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March 2011

March 31, 2011

I don’t know if this is a fascinating or a boring podcast, but I think you’ll benefit from it if you give it a listen. Yesterday I sat down with David Murray and Ryan Pazdur, an editor at Zondervan, and we talked about The Next Story and subjects related to it. I hope you enjoy it!

If you want to give us feedback or join in the discussion, go ahead and look up our Facebook Group or leave a comment right here. You will always be able to find the most recent episode here on the blog. If you would like to subscribe via iTunes, you can do that here or if you want to subscribe with another audio player, you can try this RSS link.

March 31, 2011

Yesterday a reader of this site sent me a link to an interesting series of blog posts—posts written by Pastor Akira Sato, who is the pastor for the Fukushima First Baptist Church, near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The email included this poignant paragraph:”Yesterday (Friday, March 18) one member who has been with us since the disaster had received an order from his company and left for work in the nuclear plant. (He is a leader of the plumbing job). As the family of God, knowing the departing pains of his loved ones, in tears we dispatched the brother with prayers. He left here with the Lord. Beside him, there are others, our precious members, who have been working hard at the plant. O, Lord, please protect them with your almighty hand! I beg you, please! ‘Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, ….that thine hand might be with me, and that wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me.’ (1 Chronicles 4:10)”

Here are several other excerpts from the pastor’s blogs:

[March 13] This has been triple disasters. Because of the quake, some member’s house was partially destroyed. I still haven’t been able to get in touch with the families who live near the beach. JR Tomioka station has been washed away by the tsunami. The city was utterly destroyed. You have already heard of the accident of Fukushima first nuclear power plant. All the residents were forced to evacuate, and my church members had to get on a bus without any belongings and sent to schools and gyms separately. It’s been hard to find out how they are doing. I heard that there were not enough blankets for everyone, and some couldn’t sleep all night because it was cold in the shelter. In some shelters, no water or food were distributed all day. I’m very concerned for Bro. Suenaga, 95-year-old, who was in a hospital due to pneumonia was forced to leave the hospital to evacuate. There are also people who have broken bones, in need of dialysis, with little children or children with disabilities.

[March 14] We have contacted 150 church members and they are safe. Hallelujah! One sister told me that waves approached her but she was able to swim to safety. My eyes fill with tears as I call members from a pay phone - fifty or sixty still need to be contacted.

[March 16] About a third of our 60 church members live close to the Fukushima power plant. They had to go through radiation checks, so we all gathered in the afternoon for a time of worship. I could hear people sobbing and saw that they had been through hardship. In the evening I went to a nearby hot spring. What a relief to have a soak after five days! People are so glad to find each other, which again led me to tears. Our nomad life has started. When I asked people whether they had any laundry, their reply was that there were no clothes to wash. All they have is what they are wearing.

March 31, 2011

I am in Grand Rapids today, at the Author Lounge here at Zondervan. I’m surrounded by hundreds of copies of my book, each of which is awaiting a signature. Strange stuff, this. It’s a rather odd feeling to be surrounded by copies of your own book. Uncomfortable.

Slander - In this rather emotional interview, Rob Bell says that other Christians have slandered him. It always amazes me how quickly the criminal becomes the victim—how the person who sins so quickly tried to deflect the attention away from himself.

Why Canadians Shop in the US - I enjoyed this article since I’m a Canadian who lives near to the US border and who has been known (occasionally) to do some shopping over there.

Economics - Calvin & Hobbes on America’s economic issues.

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly offers a review of my book. “As we ‘approach a frontier,’ Challies cautions readers to consider potential behavioral changes before they are written into our history. While he does not draw definitive conclusions, the questions he poses will give readers necessary pause and help them to take a careful look at technology’s place in their lives.”

Hard to Measure - John Knight: “In the pile of papers I referenced yesterday were some old test scores.  Since Paul attends public schools, they assess his educational progress as mandated by various federal and state bodies. The things they want to measure, he can’t do.  His scores on reading, reading comprehension, math, math concepts and the like were as low as you can score and still be breathing.”

God is more interested in our holiness than in our comfort. He more greatly delights in the integrity and purity of his church than in the material well-being of its members. He shows himself more clearly to men and women who enjoy him and obey him than to men and women whose horizons revolve around good jobs, nice houses, and reasonable health. He is far more committed to building a corporate “temple’ in which his Spirit dwells than he is in preserving our reputations. He is more vitally disposed to display his grace than to flatter our intelligence. He is more concerned for justice than for our ease. He is more deeply committed to stretching our faith than our popularity. He prefers that his people live in disciplined gratitude and holy joy rather than in pushy self-reliance and glitzy happiness. He wants us to pursue daily death, not self-fulfillment, for the latter leaders to death, while the former leads to life.D.A. Carson

March 30, 2011

This afternoon, and for quite a few Wednesday afternoons to follow, I’ve got something I think you’ll enjoy. It’s a series of short films created by David Murray that focus on Christ’s appearances in the Old Testament as the Angel of the Lord. This week’s episode is titled “Bonus Gospel.”

The DVD and Study Guide (sample here) are available for pre-order, and will be launched at The Gospel Coalition Conference Preaching Christ from the Old Testament on April 12.

However, you can buy the digital download of the whole series here for $5. Or visit Ligonier’s online store in the next few days for the download and also to pre-order the DVD and Study Guide.

Every Wednesday for the next ten weeks, check in here at the blog for a time-limited streaming version of each episode. And now, to get you started, here is the first episode:

David Murray is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was a pastor in Scotland for 12 years before coming to Grand Rapids in 2007 with his wife Shona and their four children. He blogs regularly at Head Heart Hand.

March 30, 2011

Have you ever noticed that the sins you hate most may just be the sins closest to your heart? I hate the sin of envy, and I think I hate it so much because it is so often very near to me, just waiting to strike, to cause me to mourn when I ought to rejoice, or to rejoice when I ought to mourn. “Rejoice with those who rejoice,” Scripture tells me. It is rarely that easy. I wish it was that easy.

I recently began reading Assist Me To Proclaim, John Tyson’s biography of Charles Wesley, and was challenged with these words:

Charles had a meekness and unfeigned humility about him that was remarkable and attractive. His sermon editor observed, “His most striking excellence was humility; it extended to his talents as well as virtues; he not only acknowledged and pointed out but delighted in the superiority of another.”

To delight in the superiority of another. There is humility. There is envy slaughtered and laid to rest. I think I envy this lack of envy.

In his book The Call Os Guinness says this:

Traditionally envy was regarded as the second worst and second most prevalent of the seven deadly sins. Like pride, it is a sin of the spirit, not of the flesh, and thus a “cold” and highly “respectable” sin, in contrast to the “warm” and openly “disreputable” sins of the flesh, such as gluttony. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is the one vice that its perpetrators never enjoy and rarely confess.

It was Aquinas who provided a famous definition of envy when he suggested it is “sorrow at another’s good.” Guinness says:

Envy enters when, seeing someone else’s happiness or success, we feel ourselves called into question. Then, out of the hurt of our wounded self-esteem, we seek to bring the other person down to our level by word or deed. They belittle us by their success, we feel; we should bring them down to their deserved level, envy helps us feel. Full-blown envy, in short, is dejection plus disparagement plus destruction.

March 30, 2011

I get to spend the day in Grand Rapids, hanging around the Zondervan offices and trying to plot out my next book. A few days ago I solicited some suggestions. Thanks to those who sent them along; several of them were quite good! I hope that today brings some clarity.

Sexting Epidemic - Denny Burk writes about the sexting epidemic among young people today. “Christian parents have to be absolutely committed in a counter-cultural kind of a way to providing guidance to their kids. Dads, that means that you have a special responsibility for the protection of your daughters and the leadership of your sons.”

The Next Story - Here, if you’re interested, is an early (and encouraging) review of The Next Story.

Thriving at College - My friend Alex Chediak has a new book out that is garnering great reviews and endorsements. And as it happens, it’s currently available at a great discount.

6 Keys to Poor Preaching - Darryl Dash lists them. [insert hilarious joke if you’ve ever heard Darryl preach]

He Hasn’t Even Died - Carl Trueman makes me laugh.

Piper & Sproul - At the recent Ligonier Ministries National Conference, John Piper and R.C. Sproul had “A round table discussion on the valuable lessons learned by each man throughout their ministry experiences as well as advice to the next generation of Christians and leaders in the church.” Justin Taylor wrote up an introduction to their ministries that’s well worth reading.

To Love Your Neighbor - A radical suggestion from an article at Gospel Coalition.

Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others.C.S. Lewis

March 29, 2011

The Next StoryToday I’m making the final pre-order push for The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion. I know I’ve mentioned it a few times already, so bear with me. I want to tell you about it again simply because it gives you an opportunity to get the book at a really good discount.

Along the way I’ve mentioned the special e-book deal we worked out. For every 200 people who order the book for Kindle, the ebook price will fall by $1 (and, since you aren’t actually charged until release day, that price will apply even to those who pre-ordered it at a higher price). The price has already fallen from $9.99 to $6.99 and I’m pretty sure we can get it down to $5.99 by the end of this week when we need to set the final price. That price will apply to all e-reading platforms (iBooks, Nook, Kindle, etc).

On April 11 the price will return to $9.99. So don’t dawdle: go ahead and pre-order it for Kindle.

If you would rather read it in printed format you can pre-order it from Westminster Books and Amazon. I recommend Westminster since if you order from Westminster Books you will receive a signed copy of the book. And, you know, signed copies are fun. But to get your copy signed, you need to order today.

Still Not Convinced?

You can learn a lot more about the book, download a sample chapter, read the endorsements, read a review, etc, by clicking here.

March 29, 2011

I tell you, I just never know what I’m going to find waiting in my RSS reader in the morning. Some of today’s stories are just plain amusing—about how going to church is associated with weight gain and about how PETA is trying to make the Bible more animal friendly. Enjoy!

Going to Church Makes You Fat - If you came to last Sunday’s Fellowship Lunch at Grace Fellowship Church you’d understand why this is!

Don’t Call Animals It - This made my morning. “PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is calling for a more animal-friendly update to the Bible. The group is asking translators of the New International Version (NIV) to remove what it calls ‘speciesist’ language and refer to animals as ‘he’ or ‘she’ instead of ‘it.’”

Fukushima Fifty - “The extraordinary courage of the ‘Fukushima Fifty,’ the skeleton crew risking their own lives to save their country from nuclear disaster, has gripped the world. But the Fifty themselves – or the several hundred, in fact, with shifts and rotations – have been the invisible heroes, the darkness at the centre of the spotlight. Until now.”

Another Review - Ed Stetzer has posted a useful review of Love Wins. “My exhortation (to all of us) from the Bell conversation is that we (re)learn how the scriptural truths of the love of God and the holiness of God are held simultaneously in the scriptures.”

Allah - Here’s another book review of a book that may prove to have a very significant impact: Miroslav Volf’s, Allah: A Christian Response.

Ask This Question - Chris Brauns begins with my review of Heaven Is For Real and suggests one very important question to ask about any book.

Functional Universalism - From David Platt.

The more I learn about God, the more aware I become of what I don’t know about him.R.C. Sproul