Interesting Books of 2008

December 27, 2008 at 10:27 am | Posted in Books and Movies, Swimming | Leave a comment

Some interesting books I read in 2008.

Furious Pursuit, Tim King and Frank Martin.  Though I don’t completely agree with their theology, the reminder that we don’t pursue God so much as he pursues us made a good read.  The subtitle is God Will Never Let You Go. “You’re not defined by what you’ve done.  You’re defined by Who pursues you.”

Tom Horn, Blood on the Moon, Chip Carlson.  This is a well-researched biography of an infamous hero/villain from my home town, Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Horn was a scout for Teddy Roosevelt in Cuba, a detective for the big cattle companies who made huge drives through Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Wyoming, a rodeo cowboy and a ranch hand.  Though finally convicted for murder and hung, it was probably the one crime he didn’t commit.

Total Immersion, Terry Laughlin.  No, it’s not about baptism.  This is a book about swimming, and it reveals the most recent theories about moving through the water.  The things that have been learned in recent years about how to propel through water, and the way swimming is taught, have totally changed since I was a kid taking lessons.  As a lap swimmer with a swim-team daughter, I found it absolutely fascinating.

Men Are Like Waffles; Women Are Like Spaghetti, Bill and Pam Farrel.  Cathy and I have read many marriage books together in our 26 years.  This is one of the best on communication differences between men and women.  The subtitle is “Undersdstanding and Delighting in Your Differences.”

Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, John Piper.   I have already commented a few times about this book in the blog.  Probably the best I read this year.  I thought it would be a “quick read” from a favorite author of mine; instead it turned out to be one of those very slow “have-to-ponder-every-paragraph” kind of books, but what it made me pondered is great stuff.

That is quite a variety of topics and styles.  Happy reading in 2009!  And thanks for reading some of these ramblings in 2008.

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The Balance of Nature

December 23, 2008 at 10:02 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts | 1 Comment

Psalm 104 My daughter Amber was given a series of videos for Christmas a few years ago called “Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution.”  They are amazing to watch.  The features shown about various animals are fascinating.  The narrator constantly asks the question, “Could this have developed very slowly over many generations?”  And the obvious answer is always, “No.”  The timing and balance in nature is absolutely amazing.  That same point is made by the author of Psalm 104.  He was an astute observer of nature, and he too was amazed at the tender balance nature demonstrates.  His response was one that is instructive to us, “Praise the LORD, O my soul.”  I can say with this psalmist, “O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.”

          I want to offer a special thanks to all who read these words.  If I don’t write again in the next few days, may you have a blessed Christmas.  May your holiday be a great time with family and friends; may you have great joy in the Lord; may it be all about Jesus and all about God’s glory!

The Purpose of Christmas

December 16, 2008 at 4:11 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, It's All About God | Leave a comment

Rick Warren has written a new book called The Purpose of Christmas.  He explains the contents in his promotional video, which you can watch here on Amazon and in other places.  His outline is great as far as it goes.

Warren says the purpose of Christmas is three-fold, as given by the angels to the shepherds in Luke 2:10-14.  First, the purpose of Christmas is Celebration.  The announcement the angels brought was good news for all people – a reason to celebrate.  Second, the purpose of Christmas is Salvation.  The one who was born is called, by the angels, the Savior – he came to save us from our sin.  And third, the purpose of Christmas is Reconciliation.  The angels sang “peace to men,” meaning the peace of God in our lives, peace with God, and peace with each other.  We can be reconciled to God because Jesus came to earth.

Since Luke 2:10-14 is my passage for the upcoming Sunday message, I found it interesting to get Warren’s input.  It is a great outline, however, it completely ignores the highest purpose of Christmas, the purpose to which all the others point.  Christmas is all about God’s glory.  Warren should have added that the fourth purpose of Christmas is Glorification.  The emphatic part of the angels’ song is not “peace to men,” or “peace on earth,” but “Gloria in excelsis Deo!”  Glory to God in the highest.

Our salvation and reconciliation are great things to celebrate, and we are the blessed recipients of them, but ultimately salvation and reconciliation are not about us.  They are, as I hope readers of this blog have figured out, all about God.  This Christmas let’s join Rick Warren in celebration about salvation and reconciliation; but let’s not stop there.  Let’s also join the angels in celebration, recognizing that Christmas is about Glorification.  Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Psalms of Satisfaction

December 15, 2008 at 2:05 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts | Leave a comment

Here are some “Psalms of Satisfaction,” that I have recently found.  I did a search and found there are 15 verses in Psalms with the words satisfy, satisfies or satisfied in them.  Some of those speak of satisfying physical hunger or thirst, but others of a deeper spiritual hunger.  Here are a few examples of the spiritual kind:

Psalm 17:15 “In righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.”

Psalm 65:1-5 “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.  Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.  My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.”

Psalm 90:15 “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

Psalm 103:2-5 “Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases  .  .  .  who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Then we could add to the list verses like Psalm 73:25f “Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  And Psalm 16:11 “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

          Our satisfaction needs to be found in God alone.  Forgive us, God, when we find pleasure and seek satisfaction in anything but you.  We are addicted to the things of this world and have turned our backs on you.  May we abandon the broken cisterns of our own making and find our satisfaction in your spring of living water.  Fill us with joy in your presence; give us yourself as our greatest desire; help us delight fully in you.

Remaining Fresh and Green

December 9, 2008 at 12:40 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts | Leave a comment

Psalm 92:12-15.  “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.  They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’”   As I grow into middle age, this is a great prayer to bring before God.  I never want to grow stale.  I want to continue to be fresh and green and to bear fruit well into old age.  I remember Chuck VerStratten, who in his late seventies had trouble walking, but was raising his hands and almost dancing before the Lord as a loud, contemporary worship team lead at a denomination meeting one year.  I remember his sharp mind and optimistic outlook on life.  I saw him continue ministry well after he supposedly retired.  May I have that same freshness, fruit and optimism as I grow older.  I have seen too many older people live from day to day with no eternal perspective, no ministry, no joy and no freshness.  I don’t want to be that kind of person.  Regardless of my physical and fiscal health, I want to pursue spiritual health – my relationship with God.  May this psalm be my prayer before God, and may I find in Him my source of fruit and joy.

How Much Paraphrase?

December 4, 2008 at 10:52 am | Posted in English Bible Translations, Questions for Pastor Glenn | Leave a comment

The following is a letter I sent to my nephews and nieces after a fun discussion of Bible translations:

 

Here is a chart I made a few years ago concerning how much paraphrase and how much word-for-word literalness was used by various translations.  I considered the Cotton Patch version as the most liberal paraphrase of all and assigned it a score of 100; and I considered an interlinear NT (a book where the English equivalents are typed between the lines of the Greek, with no concern for English sentence structure or word order) as a score of zero.  Everything else would fall between those.  Of course, this was a very subjective process, and I, in all my depravity, was the subject!  Other readers might assign the scores in a completely different way than I did, and I might do the numbers different today, but this will give you an idea of where I place various versions of the Bible.  Even if I changed the numbers, I would still keep the versions in the same order.

A couple of notes to remember:  First, we must consider what a translation team was trying to accomplish, whether they came near to accomplishing that goal, and whether that goal is legitimate for our purposes.  In that light, I find the NASB (1995 edition) and NIV as the ones that best accomplished their stated goals.  Whether those goals are legitimate depends on one’s perspective about translation theories and one’s purpose.  Here your pastor and I might not fully agree; that’s why I preach out of the NIV and he out of the NASB.  Though I like the NASB for study, I find the NIV captured our modern language better, is more widely read, and is thus preferred for preaching (another very subjective judgment).  And even though I read out of it, I usually begin my study with the Greek, and I’m not afraid to state when I disagree with the NIV.

Second, remember that more literal does not necessarily mean more accurate.  Every “translation” has to have some “paraphrase” in it due to literary context, social context,  figures of speech, etc.  We talked about this on Sunday.  At the same time remember that we believe in “verbal-plenary inspiration.”  That means all the words of the original are inspired.

And third, the fact that we can even consider such things makes us a very blessed people indeed!  Christians in the majority of languages and through most eras of church history would consider themselves fortunate to have one copy of the Bible in their native tongue.  Yet I have fifty different versions of the NT in English – and multiple copies of some of those!  Let’s not forget the price people like William Tyndale paid to allow us that privilege!

Blessings to all,

Uncle Glenn

 

Anyway, for what it’s worth after all those qualifications, here’s that subjective chart:

 

bible-tanslation-comparisons

The Riches of His Mercy

December 1, 2008 at 6:22 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, Devotional thoughts, False teaching, Theology | Leave a comment

As a pastor-appreciation gift, Cathy and I were given a night at the Bear’s Inn Bed and Breakfast in Evergreen.  We took advantage of that during the holiday weekend while Amber was with her cousins in Greeley.  We had a wonderful 2 days to slow down, to connect with God and to connect with each other.  The inn was a delightful place to stay, and, with very few people staying, we had the couch and chairs in front of the fireplace almost entirely to ourselves for reading and reflecting.  I read a great chapter in John Piper’s book, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ.  I started this book quite a while ago, but it is such a great devotional book to ponder, I have saved reading chapters in it for weekends and days off when I can ponder more.  This weekend I read the chapter titled, “The Incarnate Wealth of the Compassionate God.”  The main argument of the chapter goes like this: God is the wealthiest being in the universe, because he created and owns everything, but “strikingly, the New Testament describes the wealth of God not mainly in terms of what he created and owns, but mainly in terms of the glory he has from all eternity.”  That wealth is often described in terms of God’s mercy, and Jesus is the incarnate display of the riches of God’s mercy.  “All the Father’s mercies belong to those who come to God through faith in Jesus Christ.”  Then there is this striking conclusion: “The place where mercies are kept is at the throne of God.  Here is infinite wealth and infinite power and infinite wisdom.  And all this stands ready in the service of mercy, because of Jesus Christ, the mercy of God incarnate.”

            I had three thoughts related to this chapter.  One was the scripture I’d read the same morning, Psalm 65.  This chapter has a very similar idea in the early verses.  “When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.  Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!  We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple.”  All the riches of God are available to those he chooses, all the good things of his house and temple.  Of course, one of the best things from God’s riches is his mercy to offer us the forgiveness of our transgressions!

            The second thought I had was related to today’s prosperity preachers.  They teach that God’s wealth is available to his people, but they define that wealth in worldly terms rather than in godly ways.  The wealth they present is, in comparison with God’s mercy, absolute poverty.  First, it’s not the real thing, and second, it’s only temporary.  Yet God’s real wealth is so much more valuable than anything they or this world have to offer, and it lasts forever.  It’s as though they teach their followers to collect the plastic trinkets in the corner of God’s house when the most valuable of jewels are just across the room.

            The third thought is that the discussion in the paragraph above doesn’t speak just to prosperity preachers, but to all people.  All of us seek treasure in things that are not God’s true riches.  We are guilty of the same sins as the Israelites in Jeremiah 2:13, “My people have committed two sins:  They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”   Even with the best of riches and life –the living water – available in God, we seek riches and life in everything else – things that are stagnant in comparison.  God, grant that we may find our true riches in the riches of your mercy.

 

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