Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Friday, November 30, 2007

Nehemiah's Wall

Archaeologists in Jerusalem believe they may have uncovered the wall Nehemiah built after the return from exile.


Gleanings from Job #2

... continuing in my devotional study of Job

Job's Trials

Job is considered a classic story presenting to us the suffering of the perceived innocent person. Additionally, it draws illustrations for how to handle trials. These are not daily difficulties we all share in experience as humanity like sitting in traffic or having some terrible day. No. These were full on catastrophic, life altering trials like the news of a child discovered to have cancer, or a massive accident that cripples a person for life, or unexpectedly takes a loved one in death.

In my last study, we were introduced to Job. From the first chapter, I noted a few important things to consider about Job as a person.

- He was a real person living in a real time in history in an historical location.

- He was a wealthy man with a close-knit family with children who loved each other.

- He was declared a righteous man who feared God, his creator, and turned away from evil.

- He lived out his faith by praying for his family and worshiping the Lord on a regular basis.

With this study, we turn our attention heavenward. Job 1:6-12 is one of the only places in scripture that presents a rare insight to the heavenly realm. We would know nothing about this scene in heaven if it were not revealed to us.

I. The Scene

Beginning in 1:6, the "Sons of God," what is understood to be the angelic hosts, present themselves before the Lord. Commentators are unsure what this "presenting" is exactly, but it could be them giving account of their activities upon the earth and elsewhere.

Satan was also among them. This could mean that all the angelic hosts, both evil and elect, are to present themselves before the Lord, or that Satan was there among them like a wolf among the sheep. What ever the case, he recognizes and submits to the sovereign authority of his creator.

God asks Satan from where he comes to which Satan responds similar to what Peter wrote in his first epistle, 1 Peter 5:8, "from going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it."

The Lord then draws the devil's attention to Job (Job 1:8). There are some truths to consider with this:

1) God was the one who initiated the trials. It was the Lord's doing as to what happened to Job. He called Satan's attention to Job.

2) The Lord calls Job "his servant" and speaks highly of his integrity. That means our Lord takes notice of us just as He took notice of Job. Just as Job holds a special place before God as "his servant," all those who are his servants occupy a similar uniqueness before God.

3) If it is God who initiates trials and notices us, we then should have confident trust in the Lord during difficult times because He is in charge.

II. The Challenge

In response to God's praise of Job (1:9-11), the Devil, living up to his name of "Adversary," mockingly claims that Job is a "fair weather" servant. In other words, as long as everything is going good in his life he'll serve God. In a manner of speaking,

The challenge is two-fold:

It is against Job's salvation - his saving faith, and

It is against God's character, that He has to earn the love and devotion of His creatures.

Remove the blessing, charges the devil, and he will fall away from his salvation by cursing God his creator.

III. The Trial

In order to demonstrate the power of saving faith, God allows the Devil's challenge. The only limitation was that he could not hurt Job physically.

Beginning in 1:13, the scene shifts back to the earth and to Job's life. We are unsure as to how much time passed. We only know "there was a day." There was nothing special about this day. It was ordinary, like every other day when Job's family got together. Nothing was expected to happen. Job did not wake up that morning knowing he would loose his livelihood and dearly beloved children by day's end. That is the nature of trials. They will come and they will be often times unexpected and unannounced.

The First Round (Job 1:13-19)

In rapid fire, machine gun fashion, with each horrible event being announced by a lone servant, Satan unleashes a volley of trials against Job designed to destroy his means of making a living and what brings joy into his life:

- First, his servants were killed and his live stock of donkeys and oxen were taken by the Sabeans, a band of terroristic robbers. Basically, his farming business was destroyed.

- Second, and around the same time, "fire from God," what could had been a severe lightening storm, destroyed his sheep and the shepherds tending them. This put an end to Job's wool textile business.

- Third, also around the same time, a second group of murdering robbers, the Chaldeans, took all of Job's camels as well as killed all the servants watching after them. This act put an end to Job's trucking business, as it were, that allowed him to trade and sell through out the area.

- Fourth, and the worst blow of all, one lone servant who had escaped the disaster, tells Job how his beloved children were all killed in the oldest brother's home when a wind storm collapsed the house around them.

The Second Round (2:1-8)

After these horrific events in Job's life take place, we are not told how long, the angelic hosts once again presented themselves before the Lord and the devil once again comes with them. God directs the Devil's attention toward Job and proclaims how Job, in spite of the terrible trials he experienced, still maintained his integrity and did not sin against God. Satan, always the accuser, said that if his physical health was touched he will curse God. The Lord allows Satan to touch him, not to take his life.

The scriptures describe how Job was smitten by boils from his head down to his toes. It was quite a loathsome disease. Some modern day individuals describe it as Pemphigus Foliaceus, a disease that results in boil like blisters all over a person's body. There have certainly been strange medical cases involving individuals with rare disorders, so nothing may have been truly unusual with Job's condition. However, we do know it was brought on in a supernatural fashion at a moment when Job was at his lowest emotionally due to the previous trials.

IV. The Response

Chapter 1:20-22 records for us Job's response to these calamities:

- He worshiped. He turned his thoughts toward God.

- He did not sin. Not once did he charge God foolishly or with any folly against him.

- He recognized God's sovereignty. The Lord alone is the one who brings blessing and takes away blessing.

I believe these are three crucial responses Christians should have when faced with catastrophic trials. I realize it is hard when in the midst of suffering to remember Job in this instance, but let us saturate our thinking with his response. When experiencing extreme trials is your first response to worship your God? To keep back your tongue from bitterness and complaint and your fist from shaking at the heavens? To acknowledge God's sovereignty in spite of the fact things are not happening in the way you had anticipated? What a sobering reminder.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Seeking and Saving the Land of the Lost

My friend Gregg continues to make Reformed Baptists and strict orthodox Presbyterians squirm as he walks us through his gallery of Jesus images.

The collection of dinosaurs and Jesus is probably my favorite so far. The newest zombie ones are a tad creepy.

I would certainly love to know where this image originally came from. Kent Hovind? Is this what we would see at his Dinosaur Adventure Land in Pensacola, Florida?

I like the way Jesus's robes billow behind him as he rides the dinosaur like a superhero cape. And the bright sun flashing over his shoulder.

Of course, I am not convinced Jesus looked like a 70s era Eddie Rabbit or Kenny Loggins.


Triad Apologetic Conference

Shepherd's Fellowship in Greensboro, North Carolina, recently had an apologetics conference with an emphasis on Islam. R. K. McGregor-Wright, one of my all time favorite theologians, presented some outstanding messages on the subject of Islam and Christian apologetics. I haven't listened to them all yet, but what I have heard has been outstanding material.

They may not be for everyone if you are looking for light-hearted messages. Keep in mind that I am a sermon geek who likes detailed theological lectures.

2007 Triad Apologetics Conference

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happy B-Day To Me!!!!

This year my birthday falls on a Sunday, and rather than attending church, I am sitting at home with a sore throat and a sinus infection. I have been popping Tylenol like Tic-Tacs. So while I am here at home attempting to prepare for a couple of devotionals I will present this week, I thought I would indulge my narcissism and wish myself a happy birthday.

Again this year I did what I did last year: I made a trip to Pasadena to Archives Bookstore and spent nearly 2 hours or more walking among the shelves of books. I went into more extensive detail last year as to my experience which was almost identical as this years. I walked away this time with a book on sanctification by Gordon Clark, which has a good section detailing all the errant views of sanctification, a dictionary on philosophy so I could have a reference for apologetic purposes, a copy of a Qu'ran, and a volume from Lloyd-Jones' series on Ephesians.

On my way home, I also stopped to pick up a little something for my third boy whose birthday was the 24th. I first stopped by our mall, but it was so over crowded I was uncomfortable just walking through the place. I didn't find anything for him, but as I made my way to Wal-Mart I drove by our K-mart and thought I might find a gift there. I don't like going into K-mart if I can help it because it is so depressing. The building is run down, the floors are dirty, the lighting inside is dreary and even though it is bright and sunny outside, the atmosphere of the place gives off a feel like an overcast, rainy day in Kiev.

The plus, however, was no crowds of fevered shoppers. There might had been ten people in all walking around in the place, so I was able to quickly get a Fisher-Price car thingy that would provide hours of fun for a 2 year old. Of course, the 5 and 4 year old also wanted to play with it when we set it up and before we knew it, they turned into Gollum protecting his ring. My wife and I had to tell the two older boys to walk away and remind them it was their younger brother's toy. You would think as a Calvinist I would have anticipated that explosion in their sin nature. Geesh.

By dinner time, my sore throat and sinus infection was starting to come on, but I still wanted to end the evening with a visit to Vincenzo's pizza for a pepperoni and pineapple pizza. Their pizza is fabulous even with a sore throat. We capped that time off with a bit of ice cream back at home and I retired early for bed. Being sick was a bit of a bummer, but over all it was a good 39th birthday.


Saturday, November 24, 2007


Here's a chilling "world view:"

Women Sterilizing Themselves to Save the Planet

Babies are not friendly to the planet because the little buggers eat up food, take up space, breathe out CO2. In a manner of speaking we should be thankful the movement has its built in extinction. You can't continue a philosophy like this one unless you reproduce.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Gleanings from Job #1

A few months ago I began a devotional series with my volunteers at Grace to You from the book of Job. It has been a challenge, but a delight, to study this book and prepare messages from this tremendous revelation.

My notes are not that detailed, and my exegesis certainly could have been deeper, but my main intention is to provide a firm overview of the book in a devotional style.

With that in mind, as I was reviewing my material recently, I thought my notes would provide good blog fodder, so I hope to reproduce them on a weekly, or every other weekly basis, as a brief post. I don't plan to have full manuscripts, but I would like to sketch out my notes in a profitable fashion for others to benefit.

A Treatise on God Honoring Suffering
An introduction to Job

I wanted to study Job for a few reasons:

1) The book is often neglected, at least the middle portions of the book. Most people are familiar with the first three chapters where the Lord permits the devil to bring devastating trial about Job. There are many sermons on those events. Or, they choose to talk about the last four or five chapters in which God reveals Himself to Job and his friends. Rarely do people take the time to study the middle portions of Job because the dialogs are confusing and hard to follow. God has seen fit to preserve the story for our learning; thus it would be good to grapple with the difficult portions of the book as well.

2) The book is a divine treatise on theodicy. Basically the book deals with the time aged criticism of God's dealings with humanity. That being, how can an all powerful God be said to be good when there is evil in the world?

3) The book shows forth a godly response in the midst of suffering. Though Job suffered severe trial, trials most people have never, or ever will experience, learning from his response and his dialogs with his three friends provide an example for us who will eventually suffer trials in our own lives.

4) The book is a demonstration of the perseverance of true, saving faith. Real faith, when tried under the most severe circumstances, will persevere and not fall away. The entire book is a massive tome of the 5th point of Calvinism.

Turning to Job 1:1-5. These opening five verses provide us with a enough material insight to lay a good introduction to the book. Allow me to organize my introduction around three questions.

Who is this Job?

Job is often viewed as a fictitious character, a made up persona to tell the story of how to keep a stiff upper lip when a person is battered by the toils of the world. However, a handful of clues indicate he was a real, historical person who experienced real, historical trials.

He lived in the land of Uz (vs 1). Uz is mentioned a couple of times in the OT. For example, Uz is listed along side Edom in Lamentations 4:21. Genesis 10:23, the Table of Nations, identifies Uz as the grandson of Shem, the son of Noah. It is understood that the land of Uz was an area south east of the Dead Sea region in Northern Arabia near Midian. The Sabeans and the Chaldeans, who destroy Job's live stock, were historical people groups in this region. More over, his friends came from cities in that area.

He is identified as a prominent business man (vs 2,3). He had large herds of animals like sheep and camels, which would indicate a man who perhaps gained his wealth by making wool products and shipped them around his immediate area of the world. He also had many servants at his disposal. Additionally, he is said by the writer to be one of the greatest of all the people of the east: a person known by many, many individuals. He also is said to have a large, prosperous family of seven sons and three daughters.

He is identified as a real person elsewhere in the Bible. Three other biblical passages mention Job. In Ezekiel 14:14, 20, Job is mentioned along side Noah and Daniel (a contemporary of Ezekiel) as a righteous man. James 5:11 speaks of the steadfastness or the patience of Job as an example for Christians in the midst of suffering. James also lists Elijah as an example of faithful praying (James 5:17,18). Naming Job among individuals who are certainly known as being real, historical people only affirms the reality that Job was also a real, historical person.

When did Job live?

There is debate as to when Job lived. Some suggest that because Job is beside the Wisdom literature in scripture that he was a man who lived during the time of Solomon (or was a literary character created by Solomon). Others suggest he lived during the time of Ezra (and again, that Ezra made him up). The most biblical conclusion is that Job lived during the early portions of the Patriarchal age in Genesis around the time of Abraham.

The book provides us with some more clues to reach this conclusion.

He lived 140 years after his trial (Job 42:16), which may put him around 200 years of age at his death. This is similar in age to other Patriarchs like Terah who lived to be 205 and Abraham who lived 175 years.

His wealth and prominence is reckoned in terms of live stock. Hence, he may had lived during the time of the Patriarchs in Genesis 12 and following.

There is no mention of any of the Mosaic law, the People of Israel, the Exodus, or the theocratic Kingdom of Israel. That indicates the events took place in the time of Genesis, before the time of Israel in servitude in Egypt.

Job acted as the priest of his family (1:5), which was a common function of the father during the time of the Patriarchs in Genesis.

What are the Themes?

Borrowed and adapted from Steve Lawson's commentary on Job in the Holman Old Testament commentary series, volume 10. Each one of these themes will be developed as I move along in my study.

Sovereignty. Though Job's difficulties are played out before us, we know God was orchestrating the events.

Satan. The book of Job is unique in that more is revealed about our adversary, the Devil, than anywhere else in scripture. We learn he is a ruthless, uncaring enemy of God's people.

Suffering. As we will see, the key theme is dealing with suffering in a righteous way in spite of false accusations and difficult questions of "why?" Job's friends accuse Job of some secret, unconfessed sin he is hiding and refuses to acknowledge, but we know this is not true.

Submission. After all is done, Job humbly submits to the Lord's hand in these matters.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

She still bumped a cone

smart aleck rollerblading kid


Seed Family Music

My family just returned from Arizona where we celebrated a pre-Thanksgiving Day Thanksgiving with my wife's side of the family.

Arizona is nice - once you get there. It's that long, tedious drive on interstate 10 across the California/Arizona desert that gets to you. Moreover, if you have kids, particularly three of them, a drive that should take a minimum of 6 hours can turn into 8 to 9 hours with all the stops and the need to set the children free to run in a park. Unfortunately, there are not that many parks with green grass for children to frolic in between Desert Palm Springs and Phoenix. We had to stop at Blythe, located exactly on the state line, and use their city park which was nice, at least a lot nicer than a rest stop in the middle of no where.

At any rate, on a long trip its important to be able to pass the time effectively. But listening to sermons can get boring for kids, radio signals only go so far before they fade out, and an adult human being can only take so much of Baby Einstein and Wiggle's DVDs before he is driven to madness.

So a good filler for us all was listening to Seeds music. Ever hear of it? These folks came to our church for a kid's concert which I didn't attend, but those who did were nuts for their music. My wife, at the recommendation of some other mothers she knows, picked up all four CDs for our kids. I was dubious when she showed me her purchase. When I think of music for kids, I am thinking Patch the Pirate or a chorus of pre-teen children singing "Only a boy named David" or something along those lines. Additionally, I am not a big CCM fan. In fact, I can barely stomach the stuff. I do like Fernando Ortega, Caedmon's Call, and some Sovereign Grace, but for the most part I listen to classical music or full on secular.

When I heard the first Seeds CD, however, I was thoroughly impressed. Not only are the songs well done, they genuinely rock. Its not Nickel Back or anything like that, but in the words of Dick Clark, "It has a nice beat and you can dance to it." The tunes are not child like at all. Children are heard on some songs, but for the most part it sounds like a band playing. Most importantly though, the songs are scripture. The Seeds folks simply take passages of scripture and write music around it; and because the songs are toe-tapping and catchy and fun to listen to, I am all the time humming Romans 6:23 and 1 Corinthians 10:31 during day. Imagine that. Learning to memorize scripture by listening to it put to song.

At this point, there are only four CDs available, but I am sure there will be more. Believe me, a person doesn't need to have kids to pick these CDs up and enjoy them. If you want some solid sounding material that is well done lyrically as well as musically, I would highly recommend getting them. Samples are available for listening on line at their website.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Expository Preaching Conference

Steve Lawson's church, Christ Community Baptist, had an expository preaching conference back in October. The sessions are on-line and I would highly recommend listening to them. I know for me, they have been refreshing for my soul. Lawson's message on The 10 How To's of Expository Preaching is particularly outstanding, as was the Q and A time with John MacArthur.

The whole conference can be podcasted to your MP3 player.

Also, the Men's Seminary looks to have some good stuff in it too.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Book Review

Philosophy 101: The "Big Idea" for the 101 Most Important People and Concepts in Philosophy

Dr. Michael J. Vlach

My exposure to philosophy as an academic discipline was virtually nil during my former educational years. I had zero introduction to philosophy in junior high and high school. In college I was required to take one basic intro to philosophy class; however it was a futile waste of time and my parent's money.

My class was taught by a stocky, sickly pale professor with eyebrow dandruff. He would pace restlessly back and forth in front of the class room spitting out nuggets of undefined philosophical jargon like a David Hume pez dispenser, while the students, absolutely at a loss as to what he was saying, doodled in their note books. When he paused his pacing long enough to "engage" a student with a question, he created moments of awkwardness. He had one lazy eye that would fix his gaze slightly over your right shoulder so you were unsure he was asking you the question or the person sitting behind you in the next row. The only real understanding of philosophy we received in the class was the time an atheist guy got into a tense discussion about the reality of the human soul with a girl who claimed to have had three near death experiences. THREE, mind you.

Any philosophy I learned I had to teach myself from my personal reading. I imagine many of my regular readers have had similar educational experiences with the subject of philosophy. Unless you plan to go into a specialized study of the subject, you more than likely won't learn much about Aristotle, Plato, and Descartes. And yet having a basic knowledge of these individuals are fundamentally important to understanding how their ideas have shaped our society.

To help inform the philosophically ignorant masses, Dr. Michael Vlach, assistant professor of theology at the Master's Seminary, has put together a handy book that introduces the reader to 101 of the key people and ideas through out the historical development of philosophy. Each entry is brief, maybe a page or two, like an expanded glossary; however, they cover the necessary background to various individuals like Socrates, Thales, John Stuart Mill, and Karl Popper, as well as the major ideas of these thinkers like stoicism, deism, nihilism, and logical positivism.

At the beginning of each section, the author summarizes the subject with a succinct definition, what would be the "big idea." For instance, under "philosophy," the "big idea" is summarized as, "Philosophy is the attempt to think rationally and critically about the most important matters in life." Each section, including the biographical ones, has a similar defining "big idea" that I found helpful as a quick reference.

The book is brief, just coming under 200 pages, and though it is meant to be a non-technical beginner's introduction, I found it to be a bit too brief. Perhaps that is just me. I certainly would have enjoyed the book more if the entries were at least double the length. Also, I wanted more bibliographical information. The author lists just four additional books for further study at the end, but the book would had been more profitable, at least in my estimation, if each individual section listed recommended works. For example, after the entry for Ayn Rand, I would like to know what books about her are recommended, perhaps a quick list of her major works.

Those weakness aside, the book over all is well done and certainly helpful. I know for myself, if I were teaching a class on philosophy, I would have my students read through it for the overview they would receive. As a reference tool, it will definitely be an excellent source for college pastors who think to do a series on apologetics with their kids. Also, I believe it would be fun to see Dr. Vlach do additional series on a variety of subjects, like the 101 important theologians and theological ideas.

There is a website available to promote the book. As far as I know, the book can only be purchased through the site. Moreover, for those who are planning on teaching a primer course on philosophy, and need some lecture resources, Dr. Vlach has a CD with a major powerpoint presentation. I know that will be something I plan to purchase for the future.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Cow-Driven Life

From a participant on one of my theological discussion groups comes a picture of consistent faithfulness.

If Christians would only take this example:

The Oldest Cow in Maine

The bankable line:

“She was never great, but she was consistent,” Hegstrom said. “She bred consistently, she never stuck out, she was just always there. Therefore, she lasted.”

These are the kind of people pastors dream about.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Five years ago this past weekend...

...My first born, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth by my dear wife, was delivered at Kaiser Hospital, Panorama City, around 11ish on a Saturday night. He turned 5 this past Friday, November the 9th. He's half a decade old.

Wow. How time flies.

It was a whirlwind weekend. All the pictures of me show a disheveled, unshaved, glassy-eyed individual holding a pinkish newborn, which is probably typical of all new fathers on the deliver of their first child (or any child really).

There were many fond memories of that weekend, but the one that still stands out to me, apart from the actual birth of the boy, is the delivery doctor. He rushed in maybe 10 minutes before my wife delivered and was frantically looking over all his instruments and started ordering the nursing staff around, who had been with us for much of the day, like they were a bunch of dolts. He reminded me of the Seinfeld moyel from one of the early episodes.

He came in and out of the room and then at this one point he is digging through a cabinet, flipping stuff around and says (I am not making this up), "Where's my retractors? Who has the retractors? WHERE'S THE RETRACTORS!? Oh, here they are." He later says, "Come on people, we have to deliver a baby. Some one want to give the father a pair of scissors? Any body? WE HAVE AN UMBILICAL CORD TO CUT. WHO HAS SOME SCISSORS FOR THE FATHER!? There you go." We still laugh about the guy to this day.

Five years of child rearing can really expose the sin in a person. The utter helplessness you feel when you realize you are the one person accountable to the Lord for the raising of this life, how you don't pray enough for him, or spend the time you need. That Harry Chapin song about the Cat's in the Cradle plays in my mind now and then. None the less, I praise the Lord for it all and pray I am not warping him in any unfixable way. May there be many more birthdays to celebrate in the years to come.


My Attempt at Hugh-ma

Click Here

Begins about 3 minutes, 15 seconds or so into the webcast


Friday, November 09, 2007

"That was a real dumb move, wasn't it?"

Dumb is as dumb does.

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Neil Drumming

No, not that Neil. Neil Peart. You know, the drummer from Rush.

So my middle boy, 2 of 3 (my wife and I gave our three boys Borg designations so we can talk about them in their company with out them knowing we are talking about them), banged around on a drum set at Costco a few weeks ago and he has been all into drums ever since. He walks around with popsicle sticks hitting upturned coffee cans, plastic CD spindle covers, pans, and anything else that can make a "drum" sound.

So, being a thoughtful father, I said to myself, "You know, I bet there has to be a You Tube video or two of some of Neil Peart's drum solos, one of the coolest classic rock drummers ever, I can show 2 of 3." Welp, sure enough, I searched and I found a bunch. The one I let my middle boy watch was a Buddy Rich memorial concert. Its basically a variation of his solo from the Exit Stage Left concert album, but it is sweet none the less.

After 2 of 3 watched it, I believe I created a monster.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Weekend with Jeff Williams

One of the major perks with attending a church like Grace Community pastored by a well-known radio Bible teacher is that you get to encounter a lot of interesting folks from all walks of life. Additionally, if the person is extremely interesting, he or she may have the opportunity to speak to us, and that happened this past weekend when my fellowship group had Jeff Williams and his wife visit with us for an "at church" retreat. Jeff has one of those real cool jobs: He's an astronaut who has been to space a few times.

Those of you who are regular readers of Teampyro may remember that last year, 2006, Jeff spent six months aboard the International Space Station. I had one of my buddies ask me if my family was going to attend the Grace Life conference with Jeff and I simply replied, "Listen, how often do you get to hear a major astronaut speak, and to add, a Bible believing, Christian astronaut who has spent 6 months on the space station?"

Jeff spent Friday night and Saturday afternoon showing us pictures from his time there. He tells us he took nearly 85,000, many of them available for viewing at the NASA.gov website under "Mission 13." The pictures were amazing by themselves, but what added more to their poignancy was Jeff's scriptural commentary from various biblical passages. For example, Jeff showed us a picture of what is called the "terminator line" on the face of the Earth. It's that boundary which separates light from darkness as the Earth rotates.

He then cited Job 26:10 where Job states in response to Bildad, He drew a circular horizon on the face of the waters, at the boundary of light and darkness, and pointed out how such a description affirms the divine nature of scripture when it describes something that is obviously only known from a divine position.

He also talked about the need for NASA's engineers to think through all the details of what it takes to have men live in space for any prolonged length of time. Everything from keeping the temperature regulated, filtering out the CO2, providing food, etc., etc., etc., and the many other areas of life we take for granted. It was a major reminder of how God has provided for our existence on our own planet.

I did have one burning question, however. I wanted to know his thoughts about actor Dan Aykroyd and his claim made on a UFO documentary he narrates, that UFOs are routinely seen by the ISS crew. I figured I would ask a first hand witness who has actually lived on the space station for an extended period of time. I saw Jeff on Saturday morning before the start of the first session, and I jokingly threw out my question to him. He said, "Oh really? Was that in one of his movies or something?" I said, "Nope, he made an hour long documentary on UFOs and it ends with how NASA is allegedly covering up the encounters you ISS folks regularly have with UFOs." Jeff rolled his eyes. "Well, I didn't see any." I am guessing Jeff may be part of a larger conspiracy to keep the public in the dark.

Jeff's talks were a portion of a larger conference Grace Life was having called, "The Heavens Declare the Glory of God." Though he was the center piece, Travis and Phil addressed apologetic issues relating to the natural world. Travis did a tremendous study on the proper place and function of general revelation and Phil taught on Acts 17. Both presentations were excellent, and I will link them as soon as they become available in MP3. I would certainly encourage anyone learning apologetics to give them a listen.

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No Fat Santas

I heard this mentioned on Prager earlier this week, but this story originally ran back in May of this year.

Santas told to slim down for Christmas

I guess certain mall managers over in London think a morbidly obese man in a red suit is a terrible example for children. The reasoning is explained like this: Children see Santa as a hero and want to be like him, and a porcine Santa will compel young children to gorge themselves on sugar plums and baked goose so as to emulate his corpulence.

I can testify that though I was excited as a child that Old St. Nick would soon visit my home at Christmas, I did not view him as a roll model, nor did I ever want to model my lifestyle after him. Sure, I was a chubby kid, but my chubbiness related to my lack of self control and remaining inert most of the time. Nothing about Santa drove me to gain 300 pounds and don a bright red suit with slick, black polished, knee high boots and a matching belt with a massive buckle.

Rather than being alarmed that my children will see Santa Claus in the mall and then rush home to consume a 4,000 calorie meal so as to be like him, I am much more concerned with their minds being scandalized by the gigantic, softcore porn posters on display outside the Victoria's Secret and Abercrombie and Fitch stores, not to mention all the other sleazy images in full view throughout the shopping concourse. I much more prefer a jolly, rotuned old man handing out candy.

At any rate, if we are going to make Santa slim down, perhaps we should consider giving him a beard trim and hair cut so he can shed that homeless, Grateful Dead groupie look.

Just a thought.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Probe of 6 Top Ministries

From CBS News: Senate Probes 6 Televangelist Ministries

The parties in question:

Joyce Meyers
Benny Hinn
Kenneth Copeland
Creflo Dollar
Eddie Long
Paula White

I can only hope this is the beginning of God's judgment upon these false teachers.

Sam, Richard, and Pierre

From the Fool's Heart site.

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Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool (pt 15)

Does Christianity Sanction Slavery?

It has been a while - an all too long while - since I have visited with Chaz Bufe and his 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity. We are coming down to the final handful, so I hope to wrap-up my long, on-going series of reviews soon.

The 15th reason is Chaz's attempt to charge Christianity with the horrors of slavery that has been prominent throughout the history of humanity.

15. Christianity sanctions slavery. The African slave trade was almost entirely conducted by Christians. They transported their victims to the New World in slave ships with names such as "Mercy" and "Jesus," where they were bought by Christians, both Catholic and Protestant. Organized Christianity was not silent on this horror: it actively encouraged it and engaged in it. From the friars who enslaved Native Americans in the Southwest and Mexico to the Protestant preachers who defended slavery from the pulpit in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, the record of Christianity as regards slavery is quite shameful. While many abolitionists were Christians, they were a very small group, well hated by most of their fellow Christians.

The Christians who supported and engaged in slavery were amply supported by the Bible, in which slavery is accepted as a given, as simply a part of the social landscape. There are numerous biblical passages that implicitly or explicitly endorse slavery, such as Exodus 21:20–21: "And if a man smite his servant, or his maid with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money." Other passages that support slavery include Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:22, Titus 2:9–10, Exodus 21:2–6, Leviticus 25:44–46, 1 Peter 2:18, and 1 Timothy 6:1. Christian slave owners in colonial America were well acquainted with these passages.

The charge of sanctioning slavery is a common objection raised against Christianity in atheistic literature, but it is fundamentally flawed. First, it is extremely narrow in its scope by only aiming to condemn Christianity for its participation in slavery even though slavery has been practiced through out all of history, across all people groups, both religious and non-religious. Then secondly, the objection is generally limited to slavery as it was practiced in the pre-Civil War era of the United States. That is important to note, because the voluntary servitude permitted by the Old Testament Torah for the purposes of securing financial stability in Israel's society is a far cry from the slavery the western world engaged during 18th and 19th centuries when primitive peoples were kidnapped from the homes and families and replanted to other hemispheres of the earth.

Now, it is certainly true that Christians were involved with the sin of slavery, and many Christians, as Chaz points out, attempted to justify their involvement with slavery by appealing to scripture. But the wrong-headed use of the biblical descriptions of slavery in both the Old and New Testaments by Christians, who should had been repenting of such attitudes rather than erroneously defending them, does not mean the Bible endorses the practice of slavery. Those biblical passages listed by Chaz he claims endorses slavery have an historical and theological context all their own, and it is beyond the bounds of simple literary linguistics to read back upon those texts a foreign context that is a couple of thousand years removed.

Putting aside a detailed exegesis of each of those passages, what needs to be noted is that scripture records directives not only for slaves to be faithful to their masters, but also to masters who are to be respectful and merciful to their slaves, something unprecedented during the NT writing. Paul certainly did not encourage slave rebellions, for such an action would be foolish, but in laying down Christian principles for living out a Christian life by addressing both slaves and masters as equals before God in Christ (Galatians 3:28), the Bible embeds with in its pages the seeds of eliminating slavery all together which is what we see happen over time in societies where Christ is held high.

I believe Chaz is conveniently dismissive of two important facets on the history of slavery: The impact of Christianity on ending slavery and the atheistic driven racism that followed after the development of Darwinian evolution. First, Christians over the centuries have recognized the biblical teaching that men are created in the image of God. So even though there were Christians who attempted to justify their sinful practice of keeping slaves, there were many more who saw slavery for what it was, a defacing of the image of God in a person. Chaz is quick to ignore the work of such men as George Whitfield, Samuel Davies, John Newton, John Elliot, William Wilberforce, who campaigned nearly 16 years to have the slave trade ended, and the Moravians who sent missionaries to the Caribbean to evangelize the slaves and their owners. Many in the Church were active in confronting slavery and rebuking society for its sinfulness so as to have the practice eradicated in western society which was prominently Christian.

Then second, the atheism experiment with racism went far beyond the owning of slaves to the deliberate killing of ethnic groups. Atheistic scientists, fueled by Darwinian ideas, hunted the more backward, primitive societies in our world to locate "missing links" to be examined in their university laboratories.

The Aboriginal peoples in Australia were the ones who suffered the most at the hands of evolutionary scientists with whole families and tribes being wiped out. Their bodies would be collected, boiled to strip the flesh, and their bones sent to museums. Amalie Dietrich, hailed as a pioneering biologist in Australia, would pay station owners to shoot Aborigines on their property so she could collect the bodies. Other specimens included pickled Aborigine heads to demonstrate the inferiority of their lesser evolved brains, as well as fresh specimens so the bodies could be stuffed for display.

Regardless of which group is the perpetrator, slavery is a demonstration of man's inhumanity to man. However, to say Christianity "sanctions" slavery is preposterous. On the contrary, Christianity has confronted the evil and defeated it, to which the atheist, like Chaz, should be thankful.

Next up: Is Christianity Misogynistic?


Sunday, November 04, 2007

God and Men in Sanctification

I personally believe that many Christians have an errant understanding of sanctification, the doctrine which teaches of how the Holy Spirit works in the life of a believer so as to be made personally holy.

There are two extremes.

On the one hand, people have the notion they are to be entirely passive and God is suppose to remove their desires to sin. On the other hand, is a misguided, radical expression of personal legalism born from the idea of perfectionism, or the belief men can obtain personal sinlessness here in this life, which always sends the person into a spiral of despair when he or she is unable to fulfill the requirements of personal, sinless perfection. This second group tends to emphasize conditional security and the loss of salvation.

Phil Johnson recently addressed Philippians 2:12, 13 where he talked about these two extremes and the importance of striking a proper, biblical balance. The second one goes into more detail about the historical development of sinless perfectionism and its roots with the Wesley brothers and how this pernicious false doctrine still plays havoc in the body of Christ.

I...Yet, not I Part 1

I...Yet, not I Part 2

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Wiki Real Time

The Wikipedia site is one of those places I tend to hold at arm's length. The idea with the site is to provide a pool of knowledge on millions of subjects by allowing anyone and his little brother the freedom to edit the content on the webpages. When it comes to past history that is 100 years old or more, or bland descriptions like the development of the American toaster, the site is fairly reliable. However, with any current events, the problem is that you have cranks and loons with a pet agenda logging on and editing the pages of their pet agenda to conform to their interpretation of the pet agenda.

The Wikipedia operators claim they have individuals to safe guard against a feral man living in a hub capped covered trailer from interjecting his tin-foil hat conspiracies on, let's say, the JFK page. But I am not as convinced of their vigilance after hitting this website:

Real Time Wikipedia Edits from Around the World