Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The unknown of 2009

As I think about the end of 2008, and all the blessings and disappointments that have come, I realize what a charmed life my wife and I really live. We don't have to look too far to realize that both of us having secure jobs, a good roof over our heads, food pretty much anytime we want it, and good transportation, that we are extremely blessed. Indeed 2008 was a good year as our first full year of marriage. The unknown of 2009 is something not to be feared as we know all things are in God's hands and he "causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28. That verse really ministers to me as I look back at some of the tragic events that did take place in my life in 2008.

February 14th, 2008 my cousin Caleb, age 22, died of sudden heart failure. I'm closer to his older sister Charity as I practically grew up with her, but Caleb was special to me as well seeing him grow from an infant. I was even able to take him to one of his first concerts, front row at the Fox!

This past summer, a good friend of mine lost his cousin in a freak driving accident late at night while coming home with her husband. A car ran a stop sign and hit their car at just the right spot to kill her instantly. Her husband was barely harmed. She was 29 and was coming home from celebrating her birthday with her parents.

October 5th of this year, another great friend of mine's wife of less than two years gave birth to their first child. This joyous occasion soon turned to terror as she was rushed into the operating room with internal bleeding a few hours later, only to die in that room as the doctors were unable to save her. She was able to hold her young child only once, before leaving this world.

I don't write this to depress, but simply to reflect that there are certain things in this world that we are not in control of. And while we do not know what 2009 will bring, we hope and pray that it brings blessings to us and joys so that we may give God the glory, and we pray for the strength and grace to get through whatever trials may come, so that once again we may give God the glory. We must remember as the prophet Isaiah spoke, "I, the Lord, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself and spreading out the earth all alone,......Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker- An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, What are you doing? Or the thing you are making say, He has no hands? Woe to him who says to a father, What are you begetting? Or to a woman, To what are you giving birth?

Yes, we must submit to the biblical truth that God is sovereign, and he does work all things to the good for those who love Him, either in this life, or the next. Do we truly love Him? May 2009 be a year of love and adoration for our God, for all the many blessings he has done through His Son Jesus Christ. Taken from The Valley of Vision here is a prayer and it shares hope and encouragement for the new year. It is a good one to include in your prayers as you look forward to 2009.

O Lord,
Length of days does not profit me
except the days are passed in Thy presence,
in Thy service, to Thy glory.
Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides,
sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour,
that I may not be one moment apart from Thee,
but may rely on Thy Spirit
to supply every thought,
speak in every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote of faith,
and give me a desire
to show forth Thy praise;
testify Thy love,
advance Thy kingdom.
I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,
with Thee, O Father as my harbour,
Thee, O Son, at my helm,
Thee O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.
Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to Thy calls,
my heart full of love,
my soul free.
Give me Thy grace to sanctify me,
Thy comforts to cheer,
Thy wisdom to teach,
Thy right hand to guide,
Thy counsel to instruct,
Thy law to judge,
Thy presence to stabilize.
May Thy fear by my awe,
Thy triumphs my joy.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Some things are hard to deny...

At TimesOnline, avowed atheist Matthew Parris writes an article admitting that "Africa needs God." Here's a portion of the article:
Travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing."

That's just part of the article, the whole article can be read here:

It's very encouraging for someone who is a self-admitted atheist to see that true Christians really do become new creations. He actually sees that their hearts change for the better. We should pray that the Lord would change his heart as well. It is definitely a testament to how Christians, in some sense, are more faithful stewards of Christ in oversees missions than we are in the USA. Too many distractions in our daily lives to even care about what happens in countries where the next meal isn't guaranteed.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Matt. 5:16

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!!

Christmas is the annual holiday celebrated by Christians on December 25 celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was born somewhere between 7 and 2 BC. Dec. 25 is most likely not the date when Christ was born, but was designated as such in the 4th century in order to substitute for pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. The term Christmas comes from a combination of “Christ” with “Mass.” Often the Greek X (Chi) is substituted for “Christ” making Xmas (as was the custom in the early church when abbreviated Christ’s name). There is no command in Scripture to celebrate this day as a holiday but Christians believe the incarnation is the foundation to salvation and, according to many, the greatest miracle in the history of man.

Incarnation is the union of the second person of the Trinity with humanity. Christ became “incarnate” in that he took on the flesh or human nature (John 1:14). The incarnation was a theological necessity for Christ to secure salvation and act as the mediator between God and man. Without the incarnation, man would be hopeless and unable to find representation that might serve as a substitute and an advocate on his behalf. In Christianity the incarnation is celebrated each year at Christmas.

Each time this year, many of us are reminded that "Jesus is the reason for the season". This little catch phrase has become a way for Christians to remind themselves of the real meaning of the lights, presents, and winter vacations that are to come. But maybe saying "Jesus is the reason for the season" and actually sitting at the feet of our Lord Jesus can be two completely different things. Maybe it's a little trite to comment on how busy we all are at this time of year because regardless of the temporary relief that little phrase may give, it never seems to lessen the burden of the busyness. I think the heart of the matter goes back to finding a moment to take a deep breath, close your eyes and think. Think about Christ. Do you love Christ? Are you close to Christ? It always boils down to Christ. His claims and the impact he left on this world force us to either take him seriously, or take him as a mad man. I prefer to take him seriously. Ultimately it doesn't matter if the Christmas tree is decorated, or if your outfit fits the way you want, or even if you got what you wanted for Christmas or not. The only thing that matters is your love for Christ. Do we have a relationship with Him that is deep? I'm NOT talking about religion here, I'm talking about a relationship. That's Christmas...kneeling down beside the ancient manager where the livestock used to feed, and decide that you too shall feed there once again, filling yourself on Christ. We may not always feel the Christmas cheer we once did in years past, because that was rooted in mystical discoveries of childhood that has long since faded away. But there is still something magnificent that longs to be captured in our hearts at Christmas time, and that is Christ Himself, the real reason for this season.
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mary Christine Jackson 1920-2008

My Grandmother, Christine Jackson, passed away today at age 88. This is not a shock to the family as she has been ill and in the hospital for several days. She leaves 6 children, 13 Grandchildren, 10 Great Grandchildren, and 2 Great Great Grandchildren. This spans five generations of which I believe a picture was recently taken. I hope to find out if that picture was taken soon. Funeral arrangements are Friday at 3pm in Adairsville. She will be buried next to her husband, Howard Jackson who passed away in 1988.

Congratulations to my brother and sister-in-law!

Today, December 24th, 2008 marks my brother Darryl Jackson and his wife Melody Jackson's 25th wedding anniversary! They are celebrating in Ashville, NC at the Biltmore estates. In a day where so many marriages end so quickly, it's great to see the success they've had in their marriage for so long. Of course we had great role models in our parents! They'll be celebrating 50 years in 2011.
Darryl and Melody got married at age 20 after only dating for a very short time. They had known each other off an on for quite a while, including having the same baby sitter at one time. Darryl was in the Navy stationed in Hawaii, and came home to visit when things took off between them. A few months later they were engaged, and till this day, Darryl says he gave Melody a 3 year honeymoon in Hawaii!

Short lenghts of dating seem to run in our family I guess as my mother and father only dated 3 months before getting engaged and then were married 3 months later. Oh how times have changed. Even my marriage started after a short time of dating. Lynn and I were engaged after 5 months of dating and married after 11 months of our first date. But, we'd known each other as well, previously by attending the same church.

Marriage should not be taken lightly in any way, and should be considered as one of the most important decisions you'll ever make in your life. As Christians, we must be certain that the person we're going to spend the rest of our lives with are Christians as well. I pray that God will give Darryl and Melody 25 more years together and that Lynn and I along with them can have marriages lasting 50 years, as a testimony to our faithfulness to one another, and commitment we made on our wedding days. That's what Marriage is, right? A commitment between a man and woman to cling to one another till death departs them. In a world now where close to half of marriages end in divorce, and even the term "marriage" itself is up for debate as to what it means in our society, I feel the need to celebrate how marriage has been modeled in my family by my parents and brother. I pray Lynn and I will have many years to come in our marriage.
"For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." Genesis 2:24

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Virtual Mindfield

The Internet is a minefield—there is no doubt about it. For every blessing it brings (and there are many) there seem to be innumerable dangers. For every relationship strengthened, there is another destroyed. For every minute of time saved through some great technological advance, there are hours wasted in distraction and procrastination. (maybe like reading this blog...ha!) For every good use, there are uncounted evil uses. Such is the fate of technology in the hands of sinful human beings.

One problem with the Internet can be the loss of personal integrity. I ordered a new book today called Virtual Integrity and it is on improving, not removing, virtual experiences. It is not about fleeing the Internet, but about using it wisely and with integrity. In the words of the author Daniel J. Lohrmann, it is about learning “to recognize and repel the many, many challenges to integrity faced by anyone who goes online.” My wife and I have often talked about if we have children, how we will handle this issue with them having access online. Most, if honest, will admit that it is extremely easy for anyone to see and experience many debased things on the web, all in the privacy and secrecy of our home. This can be a huge temptation to those struggling with certain sins, having the capability of partaking in them in a private way. Not having children, we haven't had to deal with this yet, but when or if they do come along, it has been decided that all Internet access will be done out in the open spaces of the house, and monitored. No internet access in the bed rooms or closed spaces. I look forward to reading this book, although I'm not sure how quickly I'll get to it seeing there are a few other books ahead of this one waiting eagerly to be read.

I just got the Master's Seminary Journal in the mail and will be reading it next. It's a timely issue no doubt with five articles dealing with Homosexuality. The articles should be insightful as they deal with God's Word on Homosexuality, Cultural and Medical Myths about Homosexuality, Marriage and Homosexuality: A Biblical Understanding, Parenting and Homosexuality, and the Church's Response to Homosexuality. This journal comes out once a year, and the topics are decided a year in advance. One wonders if the faculty of the Seminary knew how timely these articles would be for the state of our nation today. I look forward to being taught the Word of God on this subject, as it is a sensitive and hot topic issue in our culture today. I stand unashamed with God's word on this issue, as I do with any other sin mentioned in the Bible. Some of which I've been guilty of myself. Thank God for his mercy and forgiveness of any sin, regardless, if one would just repent, turn from those sins, and trust in the work of Jesus on the cross as an atonement for those sins. The Bible teaches that Christ IS our Savior, but He's also our Lord, and we must obey Him. "And He was saying to them all, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?" Luke 9:23-25
God Bless.

Friday, December 19, 2008

You can't please all people, all the time. Nor should we try...

Today, a lot of people are writing, blogging, whatever about Obama's choice of Rick Warren to do the opening prayer at the inauguration next month. I honestly don't have a lot to say about that at this time as to be honest, I've never really paid attention to who did the opening OR closing prayer. The inauguration is not a Church service to uplift our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. My understanding is that the guy closing the event IS a supporter of the GLBT's attempt to redefine the age old term of marriage. So there you have it, you got two preachers, one is taking a biblical stand, the other apparently does not. Obama chooses both to be careful and respectful to both sides, and still gets attacked verbally. Obama "claims" to be a Christian, so he must believe the Bible, right? Hard to say, but it doesn't appear that he does and that's the Christian's foundation for truth in this world. An apple tree produces apples, an orange tree produces oranges, a banana tree.....well, you get the picture. A Christian acts like a Christian based upon teaching from God's Word, the Bible.

I don't mean to be cynical here, but I'm not a big Rick Warren supporter either. He says a lot of good stuff, but it's built on a shaky foundation. Any minister worth his salt builds his foundation upon the gospel of Jesus Christ, and though I do not doubt his faith or his intentions, I find that what I've read of his deviates from solid doctrine on many points. And while I don't mean to turn this into a review of the "Purpose Drive Life" (which sold 25 million!) it notes saying that in this best seller, Rick does not at any time provide a clear explanation of the gospel message. On page 58 he says, “Real life begins by committing yourself completely to Jesus Christ” but never comes closer than that. He never writes about such crucial doctrines as man’s sinfulness and need for a Savior or the work of Jesus. He never mentions the importance Christ’s life, the cross or the empty tomb. Yet on page 58 we find him leading the prayer of “Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you” and then saying “Welcome to the family of God!” How can a person become a Christian without any understanding of his own sinfulness or of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf? This is dangerous, and while Rick does say and promote a lot of good stuff and good works that we might do well to obtain, it unfortunately is built upon that very weak message.

Al Mohler did an excellent article on this today, and I thought I would post it here.
He talks about the high cost of being cool in the world's eyes, and what that can cost a Christian, if they choose to go that route. There's really more that could be said on this issue, but enough has been written, and anything on here wouldn't add much value. I just simply don't see this as an issue to lose sleep or get in a tizzy about, but others apparently disagree.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Agnosticism is the theological suspension of belief in God or a creator. An agnostic can be “hard” or “soft.” The “hard” agnostic does not believe that anyone can know whether or not there is a God. A “soft” agnostic is one who has not personally made a decision about God's existence but does not believe that others cannot come to solid conclusions about the matter. The term agnostic can be used more generally in other contexts in which people do not take a definite stand. This term is mostly used for theological reasons and I personally believe describes where a lot of people are in their belief in God, or even the Bible.

I've come to realize in my life that you simply can't force anyone to believe anything really, but especially when it comes to spiritual matters. Even scripture itself speaks on this. Paul writing in 1 Corinithians 1:18 says "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside. Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through it's wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." Paul clearly states here that the Christian message is foolishness to the wise of the world, those whom he describes is perishing. They won't believe it nor do they have the power to believe it without the help of the Holy Spirit, and drawing of the God the Father. John 6: 44 Jesus says, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him;" He goes on to explain a couple of chapters later that "The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. John 10:25-28God wisely established that men could not come to know Him by human wisdom, which is exactly how all other religions attempt to know him. That would exalt man, so God designed to save helpless sinners through the preaching of a message that was so simple, the "worldly wise" deemed it silly and folly. Is this not how true Christians are viewed today by most of the world? Salvation requires and comes only through faith, and Jesus himself when asked who could be saved, responded by saying that the things that are impossible with people are possible with God (Luke 18:27), meaning, we can't save ourselves, only God can. And only God can open the blinded eyes, and closed mind of an unbeliever to His glorious truth.

While it is true that any who come to Christ for Salvation will not be turned away, the truth of scripture is that they cannot come unless they are awaken and drawn by the Father, and of those, he will turn none away. Let us not be discouraged when we cannot make anyone believe the truth we hold so dear, let us just proclaim it boldly and let God the Father do His work. For it is only by hearing of, and faith in the Word of God that anyone can be saved. Rom. 10:17

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Top eight books I've read of 2008

I thought I would do a list of my favorite books that I read in 2008. The top 8 of 08! While Christian books and Theology is not all I read, it is what I enjoy the most, so that's all that is in this list. I also took time this year to read a couple of Christian Classics that made this list. So, these books are what I enjoyed the most this year. I would recommend these books to anyone:

1. The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur.
-MacArthur is not only my favorite pastor/teacher, but a great writer as well. This book should be read by every Christian. The title says it all. In a culture where there are so many gospels, the one Jesus gave should be the one we embrace and love.

2. Evangelism & The Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer
-A great book on a topic that is hard for many Christians to deal with. What is our role in evangelism if God is the one who saves?

3. Jesus: Lord & Savior by FF Bruce
- The title says it all. Jesus is our Lord & our Savior

4. Knowing God by J.I. Packer
- Another Packer classic! This covers the attributes of God very well. Many Christians unfortunately know nothing of the attributes of the Lord.

5. Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Will Metzger
- This book gives the whole gospel unashamedly and teaches us not to water down the message. A great book in a time where many churches are watering down the message to attract more people.

6. What is a Healthy Church Member by Thabiti Anyabwile
- A short and practical book that explains what as church members we should be doing to edify and build up the body of Christ.

7. The New Covenant Ministry of the Holy Spirit by Larry Pettegrew
- A great book on the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer in this church age. This too is a topic that many Christians don't understand. The Holy Spirit means so many things to so many people, depending upon who you talk to. Scripture is clear on His role, and this book does an excellent job in discussing and teaching that.

8. Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges
- My mother in law bought me this book for Christmas last year, and what a humbling blessing it turned out to be. This book will humble any Christian who is willing to be made aware of the sinful flesh we still dwell in. This book made me realize how unholy I am, and how Holy God really is.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Santa? Or no Santa?

I had a good conversation with a friend today on the In's and outs of teaching Santa to kids. This time of year, you can't sneeze without seeing, hearing, smelling, or even sometimes feeling Santa Claus every where you go. For the record, I was raised on Santa, and since we didn't have a chimney, was lead to believe that my parents left the door unlocked, with nice cookies and milk for him once he comes in. (I'm sure my dad enjoyed the cookies very much!)

But the conversation stemmed from a Christian stand point. If we are believers in the scriptures, and believers in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we celebrate Christmas to give thanks that God saw fit to send an atonement for our sins, that through faith in Him and repentance of our sins, we might be saved from an eternal damnation away from God. Now, I know that Christ was NOT born on December 25Th, not even in the winter. Christmas was started on this day in rejection of the pagans festivals and worship at the years end of all their false gods. Christmas was the Christians way of saying, we're not going to follow that, but we'll take this time of year and celebrate the birth of our Lord.

Now, I see nothing of that in Santa Claus. Santa is seen as an all knowing deity (if you'll allow me to use that word) that flies around the world in one night, bringing gifts to those children who are good. The gifts therefore, must be earned. (although I doubt any parents these days are going through with the promise of " you better be good or Santa won't visit") The gift that Christians celebrate of Christ cannot be earned. Scripture tells us that "there is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God, All have turned aside" Rom. 3: 10-12. Paul goes on to say in that same chapter that "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." Ephesians 2:8 says we were saved by GRACE through FAITH, and not of our works. We must repent of our sins, which means turn from them, and place our faith in the work that Christ did on the cross as a payment for our sins. Turn to Christ. This gift simply cannot be earned through good merits and favors. I fear this is the false doctrine of most of the world. Most people believe they are going to Heaven simply because they are pretty good people. Scripture does not teach this. Scripture teaches that true salvation PRODUCES good works. Christians do bear fruit!

I see where teaching Santa so heavily to our children, and leaving off the doctrines of scripture on Christ can be so damaging at such a young age. But I will not be dogmatic about this topic. I leave it up to the conscience of the believer. I was raised on Santa as was my wife, and I think we turned out okay, well....she did anyways. So if a Christian decides to play the Santa card with their child, that is their discernment and decision. I would simply caution to make sure the child has an understanding of the TRUE meaning of this day for Christians. If one's not a Christian, I guess this day can be about whatever they choose for it to be.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The world does NOT need another blog

Nevertheless, I'm starting a blog. Why on earth would anyone do that? Well, I find that a lot of information crosses my path through my studies, basic news coverage and just the whatnots of life in general. I tend to keep my thoughts bottled up and then forget them as time passes. (some probably wish I would keep them bottled up for good!)
I do NOT expect anyone to read or follow this blog. This is done more for me as a journal so to speak, and for my wife and should the Lord bless us with children. The picture you see is of me and my lovely wife.
I welcome anyone to read this blog, especially friends, but I certainly don't expect it since time seems to be hard to find these days. I always find it interesting how each of us is given 24 hours in a day, no more, no less, yet some seem to get so much more done than others. Having said that, I do not expect anyone to give up any of their 24 hours or 1440 minutes a day to read what I have to say about anything. But if you do, I promise to try and keep it interesting. :-) God bless.