Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pagans are Serious About Prayer

I wish that Christians were half as excited about prayer as the wing nuts on the left. They seem frightened to death that Rick Warren would dare to pray "in Jesus' name." They cannot leave this alone...and people wonder why folks on the right are worried that left-leaning dominance will erode constitutional protection of the freedom of religion.

I could go on a tirade here, but I'm just going to direct you to a link and let you sift through for yourselves.

You can see the latest post here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Leftward Insanity

If you are having trouble getting unsleepy in the morning, an article like this should wake you right up. Nothing like a cup of hot coffee and a case of frustration to get the blood going. Bottom line on this article is that the supporters of abortion and gay marriage are angry because President-elect Obama asked Rick Warren to pray. I especially like these gems from People for the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert told CNN she is "deeply disappointed" with the choice of Warren and said the powerful platform at the inauguration should instead have been given to someone who has consistent mainstream American values. Consistent mainstream American values? Hello? Hasn't the legalization of gay marriage failed on every single ballot including California? Who is mainstream again? And how about this one: There is no substantive difference between Rick Warren and James Dobson," Kolbert said. "The only difference is tone. His tone is moderate, but his ideas are radical. Rick Warren's social ideas are radical? He believes that marriage is between a man and woman and he is a radical? Wow.

Can anyone read this article and really believe that the left is interested in an equal voice for all? Would you, as a Christian, feel that your "values" would be respected by someone like Kathryn Kolbert?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Consolation of Israel

I am thankful that we have a celebration each year that compels us to think on the wonder of the incarnation. It is as helpful as the yearly reminder on the crucifixion we get at Easter. Of course, the two are bound together intimately, obviously, but no harm is done by enjoying each individual facet of the jewel that is Christ. Today, I want to point out one of my very favorite characters in Scripture: Simeon.

Simeon's story is found in Luke 2. Here is Luke's description of the man:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. (Luke 2:25-26).

Picture Simeon as one of the last of the Old Testament prophets for indeed he was a prophet. He and his brothers the prophets had endured pestilence, plague, war, bondage, captivity, persecution and martydom for the sake of the gospel. Yes, the Old Testament prophets suffered for the sake of the gospel. The were men of sorrow, anguishing over the sins of Israel. They held on through the steadfast hope that someday, God would change the hearts of His people and rescue them from their sins.

Here is Isaiah's hope on the cusp of impending doom:

For to us a child is born,to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder,and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this
(Is. 9:6-7).

And here is Daniel's hope:

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed
(Dan. 7:13-14).

This precious promise of God is what kept the prophets from despair. This hope is what kept Israel together as they languished under the tyranny of Egypt, Phillistia, Babylon, Assyria, and Rome. They waited, in mourning, for their Emmanuel. The faithful remnant waited and years turned to decades which turned to centuries. And still they waited.

Until one day a prophet named Simeon awoke full of the Holy Spirit and went up to the Temple. Today was the day that he would hold the Lord's Christ, the consolation of Israel. Finally, the prophets could rest in peace.

Ever wonder why Luke calls the Messiah "the consolation of Israel"? What is a consolation? It is a comfort, an encouragement. All the horrors that Israel has endured will be comforted by the Messiah. All her trials will be vindicated. And what is the consolation? Simeon's God had come to him as He had come to no prophet before him, not in a whisper or a dream or a fire or a whirlwind, but in flesh. Simeon beheld his God in the form of babe. He held his God in his arms. He circumcised his own Lord. He who was the fulfillment of the covenant promise was Himself under God's covenant. God had come as an Israelite, born of a virgin, born of the tribe of Judah, born as the son of David.

Can you imagine one gift that would put an end to complaint and end all suffering? Can you imagine a gift that would set the world free? Jesus Christ is that gift. Simeon held him and declared: Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel (Luke 2:29-32).

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Churches, Tatoo Parlors, Quick Cash Business, and Taco Stands

Last night I went to my very first City Council meeting in the great city of Albertville. I enjoyed it, and I found it to be very informative. Unfortunately, the thing that drew me to this meeting was a particular piece of legislation that was to come before the council: it was a law that would put a moratorium on churches beginning in the city for the next six months. They would be unable to move into existing property or begin construction on a building. If this had been law four months ago, myself and New Covenant would have had nowhere to go.

I want to be clear that this is not the City Council's fault. They are merely responding to the complaints they have been receiving from the community about new churches. Currently, the city has very poor zoning laws, and you can literally begin a church anywhere. Imagine your personal surprise if a very 'happy' church opened up next door to your house with a full praise and worship band complete with a drummer who beat his instrument like it was attacking him.

I understand the concern, but I disagreed with the step suggested. So I went to the meeting to voice my concern if need be. Turns out that I didn't need to worry, the council decided that this would probably be a bad idea, and so the moratorium on churches was simply tabled.

However, and here is the interesting part, several moratoriums were not tabled. A vote was taken and the following business types were put under a six month moratorium so that zoning laws could be established: Tatoo and Body Piercing Parlors, Quick Check Cashing Businesses, and mobile taco stands. I fidgeted in my seat as each business type was dealt with individually. I kept thinking, "Dear God! Does the community see the church as a nusance as great as Tatoo parlors, Pawn Shops, and mobile taco stands!" I can only surmise that the complaint on local churches have been as vocal as complaints against those other business types.

The challenge that I have been bringing to our new church start is this: Let us live in such a way that if we ceased to exist, the community as a whole, even the non-Christians, would miss us. To that end, we have been tossing around the idea of free tutoring services for students on Wednesday, free English classes, and maybe even some free GED courses. We also would like to more involved with our local Crisis Pregnancy Center, and perhaps get involved with an organized food bank and maybe a clothing ministry. Something, anything, to do good works for Christ's sake so that the world may see them and glorify our Father in heaven. The Bible teaches that the wicked are "inventors of evil" (Romans 1:30). My challenge to you and to New Covenant is for us to be "inventors of good."

If New Covenant folds, I do not want it to be such that all the community misses is another worship service. I want us to fill a hole. How is your church doing in this regard? As for me and my house, I want us to be a place where people feel the love of Christ. We are currently lumped in with the local mobile taco stand, the local tatoo parlor, and the local quick check cashing place. That's where the local churches are as far as relevance goes. God have mercy!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Context, Context, Context!

For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts (Malachi 1:11).

That verse is a bright ray of hope splashed against a canopy of deep darkness. Indeed, it is such a beautiful, hopeful verse that many have it memorized and songs have been composed about it. The verse speaks of a day when all the earth will glorify the name of the Lord God. It speaks of a day when worship will not only be offered in the Temple, but also in every place where people are found. They will offer 'incense', which is often symbolic for the prayers of God's people. Malachi, the messenger of God, has been allowed to see a new future in which God will be worshipped "in spirit and truth" by all nations (John 4:24).

So it is definitely a verse worthy of committing to memory. However, if we only know this verse without its setting, you will miss some of the brightness of the hope and the seeming impossibility of this promise coming to pass. Allow me to illustrate.

If this passage were an artists painting, the very first thing you would see on the page would be this promise. It would pop out to you like a bright moon in a dark sky. The reason it would be so attractive to you is because the light of the verse is set in stark contrast to the darkness of the rest of the canvas. According to the word of the Lord to Malachi, God did not even have one priest who was doing the will of the Lord. Look at God's lament:

And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand (Mal. 1:9-10).

God is grieved because He does not have one man to stem the tide of wickedness. The people are bringing him blind and lame and sick sacrifices; sacrifices they would never dream of giving a dignitary. The people's leftovers are all God is getting; He has not captured their affections. So, God laments. He pours out His heart and says, "Oh! that there were one among you...!" Just one! Alas! There is no one to do God's will. There is no one to stem the tide of evil. The people of Israel is spiritually bankrupt. All hope seems irrevocably and utterly lost. And yet...

From the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts (Malachi 1:11).

But...there's no one left! Israel has abandoned the Lord! Yet God swears, "My name will be every name will be great among the nations!" And how will God accomplish this?

Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For m he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord (Mal. 3:1-3).

"He is coming..." says the Lord. Who is coming? The One in whom God delights. The One who will refine His people like the refiner's fire and wash them like the fuller's soap.* Who is the messenger that prepared the way of the LORD? When did He appear in the temple? Who, beloved, was the hope of Malachi and the hope of Israel? Who was the radiant light that broke the grip of darkness? This is no vague hope, and this is no vague glory. God's name will be great amongst the nations, and everywhere there will be offerings and prayers made to His Name. The Lord will glorify Himself through the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is He of whom Malachi spoke. It is Jesus Christ, through whom God will make His Name great from the rising to the setting of the sun.

Did you get that? Do you see, now, the importance of context?

* - For a great discussion on what Fuller's Soap is, see this post by the illustrious Frank Turk. Great stuff there. Definitely worth the read.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Clarity that Only Death Can Bring

Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not...Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass (Job 14:1-2, 5).

Death is just around the bend for all of us. Perhaps today, I will meet my appointed time to stand before my Maker. Perhaps, even as I write this, a cancer is growing inside of me that will claim my life, or maybe an artery in my heart has ballooned in an aneurysm to burst at any moment. Maybe, as I sit and sip my coffee, and mad man is on his way to this very store to send me to the judgment seat in a hail of gunfire. One thing is certain, whether it is today, tomorrow, or many years from now, a course of events is shaping up to send me to my long home. I am a dying man in a decaying world.

Do you think it morbid to think such thoughts? I do not. I think, in some ways, that they are very healthy. Death, my final foe, is circling me even now, threatening to take away all that I hold dear in this world. He is stalking my children, my wife, and my friends. And he will have them, one by one, until they are no more on this earth. He is brutal, thorough, and relentless. I will face him, as will you, and you must be ready for the battle of your life.

Does this certainty make you despair? Will you say with MacBeth:

Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing..

Is that all life is? A tale told by an idiot? A raving, maniacal thing that ends in vain? When MacBeth looked into the eyes of death he saw only the vanity of life. He saw no hope. No meaning. Only despair.

Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ should not have such a bleak outlook. We are called to consider ourselves dead to ourselves (Rom. 6:11). Jesus taught that only by dying to ourselves will we ever truly live (Luke 9:24). So death, in some form, is an ever present reality to Christians that we must embrace in order to live. Death, then, in all of its wrongness, becomes a servant to usher us into eternal life.

Each day, a follower of the Lord Jesus should face death. In so doing, we receive greater clarity about what it is to live, about what is important. First, we must die today by putting to death sin in the form of selfish, godless desires. We do this by valuing Christ Jesus more than life and sin. Secondly, we are to consider our days and that death is stalking us. By so doing, we will be able to disarm his threatenings by letting go of all that we cannot keep in order to hold the things we cannot lose. What can death not steal? Our standing in Christ, our love for the world by the Holy Spirit, and our works which are sown in righteousness. We should concentrate on these things and thinking on death helps us to keep them in perspective. Perhaps, if we fight well, we will meet death with hope, knowing that a better ressurection is coming, and that all loss for Christ's sake is gain.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Written in the Stars

What does it say? That was my thought yesterday as I perused a 13th Century French manuscript. The problem was that it was written in Latin, and my Latin is terrible. Another compounding problem is that the script, while beautiful, was very difficult to read. I really wanted to understand the words, but I could not.

I wanted to understand them because the manuscript was compelling. There was beautiful artwork on the page, and the letters were perfect. This manuscript was more than a mere book; it was a work of art. Each letter was written meticulously by hand. There was not one smudge, and all the letters ran straight to the end of a page. The ink was remakably uniform considering "pen technology" present in the 13th century. I was blown away.

Perhaps it is because I am a book nerd, or because I am peculiar in general, but as a work of art this page moved me. I could not help but think, "If the artist took such care to make such beautiful calligraphy and wonderful color drawings, how much did he treasure the message that this book contained?" I stared at the page for several seconds, trying to will the words to make sense. But the meaning would not come, and I was only left with a deep appreciation for the dedication and the skill that it took to make such a thing of beauty.

Take a minute to look at Rembrandt's "Sacrifice of Isaac". What does it say to you? What would it say to you if you did not know the story? What if all you had was that picture? What would it say? I will tell my favorite part of this picture, the part that moves me most. Do you see Abraham's hand over Issac's mouth? It covers Isaac's entire face, both mouth and eyes. Why? Why is Abraham bending back Isaac's head so far? Why is his hand clamped down so ruthlessly over his beloved son's face? Is it because he could not bear to here the boy scream or beg for his life? Was Abraham afraid that his resolve would waver if he had to look his son in the eye?

Of course, this is only Rembrandt's interpretation. And I am only able to speculate because I know the story that Rembrandt is portraying. If I did not know the story, I may think that the angel just stopped a horrible murder. Who knows? I know that this picture means something more to me because I know the story.

Take this thought to the stars. What do they say? I know that they are a piece of free-standing art, and that the universe is saying something about their Maker. Can someone who does not know the Maker look and see and feel the weight of the message of the universe? Will he not feel small, compartively, if he looks long enough at the pinholes in the sky? Will he not feel the weight and power and genius of the artist who framed them? Can he feel this truth, The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork? Does not the creation speak in manner that is above words? Have you felt creation call out in the rivers and canyons and stars and glaciers? If we would know what glory is, creation is a magnificent teacher.

I can see the glory of God in all the things He has created. I purposefully look for His glory in Creation because I know that is why all things exist. Sadly, there are millions across this majestic globe who stare at the stars as I did that 13th Century manuscript. They see the beauty and marvel at the creation. They feel the message, but they cannot put their finger on what it means. Or they mix the message and ascribe the glory to something other than the God of the Lord Jesus Christ. I long for the day when some from every tongue and tribe and nation will see God's glory in all things and when the declaration of the stars is heeded and understood by all. I pray that God will raise up Christians to go forth and finish the story for all peoples, to tell them why all things are made as they are, so that all may look at the world with renewed and deeper pleasure and give praise to the Maker of All Things.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Just a Reminder

As I read my Bible today, I was reminded of the great necessity for believers to warn others to flee from the wrath that is to come. Won't you use your influence today to bear witness of the great escape that God has provided for us in Jesus Christ? Will you pray that God will grant you an opportunity to share and the boldness to do so when the opportunity presents itself?

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those whodo not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. (1 Thess. 1:5-10).

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Mystery of Providence

From my reading today.

John Flavel

Suppose it had been your lot to have fallen in any of those vast continents possessed by pagans and heathens at this day, who bow down to the stock of a tree, and worship the host of heaven. This is the case of millions, and millions of millions...O how deplorable had your case been if a pagan idoatress had brought you forth, and idolatry had been sucked in with your mother's milk! Then, in all probability, you had been a this day worshipping devils, and racing at full speed in the direct road to damnation, for these are the people of God's wrath.

And how great a mercy was it that we had parents who carefully instilled the good knowledge of God into our souls in our tender years?...As they longed for us before they had us and rejoiced in us when they had us, so they could not endure to think that when they could have us no more, the devil should. As they thought no pains, care or cost too much for our bodies, to feed them, clothe and heal them; so did they think no prayers, counsels, or tears, too much for our souls, that they might be saved. They knew a parting time would come between them and us, and did strive to make it as easy and comfortable to them as they could, by leaving us in Christ and within the blessed bond of His covenant.

They were not glad that we had health and indifferent whether we had grace. They felt the miseries of our souls as much as of our bodies; and nothing was more desirable to them than that they might say in the great day: 'Lord, here am I and the children which thou hast given me.'

How easy it is to look past the great Providence of God in our lives! How good He has been to me and to my family!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Before You Vote....

Go and read this at Justin Taylor's excellent blog. Please.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Truth about "Joe India"

Once upon a time, I wrote a post about whether or not people who never hear the gospel, read the gospel, or in some way find out about the gospel, go to hell. I answered that yes, they perish without hope. Of all the posts I've written, I have gotten more 'late' comments on it than any other. Mostly, people are opposed to my answer because they believe it to be unjust. I want to challenge that notion.

I have a character that I call "Joe India" or "Joe Africa" or "Joe Brazil". It doesn't matter where he's from, the thing about the guy is that he has never come into contact with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I tell people that "Joe" will certainly perish in his sin and go to everlasting torment. I do not relish this thought in the least, and I have invested time and money and prayers to see to it that as many hear the gospel as possible. But is it unfair that such a person should go to hell without a 'chance' at being saved?

Here's why it is just: Joe India is a sinner who hates God. There's the problem. Joe India does not 'deserve' a 'chance' to be saved. If he did deserve a chance to be saved, then the gospel would not be grace: it would be something that God owed Joe India. He does not owe anyone anything, and therefore it is perfectly just to allow a pagan to die in his trespass.

I know that people who object to this often point out that my stance seems to make God out to be cruel or unjust. I do not believe that God is either cruel or unjust. I believe that He is merciful and compassionate. I submit that my position does not make God cruel or unjust, but it is the only position that can make Him both merciful and just at the same time.

Most evangelicals will agree that sinners deserve hell. Indeed, most will agree that everyone on earth deserves hell. If they did not truly deserve hell, then there is no need for them to have a savior in Jesus Christ. Yet, many of these same folks will irrationally argue that it is unfair for someone to perish who has not heard the gospel. It cannot be both just and unjust for someone to go to hell at the same time. Therefore, if Joe India deserves hell, never hears the gospel, and perishes in his sin, then he will certainly go to hell as he deserves. This establishes that God is just.

How does it establish His mercy? It establishes His mercy because I, for one, am not going to the hell that I deserve. I did hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, and by God's grace, I believed it. I should have gone to hell, and I did not deserve the opportunity to repent. Yet God, in His mercy, allowed me to both hear and believe the gospel. He did not allow this privilege to Joe India. That does not make God unjust or cruel. It makes Him just towards Joe India and merciful toward me. He did have a degree of mercy on Joe India by allowing him to live life as a God-hater, but God did not extend to Him the same sort of mercy that He did to me. God was not obligated to do that.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Danger of Forbidden Loves

As a pastor, I worry like a father. I worry that those whom God has entrusted to me will pierce themselves through with sin and sorrow by loving this world too much and by loving Christ Jesus too little. I worry that the good things of the world, the things which God has given us for our joy, will become a snare to us and folly.

There is great joy in the blessedness of the freedom of a Christian! No longer is the law our slave-master, by faith we have been set free. All is ours in Jesus Christ, be it life or death or things past or things to come, all is ours. Yet the stink of sin is still with us, polluting our minds and our wills and our hearts to pervert good intentions and to put God blessed things to evil use. What good gift has God ever withheld from those who love Him? What good gift has man not used to heap up iniquity and sin like a trash heap?

We say to our young men, "Marriage is good! He who obtains a wife has found favor in the Lord!" We know that the union of a man and woman in spirit and body is good and sweet, that the love found there extends beyond all earthly union, and that this God-wrought union shines like a bright beacon that extends all the way to heaven, pointing to the love of the Savior to His bride. And yet, we burn ourselves with this most precious gift. While hope that our children will cultivate love, but we know the dangers of lust. We all know that a fire can keep warm and destroy. How we worry that they will stray from the warm paths of love to the inferno of lust! They are free to love, only God forbid that they stray. Such beautiful freedom; how easy it is to fall and be enslaved!

And when they do unite in marriage, and love abounds, we rejoice when two become one flesh and God gives children to this most sacred union. Now behold the danger of this gift! We love them so; we see so much of the Master in them that our love for them masters us. Our own children become speaking idols to draw us away from our God. Our lives revolve around them, and we dote on them, and we believe that their well-being is totally dependant upon us. Eli let the temple be profaned for the sake of his wretched sons. Parents forsake the fellowship of the saints for the sake of whiney children.

Even in nature, we behold something of the nature and wonder of God. We are drawn to the sunset and sunrise and mountain views because something of our Master can be seen there. Could we come to love it too much? The fisherman who wastes Sunday after Sunday to be on the water looking for bass? The hunter who neglects family to be in the woods? Are they not drawn away by lawful things, good things, to do that which is unlawful? The beautiful things can be the most dangerous for the uncautious soul.

Where could we end with the abuse of God's good things? God has given us food that is savory and good, and with it we fatten ourselves to death. He has given us drink, yes even wine is a blessing, and we use it and become drunkards and gluttons. We use the gifts and we dishonor the giver. God give us temperance to enjoy the good and not love it more than we should. How wise was Augustine when he wrote, "So much less does he love you who loves anything else, even together with you, which he does not love for your sake" (Confessions Book 10,sec. 29).

Oh God, grant us good gifts, and keep us from the snare of loving them too much, or rather, from loving them for any reason other than for Your sake. Keep us on the paths of loving wisdom. Grant that we, in our blood-bought freedom, walk circumspectly in this world, not dabbling in the lust of the flesh, but seeing and loving Christ Jesus in all that is good and shunning forbidden loves that are evil. Help us to see you in all things, and to perceive your hand in them, that we may love you more and the world less. Amen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

All Your Base are Belong to Us

If you have never heard the phrase, "All Your Base are Belong to Us," then you are probably not a nerd. If you have ever heard it, but had no idea what it means but chuckled anyway, I'm going to enlighten you to the mystery. (BTW, sometimes in online games, when someone gets pwn3d, someone will exclaim AYBABTU!. That's shorthand for this phrase. And if you don't know what it means to get pwned, go here.) The phrase "All Your Base are Belong to Us" comes from the old video game Zero Wing. It's simply bad translation from Japanese to English. You can watch the old intro on You Tube here.

I'm telling you this for two reasons. One, I am seeking to solidify my nerd status forever. Secondly, this phrase popped into my brain this morning as I was reading Scripture. Here's what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul of Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come--all are yours. And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's (1 Cor. 3:21-22).

That is one of the ultimate AYBABTU verses. Because we are in Christ, everything is ours. Death has no victory. Sin is defeated. Satan is cast down. The saints will triumph. God has given us ultimate victory in Christ. "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Hum up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32). If the Father gave us the gift of His Son, then it is certain there is no gift too lavish for those who love Him. "Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things perent nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:37-39). AYBABTU indeed!

It is a wonderful thing to know that Christ has conquered. It is sanctifying to know that it has pleased the Father to give to us the Kingdom. It brings endless pleasure to know that though the enemy may rage, all his schemes and anger are in vain. He will perish. His time is short. The King is coming.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Returning to Nature

This Wednesday, myself and four intrepid friends will be heading to the Ouachita National Forest of Arkansas to hike 28ish miles through the wilderness. We will be miles from civilization, and a seeming eternity from help should disaster strike. It may rain on us, and we will eat one hot meal a day...probably. We will cross rivers and mountains in our quest to..our quest in the woods and make fire.

What we will learn there, at least the lesson that is re-enforced to me every time I make a wilderness trek, is that we live in a fallen world. If you want to eat in the woods, you basically have to pack your food in with you. Sure, there are berries and plants that a real mountain man can forage for, but without the proper expertise, you will burn more calories looking for such fodder than you will gain by eating it. Plus, if you make a mistake, you may wind up dying a slow, agonizing death due to poisoning. The wilderness is not a hospitable place at all.

You also have to take into account blood-sucking mosquitoes, equally voracious ticks, biting flies, gnats that crawl into the nose, eyes, ears, and mouth, snakes, and bears. Do you know why bears will rip apart both backpack and man to get at one granola bar? Because the food in the woods is junk, that's why. For all the romantic views of nature out there, the fact is that the 'pristine' wilderness grows more briars than berries.

It used to be that every tree bore good fruit. God told Adam, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat", excepting only the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16). Do you suppose that God would tell Adam that if all that grew on the trees were pine cones and bitter acorns? I doubt it. It was probably like living in Willie Wonka's candyland in the Garden of Eden before the fall, everything was edible and delicious.

So why do we go into the woods to suffer? Because there is no TV, or cell phone, or computer, or blogging, or UPS delivery guy, or crashing stock market, or radio, or anything. There is silence, and there is uninterrupted fellowship with friends. Plus, I can take my flint, magnesium, and steel and make a big fire. I go because I can walk around with a razor sharp hatchet and whack things with it. I go because that sort of thing appeals to a man. It's innate. I can't rightly describe the primal urge to go out and survive apart from civilization, but there is something inherently manly about it. Perhaps, as a child of God, it reminds me that by the power of the Holy Spirit, a man can go out into a fallen, briar-filled world and survive. Or maybe I just like burning stuff. I won't analyze the native impulse too deeply today, I'm going into survival mode. It's time for lunch. I'm going to go get a meal. Some nicely wrapped, FDA approved, sanitary, thoroughly cooked, nicely ground hamburger will do for today. Next week, I may try to stab a fish with a stick and cook him over a fire.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Most Important Election Ever?

I got this as an email today from the American Family Association:

The upcoming election is the most critical election in the history of our nation. The very future of our nation’s foundation is at stake. Every person will be affected. If the liberals win, then our foundation will no longer be based on the traditional Judeo-Christian morality. It will gradually but assuredly be based on an ever shifting, ever moving foundation. If the liberals win, the damage can’t be stopped with elections two, four or forty years from now. America will forever be changed. We will keep seeing a gradual and growing hostility toward people of faith, especially Christians. The morals of our nation will continue to decline. Our children and grandchildren will pay the price.

In case you may think I’m a “the sky is falling” type of person, you should know: When it comes to predictions, I am a very reserved person. But not on this one. I cannot overstate the damage a liberal victory will do to our country. The upcoming election is the most important in the history of our nation. Yes, if the liberals win you will lose some of your religious freedoms and free speech rights. Churches and pastors will not be exempt. You will not be allowed to say certain things about a particular group. Every item of the homosexual agenda will be approved. All the laws protecting the unborn will be wiped away.

This sort of thing is not helpful at all. Frankly, it appears to me that it borders on hysteria. I do not put my faith in conservative politics but in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Every election year, it seems, spells the end of the world as we know it if we do not go out and elect a conservative president. I'm all for a conservative president. I will vote conservatively. But I do not think that if Barak Obama is elected President of the United States that we are all somehow doomed. Look at what is claimed here:

1) "The upcoming election is the most critical election in the history of our nation" and "The upcoming election is the most important in the history of our nation." Do you believe that this is true? This is more important that the election of Abraham Lincoln or George Washing or George Bush Jr. or Richard Nixon or John F. Kennedy or Franklin Roosevelt? Really?

2) "If the liberals win, then our foundation will no longer be based on the traditional Judeo-Christian morality." The liberals cannot 'unfound' me or anyone else off of anything. This is a government of the people, not a tyrannical regime. I submit that our hope as a nation has never been founded on Judeo-Christian morality but on the promises of a crucified and resurrected Jesus.

3) "If the liberals win, the damage can’t be stopped with elections two, four or forty years from now. America will forever be changed. We will keep seeing a gradual and growing hostility toward people of faith, especially Christians. The morals of our nation will continue to decline. Our children and grandchildren will pay the price." Again, a mere election will do this? Will Sen. Obama get in the White House and wave a wand to make everyone hate Christians for generations to come? How does he know that Sen. Obama won't be converted and be the most stellar president in history?

4) "if the liberals win you will lose some of your religious freedoms and free speech rights. Churches and pastors will not be exempt. You will not be allowed to say certain things about a particular group. Every item of the homosexual agenda will be approved. All the laws protecting the unborn will be wiped away." Wow. If Sen. Obama is elected, we will lose some of our religious freedoms. I wonder which ones? We will also lose free speech rights. We will not be able to say certain things about a particular group. (What does that even mean?) As for the homosexual agenda, I think that they've gotten just about everything that they've wanted short of legalized marriage. I'm not convinced that the way forward for the gospel is to express personal indignation over homosexuality. It is sin. I know that. But so is adultery, gluttony, vanity, and pride. We are all sinners in desperate need of grace. I'm worried about abortion increasing as well. Have we forgotten that our sitting VP has a homosexual daughter and what his views are regarding this? Any positive gain we have had in this area seems to have only a little to do with the current administration.

I hate to write a post like this, I really do. Someone correct me if I am wrong, but despite pleas to the contrary, the author very much sounds like "the sky if falling" type of person. Imagine, after reading this, how this person will feel if Sen. Obama is elected. Could the writer pray for him? Has he called on anyone to pray for him? I can't see anything positive in this letter.

What if Barak Obama Wins?

I make no secret as to my 'one issue' voter status in elections. That is, if someone is pro-abortion, they do not get my vote. Period. So I will not be voting for Barak Obama this November. I will say that if he changed his position on that issue, then I would consider him a viable candidate.

I do not think that it will bring absolute disaster for Sen. Obama to be elected. I see many positives in his candidacy. He would be the first African American president. That is good news for our country, and hopefully his election would serve to break down barriers of racial distrust. To put it bluntly, Barak Obama cannot get elected unless white folks vote for him. They will vote for him, and I think that he might win.

So what will happen if Barak Obama is elected? One, our taxes will go up. There is no way that Sen. Obama can fund his healthcare proposals without raising taxes. I am semi-okay with that. My healthcare is going up $100 a month this year for lesser coverage. I simply cannot afford that sort of hike each year, and I am hoping that if Sen. Obama is elected that his plan will help. Some are concerned that electing a democrat means more 'big governement.' Well...can he do worse than what we've seen in the last eight years? Seriously? Government spending is absolutely out of control.

Secondly, our President will not be pro-life. This saddens me beyond belief. I will pray that God will show Sen. Obama the horror of mangling children in their mother's womb. But I will say that we have seen eight years of a pro-life president who has done little, it seems, except appoint a couple of 'conservative' justices. How many appointees have Presidents Reagan, Bush 1, and Bush 2 had? Why is it that Roe hasn't been overturned already? I'm inclined to believe that a truly pro-life President could do more than wait for Supreme Court Justices to retire. If you really believe that abortion is murder, then we are in a holocaust. That should not be a back-burner issue if you really believe that.

Other than that, I have no idea what will happen. Does anyone actually believe or feel sorry for oil companies profit margins lately or CEO's who have basically beaten the American public out of nearly $2 trillion?? I hope that something will be done about that. I hope that God will bless our next President, and I hope that he will have an easier time than President Bush has had. He was President during a very trying time.

Maybe I am too optimistic. Perhaps the comments will correct my cheery disposition at the prospect of an Obama presidency.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Preaching as Food for the Soul

Good, gospel-orientated, expository preaching is like manna from heaven. Listening to it will fatten the soul. A lack of it will lead to malnourishment and spiritual death. The parallels of preaching and mana do not end here, and I think that it would be very encouraging for Sunday School teachers and pastors to remember that.

Manna is a Hebrew word that literally means, "What is it?". That's what the children of Israel said when they first found it lying on the ground (Ex. 16:15). According to the Scriptures, this sweet heavenly bread was only good for a day. They had to go every morning and gather it, and on the day before the Sabbath they had to get a double portion.

Preaching is a bit like that. Most Christians have heard many, many sermons. I have heard hundreds if not thousands. I have personally preached hundreds of times and taught as many expositional lessons. I should be full of wisdom and truth by now since I have purposefully listened to great preaching and teaching and I have tried heard to teach and preach the Scriptures accurately.

Much to my dismay, however, I can remember maybe a dozen sermons. I cannot even remember my own sermons. Sometimes, when I am preaching a text I have preached on before, I read my own notes and listen to my own preaching and it feels as if I am listening and reading someone else. It is an amazing phenomenon. It simultaneously encouraging and discouraging. It is encouraging because I sometimes glean 'new' insights or marvel at things that I have said. I wonder where I got that from, and I wonder why I forgot it. That's the discouraging part. If I have forgotten so much of my own preaching and teaching about the Bible, and if I have forgotten so much of what others wiser than me have said, what, do you suppose, the average listener retains?

So I have to conclude that God has designed preaching primarily for short term nourishment. It has lasting effects to be sure! And sometimes particualarly powerful words (to individuals) will stick for a lifetime. But primarily, the encouragement seems to be just enough to last us to the next sermon and lesson. To keep us healthy from meal to meal, and to keep us coming back to the banquet table of God's Word and the fellowship of the saints.

This is why we never 'arrive' or we can reach a point where we have heard enough sermons and lessons to quit listening. It would be akin to a man feasting on a magnificent meal and exclaiming, "At last! At last! I have eaten the perfect meal and I never need to eat one again!" Such a person would surely die of starvation. Christians who neglect God's Word and the fellowship of the church will certainly suffer the same fate as this foolish man would. So be with the Lord's people on the Lord's Day and give heed to God's Word. It is as essential as eating; without it, you will starve.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Politics and the Government Bailout

Is it just me, or do things seem to be absolutely falling apart in Washington D.C.? President Bush's speech on national television assures the public that if we do not get a government bailout for mortgage companies, then a terrible catastrophe is certainly at hand. And we are supposed to do what, exactly? Call our representatives and say, "Hey! President Bush said that the bailout is necessary, vote for it!"

I'm afraid, and I really mean this, that President Bush is starting to sound like the boy who cried wolf. If we do not invade Iraq, then nukes will go off in New York City. Sadam Hussein is sitting on piles of nerve gas and just waiting to sell them off. Now, economic doomsday can only be averted by a $700 billion dollar loan to creditors who got themselves in a mess through slobbering greed. Where was the bailout for the Americans who lost their homes to the guys who are now getting the bailout? How about $700 billion dollars to the citizens who are going into foreclosure? How would you sell that to the American people?

Instead of going on television and telling us how badly we need this bailout, perhaps President Bush should have called some Republicans in the House. Only 30% of his own party voted for the bailout. 40% of the democrats also said, "No thanks." Why? Why didn't they vote for the only hope to avert certain doom? What was their problem with this bill? Perhaps they have the same problems with it that I listed above. Perhaps they should get some no voter on television to say why they did this.

I'm also stupified that the Republican leaders could get on national television and claim that some republicans voted against the bill because of Rep. Pelosi's harsh rhetoric. Are you kidding me? The "greatest economic disaster since the Great Depression" is looming on the horizon and they change their vote because Rep. Pelosi offended them?? Never, and I mean this, never in my life have I wanted so badly to play Donald Trump and call Senators and Representatives into the board room and fire people. This is the most ridiculously immature thing I have ever seen in my short life. If politics had any dignity left, the last couple of days have succeeded in squashing that flat.

I want to be clear in one thing: I am no financial expert. My limited budgeting experience somes with formulating church budgets (maybe $250,000) and personal family budgets. We seek to spend less than we get. It's pretty simple. So I do not know if a bailout is the best thing to do. I can tell you why it angers me that we are in this predicament. I can tell you that fiscal irresponsibility and greed got us here. I can also tell you that innocent investors will suffer if there is no bailout. But I know that this bailout will protect the very folks who started this disaster, and that they will walk away with millions scott-free, and that there is no guarantee that this will even work and that it will sink our country into even more debt by the billions.

This is why I hired a guy with the expertise to make this decision. I hired him/her with my vote to be a level-headed expert to make decisions for the good of my family and my country. I should be able to trust this person to act professionally, and if they do vote in a way that I may not agree with, they should be able to demonstrate reasonably why they disagree with me. They should be able to make their point of view clear, and even if I disagree, I should be able to see clearly that their position is thought out and reasonable. I should not have to think that their opinion is dictated only by the latest opinion poll or that a Representative from California offended them so they changed their vote!! America deserves better. In November, let's meet them in the board room.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Audacity to be Correct

I remember, quite vividly, one of the things that used to bother me more than anything else in the world. It struck me, at the time, as either absolute arrogance or brainwash. If you wanted to elicit the rolling of the eyes or an audible scoff, all you had to do was mention that one could know that they were going to heaven. I thought such a knowledge claim was preposterous.

I believed that no one could really know that there is a God at all. Or if there were multiple gods. I was fine with claiming that Jesus was God, or that Budda was the enlightend one, or that Muhammed was Allah's prophet. After all, I figured any of these things could be true. I thought religion was simply a matter of picking the one that seemed to make the most sense. Thus, I was happy in my amiable agnosticism, and I was content to let everyone be happy in the system that they had long as they did not start telling me that I was absolutely wrong.

I felt that I had arrived at my own system of belief by the only means availible to a human being: reason. I found my system of belief to be as reasonable as anyone else's, and so I took it personally if someone told me I was wrong. I could suffer being told wrong if it could be demonstrated reasonably my error. But I would have none of this, "I just know that I know" stuff. That sounded too much like getting emotionally carried away or simple psychological wishful thinking. As if one were attempting to make something true by repeating it over and over.

In some ways, I am much the same as I was then. I am still stubborn, and I still have little patience for the "I just know that I know" explanation. I believe that a Christian ought to have a better reason for their faith than that. But in other ways, I am vastly changed. I now proclaim that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father, that one must believe that He died for one's sins and rose from the dead for one's justification, and that Jesus Christ is the true Lord of the Universe. I tell people that He is the absolute and only way to salvation. What changed?

I confess that I did not figure this out by reason. The Holy Spirit reaveled this to me personally through the gospel of Jesus Christ. My heart was dead, and God the Holy Spirit made me live. I had nothing to do with this. I did not figure it out by human wisdom. I did not figure it out because I was searching for God in my own strength. It was a simple, gracious, sovereign gift that God gave to me unmerited and unlooked for.

Because I remember where I came from and who I am, I try and present the truth in such a manner that I may cause the least offense. That is not to be confused with soft-peddling the gospel or avoiding conflict. I simply mean that I try to speak the truth in love and humility. The gospel is edgy enough without me adding my own hubris to it.

There are a few things that I now know to be true that really aggravate people. Even fellow Christians. I know that Jesus is the only true Lord and that salvation only comes by Him. I know that God has not chosen to save everyone, though He would save all who are willing. I know that God has an elect that He chose before the world began, and that this choosing was based in His own good pleasure and not by the foreseen merit of sinful creatures. I know that God makes a genuine offer of salvation to all who hear the gospel, but that man in his falleness will never bow the knee to Jesus Christ apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. I know that it is not God's fault when men perish, even if they are not among the elect. Men do not spend eternity in hell because they are 'unelect', they go there because they are guilty of willful sin, and it is willful sin that keeps men from embracing forgiveness in Jesus Christ. God does not actively prevent men from believing.

It may seem like arrogance to some for me to claim such things, but I assure you it isn't. I am open to correction from the Scriptures. If I am guilty of something, it is that I have the audacity to believe in truth and that I have received it by revelation of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Positives of Gov. Palin

In my discussion with Ron in the comments below, I realized that I may not have done quite what I set out to do in my last post. My last post was supposed to have been a critique of what I see as complementarian double-talk over the candidacy of Gov. Palin for VP. As a complementarian myself, I champion what I believe to be the God-designed roles for men and women, and how that crosses over into this situation is the role of male-headship. I simply find it inconsistent to claim that a men should be heads of the home, the leaders of the church, and yet act as if it doesn't matter if they aren't the leaders of the country.

So I want to say that, for the record, that I like Gov. Palin very much. Her living example as a pro-life Governor and VP candidate is like a breath of fresh air. I find the attacks that have been made against her for that position appalling. Some even stooped to say that it was her daughter's child and she pretended like it was hers to avoid scandal. How ridiculous! To add to my ire over how she has been treated, some have ridiculed her for even having five children. This doesn't simply indicate some people's disdain for Gov. Palin, it indicates their disdain of the traditional family and their lack of understanding of the beauty of human life.

Here is a summary of some of her positions according to Wikipedia:

Palin has described the Republican Party platform as "the right agenda for America," because of its "respect for equality and respect for life and an acknowledgment that it is individual Americans and American families who can make better decisions for ourselves than government can ever make for us," adding that "individual freedom and independence is extremely important to me and that's why I'm a Republican."Palin is a social conservative. A lifetime member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), Palin believes the right to bear arms includes handgun possession, and has advocated gun safety education for youth. She also supports capital punishment. Palin supports allowing the discussion of creationism in public schools, but says it does not have to be part of the curriculum.Palin opposes same-sex marriage and supported a non-binding referendum for an Alaskan constitutional amendment to deny state health benefits to same-sex couples.[Palin has called herself "as pro-life as any candidate can be," and she is supportive of "abstinence-only" sex education, although in 2006 said she supported contraception; she is opposed to abortion (including when the pregnancy is caused by rape or incest), but supports it in cases where the mother's life would be endangered. Palin has promoted oil and natural gas resource exploitation in Alaska, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and initiated a lawsuit over the federal listing of the polar bear and Cook Inlet beluga whale as an endangered species.

Read the whole article here.

So what does the above tell me? That on every issue of importance, I am in Gov. Palin's corner. Or perhaps, she is in mine. I even like that she sued over the federal listing of the polar bear and the Cook Inlet beluga whale being put on the endangered species list. Why? I am, myself, an adamant conservationist and I am pro-wildlife. But this lawsuit tells me that she has the chutzpah to stand up and question the convictions of the more left-leaning tree-hugger lot, whose word is generally accepted as law.

I like Gov. Palin, and I think that she is the best candidate we have for VP. But I don't have to like it, and I see her candidacy as a contradiction of ordained roles as taught in Scripture. Ultimately, it is the job of the man to protect families, this includes women and the unborn. I am sad that we've gotten to such a sorry state of affairs that men are no longer the best candidates to do that. I am also concerned that evangelicals are so quick to separate the "sacred and secular", as if such a division is even possible. I see it as political expediency, and I believe that it sets a bad precedence.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Palin, Political Expediency, and Complementarians

I have been doing a good deal of thinking and reading about Gov. Palin's run for the Vice-Presidency. I am bothered by how conservative complementarians have reacted to it, and I am afraid that we run the danger of compromising for the sake of political expediency. The argument that has come forth is that, while the Bible is clear that a woman's priority is in the home, and that they are not to exercise authority over men in the context of the church, it is actually silent regarding the issue of a woman holding secular authority. You may find a couple of strong arguments in this regard by Dr. Al Mohler here, and another excellent article by David Kotter writing for The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Dr. Mohler, the CBMW, and David Kotter are complementarians who believe that Gov. Palin's run is not necessarily outside the God-ordained role of womanhood.

I know that my critique of the view of these folks may be prideful assumption, but I find their argument bothersome for two important reasons. And on the third reason, I think that it may fail altogether. Let me outline my concerns and let you have at it in the comment section if anyone so desires.

My first worry is this idea that God has ordained roles for men and women inside the home and church that is not consistently applied in the secular world. That is, if Paul forbids women to "teach or have authority over men" (1 Timothy 2:10), must we assume he only meant in the context of the local church? Further, Paul made his argument from creation, not the church per se. In creation, God gave the man dominion over the created world, not simply the church and family. I find their reasoning to be very compartmentalized. I have to wonder, if Gov. Palin's husband is the head of her household and the one to whom she submits, shouldn't we be voting for him instead of her?

That leads me to my second objection. Since Francis Schaeffer, evangelicals have labored to teach people to have a "Christian World View" and not to compartmentalize the sacred and the secular. The reasoning of Dr. Mohler and the CBMW seems to do precisely that. I fear that this position is undercutting, for the sake of political expediency, the arguments complementarians have been advancing for years.

Finally, I want to address the issue of family. Voddie Baucham wrote a post on his blog entitled Did McCain Make a Pro-Family Pick? that addresses this issue. Baucham emphatically answers his own question with a "No!". Gov. Palin may be pro-life, but she is not acting pro-family by running for VP with five children. In fairness to Gov. Palin, she only has three dependant children. Her oldest son is in the military and is heading for Iraq, surely he doesn't still need her at home. Her oldest daughter is about to be a married woman, and I am of the opinion that a seventeen year old married woman is a woman who doesn't need mom at home. So that leaves three children, one of whom is an infant with Down's Syndrome. My wife has two children and is a stay-at-home mom. My wife can hardly find time in the day to go to the grocery store and go to exercise without a job. I simply cannot see, even with three children, how Gov. Palin could manage to be Vice-President, or even President!, and still keep home the priority.

But alas, I confess that I will most likely vote for the McCain/Palin ticket in November. I can even see much good from Gov. Palin's candidacy. (I may write on that tomorrow.) And if it is true that politics are the art of choosing between the unpalatable and the disasterous, then my decision is simply status quo and a reflection of the nature of the beast.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Religion, Politics, and Being Ridiculous

I want to share with you my "Laugh Out Loud" moment of the morning and why, after I thought about it, I got a little grieved. It seems that the director of the movie "Borat" has teamed up with Bill Maher of "Politcally Incorrect" to make a movie called "Religulous". You can check out the hype/advertisement piece for it here. The article is appropriately titled, Western religions attacked in film "Religulous". Basically, Maher will interview people "Borat" style and attempt to make Christians, Jews, and Muslims look at stupid at possible.

My first thought upon reading that Maher will try to make Christians look dumb was, "Shouldn't be too difficult." Oh the shame of religious goofiness that pervades the evangelical world! Hopefully, our brothers and sisters will see how ridiculous we can actually be and learn from it. We'll see. I confess that the thought of the average evangelical being caught unaware by a guy whose mission it is to make them look foolish made me uneasy. Especially knowing that the film will be purposefully edited to make them look as dumb as possible. Even a good defense of the faith can be caricatured by a good editor.

Enough with that. Let's move on to the blatant, contradictory idiocy that made me laugh. Look at this quote in the beginning by Larry Charles, the director of Borat:

"You can't get elected in America without having a religious affiliation. And it wasn't always that way." He says this as a sort of lamentation. It used to be a good thing, apparently, that people didn't take religious beliefs into account when they voted. That, in itself, is debatable. But does he really believe that this is a good thing? That a person's religious beliefs shouldn't be considered important? Here's the kicker that comes at the end.

"I think if we can create some sort of debate before the election it may actually help defeat McCain and Palin". In the first of this article this same guy bemoans the state of politics wherein people consider a candidate's religion when they vote. Apparently, he'd like some sort of election where people ignore religious "stuff" when they vote. The problem is that the same guy is rubbing his hands in glee that abusing religion and abusing people of faith will help defeat the guy he doesn't like. That, my friends, strikes me as hypocrisy in rare form. And the funny thing is, I didn't even have to edit him to make him look ridiculous.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Complementarians, Worldview, and Gov. Palin for VP

I believe that the evangelical world, at least the complementarian evangelical world is smiling right now with Senator McCain's pick of Gov. Sarah Palin. Except, I have the sinking feeling that it may be one of those pasted-on fake smiles that attempts to mask the turning of the mental wheels.

First of all, we evangelicals like Gov. Palin. She's pro-life. She has five children. She chose not to abort her Down's Syndrome son. She seems like a happy person. Plus, rumor has it that her husband has won the Iditarod four times, which means he's a manly man at least. She seems like a great lady.

So why is the smile turning to a look of concern? Because she has five children, one of them is a special needs child less than five months old. Evangelicals has spent the last forty years trying to convince moms that the home is the highest calling of her life. How does a woman be VP of the USA and still be mommy to five children? How is our whole-hearted support for her candidacy not akin to 'taking back' all of our ballyhoo about women being needed at home more than the office?

Now we find out that her seventeen year old daughter is pregnant and planning to marry. How will Gov. Palin find time to guide her daughter through this process and still maintain the rigorous schedule of the office of Vice-President?

As much as I like Gov. Palin, as much as I admire her down-to-earthness, her pro-life stance, and her general winsomeness, I am not happy about this choice for Vice-President. I think it goes against much of what I have been attempting to teach the men and women of our church, and it goes against much of the teaching that I have heard from some of the same folks who support this move. How am I supposed to convince the ladies of my church that it is nobler to relinquish career and income for the sake of educating and mothering her children while waving the banner for Gov. Palin? It smacks of political expediency, and I am afraid that it makes evangelicals look like the glassy-eyed Republican 'yes-men' that we are often accused of being.

I am troubled by this move, and I am more than a little dissappointed with the way it has been treated by most evangelical pundits. That is, we have praised her virtues as a mother...and yet we have been silent on why this run for VP is not the best thing she can do for her children. And if it is, why have we so consistently and adamantly insisted that the best place for a mother is in the home?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Democrat? Republican? Independant?

I recently registered to vote again. In the process, I had to declare myself 'democrat' or 'republican.' I hate that. It gives me the creeps. In fact, it gives me the same creepy feeling I get when someone asks me if I am a Calvinist.

I do not owe anything to Republicans or Democrats, per se. I am an issues voter, and I have basically one issue: abortion. If someone is pro-abortion, like Barak Obama, I simply will never, ever vote for them. I have many other things that I care about, but that is a great litmus test for me, and I hold it unashamedly. In fact, if I had to choose between a big government democrat who was staunchly pro-life and a little government, tax-cutting Republican who was pro-infanticide, I would happily vote for the democrat. Other disagreements seem minor by comparison.

It reminds me of one of my favorites scenes from Monty Python's classic "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." The bridge keeper asks what is the unladened flight speed of a swallow, to which King Arthur replies, "What do you mean, African or European?" So when someone asks me whether I am a Calvinist, or whether I am a Republican, I wonder what they could mean by that. And I generally get a creepy feeling about the whole thing...or did I mention that already?

Monday, August 04, 2008

A Few Announcements

In case there is anyone left checking in on the Sojourner blog, I wanted to announce that I will soon return to writing. I have been very busy as of late, resigning my church, starting and organizing a new church, and drinking coffee. But now I will have a little more time to write because our little church plant has called another pastor to come alongside and help to get things rolling. His name is Drew Dixon, and you can check out his stuff by following the new links on my sidebar. So go and get acquainted with Drew's stuff, and then decide to move down to Albertville and be a part of New Covenant Baptist Church. Woot.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Where I Am Now

I know that "Where I Am Now" posts are not particularly fun to read, but since my blog has been dead lately, I figured I should give a short explanation before I lose every reader but my wife.

In short, I resigned from the church I pastored this past Sunday. It has been a difficult time for all concerned. For this reason, I have not had either the heart or inclination to write here much. One, the trouble has consumed both my time and energy, leaving little room for creative thought. Secondly, I did not want anything written here to be misconstrued, so I felt it wise not to write much at all. I plan on blogging again in the near future, perhaps even this week, but as best as I am able I will steer clear of the controversy.

I will only note here that my family and I are well, we harbor no ill feelings toward any, and as always, we are in the hands of a sovereign God who does all things well.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Beloved, Theology is Not Easy

It occured to me the other day as I read a science article discussing the possible existence of dark matter and the merits of string theory that science has nothing on theology. Anyone who finds string theory invigorating would no doubt enjoy a lengthy discussion on Middle Knowledge, aka Molinism, and if you want to wonder about dark matter, try wrapping your mind around creation ex nihilo.

Yet, it never ceases to amaze me at how lightly the average evangelical takes theology. I would hazard to guess that the average church member has no idea what goes on in the average seminary, nor would they realize that it takes 96 semester hours after graduating college to receive a Master of Divinity. That's nearly another Bachelor's Degree. The majority of those hours are spent wading through Greek, Hebrew, Biblical exposition, and of course, Systematic Theology. That's not even touching upon Church History, the History of Christian Thought, Practical Pastoral classes, classes in evangelism, and classes on counseling. And though it does not count for credit, this does not count the nigh endless hours spent by would-be pastors and missionaries in local coffee shops debating the things that professors are teaching.

Theology is not easy, and why would we expect it to be? Theology, in essence, is the study of God. Good theology is the study of God through the lens of Scripture in order to lift our souls in worship in spirit and truth. We come at this study with many, many disadvantages. For one, we come to this endeavor with a soul that is blinded so thoroughly with sin that it would not know God if he slapped it in the face. Indeed, nothing short of total spiritual resurrection can even begin to open the eyes to the truth of God. Even after this rebirth, the soul must grapple with all sorts of besetting vestiges of sin that keep it from understanding and practicing truth. There is not one Biblical truth that the fallen flesh does not rage against. If a man ever comes to know one truth about God, it is only due to the fact that the Spirit of God has so victoriously assailed the citadel of pride that resistance has become futile and surrender is the only option.

Think of this: God is Trinity. This is one of the most basic concepts of Christianity. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. Yet the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, and the Holy Spirit is not the Son or the Father either. They are three is persons and one in essence. We will never, ever get to the bottom of this mystery. We can only glimpse it. The reason we cannot understand how the Trinity can be or what God looks like is because there is nothing in the creation to compare Him to. He is utterly and eternally and infinitely unique.

The Trinity is enough mystery to keep us occupied in worship for eternity, yet it is not the only mystery revealed in Scripture. We also know that Jesus, the eternal Son of God, became fully man. How did the inifinite take on the finite? How does the Son of God die? Can God die? Is there a God part in Jesus and a man part? (No. They are one.) The two natures of Jesus exist in a hypostatic union. As if that explains the mystery!

In my own congregation, the great and glorious mysteries of God's election and predestination are currently matters of some discussion. This not only explains my lack of posting, but it also explains the last couple of posts. We know that God has said, "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end form the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose'" (Isaiah 46:9-10). There is nothing that occurs that God has not sovereignly guided. Not one sparrow has dropped to the ground, not one cancer cell has formed, not one soul has been saved or damned that God did not declare its destiny.

Yet we teach and proclaim that human responsibility is real and that we are not robots. Every name that was not written in the Lamb's book of life from the foundation of the world will find its doom in the Lake of Fire. Yet, every soul so doomed will know that it was their fault and not God's that they abide there. How shall we reconcile God's sovereign declaration to elect some from every tongue and tribe and nation with every person's responsibility to repent and believe? I can try, and I have some ideas. But ultimately, many of the answers safely rest in the mystery of God, and I am content to leave some of them there. Concerning this John Calvin wrote:
Human curiosity renders the discussion of predestination, already somewhat difficult of itself, very confusing and even dangerous. No restraints can hold it back form wandering in forbidden bypaths and thrusting upward to the heights. If allowed, it will leave no secret to God that it will not search out and unravel...let them remember that when they inquire into predestination they are penetrating the sacred precincts of divine wisdom. If anyone with carefree assurance breaks into this place, he will not succeed in satisfying his curiosity and he will enter a labyrinth from which he can find no exit. You can find the quote in Book 3, Chapter 21, Section 1 of Calvin's Institutes.

I, for one, have no patience with a mystery-less Christianity. I love the mysteries of God, and it is my charge as a pastor to guard them. "This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy" (1 Cor. 4:1-2). That means I do not monkey with mystery to make it more understandable if the truth proves difficult. God's mysteries are not the sort of mysteries that leave one confused. They are sort of like a venture to the edge of the Grand Canyon. The vastness of the place that you trod will make you dizzy, and putting your toe to the edge of reason will nearly overwhelm you, as if the awesomeness of the place will pull you over the edge. Yet, to the edge we are beckoned. From there, with feet firmly planted, we will have the best view.

I agree, with much fear and trembling, with this statement of the 2nd London Baptist Confession:
By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predstinated or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ, to the praise of His glorious grace. Others are left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of His glorious justice. I wonder when Baptists stopped speaking like this? I wonder why we thought it wise to act like such doctrine could not be found in Scripture? I wonder when we decided to sell our doctrinal souls for a mess of pragmatic number counting and shallow humanism that has led to sermons with titles like, "Five Ways to Relieve Stress and be More Successful"?

Theology cannot be easy, not when our flesh groans so violently against the rule of the God we study. Every truth about God is repulsive to the natural man or it is misunderstood. Don't go into theology lightly, beloved. If you want something you can figure out, go study physics.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Vulgarity of the TULIP

Vulgar - Deficient in taste, delicacy, or refinement.

I have a sort of love/hate relationship with the acrostic that, for many, defines what has come to be known as "Calvinism." The old acrostic is the "TULIP", and the TULIP is supposed to represent the 5 points of Calvinism. Here is what the acrostic stands for:

T - Total Depravity
U - Unconditional Election
L - Limited Atonement
I - Irresistible Grace
P - Perseverance of the Saints

If defined correctly, I whole-heartedly agree with each of the 5 points of Calvinism. However, in an effort to make simple the complex, I have found that the TULIP itself can cause more trouble than help. I am rather envious that Arminians do not have a similar acrostic to put their feet to the fire. It is, perhaps, one of the reasons that a mostly-Arminian can remain so easily uncommitted to a system of theology that they so readily embrace.

I believe that the TULIP is vulgar. Not in the sense that it is slanderous or profane, but in the sense that it is common and lacks refinement. If one uses the TULIP as a teaching tool, a great deal of time must be spent undoing the very images that the acrostic conjures. Namely, you have to explain what you mean by "Total Depravity." Limited Atonement and Irresistible Grace are also worded in an unhelpful way. Particular Redemption and effectual grace are far better, but I guess that TUPEP isn't as catchy as TULIP.

The real reason that I dread the acrostic is that people make the mistaken assumption that if you have memorized the TULIP then you know the sum total of Reformed theology. As if the mystery of salvation, and God's decrees, and the truth of predestination and election could be summed up neatly with an acrostic. I have a similar unpleasant reaction when people use the word "Calvinism" or even when I am labeled a "Calvinist." I love John Calvin. I have found him to be a profitable teacher even when I disagree with him. My book shelf is lined with Calvin's commentaries from Genesis to Jude, and I also have his Institutes. To think that such mammoth contributions to theology can be regulated to 5 points is, well, vulgar. Besides, Calvin would not have cared for my theology very much. He would have run me out of town for being one of those unstable "Anabaptists," so I doubt he would want me wearing his label. Indeed, he would probably be quite upset if he learned there were any "Calvinists" at all. His regard and affections were centered on the Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in God's Word, I believe he would have found the term Calvinist repulsive.

Alas, I am afraid that there is no remedy for the dilemma. The TULIP is as good a start as anyplace to begin a conversation about God's sovereignty in salvation and man's inability to save himself. I'd prefer we start in John 6 or Romans 9 or Ephesians 1-2, but we'll make do with what we have.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Information on Calvinism/Reformed Theology

The issue of Calvinism and Reformation theology is swirling around in our church, and I thought it might be helpful to include a link to some places that explain the theology. This Wikipedia article might be a good start. You can also check out Bethlehem Baptist's statement regarding what they believe about the Five Points of Calvinism. John Piper is the pastor of that church, and he is probably one of, if not the most well-known evangelical preacher in the United States. This Ten Things List might also be helpful. If you have other helpful resources, feel free to post them in the comments.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Funny Quote for the Day

I got zilch in the creativity department, so I'll mooch off of others. This quote comes as a "critique" of the wardrobe choices in Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel of Matthew:

Some of the Jewish leaders have hats so ridiculous that even the Pope wouldn't wear them.

You can read the The 10 Worst Movies About Jesus for yourself. Funny stuff there.

HT:Evangelical Outpost

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Koran and the Highly Insultable Islam

It seems that an American soldier has been sent home from Iraq because he shot up a copy of the Koran. Indeed, President Bush has promised that he will be punished because of his insult to Islam. Do you think that his actions constitute a crime worthy of serious consequence? Is Islam now dictating the limits of freedom of speech and how much our soldiers should be punished? You can read the story here.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Charles Spurgeon on Election

From 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6:

From the very announcement of the text some will be ready to say, "Why preach upon so profound a doctrine as election?" I answer, because it is in the God's word, and whatever is in the Word of God is to be preached. "But some truths ought to be kept back from the people," you will say, "lest they should make an ill use thereof." That is Popish doctrine, it was upon that very theory that the priests kept back the Bible from the people, they did not give it to them lest they should misuse it. "But are not some doctrines dangerous?" Not if they are true and rightly handled. Truth is never dangerous, it is error and reticence that are fraught with peril. "But do not men abuse the doctrines of grace?" I grant you that they do; but if we destroyed everything that men misuse, we should have nothing left. Are there to be no ropes because some fools will hang themselves? And must cutlery be discarded and denounced because there are some who will use dangerous weapons for the destruction of their adversaries? Decidedly not. Besides all this, remember that men do read the Scriptures and think about these doctrines, and therefore often make mistakes about them; who then shall set them right if we, who preach the Word, hold our tongues about the matter?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

I'm Not So Bad: A Lesson in Depravity

I do not know if you have yet heard of Josef Fritzl, and if you haven't, you might do well to walk away from this post. Fritzl is an Austrian man who decided twenty-four years ago to lock his daughter in a basement and rape her repeatedly. Indeed, over the course of that time she was never allowed out of her basement prison once, and she bore seven children in that dungeon. One of them died, and Fritzl disposed of the body by incinerating it. Such abuse is absolutely horrific and so utterly depraved that one would feel hard pressed to even dream up such a wicked scenario. Yet, look at the response that Fritzl gives to the community so shocked by his evil:

I could have killed them all. Then there would have been no trace. No-one would have found me out.

He goes on to insist that he is no monster because if he had not taken the oldest daughter of his daughter to the hospital to save her life, then he would not have gotten caught. Basically, all of the internal organs of the young girl of 19 were shutting down, probably due to her imprisonment. But Fritzl is no monster, he says. He is, in fact, a life saver. He could have just killed them all, right?

There is no depth to which the depraved heart will not sink in order to justify itself. After all the evil that he has perpetuated, Fritzl can still come up with an excuse as to why he is no monster. Should it then be any surprise that our moral neighbor has difficulty seeing himself as a sinner in need of grace? How we need the Spirit of God to awaken us from our depravity and shine the spotlight of truth into our hearts! Truly, the heart is a deceitful, self-justifying, God-denying, self-exalting thing that will make monsters of us all if not for God's mercy.

Go here to read more material and the source from which these quotes were drawn.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Quick Comment on the Book of Judges

Okay, is it just me, or do chapters 16-21 of Judges read like some kind of horror story. Every time I read it, I come away rejoicing that I did not live in those days.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Theology Devoid of Love

A sort of squabble has erupted in the comment section over at Justin Taylor's Between Two Worlds over snobbish, prideful Calvinists foisting their theology onto others. That was not the intent of the article, but that is the brawl that has taken place none-the-less.

For full disclosure as a Calvinistic guy, I want to heartily agree with some of the commentors and affirm that Calvinists are indeed a prideful, snobby, and sometimes elitist brood. I also want to heartily affirm that this is true of everyone, regardless of your understanding of the atonement and regeneration, which is precisely why we are in need of the grace of Jesus Christ in the first place. So I confess my guilt and humbly beseech my dissenting brethren to search their hearts as well.

So why is it that folks can be so vindictive, divisive, and hateful over theology? Undoubtedly, all would agree that there are errors that are deal-breakers such as disagreements over, The Triune Nature of God, the full deity of Jesus Christ, the true of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, the need for Christ's atonement, the veracity of Scripture, and etc. When I say "deal-breaker", I mean that if you mess up one of these you have strayed into heresy so deep that your soul is in peril.

The truth is that Arminian and Calvinistic theology both fall neatly between the orthodox ditches, and while the disagreements are real, there is ample room for charity. Indeed, both sides should hold the other in high regard, and I pray that the Lord God make it so. So why is there such division?

For one, I think the problem is that too many Christians have nothing to lose. Who is causing the trouble? Many would say that it is the Young, Restless, and Reformed. So let's analyze who these folks are. They are probably youngish, well-read folks who have waded in to the deep end of theology but are still in the baby pool concerning love. The reason, perhaps, is that while they are to be commended for taking the doctrines of Christianity seriously, they probably have little deep regard for brothers and sisters as they are. In other words, they have fallen so deeply in love with their understanding of the 'ideal' church that they are unable to function in the church as she is.

Here's my meaning. Let's say you have a single, romantically minded young man who desperately wants a wife and he really wants to be a good husband. So, he reads up on it in the Bible and he comes across the magnificent Ephesians 5:22 that teaches wives to submit to their husbands. So on every date the young man goes on, he queries his potential mate and evalutes her potential as a wife by asking, "Are you going to submit to me in all things as you would to the Lord Jesus? If you don't, I can tell you that this isn't going anywhere." What do you suppose is his likelihood of finding a wife?

The guy is right about a wife's call to submit to her husband, but his ignorance concerning the rest of the beauty of marriage makes him an idiot. Plus, he's really got no emotional attachment to the deal, he generally runs all prospects off on the first date. The only reason he invites them to dinner is because they looked attractive until they were put off by his Biblical mindset, so he thinks. Indeed, he probably gets a bit of a matyr complex and bemoans the condition of a world filled with women unwilling to submit to men as to the Lord.

Let's say, by the grace of God, this guy actually does get married. Let's pretend also that, shockingly, he actually turns out to be a tender and caring husband. Over the course of time, he feels that the Lord God is calling him to pack up and take a job in California, far from family and home, and well, his wife is not too keen. Do you suppose that he should take out Ephesians 5:22 and pound her over the head with it until she throws up her hands in surrender and moves to California? Theologically, he's got it in the bag, right? Ideally, she trusts in the Lord and moves to California. Realistically, it may take time for God to overcome doubt and refine the heart to love His call and Word.

That's my rough analogy for why Calvinists and others act so idiotically over their theology. They have nothing to lose because they are just flirting around with the church and the people in it, and if it does not immediately conform to their ideal, they puff out the chest and go someplace else. Isn't it true that it is possible to "understand all mysteries and all knowledge" and still be nothing? (1 Cor. 13:2).

As a special point to the most zealous of the divisive theologs, I have to wonder if where you are now theologically is where you began? Did you get here without struggle and honest questions? And what truth do you have now that God did not grant you to have? Do you think that you figured things out because you are smarter and wiser and less sinful than other men and women? If you are truly enlightened, then you owe it to both the wise and the unwise to be patient, gentle, forebearing, long-suffering, and kind. If not, we poor rubes may never see the glory of God as clearly as you see it, and that would be a lousy stewardship of the gift that God has given you, wouldn't it?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Burnt Offerings, Leviticus 10:1-20

The smell of burnt flesh lingered in the tabernacle, a noxious, unforgettable smell that burns into the memory like the flame that gave rise to the stench. The high priest stares, his eyes watering from the sting of smoke and the sight of charred ephods and burned hands; hands that once held his own, they were smaller then and plump, they were soft once and not black as they are now.

Just yesterday those hands were used to help him, the high priest, offer the blood which he had sprinkled on the altar for the people, the altar before which they now lay in utter ruin. They had stood by as he had lifted up his hand and blessed the people:

The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Just yesterday they had seen the fire come out from the presence of the LORD and consume the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. Now they are gone. Their hands will assist here no more. The same fire that consumed the burnt offering has consumed his sons.

"This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.'" Moses spoke these words into the ear of his brother, still taking in the sight before him, and Aaron held his peace. Moses called to Aaron's cousins, and they came to take away the remains of Nadab and Abihu.

"Don't uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the people. But let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD has kindled." Aaron could only stand and watch as the bodies of his boys were carried out of the camp before the eyes of all the people.

Aaron turned to his remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar. This very day, they would wear the ephod and minister before the LORD. Their hands would assist in the task of intecession. They will not mourn their brothers. Today, they will offer incense and offerings before the LORD as Nadab and Abihu before them. Tonight, they will lie down to the chorus of a million wailing voices, expressing a grief they cannot utter themselves.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Traditional, Contemporary, or Blended? Part 3

Finally! We can get to the theological part of why I believe a 'blended' service is a Biblically faithful service. The reason that I say "Biblically" or "theologically" faithful is because I get the feeling that most traditional churches go for a "blended" style just to throw a bone to the young folks. In other words, the switch is born out of pragmatism, not out of theological reflection. As food for thought, I want you to think of all the traditional churches you know who have tried to make a move to be more blended, for whatever motivation. Have you, on the other hand, ever heard of a contemporary church making a move towards a more traditional blend? (Failed conversions don't count!)

I want to center my thoughts on one main passage, and you can then judge for yourselves whether my conclusions have any merit. Paul taught this to the Ephesian church:

Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21)

Do you see that Paul includes psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs? That is, in my mind, a blanket statement including every sort of song there is. Notice also at the end of the section that all of this praising of God and singing is bound up under our mutual submission to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Here is where I poke the traditional crowd. I have often heard it said that most contemporary worship is simply irreverent. The usual offense is either the loudness of the music, the instruments used to make the music, or the exuberance observed in the worshippers participating in the contemporary service. Behold Psalm 150: 1, 3-6:

Praise the LORD!...Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!

If the guitar bothers you, then you only need look at this psalm. All stringed instruments are included, even commanded, to be used in the service of God's worship. (A lute is, after all, the forerunner of the modern guitar.) If drums bother you, behold the timbrel and cymbal! Ancient percussion was used in the worship of God, indeed, it is commanded. Further, the psalmist liked loud cymbals! And they danced! Dancing was commanded! So beware, beloved traditionalist, beware. There is no sense in trying to be more traditional than God's Word, and there is no sense in being less enthusiastic than we are commanded to be. It could be that, in part, the contemporary guy is right: You are sinfully uptight. Sinfully? Yes, sinfully. The Psalm commands the praise of the Lord in this manner, not always, but sometimes, and if you stifle that, you stifle genuine praise. Beware, lest you go the way of Mical who "looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart" because "David danced before the LORD with all his might" (2 Samuel 6: 16, 14). She thought his worship was shameful, but it was she who should have been ashamed.

If you really want to see variety, look no further than the Psalms. Do you hate 'repetitive' praise and worship songs? What do you do with Psalm 136 that repeats the line "His mercy endures forever" 26 times in 26 verses? Are the contemporary songs too short and fluffy? What of Psalm 117 that weighs in at a whopping two verses? Perhaps you find long hymns a drag? What of Psalm 119 that has 176 verses? Can you imaging a Worship Pastor saying, "Turn in your hymn books to Psalm 119, we will be singing all 176 verses."

I had planned on finishing this today, but I got busy. I'll finish up my thoughts on this tomorrow, if God wills. Suffice to say that if you are really anxious, just look up how many times we are commanded to sing a "new" song to the Lord. That should keep you busy for a bit.