Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jesus appears in cat

A lady in South Bend, IN found in one of her cats the face of Jesus. Well that surely means that Notre Dame might be able to win a couple games this year, Jesus is back in South Bend!
I'll leave my comments brief because I'm sure someone out there has seen Jesus in a taco or the Virgin in their birdbath, but really.... I just don't know what to say about these things. People look so deeply and put so much stock into stuff that isn't there that they make themselves believe it. It's like a group of tweens playing "light as a feather stiff as a board." You're tricking yourself into thinking that it works and that there's something there!
My zinger for this... Maybe Jesus is appearing in a cat's fur because He sure isn't being found in many of our churches these days?

Preaching Sunday Night

So I was asked to fill the pulpit this coming Sunday night while our pastor and his family get a much-needed week away on the beach. Those left behind in the surf-less smothering heat of Memphis are indeed jealous but do pray this is a time of refreshment during these difficult days.
The text that has continually come to mind when trying to decide what to preach on was 1 Peter 2:9-10. It is a difficult passage as it discusses the relationship of the church with Israel. Peter uses the same language found at Sinai when God distinguishes Israel as a set-apart nation of priests called to His purpose on the earth. The difficulty in this passage is if the church has replaced Israel as the covenant people of God, or that they still both are, or that there is some blending of both.
Pray for me as I deal with this passage, and pray for the hearts of the hearers that they would receive the Word gladly and with conviction and repentance.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Back from World Changers!

Thank you all for your prayers for us as we went and ministered to the people of Springfield Illinois this past week with World Changers. It was a great week of hard work, long days, sleepless nights, cold showers, bland food, etc. But I count all those things as a blessing to endure for the sake of carrying the Gospel to areas where hope was nowhere to be found. Maybe in some small way a group of over-sugared teenagers and exhausted adults was able to reflect the light of Christ in such a way that those areas will never be the same again. Maybe we will dine with the Lord at the Supper and be seated next to people who were directly impacted by the sacrifice of time and energy in 2008. Maybe someone who was introduced to Jesus that week will go on and grow up and serve the Lord in a very influential way or lead a church or die a martyr for the cross. Maybe revival breaks out in Springfield and hundreds are swept up into the merciful arms of Christ. We can only hope that God received glory and honor by our work, and that is all we can do or hope for, and let Him do the rest.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Why Do I Run?

No I'm not running away from anything, well except dogs when I go through neighborhoods. Today when it was in the low 90's and I was on mile 3 or so, I began to really ask myself "Why in the world are you doing this?" I've been running fairly consistently since January 2006 when I decided I wanted to try my hand at the Derby Mini-Marathon (13.1 miles). I trained hard for over 4 months, gave up pretty much every enjoyable fast food, soft drinks, etc. and ended up crossing the line just under 1:54, beating my goal time by almost 6 minutes.
I've been thinking about reasons why, so I'll start with the most shallow and move to the most spiritual reasons that I run.
1) Carrie thinks I have really nice legs. There I said it, sorry sweetie. But it is flattering when she comments on them, so why shouldn't I want to do that for her.
2) I like how I feel when I'm in shape. I grew up running, playing soccer, etc. and I miss being able to go all day and never get tired. I like how I sleep at night, restful and deep. I like how I can eat like a horse (low fat though) and not gain weight.
3) It's a whole lot of fun. It's a blast to get out there and feel the wind on your face, the sun on your back, the ground beneath my feet becomes like a trampoline.
4) It's a great way to meet people. Runners have to be some of the friendliest people I know, everyone at least says hi to you in a park and the better runners always seem to encourage those who are having a harder time. It's a great conversation starter and a wonderful way to talk to people about spiritual things.
5) The Bible often talks about running as a metaphor for the Christian life. It is not a sprint but rather a marathon, taking a long time and exacting a huge toll on your body. It requires training, discipline, attitude, patience, and perseverance to make it.
6) The body is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, how can you not take care of the place that God dwells? Being fit and in shape and being healthy is for me an act of worship.

So there we go, from the most shallow to the deepest reasons, why I run.

What is a name worth?

This is a news clip I shared on Wednesday with the students. One of my loves is "strange news" where you find out just how weird people can be. It's like watching a car accident, you want to turn away but you're fascinated at the same time. This news story was just like that, I wanted to get mad and call the dad up and kick him in the shins but at the same time I thought "wow... officially, I have seen everything."
Here is the clip to the ABC News version of it through the AP.

What is a name worth anyway? The great thing about parenting is to give your child a name that will last forever. Names in the Bible were significant to the person and to who they were and what they did. Israel means "God wrestler" which is an upgrade from "Deceiver." Jesus comes from the Hebrew Yeshua which means "God saves," the promise in Isaiah is Immanuel "God with us," and names like Timothy means "Honors God."

So what does it mean to give up the right to name your child for gas? It means that at least for that parent, a couple tanks of gas is worth more than being the one responsible for the legacy of a child. Names aren't as important as they once were, and in a day when people name their kids "Apple" and whatever else is out there, it's hard to think of the significance of it. But naming a child is a great responsibility and shouldn't be handled trivially. Sure this kid will have a great story, but it makes me sad to know that gas is worth more than the right of a parent.

I'd be curious to see what it's like when the child is born, or if $100 in gas will even matter so much then. Maybe the dad should have held out for $1000 or more?

Time to be Honest

We leave early tomorrow for World Changers in Springfield IL, and I have to make an honest confession related to the work we'll be doing there. Here it goes... I hate being on roofs. There, I said it. I don't have a fear of heights at all, but for some reason when I get on a roof it cripples me and I spend more time worrying about not falling than I do about getting a job done. Yeah it was fun to climb up there when I was a kid and shoot bottle rockets off it (sorry Dad, that was me), but then when it came time for work it was the combination of heat, nail guns, shingles, and falling that always made me dislike it.
So this next week will be a very challenging one for any number of reasons. The biggest challenge is overcoming my crippling fear of roofs. The advantage is I'll be around the "great cloud of witnesses" that Hebrews talks about, and another thing I know about myself is I succumb to peer pressure pretty easy, so maybe that'll help to overcome the fear.
So that brings up the big question, if something does happen, who gets the iPod?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

United under the Gospel

One of the really neat things about being at Southern for several years was that every now and then an awesome conference would happen that would bring together some of the greatest minds in contemporary Evangelical circles for discussion, debate, mutual growth and encouragement, and for us as young ministers the chance to witness our spiritual heroes in action and to drink deeply from the cups of their wisdom and insight they offered.
One conference I wish I'd gone to while I was at Southern was the Together for the Gospel conference that happens biannually in Louisville. The list of speakers is a "Who's Who" in Christianity, Mark Dever, Al Mohler, CJ Mahaney, John Piper, John MacArthur, Ligon Duncan, etc. They all come from different ecclesiastic traditions, different theological viewpoints, but as we see in the linked document, there is a commonality that overrides every one of their differences and brings them together for the cause of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
While we may have many differences in secondary matters that may be of great importance, we must never let our differences interfere with the great work of the Kingdom and our task as the Church to make Christ known to all peoples. The need for people to repent and come under the Lordship of Christ must be foremost in our minds and hearts as the guiding rule of our life.
We must stand for Truth, and the importance of holding to an objective view of that topic, that there are things that are undeniable truths not subject to interpretation, but are true based on their being true. We must always remember that salvation is an act of grace, that God is under no means bound to save any of us, but the fact that one sinner who stands in rebellion against Christ is saved is enough to demonstrate the immeasurable kindness of God. No prayer or program or delivery of a boxed presentation can result in salvation, only an act of Grace given by the Holy Spirit through Christ to the Glory of God the Father.
The motto of Kentucky is "United we stand, Divided we fall." May that be what we as the Church strive for, that we be united under the banner of the Beloved or else we fall as a divided house.

Birthday Reflections

Well for those of you on Facebook who get the updates, today is my birthday. I turned 26 today, my how the years have flown by. One thing I got when I was a kid that was really cool was a "Birthday Book" that featured significant events in history that happened on July 15 and people in history who shared the same birthday.
Anyway, I found a thing on the New York Times website (what an awesome paper, know they're liberal as can be but great journalism), and several unique things happened on my birthday. For starters, I share the same birthday as Rembrandt the painter, Terry O'Quinn (more known for being Locke on Lost), Clement Moore (Night Before Christmas author), and Forrest Whittaker. Also on this day, in 1870 Georgia was finally readmitted to the Union following the Civil War, 1948 Truman secured the Democratic nomination for President, 1971 Nixon declared an intent to visit China to restore diplomatic relations, and in 2007 the Phillies lost their 10,000th game and in the process setting a record for futility by a professional sports team (the citizens of Philly were unaware of this, as they had stopped counting losses by their teams years ago)
It's pretty cool what happens on any given day, and the history of what happened on a particular day in the course of time would be too much to record in any single volume. How awesome is it that there is a God who moves all of history in a teleological fashion, that it is being moved to a particular point and nothing happens along the way that is not conducive to that end goal. All of history happens for a reason and purpose, because God is more than just an observer, He is the author, director, and producer of the entire drama that we call existence.
26 down, who knows how many to go!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Diet Gospel Message

I've been reading a lot lately and hearing a lot of commentary about people who come across in the name of Christ proclaiming to be Christians, who teach something that is not the Gospel according to Scripture. There are many people who do not teach about sin, who would rather call it "bad thinking" or "making bad choices" or "being ignorant of God" or even worse, the ones who are out there who do not even think sin is wrong, that transgression is in the eye of the beholder. I think this is a far cry from the picture of sin in Scripture, the picture that is painted there is a picture of condemnation, a curse proclaimed throughout all Creation, and a way of life that is in complete rebellion and animosity against God.
Many of these preachers tickle the ears of their listeners, proclaiming a Gospel that does not focus on repentance and faith but rather focuses on self-improvement and a better way of living. The Gospel is not one of self-improvement or feeling better about yourself, but a way of taking those who are dead and making them alive in Christ. Anyone who teaches something less or who tells people that their problem is that they don't feel good or have life satisfaction is proclaiming a false gospel, one that is far away from the witness of Scripture.
I liken the concept of this poor preaching and theology to the idea of Diet Coke, one that looks a little bit like the real thing and has the same fizz, but does not have the same taste and leaves some sort of false, bad aftertaste in your mouth when compared to the real thing.
The Gospel is for those who are dead in their sins, who stand as enemies of God, who can do nothing of their own to warrant salvation, who are condemned to hell because of their very nature as sinners. The Gospel is not for people who want behavior modification or to feel better about themselves or feel satisfied about their life (the reason I harp on life satisfaction is that I found that in a formerly reliable and True Gospel evangelism program). The Gospel is the breath of Life given to the dead to bring them to life (see Ezekiel 37, the beautiful picture of what Christ does for us).
The Gospel is also something amazing that God does in us, we do not hold the keys to it nor do we make the Gospel change our lives. God is the author, source, agent of, and executor of our salvation. We are the recipients of this amazing grace, we receive it through the leading of the Spirit. Do not be deceived during this time where so many people are tickling the ears of their followers under the guise of Christ. Be wise Christians, and stay true to the Bible, the norming norm that norms all norms; true truth that's truthfully true. SDG

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Back in the 901

Hello there! I just got back to Memphis about an hour or so ago, and am at the church fixing up some things, getting World Changers figures done, and preparing for Bible Study tonight. We have spent several weeks looking at the book of Job dealing with the theme "When Life Doesn't Hand You Lemons." It has been a good series for us to walk through, examining how the life of a disciple is not always a sweet pill to swallow, that suffering of the innocent is very real, and that unfortunately we as Christians are not promised freedom from being wronged or dealt a bad hand, but that through it we see the Providence and Sovereignty of God. It was especially a blessing for me to study for this, and one insight I learned was early in the book God puts the leash on Satan and allows him to have great influence and exact great pain on Job, but God limits Satan in what he can do. That is the great deception of Satan, that he deceives himself into thinking he is all-powerful, when really throughout the book of Job you see the mercy of God displayed even in the worst of circumstances, because the effects of the assault go only as far as the Word of the Lord would allow. It does not ultimately answer the greatest question in Scripture, the Problem of Evil (theodicy), and we are left with only the promise in Romans that whatever happens God works all things for good for those who love Him. We must trust that we have a good God who, even in His wrath or punishment or ordaining the worst to happen (i.e. Katrina, Tsunami, 9/11, etc.) He is still the all-merciful and all-loving Lord. How that blends is a mystery and will remain, but our task is not to answer God but rather to trust and obey and follow.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Some Time Home

Well I've been home for a day and a half, will be heading back to Memphis in the morning to get Bible study ready and relax before the evening programming. It has been a great, albeit quick trip home, again to a house with none of my stuff where my room is now a cross between an exercise room (with the weight bench still set up the way it was when I put it there in May), and a storage room.
It's been great to see my family again and get to spend some time getting my butt kicked at Wii Tennis, having dinner, and catching up on the latest news of UofL Football.
See ya tomorrow Memphis!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Why I am a Confessional Christian, and Why You Should Be Too

The title should have caught your attention, and if it did I'm glad. One of the things that I was really struck by during my time in Seminary was the importance of creeds and confessional statements throughout the history of the church. One of the big misunderstandings regarding confessions is that they can be used to replace the Bible as the authoritative document for a church, which is simply not true. Any good creedal statement exists to explain and systematize biblical doctrine which is not always well-organized within the scope of the canon. I have yet to be a part of a church body that has subscribed to a systematized confessional statement, but my Seminary training was grounded in the Abstract and Principles, which provided a common ground and understanding of what we, as a community, held as key values and primary issues theologically. I think one of the fears many Baptist churches have in dealing with creeds/confessions is that it can look like other denominations, in particular our Presbyterian friends. I hope that we can get to a point as a denomination where our theology and practice can be grounded in sound doctrine and the biblical witness and less of "we don't want to look like "
Anyway, now for the list of reasons why I am a confessional Christian and why I think evangelicals should at least be open to the consideration of aligning together under a confession of faith
  1. It provides a framework for a commonly held belief structure in things of primary importance. This can be seen as the points by which a church (or other body) identifies itself, and the things that it holds as key beliefs and values.
  2. It provides a way of teaching the future generations orthodox teaching, and gives them a lens through which to read Scripture, and a worldview to understand their surroundings.
  3. It provides boundaries for proper belief and gives churches and other bodies a basis for discipline and correction. Members who subscribe to a confessional statement who later turn from it or err in teaching/living can be disciplined in order to bring them back into the fold (restoration of fellowship being the ultimate goal of any spiritual discipline).
  4. It gives answers to the difficult doctrines and does it in a way that is easy to remember, providing members with a "fact sheet" they can use to give an apology.
  5. It gives a litmus test for the character and genuineness of a person's faith and repentance before the Lord. By testing a person's beliefs it can be determined their spiritual maturity, or even if they are regenerate or not.
  6. It takes the canon of Scripture and puts together the major doctrinal teachings found in it in a way that is easy to read and systematized. For example, find the chapter in the Bible that deals exclusively with the nature of the Trinity. In a creed or confession, these things can be clearly articulated with Scripture references.
That's all for now, post comments and let me know what you think!

Here's some confessions/creeds I like, all in one website

A New Criterion for Leadership

So I have been watching this election coverage with great interest. The incoming Executive will have great potential to right a number of wrongs, and provide lasting impact on policy, judicial nominations, while dealing with an impending energy crisis, and an economic slump.
That being said, the following article (taken from the Chicago Tribune) sets us at a whole new low of what we expect from our leadership. Apparently, we want a President we would much rather have a guy we'd go fishing with or watch a ball game with, rather than someone who would create in us a vision of a better tomorrow and provide leadership in difficult times.
When you go to the polls in November, vote for the person who can work towards making this country even greater, who can restore our standing in the international community, release us from our dependence on foreign energy sources, etc. Don't vote for them because they'd be your buddy, it's great to identify with your leadership but there should be a reverence and honor given to those we choose to lead us.
Until then, keep praying for our country and those who will decide its direction,0,6150091.story