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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

On Giving to Disaster-Relief Victims of Katrina

As in the situation of the tsunami, there are a number of organizations that would gladly accept financial donations to assist in human suffering. However, it is important that the money you give goes directly to the disaster relief areas and not overhead costs. Here are some guidelines for giving to charities according to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). And here are, in my opinion, the best three organizations to give to (because they already have resources, personnel, and the organizational infrastructure to best handle your money). 1. North American Mission Board (NAMB): to donate, click here. 2. American Red Cross: to donate, click here. 3. Salvation Army: to donate, click here. Money is the least we can give to those who have virtually lost everything save their lives.

When I Think About Myself

One of my favorite worship songs is "When I Think About the Lord". For a number of reasons I love singing this song, not the least of which is that it begins with God and not me, and what part I sing is merely a response to who God is and what God has done in my life. However, there are times when I think about myself. This is not a megalomaniac, self-adulating process for me. Quite the contrary. As is necessary for sanctification and growth, there needs to be a true and sober examination of who I am and where I stand with Christ. A real probing and introspective look reveals a lot, and it is easy to gloss over the little things that are really not that little. The other day I began writing down the things I do not like about myself. The list kept going, and going, and going - soon to realize that "there is nothing good that dwells in me, that is in my flesh". Even in very process of writing these things down, I felt sinful, for I either was hiding in shame or too prideful to admit it, even knowing that it was just me and the Lord. Left here to dwell on my failures, weaknesses, and shortcomings inevitably lead me to a unavoidable sense of despair. Sometimes I forget or don't think about how prone I am to sin, how frail I really am, how wickedly sinful my "idol machine" (heart) can be, and how easy to be deceived be falsehood and lies in the place of truth. Not just from my interaction from within, but from without as well does me injury as well. To think of how many people I try to please, of how many prayers are prayed in public to sound spiritual and appeal to the ear of my peer than the heart of my Father, to think of how many outward acts of righteousness that in all actuality are filthy rags, to reflect on how many times I have tried to promote myself and my performance, featuring my strengths and advertising my "fruit" - all is vain! Vain! Vain! Needless to say, it is a very difficult thing to handle, and fortunately, it is nothing some I was made to handle. Another handled this for me, so I will come and lay this heavy burden down and take his yoke upon me. It is his righteousness I plead, his life I live, and his glory my aim. In the day where spiritual advisors are appealing to masses with terms like "seize your potential" or "actualize your inner self" and stuff like that, I don't want to, lest I become a Worm. The fact is that I am worm and a wretch, and though saved by grace, I daily wrestle with sin and the fight for holiness always calls for a sober mind, surrendered will, and a renewed spirit. My hopes are set outside of me on him who went outside the camp. I am thankful that I am not left at the end of the day to think about myself. Yea, I think about the Lord. I think about how he has changed my life and continues to for eternity. It is good to think about myself if but it leads me to think about the rescuing work of Christ and His beauty that he allows me to glory in. The love of such a Savior to unconditionally dispose his favor upon me is baffling and humbling - yet in this I rejoice. Amazing love, how can it be? That You my God should die for me? Therefore, let this be a cause to think about the Lord, and in doing so, worship Him for who He is and what He has done for me.

Light and Heat!

Desiring God has provided an amazing gift for an incredible price. If you have not been acquainted with John Piper or Desiring God, let me strongly encourage you to get this CD. It is only $5, and you can buy these in bulk and give them away as gifts or evangelistic tools as well. On the CD is 7 sermons in MP3 form, sermons which I can say have profoundly influenced my life and theology. Here are the titles:

  1. Quest: Joy! Found: Christ!
  2. Undoing the Destruction of Pleasure
  3. Let Your Passion Be Single
  4. Don’t Waste Your Life
  5. Boasting Only in the Cross
  6. Holy! Holy! Holy! Is the Lord of Hosts
  7. Doing Missions When Dying Is Gain
Enlighten your mind. Fuel a burning passion in your heart. Send your life on a heavenly trajectory that will land you in the pleasures of God!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Catastrophe Indeed

It is simply staggering. From just a few moments researching, my mind is blown and away and my heart is heavy. * Currently 80% of New Orleans is underwater with considerable portions in under 20 feet of water. * 2.7 million people are without power in the Gulf Coast. * It is estimated that the damage will cost up to or over $26 billion. * Looting is alreading taking place in businesses and homes * What appears to be suicide of individuals from the Superdome of people jumping to their death. * Victims are continously being plucked off their rooftops by helicopters, themselves being the only remnant of what was once theirs. Just last night, over 300 were rescued in Mississippi alone. * Both airports are closed with over six feet of standing water in each. * Total infrastructure loss in transportation, sewage, and communication, including the breakage of pumps, canals, and levees used to handle water pressure and flooding. * Growing fears about pollution, disease, snakebites, allegator attacks loom over the already exhuasted and distraught people. * Death toll expected to be in the hundreds. * Dead bodies have been seen floating down the streets which once were an avenue for parades, now a conveyor belt of corpses. * The renowned French Quarter is now called "The War Zone". * Marshall Law has been enacted. * On top of the disaster there is the elderly, the medically and terminally ill people, those who have to rely on electricity to survive, and dysfunctional hosptials . . . You keep hearing the words . . . Overwhelming. Devastating. Worst Case Scenario. Catastrophic. This is our tsunami. As we pray, may God reveal himself in the acts of his people to show mercy, kindness and display his love to these poor, wrectched people. There is hope. And we must give it to them. For all of the Gulf Coast, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida - may God be abundantly gracious to you and be a refuge and a shelter in times of storm.

This Is Alabama Football!

Elephant, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

Can you feel the elephant stomp? It's college football time again. Are you ready???


Here's the schedule as it stands: 2005 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE 9-3-05 MIDDLE TENNESSEE 9-10-05 SOUTHERN MISS 9-17-05 at South Carolina 9-24-05 ARKANSAS 10-1-05 FLORIDA 10-15-05 at Mississippi 10-22-05 TENNESSEE 10-29-05 UTAH STATE 11-5-05 at Mississippi State 11-12-05 LOUISIANA STATE 11-19-05 at Auburn

News: Air Force Academy Rules on Public Prayer

AP reported yesterday (August 29) about the new guidelines for "religious tolerance" with the Air Force. The cause for this ruling was due to "evangelical Christians having too much influence" on the Air Force Academy. Here's the gist of their ruling. #1 Chaplains are to respect the religions of all others, including those who hold no beliefs. (A Christian chaplain is "respect" the religions of others, I suppose, by praying to Allah or Buddha, and to not pray or teach around atheists. What exactly does "respect" mean? #2 Prayers are to be "nonsectarian" and short and only to promote "a sense of solemnity" but cannot promote specific beliefs (a la praying in Jesus' name). These "prayers" are to be allowed only in "extraordinary circumstances" such as "mass casualties, preparation for imminent combat, and natural disasters." Prayer to promote solemnity? Is this what prayer is for? Prayer, I guess is psycho-theraputic, and not conversation and supplication with God through Jesus Christ. #3 The draft also says that the Air Force "will not officially endorse or establish religion, either one specific religion, or the idea of religion over non-religion." I am quite sure that no Christian is not asking the Air Force to put a cross on their emblem or ask them to wear WWJD? bracelets or listen to Jesus Freak or frequently visit Focus on the Family located nearby. One thing to consider, however, is how an officer or commander is to separate his beliefs/convictions from everyday life. When he prays, discusses Jesus, or reads his Bible, is he not an official officer of Air Force and thereby advocating that faith? It is my speculation that the overwhelming majority of religious folk are Christian, and this is not acceptable; thefore, the one or two aggregators must pipe up and complain about it. Clearly, this is the reason why, according to the article, this draft and ruling has taken place. #4 Public prayer is strongly discouraged at events or meetings. The internalization and privacy of religion is emphasized, and what they are discouraging is the public witness of Jesus Christ and the power of praying in His name has on people. Fortunately, God does not have his hands tied because of such rulings, and God's people, who are called by His name, shall pray - and in Jesus' name. This provokes two immediates thoughts in me: the continual rise of reliigous pluralism and the continual cultural war against Christianity. Speak of that cultural war, David Limbaugh has written a well-documented book called Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity which is on sale for only $4.99 on BAMM. It is a solid resource for discussing the antagonistic bias our media coupled with the ACLU have influenced our culture against Christianity. For the AP report by Robert Weller, click here. For the New York Times article by Laurie Goodstein, click here. For the Rocky Mountain News article by Dick Foster, click here.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Awaken: Hope That They Would Hear

This is the third of a series of a post called Awaken: Thoughts on Regeneration and Salvation. As I have written earlier, the Bible presses on us the weight of hearing the voice of the Lord. In the gospels and in the book of Revelation, there is this continual admonition, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Sadly enough, Scripture and history shows us that there have been many who have not heard the voice of the Lord, namely because they are not his sheep. However, the hope that there would be some who would hear is grounded in God's Word, and we should take to heart the certainty and assurance provided for us who preach Christ and him crucified. There will be ears who hear, and there will be hearts to understand and believe, and this is possible not because of spiritual ear-wax cleaners, but by the miracle-working Savior named Jesus. Now let's look at a few verses describing this hope. "Behold, a King will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice. Each will be a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land. Then the eyes of those who see will not be closed, and the ears of those who hear will give attention. The heart of the hasty will understand and know, and the tongue of the stammerers will hasten to speak distinctively." Isaiah 32:1-4 This is a beautiful promise of the coming kingdom of Christ which was consummated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And it bears mentioning that Jesus is not a beggar pleading that there would be but a one to listen to him. No, he is King! And those whose hearts understand, whose ears hear, whose eyes see, whose tongue speak are those who the King has brought into his kingdom. As Thomas said, "My Lord and my God", we respond to Jesus with an awakened reality to who he is beginning with his kingship. The kingdom of God is not advanced by easy-believism and evangelistic techniques of watering down and replacing the gospel, but by the divine favor freely disposed by the King to whom he will. And he will draw many to himself, and many will hear and obey and follow and worship. To this we pray and hope, that the grip of this world will be loosed, that the glimmer and pleasures of this world will fade, that the words of Christ will be heard, and that the sinner will turn in repentance and radically say YES to all that Christ is to Him - Savior, Redeemer, Treasure, and King. "Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life." John 5:24 The promise of eternal life is present tense. Those who hear and believe have eternal life now! Judgment has been laid upon Another, and because of his stead, we have the favor and grace of the Father bestowed upon those whom he has placed his affection. Notice also it is "my word", the Word of God that they hear. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). It is not our words which awakens sinners but the Word of God which is quick and active. Again, Scripture says, "Of his own will be brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (James 1:18). And further on it says, " . . . receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21b). Peter picks up on this as well. " . . . since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God . . . and this word is the good news that was preached to you" (1 Peter 1:23,25b). Over and over, regeneration, the new birth, saving faith, the quickening of the Holy Spirit all come from a direct relationship to the shared/preached word of God. There is no getting around this. And what concerns me today is that evangelists and preachers today are bypassing the word for funny jokes and psycho-analyzing folks to convince them that they are lost rather than preaching the word of God!!! And then these people are led into a false sense of security praying the prayer and chalking up the statistics to validate a good service, effective preaching, or reputation of the evangelist. No, I am sorry. They are still asleep. They don't need to rededicate or get wet again. They need to be raised from the dead and awakened to new life in Christ. "It is written in the Prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me." John 6:45 The text referenced here is from Isaiah 54:13 where Isaiah writes about the eternal covenant of peace, that is, the new covenant brought upon by the death of Jesus Christ, whose blood (Ephesians 2:13-16). The certainty and guarantee that everyone who has heard and learned from the Father is because of the efficacy of the cross and the sovereignty of the Spirit. It is not that you might come or could come. No, you come period. That willingness is not engineered by us by infused by the life-giving work of God in regeneration. No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We cannot learn from the Father unless it has been granted to us by the Holy Spirit. Yet, all those who have been given ears to hear will learn from the Father and come to the Son. The Trinity is wrapped up in the salvation of sinners. Isn't that a glorious thought?! "The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." John 10:3-5 It is very clear in this passage that there are certain voices which belong to certain shepherds, and certain sheep do not respond to other shepherds who are strangers. Yet when their shepherd calls, they follow, for they know his voice. But how does a sheep know the voice of their shepherd? Because the shepherd has made himself known to them. Unless God makes himself known to us by special revelation, by effectual calling, by monergistically drawing us to himself and calling us by name, would but be strangers to him. Paul reminds us that we were once "separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in this world" (Ephesians 2:12). Yet we have hope, a certain hope in that God calls his own to himself, and they will follow because they recognize his voice. When you preach Jesus in this land and foreign lands, know that there are "other sheep that are not of this fold" that Jesus will bring also, and "they will listen to my voice", says the Shepherd. What an encouragement for an awakening from sleeping sinners! The burning question then remains, "How will they hear?" That question is being asked to all of us, and Paul presses it down this way: "But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news.'" Romans 10:14-15 Therefore, those who have understood the importance of hearing the message are most responsible of carrying it to everyone in the world. And carrying this imperishable seed, there is certain hope that they would hear and believe and be awakened to the glorious life in Christ Jesus. He is calling, and we should be going as those who are sent. O that there be many who hear this good news and believe!!! May the King advance his kingdom through his servants and ambassadors of this word!!!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

News: Stomping On America's Best

You may have already heard about this, but I think it is worth repeating/re-sharing. Two American troops, having just returned from serving in Iraq, were beaten to unconsciousness last week in Seattle. They were with two women who were groped by the same suspects that beat the two guys, stomping on their heads - which was captured on video. I can't help but think about what the rhetoric of anti-war politicians and pundits may have contributed to such heinous acts. Protest is protected by our constitution, but never in our country's history has a president been so undermined. Liberal pawns like Cindy Sheehan, propagandists like George Soros and Michael Moore, and politicians like Ted Kennedy and Howard Dean cannot think that they are doing our country a service. Our troops deserve better. They deserve our prayers and our support. In a day where troops are beaten by our own in our homeland, we need to be a people to "do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God" (Micah 6:8). To watch the video recording, click here.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Full Moon Over Ohio River

Shall I Set?, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

I know that I just posted my flickr announcement earler, but this one seems to be vibing with some flickrites, and I thought I would post it on P&P. Latitude requested . . .

Flickr: Louisville Lunarscapes

Through These Eyes, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

A week ago today we enjoyed a beautiful full moon, which means lunarscape time!!! Dan and I went out to take a few pictures, and here are a few of mine. Although I am not completely pleased with the shots (some are not in focus), I thought you might want to see the Louisville cityscape on a full moon night. I have about 5-10 more to post before I am through. Needless to say, working 3rd shift allows you to shoot many night shots, of which I am attempting to learn. Simply click on the picture to go to my photostream. To view more pictures of Louisville, click on the "Life in Louisville set".

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Franchising Church: The Latest Greatest Trend of the Megachurch Movement

In Christianity Today's recent magazine (September 2005), there is an interesting article called "High-Tech Circuit Riders" by Bob Smietana which reveals what could become the mother of all inventions of modern-day pragmatism of the megachurch movement. It is called the "franchise church" or satellite church. Whereas some megachurches are buying superdomes and civic centers (such as Lakewood Church's 95 million dollar project in Houston), others are developing mini-versions of the megachurch in strategic areas across the megatropolis. Some specific examples were given in the article, and I would like to share some observations I have concerning this euphoric attitude and unholy alliance of American consumerism and church growth. Observation 1: The multisite approach (franchising), according to the Leadership Network, is already being embraced by over 1,000 churches. According to one advocate, this approach is "one of the leading innovations of the 21st century." At least he had the honesty to call it an innovation. Now that the church has officially become a project or science experiment, we can better understand the presuppositions of their approach. Observation 2: Here's the basic idea according to Smietana. "The idea behind multisite or franchise churches is the same one that's made chain stores successful - take a system that works, and duplicate it over and over." Here we see two things: the manual for this approach being the utilitarian model of the franchised America (the system), and the dominating ideology of pragmatism (a system that works). Now I am not advocating doing something that doesn't work, but I am advocating doing something that actually finds its basis and support in the Bible, not in our culture and supported by worldly schemes. Observation 3: When interviewing the pastor of Life Church, a model church for the franchising approach which as over 14,000 members, five campuses, and 23 "experiences" on a given weekend, I am intrigued by the "theological correctness" (spiritualized political correctness) employed in their lingo. For instance, worship services are now called "experiences" (hello mr. existentialism) and the sanctuary is now called "the worship space". The pastor of each site is known as "the face with the place" and has a job description defined as "to build a social network needed to bind the church together". Hmmm, can anyone find in the Bible the job description for a pastor/elder being to "build a social network"? And don't get me started on the "experience" jargon. Yes, this is the land of post-modernismNew Age/Subjectivism/Sensationalism ad nauseum. Hold on, I need to gag . . . o.k. I am back. Observation 4: While "seeker-sensitive" is not mentioned here, it is implicitly. For instance, when interviewing the "director of operations" for Life Church who was correcting the doormat which was backwards, he said, "You've got to look at these things from the point of an outsider". Outsider is synonymous with seeker. How about looking at things from an insider? How about looking at things from an "upsider"? I'm sure God's looking down with a smile, thinking, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have faithfully straightened the doormat and thereby welcomed me into your 'worship space'. Now we are ready to have our 'experience.'" Observation 5: The promotion of the franchised church utilizes the same terminology as a salesman or businessman with his portfolio or business plan. When advertising their approach, they speak of options that they offer to many potential buyers. If you buy in to the church, there are many benefits and features that you will find appealing and aide in your comfort in your experience. For example, Craig Groeschel, pastor of Life Church, said, "People like the options and quality of megachurches, yet crave the intimacy of smaller churches . . . You get the benefits of a smaller community with the benefits of a megachurch." By the way, the assumption here is that churches which do not qualify for megachurch status does not provide the quality they do. Another insight into their idea of superior performance in getting goods and services to their customers who obviously are buying into their church business plan. RESUMING . . . Observation 6: Again, looking at their model church, Life Church, it is clear that the multisite approach demands synchronization. To accomplish this, each satellite church has a synchronized clock that counts down ten minutes before the "experience" starts. Five minutes before the service starts, you will be entertained by a popular secular song or a hip pop-Christian favorite like "Jesus Freak". The worship lasts exactly 18 minutes long, and the "face for the place" welcomes everyone for exactly one minute and thirty seconds. Then, at 19 minutes and 30 seconds, the virtual preacher/celebrity comes on the big screen t.v.'s at the movie theatre, I mean "worship space". At the end of the sermon, the "face with the place" gets up and leads the entire congregation in saying the "salvation prayer". This is followed up by a snazzy video trailer about next weeks sermon. This, to me, is some serious prepackaging of the worship of God. The Holy Spirit is programmed and limited to the strains of synchronization and modern-day efficiency. Since when has the Holy Spirit been subjected to human devices? Ironically, it was the contemporary church style that criticized the liturgical church of being too rigid, formal, and constrained by time. Now, it appears that they are the subjects of their own criticism. (For a good read on the matter of time and culture, I urge you to read Prophetic Untimeliness by Os Guiness.) Also, praying "the salvation prayer" is bad enough, but having the entire congregation doing it - are you kidding me? So this is what God's salvation has been reduced to. Methinks this results in mega-tares in the megachurch. Observation 7: One of the supposed justifications of the multisite approach is its similarity to the movie theaters. As one pastor comments on the interactiveness of "virtual preachers" with their congregation, "It is the same thing as going to a movie theater. You go to a movie theater and everyone laughs at the jokes and people cry at the right time." At least they are not being prompted to do it at the right time. Is this how people coming to church is to prepare themselves? Going to a movie theater is the same thing as entering the presence of the Most High God? "Umm, after we sing this song, can I have some popcorn with that? I don't want to miss the video trailer, so I better go now." Is this what our approach to the King of the Ages should be? If we think church is just like the movie theater, then people will come for the sole purpose of being entertained, taking the back seat to the sermon and act as a passive spectator, only to judge the performance of the presentation. I don't know about you, but I don't think that this is going to produce doers of the Word, much less Christ-like saints. And I don't think that it is an "experience" that surfaces on the significance of eternity as much as the modification of our behavior. Observation 8: As Eddie Gibbs, professor of church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary points out, the virtual preachers in these megachurches "run the risk of turning their teaching pastor into a celebrity. And that can be form of idolatry." I totally agree with his conclusion. But there are other problems with the virtual preacher. How many of sheep does he know? How many know him? When they see him on the big screen, do they perceive him as a movie star celebrity or a foot-washing servant who is well-acquainted with their feet? Maybe they are like some Christians I know, doing the strange phenomena of asking preachers to sign their Bible. Maybe, they think their pastor wrote it. But the point is simply that these preachers are often distant, plastic, unapproachable because of their entourage, and intimidating. I would presume to say that he would be a pastor many of them would never get to know. Observation 9: At the heart of this article, you will find the confession of the heart of this approach. Jim Tomberlin, who overseas Willow Creek's franchises, says, "We do the same things [the] same way you would do at Starbucks or a McDonald's or a brand name that works." I guess, when all else fails, let's do what the world does. Sola cultura - right? Now, I am not against churches growing and planting other churches like them in their area, but contrary to what some said, methodology does matter. Just because we worship Yahweh does not mean that we can adopt Canaanite practices towards Yahweh. When the church's cultural captivity becomes too pervasive and irreversible, we will look back and think, "Maybe doing it McDonald's way was not the way God intended." Hopefully, that realization will come before it's too late. Observation 10: The underlying, subtly hidden agenda of the Canaanization of the Church is propped up by the idea of "modern-day, high-tech circuit preachers", pulling from the historical analogy to the Methodist preachers in late 18th century. This attempt to employ history as mere justification simply does not measure up. While the Methodist circuit-riders may have been successful, that success appears to have been short-lived. Could it have been that it was the latest greatest trend of the 18th century? Where are the Methodists today? Just in the last two decades, the UMC has lost over 2.2 million members, a decline averaging around 8% in a population that has grown by over 60 million in that time. As one writer states about the decline of Methodists, "Methodists may not have controlled the nation's elite discourse but they could be found at the heart of the nation's evangelical popular culture. Yet in their success could be found seeds of their pending destruction." I don't know if Methodists were the best example to use here, or is it? Is the franchising of the church and its success planting seeds of their pending destruction? I am not that doom-and-gloom prophet, but history does speak on behalf of itself, and the reality of today is settling in. I have attempted to share my interaction with this article with my ten observations. Unfortunately, the article is not online to link to, so if you want to read it, you will just have to buy the issue. I would love to hear what you think. I know many churches, even good churches establishing satellite churches, and I do think that there is a right way to do it. Unfortunately, that way could not be found in the CT article. Oh, and if you are wondering if I am interesting in franchising - I am. That is, I am interested in franchising Chick-fil-a . . . at least they are a business that is closed on Sunday's.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Awaken: John Piper on Romans 13:11-14

Piper's recent sermon "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ" deals with an important verse in which Paul talks about not being asleep. Though it does not specifically address regeneration and salvation, the text does speak of how someone who is awakened is to act. Could it be that many people in our church are "sleepwalking"? Could it be that this is the time for a "wake-up" call? I believe part two of this text is coming this week. I am looking forward to hearing more exposition on this incredible text. By the way, did you know that this passage is the very verses that "awakened" Augustine of Hippo to new life in Christ? Talk about an awakening!!!

Event: Derek Webb in Louisville

Derek Webb in concert in Louisville! Here's the info: Saturday, September 10, 2005 The Fellowship/Christ Church UMC For more information, click here. FREE Concert Church Info: 502.893.2201 Derek Webb is slated to come out with a new album this fall. His most recent album is called I See Things Upside Down. Methinks I shall be going. If you are planning on going, let me know - maybe we can meet up. Quality musicianship. Quality friends - and it is all free! What more can one ask???

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

News: Robertson Calls for Assassination of Venezuelan President! - Updated

Plastered on the front of the Drudge Report today is the details over the comments Pat Robertson said concerning his idea that the President of Venezuela , Hugo Chavez, should be assassinated. The title of the Reuter's article is called "U.S. evangelist calls for assassination of Chavez." Doesn't that add to the hatred the world has for American Christians? Thanks Pat Robertson for the death of more Christian missionaries in the world outside your 700 Club. It's about time we found some new faces on television to represent us. The world laughs at us, and I mourn. Between Robertson and Benny Hinn and other television stars of American Christianity, one wonders about the public relations crisis we are in. Should we care? Should we call on Robertson to publicly denounce his comments? What do you think? For Venezuelan's response, click here. Another AP article here. For White House response, click here. For a Google listing of news articles relating to this, click here. Updated: NY Times article here. Recent AP article here. AFP article here. LA Times article here. BBC article here. To see orignial comments and video clip, click here. Blogs: Dr. Al Mohler's response here. World Mag Blog post here. Scrappleface Blog post here. James Spurgeon's Blog post here. James Thompson's Blog post here. Alex Forrest's Blog post here. Theopraxis Blog post here. Robertson's Clarification: Reuter's Report on Robertson's Clarification

Moon-lit Gazing Into Louisville

un-dividual, originally uploaded by snowedinsojourner.

Last Friday night, Dan and I went after work (which actually is Saturday morning) to take advantage of the full moon. Our pics are actually on the shores of Indiana looking into Louisville and the Ohio River. I have only posted one, but Dan has some great ones to check out.
Simply click on the picture to go to his photostream.

In case you didn't know, that's me on the dock, not taking the picture.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Random Stuff for the Week of 8/22-8/30

* As you may have already noticed, I have been updating/adding to the sidebar of P&P. I know that you can peruse the archives and find anything you wish, but I thought it might be easier (at least for me) to categorize the posts so that they are more "user-friendly" (call me Mr. Pragmatist - sike). Forgive me, I just wanted to use the word "sike". * Many of you are C.S. Lewis fans and know of the movie (The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe) coming out this Winter by Disney (wwhhheeewww, I am glad the SBC did away with the boycott!). There is a cool trailer that has some neat things worth checking out. You might need flash to view it though. * Tom Ascol, director of Founder's Ministries, has written a rough draft for a resolution for the next Southern Baptist Convention (2006) concerning Integrity in Reporting. I think that it is a great idea, on which would revive some credibility to the SBC denomination. While you are there, you might want to check out his justification of this resolution in the articles on Annual Church Profiles Part I and II. * Dr. William Dembski, prominent leader of the Intelligent Design Movement, has a blog concerning ID and the recent developments. ID has been receiving considerable press coverage, and it might serve you well to be informed on what the recent developments are (especially if you are in school or dealing with evolution or the issue of human origin). * Finally, I hopefully in the next week or two, will post a concise bibliography for anyone wanting to study the matter of decisional regeneration, commonly known as "altar calls." Many Christians think that this technique is etched in the Bible and has been practiced throughout church history. You might be surprised in what you find out . . . Until then, have a stupendous week! - t.n.b.

It's Pinktastic!

I have posted eight pictures of a pink flower on my Flickr page. I have also added a new set called "Flora" on the left side of the page (scroll down). To go to my PhotoStream, simply click on the picture. To go to the Flora set, click here. Who said I didn't like pink?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Fellowshipping with Five-Year-Olds

If you have been familiar with this blog, my Flickr page, or my life in general, you know that my five-year-old niece Delaney is one of my "best friends". We don't get a chance to talk a lot these days, but we usually catch up on the weekend. As usual, I asked Delaney what she was learning at school (she started kindergarten this week), and she told me about Apple Annie. Later today, after church, I asked her what she had learned in Sunday School and Children's Church. She told me about the story or Ruth and Naomi. She also has a verse she memorizes every other week, and she usually shares with me the verse she had memorized. After we got off the phone, I began thinking about the average conversation I have with fellow Christians. "How was your day?" I would ask. "Fine." "How was church this past Sunday?" "Good." And the conversation usually went along those lines. Suddenly, I realized that I held a greater degree of accountability to a five-year-old than I did with most Christians. With Delaney, we would talk about the truths of the Bible, verses memorized, and lessons learned as we grew together, while with adult Christians, it was the weather, the temperature in the church, the number of people attending, the quality of the sermon, etc. In our short conversations, Delaney and I would share profound truths about God, despite that she has the mind of a five-year-old, and I am 20 years older than she. Our fellowship, the sharing of our lives, seem more sincere and real than most superficial and non-transparent routines of conversation. Rarely is there conversation with adults over the matter of meditation, Scripture memory, lessons learned, or areas of your life where you are growing in. I am sure the fault is mostly with me, but can we all say that there is a simplicity and soundness of fellowship we can all learn here? How much of your conversation and time with other Christians goes deeper than the pre-programmed talk of daily routines and Christian lingo? For Delaney, she hasn't developed that, and I hope she doesn't. For there to be true community and authentic fellowship, we need to get past our spiritual fronts and performances and dig deep into one another's lives, to matters transcending triviality and transience to the eternal weighty matters of God, His Word, and the change he is bringing in all of us. Now, more than ever, I am sensitive to this reality, and ironically, it took the conversation with a five-year-old for me to appreciate it.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Happy Birthday Brian!!!

My brother turns 28 today! I must say, I owe a lot to my brother. He was the first to teach me that Ray Ban's were cool, that Drakkar was the cologne the ladies liked in the 6th grade, that playing the drums was an instant qualifier to being debonair, and that losing in a game of ping-pong doesn't mean the end of the world. No really, my brother has throughout these year before me as a constant companion and friend. Often I can be found eclipsed in his shade. Figuring that he was my only brother, I thought I'd wear him out with rides to and from school, sports, and friend's houses, and bugging him with help on homework or advice. What I have come to find is that he has way more to give than I have to ask! In this, he has shown me the heart our Father. In this day, there is a lot of strife in families and siblings, and I am humbled to know and consider my brother (and my father) as my best friends. Together we have been through many seasons in life, but the unchanging reality for me is my brother's love, friendship, and yes, goofiness. Thank you Brian for modeling for me what a brother is to be like, that in reciprocating that example, I may have greater love for the brethren! Happy Birthday!

Quality Grade A In Louisville

Beth McNeal (a.k.a. "rev", "beef", "grade a") visited us this past weekend (a week ago). It was sheer joy to be able to spend a weekend with Beth, whom the Lord has allowed Dusti and I (and Hershey) to invest our lives in throughout the years. As we talked and shared lives, it is clear that the Lord has shown himself glorious in and through Beth, and my heart has been refreshed by her visit. As Paul has stated to Timothy, I know that laboring in love is not in vain because of people like Beth. Thank you, Beth, for being an encouragement to me in your words, your kind courtesy laughs, listening ear, and Christ-like love. May the Lord continue to reveal himself to you as you behold him as the treasure of your life.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Awaken: "Why Do You Not Understand What I Say?"

"Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God." John 8:43,47 As a follow up to Awaken: You Have Given Me An Open Ear, I am going to address the flip side of the issue - why there are those who have ears but do not hear. I believe that this is an important issue - one of which is either ignored or intentionally suppressed because of the weight of the reality it carries. I would like to simply supply some verses, highlighting some key words and giving a brief commentary. Maybe you will see a connection as Scripture interprets Scripture: "This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: 'You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.' But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear." Matthew 13:13-16 Here Jesus explains to his disciples why he is speaking in parables. Notice the reference repetitively to eyes, ears, and hearts. An awaken sinner to new life in Christ by means of regeneration is truly a new creation in Christ, and by that having eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart to understand. But in that time (and still true today), there were many in whose case this was not so, and their eyes were blind, their ears were deaf, and their heart was hardened. A person who does not yield any fruit is simply the one whom the Spirit of God has not made alive. They cannot hear and do not want to hear. Instead, like the Pharisees after Stephen's sermon, they stop their ears with their hands in open defiance of the truth. In Stephen’s words, they were "uncircumcised in heart and ears" (Acts 7:51). "The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." 1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural man here is the unregenerate man who not only does not accept the things of God but cannot accept them. Why can't he? He is unable because he has not the Spirit of God dwelling in him. Salvation cannot be desired and Jesus cannot be treasured apart from the divine drawing and conviction brought upon by the Holy Spirit to transform a natural man to a spiritual man. " . . . but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." John 10:26-27 Probably no other verse makes it so clear. Why do people not hear, respond, and believe in Jesus as their Savior? Jesus' answer: "You are not my sheep." In other words, "you don't belong to me." Notice he did not say, "You are not my sheep because you do not believe in me." This is what free-will theists would have us believe. They would say that a person is not damned until he has had a chance to exercise his free will to choose Christ or not. Yet this does not correlate with Scripture. Rather, Jesus says you are not my sheep first, and that is the reason why you do not believe. That is the reason why you do not hear. Those who are his sheep will hear his voice and they will follow him. Why? Because God has made them willing by the regenerating work of His Holy Spirit and effectual calling. Yes, Jesus knows his sheep. When you might ask? Before the foundation of the world. The ability to hear, to believe, to follow, is all a gracious work of God in which he enables and inclines a sinner to want Jesus as their Savior, Treasure, and King. "They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error." 1 John4: 5-6 In this passage, John shows two complete opposites: those of the world and those of God, those who have the Spirit of truth and those who have the spirit of error, those who listen to the world and those who listen to God. If you are from/of God, you have a listening ear because he has pierced it with his voice. Dear ears cannot hear the voice of truth because they have not been tuned into the frequency of God by the Holy Spirit. (I have a list of other texts that would be beneficial to look at, but for space and time, I think these would suffice to explain my point.) It is obvious that there are those who do not listen and cannot listen to the voice of God and respond to the message and truth about Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, the Israelites refused to listen to the Lord our Father; in the New Testament, the world refused to listen to the Lord Jesus Christ; and in the church today, still there are those who refuse to listen to the Spirit of the Living God. So why is it that there are people who reject Christ and do not understand what He says? The answer according to Jesus is because they do not belong to him. They are not sheep. They are not "of God". And yet we must pray that God would make them willing, that he would perform the miracle of making a listening ear to hear the words written in Scripture and proclaimed by his people. We should be broken-hearted over the callousness and deafness of the world around us, even the church within us, to the precious truths of Christ, yea Christ himself. Truly, the admonition still resonates, "He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches."

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Why I Am Not Surprised

A couple of days ago I received an email from Jimmy Sizemore about an article from the Alabama Baptist. I am pasting it here for convenience sake with comments following. Madison Association church, pastor part ways By Sarah E. Pavlik May 29, 2003 On May 18 Pastor Jess Smith preached his last sermon at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Monrovia, near Huntsville in Madison Association. On May 25 Smith preached his first sermon a few miles away at what will become Providence Baptist Church. The core of his new congregation comes from Mount Zion. While several issues contributed to Smith's departure from Mount Zion, George Faust, chairman of the deacons at Mount Zion, noted Smith's stance on predestination was an important factor. Dale Huff, director of the office of LeaderCare and church administration at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, says that when predestination is taught from the perspective of a "pure Calvinist," it causes problems, because it is contrary to what most Southern Baptists have always believed. "Pure Calvinism says that God has chosen some for salvation and some for damnation (the tenet of election) and that Jesus died only for the elect (the tenet of limited atonement)," explained Huff. "Southern Baptists believe in God's sovereignty, but they also believe that man is given the free will to choose salvation or resist it, and that Jesus died for everyone." As a result of Smith's leaving Mount Zion, the church adopted a resolution calling for spiritual healing and emotional reconciliation within the church. Faust also noted that plans to form a search committee were currently delayed until he knows how many of the 1,236 members plan to remain at Mount Zion. Smith, who could not be reached for comment after numerous attempts, was pastor of Mount Zion for 39 months. Let me comment on some of the highlighted (red) parts of this article: First, it is clear that the Alabama Baptist have an agenda here - one which is embedded in the fundamentalist playbook to demonize anyone who is Calvinist. In this brief article, it is not addressed that predestination has substantial biblical support, and the preacher is supposed to preach "the whole counsel of the Word of God." Rather, it is not defined nor are the charges supported with anything other than hearsay. Is this news or the gossip column? Second, it is clear that there is an inadequate understanding of predestination with the description/definition given by Dale Huff. By the way, what is this "pure Calvinist" stuff? Ah, another example of empty rhetoric meant to inflame the situation. Was the issue over predestination really? Infralapsarianism or supralapsarianism? Double predestination? Symmetrical or assymetrical predestination? Third, free-will theism, as opposed to the doctrines of grace, is not what most Southern Baptists believe and is not what Southern Baptists have believed in generations past. Let me refer you to Dr. Tom Nettles' book By His Grace and For His Glory: A Historical, Theological, and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life. Furthermore, you can find the great theologians of the baptist tradition such as John Gill, Andrew Fuller, John L. Dagg, James Pedigru Boyce, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Carl F. H. Henry, and others who clearly show the antithesis to what Mr. Huff is attempting to gloss over. Fourth, let's look at the bias and tinting of the article by the reporter with reference to some of the comments. Exhibit (a) The core of his new congregation comes from Mount Zion. Clearly, this is to emphasize the fact that the Calvinist preacher is stealing the congregation away to another church, leaving the previous church to suffer and reminding the community that the only reason why the church is the size it is, is because he "caused" the division to take place. Exhibit (b) the church adopted a resolution calling for spiritual healing and emotional reconciliation within the church. While it is totally disheartening that a church is divided and split, this little line attempts to show the Mount Zion as the victims and casualties and the minister as the evil culprit causing all the hurt. Once again, it is the evil Calvinist that is totally at fault for being the bad guy here. Demons, I mean deacons and other leaders of church are righteous and pure in all of their ways. Exhibit (c) Smith, who could not be reached for comment after numerous attempts, was pastor of Mount Zion for 39 months. Could not be reached for comment? Everyone knows that there are two sides to every story, except for the case of Calvinist preachers, because they don't have the right to be heard. 39 months? Let's see how incrementally small we can make it to highlight the length of his tenure. Wait a minute. I just did the math. Maybe they should have stated that he was there for 1,576,800 minutes. Does that make him look bad enough? Is that all the minutes he gave? Bad pastor he must have been. Fifth, it doesn't surprise me to find this bias reporting of religious news to be found on the Baptist Fire web-site. These guys really crack me up. First, they refuse to identify who they are and choose to remain nameless and faceless, thereby forfeiting any credibility in anything they say. Who wants to read something the writer is embarrassed to sign his name to? From the sound of it, it is easier to uncover the secret identity of a CIA operative than to reveal the identity of those flickering out over there at Baptist Fire. At least the writer of this previous article had the authenticity to put their name to it. Nonetheless, this is a unsubstantial article pasted on an illegitimate source (Baptist Fire). Second, there is no way of actually corresponding with these guys as to what they are putting out on their web-site. Doctrinal accountability doesn't seem to be very high on their list of virtues. Finally, I don't know Jess Smith, Dale Huff, or anyone else in this matter, but what I do know is that there is a systematic assault in the Southern Baptist Convention to demonize anyone who believes in the doctrines of grace. Their comments go unchecked both by Scripture and history and deemed valid simply because of sentimentality or sincereness. I find this very disgraceful. You would think that you would only find such bias reporting only in the New York Times; unfortunately, it is here in our own Baptist papers. So they go on crucifying those who hold to the doctrines of grace while sticking their tongue out in immaturity to history and blind eye of ignorance to the truth explicitly found in Scripture. I think the common folk are waking up to this agenda. It only takes an objective, honest examination of the issues to see the unfair and unbalanced assault that this SBC system is perpetrating from the pulpit to the press machines. So I am not surprised. Those who have believed in the Scriptures and the doctrines it teaches haven't "accumulated for themselves teachers to suit their own passions" (2 Timothy 2:3) in order to pacify itching ears which have turned aside to myths like free-will theism. And there will be those who listen to the truth, and that truth will set them free.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Can You Read Me Now?

In recent days, I have been using other computers and checking out P&P with other screen resolutions and web browsers. Is my font size too small? On my computer it looks quite readable, but from looking at other computers, I am wondering if I need to make it larger. Different screens have various resolutions, pixels, display capabilities, etc., and I have not taken that into consideration until now. Please let me know what you think. Doesn't Paul conclude one of his letters, "I Paul write this with my own hand. This is a sign of genuineness in every letter of mine." And then doesn't he somewhere talk about the largeness of his letters? Some think he had a sight problem. Anyway. Larger font means more scrolling. Evaluation needed.

Awaken: You Have Given Me An Open Ear

"Sacrifice and burnt offerings you have not required, but you have given me an open ear."
Psalm 40:6
Have you ever wondered why certain people respond to the Gospel at times and others don't? In a pew one can be moved and stirred to repentance because of the message and the person right beside them could be snoozing away. Why is that?
In that text above, some translations put it "but my ears you have pierced." In the Hebrew, the idiom is "ears you have dug for me", symbolizing the hole produced through the piercing of a slave by their master. There is something about hearing that is a gift from God. And I submit to you that the reason why some are awakened to salvation and new life in Christ is because they have had their ears open (pierced) by their Lord (master) when he purchased them on the cross.
Proverbs 20:12 says, "The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both." It is not just the ear or the eye, but the hearing ear and the seeing eye the Lord has made. There are many ears that are deaf and many eyes that are blind, but the gracious gift of God is that, in his sovereignty, he opens ears and eyes to behold him, to hear him, to obey him.
In Old Testament times, there was no such thing as silent reading of Scripture. To them that was ludicrous. Therefore, that is why you read the commands repeated, "Hear the word of the Lord", and the negative version, "they did not respond to My voice" and other various phrases. There is a direct line between hearing and obeying and worshipping the Lord. Samuel spoke plainly to Saul, saying, "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams" (1 Samuel 15:22). Clearly, the LORD puts a premium on listening and obeying, to the point that Scripture shows us his delight in this far exceeds any sacrifice or religious duty Saul could have done.
Jesus refers to the opening of the ears of many in his illustration as a shepherd. Hear him saying, "I am the good shepherd. I known my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice" (John 10:14-16). Did you catch that last phrase? They will listen to my voice. How do we know that? Because God makes them willing and opens their ears to hear. There is great comfort and assurance (because of election) in evangelism that wherever you preach/share the gospel, you will always have a listening ear, not because of the dynamics of your preaching, but because of the divine piercing of human ears.
It is a prayer of mine that I will hear, truly hear with a listening ear, what the Lord is saying to me. Often times, I am tuned into the wrong frequency and all I get is that scratchy noise, and through repentance and brokenness, I find myself coming back to hear the Lord in the "gentle whisper" rather than the fire and earthquakes.
Finally, the great parable of the soils speaks to this listening as well. Hear the commentary of the good soil. "As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty" (Matthew 13:23). All four soils represent people who "heard" the word, but only one understood it. Where do you think this understanding comes from? Is there some secret knowledge they have (Gnosticism) that others don't? Nope. That understanding comes from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit to allow them to appreciate and value what otherwise beforehand was rubbish. The understanding comes from a clear understanding of the gospel which partly is due to the adequate presentation of the message, and the application thereof by the Holy Spirit to a sinner's heart such that they embrace it.
So when you preach or teach or find yourself in a pew whether others seem unresponsive and "asleep", pray that the Lord would "awaken" them to new life. Pray that the Lord would give them a listening ear and a receptivity birthed from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. And as we live our lives, may what Isaiah said of himself be true of us:
"Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.
The Lord has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward."
Isaiah 50:4-5

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

First Day of School

Remember when you had your He-man lunch box, striped sox, JAM's shorts, duck-head t-shirts, and Reebok velco shoes with pockets on the side to hold your change for the school store? And those back-to-school haircuts - you know, if you are a guy, either you were spike or bladed (three stripes over the ear). Yeah, I miss those days. School is back again. Much fun! I have several ideas running through my head to write about. Maybe they will manifest themselves on P&P. Oh, and don't forget to eat your apple a day . . .

Monday, August 15, 2005

Valuing History: When Doing and Making History Converges

This is a great quote from Justo Gonzalez in his introduction to The Story of Christianity: From the Early Church to the Present Day (Prince Press 1999): . . . The notion that we read the New Testament exactly as the early Christians did, without any weight of tradition coloring our interpretation, is an illusion. It is also a dangerous illusion, for it tends to absolutize our interpretation, confusing it with the Word of God. One way in which we can avoid this danger is to know the past that colors our vision. A person wearing tinted glasses can avoid the conclusion that the entire world is tinted only by being conscious of the the glasses themselves. Likewise, if we are to break free from an undue weight of tradition, we must begin by understanding what that tradition is, how we came to be where we are, and how particular elements in our past color our view of the present. It is then that we are free to choose which elements in the past--and in the present--we wish to reject, and which we will affirm. It is at this point that the doing of history converges with the making of it. When we study the life and work of past generations, and when we interpret it, we are doing history. But we must remember that future generations will read about our times as past history. In that sense, like it or not, both by our action and by our inaction, we are making history. This is both an exhilarating opportunity and an awesome responsibility, and it demands that we do history in order to be able to make it more faithfully. Every renewal of the church, every great age in its history, has been grounded on a renewed reading of history. Great thoughts as our generation passes into the 21st century.

A Better Glimpse of Heaven

Saturday morning I woke up with this Scripture on my mind:

"Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?"
James 2:5
I have been thinking quite a bit about the type of people in my life and about how many people are like me. Our race is usually the same; our socio-economic status is the same; our apparel looks the same; our talk is the same. I seem to surround myself with people who are just like me. Could we not also say this about the Church? Churches I have been a part of have typically been white, middle-class Americans, family of four with a three bedroom, two bath, two car garage with an alarm system and picket fence (a broad generalization but gets the point across). I have realized that many churches are poor pictures of what heaven is going to be like. In heaven, the majority won't be white, won't speak English, and won't be rich in this world. This past weekend, I got a better glimpse of heaven at the Wayside Downtown Rescue Mission in Louisville. They had a praise fest put on by the church I am a member of (Ninth and O), and there people of all races, all soci0-economic classes, from all walks of life - all praising God. It was sweltering hot that afternoon, but my soul was so refreshed. We sang, danced, and ate some tasty hot-dogs together as a community of believers, not all fixed-up and pretending, but as pilgrims who are on our way home. A way which at times seems hard and lonely, a way which for many has left them homeless and destitute, a way which has been neglected by so many. Yet the way has brought us here, and He has given me a better glimpse of what home is going to be like. Whether the Church chooses to embrace the poor in this world is a question that is before each and every one of us, but God has answered it on his behalf. In his sovereign choice, God made them "rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom". It is my prayer that churches reflect more of the heart of God in embracing the poor and homeless - and let me add that it first must begin with me. I don't want to reach people that are just like me or surround myself with those who have something to offer. I don't want to be the Christian or minister whose buddies are the wealthy, the influential, or the powerful. This is morally repugnant to me. Where are the ministers who spends their time with the poor, the homeless, the lame, the blind, etc.? Where are the churches that can find these people in their pews? I know they're out there. I guess where I find the smile of Jesus, I will find a picture of our heavenly home - and people not all like me.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Random Stuff for the Week of 8/13-8/21

* There is a great flash movie about the church growth movement from the guys at Christian Unplugged. It is a short 3-4 minute movie showing up our culture has influenced the church. You ought to check it out. * Some blogs that I am reading that are worth checking out: Tim Challies - great stuff (especially book reviews and culture) Locusts and Wild Honey (Don Elbourne) - check out Piper's prayer and historical baptist leaders Steve McCoy (Reformissionary) Joe Thorn (Words of Grace) - Must read on Reforming Evangelism! Alex Forrest * As school starts back up this week, I am looking to bring some organization to my posts. I have some categories that will posting under - similar posts under the same thought/idea. I will still post random stuff as they arise in the future, but for now, here is a list of some categories that I will attempt to write under: GMOOT: Getting the Most Out of Tentmaking (see previous post) AWAKEN: Matters of Salvation and Regeneration RDSA: Reader Discretion Strongly Advised RANDOM STUFF: Weekly Updates NARRATIVES: Interplay with events in Jesus' Life EVENTS: Happenings worth checking out H4H: Hunger for Holiness OT: Old Testament posts PUNKING 101: Concerning cultural captivity FLICKR: Picture updates on photography work NEWS: I am a news-junkie o.k.? As I look to write posts, I will most likely title it something like "AWAKEN: _________" and so on. On the toolbar on the side (where RDSA and H4H already are, I will put the categories there with the posts if you happen to miss any). If I post something, and it is not in any category, then it is just something random I felt worth writing about. I will attempt to post at least 3-4 times a week throughout the semester. Because of the increase in demand for my time, I write less but hope to provide some readworthy nonetheless. Off to a new chapter in my life: Year 2 in Seminary. May God find pleasure as I pursue excellence in my studies. - t.n.b.

Friday, August 12, 2005

T.G.I.F. - No, Really

At this moment I have many things I would like to write about, sitting on the docket; however, I am going to take this moment to share my morning with you. Lately, my wife Dusti hasn't been feeling well, and after work last night she went to the local clinic to get a check-up. We were supposed to go to the grocery store together after that, but it turned out that she didn't get back to much later and was not up to going. Feeling that I should be the good husband and step up to the plate, I volunteered myself to do the grocery shopping after work this morning. So she gave me her shopping list . . . Question: Have you ever been grocery shopping in Super Wal-Mart at 4:30 in the morning? I tell you, there are some characters roaming those aisles, myself probably the chief among them. A little disheveled, quite stinky and sweaty from 4 hours of loading boxes in + 80 degree heat, and sleep on my mind, I embarked upon my little grocery shopping experience. First, I did not realize that at 4:30, Wal-Mart employees have this game where they see how many aisles they can block. It's like a maze where you have to trace a path to get around palates, stacked boxes, lifting machines, etc. And then I began to study the list, of which I failed to go over with my wife (husbands, this is a definite sign of a bad grocery shopping experience). I was thinking of stuff like bread, doughnuts, toilet paper, fruit loops, capri sun, etc. Unfortunately most of that wasn't on there. Instead my list had stuff like "cream of celery". What?! Cream of celery? Are you kidding me? Realizing that this would take longer than I had planned, I decided to not move in accordance to the elevator music softly playing in the background and speed up the pace a bit. An hour later, I was half way through the list. Exasperated and driven to despair, I began drive my buggy like a bulldozer in search of some Wal-Mart employees to find my goods and get out of there. Giving up on the hard stuff to find on the list, I figured at least I could find "lemon juice." I was thinking, "O.K. I know of apple juice, grape juice, orange juice, grapefruit juice . . . but lemon juice? Who drinks lemon juice?" Anyway, I managed to find a sweet lady stocking jello to assist me in that final item. Coming back to the apartment, I was greeted by the sprinkling system as I traversed through the walkway and up the three flights of stairs again, and again, and again. Yes, I had quite the morning. I am here on the computer and it is 7:50 a.m. - a day is just beginning for most of you. Hopefully I got everything we needed (and some snacks on the side). And next time (I am sure not too far off), I will at least know where to find cream of celery. My life is now complete. Have a great Friday, because I am going to bed now. T.G.I.F. - no really.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

From Braggish to Brackish*

Braggish: "brashly self-confident"; cockiness; POMPOUS. Brackish: "not appealing to the taste"; arousing disgust; REPULSIVE. I felt like it would be profitable for me to first put a simply definition of the two terms I am referring to in this post. Yes, this is an R.D.S.A. post, and therefore read provocation-ready please (the bathroom is right down the hall if you need to upchuck). I like high quality H20. There is something truly refreshing to a thirsty body to gulp down some of that fresh-tasting spring water on a hot summer day. On the other hand, I have tasted some water that is not that great. For instance, in other foreign countries I have tasted water that has made me sick for 2-3 weeks (intestinally) because of just a few sips. Why? I speculate that the water I drank might have come from the same source of sewer water. I was disgusted to drink it, and my body repulsed as a response to it. This was classic brackish water. That same repulsion I am feeling more and more today as I listen, read, and drive by churches today. I see billboards that say, "The way church ought to be" with a plug for their church; I read marquees that say cheesy statements like "Somebody call 911- this church is one fire!". Again, there is the classic, "The church that is alive is worth the drive." Now, these may be sounding a little harmless and maybe we should not take them seriously, but I believe that there is an underlying disposition of churches today that is pushing this mentality. We seem to think that the church that is producing more numbers is having better success, that the church that can generate a bigger crowd is the way it ought to be, and the church which records an increase in baptisms is "on fire". And all this puts together a self-promotional hoopla for the church to brag on itself. Spare me a moment to share my response to this: 1. Does the Scripture not say, "God is opposed to the proud and gives grace to the humble?" Since when does churches have the right to be so braggish and think that God is being honored? If the true grace of a Christian is humility, then should it not also be the mark of a true church be humility as well? No church has bragging rights. It is Christ who adds to HIS church daily, and He will build his church. This is not about PR, church competition, marketing, or so on. We are about the building up of the Body of Christ, not our own enterprises. 2. As far as baptisms go, there is much that is not being addressed today, so much so that I baptisms have proven to be an illegitimate gage for real growth. By that, I mean that infants are being baptized without discretion, discernment, or evidence of conversion. Even worse, churches are baptizing repeats who are coming for their 3rd or 4th time simply for a "spiritual makeover". I venture to say that many baptisms today are detached from the testimony of heaven. 3. As far as growth goes, the overwhelming percentage of growth today is not really growth at all, but rather sheep-swapping, otherwise known as transfer growth. For whatever reason (be it church splitting, greater "attractions", or more legitimate reasons such as biblical teaching and preaching), churches are "growing" as a result of a fellow church dying. It is a lateral movement, not a touchdown. Tom Ascol on the Founders Blog, has written a two-part series addressing the who numbers issue in the SBC. It is a read well worth your time. In addition, there are several books which address this problem plaguing our churches today. Can it be justified as growth when you as a church are benefiting from another church's defeat? 4. Along the church growth mentality, churches are operating on this capitalistic mentality, that if we offer enough goods and services in the right market, then we will reach more consumers. So what the churches that are "growing" do is simply program more, do more, and facilitate more stuff to appeal to the widest amount of people as possible. I call this the Rev. Sam strategy, taken from Wal-Mart Community Church. Our churches are the one-stop shop for consumer-driven Christians, and they come where they can get what they want in the most convenient way they can get it. There is better entertainment and more attractions to appeal to the checklist. All this to say that we can engineer churches to be nothing more than spiritual malls. Is this how we are to advance God's kingdom? 5. Lastly, let me say that even if there was a reason to brag, boast, or promote your church in an arrogant way as mentioned in the previous quotes, then none of these would suffice, for they are not a product of real church growth but human ingenuity, performance, and profitability from other "competitors". There will come a time (I think soon) where people will want some good fresh water. All this boasting and braggish natures of churches today will be nothing but backwater that arouses disgust in people who are not "seekers" but genuinely a part of the family of God. It's time that the churches possess the same mind/attitude that is in Jesus Christ and not look higher of themselves than they ought, to look more on the interests of their fellow churches than themselves, to approach the world from the towel and basin rather than the billboard and marquee. This is what I am hoping for. There is a thirsty world out there, and I believe there is a thirsty people within the church. I only pray that they will find freshwater in that basin rather than sewer water. For the sake of God's Kingdom, let's not be a part of a church that is braggish, for it will be brackish to Him - and when He spits us out of his mouth, we will wonder why we weren't humbly serving Him for glory of His name rather than the further of our fame. For Tom Ascol's two part series: Honest Statistics: A Large Convention of Small Churches - Part 1 Honest Statistics: A Large Convention of Small Churches - Part 2

Dick Durbin To Investigate The Flushing of Harry Potter

I thought I'd might catch you by the title :). No, I do not throw out a whole lot of politics on this blog (because that is not what it is for), but I do try to stay abreast on the issues (via talk radio, cable news, the internet - especially Drudge). I couldn't resist this one because of the humor it brought to myself as I thought about it. There was an article that was written August 8, 2005 stating that the most popular book in Quantanamo (a.k.a. Gitmo) was Harry Potter, followed by novels by Agatha Christie. In case you did not know, the investigation on the Koran flushing is in, and there have been NO reports or findings that any of the events ever occurred. Of course, Dick Durbin would not know because he was not a part of the Senate delegation to go down and inspect Gitmo. Instead, he simply rants like he has ants in his pants - saying nothing other than what we already know - he knows nothing. Gulag? Hmmm . . . Well, there you have it. A political post on P&P. I know there my be some Dick Durbin fans out there, maybe even some of his cohorts. If that be the case, could you send me a press release when he plans to make his PR and photo-op in Gitmo as he investigates the flushing of Harry Potter down the toilet? I am sure this scandal is too great to ignore with the mistreatment going on down there . . . Much love. Oh, and by the way, here's the article. And here's the Washington Post version.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Delaney Takes On Kindergarden

Too Cool!, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

Today is a big day in the life of the Wales family. My little niece, Delaney, starts kindergarden - a big step into the big world of education, friends, and tater tots in the lunch room.
Having been impressed with my niece's intellect and attitude, I am sure she will do fine, but I wanted to give her a shout out (since she is my best friend and all) and let her know that her uncle is proud of her! Who knows, she may graduate from school before I do! At this rate, it is anyone's guess . . .
Much love Delaney from your silly Uncle.
Oh, and don't foget that I have Greek and Hebrew awaiting (that is, after you graduate from kindergarden)!

Quiz question for all of you -

Why is kindergarden called kindergarden?
I am buzzled by this. Maybe I will get Delaney to ask her teacher so that I can know this.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

God Is the Gospel!

I just so happend to be browsing around, doing some research, and found out that the book Piper had been writing earlier this spring is coming out. I love to read Piper's works, but this one I am especially excited about. I have learned a great deal from this man (who I consider one of my greatest living mentors), but none probably as precious as the central truth that God is the gospel. He is not simply a means to something better. He is the means and the end! The goal in all of life is to have Him, to cherish Him, to treasure Him, to be ravished by Him, to be one with Him. This is good news. This is the gospel! Bibliographical Info: Piper, John. God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself. Crossway Books. Retail Price: $17.99 (Will be Available in September 2005)

The Disappointed Reader

A little over a year ago, a good friend of mine recommended to me The Discerning Reader website and store for some good books at a great price. When I check it out, I was pleased to see that he was right! Not only that, but I found some great articles and the site called Antithesis which had some great Reformed stuff there. That was then. I am a little late on this train, but I feel that I should share my thoughts as a "disappointed reader". What happened to these guys? Do they not realize what a shabby job they have done with their business, and worse what has come of their inclinations and ideologies? As far as the business goes, there have been a number of complaints filed online as far as their business ethic and customer service/relations. For example, here is a complaint I found dated November 14, 2004, and another dated June 25, 2004. Tim Challies has also written about his encounter with the guys at The Discerning Reader in detail (dated December 2, 2004). Finally, Phil Johnson, in his great list of recommended and not-so recommended links has commented on the change-of-heart at the Discerning Reader. He says in his annotation: The story of this company's sudden meltdown is one of the saddest and most bizarre sagas of the Christian Web. The Discerning Reader is a Medford, OR-based bookselling business that over the years sponsored several excellent and well-designed Web sites—including Antithesis, Christian counterculture, and a colorful critique of postmodernism. At least ninety percent of their book recommendations were excellent and insightful. We highly recommended them for more than two years.Then complaints began to multiply about customer service problems at The Discerning Reader. Customer-service difficulties per se are inevitable and an understandable part of doing business by mail. What was disturbing here was the coarse and pugnacious way owner Rob Schläpfer lashed out at his customers with profanity-laced abuse. We know this is a fact, because (even though we never complained about customer service,) as we have sought to understand and make sense of the changes taking place on the various Discerning Reader-sponsored Web sites, we have more than once been on the receiving end of some choice but unprintable expletives from Mr. Schläpfer. As the controversy grew regarding Mr. Schlapfer and his abuse of customers, he began to attack the theological stance he himself had at first claimed to represent. He hypocritically wagged his finger at Reformed Christians, suggesting that their theology made them abusive and unloving. He has now given a wholesale endorsement and his highest rating to a book calling for evangelicals to embrace postmodernism. Since we once recommended this site and its sister sites with the highest accolades, we think it only fair to issue an equally strong warning: Discernment seems to be in very short supply these days at The Discerning Reader. Caveat emptor. Challies also has a forum where others have discussed this matter at length. Aside from the business side, these guys have become bed-buddies with post-modernism, and articles aforementioned in the quote by Johnson can attest to this. One has to wonder what instigated such a change among what was once a credible, creative, cheap place to buy great books. As you can see, I have taken them off my list of links on the side and will not be recommending them in the future. Sorry Discerning Reader, but I too disappointed in your lack of discernment.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Random Stuff for the Week of 8/5-8/12

* This past week marks the completion of our first year here in Louisville, Kentucky. It has been quite the journey and one that blessed us in many ways. Remembering and cherishing the friends of yesteryear while embracing new found kindredness, we are excited to see where the Lord has taken us and with whom he has placed us. May this next year be even greater than the last! * Many of you know that Steve Gaines, former pastor of First Baptist Gardendale, AL, is the new pastor of Bellevue Baptist in Memphis (following Adrian Rogers leave), but the buzz around the blogosphere is that Dr. Thom Rainer is leaving his office as Dean of the Billy Graham School here at Southern to become the next president of Lifeway. Steve McCoy broke the news with his blog, but others have picked up on it as well. Looks like I might be having a new dean!!! * I just recently purchased R.C. Sproul's latest book called What Is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics (Baker, 2005). If you have ever wanted a great introduction to Reformed theology with limited technical terminology, this would be a great read. From a very experienced theologian, Sproul has written this NOT for scholars, but for anyone/everyone who would like to have a better understanding of this theological framework. A worthy read. * Lastly, I have been reading some good blogs lately and would like to recommend some. Justin Taylor, researcher and co-author of several books with John Piper, has a blog called Between Two Worlds; Phil Johnson, elder at Grace Community Church and founder of the Spurgeon Archive, has a great blog called PyroManiac; James White, pastor, scholar, and founder of Alpha Omega Ministries, has a blog on his website; Tom Ascol, executive director of Founders Ministries, has a great blog as well. These are just a few. Others can be found on the blogroll on the right-side toolbar. Don't forget to check out the weekly polls! Let me know what you think! - t.n.b.

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