Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sermon texts for August 2009

August 2 Prayer series, part 1: Exodus 17:8-16 -- Learning Intercession from Moses
August 9 Prayer series, part 2: Psalm 51 -- Learning Confession from David
August 16 Prayer series, part 3: Colossians 1:3-14 -- Learning Petition from Paul
August 16 (evening) Obadiah 1-21 -- Pride
August 23 Prayer series, part 4: 1 Peter 1:3-9 -- Learning Praise from Peter
August 30 Luke 20:1-26 -- By Whose Authority?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Book deals

Over the weekend, I went to Barnes and Noble-- tomorrow is Molly’s 5th birthday, and I was sent to pick up one of her gifts, a fairy storybook.

On the way in, they had a cart with books marked down to $1! Who could pass that up?

So, how did I do?

The Moral Life (Second Edition) by Louis P. Pojman. This is an excellent reader in ethics, combining literature and philosophy. So far, I’ve thumbed through several of the excerpts and essays, and I’m quite pleased with what I’ve found. Pojman is/was known for his very balanced approach to even the most difficult issues in ethics, and therefore is a fine choice for compiling and editing a book like this.

Best of all, the price. Remember, I paid
$1. The current sale price at Amazon (for the third edition, admittedly) is $54.00.

Visual Research by Ian Noble and Russell Beasley. This is a book in a series about graphic design, and this one focuses on how design communicates sometimes highly complex concepts, and more than that, how the process of research in graphic design works-- did the message intended get communicated? If not, how could it be better? and etc. I’ve just flipped through this one, but it looks interesting. Okay, so it probably won’t make the stack of the next several books to be read, but I’ll get to it someday.

Again, the price stands out as one of the things that makes this one such a sweet deal. I paid
$1; current Amazon price is $29.00. (By the way, the original sticker price on this on at B&N was $49.00!)

I love books, and I love good deals-- so I
really love good deals on books!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Weddings, worship, and celebration

I think weddings are awesome.

Having been married now for more than 11 years, I think marriage is one of the greatest things in life. I have low tolerance for those who belittle it, especially in the context of a wedding-- ball and chain jokes, her dragging him down the isle, etc. (Mostly, it’s men who do this-- women have a better appreciation for marriage.)

And weddings are worship. They are a time for the whole Body of Christ, not only for the couple getting married. That doesn’t mean that I think weddings must be solemn, somber occasions that are quiet, frowny, and dull-- on the contrary. Worship, and maybe especially at a wedding, should usually be joyful, celebratory, and even fun.

All corporate worship is an acknowledgement that we have been welcomed into the presence of our Lord and King by His grace-- this is something to be excited about, no? And the Bible clearly pictures marriage as a type of the church’s relationship to Christ-- even calling us His Bride-- and that weddings are, therefore, all prefiguring the coming “wedding supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). Indeed, they ought to be some of the most joyous and amazing times of celebration we experience.

Some weddings do this in very traditional ways. Strings play music so beautiful that you could weep, and horns announce the entrance of the bride in a way that has echoes of heaven. Everyone dresses up in their finest clothes-- many buying new and finer clothes than they already owned-- because this is the greatest party they will attend before Christ returns. The entrances of those who have a prominent role are big and bold, and everyone present gives their attention entirely to the moment.

Other weddings are less traditional, but still capture that spirit. Watch this video of a couple (and their wedding party) that totally embodied the joy, zeal, celebration-- and fun-- of the wedding event. I think this represents a sense of the magnificence of the moment better than anything I’ve seen in a while, and without knowing the couple or their hearts, I can’t help but think of the biblical intentions of weddings and what they represent and delight in this. As with most weddings, when the bride makes her entrance I tear up, just a little bit, in thinking both of my own wedding and the coming wedding of Christ to His church.

(HT: Blake)

Note/disclaimer: I’m not endorsing Chris Brown’s “Forever” as a worship song, nor do I think that it (or similar songs) are necessarily appropriate for all weddings. I will say that I don’t find the lyrics for the song (which is really just an extra-long Doublemint Gum commercial jingle-- seriously) offensive, and believe that when Brown says that it’s really a love song with a dance beat, he’s not trying to fool us. Further, I’ll say that, in some weddings, this song (or others like it) might actually be entirely appropriate, and I wouldn’t object.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sermon texts for July 2009

UPDATE: I changed the last week’s text, making it longer (including the next section).

July 5 Luke 18:35-42 -- What the blind man saw
July 12 Luke 19:1-10 -- A wee little faith
July 19 Luke 19:11-27 -- Faithful stewardship
July 19 (evening) Romans 8:31-39 -- Assurance
July 26 Luke 19:28-20:26 -- The King has come

Friday, July 10, 2009

Happy Birthday... John Calvin, who was born 500 years ago today!

There are TONS of blogs, websites, and other resources that are devoting huge amounts of attention to Calvin’s 500th birthday. There is even a celebration trip/tour going on right now
in Geneva, where most of the Reformed preachers I’ve ever heard of are teaching, preaching, and reflecting on Calvin’s life, ministry, and contribution to theology.* I’m not going to try to pretend that I have anything to contribute to the mystique or biographical evaluation or anything else regarding John Calvin.

Instead, I want to offer three basic reflections about why I admire John Calvin and am thankful for him:
  1. A lot of people think of Calvin primarily as a leader of the Protestant Reformation (which he was), a theologian (which he was), or a Bible scholar (which he also was). But thinking of Calvin only in one (or even all three) of these ways is an inappropriate limitation of who Calvin was. He was all of these, but they were actually the fruit of something more that he was: a Pastor.
  2. Calvin the Pastor was a fairly amazing man. He preached frequently, at times almost daily, and sometimes multiple times a day, and regarded preaching as not merely the delivery of a message but a “pastoral event.” In addition, he also was active with pastoral visitation of his flock, devoting individual attention to their faith and sanctification. Beyond that, Calvin was a teacher, working with education at all levels (including the seminary level, where he taught John Knox, the founder of Scottish Presbyterianism-- thus our close roots with Calvin), and a social reformer, working to bring about civic and economic reform as the result of a theologically Reformed worldview. He wrote profusely, penning commentary on the entire Bible, works of catechetical instruction, much theology, and his most well-known work, The Institutes of the Christian Religion. All of this he accomplished while nurturing his marriage to his wife Idelette, and the children of her first marriage (she was a widow at 31 when he married her). Incidentally, both John and Idelette Calvin were frail in health, which presented a difficulty that he seldom allowed to interfere with his pastoral work. Calvin was the very model of a Reformed Pastor.
  3. Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion is often looked on as a daunting and unapproachable work of theology. In many ways, it is-- with the translations of the final version (Calvin re-wrote it several times throughout his ministry, with the first edition being only 20% of the final version) hitting 1800 pages, it does not make for a short read; and as content goes, it is probably a notch or two higher than most Christians are accustomed to. However, Calvin’s goal was not to write a difficult seminary textbook; on the contrary, the goal for the Institutes was to offer the common Christian a guide to thinking and living according to their faith, and it is still quite useful for that purpose. (Let it be said that some of the difficulty in reading comes in the fact that there are no recent translations, and an up-to-date translation would inevitably result in a more approachable book.)

If you are interested in a good biography that will introduce you to all of the aspects of John Calvin’s life, you might try Robert Godfrey’s
John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor.

Happy birthday, Pastor Calvin-- your ministry continues to bless Christ’s church today, and I join thousands-- if not millions-- of others in giving thanks and praise to God for your work. I look forward to our fellowship in the new Jerusalem together!

*Check out Reformation 21’s ongoing reports of the Calvin 500 conference/trip. Also, the guys at Reformation 21 have been “blogging” through Calvin’s Institutes all year, and it has made for interesting reading (no, I haven’t read the whole blog).

Monday, July 6, 2009

Bits & Tidbits, July 6, 2009

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day

Happy Independence Day!

Here’s a good reminder of how today came to be so important (I swiped this idea completely from
Ed Stetzer):

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Canada Day

Today is Canada Day-- that is, a celebration of the day (in 1867) when Canada was united as four provinces in a single country.

I have two things to say about Canada Day: first, Marcie and I have (for our whole marriage, actually) acknowledged Cinco de Mayo, which is not, in fact, the Mexican Independence Day, but is simply a day in honor of Mexican heritage and pride. We usually commemorate Cinco de Mayo by eating out at a Mexican restaurant. We have never acknowledged any observance of our northern neighbors, however. I think that will have to change this year, when we will have pancakes for supper tonight-- with maple syrup of course-- in honor of Canada Day.

Second, one of my most distinct memories from seminary involves Canada Day as its context and grounds. I will attempt to re-create the memory in words, but alas, I fear it will do little justice to it.

One of my more recognizable (on campus, anyway) classmates was a man named Lou Best, who is a retired Colonel in the U.S. military. Lou had spent a long career serving all over the world, and he had a rich sense of cultural and ethnic awareness. Lou spoke a number of languages with conversational fluency, including Spanish, French, German, Korean, Japanese, and a couple of African dialects-- and it wasn’t uncommon to catch Lou in conversation with one or more international students in their native tongue.

Lou was also one of the most gregarious and likable fellows around. AND, Lou loved to play jokes and pranks. Finally, because of his age and former career, most of the professors at Covenant Seminary regarded Lou as more of a peer than they did most of us, at least outside of the classroom (and sometimes in the classroom, as well).

With that in mind, imagine this scene: on July 1, 2003, I was sitting in a classroom with about 60 other students, studying biblical Hebrew under Jay Sklar. Jay (he told us to call him Jay) is about my age, and had begun teaching at CTS only a couple of years before then. Jay is also from Canada.

This was an evening class that met twice a week, for almost 3 hours each meeting. The normal events of that class included about 30 minutes of homework review, after which we would have a quiz. When we finished the quiz, we would take a break for about 10-15 minutes.

On that night, right before the quiz was to begin, Lou Best bursts in the doors. In his arms he is carrying a large cake box, and as he walks through the classroom toward the front he is announcing loudly the history of the formation of Canada. Jay, flustered by this sudden interruption, is fumbling for words and trying unsuccessfully to get a word in during Lou’s monologue.

When Lou gets to the front of the class, he opens the box to reveal a cake decorated as a Canadian flag, and immediately begins to sing the Canadian national anthem-- in French.

Jay just stands there awestruck, then slowly steps to attention and places his hand over his heart. Lou sings the entire Canadian national anthem-- in French-- and then smiles, shakes Jay’s hand, and walks out, leaving the cake for us to enjoy during our break.

We were in tears laughing so hard, and at that moment I realized anew how thankful I was that I was in the Kingdom with Lou, and would enjoy him and his antics for eternity in fellowship.

Happy Canada Day, everyone!