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March 2007

March 28, 2007

Wednesday March 28, 2007

Conference: Alistair Begg has a quick note for those attending The Basics conference in May.

Jesus: Here is a long and thorough statistical analysis of the Jesus Family Tomb.

Photos: Some gay professional activists protested at Southern Seminary a couple of days ago (story). Denny Burk has some photos.

Quote: Joshua Sowin has a fascinating quote about corporations preying on kindness to further their own ends.

Children: The New York Times notes a study that links day care with poor behavior in children.

Books: Justin is posting some excerpts from David Powlison’s essay, “I Am Motivated When I Feel Desire,” from his book, “Seeing With New Eyes.”

March 27, 2007

Here is Iain Murray writing on the death of the great Scottish preacher Robert Bruce:

Bruce was now some seventy-five years of age, his wife had been dead for several years and he was also ready for home. “I wonder why I am kept here so long,” he would say to friends. The following year, while having breakfast, his daughter, Martha, was about to prepare him another egg when he said, “Hold, daughter, hold; my Master calleth me.” He then asked that the house Bible, the Geneva Version, be brought. Unable himself to read it, he said, “Cast me up the 8th of Romans,” and he began to recite much of the second half of the chapter until he came to the last two verses: “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “Set my finger on these words,” he asked. “God be with you my children. I have breakfasted with you, and shall sup with my Lord Jesus this night. I die believing these words.”

This was taken from A Scottish Christian Heritage.

March 27, 2007

Inside Narnia - Devin BrownInside Narnia was one of the many books published in advance of the recent movie adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. In this book Devin Brown, a Lewis scholar and aficionado, offers a detailed look into the world of Narnia, digging far beyond the surface, and exploring this magical world. Having just read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe with my children, I decided to read this as a commentary of sorts, to see what I had missed and what I would want to look for the next time I read the book.

March 27, 2007

Tuesday March 27, 2007

RIP: A sad story, but one with a moral.

Relationships: Carolyn McCulley points out that “Boundless” has a good article dealing with misplaced trust.

Books: Another take on the bestselling “The Secret.” This one comes courtesy of Al Mohler.

Review: Marni Chediak reviews Mark Steyn’s “America Alone.”

Photographs: Amazing photos of an accident.

Cool: For when you need to find just the perfect color.

March 26, 2007

11969431.jpgThere was an interesting documentary last night on TLC. It featured Abby and Brittany Hensel, twins who were born in Minnesota in 1990. As the result of a rare abnormality, Abby and Brittany were born conjoined. They have two heads but one body. They have two arms and legs and each girl controls one of them. Internally they have two hearts, two sets of lungs, two stomachs, and two large intestines. Yet they share a small intestine and bowel and one only set of reproductive organs. In some ways they are two people but in other ways they are one.

In many ways these girls redefine individuality. At school they each write their own English test and are graded individually. In math they work together and receive a single grade. On their sixteenth birthday they took their driver’s tests and had to take the test twice, even though driving is a collaborative effort where one works the brakes and the gas while the other works the turn signals and they share the steering responsibilities. They passed both tests and each of the two girls received her own license. When they use the instant messaging program on their computer, they both type (one controlling the left hand and the other the right) and tend to use the pronoun “I” when they express a view they share (rather than “we”). Again, in some ways they seem to be two people and in other ways they seem to be one. Whenever they face a new situation in life, they have to determine whether they will be treated as one person or two.

Their case raises a host of questions. If they are caught speeding, which one of them will get the speeding ticket? When they go to college will they have to pay tuition for one or for two? When they fly, do they need to purchase one ticket or two? Some problems cut much deeper. If someone were to assault the girls, would he be charged with one count of assault or two? The question that had my wife and I talking in circles last night was this: what if the girls want to marry? They indicated in the documentary that they want to be mothers some day. They are normal in more ways than not, and like most girls they want to experience motherhood. It seems that, physically, they will be able to bear children. They also seem to want to experience the joys of romance and relationship. But how can they do this when they are both individuals and conjoined? Should the two of them marry a single man? Or should they marry individually? If they do give birth to a baby, whose baby will it be?

I think the reason this story was of such interest to me is that I have spent the past seven months writing about spiritual discernment. Discernment, which I define in the book as the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong is a discipline that depends upon making binary distinctions. It involves separating good from bad, truth from error, right from wrong, better from best. In other words, it involves separating black from white. It seems to leave little room for gray. When we practice discernment, we are applying the truths of the Bible to our lives. We are attempting to understand the words of the Bible and trusting God’s Word to give clarity so we might see things as God sees them. Our goal in discernment is to do just this: to see things through God’s eyes through the Bible and thus to see things as they really are. Like wiping the steam from a mirror, we seek to remove what is opaque so we might see with God-given clarity.

Yet sometimes it seems that clarity is impossible. How can we have absolute clarity about situations like Abby and Brittany Hensel? How can we fully and finally determine how romance, marriage, sex and childbearing can work in this kind of a situation? There are many biblical principles that can guide us, but it seems that none of them are extensive enough or complete enough to govern this kind of situation. And truthfully, there are many other situations in life that seem more gray than black or white. How does discernment function in such gray times?

I have had to think about this in writing my book and have come up with a few principles that I’ve found helpful.

Rarity: Situations that are truly gray are rare. Most often the gray situations are gray only because we have not done enough work to clarify or because our own sinful desires have interfered and have interposed themselves between black and white.

The Fall: We need to realize that “grayness” is a result of the Fall. Were we perfect beings we would not have to wrestle with issues between black and white. It is only our sin that forces us to wrestle with issues that would otherwise be clear. There is no reason to think that issues like this will trouble us when we are in heaven.

Clarity: When wrestling with issues that appear gray, it is important to begin with what is clear from Scripture. Far too often we begin with what is obscure and work backwards to what is clear so that the exception disproves the rule. As Christians we must begin with what God has made clear. When looking at the Hensel girls we would not want to allow their unique situation to change our minds about what the Bible makes clear: that God demands and expects that marriage is the union of one man to one woman and that any deviations from this pattern make a mockery of the whole institution of marriage. We need to begin with the Bible and allow it to establish the standard. We can then interpret deviations or exceptions on the basis of this unmoving standard.

Humility: Gray situations provide us an opportunity to express humility. When we come to the end of our own abilities and realize that we simply are unable to see with the clarity of God, we can take the opportunity to see again that we are mere creatures. We lack the perspective and the wisdom of the Creator and this should help us express our humility before Him.

Dependence: These situations also give us the opportunity to express dependence on this Creator. There are times when even our best efforts fall short. There are times when even our best attempts at extrapolating the Bible’s wisdom leaves us scratching our head. This gives us opportunity to express our dependence on the Spirit and to acknowledge that any ability in spiritual discernment is a gift from above.

Conscience: These gray situations show the need for a developed, biblically-informed conscience. Sometimes, when we simply cannot arrive at a firm and satisfying conclusion, we need to rely on something that goes just a little bit deeper than pure reason. It seems that God has given us a conscience for this reason. While conscience must be subservient to Scripture it nevertheless plays an important role in the life of the Christian and should often be heeded, especially when the issues are less than perfectly clear to us.

It is frustrating to me that these gray situations exist. Yet I think it can be healthy. Not only does it stimulate a lot of thought, a lot of discussion and a lot of searching of the Scriptures, but it also teaches me about my own dependence upon the Lord and my need for humility.

As for Abby and Brittany, I hope they enjoy a long and healthy life. I hope they are granted their desire to experience the joys of romance, love, marriage and motherhood. Most of all, I hope that God draws them to Himself so they can experience all of this under the wisdom and guidance of the One who created them with these good and pure desires. I am sure He can bring clarity to them as they seek His face.

March 26, 2007

Monday March 26, 2007

Music: C.T. has a long and interesting article about the Passion movement.

Science: Discover has several articles featuring twenty things you didn’t know about a variety of topics. How about this: “A pair of brown rats can produce as many as 2,000 descendants in a year if left to breed unchecked.” Shudder.

Books: Ray Fowler points to John Calvin lite. The Rev. William Pringle assembled his ‘One Hundred Aphorisms, Containing, Within a Narrow Compass, the Substance and Order of the Four Books of the Institutes of the Christian Religion.’” It looks like a good way of getting an overview of the Institutes.

Du Jour: An interesting look at what it will mean to be a senior as the baby boomers hit retirement.

March 25, 2007

King for a Week is an honor I bestow on blogs that I feel are making a valuable contribution to my faith and the faith of other believers. Every two weeks (or so) I select a blog, link to it from my site, and add that site’s most recent headlines to my right sidebar. While this is really not much, I do feel that it allows me to encourage and support other bloggers while making my readers aware of other good sites.

I do not read a lot of blogs that focus primarily on politics. The difficulty with being Canadian is that most of the political blogs focus on American politics, and as much as Canada is close to the U.S., both geographically and strategically, it is still only so interesting reading about the politics of another nation. There are some of these blogs, though, that look beyond politics to issues and even just plain fun. The Evangelical Outpost is one of these. The site’s owner, Joe Carter, is one of those intellectual types who can, when he wants to, talk local and philosophical circles around the likes of me. Joe looks at news and issues through the lens of a conservative Christian and more often than not has great things to say. I enjoy his blog, one of the first blogs I began reading, and have benefited from it.

In the coming days you will be able to see the most recent headlines from this blog in the sidebar of my site. I hope you will make your way over the site and look around.

I continue to accept nominations for King of the Week. If you have a site you would like to nominate, feel free to do so. Thanks to all who nominated this week’s honoree.

March 24, 2007

Roy Halladay is Toronto Blue Jays’ ace pitcher and is one of the top players in baseball. Halladay has a well-established routine that begins as soon as a game is complete and continues until the next game has begun five or six days later. He has another routine which takes him from the end of one season to the beginning of the next. And, like many players, has a routine which takes him from pitch-to-pitch. His off-season regimen, which prepares him for a long and grueling season of baseball, is legendary and readies more than his arm. To prepare his mind he reads The Mental ABC’s of Pitching seven or eight times every season. To hone his concentration he carries with him a series of laminate grids filled with 100 randomly numbered squares that he crosses off in order, from 00 to 99, with an erasable marker. “Every day that I’m not pitching, I’m doing something that’s going to help me when I’m out there, not just vegging on the bench or in the hotel room,” he says. To prepare his body he works out constantly and so vigorously that he rarely breaks into a sweat during a game. He has the reputation of being the team’s hardest worker. Not surprisingly, he is also the team’s best player. His team members flock to him, eager to learn from his routine so they, in turn, can become better players. While Halladay is clearly a talented athlete, what sets him apart is his preparation. He prepares to pitch by rigorously preparing himself both physically and mentally. He tends to more than his arm, but looks to his entire body and mind. He knows that to be a great player requires skill and preparation in a wide variety of disciplines.

I have been thinking about what is necessary to be a man or woman of discernment (and you’ll have to forgive me for the constant discernment talk these days. For obvious reasons it is much on my mind). It is clear that discernment is not a discipline that can be pursued on its own. A person who wishes to be discerning cannot simply read and study the passages of the Bible dealing with discernment. He cannot concentrate only on making the black-and-white decisions necessitated by discernment. Rather, he must look further and prepare himself in a variety of disciplines. He must be a person who prays, who studies the Bible, who is committed to a local church, and so on. He must maintain a particular posture. This makes me think of a sprinter. Just as a person who wishes to win a sprint will have to begin the race in a certain posture, crouched low with legs ready to spring forward, a person who wishes to be discerning must maintain a particular spiritual posture.

While this idea of spiritual posture arose from my musings on discernment, I have come to see that it has wide application. In any discipline of the Christian life, we need to have a certain kind of posture. There is nothing a Christian does or practices that is isolated from everything else. Too often I get hung up on one thing. I emphasize prayer and let Bible-reading slip. I emphasize reading my Bible and let prayer slip. But these disciplines are necessarily inter-related and together form the posture that allows me to run the race in a way that brings glory to God.