Leviticus

Sounds like a good name for a bike, no?  ‘Levi-‘ seems to relate to ‘levitate’, which must be the ultimate feeling on a bike, and the ‘-ticus’ gives it a Greco- style gravitas.   If I ever own a bike company it will either be called Leviticus, or at least one model will sport the name.   Given that there is already a bike firm called Genesis, then Exodus (also a good name, I think) and Leviticus can’t be too long in following.

Of course though, it’s the third Bible book.  Here’s an untrue statistic that might ring true: 84.3% of people who start to read the Bible from cover to cover, flounder and splutter out in Leviticus.  So this post here is just what you need: a short summary of Leviticus which is helpful and enlightening.  (Although I’m not sure I agree with the distinction of food laws.)

Effort and power

In our staff meeting this morning, we wrapped up our study of Phillipians by looking at the last chunk of Chapter 4.   Phillipians 4:13 is a famous verse: ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me’.  It’s commonly used amongst sportsmen and women, and it’s one of my favourite as a cyclist, not least because Pinarello named one of their bikes after the passage a few years ago.   It got me thinking about one of the most maddening things about cycling; you can go out one day and apply a given amount of effort, and ride powerfully.  A few days later, same route, same effort, same conditions, and the power seems to have evaporated.  Why?  The strength doesn’t always seem to be there.

Isn’t it the same in the Christian life?  As partners in the gospel with the Creator of the Universe (it’s like being asked by Steve Jobs if we could help him with creating the next iPhone, only better) we know that we are to put effort into His work, but that it is only His power that gives us strength and gets results.  It’s helpful to think about it that way, and avoid (1) the lazy trap of thinking that we need put no effort into God’s work, or (2) the megalomaniac trap of thinking that it’s our power that achieves things.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Cost of new Jerusalem’s new walls.

According to the specification laid out in Revelation 21 16-18 (here), the walls for the new Jerusalem are colossally expensive, almost beyond comprehension.  I’ve assumed:

– four walls of 1,400 miles (2253km) in length, with height and depth of 200 feet (61 metres).

– jasper density of 2.6 tonnes per cubic metres, and a cost of $20m per tonne.

The cost of the walls alone (excluding the City of gold, or any of the foundations) would therefore be $670 quadrillion.  If we assume that on any given day there is $8.3 trillion in circulation, then you would need to gather every single dollar in circulation every day for 221 years.  Just for the walls!

The QS is going to be busy in the new Jerusalem.

Passion for cycling vs passion for Jesus

Like many Christian cyclists I know, I often find that my passion for the sport is consuming.  Those of us that race will spend 10 hours or more a week training, just to keep up in the peleton/pack/gruppo (choose your continental cycling culture).   We will talk for years afterwards about cycling up near-mythical climbs, such as the Tourmalet, Gavia, Alpe D’Huez, or even the brutal early season slopes of the Koppenberg or Muur.  Thoughts of a near effortless ride as if there was no chain can often drift me into sleep, and I can’t be the only one. Few of us are ashamed to be associated with a cycling club.

However, we never seem to allow Jesus, who offers us more than these places ever could, to inspire quite such a passion.   I rarely think back to great services in the way I do to several great rides.  There’s a few moments to savour – mainly conferences – but for many, the Christian life lacks the passion shown in sport, or work.   Here, therefore is a great article, posted on Credenda|Agenda which finishes off with the pleasingly risque line: “it would be a sign of vitality if the church were more often mistaken for a lusty harlot than a shriveled spinster”.  Read it and be inspired.

Reading plan 2010

This is very much a Christian book list, and not a cycling one. I have no trouble whatsoever picking up a cycling book and reading it 🙂 This, therefore, is really a plan to get me through some books that have been piling up, unread, and gathering dust. Here’s my pop at a list, given the criteria I rustled up yesterday:

  • Introduction/overview apologetics: Mere Christianity C S Lewis; The God who is There Francis Schaeffer
  • Bible overview: Symphony of Scripture Mark Strom
  • Prayer: Our Father Richard Coekin
  • The Christian Life: The Ordinary Hero Tim Chester; How Long O Lord D A Carson
  • Doctrine: The Cross of Christ John Stott; Know the Truth Bruce Milne
  • Evangelism: Know and Tell the Gospel John Chapman
  • Church: 9 Marks Mark Dever
  • Christian Biography “Wesley and Men Who Followed” Iain Murray
  • Classics: The Reformed Pastor Richard Baxter

What’s not there? Well if I was guaranteed to be a faster reader, then I’d add in one or two more historical classics. “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer very nearly made it (also recently purchased secondhand), and there’s not much on culture, or topical issues such as abortion or politics. It would be good to brush up on bible handling techniques, or have a month’s little project on improving my quiet times. There’s a good few books on this very helpful list that I’d like to look at – 100 great Christian books – but maybe next year. Nonetheless, here’s the plan in month order:

  • Mere Christianity CS Lewis (Jan)
  • Our Father (Feb)
  • Symphony of Scripture: Mark Strom (Mar)
  • The Cross of Christ – Stott (Apr)
  • Know and Tell the Gospel, John Chapman (May)
  • The Reformed Pastor (Jun)
  • The Ordinary Hero (Jul)
  • How Long O Lord? (Aug)
  • Know the Truth (Sep)
  • 9 Marks (Oct)
  • Wesley and Men Who Followed (Nov)
  • The God who is There (Dec)

I’ll endeavour to jot down some thoughts as I finish each book. In the meantime though, I’ve agreed to read another book with a Vicar from another church: the Shack. I’m half way through and really not sure what to make of it – some of it makes me want to say “come on, that’s just wrongheaded” and other bits genuinely seem to offer insight or remind me of God’s authority and breadth. I’m a third of the way though and need to finish it by next Monday.

Christmas books

I’ve got to that age (40 if you must know) where for whom buying presents is difficult.  Of the things I’m into (Macs, cycling and Jesus, in reverse order) my requirements have become so specialised that even my wife balks at buying something unless I’ve specified it to the nth degree. I’m too young to receive an annual dose of slippers and handkerchiefs and, rather pleasingly, too old for a new X-Box or PS3 game. Both of which I am very relieved.  So I generally get lots of books, CDs and a few DVDs, which in itself betrays my age apparently, because if I was down with the kids, all my music and video would be obtained online, rather than enjoying the physical pleasure of the case or the insert booklet.  Of course, records were better for cover art (bet you haven’t heard that one before).

So Father Christmas (there’s sound theological evidence for him by the way*) brought me some great books, most of which I’d forgotten I’d added to my Amazon wishlist.  Cycling literature is underrated, and both “The Escape Artist” by Matt Seaton, and “The Rider”, by Tim Krabbe, are exemplary.

I’m looking forward to “Sex Lies and Handlebar Tape: the Remarkable Life of Jacques Anquetil” by Paul Howard.  Anquetil, the first five-times winner of the Tour, had the most preposterous personal life, which I hope this book disentangles at least.    The other decent cycling book I’ve been given is “A Dog in a Hat: An American Bike Racer’s Story of Mud, Drugs, Blood, Betrayal, and Beauty in Belgium”.  Few Americans get on well with the Belgian biking scene, particularly the Northern cobbled Classic races, The Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix, so the clash of cultures that this promises should get me to start reading it fairly soon.

I’ve had some good Christian books, too: “the Theology of Martin Luther” by Paul Althaus; “How then Should We Live?”, by Francis Schaeffer, and “Wesley and Men Who Followed” by Iain Murray.  These are particularly well received by me, but for the first time I think I need to prepare a book reading plan for this year, not least to reduce the number of unread books on my shelves (invariably bought at bargain prices at some conference or other, too low to resist).   I’ll set out the book list when I’ve finished it, but I think this is how it ought to be shaped.

  • The whole list should be span a wide range of subject material  and remind me of some core truths as well as stretch my thinking in one or two areas.
  • It should be a good mix of old and new books (something both C S Lewis and John Piper strongly advocate).
  • It should be based on one book a month, so at least I have a fighting chance of getting through them all, as well as being able to read others as they cross my path (and leaving time for the, ahem, odd cycling book, plus my now-seemingly annual run through either the Jeeves & Wooster stories or Sherlock Holmes cases!).
  • For the sake of frugality, and because I have dozens of half-read and unread Christian books, I should own most of them.  Sad to say John Stott’s “The Cross of Christ” is one of these half-read books, and therefore it really ought to be on the list.
  • It should be driven by subject first, (e.g. evangelism, systematic theology, culture, etc) rather than what looks tasty.

I’ll publish the list in the next day or two.

*Of course there isn’t, but I bet you hoped that there could be, eh!?