Sunday, November 30, 2008



Many churches make use of Advent wreaths during this season, with one candle representing each of the four Sundays of Advent. The rose candle is lit on the 3rd Sunday of Advent. During Christmas Day, four lit white candles are used.
Many churches make use of Advent wreaths during this season, with one candle representing each of the four Sundays of Advent. The rose candle is lit on the 3rd Sunday of Advent. During Christmas Day, four lit white candles are used.
(larger image)
Advent (from the Latin word adventus, meaning "coming") is a season of the Christian church, the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus, in other words, the period immediately before Christmas. It is the beginning of the Western Christian year and commences on Advent Sunday. The Eastern churches begin the liturgical year on 1 September. The Eastern Christian equivalent of Advent is called the Nativity Fast but it differs both in length and observances.

The progression of the season may be marked with an Advent calendar, a practice introduced by German Lutherans. At least in the Roman Catholic calendar, Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before December 25; in other words, the Sunday between November 27 and December 3 inclusive.

Latin adventus is the translation of the Greek word parousia, commonly used in reference to the Second Coming of Christ. Christians believe that the season of Advent serves a dual reminder of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting that Christians today endure as they await the second coming of Christ.


The theme of readings and teachings during Advent is often to prepare for the Second Coming while commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas. With the view of directing the thoughts of Christians to the first coming of Jesus Christ as Saviour, and to his second coming as Judge, special lessons are prescribed for each of the four Sundays in Advent.

The usual liturgical color for Advent is purple or violet. The color is often used for hangings around the church, on the vestments of the clergy, and often also the tabernacle. On the 3rd Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, rose may be used instead, referencing the rose used on Laetare Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Lent. In some Anglican and Lutheran churches, blue is the liturgical colour for Advent, a custom traced to the usage of the Church of Sweden (Lutheran) and the medieval Sarum Rite. This color is often referred to as "Sarum blue". Red is used in the Eastern churches.

Many churches make use of Advent wreaths during this season, with one candle representing each of the four Sundays of Advent. The rose candle is lit on the 3rd Sunday of Advent. During Christmas Day, four lit white candles are used.

Advent is the beginning of the Church Year for most churches in the Western tradition. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve (Dec 24). If Christmas Eve is a Sunday, it is counted as the fourth Sunday of Advent, with Christmas Eve proper beginning at sundown.

The Colors of Advent Historically, the primary sanctuary color of Advent is Purple. This is the color of penitence and fasting as well as the color of royalty to welcome the Advent of the King. Purple is still used in Catholic churches. The purple of Advent is also the color of suffering used during Lent and Holy Week. This points to an important connection between Jesus’ birth and death. The nativity, the Incarnation, cannot be separated from the crucifixion. The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world, of the "Word made flesh" and dwelling among us, is to reveal God and His grace to the world through Jesus’ life and teaching, but also through his suffering, death, and resurrection. To reflect this emphasis, originally Advent was a time of penitence and fasting, much as the Season of Lent and so shared the color of Lent.

In the four weeks of Advent the third Sunday came to be a time of rejoicing that the fasting was almost over (in some traditions it is called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word for "rejoice"). The shift from the purple of the Season to pink or rose for the third Sunday Advent candles reflected this lessening emphasis on penitence as attention turned more to celebration of the season.

In recent times, however, Advent has undergone a shift in emphasis, reflected in a change of colors used in many churches. Except in the Eastern churches, the penitential aspect of the Season has been almost totally replaced by an emphasis on hope and anticipation.

In many churches the third Sunday remains the Sunday of Joy marked by pink or rose. However, most Protestant churches now use blue to distinguish the Season of Advent from Lent. Royal Blue is sometimes used as a symbol of royalty. Some churches use Bright Blue to symbolize the night sky, the anticipation of the impending announcement of the King’s coming, or to symbolize the waters of Genesis 1, the beginning of a new creation. Some churches, including some Catholic churches, use blue violet to preserve the traditional use of purple while providing a visual distinction between the purple or red violet of Lent.

This does not eliminate any sense of penitence from the Season. With the focus on the Advent or Coming of Jesus, especially in anticipating His Second Advent, there remains a need for preparation for that coming. Most liturgical churches incorporate confessional prayers into the service that relate to a sense of unworthiness as we anticipate His Coming. It is appropriate even in more traditional services of worship to incorporate confessional prayers as part of the anticipation and preparation of the Season.

With the shift to blue for Advent in most non-Catholic churches, there is also a tendency to move pink to the Fourth Sunday of Advent. It still remains associated with Joy, but is sometimes used as the climax of the Advent Season on the last Sunday before Christmas.

Red and Green are more secular colors of Christmas. Although they derive from older European practices of using evergreens and holly to symbolize ongoing life and hope that Christ’s birth brings into a cold world, they are never used as liturgical colors during Advent since they have other uses in other parts of the church year (see Colors of the Church Year).

The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival." The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. That is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate. Scripture reading for Advent will reflect this emphasis on the Second Advent, including themes of accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment on sin, and the hope of eternal life.

In this double focus on past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power. That acknowledgment provides a basis for Kingdom ethics, for holy living arising from a profound sense that we live "between the times" and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people. So, as the church celebrates God’s inbreaking into history in the Incarnation, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which "all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption," it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to "love the Lord your God with all your heart" and to "love your neighbor as yourself."

The Spirit of Advent Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing. There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world, first expressed by Israelite slaves in Egypt as they cried out from their bitter oppression. It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!

It is that hope, however faint at times, and that God, however distant He sometimes seems, which brings to the world the anticipation of a King who will rule with truth and justice and righteousness over His people and in His creation. It is that hope that once anticipated, and now anticipates anew, the reign of an Anointed One, a Messiah, who will bring peace and justice and righteousness to the world.

Part of the expectation also anticipates a judgment on sin and a calling of the world to accountability before God. We long for God to come and set the world right! Yet, as the prophet Amos warned, the expectation of a coming judgment at the "Day of the Lord" may not be the day of light that we might want, because the penetrating light of God’s judgment on sin will shine just as brightly on God’s people.

Because of this important truth, especially in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Season of Advent has been a time of fasting and penitence for sins similar to the Season of Lent. However, a different emphasis for the season of Advent has gradually unfolded in much of the rest of the church. The season of Advent has come to be celebrated more in terms of expectation or anticipation. Yet, the anticipation of the Coming of the Messiah throughout the Old Testament and Judaism was not in connection with remembrance of sins. Rather, it was in the context of oppression and injustice, the longing for redemption, not from personal guilt and sin but from the systemic evil of the world expressed in evil empires and tyrants. It is in that sense that all creation groans for its redemption as we witness the evil that so dominates our world (Rom 8:18-25).

Of course, there is the problem of longing for vindication from an evil world when we are contributors to that evil. This is the power of the images of Amos when he warns about longing for the "Day of the Lord" that will really be a day of darkness (Amos 5:18-20). Still, even with Amos’ warning the time of Advent is one of expectation and anticipation, a longing for God's actions to restore all things and vindicate the righteous. This is why during Advent we as Christians also anticipate the Second Coming as a twin theme of the season. So, while some church traditions focus on penitence during Advent, and there remains a place for that, the spirit of that expectation from the Old Testament is better captured with a joyous sense of expectancy. Rather than a time of mourning and fasting, Advent is celebrated as a time of joy and happiness as we await the coming of the King. (see Can We Sing Christmas Carols During Advent?)

There will be time enough during the rest of the journey through the Church Year to remember our sins. It begins in Epiphany when we hear about the brotherhood of the Kingdom, and realize our failure to effect it. Then as we move toward and through Lent we realize that the coming of Jesus served more to lay bare our own sin than it did to vindicate our righteousness. There will be time to shed Peter's bitter tears as we realize that what started with such possibility and expectation has apparently ended in such failure.

It is only as we experience that full cycle, beginning with unbridled joy in Advent that slowly fades into the realization of what we have done with and to the Christ, that the awful reality of Good Friday can have its full impact. And in that realization we can finally be ready to hear the Good News on Resurrection Sunday! That is the journey that the disciples took. And so there is value in taking the same journey beginning with the anticipation and joy of Advent!

So, we celebrate with gladness the great promise in the Advent, yet knowing that there is also a somber tone as the theme of threat is added to the theme of promise. This is reflected in some of the Scripture readings for Advent, in which there is a strong prophetic tone of accountability and judgment on sin. But this is also faithful to the role of the Coming King who comes to rule, save, and judge the world.

Because of the dual themes of threat and promise, Advent is a time of preparation that is marked by prayer. While Lent is characterized by fasting and a spirit of penitence, Advent’s prayers are prayers of humble devotion and commitment, prayers of submission, prayers for deliverance, prayers from those walking in darkness who are awaiting and anticipating a great light (Isa 9)!

The spirit of Advent is expressed well in the parable of the bridesmaids who are anxiously awaiting the coming of the Bridegroom (Matt 25:1-13). There is profound joy at the Bridegroom’s expected coming. And yet a warning of the need for preparation echoes through the parable. But even then, the prayer of Advent is still:

Come, O Come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel!

Evergreens and The Advent Wreath

The beginning of Advent is a time for the hanging of the green, decoration of the church with evergreen wreaths, boughs, or trees that help to symbolize the new and everlasting life brought through Jesus the Christ. Some churches have a special weekday service, or the first Sunday evening of Advent, or even the first Sunday morning of Advent, in which the church is decorated and the Advent wreath put in place. This service is most often primarily of music, especially choir and hand bells, and Scripture reading, along with an explanation of the various symbols as they are placed in the sanctuary.

The Advent wreath is an increasingly popular symbol of the beginning of the Church year in many churches as well as homes. It is a circular evergreen wreath (real or artificial) with five candles, four around the wreath and one in the center. Since the wreath is symbolic and a vehicle to tell the Christmas story, there are various ways to understand the symbolism. The exact meaning given to the various aspects of the wreath is not as important as the story to which it invites us to listen, and participate.

The circle of the wreath reminds us of God Himself, His eternity and endless mercy, which has no beginning or end. The green of the wreath speaks of the hope that we have in God, the hope of newness, of renewal, of eternal life. Candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of His son. The four outer candles represent the period of waiting during the four Sundays of Advent, which themselves symbolize the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ.

The colors of the candles vary with different traditions, but there are usually three purple or blue candles, corresponding to the sanctuary colors of Advent, and one pink or rose candle. One of the purple candles is lighted the first Sunday of Advent, a Scripture is read, a short devotional or reading is given, and a prayer offered. On subsequent Sundays, previous candles are relighted with an additional one lighted. The pink candle is usually lighted on the third Sunday of Advent. However, different churches or traditions light the pink candle on different Sundays depending on the symbolism used (see above on Colors of Advent). In Churches that use a Service of the Nativity, it is often lighted on the fourth Sunday of Advent, the final Sunday before Christmas.

The light of the candles itself becomes an important symbol of the season. The light reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness of our lives to bring newness, life, and hope. It also reminds us that we are called to be a light to the world as we reflect the light of God's grace to others (Isa 42:6). The progression in the lighting of the candles symbolizes the various aspects of our waiting experience. As the candles are lighted over the four week period, it also symbolizes the darkness of fear and hopelessness receding and the shadows of sin falling away as more and more light is shed into the world. The flame of each new candle reminds the worshippers that something is happening, and that more is yet to come. Finally, the light that has come into the world is plainly visible as the Christ candle is lighted at Christmas, and worshippers rejoice over the fact that the promise of long ago has been realized.

The first candle is traditionally the candle of Expectation or Hope (or in some traditions, Prophecy). This draws attention to the anticipation of the coming of a Messiah that weaves its way like a golden thread through Old Testament history. As God’s people were abused by power hungry kings, led astray by self-centered prophets, and lulled into apathy by half-hearted religious leaders, there arose a longing among some for God to raise up a new king who could show them how to be God’s people. They yearned for a return of God’s dynamic presence in their midst.

And so, God revealed to some of the prophets that indeed He would not leave His people without a true Shepherd. While they expected a new earthly king, their expectations fell far short of God’s revelation of Himself in Christ. And yet, the world is not yet fully redeemed. So, we again with expectation, with hope, await God’s new work in history, the second Advent, in which He will again reveal Himself to the world. And we understand in a profound sense that the best, the highest of our expectations will fall far short of what our Lord’s Second Advent will reveal!

The remaining three candles of Advent may be associated with different aspects of the Advent story in different churches, or even in different years. Usually they are organized around characters or themes as a way to unfold the story and direct attention to the celebrations and worship in the season. So, the sequence for the remaining three Sundays might be Bethlehem, Shepherds, Angels. Or Love, Joy, Peace. Or John the Baptist, Mary, the Magi. Or the Annunciation, Proclamation, Fulfillment. Whatever sequence is used, the Scripture readings, prayers, lighting of the candles, the participation of worshipers in the service, all are geared to telling the story of redemption through God’s grace in the Incarnation.

The third candle, usually for the Third Sunday of Advent, is traditionally Pink or Rose, and symbolizes Joy at the soon Advent of the Christ. It marks a shift from the more solemn tone of the first two Sundays of Advent that focus on Preparation and Hope, to a more joyous atmosphere of anticipation and expectancy. Sometimes the colors of the sanctuary and vestments are also changed to Rose for this Sunday. As noted above, in some churches the pink Advent candle is used on the fourth Sunday to mark the joy at the impending Nativity of Jesus.

Whatever sequence is adopted for these Sundays, the theme of Joy can still be the focus for the pink candle. For example, when using the third Sunday to commemorate the visit of the Magi the focus can be on the Joy of worshipping the new found King. Or the Shepherds as the symbol for the third Sunday brings to mind the joy of the proclamation made to them in the fields, and the adoration expressed as they knelt before the Child at the manager. If used on the fourth Sunday of Advent, it can symbolize the Joy in fulfilled hope.

The center candle is white and is called the Christ Candle. It is traditionally lighted on Christmas Eve or Day. However, since many Protestant churches do not have services on those days, many light it on the Sunday preceding Christmas, with all five candles continuing to be lighted in services through Epiphany (Jan 6). The central location of the Christ Candle reminds us that the incarnation is the heart of the season, giving light to the world.

Celebrating Advent Advent is one of the few Christian festivals that can be observed in the home as well as at church. In its association with Christmas, Advent is a natural time to involve children in activities at home that directly connect with worship at church. In the home an Advent wreath is often placed on the dining table and the candles lighted at meals, with Scripture readings preceding the lighting of the candles, especially on Sunday. A new candle is lighted each Sunday during the four weeks, and then the same candles are lighted each meal during the week. In this context, it provides the opportunity for family devotion and prayer together, and helps teach the Faith to children, especially if they are involved in reading the daily Scriptures.

It is common in many homes to try to mark the beginning of Advent in other ways as well, for the same purpose of instruction in the faith. Some families decorate the house for the beginning of Advent, or bake special cookies or treats, or simply begin to use table coverings for meals. An Advent Calendar is a way to keep children involved in the entire season. There are a wide variety of Advent calendars, but usually they are simply a card or poster with windows that can be opened, one each day of Advent, to reveal some symbol or picture associated with the Old Testament story leading up to the birth of Jesus. One unique and specialized Advent calendar that can be used either in the home or the sanctuary is a Jesse Tree. (We have available an online Advent calendar with devotionals for each day of Advent as well as Christmas through Epiphany Day: NazNet's Advent and Christmas Celebration). All of these provide opportunities to teach children the significance of this sacred time, and to remind ourselves of it as well.

In congregational worship, the Advent wreath is the central teaching symbol of the season, the focal point for drawing the congregation into the beginning of the story of redemption that will unfold throughout the church year. For this reason, members of the congregation are often involved in lighting the Advent candles and reading the appropriate Scriptures each Sunday. While in some churches it is customary for this to be done by families, it can also be an especially good opportunity to demonstrate the unity of the entire community of Faith by including those without families, such as those never married, divorced, widowed, elderly who live by themselves, or college students away from home.


  • Kallistos (Ware), Bishop (1969), "The Five Cycles", The Festal Menaion, London: Faber and Faber, p. 40

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sermon Outline: Galatians 3:19-22. “Why then the Law”

1) Its Purpose: Galatians 3:19a

  • Romans 3:9-20

  • 1 Timothy 1:8-10

  • Romans 7:1-6

2) Its Mediators: Galatians 3:19b-20

  • Acts 7:53

  • Hebrews 2:2

  • Colossians 2:14

3) Its Accomplishments: Galatians 3:21-22

  • Romans 7:7-11

  • Romans 7:12-24

  • Romans 8:1-8

  • Romans 7:25

Church Membership or Biblical Fellowship?

Terry Rayburn From Grace For Life @ offers a summary of several texts on membership.

1. What does the Bible teach about membership in general?

Romans 12:4,5, "For as we have many MEMBERS in one body, but all the MEMBERS do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually MEMBERS of one another."

1 Cor 6:15, "Do you not know that your bodies are MEMBERS of Christ? Shall I then take the MEMBERS of Christ and make them MEMBERS of a harlot? Certainly not!"

1 Cor 12:12, "For as the body is one and has many MEMBERS, but all the MEMBERS of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ."

1 Cor 12:18, "But now God has set the MEMBERS, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased."

1 Cor 12:20, "But now indeed there are many members, yet one body."

1 Cor 12:25, "...that there should be no schism in the body, but that the MEMBERS should have the same care for one another."

1 Cor 12:26, "And if one MEMBER suffers, all the MEMBERS suffer with it; or if one MEMBER is honored, all the MEMBERS rejoice with it."

1 Cor 12:27, "Now you are the body of Christ, and MEMBERS individually."

Ephesians 2:19, "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and MEMBERS of the household of God."

Ephesians 4:25, "Therefore, putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are MEMBERS of one another."

Ephesians 5:30, "For we are MEMBERS of His body, of His flesh and of His bones."

Acts 2:47, "...praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."

2. What made one a member of the local church?

Acts 15:41, "And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches."

Acts 16:5, "So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily."

“The Church” vs. “the churches”

Belief in Jesus Christ, baptism, and then practicing “church”.

Acts 2:42, "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers."

3. What does fellowship have to do with it?

Fellowship = "koinonia", "commonality", as in "koine" greek.

1 John 1:3, "...that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have FELLOWSHIP with us; and truly our FELLOWSHIP is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ."

1 John 1:6, "If we say that we have FELLOWSHIP with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth."

1 John 1:7, "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."

DVD Reviews

Tim Challies @ reviews Christian DVD's from Vision Video.

The Gladys Aylward Story

Steve Saint: The Jungle Missionary

Journey into the Amazon

Eric Liddell: Champion of Conviction

A Heart Set Free

Reasonable Doubt

Friday, November 28, 2008


Apprising Ministries has a presentation of a recent Crosstalk radio program put together by Lane Chaplin


Host: Ingrid Schlueter
Guest: Ken Silva

Pastor Ken Silva is with Apprising Ministries. How would you feel if your pastor tried to teach you breathing exercises specific to prayer? What if he told you that your deepest fear is that you are powerful beyond all measure, or that unrepentant homosexuals can still be Christians?

These are just a few of the teachings brought to light as Ingrid and Ken look into the philosophies that are shaping the Emergent Church movement, a movement that is just now having an impact upon conservative Christianity. Popular Emergent leader, Pastor Rob Bell of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is the focal point, as recorded sound bites from Rob highlight the early portion of the program.

See also:







9Marks: The Scoop’a on NOOMA — Part 1

Dever Interviews Carson on Evangelicalism

9 Marks ministry has just released part 1 or 2 where Mark Dever interviews D. A. Carson on “Observing Evangelicalism with Don Carson” (73-minute MP3). The interview occurred on June 13, 2008 at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

The Puritans Behind the Myths

CHRISTIAN HISTORY editors Kevin Miller and Mark Galli talked with Dr. Harry S. Stout, Jonathan Edwards Professor of American Christianity at Yale University on the historical background the Puritans. Dr. Stout is the author of The New England Soul: Preaching and Religious Culture in Colonial New England (Oxford, 1986).

They ask:

  • What do we misunderstand about the American Puritans?
  • How would you dispel that myth?
  • So how did the "joyless Puritan" stereotype get started?
  • Were Puritans deeply emotional people?
  • What scared the Puritans?
  • Why do so many people misunderstand the Puritans?
  • Didn't many Puritans come to America primarily to escape persecution?
  • In history, what other groups have so thoroughly tried to create a new religious world?
  • Why did the Puritan experiment finally collapse?
  • How much have the Puritans shaped American culture?
  • In what other ways have Puritans made a major impact on modern American culture?
  • What can modern Christians learn from Puritan Christianity?
  • What happened to this ideal?
  • If you were transported back to 17th-century Massachusetts, what would you find most enjoyable and most difficult?
  • How has studying the Puritans affected you personally?
Read entire issue of The American Puritans from CHRISTIAN HISTORY

See also:

Fruit Pies, Popcorn, and Music

Thanking the Puritans on Thanksgiving

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation

American Thanksgivings


Phil Johnson has a good primer on the subject of "Hyper-Calvinism. He notes:
A fivefold definition: The definition I am proposing outlines five varieties of hyper-Calvinism, listed here in a declining order, from the worst kind to a less extreme variety (which some might prefer to class as "ultra-high Calvinism"):

A hyper-Calvinist is someone who either:
  1. Denies that the gospel call applies to all who hear,
  2. OR Denies that faith is the duty of every sinner,
  3. OR Denies that the gospel makes any "offer" of Christ, salvation, or mercy to the non-elect (or denies that the offer of divine mercy is free and universal),
  4. OR Denies that there is such a thing as "common grace,"
  5. OR Denies that God has any sort of love for the non-elect.
All five varieties of hyper-Calvinism undermine evangelism or twist the gospel message.
Read the whole thing.

Justin Taylor also suggests Iain Murray's book, Spurgeon v. Hyper Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching.

You can also read Phil Johnson's latest response to the ongoing caricatures and misunderstandings of David Allen--a professor of preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a participant in the "John 3:16" conference.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Paul Washer Examines Your Heart

Feel free to download at:

Disciplines of a Godly Man: Audio

Here is the audio of Kent Hughes, speaking at a recent men's retreat for Church of Christ the Redeemer in Spokane, Washington:You can also read his book on the subject

10 Tips to Read More and Read Better

Tim Challes @ gives 10 tips to improve your reading. He lists:

Read -

Read Widely -

Read Deliberately -

Read Interactively -

Read with Discernment -

Read Heavy Books -

Read Light Books -

Read New Books -

Read Old Books -

Read What Your Heroes Read -

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sermon Outline: Galatians 3:15–18. “The Promise of Justification”

1) Its Confirmation: Galatians 3:15

Genesis 15:12-17

2) Its Christ-Centeredness: Galatians 3:16

Genesis 22:15-18

Genesis 3:15

Romans 4:13-18

3) Its Chronology: Galatians 3:17

4) Its Completeness: Galatians 3:18

Hebrews 6:11-18

Friday, November 21, 2008

Human Rights Commission: "Kill the Christian" Lyrics OK, but Criticize Homosexuality? No Way

Hilary White @ reports that the Alberta Human Rights Commission (HRC) has come under scrutiny again for what critics are calling a brazen double standard in its treatment of "hate" and discrimination.

Blogger, lawyer and democratic activist Ezra Levant has revealed that Alberta Human Rights Commissioner Lori Andreachuk, who in a ruling earlier this year ordered a Christian pastor to publish a renunciation of his Christian views in the local newspaper, in 2003 dismissed a complaint against a rock music group who used lyrics in one of their recordings that urged listeners to "kill the Christian."

Andreachuk dismissed the case saying that Christians are not "vulnerable" enough and the group in question not a "credible" threat.

Levant is calling foul, however. Bluntly calling Andreachuk an "anti-Christian bigot" he points to the ruling by the same commissioner against Rev. Stephen Boissoin, who was ordered to pay heavy fines and publish an apology and renunciation of his religious views.

Andreachuk's ruling, he wrote, is a "smokescreen." "It's not jurisprudence; it's not coherent; it pretends to adhere to precedent, but it clearly doesn't. It's legal mumbo-jumbo to cover up the bald political fact here: Comrade Andreachuk thinks it's fine to call for the murder of Christians. And this same anti-Christian bigot sentenced Rev. Boissoin to a lifetime of silence about his faith."

The 2003 case was that of "Quintin Johnson vs. Music World." Johnson, the complainant, was browsing for CDs at a Music World shop in Red Deer, Alberta, and found an album from the group "Deicide" containing a track called "Kill the Christian."

Song lyrics began, "Kill The Christian/You are the one we despise/Day in day out your words compromise lies/I will love watching you die." Levant comments dryly, "Pretty hard to find any nuances there."

As a Christian, Alberta resident Quintin Johnson brought a complaint against the store saying he had been discriminated against. Lori Andreachuk, however, while agreeing that the "content and tone" of the lyrics "appear on the face of them to be discriminatory," concluded that Christians had nothing to complain about.

"There is very little vulnerability of the target group," Andreachuk wrote. The rock group, she wrote, "lacks credibility and has a small circulation. The context of the publication is not presented as a debate or any purportedly authoritative analysis and the target group is not vulnerable."

Under this reasoning, Levant wrote on his blog, "a neo-Nazi could never be guilty of spreading hate, because by definition a neo-Nazi is obscure, not credible, and listened to only by those who seek them out."

Rev. Stephen Boissoin, wrote in an email he forwarded to, "I guess a music store that sells music which shouts out 'Kill the Christian, Kill the Christian' is totally acceptable in Canada."

"I am certainly not one to suppress freedom of speech but it would appear that Christians are not assured the same standard of protection via these Human Rights Commissions as the rest of Canadians. After all, where did I ever say 'Kill the Homosexual, Kill the Homosexual?'" Rev. Boissoin said.

Boissoin was found guilty last year by an HRC panel, headed by Andreachuk, of having exposed homosexuals to "hatred and contempt" by publishing a letter in the Red Deer Advocate warning against the dangers to the social order of homosexual activism.

Rev. Boissoin was prohibited for life from preaching sermons that are critical of homosexuality and was told that he cannot criticize homosexuality even in his private communications such as e-mails. Rev. Boissoin was also ordered to pay a total of $7,000 in fines. As the respondent in the case, moreover, he was obliged to pay his own court costs while the complainant had the costs covered by the state.

Ezra Levant, who has had two HRC cases against him dismissed and dropped, maintains that even if the HRC decides in favour of the respondent, the "process is the punishment" with his own expenses having exceeded $100,000 and civil suits still pending.

Levant became an international internet celebrity when he published the proceedings against him on the video website YouTube. He resoundingly defended the democratic principle of freedom of speech and told investigating HRC commissioner Shirlene McGovern that he would "rot in hell" before he violated those principles and apologized for anything he had published in his magazine.

Levant said the Alberta HRC's dismissal of the music store case was a brazen case of a double standard, in which only Christians and social conservatives can be guilty of "discrimination" but attacks on Christians by others are acceptable.

"So it doesn't matter if Christians are exposed to hate - they're not vulnerable. So says Comrade Andreachuk. By definition, she writes, a Christian cannot be the victim of hate speech," Levant wrote.

Read related coverage:

Two Years and $100,000 Later: Ezra Levant Complaint Dismissed by Human Rights Commission

Alberta Pastor Fined $7000 and Ordered to Publicly Apologize and Remain Silent on Homosexuality


R. Scott Clark, Professor of Church History & Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary in California has an interesting article on the use the the catechism with children. He notes:

God's Word is full of exhortations to "confess the faith" either by precept or by example. Deuteronomy 6:4 is perhaps the most fundamental biblical confession, "Hear 0 Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one." This is a confessional formula to be memorized by all Israelites. John 9:22 and Matthew 10:32-33 teach a Christian duty to confess Jesus as Messiah. Exodus 12:26-27 reflects the ancient practice of God's people of catechizing their children in the history of God's saving acts. This catechesis was part of the process of covenant renewal for those who had been initiated into the covenant through circumcision. In I Corinthians 10 (all) the Apostle Paul says that New Covenant Christians continue that pattern with the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper. The Corinthian problem was that they did not regard sufficiently the holiness of the Supper as a feast of covenant renewal nor did they discern the presence of Christ in the Supper by the Holy Spirit.

Following the Apostolic pattern, catechesis of the children of believers (covenant renewal) and new converts has been the universal practice of the Christian church since the earliest days of the church. The pattern of Christian catechesis was to learn the Apostles' Creed; the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments and the Reformation carried on this tradition.

He then outlines:

The Plan

  • In the "parrot" stage (circa ages 4-9)
  • In the "pert" stage (circa ages 9-12)
  • In the "poet" stage (circa ages 12-14)

The Problems

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ancient Rome (c. A.D. 320) in Google Earth

See Rome as it looked in 320 AD and fly down to see famous buildings and monuments in 3D. Select the "Ancient Rome 3D" layer under Gallery in Google Earth. Download Google Earth at

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sermon Outline: Galatians 3:6-14. “Justification by Faith”

1) Positive Proof from the Old Testament: (Galatians 3:6–9)

  • Genesis 15:1-6

  • Romans 2:28-29

  • John 8:31-45

  • Romans 4:1-16

  • Ephesians 1:3

2) Negative Proof from the Old Testament: (Galatians 3:10–12)

  • Romans 3:20

  • James 2:10

3) Positive Hope in Jesus Christ: (Galatians 3:13–14)

  • 1 Peter 1:18

  • 1 Peter 2:24

  • Ephesians 1:11-13, 3-6

  • Ephesians 2:1-7

Thursday, November 13, 2008

(CNN) -- Archaeologists believe a desert site in Jordan may contain the ruins of the elusive King Solomon's Mines.

From CNN:

Researchers using carbon dating techniques at Khirbat en-Nahas in southern Jordan discovered that copper production took place there around the time King Solomon is said to have ruled the Israelites.

The research findings were reported in this week's issue of the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which came out Monday.

(Photo: The bottom stratum of the ruins at Khirbat en-Nahas in Jordan revealed a period of extensive mining that lasted for about 40 years around 940 BC, the time King Solomon is said to have lived. A digital reconstruction of the site is on display in the StarCAVE, a 3-D virtual environment at UC San Diego. Photos by Thomas Levy UC San Diego)

King Solomon is known in the Old Testament for his wisdom and wealth and for building the First Temple in Jerusalem.

The fabled mines entered popular culture in 1885 with the publication in Great Britain of the bestselling "King Solomon's Mines" by Sir H. Rider Haggard. In the book, adventurers in search of the mines find gold, diamonds and ivory.

Since then, the mines have been the the subject of several films. Yet their possible location -- and whether they exist at all -- remains cloaked in mystery.

Thomas Levy of the University of California San Diego, who led the research, said carbon dating placed copper production at Khirbat en-Nahas (Arabic for 'Ruins of copper") in the 10th century -- in line with the biblical narrative of Solomon's rule.

"We can't believe everything ancient writings tell us," Levy said in a university statement. "But this research represents a confluence between the archaeological and scientific data and the Bible."

Khirbat en-Nahas is an arid region south of the Dead Sea, in Jordan's Faynan district. The Old Testament identifies the area with the Kingdom of Edom.

As early as the 1930s, archaeologists linked the site to the Edomite kingdom, but some of those claims were dismissed in subsequent years.

"Now ... we have evidence that complex societies were indeed active in 10th and 9th centuries BCE and that brings us back to the debate about the historicity of the Hebrew Bible narratives related to this period," Levy said
Chuck Colson notes:
The past few decades have witnessed a marked shift in scholars’ attitudes towards the biblical narratives. When the area was first explored in the 1970s, many archaeologists doubted whether biblical figures such as David or Solomon ever existed, and they certainly didn’t believe biblical accounts about their accomplishments.

To them, the Bible was a collection of stories that illustrated theological points, while containing little that is historically accurate.

Then as archaeologists found evidence for the existence of figures like David and Caiaphas and events like the Exodus, attitudes began to change.

Discoveries that corroborated biblical details, like the going price for slaves in ancient Egypt, obliged them to at least approach the biblical accounts with an open mind. As Levy put it, while “we can’t believe everything ancient writings tell us . . . this research represents a confluence between the archaeological and scientific data and the Bible.”

Openness to the possibility of “confluence” is all believers ever ask. Christians have nothing to fear from this kind of scientific inquiry. In fact, we welcome it. Unlike other faiths, biblical faith is rooted in history. It’s the account of how God has acted in human history to accomplish His purposes, and we are confident that the biblical account reflects this fact.

That the result is discoveries “straight out of an Indiana Jones’ movie” just goes to show how truth, in the end, really can top fiction.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Memorizing Great Hymns of Faith


Josh Harris @ is reviewing a post announcing his church's plan to memorize ten of the great hymns of the faith. They settled on a list and last week we released a CD entitled How Sweet the Sound that features the ten hymns. It features many talented musicians and singers from their church and was produced by Dave Campbell and Roger Hooper. See also this terrific website for the memorization project. On it you can find lyrics, background information on each hymn and other resources.

This is their schedule for memorization (the links on each song take you to a page with lyrics and background information):

NOVEMBER - Amazing Grace DECEMBER - Before the Throne JANUARY - Praise to the Lord, the Almighty FEBRUARY - Be Thou My Vision MARCH - And Can It Be APRIL - Crown Him with Many Crowns MAY - A Mighty Fortress JUNE - Be Still My Soul JULY - How Firm a Foundation AUGUST - Great is Thy Faithfulness

10 Arguments for God’s Existence

C Michael Patton @ reviews 10 arguments for God's existence. They include:

1. Cosmological Argument:

2. Teleological Argument: (Gr. telos, “end” or “purpose”)

3. Moral Argument:

4. sensus divinitatus (”sense of the divine”):

5. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience:

6. Argument from the Existence of Arguments:

7. Argument from the Existence of Free-will Arguments:

8. Argument from the Existence of Evil:

9. Argument from Miracles:

10. Pascal’s Wager:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembrance Day 2008

About the Poster:
The Veterans' Week 2008 poster captures and pays tribute to Canada's service men and women who have served this national from the First World War to current missions. The images seen in the foreground feature Canadian Forces members on a training exercise before leaving for the international mission in Afghanistan. The central image shows a soldier departing for the Second World War saying a poignant goodbye to his five-year-old son. The soldier featured in the background on the left of the poster is a First World War medic. November 11, 2008 marks the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
General Statistics

Canada at War: Participation and Casualties

South Africa War (1899-1902)
Approximately 7,000 Canadians served; 267 of them gave their lives. They are commemorated in the South African War / Nile Expedition Book of Remembrance.

First World War (1914-1918)
Approximately 650,000 Canadians served, including members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, Canadians and Newfoundlanders who served with British forces (Newfoundland was a colony of Great Britain until 1949) and merchant mariners. Of this number, more than 68,000 gave their lives. They are commemorated in the First World War Book of Remembrance.

Second World War (1939-1945)
More than one million Canadians and Newfoundlanders served in Canada's Armed Forces, in Allied forces or in the merchant navy; over 47,000 of them gave their lives. They are commemorated in the Second World War Book of Remembrance.

Note: The Newfoundland Book of Remembrance commemorates the men and women of Newfoundland who gave their lives in defence of freedom during both the First and Second World Wars - before Newfoundland became a province of Canada on April 1, 1949. And the Merchant Navy Book of Remembrance commemorates the men and women of the Merchant Marine who gave their lives while serving Canada at sea during both the First World War and the Second World War.

Korean War (1950-1953)
26,791 Canadians served in the Canadian Army Special Force; 516 of them gave their lives. They are commemorated in the Korean War Book of Remembrance.

Peacekeeping/Foreign Military Operations (as of March 2006)
Approximately 150,000 Canadians have served in peacekeeping missions/foreign military operations since 1947; more than 160 Canadians have given their lives in this service. They are commemorated in the Seventh Book of Remembrance, In Service to Canada.

In-Canada Operations (since October 1947, with the exception of the Korean War)
More than a million Canadians have served during the post-war years and of those, more than 1,400 have given their lives in the service of Canada during domestic operations. They are commemorated in the Seventh Book of Remembrance, In Service to Canada.

*Source: Books of Remembrance

* Estimated Veteran Population as of March 2008

First World War
Veterans Affairs Canada is aware of 1 Canadian Veteran of the First World War.

Second World War
184,110 (including 23,890 females); their average age is 85.

Korean War
13,340 (including 1,450 females); their average age is 76.

CF Veterans (Regular Forces and Primary Reserves)
589,060; their average age is 54

From "Canada Remembers"

As most people in Canada today have never experienced war, "Remembrance" becomes a challenging concept to incorporate. How do you remember what you haven't known? Some have been fortunate to have had relatives; grandparents, aunts, uncles, great-grand parents, who shared their stories of war and peace. Some, our newer Canadians, have sought Canada as a new home, safe from their own war-torn motherlands. We have all studied some Canadian history in schools. But the vast majority of us, especially the youth, have no first hand or even second hand knowledge of war. And thankfully so. But we can come to understand and appreciate what those who have served Canada in times of war, armed conflict and peace stand for and what they have sacrificed for their country.

We live in a wonderful country, full of opportunities and freedoms we often take for granted. You can be sure that Canadian Veterans do not take our situation for granted. Young men and women sacrificed all they knew, all the comforts, love and safety of home in order to defend the rights and freedoms of others. Some returned with permanent physical and emotional scars, bound to haunt them for the rest of their lives. Others never returned. Veterans know the price paid for our freedom and they want all Canadians to share in this understanding. In fact, now, more than ever, they are passing the torch of remembrance to us, to the people of Canada, to ensure that the memory of their efforts and sacrifices will not die with them, and that an appreciation of the values they fought for will live on in all Canadians.

Canadians have a reputation of being a peace loving nation, and this has been demonstrated time and time again when we have engaged in combat and peacekeeping operations for the sake of protecting humans rights, freedom and justice around the world. When you think of Canadian efforts in war and peace you come to realize that our desire to help was never motivated by greed, power or threats. It was in and of itself, a desire to protect human rights, all humans' rights.

So, although many of us cannot actually "remember," we owe it to those who have served to learn, to understand, and to appreciate the task they have undertaken. Generations of Canadian Veterans, through their courage, determination and sacrifice have helped to ensure that we live in a free and peaceful country. If we can understand this, how can we not pause and say "thank you" in remembrance of such an accomplishment?

Monday, November 10, 2008

C.S. Lewis on Pain

This is a scene from Shadowlands in which C.S. Lewis (played by Anthony Hopkins) gives a speech on why God allows pain.

Free MacArthur Sermons

Grace To You, the teaching ministry of John MacArthur, has now made almost forty years worth of MacArthur's MP3 sermon downloads available online for free download.

The sermons can be sorted by:

Life and Guidance with David Powlison

C.J. Mahaney @ notes:

No one has taught me more about biblical counseling, progressive sanctification, and how to evaluate my heart in the shadow of the cross than Dr. David Powlison. If you are not familiar with David, you can get to know him well in this candid and colorful interview with Mark Dever. Download the 70-minute interview audio here or listen here:
Life and Counseling with David Powlison

If you are looking for more from David, I highly recommend two of his books: Speaking Truth in Love: Counsel in Community (New Growth Press, 2005) and Seeing with New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition through the Lens of Scripture (P&R, 2003). Though I recommend the entirety of each book, readers new to David will get an excellent intro to his teaching by starting with two chapters of Seeing with New Eyes: chapter 8 (“I Am Motivated When I Feel Desire”) and chapter 13 (“What Do You Feel?”).