Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Secret of Our Identity - Thomas Merton

During my research and study for my sermon this coming Sunday on Mark 2:1-12 (“The Healing Power of Forgiveness”) I came across some quotes from Thomas Merton from his book New Seeds of Contemplation. In the midst of my message this week I spend a short time dealing with the issue of finding the healthy balance between our constant need to acknowledge the depravity of our sinful nature and at the same time embrace the joyful hope and victory of forgiveness we know in Jesus Christ. While I did not quote Merton in my sermon, his words here helped me think about sin in a more personal way, as wrote his reflections on finding our true identity in Christ rather than in our “false self.”

Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person; a false self. This is the man that I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. . . . My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion.

We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves – the ones we are born with and which feed the roots of sin. . . . A life devoted to the cult of this shadow is what is called a life of sin.

All sins starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the universe is ordered. . . . I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world . . . but there is no substance under the things with which I am clothed. I am hollow, and my structure of pleasures and ambitions has no foundation. . . . and when they are gone there will be nothing left of me but my own nakedness and emptiness and hollowness . . .

The secret of my identity is hidden in the love and mercy of God.

Therefore I cannot hope to find myself anywhere except in Him. Ultimately the only way that I can be myself is to become indentified with Him in Whom is hidden the reason and fulfillment of my existence. . . . If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self, I will find Him.

But although this looks simple, it is in reality immensely difficult. . . . if I am left to myself it will be utterly impossible. For although I can know something of God’s existence and nature by my own reason, there is no human and rational way in which I can arrive at that contact, that possession of Him . . . that is something that no man can ever do alone. Nor can all the men and all the created things in the universe help him in this work.

The only One Who can teach me to find God is God, Himself, Alone.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Winning for Christ - Kurt Warner

"Everything I do, everywhere I go, I'm trying to live up to or represent Jesus. Having the faith I have is first and foremost in my life." — Kurt Warner, quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals

Everlasting God - Chris Tomlin

Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord
We will wait upon the Lord
We will wait upon the Lord

Our God, You reign forever
Our hope, our Strong Deliverer
You are the everlasting God
The everlasting God
You do not faint
You won't grow weary

Our God, You reign forever
Our hope, our Strong Deliverer
You are the everlasting God
The everlasting God
You do not faint
You won't grow weary

You're the defender of the weak
You comfort those in need
You lift us up on wings like eagles

Life-threatening illness helps couple get money smart

This is a quote from a current news article from CNN that seems to brings together my last two postings on this blog – economic stress and living in the light of eternity.

At age 23 and fresh out of college, Eliot Kohan was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. He was told he had four months to live. He survived. But the disease left him and his wife, Lindsay De Vore, who live in St. Paul, Minnesota, saddled with thousands of dollars of medical bills on top of their student loans and daily expenses. But their struggles taught them an important lesson in saving money.

"When you have medical issues, it's easy to spiral into some sort of depression," he said. "My goal was to keep moving forward. I wanted to create some stability for our us." All of that hard work saving for the past few years has paid off.

To read the whole article, Click Here.

Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford

The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. (Proverbs 22:7)

Here is one of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits – which is clearly appropriate in the times of economic stress we are all feeling. Chris Parnell teaches Steve Martin and Amy Poehler the secret to financial success. It's all detailed in a new book called, "Don't Buy Stuff You Can't Afford." The basis premise is - “If you don’t have any money, you should not buy anything.” Click Here watch the video.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)

A Good Death – Howard Thurman

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." (John 12:24-25)

This is from “A Good Death” from the book The Inward Journey by Howard Thurman, who is one of my “dead guy” mentors whom I read on a regular basis. I have always appreciated how Dr. Thurman expresses the deeper truths of the Christian life in ways that makes you stop and think beyond the moment. This particular quote touched my heart as I recently recognized my own need to once again re-focus setting my heart solely on God and living my life in the light of eternity.

A good death is made up of the same elements as a good life. A good life is what a man does with the details of living if he sees his life as an instrument, a deliberate instrument in the hands of Life, that transcends all boundaries and all horizons. It is this beyond dimension that saves the individual life from being swallowed by the tyranny of present needs, present hungers, and present threats. This is to put distance within the experience and to live the quality of the beyond even in the intensity of the present moment. . . It is the place where Life has been long since accepted and yielded to, where the private will has become infused with the Great Will, where the child of God realizes his Sonship. This is the knowledge that the son has of the Father and the Father of the son – this is to know God and to abide in Him forever.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Freedom is not Independence

Who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods? (2 Samuel 7:23)

During my devotion time this morning I was struck again by the freedom I have been given in the cross of Christ. I was particularly touched by the end of King David’s words to God here: “. . . your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt.” What we are reading here is that God sovereignly freed His chosen people Israel from their enslavement in Egypt - in order to bind them to Himself. This is not how we normally think of freedom.

God defines freedom much differently than we do. In our sinful state we continue to fall victim to seeing freedom as independence. The freedom we have been given by God is not to be independent from God, but rather so that we would fully belong to God. For those who see this as an Old Testament teaching, they need look no further than 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” Jesus sacrificed his life on a cross to free us from our enslavement from sin, evil, and death not so that we might have the freedom to do as we whatever we want - but rather so that we might have the freedom to fully live our lives for Christ.

Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:15-18)

Friday, January 23, 2009

He Hurls Down His Crystals of Ice Like Crumbs

This clip is of the spectacular South American glacier, The Perito Moreno Glacier, which breaks up every four years like clock work, give or take a week. This every-four-year event has gone on for centuries – and photographers from the four corners of the earth that come to southern Argentina and literally camp out at the glacier site in order to get the actual breakup on film.

He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
who can stand before his cold?
He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow and the waters flow
Psalm 147:17-18

from the Winklers

O Lord, my strength . . . in whom I take refuge

Sometimes I feel like this cat in my walk with the Lord.

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
Psalm 18:1-3

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Faithfulness of God

If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:13)

This past week I found myself treasuring anew God’s faithfulness in my life. The truth of being a saved sinner who lives in a fallen world is that there are some days when my greatest need is to know that in spite of what is going on in me and around me – God will always be faithful to His character and to His promises. If we are truly in Christ, the deepest reality in our lives is not just that we have sinned, are sinning, and will continue to sin against God – but also that He has always been, is, and will always be faithful towards us.

Despite our inconsistent actions, unreliable walk, selfish motivations, and erratic faith – God is faithful! While we must not let His faithfulness towards us become a license to continue in our wayward ways, we also must acknowledge that our constant struggle with sin - and our ever-changing states of heart, mind and emotion - are delightfully irrelevant to the consistent, unfailing, steadfast love of our most sovereign God that we have been promised through Jesus Christ.

In putting Psalm 96 to memory some time ago, I still always find myself greatly relieved and joyfully blessed at the end of the psalm:

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord,
for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in HIS faithfulness.
(Psalm 96:11-13)

Understanding the Bible

A quote from Franz Delitzsch from "Biblical Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah."

When you're trying to understand a passage in the Bible, weighing different interpretations, here is the ultimate criterion for deciding. Which one is "an interpretation worthy of God"?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Having Problems Running Audios and Videos?

I have heard from a few people that they are having trouble listening or watching or loading audios and videos on this website and linked websites (Acts 2:42 and My Favorite Music).

Last December I ran into the same problem and after some research found that my flash-player had somehow been corrupted, as well as my Winsock configuration. For those of you who don’t know what that means – I am with you! But in spite of my ignorance, after spending some time doing more research I was able to solve both problems.

1) If you are having this problem, first try replacing your flash-player. You will need to uninstall your current flash-player and then install the most recent updated one. I have posted both programs for you here.

For the program to uninstall your current flash-player, Click Here.

For the program to install the most recent updated flash-player, Click Here.

After you have done both of these, shut down your computer, start it up again, and try listening/watching/loading audios and videos.

2) If you are still having problems hearing/watching/loading audios and videos, then try repairing/resetting your Winsock settings. Again I have posted the program for you below.

For the program to repair/reset your Winsock, Click Here.

May God bless you with patience and success!

Atheist Endorses Christian Missionaries

"Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem—the crushing passivity of the people's mindset."

British atheist Matthew Parris, recognizing in The Times of London "the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa. . . . In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good."

to read the whole article, Click Here.

The Blessing of the Economic Crisis - Paul

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

from the Bible in Philippians 4:11-13 by the apostle Paul

The Blessing of the Economic Crisis - C.S. Lewis

My own experience is something like this. I am progressing along the path of life in my ordinary contentedly fallen and godless condition, absorbed in a merry meeting with my friends . . . or a bit of work that tickles my vanity . . . when suddenly a . . . headline in the newspapers that threatens us all with destruction, sends this whole pack of cards tumbling down.

At first I am overwhelmed, and all my little happinesses look like broken toys. Then, slowly and reluctantly . . . I try to bring myself into the frame of mind that I should be in at all times. I remind myself that all these toys were never intended to possess my heart, that . . . my only real treasure is Christ.

from "The Problem of Pain" by C.S. Lewis

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Blessing of the Economic Crisis - John Piper

The Genuine Joy of the Lord - A. W. Tozer

Then he said to them, "Go your way, eat the fat, drink
the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is
prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for
the joy of the Lord is your strength.'
(Nehemiah 8:10)

We are missing the mark about Christian victory and
the life of joy in our Savior. We ought to be standing
straight and praising our God!

I must agree with the psalmist that the joy of the
Lord is the strength of His people. I do believe that the
sad world is attracted to spiritual sunshine—the genuine
thing . . .

When the warmth and joy of the Holy Spirit are in
a congregation . . . and the folks are spontaneously
joyful, the result is a wonderful influence upon
others. . . .

I have said it a hundred times: The reason we have
to search for so many things to cheer us up is the fact
that we are not really joyful and contentedly happy
within. . . . But we are Christians, and Christians have every
right to be the happiest people in the world!

from "Tragedy in the Church: The Missing Gifts” (pp. 10,11) by A. W. Tozer

Friday, January 9, 2009

Living for Jesus: Cultivating an Eternal Perspective

"Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

Here is an excerpt of an interview by Trevin Wax with Andy Crouch about his book "Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling." To read the entire interview, Click Here.

Trevin Wax:
You critique our emphasis on “impacting” the culture. What is the harm in speaking this way?

Andy Crouch: “Impact” is a terribly misleading noun masquerading as a verb. As in, “I want to move to New York and impact the culture.” This betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how cultures work. Human cultures are designed to absorb and deflect impact. There is nothing a culture resists so strongly as “impact.”

Peter Berger and others have made a very persuasive case that one of culture’s essential functions is to ward off the “impacts” that threaten us from the outside world—the unpredictable calamities of nature, the threat of other tribes and nations, and the ultimate perplexity of death. So if you want to provoke a really effective immune response from a culture—if you want to ensure that every cultural resource will be mobilized against you—set out to “impact” it.

Trevin Wax:
If seeking to “impact” the culture is not the way that culture changes, how does cultural change take place.

Andy Crouch: When cultures change in beneficial ways, it is almost never the result of “impact” but rather patient and long-term cultivation, measured in decades or centuries. I am very dubious whether “impact” is the right word even for such a dramatic effort as William Wilberforce’s campaign against the British slave trade, given that it took quite literally his whole lifetime to accomplish.

The best example of cultural “impact” I can think of in our lifetime is the 9/11 attacks. They created impact, all right. But did they create anything good? No. And think about how remarkably quickly, in retrospect, our whole culture mobilized to regain its sense of normalcy, to resist any real change in our values, priorities, and lifestyle. On September 12, 2001, I never could have imagined how quickly we’d be back in shopping malls. But that’s how cultures work. The only way to change them—in beneficial ways—is over a very long period of time. . . .

Trevin Wax: You warn your readers to “beware of world changers - they have not yet learned the true meaning of sin.” How does your view of sin chasten your expectations to “change the culture?”

Andy Crouch: Given my record of “transforming Andy,” I am very wary of grand talk about “transforming the culture.” Whenever I hear overheated rhetoric calling Christians to cultural transformation, I want to ask them: How is your project of personal transformation going? I don’t mean that in a snide or sarcastic way. When I consider my own growth in Christlikeness (especially if I consider what my wife would say about it!), I can only conclude that whatever halting progress I have made in becoming more Christlike is entirely attributable to God’s grace, not to any particularly impressive strategies I have pursued. Why should we expect anything different for the culture?

Whatever good may happen in our cultures, especially at the largest scales, is assuredly out of the grasp of any single human being or even any large and motivated group of human beings. That does not mean, of course, that we stop seeking to cultivate and create good things in the world. It just means that the ultimate change or transformation that may come from our efforts is truly not our responsibility. If we think that we have somehow gotten our hands on the levers of power and we are now set to “change the world,” we have not even begun to come to grips with how fragile our own capacities are to ensure that what we create does more harm than good.

Trevin Wax: What is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection for those who would seek to be culture-makers?

Andy Crouch: The resurrection of Jesus was and is the most culturally significant event in history. It has changed more than anything else before or since. I think that is not just a religious statement but an empirically verifiable one. If you don’t believe in the resurrection, substitute “whatever the heck happened just after the Passover in CE 33,” because “something” happened that year that changed the world—and that’s not a phrase I use lightly.

Having said that, there are some remarkable things about the resurrection that challenge many of our tacit assumptions. Its cultural effects were the very opposite of “impact.” On Easter Monday, nothing had measurably changed in the surrounding culture, at all, in any way. One hundred years later, reports of an obscure sect begin to show up in the memos of minor Roman functionaries, but that’s about it.

And yet by 350 perhaps half the Roman Empire are Christians. That is not “impact.” That’s what Jesus described as a mustard seed—starting off all but invisible, yet eventually growing into a tree where the birds can nest. (By the way, that would be one unusual mustard plant, but I think that was part of Jesus’ point. Not only does the Kingdom begin so small you would never notice it, it becomes larger and more hospitable than you ever would have imagined.)

Second, the resurrection was a response by God the Father to the passion of the Son. “Passion” means suffering. It is the opposite, in its Latin origins, of “action.” Jesus’ most significant cultural act was to entrust himself to God on the cross. Without that act of radical trust, it’s very likely that his teaching and healing would be of no more cultural significance than any other itinerant preacher’s collected sayings in first-century Judea.

This suggests to me that for all our proper focus on what we cultivate and create in the midst of our cultures, the most important thing, by far, that we will do as Christians in culture is to pursue a life of deeper and deeper faith in and faithfulness to God.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Giving a Bible to an Atheist

This is from Eric via The Irish Calvinist.

An Exhortation to Evangelize from an Atheist

The avowed atheist and public entertainer Penn from Penn and Teller recounts an interaction with a Christian man who brought him a Bible. He asks some very good questions that we as Christians need to hear and, frankly, answer.

“How much do you have to hate someone to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How to Help Kids Memorize the Bible

Here is Orison Piper, the three old son of Abraham and Molly Piper (and grandson of Noel and John Piper) giving us a lesson on how to memorize Scripture. This was posted January 1, 2009 on Molly Piper’s blog. Here is the introduction to her posting:

During the month of December, we decided to read Luke, Chapter 2 every night before bed with Orison. We would do our Advent Calendar reading for the night, then Orison would settle into his bed for Daddy to read the account of Jesus’s birth.

He got excited about the repetition and predictability of it. “Are we going to read Luke 2 tonight?!?!”

The effect of reading one section of Scripture every night for a month was surprising. Nothing we anticipated, really. But on December 23rd, Abraham got him started and did an experiment to see how many words he knew in the story.

Basically, he just kept going. And going.

He had the whole thing almost word-perfect from verses 1-21. We were STUNNED!

Acts 2:42 Resource Page

In November of 2008 we at Arrowsmith Baptist Church began meeting together twice a month (initially for the first and third Sunday evenings but now on the second and fourth Sunday evenings) for a time of teaching and prayer – which we call Acts 2:42 ("They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers"). Our first two gatherings we focused on teaching about prayer and praying together. This coming Sunday evening (January 11, 2009) we will beginning a teaching series on the History of the Bible and A Guide to Biblical Interpretation.

As a help for those who are involved or interested in the material that is taught I have put together an Acts 2:42 resource page on which will be posted the outlines/notes of what is presented – and the power point presentations when possible.

To access the Acts 2:42 resource page from here simply click on the picture of the eagle and the hawk on the right-hand side of this website, which also includes Acts 2:42 on the picture in bold black letters. The resource page is also accessible from a link on the front page of the Arrowsmith Baptist Church website.
The address for the page is

Praying for Your Pastor – Ligon Duncan

Here is a posting from Ligon Duncan on the Together for the Gospel website.

Because I have a congregation that loves me more than I deserve, I am often asked by them: "how can I pray for you?" I've tried to put some thought into how I answer that question. So, maybe these ideas will help you pray for your pastor, or tell others how they can pray for you.

Pray -

1. That [your pastor] would know and love the living God, would have a saving interest in Christ, being purchased by His blood, and thus would be bound to the Lord by the indissoluble bond of the Holy Spirit.

2. That [your pastor] would know, embrace and ever more deeply understand the Gospel and be shaped by it in life and ministry.

3. That [your pastor] would be useful servant of the Lord, that he would know and love God's word, God's people, and God's kingdom; that he would be used to build it up and so that it prevails even against Hell's gates.

4. That [your pastor] would study, practice and teach the Word of the Lord, by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

5. That [your pastor] would love to pray, because he loves to commune with his God, and that he would be a man of prayer, characteristically.

6. That [your pastor] would be ever dependent upon and filled with the Spirit; and that he would possess true Spiritual wisdom.

7. That [your pastor] would be holy unto the Lord. That his tongue and heart would be wholly God's.

8. That [your pastor] would be kept from pride, and especially spiritual pride. That the Lord himself would be gracious to slay pride in him, and that your pastor would endeavor to always be putting pride to death, by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

9. That God would give [your pastor] guidance as to where to focus his efforts in ministry.

10. That He would protect [your pastor] from himself, from the enemy of his soul, and from all earthly enemies.

11. That no decision which [your pastor] ever makes or desire that [your pastor] ever pursues would restrict his ability to pour his whole soul into the Gospel ministry.

12.That many would be converted and many built up under [your pastor]'s ministry, to God's glory alone.

13. That the Lord would bless [your pastor]'s wife, [. . . ], with holiness and happiness, Gospel assurance and Gospel rest.

14. That God would make [your pastor] a decent husband and father.

15. That [your pastor] would be a good friend to his wife, and love her self-sacrificially,

16. That [your pastor] would be a good daddy to his children. That they would love God, their parents and the church.

17. That [your pastor] would be a testimony in the home so that his wife might be able to respect him when he is in the pulpit, and so that [your pastor] will be able to feed her soul, along with the rest of the congregation.

Bible Reading Plans

Click Here to access a number of Bible reading plans that can be done in a number of different ways.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Memorizing Scripture – John Piper

Here is a list of what memorizing the Word of God has meant for John Piper from this past Sunday’s sermon “If My Words Abide in You.” To watch Dr. Piper speak about this list, Click Here. To read/hear/watch this sermon, Click Here.

1. Memorizing Scripture makes meditation possible at times when I can’t be reading the Bible, and meditation is the pathway of deeper understanding.

2. Memorizing Scripture strengthens my faith because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ, and that happens when I am hearing the word in my head.

3. Memorizing Scripture shapes the way I view the world by conforming my mind to God’s viewpoint.

4. Memorizing Scripture makes God’s word more readily accessible for overcoming temptation to sin, because God’s warnings and promises are the way we conquer the deceitful promises of sin.

5. Memorizing Scripture guards my mind by making it easier to detect error—and the world is filled with error, since the god of this world is a liar.

6. Memorizing Scripture enables me to hit the devil in the face with a force he cannot resist, and so protect myself and my family from his assaults.

7. Memorizing Scripture provides the strongest and sweetest words for ministering to others in need.

8. Memorizing Scripture provides the matrix for fellowship with Jesus because he talks to me through his word, and I talk to him in prayer.

Truth Chiseled in Stone

Blagojevich's pick has résumé chiseled in stone
CNN Wednesday December 31, 2008

Anyone who doubts Roland Burris' qualifications to serve as the next senator from Illinois may want to head to Chicago's Oak Woods Cemetery.Roland Burris has erected a mausoleum listing his accomplishments in Chicago's Oak Woods Cemetery. There, Burris, whom embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed to succeed President-elect Barack Obama in the Senate on Tuesday, has erected a granite mausoleum listing his many accomplishments.

Under the seal of the state of Illinois and the words "Trail Blazer," Burris, 71, has listed his many firsts in granite, including being the state's first African-American attorney general and the state's first African-American comptroller. The memorial also notes that Burris was the first African-American exchange student to Hamburg University in Germany from Southern Illinois University in 1959. There appears to be enough room to add "U.S. senator" to the memorial, but Burris may never get a chance to serve in Washington.

A Senate Democratic aide told CNN on Wednesday that plans were in the works to prevent Burris from being seated in the Senate.

Democratic leaders seek to resolve Burris dispute
Associated Press Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Roland Burris failed to capture President-elect Barack Obama's old Senate seat Tuesday in a wild piece of political theater. . . .

Burris marched into the Capitol earlier Tuesday, declaring himself "the junior senator from the state of Illinois." But Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson rejected his certification, as he knew she would, saying it lacked Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White's signature and the state seal. . . .

Some of Burris' supporters have bemoaned the fact that Democrats would stand in the way of the Senate gaining its only black member. Burris himself downplayed the issue of race, telling reporters: "I cannot control my supporters. I have never in my life, in all my years of being elected to office, thought anything about race."

Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit. (Proverbs 12:17)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gratitude and Concerns – Ray Ortland

This is the December 31, 2008 posting from Ray Ortland's blogsite.

Going into this new year of grace 2009, I am thankful for four things and concerned about four things.


1. The gospel is being rediscovered and rejoiced over and ransacked in a fresh way, as evidenced by Together for the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition, Acts 29, etc. God seems to be creating new conditions for revival in the future. I hope I see some of it in my lifetime.

2. The rising generation, now in their 20s and 30s, are both theologically-minded and emotionally-intense toward the Lord. This is a powerful mix. If they will stay focused, we're in for some good days. Future buffetings will test us, and we are all weak. But the race of Hebrews 12:1-2 is always runnable, if we will keep our eyes on Jesus.

3. The age of parachurch usurpation seems to be ending, and the rightful, biblical dignity and authority of the church are being re-asserted. Since the church is where God locates his power (Ephesians 3:20-21), again, it looks to me like the preconditions of revival.

4. The Bible is the focus of renewed fascination and serious study. I see the success of the ESV Study Bible as one evidence here. Pragmatism is less acceptable as a form of validation, and biblical authority is increasingly required. This is the Lord Jesus himself touching us with his royal scepter, asserting his authority, for his greater glory and our greater power.


1. Too many churches remain uninvolved in and even unaware of the new things God is doing. They seem stuck in old patterns of dysfunction. Will they be left behind and lost to tragic inconsequentiality?

2. A tsunami of sin has been slamming us for years now, especially through the internet and increasingly filthy "entertainment." When will we get sick to our stomachs, sick of ourselves, sick enough to cry out to God for the massive cleansing only he can give? We tolerate sins that put our Savior on the cross. When will we become indignant enough to change?

3. Even in churches and movements that God is blessing, still, prayer can appear to be perfunctory at times. What is our confidence -- our cool personalities, or the power of the Holy Spirit in our weakness?

4. My generation and above has most of the money. What are we doing with it? Padding our comfortable lives, or plowing it into the cause of Christ? Lazy self-indulgence is a huge temptation for older people. But the next decade can be the greatest season of our entire lives, if we will invest our historically unprecedented wealth in the rising generations of Christ's soldiers.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Vocational Calling - C.J. Mahaney

My family and I were recently talking about the sacredness of God’s calling in all vocations of life. Today I came across this blog posting entitled "Roles" by C.J Mahaney. This is just an excerpt; to read the whole posting Click Here.

It’s not hard for us to imagine that pastors and church planters are called by God. This is clear to us throughout Scripture. So when we come across the first verse in Romans, where Paul says he was “called to be an apostle” (ESV), we have no problem with this.

But what about the rest of us? What about a stay-at-home mom with two kids? What about an auto mechanic? How about a real estate agent and a business owner? Has God called them? What about you? Are you aware of being called by God to a particular task?

Disagreements over a “theology of work” are common throughout church history. In fact (I was just told) the Middle Ages was marked by a stiff distinction between sacred and secular work. Pastors and church leaders were considered called; laborers were not so called. One is sacred; one is secular.

Then along came a Reformation. Not only did the Reformers make a giant stride by viewing “secular” work as a calling from God, they took a second step and broadened this calling to include not only work but also vocation.

Leland Ryken writes in his book Redeeming the Time (Baker, 1995), “The early Protestants rightly conceived of our callings as being much broader than our job. All of our roles in life are callings. Being a spouse, a parent, a church member, a neighbor, and a Christian are all callings” (p. 151).

By this, the Reformers introduced an understanding of God’s sovereignty that included all of life—every vocation, every detail, every moment.

Today it appears that many Christians aren’t clear on their work as calling. Christians are normally clear that we should live out the Christian ethic in the workplace. But the Reformers were calling for something bigger. . . .

But how can I be certain of my own calling? How can I know I am in the right job? Am I in the proper career path? What about where God wants me in the future? How do I determine God’s intended vocation(s) for my life? . . .

It may be that our vocation is not clear because we have not started with these two questions:
Where has God placed me? Where am I positioned to serve others?

Take a moment to look down at your feet. Go ahead, look. For most of us, our feet are currently resting within the geographic circle of God’s calling on our lives. In the future God may call you outside that circle. But that is for another time.

I fear too many Christians are so distracted by thoughts of the future that they cannot discern with clarity how God has called them to serve in their present vocations. Though they show up for work each day, they don’t work with passion and joy each day.

The Kiss

This is from Walter and Sandra. Because of God's sovereign creative process, there does seem to be a special relationship that reveals itself at times between animals and humanity.

She is pregnant; he had just saved her from a fire in her house, rescuing her by carrying her out of the house into her front yard, while he continued to fight the fire. When he finally got done putting the fire out, he sat down to catch his breath and rest.

A photographer from the Charlotte, North Carolina newspaper, noticed her in the distance looking at the fireman. He saw her walking straight toward the fireman and wondered what she was going to do. As he raised his camera, she came up to the tired man who had saved her life and the lives of her babies and kissed him just as the photographer snapped this photograph.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. (Genesis 2:18-19)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year

Here is a posting from Don Whitney’s website. Click here to read more.

Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with Him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. "Consider your ways!" (Haggai 1:5) he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.

Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It's so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we're going and where we should be going.

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

New Year

O Lord,
Length of days does not profit me,
except the days are passed in thy presence,
in thy service, to thy glory.
Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides,
sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour,
that I may not be one moment apart from thee,
but may rely on thy Spirit
to supply every thought,
speaks in every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote of faith,
and give me a desire
to show forth thy praise;
testify thy love
advance thy kingdom.
I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,
with thee, O Father, as my harbour,
thee, O Son, at my helm,
thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.
Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to thy calls,
my heart full of love,
my soul free.
Give me thy grace to sanctify me,
thy comforts to cheer,
thy wisdom to teach,
thy right hand to guide,
thy counsel to instruct,
thy law to judge,
thy presence to stabilize.
May thy fear be my awe,
thy triumphs my joy.

"The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotion"
edited by Arthur Bennett