Friday, July 24, 2009

Where Evil Lies - Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Paul of Tarsus

from The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.
from Romans 7:18-20 in The Holy Bible by the Apostle Paul

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

John Newton and God's Amazing Sovereign Grace

John Newton--the English, blaspheming slave-ship captain/slave-trader turned Anglican grace-filled pastor and prodigious hymn writer--was born this day in 1725. He is most famously known throughout the world for the hymn Amazing Grace.

Newton is one of my “dead-guy” mentors whom I read and study and share a common heart theologically and pastorally. Newton inspires me most of all in that he literally never lost the deep awe of how and why God had sovereignly rescued him from eternal death through Jesus Christ. My favorite biography about Newton is John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace by Jonathan Aitken. Below is a bio clip from Mars Hill about his life.

Uppity Blacks vs Blue Collar Whites: Shame on Prof.Gates

Here is an insightful commentary regarding the Professor Henry Gates/Sergeant James Crowley/President Barack Obama situation by CNN iReporter Desire Grover of Chester, Pennsylvania. To read World Magazine’s update on the story – Click Here.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye." (Matthew 7:1-5)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gospel Confrontation and Gospel Comfort

Here is a blog posting from Trevin Wax. To read the stories of two people who illustrate the need for gospel confrontation and gospel comfort – Click Here.

Some people think they are true Christians, but are probably not. They need a dose of gospel confrontation.

Other people doubt they are true Christians, but probably are. They need a dose of gospel comfort. . . .

We all need the gospel.

Some people think they are Christians because of a one-time decision that never bore genuine fruit in life. They need gospel confrontation: the gospel changes us.

Others doubt they are Christians because they recognize their sinfulness. They need gospel comfort: the gospel saves us.

The gospel should comfort the conflicted and confront the comfortable.

Feasting on Christ in a Fast-Food World

And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:22-25)

There is little that we can point to in our lives as deserving anything but God's wrath. Our best moments have been mostly grotesque parodies. Our best loves have been almost always blurred with selfishness and deceit. But there is something to which we can point. Not anything that we ever did or were, but something that was done for us by another. Not our own lives, but the life of one who died in our behalf and yet is still alive. This is our only glory and our only hope. And the sound that it makes is the sound of excitement and gladness and laughter that floats through the night air from a great banquet. -- Frederick Buechner, Magnificent Defeat

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:6-8)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Our 28th Wedding Anniversary

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. (Proverbs 31:10)

Today my wife Nancy and I have been married 28 years. In the midst of everyday life I find her love for Jesus and her love for me to be the rock I can always hold onto. I truly look forward to what God has for us together in the next 28 years - I love you Nancy!

Here is a post about our 28th anniversary from our daughter Jennifer.

28 things I have learned from my parents:

1. How to start food fights.
2. To step out in faith and be obedient to the Lord - even when He is calling you to do things that don't make sense.
3. Doorstops keep wolverines away.
4. You shouldn't quit playing baseball just because you get hit in the head by the ball twice within five minutes.
5. Memorizing Scripture is important.
6. It is good to laugh - a lot!
7. "Happy Birthday" is meant to be sung as off key as possible.
8. You always finish what you start.
9. How to ride a horse.
10. What to do when sewage comes up the drain in the basement.
11. How to budget and pay my bills.
12. How to milk a goat.
13. To pay attention and sit still in church.
14. Hearts is the best card game ever.
15. Things that are hard are good for you - that is how you grow.
16. To read things that are weighty and hard to understand.
17. That that joy of the Lord is our strength!
18. That family is a priority.
19. To respect authority.
20. How to polka.
21. That is it important to try my best in school and to improve - that grades aren't the most important thing but what you learn is.
22. We never stop learning.
23. Bluegrass music is amazing.
24. How to take everything to the Lord in prayer.
25. To be thankful for all the Lord has done.
26. Animals are meant for eating (even your pet cow Gretchen).
27. That this world is not my home - to enjoy and thrive upon traveling and making transitions.
28. To not waste my do all things for the glory of God!

Thanks Mom & Dad for teaching me so much! Happy Anniversary!

My Favorite Lame Excuse by a Professional Baseball Player

In his 2004 book "My Prison Without Bars," baseball's all-time hits leader Pete Rose claimed that he couldn't stop gambling on baseball because he has "oppositional defiant disorder."

Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit. (Proverbs 12:17)

Friday, July 17, 2009

There is a Vancouver Island Marmot

I just learned this past week that there is a Vancouver Island Marmot and that is also a Marmot Recovery Foundation in Nanaimo, British Columbia. Is this newsworthy? Well, it is news to me – but I am not sure how to feel about either one of those things. If you really want to read the whole story about this – Click Here.

Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. (Genesis 2:19)

The “Theology” of Calvin and Hobbes

I recently read a blog posting by Tim Challies regarding his love for Calvin and Hobbes. Bill Watterson, who wrote and drew the cartoon strip, truly seems to find treasure everywhere in life to write about. This is where Challies connects with Watterson spiritually - and this is where I truly connected with them both also. Our family loves reading Calvin and Hobbes not only because it just really funny – but also because it addresses a wide variety of issues and is at the same time deeply insightful. This is true for all of us who have given our hearts to Christ in that having “the eyes of our hearts enlightened” we can clearly see evidence of God everywhere: "His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made (Romans 1:20).

Here is a quote from Tim Challies’ blog post – to read the whole post Click Here.

The more I have thought about different topics, the more I’ve realized that there is theology everywhere. And this is what motivates me to write; it’s what motivates me to read and to think and to explore. Everywhere I turn I see theology, whether in a book about the atoning work of Jesus Christ or in a book about the future of business or in a biography of a man who lives half a world away. Sometimes the theology is lying on the surface, exposed and easy to see. Sometimes it is hidden within and just needs to be coaxed out. But always there is something to think about, something to wrestle with, something to help me think deeply about how Christians are to live in this world.

Michael Jackson's Real Legacy

The Christian Post recently published an article by Greg Stier about the real legacy of Michael Jackson. Here is a quote – to read the whole article Click Here.
Michael Jackson, perhaps the most talented musician in the history of humanity, died a tragic death and lived an even more tragic life. But I believe that there is one legacy he left that will make a lasting difference. No, I’m not talking about his music. His biggest legacy to the world is the stark realization that all of the talent and all of the money on the planet can never buy lasting happiness. Why? Because happiness cannot be bought it can only be received from the hands of our Creator, our Savior, our friend, Jesus Christ. When you have him you don’t need best selling albums or an oxygen tent to sleep in. When you have him you don’t need anything. Now that, my friend, is something to sing about.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Praying in an Airplane

14 July 2009 - CNN

Inspectors have found "nothing unusual" in the rest of Southwest Airlines' fleet of 737-300s after a football-sized hole in one of the jets forced an emergency landing, an airline spokeswoman said Tuesday. The breach in the aircraft's fuselage caused a loss of cabin pressure. No passengers were injured. The airline inspected its roughly 200 Boeing 737-300s overnight following the incident that forced Southwest Flight 2294 to make an emergency landing in Charleston, West Virginia. A sudden drop in cabin pressure caused the jet's oxygen masks to deploy, but there were no injuries among the 126 passengers or the five-member crew.

Merilee McInnis, a Southwest spokeswoman, said the jets were inspected during non-operational hours overnight, and the cause of the incident remained unknown Tuesday morning. The airline is working closely with the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the matter, she said. Flight 2294 was at 34,000 feet, en route from Nashville, Tennessee, to Baltimore, Maryland, when the incident happened, McInnis said.

"About 45 minutes into the flight, there was a loud pop. No one really knew what it was," passenger Steve Hall told CNN Radio. The plane landed in Charleston at 5:10 p.m. after the crew reported the sudden drop in cabin pressure, which caused the jet's oxygen masks to deploy.

"We were seated about two rows back from the wing, and four rows back you heard this loud rush and your ears popped, and you could tell that part of the inside was trying to pull out," passenger Sheryl Bryant told CNN affiliate WBAL-TV upon arriving in Baltimore aboard a replacement plane.

"And it was crazy -- the oxygen masks dropped," she continued. She put her mask on her face, then helped her 4- and 6-year-old children with theirs, she said. Bryant tried to stay calm and reassure her children, she said. "My kids and I, we prayed, and then we said, you know, life will be fine," she said.

To read the whole article, Click Here.

Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!” Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 116:4-9)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Honoring One Another - Ray Ortlund

Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10)

Here is a competition where we can rightly fight for first place in line: in honoring one another. Not just tolerating one another, but honoring one another.

Every church should be a culture of honor. The gospel is all about honor replacing shame. Every Christian will be forever glorious with the glory of the risen Jesus: "To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 2:14). Let's see one another not as we are now but as we will be then. Our future glory makes Romans 12:10 an obvious thing to do.

It is also rare. Romans 12:10 might be the most ignored Scripture in our churches today, which are too often cultures of shaming rather than cultures of honoring.

But who wouldn't want to walk into church this next Sunday morning to a hero's welcome? And why not? We may not be the greatest Christians in the world. But by God's grace we didn't go apostate in a whole week.

That's worth celebrating.

from RO

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My Favorite Quote of the Week - Steve Saint

"Suffering is our experience divided by our expectations."

The Deification of Michael Jackson

Deification of Jackson as creepy as he was by John Kass

July 8, 2009

America has been encouraged to embrace the late Michael Jackson's immense talent and step lightly over the creepiness. But I can't get past the creepiness -- in the maudlin media coverage, and among those still hustling his body, like his father, Joe Jackson, who used Michael's death to promote a new record label. How creepy is that? And I don't think I'm alone, especially after Tuesday's creep-fest variety show/memorial service at the Staples Center, with all the weeping and the giant image of Jackson floating over the crowd, arms outstretched, as if on a cross.

What most people are mourning isn't Jackson, but their own youth. Yet it's impossible to weep for lost youth when half your brain is wondering: What the heck ever happened to Bubbles the Chimpanzee? Jackson's famous pet/friend was found recently, living in a Florida ape rehabilitation center. Jackson would dress Bubbles, now 26, in costume like an admiral, with gold braid and epaulets and serve him green tea and Bubbles would dance. According to news reports, Bubbles is now quite fond of painting and giving piggyback rides to the younger chimps. I figure Bubbles will be undergoing psychiatric counseling for many years to come. Poor Bubbles.

But the other stuff is creepier. The little boys Jackson would sleep with, and the wine or "Jesus juice" he allegedly offered to one child, according to testimony in Jackson's 2005 sexual molestation trial that ended in acquittal. And that $20 million he paid another family after similar allegations. And the Willy Wonka-style Neverland ranch with the giraffes, the parents clamoring to have their sons sleep over. Jackson didn't prowl schoolyards like Aqualung in a raincoat. The parents brought their children eagerly, desperately.

Rev. Al Sharpton complained about "a disrespectful double standard" in news coverage of Jackson's death and entertainers like Elvis and Frank Sinatra. "You have had other entertainers that have had issues in their life," Sharpton said the other day, before presiding over Tuesday's memorial variety show. "You [reporters] did not degrade and denigrate them. Michael was no freak, he was a genius." Perhaps. Elvis got fat on peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches and died on the toilet. And Sinatra? He died, too, but not before sleeping with Jill St. John and just about every naturalized blond starlet in Hollywood. The thing is, Frank and Elvis and other superstars like James Brown didn't sleep with little boys. "What's wrong with sharing love?" Jackson said in 2003. "You don't sleep with your kids? Or some other kids who need love?" If you don't think that's creepy, then your creep-dar is beyond repair.

Another strange element of the Jackson story is the compulsion by a few who consider themselves intellectuals, to cast Jackson as some moonwalking Christlike figure. This was done on the Tavis Smiley show on PBS, and, yes, it's on tape if you don't believe me. "It's almost like a crucifixion, in terms of the cross you have to bear," said professor Cornel West. "We reap the fruits of the resurrection, in terms of the power that emanates from [Jackson's] sacrifice. He sacrificed his childhood because he loved us so. He didn't just entertain us, he sustained us." Jackson himself said his childhood was sacrificed on the end of a belt, wielded by his father, in a series of terrible whippings when he was in elementary school. Not to be outdone, professor Michael Eric Dyson spouted his own mellifluous epistle in an effervescent rush of air:

"There's no question that the transcendent art that he created was a means, an instrument, a vehicle, for others to experience what he did not. His own father told him, teased him that he was ugly, Michael reconstructed his face, deconstructed the African features into a spooky European geography of fleshly possibilities, and yet, what we couldn't deny, was that even as his face got whiter and whiter, his music got blacker and blacker, his soul got more deeply rooted in the existential agony and the profound social grief that black people are heir to. And what he did was he allowed us through his voice and his instrument to see a glimpse of the heaven that he himself was denied."

Believe it or not, that's only an excerpt. They went on like this endlessly, about "existential agony" and the "spooky European geography of fleshly possibilities." Clearly, it is deserving of reflection, perhaps even a dissertation, but I'll leave that to your own commentary. Yet in their defense, Dyson and West were merely doing what was expected of every actor in this bizarre and creepy requiem. They were performing. That's what Jackson's death has become. A performance, something the talented and tortured entertainer would surely understand.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

God is our Fortress

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:6-7)

North Korea fires missiles in 4th of July salvo
4 July 2009
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea launched seven ballistic missiles Saturday into waters off its east coast in a show of military firepower that defied U.N. resolutions and drew global expressions of condemnation and concern. The salvo, confirmed by the South Korean government, also appeared to be a slap at the United States as Washington moves to enforce U.N. as well as its own sanctions against the isolated regime for its May 25 nuclear test.

Iran ready to Israel attack on nuclear facilities
5 July 2009
TOKYO, Japan- (AP) - Iran is ready to take "real and decisive" action if Israel attacks its nuclear facilities, a senior Iranian parliamentary official said Monday. "Both the U.S. and Israel are aware of the consequence of an erroneous decision," Broujerdi told reporters at the Iranian Embassy in Tokyo. "I believe our response will be real and decisive," Broujerdi said.

Mobs spread ethnic strife in western China
7 July 2009
URUMQI, China (AP) -- Sobbing Muslim women scuffled with riot police, and Chinese men wielding steel pipes, meat cleavers and sticks rampaged through the streets Tuesday as ethnic tensions worsened in China's oil-rich Xinjiang territory, forcing officials to declare a curfew. The new violence in Xinjiang's capital erupted only a few hours after the city's top officials told reporters the streets in Urumqi were returning to normal following a riot that killed 156 people Sunday

Michael Jackson and John Piper are Bad

Yes Michael Jackson, you were bad - even more than you could ever know.

None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. (Romans 3:10-12)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Spirit Intercedes for Us

The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)

I’ve been somewhat less than diligent of late in posting blogs due to a wave of busyness in my life in these days – some of it personal, most of it in the church. During seasons such as this I have found that the normal rhythm of my personal devotional time with God tends to more difficult; the physical and emotional strain of ministry can easily cause our personal spiritual walk to drift from one’s normal path. Left unchecked, such spiritual drifting can ultimately lead to moral failure both in ministry and in life. Yet in feeling that tension of early drifting in my own spirit of late, I come again to sense and know the reality of the power of the Spirit of God fighting for me – and I am deeply humbled that by His sovereign grace God does not allow me to drift too far, and exceedingly grateful that He once again faithfully called me “back home” in my walk with him. Clearly there are times during physical, emotional and spiritual stress we can sense and see and feel the blessing of Jesus’ promise: "Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).

In all of this I was reminded of the words of Robert Benson in his book Between the Dreaming and the Coming True where he writes:

Once we start home toward God – which happens the minute we start, actually – we simply do not ever turn around and head in another direction. There is no other direction. And in the moments when we feel as if we are so turned around that we will never get home, somebody turns up and nudges us a couple of points to starboard, whichever direction that is. Suddenly, without being particularly conscious of it or faithful about it, we sense that we are headed toward God again full blast. . . .

We do not always see that we should be moving about our days and lives and places with awe and reverence and wonder, with the same soft steps with which we enter the room of a sleeping child or the mysterious silence of a cathedral. There is no ground that is not holy ground. All of the places of our lives are sanctuaries; some of them just happen to have steeples.
From the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:9-12)

Soldier who fought in pink boxers home for the Fourth of July

I am not really sure what constitutes “news” anymore; more often than not it tends to be either entertainment or trivia. Much of the “news” that I hear or watch or read does not seem to "make the best use of the time” (Ephesians 5:16). Here is the latest example from Associated Press for the Fourth of July.

Soldier who fought in pink boxers home for 4th

July 4, 2009 2:46 PM EDT

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- The soldier who was photographed fighting the Taliban in his boxer shorts says he's glad to be back home in Texas after his yearlong deployment to Afghanistan - especially on the Fourth of July.

Specialist Zachary Boyd says he initially thought he'd get in trouble after an Associated Press photo showed him with other soldiers behind sandbags - while wearing his pink boxers and flip-flops, plus his helmet and bulletproof vest.

The Fort Worth soldier said he had jumped up from a nap when his unit came under fire and didn't want to waste time putting on his uniform.

But Boyd has been praised for his courage.

And now that he's home in Fort Worth he says his boxers will be displayed in the 1st Infantry Division museum at Fort Riley, Kansas.