Sunday, March 30, 2008

My younger brother in the Faith, Andrew

Above are two pictures of my dear friend and younger brother in the Faith Andrew who went home to be with Christ suddenly and unexpectedly last week. The top one is a recent picture of him. The bottom one was taken back when he was a sophomore in High School and was helping with our VBS program. It was 10 years ago. Back then Redeemer was pretty small and Andrew was basically the main guy in our youth group, I was the youth pastor. He was joy to have around, the little kids especially loved him because he was never too cool to hang with them. He's the guy on my shoulders messing around as usual. I can't remember for sure, but I'm betting I dumped him on his rearend right after the picture was least I should have! He was a goof and a blast.

I sincerely thank you who have been praying for Andrew's family, his fiance, friends, and me. Friday night was the visitation at the church followed by a funeral service Saturday morning. I cannot explain the tangible sense of God's Holy Spirit calming me when it was time to preach (his parents explicitly asked me to preach a sermon, not just a ten-minute "funeral meditation") as I have been feeling a total lack of control over my emotions since Tuesday. We committed Andrew's earthly body to the ground Saturday afternoon. For the first time in ten years the original members of Redeemer's youth group gathered together, I just wish it could have been for a different occasion.

Andrew's parents are strong in the Lord, as is his extended family. His mother, while she doesn't probably know it, has been a musical mentor of my wife since we arrived at Redeemer. Shari respects her deeply. Andrew's uncle is one of elders of Redeemer and I consider him to be one of my best friends. The family is strong, but understandably burdened by questions that will not likely ever have an earthly answer. Pastorally, I am so very proud of them right now. They are normally very private people, but they have allowed their family and church family open access to them, so they are not mourning alone. They are also not mourning as those without hope. Their confidence is firm upon the the Rock who is Christ and the promises of His Word. Spending time with this dear family has given me renewed confidence in the gospel I have been called to preach. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the real deal, it's not some fluff, Pollyanna, mush. It's about real living and real dying. It's the only thing that gives real purpose and comfort. Period.

To be honest, I am pretty worn down emotionally and physically right now. It has been the hardest week of my life, bar none. This is a kid (I know he was a man when he died, he was 25, but I was his youth pastor) we spent hours with. I'm not depressed, so don't anybody worry about me, I'm just still grieving and feel like I'm on "E". I'm not going to blog about this much for a while. There is still so much to process and despite my normal propensity towards a load of words, I'm not quite able to verbalize what I'm thinking and feeling yet. I do know God's grace is absolutely sufficient, my love for Christ has grown through this. He is everything He has said He is.

Please don't stop praying for Andrew's family, fiance, friends, church family, and me. I suppose eventually I'll be able to write more on this.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Prayer Request

A young man who was dear to our church has died today. It is very unexpected and humanly difficult to understand and cope with.

I would very much appreciate your prayers for his family,friends and our church over these next few days of mourning, but especially the weeks and years to come.

Shari and I came to know him as the first member of the youth group we were called to lead at Redeemer 11 years ago. He was 12 or 13 when we arrived. We loved him very much. He was a very easy person to like.

He struggled in the ways we all struggle, yet when the darkness seemed to creep in, he could not come out of it. He consistently professed faith in Christ and had many who loved him dearly. I am confident of his fellowship with His Savior right now.

He was engaged to be married and was his parents' only child.

Job 1:21

Friday, March 21, 2008

We needed Good Friday

Very simply, I needed Christ's work on the cross. You need Christ's atoning work also. In stating this point this way I am using a relatively positive statement to describe a truly violent and tragic reality. Each of us, outside of Christ’s work for us, are worse than spiritually bankrupt. Before we can fully appreciate Christ’s atoning work we must understand our total inability to please God.

The human explanation for why many people to not believe on Christ is because they believe in themselves. In other words, they do not see themselves as truly in need. They are in the “scale” act. They see God at judgment holding a balancing scales whereby he puts all my good works on one side and all my sins on the other. If the good outweighs the bad, we enter His presence, if not, we might go to hell. The problem is, Scripture doesn’t teach this balancing scale idea whatsoever. In fact, what we see over and over again regarding our condition before God is our total inability. Regarding our “good works”, Isaiah the prophet writes-

Isaiah 64:6 But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.

To use the terminology of Paul- apart from Christ, we are in a state of spiritual death. We are not sick, we are not injured, we are not impaired, we are not handicapped, we are not weak, before Christ saves us, we are dead. Hear the words of J.C. Ryle on this subject-

There are very few errors and false doctrines of which the beginning may not be traced up to unsound views about the corruption of human nature. Wrong views of disease will always bring with them wrong views of remedy. Wrong views of the corruption of human nature will always carry with them wrong views of the grand antidote and cure of the corruption.

Much of the error we witness in the evangelical church today can be traced back to an erroneous view of our corruption as human beings. Scripture is clear however, consider the following:

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—

Ephesians 2:1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins...

We are dead apart from union with Christ. If we were dead before God saved us, it begs a very important question in several forms- Can the dead raise themselves? Can the uninstructable (not sure if this is a word...) teach themselves? Can the bound free themselves? Can the blind give themselves sight or the deaf hearing? Can slaves redeem themselves? Can the naturally sinful change themselves? Certainly not! Job states it-

Job 14:4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one!

This spiritual death which reigns in our bodies apart from Christ renders us as hopeless sinners. Nothing we do pleases God. What was said in Noah’s day can be said of us when we are not “in Christ”-

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

But Tony- isn’t that harsh? Are you saying that before a person trusts Christ, they can do nothing to please God? Yes! That is what God is saying! We underestimate the seriousness of the chasm between our supposed righteousness and God’s righteousness. In fact, we insult God when we think our works gain favor with Him at any time. We have much sin.

Romans 3:10-12 10 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”

We have been created in the image of a perfectly Holy God. In Adam we have become corrupted and vile. For God to accept us into His fellowship, there must be a payment for that corruption. God’s justice demands it. For this to happen, there must be a substitute- not just any substitute- a worthy and qualified substitute.

Several years ago I worked for the parent company of a bank. I did several jobs while working there and the one I disliked the most was working in the credit card and consumer loan division of the company. Inevitably we would all have to take turns calling people who were seriously delinquent in paying their loans off. I remember being on a training call with a collection agent when he called an elderly woman who had defaulted on her $12,000 car loan. She said repeatedly, “I don’t have the money, I don’t have the money.” It broke my heart. The collector persisted, he said, “Ma’am, someone has to have the money, some one must make payment on this” She replied, “I don’t know anyone who has this money and can pay this bill- there is no one.” There is a degree to which our situation is just like the elderly lady. We stand before God owing a great debt. The problem is we have no way to pay it. Nor can we look around at any of our fellow men and find someone who does have the ability to pay it for us. We need someone who can pay the debt for us, but the person must be qualified. Unlike us, they must have the resources to do it.

Our need for Christ’s atoning work is clear when we consider our spiritual condition without Him. Someone must pay God the Father what He is owed. We certainly can’t. There is only One who can pay for our sins. On this Good Friday, acknowledge it is Christ who can save you.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

An important victory for Kansas

While Kansas is a pretty conservative state, we have one of the most brazen butchers in the national abortion industry, "Dr." George Tiller in Wichita. He is an infanticidal maniac, straight up. Check out this video to see a recent interview with Tiller. It's chilling.

A member of our church, Lance Kinzer, is in the Kansas House and personally wrote/sponsored the recent bill that passed by a wide margin. Basically Kinzer's bill shores up the enforcement of existing laws the country's late-term abortion king, George Tiller, is now able to skirt in his never ending mission to kill'em all. The bill also adds some provisions that ensure a woman is not coerced in to abortion. Here's the report from "Medical News Today", there is also a link to the bill itself :

Kansas House Approves Bill That Includes Abortion-Related Provision

The Kansas House on Tuesday voted 84-40 to approve a bill (Link:HB 2736) that includes a number of abortion-related provisions, the AP/Kansas City Star reports. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration (AP/Kansas City Star, 3/18).Under the bill, women seeking abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy would have to be given information about no-cost counseling and no-cost prenatal services. Women would be given the option to see an ultrasound image and to ask the physician about the procedure at least 30 minutes before the abortion is performed. The Kansas State Board of Healing Arts would be required to revoke the medical licenses of physicians who break the law, and the measure would allow a district or county attorney, as well as the attorney general, to prosecute violations. The bill would allow a group of 10 or more Kansans to sue the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and force it to provide information required by law on abortions performed after the 21st week of pregnancy. Lawmakers dropped a provision in the measure that would have required physicians who perform abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy to provide the state with information about the women undergoing the procedure (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 3/13). The bill also would require doctors performing an abortion after the 21st week of pregnancy to give the woman copies of documents that state the reason for the abortion and whether it is required to prevent considerable and irreversible damage to a major bodily function. Under the law, minors seeking abortions would be required to provide identification and proof of state residency, the AP/Lawrence Journal-World reports. The person accompanying the minor also must provide identification, sign a statement about their relationship to the minor and identify the father of the fetus if possible, the AP/Journal-World reports. The bill also outlines the steps a minor must take to obtain a judicial waiver for an abortion. In addition, the measure allows a woman who had an abortion after the 21st week of pregnancy, her husband if he is the father, or her parents if she is a minor, to sue for monetary damages if a physician violates the law, the AP/Journal-World reports (Manning, AP/Lawrence Journal-World, 3/18). The bill also would require clinics that provide abortions to post signs informing women that they cannot be forced into having the procedure, the Wichita Eagle reports. The bill "addresses, in a moderate way, enforcement" of abortion, Kathy Ostrowski, legislative director for the antiabortion group Kansans for Life, said (Koranda, Wichita Eagle, 3/18). "Many times, women don't know the justification for an abortion unless they seek their medical records," Kinzer said. He also said that many women are coerced by parents or others to seek an abortion, adding, "The time to ensure women in the state don't face coercive abortions is now."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

In Christ Alone

Hymnody or music written to aid Christians in corporate worship is one of the more accurate indicators of the church's theological and doctrinal health in a given era. In that light we live in an anemic time.

Most modern "worship" music is exceptionally man-centered (I, I,, me, me), tragically non-Trinitarian, doctrinally trite, based more on what it evokes emotionally than how it stimulates lofty thoughts of God (not that emotions and intellect are mutually exclusive, they're not), and very often is coupled with music that is geared toward a soloist and not helpful for congregational singing. I predict very few of the modern church's songs will make it to the next generation of the church's worship, as a whole we are not living in profound days doctrinally.

Above is a song that I believe stands against most of the modern tide. For this era, "In Christ Alone" is very good. While it suffers from the modern flaw of being written for a soloist first (hence it's a touch "me" heavy...but I'm not dissin'), it is of such quality that it can be sung congregationally as well. We sing it Sunday nights during a more informal time of worship. Maybe someday in morning worship? Better than Fanny Crosby, that's for sure....ha ha!

Most importantly the lyrics are profoundly biblical. There are more "rousing" versions of the song to be found however I picked the above version because it is sung very modestly by the wife of the song's writer, Kristyn Getty (to be fair, Keith Getty co-wrote the song with Stuart Townend). I like this simple version.

I have decided to take a line from the song for my sermon this Easter Sunday. The title of my "Easter" sermon will be "No Guilt in Life, No Fear in Death". These are biblical truths that have inspired this song and my upcoming sermon. Listen to the song while reading the lyrics. I trust it will bless you.

"In Christ Alone" Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend Copyright © 2001 Kingsway Thankyou Music

In Christ alone my hope is found;He is my light, my strength, my song;This cornerstone, this solid ground,Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.What heights of love, what depths of peace,When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!My comforter, my all in all—Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,Fullness of God in helpless babe!This gift of love and righteousness,Scorned by the ones He came to save.Till on that cross as Jesus died,The wrath of God was satisfied;For ev'ry sin on Him was laid—Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,Light of the world by darkness slain; Then bursting forth in glorious day,Up from the grave He rose again!And as He stands in victory,Sin's curse has lost its grip on me;For I am His and He is mine—Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—This is the pow'r of Christ in me;From life's first cry to final breath,Jesus commands my destiny.No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,Can ever pluck me from His hand;Till He returns or calls me home—Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

From the Cradle to the Cross

Galatians 2:20 20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

I feel as though we just finished the Advent season and Holy Week is upon us. Good Friday is in two days and Easter Sunday is coming! Still, with the cold weather and relative close proximity between Advent and Easter this year, I want to see the events of Holy Week, particularly the death of Jesus on the cross, through the lens of the incarnation we just considered during Advent.

If the mystery of the incarnation is overwhelming to me when I contemplate it very long, how must it have been for Mary? For Joseph? If the idea of the perfect Christ coming to bear my sins on the cross, to take the punishment I deserved, is astounding to me, what was it like for Mary and Joseph? I am not sure how much they understood from the ancient prophecies regarding their son, but certainly they knew from the great heavenly messengers who spoke to them, the strange visitors who came to see Jesus, and the unusual interest the King had in the birth of boys in Bethlehem, that something was seriously important about their Son. After all, they understood His supernatural personality just from His conception. For a parent to look upon their little baby and imagine his future suffering would be exceedingly difficult.
For me, as a father of young children, I cannot imagine the future of one of my children to be so agonizing. For the most part my sons are still at the age where they enjoy cuddling and hugging. I make AJ (my oldest) promise he'll never be too cool for daddy to give him hugs. My youngest is five and while still cuddly, he's kind of lost that baby fat cuddliness he had when still a toddler. I do miss that baby stage my boys were all once in. One of the things I enjoyed most about my boys when they were very small was holding their relatively helpless selves and hugging and kissing them all over their little pudgy faces. I also like to sit them on my lap and just look and handle their cute little baby-soft hands and feet. I remember when each of the boys started to figure out how to use their hands, yet still struggled just to pick up an animal cracker. None of their feet or hands bore any scars nor were they calloused or rough in any way. There was a sense of innocence and purity on their little baby bodies that even a few years of boyhood scrapes and scabs have taken away.

As a father, I look upon my little sons and cannot imagine their bodies being torn. I cannot imagine those hands bearing spikes through the wrists. I cannot imagine their little feet with a spike driven through them. I look at their little tummies and chests and cannot bear the thought of a spearhead piercing between their ribs and puncturing their lungs. Yet, at some level, Mary and Joseph must have understood some of these things lay in the future of their beloved Son, who was just a little baby. This week, Friday especially, I'll be contemplating a truly profound subject- the atoning work of Christ. I've never done it before, but this year I'm really thinking about the whole of Jesus' life leading to those hours on the cross. It's another angle of an amazing story to consider.
Jesus was someone's earthly son, and He was torn to save his parents and us.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Could the media be more obvious?

Obviously the U.S. media wants Obama to be president.

"News" channels like CNN are doing whatever they can to give Obama a free pass for his close association with racist, anti-America pastor Jeremiah Wright. No one is actually unbiased or purely objective, but journalists are supposed to at least feign like they are.

I'd love to play poker with Anderson Cooper, he has no problem showing his hand. Good grief. Can he be journalistically serious when he says Obama's pastor's comments have "nothing to do with the issues the country is facing" or analyzing Obama's judgment in associating with Wright is "Completely off track".

Racism, Race relations, class-strife, and anti-American sentiment are definitely issues this country is dealing with.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Will the real Obama please stand up?

These are clips of Barack Obama's pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Keep in mind Obama was not just a casual member. In a recent Fox News interview, he referred to Wright as an "uncle" figure who showed him Christ. Obama has been friends with Wright for 20 years and an official member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992. Wright performed the Obama's wedding and baptized their two children. In that light, watch these clips:

I have researched Rev. Wright's theology. He is heavily in to Black Liberation Theology which has no vital link to actual biblical Christianity. Liberation Theology of any stripe uses Christ as a figure of liberation from social oppression and bids church members to rise up and against the oppression and oppressors (in Black Liberation theology that would be the rich white oppressors), etc. etc. The personal need for the forgiveness of sins and Christ's ability to save our souls for eternity are either in the background to social liberation now or absent all together. There is also a strong "African-Centeredness" notion in Wright's teaching. It's a sort of racism no matter how Rev. Wright wants to paint it. So, what would Barack Obama's response be? In a written statement Obama said-

“Let me say at the outset that I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy,” he said in the statement. “I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it’s on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.”

In an interview about Wright's sermon statements, Obama said-

"None of these statements were ones I had heard myself personally in the pews,” Obama told FOX News. “Once I saw them I had to be very clear about the fact that these are not statements that I am comfortable with. I reject them completely they are not ones that reflect my values or my ideals.”

Now, which is worse- a person who commits himself to such a church and it's racist teachings for 20 years or a person who "commits" himself and his family to such a church yet doesn't agree with it's core principles?

On one hand we have a principled person, although his principles would be morally offensive and extremely detrimental toward effectively performing the job of President.

On the other hand we have a person who could be quite connected and seemingly committed to a church that offers no ambiguity about it's core positions, yet ends up saying he doesn't agree with particular statements that support those positions. Is he a fake? Such a person seems very unprincipled to me.

Such is one of the major problems I have with Barack Obama. Who is he and what does he really believe? He wants us to believe he doesn't agree with his pastor on the statements in the clips? His pastor is simply espousing Black Liberation Theology (BLT). Is Barack saying he doesn't agree with BLT? If not, he doesn't agree with a MAJOR Tenant of his church. Who would stay 20 years at church that teaches as one of it's main emphases something you do not agree with? Would you stay at a church that doesn't preach the gospel? Black liberation from rich white oppression is Wright's gospel. The statements in the clips are reflective of a core belief of Trinity United Church of Christ and Jeremiah Wright. Does Barack disagree? What in particular does he disagree with? He wasn't very clear in his written statement.

He may reject these particular statements by Wright, however in so doing he is rejecting the theology that drives them. How can a guy stay at such a place for 20 years and expect anyone to believe he is principled?

In the end I am afraid most Americans won't see the significance of this story. This is a nation that elected Bill Clinton....TWICE. Character does matter. As a nation we just don't seem to get it.

A Palm Sunday Meditation

This Lord's Day is commonly designated as "Palm Sunday" in many, if not most, Christian churches. We observe "Holy Week" at Redeemer finding it to be a very edifying period of seasonal reflection on the week of our Lord's passion. Every Sunday is Resurrection Sunday, but annually it is helpful to the brethren when we designate a week to contemplate the obedience of our Savior unto death on the cross and His glorious resurrection.

Matthew's account of the events immediately after Jesus' entry into Jerusalem reads as follows:

Matthew 21:14-16 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. [15] But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant, [16] and they said to him, "Do you hear what these are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, " 'Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise'?"

I would like to take two posts to analyze what Jesus is is quoting in verse 16- "out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise." This comes from Psalm 8. Let's consider our Father's glory (this post) and kindness , as revealed by Psalm 8 and quoted by Jesus on the first "Palm Sunday".

Very simply, in confronting His opposition at the beginning of His “Passion Ministry”, the Lord Jesus refers to a text that gives us no less than the meaning of man’s existence in the cosmos. Psalm 8 bids us to continually study, celebrate, and rest in our Father’s Glory and Kindness.

First, His glory is revealed as the sovereign Creator.

Psalm 8:1 O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.

"O Lord, Our Lord" refers to God as our governor and lord personally, yet more universally he has set his fame above the heavens and established Himself above all creation.

[2] Out of the mouth of babes and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.

Not just that the existence of precious little ones glorifies God, but that He places praise upon their hearts and lips. God doesn't need the powerful eloquence of rhetoricians and grand preachers. Few things accentuate God’s glory more than the ordained praise and simple faith of children. The highly trained and oratorically skilled Pharisees had to chafe under the notion of unruly little kids giving such visible, acceptable praise to Christ.

[3] When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

The exploration of the moon has been both amazing and enlightening. The more recent study of Mars has also been remarkable. Flying through Saturn's rings and close to it's moon is very cool. Still, let's face it- such exploration is small potatoes! To appreciate the enormity of space, think of the oceans on our own planet. Our planet is mostly covered with water and we haven't even begun to explore it! How does space compare to the seemingly inexhaustible oceans? It blows your mind to think of the vastness of it all, and it is the work of His fingers! I have read the Hubble Telescope recorded the birth of a new star 170,000 light years away! That means if you traveled 186,000 miles per second or 6,000,000 MPH- it would take you 170,000 years to get there! That's 102 Quintillion miles away! There is an estimated 10 billion galaxies in the universe- each galaxy contains millions of stars! I know modern scientists like to throw around "billion" and "million", but even if we're talking a fraction of these numbers, it's absolutely mind numbing- the vastness of God’s Created Universe. It's too big for me. Just consider Earth and be blown away by the work of His fingers. Scoop up some soil as the weather starts to warm. In a small shovel full of dirt, there are probably 1000 little organisms, fungi, algae, and protozoa. Look to the sky and see all the birds. Consider how carefully God has made them all. Do you know there is a bird that flies a 10,000 mile round trip from Antarctica in Summer to Asia in winter (an Arctic Tern)! How about the Northern Fulmar which spends its entire life out on the ocean created to drink salty sea water. The thing has a stinkin' desalinization factory in the structural make up of it’s beak- no joke! God is glorious.

In the midst of all this, the Psalmist asks:

[4] what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

Very good question! We are incredibly small! Yet God is mindful (remembers continually) of us and cares (provides for, attends to, has compassion for) for us!

[5] Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

Despite our small size and seeming insignificance on a universal scale, the great glorious God of it all has He has placed man as the crown of creation! What a beautiful, revealing, Psalm that Jesus chooses to quote after he enters Jerusalem. The Psalm proclaims the greatness and glory of our God, yet He is mindful of us. He has created us with incredible worth and great importance as evidenced by Christ's condescension to take on flesh, come to earth, and die for us.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The original American Idol

More than one of you have mentioned "The Gong Show" in various responses to my posts. I agree, that was a precious piece of Americana. It's tough to pick just one great performance from that show. It ran from 1976-1980, right around the same time as Sha-na-na. I have vivid, but not as scarring as Sha-na-na, memories of some pretty ridiculous acts. My two favorite recurring bits were "The Unknown Comic" and the one shown above, "Gene, Gene, the Dancing Machine".

Oh for Television to have such quality again!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What about Ferraro's comments?

By now you have probably heard that Hillary Clinton staff person and former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro said Obama wouldn't be in the current front runner position if he were white.

Obama responded immediately by saying, "Part of what I think Geraldine Ferraro is doing, and I respect the fact that she was a trailblazer, is to participate in the kind of slice and dice politics that’s about race and about gender and about this and that, and that’s what Americans are tired of because they recognize that when we divide ourselves in that way we can’t solve problems.”

Good response by Obama, he's very calculated at such interchanges, no doubt. Still, I think Ferraro is at least partially right. Obama's race is helping his popularity. What's the big difference between John Edwards and Barack Obama? Not much other than their race. Frankly, John Edwards was a more experienced candidate who actually has a legislative track record that has relevance to presidential duties. Obama has been in the Senate two years (based on one speech at the DNC in 2004) and has done nothing but plan his presidential run since.

The fact is, people are hungry for "change". Obama represents change in the minds of many. His being African American only perpetuates the sense of change about him. Come on, let's all admit it- Obama's race is most definitely helping his front runner status. Ferraro is right.

By the way, while I'm on a bit of a politically incorrect tear, as it relates to odd reasons people gain popularity- Does anyone think George Bush becomes the governor of Texas if he wasn't George Bush Sr.'s son? The Presidency? How about Hillary as a NY Senator? A Presidential candidate? Who knows or cares about her if she wasn't married to Bill Clinton? She doesn't have an original political bone in her body. She's only in the position she's in because of who she was married to (I know feminists love that!).

It is what it is.

Cleaning out my closet

Perhaps you have heard of a very common secular psychological practice in counseling called "Talk Therapy". Talk therapy is simply talking about what is bothering you. Talk therapy can be practiced with a friend or loved one, a family member, or a therapist. The "experts" tell us that talk therapy doesn’t have to be difficult. The simple act of discussing your feelings allows you to gain new insight and perspective. Talk therapy can also help to enrich your life by bringing the people that you love closer to you. I would think most Christians could see the pitfalls of such a practice as it would be hard not falling in to sins of the tongue while engaging in Talk Therapy, but nevertheless, I cannot resist, there's something I have to get off my chest concerning a horrific exposure my normally loving and faithful parents were guilty of. Mom and Dad, I only hope the statute of limitations are up for you!

The above clip shows what my dear parents exposed me to for close to 4 years on Saturday or Sunday nights (trying to pinpoint which regular week night we were exposed to this is traumatic in and of itself). What you see is a clip of the Sha-na-na television program that aired from 1977-81. Sha-na-na the group, has existed since 1969, in fact, they still perform today, only with different band members. They are sort of like the Harlem Globetrotters, an institution that goes on despite constantly changing members. The performers you see here are exactly the ones vividly etched in to my memory, no doubt never to be erased due to the impressionability of my young mind between the ages of 6 and 10 when my parents scarred me so. Where's that Men in Black memory-erasing flash thing when you need it?

Each week we would gather as a family and watch the three dudes in the hideously tight, shiny gold pants with the open shirt and greased hair, croon out all sorts of old cheesey 50's song. The fact that I thought "Bowzer" (the bass singing, muscle-shirt wearing, short black pants sporting dude) was cool, tells you how warped watching the show over an extended period of time made me. Mom, Dad, how could you?

O.K., so I've talked this out a bit. I've revealed one of the shaping influences of my formative years to you, hopefully you can understand me better. Isn't that what Talk Therapy is really about? Getting something of my chest and expecting you to deal with it? Phew....I do feel better.

Monday, March 10, 2008

J.I. Packer- Offer your work to God

As you start a new week, I hope this short clip from Packer is an encouragement regarding your daily work.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Huge signing for the Wizards

The quality of Major League Soccer in the U.S. has been steadily growing. For the MLS to come on par with the various soccer leagues of the world, it has needed more international stars. So far the league is made up of mostly American players with a smattering of international talent. Last year, with the introduction of the "designated player" rule (which allows each team to sign a player who is not fully subject to the salary cap), several international star quality players were signed to teams, most notably David Beckham with L.A. More impacting to his team, however, was Mexican forward Blanco signing in Chicago. Juan Pablo Angel in New York was another exciting DP last year in NY. The DP concept is just what the league needs to grow it's fan base.

I have been critical of my Kansas City Wizards for not signing a DP when they knew Eddie Johnson (their top scorer last year) would not be returning. They had considerable cap space available and no designated players. I even wrote an article on one of the local fan blogs that questioned the team's commitment to winning now and actually got a cordial, but defensive response from the team office. The response, however, didn't mention adding any significant players, a key part of my criticism. It seemed like they were in a holding pattern until the new stadium in Kansas City was going to be finished in 2010.

Well, I have to eat a little crow on this one. The Wizards just signed Claudio Lopez of Argentina today! For those who are not familiar with "El Piojo" (the Louse), he has been a contributing member on several elite teams during his career, the most impressive being the Argentinian national team for whom he has played 58 games including two world cups. If you combined all the international game appearances for the entire current KC Wizards roster, I doubt you would come to 30. Lopez is an experienced international scorer and has the potential to be a star in the MLS.

Lopez is definitely on the down side of his career at age 33. He has alot of mileage on the soccer pitch. Still, his experience combined with his unique style of play from the left side, should make him a potent weapon this season and next for the young Wizards. The Wizards also signed a relatively unknown forward from Columbia, Ivan Trujillo, who now stands to benefit greatly from the extra attention teams will have to give Lopez. The value of Lopez is not just the actual goals he will score but his very presence on the field and how it frees up his teammates.
The chief concern about Lopez will be his passion for the game. Will he get excited for games in the U.S. playing in stadiums with less than 10,000 fans? Will his competitive juices be rekindled playing in this new league? Lots of questions for sure. Still, I have to give credit to the Kansas City Wizards for making such an aggressive move. It shows they are committed to winning now rather than settling in to a holding pattern for the next 2-3 years. I would buy season tickets if I could get to all the games. I will definitely be going to as many as I can and I think I know a youth pastor who will go with me. In fact, he owes me the first game as a result of a little bet we made.
Welcome to KC El Piojo!

Friday, March 7, 2008

J.I. Packer on "same sex unions"

J.I. Packer is not just one of the great theologians of the modern era, but of the entire post-Reformation era, in my opinion.

His seminal work, “Knowing God”, is the book that brought me fully to the Reformed faith. Other than the bible, no other book has meant more to my walk with God and love for Christ than Packer’s book. Many books come and go, “Knowing God” is a classic that will continue to withstand the test of time and be cherished by manifold generations to come.

James Innell Packer, born July 22, 1926 in Gloucester, England, is described (by Theopedia) as a conservative evangelical Anglican, author, and theologian in the Calvinist tradition. He currently serves as the Board of Governors' Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is considered widely to be one of the most important evangelical theologians of the late 20th century. He has been called the “doctrinal Solomon” of Christian thinkers. Other than his support of a certain level of ecumenism with Roman Catholics and his commitment to the Episcopalian form of church government, there is little J.I. Packer has written or said that I disagree with. He has been a very wise servant of Christ for his eighty-plus years.

Recently he has come under fire for his outspoken opposition to the Anglican Church’s failure to uphold biblical standards in the area of homosexuality. In fact, Packer has been attending (and occasionally preaching at) a church (St. John’s) that recently voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada because of the several ways in which the larger church has been growing increasingly liberal. In response the Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster, Michael Ingham, sent Packer a letter threatening suspension from ministry. The letter claims that Packer “abandoned the exercise of ministry” after the church voted to separate from the diocese and join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone under the oversight of Anglican Archbishop Gregory Venables.

It certainly would be something if a church that is doing whatever it can to legitimize homosexual practice, even among it’s ministers, would bring an act of discipline against it’s most notable theologian for protesting such a position. Homosexual practice good, you can stay ordained. Protesting homosexual practice bad, you will get defrocked. This shows how far things have fallen in the Anglican fellowship.

The above clip is very recent and shows Packer giving a wise explanation regarding his opposition to homosexual practice and the overall importance of the issue for the Church.

For more rich Packer fare, check out Jay Bennett's current entry here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Able to Keep You

In light of Woody's recent exhortation to bring a positive post after a bunch of negative ones, and in light of the Hebrews 13 benediction I chose for my son's birthday blessing, I am reminded of another wonderful benediction from Scripture:

Jude 24-25 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

I'll put it this way- I remember my then 2 ½ year old son Nicolas feeling and acting secure in my arms as I stood in the middle of the pool. For fun, I began walking slowly toward the deep end, gently chanting, "deeper and deeper and deeper"as the water rose higher and higher on Nico. His face registered increasing degrees of panic, as he held all the more tightly to me, who, of course, easily touched the bottom. Had my little son been able to analyze his situation, he'd have realized there was no reason for his increased anxiety. First, the pool's greatest depth was just under 5 feet, even I am taller than that. He would be safe in my arms at the pools greatest depth. Second, even though his nervousness increased as the water got higher, the water's depth in ANY part of the pool was over his head if he were on his own. If he were not being held, he would have drowned in the shallow end just as fast as in the "deep" end. His safety anywhere in that pool depended on me holding him.

At various points in our lives, all of us feel we're getting "out of our depth" -- problems abound, a job is lost, sickness creeps in, a relationship seems to go awry, someone dies, etc. Our temptation is to panic as we feel we've lost control. Yet, as with my son in the pool, the truth is we've never been in control. We've always been held up by the grace of God, our Father, and that does not change. God is never out of his depth, and therefore we're safe when we're "going deeper" than we've ever been.

“Our great danger is falling and faultiness. Our great safety is Divine ability and faithfulness, by which we are kept from stumbling” –C.H. Spurgeon

In a beautiful and praiseful benediction by Jude, we are commended to the grace of God, with a declaration that it is God alone who can give us the perseverance that is required of us. These closing verses of Jude form a doxology. A doxology is an expression of praise to God. A doxology is a solemn ascription of Glory to the great God of the universe. These words in Jude 24 and 25 comprise one of my favorite benedictions to give the Covenant people of God, at the end of one of our worship services.

In essence, at the end of Jude’s weighty letter, He is calling us to worship our God who is both able to do all He has said He will and who is worthy of all praise. As we focus on worshiping God, His sovereign grace comes more and more in to view. When God’s grace comes in to clearer view- our confidence rises and obedience to God’s Law follows. At the heart of Christian ethics is not a list of rules first- it’s worshiping our able and worthy God. Following the rules relates to worship. Jude understands this dynamic of our growth in the faith so he closes by remind us of our God’s great ability to sustain us and His worthiness of our praise.

Happy Birthday A.J.

Today my firstborn son A.J. turns 9.

Dear A.J.,

May the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.


Monday, March 3, 2008

Absurdity from the fog of sickness

The fog is starting to lift, although you might disagree by the time you finish reading this post. Blogging is therapeutic to me. I don't remember being this sick in a very long time. It makes me very grateful for health. There are several people in our church who suffer from chronic illness. One man has had Lyme's disease for over 10 years and describes feeling like he has the Flu on his best days. I know God promises sufficient grace, but I can't imagine that kind of ongoing suffering.

One good thing has come from the past three days, I have been able to lay around with my baby son Jordan (5 years old) and recover with him. During the day hours and through the lenses of 101.5 and 102.5 degree body temperatures respectively, we watched several movies together, than at night I watched a few more of my favorites, namely The Godfather trilogy.

Two things strike me when comparing George Lucas' "Attack of the Clones" (Star Wars Episode II) with Francis Ford Coppolla's "The Godfather".

First, I was amazed with the utter awfulness of the dialogue in the Clones movie. I am not sure there could be more hideous script-writing. Obviously one does not watch the Star Wars saga with high expectations concerning the dialogue, but it takes work to make the lines as bad as they are in Episode II. I caught myself physically wincing when Anakin says "You are so beautiful" and Padme responds, "Only because I'm so in love". Just plain awful writing.

Second, I was amazed with the absolute brilliance of Copolla and Puzo in putting together the script for The Godfather. Talk about making every line count. Interspersing the heavenly language (italian/Sicilian dialect) throughout the movie was all the better. Just think of all the classic lines that come from that movie.

I just don't get to watch many movies, let alone see them close together like this. I won't argue that comparing these two films is fair, however, There is a chief similarity that makes the bankruptcy of Clones' dialogue more disappointing.

Both movies boasted tremendously talented casts. Clones posessed several accomplished actors and some solid newcomers- Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Jimmy Smits, Hayden Christiansen, Ian McDiarmid and Natalie Portman. Godfather, of course, had the likes of Marlon Brando, James Caan, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, and Al Pacino.

It is a crime for George Lucas to have done what he did to these great actors. Its like handing a stratovarius to a toddler and watching him play it like a guitar. Too bad the actors agreed to read such bad lines. Have they no pride? I am disappointed in Samuel L. Jackson for agreeing to say something like "This party is over" when dropping in on Count Dooku (and why not Lord Poopy-head for a name also?). I wish Jackson would have rebelled and unleased with one of his Scripture-reciting lines from Pulp Fiction instead. Then, to have the great Christopher Lee (of Saruman fame in the Lord of the Rings Movies) be reduced to the kind of drivel he had to speak...oh the shame. If it would have been a cast of no-names maybe I could take it, but it wasn't. Have you seen Hayden Christiansen in "Shattered Glass"? The guy is a very good actor, don't let his role as Anakin unduly taint your impression of him. Yet, in Clones he came off as an unjustifiably unstable person. The leap from the sweet little kid on Tatooine to the enigmatic, seemingly spoiled, "I killed them all", Anakin of Clones was totally artificial.

Wait a I trying to compare a Star Wars film with The Godfather? Good grief. I am very sorry. The words of Solozzo to Tom Hagan about Vito Corleone might suit me in my current semi-conscious state- "Admit it Tom...the Don is slippin'."

Saturday, March 1, 2008


Typical clinical features of influenza include fever (usually 100° F to 103° F in adults and often even higher in children), respiratory symptoms such as cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue, sometimes extreme. Yep, that's Jordan and I right now.

Over a week ago it was my youngest son, then my oldest son, then my wife, then my youngest son again, and now me. Thank God for Nathan, I let him know he'd be preaching and baptizing tomorrow. It'll be the first Sunday I've missed at Redeemer in my 10 years here.

I'm going back to bed.