Well, I have decided. I am moving my blog to Blogger. Not only can I use Java Script over there, but there are a whole bunch of other customizations that I can do as well. So my blog is now located at http://rileysowner.blogspot.com/
Happy New Year! I started out this year with a very nasty chest cold that has completely wiped me out. On the positive side it seems like it might possibly be starting to break, but I still have a nasty unproductive cough. I blame at least part of this on the weather. It has been damp, cold (not freezing but with lots of temperature fluctuations), and rainy. I almost always get sick during weather like we have been having, and almost always the cough lingers for a long time. So my hopes are for an extended deep freeze to help me get over this.
Our New Year's day service went well. God graciously kept my cold from interfering with my ability to lead the worship and preach, although after the service the cough got worse again. We had several visitors who joined us in starting the New Year in the presence of God. I preached on Hebrews 3:1-14 encouraging people to make their resolution this year to consider Jesus.
I also started a different Bible reading plan. Usually I read through the Bible in a year, but this year I decided to switch to two plans that will have me read through the Gospels 4 times and the Letters 3 time this year. I made this change because I desired to more deeply immerse myself in the New Testament writings. My hope is to read the Letter's reading in the morning, and the Gospel reading in the evening.
You may have noticed that I have changed my Blog name as well. I originally called it 'Musings' because it was all I could think of. But, I decided that I wanted a name that reflected what I do, or at least strive to do, in my life and ministry. It is a transliteration of the Greek at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 1:23 -- We Preach Christ Crucified.
With this name change I am also considering leaving Livejournal and going to Blogger. I have a hit counter that I added on this site, but is can only be HTML as they do not allow Java script. I understand why they have this policy in place, but I would very much like to see the more detailed information that a Java script counter will allow. I can do this on Blogger, and so in the next several days I am going to decide if I will move over there. I would hate to loose all my posts here, especially some of the ones when Justin was born, so the transferring of my post would be another factor to weigh into that decision.
Today my morning reading was Romans 2. I have always enjoyed reading Romans, and have preached my way through to the end of chapter 8.
What struck me again today was the first verse of this chapter, "Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things." Paul's point since verse 18 of chapter 1 is to show that there is not one person who can be excused from their guilt because of their sin. In chapter one he showed how even those who have never read the written word of God are without excuse because even they know enough to hold them guilty. Here he continues with this idea that there is no excuse, but it is aimed at the person who thinks they are excused because they know what is right and what is wrong. They are people who will point out how the things that others do are wrong, and think that by doing so it keeps them safe from guilt. However, what is found here is that they too have no excuse, because they also sin. If they think that their knowledge of right and wrong will save them, that is somehow gives them an excuse before God, they are sorely mistaken. Perhaps the idea in mind here is that they think that they are basically pretty good, and while agreeing that they are not perfect, they at least try to do what is right. However, what we find in the following verses is that this will not protect them from the wrath of God. Instead God's judgment falls on all those who sin, so they stand as condemned as the people they themselves condemn.
What struck me about this is how easy it is to fall into this way of thinking. I know from my own experience that I can easily start to think that because I seem better than others around me and because I know what is right and wrong because God has revealed it in the Bible, that I am somehow safer because of that. I need this reminder that this is not a safe area to stand for me or for anyone else. These words drive me more to Christ and what he has done in his suffering and death as the only sure way to come before God, not with an excuse, but trusting that through what Jesus has done, I am justified by the free gift of God.
For those of you who are old enough to remember this phrase, it will remind you of the children's show The Friendly Giant. It was one of those shows that I always enjoyed watching as a child, and thinking back it not only introduced me to many books, but also to various types of music.
Having said that, this post has nothing to do with it. Instead it has to do with looking up to the sky at night to see the various constellations. I don't know how many of you have done this. I was always somewhat interested in it, but it was not until I took an astronomy course in University that I really got hooked. For several years I would look at my star charts and try to find various constellations. However, during my seminary years I didn't have time to do this, and now I find that I have forgotten much of what I had learned.
Internet to the rescue. At this site you will find a free document entitled What's Up 2007: 365 Days of Skywatching. If you want to know more about what you can see each night through this coming year, have a look. A brief warning though, it is 410 pages long so you might not want to print off the whole thing.
Today two calls to prayer were sent out into the blog-sphere.
The first, which seems less dangerous is for Dr. Al Mohler. At his blog the following is posted:
Dr. Albert Mohler is recovering at Louisville's Baptist East hospital following abdominal surgery. Dr. Mohler was admitted to the hospital on Wednesday after experiencing abdominal pain. During a three-hour procedure, surgeons removed scar tissue from a 1980s operation. Dr. Mohler is expected to be released from the hospital next week and will continue his recovery at home. Dr. Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology and Senior VP for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will host The Albert Mohler radio program until he is able to return to the air. Dr. Mohler's blog and commentary posts will resume as soon as he is able. Please join the Southern Seminary community in praying for Dr. Mohler's quick and total recovery.
Please pray for Dr. D. James Kennedy, his wife and daughter, and Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. Dr. Kennedy is in grave condition following a heart attack last evening.
Jim's health has deteriorated markedly in the last several months, and he has manfully continued his ministry to the best of his ability. During all my interactions with him even during this trying time, he has exhibited his characteristic good cheer, charm, and force of mind. Along with being a man with great vision for the kingdom of Christ, Jim Kennedy is a true Christian gentleman. Please pray for God to restore him to full health and give him grace as his situation should require.
Although these are widely different situations, both carry with them struggle and danger. Please pray for these men as they go through these bitter providences, that in them God's grace may be shown to be sufficient and that his power may be made perfect in their weakness. To God be the glory.
Since I have posted the rather tongue in cheek Merry Christmas for those who are 24 fans, I wanted to post a more serious Christmas greeting. As we worshiped today we remembered together the amazing truth that the Son of God came from the glories of heaven, not grasping the equality to God that is his, but rather pouring himself out into a human being born to an unwed mother and laid in a manger because there was not room in the inn. It is the glory of God with us, come to save us, and who would humbly and obediently go to death, even the shameful death on the cross. With that in mind, a blessed Christmas to all of you. Enjoy.
I am not a huge fan of 24, probably because I have not watched enough of it to be able to follow the plot line without going back. The few times I have watched it, it has looked like the sort of show I could get into if I had the time to devote to catching up. Sadly, I don't, but I can still recognize good parody. :)
The more I consider it, the more I think we make evangelism much too difficult. The thinking today is that one must do so many different things to successfully lead people to Christ. Yet, if the word of God is true, the success in evangelism is in his hands not ours. What we are called to do is as clearly and politely as we can present the gospel to people. Maybe we will not see the results ourselves, but God said his word will not return to him void, but will accomplish what he desires. As a reminder of that I link you over to this audio account of a faithful little man as a reminder that God works as his people are faithful in presenting the message of Jesus Christ.
Hot from Reformation 21's blog, is this report on ICS (Irritable Clergy Syndrome). As one who greatly dislikes the proliferation of various syndromes that is found today, I still found this interesting, not because of its putting a label on things making it a syndrome, but instead to see how the odd expectations of the members of a church impact the health of the pastor. I know from experience that this has been the case with me, but I wonder sometimes if it should be. I don't see myself going out of my way to be nice to people, but perhaps without realizing it I am. Either way, it along with other articles is a reminder that the health of pastors can very easily be thrown out by the very people they are charged to care for. I posted about other research in this area back in May (HERE).
Thankfully I seem to be past this point in my life, but I am sure that some of you are still involved in those group/office gift exchanges. You know the ones where everyone is supposed to purchase a gift in a certain value range, wrap it and put it under the tree. Then everyone draws a number and based on that picks a gift. The next person can either take that unwrapped gift or get one from under the tree. I always seemed to end up with something that no one else wanted, but another blogger has some good suggestions and warning on gifts for that sort of exchange. See Here
"Meow. I said meow! Where's my food?" All we ever hear about British cats in published material is that they're loyal and good hunters. But we British cat owners know that as house cats, you are quite useless, except maybe as very heavy heating pads. You are greedy, demanding, and narcissistic. Nevertheless, you are irresistible, so we end up worshiping you despite your obvious flaws of character.
As has been the practice in Reformed (RCA) and Christian Reformed (CRCNA) churches from the time I was a small child and before, our church uses an advent wreath to celebrate the season of advent and Christmas. I never really thought about it until several years back when I was searching for better advent readings than the ones the RCA had that year, and I found the pagan roots of this practice. Now, I have to say, this was an Internet article, so it would need more research on my part to verify the information found in it. Regardless of that, it made me start to consider whether this practice is something we should do in light of the regulative principal of worship.
At first glance it may not seem that either of these denominations take this principal seriously in their practice. However, on look to the Heidelberg Catechism as it discusses the second commandment and you find the following:
Q & A 96
Q. What is God's will for us in the second commandment?
A. That we in no way make any image of God nor worship him in any other way than he has commanded in his Word.
Notice the second part of this explanation of this commandment says that we should not worship God, "in any other way that he has commanded in his Word." That would mean that the official understanding of our standards is not that of, everything is permissible as long as God has not prohibited it, but rather, we can and should only do the things God commanded be done in worship. We officially believe the scriptures teach the regulative principle. I am still on the fence if I totally agree with the regulative principle, but I do find I am leaning more and more in that direction.
That leads to my questions. First, how did two denominations that both believed in the regulative principle seem to abandon it and add things like advent wreaths? Second, what do those who read thing about the permissibility of advent wreaths based on the teaching of scripture. I know some of you simply like them, my question is not one of like of dislike, but are we wrong based on what the Bible teaches us to use them in worship?
EDIT December 9, 2006
For more information and discussion on this topic see here and here at Challies Dot Com.
It has been a long time since I have posted anything. Part of that is because I was on vacation (no Internet connection in Algonquin Provincial Park). The other part is that I have been ill with some nasty intestinal ailment that has hit everyone in our family. It started with Justin halfway through my vacation. I returned from Algonquin to a very sick boy and a rather frazzled wife. He seemed to get better by that Monday, so we proceeded with our plans for the second week of my vacation leaving Justin with his grandma and going to Toronto to visit friends and go to the Royal Winter fair. By that Monday evening, Annette was throwing up, with all the symptoms of what Justin had. By Tuesday morning, I had joined her, and we had found out that Justin was still sick (so this was not some one day thing). We decided to head home, and spent that week and the next (last week) feeling ill and weak and completely exhausted. The worst part of it, was that you would start to feel fine, start doing normal things (like work since last week I was officially back from vacation) and then with no warning you would feel horrible again. I am pretty sure I am over it now, but I also feel very behind in my work stuff. Last week was far from productive, and December, with all its busyness is coming. So far this week I have not had one of those relapses, although I don't have all my energy back either. It is because of all that that I have not been posting in the last while. Now that I am feeling more like myself, I hope to get back to things, but I need to catch up on work first.
One of the things that is often forgotten today is the amazing power that advertisers have to change the images they use. There has always been the use of airbrushes in the past, but now with photoshop the power to change an image has gone far beyond what was possible before. Check out this video of how much images can be changed.