Monday, January 31, 2011

How has God blessed you recently?

Things could be worse, you could have this guy's job!

On occasion I get stressed out. The convergence of challenges from church, school, family and self make me cranky and my wife notices. The godly woman she is, prompts her to ask me- “So what things are going well? How has God blessed you/us recently?" Shari and I have been married for almost 18 years, so I know when she asks me those questions I must be looking or sounding negative. God often uses her confrontations of my sin to give me repentance. What a treasure such a wife is! I think all of us battle with perspective. We very easily forget all the ways God has blessed us and is blessing us. We get caught up in challenges or trials and tend to see the world through a negative or depressed lens. At such times I encourage you to answer the questions Shari poses to me every so often. Here’s how I would answer them today-

1. I have a great wife and children. They love me like no one else. They love me despite of my bouts with selfishness or other sinful demeanor's. They pull me back to where I need to be with great faithfulness. They motivate me to lead our family.

2. I serve a wonderful church. The latest of innumerable encouragements came when over 80 people came to the recent volunteer organizational meeting to help lead committees for the capital stewardship campaign. Let’s face it, paying off debt isn’t as glorious or attractive as a building campaign for the construction of a sanctuary. Yet, these folks want to serve and help Redeemer finish it's building phase and get to the place where we can be most effective for God’s Kingdom. Further on this subject, in my almost 14 years of ministry at Redeemer, I have been continually amazed by God’s movement in our congregation when challenges are before us. I look forward to what He will do in our midst, especially in the upcoming few months of the capital stewardship campaign. I am so blessed to be a pastor here.

3. I serve with faithful leaders. I think the strength of our church comes directly from the godly men God has placed as elders and deacons at Redeemer. I trust them completely. My faithful fellow pastors- Nathan and Brian are like brothers to me. Jon Meyers is our trusty Barnabas.

4. My knee is getting better. No, this is not a big deal in the grand scheme of the universe, but it has been a very trying time for me. I was most concerned with gaining a bunch of weight while relatively sedentary, that’s something I struggle with. I asked God to help me be self-controlled during this time regarding food. So far my weight has stayed stable and physical therapy on my knee is going well. I am very close to being cleared to jog again, which is amazing in itself. I am so thankful to God for this.

The list could go on, but these four things give me joy that is full enough! I don’t know how you are feeling today or what is challenging and confronting you. I am sure there are some negative things that won’t go away immediately. I’m not trying to candy-coat life. You can still think about some of the great blessings God has given you. Answer Shari’s questions for yourself today. It will help.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Heidelberg Catechism Rap (LIVE)

I posted the audio version of this some time ago, but here it is live (lyrics below):


Lyrics

Verse 1

Yeah I'm on a mission like a couple spies, and that guys is the reason why I catechize. The good news we almost forgot I recognize, Heidelberg rediscovering the gospel prize. It's not scripture but the truth in it will mention he, introduction hide and seek the 16th century. Written in a time when your mind was the weaponry, this document is back into the populace shouts to Kevin D. Better than you think not as bad as you remember, purpose driven truth, from Frederick the elector. He would initiate, the 129 questions to illustrate truths like Christ propitiates. All in a document, whose purpose was to teach children, a guide for preachers, and confessions in a church building. And this is all fact The Heidelberg Cat has been around but now it's seem like it is coming back.

Hook

We believe in the cross, believe in his life,
We believe in his death, believe he's the Christ.
We believe that he rose from grave yes it is him
And we read the Heidelberg Catechism

We believe in the after life and we believe nothing's after Christ, so we stand our ground, cuz the truth's been around from the word to the Heidelberg.

Verse 2

Year of the Heidelberg resulting in renewed passion, and we could see it in our lives lights camera action. Let's take a gander and address a few questions from Heidelberg document then look at the answers. But before that make sure that, you know how it's broken down, in a Q & A format, a few sections. Suggestions how to read this not to sound promotional, but Kevin put it in his book to make it a devotional. Each question each answer has a bit of commentary, so the application of it is not some involuntary. Mystery, the history screams through rings true but I'll just leave that up to God, cuz that's between you. to believe, but to believe you gotta read you and then you meditate on all the truths that the Heidelberg will illustrate. What's that the catechism homey where you been the good news we almost forgot let's get it in!

Verse 3

From the word to the Heidelberg, we see that what's the comfort of life should come first. And in death that I with, body and soul but belong to the savior, commentary from me man, tell this to your neighbor. Moving on, how many things are necessary for thee, enjoying this comfort, to live and die happily? Three, my sin's misery, deliverance from sin, and gratitude for God is how the answer ends. Let's stretch it out the Lord's day 23 the grandaddy of them all, questions 59 and 60. What good does it do to believe in all this? In Christ I am right heir to the promise. Paraphrase, anyways I'm kinda limited I'm just trying to say a couple things my man Kevin did. On the Heidelberg, go and get you one, and by the way CJ homey this was fun.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Overpowering word of exorcism


And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. (The Gospel of Mark 1:23-25)

"Jesus' word, presented with a sovereign authority which permitted neither debate nor theoretical reflection..." - William Lane

The demon tried to engage Jesus in a discussion-a tactic of the Devil and his demons. Jesus said- "Shut up...get out of him."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hug someone from Buffalo today: "No Good, Wide Right"



If you have an ounce of compassion, you will find someone from Buffalo, NY today and give them a hug, maybe even slip them a $20 for their pain.

20 years ago today the Buffalo Bills lost their first of 4 consecutive Super Bowls. It was the one of the four they absolutely were the better team. The Giants played a very smart game, but anyone honest with the way that season went know the Bills were the NFL's best team in 1990-91.

It should not have come down to a field goal to win or lose as the Bills beat their opponents by an average of almost 20 points that season. Nevertheless, one of the most reliable kickers in the game at the time, Scott Norwood, had to make a 47 yard field goal to win. 47 yards isn't a chip shot, but well inside of Norwood's effective range. As soon as he kicked the ball, you could see it sailing wide right.

And that was it. The best of Buffalo's Super Bowl chances gone in a couple seconds. Many have surmised what would have been if Buffalo won that first Super Bowl appearance. We will never know. Buffalonians are left to agonize for the whole of their lives...a beleaguered people we are.

So, again, if there be any mercy or kindness in you- hug someone from Buffalo today. We are a battered people in need of reassurance.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Charles Hodge on Christ as the grounds of our Justification


It's been a while since I have read any Charles Hodge. I'm enjoying his book, "Justification by Faith Alone". I appreciate his clarity about the grounds of our justification-the righteousness of Christ:

We are justified by the blood of Christ; by his obedience; by his righteousness. This is involved in the whole method of salvation. Christ saves us as a priest, but a priest does not save by making those who come to him good. He does not work in them, but for them. Christ saves us by a sacrifice; but a sacrifice is effectual, not because of its subjective effect upon the offerer, but as an expiation, or satisfaction to justice. Christ is our Redeemer; he gave himself as a ransom for many. But a ransom does not infuse righteousness. It is the payment of a price. It is the satisfaction of the claims of the captor upon the captive.

A sad statement from a morally confused man...unfortunately the man is our president.


A short two weeks after his finest moment, President Obama has his worst.

The president issued this statement yesterday on the anniversary of the legal killing of over 50 million unborn children-

Today marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protects women's health and reproductive freedom, and affirms a fundamental principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters.

I am committed to protecting this constitutional right. I also remain committed to policies, initiatives, and programs that help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.

And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.


May God remove the veil from our president's eyes, for he will incur a stricter judgment being in a place to save children and instead making their slaughter more probable.

May God have mercy on all of us.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A touching (and powerful) video by an abortion survivor

You have to hear this incredible woman's testimony-

Teal Bunbury- "BOON-BOON-REE"


Teal Bunbury is the most promising U.S. forward since Jozy Altidore, and in my opinion, he's better.

Kansas City drafted him in the first round of last year's MLS Superdraft, out of the University of Akron. He got better with each game playing for KC last year. You could tell he was something special. Since the end of the MLS season he has been playing in various Generation Adidas games, training with an EPL team, and also caught the eye of the Canadian national team (he's half Canadian) and the U.S. national team. He turned down an invite to the former and accepted one to the latter. Last night he played his first international game representing the USA. He didn't start, but upon entering the game was clearly the most dangerous forward on the field. He scored his first international goal on a penalty kick.

It's a confident strike, but what I love is the Telafutura commentator's description of Bunbury's goal celebration. check it out:




KC Fans- get to as many SPORKS (my nickname for "Sporting KC") as you can this season, there's no way Teal Bunbury will be in MLS long. He'll be signed by a major European club inside the next 18 months. Interesting fact: His father, Alex, played for the Wizards in the late 90's.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Awesome Drummer

Malcolm put me on to this guy. His name is Andrea Vadrucci, and of course, he's Italian.

He has a series of incredible drum pieces on Youtube where he plays along with various classic or popular pieces. I played drums for a few years, and was not good. My son AJ has been learning to play and is getting better all the time. This guy Vadrucci is way good.




Two nice ones from Gerbe (5 seconds apart)

Here are two great goals, 5 seconds apart, by a Buffalo Sabre forward who is hardly more than 5 ft tall.

William Twisse, Supralapsarianism, and the Westminster Confession of Faith

The Westminster Abbey in London, England, where 120 Puritan divines gathered to write the Westminster Confession of Faith in the years 1643-1649.

Here's a post that might interest the church history buffs who read Reepicheep. For my doctoral studies I recently did a paper on the first "prolocutor" (moderator) of the Westminster Assembly. His name was William Twisse and by all accounts a remarkable man. The paper is long, so I'll modify it and present it in several posts over the next week or two. I am sure only a handful of my readers are familiar with "supralapsarianism", which is OK, you'll know more about it soon enough.

Any presbyter familiar with the workings of a church session, regional presbytery, or national assembly knows the importance of the elder who serves as moderator. The Westminster Assembly was one of the greatest gatherings of learned Divines the Church has ever witnessed. Despite there being a diverse make up of ministers and doctors on the Assembly, one man was chosen to be the first prolocutor with no contest in the Parliament and hardly a peep from over 120 Divines. Such an individual must have been extraordinarily endowed with God’s gracious gifts to be equipped for such a task. The man chosen by both houses of Parliament to moderate the Westminster Assembly was Dr. William Twisse, the Oxford educated long time pastor of Newbury. As universally respected as Dr. Twisse was, it is interesting to note his controversial position with respect to the decrees of God. Dr. Twisse was a supralapsarian. This study will consider three topics- first, it will introduce the person and minister who served as the Assembly’s first moderator. Second, this study will consider his supralapsarian position in comparison with the more widely held position among the Reformed- infralapsarianism. Finally, this study will endeavor to consider how Dr. Twisse’s position regarding the decrees of God did or did not effect the Westminster Confession of Faith.

In this post I'll provide a brief recap of the historical situation leading to the Westminster Assembly. Future posts will consider William Twisse, supralapsarianism, and the Westminster Confession of Faith.

A Brief Historical Background for the Westminster Assembly

Turbulent storms can wipe out whole crops and seem to mark a period of disarray and hopelessness, however such tempests also reveal which objects possessed strong foundations. Superficial things cannot withstand the gail force and so crumble and are washed away. Those ancient things with well dug footings and those mammoth trees with roots running deep may give the appearance of distress during a hurricane, but they will live to see another day and provide the first of the building materials for the time right after the storm.

Such was the case with the pillars of the Christian Church known the Puritans. They were born in difficult, tempestuous times that called for great personal and collective sacrifice. Man tried to thrust upon him silly and superstitious innovations that were more a show of an earthly King’s power than any kind of praise offering unto God. The strong trees known as the Puritans were battered and distressed during these times of pressured conformity and growing angst between the English King and the people’s Parliament. The times of persecution that came upon the Puritans most markedly occurred in the early 17th Century. Those Divines who did not buckle grew strong in conviction and spiritual power during those early decades of the 1600's.

The spiritual storm that had fallen was Romanism and the ravaging effects of Popery. Europe was being torn asunder. But in the midst of the storm a rescue effort was unfolding as Reformation touched each of the nations and their churches. The Puritans were part of the fruit of the Reformation and they were planted in Scotland, England, and Ireland at God’s appointed time. For when the eye of the storm moved over England it was clear Anglicanism as it had been established was in need of similar reform as Romanism. The Puritans would become the strong structure to withstand all the political, social, and ecclesiastical whirlwinds that came upon Great Britain in the 17th Century. As Adam's progeny they were not created strong. The Puritans were made strong by the work of the second Adam applied to them and honed in the fires of persecution, oppression, sickness, and discomfort. Such were the early years of the 1600’s in Great Britain.

Through the fires of oppression under King James, Charles I, and the haughty Archbishop Laud the pastors of England were faced with a clear choice of allegiance- the Word of God or the word of men. Those who chose the Word of God suffered greatly, but were made strong by God’s grace in preparation for something truly great.

In 1617 King James made the Declaration of Sports (also known as the “Book of Sports”) which listed the various “sports” deemed acceptable on Sunday. It served more as a mockery of Puritanism while also being a statement of the King’s perceived absolute sovereignty. The Puritans, in great numbers, rejected and opposed the Book of Sports leading to much hardship, but much strengthening of conviction as well. The declaration was renewed in 1633 by Charles I with the willing assistance of his ecclesiastical henchman, Archbishop Laud. For the next seven years the Puritans were forced out of churches they had long pastored because of the Book of Sports and their unwillingness to oppose the Word of God in favor of the word of man. The storm was raging against these reformers of the church with no end in sight.

The storm broke, if only for a relative moment, in 1640. As King Charles and Archbishop Laud attempted to move the Church of England closer to Romanism and her superstitious rites and rituals, a reaction began to swell among the churches that had been faithfully pastored by Puritans since the days of Henry and the great split from Rome. Discontentment with Charles I and his reign pushed England to the brink of war. The Royalists (those loyal to the King) sided against the supporters of Parliament. In 1640 the Long Parliament charged Laud with treason and moved to imprison him later that year. Civil war broke out in England between the two factions and lasted (in two different stints) from 1642-1649. This seven year period, though appearing like a chaos of sorts, was actually a brief storm clearing for the Puritans. The Parliament was favorable to the Puritans and called upon them to reform the Church of England by first going back to her roots, the 39 Articles of Thomas Cranmer. The Parliament issued a summons of sorts to call the great Divines of England, Scotland, and Ireland to produce a document that would unify the three kingdoms. The purpose of these posts is not to offer a thorough history of the Westminster Assembly, but rather to show the stormy backdrop and it’s brief break that allowed strong foundations to be built upon in a timeless way.

Years of purifying through the fires of oppression and persecution had produced a small army of eminent Divines specially suited to answer the call of Parliament. Over 120 Divines traveled from England, Scotland, and Ireland to join a great Assembly in London tasked with a monumental goal. Yes the storms of war swirled around England during the time of the Westminster Assembly, but make no mistake- for the Puritans the tempest of religious persecution had waned just enough for them to accomplish something amazing. From 1643 to 1649 Divines worked diligently to reflect biblical fidelity in doctrine, worship, and government and bring unity to the Church of three kingdoms. Never was there a time like this for Puritans, and quite possibly for Christianity.

The next post will introduce you more fully to William Twisse, the first moderator of the Westminster Assembly of Divines.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Great Kansas Blizzard of 2011


So I enjoy mocking my Kansas friends regarding snow fall here.

I doubt Kansas City gets much more than a foot of snow total each winter. We could get that much in a couple hours in Buffalo. Now that Facebook is all the rage and most of my Kansas/Redeemer friends use it, I try to ratchet up the mockery even more. Just before this latest 5-7 inches of snow fell (starting yesterday afternoon), I started updating my Facebook status as follows:

Wednesday at 10:17 AM/ Tony Felich is bearing down to endure the GREAT KANSAS BLIZZARD OF 2011 (part 2)...I'm so scared

Wednesday at 12:05 PM/‎...5-7 inches of snow have begun to fall in KC...our time is short...it's been good...tell the world our story.

Wednesday at 6:00 PM/ Tony Felich is building a snow cave...toes already lost to frostbite...no rations. Dire outlook.

Wednesday at 11:45 PM‎/ ...snow cave failing now...internal mechanisms unable to replenish the heat that is being lost, a drop in core temperature occurring rapidly now...the characteristic symptoms of hypothermia-shivering and mental confusion-are advanced. I fought hard...


I topped off my mockery with the picture above showing me in the advance stages of hypothermia in front of my house, out of my snow cave. Kansas folk are so fun!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lay off John Mark

Paul and Barnabas dispute about John Mark

I just began preaching through the Gospel of Mark. Most agree the author is the same John Mark who was the cousin of Barnabas. He is introduced in the book of Acts here:

Acts 12:25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.

Acts 13:4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them.

Mark is also referred to as John or John Mark. At any rate, J-Mark went with Barnabas and Paul on the first missionary journey of the Apostle. Luke notes that Mark was there "to assist them." In some capacity, Paul and Barnabas depended on Mark during this trip. Later in Acts we find out Mark left the trip early:

Acts 13:13 Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem...

The text doesn't give a reason for John Mark's departure but Paul leaves no doubt about his view of John Mark when a second missionary journey was being planned:

Acts 15:36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.

Paul was hacked that John Mark bailed on them in Pamphylia. Because of this episode, most commentators seem to diss John Mark for wimping out. I tend to think it's unfair to cast John Mark in a bad light, although I agree he should have honored his commitment to assist Paul and Barnabas. Nevertheless, J-Mark was human like the rest of us. Not everyone is cut out for missionary journeys like the ones Paul led. There are varying levels of missionary enterprises to partake in, let's be honest- Paul's "in your face" approach just isn't for everyone, and that's OK.

Barnabas was Paul's faithful assistant and undoubtedly a more mild-mannered person than the Apostle. He's Paul's encourager. They were a good combo. I imagine Barnabas talked John Mark in to coming along on the trip, so J-Mark's main scouting report came from Barney, not Paul. Franky, I think Mark was overwhelmed by what he saw from the get-go. Right off the bat Paul leads them to Salamis and into the Synagogues to preach Christ. Immediate confrontation, and probably scary confrontation at that. They work their way all over the island until they get to Paphos where the meet some real freaks:

Acts 13:6 When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. 7 He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.

What would Paul do? How would he handle such a confrontation? I'm sure Mark was thinking- "oh man...now would be a good time to get out of Dodge". Could you really blame him? Only a handful of people are specially equipped by God to handle such a situation. Well, we see Paul do his usual thing in this instance:

Acts 13:9 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

What an awesome power encounter! Nevertheless, it was too much for J-Mark. He could see how the rest of this mission trip would go, and decided to bail. The bible doesn't say he should have stayed. Paul speaks negatively of J-Mark's departure, but it's not called a sin. I have read some commentators suggest Mark didn't like ministering to Gentiles and so left Paul. The problem is, to that point, Paul was pretty much focusing on Jews. Also, there's no real evidence Mark was that kind of racist. I say lay off J-Mark. Bottom line- he just wasn't wired for that trip. The rest of the trip was even more intense than what is recorded in chapter 13. Paul goes on to get stoned almost to death a little while later. God called Paul and Barnabas to that particular trip and all it's persecutions, trials, and victories. Apparently J-Mark wasn't so called? It's hard to decipher for sure.

I'm not sure we should call John Mark's departure a failure. God still used him. He and Barnabas undoubtedly labored for Christ on their own trips. Mark was used of God to pen the first Gospel account of the four. Even Paul, approaching the end of his life, writes this:

2 Timothy 4:11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.

All of us will struggle with this or that task or ministry. Sometimes we will outright fail. Such shortcomings do not necessarily mean we can't still be useful in the future.

Philadelphia Abortionist Charged with Murder


Here's a heinous story out of the city of brotherly love-


This butcher parading as a doctor is being charged with delivering babies at his abortuary, then cutting their spines with a scissors to kill them. He is being charged with 8 counts of murder, thousands too few.

Certainly I am not the only one to catch the irony of charging an abortionist with murder only after the baby is delivered and killed? Babies of all ages can be killed in this country so long as they are in the womb when murdered.

In states where late term abortion is legal, abortionists could deliver the baby up to the head, then reach up inside to sever the spinal column to kill him or her and not be charged. This guy is charged with murder for killing babies seconds after they can be killed legally in other states. It's murder to kill a baby outside the womb, but not inside.

People are all worried about jobs and the economy. Sorry folks, the economy isn't biggest problem facing our nation- not by a long shot. How much longer will God let this slaughter go on? Wait a minute! What if the slaughter of the innocent is related to the economy after all? If so, the economy is going to get way worse. WAY worse.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

AND SHIELDS WANTS SNOW!

I've posted this before, but it's worthy of at least an annual review.

It's for boys. Female readers won't get it.

It is a dark time for the fans of the Buffalo Sabres. There is light, however. Terry Pegula is rumored to be ready to buy the Sabres and turn them around. He seems like a guy who could finally right the ship and bring balance to the universe.

Whenever I am down about my Sabres, I watch this clip and a smile returns, hope is restored, and I can't stop watching. My sons all know how to say "AND HERE THEY GO".



I'd write more...but hold on...oh dang...my sons are fighting. I wonder why?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Al Mohler on NYC Abortion Rate


Abortion is a scourge in our country, a gnawing cancer that may well be the reason God disciplines us harshly sooner than later.

Leading this disgrace is my home state's largest city where statistics show that 4 out of 10 pregnancies end in abortion! 90,000 babies died in NY City last year alone.

God help us. Please!

Al Mohler offers his take on this chilling information. Read his post here.


Thus says the Lord: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” Jeremiah 31:15

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

President Obama's Finest Moment


Tonight President Obama delivered an important speech at the memorial service for the 6 slain victims of the awful massacre on Saturday in Tucson.

I believe this speech represented President Obama's finest moment to date. While his use of Scripture was loose, he certainly meant well. His tone was authoritative, yet humble. His words were careful and well balanced. He said it well-

You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations -- to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless. Already we've seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems. Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized -- at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do -- it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, "when I looked for light, then came darkness." Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind.


We should all continue to pray for the families affected by this terrible act.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Resurrection of Journey


This post is for my fellow 80's rock fans.

Last night I was chillin' before bed and turned on VH1 to catch the end of an 80's concert weekend. The concert they were playing was one of my favorite bands, Journey. Of course I got out a lighter and held it aloft while singing along.

Journey has to be considered the quintessential 1980's rock band. Catchy tunes, strong guitar, big vocals, and a combo of rock songs and ballads. That's what it took in the 80's. I saw their Frontiers concert in 1984, then again for their Raised On Radio tour several years later. Steve Perry was their long time front man through the 80's and in to the 90's. Whenever a vote is taken about the greatest rock voices of all time, Perry finishes in the top 50 or so. Like many 80's bands, somewhere in the mid 90's the band lost steam and the glow of their 80's success started to wane. They went from playing stadiums to smaller and smaller venues. Eventually Steve Perry dropped out and the band seemed done.

Guitarist and original band member Neal Schon didn't give up. He kept looking for a lead singer so they could sing the classics and do new stuff. Getting a new lead singer to perform legendary songs has almost no precedent of working well. Journey has become a huge exception.

Three years ago Neal Schon got word of a Filipino singer named Arnel Pineda who was in a cover band (a band that sings the songs of other groups). He saw Pineda sing a Journey classic, "Faithfully", and got in contact with him. Long story short, Pineda became the new lead singer in 2008. They released a new album shortly after and it went platinum- another unusual occurrence for a resurrected 80's super band. They have been touring almost non stop ever since.

Pineda has an incredible voice. he sounds eerily similar to Steve Perry. In some ways his voice might well be stronger. Below are two clips. One with Pineda singing "Wheel in the Sky", the other with Perry singing the same song years ago.

They're not due to play near KC any time soon...I'll have to find a way to make a road trip somewhere.



Saturday, January 8, 2011

Anthony Bradley on the Church and Adoption


Someone alerted me to a post from a seminary colleague of mine, Anthony Bradley. Anthony has become quite a figure in the evangelical world lately. He has been on FOX several times related to his research work on Black Liberation Theology. He also makes a common practice of poking at various evangelical sacred cows using various techniques. He wrote a post about the church and adoption for World magazine a couple weeks ago. Like everything Anthony writes, it's laced with things I find myself in total agreement with and some stuff that makes me shake my head. I think that's how he likes it.

Anyways, one of the challenges of his post is directly at us pastors concerning foster care and adoption. He says we need to lead by example. Check out his opening statement:

How can America have Christian churches and 115,000 orphans? But that is the case, with a sizable group of Christian families in all 50 states and true orphans lingering in foster care year after year. But what would happen if more pastors and church leaders would adopt orphans or model orphan care in their personal lives? Pastors tend to preach and teach about their interests and practices. And American Christians tend to apply the Bible to real life issues after a pastor or recognized leader stirs up interest. So if church leaders would cast a practice-driven vision for orphan care, churchgoers likely would be challenged to participate in one of the most ancient practices of God’s covenant people (Exodus 22; Deuteronomy 14, 16, 24). If a church considers itself a comprehensively “biblical” one it should foster a culture of adoption and orphan care as a practice of “true religion” (James 1:26-27).

Honestly, I am not sure what I think of Bradley's statement. Should a pastor foster or adopt so his people do it? Surely that can be a secondary reason, but it seems like he's saying it's a primary reason for pastors fostering and adopting. I can tell you categorically that we became foster parents because we love children and feel it is a direct response to the biblical admonition to take care of the "least of these" for our family. There are many ways to take care of the least of these, fostering and/or adopting are good ways, but not the only ways. Right now it seems like the best way for us. I do hope that our fostering (and possibly adopting) will encourage various families in our church to become foster parents and or adopt an orphan or needy child, but it's not the primary goal for our doing so.

Being a pastor and a parent is actually pretty difficult. I suspect it's difficult being a parent no matter what your vocation is, so I'm probably just imagining I have a tougher task than you. For a pastor, his family is in a fishbowl. Say what you will, but I know everyone is watching my kids and how we handle them. My children are at church all the time and get away with very little. There are hundreds of eyes on me and my family, that's the way it is. Right now my children are young and somewhat uncomplicated. When the teen years come upon us, I anticipate the fishbowl to become more burdensome. Now their indiscretions are relatively minor, what will they be like in 5 years? I don't know. I'm like other Christian parents who are doing their gut level best, but know we are woefully insufficient. My point is, fostering and adopting is in itself stressful and difficult on a family. A pastor's family comes with some extra pressure that might not be able to handle adding a troubled child with lots of complicated requirements by outside authorities. It's not really reasonable to suggest pastors foster and adopt as a blanket recommendation, as if not doing so shows a lack of sensitivity to the biblical mandate toward those in such need. I totally appreciate Anthony's sentiment, but I am not sure he has thought it completely through. He himself is not yet married, but that doesn't disqualify him from giving his take. World isn't a hack publication, so apparently they were OK with his tackling this subject the way he did.

Regardless of whether you agree with his challenge to pastors regarding fostering and adopting, I appreciate any post that calls attention to the plight of neglected, abused, and orphan children. The Church is specially suited to meet this need. All of us, pastors and lay persons alike, ought to seek God's will about caring for the little ones who are not being cared for. Surely we can do more than we are doing. Certainly God will call us to account.

When will the Beckham farce in MLS end?


Three years ago, after David Beckham was discarded by Real Madrid, the LA Galaxy of Major League Soccer, where the average salary is just over $100,000, signed him for a reported $5.5 million a season. It was huge news as David Beckham was a worldwide celebrity with a persona that went way beyond just soccer. He was 32 and in obvious soccer decline but in a place like Los Angeles his considerable star power could generate major ticket and jersey sales. He came at the end of the MLS season in 2008 and played 5 games total on a bad ankle and sold out every home game for L.A. and most of the away games also. His jersey flew off the shelf nation wide.

The league gained notice from a largely soccer ignorant U.S. population, this much cannot be denied. Most knowledgeable soccer fans knew Beckham wasn't really much of a player anymore, other than his endearing ability to take free kicks. Still, if he could gain notice for a league that needs more fan support to survive and thrive, anyone interested in U.S. soccer was happy about Beckham's arrival. Maybe he would attract more "stars" to the league?

Unfortunately, from the day he came to MLS he kept his soccer interests elsewhere. He treated MLS like it was a rec league to be dropped in and out of while doing his best to stay on the radar of the English national team. He talked as though he wanted to promote MLS but conducted his soccer affairs like a man who really didn't want to be here.

His second season with L.A. saw an improvement in the team and some flashes of former greatness from Beckham, but on the whole he turned in a relatively mediocre year. Frankly, other than some memorable free kicks with Real Madrid during a four year stint with the Spanish club a few years prior, Beckham hasn't been notably good since his Manchester United days. He played 25 games for L.A. in 2008 scoring 5 goals and adding 8 assists. Not bad, but not worth $5.5 million. Further, his assists came with the best player in MLS, Landon Donovan, as his main, highly reliable target. I could probably get a few assists with Donovan on my team.

After that first full season with L.A., he ramped up his efforts to make the English national team starting to take shape for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. He got himself loaned to AC Milan and played a bunch of games there during the Italian season in to 2009. By then he was 34 years old and was effectively playing year round. Slapping the face of the L.A. Galaxy and MLS, he opted to stay with AC Milan through the end of their season which meant he would not return to MLS until June of 2009 being available for only 15 games of their regular season. L.A. went to the finals against Real Madrid and lost in penalty kicks. One wonders what a fully focused and physically prepared David Beckham might have meant for L.A. that game.

He returned to AC Milan after the MLS season got out of his way, and promptly tore his achilles tendon at the beginning of 2010 ending his chance to play for England in the World Cup. While not as important to Beckham, the injury meant he was lost to the Galaxy until the end of their 2010 season playing the last few regular season games and three in the playoffs. Despite the announcers trying to talk up Beckham's 6 or 7 corner kicks in their semi-final playoff game against Dallas, he played poorly and FCD thrashed L.A. He played a total of 23 games over the last two seasons for LA (of their 60 plus) scoring 4 and assisting 6. That's horrible for any starting midfielder in MLS, let alone David Beckham.

This all serves as a preface for the latest chapter in the "world revolves around David Beckham" saga.

David Beckham will turn 36 in May. He could have a productive 2011 season with the team that pays his sizable salary, the L.A. Galaxy, if he prepares with them during their camp which starts in a week. He has poor speed any more, but his field vision and accurate passing remain. With the right preparation, David Beckham could contribute to the Galaxy's efforts to win a championship this coming season.

There is no longer a realistic chance he could play for England in any major tournament, he must know that. Apparently not. David Beckham thinks a lot of David Beckham. So, instead of acting his age and methodically preparing for the upcoming MLS campaign with his primary team, he has been marketing himself in Europe with hopes of getting on a EPL team for a few months. Manchester United rightly declined the aging midfielders services bluntly saying "he's too old". Tottenham on the other hand, isn't so picky. They'll take him. So it seems inevitable that Beckham will be loaned to Tottenham for several months and again start his MLS season late.

What a farce. David Beckham came to MLS speaking a commitment to promote the league through his play and by attracting other top name players to the league. Since he came in 2008 he has put up paltry numbers, done his team little overall good, focused more on himself and playing for the English national team than being a devoted teammate and league promoter like his salary expects. MLS got duped and is continuing to be ripped off. It's ridiculous how L.A. has let the farce go on. They have never needed to allow his loans to A.C. Milan and do not need to allow one to Tottenham. Maybe they've lost so much money on Beckham that loaning him is a way to recuperate some of those funds? Please let it end!

MLS has improved dramatically over the 15 years of its short life. Other than some short-lived initial hype for the league, one is hard pressed to show how Beckham has contributed to further MLS improvement. Beckham is that girl in high school who after being rejected or ignored by all her first choices for prom finally says yes to the nerdy guy (MLS). When she goes to the prom with the nerdy guy, however, she keeps looking for one of the popular guys to notice her so she can ditch the nerd.

When will the Beckham farce end in MLS? I hope very soon. It's embarrassing.

Check out a new Francis Schaeffer site


Some guys (and at least one gal) at Redeemer put together an excellent new Francis Schaeffer study/research site.

Check it out here: Francis Schaeffer Studies

The writings of Francis Schaeffer were instrumental in the two years between college and seminary for me (1993-95). I was basically reformed after leaving Moody (but not exactly because of Moody), but wasn't quite able to put together a cogent worldview.

I read Schaeffer's A Christian Manifesto and things started to come together for me. I next read How Shall we Then Live? followed by The Church at the End of the 20th Century. I was hooked. Over a two year period I read every Schaeffer book, pamphlet, or paper I could find. I actually chose Covenant Seminary based on their opening of a new "Francis Schaeffer Institute" at the seminary. Two of my Covenant professors, Jerram Barrs and David Calhoun, were personally mentored by Francis Schaeffer in the 70's.

Two of my favorite books by Schaeffer, the only ones I have read twice in their entirety or more, are True Spirituality and The Letters of Francis Schaeffer. Letters is a compilation of various pastoral correspondence between him and students, congregants, or people he was counseling. Francis Schaeffer signed many of his letters "In the Lamb, Francis Schaeffer". For that very reason I sign my letters "In the Lamb, Tony".

People ask me why I like Francis Schaeffer so much? Very simply, Schaeffer possessed a near perfect balance of philosopher/theologian/bible scholar/and pastor I have ever come across. Most other authors I have read fall in to one or two of those categories. Schaeffer qualifies as top notch in all four. I'm tempted to add that Schaeffer was a prophet in addition to these other roles. It's almost eery reading How Shall We Then Live?, which shows the rise of Western Civilization and forecasts it fall (written in 1976), and seeing how it has all come to pass. Also, he may well have had the sweetest chin beard in the history of churchmen.

Learn more about Francis Schaeffer by checking out the site when you have a chance. The guys are doing a great job under the leadership of Dan Guinn.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Benny Hinn, Sith Lord

There are times when humor can be used to show the utter ridiculousness of a man's practices. Behold Benny Hinn, Dark Lord of the Sith-



Funniest Goal Celebration EVER

I can't imagine this goal celebration ever being topped-



Thursday, January 6, 2011

My "New" Bike


As part of my knee rehab I will be doing quite a bit of cycling. I cycle a fair amount every Spring and Summer in order to train for riding the Katy Trail with Brian and to do a couple triathlons. I have never relished cycling, but I will confess Brian's infatuation/obsession/unhealthy preoccupation with bikes has rubbed off on me a bit. Now with my knee issue, it would do me well to ride more.

My favorite bike, and trusty steed, has been my 2000 Gary Fisher hybrid. I overhauled it 2 years ago (new rims, tires, and cranks), it still rides like a charm. I feel like I am being unfaithful buying a new bike. I also have an old Bianchi (circa 1980's steel frame) that I overhauled similarly (but also updated the gear shifters) to use in triathlons last year. The new bike I just bought will replace both of these bikes. I am NOT getting rid of the Fisher, but rather will have it fit for my wife to ride. I think of it as putting her to pasture after years of faithful service...the bike that is.

So my "new" bike isn't really new, but it looks like it. I bought a 2009 Felt F-35 cyclocross bicycle from a guy who had too many bikes that he didn't ride. He upgraded the factory rims, tires, and brakes, raced it in two cyclocross races and came to feel it was too small for him. I won't tell you how much the sucker cost new, but I got it for less than half. Bikes just don't resell well, especially in the winter and when they're two years old. That's good for me. I love my new bike, but I won't give it a name like some weirdo's I know. I plan to ride it back and forth to church once the weather gets better. I am sure it gets better gas mileage than my truck.

Right now the bike is set up in my office so I can ride it stationary. Just today I managed to make one full rotation when pedaling. My knee bends almost 100 degrees, the minimum to pedal a bike (normal flexion is 140 degrees). Being able to ride a stationary bike is a big step in rehab. I suspect I won't be allowed to take to the road for at least another month, maybe a bit more. So I'll ride the Grim Reaper in my office for now...did I just give my bike a name?

Atheists just sing the Blues

Woody sent me this...pretty funny.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Serving in a Church Family = being connected

An ongoing challenge in a church is to provide ways for people to be connected and have relationships with others. People want to feel as though they belong. People will initially come to a church based on the worship service, preaching, and the general sense of friendliness or welcome they receive. They won't stay long, however, if they don't feel "connected".

This has been a challenge for me as a pastor. Often I want to ask a person what they have done to get connected. They'll site going to this or that event, but often missing from their recounting of their activity at church is service. This video by Mark Driscoll really hits the nail on the head.

Church is a family. Family members contribute by serving. Serving each other is how we are connected. We serve the family together, we don't sit around waiting to be served or entertained. Watch this clip:




I just started preaching through the Gospel of Mark. Mark really accents the way Christ served. Perhaps the key verse of the entire book is 10:45 where Jesus says-

"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many".

I am praying for ways to really communicate this message of serving your Church family to Redeemer. It's my chief prayer for 2011, that we have a renewed outlook on what it means to be part of a church family and to serve in that family.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Max McLean "doing" the Gospel of Mark

Nathan alerted me to the latest Max McLean dramatic reading- it "happens" to be the Gospel of Mark!

Here's the first clip of this stunning depiction of Mark's Gospel:




You can follow the rest of the readings on Youtube or go to Justin Taylor's blog to see them all in order (here).

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Pray for Churches in the Middle East and Africa (and anywhere else Islam is the dominant religion)


Various Churches that claim the name of Christ have been violently attacked for centuries. A reminder of the hatred toward Christianity is before us again as churches in Iraq, Egypt, and Nigeria have faced murderous violence these past few days.

Christians should pray for these churches in these places. Make no mistake, the attacks are against Christ whether the churches are faithfully Christian or not.

I am not sure if official credit has been taken yet, but we all know the attackers, once again, are Muslims doing so in the name of Islam. Surely some Muslims will say such actions are not in line with Islamic teaching, but one is hard pressed to prove such a claim from the consistent approach of Muslims relating to other religions (especially Christianity) from Mohamed to present day. It's never right to threaten people with death if they don't convert or to kill people because they have a different religious belief.

I found the reaction of Hosni Mubarak, president of Egypt, to be rationally mystifying but politically predictable. After the attack on the Coptic congregation in his country, Mubarak condemned all violence that involved Christians and Muslims saying-

"This act of terrorism shook the country's conscience, shocked our feelings and hurt the hearts of Muslim and Coptic Egyptians...The blood of their martyrs in the land of Alexandria mixed to tell us all that all Egypt is the target and that blind terrorism does not differentiate between a Copt and a Muslim."

Mubarak calls this act of mass murder "blind terrorism". In reality we know this attack was not blind at all. It seems coordinated with other New Years Eve church attacks in other countries. It further seems pretty clear that it is another act of Islamic terrorism. Have Christians terrorized a mosque (or anyone else) lately and we haven't heard? Is there some other association of people, who are not claiming Islamic reasoning, attacking Christians (or anyone else) in the Middle East right now? It may be blind terrorism in that it doesn't care who it kills, but the particular religious zeal of the attackers couldn't be easier to identify.

Mubarak is right about one thing- terrorism doesn't differentiate between Copt and Muslim, he just didn't mention the common denominator when Copts or Muslims are attacked- Islamic terrorists.

There's really no chance of combatting the most common kind of terrorism we are witnessing in the world today until people admit what we have is an Islamic Terrorism problem- not just multiple cases of disassociated crazies randomly killing people. There's nothing random about what Mohamed did, the Turks did in the Middle Ages, or the Islamic terrorists are doing today. It's all very purposeful, even generally predictable.

The Coptic, Iraqi, and Nigerian Christians were attacked and killed by certain Muslims who hate Christ's Church. Period.

May God Bless you in 2011


It's hard to believe Reepicheep, the blog, starts its fifth year of blogging today.

Thanks for reading and may God bless you and yours in 2011.