ages;
I sink in deep mire beneath storms and waves,
    in horror and distress unutterable.

Help me, O Lord,
    to throw myself absolutely and wholly on thee,
    for better, for worse, without comfort,
    and all but hopeless.
Give me peace of soul, confidence, enlargement of mind,
    morning joy that comes after night heaviness;
Water my soul with divine blessings;
Grant that I may welcome that humbling in private
    so that I might enjoy thee in public;
Give me a mountain top as high as the valley is low.
Thy grace can melt the worst sinner, and I am as vile as he;
Yet thou hast made me a monument of mercy,
    a trophy of redeeming power;
In my distress let me not forget this.

All-wise God,
Thy never-failing providence orders every event,
    sweetens every fear,
    reveals evil’s presence lurking in seeming good,
    brings real good out of seeming evil,
    makes unsatisfactory what I set my heart upon,
    to show me what a short-sighted creature I am,
    and to teach me to live by faith upon
        thy blessed self.

Out of sorrow and night
    give me the name Naphtali -
    ‘satisfied with favour’ -
    help me to love thee as thy child,
    and to walk worthy of my heavenly pedigree.

December 03, 2010

Free Stuff Fridays

I’m on the road today, so there will be no A La Carte (Booooo!). My apologies. However, we do have Free Stuff Fridays (Cheers!). Actually, let me give you one link: Amazon has Melissa & Doug toys at half price today only. These are amazing toys my kids have always loved, but we’ve rarely been able to afford. However, at half price things look a lot better…

This week’s giveaway is sponsored by Reformation Heritage Books, a name that ought to be familiar to you by now. And they are giving away a prize that’s, well, different.

JournibleThis week there will be 5 winners and each one will receive the complete set of Journibles. You can keep ‘em all or you can give a few of them away (even for Christmas gifts). What are Journibles? Well, they are what happens when you smash a Bible into a journal. “The idea comes from Deuteronomy 17:18, where God commands the kings of Israel to hand-write their own copy of the Torah, or book of the law. The purpose of this was so that they would carry it with them always, read it, learn from it, and lead the people accordingly. It’s interesting to note that 3400 years later, educators have been discovering that most people learn kinesthetically, by doing or writing things out for themselves. As you open the book, you will see chapter and verse numbers on the right-hand pages. These are conveniently spaced according to the length of each verse. However, these pre-formatted lines are left blank for you to hand-write your Journible book of yourself.”

It’s kind of a neat idea, really. As you read the Bible, you get to write it out on your own—a great way of enhancing understanding and retention, and you also get to take your own notes. Pretty cool, eh?

So far there are 6 Journibles in the series. The winnres will receive:

  • Proverbs
  • Romans
  • John
  • Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews
  • James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2 & 3 John, Jude

If you want to get a better idea of the format, click here to see a sample page from Galatians. Or you can visit the official Journibles site.

Giveaway Rules: You may only enter the draw once. Simply fill out your name and email address to enter the draw. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon.

December 02, 2010

Today we continue with our readings in R.C. Sproul’s classic work The Holiness of God. This week we come to chapter 8, “War and Peace with a Holy God.” I know that quite a few of you continue to read along; I trust you’re enjoying this rather amazing book.

Summary

As with last week, I think I’m going to focus on quotes from the chapter rather than writing out a summary of it (since that is meaningful even to people who aren’t involved in the project). I find that this is a very quotable book and that even the short quotes offer a lot to ponder.

The saints of Scripture were called saints not because they were already pure but because they were people who were set apart and called to purity.



My sins have not brought me happiness. But my sins have brought me pleasure. I like pleasure. I am still very much attracted to pleasure. Pleasure can be great fun. And not all pleasures are sins. There is much pleasure to be found in righteousness. But the difference is still there. Sin can be pleasurable, but it never brings happiness.



Our marks of piety can actually be evidences of impiety. When we major in minors and blow insignificant trifles out of proportion, we imitate the Pharisees. When we make dancing and movies the test of spirituality, we are guilty of substituting a cheap morality for a genuine one. We do these things to obscure the deeper issues of righteousness. Anyone can avoid dancing or going to movies. These require no great effort of moral courage. What is difficult is to control the tongue, to act with integrity, to reveal the fruit of the Spirit.



The key method Paul underscores as the means to the transformed life is by the “renewal of the mind.” This means nothing more and nothing less than education. Serious education. In-depth education. Disciplined education in the things of God. It calls for a mastery of the Word of God. We need to be people whose lives have changed because our minds have changed.



To be conformed to Jesus, we must first begin to think as Jesus did. We need the “mind of Christ.” We need to value the things He values and despise the things He despises. We need to have the same priorities He has. We need to consider weighty the things that He considers weighty. That cannot happen without a mastery of His Word. The key to spiritual growth is in-depth Christian education that requires a serious level of sacrifice.



If we say we have faith, but no works follow, that is clear evidence that our faith is not genuine. True faith always produces real conformity to Christ. If justification happens to us, then sanctification will surely follow. If there is no sanctification, it means that there never was any justification.

December 02, 2010

Here are a few links to help get your day started. Those who like free stuff will particularly enjoy this, I suppose…

Free from ChristianAudio - This month’s free download from ChristianAudio is Calvin Stapert’s Handel’s Messiah. It’s a good one to listen to before you head to a performance of Messiah this month.

Free December Wallpaper - Now that you got that free audio book, you can also get some free wallpaper to pretty up your computer.

Free D.A. Carson Video - In February 2009, Don Carson presented a 14-part seminar entitled “The God Who Is There” at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. The video for that series is now available online.

Save on Bibles - There are just 2 days left to take advantage of Westminster Book’s sale on all of their ESV Bibles.

Red Eye - If you’ve ever flown a red eye flight, you’ll be able to identify with this.

New Calvinism: Stupid, Salvation or Save-able? - From my pal Julian: “It is interesting to me that there in the last couple of weeks I have happened across several different takes on what is commonly being called ‘the New Calvinism’. The range in perspectives has been interesting to observe.”

Afghanistan, November 2010 - Boston.com has a roundup of amazing photos from Afghanistan.

When I die, I shall then have my greatest grief and my greatest joy; my greatest grief, that I have done so little for Jesus, and my greatest joy, that Jesus has done so much for me. —William Grimshaw

December 01, 2010

Servanthood as WorshipAt the beginning of every month Cruciform Press releases one new book. Our book for December is Servanthood as Worship: The Privilege of Life in a Local Church by Nate Palmer. As someone who absolutely loves the local church, I’m really excited about this one.

Here is a description:

Browse a Christian book website or bookstore and notice all there is for leaders and would-be leaders. There are studies of leaders, keys to leadership, and tips on becoming a leader. Books that promote servanthood tend to be about leadership. But how many books inspire us simply to serve one another?

The appeal of leadership has hijacked the biblical call to servanthood. As a result, we major on a role that will only ever be held by a few, and we largely ignore a role that ought to be held by every Christian. Whatever happened to servanthood?

Servanthood as Worship offers Christians a biblical understanding of their calling to serve in the church, motivated by the grace that is ours in the gospel. It has the potential to revitalize service teams in churches across the world, from church plants to established congregations.

And here is what people are saying about it:

“In an age where the church can be likened to Cinderella – beautiful, but largely ignored and forgotten – Nate Palmer’s brief book forces us to rethink both the church and our relationship to her. In an age where egocentrism ensures we sing, ‘O say, can you see – what’s in it for me?’ on a weekly basis, Palmer forces us to say instead, ‘How can I best serve the church?’ Looking at the needs of others rather than one’s own is possibly the most serious deficiency in the church today. Reading this book will help redress the deficiency. I heartily recommend it.”
– Derek W.H. Thomas, Richards Professor of Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson); Minister of Teaching, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS

“Think of these pages as a handbook. Put this handbook into the hands of your people and you will give them a sustainable, practical vision for serving in the local church that is powered by grace. Along the way, they will also pick up a mini theological education.”
– Justin Buzzard, pastor, San Francisco Bay Area; author, BuzzardBlog.com

“In our media-crazed, me-first culture, the art of the basin and the towel has been shoved off onto those who get paid to serve – certainly a call to serve in humility can’t be God’s will for all of us, or could it? In this helpful little book, Nate Palmer gets at the heart of our resistance and portrays our dear Savior’s humiliation in his acts of service for us – not only as our example but also as our righteousness. I strongly recommend this book.”
– Elyse Fitzpatrick, author of Because He Loves Me

There is also an early review you can read.

You can buy Servanthood as Worship at Cruciform Press (where you’ll find your lowest prices) or at Amazon; it’s available in printed book or e-book formats. You may also like to consider subscribing to Cruciform Press in which case you will get the best prices and receive a new book every month.

December 01, 2010

We had only lived in our home for a few months when the one next door to us was put on the market as well. It sold quickly and in moved Barb. Shortly after she moved in, her home was given a makeover (an extreme makeover, even). Barb was sent away for the weekend and returned to find her house completely renovated. The volunteers who gave of their time for this program did an incredible job. They replanted and resodded the lawns and gardens, laid new floors, repainted the entire house, themed the bedrooms and added lots of new furniture. We enjoyed watching them do their work and we were there when Barb and the family arrived home. It was a great deal of fun to see their faces, to see their joy, as they explored their new home.

Because the house was a construction zone for three days, it was not a great weekend for those of us who live beside or around the place. We live in townhouses and my house shares a wall with Barb’s home. Sound travels readily through these walls and of all the neighbors, we had the worst of it. For much of the weekend there was sawing, banging, hammering and talking. Groups of people moved in and out from dawn until long after dusk. Television crews milled about to capture video of the work. It was difficult, but the crew seemed to do the best they could to be as sensitive as possible to the neighbors. The only one time I felt compelled to go next door was when hammering at 11 PM was keeping the baby from sleeping. I went next door and asked nicely if they would stop the hammering. They apologized and stopped immediately.

We had a great weekend despite the constant noise and commotion. We were thrilled for Barb that she would have the privilege of having her home renovated and we were willing to put up with almost any amount of annoyance for her sake. Unfortunately, most of our neighbors were not. On Friday evening, one neighbor called the police to lodge a complaint about the noise, even though it was only 8 PM. The police arrived and, recognizing the work from an article in the local newspaper, said they were unwilling to do anything. They promptly left and, I trust, found more pressing concerns. On Saturday I saw some other neighbors yelling at one of the crew members who had parked in the wrong parking spot. On Sunday, a few neighbors were gathered in a small group, muttering amongst themselves, making “choking” gestures towards the workers. On the way to church we were apprehended by a particularly grumpy neighbor who told us we should lodge a complaint because Barb’s lawn had been laid with new grass and our adjoining lawn had not. Sunday afternoon a neighbor tried to draw Aileen into complaining about the house but Aileen would only say how great she thought the place looked. The neighbor scolded, “I just hope they now take good care of it both inside and out.” We learned from the crew that a rumor was going around the neighborhood that Barb intended to sell the house as soon as the work was done.

December 01, 2010

I’ve got nothing to say today. Nothing except these links:

Job for a Taxi Driver - Carl Trueman cracks me up. This article is a good (and short) one. “Few things make my blood boil more than those who spend their lives doing things they love in pretty comfortable environments, who take so much pride in being ‘misfits’, and who, as a hobby, complain about how hard life is for them in the church.”

Selecting Songs for Christmas Worship - This is a useful article about how to choose good songs to sing as a congregation at Christmas time. (HT:Z)

A Plea for Profound Simplicity - David Murray pleas with pastors to embrace simplicity in their preaching.

31 Ways to Pray for your Children - A reader sent me a link to this article, a list of 31 ways to pray for your children (one for each day of the month).

Page CXVI - Page CXVI has released a new album titled Hymns III. It has seven new takes on old hymns (well, 6 are old, 1 is new).

Apple and Christian Apps - Phil Vischer writes about the fact that Apple pulled the Manhattan Declaration app from the Apple story after people complained it represented hate speech.

Storm Over Montana - This is a stunning photo from NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day archives (click to see it bigger):

Storm

Egotism is an odd disease. It makes everyone sick but the one who has it. —Anon