Saturday, February 28, 2009

Authority

I just recently started receiving TableTalk magazine from Ligonier Ministries and have so far really enjoyed the thought-provoking articles. The March 2009 issue centered on the topic of authority, specifically as it relates to the church, the family and the government. In his introductory article, Dr. Sproul states, “The act on one’s own authority against the authority of God is the essence of disobedience and of sin. When we grasp authority ourselves and do what is right in our own minds, we are attacking the very foundation of life.”

How true this is! Take any number of hot button issues in today’s culture, boil it down to its most basic premise and you will see that it’s a matter of pitting God’s authority against man’s contrived image of his own authority. But let’s not leave it at the big, nebulous, overarching level where blending into the masses and the faceless politics is way too easy. What about the sin in my life? When I willingly yield to the sin that tempts me, I’m basically saying that I don’t believe in God’s authority to tell me not to do that nor His authority to grant me victory over the sin nor His authority to bring about punishment. Instead, I follow what I think is best for me and thus try to make my own authority higher than God’s.

Where it gets muddier is when I realize that, as the head of my home, I have indeed been given authority, but only as it is from God. If I sin by not leading in a way that is honoring to Him, I am misrepresenting His authority. Notice that my family is still obligated to follow the authority given to me. I’m still leading, however poorly. Yet another hard lesson that I’m still learning is that to lead with this authority is not a popularity contest – leading only if I think someone will follow. This, too, is saying in essence that God’s authority is not enough for me to make a decision. For example, when it comes to family prayer time or praying with my wife, I am the one responsible for making the decision, and whether or not anyone will want to should not even factor into the decision making process. In the article on Family Authority, Denise Sproul states, “It is important to keep in mind that husbands, fathers and mothers who refuse to exercise appropriate authority in their homes are guilty before God for failing to submit to His authority. Their failure comes from not believing and acting on the Word of God, accepting the roles and responsibilities He has given them.”

And what is the result or goal of the authority given to parents, in particular? Denise later says, “Our children are given to us that we might return to Him godly seed, that we might help them learn to obey, that it would go well with them in the land.” Or stated another way, our goal is to train our children to want to love and honor God in everything. Not just to be good, moral, upstanding citizens. Not so that they’ll behave and make life easy for us as parents. But so they too will see the greatness of God and want to live in such a way that reflects back to him any and all praise.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Model of Biblical Proportions

Alec Garrard, a retired farmer, has spent more than 30 years building an enormous scale model of Herod's temple - and it is still not finished. The picture gallery is definitely worth checking out.

HT: Challies

Thursday, February 26, 2009

For fast breaking news, tune in to --Twitter?

Yet another piece of evidence that traditional media is getting some competition from the more "non-traditional" media.

Twitter first to publish dramatic crash pictures

(CNN) -- The social networking site Twitter again stole a march on traditional media when it was the first outlet to publish dramatic pictures of the Turkish Airlines crash.

Moments after the plane crashed at Amsterdam's Schipol airport on Wednesday morning the news was appearing on Twitter, CNN International correspondent Errol Barnett said.

"This is a story that broke on Twitter first and continued to unfold from there. Eyewitnesses were posting comments about the shock of seeing the plane 'dive' and amazement of passengers walking out of the wreckage," Barnett said.

"It was a dramatic image of a fractured plane posted on Twitter.com that was the first worldwide view of the Turkish Airlines crash."

Barnett said that when CNN saw the image it moved quickly to confirm with Dutch officials that a crash had happened.

"Within minutes we were reporting on the story.

"This proves that social networking sites can be a real asset in covering breaking news and gathering eyewitness accounts but the web should always be treated with extreme caution," Barnett said.

"We make a concerted effort to reach out to people posting on the Internet to verify what they say matches up with official accounts."

HT: Journalism.org

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Snapshots and Screenshots

Tim Challies' blog is one that I have come to enjoy reading and look forward each day to his posts. I think perhaps one my favorite features of the blog is his almost-daily A La Carte postings - snippets and tidbits of information from around the web, mostly along the Christian realm.

He has just posted a short (30-page) booklet of sorts that, in his words, "is a means of introducing myself and introducing what I write. It is a collection of my favorite articles..." Each poignantly written article is accompanied by evocative images that seem to only add to each article's mood. If you are not familiar with his blog, I would highly recommend checking out his Snapshots and Screenshots.

As a preview of sorts, here is just one of the articles, but in my opinion the most stirring. Tim notes at the end, "The story is so powerful that, as I writer, I can do little more than tell it. I wrote this through tears, thinking of my own children every moment. Though this is the earliest of the articles I’ve collected here, it remains a favorite. I always struggle with the temptation to dramatize or embelish it. But again, the story tells itself. It seems an appropriate place to close. Morning is coming!

Morning Will Come (by Tim Challies)

Dr. Criswell, long-time pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, was once traveling by plane to attend a speaking engagement on the East coast. After boarding the aircraft and getting settled, he was thrilled to recognize the man in the seat beside him as a well-known Christian theologian. Criswell greatly admired this man and was eager to get to know him. Soon the plane left the ground and after it settled into cruising altitude, Criswell introduced himself and the two began to speak.

The theologian told the pastor how he had recently lost his four-year old son to a terrible illness. It began innocently enough when the child was sent home from school one afternoon after developing a fever. At first the parents thought it was a typical childhood illness that would soon run its course, but his condition continued to worsen so that evening took him to the hospital. The doctors ran a battery of tests and told the parents tragic news - their son had a virulent form of meningitis and there was nothing they could do for him. The child was beyond their help and was going to die.

The loving parents did the only thing they could do, which was sit with their son in a death vigil. It was the middle of the day, only a few days after he became sick, and the illness was causing the little boy’s vision began to fade. He looked up at his daddy and said softly,”Daddy, it’s getting dark, isn’t it?”

The professor replied, “Yes, son, it is dark. It’s very dark.” And for the father it was.

The little boy said, “I guess it’s time for me to get to sleep, isn’t it?”

“Yes son, it’s time for you to sleep,” said the father.

The theologian explained to Dr. Criswell how his son liked his pillow and his blankets arranged just so and that he laid head on his hands while he slept. He told how he helped the child fix his pillow and how his little boy rested his head on his hands and said, “Good night daddy. I’ll see you in the morning.” With that the little boy closed his eyes and fell asleep. Only a few minutes later his little chest rose and fell for the last time and his life was over almost before it began.

The professor stopped talking and looked out the window of the airplane for a good long time. Finally he turned to Dr. Criswell and with his voice breaking and tears spilling onto his cheeks said, “I can hardly wait for morning to come!”

Though it may merely sound like the cry of a grief-stricken parent, the father’s words speak of far more. They speak of a profoundly beautiful truth, for the Lord Jesus Christ promised us that the morning will come. Death has been defeated and even now we await the dawn when Christ will return and death shall be no more. Only through Jesus can we have the hope of eternal life that sustains the grief-stricken father. Only through Jesus can we have assurance that he “will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.” (Revelation 21:4) Little boys will be reunited with their fathers so together they can dance for joy before the One who tasted and defeated death so others could have life.

God offers us this assurance only to those who will look to Him. Do you believe in Him? Have you looked to Jesus and cried out for Him to give you life? Cry out to Jesus, that when that new day dawns, you will be found in him.

Morning is coming

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Crisis of Credit Visualized

Ever wondered what in the world was going on with all the banks going bust, and mortgages going south? Here's a fairly simple explanation. Total run time is about 10 minutes, but it's definitely worth watching.





HT: Michael

Monday, February 23, 2009

Music Monday - Amazing Grace

I had never heard of the group Il Divo until I was sent this youtube link by my sister. I'll definitely be checking out more of their stuff. Enjoy this absolutely beautiful arrangement of Amazing Grace (complete with bagpipes!) You'll have to click the link as embedding was disabled on the video.

As a side note, it is a testament to the grace and power of God that the arena they are performing in is the Pula Arena in Croatia - a Roman coliseum once used for the persecution of Christians.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtrnB4FZ-yc

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Book Review - Reviewing the Movies: A Christian Response to Contemporary Film

What movies should Christians watch? Is there a litmus test that can be applied to movies to determine the rightness or wrongness of certain movies? How does a Christian interact with “one of the most powerful cultural influences in America?”

In "Reviewing the Movies: A Christian Response to Contemporary Film," Peter Fraser and Vernon Edwin Neal tackle this issue head on in an attempt to help Christians understand both the methodologies and the worldviews portrayed in the theater. What the reader won’t find is a checklist of things to look for in determining whether or not he should watch this movie or that one. Instead of providing criteria that paints options either black or white, good or bad, the authors point to the heart of the matter – both the readers’ and the movies’ worldviews. They state that “the problem in America can be blamed in part on how we have been trained to think about ‘religious issues.’” They argue that instead of taking the easy road in compartmentalizing things like movies as either “Christian” or “non-Christian,” we should be actively engaging the culture, looking for truth to be portrayed whether that truth is pretty or not. Throughout the book, reviews and pictures of both classic and contemporary movies are offered as examples of excellent or poor worldviews as portrayed in the theater.

At the beginning of the book, the authors make some important points in the criteria often used by Christians in determining whether or not a movie is “good.” The criteria used is either requiring that the movie be made by a Christian, requiring that the subject matter be blatantly Christian, or that there are obvious symbols of Christianity within the movie. Each of these criteria has their own problems to deal with and the authors discuss each of them in turn, commenting on the double standards inherent with many movies that may indeed fit one or more of the criteria.

The authors’ main concerns in how we view movies are the movie’s quality of production and the movie’s “overall meaning and significance.” The bulk of the book revolves around dealing with these two issues. Subsequent chapters provide a better understanding of both the artistry of film production (why was this particular angle chosen, etc), and why certain thematic elements are included (such as the element of love, religion, children’s points of view, etc). The authors often seem to be tackling culture rather than movies, but considering that movies make up such a huge part of our current culture, this is no surprise and they shouldn’t be faulted for it. The book continuously brings the reader back to what the Bible says about truth, goodness, beauty, love and the gospel. And the authors make an excellent point in saying that “as Christians we needn’t blush at the immodesty of stating up front what we consider good. We should, in fact, do so gladly; after all it is part of our witness to the world.”

Perhaps a little lacking in this book is what the authors do indeed consider to be good in movies. Again, while a checklist of good and bad things certainly cannot nor should not be expected, I expected something a little less nebulous. It seemed that the majority of the book was spent analyzing poor methods for reviewing and selecting movies, but did not adequately follow that up with better methods. The closest thing I could find is where the authors state “Great films promote great things and tell great stories. They have a fundamental integrity, a truthfulness in the way they portray the deeds and the dreams of men and women created by our loving God.” However, that being said, this book is definitely a step in the right direction in understanding how Christians should view movies.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wasted Moments?

This is for all the dads out there. Pearls Before Swine is an awesome comic strip that usually has a very cynical or sarcastic punchline. But yesterday's strip was without this and by far the best one yet. (you may have to click on the picture to enlarge it)









As dads, it's so easy to get caught up in what we think are the most important goals in life. Perhaps we had a goal of owning our own business or having a certain job title or any number of other "zeebas to kill." But to our kids, we are never "manager" or "analyst" or "salesman" - we are simply "Dad" and time spent with them in playing, teaching and loving are by no means "wasted moments."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Free Audio of The Mortification of Sin

Last year, when my pastor and I began reading John Owen’s “The Mortification of Sin,” I had no idea that such a small book would have such a massive impact on my life. This being the first Puritan-authored book I’ve ever read, I thought I was in for a lot of dry, heavy-on-the-theoretical-light-on-the-practical kind of stuff. I was proven very, very wrong

This is the kind of book that so convicts, moves, and encourages you that not to share it with others would be doing them, the author and the book’s subject a great injustice. There are several free online books available, most notably of which is “Overcoming Sin and Temptation,” a recently published compilation of three of Owen’s works including The Mortification of Sin. However, to my surprise, I discovered that there are very few audio recordings of The Mortification of Sin and even fewer that are free. And so began a project to record this great book. I’m very glad to report that the recording of The Mortification of Sin is now complete and may be downloaded for free in mp3 format. (Please note that the text used for the recording is not from the above mentioned book, but rather was made from a published copy that is no longer under copyright.)

Here is what John Piper has to say about Owen’s book:

“What Owen offers is not quick relief, but long-term, deep growth in grace that can make strong, healthy trees where there was once a fragile sapling. I pray that thousands—especially teachers and pastors and other leaders—will choose the harder, long-term path of growth, not the easier, short-term path of circumstantial relief.

“Owen is especially worthy of our attention because he is shocking in his insights. That is my impression again and again. He shocks me out of my platitudinous ways of thinking about God and man. Here are a few random recollections from what you are (I hope) about to read. You will find others on your own.

“‘There is no death of sin without the death of Christ’ (Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers, chapter 7). Owen loves the cross and knows what happened there better than anyone I have read. The battle with sin that you are about to read about is no superficial technique of behavior modification. It is a profound dealing with what was accomplished on the cross in relation to the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit through the deep and wonderful mysteries of faith.

“‘To kill sin is the work of living men; where men are dead (as all unbelievers, the best of them, are dead), sin is alive, and will live’ (chapter 7). Oh, the pastoral insights that emerge from Owen! As here: If you are fighting sin, you are alive. Take heart. But if sin holds sway unopposed, you are dead no matter how lively this sin makes you feel. Take heart, embattled saint!

“‘God says, “Here is one, if he could be rid of this lust I should never hear of him more; let him wrestle with this, or he is lost”’ (chapter 8). Astonishing! God ordains to leave a lust with me till I become the sort of warrior who will still seek his aid when this victory is won. God knows when we can bear the triumphs of his grace.

“The list could go on and on. For me, to read Owen is to wake up to ways of seeing that are so clearly biblical that I wonder how I could have been so blind. May that be your joyful experience as well.”

As Piper states, whether you read the book or listen to this recording, I hope that the truths, challenges, and convictions you find bring you closer to the joys found only in glorifying God!

(If you would like the mp3s in short, 3-4 minute sections for easier bookmarking or burning onto a CD, I have those available also. Simply contact me at: esky@juno.com)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

More uber-geeky Excel coolness

Microsoft Excel never ceases to amaze me. Today I discovered that the wonderful Pivot Table tool has a feature where you can add in calculated fields in addition to the fields already pulled in from the data set. Oh the possibilities!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Music Monday - Adiemus

Here's something a little different. This song is called "Adiemus" by British composer Karl Jenkins. I'll let Wikipedia explain the concept: "There are no lyrics as such: instead the vocalists sing syllables and 'words' invented by Jenkins. However, rather than creating musical interest from patterns of phonemes (as in scat singing, or in numerous classical and crossover compositions), the language of Adiemus is carefully stylized so as not to distract the listener's attention from the pitch and timbre of the voice—for example, as in African languages, syllables ending in consonants are rare. The core concept of Adiemus is that the voice should be allowed to function as nothing more than an instrument....The word Adiemus itself resembles a Latin word meaning 'We will draw near', though incorrectly formed; Jenkins claims to have been unaware of this."