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March 2009

March 27, 2009

Free Stuff Fridays

This week’s sponsor is Matthias Media. This mission of Matthias Media is “To serve our Lord Jesus Christ, and the growth of his gospel throughout the world, by producing and delivering high-quality, Bible-based resources.” And they do produce some great resources.

Speaking of which, there are five prizes to win this week. Each of the winners will be sent a package containing:

  • Six Steps to Reading your Bible DVD (Retail $24.99)
  • Six Steps to Reading your Bible workbook (Retail $5.99)
  • Briefing CDROM (a fully searchable archive of every issue of the Briefing for the last 20 years) (Retail - $49.99)

Six Steps to Reading Your Bible

This is a great prize package containing some very useful material for your home library or even for your church library. “Whatever your current Bible reading habits (or lack of them), and whatever your level of knowledge and confidence, Six Steps to Reading Your Bible will help you make progress in getting into your Bible. The course is especially designed for use in small groups, and utilizes a mix of video instruction, fun skits, Bible study, discussion, practical exercises, prayer and home assignments that will help you on the road to establishing a new and more enjoyable Bible reading habit.”

Here is the trailer for the DVD:

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. The giveaway closes tonight at midnight.

March 27, 2009
Facebook Faceoff
“I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking as he pulled out his iPhone and took advantage of a new Facebook application — right in the middle of the sermon. It was then that I realized the narcissistic machine that is Facebook.”
Toronto Pastors Conference
Today is the last day to register for the Toronto Pastors Conference at earlybird pricing. Come join us as we hear Mark Dever and Matt Schmucker teach about the local church.
Does Satan Exist?
You’ve probably heard by now that Mark Driscoll participated in a televised debate on this question. You can watch the debate online. Be sure to check out Deepak Chopra’s totally bling glasses.
ESV Bible Widget
Crossway has put together an ESV dashboard widget for the Mac OS X users.
9 Wackiest Tax Deductions
Here are a few not to try this year. “As audacious as these stories might be, rest assured that the Internal Revenue Service is not amused when taxpayers fail to file, misfile, underreport income or otherwise attempt to avoid taxes.”
How to Understand Huge Numbers
“As Obama proposes a $1,000,000,000,000 rescue plan, Marcus du Sautoy offers a handy guide to the mind-bogglingly big numbers being bandied about.”
The Ears of the Deaf
The discussion for the article I wrote earlier this week has become very interesting in its discussion of deaf ministry. If that is of any interest to you, be sure to read some of the comments.
March 26, 2009

The Cross He BoreEaster is fast approaching and, as you may remember, I thought it would be both fun and worthwhile to read a book together as we prepare to remember the Lord’s death and to celebrate his resurrection. The book that always come to mind this time of year is Frederick Leahy’s The Cross He Bore. This is a series of thirteen meditations on the sufferings of the Redeemer, beginning with Gethsemane and ending in the outer darkness. In his Foreword to the book, Edward Donnelly says, “in rereading these chapters, I found myself more than once compelled by emotion to stop - and then to worship. I cannot help feeling that this is exactly how they were written and that the author’s chief desire is that each of us who reads should be brought to gaze in fresh understanding and gratitude upon ‘the Son of God,’ who loved me and give himself for me.”

A few weeks ago I announced that I’d like to read the book with you and I know that a lot of you bought the book so you can read along (enough of you bought it, I believe, that it pretty well sold out. This is the second time we’ve bought up all of the copies of this book!). This is your reminder that we will begin to read it, one chapter per day, beginning this Sunday. So check back here Sunday morning for just a brief reflection on the first chapter.

March 26, 2009

We continue today with our effort to read through William Wilberforce’s Real Christianity. As you know, this book seeks to help the reader discern true faith from false beliefs. This week we come to the third chapter, “Inadequate Conceptions of God and of Christian Behavior.”

Incidentally, if you are interested in hearing a bit about “Reading the Classics” you can listen to the latest Boundless Show podcast. I was a guest on the show to talk about these books we are reading.

Discussion

Wilberforce begins this chapter by laying out some of the very basic beliefs of the Christian faith and says that few churchgoers are so attentive as to be entirely ignorant of them. His concern, though, is that people can hear such great truths about human sin and God’s redemption and remain unmoved and unaffected. “Let the most superficial observer compare the sentiments and views of the bulk of the Christian world with the articles of faith that still appear in their creed. An amazing discrepancy must strike him! Thus, in the minds of the crowd, religion appears to be wholly excluded from the business world and the vanities of life.” In other words, the creed people profess seems to have no bearing on their lives. Says Wilberforce, “Vainly you strive to bring them around to speak on this topic. One would expect the subject of God to be uppermost in the hearts of redeemed sinners. But they elude all your endeavors. If you make mention of it yourself, they do not give it a cordial welcome; indeed they greet it with unequivocal disgust. At best the discussion remains forced and formal.”

Wilberforce uses this chapter to write about four topics, all of which fit under the heading of “Inadequate Conceptions of God and of Christian Behavior.” He says that people have an inadequate conception of Christianity as a faith. This is shown in an inadequate appreciation of Christ, an inadequate appreciation of the Holy Spirit and inadequate conception of Christian behavior. He then looks to the validity of emotions within religion, carefully defending his view that, though professed Christians have long turned to emotional fanaticism instead of true belief, it is presumptuous “to propose excluding from the Christian religion such a large part of the composition of man.” “Surely our all-wise Creator had just as valuable a purpose in giving us the elemental qualities and original passions of the mind as He did in giving us the organs of the body.” Our emotions must be subject to our reason, but they must still be exercised. And how do we know if these emotions are being used properly? We can simply ask this: “Do they motivate the love that keeps His commandments?”

He turns in the third place to inadequate conceptions of the Holy Spirit’s operations, saying “the tendency prevalent among the bulk of nominal Christians is to form a religious system for themselves, instead of taking it from the Word of God.” We see this in the neglect of the doctrine of the influence of the Holy Spirit. People prefer to follow their own religious systems instead of relying on the Spirit to point us to God’s religious system. And finally, Wilberforce looks at mistaken conceptions of the terms of acceptance with God. Such theology is, of course, absolutely foundational the Christian faith. “If anything is unsound and hollow here, the superstructure cannot be safe. That is why it is important to ask the nominal Christian about the means of a sinner’s acceptance by God.” Here we will find that many people rely wholly or substantially on their own efforts, not believing or understanding that the Christian must depend entirely on Christ.

I enjoyed these closing remarks:

The title of Christian is a reproach to us if we turn ourselves away from Him after whom we are named. The name of Jesus is not to be like Allah of the Muhammadans, or like a talisman or amulet, worn on the arm as an external badge and symbol of a profession, thought to preserve one from evil by some mysterious and unintelligible potency.

Instead, we should allow the name of Jesus to be engraved deeply on the heart, written there by the finger of God Himself in everlasting characters. It is our sure and undoubted title to present peace and future glory. The assurance that this title conveys of a bright turning toward heaven will lighten the burdens and alleviate the sorrows of life.

As I read this book, written centuries ago, I continue to be amazed at its relevance to our day. As the French say, plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose (The more things change, the more they stay the same).

Next Week

We’ll continue next Thursday with Chapter 4, “Inadequate Conceptions Concerning the Nature and the Discipline of Practical Christianity.” Do note that this is the longest chapter in the book. You will not want to leave it all until Wednesday evening or Thursday morning!

Your Turn

Reading the Classics Together is, at its heart, an interactive effort. If you have read the chapter and have comments or questions, please feel free to post a comment. If you have a blog of your own and have written about the book there, please feel free to leave us a link to your article.
March 26, 2009
Worship Planning Ideas from Calvin
“People often come to me and ask, ‘How can we improve or renew our worship?’ My response is that we should restore the central things and practice them robustly, using contemporary forms rooted in the practices of sixteenth century pastor and liturgical reformer, John Calvin. Even though Calvin is most widely known as a systematizer…and exegete…his leadership in liturgical renewal should not be ignored in the twenty-first century.”
“Where The Wild Things Are” Trailer
A childhood favorite gets the movie treatment.
Obama’s Teleprompter’s Blog
This is one of the hottest new blogs out there—written by TOTUS, President’s Obama’s teleprompter. It offers “Reflections from the hard drive of the machine that enables the voice of the Leader of the Free World.”
2009: A Book Banning Odyssey
Ed Driscoll looks at the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and its effects on books published prior to 1984 (the guy is a bit on the odd side but most of his information is good). Bookshop Blog has information as well.
March 25, 2009

GarminFor Christmas Aileen and I each received a little bit of money and found that, when we combined it, we had just enough to buy a GPS for our car. This is something Aileen has wanted for some time now, so we decided to go ahead and buy one (a Garmin Nuvi if you must know). There is something just a little bit comforting about having the GPS stuck to the windshield of the car, telling us where we are, where we’re going and how long it will take to get there. At least, we lived under the illusion that it was comforting until the GPS led us astray. For the first couple of months it performed flawlessly. But then it began to show that maybe we couldn’t trust it implicitly.

Last week when we were in the Chattanooga area, my daughter started to show the symptoms of some kind of an illness so we decided to take her to a doctor (who is a friend of the family). It was a bit of a drive, so we set the GPS and let it take us there. It got us close, I suppose, but not close enough. “Turn left” it said, and I did. And as I did that it said, “Arriving at destination.” I scratched my head as I looked around and saw that we were in the parking lot of a giant movie theater. There was no doctor’s office nearby. In fact, the road we were supposed to arrive at was nowhere in sight. Yet the GPS stubbornly insisted that we were where we were supposed to be. Its job accomplished, I suppose it decided it was time for a nap. We eventually drove around and found a local who could direct us to the doctor’s office, a couple of blocks away.

On the way home we decided to stop at Chick Fil-A for lunch. As part of its directions, the GPS wanted me to drive over a concrete median. I elected not to. Driving around Orlando, it told me to bear left only after I had already had to choose between right and left; I guessed wrong and had to drive 15 miles in a circuit to recover. While I will grant that the little device is right far more often than it is wrong, it has been wrong enough times now that it has us second-guessing its directions. And if a GPS can’t get us to the right place, what possible purpose does it serve (other than telling us where we are, something we usually know anyway)?

I was thinking about this on the long drive home from Chattanooga and realized that since we got the GPS, I have gotten lost more often than when I handled the directions on my own. Here’s the reason. I used to be responsible for getting myself where I wanted to go. When I went somewhere new, I would pull up Google Maps, print out a map of the area, and write out (or print off) turn-by-turn directions. I would even sometimes look at the satellite view or street view to ensure I knew just what to look for. When I did all of this research, I typically got exactly where I needed to be without any real trouble. But now my preparation is as simple as looking up the address and punching it in. I let the GPS handle the rest.

The GPS has done something else to me. It used to be that, if I drove somewhere once, I would be able to find my way home easily enough. And if I needed to go back to that place, I would remember how to get there. But as I follow the directions of the GPS, I somehow tune out to where I am going so that I can neither find my way home without its help nor can I find my way back there again. I’ve become reliant on the little gizmo. I follow directions obediently and it gets me where I need to go—most of the time, at least.

On Monday I spoke to a group of pastors on the subject of Pastor: Train Your Church to Think Biblically. And it occurred to me as I spoke that many Christians are perhaps like me when I drive—they rely on someone or something to give them the easy answers without having to do the hard work themselves. And perhaps pastors are sometimes prone to simply give out the answers without helping the men and women of their churches learn to think for themselves. After all, if a person approaches me with a question related to theology or the Christian life, I have different options available to me. I can simply respond with my understanding as if what I say is undoubtedly true, or I can help that person find the answer on his own. While I will grant that there are times when a short answer is fitting, more often, I think, we do well to teach people to think independently. It is better, I am convinced, to send people to the Bible where they can sort out the directions on their own, following turn-by-turn, so that they truly understand where they have come from and where they are going. In this way they learn to think for themselves, they learn to search the Scriptures, they learn to think biblically.

It is easy and even comforting perhaps, to rely on that simple and automatic guidance. But it is far better, I am sure, that we learn to do the work for ourselves. As for me? Well, I still use the GPS but I’m learning that I need to supplement it with my own research. Too often it has told me where to go, only to find that I don’t know where I am or where I’ve been. It’s great for what it is, but I can’t let myself trust it implicitly.

March 25, 2009
Tougher Sexting Laws
This article discusses new laws against cyberbullying. Some interesting facts: “A national study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy revealed that 1 in 5 teen girls or 22 percent say they have electronically sent or posted nude or semi-nude images online of themselves.” and “Some area school resource officers and principals estimate that at least half of the students have an inappropriate photo on their cell phone.”
Church Planting in WSJ
Wall Street Journal has an article about church planting. Rather an interesting place to read such an article, I thought…
Ligonier National Conference Video
You can watch the sessions from the recent conference which dealt with the topic of “The Holiness of God.” There were some very, very good sessions and they are well worth watching.
The Real Population Threat
Dr. Mohler: “For well over a century, many prophets of doom have predicted world overpopulation would lead to ecological disaster, famine, poverty and other woes. As Philip Longman points out in the March 24, 2009 edition of USA Today, the world’s population is expected to hit 7 billion by 2012, up from the 6 billion mark set in 1999. So, is overpopulation a real threat? Not hardly.”
March 24, 2009

Calvin CoverThis is the year of John Calvin. In celebration of the 500th anniversary of his birth, many ministries are holding conferences to discuss his life and impact and many Christian publishers are releasing biographies of the man who did so much to form the Christian faith and the Western world. Reformation Heritage Books has taken a unique route by producing a biography targeted at children from ages 7 to 10. Written by Simonetta Carr and illustrated by Emanuele Taglietti, the book combines the story of Calvin’s life with excellent watercolor illustrations.