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

Monday, September 29, 2014

Happy National Coffee Day!

Such a spree of holidays lately.  Constitution Day.  Talk Like A Pirate Day.  Now, the high point of the September holiday calendar:  National Coffee Day.  How did I not know this thing existed for so long?

Ironically, a friend just posted an article for me on the issue of whether or not coffee comes as the result of natural selection or by divine creation.  Duh?  That’s a no brainer.  Only an intelligent benevolent Creator could come up with something so blessed!

Also recently, I had a friend compose a song parody for me singing the praises of the elixir of life.  I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me sharing it with you. 


by Gregg Metcalf

(To the tune of “Cocaine” by Eric Clapton)

If you wanna wake up you’ve gotta grab a cup.
If you wanna get through the day don’t act like a pup

She is so sweet, she is so sweet, she is so sweet


When you get those Monday blues she is always good news
When you need a clear mind and don’t have much time


If your head is in a spin pour another cup again
Don’t forget this fact or you’ll fall off the track

[Chorus 2x]

She is so sweet, she is so sweet, she is so sweet

Thanks, Gregg. 

I considered celebrating by taking a tour of the best shops in the area, but alas, an empty wallet and a broken down truck have prevented that.  However, for the rest of you, I’ve also heard that some big name chain restaurants are offering free brew to celebrate the day.  Not bad.

So read the articles, enjoy the song, and celebrate the blessed bean.  And though I’ve shared it before, here’s another little favorite ode to coffee.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Learn To Study the Bible: New Online Tool

I was once told that as a pastor, my job was to work myself out of a job.  Obviously, that's not entirely true.  The sheep always need a shepherd and that's what God has called pastors to do.  But the point is that pastors ought to be training their congregations to do the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:11-12), and the hope is that they become so effective doing that ministry, that the "doing ministry" part of the pastor's job is being done by the congregation, not just the pastor. 

The hope is also that we train our people is such a way when it comes to Bible Study that they aren't dependent on the pastor alone to get their "meat" from God's Word, but learn to study and meditate and learn for themselves. 

Pastor John Piper is beginning a new project for that very purpose.  "Look at the Book" is an online tool where Pastor Piper takes a text, outlines it, examines it, mines it, and in the process shows us how to do the same thing.  This isn't meant to replace our own study, but teach us how to study.  This is a very promising and exciting project.

Here is the introductory video and one of the first "sessions."  I encourage you to check this resource out.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Happy "International Talk Like a Pirate Day"

As long as we're celebrating holidays this week, let's do this one.  According to one expert resource on holidays: 

Origin of International Talk Like a Pirate Day:
"John Baur and Mark Summers created the concept of International Talk Like a Pirate Day on June 6, 1995. While playing racquetball, they began to talk to each other in Pirate-speak". After leaving the court, they decided that there was a need to create this day. After much thought, Mark Summers selected September 19th as the date. This was his wife's birthday. So, he thought it would be an easy date to remember. And so, International Talk Like a Pirate Day was born."

Our family has enjoyed this over the years for several reasons, not the least of which is this:

So, go celebrate.  Here is even an official website with all kinds of fun (disclaimer: I haven't been through the whole site, so I don't vouch for it's family friendliness in all areas!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Happy Constitution Day

(Yes, I recycled this post from last year.  I lack creativity!)

September 17, 1787.  A pretty good day in US history.  It was on this date that the U. S. Constitution was completed and signed.  55 men were involved altogether, including the writing and signing. (It's worth noting that nearly all were active members of Christian denominations, for those who say Christians have had nothing to offer...)   That makes today the 227th anniversary of that wonderful day.  So Happy Constitution Day.

You can celebrate in any number of ways.  You can find some of the online resources that give some basic information, fun facts, etc. about our Constitution.  (here or here for example)

You can read the Constitution.  It's one of the suggested ideas in the links above, and would be a good idea for every American.  It would be especially good for those serving in any branch of government, since so many seem to have never seen it before. 

Speaking of which, one way we could celebrate is to look back over the last few years and enumerate the various ways the Federal Government has violated the Constitution.  That would be a fun and educational experience, I'm sure. 

You could also celebrate Constitution Day by going right now and joining the Constitution Party. That way, you're already set for the next election cycle to try and restore our nation to its founding documents (a pipe dream, I know).  

Or you can simply do what the framers and signers of this grand, historical document did on a regular basis.  Get down on your knees and thank God for His generous blessings to this nation and seek His guidance for its future.  While it may be a radical concept to many today, it was common practice (and common sense) to our founding fathers. 

But however you celebrate, you should celebrate.  This document, if you are an American, is why you have the freedoms you have, including the reading of this post right now.  So remind yourself of this important part of our heritage.  Happy Constitution Day!

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Joyful Heart is Good Medicine

Tuesday evening our church has the privilege of again hosting the annual banquet for our local crisis pregnancy center.  And this year the speaker is a comedian named Gordon Douglas.  I know that some folks don’t think those two mix very well.  Abortion is a serious topic, hardly the kind of thing to joke about.  And obviously the jokes won’t be about that topic in particular.  But when done right, it can be very effective for this kind of event.

Besides, humor and laughter most certainly have a place in the life of God’s people, or at least they should.   

Proverbs 17:22  A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 15:13  A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.

Proverbs 15:15  All the days of the afflicted are evil, but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.

Charles Spurgeon was often criticized for his use of humor, and he often remarked on the general lack of “mirth” in some congregations.  For example, in this message:

I have noticed with pain the way in which people will get rid, if they can, of happy words out of their hymns. 
The hundredth Psalm for instance, runs thus:
     “All people that on earth do dwell,
      Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice,
      Him serve with — “

What? Well, they modernise it into-
     “Him serve with fear.”

But, as I believe, the older form is-
     “Him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell, Come ye before him and rejoice.”

I wonder some other scribe did not cut out the word “cheerful,” and put in
     “Sing to the Lord with doleful voice.”

In this way the Psalm might have been “improved” until there would not have been a grain of worship left in it. I mean to sing it. “Him serve with mirth;” and with a glad and merry heart will I praise my God.

Or how about this one?
There is no one part of a man’s constitution, which is really a part of his manhood, which should not praise God. Ay, even the sense of humor should be sanctified to the service of the Most High! Whatever faculty God has given thee, O my soul, it has its place in the choir! Summon it to praise.
 Sermon #2121

In his collection of essays on Eccentric Preachers, Spurgeon even defends another preacher known for his humorous approach, a certain Edward Taylor:

To the pure mind, none of the powers of our manhood are common or unclean. Humor can be consecrated, and should be. We grant that it is a power difficult to manage; but when it is under proper control, it more than repays for all the labor spent upon it. Children do sad damage with gunpowder; but what a force it is when a wise man directs its energy. Mr. Taylor made men laugh that they might weep. He touched one natural chord, that he might be able to touch another; whereas, some preachers are so unnatural themselves, that the human nature of their hearers refuses to subject itself to their operations. 0 ye who are evermore decorously dull, before ye judge a man whose loving ministry conducted thousands to the skies, think how immeasurably above you all he soared, and remember that with all his violations of your wretched regulations, he was one whom the Lord delighted to honor.

So, to avoid being “decorously dull”, I’m really looking forward to what Mr. Douglas has to share.  I even get the privilege of picking him up at the airport and taking him to dinner.  So maybe I can get a preview of the fun stuff we’ll get to enjoy as we address the serious business of ministering to those who might be considering the deadly serious decision of abortion.  We appreciate your prayers for this ministry.  Here’s a little sample of what we’re looking forward to.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

We Need a Strategy

The news these days has been about our government’s plan, or lack thereof, when it comes to dealing with the growing terrorist threat, particularly from the ISIS folks.   Our president has come under fire, I think rightfully so, for not having such a strategy. 

We need a strategy to address those who come against us.  Seems like common sense.  We can’t just sit around and wait for the attack and then try to react.  We need to have a plan in place, expecting the attack, and being ready for it.  Again, common sense.  But why, then, don’t we take the same approach when it comes to dealing with the oldest “terrorist” of them all: Satan?   

We know the enemy is out there.  We know that he’s actively looking for ways to attack and destroy.  Peter tells us to “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)  But most of us go through life day to day with our heads up in the air as if we don’t have a care in the world.

I’m not saying we should cower and live in fear.  In fact we’re told the exact opposite.  We are not to live in a spirit of fear, we are to take heart because our God has overcome the world, etc.   But we are still to be prepared.

I think of our Lord in the Garden.  He is praying fervently because of the test in front of Him, and He asks His disciples to join Him.  Sadly, they fall asleep.  And Jesus’, knowing the temptations that are coming on them as well, encourages them with these words:  “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41)

That is perhaps the most basic strategy of all.  Watch and pray.  Be alert, be on guard, be ready.  And be in prayer.  Sadly, as basic as this strategy is, too many of us ignore it.

Oh, we pray.  We pray for our own comfort.  We pray for our own blessings.  We may even pray with a more selfless mindset; we pray for those around us who are sick and hurting and so on.  And that’s fine and good.  But we often forget to pray as a strategy against temptation.

Odd, when you think of it.  The “Lord’s Prayer” includes the petition to “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”  God puts it front and center for us.  But still, so often we don’t think of it, don’t plan for temptation, don’t have a strategy for it.

Part of it is pride, probably.  We think we’re strong and immune from this or that temptation.  Which is no doubt why God tells us “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12)  When you think you’re strong, that’s when you need a strategy most of all.  Watch and pray.  Of course, that passage goes on to tell us that when the temptations do come, God will also provide a way out.  But even there, unless we have a plan in place, a strategy based on God’s Word, we may not recognize that provided way out.

God does provide a way out, and that’s through His promises.  So we might add to watch and pray: watch and pray and read.  Read and meditated on God’s Word, so that when the temptations come we are aware of the promises God has given us in order to stand up under them.

Isn’t this just how Jesus approached things during His temptation in the wilderness.  He had a strategy in place.  He was ready, was praying, was grounded in the promises of God’s Word, and He prevailed.

Don’t fool yourself.  The enemy is on the prowl.  Sneakier and more hate filled than any ISIS terrorist, our enemy is bent on the destruction of God’s people.  He’s looking to devour.  You need a strategy.  Don’t get caught unaware.  Watch and pray and read.  Even if you think you’re strong, especially if you think you’re strong, take heed; be prepared. 





Saturday, September 6, 2014

Homeschooler Moment #20

Been awhile.  I imagine these will get even fewer since three of the four have now graduated.  But anyway.  Our daughter posted this on facebook the other day, and it seemed like a perfect entry.  So I'll just post her post.  Enjoy your weekend. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Osteen's False Gospel is Nothing New

Mrs. Osteen’s now famous exhortation to do good for ourselves because God just wants us to be happy is old news.  You’ve no doubt heard the clip, and also no doubt read the dozens of responses.  Along with many, the clip showing Bill Cosby’s “response” is a favorite.

But here’s the thing.  This is nothing new.  This me-istic, prosperity gospel has been around for a long, long time.  Back in the 80’s I was working in Christian radio, both at our college station and some others.  I remember some of my favorite “alternative” bands (that’s what we called it back then) like Daniel Amos and Steve Taylor doing songs about this false gospel.  Those two in particular had a fun way of doing it.

I was thinking about that because I was feeling nostalgic and listening to an old DA record called Doppelganger.  One of the songs is New Car!  It’s set as a game show conversation with the hook line actually being a sample of Johnny Jacobs shouting “A New Car!”  Here’s a bit of it:

Contestant: Well, I know what I want, I know what I need
I want a miracle, I know what I need
I know what I want, I know what I need, give me a
Johnny Jacobs: (A new car!)
Contestant: I know what I need, give me a
Johnny Jacobs: (A new car!)
Contestant: I'm one of the kings kids
Kings kids: (He wants a blessing)
Contestant: I'm one of the kings kids
Kings kids: (He wants a blessing)
Contestant: I do deserve the best
Kings kids: (Keep on confessing)
Contestant: The very, very, very, very
Kings Kids: (na-na-na-na-na) 
Contestant: Very, very best, I'm one of the king's kids
I deserve the best, I want a
Johnny Jacobs: (A new car!)

You get the idea.  DA was making fun of this same prosperity gospel thing that tells us it’s all about us, all about our own happiness, all about our own worldly wants and needs.

Steve Taylor also had several songs taking swipes at the health/wealth heresy and the self centered nature of the church.  Songs like 1985’s This Disco (Used to be a CuteCathedral), which promises a place where they “only play the stuff you’re wanting to hear.”

Then there was the later ’93 epic called Cash Cow, which actually points out my point: this is nothing new.  In that song, Taylor likens this false gospel to the same motives behind the recently freed Hebrew slaves who turned their back on God in favor of a golden calf.  God wasn’t meeting their “felt needs” so they sought out another god, a god of gold, that would make them feel better about themselves. 

Taylor reminds us that this same sinful heart resides within us all: 
Perhaps you've already been licked
I, too, was hypnotized
By those big cow eyes
The last time I uttered those three little words
"I deserve better!"

And there it is, isn’t it?  Osteen’s “do good for yourself” is the same as DA’s “I do deserve the best” and Taylor’s “I deserve better!”  Which is all the same as the complaint we read about in Exodus 16: 16:2  “And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’" Exodus 16:2-3 

So then, what are we to make of this?  One, realize that while Mrs. Osteen may have stated the heresy more plainly than some others, it’s nothing new.  And two, we should see this as a cautionary tale, a reminder to search our own hearts and see whether or not we, too, have been hypnotized by those big cow eyes thinking “I deserve better” because I’m a “King’s kid.”  

And now, for those feeling either nostalgic or adventurous, feel free to enjoy either DA's New Car, or a recent live version of Taylor's Cash Cow, or both. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Give Me The Name Naphtali

Stroke.  MS.  Cancer.  Hospitals.  Storms. Death.  Funeral.  More cancer.  More storms.  Unplanned pregnancy.  Counseling the lost, hurting and searching. 

This is the week that was for our little church family and some of the other folks I’ve been hopefully ministering to.  I keep reminding myself that I’m not the one who got the diagnosis; I’m not the one lying in the hospital bed or the coffin.  But it all does still get to me.

I struggle with the brokenness all around me, and it forces me to see the brokenness in me as well.  My own fears and anxieties like to creep up in the midst of all these other things.

And so for myself, and for all those dealing with struggles of your own, brokenness and anxiety, I simply offer this prayer.  It’s from a familiar source to anyone who’s read here before.  I’m rather fond of The Valley of Vision collection of prayers.  And this one is quite helpful for a time like this.  It’s called “Peril”, but I’m moved by one of the final lines:  “Give me the name Naphtali – ‘satisfied with favour.”  That’s the heart of my prayer.  In spite of all, make me satisfied in the favour of God!

Sovereign Commander of the Universe,
I am sadly harassed by doubts, fears, unbelief,
    in a felt spiritual darkness.
My heart is full of evil surmisings and disquietude,
    and I cannot act faith at all.
My heavenly Pilot has disappeard,
    and I have lost my hold on the Rock of Ages;
I sink in deep mire beneath storms and waves,
    in horror and distress unutterable.

Help me, O Lord,
    to throw myself absolutely and wholly on thee,
    for better, for worse, without comfort,
    and all but hopeless.
Give me peace of soul, confidence, enlargement of mind,
    morning joy that comes after night heaviness;
Water my soul with divine blessings;
Grant that I may welcome that humbling in private
    so that I might enjoy thee in public;
Give me a mountain top as high as the valley is low.
Thy grace can melt the worst sinner, and I am as vile as he;
Yet thou hast made me a monument of mercy,
    a trophy of redeeming power;
In my distress let me not forget this.

All-wise God,
Thy never-failing providence orders every event,
    sweetens every fear,
    reveals evil’s presence lurking in seeming good,
    brings real good out of seeming evil,
    makes unsatisfactory what I set my heart upon,
    to show me what a short-sighted creature I am,
    and to teach me to live by faith upon
        thy blessed self.

Out of sorrow and night
    give me the name Naphtali -
    ‘satisfied with favour’ -
    help me to love thee as thy child,
    and to walk worthy of my heavenly pedigree.