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

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Supreme Court Trumps God?

In the beginning God...

God, the Creator and Sustainer of all life.  God, the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.  You'd think His opinion counted for something.

In the begining God created the heavens and the earth.  And He created Man.  And then seeing that it was not good for man to be alone, He created Woman.  He commanded them to become one, to go forth and multiply, and to subdue the earth. Man and Woman, together.  That's the essence of marriage, according to God, from the beginning.  But not according to the Supreme Court.

Today, the US Supreme Court struck down a "core" portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, calling it "unconstitutional."  It's wrong, they said, to treat gay "marriages" as "second tier" relationships.  But why should it be considered a "tier" at all?  Marriage is defined as a covenant relationship between a man and a woman for the purpose of mutual edification and the procreation of mankind.  At least, according to God.  you know, that One who was there at the beginning and invented the thing.

All of this comes on the heels of hearing that in France, one local mayor is currently facing jail time for refusing to perform a gay wedding.  With the SCOTUS decision, that same scenario is looming here in the good ol' US of A.

We just don't get it, do we?  You can't "redefine" something that was defined by God.  It's like saying, "OK, from now on, mountains are not mountains.  From now on, we'll call them trees and demand that they grow and reproduce like other trees."  No, it's a mountain.  It doesn't work like trees.

Marriage is not "redefineable."  It is what it is.  You can call aberrant relationships between men and men, or women and women (which are unable to produce a main biological function of marriage) whatever you want, but it is still not a marriage.  Shouldn't be treated as one.  Shouldn't be given the respect of one.  Etc.

I know that the world at large, enslaved to sin and self, will never recognize the reality of God's existence, let alone His law, apart from the grace of God opening their eyes.  I understand that we live in a fallen world, and fallen people will continue to seek out whatever their fallen flesh desires.  But in the end, the truth remains.  Regardless of what the SCOTUS or anyone else says, marriage is still marriage.  It is still theologically, morally, biologically, historically, and naturally the union of one man and one woman.  Nothing will ever change that.

And if one day I find myself in a jail cell along side that French mayor for refusing to perform a gay "wedding", then so be it.  You can't force me to say an immoral relationship is a marriage any more than you can force me to call a mountain a tree, or in the case of the original "Big Brother" that 2 plus 2 equals 5.  Words are just words.  It doesn't change the reality.  What God set forth in the beginning still stands. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

24 - An Ode to My Wife

August 24, 1983

One of the greatest days in history

You finally agreed to go out with me

It took a while before you would say yes

You weren’t very impressed with me I guess

But I was persistent you must confess

Six years later, and lots of time to run

Yet our love grew strong, our doubts were undone

And together we agreed to be one

Our 24 was now the date we set

In June of ’89, a day to let

The whole world see what our love would beget

The happiest day of my life, I’d say

Though many happy days have come our way

They all go back to that 24th day

It was on that day you became my wife

And though we’ve had our trials and our strife

It’s you that makes my life…well…a real life

Without you, there is no us, that’s for sure

Without us, we’d not have those other four

Our children, those blessings like never before

Ups and downs and moving from place to place

What an adventure, and proof of God’s grace

That I still see love in your lovely face

Now we celebrate a new 24

The number of years that have passed before

Our eyes and are gone; yet opened the door

For enjoying at least 24 more

I can’t wait to see what God has in store

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Milestones: 500, 179, 24

In case you don’t know, today, June 19, is the 179th anniversary of the birth of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  If you’ve read anything on this little blog you know that we think of Spurgeon pretty highly around here.  I even think that maybe his birthday should be on the calendar as a recognized holiday.  He was certainly used by God to do more to benefit the church, and beyond, than many whose birthdays are recognized.  So have a cup of coffee in his honor and celebrate this milestone today.

This post also marks a milestone.  According the Blogger folks who keep track of this for me, this is the 500th post in this little corner of the blogosphere.  I didn’t get there nearly as fast as many have.  My posting in general has slowed in recent months, and I’ve never been overly prodigious in my output.  (I’ve always wanted to use that word in a sentence).  But here we are.  Number 500.  Yeah.  What a party.  (Kinda understated; sort of like this blog in general).
The other milestone doesn’t actually happen until Monday, although we’re planning to celebrate this weekend.  On the 24th, my beautiful bride and I will have been married for 24 years.  There’s something magical about that number.  Our first date was on August 24th.  Our wedding on June 24th.  This is our 24th anniversary.  And we all know that the best number in NASCAR is 24.  I suggested we celebrate by going to a NASCAR race, but that was voted down pretty quick.  Oh well.  Instead we’re going to see a Branson show called SIX, which if you multiply by 4 is…24.  Hmmm.
All this has me thinking about milestones in general.  Why do we keep track of birthdays and anniversaries and even blog posts?  There might be a myriad of reasons, some good, some not so much.  But in all, taking time to acknowledge and look back is a good thing.

Spurgeon himself, on the celebration of his 25th anniversary at the Metropolitan Tabernacle had this to say:  SOMETIMES, dear friends, we should take a review of life. There are occasions when men feel bound to do so, and the retrospect may be full of profit to themselves. I find that many look back in hours of trouble. A dark cloud brings them to a pause; In prosperity they might have run on with very little thought, but sorrow calls them to a halt. They are driven to God in prayer, and at such times it is not unusual for them, if God has been gracious to them in the past, to recollect his great goodness, and to mention it while they are pleading at the mercy seat…Thus they drive their griefs away, and the remembrance of past mercy helps them to snatch faggots from the altars of the bygone years, wherewith to kindle the sacrifice of the present moment.

Men are also accustomed to review their lives when they are brought near to the verge of the grave. It is helpful, when we fear that life is about to end, to begin to add it up, to see what the sum total reaches. If God should say to us, “Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live,” the best way to do it is to remember the past, looking at what we have done, and what God has done; and then to set one against the other, that we may repent of the sin, and may hope because of the mercy.

There are, however, other occasions apart from those of great sorrow or of apprehended departure, when wise men are fully warranted in considering the period as peculiarly noteworthy. I have come to such a time today. Twenty-five years have passed over our heads since I preached my first sermon in this house…There has been a great deal done in those twenty-five years, and we have both personally and as a Church, enjoyed abounding mercy. I did not think it right to let the occasion pass over without offering devout thanksgiving to the Lord for all his lovingkindness to us, and endeavoring to say some words that shall perhaps make us feel more our indebtedness to God, and cause us to determine to be more than ever consecrated to his service. 

I think he hit it on the head there.  When we reach a milestone of any kind, it’s good to look back and remember the abounding mercy of God, the offer devout thanksgiving for His lovingkindness to us, to remind ourselves of our indebtedness to God, and consecrate ourselves more than ever to His service.

So, thank you, Mr. Spurgeon for the reminder; and thank you, God, for the ministry of that servant of Yours.  What a blessing he’s been to so many.  Thank you Lord, even for this little blog, for the outlet it’s provided me and the catharsis I’ve enjoyed.

Most of all, I thank You for the gift of a godly wife.  What a demonstration of Your grace, and undeserved mercy.  I pray that I will mark every anniversary of our marriage with gratitude and thanksgiving, knowing that it’s all of grace.   And may we celebrate all of our “milestones” in life with reminder of our indebtedness to You, and a renewed commitment to Christ, to doing all for His glory.  Amen.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Muddling Through Mondays

In case you don't know, Mondays are rough on most pastors.  Not every Monday.  Not every pastor.  But most pastors will on some Monday or another feel the urge to just get out.  Preaching to a brick wall on Sunday.  Dealing with less than cooperative committees.  Hearing the same old criticism again and again from folks who are doing nothing to really help the church.  

For the most part, those "difficult" people we deal with are the minority.  The church, by and large, is filled with loving, caring, supportive people.  It's just that the other folks are usually louder, or at least the pastor perceives them as so. 

And so, after pouring ourselves out on Sunday, emotionally and spiritually drained in many cases, with all the struggles on our minds, many pastors get up on Monday asking if it's worth it all.   Well, here is an older article from Desiring God on the topic that might be helpful.  It's an excerpt from a book, so I don't want to break copyrights by reprinting it here.  I'll just give you the link and encourage you to read it.

Why?  If your a pastor, you'll appreciate the perspective and encouragement.  If you're not a pastor, maybe it will help you understand your pastors needs/struggles and motivate you to pray for him.  Either way, it was a blessing to me and hope it will be to you as well as we muddle through Mondays. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

16 Innings and the Longing for Heaven

One of the real advantages of living as near as we do to Springfield, MO is the Springfield Cardinals, Double A Affiliate of the best team in baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals.  Having the Baby Birds here opens up all kinds of excitement.

Not only do we get to go to the ball game and see future major leaguers like Matt Adams and Shelby Miller and John Jay and other current Cardinal standouts.  But now and again, some Cardinal star will be rehabbing and injury and will make a rehab start here in Springfield.  Jake Westbrook did that just recently.  And let’s face it, a night at the ball park is just plain fun. 

So that’s where I took my boys last Friday night.  We had decent seats, just the second row back on the third base side, just about right across from third.  Coaches and players only 30 feet or so away.  Fortunately, this outing didn’t end in our youngest getting hit in the eye with a foul ball (see here and here).  But it did have some excitement.

Some of it we were expecting.  Springfield has Friday Night Fireworks after the game, and we were set for that.  We just didn’t realize how long it would be until “after the game.”

As you can tell from the title of this post, the game went a little bit past the 9 inning regulation.  We blew a 4-2 lead and it was 4-4 after nine.  They scored a couple in the 10th, but then Ruben Gotay hit a two run homer to tie it up again.  Exciting stuff.

We started counting off the innings.  11th.  12th.  13th.  14th.  Since you have a 7th inning stretch, do we get a 14th inning stretch to?  Yep.  We stood and sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" for a second time.  And when we got to the line “I don’t care if we ever get back” there was a little laughter around the stadium.   15th.  16th.  Finally, in the 16th inning, the poor guys on the other team actually walked in the winning run.  (I think they may have done it on purpose just to go home!)

Turns out to be the second longest game in Springfield franchise history.  Because of city ordinances, they did the fireworks early, after the 11th inning I think.  A lot of folks left after that.  We were already in the second row, but with the crowd leaving, we went ahead and moved into the front row for the rest of the game.  The aforementioned Mr. Gotay, who plays 3rd base, came over and tossed our youngest a ball.  Later, a visiting player tossed one to our oldest son.  All in all a fun night.  (The youngest said at one point, “I’m proud that I got to stay up this late to see this.”)

But you know what?  As fun as it was, after awhile I was just ready to go home.  We stayed, because that’s what real fans do, but man… 1:30 in the morning is a bit late (or early) for baseball.  I really started not caring if we even won, I was just ready for it to be over.

And I got to thinking.  Isn’t this a lot like our longing for heaven.  Sure we enjoy this world.  We can get excited about it.  It has a lot of exciting things to offer.  Sometimes we get little perks, like the fireworks and the game-used-baseballs.  But after awhile, you just start looking forward to going home.    

Sometimes, it seems like forever.  You think this might be the last inning.  But then comes the next, and the next, and the next.  And you’re just ready for it to be over.

Now, I’m not trying to be morbid.  I’m not at all suggesting that life is a drudgery, and that I’m all melancholy and looking for the exit.  Like I said, we had fun at the game.  It was exciting, and it’s a memory I’ll share with the boys for a lifetime.  But it was still just a game.  And life moves on, and I was ready to get home.

Likewise, this life is a joy sometimes.  I’m enjoying every minute God gives me here (well…most of them).  And I’ll hang on until God says the game is over.  But in the long run, I realize that this world is just that in many ways. It’s just a game.  Real life is in the presence of our Lord.  And a part of me longs for that home, longs for that rest, longs for real living to truly begin.

So here’s the takeaway, for me anyway… Enjoy life, as long or as short as it might be; 9 innings, or a marathon extra inning affair.  But let’s remember where home is.  Let’s look forward to that eternal place and not put all our hopes and dreams here in this little ballpark.  So, as long or as short as the life might be, I hope to see you at home after the game. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Another Ode to Coffee

I’ve written twice before about the divine nectar we call coffee.  Once sharing a wonderful classic aria based on the beverage, and once showing the appreciation of everyone’s favorite pastor/theologian, Charles Spurgeon.

Recently, I’ve picked up the hobby of collecting coffee sleeves.  It began when I first set out to find and visit all the coffee houses in the greater Springfield area, and continued on our recent trip out west as I looked for various coffee shops on the way.

My collection is still in its infancy, and I’m still searching for a proper way to display these little trophies of my caffeine consumption.  But, since the blogosphere and social media is all about sharing the mundane issues of our lives with people who really don’t care; and since I’m woefully behind in posting anything worthwhile here; I thought I’d share this collection with you.
And in honor of the beverage behind it all, here are some fun odds and ends.

First, a wonderful 16th Century Arabic poem which says:
“O coffee, thou dost dispel all cares,
Thou art the object of desire to the scholar.
This is the beverage of the friends of God;
It gives health to those in its service,
Who strive after wisdom.”

Second, here is a more modern ode to the cup o’ joe:

And finally, lest anyone think this is all trivial, here is a wonderful paper I stumbled across from a decade ago showing how Scripture shows coffee to be a means of grace (OK, so this was just done in fun, but it is…well…fun).  Click here to read thepaper.

So, here’s to coffee, the Baptist’s liquor of choice.