Monday, May 24, 2010

Nike, Soccer, and Calvin

I'm reminded of Francis Chan's talk at Passion '07 where he recalled that, while attending a Laker's game he thought how sad it was that this was probably the loudest place on this planet. An arena full of people worshipping at the altar of a game. If only we as Christians could be as enthusiastic in our pursuit of God as the rest of the world is in chasing its idols, which are made with human hands, and which Isaiah tells us are "nothing."

"… [A]n idol can be either a construct of the human mind that reduces the majesty of God and his ways of revelation to a mere shadow, or it can be a physical, palpable construction of the human hand that itself becomes an object of that worship and honor due to God alone. The one is a defect of the truth; the other, an exaggerated imitation of it. Both are false…" -Calvin

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Chris Farley and Divine Grace

The notion of love is something that would be a wonderful thing. I don't think I've ever experienced it, other than the love of my family. At this point, it's something beyond my grasp. But I can imagine it, and longing for it makes me sad. -Chris Farley

I've just finished reading The Chris Farley Show, which was written by his brother, Tom Farley, Jr. The book is largely interviews with friends and associates of Chris, and it chronicles his life in show business up to his fateful death in the Hancock Building in Chicago.

What struck me most about Farley's life - especially his later struggles - was his constant consumption. His end desire was love and delight and joy, and yet that desire was something to be found within himself. Especially in his later days, he expressed in private conversations with friends, his desire to be free, to have joy, to find real love. And then he would time and time again go on benders, consuming all of the food that he could, drinking all day long, consuming copious amounts of drugs - all with the end goal of personal fulfillment. He would have nights where he would start drinking at 8 p.m. and he would still be partying and drinking by the next morning at 11 a.m.

In many ways, like King Solomon, Chris Farley did not deny himself even the slightest desire. He would use his money to ride around the biggest cities, hiring prostitutes, purchasing heroine, cocaine, and weed, and drinking far beyond what any of those with him could consume. All the while, he was a dreadful wreck, seeing occasional breaks in the clouds, through which he could glimpse the joy he sensed in his heart was out there, beyond his grasp (and it is most certainly beyond all our grasps without the power of God).

When Chris Farley died, he had been awake for four days straight, drinking, snorting coke, spending lots of money on prostitutes. As he was dying, the prostitute took a photo of him, stole his watch and started leaving the room. He then said to her the last thing he ever said to anybody: "Please, don't leave me."

He was a spiritual man who took some solace in his Catholic faith, but many reflected that Farley felt a constant need to prove himself worthy to God. According to his priest, Farley never seemed to move beyond this need to prove his worth to God. If only someone had told Chris that only by surrendering to Christ and admitting his inability to be worthy of God's love could one find freedom, joy, and unconditional love. In this book, one sees the frustration his friends have with Chris' poor decisions, but none of them have the framework of truth and reality to share in a way that is helpful or conducive to lasting joy. And of course, only Chris could have ultimately been responsible for his bad decisions and his destructive lifestyle.

When we consider that without the grace of God, none of us would practice restraint or moderation - lost or saved, I can't help but think that Farley's latter days illustrate all too well the place that we would all be at, given the means and the opportunity. Apart from the grace of God, none of us has the ability to bring joy into our lives. Without this grace, man can only turn inward to find fulfillment and satisfaction.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Psalm 139, The Sovereignty of God, and Worship

Having conversations with more people now than ever about the sovereignty of God and the doctrines of grace has perked my ears up when I see God's sovereignty exalted and exulted in throughout scripture. So when Arryn and I got to our reading in the Psalms for the day, I had to share what I had seen in the text.

The Psalmist starts off by marveling that God is completely aware of what is going on in his heart.
"Oh LORD you have searched me and known me...and are acquainted with all my ways" (v. 1)

Then the Psalmist thinks of something even more marvelous...
"Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether" (v 4).

The Psalmist is blown away that God exhaustively knows all our future acts, even the words which come out of our mouths. He is thinking about freedom and God's perfect foreknowledge of the future. We know this because of the next verse:
"You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me."

The Psalmist is not saying that God has placed an invisible barrier around him which follows him from place to place. He is talking about our past being set and unchangeable, just as our future is. He is saying, "God, you know everything I'm about to do before I even do it. My whole life was determined from before the foundation of the world, and every day of the rest of my life is already written in your book," and now he's about to marvel in it:
"Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it."

This is the response of most who start to really dig into the subject of divine sovereignty, foreknowledge, and human freedom. And justifiably so, for we cannot completely attain knowledge of God's foreknowledge and human responsibility outside of what the Bible has given us to know.

The Psalmist then goes on to talk about how intricately God created him, and praising Him for how he was "fearfully and wonderfully made" (v. 14). And then he returns to the theme of sovereignty:
"In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them" (v. 16).

Again, one act of worship on the Psalmist's part is the thought that all his days of his life were predestined before the Psalmist even existed! This is a worshipful thought to the Psalmist. To many in the church today, the idea that our whole life is predestined is scary, upsetting, counter-intuitive, and in many ways offensive. It militates against our entire human-centered view of the universe to think that all our lives are subject to the will and knowledge of someone other than ourselves.

And yet the Psalmist is blown away by the thoughts and uses them in his worship:
"How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand" (17-18).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Using Technology to the Glory of God

I have been half tempted to start calling this blog "Bring the Kindles," but it just wouldn't have the same sort of ring. Also, I doubt that our democratic process of decision making here would pan out in my favor with said proposal. All that to say, I'm here to pitch to you that e-readers are awesome and that you all should get one. I want to run over some of my experience with using my own e-reader to the glory of God.
When I first purchased my Kindle, one of the first things I did was download the ESV Study Bible from Amazon's online store for $9.99. It takes some getting used to, but it's pretty cool being able to carry that big fat study Bible around in my lunchbox to work each day.
As Reformed thinkers, we're really pretty lucky. Most of the stuff that we have that's worth reading was written by dead guys whose descendants aren't exactly looking for royalties anymore. This means that while the Emergents (are there any left?) are out there buying Brian McLaren's not-so-generous piece of un-orthodoxy, we are in the blessed position of being able to get almost all of our food for free online.
The next thing I did was download lots and lots of Jonathan Edwards sermons, place them in a MS Word document, and convert them into a Kindle-friendly format (MOBI). I've done this with virtually every Jonathan Edwards book, since they're all available online. Then I did the same thing with John Owen. In fact, I'm 90% done with reading Mortification of Sin in Believers, and it has been life-changing. This book alone has made me so grateful for the Kindle.
The last and greatest feat was creating a readable version of Calvin's Institutes for my Kindle. I only have Volume 1 completed, but a book like that deserves tender loving care.
It's pretty incredible to be able to read these books that are usually so large and clumsy and difficult to hold and be able to walk around my house or even let the Kindle read them to me aloud if my hands are busy.
There are lots of possibilities. If you have the right program, you can convert the many books in PDF format that Desiring God gives away for download into Kindle format, as well. I've got God is the Gospel, Desiring God, and Don't Waste Your Life loaded up. Granted, converting some of these PDFs can be a pain, but most of them are very easy and quick to do.

Here are some of the best sources I've found for free online Reformed books:

Puritan Library
Desiring God
Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Monergism's Large Section of Free Books

Feel free to let me know about other good resources for free online books.

Friday, May 7, 2010

King and Servant Show 19

Blubrry player!

Jonathan is joined with special guest Pastor Stephen Goundry (his favorite person in ministry) to discuss biblical ecclesiology and how the local church under the authority of scripture and the oversight of elders can safeguard itself from both a hierarchy and anarchy.


More reasons we need the regulative principle of worship.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

CSNTM on CNN, Delta and American Airlines

Dan Wallace and The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) will be featured on CNN, Delta and American Airlines over the next few months, May and June. The official announcement and video are below.
For the month of May, 2010, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts will be featured on CNN closed-circuit TVs at American Airlines gates in major hubs throughout North America. American Airlines contacted CSNTM three months ago because they had seen the Wall Street Journal article (May 8, 2009) that mentioned the work of CSNTM. AA put together a one-minute video about the work of the Center. It’s attached [See below]. American Airlines and Delta Air Lines are also including in their in-flight radio broadcasts under “Innovative Technologies” a three-minute interview with Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Executive Director of CSNTM. This will be in flights for both May and June, 2010. CSNTM is pleased that these airlines have taken the initiative to feature the Center’s work during these two busy months. The audio and video will give CSNTM exposure before more than 10 million people on 65,000 flights. Please pray that the Lord would use this exposure to bring more funds to CSNTM especially so that the Center can send out more teams on photographic expeditions.