Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hitting the Trail

The Katy Trail, that is.

Brian and I are getting dropped off in St. Charles, Missouri with our backpacks and bikes.

300 miles back to our front doors, have to make it by Thursday.

See you when I return...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

D'Aubigne on Tyndale and True Catholicity

Jean Henri Merle D’Aubigné (1794–1872)wrote a massive and magnificent History of the Reformation that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading and writing about.

He makes a profound statement that will make Reformed and many other Protestant Christians say- "Yes, that's it- He nailed it!!" The statement will very likely make many Roman Catholics say- "No, that's not it- he's missed the mark completely!!"

You know which reaction describes me.

Context for his statement: In the early 1500's, highly qualified Oxford scholar and churchman William Tyndale was trying to translate the bible in to English under constant threat and danger from the Roman Church. Tyndale received several invitations from Christians in other countries to come and finish his work. He fled to Germany and continued the task. D'Aubigne is commenting on how widespread the hunger for the bible and reform was spreading in the 16th Century, which in turn illustrated the true nature of God's Church.

The residence of Tyndale and his friends in foreign countries, and the connections there formed with pious Christians, testify to the fraternal spirit which the Reformation then restored to the Church. It is in Protestantism that true catholicity is to be found. The Romish Church is not a catholic church. Separated from the churches of the East, which are the oldest in Christendom, and from the Reformed churches, which are the purest, it is nothing but a sect, and that a degenerated one. A church which should profess to believe in an episcopal unity, but which kept itself separate from the episcopacy of Rome and of the East, and from the Evangelical churches, would be no longer a catholic church; it would be a sect more sectarian still than that of the Vatican—a fragment of a fragment. The Church of the Saviour requires a truer, a diviner unity than that of priests, who condemn one another. It was the reformers, and particularly Tyndale, who proclaimed throughout Christendom the existence of a body of Christ, of which all the children of God are members. The disciples of the Reformation are the true catholics.

By the way, Tyndale was strangled and burned alive for his successful effort to translate the bible in to English.

Friday, May 28, 2010

2010 Garden-three passions combined

I just finished planting my tomatoes tonight. I'm a couple weeks behind, but the crop should be fine.

I am trying something different this year. Instead of buying plants from a local nursery, all my plants were grown by my father in his garage and mini-greenhouse. Not one plant that you see was bought. In fact, the seeds my father uses are supposedly from the "old country". The breed of tomato is known only as "Italian". There are also some "Polish" tomatoes mixed in. We'll see what happens...
The observant viewer may have noticed what I use for stakes. Yep, those are arrow shafts. This one in particular is special and I expect great things from the plant it is staking. It is one of the arrows I used to harvest a fat doe last November. It has dried blood on it. Pretty cool if you ask me. Farmer Brown I am not...Farmer Killa, yeah, that's me.

You will also notice the stones that surround my garden to keep out the rabbits. They are left over from the Redeemer Sanctuary construction. All three of my passions are combined in the garden- Redeemer, tomatoes, and hunting.

Favorite Flyers Moments

As a Sabres fan defending the honor of my beloved (and beleagured)team against Philadelphia smack talkers and in honor of the Flyers making it to the Stanley Cup Finals (fake cough...fluke) , I wanted to post my favorite recent Philadelphia moment vs. the Sabres-

Unfortunately Brian Campbell (who "destroyed" Umberger in this clip)got traded last year. He now plays for the Blackhawks who are playing Philly for the Cup. Look out Philly...Soupy is come to get you, again...

Here's another great Sabres-Flyers moment, for no extra charge. "HERE COMES SHIELDS..."

The Flyers have been in the league since 1967 and brutalized their way to two Stanley Cups 35 years ago (when the NHL had no rules). The Sabres have been in the league since 1970 and have yet to hoist the Cup. Our time will will come...

Oil Spill Time Lapse

Hat tip: Jumpin' Jonny Dodger

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Politicizing Memorial Day Dishonors our Veterans

Some are raising a stink about President Obama taking a vacation to Chicago over Memorial Day Weekend, skipping the annual national Memorial Day Celebration at Arlington National Cemetery. He will celebrate Memorial Day at Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill. while on vacation instead.

I think it's lame to criticize him for this choice.

President Reagan only attended the Arlington celebration four times in his eight years. President George H.W. Bush never attended sending Dan Quayle in his stead. President Clinton never missed. President George W. Bush attended 7 of his possible 8. Keep in mind, all these presidents celebrated Memorial Day somewhere, and did so publicly, as they should. Obama will be at a national cemetery in Illinois, that's very appropriate. How often do any of our national cemeteries get a visit from a sitting President? Illinois has given plenty of her sons and daughters for America over the years, she deserves a visit from our president.

There's plenty to criticize Obama concerning, but choosing to go to a national cemetery on Memorial Day in his home state while taking a short "vacation" (no President actually gets to relax) is entirely acceptable. To criticize Obama on this point is entirely political and takes away from the respect and honor every American citizen should show to our veterans this weekend.

Hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans died in battles for us. Thousands more were wounded, all who have served have been altered in some way. Our focus should be on the sacrifice of those who fought for America, not which cemetery our President pays his respects.

Four years ago my father and I visited the Florence American Cemetery in Italy to pay respects to my Uncle Chris who died in WWII at the age of 19. It was one of the most powerful moments of my life. I wrote about it in a post found here, one of my earliest posts on Reepicheep.

No question- Go Hawks!

The most difficult playoff format in professional sports is the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the National Hockey League. The brutality of the game coupled with the amount of games that must be played in a short time makes pursuing the Stanley Cup one of the most trying feats in all team sports.

The championship round starts Saturday night in the windy city.

Chicago is my pick to lift Lord Stanley's Cup.
I hate the Flyers.

Buffalo native Patrick Kane leads the Hawks

Refreshing Conviction and Commitment

John Brown was a devout Christian living in Roman Catholic England during the early 16th Century. Such were turbulent times for Christianity as hunger for reformation was sweeping Europe. Luther is given credit for beginning the Reformation in 1517 with the posting of his protests on the castle door at Wittenburg, but in reality the winds of reformation were blowing in many places years before the time of Luther. England was such a place. John Wycliffe, the "morning star" of the Reformation gave the English people a bible in their native tongue,stoking the flames of reform in the hearts of many in the 14th Century. It also led to the stoking of execution pyres all over England as the Romanists resisted efforts to shift authority from Rome to the Bible.

John Brown was a faithful Christian in England. He read the bible Wycliffe provided with regularity. He tangled with the wrong priest one day concerning a doctrinal matter and found himself arrested and thrown in jail. Again I share with you J.H. Merle D'Aubigne's recounting of John Brown's trial, torture, and execution.

The cavalcade rode off quickly, and Brown was thrown into prison, and there left forty days. At the end of this time the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Rochester called before them the impudent fellow who doubted whether a priest's mass could save souls, and required him to retract this "blasphemy." But Brown, if he did not believe in the mass, believed in the Gospel: "Christ was once offered," he said, "to take away the sins of many. It is by this sacrifice we are saved, and not by the repetitions of the priests." At this reply the archbishop made a sign to the executioners, one of whom took off the shoes and stockings of this pious Christian, while the other brought in a pan of burning coals, upon which they set the martyr's feet. The English laws, in truth, forbade torture to be inflicted on any subject of the crown, but the clergy thought themselves above the laws. "Confess the efilcacity of the mass," cried the two bishops to poor Brown. "If I deny my Lord upon earth," he replied, "He will deny me before His Father in heaven." The flesh was burnt off the soles of the feet even to the bones, and still John Brown remained unshaken. The bishops therefore ordered him to be given over to the secular arm, that he might be burnt alive.

On the Saturday preceding the festival of Pentecost, in the year 1517, the martyr was led back to Ashford, where he arrived just as the day was drawing to a close. A number of idle persons were collected in the street, and among them was Brown's maid-servant,who ran off crying to the house, and told her mistress: "I have seen him !... He was bound, and they were taking him to prison." Elizabeth hastened to her husband, and found him sitting with his feet in the stocks, his features changed by suffering, and expecting to be burnt alive on the morrow. The poor woman sat down beside him, weeping most bitterly; while he, being hindered by his chains, could not so much as bend towards her. "I cannot set my feet to the ground," said he, "for bishops have burnt them to the bones; but they could not burn my tongue and prevent my confessing the Lord... 0 Elizabeth!... continue to love Him, for He is good; and bring up our children in His fear."

On the following morning—it was Whitsunday—• the brutal Chilton and his assistants led Brown to the place of execution, and fastened him to the stake. Elizabeth and Alice, with his other children and his friends, desirous of receiving his last sigh, surrounded the pile, uttering cries of anguish. The fagots were set on fire, while Brown, calm and collected, and full of confidence in the blood of the Saviour, clasped his hands, and sang a hymn unto God before the flames consumed him.

The story is harrowing, but it is something more for me; we live in a day where theological precision and doctrinal commitment are looked down upon or not regarded at all. Here we have an account that depicts a man who was willing to be tortured and killed defending a biblical view of Christ and His sufficient atonement! I find Brown's conviction and commitment both convicting and encouraging.

It seems crazy to me...

Mankind has managed some incredible feats of engineering. It seems crazy to me that BP has not been able to stop the massive oil leak it caused in the Gulf of Mexico.

Things like this will happen by negligence, carelessness, maliciousness, or by sheer accident, but it shouldn't take this long to stop a leak.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Brutal Death of Ulrich Zwingli

Ulrich Zwingli was a brilliant scholar and able reformer who trusted too much in the power of the sword too advance the cause of Christ. He was the chief reformer of the Church in Zurich, Switzerland in 1531 when the so-called "Five Cantons" (a canton is a state within a country) allied as Roman Catholic states, joined their armies (largely manned by mercenaries) and advanced upon Zurich. Zwingli irrationally welcomed the futile battle with the Five Cantons, something his actions helped to cause. J.H. Merle D'Aubigne gives a vivid description of the end of Zwingli's (spelled "Zwingle") life. It's well worth the read-

Alas! he had himself called up this hurricane by quitting the atmosphere of the
Gospel of peace, and throwing himself into the midst of political passions. He was convinced that he would be its first victim. Fifteen days before the attack of the Waldstettes, he had said from the pulpit: "I know the meaning of all this: I am the person specially pointed at. All this comes to pass—in order that I may die." The council, according to an ancient custom, had called upon him to accompany the army as its chaplain. Zwingle did not hesitate. He prepared himself without surprise and without anger,—with the calmness of a Christian who places himself confidently in the hands of his God.

The account of Zwingli's death-

Zwingle was at the post of danger, the helmet on his head, the sword hanging at his side, the battleaxe in his hand. Scarcely had the action begun, when, stooping to console a dying man, says J. J. Hottinger, a stone hurled by the vigorous arm of a Waldstette struck him on the head and closed his lips. Yet Zwingle arose, when two other blows, which hit him successively on the leg, threw him down again. Twice more he stands up; but a fourth time he receives a thrust from a lance, he staggers, and sinking beneath so many wounds, falls on his knees. Does not the darkness that is spreading around him announce astill thicker darkness that is about to cover the Church? Zwingle turns away from such sad thoughts; once more he uplifts that head which had been so bold, and gazing with calm eye upon the trickling blood, exclaims: "What matters this misfortune? They may indeed kill the body, but they cannot kill the soul!" These were his last words. He had scarcely uttered them ere he fell backwards. There, under a tree, in a meadow, he remained lying on his back, with clasped hand, and eyes upturned to heaven.

The shouts of the victors, the groans of the dying, those flickering torches borne from corpse to corpse; Zurich humbled, the cause of Reform lost— all cried aloud to him that God punishes His servants when they have recourse to the arm of man. If the German reformer had been able to approach Zwingle at this solemn moment, and pronounce those oft-repeated, words, " Christians, fight not with sword and arquebuse, but with sufferings and with the cross," Zwingle would have stretched out his dying hand, and said, " Amen." Two of the soldiers who were prowling over the field of battle, having come near the reformer without recognising him, " Do you wish for a priest to confess yourself? " asked they. Zwingle, without speaking, (for he had not strength,) made signs in the negative. "If you cannot speak," replied the soldiers, " at least think in thy heart of the Mother of God, and call upon the saints !" Zwingle again shook his head, and kept his eyes still fixed on heaven. Upon this the irritated soldiers began to curse him. " No doubt," said they, "you are one of the heretics of the city!" One of them, being curious to know who he was, stooped down and turned Zwingle's head in the direction of a fire that had been lighted near the spot. The soldier immediately let him fall to the ground. " I think," said he, surprised and amazed,—"I think it is Zwingle!" At this moment Captain Fockinger of Unterwalden, a veteran and a pensioner, drew near: he had heard the last words of the soldier. " Zwingle!" exclaimed he; "that vile heretic Zwingle! that rascal, that traitor!" Then raising his sword, so long sold to the stranger, he struck the dying Christian on the throat, exclaiming, in a violent passion, "Die, obstinate heretic!" Yielding under this last blow, the reformer gave up the ghost: -he was doomed to perish by the sword of a mercenary.

It was required that the body of the heretic should be dismembered, and a portion sent to each of the Five Cantons. Immediately the drums beat to muster; the dead body was tried, and it was decreed that it should be quartered for treason against the confederation, and then burnt for heresy. The executioner of Lucerne carried out the sentence. Flames consumed Zwingle's disjointed members; the ashes of swine were mingled with his; and a lawless multitude rushing upon his remains flung them to the four winds of heaven.

Zwingle was dead. A great light had been extinguished in the Church of God. Mighty by the Word as were the other reformers, he had been more so than they in action; but this very power had been his weakness, and he had fallen under the weight of his own strength. Zwingle was not forty-eight years old when he died. The bolt had furrowed the cloud, the blow had reached the reformer, and his body was no more than a handful of dust in the palm of a soldier.

Zwingli's Poor Judgment

There is much to appreciate about the leading reformers of the Sixteenth Century. Luther, Zwingli, Farel, Bucer, Calvin, Beza, Knox and others were used of God to bring reformation and revival to God's people.

But these men were flawed human beings as well. No one demonstrates this reality better than Ulrich Zwingli, the first great Swiss reformer. Zwingli served as a priest at Grossmunster in Zurich and became continually persuaded the Roman Church was in need of reformation. His expositional handling of the Word of God was blessed and the faith of many Christians grew under his pastorate. He bravely confronted the manifold problems of the Roman Church and entertained numerous disputations with various church representatives in order to prompt genuine reform in the Church. The majority of Zwingli's efforts were godly and well-intentioned.

There was another side to Zwingli, however, that seemed blind to the danger of mixing the politics of the State with the ministry of the Church. Indeed much of the corruption in the Roman Church was due to it's longstanding relationship with the State. Zwingli wrongly believed the health and success of the Reformation depended in part on making the civil magistrate "Christian". This belief drove him to advocate using military force against the State (and duly aligned Romanists). J.H. Merle D'Aubigne describes Zwingli's poor judgment in honest fashion-

The Reformation (in Switzerland under Zwingli) had already entered, with all her sails set, upon the stormy ocean of politics, and terrible misfortunes were gathering over her.

Zwingli's proud and piercing eyes- his harsh features- his bold step- all proclaimed in him a resolute mind and the man of action. Nurtured in the exploits of the heroes of antiquity, he threw himself, to save Reform, in the footsteps of Demosthenes and Cato, rather than in those of St. John and St. Paul.

We have already seen Zwingli, while observing how all the powers were rising against the Reformation, had conceived the plan of a Christian State, which should unite all the friends of the Word of God in one holy and powerful league. This political phasis of Zwingli's character is, in the eyes of some persons, his highest claim to glory; we do not hesitate to acknowledge it as his greatest fault. The reformer, deserting the paths of the apostles, allowed himself to be led astray by the perverse example of Popery. The primitive Church never oppose their persecutors but with the sentiments derived from the gospel of peace. Faith was the only sword by which it vanquished the mighty ones of earth.

Zwingli felt clearly that by entering into the ways of worldly politicians, he was leaving those of a minister of Christ.

Zwingli's judgment in this area eventually led to his death, an event I will outline in a future post.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Farel, Boyve, and the Swiss Reformation

I have been enthralled with J.H. Merle D'Aubigne's History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century (1872) . He wrote like a novelist with the details of the historian he was.

I am reading his account of how Reformation came to the Church in Switzerland in the Sixteenth Century. The Swiss Reformation is divided in to three parts: 1519-1526 with Zurich being the center of the Reformation and mostly of German influence. Ulrich Zwingli is the key reformer for this period. 1526-1532 the movement was centered in Berne with a mixture of German and French influence- Ursinus and Farel being the prime Reformation movers there . And of course, in 1532 Geneva became the focus and was basically French under the leadership of Farel first, but Calvin and Bucer for many years after.

About William Farel. He's the guy responsible for talking Calvin in to coming to Geneva. Years before his historic recruitment of Calvin, however, he was traveling at great risk to his life, all over Switzerland preaching the gospel and promoting Reformation. I just came upon an episode previously unknown to me involving Farel and a man named Anthony Boyve.

The quick context: One of the main points of disagreement the Reformers had with Rome was the Roman Catholic practice of "transubstantiation" in communion (where the elements somehow became the actual body and blood of Christ- something abhorrent and idolatrous to the Reformers). The notion that Christ was somehow re-sacrificed each time the "Mass" was celebrated was symbolic of what Rome had missed about Christ's sufficient, one-time work on the cross, the very heart of the gospel. The most effective method of spreading Reform was the preaching of God's Word with special emphasis on faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. This was Farel's simple method as he travelled town to town entering Cathedrals and preaching.

On August 15 of 1529 Farel took with him Anthony Boyve to Valangin, Switzerland with the intention of entering the cathedral there and preaching the gospel. Here is D'Aubigne's account of what happened that day-

Already on all sides the people were thronging to the church; Farel and his companion entered also with a small number of inhabitants who had heard him at Neufchatel. The reformer immediately ascended the pulpit, and the priest prepared to celebrate Mass. The combat began. While Farel was preaching Jesus Christ and His promises, the priest and the choir were chanting the missal. The solemn moment approached: the ineffable transubstantiation was about to take place: the priest pronounced the sacred words over the elements. At this instant the people hesitate no longer; ancient habits, an irresistible influence,draw them towards the altar; the preacher is deserted; the kneeling crowd has recovered it's old worship: Rome is triumphant... Suddenly a young man springs from the throng- traverses the choir- rushes to the altar- snatches the host from the hands of the priest, and cries, as he turns toward the people: "This is not the God whom you should worship! He is above- in heaven- in the majesty of the Father, and not, as you believe, in the hands of a priest." This man was Anthony Boyve.

The Mass was interrupted, the chanting ceased, and the crowd, as if struck by a supernatural intervention, remained silent and motionless...Upon this the priests and choristers with their adherents rushed to the towers, ran up in to the belfry, and sounded the tocsin.

Farel and Boyve were taken out of the city and as one chronicler put it- "the ministers were so beaten that they nearly lost their lives."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Congressman responds to Calderon

Mexico's President, Felipe Calderon, had the nerve to lecture the U.S. Congress on his disagreement with Arizona's immigration law a few days ago. Of course Mexico's economy is boosted by at least $1 billion dollars annually from money sent to Mexico from illegal immigrants residing in the U.S., so Calderon isn't interested in any U.S. crackdown on illegal immigration.

Every once an a while rational words come from a California elected official, here's a clip of such an example. Representative McClintock responding to Calderon-

Nico on the benefit of Houghian Preaching

I had the rare opportunity to worship with my family this morning at Redeemer's early service. I'll miss worship leadership and preaching, but I'll also very much enjoy the experience of singing with my wife and children, reading the liturgy together, hearing the Word preached as a family, and partaking of communion side by side with my sons.

The quote of the morning came from my son Nico-

"Church was more fun because Pastor Brian preaches short..."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Zac Smith Story

This is the story of Zac Smith, a brother in Christ who recently went home to Christ. I hope this video touches you like it did me.

The Story of Zac Smith from NewSpring Media on Vimeo.

Hat Tip: Jay Bennett

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bucer on division among Christians

The disunity of those who call themselves Christians is certainly an unfortunate vestige of our fallenness that will not be remedied until Christ returns. Certainly the prayer of Jesus in John 17 will not be fully realized until sin is no longer in the mix. Why this division as Christians?

Martin Bucer , the great reformer of Strasbourg, issued a strong challenge to the leaders of Berne, Switzerland as they were being pressured by the Roman Catholic Church to declare loyalty to the Pope and his authority and renounce the work of the Reformers who called for loyalty to the Word of God. Bucer spoke powerful words that help us understand why there remains division among those who call themselves Christians-

"Whosoever preaches Jesus as the only Savior we recognise as our brother...Neither Luther, nor Zwingli, nor Ecolampadius, desires the faithful to bear his name. Besides, you should not boast so much of a mere external unity.

God permits divisions, in order that those who belong to Him may learn not to look to men, but to the testimony of the Word, and to the assurance of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. Thus, then, dearly beloved brethren, to the Scriptures, the Scriptures! O Church of Berne, hold fast to the teaching of Him who said, 'Come unto me', and not, 'Come unto my vicar!"

Hmmmm...I wonder about Dora

I'm pretty sure it's illegal to have a monkey as a pet (especially an unleashed blue monkey). So, while busting Dora the Explorer for keeping a monkey, she needs to show her papers. I have a hunch...

R. Scott Clark on Caner and the Legacy of Revivalism

R. Scott Clark has some excellent insights in reaction to the apparent Ergun Caner scandal at Liberty University. Apparently Caner, Liberty's president, is being accused of embellishing his "conversion story" from Islam.

Scott Clark points out why a person might do such a thing in a way that sheds light on a bit of American Evangelicalism's revivalistic (arminian) roots. Here's a snippet from Clark-

Why would anyone do such a thing?

For anyone who knows anything about the religious world in which Caner lives the answer is simple: drama. In the conversionist, revivalist, aisle-walking, just-as-I-am-singing piety in which Caner moves it is essential to have a good, colorful, compelling conversion story. The essence of both drama and comedy is tension. In comedy the tension is created and resolved in an unexpected and delightful way. In drama the tension is created and resolved in a compelling, affective way, i.e., in a way that moves the emotions to sadness or pity. The greater the contrast between “before” and “after,” the greater the tension and the more powerful the resolution.

In revivalist-conversionist circles, there is a great, unspoken pressure to heighten the tension by exaggerating one’s pre-conversion biography. In truth few of us have dramatic conversion stories. Certainly they exist but most of our pre-Christian lives are quite mundane. Sure, our families and lives were full of the dysfunction that sin brings but most sins are hidden from public and have relatively little entertainment value. It is, however, a lot easier to get a crowd worked up and sweaty and ready to walk the aisle during the invitation if the testimony includes some juicy details. Hence the embellishment.

Read Dr. Clark's entire post here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Arizona Immigration Law

You know me, I generally steer clear of controversial subjects on my blog. Going against my better judgment I'll make a few observations about the new immigration law in Arizona that's attracting so much attention. For the record, one of the co-authors of the law is Chris Kobach, a professor at the University of Missouri Kansas City. He is a Christian with a sharp legal mind.

According to what I can surmise (like U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, I have not read the law)- The law requires police to check with federal authorities on a person's immigration status, if officers have stopped that person for some legitimate reason and come to suspect that he or she might be in the U.S. illegally. The heart of the law is this provision: "For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency…where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person…"

Honestly, this sounds pretty reasonable to me at first glance. Basically Arizona is sick of the Federal failure to secure it's border and is taking action to enforce existing laws. Sitting here in Overland Park, Kansas, I can't see how this law- in theory- is unreasonable or unjust. My opinion certainly isn't swayed when I listen to Mexican President Calderon condemning the law. Well duh! A billion U.S. dollars go to Mexico from illegal immigrants every year. Calderon simply can't afford to see the money train stop- I get that part of the picture. Despite some the seeming outcry by people opposing the law, Fox news tells us a majority of Americans agree with it.

Here's the struggle I have- it's not the theory or ideal of the law I have a problem with, it's the reality of how it may be enforced. It's easy for Joe White American to say it's a good law. If you're Latino, you probably think differently. I have quite a few friends who are Latino, several of them are dear brothers in Christ. Every one of these friends are opposed to illegal immigration. One is actually a lawyer who works very diligently to counsel Latinos to enter this country legally. I have first hand knowledge of him helping to send illegal immigrants back to Mexico when he is aware of such situations. But these Latino brothers of mine are pretty convinced such a law will cause grief to many and injustice to some. Virtually all of my Latino friends can tell you stories about "special" attention they get from police that can only be explained by the way they look or talk. I could tell you their particular stories and you might say, as a non-Latino person- "oh, you're exaggerating" or "you're reading in to that situation." I'm just saying that my Latino brothers, who are legal citizens and far from liberal politically, are very nervous about this kind of law. Maybe you're saying like me initially-"the police have to be stopping a person on the basis of legitimately suspecting a different violation". My Latino friends who have been pulled over for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign in their near traffic-less sub-divisions are understandably leery.

OK, so maybe despite my brothers concerns, this is still a good law or a reasonable step in developing a good long term solution to a considerable problem. That's quite possible. Maybe the police force of Arizona will execute stellar judgment and guard themselves from personal bias when working to enforce this law. I'm sure most law enforcement officers are so honorable.

Once again, however, I'm glad to be white, as awkward as that seems to write.

The Changing Face of American Society and the Church

Here's a great lecture well worth the half hour it takes to watch.

Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah - The Changing Face of American Society and the Church from Quest Church on Vimeo.

While American Christianity may seem to be waning, Christianity as a whole continues to grow. The Kingdom of God cannot be thwarted.

Luke 13:18 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

Hat Tip: Wayne (who pillaged it from someone else)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ghostbusters Scene Re-enacted

This is pretty funny. I can't believe three dudes with sheets on their heads could walk in to a library in NYC and not get tackled. I'm glad to see terrorism anxiety hasn't nixed New Yorkers ability to laugh at something like this.

Inspiring lives of the Reformers

It's remarkable what three solid days of reading and writing has done for my progress through these books!

I am just about finished with a section of reading and writing on Reformation History. I have been reading extensively on several Reformers- Luther, Zwingli, Melancthon, Calvin, Beza, and Knox. Biographies coupled with several of their own works in order to really understand who these guys were. At the same time I am writing a 20-page paper on the state of the papacy in the 16th Century. This has required doing quite a bit of preliminary study on the history of the papacy in general so as to understand it's state in the 16th Century.

I may share some of the Papal research in the future, if I can find a helpful reason to do so. I will say this, however- studying the Reformers of the 16th Century along side the Popes of the 16th Century is an exercise in utter contrasts. The Reformers were tireless students of God's Word, constantly ministering to churches and people, utterly sold out to the cause of Christ as they understood it. The Popes were generally more like politicians than clergy people. The 15 and 16th Century Papacy was heavily invovled with territorial power and alliances with this or that King, Queen, Elector,etc. They seemed enamored with their legacy more than honestly evaluating the shortcomings of the Church. Some were just plain wicked and many were very poor students of God's Word, and that's being kind. Frankly, the Reformation was the best thing that ever happened to the papacy as it pressured the Roman Church to require more biblical scholarship and theological acumen then the previous 1000 years. The Roman hierarchy today is far more theologially astute than it was between 500 and 1600 AD (so hold your fire my esteemed papist friends and readers).

William Cunningham wrote a wonderful book (1862)entitled "The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation" where he surveys the various leading Reformers. His description of the Reformers reveals why all Christians should read as much of the Reformers works as they can.

"They were led to study the sacred Scriptures with care and diligence; and they persevered in applying them to comfort their hearts amid all their trials, and difficulties, and to guide them in the regulation of their conduct. It is very evident, from surveying the history and the writings of the Reformers, that their strength and success, both as defenders of divine truth and maintainers of God's cause, and also as men engaged, amid many difficulties in the practical business of the church, and the world, and in the administration of important affairs, arose very much from their familiar and intimate acquaintance with the Word of God- the whole Word of God. They were familiar with the meaning and application of its statements, and they were deeply imbued with its spirit. The Word of God dwelt in them richly in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, and thus became 'a light unto their feet, and a lamp unto their path.'"

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sabbatical plans

Yesterday I began a three-month sabbatical from my regular pastoral duties at Redeemer. The Session at Redeemer recently developed a nice sabbatical plan for pastoral staff. Basically, for every 7 years of pastoral service at Redeemer we (the pastors) can take a three month sabbatical to be used in several possible ways. To be clear, it's not a 12 week paid vacation. The sabbatical is a break from regular pastoral duties in order to pursue some kind of continuing education, to do scholarly research and writing, maybe to participate in a longer term mission project, or travel to an area significant in church history. It's meant to be a refreshing enhancement to our pastoral ministry.

For the next three months I will be spending most of my time reading and writing for the doctoral degree I am pursuing. My time will break down like this- 12 weeks total: 9 weeks in the library reading/writing, 2 weeks speaking at Horn Creek family Camp, and 1 week of personal vacation riding the Katy Trail across Missouri (with Brian and Travis), and going to Seattle for a wedding.

I have been at Redeemer for 14 years. 10 of those years as the senior pastor. I had three weeks off from preaching a couple years ago, otherwise no more than two consecutive weeks from the pulpit over the last 10 years. I have to believe 12 weeks out of the pulpit will be refreshing, but it will also whet my appetite to return, I am sure. It will also be a great time of growth for Nathan and Brian as they split preaching duties during the 12 weeks. I know the flock will not lack for spiritual food in my absence.
I plan to visit other churches in the area while I'm on this sabbatical, but we'll still be at Redeemer for worship many weeks. I very much look forward to sitting with my family for worship, something I have very rarely been able to do over these 14 years.

And of course, I will not cease to blog during this time. Reepicheep must go on!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ronnie James Dio (1942-2010)

Yesterday the first great voice in American heavy metal died.

Ronnie James Dio died of stomach cancer at the age of 67. He was still touring with vigor and strength as of 6 months ago and planned to be touring this summer. His voice never failed him.

RJD had a powerful voice that often sounded better live than after produced in a studio. He was reasonably articulate and soft spoken, didn't resort to constant "F-bombs" on stage nor did he have a time of drug addiction like many in his genre and culture of music battled, especially during the 80's . Here's one of his classic performances of "Rainbow in the Dark" from 1983. The song probes hopelessness. I realize not everyone enjoys Heavy Metal like I do. That's OK.

After Michael Jackson's Live album came out I reflected on what we are to think regarding unbelievers who have been given a certain talent from God despite their apparent unbelief. I would apply these sentiments to Ronnie James Dio.

Simply put, God just gives select people something He doesn't give everyone else. I don't know what it would have been like to be in a private audience while Mozart played or Michelangelo painted, but Ronnie James Dio's metal vibrato is on par as far as I'm concerned. I know some will think regarding Dio's genre- "that doesn't take talent...he's screaming". I would only say to such a person- you're clueless! To say Dio was a rare talent seems too trite.

As a Christian I am always conflicted when I consider a figure like Ronnie James Dio. While I would not presume to know the content of his faith, his statements over the years pointed to a person who was confused about truth while openly and honestly probing questions of faith, doubt, fear, existence, and eternity. I could not discern any explicit fruit in what he said of a saving relationship with Christ though he and his wife were part of a significant mercy effort called "Children of the Night", dedicated to rescuing children from prostitution. Not too long ago Dio was interviewed by someone who asked him specific questions about life and religion. The whole interview is here. The interviewer asked Dio about his Roman Catholic upbringing, Christ and His claims, and the bible. Here's one response Dio gave that pretty much sums up what he believed-

"Well, if Thomas had not, at the end of the day, been able to put his fingers into the wound, he still wouldn't have believed. So where does that lead? The doubting Thomas is the quintessential point of what people do and don't believe about the Bible. We don't have the opportunity to go and stick our fingers into the hands of Christ. We don't have that luxury. He did. That had to be proven to him, and of course, that therefore is that whole part of the Bible, which we're supposed to blindly believe. You should not have to put your fingers in the wounds of Christ to believe that there was a Christ and that He died for all of our sins. Again, blind faith, if you believe in blind faith, and want to believe that everything is exactly what it is, then that's fine too. But me, I just can't take the Bible for exactly what it says, because I've just lived so much of life, and have learned that things are not always what they're written to be."

Dio spent quite a bit of time at MD Anderson in Houston receiving chemotherapy. I hope he came to believe in Christ through the witness of Christians there (there is a strong chaplaincy program at MD Anderson that shares Christ with many of the patients).

Nevertheless, the talent Dio possessed was not derived from himself or his DNA. Ronnie James Dio's ability was a gift from God. Misused talent? At times, for sure. Thus is the dilemma of human fallenness. Still, even in one who appears to be unregenerate and lost, the glorious creative imprint of God could be seen in lyrics and vocals he mustered.

As I have written before, I do not find it hard when viewing the unique talents and rare abilities of people like Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Ronnie James Dio, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Tiger Woods, etc., to give praise to God, and really, God alone.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ma Familia in the Buffalo News

My father's baby brother is Charlie Fletch (from R to L, he's 3rd). My Dad had 9 siblings with three different last names. My grandparents couldn't read or write so they would say their last name to the person who was filling out the birth certificate and it got messed up most times. In fact, we're not exactly sure what our original name is. There's a debate between it being "De Felice" or "Feliccia". We know for sure that "Fletch", "Felich", and "Feliche", the three existing names for my fathers siblings, are not the original family name. Based on some research I have done, I am reasonably sure our family name is De Felice, but I am met with violent opposition whenever I suggest this to my aunts and uncles, so I lay low on this subject.

Back to my Uncle Charlie...the Buffalo News did a nice article about him and a group of his friends who have been married for 50 years. I know each of the men in the article having played golf with them when I used to visit Buffalo each year. Check out their names- Joseph Maiorana, Vic Carbone, Vinnie Pantano, Louie Miceli, Sam Maiorana and Michael Giallella. Growing up in Western New York with my family circle, I was sure 90% of the world was Sicilian...what a disappointment it's been to find out I was mistaken.

You can read the article here.

The part of the article I like the most is what my Uncle Charlie says at the end when asked how they preserved their relationship. Uncle Charlie said- "You have to have the Lord God in your relationship." Uncle Charlie was raised a Roman Catholic like his brothers, me, and all my cousins. For as long as I have known Uncle Charlie and Aunt Mary Ann, they have professed faith in Christ. In recent years they have joined an evangelical church and have become more vocal and bold about their faith in Christ, it's been a great joy to see and I am grateful for their example of commitment to God and each other for these 50 years of marriage.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ferguson on the reality of laboring for Christ

So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me. (The Apostle Paul to the Philippians about Epaphroditus, 2:29-30)

Commenting about the difficult experience Paul's friend Epaphroditus had laboring for Christ, Sinclair Ferguson writes-

"For we are too often obsessed with what the gospel will do for ourselves (give me peace, purpose, joy, friendships, good experiences). But Scripture's vocabulary of Christian experience is rugged and stretching. Our tendency is to say 'if it hurts it cannot be truly spiritual'. But Paul's tendency is to remind us that if it is spiritual it may well hurt- someone, somewhere, sometime." - Sinclair Ferguson (Let's Study Philippians)

D.A. Carson on Worship

"Worship embraces all of life and every location. Worship is the consistent offering of all of one's life and time and energy and body and resources to God; it is profound God-centeredness. There is a sense in which true Christians should never not be worshiping." D.A. Carson (Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians)

Friday, May 14, 2010


Meet my boys Lapper and Blur from college. They have "real" names, but their nicknames are more user friendly and capture something of their personalities.

was a close friend of the Apostle Paul, we can see this in his letter to the Philippians:

I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me. - Philippians 2:25-30

In Paul’s caring reference to Epaphroditus, I think we gain a sense of how the special relationship between the Church and those who labor on her behalf should be. This is a feature of the passage I hope to unpack for the congregation a bit this Sunday.

Something that made me wonder, however, relates to Paul's friendship with Epaphroditus and others. That's a long name to be calling your homey. What do you think Paul really called his friends?

Epaphroditus: E-Pap? Phro? E-Man? E? Big E? E-Ditty? Ditus?

Silas: Siley? Siles?

Barnabas: Barney? Barns? Barnzey? Barna? Bassy?

Mark: Marky Mark? Markus? JM? Johnny M? J. Mark's the spot? Chicken? Wussie?

Priscilla: Prissy? Cilla? Cilly?

Aquila: Ackie? Quila? Quils? Quilster?

Tychicus: Tike? Tikey? Cus? Cussy? Special T?

Trophimus: Trophy? Trophe? Phimus?

Onesiphorus: O? Owny? Onezy? Siphor? Siphes? Phor? Phorus?

Titus: I better leave this one...

Luke: Doc? Dr.L? Lukey?

Big Papi watch

Is it wrong for me to enjoy watching the Boston Red Sox stumble around so far this season? Further, is it extra wrong for me to relish the demise of Big Papi since we learned of his past steroid usage last season? OK, don't answer those questions. Leave me be.

The $13 million dollar a season DH, David Ortiz, has played 24 of Boston's 35 games batting a paltry .200, hitting a measley 4 home runs. Again, that's $13 million in 2010 to bat .200.

I hope MLB contracts now have performance enhancing drug escape clauses. It seems like most players, after they are caught taking PED's, plummet in production (a reality that would probably shock Mark McGwire, who didn't really need the roids to hit all his home runs). It's not fair that a club signs a guy to a huge contract when he's roiding, then is stuck paying the big bucks after he's caught, presumably quits juicing, and returns to human statistics or worse. The Yanks dealt most obviously with this in the case of Jason Giambi. They locked him in to a marathon 5 year deal at $20 million per year based on his Oakland numbers. Once in NY, he was only a decent home run hitter with a below .250 BA. Horrible numbers for $20 million a year. Manny Ramirez in L.A. is another case. He got a $25 million contract with LA based on his Boston Roid Sox production. He had a torrid 2008 playoff with LA (while using PED's), then plunged to earth in the middle of last season (after his steroid suspension) and is a relative non factor thus far this season- for $25 million. Now we have Big Papi in Boston doing his post-steroid thing with no signs of coming out of this "slump".

At any rate, it's thrilling to see Boston fight to stay above .500. I'm just giddy!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dear Royals, please execute a mercy trade.

Zach Greinke is the lone bright spot on a dismal team. Despite a 2.51 ERA so far this season, it took Zach Greinke until today to register his first win. Over the past 48 games Greinke has started, his ERA has been 2.12, yet the team is 22-26. Greinke is easily in the top 5 pitchers of the American League (and by default, all of Major League Baseball), but was 0-4 coming in to today's contest against Cleveland.

Greinke signed a 4-year deal last year for a relative pittance given his Cy Young, elite pitcher status. He is an easy 20-game winner every year with 20 other MLB teams.

But Greinke plays for a horrible owner who runs a pathetic organization with a struggling GM and relatively hamstrung manager. Kansas City is a career killing franchise. Players who come here and stay bomb immediately or fizzle out eventually, there's no other option. The Royals have let player after player leave in their prime only to see them produce when they leave for other teams- Damon, Dye, Beltran, Ibanez, etc. If Greinke stays with the Royals past next year (he's under contract through 2012), he'll fizzle too. It's inevitable. Playing for the Royals is a pit stop or your last stop. Eventually losing game after game while more than upholding your end of the bargain will get psychologically old and demoralizing. He'll either fizzle or beg to be released.

Sam Mellinger wrote a somber piece in today's KC Star that captures the tragedy of Greinke's entrapment in KC. One statement that summed it up for me-

The Royals have turned the game’s best pitcher — a 26-year-old phenom on a club-friendly contract — into a symbol of their own special brand of fail. How many franchises could do that?

Please Dayton Moore, do the right thing for this young man's career and legacy- trade him to a team that is serious.

I'd love to see him in pinstripes...wouldn't you?

Update: The Royals fired manager Trey Hillman late today, which means little for Greinke's predicament.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

FOX 4 Covers the Heritage Christian School merger

I'm thankful for FOX 4's interest in our school merger story. They came out today and shot footage of both campuses and interviewed our president, Mark Dunn and myself. You'll notice I don't appear in the clip, as I've always said, I have the perfect face for radio!

In all seriousness, it's a short clip but pretty well done. Lot's of homes in the KC area will be introduced to the ministry of Heritage by this.

Reepicheep poll: Who's fault is the oil spill?

As you know by now there is a massive oil spill in the gulf of Mexico. Millions of gallons of crude oil have come from the open well on the sea floor. The effects of this spill on wildlife and gulf states economy will be staggering.

So who's to blame? Cast your vote on the side bar. I have listed the most likely villains.

Is it British Petroleum who owns and operates the well?

Is it N.T. Wright, the controversial theologian who seems to be blamed for any and all doctrinal departures in the reformed world?

Is it the U.S. Government which now basically has it's hands in the auto industry, banks, health care system, and education loan operations, etc.?

Is it former President George Bush who is still the favorite scapegoat of the current president as well as most democratic members of congress?

Is it President Obama who seems to have passed from his chosen one status to a more reasonable level of humanness?

Who do you think is responsible for the spill?