April 2007

29 Apr 2007

Faith is the opinion that some person will do something for you. If that person will really do that thing for you, then the faith is true. If he will not do it, then the faith is false. -J Greshem Machen, Christianity and Liberalism

25 Apr 2007

Last weekend presented a nice opportunity: clear skies and a new moon (well, close enough). And so the telescope and I visited my boyhood back yard, well away from the city.

It may be an urban legend, but I read once where a power outage occurred in a city and many residents reported seeing UFOs and other strange sights in the sky. It turns out that they were just seeing the stars and the Milky Way. Much can be said for urban conveniences, but it’s really a shame that many never get to see the stars in their glory. In rural areas, light pollution — the combined result of security lights, all-night gas stations, etc. — is increasingly a problem. The back yard isn’t what it once was, and that is a sad thing.

In any event, as we sit in our houses reading, conversing, watching a ball game, or sleeping, the heavens silently declare God’s glory. Observing the lovely M3 last Friday, it struck me that this thing is there every day and night, waiting for all to look upon its glory. It’s a half a million stars, 34 thousand light years away from the earth. Not far away in the sky is M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy. It looks like a smudgy blob in my telescope. It’s not like the pictures, but still, but there it is, countless numbers (trillions?) of stars forming a galaxy 30+ million light years from our own galaxy.

M3 and M51 are two glorious, mind-boggling profusions of splendor amid trillions in God’s great universe.

If you get a chance, go out around the time of the next new moon and see the heavens. Take along a planisphere and some binoculars and just sweep along the Milky Way. Enjoy God through His creation.

23 Apr 2007

Pastor Timmons ponders the empty gestures in today’s ceremony at Virginia Tech.

21 Apr 2007

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. -Col. 3:8

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. -Eph 5:4

Some cable channels are already starting to run “unedited” (i.e. profanity-laced) concerts and movies late at night. In prime time, the cussing is left in, but the camera focuses on the speaker during the bleep so that we can all try our hand at lip-reading.

Profanity culture has made its way into the church. For some younger Christians, profanity has become a mark of authenticity. You may blow your top, but hey, you’re 100% human. You’re keeping it real.

Talk about glorying in your shame! It’s as if being “authentic” is more important than being obedient. That message doesn’t come from the Bible; it comes from pop culture and our own sinful nature.

I say this as someone who has long struggled with choice words; a few years of working in a factory didn’t help matters. You won’t hear it in normal conversation, but catch me after stubbing my foot, or maybe after struggling with a stripped screw or a faulty piece of equipment for a while… and uh oh. I may be keeping it real, but so what? I’m sinning. I shouldn’t be patted on the back for for such a lack of self-control, but rebuked. Such outbursts of wrath are an expression of a heart problem (Mark 7:20-23) that one should endeavor to crucify (Gal 5:19-24).

One more thing: Polite company has long accepted the vain (i.e. false or needless) use of words like hell and damn. Do these usages not trivialize momentous things related to God’s judgment? Biblically, I think a case can be made that using those words vainly is worse than using the coarse words they don’t (yet) allow on TV. Worst of all is the use of the Lord’s name (common example: “O, my …”). As Psalm 139:20 says, those who take God’s name in vain are His enemies.

18 Apr 2007

One hopes that the aftermath of this vicious shooting will not follow the pattern of past ones. That is: For a few days coverage will focus on “human stories” as details continue to emerge. After the shock subsides, the shootings will be fully politicized. This is to be expected in a rich land that worships the idol of politics, a land where the government expropriates massive amounts of money and spends more than 30% of GDP. Someone must do something! That something will involve a lot of taxpayer money and will not fix anything. It will probably make things worse.

Meanwhile a larger tragedy will occur: Christian leaders with evangelism opportunities will give bad answers to the “Why?” question on national TV. I’m still waiting to hear someone there connect such tragedies with Luke 13, to say that events like this are a small taste of coming judgment, to make the clarion call to repent and be ready.

Events like this underscore mortality and the eventual collapse of all houses built on sand. But for those who stand on the rock of Christ:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. -Psalm 46:1-7

I am praying for the families, but also for an uncompromising witness, especially for those who will reach wide audiences with their message.

16 Apr 2007

A comedic highlight of the year is the Toosie Roll annual report. The quaint product descriptions are a hoot (pardon the pun, Mr. Owl). Here’s a sample:

Tootsie Roll Mini Chews are luscious morsels of soft, chewy Tootsie Roll smothered in creamy milk chocolate– a combination of flavors and textures that produces an incredible taste sensation! Chocolate Covered Sugar Babies are familiar nuggets of chewy Sugar Baby caramel covered with a delicious chocolate shell. Packaged in convenient, reclosable boxes, these items are perfect for movie time, TV watching or any snacking occasion.

It’s what you might expect (and hope for!) in a company with an 87-year old president.

13 Apr 2007

You won’t see many contemporary Christian songs on God’s wrath or anger. It doesn’t sell; it’s hard to expect much in the way of the prophetic from commercial sources. We can’t comprehend the grandness of God’s holiness or the depth of our own offense, much less that of others, and so, embarrassed, we bypass such unpleasantries.

Who wants to hear it? No one. Who needs to hear it? Everyone. God’s righteous wrath and anger are prominent throughout Scripture, mentioned dozens of times in the Psalms alone. Psalm 90, the psalm of Moses, features an example worthy of reflection:

Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? -Psalm 90:11

Matthew Henry comments:

The angels that sinned knew experimentally the power of God’s anger; damned sinners in hell know it; but which of us can fully comprehend or describe it? Few do seriously consider it as they ought. … God’s wrath is equal to the apprehensions which the most thoughtful serious people have of it; let men have ever so great a dread upon them of the wrath of God, it is not greater than there is cause for and than the nature of the thing deserves. God has not in his word represented his wrath as more terrible than really it is; nay, what is felt in the other world is infinitely worse than what is feared in this world.

May these warnings drive the unbeliever to flee the wrath to come and seek mercy at Christ’s feet, and drive the believer to thankfulness and greater obedience (“trembling at the threatenings,” as it says in the Westminster Confession).

My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments. -Psalm 119:120

09 Apr 2007

It was a couple of weeks ago that Senators John Warner and Hillary Clinton announced that homosexuality is not immoral. I thought about that while reading a reprinted Joe Sobran column. Sobran hits it on the head:

The pundits who shook their heads at Lott’s gaffe [in calling homosexuality a sin] were playing it safe by observing the current etiquette. They weren’t speaking as adults who feel any sense of responsibility toward children and adolescents in need of guidance; they were speaking like adolescents who are chiefly worried about what the other kids will think of them if they say something egregiously square. Lott, to his credit, was speaking precisely out of moral concern, not to damn homosexuals, but to help them. Being fashionable was apparently the last thing on his mind. And Washington already has more than enough people whose consciences are always in fashion.

Those who deny the sinfulness of sodomy are con artists.

06 Apr 2007

Check out the ad that Pastor Timmons ran across (from a local non-denominational church) and the scolding response from that church’s pastor.


05 Apr 2007

I’m a sucker for movies about ancient history, but I didn’t like 300. When Gandalf the Gray stands on the bridge and thunders “You shall not… pass!” to the demonic Balrog, there is a profound hint of spiritual warfare (no doubt one lost on the filmmakers). In 300, when King Leonidas urges his warriors at Thermopylae to fight for freedom and reason and an end to mysticism and stuff, it just rings hollow. The king sounds and looks great, albeit like he spent a lot of time at the Gold’s Gym in downtown Sparta. The movie is beautifully and stylishly shot. The problem is that it’s all blood and guts and no heart. It’s not historically accurate, nor does it pretend to be, but there’s nothing very stirring or worthwhile about 300. (What’s the obsession with hideous makeup about anyway? I keep seeing a version of Robert the Bruce’s father from Braveheart in every film like this. You know, the old man with the deformed face and bad teeth, shown in closeup. It’s become, like the plaintive woman’s wail soundtrack, a cliche of the genre.)

I’ll give 300 one thing: it mostly avoided feminist anachronisms, which is an accomplishment of sorts in today’s Hollywood.

By the way, the Persian king Xerxes, portrayed absurdly in 300 as a bald, megalomaniacal goliath, is not known only from Herodotus and Plato, but also Scripture. He was the mercurial king Ahasuerus; his queen was Esther. The reigns of Xerxes and his son Artaxerxes form the backdrop of attempts by the Hebrew exiles to rebuild the temple (cf. the book of Ezra).

Why did the Lord choose this Persian king to be remembered for all time? Only He knows.

03 Apr 2007

Question: How does it feel to be a fan of a college that has lost two national championship games in one year? Answer: Not very good.

OSU played at Florida’s level — I didn’t think it possible — but they just couldn’t hit open shots from the perimeter (4 for 23). An opportunity lost. Sigh. At least they didn’t mail it in like the football team back in January.

And better yet: The Lord reigns!

01 Apr 2007

Pastor Timmons has some good words on “front yard missions.”