Wednesday, January 28, 2009

faithful and obedient

sun in winter trees

For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.
Genesis 18:19

The personal elements of the covenant are interesting to see in this passage. God did the choosing of Abraham. There was no merit on Abraham's part to earn the "right" to receive the covenant. It was God's choosing of him that gave him the covenant. But there was responsibility in the covenant. Abraham was to begin a dynasty of faithful obedience and walking with God. He was to command his children and household to follow God and to doing what the Lord said was righteous and just.

The result of the choice and of the obedience was that the covenant would be honored by God. He would bring Abraham what He had promised. This personal relationship with God just keeps being explained and exemplified in the life of Abraham.

What is really interesting in this passage is that Abraham, through the normal practice of hospitality, winds up entertaining God, Who gives him further insight into the events that would transpire. Once again, Isaac is predicted to enter Abraham's household. It is clear that God will continue to honor the covenant through this child of promise. God is clearly doing the heavy lifting in the covenant. Abraham is just remaining faithful and obedient.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

a twist in an overall direction


But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.
Genesis 17:21

This is what a journey with God looks like. It twists and changes while remaining constant in its overall direction. Abraham had taken matters into his own hands by fathering Ishmael through Hagar. God makes it clear in this context that this was not what He had in mind. God would make Ishmael a nation (actually nations) of people, but a unique covenant would be established with the son of Abraham and Sarah. Abram is now Abraham and Sarai is now Sarah. By renaming this struggling couple, God was confirming that now their lives would never be the same. At ninety-nine, Abraham would father a child. At ninety, Sarah would bear that son. And laughter would follow in the wake of this wild promise.

What happens in Genesis is a natural "thinning of the ranks" as God prepares to enter a unique covenant relationship with Israel. And grace is given all the way. God is gracious to allow Abraham's son Ishmael to thrive and become a great race of nations. God is gracious to continue to bless Abraham and Sarah despite their struggles in faith. God will graciously give an infant to the aged. And God will establish his covenant with their son.

Abraham firmly believed this. He struggled. But with each new conversation with God, the faith of the patriarch becomes more firmly entrenched in the literal promises of God. A son would come to represent a future nation. A tent in Canaan would hold on to the promise of a land for all his vast descendents.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Stumbling through faith.

15    And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.
16    Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.
Genesis 16:15-16

hagar God's patience never seems to amaze me. When I read Genesis 16, I am struck at how quickly Abram could reason away God's promise, or at best re-negotiate the terms of it unilaterally, which is what happened here. Sarai had not born him a son. And the longer he waited, the more improbable it seemed to be that it would happen. I don't think Abram and Sarai were thinking some sort of biological miracle could happen. They were evidently TRYING to have a baby (and the thought of a couple in their eighties planning for the nursery is really a bit ridiculous!), and Sarai decided to appeal to custom over faith.

It was customary for wealthy people to name an heir. And it was also customary for those without a son to name to attempt to surrogate an heir through a household servant or concubine. It was socially acceptable. it was not, however, part of God's decree. And the "logical move" on the part of Abram added to the difficulty he would face, almost immediately. As soon as Hagar got pregnant by him, the fireworks started at home.

But God graciously chose to honor some of Abram's promise even with a child who was not the child of promise. Hagar's son, Ishmael, would himself be the father of an innumerable nation. We know them as Arabs today. And they proudly trace their lineage to this moment. But even this lack of  faith would be used by God.

For Abram, God would clarify that Ishmael would not be the son to inherit all the benefits of the covenant. Sarai would bear a son to Abram and the waiting, even after this attempt of their own, would make the prospect even more outlandish, pointing clearly to the power and promise of God and not the planning and cunning of a human answer. Through it all, God does not give up on Abram, even as he stumbles through the content of what he truly believed.

And, God help me, I am the same. I stumble through what I believe, not always responding as I should and hoping I can plan my way to something that I must trust God to bring about. That is why I need to read more of this story. It helps me know how to trust the God Who is wisely working His will in my life as well.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Faith as righteousness.

And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Genesis 15:6


The old man struggled with God's promise. He was old. He was ancient. And God said he would have descendants that would become a great nation. And the old man thought to himself, "How can this ever come to be?" And God took him out on a clear starry night, and under the inky blackness of a vast expanse of countless stars, bid the old man lift his tired eyes to the heavens. "That is how numerous your descendants will be." And somehow, in the light of those stars a new star winked into existence in the old man's heart and he believed what God said. He embraced it and did not let go. He still did not understand it. But he believed.

And in that faith, God moved. He saw that Abram truly believed him. And God took the faith -- not compliance, not outward duty-- just the sheer audacity to think that God's promise as vast as the Milky Way would be true for him. And God placed that faith in the righteousness column of old Abram. And he became a righteous man in God's sight.

It is no different today. I look back at an impossible promise, that a Savior died for the sin of the world, that my sinfulness would be atoned for by a Roman crucifixion, and somehow, there sparked in my heart the faith to believe that good news. And in that moment, I was credited all the righteousness of the Son of God. I was made holy. I was a man of faith at only seven years of age, though not spectacular like Abram, still... redeemed by the decree of God to count faith as righteousness.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

From Herdsman to Hero.

medal 14    When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.
15    He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them, and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus.

Genesis 14:14-15

Lot is a study in spiritual decline, while Abram is a study in God’s blessing on obedience. Lot has moved from living as a herdsman outside of Sodom to living in the town with the reputation as the original “Sin City”. When the politics of the day lead to war and Sodom is besieged and quickly captured, in the custom of the day Lot and his family are led away along with all the spoils of war. And Abram shows that he has grown from a simple herdsman to a man expert in politics and military action.

Abram now has a household security retinue of 318 “trained men” who were evidently skilled in fighting matters. With his private army, Abram practices classic military strategy with success: He fights at night, splits his forces in what is doubtless a pincer move, and defeats the coalition of forces that raided Sodom. He then chases them off north of Canaan in order to remove the threat from the land. Not bad for an old shepherd!

Lot should have learned his lesson and gotten himself out of Sodom. Really this was his first rescue from the wicked town, but he did not even get the point. He went back to Sodom, to comfort, to commerce, and to compromise with the ways of sinful worldlings for the sake of convenience.

Abram went back to his tents, believing God’s promise and refusing to even take a coin in compensation from the princes of Sodom and the towns of the plain because he knew it was God who was going to keep blessing him and not the system around him. His faith grew as Lot’s continued to decline. No wonder Abram is such a shining example of faith to us in the New Testament. Paul singles him out in Romans 4 as the example of faith justifying us. Hebrews 11 makes much of the old patriarch who believed God more than trusting in wealth or power or prestige. And his simple faith brought him all three.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Great Marriage Advice for any guy...

The Don't Song.

A place of worship

wadi_rum Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD.

Genesis 13:18

I notice something interesting about Abram. Even though he was a nomadic herdsman, everywhere that he settled, he managed to make some sort of visible statement of his commitment to worship the Lord. In Bethel (Genesis 13:4) he built an altar. And here, as he settles a grazing rights dispute with his nephew, he settles in and quickly builds another altar. No matter where Abram was it was important that it be a place of worship.

There is an interesting contrast being made in the text between Abram and his nephew Lot. Abram allows the younger nephew to make the choice of land (an unusual situation), and Lot chooses a well-watered plain that points right at the city of Sodom. From there, it is easy for Lot to place his personal camp not far from the city where the text warns us an extraordinarily wicked culture existed. Lot made his choice of home a place of commerce first and foremost.

While Lot flirts with the enticements of worldly culture in the choice land, Abram faithfully builds an altar to worship the Lord in the place where it seems he might just eke out a living. And God rewards his faithfulness with blessing upon blessing. The immediate response by God is to re-iterate and expand the blessings of the covenant with Abram (Genesis 13:14-17), promising to give to him all the land around him (Canaan or modern day Israel) and promising him a throng of people as his descendents. God thus rewards faithful commitment to His glory.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A calling, a promise, a small start.


1    Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you;
2    And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing;
3    And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."

Genesis 12:1-3

In the call of Abram to leave his familiar surroundings and follow the Lord’s direction we have the beginning of what has been an ancient relationship God has had with a unique people: Israel. And in “father Abraham” we see the standard for what faith, following, and friendship with God are all about.

First, the faith… Abram simply was told to leave and that God would show him a land that would be his own. He was to live the life of a faithful nomad, trusting God’s call more than his own security. From that step God would make of this childless old man and his wife a great nation. He would be blessed, become someone of fame, and be a blessing to the world.

Then there had to come “the following”. I would not be commenting on this story if Abram had not believed. But the old man took God at his word (even though we do not know WHY God chose him… I think Abram was equally dumbfounded) and packed up the extended family and headed out into what was for him terra incognita. He followed by faith.

And Abram received a friendship with God. God began the whole thing. Later, as they dwell in Canaan God simply says to him, “This is the land I was talking about.” A series of brief encounters with God occurs from there on it. It is clear that God is talking to Abram and the old man is listening. This conversation is the essence of a faithful friendship with God that persisted through several manifestations of this initial covenant that God made with the patriarch.

It is with Abram that we see the care of God for individuals that ultimately changes the world. The personal desire of God to walk with us did not abate despite Adam’s sin, Cain’s murder of his brother, the generation that died in the Flood, the overt humanism of Babel, or the simple existence of Terah and his nomadic son Abram. And with that patriarch, God began to show us what faith in His Word could do. And through that pursuit by God of us, we have been blessed, for Abram became the father of the Jewish nation, and in Bethlehem, in Judea, in the land God promised Abram, a Savior was born Who has blessed the entire world forever.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Why “One-World” thinking has not been a good idea.

6    The LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.
7    "Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another's speech."
8    So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.

Genesis 11:6-8


Yes, I believe and know that God intervened in the course of human history to fragment humanity by tribe, and tongue, and nation. The reasons for this are clear: Man tends to unite around selfish and evil purposes that work against God. This is not a good thing. When humanity is forced to understand itself through cultural divide, believe it or not, this is a good and humbling thing.

I know that there is a bit of irony in the fact that I am commenting on this in a way that will be accessible to any human being with a computer across the planet. And English is the “de facto” language of the Internet. And in a way the Internet itself is a new tower of Babel that is bringing humanity together. (Well, except for the way meta-comments deconstruct a line of thought, and lead to personal attacks). But this is a dangerous prospect.

I also know that when humans unite outside of the gospel, they do so outside of God’s will. That is why the only “one-world” vision I will embrace will be in John 3:16, where God loves the world, and in Philippians 2:11 where every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Windows 7 Beta: Initial impressions

Now you don't: See through to the desktop with invisible windows

I don’t really have time to do a full review of the new Windows 7 Beta. Instead, surprisingly, Microsoft has already begun demo-ing the new OS on-line with some nice videos that demonstrate the features. (see below). I think they have taken the Mac/PC ads a little too personally… the guys who do the videos call themselves “Windows Gurus” (what, no Mac geniuses?) and “I’m a PC” stickers are prominently pasted on their laptops.

This is not an in-depth technical review. For now, a simple list of pros and cons from me.

PROS. Windows 7 solves the single most infuriating issue (and the only big one for me) in Vista: Laptop hibernation. The idea was iffy in Vista. Half the time my laptop would lockup. Many times I came back to my laptop after a few hours to find the battery totally dead because it did not hibernate, or worse, hear the fan running while it was in my carrying bag, pulling out a hot laptop because it did not hibernate. So far Windows 7 has hibernated every time and within about 15 seconds of closing the lid. Excellent!

Numerous other additions. Windows behaviors are more intuitive. Interface customization more available. . I like the simple “libraries” in Windows 7 where things like pictures, documents, videos, etc, are just automatically indexed, so you don’t have to search through your hard drive or remember where you saved something. Great addition. Even Internet Explorer 8 (I thought I’d never say this) is downright zippy and tabbed browsing, preview and true screen magnification are working well

CONS. Microsoft seems to have put Windows on a diet, which is a good thing. So why am I bothered by this? Windows 7 is not bloatware, but that means that if, like me, you got used to having Windows Movie Maker, Windows Calendar, Outlook Express, built in, Furgetaboutit. They are gone. I had Windows Vista Ultimate using Dreamscene videos as desktop wallpaper. That is gone (at least in the Beta). I was particularly perturbed that Windows Calendar is gone. I used it to synch my Calendar to my iPod.

And all my old movie maker files cannot be edited. There is a stripped down version of Movie Maker in Windows Live, but it is a joke (at least in beta) with only a piddling of transitions or effects to speak of. So I will need to get a video editing solution sometime in the future, as well as an alternate means of creating an iCal of my Google calendar. For now Windows Live mail has a calendar but it has no import or export features or iCal compatibility. Stupid move in my opinion, and I hope that changes. It will be the first bit of feedback I pass on to the folks at Redmond.

SUMMARY: Overall I can live with the trimmed down version. Windows 7 has a neater interface, the ability to preview files as you are looking through a folder is awesome. Search is GREAT. Start-up and a TRUE shutdown are faster. Hibernation works like I expect it to. And for any cutting edge folks there is touchscreen and pen input that is supposed to be ravingly intuitive. I don't have access to a machine that would do either. In summary, even though I think Windows 7 is more like Service Pack 2 for Vista (hint… I should get it for FREE!), I am sure I will be an early adopter when it goes live.

I highly recommend the cool Windows 7 Preview videos. They detail things much better than I can.

InPrivate Browsing

Friday, January 16, 2009

Windows 7 Beta Up and Running


Here is the screenshot. The dock at the bottom is Stardock Objectdock running in Windows 7 Beta. The top of the screen shows the windows taskbar. I am sure I will do a review later this weekend, or next week. Stayed tuned. I was upgraded and running at about 1:15pm. I started immediately after the last post with burning the iso to a DVD.

Windows 7 Beta… Here I go

Today I am going to attempt to install the Windows 7 Beta on my laptop. I will report back as soon as it is up and running. Here goes…

Thursday, January 15, 2009

10 significant Christian publications of 2008

Ligonier Ministries weighs in with this list. Interesting and significant choices…  a lot of reformed stuff of course!

Renew & Replenish

These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.

Genesis 10:32

I don't really have any sort of "deep" observation to make from this chapter in Genesis. It is a surface truth that really finds its way through all of scripture. God restores. He redeems. He renews. I have seen this theme carefully shown even in these first ten chapters of the Bible. When Adam and Eve sinned, even though there were consequences, God clothed them, provided for them, and even though they were expelled from Eden, that was a gracious act so they not eat of the tree of life and live forever mortally bound to sin.

God was gracious with Cain by trying to reach Him even as He disobeyed. He reached out to the rebellious heart and spared the life of the first murderer. God was gracious to Noah...he found grace in the eyes of the Lord. The entire line of Noah was spared the flood, and afterward populated the earth, leading to nations of people who spread across the globe. God graciously restored a world destroyed and promised never again to wipe out humanity as He had then.

God restored the human race through an extended family. He still restores the human race through the family of the Church. Jesus called us salt and light for the world. We are scattered through the nations as God's redemptive influence. This is something God has always done: restore and renew and replenish the earth.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lessons from the Rainbow


When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.
Genesis 9:16

I know very few people who can't stop and admire the beauty of a rainbow in the sky. Knowing the things that I now know about optics, prisms, light rays, and angles of refraction still does not take away the wonder of it. I think that is because deep inside human beings is something of the memory of this promise of God. Noah was given the rainbow as a covenantal reminder from God that the epic destruction of humanity by flood would not come to the earth again.

And I am reminded that the promises of God are beautiful. Every rainbow shows this. Writing this reflection with a Canadian cold front fast approaching and sub-zero temperatures not far behind still does not take away the sense of joyous splendor I feel when I think of a warm spring shower followed by a shining rainbow. As surely as the rainbow follows the storm, God keeps His promises to us in beauty and in grace.

I think it is sad that the rainbow has been hijacked by both the New Age movements and the homosexual rights movements.From my point of view, it is a bit like Muslims deciding to adopt a cross as their symbol. But even that current meaninglessness aside, I know that God is a keeper of promises. And the rainbow is the reminder of that truth.

The rainbow is a covenantal sign given by God for all humanity. In fact, interestingly, the text says the covenant is with every living creature, making this the only biblical covenant that I am aware of that is with the all the living things on planet earth. This is God's commitment to seeing to the planet, which is why I really don't buy into environmental alarmism. We should not trash the place, but I seriously doubt that we will turn the planet to cinders. God will one day (see 2 Peter 3:11-13 on that truth). But until then, God has our planet in good hands.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The price we pay for theological sloppiness…

C. Michael Patton over at has a great blog post on the inevitable consequences we pay for the subjectivity and theological pigheadedness that sadly is becoming more prevalent in the evangelical church. We want preachers and teachers who are celebrities and make us feel good. We eschew the hard truth. We are emasculating Christianity, in my opinion. My favorite lines:

“Sadly we have an epidemic of theological discipline in the church today. People think that they can believe and teach anything based upon a subjective experience or a provision of hope. This epidemic is caused due to lack of theological accountability. We don’t think we need people to tell us we are wrong. We don’t have any system of checks and balances; in fact, we often avoid them. We think that if we have the Bible and the Holy Spirit, we have license. There is no way to be humiliated so that we can be humbled.

Because of this lack of discipline we have people out there believing and teaching based upon wild hairs. They are prescribing spiritual medicine that they invented. Sadly the average person is the spiritual test rat. I wonder what the “faith-is-a-force” people did when they first got the idea that faith was a force that we could control. Did they consult anyone about this? Did they have theological advisers? Did they have someone who would tell them that they was wrong? Did they consult church history or biblical exegetes? Did they even have a method for validating their beliefs?”

Read the whole thing yourself here.

The Earth Remains


While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.
Genesis 8:22

This is God's promise that the order of the universe will generally not be disrupted by Him while the earth remains. Eschatologically this means that as long as God has purposes for the current universe, it will run by the laws in which He created it. It allows for the possibility that God may re-make the universe (the new heavens and earth described later in scripture). And that is really what Newtonian physics (and for that matter even Einstein's theories) can currently describe for us. What God has decreed is empirically discernible. Of course, it is true that God created it to work this way even if we had not gotten all scientific as humans! We just have the awesome ability to begin to peek behind the curtain of the universe's big show. And God's work is impressive.

I highly recommend the work of Francis Collins (director of the human genome project) on just how impressive God's work is biologically. The other really good person on this is William Demski. In terms of the astrophysics involved in this sort of understanding, I like to read Hugh Ross, though I do not always find myself in agreement with his methods. Why all this exposure to scientists who make observations about the design and make-up of the universe? Simple. I believe that what God has decreed, what God has made, what God does is consistent with what His Word says. That means that I can trust His Word with no reservations because it is consistent with the world around me.

In the case of what God promised Noah after the Flood, He made it clear that the general operation of the universe would function according to the way in which He created it. That sheer normalcy is a divine reality. I like to think of it as the Great Divine Routine that bears witness to the Creator. The very fact that things occur according to the "rules" of gravity, or relativity, or nuclear forces, or even something as "normal" as tidal action, weather patterns, and seasonal changes based on the axis of the planet, let me know that God exists and is in control. Chance would seem to produce inconsistency and trauma. Design and God's Sovereign control has placed my soul to live in an ordered universe that ultimately brings glory to Him with every day that the earth remains.

Monday, January 12, 2009 women playing with dolls...

I find this horrifyingly creepy. Reborn dolls. (hat tip to

What God Has Seen

Then the Lord said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation."
Genesis 7:1


What God Has Seen

What God sees in me
is what matters most.
It is not the things
in which I boast
that make me what I need to be is what God sees in me.

What I think matters
is worldly stuff
and selfish pride
that could never be enough
to impress the holy King of heaven
...only what God thinks matters.

My generation
follows its lusts and desires
thinking God a quaint thought
believing the hopes of liars
who dismiss Him as improbable
...that is my generation.

And in the midst
of a people who need God
I must live a holy life
directed by His Word
for He sees me... and knows me
and loves me... in the midst

of a generation He watches, and loves, and that will answer to Him.

Friday, January 9, 2009

22 Words - Abraham Piper - Making Nietzche cute

22 Words finds a place with endless entertainment pairing Family Circus & Nietzche. Esoteric? You decide.

When God is Grieved

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
Genesis 6:5-6

floodwaters This is one of the more difficult descriptions of God in all of the Bible. And it comes pretty early in the text. It is the sight of God grieved. The pre-flood narrative shows us a world where promiscuity, violence, wickedness, and power run amuck have become the standard culture of the human race. There is a phrase that is particularly chilling: "that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."

There is a three-fold intensification of the evil of mankind that is frightful: 1) every intention was 2) only evil 3) continually. That was what finally grieved the heart of God. And the story of Noah is the story of one family's survival in the midst of what God saw as ONLY an evil culture. There was nothing redeeming about it. The solution was to wipe it out and start all over.

When I see God grieved in scripture, I need to take notice. He does not like to see sin in His creation. He does not like to see a society overcome by wickedness. And it will be dealt with. I refrain from social commentary ONLY because it is SO obvious. Today, almost all of society is overcome by an anti-God, naturalistic bias that has led to all sorts of evil being tolerated. In fact, such tolerance is now a virtue to most. Where is it going? I can only think toward grieving God and inevitable, consequential judgment. That is what happens when God is grieved.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Rest for the weary

...and called his name Noah, saying, "Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands."
Genesis 5:29

hammock2 The name Noah sounds like the Hebrew word for "rest", hence the disruption from a litany of genealogical information in this chapter to pause and consider the human element. Lamech represented generations of people since Adam who had to live with the consequences of the curse on sin. Life was hard. There was painful toil and work. And Lamech, like most parents, found relief in family. As he held a young newborn in his hands, he hoped to God for relief from life's hardship through the joyful experience of this new son.

There is a pathos to this little one verse commentary. You see how hard life was for Lamech, and the generation that he represented. You also see the hope that he had that life might be easier for him with his children, and better for the next generation after him. But there is also a bit of a tragic hope here, for the physical son might be a blessing and might bring some relief, but it would not be the true rest that Lamech held out hope to see. In fact, the story of Noah in the next chapter explains that the generation in which Lamech hoped for relief from sin's curse, actually became the most judged generation to date. God would wipe humanity (save Noah and his family) from the face of the planet. This was hardly the "rest" Lamech desired.

Life is hard, no doubt. But placing hope in a human reliever to that pain is never successful. God did use Noah. And in a sense, Lamech's lament was a bit of a prophecy. But true relief would only come in the One Who would bruise the serpent's head... the ultimate deliverer, the One who truly came to bring rest. It is Jesus Who could invite all those who were weary and heavy-laden to come to Him. He gives rest. We rest in the Savior Whose yoke is easy and burden is light.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

God’s concern for the heart…

heart diagram The Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it."
Genesis 4:6-7

I find it interesting that the conversation that we have recorded in this passage is not between God and Abel, but between God and Cain. When we read in the text that God was not pleased with Cain's sacrifice, we would think that God would have also been uninterested in pursuing anything with Cain, but that is not the case. In fact, these verses show us quite the opposite situation. God was interested in helping Cain understand what it would take to be right with Him. He is conversing with the rebel heart, drawing it to Himself.

Cain was angry, and I surmise that Cain's heart was not where it should have been prior to this conversation. His sacrifice was certainly the KIND of sacrifice God was pleased with. Many of the levitical offerings concerned fruit and grain offerings. But it was the heart behind the sacrifice that clearly was the problem, as evidenced by Cain's anger over God's response. It seems Cain had hoped to get by with some sort of physical worship without spiritual engagement. And that is what God corrects with this conversation.

Cain's anger was at God, not himself. God encouraged him to "do well", which was a call to repentance. God promised through the rhetorical question to accept what Cain might have offered with an attitude of "doing well". But Cain was going through the motions, content to let sin crouch at the door. God's warning was that if he was not careful, sin would overtake him like a wild beast. By "doing well" and serving God, he could instead tame it and rule over this dominating sin. But ultimately Cain did not agree with God. And God’s imagery of the wild beast would be all to real… Cain would be that beast.

Of course the result was the first murder, a fratricide, and even then God's mercy came to Cain again. God graciously spared his life for the sake of the human race, but Cain sadly did not seem to learn what it truly meant to worship God and conquer life-dominating sins.

So with Cain we see God's early emphasis on the heart of humanity. It is who we are at the heart that God seeks to help us know, respond to Him with, and cultivate in righteousness.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Books I have read in 2008


Here is a list of what I have read in this past year. I like to vary my reading and admittedly some folks may not consider listening to audio books as pure reading. But I find it redeems my drive time where otherwise I might listen to what is often inane talk radio or even the dice game that is “Christian Radio”. So here is my list for last year.. a mix of Christian, secular, classics:

Audio Books

  1. Sandworms of Dune - Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (02.01.08)
  2. Blue Like Jazz - Donald Miller (02.08.08)
  3. The Case for the Real Jesus - Lee Strobel (03.08.08)
  4. The Cure for the Common Life - Max Lucado (03.19.08)
  5. Following Christ - Joseph M. Stowell (03.20.08)
  6. God In The Dock - C.S. Lewis (05.06.08)
  7. The Faith - Charles Colson (05.15.08)
  8. The Children of Hurin - J.R.R. Tolkien (06.17.08)
  9. It's Not About Me - Max Lucado (06.19.08)
  10. John Adams - David McCollough (09.11.08)
  11. Take the Risk - Ben Carson, M.D. (10.28.08)
  12. Iliad - Homer (12.17.08)

Printed Books

  1. The Front Bench Regulars - Larry Dablemont (01.04.08)
  2. Total Truth - Nancy Pearcey (01.21.08)
  3. How People Change - Tim Lane & Paul David Tripp (04.03.08)
  4. A Tale of Two Sons - John MacArthur (04.12.08)
  5. Six Battles Every Man Must Win - Bill Perkins (05.12.08)
  6. What Is A Healthy Church? - Mark Dever (06.04.08)
  7. The Cross Centered Life - C.J. Mahaney (06.13.08)
  8. The Master Plan of Discipleship - Robert E. Coleman (07.08.08)
  9. The Discipline of Grace - Jerry Bridges (08.04.08)
  10. Intentional Disciplemaking - Ron Bennett (08.14.08)
  11. Transforming Church - Kevin Ford (08.26.08)
  12. Biblical Eldership - Alexander Strauch (09.05.08)
  13. Letters Along the Way - Carson & Woodbridge (10.21.08)


  1. A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers - D.A. Carson (05.14.08)
  2. Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist - John Piper (08.27.08)
  3. Alone with God: The Power and Passion of Prayer - John MacArthur (12.17.08)

In Adam’s Fall…

the fall of humanity The concept of total depravity is not a popular doctrine in current evangelical pop-culture. I challenge anyone to tell me where either Rick Warren or Joel Osteen treat the subject of the sinfulness of mankind with any kind of muscle or vigor. They don't emphasize it. When I read Warren's Purpose Driven Life I was overwhelmingly disappointed with the way in which any personal offense against God is NOT explained. He de-emphasizes depravity by talking about sin more by its personal results (unhappiness, mistakes, lack of purpose) than by its essential influence. I wonder if that can be a true gospel. I think he personally believes in depravity. But it is quite unpopular to believe in sin, eternal punishment, and a God Who cannot abide sin in His creation.

Osteen is even more outlandish. His lack of theological acuity is pathetically apparent. He preaches a feel-good religion devoid of the gospel and sadly, this kind of teaching is what leads the Christian market of religious ideas in America today and around the world. I long for what the pilgrims had. No I don’t sing “give me that old time religion”, but past generations had a Christianity most evangelicals will never know.

The earliest primer used in America to teach young children to read began teaching the alphabet with this theological truth: "A is for Adam. In Adam's fall, we sinned all." How ironic that in a children's book of ABC's from three centuries past there is a more robust commitment to the need for the gospel than in the best-selling preachers today!

Now an understanding of depravity is not an end in itself. Because if we really come to know that our rebellion against God deserves His wrath and punishment, we will find our hearts feeling hopeless. Depravity does not end with the enormity of sin. It is a road to the need for the gospel. And that is why we must really make sure that people know they are sinners before they can be saved. It is why the gospel is really good news because Jesus rescues us from sin and its devastating effects on us as individuals and as a society. No government can do that. No legislature can prevent sin. But Jesus can redeem hearts, create new ones, and save us from the "dust-fate" that has met us all since Adam fell.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A good website for helping organize your life.

I need structure to get things done. Part of it has to do with the wide plethora of ministry responsibilities that fall into my oversight: Counseling, Discipleship Classes, Discipleship Mentoring relationships, Small Groups Ministry, as well as various pastoral responsibilities that change daily as people have need. I have found Matt Perman's site helpful for organization:

This post was particularly helpful on Daily Routines.

Between Two Worlds: 3D Renderings of the Temple in Jerusalem in Jesus' Time

Between Two Worlds: 3D Renderings of the Temple in Jerusalem in Jesus' Time

This is cool. 3D walkthrough of the temple of the New Testament!

God’s Design for Marriage

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Genesis 2:24-25

These two verses are commentary on God's design for marriage. The outline is not my own. I began utilizing it in counseling couples years ago... it comes to me courtesy of the ministry of Chuck Swindoll and Insight for Living. But it serves as a clear vision of marriage in an age where it is being brutally re-defined to mean virtually nothing.

This Creation commentary shows that God designed marriage between the opposite sexes. It involves one man and one woman. Any other attempt by any other group, no matter how disenfranchised it claims to be, is purely outside the divine design for marriage. It is the biblical teaching on marriage that counters the arguments of proponents of same-sex marriage.

Between the man and the woman, there are four important elements that help a marriage to thrive:

SEVERANCE. The text says a man leaves his father and mother. A new marriage creates a new family unit, and the relationship with the old family changes. If either partner in a marriage fails to "leave" emotionally or physically, and join fully in the new marriage, it is in trouble.

PERMANENCE. The marriage relationship is initiated with the call to "hold fast" to one another. The idea is to be joined together in a permanent fashion. This is not a temporary relationship. This is one reason why I will not perform a wedding ceremony in which a pre-nuptial agreement has been signed. That is nothing more than a commitment to "maybe". The design for marriage is for a man and wife to hold fast to one another.

UNITY. The two become "one flesh". There is more here than just a sexual reference. This new couple is the beginning of a new family unity. The definition of marriage is "oneness", which is why all their lives this newly married couple must strive to live as two people becoming one in their marriage. It is not easy. It is always challenging. It is wonderfully rewarding. And it is a lifelong unity that just gets better as two people stop going their own way, and head together into obedience to a loving God.

INTIMACY. The man and his wife were naked and were not ashamed. Interestingly, the first response of the two of them upon disobedience to God was to "feel naked" and ashamed and attempt to cover their bodies. In the way their marriage was originally created, they had absolute freedom to be themselves without shame. Sin disturbs this natural intimacy. Of course, a high expression of this in Christian marriage involves a satisfying sex life. But that is the result of the deepest intimacies of soul that two people share together. And I testify that in every respect, this intimacy gets better over the years and decades of commitment together.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Created Very Good

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Genesis 1:31

earth & sun God does good work. At every point in the first chapter of Genesis as the text details the creative work of God in the universe, it states that "it was good". God made nothing that was not good. He made no design failures. He created no dead ends. He made no mistakes. That is what the text reveals about the character of God's work. As a person who does not buy into the “faith view” of evolutionism, I cannot see God experimenting with the universe through a blind process that results in species playing genetic bingo. There is another explanation for things like mutation, and even the students of biology today will tell you that genetic mutation GENERALLY results in death, illness, or a "bad thing".

Creation, however, is declared to be a good thing, which means that God created working systems when He created the universe. He did not set loose random events and look away. He designed a universe that we are still trying to figure out! And it works perfectly, right down to the fine-tuning of everything planet earth needs to sustain us.

I know that the dominant intellectual worldview clashes with this biblical model. I get the Science Channel and Discovery on my cable connection. And the observation that science makes about the current state of the universe can be useful observation. Speculation about how it all got here takes faith, just like any other philosophy of origins, since no one was there at the Big Bang to observe how it happened or how it got here. Sure, physicists have equations (just another kind of written text to believe in), but no one has a record of how it got here. They have interpretation of observation. Period.

Personally, having spent my entire life in the investigation of spiritual truth as revealed in the Bible, I have found the texts of both the Old and New Testaments to be remarkably reliable, and eerily accurate in describing the human condition. I can trust the miraculous AND the creation accounts these texts contain by faith because of the rest of the supporting evidence for the veracity of the Bible. For me it is no different than someone choosing to accept the "text" of a physics equation that they cannot understand. Well... let me rephrase that. It is a little different. The physics equation does not claim to come from God. It has a human origin. Scripture claims an origin higher than the human hands that penned it.

I live in an earth, though it has had its share of "problems" created by fallen human beings, that is the direct creation of God. I live in a universe that God made so that He could pursue relationships with beings created in His own image. And He has revealed Himself as God and Creator to all on this planet through His Word and the witness of the universe itself. And God thinks that all this work of His in its original form is "very good". His work on the moral state of humanity since the fall of Adam and Eve has been to restore that. And He has revealed what that will look like again through His Word and His prophets.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year: 2009!

The Burch family keeps our New Year’s celebration pretty tame. We played video games and watched movies. Some of us made it to midnight (not me). Today I have a pot of black-eyed peas and ham hocks cooking away on the stove. Smells sumptuous. You have to eat some black-eyed peas on New Year’s day… for good luck or something. My dad always did this, and I am passing on the tradition.

So what traditions are out there for others?

Today, we will lounge around the house, maybe start packing away a little of our Christmas decorating, maybe not. My tradition is to load up iTunes with every album in my collection and let it play in shuffle mode all day. Drives my kids crazy, but I love the randomness of it. Right now it is Billy Joel, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.