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February 2006

February 24, 2006

I’m always reading statistics. And really I have no choice because our culture seems obsessed with them. I have a question for those of you out there who are more adept than I am with numbers (and, statistically-speaking, I’d guess that this includes over 99% of you). What does it mean when “survey results are considered accurate within 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.” What on earth does that mean?

One of the most popular videos available over at Google Video is this one. It is some Japanese kid shredding an electric guitar while playing a variation of Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major. I have a great love of classical music and perhaps an even greater love of rock music. I simply love it when the two are combined. Does anyone know of any other examples of a rock-classical fusion like this?

I went and got a hair cut this morning. I have two criteria for choosing a person to cut my hair. First, he must be old. Second, he must have an accent. Those old, European career barbers are so far superior to just about anyone else. They don’t dye, highlight, frost or gel. They cut your hair, talk a little bit, and send you packing. That’s the way it should be. The shop I went to today was great. The interior was classic ‘70’s. There was an old man getting his hair cut who said he was 86. He was talking about being married for 60 years and reminiscing about the time he brought his son for his first hair cut in this very shop, some 35 years ago. The barber cutting his hair had given his son his first hair cut all those years ago. That’s my kind of barber shop.

I received a very large box full of DVDs a couple of days ago, so I have my work cut out for me this weekend. I am going to have to spend quite a bit of time in front of the television. I hope that you have a far more constructive weekend!

February 24, 2006

Friday February 24, 2006

Giveaway: Scott is having his second monthly “Free Books Friday.” “This edition has 250 books and 100 audio sermon tapes (MacArthur, Mohler, Piper, Begg, Sproul, etc).”

Du Jour: Josh Harris points to an article from Christianity Today discussing what went wrong with Bruce Wilkinson’s ill-fated attempt at conquering poverty in Africa. “Though I didn’t agree with the premise of his best-selling The Prayer of Jabez or the way many people treated the prayer as a sort of good luck charm, I respect Wilkinson’s obvious love for the Savior and desire to minister to the poor and to orphans. I hope you’ll join me in praying for Mr. Wilkinson and his family.”

Theology: Jollyblogger has some good thoughts on other people’s good thoughts about Total Depravity.

Books: Michael Haykin cries out for authors equal to the task of writing biographies of the great Puritans.

February 23, 2006

As you may know, I am heading to sunny California next week in order to liveblog The Shepherd’s Conference. I am anticipating that it will be a time of great growth for me, as I learn from the teaching of such men as R.C. Sproul, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Steven Lawson and Mark Dever. And of course John MacArthur will be giving a couple of addresses. I consider it a great privilege to be able to blog this conference!

While the conference officially ends after Sunday’s worship service, he and I will both be leaving Saturday. It is my son’s birthday on Sunday and I want to be there to celebrate with him. Saturday’s itinerary is light. There are two general sessions in the morning and the afternoon is given as “Local Attractions and Activities.” This translates to “free time.” I will be accompanied for the week by a friend who has not yet mentioned on his blog that he will be travelling with me. Lest I make an announcement for which he is not prepared I will not give his name. There was a bit of a misunderstanding and he will be leaving the conference early Saturday morning. I do not leave Los Angeles until Saturday night (at 11:57 PM) as I’m catching the redeye home. Thus I have an afternoon and evening that is wide open since I really do not need to be at L.A.X. until 9:00 PM or so.

Never having been to California before, I thought I would ask you, the reader, what you suggest I should do on a Saturday afternoon in L.A. To this point I have received two suggestions. The first was that I tour the library and The Master’s Seminary. That’s a great idea, but I will have the opportunity to do that earlier in the week. Paul suggests that I should go to Tommy’s, a famous restaurant in the area. They are known for serving up a great chili burger. While that sounds tempting, I am not sure that it would be the best idea mere hours before I begin a 12-hour transcontinental trek back to Toronto. ‘Nuff said. But so you can see what I have decided I should probably not eat, here is Tommy’s famous burger:

Tommys

If you managed to keep your lunch in your stomach and are still reading this, here is the nutritional information:

tommysburger.jpg

There has to be something better to do in L.A. And please don’t suggest anything that has to do with Hollywood, celebrities, amusement parks, beaches or spending vast amounts of money. I’d rather sit under a tree and read all day then stroll along the walk of depravity fame, go to the beach or go on rides! Actually, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea. But why go to California to read when I could do that just as well in Toronto?

I have been waiting for John MacArthur to invite me back to his place for some steaks and Cokes, but it doesn’t seem that an invitation is forthcoming. Maybe I should just invite myself over…

So you tell me: what should I do on Saturday afternoon?

February 23, 2006

Cindy KlassenCindy Klassen is the toast of Canada. Yesterday she won a gold medal in the women’s 1,500-meter long-track speed skating event. It was her fourth medal of the games. She had previously won a bronze in the 3,000-meter event, a silver in the team pursuit and a silver in 1,000 meter competition. She still has one event left to compete in: the 5,000-meter which will take place on Saturday. While it is not her strongest event, who can deny the possibility that she might walk away from Turin with a fifth medal?

Klassen, like Canada’s last great speed skater, Catriona LeMay Doan, is a Christian. Like LeMay Doan, she is outspoken about her beliefs. This is a rarity in Canada where celebrities and athletes do not commonly boast, and rarely boast lightly, about their Christian beliefs. Living Light News says “Klassen desires to be as open about her faith as former teammate and gold medalist, Catriona LeMay Doan, who told City Light News, ‘It’s my relationship with Jesus that gives me true significance.’ Inspired by Doan’s boldness, Klassen says, “I want to use the publicity I’ve gotten through my success for His glory. I go back to my old high school and talk to the students. I … let people know I’m a Christian.”

“At McIvor Mennonite Brethren Church and Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute, cards have been distributed encouraging prayer for her during the competition. ‘Cindy asks we pray that God is first in her life as she maintains good health in the face of the very best competition,’ the cards say, along with pictures of her and a schedule of her races.” Ken Reddig, director of the Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, says “Her faith in Christ is very important to her. She does not ask that we pray for her to win, just that she can perform at her peak. I greatly respect that humble, confident but also mature attitude.”

Klassen, in words vaguely reminiscent of the great Eric Liddell, says, “I’m thankful for everything God has given me…God has given me this gift to be able to skate and race, and he wants 100 percent of me.”

It has been inspiring to watch Klassen compete at these Olympics, knowing that she does so for the glory of God. After the 2002 Olympics, in which she won a bronze medal, she reflected on the value of that honor. Her words are surely as true today as they were four years ago. “I’ve won a medal, but that’s nothing compared to the crown I’ll get in Heaven. I see a lot of people in sports who think when they reach a certain level they’ve got it made, but really, you can only find happiness in the Lord.” It seems that Klassen is taking seriously the admonition of Jesus Christ who said, “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.”

I, and millions of other Canadians, will be cheering for Cindy on Saturday. But as a Christian I also have the joy and responsibility of praying for her, that she would use this platform she has been given for the glory of God. I pray that she will, for in so many ways, Canada is a dark nation desperately in need of some light.

February 23, 2006

Thursday February 24, 2006

Canadiana: ESPN is reporting on Lydia Angyiou, a Canadian woman who wrestled a 700 pound polar bear and lived to tell about it. Having seen a polar bear sizing up her 7-year-old son, she “raced around to get between the bear and her son. Then she started kicking and punching the animal…”

Blogspotting: Paul, who is celebrating his one year anniversary as a blogger, says that I was the scariest person he met this year. “I mean, you have to figure that anybody who blogs as much as this guy must weigh in at 600 lbs and have an office like this! Suffice it to say that he was not half as odd as one might expect.”

Audio: Pastor Shaun is announcing a new podcast, Ordinary Means. “No, not a Podcast. The Podcast. (Seeing as we’re not doing any other podcasts at the moment.)”

Du Jour: Carolyn challenges us to think about “Serving Instead of Vacationing” next time we take the opportunity to escape from the office for a little while.

February 22, 2006

On Sunday, Paul began his sermon by saying that, while he always intends not to watch the Olympics, somehow he is always drawn to them. I feel much the same way. I have found it somewhat easier this year than usual, since by the evening there is nothing to watch but reruns of events I’ve already read about on the Internet, but the Olympics still do have a particular and even peculiar appeal.

A couple of years ago Dr Peter Hammond wrote an article about the original olympics which I am going to take the liberty of posting here. I found that it provides quite an interesting perspective on the Olympic games, both in history and in our day. Those who have remarked that the opening ceremonies of the Olympics resemble what we might expect for a pagan, worldwide, man-exalting, godless religion, may not be too far wrong. And before they compete athletes take a vow to compete for the glory of sport. Perhaps the most interesting question he asks is, “If the Olympics are only about sports, then why are the increasingly pagan opening ceremonies glorifying ancient religions - all of which practiced animal and human sacrifices, infanticide, slavery and brutal oppression of women?” What follows is Dr Hammond’s article:

Various newspaper articles, media networks and the Olympic website have made reference to the fact that in AD393, the Roman emperor Theodosius banned the Olympic games for “being too pagan”. Some have also mentioned that under the emperor’s direction, fanatical Christians closed and later tore down the temple (of Zeus) built in Olympia. Numerous reports have characterised Christians as anti-sport - even though many Christian athletes are performing in these games.

It is worth noting that the original Olympians were professionals - they trained and competed fulltime, profiting royally from their wins, receiving huge amounts of cash, pensions and slaves as prizes. The original Olympic Games were thoroughly pagan. Before the games began, competitors went in procession to the village of Piera, there priests offered an animal sacrifice to Zeus. Then the athletes participated in a religious ceremony of purification and large numbers of animals were sacrificed before the colossal statue of Zeus in the Olympia. The athletes swore allegiance to the Greek gods and specifically to Zeus.

Winners of the events visited the temple of Zeus to sacrifice to the gods. The opening procession, where priests carried glowing embers from the fire of the goddess Hestia, was carried on past spectators singing a hymn to Zeus. Arriving at the temple of Zeus, the priests mounted the steps and lit the fire in the altar with the embers. There they slaughtered and sacrificed a hundred bulls.

In the original Olympics, men competed in the nude. Married women were not allowed in the stands, woman who flouted this prohibition risked being pitched headfirst off the nearby cliffs. Unmarried women were allowed to watch and prostitutes from the temple of Aphrodite were available to the winners.

The original Olympics were also incredibly violent. One of the most popular events at the ancient games was the Four-Horse Chariot Race which often resulted in multiple spills, accidents and gory pile-ups. Numerous participants were disfigured beyond recognition.

The Olympics also featured a “ferocious, no holds barred brawl known as the Pankration…a vicious mix of wrestling, boxing and street fighting in which punches, kicks to the groin, shoulder and ankle dislocations and choke holds were allowed.” One famous contestant specialised in breaking his opponent’s fingers. One Damoxenos jabbed his opponents with the fingers so violently that he would pierce men’s ribcages and yank out their intestines. (Christian History)

Hence, when on 24 February 391AD the emperor Theodosius began issuing the series of decrees that effectively outlawed all pagan sacrifices, divination, and occult rituals, one can understand how this led to the closing down of the original Olympics.

Christians were not hostile to sport in and of itself. There are numerous positive references to physical exercise and running the race in the Scriptures. “For physical training is of some value…” 1 Timothy 4:8; “Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others I myself will not be disqualified from the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24 - 27; “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

The third century minister Hippolytus listed 24 vocations forbidden to Christians in his book Apostolic Traditions. Eight of these involved brutality, including chariot driving.

Fortunately, today, athletes are no longer required to sacrifice animals to Zeus, and cruelty to animals and brutality to fellow contestants is no longer on the Olympic programme. However, after the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, one reporter noted: “The spirit behind Zeus, the ancient god of the Olympics, would have been pleased. Never has so large a flock sung his hymn and cheered his sacred flame. Never have so many people celebrated the timeless ritual involving earth centred spirits and the tribes they inspire…” The Olympic Dream by Berit Kjos

Those who think that the present Olympic Games have nothing to do with the mythological paganism of Ancient Greece should consider the present day Olympic anthem: “Ancient Immortal Spirit, chaste Father of all that is Beauty, Grandeur and Truth descending appear with thy presence, illumin thy earth and the heavens. Shine upon noble endeavours wrought at the games, on track and in the field…to thine Temple, to thine worship, come all. O Ancient Eternal Spirit!”

One description of the opening ceremony of the 2004 Olympics in Athens observed: “A centaur (half human, half horse) launches into the darkness a javelin, a shaft of light arching through the air. Then the Greek god Eros descends over scantily clad lovers sensually clutching and releasing each other as they folic in the water…the procession of Greek history begins with float after float…culminating in the persona of the goddess Athena and replica of the Parthenon - religion. Over all this, Eros hovers, as though the god of love is guiding the course of history.”

If the Olympics are only about sports, then why are the increasingly pagan opening ceremonies glorifying ancient religions - all of which practiced animal and human sacrifices, infanticide, slavery and brutal oppression of women?

There is a pervasive tendency to ignore our Christian heritage and how Christianity introduced a respect for life and liberty that was completely unknown before the coming of Jesus Christ. In the ancient world, the teachings of Jesus Christ halted infanticide, emancipated women, abolished slavery, inspired the first charities and relief organisations, created hospitals, established orphanages and founded schools. In the medieval times, Christianity built libraries, invented colleges and universities, dignified labour and converted the barbarians. In the modern era, Christian teaching has advanced science, elevated political, social and economic freedom, promoted justice and provided the greatest inspiration for the most magnificent achievements in art, architecture, music and literature.

Christianity has been the most powerful agent in transforming society for the better across 2000 years. No other religion, philosophy, teaching, nation or movement has so changed the world for the better as Christianity has done. Yet at the Olympics billions of people worldwide choose to unite in pagan worship rather than acknowledging our Creator, Saviour and eternal Judge.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith…” Hebrews 12:1-2

(source)

February 22, 2006

Wednesday February 22, 2006

Audio: John Piper extends his personal thanks to all those who prayed for him when he faced surgery last week. He also reports on his progress.

Evolution: Rick Pearcey reports on a Darwinian Meltdown Over Intelligent Design. “High profile atheists and evolutionists Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins “are absolute disasters in the fight against intelligent design.” So says equally high profile skeptic Michael Ruse, philosophy professor at Florida State University…”

Humor: James over at TeamPyro gives “26 ways in which doing IT Support is better than being a pastor.” “Everyone is fairly clear on what your job actually is: fix their computer so they can get back to work, or work better.” Say what? It seems obvious to me that he has not done much IT support!

Humor Bonus: MSN Careers lists 15 really bad excuses people have actually used to skip work for a day. I kind of like, “I was walking my dog and slipped on a toad in my driveway and hurt my back.”

February 21, 2006

Codex HostAs you may have noticed, I am now offering a small amount of advertising space on this site. It may or may not be coincidence that I began offering advertising at the same time as I bought my first house and began facing mortgage payments for the first time. I am handling all advertising requests personally and attempting to ensure that I only run advertising that might benefit the readers of this site. I have no plans to run BlogAds, Google AdWords or anything of that nature. These are not pay-per-click ads, but you can still support this site by clicking through and reading about whatever product is being offered. If you are interested in running advertising on this site, please feel free to contact me.

This week’s sponsor is Codex Hosting. Kevin, the owner of the company, has become a friend of mine. He is one of the few readers of this site whom I have met personally (he convinced me to drive all the way to Niagara-on-the-Lake to meet him!). He is positioning Codex Hosting as a company that will provide all the space, bandwidth and features needed for a wide variety of web sites, but in particular as a company that will provide great support. For those familiar with budget web hosting, I’m sure you are familiar with companies that oversell their products and underdeliver support! Kevin hopes to correct this trend, offering “more disk space and bandwidth than you need” (feel free to hold him to that!) and “most importantly, we offer friendly, personal service.”

Codex is offering a 20% discount to anyone who signs up for the service through my site. If you are in the market for hosting for a personal site, blog, church site, etc, why not give Codex a try. By doing so you’d support both Kevin and myself. What more could you want?

And now, back to our regularly-scheduled programming.