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.