Monday, December 31, 2007

Some Highlights from 2007

As the sun sets on 2007, I am reflecting on the many blessings of the year past. I'll share some personal highlights, keeping in mind that every day with my wife, boys, parents, extended family and church family was a highlight, and I'm not just saying that to avoid spousal and/or congregational heat!

1/4-5 Pastoral leadership retreat with Nathan and Brian. Great time of prayer, planning, and fellowship.

1/8 REEPICHEEP, the blog, is born. I've very much enjoyed doing this blog.

1/20 Went Coyote hunting with my son Nico and later saw my son AJ make his first two baskets in a basketball game.

2/6 Attended "Pastor's Day" at the Capitol Building in Topeka and had the privilege of opening the Senate's Session with prayer.

Sometime in February- I don't know which Wednesday night it was, but some time in February I scored a sweet back heel goal on Brian. Definite ESPN Sportscenter highlight.

2/26 Attended a pre-screening of "Amazing Grace" with my wife Shari. It was a great movie, but an even better time with my wife at a very nice dinner.

3/4 Dr. Bryan Chapell visited and preached at Redeemer. He's a great encouragement to me personally.

3/15-17 Attended the Ligonier Conference in Orlando. Power-packed line-up: Sproul, Zacharias, Piper, MacArthur, and Mohler.

4/13-14 Redeemer Men's Retreat with my friend Patric Knaak as the speaker. He challenged us regarding "Marketplace Spirituality". Living the gospel in all spheres of our lives.

4/20-13 COZUMEL trip with my awesome wife! Man, what a great time! Our 14-year overdue honeymoon, and it was superb.

4/24 Start of the "Pastor's Diet" with Nathan and Brian. My goal was to lose 40 pounds in one year. I'm currently at 25 pounds. I need to lose 15 more before 4/24/08.

5/12 Wizards game VS FC Dallas. The Wizards lost, but it was a humorous time sitting with Brian in the FC Dallas fan section of Arrowhead, with my Wizards shirt on.

5/29 Shot my double-bearded Tom (turkey) down in SE Kansas. Got that one mounted.

6/1 Attended the NHRA Drag Race in Topeka with the Redeemer Men's ministry group. Quite possibly the most manly thing I have ever witnessed.

6/30-7/7 Family Vacation to Horn Creek, Colorado. Wonderful time of refreshment and fellowship with my family in the mountains. Became better acquainted with Nathan Clark George (he led worship at the camp) and saw my son AJ complete a hike no 8 year old should have been able to do. Very proud papa.

7/11-13 Trip to Chicago to hang with my college buddies, eat Chicago Pizza, play golf, and bid farewell to my friend Patric who was moving to Philly at the end of the month.

7/23,24,26 Attended the Yankees games at Kaufman against the Royals. Always a thrill to see the 26-time world champions destroy an opponent.

7/31 Enjoyed a relaxing time out with my bride on our 14th Wedding Anniversary.

8/2 Attended the Wyandotte County Fair Demolition Derby. Nothing like the smell of mud, beer, oil, antifreeze, and rednecks! The Mullets were o'plenty and the craze bashin' and crashin' didn't fail to disappoint! Only in America!

8/20 The start of WCA Soccer camp. I coach the school junior high boys soccer team and love it.

9/2 First Worship Service in Redeemer's new sanctuary. One of the most moving days of my life.

9/23 Nathan Clark George concert in the new sanctuary. Not only do I count Nathan a friend, I love his music. I was so thrilled to have him be the first concert in our new sanctuary. It was a blessed time.

10/6-7 Redeemer Sanctuary Dedication Weekend. We had a splendid dinner Saturday night followed by a partial dedication service in the new sanctuary. Sunday morning was a glorious worship service with our founding pastor, Mike Milton, preaching. We had the final dedication litany in that service. Being part of the planning, building, and dedication of this sanctuary will surely rank as one of the greatest highlights of my life. To God be the Glory.

10/16 Official meeting with the adoption agency we will be using to adopt a baby. This is the result of years of consideration, months of prayer, and weeks of intense introspection. Thus the journey begins for our family. Only God knows how long it will be until another child is added to the Brothers Felich.

THE MONTH OF NOVEMBER- Lots of bow hunting. Too many exciting highlights to mention, but no deer harvested yet. Also, the soul patch is added to my face. Despite widespread mockery, I exert my dominion, and keep it...for now.
11/17 Took my son Jordan on an evening bow hunt as a fulfillment of a promise to take him hunting when he turned 5. We had a neat encounter with a small buck. He's going to be a great hunting buddy.

11/28 Took my dad gun hunting for deer. He missed on a good buck, but that's O.K. I just cherish any time I can spend with my dad anywhere, but especially in the deer woods. We won't have these opportunities forever.

12/6 Harvested a good buck with my bow. Praise the Lord for a friend like Nathan! He left the office, put on his boots and jacket, and helped me drag that big ole' boy to the truck.

Advent- this past Advent season was one of my most memorable. Having my parents here, enjoying special services at Church, studying and preaching on Handel's Messiah, and the overall spirit of the season seemed to combine for a particularly unique period of spiritual reflection for me.

12/9 The Particularization of Christ Covenant Church. For five years we have been assisting a wonderful group of saints in the Northland of KC to establish a new PCA Church. The service to make them an "official" church was very meaningful and moving to me. May God bless Pastor Eric Adams, their new elders (Mike and Peter), and the whole congregation of Christ Covenant!

December in general- We have taken various opportunities to share our desire and efforts to adopt with our friends and family this month. We're praying for this to actually happen in 2008, as the Lord wills.

There are certainly other highlights I could have mentioned. God is far too good to me and my family. There were also many challenges that required heavy applications of God's grace. I count the trials as blessings also.

May God bless you and yours in 2008.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Celebration of the Lordship of Christ

Sweet wig. Soul Patch added.

The last two weeks of Advent I enjoyed doing an exposition of Handel's Messiah for the morning sermons. I felt the liberty to preach such sermons in light of Handel's use of straight Scripture. Of 52 Sunday sermons from the Redeemer pulpit, approximately 48 are straight exposition. I thought mixing it up with a multimedia extravaganza would be good for 2 of the "other" sermons. Of course, a multimedia extravaganza for Redeemer means playing various audio clips from Messiah. Cutting edge stuff. Maybe we're going emergent? NOT.

Anyways, I'm looking forward to our annual missions conference at the end of January and studying the Scripture that makes up Handel's Messiah proved to be a great primer for our upcoming focus on missions.

Messiah traces the promise of Christ from Isaiah 40 through to His ultimate glorification and triumph depicted in the book of Revelation. We tend to think of Messiah as an Advent-focused piece of sacred music, when in fact, it is a glorious survey of the whole of redemptive History revealed in Scripture. One of the very clear themes of Messiah is the increasing exertion of Christ’s Lordship on the Earth since His ascension to the right hand of the Father.

It is a mistake to think of the Kingdom of God in purely futuristic terms. The idea that Christ will reign on the earth someday ignores the teaching of Jesus that declares the Kingdom to be inaugurated upon the incarnation of Christ. The Kingdom is NOW, and growing. I think Handel captures this scriptural reality wonderfully in the second part of His oratorio, particularly as he progresses from the ascension of Christ to the Hallelujah chorus. Notice the Lordship of Christ expand by Handel’s Scriptural progression (from Part II of Messiah)-

Unto which of the angels said He at any time: Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee?(Hebrews 1 : 5)

Let all the angels of God worship Him. (Hebrews 1 : 6)

Thou art gone up on high; Thou hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men; yea, even from Thine enemies, that the Lord God might dwell among them.(Psalms 68 : 18)

The Lord gave the word; great was the company of the preachers.(Psalms 68 : 11)

How beautiful are the feet of them: that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things. (Romans 10 : 15)

Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world. (Romans 10 : 18 / Psalms 19 : 4)

Why do the nations so furiously rage together, and why do the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against His Anointed. (Psalms 2 : 1-2)

Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us. (Psalms 2 : 3)

He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn; the Lord shall have them in derision. (Psalms 2 : 4)

Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. (Psalms 2 : 9)

Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.(Revelation 19 : 6)The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever.(Revelation 11 : 15) King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.(Revelation 19 : 16)Hallelujah!

Do you see the subduing of the nations from the time of Christ’s ascension? While we associate the much-loved “Hallelujah Chorus” with Advent and the birth of Christ, it is actually a joyous response to the expansion of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth. Messiah wonderfully and biblically displays the lordship of Christ expanding on earth between his first and final coming (right now!).

The scriptural certainty of Christ's Kingdom expansion gives me great excitement about the mission of the Church. Missions are a celebration of the Lordship of Christ. It is our great privilege and joy to be a part of Christ’s expanding kingdom.

Friday, December 28, 2007


I'm a long time Penn State fan, stemming from my proximity to the university growing up and knowing various people who attended and played there. I've always respected Joe Paterno greatly, although I think he probably should have retired 4 or 5 years ago. On the other hand, I have no passion for Texas A&M except a mischievous bent toward mocking the inexplicable cult-like attitude some of my friends, her graduates, seem to have. So, it is with said bent and a slight diappointed shake of my judgmental head that I point out the utter classlessness exhibited by the Aggie faithful in preparation for tomorrow's bowl game against the Lions. In comparison, I enjoyed Jo Pa's response. This year has been largely disappointing for the Nittany Lions (talk about a cool name!), so my expectations aren't high for tomorrow...but man would it be cool if PSU put a spanking on them Aggies!
12/29/07 UPDATE- PSU wins 24-17!

Texas A&M Apologizes for Casket Comment (Associated Press 12/28/07)

SAN ANTONIO —Texas A&M apologized to Penn State after a student leader mocked Joe Paterno by telling a crowd that the 81-year-old coach needs "a casket."

Paterno and his Penn State team face A&M on Saturday night in the Alamo Bowl.
One A& M yell leader, during a pep rally Thursday night, told the crowd that Paterno was "on his death bed" and "someone needs to find him a casket." The remarks drew boos from the crowd.

A&M team spokesman Alan Cannon said Friday he did not know the name of the yell leader, though the student has been sent home. The yell leaders - similar to cheerleaders - are A&M's official "spirit" organization and lead fans' cheers during games and other school events. They are elected by the student body.

Paterno, at a news conference Friday at the Alamodome, said he was backstage with Aggies interim coach Gary Darnell when the comments were made, but did not hear them. "I think everybody has to take things with a grain of salt," Paterno said. "Some young guy went up there, trying to be funny. Maybe he's accurate, I don't know."

Texas A&M's interim president, Eddie Davis, and athletic director Bill Byrne later apologized to their Penn State counterparts.

"I honestly didn't hear it, and I don't particularly care about it," Paterno said Friday. "Sticks and stones will break your bones but names will never hurt you."

Paterno, a 42-year head-coaching veteran, is about to enter the last year of a four-year contract that expires following the 2008 season.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

How are we to think of the Incarnation? The New Testament does not encourage us to puzzle our heads over the physical and psychological problems that it raises, but to worship God for the love that was shown in it. For it was a great act of condescension and self-humbling. “He, who had always been God by nature,” writes Paul, “did not cling to his privileges as God’s equal, but stripped Himself of every advantage by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born a man. And, plainly seen as a human being, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, to the point of death, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal” (Phil 2:6-8 Phillips). And all this was for our salvation. . . .

The crucial significance of the cradle at Bethlehem lies in its place in the sequence of steps down that led the Son of God to the cross of Calvary, and we do not understand it till we see it in this context. . . . The taking of manhood by the Son is set before us in a way which shows us how we should ever view it — not simply as a marvel of nature, but rather as a wonder of grace.

J. I. Packer, Knowing God, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993; pp. 58-59.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I want to believe Roger Clemens

This is bold for sure.

The Fourth Week of Advent- The Angel's Candle

The Prophecy Candle is the first candle lit. It reminds us of the Old Testament prophets who foretold Christ's birth. The Bethlehem Candle, the second candle lit, is symbolic of the Christ Child's cradle. The Shepherd's Candle is the third candle which typifies the act of sharing Christ. Pink symbolizes the Advent Rose, a time to pause in this season to Rejoice in the Lord. The Angel's Candle is the fourth candle which is lit today. It is the candle of love and final coming. Today’s Scripture reading is from the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew 1:18-25 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. [19] And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. [20] But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. [21] She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." [22] All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: [23] "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,and they shall call his name Immanuel"(which means, God with us). [24] When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, [25] but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

God willing, the Brothers Felich will soon be joined

We're looking forward, God willing, to adding to this picture of hooligans above!

Since having our last child, Jordan, just over 5 years ago, Shari and I have prayed about adopting our next child. There are lots of complexities that have led us to pursue adoption, I'll write about those in future posts as we wait for our new baby. The process could take 12-18 months, so we are likely in for a long haul. For now, very simply, the reasons we are adopting:

1. We would love to have another child. Our children have been an unspeakable blessing to us. We think God has equipped us to have another. We think children are one of the chief ways God multiplies His Church and effect on the world. We never really thought we were "done" with our last child. Our boys are pumped about this decision.

2. I'm personally sick of complaining about abortion and doing nothing tangible to put pressure and focus on the shame and travesty it is. In future posts, I'll write more about why I think Christian families putting their money and lives where their rhetoric is will do more to change the culture of infanticide than any legislation will ever accomplish. If Shari and I can pull this off financially (a big excuse for many people), a great many others can.

3. There are orphans who need homes. Orphans are near to the heart of God. Everyone of us who claim to be Christians were orphans also. Now we are adopted sons and daughters. Our new child will be a full-ranking member of the Felich household. Such a transfer from orphan to son or daughter is a vivid reminder of our transfer from strangers to the covenants of promise to full ranking children of the grace.

Like I said, there are many complexities concerning our decision to pursue adoption. For now, we are very excited and are geared up for the stressful wait. Your prayers are very much appreciated.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Messing With Sasquatch

Jack Links Jerky has produced a priceless series of commercials. Here's one of my favorites.

I Am Legend response

The RPC pastoral staff went to see I AM LEGEND, the movie starring Will Smith seen in the above trailer. I am not much of a movie reviewer, but I will give you my response-

Very Scary.

I’ve long given up going to horror movies of the suspenseful, slasher variety. Cheap terrorizing just doesn’t do anything for me in my older age. Legend kind of feels like such a movie, though with much deeper and somewhat believable themes- that’s what makes it so frightening. Nathan and I felt bad we took Brian, he was clearly the most scared among us and the other theater goers. I hope viewing this movie didn’t scar the poor guy. I am sure he slept with his BB gun and light on last night.

Basic plot: In the year 2009 a new method of treating cancer is thought to be a cure. It’s a virus that, when initially tested, routed out and killed the cancer cells in thousands of people tested. Thinking it to be a cure, the virus was mass-produced and administered. Tragically, the virus mutates and kills most humans on the planet. Only two kinds of “people” are left. Those, like Will Smith’s character, Dr. Neville, who are completely immune to the virus (which is estimated to be a few million people on the entire planet, most of whom get killed by the second category of “people”), and those who survive the virus, but turn in to hideously aggressive zombie-like, Gollum on steroids-looking predators that come out only at night, due to extreme sensitivity to light. These sub-human beasts hunt and eat whatever flesh-bearing creatures they can find. Dr. Neville is the lone occupant of New York and determined to stay there until he finds a cure. He lives in constant fear these night-walkers will break in to his fortified NY apartment and eat him and his faithful dog (it’s a real shame, the dog eventually gets whacked by a virus-infected pooch). Eventually another survivor and her child, on their way to a rumored survivor colony in Vermont, finds Neville and tries to convince him that God is working events so that a cure can be found. By this time Neville is as agnostic as one could be. He is totally warped by his three years of solitude, paranoia about being eaten alive, and repeated failed attempts to find a cure, leading him to say- “There is no God”. Anna, the other survivor, disagrees, and in the end, some “providential” events transpire that allow Neville to find the cure and acknowledge that something supernatural was in fact working toward the end Anna suggested. Neville, in his last act before sacrificing himself to save Anna and her son, extracted some blood from a night-walker who was being cured by his newly discovered antidote, and instructed Anna to bring it to Vermont. The last scene is Anna pulling up to the gate of the survivor colony, the guards taking the blood sample, and Anna narrating the good news that Neville’s cure worked to restore humanity. She says the survivors are Neville’s legend…hence the movie name.

Follow all that? It’s pretty complex actually. I’d have to see it again to pick up some of the more subtle nuances one viewing doesn’t allow. My favorite scene was an intense deer hunt (what did you expect?) through the abandon streets of New York. I prefer hunting deer with a bow, but if I found myself to be the only person alive in a massive city like New York, I wouldn’t mind hunting from a Shelby Mustang (assuming the superior Chevy Camaro wasn’t available) with an assault rifle like Neville. Fresh meat was hard to come by, so I don’t blame him.

Should you see the film? It’s up to you. How’s that for a recommendation?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ron Paul has a solid statement of faith

As I do my research, I'm still torn between Paul and Huckabee. Paul has a pretty solid statement of faith, with the exception of his claim of divine inspiration for the Constitution (obviously he doesn't mean it in the biblical sense of inspiration, but still). Check it out:

Statement of Faith
By Rep. Ron Paul, MD.
July 21, 2007

We live in times of great uncertainty when men of faith must stand up for our values and our traditions lest they be washed away in a sea of fear and relativism. As you likely know, I am running for President of the United States, and I am asking for your support.I have never been one who is comfortable talking about my faith in the political arena. In fact, the pandering that typically occurs in the election season I find to be distasteful. But for those who have asked, I freely confess that Jesus Christ is my personal Savior, and that I seek His guidance in all that I do. I know, as you do, that our freedoms come not from man, but from God.

My record of public service reflects my reverence for the Natural Rights with which we have been endowed by a loving Creator.I have worked tirelessly to defend and restore those rights for all Americans, born and unborn alike. The right of an innocent, unborn child to life is at the heart of the American ideal of liberty. My professional and legislative record demonstrates my strong commitment to this pro-life principle.

In 40 years of medical practice, I never once considered performing an abortion, nor did I ever find abortion necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman. In Congress, I have authored legislation that seeks to define life as beginning at conception, H.R. 1094. I am also the prime sponsor of H.R. 300, which would negate the effect of Roe v Wade by removing the ability of federal courts to interfere with state legislation to protect life. This is a practical, direct approach to ending federal court tyranny which threatens our constitutional republic and has caused the deaths of 45 million of the unborn. I have also authored H.R. 1095, which prevents federal funds to be used for so-called “population control.” Many talk about being pro-life. I have taken and will continue to advocate direct action to restore protection for the unborn.

I have also acted to protect the lives of Americans by my adherence to the doctrine of “just war.” This doctrine, as articulated by Augustine, suggested that war must only be waged as a last resort--- for a discernible moral and public good, with the right intentions, vetted through established legal authorities (a constitutionally required declaration of the Congress), and with a likely probability of success.

It has been and remains my firm belief that the current United Nations-mandated, no-win police action in Iraq fails to meet the high moral threshold required to wage just war. That is why I have offered moral and practical opposition to the invasion, occupation and social engineering police exercise now underway in Iraq. It is my belief, borne out by five years of abject failure and tens of thousands of lost lives, that the Iraq operation has been a dangerous diversion from the rightful and appropriate focus of our efforts to bring to justice to the jihadists that have attacked us and seek still to undermine our nation, our values, and our way of life.

I opposed giving the president power to wage unlimited and unchecked aggression, However, I did vote to support the use of force in Afghanistan. I also authored H.R. 3076, the September 11 Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001. A letter of marque and reprisal is a constitutional tool specifically designed to give the president the authority to respond with appropriate force to those non-state actors who wage aggression against the United States while limiting his authority to only those responsible for the atrocities of that day. Such a limited authorization is consistent with the doctrine of just war and the practical aim of keeping Americans safe while minimizing the costs in blood and treasure of waging such an operation.

On September 17, 2001, I stated on the house floor that “…striking out at six or eight or even ten different countries could well expand this war of which we wanted no part. Without defining the enemy there is no way to know our precise goal or to know when the war is over. Inadvertently more casual acceptance of civilian deaths as part of this war I'm certain will prolong the agony and increase the chances of even more American casualties. We must guard against this if at all possible.” I’m sorry to say that history has proven this to be true.

I am running for president to restore the rule of law and to stand up for our divinely inspired Constitution. I have never voted for legislation that is not specifically authorized by the Constitution. As president, I will never sign a piece of legislation, nor use the power of the executive, in a manner inconsistent with the limitations that the founders envisioned.Many have given up on America as an exemplar for the world, as a model of freedom, self-government, and self-control. I have not. There is hope for America. I ask you to join me, and to be a part of it.


Ron Paul

Sunday, December 16, 2007

NCG Jam Session in my living room- very cool.

Tonight was a long awaited Christmas Concert by Nathan Clark George (vocals, guitar) and Mark Stoffel (mandolin and violin) at Redeemer. Playing with them was Ross Sermons (upright bass) and Benjamin George (drums).

The concert was every bit as excellent as I anticipated. There was an nice turn out and a festive spirit among the crowd. It was a blessed time. I've written about my appreciation for Nathan George and his music before, I encourage you to check out the link to his site, buy some of his CD's, you'll thank me. Nathan possesses an originality that is largely absent in the world of Christian music today. Mark Stoffel is a world class mandolin player. Together, these guys make some amazing music. Ross and Ben are perfect complements. They have a rare chemistry as a band and clearly enjoy playing together. From a twelfth century hymn arrangement to a Johnny Cash tune, they do it all very well.

Perhaps the greatest highlight of the weekend, however, didn't happen tonight, but rather Saturday night. When the guys arrived at my house around 6pm, we treated them to Gates BBQ (the best in KC). Then, they performed an impromptu jam session for my kids. All total, they must have played for a couple hours. They did several numbers as a band, then Nathan and Mark played for a long time after. It was very cool to have such skilled musicians playing in my living room as the above picture illustrates. My sons stood mesmerized by their playing.

Thanks Nathan, Mark, Ross and Ben. You made our weekend.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Third Week of Advent- The Shepherd's Candle

The Prophecy Candle is the first candle lit. It reminds us of the Old Testament prophets who foretold Christ's birth. The Bethlehem Candle, the second candle lit, is symbolic of the Christ Child's cradle. The Shepherd's Candle is the third candle which we light on the third Sunday in Advent. This pink candle typifies the act of sharing Christ. Pink symbolizes the Advent Rose, a time to pause in this season to Rejoice in the Lord. The Scripture reading is from the Gospel of Luke.

Luke 2:8-18 [8] And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. [9] And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. [10] And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. [11] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. [12] And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." [13] And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, [14] "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" [15] When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." [16] And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. [17] And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. [18] And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I have spent a good hour or more reading George Mitchell's report on performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. Despite being cynical about appointing a director of the Boston Red Sox as the lead investigator and being somewhat disappointed that he spent a large portion of his investigative time focussed on two trainers who worked primarily in New York, he has certainly provided a credible report.

Most disturbing to me is the revelation about Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite. I wouldn't be surprised if you told me many MLB players have used various steroids and hormones when coming back from injury, Clemens and Pettite included. It seems clear, however, Clemens used roids as a way of training, like the biggest cheat of them all, Barry Bonds. I no longer respect Roger. Period. No Hall of Fame for him, in my opinion, which is very hard to say. Pettite's situation is more difficult to interpret as it relates to injury recover, but man, it's still cheating and tremendously disappointing to hear.

There are a bunch of players mentioned in the report, Tejada and Bonds, of course, but another that really disappoints- Eric Gagne. So much for his "prolific" closing numbers for the 3-4 years he dominated. Now we know why. Very sad. I have a new respect for Mariano Rivera (if Mo used steroids, he needs to get his money back, he's still as skinny as a rail) and others who seem to have not cheated...but who knows these days. Everything's tainted.

I'm pretty ticked right now. Soccer is so much better than baseball.

Ice, Ice, Baby

The Midwest has been covered with a coat of ice for the better part of 4 days. I am aware of some serious situations where people have been without power for days. I know of one dairy farmer who is under severe duress as he needs power to run his milking operation. Simply put, his cows have to be milked or they will dry up and his farm could go out of business. Such storms cause serious hardship, no doubt, keep the Midwest in your prayers.

At the same time the coating of ice causes such distress, there are rare pictures to be taken, and you can bet my wife was out taking them. These are a few of the pictures she took just a mile from our house.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Oprah Factor is about to show itself...

A long time ago I predicted Barack Obama would win the Democratic presidential nomination. Much has happened since then, and his star has lost some luster, however, I am standing by my prediction. Hillary's stability is beginning to erode, also as I figured.

I will not repeat my reasons for why Obama will get the nomination, they remain the same. I will only accent the very slighting reference I made to Obama's connection with Oprah Winfrey as being a major advantage for him. Oprah is now starting to assert herself in this race. She is turning up the pro-Obama volume and will use her wildly popular television show to promote him.

Hollywood and the TV media have been pro-Democrat as long as I can remember, but never before do I remember someone with the cultural power of Oprah Winfrey poised and ready to use her pulpit (the most-watched daytime talk show) to advance a political candidate's cause.

Oprah's popularity is a testament to the degraded state of thinking and dialogue in our country. She epitomizes temporal, relativistic, feel-good, humanistic philosophy. The sheer number of her viewers, who are mostly women, indicates the anemic state of affairs in our nation's mindest. The amount of Christian women who watch Oprah Winfrey regularly manifests a serious spiritual discernment deficit as well. Now, she stands poised to rally her church (Joel Osteen has nothing on Oprah's following) to place their support behind her anointed man- Barack Obama. Even Neil Postman, were he alive, would have to be surprised with how right his analysis was in "Amusing Ourselves To Death: Public Discourse in an Age of Show Business".
You doubt Oprah's power? Ask yourself this- If Oprah decided to promote Mike Huckabee instead, do you think it would matter? You better believe it would. Obviously this would never happen, Oprah is far too socially liberal to do so. How about Giuliani? Much more plausible. Surely Oprah can have an influence, a major influence, on this race. Hillary has to be squirming big time. Frankly, it's only just begun. If Obama wins the Democratic nomination, it will be very tough for any Republican Candidate to counter the kind of airtime and hearing Oprah will give Obama. Do the Republicans think "The View" will help them? How about Ellen?
The last two elections brought out the liberal media and all the Hollywood stars to oppose George Bush. Watching TV and listening to the various celebs sure made it seem like Bush would get destroyed. In that light, I don't usually gauge actual public opinion on what the media portrays, after all, they were wrong the last two elections. This time, I think it's different. Our culture is further degraded and Oprah wasn't as involved in those elections. In light of the state of public discourse and the overall national mindset, her influence just might tip the scales.

The Oprah Factor is about to show itself, just watch.

Some wisdom from the Geneva Catechism

I don't have near enough time to surf the many blogs of my fellow pastors, so today, being at home until the plumber comes to fix a leaky shower faucet that has caused me to shut down the water to my whole house, I thought I'd check a few out. While perusing fellow seminary classmate Mark Horne's site, I was drawn to a great work of Calvin, a portion of which I will share here. Calvin wrote a catechism (question/answers on various doctrinal questions)in the early 1540's to help people learn sound doctrine. I found the entire catechism encouraging and helpful, particularly this important section on the relationship between faith and works. I hope it blesses you as it did me. Keep in mind, to Calvin (and according to Scripture), faith isn't something the individual believer conjures or musters, rather, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-10)- the instrument He uses to justify us. Too many Christians think that God does almost everything, we just need to have faith. Well, not quite- God does everything regarding our salvation, including the giving of saving faith to us. Anyways, check out Calvin-

Master. - What! are not men justified by good works when they study to approve themselves to God, by living innocently and holily?

Scholar. - Could any one be found so perfect, he might justly be deemed righteous, but as we are all sinners, guilty before God in many ways, we must seek elsewhere for a worthiness which may reconcile us to him.

Master. - But are all the works of men so vile and valueless that they cannot merit favour with God?

Scholar. - First, all the works which proceed from us, so as properly to be called our own, are vicious, and therefore they can do nothing but displease God, and be rejected by him.

Master. - You say then that before we are born again and formed anew by the Spirit of God, we can do nothing but sin, just as a bad tree can only produce bad fruit? (Matt. vii. 18.)

Scholar. - Altogether so. For whatever semblance works may have in the eyes of men, they are nevertheless evil, as long as the heart to which God chiefly looks is depraved.

Master. - Hence you conclude, that we cannot by any merits anticipate God or call forth his beneficence; or rather that all the works which we try or engage in, subject us to his anger and condemnation?

Scholar. - I understand so; and therefore mere mercy, without any respect to works, (Titus iii. 5,) embraces and accepts us freely in Christ, by attributing his righteousness to us as if it were our own, and not imputing our sins to us.

Master. - In what way, then, do you say that we are justified by faith?

Scholar. - Because, while we embrace the promises of the gospel with sure heartfelt confidence, we in a manner obtain possession of the righteousness of which I speak.

Master. - This then is your meaning-that as righteousness is offered to us by the gospel, so we receive it by faith?

Scholar. - It is so.

Master. - But after we have once been embraced by God, are not the works which we do under the direction of his Holy Spirit accepted by him?

Scholar. - They please him, not however in virtue of their own worthiness, but as he liberally honours them with his favour.

Master. - But seeing they proceed from the Holy Spirit, do they not merit favour?

Scholar. - They are always mixed up with some defilement from the weakness of the flesh, and thereby vitiated.

Master. - Whence then or how can it be that they please God?

Scholar. - It is faith alone which procures favour for them, as we rest with assured confidence on this-that God wills not to try them by his strict rule, but covering their defects and impurities as buried in the purity of Christ, he regards them in the same light as if they were absolutely perfect.

Master. - But can we infer from this that a Christian man is justified by works after he has been called by God, or that by the merit of works he makes himself loved by God, whose love is eternal life to us?

Scholar. - By no means. We rather hold what is written-that no man can be justified in his sight, and we therefore pray, Enter not into judgment with us." (Ps. cxliii. 2.)

Master. - We are not therefore to think that the good works of believers are useless?

Scholar. - Certainly not. For not in vain does God promise them reward both in this life and in the future. But this reward springs from the free love of God as its source; for he first embraces us as sons, and then burying the remembrance of the vices which proceed from us, he visits us with his favour.

Master. - But can this righteousness be separated from good works, so that he who has it may be void of them?

Scholar. - That cannot be. For when by faith we receive Christ as he is offered to us, he not only promises us deliverance from death and reconciliation with God, but also the gift of the Holy Spirit, by which we are regenerated to newness of life; these things must necessarily be conjoined so as not to divide Christ from himself.

Master. - Hence it follows that faith is the root from which all good works spring, so far is it from taking us off from the study of them?

Scholar. - So indeed it is; and hence the whole doctrine of the gospel is comprehended under the two branches, faith and repentance.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Night beacon

Nathan took this awesome picture of the Redeemer sanctuary last week. I wanted to share it with you.

My new hero

As you know by now, a seriously troubled young man walked in to a missionary training center and church in Colorado on Sunday and killed four people. It is clear he intended to kill many more by the amount of weaponry and ammunition he had.

Praise God the church had volunteer, armed security guards working, and particularly Jeanne Assam. She remained calm, and did the right thing engaging Matthew Muray in a gun battle. Apparently, Murray turned the gun on himself when confronted by Assam's shots. The killing shot, autopsy reports seem to confirm, came from his own gun, on himself. Still, make no mistake, it was Assam confronting and engaging Murray that stopped him from killing further. His plan was certainly to kill many people, then kill himself. Assam confronting him made it clear he would not survive the encounter, so he turned the gun on himself. Her account is chilling for sure-

"I saw him coming through the doors, and I took cover, and I waited for him to get closer," Assam told reporters. "I came out of cover, I identified myself and engaged him and took him down," she said. Assam, a member of the New Life Church, said that although she was outgunned and physically weak from three days of fasting, "God was with me. . . . God made me strong."

"It seemed like it was me, the gunman and God," said Assam, whose hands trembled a little as she recounted the shooting during a news conference Monday.

The only correction I would make to Assam's last comment- in actuality, it was her, the gunman, God, and her Smith & Wesson, thankfully!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Prince Caspian is almost here

The next installment of the Narnia series is due out in May. Here's the trailer posted above.

I am particularly looking forward to the appearance of Reepicheep. Reep figures more prominently in "Voyage of the Dawn Treader", but he should have a part in this film, in particular the battle with Miraz.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

What The Golden Compass teaches us

This weekend saw the opening of a controversial film starring Nicole Kidman, The Golden Compass. The lead up to the film included outcry from various Christian sources warning of the films dangerous God-killing message. I personally got a dozen or more concerned emails from brothers and sisters in Christ about how dangerous the message would be and the damage it might do to our children if they viewed it.

O.K., let's chill for a moment. If the opening weekend is any indication, the movie stinks. In fact, the only reason it raked in $26 million this weekend is probably due to the alarms Christians were raising. I'm all but certain the movie's producers hoped for the outcry. I read the cliff notes version of the story online and basically concluded it was junk literature (unlike, say C.S. Lewis...and, dare I even say- J.K. Rowling!). What does the Golden Compass teach us? Well, first of all, it won't teach me anything. It sounds like a piece of garbage film, and not for the anti-Christian reasons you might expect me to point out. I read the plot of the movie (which is altered from the book quite a bit...don't want to be too offensive...just enought to generate ticket sales), and a few pre-reviews, and frankly, could tell ahead of time- anti-God or not- this film promised to be really lame. I'll most certainly re-watch a quality film, like The Godfather or Nacho Libre, before I give 2 hours to this film. The second thing it teaches me, once again, is how weak the American Evangelical church has become. I can't understand why someone would want to spend money on a sorry film like this, but if one did sit and watch it- even your children- do you really think it would threaten your faith? Your children's faith? Seriously? If a film like this can somehow shake us or our children, something is way off in our discipleship efforts in the church. God forgive us for freaking out on this.

I fully understand there are differing levels of impressionability our children may be at, depending largely on age and maturity, however, if a 10 or 11 year old child of the Church cannot discern bull when he/she sees it, we shouldn't get mad at Hollywood, we should get mad at ourselves, repent of our unfaithfulness to Deuteronomy 6 and say sorry to the world for not being the salt and light Jesus called us to be.

A film like Golden Compass (like many others before it- remember the "Last Temptation" and more recently, "DaVinci Code") will come and go, I'm afraid the church's weakness will continue unless we start doing something different with regard to the discipleship of our children and our overall influence on culture.

Fire away.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Second Week of Advent- The Bethlehem Candle

The Prophecy Candle is the first candle lit. It reminds us of the Old Testament prophets who foretold Christ's birth. The Bethlehem Candle, symbolic of the Christ Child's cradle, is second candle to be lighted. The Scripture reading is from the Prophet Micah.

Micah 5:2-5 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. [3] Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. [4] And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. [5] And he shall be their peace.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

2007 Bow Buck down

Well, I've hunted hard this bow season (ask my wife...on second thought...don't). It's actually the Kansas rifle season right now, a time when killing a deer with a bow is near impossible. Frankly, after the rifles start shooting, it's rare to see a mature buck, let alone get a shot with archery tackle. Still, I'm a die hard, and I was determined to keep at it. Today's my day off, so I went to one of my closer hunting locations before first light to see if providence would swing my way, so to speak. Technically rifles are illegal on this land, but I am reasonably sure it gets rifle hunted, so I put on my orange vest to be safe. A bow hunter feels ridiculous wearing the "pumpkin" jacket and hat, but it's better then getting shot by some crazy gun "hunter" (such a crude way to take an animal...unless it's a coyote). Plus, orange is the law during rifle season, no matter what weapon you're using.

There was a front coming in, so the deer were really moving. I saw 11 does in my area before my buck came. That's about as much action on one hunt as I've witnessed all season. Still, I was skeptical I would catch a mature buck trolling through my area, the rut (mating season) was effectively over. With rifle's blasting, I figured most mature bucks were bedded up well before first light. Nevertheless, I think the front got the deer moving, at 8:30 am, I heard grunting coming on the field edge, and sure enough, I saw antlers. I knew he wasn't a record class buck, but my standards go down once rifle season begins. He was certainly good enough to take. I readied my self as he moved from my left to right at about 20 yards. I picked a relatively open spot to slip an arrow through if he kept on the same course. Thankfully he did. Just when he got to the spot, I rose on my knees a bit, put the pin on his lungs, and let the arrow fly.

Schlunk. The arrow ripped through both lungs and he sprinted off immediately. I was confident it was a good shot, but the number one rule of thumb after shooting a deer is stay put for 30 minutes no matter what. I immediately called Nathan (we have a standing agreement to drop whatever we are doing to help the other with a deer related matter). Nathan left the office and met me within a half hour. What a friend! We tracked the deer as there was good blood sign, but man did the snow start falling. It was covering the trail fast. Thankfully, Nathan spotted my buck down! I ran to him and thanked God for the great experience and the fine animal I had just harvested. I still have a freezer full of deer meat from last year, so I think I will donate the meat on this buck to the "Feed the Hungry" program.

I still have a buck tag for Missouri.....I hope Shari doesn't read this.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Huckabee is impressive

In addition to Chuck Norris and "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, I might soon be giving my endorsement to Mike Huckabee for president...if anyone cares.

I'm torn between Ron Paul and Huckabee. Honestly, Ron Paul doesn't have a real chance to win, he just doesn't. Huckabee does havea chance, especially if you believe the latest polls. Fred Thompson is a huge disappointment so far.

So now I start the task of learning as much about Huckabee as I can. I won't lie and say I ever thought voting for a governor from Arkansas makes sense, but I just might this time.

I am playing various clips of his debate speeches as I study today. This clip actually impresses me quite a bit. I think he answers well.

Monday, December 3, 2007

My Soul Patch

About a month ago I decided to not shave for an entire week while hunting. I came home and got the usual response from my wife and kids- they didn't like it. My wife doesn't like beards, she hates the way it feels when I give her a little smooch. My boys, who still have babyfaces, don't like the whisker-feel on their faces either when we wrestle and/or snuggle. So, like a scolded hound, I marched upstairs to shave.

Then...a rush of testosterone came over me. I realized that I must take back my manhood and assert my right to have facial hair, without giving up kissing my wife or snuggling with my kids. So, I shaved everything off except a little patch of whiskers under my lower lip. It would be my statement of independence, dominion, and lordship.

At first I didn't say anything and waited for my wife to notice. A day went by until she said something, and the response wasn't all that bad. She wasn't impressed, yet she didn't refuse a small peck on the cheek. She probably figured I would shave it off in a day or two. One obstacle seemed to be down. It was a couple days before my boys could tell I was consciously growing something on my face. In the midst of one of our wrestling matches, I rubbed my face all over Jordan's face-he's the most sensitive of the three- and no negative reaction was noted- the patch of whiskers seemed not to make significant contact with his cheeks.

It was then I realized- the small patch of facial hair below my lower lip and above my chin could had to.

The first Sunday at church would be a sizable test. Being a pastor is something like having hundreds of siblings and parents- all older and watching what you are doing. Would my congregation notice? I admit, I'm a pretty plain looking dude that doesn't care too much about styles, especially as it relates to various physical fads and such. My hair has been the same since I was a kid (I look like Buckwheat if it grows any longer), I've never had facial hair of any sort, I really don't try to be noticed stylistically. I don't want to be a total nerd, but I'm not looking to be Georgio Armani either. I think people want their pastor to be somewhat unnoticeable in the style department- don't embarrass the congregation by being a nerd or by being Benny Hinn- both extremes must be avoided. Anyways, I was curious to see who would notice my new "beard". Very interestingly, many women commented on it. Most made fun of me! I was shocked at the lack of respect my sisters in Christ showed their pastor. One woman asked me, "what are you growing there"? When I told her "a little beard", she said- "you should stick to growing tomatoes"! Wow. I was amazed by the ease with which these female congregants dissed me over my beard. Almost no men said anything, which didn't surprise me too much- it's not cool for guys to comment on what another dude is wearing, let alone what he does to his hair or beard. After Sunday number one with the new beard, I admit, I was a little shaken about my new look. Some of the ladies had gotten to me. A breakthrough occurred when one of the elders asked me- "Hey Tony, is that a soul patch"? "Hmmm..." I thought. A soul patch. Is that what you call this? Suddenly, I felt my new identity was taking shape. My confidence, which had been so shaken by the women of my church, was coming back a bit because of one brother in Christ secure enough in his masculinity to comment on my new growth.

A soul patch- I immediately looked up this term for my facial hair growth. I came across a very insightful article by Locke Peterseim that captured the meaning of sporting a soul patch perfectly:

This largely described my sentiments toward my soul patch. Reading Peterseim helped my soul patch swagger to gain strength, I was now ready to face the women of the church on the second Sunday. My swagger wasn't the only thing that had grown, my soul patch was a week fuller- and for us Sicilians, that means a fully mature patch of hair. So, I entered the premises wondering what comments awaited. Some of the same people that commented the first week did so again, but this time a bit weaker, for they knew their initial attack had not influenced me to shave it off. My strength was gaining, and their power was weakening! Then, in a moment of final triumph for my beard-keeping will, a different elder piped up- "Tony, are you growing a soul patch"? "Why yes...yes I am," I responded with full vigor and authority. Several other biting comments came forth regarding my soul patch, mostly from sisters, on the Lord's Day, November 2, but they no longer had the same kind of impact as that first Sunday. Too much strength had been gained, too much confidence had set in, my will was now set like flint. My soul patch was now established, no assault of church womankind or any other offender could dissuade me now. The soul patch and I were now one.

I wonder what kind of reaction an earring would get?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The First Week of Advent- The Prophecy Candle

The Prophecy Candle is the first candle which we light today. It reminds us of the Old Testament prophets who foretold Christ's birth, especially Isaiah, from which comes our Scripture reading for today.

Isaiah 9:6-7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Friday, November 30, 2007

How precious

Dogs are such respecters of their masters property. Never mind feeding, sheltering, petting, loving, walking, cleaning up after, and all the various insane services dog owners provide for their does Fido show his thanks? If you're lucky, he'll only tear up your couch (after infesting it with fleas, vomiting on it, and urinating all over it).
Man am I missing out.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Will someone explain this to me?

How messed up are we in this country? This story is warped and disturbing on so many levels.

Man Charged With Murder for Slipping Abortion Drug to Girlfriend to Cause Miscarriages
Thursday, November 29, 2007 /Associated Press

APPLETON, Wis. — A married man has been charged with murder for slipping his girlfriend a drug that authorities say caused her to miscarry twice. Manishkumar M. Patel, 34, of Appleton, was charged Thursday afternoon with first-degree murder of an unborn child, second-degree recklessly endangering safety, placing foreign objects in edibles, possession with intent to deliver prescriptions, stalking, burglary, possession of burglary tools, and two counts of violating a restraining order.

The woman already had a 3-year-old child with Patel, who was married to someone else, Outagamie County sheriff's Capt. Michael Jobe said at a news conference. She became pregnant two more times, but miscarried in December and September, he said.

Apparently suspecting she had been slipped mifespristone, the abortion pill also known as RU-486, the woman had a blood sample sent to a California lab for analysis, Jobe said. When it tested positive for the drug, she approached the sheriff's department Nov. 1. Patel was arrested Wednesday. He had been living in a house owned by the woman, Jobe said. It wasn't clear where his wife was.

Sheriff's investigators said Patel admitted putting the drug in something the woman consumed without her knowledge. Jobe didn't say how she ingested the drug.

Wisconsin is one of 36 states with a "fetal homicide" law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Under the 1998 law, anyone who attacks a pregnant woman and injures or kills her fetus could face life in prison.

The law was passed after Tracy Scheide of Milwaukee accused her husband, Glenndale Black, of beating her in 1992 when she was nine months pregnant. Her baby was stillborn. A jury convicted Black of reckless injury and false imprisonment but acquitted him of violating an old anti-abortion law against causing the death of a fetus. Black was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Scheide divorced him and lobbied to get the bill passed.

I readily admit to not being the sharpest knife in the legal drawer, but something is seriously askew with the law in this situation. A doctor can slaughter a baby in the womb, so long as the mother says it's O.K., but when a person who is not a doctor does the same thing without the woman's consent, he or she can be guilty of murder? So, the only thing that makes the slaughter of a baby murder is the consent of the woman carrying the child? Seriously? I have to be missing something here.

God help us.

The Baptism of Infants and Children

The next two Sundays I have the privilege of baptizing two covenant children recently born to our congregation. Let's face it, baptism is one of the most debated subjects in the Church of Christ. Personally, I have run the gamut of thinking on baptism, arriving at my covenantal position in 1994 or so. I was raised Roman Catholic, I entered "evangelicalism" through the Bible Presbyterian Church, which practically views baptism as baby dedication with water. I then went to Moody Bible Institute where I was thoroughly immersed (no pun intended) in Baptist theology. Frankly, the Baptist-dispensational position never resonated with my understanding of a unified bible (sorry to use the "d" word as I know many of my baptist brothers and sisters would disagree, however, to be baptist means some measure of discontinuity between the testaments, hence, every baptist is at least a little dispensational), but I had great respect for my various mentors in the faith at Moody, and I still do, so I kept trying to adopt their "believer's baptism" position. I wanted to be baptistic- no one wants to diss their mentors, yet, Scripture just wouldn't let me. Toward the end of my time at Moody I came to believe what the Westminster Confession described as the bible's teaching on baptism. I was particularly struck by the shorter catechism questions and answers concerning the sacraments, and baptism specifically:

Q. 92. What is a sacrament?

A. A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.

Q. 93. Which are the sacraments of the New Testament?

A. The sacraments of the New Testament are, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.

Q. 94. What is baptism?

A. Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.

Q. 95. To whom is Baptism to be administered?

A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized.

I think the Westminster Divines did a good summary job of what Scripture teaches. I don't think the Westminster Confession and Catechisms are comprehensive, however they are very accurate in what they do address. Obviously Scripture must be supreme.

All this to say, and in the midst of never ending debate about baptism among all sorts of professing believers, I really appreciate what my denominations Book of Church Order (BCO) further states about baptism and the administration of such to covenant children. There is a helpful pastoral edge to what is written therein. I have baptized well over 100 people since becoming the senior pastor here in 2001, yet I am constantly searching Scripture and the perspective of godly people attempting to better understand this sacrament. I have spent time reviewing BCO 56 in preparation for the next two baptisms at Redeemer.

56-1. Baptism is not to be unnecessarily delayed; not to be administered, in any case, by any private person; but by a minister of Christ, called to be the steward of the mysteries of God.

56-2. It is not to be privately administered, but in the presence of the congregation under the supervision of the Session.

56-3. After previous notice is given to the minister, the child to be baptized is to be presented, by one or both the parents, or some other responsible person, signifying the desire that the child be baptized.

56-4. Before baptism, the minister is to use some words of instruction, touching the institution, nature, use, and ends of this sacrament, showing:

a. That it is instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ;

b. That it is a seal of the Covenant of Grace, of our ingrafting into Christ, and of our union with Him, of remission of sins, regeneration, adoption, and life eternal;

c. That the water, in baptism, represents and signifies both the blood of Christ, which taketh away all guilt of sin, original and actual; and the sanctifying virtue of the Spirit of Christ against the dominion of sin, and the corruption of our sinful nature;

d. That baptizing, or sprinkling and washing with water, signifies the cleansing from sin by the blood and for the merit of Christ, together with the mortification of sin, and rising from sin to newness of life, by virtue of the death and resurrection of Christ;

e. That the promise is made to believers and their children; and that the children of believers have an interest in the covenant, and right to the seal of it, and to the outward privileges of the Church, under the Gospel, no less than the children of Abraham in the time of the Old Testament; the Covenant of Grace, for substance, being the same; and the grace of God, and the consolation of believers, more plentiful than before;

f. That the Son of God admitted little children into His presence, embracing and blessing them, saying, “For of such is the kingdom of God”;

g. That children by Baptism, are solemnly received into the bosom of the Visible Church, distinguished from the world, and them that are without, and united with believers; and that all who are baptized in the name of Christ, do renounce, and by their Baptism are bound to fight against the devil, the world, and the flesh;

h. That they are federally holy before Baptism, and therefore are they baptized;

i. That the inward grace and virtue of Baptism is not tied to that very moment of time wherein it is administered; and that the fruit and power thereof reaches to the whole course of our life; and that outward baptism is not so necessary, that through the want thereof, the infant is in danger of damnation;

j. By virtue of being children of believing parents they are, because of God’s covenant ordinance, made members of the Church, but this is not sufficient to make them continue members of the Church. When they have reached the age of discretion, they become subject to obligations of the covenant: faith, repentance and obedience. They then make public confession of their faith in Christ, or become covenant breakers, and subject to the discipline of the Church.

In these or the like instructions, the minister is to use his own liberty and godly wisdom, as the ignorance or errors in the doctrine of Baptism, and the edification of the people, shall require.

He is also to admonish all that are present to look back to their Baptism, to repent of their sins against their covenant with God; to stir up their faith; to improve and make right use of their Baptism, and of the covenant sealed between God and their soul.

He is to exhort the parent to consider the great mercy of God to him and his child; to bring up the child in the knowledge of the grounds of the Christian religion, and in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; and to let him know the danger of God’s wrath to himself and child, if he be negligent; requiring his solemn promise for the performance of his duty.

The minister is also to exhort the parents to the careful performance of their duty, requiring:
a. That they teach the child to read the Word of God;
b. that they instruct him in the principles of our holy religion, as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, an excellent summary of which we have in the Confession of Faith, and in the Larger and Shorter Catechisms of the Westminster Assembly, which are to be recommended to them as adopted by the Church, for their direction and assistance, in the discharge of this important duty;
c. that they pray with and for him;
d. that they set an example of piety and godliness before him; and endeavor, by all the means of God’s appointment, to bring up their child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

56-5. The minister shall then read the covenant promises:

For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee. Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house. (Acts 2:39; Gen. 17:7; Acts 16:31)

There are plenty of theological sites which debate the above, that's not my purpose here. Rather, I wish to relish the rich history of interpretation and explanation I am part of. We do what we do for a reason- a reason we believe is biblical.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Interesting phenomena

Ron Paul won't win the GOP presidential nomination. If he runs as an independent, he'll likely take votes away from the republican candidate as well as bring out young people who wouldn't otherwise show up at the polls.

Still, his rhetoric is very interesting.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Advent 2007

This Sunday begins Advent. Advent simply means the coming or arrival of Christ to Earth. Advent also refers to the liturgical period preceding Christmas, beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and observed by many Christians as a season of prayer, fasting, and penitence. For us at Redeemer, it is chiefly a time of focus on the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the marvel of redemption that came as a result of God becoming man. The mood will be reflective, celebratory, and contemplative.

First, in our times of worship and fellowship together, we’ll reflect upon the amazing act of God the Son to “make Himself nothing” in order to be our Savior. Such reflection is both sobering and exciting. Can you believe God the Son did this for us? Do you realize what this means? We are saved from the just punishment our sin deserves, and we are saved to bring glory to God by our redeemed lives. We’ll reflect on the Incarnation this Advent.

Second, we’ll celebrate the Incarnation. Because God the Son agreed to take on flesh in order to make payment for our sins, we are redeemed! While there is a sense of shame in thinking of Jesus leaving His Father’s presence in heaven in order to stoop to earth, there is also a striking elation that makes us want to sing, worship, and fellowship with friends and family. Advent 2007 will be a celebration of redemption made possible by the willingness of God to give His Son and His Son’s obedience, making Himself nothing.

Third, there should be a sense of contemplation about what the Incarnation practically means for us today. Reflection is essential, but contemplation takes it one step further. Since Jesus has come in such an alarmingly humble way, how shall we then live? More personally- how should I live my life differently because Jesus came as a man to pay for my sins the way He did? Is there any length to which I should not humble myself for my brothers and sisters in light of what Jesus has done? I encourage you to make this Advent a time of seeking God’s transforming ministry in your life, and the life of our/your church.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A new dose of Seinfeld

Postmodern, existential, hedonistic, paganism aside, I really enjoyed the Seinfeld show when it ran for almost ten years. I don't watch T.V. as such, so I have the DVDs of the series and pop them in while on the elliptical. They're only 20 minutes each with no commercials.

This past Friday night my family went to see Jerry Seinfeld's new animated family movie, "Bee Movie". It was pretty funny. Don't get me wrong, it's not the dramatic quality of Nacho Libre, nor does it contain the suspense of Dumb and Dumber, but it did provide a new dose of Seinfeld. If you liked the sit com, the movie will make you smile again. Jerry wrote most of the movie and provides the voice for the main bee character. It's classic Seinfeld humor (family-safe however, no master of any domain or "out there and lovin' it Jerry" from Kramer). Nostalgia-wise, the best part is his relationship with his bee parents- it's identical to the relationship Jerry had with his parents in the sit com. Seinfeld show fans should see this movie.