Friday, March 31, 2006

Caesar Feared Christian Prayer

Take a moment to read this ancient letter by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. It goes to show that even great persecutors of the Church are awestruck at the power of God in our lives.
"Epistle of Marcus Aurelius to the Senate, in Which He Testifies that the Christians Were the Cause of His Victory.
.
The Emperor Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus...to the People of Rome, and to the sacred Senate greeting: I explained to you my grand design, and what advantages I gained on the confines of Germany, with much labour and suffering, in consequence of the circumstance that I was surrounded by the enemy; I myself being shut up in Carnuntum by seventy-four cohorts, nine miles off. And the enemy being at hand, the scouts pointed out to us, and our general Pompeianus showed us that there was close on us a mass of a mixed multitude of 977, 000 men, which indeed we saw; and I was shut up by this vast host, having with me only a battalion composed of the first, tenth, double and marine legions. Having then examined my own position, and my host, with respect to the vast mass of barbarians and of the enemy, I quickly betook myself to prayer to the gods of my country. But being disregarded by them, I summoned those who among us go by the name of Christians. And having made inquiry, I discovered a great number and vast host of them, and raged against them, which was by no means becoming; for afterwards I learned their power. Wherefore they began the battle, not by preparing weapons, nor arms, nor bugles; for such preparation is hateful to them, on account of the God they bear about in their conscience. Therefore it is probable that those whom we suppose to be atheists, have God as their ruling power entrenched in their conscience. For having cast themselves on the ground, they prayed not only for me, but also for the whole army as it stood, that they might be delivered from the present thirst and famine. For during five days we had got no water, because there was none; for we were in the heart of Germany, and in the enemy's territory. And simultaneously with their casting themselves on the ground, and praying to God (a God of whom I am ignorant), water poured from heaven, upon us most refreshingly cool, but upon the enemies of Rome a fiery hail. And immediately we recognised the presence of God following on the prayer- a God unconquerable and indestructible. Founding upon this, then, let us pardon such as are Christians, lest they pray for and obtain such a weapon against ourselves. And I counsel that no such person be accused on the ground of his being a Christian. But if any one be found laying to the charge of a Christian that he is a Christian, I desire that it be made manifest that he who is accused as a Christian, and acknowledges that he is one, is accused of nothing else than only this, that he is a Christian; but that he who arraigns him be burned alive. And I further desire, that he who is entrusted with the government of the province shall not compel the Christian, who confesses and certifies such a matter, to retract; neither shall he commit him. And I desire that these things be confirmed by a decree of the Senate. And I command this my edict to be published in the Forum of Trajan, in order that it may be read. The prefect Vitrasius Pollio will see that it be transmitted to all the provinces round about, and that no one who wishes to make use of or to possess it be hindered from obtaining a copy from the document I now publish."

Lessons in Life from India

An Indian doctor and his assistant now face a two year prison term and fine for revealing the sex of a fetus to its mother. India has illegalized what they rightly call "feticide", as hundreds of thousands of female babies are aborted every year, throwing the gender ratio out of whack. On hidden video, this doctor was caught telling the undercover woman that her baby was a female, and told her "it can be taken care of." This is a huge problem in India, where there are millions of females "missing" from society. All nations should learn from India, not the least of which is China, where a similar travesty occurs.
An Indian official said that one should be "proud" to have a baby girl. AMEN.


Concerned? Check out India Female Foeticide.org

Thursday, March 30, 2006

This Just In: Prayer Doesn't Work

Over the past month, my church has been earnestly praying for our pastor's health. He had a heart surgery which was intended to keep him in the hospital for 2-3 days but turned into a month. At the time of the operation things looked grim by major complications. Straddling death's threshold, we weren't sure Dan would make it. There were times the doctors doubted he would. I had some confrontations with God that week, and I prayed that his will WAS that he spare my mentor and friend. I didn't resign to some fatalistic view where "we don't know what God's will is, blah, blah, blah." I know God is sovereign, and his will is what it is. But the Bible demonstrates how we should approach these situations and I boldly pleaded that God's will was that he heal him. Dan is home now, weak, but healthy and recovering. We are all rejoicing in God's grace in answering prayer.

BUT, I just recieved an email from my Uncle John, who also is a member of my flock, who laughed out loud when he read this brand new news article proclaiming that
"Study Fails to Show Healing Power of Prayer." Oops. I repent of my foolish illusion that God heard us.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Homiletic Calisthenics

"Though preachers differ in the expenditure of energy given in a sermon, it has been estimated that a half-hour address can use as much physical energy as eight hours of manual labor. Billy Graham, for example, has been cautioned by physicians against the danger of physical exhaustion due to preaching.... Dynamic preaching requires physical strength and stamina. When the preacher's body goes out of shape, it will invariably affect the quality of his speaking."

-R.C. Sproul, from "The Whole Man," in The Preacher and Preaching, cited in Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch

Sets the Captives Free!

While I was finishing my post on the death penalty for Abdul Rahman (see below, "Verbum Dei III"), I read the New York Times headline: Afghan Convert to Christianity Is Released.

Praise the Lord.

Verbum Dei III

The other day I heard someone refer to the Afghan Christian convert now facing the death penalty, saying, "he was converetd by the Roman Catholics, but still..." Is he a REAL Christian, some evangelicals may wonder.

Remember what Paul said in I Corinthians 12:3, "Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit."

Some of us might object, "That's not true! I know tons of nominal Christians who say 'Jesus is Lord' and are without the Holy Spirit." Or how about Jesus' very own warning that many will come to him at their judgement and say, "Lord, Lord!" but Jesus will only reply to them, "I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness" (Mat 7:23)?

Paul here is not referring to lipservice. In fact, Jesus had little patience for lipservice. Consider when the rich young ruler came and called Jesus "Good Teacher" (Lk 18:18). Did Jesus bask in the glow of one of his biggest fans, absorbing all the flattery? No, he said, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone." Again, when Nicodemus in John 3 went to the Saviour under cover of darkness, he heaped on the protocol, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, etc. etc." Jesus wasn't impressed. He cut through the fluff and questioned Nicodemus' credentials.

So how can Paul say that "no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except in the Holy Spirit"? Jesus knows men's hearts. He knows when "Lord" is flattering lipservice and when "Lord" is submissive worship. In the early Church, Christians lived in a hotbed of persecution, where Roman soldiers at any moment could stop a Christian in the street and place his sword at the believer's throat before posing the question, "Kaesar estin Kurios or Iesou Kurios? (Is Caesar Lord or is Jesus Lord?)" The true answer would cost their life. There weren't many lukewarm or nominal Christians during this time when the price was so high. You better believe that the man, woman, or child who said "Jesus is Lord" at sword point, or about to be burned alive or torn apart by animals, had the Holy Spirit of God in them.

In the Western world today, everyone and their cat claims to be Christians, but in the Muslim and Chinese worlds, there's no playing around. Persecution purifies the Church. It does an incredible job of separating the wheat from the weeds.

We all say "Jesus is Lord," but will we say it when the death penalty is upon us? Abdul Rahman, the Afghan convert to Christianity who faces death by an Islamic government, says "Jesus is Lord." Roman Catholic or not, I believe Brother Abdul abides in Christ and is alive in the Spirit.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Cartoon Incarnate

Some Brits created a really well done live action opening sequence of The Simpsons (no, no commas are needed I checked three times). That means real actors, real scenery, etc. to recreate the famous opening theme to the 17 year old animated series. You can watch it here.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Cartoon

Is this a new low? I'm really posting cheesy church bulletin cartoons?

Friday, March 24, 2006

BIBLIOMANIA!!

...or bibliolatry(?)

I'm broke. Being an alien in Canada I am legally employmently challenged. And my lovely wife is maternally... leaved. But although I am without funds, God has never failed to provide our needs. And many times God provides the desires of our hearts, whether or not we actually "need" them. Every month or so I get a catalogue from Christian Book Distributors, the cheapest and most thorough company of its kind in the world (see link at the right). It's the only place where you can say that you saved thousands of dollars on books! I am a member (at $5 a year) and get them even cheaper. For example, the 22 volume set of Calvin's Commentary by Baker publishers costs $1000 retail. As a member I can buy it at $99.99. The 38 volume set of the Early Church Fathers (retail: $1100) you can buy at $219.99. I recently bought the Works of Jonathan Edwards for $44.99. This company puts books, that at one time could only be afforded by institutional libraries, into the studies of laymen and churches. They also have all the current bestsellers and music, etc., etc. all cheaper than elsewhere.

But, alas, even cheap = steep when you have nothing. However, as of this week I am several books richer. Thanks to the generosity of a semi-retired pastor, I harvested from a library that had been built across three decades. He approached me the day after I sadly browsed the CBD catalogue wondering how I could acquire additional resources. Although he kept most of his commentaries and classics, I was able to spend two days amidst his 4-6,000 books and left his house with 115 great ones. I am humbled that he thought of me (I barely know him) just because I am a student of theology/biblical studies, before he ships much of them off to Bible schools and colleges. Because he went to Moody and Dallas Seminary, he had good standards. Although I would never go to those schools (although I've heard that Dallas has evolved from their dispensationalism to a more Reformed view), alumni have at least a solid Bible-centered ministry and library. He probably had every volume ever published by John MacArthur, of which I attained 21.

So here I am, having strengthened some weak areas of my library, such as:

  • Some classic Reformed works, including Boice, Lloyd-Jones, Baxter, Spurgeon, Schaeffer, Packer, Jay Adams, etc.
  • general biblical studies references (sets of Bible encyclopedias, dictionaries, lexical works, etc.)
  • nouthetic counselling
  • church eldership
  • contra-Charismania/Toronto Blessing
  • cults and 'isms' (like Mormon, JW, Romanism)
  • missionary biographies, memoirs
  • a few demonological books
  • a great book on the four views of the millennium
  • 4 works of Aristotle, 2 of Plato, 1 Marcus Aurelius
  • and a partridge in a-- oh sorry

In addition, a great treasure, which he surprisingly gave without hesitation is a theological book printed in 1732 called Limestreet Lectures, which were given in London. It's in good condition for being 274 years old. It's about 470 pgs. and contains 26 sermons on those wonderful doctrines like "Particular Election", "Imputation of Adam's Sin", "Particular Redemption", Justification, "Efficacious Grace", and "Perseverence in Grace".

Having said all this, I was hoping someone knew of a good cataloging software program. Emily's itching to start inputting our c. 1000 books into a good system (I have already mourned the loss of some loved books that were never returned, not remembering who took them... someone at ABU!). Any recommendations?

Answer

Not all guess at once now! I'm not a sports buff, but my dad asked me this and I thought it was interesting. The two figures named in the Baseball Hall of Fame who had nothing to do with the sport, were none other than Abbott and Costello! The famous comedy duo made baseball and comedy history with their hilarious routine "Who's On First." If you've never heard it before or if you just want to be amused all over again, listen to the skit here.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Trivia

Without searching the internet, does anyone know the answer to this question?

There are two names in the Baseball Hall of Fame who had nothing to do with baseball, not playing, coaching, administration, nothing. Yet they are in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Does anyone know who these two people are?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

"Ever Present Need"

I've had a beautiful and haunting melody in my head for a while, by Steve Bell. I wish I was able to have the entire song available in audio, but you can here a portion of it here (it's number 3).

Ever Present Need
- Steve Bell
Lyrics adapted from Daniel Ladinski’s translation of
‘Our Need for Thee’ in Love Poems from God.
Original poem by St. Francis of Assisi.
.
Darkness is an unlit wick
A simple spark would vanquish it
Truly I could burst to flame
Every time you call my name
Do I do for you the same
.
God is like a honey bee
Penetrates the soul of me
Dearly draws the sweetness in
Nectar of the meek love is
He in me and I in him
.
In our ever present need of thee
Grant we fathom peace
Fashion instruments of souls set free
For don’t the caged ones weep
.
Sometimes sober sometimes bliss
Every union knows of this
But I have stood here in his rain
And bear the marks of fertile plains
Swelling streams and swollen grain
.
So will I console the fall
Of cheerless creatures great and small
What of sadness can endure
When love divine makes insecure
The crowing claims of shame’s allure
.
In our ever present need of thee
Grant we fathom peace
Fashion instruments of souls set free
For don’t the caged ones weep

My Baby

For family and friends who want their fill of Miriam photography, Emily has created an MSN photo album. There are several groups of photos. Click the triangle under "Photo album" to see a menu of the others.

Maintenance

I realized that what I see when I look at my computer screen is not necessarily what you, the viewer, sees. I spent a lot of time in the early stages of Wicket Gate getting all the fonts just right, with a fancy title and an old-fashioned type for my posts, etc. But, unless someone actually has those fonts installed on their computer, they will not see it. What they will see is an oversized and awkward Arial font or something. So I've renovated everything into standard Times New Roman so we're all on the same page. (And No Evghenis, my font choice had nothing to do with an Italiocentric worldview).
I apologize for a previously ugly website... from where I sit it looked nice.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Jesus Was Not A Model

...for baptism. I don't know how many times I've heard Baptist (and other) preachers cite Jesus' baptism by John as proof for our baptism. Jesus was not baptized to 'set an example'. Neither was he baptized in the way John the Baptist baptized everyone else, ie for repentance.

Indeed, Jesus commands baptism (Matt 28:19), but his own personal baptism was to fulfill Mosaic law regarding the anointing of priests before they began their service. A thorough but brief explanation of the true purpose of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan is found
here.

Carroll of Arabia

My friends Sean and Ruth Carroll are still alive in Yemen. In a recent email, Sean wrote, "There's a small desert behind our apartment (go figure). It takes about an hour to cross, so we wander in it from time to time, and sometimes climb the mountains on the other side. Camels also wander the desert, free-range. I try to talk to them, but they're snobs... " I'm happy to see they are having an adventurous time. In my last post about them, I said that Sean hates olives so he wouldn't survive well in the Middle East, but he has informed me that he now likes olives. I personally could eat olives all day long, washed down by extra virgin olive oil. Below is a picture of our hero in his new backyard. (For a soundtrack for this picture click here.)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Afghan Martyr

According to the Washington Times today, an "Afghan man faces death for Christian conversion." 41 year old Abdul Rahman was arrested when his family accused him of becoming a Christian. (What a real-life illustration of my previous blog.) He now faces being put to death by the Afghanistan government, who says that this is "an attack on Islam." I'm so glad we got rid of the Taliban there so Afghanistan can have religious freedom.

And we are supporting this country why??


courtesy of DW.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Verbum Dei II

Exodus 1:16-17

"Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 'When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.' But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live."


God cares little of kings and powers, mighty nations and armies, as he says, "Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales... Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing." (Is 40:15, 17). To God, the pharaoh of Egypt was just another enemy to his people. He remains nameless in the historical record of the redemption of God's children. All that's said about him was that he "did not know Joseph" (Ex 1:8), in that he was ignorant of the good ol' days where Pharaoh and Joseph were friends, and that Egypt and Israel coexisted in peace. Archaeologists, Egyptologists, and Biblical scholars have always debated who the pharaoh was at this time. Out of all the museums filled with Egyptian history, we may never know for sure who this pharaoh was.

What we do know for sure is that the Hebrew midwives in Egypt prior to the Exodus were named Shiphrah and Puah. My pastor has said that when we study the great civilizations of the world we study their "ruins," but when we study the history of God's people all we have are pages in a perfectly preserved and unruined book. "So who cares about Shiphrah and Puah?" you may ask. (Let me finish, stop interrupting with questions.) These two heroines did more for the human race than the highest ruler of the most powerful civilization in the ancient world. Their names are written down because they saved Hebrew babies from infanticide. These pro-life women had more power over the destiny of the world than mighty superpowers. Before Miriam placed Moses in the Nile and then boldly approached pharaoh's daughter about him, before Jocheved decided to put her baby in the basket, these two midwives blatantly stood against government and feared their God. And about the helper of Israel God says, "He hands nations over to him and subdues kings before him" (Is 41:2).

We probably will never be as powerful as a pharaoh, or as important a leader as Joseph, or Moses or Aaron. But will we be as faithful as Shiphrah and Puah in fearing God and living out his commands regardless of opposition be it pharaoh, president, prime minister, or principal?

The next time someone talks about 'making a name' for himself, remember what my professor
Dr. Stephen Dempster once said regarding power and legacy: "Remember, we name our dogs Caesar, and our sons Paul."

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Interesting Blog

For anyone interested in Christianity and history discussions, especially new ideas, check out The Interesting Narrative Life of an Enlightened Imposter in the Land of the Puritans, a blog of an MDiv student at Boston University, who ALSO has a quote from Pilgrim's Progress under his blog title.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Stop and Reflect Amid the Pints of Green Beer...

"St. Patrick's Day should remind us that even white people first came to Christianity through missionaries. "

A Christian Hero

"The Shield of Saint Patrick"
I bind unto myself today the strong name of the trinity,
by invocation of the same, the Three in One, the One in Three.

I bind this day to me forever by power of faith Christ's incarnation,
His baptism in the Jordan river, his death on the cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spiced tomb, his riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, his might to stay, his ear to harken to my need,
The wisdom of my God to teach, his hand to guide, his shield to ward,
The Word of God to give me speech, his heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me;
Christ to comfort and restore me;
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the name, the strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three,
Of whom all nature hath creation, eternal Father, Spirit, Word;
Praise to the God of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord!
--Patrick, First Bishop of Ireland
(AD 387-464)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Sorry

There were some dead links in my "New Blogs" post. They are now fixed. Sorry for the sub-standard blogging.

"Science Fiction"

I guarantee you'll laugh when you listen to this hilarious song by Doug Wilson about evolution, actually quite similar to a post I made a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

New Blogs

or, new to the Wicket Gate. Several deserve to be linked on my blogroll, so here we go. Introducing (in a non-exhaustive, linked-as-I-think-of-them sort of way):



& Miscellaneous websites:

  • Middleborough, MA- my hometown, settled in the 1620's.
  • Patrica, Italia - my Old World hometown, settled thousands of years ago. Enjoy the virtual tour
  • Virtual Oxford- a fantastic 3D panoramic tour of almost every corner of the ancient university city. It feels like I'm back, but without the cucumber sandwiches and 500 year old library books.
  • Samuel Adams - America's world-class brewery, Boston. The only American brewer that meets Germany's strict beer purity standards.
  • Slow Food USA- an Italian-founded international association reacting to the disgusting and pathetic culture of fast food.

    Planetary Therming

    (...As a blogger I'm totally entitled to make up words. And I'm entitled to my entitlements.)

    ABUer Chris Johnson has an interesting post on global warming, based on research from the UK. This study proposes alternative theories as to the cause of the popular scientific phenomenon.

    Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    Verbum Dei, Part I

    Wow, this sounds like the beginning of a Wicket Gate ongoing feature on the Word of God! And it is. It's high time we start looking at Scripture passages on this blog with the desire to know God better. Verbum Dei (the Word of God) will feature short passages with some reflection. That's all. All input is welcome.

    Every now and then the Word feeds me something I had never noticed before, or maybe I had noticed but it never "hit home" until one day. One such passage is Jesus' teaching in Luke 14:12-14.

    "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."

    What a fascinating teaching on 'downward mobility'! The Lord speaks of being repaid as if it were a punishment: "LEST they also invite you in return and you be repaid." Rather than taking in those you love or who are well-off, he compels us to invite poverty and ill-stricken people to our tables, the reason being "BECAUSE they cannot repay you."

    This is just like the Savior, who left his heavenly glory and majesty to condescend into the gutters of the earth to serve wretched sinners like you and me his Bread of Life and Living Water. We mustn't, however, take this as a literal condemnation of entertaining our loved ones. Jesus is saying that in regards to charity and compassion, setting out a feast for our family and friends proves nothing. That's just being civil and polite. As usual Jesus criticizes social convention, not because it is necessarily evil but because it's not as precious as we believe it to be. Entertaining rich people with the expectation of being repaid is not hospitality, but rather "commercial exchange", as one commentator put it.

    True charity is spending money on a feast for those who could never repay you. Remember what the Lord said in a similar teaching? "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you... For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt 5:44, 46-48).

    We were poor, lame, and blind, and Jesus invited us to supper. We were his enemies, and "WHILE WE WERE ENEMIES we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (Rom 5:10).

    Friends, it is impossible to repay him who saved us. Why should we expect compensation for our love?

    Monday, March 13, 2006

    So Two Maritimers Walk into a Maktab...

    which means "school." Muslims have no need for bars. My dear friends Sean and Ruth Carroll from New Brunswick have moved to the Middle East where Sean has taken a position as an English language professor at a university in Al Mukalla, Yemen. It will be a challenge to live half way across the world in a strange land, where Sean doesn't even like olives (!), and they do not speak Arabic. Not to mention the oppressive heat, even though they're on the ocean. It should be an exciting experience for them.

    Please keep them in your prayers as they serve the Yemeni people in 'various' ways. Please be discerning in your comments for reasons of security. I forget the name of the university but will post a link to it once I get it. The Carrolls do have a blog,
    Yemeni Cricket, where they always let their conscience be their guide.

    Sunday, March 12, 2006

    CUTE

    (kyoot)
    adj. cut·er, cut·est
    1. Delightfully pretty or dainty.
    2. Obviously contrived to charm; precious: "[He] mugs so ferociously he kills the humorit's an insufferably cute performance" David Ansen.
    3. Shrewd; clever.
    4.

    Friday, March 10, 2006

    Loome Theological Books

    With 275,000 volumes for sale, I had so much druel on the keyboard it short-circuited... Visit Loome Theological and Books.

    Thursday, March 09, 2006

    Money...(pff) Who Needs It?

    I do.

    Thursday, March 02, 2006

    More Miriam