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

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Happy National Coffee Day!

(Another lazy repost from last year, but hey, it's still Coffee Day, so celebrate)

Such a spree of holidays in September.  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 23, 2015

Why the Pope is Dangerous

That headline ought to get me on some watch list somewhere! But all I'm trying to point out is the danger of a “popular” pope to an American church that is already so wishy washy that it doesn't know what it stands for, if anything.

Obviously, I'm writing this because Pope Francis is visiting these United States.  It's a big deal for a lot of folks.  It has huge political ramifications.  But I'm not smart enough to address all that.  So I'll simply stick with the theological ramifications.

Folks, the pope is not a biblically orthodox Christian.  He denies salvation by grace, opting for the centuries old works salvation the Roman Catholic Church teaches.  He's an idolater:  While he hasn't been as brazen about Mary worship as his predecessor, he still holds to the same doctrines which elevate a godly servant, Mary, to the level of deity/co-redeemer with Christ.  He doesn't believe in the sufficiency of God's Holy Word, resting instead on centuries of tradition, and so on. 

You know the arguments.  They are the same ones Protestants and Catholics have divided over for a hundreds of years.  And that's the very reason why all this hoopla over the pope and his visit to the US is so dangerous.

By all accounts, Francis is a genuinely nice guy.  He helps the poor.  He seems concerned with injustice.  All admirable things.  Things that tempt some tepid Christians to forget all those theologically significant differences I just mentioned, along with a host of others.  And that's dangerous.

Dangerous, because when we stop relying on salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, then we have just left the realm of biblical truth and started following the whims of men once again.  And when we do that, we are on dangerous ground indeed. Eternally dangerous. 

But, alas, this is the same American church that follows after false teachers like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer.  This is the same American church where survey after survey shows a serious lack of biblical knowledge.  So why shouldn't they flock to listen to one more false teacher?  Because, truth is still truth.  Scripture is still Scripture.  And God is the One who sets the standard, not men.

Of course, we're not the first to let down our guard and accept watered down papal teachings.  Charles Spurgeon cried out in his day:  "I am astonished, and yet more astonished when I come to turn it over, at the want of earnestness that there is in the Protestantism of the present age... The Protestants; and the Protestantism of England is the pay-master of the Pope. I am ashamed that sons of the Reformers...should bow themselves before the beast, and give so much as a single farthing to the shrine of the devil’s firstborn son. Take heed to yourselves, ye Protestants, lest ye be partakers of her plagues; touch her not, lest ye be defiled. Give a drachm to her, or a grain of incense to her censors, ye shall be partakers of her adulteries and partakers of her plagues."

And you thought I was being a little rough!  Take heed indeed, brothers.  Please, appreciate a guy who helps the poor and cries against injustice.  But, also, please don't be taken in by the false gospel he proclaims.  Remember the blood of martyrs shed to stand against that false gospel. The pope's Christ is not the Christ of Scripture.  And there is “no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved,” but the true Christ. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Happy Constitution Day!

(This has become an annual repost, but why reinvent the wheel, right?)

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 228th 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 this 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 14, 2015

Homeschooler Moment: Graduate Edition

So, for those who don't know, years ago I started posting fun little things that happened in our little homeschool family, and called them Homeschooler Moments.  (you can search in the "bar" to the right if you'd like to find some of them).  I numbered these for awhile, then fell away, then forgot the numbering, etc.  

Now, the oldest three have all graduated and we only have the 11-year-old left.  Not that he isn't the inspiration for many, many fun little moments.  Case in point.  This weekend we took a little family getaway, and the youngest was a bit cranky on Saturday morning.  His sister asked if he slept well. He said, "I slept well. I just didn't wake up good." And then when I said I would post this on facebook, he says, "please refer to me with cryptic initials." Ahh, what a kid.  But I digress.  

With the others having graduated, I thought my chance for these posts would be over.  But I had a conversation with my eldest that made me consider creating a "Graduate Edition."  So here it is. 

I was discussing with my daughter some of the struggles I have in dealing with benevolent requests at church.  I want to help those in need.  I just get frustrated with those who act like we "owe" them help. 

Like the lady who called in wanting me to pay her electric bill right away because they shut it off and she needed electric for her kids.  I shared with her our benevolent ministry process and told her it would be a day or two before we could arrange everything.  And she wasn't very happy, and acted like coming down to the church and filling out our application was such an inconvenience. I wanted to remind her that with our electric company policies, she had to have known at least two weeks ago, minimum, that this would happen.  Why didn't she call me then?  Anyway...

I was venting frustration to my daughter, ranting about how people have no time for God or the church, but when they need a bill paid, they come running and demanding we pay it for them.  And I said that I think folks really misunderstand this whole "cup of water" thing that Jesus called us to.

To which she said:  "You know, Jesus never said it had to be in the cup when you gave it to them.  You could just throw it in their face."  This is why my daughter should be president of this group. 

(She also went into a little schtick making fun of some of the extreme charismatic wackos saying something about "spraying them with a Holy Ghost water gun" or something)
Well, I guess you have to blame the girl's parents, don't you?  But I have to admit, I did laugh rather robustly when she said it, so....

Friday, September 4, 2015

I Woke Up In Bizarro World Today

As I've watched the news over the last few weeks and months, I've become more and more confused.  Things seem so out of whack. 

White cops kill black criminals, and the cops are the bad guys.  But black criminals kill white cops, and...the cops are still the bad guys. 

We make nuclear deals with terrorist nations that gain us...absolutely nothing.  We don't even recover hostages from said nation.  And the government calls it a good deal.

A report shows that over a quarter million US veterans have died while waiting for our government to sort out their health care...while that same government readily gives health care to people who are in the country illegal. 

Athletes who are gay and trans gendered are applauded for being “brave”....while athletes who claim to be Christian are told to keep their “private lives” to themselves. 

And then this little bomb from right near where I grew up.  In Hillsboro, MO, the school board has allowed a young man who “identifies” as female to use the girls locker room, where teen girls are showering, because they don't want to offend him or violate his rights....while offending and violating the rights of hundreds of other students and even putting them in a potentially dangerous situation. 

I started thinking of an old Steve Taylor/Chagall Guevera song called Escher's World, based on the ideas of that offbeat artist.  The lyrics say things like: 

I woke up in Escher's World today
My mother said it was okay

Up's down, down is out, out is in
Stairways circle back to where you've been
Time falls, water crawls, are you listening?
We're walking in Escher's World again
Rise up you nimble-minded men

Birds roar, lions soar, sheep are cruel
Snails pace, papers chase, midgets rule
Stuffed shirts, status hurts, we ain't fooling

We're living in Escher's world it seems
We're wide awake within our dreams

Ah, living in Escher's world

Yep, up is down, in is out.  That about explains it.  But I think the song has more to do with the  “chasing your own tail” kind of thing, so I don't think we're actually in Escher's World.  And then it hit me.  I woke up in Bizarro World today!

For those who don't know about it, Bizarro World is the creation of DC Comics, a Superman associated reality which is the opposite of Earth. In fact, it's a cube shaped world which is actually called "htraE" (that's "Earth" spelled backwards in case you couldn't figure it out.).  In this world, everyone operates by the Bizarro Code which says "Us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness! Is big crime to make anything perfect on Bizarro World!"
That's it!  That's what's happened. Some universal shift has happened and we've all been transported to Bizarro World.  Now I understand why a land which used to be based on “majority rules,” now operates by “minority rules.”  Why we've gone from freedom “of” religion, to freedom “from” religion.  Why we are ruled by laws made by men who don't have to live under those laws.  Why a land founded on “of the people, by the people and for the people” has now become “ignore the people, unless you happen to be part of the liberal cause d'jour.”  Why a government runs itself trillions of dollars in debt, but wants to give out freebies to those who refuse to work and support said government's financial base.

It all makes sense now.  Escher's World, Bizarro World.  Up is down; in is out; smart is stupid and stupid is smart; evil is good and good is evil; “War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery, Ignorance Is Strength.”  Oh wait, that last bit is from something else, isn't it?  Hmmm, maybe Mr. Orwell foresaw this cosmic displacement coming. 

Well, I guess there's nothing to do but try to fit in here in Bizarro World, so... “Hello, time for me to leave work.”

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Strange Life of a Pastor

I recently saw a couple fun things about pastors that are both based on old jokes, but both were pretty good.  One was passed along by my wife's cousin, a cartoon from Family Circus:

The other was a meme about how ministry can "age" you:

I love these.  I love laughing at myself, and it's a good thing, since there is so much to laugh about.  But seriously, folks... Pastoral ministry is a unique calling in many ways. Lots of positives and negatives together.  But as an old college professor used to say: "If God has called you into ministry, don't lower yourself to be president of the United States."

I wish I could summarize all the ups and downs, the ins and outs of this calling.  But someone else already has, and much better than I ever could.  This is a post from a pastor named Julian Freeman from several years back. I've had it in my files for a long time now, and seeing those funnies, and thinking about the whole thing, made me think of this. 

I hope he doesn't mind me reposting it here.  If you'd like, you can read his original post here.  This is a wonderful summary of this strange thing called Pastoral Ministry:

Being a pastor is a strange thing.

We proclaim a message with the power of God to change people, but we can’t even change ourselves. We call others to perfection, as Jesus did, but our lives are full of imperfection. We must shepherd like the Shepherd though we’re just one of the sheep.

We seek to make Christ increase (though he’s invisible to human eyes) as we seek to decrease (though we stand in plain view week-by-week). We say numbers don’t matter, but long for many to be saved. We labour to grow the church, even though we realize each soul increases our accountability before God.

We try to express the Infinite and Eternal in 45 minutes or less; obviously we fail, so we try again next week.

We spend our lives studying a book that we’ll never fully grasp and we labour to explain it to a people who can’t understand apart from the work of a third party. The more we study, the more certain we become of the wisdom of God and our own foolishness; and yet we must preach on.

We are told that not many should be teachers and that there will be stricter judgement for those who are, and yet, we cannot fight off the compulsion to preach. We call people to something they can’t do, with an authority that is not our own, and then at the end of our lives we give an account to God for the souls we pastored.

We are called to toil in the word of God and in prayer; yet there is nothing our enemy opposes more actively. We work to build a community where people are connected, while occupying an office filled with temptations to isolation.

We preach a gospel of joy, but preachers are hard pressed with temptations to depression.

We must preach with passion but pastor with patience. We must be gentle with the sheep and fierce with the wolves. And we must somehow discern the difference.

We must plead with people to repent and believe all the while knowing that it is God who must save. We plead with God in prayer until our wills align with his. We must earnestly seek the presence of the Spirit, knowing full well that he moves where he pleases.

We must labour with all of our strength but never, ever trust it. We are paid to satisfactorily do a job that never ends: When have I studied enough? When have I prayed enough? When have I mentored enough? When have I counselled enough? We who are never finished are called to lead others to rest in the finished work of Jesus.

Ultimately we labour and long for results that we can never achieve. Being a pastor is a lifelong journey to a place of utter dependence.

This is strange work, being a pastor. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.