Life is short.

All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field...The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.  (Isaiah 40:6-8 ESV)

All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field…The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:6, 8 ESV)

I recently heard about Ashley Madison, a twenty-one million member strong website that charges husbands and wives who want to break their marriage vows to meet others who also want to commit adultery. The site apparently gets a lot of publicity for not being allowed to pay for publicity. What especially caught my attention was the companies slogan, “Life is short. Have an affair.”

We have a premise about the brevity of human life followed by the conclusion.

Premise 1: Life is short

Conclusion: Therefore it is reasonable to pay someone to help me break my vow of faithfulness, deeply hurt someone I claim to love, and risk breaking up my family for the chance of a few moments of pleasure using someone who is also untrustworthy.

If you are familiar with logical syllogisms you’ll notice something is missing. We are expected to fill in the the second premise.

Ashley Madison, and their twenty-one million members, assumes that between “Life is short.” and “Have an affair.” there is another thesis along the lines of “There is no accountability afterwards.”

Everything changes if you disagree with the unstated second premise. If you believe that there is a God who made this world and everything in it and therefore rightly has established a moral law to which each soul will be held accountable, reflecting on the brevity of life will lead to a different conclusion. When I think of how short life is I don’t think how I need to betray those I love the most or how I need to make seeking pleasure and entertainment my overruling priority. I think how much I need to pour what’s left of my years into serving those I love and I regret how much time I have wasted seeking trivia that promised pleasure. I regret my sins.

Hebrews 9:27 says, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”  Which means if life is short, then I am facing judgement soon. The last thing I would want to do is rack up as many offenses as possible before meeting the judge.

Life is short, but meditating on the brevity of life should lead to wisdom and deeper trust in God, not to folly and sin.

 ”The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:10-12 ESV)


What’s Your Excuse?

There’s a story that a man was once asked by his neighbor to borrow his ax. The man responded that he couldn’t loan him the ax because he was about to have soup for supper. The stunned neighbor thought for a moment and asked what eating soup for supper could possibly have to do with borrowing his ax.  The reply was, “When you don’t want to do something, one excuse is as good as another.”  How true.


Most of us are quite skilled at coming up with excuses, I can’t count the times I’ve not started watching what I eat because I wanted a fresh start Monday morning.  Any deviation in the weather can be an excuse to not exercise.  We can come up with all sorts of excuses to not do things we know will draw us closer to God, the ordinary means of God’s grace: scripture reading, attending public worship, and prayer.  In A Heart Like His, Mike and Amy Nappa give a list of excuses we use for not going to worship, but “church” was replaced with “ballgame”.  For example:

  1. Whenever I go to a game, they ask for money.
  2. The other fans don’t care about me.
  3. The seats are too hard.
  4. The referee makes calls I don’t agree with.
  5. Some of the games go into overtime and make me late for dinner.
  6. The band plays songs I don’t know.
  7. I can be just as good a fan at the lake.
  8. I won’t take my kids to a game either. They must choose for themselves which teams to follow.

Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? The truth is that if something is important enough to us we make time and we make an effort. If it isn’t we make excuses.

Unexpected Sabbath Blessing

RelaxOver the past year or so I have become more convicted about my lax observance of the Sabbath.  Our family has tried to be more intentional about not running errands or eating out on the Lord’s Day.  We have had a few Sundays when an unexpected guest or empty fridge sent us out, but otherwise have enjoyed a day of rest and worship.  Rather than seeing it as another rule to follow, we’re trying to receive it as a gift, remembering that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

One of the ways we are trying to set the day apart is forbidding electronic screens until the evening.  No iPads, computers, televisions allowed.  Amazingly, rather than face a revolt from the kids, we have discovered they enjoy it.  The mood is different throughout the house and the children, as well my wife and I, love it.

Not having their eyes glued to a screen has made my children have to find other ways to spend their time and after having their request for the iPad “just this Sunday” denied they have resorted to playing together.  This has meant my naps are interrupted by the sound of children laughing and my reading disturbed by the sound of joyful play in the back yard.  Of all the blessings of the Lord’s Day, one unexpected consequence has been the delight of watching my children enjoy each other.  I imagine our heavenly Father delights in His children simply connecting and enjoying each other’s presence as well.

(photo: Andrés Nieto Porras)

Of Camel Bones and History

I’ve been seeing several references to this story from the New York Times claiming that references to camels in Genesis are anachronistic.  The basis of the claim is the absence of evidence of camel’s used as pack animals at sites before the 10th Century B.C.  Older camel bones have been found, but they were determined to not have been used as pack animals because ” Dr. Sapir-Hen could identify a domesticated animal by signs in leg bones that it had carried heavy loads.”  According to another report on the findings “Archaeologists have established that camels were probably domesticated in the Arabian Peninsula for use as pack animals sometime towards the end of the 2nd millennium BCE.”

I would be hesitant to dismiss the biblical accounts too quick.  Methodologically, I would question using the results of a dig in a settled mining community to make claims about a single nomadic family from a foreign culture.  It is interesting that most Old Testament references to domestic use of the camel are during the time of the patriarchs, that is before Israel’s time in Egypt.  That a nomadic family that used camels at one time might abandon them after settling into an agricultural society and being forced into slavery is no stretch of the imagination.

Moreover, while archaeological evidence can prove the existence of something, the absence of evidence is not proof of a lack of existence.  If you see a picture of me at a party, you have evidence that I was there, but my not being in a picture is not proof that I wasn’t there.  Several biblical accounts previously dismissed as legendary or mythical due to lack of archaeological evidence have later found verification such as Sodom & Gomorrah and King David.

These studies are helpful, but a more modest might be to recognize camels don’t appear to have been used to a wide extent.  To claim that the veracity of the scriptures has been destroyed on the basis someone’s ability to determine whether a 3000 year old leg bone was from a domestic or a wild camel is grasping at a straw to break the proverbial back.

Vim & diatheke

I’m sure the subset of pastors who use the Vim editor for sermon and lesson preparation is probably miniscule. If you are one of them I have found an excellent tool for inserting biblical references into your document. The open source Sword project has command line bible tool called diatheke. (I think it is installed automatically with their other Bible software projects; at least I think my Bible Time installation included it.)

You can quickly insert scripture into a document you’re editing in Vim with the :read! command. For example:

:read! diatheke -b ESV -k 1 Peter 3:21

This is much quicker for me than using mouse selection and moving between programs.

An Advent Prayer (Sunday Dec 16, 2012)

How Long, O Lord?  We come to you this morning with heavy hearts, filled with anger, confusion, fear, anguish, and disgust.  “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

In the midst of our turmoil we come before you in the name of Jesus, himself a man of sorrow, and acquainted with grief, and confident in your promise that the Spirit helps us in our weakness, interceding for us with groanings too deep for words.
We pray for the victims in Newtown, CT; and for the shootings in Alabama, Oregon, California… How Long, O Lord? 

We pray for the family of Officer Martovia Lang.  For the deep divisions in our nation evident in our Congress’ deadlock.  For the siuation in Syria.  We pray for peace, comfort, and protection – for you alone O Lord make us dwell in safety.

And we confess our sins as a people and a nation.  We confess our love of violence, our greed, our knee jerk reactions to defend the party line and using others’ nightmares as a weapon in our arguments with each other.  We confess our sinful voyeurism of others pain, our hollow platitudes given to impenetrable suffering, our immediate cueing up of pundits when what is needed are tears and hugs and prayers and listening.  Forgive us of our foolish chatter that refuses to recognize a time to keep silence – to be still and know that you are God, to contemplate, to reflect.  Forgive our constant claim to rights without a recognition of our responsibility, for our childish desire for simple solutions to deep-rooted problems and for our deranged confidence that we can save our selves.

We confess we need a savior.

As we witness the darkness of our world and see the results of evil and sin so vividly before us we pray Thy kingdom come:
      Come Lord Jesus
      O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care: Come and show your people the way to salvation.
      O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel, controlling at your will the gate of heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.
      O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
      O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man: Come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.
      O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people:
Come and set us free, Lord our God.

Come, Lord Jesus, so that No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Even as we pray, teach us to wait, and to listen – for our hearts, minds and souls do feel a profound need for silence…
so that we might receive your Word.

In the name of the Light of the world, in whom there is no shadow of turning, the Light that the darkness cannot overcome.  Amen