Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Karlberg on the hallmarks of the Reformed theological tradition

I'm headlong in to Mark Karlberg's "Covenant Theology in Reformed Perspective". It's a book full of articles and book reviews he has done over the years. It's very well done, but complex and progress is slow going without LOTS of coffee. I was jarred from my studious trance when I read Karlberg say something especially insightful-

Although the doctrine of divine predestination, more so than the doctrine of justification by faith, rapidly became one of the hallmarks of the Reformed theological tradition, the three elements in the system of doctrine- covenant, justification, and predestination- were treated interrelatedly. There is little point in singling out one among others....

The essence of the gospel, according to these Reformed interpreters,is the good news of free grace- grace that is entirely unmerited, unconditioned upon human initiative, and irresistible. God's distinguishing grace in redemption is sovereign and efficacious, limited in the extent of its saving benefit to fallen humanity by the sole determination and good pleasure of God's eternal counsel and will.

The decree of predestination, which is twofold, manifests the supreme glory of God in the display of his great mercy and love to sinners chosen before the foundation of the world and in the display of his wrath upon the reprobate.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The real Jihad revealed by John Ball

These Greek letters mean “Jesus Christ", "Victor”

"Jihad" is associated with the so-called "Holy War" waged by Muslims against those who are not adherents of Islam. Islam is a false religion making such a conviction and practice all the more pernicious.

There have been professing Christians who have promoted similar kinds of thinking and practices concerning Christianity, but the true God rightly displayed by biblical Christianity doesn't advocate violence or war to bring about conversion to Christ.

Nevertheless, there is a Holy War that goes on daily. It is the Holy War referred to by John Ball which he alludes to in his Treatise on the Covenant of Grace (1645)-

“The conversion of the nations to the faith of Christ is made by a holy war, destruction, and desolation; Wherein the King of Kings fighteth against, subdueth, and bringeth under the disobedient, which formerly did rise up against him. But this wasting or desolation is not the loss of temporal life, or spoiling of worldly goods, or any outward desolation which is seen with the eyes, or heard with the ears; but a most happy desolation, whereby pride and haughtiness of mind is depressed, and the mind lifted up to things above; the power of the flesh is quelled, and the Spirit doth gather strength; the edge of vices is dulled, and all kind of virtue doth bud and blossom; and where the flesh did rule, the Spirit doth rule.”

Redeemer Bambi update

Things have already gone from bad to worse with this yearling doe making the Redeemer property her home.

We have a picnic every Sunday night after our service. There's an old barn in the corner of our property not too far from where we eat. A bunch of kids were playing soccer (of course) and the ball went behind the barn. Sure enough, good ole' Bambi was munching on some mulberries and utterly unfazed by the group of church people who walked over to see her.

Next thing you know the doe is strolling freely in the middle of the soccer game walking up to people like a dog. She spots some plates with food on the picnic table and helps herself! See below. Notice my wife (dark pants), the mighty hunter from two days prior, getting a kick out of Bambi's boldness.

Am I the only one catching the providential irony of this whole situation? Our church is in the middle of subdivisions. There are woodlines not too far from us, but there's not a whole lot of deer activity right near our property anymore due to all the construction that has happened the last 10 years. So, believing God ordains whatsoever comes to pass- He sends this deer to taunt two pastors who very much enjoy harvesting her relatives. This deer is like a big dog. She even came up to me and tried to nibble on my shorts with a good number of Redeemer congregants getting a big laugh out the whole episode. We couldn't get rid of her. Utterly ridiculous.

I admit to be a touch soft at this point. I don't think I could shoot this deer now. I believe the deer has seen Nathan and I target shoot and senses danger with us. Her plot is to endear herself to the church body as a whole. She believes a connection will be made with the emotionally weak in our midst effectively eliminating the possibility of me shooting her. Think about it- when she turns up missing and some little covenant child, who I probably baptized, asks me where the deer went, what could I say? "Well Suzy, Pastor Tony ran an arrow through both of Bambi's lungs and we're eating her in next year's mission trip fundraiser (via the meat sauce for the spaghetti, of course)". How do you think that would go over?

But Pastor Nathan? Well, let's just say he may do most of Redeemer's counseling, but don't let that fool you, he's not so mushy as I. Bambi ain't anywhere near out of trouble.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Don't get too comfortable, Bambi

A couple of weeks ago Nathan saw a young doe on the church property while he was target shooting with his bow behind our offices.

Tonight my wife went to a ladies craft night at the church and what shows up right outside MY OFFICE? Yep, good ole Bambi.

I kid you not, my office is 20 yards from this deer, which relieved herself in front of the paparazzi.
My jokester wife got one of my sons target bows out of my office and stalked the doe to within 10 yards. PETA advocates can chill, this bow can't shoot at lethal strength and the tip of that arrow is blunt. Beyond all that, my wife couldn't hit the broad side of a barn from the inside. Bambi is quite safe...for now. Apparently Shari hasn't seen the dog-stomping deer I posted just over a week ago, she might not have been so bold.

I believe this is an orphaned yearling doe. It's not a fawn. The likelihood of her making the Redeemer property and the immediate area her home range is pretty good. We have water (pond), lots of clover, acorn trees and subdivisions next door full of luscious flower beds and the like.

I'm torn, should I take care of her on day one of the bow season opener or should I wait and see if she draws in a big buck to my office door come November?

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Greatest Ever: Pele'

With all due respect to the great Diego Maradona (and the high-powered RPC United trifecta of Tomi Ardiles, Chico, and Lenin Guerra), the greatest soccer player in history has to be Pele.

I only wish there was better quality footage of the Brazilian legend-

John Ball on Justification

John Ball was an English Puritan who ministered in the early 17th Century. He wrote a stellar book I am now reading called "A Treatise on the Covenant of Grace". It is a riveting work I can't put down (literally, because I have to finish chapter summaries right quick). I'm not a big fan of the old English letter "S" being a "F" (See above), but oh well. Here's a rich statement by Ball (with the right kind of "S")-

"Faith alone is the cause of Justification and Salvation, on our part required. It is a penitent and petitioning faith, whereby we receive the promises of mercy, but we are not justified partly by prayer, partly by repentance, and partly by faith, but by that faith, which stirreth up godly sorrow for sin, and enforceth us to pray for pardon and salvation. Faith is a necessary and lively instrument of Justification...If it be demanded whose instrument is it (faith)? It is the instrument of the soul, wrought therein by the Holy Ghost, and is the free gift of God."

Channeling Johnny Cash?

Well, not really, but this kid is good.

HT: Creecy

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Calvin's View of Church Offices

My recent study of Calvin has revealed interesting things about his perspective on a host of biblical matters. I'll share some of my findings with you in future posts. It was most edifying to read Calvin's thoughts on church offices.

In The Institutes of the Christian Religion John Calvin identifies 5 offices in Scripture (Book IV, Chapter 3)- Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherds (pastors), and Teachers. He says only the last two, pastors and teachers, have “ordinary” (perpetual or ongoing) office in the church.

Regarding Apostles, Prophets, and Evangelists, Calvin states-

“The Lord raised up the other three at the beginning of his kingdom, and still occasionally raises them up when the necessity of the times requires.”

Calvin believed the office of Apostle was uniquely tasked with bringing back the world from its revolt to the true obedience of God, and establish His Kingdom the world over by the preaching of the Gospel. To Calvin, Apostleship was uniquely tied to the days of the early church and her supernatural expansion. Regarding the office of Prophet, Calvin meant “those who excelled by special revelation.” Obvious examples of Prophets were those men called to preach to Israel in the Old Testament and also a person like John the Baptist in the New Testament. They spoke the Word of God by His authority, many of the Prophets were writers of Holy Writ. The office of Evangelist to Calvin referred to were deputies of the Apostles like Luke, Titus, Timothy, etc. They functioned alongside the Apostles to fulfil the same goal of reaching the world with the Kingdom of God through the preaching of the Gospel.

What proves interesting is Calvin’s declaration that these three offices are not meant to be perpetual. He states apostles, prophets, and evangelists served an initiatory process in the life of the Church, to establish the Church where it did not already exist. Intriguing is Calvin’s lack of finality about these offices allowing for their improbable, but possible continuation. Calvin’s qualification of these offices reveals his view-

“Those three functions were not instituted in the Church to be perpetual, but only to endure so long as churches were to be formed where none previously existed, or at least where churches were to be transferred from Moses to Christ; although I deny not, that afterward God occasionally raised up Apostles, or at least Evangelists, in their stead, as has been done in our time. For such were needed to bring back the Church from the revolt of Antichrist. The office I nevertheless call extraordinary, because it has no place in churches duly constituted.”

It seems one could rightly conclude that Calvin viewed these offices as unnecessary and non-existent in places where the Church is established, yet possibly existent in new frontiers of the Church still being entered. It would be extraordinary for there to be apostles, prophets, or evangelists in the biblical office sense of these offices today, but not impossible, according to Calvin.

Calvin’s more poignant focus is on the offices of pastor and teacher, both of which were perpetual and ongoing in his view. Very simply, Calvin saw two offices here listed, not one (Pastor-teacher). Pastor is given a manifold task of discipline, the administration of the sacraments, admonitions, and exhortations (all according to Scripture), while the teacher is tasked solely with the “the interpretation of Scripture only, in order that pure and sound doctrine may be maintained among believers.”

Calvin shows a high regard for the office of pastor as he devotes two sections to explaining the purpose and role of the office. From several passages of Scripture Calvin constructs a vivid picture of pastoral ministry. Four chief passages that guide Calvin’s thoughts are as follows:

1 Corinthians 4:1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

Titus 1:9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

Acts 20:20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house…

1 Corinthians 9:16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

These passages contain the twofold focus of the office of pastor according to Calvin- preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments. Regarding the preaching of the gospel, the pastor was to do so with public addresses (sermons) and private admonitions (personal warnings and counseling). One might object to Calvin’s use of passages that may seem to be concerning apostles rather than pastors, however he points out the several hats Paul wears as an Apostle, one was certainly that of a pastor. Furthermore, Calvin makes this interesting and noteworthy comparison between apostles and pastors-

“What the apostles did to the whole world, every pastor should do to the flock over which he is appointed.”

While Calvin gives special attention to the office of pastor, he reveals more of his particular view of church offices when he explains the general designation of “presbyter” or elder in section 8 of this chapter. He has already noted two offices- pastor and teacher, he then breaks down the office of elder a bit further. Calvin notes Scripture’s synonymous use of the terms bishop, pastor, and elder. All the designations so far noted by Calvin are to be about the ministry of the Word of God. Calvin however notes another designation or office differing slightly with pastors and teachers. He refers to the presence of presbyters (elders) who are older and possessing special spiritual wisdom. Note Calvin’s description of such presbyters-

“By these governors I understand seniors selected from the people to unite with the bishops in pronouncing censures and exercising discipline. For this is the only meaning which can be given to the passage, 'He that ruleth, with diligence,' From the beginning, therefore, each church had its senate, composed of pious, grave, and venerable men, in whom was lodged the power of correcting faults…and therefore we are to regard the office of government as necessary for all ages.”

So it is that Calvin denotes three distinct offices in the church having to do with the ministry of the Word of God- pastor, teacher, and elder. Pastors have a more complex role than teachers and elders, but all are given to the church for her edification and growth.

I'll give a word on Calvin's view of deacons in a future post.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

There's hope for America!

The Kansas City P & L district reaction to Team USA's dramatic goal in the 92nd minute of today's do or die match against Algeria tells me there is hope for America yet.

I don't mean hope for Team USA to advance much further, but rather there is hope that America might yet embrace the greatest sport on earth.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Greatest World Cup Goal Ever

As I watched Argentina play Greece today I noticed my boys chuckling at the portly Argentine coach celebrating wildly after a goal.

Nico said while giggling, "who's that chubby guy"? After realizing he wasn't referring to me, it struck me that he just called Diego Maradona chubby. That's not acceptable.

It's true, since his playing days Maradona has battled the bulge (I feel his pain), not to mention a host of other personal problems, but I couldn't let my boys disrespect the second greatest soccer player of all time (Pele is the first). I told my boys of what you are about to see below.

In 1986 Maradona, almost single-handed (there's a story there, ask the English), won the World Cup for Argentina. This goal below is widely considered the greatest World cup goal ever. The Spanish version audio is better, but the video quality of this clip is the best I've seen. I remember watching the goal like it was yesterday.


I told my boys, "We don't call Diego chubby any more...capeesh?"

Here's the Spanish version I alluded to:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Whether documented or not? WOW

I don't know what you think about all the immigration debate, but this is scary reasoning coming from the President's Secretary of Labor!!!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Voyage of the Dawn Treader Trailer

I'm looking forward to the third installment of the Narnia series, although produced by a different company this time.

Here's the newly release trailer (sorry about the frame getting cut off)-

Reepicheep figures heavily in the book, I hope he does in the movie.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What was most important to Calvin?

Continuing my Calvin studies for the fifth day in a row (I'm almost through reading and writing on the Institutes) I have learned something I guess I already knew but am very mindful of now.

The longest, most involved sections of his magnum opus, "The Institutes of Christian Religion" are as follows (in descending order):

3. Of Faith. The Definition of It. Its Peculiar Properties (31 pages, 43 sections)

2. Of Prayer- A Perpetual Exercise of Faith. The Daily Benefits Derived from It. (47 pages, 52 sections)

1. Of the Lord's Supper, and he Benefits Conferred by It (50 pages, 50 sections)

I think this serves to illustrate what doctrines were actually most important to Calvin. His chapter on prayer is absolutely brilliant and blessed. I find it ironic that Calvin is often painted as a rigid, cold, fatalist (due to his doctrine of predestination), yet his second longest chapter in the four full books of the Institutes is on prayer.

Feast on this from Book 3, Chapter 20, Section 2-

To prayer, then, are we indebted for penetrating to those riches which are treasured up for us with our heavenly Father. For there is a kind of intercourse between God and men, by which, having entered the upper sanctuary, they appear before Him and appeal to his promises, that when necessity requires they may learn by experiences that what they believed merely on the authority of his word was not in vain. Accordingly, we see that nothing is set before us as an object of expectation from the Lord which we are not enjoined to ask of Him in prayer, so true it is that prayer digs up those treasures which the Gospel of our Lord discovers to the eye of faith. The necessity and utility of this exercise of prayer no words can sufficiently express. Assuredly it is not without cause our heavenly Father declares that our only safety is in calling upon his name, since by it we invoke the presence of his providence to watch over our interests, of his power to sustain us when weak and almost fainting, of his goodness to receive us into favour, though miserably loaded with sin; in fine, call upon him to manifest himself to us in all his perfections. Hence, admirable peace and tranquillity are given to our consciences; for the straits by which we were pressed being laid before the Lord, we rest fully satisfied with the assurance that none of our evils are unknown to him, and that he is both able and willing to make the best provision for us.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I can't resist, this is just so good-

Justification being denied to works, not in order that no good works may be done or that those which are done may be denied to be good; but only that we may not trust or glory in them, or ascribe salvation to them.

- John Calvin (The Institutes of the Christian Religion:Book 3, Section 1)

A doe and her fawn- dogs and cats beware!

This is cool. Warning: the lady drops an "S" bomb.

HT: Nathan

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Oil Spill response? Of course, more legislation...

I genuinely feel sorry for President Obama on this catastrophic oil spill thing. I think he looks way outmatched and unsure. He'll make a lot of people mad no matter what he does going forward.
This spill may well prove to be one of the most devastating environmental and economic disasters in our country's history, especially if some of the controversial modern clean up methods are not allowed. We'll see. Honesty, I'm praying for God to give wisdom to the powers that be for the sake of the people who depend on the gulf economy and the stewardship of God's creation.

Given this President's usual response to crisis, I think it's safe to say how he and his cronies in Washington will respond. You can bet on another massive piece of legislation that will solve all our problems. One can only imagine the kind of additional regulations and bureaucracies that are coming.

The gulf shore isn't the only thing about to get ugly.

Why do some Evangelicals diss John Calvin?

I have a number of dear evangelical Christian friends who seem to criticize John Calvin with regularity in my hearing. I have ministered alongside several people in various non-denominational settings where they have spoken with a certain amount of angst about John Calvin.

I am in the middle of an intense study of John Calvin and his writings. I am currently, at this moment (though breaking to write this post), reading through his magnum opus, The Institutes of the Christian Religion. I have read it several times in my life and refer to it regularly. As I have been reading it these past few days, I have been tempted share quotes with you literally dozens of times. There is just so much richness and blessed insight contained in this unprecedented work. Of all the theology I have read in the past 20 plus years of formal study, I have never read a work more careful, accurate, and well-ordered than Calvin's Institutes.

What's my point? For Christians to speak ill of Calvin or come off as opposing him in some general way, I submit the following must be true: They have never actually read much Calvin, and certainly not the whole of his Institutes.

I understand if a Christian doesn't like Calvin's explanation of this or that particular doctrine, but the whole of his writing is just so biblically solid, something else must be at work when a Christian voices disdain for the Swiss reformer. I know Calvin's explanation of the biblical doctrine of predestination ruffles some feathers, but anyone who has actually read Calvin knows this wasn't his key doctrinal emphasis. Calvin's chief focus was Christ. Period. To me, being a Calvinist means an emphasis on the sovereignty of God manifested most clearly through the work of Christ. Calvinism is utterly God-centered and Christ-exalting. Keep these descriptions in mind when I use the word Calvinist going forward. True Calvinism is not adequately described simply as a term synonymous with predestination. Yes Calvin carefully taught the doctrine of predestination (as Scripture lays it out), but to say it was his primary emphasis is just plain wrong.

OK, I have a few theories as to why a number of evangelical Christians speak ill of Calvin:

1. They have heard characterizations of Calvin through isolated quotes keying on predestination and have decided they don't like Calvin. Based on this malformed dislike, they never actually read Calvin for themselves.

2. They have actually read some of Calvin's teaching, probably on predestination, and it has rightly convicted them to think more biblically, however they are resisting the truth. What they have read has tweaked their perceived autonomy and they don't like it. Speaking ill of Calvin is a way for them to put off facing biblical reality.

3. They have been exposed to some modern professing Calvinists who act like obnoxious jerks, therefore they won't give Calvin a fair hearing or reading.

If the first reason for angst against Johnny C describes you- I plead with you to pick up Calvin and read. You've been duped. You have to believe me. You must read Calvin for yourself. Skip any references to predestination if you want. I'm telling you that life is too short to not read Calvin because some ignoramus mis-characterized him for you. Read Book 2, Chapters 15-17 and see if you're not hooked.

If the second reason for shunning the long bearded Frenchman describes you- you're in a dangerous place, so be careful. It may not be Calvin you're resisting, but rather God Himself. I was once where you sit, but I won't try to apply the usual biblical arguments in favor of God's sovereignty in election and predestination at this point. Again, pick up Institutes and read Book 2, Chapters 15-17 for starters. Christians love Christ. There's no way you won't love these chapters.

If the last reason for dissing the Calvinator describes you- please forgive them (us). It's not Calvin's fault. Try to understand however, many new to what Calvin emphasized (the sovereign grace of God through Christ) feel as though they have been set free. It's common for people who come to understand sovereign grace, and what it means for life, to react poorly against their old way of thinking and those who taught them. Some Calvinists can tend toward an apparent arrogance because of confidence about their position. Arrogance and pride are sinful demeanors and not in any way a reflection of John Calvin himself. Frankly, the doctrines Calvin emphasized will work to humble us when understood correctly. Often times it's not arrogance or pride at all, but rather a genuine zeal for all Christians to be liberated as we (Calvinists) have. Again, pick up his Institutes and read.

Sabbatical, Soccer Camp, World Cup...

I'm in the fifth week of my study sabbatical and making excellent progress on my studies. I'm a bit overloaded with John Calvin reading and writing, but it's all tremendous stuff. As I sit in the library reading and typing, I sneak peaks at the World Cup games on Huge upset a minute ago as heavily favored Spain lost their first group game against Switzerland! Calvin would lament the spiritual condition of Switzerland, but I bet he'd be happy with the progress of the Swiss soccer team.

Before heading to the library this morning I dropped my boys off at soccer camp which runs this whole week from 9-noon. They wanted to paint their hair the color of the team they are on at Camp. Nico and AJ are Brazil. Jordan is England. Fun times.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity by O'Reilly

Bill O'Reilly is the epitome of the relatively new genre of television called infotainment. This genre is a mixture of entertainment and actual current event oriented information and analysis. Make no mistake, ratings and money are the key reason for such a genre.

Bill O'Reilly and his highly viewed cable infotainment show, The O'Reilly Factor, have been riding high for the past several years. No other such show is more viewed in the United States. I rarely view his show on TV but I do check out his "Talking Points" segment online several times a week. I don't care for his personality, he comes off as arrogant and somewhat pompous. At the same time he has his hand on the popular pulse of many people in America, so I am intrigued to hear what he says are the primary issues of the day. From time to time I think he is right on.

This past weekend I was at my in-laws home and saw O'Reilly's latest book, "A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity", so I picked it up and read it. The title comes from something a nun said about him when he was a kid. If you like O'Reilly's style on his show, you'll like this book. If you, like me, find his style mildly to very annoying, you'll hate this book. Frankly I wish I could get back the the few hours I spent reading Bold, Fresh. It's just not a good book. Sure, it's a "best seller", but that doesn't make it a good piece of literature. It reads like O'Reilly "bloviating" (a favorite term of his) on camera. He comes off as the constant hero in every anecdotal interchange he records. The book is basically a manifesto of O'Reilly's worldview explained through a series of experiences he had growing up. While I don't think he made up the various stories he relays from his life, I do think they were recasted to fit what his very marketable message is today. In comparison, when I read Tim Russert's book, Big Russ and Me, it felt genuine and accurately descriptive of who Russert was. Bold, Fresh seems contrived and crafted to contribute to the modern money making persona of Bill O'Reilly. You won't really know the real Bill O'Reilly any better by reading this book.

The book states many times and in many ways the following challenge or thesis that betrays his worldview:

"Design your own life. Never give up trying to make it on your own. Get back up when you get slapped down, and don't waste time buying in to ideological nonsense. Expect- and accept- nothing from anyone. Do it yourself." (p.36)

O'Reilly basically sets himself up to be the perfect model of the aforementioned ideology (while bidding us not to buy in to a particular ideology). When you read this book you can picture O'Reilly saying, "I am an independent thinker..I am balanced..I am a fountain of wise common sense...I am bold..I am fresh..I am convicted based on some innate common sense that was somehow shaped in my upbringing." I think he intends the book to be a sort of self-help tool as we are inspired by his incredible rise.

The book depicts a common weakness in the worldview of many people today, especially those who think of themselves as conservative. The foundation for the various conservative positions promoted is nothing more than some kind of mysterious personal conviction that apparently came from a certain traditional upbringing. This book promotes a common conservative ethic, you know, the "do it yourself, expect a hand out from no one" individual responsibility idea. Why? Well, just because. It feels common sensical enough, but upon analysis, it's hard to know why O'Reilly holds this view other than it being somehow woven in to his childhood and young adulthood. There appears to be no authoritative reason for holding such generally conservative views, just that such a mindset has worked for America for a long time. There is a definite sense that America possesses some kind of innate goodness. Yes, our country isn't guilt-free, but compared to all the others, we're the best. Connected to this ideological commitment it is regularly maintained that our manifold problems as a country are because we have abandoned so many of our traditional views and practices. This is certainly a drumbeat of O'Reilly.

Before this post goes longer than it should, I'll just say there's nothing wrong with viewing O'Reilly in the proper light and with a realistic understanding of what he's out to do- make money entertaining. For Christians however, I hope positions we hold come with more than an argument from tradition. Desperate times can tend to make us romanticize the past to the point of total distortion. I submit one of the main reasons our country has found itself in such a quagmire of challenging and seemingly insurmountable issues is the lack of foundational, demonstrable, timeless, core beliefs. Simply saying "it was better then" with no understanding or explanation as to why, will not ultimately translate in to any positive shift in the way things are going. Frankly, if such a positive shift did ocur, what would O'Reilly (and others) do for a living?

Friday, June 11, 2010


Here's the first goal of the 2010 World Cup scored by South Africa.

It's a good one...

2010 World Cup begins

The 2010 World Cup has begun in South Africa. Only the Summer Olympics compare with the magnitude of the World Cup.

Whatever your American opinion of soccer (or futbal in the rest of the world) is, remember that over 5 billion living people have played, are playing, or following soccer on a regular basis. No other sport compares. The simplicity of the game allows for all mankind to participate. The complexity of the game makes it riveting to watch. I know many Americans won't agree with that last statement, a reality I think betrays the degraded state of our immediate satisfaction American culture.

Soccer games are epic battles. They are a minimum of 90 minutes long. The average midfielder will run 6-10 miles in one game. Goals are scarce because they are so difficult to score.

Who will win the 2010 World Cup? I would like the 2006 champions to repeat, my beloved Italia. Unfortunately the aging Azzuri squad cannot be considered the favorite though no one should count Cannavaro and crew out. As usual, Brasil is sending a powerful team and must be considered the favorites to win gold for the fifth time in their history, especially led by the magical play maker Kaka'. A wise person will not rule out Espania however, they too send a talented, potent roster. Argentina doesn't boast the overall talent they have had in the past, but they also have the best player on earth right now, Lionel Messi. Will it be Brasil? Germania? Espania? Italia? Argentina? Portugal? Netherlands? Mexico? England? United States? Who knows? All teams and nations come with high expectations and dreams. There is hardly greater earthly glory than World Cup glory.

Does the U.S. have a chance? No. Not really. Not to win the tournament anyways. Tomorrow's opening pool game against England is one of the most anticipated in U.S. soccer history. England is far more talented and experienced, but not more athletic. England is a heavy favorite, but one never knows. That's the beauty of the World Cup. I'd love to see our boys get all 1776 on the Brits!

Over the next month be sure to join the rest of the planet in following the greatest tournament of the greatest sport God ever ordained.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Pastor's involvement in Politics?

From time to time I take heat for the various political comments I make or analysis I offer here on Reepicheep. Some folks think a pastor should be careful not to become too involved with or overly focused on politics and making comments about the same. Certainly my main calling is preaching the gospel, administering the sacraments, prayer, and general nurture of the specific flock God has called me to, so I take seriously such warnings. I wouldn't want to obscure the gospel with too much focus on political matters.

I see this blog as an extension of my pastoral ministry, but it also has an obvious personal flavor that should not be confused as an official statement from Redeemer (the church I am called to serve) or the Presbyterian Church in America (the denomination that holds my ministerial credentials).

I have been reading LOTS on John Calvin these past few days and came across some helpful information from Calvin and about Calvin that concerns the very question of a pastor's involvement in politics.

Calvin was asked to be involved in the ecclesiastical ordering of the Church in Geneva, Switzerland. At the same time, the civil magistrate of that city asked for his legal counsel about civil legislation in light of his training as a lawyer. Calvin found himself wrapped up in matters of church and state regularly. He actually voiced frustration about the dual role he often found himself in. In 1556, after being at Geneva for 14 years, he wrote a letter to his friend Nicholas Zerkinden revealing his feelings about involvement in politics-

You will ask why I should mix myself up with those affairs which do not become my profession, and engender great animosity against me among many- Though I rarely meddle with these political matters, and am dragged on to them against my inclination, yet I sometimes allow myself to take part in them when necessity requires it...I wish I had been at liberty to demand my exemption. But since I returned here 14 years ago, when God held out his hand to me, men importunately solicited me, and I myself had no decent pretext for refusal. I have preferred to bestow my pains in pacifying troubles to remaining idle spectator of them.

Discussing Calvin's involvement in civil affairs Owen Chadwick observed- "One of the consuming passions of Calvin's life was a hatred of public mess."

I relate with that passion, indeed it fuels much of what I address politically on this blog. Another Calvin biographer, Ronald Wallace, gives this helpful analysis of Calvin's involvement with politics-

Calvin's method of "pacifying troubles" in Geneva were those of a churchman rather than of a politician. He suggested practical improvements to the city council in their system of poor relief and in their care of the city hospital but he did not try to provide a blue print for social reconstruction. He never suggested any changes, for example in the very complicated set-up of councils in the political structure of the town.

His program could be described as one of social sanctification rather than of social reconstruction. A transformation first had to be brought about in the personal lives of Geneva's citizens. This was to be achieved chiefly by two means: through social discipline, and through the sacramental power of the Word of God.

By "social discipline" Calvin meant civil order through reasonable laws and ordinances. He saw a strong social structure as most conducive for the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. Of course, the Word of God is the catalyst for heart change. From changed hearts will come godliness individually and a godly society as a whole.

I steer clear of political commentary in my preaching and teaching unless a moral issue has to be addressed. A faithful pastor must address the morals of the day regardless of the consequences. Whether it be abortion, sexual immorality, neglect of the poor, etc., a pastor will address these issues if he is preaching through the bible faithfully. As for my blog, I am more free with my commentary but still try to address political issues as they relate to moral ones. I see Reepicheep as far different from Redeemer's pulpit.

I'm glad to know the question of a pastor's involvement in politics has been a struggle since God gave pastors to the church. If Johnny C was frustrated, that tells me something about the complexity of the issue.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Congrats to the Hawks

Congrats to the Chicago Blackhawks for winning the most difficult trophy in all of professional sports. They had a great season and playoff run- they deserve to hoist the Cup.

I have all but given up on my Sabres to ever win a Cup, especially with the current management. The next best thing, I guess, would be for Chicago to win and get the winning goal from a Buffalo boy. That's what happened tonight as Patrick Kane won it in OT for the Hawks.

I have some good memories of Blackhawks games at the old Chicago Stadium back in my Moody days.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Will Android kill the Apple star?

I got my new HTC HERO phone (with Android) a couple weeks ago and loved it immediately. The touch typing was initially hard to get used to, but the speed, ease of use, multiple applications, capatability with my various Google applications, and general overall quality made me a fan right away. It runs on the Android system which is relatively new and put out by Google (and George Lucas!). Sprint needs something to compete with Apple's I-Phone, I think it may have found it with Android.

I'm only moderately techno-savvy and I'm definitely not a device/gadget fiend. Brian Hough is both of the above. He has also drunk deep of the APPLE Kool-Aid and NEVER admits any machine, device, or system may be better than Apple.

Until now...

He got a new HTC EVO that also runs on the Android platform and has seemed to admit how awesome this non-Apple phone is. The EVO is even faster than my HERO and it has a sweet camera and HD video camera as cool added features (mine has a camera, but not as nice as the EVO's) Admittedly, we both are somewhat forced in to using an Android phone due to the cheaper cost, but he concedes Android can challenge Apple.

Brian Hough endorsing a non-Apple product? Is the Apocalypse upon us?

Into the Wild by Krakauer

A couple days ago I was at Pike's Market in downtown Seattle (the famous place where dude's throw salmon around) and I found a used book store. I picked up Jon Krakauer's adventure novel "Into the Wild" and read the entire book today. Just like "Into thin Air", I couldn't put this book down. I love the way Krakauer writes.

People have recommended this book to me many times over the past 10 years, but very honestly, I have little time for "pleasure" reading, which stinks. After I finish this degree I'm working on, I plan to read lots of books I have been putting off.

The book is Krakauer's depiction of the story of Chris McCandless. The description on the book says it perfectly- In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet and invented a new name for himself. Four months later his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. The picture above was taken by McCandless at the beginning of his Alaska journey. He took several rolls of film with many self-portraits. He grows more and more gaunt with each haunting picture. Here's one of the last ones-

The book covers more than his final four months however. It covers a period of over two years where this young man graduates from college then becomes a drifter/adventurer finally dying of starvation in Alaska. Krakauer digs in to the psyche of McCandless, which proves to be one of the more interesting aspects of the book. There is no indication that McCandless was a Christian, so reading about such people prompts me to think of how his fate might have been different if he knew Christ. Did he come to know Christ in his last days as his strength left him? He certainly knew of Christianity and it's claims, he was very well read and spent time in Christian homeless shelters over the two years he wandered. There's no way for me to tell.

In telling McCandless' story, Krakauer causes the reader to think of many issues- social structure and acceptance, parent-child relationships, the "call of the wild", self-worship, self-reliance, over confidence, adventure, wealth, poverty, self discovery, the necessity of human relationships, etc.

For me, a wanna-be adventurist, Into the Wild caused me to see how pointless and futile life is apart from God's grace and guidance.

A motion picture was produced in 2007 based on Krakauer's novel, I plan on renting it soon despite Sean Penn being the producer.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thoughts on the "Sacred Swoon"

Don't shoot the re-blogger (me) on this post.

My preference for worship style is liturgical with weekly communion being an important component. You can see my basic worship philosophy embodied by our church leadership on the Redeemer website.

While I am unashamedly committed to our form of worship, I am not suggesting "our way" is the only way. I have worshipped in many different churches with varying styles and was blessed in so doing. I think our way is the best way, but not the only way. Everyone in charge of ordering a worship service, no matter what the style, thinks their way is best, or they wouldn't (shouldn't) organize it like they do. That's different from saying it's the only way. Further, I recognize a diversity among God's people and debates about worship style weary me, so don't try to start one here.

Having said that, I ran across a post that got me thinking about modern worship. Have you heard of the "sacred swoon"? That's a description given to a large segment of modern worship. The above picture depicts the sacred swoon. Anyways, the post below argues that much of modern worship has been shaped by the feminization of the evangelical church.

I think the guy has a point...but again, don't shoot the re-blogger.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Few 2010 Katy Trail Highlights

Finished! 247.5 miles total

Highest elavation..near Windsor, MO

Big Burr Oak Tree (on left) near Columbia

Need a rest

Had to get a fallen rock out of our way...

Brian heading out...

Brian and I got dropped off in St. Charles, MO on Sunday night by his wife and road the entire length of the Katy Trail (and then some) over the next few days. My wife picked us up this evening in Clinton, MO at the end of the trail.

We had originally planned to bike from Clinton on the roads back to Olathe, but we had too much gear, the wrong kind of bikes, and were facing some bad weather.

At any rate, we are elated to have finished riding 247.5 miles over the course of 3 1/4 days (19.5 total hours on our bikes).