David Johnstone

Lecrae — “Don’t Waste Your Life”

April 13, 2011

Every so often I discover a cool new song and it becomes my favourite song for a couple of days. My favourite song today is Lecrae’s Don’t Waste Your Life. Unlike normal, this song actually has edifying lyrics.

You may have noticed that this song shares its title with a book by John Piper (which I plan on reading some day). This is no accident. Desiring God produced the video for this song. There’s a video of Piper talking with Lecrae on YouTube, and Lecrae has also performed this song at John Piper’s church. I find the juxtaposition of Lecrae performing at a Sunday morning service with a gown-wearing choir in the background mildly amusing. But I love it. I’m quite sure that God doesn’t have a favourite style of music.

Here is the third verse:

Suffer/ Yeah do it for Christ
if you trying to figure what to do with your life/
if you making a lot money hope you doing it right
because the money is Gods you better steward it right/

stay focused
if you ain’t got no ride/
your life ain’t wrapped up in what you drive/
the clothes you wear
the job you work/
the color your skin naw you Christian first/

people living life for a job/
make a lil money start living for a car/
get em a house a wife kids and a dog/
when they retire they living high on the hog/
but guess what they didn’t ever really live at all/
to live is Christ yeah that’s Paul I recall/ to die is gain
so for Christ we give it all/
he’s the treasure you’ll never find in a mall/

Your money your singleness, marriage, talents, your time/
they were loaned to you to show the world that Christ is Divine/
that’s why it’s Christ in my rhymes/
That’s why it’s Christ all the time/
see my whole world is built around him He’s the life in my lines/

I refuse to waste my life/
he’s too true ta chase that ice/
here’s my gifts and time cause I’m constantly trying to be used to praise the Christ/
If he’s truly raised to life/
then this news should change your life/
and by his grace you can put your…

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Bible study notes for Ephesians 1:15–1:23

April 8, 2011

In Ephesians 1:1–1:14, Paul talks about just how greatly blessed God’s people are. In this passage, Ephesians 1:15–1:23, Paul prays for the readers of his letter. What I find most interesting is what Paul prays for — he doesn’t pray that God will bless them, but rather that they will know how much God already has blessed them. What follows are the notes I made for myself in preparation of a Bible study on this passage.

  • Paul speaks about God’s work towards believers in past, present and future ways. What are these?
    • Past: raising Christ, calling believers.
    • Present: the privileges of God’s people, Christ’s cosmic rule, the church’s relation to Christ.
    • Future: the hope to which believers are called, the age to come.
  • Paul prays for his readers, even though he probably doesn’t even know them personally. We should follow in his example, and certainly, at least, pray for those we do know.
  • Note what Paul prays for — not for spiritual blessings, but that they will know the fullness of the blessings that they already have. What are the three things Paul prays that his readers will know?
    • Hope of eternal life and sharing in God’s glory.
    • That we would appreciate the degree to which God values his people.
    • The power of God, which he uses on behalf of believers.
  • “Glorious inheritance in the saints” refers to God’s people being God’s inheritance — God has claimed them as his own, a treasured possession, to be fully redeemed on the last day. As a community of sinners, how should we respond to this?
    • Live consistently with the high calling, “accept with gratitude and rue humility the grace and glory that he has lavished on us”.
  • Related to the previous, notice how all things are under Christ (v. 22) but the church is Christ’s own body and fullness (v. 23).
  • It has been suggested that many in Paul’s audience may have been converted out of a background of magic, where there was a strong fear of hostile spiritual powers, so emphasising God’s power over all (v. 20) would be especially comforting.

Bible study notes for Ephesians 1:1–1:14

April 1, 2011

I have been going through Ephesians as part of a Bible study at church. I have been making some notes as preparation for these, and I figured that other people might have some use for these notes too. So here’s the first lot. You’ll notice I like dot points.

I have had some familiarity with Ephesians 1:3–14 for quite a long time because of the strong “predestination” language it contains. But it is only now that I have been properly studying it that I have come to understand what it’s chiefly about — that God has blessed us incredibly!

  • What do we think of when we think about the ways God has blessed us?
  • What has God done for us according to this passage?
    • Blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Note that spiritual blessings are not be contrasted with material blessings, but rather, are the blessings that come about through Christ’s saving work.
    • Chose us before the foundation of the world.
    • Predestined us for adoption.
    • Given us redemption through his blood/forgiveness of our trespasses.
    • Revealed to us the mystery of his will.
    • Claimed us as an inheritance/possession. Note that this (v. 11) is often translated as “we have obtained an inheritance” (ESV).
    • Sealed us with the Holy Spirit.
  • Notice the structure of this massive sentence (v. 3–14 is a single 202 word sentence in the original Greek) — v. 3 is essentially a summary, and v. 4–14 elaborate what it means that we have every spiritual blessing.
  • How is each member of the trinity involved?
  • What is the “mystery of his will” (v. 9)?
    • cf. v. 10.
  • What is the Holy Spirit’s role in this (v. 13–14)?
    • We have the Holy Spirit to signify that we are God’s. The Holy Spirit acts as a deposit/down payment/pledge guaranteeing our inheritance [by God]. That is, we are God’s, and we will ultimately be fully redeemed as God’s inheritance.
  • Notice the “we” and “you” language in this section (especially v. 11–14: “… we … you also …”). This is Paul, as a Jew, making a distinction between the Jews and his predominately Gentile audience. This distinction is important elsewhere in the epistle.
  • What should our reaction to all this be?
    • “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (or “Praise be to the God…”) (v. 3).

New website!

March 24, 2011

Finally! I’ve been planning on doing this for the last two years, and now I’ve done it — I’ve remade my entire website.

There were a few things I didn’t like about my old website:

  • The main cause of my dislike of my old website was that I never liked Drupal (the web framework I used to make it). I never cared enough about it to learn enough about it to use it really well, and I wanted more flexibility than it would easily give me.
  • I didn’t know half as much about web design as I do now. Eventually I thought it was quite ugly.
  • As a corollary of the first two points, making a new Drupal theme to make this website prettier did not sound like fun.
  • The way comments and spam protection worked was annoying. Even as a signed-in user, whenever I went to post a blog that contained a link, the spam filter asked to fill in a captcha. And the site never told me when new comments were posted. And I couldn’t work out any simple way of fixing those things.
  • Drupal is written in PHP. PHP is bad. Well, I don’t like it.
  • I have ideas for cool little things I’d like to put on my website, but the big and heavy framework that Drupal is makes it hard to do little ad hoc things.
  • The photo galleries were very lame.

So now I have a lovely new website that I’ve created in a Python framework called Flask. So far it’s just the blog. I’ve migrated all my old posts across. I’m now using Disqus for comments, and I’ve imported all the old comments into that. The next big thing I’m planning on doing is adding photo galleries which will give people an easy way of getting high resolution versions of photos I take.

For anybody following this blog, I suspect this will act a bit weird in your feed reader as it transitions over to a new feed. Sorry.

Pride and Prejudice and triviality

January 6, 2011

One of the observations in Why Johnny Can’t Preach that I appreciated was how so much of today’s media – on TV, in magazines, on the internet, etcetera – is so trivial and lacking in serious discussion. But as I read Pride and Prejudice recently, I noticed that the focus on the trivial is hardly a recent thing:

“But can you think that Lydia is so lost to everything but love of him as to consent to live with him on any terms other than marriage?”

“It does seem, and it is most shocking indeed,” replied Elizabeth, with tears in her eyes, “that a sister’s sense of decency and virtue in such a point should admit of doubt. But, really, I know not what to say. Perhaps I am not doing her justice. But she is very young; she has never been taught to think on serious subjects; and for the last half-year, nay, for a twelvemonth–she has been given up to nothing but amusement and vanity. She has been allowed to dispose of her time in the most idle and frivolous manner, and to adopt any opinions that came in her way. Since the –shire were first quartered in Meryton, nothing but love, flirtation, and officers have been in her head. She has been doing everything in her power by thinking and talking on the subject, to give greater–what shall I call it? susceptibility to her feelings; which are naturally lively enough. And we all know that Wickham has every charm of person and address that can captivate a woman.” (Emphasis mine.)

There is nothing new under the sun…

“Why Johnny Can’t Preach”, by T. David Gordon

December 11, 2010

A couple of months ago I read the book Why Johnny Can’t Preach, by T. David Gordon. It is a relatively short and punchy book that argues that the average person sitting in an average church on an average Sunday will hear a bad sermon, tries to explain why this is the case, and suggests what can be done about it. What follows is my summary of what he argues, and then a few comments on what I thought of it.

Johnny preaches bad sermons

The average person sitting in an average church on an average Sunday will hear a bad sermon. This is the premise of the book, and the first chapter on the book makes a reasonable case for the truth of this statement. A good sermon must, at the very least, have a point, and the point must be clearly based on the text. Furthermore, applications must be legitimate applications of the point. However, the author paints a gloomy picture of the state of affairs, arguing that only a small percentage of sermons preached are actually good.

Johnny can neither read nor think

People generally read books for the information contained within, and not for the literary skill of the author. There are many people who couldn’t read Shakespeare’s sonnets with appreciation and pleasure. The problem then is that preachers approach the Bible the same they they approach every other text — as something to quickly read through and extract information from. However, the Bible must be read much more carefully, as how the Bible says things is often as important to its meaning as what it overtly says. Subtleties abound in the Bible, yet many ministers will see a verse that has something to do with the love of God and then preach a generic sermon on the love of God. Likewise, most people read the Bible superficially, and are able to read it year after year without changing any opinions or developing a deeper understanding.

Everybody, both preachers and listeners, have been shaped by the forms of media in use today: always on, not separating the significant news from the trivial, emphasising information transfer rather than good speech/writing, and lacking a deep understanding and explanation of things (a 1 hour documentary is nowhere near enough to give a thorough introduction to any complex topic). Consequently, we are constantly multitasking and never concentrating… continue reading

Hawthorn Presbyterian Church

October 12, 2010

In my bounteous free time in recent months I have been creating a website for my church, Hawthorn Presbyterian Church. I have many more things I would like to do with this website, but I am happy with how it works so far (users of Internet Explorer may disagree). At the moment it’s just a blog and a bit of information about the church, but this will be improved and expanded on over time. Speaking of new websites, I will be able to use much of the core functionality of this website for Hawthorn Presbyterian Church for my own website (i.e., the site you are on right now) which I intend on rebuilding in the not too distant future.

I have also been reading a few books recently, so I can almost guarantee that my next blog post will be reasonably soon and actually have some potentially interesting content…

A brief update

April 22, 2010

Hello to the two readers of this blog! Things have been rather quiet here this year, thanks to a combination of me working full-time and having lots of other things to do, such as shooting my first wedding. I have not forgotten about this blog, and currently am in the process of remaking this site. Hopefully scientists will invent a 26-hour day soon…

Notes on “The Mating Game” by Pamela C. Regan

January 23, 2010

One of the more interesting books that I read last year was The Mating Game: A Primer on Love, Sex and Marriage by Pamela C. Regan. The author is a professor of psychology and this book claims to be a “comprehensive, multidisciplinary, introductory text about human mating relationships aimed specifically at a university audience.” The book is a “comprehensive review of theory and empirical research … on the fundamental human experiences of love, sex, and the formation of romantic relationships.”

The next paragraph contains a very brief summary of the topics covered in the book, while the rest of this post contains the notes that I took when I read the book. These notes certainly don’t cover everything contained in the book, and there are many very interesting things not included here. These notes (and therefore the page numbers) are for the second edition of the book.

The book is divided into four parts. Part one is on mating relationships, which looks at mate preferences (what we look for in a mate), attraction (and how it is communicated to the other party), courtship (what happens on the first date, and how an intimate relationship forms), relationship development, marriage (which covers everything from the differing forms of marriage around the world to marital satisfaction), conflict, dissolution (why and how relationships end) and intervention (how to identify distressed relationships, and how to treat them, and whether it works). Part two is all about love, looking at theories of love (building frameworks to explain the different forms of love), passionate and companionate love (comparing and contrasting them), and some problematic aspects of love (such as obsession and loss of passion). Now that all the immature people have left due to boredom, part three is on sex, looking at sexual attitudes (beliefs about sex in varying stages of relationships), sex in beginning relationships, sex in established relationships, and problematic aspects of sex (such as dissatisfaction, aggression, infidelity and jealousy). Part four is on individual differences, looking at maleness and femaleness (and what this means and how it’s measured), personality (and how they relate to mating relationships) and interpersonal belief systems (how people expect relationships to work and how this affects their relationships).

p12) Most desired characteristics in a marriage partner according to one study using self-report (top 10, in descending order of importance):

Men: Good overall personality; honesty and trustworthiness; attractive appearance; intelligence… continue reading

The Bible’s claims about itself and circular arguments

January 7, 2010

I was at the PYV Summer Camp last week, and one of the interesting parts was the question time at the end (as it always is). One of the questions that was asked — and not, in my judgement, especially well answered — was whether or not the Bible’s claim to be the Word of God is a circular argument, and if it is, isn’t this a problem. The short answer is: yes, it is a circular argument, but no, it isn’t a problem.

Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, devotes a bit of space to this issue, and I mentioned this in my summary of what Grudem says about the doctrine of Scripture. Here’s what I wrote then:

It is impossible to prove that Scripture is true by appealing to a higher authority (such as historical accuracy or logical consistency) as Scripture, as God’s Word, is already the highest authority one can appeal to. Although it is a circular argument to say that Scripture is the highest authority because it claims to be the highest authority, this does not make it invalid, as any appeal to ultimate authority will base its claim on that authority.

Imagine you lived a few hundred years ago in a little village in a big country. You know you have a king, but you have never seen him and have no idea what he looks like. Then, one day, a powerful looking man dressed in regal attire arrives at your village, with a host of well dressed companions, servants, and soldiers with gleaming swords. This man then claims to be the king. If you were to argue that his claim to be the king was not legitimate because it was a circular argument, your head probably wouldn’t be attached to your body for much longer. You may be right that it is a circular argument, but that doesn’t take away from his kingship.

To continue with the analogy, what else can the king appeal to to claim his kingship? His companions can attest to his kingship, and his soldiers can put on a show of force so that few would want to deny his kingship (deny and die!), but it is the king’s word has the ultimate authority. Any claim to ultimate authority must be based on that ultimate authority. In the case of the Bible, we believe… continue reading

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