Sunday, March 30, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
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.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Friday, March 21, 2008
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...
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
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
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, I...me, 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
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.
Monday, March 17, 2008
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
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-
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.
 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.
 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:
 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!
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
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
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
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Friday, March 7, 2008
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
“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.