Sunday, November 30, 2008
Wal-Mart Employee Trampled
Shooting at Toys R Us
First off, my heart and prayers go out to the families of these people who were killed because of the rush on Black Friday. The Toys R Us story is not as tragic as the Wal-Mart, but both break my heart that the holidays will forever have a black stain on them because of this.
My thoughts on this are simple, that we as a society have gone pretty far down the toilet when bargain shopping becomes such a frenzy that lives are lost. Somehow I hope this gets our materialism under control and we see the insanity that Black Friday has become.
My prayers are with those affected by the tragedies and many others that may have been hurt during the rushes across the nations. I hope those responsible for these incidents are happy with their plasma TVs and iPods.
1) My wife - Simply put, there is no one else on this planet I could imagine being as happy with as I am with her. She is my best friend, my confidant, my support, my fashion consultant, but more than anything else my helpmate.
2) My church - I serve on staff at a church that teaches the Scripture, and while we may not be a large church or while our youth ministry may still be small, I love that we are faithful to the teaching, exposition, authority, and sufficiency of the Scripture. So many churches chase after the flavor of the week to get people in the door, but the key mark of the church is its view on the Word.
3) My family - I miss them a ton, and I hate that we're over 300 miles apart now that I have moved to Memphis. But I am glad to be able to talk to them, and I have been so blessed that they are able to come and visit as often as they have. I look forward to them coming and my dad truly has been one of the big influences on me as a person.
4) My new family - On October 18th I officially joined the Puckett family as the #2 son in law. Carrie's parents, sister and brother-in-law and niece have been nothing short of wonderful during our dating, engagement, and in the early days of our marriage. There has been nothing but encouragement, warmth, welcome, and I have so much enjoyed having them in my life the last two years.
5) My job - I love having a steady source of income, and while Starbucks can be quite aggravating with the people and the crazy hours, God has blessed me to be able to work there and have affordable health insurance. I certainly do not agree with them on everything, but they are a company that knows how to take care of its employees.
6) My friends - It's so weird to think that some of my best friends live many hours away, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology and a central home base of Louisville, I have been able to keep up with and see many dear friends who have meant so much over the years. I thank them for keeping me sane, for listening to my crazy ideas, and for being there to share in so much.
This is but a short list, many more come to mind. Thanks most of all to my Lord and Savior, because He chose me for Himself out of His grace to have a fellowship with Him both here and for eternity, that I have no claim for or deserve, simply because He loved me and because left to myself I never would have chosen Him. From someone with a heavy heart and much that has kept him up late, thank you Lord for your mercy and grace extended to someone who did nothing to deserve anything but your wrath and condemnation.
This article caught my attention as I was reading through the top news online. It is the story of JP Hayes, a former PGA regular earning his way back to the Tour by playing at Q-School. Here is a link to the article, but the summary of it is he discovered he was using a ball that was not officially recognized as legit for play, and because of that he disqualified himself from the competition.
Golf is a funny game, if nothing else for the fact that guys in goofy pants (i.e. Payne Stewart) hit a small ball a long way on nice grass and then try to get the small ball into a small hole. It really is a fun game to play, even when you're lucky to hit it once on the fairway in an entire round (my game). It is often said golf is a good walk spoiled, but it is a very relaxing game, fun to play with a small group of friends allowing for a lot of fellowship and conversation. It is also a gentleman's game, where players are responsible for policing themselves and enforcing the rules of the game on themselves (and now you know why your uncle Larry shoots a 70 average).
What Hayes did is significant not because he recognized that he cheated, I think most cheats do and know exactly what they are doing. Hayes had the real choice of not reporting it, finishing high enough to earn his Tour card and return to a good life on the PGA, or to report it and thus disqualify himself from more prestigious events and probably cost him thousands in earnings from tournaments. What he did was in respect for the game and what it stands for.
Thank you JP, for showing us that integrity and professional sports can still be used in the same sentence. In a day of Congressional denials about steroids, Spygate, etc., it is refreshing to know that there are some out there with enough respect for the game to play by the rules, even when no one is watching. I encourage our students often to have integrity in what they do, that character is who they are when no one is watching, and that in the little things is where you are able to most glorify God.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I also want to know what scale the Memphis weathermen use when determining temperature. They said it was 42 degrees this afternoon, but I was wondering if they were using Fahrenheit or the Kelvin scale.
Just tossing these thoughts out there?
Recently though, the push to remove Christ from Christmas has become a much more aggressive position, rather than passive opposition it is now much more active and aggressive. The humanist/secularist/atheist movement is now finding itself on best seller lists and within the greater culture as well as the Academy. In Washington DC, there has been a recent advertising push from the American Humanist Association, with the slogan "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake." The article from CNN can be found here.
This approach is problematic for several reasons. The first is the concept of being "good." What is the definition of good behavior? We believe in the existence of good because God in His personhood is good. There is a standard for good and bad, and this standard of objective truth can be found from the revelation of God, which is the Scriptures. We must also recognize than when the individual (or even the society) exists sovereign over itself and to determine what is true and right, we are left with a subjective understanding of this, and therefore now clear-cut call of what is good. In the words of Judges, everyone did what was right in their eyes. One person has the option of doing certain things that could be considered good, because as an autonomous determiner of truth and goodness, the degree of goodness is in the eyes of the participant, not from an outside other. This ultimately is where we have found ourselves in light of the post-modernity movement.
The second area of concern comes from the idea that the denial of an existence of God frees us from any sort of moral or social responsibility. To deny the existence of God does not diminish His reality or His rule over creation. It doesn't work like Santa, whose sled is fueled by the "Christmas Spirit" whatever that is. So to free oneself from the moral constraints of believing in a god is a foolish attempt to place oneself on the throne and declare the self to be the decider of what is moral. The widespread denial of God is only a recent thing, as the word "atheist" did not come to be coined in English until the Enlightenment period (not surprising...).
We are then left with the third area of concern, the being good for goodness' sake. I understand this is from the song Santa Claus is Coming to Down, but really? The reason for being good was because Santa was coming to town. The concept of being good just for the sake of being good is problematic in the sense that this assumes that there is no reason or purpose in good conduct and "being good." There are no rewards for good behavior, and the telos in being good is found simply in being good. This contrasts a Christian worldview which sees all things as working towards the telos of the coming Kingdom of Christ. Christians are expected to "be good" for the purpose if glorifying the Father and being the light to the nations. The expectation for the believer is to be of good character because the fruit of our character is reflective of the salvation we experience through Christ. There is so much more to being good for the sake of being good, for a Christian the reason to be good is because it is with our lives we have the opportunity to glorify God in whatever we do.
While this is a fringe movement in a local setting, there is some concern considering the recent advances of the atheist/secularist movement in American society. We should remember that our reason for solid character is found in the person of God and all things are to be done for His Glory. There is much more to life than being good for the sake of being good, we are to submit all things under the Lordship of Christ and to that end our lives should be directed.
Friday, November 21, 2008
1) Sell all your clothes, everything nice you have. Go to a thrift store and spend no more than 50 cents for anything. Resupply your closet, the goal is to look as ratty as possible.
2) Stop washing or cutting your hair. Jesus didn't have shampoo, you don't need it either.
3) Buy a guitar, preferably one from a pawn shop or used store. Learn 3 chords, that's all you need, and it doesn't matter what 3.
4) Don't have big dreams yet, start out just you playing guitar at any possible opportunity (Disciple Now weekend, Youth Group meetings, coffee shops, on a street corner). There's plenty of songs out there so you don't need to write your own next.
5) Now comes your own original material. Inspiration can come from your journal, your thoughts, cliches you find on t-shirts, the Bible, or when all else fails just borrow from stuff that's been done before. This is called Christian Sampling.
6) Now it's time to recruit a band, you must find people who have followed steps 1 and 2 but have not yet gotten to 3 lest they surpass you. Any number will suffice here, but if you have a novelty instrument (piano, violin, dulcimer) use it!
7) Take your album photo, remember that no one is to look directly into the camera.
8) For your first big concert, remember that no one is there to see you, so play your four or five songs, and hop off the stage. But don't forget to bring your CD to the show so you can sell it out the trunk of your car.
9) Get one hit song on the radio, content means nothing as long as it's catchy. Feel free to throw out tons of Christian cliches if you need to.
10) Trim your hair, you don't want to look totally homeless, now you're being marketed.
*Disclaimer - This is meant to be humorous satire, not any malice towards Christian music or the industry. I hope you got somewhat of a kick out of this.
Monday, November 17, 2008
For the next couple weeks I'm taking our students through a study on the book of Jonah, with the series being called More Than a Fishing Story. Last week was our first one and we were able to discuss the sovereignty of God throughout all circumstances through the first chapter. Jonah is such a fascinating book to study because the primary message of the book is not the prophetic message but the prophet himself. Jonah, while being the anti-type of a prophet, is the prophet Jesus most associates Himself with (3 days in the fish, 3 days in the tomb), and we see in his story many similarities with our own. He received a direct command from the Lord to preach to the city of Nineveh (a cross between NYC, Vegas, and ancient Rome), and for whatever reason, whether fear or anxiety or doubt, he flees from God's call on his life.
Most people focus on the fish when talking about the story of Jonah, but a careful exploration of the text shows that this is more than just a story of a guy getting swallowed by a fish. It is the story of the Sovereign God of heaven and earth, the God who is never caught off guard because He is in control of every aspect of creation. The fish that swallowed Jonah was not a "Plan B" because God needed Jonah or else the Assyrians would be lost. No, God directed all the circumstances of the story (the storms, the lots, the sailors, the fish) for the purpose of His Glory being displayed through Jonah and in the city of Nineveh. One thing I think do not give proper attention to is the sovereignty of God. Many times we consider Him to know all possible outcomes and directions but the choice is up to us (like a "Choose your own ending" book), instead of a sovereign God who directs all things to the Glory of His Name. We see it in Jonah, we see it in the story of Joseph, we see it in the Exodus, and we see it in the cross. God's plan for all eternity for the salvation of humanity was through the Incarnate Son being the lamb. The Law points forward to this perfect sacrifice, all roads lead to Jesus in the Bible.
When we read the story of Jonah we see several themes that we cannot ignore. We see the Providence of God in all things, we see the mercy of God to the nations by sending them a prophet, we see personal mercy to a rebellious son (the same mercy withheld to Jesus), the stubbornness of God's people, and finally that salvation has always been intended for both Jew and Gentile. The Abrahamic blessing was to be a blessing to all nations, Israel as the elect people of God were charged to be a light to the nations so that they would know the Lord. We as Christians, God's elect people to be a light to the world, have that same command to witness to others who is the reason for our hope.
Jonah is a wonderful study and I look forward to what the Lord does through it. May we forget about the big fish and instead focus on the BIG God it shows us.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
It should be an awesome night, Carrie and I have looked very forward to this for a while. She has been an excellent host getting everything ready, even if it means going back and forth through the kitchen making sure we have enough to feed and keep everyone happy tonight. She truly is a P-31 kind of gal, and it's fun to watch her work and fill in and do whatever she needs. It's been an awesome ride so far, look forward to many years of it!
So that beg the question, are we saying too much in sermons? Does the contemporary listener care what we have to say? For starters let me say that I believe in the power of the preached word, that there is something to be said because God has spoken through the ages by His Word. When we depend more on experience or relationships or other avenues of communication (i.e. visual, tangible) we lose a little bit of what has distinguished us as Christians. God did not chose to reveal Himself through visible nature or by touch, He chose to reveal Himself through the spoken word. There is great power in the sermon that is both expository and exegetical, deriving its theme, structure, and content explicitly from the biblical text. Many of the great revivials in history began in large part because of an emphasis on preachers of righteousness being faithful in their calling.
Churches who do not address the state of the culture-at-large are probably doomed to failure, but the line must be drawn in the sand regarding what things the church cannot and will not change on, regardless of how culture would flow. There must be something unique about the church, about the "called out ones" who have been set apart by the grace of God for His work and glory. When we become more like the world in our methodology and worship, we lose something of what distinguishes us from the culture. Here is a quote from C.H. Spurgeon, by many called the "Prince of Preachers"
This is the suggestion of the present hour: If the world will not come to Jesus....Shall not the church go down to the world? Instead of bidding men to be converted, and come out from among sinners, and be separate from them, let us join with the ungodly world, enter into union with it, and so pervade it with our influence by allowing it to influence us. Let us have a Christian world.
Certain ministers are treacherously betraying our holy religion under pretense of adapting it to this present age. The new plan is to assimilate the church to the world by semi-dramatic performances they make the house of prayer to approximate to the theater; they turn their services into musical displays in fact, they exchange the temple for the theater, and turn the ministers of God into actors, whose business it is to amuce men. This then is the proposal. In order to win the world, the Lord Jesus must conform himself, his people, and his Word to the world. I will not dwell on so loathsome a proposal.
My dear hearers, how much I long to see you saved!! But I would not belie my Lord, even to win your souls, if they could be won so. The true servant of God is not responsible for success or non-success. Results are in God's hands.May the Lord find us faithful to remain true to the calling to proclaim the Truth of the Gospel to sinners who need to repent, and may we resist the temptation to sacrifice our identity and uniqueness for the sake of being relevant. The Lord will do a work in His church, and He will do it only when He and His Word are pre-eminent in the life and practice of the church.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
So where is the joy in that? It was during this time of being sick, pitiful, and helpless that I was able to see in my wife a compassion and love that gave no consideration to her own desires but instead focused her attention on me to give me comfort and aid in healing. Everything from constantly refilling my Sprite and Gatorade cup to soup bowl runs to getting out at 8:30 at night to go get Tylenol because we did not have any, to getting up at 3 to give me some medicine so I could continue sleeping through the night.
During the entire time I was laid up on the couch, there was a huge joy running through my heart knowing that in the chair next to me was someone who loves me more than I do myself. She served me in a way that struck the deepest parts of me. In this, there is joy in being sick, because during that time everything wrong with my body was countered with everything right in my life. I love you Carrie!
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Can I get an amen on this?
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Here it is, special thanks to Dr. Moore for your wonderful contributions to the Kingdom.
Seven Reasons Why Halloween Judgment Houses
Win So Few People to Christ
Friday, October 31, 2008
1. They're not scary enough. To speak of hell, Jesus used the imagery of a garbage dump overun with worms, a place where babies were once sacrified to demons (Mark 9:43-48). Teenagers in plastic red devil masks and styrofoam pitchforks usually don't convey what it means to "fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb 10:31). The answer isn't better technology, though, since nothing we could conjure up can convey the anguish of the damned walled off from relationship with God.
2. They assume people's problem is that they don't know about judgment. But the Bible says they do. All of us have embedded within us a conscience that points us to the Day of Judgment (Rom 2:15-16). We have a "fearful expectation of judgment" (Heb 10:27). The problem is we block it out of our minds, diverting ourselves with other things. The problem isn't that lost people don't hate hell enough. It's that they don't love Christ. Hell is the Abyss they run into in their flight from him.
3. They abstract judgment from the love of God. I know most "Judgment Houses" present the gospel at the end. But in the Bible the good news doesn't come at the end. The prodigal son leaves the father's house, but the father is eager to receive him back (Luke 16:11-31). The awful news of God's judgment is always intertwined in Scripture with the message of the gospel of a loving, merciful God. "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him" (John 3:17).
4. They abstract judgment from the glory of God. The prophet Isaiah doesn't see that he's "undone" first by the horror of judgment. He sees it in light of the glory of God's presence (Isa 6:1-6). The Apostle John tells us the glory Isaiah saw was Jesus of Nazareth (12:47). When we preach Jesus, the glory of God breaks through (2 Cor 4:6). Some people recoil at that light; some people run to it (John 3:19-21).
5. It's hard to cry at a Judgment House. But Jesus does when thinking about judgment (Matt 23:37). And so does the Apostle Paul, pleading with sinners to be saved (2 Cor 5:20). These evangelistic tools though are meant to take on the feel of a "haunted house," a place of thrill-seeking and festivity. It's hard to convey the gravity of the moment in such a way.
6. The Holy Spirit doesn't usually like to work that way. Pop quiz: How many people do you know who came to know Christ through the witness of a friend? How many do you know who came to know Christ through faithful parents? How many are in Christ due to the week-to-week preaching of Christ in a local church? Probably a lot, right?
Okay, now answer this: How many people do you know who came to know Christ through a Halloween "Judgment House" or "Hell House"? If you know one, you're outpacing me, and everyone I've ever talked to about this. The Holy Spirit tends to work through the preaching of Christ (Rom 10:17). That's how he points the world to sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).
7. They're easier to pull off than talking to people. Can people be saved through Judgment Houses? Sure. I have a colleague who was saved at a Stryper heavy metal concert in the 1980s. Are the intentions behind them good? Absolutely. If you have a Judgment House and it's enabling you to share Christ, have at it with blessings on you.
But the fact remains that most lost people in your neighborhood are going to be saved the same way people have always been saved, by Christian people loving them enough to build relationships, invite them to church, share the gospel, and witness to Christ. The problem is that for many Christian's that's scarier than a haunted house.
A little bit of background on this passage before we begin. Paul is writing during the time of Imperial Rome, to the church located in the center of the Eternal City. He is writing to people who are living everyday in the midst of the cult of the Emperor whose image was to worshiped as that of a god on earth. The letter was probably written a few years before the church underwent major persecution under Nero in AD 64, though it is entirely likely the church felt some external pressure to conform to the culture-at-large going on around them. They were living in a culture of death and gluttony and debauchery, and were forced daily to see idolatry practiced all around them in the form of the Pantheon. They were very distinct in the city and they faced an interesting setting in which to do ministry and to live as both residents of Rome and as Christians.
And then Paul writes this segment of text in Romans, and tells these Christians who watch the Imperial lust for power, the overtaxation, the abuses of absolute power, etc. and he tells them that they are to be submissive to this authority. The same government that desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem is to be respected, feared, and obeyed. How can this be? Simply put, those who are in authority are there because God Himself has put them there to do His good will. In fact, Paul goes so far as to say those in the church who defy the authorities are subject to judgment. They are to be honored, respected, and they should be supported by taxes. This pagan, idolatrous, arrogant, God-hating government was put in place by God Himself to carry the sword and be a part of His Sovereign will.
That said, there seem to be many Christians who feel that unless a certain candidate wins the election today, God will "lose" and that there is no way God could ordain a certain candidate to be our next President. To those who feel like God can lose or that God's will is not perfectly achieved in every aspect of life, I want to tell you that you have far too small a God. We see in Scripture an all-sovereign God who holds the kings of the earth in the palm of His hand and directs them as He sees fit. He raised the Assyrians and Babylonians to discipline His people and return them to the covenant, He hardens the heart of Pharaoh (a self-professed god himself) to show His power over nations, and He in Christ uses the evil Roman empire to be the vehicle for the rapid spread of the Gospel.
A God who is not in control of ALL things and sovereignly ruling over all things at all times in all places through all people using all (noticing a theme here) is not a truly sovereign God. If anything catches God "off guard" then He is not really sovereign. So that being said, we come to a very interesting time in our history as a nation. It is entirely likely that the winner of the election today will be someone who holds to a very liberal view on critical evangelical issues such as abortion, religious freedoms, etc. Whatever the outcome of the election is, whether it be a McCain or Obama victory, as Christians we have confidence that the winner is the one ordained by God to that position as His chosen agent and servant. Our votes are so important, and every citizen should do their duty and cast their vote for who in their conscience they feel should be our next President. But God is the Lord of the thousand hills, and all that is on the earth is His, and that includes nations and their governments. No matter who occupies the White House, there is a White Throne where the true King sits and He rules in perfect wisdom, goodness and judgment, and His power makes every king and President and man look meek and insignificant. Do not forget church, you are citizens of Heaven, you belong to a greater Kingdom than anything here on earth, and He by His Word rules over all in complete power and providence. THAT is my God, is He yours as well?
Should this happen, how are we as Christians to respond to that? Simply put, we are to follow the teaching of Paul in Romans 13 and submit to the authorities that God has placed over us, pay our taxes, be faithful citizens, honor and respect those whom God has placed over us, and continue to fulfill the Commission given by our Lord in Matthew 28. Christians should daily pray for our President and his family, our national, state, and local governments that they would govern justly and exercise authority rightly. More than that, pray for their salvation. The hope for curing America's ills is not found in policies, programming, or in judicial decisions. The cure is found in the hope and glory of the cross, where the sinful hearts of men are regenerated to new life in Christ. When we place our hope for change in programs, we forsake the cross. Christ is the only solution to our ills, and that is change we can believe in.
So, with the election results looming and the likelihood of an Obama victory very high, I ask you one question.... How big is your God?