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Archive for April, 2009

Weekly favorites in…

News: Global Warming Beliefs Among Protestant Pastors.  Interesting article on the percentage pastors who are “believers” of global warming.

Listening:  This is gold…John Piper recently spoke at Park Community Church in Chicago on “The Pastor as Scholar.”  He gives a basics outline of his life leading up to becoming a pastor.

If I am scholarly, it is not in any sense because I try to stay on the cutting edge in the discipline of biblical and theological studies. I am way too slow for that. What scholarly would mean for me is that the greatest Object of knowledge is God and that he has revealed himself authoritatively in a Book. And that I should work with all my might and all my heart and all my soul and all my mind to know him through that Book and to make him known.

Photography: 9 years of change in Dubai from NASA.

Blogging: John MacArthur offers some practical teaching on “Knowing Christ.”

We err greatly if we think of intimacy with Christ as some lofty level of mysterious, feelings-based communion with the Divine—as if it involved some knowledge of God that goes beyond what Scripture has revealed.

Science and Religion: A new theistic evolutionist – like website from Francis S. Collins and Co., the director of the Human Genome Project and author of The Language of God, called The BioLogos Foundation.  What is the site for?

The BioLogos Foundation promotes the search for truth in both the natural and spiritual realms, and seeks to harmonize these different perspectives.

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So I went running sunday afternoon.  Thunderstorms were forecasted for the afternoon and evening so I checked the doppler radar, which showed a line of developing storms just south and east of Lincoln moving northeast.  The cold front was approaching and it was now or never to get those miles in before the nice, muggy 50s would depart. I jumped in my car and headed to the Mopac east trail.

The beginning of the run went well.  I headed east out of Lincoln and could see a few weak storms in front of me.  I only felt a sprinkle here and there, but vowed that if it started to downpour before I reached my turn around point, I would make it to the next mile marker and head back.  This vow was based solely on the assumption that the line of development, as I depicted from the radar, was just east (or in front) of me.

Then I reached my turn around point and was nearly stopped in my tracks.  What I saw was precisely what I used to love to photograph but then take cover from during my storm chasing days as a college student.  About a mile from me was a classic shelf cloud which usually marks the front boundary of a line of thunderstorms with heavy rain, wind, and possibly hail.  If you can see a shelf cloud, it is heading towards you!

Needless to say, the rest of the run was in the midst of some strong winds and heavy, heavy rain.  I felt like such an idiot for being out there.  For one, having a degree in meteorology, I have been to way too many seminars and lectures about lightning safety, survivial stories, and not-so-survival stories.  And two, my wife and I had not yet paid our first premium for our life insurance policies (which was done the next day!).  Doh!

All that intro to bring up vows with God.  I am not going to lie, there was some strong pleading with God out there on that trail.  Especially when it seemed lightning was striking very close by.  But I refused to make a vow with Him, such as, if you keep me alive, I will do such and such.

One of the stories I was thinking about constantly on that run was that of Martin Luther.  Luther, after being caught in a severe thunderstorm, became so scared that he vowed to join the cloister if he would make it safely.  The storm did not kill him and the rest is history.

One of the pastors I admire most is John Piper.  In a recent message he gave at Park Community Church called The Pastor as Scholar, he mentioned that growing up he was deeply and physiologically terrified of speaking in front of people.  This continued until his senior year at Wheaton College, when he was asked to give the opening prayer at some summer school event in front of 500 people.  Piper said before the event, he vowed with God that if God would enable him to say the prayer, he would never turn down another opportunity to give a speech due to fear.  Once again, the rest is history.

It seems strange to me to make vows with God.  I know I have made them in the past.  They were usually immature things about sports, or girls I liked, or something I thought I really wanted.  I made a vow with my wife on our wedding day, and each day is its practical unraveling.  But what about with God?  Is there a place for it?  Is it biblical?  Has anyone else made a specific vow and kept it to the best of their knowledge?

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Favorites in..

Watching: The Gospel Coalition 2009 is wrapping up today.  Live webcasts are available here.  Also, all 10 of the main sessions will be online soon.

Listening: 5 years of classroom instruction from Wayne Grudem as he teaches through his Systematic Theology.

Blogging: Kevin DeYoung posts a series called “Our High Places,” highlighting what he sees as possible blindspots in the church today.

Economics: Matt Perman argues how “Spending Does Not Drive the Economy,” part 1 and part 2.

Blogging 2: Albert Mohler pleads “We cannot settle for truth without love nor love without truth” and “The genuine body of Christ  will reveal itself by courageous compassion, and compassionate courage” when confronting the issue of homosexuality in our culture.

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Favorites in…

Listening: Phil Johnson spoke recently at Omaha Bible Church, outlining the 5 major heresies that have frequented Christianity.  This message is just a survey, so if you want to hear him speak more in depth on each of the 5 heresies, go here.

Climate news: Roger Pielke Sr. outlines his position on climate sciences.  A position I see as much more rational and humble than most climate experts studying global warming.

Weather photos: This is a good one.  NASA’s Earth Observatory is celebrating their 10 year anniversary by posting their top 50 images taken over the last decade.  You vote which is your favorite.  I’m a bit disappointed in the top 50…how could they leave out Everest?  I’m voting for “Inauguration Day Crowds in D.C.”  What did you vote for?

Reading: Tony Reinke recommends an excellent and Simple Approach to Apologetics.

News: The blogosphere is abuzz with this article, so I thought I’d post it too.  A.N. Wilson, known for converting from Christianity to atheism and brushing shoulders with several other prominent atheists for 20 years, has converted back to Christianity.  His article is called “Why I Believe Again.” (HT: JT)

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Can you guess when this was written?

A typical case of such unbelief begins when young men are brought up as nominal Christians.  Their parents take them to church as children and there they become acquainted with those passages of the Bible used in the service.  If their parents still keep some of the old habits, they may even be taught the catechism.

But they go off into the world, yield to youthful temptations, neglect to look at their Bible, and they do not develop their religious duties.  Attending church occasionally, these occasional incidents more often offend such youth than strengthen them.  Perhaps they are tempted to be morally superior to those they think are superstitious.  Or the poor examples of some professing Christians disgust them.  Or else they stumble because of the absurdities of others who see they are equally ignorant themselves.  At any rate, they gradually begin to doubt the reality of Christianity.  A confused sense of relief that it is all untrue settles within them.  Impressions deepen, reinforced by fresh arguments.  At length they are convinced of their doubts in a broad sweep over the whole realm of religion.

This may not be universally so, but it may be termed teh natural history of skepticism.  It is the experience of those who have watched the progress of unbelief in those they care about. It is confirmed by the written lines of some of the most eminent unbelievers.  We find that they once gave a sort of implicit, inherited assent to the truth of Christianity and were considered believers.

How did they become skeptics?  Reason, thought, and inquiry have little to do with it.  Having lived for many years careless and irreligious lives, they eventually matured in their faithlessness – not by force of irreligious strength but by lapse of time.  This is generally the offspring of prejudice, and its success is the result of moral decline.  Unbelief is not so much the result of a studious and controversial age as it is one of moral decline.  It disperses itself in proportion as the general morals decline. People embrace it with less apprehension when all around are doing the same thing.  (Wilberforce, William. Real Christianity, p. 127-128, emphasis added)

It is striking how similar Wilberforce , in the early 1800’s, described the experience of so many people I know today.  What do you think?

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Weekly favorites in…

News: Apparently, not only was I raised in the best county in the U.S. for raising children (see previous post), but now I’m living in the “Happiest Place in America” according to ABC news.

History: 64 years ago today, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed due to his involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler.  Fred Sanders at Scriptorium Daily writes a small piece on the the topic.  Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from Bonhoeffer in his classic work, The Cost of Discipleship:

Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. (p. 59)

The only right and proper way is quite literally to go with Jesus.  The call to follow implies that there is only one way of believing on Jesus Christ, and that is by leaving all and going with the incarnate Son of God. (p. 62)

Also, for an excellent documentary on his life, watch Bonhoeffer.

Science News: Ever wondered why scratching relieves that itching feeling?  NYT reports.

Reading/Listening: Dr. Albert Mohler responds to President Obama’s statements to the Muslim world in Turkey.

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Recently, I was at a gathering in which we went through a stack of “conversation starter” questions for entertainment.  There were several people there that I didn’t know too well, so it was a good way to get to know them in a short amount of time.  One of the questions asked was “which is of most importance to possess, knowledge or character?” The answers were mixed across the room.  I answered “character” and then attempted, poorly, to give an explanation of why I believed so.  I obviously didn’t change any minds with my weak attempt and wished I had been able to put some more thought into it before I responded.  Oh well.  If only I had read William Wilberforce’s Real Christianity a month ago!  Wilberforce answers this question thoroughly in the chapter titled “The Excellence of Real Christianity.”

It is another basic excellence of true Christianity that it values moral attainments far higher than intellectual accomplishments.  In contrast, most of the false systems of religion, which have prevailed in the world, have proposed to reward the intellectual labor of the devotee.

The preference of Christianity for moral rather than for intellectual excellence is part of true wisdom.  It is possible to excel where we may really obtain excellence.  For how limited is the range of the greatest intellectual abilities!  How scanty are the stores of the richest forms of human knowledge!  Experience daily furnishes us with examples of weakness and shortsightedness and error (even in the wisest and most learned of men!) which might serve to confound the pride of human wisdom.

Not so in morals.  Made at first in the likeness of God – and still bearing about us some faint traces of our exalted origin – we are offered by our blessed Redeemer the means of purifying ourselves from our corruptions and of once more regaining the image of our heavenly Father.  In love, in fortitude, in justice, in humility, and in all the other graces of the Christian character, God makes us capable of attaining heights of true sanctity.  Were we faithful to the means of means of grace with the prompting and support of the Holy Spirit in our diligent endeavors, our labors would be crowned with success.

How would you answer?  Why?

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