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.


but by my Spirit saith the Lord

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


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...


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.


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.


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.


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.]


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.


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.


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)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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".


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}


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.


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.


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?