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

Monday, August 23, 2010

First Day of School

OK, a break from hot button politics and deep theological thoughts. I’m busy dealing with a mid-life crisis. Or at least, I guess that’s what you’d call it. Our oldest daughter left a couple months back to start the summer work program at College of the Ozarks. I struggled with her leaving then, obviously, (you can read about that here) but today marks her first day of actual classes. It’s now official. It’s not summer camp. It’s not a summer job. I’m officially the parent of a college student.

Here’s my problem. I’m trying to remember back to my first days of college. Since it was such a long time ago, I may not be remembering accurately, but I’m trying. And I’m thinking about: the age of my professors (some of whom were younger than I am now), all those “old” parents I saw dropping off other freshmen, etc. And I’m trying to reconcile that with the reality that now exists.

Perspective is an amazing thing, isn’t it? I can remember sitting down with my mom and looking through old pictures of her and having her say something like “in my mind I’m still that little girl.” And I remember thinking how corny my mom was. What a goofy thing to say. But now….

My biggest problem is trying to figure out how I got from there to here. I really do still feel in many ways like the same geeky kid who got dropped off at college. Hopefully I’ve matured at least a little bit since then, but to have aged to the point where I feel like my child, now virtually an adult, is about to head off into those same college adventures? Meeting new friends that will become friends for life, facing new academic challenges, butting heads with professors who have such a different worldview, and (dare I say it) potentially meeting the person God has designed to be her husband.

Sorry, took me a minute to recover from that last thought. Anyway…

When we were young and starting our first day of college, I looked out and saw the world in front of me, the possibilities, the adventure, etc. Now, I’m the parent of someone seeing all that, and I’m starting to spend time looking back instead of forward: Did we prepare her well enough, will she make the adjustments, will her professors be able to stand against her highly opinionated self (don’t know where she got that?)

No point here really. (The header on this blog does remind you that these are just “random thoughts” after all) Just feeling all nostalgic. Wondering where life went so quickly; thinking of all the things I thought I would have accomplished by now, dealing with being that “old” parent now.

Of course, we have a ways to go. One high school sophomore, one freshman, and one first grader still have to be taught, discipled, and prepared for their own “first day of school” in this regard. Though much has past, there is much yet to come; much to be done.

So, I think I’ll make today a serious day of prayer. LoriAnn, I’m proud of you and praying that God will use you mightily in the days ahead. You have much to learn, but you also have much to offer. May this day mark the beginning of a truly grand adventure for you. And for all of us, let’s pray together that God gives us the grace to meet each new day with eagerness and a reliance upon Him.

Maybe this is mid-life. Maybe it’s closer to the end than any of us realize. We’re never promised another breath in this world. But I pray God gives me the grace to use each of those breaths for His honor and glory as long as He sees fit to give them to me.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go start checking on the cost of living at the local nursing home…

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Responding to the Rant

Ever say something in frustration, and later wish maybe you had put a bit more thought into it? Yesterday I posted a “rant” about the building of the mosque near Ground Zero, and while I still support all that I said; I maybe should have taken some time to phrase things a little better.

That post was spread around by some friends and acquaintances, and eventually landed in the lap of one man who saw some of the “flaws” in my arguments, which I appreciate his calling to my attention.

I don’t know him, and I hope he doesn’t mind my repeating some of his comments here, but since I’ll use no names, hopefully all will be well. Let me share his response and then use that to clarify a few of my thoughts.

He said: While even "if" our governments account of what happened on 9/11 is true, it's my understanding that this is private property and is already being used as an Islamic Center, what constitutional basis do we have for stopping them if they meet all building codes and regulations? Or what constitutional basis do we have to not be offended? Does our 1st Amendment not apply to Muslims? Or am I really missing something here? Even if 95% of the people wanted something a certain way, we are a Republic, not a Democracy. We look to the Constitution to decide what's right, wrong, allowed or not.

I’ll simply ignore the “even if our governments account of what happened is true.” Partly because maybe I’m not educated enough on the details to answer; partly because I would probably just say, “Huh? You’re joking, right?”

But on to the rest. He is absolutely right. Building a mosque on private property would indeed be a protected “right.” They are certainly protected under the 1st Amendment. To suggest that we could simply stop this because we don’t like it was wrong of me.

However, that really wasn’t what I was trying to say. It’s not just because we don’t like it; it’s because there are greater risks involved here. We regularly legislate and monitor the freedoms we enjoy to ensure that they do not infringe on the rights of others.

For example, states and communities regularly pass zoning laws which, for example, prohibit pornographic business, which do have a right to exist, from building within a certain distance of churches or schools. While not denying their rights, those rights are placed within a framework that attempts to “keep peace in the neighborhood.” This sort of thing happens all the time.

Another example. Nazis, unfortunately, have constitutionally protected rights to exist, meet, and spread their hateful propaganda. But do you really think that most government officials would allow a Nazi “cultural center” to be built next to a Jewish synagogue. Somewhere in there we would call on that “inciting a riot” kind of language that curtails even free speech.

Or maybe a more suitable example. Both the Federal government and the state of Kansas enacted legislation to keep the deplorable antics of one so-called pastor and his church from protesting within so many feet of the funerals of our fallen soldiers. Common sense shows that this offense must not be allowed.

I’m no Constitutional lawyer (obviously), but some things are just based on common sense. I liken it to Paul’s word in 1 Corinthians 6:12 where he says: "'All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful.” His point is that even though he has the freedom to do certain things, he understands that for the good of others, those freedoms must not be exercised without discretion. Our nation was built on biblical principles (whether folks admit it or not), and this is one of those principles.

Again, this writer is absolutely right. Muslims do enjoy first amendment rights as well as anyone. Our CHRISTIAN forefathers fought and died that they might enjoy that freedom (let’s see how much “free” speech folks enjoy in Muslim nations!). But common sense also dictates that this is simply not a wise course of actions. My frustration is in our leaders' lack of seeing that wisdom, and seeming to support this in the face of common sense and the overall well being of this city and our nation.

Furthermore, if one would read to the bottom of that previous post, where the ranting ends and I offer some suggestions, I would offer that those suggestions still stand. 1. Islam is a threat to this nation, and we need to wake up to it. 2. Politicians who have pledge to protect this nation from all enemies foreign and domestic, who don’t recognize this threat, make light of it, etc. do need to be replaced. And 3. the ultimate answer is still in Christ.

So I apologize for my rant suggesting that we can simply overturn Constitutional freedoms (freedoms which the Constitution Party is trying to support, after all). Yet, at the same time, let’s not put our head in the sand and pretend that this is not a well thought out ploy by Muslim folks to taunt America, to have an excuse to call conservatives “anti religious freedom,” and to take yet one more stab at our way of life.

Please feel free to comment. Discussion is always welcome, as long as in the end we all agree that I’m right! (OK, that’s a joke, people….well, mostly)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Politics and Religion: a Monday Morning Rant

....Warning: Ranting Ahead....

No doubt you’ve read/heard this weekend about our President defending the “right” of Islamic terrorists building a monument to their terror tactics at the very site of said tactics. Of course, that’s not the language he used; he simply talked about the freedom to build a mosque. But do we not see the symbolism here?

Have we become so un-discerning that we fail to see that this isn’t just a freedom of religion issue. Certainly, because of the sacrifice of Christian men and women over the years, this nation is built on a foundation of religious freedom. But that’s not the issue. As one Washington post article made clear, “A mosque really seeking to build bridges…would accept the offer” made by New York’s mayor to help find another location for the mosque. But they aren’t interested in building bridges, promoting peace, or any other religious motivation. They want to build a monument to terror. And our President’s defense of this clearly shows that although he claims to be Christian, he is more of a friend to Islam than to Christianity, or even America. I know those are harsh sounding words. And I know that the office of President deserves respect whether the man holding the office is worthy of it or not. But I simply point out the facts.

The sad part is that even though the majority of Americans do not support the building of this mosque, our Muslim-friendly leaders will support it and continue to ignore the voice of the people (just as they did with the health care issue, the continued bailouts, the raising of taxes, etc.). And yet, so many Americans, the same ones who have just been dismissed by our leadership, will still sit back and simply say, “oh well.”

Folks, we need to wake up. America as we know it is under attack. Islam is not now, nor has it ever been, a “religion of peace.” History has proven that to be true time and time again. This is yet one more example. A peaceful religion would not seek to mock the deaths of thousands of Americans in this way. Furthermore, true American patriots would not support such attempts.

So what’s the point? I’m not sure. Maybe I just need to rant and vent a little. But there are several things we can do.

One, come November, we can show those who have been sitting back and ignoring the people of this nation, as well as ignoring this threat, that we’ve had enough. I would once again encourage folks to seriously look at Constitution Party candidates in your area. We simply cannot continue to support the status quo and expect any real change.

Two, please, please, PLEASE, get informed about Islam. Stop looking the other way. See this threat for what it is. Know that Islam considers America and Americans and Christians in general as “the enemy.” Get information from folks like Act for America; sign their petition against the Ground Zero mosque. Pay attention to those politicians who support these things and let them know, by letter, petition and votes, that we’ve had enough.

And three, get busy serving and praying. Only God can truly change any of this, and He can do it by changing hearts one at a time. Pray for our leaders; pray for genuine revival (as per my previous post), and continue to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, the only true answer to all of this.

….End of Rant…..

Monday, August 9, 2010

What the Church Needs Most

I’ve shared before some of the insane things churches are doing to try and draw crowds, be different, be new and exciting. This week a read about a pastor in England who says the answer is that the church needs to do more swearing. He says our language is too tame, and since the rest of the world talks in filth, that to reach them, we should, too. In fact, he went so far as to say that Jesus used foul language while on this earth. He says that we have Jesus on a pedestal, and that his language was actually down and dirty in the gutter along with the folks he was ministering to.

Sadly, there are many who have already been doing that for several years, using foul language and obscene jokes in the pulpit because they think it makes church more relevant. Never mind the fact that Ephesians 4:29 clearly says: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Who cares what the Bible actually says, let’s just do what we can to be relevant. And that’s just one example.

One popular pastor is preaching a sermon series on the Twilight series of movies and books. Because after all, Scripture is all about vampires and werewolves, right? Another pastor brought in a professional motocross jumper for one of his sermon illustrations and paid big money to have an elaborate outdoor mountain backdrop set up on stage. All in the name of being relevant and drawing crowds.

So what does the church need? How can we reach a lost world, be relevant, etc.? The answer is simple: We need to see a radical revival. Of course, even there we have to do a little explaining, because for those who have been around the church all their lives, the word revival just means a series of special meetings where we bring in a different speaker and maybe some extra special music, and have an evangelistic emphasis. And there’s nothing wrong with that per se. But that’s not really what genuine revival is all about.

Revival is about the condition of our hearts before God. It’s about the people of God being renewed in a radical commitment to Christ and His Word. And if we want to truly see the church grow and prosper, then a radical revival is what is needed. Andrew Murray said: A true revival means nothing less than a revolution, casting out the spirit of worldliness, making God's love triumph in the heart. And Vance Havner said: Revival is the church falling in love with Jesus all over again.

What the church needs, is to fall in love with Jesus all over again. We need a revolution, a casting out of the spirit of worldliness, and the love of God triumphing in our hearts. And that’s exactly what happened to the people of Judah during the reign of King Josiah.

You all remember the basic history. During the days of the divided kingdom, both Israel and Judah fell often into wickedness and idolatry. As a result, God sends Assyria to destroy Samaria, the northern capital and carry off the nation of Israel. And eventually, Judah will fall to the same fate at the hands of the Babylonians. But in the midst of all the idolatry and wickedness, there are one or two blazing bright spots.

One of those was during the days of Josiah, recorded in 2 Kings 22-23. And what the church today needs are the same three things we read about there.

1. There was a radical return to the Word of God. After lying neglected in the temple for generations, Josiah’s officials uncover a copy of God’s Law. After reading it, Josiah tears his clothes in mourning and then calls the inhabitants of Jerusalem together for a public reading. Priests and prophets. City leaders and the common folk. Everyone comes together and he has the Word of God read to them. And not only do they read it, but king and people together make a commitment to once again make it the center of their lives.

For radical revival to come to God’s people, it must begin with a radical return to the Word of God. We may not live in a day where God’s Word lies dormant in a run down building somewhere; without anyone knowing about it. But, if we’re honest, too many places in the church see the Word of God lying dormant around our houses, neglected except to be taken to church once a week or given a token reading once in awhile. One poll showed that a whopping 43% of professed Christians said they honestly didn’t read the Bible at all during the week. How is that any different than in Josiah’s day?

And just look at the state of the church today. Major Denominations have seen huge upheavals over the issue of recognizing gay marriages, and even ordaining homosexuals to the ministry. Further out on the fringes you have everything from those churches promoting being drunk on the Spirit, walking, or I should say, stumbling around like they’re in some drug induced stupor; to churches who promote punching and kicking people in an effort to heal them and chase out evil Spirits. All because they simply refuse to govern themselves by the Word of God. If we want to see genuine revival in God’s church, then we need to see a radical return of a commitment to the Word of God among the people of God.

2. In Josiah’s day there was a radical removal of worthless idols. Looking at the idolatry run rampant in his nation, the king started pulling down, burning, destroying, defiling all those idols, high places, etc. Not just setting them aside; wiping them out.

Compare that with how we usually treat sin and idolatry in our lives. I know this thing is a temptation, but maybe if I just ignore it for awhile, it’ll be ok. I’ll just set it over here. No, you need to tear it down and get rid of it. Anything that you hold up above total obedience to God and His Word is an idol in your life. Anything that you value more than you value holiness and service to Christ, is an idol. Anything that drags you away into sin, and yet you refuse to remove it, is an idol.

Those things need to be radically removed from our lives. Jesus said that if your eye offends you, pluck it out. And I know that’s harsh and radical. And I don’t think he meant to literally dismember yourself. But he’s trying to point out the radical nature of this. Don’t just set sin aside; kill it, burn it, destroy it, get rid of it. It has no place in your life.

3. There was a radical restoration of worship in Josiah’s day. We read of the repair to the temple in Jerusalem, as well as the restoration of the Passover feast, which hadn’t been celebrated in nearly 300 years.

Now, you and I know that genuine worship isn’t necessarily about buildings. And we know that ritualistic acts of worship can become nothing more than that, just rituals. But the point is, once we have committed ourselves fully to the Word of God, and once we have removed all the false idols in our lives, we ought to have within us a passionate desire to exalt the name of God in worship; to see His name lifted up; to worship Him in the splendor of His holiness.

I’m not talking about the emotional free for alls that some call worship. But I am saying that we need a return to the biblical, powerful, passionate, life changing kind of worship that we read about in God’s Word. Not the bored, mundane, half hearted effort that so many of us are guilty of sending in on a regular basis. You don’t have to jump and shout. But there ought to at least be some signs of genuine life when we come together for worship.

What we need is a radical revival. It needs to start with me. But I invite anyone and everyone reading this to join with me in praying that God’s people would fall in love with Jesus all over again. Pray that we would truly see a revolution, a casting out of the spirit of worldliness, and triumphing of the love of God in our hearts. And to God be the Glory!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Christless Preaching: A quote of some quotes

Charles Spurgeon once said: "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. "

So in an attempt to show that I have brains, I want to simply quote someone who in turn is just quoting from the aforementioned Charles Spurgeon. (Funny how things come full circle like that).

Anyway, I thought this post by Tony Reinke was a very good one on the issue of the uselessness of preaching apart from Christ. Some good reminders for all of us. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Primary Voting Today

Just a short note to remind folks about the need to vote today, and to make a very brief response to those who have told me I’m a fool to support the Constitution Party. Here are my reasons:

1. The Republican Party started as a third party. It CAN be done.

2. If we don’t start sometime, it will never get done.

3. The GOP has turned its back on true conservatives, with the arrogant attitude that we MUST vote for them simply because it’s better than the liberal Democrats. It’s time they found out otherwise.

4. It’s time we started voting on the basis of conscience and conviction, not just political expediency. Why vote for a candidate who stands for less than you hope for simply because “well, it’s better than the other guy.” Stand firm! Vote your convictions. (If you haven’t read the CP Platform, go here and read for yourselves.)

There are many other reasons I could give, but are more suited to one on one conversation, which is difficult here (obviously). Suffice to say that if godly people truly stood up and supported the most godly candidates, instead of voting according to pocket books and popularity, this nation would turn in a hurry.

I’m not saying that all CP candidates are necessarily more godly than their GOP or Dem counterparts. However, I know that here in Missouri, many of the leading candidates on both sides leave much to be desired, and I’m fed up with the attitude that these are the only choices. We DO have alternatives. I urge you to check out the CP candidates in your area before the General Election in November.

But regardless, go out and vote. Make use of the great freedoms so many fought and died for before the freedoms are gone!