Sunday, December 29, 2013

Scratch list of topics for a Book

I have been brainstorming about subjects I would like to write on.  I am thinking of blog posts in 2014, but also beginning to write a book on one or more of these topics.  Here's my scratch list:

Coaching as a discipleship tool Team Sports/competition as a discipleship/spiritual formation tool Navigating competitive youth sports as a Christian parent
Personal Foster care/Adoption Journey
A balanced view of Foster Care/Adoption related to local churches
Pastoral/Discipleship Ministry team development
Trickle down (Leadership to Laity) Church unity
Corporate worship with biblical, historical, and contemporary considerations
The simplicity and timelessness of a Word/Sacrament ministry
Lessons learned when I was a young senior pastor (30 to 40 era)
The pastor as a Coach instead of a CEO or Military Leader
Social Media as a Pastoral tool
Why a plurality of elders/pastors is better for a church
Pastoral ministry is not a one man endeavor/advocacy of pastoral ministry team model
Building a ministry team for a mid-sized church (considerations, approach, ongoing nurture, mistakes made, etc.)
Keeping it real in Suburban Church ministry
Suburban Christianity that is still Christian
Guilt free Suburban Christianity
Spiritual Battle with the idol of food/weight and body image worship
Walking the faith, Not just talking about it
Sent by Jesus to bring: The Gospel, Compassion, Truth, Peace
Being Reformed and still fit to live with
First generation Christian fatherhood (more of a “how not to” guide, I’m guessing)
A biblical view/practice of hobbies, recreation, entertainment, etc.
Suckering a woman who is way too good for you, to marry you

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cardinal George makes sobering prediction

As the social landscape of the United States changes ever so rapidly, it seems toleration for historic Christian positions is lessening.

Cardinal George of the Roman Catholic Church recently made a sobering prediction.  I think his forecast  holds true for the whole of Christianity in the U.S., not just the Roman Church.  First Things captured him sketching the implications of radical secularization for America:

“I will die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die as a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the Church has done so often in human history.”

Friday, December 13, 2013

20 Year Anniversary of Nirvana's historic unplugged concert

I remember driving to work in Wichita, Kansas on April 8, 1994 and hearing the body of Curt Cobain had been found in his Seattle home.  A few days prior, he shot himself in the head after getting high on heroine one last time.

Cobain and his band Nirvana were pioneers of "grunge rock" in the 90's and with each passing year the genius of their music becomes more evident.  There were many such "grunge" bands from their era, but none were better.

Cobain himself was such a tragic figure.  A musical and lyrical genius, he battled drug addiction the whole of his short adult life. He seemed to struggle with awful mental/emotional and spiritual demons.  He sang about Christian themes, questioned the purpose of life, and wrote of meaninglessness regularly.  The band's name echoes his tendency toward a Buddhistic kind of philosophy.  Despite such a connection, he never showed a peace that remotely resembled what the band's name was supposed to conjure.

Four months before Cobain's suicide, Nirvana performed a truly epic unplugged concert.  I watched it again today as I was studying and working.  There is an eery sense of his impending death as you watch him fidget and talk awkwardly, all the while singing Nirvana's deeply profound songs.  Such a sad case of a man apparently without Christ.  Obviously no one but God knows if he ever came to trust Christ before taking his life- I sincerely and deeply hope so.  Whatever the case, gifted musicians like Curt Cobain receive their abilities from God.

Here's the concert:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Awesome recap of the epic MLS Cup final

Following Sporting Kansas City as a season ticket holder for over 6 years has been a great ride.  This season was the most magical yet.  Here is a tremendous recap of the battle for the ages played last frigid Saturday afternoon.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

President Obama and the First Lady provide some entertainment

The First couple are more like a regular couple than you might think.  At the memorial activities for Nelson Mandela, President Obama was caught laughing it up with the Prime Minister of Denmark.  He was even seen talking some selfies with her.  The priceless part of this picture is Michelle's death stare.

The situation only gets better when the next picture shows Obama doing what every husband would have to do, after such a situation...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Thank God for Using the complex Mandela

Nelson Mandela died yesterday at the age of 95.

The usual outpouring of praise for an impacting leader like Mandela has been ongoing for the last 24 hours and will undoubtedly continue for several weeks.  I find it fascinating to see the high praise in eulogy for Mandela, especially coming from people under 30. These younger folks can't honestly know that much about him, right?

Heartfelt condolences to the people of South Africa for losing such a extraordinary figure and key player in that country's move to a more just society. But honestly, reading the posts that attribute incredible attributes to him make me wonder how much people really know of the actual man. He was most active in enacting transformation when I was in high school and the ten years that followed, so I have read quite a bit by him and about him. Let's just say, on the chief dimension he is known for,  he is a symbol of something that was monumental and clearly a principal person to be appreciated for many incredible actions affecting human rights. However, like every person who has ever lived, except One, he was not one dimensional and deeply flawed.  As is the case for all of us, time will test all his works and put them on display.

Nevertheless, at Mandela's passing, it is appropriate to give thanks for God's use of him in relieving the oppression of so many.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thoughts prompted by the Mark Driscoll Plagiarism dust up.

Mark Driscoll is an influential "celebrity" pastor in the Seattle area.  For some time he has been the rage among young evangelicals with his brash, blunt, confrontational style. He is generally Reformed in his view of salvation and a few other areas of theology, but on the whole, he walks to the beat of his own doctrinal drum.  His popularity and sway is significant with hundreds (maybe thousands?) of churches and pastors trying in some way to emulate what he does.  His "Acts 29" network is ostensibly made up of churches who take their missional cue from Mark Driscoll.

Driscoll is a gifted communicator and shows a good basic knowledge of theology and doctrine when teaching and preaching.  Many people have benefited from his teaching and writing, I hear from those folks regularly. He has somehow put out a large number of books in a short time span, despite maintaining an intense speaking schedule.

Recently it seems he has at least become careless with his citations in some of his books as it seems he borrowed from other authors without giving proper credit.  Perhaps he trusted a ghostwriter too much, but whatever the case, the evidence seems to prove plagiarism.  See these sources for the case against Driscoll about plagiarism here, here, and here.

As a pastor, every week I read dozens of commentaries, sermons, and sections of books, in preparation for my weekly sermon.  I have never knowingly plagiarized.  I have a simple rule: if I use someone else's words to say something- even if it is an idea I had independently- I will let the listener/reader know who said it or thought it first.  I am not an intellectual or a professional scholar, so I am not ashamed to cite other people when I use their words and thoughts to express an idea.  My job is to make the Word of God understandable and applicable to the people of God.  There are thousands of smarter pastors and theologians who have lived before me or presently active who I will draw upon to edify my people.  I am a prideful, competitive person about a great many things- for which I depend on God for constant repentance- BUT, when it comes to giving credit to others for various profound theological, biblical, or doctrinal insights, I have no problem and can't understand why anyone plagiarizes. My people know my limitations, if I said something too profound, they'd know it didn't originate with me (ha ha).  Admittedly however, I can imagine being lazy or just not remembering where I heard a certain thought or quote, and failing to give proper credit. Maybe this is what happened with Driscoll?  I don't know. The story and facts surrounding are still coming out, so hopefully Driscoll explains himself well and apologizes if/where necessary.  Pastors have to stay above reproach when it comes to the blogs, books, and sermons we write, but yes, we'll screw up from time to time.

Here's the thing with Mark Driscoll and his teaching/books.  If you have time to read one of his books, I kindly suggest reading something else.  I'm not suggesting he doesn't have good, edifying things to say, but I am certain there are better authors for you to consider.  Driscoll seems accountable to no one doctrinally (or otherwise).  He's kind of the bishop of his own diocese called Mars Hill and Acts 29.  He holds to positions that are controversial and seem to lack biblical justification but seems answerable to no one in an official way.  I wish Mark Driscoll would submit himself to a denominational authority or presbytery, but I'm not holding my breath.  Even the Apostles had a system of accountability about what they taught (see Acts 15 rather than Acts 29).

If you have time to read a non-technical book like the ones Driscoll publishes, I suggest you pick up a Jerry Bridges book, any Bridges book, rather than a Driscoll one.  Try reading a John Piper book or perhaps one by Kevin DeYoung.  If you have time to read a Driscoll book, read a Keller book instead.  I'm not endorsing every one of these authors blindly, I just know their respect for historical interpretation and ecclesiastical authority is better than Driscoll's, which is a big reason why their theology is more trustworthy too.  We live in a day when anyone can publish anything and potentially reach a huge audience.  I think this is a rather modern dynamic and it allows for authors who are largely unaccountable to peddle their thoughts.  I am a minister in a denomination.  I can't just write or say whatever novel thought enters my head and think I'll get away with it.  I am accountable to other elders, at a couple levels.  So, if you have time to read a Christian author, on a subject you hope will help your walk with Christ, pick a writer who is accountable for his/her teaching, not someone who seems to be so popular that no one will challenge them.

Seriously, if you haven't read J.I. Packer's Knowing God, Piper's Desiring God, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Bridges' Transforming Grace, Keller's Prodigal God, Lewis' Mere Christianity, do so right away.  When you finish those, there are hundreds more to read before you pick up a Driscoll book...with all due respect, of course.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

We need more things like this...

I'm a sucker for semi-spontaneous craziness like this.  Some day I will do something like this. I promise.

Monday, October 21, 2013

John Calvin on obeying the Civil Government

As a seeming list of  U.S. government elected officials change their positions on various moral issues, I am reminded of John Calvin's comments in his treatment of the civil government-

"But in that obedience which we hold to be due to the commands of rulers, we must always make the exception, nay, must be particularly careful that it is not incompatible with obedience to Him to whose will the wishes of all kings should be subject, to whose decrees their commands must yield, to whose majesty their scepters must bow. And, indeed, how preposterous were it, in pleasing men to incur the offense of Him for whose sake you obey men! The Lord, therefore, is King of kings. When he opens his sacred mouth, he alone is to be heard, instead of all and above all. We are subject to the men who rule over us, but subject only in the Lord. If they command anything against him let us not pay the least regard to it, nor be moved by all the dignity which they possess as magistrates - a dignity to which no injury is done when it is subordinated to the special and truly supreme power of God." 

- Book 4, Chapter 20 of Calvin's Institutes

Friday, September 27, 2013

We all go in the hole...

Yesterday morning I had the privilege and honor of serving as a casket bearer for the earthly remains of my friend and fellow elder’s father.

The man who was being laid to rest was Dr. Robert Reymond. Dr. Reymond was an effective and brilliant pastor, author, professor, and theologian. Among Reformed churches especially, Dr. Reymond was a giant in modern times. His magnum opus is his excellently crafted Systematic Theology. His students uniformly declare him one of the most brilliant men they have ever known. I will always view it an honor to have carried Dr. Reymond’s casket to his final resting place, knowing his body and soul will some day be reunited.

Here is a picture of the freshly covered grave of Dr. Robert Reymond. A memorial stone will be placed there soon.

Please also notice the grave to the left. It’s older, but only by a couple years. The man who’s body lies under that site was a year older than Dr. Reymond, but died a little over two years ago. Yes, that’s my father’s gravesite.

So it is that my father’s body and Dr. Reymond’s lie close together, eventually to be reanimated and restored when our Lord Jesus has the trumpet sound for the great resurrection of the dead.

After people left the graveside committal service, I stood next to the site with my dear brother and new co-laborer in the gospel ministry at Redeemer, Jake Tassy. Jake knew my father as we were growing up. I am confident the Lord ordained the prayers of Jake and his family to move my father toward Christ and salvation. I think it struck Jake and I, the irony of what was before us.

My father was a common man. He was a blue collar worker born to a Sicilian sulfur miner turned Pennsylvania coal miner. My father worked on the railroad and later in the shipping area for the local Buffalo newspaper. He was a union man, unrefined, but wise about the world. There his body lays.

Dr. Reymond was born in Alabama and typified a southern, educated, gentleman. He went on to earn multiple degrees and become a true scholar, teacher, preacher and churchman. I believe time will test his many writings and sermons and find them worthy of timeless consideration.

In a brief moment of silence looking at the gravesites, standing there with my friend; Jake said- “Look at that- a common man from Buffalo and celebrated, famous theologian- they both go in the hole”.

So true. We all “go in the hole” folks. No one escapes, unless Jesus returns first.

It behooves each of us to be sure of where we go, after our bodies go in the hole.  There is only one way to know for sure.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

-  Jesus, recorded in John 5:24

One last trot to the mound...

Last night in New York was historic.

The greatest closer in the history of baseball- a man who has treated the game, his teammates, and the fans, with dignity and class- trotted out to the mound at Yankee stadium for the last time.

Modern sports are suffering from a huge deficit in character and class.  Hopefully young athletes are paying attention to Mariano Rivera and it rubs off.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What modern worship songs will withstand the test of time?


I have many of the new "worship" songs on on my Itunes play list.  I'm not a curmudgeon when it comes to contemporary music.  I admit despising the making of a genre called "Praise and Worship" music, but that's for another post.

I think it is demonstrable that a given generation's hymnody or worship music sheds considerable light on the theological condition of the Church in that era.  I think it is also true that certain songs withstand the test of time because of their dynamic quality.  To become a true treasure for the ages, a song must combine sound biblical theology (yes, I realize this feature alone should be the stuff of a hundred posts), a tune that is singable for a congregation (have you ever seen a modern congregation try to actually sing some of the songs the worship team sings?), a Godward focus (even when it's a prayer for personal growth or blessing), and a timeless sense of relevance.

Thinking about these things, allow me to wonder aloud-

I wonder which of the following "worship" songs will be around in 100 years?

Since the first song, by Charles Wesley, has been sung by congregations for 250 years, I'm guessing it will still be sung 100 years from now. I wonder if the second song, by David Crowder, will likewise withstand the test of time?

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly, While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high. Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past; Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last. 

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing. (there are two more profound verses) 

He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree...bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me 

And oh, how He loves us, oh oh, how He loves us, how He loves us all (repeated 46 times)

I know this will draw fire, but I just can't imagine Christians singing the second song 100 years from now.  If I can't figure out what the first sentence is meant to convey, I doubt someone in 2113 will.  Seriously and objectively- compare the lyrical depth and profundity of these two songs and you can see why one will be sung by Christians until Jesus returns and the other, very likely, for just a few more years.

Spare me all the "this song really makes me worship" responses.  Also, there's no need to get all hot and bothered because I may have seemed to diss modern "praise" music.  I'm just saying the Crowder song here will not last long because it doesn't have the qualities of a song that will endure.  I am not arguing that the song doesn't give some Christians the warm fuzzies and make them want to raise their hands.  It's perfectly within the Christian liberty of pastors and "worship leaders" to utilize most of these modern songs (some, however, are so poor theologically, they shouldn't be used...see my earlier comment about hymnody revealing the state of a given church's theology).  I further understand the need for each generation to contribute it's voice to the body of worship music building since Christ's First Advent.  I am not suggesting that my way is the only way. Charles Wesley's hymn is far better than Crowder's, but Chuck wrote many bombs also. We don't sing hundreds of Wesley's hymns, because they didn't withstand the test of time.  I doubt highly that Crowder's song here and the majority of Christian Radio's play list will be playing in 20 years let alone a century from now.  Interestingly, K-Love's play list looks like the Sunday morning repertoire of many modern worship teams.

Using this one example, I only mean to point out, if the Lord tarries, the Church of a hundred years from now will likely wonder what we were thinking.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Lord of the Rings Rite of Passage

I enjoyed watching the third installment of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy with my eldest son tonight. There's nothing quite like the human imagination.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

God's creature, the Cicada

Doing yard work today I discovered a cicada in the final stages of molting.  It was fascinating and a fresh reminder of God's design at work.  There are over 2500 varieties of cicada in the world.  They can stay in the ground as grubs or nymphs for three or four years (or far more) before crawling up a tree, locking on, and emerging as a flying insect that lets out that high pitched noise so common in late summer.

The careful design of creatures like the cicada attests to the existence of God.

Here's the progression I witnessed today-

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Finally, a tear-worthy moment in Major League Baseball

On September 8, 1998 my wife mocked me as I shed tears of joy watching Mark McGwire break Roger Maris' home run record. The 1994-95 Major League Baseball strike demoralized fans so badly it almost devastated our national past time. I was having a very difficult time getting over the strike and what is said about the players and owners.  Despite the Yankees dominant push during that time frame, the money-hungry, greedy, and selfish owners and players really put myself and many fans off for some time after that strike.  1998's "incredible" home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa seemed to bring some kind of redemption to America's beleagured game.  So yes, I shed a tear that day in September 1998. The game had been redeemed with one swing of Big Mac's bat.

As it turned out, my wife's mockery was unwittingly prophetic. The redemption I thought was wrought with McGwire's long ball was false.  A few years later we all learned that "magical" 1998 season was an epic farce and McGwire was a fraud among a countless number of frauds. The freakish, steroidal mockery of baseball continued with Barry Bonds and a host of others. The baseball steroid era took over the early 2000's and I confess a deep cynicism grew in my inner being toward the once noble American pastime. Icon after icon fell over the next ten years in baseball. The game seemed to have lost it's honor and maybe even it's soul.

I vowed to never shed a tear again for Major League Baseball "historic feats". Who could trust any of it?

I have not rescinded or retracted or recanted my vow, but tonight, I failed to keep it. Tears snuck up on me in a truly surprising way.

For tonight was the MLB All-Star game.  Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in the history of baseball and much beloved New York Yankee,  took the mound in what will be his last appearance at such a venue marking the halfway point of his final season.  The players on both teams and every fan in the stadium rose to give him a much deserved standing ovation while Enter Sandman played one last time.

Unlike Canseco, Giambi, Palmeiro, Sosa, McGwire, Bonds, Ramirez, Clemens, A-Rod, Cabrera, and a myriad of other cheaters, Mariano Rivera has provided a career to behold, untainted, and honorable.  I broke my vow tonight, unintentionally.  I will do my best to not let it happen again.

But yes, it's taken over fifteen years, but this evening- July 16, 2013, another tear-worthy moment happened in Major League Baseball as the greatest closer of all time began the swan song of his unmatchable career. Mariano Rivera stood on the mound, took off his cap and acknowledged the reception from the 45,000+ fans and players. He then went on to retire the side, 1-2-3, as he has done so many, many times before.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A buck head mount in the main room reveals much...

I Have lordship over just a few square feet of "my"physical house, but they are choice square feet for sure!  Above the living room mantle is mounted my best whitetail buck harvested with a bow.  My wife is not a redneck wife, so it was a major concession for her to allow such a manly display.

{stick with me, I'm going somewhere extremely insightful with this}

My friend, who will be Redeemer's next youth pastor, is in town with his wife looking for a house. Listening to them discuss the various houses they have visited reminds me of the three times Shari and I have bought one. Men and women have different perspectives and feelings about what makes a house the right buy or what makes a house "a home". Anyways, it's fun listening to them deliberate.

As providence would have it, at lunch today a friend gave me an interesting article from the National Review. Carrie Lukas reviews "Men on Strike" by Helen Smith which is about the way men are "boycotting marriage, fatherhood, and the American Dream."  Lukas makes a choice statement-

"Men's existence is curtailed not solely in the public sphere, but also often in their own homes. While women control the main living space in most homes, men and their interests and hobbies are often relegated to the basement, to what commonly is referred to as a 'man cave.' While the practice of forcing men to take refuge in a corner of their own homes is snickered at, Smith makes a compelling case that this is a demeaning, and telling, trend."

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Only Jesus can make a Saint

While the Vatican headlines announce Pope Francis clearing the way for John Paul II and John XXIII to be declared “saints”, I am thankful that Jesus cleared the way for me to be a Saint categorically. I don’t deserve the title “saint”, but Jesus does, and I’m united to Him by faith.  Only Jesus can make a Saint.

Romanism has many complex doctrines, practices, processes, and traditions. One of the more interesting-especially for it’s creativity- is how a person is declared a “saint”. In fairness, Romanism teaches that all people in heaven are saints. Sainthood on earth has to do with naming really special dead people saints so when referring to them, you must properly use “saint” before their name. You know- St. Mary, St.Paul, St. Bonaventure, St. Joan of Arc, St. Anthony, St. Louis, etc. What’s so special about saints that get named on earth than all those in heaven? Well, they did more impacting stuff than the rest of us, according to...someone. Mary is the mother of Jesus, so of course she’s a saint, right? Paul was an Apostle, so there again, it’s obvious he’s a saint. Bonaventure had a cool name and he was a significant church leader in his day-BAM- Saint. Joan of Arc basically championed a protestant-like position about God’s grace which got her burned at the stake by the Catholic Church...and so was made a saint. Wait a minute...that’s confusing, right? Thankfully, the matter got cleared up a few years later when the Roman Church retried the case and found her innocent. Unfortunately, she was already dead. If only the Pope would have been more involved in her case from the beginning, I’m sure he would have exerted his infallible powers and avoided the whole debacle. Instead, the Roman powers screwed up, killed her, then recanted killing her...well anyways, she’s a Saint for sticking up to an erring church. The Roman Catholic Church recognizes something like six to eight thousand saints.

How does one become a saint in the Roman system? 

I grew up Roman Catholic. I actually tried hard to be a good, learned Catholic. I remember what I was taught about this subject, but have since learned Roman doctrine usually has more than one angle or explanation. Basically the process is dependent upon evidence presented to Church officials proving the  person in consideration in fact lived a holy life, had “faith”, and had a special commission from God. Leaders in the church will also look at miracles done by the person while alive and dead (yes...miracles after dying!) as evidence that God is working through that person. After a person dies, if they are potentially saint material, they are labeled “Servant of God”. Then, shortly thereafter, the label “Venerable” will be attached to their name. “Blessed” is the next title of honor bestowed (beatification), and finally, they are called “Saint”. Canonization is being named or declared a Saint. To be canonized these days, considerable research is done about the person’s life. A certain amount of miracles have to be attributed to the person up for sainthood-which is the most mysterious of all criteria.

The actual act of canonization usually takes place in St. Peter’s Square outside the Vatican in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. Word on the Vatican street is that John Paul II and John XXIII are going to made saints soon by Pope Francis. If you aren’t aware of John XXIII, you can still see his dead body on display at St. Peter’s. He was the Pope who called for the Second Vatican Counsel in the 1960's.

The current Pope, of course, in the Roman system, is the one who makes the final declaration on sainthood. The Pope is the final authority in the Roman Church, not Scripture. No, the above beatification and canonization processes are not found in Scripture, but rather the result of hundreds of years of tradition.

Protestants, in my opinion, get too bent out of shape when Roman Catholics make saints. I used to be that way, but not any more. John Paul II can be labeled a “saint” by Pope Francis, but so what, really? It’s not the same meaning as the Apostle Paul’s uses of the label “saint” for all those who are Christians, or to use Paul's designation- for those “in Christ”. To be “in Christ” is to be a person who has faith in Jesus Christ's work on the cross alone for the forgiveness of their sins. The instrument of faith is what God uses to put us “in Christ”. Once we are “in Christ”, we are, in fact, saints. Saint is just a translation of “holy one”. In Christ, we are holy. In Christ, in a legal sense, we have Christ’s righteousness credited to our account, and are therefore declared holy. If you have faith (trust, reliance, dependence) in Christ, you are a saint- even before you go to heaven.

Scripturally speaking, the “saints” are the body of Christ, Christians, the church. All Christians are considered saints because they are “in Christ”. The New Testament is replete with examples of Christians being called saints. In the book of Acts (9:32) "Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda". Later in the same book, chapter 26- "And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons …“ Philippians 4-"Greet every saint in Christ Jesus…" How about Paul in Ephesians 5? - "For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ". So, the saints aren’t only in heaven, if a living person is “in Christ”, they are a saint on earth.

So I don’t get too wound up by the latest round of new saints named by the Roman Catholic Church. I just view it as one of their less impacting unscriptural traditions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not keen on what Pope Pius XII said and how it promotes praying to saints-

“There is good reason why the cult of the saints in heaven is valued by Christian people, that is, so that they may employ their help, and that they may be raised up by the protection of those in whose praises we delight. And from this, it may be easy to understand why the holy liturgy offers us many formulas of prayers in which it invokes the assistance of the saints in heaven.” 

But still, I have far more concern about Romanism’s view of divine authority, Mary, communion, justification, and anathema-pronouncing on us Protestants than I do their delight in declaring people like John Paul II and John XXIII saints.

“To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”   - Saint (when he wrote it) Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:2

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Sons of Liberty- Johnny Tremain blast from the past!

On this Fourth of July 2013 I am taken back to a classic 1957 film I saw in 6th grade- Johnny Tremain. Yes, It's a tall old tree and a strong old tree...yes we are the sons! We are the sons! The sons of liberty!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

G.K. Chesterton and Iron Maiden

A classic song of Iron Maiden, Revelations, borrows a profound verse from one of G.K. Chesterton's hymns.

O God of earth and altar Bow down and hear our cry 
Our earthly rulers falter Our peolple drift and die 
The walls of gold entomb us 
The swords of scorn divide 
Take not thy thunder from us 
But take away our pride

Saturday, June 8, 2013

An Illustration of true Leadership

I got this from a friend's Facebook post. I don't know who designed it.

Too many people think leadership is about bossing others.  This picture bring clarity.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Another D-Day Remembrance

Visiting the American Cemetery in Florence, Italy a few years back was one of the sobering events of my life. There, in one of the smaller such American cemeteries on European soil, lay the bodies of 5000 young Americans, including my Uncle Chris-all who died in the campaign to free Europe and rid it of the demonic Hitler, that began on D-Day in 1944.

Sadly, when my father and I got to Florence and asked some of the locals where the cemetery was, almost no one knew what we were talking about. They'd all be speaking German if it weren't for the U.S.A.

T. David Gordon on modern Praise Bands

Dr. Gordon hits the nail on the head in a recent post he authored about the modern "Praise Band" phenomenon.  Here's a snippet:

Functionally, the Praise Team has replaced the hymnal. When churches decided to sing contemporary music, they often could not find musical scores, and/or they could not reproduce them for the congregation for legal or financial reasons. So the Praise Team would rehearse ahead of time (at least they had the musical score) and sing the material. It was hoped that the congregation would “sing along with” the Praise Team; and it often did, picking up on the song as it went along. But the congregation—even if the members can sight-read music—cannot sing as vigorously or confidently as the Praise Team, for two reasons. First, the congregation does not have the musical score, and must learn the song by ear. Second, the Praise Team often varies its instrumental or harmonic parts (and worse, its instrumental bridges) between stanzas, so that the congregation is not entirely sure exactly how each stanza will be sung. And since the Praise Team alone has rehearsed beforehand, those who operate the microphones must be sure that the Praise Team is not drowned out by the congregation because, after all, only the Praise Team actually knows what is going on.

Another morsel:

I note that many defenders of the present liturgical model have coined the expression “contemporary worship music.” They did not call it “contemporary congregational praise,” and they really could not have done so, since it is evident that the current practice actually makes it difficult for the congregation to sing robustly since no musical score is provided and difficult even to hear them if they do. But the Scriptures do not command “worship music;” they command congregational praise. So even the label here is mildly misleading. If we required people to use the expression “contemporary congregational praise,” we would, in doing so, require them to do those things that enhance such congregational praise, and require them not to continue doing those things that worsen it or hide it.

You can read Dr. Gordon's entire post here. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Ellis Potter on God as personal

"God alone is God, and God is not alone.  You cannot make this statement about any other God or original perfection.  You can say Buddha alone is Buddha, but that is all.  The rest is silence.  you can say Krishna alone is Krishna and Allah alone is Allah, but the rest again is silence.  

If the God of the bible (Christianity) wants to talk to somebody, He talks among Himself, because He is three persons.  A God who wasn't diversified could not talk among Himself.  He would have to create something else to talk with.  He would require a creation in order to be personal, whereas the God of the bible (Christianity) is intrinsically personal, independent of His creation.  His creation does not complete Him but rather expresses Him."

- Ellis Potter, from "Three Theories of Everything"

Sunday, May 26, 2013

On being Chris Earnshaw

Preface: Chris Earnshaw is a newly graduated senior and a young man I greatly admire. I've been his soccer coach since he was in sixth grade and one of his pastors. He has a great family and wonderful friends. He loves Christ and I look forward to what God will do with him in the future.  He is just 18, however, and manages some interesting feats. Tonight's story, which I relay below, is not necessarily a typical Chris event, but it's not all together atypical either. 

I was sitting on the couch tonight doing some late edits on my sermon when a frantic rap on the door shocked me out of my seat. At first I thought perhaps Shari locked herself out, but I knew she was in the bedroom. It was just about ten o’clock, who could that be at our door? Then the doorbell rang as I got to the tiled entryway. I confess some pause and wonder about what I would find when I opened the door, then I saw a face I recognized in the front window. As I opened the door, seeing it was Chris, I was still stumped by his appearance. “What’s up man”?, I asked opening the door as he helped himself in. With a giggle he slid by me to our kitchen saying, “I cut my finger pretty bad”. I could see the blood on his clenched fist and his good hand holding it tight. We got to the sink and I ran the water for him to rinse it off. It looked pretty nasty, but there was too much coagulated blood to see how deep the gash was. “What did you do?”, I asked. “I cut it on a fridge”, came his reply. I figured he was doing a moving job and cut it on the bottom of the appliance, or something like that. He said, “No, I was cutting it up and cut myself.” Before replying I was thinking what on earth he could have meant. “Am I crazy for asking why you were cutting up a fridge”? By then I could see his cut was pretty nasty so I got some hydrogen peroxide and bandages. On my way to fetch those, Shari asked what was going on and I pointed to the kitchen, “Earnshaw cut himself, he’s washing the wound in the sink.” When I got to him with the first aid stuff, he already bloodied a clean dish rag and it was still spouting pretty good. “Dude, what did you do?” “I saw a fridge so we threw it in the back of my truck so we could cut it up later.” Yes, you read that right. That’s what he said. I mean of course, you see a trashed fridge on the side of the road, what would you think? Certainly the first thought in anyone’s mind would be- “Hey, let’s pick that piece of junk up and cut it up with axes or something.” I knew I should have asked a few more questions, but I was starting to wonder if this whole interchange was actually a chocolate induced apparition. I haven’t been eating many sweets lately and Shari made this awesome chocolate lasagna dessert tonight. Maybe I was hallucinating this whole surreal story courtesy of the cocoa bean? Chris comes desperately to the door at 10pm, bleeding profusely from his hand, all because he was cutting up an old refrigerator? You can’t make this stuff up.

Chris, who are you with, how’d you get here?”, I inquired.  “Ryan and Rudy are out in the truck...they didn’t come in because they were embarrassed,” the newly graduated HCA senior said blowing in his cohorts. Admittedly, I was glad to hear someone was embarrassed! Shari went out to the truck and invited them in. Sheepishly, two of HCA’s finest from last year’s graduating class and my former soccer players came in to our living room wearing strange bright yellow safety vests. Come to think of it, I never did ask them why they were dressed like highway flagmen. They were shaking their heads about all that had transpired as they reached in to a tupperware bin with Shari’s legendary chocolate chip cookies. “Have a seat guys”, I told them. “Let’s see if Chris’ cut stops bleeding.” “So, Chris, explain how this happened again”, I asked hoping to get the full story. “Well, like I said, we picked up this fridge and when I swung the pick-axe through the front door, the head went through all the way. I tried to jam the rest of the handle through and pick it up on the other side but my hand went too far and I cut my finger.” Well now. At least the picture is getting clearer, right? “You probably need to go to urgent care tonight, Chris.” “No way!!”, he responded immediately. “We told you Chris”, Rudy said in a vindicated tone. Ryan then started to tell a story about cutting the side of his pinky with a pocket knife, the upshot was he needed stitches and it didn’t look as bad as Chris’ cut. “Guys, there’s no way I’m going to urgent care. They’ll tell me I need stitches, that cost money, I’m not doing it”, Chris retorts. Then I took the towel off his finger to check on the bleeding. It wasn’t gushing anymore, but it looked like a wicked laceration to me.

Ryan knew the closest urgent care but Chris was still resisting. Shari was threatening to call Chris’ mother if he didn’t call her himself. I still couldn’t understand his need to destroy the trashed fridge. He explained when he saw something like that he couldn’t pass up picking it up and destroying it. He made clear that he didn’t drive around looking for appliances to bludgeon, but if he happened upon one, it was a virtual necessity to throw it in the back and beat on it later. So what did the more reasonable Rudy and Ryan think? They acted like it was a dumb idea, but more or less agreed it was an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up. It brought me back to my late teen years. I was more in to explosives and blew a bunch of stuff up...but that’s a different story, this is about being Chris Earnshaw.

After about 15 minutes of bantering, Shari, Ryan, Rudy, and I thought we had convinced Chris to go to the urgent care to get it checked. Chris was pretty irked by the inconvenience of it all. After all he had things to do, like drive around and find a dishwasher or something, so he could take a sledgehammer to it, I suppose. The guys headed out around 10:30 or so and we threatened to call Chris’ mother again if he didn’t do it himself. I waited 10 minutes and called him to check, he had indeed called his mother. Dare I say Chris is responsible like that? That’s pretty funny to say, I know. All in all, what started as a quiet sermon editing Saturday night ended with a bit of Earnshaw excitement.

I readily confess to not looking forward to him, Rudy, and Ryan all heading to Manhattan for college at summer’s end. They are pretty funny guys, who strangely enough, I think will turn out just fine and be used of God in many ways. I just hope a fridge doesn’t get the better of them one of these days. At least Rudy and Ryan will be easy to spot with those goofy bright yellow reflector vests.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The complicated matter of church discipline

So I have come to the passage in 1 Corinthians where Paul tells the Church to remove a man who was living in sin with his stepmother.  It's not the sin that so outrages Paul, but the Church's apparent toleration of it.  The man is clearly unrepentant about his sin, which is the eventual reason for anyone being excommunicated from the Church.

I've been a pastor for 16 years and exercising wise, biblical church discipline has been the most difficult task.  I know some churches have cut and dry ways of dealing with this or that sin.  In my experience however, no situation has ever been "cut and dry" or in any way simple.  From a distance, to some in the congregation, I am sure situations look black and white with a clear answer.  Up close however, things are messy, details not known to all, and there is always the anxiety about making the wrong decision as elders.  Frankly, I wish the bible was clearer on specific situations.  I am guessing the bible isn't more explicit so as to keep church leaders humble and dependent upon Christ for wisdom.  Yes, one can adhere to the steps of Matthew 18 closely, followed with some Galatians 6 and a little 2 Thessalonians 3 and James 5.  In most cases, in time, a reasonable solution or resolution can be discovered.  There are enough cases where the complexities and uncertainties seem overwhelming.  Studying 1 Corinthians 5 led me across Dr. Rayburn's comments, which gave me assurance I wasn't wrestling with some unprecedented pastoral phenomenon-

"The entire matter of the discipline of the misbehavior of Christians is complicated by the treatment of this subject in the Bible itself. There is no "Manual of Discipline" in Holy Scripture. There are some broad principles and a few instances of case law and many questions are left unanswered. Godly elders must deal with specific cases for which there is no specific biblical instruction. What is more, characteristically, the Bible's teaching bearing on this subject leaves us with principles that are in obvious tension with one another. For example, later in this same letter, Paul addresses the fact that there are couples in the Corinthian church who have divorced when they did not have biblical grounds for doing so. We might well have expected him to demand church discipline in these cases as he had in the case of the man living in an incestuous relationship with his step-mother, but he did not. He took a different tack with them. It is not always an easy thing to know when a sin is a frailty that must be born by the church and when it is a scandal that must be disciplined. If you had been present when the elders of this congregation worked their way - not always without disagreement - to a final decision in certain cases of church discipline, you would appreciate how difficult a matter this can be and how complicated a business it can be to apply the teaching of the Bible to a specific case."  - Dr. Robert Rayburn on 1 Corinthians 5:1-13

I am grateful to be with a team of elders who are committed to the difficult practice of church discipline.   I wish there was some way to plug in the details of a given situation and have God give a precise course of action, but in His wisdom that's not how it works this side of glory.  The situation in Corinth came about because there seemed to be no real confrontation of the public scandal.  Because the sinful situation was allowed to persist, Paul was indicating a widening corruption in the community.  Discipline situations will often be complex, messy, and perhaps even mishandled on occasion. Nevertheless, I do believe God expects church leaders to confront such situations unlike the Corinthian elders.

The necessity of church discipline is another reason I long for the return of King Jesus.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bono chooses Grace over Karma

"I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep s---. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity." - Bono

Monday, May 6, 2013

Chris Broussard does well in a tough spot with a difficult issue

Chris Broussard was put on the spot when analyzing the decision of NBA player Jason Collins to announce he was gay.

I think he did very well.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

They raised their hand against everyone and everyone's hand was raised against them

This evening the second of two men who appear to be responsible for bombs that ripped apart innocent people at the Boston Marathon, we are told, has been captured alive. The first suspect was shot dead as he attempted a violent escape earlier today.

Like most people, when I saw the news reports from Boston and the live shots showing a bloody sidewalk, people missing limbs, and pathetic chaos, I was angry. My thoughts first went to justice and making the perpetrators pay.  I wondered if it was an act of Islamic terrorism.  I wondered if it was some domestic Timothy McVeigh like crazy person.  Whoever it turned out to be, I wanted them to die.

The death toll turned out to be three with close to 200 people injured, many of whom lost limbs or suffered serious damage to them.  In the manhunt today, another person died- a security guard at MIT.  Many lives have been radically altered and made so much more difficult because of the decisions and actions of these two young men.  Such a hateful, cowardly act.

When there are mass shootings, massacres, bombings, and other announcements of some crisis situation going on with a shooter or violent person loose, I never think- I wonder who she is?

As it relates to serial killers, terrorists, organizers of violent hate- how many are women? We men have fallen so far from God's calling for us in this world.

When the pictures of these two young brothers were broadcasted, my heart sunk. The younger boy, the one still alive, is only a few years older than my son.  There he was, casually walking with his hat backwards- with a weapon of mass destruction on his back, intent on mayhem.  What hatred has filled his heart at such a young age! What is so difficult about his life, that he thinks death and destruction poured out on others-including young children- is a worthy legacy to leave?  These two brothers made homemade bombs to do their evil deeds.  With personal, particular care, they packed common kitchen pots with nails and bb's.  Have you considered how conscientious they were in their planning? This wasn't a violent act done in a moment of fury or ill temper.  Quite calmly they must have looked up instructions about making such a bomb, and with great sobriety went about piecing the devices together.  When a person makes another person a meal, we call it a "labor of love".  When these men made their bombs, it was a "labor of vicious hatred".  The level of vitriol and rage that must have burned in their souls is difficult to comprehend, even for someone as wicked as I.  In my overt judgment of these two men, please understand my own self evaluation and acknowledgement of a personal capacity to do something as evil, save for the grace of God. I believe any person is capable of any evil deed, I really do.  Still, when things as calculated as the bombing we just saw or the Sandy Hook shooting or the Arizona theater massacre happen, it does set me back. The depravity of man and the distance it will take us really does rock me.

Really though, it is almost always men who do these things.  The entrance of sin in to the human race rendered spectacular violence to the image of God in men. The Genesis account of man's rebellion is no myth, certainly you know this?  People aren't generally or basically good- we have to stop propagating that lie. What limit does our evil have without the restraining grace of God?  These boys could be my sons, indeed, they could be yours.  Please Lord Jesus, intervene in all of our families.  We truly need Christ every hour, and in every member of our family's life.  I am very glad one of the terrorists is dead and the other has been captured, but I am also reasonably depressed about another instance of men exacting such hateful destruction.  Things aren't the way they're supposed to be my friends.  Such episodes should drive us all to Christ. He is our only hope for redemption.

It really is incredible the kind of havoc young men can reek. Men are called to be protectors, leaders, servants, and submitted to Christ. To see these two young men in Boston choose to destroy rather than cultivate grieves me. As a father of sons and a mentor of young men, seeing these terrorists go the way of Ishmael (Genesis 16:12) makes me shudder. May God give peace, through Christ, to their victims. May God give us assisting grace to raise up men who love and serve rather than hate and kill.

"He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.” -Genesis 16:12

Friday, April 19, 2013

Dancing Queen

This lady is cool. She should bring a smile to your face. She's just waiting for the bus.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Are we seeing America's undoing?

There is so much sick and wrong with our nation today.

Nothing is more sick and wrong than the legalized killing of 4,000 human beings each day in name of "choice" and under the label of "women's health" and in the category of "reproductive rights".  As a society, we have decided abortion and all it's grisly trappings is a worthy trade off to have sex as we please.

To be fair, sinful and depraved men are the reason abortion exists.  Certainly (in the majority of cases) it takes two consenting individuals to have sex, however one is far more personally impacted by a pregnancy.  If the men of our race were mindful and responsible about our protection of women, there would be no such thing as "unwanted" pregnancies.  Women feel they need the "choice" of abortion to safeguard against victimization and to be equal with men.  On a general societal level it is a shame men have forced women in to this position.  It is a further shame that women feel absolute equality with men is a wise pursuit.  Still though, it is important for those of a pro-life conviction, in all their hatred for the abortion procedure, to recognize why seemingly rational, civilized people, take a pro-abortion stance.  Most pro-choice/pro-abortion folks are focusing on what happens to a woman when she becomes pregnant and immediately has her life defined by that situation- while the man could potentially go on his way with little or no consequence.  Incredible pressure comes to bear on a young woman who finds herself in such a spot, especially if by no fault of her own she is in a family or social network that ignores or denies nascent human life at conception.  Once again, abortion primarily exists because of the epic moral failure of men.

The abortion epidemic at its root is a problem of self-worship and idolatry- the very ingredients that always lead to the decline of civilization and the hand of God's judgment. Abortion is clearly a human rights issue, but even more specifically in America, it is a civil rights issue.  Poor, African American communities are far and away the chief targets of the multi-billion dollar abortion industry.  How have civil rights advocates not focused all attention on the absolute assault against black communities by pro-abortion businesses?  There is no other big business as racist and lucrative as the abortion machine.  While the homosexual lobby has somehow successfully commandeered the civil rights movement to promote it's cause, voiceless and powerless unborn millions stagger toward their slaughter with barely an ounce of advocacy from the same folks.

There is a case being tried right now in Philadelphia, the ironic home of an historic bell called "Liberty",  that gives America yet another chance to confront her most evil demon- abortion.  

Please view this short clip below about the case now going on.  You simply must. 

If the slaughter of the unborn is not soon stemmed, I fear it will be too late and we will all suffer under the wrath of God. We may already be seeing America's undoing because of our wicked sin in this area.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Lady Thatcher dies at the age of 87

No matter what you think of her politics and governing, Margaret Thatcher was one of the boldest, most impacting leaders of our time.

On the occasion of her death today, I have been refreshing my memory viewing clips.  I was a young teen when she took office, but she was the British Prime Minister through the 80's right up until I went to college.  My memory of her and American President Ronald Reagan is quite vivid.  I didn't agree with some of her ideas and positions, nor with some of President Reagan's.  Compared to what we are witnessing today,  however, I would take them both back in a second.

It seems to me, and I acknowledge the tendency to romanticize such things, we have mostly politicians today, rather than statesmen and principled rulers.  I can certainly think of a few elected officials who swim against the tide of personal power grabbing and special interest pandering, but for the most part the Margaret Thatchers of world governance, are gone.  I hope I live long enough to see a few return.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Roger Ebert dies after a resilient fight against cancer

Roger Ebert died after a valiant fight against cancer today.  He often spoke in humble terms about his "battle" with the deadly disease.  I commend all those who suffer with chronic, painful illness, but Ebert's particular handling of a disfiguring and life-changing ailment(he had not been able to eat food in seven years) seemed extraordinary to me.

I don't watch too many films, but I have always read his reviews of the ones I was about to see.  Approximately half the time I think he hit the nail on the head.  In any case, his insights were interesting and he often spoke about the magic of a film not being what it told, but how it told what it told.

Roger Ebert was a very interesting, dynamic fellow.  I especially remember his reviews of various religious films and how he accurately explained the message of redemption contained therein. He definitely could articulate the Christian message of redemption and grace, yet never publicly embraced it.  He grew up Roman Catholic, and despite recounting some positive influences from nuns, negativity always seemed to accompany his recounting of his religious experience.  I do hope that we will find, through eyewitness accounts that emerge, Roger Ebert professed faith in Christ during these last months, weeks, days, hours, or minutes before he succumbed.  If not, no human being can definitively rule out his coming to Christ some time recently- he certainly had enough information about the person and work of Christ.

The only thing we are left with, at this point, is a post he did just over a month ago.  In an article he wrote for the Chicago-Sun Times, entitled How I am a Roman Catholic, he basically dismantles Roman Catholicism.  Unfortunately, in so doing, he states-

I consider myself Catholic, lock, stock and barrel, with this technical loophole: I cannot believe in God. I refuse to call myself a atheist however, because that indicates too great a certainty about the unknowable.

He wrote this March 1.  I hope God breathed spiritual life in to Him and he embraced Christ before April 3.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Elementary students sing "Flight of the Icarus"

I'm no closet Iron Maiden fan, I admit.  I'm definitely no government school fan either.  Well, maybe I've been too hard on the public system?  This excellent rendition of Iron Maiden's "Flight of the Icarus" by some elementary students is certainly a step in the right educational direction!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I'm not Homophobic because I disagree with "Gay Marriage".

Here is a redux of an old post I did.  It comes in reaction to the latest round of culture war around the issue of homosexuality, particularly making "gay marriage" legal.  As usual, some who are promoting gay marriage and desirous of everyone to join them (complete with strange red/pink equal sign symbols), are throwing around the "homophobic" label to categorize those who oppose gay marriage.

So, I will post again on this subject.

I disagree with many things but I am not scared of them, nor do I hate them. To attach "phobic" to someone should mean a person has an exaggerated, usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, situation, or practice.

For example, before 1995 significant heights didn't bother me, but after trimming trees in St. Louis for a full year something changed. I was roped in to a huge sycamore tree trimming the middle level of limbs when an inexplicable fear overcame me. I was suspended about 30 feet in the air, securely roped in with a harness, but something about my perspective changed and I could no longer climb and work at those heights from that day til now. As a hunter I utilize tree stands but I cannot set them higher than 15 feet or I begin to get a panicky feeling I can only describe as a phobia concerning heights. On the ground I have tremendous balance, it's hard to knock me over, but I have a sense I will lose my balance and fall when at heights over 15 feet. It's not logical or rational. The "experts" would say I have Acrophobia, Altophobia, Batophobia, Hypsiphobia or Hyposophobia. Bottom line, I'm scared of heights. I'll admit to being "phobic" as it relates to being way up there.

Not too long ago I received an anonymous post accusing me of being "homophobic". In my mind a proper definition of "homophobia" should be an exaggerated, usually inexplicable and illogical fear of homosexuals or homosexuality, right? Well, that's not me at all. In fact, I have friends I love dearly who are practicing homosexuals. I am not scared of them nor do I hate them, in fact, I love them very much. Further, I'm not scared of homosexual practice in general either. Sex between two people of the same gender doesn't evoke fear, freight, terror, or anything of the sort. Even the concept of two men or two women wanting the right to call their union "marriage" doesn't scare me. I don't become enraged when I hear the idea being proposed and I don't have visions of people I hate or even dislike when the matter is debated in print, on the radio, or on television. I am scared of heights. I am phobic about heights. I am not scared of homosexuality or those who practice it, therefore I am not homophobic no matter how diligently a person would strain to label me as such.

I disagree with a great many things but I do not fear them or hate them. I disagree with worldviews that put man at the center, but I do not fear such a perspective. I disagree with doctrine that insists man is responsible to choose Christ as if salvation rests on man's volition, but I do not fear such a perspective. I disagree with political ideology that sees government as having a widespread role in the lives of the citizens it represents, but I do not fear such an ideology or practice. I disagree with sexual practice that happens outside the bounds of a marriage, but I do not fear pre or extra marital sex. I disagree that marriage can be defined in any way other than between one man and one woman, but I do not fear people wanting to "marry" someone of the same sex or the notion of a person wanting to "marry" their dog for that matter. I'll never think of such unions as marriage, but I'm not scared of the concept or of people who disagree with me. I disagree with a great many things because I think they will lead in a direction that is harmful. In some of the cases I disagree because God calls them sin. I don't fear sin as such. I fear where sin leads. I fear what sin will bring about. But I do not fear sin itself because Jesus has ultimately conquered sin and it's final outcome by His victory on the cross for those in union with Him by faith.

Again, I disagree with a great many things, but I do not fear them. So why call me homophobic?

The label homophobic doesn't really mean what it says. By calling me homophobic I am being accused of ignorantly or hatefully opposing homosexuality. The label is applied in pejorative way to paint me as having an illogical or irrational disagreement with homosexual practice. Of course, I do disagree with homosexual practice (or any pre/extra marital sexual practice), but I maintain a logical and rational reason for my opposition (the subject of a different post). "Homophobic" attempts to paint a person as unthinking, bigoted, and scared of something he or she doesn't agree with. I simply contest such a label doesn't help the dialogue and the effort to understand each other.

Disagreement does not mean phobia therefore it is at least dishonest to label me a homophobe, at worst it's "hate speech" against me.

God's beautiful creation

What a treat this would have been to witness live at the Zoo!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Best Elvis Impersonator

I'm a sucker for good Elvis impersonations.  Ben Portsmouth is the best today.  He performed on Letterman yesterday and it was just superb.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Rivera announces his coming retirement

In a day where egomania and arrogance run rampant among professional athletes, there stands one who is different- Mariano Rivera.

Major League Baseball's all time save leader and iconic pitcher for the greatest franchise in professional sports, Mariano Rivera, announced he will retire at the close of this coming season.

My favorite line from today's press conference- "I would like to start by thanking my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." Oh for more professional athletes and role models like Mo.


Friday, March 8, 2013

If Rome delays...

As a member of the "separated brethren", I should be eligible for Pope, right?  Historically there have been people named Bishop just barely after becoming a priest (Ambrose, for one).  Why wouldn't I be considered (being Reformed, married, and American, not withstanding) ?

Quite a few popes were married in the first millennium of the Papacy. Very interestingly in papal history is Benedict IX. He resigned the papacy in order to marry. Never mind the reports of Pope Victor III who said of Benedict IX "His life as a pope was so vile, so foul, so execrable, that I shudder to think of it."

So, why not me? Well, if Rome delays too long...I'm going Eastern!! I think Eastern priests can be married.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

More good satire: Choose your Pope

For those who have never identified with Roman Catholicism, some set up is needed to appreciate this latest satirical offering by the Lutheran satirists.

A pet peeve of most devout Roman Catholics is the way certain people will trumpet their Catholicism publicly while rarely attending Mass and living lives that show almost no care for the church's convictions and teachings. Now, when it's time to choose a new Pope, such dissident voices arise and demand this or that feature of the next Pontiff.  The woman in this clip represents that kind of "Roman Catholic".

Monday, March 4, 2013

John Knox vs Mary Queen of Scots

John Knox was a bold witness for Christ and His Word during the middle part of the Sixteenth Century. Knox had fascinating interchange with the oppressive Queen Mary. Despite a good chance he would be burned at the stake, when he had an audience with Mary, he confronted the errors of Romanism to which she somewhat blindly adhered. Here is just a small sample of the conversation.

Queen Mary:
Ye interpret the Scriptures in one manner, and they (Roman Catholics) in another. Whom shall I believe? Who shall be judge? 

John Knox:
Ye shall believe God, that plainly speaketh in His Word; and further than the Word teacheth you, ye shall believe neither the one nor the other. The Word of God is plain in itself. If there appear any obscurity in one place, the Holy Ghost, which is never contrarious to Himself, explaineth the same more clearly in other places; so that there can remain no doubt, but unto such as obstinately will remain ignorant. 

Take one of the chief points, Madam, which this day is in controversy betwixt the Papists and us. The Papists have boldly affirmed that the Mass is the ordinance of God, and the institution of Jesus Christ, and a sacrifice for the sins of the quick and the dead. We deny both the one and the other. We affirm that the Mass, as it is now used, is nothing but the invention of man, and, therefore, is an abomination before God, and no sacrifice that ever God commanded. Now, Madam, who shall judge betwixt us two thus contending? It is no reason that either of the parties be further believed, than they are able to prove by insuspect witnessing. Let them prove their affirmatives by the plain words of the Book of God, and we shall give them the plea granted. What our Master Jesus Christ did, we know by His Evangelists; what the priest doeth at his Mass, the world seeth. Now, doth not the Word of God plainly assure us, that Christ Jesus neither said Mass, nor yet commanded Mass to be said, at His Last Supper, seeing that no such thing as their Mass is made mention of within the whole Scriptures?'

See the whole interchange here. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sequester Farce

We have the biggest spending government in the history of our nation. These same leaders have managed to manufacture fiscal crisis after fiscal crisis, with the latest being the so-called "sequester" amounting to $84 billion in cuts.  I know these cuts will be felt by many, but honestly, this should be just the beginning of a total restructuring of the nation's budgeting, spending, and taxing.  We need SO many more cuts.  Unfortunately, the current leaders, especially prompted by the executive branch, show no signs of responsible moderation.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

March Madness

I'm guessing either Scola or Turkson will be the next Roman Pontiff.  The chance of the conclave choosing me are 1 in 1,000,000,000,000 or thereabouts.  So yes, I'm saying there's a chance!

The Kingdom rolls forward...

Few things get under my skin like statements that practically relate American Christianity with Christianity.  It's like Christianity is relegated to this small nation of 350 million people.  I even heard one pastor label this era as "Post Christendom".  That's ridiculous.

Christendom is a term for the worldwide community of Christians.  I would definitely concede we are living in "Post Christian" America, but not a Post-Christendom world. No way.  More people identify with Christianity than any other religion- including Islam.  Now, I know not all of the 2 billion people claiming Christianity are born again (nor are the close to 2 billion Muslims faithful Islamists..thankfully), but nevertheless, Christendom is growing, not shrinking. Christendom still makes up over 1/3 the population on planet earth.  We are not in "Post Christendom".

Some observe the lack of effect the Church seems to be having on American culture and paint a broad stroke over the world regarding Christianity.  If Christianity isn't transforming culture then it must not exist, some would say.  While I wouldn't label myself an outright transformationalist, I do think a faithful, pious, church, will impact culture significantly. However, such impact might be that of a lone prophet chirping out in a vast sea of unbelieving, disobedient, people (picture Jeremiah).  Still though, the Church will be known and she will make an impact.  The Church's impact won't always be in the form of mass conversions or some kind of popular status. Conversions are God's business. Simply put, the Church must be faithful to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments.  Some epochs will see God give great fruit to the Church's efforts, other times we'll be called to endure lots of opposition and difficulty.  We are living in times that are sliding toward more difficulty and persecution for Christians, at least in the U.S.  To be sure, however, we are not living in any sort of Post Christendom epoch.

Even conservative statistics show the African and Asian churches growing by millions annually.  Yes, I said millions.  I just talked to a Ugandan pastor who has personally overseen the planting of 5 medium sized Reformed churches in his region of the country, over the past 15 years.  Reformed churches are in the minority for such church growth.  I know missionaries working in "closed" Asian countries who testify to nothing short of an epic revival and evangelistic explosion in that region of the world. Remember, it could mean your livelihood or life to claim Christ in many of these places.  There's every reason to believe the Asian evangelistic explosion is authentic. We're not talking Joel Osteen Christians here.  I think it is a mistake to think, based on American Christianity, that Christianity the world over is lagging.  It simply is not true.  The Kingdom rolls on.  Governments come and go.  The Church's outward exposure waxes and wanes.  Sometimes revival is evident and clearly shows itself in a given culture.  Other times there is a slow boil below the surface.  Yes, the church sometimes appears as a lone dessert rose.

When the Church is faithful to preach the gospel, sinners repent and more are added to the Kingdom.  Honestly, I think one of the reasons for such a dismal sense about American Christianity is the lack of faithfulness on the part of the Church to do the most essential task of faithfully preaching of the gospel. Many American churches have done well to exercise mercy to those around us by providing for people physically, but they have forgotten or forsaken the delivery of the Word of Life.  We should do both.  Too many American churches think people know the gospel message, therefore we need to be feeding and clothing everyone. How about bringing the message of Christ (in words) while also ministering the heart of Christ (deeds)? I believe the chief mistake of the American church is forsaking a clear and constant delivery of the gospel.

Thankfully, such unfaithfulness is not rampant in the Church the world over.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Flashback: Driveway Hockey in Grand Island,NY

Taking a few shots, for old time's sake, in my driveway this past Thursday. It wasn't the same without the likes of Graham Pagano and a big garage door to shoot on. 

We really don't get much snow in Kansas City.  In my sixteen years of living here, I can't remember a bigger single snowfall than the foot of white stuff we got this past Thursday.  We shoveled the driveway as a family.

As I stood in the newly cleared driveway, a combination of feeling a little sweaty, yet cold, coupled with the sight of our shoveled driveway lined with a short wall of snow, catapulted me to the 1980's growing up in Grand Island, NY. I experienced a vivid flashback.

I would play driveway hockey with several of my buddies during the winters in Grand Island. After school, several friends would meet over at my house and we'd play until dark in my long driveway. It's no exaggeration to say we played 4-5 days a week for close to two hours every time.  We used street hockey sticks which had a wooden shaft from an old ice hockey stick, with a replaceable Cooper or Mylec (brand) hard plastic blade.  Over time the blade would wear down super thin and we'd have to replace it (for about $3).  Sometimes we'd use one of those blades until it was about an inch thick. The  ball would constantly bounce right over the blade. When you took a shot with a thin blade, the ball would often sky over the net wildly. We usually used a dead tennis ball, sometimes an orange hockey ball. The ball would be rock hard in the freezing temperatures. It killed to get a Graham Pagano slap shot to the leg with those frozen balls.  On one end of my driveway, the side that faced the road, to make a goal we would usually put a couple milk crates with a hockey stick on top for the cross bar.  We had a portable metal goal for the other end, placed up against the garage door.  To protect the heavy garage door surface, my dad would make me line plywood boards so not as many shots would crush up against the actual door. Man did we pound the crud out of that door! Along one side of the driveway there was a line of hedge bushes that would usually keep the ball in play.  My dad would sometimes look out and see us hacking at a ball that got caught in a bush and yell- "A buck a bush"!  Pretty funny.  Dad was surprisingly tolerant of how much hockey we played out there and how many wicked slap shots we put on that garage door.  My mother said he would grumble when he heard the shots up against the door, but he never said too much to me about it.  I figure he was happy we were out there getting exercise and not off somewhere else getting in to trouble.

We would usually play two on two, three on two was also a popular set up, with the team defending the big goal against the garage door getting a goalie.  We really only needed three players. In such cases, one person would play goalie, the other two would play against each other and take it back past a certain line, sort of like one on one basketball is played.  We all took turns in goal.  I had a hodge podge of equipment.  For a blocker (stick hand) we'd use a regular hockey glove, but it dated from the 1960's, the palms were rotted out and it smelled like roadkill.  For the catching hand we'd use a regular baseball glove, until Bob Lourdel picked up an old, super heavy, goalie glove (we nicknamed "Cloutier") at a garage sale.  For pads we had an actual pair of hard plastic Mylec pads that wore out quickly sliding on the cement surface.  To keep a plastic coating on the pads, I cut up one of those red plastic sheet sleds.  The pads were constantly being repaired.  For the longest time we had a broken goalie stick that I garbage picked from a  Rochester American game. Eventually Mylec made a goalie stick blade, and we used that until it wore down to the size of a regular player stick.  For a mask we had a white Mylec goalie mask.  Every time I got hit in the face, I would take a sharpie and put a scar on it like the old Boston Bruin goalie, Gerry Cheevers, in the early 70's.  I painted it a few times also. We all wore it, so it was loaded with spit and sweat.  It never smelled very good, that's for sure.

While we played, one of us, usually me, would do the play by play using the voice of the local Buffalo Sabres radio man, Rick Jeanneret.  Jeanneret, who still does most of the Buffalo broadcasts, was famous for his overly dramatic calls and his use of creative sayings to describe play.  "He scooooooores",  "He can't get it out....", "Here they go...." (when describing the start of a fight).  I would use them all as we played.  Just great, great, times.  We didn't know how great those times were until they were gone.  Isn't that the case with all such fun things in our childhood?

So, this past Thursday, as I stood in the driveway and had my flashback, I asked my youngest son to run down stairs and grab my old hockey stick (one from the last time I played, over 15 years ago).  He brought it up, I plucked a plastic ball from our ball bin in the garage, and I started to stick handle a bit and rip a few shots. Those old memories flooded back. Do you ever wish you could go back in time, just for a day or a few hours, and relive some of those moments?

I posted the above picture on Facebook and several of the guys who used to play in my driveway commented and shared various funny memories about our games.  Those games in my driveway happened over 25 years ago, and standing in my shoveled driveway with my hockey stick this past Thursday made it feel like yesterday.

This post is dedicated to the friends who played games on the Felich driveway in the 1980's, and the equipment that supported their epic games.

Players: Tony Felich, Graham Pagano, Nathan Currey, Tom Kane, Scott Kane, Scott White, Robert Tranter, Cliff Hageman, Carl Pazimickas, Bob Lourdel, Erik Nowakowski, Jeff Haines, and many others known only to the hedge row that kept the ball in, most of the time. 


Vintage 1980's Mylec Goalie pads

OLD school Jim Craig Mylec goalie mask (the first we had for driveway hockey)

"New", improved Mylec goalie mask 
Plastic Cooper blade