to its highest peak

"A Tale of Two Mountains" {Heb12:18-29}
* Context
- Heb Christians under persecution; some considering returning to Judaism
- Paul urges instead to push forward & focus on Christ
- Gal3:19
* Review
- Jesus is better
- Grace (Zion) better than the Law (Sinai)
* How to approach God {Heb12:18-24}
* Sinai: mountain of fear (v18-21)
- Ex19
- Sinai untouchable; boundary made to protect folks from God's judgment
- Closed to all -- none can meet His standards
* Zion: mountain of faith (v22-24)
- Zion represents Heaven {Heb11:10}
- Joyful assembly {Rev5} v gathering of fear & trembling
- Boundary broken -- mediated by Christ
- Open to all -- paid by Christ's death
* How to respond to God {Heb12:25-29}
* Don't ignore Him (v25-27)
- God's Word can be received or rejected; submission v resistance
- God still speaking (v25)
- Hag2:6 -- judgment for those who ignore Him
* Don't forget to be grateful (v28-29)
- Gratefulness shown in our reverence & awe
- Consequences for not being grateful
- God still a consuming fire -- His nature did not change
* Application
* Believers
- "Grace not an excuse to take Him less seriously"
- Disobedience will result in loss of blessings & His discipline
- "He knows if you're just going through the motions"
- "How significant is God in your life today?"
* Unbelievers
- Works/good deeds will fail you in the end
- Only relationship w/ Jesus will show you access to God


do you listen to

Take a look at THIS. If you have no idea what you're looking at, it's because you don't play video games, and you haven't walked by a Best Buy recently. Because of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, gamers get to live their deepest fantasies of being musically talented; it is an enormously popular genre of leisure. And obviously, since some believers hold that everything with a hard drum beat is from the devil, this genre of gameplay is banned from some Christian households.

Well, no more.

Let me go ahead and make some of the cynical arguments you're already formulating in that narrow head of yours. Christian rock music is musically awful and trite and blah blah blah. Take your pretentions to the nearest indie rock festival and share them with the haters of rap and soft rock and classical music, and all the other judges of taste. Sorry we aren't all so brilliantly discerning like you.

Or Christians shouldn't be imitating the larger culture, but separating from it. When Christian-themed art dominated the Renaissance ergo dominating the overlying culture, was that such a bad time? Sorry you don't want Christianity to pervade and subvert culture; we can't always run away from the present by heading toward eternity.

Or Christian rock music really is evil and oft-times unBiblical. Got it, got it. Drums and electric guitars don't belong in worship. Go tell that to Hillsong United, please. I'm concerned for their love of the Lord. Sorry our praise is too loud for you.

Or tobyMac is awful and shouldn't be included in the game. I see your point. Really, he's terrible. That you can fairly judge.


and the Lamb will overcome them

Wondrous one posed the question whether God ever gives us more than we can bear. The easy answer passed around among believers is that no, God never gives us more than we can bear. Unfortunately, that's a terrible misunderstanding of 1Cor10:12-14. That verse doesn't state that God won't give you more than you can handle -- only that He shields you from temptations that He feels are more than your capability of handling. Temptation, not trial.

Of course the Lord gives you more than you can bear. The point is to make you lose you, and you gain Christ. That's the whole point of 2Cor12:9-10. In your weaknesses, He can be your strength. Christians have deluded themselves into believing God isn't going to send them through the flames. That didn't hold true for Shad and the other two. But He didn't send them through flames alone.

My grace is sufficient for you.


lives in me; and the life

And because it's been a few days since a Hillsong clip, here are two songs I find kinda catchy. Kinda.


is not concerned about the sheep

A few weeks ago, I took the plunge and joined a fairly popular social network. The wondrous one refuses to take the same plunge. As she put it yesterday, social networks are really a form of voyeurism. Do we really need to know when a casual acquaintance is doing their laundry? When someone is out shopping and had a craving for a Pepsi? When someone posts a picture of a cat they saw on the street?

My counter question is where is the line between genuine concern for the details of the lives of others, and completely irrelevant detail? Is there that big a difference between knowing someone found a pretty dress in a store and someone feeling lonely? Not trying to parse the issue along unreasonable lines of reasoning; trying to figure out which part of me is lacking in that in lots of cases, the details deemed relevant are no more relevant to me than the lesser details.


found favor in the eyes of

Of anyone you might know or ever meet, I'm telling you I hate the health & wealth gospel as much as anyone. I think Osteen is a car salesman who has memorized Bible verses, and if he's not the antichrist, he's certainly the antichrist's best man. This post describes an incident from one of Osteen's own books where he claims "the favor of God" as an explanation for his receiving some blessing at an airport.

Not writing this to spit on Osteen some more (I'll save that for another day); I'm writing this as I think about the concept of the favor of God. Prayed for a hotel room situation to resolve itself this past week, and it did in abundance. Prayed for a made short flight connection, and had neighboring gates and time enough for a quick snack before boarding. Prayed for an end to a storm, and for a clear rush hour highway, and received both. The wondrous one and I smiled at our blessed day, and praised the Lord.

That's the difference twixt faith and the H&W. The H&W believes faithfulness leads to good fortune -- that the Lord blesses you because you're faithful and loved. Real faith realizes that all things -- good and bad -- come about due to the Lord's will, and praise should be raised to Him for both things. You have nothing to do with anything.

There's certainly more to dig into regarding God favoring people over others (see mother of God, Mary). And some way to differentiate between answered prayer and favor (I think my good fortunes all fall under the former). I'll head to bed instead and count my blessings.


remembered how Jesus had made

This is a great clip showing McCain discussing his faith:

McCain has been criticized by Dobson's mob and isn't getting a tenth of the love from Evangelicals that Huckabee got. I've been saying for some time that you don't separate faith from politics since politics dictate so much of what can affect faith. But sometimes when the Christian right flexes its narrow-minded muscles, I almost have to reconsider.

Sorry McCain doesn't walk the walk as publicly as Warren does, or speak Christianese the way Huckabee does. That doesn't mean he doesn't embrace the cross.


I have spoken wrongly, testify

Above your pay grade? You would be the President of the most powerful nation, and you can't answer that question directly. And then you say you can't argue with someone's consistent belief that life begins at conception -- not because IT IS THE TRUTH, but because you want to find solutions to work together, i.e. that arguing wouldn't get you anywhere.

Sweet. Sign me up as a Democrat this fall.


Here is a MUST READ article about religious iconography. This reminds me of a more recent debate I had with folks about Good Friday over Easter. It also reminds me of a response I once read Protestants making about why they hate crucifixes: "We celebrate the risen Christ."

So you can separate the resurrection from the death and make a value judgment about which is more important, but choosing the other part is wrong? When the whole mission of God was the death? When the death is what makes you square eternally? When the death is the once for all?

I should've argued more forcefully. Maybe next time, I will.


for reproof, for correction, for training

"Respect Divine Discipline" {Heb12:5-11}
* Intro
- People encounter discipline everywhere -- school, work, home, Olympics
- God disciplines those He loves
* Our great need: confident endurance {Heb10:35-36, 1Cor10:13}
* His strong encouragement (v1-4)
- Remember the witnesses
- Remove the hindrances
- Run w/ perseverance
- Reach for goal: focus on Christ
* Purpose of divine discipline
- Diff twixt discipline & judgment -- believers will never face judgment
- For our correction {1Cor11:20-32} -- consequence of sin
- For our prevention {2Cor12:7-10} -- restrictions for protection
- For our education {Job42:3-6}
* Perils of discipline (v5)
- I could make light of it -- careless attitude; not caring to profit from experience will result in repeated discipline
- I could lose heart from it
* Basic principles that help amidst pain
- Discipline proves God loves me {v6a, Prov3:11-12}
- Discipline proves I'm God's child (v6b-8)
- Discipline deepens & enhances life (v9)
- Discipline produces holiness (v10-11)
* Application
- Don't judge others (don't assume divine discipline) -- be like Job's friends
- Do submit to His discipline
- Don't lose heart


is a plain indication of

More random signs of the coming end of the world:
* I've already written about my new favorite show. The clip below shows that we're now one step closer to real-life Cylons. Seriously, doesn't the movie Terminator tell you that maybe we should hold off on building life-like robots?

Robot Looks Like Inventor - Click here for funny video clips

* You've got this bigfoot story. And this Montauk monster. And then maybe even a chupacabra. If someone finds a unicorn, it's time to run. Oh crap.
* And finally, please say it isn't so. Please.


will spit you out of

Click HERE to watch a video about believers in China. At the 1:00 minute mark, you'll see something particularly amazing -- a joyous underground house church worshiping the Lord.

So let me get this straight: this underground church, in a country known for oppression and the execution of people who hold values different from the state, knowing full well they risk their very own lives every time they praise the Lord do so loudly with clapping and singing and raising of hands. But the average American church, in a country of freedom and (partial) religious liberty, have flocks that stand with their arms at their sides, wondering when the music will stop so that they can let their minds wander during the sermon.

Nice job, American sheep. Way to make that Savior smile.


and in this connection we

Finally allowed myself to be convinced by friends and colleagues to join a social network. Was immediately able to see the attraction to such concepts. Really, it speaks to a part of us that God made to connect with others. It's why Eve was created. It's why so much of the NT (especially the Pauline stuff) speak of "one another". Man was made to be a social creature. It's not surprising that there are versions of social networks made for believers.

Imagine if a church decided that an online community was the way it was going to stay connected. That 100% of members and regular attendees were part of the network. That prayer chains were run through it. That announcements were posted via it. That sermon notes and follow-up questions and ABF lessons were major focal points. Imagine if a church for the next century used the virtual church as its means of defining itself as a community.

I'll already go ahead and flag its prime reason for failure: the members and regular attendees would rather stick to their already existing blogs and social networks and not desire to update two sites. That these same people would rather not separate themselves from the world, and would not want to be bound so tightly to their brothers and sisters. That the virtual body would fail the same way the current body fails -- self always outweighs the greater good.


reflecting on the vision

If you want to see the full, uncut version of SCC's appearance on Larry King Live, go HERE (rest of the parts on the side column). The clip below is a small section of this faith-filled reflection on God amidst suffering. People always ask for signs, and God often delivers signs in spades. It's just that few choose to see those signs beyond their own tears. SCC and family don't miss this very sweet sign from above.

wrong, still do wrong

More comparisons between the good and the bad:

Exhibit C: The antichrist Osteen waters down the gospel with a smile, becomes the face of the prosperity gospel, and lets his wealth and celebrity go to his misleading (and one day millstone-surrounded) head to the extent he and his wife think they're special.

Exhibit D: The best pastor in the country, John Piper, speaks the truth about health & wealth, and rather than use his wealth and celebrity for satan, puts all proceeds into a foundation from which he can use money wisely and give it all away.

Sheep, over here to my right. Goats, go to Lakewood Church.


the difference between My service and

Want to know the difference between spit out lukewarm and well done, faithful servant? Please see Exhibits A and B.

Exhibit A: Amy becomes a mega popular Christian singer, decides to record secular albums and betrays her fan base, records a duet with a country singer, decides he's her new best friend instead of her actual husband, has an affair, divorces her husband and marries the country singer, and when new album sales don't pan out, wonders where she went wrong.

Exhibit B: SCC becomes a mega popular Christian singer, takes the gospel idea of adoption seriously and takes in international little ones, loses one of them tragically, and then rather than lament the terribleness of his life, uses the media to bear witness to the gospel and speaks freely of faith and struggle on Larry King Live.

I'll let you pick which one gets rebuked and which ones wears crowns before the throne.

[Note: My favorite part of the video clip is at the 9:22 mark, and what SCC's son says about what God is doing with his brother.]


had been overcome with sleep

A famous singer died a day after a famous comedian died. Growing up, I heard that celebrities always died in threes. (Don't deny you heard that theory.) Skeptics point out that there are lots of celebrities, and the likelihood that a few die within a short timespan is not that unlikely. Secondly, because they're celebrities, their deaths are all over newspapers and the web, so we're always reading that someone famous died, ergo this whole trifecta thing. I'm sure there are people wondering who'll die tomorrow to finish off the trio.

I have no idea where I'm going with this, except to mention that a brother in Christ went to be with the Lord on Friday. And while the fanfare of the passing of the singer and the comedian will be far greater nationally than that of this brother in Christ, I have no doubt that in Heaven, the singer and the comedian will be hearing far more about the faith of the brother.

"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His godly ones." {Ps116:15}


that I came to bring peace on

Watched the 2008 Olympic Opening Ceremonies yesterday (the torch-lighting was amazing). Every four years (two if you consider the Winter Olympics, but seriously -- who does?) you get a glimpse of world peace -- people from every nation gathered together oblivious of the external realities of politics and the state of the world. And for two weeks, you see sportsmanship and multiculturalism and other fuzzy notions.

Friend, even if all the countries of the world reached some level of accord, the peace that matters would still not be settled. And that is the peace between man and God. Human peace will last till the end of all things, and on that day when you are presented before the throne of Almighty God, that peace will not answer for you.

But friend, while the nations rage or while they stand at bay, your peace with God has already been bridged for you. By Jesus Christ. And if you accept Him as your Savior, He will answer for you at that throne, and He will claim His own, and He will be that life sacrifice that accounts for that eternal debt of yours, and He will take you to that place prepared for you, just for you. That peace is just for you. If you would but bend that stubborn knee of yours and accept the truth. Jesus says "I am the way, the truth, and the life -- no one comes to the Father but through me."

There is a competition that even Olympic champions cannot win on their own. They and you can win it with a word in the heart. Will you claim that eternal prize today?


the family inheritance with me

My pastor has a vision for our church where we have a focus on adoption. It hasn't been fully formed yet, but there's a powerful idea in there somewhere. Adoption is half the gospel message -- God loved you so much His Son died to cancel your debt AND He loved you so much He adopted you into His kingdom. Read this article to get a better understanding of adoption as it connects to our faith.

But an even better article can be found HERE. SCC loses a little one. If that were me, I would be a useless sack of infinite sadness. SCC instead writes an OpEd on CNN for all the world to see. And the OpEd is not focused on his anguish; it instead preaches the importance of adoption and calls for believers to get involved. Ignoring self and preaching the good news? If there's a more pure example of faith, I can't imagine it.

I'm not sold on the whole rewards in Heaven idea. But if there are crowns handed out for anything, methinks SCC is getting one today.


creatures will meet with the wolves

An animal-centric view of the coming of the end...
* With this ridiculous technology, I have officially seen everything idiotic related to pet-lovers. When people treat animals on an equal plane with humans to the extent they are updating their social networks, it is time we consider putting them to sleep -- the owners, not the pets.
* Animals making cloning acceptable. And since so many believe Fido & Spot are just like people, if they accept it with animals...
* And finally, in news of the antichrist, conspiracy theorists link implanted RFID chips in pets with bad things happening. Told you Sparky and Mr. Cuddles were going to be involved in the global apocalypse.


are spirit and are life

The clip below is from this year's Hillsong conference. Contrast that to the one I posted the other day. The 2008 clip begins without the full orchestra and the embedded musicians and the countdown and the loudness. It instead begins with a heartbeat and some words and (after a blues bit) ends with a version of "There is a Redeemer".

See. Energy sans rock band mentality. It can be done.


and the song of the Lamb

"Why Do We Sing?"
* Intro: Worship much bigger than music, much more than singing songs -- but why sing?
- Over 500 references to singing in Word
- Over 50 direct commands to praise Lord by singing
- Ps47:6
* To rejoice in God
- "We praise what we enjoy because the delight is incomplete until it is expressed in praise. If we were not allowed to speak of what we value, and celebrate what we love, and praise what we admire, our joy would not be full." -- Piper, Desiring God
- Ps57:9-11
- To celebrate who God is, what He has done, and our enjoyment of Him
* To remember & meditate upon His word
- Col3:16-17
- God gave us capacity to employ songs so that we could remember His truth (e.g. Martin Luther)
- Deut31:19,21
* To reflect upon His word
- "When my singing is combined with faith and understanding it has the effect of driving the words into my heart."
* To respond fully to God revealing Himself
- Many ways to respond, of which singing called out in Col3
- Responding fully also a heart issue, not just a style issue
- Not about spiritual goosebumps, but about transformed heart
- Mark7:6
- Jam5:13
* To resound God's glory in your life
- Zeph3:17 -- God sings
- Heb2:12 (Ps22:22)
- Eph5 & Spirit-filled life results in singing
* Application
- For those who sing, ensure engaged hearts
- For those who don't sing, remember your off-key notes still perfect in God's melody
- For unbelievers, you need a song


that you may eat of the bread

From something for tomorrow:

Usually, singing isn’t something you associate with being around a table. But with Communion it’s different. Matthew 26:30 actually tells us that after the Last Supper, Christ sang a hymn with His disciples; there is this special connection between Communion and worship in song. And this connection is best reflected in the fact that around the world, one of the most common traditions is to follow the Lord’s Table with the singing of one of the great hymns of the faith – the Doxology. What I’d like to do for the next few minutes as we gather around this table is to reflect on three things in the Doxology that help us focus on the meaning of Communion.

The first thing to reflect on this morning is that at its heart, Communion is an act of worship and praise. The Doxology’s first two words are "Praise God." At the Lord’s table, let us praise Him for He alone deserves it.

After "Praise God" the first line of the Doxology goes "from whom all blessings flow." Jam1:17 tells us that "every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above." At the Lord’s table, let us remember that everything we have comes from Him.

Finally, the third thing I’d like us to reflect on this morning is found in the last line of the Doxology -- "Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." The Father loves you; the Son died for you; the Spirit guides you – that is the very heart of Communion.

"Do this in remembrance of me," Christ says. Come to this table in praise for who He is; in praise for what He has done and what He continues to do; and in praise for the Almighty Three-in-One.


being made a public spectacle

The other day I mentioned I'd love to one day attend a Hillsong conference. The video below shows a clip from the opening of one such conference. I'm actually sort of torn by this video. On one hand, it exemplifies the passion and energy and life amidst thousands of believers all in love with Jesus. Christ is with you where two or more are gathered, and here's ten thousand out of their minds for Christ. What a grand experience that would be.

On the other hand, it feels like a rock concert. It is an enormous spectacle by human standards, with a full orchestra and large-screen video, and an instrumental build-up that takes ten minutes to get to Amazing Grace, and lights and a countdown, and it feels contrived.

I want the energy and the masses of believers without the fanfare and the manmade loudness. But maybe I take what I can get and hope Jesus' presence shines through the special effects.