Thursday, January 31, 2008

Spending Your Money Part 2

In yesterday's post, I encouraged you to spend some money on a book that I hold in high regard. (If you are still on the fence on that, just do it. Buy the book and read it. I promise you that you will see the Cross in ways you never have before.) Today, I will once again tell you how to part with more of your hard earned cash.

Starting February 1, tomorrow, until February 29, Sovereign Grace Ministries will be selling all of their music cd's for $6 plus free shipping. If you would prefer, you can download the cd for the same $6 price. The $6 price on the cd's is only good for as long as the cd's last so do get in early if you are planning to go that route. Click here to check out the selection. I have a few of the albums and have downloaded some of the individual songs and all I can say is that they are great. If you click on the albums, you can hear a preview of all the songs and see the lyrics.

Now, if you only have $6 to spend and don't know which way to go with it, I recommend Valley of Vision. Of the albums I have, it is my favorite. The songs are based on Puritan prayers from the Puritan book "Valley of Vision" (Wow! what a coincidence). It helps that the album has one of my favorite songs on it, "O Great God". But the album also has a wide variety of other very good songs including, "Valley of Vision", "Only Jesus", "Let Thy Kingdom Come", plus others. You might be wondering, "What does music sound like when it is based on writings from a bunch of dead Puritans?" Good question. Listen to the samples and you will find out. The album is everything except dull.

If, you happen to be fortunate this week and have $12 to spare, then I would suggest that you also include the album, "Songs For the Cross-Centered Life". The album is filled with songs that focus ones thoughts on the suffering of the Savior. Again, I highly recommend this album. Great songs, nice variety, well produced album.

One last thing. If you buy an album and while listening to it find yourself saying, "I would love to have our church sing this song." You're in luck. You can download the piano and guitar sheet music to all of Sovereign Grace's music from their website. The guitar chords and lead sheets are free, and for the month of February, the piano scores are $1 per download. Some of the songs are also available in a down-loadable vocal background track form if you would like to have it sung as a special.

So, there you have it. Starting tomorrow, go buy some music. I don't think that you will regret it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Spending Your Money Part 1

I know. What audacity! I don't blog for weeks and now, when I do, it is to spend your money. Actually, it is just a suggestion, but a very good one.

Easter is coming. In fact it is coming quickly. If you look at the calendar you will see that this year it is about as early as it can be. This year it falls on March 23. I only realized that because I schedule the music in our church and I must be thinking ahead and planning for such events. Anyway, you are probably wondering how this applies to how I would like to spend your money. Glad you asked and I will eventually get to the point.

What do you typically do for Easter? By that question I don't mean Easter day, Easter baskets, ham and lamb dinner, or any of that. What I do mean is, how do reflect upon the Passion of Jesus Christ? Do you attend the services and check them off as they come or do you actually focus on the story of meaning behind the week? Growing up, our church never held a Good Friday service, but when I became an adult and started attending a church that did, I realized what I was missing. Now, I can't imagine not attending a Good Friday service.

Well, last summer, I stumbled upon something that I realized would become part of a new Easter remembrance for me, the book The Cross He Bore by Frederick S Leahy. This little book is the best book I have ever read on the Cross of Christ. It opened my eyes to so many things I had never seen involving the death of the Savior. It is a short book. Thirteen chapters total with each chapter about six to seven pages long. Each chapter is a different meditation on the suffering of the Redeemer. What I plan to do is to read a chapter a day leading up to Good Friday and I would encourage you to do the same. You can purchase the book from Westminster Bookstore for $4.03 with a $5 flat shipping rate. My suggestion, is to go to Westminster and browse through some of their other products and put a package together. You won't regret it. By the way, for $4.03, get a copy for your pastor. He will appreciate it.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction of the book.
"As the cross is central in God's eternal decrees, and in the actual redemption of his people, so it should be central in the thinking and experience of the individual Christian. It is my conviction, and at times my sad experience, that as the cross goes out of focus in the Christian's life, coldness and backsliding set in.
It is not my intention in these brief chapters to give a detailed account of the trial and crucifixion of our Lord. That is done in the Gospels infinitely better than by any mere man or woman. Rather, I have selected certain passages which help us to meditate on the what the Saviour endured for our salvation. If our meditation on the cross be meagre, can our love for the Saviour by great?"

Friday, January 11, 2008

Speaking in Code

When I was a young child my parents used to speak in code language when they wanted to talk in front of we children without us knowing what they were talking about. The code language they used was pig Latin. (If for some reason you don't know, in pig Latin you take the first sound or blend of a word, move it to the end of the word, and add "ay". e.g. "It's cold today" would be, "It'say oldcay odaytay.") Anyway back to the story, that worked fine for a while, but eventually my brothers and I caught on to pig Latin. It is easier to understand than it is to speak, but with a little practice you can speak it as fluently as you can speak English. In fact, on a cross-country family vacation, my mother and I talked for hours using only pig Latin. It was my turn to drive and I drew the 1 AM to 5AM driving shift (we always drove straight through). I was a little tired while driving and to keep me awake my mother and I began to read road signs and cities in pig Latin. There is still something about the city of "Ewbergnay" that makes me smile.

This past year has made me realize that we all speak in code to one extent or another. With all of the doctor's visits we have been to for Kim, there has been one thing that has been consistent. Code language. Here is how all of our doctor's appointments have gone this year. The visit would start in common English. The doctor is speaking and I am understanding everything he or she is saying. Doctor asks a few questions, looks at Kim's chart and realizes and confirms that Kim is a practicing Registered Nurse. As soon as she would confirm this, I am out of the conversation. The language in the room would immediately turn to medical code language. Abbreviations and terms, real Latin and words that would fill a Webster, all with endings in Greek. Code words and terminology that those in the medical field understand, but language that for most of us feel completely lost in. I would sit patiently and try and pick up what I could. Every visit would end with the doctor looking at me and asking, "Do you have any questions?" No, how could I? I haven't understood a word that has been spoken since the initial handshake. When Kim and I would get back into the car after appointments, she would have to explain to me everything that was said. Eventually, after many doctor visits, I began to understand some of the conversation and on a few occasions was bold enough to ask questions.

When I was relating this experience to my pastor, he told me that the same thing happens at pastor's breakfasts and conferences. He said that the language spoken among pastors is very different from how they speak when laymen are part of the conversation. He said there is a very discernible shift in the conversation as theology terms come out and New Testament Greek begins to be spoken.

As I thought about both of these examples, I realized I am not exempt from speaking in code language. I have friends who are woodworkers and when we talk, words like "biscuit", "rabbet", "scribe", "plinth", "stile", and "ogee" are common words we all understand. Those who work with computers are no different. Believe it or not, I am convinced that the majority of people have absolutely no idea what they are talking about when they throw around terms such as "RAM", "gigabytes", and "peripherals". Most people don't know and only those who really understand computers do, because that is their code language.

In considering all of this, I reflect upon Romans 8:26-28. "26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."
There is, for lack of a better term, a code language with God. In our prayers we petition God and pour out our souls to Him, but our hearts are wicked and we don't know what is best for ourselves. None of us knows the mind of God, and none of us can stand as His counselor. So when verse 26 speaks of "our weakness", it speaks not just of our physical weakness, but also our spiritual failures as imperfect sinful beings. Matthew Henry puts it this way, "As to the manner, we know not how to pray as we ought. It is not enough that we do that which is good, but we must do it well, seek in a due order; and here we are often at a loss--graces are weak, affections cold, thoughts wandering, and it is not always easy to find the heart to pray. The apostle speaks of this in the first person: 'We do not know'. He puts himself among the rest. Folly, and weakness, and distraction in prayer, are what all the saints are complaining of. If so great a saint as Paul knew not what to pray for, what little reason have we to go forth about that duty in our own strength!"
But we are not left there in our weakness, alone and struggling in our prayers. For the Father sends the Spirit to intercede, to dictate and make requests for us that we cannot possibly began to imagine of our own power. There, in that intercession, is the code language of God. God the Spirit, pouring out the desires of the Father, to the Father on our behalf, and we never hear a word of it. I take great comfort in that. That is language I would not want to hear, for those petitions I cannot speak may very well be bringing into my life great sorrow. Sorrow that if I knew about would cause me to worry and fret. But no, I can rest in the promise of verse 28, that those prayers offered up by the Spirit to the Father, no matter what they are, will bring about ultimate good in my life. And I can close my eyes and sleep at night knowing that He who holds me today, holds my tomorrows.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tiny Tidbits

What a funny word! Tidbits! Say it. Let it roll off of your tongue. It will bring a smile to your face. I don't know, it just struck me as an amusing word as I typed it in.

Well I haven't posted in a little while and I wanted to throw forth a few items I think may be helpful, amusing, interesting, etc.

First. I have added links to some of the books that I am reading or have read. If you click the title, it will take you to Westminster Books where you may then purchase the book if you would like. Great book store, great prices, $5 flat shipping fee. One of my favorite internet purchase destinations.

Secondly, this past Tuesday found me again in the history classroom. Since we had been off for a while due to Christmas vacation and what not, I decided that a game quiz was the way to refresh the memories of the students. One of the questions that I asked was, "Who was the first person to physically circumnavigate the world?" If you answer Magellan, you would be incorrect. Magellan never actually made it all the way around since he died in the Philippines prior to his ships making it back to Europe. Actually, Sir Francis Drake, in his ship the Golden Hind, physically made his way around the world first. When I asked the question, our youngest participant, Joshua, raised his hand and said, "I don't remember his name, but his ship was the Golden Rear." Golden Hind, Golden Rear, priceless.

If you look down the column on the right hand side of the blog's home page, you will see a button for Sitemeter. Sitemeter records how many people view my blog, where they are from (approximately, as in by region, not your street address), and how they found the blog. Interestingly enough, the majority of people who pop into the blog after finding it via Google search, arrive when they are searching for the term, "dactylic meter". Who knew?

Lastly, this was sent to me yesterday. It is truly amazing.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year of No Resolutions

Happy 2008! The period of time in many peoples lives where resolutions are made, fitness club contracts are signed, fitness club owners pay cash for new Porsche's, and where we are just a month or more away from watching many people we know settle into a funk because they were unable to keep their resolutions. Ah! Maybe I'm a little cynical.

I'm not one on making resolutions, but then I'm not a person that places an emphasis on time or keeps very good track of it. I'm not talking about punctuality. That is totally different. Rather, I am referring to people who see a new year as a new page of life, a fresh start like freshly fallen snow before the snowplow comes through and splatters the crisp whiteness with chunks of road salt and grime. I am not that person. For me, years run together. So while I have things that people might see as resolutions, they are not really new years resolutions. At different times and in various ways I become convicted or convinced of changes that I need to make in my life. I don't wait for a fresh page of life to began writing on that page, but rather I began implementing the changes as soon as I can.

I have decided to list some of my lifestyle changes that I am currently working on. So, if you would like, you may refer to them as new year resolutions, though in reality, most of them have been and will continue to be works in progress.

By God's grace I will continue to improve in the following areas.

1. Become more dependent on God. Specifically in my prayer life. I have referred in the past to this major weakness in my Christian walk and have begun to study prayer biblically so that I may become more reliant upon God. I am starting a personal prayer journal to hold myself accountable. Expect to see more posts on prayer in the coming year as God graciously works in this area of my life.

2. End a really bad habit. I don't know when exactly this started, but a few years ago I fell into a pattern of reading multiple books at the same time. I never used to do this. I have always been the type of person that picks up a book and finishes it before starting a new one. Not anymore. I think it started when I had a bunch of books that I wanted to read that all were purchased at the same time. I couldn't wait to read them all so I read them all at the same time. It is a really bad habit as it seems to lead to a lot of re-reading due to the lack of continuity. As you can see, I'm not doing to well on this one as I have added two new books that I am currently reading without finishing the ones I was already reading.

3. Continue to catechize my children. My children do a lot of scripture memory for AWANA and that is good, but I really want them to understand the doctrines of the Bible. Giving them a firm foundation for their own theology is very important to what I believe my role as a father is. We are using this copy of the Westminster Shorter Catechism for those who are interested.

4. By God's grace continue to improve on my personal time management. That I would continue to weed out the hay and stubble in my life and focus my time on items that have eternal value.

Eph 5:15-16 "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil."

Col 4:2-6 "Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.