Wednesday, June 24, 2009 

State of the Blog.


Sunday, April 12, 2009 

Do You Know Him?


Friday, April 10, 2009 

The Death of Jesus

And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” - Matthew 26:27-28

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” - Luke 23:44-47

Why did Jesus die? Christianity is nothing without Jesus the Christ. Jesus is not the Christ without His death. When Jesus died, even the earth mourned. His violent death was the exclamation mark of His suffering; He had taken a punishment He didn't deserve for sins He didn't commit so that ultimately His blood was poured out for the forgiveness of those sins, as Jesus said it would be. By His stripes, we are healed. By His death, we have reconciliation with God. But the confirmation of that forgiveness was yet to come.


Thursday, April 09, 2009 

The Breaking of Jesus

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” - Luke 22:19

And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. - Luke 22:39-44

Easter is what might be called, the "Christian Christmas". Christmas has become the biggest secular holiday in this country, if not the world. The message of Christmas has become all but buried in a green-and-red-swirl of sappy sentimentalism. I enjoy Christmas, but Easter is THE Christian holiday. Jesus' birth pales in comparison to his death and resurrection. And it demands our attention and even our meditation. How often do we think about what Jesus went through BEFORE He was nailed to the cross?

The breaking of Jesus began the the night before his death - Thursday night. He went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.

The breaking of Jesus was traumatic. And he sweat drops of blood. Jesus developed hematohidrosis - "a very rare condition in which a human being sweats blood. It may occur when a person is suffering extreme levels of stress, for example, facing his or her own death." (Wikipedia) He was in such deep inner turmoil because the cup He was about to drink was filled to the brim with God's wrath. His humanity didn't want to drink this boiling, stinking broth, but if that was the Father's will, He would do it. He was under such stress that it could have killed him there in the garden. That is why the angel appeared - to strengthen Him, so that He could continue to suffer that wrath and finally be murdered.

The breaking of Jesus began from the inside out. His heart was broken first. Why this agony? Because the Father was already turning His back on His Son. The wrath was already being poured our on the innocent Lamb. The Eternal Spotless Lamb was about to take the eternal punishment due to millions of sinful men and women.

The breaking of Jesus was for our benefit. He would suffer and die so that many would have eternal life.


Wednesday, April 08, 2009 

Jesus Wants the Rose

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Thursday, April 02, 2009 

A Musical Rebuke.

I have half-jokingly/half-seriously called my self a 'music snob' in the past. Yes, I do indeed like obscure music and relish the idea of having a music of my own. I think we all do that to an extent. Even the person who says, "I like all music", doesn't necessarily listen to all music. Whether they know it or not, they still prefer some music over other music. I've never known anybody to say that and have an appreciation for nu metal, bluegrass, crunk, klezmer and industrial music. I can also be very critical of other music. For instance, I've never liked the Eagles. I never understood the fascination with them or why their reunion was a big deal. I don't care for most R&B where the singer can't seem to find the right key. I'm not a fan of country or southern gospel - and the list could go on.

But what do our music prejudices say about us? Apparently, Bob Kauflin think they speak volumes about us and even do so in a spiritual sense. Bob has written an article entitled, "I Hate That Music" where he gives 10 reasons why 'musical forbearance' might be good for our souls. He says we should not be so quick to write off music we don't like and that being a music snob may be a sign of pride. Huh?
Here's what Bob says:
"Using exaggerated or biting words to put down certain songs, styles, or artists can be a symptom of selfishness, laziness, or arrogance. Music is a vast topic, and no one knows everything there is to know about it. I know at times I haven’t taken time to consider whether or not my assessment was accurate because I was busy sharing my opinions. (Prov. 18:2) "
Oh, really. Well, I'll stop bad-mouthing other music then and just enjoy my own tastes. Turns out Bob has something to say about that as well...

"Some of us derive a particular joy in finding and listening to obscure, undiscovered artists. I sure like coming across a great band I’ve never heard of. But finding an unknown artist isn’t admirable in and of itself. Some bands are undiscovered because they’re not very good. And if we do happen to discover a talented unknown band, it’s an opportunity to serve others, not look down on them. "

Hmmm. Perhaps I'm all together placing too much of a premium on music or my own sense of taste in music. Perhaps my attempt to 'judge' music I don't like (or other people who do like it) is a sign of a judgmental or prideful spirit that I need to squelch. Certainly music is a gift from God and as diverse as His people are. And despite the efforts of grown-ups from my youth to tell me different, there is no musical style or instrument that is inherently "of the devil", and there's nothing inherently sinful about music with a beat on the 2nd and 4th measure.

We have preferences. And those preferences turn into judgments if they are not kept in line. One of the ways that our preferences get in the way of serving God is in our worship. Worship may be hindered because we've let our preference become an absolute. Bob has something to say about that as well:

"How many times have you heard the first few bars of a worship song on Sunday and thought, 'Oh no…I can’t stand this song.' Or maybe you’re talking with a group of friends at lunch on Sunday, and you’re letting them know which songs you really didn’t like. In either case, we’re giving more value to our musical preferences than God’s command to sing his praise and to love him with all our hearts. Do we really want to let our musical opinions keep us from worshiping the God who gave us music in the first place? "

I happen to like the music our worship team puts together each week, but I sometimes notice some who do not sing a particular song, or maybe not at all. Could it be that our own musical tastes and opinions are stifling our worship? It's true that we are individuals with opinions of our own, but our worship belongs to God. If we don't worship God because we're heeding our own sense of style, then who are we really worshipping?

PS - Sorry about the Obama picture; it's the only one I could find of someone with their nose turned up.

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Friday, March 13, 2009 

Sign of the Times

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Monday, March 09, 2009 

NOTE: 25 Things I Hate About Facebook

Okay, I don't hate Facebook. I am however taking a Facebook fast for a couple of reasons. I'm spending too much time on it and I've been asked to do a seminar at church on Technology in the home. I think I need to get out of the pond for awhile so I can give a better perspective on what water is supposed to feel like from a Christian perspective. (i.e. - you can't ask a fish what water feels like... It makes sense in my head, don't question it.)

At any rate, I've seen this video posted to several blogs (that's another thing I may spend too much time doing... I've weeded out my feed reader, but I still skim about 50 blog posts a day...). It's quite humerous and makes you realize that even though Facebook CAN BE USEFUL, there are a lot of silly things associated with it.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009 

WANTED: Leaders

On February 27th, Dr. James Dobson officially stepped down as the Chairmen of the Board of Directors at Focus on the Family. Dr. Dobson is 72 and has been gradually relinquishing his duties. Six years ago he stepped down as President of the organization, but for now, he will still be a part of the “Focus on the Family” radio broadcast.

WORLD magazine’s blog is reporting that, as could be expected, the media is guessing at his successor. The Washington Times throws around several names. Tony Perkins seems to be high on the list, but they are not above guessing at a few others (Rick Warren and Mike Huckabee, for example) and at least mentioning some much wilder guesses at possible candidates to take on the mantle of conservative evangelicalism – Ravi Zacharias, Franklin Graham, Kirbyjon Caldwell, Joel Hunter, Bono. (Bono?)

WORLD magazine gleans from the article the fact that many American evangelical leaders have either passed on or have effectively stepped down from their ministry like Dr. Dobson has done.

Mr. Dobson, 72, who resigned last week as board chairman of one of the country’s most influential evangelical organizations, is one of the last of a great generation of evangelical leaders.
Some have died: the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Moral Majority founder; theologian Carl F.H. Henry; Florida pastor D. James Kennedy; Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright; and Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer, who founded L’Abri Fellowship.
Others have either retired or have passed on the bulk of their duties, such as the Rev. Billy Graham, 90; televangelist Pat Robertson, 78; author and activist Tim LaHaye, 83; and Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson, 77.

The WORLD blog piece goes on to point out what “mantles” need to be carried to galvanize Christians, i.e., a pro-life or gay rights stance, and then rightly shrugs at those and asks, “what about salvation, the poor, the widow, the hungry, the prisoners?” The piece closes with the question, “Who says conservative evangelicals are looking for a Dobson successor in the first place?”

I’d like to take it a step further. Why do we keep looking on a national level for leaders? So they can be on TV and have a name that is synonymous with “evangelicalism”, like branding a product? So we have have someone who thinks and speaks for us?

There are several men nationally known or at least in evangelical circles that I look up to as examples, but the example that they set for me is that I need to be the leader right where I am. Certainly we should respect our elders and submit ourselves to our leaders (Heb 13:17). But I believe the writer of Hebrews is talking about local church leadership because “they are keeping watch over your souls”. As much as I admire Al Mohler and John MacArcthur, they can’t keep watch over my soul. No, these soul-watching leaders have to be local. And what’s more, they need to be men and they need to be local Christian men in a particular church. If you’re a Christian and a man and are local to somewhere, then you have an obligation to LEAD in some respect.

Too many Christian men have determined that it’s easier to drift comfortably than to swim upstream. So they do “their thing” and let others lead in their place - or think that others are leading in their place. Too many Adam’s have allow their Eve to take whatever fruit they want as long as they can do “their thing.” Too many fathers, too many employees, etc. The point is that all men are called to lead in some capacity, not just the photogenic guys who can dish out a snappy answer on Larry King Live.

Above all, the local Christian male leader (should I really have to qualify?) is one who is pursuing godliness. This requires discipline – something that the average man is terrible at. We have to first of all be convinced that the goal of godliness is worth achieving – and according to scripture, it is:

Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Tim 4:7b-8)

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, (1 Tim 6:6)

Secondly, with the goal of godliness in mind, men can and should discipline themselves as to be leaders, not just for their own sake, but for the sake of everyone on every level of life. If a man earnestly engaged in spiritual disciplines, he would be a leader by virtue of the fact that the majority are not engaging in them.

I need to be the leader in my home - making wise decisions, providing for and serving my family and setting an example for my wife, children and even my neighbors for how godliness should look.

I need to be the leader at work – looking for opportunities to serve my co-workers and customers, not wasting company time and resources, seeing work as a calling and a gift from God and not drudgery.

I need to be the leader among my friends and acquaintances – not allowing my standards to be compromised for the sake of levity, being of service to them when they need something.

I need to be a leader in church – loving and serving the body of Christ in whatever way I’ve been gifted, being an example in prayer, worship and giving. And above all, exhibiting and proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.

Of course, I just made all that up on the fly, but the common thread of effective biblical leadership in all areas of life is servanthood. Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of servant leadership, who humbled himself to the point of death (Phil 2:8).

I’ve often heard that the best way to get a man to do anything is to dare him. So men, I double-dog dare you to discipline yourselves for godliness and be the leader God’s called you to be. Don Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life and Kent Hughes’ Disciplines of a Godly Man would be good places to start.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009 

Pro-Life 12-Year Old Bucks the System

From World Magazine's blog:
Lia, a 12-year-old girl from Toronto, was assigned to come up with a persuasive speech for her seventh grade class. Teachers told her the topic she chose was “too big,” “too mature,” “too controversial,” and if she went forward with it she would not be allowed to advance to the schoolwide competition or beyond.

Lia, however, would not be swayed, and once her teacher heard her presentation, she declared her the class winner. But when Lia spoke before the entire school she was initially disqualified because of her topic. Later, one of the judges who was offended by the speech stepped down, and the remaining judges reversed their earlier decision and declared Lia the school’s winner and representative in a regional competition. She didn’t win the next round, but later found out that her speech, which has been posted on YouTube, was a winner in another way.

Lia’s mom
told Bound4Life:
“Lia wasn’t really that upset though, especially when she considered that the only difference between winning the competition and not winning was having a couple extra pictures taken and being given a small trophy. Lia has a much bigger trophy—somebody commented to us on our YouTube account that her aunt watched Lia’s video and decided to NOT have an abortion because of it. Yay God!
Others have commented that they either never thought of the issue before or were pro-choice—but now they have changed their opinions. So, having a life saved is the best trophy ever!”


Monday, February 09, 2009 

And the Polka Grammy Goes To...

I don't know how I got in the habit of doing this, but every year I look at the Grammy winners and I'm drawn to the Polka category. I don't listen to Polka. Truth be told, I don't even like Polka. But ever since I started this blog, I've posted the winner. For four years straight, the winner has been Jimmy Sturr and His Orchestra. 2006, 2007, 2008 and now 2009.

What's the deal? Are there no other Polka bands out there? Is Jimmy and his band the only one in the category? I'm not much for conspiracy theories, but if the same artist won country album of the year every year, there would be a huge backlash. Come on Polka people, where's the outrage??? IF Jimmy's all you got, maybe it's time to shut down the category. We don't have a madrigal of the year anymore because they stopped making those about the time Black Plague ended.

Anyway, congratulations, Jimmy. I don't know if your slipping somebody a little extra for all these awards, but you got 'em.

Let The Whole World Sing

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Thursday, February 05, 2009 

Van is... Blogging about Facebook.

Like more than 150 million other people, I have been sucked into the world of Facebook. A friend - a real live, flesh and blood friend, not the facebook kind - told me that he had some pictures of me from the Peachtree Roadrace that he was going to post. I wanted to see them, so I joined specifically for that purpose. Within 24 hours, my college roommate, who I had not seen since our days at UGA, sent me a "friend request". I was amazed; flummoxed, even. If this guys out here, who else can I find? Or will find me?

Aside from the 90 or so friends who are associated with my church or I otherwise see on a regular basis, I've been friended by people from high school, college and 4-H that I haven't even thought about in years. I've even made peace with someone where a friendship had been severed.

I find myself checking Facebook several times a day, reading my friends status lines, reading the comments made to those status lines, looking at newly posted pictures of their vacation or trip to the store earlier that day. Many old friends have posted pictures from long ago - myself included. It's very easy to browse those pictures and get nostalgic. There are other diversions on Facebook like games, 'flair' and groups for common interests. I started a group last week for Berachah and to date have 66 members!

But the problem is that all of this takes time. How much time am I spending on Facebook a day? You don't even have to be on Facebook to be "facebooking". I spent about an hour creating a profile picture. There's even a possible "Facebook addiction". Another pitfall is the whole "friending" thing. I have 140 Facebook friends. I have one friend in particular who has over 2,000 friends. That means every time a status is posted - "Buffy is tired this morning..." - then ALL of their friends can see that. Steve Tuttle of Newsweek recently wrote:
"Being on Facebook is like volunteering to receive spam, and the more successful you are at finding friends, the more spam you get! In the end, Facebook is really the emptiest, loneliest place on the whole World Wide Web. It's all static and white noise, and the steady streams of status updates start to look like ASDF, ASDF, ASDF after a while."
To a point, I would have to agree. There's a kind of thrill in being contacted by a blast from the past. But after a while you realize that your life and theirs simply may not intersect anymore. And while it's great to catch up, unless you actually plan on seeing this person face to face, all you're left with is, "Buffy is tired this morning..." ASDF, ASDF, ASDF....

And what about people who you don't remember so fondly who send a friend request? Or don't remember at all? How do you handle that? What kind of message do we send when we ignore the request? Or even worse, what kind of message does "unfriending" send? This recently happened to me - someone unfriended me with no explantion and yet somehow we still retain many friends in common. Wierd.

So certainly Facebook can be a tool or a time-waster. Can we as Christians redeem our time on Facebook? Absolutely. We can start by not telling people how tired we are. Seriously, how is that edifying? Facebook is built around communication and according to scripture, we should be communicating only what is edifying (Eph 4:15, 29). This doesn't meant that you post Bible verses as your status. But we do need to be careful what emotions we are broadcasting to all our friends. It's easy to go with the idea that your status is all about you. And in a sense, your status is YOUR status, but what can we communicate about ourselves that would be helpful to others? Are we being courteous to others in direct communication?

I think we also need to consider how much time we're putting into it. Yes, I spent way too much time working on a profile picture. I will not do that again. Niether should we attempt to make our info page a mirror image of who we are in real life. It can't be done. And the messages and comments and friend requests can wait. They're not going anywhere; those messages will be there whenever you choose to log in. If you can't go an hour without checking Facebook, you probably need to consider how much time that takes (you also may need help!). There are ways to turn off the alerts so that you don't get all the e-mails and notices that Buffy commented on your status.

I find the Facebook phenomenon fascinating and other people have put a lot more thought into this than I have. Here are some other sources that I've found helpful (or humerous) on the subject:

Thoughts about Facebook
Facebook and You
Post Only What is Helpful
It's Just Facebook
Facebook and Friends
Facebook and Your Time
(These are all by Jay Younts from the Shepherds Press Blog)

You Can't Friend Me, I Quit! (or Why I'm Quitting Facebook)
Facebook Ruined My Life
Five Years of Facebook
Facebook for Oregonians

By the way, Albert Mohler is on Facebook and has 3,612 friends.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009 

Practical Athiesm

I often talk with other Christians who have this idea that once you make a confession of faith, you are saved no matter what type of lifestyle you choose to lead beyond that. It’s their version of ‘once saved, always saved’. I believe that credo is essentially true, although it carries a different meaning to me. I believe that no one will snatch us out of His hand once Jesus claims us (John 10:28-29). I believe that nothing will separate me from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). And I believe that God is able to keep me until the end of time (2 Tim 1:12). However, I think a better term for that is eternal security. This has to do with the believer’s continuance in salvation through sanctification. Along side the idea that those who are saved will remain so is that believers will grow in their faith. You don’t have to read very far to find this. If you only searched for the word “grow” in the New Testament, you’d find 1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 4:15 among others that command us to “become who we are in Christ”.

So what about this idea that a person who’s made a profession of faith in Christ and lives like the devil can have assurance of Heaven? Let’s think about it this way. Is it possible for an atheist to claim faith in Christ and remain an atheist? Well, of course – he could simply be lying. Proclaiming belief when you do not really believe will not make you a Christian anymore than saying that I’m a log truck will give me 18 wheels and a ‘jake brake’. Compare that to someone who’s made a heartfelt profession of faith in front of a church and returns to a sinful lifestyle. They may have actually felt guilt and remorse. They had an experience and ‘felt’ like they were saved. And there may have been a time of piety and ‘sin-avoidance’. But they eventually return to their old ways. So what’s the difference between the atheist and the ‘heartfelt’ confessor? Well, not much. The atheist doesn’t believe in God or in Christ and may fool others with words; the other shows by his life that he doesn’t really believe but he’s fooling himself. If the scriptures tell us to grow and love and hate sin and do so continually and we continually don’t do that, then it’s a practical atheism. We’re no better off than the atheist who rejects Christ and gives his time and money to humanitarian causes.

Now this may be a flimsy analogy and we certainly can’t judge the hearts of men and women, but the point is this: to say one believes there’s a bus heading straight at them at 65 mph and NOT get out of the way means word and deed do not agree. Something’s wrong.

This is why the scriptures also tell us to examine our faith. We’ve heard that the unexamined life is not worth living. I’d say the unexamined faith is not worth having.
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.”- 2 Cor. 13:5. We’re also told to examine ourselves before we take communion (1 Cor. 11:28). James warns that a faith without action is no faith at all (James 2:14-17).

So what does this mean? I think first we have no business giving assurance to those who claim Christ but live lives that do not reflect Him. As brothers and sisters we are told to confront over sin (Luke 17:3-4). Also, I think we need to periodically reflect on how our own lives show Jesus (Gal 6:3-5). We need to put off and put on (Eph 4:17-24). And we need to repent often (Rev. 2:5, 16; 3:3). However, we do not do this as a formula or a recipe that gives us perfect dishes if followed correctly. We do it out of LOVE. Our Savior is a person, not a program. He loves us, lived and died for us so that we might have abundant life and continually intercedes for us to the Father. Those things alone ought to give us a thankful heart that obey Him out of love, not obligation. Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” If we do not obey, how can we say we love Him – much less even believe in Him?

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008 

Sin, Grace, Love and Faith

"Sin, grace, love and faith, P.T. Forsyth said, have nothing but a superficial meaning until we see them in relation to the Holy, arising from it, and setting it forth. God's love is his holiness reaching out to sinners; grace is but the price that his love pays to his holiness; the cross is but its victory over sin and death; and faith is but the way in which we bring our worship to him who is holy."

- David Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant, p 130.

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