Thursday, March 29, 2007

Obama (new, fresh) VS Hillary (unoriginal, yesterday's news)

As I said some time ago- Barack Obama is going to beat Hillary Clinton for the Democrat nomination for president, I am more sure than ever. Granted, he could commit some huge gaff to lose it, but I doubt it. He's smooth, very smooth. On the other hand, watching Hillary speak is almost as boring as the women's NCAA basketball tournament, no offense. She comes off as rehearsed, stiff, and fake. She lacks all the "charms" her husband had on the campaign trail and doesn't seem to be able to discern what advice is bad from her advisers (take that awful accent she used to impress African Americans in Selma, Alabama-very uncomfortable). Bill Clinton would beat Obama for the nomination, but he is not running, Hillary is. She sounds more lame by the minute.

Oprah endorses Obama, which is huge, do you realize how many women (and a few weird men)watch her show daily? Turnout rates for women voters are usually lower then men, I will bet Oprah cancels her show on primary election dates so the ladies can get out and vote for Obama! Just today Jesse Jackson announced support for Obama. Despite his overall decline in popularity, Jackson still holds a certain amount of sway in the African American community. Jackson's voicing support for Obama in light of his long time friendship with the Clinton's might signal a belief that Hillary can't win the presidency. Add a few other celebrities to Obama's support list, like Stephen Spielberg, George Clooney, Eddie Murphy, and David Geffen, there's lots of fund-raising sources ready to open their wallets for Mr. Obama's cause. On top of all this, Obama has the ability to tout his "consistent" anti- Iraq War position. No other viable candidate can do that, in either party. Never mind that he was not in office when the vote to go to war happened. It's not that difficult, as a state senator back in Illinois, to speak out against something you have no influence over. Who really knows how he would have voted had he actually been in the U.S. Senate at the time of the vote. Frankly, his timing was lucky (humanly speaking, of course) on the Iraq War issue, still, he's cashing in on his perceived "consistency"and "good" judgment because of it. His supposed clear plan to get us out also bolsters his stock.

Many of you have cautioned- "Do not count out the Clinton's", "Wait till the Clinton's turn their pit bulls loose on Obama", etc. I have to admit, I might be naive here regarding who will win, I'm not the smartest guy on such matters. I still remember being utterly shocked I was in a country that elected Bill Clinton to be president in 1992. Seriously, I was watching a T.V. monitor at Moody firmly believing I was witnessing the end of noble statesmen being elected to the most powerful office in the world. So, I suppose I could be totally misreading this developing campaign season and dramatically underestimating Hillary's chances.

On the Republican side, it looks like Giuliani and McCain will slug it out. Thankfully, Fred Thompson is seriously mulling a run. Neither Giuliani or McCain can beat Obama (they could possibly beat Hillary). Fred Thompson could beat Obama. From what I have seen and researched so far, Thompson could be a solid choice- certainly better than Obama or Clinton.

All this causes me to contemplate- more than an election or a particular person gaining a political office, I am hoping, praying, and preaching for revival and reformation to bust out in the evangelical church in the U.S. As the Church is spiritually revived and reformed it will become genuine, influential, salt and light. As the Church is used by God to transform the culture, godly candidates will be available to elect. There are few solid, Christian candidates because the church has lost much influence over shaping the culture. This trend must reverse.

The lack of righteousness exhibited by some of our laws are indicative of the Church's lack of righteous influence on the culture.
Well, that's another subject for a future post.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Great Response to the "Redneck" Post

My dear brother in the Lord, Mark Davis, sent one of the best posts I've ever received to any blog entry. In response to defining a redneck, Mark puts it wonderfully-

I prefer the Foxworthy definition of redneck: [anyone possessing] a glorious lack of sophistication. That opens up any pre-conceived geographical limitations, recognizing that rednecks are common from Bakersfield to Buffalo.Growing up in Alabama, we understood redneck to be just another name for anyone rural, rustic, working outdoors. Working outdoors tends to leave the back of a man's neck a dark reddish-brown, hence, a redneck.A lack of sophistication isn't the same as a lack of intelligence, as many falsely assume. If anything, being a redneck is all about freedom: freedom from creative limits, freedom from shame, freedom from man-pleasing, freedom from social climbing, freedom from status obsession. It isn't just anybody who can make the hard decisions in life with such clarity. Want to live on 40 acres with a pond and pasture? Can't afford to build a house on it? Back up a double-wide, take the wheels off, and you're on the country side before noon. Want something fun to drive, but don't have the coin for a Corvette? Slap a cam and a roots blower on a smallblock, and stick it in anything with good tires and clean seats. If the hood won't fit anymore, just lean it against the shed next to your spare windshield. You might need it later, if your wife wants her car back.Rednecks have a lot to teach us in fancy-go-to-meeting suburbia. Live like you're dying, drive it like a rental, think big, live small, and for goodness sake, when you hear Sweet Home Alabama, TURN IT UP!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The superiority of God's plan over our expectations

Mark 11:7-10 ...And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!"

This coming Lord's Day is designated "Palm Sunday" by the church calendar. "Palm" Sunday is a reference to the palm leafs (simply called "leafy branches" in the ESV) people laid on the road before Jesus as he entered Jerusalem for the last time on a prophecy-fulfilling donkey. For all the lessons the whole event teaches us, perhaps this is the greatest:

God’s plan is always superior to our expectations.

Martin Luther observed- "Everything that is done in the world is done by hope". Every action we take is somehow tied to a conscious or subconscious expectation or hope we have. The passage above is no exception. We observe the Lord Jesus fulfilling a centuries old prophecy from the book of Zechariah which described the coming of Messiah. Jesus gets on the back of a previously unridden donkey and rides down the middle street of Jerusalem toward the temple. Along the way people throw down their clothing along with leafy branches as one would do for the entrance of a great King. Surely there are mixed opinions within the crowd. But all of those people had expectations. They all expected something from Jesus. They expected something of Jesus. Their problem, like our problem, has to do with the origin of those expectations. No matter how noble we try to be, our expectations, our plans, and our hopes, are subject to our sinfulness. It is essential for us to carry our expectations, hopes, and dreams to the foot of the cross and allow our Father to show us what to expect according to His perfect Will.

Let's consider one expectation that was clearly present as Jesus entered Jerusalem that day- many in the crowd were Jewish and expecting a kind of redemption. Think of the many impressive ways God provided redemption for His people- Saving Noah and Family, Israel from famine under the ministry of Joseph, raising up Moses, sending plagues upon Pharaoh, striking the firstborn who were not covered by spotless-lamb blood, leading Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea and over to Sinai, the deliverance of Canaan in to Joshua’s hands, the expansion of Israel under David and Solomon, His restoration of Israel after their wickedness under Ezra and Nehemiah, and there are many other "mini" redemption's that took place along the way. I am sure many who saw Jesus enter Jerusalem thought in terms of these kinds of redemption's, focusing on the temporal deliverance from harm more than the spiritual lessons they were meant to teach.

All these redemptive acts of God were awesome, impressive, miraculous and inspiring.
All these acts of God showed God’s covenantal faithfulness to his people.
All these acts would surely cause people to take notice of the Great God of Israel
All these acts of deliverance, however, were temporary.
What many who witnessed Christ's entry missed in the midst of their joyful reception of Jesus in to Jerusalem, was their need for permanent redemption. Being freed from Roman occupation and oppression should have been the least of their worries- they needed deliverance from the power and penalty of their sins!

Now, apply this to ourselves- we need a permanent redemption- not another red sea salvation, not another famine salvation, not another war salvation, we need salvation from our ultimate enemy- an enemy far greater and more formidable than all the nations of the earth, including the mighty Roman Empire. We need salvation from our sins and praise God, Christ provided perfectly!

When Jesus got on that donkey in fulfillment of the ancient prophecy, people were still slaves to their feeble expectations. It is most likely that Jesus was the only one, that day, who had accurate expectations. He knew from what cup He would drink. He knew to what pain he rode toward. He knew to what end He was appointed. The Lord Jesus drove along on that donkey toward that Temple and was clear on His mission. He would die for the Salvation of His people. He would in fact, be the ultimate deliverer. The great High Priest. The Final Sacrifice. Other Deliverers need not apply. The Ultimate was here. The last to be needed. One greater than all the other deliverers combined because he did for the people what they could never do- make atonement for their sins and save their eternal souls!

As people threw their palm branches down, some mocking, some jeering, some seriously hopeful…but all of them with human expectations, the King rode on understanding the plan and fulfilling it perfectly. This story most vividly depicts for us the supremacy of God’s plan over human expectations.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

I might be a redneck...

I get a good laugh at all the various "redneck" pictures people send me. I do not currently have just one favorite, however these pictures rank among my favorites for sure. You especially have to like the "Redneck Harley".

Several times over the past 5 years my lovely bride has accused me of being a redneck. You see, when we married, she was from rural Kansas and I was from suburban Western New York. She was more familiar, in my opinion, with "rednecks" than I. We now live in Suburban America, albeit in Kansas, but unquestionably the "burbs". Frankly, I like "the country" better, as far as a homestead goes. She is very happy living in a suburb with all you could need within five minutes. Funny how things change. Still, am I really a "redneck"? I kind of like the notion, but not sure exactly. I looked up "redneck" on Wikipedia. An exact definition is elusive, but here's part of what they say:

Redneck, in modern usage, predominantly refers to a particular stereotype of people who may be found in many regions of the United States or Canada. Originally limited to Appalachia and the American South, and later the Ozarks and Rocky Mountains, this stereotype is now widespread in other states and the Canadian provinces. The word can be used either as a pejorative or as a matter of pride, depending on context.

Wow. I might be redneck, I suppose. I know my wife started calling me a redneck when I began attending any Demolition Derby I could find, took up bow hunting, bought a pick-up truck, and talked about moving more out to the country. Maybe that's it. Maybe I am a redneck. Not sure. I don't really like NASCAR and I don't say "Ya'll"...but who knows, I might still be a redneck.

As I have studied this word, "redneck", I found an incredible proof that I might be a redneck. Check out what else Wikipedia reports concerning the possible origin of the term:

Possible Scots-Irish etymology of "redneck"- The National Covenant and The Solemn League and Covenant (a.k.a. Covenanters) signed documents stating that Scotland desired a Presbyterian Church Government, and rejected the Church of England as their official church (no Anglican congregation was ever accepted as the official church in Scotland). What the Covenanters rejected was episcopacy — rule by bishops — the preferred form of church government in England. Many of the Covenanters signed these documents using their own blood, and many in the movement began wearing red pieces of cloth around their neck to signify their position to the public. They were referred to as rednecks. Large numbers of these Scottish Presbyterians migrated from their lowland Scottish home to Ulster (the northern province of Ireland) during the 17th Century and soon settled in considerable numbers in North America across the 18th Century. Some emigrated directly from Scotland to the American colonies in the late 18th and early 19th-centuries as a result of the Lowland Clearances. This etymological theory holds that since many Scots-Irish Americans and Scottish Americans who settled in Appalachia and the South were Presbyterian, the term was bestowed upon them and their descendants.

Can you believe this? My wife might indeed be right about me. I'm not a redneck because of my demo derby, bow-huntin', pick-up riding ways, but rather because of my Presbyterian commitment and heritage! My wife is brilliant! She is right on about me!
I am a redneck! Cool.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Logical questions about societal acceptance of behavior

I came across this shocking article today on Yahoo News. The level of depravity is certainly alarming:

Wed Mar 21, 6:15 PM ET

SUPERIOR, Wis. - A 20-year-old man received probation after he was convicted of having sexual contact with a dead deer. The sentence also requires Bryan James Hathaway to be evaluated as a sex offender and treated at the Institute for Psychological and Sexual Health in Duluth, Minn. "The state believes that particular place is the best to provide treatment for the individual," Assistant District Attorney Jim Boughner said. Hathaway's probation will be served at the same time as a nine-month jail sentence he received in February for violating his extended supervision. He was found guilty in April 2005 of felony mistreatment of an animal after he killed a horse with the intention of having sex with it. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail and two years of extended supervision on that charge as well as six years of probation for taking and driving a vehicle without the owner's consent. Hathaway pleaded no contest earlier this month to misdemeanor mistreatment of an animal for the incident involving the deer. He was sentenced Tuesday in Douglas County Circuit Court. "The type of behavior is disturbing," Judge Michael Lucci said. "It's disturbing to the public. It's disturbing to the court."

There is a twofold reason for deeming such behavior as depraved. First, it is clear from nature that man is not to have sexual relations with animals. Second, and more importantly- since "natural law" is incomplete, the bible condemns all forms of bestiality (Leviticus 18:23). Unfortunately, natural law and biblical authority have been disregarded when answering questions of sexual morality today. Could not the accused man simply argue he was born preferring bestiality?

I apologize if this subject offends, to some degree, it should. The current acceptability of various forms of sexual behavior and practice is only a few steps removed from a process that legitimizes even this kind of sexual practice.

As it relates to homosexual practice, people have basically been given practical "minority" status for the kind of sexual practice they engage in. It doesn't matter the practice is both unnatural and unbiblical, since enough people agree that it's O.K., then it must be O.K. Further, if enough people agree with the acceptability of certain behavior, it should be accepted as legitimate by all. How many have to agree for a people group to be considered a "minority"? This is what I don't get. The definition of "minority" is less than the majority, but how much less? Since natural law and biblical authority is not the standard, how many people have to accept accept something to grant a certain group minority status?

In my opinion, minority status should be given to racial groups that are in the minority and have a demonstrable need for equal rights. Racism and discrimination are sinful realities and identifying minority status in the case of race makes sense for the sake of equal rights. Minority status should not be given based on gender or the way a person or people practice sexuality. Slowly, but surely, homosexual rights advocates have been pushing minority status for homosexuals so they might somehow be seen as co-strugglers with the civil rights movement. This is certainly crafty, but ought to be rejected, especially by those who have fought for the civil rights of various racial minorities.

I'm glad the state of Wisconsin met the above episode with outrage, however, in light of trends, many questions come to mind, here's a few-

1. If multiple people came forward, after reading this article, and said they thought bestiality is acceptable, would the state grant "minority" status to those who practice bestiality?
2. How many people have to admit to preferring or accepting such a practice to make a new minority group?
3. Why couldn't the accused simply argue he was born preferring this kind of sexual practice then point to other people who practice bestiality?
4. How many other confessing adherents to bestiality would it take to make bestialitists a new minority group?
5. If we no longer consider nature as providing certain self-evident truths, and the bible has largely been rejected, why is this behavior illegal?
6. Despite what nature reveals about the obvious unnaturalness of homosexuality (the body parts don't compliment), it's "legal" in our society, why not bestiality also?

7. Why can't a person insist they were born preferring children (there have been several movements to legitimize pedophilia)?
8. Why not all manner of sexual "preferences" since natural law or biblical authority are not considered but rather only the desire of two "consenting" adults?
9. Maybe "consenting" is the problem in the above story? In the case of the deer, it was dead. What does consent have to do with that?

The questions go on...

Obviously this episode rages against all natural and biblical sensibilities, yet, if we are honest, the current legalities in our country are not based on natural or biblical reasoning at all and will eventually allow for all manner of perversion to become acceptable and possibly even protected.
We desperately need the authoritative direction God's Word provides. Natural law is important and revelatory, however, in light of our sinfulness individually and collectively, it is possible for something to feel natural, and actually be sinful. Despite what seems to be an obvious, natural, mismatch of body parts, same-sex "couples" will say they feel their relationship is natural. Feelings do not determine what is natural. This is why we need Scripture to guide us. God's Word reveals there is a natural order, however, ultimately, Scripture's great value is in differentiating between what is sinful and not sinful.

Back to what I guess is my main point framed in a question-for a society that has largely rejected natural law and biblical authority (as the wide-spread acceptance of homosexual practice reveals), why is the behavior exposed in the above article illegal?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Lesson from the Babel-builders

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. Other such attempts go on today. The history of nations is also covered with the fingerprints of God’s judgment upon it. Whenever and wherever God was left out of the equation, the nation has eventually fallen or experienced violent 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. The ancient city of Babel is a case study in God's dealing with an arrogant nation.

Consider the account in Genesis:

Genesis 11:1-5 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.”

The babel-dwellers decided they would make a name for themselves. They decided they would build something that would defy God himself. 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” from whom are they wanting homage? They are speaking directly in the face of their creator- God himself! What pride. What haughty arrogance.

They are twisting the mandate of God to fill the whole earth (Genesis 1:28). They are saying, "we won't do what God wants us to do so lets fortify ourselves and resist him. …we will do what we want." Think of how highly these people thought of themselves. They built an enormous structure. It was probably much like the ancient pyramids or ziggurats. It was probably 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. It was no doubt the biggest, best, most awesome ediface man had ever built to this point in history.

What would God think? How would he react? Notice carefully the reaction of God:

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

Notice the highlighted wording- The Lord had to come down to see the tower! The tower the Babel-builders thought was so impressive, God could not even see from heaven! The tower the Babel-builders thought would intimidate and upstage 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 the work of men's hands like we are.

God met man's arrogance with a unique form of discipline that would force, to some degree, the spreading and filling of the earth as He mandated in Genesis 1:28:

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.

The account of Babel is a stark warning to all nations and individuals who seek independence from God. One hundred forty-four years ago President Lincoln prayed that our country would humbly rely upon God. Surely this prayer is more applicable today.

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. -Abraham Lincoln, Proclamation of a day of National Humiliation, 1863.

The truth from the text? They that go up in their own estimation must come down again by God's discipline.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Chicago- My kind of town

Every year when baseball spring training begins I have the same thought- the Cubs will never win the World Series...not that I mind, I'm a Yankees fan (the all-time winningest franchise in the world), but I have a sense of sympathy for the poor people of Chicago and all the pain they feel yearly. I've been to Wrigley many times, it's a cool place, if you don't get one of the seats behind the steel beams.

I had the privilege of living in downtown Chicago for four years. Since that time, I try to get back to the city at least once a year. I love Chicago, the place has many great memories for me. One of the best features of Chi-town is the people and their attitudes. New Yorkers are supposed to have "attitudes"...well they're not the only ones. Here's a humorous depiction of "Chicago people" followed by some secrets to navigating the windy city:
Seasonal Differences in the USA as compared with Chicago -

60 above - Floridians wear coats, gloves and woolly hats.Chicago people sunbathe.
50 above - New Yorkers try to turn on the heat.Chicago people plant gardens.
40 above - Southern cars won't start.Chicago people drive with the windows down.
32 above - Distilled water freezes.Lake Michigan's water gets thicker.
20 above - Californians shiver uncontrollably.Chicago people have the last cookout before it gets cold.
15 above - New York landlords finally turn up the heat.Chicago people throw on a sweatshirt.
0 degrees - Californians fly away to Mexico.Chicago people lick flagpoles and throw on a light jacket over the sweatshirt.
20 below - People in Miami cease to exist.Chicago people get out their winter coats.
40 below - Hollywood disintegrates.Chicago's Girl Scouts begin selling cookies door-to-door.
50 below - Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.Chicago people get frustrated when they can't thaw the keg.
60 below - Microbial life survives on dairy products.Illinois cows complain of farmers with cold hands.
460 below - ALL atomic motion stops.Chicago people start saying, "Cold 'nuff for ya?"
500 below - Hell freezes over.The Chicago Cubs win the World Series.
If it's 100 degrees, it's Taste of Chicago.
If it's 10 degrees and sleeting/snowing, it's opening day at Sox Park.
If it's rained 6 inches in the last hour, the Western Open Golf Classic is in the second round.

-First, you must learn to pronounce the city name. It is Chi - ca - go, or Cha - ca - ga, depending on if you live north or south of Roosevelt Road.
-Next, if your road map is more than a few weeks old, throw it out and buy a new one.
-Forget the traffic rules you learned elsewhere. Chicago has its own version of traffic rules..."Hold on and pray!"
-There is no such thing as a dangerous high-speed chase in Chicago - we all drive like that!
-All directions start with "I-94..." which has no beginning and no end.
-The morning rush hour is from 6 to 10 (give or take an hour or so). The evening rush hour is from 3 to 7 (give or take a couple of hours). Friday's rush hour starts on Thursday morning.
-If you actually stop at a yellow light, you will be rear ended, cussed out and probably shot.
-When you are the first one on the starting line, count to 5 when the light turns green before going to avoid crashing with all the drivers running the red light in cross-traffic.
-Car horns are actually road rage indicators.
-All old ladies with blue hair in Mercedes have the right of way. Period.
-If asking directions in Cicero, you must have knowledge of Spanish. If in Bridgeport, Mandarin Chinese will be your best bet....If you stop to ask directions on the West or South sides, you'd better be armed.
-A trip across town (east to west or north to south) will take a minimum of 4 hours, although many north/south freeways have unposted minimum speed limits of 75.
-The wrought iron on windows and doors around Englewood and Austin is not ornamental.
-The Congress expressway (aka: Eisenhower, Ike, I-290) is our daily version of NASCAR.
-The minimum acceptable speed on the Dan Ryan is 85. Anything less is considered downright sissy.
-The Dan Ryan is also called "The Death Trap" for 2 reasons: "death" and "trap".

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Do you know where that has been?

In the spirit of ongoing, dog-loving, fun...
I love when dog owners get all lovey dovey with their canine friends. They pet, kiss, hug, their little furry bundles of joy. Personally, it grosses me out. I mean, yuck! They're beasts! They do nasty things on a regular, constant basis, then you want to hug them? kiss them? let them lick your face? Oh thanks!

On various instances at the homes of many different friends, their dog will jump up on me in search of the same affection their master's give them. I reserve the right to shove them off in such a way that they never want attention from mean ole' Tony again! I won't abuse them, just mark my territory- in a much more civilized way than they do- a clear and decisive tone coupled with a memorable, firm, stiff arm (then a quick break for some hand sanitizer).

Then, to top it off, the dog will lick my poor, short, defenseless children. The dog owner will usually chuckle and say something like- "oh my...isn't that cute...I hope you don't mind?" Do I mind? Are you serious? You don't find that nasty? You better believe I mind! You might as well stick my kid's head in a toilet or make them eat some two-day old, festering chunk of meat out the garbage can. It's seriously foul! The above picture states the honest truth.

I can't wait to hear the responses to this!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Providence of the Irish-St. Patrick

On the occasion of St. Patrick's Day, here is a little known fact about me- I'm at least 25% Irish! No one believes me because I look so much like my Sicilian father, but my mother's maiden name is O'Keefe and she's definitely Irish-looking (I was sure one of our children would have her red hair)! How's that for a combo- half Sicilian and the other half is German-Irish!

In all seriousness, I really appreciate the legacy of Patrick for whom St. Patrick's Day is named. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland who died on March 17, 493, hence the annual celebration honoring him.

Patrick was born in Britain. When he was a teenager he was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. Interestingly, the Lord gave him a burden for the Irish people who held him captive. Upon his return to England he entered the priesthood. Soon enough, he journeyed to Ireland as a missionary, working in the north and west of the island. While detailed accounts of Patrick's ministry during that time (a dark time for the church as a whole) are sketchy and laden with legend, many scholars credit Patrick and some of his fellow missionaries with beginning the monastic movement (monasteries) in Ireland. It has been further argued the monasteries in Ireland were a chief citadel of study during a time of widespread ignorance and illiteracy. One author in recent years, Thomas Cahill, even argues the Irish saved civilization and Patrick was the initiator.

We have some of Patrick's prayers, one that has recently been discovered anew is his "lorica". Take a moment and read this wonderful prayer on the day so-named for St. Patrick.

Lorica of Saint Patrick -

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through a belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness Of the Creator of creation. I arise today through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism, through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial, Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension, through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom. I arise today through the strength of the love of cherubim, in obedience of angels, in service of archangels, in the hope of resurrection to meet with reward, in the prayers of patriarchs, in preachings of the apostles, in faiths of confessors, in innocence of virgins, in deeds of righteous men. I arise today through the strength of heaven; light of the sun, splendor of fire, speed of lightning, swiftness of the wind, depth of the sea, stability of the earth, firmness of the rock. I arise today through God's strength to pilot me; God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me, God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me, God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me, God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me, God's hosts to save me from snares of the devil, from temptations of vices, From every one who desires me ill, afar and anear, alone or in a mulitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and evil, against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul, against incantations of false prophets, against black laws of pagandom, against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry, against spells of women and smiths and wizards, against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul. Christ shield me today against poison, against burning, against drowning, against wounding, so that reward may come to me in abundance. Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me. I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through a belief in the Threeness, through a confession of the of the Creator of creation.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Faith of our Fathers

I'm writing this post from cloudy Orlando, Florida. I just got back to my hotel room after a packed afternoon and evening of teaching at the Ligonier Conference. I have to admit, I originally wanted to go to the Shepherd's Conference at the Master's Church in California (John MacArthur's Church), however it sold out months before. I opted, then, for the Ligonier Conference. Don't get me wrong, I love these Ligonier Conferences, however the Shepherd's Conference is geared for pastors (and they give away more swag, I hear). Further, this Ligonier Conference is addressing the issue of Apologetics from a slightly different perspective than I enjoy (R.C. Sproul is quite a bit more friendly to Thomas Aquinas than I am, but that's a different subject). So, I was originally hoping to attend MacArthur's Shepherd's Conference, especially looking forward to hearing Pastor John Piper, a tremendous model of a "shepherding" leader.

Providence is a funny thing some times. As it turns out, I'm glad I'm here instead.

First of all, John Piper's father went to glory a couple weeks ago and he couldn't speak at the Shepherd's Conference as a result. I would have missed him. Second, it turns out Dr. MacArthur preached an opening sermon that asserted true Calvinists would be premillennialists! I kind of laugh thinking of that notion. Anyways, it would have been punishing for me to listen to that. I mean no disrespect, I often joke that God allows John MacArthur to have an erroneous eschatology (view of the end times) so he isn't right on everything. He is a very faithful servant of Christ and expositor of the Word, I just think he is off on his dispensational premillennialism. I am at the Ligonier Conference and John Piper is here! Dr. Sproul and Dr. Piper both spoke tonight. Dr. MacArthur is teaching tomorrow, as is Dr. Al Mohler and Dr. Ravi Zacharias. I seriously doubt there could be a better line up of Reformation-friendly speakers at any conference in the world today. Despite my aforementioned misgivings about Dr. Sproul's particular brand of Apologetics, I know I am in the presence of some of our contemporary titans of the faith.

This whole experience has me marvelling at God's work in raising up such men to carry the torch of Reformation. I also note these men are all in their sixties, with the exception of Dr. Mohler. Sproul and MacArthur are right close to seventy. Zacharias and Piper are in their early sixties. These men have become seasoned fathers in the faith. I really am humbled to be in their presence and only mention those few slight differences of perspective with the utmost trepidation so as not to relay any disrespect whatsoever. Each of these older men have impacted my personal spiritual and pastoral development immensely:

Dr. R.C. Sproul- I was a teen-ager when first exposed to Sproul's teaching. I remember reading "Chosen by God", a philosophical explanation of the doctrine of Election, and being thoroughly convinced of it's truth. Then, while at Moody Bible Institute, I heard him preach in person and was blown away by his lucid explanation of the Holiness of God. I think the great contribution to the reformed faith and evangelicalism Dr. Sproul has made is his ability to bring lofty doctrines to a level everybody can understand, without compromising the meaning. The resurgence of Reformation theology in our day is largely due to Sproul's faithful teaching and writing. He is the most influential "teacher" in the Church today, I think.

Dr. John MacArthur- I was also a teen-ager when I began listening to tapes from MacArthur's "Grace to You"broadcast. His verse-by-verse, plain, straightforward exposition ignited a hunger for God's Word in me. He was a big reason why I went to Moody Bible Institute, where he was a trustee when I attended. He has not wavered one bit in all these years. He has ministered at the same church for 35-plus years. Sure, I quibble with his dispensationalism, but not his regard for the authority of Scripture and commitment to the exposition thereof. I could only hope to emulate such skill in handling the Word of Truth. He and the late Dr. James Boice are the modern models of faithful expositional preaching. With Boice now in glory, I think John MacArthur is the great "expositor" of the Church in our day.

Dr. John Piper- I was in college when I was first exposed to Piper's "Christian Hedonism". The thought was so new to me that I would be most satisfied when I found my satisfaction in God alone! The other men have written voluminously making it hard to say which of their works are most important, Piper, on the other hand, while having many books to his credit, has one in particular that will define him- "Desiring God". A true work of spiritual genius for our day. On top of this contribution is a passion I have not seen in anyone quite like Piper. His passion in preaching compels me to fall in love with Christ all over every time He speaks of my Savior. John Piper is the chief "pastor" of the Church today, I humbly submit.

Dr. Ravi Zacharias- I was in college when I heard Ravi Zacharias speak at Moody Bible Institute. His eloquence is striking. He is a tremendous biblicist, yet, on top of that, his command of vast amounts of philosophical and cultural material is totally unique in our day. There are many as smart, but few who can communicate arguments and propositions so lucidly and effectively. I really see Zacharias as a modern day Paul at Mars Hill. While I think his chief contribution is the building up of the saints, God is using Him to draw thousands to Himself each year. I think Ravi Zacharias is this generation's great defender of the Faith.

Seeing these men reach their older years impresses upon me the need for a new generation to honor the legacy we have been given. I do not fret that God will raise up more titans like these men. For now, this day, I am very grateful to be at this event in the presence of my fathers.
May I preach, teach, defend, and shepherd in a way that honors the Savior they have so earnestly labored to display.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Good Neighbors- Grace Church

Tim Howey, the pastor of Grace Church, one of our neighbor churches, invited me and my fellow Redeemer pastors to have lunch with him and his fellow Grace Church pastors last week. It was a great pleasure meeting each of these brothers and to hear of God's work in the life and development of Grace Church. Tim led the founding of Grace about ten years ago and they have recently built their new facility just down the road from us. They actually bought their land around the time we started building on ours, we both remember back to our neighborhood being "country". Things have changed drastically and there's much ministry to be done for sure. Within the next five years we'll both be hemmed in by hundreds more houses. We're partners in reaching the community for Christ, not competitors. I did, however, subtly challenge Grace Church to a massive game of capture the flag. We'll see what develops.

Tim, like me, is originally from the northeast but now lives in and loves the Midwest. He recently tore up his knee in a basketball game at church (a self-sacrificing shepherd for sure!) and has chronicled his growth through this ACL rehab trial in his blog. Check it out along with his other posts.

He was nice enough to alert his congregation to pray for Redeemer, I would like to do the same by alerting you to his two chief requests for Grace Church:

(1) For God to keep reaching and discipling the people in our community disconnected from Christ & the church

(2) For God to keep developing our small groups ministry to be true incubators of shepherding and spiritual growth

May God bless the ministry of Tim Howey and Grace Church!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Salute General Pace!

General Peter Pace has found himself in the cross hairs of an enemy more ruthless than Al Qaeda because of his honest statement of opinion regarding homosexuality in the military.

I salute General Pace for his honesty, accuracy, and bravery in the face of a radical homosexual activism that is already calling for an apology, but soon will be calling for his job.

General Pace, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the Pentagon's top General, responding to the current "don't ask, don't tell" policy of the U.S. military said-

"I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts...I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way."

Well said General! What pleases me most about General Pace's outlook is his wider view of immorality. The focus should not only be on homosexual practice, but all forms of immorality. Pace states the matter this way- "As an individual, I would not want (acceptance of gay behavior) to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else's wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior".

A general definition of adultery is any sexual acts between people who are not married. Further, to make clear, marriage is between one man and one woman. So, any sexual activity outside the bond of marriage is adultery and is therefore immoral.

Sexual contact with someone who is not your spouse is sin. Period. Homosexuality is a sin. Period. God will not bless willful sin. God is gracious to struggling sinners who confess their sin and ask for His help, but He will not tolerate unrepentant, willful disobedience. All people, especially men, struggle with sexual sin of one form or another. Some struggle more, some less, but all struggle. There should not be condemnation for the person who confesses his/her sin and seeks accountability to change behavior. This is true for the person struggling with living a promiscuous life, the one hooked on porn, and the one who wrestles with homosexual urges. We are all radically skewed because of the Fall- every one of us. Opposing homosexuality is not an effort to hurt people or castigate a certain segment of the population- it's an effort to obey God's Law and reflect His glory in our lives. The Church should be most vocal about the issue of sexual purity as it is a clear way to show a watching world how Christ transforms us. This is the real thrust of Paul's letter to the Colossians. He reminds believers they are new creatures in Christ. The righteousness of Christ is now ours. Before God, our status is clean. We appear before God positionally righteous, because of Christ. Still, we bear the old grave clothes that stink and tempt. We continue to struggle against sin in this life. But, now, in Christ, we can say no to those old sins and habits. We can have real victory. The struggle might last our entire lives, but it will be a struggle, not a surrender. In Christ we can "put to death" those nagging sins of the flesh. Consider Paul's words-

Colossians 3:1-10 [1] If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. [3] For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [4] When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. [5] Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. [6] On account of these the wrath of God is coming. [7] In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. [8] But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. [9] Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices [10] and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Do you see it? Christ is our life, in this light, we must begin living out our new identity. This will be a violent process as we "put to death" that which seeks to master us. It should be no surprise that sexual immorality, impurity, and passion are first in the list of things that need to be put to death. If they are not put to death within us, they will consume us.

The radical homosexual agenda in the United States has succumbed to an extreme form of sexual immorality. It's not that homosexual practice is the extreme form, it is the complete surrender to and subsequent attempt to legitimize that is so extreme and dangerous. This must be resisted by the Church! At the same time, the church must do an inventory about it's own sexual righteousness as it fights the current campaign to make homosexual practice acceptable.

I am confident the vast majority of Americans agree with General Pace's comments yet have been scared in to silence because of the radical homosexual activist strategy controlling so much of the media today.

What you will now see is a full scale assault on the General led by the radical homosexual activists who have been enacting a very successful strategy for 20 years in this country:

1. Talk about gays and gayness as loudly and as often as possible.
2. Portray gays as victims, not aggressive challengers.
3. Give homosexual protectors a "just" cause.
4. Make gays look good.
5. Make the victimizers look bad.
6. Solicit funds (get corporate America to support causes).

Do you think the strategy is working? You better believe it is. While it doesn't reflect the majority opinion, it has certainly served to erode the margin. Just watch what happens to General Pace in the upcoming days and weeks. Already a gay advocacy group (SLDN) released this statement-

"General Pace's comments are outrageous, insensitive and disrespectful to the 65,000 lesbian and gay troops now serving in our armed forces."

Do you see the strategy at work? How on earth do they know there are 65,000 "lesbian and gay" troops now serving in our armed forces? This is total misinformation used to influence public opinion. This is their strategy and you'll see it employed with full force against General Pace.

I think General Pace's days may be numbered as chairman of the joint chiefs. Instead, he should be saluted.
(too be continued...)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Beware of Creeps!

At the end of this week I have the privilege of attending the 2007 Ligonier National Conference in Orlando. The theme for this year is "Contending for the Truth". In preparation I read Jude this morning and was once again sobered by verses 3 and 4-

Jude 1:3-4 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

What do you think of Jude's statement "certain people have crept in unnoticed"? Does it make you look around the church on Sunday? Does it make you feel like the disciples when Jesus alerted them to a traitor in their midst at the Last Supper? To describe someone as "creeping in" shows their sinister intents. It also reveals their sneakiness. If they creep in, chances are, you won't know they're among you until they're already doing their polluting work.

The picture of "creeping in" reminds me of something:

Shari and I were engaged to be married two months after my college graduation. Shari went back to Kansas, I went to western New York to work for two months before moving to Wichita. This meant Shari had to find us an apartment. Not having a job yet, I told her to get the cheapest place she could find. She looked at a couple different places then called be back- it’s between The Cedar Lake Apartments and the Oliver Square Apartments. She started telling me the various differences between the two places, I hurried her through the explanations and asked her the price. She said one was $295 per month, the other was $265, of course, I told her, take the one for $265. She did as I asked. I moved in after driving 1100 miles with all I owned in an 83 Dodge Omni. Shari had already cleaned the place thoroughly. The place was spotless. For the first month or so, as I lived there alone, I thought it to be just the perfect first apartment. We were married on July 31 and Shari moved in. Shortly after moving in I remember seeing something running straight up the wall from across the room. I had seen spiders in New York, but this wasn’t a spider. A few mornings later I remember turning on the light in the kitchen and saw something or things scatter over the counter and out of sight. One day, we were eating dinner and something caught my eye. As I looked at our microwave the digital readout was obscured, almost like it was blinking with an irregular blink. As I got closer I saw that a cockroach had crawled in to our microwave and was actually in the digital readout! As the weeks progressed Shari and I realized that we were being overtaken by cockroaches. You’d see them on the walls, coming out of the VCR, scurrying about the toaster. On the stove top. When you would open the cupboard to get a dish, you would see cockroaches scurry off the plate you were just about to eat off. Shari had not seen them growing up in her home and neither had I. If you know my wife, cleanliness is not a problem. Where were these nasty creatures coming from? As we complained to the management it was explained to us that shortly before we came our apartment was treated. We were one apartment of 6 on our side of the building. No matter how clean you keep the place, cockroaches from other apartments with different standards of cleanliness would eventually migrate through the walls and in to your apartment. They would creep in. If you saw one, you could be sure there were 100 more creeping around about you! We were literally run out of that apartment and in to a different one. The little creeps had crept in unnoticed and taken over.

Jude's words still hold true for us today. We must be aware of false teachers creeping in to the church and leading the brethren astray. It's not always outright denial of the gospel but rather subtle shifts in focus that lead astray. A church could look "evangelical" but be taken over by false teaching overrun by creeps. I'm not pointing fingers, I should be subject to such scrutiny as well. If my words do not align with the Scriptures, beware- I might be a creep.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Don't be late for Church tomorrow!

Don't forget to set your clocks ahead one hour this evening!

Tomorrow, the second Sunday in March (March 11), at 2 a.m., Daylight Saving Time begins in the United States. This year, Daylight Saving Time is four weeks longer than last year due passage of the Energy Policy Act in 2005. The Act, which extends Daylight Saving Time by four weeks from the second Sunday of March to the first Sunday of November, is expected to save 10,000 barrels of oil each day due to reduced use of power by businesses during daylight hours.

I don't care about oil savings, just church attendance! Ha ha! Don't be late for church tomorrow because you didn't set your clocks ahead tonight. My only beef with the Energy Policy Act is the day it takes effect- it should have been Monday morning at 2 am.
I doubt people would be late for work.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Keep your eye on this development

With all due respect to Sam Brownback, a man I admire and respect, I don't think he can win the presidency. First, he doesn't have the funds, and second, and quite frankly, I'm not sure his experience is deep enough to serve as President. Maybe in 4 or 8 more years. Besides Brownback, the current field of candidates from both parties looks dismal, in my opinion.

I just caught wind today that Fred Thompson, former senator from Tennessee and current TV star is mulling a run in 2008. Keep your eye on this development. If he enters the race, I would see him as the Republican front runner for sure, maybe even the instant overall favorite.

I think the Democrats will have a bloody primary season with Hillary and Obama slugging it out and John Edwards nipping at their ankles all the way. In the end, I think Obama will emerge the victor.

If Thompson doesn't run, it will be McCain or Giuliani. Neither can beat Obama. If given the choice between voting for McCain, Giuliani, or Obama, I see little difference. I'm sure Republicans would cry foul and tout the supposed conservative fiscal policies of McCain and Giuliani, but I just haven't seen any conservatism about the fiscal practices of either party in the last 6 years. I don't see McCain or Giuliani being any different.

If Thompson does decide to run, it will get very interesting. Sure, he'll get raked over the coals like any other candidate. From what I understand, he has some dirt like the rest of the current players. Being a personal friend of Scooter Libby will hurt for a while. Being Bush's man to help Roberts get confirmed to the Supreme Court will draw fire from extreme liberals. Despite all this, Thompson has something none of the other viable Republican candidates has, and it's not what you might think (Thompson has a solid pro-life voting record and has seemed to promote pro-family ideals-more to be researched here). Thompson might not be Oprah Winfrey's first pick, but unlike most of the Republican Party, the entertainment community (typically very liberal) respects Thompson. Furthermore, Thompson actually has genuine friends in Hollywood. Face it- Obama will be the darling of Hollywood. The only person who could dent that devotion, just a bit, is Fred Thompson. Don't underestimate Thompson's regular face time on a top-rated TV program (Law and Order). We are a TV generation (you have to read Neil Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to Death"). I'm telling you, watch this development!

Don't read this as an endorsement of Fred Thompson, I'm still checking him out. I'm just saying- I think things are about to get very interesting.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

How have we come to this?

I just read an absolutely staggering article I must share with you along with my commentary in red:

Woman sues doctors after failed abortion (AP 3/7/07 at 12:14 EST)

BOSTON - A Boston woman who gave birth after a failed abortion has filed a lawsuit against two doctors and Planned Parenthood seeking the costs of raising her child. Can you believe this? She gave birth to a healthy baby girl and she is suing the abortuary for not killing her seven months earlier!

The complaint was filed by Jennifer Raper, 45, last week in Suffolk Superior Court and still must be screened by a special panel before it can proceed to trial.

Raper claimed in the three-page medical malpractice suit that she found out she was pregnant in March 2004 and decided to have an abortion for financial reasons. Lord have mercy on us.

Dr. Allison Bryant, a physician (I can't stand when abortionists are called "physicians". They are not. They are agents of murder. The "Hippocratic oath" of the physician includes not performing an abortion-for good reason-it's killing a person!) working for Planned Parenthood at the time, performed the procedure (let's say it honestly: "attempted to perform the execution...") on April 9, 2004, but it "was not done properly, causing the plaintiff to remain pregnant," according to the complaint. Talk about the hand of God's redemption upon this little one! May the Lord continue to put His hedge of protection around her life despite all the hate that has been attempted against her!

Raper then went to see Dr. Benjamin Eleonu at Boston Medical Center in July 2004, and he failed to detect the pregnancy even though she was 20 weeks pregnant at the time, the lawsuit alleges.

It was only when Raper went to the New England Medical Center emergency room for treatment of pelvic pain in late September that year that she found out she was pregnant, the suit said.

She gave birth to a daughter on Dec. 7, 2004. She is seeking damages, including child-rearing costs. Seriously, can you believe the coldness the human heart?

Raper and her lawyer, Barry C. Reed Jr., refused comment when contacted by The Boston Globe. A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood said the organization does not comment on pending litigation. Neither doctor responded to requests for comment.

Raper alleges in the suit that Planned Parenthood and Bryant were negligent for failing to end her pregnancy (again, honestly- "for failing to properly dismember and suction out the baby's body parts") and that Eleonu was negligent for failing to see she was still pregnant. Again, the Lord's protection over this little one...

The state's high court ruled in 1990 that parents can sue physicians for child-rearing expenses, but limited those claims to cases in which children require extraordinary expenses because of medical problems, medical malpractice lawyer Andrew C. Meyer Jr. said. Do you see what this lady is alleging? The abortionists failure to kill her baby is medical malpractice! She wants money for the inconvenience of having to care for a human being!

Raper's suit has no mentions of medical problems involving her now 2-year-old daughter. This is what staggers me beyond words- the woman gives birth to an apparently healthy baby girl, the child is now a toddler, and she has decided to sue because her baby is alive! How can a person call their lawyer and seek to sue for such a thing while their healthy baby plays with toys on the floor before them? How have we come to this? God have mercy on the culture of death and money grubbing we have created!

As with all medical malpractice suits in Massachusetts, Raper's complaint will have to be screened by a tribunal consisting of a Superior Court judge, a lawyer, and a doctor to determine whether it has merit to go to trial.

This story absolutely rocks me on so many levels. How have we come to this?

Romans 1:21-22 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. [22] Claiming to be wise, they became fools...

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

My current struggle...

Every epoch of my life contains various internal struggles. Questions arise in my mind that seem, at first anyways, to have equally valid arguments about this or that. Eventually, it seems, I gain a sense of peace, come to a resolution, and move on.

It could be trivial matters like what car to buy, what tomatoes to plant, what stocks to purchase, what book to start reading, which dessert to eat (or pass on!), what movie to see, what grain bullet will most likely put a coyote (the only kind of dog I have use for) down quickly, what new bow to buy, or any number of other decisions.

It could include trying to figure out what to think about more serious matters like the war in Iraq, public policies, issues of morality, who to vote for, what cause to support financially, the responsibility of the Church to be shaping culture, etc.

As a student of the bible I am constantly wrestling with various questions raised by friends, family, congregants, and myself. In many cases I have come to resolution, in others, I'm still studying, analyzing, and wrestling. Think of all the areas of intrigue and discussion for bible: the effect of the Fall on mankind, the length of the Genesis days, the location of Noah's Ark, the scope of Noah's flood, the identity of the "Sons of God" in Genesis 6, the exact identity of the "the Captain of the Lord's Army", the relationship between Israel and the Church, Baptism, The Lord's Supper, "free will", God's Sovereignty, the relationship between A.D. 70 and biblical prophecy, continuation or cessation of the "sign" gifts, head-coverings, etc. etc. To resolve such questions one must study, discuss, analyze, and re-analyze.

I would like to share my current struggle with you- one that creeps in to my every thought these days:

Can Kansas City support a National Hockey League team?

The Pittsburgh Penguins ownership team lead by Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux is being forced to consider moving their team from Pittsburgh, where the city is stalling a commitment to build a new stadium (to replace their ancient stadium- the oldest in the league). Even if they do agree to build an arena the Pens can play in, the team will have to pay for almost half the cost of construction and ongoing rent. On the other hand, Kansas City is completing a new, state of the art facility (The Sprint Center), and offering the Penguins rent-free usage of the building! On the surface, it might seem like a no-brainer. Move to Kansas City.

This is where my doubts and questions creep in. Keep in mind, I am a life long hockey fan of extreme proportions (never mind my earlier blog on the Bills). I still catch all the Buffalo Sabres games in part or the whole by listening online at least 3 times a week. Buffalo and Pittsburgh are "hockey towns" (i.e. places where real men, modern gladiators, reside), Kansas City most certainly is not (although it is getting better on the gladiator-like men quotient).

Let's face it, the Penguins would be leaving one of the NHL's strongest U.S. markets for a smaller one that lost an NHL team in 1976 after only two seasons because of lack of support. This must be the reason Lemieux and partners haven't pulled up stakes already. I'm guessing this is why the the city officials are playing hardball with the Pens in return. They doubt Kansas City's commitment and staying power. In addition to losing the NHL team (The Scouts), Kansas City had an IHL team here for several years (The Blades) and no one cared or attended. With a good team (and the Pens are at least good, probably on the way to being great) and a new building, attendance might be good for a while, but would it last? The Penguins' current home attendance and local TV ratings are among the strongest of the 24 United States-based franchises. The Penguins have one of the brightest lineups in the game boasting Sidney Crosby, a 19 year old phenom with Lemieux-like capability. This explains why they are playing to nearly 96 percent of arena capacity for the season. All of their remaining nine home games are expected to attract standing-room-only crowds. In my opinion, the Penguins are the second best team in the Eastern Conference right now (Buffalo is first, of course). It is not out of the realm of possibility that they go to the Stanley Cup finals this year. Kansas City would be getting one of the elite teams in the league- nothing like the Royals or Chiefs (with all due respect).

But...would Kansas City care? Could Kansas City appreciate hockey? I fear Kansas City would become an embarrassment nationwide for bringing a great franchise like the Penguins here, only to lose them in 3, 5, or 10 years due to lack of support. That would seriously stink.

Honestly, I'm just not sure it would work here. Just recently a friend asked me if I liked hockey. I said "of course, you better believe it". He said- "'re the one". Very funny, I thought. Very sad also. Such a lack of appreciation for one of the greatest games on planet Earth really made me queasy about getting a team here. I'd never hear the end of it from my North Eastern cronies if KC gained the Penguins only to lose them. I know, you're probably saying "who cares about your North Eastern cronies". This only proves my point. This is why I'm queasy. The Midwest is great, I'm excited to be here, but it just doesn't get hockey. It's like pearls before...bad analogy, but you get my point.

So, my struggle goes on. The new Sprint Center needs an occupant. My children need exposure to hockey as it makes men out of boys. We don't want an NBA team to come here (basketball is lame), what will be the answer?

I just don't know.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Poor Dog!

You all know my lack of appreciation for dogs. Still, no creature should have to live with the anxiety this little guy must have been dealing with!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Are you talking to me?

Compared to the rest of our neighborhood, we have young children. Most of the young people on our street are in their early teens while our children are 8 and under. My son AJ is very concerned that several kids he has met do not acknowledge Christ as their savior. One girl, in particular, has informed him that she doesn't even believe in God. Every time he gets a chance, he tries to explain who Christ is to her and even left a note on her door last week bidding her to believe in God. She has a tough living situation as there are a couple teen-aged girls with children living in the same house. She is actually the child of a middle-aged couple living in the house also. My brief interaction with some of the occupants reveals a complex living situation and little interest in spiritual things. Further, there is antagonism toward Christianity which my young son has picked up on.

I have to confess, instead of encouraging him to continue to interact with the young girl and her family, I told him to back off on talking with them for a while. I just didn't think they cared for what my young son was saying, furthermore, I figured they were mocking him a bit. Innocently, AJ asked me, "Dad, don't you want me to talk about Jesus to them"?

My son had a point. We should talk about Christ to anyone who will listen. I'm not really a believer in "cold evangelism" where you walk up to a total stranger and start "witnessing", rather, in the context of getting to know a person or people, be careful to look for opportunities to share Christ with them by your life and words. That's my "style". Really, my son was doing that. He's known this young girl for close to two years. Off and on he has shared Christ in his own way with her and wants to continue to. I should leave the results to the Lord, not tell him to back off. I do want to help him with his "style", he tends to be pretty blunt (can't imagine where he got that). What has further intrigued me is watching AJ try to quantify the living arrangement this young girl is part of. He can see there are some unmarried girls with babies and the situation doesn't look like the traditional home he is used to seeing. Nevertheless, he seems unphased by this and talks to anyone and everyone who will listen, despite their situation in life. It reminds me of Jesus' willingness to talk to everyone, no matter their level of brokenness, about the Kingdom.

Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?" ( For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." - John 4:6-10

Apparently Jesus was weary enough to stay at the well while His disciples ran to local Hy-Vee to pick up some food. He clearly has no utensil or pot to gather any water. A woman comes to the well at the same moment and Jesus, without hesitation, asks her for a drink. The woman represents most of humanity. A person entrapped by the fallen life. Constantly seeking satisfaction from temporal things. She is the perfect example of the people we will come in contact with. Jesus reaches out to her with His request. The "unacceptability" such an interchange in that social setting was huge and bears mentioning.

Almost 1000 years before Jesus' day, the northern kingdom of Israel, known as the 10 tribes- by then the “lost tribes” of Israel- were taken captive by the pagan Assyrians. Instead of maintaining their Jewish identity, the northern kingdom was assimilated by the pagan Assyrians, intermarried and happily stayed with their new rulers. Furthermore, when the southern kingdom of Judah returned to Palestine to rebuild the Temple and its' walls under Ezra and Nehemiah, the Samaritans where their chief opposition and antagonists. The Samaritans were the offspring of that union between paganism and the northern kingdom of Israel. By the time of Christ they were viewed as half-breed Jews, mongrels (in blood and religion), and treasonous compromisers. In the eyes of Jews the only thing worse than a Gentile was a Samaritan. The two groups hated each other, plain and simple.

So here is Jesus, traveling inside the dreaded land of Samaria, stopping for a drink and doing the most unexpected thing- asking a Samaritan for a drink! Further still, He was asking a woman! Furthermore, for Him to drink, He would have to drink out of her pot! Imagine the reaction of this woman! She was shocked and the verses display this beautifully:

The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?" ( For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

What a beautiful picture here- Jesus has no concern for race, sex, religion, or social status. To Jesus there are no boundaries as to who needs the message of the gospel. In an almost beggar-like way, Jesus asks the woman for a drink. He comes to her not as a socially superior person. He comes to her not as religiously untouchable, but rather a person with the same basic need to drink. Imagine how many times this immoral woman was scorned by men! Imagine the depths of her shame and how low she must have viewed herself. It was no little matter to have man speak to her this way, especially a Jew. Jesus sets the example for us.

May we never discriminate when it comes to sharing the gospel message!

There is no excuse for any believer to appear “holier than thou” as we share the Good News. Certainly we must identify sin when it is apparent, but let us be very careful to clearly communicate that all men are sinners and we present the gospel so they might be saved as we have. Jesus approaches this woman who was clearly ravaged by the Fall, but still bearing the image of God, and begins to share Himself with her as she stands amazed.

I am going to help AJ with his approach in sharing Christ, but I've decided he has the right idea. I don't know what God's Will is for this young girl-only God is sovereign over salvation- but I am sure AJ (and our family) should be sharing Christ with her...and everyone.