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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Not of This World

I mentioned earlier the recent conference at Rockport Baptist Church, the theme of which focused on the reality that Christians are aliens and strangers in this alien and strange world.  As the U. S. Supreme Court hears arguments on same sex marriage, as ISIS continues its rampage against all things of Christ, as more and more people are finding it hard to stand for truth (emotionally, physically, and even now legally), I am reminded more and more of this truth.  This World Is Not Our Home. 

Ever since the conference, there is one song in particular that I just can't get out of my head.  An old song from the classic Christian rock band Petra (don't worry, it's a "slow" one!).  In 1983, the release an album titled "Not of This World."  A great record by the way, but I digress.  The title song reminds us of these truths:

We are pilgrims in a strange land
We are so far from our homeland
With each passing day it seems so clear
This world will never want us here
We're not welcome in this world of wrong
We are foreigners who don't belong

We are strangers, we are aliens
We are not of this world

We are envoys, we must tarry
With this message we must carry
There's so much to do before we leave
With so many more who may believe
Our mission here can never fail
And the gates of hell will not prevail

 We are strangers, we are aliens
We are not of this world  

Jesus told us men would hate us
But we must be of good cheer
He has overcome this world of darkness
And soon we will depart from here

We are strangers, we are aliens
We are not of this world

This world doesn't want us here.  We are not welcome.  Jesus told us men would hate us.  What great reminders.  For too long we've lived as if we belong here, and we're offended when folks don't like us, when our "rights" are violated, etc.  But this is not our home!  We don't belong.  We are not of this world.  

Don't get me wrong, as an American citizen I get as upset as anyone when our rights and freedoms, so hard fought for, are stripped away. I've ranted here many times about that.  But that's my American citizenship flaring up.  My Kingdom citizenship reminds me that the other is only temporary, and that regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, regardless of what ISIS does, regardless of what this ever increasing pagan world throws at us; we are not of this world. One day, our King is coming.  One day, the Supreme Court will answer to the Supreme Judge.  One day, ISIS will stand before a holy God and answer for their hatred of Him.  One day, the King will return and establish His Kingdom, and then, and only then, will all things be made right. 

Until then, we are envoys and we must tarry, with this message we must carry.  The message:  Christ is King.  Men are lost and dead in Sin.  Jesus died to pay for sin and rose to show us the way home.  Repent and believe.  Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him.  And He is coming!  Amen, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I'm A Lousy Redneck

(warning, semi-pointless rant to follow)

Please don't misunderstand this title.  I'm not using "redneck" as an insult, as in "you lousy redneck!"  I'm saying I'm lousy at being a redneck.  I know the definition of this term is subject to interpretation.  Some see it as a derogatory term for poor white southerners, especially the brutish kind.  For many, it's simply an identification of rural folk in general, and all the stuff that goes with it.  I'm thinking more along the lines of the latter.

Case in point.  My oldest son and I love hunting and fishing.  Love them.  But we stink at them both!  In the last several days, I've had a little time off and we've done both.  Traveled a ways to a "better" lake so we'd have better luck.  My son caught one large mouth bass.  That was our total haul.  For the last two days, we've been out turkey hunting.  Some of you may remember me lamenting this particular endeavor in years past. And again this year, so far, no luck. I mean none!  Barely heard anything, and only saw one hen both days.  I want to be a hunting and fishing kind of redneck.  But we really stink at this.  I'm a lousy redneck.

Rednecks, in the stereotype, have trucks, right?  Pickup trucks.  Well, I have one.  Kind of.  It's a little Chevy S-10.  Actually, it's a "super crew" which sounds really cool, but just means it has a back seat, which makes the bed of the truck really small, which means you can't use it for what pickups are supposed to be used for.  I'm a lousy redneck.

I do love NASCAR, as I've often discussed here as well.  But we did away with our satellite awhile back, so I haven't actually seen a race in quite awhile.  I must be a lousy redneck.

Even with the "negative" side of the stereotype, I fall short.  I mean, I actually use complete sentences and proper grammar and all. (It's a joke people!) I do have a "beer belly", but it comes from too much pizza, not too much drinking. Oh, and I really hate country music.  I'm a lousy redneck.

Actually, I did just recently finally get a John Deere tractor!  Well, it's a John Deere riding lawn mower, but hey.  On my budget, that's pretty good.  But still, I'm a lousy redneck.

So what's the point?  Well, for one thing, it's just a reminder that in life we often fall short of our goals (even if our goals are a little odd).  It's a reminder that we need to be thankful for who we are and what we are and what we have, not always wanting more, etc.  (I'll keep telling myself this on those failed hunting and fishing trips!)

When it comes to our life of faith, it reminds me that I will always fall short of who and what I want to be, but that's why grace is so important.  It's not about my efforts, but Christ's effort on my behalf.  It's not about my skills, or lack thereof, it's about His finished work on the cross.  Not that we don't strive for more, seek greater sanctification, etc.  But in the end, we rest in grace.  We trust God's plan, whether it always lines up with ours or not.  I may be lousy at a lot of things, but God's love and mercy and grace are never in question, never lacking, never less than exactly what God wants them to be in my life.  For that, I'm very grateful.

And as long as I'm just rambling anyway, here's a little interesting fact.  The term "redneck" actually has a theological significance.  One I would be proud to embrace.  During the 17th Century in Scotland, those who rebelled against the state church, those who stood for the Doctrines of Grace and the freedom to proclaim God's Word, were called The Covenanters.  Mostly Presbyterian, they were called that because they signed a Covenant stating that they rejected British rule in the Church, and the Church of England rule as well.  

Many of the Covenanters signed in blood, and proudly identified themselves with that Covenant by wearing a red scarf to show that blood oath.  "Red neck" came to be a Scottish term for "dissenter."  Later it came to refer to Presbyterians in general, especially among those who later settled in the southern part of America.  So the association of "redneck" with folks in the South isn't just about rural, huntin' and fishin', truck drivin', and so on.  It's a proud heritage of doctrinal commitment and a "free church".  On that note, I'd be proud to be a redneck, and actually, maybe wouldn't be so lousy at it.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Message on Racial Reconciliation...Through the Gospel

I was blessed to be able to attend the Grace Bible Conference at Rockport Baptist Church in Arnold, MO this past weekend.  The theme was on "Living as Christians and Proclaiming Christ in an Increasingly Alien World", based on 1 Peter 2:9-12.  If you're interested, you can find the messages here (I benefited greatly from the messages by Mike Morrow and Pastor Scott Lee).

While the whole weekend was great, the highlight for me was a message from Kenny Petty.  Kenny grew up in North St. Louis, lived the "thug life", was radically saved in jail, and is now the pastor of The Gate Church in University City (St. Louis).

Given his background and experience, Kenny is especially qualified to address the issue of racial reconciliation.  He made me stop and rethink some things about issues like the Ferguson situation.  While I'm not sure I would change anything I've posted here about that, his take on it has caused me to do some re-evaluating of my core motivations about it all.  And in the end, he gives the best answer for the whole thing that anyone can give: The Gospel.

This is an amazing message called Reconciling Racial Disharmony.  I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.  It is well worth your time to listen.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Joyful Heart

Apparently, today is International Moment of Laughter Day.  I know that folks have come up with a holiday for just about anything and everything.  But I have to say, I'm all in favor of this one.

I'm sure you've heard Proverbs 17:22 quoted often in this context: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (ESV)  Some have paraphrased it to mean say that “laughter is good medicine” or “the best medicine.”  I don't think that is necessarily a one to one correlation.  After all, some laughter comes from less than wholesome means, but over all, laughter is good medicine.

Speaking of that verse, John Gill wrote of the “merry heart”:  It “does the body good, makes it healthful and vigorous. Cheerfulness of spirit has a great influence upon the body, and much contributes to the health and welfare of it.”  I know that a good laugh can alter my mood; can literally make me feel physically better.  It's good stuff.

Again, I know that the world is full of unwholesome laughter.  People laugh at the most vulgar things sometimes.  Just look at what some of your friends post on facebook with a “lol.”  But that doesn't change the fact that good, wholesome joy and laughter is good for you.

So, in honor of the day, here are a few clips of some of my favorite Christian funny guys.  Everyone's sense of humor is a bit different, so these may not be as fun for you as they are for me.  But even they even provide one brief “moment of laughter”, well then the celebration of the day has been successful.  Laugh it up!  (for my fellow Star Wars geeks, it's hard to even type that last phrase without adding “...Fuzz ball!”  but oh, well.  That's an entirely different moment of laughter.)

One one more Tim Hawkins, just because...

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Just Because...

Helllloooooooo......     (echo......echo.......echo)
Anybody out there?   (crickets chirping)

I know I've been absent from this page for a week, or two, or something.  It's not that I have nothing to say.  My family will tell you I always have something to say.  It's more like, I have too much to say and not sure how to say it. 

ISIS brutality and persecuted Christians.  But our media instead likes to focus on idiotic protests over religious freedom laws, focusing on Christians who don't want to provide cakes for "gay" weddings. Meanwhile, Muslim bakeries deny gay wedding cakes all the protests. (see here) Ahhh!!

Here in our own area, the issue is over "special protection" for sodomites and perverts...oh, I'm sorry....LGBT folks.  Meanwhile, Christian rights to free speech and free exercise go out the window. 
And don't get me started on politics and politicians. 

So much serious stuff going on.  And as you can see, my "filter" isn't letting me deal with it in as kind and compassionate way as I probably should.  Hence my silence. 

So, instead, let's just have a little fun.  From the folks who brought you St. Patrick's Bad Analogies, comes a wonderful meeting of these two Celtic comedians, Donall and Conall, with famed atheist Richard Dawkins. Serious topics, fun approach.  That's what I need.  So enjoy this for now, and if anyone is still around in a week or so I'll try to get back to my world famous insights. (well, of course, I never had those, so it wouldn't really be getting back to them, but....anyway)