October 2005

31 Oct 2005

There was an interesting show tonight on the Apollo 8 moon encounter. As amazing as it is to reflect see earth suspended 240,000 miles away in the black sea of space, consider that the nearest star (Proxima Centauri) is ~100 million times further away from us than our own moon. A spec of light that takes around a second and a half to travel between earth and moon would take 4 years to travel to Proxima Centauri. And then consider that on a dark fall night in the country, you can see the Andromeda galaxy overhead, its hundreds of millions of stars just a dim fuzzball in our sky. It is 2 million light years away, ~500,000 times further than Proxima Centauri. And now astronomers are finding galaxies that are 13 billion light years away, 6000 times further away than the Andromeda galaxy.

Spend some time pondering this, because this shows God as He really is. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” (Ps 96:4).

31 Oct 2005

Excellent RC Sproul messages.

30 Oct 2005


29 Oct 2005

A story from Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History:

Listen to a tale, which is not a mere tale, but a narrative concerning John the apostle, which has been handed down and treasured up in memory. For when, after the tyrant’s death, he returned from the isle of Patmos to Ephesus, he went away upon their invitation to the neighboring territories of the Gentiles, to appoint bishops in some places, in other places to set in order whole churches, elsewhere to choose to the ministry some one of those that were pointed out by the Spirit. When he had come to one of the cities not far away (the name of which is given by some, and had consoled the brethren in other matters, he finally turned to the bishop that had been appointed, and seeing a youth of powerful physique, of pleasing appearance, and of ardent temperament, he said, ‘This one I commit to thee in all earnestness in the presence of the Church and with Christ as witness.’ And when the bishop had accepted the Charge and had promised all, he repeated the same injunction with an appeal to the same witnesses, and then departed for Ephesus. But the presbyter, taking home the youth committed to him, reared, kept, cherished, and finally baptized him. After this he relaxed his stricter care and watchfulness, with the idea that in putting upon him the seal of the Lord he had given him a perfect protection. But some youths of his own age, idle and dissolute, and accustomed to evil practices, corrupted him when he was thus prematurely freed from restraint. At first they enticed him by costly entertainments; then, when they went forth at night for robbery, they took him with them, and finally they demanded that he should unite with them in some greater crime. He gradually became accustomed to such practices, and on account of the positiveness of his character, leaving the right path, and taking the bit in his teeth like a hard-mouthed and powerful horse, he rushed the more violently down into the depths. And finally despairing of salvation in God, he no longer meditated what was insignificant, but having committed some great crime, since he was now lost once for all, he expected to suffer a like fate with the rest. Taking them, therefore, and forming a band of robbers, he became a bold bandit-chief, the most violent, most bloody, most cruel of them all. Time passed, and some necessity having arisen, they sent for John. But he, when he had set in order the other matters on account of which he had come, said, ‘Come, O bishop, restore us the deposit which both I and Christ committed to thee, the church, over which thou presidest, being witness. But the bishop was at first confounded, thinking that he was falsely charged in regard to money which he had not received, and he could neither believe the accusation respecting what he had not, nor could he disbelieve John. But when he said, ‘I demand the young man and the soul of the brother,’ the old man, groaning deeply and at the same time bursting into tears, said, ‘He is dead.’ ‘How and what kind of death?’ ‘He is dead to God,’ he said; ‘for he turned wicked and abandoned, and at last a robber. And now, instead of the church, he haunts the mountain with a band like himself.’ But the Apostle rent his clothes, and beating his head with great lamentation, he said, ‘A fine guard I left for a brother’s soul! But let a horse be brought me, and let some one show me the way.’ He rode away from the church just as he was, and coming to the place, he was taken prisoner by the robbers’ outpost. He, however, neither fled nor made entreaty, but cried out, ‘For this did I come; lead me to your captain.’ The latter, meanwhile, was waiting, armed as he was. But when he recognized John approaching, he turned in shame to flee. But John, forgetting his age, pursued him with all his might, crying out, ‘Why, my son, dost thou flee from me, thine own father, unarmed, aged? Pity me, my son; fear not; thou hast still hope of life. I will give account to Christ for thee. If need be, I will willingly endure thy death as the Lord suffered death for us. For thee will I give up my life. Stand, believe; Christ hath sent me.’ And he, when he heard, first stopped and looked down; then he threw away his arms, and then trembled and wept bitterly. And when the old man approached, he embraced him, making confession with lamentations as he was able, baptizing himself a second time with tears, and concealing only his right hand, But John, pledging himself, and assuring him on oath that he would find forgiveness with the Saviour, besought him, fell upon his knees, kissed his right hand itself as if now purified by repentance, and led him back to the church. And making intercession for him with copious prayers, and struggling together with him in continual fastings, and subduing his mind by various utterances, he did not depart, as they say, until he had restored him to the church, furnishing a great example of true repentance and a great proof of regeneration, a trophy of a visible resurrection.

25 Oct 2005

Nothing is so insufferable to man as to be completely at rest, without passions, without business, without diversion, without study. He then feels his nothingness, his forlornness, his insufficiency, his dependence, his weakness, his emptiness. There will immediately arise from the depth of his heart weariness, gloom, sadness, fretfulness, vexation, despair…Hence it comes that men so much love noise and stir; hence it comes that the prison is so horrible a punishment; hence it comes that the pleasure of solitude is a thing incomprehensible. …This is all that men have been able to discover to make themselves happy. And those who philosophize on the matter, and who think men unreasonable for spending a whole day in chasing a hare which they would not have bought, scarce know our nature. The hare in itself would not screen us from the sight of death and calamities; but the chase, which turns away our attention from these, does screen us.

23 Oct 2005

One of the popular trends that continues to build steam is the dominance of “contemporary” worship services. Pop music and a casual atmosphere have replaced the pipe organs and reverence as the church has sought cultural relevance. Many contemporary services eliminate Bible reading, prayer, preaching on sin and salvation, and hymns in favor of videos, simplistic praise songs, dramas, and sermons focused on “practical advice” and “relevance” (as if the Gospel itself is irrelevant). Go to a Brethren church, a Vineyard, a Church of Christ, a non-denominational megachurch, or even a PCA church, and you are likely to hear the same worship songs and the same books recommended.

Has this not impoverished worship? Compare the average contemporary worship service with this Presbyterian liturgy. Do you see a difference? Note the prayers, note the Bible reading, the confession of sin, the communion, the prominence of prayer. Traditional worship tends to be more formal and reverent than contemporary worship. But as Michael Horton said, it’s more of a question of substance vs. shallowness than traditional vs. contemporary. Much of contemporary worship is based on a flawed purpose and the discarding of tradition.

20 Oct 2005

…O God, who knowest the weakness and corruption of our nature, and the manifold temptations which we daily meet with; We humbly beseech thee to have compassion on our infirmities, and to give us the constant assistance of thy Holy Spirit; that we may be effectually restrained from sin, and excited to our duty. Imprint upon our hearts such a dread of thy judgments, and such a grateful sense of thy goodness to us, as may make us both afraid and ashamed to offend thee. And, above all, keep in our minds a lively remembrance of that great day, in, which we must give a strict account of our thoughts, words, and actions; and according to the works done in the body, be eternally rewarded or punished, by him whom thou hast appointed the Judge of quick and dead, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. -from the Book of Common prayer

18 Oct 2005

It will be interesting to see where Rick Warren is in five years. His “Purpose Driven Life” has sold ~25 million copies and he has achieved entree into powerful quarters. Such is evidenced by this Q&A session from a few months ago. Baylyblog and others have been noting the troubling aspects of Mr. Warren for awhile now– his name dropping, his unstructured theology, and his foray into the political scene. It is not hard to see trouble on the horizon as power brings temptation to conform to the world.

The Q&A event also shows something that has been discussed here before: the idolatry of politics. Note how many of the questions asked are about political matters, which Warren encourages with his unfocused opinions. Never mind my eternal soul. Let’s get down to what’s important, Mr. Warren: What percentage of people voted for Kerry at your church?

The distraction of politics continues…

16 Oct 2005

There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else . . . It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work . . . All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it, or else, that it was within your reach and you have lost if forever. -from “The Problem of Pain”

13 Oct 2005

It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. -Hebrews 10:31

Recently someone put a Chick Tract on our car. The cartoon shows a well-dressed man who deceives a teen with various worldly philosophies. The teen follows him until he finally finds himself standing in Hell. He turns to the well-dressed man in shock, only to find that the man is ripping off a mask to reveal himself a demon.

Now, a cartoon is a really dumb way to talk about Hell, which has already been the subject of countless jokes, parodies, and album covers. People trivialize Hell enough as it is. Or they just avoid thinking about it altogether.

But consider this: Jesus must have thought it important, because he warns of damnation a dozen times in the book of Matthew alone. He describes Hell as a fiery furnace (13:42, 50), as outer darkness (8:12, 25:30), and seven times as anguish (“weeping and gnashing of teeth”). He describes its horrific torments in Luke 16. In fact, Jesus implies that most people will end up in Hell (Matthew 7:13: “Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction”). Think about that.

You can disbelieve in Hell for whatever reason, but you cannot wish it away. The Bible pictures Hell as a real place of pain, regret, unmet desires, hopelessness, and frightening darkness. It is “eternal destruction” (2 Thess 1:9). Jonathan Edwards paints this picture:

We can conceive but little of the matter; but to help your conception, imagine yourself to be cast into a fiery oven, or a great furnace, where your pain would be as much greater than that occasioned by accidentally touching a coal of fire, as the heat is greater. Imagine also that your body were to lie there for a quarter of an hour, full of fire, and all the while full of quick sense; what horror would you feel at the entrance of such a furnace! and how long would that quarter of an hour seem to you! And after you had endured it for one minute, how overbearing would it be to you to think that you had to endure the other fourteen! But what would be the effect on your soul, if you knew you must lie there enduring that torment to the full for twenty-four hours…for a whole year…for a thousand years! “Oh, then, how would your hearts sink, if you knew, that you must bear it forever and ever! that there would be no end! that after millions of millions of ages, your torment would be no nearer to an end, and that you never, never should be delivered! But your torment in hell will be immensely greater than this illustration represents.

Again, Edwards:

You have often seen a spider, or some other noisome insect, when thrown into the midst of a fierce fire, and have observed how immediately it yields to the force of the flames. There is no long struggle, no fighting against the fire, no strength exerted to oppose the heat, or to fly from it; but it immediately stretches forth itself and yields; and the fire takes possession of it, and at once it becomes full of fire. Here is a little image of what you will be the subjects of in hell, except you repent and fly to Christ. However you may think that you will fortify yourselves, and bear as well as you can; the first moment you shall be cast into hell, all your strength will sink and be utterly abolished.

This is serious business. Don’t delay another minute; you may not have another minute. “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you…” (Is 55:1-3)

11 Oct 2005

Speaking of Caedmon’s Call, they strongly support the Dalit Freedom Network ministry to the untouchables of India. As one of DFN’s shirts says: “Free Tibet? Free the Dalits! Tibet 2.1 million. Dalits 250 million.”

It sounds from afar like God is opening an amazing door.

09 Oct 2005

A few years ago, Caedmon’s Call did a powerful version of an old John Michael Talbot song called “Prepare Ye the Way” (go thee to ITunes and get it). It echoes the themes of Is 40:3-5: “Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” The symbolism is of the servants who went before monarchs in a journey to clear obstacles, level roads, and create pathways. Spiritually, as Matthew Henry says, the heralds of Is 40 are called “to dispose men’s minds for the reception and entertainment of the gospel of Christ.” Henry continues:

We must get our hearts levelled by divine grace. Those that are hindered from comfort in Christ by their dejections and despondencies are the valleys that must be exalted. Those that are hindered from comfort in Christ by a proud conceit of their own merit and worth are the mountains and hills that must be made low. Those that have entertained prejudices against the word and ways of God, that are untractable, and disposed to thwart and contradict even that which is plain and easy because it agrees not with their corrupt inclinations and secular interests, are the crooked that must be made straight and the rough places that must be made plain. Let but the gospel of Christ have a fair hearing, and it cannot fail of acceptance. This prepares the way of the Lord; and thus God will by his grace prepare his own way in all the vessels of mercy, whose hearts he opens as he did Lydia’s. When this is done the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.

07 Oct 2005

Cultivate a thankful spirit! It will be to thee a perpetual feast. There is, or ought to be, with us no such thing as small mercies; all are great, because the least are undeserved. Indeed a really thankful heart will extract motive for gratitude from everything, making the most even of scanty blessings. -J. R. MacDuff

01 Oct 2005

How shall we obey the command to saturate our minds with the thoughts of God? Ask yourself: Of all the spiritually minded people you have known– those who seem to walk most consistently with God and are in tune with God’s Spirit– do they not all overflow with Scripture? Are they not like John Bunyan? Prick them, and they bleed Bible. -John Piper

When I Don’t Desire God is a worthy read. Perhaps most useful is the approach in Chapter 8 (see page 122) for memorizing Scripture. Is memorizing not one of the most important things we can do? Perhaps you will want to print that page, put it in your Bible, and give it a shot.