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Showing posts from November, 2009

Good news from Central Asia

To kick off our Week of Prayer and December Southern Baptist Missions Offering, here's an encouraging story from the International Mission Board...
“You could be killed for talking about Jesus around here.” That’s what a Muslim named Bershi* told missionary Luke Jenkins* after Jenkins shared the Gospel with him.Bershi was an illegal immigrant looking for work when he came to the Central Asian nation where Jenkins serves as a church planter. But his warning didn’t stop Jenkins. He continued to discuss Jesus with Bershi, and as the young man’s interest grew, they began studying the Bible together. Eventually Bershi gave his life to Christ and was baptized.Since that time Bershi has begun to actively share his faith, and even baptized three others he led to Christ earlier this year. He’s also returned to his own country, a place with severely limited access to the Gospel and very few believers.Bershi’s baptism is among the more than 506,000 recorded by the IMB (International Mission B…

Will the earth end in 2012?

I recently wrote this article which appeared in today's edition of our local paper, the Hi Desert Star...

The new movie “2012” is full of courage, sacrifice, and some great special effects, but could it be more than Hollywood entertainment? Could it be an actual preview of what is to come?

According to some experts, the Mayan calendar predicts that the world will end on December 21, 2012. Pretty serious stuff. Could it be true?

Whenever we hear of doomsday theories like this, it’s good to ask, “What does the Bible say?” Now maybe you’re wondering what makes the Bible any more reliable than the Mayan calendar. After all, isn’t the Bible just another book of ancient mythology? Great question. And I have two answers.

First, the Bible is trustworthy because it is God’s own Word. The divine author himself urges us to read and accept it. As it says in Revelation 22:6, “These words are faithful and true.”

Second, the Bible is trustworthy because it has already made hundreds of predictions tha…

Satisfied in Christ

What's the purpose of life? And what's the purpose of the church? The answer to both these questions is the same: to glorify God.

We exist to bring God glory, pleasure, and honor, and to reflect His beauty to others. But how do we bring God the greatest glory? The answer may be surprising to you. We bring God the greatest glory by enjoying Him. By really loving Him more than anything else. John Piper says it this way: "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him."

Last Sunday, our church studied Psalm 63. It's the heartfelt song of King David, a man after God's own heart, who found his joy and satisfaction in God. We saw three reasons we too can be satisfied in God (who, this side of the cross, finds His fullest expression in Jesus Christ):
Christ Satisfies our Thirst (Ps. 63:1-5). David, writing in a barren Judean wasteland (see picture above), speaks of a deep thirst and craving for God. He longs for God even more than his body cries for wate…

Enter to win a free J. C. Ryle commentary set

The J. C. Ryle Quotes blog is holding a drawing for a free set of commentaries by J. C. Ryle. Ryle is one of my favorite pastors and authors from the 19th century. You can enter to win here.

Do your Christmas shopping and support a pastor

If you like to shop at, you can do four great things at once. You can buy merchandise at great prices; save time and gas; avoid the crowds; and support a pastor (myself) without spending any extra money!

Simply by entering the Amazon website through this link here, 4% of your purchase will be credited to me for future book purchases. (This is the same link as the button embedded at the bottom right corner of my blog home page).

So for example, if you spend $100 at Amazon this year on Christmas gifts, I will get a $4 credit toward a future book. This Affiliates program is active not just at Christmas time, but all year long.

Remember, Amazon sells a lot more than books. They also have DVDs, toys, clothes, CDs, tools, and much more. Happy shopping, and thanks for supporting my library fund!

**I also learned this week about a great website called They're posting many "Black Friday" ads ahead of time so you can see and compare the best online and in-s…

Thousands of new marine species discovered

On day five of creation, God made all the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky. It says in Genesis 1:21 that the "waters swarmed after their kind." Now, some of those "swarming" sea creatures are being discovered for the very first time. According to the Associated Press,
A report released Sunday recorded 17,650 species living below 656 feet, the point where sunlight ceases. The findings were the latest update on a 10-year census of marine life."Parts of the deep sea that we assumed were homogenous are actually quite complex," said Robert S. Carney, an oceanographer at Louisiana State University and a lead researcher on the deep seas.Thousands of marine species eke out an existence in the ocean's pitch-black depths by feeding on the snowlike decaying matter that cascades down — even sunken whale bones. Oil and methane also are an energy source for the bottom-dwellers, the report said.The researchers have found about 5,600 new species on top of the …

Free access to 54 volumes of encyclopedias

Move over Wikipedia. There are some other encyclopedias on the internet available for free access too.

1. Encyclopedia Judaica. The Biblical Studies and Technology Tools blog announced today,
I don't seem to have found a link to this on any of the usual sites I frequent, so it perhaps may also be helpful to you to bookmark this link for free access to the complete, 22 volumes worth, $2263 at Amazon set, 2nd edition of 2007, Encyclopedia Judaica. (That's the link to the entrance page for the Jewish Community Association of Austin where you will find the acknowledgment of the sponsor for this online edition and the password needed to access the site.)

While this encyclopedia covers the whole spectrum of Jewish experience up to the present, there is still a ton of biblical stuff readers of this blog may be interested in checking out. Peruse the hundreds of maps, a 44 page "Land of Israel: Geographical Survey," a 6 page article on "Mikveh," 18 pages on "Arama…

Reason to be thankful

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater. 2 Thessalonians 1:3Paul overflowed with praise to God as he saw the faith and love of his fellow Christians in Thessalonica. Their perseverance brought thankfulness to his heart. I know how he feels, because yesterday, I had a similar feeling when I saw this same kind of faith and love put on display.A woman in our church recently fell while taking two simple steps from her stove to her sink. In the process, she broke 2 ribs and is in terrible pain. After receiving medical treatment and coming back home, I spoke with her on the phone.She said, “Pastor, I don’t like the pain, but I thank the Lord. God is good. I know the Lord had a reason, and He knows best. I thank Him for the good and the bad. He permitted it. My faith has never been what it is today.”This is music to my ears. It brings joy to my he…

A snapshot of younger pastors

Al Mohler recently met with a group of young pastors and spoke very positively of his experience.

What characterizes these rising leaders in the church? In particular, what are the marks of young pastors in their 20s and 30s? Mohler shares eight features of this new generation:
They are deeply committed to the Gospel and to the authority of Scripture.
They love the church. They have resisted the temptation to give up on the church or to be satisfied with a parachurch form of ministry.
They are gifted preachers and teachers. They rightly divide the Word of Truth and they make no apology for preaching the Bible.
They are eager evangelists. They are driven by an urgency to see lost people come to know Jesus and become both believers and disciples.
They are complementarians who affirm the biblical roles for men and women in both the church and the home.
They are men of vision. They apply intelligence and discernment to the building up of the church and the cause of the Gospel.
They are men of glo…

Jerry Rankin on a Great Commission Resurgence

In light of new missions cutbacks, Dr. Rankin made some excellent comments last week to the IMB trustees:
“If you define the Great Commission as anything and everything we do as a denomination, an increase in baptisms, more healthy churches, greater cultural impact on our society, there’s not going to be a lot of change because we will just continue to do anything and everything the best that we can,” Rankin said. “But I am convinced that God has blessed Southern Baptists, He has raised us up in numbers and resources, not to take pride in being a great denomination and how many programs we can implement and how well we can do them but to be His instrument to reach a lost world and fulfill His mission..."

“...We must be very careful of how we speak of other entities in our denomination. I know the leadership of our state conventions, our SBC entities, how conscientious they are, how sincerely dedicated to serving the Lord ... and the wonderful job they are doing. That’s not the issu…

Heartbreaking news about missions

Lest we need more proof that the SBC is in trouble and that a major overhaul is going to be necessary, the IMB has released this heartbreaking news:
In a day of unprecedented global missions opportunity and great harvest, Southern Baptists will be forced to draw down their overseas missions force in 2010 by as many as 600 missionaries, IMB (International Mission Board) trustees were told Nov. 10...

...Because economic realities are forcing IMB to retrench its efforts, the organization must deliberately plan to have fewer missionaries — with implications for a lost world that should distress Southern Baptist church members, said Gordon Fort, IMB vice president of global strategy.

“When doors are swinging open all over the world, when our work force is finding great harvest in some of the most difficult places in the world, we are drawing our force down from 5,600 to 5,000. It just shouldn’t be,” Fort told trustees. When Southern Baptists collected $11.1 billion in offering plates in 2008,…

Final Call

Last Sunday, we finished our two-and-a-half year journey through the Gospel of John. It was a bittersweet moment.

Through John's Gospel, I've grown more passionate for my Savior, Jesus Christ. I've grown more confident of His deity. I've grown more amazed at His love for the Father and for me. I've grown more familiar with His ministry and teaching style. I've grown more appreciative of His gift -- the Holy Spirit. I've grown more amazed at His death on the cross. I've grown more convinced of His unique authority and powerful resurrection.

I've grown so attached to this Gospel, but I'm also excited to move on to a new book in the months ahead. I don't know for sure where we're headed yet, but I'm praying about starting 1 Corinthians around the beginning of the new year. I see an urgent need for holiness in the church, and know this letter touches on many of the issues facing Christians today.

As we wrapped up our series in John, we hear…

Big sale on the MacArthur Study Bible

You'll probably never find a better price than this...

The MacArthur Study Bible, NASB, Hardcover

60% off retail

Sale ends at noon on Sunday November 15.
"Designed to transform lives, The MacArthur Study Bible is ideal for personal and small-group study. This landmark study Bible brings together over 35 years of Bible study from popular Bible teacher John MacArthur, and provides extensive study helps to aid readers in understanding and teaching Scripture. This revised edition includes over 20,000 study notes, the full text of the updated New American Standard version, an extensive concordance and an index to key Bible doctrines, multiple time lines, numerous charts, over 50 Bible maps, an outline of Systematic Theology, and more. 2216 pp. Hardcover, with dust jacket." Now through Sunday, it is only $19.99.
I believe this is the best study Bible on the market and one of the first ten books every new Christian should own.
To order one at the discount price, go to the Grace Books…

Calvin on suffering

Although God loves us, He allows us suffer. Actually, a better way to put it is this: Because God loves us, He allows us to suffer.

Suffering, though painful, is one of God's gracious ways of pulling us away from our self-love and more towards loving Him. A life of ease just doesn't sanctify us like suffering. Our hearts, as the hymn says, are "prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love." The prickly hedges of suffering help us not to wander far from God's path.

John Calvin says it this way:
[W]e see not how necessary that obedience is, unless we at the same time consider how prone our carnal nature is to shake off the yoke of God whenever it has been treated with some degree of gentleness and indulgence. It just happens to it as with refractory horses, which, if kept idle for a few days at hack and manger, become ungovernable, and no longer recognize the rider, whose command before they implicitly obeyed. And we invariably become what God compl…

Restoring old photos of Israel

In his latest newsletter, Todd Bolen explains the painstaking process of restoring old photos to create the 8-volume American Colony and Eric Matson Collection. It’s a fascinating project that really makes you appreciate the end result. Here’s his full article…Shortly after producing a collection of modern-day photographs in the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands (initially released in January 2000), I began work on a supplementary collection that would peel back the recent layers of time to reveal the sites of the Holy Land before the changes brought by modernization.  The initial fruit of this work was the release of 8 volumes of Historic Views of the Holy Land in November 2004.About that same time, I learned that the Library of Congress was digitizing the G. Eric and Edith Matson Negatives.  Between 1966 and 1981, Eric Matson and his beneficiary donated this collection to the Library of Congress. But public access was limited and costly until 2004, when the first negatives were scann…

Logos 4 ... one week later

As I mentioned last week, Logos Bible software recently came out with version 4. I felt there were enough features and books added to make it worth the upgrade (especially at the 15% early bird discount), so I went ahead and bought it. A week later, having had some time now to tinker around and prepare a sermon with it, what's my assessment? Overall, I'm very impressed.

Here's a run-down of my first week using Logos 4.

Day 1. When I bought the upgrade, I had the option of receiving it by DVD or by download. Being too impatient for the DVD to be mailed, I started the download. :) But then I discovered just how big this new program was. Logos Gold was 10 gigabytes! I actually ran out of hard drive space and had to delete some programs and move a bunch of stuff around to my alternate hard drives just to make space for this behemoth. Then it took about 10 hours to download on a high speed connection. My computer slogged along all day Monday, and sometime in the middle of the nig…

Overcoming addiction

I'm hoping in the next year to start a Bible-centered addiction recovery group at our church. And this may be just the resource: Crossroads: A Step-By-Step Guide Away from Addiction: Study Guide by Ed Welch.

Here's a description from the publisher.
Everyone of us is a potential addict. Eventually, every addict finds himself at a crossroads. In a pressure-filled world, the prospect of instant escape can be exhilarating. No matter the object-drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, or sex, just to name a few-addictions lure us. They extend the promise of pleasure. In the end, they deliver emptiness, death, and destruction. What began as an escape from the hassles of life becomes a form of bondage. Addiction is a voluntary slavery. Change doesn't come easily. But change is possible! No matter how many times you have tried and failed, there really is a way through the addictive fog. There is a guidebook for living, and, contrary to what many think, it is available to anyone, even to tho…

Tend My Sheep

This picture was taken when I was a student in Israel. Our class was on field study one day when I noticed a shepherd and his flock, grazing quietly not far from our group. I inched closer and then stood very still to take some pictures. Soon the flock decided to head my way and literally surrounded me. It was a special moment when I got to experience for myself what it’s like be a shepherd. Now, almost ten years later, I’m a shepherd of a different kind, over the precious “people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand” (Ps. 95:7)When Jesus appeared after His resurrection to Peter in Galilee, He taught His disciples about forgiveness and showed what pastoral ministry is all about. Last Sunday, we saw two important lessons from our passage in John 21:15-17:A Pardon for Peter. Peter, intended by Jesus to be a “rock” in the early church, had committed a tragic sin. Not long after boasting he would go both to prison and to death (Luk. 22:31-33), he denied Christ and swore he didn’t even…

Logos 4

Yesterday, Logos announced the release of Logos Bible Software Version 4. This is not a software "upgrade" with a few minor tweaks. It's claiming to be an entirely new platform. From their blog:
The leading Bible software products available today (including our own Libronix DLS 3.0) are powerful tools designed 10-20 years ago...While technology has moved into the mainstream, it hasn't stopped improving. We re-invented Logos Bible Software repeatedly to stay on the cutting edge of technology and user interface. But the edge keeps moving.Our last product couldn't anticipate the incredible inter-connectedness of today's users, with widespread broadband, wireless, and mobile-phone Internet. Today's leading programming language didn't even exist when we designed the Libronix DLS. Apple and Microsoft have changed processors, operating systems, and more. And, most importantly, the customer base has changed: today's Bible student with a computer isn't …

Book review - Holiness

One of the great aims of the believer is to become “holy as God is holy” (1 Peter 1:16). So while we proclaim a “gospel of grace” (Ac. 20:24) and celebrate freedom in Christ (Gal. 5:1), we realize we were saved for a glorious purpose. We were not rescued from hell simply to bask in sin and lawlessness. We were, as Paul says, “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph. 2:10).Yet how do we take tangible steps toward this goal? Holiness can feel so abstract, so unattainable, that I fear many Christians never really take pains to achieve it. Over a century ago, the Lord gave us tremendous help through J.C. Ryle’s classic work Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots. Interestingly, Ryle begins his book on holiness by discussing sin. “He must dig down very low if he would build high…Wrong views about holiness are generally traceable to wrong views about human corruption” (p. 1). From there, Ryle devotes his early chapters to the nature of sanctification and holiness, t…