12.28.2008

had been brought into the house of the LORD

"In You the Fatherless Find Compassion" {Hos14:3}



* Vertical Adoption
- John1:12, Eph1:5-6, Rom9:4, Gal4:4-5, Rom8:14-15, Rom8:23
- Adoption: An act of God whereby He makes us members of His family (Grudem)
- God could've justified us sans adoption
- Adoption part of eternal plan, just like forgiveness of sin



* Horizontal adoption
- Deut10:18, Ps10:14-18, Ps68:5, Ps82:3-4, Isa1:17, Hos14:3, Mark9:37
- Orphan ministry encompasses many types of service -- adoption, foster care, surrogate parenting, etc.
- 50-100 million orphans in world today
* Applications
- Consider & embrace the wonder of our adoption into God's family through Jesus
- Consider supporting others committed to orphan ministry
- Consider orphan ministry as an overflow of inheritance you have in Christ
- Prayerfully study orphan ministry & how God may want you to participate
* Potential sites of interest
- Cry of the Orphan
- Christian Alliance for Orphans
- Shaohannah's Hope
- Project 127
- Tacoma YFC Foster Care

12.27.2008

the power of God for salvation

Sang an amazing new song during our Christmas Eve service Wed evening called "Jesus Saves". Haven't been able to get it out of my head, and it was an immediate iTunes download. It is not a version or adaptation of the hymn of the same name. It is wholly different. Love that it captures the trinity of holy days: the birth ("Hear the host of angels sing, 'Glory to the Newborn King.'"), death ("'It is done!' will shout the cross, Christ has paid redemption's cost!"), and resurrection ("While the empty tomb's declaring, 'Jesus saves.'"). Love the soaring proclamation of the gospel message.

Jesus saves. Amen to that.

12.26.2008

glorifying God with a loud voice

My son, like me, can't carry a tune; we are essentially tone deaf. But rather than inhibit his ability to worship the Lord through song, this fact serves only to create the opportunity for him to be a witness to others. For the past two years, during Christmas Eve services at church -- where we don't have childcare for kids his age -- my son sits with us in the sanctuary. And per Christmas Eve tradition, we sing carols, familiar enough that even my son knows the words. This year, in addition to singing familiar songs, my son can read, so every song instantly becomes knowable.

My son sings at the top of his lungs, off-key for every song. Rows in front of us and in back of us can pick out his little voice amidst the congregational singing. You know who else can hear my son's singing? The Lord God Almighty, and I'm certain no other voice pleased Him as much as my son's voice.

We always receive compliments after the service is over at how wonderful his singing was. And these are not meant to be patronizing words of praise that are deceitful. No, off-key or otherwise, it is wonderful singing because it's from a heart of worship sung for the Lord and not for any other. No perfect pitch, but a perfectly-intentioned heart, and that's all that matters to the Lord. Those of us in my son's pew row actually sang even louder than normal since my son was so vocal. And for me, I sang louder, not to cover up his singing, but because in a reversal of example, I so very much wanted to be like my son, all in worship, all unconscious of external opinion, all singing as loudly as I could for the Lord.

12.25.2008

the Messiah was to be born



"And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.'" -- Luke2:10-11

12.23.2008

so they removed the stone

Question: How do you write a story of faith and make the faith part of it disappear?
Answer: Why don't you ask Rick Reilly.

Reilly is a Hallmark card wrapped in sports uniforms. He is a human interest story salesman with a sports focus. He seeks to reveal the inspirational, the sensational, and the human side of sports and athletes. But because he writes for the monolith that is ABC Disney subsidiary ESPN, he has to tailor his message to a broad audience. Translation: no religion in his pieces. GetReligion.org calls this the ghost in the story.

This was no ordinary high school that split its fanbase to cheer for the opposing team. This was no ordinary high school that formed a poster for the opposing team to run through. This was no ordinary team that prayed after the game. This was a clearly Christian school trying to showcase the love of God to a group of students not used to getting any love. They were providing the free gift of hope, yes, but that hope is bound completely in Christ Jesus. To report this story without the reasoning behind the inspiration is to mis-report the story completely.

Nice job, Reilly. Nice job pretending to say something, and actually saying nothing. You, sir, have a career in politics if you want it.

12.22.2008

will separate them from one another

I've said kind things about Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and its Sr Pastor Marc Driscoll before. But I have to take a sec to be critical of a recent blog post from Driscoll about this past weekend. WA state was hit by a winter snow storm. The threat for ice and snow and sleet and high winds was clear, and state emergency officials encouraged everyone to stay off the roads and stay indoors. Businesses and the airport and many roads were shut down. Churches had to make the tough call on whether or not to cancel their services. Mars Hill chose not to. And Driscoll decides to take those concerned for their safety to task.

* First, he criticizes those who serve at the church and divides them between those with a calling to those who simply do a job -- and he bases it all on their attendance on one day. Never mind that he ignores public official encouragement to stay home, but it is ignorant to use any single day as the one that determines the diligent from the not. If a volunteer had devoted the rest of his year and served his heart out but missed the one Sunday, he is somehow a jobber rather than a faithful servant? Ridiculous.

People that stick their neck out the farthest are the risk-takers, not the most faithful. I imagine that from a probability standpoint, for example, the young adults are far more likely to venture out in bad weather out of sheer youthful energy and boldness. I suppose our elderly saints who have supported the church for years but whose infirmities and frailties must keep them home during a blizzard, those guys are faithless, right? Awful reasoning.

* Secondly, Driscoll dares to read people's heart based on their choice to stay home. I pondered my heart on staying home, sure, and ended up doing a house church lesson with the whole family. And it was an amazing experience. But apparently that isn't good enough. Apparently I have to be at the church facility to actually see God. Apparently God only lives in a holy temple rather than in our hearts and with us always. Driscoll's insistence on attendance is no different than fundamentalist preachers' insistence on dressing the right way or not dancing or not drinking or not smoking or not cursing as symbols of faith. That is pure and unadulterated pharisaic zeal, not reflections on some deeper faith.

* Lastly, he bases a person's love for their church on whether or not they can drive in snow and ice. Never mind the elder who teaches Sunday school, makes tough decisions, prays regularly for his flock, shepherds people on his leisure time, and gives generously of his resources. If he doesn't have snow chains, he hates his flock. He's not one of the "hardcore of the hardcore".

We'll find out at the throne, Driscoll, not on your blog.

12.21.2008

you were bought with a price

Some friends recommended the song below. It's called "Hymn 101" by an artist named Joe Pug. The word "hymn" in the title might lead one to believe it's a religious song; if it is, it isn't inherently Christian, but more personal religion than anything (although there are some lines in there about a manger, God's awful grace, and treasure in a chest). In any case, it does what most songs of the solo guitar variety do -- grind away at the sharp parts of your heart with a melancholy melody and lyrics. My favorite set of phrases goes:
oh they say i come with less
than i should rightfully possess
i say the more i buy the more i'm bought
and the more i'm bought the less i cost

12.20.2008

and their conscience being weak

Sometimes I can't tell if I have too little faith. All week the forecasters were predicting a devastating winter storm in our area. I began to get tense by mid-week. By Thursday I was sending emails to our Senior Pastor asking him about the possibility of service cancellation on Sunday. I sent a few more emails Friday. I sent a few more Saturday morning. I scoured websites for proof of the severity of the storm, as well as examples of other churches nixing their services due to inclement weather. I crossed the line between providing useful information to make a decision and outright nagging. I argued that the safety of our flock was my primary concern. My flock, or just my family?

Contrast that to friends in OR who got a foot of snow and will walk to service tomorrow morning when I'm comfortably snug in my home. Or contrast that to the story I once heard of a foreign believer in a muslim country who endured a beating every Sunday when she left for church but to her it was worth it. Maybe I just don't want to worship and fellowship with other believers as much as I should desire that.

Or maybe I understand that the Lord isn't confined to a building on a Sunday morning, and I have a responsibility as a leader to not endanger the elderly and the children and the other believers who must cross icy, snowy roads for a handful of songs. I can really argue this both ways. But I'm not interested in my own judgment; I'm interested in His.

12.19.2008

which He prepared beforehand

Ever asked yourself the question "What have I gotten myself into?"

Received confirmation yesterday evening that I'll get a shot at the most important day of the year. I only wanted it because I love it more than any other day, and I'm confident in saying I love the day more than anyone else does. Confirmation did not result in joy, however. It resulted in holy terror.

Public speaking haunts others; I enjoy it. Crafting spiritual lessons is daunting for others; I enjoy it. But combining the two is wholly different. And the terror is not messing up before brethren; it is potentially messing up before the only Judge who matters. I'll trust, however, that the message He has placed on my heart will be fine, just fine.

12.18.2008

Sometimes my mind sees what it wants to see. Often I will have to schedule work calls early in the morning (6:00 am or sometimes earlier), thus getting me up even earlier to prep for these calls. So after setting my alarm and mentally telling myself I need to get up early, my body every so often takes that mental command and runs with it. And what happens is that I will wake up at 1:00 in the morning feeling completely alert, and then jump out of bed ready to start my day.

The odd part to me is not that I wake up far earlier than my alarm. The odd part is that before I jump out of bed, I stare at my alarm clock for a long time, my brain trying to decipher the numbers it sees. And every time, my mind sees my clock as being near my actual wake-up time. It is not until 30 or so minutes later that I find out it's a completely different time than what I thought I had seen.

This is how our brain works all the time when it comes to matters of faith. Our brains see what we want them to see. The believer who wants to commit that sin finds some rationalization that it's okay. The believer who votes for that pro-choice candidate sees the other qualities and ignores the murder. The believer who wants children despite the Lord's clear denial chases every medical option available at great cost. The believer who stuffs faith into an hour and a half on Sunday morning sees that regular attendance as faithful rather than the bare minimum.

The Apostle Paul goes blind on the Damascus Road, and it's only later when the scales fall away from his eyes and he sees truth. This process needs to occur on a more regular basis in our walks of faith, methinks.

12.16.2008

there is no limit to the

I once made the insane and arrogant comment that whenever I walked into a room, I believed I was the smartest one in it. So I like being reminded how much I don't know. Alright, I don't actually like being reminded, but whatever. In any case, at the elder meeting last night, we briefly discussed what our policy should be regarding anointing others with oil. I'd never in all my years as a believer ever given an ounce of thought to the practice and what I should believe about it. A quick google search revealed various viewpoints (you can read one HERE or HERE or HERE).

It's good to know that there is no end to what I can learn. Even someone as prideful as me feels better knowing how infinite a topic faith is, that there is no limit to how much more He can teach me if I'm willing to listen.

12.14.2008

for unto you is born this day

"God's Greatest Gift" (Christmas Praise Concert)
* Prelude

* Hark the Herald Angels Sing
* Angels We Have Heard on High
* Joy to the World
* Magnificent/Could It Be?
* O Holy Night
* Child of Glory

* The First Noel
* Emmanuel
* Sing Noel

* He Made a Way in a Manger
* Here I Am to Worship
* Angels from the Realms of Glory

12.12.2008

have gained the victory for

The clip below has been making the rounds (sadly, I recognize probably 80% of the scenes):



There's a reason so many movies include big speeches in the climactic scene: it works on audiences. We like the buildup, the tension. We like being moved toward victory when all hope seems lost. We like digging down deep and digging in our heels and then pulling out triumphantly. We like knowing that all is not over, and there is a light at the end of the day.

Friend, if you like it in Hollywood, surely you'll relish it even more in reality. The Christmas story, the Gospel message, is that saving grace when all looks destined for defeat. The Bible says all have sinned and because of that we have earned death. But just when the devil was about to grasp you forever, as darkness built up and all was lost, God sent His only Son into a manger and destined Him to death on a cross on a hill. And three days later, in a tomb lit by the lights of heaven, Jesus Christ crushed Satan under His heel, snatched life from the grave and rose triumphant. And He did all of that, endured that cross, all for you.

There is an end scene that will move you to tears. And it will be on Judgment Day at the end of your life before a white throne. And those tears can be tears of sorrow and despair as you are shuffled off toward fire. Or it could be tears of great joy at having had your war won for you by the Son of God. That choice is for you to make, for you to decide whether or not to accept Jesus into your life right now. Don't let the credits roll without taking this chance at eternity.

12.11.2008

has had a different spirit and

Check out the video below first:



I'll be honest, I'm not sure how to take his message. On one hand, I am with him all the way as he bashes the lukewarm. There are many unbelievers who convince themselves they are believers based on some half-hearted prayer for salvation many years prior. And there are many believers who will be harshly judged at the throne. They think it's okay to straddle two worlds -- a foot in eternity, and a foot squarely rooted in the world. They think being a Christian starts and ends with church on Sunday, while the rest of their life is exempt. Jesus does call you to forsake the world and forsake your old ways and obey Him to the point of calvary. All true.

On the other hand, Washer condemns folks who haven't done the 180, and puts them squarely with unbelievers. He doesn't acknowledge that there is such a thing as a bad Christian. In his world, either you're sold out, or you're unsaved. He actually wants to complicate the gospel message. It's almost like he's saying belief is not enough -- that you have to do all these things and forsake the world in all these ways and be 100% religious (likely in particular ways that he would define as proper), or else you were never really saved. He ignores the fact that believers can fall away as the Bible says they do. He ignores the fact that it is impossible for us to be perfect, and that many will straddle the world -- not because they don't love Christ, but because they are weak.

Is the message that simple belief is too easy a way to garner eternity? Yeah, Mr. Washer. That is in fact the gospel message.

12.09.2008

are witnesses of these things

You need to go ahead and read THIS STORY. Some google detective work informs me that the pastor mentioned in the article is the Associate Pastor of the Korean United Methodist Church in San Diego, so these are all believers. In a nation as vindictive, litigious, selfish, and greedy as ours -- especially during a bad economy -- the natural response would have been a lawsuit and rage. This man instead asks for prayer for the pilot at fault -- actually calls him a treasure -- and then thanks God that He had given him the blessing of being married to his wife for as long as he had been. No rage, no request for vengeance.

This man joins SCC as models of faith. Tragedy strikes, and God is glorified. Now tell me again, luke, how maybe God doesn't exist because you aren't getting everything you want for Christmas.

12.07.2008

"When the Infinite Became an Infant"
* Incarnation {John1:14} -- not man became God; God became man
* How did people know God was coming?
- Adam & Eve receive prophecy {Gen3:15} -- fulfilled in Gal4:4, Heb2:14, 1John3:8
- Isaiah prophecies virgin birth {Isa7:14} -- fulfilled in Matt1:18-23
- Micah prophecies birthplace {Mic5:2} -- fulfilled in Luke2:1-7
* Was Jesus fully man?
- Rom5:19, Heb2:17, Phil2:8, 1John3:5
- Same as man except sans sin (only way propitiationary sacrifice could work)
- Also see more from prior sermon
* Was Jesus fully God?
- John1:1-18, Col2:9, John10:29-30
- "the Word" from Hebrew meaning a "happening" or event
- "logos" from Greek meaning power of Creator of all; power that places order in universe; root of meaning
- Word/logos became flesh {John1:14}
* Possible responses
- Miss Him completely (v10)
- Reject Him (v11)
- Receive Him (v12)

12.06.2008

that you may have strength to

Caught a glimpse of a program, and watched SCC play a tune. I pointed him out to the sweet things. I wanted again to call their attention to how amazing his testimony has been. I mentioned how there is no possible way for me to be as amazing as SCC has been were I to lose one of my daughters. The wondrous one told me I was making God too small. I responded that it wasn't the case; I just know how small my faith is.

In reality, the grace of God is able to prop up many through times of trial. Certainly, I would be no different. And certainly His grace is sufficient, and He is big enough to pull even the smallest of faith through the fire. But it is healthy to always see oneself as having much, much more to learn and go. Honest faith knows that no matter the progress made, no matter the level of obedience, you are still half a mustard seed, and that face to whom the mirror is held is still an infinite distance away, but hopefully getting closer.

12.05.2008

in whom you delight, behold

Joy and relief expressed through denim...

The CEO of the company I work for was relieved of his duties last week. This was absolutely thrilling news for all employees. He ruled through authority, control, and fear. The clearest example of this was in the prohibition of jeans-wearing at corporate HQ. The head of marketing and a senior finance person both wore jeans to work one day and when the CEO saw them, he remarked rather icily, "Casual work day today, is it? I didn't know that." The implication was that it was bad in his eyes. A few weeks after that when the COO -- the #2 guy in the company -- wore jeans on a Friday, the CEO told the head of HR to tell the COO he wasn't allowed to do that any longer. Yeah, he was that kind of guy. In a meeting today, I was in a conference room with 17 other people, and there were 12 people wearing jeans.

Where am I going with all of this...

I think some people have an unhealthy view of God, where fear is what they associate with Him rather than the love He has for us. To these people, it is difficult for them to know where they stand in His eyes. They're on pins and needles, questioning their worth, their salvation, their faith. And while fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, 1John4:8 and 1Cor13 is clear that the defining characteristic of Him is love. My hope is that these people get to the point where their liberation from their improper perspective of a fearful and dark God allows them to express their joy palpably, freely, personally.

12.03.2008

It is good, my daughter

I recently wrote about being thankful for the strength to be obedient, and for the blessings that often accompany obedience. Two years ago, I was happy with only two children, but driving to a church event, I heard the Lord clearly tell me to have another child. Later at home that night, I was startled (I shouldn't have been) to find out that He'd given my wife the same direction that day. A year ago today, the reward for that obedience was the miracle that is my third sweet thing. And I learned in the instant of a child's cry how incomplete my life had been seconds before.

She's got this sparkle in her smile that looks like it traveled through a light year of sweetness to express itself. She's got this need for intimacy in her that results in moments of warm embraces. She's got this squeak that sing songs as if questioning someone. And if that question is directed to me and wondering how much I love her, well the answer is beyond my ability to express in words.

12.02.2008

and overflowing with gratitude

We've been singing an amazing song in church lately. It's worth your time to listen to it and to ponder the lyrics. Lots of songs praise God for something He has done ("Great is Thy Faithfulness"). Other songs discuss the attributes of God ("Holy, Holy, Holy"). Others discuss our reaction to God ("We Fall Down"). And all these are great things to sing about. But I've seen only a few songs that just simply state the Gospel message. And this song does that, and then steps back, having nothing left to do but say thanks. It's hauntingly clear and beautiful. [Note: Click HERE to listen to it, sixth song down.]

Your blood has washed away my sin. Jesus, thank You.

11.30.2008

crying out with a loud voice to Him

"The Privilege of Prayer"
* Reasons for Prayer
- It brings us into deeper relationship w/ God
- It expresses our trust in God, and helps our trust deepen {Luke11:9-12, Matt21:22, Mark11:24, Jam1:6-8, Jam5:14-15}
- In prayer God allows us to be involved in activities that are eternally significant {Matt6:10}
- In praying we give glory to God {Matt26:36-42}
* Effectiveness of prayer
- It often changes the way God acts {Luke11:9-10, Ex32:11-14, 2Chron7:14}
- Effective prayer is made possible by our mediator, Jesus Christ {1Tim2:5, John16:23, Heb4:14-15, Heb10:19}
- We are to pray in Jesus' name (in His authority & power) {John14:13-14, John16:23-24, Acts3:6, Acts4:7-10, Acts16:18}
- Possibly okay to pray to Christ and Spirit directly {Acts1:24, Acts7:59, 2Cor12:8}
* Important considerations in effective prayer
- Pray according to His will {1John5:14-15, Matt6:10}
- Pray w/ faith {Mark11:24, Heb11:1,6}
- Disobedience is hindrance {Prov15:29, Prov28:9, 1John3:21-22}
- Confession of sin important {Matt6:12, Isa59:2}
- Forgiving others important {Matt6:14-15, Mark11:25}
* Praying for lost
- Praying for lost a passion of Paul {Rom10:1}
- Necessary because Gospel foolishness to world {1Cor1:18, 2:14}
- Pray for God to open their minds {2Cor4:4}
- Pray for Him to work in them so they can believe {John6:44, 65}
- Intercession for lost to be a priority in our lives {Rom10:1, 1Tim2:1-4, Luke18:1}
- Write down names & make commitment to pray for lost {Isa49:16}
- When we pray daily, God gives us courage & boldness {Acts4:31, Ex4:10-12}
- Corporate prayer important {Acts1:14, 4:23-24, 16:25-26, 6:4, 12:5, 12:12}

11.29.2008

Want to know something sad? I have absolutely zero heart for the world. Sure, I have a theoretical desire to see all the world evangelized to, and I'm a firm supporter of missions work, but I lack a HEART for the world -- and isn't that more important than some conceptual belief?

Case in point: I have spent exactly zero minutes reading a single CNN.com or newspaper article about the recent attacks in India. In fact, finding the CNN hyperlink was my first time clicking on a single article. Death toll of 125, injury total north of 300, and I have spent zero time thinking about the situation. I have, however, spent literally hours reading about different potential college football BCS pairings.

Pope JPII used to spend several HOURS a day praying over a globe. He would turn the globe, focus on a single country, and then literally groan in prayer for that country, before moving on to the next. Hours daily. One of us is a real shepherd with a heart that truly reflects the love of God. I'll give you two guesses as to who's the fraud, and it isn't the man in the funny hat.

11.26.2008

your leaders and all the saints



Go read up on the history of the country again, and the biographies of the men who led us early on, and the things they've said and written and tell us we should be banning God from government. And then tell me why I should listen to the emergent pastors telling us to separate culture and politics from God. The day we accept those arguments that God is apolitical is the day we concede defeat to the world and stop fighting the good faith. Separation of church and state, my aunt edna.

And a happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

11.25.2008

in it the toughness of iron

Thanksgiving makes people reflect on all of the great things they have in their lives. In past years I've always felt rather guilty because of the plenty that I have: materially I have more than most; my family is literally perfect; great job; no real stresses or problems in my life. Others around me face far more difficult situations than I do. And in past years, that contrast has made me squirm a little; almost make me wish I had some problems, any problems so that I'd seem more normal.

Now this may border on the arrogant, but here's the thing. I understand that God is behind every detail of every person's life, and the blessings and trials given to people are completely due to His greater plan and His will and His working. I understand that I am nothing and have no part in anything. But I also know that faith is a walk of obedience and that the reward for obedience is blessing (both material and other). And I know that the great things I have in my life -- while all from God -- can be tied back to my obedience.

I am not crowing here. I am not saying that my kids are great because I'm great, or my job is great because I'm so skilled, or what have you. What I'm saying is I don't have to feel guilty about what I have, and I am comfortable giving testimony that when we walk in obedience and have faith in Him, He will be faithful in return. And I am comfortable saying that obedience is HARD. Part of the reason my kids are great is because I pour enormous amounts of energy trying to be a Godly father. Part of the reason my wife is great is because I spend enormous amounts of time being a Godly husband. Part of the reason I enjoy success at work is because I spend sleepless nights and long days being a diligent and Godly worker. Part of the reason I have whatever I have at church is because I strive to be a Godly leader.

And these efforts aren't because I already have great things; rather, the great things are results of the efforts I have put in to be who I'm supposed to be. And it is ENORMOUSLY hard work; faith is not easy. The world paints faith as some blind, happy-go-lucky road of smiles and rainbows. It is hard to fight against culture. It is hard to stand up against evolution. It is hard to not swear, not waste money, not buy into societal beliefs. It is hard to pray daily and stay caught up in daily Bible reading. It is hard to tithe faithfully. And I've had those times in my life when the blessings were few and the walk was rough. Faith is hard. And I know how hard it has been to be faithful.

So this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for everything I have. And I'm thankful the Lord has given me the will to desire obedience and the strength of will to carry out obedience as much as I can. And I don't feel guilty about that, I really don't.

11.24.2008

every obstacle out of the way of

I'm kinda schizophrenic when discussing hymn-singing in churches. On one hand, I think that churches that believe in hymn-only liturgies are ridiculous. Their complete dismissal of contemporary worship songs means they miss out on some amazing works of art whose only purpose is to draw you closer to the throne (translation: Tomlin songs). Their criticisms of modern structure and instrumentation and production belie a stubbornness against change and a clinging to tradition for the sake of tradition rather than intent of heart.

On the other hand, sometimes I completely agree with their criticisms. The U2 experience that accompanies contemporary worship threatens to overshadow the heart. Or the songs focus on something other than God (looking at you "Heart of Worship"). Or the songs are just plain bad (looking at you "Famous One"). And there is this beauty in simplicity of melody and poetic lyric found in many hymns that can't be matched by contemporary arrangement. Sang a simple but great hymn yesterday, and I found myself thinking, "Yeah, maybe hymn-only IS the way to go."

Two days after the purging, and maybe some part of me thinks there's still a lot of clutter to get rid of. Still a lot blocking that walk twixt me and God. And maybe getting down to the bare minimum is the only way to remove those weeds that make that walk so much harder.

11.23.2008

I give thanks, but also

"From Prayer to Praise" {Ps40:1-5}
* Thanksgiving holiday least encumbered by silliness/commercialism
* Psalms contain 20 diff words for praise
- "Hallelujah" most well-known of those 20
- "hallel" = to boast loudly
* Ps40:1
- "patiently" a phantom word
- Actually more like "Waiting, I waited" -- emphasis on "waiting" rather than on "patiently"
- Waiting on YHWH rather than turning to false god (v4)
* Praise:prayer as root:flower
- No Hebrew word for "thank you"
- Thanks done via telling others about what someone has done
* Ps40:2
- King of Creation stooped down to listen to me (what God did in v2)
- Leads immediately to v3, where praise becomes prayer
* Ps40:3
- "new song" = both new music AND new sense of joy in relationship w/ God, new connection
- Result of public praise is others see Lord working, revere Him, and trust in Him
* Sometimes best praises are from long-simmering prayers

11.22.2008

and offer for your cleansing what

I've written before about a holiday tradition. There's actually a new tradition that I'm hoping we continue -- the pre-holiday purge. Spent hours trashing and restacking and reordering. It's literally like the best way I can think of to spend a Saturday. And afterwards, I actually had to wait in line to donate bags of stuff. Apparently, the weekend before Thanksgiving is everyone's tradition to clean & purge.

Unfortunately, I know that most are purging simply to prepare for the coming re-accumulation. The purging is enough to bring joy to my soul; others purge in order to find space, like a man starving himself before the competitive eating event. We are a nation of plenty, even for those who might feel otherwise. I was going to make some connection between purging and confession, but the re-accumulation thing would make the analogy state that we confess in readiness to sin even more.

Wait, that actually makes sense, unfortunately.

11.20.2008

been speaking to them about the Father

Three times today I heard colleagues use the term "come to Jesus meeting" to describe meetings where one person has to set another person straight. I've got conflicting views about the usage of the term. On one hand, it's an appropriate descriptive phrase and not really blasphemous in the sense that they are not saying something untrue about God. The term is used in the context to describe someone being set on the right path, someone getting the truth handed to them. This subtle phrase declares that Christ is the right way/the truth. Can't really argue with that.

On the other hand, obviously the phrase is not used in a religious context. Using Christ as you would use any other adjective is in fact using the Lord's name in vain, no? And the people using the phrase aren't reading into the meaning of the phrase, aren't stopping to consider the comparison they are making. I've written before about the danger of faith that is too casual. And certainly this is one perfect example.

Some would argue that we really need the faith to be clearly demarcated from the larger culture (to be out of the world). Others would argue that we really need faith to be part of the larger culture. I'll rest on the knowledge that God can make use of good and bad for His purposes, and leave it at that.

11.19.2008

and strife and disputes about

Peaceniks point to the SotM and the blessing on makers of peace as some central theme. The diluters of Christ present this all-love Jesus, and claim all hate and strife is from the devil. They forget that God hates His enemies. Eccl3:8 also tells us that there is an appointed time -- "A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace." Not sure where I was headed with this. Except maybe to mention I don't care for peaceniks.

11.17.2008

and He eluded their grasp

Have to comment about yesterday's message. First, I didn't listen to it since I was flying home, so can't vouch for the notes I posted, which were second-hand. Second, my guess is that even had I listened to it live, it wouldn't make anymore sense to me than reading secondhand notes, or reading the various pages I've read today through a google search. Third, still can't decide whether seminary would've been useful or useless in better understanding this topic (part of me believes seminaries are responsible FOR this confusing doctrine).

Most importantly, however, I don't care. I don't care if I don't understand the doctrine of election. I believe it is NOT critical to my faith. Here is what is critical to my faith:
- God is a just and holy and loving God.
- God so loved the world.
- Jesus loves me to the point of death, even death on a cross

People who are unbelievers are lying when they say they aren't sure they can be a Christian because of confusing topics like election. There are deeper underlying reasons why such unbelievers reject God, so they are using a confusing topic to confuse your evangelism. Let them suffer in eternity for their choice is my thinking (not the most grace-filled perspective, I know). People who are believers who don't know how election fits into their faith and therefore struggle have small faiths, plain and simple. They are the same believers who struggle with faithful tithing, who struggle with serving others, who struggle with having a Godly marriage and a Godly family, et al other lukewarm acts.

See, my faith is bigger than mysteries. My faith is bigger than unknowables. My faith is bigger than the scope of my thinking. My faith is bigger than the ego within me that says I must know everything. My faith is bigger than my ability to comprehend. I didn't understand why my father pushed me so hard in school, until I had graduated from the finest college in the land and finally got that he was looking out for my future. See, my faith is in a great big God who loves me even more than an earthly father I didn't understand, and if that Father says something about election that my pea-brain can't grasp, well, I think I'll give Him the benefit of the doubt and say I don't understand, but I'm sure you were thinking of me all the while.

11.16.2008

and the one who picks

"What is Election?"
* "Election is an act of God before creation in which He chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of His sovereign good pleasure." (Wayne Grudem, Christian Beliefs)
- Election there to encourage us
- Election one part of God's sovereign plan for salvation
- Election not same as predestination
- Matt24:31, Acts13:48, Eph1:5-6, 1Thes1:4, Titus1:1, 1Pet1:1
* Misunderstandings about doctrine of election
- Election not fatalistic or mechanistic {Eph1:4}
- Election not based on God's foreknowledge of faith (conditional election) {Rom8:29a, Rom9}
* Objections to doctrine of election
- We are really not free: we're not forced to make choices; God works through our choices no matter what
- Unbelievers never had a chance to believe: Bible never says this (always goes back to rejection of God); Rom9:19-20
- God is unfair: It would be unfair for God to save anyone; do not take His grace & mercy for granted {Rom9:15-16}
- God doesn't want everyone to be saved: Untrue {1Tim23-4, 2Pet3:9}
* How does NT present election?
- As comfort to believers: nothing random, and once chosen, always chosen {Rom8:28-30}
- As reason for praise {Eph1:5-6, 2Thes2:13}
- As encouragement in evangelism {2Tim2:10}

11.14.2008

and the birds of the air have





A falcon (or hawk, whatever) on the balcony railing outside my room. . .

lights in the expanse of the


Same view, same window, different light. . .

11.13.2008

you appear as lights in the world


The view from my hotel room in CA. . .

11.11.2008

are speaking plainly and

Random pieces of conversation I've heard today while killing time at the airport:

Woman: I want a breakfast sandwich of some kind.
Man: Well, there's lots of places in this food court. You could have a donut, or a croissant, or a . . .
Woman: I want a breakfast sandwich.
Man: I think that place has fresh fruit.
Woman: A breakfast sandwich. Bread. Eggs. Meat.
Man: I think I want some coffee. Care for any?
Woman: Did you hear me ask for a breakfast sandwich?!


Woman on cellphone: . . . well, I'm sitting at Newark Airport right now. You won't believe what happened.
Unknown on cellphone: (too quiet to hear)
Woman on cellphone: No. I got arrested getting back into Turkey!
Unknown on cellphone: (too quiet to hear)
Woman on cellphone: I'm going to take care of it today. But Caesar's out of country. What should I do?
Unknown on cellphone: (too quiet to hear)
Woman on cellphone: I think I left everything in the black briefcase...

11.09.2008

in unity, so that the world

Um...what to make of this article about Christian monks fighting during a religious ceremony. Hmmm. How shall I put it? Oh, yeah. You all are a bunch of morons. WWJD? Not fight each other, that's for sure. Nice witness, luke.

the world has been crucified to me

"The Cross and the Atonement"
* What is Atonement?
- Definition: reconciliation; restoration of friendly relations; amends between offended party and offender
- Rom3:10-12, Rom3:23 -- God offended, we offenders
* Atonement in OT
- Christ's death central theme of OT and NT
- Christ's death the death of death
- Sacrificial system of OT developed by God as (imperfect) means to appease His wrath
- Lev17:11, Heb9:22 -- only blood sacrifice an atonement for sin against God
* The Cross
- Penal substitution
- Christ is our substitute; Christ has paid the penalty for our sin
- Isa53:3-12
- Jesus perfect fulfillment of prophecy
- God can't forgive everyone sans penalty because it against His nature (justice)
* How cross changes us
- Once enslaved, now free
- Once alienated, now intimate fellowship w/ God
- Once condemned, now pardoned
- Once under His wrath, now He is satisfied
- Once guilty, now forgiven
* What to do with atonement
- God judges all sin: I must let my conscience agree
- My sins merit ultimate penal suffering: I must admit nothing can blot them out
- Only real hope I have in front of holy God is Christ's death
- My faith in Christ is a gift
- Christ's death is the surest declaration of love ever given
- Christ's death constrains me to: trust, worship, serve, love

11.08.2008

I suffered greatly in a dream because of

I had a dream last night, the kind where you wake up wondering why your emotions feel so real after something obviously so fake. I dreamed I lost a son I've never seen or held. Is it possible to want something unreal? To chase after phantoms? To long for illusions? Two realities compete for our attention: the real world reality, and the reality you've nurtured in your mind, one filled with better outcomes and happier ends. And when your dream-mind weaves the two like a fine braid, your heart just goes along for the ride, unsure why fantasy hurts so much like reality.

11.06.2008

what will occur at the final period

The clip below has been making the rounds among good believers reminding us that the Lord is sovereign, especially during elections. I've wondered before whether or not Obama is the antichrist (for the record, I don't believe he is). But part of me sorta hopes he is. So that when JDay appears soon and we appear behind the pearly gates, I can turn to the bad believers and say, "Just wanted to thank you for helping to bring about the end of days."

11.03.2008

those who constantly record unjust decisions

I'm so glad elections only come every four years. That means I only have to get angry at Christians sporadically. [Note: Untrue. Christians generally anger me at least once a day.] Four years ago, I lamented the bride's voting record, and predicted certain defeat. Was glad for the victory.

Tonight's predicament is far more dire. At least that was a coin toss four years ago. This is going to be a massacre. And tomorrow all the people who are Democrats first and Christians second will jump for joy. Please don't try and rationalize it, goats. Everyone makes bad decisions. Some of us just try not to do it on election day.

11.02.2008

am who I am

"Who is Jesus?"
* Matt16:13-17: Doesn't matter what others say about who Christ is -- what do you say?
* Jesus: Fully God (Deity of Christ)
- Attributes (omniscient, omnipresent, eternal, etc)
- Works (gives eternal life, resurrection, forgives sin, will judge, etc)
- Names (Son of God, YHWH, King of Kings, etc)
- Scripture {Col2:9, Luke2:11}
- Jesus' claims {Mark14:61-64, John8:58-59, John10:30-33}
* Jesus Seminar evil and run by future denizens of a fiery lake (see also: THIS, THIS, and THIS )



*Jesus: Fully man (Humanity of Christ)
- Human birth {Matt1:18}
- Human body (grew physically, grew tired, was hungry, was thirsty, etc.)
- Characteristics (had a family, obeyed parents, loved His friends, worked as a carpenter, wept, etc.)
- 100% human except SANS SIN {2Cor5:21, Heb4:15}
* Why important for Jesus to be human?
- To be perfect representative of obedience {Rom5:19}
- To be perfect substitution/propitiation {Heb2:17}
- To be example in life {1John2:6}
* Jesus: Fully God & Fully Man (Hypostatic Union)
- Council of Chalcedon
- Phil2:5-8: Christ stripped of status not divinity
- Most amazing miracle: Almighty God becomes human for our sake

10.31.2008

of the whole earth surprised

All the other believer sites are posting about Halloween today. If you're expecting that, go back and read an OLD POST to hear my thoughts on the matter. My last word on the subject: I'll come to a Harvest Carnival when you rename it a Halloween party like it really is. You ain't foolin' me, and I don't truck no fancy euphemisms.

All of that a digression to the real subject at hand: I love that God loves the unexpected.

From His perspective, nothing is unexpected, obviously -- one of the many benefits of being omniscient (another benefit is not having to worry about what will happen at the end of a tense sporting event). But because we can't see the bigger picture, some of the details pop up into our faces and we're left wondering where did that come from? And I think in moments like that, He smiles and then watches to see how we react, and watches to see whether or not we are starting to get it, and watches to see whether or not our focus starts becoming less myopic, and watches to see that moment, that wonderful moment when realization dawns upon our small minds and we see, we see, we really see.

10.30.2008

but by my Spirit saith the Lord

The video below combines my favorite (Christ) with one of my favorites (Star Wars). Awesome.

10.28.2008

being rescued from the hand of our enemies

This story is making headlines, and well it should. It's not often that human beings display such random acts of kindness to complete strangers. There is something amazing about reaching out to help someone when they are at their lowest, and for no other reason than the selfless desire to help.

Friend, that act of kindness worth $30K pales into comparison to what Jesus Christ did for you.

Do you know that you are headed for a fate worse than homelessness? The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and that the wages of sin is death, eternal death. You are headed for lakes made of fire and unending darkness and a restlessness borne of a wandering soul separate from the God that created it.

But the Bible also says that when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. That when we were at our lowest in the depths of the miry clay, Christ reached out to us with nail-pierced hands. That when we needed selflessness and a home for our weary souls, that a loving Savior bore the sin of the world on His flayed back and said, "This? All this? For you." And unlike fishing trips for repayment, the Bible says that salvation is the free gift of God.

Looking for that rescue? Looking for a place your soul can call home? Eternity is yours, if you would but ask Jesus Christ into your life this very day. Going once, going twice...

10.27.2008

that its deeds are evil

The clip below shows Marc Driscoll from Mars Hill critiquing the antichrist Osteen. At the 1:47 mark, Driscoll plays a clip with Osteen delivering his usual brand of vile drivel. You might want to skip ahead to the 5:17 mark so you don't have to throw up in your mouth. Mark is right about everything except in the beginning when he chooses to refrain from saying bad things about Osteen the person (rather than Osteen's message). Mark, it isn't a sin when you call a spade a spade and the devil the devil. Calling someone evil and vile and disgusting when it is truth is appropriate.

10.26.2008

I will build My church

A few excerpts from my thing this morning on Catholics:

There is an extremely good chance that you know someone or lots of people who claim to be Catholic. So of all of the churches that teach bad theology, it is important you understand what the Catholic Church teaches and why it is wrong because there are so many Catholics around. There are over 6 billion people in the world, of which there are an estimated 1 billion people who practice Roman Catholicism. So 1 in 6 people in the entire world believe some of the things you and I are going to be discussing. You need to know what’s right and what’s wrong and why it’s wrong.

I spent the first ten years of my faith attending Catholic Churches. I’m going to be saying some critical things about Catholics; but don’t get me wrong; I also love that part of my faith.

Going to a Catholic Church anywhere in the country is like going to a McDonald’s anywhere in the country – you know what you’re going to get; it’s all the same.

Now the intent of the catechism is appropriate. The very first words of the catechism are a direct quote from John 17:3 “Father . . . this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” So the purpose is instruction; but unfortunately, it’s not carried out successfully.

Are Catholics Christian, and are they saved? And unfortunately, there is no easy answer. But first, the title “Christian” is sort of meaningless. A Christian is someone who believes in Christ. It is far more important to be a follower of Jesus, someone who is actively pursuing what it means to live a life Jesus wants you to live, than to simply say “Yeah, I believe in Jesus.” So saying Catholics are or are not Christians is an irrelevant question.

The larger question is "Are Catholics saved?" That simply is an impossible question to answer. The truth is, the way Catholicism is set up with all of these rituals and belief statements and good works, it is hard to determine whether someone believes they are doing the right things so they can go to Heaven, or whether they have entrusted their salvation through faith in Christ. Ultimately, the only way to get to Heaven is by having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; believing that He died for your sins, and by His free gift that you accept, you become a child of God. Anything on top of that, is unnecessary false doctrine. So can a Catholic believe in the truth of Christ and accept the gospel message? Yes. Lutherans believe a number of things very similar to Catholics, and we don’t question whether or not Lutherans go to Heaven. But at the end of the day, only God knows the heart of a believer and it’s really a time-wasting exercise to try to guess at whether or not your Catholic friend is actually saved.

10.25.2008

ourselves in the same spirit

Tomorrow morning, I get to be in front of the young ones to discuss the bad theology of the Catholic Church. Been an interesting few days studying the Catechism, reminding me of those days two decades before trying to wade through language to get to God. I can't tell if it's nostalgia or truth that is awakening all of the reasons I became a Catholic in the first place. I mean, you read something like the excerpt from the Catechism below and how are you not drawn closer to the faith?

“The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to Himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.”

There are other great lines throughout the Catechism, but I'm more than fully convinced that Prots who demonize Catholics will have such a rude awakening in the hereafter. Might want to swallow that pride, brother, when you see that Cath in his mansion next door to you. Fortunate for you, there's no spite in eternity.

10.24.2008

the blessing and the curse so choose life

I've been critical of Randy Alcorn in the past. I think his book on eternal rewards is ridiculous. I think his book on Heaven might be even more ridiculous, and I'm man enough to repeat both of these statements. I also skimmed one of his fiction books once and found the prose not worth purchasing. So I am not a Randy Alcorn fan to say the least.

But I do respect his heart for the things of God. And his most recent post on abortion and the upcoming presidency is one of the single greatest treatises on being pro-life and the importance of being a single-issue candidate I have ever read. Please click HERE and read it. Then please send it to all your friends. Then please vote with your faith first, and your personal politics second. [Note: Another article you might want to read on being a single-issue candidate can be found HERE.]

10.23.2008

I suffered greatly in a dream because of

This article raises an interesting question.

The situation: Holmgren decided that this was his final year as coach of the Seahawks, ostensibly to spend more time with his family (not at all because he foresaw an aging team that was bound to decline in performance...). He PROMISED his wife that 2009 would be an off-year: no coaching another team, no television work, nothing.

The temptation: The 49ers coaching position opens up. Holmgren grew up in the Bay Area, was an assistant coach for the 49ers for several years, and worked closely with the new 49ers GM. Most importantly, growing up his DREAM JOB was one day coaching the 49ers.

The dilemma: Does he break his promise to his wife so that he can fulfill a lifelong dream? Should his wife Kathy allow him to break his promise so that he can pursue a dream?

On the one hand, this could be the Lord testing Holmgren's integrity. The Lord wants us to honor our promises. The Lord wants him (the husband) to give up his ambitions and dreams for his wife -- the self-sacrifice asked of husbands in Eph5. The Lord wants him to be a role model for resting, delaying any return to work. The Lord wants him to finally spend a Sunday in the fall in church rather than on the sidelines.

On the other hand, the Lord sometimes opens doors up for us when we least expect it. The Lord wants to see if Holmgren is listening to His leading. The Lord wants him to perhaps choose His will over Holmgren's promise. Perhaps Holmgren's wife had asked for a change -- believing it meant a change in time spent at work -- and the Lord's answer to that prayer was a change in location instead of time spent. The Lord might be testing both of their abilities to submit their desires to Him.

Answer: I don't care. I hate the 49ers, and I'm mad at the Hawks.

10.20.2008

great is the glory of the LORD

The clips below show Chris Tomlin and his new modern hymn "Praise the Father, Praise the Son". It's a beautiful piece of music. The first clip shows him discussing how the song came about -- organically, completely moved by the Spirit of God. The second clip shows Chris performing the song live in the studio of the local Christian radio station (note to self: I guess they don't simply use the canned recordings of artists in other studios; apparently the artists really are live in the studio).

The amazing thing about Chris in the second clip is how much he loves worshiping through song. He literally has sung the song hundreds of times (in studio for the album, in rehearsals, in radio stations across the country, etc.), and yet he can't keep his eyes open as he sings, so overcome by the presence is he. Model for all of us that, even in routine, when worship is pure, everything is fresh before Him.



10.19.2008

in the sons of disobedience

"The Fall of Man" {Gen3}
* Disease is real -- so is sin; humans carry both in them naturally
* Without Gen3, rest of Bible almost makes no sense
- Rest of Bible about redemption
- Gen3 about fall
* In the fall, we learn 4 relevant truths
* We learn how subtle temptation can be (v1-5)
- Crafty Tempter (v1)
- Tempter = Satan {Rev12}
- We see fallen serpent; no idea what original serpent like
* Deceptive temptation (v1-5)
- Deceptive by question asked (v1)
- Deceptive by person addressed (v1)
- Deceptive by improper response (v2-3)
- Deceptive by denial of His Word (v4-5)
* We learn steps to sin (v6)
- Transgression by Eve {1Tim2:14}
- Saw, delight to eyes {1John2:16-17}, desirable, sin
- Other examples of pattern Josh7, 2Sam11, Matt4, Luke 4
- Sin by Adam {Rom5}
- Word "with" in v6 stresses fellowship & companionship
- Adam not deceived
* We learn effects of sin
- On humanity: sense of shame {v7, Ps104:1-2}, separated from God (v8-13), separated from Garden (v22-24)
- On serpent (v14-15)
- On woman (v16)
- On man (v17-20)
* We learn God's forgiveness after fall
- Immediate salvation (v21): first sacrifice to atone
- Ultimate salvation promised (v15): also from sacrifice
- Micah7:19, Ps103:12
* Adam & Christ
- Adam (one man) sinned (one act) = condemnation & death (one result)
- Christ (one Man) died in our place (one act) = salvation & eternal life (one result)

10.18.2008

makes no difference to me

Posted before about social networks. One benefit of them is the ability to connect with long-lost friends and acquaintances, some from (depending on your age) a decade or more ago. It is often quite striking to see the changes that people have undergone: that shy one now some social butterfly; that weird one now confident and some model of normality; that little girl now all grown up.

You know what is even more striking than the ones that have undergone change? The ones that haven't.

If you know me at all, you know that I despise change. I would prefer the world to remain within the framework my memories have erected; within the routines my compulsions have formulated. I prefer the status quo. But when I am confronted with that stasis, I am just as discombobulated as I would have been with massive change. While most of me prefers not to change, the part of me that understands how much I have transformed over time is shocked by those that keep their colors. I assumed that the passage of time made change inevitable. Turns out, we do have some choice in the matter.

10.17.2008

so is the laughter of the fool

Walking through downtown Manhattan the other day, and a sign on a church caught my eye. Instead of the usual catchy sermon title or wry quip, it had an actual quote from Voltaire (a noted atheist) that read "God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh." For an atheist, Voltaire sure captures a fundamental issue between man and God. The quote makes the point that, like a cutting edge performer, God is doing things we aren't quite sure we should be enjoying.

We don't get God.

Unbelievers obviously don't get God. Don't get why there is suffering in the world. Don't get why one religion is the chosen path to life and not another. Don't get why science and faith don't always get along. But believers don't get God either. Don't get why prayers don't get answered the way they want them to. Don't get why other believers still mistreat each other. Don't get why when they're trying to be good, all these trials still come their way. Don't get the whole walking in trust and walking in obedience thing.

But whether or not we get God doesn't take away from who He is, and what He is doing. Sure, like unbelievers, we can simply pick up our coats and leave the club and pretend we were never there, and pretend the show doesn't exist, and choose ignorance. Or we can shut the heck up, listen more closely, and enjoy the experience, knowing we are witnessing something amazing.

10.15.2008

did not love their life even when faced with death

This story should be headlining MSM rather than being a side story. But don't forget: MSM hates believers. In any case, interesting that believers are fleeing rather than staying and resisting conversion to the point of death, which begs the question: which is the preferable choice -- flight or martyrdom?

On the one hand, living to see another day makes the point that conversion is not an option. Giving up one's home and career and friends et al is no different than giving up one's physical life, no? And living to see another day means ministries and witnessing and testifying can all continue. Why choose automatic death when life is still an option?

On the other hand, one's worldly life is NOT the same thing as one's physical life. Standing to the end and making the clear statement that you are greater than death because Christ is greater than death is the boldest statement one can make. The testimony of a believer who says to oppressors that "You cannot hurt me" is the greatest testimony one can make. As a Star Wars example, Obi-Wan tells Vader "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine." Clinging to life here on earth makes the statement that life here is so very important, when Christ makes it clear that life here is temporal and the only life we should be focusing on is the eternal one.

Not criticizing those who are fleeing; ten to one I'd make the same choice in that position. But if I weren't such a coward, I'd aspire to be the kind of believer strong enough to make the better choice and pick immediate eternity over all else.

10.13.2008

within and cannot relax

Out of town this weekend visiting friends. Sunday morning, went to their newly-chosen home church. It's been quite a while since I've visited another service (outside of occasional visits to one of my faves, natch). A man went up on stage wearing jeans and a casual shirt to give announcements. He then stayed up on stage and began teaching. When I asked my friend who that was, he responded by telling me that was the senior pastor. Casual it is, I thought to myself. Less than an hour later, service was finished and we were done.

[Less than an hour? At my old church in NJ, an hour was the minimum length of the sermon, not the length of the service. But that's altogether another rant. I'm also not going to discuss a senior pastor wearing jeans on stage.]

There are two viewpoints on how extremely laid-back this service was. On the one hand, from their perspective, they want people to be comfortable at church. For too long, Sunday morning church meant starchy clothes and neckties and formalities -- a life altogether different from the rest of the week. Making a church service feel more casual allows unbelievers and newcomers to feel welcome. People can come as they are. Casual churches also allow people to feel like faith is not some disconnected, separate experience. Faith is as casual as the rest of their lives, allowing faith to dwell throughout the rest of the week and not just compartmentalized to a Sunday morning.

But this is also the con. Casual faith that dwells with the rest of their casual week means that believers can treat their faith as casually as they do the rest of the things in their lives: they can take it or leave it. They don't need to take it seriously. Why, faith is no different than ordering pizza for dinner. If you don't feel like it, don't do it. That relationship with Christ? No different than your relationship with your coworkers at work; you're casual acquaintances, nothing too serious. The problem with faith is not that it's taken too seriously; when you're discussing a relationship with the Creator of the universe, frankly, you can't take faith seriously enough.

There's always a fine line between meeting the needs of the people, and catering to them in a way that diminishes what you are seeking to provide the people. Methinks the casual approach is more the latter than the former. But I'm willing to be thought wrong on this. I'm actually not wrong, but you can think what you want.

10.12.2008

stood and was praying this to

[Note: Not from the regular flock, but visiting another place.]

"How to Pray for Those Around You" {Phil1:1-11}
* Active faith seeks and prays for growth; responding faith prays through lists
* Be grateful for the good in people
- Remember the best; forget the rest
* Practice positive praying for people
- Change a relationship by thanking God in prayer for people
* Be patient w/ other people's progress
- Remember that God is not finished w/ people
* Love people from the heart, not the head
- Be filled w/ God's love for people
* Pray for people's spiritual growth & walk
- That they will grow in love
- That they will make good choices
- That they will do the right thing
- That they will live for God's glory

10.10.2008

did not burden you myself

Even with yesterday's post, more to say about 2Sam24. Note that two of David's punishments affected people other than David (7 yrs of famine, 3 days of pestilence). As a leader of men, David's potential consequences were to the flocks in his charge. We hate to believe that one person's mistake can cause another one harm, but that's no different than real life, right? The driver who's chosen to stay on the road despite one too many drinks lives with the knowledge that he ended a life. The boss who cheats the financial system bankrupts his company costing thousands their jobs. Our actions have clear reactions that affect those around us.

The sad thing is that this passage teaches me that my shepherd's heart has much growing to do since I'd quite easily prefer others' suffering to my own. Picking between a consequence that affects my whole church on a surface level against another that affects only me but severely, and I have no doubt I'd choose the former. A true shepherd takes on all the beating for his sheep, no?

My church is going through some financial hardships. Question: perhaps one of us did something improper to lead to this situation. Possibility? Sure. I should care more than I do? Most definitely. Something wrong with my heart? No question.

10.09.2008

at a loss to know of which one

Something in 2Sam24 has been stuck in my head this week, and that is the Lord giving David his choice of punishment. After the mistake of trusting in the census rather than in God, David is presented three options: 7 yrs of famine, 3 months of being pursued by enemies, or 3 days of pestilence. They decrease in longevity of suffering, but increase in magnitude and severity. Myself, I go with the shorter duration of stronger pain just to get it over with. David instead shows his heart's submission by letting God do the choosing and accepting whatever fate might befall him.

Can't decide if I wish it were like that now, being given the choice of punishments after a mistake. On one hand, you'll know what to expect. On the other hand, all doubt is removed that you are the cause of certain misery. When I was a kid one time, my dad gave me the choice of picking which stick I'd be hit with. That choice didn't lessen the subsequent pain. Methinks the Lord's punishment is no different, and David's resignation to the consequence the best route.

10.08.2008

before them, and picked

Trying to get my head around the concept of predestination/election. The lead shepherd of my flock will be addressing the issue in a month, so looking forward to that. Not going to discuss all of the pros and cons of this theological concept, but I'm coming around to the commonly-accepted position that believers are somehow pre-ordained or at the very least predicted.

Leave it to America's best pastor to put the concept into something more tolerable. The first clip shows him making very good points about the justice of God in relation to election. The second clip explains why Piper actually embraces the concept of election. I swear, there's a forty percent chance Piper could convince me that Biblically, the world is flat.



10.07.2008

the powers that are in

More studies need to be done on the differences in strength of will between people, methinks. The difference between me being institutionalized or non-functional due to my OCD and me living mostly normally, for example, is to me, simply a matter of my strength of will -- I choose not to let my problem hold me back. Some would say it's because I don't actually have the full-blown form of the problem (else I couldn't will myself out of it), and while that's partially true, I think that diminishes the role of will.

Some strength of will separates someone who allows themselves to get out of shape from someone who finishes triathlons. Some strength of will separates someone who dies in the wilderness after getting injured from someone who uses a swiss army knife to cut off his own arm to survive. Some strength of will separates someone who keeps his vices in moderation from someone who loses everything because of those same vices. And ultimately some strength of will separates someone who follows Christ faithfully from another believer who remains lukewarm.

You might use different terms to describe the self-effort in each of the examples above. The triathlete has self-discipline. The hiker has a survival instinct. The moderationist has self-control. And the believer has great faith. Tomato, to-mah-to. Call it what you want, but something is in you that is the difference between worthless slave and faithful servant, and I want to know what it is.

10.06.2008

had set his heart to study

I'm not one for seeing the world in shades of gray; it's black or it's not, case closed. So my opinions tend to be fairly direct. My black-and-white belief on seminary is that it's a waste of time. Let's just say that coloring has been bleeding a little recently.

My church is going through a doctrine series, so it's been interesting to hear the fundamentals taught from the perspective of long-established schools of thought. Secondly, prepping for a small group session last night on whether or not one can lose one's salvation, and I would've been overwhelmed without being able to study through long-argued lines of beliefs. Thirdly, responding to a friend's inquiries over the nature of our beliefs, and discussing seminary terms has forced me to counter with other seminary terms.

I stand by my belief that spending one's time poring over tomes about man-created belief systems is less useful than spending one's time poring over the only Book that matters. And I stand by my belief that some of the things learned in seminary interact with and affect faith very little; that if it doesn't enhance shepherding, it's not a useful piece of knowledge. However, I'll man up and take back that whole "waste of time" bit. Maybe "mostly a waste of time".

10.05.2008

three, and each in turn, and one

"What is God like?"
* When you deny the inspiration of Scripture, you can make God whatever you want
* Important to know who God is (not what you think He is or want Him to be) {Dan11:32b}
* Attributes of God
- Eternal {Gen21:33; Ps90:2} -- God is free from the limitations of time
- Independent {Isa40:13-14; Acts17:24-25}
- Unchangeable {Num23:19; Mal3:6; Jam1:17} -- God is unchangeable in His being, attributes, purposes, and promises
- Holy {Ps99:9; Isa6:3; Lev19:2; 1Pet1:15-16}
- Righteous & just {Gen18:25; Acts17:31)
- Love {Eph2:4-5; 1John4:8}
- Omniscient {1John3:20} -- God knows all things, both actual and possible
- Omnipresent {Ps139:7-12}
- Sovereign {Eph1:11; Rev19:6}
- Truth, Wisdom, Goodness, Grace, et al
* Tri-unity of God: Eternally existent in three distinct persons, each fully God, yet one God
- Adoptionism wrong (i.e. Christ given powers after baptism)
- Modalism wrong (only one person in three different forms)
- Arianism wrong (denies deity of Son & Spirit)
- JW wrong
- The Shack is blasphemous (See also HERE and HERE)
* OT Intimations {Gen1:1, 26; Gen22:11-16; Isa6:8}
* NT Confirmation
- Father is God {John6:27; Eph4:6}
- Jesus is God {Heb1:8}
- Spirit is God {Acts5:3-4}
* Distinct roles of the Trinity
- Distinction in ways they relate to each other and to Creation {Gen1:2; John1:3}
- Ordinarily we direct prayers to the Father (through His Son, by His Spirit)
- Submission w/o inferiority {1Cor11:3}

10.03.2008

with you now and to change

OK, check out this analogy. Imagine you're someone who likes to drive: to the store, to school, to your job, to the country fair, wherever. Now imagine the price of gas goes up from where it is today to $20/gal. How ridiculous would it be to continue driving as much as you used to drive, but to spend all your time griping about the price of gas? Wouldn't the situation require you to change your behavior to some degree?

Believers who call themselves such without the 180 are like this stubborn driver. They value their own likes too much to consider altering their lifestyles. Which is why they church-hop -- they're looking for a church that won't preach the truth against their worldly ways; it's like driving around town looking for the cheapest gas station so you can still cruise. What they don't realize is that perhaps the 180-change is meant for their benefit. That massive gas tax that hiked the price to $20 was not meant to infringe upon your life; it was meant to reduce the rate of highway deaths.

I think I'm beating this comparison to death. Leave me alone. I didn't say I was a world champion analogist.

10.02.2008

then the whole body of them

Been thinking about churches recently as I ponder actions to serve the greater whole that will negatively affect smaller portions of that whole. Sometimes serving the people in a church as a singular "church" may look like we're not serving the people as individuals, and it's a tricky line to walk. I think believers need to think differently about their service to a church. Believers think their ministries exist so that they can exercise their gifts and skills and talents. But they have that all wrong. Their gifts and skills and talents exist so that they can serve God by serving others.

I better understand now why the NT uses so many oneanothers throughout the epistles. It's because it's too easy for us as individuals to focus only on our ministry at the expense of other areas of the church. That's why during budget season individual ministries fight for more money for their own work not caring that budgets are zero-sum games, and that every dollar added to their budget must de facto come at the expense of another ministry that needs that every dollar. That's why ministries are often territorial about their reserved rooms, not caring that a situation might arise where moving a ministry for just one night is not the end of the world.

I also better understand now why the herding of sheep analogy is used for the steering of a flock. But for the sake of holding my tongue, I won't point out the obvious shortcomings of those individual sheep who don't see the larger flock beyond their selfish needs. Whoops. There goes the holding of the tongue.

10.01.2008

will close your eyes

It's 1:30 in the morning, and I'm not sleeping. I've had a total of 75 minutes of sleep tonight. I've been struggling this month in taking up the Lord's offer of rest. Whenever others hear of my constant struggle for sleep, they always wonder whether or not I've considered taking sedatives to knock myself out. Despite a decade-and-a-half-long battle with insomnia, I've yet to down a single capsule for assistance. It's not that I don't believe in the power of pharmaceuticals. I take advils at least once a week for headaches of various origins. But drugging yourself for the alleviation of pain seems to me radically different from drugging yourself because your brain is working overtime.

I've also come to peace with my own thorn in the flesh. I don't take lightly that perhaps this is one of my crosses to bear. I believe very strongly that the Lord gives me rest when He wants me to rest, and if I'm wide awake at a ridiculous hour of the morning, it's because He wants that to be so. And on many occasions when I'm wrestling with Him at those hours, I've keenly been aware of His presence. Perhaps He misses me, and He's sorry He's keeping me up and all that, but don't I want to hang out for a bit? Stated that way, not so much of a burden, is it?

9.30.2008

and be converted and I heal them

Recently, I listed two (more) things I want to do before I die: one was attend Comic-Con; the other was to attend a Hillsong worship service. I'm adding another one. I need to attend Bethlehem Baptist to listen to the best pastor in America preach. I've posted videos of John Piper many times before. The one below shows him reminding all wanna-be evangelists that they can do nothing; that God does the eye-opening; that they merely tell the story then get out of the way.

9.29.2008

deliberating together about this

The creators of a good movie put another movie into the theaters this weekend, and lo and behold, they placed fourth on the weekend box office list. Probably the biggest surprise since when the Passion cleaned up a few years ago. To put this into perspective, the new Batman flick would have to make 2.5 BILLION dollars to show the same kind of profit level compared to film production costs. Apparently church groups around the country are organizing trips to fill theaters, much like they did for Passion.

So riddle me this, Christian, you'll go en masse to see a movie, but you can't agree on whether or not dancing is a sin? You can all hop on a bus to the local drive-in, but you won't send out large teams to do missions work overseas? You can agree on what to do on a Saturday night as a church group, but a commitment to small groups? No, that's out of the picture.

Nice work, brethren. So glad you're okay with filling the coffers of gigantic corporate theater chains in a spirit of unity, but everything else related to unity is beyond your reach. Maybe they should rewrite the lyrics to that song. And they'll know we are Christians by our ticket stubs...

9.28.2008

has not the Scripture said

"The Bible: God-breathed"
* Doctrine = "The teaching/instruction" {Titus2:1}
* Why study doctrine?
- To be more mature {Col2:6-7; Heb6:1}
- To not be led astray {Eph4:13-14}
- To have better judgment {Heb5:11-14}
* What is revelation?
- Disclosure of God's self & message to mankind
- General revelation {Ps19; Rom1:19-21}
- Special revelation {2Tim3:16; Heb1:1-2}
- Living Word = Christ; Written Word = Bible
- Sufficiency of Scripture -- everything we need to know, believe, & live as believers in Word
- Don't add to Scripture
- Nothing is sin unless explicit or implied in Word
* Plenary = "all of them"
* Proofs of Inspiration
- 1Tim3:16
- 2Pet1:21
- Commands to write down His Word {Ex17:14}
- Use of quotation {Matt15:4}
- Jesus' use of Scripture {Matt5:17-18; John10:35}
- NT assertions {1Tim5:18; 2Pet3:16}
- Writers' claims {1Cor2:13; 1Pet1:11-12}
- Historical manuscript sources
- Fulfilled prophecy