Saturday, June 30, 2007

Unplugging from the Matrix

Borrowing a metaphor from a pastor friend, I'm unplugging from the Matrix to decompress, recreate, and bond with my family.
I'll be out of blogging commission until July 7.
See you soon.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Back when pro wrestling wasn't fake...

This is going to seem like an odd post- especially after a string of more lofty blog thoughts. Sorry, I am what I am. Never been one to put up a good front...not to mention I'm not preaching for the next three weeks so I have time to think about some other important stuff.

Back in my early teens I loved to watch professional "wrestling". The quote marks are to indicate my understanding that many "real" wrestlers (the kind that starve and spit to make weight, wear hideously tight uniforms, blather on about how wrestling is the most grueling sport anyone could participate in, and have cauliflower ears) are offended that pro wrestling calls itself wrestling. Anyways, back in the day (I grew up in the 80's), I enjoyed watching "old school" professional wrestling which still had some connection to "real" wrestling in that most of the participants came from the Greco Roman and Freestyle genres of wrestling before getting in to the world of pro wrestling that everyone knew was fixed and somewhat fake (strictly speaking, what pro wrestlers do is not "fake". The moves are hard to do and they hurt- yes, they are acting and being careful not to really hurt their opponent, but the impact of a suplex or a piledriver is not fake).

I enjoyed the old "NWA" with Ric Flair, the original "Four Horsemen", Dusty Rhodes, Jimmy Valiant, and others. The "WWF" began it's ascent in the 80's with the first "Wrestlemania" and the likes of Jimmy Snuka, Roddy Piper, Captain Lou Albano, Brutus Beefcake, Jake Roberts, Andre the Giant, and of course, Hulk Hogan. This was also the era when Brett Hart- my personal favorite of all time-began his climb to the top of the wrestling industry (Oh that dreaded day in Montreal !). The "AWA" was inferior to the other two major wrestling organizations, but they boasted the greatest tag team of all time- The Road Warriors. Ah...those were the days- No half naked girls, in fact, the only women who had anything to do with wrestling looked meaner than the male wrestlers (The Fabulous Moolah, for instance). Those were the glory years when there was virtually no steroid use (the early 80's at least), if there was, the users should have gotten their money back, there was a lot more pudge, stretch marks, and flab than monster biceps and six pack abs (see Dusty Rhodes, Abdullah the Butcher, Kamala, Captain Lou, the Samoans, the Moondogs, etc.). There was a sense in which a regular guy could relate with the wrestlers of old. Those were the days when there was little to no swearing and obscenities at a wrestling show. The worst thing you might see is the Iron Sheik spit on the American crowd and tell us how great Iran is while Jesse Ventura (before Minnesota thought he would be a good governor) defended him for doing so. This, of course would be followed by Sargent Slaughter slapping the cobra clutch on him to the delight of the patriotic crowd. Hulk Hogan (with all his cheeseyness) would bid little kids to play fair, say their prayers and eat their vitamins. I miss those days of wrestling.

Back then, the wrestlers put up a humorous, but unified front about the "fakeness" of it all. There was a code of silence about the obvious scripted nature of the sport. I remember ABC reporter John Stossel asked "Dr. D" David Schultz if wrestling was fake back in the early 80's. Schultz open-hand slapped him twice (for real) saying something like "you think this is fake?"- classic old school wrestling way of defending their "sport".

Then, in the mid 90's it all changed. Vince McMahon was able to conquer the other wrestling organizations and become a monopoly of sorts. "World Wrestling Entertainment" was born and old school wrestling died a swift death. By putting "entertainment" in the organization's name, McMahon made a concession in order to advance his business. He conceded that wrestling was "fake" or more accurately, the outcomes of matches were predetermined. In return, being a form of entertainment instead of a legitimate sports competition, substances like steroids were not a problem, in fact, they became understood tools of the trade. Oh sure, McMahon talks about there being mandatory testing for steroids, but that's just a PR front. Now that wrestling is overtly in the "entertainment" genre, the scrutiny isn't as intense. Most people who still follow pro wrestling accept that steroids are what make their heroes look like disproportioned cartoon superheroes.

With this shift to the entertainment genre, McMahon introduced obscene language (and poster boy Steve Austin), seedy soap opera-like plots, gross and weird contests, half naked women "wrestlers" laced throughout the programs, and most disturbingly- a new breed of freak, 'roided up wrestler that you just knew wasn't going to live long if he kept injecting whatever it was that made him look like the circus sideshow he had become. Pro wrestling today is nothing like what it was. Only men (and a few women- see Chyna) willing to take lots of steroids and human growth concoctions or those morbidly overweight (check out Yokozuna's sad story) have a place in wrestling today. Gone are the average guys who were entertaining personalities (Piper, Honky Tonk Man, The Funks, Freebirds, etc). Clearly pro wrestling has become a dangerous circus freakshow filled with vice and obscenity. No matter what you think of old school wrastlin', it wasn't what it has now become.

Pro wrestling had it's share of tragedies over the years preceding the McMahon "entertainment" era, that's for sure. This new McMahon era of sex and steroids, however, is starting to litter the wrestling landscape with many victims at an alarming rate (Owen Hart, The British Bulldog, Rick Rude, Curt Henning, Brian Pillman, Eddie Guerro, to name a few). Just this past week Chris Benoit, a model example of a steroid-dependent wrestler, killed his wife and 7 year old son before taking his own life. Steroids are no excuse, but they are definitely a huge part of the reason he carried his violence to the degree he did. Dependence on and abuse of steroids are shown to cause wild mood swings (roid rage) and deep depression. We're talking powerful stuff. There are still details coming out about this tragic Benoit situation, but mark my words- steroids and the pressure to be superhuman-looking will be shown to be a huge part of why the Benoit family is now dead.

I'm not sure what value a post like this has, most likely none to those who aren't aware of who Nikolai Volkoff or Bruiser Brody were. For me, I wish the good old days, when pro wrestling wasn't fake (at least no one would admit it), were back. No more Junkyard Dog, Tully Blanchard, Paul Orndorff, Bob Orton, Ricky Steamboat, Don Muraco, King Kong sad.

I guess I'll go watch my Nacho Libre video again, after all, he did it for the orphans!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

No Letdown!

This is my 100th blog entry since entering the blogosphere in January. I can think of nothing more fitting than to relay a personal exhortation to my Redeemer brethren (and "sistren"):

My experience as a soccer player and coach has taught me the most dangerous time to be scored upon by the opposition is immediately after our team scores a goal. Soccer is a marathon sport with relatively few goals scored. The field is huge and the game time is longer than any other team sport at a minimum of ninety minutes. To the ignorant observer soccer games can seem boring with so little scoring. To the soccer aficionado, a 1-1 draw or 2-1 victory can be a thing of action-filled beauty. Despite the general lack of many goals scored, it is remarkable how goals come in clusters when they do come. It is very common for a game to go scoreless, then, when one team scores, the other roars back with a goal or two. Ninety minutes can go by with two or three goals scored in a short five to ten minute window. I believe this phenomenon is largely psychological. It takes so much teamwork, effort, and perseverance to put a soccer ball in the opposing teams net, a let down in intensity just after finally scoring can be common. This “let down” can cost a team dearly as the other team capitalizes on the depleted intensity and scores almost immediately. Over the years as a player and a coach I have learned to speak very forcefully to my team after we score a goal. I simply repeat, “NO LETDOWN”. The players know exactly what I mean. We have to maintain intensity; we are at our most vulnerable after a high point like scoring a goal. I am sure of this phenomenon; I have seen it too many times.

The so-called “let down” can happen in the life of a church as well. The ministry of our Church is a marathon not a sprint. We are coming up to a tremendous high point in the history of our church- the completion of a landmark sanctuary for the worship of God. This new sanctuary will be a bold statement in the midst of our burgeoning community concerning what we believe about the greatness of God. Hopefully, such a statement will draw many inquirers in for a closer look and we, as a congregation, will rise to the godly task of welcoming many new faces so they might come to know Christ, grow closer to Him, and join the ministry vision of our Church. I am excited and I am certain the congregation is also. There was a buzz in and around the church after the steeple was placed on June 20. We are on the cusp of a tremendous high point in our church’s short life.

Therefore, my dear sisters and brothers- “NO LETDOWN”! It might be natural to have a psychological letdown of some sort after entering the new sanctuary. A new sanctuary is an awesome blessing and an effective ministry aid, however, it does not somehow symbolize that we have arrived. We are only just beginning to fulfill God’s directive for us. The sanctuary is a new beginning, not the end of a journey. Please, commit this to consideration and prayer, we cannot “let off” or “let down” in our ministry mindset and effort. There is far more that has to be done.

Redeemer’s goal is not to become a mega church but rather a healthy, self-duplicating mid-sized church that maintains a sense of community and personal spiritual nurture for all it’s members while at the same time having a major impact on our immediate surroundings through the transformed lives of our members and consistent, faithful proclamation of the doctrines of grace.
NO LETDOWN! Catch the long-range vision with me! On the most basic level I can see transformed Redeemer members and families being agents of transformation in multiple spheres of society-used of the Father to bring many to the Son. Beyond this I envision paying off our financial obligation and being able to use half of our general budget to support local and foreign missionaries (some of whom will come from our church) and outreach. I can visualize our school growing through high school and being a major “culture transforming” discipleship center through the students trained and educated here. I picture Redeemer starting a church-based theological education night school and biblical counseling center that gives interested Christians and current church leaders in the KC metro area the opportunity to study God’s Word and world more formally- a sort of mini-seminary right here on our property- The Institute for Reformation. I look forward to Redeemer planting her first daughter church some day. All of this to say- NO LETDOWN”!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Nimrod and the Babel Builders (Part 4)

I remember being due for some parental discipline as a youngster and running upstairs to lock myself in my bedroom. I thought to myself, “If I close myself in here, my parents can’t get me. I will be safe from the consequences of my actions. Surely safety could be found in this room”. How foolish I was to think a little, easily unlockable door would keep my parents from entering to administer discipline. It only took locking myself in the room once to realize how big they were and how very puny I was.

Babel was no different in the presence of God. They had constructed this huge city and mighty tower thinking they could stand in opposition to God. Just as I thought I could hide from my parents and be safe from judgment, the Babelites thought building a mighty city could keep God from them. Further still, they probably thought the tower would be intimidating to God. Imagine such pride. We gain proper perspective when we carefully consider the fifth verse of Genesis 11-

Genesis 11:5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.

Notice the wording- The Lord had to come down to see the tower! The tower Nimrod and the Babel-builders thought was so impressive... God couldn'’t even see from heaven! The tower that Nimrod and the Babel-builders thought would intimidate God was so small, so miniature, so insignificant, so tiny, so peewee, that God had to stoop down and squint to see the work of their hands! God is not impressed by our works and accomplishments like we are. We just put a huge steeple on our new church building, yet, we have not done so to somehow impress God. We have done so to make an earthly statement to draw people's thoughts heavenward, to our Great and Awesome God. The Babelites were building something they believed was truly awesome- that even God would have to be impressed if not intimidated.
What folly! Nothing we could make or do impresses God if done independently from a love and appreciation for God and His great grace. Only works done in Christ "impress" God. Needless to say, the tower of Babel didn't qualify as impressive to God.

Genesis 11:6-9 And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.7 “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.9 Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

As God observes what the people have done He states that their mischievous unity will surely get them into further trouble. Keil describes the meaning of verse 6 by stating, “By the firm establishment of an ungodly unity, the wickedness and audacity of men would have led to fearful enterprises.” As we peruse history we find this to be the case. On the positive side of the ledger, when man has time and is unified in his thought great things happen- huge structures are built, great machines are invented, we can reach the moon in a single bound. We can even send probes and satellites to the uttermost parts of our universe. But when man’s intent is for evil, his unity of thought can be devastating. We build bombs that can destroy whole cities. We invent and develop medical procedures that kill the unborn while still in the womb. The list of atrocious things unified fallen humanity has concocted is long. In verse 6 God detects how quickly things are going downhill. He has promised not to judge the world by a flood again, so he forges another plan to thwart the sinful, prideful efforts of the Babelites. He decides to confuse their language. This simple action would divide their brain trust into dozens if not hundreds of groups.

Genesis 11:7 “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

The wording here hearkens back to the creation when God set out to create man.

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

How tragic it is now that the creator has to discipline and correct His prized creation using the same wording He used to create.

Imagine the scene, one minute you are talking to your friend, the next minute you cannot understand a word he is saying. Quite possibly you are talking to your family and your children begin uttering a different language. For people who knew of only one existent language this would have been terrifying. It would have caused a huge panic. People would begin screaming out for someone to hear them. It is possible that when a person began to speak that they would not even understand themselves. They could be trying to communicate and would know what they meant to say but the sounds wouldn’t come out. So it is quite possible that you would have to find someone who was making similar sounds but you would have to get together to try to understand your new language. There were probably dozens if not hundreds of languages being shrieked and screamed all about the land. You would race around in a frenzy trying to find someone, anyone who would understand you or maybe someone who’s language sounded like yours! This had a obvious scattering effect on the people as they broke up into their various language or sound groups.

Genesis 11:8-9 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.9 Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

So it is that God would accomplish His Will with or without the cooperation of man. He confused the language to accomplish the end of mankind inhabiting the whole earth. We know from the genealogy table in chapter 10 that Nimrod went on with those who spoke his new language to build other cities but none like Babel. Babel literally means “Gate of God”, but its legacy is not what the people intended it to be. When a person utters in a seemingly meaningless bungle of sounds we refer to it as “babble”. Babies babble all the time. Only they know what it means.
Nimrod and the Babel-builders stand in the halls of history as a testimony to what happens when mankind thinks itself to be above God. They that go up in their own estimation must come down again by His discipline.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Redeemer Steeple Raising

Redeemer's new sanctuary is very close to completion, Huber construction tells us the building will be done by late August. This week the 70 foot steeple was attached to the steeple tower, it was a sight to behold. Regarding the significance of the steeple, note what the manufacturer (Jerry Bennett of Campbellsville Industries) of our steeple said-

"A steeple points one to the heavens, symbol of the dwelling place of Christ. Through city streets, across the valleys and lakes, through the countryside far and wide, the steeple declares Christ"

Friday, June 22, 2007

Nimrod and the Babel Builders (Part 3)

Now let's consider the episode that has gained the Babelites great disrepute in the eyes of the many generations since. What could they be trying to do?

Genesis 11:1-2 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there.

Chapter 10 was a list of Noah’s descendants. Chapter 11 goes back to shed specific insight on what happened shortly after the Earth was beginning to be repopulated. We learn that everyone spoke the language of Noah. There may have been many languages before the Flood however the only language to survive was that of Noah and his family. There was great unity among the growing population. The text gives us a key clue as to how the population of the earth interacted-

Genesis 11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.

A seemingly simple verse tells us two things: first, all people knew the same language. Second, they were speaking it to one another. There was a certain unity of thought among the people described here. Obviously there is nothing wrong with being unified, however if there is a negative, influential, leader like Nimrod wielding power, there was great potential for a wrong mindset to set in and spread quickly. The unity described in verse 1 is very likely a direct result of a unifying leader. The unified activity of the people appears to be influenced by some authority among them and the authority was not God-

Genesis 11:2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there.

At first glance this looks pretty innocuous, pretty natural. But remember for a moment back to the command of God to Adam and Eve early in Genesis-

Genesis 1:28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

God doesn’t tell them to hunker down and build a great city. He tells them to spread out, fill the whole earth. This mandate to spread out and fill the earth doesn’t stop with the Fall of man, recall what God told Noah after the Flood in Genesis 8-

Genesis 8:17 “Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.”

Obedience to the Lord’s mandate meant spreading out and filling the whole earth. In our passage, the inhabitants of the earth under apparent leadership decide they know better than God’s command and decide they will move together. They stay unified and defiant. As a whole group they move to what is now the Euphrates River valley. These two simple verses (11:1-2) show us great pride. They ignore the command of God to spread and fill the earth in order to actualize their leaders desire to build a great kingdom for himself.

The evidence of their pride shows forth brilliantly with the actions their statement and subsequent actions in verses 3 and 4, look there with me-

Genesis 11:3-4 Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar.4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

They decided to make a name for themselves. They decided to build something that would defy God himself. Remember, from what we can tell, this city consisted of all the inhabitants of the earth. When they proclaim “let us make a name for ourselves” to whom are they wanting homage? They are speaking directly in the face of their creator- God himself! What pride. What haughty arrogance-

Genesis 11:3-4 Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

They would make a huge tower that would reach up into the heavens. Never mind that there was no rock to make such a structure. They were so determined to defy God that they set out to make building bricks with the materials they had available. They say- “let us build OURSELVES a city”. There is no mention of homage to their creator. These people are only one generation removed from the flood! Already they have dismissed God in their thinking. Obviously their leader has great influence in this whole process. Of course the mighty hunter named Nimrod is so named because it means “we will revolt”. We can be absolutely sure that they are standing in opposition and defiance to God when we look at the last phrase of verse 4-

Genesis 11:4 lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

The wording is eerily familiar. They are twisting the mandate of God to fill the whole earth. They are saying "we don’t want to do what God wants us to do so lets fortify ourselves and resist him. …we are going to do what we want to do." Think of how highly these people must think of themselves. They build an enormous structure. It probably was much like the ancient pyramids or ziggurats. It probably was enormous and could be seen for miles. It stood as a giant monument to the mightiness of man. It stood as a structure intended to magnify the presence and autonomy of man against God.

I have to ask myself- what towers am I erecting in my life? Material possessions? Stock portfolio? Job? Perfected kids? They that go up in their own estimation must come down again by His discipline.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

President Bush does the right thing

Bush Vetoes Stem Cell Research Bill
WASHINGTON — President Bush vetoed an embryonic stem cell research funding bill Wednesday and called on Congress to put aside politics and support legislation that would advance science without crossing an ethical line.

If this legislation became law, it would compel American taxpayers for the first time in our history to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos," Bush said from the East Room of the White House, where he was joined by doctors and stem cell patients. "I made it clear to Congress and to the American people that I will not allow our nation to cross this moral line."

Praise God for George Bush's right action on this crucial piece of legislation. It is providentially ironic this story comes in the midst of a meditation about an ancient people attempting to put off God's authority over them. Make no mistake, the matter of protecting unborn human life goes to the heart of submitting to God and His sovereign rule. God will not be mocked in America much longer.

The embryonic stem cell debate is extra maddening considering there are other sources for cells such as placenta's, amniotic fluid, and less adaptable, but still useful, adult stem cells. Sorry, I'm a cynical guy on this subject, I'm reasonably sure this whole thing is about money. There are companies bound to get really rich harvesting embryonic stem cells. It just so happens our culture is in a severely weakened state morally, particularly in the area of cherishing and defending human life- which equals "payday" for someone.

As a side, if you haven't already, view the movie "The Island", with Ewan MacGregor. It's not for kids, so keep that in mind. It paints a picture that's not too far fetched, should God allow us to continue down our current path much longer.

Nimrod and the Babel Builders (Part 2)

Genesis 10:9 He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.”

Nimrod, the founder of Babel, is described as a “Mighty Hunter before the Lord". First of all, the term mighty hunter here refers not to someone who was good at stalking and killing deer (which would be very cool), or other wild game. The reference to Nimrod as a mighty hunter refers to his activity among men. Matthew Henry writes-

“He was a mighty hunter, that is, he was a violent invader of his neighbors’ rights and properties, and a persecutor of innocent men, carrying all before him, and endeavoring to make all his own by force and violence”

You might wonder how Henry surmises all this? The answer is in the phrase immediately following “mighty hunter”- the phrase is “before the Lord”. It is not being used as we might say “he or she is a hard-working person before the Lord”. Nimrod is not being referred to as “before the Lord” in the sense of being according to the purpose and will of God. No, rather he is being described as someone who is above the Lord (in his own mind), or in opposition to the Lord. “Before” here refers to his self-perceived rank. This verse is often translated wrong by our modern versions, although, in this case, the New Living translation captures the meaning well when it translates verse 9 as follows-

Genesis 10:9 He was a mighty hunter in the Lord’s sight. His name became proverbial, and people would speak of someone as being “like Nimrod, a mighty hunter in the Lord’s sight.”

The name Nimrod was most likely not his birth name. The word Nimrod means “we will revolt”. You can sense the pride and rebellion in his name alone to say nothing of his actions. The latter half of verse 9 shows that Nimrod was known throughout the earth by his actions. Notice what it says-

Genesis 10:9b ...therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.”

It actually became proverbial to identify someone as a Nimrod if they were like him. The commentators almost universally agree- Nimrod was a hunter of men. He was a tyrant. He is called a mighty hunter or a great warrior. It is at this point that it helps to recall the response of Jedi Master Yoda to young Luke Skywalker when Luke exclaimed to Yoda that he wanted to grow up to be a great warrior. Yoda wisely responded- “war does not make one great”. Here we have the leader of huge and powerful cities, in English we see that he is labeled a mighty hunter. But in looking at the text we see what the real meaning of mighty is. He is a man who thinks himself sufficient to stand up to the true and living God. What Nimrod fails to understand is that they that go up in their own estimation must come down again by His discipline.

It is further disheartening that a person like Nimrod found no shortage of followers. There were many who accompanied him and attended to him. The record of history shows the many cities established by this tyrannical leader and those who beckoned his every wish.

History is replete with such people and their leaders. Think of all the viscous leaders of history and the pathetic souls who followed them. On a world scale we have those individuals who committed themselves to Adolf Hitler and were used to kill some six million human beings. On a smaller scale we can look at various cult leaders like David Koresh who built a following that eventually led to the death of all the people. Not too many years ago 300 cult members in Uganda killed themselves at the command of their leader. Following prideful, haughty, arrogant, self-absorbed leaders is as much a problem as being one of those leaders. Nimrod was such a leader. He dared to put his human mightiness against God himself. What is worse is that there were people ready to follow him.
Don't be a Nimrod and don't follow one! They that go up in their own estimation must come down again by His discipline.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Look what I'm missing

I interrupt my meditation on the Tower of Babel incident to draw your attention to this very recent story about "man's best friend":

Woman Killed by Her Own Pet Dog
Monday, June 18, 2007

CONNERSVILLE, Ind. — A one-year-old chow mix apparently turned on its owner, killing her with bites to her throat and arm, authorities said.

Phyllis G. Carroll, 63, was mauled by one of her two black chow mix dogs around 7:30 p.m. Sunday, said Fayette County Coroner Joe Todd.

Both dogs were seized and will be destroyed at the request of the victim's family, he said.
Carroll kept the dogs, a male and female from the same litter, in a yard behind her home in Connersville. There were no witnesses, but Todd said authorities believed the male dog, which was the larger of the two, attacked Carroll.

The dog bit Carroll in the arm as she carried treats out from the house, then bit her throat after she fell to the ground. Eight sets of bite marks were found on Carroll, Todd said. She bled to death from her wounds, he said.

Wow...look what I'm missing not having a dog.

Nimrod and the Babel Builders (Part 1)

I'm reading through Genesis this month. I would like to make some observations about the "Tower of Babel" episode in several different posts this week.

The history of nations is certainly replete with countries who resolved to establish a land apart from God. The whole failed communist experiment of the Soviet Union was such an attempt. The history of nations is also a history with the fingerprints of God’s judgment upon it. Whenever and wherever God was left out of the equation, the nation has fallen or has experienced great unrest. Nations, and individuals for that matter, who seek to exist and live apart from proper regard to their creator will eventually be brought down. God will only strive with man for so long.

This brings me to my devotional reading today- The Tower of Babel in Genesis 10-11. The bottom line? They that go up in their own estimation must come down again by His discipline.

The inhabitants of Earth disregard God not too long after the re-population by Noah's descendants. You would suppose the people would have a fresh awareness of the justice of God. You would think that a worldwide Flood would have served as a vivid reminder to the inhabitants of the Earth that they must rely on God alone and give Him proper regard. Ancient human propensities and inclinations die hard, old sinful ways resurface. Under the leadership of a man appropriately named “Nimrod” the people are convinced they can live in opposition to God. They are convinced they can place themselves upon the ultimate throne. They have apparently forgotten that Lucifer shared this prideful opinion before the world was made. It has apparently been lost from their memories that the sin of Adam and Eve came on the heels of their believing they could be like God by disobeying Him. For some reason the people of Nimrod have forgotten that the sin of Cain was to operate outside of the dominion of God in thinking of himself as higher than he ought to have. Forgetting or ignoring the fate of those who had fallen to the most dangerous of sins, the sin of pride, the people of Nimrod seek to make a name for themselves apart from the true and living God. Read and think about these passages, I'll give some thoughts throughout the week.

Genesis 10:8-12 Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth.9 He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.”10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.11 From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah,12 and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city).

So it is that Nimrod is known as a mighty hunter (which would be cool, if it weren't for the seeming fact that he hunted men!) and leader on the Earth after the flood. This text states also that He was the originator and builder of several cities, one of which was Babel. Skipping to Chapter 11, I'm pretty sure it is a chronicle of one of Nimrod's building initiatives-

Genesis 11:1-9 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there.3 Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar.4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.6 And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.7 “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.9 Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

Friday, June 15, 2007


I am sitting in the lovely Memphis airport contemplating what to write regarding the two extra-General Assembly events I committed to report on. So here I go...

1. Rendezvous Barbecue. Yesterday Nathan and I sat for lunch at Memphis' storied king of barbecue place (or so the locals generally agree...there is some debate among the natives, just like us in KC) known as Rendezvous. The ambiance was excellent. You have to enter the "restaurant" from an alley. Upon entrance you descend about ten stairs in to a big bar-like room that reminds me of a scene from Goodfellas (particularly the room where Joe Pesci's character shoots Spider). It's obvious Rendezvous could care less about warm, southern hospitality, as they basically act like it's a privilege to eat there when they "greet" you and point to where you can sit. As we sat down, the server told us there are two choices for lunch- a full slab or a half slab. We opted for the full slab, of course. Seconds later our slab is in front of us. Concurrent with our meal is a huge verbal battle between the "chef" and one of the servers. They were screaming at each other. It was pretty funny. If you've been to Gates in KC, you'd appreciate the volume of this battle. I think Nathan wanted to use his nouthetic counseling skills to help these guys, however, they wouldn't fill out the intake forms...ha ha. To the main point- the ribs were very good. They were the "dry rub" variety of barbecue. There's a light sauce on the ribs (pork) but the rub is the key flavor element on/in these ribs. Nathan and I slowly ate, so as to give a fair and balanced review. The ribs were sort of dry (to be fair-by design, representing a genre of BBQ), very salty. Pros- good flavor, tasty pork, and a nice side of beans (though not as tasty as Jack Stack in KC). Cons- grossly overpriced ($16.75 for 8 pork ribs! Someone call the cops! The whole pig wasn't worth that when it was alive!), BBQ sauce not great, false advertising- DEFINITELY NOT "THE BEST" BARBECUE IN THE's official, you have to go to KC for that! If I get back to to Memphis, I'll go where our cabbie (on the way to the airport) told us to go- some place called Blues City BBQ, I believe. I'm still skeptical that KC BBQ can be beat.

2. Graceland. The title of this post is "BBQ and TCB". The "TCB" stands for Elvis' 70's slogan- taking care of business (in a flash, symbolized by a lightning bolt). I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the Graceland tour. It's well organized, not too long, filled with intriguing information, and focuses on the most interesting elements of Elvis' life. I've always thought Elvis' life was tragic, humanly speaking. If he was still alive, he'd only be 72. He died very young at 42. Still, he had a unique,prolific career. I learned he personally requested President Nixon make him an undercover narcotics officer since so many fringe groups who ran drugs trusted him, that was the purpose for his White House visit in 1972. He was concerned with the drug culture of the 70's. Certainly ironic, given his own long time dependence on amphetamines. His "jumpsuits" were pretty stylin'. I hear many making fun of his "later years", particularly 1976-77 when he gained quite a bit of weight just before dying in August of '77. He did look a bit bloated in those last months, but viewing his jumpsuits gave better perspective...I doubt I'd fit in to one. Ouch! I guess I've been living the "Elvis- later years" (minus 40 pills a day) for a while. I definitely recommend visiting this interesting piece of Americana if you find yourself in Memphis. Maybe I'll do my doctoral dissertation on the theology of Elvis Aaron Presley...that would be very interesting.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Majesty of God in the Mission of the Church- a sermon by Bryan Chapell

Words alone cannot express how much Bryan Chapell means to me. He is the president of Covenant Theological Seminary, our denomination's seminary, the place I graduated. By virtue of this important position, he is a de facto denominational leader and his great wisdom and love for the PCA further qualify him.
Personally, Dr. Chapell taught me how to preach Christ from every text. He took personal time to address areas I needed to work on and has continued to encourage me throughout these nine years since graduating from Covenant. This past Spring he came to preach at Redeemer and I enjoyed some personal time with him. His handling of the Word coupled with a pastor's heart is a worthy model for all pastors. Praise God for Him.

Tonight was the closing worship service for the 35th General Assembly of the PCA and Dr. Chapell preached a powerful sermon on Ephesians 1:18-23. If you have some time, view his sermon at this link. Scroll all the way down to the end, you'll have to click on the "Worship Service" at 7:30pm and forward to the 39 minute mark when Dr. Chapell begins to preach (although the entire service was wonderful). Check it out.

Chapell's view of the church victorious in this sermon exactly mirrors mine.

There have been great and glorious days of the gospel in this land; but they have been small in comparison of what shall be. -James Renwick

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Going to see the king...

I won't be blogging much this week. I'm in Memphis, Tennessee attending my denomination's annual meeting (General Assembly). It's an important yearly gathering of our highest court. There are something like 1300 elders representing their various presbyteries and churches. If you're interested in the way our meeting works and the issues discussed and decided, go to this site.

I have only been to Memphis once before and I didn't have any time to check the place out then. I really don't have more time now, but I do have two extra-assembly plans:

1. Eat barbecue ribs at Rendezvous. This place claims to be the best barbecue in the U.S. Of course, now being a Kansas City native, I know this is wishful thinking on the part of these Tennessee people (once you get over their funny way of talking, southerner's are so cute!). Still, in an effort to be fair and balanced, I will test out their ribs and report.

2. Visit Graceland. The "king" of rock -n- roll, Elvis Presley is buried here and his house is basically a museum (or a monument to excess and tragedy, as the case may be) that is a veritable piece of Americana. I'm looking forward to stopping there on the way back to the airport Friday afternoon, I have my tickets- going to see the king...small "k" for sure.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Pray for Zion PCA in Lincoln, Nebraska

Update 6/10- Pastor Keith Ghormley's pictures here. More here.

I just received word from the stated clerk of our presbytery that one of our sister churches, Zion Presbyterian Church in Lincoln, Nebraska had a devastating fire last night. Here is most of the communication from Pastor Todd Bowen (our stated clerk and pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Grand Island, NE)-

Dear fathers and brothers of Heartland Presbytery, Stated Clerks in the PCA, and brothers and sisters of Grace Covenant Church:

Please be in prayer for the congregation of Zion Church (PCA) in Lincoln, Nebraska and their pastors: Stu Kerns, Tobey Brockman, Adam Odell, and Keith Ghormley and elders. The main building and worship facility of the church was destroyed completely last night in a fire that apparently began in the basement kitchen area. By the time fire fighters were called to the building at 5:00 a.m., there were 15-foot flames emerging from the north side of the building and the fire had spread to the main floor. Firefighters had to go into “defensive” mode to keep the flames from spreading to nearby buildings, with the main building already a total loss. To learn more visit this site.

Zion has been a flagship church in our Presbytery, and a mother to many of us. Let us rally to her in her time of need. Please pray that they will be able to secure a meeting place tomorrow for what will no doubt be a time of grieving and worship. Also pray for the leaders as they seek to secure a temporary meeting place for worship, care for the needs of a grieving and stunned congregation, and plan for the future. Zion was to break ground on a new addition tomorrow in order to meet their growing needs for Christian Education space.


Todd Bowen
Stated Clerk
Heartland Presbytery

Please join me in prayer for the brothers who pastor this church (Stu, Tobey, Adam and Keith) and the flock of God's people there. May the Lord provide for them in a mighty way at this difficult time.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Total Depravity and the Kelsey Smith Murder

Most of the nation has heard of the horrific murder of newly graduated Kelsey Smith of Overland Park, the same city our church is in. Kelsey was coming out of a local Target store when a man abducted her and eventually strangled her to death, leaving her body near Grandview, Missouri. I have seen interviews with Kelsey's family and they break my heart. At the same time, I am amazed at the poise and grace her family has shown at this devastating time. I have been told the Smith family are members of Hillcrest Covenant Church and trust Christ.

I won't pretend to make sense of this. I am as mad as anyone this could happen. It is so wrong. How can human beings be so wicked as to perpetrate such a crime, especially in a seemingly random way?

It was eery watching the surveillance video of the suspected killer leaving the Target store shortly before the youthful Smith. He likely timed his exit to be in a place of ambush when Kelsey came out. I've seen the mugshots of this suspected killer, identified as Edwin Hall. He is a man who is married with one young son. I don't know if he is indeed the killer, however, in addition to the video evidence and an apparently incriminating "" page, the criminal complaint already lists over 100 potential witnesses that could be called in some capacity to convict this man. More witnesses will likely be identified before a trial begins and I suspect there's a bunch of forensic evidence lining up against him as I write. He looks strange- vacant eyes, stone cold expression, but evil?

Such a case shakes me at a human level. At first, I get furious with the individual-whom I don't even know- who has apparently done such a wicked thing. Honestly, I'm still at that point on this one. Eventually though, I start to assess the general wickedness of mankind because of sin, then the radical corruption of my own heart. I begin to wonder how wicked I would be- what evil things I would do- if it were not for my redemption through Christ and God the Holy Spirit now indwelling me. I can do some pretty sinful things this side of regeneration, what would I be like if not for the saving, changing, grace of God? I shutter to think. Still, even then, the level of wickedness the killer of Kelsey has gone- by God's grace- is relatively rare.

I am drawn to Scripture and the clear, undeniable teaching that must be considered afresh. Every person (besides Christ) is born bad. We are sinful, evil, and totally depraved. Sin corrupts the whole person- the emotions, will, and intellect. No part of us is untouched by sin. Union with Christ by faith breaks the power of sin over us, but even then, in a moment of surrender to the old nature, believer's can do some horrendous things. How anyone could have an optimistic view of man's nature by reading the bible or observing reality is beyond me. Scripture is lucid on this point, we see it most vividly early in Genesis-

Genesis 6:5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

What is man like? "the thoughts of his heart were only evil continually." This is the truth about mankind. Sending the flood to wipe out man didn't change the sinfulness of man, it only delayed the spread of evil and thwarted the devil's attack on the Messianic Seed. Man has not changed. Apart from the saving action of God, a person will live out all manner of evil in his or her life. Some will be worse than others , like Kelsey's killer, but all will be continually given over to various sins. After Noah's Ark rested and a burnt offering was given to the Lord, notice God's Word-

Genesis 8:21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done."

The total depravity of man is a constant, honest, refrain in Scripture:

Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things,and desperately sick;who can understand it?

Really, if we are honest about the condition of man, no acts of wickedness are out of the question. It is only the grace of God that restrains evil from causing total sinful anarchy. While I hope we never grow shocked at crimes like this, such atrocities should cause us to do an honest evaluation of how bad our collective sin problem really is.

Paul's inspired words to the Ephesians (and to us) really give us the answer we need-

Ephesians 2:1-10 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

The solution to our depravity (and the sure judgment it will bring) is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. The solution to society's manifold wickedness is the transformation of people by God through Christ. The Kelsey Smith murder should cause us to confess our sins and throw ourselves upon Christ anew. We need Jesus, each of us individually and all of us collectively. As John Newton is credited with saying- we are great sinners but Christ is a great Savior. More than that even, according to Ephesians 2 above, He is the great transformer.

When I see the expressionless mugshot of Edwin Hall:

1. I remember the pictures of Kelsey I have seen and the absolute hideousness of what he has allegedly done.

2. I get mad at him. I get mad at all such evil. I grieve for his wife and child.

3. I pray for Kelsey's family and friends, this is an unspeakably difficult time for them and a permanent hurt going forward, even with the joyful knowledge that Kelsey is with Christ according to those who knew her relationship with the Lord.

4. I realize there is a fine line between me and Edwin Hall. The difference is Christ.

5. I/we must be about introducing people to Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can remedy human depravity.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Credit where it is due

The Anaheim Ducks won the most glorious of all trophies in professional sports tonight- the Stanley Cup. Once again my Buffalo Sabres underachieved, losing in the Conference Finals. I have to admit, there's no way my Sabres could have beaten these Ducks, had they advanced past Ottawa. Too big, too strong, too good.

The Ducks moved efficiently through the most grueling playoff tournament in the world. You must win 16 games in 8 weeks. To do so, you could potentially play 28 games. There simply is no challenge in team sports like it.

Hockey players are modern day gladiators. My hat's off to the Ducks, the new Stanley Cup Champions.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A sad role reversal

This picture shows the sad result of canine domestication.

The wild turkey is one of the most paranoid, easily-spooked, and cowardly animals in all of creation. The dog was created to be a fierce hunter, indeed a virtual stalking machine. Yet, in this picture, as you can see with your own eyes, ole' snoopy cowers in fear as two male turkeys strut in a pose of domination over the disgraced dog!

You can almost hear the turkeys giggle as they see the sheepish dog melt away in fright.

For what has man done to a once proud species?

Monday, June 4, 2007

Challenging words from two giants

...knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20-21

Yesterday I preached on this passage. It teaches us about the process or mode of divine inspiration (how God wrote Scripture). This led me to teach about the related doctrines of biblical inspiration, inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency. In my studies I came across two timely challenges from recent giants of the faith. The first is from Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones (died in 1981), the second is from Dr. J.I. Packer (still alive and ministering). The statements need no further explanation-

We all therefore have to face this ultimate and final question: Do we accept the Bible as the Word of God, as the sole authority in all matters of faith and practice, or do we not? Is the whole of my thinking governed by Scripture, or do I come with my reason and pick and choose out of Scripture and sit in judgment upon it, putting myself and modern knowledge forward as the ultimate standard and authority? The issue is crystal clear. Do I accept Scripture as a revelation from God, or do I trust to speculation, human knowledge, human learning, human understanding and human reasons Or, putting it still more simply, Do I pin my faith to, and subject all my thinking to, what I read in the Bible? Or do I defer to modern knowledge, to modern learning, to what people think today, to what we know at this present time which was not known in the past? It is inevitable that we occupy one or the other of those two positions. – Martin Lloyd Jones

Certainty about the great issues of Christian faith and conduct is lacking all along the line. The outside observer sees us as staggering on from a gimmick to gimmick and stunt to stunt like so many drunks in a fog, not knowing at all where we are or which way we should be going. Preaching is hazy. Heads are muddled, hearts fret, doubts drain strength, uncertainty paralyzes action. Unlike the first-century Christians who in three centuries won the Roman world and those later Christians who pioneered the Reformation and the Puritan awakening and the evangelical revival and the great missionary movement of the last century, we lack certainty - J.I. Packer

Friday, June 1, 2007

The height of manliness? Quite possibly

As an American male, it is tough to top internal combustion engines on the scale of manliness. In this category (internal combustion engines) there is a hierarchy of it's own. Tonight, with our men's ministry group (Iron Sharpens Iron), I once again participated in witnessing the possible pinnacle of all manliness by attending a National Hod Rod Association drag racing event in Topeka, Kansas.

There are several categories of race cars which compete at such an event-Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle (these guys are crazy-1,000 ponies on a 1,000 lb bike!).

The first NHRA drag racing event I went to was this same event three years ago. While definitely a neophyte, I have read on this incredibly manly sport and learned much from local experts. Let there be no doubt- we are talking the height of manliness.

The Top Fuel dragster division (the pinnacle of dragsters, pictured above and the ultimate in manliness) run on a maximum of 85% nitromethane and about 15% methanol also known as racing alcohol, instead of gasoline. If you think regular gas is expensive, the "nitro" used to power the engines of top fuel dragsters costs about $30 per gallon. Top Fuel dragsters use between 10 and 12 U.S. gallons of fuel for a complete pass! Ah, America! The engine generates about 3.4 times as much power as a similar engine running regular gasoline. These cars compete in a 1/4 mile race and complete it in less than 4.5 seconds at close to 330 mph! The fastest car that ran tonight went 323 MPH. Elevating overall manliness, a Top Fuel dragster accelerates from 0 to 100 mph in less than 0.8 second, subjecting the driver to a force about 5.7 times his weight. If you still doubt manliness, consider this- a dragster can exceed 280 mph in just 660 feet . The full race distance is 1/4 of a mile, 1320 feet. Unreal.

I'm sorry, there just isn't anything more manly, in the category of internal combustion, that I can think of.

To add to the manliness still- Top Fuel dragsters produce an outright deafening amount of noise -at full throttle, they generate over 120 decibels, enough to cause some peoples' eardrums physical pain, as I can wonderfully attest. As one drag racing publication puts it- "The intense levels of sound are not only heard, but also felt as pounding vibrations all over one's body, leading many to compare the experience of watching a Top Fuel dragster make a pass to 'feeling as though the entire drag strip is being bombed'."

Seriously, what could be more manly?