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Category Archives: The Universe


My son, Charlie, recently gave me a book on the life of St. Patrick. It is fascinating, to say the least.

St. Patrick died a little over 1500 years ago. He was born in Britain, probably in Wales, around 385 A.D. His father was a Roman official.

When Patrick was 16, seafaring raiders captured him, carried him to Ireland and sold him into slavery. He spent six lonely years herding sheep and, he says, praying 100 times a day. In a dream, God told him to escape. He returned home, where he had another vision in which the Irish people begged him to return and minister to them: He studied for the priesthood in France, then made his way back to Ireland.

He spent his last 30 years there, presenting the gospel to pagans, ordaining priests, founding churches and monasteries. His persuasive powers must have been astounding: Ireland fully converted to Christianity within 200 years and was the only country in Europe to Christianize peacefully.

Patrick’s influence ended slavery, human sacrifice and most intertribal warfare in Ireland. Contrary to legends, he didn’t banish the snakes: Ireland never had any. Nor did he invent the Shamrock Trinity. That was an 18th-century fabrication.) His work did result in Ireland remaining strong as the rest of Europe crumbled. Patrick’s monasteries copied and preserved classical texts. Later, Irish monks returned this knowledge to Europe by establishing monasteries in England, Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy.

Patrick may have been the author of the following prayer – often called Patrick’s breastplate.

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;*
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet ‘well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

This morning, a brother caught me after the service. His wife is Japanese, and was emotionally unable to leave the home. Much of her family is safe, for the moment, but so many friends and family members are still unaccounted for. Her homeland may never be the same.

His question was, “is God punishing Japan?”

Several things are clear from God’s revelation in the Bible: God is the soverign who controls and ultimately ordains (or permits) all things – and He is merciful beyond all measure. He dearly loves the Japanese people – and, according to Luke 13, this is not because the Japanese are greater sinners than anyone else.

We prayed today for the dear Japanese people. John Piper’s prayer helped me frame my own.

Father in heaven, you are the absolute Sovereign over the shaking of the earth, the rising of the sea, and the raging of the waves. We tremble at your power and bow before your unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways. We cover our faces and kiss your omnipotent hand. We fall helpless to the floor in prayer and feel how fragile the very ground is beneath our knees.

O God, we humble ourselves under your holy majesty and repent. In a moment—in the twinkling of an eye—we too could be swept away. We are not more deserving of firm ground than our fellowmen in Japan. We too are flesh. We have bodies and homes and cars and family and precious places. We know that if we were treated according to our sins, who could stand? All of it would be gone in a moment. So in this dark hour we turn against our sins, not against you.

And we cry for mercy for Japan. Mercy, Father. Not for what they or we deserve. But mercy.

Have you not encouraged us in this? Have we not heard a hundred times in your Word the riches of your kindness, forbearance, and patience? Do you not a thousand times withhold your judgments, leading your rebellious world toward repentance? Yes, Lord. For your ways are not our ways, and your thoughts are not our thoughts.

Grant, O God, that the wicked will forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Grant us, your sinful creatures, to return to you, that you may have compassion. For surely you will abundantly pardon. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus, your beloved Son, will be saved.

May every heart-breaking loss—millions upon millions of losses—be healed by the wounded hands of the risen Christ. You are not unacquainted with your creatures’ pain. You did not spare your own Son, but gave him up for us all.

In Jesus you tasted loss. In Jesus you shared the overwhelming flood of our sorrows and suffering. In Jesus you are a sympathetic Priest in the midst of our pain.

Deal tenderly now, Father, with this fragile people. Woo them. Win them. Save them.

And may the floods they so much dread make blessings break upon their head.

O let them not judge you with feeble sense, but trust you for your grace. And so behind this providence, soon find a smiling face.

In Jesus’ merciful name, Amen.

A 1951 laughable thought: IIn 50 years the President of the United States will refuse to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

A 2011 laughable thought: In 50 years the President of the United States will refuse to exclude from marriage a man and a chimp.

Are you laughing?

I write this from Baptist Hospital East in Memphis, Feb 7, 2011.

Yesterday, my wife Ruthe broke her leg (femur) when the stool she was standing on collapsed. The arrival of police and fire department, trip to the hospital, hours of waiting in the ER, incredible pain of movement, choosing and consulting with an orthopedic, calling of family, prayer from many in the church family, C-T Scan, fasting in preparation for surgery – all have reminded me of a number of lessons:

1. Life can change in an instant, with a single movement, a single phone call. One moment – you are going about your life’s routine. The next moment – life changes.

2. God is absolutely sovereign. Every breath is precious. He holds our life in his hands. Life-altering events are part of his plan (I could end right here, but won’t)

3. God prepares us for trauma. Two months ago, I asked the Student Pastor of the Orchard to preach Feb 6. When the call came about Ruthe’s fall, there was no need to scramble. My responsibilities were covered. God does not leave us without resources, though we may not see it ahead-of-time.

4. Crises reveal what is truly important. I did not give a thought to the Super Bowl until we were in a room, and the game was nearly over. A football game is neither urgent nor important in the grand scheme of things. Life and family and friends and faith are!

5. There are some wonderful people in the law enforcement, fire and medical profession. I’ve been so grateful for the caring, go-the-second-mile attitude and professionalism of so many.

6. There are some real jerks around, as well.

7. Waiting is a test – of patience, faith, strength, and love.

8. Family and friends are indispensable. How could we handle life without their support and prayers?

9. Humor lightens the load. In the ER, tears and laughter mingle freely.

10. Sometimes the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. Ruthe is NPO (nothing by mouth) and we were just brought lunch. She was given totally opposite information related to the CT Scan. The lesson – double-check everything!

Malcolm Muggeridge was a 20th century British journalist and satirist. He came to Christ later in life, and was able to look back over his lifetime with a perspective that we desperately need in the 21st century.

We look back upon history, and what do we see? Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counterrevolutions, wealth accumulated and wealth disbursed. Shakespeare has written of the rise and fall of great ones, that ebb and flow with the moon.

I look back upon my own fellow countrymen (Great Britain), once upon a time dominating a quarter of the world, most of them convinced, in the words of what is still a popular song, that ‘the God who made them mighty, shall make them mightier yet.’

I’ve heard a crazed, cracked Austrian (Hitler) announce to the world the establishment of a Reich that would last a thousand years. I have seen an Italian clown (Mussolini) say he was going to stop and restart the calendar with his own ascension to power. I’ve heard a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin (Stalin), acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the world as being wiser than Solomon, more humane than Marcus Aurelius, more enlightened than Ashoka.

I have seen America wealthier and, in terms of military weaponry, more powerful than the rest of the world put together–so that had the American people so desired, they could have outdone a Caesar, or an Alexander in the range and scale of their conquests.

All in one lifetime, all in one lifetime, all gone! Gone with the wind!

England, now part of a tiny island off the coast of Europe, threatened with dismemberment and even bankruptcy. Hitler and Mussolini dead, remembered only in infamy. Stalin a forbidden name in the regime he helped found and dominate for some three decades. America haunted by fears of running out of those precious fluids that keeps their motorways roaring, and the smog settling, with troubled memories of a disastrous campaign in Vietnam, and the victories of the Don Quixote’s of the media as they charged the windmills of Watergate.

All in one lifetime, all in one lifetime, all gone! Gone with the wind!

Behind the debris of these solemn supermen, and self-styled imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of One: because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone, mankind may still have peace–the person of Jesus Christ.

I present him as the way, the truth, and the life.

Malcolm Muggeridge, 1970

I remember reading this quote many years ago, and recently came across it at Tullian Tchividjian’s blog

Heart-breaking stories and pictures

Ruthe and I will be traveling to the Dominican Republic, to speak at the Dominican Baptist Convention next week. We hope to get first-hand information about the crisis in Haiti and our possible response.

One missionary wrote:

Pray, Pray, Pray for the people of Haiti, and when you have prayed, Pray more. Literally get on your knees and pray!

I would add:

Give to an organization that will not siphon off part of your donation for “administrative costs.” Give to someone who will ensure that every penny goes to the needy.

Give to an agency or organization that has people on the ground and the means to get the supplies and food to the people.

Give to an organization that will help in the explicit name of the only One who can give hope and a future.

It was a year of Hope — at first in the sense of “I feel hopeful!” and later in the sense of “I hope this year ends soon!”

It was also a year of Change, especially in Washington, where the tired old hacks of yesteryear finally yielded the reins of power to a group of fresh, young, idealistic, new-idea outsiders such as Nancy Pelosi. As a result Washington, rejecting “business as usual,” finally stopped trying to solve every problem by throwing billions of taxpayer dollars at it and instead started trying to solve every problem by throwing trillions of taxpayer dollars at it.

To be sure, it was a year that saw plenty of bad news. But in almost every instance, there was offsetting good news:

BAD NEWS: The economy remained critically weak, with rising unemployment, a severely depressed real-estate market, the near-collapse of the domestic automobile industry and the steep decline of the dollar.

GOOD NEWS: Windows 7 sucked less than Vista.

BAD NEWS: The downward spiral of the newspaper industry continued, resulting in the firings of thousands of experienced reporters and an apparently permanent deterioration in the quality of American journalism.

GOOD NEWS: A lot more people were tweeting.

BAD NEWS: Ominous problems loomed abroad as — among other difficulties — the Afghanistan war went sour, and Iran threatened to plunge the Middle East and beyond into nuclear war.

GOOD NEWS: They finally got Roman Polanski.

In short, it was a year that we will be happy to put behind us. But before we do, let’s swallow our anti-nausea medication and take one last look back, starting with. . . .


. . . during which history is made in Washington, D.C., where a crowd estimated by the Congressional Estimating Office at 217 billion people gathers to watch Barack Obama be inaugurated as the first American president ever to come after George W. Bush. There is a minor glitch in the ceremony when Chief Justice John Roberts, attempting to administer the oath of office, becomes confused and instead reads the side-effect warnings for his decongestant pills, causing the new president to swear that he will consult his physician if he experiences a sudden loss of sensation in his feet. President Obama then delivers an upbeat inaugural address, ushering in a new era of cooperation, civility and bipartisanship in a galaxy far, far away. Here on Earth everything stays much the same.

The No. 1 item on the agenda is fixing the economy, so the new administration immediately sets about the daunting task of trying to nominate somebody — anybody — to a high-level government post who actually remembered to pay his or her taxes. Among those who forgot this pesky chore is Obama’s nominee for Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, who sheepishly admits that he failed to pay $35,000 in federal self-employment taxes. He says that the error was a result of his using TurboTax, which he also blames for his involvement in an eight-state spree of bank robberies. He is confirmed after the Obama administration explains that it inherited the U.S. Tax Code from the Bush administration.

Elsewhere in politics, a team of specially trained wildlife agents equipped with nets and tranquilizer darts manages, after a six-hour struggle, to remove Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office. He is transported to an undisclosed swamp, where he is released into the wild and quickly bonds with the native ferret population

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space4Recent photos from the Hubble telescope absolutely shout the glory of God.






THE UNIVERSE IS THIS LARGE TO SHOW WHAT TOO SMALL MEANS: “Heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain HIM” (2 Chron 2:6).
(John Piper on Twitter)

TRUE CONFESSION TIME I tried to find an adequate image of the universe to use for this blog. Ridiculous!

Go outside, look up, reflect that you see 1/zillionth of the universe, and shout, “you’re just too small! You’re not big enough.”


For more pics

This must be seen – the magnitude of our great God!