Thursday, July 31, 2008

Two Random Thoughts

Line of the Day:

I'm not insecure... I just want everyone else to think as highly of me as I do.

Thought for the Day:
Remember when you were little and a friend would have a birthday party? You'd watch the mother cut all the pieces of cake and hand them out to each child. Secretly you'd be inspecting each piece for consistency of size. Inevitably, somehow you ended up with the smallest piece. Or, even if it wasn't the smallest, it was definitely smaller than your brother's.

The other day I was sitting at my brother's computer, as we were looking at some ideas for some web page designs. The whole time we were there, I kept thinking to myself... 'Man, his monitor is so much bigger than mine... that stinks--I want one this big!' That night he came over and we sat at my computer and continued the same process. Finally I couldn't take it any more and blurted out something to the effect of 'How big is your monitor anyway?'

Turns out, his monitor is the exact same size as mine. And to top it all off, while he had been sitting at my computer, he had been thinking to himself that my monitor was bigger. I suppose that says something about our hearts, eh?

'Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.' Some of us just take longer to grow up, I guess.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My Girls

My girls... In their PJ's, all calm and quiet, ready for bed. Or not.

video

Monday, July 28, 2008

Christian Wedding Vows

It's wedding season... which is great! I love thinking about weddings. Their whole point, after all, is to point to my Saviour and his love for his bride--and I like to think about that!

Since staying married is not about staying in love, but about reflecting the covenant-keeping love of Christ, the centrepiece and focal point of a Christian wedding is the vows.

What a couple views marriage as is reflected in what they promise to each other. As I've suggested before, I think Christian couples should at least endeavour to memorize their vows, so as to be able to speak them clearly, forthrightly, and meaningfully when the moment comes, looking their partner in the eyes as they speak.

Just for fun I thought I'd post the vows that Stacey and I spoke to each other in the presence of God, family, and friends on June 19, 2004, when we were wed. I keep a copy of mine posted with a wedding picture right beside my desk so that I can regularly reflect on the meaning of what I've promised.

Here are our vows.

Julian

I, Julian, take you, Stacey, to be my wife.
In the presence of God and these witnesses I pledge my love and devotion to you and to you alone for as long as God grants us both life.
I promise to be faithful, patient, kind, humble, and gentle; to serve you and to give myself up for you, as Christ has given himself up for his bride.
I will love you as my own body; endeavouring to lead you and help you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus.
As God grants grace, I promise to make our home one where Christ is exalted and God is glorified in our love for each other and in our devotion to him, above and beyond all else.

Stacey
I, Stacey, take you, Julian, to be my husband; to share with you God’s will for our lives. As we journey through this life, with both its joys and hardships, I promise to love and be faithful to you.
I will obey, trust and encourage you, Julian, as long as we both shall live.
I promise to follow you as you follow God, believing all things and hoping all things.
I will pursue godliness in all areas of my own life, that together our lives and home may bring glory and honour to our Lord.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thinking About How You Read

A few years back I was struck by the realization that the way I read the Bible was being handicapped by the way the pages were laid out. Here are just a few examples.

  • The pages are laid out in columns. What other book is laid out like that? When I read the Bible, I was subconsciously aware I was reading the Bible, and that affected the manner in which I read. It occurred to me that I couldn't really read the letters like they are letters or the stories like they are stories because I was thinking 'this is the Bible' while I was reading.

  • There are chapter and verse numbers everywhere. This means that all the problems from above apply, and more. Now I'm subconsciously inserting breaks in thought in wherever there are numbers on the page. But the writers of the Bible didn't put the numbers there, and so very often the numbers are in awkward spots, creating divisions where there shouldn't be one. I wasn't seeing connections between sentences and paragraphs because my eyes were reading artificial breaks into the text.

  • There are paragraph headings. While these are sometimes useful if I'm trying to find something in a hurry, they are a pain more often than not. They tell me the point of what I'm about to read before I read it--which necessarily limits my own ability to process the text and analyze it on my own, which would result in better learning, and longer-lasting ability to recall what I've read.

  • The spelling is wrong. This only applies to those of us north of the border, and you can call me crazy or say I have OCD or whatever, but I do notice when a book spells words the American way (i.e. 'Savior' instead of 'Saviour'). It just catches my eye and distracts me.
And then on top of these things, there is never enough room on a page of the Bible to write any good notes or draw lines connecting thoughts, or things like that.

So what have I done about it? I've taken matters into my own hands and created my own Bible. Sacrilegious as it sounds... it's not. I go to the ESV website, adjust the preferences so that it doesn't show chapter & verse numbers or paragraph headings, and then display a whole book. Copy and paste that into your word processor with Canadian spell check and bingo-bango, there ya go.

Once the doc is in your word processor, you can lay it out on the page however you want. I generally will do 1.5 line spacing, and leave large margins on the top, bottom, and sides of the page. Hit 'print' and you've got your own copy of the book to read, mark-up, and learn from.

Try it once and I guarantee it changes the way your read the book.

The way you lay out the words on the page will have a lot to do with your personality and the way you like to read and mark-up your Bible, so try a few different ways. Think hard about what distracts you from focusing on the words on the page and try to eliminate those to enhance your ability to freely read and understand the biblical text.

The only thing you need to do is respect copyright laws. Don't distribute copies of your books. I think you're okay to do this for your own personal use though (from the little I understand of copyright laws).

I've uploaded a couple pages of the book of James of my version, so that you can see it, if you like. I've only done the first little bit of the book here though, because I can't reproduce more than 50% of the book.

Download the pdf of the first part of James.

Let me know if you meet with any success!

What in the World is a Knol?

I haven't quite figured out how these things work yet, but I've attempted to create some knols. You can check out my bio here. It has a links to the articles I've posted so far.

I'm not really sure if the knol thing will take off or not, but I thought I'd throw some stuff out there and try it out. Let me know if you've got any thoughts.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Psalm 16

In a previous post I suggested a four-level approach to interpreting some of the Psalms along the lines of redemptive-history. Here I hope to model that in an abbreviated form, using Psalm 16.

1. Read the Psalm as David sings.
David cries to God as king of God's people, in dependence on him alone. As leader of the people his delight is in the saints (the holy ones). As their leader he won't participate in the worship of idols which leads only to destruction. Rather, he will worship and follow the Lord, because in him he has beautiful inheritance (the promise of a son to sit on his throne). As a man after God's own heart, David could indeed rejoice in the counsel and leading of the Lord. He knew that as a follow of Yahweh, he would not be abandoned to utter destruction, but that the Lord would finally redeem him. He looked forward to the 'pleasures forevermore' in the presence of God.

2. Read the Psalm as Israel sings.
The righteous of the people of Israel would rejoice that their king called on the Lord for help, and they would follow his example. The warnings of verse four (sorrows for following another God) contrasted with the promises of verses five and six (joy in God) served as general admonitions to each other to follow hard after their God, since there was no joy to be found elsewhere. As a people they could rejoice in the inheritance of the land that they had been promised. The Lord had given them his counsel in Torah and said he would dwell in their midst if they followed him. As a promise of God, they knew that the 'holy one' (those who were righteous) would not be abandoned by God in death, but would be saved from judgement.

3. Read the Psalm as Jesus sings.
In his human life, Jesus continually and perfectly sought refuge in his Father. The life that he had in himself was the Father's life, the words that he spoke were the Father's words, and the works that he did were what he saw the Father doing. He takes delight in the saints (the righteous) who hear his word and believe. He would not give in to the idolatry of the world, but perfectly fulfil the law in a perfectly pure life. His chosen portion and his lot were the person of his Father, through the mediation of the Spirit--his food and drink was to do the Father's will. In a truer sense than any mere human could ever know, when Jesus spent whole nights in prayer he could sing 'the Lord gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.' Because God was at his right hand, he was not finally shaken--even through all his suffering. His faith in his Father did not waver, so he was glad and rejoiced, knowing that his soul and flesh would be secure in the end. As Paul saw in Acts 13.35, this generic 'holy one' who would not be abandoned is specifically and ultimately fulfilled in the 'Holy One' who is Messiah, crucified and then resurrected. He who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life endured the cross for the joy that was set before him--he can sing more than any other: 'in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.' He can sing this as the one who has entered into God's presence in a way that none of us ever have or could.

4. Read the Psalm as Christians sing.
God, in Christ, is our only refuge from sin, Satan, and death. We have nothing but sin apart from the work of the Spirit of Christ, which he sent. The 'saints' are those who have been sanctified (set apart) by Christ's blood--and in our church we delight. We know that the sorrows of those who run after other gods will multiply because we have seen the ultimate sorrow for sin: the cross of Christ. We know that God is for us, and we know we have a glorious inheritance in Christ: we have been blessed with all the blessings of the heavenly places, and God didn't spare even his own Son, so how will he now not freely also give us all things? If he is for us, who can be against us? We surely cannot be shaken, because Christ was not and cannot be forsaken--we are ultimately secure. Since 'the Holy One' was not forsaken, we know that his 'holy ones' will not be forsaken; he has gone before us to make a way. Christ has secured for us pleasure forevermore and fulfilment of joy because he has prayed for us, that we would be with him, where he is, to see his glory and not die. There is therefore now no condemnation, but only joy in the presence of God.

What a glorious thought! What great reasons to sing!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Too Cute

I just had to post these. They're some pictures taken from the nursery of our church on a Wednesday night. The older kids in nursery are longingly watching the GraceKids classes outside playing games. It's awesome. (At least I thought they were looking at the other kids playing... on second thought, maybe they were trying to catch a glimpse of celebrity blogger Tim Challies at play. If you look close enough, you can find him too!)




Monday, July 14, 2008

Things I Love

Aside from my Saviour, my greatest love is for my family. So, of course, this post brings me great delight.

My wife, Stacey, has been blogging for a few months now--and I love it! This post is just reciting a few of our favourite memories of our kids from over the past few weeks. They grow up so fast... it's so much fun to think of all the different things they're learning.

Hope you enjoy it half as much as I did!

Read the full article here: Precious Moments

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Redemptive-Historical Approach

I thought that this morning I could offer another method I enjoy using while meditating on the Psalms. I don't really have a name for it, but it takes a sort of Redemptive-Historical approach. Using this method I'll read through the Psalm on four levels--which usually means reading through the Psalm at least a few times.

One mistake I've seen people make a lot of times is try to jump straight from the Psalmist's experience to their own. While this can be done sometimes without doing harm to the text, I think it generally misses the point of the Psalm, which is always to illustrate some truth about God, and how to live under his revelation (which, for the Christian, is often different than it was for David).

So here's what I do. Read through the Psalm once as David (or whoever the psalmist is). Think through his experience and his actual life situation (especially if there's an ascription). What did these words mean to him, in that moment of his life? This step seems overly simple, but it's something we often overlook in our rush to apply the text to ourselves. We forget that there was an actual psalmist who actually lived, who actually went through the things he's writing about. We don't want to forget that.

Second, I read through the Psalm from the perspective of Israel. This book was their collection of worship songs. How would they have sung these songs over the different periods of their history? Think through the stages of Israel's development, decadence, destruction, and return from exile? How would these words have taken on new life for them as they clung to the deliverance of God that they had seen (the Exodus) and the promises of God for the future for hope, salvation, a land, the presence of God, etc. Put yourself in their shoes and think through these words and they take on new life.

Third, read the Psalm as if it is a prayer of Jesus. Now, we want to be careful here because not all of the words of the Psalm may rightly be seen as Christ's. Confessions of sin and the like must be seen as the words of the psalmist and those who followed him only. This shouldn't stop us from seeing the heart of Christ in the Psalms, though. Very often, as David pours out his heart (which is a heart after God's), it reflects Christ's own situation and feelings very well. This is typology at its greatest! David's words are fulfilled--their meaning is 'filled up'--by Christ's experience. At the same time, they are heightened (e.g. if it was true for David that he was hated without cause, how much more for Christ!), and crystallized (e.g. Psalm 69.21: 'for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink'). The Great King who really has the heart of God, who was known as a man of prayer, who was a Warrior in the truest sense, who was ultimately hated without a cause and betrayed by his friends is Jesus. He ultimately fulfils the Psalms.

Finally, we get to us. How do the Psalms relate to us? They apply to us as followers of the one who has fulfilled them. Jesus taught that those who follow him will be associated with him, and therefore suffer persecution for righteousness' sake. Where the Psalms speak of forgiveness, atonement, the presence of God, the temple of God, we know even better than the psalmist how we ought to rejoice because of these things! The psalmist knew that the Lord made atonement for sins (Ps 65.3), but we know how he has done it! What the psalmist looked to and hoped in as promise, we look back on Christ and see as fulfilled promise. Our God has kept his word, and so our hope is sure. Even more than the psalmist ever could we can rightly call our God our hope, strength, shelter, tower, and refuge.

For the sake of length, I'll end here and hopefully give a concrete example from a Psalm soon.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Sermons on James

For those interested, I've added an rss feed on the sidebar for the sermon-series I'm preaching through the book of James. Whenever sermons from that series are put online, it will be posted here as well. As always through sermonaudio, the sermons are free to download, or else you can stream them directly from the website.

Our sermonaudio homepage is here.
The homepage for the series on James is here.

Friday, July 04, 2008

A Friday Meditation on the Psalms

In keeping with our current theme, I wanted to post something on interpreting the Psalms today. That being said, I am scrambling to get up to the cottage, so I didn't have time to write something new and thoughtful. But I came across this in my journal from a while ago, and it 'just happened' to be a meditation on one of the Psalms I'm reading today.

This is a model, but not an explanation, of one method that I've found helpful in interpreting and applying the Psalms to my heart. I pray through the Psalm using the 'How Much More' method.

The Psalms are reflections on living life before God under the law. They are offerings of praise and prayer to the God who has revealed himself in the Old Covenant. We, however, worship God in the New Covenant, so our worship--while it is still to the same God--is more informed, because God has been ultimately revealed in Christ. Our praise and prayer, then, must be a reflection of living life under the New Covenant.

The 'How Much More' method just finds a place where God has revealed an attribute of himself, or where the psalmist speaks of the deliverance or judgement of God, and says: 'If this was true for them, how much more have we seen this in the New Covenant, now that Christ has come.'

What follows below is a journal entry. It's a personal meditation from Psalm 34. Please only take it for what it's worth. I highly recommend you read the Psalm before reading the prayer below.

-------

The psalmist makes his boast in the Lord and admonishes the humble because he has been humbled. He was delivered by the Lord's mercy through his humiliation. How could he be proud? How could he boast of delivering himself by his might, worth, or wisdom? Far be it from me to boast of my salvation and my deliverance when I was humbled far beyond him.

David declares that he sought the Lord in his fears--and not without tears--and that God heard him and saved him from all his troubles. What were David's troubles but earthly concerns and cares for his life? My God, these are dire, but what of my soul? If David should cry and seek with tears, then how much more should I? David was afraid of those who could kill the body, but I am numb to the fear of him who could destroy body and soul.

David found God's deliverance super-abundant. The Angel of the Lord encamped and delivered him from his greatest needs. Therefore, he admonishes me today to taste and see. What can he mean by this except that I should call on the Lord in my fears and tears, even as he had done? He is confident of this: having tasted, none will be disappointed.

How true have I found this? Millions have called on the Lord in their distress and not been disappointed. The Angel of the Lord--Jesus Christ, God himself--encamps around me, delivering not just my body, but my soul from its greatest enemies: sin and death.

And now, Lord, I pray that in my current need, I would still find that as I taste, I find you good. My God, in your grace, be my delight, be my joy, be my soul's rest. For you alone are Delight, Joy, and Sabbath. I know this because I have tasted.

To what shall I compare this heart of mine which restlessly seeks its joy? It is like a cup that must be filled by either air or liquid. As the filling of a cup with coffee expels the air, so my desire for you--when it fills my heart--expels every earthly desire. Likewise, if I fill my cup with air, it necessarily means there is no liquid present. My heart cannot be full of you and desires for this world, its toys, and its pleasures.

Or perhaps these things may be compared to a man's appetite. Lord, I know that the only thing limiting my joy is my capacity for experiencing you. Just as a man at a buffet is limited only by the size of his stomach, so I find that my joy is only limited by my finite capacity for you who are Joy.

How can a man increase his joy in you? Only by experiencing you. As a man increases his appetite over time by eating, so my capacity for joy will only increase as I fill myself continually with you and your joy.

What a marvellous thought! I can taste and see, eat my fill, be completely satisfied in my eating, and all the while find that I am increasing my capacity for the joy I'll find in you tomorrow. No wonder David says, 'Taste and see..'.

The discipline of regularly finding my joy in God today is an investment. It secures a supply of joy for tomorrow. What a glorious God!

But then, how tragic to waste today...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Thoughts on Reading the Psalms

Here are just a few things that I find helpful on a very basic level with regard to reading the Psalms as a Christan.

  1. Read the Psalms regularly. One of the reasons the Psalms can be so little help to some Christians in their time of need is simply this: We're not familiar with them. They're a different type of literature than we're used to reading or hearing preached (usually a gospel or an epistle). When times of hardship and suffering, or feelings of guilt and depression, or seasons of joy and exuberance come, we don't know how to use the Psalms because we don't know where to look in the Psalms to find a suitable song for our emotions. Familiarizing ourself with the basic contents of the book and the different types of songs in the book will help us be quicker to flee to the Psalms in whatever season.


  2. Think hard through the Psalms. There are some tough passages and some tough expressions of anger, some strong words of love, some passionate promises to God... how much of this can we agree with? Can we apply it all? How much of what David writes is simply poetic expression (i.e. hyperbole, simile, metaphor, merism, etc.) and how much of it is 'literal'? Is it appropriate to pray these particular things as a member of the New Covenant? These are good questions to ask regularly--they are tough issues that each Christian will need to work through. Unfortunately, since there are some tough questions attendant with reading the Psalms, this often scares some Christians away. But it shouldn't!


  3. Develop a plan for reading the Psalms. Here's mine, that I've used several times. To read through the whole book of Psalms (a seemingly daunting task) really isn't that hard. You can do it no problem in a month. On the first day of the month (i.e. July 1), I read Psalms 1, 31, 61, 91, 121. On the second, I read Psalms 2, 32, 62, 92, 122. Today I read Psalms 3, 33, 63, 93, 123. There are 150 Psalms, so 30 days at this pace will get you through quite easily. Reading this intensely will help with both 1. and 2. above as well.


  4. Get help. Pick up a commentary if you need to. Ask one of your elders or a mature Christian you know well to help you through some of the tough questions that will come up.


  5. Pray. It's the word of the Lord, and therefore, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to illuminate and to apply. Ask him in faith, with no doubting, and he will.


  6. Ask to identify, not just understand. Sometimes we can become accustomed to just trying to 'understand' the words of the Bible. The Psalms will have nothing of that. If you're not affected in your heart by the truths of God and his work in revelation and redemption, then the Psalms won't make sense to you. Pray that the Spirit of God would give not just insight, but a heart that is genuinely affected by what it sees. Hearts affected by God's truth, for God's glory is the goal of the Psalms.
Hopefully I'll be able to post more on the interpretation of Psalms and how to 'get to Christ' from the Psalms shortly.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Thinking and Feeling with God

It seems that the Psalms are the centre of much attention in evangelicalism in North America these days. The Psalms is one of my favourite books, so this is exciting to me.

It has saddened me over the years to see how many Christians are somewhat unable to understand, identify with, and apply the Psalms to their own spiritual walk. This just makes me even more glad that great preachers are spending time there these days!

Here are some valuable resources:

  • John Piper has just finished up a six week study in the Psalms at Bethlehem Baptist. You can download those messages for free here. I recommend beginning with the first one because Dr Piper gives some insight into the Psalms in general before jumping into the text of Psalm 1.

  • At Covenant Life Church, they've taken a team approach to teaching a series on the Psalms. Stacey and I were blessed by Greg Somerville's message when we visited the church back in May. You can see a listing of the sermons available for free download or for streaming here.

  • Bob Kauflin's 'Worship God '08' conference that is coming up will focus on the Psalms as well. Perhaps the most fantastic thing about this is that they'll be releasing a new CD in conjunction with this conference.
I'm hoping to post some more of my own thoughts on how the Psalms ought to be interpreted and applied to the hearts and lives of Christians in the next few days.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Do Hard Things... Like Thinking Through Modesty

At a meeting last week we decided that it would be a good idea for the youth of our church to go through the book Do Hard Things by Alex & Brett Harris. It looks awesome, and I'm really excited for our youth to study it. Here's the thrust of the book:

Combating the idea of adolescence as a vacation from responsibility, the authors weave together biblical insights, history, and modern examples to redefine the teen years as the launching pad of life and map a clear trajectory for long-term fulfillment and eternal impact.
In preparation for this meeting, I was doing some research on books that the youth could do when I found the website for this book.

It's great!

They offer all kinds of stuff. There's info on the book, a blog, info on the conferences they put on, etc. There's even a study guide that you can download as a pdf to use the book in group contexts, like we want to do.

One of the great things that I found was this: A modesty survey. I was sceptical at first, but it is really useful! I would gladly add it to my list of recommended resources on the modesty issue. I love that they're tackling this issue with young ladies--again, aiming to 'set a clear trajectory for long-term fulfillment and eternal impact.'

Here's what the site says about the survey: 'Hundreds of Christian girls contributed to the 148-question survey and over 1,600 Christian guys submitted 150,000+ answers, including 25,000 text responses, over a 20-day period in January 2007.' The different ways you can look at and analyze the results gives some great insight. Take some time and look it through.

'It has been endorsed by Shaunti Feldhahn (best-selling author of For Women Only), Nancy Leigh DeMoss (author, Revive Our Hearts radio host), Albert Mohler (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), Shannon Ethridge (best-selling author of Every Woman's Battle series), and C.J. Mahaney (Sovereign Grace Ministries).'

What they (and the guys filling out the survey) hope to affirm to Christian ladies is this:
As a Christian guy with a deep appreciation for feminine modesty, I hereby affirm and commend the following biblical truths to my sisters in Christ:
  • Please, approach the survey as a resource, not a list of rules.
  • Always honour your parents above the results of the survey. (Ephesians 6:1-3)
  • Seek personal feedback on your attire from the godly men and women in your life.
  • Remember, modesty is first and foremost a matter of the heart, not the wardrobe.
  • Faithfully pursue the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. (1 Peter 3:4)
  • Let your good works outshine your outward appearance. (1 Timothy 2:10)
  • Dress for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
What better goals could their be in dressing than honouring parents, esteeming brothers, and desiring the glory of God?