Saturday, October 31, 2009

Two Passions

I can't get out to hunt again until Tuesday morning so I took a break from sermon prep to get some practice in. This picture reveals two specific things I am passionate about this time of year!!

Texas Football

Football is religion in Texas. After a recent loss to a mediocre Texas A&M team, Coach Mike Leach of Texas Tech lashed out at his players for not listening to the coaches.

Get a load of who Leach blames for the Red Raiders miserable play!!!!

Best Reformation Celebration Costume(s)

We had our annual "Reformation Celebration" at church last night. There were many excellent, creative, and elaborate costumes devised and worn.

My favorite, however, was very simple, yet profound. Here are the Branson kids wearing shirts that capture Luther's historic statement at Worms-

Reformation Day

Today we remember Martin Luther's posting of the 95 protests against the Roman Church in 1517.

The above picture is Luther's "trial" at Worms. Below is the 2003 rendering of the same in a decent movie about Luther. A funny little story about this movie- when it came out a bunch of us Redeemer guys went to see it, 10 or so of us. The theater was relatively empty, but when Luther made his final stand as depicted below, we all stood in unison and cheered as though Rocky had just knocked out Apollo Creed. Great stuff!

Also, there has been a great discussion going on under my earlier post. Check it out here. It will give you a good picture of the main differences between Roman Catholicism and Reformed Christianity.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Excellent Post concerning "returning" to Rome and Sola Scriptura

Pastor Jay Bennett's blog alerted me to a very insightful critique of Francis Beckwith's recent book about his "return" to the Roman Catholic Church from a Baptist/Evangelical affiliation (he was president of Evangelical Theological Society). It deals with the matter of Sola Scriptura that is so often discussed here. A sample excerpt from the Guy Davies post:

Increasingly Beckwith struggled with the Protestant teaching of sola scriptura, finding the Catholic teaching where God reveals himself through Holy Scripture and the traditions of the Church more appealing. Of course, if Church teaching is a source of continuing revelation alongside Scripture, then it doesn't matter that certain Catholic dogmas can't be found in the Bible. On that basis the primacy of the Pope, purgatory, the Marian doctrines and so on may be accepted simply as the authoritative dogmas of the Church. The fact that they have no evident biblical foundation is besides the point. The Church has infallibly pronounced that these dogmas must be accepted by the faithful and that's that. However, it might be objected that Beckwith has not properly understood what the Reformers meant by sola scriptura. He seems to have had a rather biblicist understanding of the doctrine that excludes the role of the church as reader and teacher of Holy Scripture. By sola scriptura, the Reformers did not mean to separate the Bible from the Church. Rather they insisted that the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture is the supreme authority in the Church. The Church has ministerial authority to interpret and bear witness to the message of the Bible, but the Church and her traditions remain under the critical authority of God's written Word. The Church may restate the teaching of Scripture using other than biblical language in order to make its message plain, but she cannot add to God's self-revelation in Holy Scripture.

Monday, October 26, 2009

New Cross at Redeemer

Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

There were several parts of the new sanctuary design that were saved for future generations to add. Eventually we would love to see beautiful stained glass added and a pipe organ placed in a balcony from which the choir could sing. Another element that was planned for but not immediately placed was a cross. As God’s providence would have it, a specially designated gift was given to provide a cross for the sanctuary. It is a simple Celtic design that brings a sense of completion to the sanctuary.

An empty cross is a symbol of Christ’s finished, redemptive work, plain and simple. The cross is not a symbol of Jesus Himself, but rather what He did for us. The cross is not an object to be worshiped or otherwise venerated in any way. Early Reformed churches removed crucifixes (crosses with Jesus being crucified) from sanctuaries in the 16th century because of their misuse. Many Reformed folk still object to a cross in a worship area. I respect such a conviction, but don't personally share it. Now, some 500 years after the Reformation, without the same idolatrous Roman baggage, the symbol of the empty cross serves as a reminder and declaration of what we believe and is affirmed in the Apostle’s Creed - “Who (Jesus) was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried”.

May the whole of Redeemer’s worship space help us to reflect upon the holiness and grace of our God, for His glory alone.

1 Corinthians 2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sarah's song for "Mr. B"

I had the distinct pleasure to officiate the wedding of my little brother in law Brett yesterday.

I started dating Shari when Brett was nine years old. It's been a total thrill to watch him grow physically and spiritually over these past 17 plus years. Brett began teaching at our school, Westminster Christian Academy, four years ago. Three years ago a lovely, sweet, godly woman named Sarah came to teach also. Long story short, they fell in love and got married Saturday.

During the ceremony Sarah surprised Brett with a cute little song about how they met and what she looks forward to. "Mr B." is what the students call Brett, it's shorter than Mr. Busenitz.

Needless to say, we are ecstatic that God has brought Brett and Sarah together.

Should struggling with sin cause a lack of assurance?

In preparation for preaching on Galatians each week I try to read several sermons on the particular passage in focus for that week. I want to share a wonderful observation by Dr. Kim Riddlebarger who is senior pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, California. This excerpt comes from one of his sermons on Galatians 5:16-26 with specific reference to "walking by the Spirit":

Many times Christians are told that the struggle with sin and any perception of lack of victory, or lack of continual progress, are reasons to doubt the assurance of their salvation, or God’s favor towards them. But as Paul makes very clear, it is only the Christian, indwelt by God’s spirit, who experiences a struggle between the Spirit and the flesh or “indwelling sin.” Non-Christians are only “in the flesh,” hence God’s Spirit is not provoking such internal conflicts. Thus the struggle with sin is perhaps the clearest sign that one is actually converted! Non-Christians do not have the intense struggle between the sinful nature and the indwelling Spirit. This is why we must draw our assurance of salvation and God’s favor toward us primarily from the promises given to us in the Scriptures, rather than attempting to draw assurance from our own progress in holiness. Some of those who have progressed the farthest in sanctification are also those most dissatisfied with the progress they are making in the Christian life. Assurance should be drawn primarily from the promise in Scripture that God will save sinners, from the witness of the Spirit to those promises, and only secondarily from our progress in the Christian life. While we will indeed make progress, it is at times very difficult to gauge it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Finally some environmental research worth adhering

Eat a Dog, Save the Earth
(Foxnews/October 22,2009)

SUVs owners are often castigated by treehuggers for their Earth-unfriendly lifestyle. A new book argues that pets are just as bad.

New Zealand authors Robert and Brenda Vale's book, "Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living" is an exhaustive analysis of the environmental impact of common pets such as cats and dogs. The authors studied the carbon emissions created by pets, including the ingredients in their food and the land required to grow it. And the results don't bode well for Fido, who compares poorly to that SUV.

The Values noted that a medium dog consumes 90 grams of meat and 156 grams of cereals daily in its recommended 300-gram portion of dried dog food. They then determined that Fido wolfs down about 164 kilograms of meat and 95 kilograms of cereals per year.

It takes 43.3 square meters of land to generate 1 kilogram of chicken per year — far more for beef and lamb — and 13.4 square meters to generate a kilogram of cereals. So that gives him a footprint of 0.84 hectares. For a big dog such as a German shepherd, the figure is 1.1 hectares

Meanwhile, a Toyota Land Cruiser driven a modest 10,000 kilometers a year, uses 55.1 gigajoules, which includes the energy required both to fuel and to build it. One hectare of land can produce approximately 135 gigajoules of energy per year, so the Land Cruiser's eco-footprint is about 0.41 hectares — less than half that of a medium-sized dog.

The authors aren't really arguing that we should eat our pets of course, merely that we need to think more about the ecological impact of the things we do on a daily basis, and how we choose to use land.

"Owning a dog really is quite an extravagance, mainly because of the carbon footprint of meat," Vale told New Scientist magazine. So what's the "eco-pawprint" of your pet?

German shepherds: 1.1 hectares, compared with 0.41ha for a large SUV

Cats: 0.15ha (slightly less than a Volkswagen Golf).

Hamsters: 0.014ha (two of them equate to a medium-sized plasma TV).

Goldfish: 0.00034ha (an eco-finprint equal to two cellphones).

"Religion" can be dangerous to spiritual growth

A very recent discussion with someone who told me they were not very religious made me think again of how I dislike the label "religious". I actually think the bible speaks against "religion" in the way most people mean it today. Here’s an extended dictionary definition given for religion:

Religion - is the adherence to codified beliefs and rituals that (generally) involve a faith in a spiritual nature and a study of inherited ancestral traditions, knowledge and wisdom related to understanding human life. The term "religion" refers to both the personal practices related to faith as well as to the larger shared systems of belief.

This definition includes following certain rituals because of what one believes. Concepts like “codified beliefs”, “rituals”, “inherited traditions”, “system of belief”, are all used to describe religion. While it may be true that Christianity is categorized as a religion, I don’t think it’s a precise categorization when you consider what Christianity actually is. I would define Christianity this way:

Christianity is based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as revealed by the Bible. In summary, Jesus taught that union with Him is the only way to have salvation from sin, a peaceful relationship with God, and eternal life. This is based on His living a sinless life, dying an atoning death, and rising again on our behalf. Union with Christ comes by faith (trust) in Him.

Religion can be practiced by anyone- even people who have no relationship with God can be “religious” as religion primarily involves the outward actions.

Christianity, in the biblical sense of the concept, can only be practiced or experienced through a personal relationship with Christ.

Religion, understood the way most understand it today, is dangerous to our spiritual growth as it places undue emphasis on outward rituals and rites and not enough emphasis, if any, on our heart’s devotion to Christ. I am not saying there is no place for outward rituals and rites, on the contrary, the bible commands some (baptism and the Lord's Supper as examples) but rather they are not the substance of our religion but expressions and encouragers of it.

I am taken back to what Paul warns the Colossians (and us) concerning the matter of outward religion and practice.

Colossians 2:16-23 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rocky Marciano Tribute

I made a reference to Rocky Marciano in my sermon yesterday. In my Sicilian opinion the Brockton Blockbuster was the greatest heavyweight champion of all time.

Marciano fought 49 times as a professional, beating 43 of those opponents by knockout. His greatest fight was against Jersey Joe Walcott when he won the title in 1952. Rocky got knocked down in the first round (the only time in his career), but came back to knock Walcott out in the 13th round. The clip below shows these two parts of their great fight. Rocky retired a perfect 49-0. He never lost a match.

Modern pundits never give Marciano the respect he deserves as they consistently list Mohammed Ali as the greatest ever, some times Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis make it higher on the list than Rocky. Ali was a great one for sure, but he lost 5 times. He only knocked out 37 of his 61 opponents. I wish we could have seen a match up of these two guys in their prime, it would have been spectacular.

As it is, every Italian knows who the greatest is.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

For a brief moment, SNL was funny again

Almost two weeks ago Saturday Night Live had the following skit-

SNL stopped being funny after Chris Farley left as a regular in 1995. This skit is a great piece of actual satire.

Captain Lou Albano, dead at age 76

The greatest professional wrestling manager of all time, Captain Lou Albano, died today. I suggest everyone wear rubberbands on their face in honor of the Capper.

This guy brought me many laughs in the 80's. Wiki's description sums up the Capper quite well-
"With an over-the-top personality and a penchant for boisterous declarations, Albano is the epitome of the antagonistic manager that raised the ire of wrestlers and incited the anger of spectators. Throughout his 42-year career, Albano guided 15 different tag teams and four singles competitors to championship gold. A unique showman, with an elongated beard, rubber band facial piercings, and loud outfits, he is the forefather of the 1980s Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Power of the Holy Spirit

I am preaching through Galatians at Redeemer and we are studying the section of chapter 5 that begins with:

Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

For the child of God to see sin defeated in his or her life, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is required. How does the Holy Spirit work?

Sometimes I think we expect the Holy Spirit to zap us or provide some wild manifestation to tell us it is present and working. In actuality, the Spirit’s powerful work is usually behind the scenes and subtle in our lives. The power of the Spirit working isn’t usually found in the flashes and explosions of mountain top spiritual experiences but more often quietly and softly as it kills our desires for certain sins and lusts and replaces them with a desire for God.

Growing up just a few miles from Niagara Falls I’ll bet I have seen the Falls a hundred times or more in my lifetime. I always knew they were a major source of electrical power but never really understood how. I have stood at the brink of the Falls many times thinking the power provided must come from the violently flowing, froth-filled final couple hundred yards of the water before it plunged a few hundred feet. Certainly that’s where the power resided, right? In fact, the power provided by the Falls came from a quiet, almost unnoticeable source a mile or two upstream from the spectacular brink of Niagara.

Well before the water drops over the edge, there are tunnels of conduit that divert water from going over the Falls and down long shafts where it passes through hydroelectric turbines that supply power to nearby areas of the Canada and the USA before returning to the river well past the Falls. Up to 375,000 gallons of water per second is diverted from the Niagara River through conduits under the City of Niagara Falls to power plants! When a person stares at Niagara Falls he or she is only seeing half (or less) of the water that could be going over because so much is quietly and subtley diverted to make power.

It’s a rough analogy I know, but this is sort of how I see the Holy Spirit doing it’s powerful work- quietly and subtley, but extremely effectively. It’s not the froth and foam on top that produces the power, it’s the secret tunnels of steady water flow that harness the energy and turn it in to something incredibly productive. I like what John Calvin said about the Holy Spirit’s ministry-

"The work of the Spirit, then, is joined to the Word of God. But a distinction is made, that we may know that the external word is of no avail by itself unless animated by the power of the Spirit ...All power of action, then, resides in the Spirit himself." - John Calvin

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Empire is Striking Back

The Yanks rolled over the Minnesota Twins in round one of the MLB playoffs.

Now for the Angels in the ALCS.

Number 27 is in sight.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Possible breakthrough for Pro-Life movement?

The NY Times has finally posted something that reveals the brutal side of the abortion debate. Like it or not, the Times sets the pace for most news media outlets. Their lack of legitimate abortion coverage has long hindered the truth from being seen by all.

Perhaps the NY Times is changing it's practice? I don't know, but please read this important article they just published on their blog:

Behind the Scenes: Picturing fetal remains

May our countrymen wake up to the consistent holocaust that has cursed us for close to four decades.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Should show our daughters (and sons) this

Tough Goodbyes in the Felich House today

Absent from today's ride in to school was the usual boisterous back seat with my middle and youngest sons jockeying for the side they wanted most. None of the usual litany of questions from me as to whether they remembered their lunches, homework assignments, or musical instruments. Instead there was almost complete silence for the entire 12 minutes, save for intermittent sniffles from all of us.

Today, in less than an hour, Shari and I have to bring back the toddler we have been watching for over 2 months and it's proving to be very difficult for all of us.

He came to us about 10 weeks ago in pretty rough shape. The little 17-month old boy suffered second degree burns over half his body in an accident his parents couldn't explain. He was placed in foster care with us after spending 8 days in a burn unit south of here a few hours. We weren't told how long he would be with us, but all indications pointed toward a lengthy stay while an investigation unfolded. Understandably there were family members who insisted on caring for him, however State officials were hesitant to place him in such custody until some preliminary standards of care could be proven by these family members.

So he came in to our home bandaged head to toe in gauze. From day one my wife has been awesome with him. The choice to be foster parents was something I felt comfortable with because of how able my wife is as a nurturing mother. She is the most compassionate person I know and she began loving this little guy from the beginning. My boys have shocked me and warmed my heart serving him selflessly the entire time. Each of them changed bandages, diapers, clothes, helped to bathe him and put on his special lotion every day. They have played with him patiently and been largely responsible for bringing him from a state of sadness and pain to giggles and jolly times. He would light up every time he caught a glimpse of one of the boys.

We took him to church the second week he was with us and not surprisingly, the Redeemer family took him in and have been loving on him for these past two months. He was a handful in the nursery as he was totally unfamiliar with such a thing meeting brand new people non-stop since he was taken from his home. Patiently many have ministered to him and I have to believe he has felt a corporate love not previously experienced. I also hope exposure to him will tweak some of our people to consider foster care themselves. Very simply, I truly believe Christians need to be leading the way in taking care of the "least of these". We have so many solid families in our church who would do a tremendous job and provide a wonderful ministry if they became foster parents.

So last week our social worker tells us that his paternal grandmother would like to take custody of him and possibly adopt him if his parents are not deemed capable. Shari and I both recognized how this is generally what the goal is- to re-integrate children back with their families. Theoretically we have been preparing ourselves for some time. We should be more joyful than we are, having accomplished our mission of loving him and helping him to heal from his injuries. We are happy his family wants him back, furthermore his grandmother seems very loving and caring from what we know of her. Nevertheless we are torn about giving him up as we have grown attached and also wonder what his future will be like. Obviously we know God is sovereign, and that is a great comfort, but still... As I write this my wife is coming to meet me so we can drive an hour south to give him to his grandparents. It's a very tough day, I won't kid you.

I can't post any pictures of him, nor can I reveal his name, but I would like to close with a prayer of blessing for him adapted from Aaron's benediction to the people of God.

Dear , May the Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace...I hope we meet again. Amen

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Adidas Busenitz

In the new category of "Reep approved products" comes the Adidas Busenitz shoe.

I have long been a fan of Adidas in general with the Samba being my all time favorite.

My wife's third cousin, Dennis Busenitz, is a professional skateboarder who has helped to design a new Adidas shoe called the Adidas Busenitz Pro. It's a sweet shoe, I just got my own pair yesterday.
To make his new shoe, Busenitz combined the existing Adidas models Copo Mundial, Gazelle, and Samba. The result is a sweet shoe that makes he who wears very cool.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Creative Church Advertising

Preface to the cartoon below (given to me by a church member this morning): The University of Central Missouri have as their mascot a mule.

A Roman Catholic student group sponsored the advertisment you see below in the University newspaper.
Pretty creative...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Tribute to my Parents 40 Years of Marriage

I have always been proud of my parents. They are the picture of hard work, generosity, and devotion. This weekend we are celebrating their 40 years of marriage and I am grateful. I am grateful because it has become rare for people to remain so devoted for 4 decades. In an age that is characterized by flippant commitments and broken vows, it's no small thing to stay true (by God's grace) to your spouse for a life time. Their example gives me strength to remain devoted to my marriage.

I won't embarrass them by telling you how much they have grown spiritually in the last 5-7 years, it has been astounding and inspiring. Their moving to Kansas three years ago has been one of the greatest things ever to happen to my family.

One interesting note about my Dad. He married my mother when he was 38, the same age I am now. Looking at his pictures from the wedding (1969) is surreal, since I'm a chip off the old block and all.

Skullet Clarification

In the comment section of my last post the term "skullet" was referenced.

To clarify what a skullet is, see former professional wrestler and Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura and his classic skullet-

A skullet is essentially a mullet with no hair up front.

I am happy to keep Reepicheep readers up to speed on the latest in hair styles and fads.

Friday, October 2, 2009

What's going on?

The strangest thing is happening in Kansas City...

I have suddenly noticed a sharp increase in sleeveless white t-shirts, bad tattoo's (note here: there are good ones), NRA bumper stickers on pick'em up trucks, mullets, missing teeth, skoal rings, stained old John Deere hats, crushed empty Budweiser cans, circa-1980 sunglasses (Magnum P.I. style), cigarette butts, steel-tipped boots, and chains hanging from wallets...'s NASCAR weekend in Kansas City!!!!!