Sunday, December 30, 2007

Answering Islam

I am currently reading the book Answering Islam for my upcoming Theology of World Religions class. So far I am only through the presentation of what Islam believes. While I think that becoming a Christian is much more than praying a prayer, it appears that it just takes one affirmation to become a Muslim. Apparently, all one has to do is affirm, "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the apostle of Allah." C'est tout!

I have found that there are many convenient things about how Islam views both Muhammad and the Qur'an. Muhammed had kind of a checkered history in getting his religion off the ground. What's convenient is that any persecution can be seen as the forces of evil at work rather than God telling you to stop it. The same goes for any Christian who claims to have some kind of direct revelation from God. Jesus certainly raised His share of rabble too, so the fact that Muhammed faced trouble is not that big of a deal. However, his stance on raiding caravans is kind of interesting.

What I find most fascinating is how the Qur'an evolved. It seems that later surah's can supercede earlier ones. That means that, while there appears to be internal contradictions, the faithul Muslim can get past this based on the rule of abrogation. Convenient, no?

I look forward to reading more of this book. I probably would not have got to it if it wasn't assigned for this class. Take a look at Amazon and note the ratings for the book. Think there is any bias?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Value of Liturgy

Check out this blog post by the author of my second-year Greek textbook. There is some stuff in there that got me to thinking.

I've read about some people who have "crossed the Tiber" and become Roman Catholics because they crave tradition in their worship services. The longer I spend at our megachurch, the more I understand that. However, I firmly believe that it is more important to be biblical than traditional. There is a part of me that wishes I didn't have to fight my mom so much about Catholicism. I wish I could embrace the tradition, the beauty, the pageantry, etc. But as I read the Bible I just can't do it.

What I do think about is the incredible murals painted on the ceiling of my mom's childhood church of St. Procop. I did a bit of digging and found that you can take a virtual tour of the windows and see one of the ceiling murals. St. Stanislaus is another beautiful church, but in the Gothic style. Going to Mass there makes you feel connected to something that has existed for centuries.

I've also had a sense of that from reading through my new Bible atlas and looking through the photos in it. So much art is based on Bible stories because they were so important to the artists. It's great to look at works of art like the windows at St. Procop and think about the stories they represent.

I understand the reason behind the austere buildings used by most Protestants. I understand that most people in America can read and they don't need a series of stained-glass windows to tell the gospel story. However, I also wonder if maybe there is something to be said for some of that today. It's pretty incredible to look at the baptistry in Florence and realize that Michaelangelo was baptized there as an infant. We just don't have stuff like that in America. Maybe it's something that we can work on. The question is -- do enough people care to work on it?

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I finished going through my Discipleship Journal reading plan yesterday. Today I read about half of Psalm 119. I realize that I need to spend some daily time in the Greek New Testament. I wrote the same thing last year around this time, but now I'm better equipped for it.

I'm looking forward to starting with a fresh reading plan, but I do think I'll wait until Jan 1. The question is whether I'll stick to the ESV or if I'll try to read my NIV Archaeological Study Bible that I know I'm getting for Christmas?

One thing that occurred to me yesterday was how incredible it is to live in a country where I can read whatever Bible I want whenever I want to read it. It's also kind of staggering to consider how many Bible resources I have in my house. I've written on this before, but if you want to do any year-end pondering of things, think about how it is so easy for us to read the Word with the kind of fervor described in Psalm 119.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Notes from Esther

We finished OT 501 with a quick discussion about Esther. As you may know, there was some question about its inclusion in the canon. Part of that was because of the lack of any mention of God's name. However, check this out:

You probably remember the Israelites' battle with the Amalekites where Aaron and Hur held up his hands. The passage ends with:

Exo 17:14-16 ESV
(14) Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven."
(15) And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD is my banner,
(16) saying, "A hand upon the throne of the LORD! The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation."

Moses makes mention of the Amalekites later on:

Deu 25:17-19 ESV
(17) "Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt,
(18) how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God.
(19) Therefore when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget.

So we know that the LORD was going to give the Amalekites into their hands once they had rest from their enemies. Note that they were to blot out the Amalekites. Saul had a chance to do this, but:

1Sa 15:7-11 ESV
(7) And Saul defeated the Amalekites from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt.
(8) And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction all the people with the edge of the sword.
(9) But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.
(10) The word of the LORD came to Samuel:
(11) "I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments." And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the LORD all night.

So it looked like the Amalekites were spared and that was it, right? Not so. It turns out that:

Est 2:5 ESV
(5) Now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite,

You may recall that King Saul was also a Benjamite and a son of Kish. What about his nemesis in the story of Esther?

Est 3:1 ESV
(1) After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, and advanced him and set his throne above all the officials who were with him.

An "Agagite" means that he was from Agag. In other words, Haman was from the line that Saul spared. What ends up happening?

Est 7:10 ESV
(10) And the king said, "Hang him on that." So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the wrath of the king abated.


Est 9:13-14 ESV
(13) And Esther said, "If it please the king, let the Jews who are in Susa be allowed tomorrow also to do according to this day's edict. And let the ten sons of Haman be hanged on the gallows."
(14) So the king commanded this to be done. A decree was issued in Susa, and the ten sons of Haman were hanged.

Basically, Mordecai got to finish what Saul wouldn't. We tend to think of God's hand in the book of Esther in how she saved the Jews, but I think this is pretty amazing when you consider the centuries that passed between Exodus and Esther.

Yet there are those who would maintain that man has a will that can resist God if He has chosen a man for election.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Value of Trials

I've been doing some thinking about where I'm going with this blog. I've decided that I want to primarily use it as kind of an online journal on my spiritual life. The family blog is a better place to go for news. I will still make some departures for funny stories at work or other miscellanea.

Here is today's Tozer:

Now it came to pass at the end of seven days that the word of the Lord
came to me, saying, "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the
house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them
warning from Me." Ezekiel 3:16-17

I once heard a brother preach on the fact that the church should be
without spot or wrinkle. To get the wrinkles out of a sack, he said,
you fill it. To get a wrinkle out of a rug, you lay it down and walk
on it. God sometimes fills us, the preacher continued, but sometimes
He just puts us flat down so that everyone can walk on us!

King David long ago knew something of the latter method. He wrote,
"The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows"
(Psalm 129:3). I think David was talking about his enemies. And they
must have been wearing hobnail boots!

Ezekiel had just come to this kind of a low-ebbed, humbling
experience when God opened the heavens. In effect, God put His hand
on him and said, "Now I can use you. I have some words and some
plans that I want you to pass onto your country-men."
Men Who Met God, pp. 117-118

I realize that it is kind of trite, but the times of the most growth in my life came from trials. While I don't enjoy the times when I fall to temptation, I also know that they push me closer to God. I do not want to sin so that grace may increase, of course, but I do want to make sure that I let God use all the trials in my life to stretch me and get rid of the "scribbles" as Lily calls wrinkles in a sheet.

We're going through a mini-trial right now. Some sort of bug has made its rounds around the house. I felt a little off yesterday, though a nap in the middle of the day helped. Amanda has been stuffy and wonders if she has a sinus infection. Lily had a fever yesterday and woke up with it today. It's not been an easy few days. However, it has been great to just spend time with my family. It helps that I'm about done with classes too!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Something to Work On

One of my jobs at the bank is supporting the Blackberry environment. In fact, this is my primary job. We have ours set up so that if you enter your unlock password wrong 5 times the device will wipe itself out. This is a security measure in case you lose your device. As you might imagine, I spend a portion of each day helping users who have done this to themselves, despite all the warnings we give them.

One user is now on her fifth time doing this and I wasn't very nice to her to start with. She was clearly put out and rightly so. Then she went on to explain that she dreaded calling me because I was so condescending last time. That was news to me. I am not always as nice as I could be, but I really try to be positive with the users about the whole thing. I'll have to ask some of my other "frequent fliers" if they've noticed that with me. It certainly gave me something to think about.

That's about the extent of my navel-gazing on this, the 34th anniversary of my entry into the world.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Some Tozer

This was in my daily dose of Tozer:

For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will
of God, you may receive the promise.
--Hebrews 10:36

When God needs a person for His service-a good person, an effective
person, a humble person-why does He most often turn to a person in
deep trouble? Why does He seek out a person deep in the crucible of
suffering, a person who is not the jovial, "happy-happy" kind? I
can only say that this is the way of God with His human creation....

Ezekiel did not come out of pleasant and favorable circumstances.
The light had gone out in his heart. He probably thought that God
takes a long time to work out His will.

Does not this same view surface in much of our Christian
fellowship? We do not want to take the time to plow and to
cultivate. We want the fruit and the harvest right away! We do not
want to be engaged in any spiritual battle that takes us into the
long night. We want the morning light right now! We do not want to
go through the processes of planning and preparation and labor
pains. We want the baby this instant!

We do not want the cross. We are more interested in the crown.

The condition is not peculiar to our century. Thomas a Kempis
wrote long ago, "The Lord has many lovers of His crown but few
lovers of His cross." Men Who Met God, 115.

I think about how I live my life and this really resonates with me. I want to play the guitar, but I don't want to put the time into it. I want to know what is contained in so many great books, but I don't put the time into reading them. I want to understand Greek better, but I don't put the time into practicing it.

I am slowly starting to form some resolutions in my mind that I want to put down on paper (or at least a Palm Desktop memo). These would be similar to Jonathan Edwards' resolutions. I tried the Franklin Covey thing, but I think that resolutions might be more effective.

One resolution is to resolve to put in the time it takes to do what I have committed to do. Another is to maintain proficiency with anything that I have learned. I would hate to forget everything I've learned after 3 semesters of Greek.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Got Me Thinking

Take a read of this post from the Internet Monk. I feel pretty sure about nouthetic counseling. I really do believe that God's Word has the answers we need. I also am very wary of these mind-altering drugs because of their well-documented side-effects. However, it's hard to get away from the experiences that people share. Sometimes it feels so heartless to tell people that drugs are not the answer.

However, I realize that it is even more heartless to suggest that anything but Jesus is the answer. Nevertheless, I am glad for the challenge to my convictions. Perhaps they will soften over time.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Much Encouragement

I had an hour-long conversation with coworkers today about Jesus. This is a relatively new thing for me. It's something that I've spent much time praying for and now it seems to be happening. It turns out that most of my coworkers are basically relativists who are very ecumenical in their thinking. I like to think that I gave some cogent apologies for the gospel, but we'll see if any fruit comes of it. I'll also be interested to see if I get treated any differently.

My seminary dropped something of a bombshell on me with a letter I received yesterday. It turns out that they are moving toward day classes. Starting in the fall of 2009 they will offer first year classes during the day. Then in 2010 they will offer first and second year courses during the day. By 2011 just about everything will be in the daytime. It's good to finally know when this is going to happen since all I got before was vague rumors from the faculty.

However, this puts me in a bit of a bind. I realize that I now need to take 3 classes per semester instead of the 2 I've been doing. I'm going to start this next semester by taking Biblical Counseling along with the second semester of Old Testament and the fourth semester of Greek. I think I'll be OK, though I suspect I'll be spending more time in the library. I'm afraid of the strain that this will put on Amanda. Fortunately, my Thursday night class is only from 6-8 PM instead of 6-9. Hopefully I'll be home in time to put Lily to bed this way.

The good news about all of this is that I now have a real end in sight. If I get some credit for the work I have done with SCF I could theoretically be graduating in the spring of 2010 if not the spring of 2011. Of course, this also depends on what courses are offered in the summers. Not being able to take one of my required courses last summer hurt a little bit, but we were kinda busy once Noah was born. I think I made the right choice.

This also puts the specter of career change front and center. It's hard to believe that in 3 years I may have a completely different job. Speaking of my job, I've been more upbeat about it lately. More on that tomorrow.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Buying Time

Is anyone left out there? I feel badly leaving the blog for 3 weeks. First there was OSU-Michigan, which turned out well, but ate up a day. Then there was the long Thanksgiving week. Then there was the week of catching back up. Here we are now.

I've decided that I need to reclaim some of my time. One way I'm doing that is by reducing my workload with SCF. I'm now going to focus on The Lord's Table and mentoring there. It's tough because I always considered the purity course to be my "core competency," but I know that I have to let some things go. It's really been a pride thing, I think.

Speaking of purity, I know that at times I am on the edge with this. I have lost the fervent zeal that I once had. I think that I've become complacent in my freedom. By that I mean that I forgot what it was like to keep up the shields all the time. I can feel little chinks forming in the armor.

Also, speaking of time, I may very well be taking 3 classes next semester. My school is going to start transitioning to day classes starting in 2009, so I'd better get a move on with all my core classes. I hope that I can finish and keep working at the Bank.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Feeling Dry

I've been doing a pretty good job of updating the family blog, but I realize that I've been kind of slack here. What's the problem? I'm feeling a bit dry.

I'm starting to feel a bit burnt-out with Setting Captives Free. I think it's just a matter of the time taking its toll. I seem to go through this near the last third of each semester, so I think it's just a cyclical thing. However, it's not a lot of fun. I want so much to revel in what Christ is doing in people's lives. To do any less is really to cheapen God's grace.

School is going well. We're off this week because my professor is in San Diego for a couple of conferences. We're off next week for Thanksgiving. It was hard, but I did manage to get through my Greek translation today. Normally I do this on Sunday or Monday and then review every day up until class, but I just couldn't get it going. Amanda called me one of the most disciplined students she knows, but stuff like this is hard for me.

Meanwhile, I've got my one page paper on Ruth only half-written. I need to get done with that so I can move on.

I think that it would be good for me just to relax a bit tonight. I haven't done much of that lately.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Not Too Devastated

My alma mater finally lost today. Illinois gave them all they could handle and they lost 28-21. I had just started to hope in them, so this wasn't too crushing. It certainly wasn't as bad as the championship game last year.

I'm beginning to think that Eomer should be my avatar along with the quote, " not trust to hope. It has forsaken these lands."

Friday, November 09, 2007

A Blast from the Past

We had a little conversation at work the other day regarding calculators. To the right you can see a photo of my baby. I didn't always use one of these. No, I cut my teeth on a Radio Shack scientific calculator that actually folded into a convenient pocket size. In fact, the doctor who first diagnoses autism in Rain Man used one as he was trying to stump Ray with tough math problems. Then I graduated to a Casio (I think FX-80) that I got from someone. I sold that and then acquired the FX-81 from my girlfriend in college. Finally, I upgraded to the HP.

The HP was not easy to use at first. The Reverse Polish notation was kind of tricky; however, as the linked article states once you get used to it you don't want to go back. I had a hard time ever using my friend's TI-85 after I got used to my calcuator.

I pulled it out of its case today, which was no small feat because the zipper is not in good shape. I think it may be corroding a bit here in my damp basement. At least I had the good sense not to have batteries in it since I had to scrape away a lot of corrosion the first time I used it post-college. I did my normal 1 1 + calculation and played with a few exponents. Then I put it away.

I realize that I likely won't ever have a use for this again. Maybe I can leave it to Noah or Lily. Then again, they might get beat up for having such a relic. Their professors may remember though.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Reformation Day Thoughts

For those of you who don't know (and I didn't until this time last year), today is Reformation Day. I suspect many of you thought that it was merely Halloween, which is a pagan holiday that many Christians refuse to have anything to do with. It is that too, but it also marks the 490th anniversary of Martin Luther tacking 95 theses on the door at the cathedral in Wittenberg. As someone who rejects the Catholic Church's interpretation of the gospel, I am glad for this day.

However, this post has helped to temper my glee a little bit. It serves as a good reminder that we need to call out the bad in any organization, but that we should theoretically be on the same side. We all want to live in a way that glorifies God, right? I mean, theoretically that's the idea. The Jehovah's Witnesses would say that they want to do that, but they disagree with my theology as I do theirs. It is good that there are distinctives because we do believe different things. However, should we really revel in them?

I think I'm going to look at this day as the day when someone was willing to challenge the self-appointed supremacy of the Catholic Church. I think it was a great day for truth. However, I don't think that we should be quite ready to make Luther into a saint. Nor should we throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to tradition. Is it better to have a church with authority or individuals who can all go their own way? I really like the perspective that this post gives.

I attend a Calvinistic, dispensational seminary. I'm not sure if I'm dispensational or covenantal, but I do know that I am Calvinistic. However, I also realize that this may have to do with the teaching I've received. I like to say that my authority is in the Bible, but it may be just as much in John Piper as it is in the Bible.

A classmate of mine presents this problem well. He used to read a variety of commentaries on a verse and wonder about how to resolve the conflicting views. Now that he knows Greek pretty well he can decide who has good and bad exegetical practices. However, not everyone agrees on how to interpret the Greek. So that leaves you with decisions to make about which lexicon or exegetical commentary you're going to trust.

So where does that leave us? We have textual variants of the manuscripts. We have competing translations of various verses. We have competing interpretations in systematic theology. It's enough to push your faith to the brink of destruction.

It leaves me in a position where I know that we can be sure about some things and we need to be gracious about others. I do know that we cannot waver when it comes to salvation by faith alone though.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Mina Project

Our church had another sermon on money this past Sunday. I knew pretty much what the whole sermon was going to be because I had heard it before. I knew that we would hear the phrase "God owns it all". I thought about how we spend our money and I figured that I would get through a Sunday with very little conviction about the sermon.

Then at the end a surprising thing happened. Our church normally gives away about $35,000 during the Christmas season. Instead of doing it the usual way the church decided to give everyone 18 and over an envelope with an amount of cash between $10 and $500. The challenge is to use the money to help someone in the community. We can't spend it on ourselves and we can't give it back to the church. We do have to tell the church what we're doing with it, however.

This suddenly made the message a LOT more challenging. I'm pretty good at funding others and other organizations. I've flirted with the idea of being a missionary. However, this is where the rubber meets the road. What can I do with this money to the glory of God? How can I show the love of Jesus and make Him seem infinitely valuable through the use of this money?

Incidentally, Amanda and I each got $20. I'm glad it wasn't $500. I think God realizes that I need to start small with this. I'd welcome any ideas anyone has.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Coming Up

I feel like my spirit is starting to lighten a bit. My daily prayer is for God to soften my heart toward Him. It's not that I'm hard-hearted toward Him so much that I'm just not enjoying Him like I should. I tend to focus on external things like reading the Bible more, singing praise songs, etc. However, I forgot just how much I need to pray for transformation. There are few better things than to have a heart that is soft and enjoying God.

I find that listening to good preaching really helps with this. I've started listening to more podcasts in the car. I've really been enjoying Mark Driscoll's sermons on Philippians and Nehemiah. I realize that much of the Reformed Community doesn't quite know what to make of Mark. On the one hand, he is a good expositor and clearly holds Scripture in high esteem. On the other hand, he makes some off-color metaphors that really rankle the fundie rank and file. I don't find him particularly offensive, but rather I find him quite refreshing. At least I tend to remember what he says when he preaches!

So far, my favorite story is one he tells about a friend who has problems, but is not a believer. Driscoll keeps telling him the answer is Jesus. No matter what problem he brings up Driscoll keeps telling him, "you need Jesus". He talks about problems his kids have and he gets the same line. Eventually the friend got upset and said that he was tired of hearing that and Driscoll told him that he'd better stop asking if he doesn't want to hear that. The point was that we have a choice to make -- do we offend the asker or do we offend God? That should be a no-brainer, right?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Greek Results

We took our first midterm in Greek last week and I got a 96. I feel kind of silly because I overthought something and missed it. I also missed a vocab word and that just kills me every time I do that. The vocab is the easiest part and I review it daily. Still, I have yet to get a perfect score when I do my own personal review.

I've been getting 100s on my vocab quizzes because we get credit for doing our assigned reading. I've been getting 95s on my verbal translation quizzes. If I do my sums correctly and keep this up I will only need to get an 85 on my final, which should be very doable. I'm feeling pretty good about my grades this semester as long as I keep it up.

We've moved from 1 Thessalonians to 1 Peter. Peter has a very different writing style from Paul. He likes to do things like splitting up the article from the participle. It's kind of tough when you're trying to just sight-read the passage. It's good practice though.

We were told what next semester will be like. Each of us will get a passage in 1 Corinthians that we will spend all semester with. We'll have to diagram it, pick it apart, unpack it, etc. Then at the end we have to prepare a sermon on it. It should be interesting. If nothing else, it will give me good practice at preparing a sermon. The thought of preaching in front of my Greek class is a bit scary. They know when you're full of it! Or at least they should.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Little Perspective

The Indians got thumped last night 12-2 and I'm not sure if it was really even that close. I have had some really good conversations with my mom over this series. She says that she is ready to give up on pro sports because she thinks that they are all grossly overpaid. I'll be surprised if she follows-through on it, but I would be impressed if she did.

I'm very disappointed that Sabathia and Carmona have pitched so poorly in this series. I expected Sabathia to split his two starts against Beckett and for them to win Carmona's two starts. Carmona pitched terribly, which can happen to 23 year-olds who are on the big stage. I think my surprise comes from how well he pitched against the Yankees.

At any rate, I find the whole thing very disappointing and frustrating, but it helps me keep perspective on this thing. I would love it for the city of Cleveland to finally have a winner. The town is not doing well right now. Unemployment is high, crime is rampant, and winter is just around the corner. The town could really use a winner. Our could it?

Maybe this whole thing helps to reinforce just how badly the town needs Jesus. Of course, every town needs Jesus. I've been listening to a series of messages on Job preached by the president of my seminary. It helps to put suffering in perspective and to realize that all suffering is meant to point us to the cross.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Paul Byrd

I am now a huge Paul Byrd fan. Check out this interview.

I disagree with his theology about Seventh-Day Adventists, but that's OK. I may actually get my hands on his book. It would be great if the library carried it.

I cannot believe the pressure on Christian athletes. It would be so easy to give in to infidelity and, of course, porn. I imagine that Paul Byrd has been tempted more than once to doctor the ball a little bit. I'll take his word that he hasn't.

All I know that is that he helped the Indians get to where they are right now. He won the game where they eliminated the Yankees and he put the Indians in a great spot to eliminate the Red Sox. Hopefully I'll get to experience one more start from him in game 4 of the World Series.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I'm only posting this as proof that I'm still awake after the Indians took game 2 of the ALCS. What a ride.

Tomorrow is going to be a sleepy day. But it's OK. I'm enjoying this.

Oh, and the Buckeyes are likely to be #1 in this week's poll with LSU and Cal both losing. Is this the year for my teams?

Friday, October 12, 2007


I've had a mixed week spiritually. I think that my focus has been a bit off with the MLB playoffs. I'm enjoying the Indians' run and I do hope that they can win the World Series. I was excited when they won game 2. I clapped and pumped my first when Derek Jeter grounded into a key double-play in the 6th inning of game 4. I was very happy when Borowski struck out Posada to end the series. But I find that I am not bursting with joy like I once would have.

I think this is a good thing. However, I also know that I'm not always bursting with joy about Jesus either. These are the dangerous times. Earlier this week I found myself getting too close to the line while surfing the web. It's time to get refocused on the cross!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Sounds of Victory

I am something of a Tom Hamilton junkie. Here are some of my favorite moments of the ALDS:

Martinez goes yard in game 1.

Kenny Lofton hits an RBI double in game 1.

Carmona fans A-Rod in the 9th in game 2.

And, perhaps my favorite:

Borowski fans Posada to finish the series. Note how quiet the stadium (or should I write The Stadium?) gets.

I'm ready for the Sox!

Secret Confessions

I've started to read the stuff that I see when I get to my Blogger Dashboard. I noticed that Post Secret has a new book out. For those of you who don't know, this is a site that lets people send in postcards with various confessions. I spent some time looking at old entries via Google Images, and this is what I've found:
  • Many relate to sex. These vary from stories of molestation and rape to stories about using sex to get back at people.
  • Many relate to drugs and alcohol
  • There are many about abortions
  • There are plenty that are about doing generally secret naughtiness (i.e. I like to urinate when I swim)
It's really fascinating to see these. I know that some people are very depressed and they don't feel like they have anywhere to turn. I sure hope that no Christians are using this site. The reason I write that is because we should be able to talk to our brothers and sisters in Christ about these kinds of things. That is what the body of Christ is for. At the very least, we can talk to God about these dark places in our lives.

I can tell you that the site is very intriguing, but it's also very sad. Some of these people are so desperate for help that you just want to reach out to them and show them the love of Christ. Actually, we're all that desperate, amen?

I realize that this sounds like a pat Christian answer. It's probably not something that Doug Pagitt would recommend, though I suspect John MacArthur would. The world can use something like PostSecret because it doesn't know Jesus. What it really needs is Jesus.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Reading History

In my assigned reading for Old Testament we're in the chapter about History. This book does a great job of giving a balanced, scholarly look at how we should read the Old Testament. It does challenge some of our notions, which I think is good.

There was a part of this chapter that explained how we should read the history books in the Old Testament, specifically 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, and 1-2 Chronicles. The warnings were not to take all described behavior as prescriptive and not to try to read every part looking for devotional or doctrinal material.

I do think that the whole Bible is about Jesus, but I also know that we need to be careful about over-allegorizing the Old Testament. To paraphrase Freud, sometimes a chariot is just a chariot.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A Plague on the Yankees

As I watched Game 2 last night, I could help but think of:

Exo 8:16-19 ESV
(16) Then the LORD said to Moses, "Say to Aaron, 'Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats in all the land of Egypt.'"
(17) And they did so. Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats in all the land of Egypt.
(18) The magicians tried by their secret arts to produce gnats, but they could not. So there were gnats on man and beast.
(19) Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God." But Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

I suppose God cares about who wins a ballgame in the sense that He is in control of all things. However, I don't see how He would answer prayers for one team over another. I do know that last night's swarms of midgies was very weird. It was distracting enough for my namesake (J. Chamberlain) to lose his control and give up a run without the Indians getting a hit. It seems like things like this normally work for NY and against a team like Cleveland.

Incidentally, from what I've seen in the language he uses in interviews, there seems like a good chance that Joba is a Christian. I know Andy Pettitte is too. They seem like good guys. I'd like them more if they didn't play for the Yankees.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Pointing to the Cross

I sense a theme in the teaching I've listened to, the blogs I've read, and the teaching I received from Setting Captives Free. It's the need to keep everything pointed back to Jesus. This is obviously not anything new. However, it's a good reminder that I need from time to time.

It's going to be very hard to sit through the discussion of Numbers tonight while I wonder how the Indians are doing in the ALDS. I like to think that my priorities are in order, but I'm still going to be a bit torn...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


I support the blackberry environment at my company. Some people refer to these little devices as "crackberries" because they are almost as addictive as crack. People like to stay connected and some families have had problems because mom and dad can't put the things down. They just feel compelled to keep doing email. I often laugh with the people in my company who are like that. Then I get smug and think about how I'm not like them.

A good friend of mine hosts my email. The ISP that hosts his mail relay was down for 32 hours, so I wasn't getting any email. I get a LOT of email every day and this was starting to bother me last night. It was OK during the day since I probably shouldn't be doing a lot of personal email during work hours anyway, but it stopped being funny as I went to bed last night. It just started working again in the last hour and my old messages are trickling in.

I've come to realize that I am no different than my workaholic team lead. I am no better than those salespeople who like to think that the Bank will shut down without them. I think this email outage was a good reminder to me that I am not Setting Captives Free. I'm just someone who helps out by grace alone. God is in charge of all this and I'm just a tool in His hands. I need to remember that.

This also reminds me that I need to be careful when I do get into full-time ministry. I could see how it can take over someone's life if they aren't careful.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

All I'm Askin'.... for a little respect. I've been thinking about why I'm getting so psyched for the playoffs. I wonder what the point is of even getting excited about watching men try to hit a ball with a stick, carry a ball over a line, put a ball through a hoop, etc. Why do we get so excited about our teams?

I think that we want to be a part of something bigger. The Indians are going to be on the biggest stage in the world because they are playing a team that is synonymous with baseball around the world. In fact, I think that the interlocking "NY" is almost synonymous with America in some circles. Everyone knows Jeter, A-Rod, and Clemens. Who knows about Grady Sizemore?

I still think the Indians will sweep the Yanks. Or, they may take 4 games, but I think the Indians can do it. If they get past the Yanks I think they can win the whole thing. But even more than that I want to see Sizemore shine on the big stage. In the pivotal series against Detroit he did something that is quintessentially Grady. He had a bunt single, stole second, and scored from second a ground ball that the second baseman knocked down, but couldn't field cleanly. That is the kind of thing that Ty Cobb used to do. The difference here being that, as far as I can tell, Grady Sizemore is not a flaming jerk.

I also hope to see him make one of his signature catches. He has an uncanny knack for laying out for fly balls and coming up with them. I'd love to see Derek Jeter hit a ball to the gap in right-center only to have Sizemore outrun it with a diving catch and end a rally.

They're on the big stage and it's time to shine for C-Town. Let's hope they can do it.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Go Tribe!

Forgive me for being a bit less serious than usual, but I am excited about the prospect of the Cleveland Indians this year in the playoffs. I think that their starting pitching can hang with anyone's (even San Diego's who is inflated by PETCO park). I think they have enough balance in the lineup to find a way to beat anyone.

I'm predicting Indians in 3 against the Yanks. Game 1 will be close and Joe Borowski may cause some ulcers, but I think the Indians will prevail. I think Games 2 and 3 will be lopsided victories for the Indians.

I rarely feel this confident about my Ohio sports teams. I haven't felt this confident since OSU played Florida for the National Championship back in January. Oh, wait a minute...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Tozer -- the Fire

I got this today:

September 28

Revival: The Fire Falls

And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, "These things says He
who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: 'I know your
works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.'"
--Revelation 3:1-2

For a long time I have believed that truth, to be understood, must be
lived; that Bible doctrine is wholly ineffective until it has been
digested and assimilated by the total life....

We must be willing to obey if we would know the true inner meaning
of the teachings of Christ and the apostles. I believe this view
prevailed in every revival that ever came to the church during her
long history. Indeed a revived church may be distinguished from a
dead one by the attitude of its members toward the truth. The dead
church holds to the shell of truth without surrendering the will to
it, while the church that wills to do God's will is immediately
blessed with a visitation of spiritual powers.

Theological facts are like the altar of Elijah on Carmel before the
fire came, correct, properly laid out, but altogether cold. When the
heart makes the ultimate surrender, the fire falls and true facts
are transmuted into spiritual truth that transforms, enlightens,
sanctifies. The church or the individual that is Bible taught
without being Spirit taught (and there are many of them) has simply
failed to see that truth lies deeper than the theological statement
of it. That Incredible Christian, 92-94.

"Lord, send the fire today. Amen."

This really speaks to something that has been going on inside of me for a while. On one hand, I don't want dead orthodoxy. On the other, I don't want empty works. I want a faith that is built on the truth of God's Word and that really loves to see the wonder of God's Word. I want that to increase my love for God and to push me into action for His glory. That is the kind of faith I want.

I certainly echo Tozer's prayer. Don't you?

Thursday, September 27, 2007


I find it amazing how much real work I get done when I need to study for a test. I have my first Old Testament test tonight. I think it will be OK as the professor has been pretty generous in grading so far. We have had a total of three quizzes. I got a 105 on the first because I got the bonus question right. As I took the second I felt terrible because I wasn't prepared for what he asked. In fact, since I know the professor a little bit I felt embarrassed to turn the quiz in. I felt like it was going to be a slap in his face that I didn't prepare for his class. I got a 100 on that one.

Given that, I think I know what I need to know. Here are some interesting points to consider about the Pentateuch and about Genesis and Exodus:

Why did Moses put Gen 1-11 in the book?
  1. He wanted to show that the God of the covenant is the creator God
  2. He wanted to show what rest looks like
  3. He wanted to introduce the idea of a promised land
  4. He wanted to introduce the idea of a nation that would come through Eve's seed
  5. He wanted to introduce the idea of the blessing that will come through God's covenant
  6. He wanted to show what walking by faith looks like
Have you ever considered that the Pentateuch is often called the "book of the Law" but is really more of a book of guidelines? Law is part of it, but it is mostly narrative with some poetry. The Law part really goes from Sinai (around the middle of Ex 15) until Num 10. Num 10 - Deu 34 is really about leaving Sinai and taking the land.

We had some fascinating stuff on the eschatological implications of the Pentateuch. Sometime check out Gen 49, Num 24, and Deu 31. Note what is going to happen "in the last days". Lots of stuff about Jesus!

Those are some highlights of my studying. I hope that I can remember some of this past the test, but I'm not counting on it. To me, the important thing is to remember having studied something and knowing where to look to learn more about it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Great Difference

As I mentioned previously, I enjoyed lunch with a friend yesterday. We were talking about getting older. He and I are almost symmetrically far from 30, me on one side and him on the other. He asked me if 30 made me feel any different and I had to say that it didn't. I feel like I did a lot of maturing when I dealt with sexual sin in my life. Having a baby at 29 also helped me to grow up a little bit. I'm in better shape now than when I was 23, so I don't have that either.

What I do have now is ear hair. Ear grows out of the little flap covering my right ear canal. A little bit grows around my ear, but it's mostly there and it's mostly on the right side. In fact sometimes I stroke it thoughtfully when it gets long. This totally disgusts Amanda.

If that's all that happens as I age I'm cool with that.

Monday, September 24, 2007


I had lunch with a friend from church today. He is younger than me and is one of my few links to the generation with whom I have no real connection. I don't really speak their language and don't really understand the cultural stuff they do. Perhaps part of it is that they were the first generation to have the internet in their house while they were in high school.

At any rate, we were talking about the music in church. I confessed that yesterday I was thinking about sports while we were singing "How Great is Our God". That is a fantastic song and in fact I think that it won a Dove award, for whatever that is worth. However, my mind was just wandering. I was thinking about how Ohio State dismantled Northwestern and Bill's dream of OSU slipping into a National Championship under the radar like they did in 2002. I was thinking of how the Indians needed just one more win to clinch the AL Central Division. Basically my mind was far from what we were singing.

Why does this happen? Sometimes I think that I can't really deal with what we sing in church. Some of these songs are so rich that I will just break down if I really consider what it means. But then again, I don't do nearly enough contemplation of God's greatness besides, so isn't that what the singing time in church should partly be?

He agreed that happens to him sometimes too. He has an interesting dilemma where he says that Jesus is often more a character in a story than a real person that he can truly identify with and give his troubles to. I know that I can relate to that. Sometimes I'm so busy making sure I have the right theology that I miss the forest for the trees.

I will say that we sang "Jesus Paid It All" afterwards and I couldn't sing it because my voice kept cracking. That hymn got me through my initial battle with sexual sin. It is a song that I need to remember more often. The modern version was from one of the Passion CDs. I really like the drums after each chorus as well as the bridge. Check it out on iTunes.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

More Tozer

I got this one today and I think that it speaks volumes about where things are in the church today:

Revival: Don't Substitute Praying for Obeying

So Samuel said: "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and
sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is
better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams."
--1 Samuel 15:22

Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of
late-and how little revival has resulted?

Considering the volume of prayer that is ascending these days, rivers
of revival should be flowing in blessing throughout the land. That
no such results are in evidence should not discourage us; rather it
should stir us to find out why our prayers are not answered....

I believe our problem is that we have been trying to substitute
praying for obeying; and it simply will not work....

Prayer is never an acceptable substitute for obedience. The sovereign
Lord accepts no offering from His creatures that is not accompanied
by obedience. To pray for revival while ignoring or actually flouting
the plain precept laid down in the Scriptures is to waste a lot of
words and get nothing for our trouble. Of God and Men, 55-57.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; show me any wicked way that
needs to be corrected in my own life before revival can come. I'm
praying for revival; help me to also be obeying. Amen."
I think about some of the blogs I read that are very strong on orthodoxy, but I wonder how much practice there is? I recall all the "amens" about John MacArthur's stance on using the Word of God to relieve stress and the scoffing at Doug Pagitt's scoffing. But how many of those people are going to pornography to relieve stress? Or maybe even more telling, how many are going to food to relieve stress?

I certainly don't think I have the market cornered on personal holiness. I've been down that road and have realized the futility of it. I have my stumbles that remind me of the battle that wages in me. However, I also know that despite all my counseling, teaching, and learning I do not rely on the Word of God as much as I'd like. I certainly preach better than I live.

In other words, I think that a lot of us in the Reformed blogosphere talk a good talk and make sure that none of our Reformed brethren would accuse us of heresy, but are we walking the walk?

1Co 4:19-20 ESV
(19) But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power.
(20) For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tightly Packed

It occurred to me last night that my life is a lot like how it was when I was a Chemical Engineering Major at OSU. I remember one quarter when I had 4 classes, but was busy just about every waking moment. Now I only have 2 classes, but a lot more going on, including a full-time job. I stay pretty busy.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm really bringing glory to God with my life. I am reminded of Charles Spurgeon who said that he'd rather burn really intensely for the gospel for a short while rather than take it easy and live an extra 10-20 years. I doubt that Spurgeon slept much more than I did. On top of that he was certainly gluttonous and he suffered from gout. I guess in some ways I have it easier than he did.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Greek Week

No, I'm not talking about rushing a fraternity. I was thinking about how my weeks go with studying Greek and I thought I'd share this. Ride the roller coaster of emotions with me:

Work frantically to finish up translation and get ready for verbal quiz. Fortunately, I got things pretty well cemented last night, but should be reviewing my notes instead of blogging. I have class where much is explained.

Pretty mild day. I am more focused on getting ready for my Old Testament quiz that night. I will review my vocab, however. I review vocab daily and add words as often as I can. I'm currently at over 400 words and down to words that occur at least 34 times in the New Testament. Believe it or not, I still have roughly 1800 words to learn if I want to know every word in the New Testament.

Start to read the textbooks. The books make sense at a certain level, but it is impossible to truly absorb all the material. For example, there are a LOT of uses of the genitive case in Greek.

Saturday and Sunday
Despair. I start to translate the week's passage and feel like I don't know what I'm doing. I look up words in the lexicon only to discover that it is some inflected form of a word I already know.

Deeper despair. How will I ever have this ready for the quiz?

Hope and lightness. I'm ready to be like Calvin and go up to the pulpit with nothing but my Greek text. After a few times through the passage it finally starts to click.

It really is exciting to learn something new like this. However, it is also challenging. I find that the thick grammar we use is actually quite interesting. I thought that it would put me to sleep, but it doesn't. I like the discussions of the various controversies regarding exegesis.

All this is to say that I need to keep pressing on.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Missing the Fun

The intensity of my life is starting to weigh me down a little bit. I am really glad that I don't have my Thursday night small group anymore as that was just too many nights gone each week. However, this semester isn't much better. They say that if you chew peppermint gum while studying you should also chew it while taking a test because the senses work together that way. If that's the case then I need a screaming 12 week-old to be next to me while I take my Greek quiz tomorrow.

I've managed to sneak in a quarter of NCAA Football '07 with Lily here and there. We also played a game of chess yesterday. However, I haven't had much time just to sit and relax for a while. The only thing approaching that has been sitting and having coffee with Amanda on Sunday. The problem there was that I always feel like I need to try to have a meaningful conversation with her. So that's work too...

I'm not sure what the solution is going to be. Lily's birthday party is this weekend and I'm getting a little bit wrapped up in the preparations for that too. I have to make a cake that looks like a teapot. It should be an interesting exercise, to say the least.

The good news is that we are on a protracted work-from-home schedule. It's nice to be able to get some things done during the day here and there.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Today's Tozer

I get a daily devotional that has something from A.W. Tozer. I've copied today's below as it really encourages me not to worry so much about what is happening with others. If I want to be on fire for God then I can let all the stops off and enjoy Him.

Revival: Meet God Alone First

But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your
door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father
who sees in secret will reward you openly.
--Matthew 6:6

Nothing can prevent the spiritual rejuvenation of the soul that
insists upon having it. Though that solitary man must live and walk
among persons religiously dead, he may experience the great
transformation as certainly and as quickly as if he were in the most
spiritual church in the world.

The man that will have God's best becomes at once the object of the
personal attention of the Holy Spirit. Such a man will not be
required to wait for the rest of the church to come alive. He will not
be penalized for the failures of his fellow Christians, nor be asked
to forego the blessing till his sleepy brethren catch up. God deals
with the individual heart as exclusively as if only one existed....
Every prophet, every reformer, every revivalist had to meet God alone
before he could help the multitudes. The great leaders who went on to
turn thousands to Christ had to begin with God and their own soul.
The plain Christian of today must experience personal revival before
he can hope to bring renewed spiritual life to his church. The Size
of the Soul, 15-16.

"Lord, I pray this morning the words of Jonathan Edwards: 'Resolved...
that all men would live for the glory of God; resolved, second...that
if nobody else does, I will.' Amen."

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Direct and Indirect Cheering

As I type this Michigan is clobbering Notre Dame. Traditionally, this is the one game each season when I root for Notre Dame, but I'm actually a bit torn. Michigan has played so badly in the first two games this year that I actually am starting to feel badly for them. It was fun when they made history by losing to App State. It was funny for a while when they lost to Oregon. Then I realized two problems with this:

1) It seems like the universe is off-kilter. Michigan isn't supposed to be this bad. It's like Moriarty leaving obvious clues for Sherlock Holmes and not having a scheme behind it.

2) My attitude has been decidedly non-Christian. A fun part of sports is ribbing each other when there is a rivalry. However, I think that I took it too far last week. In fact, I had trouble sleeping on Sunday the same way I feel when I start looking at things I shouldn't. Not good.

I think that this is an opportunity for me to grow a little bit. Meanwhile, I'm going to keep supporting OSU and keep rooting against Michigan, but I think I may do it with a bit more grace. Time will tell.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Nuggets in Genesis

I'm really digging my Old Testament class, though I didn't do so well on yesterday's quiz. I think I blew it off too much after finding the previous week's to be rather easy. Fortunately we get to drop 2 quizzes in the class.

Here is a passage to chew on a little bit:

Gen 6:5-9 ESV
(5) The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
(6) And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
(7) So the LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them."
(8) But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.
(9) These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.

Notice that Noah is first introduced as one who "found favor in the eyes of the LORD". It turns out that this idea of finding favor is the same idea as receiving grace. In other words, Noah first received grace from God. Then he was declared a righteous man.

This sure reminds me of what happens when we are in Christ. First we are sinners. Notice that in verses 5-7 man is described as being wholly wicked. This includes Noah. Again, I am reminded of how we are described in Ephesians 2.

Eph 2:1-3 ESV
(1) And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
(2) in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--
(3) among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Can a dead man change anything about his condition? No, but God can.

I just marvel at how God's sovereignty is so clear throughout Scripture. I certainly can't explain why He chooses to act as He does, but I know that He deserves all the glory and praise.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Little More Peaceful

The blogosphere is a bit more peaceful today. One of my least-favorite evangelical sites has been shut down. I actually do feel somewhat badly for the author because I know that she was doing what she really believed was the right thing. She thought it was her God-given duty to call out every problem that she perceived in the evangelical church today. She is a heretic-hunter par excellence.

I just don't know how much that site really helped anything. Were any Purpose-Driven churches changed because of her articles? Has Benny Hinn decided to shut down his operations? More importantly, how many people have been steered clear of any perceived problems? I guess if a few have then it was worth it.

She wrote in her farewell article that it hurt her to have someone write that "finding a good article on that site was like finding a nickel in a spittoon". As she so clearly demonstrated, Christian fellowship and love does not mean agreement. Apparently she is the only one allowed to vent her spleen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A 9/11 Dichotomy

I heard an interesting interview on NPR today. They were talking to a retired Army specialist who had served in Iraq and spent some time in the Walter Reed hospital after being wounded. They asked him his overall thoughts on the conflict. On one hand, he doesn't ever want to see another flag-draped coffin arrive in the States. On the other, he doesn't want all of the sacrifice already done to be in vain.

What gets me is that the people who thought that the war was a good idea in the first place now want to create a power vacuum there and have us come home. They want for us not to finish what we started. That seems patently ridiculous to me.

On the other hand, I know from my bible that there is never going to be peace in that region. But does that mean we shouldn't do what we can right now? Should we just abandon the area? I don't think so.

Lord Jesus, come quickly!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Can You Dig It?

My office is in the basement of my house. As might also be expected, the main water line comes into our basement. This means that I know when someone is using a toilet or sink upstairs because I can hear the water flowing through the pipe. For the past week or so I've heard a steady hissing coming from the water pipes. At first I thought maybe we had a leaking toilet or faucet, but I couldn't find one. That's when I got nervous and went into serious troubleshooting mode.

When I turn off the house's main shut-off I can still hear the noise. When I turn the water off at the street I don't hear it anymore. This tells me that the problem is somewhere in the main supply line. I hope that being able to hear it means that the leak is near the house.

I spoke to a general contractor that we've used before and told him my thoughts. He thinks my diagnosis makes sense. He also told me that the supply line is likely PVC. If that's the case I think I can fix this myself. I am really looking forward to stopping work for the day so I can dig up my yard and see what is going on with this. I really want an end to this literal drain of money.

Monday, September 03, 2007

My and Daniel Wallace

Like just about anyone else in their second year of Greek, I have my copy of Daniel B. Wallace's Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. I know that one of my pastors has a copy of this that he got when he got his MDiv.

Frankly, I dreaded reading this book. In the first year of Greek you learn about the five basic cases of nouns (nominative, vocative, genitive, dative, and accusative). Now we're learning about all the flavors of these cases. There are a lot of them! Some of them are pretty obscure, but some happen fairly often. This book has a definition, clarification, and examples for every flavor. I thought that this book would put me to sleep, but I actually find it quite interesting.

I translated 1 Thessalonians 1 today. I'm actually parsing every noun, adjective, verb, and participle this time. I didn't do that last year, though now I wish I had. I feel like it is starting to gel a little bit more.

Better get to my vocab. I need to know 550 words by the time of my final. I'm around 350 now, so I just need to add about 20 each week. Faithful plodding...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Biggest Upset

I have to admit to taking pleasure in Appalachian State's surprise defeat of the winningest school in Division I college football -- The University of Michigan. There is nothing quite like knowing on September 1 that Michigan definitely will not be winning the National Championship.

I've asked several Red Sox fans if they care more about seeing the Red Sox make the playoffs or the Yankees miss the playoffs. They all pause for a minute. My brother-in-law Eric put it well. He said that's like trying to choose between eating a double chocolate cake and big bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Both are great and choosing one as superior is nearly impossible.

That's kind of how I feel about UM being the first ranked Division I school to lose to a Division I-AA school. Maybe this isn't a very charitable attitude. I have enjoyed it though.

Oh, and as of right now the Indians are 5.5 games up on the Tigers. I'm not counting them out though. I know that the Tigers are capable of going on a good run and that the Indians are capable of going on a terrible one. They are playing meaningful games in September which is about all I think anyone can ask for.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Knowing God

As anyone who frequents my blog will know, I spend considerable time wondering about how I might know God more. I want to be excited about Him and have a passion like Jeremiah where I can't help but talk about Him. However, I also want to make sure that I do this in a gracious way. I think that my past year of being somewhat dry has helped to prepare me to enjoy Him, but in a way that doesn't come across as quite so obnoxious.

I think that a problem I've had is that I tend to pursue feelings. Yet when I mentor students I keep emphasizing that we know God primarily through Scripture. I have dismissed some things in seminary because I didn't want mere head knowledge. However, last night I started learning about some things in my Old Testament class that got me excited. This helped me to realize that head knowledge counts too as long as it fuels a deeper love and appreciation for God.

What was this? We did a survey of the Torah last night. It turns out that the English word "law" doesn't do the word "Torah" justice. Torah is really more about instruction than it is about law. Yes, there is law in the Torah, but we have to understand that all of the narrative, poetry, and law exists to instruct. Note this in Joshua 1:

Jos 1:7-8 ESV
(7) Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.
(8) This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

"This Book of the Law" refers to what we call the Pentateuch. I didn't realize this, but the Pentateuch is meant to be one very long book. I also learned that there is a unity to the book, though of course not uniformity. What is interesting is that there is a pattern of narrative, poetry, and then prologue. You can see this in places like Genesis 2 and Genesis 4. But it gets even cooler when you look at Genesis 49, Numbers 24, and Deuteronomy 31-32. There is a consistent theme about how a king is going to come from Judah. Note the scepter references too.

In other words, this just speaks to the fact that the Pentateuch is not just a collection of stories. It's not just put together from fragments of documents. It doesn't just document the evolution of Israel's theology. No, it is a very long book written by Moses under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I think this is very cool and it increases my awe and wonder at who God is. I've decided I'm going to let go and start marveling at learning about God's Word. I'm kind of excited to be home.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Comedy of Errors

I had a unique opportunity to shine today because I got to work on the Bank president's blackberry. I had done this process twice before and I thought that I had ironed out all the kinks. Unfortunately, all the things that could go wrong did. What's worse is that most of the problems were caused by me not thinking things through. I'm glad that he is one of the most gracious executives that anyone could possibly hope to work for. I don't know if he's a Christian, but he sure seemed like it.

As I finished what I thought was my last interaction with him I hung up the phone and thought, "I'm glad that I don't care about my career here." It just felt like one of those career limiting moves today.

I'm on call this week and it also happens to be my first week of classes. As happened last year, I got paged during my Greek class. I was very glad for a coworker who was able to check things out for me until I got home. It was also good that we didn't do much in class and I got home early. I'm still dealing with this problem, but at least I'm home to address it.

While I was going through the technical problems this morning I prayed for things to go well, but if they didn't that I would learn what I need to learn through this experience. I'm still waiting to figure that out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Blue Like Jazz

I finally got around to reading this book and, frankly, I liked it a lot. I can see how it is part of the drumbeat of the Emergent Movement. I'm sure that many of my Reformed brothers would have little good to say about this book, but I liked it for a number of reasons.

The most important is that it speaks very much to the problem with our American church culture today. We have turned Christianity into a laundry list of dos and don'ts. Now of course there are some things we need to be careful about. Watching our language seems to be a natural result of applying:

Eph 4:29 ESV
(29) Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.


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

This is just an example. The point is that we have set up a structure in our churches that turn us into little judging machines. I think that we like to judge each other because it makes us feel good and important. After all, we have truth on our side, so let's smack people with it, right? Basically, we become spiritual bullies.

I think that the book does a good job decrying that. As I've written before, I don't think that you can box Jesus into a political party. I also think that this book does a good job of defending Reformed Theology for the most part, whether it means to or not. I hope to have a discussion with Amanda about that sometime.

The book certainly is not perfect. I think that Miller has maybe swung a little too far on the orthopraxy side and ignored some of the orthodoxy side. It's laudable that he has had all these great experiences of God from being challenged in so many ways, but it's also kind of disturbing to read his confession that he has never read the Bible cover-to-cover. I still maintain that God reveals Himself to us primarily through Scripture. Romans 1 tells us that we all have a sense of Him, but we need His special revelation to truly know Him.

These problems notwithstanding, I think I would recommend this book to anyone who is not afraid of a little challenge. If nothing else, the stories are pretty entertaining.

Why I Enjoy Baseball

I almost titled this "Why I Love Baseball", but I realize that might be a bit too strong. As things stand right now the Indians are trying to fight off the Tigers to win the AL Central. On Sunday they learned that the Tigers had already beaten the Yankees before their game ended. Things were looking dire as they were down 3-2 in Kansas City. They were wasting another great pitching performance with no offense. After two quick outs in the ninth it was up to Grady Sizemore.

Sizemore got down in the count 1-2. As the 1-2 pitch came in you could hear a cheer start through the crowd, but Tom Hamilton called it, "JUUUUST a bit high...2 and 2". He took another ball and then looped one into left center in no-man's land. The center fielder dove for the ball, but couldn't come up with it (more great Hammy drama there too). I don't know where the left fielder was, but before the center fielder could recover and get the ball in Sizemore was on second. The next batter was the rookie infielder Asdrubal Cabrera who promptly lined the first pitch for a base hit which tied the game. Apparently the pitcher just wanted to get one over and Cabrera was ready for it. He advanced to second on the throw home, but Hafner made the last out to end the inning. Nevertheless, the damage was done.

The Indians scored 2 in the 11th, starting with Hafner's RBI single. Borowski miraculously made quick work of the Royals in the bottom of the 11th and the Tribe maintained their 2.5 game lead over the Tigers.

I like how baseball doesn't have a clock. As I think about it, I'm pretty sure that baseball and tennis are the only sports where it is always possible to come back. It may not be likely, but it is possible. I like how the Indians kept playing until they made 27 outs. It gives me some hope that they may hold on for the playoffs after all.

Yesterday they turned a 5-4-3 triple play. It helps that the catcher was batting, but it was still a nice one. Going all the way around-the-horn is not trivial.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Rocked World

I participate in the meetings that involve moving groups of associates because I am responsible for the printers. We have the office split up into different virtual networks (VLANs), so I need to coordinate on the print server when we move a printer with the department. This is actually a pretty easy job and it also has its perks. It's kind of fun to be in the know about who is moving and when.

Our company has had to change the hardware used to build the cubicles. The new standard offers less privacy, but it does allow for more passage of light. People no longer have individual caves, because the walls between cubes are now only about 4 feet tall. There is still a tall border in between rows of cubes.

As part of this hardware change they are swapping out some of the old hardware for some new. They still use the old hardware where they can. The group across the hall from me got theirs changed out over the weekend. This group includes some of the grumpiest support people in the Bank.

I expected the Unix support folks to have problems with it. They tend not to like anything. However, I was surprised by how poorly the mainframe guys took it. You'd think that we have them working in a courtyard in their underwear the way they reacted. One guy was slamming boxes around and making sounds like he would quit if it weren't for him being so close to retirement. One known talker was so upset that he became speechless. It was an incredible reaction.

Some of us indeed tend not to like change. I still don't like sitting in my "fishbowl" cube, but I've made the best of it. I'm just glad to have this job.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Our pastor is going through a series called "How to be a Christian Without Being Religious". I think it is a great idea and he is doing a good job of it. I know that it smacks a bit of Emergent, but so far I think we're still on the side of truth. Last week he introduced the idea of "RTDs" which stands for "religiously-transmitted diseases". Obviously he's having fun with some plays on words.

Today's topic was on what he called "affluenza", which is about our greed. He said that this year's Christmas offering is going to go toward digging wells in the Central African Republic. His vision is that our church could make it so that everyone in that country has fresh drinking water. It is indeed a laudable goal and one that we can get behind (though I do wonder where the gospel gets shared in this). To accomplish this he challenged everyone to step up their giving.

He challenged those who aren't giving to start. He challenged those who give irregularly to give regularly. He challenged those who give regularly to make sure that they give cheerfully. And he challenged those who give cheerfully to stretch themselves if possible. He did make the good point that we will often stretch ourselves to put our kids in private school, start a business, etc, but we won't stretch ourselves to give. Fair enough.

This is something that Amanda and I feel like we've dealt with over the years. We feel like we give to the point where it hurts a little bit. Now we're to the point of deciding what we could potentially get rid of in order to raise $1000 toward this effort. Amanda has already put in $100 of her allowance money that she hasn't used. We're going to sell some books. I'm considering selling our pool table that I almost never use. We have some ideas. Now it's just a matter of making some decisions.

We don't believe that God has called us to live as ascetics. However, we also know that we are blessed beyond measure compared to most in the world. Mike listed some interesting statistics. The mean household income in the US is something like $43K/year. In our town of Cary it is $77K/year. In the Central African Republic it is $240/year. God didn't give us this so that we can enjoy more comforts. He gave us this so that we can serve His kingdom.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Missing the Cold

As I wrote in the other blog, it is crazy-hot today. I like to think of myself as being someone who can handle some extremes in temperature. After all, I lived in Florida for 3 years. I also grew up in Ohio. Now we've been here in the South for about 4 1/2 years. We understand that the summer of 2003 was particularly mild and rainy, so we got eased into Southern heat. The past 3 summers have had more intense times. We've come to expect a week where the highs are around 100 every day. This is one of the two weeks we've had like that.

I suppose it's easy to say when the weather is extreme, but I do miss living in a colder climate. I thought about that as I got in the car and actually started to sweat more than when I was walking in the sun. I have no idea what the temp was in the car, but it had to be well over 100. Fortunately, the air conditioner works very well in the Camry, so it is only a matter of a few minutes before we get some cold air relief. Nevertheless, it does take a while for the air in the car to change, so you end up with cold air blowing on you while the rest of the car is sweltering.

I think back to times of getting into a really cold car. I remember when the temp was below -20 for two consecutive days in Columbus. They actually canceled classes that second day, which is not something that OSU does lightly. I remember going to pick up my roommate's girlfriend's sister at her job. My car had this habit of starting great the first time, but once it got warm I had to use a pen to prop open the choke on the carburetor. I remember how my fingers got cracks almost immediately upon touching the cold metal on the clips to take the air filter cover off. Still, looking back, I think that is more bearable than getting into a really hot car. I feel like I have an easier time warming up than cooling down.

I have to remind myself that one of the great joys of North Carolina is that I can go running year-round. Ice storms are the only thing that will slow me down. This isn't the case in Ohio where snow can linger on untended sidewalks for weeks. I also think of the shady spot in the lawn where there would be a patch of ice until just about Easter, or so it seemed. I need to keep reminding myself of how nice the spring, fall, and winter is here because summer is just brutal.

I suppose that this is a good reminder too:

Psa 118:21-24 ESV
(21) I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
(22) The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
(23) This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
(24) This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

9 years/5 years

We celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary on Wednesday. Actually, we merely observed it with cards. We'll celebrate it tomorrow night with a nice dinner. Either way, it's quite a milestone. I think back to how rough it was during those early years. We both had ideas of what marriage should be and it turns out that neither one of us was completely right.

I'm also around my 5th anniversary of finding freedom from habitual sexual sin. There are still times when I follow a link to a news article that I shouldn't or see things that I shouldn't. Sometimes I even seek stuff out that I shouldn't. But I do still feel free. I certainly don't go looking for what the world would call "porn" anymore, and that makes me glad. It's amazing to look back and see what a part of my life that was. A little part of me misses the excitement of looking for the perfect image, etc, but now I realize that I have so much more in Christ. Why would I ever go back to my old life?

I do know that the last 5 years have been much better than the first 4. It's nice that we've now had more time married with me in freedom than in bondage. I know that I still have much growth to do as a husband, father, and as a Christian, but at least I feel like I'm on the right path.

Grace truly is amazing!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bumper Sticker Politics

I saw a car today with about four stickers on the back of its trunk. One was round and had faded writing in the style of the old stickers for NOW. It read, "Keep Abortion Legal". Just to its left was a larger round sticker. The background was black and it had a large white dog paw on it with white writing. It read, "Save a life, adopt a homeless pet".

I don't think that this needs a lot of comment. It just seems completely absurd to me that this person values animals more than a human fetus. Such is the world we live in.

While I'm on the subject of politics, I want to make a brief comment on the upcoming 2008 Presidential election. I've decided that if Guilliani gets the Republican nomination I am going to have to pick a third-party. I can't imagine that the GOP would do that though. If they've been able to count on anything it's been Christians like me who feel boxed into a corner by the issue of abortion. Take that away and the Dems may be looking at a landslide win like some of FDR's elections.

Monday, August 20, 2007

More on Passion

I just came across this passage in my daily reading. I realize that Jesus had authority to speak this way, but it is inspiring anyway. To set the scene, Jesus is eating a Pharisee's house. The Pharisee was surprised to see that Jesus didn't do the ritual cleansing expected of a Jew. Jesus then goes on to explain the problem with Pharisees is on the inside and not on the outward appearance. This is the next paragraph:

Luk 11:45-54 ESV
(45) One of the lawyers answered him, "Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also."
(46) And he said, "Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.
(47) Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed.
(48) So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs.
(49) Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,'
(50) so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation,
(51) from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation.
(52) Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering."
(53) As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things,
(54) lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.

I love this boldness. The lawyer spoke as if to say that civility and politeness were the most important thing. Jesus took it as an opening to declare woe on them.

Frankly, I think that in the past I have looked for opportunities to speak like this to stroke my own ego. I suspect that many pastors deep down would admit this as well. When we speak the Word of God we speak with authority. I'm not sure if everyone else feels this way, but one of my most deep-seated needs is the need to be heard.

Keeping On

The longer I live the more I am convinced about how phony we all are as Christians and people in general. By that I mean how we react when people ask us "how you doing?". Of course, it is normally not meant as a real question, but as a form of "hello". Nevertheless, there are times when the question is genuine and expects a genuine answer. I think of how rarely I do give the genuine answer.

Truth is, I struggle at times. Lately I find myself sometimes looking at stuff that I probably shouldn't. It's easy to follow a link to a news headline that I shouldn't, for example. I know where this road goes, so I shouldn't even look at the street signs. There was a time when I wouldn't even think of it, but I am not quite as zealous as I once was.

As I deal with this, I consider how men around me must be. As with most churches, everyone looks great on Sunday morning. There just isn't time to talk about the craziness at work, the wife being sick for a while, the new alternator for the car, etc. This is the value of small groups, but I don't know how much of that we got in my small group either. We did get some, which I guess is pretty good considering it's all men.

Once again I am reminded of the need for deeper Christian friendships. Amanda is my best friend, but I also need some men to help pull me along. I'll be interested to see what kind of small group comes from the men's retreat. I think that I will do some things differently though. I think I'm going to be more visibly passionate about Christ and not hold so much back.

This is how I feel sometimes:

Jer 20:8-9 ESV
(8) For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, "Violence and destruction!" For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long.
(9) If I say, "I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name," there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

I don't want to hold back!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Recovering the Passion

My seminary had its fall convocation on Thursday. One of my professors brought us a great challenge from Jeremiah 9:23-24. The point was that as seminary students we know a lot about God, but how much do we really know God? This was a great challenge for me and one that I needed to hear.

I've had a persistent gnawing at my soul that I need to feast more richly in Christ. As I've gone through the Psalms as part of my Bible in a year plan I have grown to appreciate them more and more. Of course, as someone who is not always delighting in the Lord they are a challenge for me. This whole thing has got me looking back a little bit at my initial days of freedom.

I remember when we first moved out to North Carolina. I was in my first year of freedom from sexual sin and I was starting to find freedom from gluttony and laziness. The idea of going anywhere near inappropriate images was completely foreign to me. I was on fire for the Lord and, frankly, was kind of obnoxious. I was in the "cage-stage" as a Calvinist. However, I was pretty happy about it.

I think in the past year or so I've definitely become more gracious in how I deal with others, which I think is a good thing. However, I think that this has come at a cost of some of my passion. I think that in my desire to be less of a jerk I have reined in too much of my passion. I feel some stuff sort of melting around my heart as I try to let some of this go.

I'm not sure how this will all shake out. I don't want to be as obnoxious as I once was since I think I was pretty insufferable at times. However, I also don't want to become emasculated as a Christian just so I can be easier to stand. I'll be interested to see how this all plays out.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Being Reformed

I find that it is tough to hold to Reformed theology these days. I suppose it's always been tough to some degree, but I'm starting to notice it more. I have some recent experiences that support this.

I was waiting to get my hair cut on Tuesday and I could hear a conversation between one of the stylists (I go to a cheap chain) and her customer. They were talking about someone who I suppose formerly worked at that store. They were discussing her recent nuptials in Las Vegas. This was the part that struck me:

Customer: "You mean it wasn't the guy she was living with?"
Stylist: "No, it was someone else. They've only known each other for about six months."

then later in the conversation...

Customer: "I'm happy for her. She's such a good person."

This is where I had to suppress a little laugh. Part of it came from calling an adulterer a "good person". Of course, we all have sin. And we all have sins that we probably know we should do something about but refuse to deal with them. The hard part of hearing this was the idea that anyone is good since we know from Scripture that no one is good, not one.

That was on Tuesday. Then yesterday I discovered that one of the security guards at the front desk of my building is a well-educated Catholic apologist. I realize that may sound like a contradiction in terms, but he really does know his stuff. He was raised in a Pentecostal Holiness church and said that he tried every protestant denomination before deciding that the Roman Catholic Church is indeed the one true church. He teaches the adult catechism classes. He loves to debate. We discussed both Mary and sanctification.

I'm afraid that I raised his hopes too much when I told him that I would love to be able to be Catholic. That is partly true. Mass really can be a beautiful event. The organization is rich with history and tradition, both good and bad. Unfortunately, I've memorized the book of Ephesians and just can't get past chapters 1 and 2. Besides, call me a wimp, but I like the idea of perseverance of the saints. I like having a hope in something sure rather than living with the fear that perhaps there is some mortal sin on my conscience that will send me to hell.

I just find that it is so much easier not to notice things like this. It's easier to be ecumenical and not care about truth. It's easier not to get into these discussions with people. However, I do enjoy just about any chance to talk about Jesus and the Bible, so I realize that yesterday was a divine appointment. I'll have to talk with him more later one. I just wonder if either of us will ever be convinced.

After all, I am a proponent of Calvinism which he describes as "heresy". I wonder if he means hyper-Calvinism and doesn't realize it? Time will tell...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Staying Busy

Today has been an extraordinarily busy day for me while I work from home. I guess this is an answer to prayer as I really want to be more focused in how I work. I've stolen far too much time from the company over the past few months and need to produce more. Today has kept me hopping, but this is a good thing in the end, I think.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Killing Me Softly

I finally took the plunge yesterday and sprayed Roundup all over my yard. My dad was visiting last weekend and I finally let the shame of my terrible lawn overcome me. I think that part of me enjoyed being a little bit rebellious in having a messy lawn despite growing up with a beautiful one. However, in talking to dad it seems that I'm only looking at a few hours of work to revitalize the current lawn. Unfortunately, there is just too much nasty stuff in it and it is better to start from scratch. Hopefully by this time in October I will have the makings of some beautiful tall fescue.

It's bizarre that I keep looking out the window hoping to see grass withering. I'm not positive, but I think that the bermuda takes longer to wilt because it is so hardy in the warm dry months of the south. I suspect that I'll have a very brown lawn by this time next week. I hope to be able to seed on Labor Day. We'll see how that turns out.

I am reminded of this passage:

Eze 37:1-14 ESV
(1) The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones.
(2) And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry.
(3) And he said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, you know."
(4) Then he said to me, "Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
(5) Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.
(6) And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD."
(7) So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.
(8) And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them.
(9) Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live."
(10) So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
(11) Then he said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, 'Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.'
(12) Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel.
(13) And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.
(14) And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD."

I think that my lawn will make for a great metaphor for salvation, assuming that it does come back. I know that the work of tilling the soil won't be easy. However, I know that it will pay off in a beautiful lawn. I don't want to one-up any of the neighbors, but I hate for my lawn to be a sore thumb in the neighborhood too.