Monday, December 31, 2007

Help to read the Bible more in 2008

I've posted some thoughts before on trying to be a better Bible reader. Even if I were able to read the Bible 12 hours a day every day, I'm sure I would continue to find new ways of understanding passages than I ever had before, and would probably feel the need for more Bible study.

My friend Daniel suggested reading the Bible online. As a way of getting yourself to read more regularly, rather than just trying to fit it in in the mornings or evenings, why not read the Bible the same way you read most other important things in your life? I seldom have time for books that I like, but I always manage to check my e-mail.

I found something on the ESV's website where they have a variety of Bible reading plans where you can read the text online every day with a pre-prepared website, or if you're an avid blog-reader like me, you can get an RSS feed of the text sent to your blog reader daily.

Why not decide that every day before you check your e-mail, you will first read the passages for the day? Even if you don't get it every day, wouldn't you be a better person for trying it?

Here is the link to the ESV's page of Bible reading plans.

May God bless you in 2008!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Use Your Allusion: The Witch of Endor

The witch (or medium) at Endor is a Biblical allusion. It comes from I Samuel 28. King Saul was at a very low point of his life, and was actually nearer to the end of his life than he realized. At Samuel's direction, he had driven all of the witches and necromancers out of the land to please God. But now, the Urium and Thummim were not working, the prophets received no messages for him, and Saul knew that he was no longer receiving God's guidance. Along with this, Samuel had died, and was no longer there to instruct Saul in how to follow God.

Saul asked his men if there were any witches left, and they told him of this particular witch in Endor. He went in disguise, not revealing his identity to her. She verbally acknowledged that the king had executed and driven out her type, and she hesitated to offer her services, but when he insisted that she would not be harmed, she agreed. As soon as she saw the spirit of
Samuel rising up, she became afraid because she realized that Saul had tricked her. Samuel told Saul through the medium that God was displeased with him because of his repeated disobedience, and that he would die. Saul was overwhelmed, but ended up remaining a while longer at the witch's house, even allowing her to cook a meal for him.

It is a depressing passage of Scripture to see Israel's first king stooping so low that he seeks comfort from the evil people God had commissioned him to destroy. This marked Saul's complete separation from God, at least as I see it.


This is not an allusion that is used all the time, but it's good to at least be aware of where it comes from. To talk about "The Witch at Endor", it sounds like it could have easily come from mythology or Sci-Fi movie. I have always found it interesting that in the Star Wars movies, the Ewoks lived on the forrest moon of Endor. (I'm sure the locations are not one and the same, but I've wondered "Why the same name?"'s bound to be borrowed from the Biblical story)

I've found it interesting how many times in my life I've had teachers try and explain away the fact that the ghost of Samuel really did appear in this case. Most commonly, I've been told that "The reason that witch got scared was because this was the first time it had ever worked!" How could she have a career/reputation as a medium if she was unable to do what she claimed? I realize that necromancy was closely associated with hallucinogenic drugs in these times, but that to me is not enough of an explanation for this passage to say that she usually just got people high.

I find a lot of those shows interesting where people claim to talk to the dead relatives and friends of audience members. Part of me wants to believe it's true, and the skeptic in me wants to laugh at all of it. As Christians, I think we are foolish to ignore the real existence of evil in the world around us. It doesn't shake my faith at all to acknowledge the possibility of someone having some sort of spirit in them, as the witch was reputed to have at Endor. What a great victory Satan has if he can convince us that he isn't real. We may not encounter demonic activity through ghosts and boogey-men experiences, but we see the prevalent greed, corruption, and pride around us, and we can know that plenty of people are believing the lies that Satan tells us so skillfully. If we seek stability from sources other than God--especially if we try to circumvent God as Saul had done--we set ourselves up for demise, as did Saul.

Anyone else have any thoughts on this passage, or on the uses of necromancy?

Addendum: It just occurred to me that I have referred to a "Jonathan Edwards" in the last two posts, though unintentionally, and for completely unrelated reasons.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

I'm reposting something I've already posted before, because I think it's still relevant and valuable. I have always felt it is important to set high personal standards and goals, and at the turn of a new year is a great time to do that. Jonathan Edwards had some resolutions that I found challenging:
Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), from the Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humble entreat Him, by His grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ's sake. [I will] remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved, to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general.

Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.

Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

Resolved, Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.

Resolved, Never to do anything out of revenge.

Resolved, Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

Resolved, Never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession which I cannot hope God will accept.

Resolved, To ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better.

Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

Resolved, After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them; what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

Resolved, Always to do that which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak.

Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Warning

I still have another thing or two from old Gospel Advocates that I want to retype and put on here. This is one from a section of poetry that they shared. This one is from 1890.
[Sister Holland, of Petersburg, Tenn., has kept the lines below for over thirty years. She thinks the warning given may profit others, so gave it us for republication.]

Young ladies all attention give,
You that in wicked pleasures live,
One of your sex the other day
Was called by death's cold hand away.

A while before this damsel died
She found her tongue was speechless tied,
At length she opened wide her eyes
And found her tongue was libertized.

She called her father to her bed,
And thus in dying anguish said:
"My days on earth are at an end,
My soul is summoned to attend.

Before Jehovah's burning bar
To hear the awful sentence there.
From preaching you would keep your child,
Pleasures wanting vain and wild.

To frolics you would let me go,
And dance my soul to pain and woe.
Now, dear father, do repent,
And pray, and read your Testament.

Your soul is blooming for the grave;
You have a precious soul to save;
Your children teach to serve the Lord,
And worship him with one accord."

It's Nacho Cat: Stairs

Nacho has lately decided that the stairs going up to our bonus room are one giant scratching post. We're working to re-educate her about this, but it's taking some persistence.

For Christmas, I took Nacho to the vet for her annual vaccinations. So my gift to Nacho is her peace of mind in knowing that she'll be "Disease Free in '08".

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas from the Queen

This is a video of the 1957 Christmas message from the Queen of England...a revolutionary thing in its time. This year, she is going to give her Christmas message through Youtube by the influence of her grandchildren. I found her appreciation of religion and morality that she states in this speech very refreshing. This is one speech that she wrote entirely on her own without using any professional writers to tell her what to say.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Use Your Allusion: Pavlov's Dog

Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) won the 1904 Nobel Prize for physiology for research he had done on the digestive system. He was known especially for experiments in behavioral conditioning involving his dogs. Every day, before feeding his dogs, he would ring a little bell. Eventually, he got his dogs to where he could ring the bell, even if there was no food, and the dogs would still begin salivating.

There is not a single defined condition where you would use this allusion, but generally, if someone gets into a pattern of always expecting one thing to follow another, in a way they become like Pavlov's dog.

I've claimed before that the theme song to the show Mama's Family has this effect on me. Every day, it came on at 4:30pm, right as my dad was getting home. I always had to turn the show off 5 minutes into it because that's when we would eat dinner. When I hear it, I still get hungry and I remember smells of chicken, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese.

A good example of this is also in the hit TV series The Office, where Jim does a similar experiment on Dwight. Several times a day, every day, Jim gets an error "ding" noise on his computer, and when he does it, he immediately offers Dwight an Altoid mint. I'll let you see the episode for yourself if you want to know the outcome. :-) It's one of my favorite scenes from any of the shows.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It's Nacho Cat: Turtle!

When we first moved to Old Hickory, this turtle came prancing past our house on the sidewalk. I had some fun picking it up and looking at it (while it tried to bite me and scratch me). Nacho kept sniffing it, and I was afraid she was going to be bitten. Still, it's cool when you can get different animals together in one shot.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Prayer Request for the Rose Family (Updated)

After I got home from church today, I got a phone call from a Rose Bud member, calling to tell me about a very bad accident. Stephen and Elizabeth Rose were on their way to church with their two children, Tanner (9 yrs old) and Brooklyn "Brookie" (3 years old). Because of the discovery of natural gas in Rose Bud, there has been a lot of heavy equipment being moved around. On that long, winding road to Rose Bud, on the way up Joy mountain, somehow a large vehicle with oversized equipment lost control, and flipped over on top of the Rose's vehicle and crushed it.

Stephen was life flighted over to Little Rock, where he is in critical condition. Elizabeth was badly injured, but is stablized in the hospital in Searcy. Both of their children, Tanner and Brookie, were killed in the accident.

They have a large family at the Rose Bud congregation that is very close knit. While we hope and pray that Steve and Elizabeth survive, we are devastated at the loss of Tanner and Brookie. Please keep all of their family in your thoughts and prayers. I can't imagine a more painful situation to go through than what they are currently experiencing.

Update: Steve is stablized now. He received a lot of damage to his face especially, and has already had a couple of operations for reconstruction. I'm not sure yet if he has been awake, or has learned of what has happened to his children. I know that now they are saying that he doesn't have brain damage at all, which is a blessing. Elizabeth has a lot of broken bones, but no injuries that she won't be able to mostly recover from. She is aware of what has happened, and is certainly grieving her losses. The biggest tragedy of all of this continues to be the deaths of Tanner and Brooklyn.

Second Update: Here is the news clip with pictures of the family and the scene of the accident. It's not pretty. Please continue to pray for this precious family.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Use Your Allusion: Scheherazade

Scheherazade is a legendary Persian queen, and the storyteller of The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. There was a Persian emperor named Shahriar who had been cheated on by his first wife, and as a result, he never trusted any women. He would marry a new bride each day, but would condemn her to death on the following morning so that she would never have the chance to cheat on him. After 3,000 other wives, all who were executed, he ended up marrying the beautiful Scheherazade, who was a bit wiser than the others.

On the first night, Scheherazade began telling him an enchanting tale, but left it unfinished. He was so curious to hear what would happen next, he spared her life on the next day so that she would continue her tale and he could hear the end of it. She managed to keep this routine going for 1,001 nights.

By the end of the story, they had three children together, and Scheherazade had taught the emperor much about integrity and kindness through the things woven into her tale. She was not only spared, but continued to be the emperor's consort.

This allusion was used a lot in Stephen King's book Misery. An insane fan keeps an author locked in her house, breaking his legs to keep him from getting away. Though she intends for them both to die together, he postpones it by continuing to write a new book. She is so eager to see what will happen in the story, she holds off on killing him. King must have drawn a lot of his inspiration for this book from the life of Scheherazade.

When you are in a position where you are forced to distract someone with something interesting for your own safety or wellbeing, you might compare yourself to Scheherazade.

12 Days of Christmas

My good friend Brent sent this to me in an e-mail. Brent doesn't e-mail often, but when he does, it's always something worth reading or sharing. This is an incredible version of the 12 days of Christmas sung by an a cappella group.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I need your help! Technology in Ministry

I am preparing for a brief presentation in January at a meeting of local ministers. The topic for the meeting is "Wired for Ministry". My specific portion is going to focus on teaching ministers how to utilize networking websites (MySpace, Facebook, and also blogging) to connect both with their members and with potential converts.

As a second part of my presentation, I am compiling a big list of websites that ministers would find useful. (I won't be going over these in a speech...this will be a supplementary handout for them to take home and possibly utilize on their own time.)

Is there a website that has been especially helpful to you as a Christian? It could be anything: Bible studies, time management tools, software downloads, sermon ideas, illustrations, etc.

If you have a suggestion or idea, please leave me a comment!

Thanks for your help!
Mark <><

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's Nacho Cat

This is a very fun place to sit if you enjoy torturing dogs. They can bark and pitch fits, but they can't reach you. :-)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

No Room In The Inn

This is from an 1883 Gospel Advocate from around Christmas time. No author was named.
When our Lord was born, St. Luke tells us, the Virgin Mother wrapped the infant Savior in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger-cradle, "Because there was no room for them in the inn." This fact is significant. it was not by accident, but by divine foreordination that such was the case. Thus our heavenly Father would especially teach us that the fundamental law of the kingdom of Christ is to deny self, and, in the exercise of pure love, to serve others.

In the inn of Bethlehem we have a striking type of the heart of man, when wholly occupied with self, or filled with worldly cares and pleasures. In such a heart there is never any room for Jesus. The truth may come to it through the preaching or reading of the word of God, or the startling events of his providence, but only as Joseph and Mary came to the caravansary in the City of David, to be turned away to find a lodging-place elsewhere. Only in the humble heart that is emptied of self, and in which the cares and pleasures of this present life have but a secondary place, is Christ born and the true Christmas joy experienced.

The Gospel Advocate

I'm going to be making a few posts from things I found while researching a recent paper that I wrote about David Lipscomb. I try to spend a lot of time looking at primary sources, which in Lipscomb's case, was the Gospel Advocate. In reading through all those old pages (in awful microfilm form), you experience a lot of serendipity. There were a few things I found either touching or amusing that I would like to share.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Yearning for Resurrection

I'm sitting here far too late to be starting a sermon on Saturday evening with an awful case of Preacher's Block. My heart is very heavy for a family with whom I've spent the last several hours in the hospital. We pray for healing and comfort, but I just don't know what's going to happen. This situation is pressing on my mind heavily, and it's hard to come up with creative and engaging sermon ideas when all you can think about is the painful effects of sin on the world in which we live. Sometimes, I think being a preacher is way too easy and rewarding of a job, and then on days like today, I feel so inadequate to my task, that I wonder what good I could possibly do. Sickness and death are such ugly things. In our struggle to walk in the way of the righteous, we truly face a terrible enemy. The effects of evil are so devastating that without becoming allies of God, there is nothing we have to face them with.

There are many passages that I like that talk about the coming of Christ. My favorite passage that deals with death and resurrection is from Isaiah. If you've never read it, I'd encourage you to read through it slowly, and really think about all that he's contemplating. It's a powerful passage by someone struggling to keep his heart right while waiting for the Lord to make all things right. Sometimes I think it's harder to wait than others. Today is one of those days.

Isaiah 26

A Song of Praise
1 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
We have a strong city;
God makes salvation
its walls and ramparts.

2 Open the gates
that the righteous nation may enter,
the nation that keeps faith.

3 You will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you.

4 Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.

5 He humbles those who dwell on high,
he lays the lofty city low;
he levels it to the ground
and casts it down to the dust.

6 Feet trample it down—
the feet of the oppressed,
the footsteps of the poor.

7 The path of the righteous is level;
O upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth.

8 Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, [a]
we wait for you;
your name and renown
are the desire of our hearts.

9 My soul yearns for you in the night;
in the morning my spirit longs for you.
When your judgments come upon the earth,
the people of the world learn righteousness.

10 Though grace is shown to the wicked,
they do not learn righteousness;
even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil
and regard not the majesty of the LORD.

11 O LORD, your hand is lifted high,
but they do not see it.
Let them see your zeal for your people and be put to shame;
let the fire reserved for your enemies consume them.

12 LORD, you establish peace for us;
all that we have accomplished you have done for us.

13 O LORD, our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us,
but your name alone do we honor.

14 They are now dead, they live no more;
those departed spirits do not rise.
You punished them and brought them to ruin;
you wiped out all memory of them.

15 You have enlarged the nation, O LORD;
you have enlarged the nation.
You have gained glory for yourself;
you have extended all the borders of the land.

16 LORD, they came to you in their distress;
when you disciplined them,
they could barely whisper a prayer. [b]

17 As a woman with child and about to give birth
writhes and cries out in her pain,
so were we in your presence, O LORD.

18 We were with child, we writhed in pain,
but we gave birth to wind.
We have not brought salvation to the earth;
we have not given birth to people of the world.

19 But your dead will live;
their bodies will rise.
You who dwell in the dust,
wake up and shout for joy.
Your dew is like the dew of the morning;
the earth will give birth to her dead.

20 Go, my people, enter your rooms
and shut the doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
until his wrath has passed by.

21 See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling
to punish the people of the earth for their sins.
The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her;
she will conceal her slain no longer.


  1. Isaiah 26:8 Or judgments
  2. Isaiah 26:16 The meaning of the Hebrew for this clause is uncertain.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Use Your Allusion: From Dan to Beersheba & A Few Thoughts On Pronouncing "Augustine"

The phrase "From Dan to Beersheba" is a Biblical allusion that shows up most often as a concept, rather than as an exact phrase. As you can see on the map, Dan was the Northernmost part of the kingdom, and Beersheba was the Southernmost. So when you say anything about, "From Dan to Beersheba," what you mean is, "From one end of the country to the other."

I actually made a post a while back where I retyped an old old article from the Gospel Advocate, which described the origins of the Donelson, Una, and Pleasant Hill churches of Christ. The title of the article was, "'From Dan to Beersheba:' Or From Donelson to Una. 1865-1872."

There were 10 passages I was able to find quickly where both Dan and Beersheba are mentioned together in Scripture, such as when a census is taken of the fighting men, when God inflicted punishment on much of the kingdom, and when the people are gathered to celebrate the Passover when it had not been celebrated in a long time.

"Dan" is pretty easy to pronounce. "Beersheba" is generally pronounced by us Southern folk "Bear Sheeba". In Hebrew, the pronunciation is actually more like, "beh-EER sheh-BAH." I generally just go with the common pronunciation, because when you whip out Hebrew pronunciation, it's really obvious that the only reason you're doing it is to try and sound smarter than everyone else.

So again, when you want to talk about anything that is sweeping across the nation, you can say it is happening, "From Dan to Beersheba."


On a separate note about pronouncing things, I always like discussing Augustine of Hippo with people. He's one of my favorite historical figures. When people ask that question about, "If you could meet anyone from all history and have a meal with them, who would you pick?" Augustine of Hippo and Jimmy Page are two of my top choices.

Augustine is fun because no one can agree on how to pronounce it. In Florida, the city is always pronounced, "St. AUgustEEN." But the people I've known (including a HUGSR student from Africa) with the same name insisted it was pronounced "auGUSten."

Actually, I think either pronunciation is correct. So at this point, if someone else brings Augustine up first, depending on which way they pronounce his name, I try to pronounce it the other way to make them feel like they're doing it wrong, then in my head I laugh. :-)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Monday, December 03, 2007

Which Character from The Office are You?

This was my break from reading boring books and taking notes about ancient Corinth.

Which Office Character Are You?

You are Ryan. You are extremely smart and perceptive, and it irritates you to no end when inferior people try to tell you what to do. Sometimes, though, your critical eye makes you come off as aloof and bitter to others, and it may take awhile for people to get to know you.
Find Your Character @


The holy passion of Friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last through a whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money.
- Mark Twain

Sunday, December 02, 2007

It's Nacho Cat...or not

So I am not posting a picture of Nacho today...but could this be her evil Nemesis?

Remember The Darkness?

There was a band out a couple of years ago called The Darkness with a lot of cheezy glam-rock style songs. Their biggest hit was, "I Believe In A Thing Called Love". The most noticeable thing about the band was the incredible falsetto voice that the lead singer had...and constantly used. They're broken up now, but we really got a kick out of them. Even though they were cheezy, they were really talented.

Now there's a Mexican band that Carolina loves who is totally ripping off their sound called Moderatto. It still cracks me up every time I hear them. Some of the melodies of their songs are direct ripoffs of Darkness songs. Even so, it's really catchy.

I used to make fun of some Mexican heavy metal bands we'd hear on the radio who were ripping off the rap-metal Limb Bizkit sound. I liked calling them "Limp Tortilla".

Bob Dylan and Christianity

My dad has always liked Bob Dylan. I never could stand to hear him sing his own songs, though I like listening to other people singing them. Lately, I've become a bit fascinated with him. I still don't think he sings well, but he's a brilliant lyricist and poet.

Though I'm not sure what his views are at this point in his life, I just learned that in the late '70's he converted to Christianity. (Apparently it was huge news at the time, but hey, I was just a fetus, so how would I know?) It was pretty unpopular with some of his fans and fellow musicians. A hit song of his during the time was called You Gotta Serve Somebody. Shortly before being shot, John Lennon recorded Serve Yourself in response to Dylan's song, with some pretty pointed, profanity-filled rants.

I find it interesting the way people react so strongly and viciously to professed Christian faith. This was apparently Dylan's experience. During the early '80's, Dylan refused to play his older secular works, and delivered declarations of his faith from the stage. I really like a quote of one that I found from him:
Years ago they... said I was a prophet. I used to say, "No I'm not a prophet" they say "Yes you are, you're a prophet." I said, "No it's not me." They used to say "You sure are a prophet." They used to convince me I was a prophet. Now I come out and say Jesus Christ is the answer. They say, "Bob Dylan's no prophet." They just can't handle it.