Wednesday, April 30, 2008

American Idol Update

I haven't written about American Idol much, I don't actually watch it real time, instead I go to Youtube and watch as much of the performances as I want throughout the days after the show. Anyways, here's my take so far:

Overall it has been an uninspiring season compared to seasons past. The final five contestants are all talented, however they are a bit dull to me. There is a sort of equality between the contestants, unlike other seasons when it came down to the last five, however, no one has done anything very remarkable. There seem to be no risk-takers in this bunch. They all appear to be playing it safe.

Last night was "Neil Diamond" night. Again, nothing too impressive. I think the show is wearing the various theme nights and celebrity mentor thing a bit thin, perhaps that's part of the problem at this point in the show's run.

My favorite so far is Brooke White. She's a good singer, writes songs, and plays piano. Who will win? That's a different story. I am thinking my least favorite finalist, David Archuleta, may well win. That would stink.
Update 5/1: Brooke got kicked off last night! Lame.

Profoundly important stuff, right?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Video footage of RPC United

As some of you might know, we have a church soccer team called "RPC United". Before now, no video footage of our games has been available to the public. The following video gives you a glimpse of our soccer prowess as we play a team manned with some of the world's best soccer players in order to win a cooler of Pepsi. Please note our stellar physiques, cat-like quickness, and excellent soccer skills.

Soccer Squirrel

Hat tip: Roger

If you pay me now, someone will have to pay for it later

I'm not an economist nor the son of an economist. I come from a long line of just pay your bills and avoid debt the best you can kind of people.

I understand our national debt to be the total amount of money owed by the government. The federal budget deficit is the yearly amount by which spending exceeds revenue. Add up all the deficits for the past 200+ years and you'll get the current National Debt.

Somehow our national debt has made it to $9,340,380,921,058.13 as of this morning. I can't fathom numbers that are in the trillions, but that's what we owe. Who do we owe? I don't completely understand this either, but somehow we owe foreign governments and individuals 23% of this money. That's bad enough, but what is worse is the money we have been taking from our own "reserves" (money collected through taxes, SS payments, etc.) to fund ongoing budgets to the point that we owe ourselves 41% of this total national debt! Good grief. I don't know what it all means, but I can tell you it ain't good. It's one thing to stiff the Chinese government money, but if we fail to replenish our own "reserves", some hard times are certain when people don't get there Social Security checks, medicare benefits, etc. The ripple effect of that kind of shortfall will hit everyone.

According to Ed Hall, based on the estimated population of the United States (303,897,709), each citizen's share of this debt is $30,735.28. The National Debt has continued to increase an average of$1.44 billion per day since September 29, 2006!

O.K., here's where I just don't get it- why is the government sending me a check for $1200? I understand it's part of a stimulus package that is supposed to jump start a slowed economy, but should we really be writing checks at such a time? Now I know the reaction of many will be- "You better believe they should give me the money...with all the taxes they charge me!". O.K., I understand that perspective, but there's tons of us who pay very little federal income tax, yet we're still getting a check. As a minister I have my salary divided where 1/3 of my salary is designated as "housing" and is therefore not taxable. This is an appreciated tax advantage for ministers and it helps the churches that pay them also. This also makes my taxable income lower and based on that, plus my dependents and deductions, I pay very little federal income tax, yet I'm getting a $1200 check from a government that owes over $9 trillion big ones. Makes little sense to me. There are many others who do not pay $1200 in federal income tax each year, yet they'll also be getting a check.

I know the idea is for me to go out and spend it to stimulate the economy, but when our nation is $9 trillion in the hole, I think it's high time we start enacting some immediate, painful short term spending stops that will keep our grand kids from hating us in the long run. Spending our way out of a recession with no regard to the burgeoning debt is just plain short-sighted and stupid. We have created an entitlement mindset that has trained several generations to depend on the government to provide for many things. It seems to me this expectation has helped produce the fragile house of cards feel our economy seems to have. At some point, some generation is going to get stiffed as it relates to what it thinks should be coming to it. It's going to be ugly, but it's going to happen. There's no way you can pay me now without someone else having to pay for it later.

All you economic experts, fire away, I'm hoping I am way off base here. In the mean time, I can't wait to spend my check.
Ah, I think I see the problem....

Monday, April 28, 2008

Inexplicably interesting words IV

Here's another installment of "inexplicably interesting words."

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:

panoply- it's in a hymn I just sang recently, can't remember which one. The word means a full suit of armor; something forming a protective covering; or a magnificent or impressive array.

shellack- A purified lac in the form of thin yellow or orange flakes, often bleached white and widely used in varnishes, paints, inks, sealants, and formerly in phonograph records; or, the way I use it- the word used in reference to one sports team drubbing another- To strike repeatedly and severely; batter. To defeat decisively.

draconian- The word comes from the ancient Athenian politician who codified the laws of Athens (c. 621). Lauded for its impartiality, his code was unpopular for its severity. So the word now is used to mean rigorous; unusually severe or cruel; exceedingly harsh; very severe.

vitriolic-Bitterly scathing; caustic; harsh or corrosive in tone; an acerbic tone piercing otherwise flowery prose; "a barrage of acid comments"; blistering criticism; a sulfurous denunciation.

ghastly- terrifyingly horrible to the senses; intensely unpleasant, disagreeable, or objectionable.

hijinks- Playful, often noisy and rowdy activity, usually involving mischievous pranks; boisterous celebration or merrymaking; unrestrained fun.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Shameful leadership in Kansas

I have tried to write this post several times since Tuesday, I think I am calm enough now.

On Tuesday our governor, Kathleen Sebelius, vetoed a bill known as the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act (CARA), despite it passing by wide margins in both the house and the senate.

To put it simply, the CARA legislation would provide for better enforcement of the late-term abortion laws and reduce teen abortions. Despite the relative conservatism of Kansas, "Dr." George Tiller's clinic in Wichita has become the national hot spot for women seeking late term abortions. Tiller has done well skirting existing laws in order to be sure no unborn baby in the third trimester makes it out of his abortuary alive.

The CARA legislation covers 17 areas of abortion law meant to limit the number of abortions, give women more information and protect parental rights.

Redeemer member and House Rep. Lance Kinzer is the prime sponsor of the bill, you can read his statements and reactions on his very informative site here. The Lord has gifted Lance with a sharp intellect, but more importantly, a sensitive spiritual maturity. I am so grateful for Lance's steadfastness on this and other issues. In many ways he has restored my wobbly faith in politicians.

I am not skilled in reading legal documents, but as I understand it, The CARA measure includes the Teen Protection Act, which the Kansas House approved in 2006. It goes after people who sexually abuse teenagers and take them for abortions to cover up their crimes. The measure also requires abortion mills to check IDs of minors and companions, report child sexual abuse to state officials, report incest to law enforcement, and notify the custodial parent of a pregnant minor's intended abortion. Finally, the bill also includes a provision requiring abortion practitioners to allow women an opportunity to see an ultrasound of their unborn child, something almost always left out of pre-abortion "counseling" sessions. There are other details in the bill aimed at addressing a number of unethical if not unlawful tactics used by late-term abortionists.

It seems to me CARA would mostly work to tighten up existing laws in turn effectively reducing the number of late-term abortions carried out in our state. Sebelius' veto of this bill really shows her true colors. She likes the money she receives from pro-abortion sources and is no doubt working for a spot on the cabinet of potential president Obama. She has to maintain her 100% pro-abortion stand, she certainly is consistent.

Lance Kinzer released this statement in reaction to the Governor's veto-

“The decision to veto CARA is a tragedy for women who will continue to be exploited by an industry that places profit above respect for human life. Sadly in Kansas it is not only the abortion industry itself, but the government agencies that are charged with regulating them, that have consistently ignored Kansas law and made our State the late term abortion capital of America . This veto will serve to further the tragedy of abortion in Kansas . CARA passed both the House and Senate by substantial margins because it represents exactly the kind of reform necessary to protect women and enforce existing law. I will do everything in my power to work to override this veto.”

So, the prayer now is for Lance and Company to be successful in overriding Sebelius' shameful veto. He is hard at work, take a look at the effort here.

I have no personal angst for Kathleen Sebelius, I realize her thinking is the fruit of a sin-soaked culture and she represents the opinion of many people. Still, in the eyes of God, I am sure what she has done in vetoing this bill is shameful and wrong.

Acceptance of human sacrifice is always the marker of a culture that is terminally ill. May God grant us repentance as a nation before His longsuffering ends.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Just doing my part to shepherd a child's heart!

Being committed Presbyterians, we have been catechizing our kids since they were little. Catechizing means to instruct somebody in the basic principles of the Christian religion using questions and answers. We use the children's catechism when the kids are small, then transition to the Westminster Shorter Catechism when they are about five or six. I am amazed with how much their young minds can absorb and retain.

Teaching young children about valuable, sacred things is an essential part of being a faithful parent. In light of this, and knowing that Brian will struggle with such faithfulness toward his children (not as it pertains to Christianity, but in an important area still), on two recent occasions we have watched his young, impressionable children. I have felt it necessary, as Uncle Tony, to do my best to expose them to sacred things their father will surely neglect. They should not be faulted for being born in to a home that doesn't know what a World Series Championship looks like. Little Sadie, their three month old girl, can't be blamed for the lack of proper exposure to pinstripes, the house Ruth built, and the warm New York baseball crowd. But I say unto you- may it never be! I ask you- should I stand idly by and watch this horrid neglect? No I say! I could not live with myself. It is my calling to help these poor children lest they become uncultured and deficient in proper sports dedication and understanding like their father. It is my calling to step in and stop the pathetic Texas trend that has beset the Hough line for generations.

In this light and admittedly without parental permission, I slipped a baby Yankee cap on Sadie last Saturday night as an initiatory act of Yankee devotion (pictured above). Then again tonight, in an act of impassioned service to a family who just doesn't have the necessary wisdom to know better, I held Sadie in my arms for 3 innings of Yankee baseball against the White Sox! I could swear I heard her say "Matsui". I admit a sense of pride welling as I thought of the great good I was doing this young, previously neglected child. The smile that came over her infant face was more than gas, it was a look of peace that only comes when one hears the crack of a Yankee bat. I even tried to teach her to yell at the ump for a bad call New York style, talk about precious moments.

This is what community life is all about- one family making up for the (massive) deficiencies of another. I know Brian will thank me some day, but for now, let's keep this between us, OK?

First Reepicheep image

Here is the first image of Reepicheep from the upcoming Prince Caspian movie (opening May 16)! Thanks Matt!

Reep figures only slightly in Caspian but is a chief character in the third book/movie, "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader".

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

One of those days

This statement may be premature since it is only 3:21 PM, however, so far I am having one of those days where God impresses upon me why I so love pastoral ministry.

I distinctly remember God calling me to pastoral ministry. I was at a church service as a teenager where a missionary was speaking about planting churches in the Philippines. He spoke of the need for pastors who labored at equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry. Such a notion energized me and I was sure it is what I wanted to do with my life- equip the saints to do the work of the ministry.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ...

To "equip" the saints includes all sorts of varied labors, but chiefly it refers to instructing in the Word of God. I do not take the task of reading, exhorting, and teaching the Word of God to mean something solely intellectual or academic, but rather an activity that includes teaching the Word of God and helping others to live it out. To be a shepherd, in my view, means to be with the sheep while instructing, not standing at a distance and delivering discourses each Sunday. I am most invigorated when I am able to preach/teach and interact with the members of our church. I am most frustrated when I get bogged down in so-called administrative stuff (committee meetings, answering endless policy-type questions, checking on various ministry staffing issues, trying to recruit volunteers for this or that, facility-related oversight, computer stuff, etc.).

I have been at Redeemer for 11 years this Mother's Day. My time here has been priceless. I feel like the most blessed pastor in the world. I have an awesome ministry team and the relationship between the eldership is truly unique. The people of Redeemer come ready for the Word of God to be preached and they really want to live it out. My wife deeply loves the congregation and our children are wonderfully integrated in to the life of this church and our school. The challenge, quite honestly, for me, has been to keep to my calling to "equip the saints" in the midst of so much other stuff to do. The administrative stuff I alluded to has choked out much of my time and effort off and on during these 11 years. I am confident most pastors have a similar experience. Few are the pastors who do nothing but preach, teach, and disciple. Our church has been in a constant state of transition for its whole existence, even before I arrived. There are constantly moving parts that never seem to slow and us pastors always feel like we're juggling 5 or 6 balls at once. I am not saying this to complain, in fact, it is a blessing to be at such a place. I am easily (maybe sinfully) bored, so the regular progress and motion is largely exciting to me. Still, I do look forward to our maturing in such a way as to allow the pastors to do more equipping, shepherding, encouraging, discipleship, etc. We're getting there.

All this to say...

As I alluded to at the beginning of this post, today reminded me of where my passion lies. I met with an elder for mutual encouragement this morning for breakfast then came in to the office to meet with my fellow pastors (Nathan and Brian) to discuss important shepherding matters. I continued an email exchange with a couple in the thick of making a major decision. I posted on my blog concerning a snake regurgitating a Tapir (and this post also), I have also been able to take time studying a biblical issue that a new family is struggling with and wants to discuss with me tomorrow. I have spent time planning the next sermon series as well as continue study for my last sermon from Hosea this coming Lord's Day. Before day's end, I will start preparation for the Sunday evening service where I am teaching on the sovereignty of God in relationship to sin (real light topic!). My wife called me earlier and we discussed a discipleship matter concerning one of our families and hymn selections for worship.

I'll tell you what, this has been a great day. This is what I live to do. Days like this serve to remind me of why I pursued pastoral ministry. In light of this, I just read one of my favorite pastoral passages:

1 Timothy 4:13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Eater's regret

There is no particular spiritual significance to posting this, other than marveling at God's creation, even if it means observing a snake regurgitate a Tapir. I can relate with being very sorry for having eaten too much...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Are you Emergent?

The registration fee for the T4G Conference was $249. Honestly, I thought that was a bit steep when I registered. Then, while at the conference, before virtually every session we were given 2-3 current books. By the end of the conference each person received something like 15 books. I am certain the retail cost of the books I received is near $200! All of the books are quality, I have already read two of them.

One of the books is entitled "Why we're not Emergent (by two guys who should be)". It is co-authored by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. It is an excellent book which is well worth reading. I think it is the best book on the Emerging Church movement currently available, it is certainly the most interesting. Kevin DeYoung opens the book with an excellent diagnostic to determine if you are "emergent", in so doing he really identifies some of the outward signs of the movement:

After reading nearly five thousand pages of emerging-church literature, I have no doubt that the emerging church, while loosely defined and far from uniform, can be described and critiqued as a diverse, but recognizable, movement. You might be an emergent Christian: if you listen to U2, Moby, and Johnny Cash's Hurt (sometimes in church), use sermon illustrations from The Sopranos, drink lattes in the afternoon and Guinness in the evenings, and always use a Mac; if you readng list consists primarily of Stanley Hauerwas, Henri Nouwen, N.T. Wright, Stan Grenz, Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning, Jim Wallis, Frederick Buechner, David Bosch, John Howard Yoder, Wendell Berry, Nancy Murphy, John Franke, Walter Winks, and Lesslie Newbigin (not to mention McLaren, Pagitt, Bell, etc.) and your sparring partners include D.A. Carson, John Calvin, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Wayne Grudem; if your idea of quintessential Christian discipleship is Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, or Desmond Tutu; if you don't like George W. Bush or institutions or big business or capitalism or Left Behind Christianity; if your political concerns are poverty, AIDS, imperialism, war-mongering, CEO salaries, consumerism, global warming, racism, and oppression and not so much abortion and gay marriage; if you are into bohemian, goth, rave, or indie; if you talk about the myth of redemptive violence and the myth of certainty; if you lie awake at night having nightmares about all the ways modernism has ruined your life; if you love the Bible as a beautiful, inspiring collection of works that lead us into the mystery of God but is not inerrant; if you search for truth but aren't sure it can be found; if you've ever been to a church with prayer labyrinths, candles, Play-Doh, chalk drawings, couches, or beanbags (your youth group doesn't count); if you loathe words like linear, propositional, rational, machine, and hierarchy and use words like ancient-future, jazz, mosaic, matrix, missional, vintage, and dance; if you grew up in a very conservative Christian home that in retrospect seems legalistic, naive, and rigid; if you support women in all levels of ministry, prioritize urban over suburban, and like your theology narrative instead of systematic; if you disbelieve in any sacred-secular divide; if you want to be the church and not just go to church; if you long for a community that is relational, tribal, and primal like a river or a garden; if you believe doctrine gets in the way of an interactive relationship with Jesus; if you believe who goes to hell is no one's business and no one may be there anyway; if you believe salvation has a little to do with atoning for guilt and a lot to do with bringing the whole creation back into shalom with its Maker; if you believe following Jesus is not believing the right things but living the right way; if it really bugs you when people talk about going to heaven instead of heaven coming to us; if you disdain monological, didactic preaching; if you use the word "story" in all your propositions about postmodernism- if all or most of this tortuously long sentence describes you, then you might be an emergent christian.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

More proof of greatness

One of the chief measures of a sports franchise's greatness (in addition to championships, of course) is making the playoffs consistently.

Major League Baseball makes it most difficult to qualify for the playoffs as just 8 teams make it out of 30 each year compared to 16 out of 30 in the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League's respectively. 8 of 14 teams in Major League Soccer make the playoffs. 10 out of 32 National Football League teams make it. Clearly, it's toughest to consistently make the playoffs if you are a Major League Baseball team.

In that light, check out the top 10 playoff streaks in professional sports:

1 Detroit Red Wings (NHL) 17
2 New York Yankees (MLB) 13
3 San Antonio Spurs (NBA) 11
3 New Jersey Devils (NHL) 11
3 Ottawa Senators (NHL) 11
6 Dallas Mavericks (NBA) 8
7 Detroit Pistons (NBA) 7
8 New England Revolution (MLS) 6
8 Indianapolis Colts (NFL) 6
10 DC United (MLS) 5

Very impressive...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Together for the Gospel Audio

You can listen to every sermon/lecture given at this year's Together for the Gospel Conference.

I particularly commend Session's 1, 5, and 7 to you.

Audio here.

On Laziness...funny

This guy is a crack up.

Hat tip: MH

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Vintage Sproul at T4G 08 (Updated w/link)

This post will necessarily be incomplete because there's no way for you to listen to the sermon I just heard by R.C. Sproul today. I hope it becomes available online, you have to listen to it. (UPDATE) The sermon can be found here.

R.C. Sproul is the single most influential reformed pastor/theologian in modern times, I think few would disagree. I do not agree with everything Sproul says (I don't get his affinity for Aquinas), but I am exceedingly appreciative of the vast majority of his teaching ministry with and through Ligonier. Countless are the people at Redeemer who have benefited from his ministry. I praise God for him.

In recent years his health has been somewhat poor, in fact, I have invited him to preach at Redeemer several times but his speaking schedule is continually being reduced. He is limited to preaching Sunday at his church and about 5 conferences per year. At this conference he had to be transported in a wheel chair as he was suffering some kind of vertigo apparently related to a stroke he had a few years back. For his sermon he couldn't stand, instead he sat in a high-backed chair at the pulpit.

I first heard R.C. Sproul in 1987 or so, on the radio. Then, while at Moody in 1990 I heard him preach at a Chicago area church. He spoke eloquently and convincingly on the holiness of God. At that time I was already a convinced Calvinist, but not a very learned one. Hearing Sproul in 1990 prompted me to start reading his books and picking up his tapes. Over the next 18 years, to this day, I have read over half of Sproul's 75 + books, watched most of his video series, heard many sermons on tape and CD. I have heard him preach in person around 15 times in these 18 years. All this is to preface the following statement:

The sermon he preached this afternoon may well be the best sermon I have ever heard him preach. It was that powerful.

Sproul preached on the "Curse Motif in the Atonement of Christ". Like I said, as soon as this becomes available, you have to listen. If it means buying it, do it. It's that good. It was absolute vintage Sproul where he begins with the text of Galatians 3:13 in reference to Christ- "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree-", then he backs up and takes you from the original curse on humanity in the garden, through the pronouncements of curses upon God's enemies and God's wayward people, through to the Day of Atonement and the curse on the Scapegoat all the way to Christ being "cursed" by God for us. There is no way for me to do his sermon justice. I can only say I was profoundly affected. The message of God's willingness to curse His own Son for my salvation has freshened my hardened heart once more.

Random observations while at T4G 08

I am in between sessions and had a few random observations not entirely related to the conference, but blogable for the sake of (my own) amusement:

1. Did you know the "Louisville Slugger" plant and museum is right here in Louisville? I know- duh! Apparently you can take a tour, see how the bats are made, and even get a free bat at the end.

2. There are pictures of the Colonel (Kentucky Fried Chicken, of course) and Muhammed Ali (second best boxer ever, born here) everywhere in downtown Louisville. Interesting.

3. Locals and other southern folk here pronounce "Louisville" as Looaville or Loo-i-ville but no one calls it Louie-ville like me, a Yankee. What makes no sense, to me at least, is why the city is pronounced as noted, yet the bat is known the world over as a "Louie-ville slugger". I just don't get these southern folks. Maybe they're fake southerners, after all, they did NOT have sweet tea at the Kentucky Convention Center- one of the great gifts of southern culture. I do think the Union army burned this city during the Civil War, didn't they? They have to be southern then. I'm confused.

4. Related to the conference, there are several different evangelical traditions who label themselves "reformed" represented here. There are a token few Presbyterians (PCA guys like me, represented by speakers Ligon Duncan and RC Sproul), tons of Baptists (I'd say the majority are in this category, represented by speakers Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and John Piper), a good representation of MacArthurites (you know, independent "bible" church types, represented by John MacArthur of course), and a bunch of Sovereign Grace guys (so-called "continuationists" who are basically hand-raising, charismatic Calvinists, represented by speaker CJ Mahaney). This dynamic is very interesting and dare I say refreshing? Don't get me wrong, I am more comfortable with my own kind (Liturgical Presbyterians) and I would quibble with labeling all these groups reformed, but I'm comfortable in such a fellowship because we all do agree on the main fruit of the Reformation- a clarifying of the gospel message. The wider evangelical church is in serious need of what is being taught at this conference.

5. Again, related to the conference and in light of #4- I have noticed several of the speakers (particularly the baptist ones) jokingly refer to us presbyterians as "uptight" and/or "stiff". I find this hugely amusing. Forget us presbyterians for a moment, the baptists seem plenty uptight to me! Are they not uptight because they might yell out an occasional Amen ? A large portion of the guys who are chuckling when the uptight presbyterian jokes are fired have been wearing a suit this whole conference! I'll be they always wear a suit. I never wear a suit if I can help it, except for 90 minutes on Sunday. I'm as loose as a goose hanging out with a moose compared to these guys! Further, I'll believe my baptist brothers are not themselves uptight when I see them kick back, drink a glass of fine ale, and smoke a choice cigar in public!

Fun times.....more later.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Together for the Gospel 2008

I am currently attending the second Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville, Kentucky (man do the people talk funny here...I feel like Vinny in "My Cousin Vinny"). The first session was great, Pastor Ligon Duncan presented a lecture on the need for Systematic Theology and doctrinal preaching in the church. It wasn't new, in fact, it exactly mirrored my own philosophy and attempted practice, but hearing such a pastoral "pep talk" is helpful when serving in the midst of Evangelicalism, which is turning more and more anti-theological and anti-doctrinal.

The conference has several great speakers in addition to Duncan (a fellow PCA pastor)- Mark Dever, Al Mohler, CJ Mahaney, RC Sproul, John Piper, John MacArthur, and Thabiti Anyabwile. Quite a powerful lineup for sure, representing several different denominations and traditions still under the general umbrella of "reformed". There are lots of baptists by my count, but hey, I'm an eclectic guy, I can get along with those who are quasi-reformed! Ha ha. We agree on the most important issue- the gospel of God's sovereign grace through Christ(hence the name of the conference).

I should have some opportunities to blog more about what I'm hearing and learning. The conference website is here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Guess the Redeemer Member

I love to see nostalgic pictures of our members. Here's one of the all time greatest. For you Redeemer folk reading, comment below by posting your guess on this rocker's identity.

Men's Retreat Recap

Psalm 133:1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil on the head,running down on the beard,on the beard of Aaron,running down on the collar of his robes!3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,life forevermore.

We had a great Men's Retreat this past weekend- a rich time of teaching, worship, and fellowship. This annual retreat is a real highlight for the men of our church every Spring and God blesses us with excellent speakers and topics each year (although last year we had some crazy wild man (ha, ha) come and speak to us). Pastor Keith Ghormley from Zion Church (PCA) in Lincoln, NE was our speaker this year.

Keith spoke to us concerning the so-called "Four Faces of Manhood". He encouraged us to think of how our walk with God is profoundly relational, after all, our Triune God has existed in relationship to each other (Father-Son-Holy Spirit) for all eternity. We reformed folk tend to think, sometimes solely, in terms of principles and doctrinal standards regarding God, which can tend to make us forget how we are called in to a personal relationship with God through Christ. Obviously doctrine is important-we can't truly know God without it- but we should not lose sight of the dynamic, personal relationship God has with us and we have with others around us.

From Scripture, Keith illustrated the Four Faces of Manhood as man, son, husband, and father. He showed us how God demonstrates each of these roles as a way of encouraging us to be faithful.

First, as men, we are created in God's image. This image includes being builders, dominion-takers, and protectors. Christ ultimately fulfills this role perfectly.

Second, as men, we are sons and brothers. Our identity is based on who our Father is. We are sons of God through Christ. Son's give honor to their father, serve him, bless him and receive an inheritance from him. Christ is God's perfect Son, and by faith we are united to Him and receive the tremendous blessing of sonship. Keith also reminded us of our brotherhood together as believers and the opportunity for sinful rivalry if we are not careful.

Third, as men, many of us are husbands. God identifies himself as husband to Israel. Christ is the bridegroom to the Church. Ephesians 5 gives us the vivid picture of a sacrificial husband, laying His life down for the Bride (the Church). So also we are encouraged to see our role as sacrificial for our wives. Further, there is a protective role Christ has with the Church. He protects us and doesn't lose any of us. Likewise, we are to be protectors of our wives.

Fourth, as men, many of us are fathers, all men in the church have the opportunity to be spiritual fathers as well. God, through Christ, is our Father. He is the example of the wise, providing, ruling, nurturing Father we seek to emulate. Keith made a powerful point concerning the words of Father's to their children. In a real sense, we fathers give a vision to our kids concerning the world and their place in it. Our words have power in the lives of our children. We can commission our children with words of godly encouragement, but we can also discourage them greatly with no words or words of criticism or undirected discipline.

Keith's teaching was very helpful to me personally. In addition to the teaching and worship time, we enjoyed good fellowship late in to the night- for some, VERY late in to the night at a local Waffle House (hence, the picture above). Life is too busy. Brothers in the church don't have enough time to hang with each other. While too short, this annual retreat is a valuable touch point for us all.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Evil plan foiled...

Have you heard the latest attempt by the BoSox to gain ground on New York's 26 world titles (compared to their rather meager 7)? Thankfully the evil plan was revealed and foiled.

Yankees will donate once-buried Red Sox jersey to Boston-area charity

NEW YORK -- A construction worker's bid to curse the New York Yankees by planting a Boston Red Sox jersey in their new stadium was foiled Sunday when the home team removed the offending shirt from its burial spot.

After locating the shirt in a service corridor behind what will be a restaurant in the new Yankee Stadium, construction workers jackhammered through the concrete Sunday and pulled it out.
The team said it learned that a Sox-rooting construction worker had buried a shirt in the new Bronx stadium, which will open next year across the street from the current ballpark, from a report in the New York Post on Friday.

Yankees President Randy Levine said team officials at first considered leaving the shirt where it was. "The first thought was, you know, it's never a good thing to be buried in cement when you're in New York," Levine said. "But then we decided, why reward somebody who had really bad motives and was trying to do a really bad thing?"

On Saturday, construction workers who remembered the employee, Gino Castignoli, phoned in tips about the shirt's location. "We had anonymous people come tell us where it was, and we were able to find it," said Frank Gramarossa, a project executive with Turner Construction, the general contractor on the site.

It took about five hours of drilling Saturday to locate the shirt under 2 feet of concrete, he said.
A worker at the new Yankee Stadium pulls a David Ortiz jersey out of the concrete. A Red Sox fan had placed the jersey in the concrete beneath the stadium in the hopes of jinxing the Yankees.

On Sunday, Levine and Yankees CEO Lonn Trost watched as Gramarossa and foreman Rich Corrado finished the job and pulled the shirt from the rubble. In shreds from the jackhammers, the shirt still bore the letters "Red Sox" on the front. It was a David Ortiz jersey, No. 34. Trost said the Yankees had discussed possible criminal charges against Castignoli with the district attorney's office. "We will take appropriate action since fortunately we do know the name of the individual," he said. A woman who answered the phone at Castignoli's home in the Bronx on Sunday said he was not there. A spokesman for Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said Sunday he did not know whether any criminal charges might apply.

Levine said the shirt would be cleaned up and sent to the Jimmy Fund, a charity affiliated with Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. "Hopefully the Jimmy Fund will auction it off and we'll take the act that was a very, very bad act and turn it into something beautiful," he said.

I most certainly hope criminal charges apply! What a heinous act. The perpetrator should at least be made to wear the jersey in the middle of Times Square during rush hour on Monday. That will teach him.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Party affiliation is not what it used to be

A candidate's party affiliation has historically been the key differentiating element between the two main candidates for president. I think the 2008 election will be different.

My Democrat friends insist either Clinton or Obama are a virtual lock to defeat Republican John McCain. They like to cite how widespread dissatisfaction, if not disdain, runs for President Bush. Of course, the poll numbers do bear out Bush's relative unpopularity as he has long maintained a horrid 30% approval rating. If Bush's performance and approval numbers were the sole gauge, I would agree with the likelihood of a Democratic victory in November, however, there is more to consider. The Democrats cashed in on the relative disapproval of President Bush with their 2006 capture of Congress. We currently have a Democrat-controlled Congress. Many Republican congresspeople lost their respective elections because of the general disdain for Bush and their supposed allegiance or affiliation with him. I think backlash against Republicans happened with the 2006 Congressional election and this presidential election can go either way.

Closely connected to the 2006 shift in congressional power and perhaps more important than Bush's low approval ratings, is the even lower approval rating for the Democratic controlled Congress. Congress now possesses a 22% approval rating, one of the lowest in the history of our Union.

The current crop of congressional Democrats seem to be people who throw stones at the existing Republican leadership, no matter what the action or decision, but have no actual solutions to fix the problems they identify. In fact, their proposed answers usually include more government intervention and involvement necessarily meaning more taxes and regulations with little historic precedent to show the success of such proposals. Those who were hopeful for troop withdrawals, like Obama has been promising, need to listen to his latest rhetoric and various assessments of his withdrawal plan. It doesn't matter who is president, we're going to be in Iraq and Afghanistan for some time.

The presidential race is a toss up, it's no lock for Hillary or Barrack based on a weak Republican president now in office. Frankly, if McCain can somehow prove he'll be remotely conservative fiscally (unlike President Bush who has been hideously disappointing, spending as a drunken sailor) I think he's more likely to win than either of the Democrat candidates.

There is a huge and growing segment of our population not committed to either party who will ultimately decide this election. Party affiliation simply doesn't matter as much as it used to.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The value of expositional preaching

I am grateful for the various preaching teachers at Moody and Covenant (and the several other pastors I have listened to over the years) who have convinced me of the value of expositional preaching. Bryan Chapell's book (Christ-Centered Preaching) is the best currently available on this subject, though there are many others that do a great job teaching expositional preaching. What makes Chapell's book so valuable is his emphasis on the Christ-Centeredness of the bible. Very simply, expositional preaching is a kind of preaching that expounds upon the meaning of a particular text or passage of Scripture. Most typically, a pastor/church committed to such preaching works through the bible one book at a time, yet not necessarily in order. I am convinced of expositional preaching's great value to the church. Martin Lloyd Jones said it well concerning such preaching-

"One advantage in preaching through a book of the Bible… is that it compels us to face every single statement, come what may, and stand before it, and look at it, and allow it to speak to us. Indeed it is interesting to observe that not infrequently certain well-known Bible teachers never face certain Epistles at all in their expositions because there are difficulties which they are resolved to avoid."

9 Marks gives these brief descriptions of the various forms of preaching and also lists some important benefits of the expositional approach:

Anecdotal - a sermon in which the preacher primarily tells engaging stories with a moral lesson.
Biographical - a sermon in which the preacher traces the life of a biblical character and draws contemporary moral implications.
Topical - a sermon that has a topic in mind prior to consulting the text, and then searches for one or more biblical texts that address the topic chosen beforehand.
Textual - a sermon that refers often to a particular Biblical text, but does not take the main point of the text as its own.
Expositional - a sermon which takes the point of the text as the point of the sermon

Certainly all the above forms have value and a place in the life of God's Church, however it is my conviction that a steady diet of expositional preaching most benefits the sanctification of the Church. Again, 9 Marks helps by showing the various benefits of expositional preaching:

Some benefits of expositional preaching for the Pastor:
- Releases the pastor from the dilemma of what text to preach each Sunday.
- Increases the likelihood of the pastor preaching the whole counsel of God over time.
- Increases the pastor's command of the Word by forcing him to study difficult or often-neglected texts for himself.
- Increases the Word's command of the pastor by giving him a broader exposure to the probing sword of Scripture, deepening his continued repentance and faith, incrementally increasing his knowledge of God, and therefore enhancing his Spirit-produced ability to please God in every way (Heb 11:6; Col 1:9-12).
-Increases the pastor's God-given prophetic authority in the pulpit by grounding his preaching in the divinely intended meaning of the text.
-Increases the trustworthiness of the pastor's preaching in the eyes of the congregation.

Some benefits of expositional preaching for the Congregation:
-The congregation is released from slavery to the preacher's hobbyhorse texts and topics.
-The applicational intention of the text is released to do its creating, convicting, converting, and conforming work in their lives.
-Increases their knowledge of God and His word by broadening their exposure to all the different parts of Scripture.
-Increases their trust in the inspiration, inerrancy, clarity, and sufficiency of Scripture.
-Increases their trust in the pastor's preaching and teaching.
-Decreases their likelihood of being deceived by false teaching.
-Functions for them as a responsible model of personal Bible study.

For Bryan Chapell's actual seminary course on expositional preaching, go here.

Monday, April 7, 2008

National Champions- Kansas Jayhawks

Well, I admit not caring that much about basketball, but it's pretty cool when a local university wins the national title. There are quite a few KU graduates in our church who are pretty happy right now, no doubt.

Actually I enjoyed this game as much as any basketball game I have watched, then again, I only saw the last 5 minutes plus overtime. Wow, talk about an amazing 10 minutes of basketball! We had our usual soccer night at church, which started right at tip-off time. Sorry, I'd rather play pick up soccer with a Peruvian, Scotsman, Mexican kid, a couple Americans, and Brian (from Texas), than watch any basketball game. As providence would have it however, when I got home just before 10pm, the game was still on and I caught the best part of the whole contest.

Despite my general lack of appreciation for basketball, I can identify a great athletic contest when I see one, this national championship game was just that. Congrats to the University of Kansas basketball team. Now Memphis isn't only second place in BBQ to Kansas, but in basketball also.

The Challenge of Affluence

Yesterday I preached on Hosea 10:1-2

Hosea 10:1 Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built; as his country improved, he improved his pillars. 2 Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt. The Lord will break down their altars and destroy their pillars.

The passage speaks of Israel's relationship to the affluence God granted them. Instead of using their wealth for the glory of God, they built altars to false gods. Instead of seeing affluence as something to be managed and shared, they turned their energies toward building false places of worship- a direct insult to the Lord of all things- including money and material things. The main proposition of my sermon was concerning how wealth (affluence) has always been a challenge for the Church in every age.

Our church is in an affluent suburb of Kansas City. I think it would be utter dereliction of pastoral duty to not speak concerning the manifold Scriptural warnings concerning the peril of affluence. Certainly there is nothing sinful about affluence, in fact, it creates a great opportunity for the advancement of God's glory, however various forms of idolatry lurk with a misguided view of wealth/possessions. Brian Griffiths, who is an advocate of wealth-creation (and the right use of the same) recognizes the perils of wealth-

“The mere fact of owning wealth tends to produce a spirit of arrogance and self-reliance. Success tends to breed a philos­ophy of possessiveness: things become mine, my money, my property, my company, my work force. Wealth gives people a false sense of security; it deadens the life of the spirit; it makes people unresponsive to the good news of the gospel.”

Griffiths echoes the important, Holy-Spirit directed words of Moses to the Church on the brink of great wealth when he warns in Deuteronomy 8-

Deut. 8:17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. 20 Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.

As you may know, the bible has something like 2,350 verses that concern money or wealth. I am so appreciative of the ten-week Crown Ministries study I took over three years ago. I am not aware of a better discipleship plan for this important area of life. Crown biblically displays how we handle our affluence influences our relationship with the Lord, possessions compete for first place with the Lord in our lives and so much of life revolves around the use of money.

The full sermon will be online at our church website by tomorrow. I am guessing more than a few people were tweaked by the sermon, some are probably mad. I can relate to such reactions as the whole subject convicts me every time I consider it. I won't kid you, preaching on the subject makes me nervous, probably because of my own conviction in this area. I did receive a very encouraging email from a brother in the church, I'll share it here, changing the names.


I want to thank you again for the sermon this morning. I am grateful for your faithfulness to God's Word. Thank you also for the application! It was good to hear the statistics you shared. I was challenged, Jane and I just finished a good conversation about money, stewardship, trusting God, etc. The Holy Spirit has been working these same things in my heart and I rejoice to hear it from the Bible.

Long and many have been the trials in my life over money and possessions vs. the affections of my heart! I can't count the times that I have been blessed by God, only to turn around and build altars to other gods. Many times the Lord has had to chasten me and let me reap the rewards of my own sin. I grieve over the lost time and opportunities and how I dishonored Him! I wish I could say that I never struggle with this anymore, but God in His loving & patient way keeps bringing me along like His little child.

I doubt that all who heard you today feel the way I do. However, I don't think one person left today without feeling something! I am sure many are angry, many are sad, many are probably discouraged. Pastor, I know you love your flock are care about them. I know you feel their hurts also. Please don't let the strong emotions & hurt feeling of those you care about discourage you or doubt your words - THEY WERE SENT FROM HIM! Redeemer Presbyterian Church needed to hear that today. Thank you for not fearing men. Thank you for lifting up Christ. I am blessed to have my family under your ministry. I want my children to hear the Bible! I am eager to see God use this in the life of our church, regardless if it increases giving or not. He will build His church! Just like Bob Lemon said many years ago about George Steinbrenner - "I am happy just to be along for the ride."

For His Glory, Richard

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Claudio, Carlos, Ivan, and Jimmy time!

Today is a big day for Kansas City Sports. I have heard there is an important basketball game this evening, but I don't care much about that.

More importantly is the Wizards game I am taking my oldest son to (oh yeah...Brian will be tagging along also..the dude is always tagging along). As a new Wizards season ticket holder, I'm stoked about attending almost all of the Wizards home games this year (I have to miss a Sunday contest, for obvious reasons, and I'll be on vacation for another game), it's a great atmosphere out at the small stadium they're playing in this year. Today's game is against the Colorado Rapids, a team with whom we had two rough clashes last year, tying both times but getting robbed by bad reffing in one of the games. Also, long-time Wizard turned Rapid this off season, Jose Burciaga, is making his first appearance in KC wearing another team's jersey, so he'll be primed and ready to go.

The off season saw several major acquisitions, but the two most impacting pick ups for the Wizards were forwards Claudio Lopez (world class player from Argentina) and Ivan Trujillo (up and coming scorer from Columbia). Lopez is the wily, yet smooth veteran and Trujillo is the rugged, score by doing whatever it takes, young player. Together they promise to do some damage in the MLS. Both scored in the season opener last Saturday night. My son is fast becoming a huge Claudio "El Piojo" Lopez fan, I hope he nets one tonight. The addition of Lopez has ignited Wizards midfielder Carlos Marinelli, he's a fun player to watch also, when he's on. Finally, Wizards staple and backfield anchor, Jimmy Conrad, seems to be having a blast directing a young but pretty ferocious defense. While I personally have always played offense, I love watching master defensemen work. As far as U.S. players go, I think Jimmy Conrad is one of the best. He runs the defense like a sargeant and makes opposing forwards pay for anything they get.

I know soccer remains the so-called forgotten fifth sport in the American sports hierarchy, that doesn't phase me too much. Americans generally love high scoring, back and forth, immediate satisfaction-type entertainment. The rest of the known world, however, rather appreciates soccer's epic battle feel. There are few athletes in better condition than soccer players, the skill level required to play excedes most other sports, and the vast number of people who are passionate about the game makes it truly a world-class game. I think soccer's apparent lack of primetime popularity in the U.S. is an indictment concerning our country's lack of good taste more than any kind of statement about the quality of the game.

Who cares about the final four...Go Wizards!
Postgame report: Wizards played a good game against a chippy Colorado team, winning 3-2. Jimmy Conrad is my player of the game, netting two head ball goals inside of 3 minutes!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Cutting your nose off to spite your face

Poor Mikhail Youghzny. The guy had a great rally in his recent match, then after losing it on a poorly struck ball, he hits himself in the head three times with his racket!

Hey, I'm not judging Mr. Youghzny, I have struggled with cutting my nose off to spite my face on more than one occasion. Passions are valuable, but out of control, they can be dangerous. One verse I continually recite to myself and share with my oldest, most fiery son (the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree) is James 1:20:

James 1:20 ...for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Special thanks to Malcolm for teaching me the difference between a "volley" and a "rally". I know the latter makes pretty good burgers....

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Inexplicably interesting words III

Here's another installment of "inexplicably interesting words."

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:

Vexation-The act of annoying, irritating, or vexing. Anger produced by some annoying irritation. The act of harassing. The cause of trouble or disquiet; affliction.

Scathing- Bitterly severe. Bitterly denunciatory; harshly critical. Harmful or painful; injurious. Searing.

Palpitations-a rapid pulsation; especially : an abnormally rapid beating of the heart when excited by violent exertion, strong emotion, or disease. Abnormal awareness of the beating of the heart, whether it is too slow, too fast, irregular, or at its normal frequency. The difference between an abnormal awareness and a normal awareness is that the latter is almost always caused by a concentration on the beating of one's heart and the former interrupts other thoughts.

Baptisement- This is a word my 7-year old son Nico made up a couple months ago. After watching one of our church's covenant children be baptized, Nico said- "Dad, the baby didn't cry during the baptisement".

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The problem with Evangelicalism

I constantly struggle and strain to assess the health of the Evangelical church in the U.S., since we are part. I find many who speak the words of profession, yet their lives do not reveal a yielded joy in belonging to Christ and on a wider level our culture seems unchanged if not sliding downward.

John Piper, as usual, in very clear form, hits the nail on the head.