Monday, November 23, 2015

2015 Redeemer Advent Hymn Schedule

I love singing these hymns!

2015 Redeemer Advent Hymn Schedule

218 Angels from the Realms of Glory
194 O Come O Come Emmanuel
217 All My Heart this Night Rejoices (1-5)
217 All My Heart this Night Rejoices (6)

11/29 Hanging of the Greens
208 O Come All Ye Faithful
216 Infant Holy, Infant Lowly
211 God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

12/ 6
203 Hark the Herald Angels Sing
201 O Little Town of Bethlehem
225 Once in David’s Royal City 
217 All My Heart this Night Rejoices (6)

214 Angels We Have Heard on High
215 While by the Sheep we Watched at Night
211 God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen 
217 All My Heart this Night Rejoices (6)

208 O Come All Ye Faithful
221 Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
195 Joy to the World the Lord is Come 
217 All My Heart this Night Rejoices (6)

12/24  Christmas Eve Candlelight Service
208 O Come All Ye Faithful
193 Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
194 O Come O come Emmanuel
201 O Little Town of Bethlehem
213 What Child is This
203 Hark the Herald Angels Sing
195 Joy to the World the Lord is Come
210 Silent Night! Holy Night!

207 Good Christian Men Rejoice
213 What Child is This
222 While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night 

217 All My Heart this Night Rejoices (6)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Nathan's 2015 Buck Kill video

Last year Nathan shot his deer first and then filmed me harvesting mine.

This year I shot mine first, so I got to film Nathan's great hunt.

He harvested a gnarly old buck on this hunt.  Great memories!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

2015 Kansas Bow Buck

The Lord has blessed me with a great bow season again this year.  This past week I have been on vacation, basically hunting all day every day.

Each day I saw many deer moving while on stand.  Despite warm afternoon temps, I got a glimpse of some real giants.

Yesterday I harvested this huge buck.  He's a mainframe 8 pointer with several extra scoreable points (13 points total).  His gross measurement (for those who care) is 164 1/8.  That makes him my biggest whitetail ever.

"I do not hunt for the joy of killing but for the joy of living, and the inexpressible pleasure of mingling my life however briefly, with that of a wild creature that I respect,admire, and value"
- John Madson

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Luther at the Diet of Worms according to D'Aubigne

The Diet of Worms was the trial of Martin Luther for being a heretic. His writings were critical of the Roman Church’s obscuring the Biblical message of the gospel. Luther was convinced the Bible was to be the sole authority of the Church, not popes or councils of men. Luther's chief concern was bringing the Scriptural teaching of justification by faith in Christ alone back to light.

Luther was initially called upon to look at a table full of his books and retract what he wrote therein.  His opposition to papal authority was the root matter that angered Rome and the chief charge they demanded Luther answer.  After a day of questioning Luther requested more time to consider his answer to their demand for recantation.  In his excellent  "History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century", historian J.H. Merle D'Aubigne narrates one of the greatest events in the history of the Church:

 At the beginning of the next day,  the orator of the diet, said indignantly: “You have not answered the question put to you. You were not summoned hither to call in question the decisions of councils. you are required to give a clear and precise answer. Will you, or will you not, retract?” 

Upon this Luther replied without much hesitation: “Since your most serene majesty and your high mightinesses require from me a clear, simple, and precise answer, I will give you one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the councils, because it is clear as the day that they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning, — unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, — and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and I will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience.” And then, looking round on this assembly before which he stood, and which held his life in its hands, he said: “HERE I STAND, I CAN DO NO OTHER; MAY GOD HELP ME? AMEN!” 

Luther, constrained to obey his faith, led by his conscience to death, impelled by the noblest necessity, the slave of his belief, and under this slavery still supremely free, like the ship tossed by a violent tempest, and which, to save that which is more precious than itself, runs and is dashed upon the rocks, thus uttered these sublime words which still thrill our hearts at an interval of four centuries: thus spoke a monk before the emperor and the mighty ones of the nation; and this feeble and despised man, alone, but relying on the grace of the Most High, appeared greater and mightier than them all. His words contain a power against which all these mighty rulers can do nothing. This is the weakness of God, which is stronger than man. The empire and the Church on the one hand, this obscure man on the other, had met. God had brought together these kings and these prelates publicly to confound their wisdom. The battle is lost, and the consequences of this defeat of the great ones of the earth will be felt among every nation and in every age to the end of time.

The assembly was thunderstruck. Many of the princes found it difficult to conceal their admiration. The emperor, recovering from his first impression, exclaimed: “This monk speaks with an intrepid heart and unshaken courage.” The Spaniards and Italians alone felt confounded, and soon began to ridicule a greatness of soul which they could not comprehend.

“If you do not retract,” said the chancellor, as soon as the diet had recovered from the impression produced by Luther’s speech, “the emperor and the states of the empire will consult what course to adopt against an incorrigible heretic.” At these words Luther’s friends began to tremble; but the monk repeated: “May God be my helper; for I can retract nothing.” 

After this Luther withdrew, and the princes deliberated. Each one felt that this was a critical moment for Christendom. The yes or the no of this monk would decide, perhaps for ages, the repose of the Church and of the world. His adversaries had endeavored to alarm him, and they had only exalted him before the nation; they had thought to give greater publicity to his defeat, and they had but increased the glory of his victory. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Staupitz shares the Gospel with Luther at Erfurt

Jean Henri Merle D'Aubigne captures the moment the Gospel was clearly declared to a struggling Monk named Martin Luther. It was a dear pastor, John Staupitz who brought the balm of God's grace to Luther-

It is in vain,” said Luther despondingly to Staupitz, “that I make promises to God: sin is ever the strongest.”

O my friend!” replied the vicar-general, looking back on his own experience; “more than a thousand times have I sworn to our holy God to live piously, and I have never kept my vows. Now I swear no longer, for I know I cannot keep my solemn promises. If God will not be merciful towards me for the love of Christ, and grant me a happy departure, when I must quit this world, I shall never, with the aid of all my vows and all my good works, stand before him. I must perish.”

The young monk is terrified at the thought of divine justice. He lays open all his fears to the vicar-general. He is alarmed at the unspeakable holiness of God and his sovereign majesty. “Who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth?” (Malachi 3:2.)

Staupitz resumes: he knows where he had found peace, and he will point it out to the young man. “Why,” said he, “do you torment yourself with all these speculations and these high thoughts? Look at the wounds of Jesus Christ, to the blood that he has shed for you: it is there that the grace of God will appear to you. Instead of torturing yourself on account of your sins, throw yourself into the Redeemer’s arms. Trust in him—in the righteousness of his life—in the atonement of his death. Do not shrink back; God is not angry with you, it is you who are angry with God. Listen to the Son of God. He became man to give you the assurance of divine favor. He says to you, You are my sheep; you hear my voice; no man shall pluck you out of my hand.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Obama's outrage against gun violence is revealing

I post a fair amount on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter). I was surprised that my brief observation about President Obama's emotional response to the recent mass shooting in Oregon got so many shares.

Here's the post:

The Obama outrage at gun violence clip illustrates the moral cluelessness of many in our generation. When life is cheapened at one level (the unborn) then it is vulnerable at every level. If he was outraged at the actions of PP,I might give his tantrum about gun control a modicum of credence. Guns simply aren't the problem. Dark and wicked human hearts would use an ice pick to kill.

Monday, September 14, 2015

An example of Calvin's practical outlook on Predestination

People will sometimes caricature Calvin’s doctrine of predestination by saying “Well, if everything is predestined then it doesn’t matter what we do…because it was predestined.”.  

This, of course is a careless way to understand the bible’s teaching and Calvin’s explanation thereof. 

The Westminster Confession rightly affirms the biblical doctrine of predestination and offers an excellent pastoral warning-

The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men, attending the will of God revealed in His Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election. So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the Gospel. (WCF 3.8)

To understand Calvin’s practical outlook on predestination, his comments on Isaiah 6 and John 12 are helpful.  These passages have to do with God hardening the hearts of the Jews so they would not respond to the gospel.  Who’s fault is their unbelief? See Calvin’s comments connected to these passages:

Though he (Jesus) had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 

“He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.”   John 12:36b-40

John quotes Isaiah 6  as a clear demonstration of the stubbornness of the Jews. He does not indeed absolutely give the very words, but he states the meaning clearly enough.

Therefore, says he, they could not believe, because Isaiah said, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart.

True, this prediction was not the cause of their unbelief, but the Lord foretold it, because he foresaw that they would be such as they are here described. The Evangelist applies to the Gospel what had already taken place under the law, and at the same time shows that the Jews were deprived of reason and understanding, because they were rebels against God. Yet if you inquire into the first cause, we must come to the predestination of God. But as that purpose is hidden from us, we must not too eagerly search into it; for the everlasting scheme of the divine purpose is beyond our reach, but we ought to consider the cause which lies plainly before our eyes, namely, the rebellion by which they rendered themselves unworthy of blessings so numerous and so great.   (Calvin's commentary on Isaiah 6)

Did you catch what Calvin said? The ultimate driver behind the actions of men is God’s sovereign hand, however understanding the purpose on the level of predestination is too hard and not clearly revealed to us. For us, practically speaking, we are to see rebellion for what it is- sin.  Man is responsible for his sin no matter what the hidden, sovereign plan of God might be accomplishing. In Isaiah 6 and John 12 the Jews were responsible for their disbelief. Unbelievers are responsible for their unbelief. 

We can never use predestination to excuse sin and disbelief.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Why the big, central pulpit and not a Plexiglas lectern with a stool?

Great question!

The various features of our church architecture and layout are based on things we see as biblically important. Our building looks a certain way for a specific reason. Our choice of furnishings and the particular layout of the pulpit, baptismal, and communion table are purposeful. 

It’s not that other types of church buildings or layouts are unbiblical or wrong. For example, it seems the big, central, wooden pulpit is rare in new church buildings. Many modern churches opt for a stool or chair in front of a Plexiglas lectern for their casually dressed pastor to sit and  teach or “talk with" his congregation. I do something similar on Sunday nights and in other teaching venues. Certainly the Word of God can be taught or preached in different set ups.  The bible doesn’t prescribe the arrangement of furniture in a church worship setting. 

Whatever your set up, something is being communicated.  

The sitting pastor with small Plexiglas lectern on Sunday morning definitely communicates casual, informal, personal interaction. It seems such a set up is intended to make the pastor come across as non-threatening, even a bit less authoritative. I am sure this is a reaction to the stereotypical yelling, pulpit-pounding, fundy preacher.  The stool/lectern approach is meant to put people at ease as they listen to a “message” from the bible. The pastor’s choice of casual dress while teaching or preaching Sunday morning tells the congregation- “Hey, I’m one of you! Listen what I’ve learned this week.”  I think much of the trend toward a casual set up for teaching/preaching Sunday morning has come from “millennial” pressure.  Millennials are characterized as being skeptical or dismissive of authority.  The traditional big, central pulpit with the pastor wearing a suit or robe is a bit offsetting to a generation that doesn’t acknowledge levels of authority readily. 

So why do we, at Redeemer, opt for the set up we have?  Why the big, central, wooden pulpit?  Again, whatever your set up, something is being communicated.  Our intention is to communicate importance and authority.  The most important activities of the church are signified by the furnishings we have- the pulpit, the baptismal, and the communion table.  The ministry of Christ’s church is the ministry of the Word and Sacraments.  Our furnishings are meant to make a statement about the priorities of the church.  As for the pulpit in particular- it’s big, central, and strong, for a reason.  It’s meant to promote the preaching of God’s inspired, inerrant, sufficient, and authoritative Word as the central activity of the Church.  The pulpit is bigger than the preacher.  The pulpit requires the person who brings the Word to stand up and step in to it. It demands the preacher consider the solemnity of the role he is exercising when preaching the Word.  Yes, the big, central pulpit is meant to exude authority-the authority of the preached Word.  The authority is not based on the preacher, but on the Word that is preached.  In our church, the pastors wear robes so the congregation’s attention is not on his clothes, but rather the role he is filling for that hour.  Some will say- “the robe distracts me…it reminds me of when I was Catholic.”  I say, skinny jeans on the pastor distracts me.  The pulpit manned by a minister in a robe communicates importance and authority.  This set up promotes the bible being preached. Teaching is explaining what has been written and how it may apply, which is important and should happen in multiple ways in the life of a healthy church. Preaching however, is proclaiming the truth of the Word and exhorting the congregation to believe and obey.  The pastor is commanded to “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2) as part of his essential shepherding duties and our pulpit set up serves to assure this practice. The pulpit set up is a reminder to the pastor and the people about God’s authoritative Word.  There’s a sense in which pastors come and go, but the big, solid pulpit from which the Word is preached, will remain for generations.  A preacher “filling the pulpit” is a great way to describe what a faithful pastor should be doing.  He should know what the pulpit is meant for (preaching the Word) and do the task. So many important messages can be relayed by architecture and set up. 

I would rather go to a church that has a modern set up where the pastor believes and teaches the bible faithfully than one with a traditionally arranged big, central pulpit, and the pastor doesn’t believe or actually teach the bible. The essential priority for a biblical, healthy church, is a right view and teaching of the bible.  I do have some anxiety however, concerning what the modern set up says about the convictions of a given church leadership.  But thankfully for everyone, Jesus is the head of His church, not me.   

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Psalm for meditation on July 4

Here's the passage I am meditating on this July 4, during a time of spiritual famine in our beloved nation-

Psalm 33:17-22 The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Redeemer Pulpit: Did God actually say marriage is between one man and one woman?

Several months ago one of my elders suggested I do a short topical sermon series between book studies.  So I planned four sermons to bridge between finishing 2 Corinthians and starting Isaiah in August.  The series is based on the four hottest cultural issues I could think of.  The purpose is to alert my congregation about a biblical response to alarming matters that impact us.

This particular sermon is on Scripture's teaching about marriage, the rapid change in our culture concerning marriage, and how Christians should respond.

The sermon is meant for my congregation but applies to any Christians committed to God's Word. When planning the sermon I had no idea the Supreme Court would legislate same sex marriage two days before I would preach it.

Listen Here to "Did God actually say marriage is between one man and one woman" By Pastor Tony Felich 

Schaeffer foretold the dynamic that has come to pass

In light of the historic legislation passed by the Supreme Court (yes, I know this isn't the Court's role, but it accurately describes the effect of their decision), legalizing same-sex marriage, I thought revisiting prophetic words from Francis Schaeffer would be enlightening.  Below is an excerpt from a lecture Schaeffer gave in 1982, and also part of his "Christian Manifesto" published the same year.

Schaeffer displays what happens when a society replaces Christian truth (which is actual truth) with humanism.  Remember, this was written over thirty years ago, at a time when it seemed "conservatism" was on the upswing.  As Schaeffer was fond of saying, conservative humanism is no better than liberal humanism. 

So, Humanism is the absolute certain result, if we choose this other final reality (instead of Christianity) and say that is what it is. You must realize that when we speak of man being the measure of all things under the Humanist label, the first thing is that man has only knowledge from himself. That he, being finite, limited, very faulty in his observation of many things, yet nevertheless, has no possible source of knowledge except what man, beginning from himself, can find out from his own observation. Specifically, in this view, there is no place for any knowledge from God.

But it is not only that man must start from himself in the area of knowledge and learning, but any value system must come arbitrarily from man himself by arbitrary choice. More frightening still, in our country, at our own moment of history, is the fact that any basis of law then becomes arbitrary -- merely certain people making decisions as to what is for the good of society at the given moment.

Now this is the real reason for the breakdown in morals in our country. It's the real reason for the breakdown in values in our country, and it is the reason that our Supreme Court now functions so thoroughly upon the fact of arbitrary law. They have no basis for law that is fixed, therefore, like the young person who decides to live hedonistically upon their own chosen arbitrary values, society is now doing the same thing legally. Certain few people come together and decide what they arbitrarily believe is for the good of society at the given moment, and that becomes law.

Now, compare what Schaeffer said to what Romans 1 describes:

Romans 1:[18] For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. [19] For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. [20] For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. [21] For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. [22] Claiming to be wise, they became fools, [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. [24] Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, [25] because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. [26] For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; [27] and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. [28] And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Tragedy of Alex Rodriguez

Being a Yankees fan doesn't stop me from being rational.

I find Alex Rodriguez to be one of the most tragic figures in the modern sports era, especially since the MLB World Series was cancelled in 1994. It seems MLB's declined popularity after the strike of 1994 was a contributing factor for the league's lax oversight of performance enhancing drug usage. To be sure, Alex Rodriquez is one of hundreds of players who likely cheated over the past twenty plus years. In his case, however, it is very difficult for common man to understand why a person of such God-given talent would resort to PED's. Yet he did just that, lied about it multiple times, and did it again. I hope he has a great year for the sake of the Yanks and the $25 million they're paying him this season, but I find him to be a sad player that's hard to like.

Yesterday he reached the 3000 hit milestone, a feat accomplished by only 28 players (out of 18,000) in MLB history.

Yet, it feels somewhat fake.  Wallace Matthews with ESPN captures my sentiments on A-Rod-

"Again, no matter what you think of steroids, there can be little dispute over another contention -- that the athlete who resorts to them feels that in some way he or she needs them to perform.

The sad fact is the tragedy of Alex Rodriguez has less to do with a failing of character than a failing of confidence.

At some point in his athletic life, A-Rod stopped believing in himself.

And as a result, none of us can ever fully believe in him -- or what he did on a baseball field."

 - Wallace Matthews (ESPN)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

My prayer for the Church and our Nation

Our Father, bring to the remembrance of your people your ancient and time-honored promise: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways;  then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

We do humble ourselves and seek your face this day.  

Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You. ‘You show lovingkindness to thousands, and repay the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them—the Great, the Mighty God, whose name is the Lord of hosts. ‘You are great in counsel and mighty in work, for your eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, to give everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings.

Father we confess that we are a wayward people.  We are broken and battered by sin.  Father, we as a church must confess our sins before confessing those of our nation.  We have not been the salt and the light you have called us to be.  We have timidly hidden your light under a basket.  We have not sought holiness in our own midst as the best way to make an impact on our countrymen.  In many ways, the Church has done it’s best to blend in to the world.  Forgive us father for our sins of complacence, compromise, and apathy.  

Father, as citizens of the United States of America, it seems we are regularly astonished by how seemingly unstable our world is.  Help us, as your people, to hold fast to what we know to be true- you are still on the throne.   You have not ceased to be sovereign.  Father, before we ask for your healing, wisdom, and protection, we must confess to your our nation's great and grievous sins, of which we are to some degree a party to.  

We confess to you that:

Wrong ideas and sinful living have cut us off from the full extent of your blessings.   We have cast off the restraint of your Word and have sought after our lustful passions.  We have been greedy for wealth and possessions. It seems the richer our nation has grown the more we have tried to isolate ourselves from you- as if we do not need you.  Father we are likewise grieved for the 1 million babies we have sacrificed on the altar of convenience in this land over this past year.  Forgive us for not shedding more tears for the unborn, for having no memorial service for them.  We have sought to hide behind barricades of selfishness;  shackles have imprisoned the great heart of America.  It seems that only when a tragedy or disaster happens do men and women invoke your name.  We act as though we can completely ignore and even rebel against your Holy Word for year after year- but when we need you- you’d better listen or else we will blame you or say that you are not real.  God forgive us from this extreme arrogance, pride, and out-right rebellion!  

Father, teach our nation we cannot leverage the God of the Universe.  You have blessed us immeasurably because of your grace not because of our goodness… and our response has been to hand you rebellion.  God, thank you for not reigning down fire and brimstone upon us this very day.    

Lord God of Hosts, Forgive us!  O God, by your guidance and power may we become a nation contrite in heart- not proud and arrogant, a nation confessing her sins- not exalting immoral living, a nation keenly sensitive to all unresolved justice and wrong still in our midst- not tolerant of any injustice or cruelty.

We know, our Father, times are desperate and we need you.  We need your strength, your guidance, your wisdom.  There are challenges and problems far greater than any wisdom of man can solve.  What shall our leaders do in such an hour?

May your wisdom and your power come upon our local leaders, our governor, and our state legislators. May your wisdom and your power come upon President Obama, Vice President Biden, their staff and advisers, the Senators and Congressmen, to who have been entrusted leadership.  May the responsibility lie heavily on their hearts, until they are ready to acknowledge their helplessness and turn to you.  Give them the honesty, the courage, and the moral integrity to confess that they don’t know what to do.  Only then can they lead us as a nation beyond human wisdom to you, who alone has the answer.  If our rulers will not heed your Word and lead us according to your timeless Law, spare us their influence O God and remove them from office!

Our Father, as important and influential as our elected officials are- you have not given them the task and commission of being salt and light. Our Father, we recognize that government has it’s divinely instituted place, however we also acknowledge that it is a temporary institution.  Father, we confess that blaming elected officials can be a guise and an excuse for not taking responsibility for our own sin.  Lord, we are your Church- those called by your name.

I pray for the pulpits of this land- restore a biblical spine to those called to preach.  Free us from the love of personal affirmation, the enslavement of numbers and church “growth”, the fear of man, and the scourge of watering down your Word.  I pray for the church to return to the same things that moved the Reformation and brought revival to this land in it’s early days- 

The Bible is the only measure and ultimate authority for all matters of faith and life
Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man.
Grace is the only method of divine salvation- we cannot save ourselves.
Faith is the only means by which the righteousness of Christ is imputed.
God’s glory alone is the chief end of man and the motivation for living.

Revive the pulpits in this land.  Revive those sitting in the pews of this land.  God, please shed your grace on us!

We do pray that you, O Holy Spirit, in your own mysterious way, would prevail upon the wills of men that they may do the will of God.  All these things we ask in that name above every name, that name before whom all nations of the earth shall bow, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.  Amen.


-Tony Felich, Redeemer Presbyterian Church

Thursday, April 9, 2015

On this date: Robert E. Lee and Dietrich Bonhoeffer Connection

Today marks to historic events in the lives of important Christian leaders.

On this day one hundred fifty years ago General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses Grant at Appomattox.  I find Lee to be a very intriguing figure

"We failed (to win the Civil War), but in the good providence of God apparent failure often proves a far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South. So fully am I satisfied of this, as regards Virginia especially, that I would cheerfully have lost all I have lost by the war, and have suffered all I have suffered, to have this object attained."

On this day seventy years ago German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis. His most popular work is "The Cost of Discipleship", but his best work (in my opinion) is "Life Together". In that book he gave pastors very important advice that I have tried to heed:

“A pastor should never complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men.”

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Resurrection of Christ meets us at the Crossroad

I remember a philosophical crossroad in my teens when it was clear that either Jesus was who he claimed or life was basically a strange absurdity. 

Of course, it wasn’t enough for Jesus to claim an ability to make me right with God through faith in him, there had to be a validation by God Himself about Christ. The Resurrection is that validation. Without his resurrection, Jesus is no real help to anyone and not really substantially different from all the various religious prophets and gurus whose corpses still lay in the ground. Would you trust a builder who couldn’t build his own house? Would you trust a mechanic who can’t fix his own car? Then why would you trust a “prophet” who claims to know the way to eternal life but couldn’t defeat death himself? 

The crossroad is real, I hope everyone sees it- either the resurrection of Jesus Christ is true, or Albert Camus was right about life as an absurdity. All religions do NOT lead to the same place. Only one “religion” is lead by a living Savior. If he’s not alive, how could there be real answers with other dead promise makers? If Jesus didn’t rise we should all just fake as much meaning about this absurd life as we can, to pass our days, and hope it ends upon physical death. If Jesus did rise, we should all do our best to tell every person we know- so they can be saved from what awaits those who are not “in Christ”. 

I am convinced by the eyewitnesses recorded in history and what the bible describes as assurance from God’s Spirit that Jesus did rise- so this is why I put forth this post to all those I know and love. He is risen.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Please God, rescue our persecuted brothers and sisters!

As we move toward a weekend that commemorates the most important events in the history of earth (the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ), we must not ignore living in an unprecedented epoch of persecution against Christianity.

Today's murderous attack on Kenyan Christian students is another reminder of how bad things are for so many who identify themselves with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. We ought not be naive to think such days won't come upon Christians in this country. Open Doors is a Christian persecution watch group who issues a poignant reminder for all believers:

"1 Corinthians 12:26 tells us that we are one body—when one member suffers, we all suffer. When one member is lifted up, we all rejoice. Persecuted Christians and Christians in the free world are not two separate entities, but rather are one body. The persecuted church needs the free church to support them and most importantly to lift them up in prayer. The church in the free world learns lessons from the persecuted who have stood strong in the face of persecution. Christ is the head of the body and uses the church (both free and persecuted) in unique and powerful ways."

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Carson qualified to critique the "Scientific" Consensus on Human Origins

Ben Carson, the former neurosurgeon who is running for president, made waves this week when he denied evolutionary “science” and affirmed “creationism” in an interview. The response to Carson has been culturally revealing. He was immediately labeled some kind of religious zealot and castigated for disagreeing with the so-called “scientific consensus”. 

Back in 2008, the film “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” persuasively contended the mainstream science establishment suppresses academics who believe they see evidence of intelligent design in nature and who criticize evidence supporting Darwinian evolution and the modern evolutionary synthesis as a "scientific conspiracy to keep God out of the nation's laboratories and classrooms.” No matter your position on creationism (or intelligent design), before you buy the so-called “scientific consensus” Carson is getting mocked for criticizing, see that film and do some reading on how modern origins studies are being conducted, and by whom. 

As for Carson getting ridiculed because he is some stripe of creationist, I think he’s pretty qualified to give an analysis. Carson was a professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics, and he was the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. At age 33, he became the youngest major division director in the hospital's history as director of pediatric neurosurgery. He was also a co-director of the Johns Hopkins Craniofacial Center. He specialized in traumatic brain injuries, brain and spinal cord tumors, achondroplasia, neurological and congenital disorders, craniosynostosis, epilepsy, and trigeminal neuralgia. Furthermore, several scientific organizations and fellowships have given him awards and inducted them in to their halls of fame, not to mention he has 38 honorary doctorates for his contributions to modern brain surgery. See his full Wiki page here. 

Oh, I don’t know, I think he’s probably qualified to critique the “scientific consensus” on most things. 

The fact a man like Carson is getting attacked about this matter of origins, reveals how strong the suppression of true scientific work and discovery has become today. No one will benefit from the way things are in this arena.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bavinck on The Relationship Between Scripture and the Church

By way of comparing the Roman Catholic and Protestant (Reformed) views of Scripture's relationship with the Church, Herman Bavinck provided a helpful statement (see full treatise here):  

Hence, the relationship between Scripture and the church is totally different in Protestantism than in Roman Catholicism.  In Rome’s view the church is anterior to Scripture; the church is not built upon Scripture, but Scripture arose from the church; Scripture does indeed need the church, but the church does not need Scripture. The Reformation, however, again put the church on the foundation of Scripture and elevated Scripture high above the church. Not the church but Scripture, the Word of God, became the means of grace par excellence. Even the sacrament was subordinated to the Word and had neither meaning nor power apart from that Word. Now, in accordance with Christ’s ordinance, that Word was indeed administered in the midst of the congregation of believers by the minister, but this did not alter the fact that that Word was [also] put into everyone’s hands, that it was plain to everyone who studied it with a desire for salvation, that it exerted its power not only when it was proclaimed in public but also when it was studied and read at home. In that way Christians, who accepted that Word with a believing heart, were liberated from sacerdotalism. No longer did any person or thing stand between them and Christ. By faith they appropriated the whole of salvation, and in the sacrament they received the sign and seal of that reality. Thus the Reformation changed the Roman Catholic doctrine of the means of grace.

Monday, February 23, 2015

God is Speaking

Great works of literature are like grand and inspiring monuments.  They have the ability to stand tall and evoke many thoughts and emotions across the generations. Masterpiece novels and epic tales told by the written word provide timeless inspiration. The written word remains the greatest medium for capturing a moment in time or creatively depicting something imagined about the future. There is no more effective non-verbal mode for communicating than the written word.  For all the advances in the realm of film and visual media, most who experience both agree that a book is better than a movie.  Despite immersion in visual media and the non stop exposure to selfies and pictures, short written tweets or status updates are powerful communication tools.  The written word is incredibly potent.  

The Bible is a written collection of books, poems, songs, and letters, written over centuries.  The Bible is not like other works of literature.  Books, novels, poems, songs, articles, though inspiring and timeless, are not in themselves dynamic.  Human writing is not living.  Once ink is put on paper (or characters on a screen), there is no intrinsic life in the words that remain.  There is no ability in written ideas or stories to make impact, nor is there any accompanying, external force that helps us better understand and appropriate what might be learned.  Books are tremendous, but essentially lifeless in themselves.  The Bible, on the other hand, is living.  

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  - Hebrews 4:12

We should never see the bible as a one dimensional, static account of anything.  The Bible was penned by divinely appointed authors who were specially empowered and guided by God Himself to communicate exactly what he wanted. The same Holy Spirit who superintended the writing process also attends that Word forever.  Reading the Bible is experiencing a living document.  Add to the divine authorship and attendance, a Christian has the indwelling Holy Spirit to make Scripture understandable.  If these amazing realities weren’t enough, the Holy Spirit works more to enable the reader to live according to what is written.  No other written document can do what Scripture can do.   There is still more!  The prayer of Jesus compels the Father to actively use the Bible to change us-  

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” -John 17:17

A.W. Tozer was convinced a vibrant relationship with God could not be had if we fail to understand how the Bible is a living Word. The Bible is God speaking to us. Tozer wrote-

“I believe much of our religious unbelief is due to a wrong conception of and a wrong feeling for the Scriptures.  A silent God suddenly began to speak in a book and when the book was finished lapsed back into silence again forever.  Now we read the book as the record of what God said when He was for a brief time in a speaking mood.  With notions like that in our heads how can we believe? The facts are that God is not silent and has never been silent.  It is the nature of God to speak.  The second Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Word.  The Bible is the inevitable outcome of God’s continuous speech.  It is the infallible declaration of His mind for us put into our familiar human words.”  - A.W. Tozer in “The Pursuit of God”

I agree with Tozer, a new world will arise out of the religious mists when we approach our Bible with the idea that it is not only a book which was once spoken, but a book which is now speaking.  

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Why is American Sniper destroying box office records?

How is a rated R movie about an unpopular war destroying box office records this weekend? 

I think it is a combination of the person Chris Kyle was and the desire to feel a sense of justification for the war in Iraq. 

Chris Kyle was a compelling person because of the rare and genuine WWII era patriotism he exhibited. No matter how you feel about the Iraq War’s initial justification, once our troops were in Iraq, those attacking were mostly principled insurgents and sworn enemies of the U.S. They weren’t fighting for Iraqi independence, but rather to disrupt the reorganizing of the nation, post-Saddam Hussein. Kyle was involved in the vast sweeps of Iraqi cities to rid them of insurgents so Iraqi citizens could live peacefully as a new government was formed. There are impassioned differences of opinion about the U.S. conducting this war/nation rebuilding operation, but for the period Kyle was there, it was an apparent “good vs. evil” type mission, and that’s what he was fighting for. Of course, for him and his comrades, it was also a fight to keep each other safe and successful. 

So, as a snap shot of a war that makes most Americans uneasy, Chris Kyle’s patriotism, heroism, and success are something to appreciate. Furthermore, the movie gives insight to the hardship of our military volunteers and their families. It pictures the incredible struggle they endure with stressful separations, then assimilating in and out of two vastly different worlds- tense foreign combat and suburban American family life. We get a glimpse at the life-altering injuries many soldiers must live with, coupled with the psychological damage myriads suffer (Kyle died trying to help a soldier with PTSD). The movie did a commendable job steering clear of the most controversial elements of the War (politics/religion/economics) and told a true story of an uncommon, authentic human being, who displayed a humility that allows us to relate with him. 

I do wish the film would have revealed, as the book did, Kyle’s maturing Christian faith. There is a selflessness about Kyle that is remarkable, even Christlike. After all, it was Jesus who said and then demonstrated- “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) The fact “American Sniper” is on pace to have the biggest opening weekend in U.S. film history is a testimony to the movie striking just the right chord at just the right time.