Monday, July 28, 2008

Music Monday - Cry Out To Jesus

Matthew 11:28-29, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

Cry Out To Jesus, by Third Day

Friday, July 25, 2008

He ventured forth to bring light to the world

(This was way too good to pass up)

The anointed one's pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a miracle in action - and a blessing to all his faithful followers (by Gerard Baker)

And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.

The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.

When he was twelve years old, they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: “Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?”

In the great Battles of Caucus and Primary he smote the conniving Hillary, wife of the deposed King Bill the Priapic and their barbarian hordes of Working Class Whites.

And so it was, in the fullness of time, before the harvest month of the appointed year, the Child ventured forth - for the first time - to bring the light unto all the world.

He travelled fleet of foot and light of camel, with a small retinue that consisted only of his loyal disciples from the tribe of the Media. He ventured first to the land of the Hindu Kush, where the

Taleban had harboured the viper of al-Qaeda in their bosom, raining terror on all the world.

And the Child spake and the tribes of Nato immediately loosed the Caveats that had previously bound them. And in the great battle that ensued the forces of the light were triumphant. For as long as the

Child stood with his arms raised aloft, the enemy suffered great blows and the threat of terror was no more.

From there he went forth to Mesopotamia where he was received by the great ruler al-Maliki, and al-Maliki spake unto him and blessed his Sixteen Month Troop Withdrawal Plan even as the imperial warrior Petraeus tried to destroy it.

And lo, in Mesopotamia, a miracle occurred. Even though the Great Surge of Armour that the evil Bush had ordered had been a terrible mistake, a waste of vital military resources and doomed to end in disaster, the Child's very presence suddenly brought forth a great victory for the forces of the light.

And the Persians, who saw all this and were greatly fearful, longed to speak with the Child and saw that the Child was the bringer of peace. At the mention of his name they quickly laid aside their intrigues and beat their uranium swords into civil nuclear energy ploughshares.

From there the Child went up to the city of Jerusalem, and entered through the gate seated on an ass. The crowds of network anchors who had followed him from afar cheered “Hosanna” and waved great palm fronds and strewed them at his feet.

In Jerusalem and in surrounding Palestine, the Child spake to the Hebrews and the Arabs, as the Scripture had foretold. And in an instant, the lion lay down with the lamb, and the Israelites and Ishmaelites ended their long enmity and lived for ever after in peace.

As word spread throughout the land about the Child's wondrous works, peoples from all over flocked to hear him; Hittites and Abbasids; Obamacons and McCainiacs; Cameroonians and Blairites.

And they told of strange and wondrous things that greeted the news of the Child's journey. Around the world, global temperatures began to decline, and the ocean levels fell and the great warming was over.

The Great Prophet Algore of Nobel and Oscar, who many had believed was the anointed one, smiled and told his followers that the Child was the one generations had been waiting for.

And there were other wonderful signs. In the city of the Street at the Wall, spreads on interbank interest rates dropped like manna from Heaven and rates on credit default swaps fell to the ground as dead birds from the almond tree, and the people who had lived in foreclosure were able to borrow again.

Black gold gushed from the ground at prices well below $140 per barrel. In hospitals across the land the sick were cured even though they were uninsured. And all because the Child had pronounced it.

And this is the testimony of one who speaks the truth and bears witness to the truth so that you might believe. And he knows it is the truth for he saw it all on CNN and the BBC and in the pages of The New York Times.

Then the Child ventured forth from Israel and Palestine and stepped onto the shores of the Old Continent. In the land of Queen Angela of Merkel, vast multitudes gathered to hear his voice, and he preached to them at length.

But when he had finished speaking his disciples told him the crowd was hungry, for they had had nothing to eat all the hours they had waited for him.

And so the Child told his disciples to fetch some food but all they had was five loaves and a couple of frankfurters. So he took the bread and the frankfurters and blessed them and told his disciples to feed the multitudes. And when all had eaten their fill, the scraps filled twelve baskets.

Thence he travelled west to Mount Sarkozy. Even the beauteous Princess Carla of the tribe of the Bruni was struck by awe and she was great in love with the Child, but he was tempted not.

On the Seventh Day he walked across the Channel of the Angles to the ancient land of the hooligans. There he was welcomed with open arms by the once great prophet Blair and his successor, Gordon the Leper, and his successor, David the Golden One.

And suddenly, with the men appeared the archangel Gabriel and the whole host of the heavenly choir, ranks of cherubim and seraphim, all praising God and singing: “Yes, We Can.”

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Send in the sheep!

As I mentioned before, I’m currently reading John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin with my pastor. This week we read chapter 8, a very convicting chapter. While reading, the following scene crossed my mind.

There I was living on some remote island in the middle of the Pacific. Life was good. My wife and kiddos were great. The farm (?) vegetables were growing nicely and the animals (??) were behaving themselves. I got along great with my neighbors. I had a good job collecting shells along the beach. Life was great.

Oh, did I mention it was a volcanic island that I lived on? Well, inevitably, the volcano god got angry about something or other. Pretty soon, ash and soot started flying here and there and everything smelled like sulfur. Being good Islanders that we were, obviously we wanted to stop the volcano god from blowing us up. To appease the Vg, we pick out a nice fluffy sheep, cart him up to the volcano (it was pretty hot, too!), and toss him in. Not a happy ending for the sheep, to be sure, but we wanted to go back to our happy lives down in the village and figured this was the best way of going about it.

Okay, so what does all this Pacific islander stereotyping have to do with a Puritan writer, you may ask? Up to this point in the book, Owen has been discussing general principles of killing sin in the believer. In Ch. 8, he brings up the convicting point:

Hatred of sin as sin, not only as galling or disquieting, a sense of the love of Christ in the cross, lie at the bottom of all true spiritual mortification…Thou settest thyself with all diligence and earnestness to mortify such a lust or sin; what is the reason of it?(emphasis added) It disquiets thee, it hath taken away thy peace, it fills thy heart with sorrow, and trouble, and fear; thou hast no rest because of it… It is evident that though contendest against sin merely because of thy own trouble by it. Would thy conscience be quiet under it, thou wouldst let it alone. Did it not disquiet thee, it should not be disquieted by thee.”

In other words, if sin did not poke our conscience or stir things up in our life, would we even bother to “mortify” it? Why do I confess sin? Is it so that I can go back to my peaceful way of living or is it because I have a hatred of sin, recognizing “the filth and guilt of it” as Owen puts it. We throw a sheep into the volcano simply to appease God, when we are really simply trying to have our lives nice and peaceful once more. I know I’ve been guilty of this. It’s Saturday night (or Sunday morning!?), and I’ll be teaching Sunday School in a little while. Yet my conscience is bugging me over some sin. So I confess, not because I recognize the “filth and guilt of it” but because I want to appease my conscience so as to be able to teach. And in goes another sheep.

Owen’s point (one of them anyway) is that if we are to have victory over sin, we are to have a deep, abiding hatred of it, so much so that we want to see it deader than a volcano-roasted sheep. Sin is an affront to God and until we see it as such, all we're doing is throwing in sheep, trying to get our peaceful lives back. "He, then, that would really, thoroughly, and acceptably, mortify any disquieting lust, let him take care to be equally diligent in all parts of obedience, and know that every lust, every omission of duty, is burdensome to God."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Music Monday (a day late!)

How Deep the Father's Love For Us

In listening to this song, I am reminded of the following quote by John Bunyan:

"Now was I sick in my inward man, my soul was clogged with guilt; now also was my former experience of God's goodness to me quite taken out of my mind, and hid as if it had never been, nor seen. Now was my soul greatly pinched between these two considerations. Live I must not, Die I dare not; now I sunk and fell in my spirit; and was giving up all for lost; but as I was walking up and down in the house, as a man in a most woeful state, that word of God took hold of my heart, Ye are 'justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus' (Rom. 3.24). But oh, what a turn it made upon me!

Now was I as one awakened out of some troublesome sleep and dream, and listening to this heavenly sentence, I was as if I had heard it thus expounded to me: Sinner, thou thinkest that because of thy sins and infirmities I cannot save thy soul, but behold My Son is by Me, and upon Him I look, and not on thee, and will deal with thee according as I am pleased with Him. At this I was greatly lightened in my mind, and made to understand that God could justify a sinner at any time; it was but His looking upon Christ, and imputing of His benefits to us, and the work was forthwith done."

Friday, July 18, 2008

Rich like me?

On Saturday, Sarah and I decided to take the kiddos up to the lake for an afternoon of swimming. On the way there, we had to stop off at the store to buy a beach umbrella to keep Ben in the shade. Since it was only going to take me about 5 minutes, Sarah and the kiddos stayed in the van. With it being 90+ degrees out, I left the van running with the A/C on.

So, 5 minutes later, I emerge with said umbrella and am in the process of putting it in the back of the van when the car next to us backs out, the driver rolls down her window and says, “I wish I was rich like you!”

Not being a mind reader, I ask her to repeat herself. “I wish I was rich like you so I could leave my vehicle running. And it’s not good for the environment. You need to be more responsible.” And off she drives.

Oooookay. Perhaps she didn’t see my wife and four little kiddos in the van NOT being oven-roasted thanks to my “irresponsibility.” The ironic part of all this was that during her tirade, she puffed away at a cigarette. Yeah, that’s very responsible. I wish I could be like her. Good for the environment too, obviously. I could be wrong, but considering that her voice sounded like that of a chain smoker, I’d be willing to bet that she spent more money on her cigarettes that day than I did on the additional fuel used in keeping my family cool. Consider the following from this article written in June 2007:

The cost of a pack of cigarettes averages $4.49, including taxes. Using this number, a pack-a-day smoker burns through about $31.43 per week, or $1,635 per year. That's a fat house payment or a nice vacation with the family [or a weekly gas fillup!!]. A 40-year-old who quits smoking and puts the savings into a 401(k) earning 9% a year would have nearly $250,000 by age 70.

And this doesn’t take into account the extra costs that smokers have to pay for insurance, the loss of value on a house or car, etc.

So let’s see: going by last year’s average, this woman was sending up in smoke per week about the same amount that it would take to fill up our van per week.

Now who’s being irresponsible, not to mention being a busy body.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Music Monday - Imagine

And now for Music Mondays, a little bit of humor (with apologies to John Lennon). (ht: DowBlog)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

So Many Books, So Little Time

I have this tendency (not sure if I should necessarily call it a bad habit) to read more than one book at a time. Maybe it’s due to a short attention span. Maybe it’s genetic. Who knows. But it’s a lot better than what it used to be. I used to start reading one book only to get drawn into another book of equal interest. Before long, I’d have a bookmark in 4 or 5 books at a time. Eventually I’d finish one, only to replace it with yet another. Unfortunately, some books didn’t get finished and I’m sure there are several on my bookshelf with some piece of paper stuck in a long forgotten chapter, eagerly awaiting the day when it can see daylight. That is, if books can be eager about anything.

I can now proudly say that I am only reading THREE (3) books right now and am making some headway in each of them. It helps that one of them is an audio book that I get to listen to everyday on my way to work. I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s my opinion that audio books are one of the best things in the world. I think I average about one unabridged book a month.

So what am I reading? The audio book is John Adams by David G. McCullough. This is an excellent book that I highly recommend. It is perhaps one of the most fascinating biographies I’ve ever read. Not surprisingly, when it was first published in 2001, Publisher’s Weekly called it “one of the fastest-selling nonfiction titles in history,” and publisher Simon & Schuster said that “the demand for the book ‘is the greatest in the history’ of the publisher.” That’s a pretty high compliment considering Simon & Schuster was founded in 1924 and is one of the four largest English language publishers.

I’m also reading John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin with my good friend and pastor, Tim. This has been a very good and very convicting read in the daily battle to “mortify” sin. Owen encourages Christians to “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.” The book has a way of cutting to the heart of the matter and leaving no room for excuses for sin.

The third book – Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations - is one that I’ll probably be reading for at least another year because I’m working on narrating/recording the entire thing and making it available through Librivox. I’ve finished Book 1 and am about halfway through Book 2.

And of course, every time I go to the library, I find at least 2 more books to add to my reading list. But this is a good thing.

Edit: well, Sarah has reminded me that I'm reading a fourth book - Great Illustrated Classic's The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I'm in the process of recording this one as well for the kiddos to listen to in the car when we go on vacation. Speaking of which, dads, this is something that I would highly recommend doing for your kids. I'm sure they already love to have you read to them and making a recording for them will be a great gift. All you need is a microphone (available at most office supply store) and some recording software, such as the freely available Audacity.