Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thoughts on Christian Education (Part 1)

This post is an introduction to a series of posts about the importance of Christian Education.

By Christian Education I mean the discipleship of our children based on the mandate of Scripture (Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6 in particular). I am referring to the development of a Christian Worldview in the children entrusted to our community collectively (the Church) and our families individually. I am addressing the process of spiritually forming our youth. Christian Education isn't just about the kind of "school" program or method used, it's far more holistic in scope. Education for the Christian is synonymous with discipleship. Discipleship happens all our waking hours. As it relates to our children, we are to be intentional about their training. Effective discipleship requires a cooperation between the various influences in their lives, particularly family, church, and school, where they spend the majority of their time and receive the most training. It is essential these entities are promoting the same message and working in concert to form a consistent worldview.
God's sovereignty is holistic, He gives lordship to no one else, including man. Confusion about who made and owns everything will prove disastrous. A person who does not rightly know and fear God will spend their lives kicking painfully against the goads. The atheist, humanist, or hedonist may appear peaceful, but it's a ruse. A life lived against the Creator is wrought with pain and unrest. As our children are developing spiritually, they must be exposed to the whole of God's sovereignty over every aspect of their lives. In time they will certainly come to understand that God has enemies and there are competing worldviews, but in their developmental years they must become strong in the foundation of God's sovereign reign over all things as revealed by His Word. Our children must develop a biblical view of God, man, truth, knowledge, and ethics (worldview). Equipped with such a perspective, they will be able to interpret the many competing views and be used of God to tear down strongholds as Paul alludes in his second inspired letter to the Corinthians-

2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ...

In this light, words cannot describe my excitement and joy concerning the ongoing development of our school, Westminster Christian Academy. We are currently laboring to add High School to our existing Pre-K tru 8th grade ministry. Westminster is a covenantal commitment our church made when it was planted. We are "doing" Westminster because we believe God has specially called us to do so. Westminster was started primarily as a way to assist church families in the discipleship of their children, however we have welcomed families who are members of various other evangelical churches. Such an arrangement has greatly enhanced the effectiveness of the ministry.

I'll say it straight- I wish I could convince all Christians to pull their children from government schools. I have had this conviction since college, but have been careful not to heap expectations and attending guilt on people I am serving. Societal conditioning has been so pervasive in the church that pastors have to be patient and careful when helping people biblically analyze the idea of sending our children to public schools. Many pastors have wimped out completely and they won't address the issue of education. Pragmatically I know why: education is a sensitive subject and addressing it as a pastor inevitably offends someone. Believe it or not, I hate offending people. I know what a minefield the subject of education can be. I am absolutely committed to minister to every family that is part of our church, no matter what choice of education they make. I believe faithful pastoral ministry means guiding people according to Scripture. As an under-shepherd of Christ called to guard and feed the flock and give an account to Christ for these duties, I am committed to be biblically honest with people. The stakes are too high for me to be more concerned with popularity than sharing what I(and the combined leadership of the Church) believe to be true. It is certainly possible that I have missed something biblically, and as long as Scripture is the common ground, I'm willing to be shown where I am wrong and how I need to change my teaching.

So, once again- I wish I could convince all Christians to pull their children from government schools. Don't get me wrong, I think a Christian young person can go through a public school curriculum and culture and come out still believing in Jesus, however they will not likely be well equipped to change the world for Christ and they will undoubtedly have a worldview that is dichotomous at best (sacred vs secular) or totally secular at worst. It should be noted, according to Barna 70 % of Evangelical church kids essentially renounce their faith by the end of their Freshmen year in college. I think it is sad that many Christian parents see their children "surviving" the public school (meaning their child still believes in God, hasn't done drugs or gotten in to pre-marital sex) as the goal or somehow a success. This is pathetic. God wants our youth to be trained and equipped to change the world for Christ as they venture out. How can this happen when they are in survival mode in a place where few actually survive, even according to the lowest of standards? Survival mode doesn't train a person, it weakens them.

Please understand, I do not mean to belittle or scold people who disagree. Maybe you haven't thought about this issue from the angle I am presenting. Maybe you have analyzed this issue thoroughly and disagree with my conclusions. I'm simply speaking from a pastor's heart based on biblical conviction and hope each parent will be honest about what they are committing their children to when they turn them over to the public school culture and curriculum for 14,000 seat hours between Kindergarten and 12th grade. All too often parents are shocked when their "Christian" kid goes off to the state university and bails out on church and the Faith, but why? As one analyst put it- if we give our kids to Caesar (government schools) for 14,000 hours in their chief spiritual formation years, why are we surprised when they come out as Romans?

It has been said by many that whoever controls the schools controls the world. Further, I would add-whoever is teaching our children is also discipling them. Parents in partnership with the Covenant Community (The Church) are responsible for discipling young people, not the government. Deuteronomy 6 is addressed to the Covenant Community (Israel) and it directs individual families within that community regarding the discipleship of her children:

Deut. 6:4-9 "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. [5] You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. [6] And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. [7] You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. [8] You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. [9] You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

This command is given as the means to effective discipleship of children. It depicts the realistic effort that will be necessary to develop a Christian Worldview in our children. Clearly, to faithfully disciple/educate our children, it will take many hours daily. When we place our children under the increasingly antagonistic government school authority, for 14,000 seat hours before they are 18, how can we expect to fulfill the directive God has given us in Deuteronomy? Do we think a couple hours at church per week will do it? Is it really possible for parents to offset these daytime hours at a government school with some kind of biblical discipleship? When would that discipleship come? After school? Doing what? Let's face it, the most captive hours for our young people are between 8am and 4pm, when they are at school. That's some serious discipleship time. Who is discipling them? There couldn't be a more important question. I hear the protest- "But Johnny's teacher is a Christian". Maybe so, but what is their worldview? What curriculum are they using? Many Christian teachers in public schools have been trained by the state themselves. They mean well, but they are essentially paid to teach the curriculum, not disciple covenant children.

The New Testament, using fewer words, restates the mandate to the church and parents concerning the discipleship/education of our children:

Ephes. 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

To "bring them up" requires a holistic educational strategy. "Discipline", by definition, happens with constant repetition. In other words, the discipleship we are called to provide for our children will be time consuming and all encompassing or we can't be doing it right. Again, to give up 8-10 prime hours per day to the government discipling our children seems to render faithful obedience to God's discipleship mandate impossible to fulfill.

I honestly believe the Church will never impact the current culture if it insists on having it's children be discipled by the culture it is supposed to be transforming. The current culture is hideously sick, it makes no sense to let that culture train our children, then expect them to grow spiritually. We all have high expectations for what a godly generation can do to change the advance of moral decay that is obvious, yet we seem unwilling to take the radical, necessary step, of taking our children out of the system that is a major source of the rot. Christians really need to take back the spiritual formation of their children from the state, I think actual healing of this sin-sick culture depends on it.

In future posts I will address more of this, specifically what it means to develop a Christian worldview in our children. It is not enough to pull our children from government schools, we must also provide an effective, worldview-shaping discipleship plan and practice. We hope that Westminster Christian Academy is a trustworthy part of such a discipleship plan for the families who partner with us.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pray for Emmaus Mennonite Church

Emmaus Mennonite Church, about 40 miles NE of Wichita, burned to the ground last night. It was an old building, basically a tinder box that had no chance of being saved once fire started. Praise God no one was hurt. News story/video here.
My wife grew up near Whitewater, Kansas, in a little town named Elbing. She was raised attending Emmaus Church in rural Whitewater (in the middle of no where to us city folk). Emmaus is a farming community church, a sizable one as farmers come from all around to attend. Her parents met, courted, and were married there. So did her grandparents on her father's side. Her Grandfather on her mother's side was the pastor there before she was born. All of Shari's youthful memories relate to her activity at that church. We got married at Emmaus in 1993. I'll never forget my Buffalo-winter worn father looking out the window of the church and commenting on the miles and miles of unharvested, golden wheat as the heat waves from the 110 degree day rippled up off the parking lot. There is a cemetery adjacent to the building, many of Shari's relatives are buried there. Shari's parents are still active members at Emmaus. Now, the building-which is so representative of the community it hosted- is gone. It only took a few hours.
Emmaus, as a congregation, is 125 years old. The current building was built 79 years ago.

Pray for Emmaus Mennonite Church in Whitewater. I am confident God is using this severe trial for His glory and the edification of His people, but sifting through the ashes is still hard.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Here's six minutes worth spending- 99 Balloons

Check out this video.

Lance Kinzer is a member of Redeemer. He is a representative in the Kansas House and a man of deep conviction concerning the issue of life and protecting the unborn. He sent many of his legislative colleaugues the above referenced video with this statement: "it is a powerful reminder of the inherent dignity of every human life. I hope that it will inspire you as it has me to redouble our commitment to using the influence God has entrusted to each of us to stand up for the unborn".

Watching this video will be 6 minutes very well spent.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

No Republican can beat Obama

I know Obama's South Carolina win doesn't lock up the Democratic nomination and I am continually reminded by my highly intelligent readership to not count a Clinton out, however I will continue to stick with my prediction that Obama will at least win the nomination. Here's something I wrote just over a year ago (unedited from January 16, 2007):

He promises to bring new order to the politics of Washington. He promises to promote cooperation across party lines. His lack of time in Washington actually serves in his favor as he doesn't come off as tainted and hindered by the politics of Washington (like John McCain does). Despite not having one notable national achievement legislatively, all sorts of people are casting their lots with him already. Oprah endorses him. Warren Buffett endorses him. Even Rick Warren (of "The Purpose Driven Life" fame) speaks very favorably of him.He is good looking, intelligent, very articulate, and diplomatic. Couple these attributes with the current widespread displeasure with Washington politics and the White House, Obama is striking perfect timing for a successful run in 2008. Unless a candidate emerges, with similar attributes, he will win.

Mark my words- there is no current Republican who can beat Obama if he wins the nomination. I think Thompson had a chance, but now he's out. John McCain will look absolutely archaic and tainted against the younger, quicker, seemingly more innovative Obama. Romney has a better chance against Obama and it will be a much tighter race if that's the contest, however, I still think Obama wins against Romney in the end. I think it would be great to have an African American President, but not Obama.

I hope I'm wrong about this.

2008 Redeemer World Missions Conference Focus: Mexico

We are in the midst of our annual missions conference and so far it has been a tremendous blessing. Our focus is on the U.S.-Mexico border, particularly the planting of churches along that great expanse. Eight years ago, when I was the youth pastor, I helped lead our first team to Juarez to be part of the church planting effort in that city. At the same time we began supporting the work of Dan and Becky Young and have sent a summer team or teams ever since. It has been a total blessing. For our conference this year we have Dan Young, Gene Bowman (team leader), and Cartee Bales (Kirk of the Hills, St. Louis, Missions Pastor) speaking and exciting us about increasing our overall commitment to the border ministry. I have been part of four teams down to Juarez and can't wait to go back again some time, maybe even this summer taking my oldest son. Hearing these brothers and their wives really pumps up the congregation to be a greater part of what God is doing on the border and in the world.

Proclaiming the name of Christ by word and deed in every land should be the natural heartbeat of any Christ-centered church. We should long to see His name glorified among the nations and no matter what stage a particular church is in, it ought to find ways to be part of what God is doing the world over. I am looking forward to our church maturing to greater and greater missions participation and an ever improving world vision. Our church has partnered with multiple missionaries and has been able to send individuals and teams to a few different places, but our commitment to Mexico has been long term (for our young church) and I see it continuing for a long time. No matter what your take on immigration, reaching the border for Christ is a strategic move for the Church to be focused on, especially in our times. The words of Oscar J. Martinez in his book Border People, says "Nowhere else do so many millions of people from two so dissimilar nations live in such close proximity and interact with each other so intensely." The border is a truly unique place in all the world. What an opportunity!

Mission to the World (MTW) is the PCA's sending agency. Under the umbrella of MTW is Border Evangelism and Mercy Ministry (BEAMM), our denominations unique border ministry. I love BEAMM's vision for church planting for the next 20 years. Check out their site when you have a chance.

Tonight Gene Bowman will speak on the issue of immigration and how it presents an opportunity for missions on the border.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Braddock VS Rambo

Running the risk of sounding presumptuous, this may be my most profound, thought-provoking, insightful, culture-changing posts ever.

Key to deciding which candidate to back for president is the opinion of two pop-icons from the 1980's (and beyond, thanks to Stallone). As previously noted, Chuck Norris is backing Mike Huckabee for president while Sylvester Stallone has recently announced he is backing John McCain.

This causes me some indecision because I am such a fan of both of their fictional Vietnam vet war hero roles, Norris as Colonel James Braddock from the Missing in Action films of the 80's and Stallone as John Rambo from the First Blood/Rambo films also of the 80's (the fourth installment has just been released today!). Norris' role as "Texas Ranger" is lame, so erase that from your mind. Stallone's role as Rocky was O.K., for the first film, not the next 5. Never mind Rocky Balboa when determining credibility concerning the endorsement of a presidential candidate.

So, the most important question that will determine who to support- who would win in a fight between Braddock or Rambo? This is a clear indication of who to vote for. Be sure to answer on the poll question to the right.

Colonel James Braddock (Chuck Norris)

- An American officer who spent seven years in a North Vietnamese POW camp, then escaped

- returns to Vietnam to find American soldiers listed as missing in action during the Vietnam War.

- He launches a mission deep into the jungle to free the American POWs from the vicious General Trau

- There are three films (Missing in Action I, II, III), all follow the same basic plot line.

- Highlight: Other than destroying whole Vietnamese platoons single-handily, Braddock once has a burlap bag containing a hungry, flesh-eating rat tied on his head and managed to kill the rat with his mouth! Dang.

Green Beret John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone)

- A former member of the US Army's Green Berets who fought in Vietnam and was a Medal of Honor recipient for his actions there (he ate stuff that would make a billy goat puke...according to Col. Trautman)

- Rambo has difficulty adjusting to civilian life after returning to the U.S. and wanders the country as a drifter.

- Rambo runs afoul of the sheriff of a small town called Hope and retreats to the mountains to hide from the sheriff and his men

- The whole first film is Rambo fighting against hundreds of men using his elite jungle fighting skills to essentially destroy the whole town.

- There are initially 3 films also, but a fourth is actually being released today. The second two films involve a return to Vietnam (Missing in Action style) to free POW's, and a trip to Afghanistan to free Col. Trautman. Same plot in all the movies. Lot's of Rambo war fare.

- Highlight: Tough to pick just one. My favorite is Rambo taking down a helicopter with an explosive-tipped arrow. He also took down a Soviet gunship with a bazooka...very cool. One of the great quotes of all time comes from Col. Trautman when local authorities told him they were sending 200 men after Rambo in the mountains. Trautman replied- "if you send that many men, you better bring a lot of body bags". Classic stuff.

O.K., who's tougher? Wow. That's hard. Off the cuff I'm going to say Rambo. Here's my reasoning- he was never captured by the Vietnamese for a long time (just a little torture), he was awesome with a bow and arrow, and he had a very inspirational speech at the end of the first film. Braddock, who I think is smarter than Rambo and was a better master of martial arts, just wasn't quite as destructive as Rambo, so I give the edge to John. Now, here's the rub- I think Norris takes Stallone in an actual dual today. After all, Chuck Norris can lead a horse to water AND make it drink...Chuck Norris does not sleep, He waits...Chuck Norris does not get frostbite, Chuck Norris bites frost...Contrary to popular belief, America is not a democracy, it is a Chucktatorship...but I digress. Stallone is five foot nothing and a south paw to boot. Stallone on steroids at age 60 aside, Norris would definitely take him.

So, Stallone is for McCain (a real former POW), Norris is for Huckabee. Rambo could take Braddock but Norris could take Stallone.
Man am I torn. How about you? Answer the poll to the right.

What's the big deal?

People need to loosen up, check this story out:

Former Golf Club Employees Accused of Cooking, Eating Dog
(Foxnews) Thursday , January 24, 2008

HONOLULU — Two former golf club employees have been charged with theft and cruelty to animals in the death of a pet dog the owners say was cooked and eaten. An Oahu grand jury indicted Saturnino Palting, 58, and Nelson Domingo, 43, both of Kalihi, after the Moanalua Golf Club fired them as maintenance workers. They are charged with stealing a dog owned by Frank Manuma and his wife, Debbie Weil-Manuma. The 8-month-old German shepherd-Labrador mix named Caddy had been tied up near a maintenance shed on Dec. 16 while Frank Manuma played a round of golf. Manuma says police told him the two men butchered and ate his pet. The charges are both felonies punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. "We're delighted that it's moving forward," Manuma said when told of the grand jury indictments.
He said the club had given him permission to bring the dog to the club. Witnesses told golf club officials they saw the workers load the dog into a car and drive away at the end of their shift on Dec. 16. Both were fired after the incident. Manuma said he and his wife considered the dog like a child they never had. When the arrest was first reported, they received expressions of sympathy and offers of new dogs from as far away as Colorado.

He said they now have a 3-month old mixed German shepherd-Golden retriever named Caddy 2.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Stemming the Slaughter

This week has been designated "Sanctity of Human Life" week, it is also the 35 year anniversary of the legalization of infanticide in the U.S., also called abortion.

I have been frustrated with how to personally respond to this devastating shame of our culture. I used to be more active on the protest side of confronting abortion, but alas, time and manifold responsibilities have not allowed for much picketing in my pastoral ministry. I am very grateful for those devoted believers who do spend time visiting the local abortuaries to pray, protest, and counsel, I just can't do so with any regularity. I try to support pro-life causes financially, through prayer, and by verbal promotion, but I never feel like I am doing enough concerning such an atrocious reality in our culture. God has been so patient with us. His righteous character and perfect justice simply will not allow us to descend much deeper in to slaughter. A passage I just covered while preaching through Hosea resonates within me. After much patience, God brings judgment on Israel and speaks openly about His knowledge of their sin. He says through Hosea (5:2)- "And the revolters have gone deep into slaughter,but I will discipline all of them." My dear brothers an sisters, our country has blood dripping off our hands and we have indeed gone deep into slaughter.

For some time I have known one way my family could make a small contribution to the cause of life was to pursue adoption. I will admit, it is not a convenient time to adopt (our kids are just about old enough to do most things themselves) and it will cost us most of the money we have and some that we don't have yet, still, we are compelled to pursue this with absolute clarity of vision and certainty of calling. We are adopting through an agency that primarily deals with crisis pregnancies referred from various counseling agencies (mostly pro-life ones, but not always-Planned Parenthood doesn't recommend every woman abort their child, believe it or not). Trying to directly confront the abortion issue was important to us as we pursue this adoption. If every Christian family did their best to adopt one child domestically, we would put an excruciating pressure on a system that actually has a shortage of adoptable babies. Adoption is so expensive ($15-20K "up front", there is a $10k tax credit that can be recovered) because of the limited supply of babies caused by over a million abortions per year (yes, a million abortions...let that number sink in). Further, we could create a culture where birth mothers could know that carrying their babies to term, rather than killing them, would be supported with loving adoptive parents. Many young girls today are convinced by "counselors" the baby would have a horrible life, etc. All sorts of lies are told to end pregnancies. We have been told we might wait 12-18 months for our baby. Why is this so? Supply is down because of abortion-period.
Many people adopt internationally to meet the need for orphans to be cared for. This is also a very biblical and worthy reason for Christians to adopt. We thought about an international adoption, but in the end, we decided adopting domestically would contribute more directly to stemming the slaughter that is working to take down our nation. I know, just one baby....but imagine if many more Christians would ask God to guide them and provide for them in this area.

History is replete with cultures that devalued life. Infanticide was characteristic of many pagan lands. As I have researched this gruesome practice, I ran across research by Christopher Price that is very enlightening (check out his entire paper when you have the chance, I will quote portions here). Price notes that infanticide was legal and encouraged in ancient Greece and Rome. Other pagan societies, such as the Carthaginians, went so far as to kill their children as religious sacrifices to their gods. According to Plutarch, the Carthaginians "offered up their own children, and those who had no children would buy little ones from poor people and cut their throats as if they were so many lambs of young birds; meanwhile the mothers stood by without a tear or moan." Price also chronicles myriads of facts concerning the practice of infanticide. Here are a few:

The Twelve Tables of Roman Law held: "Deformed infants shall be killed". Cicero defended infanticide by referring to the Twelve Tables. Plato and Aristotle recommended infanticide as legitimate state policy. Cornelius Tacitus went so far as to condemn the Jews for their opposition to infanticide. Even Seneca, otherwise known for his relatively high moral standards, stated, "we drown children at birth who are weakly and abnormal." A chilling letter from a pagan husband to his wife captures the casual nature of this practice among the pagans:

"Know that I am still in Alexandria.... I ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son, and as soon as I received payment I shall send it up to you. If you are delivered (before I come home), if it is a boy keep it, if a girl, discard it."

The Roman World, especially during the time of the New Testament's writing, universally practices infanticide. What stemmed the slaughter? Early Christian documents reveal Christian opposition to the practices of abortion and infanticide (same thing). Price notes the Didache (90 -110 CE), an instruction manual for Christian converts, commanded "You shall not commit infanticide." Another early Christian document, the Epistle of Barnabas (130 CE), also explicitly condemned infanticide and prohibited its practices as necessary parts of the "way of light." Further, Price reveals Justin Martyr's First Apology (250 CE) stated, "We have been taught that it is wicked to expose even newly-born children." Also in the second century, Athengoras, a Christian leader, wrote in his Plea to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, that "[we do not expose] an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child murder."

Most powerful to me is the record of Christians taking babies left for dead in to their own homes. Historian Wil Durant writes, "in many instances Christians rescued exposed infants, baptized them, and brought them up with the aid of community funds." This is where I hope to see the modern Christian community become more active. If many more Christians would put their money where their mouth is, I think it would put tremendous pressure on the adoption "industry", expose the absurdity of aborting millions of babies when so many couples want to adopt, and help create a culture of nurture that encourages birth mothers to choose life for their unborn children. Christopher Price argues-

Although ancient and pagan Greek and Rome had practiced and encouraged infanticide for hundreds and hundreds of years, Christianity fundamentally altered those societies. Christianity eliminated the promotion and encouragement of infanticide by government and leading societal institutions in Western Civilization. Clearly, one unique and valuable contributions of Christianity to Western Civilization was its opposition to infanticide.

I agree with him. Talk about transforming culture! This is one of the main reasons Shari and I feel so strongly about pursuing adoption. I am not saying every Christian family should adopt a child, but most should. As God removes his hand of protection from our nation, do we think Christians will somehow be spared of the whirlwind that is reaped upon America? We are part of the problem if we do nothing.

The time for talking is done. I'm sick of it.

Absolutely classic Bill Clinton

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Thompson out (was he ever in?)

Fred Thompson ended his lame campaign for the presidency today. His campaign was a total disappointment to me. Of the existing candidates, he was my favorite. There was tremendous hype and hope when he began his effort a few months back, but talk about a major fizzle. Freddy T just didn't seem to want it.

Thompson insiders (and I know a particularly powerful one) have continually assured me that he worked hard during his short-lived campaign and genuinely did have the resolve to stick through a grueling campaign. Sorry, I just didn't see it.

Thompson, in my opinion, had the chance to really sky rocket ahead of the Republican field. I sort of think the lack of a solid front runner back in September made him believe leading the race would be easier than it turned out to be. Again, a big disappointment. I thought his platform was solid, certainly someone I could get behind.

I think Thompson's exit helps Jimmy mean...Mike Huckabee. Ironically, McCain and Thompson are closer on paper than Thompson and mean Huckabee, but most pundits think Thompson's presence is what cost Huckabee the S.Carolina race. I think Thompson's exit really gives Huckabee a better chance of beating McCain and Rudy "I'm betting the farm on Florida" Giuliani. Whatever the case, Thompson's exit is causing me to really study up on the remaining candidates. Let's see what happens in Florida.

The Emergent Church (conclusion)

In future posts I will unpack the larger "evangelical" Emerging Church movement, but for now I will leave the liberal, Emergent Church movement with this video clip.

This past Spring I attended the Annual Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. The clip posted here is from that conference. RC Sproul, Al Mohler, and Ravi Zacharias discuss the Emergent Church in a helpful way.

In summary, the Emergent Church as represented by McLaren, Pagitt, Jones, and others, Make truth so elusive and dogma so disdained that it will go the way of all liberal theology eventually- it will die, but not before leading quite a few astray. Like many religious or social movements, the Emergent Church is largely personality driven. Gifted, intelligent, people like Brian McLaren attract large followings. There is something edgy about Doug Pagitt and what he is willing to say publicly, so there are many who will follow him.

Emergent adherents are old school theological liberals wearing hip, postmodern garb (literally) and speaking socially progressive language. There seems to be no such thing as propositional truth to the Emergent crowd. No matter how explicit a biblical concept might be (hell, judgment for sin, etc.), they are able to explain it in some metaphorical, non-literal way.

I recommend D.A. Carson’s book “Becoming Conversant With the Emergent Church” for a more thorough analysis of the movement. There is also a very helpful summary on the Nine Marks Website I recommend everyone read.

The Emergent Church (Part 5)

This is an interview with one of the leading Emergent Church spokesmen today, Doug Pagitt. It will give you a feel for Emergent Church thinking. This is the first part of a longer interview, however it is enough to see what is important to the Emergent Church- and it isn't biblical truth.

I've been reading quite a bit from McLaren, Jones, and Pagitt over the last couple of days and am pretty comfortable labeling them theological liberals. They are a younger brand than the mainline liberalism which has been marked by declining churches for a few decades now, but their basic belief in a social gospel (salvation is freedom from various human oppressions) and a denial of the Bible's clear authority and application outs them as liberals. The Emergent Church is fond of quoting the bible when it helps their social cause or their criticism of the evangelical church, but having them nail down a specific meaning intended by God for people of all time is next to impossible for them to articulate. Listen to Pagitt's lack of an answer regarding the afterlife.

I want to be careful not to paint the "Emergent Church" with one broad stroke of a brush, however, this interview with Doug Pagitt is definitely typical of others in this new movement of theological liberalism.

My next post will provide a basic overview and summary of the "Emergent Church", part of the Emerging Church movement.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Emergent Church (Part 4)

O.K., now I'm going to focus on the "Emergent Church" strand of the overall Emerging Church.

The two men speaking in this video are Tony Jones and Doug Pagit. Along with Brian McLaren, they are key figures in this movement.

What you will hear is essentially a social gospel.

It is very difficult to find any agreed upon tenets of the Emergent Church. The belief system is purposely nebulous. I have found a few reocurring themes:

Emergent churches emphasize highly creative approaches to worship and spiritual reflection. This can involve everything from the use of contemporary music and films through to a sort of liturgy or other more ancient customs (although usually redefined for modern use).

Emergent churches champion A flexible approach to theology whereby individual differences in belief and morality are generally accepted. This is where it gets very hairy. I will post an example of this in a upcoming post where Doug Pagit (from this video, pastor of "Solomon's Porch" basically refuses to answer what the fate of a Budhist is).

Emergent churches speak of a more holistic approach to the role of the church in society. This can mean anything from greater emphasis on fellowship in the structure of the group to a higher degree of emphasis on social action, community building or Christian outreach. This is where it is difficult to discern the place of social activism in the Emergent Church, it seems to be the main purpose- more than the acknowledgement of sin and the need of a Savior.

Most troubling to me, Emergent churches foster the desire to reanalyse the Bible against the context into which it was written. Again, this will be illustrated in my next post about the Emergent Church.

So far, my analysis reveals the Emergent Church to be old school liberalism re-packaged for the post-modern world. Mark Driscoll's assessment in my prior post seems to be right on concerning the "Emergent" strain of the "Emerging Church".

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Liturgical worship is coming back "in"

Historic Christian liturgical worship is much like my Dad's old pinstripe suit, it always comes back "in" eventually.

Here's a very interesting article that Brian referred me to. At Redeemer we have enjoyed an influx of "twenty-somethings" recently. Many of these younger adults echo the basic sentiment of this article. Check it out here:

The Emergent Church (part 3) Emerging vs. Emergent distinction

Sorry about my mixing of terms, I'm still figuring this out myself. In this clip Mark Driscoll gives helpful explanation of the terms. An "Emergent Church" (as represented by the previous clips with Brian McLaren) is not the same as an "Emerging Church" (represented by Mark Driscoll here, though he subdivides this group three ways).

In future posts I will focus first on the "Emergent"McLaren strain, then separately focus on the "Emerging" strain.

Sorry for interchanging terms. They do not mean the same thing.

Friday, January 18, 2008

NHL Goal of the Year

This goal by Rick Nash will be replayed for years to come, and for good reason.

New Element Discovered- Governmentium

Props to Greg for sending this to me. Pretty funny.

Research has led to the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.
These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second to take from four days to four years to complete.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2- 6 years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.
When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Emergent Church (Part 2)

Here is Brian McLaren, the key representative of the "Emerging Church" movement. He has two books published- "A Generous Orthodoxy" and the book he speaks of in this video clip, "Everything Must Change". I will try to show the basic tenets of the Emerging Church in future posts, something difficult to do as the movement is purposefully elusive.

I am showing this so that you might begin to grasp the "feel" of the Emergent Church movement. I'll live critical analysis to you for now.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

American Idol begins tonight

I'm not a fan of T.V. as any regular reader knows. Other than sports, Sponge Bob (I haven't watched an entire episode-we can't get this on our basic cable package, however my parents and children howl over it when at their house), and American Idol, I can't think of anything redeeming that is currently on.

Well, tonight and tomorrow is the American Idol premiere (7pm Central/Fox). I'll do my best to catch some of it, then the AI site and Youtube will be my main way to stay up with the AI happenings as the season unfolds.

For those of you who may be confused regarding my affinity toward this piece of American pop culture- I love to remain an enigma all wrapped up in a riddle. If American Idol would have been around when I was in the thick of my rapping prowess, who knows? My career path could have been much different!

The Emergent Church (Part 1)

Yesterday several of us PCA pastors met for prayer at one of the other PCA churches in the KC area. We got to talking about the "Emerging" or "Emergent" Church phenomena that is currently happening.

I recommend D.A. Carson's book, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, for a solid understanding of what is happening in this movement that predominantly attracts twenty-somethings right now.

Over the next couple of weeks I will provide various posts that give explanation of this movement, of course, with commentary.

This first video is an introduction for you to get a feel for what an "Emergent Church" is.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Choose a Candidate

Rick and the Woodster alerted me to a good link that matches you with your candidate by taking a survey. There are many such surveys out there, but the questions on this one seem (to me) to be more well-rounded than others I have taken.
Take the survey yourself, then report your top three candidates in the comments to this post. Don't post a long commentary, just your matches.

My top three, according to the survey, were:

1. Fred Thompson

2. John McCain

3. Duncan Hunter

I find these results interesting. I am not a registered Republican, but it does seem I line up with Republican candidates in this election. I share almost no similar views with any of the Democratic candidates. I think Obama and I agree on line item vetoes, that's about it. Still, of the three guys I basically line up with, I have serious doubts any could win. I was initially excited about Fred Thompson's candidacy, but he just doesn't seem to want it. McCain is the most electable of my apparent matches, but he feels like a Bob Dole-type candidate who will look very old if Obama is the democratic nominee (which I think he will be). If Hillary wins the Dem nomination, McCain has a chance. I think Huckabee and Romney are the most electable Republicans in light of their more populous messages, which I don't like.

This is tough. I should probably be supporting John McCain.

Inexplicably interesting words II

Like my first post with the same name, I am not claiming this post to be very significant or even worth reading, so feel free to stop reading and "click on" somewhere else. You'll never get back the 15-25 seconds it takes you to read and think about this.

There are several English words that I find intriguing . I always enjoy seeing how, when, and why they are used. Here are a few of those:

Exacerbate: to make more violent, bitter, or severe. To embitter the feelings of (a person); irritate; exasperate. Intensify, inflame, worsen.

Stymie: To thwart; stump. An obstacle or obstruction. A situation in golf in which an opponent's ball obstructs the line of play of one's own ball on the putting green.

Mogul: A powerful business leader or a bump on a ski slope.

Legalese: The specialized vocabulary of the legal profession, especially when considered to be complex or abstruse. The jargon of attorneys, which often seems redundant or unclear to the layperson.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

St. Peter's must need a face lift

I was Roman Catholic for my upbringing. I mean no disrespect to my former priests and well-meaning teachers. There are many people I love who are still members of the Roman Catholic Church. I never take joy in calling out the error I witness in the RC Church, it constantly grieves me, but it has to be done.

The Roman Catholic Pontiff, Benedict XVI, has resorted to the scam of issuing "indulgences" again. The Roman Catholic church teaches that indulgences can reduce time in purgatory or grant a pardon all together. Purgatory, according to extra-biblical Roman Catholic teaching, is a kind of spiritual waiting room - for people who do not go directly to heaven or hell after death - to purify souls of residual sin before they enter heaven. Such a doctrine finds no backing in Scripture and the extra biblical sources that appear to promote such an idea are spurious at best. The concept of "residual sin" and purgatory runs directly opposite of the Bible's teaching concerning Christ's atonement and the complete satisfaction of God's justice and wrath by the death of Christ. The entire book of Hebrews serves as an argument against the concept of residual sin, not to mention a polemic against the idea of an ongoing mediatorial priesthood. Seriously, the biblical doctrines of sin, Christ, redemption, etc., all strike down the hideous concept of an indulgence. You will recall Luther's Sixteenth Century protest against the sale of indulgences to raise funds for the building of St. Peter's Basilica. Many will cite John Tetzel's indulgence sale campaign as the key tipping point for Luther's nailing of the 95 theses on the castle door at Wittenberg and the beginning of the Reformation. The bulk of Luther's protests were aimed at indulgences and papal authority.

For years, while not renouncing the shameful practice, the Roman Catholic Church has not outwardly promoted the issuing of indulgences. The Reformation was the impetus to stop the sale of indulgences, but it did not stop the Pope from granting them for whatever reason he wanted.

Well, apparently, Pope Benedict XVI is back at it. Technically he is not selling indulgences, instead he has authorised special indulgences to mark the 150th anniversary of the Virgin Mary's reputed appearance at Lourdes. At Lourdes, France, the Virgin Mary supposedly appeared to a young girl named Bernadette on eighteen separate occasions in a small rock grotto beginning in the year 1858. There were no other witnesses. A miraculous freshwater spring, said to have healing powers, began flowing at the grotto. Catholics visiting the site within a year of December 8 will be able to receive an indulgence.

Here's some quickie protests against the Pope's actions- for the sake of time, let's just leave out the foundational protest concerning the complete unbiblical nature of the Papal office itself:

1. No man has the authority to forgive sins.

2. There is no such place as purgatory.

3. Mary should not continue to be called "The Virgin", she had children after Jesus. Enough said.

4. Whatever or whoever appeared at Lourdes, I don't think it was Mary. Even if it was, so what?

5. There should be no hint of Mary being able to grant some kind of merit or provide forgiveness for sins. This is the work of Christ alone.

6. If Pope Benedict has the ability to grant such an indulgence, why does he not do more? What about Catholics who visit Israel, where Jesus trod? What about Catholics who visit Rome? Why is he so stingy with the forgiveness of sins if it's just a matter of a person earning forgiveness by visiting some place he says they should visit.

7. Call me a cynic, but I wonder if there is a cost to visit the Lourdes site? I'm guessing there is. Does the Vatican need an addition? Does St. Peter's need a face lift? I'm curious.

8. The whole concept of indulgences is a gross offense against the perfect, sufficient, finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ- the one, true Head of the Church.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Value of the Prophets for the Church today

I am preaching through Hosea. It can be challenging when laboring to faithfully and accurately apply the message of the Prophets to God's people today. On one hand I do not wish to commit the error of the dispensationalist who insists the message was unique to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament and not to the "Church" today as such. On the other hand, while I believe Israel to be the Church in the Old Testament, it was in the form of a theocratic nation, not the trans-national (the term "multiethnic" usually draws fire) organism it is today. Simply put, the Church is among the nations now rather than being a nation as such. All too often I hear well-meaning people try to apply God's message to the prophets as the message of God to America. The message of Scripture is to the Church. The message of the prophets, in it's general sense, is to be applied to the Church. As the Church is transformed by the message of God's Word, by His Grace, she will necessarily impact the nation she is part of, but the message is in fact for the sanctification of the Church first. In light of these considerations, rightly handling the OT prophets can be a hard task for the preacher. This is also a complex, never-ending discussion among bible interpreters.

Anyways, I have found the prayer of John Calvin concerning the message of Hosea and it's application to the post-resurrection Church very helpful indeed.

Grant, Almighty God, that since we are at this day as guilty before thee as the Israelites of old were, who were so rebellious against thy Prophets, and that as thou hast often tried sweetly to allure us to thyself without any success, and as we have not hitherto ceased, by our continual obstinacy, to provoke thy wrath, - O grant, that being moved at least by the warnings thou givest us, we may prostrate ourselves before thy face, and not wait until thou puttest forth thy hand to destroy us, but, on the contrary, strive to anticipate thy judgment; and that being at the same time surely convinced that thou art ready to be reconciled to us in Christ, we may flee to Him as our Mediator; and that relying on his intercession, we may not doubt but that thou art ready to give us pardon, until having at length put away all sins, we come to that blessed state of glory which has been obtained for us by the blood of thy Son. Amen.

Friday, January 11, 2008

No Goal, No Matter?

On Wednesday nights at Redeemer there is soccer for those who wish to get out and kick the ball around. The number of guys coming out has grown consistently for the last year, it's been great. We have all sorts of nationalities represented- Americans, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Chinese, Venezuelans, Australians, Tunisians, and even an occasional Texan. A veritable melting pot of soccer frivolity. From that group of guys we formed a team to play in a local indoor league on Thursday nights. You'll note our logo on the right bar, our team name is RPC United.

We had our first game last night and lost 8-4. Should have been 8-5...but I'll get to that.

I've always struggled to handle losing well. I have learned to maintain a reasonably controlled exterior when losing, especially with "Rev." in front of my name, but I still churn inside. The Lord has brought me a long way in this area and I usually don't act like a complete jerk when I lose, but I definitely get fired up dwelling on it very long. It's nothing against the other team or anything like that, I'm just ridiculously competitive.

Now, on to last night's game. We started out a bit flat-footed with this being our first game ever on this new turf and as an organized team. The other team was pretty skilled and while younger chronologically, more experienced on the indoor turf. They took it to us early and scored a couple weak goals we shouldn't have given up. Anyways, we were behind all night. We settled down and played them tough the rest of the game.

There was one instance that almost brought out the old man in me. The newly ordained (and also "Rev.") Brian Hough moved the ball up the field, somehow the ball squirted back to me and I took a rip at it. The shot went high, hit the wall and came back to me. I then ripped a left-footed shot high at the goalies hands, but he didn't handle it and it bounced down on the other side of the goal line and back in to his hands. The ball was clearly over the line, we knew it and so did the other team. Still, the ref was hanging at half and totally missed the play. He said "NO GOAL" and the play had to continue as if I hadn't just scored despite both teams walking back to line up for the kick-off that happens after a goal is scored.

I was not happy. Neither was Rev. Hough. Neither was Rev. Currey (on the bench at the time). It was a weird feeling of anger, disgust, and dismay I hadn't had since my competitive playing days. I wanted to really yell at someone, but dang....I can't do that, being the Revenator and all. Then, to make matters worse, I asked one of their players to just tell the ref the truth, they knew it went in, they saw it too. Instead, not satisfied with their 4-1 lead at the time, they looked all sheepish and wouldn't tell the truth to the referee! For crying out loud! It's a Thursday night fat old man league! Come on guys, just tell the truth already!

Wait a minute! What did I just say? I need to take my own advice and chill. It was a great time with the guys of RPC United. That's enough, goal or not. No goal, no matter? Right?

I do hope we destroy that team if we get to play them again.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Goose Gets His Due

With all slanted focus on the Yanks in the recent Mitchell report and all the hatin' focused upon my Bombers, it's good to see the Goose get his due being elected to the Hall of Fame.

I was around 7 years old when I started watching the Yanks. It just so happened to be the year they beat a certain evil team in the 1978 World Series. The man who got the final out? Rich "Goose" Gossage. I think Mariano Rivera will rightly go down as the greatest Yankee closer ever, if not the greatest in all of MLB history, however, the Goose was the most intimidating and electrifying. He was one of the best pure closers ever, and not just one inning to close, try 2 or 3 some times. Also, he sported a sweet moustache!

Congrats to Goose on this day when he has been elected to MLB's highest honor.

Anyone know how many votes McGwire got? Oh yeah...23.5% ouch!

Governed by Elders

This past Lord's Day night, the elders laid hands on Brian Hough (above) to ordain him as an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ and to install him as assistant pastor at Redeemer. It was a blessed service with guest preacher, and new covenantal sith underling, Darth Jay Bennett (long story) all the way from Texas ably opening the Word to us. I had the privilege and pleasure of moderating the proceedings. As I prepared for the service by reading and organizing the explanations and vows once again, I was grateful for our form of government, which, in my opinion, is the most biblical form of church government there is.

The late Greg Bahnsen provided a good outline demonstrating the biblical basis for the Presbyterian governance we follow:

Christ directs his church through the Scriptures, His own self-revelation and authoritative guidance. Let me offer here a brief summary of the biblical material which I believe is relevant to determining how Christ would have His church governed. The Bible is not silent on this matter.

1. There is no distinction between “elders” and “bishops” (Titus 1:5-7; Acts 20:17,28); these represent the same office and order.

2. Each congregation and center of leadership is to have a plurality of elders (Acts 14:23; 20:17; Phil. 1:1), not one-man rule.

3. These elders have oversight of the church (Acts 20:28; I Pet. 5:2-3) and are thus responsible to rule the congregation (I Tim. 3:5; 5:17; I Thes. 5:12; Heb. 13:7, 17, 24).

4. They judge among the brothers (cf. I Cor. 6:5) and, in contrast to all the members, they do the rebuking (I Tim. 5:20). Christ calls them to use the “keys of the kingdom” to bind and loose (Matt.16: 19; 18: 18; John 20: 23)—these keys being the preaching of the gospel (I John I :3), administering of the sacraments (Matt. 28:19-20; I Cor. 11: 23ff.), and the exercise of discipline (Matt. 18:17; I Cor. 5:1-5).

5. The elders are assisted in their ministry by “deacons” who give attention to the ministry of mercy (Phil. 1:1; Acts 6:1-6; cf. I Tim. 3:8-13).

6. The office-bearers in the church are nominated and elected by the members of the congregation (e.g. Acts 6:5-6), but must also be examined, confirmed and ordained by the present board of elders (Acts 6:6; 13: 1-3; I Tim. 4: 14).

7. Members of the church have the right to appeal disputed matters in the congregation to their elders for resolution, and if the dispute is with those local elders, to appeal to the regional governing body (the presbytery) or, beyond that, to the whole general assembly (Acts 15). The decisions of the wider governing bodies are authoritative in all the local congregations (Acts 15:22-23, 28, 30; 16:1-5).

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

REEPICHEEP is one year old today

A year ago today I entered the blogosphere by launching "REEPICHEEP". Since then I have blogged 243 posts. Thanks for reading! I've enjoyed blogging far more than I thought I would.

I decided to name the blog after my favorite character in fiction. C.S. Lewis invented the warrior mouse in Prince Caspian. I'm looking forward to the movie version of Reep coming this Summer. Reepicheep figures most prominently in "Voyage of the Dawn Treader", where he accompanies Prince Caspian on his voyage in the hope of finding Aslan's Country at the end of the world. During the journey, Reepicheep teaches Eustace Scrubb about honour, courage, and loyalty, despite Scrubb's early mistreatment of him. While not stated explicitly, it seems clear enough that Reepicheep does in fact sail off to Aslan's Country at the end of Dawn Treader. Reep does make an appearance again in "The Last Battle"where he greets Narnians at the Emperor's Gate (heaven).

I like Reepicheep because his life was not his own. He was fiercely loyal to Prince Caspian, but ultimately to Alsan, the King of Kings. This attitude of loyalty must be my attitude toward the Church, and ultimately, the King and Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ. Reepicheep is one of my favorite characters in all of literature because of his loyalty to the King.

Despite his lack of size, ability, and power, he zealously guards the honor of the King. He sees his honor as being united to the King. He sees his life only in relationship to the King. Reepicheep was dead to himself and alive to the King and service to him. This kind of loyalty is my desire toward Christ, my King. This is what I want for myself and God's people. The words of Paul pierce me-

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. - Colossians 3:1-3

Reepicheep sees his life only in relationship to the King. Reepicheep was dead to himself and alive to the King and service to him. I want to serve King Jesus with the loyalty of Reepicheep.

Monday, January 7, 2008

New Ben Stein movie: EXPELLED

Props to Malcolm for alerting me to this trailer.

Ben Stein has produced a movie that everyone should see.

Right now, I believe Roger

If you are interested in the current Major League Baseball furor over the George Mitchell Report, you will want to watch the 60 Minutes interview with Roger Clemens.

Clemens vehemently denies using steroids or human growth hormone of any kind. Of all the accused so far, no one has come out swinging like Clemens. During the interview he says he might be willing to take a lie detector test (which I think he'd be nuts to do, I don't think those things are reliable). Watching the interview swayed me back to the Rocket's corner, for now.

Roger Clemens isn't a dummy, but he's not a calculated lawyer either. His raw reaction to this is very believable. He put himself at significant legal risk by such a clear denial, something Mark "I'm not here to talk about the past" McGwire and Barry "I thought it was flaxseed oil" Bonds have not been willing to do. Listening to the interview gives the impression this is genuine guy who's just plain ticked off that such accusations have been made.

To follow up this interview, Clemens filed suit this morning against Brian McNamee, the only one to claim knowledge of Clemens' alleged steroid use. Filing suit is a powerful statement, again, not one of the other probable users have taken such a dramatic, costly step.

Finally, and unfortunately (I think the government needs to stay out of this), Congress has now "invited" Clemens and McNamee (and some others) to testify before them concerning the steroids problem in MLB. I don't know if Clemens will comply with this, but the way he came out firing on the 60 Minutes interview, I wouldn't be surprised. The McNamee lawsuit might limit what he can say before Congress right now.

For now, I support Roger Clemens denial and look forward to seeing this unfold. Roger has plenty of money to spend to preserve his name, so it should be interesting. If the accusation proves to be false, I think it's a pretty big travesty for a guy who had one of the most amazing careers in the history of baseball. Furthermore, it will cause me deeper suspicion about the motivation of George "BoSox Director" Mitchell in deciding to include the Clemens "evidence". It seems odd that only one person will testify that Clemens used, yet Mitchell spent 3-4 pages giving that testimony. Most of the other accused players in the Mitchell report had multiple testimonies of using, if not cancelled checks to prove their guilt. Seems fishy to me.

Go get'em Rocket!

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Bible's Great Commission- 1990

One of the blessings of working with the guy you grew up with is all the shared memories. Virtually every week Nathan and I remind each other of some great or goofy memory and have a good laugh.
Spoiler Alert: (this may forever change your view of me...I'm O.K. with that..but are you?)

One such memory is a rap group named "Brimestone" Nathan and I were part of in our last year of high school and first couple of years of college. Thankfully none of us kept any recordings of our concerts and thus nothing can be held against us....until now.

Our first year at Moody Bible Institute the president of the Moody Student Mission Fellowship (called SMF), Jeff Samuelson, was on our floor and he heard us rap. He was also in charge of leading an all-school chapel every month, known as "SMF Chapel". He asked us if we'd be willing to do a missions rap for chapel, but we'd have to tone it down a bit as Moody was pretty conservative back then. We were a bit hesitant and concerned school administration wouldn't be too keen on us rapping in the sacred Torrey-Gray Auditorium. What would all the stuffy, fundy, donors think if they heard some guys from NY were rapping in the school that D.L. Moody founded? For most chapel services musical numbers had to be approved by the music department. Student-led chapel services, like SMF Chapel, had a bit more leeway as the final approval was done by the student president of SMF. This is how we got away with rapping at Moody chapel in 1990.

I had to hurry and write a "missions" rap to music we knew. I finished the words with Handel-like speed (but none of the profundity) in a week or less, we ran it by Jeff, then began practicing how we would do it in chapel. I am confident that Moody chapel had never seen anything like we had done previously. I know in more recent years they have the worship band thing going, but "back in the day" there was no such animal as drums, beat box, electric guitars in chapel. Definitely no dancing prior to this event. I won't kid you, we were nervous about what kind of reception we'd get, but Jeff kept urging us on.

The morning came, it was Spring of 1990. Keep in mind, we were 18 years old. The group was made up of myself as the lead rapper and three fellow pastoral majors as the back up dancers, this included Nathan Currey (our associate pastor at Redeemer), Troy Gentz (currently lead pastor of Freshwater Community Church in Michigan), and Scott Friesen (currently senior pastor of Berean Bible Church in Nebraska). Instead of wearing our rap garb, we took the stage dressed in jackets and ties (picture above is from the actual event in 1990), acting as though we would do a gospel quartet song- something pretty common for a Moody Chapel. Scott Friesen was to introduce us as the "Culby 17 Quartet" (Culby is for Culbertson Hall, our dorm, the 17th floor) and tell the audience we would sing a song for them. I'll let you listen to the track to hear how it went for yourself. Unfortunately, you can't see the stellar dance moves of Nathan, Scott, and Troy, but you can tell they are regular M.C. Hammer's based on the elated audience response. Remember, this was a first for Moody Chapel, no one saw it coming.

At 18 I was still a developing Calvinist and the lyrics are not profound, but I can assure you our passion for world missions was real and has only grown. I post this now for two reasons: First, Redeemer's second annual World Missions conference is at the end of this month, this ought to prime the pump for our people. Second, Brian Hough now has a copy of this track and it's only a matter of time before he releases it to the world. I wanted to release it on my own terms rather than be held hostage by our youth pastor!

Thursday, January 3, 2008


Roger gave me the heads up on this recent interview with Joel Osteen. It goes hand in hand with my previous post.

One has only to do a quick web search to find out what Mormonism teaches- apparently Osteen didn't want to get "hung up" with such an effort to know what might attack his flock (apparently the biggest in the country).

In a nutshell, The reason Mormonism is not Christian is because it denies one or more of the essential doctrines of biblical Christianity. Of the generally agreed upon "essential" doctrines (that there is only one God, Jesus is God in flesh, salvation is by grace through faith, and Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead physically), Mormonism denies three of these: how many gods there are, the person of Jesus, and His work of salvation.

We pastors can't be up on every aberrant teaching floating around, but not knowing the difference between Mormonism and Christianity just isn't acceptable. The sheep for whom Christ died deserve better from their pastors.

Let's not get taken captive

O.K., I'm a bit cranky as I sit down to write this. I was on the elliptical, trying to burn off my Christmas candy fat and get back on track, while watching some daytime T.V. Do you realize how much garbage is on during the day? Dear saints of God- turn off the T.V. Other than some selected sporting events, Sponge Bob, and American Idol- it's a cesspool of empty deceit! What a time-sucking, mind-warping, life-waster this miserable thing is.

While flipping through, ironically and in a related way, I saw evidence of the anemic state of Christian thinking. I just watched an interview with some well-meaning Christians where they were unable to see the harm in having their horoscopes read. Who knows how many fragile Christians gain confidence in their error by seeing others, who profess like faith, add horoscope reading to their tools of discernment? Next, I flipped to some political discussion where a professing believer was arguing there is no significant difference between Romney's Mormonism and Huckabee's Christianity. Again, instead of picking up their bible or searching for an accurate comparison between the two very different religions, a lazy person might just have their own ignorance bolstered by such an erroneous assertion. I think more Christian's have their minds warped by the barrage of human philosophy and wrong-headedness that permeates television than we might think.

Consider this rough analogy- one of the biggest fears for a parent is to have their child abducted. You have probably seen the various video clips that have circulated where we witness children being kidnapped by strangers in department stores, malls, and parking lots. More recently we have witnessed the luring and harming of children by predators on the Internet. So, what do we do from the time our child is small? We warn them not to talk with strangers, to not go somewhere with someone they do not know. I tell my young ones, "no matter how nice a person might act toward you, if you do not know them, do not get too close and by all means, don’t let them grab you or get you in to their car". Scary stuff to think about isn’t it? Yet, regularly, children are stolen right from under their parents’ noses. In a rare piece of valuable television, I saw a reporter disguise himself as a stranger-type and visit parks where kids were playing with their parents conversing relatively close by. Still, even with the parents nearby, he was able to talk children in to coming with him on several occasions. When the children were quizzed after they went with the stranger, they seemed to know they should not have gone-but did so anyways, kind of in a trance. It’s so easy, in just a moment, to be taken captive.

Keeping children safe from such a horrendous thing is a sober subject. No less sobering in our need to “see to it that no one take you captive by philosophy and empty deceit” as the Apostle warns in one of my favorite portions of the New Testament, which I preached not to long ago:

Colossians 2:8-15 [8] See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. [9] For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, [10] and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. [11] In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, [12] having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. [13] And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, [14] by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. [15] He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Just as children are kidnapped every day in this country, so also many followers of Jesus Christ are kidnapped by philosophy and empty deceit, steered away from Christ as it were, because they were not realistic and cautious about all the ideas, beliefs, and values circulating out there- especially on the television. I'm no prude, as you all know, but I'm struggling to find much redeeming on daytime television and life is too short and valuable to waste on the elemental spirits of the world. Since I can never get back that 60 minutes, I'm thankful I at least had a good workout.

Rant over.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Great Hockey Commercial

During the Winter Classic outdoor hockey game in Buffalo today, NBC showed this hilarious commercial with Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller.

Only one game worth watching today

I realize New Year's Day is the customary day to sit on the couch and watch college bowl games. For me, I usually have had a sermon "due" the following Sunday, so sitting home all day, any day, to watch games hasn't been an option in my recent life. Still, I try to take in one game on January 1. Hmmmm...which game should I watch ?


In less than 30 minutes I will turn on my T.V. to watch the most historic game to be played in a U.S. football stadium during my life time. It's not even a football game. You guessed it, today, for the first time at the professional level (NHL), a hockey game will be played outdoors in an 80,000 seat stadium. To make matters more glorious, the game will be played in my home city of Buffalo, New York with my beloved Sabres hosting the always-exciting Pittsburgh Penguins.

Why on earth would someone opt for a slow, stop and go, football game, when they could watch the manliest of all sports- true modern day gladiators- be played in front of 80,000 fans with snow careening down and the play ripping back and forth on the ice? Man, this is the way hockey was meant to be played! There's nothing like the speed, hitting, and scoring of hockey.

For the record, if the hockey game wasn't on, I'd probably choose to watch Mizzou play Arkansas. Since the hockey game is on, watching a football game today would be a slow-motion let down.

Let's go BUFFALO!
Postgame update: Pittsburgh won in a shoot out, which means Buffalo still salvages a point for their efforts. Great, fast-paced, heavy-hitting, snow-blowing, game. It brought all us pond-playing players from the NE back to our childhood. What an awesome event.