Friday, July 30, 2010

All things Lord of the Rings

"The value of myth is that it takes all the things you know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by the veil of familiarity... By dipping them in myth we see them more clearly." - C.S. Lewis
The Lord of the Rings is a magnificent story rich with meaning. If you have spent even a minute pondering this grand tale by Tolkien, you recognize how he weaved elements of real life into this mythic tale. Themes of good, evil, loss, death and sacrifice. Nevertheless, it is still easy to miss some of the subtleties of the story. The following resources will give you a deeper appreciation for this trilogy and how the themes in The Lord of the Rings echoes a Christian world-view.

Tim Challies:
Tim Keller (audio):
Peter Kreeft (audio):

Tim Keller on prayer and devotion

In this brief article, Tim Keller shares his thoughts on prayer and devotions and offers some great tips in the process.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Keith Green - Desiring God

(Author: Jon Bloom)

Today, July 28th, marks the 28th anniversary of the plane crash that killed Christian singer/songwriter and evangelist, Keith Green. He was 28 years old. Also lost in that crash were two of Keith’s children (Josiah & Bethany), the pilot (Don Burmeister), and an entire family (John & Dede Smalley and their six children).
I clearly remember July 28, 1982. I had just turned 17 and only recently had discovered Keith’s music. He was unlike anyone I had ever heard. It wasn’t music that drew me to Keith. It was his heart.

Keith was in love with Jesus in a way that few seemed to be. His passion was the kind I read about in the New Testament. Keith was real. You could tell just by listening to him. And you could also tell that Keith wasn’t mainly about music, he was about a message. He didn’t care about his career; he cared whether or not people followed Jesus. Keith was all about spreading a passion for the supremacy of Jesus.

And because of that, I loved his music. Keith had quickly become a hero of mine. His sudden death was shock.
The main reason I pay tribute to Keith today is because his influence has shaped one significant aspect of Desiring God. When John and I launched this work in 1994, we both agreed that DG should adopt the same whatever-you-can-afford policy for our resources that Keith’s Last Days Ministries had for his music. This policy has served thousands of people. And I thank God for Keith’s example in this.

Keith certainly didn’t get everything right. He didn’t have great things to say about Reformed theology, although some of his song lyrics show that he was more reformed than he may have realized (see “You Put This Love in My Heart”). But he was only a Christian for about 7 years and did almost all of his growing in public ministry. And considering how long it’s taken me to learn things, I’m amazed at how well he did.

But in many ways Keith was a kindred spirit. He was passionate about Jesus, sought to spread that passion, loved the Bible, lived a war-time lifestyle, exhorted people not waste their lives, sought to mobilize people for missions, and lived out radical generosity. Keith’s life was short, but he lived well and did not compromise.
So it’s fitting that today we thank God for the life of Keith Gordon Green.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Good-O-Meter

This video has been around for awhile and for some reason it popped into my head today. It's a humorous video, but it's also a great illustration of Grace and Imputed Righteousness.

Monday, July 26, 2010

“To keep us humble” by Martin Luther - Tolle Lege

Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder, pain...
“The ministers of the Gospel should be men who are not too easily affected by praise or criticism, but simply speak out the benefit and the glory of Christ and seek the salvation of souls. Whenever you are being praised, remember it is not you who is being praised but Christ, to whom all praise belongs.

When you preach the Word of God in its purity and also live accordingly, it is not your own doing, but God’s doing. And when people praise you, they really mean to praise God in you.

When you understand this–and you should because ‘What hast thou that thou didst not receive?’–you will not flatter yourself on the one hand and on the other hand you will not carry yourself with the thought of resigning from the ministry when you are insulted, reproached, or persecuted.

It is really kind of God to send so much infamy, reproach, hatred, and cursing our way to keep us from getting proud of the gifts of God in us. We need a millstone around our neck to keep us humble.”

–Martin Luther, A Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, Trans. Theodore Graebner (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1939), 230-231."

The Days of Darkness Will Be Many - Desiring God

(Author: Jon Bloom)

One thing the Bible isn't is utopist about life in this world. It gets unfairly criticized for encouraging a pessimism that makes people passive about doing anything to improve things; people who are "too heavenly minded to be any earthly good."

Of course, that's a lot of hogwash. History has shown that those who have a hope of heaven are far more likely than their agnostic or atheist neighbors to willingly make the personal sacrifices necessary to seriously address the horrors and hopelessness in the world.

But the Bible doesn't gloss over horrors. Reading the whole Bible through, we wince a lot. And it is pretty frank about what we can expect during our sojourn on earth:

So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 11:8)

When Jesus walked the earth he was not a bouncy, positive-thinker. He was "a man of sorrows" (Isaiah 53:3). And he promised his followers, "In the world you will have tribulation" (John 16:33).

Life is hard. The days of darkness will be many. And you know what? That's hopeful.

When we find ourselves experiencing "weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities" (2 Corinthians 12:10), something strange isn't happening to us (1 Peter 4:12). It is what we must expect living in a creation subjected to futility (Romans 8:20).

But it was subjected to futility in hope—hope "that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Romans 8:21). And yes there is deep groaning as we wait for the completion of our redemption (Romans 8:22-23). But it is a hope-infused groaning, full of anticipation for what is coming.

And it's this Spirit-empowered dynamic in the soul that allows us to be both "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (2 Corinthians 6:10). We expect sorrow from the world and redemption from our Savior, who will work even our sorrows for ultimate good (Romans 8:28).

So in your days of darkness, Jesus understands (Hebrews 4:15) and wants you to take heart:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)


Monday music smile - How Great is Our God

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fully forgiven in Christ - past, present and future

“The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
- 1 John 1:7

“Cleanseth,” says the text-not “shall cleanse.” There are multitudes who think that as a dying hope they may look forward to pardon. Oh! how infinitely better to have cleansing now than to depend on the bare possibility of forgiveness when I come to die. Some imagine that a sense of pardon is an attainment only obtainable after many years of Christian experience. But forgiveness of sin is a present thing-a privilege for this day, a joy for this very hour. The moment a sinner trusts Jesus he is fully forgiven.

The text, being written in the present tense, also indicates continuance; it was “cleanseth” yesterday, it is “cleanseth” to-day, it will be “cleanseth” tomorrow: it will be always so with you, Christian, until you cross the river; every hour you may come to this fountain, for it cleanseth still. Notice, likewise, the completeness of the cleansing, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin”-not only from sin, but “from all sin.”

Reader, I cannot tell you the exceeding sweetness of this word, but I pray God the Holy Ghost to give you a taste of it. Manifold are our sins against God. Whether the bill be little or great, the same receipt can discharge one as the other. The blood of Jesus Christ is as blessed and divine a payment for the transgressions of blaspheming Peter as for the shortcomings of loving John; our iniquity is gone, all gone at once, and all gone for ever. Blessed completeness! What a sweet theme to dwell upon as one gives himself to sleep.

“Sins against a holy God;
Sins against his righteous laws;
Sins against his love, his blood;
Sins against his name and cause;
Sins immense as is the sea-
From them all he cleanseth me.”
- Charles Spurgeon

Friday, July 23, 2010

Quietude and Repose: select quotes - Kevin Stilley Dot Com

A few thoughts for weeks end:

It is the space between the notes that makes the music.
~ Noah Benshea

To do great work a man must be very idle as well as very industrious.
~ Samuel Butler

Quietude, which some men cannot abide because it reveals their inward poverty, is as a palace of cedar to the wise, for along its hallowed courts the King in His beauty deigns to walk.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Faith and Science: A false dichotomy?

This is an interesting interview. One reason is because Jon Stewart made it through a five-minute segment without using an expletive. The other, and main reason, is the topic of discussion, faith vs. science. Stewart's guest, Marilynne Robinson, is a Pulitzer Prize winning author. She was also recently interviewed by Michael Horton on the White Horse Inn. You can catch that interview at Justin Taylor's blog - definitely worth a listen.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Marilynne Robinson
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

30 minutes of lightning in 42 seconds

Super thunderstorm at Athens, Greece from Chris Kotsiopoulos on Vimeo.

Lightning is an atmospheric discharge of electricity accompanied by thunder, which typically occurs during thunderstorms, and sometimes during volcanic eruptions or dust storms. In the atmospheric electrical discharge, a leader of a bolt of lightning can travel at speeds of 60,000 m/s (130,000 mph), and can reach temperatures approaching 30,000 °C (54,000 °F), hot enough to fuse silica sand into glass channels known as fulgurites which are normally hollow and can extend some distance into the ground. There are some 16 million lightning storms in the world every year.

Lightning can also occur within the ash clouds from volcanic eruptions, or can be caused by violent forest fires which generate sufficient dust to create a static charge.

How lightning initially forms is still a matter of debate: - Wikipedia 


Praying for Pastors and Teachers – Justin Taylor

Praying for Pastors and Teachers – Justin Taylor: "Two items of prayer to mention:

(1) Pastor Rick Warren’s eyes were severely burned by toxic poison, and is praying for the restoration of sight.

(2) Dr. Gary Parrett—professor at Gordon-Conwell and co-author with J.I. Packer of a book on gospel catechesis—has been unconscious for weeks following a major bus accident in Seoul, Korea. You can find status updates and prayer request here.

May God graciously heal these brothers."


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

You Must Learn From It As a Man Does - Kevin DeYoung

This is one of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies (Gettysburg). Since I referenced it in a sermon just yesterday, I figured it was worth posting the scene again.

I love this scene for two reasons.

1. I love the way Lee gives a stern, yet measured and appropriate rebuke. Stuart has let him down. Lee cannot let the matter pass. Stuart must learn from it. More importantly, the whole army depends on Lee to get the best out of Stuart. Anything less than a rebuke would have been cowardly.

2. I love the way Lee builds Stuart back up after dressing him down. My tendency when I sin or screw up is to act like Stuart and try to hand in my sword. “Alright, Lord, if that’s how you feel. I’ll hang it up.” But Lee will have none of it. “There is no time!” (Great line, especially with the southern drawl). Stuart needs to stop groveling, learn from his mistake, and get back into the battle.

Lee gives rebuke like a soldier and teaches Stuart to take rebuke like a soldier. If only we could give and take it like they do in the movies.

There’s rebuke for sin. There are consequences for sin. If you come in the name of Christ there will always be grace for you sin. It’s a grace that forgives, a grace that transforms, and grace that sends you back into battle. The Lord doesn’t want you grounded in sin. But neither does he want you groveling for it either. He wants repentance. He wants you to change. He wants you to depend on him.

We’ve all failed him. We will fail him again. So when you fail your commanding officer, don’t grovel. Confess, repent, pick up your sword, make it right, and rejoin the fight.


It Is Well With My Soul - J.C. Ryle Quotes

A saved soul has many sorrows. He has a body like other men – weak and frail. He has a heart like other men – and often a more sensitive one too. He has trials and losses to bear like others – and often more. He has his share of bereavements, deaths, disappointments, crosses. He has the world to oppose, a place in life to fill blamelessly, unconverted relatives to bear with patiently, persecutions to endure and a death to die. And who is sufficient for these things? What shall enable a believer to bear all this? Nothing but “the consolation there is in Christ.” (Phil. 2:1)

~ J.C. Ryle


Ryle’s phrase above “a saved soul has many sorrows” reminds me of the hymn written by Horatio Spafford in 1873, [during the time of Ryle's pastorate in England] entitled It is Well With My Soul.

For those of you not familiar with the background to the classic hymn, take the next three minutes to listen and view the severely traumatic events that led Spafford to pour out his heart in song, words which have stood the test of time and consoled many a Christian. May God bring this powerful hymn to your remembrance when difficult seasons in your Christian walk come your way, reminding you that He is your comfort.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Virtual Sistine Chapel

This is pretty cool, you can take a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel, swivel around and zoom in and out. This is probably as close as I'll ever get to it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Look to Christ and away from self

“Looking unto Jesus.”
- Hebrews 12:2

It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.” All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: he tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.”

Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee-it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee-it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument-it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith.

We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking unto Jesus.” Keep thine eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to him; when thou liest down at night look to him. Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail thee.

“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”

- Charles Spurgeon

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pyromaniacs: Evangelical Bunko Artists

Over at Team Pyro, Phil Johnson recalls his days at Moody Press. Moody had published an autobiographical tale of a young lady who lived in utter poverty on a Kickapoo Indian reservation. She would eventually leave the reservation, find Christ, live through many trials, and suffer persecution. It is a wonderful story of hope in the midst of tragedy and God's providential hand in the direst of circumstances. The book would eventually become a best seller.

Oh, one more thing, it was completely untrue. After Moody Press conducted an investigation and found the story to be a complete fabrication, they quickly dropped the book. Unfortunately, that did not stop another "Christian" publishing house from giving the book a second life. Does that mean that some of our "Christian" book publishers have lower standards than Oprah? Apparently so. Those of us who claim to be Christian should not be so careless with the truth. It is a warning to exercise discernment and not immediately embrace all things that claim to be Christian.

Anyhow, it's a fascinating read. Johnson goes on to detail other scandals that Christians have been willing to turn a blind eye to, and that to our peril.
Read at: Pyromaniacs: Evangelical Bunko Artists

Cinematic Stories of the Modern Day Christian Journey - Desiring God

Deidox (Dei for "God" and Dox for "documentaries") is a growing series of videos made to document what God is doing in and through the lives of ordinary believers. Each video is narrated by one person who shares about the calling God has put on them and how they are striving to live it out in obedience to Christ.

In the production team's own words, these short films are "true stories of how everyday people are being used by God in the world today. ... Put simply, Deidox are cinematic stories of the modern day Christian journey."

At the moment there are 6 episodes, each one approximately 5 minutes long, and all available for full preview on their website. (I've watched all 6 and thought each one was very well made, engaging, and wonderfully encouraging.) The stories include
  • Robert, a doctor who has sacrificed his well-paying ER position to care for those who can't afford it otherwise.
  • Deon, an L. A. police officer whose faith in God drives him to love one of the nation's toughest neighborhoods.
  • Dawn, a mother of three who has learned to appreciate parenting as a high calling and opportunity to glorify God.
  • Li Yang, a Chinese believer whose confidence in God's power strengthens him to share the love of Christ despite the danger.
  • Alyssa, a worship leader whose blindness has taught her to trust in God and anticipate seeing her Savior face to face.
  • Lindsay, a schoolteacher in the Bronx who strives to show her students the love and acceptance she has received from God.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Secret of Boldness in Prayer

Would you know the secret of the believer’s boldness in prayer? It is a marvel how a man that feels his sin so deeply as the believer does, can speak with the confidence the believer frequently does. 

How one that acknowledges he is “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, naked,” ruined, undone—who often does what he ought not to do, and leaves undone what he ought to do, and finds no spiritual health in him—how such a one as this can go before God with confidence, pour out his heart before Him freely, ask from Him what he requires day after day and not feel afraid—this is wonderful indeed. 

What is the secret of it? It is the intercession of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whereby the true Christian knows his prayers are made acceptable, and received in the court of heaven.

~ J.C. Ryle

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day

Freedom is never free. Independence from Great Britain came at great cost.

On that note, we have so much to be thankful for. No one sings America the Beautiful better than Ray Charles.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Free audio book is offering The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer as their free book of the month for July. Use coupon code JUL2010 here.

On that note, here is a chapter from another of Tozer's writings, Man - The Dwelling Place of God:

The Old Cross and the New
ALL UNANNOUNCED AND MOSTLY UNDETECTED there has come in modern times a new cross into popular evangelical circles. It is like the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial; the differences, fundamental.

From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life, and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique-a new type of meeting and a new kind of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its content is not the same and its emphasis not as before.

The old cross would have no truck with the world. For Adam's proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather, it is a friendly pal and, if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference. His life motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasure, only now he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious movies instead of singing bawdy songs and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is now on a higher plane morally if not intellectually.

The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into public interest by showing that Christianity makes no unpleasant demands; rather, it offers the same thing the world does, only on a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better.

The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner anal jollier way of living and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says, "Come and assert yourself for Christ." To the egotist it says, "Come and do your boasting in the Lord." To the thrillseeker it says, "Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship." The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public.

The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.

The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said good-by to his friends. He was not coming back. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.

The race of Adam is under death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape. God cannot approve any of the fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him again to newness of life.

That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world, it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life up onto a higher plane; we leave it at the cross. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die.

We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.

God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. It stands always on the far side of the cross. Whoever would possess it must pass under the rod. He must repudiate himself and concur in God's just sentence against him.

What does this mean to the individual, the condemned man who would find life in Christ Jesus? How can this theology be translated into life? Simply, he must repent and believe. He must forsake his sins and then go on to forsake himself. Let him cover nothing, defend nothing, excuse nothing. Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God's stern displeasure and acknowledge himself worthy to die.

Having done this let him gaze with simple trust upon the risen Saviour, and from Him will come life and rebirth and cleansing and power. The cross that ended the earthly life of Jesus now puts an end to the sinner; and the power that raised Christ from the dead now raises him to a new life along with Christ.

To any who may object to this or count it merely a narrow and private view of truth, let me say God has set His hallmark of approval upon this message from Paul's day to the present. Whether stated in these exact words or not, this has been the content of all preaching that has brought life and power to the world through the centuries. The mystics, the reformers, the revivalists have put their emphasis here, and signs and wonders and mighty operations of the Holy Ghost gave witness to God's approval.

Dare we, the heirs of such a legacy of power, tamper with the truth? Dare we with our stubby pencils erase the lines of the blueprint or alter the pattern shown us in the Mount? May God forbid. Let us preach the old cross and we will know the old power.