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January 2010

January 31, 2010

Today at church we sang a new song, “Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn).” It is another joint effort between Stuart Townend and Keith & Kristyn Getty. Written specifically for reflection before partaking in the Lord’s Supper, it focuses beautifully on the purpose and importance of Communion.

Here it is:

Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away,
Slain for us: and we remember
The promise made that all who come in faith
Find forgiveness at the cross.
So we share in this Bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice,
As a sign of our bonds of peace
Around the table of the King.

The body of our Saviour, Jesus Christ,
Torn for you: eat and remember
The wounds that heal, the death that brings us life,
Paid the price to make us one.
So we share in this Bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice,
As a sign of our bonds of love
Around the table of the King.

January 30, 2010

Once again, I’m a couple of days late with this next entry in Reading Classics Together. Being on the road for almost the entire week played havoc with my schedule (though I did remember to bring the book with me). Again I’m indebted to Rebecca Stark for providing a great post that I was able to “borrow.”

*****

John Murray starts this chapter by admitting that there are, at first glance, strong arguments against the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. We all know, from scripture and history and our own experience, those who have appeared to be genuine believers but have fallen away from the faith.

The first step, then, in building the case for this doctrine is establishing what it is not. “It does not mean,” he writes, “that every one who professes faith in Christ and who is accepted as a believer in the fellowship of the saints is secure for eternity and may entertain the assurance of eternal salvation.”

No, Jesus himself give us the criterion for determining true believers: true believers continue in the faith until the end. The kind of temporary faith that doesn’t endure can look very much like the real thing.

…[I]t is possible to have very uplifting, ennobling, reforming, and exhilarating experience of the power and truth of the gospel, to come into such close contact with he supernatural forces which are operative in God’s kingdom of grace that these forces produce effects in us which to human observation are hardly distinguishable from those produced by God’s regenerating and sanctifying grace and yet be not partakers of Christ and heirs of eternal life.

But true believers persevere. They sin, they may backslide, but they will not finally fall away because they “are kept by the power of God through faith” until the end.

What scripture does Murray appeal to in his defense of perseverance of the saints? He starts with Romans 8:28-30, the Golden Chain of Redemption. The called are justified and the justified are glorified. If true saints—those who are called and justified—can be lost, it would go against what Paul is plainly teaching in these verses.

Next he moves to the teachings of Jesus in John 6 and 10. Jesus says that those given to him by the Father—who are also those who believe, who are also those who come to him, who are also those who are drawn by the Father—will be raised on the last day. And no one who is given to Jesus by the Father can be snatched away. In fact, believers have a kind of double security because they are held in the hand of Christ and the hand of the Father. Two powerful hands are grasping us tightly until the end.

Have we not in this truth new reason to marvel at the grace of God and the immutability of his love?

When my kids were younger, they’d enthusiastically affirm something by saying, “Yes! Yes! Double yes!” Doubly held so that we can never perish gets a double yes from me.

*****

For next week, please read chapter 9, Union with Christ.

January 29, 2010

It has been quite a week. I finally got home from Savannah only to find that Aileen had succumbed to the flu that all three of the kids had while I was gone. While I was sitting in a Savannah beach house, she was cleaning up messes (time and time again). So I am mostly going to have to take care of things around the house today. But I did manage to get together this week’s Free Stuff Fridays post.

January 29, 2010
iPad’s Identity Crisis
This seems like quite a fair review of the iPad: “The bottom line is this: the iPad has an identity crisis. It’s not quite a serious e-reader, and it’s not quite a serious tablet PC. It’s probably great at handling multimedia, but it’s not nearly portable enough to be considered a portable media player. It’s great for tabletop use, but it can’t multitask, so you’re left with a machine that’s seriously limited in what can do well. It’s also inherently limited by whatever applications are delivered in the App Store…”
Flight 1549’s Icy Days
This is strangely fascinating: “Time-lapse footage of US Airways Flight 1549 submerged in the icy waters of the Hudson River, awaiting the barges and cranes that would eventually lift it up and take it away. ”
Secret Rituals of American Idol Auditions
This article explains what actually happens at American Idol auditions.
How Sermons Work
From David Murray: If you want to increase respect for your pastor and his preaching, ask “How do they do that?” Then read this ebook and find out the answer.
Deal of the Day: Blu-Ray
Today only, Amazon has a great deal on a Blu-Ray player. ” The Sylvania NB530SLX Blu-ray Disc Player is the perfect companion for your HDTV. You can watch blu-ray movies in full 1080p quality and also enjoy your DVDs on this Sylvania player. With such a low price, you can not go wrong.” It’s got an average review of 4.5 stars.
January 28, 2010

Yesterday I sat and watched liveblog coverage of the long-awaited announcement from Apple. To no one’s great surprise, they unveiled their newest device, the iPad. While everyone knew this tablet device was coming, everyone had wondered exactly what it would be. Apple has high standards when it comes to devices like this one and I, for one, was prepared to be amazed. Alas, I was disappointed. iDisappointed, even. I’m ready to declare that the iPad is the greatest disappointment in all of human history (at least since The Phantom Menace).

January 27, 2010

Yesterday I was in Orlando, today I’m in Savannah. Throughout this year I will be consulting with Ligonier Ministries, working with them on developing content for their web sites and other digital platforms. We had planned this two-day series of meetings and they needed to include two groups of people. The halfway point between these groups was Savannah, Georgia. And it just so happens that someone in Savannah loaned us a beautiful beach house to meet in. So here we are, overlooking the water and enjoying the beauty of it all. But mostly we’re having day-long meetings.

Here’s the view from my room just after sunrise.

Savannah

January 26, 2010

Let me give you a brief update as to what I’ve been up to the past couple of days.

On Sunday night I hopped aboard a plane and jetted down to Orlando, Florida for some meetings with the good folks at Ligonier Ministries.

Flying from Toronto to Orlando is, obviously, an international flight and, hence, all kinds of draconian new TSA-mandated rules apply to it. It used to be that a flight from Canada was little different than a domestic flight but for having to pre-clear US Customs—something that took only a few brief minutes. But over the past month things have changed.

I have to assume that the heads of the TSA sat down one day and said, “Flying is miserable, but not quite miserable enough. Let’s talk about things we can do to make it even worse.” And then they mandated those rules to countries like Canada who fly to the US. On Sunday night my time in the airport involved standing sequentially in eight(!) different lineups and having my passport and boarding pass checked eight different times (not necessarily corresponding to each of the lineups). The entire process took fully two hours, even though there were less than half a dozen flights to be screened, and left me sprinting down the concourse in a full-out run to make my plane (which, thankfully, I did).

I know that the security people are tasked with the rather thankless job of keeping us safe in the air and I am truly grateful for what they do. In fact, I always stop to thank at least one of them for keeping us safe up there. But anyone can see that the current system is woefully inefficient and unsustainable. If Sunday night, a slow time for travel, is so problematic, I cannot imagine what things must have looked like on Monday morning. This is going to make people just give up travel, figuring that it is just not worth the frustration. They are going to have to fix the system.

Once we left the ground we immediately hit pretty significant turbulence which meant that they were not able to serve drinks, though the flight attendants did walk up and down the aisle to hand out extra air sickness bags. All these factors led to two different medical emergencies with passengers lying passed out in the aisles, a call for doctors to identify themselves, and so on. It was truly a bizarre experience.

For all that it was still a good enough flight (better than I deserve, right?) that allowed me a few hours of reading, disturbed only by the giggling of the guy in the next seat who was very much enjoying some Sandra Bullock movie. We arrived in Orlando safe and sound and only thirty minutes behind schedule.

Yesterday I met up with the people of Ligonier Ministries and spent the day with them. Highlights of the day included a tour of the new St. Andrew’s Chapel which really is stunning (as I know you can tell from this grainy iPhone picture of it). They have done an amazing job of constructing a new church that maintains a classical feel. In a day when so many new churches are constructed with a utilitarian feel it was nice to see one that has been constructed with an eye to beauty.

St Andrews

Though the same property will soon house the offices for Ligonier Ministries and the Ligonier Academy, those buildings are still being renovated. So we headed over to the current offices just in time to see Dr. Sproul tape an interview with Dr. Stephen Myer, one of the founders of the Intelligent Design movement. It was fascinating to watch the exchange between the two of them; it was the kind of discussion that left the rest of us feeling a little bit dumb, I think. I’ll let you know when it airs on Renewing Your Mind. Here’s an ultra-grainy shot which brings my horrible photography skills into full collision with the iPhone’s low-light limitations.

I love to get little behind-the-scenes glimpses at different ministries and it was a real joy to meet many of the godly men and women who serve at Ligonier. I’m looking forward to spending another day with them today.

Here’s one last thing I just had to grab a shot of. As we were driving from one place to another we went pass a bear-crossing sign. I had no idea that bears were a problem in Florida. So here is evidence of that fact. Sadly, there were no bears crossing yesterday.

For those wondering, A La Carte may make an appearance this week. But when I travel I find it very difficult to spend the time necessary to collect and assess the links. So I’ll do what I can, but make no promises.

January 25, 2010

I figure that I’ve earned the right to occasionally re-post a past favorite article when circumstances so dictate (hey, it’s my site!). I’m doing that today. I wrote this one a couple of years ago and was thinking about it yesterday while sitting on a plane in the pouring rain.

*****

At four o’clock in the afternoon of August 2, 2005, I was just a few minutes into a long online training session with a software manufacturer. As we spoke, and as the technician showed me the features of this software, I suddenly noticed that it had gotten very dark in my office. I looked outside and saw that the sky was as dark as ever I’ve seen an afternoon summer sky. Within minutes rain began to fall—hard, driving rain—the kind of rain that will soak you to the skin in seconds. I said to the technician, “this is the worst rain storm I’ve ever seen.” The rain was falling so hard and in such great drops that I could only barely see the house across from my own.

The pilots of Air France flight 358 may have been echoing my words. As the rain fell in Oakville, it also poured down in nearby Toronto. At that very moment their aircraft was on its final approach to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. The airplane, an Airbus A340, had left France’s Charles de Gaulle International Airport just over eight hours prior to this and the passengers—businesspersons, vacationers, and students—had enjoyed an uneventful flight. Uneventful so far, that is.

As they neared Toronto, the pilots were warned of thunderstorms in the area and, as they began their approach, were told that jets landing moments earlier had warned of poor braking action on the runways below. Their weather radar showed heavy rain immediately over the airport. Despite such warnings, the pilots felt they would be able to safely land their aircraft. When they were nearly 200 feet above the runway threshold, while on the instrument landing system approach to Runway 24L and as the pilots reacted to rising winds, the aircraft began to deviate slightly from its glidescope. A series of lightning strikes struck the ground in the area of the runway. Flight 358 crossed the runway threshold nearly 40 feet above the standard glideslope. As it neared the ground, violent winds rocked the plane and heavy rain pelted it, drastically reducing forward visibility.

The pilots, unaware that they still had plenty of time to bring the plane around for a second, safer landing attempt, pressed forward. The aircraft’s wheels touched down at 4:01 PM, but did so at almost the halfway point of the 9,000 foot runway. Improper procedures kept the pilots from activating the thrust reversers until 13 seconds after touchdown and from going to full reverse for a further 3.5 seconds. In such weather conditions and with delayed activation of thrust reverses, the laws of physics dictated that a plane weighing almost 185 tons would require nearly 6,700 feet of usable runway to come to a complete and safe stop. The pilots did not yet know it, but they were facing an impossible task.

With the pavement covered in water and a runway surface that was now far too short, the pilots did their best to stop the aircraft as it skidded down the runway. Twenty six seconds after touching down, still traveling at 90 mph as it came to the end of the runway, the Airbus careened across a strip of grass, crossed a service road, crushed fences and light posts, and hurtled across Convair Drive before coming to rest, finally, in a small ravine adjacent to Etobicoke Creek. Some fifteen to twenty seconds had elapsed from the time the aircraft left the runway. Amazingly, the fuselage was largely intact. But as the plane had crossed Convair Drive, fuel had begun to leak and had immediately caught fire. As the plane came to a halt the fire began to spread and to intensify.

It had been almost three decades since the last serious incident at Pearson Airport. On June 26, 1978, Air Canada flight 189 to Winnipeg suffered a burst tire while taking off. The pilot aborted the takeoff but did so too late. That plane, a DC-9, also overran the runway and plunged into Etobicoke Creek, killing two passengers and injuring most of the 105 who survived. It was an eerie foreshadowing of the events of August 2, 2005.

Since flight 189 in 1978 there had been no serious occurrences at the airport—no major accidents or incidents. For twenty-seven years the firefighters had trained to deal with a situation like this one. An entire generation of firefighters had come and gone without seeing a single incident. They could almost be excused for being under-prepared, slow to respond, slow to act.

Seeing flashes of fire and realizing the plane had overrun the runway, a tower controller activated the airport’s crash alarm twenty-six seconds after flight 358 left the runway. But by this time the airport firefighters who, due to the bad weather, had been in the alarm room and had watched the plane land, were already on their way to the crash scene. They arrived only 52 seconds after the plane left the runway. Already they found that half of the passengers had been evacuated. The Air France flight attendants had reacted promptly and just as their training dictated, ushering the passengers to the closest available exists. By the time fire began to consume the fuselage, the last passenger had been evacuated.

Despite twenty seven years without an incident, those firefighters were ready and they responded well in advance of the parameters dictated by safety regulations. In less than a minute they were on the scene and were assisting the passengers. It took less time for them to get to the crash site than it did for fully half of the passengers to leave it.

Air France 358

In the aftermath of this crash, and as I read reports about it, I immediately zeroed in on this simple number that appeared almost unbelievable to me: 52 seconds. I couldn’t believe just how ready these firefighters were.

The theme of preparation is important in the Bible and was much on my mind around the time of that crash as it was then that I was in the early stages of writing a book on the subject of discernment. This incident has been sitting in the back of my mind ever since. Preparation, I’m convinced, is one of the keys to discernment. In all my studies on discernment, this was the one thing that stood out above everything else. The simple fact is that those who are discerning are those who prepare themselves by knowing and studying Scripture. They dedicate themselves to the simple disciplines of reading, prayer and sitting under biblical preaching at the local church.

Just this morning I spent some time studying Genesis 3 and I read of Satan tempting Eve. It seems that Eve was somehow inadequately prepared to deal with this adversary. She was so easily led astray, so easily allowing Satan to lead her away from what was true. Perhaps she just hadn’t given enough thought to the command of the Lord that she not eat of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Perhaps she had never paused to consider what God meant by not eating. Regardless, she certainly did not trust in His Word or in His goodness. She was unprepared. And so often we are the same way. Though Satan’s tactics have changed little in the millennia between then and now, we are still woefully unprepared to deal with him.

The crash of Flight 358 ended far better than it could have. Almost unbelievably, all of the 297 passengers and 12 crew members survived the crash. There were only a few serious injuries, almost all of which were caused by the leap from the plane to the ground below. Air France flight 358 was a disaster averted.

The last to leave the shattered wreckage were the plane’s First Officer and several airport firefighters. They firefighters had swept through the plane ensuring that no one had been left behind. They stepped out just as the fire consumed and destroyed what was left of the cabin. They were where they were needed when they were needed. They were ready.