For it is by grace you have been saved...

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I Woke Up In Bizarro World- Again!

Last fall I penned a little piece bemoaning the upside down nature of our society: how we seem to celebrate evil and persecute good on so many levels.  I likened it to a song called Escher's World and to the DC comics concept of Bizarro World.  Well, it's just getting worse. 

The latest, although I think we all knew it was coming, is that a Texas grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing in the selling of baby body parts; but instead chose to file charges against the person who brought the heinous crimes to light.   If you are a right thinking individual, you may have to read that again:  Selling baby parts on the black market = ok.  Faking an ID in order to reveal such atrocity = felony charge.  It even made front page above the fold at the New York Times.  "Hurray for baby killers and for the punishment coming for those who oppose them."

Let me remind you again of the villainous motto of DC's Bizarro World.  "Us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness! Is big crime to make anything perfect on Bizarro World!"  Hating beauty and loving ugliness.  Yep, that about sums up this grand jury's attitude.  We hate the beauty of small children and love the ugliness of seeing them chopped up into spare parts.  Meanwhile, if anyone calls attention to that ugliness, they are the real criminal. 

Now, let me say that as a general rule lying and deceiving are also bad things.  And yet, law enforcement does this all the time to get to criminals.  Undercover stings are built on this kind of misdirection, getting "in" to get confessions, etc.  In this case, since it's just well meaning citizens showing the world what reprehensible things are being done with tax payer dollars, I guess it's not so ok after all. 

Oh, wait, maybe that's the rub.  That tax payer dollar thing.  It's because this involves government stuff.  Because it involves a practice supported, no applauded, by our current administration.  Maybe that's why baby killing is good while a little misdirection to reveal it is bad.  Because this is part of the Bizzaro World government which currently holds power in this nation.   Well, go back to that previous post for the rest of that rant. 

For now, while my mind is boggled and my heart breaks over the idiocy of this nation (I mean come on: Trump or Hillary?? That's our best effort?? But that's another post),  I rest in the calm assurance that this world is not my home. And in the end, God will make all things right.  

We're not the first to struggle with this: the evil winning, the good losing.  Psalm 73 is a wonderful reminder of that struggle, seeing the wicked prosper and wondering why.  Then verses 16-17 - "But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end." (Psalm 73:16-17, ESV)

So, persevere, brethren (and sisteren? to be politically correct?).  None of this changes the end our Sovereign God is working towards.  None of it is new, even.  Indeed, this world is not our home, and our Righteous Judge will someday return and put things right.  In those days, I pity our Bizarro cousins.  As the next couple verses of Psalm 73 say, "Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!" (Psalm 73:18-19, ESV)



Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Rest in Peace? A reflection on the passing of David Bowie

The music world mourned as the announcement came out that David Bowie succumbed to cancer at the age of 69.  Regardless of whether you liked him or not, one can hardly argue the influence he had over pop music for the last 40+ years.  In fact, one of my favorite artists, Steve Taylor, tweeted this: 
It's the I.O.U. part that shows Bowie's influence, but it's the R.I.P. part I want to talk about.  We all know the standard response of "Rest in Peace" when someone dies.  It actually comes from the Latin phrase "requiescat in pace", which of course means the same thing.  It's found on tombstones, etc.  It expresses a desire that the recently departed would actually find peace in the life to come. 

But is it legitimate for Christian people to offer the epitaph to those who by their lives demonstrate no relationship with Christ at all?  I mean, according to Scripture, there is no rest apart from Christ.  God has made it quite clear that all are by nature objects of His wrath, that our inborn sin will literally keep us from entering His rest, and will earn for us nothing but judgment in the world to come...unless we come to Christ. 

God has promised His wrath on sinful men, but in His mercy and grace He has also sent His Son to experience that wrath in our place, to suffer judgment in our place, to give us instead forgiveness, and salvation, and yes, peace in His rest.  But that only comes through Christ.  It only comes through faith.  It only comes through a new birth by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone. 

So then, if we see someone leave this world and enter into eternity, someone who has lived a life which gives no evidence of any faith in Christ; a life that has actually been anti-Christ in so many ways; a life bereft of any fruit that would lead us to believe a new birth has happened; is it legitimate to offer the epitaph "R.I.P."?  Knowing that apart from Christ, there is no rest or peace, can we just smile and say "R.I.P" to those whose future contains nothing of the sort?

I guess we could say we're offering it in hope.  We are hoping and praying that somehow maybe this person did find that faith in Christ.  We are hoping and praying that they truly will rest in peace.  Or I guess that we could just say "it's just a saying" and let it go.  R.I.P. is just the standard response to death, and it has no meaning at all. Maybe.

I'm probably making way too big a deal about this, but the idea of hoping for someone to truly rest in peace is a serious one.  It should make us consider the eternal. Facing mortality should cause us to consider immortality.  The end of this flesh should cause us to consider what comes after.  Because there is an "after."  And that "after" will include either resting in peace, or suffering in wrath.  Only Christ can make the difference. So please, if you've considered these things before, you need to now.  When it comes time to offer epitaphs, it's too late.  Seek Christ today. 

It's not my place, ultimately, to judge David Bowie's eternal state, or anyone else's.  In fact, the following video brings up some very interesting questions regarding some possible late life changes in Mr. Bowie's life.  Regardless, you and I should be concerned with our own destiny.  If you have questions, follow the link at the end of the video, or feel free to contact me through the comments.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Sovereignty and Suffering

God wanted my roof to leak.  

Sounds a bit strange to put it that way, but let's look at the situation.  

Scripture clearly says God is sovereign over life and death.  Scripture clearly says God is sovereign over the rains, snow, etc.  So...

We had scheduled a guy over a month ago to come clean the chimney, do some touch up repairs, etc. However, my uncle passed away, and the service was the same day this guy was scheduled to come. Since we had to make an out of town trip for the service, we had to cancel the chimney guy.  His next available time to come won't be until January 4.  So, no cleaning and fixing. 

Now, we just had record rains and flooding here in the Ozarks, and as a result, our roof started pouring in water, I'm pretty sure around the chimney, and then running through the ceilings, etc.  Which most likely would not have happened if the guy had come a couple weeks ago and resealed the thing and so on.  

God knew exactly when my uncle would die, prompting our out of town trip and chimney guy cancelling.  God also knew those flooding rains were on the way.  So, conclusion: God wanted my roof to leak. 

Now, I have to be so very careful here for a number of reasons.  First, our leaky roof is so minor compared to the hundreds of people who lost homes in storms and floods, about a dozen who lost their lives in this last round of flooding, and hundreds more who suffered so much worse.  To call this leaky roof "suffering" might be considered a stretch for some. 

Second, I know we have to be careful in discussing God's active will alongside the nature of the sinful world we live in which results in death and storms and so on.  There are other reasons to tread lightly here as well, but still the truth remains: God is sovereign, none of this surprised Him, He was certainly in charge of timing, etc.   So what do I take from this?

Well, I struggle a bit with anxiety.  I know it's sin.  I know, for me, it's often a lack of faith.  And I know that this whole episode caused me some anxiousness and sleeplessness, since I was already worried about other flooding issues (our creek, our septic system, run-off, all meeting in our basement, etc.).  So I know that God is dealing with me about this.  It made for some quality prayer time (if repeating "Jesus help me!" over and over can be considered quality prayers).   This alone may have been the purpose. 
http://www.reverendfun.com/?date=20150626

I also know that I may never know the exact purpose.  May have to do with someone God will bring into our lives as a result.  May have to do with simply encouraging my wife and kids to pray for their pathetic husband/father.  May have to do with any number of things.  May have, as my wife suggested, to do with a simple reminder to be thankful in all circumstances.  We may never know. 

But in the end, it's a simple reminder that God is sovereign.  And I need to trust in that sovereignty, knowing that His will is always best, His purposes always right and good, and I need to constantly turn to Him in faith, trusting in His grace.  One of my wife's favorite songs says something about God sometimes calming the storm, while other times calming His child.  This may just be a reminder that in either case, He is as work, and I need to look for His hand. 

God is good, all the time, even when He wants my roof to leak.  Trust Him.  Lean on Him.  Look for His hand at work.  And ultimately, know that whatever we might be facing, great or small, "we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Need to Read

In one of the most quoted quotes about quotes and quoting, Charles Spurgeon once said, and I quote:  “Give yourself unto reading. The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. You need to read.”

A later part of that same quote, less often quoted says this:  “We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure time, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master’s service. Paul cries, 'Bring the books' — join in the cry.”

Spurgeon was certainly one who practiced what he was preaching.  Here is a great little article with a few more quotes about reading from the Prince of Preachers.  It's not that long and worth time to check out, so click on over.

The reason I've been thinking about this is simply due to the fact that I've obviously not been posting here as often as I used to.  In fact, most of my posts have had something to say about how I haven't been posting.  Sense a trend?

And while there many reasons as to the lack of output here, I think the one major reason has to do with a lack of input.  Quite honestly, I'm just not reading as much as I used to.  I've had poor eyesight since I was just a little tot.  I started wearing contacts in high school out of self defense: I kept getting injured by the NASA-space-shuttle-thickness lenses in my glasses (this was of course in the days before these nice compressed lenses, but anyway).  My prescription is like -.750 in one eye and -.1050 in the other.  So reading has always been a bit of a chore, too much has always been a headache inducing strain.

A couple years back I was diagnosed with a degenerative condition in the already worse of the two eyes and some other issues with the other eye and....well, reading has become more and more difficult.  By the time I do the basic reading and studying for two sermons and a couple Bible studies each week, I'm pretty worn out.  Extra reading, for-fun reading has become less and less.  Large print texts and those I can get on my Kindle (so I can enlarge the font) are helpful, but still.

Anyway, this isn't just to whine about my eye problems.  They are minor compared to a lot of other folks, and nothing compared to the things some endure.  But the point is that this has curbed my reading.  And I think, as a direct result, my writing has been curbed as well.  Less intake means less output.

Reading is indeed so very important.  It stimulates the brain, gets those thought processes flowing; not only giving you information, but helping you to think in general.  There is indeed a reason the apostle Paul was asking for his books.  And while I would certainly promote reading “good” books, books on theology and history and the like, reading just for fun is important as well.  (Here is a good article from one of my daughters' favorite writers about the importance of reading fiction, libraries, etc.

So, I'm going to make a concerted effort to crack a few more books and stop whining about how “hard” it is.  I know I need to stimulate those brain cells with more than just coffee (though coffee is....well, if you've read here before, you know how I feel about coffee!).  Hopefully, that will increase the almost-useful output in this space, but more importantly, will give me a few more weapons to use in my Master's service.  I strongly encourage you to do the same.  

If you're looking for some help in knowing what to read, this is a great time of year because so many folks are doing their "best of the year" book lists and so on.  Here are just a couple of examples: 
So get out there and pick up a book.  You need to read!

ADDENDUM:  As usually happens, I find something else as soon as I post something.  Here is Tim Challies' reading challenge for the new year.  With several options, this is a great plan.   

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Bring On The Kingdom

Ok, so there will be a serious point here, but first I'm going to rant a bit about the band Kutless whose song is the basis for the serious point.  If you want to skip the rant, scroll down to "End Of Rant."

So, those who are still here.  I've always loved Kutless.  One of my all time favorite songs (music, lyrics and even video) is "Shut Me Out".  I love that era of the band.  More recently they have released a few "worship" projects, which are good, but lacking the band's old driving edge.  So when we were told there was a new project, returning to the band's old sound, I was stoked.  

Sadly, only a very few songs meet the expectation.  Don't get me wrong.  The rest of the album is really good.  It's just that I was expecting a little more....umph.  The opening track, "Tear it Up", delivers in spades.  But from there on, well, not as much. 

However, as I said, this is still a good record.  And while this post isn't just intended as an album review, I had to say all that to work my way up to the song "Bring it On".  While not a classic rocker in the old Kutless style, this is one of my favorite songs on the project.  I love this message, which leads me to the point.....

End of Rant

The new Kutless song, "Bring it On", shares an amazing and encouraging lesson.  And it couldn't be more timely.  With all the recent "gunk" happening in the world, we need more than ever to have the encouragement that comes from knowing that our Lord is returning, and bringing with Him His glorious Kingdom.  Bring it On! 

The song goes like this: 
All the pain in the headlines
All the heartache of our crimes
The innocent, the helpless, here and gone
So we call out to Your name, save us, from our shame.
We’re crying out to heaven, how long…

There’s a new world on the way
When this one is gone, gone, gone
We’re ready Jesus, bring it on, bring it on
We’ve had enough of darkness
We’re waiting for the dawn
There’s a kingdom coming
Bring it on, bring it on, bring it on

We are holding, to the promise
Even now you are with us
Our every hope is in what You will do
Every wrong will be made right
Every tear will run dry
We’re praying that day is coming soon

We’re waiting… We’re waiting for You Jesus
We’re waiting, for You

Wow. What a hopeful message.  We are indeed tired of the darkness, longing for the light, looking for our Savior's return....Bring it on!

Again, what a timely message.  There is, indeed, so much pain and suffering; so much evil on the loose; so much...darkness.  We need the hope of Christ and His coming Kingdom.  I know that there are those who criticize Christians for thinking about that coming Kingdom.  They say that our heads are "in the clouds" and that thinking of the Kingdom/heaven is just an escape from the reality of this world.  I love C. S. Lewis' classic response to that in his book The Problem of Pain.

   We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning heaven. We are afraid of the jeer about ‘pie in the sky’, and of being told that we are trying to ‘escape’ from the duty of making a happy world here and now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere. But either there is ‘pie in the sky’ or there is not. If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. If there is, then this truth, like any other, must be faced, whether it is useful at political meetings or no. 
   Again, we are afraid that heaven is a bribe, and that if we make it our goal we shall no longer be disinterested. It is not so. Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to. There are rewards that do not sully motives. A man’s love for a woman is not mercenary because he wants to marry her, nor his love for poetry mercenary because he wants to read it, nor his love of exercise less disinterested because he wants to run and leap and walk. Love, by definition, seeks to enjoy its object.

Amen.  Bring it on!  In fact, our Lord Himself chose to give us encouragement to face the struggles of this life with the promise that "Behold, I am coming soon."  This is what every true believer longs for. This is what we are working towards.  It's not "escaping" this world, it's putting this world in its proper perspective.  This world is fleeting.  This world is temporary.  This world is coming to an end, and each and every one of us is looking at eternity square in the face.  

Either we will look to that eternity with great hope and expectation, because of the shed blood of Christ which provides atonement for the sin that would separate us from God; or we look to it with dread, or not at all.  Regardless, our belief in it or not, hope in it or not, eagerness for it or not, doesn't change the reality of the Kingdom's coming.  So either we will run to the cross of Christ and seek His salvation and live every day in this world for the Kingdom and in light of the Kingdom; or we will ignore it all, and when it comes, find ourselves in a worse situation than any darkness in this world could ever prepare us for.  

In the  meantime, even while in this world, Christians still live for the Kingdom.  We live with Kingdom goals in mind. We live with Kingdom principles and values.  And yes, we look forward with great hope and longing for the coming of that Kingdom in all it's fullness.  Bring it on!

Now, for your viewing pleasure, you'll find the video for this song below.  

And as an added bonus, I added the video for Shut Me Out.  Just because.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thanking God for Our Veterans

In his book The Truth War, John MacArthur writes about Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. He quotes the General’s well known axiom that “war is hell.” Sherman later in life said simply, “I am sick and tired of fighting.” MacArthur then says this:

Whatever we might think of General Sherman as a man, there is something commendable and courageous about his soldiers’ perspective of battle. We ought to despise warfare with every fiber of our souls. War is one of the most calamitous consequences of evil. It is catastrophic. It is always ugly. It should never be glamorized, and no sane person should ever desire the conflict or savor the strife of war. There are times, however, when evil makes warfare absolutely necessary. And when we have a moral obligation to fight, we should never shirk that duty, compromise with the enemy, or enter the battle halfheartedly. As detestable as warfare of any kind might be, there are causes for which not fighting is a far greater evil.”

MacArthur is of course introducing a study on spiritual warfare, and is very clear that as the Church, our cause is on that plane, not on the plane of the physical battle field. However, his point about warfare in general is a very good one. Sometimes there are causes for which not fighting is a far greater evil. And when we come face to face with one of those causes, I for one am grateful for the United States Military.

I can remember going to the airport to pick my brother up after his basic training in the Marine Corps. There had been such a change in him, the way he carried himself, the look in his eye, etc. that he nearly walked right past us without recognizing him. Say what you want about our military, but my thought after this introduction to the Marines, was simply “if we ever go to war, I’m glad these are the guys out there fighting on our side.”

I’m not just going to brag on Marines. My dad served in the Army, and my brother later “switched” to be a recruiter for the Naval Reserves, a position he just recently retired from. The US Military as a whole is the best in the world, bar none, and we ought to be thankful every day for the work they do protecting our freedoms and the freedoms of others around the world.

I’m not a “war-monger;” I don’t relish war. As MacArthur says, it’s ugly and detestable. However, it’s often necessary in this sin-spoiled world to protect us from the spread of evil. And again, I am grateful for those who have given of themselves to serve this nation throughout our history. While we have many faults, and I’m often quick to point them out; as they say: “It’s the best ship floatin’!”

Today we officially recognize and honor our US Veterans. Hopefully, we can do that more often than once a year. Hopefully, we will take the time to give a brief thank you to any active serviceman we might cross paths with, and regularly think to show some appreciation for those who have served in years gone by. Above all, let’s thank God for their service and pray faithfully for those serving now. And more than just a token song during the 7th inning stretch at a ball game, let’s pray for God to truly bless America.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Happy National Saxophone Day

National Saxophone Day!  Wow!  These holidays keep getting better and better (and the only thing I seem to be posting about these days...but I digress). 

For those who don't know, the saxophone was created in 1840 by Adolphe Sax, a Belgian musical instrument maker.  He actually invented 8 different sizes/types of sax: Sopranino, Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baritone, Bass, Contrabass, and Subcontrabass.  Just a bit of history, there. 

I think I've mentioned here before that I used to be a bit of a sax player. Mostly the tenor variety.  Marching band, concert band, etc.  But I loved Jazz Band.  I even won the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award in high school and was voted Most Talented.  (Yeah, I'm still livin' off the past! Here I am with fellow MT recipient Laura Purcell)  
Here's a recording of our jazz band in 1982.  In addition to Frank's amazing trombone solo, and Kevin and Greg's lights out drum battle, this song features a freshman tenor sax player on the main melody trio (I think, with trumpet and flute).  You'll have to clink this link to open the page and play the song. Sorry, not computer savvy enough to figure it out.

My oldest son carried on the tradition, playing my tenor in the Play His Praises Homeschool Band.  He's even played for church a few times, as have I.  Neither of us are ever going to sell out concert halls, but here's a little lesson from this rambling post.

God gives all of us various gifts and abilities.  Music, writing, preaching, art, whatever.  Not all of us have the same level of ability, but all of us are called to use what God has given us for His glory.  He has given us so many wonderful gifts in this life, like Adolphe's sax (sorry for the bad play on words there).  I'm sure Mr. Sax had no idea what would be done with his little invention over the years; how many times that instrument would be used for the honor and glory of Christ.  Sometimes by professionals.  Sometimes by a father and son in the Ozarks who just love music and love Jesus and love it when the two come together.  Find what God has given you a love for and a talent for, no matter how small, and use it for His glory. 

Now, in a real celebration of the day, here are some amazing uses of this wonderful instrument.  This first one I've shared before.  It's a great rendition of "It Is Well", with a brilliant sax solo battle beginning about 1:50.

And here's one of my favorite sax players, Dave Thrush (once played with Steve Taylor & Some Band), doing a bit of seasonal music for us.

And one last bit from the guy who ranks way up on my top favorites, this from my favorite album of his.  Tom Scott from the Apple Juice record.

Enjoy Saxophone Day everyone.  Feel free to leave comments and links to videos of your own favorite sax player.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Reformation Day / Halloween - Revisted Thoughts

Last year, as we came to this wonderful time of the year when we celebrate Reformation Day, I resorted to sharing some links to other articles.  This year, it's even worse.  I'm resorting to repeating last year's post about sharing links about Reformation Day.  For years, our family has chosen not to participate in the Halloween festivities, and instead we've chosen to focus on Reformation Day. These reflect my thoughts on the "why" behind that.  

I would love to be able to come up with my own profound thoughts, but we all know that rarely happens.  So instead, I'll simply share links to two wonderfully written, well thought out articles about how Christians should view Halloween, and then share a wonderful graphic from Adam4d.com.  Then I'll say, "Yeah, what they said."



And here is the graphic: (click on it to follow to Adam4.com's page)

http://adam4d.com/legacy/

Addendum:
For those who read this far, here's a little bonus, just for fun.  Happy Reformation Day!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Commercial for the Creative Kids

Another shameless self-promotion post.  Well....not actually "self" promotion.  But maybe "selfish" since I just want to introduce you to some wonderful creative ventures, which just happen to feature my kids.   But don't let that dissuade you from checking these things out.  Just because they are related to me doesn't me these things aren't worthwhile! 

In the last post here, I posted some of the writings the kids have produced.  But on a more "formal" front, check out these sites. 

Just getting off the ground, MIM is a publishing effort from the three writers who brought you The Lost Scribes collaborations:  Falls the Shadow and Burns the Fire.  Look forward to wonderful things from this outlet: novels, short stories, anthologies, etc.

http://www.amazon.com/Forged-Steel-Crucible-Book-titus/dp/0996525602/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1445352712&sr=1-1Our oldest, who just happens to be one of the Lost Scribes mentioned above, also does some graphic design work.  This site shows several samples of her work, the highlight of which is the cover design for fellow Scribe's novel Forged Steel.   (Available at Amazon by following the link)

 If you or someone you know is looking for a great looking book cover, Magpie Designs is a great place to check out.

And speaking of that amazing book cover for Forged Steel, the photograph for that cover was provided by none other than...

Though not officially "in business", our son has been doing more and more with his camera. And in addition to providing the photo for the above book cover, he also is the subject in that photo.  Wow, photographer and cover model! (He'll kill me for saying that).  Anyway, he's strongly considering turning that into more than just a hobby, so if you're looking for pictures for graphic design project, or someone to take some family photos....(admittedly he prefers photographing "nature" to people, but he's done a good job with both).  

Well, I guess that's enough for now.  The other two have their own creative projects as well, but I thought I'd do a little bit of promotion for these sites.  Check 'em out.  Take advantage of their services if you can.  Thanks for your time.  Now back to regularly scheduled programming (like that's even happening right now!)