Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Idolatry never changes

Jackson’s service was an representation of pluralism. Everybody involved wanted to invoke God’s name as you’re supposed to do when remembering a loved one Unfortunately, most of them invoked a god made in their own image. Even those who spoke of Jesus or who prayed to Jesus did so without any clear reference to the Jesus of the Bible. They spoke of a Jesus who accepts all, even those who had rejected him. I don't know that Michael Jackson ever gave any evidence of putting his faith in Jesus Christ, yet those who watched were assured, over and over, that he was now safe in the presence of the Lord, waiting there for the rest of us. Words and phrases invoked God and used Christian talk without any reference to the gospel, the true gospel, the gospel that saves. Lost men declared to other lost men untruths about the god they wish for, not the God who is.

During the singing of the song We Are the World, those who watched saw religious symbols from all faiths across a video screen. All faiths are the same, don’t you know? Why dwell on such small distinctions? God is whoever you want him (or her or it) to be. We are the world. Heck, we are even god.

Of course his brothers and sisters and daughter were distraught and that's normal, but so too were many of the fans who so loved him. I read a report a radio interview with a woman from Toronto who attended a screening of the service. She told how when she heard of Jackson’s death she collapsed and was inconsolable, at least until she could go to a tattoo parlor and have “Gone too soon” tattooed onto her body; that was the beginning of the healing process. She had brought her young son to the memorial service so he could see his mother’s love for this man she so venerated. Maybe that's an extreme example, but I believe there are many more similar. All across North America, all across the world, there are similar stories of worship. Can we call it anything other than worship? I don’t think this is too strong a word. For many people, Jackson was a god; for many people celebrity is idolatry.

Yesterday we saw idolatry of a whole different order than what is discussed in the Old and New Testaments. Idolatry that really is no different than it ever has been. There are some who, in their idolatry, bow low before gods of wood and stone and burnished bronze. There are others who, in their idolatry, live vicariously through celebrities and who bow low before the spirit of the age. Michael Jackson’s funeral, where God’s name was invoked and where Jesus’ name was supposedly held high, was as vivid an expression of idolatry as is the footage Indian Hindus dancing with joy and veneration before their statues. One is a base, simplistic idolatry, the other is more sophisticated. Both are the same ancient sin, the same ancient rebellion against the one true God.

I couldn't fault anyone for buying an album of his, or liking some of his music as he was very talented in dancing and singing. I too have music that I enjoy. Nonetheless, the worship ascribed to him, or any celebrity is a sad part of the culture in which we live.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sharing the gospel with Gays

June 19 marked the beginning of Toronto’s annual Pride Week. Now in its 28th year, this is a week-long celebration of diverse sexual and gender identities. Organizers describe it this way: “Pride Week celebrates our diverse sexual and gender identities, histories, cultures, creativities, families, friends and lives. It includes a three-day street festival with over eight stages of live entertainment, an extensive street fair (including community booths, vendors, food stalls), a special Family Pride program, a politically charged Dyke March and the infamous Pride Parade.”
Pastor John Bell of New City Baptist Church right in the heart of Toronto has an active evangelistic ministry within Toronto’s gay village. Reformed Christian blogger Tim Challies asked him if he would write an article reflecting on some of the joys and challenges in this unique ministry. Below is this well written article, one that shows in my opinion a biblical approach to this, something that we unfortunately don't see very often. Long but well worth the read:
It is Gay Pride week here in Toronto and Tim has asked me to write a guest post detailing my evangelistic efforts in Toronto’s LGBT-oriented community [LGBT stands for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender).I would appreciate any helpful insights or criticisms the readers of this blog can offer me, as well as your prayers.
I began this ministry two years ago while working as an intern in a downtown Toronto church. I was told that part of my internship duties would involve three hours of evangelism every week in a coffee shop or pub. This was not happy news. To be honest, I find this kind of evangelism very intimidating. “Cold call” is not my style; I’m too polite! As the pastor explained what he expected of me, a likely scenario played itself out in my mind: I approach somebody at Starbucks who is reading a book and drinking a latte. I introduce myself and ask if I may sit with them and talk. Naturally, they want to know my business, so I straightaway introduce the topic of religion or Jesus, probably sounding like the Mormons who came to their door the previous week while they were eating dinner.
Personally (and God uses all types, so I’m not making an absolute statement) I find this kind of evangelistic tactic less than ideal. I don’t know anything about this person, yet I have just interrupted their morning coffee to talk about what I want to discuss. I wanted my evangelism to get off on a better foot, to be more natural; I wanted to initiate the discussion in a way that was neither “rude” nor by way of a specious pretext (conducting a poll on spirituality, etc). Moreover, if I asked to sit and speak with a woman, she might think I was hitting on her. Of course living where I do, a man might think the same thing. Better to take the bull by the horns, I thought. I had never been to a gay coffee shop before but I thought (correctly) that gay men would want a complete stranger to sit with them and chit-chat, so that’s what I decided to do.
Toronto’s gay village is just a ten minute walk from where I live. The first time I ventured out, I prayed to the Lord that he would show me where to go and what to do and what to say. I was very nervous. I had no plan. I was certain I was going to see all manner of disgusting things and that I was going to be thrown bodily out of the establishment for disseminating fundamentalist hate. But I had to tell my pastor that I had evangelized for three hours that week, so I was stuck.
The Lord went ahead of me. I stepped into the first coffee shop I saw, a Timothy’s at Church and Alexander. I found out later that this is the gay coffee shop in all of the Greater Toronto Area. (See the Wikipedia article Its clientele is mostly middle-aged men. I bought my coffee and looked around for a place to sit. The tables are very small and the seats are close together—perfect for evangelism, though I’m sure that was not the original intent!
The gay community in Toronto is very close-knit. Most of the men have known each other for years and everyone is on a first name basis. Many men are fixtures at this coffee shop. I have become friends with four of these fixtures: A—- , who has severe cerebral palsy that confines him to a wheel chair (that does not impede his sex life, however; he told me he’s had hundreds of partners); D—- , an HIV infected drag queen who was molested by a Catholic priest; J—- , a civil servant, recently relocated from Ottawa; and C—- , who works in the credit department of a national bank. These men have accepted me as their friend and have introduced me to other gay men, although they know I’m a straight, born again conservative Christian who does not condone their lifestyle.
I have talked to quite a number of gay men now—almost all of them white and middle aged. Many of them came out of the closet after having been married with kids. For whatever reason, 85% have come from Catholic backgrounds. That means that much of my evangelistic groundwork has already been covered. There is no need to explain that the bible has two testaments, or who Moses or Abraham were, or convince them of the historic factuality of the resurrection; for the most part, they believe it. I’m finding it’s the authority of scripture that I need to deal with the most.
When I first meet someone at the coffee shop and they ask me what I do (which is a natural “in” to introducing the gospel) they assume that I must be a liberal gay Baptist minister, because otherwise what would I be doing in their coffee shop? (The first man I talked to had only just broken up with his boyfriend, a Methodist pastor.) I begin by asking them questions. I get them to do all the talking for the next 45 minutes. I ask them about their job, their background, their family life, their personal life and what they believe and why so I can get a picture of their epistemology and worldview. Needless to say, I frame my questions in an inquisitive, slightly naive, polite fashion, not in an interrogative, formal way. Gay men love to talk (at least the ones in this coffee shop seem to) and people in general today enjoy discussing “spirituality”. Then, out of politeness, they will inevitably ask me what I believe. So I tell them the gospel, starting with Genesis 1, laying out for them the biblical storyline and worldview.
I have been able to share the gospel with many men over the past two years, even though I am saying things highly offensive to the gay lifestyle—which is actually their identity. I base everything I say on the authority of the word; that is, I make it clear to them that that is what I am doing, that I believe the bible is authoritative for all peoples in all cultures and times because it is God’s authoritative revelation to human beings. I stress this emphatically. And I tell them that the Bible condemns me, it condemns everyone. It condemns me as an idolater, someone who is selfish and sinful, who has de-godded God and installed himself in the position of “The Ruler of John’s Life.” I have done things in my life that I am ashamed of and oftentimes what I am ashamed of the bible calls my “sin” (I have found that gay men can relate very well to shame). I do not zero in on their homosexuality (which is what they expect me to do) but rather the fact that they are sinners. Now, more often than not, they will push me and ask if practicing homosexuality is a particular expression of their sinful disposition and I will not hesitate to tell them “yes.” When asked, I tell gay men that, personally, I have a “live and let live” approach to everyone’s sex life, but my personal opinion doesn’t count for anything if God, our creator, has declared otherwise. I tell them I know that I am sounding very intolerant and bigoted when I tell them that they are sinners and that their lifestyle is not pleasing to God. Who am I to tell another human being such a thing on my own authority? But then I explain that it is not on my own authority that I am saying these things. Rightly or wrongly, I am utterly convinced that the bible is the revelation of God. I am banking my eternal soul on it being so. It condemns me, but I have found salvation in Christ. It condemns you. I am here to tell you about the salvation that I have found in Jesus, that I believe you need, that the bible says he needs.
By presenting the gospel in this fashion (which is the same way I present it to heterosexuals) I have yet to have someone become outraged over my perceived intolerance—though I am sure that day is coming! In fact, being straight and conservative has worked in my favor because they see that I must really care about them to come into an environment where I’m a fish out of water to tell them a message that I know they will find offensive. And I do really care for them. Many of them come from backgrounds where they would have believed something similar to what I believe about the authority of God’s word, from a Catholic perspective, but have since “moved on.” Perhaps I am young and deluded in their opinion, but I’m a nice guy and they put up with it, because they can see that I love them, and often times they will say, “We will hear you again on this matter”. They like the fact that I am willing to be their friend, even if I don’t condone their beliefs. I think that shows an integrity and respect; they respond to it and are willing to reciprocate.
I do all this because I love the LGBT community. They are a community comprised of individual eternal souls. Sadly, they are culture that has almost no contact with biblical Christianity in any form. How many drag queens can count a born again Christian amongst their friends? Very few, to our shame.

I’m the pastor of a new church plant in downtown Toronto and it is my earnest prayer that God would use our people to impact this spiritually needy community. I pray for the day when transvestites can walk through our church doors and be greeted with genuinely warm smiles and Christian love. But before that day is likely to happen, they will need a Christian friend whom they have grown to trust; a person they know would never invite them to a place where they are going to be hurt or embarrassed publicly; a place where everyone is on level ground before the cross of Christ because all are sinners; a place where no one person’s sin is made out to be more repugnant than another’s; a place where all sinners can sit under the uncompromised preaching of holy Scripture and hear of the world’s only Savior and salvation in his name alone.
I pray that we would be more deliberate in this regard; that as God’s sovereign grace works through his faithful witness, the church, we would see more gay men and women come to Christ.

What an encouraging article and great testimony. I wish that he would have used some scripture to back up some of what he was saying, but I did get his point. My thing is that we are all sinners in need of the gospel to save us, and while I may never had struggled with Homosexuality, I most certainly have struggled with other sins, and still do. That's all the more reason why I'm so thankful for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who paid my debt on the cross at Calvary. The new creature in Christ I became when he saved me, now has me wanting to obey and rid the sins of my life. Although I'll never be perfect in this life, I can rest in His work on the cross on my behalf.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Misleading Greenwash

More than 98% of supposedly natural and environmentally friendly products on US supermarket shelves are making potentially false or misleading claims, Congress has been told. And 22% of products making green claims bear an environmental badge that has no inherent meaning, said Scot Case, of the environmental consulting firm TerraChoice.

The study of nearly 4,000 consumer products found "greenwashing" in nearly every product category – from a lack of verifiable information to outright lies.

Even the experts are confused. Case, whose firm runs its own Ecologo certification program, admitted he had bought a refrigerator only to find it failed to meet its claims of energy efficiency.

"My refrigerator used twice as much energy as advertised," he told members of the House of Representatives committee on commerce, trade and consumer protection. The hearing amounted to a crash course into the perils of the new green marketplace for the committee. Congress is looking at how to guide consumers through a thicket of competing claims on so-called greenness.

One problem is proliferation – both of products claiming to be green and of certification programmes purporting to back up those claims.

The interest in products that do not poison water or air, create unnecessary waste or unduly add to the effects of climate change has defied class divisions and the economic recession. In its company surveys, Wal-Mart, the chain of low-cost megastores, found that 57% of its customers professed to be concerned about the environment.

There is a constantly expanding pool of products to choose from. About 33% of all new food products launched in 2008 claimed to be "natural", Dara O'Rourke, a professor in environmental policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and founder of the GoodGuide, told the recent hearing. But with around 300 competing environmental certification programmes, shoppers are bombarded by irrelevant or deceptive labels touting the green, natural, eco-friendly, recyclable and non-toxic properties of goods.

It is virtually impossible to sort through the claims, said Urvashi Rangan, of the Consumers Union. "We've got to get rid of the green noise," she said. "Vague and misleading terms should not be allowed."

Labels do not generally say whether products contain recycled content, or how far they travelled from factory to shelf.

Rangan singled out "non-toxic", "natural", and "fragrance free" as misleading claims, because the federal government has never set a precise standard for manufacturers to meet. "Personal care products are the Wild West," she said.

Reading the fine print on labels will not necessarily help either. Companies are not required to disclose the use of some substances believed to be dangerous – such as phthalates, which can cause birth defects and hormone abnormalities and are widely used, from baby bottles to cleaners and cosmetics.

The makers of household cleaners are also not required by law to list every chemical in the bottle so long as it is below a certain level. "Almost none of these companies disclose the ingredients in these products," O'Rourke told Congress. "We don't know what is in them. We don't what the plastic is made of."And as Case eventually discovered, even the most seemingly reliable certifications cannot be trusted.

Case told the Congress hearing he bought his LG Electronics refrigerator in 2007, reassured by its Energy Star rating. The seal, from the department of energy, is supposed to be awarded to appliances that consume at least 20% less electricity than a standard appliance.

This spring, he got a letter saying that his fridge did not, after all, qualify for Energy Star status because LG, in its process of "self-certification", had strayed from the efficiency guidelines set by the department of energy.

The big push to "go Green" has certainly gotten dollar signs in many companies eyes getting bigger, hoping to capitalize on this. We all should do our homework in purchasing an item or even food, just because it states "green friendly" or environmentally sound with a higher price tag.

Many thanks to guardian online for the information in this post.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A tradedy in Wichita = A test for the Pro Life movement

Being a Christian and a believer in the Scriptures, I do stand against abortion. But what happened in Wichita yesterday with the murder of Dr. George Tiller was nothing but wrong, wrong, wrong. Violence in the name of protesting abortion is immoral, unjustified, and horribly harmful to the pro-life cause. Now, the premeditated murder of Dr. George Tiller in his church is the headline -- not the abortions he performed and the cause he represented.

For many years, Dr. George Tiller has represented the reality of the abortion industry in this nation. Well known to the pro-life movement in America, Tiller was known as "Tiller the Killer" because of his agreeing to perform late-term abortions almost no other doctor in the nation would perform. Because of this, Wichita became the destination of choice for women seeking abortions in the late third trimester. In 1993 Tiller was shot in both arms. His clinic was regularly protested and was once bombed. Tiller also had many brushes with the law, and just weeks ago he was acquitted of charges that he had with another physician conspired to illegally justify late-term abortions.

Unfortunately, violence in response to the horror of abortion is not new. But thankfully it is rare. According to some news reports, Dr. Tiller was the fifth physician to be murdered by abortion opponents. In other cases, abortion clinics have been bombed and workers have been hurt or killed. Abortion is nothing short of murder. It should be made clear that abortion is the taking of innocent human life and that what goes on in abortion clinics is the business of death. What goes on in those clinics is institutionalized homicide, often for financial profit. Abortion is a moral scandal and tragedy.

Having said that, We have NO RIGHT to take the law into our own hands in an act of violence. God has granted this power to governing authorities. The horror of abortion cannot be rightly confronted, much less corrected, by means of violence and acts outside the law. This is a vital test of the morality of the pro-life movement.

In the case of Dr. George Tiller, the governing authorities failed again and again to fulfill their responsibility to protect all citizens, including those yet unborn. While the law is dishonoring to God in its disrespect for human life, we are not to go ABOVE the law and take it into our on hands! The law failed to bring George Tiller to account for what should have been seen as crimes against humanity. But this failure does not authorize ANYONE to act in the place of the government, MUCH LESS the place of God. The government must now act to prosecute and punish the murderer of Dr. George Tiller. The man who murdered Dr. Tiller is no better and deserves to stand trial and face the punishment allocated to him by the government.

Those who are pro-life must not wage war against abortion by following this pathetic example. We must confront this evil of abortion from a higher plane, and know that the battle is ultimately in God's hands.

Murder is murder. The law rightly states that the killing of Dr. George Tiller is murder and I whole heartily agree. But I do not agree with the law that states what Dr. Tiller performed is alright. We should not rest until the law also recognizes the killing of the unborn as murder, just as it does the killing of Dr. Tiller. But the individual that murdered Dr. Tiller, makes that challenge all the more difficult.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Remembering Memorial Day

This may be controversial to some, but I believe the facts of history will show that on the whole, the United States military has been a force for good in the world. Obviously, as a military power, we have blundered at times, both individually and corporately. But on the whole, the men and women of our armed services have fought and are fighting for causes that promote freedom, defend the rights of human beings, and reject tyranny. War is still hell and a tragic result of the fall of mankind. We should praise God for his promise to one day end all human conflict. But in a world where people are evil by nature and leaders are not always reasonable and countries do not always have good intentions, war is sometimes the way to peace–at least the best peace we can hope for between peoples and nations this side of heaven.

But I will say that love of country can be a good thing. As Christians we have dual citizenship. Our first allegiance must always be to Christ who is in Heaven, which is our eternal home. But we are also citizens of an earthly country. We will stand before God as people with distinct languages, cultural affections, and homelands. It is not wrong to love our distinct language, culture, or nationality. Whenever I’m at a ball game I always show respect during the singing of the National Anthem. I think this is good. Love for God does not mean we love nothing else on earth, but rather that we learn to love the things on earth in the right way and with the right priorities. Love of country is a good thing, and it is right to honor those who defend the principles that make our country good.

Today, Memorial Day is mainly thought of as the unofficial start of summer which will include a long weekend with a car race, playoff basketball, and hot dogs and burgers on the grill. But, Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was instituted to honor Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. After World War I, the purpose of the day was expanded to include all men and women who died in U.S. military service. We should all be very thankful to those who have given their lives in the service and especially thankful to those that currently serve. Happy Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Human or not?

Here's an article in the "Globe & Mail" from Toronto, on an unborn baby having heart surgery in utero. Amazing!
“TORONTO — In what’s being called a Canadian first, Toronto doctors have successfully performed a heart procedure on a fetus inside the womb.

A team of doctors at the Hospital for Sick Children and Mount Sinai Hospital expanded one of the baby’s heart valves using a balloon catheter. The device was inserted through the mother’s abdomen and then into the fetus to reverse heart failure before delivery.

Sick Kids Hospital says the procedure allowed the baby to remain safely in utero for a crucial extra month before her birth on April 15.

Within an hour of Oceane McKenzie’s birth, she had another procedure, and a third followed a few weeks later. Doctors say Oceane is well on the road to recovery and will soon be going home.”

End of Article

I try not to talk too much about this stuff because there's just so much back & forth on the issue with both sides getting so upset that usually nothing is accomplished but yelling & arguing. But, those who heavily promote pro-abortion probably will not care for this article. It refers to this little girl as “fetus-baby-fetus-baby-Oceane McKenzie.” This is clearly a fetus, which is also a baby, who also has a name.

Under Canadian law her mother could have changed her mind after the heart operation and had Oceane killed by an abortionist at any moment up until the baby emerged from the birth canal. So how can we say that abortion is not killing a person? Could it be that Oceane was a person because her mother wanted her? So one human being can bestow and remove personhood from another by an act of will? The last time that sort of thing was legal was in the days of slavery, right? Just how “progressive” have we actually become?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Traveling Light

The wife and I really don't have a lot of hobbies as we live a pretty quiet life in the town of Rome, Georgia. But if there's one thing we really like to do, it's travel! And travel we will in the coming months as it's our goal to book around two or three trips a year if possible. Of course this isn't always possible, but we usually try to put money back throughout the year just for certain trips. Other than the basic necessities of life, eating out occasionally, and a show or concert here or there, we really don't spend a lot and save what we can just for the purpose of traveling when we have the chance. It's a beautiful and diverse world our Lord has created, and we enjoy taking it in. We've discussed having kids possibly in the not so far away future, so we know we must cure this traveling bug while we can! It's been almost a year since we took a nice long vacation together traveling around, so we are excited about the opportunities this year is bringing us!

A great thing for us about this year is that we should get to use our passport four times!! Twice to the same country. The company I work for sent us to the Bahamas back in January which required a passport. In a couple of weeks, we're flying off to Seattle to tour around Washington state. While there, we plan to go on a whale watching trip to see Orca whales up close. (or at least that's what they tell us!) We're going to explore the Cascades and Olympic National Parks which are nestled on each side of Seattle. This trip will also have us crossing the border into Canada by way of Ferry boat as well to the little town of Victoria, British Columbia, the capital of that beautiful province. I have been to this part of the states and Canada once before and found the green landscape, dense forest, and water surrounding the islands and city of Seattle to be just beautiful. Lynn has never been here and is in for a treat. We've both worked long hard hours throughout this year and are looking forward to this trip coming up soon!

In July, my lovely wife is turning thirty. I jokingly tell her that it's time to turn her back in for another 20 something year old. Then she reminds me of how quickly i'm approaching forty and that shuts me up pretty quick! For her birthday, I've worked out a short trip to Ireland. Both of us have wanted to visit this country before and will be spending most of our time in & around Dublin. It's not as long as we'd like to stay, but we'll get to see most of what we'd like to see being in the city for day, and then checking out a couple of castles and seeing the beautiful landscape and hopefully shorelines that surround Dublin a couple of other days. Lynn is fascinated with castles and loves the architecture and design of them. While there, we're also going to see a little band called U2 as well, in their hometown of Dublin. That's a treat for me as I grew up a huge fan of this band and still am. Lynn has never seen them, but likes them as well and is excited about seeing them in their native land. Should be a good show.

Finally in September, we head back to the north country of Canada, planning to tour, hike, and sight see the Canadian Rockies. We had planned this trip last September, but had to cancel at the last minute due to a very serious sickness in Lynn's family. So, we vowed to give it another shot this fall, and hope to see as much of this beautiful land as possible. Flying into Calgary, this will give us a chance to tour up and down the Canadian Rockies mountain range from Banff national park all the way up to Jasper. If time permits, we may swing down into Montana and see Glacier National Park as well. We both love seeing these parks that have been set aside and display the beauty of God's hand in this world.

This is a lot for us this year, and we certainly don't take it for granted. I can't help but think of a passage that our Pastor covered this past week in the book of Job, where Job laments after receiving bad news that "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." We feel very blessed to be able to tour and see these beautiful places, and to spend time together which at times can be much needed! I know there are many that do not have these opportunities. But we also realize that we may not always have these opportunities, and of course we never know what life can bring. The point being, we love and trust the Lord of scripture through our blessings and through any other times that may occur.

I hope to post pictures on here and at Facebook throughout the year of where we go. As I stated in my very first post, I do this more for me as a way to keep a scrapbook/diary/journal of things in which I'm thinking on, and of course what I'm going through, and just my life in general. If anyone reads, I hope they enjoy and feel free to correspond!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Resurrection day!

The purpose of trusting in Christ is for forgiveness of sins, because it is from sin that we need to be saved. “Christ died for our sins” and “was buried, and … raised on the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). If Christ was not raised, His death was in vain, your faith in Him would be pointless, and your sins would still be counted against you with no hope of spiritual life.

Without question, if Jesus is still in the grave, if He is perpetually the sufferer and never the Victor, then you and I are hopelessly lost. What if Jesus Christ were still dead and in the grave?

Since a Christian has no Savior but Christ, no Redeemer but Christ, and no Lord but Christ, if Christ is not raised, He is not alive, and our Christian life is lifeless. We would have nothing to justify our faith, our Bible study, our preaching or witnessing, our service for Him or our worship of Him, and nothing to justify our hope in this life or the next. We would deserve nothing but the compassion reserved for fools.

But, God did raise “Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:24-25). Because Christ lives, we too shall live (John 14:19). “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:30-31).

We are not to be pitied, for Paul wrote “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Paul said at the end of his life, “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him [i.e. his life] until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).

Those who do not hope in Christ alone for salvation are the real fools; they are the ones who need to hear your compassionate testimony about the triumph of Christ’s resurrection. So don’t forget resurrection day! Rejoice in it and glory in it, for He is risen indeed!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Saddleback Silliness

I'm sorry, but this is sad. This is a rather bizarre invitation from Rick Warren to the people in or near his church. “1. Open your heart to Jesus Christ. 2. Attend Class 101: Discovering Your Church Family. 3. Sign our membership covenant (explained in class). 4. Be baptized the way Jesus commanded and modeled for us. YOU CAN FINISH ALL 4 REQUIREMENTS IN ONE DAY - THIS SATURDAY!”

Forgive me as I really haven't paid attention to ole Rick lately and what he's up to. But, can you get any more seeker sensitive in trying to pad our pews? I don’t know which is worse (on Warren’s blog), the four requirements you can get done in one day or the eight reasons you should not procrastinate. Shouldn’t at least one of those eight reasons have something to do with Jesus Christ?! Every single one of them deal with "I" or "you"!! Sadly, the Saddleback piece is not an April Fool’s joke. 2400 attended and 800 were baptised according to the Baptist Press article about it. A big problem here is Warren’s emphasis is on joining HIS church - not THE church. Rick Warren will PERSONALLY teach the class and PERSONALLY baptize everyone.

I'll never be anyone's final judge, but it seems to me that if you're coerced to "give your life" to Jesus because Rick is doing the teaching and baptizing, chances are you could be fooling yourself. (Matt. 7: 21-23) It seems hard to argue against wanting 3000 people to be saved, and of course I would be for that as well. But not herding them through like cattle and giving them the rubber stamp of approval just because they took a class, probably quoted a prayer, and was dunked under some water. That's nowhere in the Bible. Rick claims he's trying to have another day of Pentecost like what was described in Acts 2. Does he not realize that was the very birth of the Church?? This was what was promised in the Old Testament and which came to pass once Jesus died and rose again and ascended into Heaven to be at the Father's right hand, and was given authority over the Church (Ephesians 1). This is not something we just go about trying to reproduce with marketing gimmicks.

It might not be as bad either if so many people didn't see this man as "America's Pastor". I realize I sound cruel, I just think this sort of thing ought to be seriously looked at. We're not trying to fill out churches with tares, instead we should be obedient to what God has entrusted us to, and let HIM build HIS church. Is this not what He said He would do? (Matt. 16:18) My wife asked me (jokingly of course) that if this meant she could complete all of that on one day, and never have to come back? And, to wrap it all up, Rick claims that it was going to be FUN! I never thought realizing my sinfulness & mourning over it was fun. I never cease to thank God what He has done for me through His Son Jesus Christ, and that does bring me joy unspeakable. But realizing your need for a Savior, and submitting your whole life and will to Him, requires a little more than a half day seminar. It requires saving Faith. And let me close by saying that its a faith that only God Himself can give. (Ephesians 2: 8-9)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Overpopulation of the World?

I've heard predictions of world overpopulation would lead to ecological disaster, famine, poverty and other woes. Philip Longman points out in the March 24, 2009 edition of USA Today, the world's population is expected to hit 7 billion by 2012, up from the 6 billion mark set in 1999. So, is overpopulation a real threat? Like so many other theories out there, I'm not so sure we should be quick to buy into this one either. Though population density can threaten sustainability in some areas of the world, the far greater danger for our future is what Longman calls "depopulation." On a global scale, we are seeing the population of older persons exploding and the numbers of young persons falling.

The trend toward depopulation started in Europe, spread to Asia, and is now detectable even in Latin America. The United Nations now predicts that total world population may begin falling as early as 2040, and much of the surviving population will be very old indeed. Listen to this from Longman:

Under what the U.N. considers the most likely scenario, more than half of all remaining growth comes from a 1.2 billion increase in the number of old people, while the worldwide supply of children will begin falling within 15 years. With fewer workers to support each elder, the world economy might have to run just that much faster, and consume that much more resources, or else living standards will fall.

In the USA, where nearly one-fifth of Baby Boomers never had children, the hardship of vanishing retirement savings will be compounded by the strains on both formal and informal care-giving networks caused by the spread of childlessness. A pet will keep you company in old age, but it is unlikely to be of use in helping you navigate the health care system or in keeping predatory reverse mortgage brokers at bay.

To state only the most obvious point, when the number of retirees is out of balance with the number of workers, there may simply not be enough economic activity to pay the bills. Economists and demographers will debate this new phenomenon, but from a Christian worldview perspective certain issues stand out. Longman underlines the fact that this looming population imbalance is the result of chosen behaviors and lifestyle changes -- not to forces beyond human control.

There is something haunting about his comment about pets: "A pet will keep you company in old age, but it is unlikely to be of use in helping you navigate the health care system or in keeping predatory reverse mortgage brokers at bay." The media have provided any number of recent stories on the fact that many Baby Boomers now look to their pets as children. Need we point out that the pets will not be able to return the favor?

Christians should remember that this issue is never isolated from God's purpose in creating humanity in His image and giving humans a distinctive role in the world. He also gave us marriage and the gift of children within the family. The world in general has changed the way modern people look at children. Now, children are a choice . . . and a choice many couples now do not choose. I might add that my wife and I do not have children as well at this point, and certainly I'm not advocating Children for everyone. But once a child is conceived, I see no other choice but to have the child.

Longman concludes: "Societies around the globe need to ask why they are engaging in what biologists would surely recognize in any other species as maladaptive behavior leading either to extinction, or dramatic mutation."

The trend toward childlessness bring consequences, and these are not easily reversed. The more we distance ourselves from the natural blessings of the natural family, the greater our vulnerability grows. China, Longman notes, is fast becoming a nation in which one child supports two parents and four grandparents. Not only is this pattern unsustainable -- it is untenable. So, I simply found all of this interesting as I've always heard that the world is in danger of overpopulation. It certainly appears that the world is very populated, but if this data proves correct, that could change in a couple of decades or so.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Amazing forgiveness

In July of 1984, when Jennifer Thompson was a twenty-three year old college student, a man broke into her apartment while she slept and raped her at knifepoint. She was eventually able to escape from him and later identified her attacker as Ronald Cotton. Though Ronald insisted that he was innocent, he was taken to court and, primarily on the basis of Jennifer’s identification of her attacker, sentenced to a life behind prison bars. Eleven years later, Cotton was allowed to take a DNA test, taking advantage of this new technology. The test proved his innocence. For more than a decade he had been behind bars for a crime he had not committed. Two years later, Donald and Jennifer met face-to-face and began a very unlikely friendship. Picking Cotton is their story.

Picking Cotton is a book that is co-authored by Jennifer and Ronald. It follows an interesting story with Jennifer narrating events up to the end of the trial, and then Ronald picking up the story, going over the trial from his perspective and describing those eleven long years in prison. While I have not had the opportunity to read this book, I've read quite a bit about this fascinating true life story. In the third part of the book, Jennifer and Ronald write together, alternating chapters as the story turns toward Ronald’s life after prison and Jennifer’s life after discovering her tragic error. In this third part we hear about what is really the heart of this story—their reconciliation. Despite what he had been through, Ronald never harbored resentment against Jennifer. When they finally decided to meet, he immediately and unreservedly forgave Jennifer for her mistake. I'm not under the impression that this is in any way a Christian book though. From my take on the book, it reads a psychological and medical perspective on why Jennifer chose the wrong man as her assailant; but never do we hear the Bible’s perspective on repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

We do see a great example of how a man can forgive somebody who has wronged him and how he can release any kind of bitterness. We also see a woman who has wronged another person seeking his forgiveness, and true reconciliation between the offended and the offender—reconciliation that creates a new relationship and a new friendship. In this way we see just a bit of the gospel message of the Bible that tells us how God offers free forgiveness and full reconciliation to those who have offended him with their sin.

This story was first mentioned (at least to my knowledge)in Chris Braun’s excellent book Unpacking Forgiveness where the story is front and center in chapter 1. It is a powerful story and one that deserves to be told. So this is not a book recommendation per se, other than just a story that truly touched me that I thought was worth sharing. I hope that I could find such forgiveness within myself, as I know that God has forgiven me through His Son.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Technology 24/7

According to a 2005 survey, most Americans—including children—spend at least nine hours a day watching TV, surfing the web, or talking on their cell phones. Of those hours, one-third of the time is spent using two or more of those media at once.

While technology has many worthwhile purposes, it demands a high price from us. Studies have shown that our increasing media dependency is crippling our attention spans, wounding our ability to create meaningful relationships, and generating a false expectation that we should be able to be contacted at every hour of the day.

Katie Dunne, a recent graduate of the University of Illinois, says that while the Internet has made it easier for her to find information for class, it also made it easier for her fellow students to avoid face-to-face interactions with their professors—and with each other.

She wrote in her school newspaper: “It seems like the more advanced our technology becomes, the more likely we are to withdraw from the real world. The intimacy of conversation and the integrity of relationships are compromised by quick and cold forms of communication.”

But getting away from technology is easier said than done. Many of us (myself included) couldn’t do our jobs if it weren’t for computers, cell phones, and PDAs. But the problem is when we leave work, technology is following close behind us in a stream of text messages, Facebook posts, and emails. We’ve become addicts to the god of information.

So, here’s a challenge that I've found (on the internet!) —take a technology sabbath.

Joe Carter—editor of the Evangelical Outpost blog—recently began making one day of his week completely technology free.

He writes on “After drinking from the fire hose of information a day without info tech will seem like a year long drought. But by unplugging the god of Technology you might just find something new in the pause—a still small voice sharing the information that truly matters.”

But like anything worthwhile, taking a break from technology takes practice and patience. Here are some of Carter’s tips on making a technology sabbath worthwhile.

First, make sure to give yourself a full 24 hours, preferably from sundown to sundown. Let people know that you are unplugging, so they understand why you are not responding to them right away. Lastly, dedicate some of the time to practicing spiritual disciplines like prayer, Bible study, and attending a worship service.

In the meantime, meet a friend for coffee. And leave your Blackberry at home.

I'm not saying this should be dogmatic, but could be an interesting and rewarding thing to try.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Theology is not a bad word...

Theology remains something of a bad word in Christian circles. I believe that the success of a book like The Shack has proven this to us yet again. Many people seem eager to embrace some form of Christian spirituality but have little desire or love for theology. It is associated with fundamentalism and with cold conservatism. We need only look at the meaning of the word, though, to conclude that God requires all Christians to be theologians.

The word theology is derived from two Greek words. The root “theos” means God and the suffix “-ology” comes from the Greek word for speak. So what theology really means is “speaking of God” or as has become the more accurate definition, “the study of God.” That not offensive, is it? If you are a Christian, I suspect that it sounds exciting. If you love God and if you are loved by God, you will want to know him. I don’t think any Christian can deny that we are called by God to learn more about him and to study his ways. The process of sanctification is just that—learning more and more about God and his requirements for our lives. Our lifelong challenge is to mold our lives to fit into that image.

If a Christian is diligent in studying God through the right motives and methods and for the right reasons, there will necessarily be change in his life. He cannot help but be changed by the living Word of God. However, if someone studies God only to acquire knowledge about him without applying any of that knowledge to his life, he is not so much studying God as he is studying the study of God. The study of God when done as he has commanded must always lead to application, heart change and then life change.

There seems to be a fine line here. The line is not found in what we study as much as it is the motives behind the study and the result we expect to achieve. For example, 1 Corinthians 11 speaks about the necessity of women wearing head coverings while in church. I can look at that section of the Bible in two different ways. I can go in with a motive of wanting to show that women are being disobedient and sin if they do not wear head coverings in church. I can begin this study with the intent to prove to my wife that she needs to wear a head covering next Sunday. On the other hand, I can turn to this section with a motive of wanting to understand what God is trying to teach us in this passage. I can seek to understand the principles the Bible is teaching and how those relate to people today. I can begin my study with the intent to learn something that I can humbly and prayerfully apply to my life. This is an extreme or simplistic example perhaps, but it displays the difference between wanting to acquire knowledge of God through proper or improper methods and for right or wrong intentions. It also shows how all scripture must be taken within context. Context is king as John MacArthur always says when studying the Bible. Too many people today take scripture out of context to make it say what they want it to say. Oh, and just to note back on the 1 Corinthians 11 example, a study of the culture at that time reveals a woman's covered head while worshiping was a symbol to signify a right relationship with her husband, in subordination, and that all was well. Paul is not laying down an absolute law for women to wear veils or coverings in all churches for all time, but that the male and female roles are to be honored in every culture.

I love theology. I love studying God and continually learning about him and about what he has done. I have to admit many times in my life I have learned about God simply so I could have more knowledge about him, never intending to change myself in response to what I have learned. There have been times where I have studied God just so I could convince others of their need to change. It is my prayer that whenever I study God I do so with proper motives and with a humble attitude, preparing myself to be changed by what I learn about him.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Biblical Ignorance

"Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put the problem squarely: 'Americans revere the Bible--but, by and large, they don't read it. And because they don't read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.' How bad is it? Researchers tell us that it's worse than most could imagine.

Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can't name even five of the Ten Commandments.

According to 82 percent of Americans, 'God helps those who help themselves,' is a Bible verse. Those identified as born-again Christians did better--by one percent. A majority of adults think the Bible teaches that the most important purpose in life is taking care of one's family.

A Barna poll indicated that at least 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. Another survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50 percent thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. We are in big trouble."

We may chuckle at a few of these statistics, but in reality this is very sad. Many people who call themselves Christians never pick up their Bible to read it. Can I argue that you really can't be a "true" Christian and not care about God's Word?

I even blame many of our modern day churches for this problem as so many of them never ask us to open our Bible during a worship service. We're growing an evangelical group of Biblical illiterates. One of the marks of true saving faith in a Christian is his or her love for the Word of God. Not only hearing it, but being a doer of it as well. James 1: 22 God's Word has stood the test of time and scrutiny and every King that has tried to do away with it has failed. God has preserved it throughout history for a reason. It's His attempt to communicate to a fallen world.

If we are truly saved by God's grace, let us encourage one another to read what God has revealed to us about himself. This is the only way we can know that we are worshiping the true and living God, and not just one made up in our heads.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

What could I buy with a Trillion Dollars??

Trying to wrap my mind around what I could buy with a trillion dollars, I found some interesting figures showing what you could get with a trillion dollars. Some examples:

If you stack up $1,000 bills, $1 trillion would need a pile that is 80 miles high.

$ 1 trillion is more than the combined gross revenues of Wal Mart, Exxon, General Motors and Ford Motors.

Assuming the United States consumes about 17 billion barrels of oil a year and assuming the cost of a barrel of oil is about $65, a trillion dollars will buy an entire year's worth of oil for the USA.

You could buy a thousand Queen Mary 2 with accommodations for 2,620 passengers

With a population of approximately 300 million people, you could give away $1 trillion by giving every man, woman and child in the U.S. $ 3,400 each. Is this the debt that each American is going into now?

We could buy everyone on Earth an iPod. Whohoo!

We could pave the entire U.S. interstate highway system with 23.5-karat gold leaf.

We could buy 16.6 million Habitat for Humanity houses

We could hire 1.9 million additional teachers.

I'm not going to advertise the website, but I found another site that helps you buy luxury and charitable items trying to add up to a trillion dollars. Here's their list of items one could buy totaling one trillion dollars: Crazy...
8,700 Porsche 911 Turbos ($126,000 each): $1,097,940,000
New York Yankees: $1,200,000,000
New York Mets: $482,000,000
Every NFL Franchise: $8,600,000,000
Dracula's Romanian castle: $140,000,000
1,000 60SE Lear jets ($11,595,000 each): $11,595,000,000
Denver International Airport: $4,822,000,000
10 Picasso's (113,400,000 each): $1,134,000,000
Hard Rock Casino in Vegas: $770,000,000
Hong Kong Disneyland: $3,500,000,000
South Pacific Island of Katafanga: $38,900,000
Buy the whole world 100 cans of Coke: $650,000,000,000
Buy 50 Super bowl ads ($2,600,000 each): $130,000,000
Build 1,001 Habitat for Humanity houses (at $60,000 each): $600,060,000
Build 2,000 miles of Metro rail ($150,000,000 per a mile of track): $300,000,000,000
Build 250 hospitals in Third World nations ($41,300,000 each): $10,325,000,000
Produce your own Hollywood movie: $150,000,000
Buy the Maltese Falcon, the world's most expensive yacht: $100,000,000
Buy 2 Napa Valley wineries ($34,000,000 each): $68,000,000
Buy 26 McDonalds' franchises ($1,000,000 each): $26,000,000
Total: $1,000,000,000,000

Friday, February 6, 2009

Bahama's Trip

I was very blessed last week to have won a trip to Atlantis in the Bahamas through my work. I certainly didn't expect this, but must admit January is one fine month to be spending a little time on the Islands below Florida. I put a few pictures up on Facebook, but for friends who aren't on there I've posted a few here.

Obviously we had a great time. I actually had a couple of meetings with work while there in the mornings, and a rewards dinner one night. But no complaints, the rest of the time was ours.

Atlantis is quite simply amazing. There must have been 10 swimming pools to hang out at and Lynn and I found the most secluded one. There were two man made rivers to float around on in tubes. One was very lazy and peaceful, the other had some rapids and waves pushing you along. There were also several water slides, a couple which went through a shark tank. We got to see a pretty cool Dolphin show one afternoon, and spent quite a bit time just relaxing too.

Of course we ate. Who wouldn't. Everything was paid for. I couldn't help to think how nice it is to work for a company that recognized achievements and rewards hard work. I certainly don't deserve this type of treatment. But Lynn does, so that makes it worth it, right? :-) I realize this may never happen again, so I was sure to enjoy it.

Last, there was a great Aquarium there that Lynn and I spent touring every evening. It had two large manta rays with wing spans of 7-8 feet! These were huge and graceful rays that looked intimidating but also appeared harmless at the same time. We also saw plenty of sharks, hammerheads, and just regular sharks. Jellyfish, eels, and crabs were everywhere as well. Well done Aquarium that was made to look like the lost city of Atlantis.

There simply is no guessing how much it must cost to maintain this resort. But not to fear, they get it back with the cost of everything there. Breakfast was typically around $30, that's with sharing! Lunch was always around $50. And of course dinner was usually $100. We were given an allowance, but you can see how that would go quickly. I do not see how a family of four could spend a week there with the cost of everything, rooms going for $500-700 a night. So, it was our goal to enjoy it. Chances are we'll never be back, not if we're paying...

Friday, January 23, 2009

I've been constantly reminded lately of my love for In-N-Out burgers. It all started with a show on the travel channel that Lynn and I watched a couple of weeks ago called "America's Best Burgers". It was a show of course about burgers and some of the more popular places in America to eat one. In-N-Out did not make the list but White Castle did?!?

Anyways, I must confess that I do like burgers, in fact I prefer CHEESEburgers to add to the taste, calories, saturated fat and who knows what else. It was a couple of years ago on a trip to California where I was first introduced to In-N-Out burgers and I've been hooked ever since. Unfortunately this fast food chain is only out west and nowhere near little Georgia where I currently reside. I was excited to learn just this week that the company I work for is flying me to Vegas for a conference. Of course my first thought was "Hey, I can get an In-N-Out burger! Anytime i'm out west, I mapquest to see where the nearest one is. Having been through Vegas this past summer to go to the Grand Canyon, I can tell you where both of the In-N-Out burger joints are in Vegas. That was the first stop off the plane. :-)

What makes these fast food establishments different from your regular run of the mill fast food place? Well, first off, In-N-Out has this type of salad dressing sauce that covers the patties of the burger and just oozes out goodness. Not to mention the freshness of the meat and vegetables between the buns. The fries are cooked in 100% vegetable oil, have no cholesterol, and are cut daily from potatoes usually from somewhere in or around Idaho. Other than that, it's hard to explain. You just have to try it and see for yourself.

I will end by saying though that my favorite overall burger in the world is George's Cadillac Bison Bacon burger at Ted's Montana Grill. Mmmmmm, what a burger. It is 100% bison meat, topped with bacon, swiss cheese, and has a barbecue sauce covering it all. Hands down the best burger ever! Oh, and if anyone is wondering, my overall cholesterol is 159. :-)

Friday, January 16, 2009


I thought I would write a little bit about what I've been reading, or attempting to study in the coming months. I thought I would go through the book of Revelations verse by verse, not because I'm all into prophesy or think that the world is about to end, but simply because it is the last book of scripture written, and I've never really taken the time to go through it. Many people think it is a confusing book, but when taking the time to read it, maybe with the help of a good commentary, it's really not. Why else would John write that blessed are those who read this book? God would not promise blessing on a book that no one could understand?

As I think about this book, I must take myself back to the time period in which it was written. At this time, politically, Romans viewed Christians as disloyal because they refused to acknowledge Caesar as the supreme authority. Religiously, Christians were denounced as atheists because they rejected the Roman gods and worshiped an invisible God instead of idols. Socially, Christians were often hated, since many came from the lower classes of society. The Christian teaching that all people are equal (Galatians 3:28) threatened to undermine the cultural structure of the affluent Romans and initiated concerns of a slave revolt.

Revelations was written around 95 A.D. During the first few decades after the death and resurrection of Christ, the Roman government considered Christianity as a sect of Judaism. Eventually, Christianity was recognized by the Romans as a religion distinct from Judaism. That identified Christians as worshipers of an illegal religion. Yet there was no official persecution by the Roman authorities until the time of Nero.

Thirty years later, Domitian instigated an official persecution of Christians. It extended to the province of Asia (modern Turkey) during the time the apostle John had been exiled to the island of Patmos. It is believed that John was banished here due to his relentless preaching of Christ, and being the only apostle left alive, and the only apostle that was not murdered for his faith, the believers John wrote to in Revelation desperately needed encouragement.

This is the Revelation of Jesus Christ! What a blessing to read and I look forward to studying this book.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Smoky Mountain New Year

I'm a couple of days late getting this post up with pictures, but I thought I'd share a couple from our New Year's day trip to the Smoky Mountains. Lynn's parents thought it would be a good idea that instead of spending a lot of money on gifts for each other this year, that we spend the weekend in a very nice cabin located just outside of Pigeon Forge in the Smokies, and let that be our Christmas gift. That was a great idea and would have worked too only Lynn's parents are very generous and giving, and ended up giving us gifts on Christmas day as well. It's hard not to feel bad, but they really seemed to enjoy it and of course it gives them 4 days in the Mountains with their daughters, Lynn and Kate.

The cabin was quite exquisite. Some people think when you say cabin, that you're probably roughing it with no electricity, a water pump and an out house. This place was a little nicer than that as you can see from the pictures. The cabin was nestled high up on the side of a ridge, two floors with four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a downstairs living room, and upstairs home theater with a huge flat screen TV on the wall, and a pool table and air hockey table. Needless to say, I could get used to that!

The evenings were spent hanging out there watching movies, football, playing games and such. Friday we all spent the day together. It happened to be cold and rainy that day, so we went inside Ripley's Aquarium which was actually much nicer than I had expected. The shark tank was larger than it appeared it could be from the outside, and there was a slow moving sidewalk where you could stand and just enjoy being transported through the tunnels of fish, shark, sting rays and who knows what else swimming all around you. The tunnel is all glass, so the sharks literally swim right over your head. A great experience that rivals the Georgia Aquarium. That evening dinner was had at the "World Famous" Dixie Stampede owned by Dolly Parton. This is a dinner show where you are fed way more food than you should eat in one sitting while watching a show that, really is hard to describe. The arena is in a horseshoe setting, and you can sit on the North side or the South side. There are some amazing horse riding feats that are performed, some southern comedy, of course music and singing to accompany. I'll admit the show was better than expected and the whole chicken breast they gave me was completely devoured!

Saturday the gals when shopping while us guys went to the bass pro shop. Seeing as I'm the only guy living in the south that doesn't care for hunting, I had actually never been in one of those places. They're like a small mall within themselves, devoted just to outdoor activities. And while there were some pretty cool camping and hiking supplies in there which does bode up my alley, mostly the store is devoted to hunting and fishing. I never would have guessed there could be THAT MUCH stuff devoted to these sports. Quite amazing actually. The store is a neat experience that everyone ought to try at least once.

It was great to get away for a few days, and not have to worry about anything work related. I love the mountains and i'm very grateful for the opportunity Lynn's parents, Billy and Ann, gave us to spend time up there for New Year's 2009. Now unfortunately, it's back to the grind in what is about to be the busiest time of year for my profession. But rather than complain, I should be thankful for the job I have, and the opportunity I had to get away for a little while. Especially at a time where so many are struggling and could not have afforded such a luxury. Thankful indeed, I am.
God Bless.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Christless Christianity...Book Review

I just finished reading a great book to start off 2009 with and thought I would share some thoughts here. It is no small thing to take upon oneself the name Christian. This name was embraced by the earliest believers. The term nicely encapsulated what they sought to do, namely, to imitate their Lord and Savior. Sadly, in the centuries since then, the word has become far too ambiguous and now refers to any number of faiths that, in one way or another, honor or respect Christ or that have some historical connection to his teachings. In Christless Christianity Michael Horton argues that such denial of Christ could be taking place right here at home. More and more evangelical churches, he says, are now essentially Christless. “Aside from the packaging, there is nothing that cannot be found in most churches today that could not be satisfied by any number of secular programs and self-help groups.”

This is not to say that American evangelicalism has already reached a point of no turning back or that every church has rejected Christ. Horton states, “I am not arguing in this book that we have arrived at Christless Christianity, but that we are well on our way. … My concern is that we are getting dangerously close to the place in everyday American church life where the Bible is mined for ‘relevant’ quotes but is largely irrelevant on its own terms; God is used as a personal resource rather than known, worshiped and trusted; Jesus Christ is a coach with a good game plan for our victory rather than a Savior who has already achieved it for us; salvation is more a matter of having our best life now than being saved from God’s judgment by God himself; and the Holy Spirit is an electrical outlet we can plug into for the power we need to be all that we can be.” What a statement. How many sermons have we heard where scripture is just flung here and there as quotes to back up the topic at hand. How many times have we heard those alter calls to just "try Jesus" and see if our lives get better.Jesus has become a supplement instead of an instrument to the church. As the church has focused on “deeds, not creeds” she has become increasingly irrelevant and unfaithful. Church has become another way for Americans to live out their American dream.

Says Horton, “My argument in this book is not that evangelicalism is becoming theologically liberal but that it is becoming theologically vacuous. … We come to church, it seems, less to be transformed by the Good News than to celebrate our own transformation and to receive fresh marching orders for transforming ourselves and our world. … Just as you don’t really need Jesus Christ in order to have T-shirts and coffee mugs, it is unclear to me why he is necessary for most of the things I hear a lot of pastors and Christians talking about in church these days.” Oh how true this is. So much of what goes for as preaching today is nothing short of self help and motivational speak. Most pastor's don't bother expositing the Word of God, much to the demise and weakening of the flock. They offer this kind of working theology: God created the world; God wants people to be good, nice and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and most world religions; The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself; God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when needed to resolve a problem; Good people go to heaven when they die. Stop to consider much of the teaching you might find on your television on a Sunday morning and you’ll see how apt a description this is. This is straight from the pulpits of Joel Olsteen and other smooth talking preachers. Horton continues to say “When looking for ultimate answers, we turn within ourselves, trusting our own experience rather than looking outside ourselves to God’s external Word.” This is where the Osteen’s of the world are so skilled as they simply reflect and direct human wisdom back at humans all the while pretending as if they gathered this wisdom from the Word of God. He shows that such preachers, while appearing to perhaps teach a kind of freedom from the law, actually do the opposite, burdening people with a new kind of legalism. “One could easily come away from this type of message concluding that we are not saved by Christ’s objective work for us but by our personal relationship with Jesus through a series of works that we perform to secure his favor and blessing. We find ourselves so many times saying what would Jesus do instead of talking about what has Jesus done.

“A genuinely evangelical church," Horton says, "will be an evangelistic church: a place where the gospel is delivered through Word and sacrament and a people who witness to it in the world.” He's calling for the church to stop from trying to fix all of the world’s ills and to simply return to the basics. “The church as people—scattered as salt and light through the week—has many different callings, but the church as place (gathered publicly by God’s summons each Lord’s Day) has one calling: to deliver (and receive) Christ through preaching and sacrament.” Of course Christians, the church as people, should pursue justice and peace, but this ought to be done through common grace institutions along side non-Christians rather than through the church as a place. The church needs to get its own house in order.

A most powerful saying is that if Satan were to take over a town, that town's bars would all close, all the pornography would shut down, crime would be non-existant and everyone would be walking around with nice and neat smiles on their faces attending churches every week where CHRIST IS NOT PREACHED! Nothing would probably satisfy him more.

Finally, one of my favorite quotes and themes in this book is “It is not heresy as much as silliness that is killing us softly.” This is where the book may be most useful for the conservative Christians who are the audience most likely to read it. All of us can fall into silliness without tossing aside the gospel. Some of the programs I've seen at churches can testify to this. We can hold fast to Christian theology, even while allowing silliness to pervade the very fabric of our church. A once-serious institution can become overrun by programs and purposes that slowly erode the gravity and simplicity of the church’s unique calling. This book is a call for the church to return to its biblical foundations and to remain true to those convictions. It was a blessing to read for the start of the year and I highly recommend.