Saturday, May 29, 2010


Remarkable stuff, gelato! To our everlasting credit (!), we had gelato every day—yes, every day—the last couple of weeks in Italy. That’s my brother and I outside a reputed purveyor of the good stuff in the Eternal City, Rome. We look like we need gelato. We did! Badly!

(My nephew, who was with us, reminds me that we did not have gelato every day; he tells me we skipped one day, but made up for it by having the concoction twice the next day. That’s la dolce vita for you!)

May I remind the wet blankets and naysayers and mood-spoilers that gelato is actually good for you?

Ice-cream, legally, has to have a minimum of 10% fat; but gelato, made with a greater proportion of whole milk to cream, has only 3–8% fat. Bring it on, I say. This less fat, according to connoisseurs and gourmands, also enables gelato to coat the mouth differently than ice-cream, intensifying its flavors. I can vouch for that!

The churning during its manufacture is also slower and thus it has less “overrun”—the air that is whipped into the mixture—than ice-cream (25–30% vs. ice-cream’s 50%).

When all is said and done, you have an extremely dense, rich, creamy, and flavorful treat. Bacio, stracciatella, mandorla, nocciola, fior de latte, zabaione, fragola, lampone, crema, and other such exotic varieties of gelato tempt the unwary traveler. Pure seduction! One scoop just won’t do it. In fact, every time we partook of this concoction, we had at least two or three flavors in a single cup. YUM!

Especially after a day of walking all over the city to see sights, gelato was a very welcome break.

Like cold water to a weary soul,
So is good news from a distant land.
Proverbs 25:25

Good news, or even a good word or an act of kindness, is truly a refreshment, and worthy of eternal reward.

And whoever …
gives to one of these little ones
even a cup of cold water to drink,
truly I say to you,
he shall not lose his reward.
Matthew 10:42

Then there were the Laodiceans, to whom Jesus wrote:

I know your deeds,
that you are neither cold nor hot ….
So because you are lukewarm,
and neither hot nor cold,
I will spit you out of My mouth.
Revelation 3:15–16

You see, in Colossae, a few miles away from Laodicea on one side, were cold springs of water. In Hierapolis, a few miles in the other direction were hot springs of medicinal water. The first served as a refreshment to the weary, the other as a healing balm for the sick.

And in between the cold water fountain and the hot water source was Laodicea, which had no water of its own. Laodicea’s water came from the hot springs of Hierapolis via an aqueduct, thro a waterfall and a meandering path, so that when the water finally reached Laodicea, it was neither cold nor hot—just lukewarm. Neither providing the refreshment of the cold springs of Colossae, nor the healing of the hot waters of Hierapolis. Useless. Neither good for this, nor good for that—good for nothing. u

Unlike Philemon, whom Paul commends:

… I hear of your love and of the faith
which you have toward the Lord Jesus
and toward all the saints ….
For I have come to have much joy
and comfort in your love,
because the hearts of the saints
have been refreshed
through you, brother.
Philemon 5, 7

May we, too, be refreshments to others, in these hot days.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I’ve been hanging round in parts of Italy with my nephew the last week (and will be for most of this one). An unmistakable highlight was seeing Michelangelo’s David (sculpted: 1501–1504). This 17-foot mammoth is really an extraordinary sight as it stands in a special corner, under a custom-built dome in the Galleria Accademia in Florence. David is sizing up his 7 plus-foot enemy here, sling in one hand, stone in the other (scholars debate endlessly what hand is holding what and how the sling would actually work).

David’s is a relaxed posture, alert, in a classical contrapposto pose on one leg. He watches his gigantic foe with intense concentration, but there is a quiet confidence in this gaze and disposition. Not the terror of his fellow-Israelites when they sighted Goliath.

When all the men of Israel
saw the man [Goliath],
they fled from him
and were greatly afraid.
1 Samuel 17:24

David, on the other hand, is clearly thinking, “God (and I) can handle this guy!”

And David said,
“The LORD who delivered me
from the paw of the lion and
from the paw of the bear,
He will deliver me
from the hand of this Philistine.”
1 Samuel 17:37

Goliath didn’t think so. This kid? With a sling and a stone against shield, spear, and sword?

And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.
The Philistine also said to David,
“Come to me, and I will give your flesh
to the birds of the sky
and the beasts of the field.”
1 Samuel 17:43–44

That was a sore miscalculation on Goliath’s part. He’d forgotten the role of God in this cameo and who he really was up against.

For who is this uncircumcised Philistine,
that he should taunt
the armies of the living God?
1 Samuel 17:26

There is in David’s face and stance, art historians claim, a “Renaissance optimism”—not a brute with brawn, but a brawler with brain, who can handle anything and everything with his own resources. Or so they say. Maybe that is what Michelangelo intended.

But that’s not true of the real David. His was not a misplaced confidence in self, but a complete faith in the resources of his God who was jealous for His own name.

Then David said to the Philistine,
“… I come to you in the name of
the LORD of hosts,
the God of the armies of Israel,
whom you have taunted.
This day the LORD will deliver you
up into my hands,
and I will strike you down
and remove your head from you.
… that all the earth may know
that there is a God in Israel,
and that all this assembly may know
that the LORD does not deliver
by sword or by spear;
for the battle is the LORD’s and
He will give you into our hands.”
1 Samuel 17:45–47

The battle is, indeed, the LORD’s, for it is His glory that is at stake.

No sword, no armor, no fancy footwork. Just a sling, a stone, and … the LORD.

Thus David prevailed
over the Philistine
with a sling and a stone,
and he struck the Philistine
and killed him;
but there was no sword in David's hand. …
When the Philistines saw that
their champion was dead, they fled.
1 Samuel 17:50–51

That was the end of that!

I like that story! And seeing David, one has to admire his confidence, so palpably portrayed by Signor Buonarroti. Wonderful! And inspiring!

May our confidence in our God be as strong, as unshakeable, as bold.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


We call him Prof.” That’s Professor Howard G. Hendricks. Prof is retiring. After 60 years (yes, SIXTY!) of teaching at Dallas Seminary, and in the process directly touching the lives of thousands of students, and indirectly, perhaps millions of Christians all over the world. One of his protégés said, “Prof is like a pebble thrown in a lake—the ripples just keep going outward.” This is a man whose fifth-grade teacher predicted he’d end up in prison! He didn’t.

The LORD preserves the faithful.
Psalm 31:23

For six decades, he has modeled integrity and probity to several generations of students. Faithfully.

“Only eternity will reveal all he’s done for the cause of Christ worldwide,” says Dr. Tony Evans. “I'm just honored to be one of the protégés.”

… it is required of stewards
that one be found faithful.
1 Corinthians 4:2

A good steward, indeed! Dallas Seminary Chancellor, Chuck Swindoll says of Prof, “He is the one man who has had the greatest impact on my entire life. And there is no doubt in my mind that since the late 1950s to the present day, no other teacher at DTS has been more influential to more of our graduates, or more magnetic to more potential students than Dr. Hendricks.”

Faithful. About 25 years ago, Dallas Seminary’s Center for Christian Leadership was founded—it was appropriately named after Howard G. Hendricks, the man with a passion for mentoring future Christian leaders.
Faithfully passing on the baton.

The things which you have
heard from me
in the presence of many witnesses,
entrust these to faithful men
who will be able
to teach others also.
2 Timothy 2:2

Fourteen years ago, an invasive cancer destroyed his eye and threatened more damage. Yet, Prof. continued to be a paragon of faithfulness. He declared: “Either God is sovereign or He is not. And, if He’s not, we’re in deep trouble. But I’m coming down on the side that He is.”

Faithful to his God.

Let us hold fast
the confession of our hope
without wavering,
for He who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:23

His fan mail during those dire days piled up over six feet in height—cards from all over the world, from people whose lives he had shaped.

Faithful. Like his Lord.

Therefore, He [Jesus]
had to be made like His brethren
… so that He might become
a merciful and faithful high priest
… to make atonement
for the sins of the people.
Hebrews 2:17

Last Saturday, at the Seminary’s Commencement Exercises, a special tribute was paid to this faithful man: he was awarded the Seminary’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Faithful and blessed.

A faithful man
will abound with blessings.
Proverbs 28:20

A greater award awaits all those who are faithful—one from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

“His master said to him,
‘Well done, good and faithful slave.
… I will put you
in charge of many things;
enter into the joy of your master.’”
Matthew 25:21

In his note of thanks, last week, to the Seminary Faculty who had voted unanimously for Prof’s Award, he said, “One thing cheers me—that each of you will be doing the job which in our generation is critically significant. My prayers will be with you.”

May we be faithful, by His grace.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord,
who has strengthened me,
because He considered me faithful,
putting me into service,
1 Timothy 1:12

May we be faithful—till the end.

Be faithful until death,
and I will give you the crown of life.
Revelation 2:10

Prof, thank you!

Sunday, May 09, 2010


Yesterday another 400 of Dallas Seminary’s best graduated with Certificates of Graduate Studies, Master of Arts degrees, Master of Theology, Master of Sacred Theology, Doctor of Ministry, and Doctor of Philosophy. Commencement exercises were conducted at Prestonwood Baptist Church north of town. And I had the privilege of reading Scripture for the occasion. (Yup, that’s Prof. Howard Hendricks on the right, eye-patch and all—more about him next week.)

A friend of mine took this photo just after I had finished reading Psalm 100 during the ceremonies. At the end of the Psalm, I made the declaration that is customary when Scripture is read in public: “This is the Word of God.” And I went ahead and uttered the usual congregational response to that declaration as well: “Thanks be to God!”

Ted caught me just as I was speaking that last phrase: “Thanks be to God!”—the people of God thanking their God for the Word of God. (Thanks, Ted!)

Why thank God for His Word?

Sir Henry W. Baker (1861), in crisp poetic fashion, announced the many reasons for our gratitude to the Giver of the Word.

Lord, Thy Word abideth,
And our footsteps guideth;
Who its truth believeth
Light and joy receiveth.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path
Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
Psalm 119:105, 11

When our foes are near us,
Then Thy Word doth cheer us,
Word of consolation,
Message of salvation.

Many are my persecutors
and my adversaries,
Yet I do not turn aside
from Your testimonies.
My soul languishes
for Your salvation;
I wait for Your word.
Psalm 119:157, 81

When the storms are o’er us,
And dark clouds before us,
Then its light directeth,
And our way protecteth.

My soul weeps because of grief;
Strengthen me
according to Your word.
If Your law had not been my delight,
Then I would have perished
in my affliction.
Psalm 119:28, 92

Who can tell the pleasure,
Who recount the treasure,
By Thy Word imparted
To the simple hearted?

How sweet are Your words
to my taste!
Yes, sweeter than honey
to my mouth!
I have rejoiced in the way
of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
Psalm 119:103, 14

Word of mercy, giving
Succor to the living;
Word of life, supplying
Comfort to the dying!

This is my comfort in my affliction,
That Your word has revived me.
Trouble and anguish
have come upon me,
Yet Your commandments
are my delight.
Psalm 119:50, 143

O that we, discerning,
Its most holy learning,
Lord, may love and fear Thee,
Evermore be near Thee!

Give me understanding,
that I may observe Your law
And keep it with all my heart.
How blessed are those
who observe His testimonies,
Who seek Him with all their heart.
Psalm 119:34, 2

And so it is good and proper for all of God’s people to be thankful to Him for Scripture—the beautiful and wonderful words of life.

I shall give thanks to You
with uprightness of heart,
When I learn
Your righteous judgments.
At midnight I shall rise
to give thanks to You
Because of Your righteous ordinances.
Psalm 119:7, 62

While the people of God are to be thankful for everything, this is a good reminder: For his Word, too, we must give thanks. Let’s not forget to do that, shall we?

I shall delight in Your statutes;
I shall not forget Your word.
Psalm 119:16

“This is the Word of God.”
“Thanks be to God!”


Sunday, May 02, 2010


Eleven days ago, BP’s Transocean Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, 130 miles off the Louisiana coast, sank after a fiery explosion. Of the 126 workers on board, eleven people were killed, and about 20 injured. And the catastrophe continues. Crude oil has been leaking into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening an environmental disaster of massive proportions, risking beaches, fragile marshes, oyster beds, marine mammals, fishing grounds …. Earlier estimates put the leak at at least 1.6 million gallons of oil—promising to eclipse the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster. The slick has continued to grow, tripling in size, fed from the sea depths; at least 5,000 barrels (about 200,000 gallons) are leaking out daily. The messy stuff is slowly moving towards the coasts of Lousiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. Not surprisingly, last week BP’s stock dropped 12%, a gigantic wipe-out of over $20 billion of the energy titan’s value. President Obama is visiting the region today.

Over 2,000 personnel and volunteers are involved in the response effort. About 300,000 feet of booms have been laid to contain the spill. To date, 25,000 barrels of the oil-water sludge has been recovered. Sixty-odd response vessels, including skimmers, tugs, barges, etc., have been deployed. Over 150,000 gallons of dispersant have been thrown at the oil.

Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, appointed by the federal government to lead the oil spill response, agreed yesterday that it was impossible to give an accurate estimate of the volume of oil leaking from the ruptured well—located about a mile underwater. As bad as the oil spill looks on the surface, it may be only half the problem, said University of California Berkeley engineering professor Robert Bea, who serves on a National Academy of Engineering panel on oil pipeline safety. “There’s an equal amount that could be subsurface too,” said Bea. And that oil below the surface “is *&$# near impossible to track.”

To stop that surge at its source, Adm. Allen maintained, was their top priority. Underwater robots are now trying to shoot dispersants right into the site of the leak, even as other remote devices attempt to cap the origin. No progress has been made so far, he admitted.

Getting the leak at its source. No amount of buring off the oil on the surface or scattering dispersants on the sea water will control the gush. It’s source must be cut off deep down.

That’s true of the evil in our lives as well, isn’t it? Jesus would agree:

“For from within,
out of the heart of men,
proceed the evil thoughts,
immoralities, thefts,
murders, adulteries,
deeds of coveting, wickedness,
deceit, sensuality, envy, slander,
pride and foolishness.
All these evil things
proceed from within
and defile the person.”
Mark 7:21–23

The prophet Jeremiah moaned that …

“The heart is more deceitful
than all else
and is desperately sick.”
Jeremiah 17:9

And so the Psalmist prayed …

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

Get it at its source! And may all the rubbish that is in the depths of our deceitful hearts be replaced by the Word of God. For then, …

I delight to do Your will,
O my God;
Your Law is within my heart."
Psalm 40:8

And we become, and remain …

… slaves of Christ,
doing the will of God from the heart.
Ephesians 6:6

Get it at its source!

Now flee from youthful lusts
and pursue righteousness,
faith, love and peace, with those
who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
2 Timothy 2:22

Let’s cap that leaky well!