August 31, 2008

Reflections on Oswald Chambers - My Utmost For His Highest

I just started reading this wonderful book by Oswald Chambers the other day and I am already struck by the incredible richness inside it's pages. I am reading the updated English version (I am usually a purist on these sort of matters, but I want to make sure I mine out a ton of good insight contained herein).

Some thoughts I find myself reflecting on:

  • August 30 - The trap you may fall into in Christian work is to rejoice in successful service - rejoicing in the fact that God has used you. Yet you will never be able to measure fully what God will do through you if you do not have a right-standing relationship with Jesus Christ.
OK, he nails me the very first day I read anything by him. This guy is good.

  • August 31 - Joy should not be confused with happiness...The joy of Jesus was His absolute self-surrender and self-sacrifice to His Father-the joy of doing that which the Father sent Him to do.
Ok, now he is correcting me. He is two for two. I am doomed. This is going to be a good ride.

August 30, 2008

A Quote I Enjoyed - #2

"Credo ut intelligam" – I believe in order that I may understand.

Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

I found this in "Who Needs Theology" by Stanley J Grenz and Roger E Olson. It was quoted in the context of faith being a Christian acknowledging that God has claimed his or her life; theology being the pursuit of knowledge to understand with the mind what the heart already believes.

Faith before knowledge, I like that order. Seeking knowledge of God before having faith in Christ does seem like the wrong order, because it becomes about you, your preconceived notions and prejudices. Better to have Christ find you, and then have Him lead you on the journey of intellectual discovery that will enhance your ability to explain and defend your faith.

I can see where having faith before knowledge is a better road than pride before a fall.

August 27, 2008

I Have Been a Pipe, I Wanna Be a Tree

Yesterday in my introductory bible study class, Prof made a statement that really struck me (that's what we call him; he has been teaching at seminary longer than I have been alive, and that is saying something. I have not only been around the block a couple of times; but I have been up the driveway, into the backyard, through the hedges and over the fence more than once). Prof said we needed to be trees, not pipes. Both convey water, but the water passing through a pipe does nothing to add to the growth of the pipe as it does to a tree.

As I sit in Turpin Library today, I realized how much I liked that. I have been a pipe way too long in my life, most of my corporate existence was pipe-like; passing information to and fro with no benefit to or growth within the host organism. Now I am trying to learn to be a tree; drawing sustenance from the water flowing through me, trying to grow so that I can provide shade and shelter to others.

I have a long way to go, but with men like Prof teaching and pruning me along the way, I know I will make progress. Thanks, Prof. Keep 'em coming.

To Befriend and De-friend

As a professionally trained accountant, I spent decades tracking, measuring and reporting numbers. I apparently have some talent for doing so, or else people have just been nice to me in the past; telling me that and paying me for supposedly doing that. I do not do that anymore for a living (Hi. My name is Andy, and I am an accountant), but I still in my mind measure and track numbers from time to time.

So I notice when numbers change. Like when I lose a Facebook friend. I may not know who, and I do not try to track them down and find out why (But Mom! I am your youngest son! How could you de-friend me like that! What are people going to think? What are they going to think about ME?)

But what is apparent is how easy it is to make friends in social media, and how darned easy it is to get rid of them. Click a hotlink and they are gone; and they might not even know you are gone as well. And let's be honest, you have probably been on both sides of that equation. Haven't you? I thought so.

My questions are:

  • What responsibility to we have to maintain, to cultivate friendships that spring up for us solely on social media; friendships in which the chance of any face to0 face encounter is quite small?
  • Do we run the risk of becoming quite callous in our casual friendships?
  • Will this attitude spill over into the face to face interactions we have?

August 25, 2008

Sign(s) the End Is Definitely Coming ...Sometime -- #2

OK. This one is pretty strange to watch! It does some weird things to your browser window, but let it ride. Not sure I should say anything else. (Brought to you by my doodling around with StumbleUpon and ScribeFire).

August 24, 2008

Sign(s) the End is Definitely Coming...Sometime -- #1

clipped from
So here I am playing around with StumbleUpon and Clipmarks. Just trying out to see if I could actually do a post using stuff like this without messing it all up.

There is a lot of odd stuff on the Internet if you look at the Bizarre/Oddities category of StumbleUpon, no doubt. Maybe I'll start tracking some of it from time to time.

If there are just 3 adorable animals to imaple (their words, not mine), why does the whale need four tusks? Why would a whale need a spare? Why does a whale even have tusks? Expecting to run into some hostile aquatic elephants? And where is the whale going to carry the spares in the first place? Heck of a thing to teach our kids.

A Quote I Enjoyed– #1

I am positive that in pursuing my seminary education I am going to run across some quotes that I will really enjoy, learn from and want to share. I am positive of this because I found one today. This one is in J P Moreland's "Love Your God with All Your Mind", in which Moreland quotes another deep thinker. I think one of the definitions of a good quote is one that when you read it, you see great relevance for today's world, regardless of when it was written.

Here goes:

"In an age in which infidelity abounds, do we observe them [parents] carefully instructing their children in the principles of faith which they profess? Or do they furnish their children with arguments for the defense of the faith? They would blush on their child's birth to think him inadequate in any branch of knowledge or any skill pertaining to his station in life. He cultivates these skills with becoming diligence. But he is left to collect his religion a she may. The study of Christianity has formed no part of his education. His attachment to it-where any attachment to it exists at all-is too often not the preference of sober reason and conviction. Instead his attachment to Christianity is merely the result of early and groundless possession. He was born in a Christian country, so of course he is a Christian. His father was a member of the Church of England so that is why he is, too. When religion is handed down among us by hereditary succession, it is not surprising to find youth of sense and spirit beginning to question the truth of the system in which they were brought up. And it is not surprising to see them abandon a position which they are unable to defend. Knowing Christianity chiefly by its difficulties and the impossibilities falsely imputed to it, they fall perhaps into the company of unbelievers."

William Wilberforce (1759-1833) - Real Christianity

We need to think, not just feel, Christianity. We need to question, in order to learn, in order to defend, our faith. And that hasn't changed all that much in the past couple of hundred years. I am so enjoying seminary.

August 21, 2008

I Learned a Lot This Week

My wife has a friend visiting from out of town, who is in with her almost 16 year old daughter. I have learned a lot this week. I learned that the Jonas Brothers were some DVD that was coming out at Target this past Tuesday. After learning this, I saw the "Brothers" were doing a cover of a Beatles tune, Hello Goodbye, on the Target commercial. (The thought of asking if she knew that was a Beatles song, or if she even knew who the Beatles were crossed my mind and was quickly squelched. A negative answer would have been too depressing). I would have probably seen the commercial without the previous factoid, but it would not have the same impact if I was not under the gentle instruction (and slightly high pitched squealing. It hurt my ears, good thing the dogs were outside) of one excited teenager.

I also learned something else. I didn't care. How about that? Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against these guys. In fact, I know almost nothing about them. They are just not on my radar screen, sorry.

But it did get me to thinking that there is a whole plethora of information out there that I know nothing of and probably care an equal amount about. It is amazing how much we can know about our little circle of life, and how little about so many other circles. I seem to know especially little about those circles being drawn by the generations following me up through the journey of life.

Not knowing all is not bad, it is just survival. You cannot know everything in a burgeoning Information Age. Ironic, isn't it? The more that is available to be known, the more readily accessible it is, the smaller percentage of the sum totality of knowledge we actually hold. With that smaller percentage of total knowledge there seems to be a greater responsibility to focus on your worldview (Christian in the case of mine) and see what information is at there that is in alignment with it and more importantly, cuts against it. Not necessarily to change it, but to defend it intelligently. Not to know what is important to those who follow after us is to run the ever increasing risk of becoming marginalized in the world. You cannot defend a position if you do not know what you are defending it against. And I mean defense (an apologia (απολογία) in the Greek) in the context of giving a reasoned explanation for your position, not just an argument.

While I might need to be very selective as to the circles I plug myself into, I do need to be more aware of what is out there, how it impacts my world and others around me. No conservative Christian bubble for me, however, I do not think I will be travelling in the Jonas Brothers circle any time soon. I am just too square for that circle. But I may go to iTunes and download some Beatles music for my iPod.

August 18, 2008

If a Blog is posted and is not read by anyone, is it still a Blog?

I admire those who blog on a daily basis; quite frankly, doing it every three days is enough of a challenge for me. Since I began blogging a few months ago, I have struggled with the basic question "Is anyone really interested in what I have to say?" Actually, I asked that question even before I posted my first blog. My struggle: combating the fear of being irrelevant, of wasting other people's time, besides wasting my own.

I can make arguments that a blog should be informative; telling others something about me or my perspective on some slice of the world that I feel may be important to share. I might reach one person with one idea and start them off in a slightly altered direction for their own journey; a blog of benefit to someone on occasion.

I can make the argument that a blog can be therapeutic; letting me give vent to some expressive thought, that, if bottled up with other unvented expressive thoughts, would cause me to burst open one day like an overripe melon. I would scatter a few seeds; in spite of the sound of it, a blog that might occasionally benefit me.

I can make an argument that a blog can be narcissistic; allowing me to revel in, well, to revel in me. Oh boy, can I see that one happening; a blog of use to no one.

I would ask those who blog who bother to take the time to read my blog:

  • Do you think anyone is really interested in what you have to say?
  • Do you really care either way?
  • If no one was reading it, would you blog anyway?

I guess I will continue to seek the good things, and seek to avoid the bad things about blogging.

August 15, 2008

Disobedience vs. Indifference

Which is worse, to actively disobey God, or to ignore Him? Which is more offensive, to scream in His face or to yawn at Him?

Both, in my opinion, are really, really bad. But hey, that's just me.

Following the way of Jesus, sticking on the narrow road of obedience to His teachings in this fallen world requires faith in Him, trust in His finished work, compliance with His commands. What else should you offer to the Lord of your life?

We know what He has given us, the gift he offered in grace and mercy. Yet off the path we go, time and time again. Yes, we come back (most of the times), yes we are sorry (and we usually mean it), but off we will go again. Acting like the spoiled children we are; acting like it is all about us, not Him. I know I do it more often than I care to admit, I know I keep coming back, only to go off the road into the ditch, again and again. I am thankful for a gracious, merciful, loving and patient God. I think this is a very good way to sum up our sin nature: knowing what He has done, knowing what it cost Him; we will freely choose to go off the road, knowing we can come back. Safe in our Father's hands, safe to act out and know He will forgive us. To me, that powerfully demonstrates our sin nature.

In my mind, it is one thing not to turn to a loving God, to ignore what all creation knows; it can be our decision to ignore the stones crying out as it were. It is another to turn away after the gift has been freely given and accepted. Somehow the second seems worse to me. Taking God for granted just seems worse than disobeying Him in the first place.

I think we are all indifferent to God at points in our life, due to His mercy, grace and patience, I think we all take Him for granted from time to time:

  • So I ask you, how indifferent have you been lately?
  • How does that indifference spill over in to how you lead your life?
  • What are you going to do to get back on the road?

If you do not want to answer me, fine, but answer yourself.

August 12, 2008

Is Jesus Different?

Is the Jesus of the Bible different from the Jesus of the PC?

What I am really trying to get at is do we perceive things differently depending on the medium we choose to view things through. Let me explain a bit. I chose Jesus because he is the most constant, unchangeable person in my life. He, as deity, was, is and will always be. We learn in Matthew 24:35 that His words will never pass away.

But do we perceive Him differently depending on where it is we look at Him? When I read my NET Bible, I am sitting there looking at a book, the most traditional form of information in my life. But I wonder, do I read words differently on my PC then I do in a book? The reason I ask is that when I do a paper for seminary, I have to print it out and read it on paper before I turn it in. I always find something; a word that passes word check but is used me in the wrong context; some grammar issue, some incomplete or incoherent thought that really looked good on the computer screen. Boy, what was I thinking? (Or what was I looking at?)

Is that just me, is it my generation, or is that people in general? I don't know the answer to that one; I can only speak for myself.

Right now at my disposal I have several print versions of the Bible available to me, select bible books on my iPod, and even more bible versions available over the internet on sites like

I think the nuances I pick up on, the perceptions and those beautiful nuggets I occasionally mine out on my own (very occasionally, like total solar eclipse occasionally) are going to be different depending how I am reading about Jesus. He is the great constant in my life. What is different is how I approach Him as my Savior and the Lord of my life. I think the media I use to read the Bible makes a difference. If it does with Jesus, I cannot imagine how big the impact on how I view everything else is. I do not know if this is good or bad; but it is something to keep in mind.

In my case, the Jesus of the Bible (defined as a traditional hard bound copy) is different from the Jesus of the PC. I can study a multi-faceted deity in a multi-faceted way. Upon reflection, I think that is a good thing.

August 9, 2008

“Oh, Look at the Shiny New Book!

For the past several years I have been building my library collection. (You see some of it here, at least how it looks in mind). As a seminary student I expect to spend a good deal of time reading over the next few years. I do not mind, I enjoy reading. Actually, I think I do mind, I like reading what and when I, and not someone else, wants. (I did a post on things not actually being about me recently. I guess I should go read it). Here are some books that I have added to a growing list of what I "need" to read.

Must Reads: Books I want to constantly and consistently read:

I like working with two versions of the bible, as I study passages I find it enhances and deepens the study. These are my two favorite. I truly believe you need to be in the Word everyday and I try to do that.

First Reads: Books I want to read in no apparent order if I can find the time (Have you ever seen the class reading lists from a seminary course?):

  • Who Moved the Stone? – Frank Morison

  • Systematic Theology - Lewis Sperry Chafer (yes, all 8 volumes)

  • Spurgeon's Sermons –Spurgeon (yes, all 10 volumes)

  • Calvin's Commentaries – Calvin (yes, all 22 volumes)

  • The Way of the Heart - Henri Nouwen

  • Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God – J I Packer

  • They Like Jesus But Not The Church: Insights from Emerging Generations - Dan Kimball

  • Halftime Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance – Bob Buford

  • The Sky Is Falling: Leaders Lost in Transition - Alan J. Roxburgh

  • Every Monday Matters: 52 Ways to Make a Difference - Matthew Emerzian

  • Five Views on Sanctification - Hoekema/McQuilkin/ Walvoord

  • The Canon of Scripture – Bruce (This one is recommended, not required reading in one of my upcoming courses, so I will probably read it, one way or another)

These are books that have been recommended either by someone I know or someone I read. I want to get to these when the seminary reading load is at a lull, if and when that occurs.

Should Reads: Books I have bought in the past and haven't had a chance to read but know I should:

  • This is an embarrassing list.
  • I have a shelf of books, probably two dozen or so, that I bought with every intention of reading but then another book came along that I got interested in first. (Oh, look at the shiny new book; I think I need to read it). Sometimes I bought them in a small cluster, like they were grapes instead of books. I cannot begin to tell you the perils of a Barnes & Noble gift card in the hands of a budding bibliophile. (Oh, look. A store full of shiny books!)

  • There are too many books to list out. It includes people like Packer, Sproul, Walvoord, Begg, Van Til, Bruce, Lutzer, MacArthur to name a few. And that does not include the Spurgeon, Calvin and Chafer volumes I mentioned above.

  • I am a mess, literary (or is it literally?) speaking.

Need Reads: Books I want to reread if I can find the time (After I get through seminary reads, "First Reads" and "Should Reads" above):

  • The Way of the Shepherd – Leman/Pentak

  • Life Together – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  • The Cost of Discipleship – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  • The Imitation of Christ- Thomas a Kempis

  • The Confessions – St. Augustine ( I have this in a free audio book, thanks to a great blog; Boomer in the Pew.)

  • The Pursuit of God – A W Tozer

  • Romans – Martin Luther

These are books I read that I really enjoyed, or think I did but didn't understand them well enough to be sure. On second thought, I might have to look at this category along with the Must Read. (After all, I did name it Need Read).

As you can see, I am going to be busy for a while. This list is not all inclusive or all encompassing, it will probably grow daily. My life in general is not chaotic; it is actually quite calm most of the time. It is just that I cannot seem to keep up with my reading. It says something about me, but I have too much reading to do to research on what that is. I just think I should spend some time praying over need; what I need, how I define need, what are really the necessities of life. Every book I have picked up along the way and have not read I have felt the need to read. Need is not a good word to use in this context. I have work to do.

I am sure you could all recommend truly interesting, informative and entertaining books. I do not think I want you too, because the list has already taken on hydra-like qualities. (Oh, look at the shiny new book).

August 6, 2008

Reach Out and Stalk Someone

I recently fired up my LinkedIn account and started adding connections. With my connections, and the 2nd and 3rd degree connections that allows, my network now has over 234,000 people in it. Are you kidding me? I just got started and already I have a quarter of a million people to feed and care for? I do not know how I will ever keep in touch with all of them. Christmas cards do not seem a viable option. Almost none of them have ever read this blog; almost all of them never will. I have a couple of hundred Facebook friends, and with their friends, I am not sure how big the network of people I can reach, but it is probably quite large. Most of them never have nor ever will read this blog either. I am still not using my Twitter account as it was envisioned to be used, not sure I am hardwired to do so. A Facebook friend and fellow DTS student, John Saddington has also got me looking at JesusTweet and QuietTime.TV. And there is a lot more options, sites and services out there that I have not and will not even try. I need an assistant to handle my social media obligations and responsibilities. I didn't want to work this hard; I was supposed to be retired.

But what I realize is that all of this gives one the unique ability to check, at least superficially, on thousands of lives. Maybe see a few photos, scan a job history, learn likes and dislikes, make a wall post poking my nose into other folks business. In addition, I can parse out snippets of my life in status updates, photos or notes I can write (like this one). For an aging boomer, this is a brave new world. For someone trained as a financial manager, training that stressed the desirability of keeping information private, this is a strange new world.

It also makes me wonder if anyone is watching me. If they are watching my life, I feel sorry them. Should they worry? If they are watching my life, should I care? Social media is a growing and evolving field. I do not think we understand neither all the ramifications, nor all the applications yet. But it is interesting to watch. As long as we all watch and not stalk. I'll have my assistant look into that.

August 3, 2008

What Do I Want?

Think about whether you want a degree or an education. That statement from my first instructor at DTS resonated off the walls of my brain, echoing in the emptiness of my mind that particular day. What do I want from seminary? I want an education, yes. I want the degree too, as evidence that I got an education I set out to get. But what do I want? If I say that I am attending DTS for personal enrichment, I am making this whole journey all about me.

As noble as the goal of personal enrichment sounds, I think that it can be really quite selfish. I do not want to be a bible blimp, bloated because I feel I am so well educated, so arrogantly knowledgeable in the bible, all of it for my own edification. I can see where a little knowledge can be dangerous; and a lot of knowledge can be fatal. If it makes me lose touch with the people I am called to minister to, it is fatal to me. God will minister to them some other way if I float off like some gasbag, secure in my knowledge and deaf to the needs of others because I am too busy telling them what I know instead of learning what they need.

Although Paul was speaking specifically about food sacrificed to idols, 1 Corinthians 8:1-2 has some hard words about knowledge. Improperly applied, it puffs up and makes us think we know more than we do. When the bible warns you, beware!

What do I want from life? I think that is the question I really should be asking. Immersion in bible studies without a kingdom goal seems kind of pointless. If my studies are only about me, I am going to miss the mark (in the Bible, the Greek word for sin means to miss the mark). If I am grounded in myself, I fail. I need to be grounded in God, his work, His will.

Or else I will get ground up or explode upon impact with the Truth.