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January 20, 2007

Inspired By...The Bible Experience: New Testament Audio CDThe Bible Experience is a unique product. Featuring a unique cast, it offers what is surely a unique recording of the Bible.

Hear the words of the Bible brought to life like never before. Inspired By…The Bible Experience: New Testament Audio CD is a fully-dramatized reading of the Bible performed by an unprecedented ensemble of distinguished African-American actors, musicians, and personalities. The cast, including recognizable voices as Denzel Washington, Blair Underwood, and Angela Bassett, reads the Bible using the accessible and trusted Today’s New International Version (TNIV).

While people commonly speak of attempts to “bring the Bible to life,” I object to using this expression in connection with Scripture. After all, Hebrews 4:12 tells us that Scripture is already alive: “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” While people who speaking of “bringing the Bible to life” may not necessarily be making a statement about the nature of the word of God, I do feel it is best to avoid this kind of careless language lest we feel that the Bible, read with expression or dramatized, is somehow more living and more active than the Bible read quietly or silently.

That small critique aside, this product is really just a recording of the Bible (in the TNIV version) read by an ensemble cast of popular African American actors, musicians and other celebrities. It is “lightly dramatized” meaning that it is read with a good deal of passion and expression, and there are ambient noises, crowd reactions, and so on. Unlike versions of Scripture read by a single narrator (think Max McLean reading the ESV), this one has different actors reading the words of the different biblical characters.

Inspired By…The Bible Experience breaks new ground in the presentation of the Bible. Unique among audio Bible productions, Inspired By…The Bible Experience is a captivating performance of the Bible presented by an ensemble of today’s-top name artists, musicians, directors, and award-winning producers.

Inspired By…The Bible Experience features a cross-generational and cross-cultural roster of talent that connects a wide variety of entertainment genres and personalities. With nearly 200 celebrities and notable personalities recorded to date, this historic production features stars from across the entertainment spectrum.

Cast members include:

  • Samuel L. Jackson as the voice of God
  • Blair Underwood as Jesus
  • Denzel Washington as the Lover of the Song of Solomon and his wife as the Beloved.
  • Angela Bassett as Esther
  • Cuba Gooding Jr. as Judas

The New Testament is currently available in stores and will be followed in 2007 by the Old Testament. In all, the cast numbers over 200, all of whom are African American celebrities. It is available digitally or on CD.

I did not listen to the entire series of CDs (there are nineteen of them for the New Testament) but the portions I did listen to, primarily from the gospels, were really quite well done. This product is certainly different, but I can see nothing inherently wrong with it! There were some strange moments, and there is something more than a little strange about hearing voices that are well-known though in far different contexts. Still, the recording is done well and the dramatizations are really quite good. This isn’t a product I am likely to use very often, but I can understand its appeal. I certainly hope it can find a market and that the words of Scripture can go beyond the ears of those who hear it, beyond the mouths of those who read it, and penetrate their hearts, just as we would hope and expect for words that are living, active and sharper than any two-edged sword.

January 18, 2007

When I was a kid, my family would travel to the United States every year or two. We would visit friends or family or just find some new and exciting place to settle down for a short vacation. I always enjoyed this trips to the U.S. but noted some peculiarities about American culture. This tends to surprise Americans, but things really are quite a bit different up here in the Great White North.

In recent years I have had far more opportunities to travel to America. My parents moved to Atlanta about seven years ago and since then we have made the long drive at least once or twice a year. And since I began liveblogging, I have visited all kinds of American cities (with a whole lot more being on my itinerary this year). I have found there are some things about America that I strongly dislike (and a few that I really like). So here I present to you a look at Sixteen Things I Hate About America (And A Few Things I Love). It all starts at the border with the…

Border Guards. It seems that the American border guards simply assume that once I am in their country I will never want to leave. This seems to be a problem that plagues the southern border of the U.S. more than the northern one, but the attitude definitely presents itself even up here. Unlike their Canadian counterparts, American border guards seem to feel the need to wear guns just to keep people out! I don’t suppose it ever occurs to them that perhaps, just perhaps, I really do want to leave their country someday (and someday soon, in all likelihood). Other gun-toting grumps in the US include the…

Police. Canadian police exist to keep the peace. This means that they rarely make an appearance unless they are absolutely needed or if you are seriously breaking the law. There is a 20 kilometer an hour buffer. As long as you drive with 20 kilometers per hour of the posted speed limit, it’s almost like having diplomatic immunity. In America the police are out to get you. They lurk at the sides of highways and byways, just waiting to slap you with an outrageous speeding fine for driving 2 miles per hour over the limit. They have a particular affection for slapping out-of-country drivers with these tickets. Thankfully I’ve long-since learned to take it easy on American highways. And continuing on this subject, what’s with the…

Speed Limits? If you’re driving on a Canadian highway you can rest assured that the speed limit is 100 kilometers per hour. You can drive clear across Ontario and this speed limit will pretty well never change. And all Canadians know that on the highways there is a 20 kilometer per hour grace period whereby the police will never bother you until you exceed 120 kilometers per hour (and even then there are usually enough people doing 140 or 150 that the cops only worry about the really bad speeders). In America the speed limits are constantly changing and are strictly enforced. They change from state-to-state, city-to-city and situation-to-situation. They are always in flux and seem entirely unpredictable. Drivers need to be constantly on the lookout to monitor the changing limits lest they wind up with nasty fines. While we’re talking about miles, let’s talk about the…

American System of Measurements. I have three questions about this system. Who made it, what medication was he on, and where can I get some? I assume if I take a bit of this I’ll be able to finally figure out the logic behind the Imperial system. Continuing to use this completely nonsensical system may be about the greatest display of American obstinacy. It simply makes no sense whatsoever. And speaking of greatests, what is with the American obsession with…

Greatests, biggests and longests?. Everywhere you go in the United States you see signs advertising the biggest this or the longest that. I’m quite sure this is largely an American phenomenon. What I want to know is this: is there a governing body that examines claims to be the biggest and longest? Is there a Bureau of Biggest or Commissioner of Comparison that examines and verifies these claims? If I am going to spend my hard-earned money at Fulton County’s largest flea market, I want to have some sort of assurance that it really is the largest flea market! One thing I am sure of is that America does not have the world’s nicest…

Money. Why is American money all the same color (and I’ll grant that this is slowly beginning to change as a tiny bit of color has been introduced into more recent bills)? Color-coding is a good thing. With just a glance one can tell the difference between the bills, rather than having to examine the face of an ex-President. Another annoyance with American money is the fact that there is…

No Two Dollar Denomination. Two dollar bills are a good thing. Two dollar coins are an even better thing. Having twenty 1 dollar bills in my wallet is always a bad thing. Of course one of those 1 dollar bills is enough to purchase a can of…

Coke. It seems many people do not know this, but there is a difference between Canadian and American Coke. In the American recipe the Coke is sweetened with corn syrup while in Canada it is sweetened with sugar. The corn syrup leaves a strong and unpleasant aftertaste while the sugar simply burns off your taste buds so you couldn’t possibly know if there is an aftertaste. An informal poll I conducted shows that 66% of people prefer the taste of Canadian Coke. You probably would too if you were able to compare. Another bad aftertaste comes from…

Grits. I can’t believe grits are considered food fit for human consumption. It is with good reason that they are not available up here. I couldn’t have imagined anything could have a worse combination of bland taste and disgusting consistency than porridge, but grits came through! Of course of you like grits you probably also like…

Waffle House. My brother-in-law tells me that the Mason-Dixon line is going to be renamed the IHOP-Waffle House Line. It seems that the moment you cross into Kentucky Waffle Houses appear at every exit of the Interstate. Their bland, yellow signs that look like a throwback to the sixties ruin the scenery across the South. If I wanted to see something at every exit and every corner I would want to see a…

Tim Horton’s. Canada’s best donut chain dots the Canadian landscape (and Canadian military bases around the world), but America seems almost devoid of Timmy’s. Where do Americans go for a great cup of coffee and a good donut? It’s a shame, really, that they can’t go to Tim Horton’s. I have, however, noticed one or two of them in…

Ohio. It seems to me that the United States would be better off without Ohio. As I see it, it is a state that has no real function other than to increase the distance between Canada and Atlanta by a few hundred miles. So I propose that Ohio be eliminated. This would require moving the NFL Hall of Fame from Canton, but I am sure there are many states that would be happy to take it on. I think the phrase “being inducted into Albuquerque” has an even better ring than “being inducted into Canton.” I suppose eliminating a state would be considered bad manners. And speaking of bad manners, why do Americans always…

Leave Their Shoes On In The House. In the rest of the world it is considered impolite to leave your shoes on inside someone else’s house. Yet in America it is considered perfectly normal behavior. Go ahead and tramp through water, snow and mud and then walk into the house, cross the carpet and why not put your feet up on the coffee table? Americans like to put their feet up while they watch…

Sports. The American obsession with sports is unparalleled. Canadians find it both shocking and hilarious to see Americans obsess with amateur sports such as those at the high school and college level. In Canada a high school football team plays before a handful of the players’ moms. In college they play before a handful of girlfriends. And yet in America, high school teams play before the entire community and can attract tens of thousands of fans. High school football has more fans in the U.S. than professional football does in Canada. On an unrelated note, do you really need…

150 Foot-Tall Signs beside the highway? In Canada we have rules about how high signs can be and trust me, it is a good thing. Everywhere you go in the United States you find signs reaching hundreds of feet into the air. Five hundred thousand candlepower lights illuminate these signs, lighting up the countryside for miles around. Sometimes the extra light comes in handy, though, especially when using the…

Highway Entrance and Exit Lanes. Is there any particular reason these have to be so short? Rather than having a couple hundred meters to make your way over and prepare to exit, in America you have to wait until the precise moment to rip your car into a 45 degree turn to exit the highway. When entering the highway, you have all of two or three car lengths to merge with the traffic. I have just one more complaint and it has to do with the word…

Huh? Since when is this considered a polite way of responding to a question? In the same area of the world where children refer to their parents as “sir” and “ma’am” why is it acceptable to say “huh?” when you do not understand something? What happened to “pardon?” or “excuse me?” My sisters used to be so polite. Now that they are American they just keep blurting “Huh?” all the time. It appears to be chronic.

I do not want to give the impression that everything about America is bad. As a matter of fact, there are plenty of great things. Here are a few:

Border Guards. “Wait!” you say, “I thought you hated them.” Well I do, but at least they seem to care about who gets into America. The Canadian border guards seem like they couldn’t possibly care less who or what crosses the border. I suppose they just figure that not too many terrorists are beating down the doors to exit the U.S. in order to commit horrifying acts in Canada. One thing that hasn’t crossed the border is…

Chick-Fil-A. Now that is some good eating. The chicken sandwiches are delicious and I really dig those waffle fries. Mmm mmm good! In-N-Out Burger is another chain that I would love to see up here. Another thing that is good is…

Driving North to South. I love how the mileage signs count down the miles before you hit the next state. It’s a great way of keeping track of just how far until the next Chick-Fil-A. I don’t think you can find any Chick-Fil-A’s in…

Pennsylvania. After visiting this state many times in my youth I have developed something of an attachment to it. I guess I can say I consider it my favorite state to visit. Going there helps me understand…

American Patriotism. In Canada we are proud not to be American. In America people are proud to be part of what they truly believe is the greatest country in the world. There is something to be said for believing so strongly in your country. And as an apathetic Canadian, I can’t help but admire it. As Canadians we are mostly just glad not to be American and in fact, that is pretty well how we define ourselves. Americans love to be American. Canadians just love not being American. It’s a strange thing.

So there you have it. There are things about America I hate and things I love. Please don’t hate me for that! If an American would like to take on Canada in similar fashion, feel free and I’ll link to your effort (hint: Canada is the country immediately above your own).

Please note that this article is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. I really do love America. Or I like it, at any rate. Long-time readers may recognize this as being awfully similar to an article I posted several years ago. What can I say? I got to thinking about these things again…

January 16, 2007

Last week Paul (who, for those who haven’t made the connection, happens to be my pastor) wrote about an article in the Canadian media which stated that “The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada will recommend next month that all expectant mothers undergo screening for fetal abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome — not just those over the age of 35, as is the practice.”

Dr. Andre Lalonde, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Ottawa and the executive vice president of the SOGC, said the society decided to issue the recommendation so that a greater number of women would have the option to terminate their pregnancies should fetal abnormalities be detected.

“Yes, it’s going to lead to more termination, but it’s going to be fair to these women who are 24 who say, ‘How come I have to raise an infant with Down’s syndrome, whereas my cousin who was 35 didn’t have to?’” Dr. Lalonde said. “We have to be fair to give women a choice.”

“The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada will recommend that all expectant women younger than 40 be given nuchal translucency screening, followed by genetic counselling and amniocentesis if their risk for Down’s syndrome appears high.” Based on this article, Paul wrote:

I reject this proposal from personal experience. Although we rejected amniocentesis as an option in our son’s pregnancy (for the simple reason it might have killed him), we were given indicators through non-invasive testing that there might be a genetic problem. Readers of my blog will know that my son was born with a genetic defect labelled Williams Syndrome - a full-orbed physical and mental disability.

Is my son an accident? A faltering of the progressive cycle of evolution? A drain on society and its money? A thing not as valuable as a fully-functioning “normal” person?

My son is my flesh and blood and his worth is bound up in the fact he was made in the image and likeness of God, knit together in his mother’s womb and held together by the grace and power of Jesus Christ right now. If he never moved a muscle, never spoke a word, never made my life happier at any point, he would be no less valuable to the One who made Him. And no less valuable to me.

One does not have to be at our church for long, or to be with Paul and his family for long, to see how much joy this little boy brings to his parents, his sisters, and his church family. He is greatly valued and treasured because he is a treasure of great value. But in a sense this is really irrelevant, for the value of life is in the fact that it comes from God and is not affected by our desires, whims or preferences. Paul and his wife had no right to interfere with that life (and thankfully had no desire to interfere with it).

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recommends genetic counseling to those whose tests turn up anomalies or abnormalities. This counseling will, of course, address the issues that will be faced in raising a child with Down’s syndrome or another similar condition. It will raise abortion as the preferred course of action. In an article he published in response to discussion over the first article, Paul described his experience with genetic counseling:

When my wife was pregnant with our son, we were advised to seek “genetic counseling” due to some statistical abnormalities that appeared during routine blood work. We made an appointment at the Credit Valley Hospital and met with a genetic counselor.

We were told that there was a small percentage that our son would be born with Down Syndrome and advised to have an amniocentesis. The counselor spoke in hushed tones with a very serious look on her face then left us to watch a video.

The video showed two boys of equal age playing in a living room. One of the boys was cute and active and bright. The other was drooling on himself, with a disfigured face, frumpy clothes and awkward small motor skills.

The video asked us: Is this what you want?

The question, of course, is irrelevant. We do not get to decide if this is what we want. God gives life and we are to accept it as the treasure it is.

It has struck me recently that the issue of abortion has evolved from “Is this what you want?” (a matter of personal inconvenience) to “Is this what you want for your family?” (a matter of wider inconvenience) to “How can you do this to us?” (a matter of societal inconvenience). Those who learn that their child may be born with Down’s syndrome or another condition will feel pressure to abort this child for the good of society. They will be told, even if only tacitly, that to bring a disabled child into the world is unfair to everyone in society. It is, after all, my tax dollars that will need to support this child through special education and special vocation, and my children whose tax dollars will pay for his retirement. Paul felt this pressure, for he writes “Parents are placed under enormous pressure when they walk in to medical establishments that pop off lots of statistics, show propaganda and use the power of suggestion. In our situation, I can identify all three of those things.”

On the weekend I decided to put my copy of the Outdoor Bible to the test in a variety of situations. I placed Matthew and Mark in the freezer, put Luke out in the snow, let my daughter chew on Acts, and stuck John to the wall of the shower. I happened to read the ninth chapter of John while it was hanging there (tricky business, this concurrent showering and reading) and came across the story of Jesus healing a man who had been blind since birth. I was so grateful that God sovereignly arranged things so that I might encounter this passage. You know the story. The disciples asked Jesus “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied simply “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Those words, “that the works of God might be displayed in him” took me right back to Paul’s article and to the deeper issue of aborting any children who are deemed abnormal. Not many parents today would wrestle with the issue of who sinned that a child was born blind. Neither would they wrestle with whether this child should even be born. Blindness would be sufficient cause for many parents, and perhaps even most parents, to abort the child and try again, hoping for a better result the next time. And yet this particular blind man was to serve a purpose that had been sovereignly ordained.

F.F. Bruce makes an important point about this story: “This does not mean that God deliberately caused the child to be born blind in order that, after many years, his glory should be displayed in the removal of the blindness; to think so would again be an aspersion on the character of God. It does mean that God overruled the disaster of the child’s blindness so that, when the child grew to manhood, he might, by recovering his sight, see the glory of God in the face of Christ, and others, seeing this work of God, might turn to the true Light of the World.” John MacArthur summarizes “God sovereignly chose to use this man’s affliction for His own glory.”

I love Matthew Henry’s treatment of this passage. He draws out two applications for the fact that this man was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him. The first is that “the attributes of God might be made manifest in him.” Among the attributes of God seen in the life of this man are God’s justice in making sinful man liable to such grievous calamities and His ordinary power and goodness in supporting a poor man under such a grievous and tedious affliction. God’s goodness was specially and miraculously manifested in curing him. The second application is “that the counsels of God concerning the Redeemer might be manifested in him. He was born blind that our Lord Jesus might have the honour of curing him, and might therein prove himself sent of God to be the true light to the world. Thus the fall of man was permitted, and the blindness that followed it, that the works of God might be manifest in opening the eyes of the blind. It was now a great while since this man was born blind, and yet it never appeared till now why he was so.” This man had been born blind so that the power of God might be displayed in him.

Henry draws a final application: “the intentions of Providence commonly do not appear till a great while after the event, perhaps many years after. The sentences in the book of providence are sometimes long, and you must read a great way before you can apprehend the sense of them.” Those who abort their children do not read to the end of those long sentences. Rather, thinking selfishly and looking only a few words ahead, they make the terrible decision to end a life, destroying the gift of God. Henry also writes “Those who regard [God] not in the ordinary course of things are sometimes alarmed by things extraordinary. How contentedly then may a good man be a loser in his comforts, while he is sure that thereby God will be one way or other a gainer in his glory!” (You may, as I did, have to read that last sentence a few times to gain the sense of it.) Those who choose abortion are unwilling to lose their comforts that God may gain His glory. This glory may not be miraculous as it was in the case of the man born blind, but God is glorified in every life that enters this world. Every one of us testifies to the Creator’s wisdom, power, love and goodness. Countless millions have been destroyed and tossed away and we have never been able to rejoice in the gift of life God gave them. We have not been able to marvel in the attributes of God displayed so clearly in their lives.

When we abort those who are infirm, physically or mentally, we destroy boys and girls, men and women, in whom we ought to see the works of God displayed. We miss out on marvelous opportunities to see the works of God displayed in their lives. We miss opportunities to see God’s glory increase, even if this involves a requisite decrease in our comfort. This ought to be a small price to pay.

January 15, 2007

The issue of profanity in the church is one that continually surprises me. To myself and to many other Reformed types, what is most shocking about the profanity discussion is that we need to have it at all! That we should avoid foul speech seems obvious and beyond dispute. And yet here we are. There is little consensus in the church about this particular issue.

One thing that I find is often missing in discussions on profanity is the connection between the heart and the tongue. We need to realize that the tongue is not an isolated instrument in the body. The tongue or the mouth speaks for the heart. Said otherwise, what proceeds from the mouth is a sure indication of what is in the heart. If a mouth pours forth filth, it is a sure indication that there is also a filthy heart. If a tongue spews forth rebellion, there is rebellion in the heart. If the tongue pours out praise, there is godly joy in the heart. We see this most clearly in the books of Proverbs and James. “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth” (Proverbs 10:20). Note the parallel between the tongue and the heart. “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” (James 3:5). So while the issue of profanity so often centers around words, the issue strikes deeper—as deep as the heart.

As you may know, John Piper recently made public an apology for his use of an inappropriate word at the recent Passion07 Conference. Speaking in a breakout session Piper said that sometimes “God kicks our ass.” Needless to say, some people were surprised by this and questioned his decision to use that particular term. I had not heard anything about this situation until Piper addressed it, so I assume that his use of this word was not widely known. I hope that those who questioned him did so in a way that was humble and respectful. I am grateful that (to my knowledge) it was not widely discussed and debated in the blogosphere and beyond.

Piper began his reply by stating “I regret saying it. I am sitting here trying to figure out why I say things like that every now and then. I think it is a mixture of (sinful) audience titillation and (holy) scorn against my own flesh and against the devil, along with the desire to make the battle with Satan and my flesh feel gutsy and real and not middle-class pious. There is a significant difference between saying that God disciplines his children and saying that he ‘kicks our ass’ (the phrase used at Passion)—the effect of the first can produce a yawn and leave students with no sense of how real I mean it. I think ‘He kicks our backside’ would have sufficed. And even better might have been some concrete illustrations of the Lord’s firm spanks.” But while he regrets using the word, he is not entirely sure that it is always necessarily sinful to do so. “If I wanted to take the time, and I felt more defensive than I do, I could probably go to the Bible and find language as offensive as that in the mouth of prophets, and even God when dealing with the grossness of evil. But I doubt that the moment in the breakout session called for something that extreme. Sometimes maybe. I hope the Lord turns it for good.” He shows this again in his closing paragraph where he writes “I think if I had it to do over, I would not say it. On the one hand, I don’t like fanning the flames of those who think it is hip and cool to swear for Jesus. That, it seems to me, is immature. On the other hand, I want those hip people to listen to all I say and write, and I hope that the Lord may get a hold of them and draw them out of immaturity and into the fullness of holiness. But it backfires if one becomes unholy to make people holy. I suspect there was too much of the unholy in my heart at that moment.”

I admire Piper for posting this response and for acknowledging the deeper heart issues of profanity. It was good of him to address this issue and to do so publicly. He could just as easily have done what many other evangelical leaders do and have done and sent this reply only to those who specifically requested it. He could also have feigned surprise that some people were concerned or taken the opportunity to cast doubt on their hearts or their intentions. Instead, he took the humbling step of making the information public, not only apologizing publicly but letting many more people know about the “controversy.”

I was a little bit surprised at Piper’s reply. It did not seem entirely Piper-like (and not only because there was not a single hyphen in the entire three paragraphs). It seemed to me to lack a little bit of the conviction or firmness that Piper is known for. He was willing to say that he felt it was wrong for him to use that word in that circumstance, but less willing to comment on profanity in a more objective sense. It is unusual for him to arrive at something other than a firm conclusion and in this case he seemed uncertain and perhaps unconvinced. Reading between the lines, it seems that Piper has just not considered this issue enough to feel confident making any kind of a declaration.

Enter Wayne Grudem. Grudem wrote a letter to Piper that was subsequently posted on Desiring God’s site, further proof of Piper’s humility. Grudem mentions that he saw Piper’s initial response and says “I’m glad you said that now you regret saying it and thankful that you were willing to say this.” Grudem then offered his opinion on profane words. In so doing he pretty well summarized what I believe but what I have never been able to adequately formulate in my mind!

I’m not sure if this will be helpful but I’ve thought of such language as a question of having a reputation for “cleanness” in our speech, as in the rest of life, out of concern for how that reflects on the gospel and on God whom we represent.

A number of different words can denote the same thing but have different connotations, some of them recognized as “unclean” or “offensive” by the culture.


  • urination: taking a leak, pee, “p–”
  • defication: poop, “cr—”, “sh—”
  • sexual intercourse: sleeping with someone, “f–”
  • rear end: backside, “a—”

He then turns to Scripture, and I was grateful to see that he avoids any kind of clumsy legalism or tearing Scripture out of context. Instead he makes an argument based on the Christian’s reputation for cleanliness:

Speaking of these things and using different words for them is not contrary to any biblical command (and so it is different from taking the Lord’s name in vain, which is explicitly forbidden), but we are also commanded to maintain a reputation for cleanliness:
  • ESV Titus 2:10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
  • ESV Ephesians 5:4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
  • ESV Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
  • ESV Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

And then he gets to the crux of the matter: “Using the words commonly thought to be offensive in the culture seems to me to be sort of the verbal equivalent of not wearing deodorant and having body odor, or of going around with spilled food on our shirts all the time. Someone might argue that not wearing deodorant or wearing dirty clothes are not morally wrong things in themselves, but my response is that they do give needless offense and cause others to think of us as somewhat impure or unclean. So, I think, does using words commonly thought to be ‘obscene’ or ‘offensive’ or ‘vulgar’ in the culture generally. Plus it encourages others to act in the same way. So in that way it brings reproach on the church and the gospel.”

I don’t think there is much more I could add to Grudem’s response. I agree entirely that we can bring reproach on the church and the gospel in many ways. We can do so in a wide variety of ways, such as by being unclean and as Grudem says, this can be physical or verbal. As Christians we need to ensure that we do not give others cause to think of us as impure and unclean.

Grudem’s next paragraph was interesting to me since he dealt with Piper’s comment that the Bible often uses “dirty” language. This is an issue I have wrestled with in the past as friends and acquaintances have sought to convince me that not only does the Bible not prohibit vulgar speech, but that it actually promotes it. The common argument revolves around Paul’s use of the word “skubalon.”

As for your comment about finding language “as offensive as that” in the Bible, I’m not sure. It’s difficult for us to be sure about the connotations of words in an ancient culture. When I was in seminary I remember another student arguing that Paul’s use of skubalon in Philippians 3:8 (For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ) was just like using “sh—” today. I thought that sounded right. But later I found that the word has a broader range of meaning and I’m not sure it had the offensive overtones that “sh—” does today in English. (BDAG: useless or undesirable material that is subject to disposal, refuse, garbage [in var. senses, ‘excrement, manure, garbage, kitchen scraps’]). In translating the ESV we rendered that term in Phil. 3:8 as “rubbish,” not as a more offensive word. I think that was a good decision.

The “skubalon” argument has long struck me as being akin to the “Junia” argument regarding the role of men and women in the church. It is a classic case of arguing from the narrow to the wide—of taking what is vague and using it to overrule what is clear. Now I do not want to accuse John Piper of making this argument. Rather, I am simply commenting on Grudem’s refutation of it. Sometimes we use the Bible to really change and impact us, and other times we use the Bible to reinforce what we really want to be true. I consider the “skubalon” argument to be just that, an attempt to permit what we know is wrong. And in so doing we override the commands that are clear (which is to say, the commands that Grudem listed above). This is not to say that we cannot consider “skubalon” in our discussion, but simply that we should not argue from the use of a single word about which we know little.

Grudem closes simply “All this is to say I think you were right to express regret for saying what you said.” And I am with Grudem. I think Piper was right to express regret and hope he will consider Grudem’s further argument. I know there is a lot more that could be said on this issue and am convinced that Grudem could write a 1,000-page book on the topic! And yet I think his concise argument is a very good one and well worth pondering.

Exchanges such as this make me so proud to be a Christian and to be a family member with and a brother to these two men. I love the way Christians seek to think so deeply about important issues and to live their lives in a way that is consistent with a higher, better standard. I love to see how others seek to pursue godliness and to help others to pursue godliness. I love it when Christians treat each other as family members, gently rebuking, correcting, encouraging and edifying. God is gracious to make us not just friends, not just colleagues or associates, but family members. And God is gracious to have gifted us with brothers like John Piper and Wayne Grudem, men who would be humbled that the church may be edified.

January 14, 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 week (in theory) 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.

This week’s recipient of the award is Pro-Existence, the blog of Rick and Nancy Pearcey (and the official blog of Pearcey Report). Rick and Nancy have been family friends for as far back as I can remember and I can think of many times when, as a child, we would spend the day with them. I have long respected them as Christians and as cultural commentators. Rick has always had a knack for finding interesting news stories and for the past year or two has been linking them from The Pearcey Report. Now, with Pro-Existence, he is providing more first-hand writing from his pen (and, on occasion, from Nancy’s). I’d encourage you to make The Pearcey Report and Pro-Existence a daily or near-daily stop in your internet travels.

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 those of you who nominated this week’s honoree.

January 12, 2007

Last week I posted a quote from Jim Elliff on the subject of “zealous immaturity.” Writing about those who seek God’s will in a way that he feels is unbiblical, Elliff writes “God may use the sincere individual who gets his guidance the illuminist’s way. He may bless him. He may honor his faith more than his method. I am quite sure that God always condescends to our imperfections. And if there is immaturity, we must realize that God will often use in our zealous immaturity what he disallows in our maturity.” This quote was tremendously encouraging to me and has given me much food for thought. As I considered this I was reminded of something that happened not too long ago.

A couple of years ago, on Father’s Day, my son spent his morning in the preschool program of the church we were attending at the time while my wife and I enjoyed the service. When the service was over, my son came bounding into the auditorium just overflowing with excitement, holding something behind his back. He came to me and told me he had a surprise just for me. With a flourish he presented a little pencil holder he had made for me that very morning. It was made of an orange juice can covered with bits of road map. A sticker on the read “Nick’s dad must ‘Obey God’ and follow his directions. Acts 5:29.”

If I had looked at my son’s creation in a way that was purely objective, all I would have seen was a monstrosity - something that made a mockery of pencil holders. The bits of paper covered only a portion of the can and most of them were loose. The liner on the inside of the can was peeling away because of the moisture it had been exposed to. Had I seen nothing but a pencil holder, I would have thrown it away in disgust.

But I see more than a pencil holder. I see an expression of my son’s love for me. I see the effort he put into it and know that he did the best he could. He was incapable at only four years old of making a work of art worthy of a gallery. So while this gift may be a monstrosity, to me it is beautiful. I have never met a parent who would throw away such a gift, expressing disgust at the flaws in it. Every parents understands the joy of receiving such gifts. Every parent understands this kind of zealous immaturity.

Yesterday evening my two son and daughter decided to do some painting. Though they had a great time and found an activity that kept them busy, they utterly destroyed the kitchen. They attempted to keep paint on paper, but by the time they had finished their fun, the kitchen was covered in browns, blues and reds. Realizing the mess they had made, they attempted to clean up. They went to the sink and washed their hands, the pots the paint had been in, the paintbrushes, and everything else that had come in contact with the paint. This just made things worse. The kitchen, messy though it was, was better before they began to “clean.” But I could hardly hold this against them. I was glad that they had made the effort and had attempted to clean up their mess. They were proud of what they had done and I was proud of them for trying to help us out. I was proud of their zealous immaturity.

Like you I love to bring gifts to God. Whether it is a portion of the finances He has blessed me with or whether it is my time or talents, I love to present my gifts before my heavenly Father. I know that if He viewed these gifts objectively, he would see little more than the monstrosities they are before His perfect standards. He would see the selfishness in my heart as I give money to Him, knowing that I often fret that I will not be able to pay bills or that I often give money wishing I could use it to buy something for myself instead. He knows that my heart is not perfectly pure as I bring my gifts of worship to Him. He knows who I am. Yet God accepts these imperfect gifts. As a loving Father he accepts the ragged, misshapen little pencil holders I bring to Him and gives them a place of honor on His desk. He knows my imperfections, He knows I am only dust, and He knows that through my gifts, faulty as they may be, I seek to bring honor and glory to Him. He knows my immaturity, but He also knows my zeal.

It was almost three years ago that my son made me that little pencil holder. It still sits on my desk. I still love and treasure it for it reminds me of my son’s love for me and of his excitement in bringing a gift to his father.

January 10, 2007

This is the third article in a three-part series examining the Bible’s call for spiritual discernment. You can access the first article here and the second here. Yesterday we learned the bad news that Scripture portrays those who lack spiritual discernment in three ways: They are spiritually immature, they are backslidden, and they are dead. Those who lack discernment will fit into one of these three categories. These are the dangers of ignoring discernment. Today we will look at good news, for the Bible declares that there are many benefits stored up for those who desire discernment, who seek after it and who practice it.

Discernment shows life

We have seen that a lack of discernment is a mark of spiritual death. The Bible makes it clear that a person with no discernment is a person who has not been saved. The opposite is equally true. A person who exhibits spiritual discernment shows that he has spiritual life. All those who are saved must begin to progress in their ability to discern. Proverbs 9:10 tells us “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” The word translated as “insight” is a Hebrew equivalent to “discernment.” Solomon tells us here that to know God is to possess discernment and that knowledge of God is the very starting point for discernment. Those who fear the Lord, those who know God, must be discerning, for God Himself is the very source of discernment. God is also our motive for discernment, for by living lives marked by discernment we bring honor and glory to His name.

The book of Ephesians also draws a clear line between spiritual discernment and spiritual life. Paul, having told his readers how they as Christians have left the kingdom of darkness, admonishes them now to “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” Those who know the Lord and have been brought into His kingdom of light, will do their utmost to seek God’s will in discerning what is pleasing to Him. Where there is discernment there is life.

Discernment leads to spiritual growth

Where a lack of discernment leads to backsliding, those who grow in discernment will necessarily grow spiritually. Jesus continually emphasized discernment during His ministry, sometimes scolding those who did not have it and sometimes commending those who did. In Mark 8:17-21, after feeding the four thousand, we find Jesus addressing His disciples after they began to discuss the fact that, even though Jesus just miraculously fed a multitude, they had no bread for themselves.

And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

Jesus scolds the disciples for not understanding, or discerning, what this miracle points to. Though they watched it unfold and ate of the bread, they still did not understand just who Jesus was and what He was going to accomplish. Their lack of growth kept them from understanding. Their lack of discernment was a clear sign of spiritual immaturity.

But then in Matthew 13:16-17 the disciples ask Jesus why he speaks so often in parables. Jesus explains His rationale and commends the disciples for their ability to understand the parables that are so often hidden from others. “But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” In this case he commends His disciples for exhibiting a level of spiritual maturity. Jesus declared the disciples blessed for their ability to see and perceive. He declared them blessed for their ability to discern. Their spiritual growth was marked by an increase in discernment. Their ability to discern was an unequivocal testament to their spiritual growth.

Discernment leads to maturity

Finally, just as a lack of discernment is a mark of spiritual immaturity, the presence of discernment is a sure mark of maturity. Again, the author of Hebrews warns “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14). Christians who are mature are those who have exercised discernment and have learned how to distinguish good from evil. Spiritual maturity is closely tied to discernment. You cannot have one without the other. There are no Christians who are mature but undiscerning.

The Bible makes it clear: God expects and demands that we pursue and exhibit spiritual discernment. Healthy Christians, those who are alive, growing and mature are necessarily those who seek to honor God by discerning between what is good and what is evil.

The Call

As we saw at the beginning of this chapter, King Solomon knew the importance of discernment. The early verses of Proverbs are a call for both wisdom and discernment.

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)

We are to incline our hearts to discernment and to cry out for it. We should desire spiritual maturity, spiritual growth and spiritual life. We can only have these wonderful benefits if we have discernment.

Proverbs 2 is a father’s call for his son to embrace and treasure discernment. There are few things that are as important, as precious, as discernment. The Bible cries for you to seek after it so you can live, so you can grow and so you can mature in your faith. Will you answer the call?

January 09, 2007

This is the second article in a three-part series examining the Bible’s call for spiritual discernment. You can access the first article here. Today we will see three marks of a lack of discernment.

Lack of discernment shows spiritual immaturity

In the closing verses of Hebrews 5, the author of this great letter warns his readers against apostasy, against straying from the faith.

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:11-14).

The author of Hebrews has much he would like to tell the recipients of this letter. There is much knowledge he would like to impart to them, so many important things they need to learn. Unfortunately, what he wishes to communicate to them is “hard to explain,” not because it is obscure or difficult to understand, but because the people have become “dull of hearing.” They are not stupid people and are not intellectually inferior, unable to grasp such truths. The reason he cannot relay these important truths is not because of what these people are by nature, but of what they have become. There is much the author would like to say but he cannot and will not because of the spiritual immaturity of the people to whom he writes. They lack understanding, and lack discernment.

The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews are not new Christians or recent converts, for the author says that by this time they ought to be teachers. This is not to say that they all ought to be ministers or preachers, but that they should all be sufficiently mature that they are able to understand and to teach others the basics of the faith. Sadly, though, they still have not understood the basics themselves. They do not have the childlike faith Jesus so values, but a childish, immature faith. In this way they are like so many Christians since them. Richard Phillips writes:

The recipients of this letter were like many Christians today who think that theology is a waste of time. What difference does it make, people ask, whether God is a Trinity or not, whether Christ’s righteousness comes by imputation or infusion, and whether regeneration comes before faith or after? What is important, they say, is that we get along with each other. Then they cite passages commending a childlike faith, as if that were the same thing as a childish faith, that is, one that is indifferent to or ignorant of the Word of God .

We live in an age where too many who profess to be Christians rarely consider their spiritual maturity; an age when many consider spiritual immaturity a mark of authenticity. Far too many people consider sound theology the mark of a person who is argumentative and proud. Far too many people are just like the audience to whom Hebrews is addressed. This letter draws a clear line connecting a lack of discernment with spiritual immaturity so that those who lack discernment are those who are spiritually immature. Scripture makes it plain: if you are not a person who exhibits and exercises discernment you are not a mature Christian.

My wife and I have been blessed with three children and often marvel that they have survived through infancy for we have seen them put the most horrible and nauseating things in their mouths (things that are far too horrible to print!). Children have no understanding of what is good for them and will sample anything. Their mouths are constantly wide open, eager to taste and to eat anything that looks good to their untrained eyes. It is only with maturity that children learn what is truly good for them and what is not. Only with maturity will children learn that what looks good may not truly be good. Children need to learn to differentiate between what will hurt them and what will make them healthy. Eventually they learn to discriminate; they learn to discern. In the same way, mature Christians have learned to differentiate between what is pleasing to God and what is not, between what is consistent with Scripture and what is not. The Bible places great emphasis on spiritual maturity because, like children, immature believers are prone to sample anything. They are attracted to what looks good to their untrained eyes. Only as they grow in maturity are they able to differentiate between what pleases God and what does not. Because of this there can be no growth without discernment.

My wife and I have learned something else about children: children hate to be called children. Babies hate to be called babies. Nobody likes to be known as immature or childish, even those who clearly are. Every little boy wants to be a big boy. Every little girl wants to be a woman. God has somehow built into us a desire to mature. Every person wants to feel mature and grown up. When the author of Hebrews describes his readers as children he is not paying them a compliment and he knows that they will be insulted. He hopes to show them their desperate condition and to impress upon them how serious a state they are in. God demands and expects maturity for maturity is inseparable from discernment. A Christian cannot have one without the other.

Lack of discernment leads to backsliding

A lack of discernment points to spiritual immaturity, but this is not all. Those who are not discerning may also be those who are backsliding, whose faith is diminishing rather than increasing. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child” (Hebrews 5:12-13). While the subjects of this letter should have been growing in their faith, progressing from milk to solid food, they were instead moving backwards, returning to baby food.

As they grow and mature, children begin to be able to eat and digest solid food. Most children are weaned quickly and encouraged to enjoy food more substantial than mere milk. Even while they are still tiny, children long for substantial food. It is good and natural that they desire that which will sustain them more than milk. We would not consider a child healthy who, at six years of age, still drinks only milk for that child would be weak and sickly. The same is true in the spiritual realm. A person should pass quickly from spiritual milk to solid foods, from the basics to what is more advanced. A person should hunger to quickly learn and understand what is elementary and should soon long after what is more advanced. This is a sign of maturity and the mark of one who has truly been saved. On the other hand, a person who regresses from solid food to milk is a person who is desperately unhealthy and who will soon wither away and perish.

The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews were regressing rather than progressing in their faith. There was a time when they would have been able to hear what the author would so badly like to share with them. Sadly, they are no longer at such a place. Their lack of discernment has caused them to lose ground. They are moving backwards rather than forwards. They are backslidden.

Solid food is a long way off from these people for “solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Until these people learn to practice discernment and to do so constantly, they will not be able to handle solid food. Until they practice discernment and learn to distinguish between what is good and what is evil they will continue backsliding. Thus a lack of discernment is not only a mark of spiritual immaturity, but also a mark of those who are backsliding.

Lack of discernment leads to spiritual death

Those who have professed faith in Christ cannot backslide indefinitely. Sooner or later it will become clear that they are not believers at all and surely never were. The Bible does not tell us if the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews continued to fall away or if God graciously used this letter to draw them back to Him. But Scripture tells us elsewhere what happens to those who harden their hearts again God, rejecting His good gifts. Romans 1:28-32 is a damning indictment of the unregenerate human heart. It shows with terrifying clarity the evil of which humans are capable. These verses make plain the extent of the sinfulness of those who have rejected the true God in favor of false gods of their own making.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

These verses ought to strike terror in the heart of all who forsake God and ought to cause us all to pause and acknowledge the depth of the evil that inhabits the hearts of men. As men turn from God, He gives them up to do those things their hearts, filled with evil, cry out to do: envy, murder, hatred, gossip, boasting and all manner of evil. And in the midst of this list is one word that seems almost unexpected. God gives people up to foolishness. Most Bible translations translate this word as “without understanding.” One, the New King James Version, translates it as “undiscerning.” Regardless of how it is rendered in English, this word points to a type of moral foolishness that should not be present in the life of one who considers himself a Christian. It points not only to the sinfulness of a lack of discernment, but to the inevitable conclusion that a lack of discernment, utter foolishness, is a mark of one who is spiritually dead and bankrupt. A complete lack of discernment or lack of concern for the discipline of discernment is a mark of spiritual death. It is categorized with sins that somehow seem far more serious. That a lack of discernment appears in this list seems shocking, but shows just how much God values discernment. An absolute lack of discernment and a lack of concern for discernment is sure proof of spiritual death.

We see also in 1 Corinthians 2:14 the dire consequences of ignoring discernment. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” Those who are unsaved, who do not have the Spirit of God within them, are unable to be discerning. The ways of God and the truths of God are utter foolishness to such people.

To lack discernment is to sin against God. It is an inevitable result of turning from Him. It is easy to look at those who have turned from God and look at their lustful and angry hearts and affirm that this is the result of their sin. When a Christian falls into moral sin he may well examine his life to determine how he has turned his back on God, but is the same true when he exhibits a lack of discernment? A wise pastor writes, “to willingly neglect the truth and to live with our eyes closed shut while good and evil stare us in the face is to sin against God, ourselves, our families, and our church. … Again, this is worth stating over and over again. It is the responsibility of every Christian to learn, to be discipled in the Word, so that we can know how to be discerning. To fail to discern is to walk in darkness. “

This is the bad news. Scripture portrays those who lack spiritual discernment in three ways: They are spiritually immature, they are backslidden, and they are dead. Those who lack discernment will fit into one of these three categories. These are the dangers of ignoring discernment.

But there is good news, too. The Bible declares that there are many benefits stored up for those who desire discernment, who seek after it and who practice it.

January 08, 2007
“You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (1 Kings 3:6-9)

The cry of Solomon resounds in my heart. It is a cry born of deep humility and a profound sense of dependence upon God. “I am but a little child,” he cries, “I do not know how to go out or come in.” Ascending to the throne of his father, the great King David, Solomon must have realized his frailty, his inadequacy. Though he was already a grown man when he became king, Solomon considered himself a little child dependent on a Father’s wisdom.

In the book of 1 Kings we learn that, while Solomon was at Gibeon to offer sacrifices to the Lord, God appeared to him in a dream and said simply, “Ask what I shall give you.” We are commonly taught that Solomon asked the Lord for wisdom and that God, being pleased with this request, instantaneously blessed him with a great outpouring of this gift. But in Solomon’s words we see that he requests more than wisdom: he requests discernment. His specific request is this: “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9a). God reiterates and answers this request, saying to Solomon, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right behold, I now do according to your word” (1 Kings 3:11-12a). And here is what God gave Solomon: “Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you” (1 Kings 3:12b).

Commenting on verse 9, Hebrews scholars Keil and Delitzsch point out that the “understanding mind” Solomon requested was actually a “hearing heart” or a “listening heart”-“a heart giving heed to the law and right of God.” Solomon was given wisdom, to be sure. But he was also given a hearing heart. He was given discernment such as no mere human has possessed before or since. We might even say that Solomon requested discernment, but because of the connectedness of wisdom and discernment, God gave him both what he requested and its important prerequisite. Solomon became both wise and discerning.

We can read Solomon’s Psalm, written after the events of this night, a Psalm in which he asks God’s assistance in applying wisdom:

Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son!

May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!

Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!

May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor! (Psalm 72:1-4)

Unlike Solomon, I have not been called by God to govern a nation. But even in the humble ways God has called me to lead, I feel the desire of Solomon. Even when I look at my family and think of how I must lead my wife and teach my children I feel like a little child, uncertain of what to do and how to act. So often I have called out to God for wisdom and for discernment. So often I have sought to be like Solomon. So often I have wanted to know that God is pleased with my requests.

God honored Solomon’s request because He was pleased with what Solomon had asked. This teaches us that God values discernment and honors those who seek after it. In this short series we will see the importance the Bible places on discernment by showing both the blessings that accompany discernment and the curses that accompany a lack of discernment.

Tomorrow we will look at three marks of a lack of discernment, and on Wednesday we’ll look at the benefits stored up for those who desire discernment, who seek after it and who practice it.

January 06, 2007

The Outdoor BibleThe Outdoor Bible is the flagship product for Bardin & Marsee Publishing, a small publishing company based in Canton, GA. Available in the New Testament and in the New American Standard Bible translation, this Bible’s claim to fame is that it is designed for the great outdoors. Made to be used by the outdoorsman, the Bible is printed on durable, tear-resistant plastic material, making it fully waterproof and able to withstand the rigors of the hiking, camping and other activities. It comes packaged in a small burlap bag, a digitized camouflage bag or a God’s country camouflage bag (which is camouflage but with a picture of a cross on it). The product includes six volumes, each of which is folded like a map on 10” x 13” sheets and contains one or more books of the Bible (Volume 1 - Matthew and Mark, Volume 2 - Luke, Volume 3 - John, Volume 4 - Acts and Romans, Volume 5 - 1 Corinthians thru Philemon, Volume 6 - Hebrews thru Revelation).

THE OUTDOOR BIBLE® is printed on 100% plastic material, which makes it a fully waterproof Bible. It can be rained on, snowed on, or fully submerged in a body of water – with no damage.

THE OUTDOOR BIBLE® is made to withstand the rigors of the outdoors – whether used on a backcountry trail, a boating trip, or at a park with your family – THE OUTDOOR BIBLE® will endure your chosen adventure.

THE OUTDOOR BIBLE® will maintain its form during everyday handling and is resistant to typical outdoor wear and tear.

The Bible can be submerged in water or even frozen without adversely affecting it. Because it is plastic and waterproof, the Bible has a possible application for those who do not spend a great deal of time in the outdoors. It can be flattened and pressed against the wall of a shower where it should stick and make for good reading in the shower.

I quite like this piece of ChurchMerch. It fills a niche and does so in style and with a solid translation of the Bible. It is a great product to consider for the outdoorsman in your life. The only real drawback I can think of it is that the type is quite small and would be difficult to read in low-light situations. Beyond that small complaint, I consider it a fine product.

You can read more about it, watch a video or buy it at theoutdoorbible.com. It is also available from sellers associated with Amazon.