Paper pastors

Last night, I shared a blog post, Porn and paper pastors, over on Google Reader. It had very little to do with porn, and much to say about “paper pastors”, who can be defined as those pastors whose sermons we listen to on our MP3 players, or whose books we read, and consequently hold in higher regard than our flesh-and-blood pastor.

The post on its own was a very convicting read for me. What increased its impact was that I read it shortly after watching a live webcast of a pastor named Tim Keller. I was blown away by his sermon on idols, and I was thinking to myself that I needed to get his sermon podcasts. God has a sense of humour—a sermon on idolatry preached by a pastor I was sort of idolising followed by reading a warning against doing just what I was doing.

So I didn’t subscribe to Tim Keller’s sermon podcast, though I’m sure it is awesome (this was my second time to listen to him, my first being a talk he gave for the Authors@Google series, so I’m sure his preaching is great—and more importantly, biblical).

I did however, stay in front of my computer until midnight to watch the next speaker at the conference, John Piper. If you’ve read my post on the podcasts I listen to, you may know that I admire Piper (if you haven’t read the post, now you do).  I’m torn. I don’t desire to stop listening to all the great teaching I’ve been getting (some of which I’ve shared with others), but I also realise that it isn’t fair for me to create a competition between my flesh-and-blood pastor and my paper pastors. IMHO not listening is an inadequate solution, because it doesn’t get to the root of the issue, which is my sinful heart. In assessing my flesh-and-blood pastor, I  need to give grace, remembering that both  I and him have received grace from Christ; and pray for him to be faithful to his calling.

Update: Tim Keller doesn’t have a sermon podcast. Phew?

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What I’m listening to

I’m still idle.  I’ve done almost all I’d always wanted to do, but couldn’t because I had no time. That leaves me with the things I didn’t want to do, but couldn’t because I had no time. 😛

Anyway, I’ve been listening to a lot of good stuff, figuring that when I eventually cease being idle, I won’t have as much time to do so. Here are the podcasts I’m subscribed to in iTunes, in alphabetical order:

The Boundless Show
The Boundless Show

The Boundless Show

I admit to spending way too much time on Boundless properties. They’ve got a blog, a webzine and this podcast, all geared towards the 20-something/ 30-something Christian single.  I first stumbled onto Boundless sometime in May 2007, and have been a happy lurker ever since.

I listen to the Boundless Show on my way long commute to church on Sunday mornings. Also, when I grow up,  I want to be wise like Candice. And awesome like Lisa.

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Resurrection day!

Today morning, I had the privilege of leading a Bible Study on the resurrection of Christ. We looked at possible (sceptical) explanations for the empty tomb; what Jesus Himself had told His disciples during His earthly ministry about His suffering, death and resurrection; and at the OT Scriptures that foretold of Messiah’s suffering, death and subsequent resurrection.

By far, the most compelling evidence for the resurrection was the change it produced in the lives of those men who on that Sunday morning locked themselves in an upper room out of sheer fear (that’s next week’s Bible study, which I won’t be leading ;)).

Months ago on this blog, I wondered what happened to those whom Christ Himself had handpicked to be His disciples. This blog post, What happened to the twelve apostles? How their deaths evidence Easter, gives a very in-depth analysis of the kind I was looking for, complete with grades of probability (!). Towards the end, he answers some objections such as Does this mean that if you die for something, it is true? At the very end, he provides some provoking study questions. Well worth the long read.

Christ is risen indeed!

Good Friday meditation

Here’s an excerpt from a blog post, Behold the Man Upon a Cross .

In our church’s evening service, a service that culminated in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, we sang Stuart Townend’s hymn “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.” … As we sang it, I was struck by the words “It was my sin that held him there.” As we sang those words I found my mind bouncing to some of the other occasions in Jesus’ life, times when He escaped pain or death.

There were several occasions in Jesus’ life when He escaped the wrath of His enemies. For example, in John 8:56-59 Jesus called Himself by the name “I am,” utter blasphemy to the Jewish nation, and cause for death. Though they picked up stones with which to execute Him (in the temple, no less), he managed to hide Himself and to make His way out of the temple. Just a short time later, in John 10:31-39 we read that people picked up rocks and sought to stone Him. But Jesus escaped their attempts to arrest Him and to put Him to death. This was the pattern, for a while. The people would misinterpret Jesus, accusing Him of blasphemy one time and seeking to make Him king the next. Jesus would escape or rebuke to ensure that His mission did not get derailed.

But then came the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter, drawing his sword and swinging at one of the men, clearly thought this was going to be another chance for Jesus to slip away from His accusers. But Jesus knew that this time would be different. “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). … With a single word Jesus could have caused the heavenly host that sang of His birth spring to His defense. But He did not. This was true in the Garden, in the court, and on the hill. This was true as the spikes were nailed into His body and as the cross was raised to the sky.

Some words that I first pondered a few years and that have continued to be deeply affecting to me are found in Matthew 27:50: “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.” The amazing thing about these words is that they show us that Jesus was in control of the timing of His death. Though the nails had pierced His hands and feet, and though He had been beaten to be point of being almost unrecognizable, He died only when He decided to yield up His spirit. In his account of the crucifixion, John says Jesus “gave up His spirit.” This was an active, not a passive act. The significance of this wording is that it shows that Jesus was in control of the timing of His death. He did not die because His body could take no more punishment or because of blood loss. He died because He decided it was time to die. His work was accomplished and there was no reason for Him to linger. And so he gave up His spirit and returned to His Father.

All of this tells me that Townend is right—it was not the nails that held Jesus to the cross. He could so easily have escaped the cross and, even if He decided to go there, could just as easily have escaped from the cross. He could have stepped down and watched as His angels gained vengeance on the heartless men who had nailed Him to that tree. But He did not. Jesus remained there until the work was accomplished. He stayed there until He had done the work His Father had assigned Him. He stayed there until He had secured the redemption of all of His people. It was not the nails that held Him, but His love for the Father and His love for us. It was my sin that held Him there in the deepest expression of love the world could ever know. It was death by love.

Maundy Thursday Meditation

What could be stranger than this?
What more awesome?

He who is clothed with light as with a garment (Ps. 104:2)
is girded with a towel.

He who binds up the waters in His clouds (Job 26:8),
who sealed the abyss by His fearful Name,
is bound with a girdle.

He who gathers together
the waters of the sea as in a vessel (Ps. 33:7)
now pours water in to a basin.

He who covers the tops of the heavens with water (Ps. 104:3)
washes in water the feet of His disciples.

He who has weighed the heavens with His palm
and the earth with three fingers (Is. 40:12)
now wipes with undefiled palms
the soles of His servants’ feet.

He before whom every knee should bow,
of those that are in heaven,
on earth and under the earth (Phil.2:10)
now kneels before His servants.

Cyril of Alexandria (375-444)

Via: Galliblog » A Strange Washing of Feet. [Update 15 months later: This link is broken]

On public transport

I just learned this today:

A ticket-holding commuter can take any of the following with him/her on a bus around Rome at no extra cost:

  • a hunting rifle (only if it is unloaded)
  • a fishing rod (of certain dimensions I didn’t note down)
  • a maximum of two goldfish
  • a maximum of two chicks (i.e. baby birds)
  • a child under the age of four and less than a metre tall

Never seen anyone with the first four 🙂