Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Spirit of Christmas Present?

Some Christmas and money facts to consider....

  • Eighty-four percent of Americans would prefer a less materialistic holiday..
  • The average American plans to spend $832 on Christmas gifts in 2008, almost three times what the average Burundi citizen earns in a year.
  • Christmas retail sales have increased an average of about 5% per year over the last decade.
  • It takes an average of six months for a credit-card user to pay off holiday bills.
  • The total U.S. consumer debt is more than $2.55 trillion and is growing at a rate twice that of wage increases. The number of personal bankruptcies has quadrupled in the last 15 years.
  • The average credit card debt per household was $9,840 of in 2007.
  • The average American with a credit file is responsible for $16,635 in debt, excluding mortages, according to Experian. (Source: U.S. News and World Report, "The End of Credit Card Consumerism," August 2008)
  • Compared to the 1950's, Americans are twice as rich, but less happy. The average American's buying power has doubled since the 1950s but in national surveys the number saying they were "very happy" declined from 35 to 30 percent.
  • Teenagers see 360,000 advertisements by the time they graduate from high school. There are more shopping centers in the U.S. than high schools.
  • Two-thirds of Americans say they would be happier if they had more time to spend with family and friends. Only 15 percent say they'd be happier if they had nicer possessions.
  • Half of Americans would rather have more free time, even if it means less money.
  • Americans now work about one month longer a year on average than they did two decades ago.
  • 93 percent of American teenage girls say shopping is their favorite pastime.

Sources(via the web): Chicago Tribune, The Economist, E Magazine, Adbusters, Center for a New American Dream, New Roadmap, Merck Family Fund, U.S. News and World Report, Zero Population Growth, The Overworked American, National Retail Federation.

Christmas Factoids

Some enjoyable Christmas items adapted from "Christmas Statistics" by Sabina Nore

"White Christmas" (1954), starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, was the first movie to be made in Vista Vision, a deep-focus process.

"Wassail" comes from the Old Norse "ves heill"--to be of good health. This evolved into the tradition of visiting neighbors on Christmas Eve and drinking to their health.

According to a 1995 survey, 7 out of 10 British dogs get Christmas gifts from their doting owners.

After "A Christmas Carol," Charles Dickens wrote several other Christmas stories, one each year, but none was as successful as the original.

Although many believe the Friday after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year, it is not. It is the fifth to tenth busiest day. The Friday and Saturday before Christmas are the two busiest shopping days of the year.

An artificial spider and web are often included in the decorations on Ukrainian Christmas trees. A spider web found on Christmas morning is believed to bring good luck.

An average household in America will mail out 28 Christmas cards each year and see 28 eight cards return in their place.

At Christmas, Ukrainians prepare a traditional twelve-course meal. A family's youngest child watches through the window for the evening star to appear, a signal that the feast can begin.

At lavish Christmas feasts in the Middle Ages, swans and peacocks were sometimes served "endored." This meant the flesh was painted with saffron dissolved in melted butter. In addition to their painted flesh, endored birds were served wrapped in their own skin and feathers, which had been removed and set aside prior to roasting.

Before settling on the name of Tiny Tim for his character in "A Christmas Carol," three other alliterative names were considered by Charles Dickens. They were Little Larry, Puny Pete, and Small Sam.

Christmas is a summer holiday in South Africa. Children are fond of the age-old custom of producing pantomimes - for instance, "Babes in the Wood," founded on one of the oldest ballads in the English language. Boxing Day on December 26th, when boxes of food and clothing are given to the poor, is observed as a holiday.

Christmas trees are known to have been popular in Germany as far back as the sixteenth century. In England, they became popular after Queen Victoria's husband Albert, who came from Germany, made a tree part of the celebrations at Windsor Castle. In the United States, the earliest known mention of a Christmas tree is in the diary of a German who settled in Pennsylvania.

Cultured Christmas trees must be shaped as they grow to produce fuller foliage. To slow the upward growth and to encourage branching, they are hand-clipped in each spring. Trees grown in the wild have sparser branches, and are known in the industry as "Charlie Brown" trees.

During the ancient 12-day Christmas celebration, the log burned was called the "Yule log." Sometimes a piece of the Yule log would be kept to kindle the fire the following winter, to ensure that the good luck carried on from year to year. The Yule log custom was handed down from the Druids.

For every real Christmas tree harvested, 2 to 3 seedlings are planted in its place.

Frankincense is a sweet smelling gum resin derived from certain Boswellia trees which, at the time of Christ, grew in Arabia, India, and Ethiopia. Tradition says that it was presented to the Christ Child by Balthasar, the black king from Ethiopia or Saba. The frankincense trade was at its height during the days of the Roman Empire. At that time this resin was considered as valuable as gems or precious metals. The Romans burned frankincense on their altars and at cremations.

Greeks do not use Christmas trees or give presents at Christmas. A priest may throw a little cross into the village water to drive the kallikantzari (gremlin-like spirits) away. To keep them from hiding in dark, dusty corners, he goes from house to house sprinkling holy water.

Historians have traced some of the current traditions surrounding Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, back to ancient Celtic roots. Father Christmas's elves are the modernization of the "Nature folk" of the Pagan religions; his reindeer are associated with the "Horned God," which was one of the Pagan deities.

If traveling in France during the Christmas season, it is interesting to note that different dishes and dining traditions reign in popularity in different parts of the country. In south France, for instance, a Christmas loaf (pain calendeau) is cut crosswise and is eaten only after the first part has been given to a poor person. In Brittany, buckwheat cakes and sour cream is the most popular main dish. In Alsace, a roasted goose is the preferred entrée. In Burgundy, turkey and chestnuts are favored. In the Paris region, oysters are the favorite holiday dish, followed by a cake shaped like a Yule log.

In Armenia, the traditional Christmas Eve meal consists of fried fish, lettuce, and spinach. The meal is traditionally eaten after the Christmas Eve service, in commemoration of the supper eaten by Mary on the evening before Christ's birth.

In Britain, eating mince pies at Christmas dates back to the 16th century. It is still believed that to eat a mince pie on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas will bring 12 happy months in the year to follow.

In Finland and Sweden an old tradition prevails, where the twelve days of Christmas are declared to be time of civil peace by law. It used to be that a person committing crimes during this time would be liable to a stiffer sentence than normal.

In France, Christmas is called Noel. This is derived from the French phrase "les bonnes nouvelles," which means literally "the good news" and refers to the gospel.

In Guatemala, Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25; however, Guatemalan adults do not exchange gifts until New Year's Day. Children get theirs (from the Christ Child) on Christmas morning.

In Medieval England, Nicholas was just another saint - he had not yet been referred to as Santa Claus and he had nothing to do with Christmas.

In North America, children put stockings out at Christmas time. Their Dutch counterparts, however, use shoes. Dutch children set out shoes to receive gifts any time between mid-November and December 5, St. Nicholas' birthday.

In Norway on Christmas Eve, visitors should know that after the family's big dinner and the opening of presents, all the brooms in the house are hidden. The Norwegians long ago believed that witches and mischievous spirits came out on Christmas Eve and would steal their brooms for riding.

In Portugal, the traditional Christmas meal (consoada) is eaten in the early hours of Christmas Day. Burning in the hearth is the Yule log (fogueira da consoada). The ashes and charred remains of the Yule log are saved; later in the year, they are burned with pine cones during Portugal's thunderstorm season. It is believed that no thunderbolt will strike where the Yule log smoke has traveled.

In southern France, some people burn a log in their homes from Christmas Eve until New Year's Day. This stems from an ancient tradition in which farmers would use part of the log to ensure a plentiful harvest the following year.

In Sweden, a common Christmas decoration is the Julbock. Made from straw, it is a small figurine of a goat. A variety of straw decorations are a usual feature of Scandinavian Christmas festivities.

In Syria, Christmas gifts are distributed by one of the Wise Men's camels. The gift-giving camel is said to have been the smallest one in the Wise Men's caravan.

In the British armed forces it is traditional that officers wait on the men and serve them their Christmas dinner. This dates back to a custom from the Middle Ages.

In the Netherlands, Christmas centers on the arrival of Saint Nicholas, who is believed to come on horseback bearing gifts. Before going to bed, children leave out their shoes, hoping to find them filled with sweets when they awaken.

In the Thomas Nast cartoon that first depicted Santa Claus with a sleigh and reindeer, he was delivering Christmas gifts to soldiers fighting in the U.S. Civil War. The cartoon, entitled "Santa Claus in Camp," appeared in Harper's Weekly on January 3, 1863.

In the Ukraine, a traditional Christmas bread called "kolach" is placed in the center of the dining table. This bread is braided into a ring, and three such rings are placed one on top of the other, with a candle in the center of the top one. The three rings symbolize the Trinity.

Jesus Christ, son of Mary, was born in a cave, not in a wooden stable. Caves were used to keep animals in because of the intense heat. A large church is now built over the cave, and people can go down inside the cave. The carpenters of Jesus' day were really stone cutters. Wood was not used as widely as it is today. So whenever you see a Christmas nativity scene with a wooden stable -- that's the "American" version, not the Biblical one.

Long before it was used as a "kiss encourager" during the Christmas season, mistletoe had long been considered to have magic powers by Celtic and Teutonic peoples. It was said to have the ability to heal wounds and increase fertility. Celts hung mistletoe in their homes in order to bring themselves good luck and ward off evil spirits.

Myrrh is an aromatic gum resin which oozes from gashes cut in the bark of a small desert tree known as Commifera Myrrha or the dindin tree. The myrrh hardens into tear-dropped shaped chunks and is then powdered or made into ointments or perfumes. This tree is about 5-15 feet tall and 1 foot in diameter. Legend says Caspar brought the gift of myrrh from Europe or Tarsus and placed it before the Christ Child. Myrrh was an extremely valuable commodity during biblical times and was imported from India and Arabia.

One Norwegian Christmas custom begins in late autumn at harvest time. The finest wheat is gathered and saved until Christmas. This wheat is then attached to poles made from tree branches, making perches for the birds. A large circle of snow is cleared away beneath each perch. According to the Norwegians, this provides a place for the birds to dance, which allows them to work up their appetites between meals. Just before sunset on Christmas Eve, the head of the household checks on the wheat in the yard. If a lot of sparrows are seen dining, it is suppose to indicate a good year for growing crops.

Originally, Christmas decorations were home-made paper flowers, or apples, biscuits, and sweets. The earliest decorations to be bought came from Nuremburg in Germany, a city famous for the manufacture of toys. Lauscha in Germany is famous for its glass ornaments. In 1880, America discovered Lauscha and F.W. Woolworth went there and bought a few glass Christmas tree ornaments. Within a day he had sold out so next year he bought more and within a week they, too, had sold. The year after that be bought 200,000 Lauscha ornaments. During the First World War supplies of ornaments from Lauscha ceased, so American manufacturers began to make their own ornaments, developing new techniques that allowed them to turn out as many ornaments in a minute as could be made in a whole day at Lauscha.

Right behind Christmas and Thanksgiving, Super Bowl Sunday ranks as the third-largest occasion for Americans to consume food, according to the National Football League.

Santa's Reindeers are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.

Silent Night was written in 1818, by an Austrian priest Joseph Mohr. He was told the day before Christmas that the church organ was broken and would not be prepared in time for Christmas Eve. He was saddened by this and could not think of Christmas without music, so he wanted to write a carol that could be sung by choir to guitar music. He sat down and wrote three stanzas. Later that night the people in the little Austrian Church sang "Stille Nacht" for the first time.

St. Nicholas was bishop of the Turkish town of Myra in the early fourth century. It was the Dutch who first made him into a Christmas gift-giver, and Dutch settlers brought him to America where his name eventually became the familiar Santa Claus.

Telesphorus, the second Bishop of Rome (125-136 AD) declared that public Church services should be held to celebrate "The Nativity of our Lord and Saviour." In 320 AD, Pope Julius I and other religious leaders specified 25 December as the official date of the birth of Jesus Christ.

The abbreviation of Xmas for Christmas is not irreligious. The first letter of the word Christ in Greek is chi, which is identical to our X. Xmas was originally an ecclesiastical abbreviation that was used in tables and charts.

The actual gift givers are different in various countries:
England: Father Christmas
France: Pere Noel (Father Christmas)
Germany: Christkind (angelic messenger from Jesus) She is a beautiful fair haired girl with a shining crown of candles.
Holland: St Nicholas.
Italy: La Befana (a kindly old witch)
Spain and South America: The Three Kings
Russia: In some parts - Babouschka (a grandmotherly figure) in other parts it is Grandfather Frost.
Scandinavia: a variety of Christmas gnomes. One is called Julenisse.

The Christmas season begins at sundown on 24th December and lasts through sundown on 5th January. For that reason, this season is also known as the Twelve Days of Christmas.

The first Christmas card was created in England on December 9, 1842.

The first commercial Christmas card sold was designed by London artist John Calcott Horsley. He was hired by a wealthy British man to design a card that showed people feeding and clothing the poor with another picture of a Christmas party. The first Christmas card said, "Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you." Of the original one thousand cards he printed for Henry Cole, only twelve exist today.

The first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in Germany in 1531.

The modern Christmas custom of displaying a wreath on the front door of one's house, is borrowed from ancient Rome's New Year's celebrations. Romans wished each other "good health" by exchanging branches of evergreens. They called these gifts strenae after Strenia, the goddess of health. It became the custom to bend these branches into a ring and display them on doorways.

The northern European custom of the candlelit Christmas tree is derived from the belief that it sheltered woodland spirits when other trees lost their leaves during winter.

The popular Christmas song "Jingle Bells" was composed in 1857 by James Pierpont, and was originally called "One-Horse Open Sleigh."

adapted from "Christmas Statistics" by Sabina Nore

Old Christians

Another great quote from my buddy Jeff...

“The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree" Psalms 92:12

The palm brings forth its best fruit in old age. The best dates are said to be gathered when it has reached a hundred years. So it is with eminent Christians: the older the better; the older the more beautiful; nay, the older the more useful; and, different from the worldlings, the older the happier. The best Christians are those who improve to the end, who grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ to the very close of life.

Taken from The Palm by James Hamilton 1814-1867
from the book Nearing Home - Comforts and Counsels for the Aged

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Worldliness

Here is a great book to help us navigate engaging the culture - being in the world with and for Jesus but not part of the world. Thanks to CJ and the guys and thanks to Justin Taylor for his review.

(Taken directly from Justin Taylor's blog.)

"Worldliness," Edited by C. J. Mahaney

A couple weeks ago I read and reviewed a pre-pub copy of this book (coming Sept. 30, 2008):
C. J. Mahaney, ed. Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World. With a foreword by John Piper. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008. 191 pp.
The book has six chapters:
  1. C. J. Mahaney, "Is This Verse in Your Bible?" [1 John 2:15]
  2. Craig Cabaniss, "God, My Heart, and Media"
  3. Bob Kauflin, "God, My Heart, and Music"
  4. Dave Harvey, "God, My Heart, and Stuff"
  5. C. J. Mahaney, "God, My Heart, and Clothes"
  6. Jeff Purswell, "How to Love the World"
Each chapter climaxes by showing how the glorious gospel is central and essential to "resisting the seduction of a fallen world."

Here are the endorsements from the book's front matter:
  1. “This book is biblically grounded and Christ-centered, full of grace and truth. Every chapter raises the bar of Christian living without falling into legalism. One of the most timely and much-needed books I’ve read in years. I highly recommend it.”
    -Randy Alcorn, author, Heaven and The Grace and Truth Paradox

  2. “Expertly addresses the issues that prompt that subtle, insidious, silent slide away from God that each of us is prone to take. Pay attention to this thought-provoking work and protect your heart for God.”
    -James MacDonald, Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel; teacher, Walk in the Word

  3. “This book is biblical, practical, pastoral, and wise. It is honest about the authors’ own temptations, and it is so specific it will be controversial! But such a book is greatly needed as a challenge today—for all of us.”
    -Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Bible and Theology, Phoenix Seminary

  4. “The strength of the work is that the authors try very hard not to let you forget the sheer God-centeredness of the gospel.”
    -D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

  5. “These skillful soul surgeons are brilliant at diagnosis and treatment, and they will help you see yourself, your sin, and your Savior. I now know the first book I am going to reach for when a Christian is wrestling with worldliness—or isn’t but should be! This is a book I will make use of, by God’s grace, again and again.”
    -Ligon Duncan, Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi; President, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

  6. “Praise God for this little tool—specific enough to be helpful, grace-filled enough to be really helpful!”
    -Mark Dever, Senior Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church; Executive Director, 9Marks Ministries
My review's introduction:
C. J. Mahaney observes, "Some people try to define worldliness as living outside a specific set of rules or conservative standards. If you listen to music with a certain beat, dress in fashionable clothes, watch movies with a certain rating, or indulge in certain luxuries of modern society, surely you must be worldly. Others, irritated and repulsed by rules that seem arbitrary, react to definitions of worldliness, assuming it’s impossible to define. Or they think legalism will inevitably be the result, so we shouldn’t even try" (p. 29).

These two groups will react negatively to this book for different reasons. The former group will think that it is not strict enough (perhaps accusing it of libertinism), and the latter group will disparage it for so specifically “resisting” seductive “worldliness” (perhaps accusing it of legalism). The authors of this book wisely avoid and gently rebuke both of these extremes because they wrongly focus on externals. Its primary target audience is the latter group.
My review's conclusion:
Worldliness is a sensitive, practical, specific, relevant, pastoral, accessible, engaging, humorous, concise, clear, refreshing, wise, grace-motivated, biblical book—ideal for pastors to recommend to their flocks and for small groups to study. It skillfully addresses controversial external issues by focusing on their root heart issues and then showing how the gospel is functionally central to every square inch of the Christian life.

Engaging Culture

Jonathan Dodson (a Gordon-Conwell grad and a visitor to King of Grace.) has some helpful thoughts on engaging culture.

Six Ways to Engage Culture

In a recent interview, singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright surprisingly remarked: "We're so obsessed about debunking Bush in this country that we don't spend time on any other subjects. That's a little depressing." Wainwright's point is that many Americans neglect a whole range of cultural issues, often neglecting political engagement for finger-pointing.

What's more depressing is that many Christians are just as guilty of this charge as non-Christians. As a result, there are few citizens who think through cultural issues critically, and even fewer who think them through redemptively. Here are six ways to promote critical and redemptive engagement with culture.

  1. Engage culture prayerfully. I'm not suggesting that we should actually bow our heads and recite a prayer before reading a newspaper or book, watching TV or a movie, or going shopping, though that certainly wouldn't hurt. Instead, we are to live life and engage culture in a spirit of dependence upon God; we are to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). We should approach culture just as we should approach all things: prayerfully.


    What should we pray? We should thank God for the gift of culture, confessing that all cultures contain truth, beauty, and virtue, asking Him to help us recognize and rejoice in these good gifts, which come down from the Father of lights (James 1:17). Alternatively, all cultures also disdain truth, beauty, and virtue. Thus, we are dependent upon God to enable us to recognize and reject those things that are harmfully false, ugly, and immoral. By asking God to give us the perspective of His Spirit, "the Spirit who searches out all things, even the depths of God" (1 Cor. 2:10), we can begin to discern between the things which are true, beautiful, and good and the things that are false, ugly, and evil.

  2. Engage culture carefully. When approaching any given issue, from parenting to politics, we all have our biases. In order to engage culture well, we must strive to avoid the paths of both the sectarian and the secularist, of both blind rejection and uncritical acceptance. This will require careful investigation into the issues we face, taking the opposing view seriously and weighing its merits. Make a habit of hearing both sides of an issue before you baptize your opinions. Be slow to speak and quick to listen (James 1:19).

  3. Engage culture biblically-theologically. Why hyphenate biblical and theological? Why not just say "think biblically"? Well, the plain fact is that the Bible does not explicitly address most cultural issues. It does not tell you who to vote for, which school to go to, what movies to watch, whether or not you should date, whether or not to abort your baby, or how to respond to cloning. Instead, the Bible offers theological principles which we can appropriate in order to form opinions and convictions about cultural issues. For instance, there is no verse in the Bible that reads: "Thou shalt not have an abortion." However, the Bible does inform us that God is the author of life and that to take human life is murder, which is prohibited by God. The circumstances surrounding abortion can be complex. A mother's life may be threatened if the life of the baby is not taken. The Bible does not say, "Preserve the mother's life." However, there are principles and practices in Scripture that can help us make wise decisions about cultural and ethical dilemmas.

    The problem, however, is that we often start with cultural assumptions about what is right, beautiful, and good and go to the Bible to prove them. Instead, we need to bring cultural questions about what is true, good, and beautiful to the Bible, reflect on them theologically and then prayerfully, and carefully form our opinions. Don't begin with cultural convictions and end with biblical proof-texts; end with cultural wisdom by beginning with biblical-theological reflection. Start with the biblical text and reflect theologically on cultural issues. Move from Text to Theology to Culture, not the other way around.


  4. Engage culture redemptively. Strive to connect your theological reflections regarding culture to redemption. We can redemptively engage culture in two ways: practically and positionally. To practically redeem, identify what is broken, what is in need of redemption, and take restorative action. Ask yourself questions like "How can I bring the gospel to bear on this issue?" or "How can I restore, forgive, or reconcile in this situation?" For example, if you come to the conviction that abortion is ugly and immoral, think about how you can help those who are suffering from the devastating affects of abortion. Don't just debate others. Volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center. Learn how to counsel mothers. Don't become self-righteous and inactive; practice your cultural convictions. Live them out redemptively.

    Our practice should flow from our position in Christ. Our actions ought to reveal our redeemed identity, not form our identity. Consider the danger of mistaking your newly-formed habits for who you are. For instance, do you think of yourself now as an environmentalist or as a citizen of Zion with an environmental conscience? Do you draw significance from being a "pro-lifer" or from being new creation in Christ Jesus? Ask yourself, "Am I confusing my practice with my position?" or "Am I finding my significance in what I do instead of who I am in Christ?" Guard yourself from subtly allowing cultural convictions to take the place of your identity in Christ. Ground your identity in the gospel and your practice will be more redemptive and more honoring to the Lord.


  5. Engage culture humbly. Recognize that you have much to learn from a given culture. Read, converse, and reflect on cultural issues with a teachable heart. Ask God to shape your convictions through whomever or whatever He wills. Avoid proud dogmatism and cultivate humble conviction. Don't put others down who believe differently from you. Consider others more important than yourself without surrendering your convictions. Yet, be willing to revise your opinions through a process of Text-Theology-Culture.

  6. Engage culture selectively. Realize and embrace the limitations of your own time, experience, and interests. Spend your time wisely. Don't sacrifice time with God, church, or family in order to become more culturally savvy. Everyone has been created differently, to live a unique life. Make the most of your experience by redemptively engaging culture, but try to avoid making the experience of others your own. There are too many issues in the world for you to become an overnight expert on Christ and culture. Be selective about what you engage.

Summarizing the Six Ways

When engaging culture prayerfully, we depend on the wisdom that comes from the Spirit who searches out all cultures, who can enable us to recognize and rejoice in what is true, beautiful, and good, and reject or redeem what is false, ugly, and immoral. As a result, engaging culture can become an act of communion with God. Relying on the wisdom of the Spirit will also mean careful investigation of cultural issues, being critical of our own biases while maintaining an open ear to the arguments of others. However, we're not left to navigate the turbulent waters of our culture with only prayer and reason. God has given us his Word, a divine and authoritative Text from which we can glean wisdom and theological principles to engage culture.

When wrestling with issues, we must be careful to bring questions, not assumptions, from our culture to the Word, following a pattern of Text-Theology-Culture. This biblical-theological engagement with culture should always lead to redemptive action, restoring what is ugly and immoral from our position as accepted children of God, citizens of Zion. In turn, we can engage culture humbly and selectively, recognizing our limitations and rejoicing in our unique opportunities to engage the world around us.

Finally, try to practice these six ways of engaging culture not just as an individual but in community. To put a spin on Rufus Wainwright's words: Only when the Church in this country becomes obsessed with glorifying God in all things will we critically and redemptively engage our culture on all kinds of subjects.

Thinking Biblically About Facebook

Some excellent thoughts on Facebook from Pastor Justin Buzzard. (adapted from his notes.)

Thinking Biblically About Facebook

9 Potentially Negative Uses/Dangers of Facebook

  1. The trend of using status updates to complain
  2. Measuring your worth/identity by number of Facebook friends/Facebook interactions. - Facebook measurements are opposite of gospel measurements
  3. Greater concern over forming Facebook (virtual) friends rather than real friends
  4. Diminishment of face-to-face time with people/enjoying and working on real relationships. - Disengaging from face-to-face time with people to check what's going on in your Facebook world
  5. Dual identities - Being someone online who you’d never be in person
  6. Hurting and excluding others (intentionally or unintentionally) - "Favorite friends" application. - Not being invited somewhere. - Without this technology you wouldn’t have known, or at least wouldn’t have known in the same way. - “Is he talking about me?. - “She wrote on her wall, but never writes on mine…"
  7. Facebook and online life can make you more distracted, changes how you think/attention span
  8. Can tempt you away from your calling/work- Your heart isn’t engaged in something great and big, but constantly distracted by silly little status updates ("I'm chewing gum") and Wall writings…
  9. Thinking about yourself more than you already do. - You weren't created to think about and focus on yourself. Facebook can tempt you to become a more self-focused person than you already are.

6 Ways to Love God and Love Others Through Facebook

  1. Can get back in touch with old, far-away friends in an easy way, showing them how you’ve been changed by Jesus.
  2. Can use Facebook as an extension of face-to-face relationships/can be used to enhance time with people. - Get to know people better/better love and care for people when you're with them because through Facebook you know more about who they are and what’s going on in their life
  3. Can use Facebook to think about yourself less and others more. - Facebook can be a tool for getting outside of yourself/your problems
  4. Can use Facebook to sharpen/discipline what you do with your time. Status updates and built in accountability
  5. Can use Facebook to quickly announce/make great things happen: events, face-to-face time. - Instead of taking 45 min. to call 10 people to come over for a spontaneous evening of fun and fellowship, use Facebook
  6. Can use Facebook to influence other people for Jesus. Create a new culture with your status updates: use to influence, love, encourage, teach, and challenge people towards greater love for God and other people.

(thanks to Justin Taylor.)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Letter to President-Elect Obama

My wife composed this letter to President-elect Obama. I think it reflects a Godly appeal and prayer for our new president.

May God move the heart of our future president to protect the lives of those who are defenseless.

Dear President-Elect Obama,

Today I shed tears of joy, along with hundreds of thousands of Americans, for the great victory of your election. The significance of this moment cannot be overstated. Our African-American friends have been oppressed and cast aside for generations in this country of ours. Now, may the shame be completely wiped away and may the glory that this nation represents and strives for become a reality for more and more of our once silenced citizens.

I confess I did not cast my vote for you. Not because you failed to inspire me with your speeches, because you did. Not because you do not impress me with your leadership and vision, because you do. I cast my vote for another based upon my concern for another segment of our society which is downtrodden and cast aside, the weak, the innocent; the unborn.

Mr. President-Elect, I pray that your heart would be burdened as well to do all in your power to encourage the life that is even now forming in many to come to fruition, to share in this great moment in our nation’s history. We all know the times are difficult and no one will escape the trials at hand. Just as this is true, so is the gift and privilege we have to live it. May the millions of unborn get this chance as well. May the virtue of responsibility reign as mothers choose to carry the fruit of their wombs to term, to give the gift of life to another. I ask, President Obama, that you would prayerfully consider your pay grade since indeed it has now risen at this moment in our history. May you be the champion of all those who are weak yet share the same right to life.

May God bless you and your beautiful family.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Prayer for the Election

Here is a prayer for this election by John Piper. Please read this and pray it!

May God make his people shine throughout this election and all that follows.

God Bless,

Paul

A Prayer for the Election
November 3, 2008 | By: John Piper
Category: Commentary

Father in heaven, as we approach this election on Tuesday, I pray

1) that your people will vote,

2) and that they will vote with a sense of thankfulness for a democratic system that at least partially holds in check the folly and evil in all our hearts so that power which corrupts so readily is not given to one group or person too easily;

3) that we would know and live the meaning of

* being in the world, but not of it,
* doing politics as though not doing them,
* being on the earth, yet having our lives hidden with Christ in God,
* rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to God the things that are God’s;

4) that we would discern what truths and values should advance by being made law and which should advance only by the leavening of honest influence;

5) that your people would see what love and justice and far-seeing wisdom demand in regard to the issues of education, business and industry, health care, marriage and family, abortion, welfare, energy, government and taxes, military, terrorism, international relations, and every challenge that we will face in the years to come;

6) and above all, that we will treasure Jesus Christ, and tell everyone of his sovereignty and supremacy over all nations, and that long after America is a footnote to the future world, he will reign with his people from every tribe and tongue and nation.

Keep us faithful to Christ’s all important Word, and may we turn to it every day for light in these dark times.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Pastoral Reflection on This Election

Listen to Pastor Piper as he wisely and biblically reflects on this election.

Here is the outline (thanks to Justin Taylor.)

1. Womanhood
2. Race
3. Abortion
4. Prophetic perspective
5. Sovereignty of God
6. Gospel

Obama's Abortion Extremism

Robert George of Princeton University recently commented:

"Sen. Barack Obama's views on life issues ranging from abortion to embryonic stem cell research mark him as not merely a pro-choice politician, but rather as the most extreme pro-abortion candidate to have ever run on a major party ticket."

Read the full article here: Obama's Abortion Extremism

When is it Acceptable for a ''Pro-Life'' Voter to Vote for a ''Pro-Choice'' Candidate?

I found this article via Justin Taylor. I think it is a persuasive argument to allow a candidate's stance on abortion to significantly influence our vote. Check it out and consider how to best vote in this election.


Please know that I am not endorsing any political party or particular candidate and would encourage every person to vote for the candidate who will accomplish the greatest good - both in the short term and in the long term. I choose to speak to this issue because of the radically different views the two candidates have on abortion and the huge implications of this election on this particular issue. There are few political issues that would motivate me as a pastor to speak on political issues publicly - this is one of them.

I pray you consider your vote carefully. I will do all I can to protect your freedom to vote your conscience without coercion or regret.

Between Two Worlds: What Is the Freedom of Choice Act?

(This is an extremely important moral issue to consider in this election. Please review this post, Between Two Worlds: What Is the Freedom of Choice Act?, by Justin Taylor carefully as you consider how to vote. I am not committed to any political party and consider many issues a matter of wisdom, precedent and political philosophy and not clear biblical commands. Nevertheless, we must be responsible Christian citizens when it comes to explicit moral issues such as this proposed legislation. - Pastor Paul)


As many know, Senator Obama told Planned Parenthood in 2007 that “the first thing I’d do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act.”


But how many of us know what the "Freedom of Choice Act" (hereafter FOCA) entails?

Here's an attempt to explain what this would mean.

It's important to note at the outset that this congressional statute is often presented as codifying Roe v. Wade. Hence, if Roe was ever overturned, FOCA would prevent things from changing. While this is true, FOCA goes far beyond this.

The 2007 version of FOCA (for the House bill, see H.R. 1964; for the Senate bill, see S. 1173) includes the following provision:
A government may not
(1) deny or interfere with a woman’s right to choose –
(A) to bear a child;
(B) to terminate a pregnancy prior to viability; or
(C) to terminate a pregnancy after viability where termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman; or
(2) discriminate against the exercise of the rights set forth in paragraph (1) in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.
Section 6 adds:
This Act applies to every Federal, State, and local statute, ordinance, regulation, administrative order, decision, policy, practice, or other action enacted, adopted, or implemented before, on, or after the date of enactment of this Act.
The section highlighted above in bold italics means that FOCA, if passed, will accomplish two things:
  1. it would invalidate all current and future statutes, ordinances, regulations, administrative orders, decisions, policies, or practices--at any level of government--that regulate or restrict abortion in any way;
  2. it would mandate taxpayer funds to be used at the state and federal level for abortion services (not to do so would discriminate against the "rights" of abortion set forth in the bill).
The National Organization of Women says that FOCA "would sweep away hundreds of anti-abortion laws, policies." Planned Parenthood says FOCA "would invalidate existing and future laws that interfere with or discriminate against the exercise of the rights protected."

What are some of these state laws? The Family Research Council has complied the following list:
  • All 50 states have abortion reporting requirements
  • 46 states have conscience-protection laws for individual health-care providers
  • 44 states have laws about parental notification
  • 40 states have laws restricting late-term abortions
  • 38 states have bans on partial-birth abortions
  • 33 states have laws requiring counseling before an abortion
  • 16 states have laws about having ultrasounds before an abortion
One of the states that has had FOCA-type acts on the books since 1991 is Maryland. The result of eliminating all restrictions and regulations, unsurprisingly, is that the Maryland rate of abortion has risen while the national rate of abortion has fallen.


Some people reading the Freedom of Choice Act notice that is says a woman has a "right to choose" "to terminate a pregnancy after viability where termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman" (my emphasis).

A surface-reading of FOCA (which is seeking to codify Roe v. Wade) might suggest that there is a meaningful, legitimate restriction on late-term, post-viable abortions, namely that abortions are allowed only in cases where a woman would die or be physically harmed. But this simply isn't true.

Roe v. Wade was handed down on the same day as Doe v. Bolton, and Justice Blackmun said they were to be read together. Doe defines maternal health to include virtually any factor: "emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age." The effect is abortion on demand--abortion for any reason.

So to summarize this act--which again, Barack Obama has promised to sign as his first order of business in the White House--abortion on demand will become codified, all regulations and restrictions will be stripped away, Christian hospitals and physicians will not have a choice regarding the performance of abortion (since their accrediting agencies are approved by the federal government), teenagers will not have to tell their parents about an abortion, and prolife taxpayers will be forced to pay for abortions at any stage of the pregnancy for any reason.

Posted using ShareThis

Friday, October 31, 2008

Gospel Renewal

I attended a seminar by Tim Keller this week. It was very helpful and refreshing! Dr. Keller communication style is lucid, conversational and brilliant. Even more important, he is one of the most articulate advocates of gospel centered living. He gave us a ton of excellent notes on Gospel Renewal in the church. I just wanted to pass on one excellent quote he had from Richard Lovelace. Dr. Lovelace influenced Tim in his understanding of gospel centeredness. Hope you enjoy this quote!
"Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives… Many… have a theoretical commitment to this doctrine, but in their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for their justification… drawing their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience. Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude… Much that we have interpreted as a defect of sanctification in church people is really an outgrowth of their loss of bearing with respect to justification. Christians who are no longer sure that God loves and accepts them in Jesus, apart from their present spiritual achievements, are subconsciously radically insecure persons… Their insecurity shows itself in pride, a fierce, defensive assertion of their own righteousness, and defensive criticism of others. They come naturally to hate other cultural styles and other races in order to bolster their own security and discharge their suppressed anger."

Richard Lovelace
The Dynamics of Spiritual Life (IVP, 1979), 101.


I also highly recommend CJ Mahaney's book, The Cross Centered Life, for more on this key truth.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Holy Sonnet on God's Love

Another great sonnet from D.A. Carson. I found this one at "nosuch library book" blog.
(Anyone know where I could get this out of print book of sonnets?)

Enjoy!

To grasp how wide and long and high and deep
This love of Christ, experience it when
Mere knowledge bursts its categories, then
Escape the fragile flame of language, reap
The richest crop salvation brings, and heap
Up memories of a sea of love, again
Yet again cascading o'er us---men
Can know no other bliss so rich and deep.

Lord God, in love you have established us,
And rooted us in soil no less fine:
Not single plants exposed to every gust
Of wind, but all the saints drink love sublime.


Make me to know---a creature hewn from sod---
The measure of all fullness found in God.


Don Carson, Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century

Holy Sonnets on Hell

I found these sonnets by D.A. Carson today. May they motivate us to run to Christ our only Savior from such a fate and may they motivate us to run to our friends who don't know Christ and love them in his name and speak the truth in love.

Go, bury death in limousines: dispel
Inevitable death in transient mirth,
Acquire toys and earthly wealth from birth;
Pursue position, luxuries, and tell
Your mortal colleagues of your virtues; sell
Your future for the present; measure worth
In prominence, and seek the highest berth;
Send flowers, and do not think of death and hell.
    Appalling folly, attitude perverse—
    Before the one great certainly, to play
    The ostrich and ignore hard facts, or worse,
    Transform the corpse by euphemism’s play.
Still more: as surely as a mortal dies,
His certain death portends the great assize

There are no friends in hell: the residents
With zeal display self-love’s destructive art
In narcissistic rage. The better part,
The milk of human kindness, no defense
Against a graceless world, robbed of pretence,
Decays and burns away. To have a heart
Whose every beat demands that God depart –
This is both final curse and gross offense.
    So not that metaphor’s inadequate
    A fearful mask that hides a lake less grim;
    Relentless, pain-streaked language seeks to cut
    A swath to bleak despair, devoid of him.
This second death’s a wretched, endless thing.
Eternal winter with no hope of spring.


Taken from D.A. Carson, Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century, Baker, 1994.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What is the Gospel?

There is an excellent conversation going on at 9-Marks about "What is the Gospel?". This is such a vital topic for us as believers. Really the answer to this question will determine who we are and what we do as God's people. A bad answer will produce bad fruit and perhaps even spiritual death for our churches. A right and biblical answer will be life and fruit for us and our churches. Check out the first installment from Greg Gilbert below and then go to 9-Marks to read more.

September 17, 2008

What is the Gospel?---There Are Really Two Conversations Going on Here, Not Just One

by Greg Gilbert

Let me offer a thought that might help us to see a little more clearly through this huge conversation about what the gospel is and whether some people are too narrow or too broad in their understanding of it.

It seems to me that the two major camps in this conversation—those who say the Gospel is the good news that God is reconciling sinners to himself through the substitutionary death of Jesus (call them “A”) and those who say the gospel is the good news that God is going to renew and remake the whole world through Christ (“B”)—are largely talking past one another. In other words, I don’t think the As and the Bs are answering the same question. Of course both of them say they’re answering the question “What is the gospel?” and thus the tension between the two different answers. But I think if we pay close attention, we’ll see that they are actually answering two very different and equally biblical questions.

Those two questions are these:

1. What is the gospel? In other words, what is the message a person must believe to be saved? And
2. What is the gospel? In other words, what is the whole good news of Christianity?

When an A-person hears the question “What is the gospel?” he understands it to mean “What is the message a person must believe to be saved?” and he answers it by talking about the death of Christ in the place of sinners, and the call to repent and believe.

When a B-person hears the question “What is the gospel?” he understands it to mean “What is the whole good news of Christianity?” and he answers by talking about God’s purpose to renew the world through Christ.

You can understand why there would be tension between the two. If you answer question (1) by talking about the new creation, people are understandably going to say that your answer is too broad and that you are pushing the cross out of its central place. When people in Scripture asked the question “What must I do to be saved?” the answer they received was to repent of sin and believe in Jesus—not something about the coming new creation.

Yet it’s also true that the Bible sometimes (even often) talks about “the gospel” in terms of the new creation. So to answer question (2) by only talking about Christ’s death in the place of sinners, and to say that everything else is by definition not-gospel (but merely implication), is indeed too narrow. That would be to say that promises such as the resurrection of the body, the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile, the new heavens and new earth, and many others are somehow not part of what the Bible holds out as the “good news” of Christianity.

What we need to understand is that neither of these two questions is wrong, and neither is more biblical than the other. The Bible asks and answers both of them. Sometimes it says that “the gospel” is that message which a person must believe in order to be forgiven of sin—and that, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, is the message that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and was raised on the third day. Other times the Bible uses the word “gospel” to refer to the whole complex of promises that God intends to keep through Christ, such as in Matthew 4, Mark 1, Luke 4, and Acts 13.

Once we acknowledge all that, and once we realize that we aren’t all answering the same question when we say "The gospel is . . .", I think we’ll be able to avoid some of the tension in the conversation. Not only so, but it seems to me that we’ll then be able to understand more clearly why the Bible uses “gospel” in both a broad and a narrow sense, and how those two senses fit together.

And that in turn will help us understand why (and this is important) the New Testament puts pastoral and evangelistic priority on the narrow sense—and why it expects us to do the same.

But that's another post.....


Go to http://blog.9marks.org/2008/09/what-is-the-g-1.html for more!

Sane Faith

David Powlison has been writing some fantastic articles for "Boundless" webzine, a publication of Focus on the Family. I believe these articles are life-changing. I've enclosed a portion of the first article below. You'll want to go to the website for the whole thing.

David Powlison has made a huge impact on how we at KGC understand gospel-centered living and biblical counseling. I believe David takes the theological wisdom of the Puritans, tempers it where needed with biblical insight and delivers us a down-to-earth biblically-faithful Christ-centered approach to Christian living. (A note of interest - David has roots in our area - he lived in Newton, MA, went to Harvard and served for some time at McClean Hospital in Belmont. He is a wonderful humble man - I got to sit down with him some years ago.)

Please read the articles slowly - perhaps just one a day or one a week over the next month or so. Take time to think about what David is saying. Get your bibles out and examine the articles in light of the word of God. Pray about it. And then think about how to live in light of these truths.

Enjoy!

Garrett, 23, is a recent college grad. When some little thing frustrates him or he doesn't get his way, he explodes in anger. It goes way over the top. In college he was an episodic binge drinker, but he's started to drink regularly and heavily over the past year. The effects of alcohol in him are unpredictable. Sometimes booze mellows Garrett out, but most times it lowers his threshold for volatile hostility. In addition to his growing drinking problem, he routinely turns to online pornography for a "fix." His friends don't know about that, but they fear for his future, wondering if he will self-destruct with his drinking and violent temper.

Official diagnosis and current street wisdom? "Garrett suffers from intermittent explosive disorder (IED) and is an addictive personality — and Garrett is all about Garrett, and has control issues, big-time."

Sarah, a 29-year-old single woman, has become increasingly preoccupied with her looks, her calorie intake, and her exercise regime. She often "feels fat," at 5'9" tall and weighing only 103 pounds, She's relentless in her activities and self-care, competitive, always trying to prove herself. Her roommates and family have become more and more concerned. Sarah seems joyless, and has been detaching herself from normal social interactions. She seems nervously self-preoccupied most of the time, so she has little time, energy, or attention for anything or anyone besides herself.

Diagnosis and current wisdom? "Sarah has anorexia — and she's a perfectionist with low self-esteem."

Lise, 32 and married, with a toddler, has felt down ever since she had the baby. Lise has had a tendency to wallow in self-reproach ever since childhood, but lately it's gotten worse. She's mired in loops of self-condemning thoughts, endlessly rehearsing and bemoaning her faults, both real and imaginary. She has developed elaborate "quiet time" rituals that help her feel some sense that her life is OK. She never feels like God loves her. Her husband worries that Lise's ritualistic habits and "sticky thoughts" about personal failings interfere with her ability to raise their child. Her brooding casts a pall over their relationship, too. The simplest question — "How was your day?" — often turns into a dark spiral of complaint and despair. He walks on eggshells: "What can I do? What can I say?"

Diagnosis and current wisdom? "Lise has a case of clinical depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) — and she sets impossible standards for herself."

Chandra, 21, a senior in college, has battled intense anxiety feelings ever since adolescence. She gets tongue-tied if she's put on the spot in a social interaction. She increasingly avoids social situations, and only goes to gatherings or events if she has a friend with her to run interference and carry the ball conversationally. She hasn't been out on a date since a couple of ill-fated attempts in high school when she "almost had a panic attack" trying to figure out what to talk about. Chandra medicates her anxiety with daytime TV, Netflix and chocolate ice cream.

Diagnosis and current wisdom? "Chandra suffers from social anxiety disorder — and she's shy, gets glued to the tube, and needs her chocolate fix."

Do you recognize any of your friends in these people? I do. Do you recognize something of yourself in any of their problems? I do, too.

And do you also notice how each diagnostic label simply takes what we already know and then restates it in quasi-medical-sounding language? The actual experiences of life-lived get turned into a depersonalized "condition." Problems get viewed exclusively as something a person "has," rather than the array of things a person feels, thinks and does.

It's curious. The labels don't actually add any information to what we already know. Yet they somehow alter the entire way we perceive a person. They even alter how people perceive themselves. The story and the struggle get lost in translation.

Hold onto that thought, and we'll come back to it later. First we're going to climb into the story and the struggle.



See http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0001827.cfm for more.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Great Prayers to a Great Christ

A quote from EM Bounds via Jeff Haavisto this morning - may we ask great things from a great Christ for His great
purposes!
The faith which creates powerful praying is the faith which centers itself on a powerful Person. Faith in Christ's ability to do and to do greatly, is the faith which prays greatly. Thus the leper lay hold upon the power of Christ. "Lord, if Thou wilt," he cried, "Thou canst make me clean." In this instance, we are shown how faith centered in Christ's ability to do, and how it secured the healing power.

Taken from the book The Essentials of Prayer by E.M. Bounds 1835-1913

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Great Devotional!


I have been using "For the Love of God" by DA Carson in my morning devotionals for some time. It is a devotional commentary that follows the Robert Murray M'Cheyne bible reading plan. It is a fantastic way to let the word of God abide in you. I recommend the two-year plan that follows two of the four readings per day. If you are ambitious try the four readings a day plan.

Check out this excerpt from today's commentary on Ezekiel 14:

"To set up idols in the heart is to seperate oneself from the living God (14:7). ... That danger is no less treacherous today than in Ezekiel's time. Somehow we manage to adhere to our creedal profession, but if anything goes wrong our undisciplined rage shows tha we maintain little real trust in the living God; our secret idol is comfort and physical well-being. We attend church, but rarely do we pray in private or thoughfully read the Word of God. We sing lustily at missionary conventions, but have not shared the Gospel with anyone for years. And deep down we are more interested in our reputation, or in sex, or in holidays, than we are in basking in the awesome radiance and majesty of God. Meditate on 14:8, and ask for forgiveness adn grace to become more consistent."


Wow! This meditation convicted me and caused me to run to Christ for forgiveness and fresh power to love Him first.

I think you will find many other insights to spur you on in this excellent devotional commentary. If you are interested read the excerpt below from the Christway Media site and subscribe to or purchase "For the Love of God".

Enjoy!

Now more than ever, the need to read the Bible, to understand the big picture of its storyline, and to grasp the relevance this has for your life is critical. Join with us as we follow Donald Carson's Bible-reading plan one day at a time though email. (We hope you'll be enticed to purchase the two volumes.)

"For the Love of God" Used by permission of the publisher, Crossway Books, a division of Good New Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187.


To subscribe send an empty email to:
christwaymedia-join@associate.com

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

That You May Believe! Our Series in John

We just finished our series in the gospel of John entitled "That You May Believe: The Signs and Sayings of Christ". What a rich time of learning about our wonderful Savior and finding fresh faith and fresh life in His name!

John 20:31 sums up the purpose and , I trust, our experience of this series: "but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:30-31, ESV)

Here is a summary table of our series listing the 7 signs and 7 sayings we looked at along with key memory verses. Enjoy!

Signs

Verses

The Wedding Miracle

Sign 1, John 2

"and [he] said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him." (John 2:10-11, ESV)

The Sick Son

Sign 3, John 4

"When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death." (John 4:47, ESV)

The Sabbath Healing

Sign 4, John 5

"How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?" (John 5:44, ESV)

The Five Thousand Fed

Sign 5, John 6

"Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." (John 6:35, ESV)

The Blind Man

Sign 6, John 9

"Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”" (John 9:39, ESV)

Lazarus Raised

Sign 7, John 11

"Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”" (John 11:25-26, ESV)

Jesus’ Resurrection

Sign 2 & 8, John 2 & 20

"Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”" (John 20:27-29, ESV)



I Am Sayings

Verses

The Bread of Life

I Am 1, John 6

"Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." (John 6:35, ESV)

The Light of the World

I Am 2, John 8

" Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”" (John 8:12, ESV)

The Good Shepherd & The Door

I Am 3 & 4, John 10

"So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep." (John 10:7, ESV)

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me," (John 10:11, 14, ESV)

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand." (John 10:27-29, ESV)

The Resurrection and the Life

I Am 5, John 11

"Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”" (John 11:25-26, ESV)

The Way, The Truth & The Life

I Am 6, John 14

" “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" (John 14:1-2, ESV)

"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6, ESV)

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. " (John 14:9b, ESV)

The True Vine

I Am 7, John 15

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:1,5, ESV)

The I Am

I AM of I Am's #8, John 8

"Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”" (John 8:58, ESV)

Other key verses

The Word was God

" In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1,14, ESV)

The New Birth

"Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”" (John 3:3, ESV)

The Ripe Harvest

"Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest." (John 4:35, ESV)

The Promised Spirit

" On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ”" (John 7:37-38, ESV)

The Summary

" Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:30-31, ESV)

A Wonderful VBS

We had an exhilirating and exhausting VBS week July 7-11. We are so so thankful for God's blessing on our "Friendship Trek" VBS!

It was a huge success with almost 60 children attending and learning that Jesus is our “Forever Friend”. The message of the good news of Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord and friend resonated throughout the entire week. The kids were very excited about what they were learning and doing and we believe the families were greatly blessed. A number of parents told me their hildren were so excited in telling their parents what they were learning each day.

We are thankful for the partnership of First Church of Christ, Bradford. We pray God's continued blessing on our friends as they know and walk with Christ, our "Forever Friend".


To our church family and all our friends at FCC Bradford and the greater Haverhill community, thank you so much for your hard work and prayers for our VBS. Thanks for your partnership in bringing this Christ-centered VBS to the children and their families! May everyone remember Jesus Christ, our true "forever friend"!

Let Us Never Forget

Here is a quote from my friend Jeff. He took this from JC Ryle and personalized it. Enjoy!

"Let me never forget this part of my Lord's character. Christ's loving-kindness to me never changes, and never fails. It is a deep well of which I will never find the bottom. It began from all eternity, before I was born. It chose, called, and quickened me when I was dead in my trespasses and sins. It drew me to God and changed my character, and put a new will in my mind, and a new song in my mouth. It has borne with me in all my waywardness and shortcomings. It will never allow me to be separated from God. It will flow ever forward, like a mighty river, through the endless ages of eternity. Christ's love and mercy was my plea when I first began my journey. Christ's love and mercy will be my only plea when I cross the dark river and enter home. Let me seek to know this love by inward experience, and prize it more. Let it constrain me more continually to live, not to myself, but to Him who died for me and rose again."


Adapted from "Expository Thoughts on the Gospels", Luke 5:17-26, by J.C. Ryle, 1856, Baker Book House, 2007, p. 144

Zion Bible College in Bradford!

We are pleased to welcome the new students moving into Bradford as part of the relocation of Zion Bible College from Barrington, Rhode Island to the historic campus of Bradford College.

Bradford College has a glorious heritage of Christian education dating back to the second great awakening. Ann Hasseltine Judson was educated here. It was next door where the first American Foreign Mission Board was started June 27, 1810. It is a great joy to see this heritage continued by Zion Bible College as they reoccupy the formerly vacant campus. May God greatly bless and prosper them in Christ-centered education and grant them an great and lasting heritage!

We hope we might have some opportunity to serve Zion students and faculty as they relocate to the Haverhill area.

God Bless!
Pastor Paul

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Book as Word Art

I found out about a cool program from Justin Taylor's blog. It's called Wordle. It shows the most prevalent words in any selected text in a collage.

Check out these examples:

The Gospel of John - ESV:


Romans - ESV:



This is one I did from Pilgrim's Progress:


The Psalms in Hebrew:















Great way to capture a book!

Marriage Book Reviews

As you probably can tell, I spent some time at the 9Marks site this morning. Lots of great articles, reviews and excellent biblical discernment. A number of folks have asked me about recommended books for marriage. My personal favorites are "When Sinner's Say 'I Do'" by Dave Harvey, "Sex, Romance and the Glory of God" by CJ Mahaney and "Love that Lasts" by Gary and Betsy Ricucci. I also think every husband needs a kick in the pants type book. "Reforming Marriage" by Douglas Wilson helped me that way.

Check out the comparison chart to learn the strengths and weaknesses of select marriage books.



Check out the full 9Marks article with reviews here.

30 Practical Ways For Pastors to Love Their Wives & Families

I got this from the 9Marks Website – great stuff for pastors and for any husband. I was very affected, freshly convicted and graciously inspired by this excellent list. Enjoy!

30 Practical Ways For Pastors to Love Their Wives & Families

Compiled by several pastors

The demands of pastoral ministry can be tough on the pastor’s wife and family. Not only do they tempt him to neglect his family, they can leave him void of good, creative, meaningful ideas on how to love and serve them.

Pastor, we cannot help you with the temptation to neglect them, other than exhort you to flee this temptation—Christ hasn’t neglected you, has he?! But perhaps we can help you with several practical ideas to help motivate you to love and serve your wife and children more effectively. Here they are:

IN RELATION TO YOUR FAMILY...

1. Take the initiative and establish a plan for family worship. Then follow the plan! (Don Whitney encourages “brevity, regularity, and flexibility” in family worship.)

2. Come home at the exact time you say you will be home; and prepare your heart to serve your family, not be served.

3. Take responsibility for your children’s education and discipline—don’t leave it to your wife to figure out.

4. Share with your wife and kids some of the good things that are going on in the church, and then thank them for helping to make that possible.

5. Use every hour of your vacation time. And take a vacation that does not involve extended family; restrict it to just your wife and kids.

6. Take a two week vacation.

7. Diligently guard your days off.

8. There are times when it seems like you have to choose whether to be a good dad/husband or a good pastor. Good pastors choose to be good dad/husbands.

IN RELATION TO YOUR WIFE…

9. Get up early and have your quiet time, so that you can take the kids in the morning while your wife has her quiet time.

10. Give her flowers and a hand written card when she least expects it.

11. Regularly schedule a date night and take the initiative on logistics, i.e. organize the baby-sitter, make reservations, and have a plan.

12. Make sure you know her favorite restaurant, meal, flowers, ice cream flavor, and movie.

13. Schedule a weekly time where you watch the kids and your wife gets out to do whatever she wants—not errands. When you can, give her a whole day off from the kids.

14. Decide together with your wife how many evenings you will be gone and honor what has been agreed upon.

15. On Sundays, leave for church a few minutes early to stop and get your wife her favorite coffee drink.

16. Ask your wife over a romantic dinner areas she wants to see you improve.

17. Take your wife to an encouraging conference.

18. Plan regular out-of-town personal retreats for just you and her. Plan time on your retreat to write down all the evidences of grace you see in one another’s lives and then share them with one another. Later, spend time writing down your hopes for ways you want to grow as husband and father over the coming year (she doing the same for herself) and then share them with one another.

19. Respect and seek her opinion on things concerning the church.

20. Go for long walks.

IN RELATION TO YOUR CHILDREN…

21. Have deliberate one-on-one time weekly with each of your children, probably to include playing, reading scripture, or praying.

22. Date your daughters.

23. Leave the church at church so dad can be dad at home.

24. Take a child with you on visits or short term trips.

25. Ask your children questions that allow you to shepherd their hearts, such as these (these questions were posted by Justin Taylor, and were originally devised by Pastor Rich Gamache of Sovereign Grace Fellowship)

* In your own words, what is the gospel?

* Is there a specific sin you’re aware of that you need my help defeating?

* Are you more aware of my encouragement or my criticism?

* What’s daddy most passionate about?

* Do I act the same at church as I do when I’m at home?

* Are you aware of my love for you?

* Is there any way I’ve sinned against you that I’ve not repented of?

* Do you have any observations for me?

* How am I doing as a dad?

* How have Sunday’s sermons impacted you?

* Does my relationship with mom make you excited to be married?

* (On top of these things, with my older kids, I’m always inquiring about their relationship with their friends and making sure God and his gospel are the center of those relationship. And I look for every opportunity to praise their mother and increase their appreciation and love for her.)

26. Take an interest in what your children enjoy doing.

27. Read to them. Buy books they will enjoy. Take them to the library.

28. Sing with them.

29. Pray for them and with them.

30. Be careful not to put them in the spotlight at church (stop using them for every other sermon illustration!).

Contributors (all pastors): Bret Capranica (San Jacinto, CA), Brian Croft (Louisville, KY), Bob Johnson (Roseville, MI), Michael Lawrence (Washington, DC), Mike McKinley (Sterling, VA), Deepak Reju (Washington, DC), and Jeramie Rinne (Hingham, MA)

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