Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Good Ol' Newton

From Olney Hymns, #37

Begone unbelief, My Savior is near,
And for my relief Will surely appear:
By prayer let me wrestle, And he wilt perform,
With CHRIST in the vessel, I smile at the storm.

Though dark be my way, Since he is my guide,
’Tis mine to obey, ’Tis his to provide;
Though cisterns be broken, And creatures all fail,
The word he has spoken Shall surely prevail.

His love in time past Forbids me to think
He’ll leave me at last In trouble to sink;
Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review,
Confirms his good pleasure To help me quite through.

Determined to save, He watched o’er my path,
When Satan’s blind slave, I sported with death;
And can he have taught me To trust in his name,
And thus far have brought me, To put me to shame?

Why should I complain Of want or distress,
Temptation or pain? He told me no less:
The heirs of salvation, I know from his word,
Through much tribulation Must follow their LORD.

How bitter that cup, No heart can conceive,
Which he drank quite up, That sinners might live!
His way was much rougher, And darker than mine;
Did Jesus thus suffer, And shall I repine?

Since all that I meet Shall work for my good,
The bitter is sweet, The med’cine is food;
Though painful at present, Wilt cease before long,
And then, O! how pleasant, The conqueror’s song!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Luther Advertising Relics

The following is an extended quote from a brief article on Martin Luther, proving that the use of sarcasm and satire are time-tested and proved methods of preaching against heresy and false doctrine.

In 1517, Luther posted his famous 95 Theses, attacking abuses in the sale of indulgences. A full twenty-five years later, and only four years before he died, Luther wrote against this practice again, this time with wit.

In 1542, a pamphlet entitled New Newspaper from the Rhine appeared in Halle. The anonymous author alerted the public to the transfer of Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz's collection of relics from Halle to Mainz, where they would be exhibited at St. Martin's Church and, if solemnly viewed, would grant an indulgence....

In addition, newly discovered relics would be exhibited, with a special indulgence offered by Pope Paul lilt The new relics included:

  1. A nice section from Moses' left horn (Exod. 34:29, Vulgate: "his face was horned from the conversation with the Lord");
  2. Three flames from the burning bush on Mount Sinai (Exod. 3 :3);
  3. Two feathers and an egg from the Holy Spirit;
  4. A remnant from the flag with which Christ opened hell;
  5. A large lock of Beelzebub's beard, stuck on the same flag;
  6. One-half of the archangel Gabriel's wing;
  7. A whole pound of the wind; which roared by Elijah in the cave on Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:11 );
  8. Two ells (about ninety inches) of sound from the trumpets on Mount Sinai (Exod. 19:16);
  9. Thirty blasts from the trumpets on Mount Sinai;
  10. A large, heavy piece of the shout with which the cildren of Israel tumbled the walls of Jericho (Josh. 6:20);
  11. Five, nice, shiny strings from David's harp;
  12. Three beautiful locks of Absolom's hair, which got caught in the oak and left him hanging (2 Sam. 18:9).

The author concluded by sharing a tip he had receives from a friend in high places: Archbishop Albrecht had willed a trifle of his pious, loyal heart, and a whole section of his truthful tongue to the existing collection. Whoever paid one guiler at the exhibition would receive a papal indulgence remitting all sins committed up to the time of payment and for ten more years, thus giving the people of the Rhineland a unique opportunity to attain a special state of grace.

The author was Martin Luther, of course. He revealed his identity after the pamphlet had been widely circulated. The old issue of indulgences had once more cropped up, and his way of annoying Archbishop Albrecht, the most notorious advocate of the indulgences traffic, one more time.

Taken from TWO FEATHERS FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT? , By: Gritsch, Eric W., Christian History, 08919666, 1993, Vol. 12, Issue 3

Remember when...

Another reason why I love our church is that there are so many children. Kids are great--so much fun. But sometimes they get me thinking...

Like the other day when I was sitting down (because I was tired) watching the kids. Some of them were playing actual games with each other, and some were trying to make their own games up. The boys were having sword fights with imaginary swords and the girls were running around giggling about something or other. Then there were a few others who were running...

No game, just running.

They would run from one wall of the gym to the other... and then back again. Each time they would slam into the wall, laugh, and then run again.

Remember when running used to be fun? I remember thinking, "I hate all this sitting, let's get up and play a game" which would always involve running. Sometimes my friends and I would race each other as a game. That was fun.

Now, there's not much short of the hose busting off the back of our dishwasher mid-cycle and flooding our apartment that can get me to run. Sometimes even when we're playing floor-hockey at our men's meetings, I see the ball and I actually think, "Is this worth running right now?" Am I the only one? Maybe that's why people don't like having me on their team?

My, how far I've fallen.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Muslim "Tolerance"--My, aren't they gracious

See Dr Haykin's post here on the "religion of peace" and their "extreme tolerance" and offers of "forgiveness."

How insightful.

May we never forget that true religion is proven by its deeds. You want to know what Muslims believe? Read about what they're doing in the world.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Stupid Fan Thing

I don't know if I've ever written specifically about anything local before, but hey, there's a first time for everything. And this stupid thing just bugged me that much.

Ever since the middle of December 2002, we've had this so-called 'windmill' scarring our city's skyline for some dumb reason or another. Apparently a few tree-huggers got together and figured they could power up at least one house with this monstrosity... but I don't buy it.

I've been quite suspicious of the efficacy of this terrible turbine for some time now. I think that with the amount of wind we get and the size of the fan, we'd be lucky if the fan managed to power the little red blinking light on the top of it.

I can't think of how many times I've driven by this piece of awful architecture and thought, 'What's making it run... it's not even windy today!' I'm convinced that it's a scam. The government put up the money to fund the ugly thing thinking it would win the votes of a few 'enviro-friendlies' and only once it was up did someone realize, 'Hey, this thing won't be able to power anything!'

Not wanting to look like bad decision-makers or anything, the government-types figured they should cover their tracks so they reversed the power flow... they hooked the fan up to a power source. Now they can make the fan look all pretty as it spins and spins, easing the consciences of all our trash-producing, global-warming (paranoid) minds.

Anyway, today was the final straw. Today (a very windy day) I drove by it only to see it standing still. Someone forgot to flip the switch! That's the only explanation I can think of.

I say take the darn thing down. Stupid fan thing.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Ever wonder why we have this day?

Dr Michael AG Haykin has a wonderful and timely post on St Patrick here.

Whoever said history is irrelevant? Now next time you'll have an answer when someone says, "Why do we have St Patrick's day? Who is this Patrick guy anyway?"

Fantastic Stuff

Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort from Way of the Master will be on ABC's "Nightline" tonight at 11.35pm ET.

A preview of the interview can be read here.

You can watch a preview on video here.

Pray for those who'll be seeing the show to be moved to look up the Way of the Master. Pray for God to use the testimony and witness of these two brothers to advance his kingdom for his glory. This is a wonderful opportunity for the Gospel to go forth on primetime US cable. Wow.

[HT: The Twins]

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Too much time on my hands...

The other night my wonderful wife and I were lying in bed before going to sleep and my mind got to thinking (a dangerous pass-time, I've discovered)...

Why are kids born out of wedlock called "illegitimate children"? Why does the immorality of the parents call into question the legitmacy of the child?

Make no mistake, that son or daughter is a very real child. So why do they get the bad title, like they did something wrong? Maybe the guilty partners should be called "illegitimate parents" or something. That would definitely make more sense to me.

And then as if that wasn't bad enough, if the kid's a boy he's gotta go through life with everyone calling him a "bastard." Sheesh. It's not like it's his fault he was born...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


What kind of a guy launches a blog and then doesn't tell anyone?

What kind of a guy just emerges on the blogosphere with a fancy-schmancy design--one that even kerux couldn't complain about, nor could Nick copy!--like it's no big deal while the rest of us non-web-designers have to fuddle around with blogspot and crusty old html (non)skills?

A good guy, I suppose.

The God Who Dissatisfies

In a similar vein with this post, kerux has begun a new series of sermons on the book of Ecclesiastes. This past Sunday evening he preached a preview of the book, and one verse in particular stuck out to me. It left me with this thought:

God has made us to be dissatisfied.

This seems to be a summary of grand biblical theme; I'll just look at a few verses from the wisdom literature here.

  1. Ecclesiastes 2.24. This was the verse that got me thinking along these lines. It is literally translated roughly this way: "There is not a good inherent in man that he can eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil." In other words, God creates us so that we know we desire something... as we try to fulfil that desire in anything and everything we find, we discover that nothing can give us lasting enjoyment. We're never satisfied.
  2. Ecclesiastes 3.11b. "Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end." We know there's purpose and order to all things; we know there's something eternal for which our hearts always cry. This creates endless and unsatiable restlessness because we are created as finite beings which God has created to long for infinity.
  3. Psalm 107.25, 26, 28. "For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. ... their courage melted away in their evil plight... . Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble...". The story here is that some people have decided to try to find their fortunes in business. They take off in ships to see if they can attain wealth. The Lord raises up the waves, lifts them "up to heaven" and crashes them "down to the depths." This is not random. The Lord blows apart their ships to show them something: Business, wealth, or pursuit of your desires will never lead to happiness. God shakes their whole world--everything they had rested their hopes for health and happiness on--to dissatisfy them.
  4. Proverbs 10.3. "The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked." Those who don't know the Lord long for many things: He thwarts all their cravings. They will never be able to obtain that for which they so desperately long.
But why? Why would God--who is love--dissatisfy people? The answer is simple: Because he loves us.

God created us for himself; he alone is eternal and eternally good. He created us to fit him. He created us with desires that perfectly match his character and beauty. The problem is that because of sin we think we know better. We think we want things that we don't. Like doctors of yesteryear who drained sick people of their blood because they thought that the blood contained the sickness, we are hopelessly blind (in our sin) to know what exactly is wrong with us and what we need.

God will dissatisfy you (stir you up to discomfort and restlessness) in every place that you seek to find your life aside from him, if you are his. If you trust in your riches, he bankrupt you. If you trust in your home, he'll flood your basement. Whatever it is that we allow to be our delight and our sufficiency instead of the person of Jesus Christ will not last. It's God's gracious way of showing us that we're relying on something that can never last and is not worthy of our hope.

When the things we have and do don't satisfy us, when we lose something in this life that we love dearly, we need not inquire if God is still good. Rather, we should praise him all the more for weaning our sinful hearts off of the temporal and on to the Eternal Good: Himself. He made us for himself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in him.

Friday, March 10, 2006

What if...

My good friend and cousin, James, wonders: "What if we abandoned the religion of Jesus for the religion of the Bible or the religion of Christianity?"

On the other hand, I can't help but wonder...

What if a group of people became disaffected with the Jesus-followers who came before them and decided that they knew better? What if youthful zeal combined with the afterglow of post-Nietzschean pop-culture and formed a new religion which claimed to be faithful to the old religion long-forgotten? What if the warm-fuzzies then created by discovering the "real Christianity" turned into historical snobbery and together with revisionist history, a disdain for doctrine, and a love for philosophizing about all things ethereal created a grass-roots movement from within "broader evangelicalism"?

I wonder what that would look like... I wonder if they'd be any closer to truth than the "cold", "doctrine-consumed" modern church that came before them, that they disdain so much?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Church Militant

Kirk Wellum reminded us in class today that the living church is a church at war.

Ever wonder why church people are so lazy? In Kirk's words, they've got all the time and energy to "go, go, go" all week for all kinds of things, but when it comes time to pray or to read their Bibles or do any spiritual task, they're dead. Tired, too busy, etc., etc., etc.

Our battle is not against flesh and blood. I think too often I forget that we are at war with an enemy that hates us being involved in spiritual tasks. Too often I give in and think, "yeah... I am too tired to pray right now" and give no thought to why I wasn't tired five minutes ago.

We don't understand our enemy. The less seriously we take the battle and the enemy, the more we'll lose and the less we'll notice.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Gospel and Postmodernity

Dr. Glendon G. Thompson preached a fabulous message in chapel today on dangers of living as a Christian in a postmodern context. Ironically enough, the temptations that he brought out are not really particular to our epistemological or cultural contexts so much as they are simply a plight of humanity in a fallen world. The wonderful thing about the message was it applied these universal temptations to contexts and tendencies particular to a postmodern world.

This all got me thinking some more about postmodernity.

My good friend Rielly loves to point out to me (and I think rightfully so) that modernity was no more friendly to Christianity or to biblical Christian thought than postmodernity is. Both are inherently secular philosophies with positives and negatives which must be sorted through and accordingly either accepted or rejected.

Even with Rielly's voice floating around in the back of my head, I started thinking... perhaps postmodernity is more inherently opposed to Christianity. Off the top of my head I came up with four reasons to think this is so:

  1. Declaration of ethical absolutes. Scripture declares moral absolutes based on the character and revealed will of God. These are true regardless of time and / or culture. North American postmodernity, based on existentialism, rejects this notion out of hand.
  2. The centrality of metanarrative. Central to Christianity is the God of Christianity. He is one who transcends time and all creation. He has providentially ordered all things according to his good and perfect will. All of history, then, is one story, centred on the revelation of his Son--the image of his glory--who redeems his people for himself. Metanarrative is what holds our whole worldview together.
  3. The necessity of truth and intent contained in words and phrases. If there is no objective meaning contained within a text which can be determined through proper hermeneutical method, then again, our whole worldview crashes. Biblical Christianity cannot be sustained if it is impossible to derive meaning from a text apart from the biases of the reader.
  4. The concept of truth and its 'knowability.' This is the element of postmodernity that most Christians love to write about and pick on, so I'll leave it with only one comment here. The person of Jesus Christ is Truth Incarnate. Truth is knowable, because Truth became man. If we cannot accept that proposition, the whole faith is meaningless.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Continuing on my love for the Church

As if I hadn't been thinking about reasons why I love the Church enough lately, Dr Haykin comes to our church and preaches on "THE Church"!

Fantastic stuff!

Check out the sermon for free, here.

He preached that in our evening service. In the morning, I preached on divorce in the kingdom of God.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Tale of Two Churches -- Part 2

About five or so years ago now, I was involved in a church plant here in Toronto. We started with about five of us meeting together for a weekly Bible study and for prayer. Over time, we found another family or two interested in helping to establish the work and so we began to hold Sunday morning services in a home.

Now we meet in the gym of a school. We meet Sunday morning and Sunday night for worship. Wednesday evenings are ‘Grace Night’, where the adults meet for prayer and the kids have games time and classes. We’re up over a hundred people now, and we are a very close family of believers.

That’s it. No big purpose-drivel programs, no singles clubs, no Sunday school, and no youth pastors. Our kids (ages 2 and over) sit through the services, and the pastor preaches to them. Our sermons are typically 45 minutes to an hour on Sunday mornings and our pastor intentionally preaches through the Word of God book-by-book.

On Sunday nights the services are more interactive, but still centred on the Word. We encourage people to talk and ask questions and we all ‘improve the message’ by talking about it corporately. Kids too. We make sure they hear the gospel, because they are little sinners with eternal souls that need to be saved.

On Wednesday nights we begin by worshipping God through song and then break up into age appropriate groups. Kids have their classes and adults (everyone over grade 12) gather for prayer. That’s it. We pray. For a good 45 minutes to an hour. We never run out of things to pray about. We are intentional in making sure that prayer is always central to everything we do.

We’re not perfect, but we’re a group of sinners seeking earnestly to redeem church, and I love it. It’s authentic, gospel-centred, and soaked in prayer. I couldn’t ask for more. Who could?

Why do people make church so much more complicated than it needs to be? Focus on the gospel; be intentional in preaching to everyone and praying for everyone. If that is genuinely your focus, I truly believe the Lord will make the rest clear.

Venture much on God—if he is in it, he’ll bless your work. If not, then great! Rejoice! He’s made it clear to you that he has another plan for building his church.

If we truly believe that our Lord Jesus will build his church on his word, through the prayers of his saints, then why do we sell ourselves out to so many specialization fads and programs that promise to bring in a crowd or build ‘genuine community’ (as if any but the Holy Spirit could produce true unity)? Why not commit ourselves to prayer and the study of the Word and trust God to do the rest?