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

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Observation and Reflection

Okay, so it’s that time of the year. Time to get all nostalgic, reflecting back on the year that was, what I didn’t do right, what I want to do better and all that. But I’ll keep most of that to myself, thank you very much.

For this space, I want to do a little observing and reflecting about this blog site itself. I want to make a couple of observations based on the information Blogger keeps track of for me, and then reflect on the top ten posts in the history of this site. So most of you can just skip ahead now to the next blog in your Google reader or whatever. This is mainly just for myself and for those who are just so bored, they need something to do with their time, so…

Observation #1 = Interesting Search Results
One of the things Blogger tells me is the search parameters put in by others that led them to my sight. For the most part, it’s stuff I’d expect: my name, things that match titles of posts (fishers of men, all creation sings, arguments against alcohol being the top three, which correspond to top posts listed below), and so on.

However, there are a couple of surprises. One of the more popular searches leading to me is for “wiccan tattoos,” which apparently brings up an article I wrote last year for Tullian’s book “Unfashionable.” I simply mentioned a quote I’d read about supposedly Christian tattoo artists who had no problem doing wiccan tattoos. Amazing what the search engines fined.

And then my favorite search: “Right Wing Sermons.” Do a search on that and you’ll find on the first page of results my 4th of July post this year. Interesting, considering the point was a speech made in the Massachusetts Congress by the sitting president of Harvard. Anyway, guess I’m glad I come up so quickly when folks are looking for right wing sermons.

Observation #2 = Worldwide Reach of the Internet
Okay, maybe I should just say that I’m amazed that anyone ever reads this. I’m just a nobody preacher from the Midwest, ranting and raving about whatever trips my fancy. I can’t believe folks take time to read this. But more amazing still is where folks are reading from.

We truly live in a global society, I know that; but it still blows my mind that just today, people in these countries have stopped by my corner of the blogosphere: United Kingdom, Germany, Indonesia, Jordan, Malta. Malta?? Really?? And in the past week, we’ve had readers stop by from Russia, France, Canada, India, and even three hits from Latvia. Wow. How do you say “I’m reading a boring preacher from Missouri” in Latvian?

Observation #3 = People Will Surprise You
I’m also amazed at what hits the spot, draws interest, etc. I write things that I think are real hot button issues, and it seems there is little response. Then I’ll just throw something out there off the cuff, and bam! Case in point are two of the top four posts in the list below: one on Albert Pujols and one on alcohol consumption (which was simply inspired by the idiotic behavior of some NASCAR fans). You never know, I guess.

Which brings me to the top ten. Here are the top ten most often hit individual articles in the history of this site (at least in the history since Blogger started keeping track). Drum roll please…

Top Ten Posts

10. Wise Words to Young Men – On My Son’s Birthday, Jun 27, 2011.
Written for my sons 17th birthday, this is in large part just quotes from J. C. Ryle.

9. Excerpts from "Surprised By Grace,” Jan 24, 2011.
Having just read Tullian Tchividjian’s treatment of Jonah, I posted a few of my favorite quotes. Mr. Tchividjian himself found it somehow and tweeted a link to my blog. Just goes to show how much more influence he has than me!

8. Preaching to Yourself, Feb 28, 2011.
Some encouragement from Psalms 42-43 for those difficult days, weeks, months in all of our lives.

7. This May Be My Last Post, May 19, 2011.
In light of Harold Camping’s first doomsday date this year, I reflected on what my last words might be if I thought I would never speak/post again.

6. Touched By God, Jan 7, 2011.
A little reminder that getting what we ask for could be dangerous. To be “touched by God” leaves a permanent imprint on our lives. Just ask Jacob.

5. Seeking God's Face: A Sermon Summary, Oct 14, 2010.
Actually, one of my own favorites. This is a shortened version of the message I was privileged to bring to our local Baptist Association in 2010. I prayed long and hard about this message, and was pleased with the result. God was also pleased to bring some good responses from those who were there.

4. Albert Pujols and Missed Opportunities, Dec 8, 2011.
The aforementioned “off the cuff” response to Mr. Pujols leaving St. Louis. Never did I suspect it would take off like it did, jumping to this fourth over all spot in only three days. As I said, people will surprise you.

3. All Creation Sings. April 16, 2009.
Another of my own favorites, this is just a reflection on spending the early morning hours turkey hunting with my son, and the sense of awe it brings when considering our Creator. I included one of my favorite AD songs.

2. Fishers of Men...No Bait Required, March 14, 2011.
Maybe a bit controversial, this is just my reflection on the “bait and switch” tactics we use in the church, questioning if our pragmatic approaches are really what Jesus had in mind when calling us to fish for men. Not sure how many agree with my assessment, but there sure have been a lot of readers on this one.

1. An Argument Against Alcohol, May 3, 2007.
Without a doubt, far and away the most popular post I’ve ever written. And it was almost five years ago. As I said above, it was inspired by the actions of some NASCAR fans and it prompted me to say some things about the use of alcohol and the wisdom Christians in our culture to abstain. Wow, the comments and hits on this one. I never said Scripture prohibited drinking (though many confused that issue), I simply pointed out that with the dangers attached, looking out for our brothers would suggest abstaining from this particular “freedom.” I don’t want to start the arguments up again, I still stand by my original comments, and you can read those plus the follow up articles if you want to know more.

Well, there you have it. Overall, it’s a good exercise to look back, reflect, evaluate, etc. Here’s hoping I still have some things to say in the year to come, and that by God’s grace I will say them better than I have in the past. In all, if just one person is led by something here to go to God’s Word and find the truth there, then all the time and effort is worth it.

If you read this far, congratulations (and condolences). Thanks for trudging through my year end catharsis. Have a Happy New Year and Soli Deo Gloria!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The True Way of Keeping Christmas

As you celebrate this wonderful day and the precious birth of our Savior, may these words from George Whitefield on "The True Way of Keeping Christmas" help you examine your heart and the heart of your celebration.

I come now…to show you, who they are who do rightly observe, and truly celebrate the birth of our Redeemer.

First, That those spend their time aright, and truly observe this festival, who spend their hours in reading, praying, and religious conversation.

What can we do to employ our time to a more noble purpose, than reading of what our dear Redeemer has done and suffered; to read, that the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, came from his throne and took upon him the form of the meanest of his servants; and what great things he underwent. This, this is an history worth reading, this is worth employing our time about: and surely, when we read of the sufferings of our Savior, it should excite us to prayer, that we might have an interest in the Lord Jesus Christ; that the blood which he spilt upon mount Calvary, and his death and crucifixion, might make an atonement for our sins, that we might be made holy; that we might be enabled to put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, even the Lord Jesus Christ; that we may throw away the heavy yoke of sin, and put on the yoke of the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, my brethren, these things call for prayer, and for earnest prayer too; and O do be earnest with God, that you may have an interest in this Redeemer, and that you may put on his righteousness, so that you may not come before him in your filthy rags, nor be found not having on the wedding garment. O do not, I beseech you, trust unto yourselves for justification; you cannot, indeed, you cannot be justified by the works of the law. I entreat that your time may be thus spent; and if you are in company, let your time be spent in that conversation which profiteth: let it not be about your dressing, your plays, your profits, or your worldly concerns, but let it be the wonders of redeeming love: O tell, tell to each other, what great things the Lord has done for your souls; declare unto one another, how you were delivered from the hands of your common enemy, Satan, and how the Lord has brought your feet from the clay, and has set them upon the rock of ages, the Lord Jesus Christ; there, my brethren, is no slipping; other conversation, by often repeating, you become fully acquainted with, but of Christ there is always something new to raise your thoughts; you can never want matter when the love of the Lord Jesus Chris is the subject: then let Jesus be the subject, my brethren, of all your conversation.

Let your time be spent on him: O this, this is an employ, which if you belong to Jesus, will last you to all eternity. Let others enjoy their cards, their dice, and gaming hours; do you, my brethren, let your time be spent in reading, praying, and religious conversations. Which will stand the trial best at the last day? Which do you think will bring most comfort, most peace, in a dying hour? O live and spend your time now, as you will wish to have done, when you come to die.

Secondly, Let the good things of life, you enjoy, be used with moderation.

I am not, as the scoffers of this day tell you, against eating and drinking the good things of life; no, my brethren, I am only against their being used to an excess; therefore, let me beseech you to avoid those great indiscretions, those sinful actions, which will give the enemies of God room to blaspheme. Let me beseech you, to have a regard, a particular regard to your behavior, at this time; for indeed the eyes of all are upon you, and they would rejoice much to find any reason to complain of you. They can say things against us without a cause; and how would they rejoice if there was wherewith they might blame us? Then they would triumph and rejoice indeed; and all your little slips, my dear brethren, are, and would be charged upon me. O at this time, when the eyes of so many are upon you, be upon your guard; and if you use the good things of this life with moderation, you do then celebrate this festival in the manner which the institution calls for.

And instead of running into excess, let that money, which you might expend to pamper your own bodies, be given to feed the poor; now, my brethren, is the season, in which they commonly require relief; and sure you cannot act more agreeable, either to the season, to the time, or for the glory of God, than in relieving his poor distressed servants. Therefore, if any of you have poor friends, or acquaintance, who are in distress, I beseech you to assist them; and not only those of your acquaintance, but the poor in general. O my dear brethren, that will turn to a better account another day, than all you have expended to please the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the pride of life. Consider, Christ was always willing to relieve the distressed; it is his command also; and can you better commemorate the birth of your king, your Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, than in obeying one of his commands?

Do not, my dear brethren, be forgetful of the poor of the world; consider, if providence has smiled upon you, and blessed you with abundance of the things of this life, God calls for some returns of gratitude from you; be ye mindful of the poor, and when you are so, then you may be said to have a true regard for that time which is now approaching; if you would truly observe this festival, let it be done with moderation, and a regard to the poor of this world.

Thirdly, Let me beg of you not to alienate too much of your time from the worldly business of this life, but have a proper regard thereunto, and then you may be said rightly to observe this festival.

God allows none to be idle: in all ages business was commended; and therefore do not think that any season will excuse us in our callings; we are not, my brethren, to labor for the things of this life inordinately, but we are to labor for them will all moderation: we are not to neglect our callings; no, we are to regard those places and stations of life, which God in his providence has thought convenient for us; and therefore, when you neglect your business of the hurt of your families, whatever pretense you thereby make for so doing, you are guilty of sin; you are not acting according to the doctrine of the gospel, but are breaking the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ, both according to his word, and to his own practice.

At this festival, persons are apt to take a little more liberty than usual; and if that time from our vocations is not prejudicial to ourselves or families, and is spent in the service of God, and the good of immortal souls, then I do not thing it sinful; but there is too much reason to fear, that the time spent upon our own lusts, and then it is exceeding sinful, it is against our own souls, and it is against the good of our families, and instead of commemorating the birth of our dear Redeemer, we are dishonoring him in the greatest degree possibly we can.

Therefore, inquire strictly into your end and design in spending your time; see, my brethren, whether it proceeds from a true love to your Redeemer, or whether there is not some worldly pleasure or advantage at the bottom: if there is, our end is not right; but if it proceed entirely from love to him that died, and gave himself for us, our actions will be a proof thereof; then our time will be spent, not in the polite pleasures of life, but according to the doctrine and commands of the blessed Jesus; then our conversation will be in heaven; and O that this might be found to be the end of each of you, who now hear me; then we should truly observe this festival, and have a true regard to the occasion thereof, that of Christ's coming to redeem the souls of those which were lost.


Friday, December 23, 2011

One Pastor's Plea for This Christmas Sunday

Very rarely do I just repeat another blog. But the message in this article, especially the pastor's letter which is included, is absolutely priceless. Furthermore, I've been tossing around in my own mind this very subject, thinking of writing a post about the subject of those who would skip church on Sunday because it's Christmas, or those who would worse yet, cancel their services. This brief post from White Horse Inn addresses the issue better than I could have ever come up with. I strongly encourage you to read this, pass it along to all the men in your life, and then we'll see you in church on Sunday!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Early Christmas Present

Our family received a sort of early Christmas present. I say sort of because our girls worked hard for this, and the boys and I worked at least a little bit building some fence (with lots and lots of help). Anyway, here's the story at our family blog.

The ServantHeart Homeschool Site: We Have Horses!:
Several years ago, the girls saw an ad in the paper offering horse riding lessons in exchange for work. I believe the deal was two hours of...

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Blessings of Being God’s Children

For the last several weeks, I’ve been using Galatians 4:4-5 as the basis for a series of “holiday” messages. In preparation for the celebration of our Lord’s first advent, we’ve been looking at God’s sovereign plan in sending His Son, the miracle of God in the flesh, and the purpose behind it all. We’ll be finishing this little study on Christmas morning by looking at the last issue in that Galatians text: the issue of adoption.

Oh, what a glorious thing it is to be adopted as sons and daughters of God! What a remarkable truth that we often take for granted. What an amazing display of God’s grace that He not only redeems us, but adopts us.

Anyway, in the process of studying for that last message, I came across a short sermon from Robert Murray M'Cheyne. His last point deals with the blessedness of being a son of God, and he lists these five glorious truths:

1. The first thing that makes it a blessedness is that we get the love of the Father. The moment you become a child, the Father loves you. This is shown in what Christ said to Mary: "I ascend unto my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God." Christ here intimated, that we have the same love that he had. We have not got so much of the love of the Father as Christ, because he has got an infinite capacity; but it is the same love. The sun shines as much upon the daisy as it does upon the sunflower, though the sunflower is able to contain more. Christ plainly shows you that in the 17th chapter of John, where he prays that the same love maybe in us that was in him. O how much better is it, then, to be under the love of God, than under the wrath of God!

2. Let me mention to you a second part of the blessedness we get. The Spirit of the Son dwells in us. You will see this in Galatians 4.6, "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." Brethren, when Christ comes, the first thing he does is to redeem you from under the curse of the law, and then he makes you a son. O it is sweet to have the smile of Christ! it is sweet to get the love of Christ; but I will tell you what is equally as sweet ? that is to receive the Spirit of Christ. Has he given you the Spirit? He will do it if you are a son, that you may be made to cry, "Ab
ba, Father."

3. Let me mention to you another part of the blessedness of being a son of God. You get the likeness of the Father. You know this is the case in an adopted family; an adopted child in the course of time gets the very features of the family. So you get the image of the Father, and you get the love of the Father. You are taught that in Matthew 5, where Christ says, in his Sermon on the Mount, "love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father "which is in heaven," that ye may bear the image of the Father. Have you that mark of adoption? Are you turning like God?

4. Let us mention another part of the blessedness. Some of you may be surprised at it. We get the chastisement of the Father. If we have no chastisement, then we are bastards, and not sons, for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not. The world are allowed to get fat; but it is not so with those that follow God; if they wander, he puts up a hedge, and if they fall into it, he puts up a wall.

5. Let me mention the last part of the blessedness. We receive the inheritance as heirs. Paul says, "If sons, then heirs." Every child in a rich family gets something when the father dies; often he shares his fortune equally among them, and the adopted child is not forgot. If we are Christ's we get all things with him. If we are Christ's, we share the government of the world with him. If we are his, we shall share the crown with him. It is called the inheritance of the saints in light. I cannot tell the blessings of being an heir of God; but I know that it is better than being an heir of hell: "He that overcometh shall inherit all things," and that for eternity ? it cannot fade away. O my brethren! will you still remain heirs of hell? If you come to Christ you will be made heirs of God. Whether is it better to get the pleasure of the world, and hell at the end, or to be made a child of God, and an heir of Christ?

An amazing collection of blessedness, and a heart searching question. Whose child are you? Whose inheritance will you receive? More important than any Christmas present under the tree is the gift of God’s Son and the Spirit of Adoption He brings. I pray you unwrap that mystery this Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Homeschooler Moment #8

Our youngest comes into my bedroom one morning as I’m getting ready to head out and says, “Dad, I have a question.” I said, “OK.” He said, “Since you know everything, can people really be raised by wolves?”

After I got up off the floor and stopped laughing, I looked at the poor boy who seemed very confused. He was so serious. So I said, “Yes, son, it doesn’t happen often, but people can be raised by wolves. Why do you ask?” At which point he goes into a recitation of a Garfield comic strip where apparently Liz claims to have been raised by wolves.

The lessons here are multiple. First, I’ve trained him well to think that Dad knows everything (In fact, he accepted my “yes” answer without question. Good boy). Second, we’ve taught him the value of being discerning when reading, not just accepting everything in print. Third, it shows our literary standards in this family are quite high. All the great minds read Garfield regularly. And finally, whether you homeschool or not, I hope you take every opportunity to find teachable moments each and every day with your children.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Of Sports Stars and Idolatry

Wow. In three short days my last post about Albert Pujols leaving St. Louis shot up to be #4 on the all time hit list on this blog. Blogger stats only go back 2 1/2 years, so the all time stats might be a tad off. Still, in just those three short days, more folks clicked over to read my brief, off the cuff remarks about Albert's departure than nearly all other posts on this site.

Now, I can surmise a couple of different things by this. I could assume this means that for the most part I never write anything here that is of any real interest. So the Pujols piece just finally pricked some interest. That quite possible may be true.

Yet, I do remember a piece I wrote during the last election cycle about Mike Huckabee's run for the White House. Not only did I get some interest on that piece, but some interesting interest. I ended up being interviewed by both the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and the New York Times. Made me feel pretty important.

Also, this is only the fourth most viewed post, so there are three more out there that have at least had some attention drawn. Granted, the short time period here is mind boggling for me, but still.

Maybe it's just to save my own pride, but I think there might be a different answer. I think it might have to do with the near worship we shower on professional athletes. One could point out the similarities between the various "houses of worship" where thousand gather to sing/shout their praises to their "god." Much of the activity in church and stadium have striking similarities.

But beyond that is the way our hearts and minds are captured. Even walking into a Sunday School classroom, the conversation at the beginning often involves sports and sports figures. Oddly enough, I can't say that the stadium conversations before a game often include commentary on the latest sermon heard. Most folks will more readily talk about their favorite ball player than they will about their Savior, just as most folks will readily pass on a social media post about said sports star more quickly than something involving "churchy" subjects.

What does this say about our priorities? And if anyone or anything has a higher priority in our hearts, minds and actions than God, does that person or thing not by definition become an idol? And what does it say about the reality of our faith when we're less likely to talk about God to our friends than we are to spout off about the latest sports gossip?

Trust me, folks, I'm not throwing stones here. I've been challenging myself with these thoughts as much as anyone else. (I may or may not have been the one to bring Pujols up in SS class). And I know I'm not the first person to bring the issue up, to make the comparison, etc. So I don't expect this particular post to hit the top ten list anytime soon.

Still, I can't help but think about a definition of worship I once heard (from Voddie Baucham I think, but I'm not sure). Worship is that which we set our mind's attention and heart's affection upon. So do we set our mind's attention and heart's affection more on football or God? Are our conversations more about baseball or Christ? Are we influenced more by playoff scenarios, or the Holy Spirit? Just some thoughts for reflection.

Psalm 72:18 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.
Psalm 86:10 For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.
Isaiah 45:22 "Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Albert Pujols and Missed Opportunities

As most have heard by now, St. Louis Cardinal star Albert Pujols has left the Midwest for greener pastures in California. He signed a 10 year contract with the Los Angeles Angels for a reported $250 million. The Cardinals were reported to have offered a contract as long, but with about $50 million less. So in speaking of missed opportunities, am I talking about the Cardinals missing out by not offering more? No.

The missed opportunity here is for a highly visible professing Christian to back up his words with his life. Pujols has always been very open about his faith. And for the most part, it really seems as though he tries to live that faith out. But here he had the perfect opportunity to show that for the Christian, our priorities are different.

He has always said, it’s not about the money. And I know nothing about the inner workings of contract negotiations. But this I do know. $200 million dollars over a lifetime, let alone the next 10 years, ought to be more than enough for a guy to live on. And from the outside looking in, it sure seems like it’s all about the money.

This would have been a great opportunity for a world class athlete on the national stage to step up and show the world that we don’t live for the things of this world. Loyalty to a team that invested so much in you early on, loyalty to a fan base that has elevated you to the top, etc. mean more than the dollar signs. But alas, no such statement was made.

Again, I know nothing of the contract negations. I’m sure there is much more to it than this. And I don’t know Mr. Pujols personally, so I probably should be very careful in making judgments. Furthermore, as a lifetime Cardinal fan I’m sure this is more sour grapes than anything else.

But I can’t help wondering what a grand statement could have come from someone standing up and saying: folks, as a Christian my priorities are different than the rest of the world. I’m turning down a boatload of money to stand for loyalty, team, etc. Instead, the comments I've heard already are all focused on disappointment over seeming greed.

I wish Mr. Pujols the best. I hope he has a long, productive career with the Angels (probably ensured to be longer because of the American League’s designated hitter option). Maybe we’ll have to wait for Tim Tebow to turn down some mega million dollar offer to see the kind of statement I was looking for.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Preaching the Cross at Christmas

Jon Cardwell was gracious enough to make available a pre-release draft of his upcoming book Christ and Him Crucified. I’ve only read the first couple chapters, but I’m already loving it. I love it for this one simple fact: it reminds us again of the centrality of the Cross.

For the last few weeks I’ve taken a break from preaching through Luke’s gospel and we’ve been looking at this one sentence from Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Gal. 4:4-5, ESV)

(BTW you can listen to those messages by following the links over on the right of the page; if you're having trouble sleeping, this is a surefire cure!)

Not only is this an appropriate “holiday” text because it refers to Christ’s coming, but I love it because it centers on the purpose of that coming. I know we like to separate our Christmas and our Easter, but the truth is it can’t truly be done. Sure you can try. You can talk only about the babe in the manger, the shepherds, the angels, the wise men and so on. But unless you talk about the cross, you’re not really talking about the real Jesus.

Here’s the way Jon put it: “The person of Jesus Christ should never be divorced from the work of Jesus Christ. What He has done flows from who He is; and who Christ is necessitates what He does. Jesus is not merely the Christ, but He is the Christ who was crucified… Christ’s atoning death can never be removed from who Jesus is, else He would not be the Christ of scripture, neither would He be the Christ of history.”

I love that. This is why Paul told the church at Corinth that he refused to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. To speak of Christ at all we have to speak of His purpose as Redeemer. As B. B. Warfield once wrote:

“There is no one of the titles of Christ which is more precious to Christian hearts than ‘Redeemer.’ There are others, it is true, which are more often on the lips of Christians. The acknowledgment of our submission to Christ as our Lord, the recognition of what we owe to Him as our Saviour, - these things, naturally, are most frequently expressed in the names we call Him by.

“’Redeemer,’ however, is a title of more intimate revelation than either ‘Lord’ or ‘Saviour.’ It gives expression not merely to our sense that we have received salvation from Him, but also to our appreciation of what it cost Him to procure this salvation for us. It is the name specifically of the Christ of the cross. Whenever we pronounce it, the cross is placarded before our eyes and our hearts are filled with loving remembrance not only that Christ has given us salvation, but that He paid a mighty price for it.”

We can’t celebrate Christmas apart from a celebration of the cross. We can’t talk about Jesus’ birth with a recognition of the purpose of that birth. We can’t talk about Jesus at all without, as Warfield says, having the cross plastered before our eyes. To speak of Jesus we must speak of the cross and the purpose of it all.

Some folks may think it odd that in the four part series I’m preaching this Advent season, based on the Galatians text, that only one of those messages focuses on the Incarnation itself. The others all focus on God’s Sovereign work of Redemption and Adoption based on Christ’s work on the cross. Preaching the cross at Christmas might seem out of place, but I don’t know how else we can proclaim Christ at all if we’re not proclaiming Christ crucified.

We like to repeat the angel’s message of “good tidings and peace on earth,” but apart from the Substitutionary Atonement, the events of Christmas give no hope at all; no good news; no offer of real peace.

So as we celebrate His coming, I hope you are focused on the reason for it. I hope you see that God sending His Son was for the purpose of redemption, which suggests the need for man to be redeemed. I hope you see that in that manger, the depth of your sin is on full display. I hope your trust is not in a babe in a manger, but in the God-Man on the cross and His empty tomb. I hope you remember that to speak of Jesus Christ, you must speak of Him crucified. And in that truth may you find truly good tidings of great joy and genuine peace.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Shameless (Unsolicited) Promotion

Not that anyone really cares, but I have a new profile picture for the blog. For awhile now I’ve wanted to have one of those fun caricatures to use here, but never had the opportunity to get one made.

That’s when I ran across a comment from Dan Nuckols of Dan’s Pulpit and Highland Graphics. I’ve enjoyed for some time the cartoons Dan produces, especially those dealing with the issue of evolution vs. creation.

So, Dan had made the comment about doing caricatures, so I contacted him to see if he could do one for me, and voila, the results are right here.Note: in interest of full disclosure, and to further show my “shamelessness,” the bottom half of the drawing actually comes from a famous pose of my favorite preacher in his younger days; none other than Charles Haddon Spurgeon. I hope he wouldn’t be offended. I’m obviously nowhere near his class, but I thought it would be a fun pose.
Anyway, I just thought I’d share this info with you so as to promote Dan’s endeavors. Check his sites out. If you could use his services, I’m sure he would appreciate it. Again, I don’t really know Dan personally, so this isn’t a paid ad or anything. I just really liked the product and wanted to point out the source. Hope everyone had a great weekend. I'll try to post something slightly more profound very soon.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Consumeristic Christmas Confession

Over the years I’ve always prided myself on keeping a proper perspective on the holidays. We avoid “Black Friday” like the plague. There is nothing on the planet I want so bad that I’m willing to descend into that boiling cauldron of fleshly paganism to get it. In every way we can think of, we’ve always tried to de-emphasize the commercial side of Christmas.

And not just avoiding that aspect, we purposefully concentrate on the spiritual side of things. Our family has for years used an “Advent Chain” to help us daily remind ourselves of the true meaning of this celebration. There are 25 links in the chain, one for each day in December leading up to the big day, and each link has a Scripture reading or a hymn or some object lesson to remind us of God’s gracious gift in Christ. Each night during family worship, we take down one link and count our way to Christmas.

Of course, being a pastor, I’m maybe more conscious of all this because I’m also preparing messages for the church in which we seek to remind folks to keep a proper perspective as well. So, in all, I’ve always thought my Christmas mindset was pretty good.

Until this year. Like so many others, we find ourselves a bit short on holiday cash, and so I’ve been trying to figure out what we’re going to do for each of the kids in keeping with the limited budget. And I found myself thinking in terms of feeling guilty because I wasn’t going to be able to “get” them more “stuff.” And the thought hit me: I’m just as much bitten by the bug of materialism as so many out there I’ve often condemned.

Since when did Christmas become about getting something; either in the sense of receiving a gift or even giving one to others? Who says it’s about gifts anyway? Our kids have never been the spoiled “I want, I want” types, praise God. So why am I so bothered by not being able to “get” them “stuff.” Maybe they’ve learned the lesson better than Dad.

In thinking about it, I began to really examine my own thoughts and see just how much the “pagan” side of Christmas has really invaded my thinking. And sadly, I see much more of it there than I really want to admit; so much based merely on “tradition” rather than any true meaning.

I don’t want to fill up this space with the “history of Christmas” so as to show how pagan much of the roots of our celebrations are; just as I don’t want to just ring that old “Keep the Christ in Christmas” bell that we sound so often at this time of the year.

I guess I just want to do a little confessing (confession is, after all, good for the soul, right?). And maybe just offer a little encouragement to others out there in a twofold way. One, be careful how judgmental you are of all those materialistic “pagans” out there, because at heart you may be more like them that you realize. And two, maybe we ought to all do a little reexamining of our motives in all we do, not just at Christmas. Are we doing things simply because “that’s the way it’s done?” Or is there a genuine and biblical motive behind it, seeking God’s glory in all things.

As for me, I’m going to get over the guilt of the gift giving shortage and work on getting my own heart right before God. Maybe I’ll talk with my kids and let them teach me a bit about it. And then I’ll spend a great deal of time on my knees thanking God for the amazing grace He’s given in Christ, and let that thought drown out all others for His glory. After all, I do believe that gift is the one we’re supposed to be concentrating on to begin with, right?

In the spirit of all this, and just for fun, here’s a little Calvin and Hobbes (one of our family’s favorites. Thanks to my daughter for pointing this one out). Enjoy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Crowning the Year With Goodness: A Thanksgiving Message

As we move into this week in which we celebrate a national day of Thanksgiving, I’ll forgo the usual reminders of the history of the day, the Pilgrims, and so on. Hopefully, we’ve kept those wonderful things in mind.

Instead, I simply will share with you some words on Thanksgiving from my favorite preacher. In calling for a day of Thanksgiving in his own church in September of 1863, Spurgeon spoke from Psalm 65:11 and the words: “Thou crownest the year with thy goodness.” (Thanksgiving and Prayer, #532)

Simply thinking of how God crowns our year, each and every year, each and every day of the year, Spurgeon said.

“All the year round, every hour of every day, God is richly blessing us; both when we sleep and when we wake, his mercy waits upon us. The sun may leave off shining, but our God will never cease to cheer his children with his love. Like a river his lovingkindness is always flowing, with a fullness inexhaustible as his own nature, which is its source. Like the atmosphere which always surrounds the earth, and is always ready to support the life of man, the benevolence of God surrounds all his creatures; in it, as in their element they live, and move, and have their being. Yet as the sun on summer days appears to gladden us with beams more warm and bright than at other times, and as rivers are at certain seasons swollen with the rain, and as the atmosphere itself on occasions is fraught with more fresh, more bracing, or more balmy influences than heretofore, so is it with the mercy of God: it hath its golden hours, its days of overflow, when the Lord magnifieth his grace and lifteth high his love before the sons of men.”

Indeed, this ought to be such a time. We ought to be thankful each and every day, but especially during this “holiday” season, we ought to be especially mindful of His mercy and grace. What amazing grace it is. And seeing that grace, embracing that mercy, upholding God’s crowing gifts in our life is the very best way to celebrate the season.

Spurgeon saw that as well, and concluded his message with a few suggestions about how we could truly see God’s crowning goodness in our lives. And I’ll leave you with those same suggestions, praying you may see God’s grace and goodness this Thanksgiving season.

The whole subject seems to give us one or two suggestions as to matters of duty. “Thou crownest the year with thy goodness.” One suggestion is this: some of you in this house are strangers to God, you have been living as his enemies, and you will probably die so. But what a blessing it would be if a part of the crown of this year should be your conversion! “The harvest is past and the summer is ended, and ye are not saved.” But oh, what a joy, if this very day you should turn unto God and live! Remember, the way of salvation was freely proclaimed last Sabbath morning, it runs in this style — “This is the commandment, that ye believe on Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.” Soul, if this day thou trustest in Christ, it shall be thy spiritual birthday, it shall be unto thee the beginning of days; emancipated from thy chains, delivered from the darkness of the valley of the shadow of death, thou shalt be the Lord’s free man. What sayest thou? O that the Spirit of God would bring thee this day to turn unto him with full purpose of heart.

Another suggestion. Would not the Lord crown this year with his goodness if he would move some of you to do more for him than you have ever done before? Cannot you think of some new thing that you have forgotten, but which is in the power of your hand? Can you not do it for Christ to-day? — some fresh soul you have never conversed with, some fresh means of usefulness you have never attempted?

And lastly, would not it be well for us if the Lord would crown this year with his goodness by making us begin from this day to be more prayerful?
Let our prayer meetings have more at them, and let everyone in his closet pray more for the preacher, pray more for the Church. Let us, everyone of us, give our hearts anew to Christ. What say you to-day, to renew your consecration vow? Let us say to him, “Here, Lord, I give myself away to thee once more. Thou hast bought me with thy blood, accept me over again; from this good hour I will begin a new life for a second time if thy Spirit be with me. Help me, Lord, for Jesus Christ’s sake.” Amen.

And Amen.

Monday, November 14, 2011

What Is Your Legacy?

I don’t mean to brag or anything, but in high school I won the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award, for outstanding high school jazz musician. It’s not nearly as prestigious as it sounds. I went to a relatively small school, and was only for graduating seniors in our own jazz band. (Although, we were a good band, placing in the top three of nearly every contest we entered; brag, brag, brag…) Still, it’s a fun little piece of trivia in my mostly anonymous life.

I bring it up now simply as a way of introducing why I still love jazz music. I’ve mentioned before that my tastes are pretty eclectic. While I listen to mostly “Christian” music, my tastes range from classic rock (Petra, Whiteheart, Rez, etc.), to 80s metal bands (Stryper, Barren Cross, Whitecross), to contemporary rock bands (everything from Newsboys and Third Day, to Skillet and Thousand Foot Krutch) with even some “reformed” rap tossed in (Flame, Lecrae, Shai Linne). And in addition, I like the blue eyed soul of Bryan Duncan and the Neho Soul Band, and the big band/jazz sounds of Denver and the Mile High Orchestra. Which brings me back to the jazz band thing and my point.

On the way in this morning, I was listening to D&MHO and the song Only Jesus (My Legacy) came on. Here are some of the lyrics:

What will they say, When my life is over?
Will it fade into the past?
What will remain, When my life is over?
Is there something that will last?
What will I leave behind to stand the test of time?
I leave the One who’s worthy of my whole life

My legacy, all I will leave, Is Jesus, only Jesus
The world will see, inside of me, Is Jesus, only Jesus
Lord, I long for You to be my legacy

They won’t remember my name
But they’ll know the God that saved me
My life may fade away
But they’ll know the truth that sets me free
So I will live today, For You alone to be
My life, my love, my legacy

What will folks say about me when I’m gone? What is my legacy? Good questions. An even better question is “what will my family say?” What is the legacy I’m leaving behind in my children, and then their children?

I was thinking about that lately anyway, since I picked up a copy of At the Throne of Grace, a collection of pastoral prayers from the ministry of John MacArthur. I’ve only read the first few entries, and while the prayers themselves are good, biblical, inspiring, all the things you expect from MacArthur, it was the book’s introduction that really got my attention.

MacArthur’s four adult children were the one’s to encourage this book to be printed, and they wrote the intro. While the book is a collection of MacArthur’s public pastoral prayers, it’s what the kids had to say about prayer and home that I want to highlight. Listen to what they say about dad and his prayers:

Even when we were very young, we listened attentively to our dad speak to his heavenly Father. We listened and we learned of God’s grace through these humble prayers. And we began to understand who Jesus is and what He had done for us. Our theology was shaped by the words our dad prayed.

Sitting around the kitchen table, we heard dad’s words of gratitude for the privilege of being adopted into God’s family. We heard expressions of his love for the Bible and the church around the world and for the people who were the congregational family at Grace church. His transparency disclosed his own disappointments, and his faith unpacked his sheer confidence in God’s providence. In his prayers, our day was carrying our family into the holy presence of the sovereign God of the universe. (John MacArthur, At the Throne of Grace, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 2011; p 9)

Best of all, they write: “By God’s grace, our dad has been what he preaches.“ What a remarkable word for children to speak of their father. It speaks of the godly legacy this man is leaving behind, not only in his public ministry, but more importantly, in his family.

So what is my legacy? What will I leave behind? Is it Jesus, only Jesus? Will my children be able to say these kinds of things about how I have led them, and whether my life either did or did not back up my “public ministry?”

In the end, it doesn’t matter what cheap trophies we won in high school, what accolades we achieved at work, what material things we were able to accumulate. In the end, it’s our legacy that matters. I pray God will give me grace to provide a godly legacy to my children and to their children. What is your legacy?

Now, just for fun, here’s Denver and the Mile High Orchestra with their rendition of It Is Well With My Soul. As a sax player, I have to call your attention to the pair of monster sax solos starting at about 1:51. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The World Will End on Friday!

I know a lot of folks have heard a lot of predictions about the end of the world. Two of those dates have come and gone this year. One is scheduled for next year. But I’m telling you now that the end will come this Friday.

The ominous date of 11-11-11 is the dead giveaway. First of all, it's a perfect date: a perfect same-numbered palindrome, reading the same backwards as forwards. And according to biblical numerology experts (at least on the one website I read) the number 11 is the number representing disorder and judgment. As we all know, the end will be accompanied by great chaos followed by judgment, so there you go.

Furthermore, we all know that Jesus had twelve disciples. One, of course, Judas was the betrayer and was kicked out. Well, he killed himself. But if he hadn’t, I’m sure he would have been kicked out. And either way, you are left with only eleven. After the resurrection, Luke says that Jesus "appeared to the eleven." He appears to the eleven! 11-11-11

And have you read Psalm 11? This is the real key. Here is the whole Psalm from the ESV:

In the LORD I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, "Flee like a bird to your mountain, for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart; if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD's throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test, the children of man. The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.

Look at those words again: The Lord is in His temple. We know that will happen when he returns. He will rain coals on the wicked; a sign of judgment! The upright will behold his face. Behold His face! We’ll see Him. In the 11th Psalm. 11-11-11

And one more piece to the puzzle. In the eleventh book of the Bible, in the 11th chapter and 11th verse we read this: "Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant.” Did you hear that?? Because of the unfaithfulness of the people, God will tear this earthly kingdom from us and give it to His servant: Jesus. 11-11-11

I’ve spent years studying this. Well, days….well, a few minutes at least. And I’m convinced of the accuracy of this sign. The end is coming: 11-11-11. This Friday. I would expect that it would be about 11:11:11 in the morning, uh, Jerusalem time, I guess. Which would make it about 3:11 in the morning here in the Midwest US. Of course, that wrecks the 11 thing here, but it only counts in Jerusalem anyway. The time doesn’t matter, it’s the day: 11-11-11. Personally, I’m just glad the Third Day concert we bought tickets for is on the 10th. Man, I’d hate to miss that.

So remember, you heard it here first. I know this is short notice, but, you know...I didn't figure it out until now. You've been warned now, that's the point. Don’t be caught off guard. 11-11-11. Our Lord is coming, nothing will stop Him, so be ready.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in the above prediction is true except for the last eleven words! Luke 21:8 And he said, "See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he!' and, 'The time is at hand!' Do not go after them.”

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Name is Scott…and I’m a Bookoholic

Sitting next to my desk as I write is a pile of about three dozen books. On the shelf behind me are more stacks, about 8 or 9 dozen more. Most wouldn’t see that as a problem, but you see, these are books I haven’t even read yet. This isn’t even considering the1,500 or so books that fill up the rest of the shelves. These are just books that I saw in a store, saw online, thought I couldn’t live without and just had to buy; and yet I haven’t had a chance to get to read them yet.

I’ve shared often here my love for books in general. But often, I’ll be in the middle of one book, when suddenly I see two or three more that I think would be wonderful, and I buy them. Sometimes, I’ll end up putting the first book aside and start reading one of the new ones. Meanwhile, the first book is left unfinished. (I mentioned my lack of “finishing” skills back in the summer)

I think I have a problem. It’s not just the lack of finishing a book. I usually get around to that…eventually. It’s this compulsion to continue buying more and more books. The books themselves are good books. Books on theology. Books on ministry. Books on family and family worship and so on. All good books. But just because a book is good, does that mean I have to buy it? Is this a healthy thing, or is this an unhealthy compulsion?

I’ve always jokingly used Paul’s words to Timothy as somewhat of a justification for this obsession with books. Near the end of this life, the thing that he asked his young protégé to bring to him was his books (2 Timothy 4:13). Certainly this does highlight the importance of reading and study, even though we don’t know exactly what was in that collection of books. But still, does this really justify my seeming compulsion to continue buying more books.

As I said before, the growth of technology has made this worse, with my Kindle also heavy laden with more and more books. This problem is amplified by the large amount of free material available for download. Again, these are good resources. Many of the “old” books are being made available, and this is truly good. But does one man need all these? Will I ever actually get all of them read? Especially if I keep adding to the piles?

Just looking for some help and advice, I guess. Are there others out there who suffer from this obsession? Is it something I should seek treatment for? Are there any good 12 step programs for obsessive book buyers/collectors? Books are good, but is this a case of too much of a good thing?

Maybe I just need to listen to the advice from one of my mentors in the faith, C. H. Spurgeon who tells his students: Master those books you have. Read them thoroughly. Bathe in them until they saturate you. Read and reread them, masticate and digest them. Let them go into your very self. Peruse a good book several times and make notes and analyses of it. A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books he has merely skimmed. Little learning and much pride comes from hasty reading. Some men are disabled from thinking by their putting meditation away for the sake of much reading. In reading let your motto be “much not many.” (Letters to My Students)

Much, not many. Pretty good advice. Even if I did read it in a book! Anyway, confession is good for the soul, I suppose; and I guess this is just one little way of confessing. I appreciate your prayers as I struggle with this little compulsion of mine. And if you hear of any good book sales…Don’t Tell Me!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Do You Desire God?

My Sunday School class has been studying 2nd Corinthians. Recently we spent some time talking about what it means to truly be born again, the new creation Paul speaks of in chapter 5. At the same time, on Wednesday nights, we've been using Don Whitney's 10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health. Actually, this is the second time we've gone through this, but you go to your doctor more than once every five years, right? Anyway, among the diagnosis questions is: Do you thirst for God?

These two things together reminded me of a short piece from Paul Washer on true Christians having a passion for God. This is a marker of sorts. To be truly born again isn't just a moralistic change of behavior, it is a whole new set of motivations, actions, thoughts, etc. all focused on God and His glory. Do you thirst after God? Another question in Whitney's book: Are you more sensitive to God's presence.

In light of all of that, I showed this to our class on Sunday, and it's been sticking in my mind, so I thought I would post it here for anyone who may not have seen it. If you're interested, you can find this and many more like-minded teachings at

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Reformation Day

Down through the ages, God has worked is some amazing ways in the life of His people. In Scripture we read about things like the Exodus; the many victories in battle; the establishment of Israel’s Kingdom in Saul, David, etc.; the return of His people following exile; the outpouring of His Spirit at Pentecost. Of course the greatest of all was the sending of His Son, His life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection.

Since those days, we have continued to see times in which God works in mighty ways for His people, all throughout church history. Even in this nation, we’ve seen Great Awakenings and widespread revival.

Yet, in the post-Biblical history of the Church, one of the grandest works of God was in some ways ignited by the simple act of a blog post. Okay, so it wasn’t actually a blog post, but it was the 16th century equivalent. One little monk put together a collection of thoughts and ideas about the current state of the Church, and in particular, the sale of indulgences; which he saw as a violation of Scripture. For those who don’t know, it was simply the practice of allowing people to purchase freedom for dead relatives out of Purgatory (a place whose very existence is a corruption of Scripture.

So, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther took his collection of arguments against this practice, now known at the 95 Theses, and he tacked them on the doors of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. The church doors were the world wide web of the day. Any announcements, advertisements, etc. were posted here. In God’s providence, the printing press was just coming into prominence, and someone took that one blog post and reposted it and it went viral. Of course I’m using modern images here, but you get the idea.

It’s not that Luther was the first to see the problems arising in the Church. For years and years, men like John Wickliffe and John Hus taught against some of the corrupt doctrines that had arisen in the church. But again, through the working of God’s Providence, the timing was right when Luther’s Theses hit the door. A Reformation had been ignited.

Luther and those like him battled of the sufficiency and supremacy of Scripture. It wasn’t just about the traditions of the Church, the Word of God had to take precedence. The Reformation was built on the five pillars of Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), Sola Gratia (Grace alone), Sola Fide (Faith alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (God’s glory alone).

Afterward, men like John Calvin and Philip Melancton and Ulric Zwingli and John Knox and many others would take those Reformation sparks and fan them into giant flames. The result, of course, can never be overstated. The Church has never been the same. And down through the years, God has continued to raise up men to carry on the war cry: Semper Reformanda; Always Reforming. The Puritans are seen by many as the inheritors of the Reformers, and so it does down through the years to those who continue to hold God’s Word as the supreme authority, with salvation taught as being justification by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, only for the glory of God.

And so you see, friends, this date marks not the time for Satanic delight as some celebrate it. Instead, it is the celebration of God’s great work in the life of His people, His church. So Happy Reformation Day. May God continue to shower His blessings on and through His Church.

NOTE: For more reading on Reformation thought and theology, check on this collection of articles at And furthermore, if you're interested, here is my daughter's shorter and snarkier take on the whole Reformation Day thing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rated "M" for Mature. Yeah, Right.

As if we need any proof at all that the world’s way of looking at things is all upside down, backwards, inside out, etc., just look at how we rate games these days. Our oldest son did some work for a family in our church, and for payment they gave him an Xbox. Now, our family has never been much into video games; up until that time we still played a couple games on an old Sega system we got at a garage sale. But to be quite honest, I’ve enjoyed the baseball, fishing and racing games we’ve picked up for the newer model.

Of course, buying games is a challenge itself. Not only to folks (normally) shell out big bucks for the system, but then the games are all $30-50 and up. Not this family! We check the discount shelf at the used game store and for the half dozen games we own, haven’t paid more than 10 bucks. But I digress.

Back to the game ratings game. As most of you probably know, these games all come with a rating. “E” means it is supposedly appropriate for everyone, small children included. We pretty much stick with this one. “T” is for teen, which essentially means that as a teenager, you are now allowed to witness more violence, profanity and lewd/sexual content. And then we wonder why our kids are so desensitized to these things.

Interestingly enough, in looking for a game the other day my son found one that was rated “E” but then also said it contained some violence and profanity? So why not change the rating to “T”, according to their standard? Or are we now moving to this stuff being suitable for my seven-year-old? Anyway…

The real kicker is the “M” rating. “This game rated ‘M’ for Mature.” In world-speak, this means potentially lots of blood and violence, extreme language issues and most likely some gratuitous sex stuff thrown in for the heck of it.

Now, I know this is nothing new. Movie ratings are likewise suspect, with lewd humor being common in even G rated childrens' films; while movies with overt Christian themes are rated PG-13 for “thematic content” that may be objectionable. As in talking about Jesus. And, I digress again…

My issue with the “M” for mature thing is two fold. Number one, you and I both know that these games are primarily made for teens. The game systems in general are aimed that way and certainly marketed that way. And when they show these dazzling effects on the TV ad, even my 17 year old is impressed. So when they come on at the end with the rating, I’m sure most kids immediately say, “well then, I guess I won’t be buying or playing that game.” Yeah right. Just one more way to get worldly garbage into our homes.

But number two, and the real issue here (aren’t you glad I finally got there?!) is the whole idea of the word “mature.” Maturity carries with it the idea of being fully developed, moving beyond infancy; as in “grow up already.” And yet, these games, with their sex, profanity, etc. are really the height of immaturity. People who have matured shouldn’t be engrossed by games that promote childish, immature passions.

And therein lays the difference between the world’s standards and God’s. God’s Word tells us to seek maturity. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:20 “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” And we all know what that maturity means, putting away silly, childish, sinful things. As Paul also writes in that same letter: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)

Being a man, putting away childish ways, is to stop being fascinated with profanity and sexual titillation. Growing up means to act like an adult and get over the stupid potty humor, crude innuendo, etc. But the world tells us this stuff is for the “mature.” Talk about upside down, backwards, etc.

I could further digress into a discussion of the worldly idea of adolescence in general, and how we keep putting off further and further the expectation for our children to grow up and act like adults, but I guess that’s enough for now.

We ought to be seeking maturity. We ought to be putting childish ways behind us. And so it becomes obvious, or more obvious, that this means turning our back on the attitudes and ideas of this world. Instead, we need to be focused on God’s Word, God’ standards, godly attitudes and actions.

Some might argue this would mean forgetting about those silly games altogether. Personally, I don’t think a little video baseball hurts anything. (Although my wife just laughs at me when I brag about how many home runs I hit. “You know it’s just a game, right?”) But these things should be kept in check, never become overly time consuming, and certainly never overtake the amount of time we put into God’s Word and His service. God’s Word; now there’s something truly rated “M” for mature. May you grow up in it daily!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

God Told Me To Write This

I recently listened to a less than stellar sermon which raised many questions. I’m not trying to disparage the brother who gave the message. This isn’t about his delivery, his style, the length, the excitement, or any of those things. It has more to do with his handling of the text and the over all impression of God he left us with.

I really don’t want to go into a lot of detail about the several questionable aspects of this message. I really don’t want to attack or demean the brother, whom I respect. But in the midst of this message, the statement was made that “God told me to…” Really it doesn’t matter what the rest of the sentence said. The question is, did God really tell you to do whatever? Is that an accurate way to state something? Especially when what follows is not a direct Word based on Scripture but something totally different.

I know that God speaks to us. He does. He says He does. But how does He speak? Does He give audible words saying, “wear the blue sweater today.” Does He give us a soft, inner prompting to go ahead and order the chicken instead of fish?

I’m always uncomfortable when I hear a sentence that starts out “God told me…” Now, if you say, “God told me that…the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing wit the glory that is to be revealed in us” then I’m with you. Scripture states that in Romans 8:18. And what God has said in His Word, He continues to say today.

It’s providential that Tim Challies has just finished a series of articles about the issue of God speaking today. I’d be wasting my time, and yours, to try and repeat or duplicate what he has already so adequately written. I urge you to read this four part series (part one, part two, part three, part four). Parts two and three are especially relevant here.

The basic point to remember is Hebrews 1:1-2 “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” (ESV) Yes God did speak audibly to His people. Yes, He clearly could still do that. However, what He has told us is that He speaks to us now through His Son, through His Word. His Word is our guide. I don’t need Him to “tell” me to do this or that regarding any situation when He has already given me the basic principle in His Word. I don’t need God to “tell” me to do something nice for my wife when He has already told me in His Word to love my wife as Christ loved the church.

I know sometimes it’s only a matter of semantics. We mean to say that based on God’s Word and in obedience to that Word in this situation, I feel led by God’s Spirit to act in a certain way. But to say “God told me…” implies something very different. And implications have consequences.

We send people home with the idea to “wait on God” and to look for some mystical experience where God “speaks to us.” We’re not mystics, folks. We are people of the Word. Pick up your Bible and let Him speak to you. Then obey His Word for His glory. God told me to tell you that!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Indy to Eternity: A Weldon’s Reflections on Wheldon

I’ve always been more of a NASCAR fan. Maybe I’m just too much of a redneck, I don’t know. But when it comes down to it, fast cars are fast cars, and so the boys and I have also followed a little F1 and IndyCar over the years.

Our interest in open wheel racing was heightened by the emergence of a driver named Dan Wheldon. My mom has spent a lot of time the last few years tracing our family roots, and so far we have it traced all the way back to Nottinghamshire, England to a man named Gabriel Whelden who came to this country about 1638 . The name has undergone a few changes over the years: Wheldon, Whilden, Weldon. If you’ve done genealogy stuff, you know how this is.

Anyway. Coming from English Whelden/Wheldon/Weldon stock, we’ve always considered Dan part of the family. Can’t prove it, but we still claim him. Sort of like our claim to Clemson University since part of the college was built on land purchased from our family for a dollar an acre back in the day. The kids always watch for scores and root for “Weldon U”, which is ranked No. 7 right now. But I digress.

As most are aware, Dan Wheldon was killed in a horrific crash in yesterday’s IndyCar race. We don’t have satellite or cable, so anytime a race is on a channel we can get, we’re thrilled. So we settled in yesterday afternoon to watch this championship battle, along with the possibility of “cousin” Dan winning a five million dollar bonus. (Long story, look it up if you’re interested)

We watched in horror along with everyone else as a 15 car melee ensued only a few laps in. As soon as we saw Dan’s car go airborne, we knew things looked bad. When the tarps came out on his car, we knew it was bad. And of course, then the announcement came.

It was a sad, sad day for racing. Dan was a quality champion and this year’s Indy 500 winner. We are certainly praying for those who are his “real” family: his wife and two young sons chief among them.

What all of this served to remind us, as we reflected on how fast the how thing happened, was how brief this life truly is. And how quickly it can all end. A friend of ours lost a “legit” cousin last week when a car crossed the center line and hit him head on. My wife’s uncle is having surgery today for colon cancer. It can happen anytime, anywhere, not just to race car driver’s doing over 220 mph.

As they say, the stats on death are sobering: one out of one dies. This life is but a blip on the screen, or as Scripture says, “a vapor.” It’s a mist that is hear one minute and gone the next.

Death is a part of life because sin is a part of life. When Adam sinned, we all died. While the death of Dan Wheldon is tragic and shocking, it should also be a reminder that death is an inevitability we all face. And that being the case, we ought to prepare ourselves for it.

People went nuts a few years ago with the whole Y2K thing. Some clever folks made millions selling survival kits and so on as we prepared for the end of the world as we know it because of the coming computer collapse. Of course, it didn’t happen, but thousands had spent thousands making preparation.

How much more should we be preparing for something we KNOW will come. Death is a sure thing. But life is still possible. Scripture tells us that Christ has overcome death. He has made a way for sinful men to escape the penalty of sin and find forgiveness and life through faith in His work on the cross.

Sure, because of sin we all deserve death, and we all deserve the hell that follows. God is pure and holy and righteous, and we can never stand in His presence on our own. But Christ’s perfection can be ours by faith, and we can look forward to the end of life in this world because of the promise of His pardon and presence in the next.

I don’t know where “cousin” Dan stood with Christ. I never read anything or heard anything that would lead me to believe he experience conversion in Christ. To me, that’s even more tragic than the crash. His entrance into eternity was so quick, but not really unexpected. We all know we’ll get there some day. That’s why it’s so important to be prepared.

You may not race a rocket on wheels, but it can happen just as quickly to you. A car head on in your lane. The “C” word spoken by your doctor. Regardless of the circumstance, it’s coming for each of us. I pray you will be prepared. Seek God in His Word. Repent of your sin and rest in the finished work of Christ. Find a good Bible centered church who can teach you and pray with you about these things until God settles them in your heart. But please, don’t ignore this reality. The leap from Indy, or from wherever you are, to Eternity is briefer than you think. Seek Christ today!