Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Doin' right ain't got no end.

I'm not a fan of Halloween, not only because it is a day with pagan roots and unholy imagery, etc., but also because it has eclipsed what is one of the most important days in the development of Western Civilization in general and Protestantism in particular.

In 1517 on October 31 Martin Luther sparked conversation regarding the state of the church and what he saw as errors, heresies, and abuses. Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

In his preamble he said:
Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and ordinary lecturer therein at Wittenberg, intends to defend the following statements and to dispute on them in that place. Therefore he asks that those who cannot be present and dispute with him orally shall do so in their absence by letter. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
Some examples of his 95 Theses are:
  • They preach mere human follies who maintain that, as soon as the coin rattles in the strong box, the soul flies out of purgatory.
  • The indulgence of the Pope cannot take away the smallest daily sin, as far as regards the guilt, or the offence.
  • Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.
  • If it is true that the pope is able to free souls from purgatory, he ought to use that power, not for trivial reasons such as the building of a church, but simply out of love, and freely.
  • Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest of the rich, build this basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?

Indulgences were the puchase of forgiveness of sin for oneself or for the earlier release of another from Purgatory. Most people were not able to read the Bible (only available in Latin) and were in fact discouraged from doing so since they were not trained as priests. As such, many were at the mercy of those such as Johann Tetzel who was more of an extortionist than anything else.

Many declare October 31 as "Reformation Day" due to a recognition that Luther's posting marks the beginning of the Reformation.

So, what was the Reformation? In short, the Reformation was the great rediscovery of the Gospel, the good news of salvation by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. The establish church had lost sight and consequently kept the common people ignorant of the truths of the Bible. During these Dark Ages people became syncretistic and more observant of superstitions than anything resembling Christianity.

Like many, we’re celebrating the monumental October 31st in 1517 when a relatively obscure monk sought academic dialogue. He wanted to start discussion regarding concerns he had with the church and posted, in Latin, his concerns. Little did he realize that this one act would spark so much as greater discussions regarding reform arose (i.e., the Protestant Reformation).

As we celebrate our ancestry I pause to think of this unique fellow. The first time I was in Wittenberg I was standing in front of the church door contemplating the small town in what was formerly East Germany, as I ate my 3rd and 4th fifty-cent bratwurst. What was it about this man and his passion that would start here and travel so far?

Luther was fully aware of his need for forgiveness, passionately so. He saw God's demands for perfect righteousness in Scripture and knew it was never attainable, but only given as a gift to those who believe.

Even after conversion, Luther realized the need for God's grace and our depravity. He embraced the Latin phrase simul iustus et peccator, "simultaneously justified and sinner." He even referred to himself as a "stinking bag of maggots."

Today people would tell Luther to work on his self-esteem, to go to a church where the primary task is helping people feel good about themselves. Yet, Luther knew, as we should know, that Christianity is not about feeling good about ourselves, but about having a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ by faith in Him alone.

Christians shouldn’t go to church to feel good about themselves, but to feel good about Christ and what He’s done. Christ is holy; we are unholy. He doesn’t need us; we need Him.

Luther’s self-awareness is refreshing and mirrors that of the Apostle Paul, whose self-perception diminished as he progressed in holiness. He went from being the “least of the apostles” (1 Cor 15:9) to “less than the least of all God’s people” (Eph 3:8) to the “chief”of sinners (1 Tim 1:15).

Don’t misunderstand. It’s not that Paul got worse the longer he was a Christian, quite the opposite. However, his understanding of God’s holiness became clearer. The more mature he got the more he realized that the gap between his holiness and God’s was larger than he had ever imagined.

God’s grace is amazing in that it not only forgives, but also transforms the lives of the forgiven. But, that progress is not basis for a right relationship with God, which is graciously based on faith alone in Christ alone.

Intrinsically, one must recognize his or her sin before ever embracing a Savior from the penalty of sin. Luther and Paul did and knew that even after believing in the risen Lord Jesus Christ God dealt with them graciously. God is not obligated to show grace and mercy, by definition, but He lovingly shepherds His children. Hopefully, this Reformation Day you can realize God’s grace and unashamedly proclaim, Simul iustus et peccator.

There had been others before Luther (e.g., Huss and Wycliffe) and others followed in a desire for Reform. Yet, we dare not think the work is finished, nor will it be prior to Christ's return for His bride, the Church. A Reformed church has not arrived, but realizes it is semper reformanda, "always reforming." In fact, ecclesia reformata semper reformanda est ("the Reformed church is always reforming").

What are you going to do to celebrate Reformation Day?

What are you going to do to carry the baton as you too seek church reform that God may be better glorified by His church on this planet?

If you're looking for an idea, check out Steve Camp's suggestion.

However, let October 31st 2006 spark your personal reformation as the church is consequently reformed via its individual parts.

Semper Reformanda ... always reforming, because doin' right ain't got no end.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

which is Algonquin for "the good land"

The Saint Louis Cardinals have won the NL Central AND the NLDS (Cardinals 3, Padres 1) AND the NLCS (Cardinals 4, Mets 3) AND the World Series (Cards 4, Tigers 1).

Tonight has been a LONG time coming! In fact, I've been waiting for this night since 1985!

The Cardinals have a rich history with some great players, but it's been a while since a World Series victory ... 24 years, in fact.

In 1982 the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Milwaukee (that's Alquin for "the good land") Brewers. The Cardinals' closer Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter ended it with two perfect innings of relief in the 7th game.

In 1985 the Cardinals' Willie McGee was the NL MVP and the Cardinals looked like a sure thing up 3 games to 1 over the Royals. But the Cardinals were robbed by umpire Don Denkinger in Game Six and the heartbroken Redbirds lost the series 4-3.

Still stinging from that larceny, 1987 was promising, but the home team won each game in the World Series and Frank Viola and the Twins kept us disappointed as we lost 4-3.

In 1996 I was skipping my evening seminary classes to watch the NLCS against the Braves. Up 3 games to 1, things were looking up in Ozzie Smith's last season until they squandered another 3-1 series lead to lose in 7 games. This was Tony LaRussa's first season with the club and hopes were high to get back to the World Series.

1998 gave the Cardinals fans some excitement as McGwire battled Sosa for the home run record and McGwire got 70 homers, but it was Sosa who got to go to the playoffs.

But in 2000 the Cardinals lost the NLCS to Mets, getting close to the World Series, but no cigar.

In 2001 they actually took a step back, losing to the eventual World Series Champion Diamondbacks in the division series. They could beat Randy Johnson, but Shilling was just too much to overcome.

We were feeling good in 2002, but again lost NLCS, this time to the Giants, who lost to David Eckstein's Anaheim Angels. I was hoping to win it on the 20th anniversary of the previous win ... but not so much.

2004 looked to be the year, with 105 wins under their belt the Cardinals were favorites in the playoffs even though many picked them to finish third in their division before the season began. They won a spectacular series against the disAstros in 7 games (I still have Game 7 on my TiVo) and it seemed to be their year. But they ran into a red hot Red Sox team who were flying high after defeating the hated Yankees in the ALCS and Chris Carpenter was out with injury. Talk about disappointment ... they were swept in their first trip back to the World Series since 1987.

In 2005 they again won over 100 games and were favored by many to win it all. But they lost a disappointing NLCS to the disAstros, once again taking a step back.

In 2006 it looked as though the team was taking one more step back, maybe two. It was questionable whether they would even make the playoffs.

It was a season of ups and downs, including a plethora of injuries to key players (Mulder, Eckstein, Rolen, Edmonds, Molina, Pujols, Isringhausen) and 2 eight-game losing streaks and one seven-game losing streak.

The Cardinals had a a 7-game lead with 12 games to go, but they almost squandered that lead to the disAstros, who trimmed the lead to 0.5 games. If not for the Braves beating the disAstros on the last day of the season, the Cardinals would have had to play a make-up game against the Giants. Losing that would have necessitated a one game playoff ... in Houston against the red-hot disAstros.

On September 28 I would have been content with winning the NL Central Division, which looked doubtful, but what a difference a month makes. They did win the division (6th time in 7 years) and then they beat the heavily favored Padres (3-1).

The Cardinals went on to beat the Mets, getting revenge for 2000 (4-3). They won Game Seven in New York, much to the dismay of the baseball watching world. Having the worst record of the 8 playoff teams, few expected them to beat the team that been the National League's best all season.

Entering the World Series with only one day off, compared to a week off for the Tigers, I could find only one sports "expert" commentator on the national level who picked the Cardinals to win. Some predicted being swept by the Tigers, in fact. The Tigers had lost the first game in the ALDS to the Yankees, but then won three in a row and then swept the red hot Athletics in four games.

But a Cardinals rookie pitcher shocked their team by picthing 8 great innings in Detroit as the Carinals took Game One. Game Two was "dirt gate" where Kenny Rogers was observed with a "questionable" substance on his pitching hand that many thought looked like pine tar. Regardless, he made the Cardinals hitters look silly. They actually loaded the bases in the top of the 9th down 3-1, but couldn't pull it out. Close, but they'd have three at home to try again. They won all three games at home, thanks to great pitching (including the bull pen which had been their biggest weakness in the season), good defense, and doing "just enough" at the plate (4.4 runs per game for the Cardinals and 2.2 runs per game for the Tigers). Adding it up meant they beat the team (prematurely) labeled the Team of Destiny.
"We beat the team with the best pitching (San Diego). We beat the team with the best hitting (New York). And we beat the team with the best story (Detroit)," said reliever Randy Flores.
Before tonight's game they were up 3 games to 1, but I was still pretty nervous, since they had squandered such leads in the '85 World Series and also in '68 ... to the Tigers, but tonight would be different.

The Cardinals were called tonight the "losingest team to ever win a World Series", having only won 83 games during the regular season (.516 winning percentage). However, it wasn't until the playoffs that LaRussa finally got all of his regulars on the field, in varying degrees of health (except pitchers Mulder and Izzy, both out for the season).
The St. Louis Cardinals entered the playoffs as the coldest team, but finished as the hottest. Despite winning just 83 games during the regular season, they won the 11 games needed to become champions.
A most unlikely hero on the mound for Game Seven was Jeff Weaver, picked up by the Cardinals in July. He was cut by the Angels (who did not make the playoffs) to make room on the roster for his younger brother. He pitched 8 strong innings, giving up just one earned run.

With Albert Pujols only batting .200 in the World Series, the MVP was perhaps unlikely and certainly the shortest MVP in World Series history, David Eckstein at five-feet seven inches. He got timely hitting and his hustle on the field sparked the team many times.

Just like Sutter 24 years before, rookie closer Adam Wainwright got a strike out to end the game in St. Louis. However, Wainwright got to do it at the new Busch Stadium in its first season, giving the Cardinals the second most World Series championships in all of baseball with 10.

Saint Louis is often referred to as the greatest baseball city, for the Cardinal Nation with its red-clad fans make life great for the home team.

It was HARD to say goodbye to the old Busch Stadium, which brought great sorrow. The New Busch Stadium in its inaugural season was a place of joy as the Cardinals won the 2006 World Series at home, making St. Louis "the Good Land" where baseball is concerned.

P.S. I took my boy on a road trip to Tulsa (1/23/2007) as the World Series Championship trophy was on tour.

Hopefully, this will not be a "once in a lifetime" photo opportunity.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

He was not afraid to die, oh brave Sir Robin.

1 Corinthians 15:55
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting? (ESV)
A little poetry for your reading pleasure from John Donne.

HOLY SONNETS ... X. (aka "Death Be Not Proud")

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so ;
For those, whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou'rt slave to Fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke ; why swell'st thou then ?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more ;
Death, thou shalt die.

For the Christian ... for the Christian now, only for the Christian, there is no fear of death, for to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). Because we have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ in justification, we can face death with confidence, knowing Christ has defeated death. As we died with Him, we will be raised with Him (Rom 6:8; 2 Tim 2:11).

Like the song says ...
No guilt in life, no fear of death
This is the power of Christ in me.
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand.
‘Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
-Townsend/Getty, "In Christ Alone"
In Christ you too can be like John Donne and brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Robin ... not afraid to die, for death has lost its sting.


Monday, October 23, 2006

A flute without holes is not a flute.

The following is an article I wrote that will be coming out this week in the Wylie News and Murphy Monitor.
Would you like to rub my head?

My boy is three and keeps his hair very short. When he sits in the barber chair he knows to say, “Zero on the sides and One on the top.” We might call that a “buzz” cut and people often like to rub his head. It’s strange, I know, but he doesn’t like just anyone to rub his head.

We got hair cuts and then went to the store. He was wearing his Batman costume, including body suit, gloves, boots, and cape, but no hooded mask. He’s a good looking boy, so he’s used to positive comments, but this one lady went on about how great he looked in his Batman costume.

He must have felt particularly touched by her, because he took a step toward her, lowered his head, and asked, “Would you like to rub my head?” She seemed a bit perplexed, but happily obliged, noting, “Very nice.”

I said all that to say this, his demonstration of affection seemed a bit out of the ordinary to the recipient thereof.

Sometimes our displays of affection toward God look a bit odd at times. The essence of being a Christian is being loved by God and loving Him, which spills over into a love for others (cf. Matthew 22:37-40). Christians know they should show love, but what does that look like?

How does Jesus want us to show Him love? It’s not through cards or flowers or the rubbing of the head, but through obedience. Jesus said, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (John 14:21, ESV).

If someone wondered if you loved God, how would they know? If God wondered if you loved Him, how would He know? Our love for God is, or at least should be, demonstrated by doing what He wants (i.e., keeping His commands). The way we know what He commands is through reading the Bible. It tells us what God is like, what God likes & doesn’t like, and what He likes for His people to do & not do.

It is inconsistent and hypocritical to claim to love God, but then live a life that says otherwise. Which do you think people will believe?

To claim to love Christ without obedience, betrays a lack of love. Just as a flute without holes is not a flute, so love without obedience is not love.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?

Holidays often pose a question for Christians regarding participation. Such questions are also applicable to a church.

For each holiday, we should ask, "Is it appropriate to be involved in such a celebration?" Our country has days special to it (i.e., "holy days"), but are they special to the Christian as well? Where might there be a conflict between the two?

For example, to what extent should a Christian participate in Independence Day celebrations? To what extent should a church celebrate? Where is the line crossed into worship of country instead of Christ in a service?

Should a Christian tell his/her children Santa brings the gifts and puts them under the tree? Should a church have the Easter bunny host an Easter egg hunt as an outreach event?

Some of those questions have hotly debated answers, but it seems to me that one holiday that should be a slam dunk to the Christian (and the church) is Halloween.

There may be pagan elements mixed up with certain holidays that Christian are involved in, minus the deviltry, but is that possible with Halloween?

I celebrated Halloween as a kid, dressing up and seeking candy. In an unchurched home, we thought nothing of it. But shortly after becoming a Christian I realized the just how heinous a day holy to all things unholy would be for a Christian.

Reading the World Book encyclopedia I realized the origins of Halloween and what all the symbols meant and how it was a day of celebration of the dead and so special to the witches and satanists. Then it hit me. There is nothing whatsoever redeeming about Halloween. Not only is it not Christian, it's blatantly anti-Christian.

It celebrates witches, demons, death, vampires, ghosts, mummies, superstitious black cats, the occult, and all things eviltry. In essence, it's the glorification of evil, with an emphasis on horror and fear. The impact is, at a minimum, desensitization to evil.

As such, I'm often shocked when those professing Christ try to defend participating in such festivities.

Some like to draw a parallel to a Christian's liberty in doing things like eating meat sacrificed to idols (1 Cor 8-10). But is that a valid parallel? Paul never said a Christian had the liberty to actually participate in a ritual whereby the meat was sacrificed to idols. That would be the parallel to participating in Halloween. Eating meat sacrificed to idols would be akin to hitting the stores on November 1 and buying up all the discounted candy.

I thought of an analogy that I'll share. Suppose you lived in a non-Christian country, a land actually hostile to God and the Lord Jesus. You're not too concerned, because you know you're citizenship is in heaven, but it's tough at times.

Now suppose this country had a day in which masses of Christians were slaughtered, martyred for their love for and faithfulness to Christ. Each year that country celebrates their demise with glee. Would a Christian participate in their carnivals or parties?

That may seem far fetched, but Halloween is not merely a holy day of this country that is ant-Christians, but even worse anti-God. Halloween celebrates the supernatural, but His enemies ... and our enemies.
"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." - Eph 6:12
The joker asked, "You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?"

I hope not. Just as I would never want leave my wife on the sidelines at a reception while I danced with she who was her sworn enemy and mocked my wife at every opportunity. Would I say to her, "Hey, it's just a little dancing?" Wouldn't who I was doing it with be the obstacle more so than what I was doing?

There's nothing inherently evil in dressing up or in seeking or eating candy. It's not the dancing, it's the dance partner. Don't dance with the devil in the pale moonlight!

Let's not fool ourselves; this is a country that is opposed to Christ. Halloween is a huge part of its culture, but I fear this is another area where the culture in the grip of the evil one has had more impact on the church than the church has had impact on this culture.

In Ephesians 5:11, the Apostle Paul commands that Christians, "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them" (ESV).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Your overconfidence is your weakness.

Providence Church was privileged to be a part of the Fellowship of Reformed Churches' "Humble Orthodoxy" conference Saturday' where the theme was speaking the truth in love (cf. Eph 4:15). Since we also had a nice sized contingent from church, the good fellowship we had together was just gravy.

It was neat for us to concentrate on retaining and reinforcing our commitment to truth (i.e., "orthodoxy") while recognizing that we need to be gracious when espousing the "Doctrines of Grace" (i.e., "humility").

Too often folks fall into the trap of the false dichotomy whereby they are willing to speak the truth OR love, but not both, especially not at the same time.

But for those who understand (1) their own depravity and inherent unworthiness and (2) the grace that has been extended and exercised by God toward them, there is no room for boasting. There is no glory for the creature, only the Creator.

Being Reformed and a Baptist I often find myself immersed in circles of either theological or denominational pride, respectively. Both wear me out, knowing there have been godly & wise brothers & sisters who have contributed to the advancement of God's kingdom who were neither Reformed nor Baptist. There's nothing wrong with confidence and comfort with regard to one's theology and denominational affiliation, but there's a need for humility therein.

In humility we strive to apprehend truth and thereafter proclaim that which is true, but minus an air of arrogance. That lack of humility betrays a misplaced confidence, in one's self to capture truth. Such overconfidence is not a strength, but a weakness, when it comes to knowing the truth, let alone communicating truth to a lost and dying world. And we communicate that truth for the benefit of those who listen, speaking that truth ... in love (Eph 4:15).

All in all it was good encouragement to uncompromisingly stand for truth in a compromising world as we demonstrate loving humility, just as we have been loved.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Why Can’t We Pick Our Own Colors?

The following is an article that will appear in the Wylie News and the Murphy Monitor this week. It speaks to the providence of God in the details of our life that we often question.
Why Can't We Pick Our Own Colors?

The movie “Reservoir Dogs” is an odd movie, but there's a scene in it that I found interesting. There's a point where the boss is assigning code names to the guys he’s assembled to do a "job." The code names are colors (e.g., Mr. White, Mr. Brown, Mr. Pink, etc.).

As you might expect “Mr. Pink” is unhappy and asks the question, "Why can't we pick our own colors?"

The boss makes it clear that he's in charge and each one is stuck with that color he's been assigned.

Historically, in this county people have at times seen aspects of one's birth as God’s favor or disfavor. For example, some have seen it as a blessing to be born with white skin or a curse to be born with dark skin. Some believe a wealthy family of origin means that God likes you and the opposite means He doesn’t. But there’s no truth in that, particularly as one remembers that Jesus was born a dark-skinned Jew to young parents of a conquered people.

Why can't we pick our own colors?

Would it surprise you to learn that you are the way God wanted you to be? God didn't make a mistake and He's the boss.

God in His providence gave you the parents you have. He ordained that you would be born where you were and that you would look like you do, including hair color and height, etc. Yet we seem to be so concerned with “improving” ourselves due to much dissatisfaction.

Instead, we should realize that we are God’s workmanship, as was done in Psalm 139:14. “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (ESV).

There’s a children’s catechism that asks as one of the first questions, “Who made you?” The answer is “God made me.” It’s simple and subtle, but if God made you and God has a perfect plan, then He made no accident where you are concerned. That doesn’t mean life will be easy for you, but all your experiences in life and who you are come together as part of God’s plan for you, either to be blessed by them or to grow and/or learn from them (cf. Psalm 139:14-16).
As a post-script ... I always find it odd to hear of a group being "proud" to be a part of a particular group over which they had no control (e.g., color, country of origin, height, etc.). Similarly, I find it odd for a Christian to be "proud" of his/her spiritual state.

I'm reminded of Paul's consternation to such a mindset:
For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Cor 4:7)

Friday, October 13, 2006

One, Two ... Freddy's Coming for You

I'm not on board with so-called horror movies, particularly due to their glorification of and fascination with evil. With the season of deviltry approaching (i.e., Halloween) I'm sure horror movies will be in vogue once again.

However, even as a non-Christian I was never a fan of horror movies, mainly because of the abundance of the cliche and the idiotic behavior of the characters.

I came across the following whereby I think the author feels my pain.

1. When it seems that you've killed the monster, never check to see if it's really dead.

2. If you find that your house is built upon or near a cemetery, was once a church used for black masses, had previous inhabitants who went mad or committed suicide or died in some horrible fashion or who performed or satanic rituals, move away immediately.

3. Do not search the basement, especially when the power has just gone out.

4. If children speak to you in Latin or any other language which they do not know, or if they speak using a voice other than their own, shoot them at once. It will save you a lot of grief in the long run. Note: it's unlikely they'll die easy, so be prepared.

5. When you have the benefit of numbers, never go alone.

6. If you're searching for something which caused a noise and find out that it's just the cat, leave the room immediately if you value your life.

7. If you're running from the monster, you will most likely trip or fall. If you are female you will.

8. Stay away from certain geographical locations, some of which are listed here: Amityville, Elm Street, Transylvania, Nilbog, the Bermuda Triangle, or any small town in Maine, especially if it is called Derry.

9. If your car runs out of gas at night, do not go to the nearby deserted-looking house to phone for help.

10. When something bad is chasing you, bear in mind that when you try to start your car, no matter how reliable the vehicle is normally, you'll have to crank the engine over many times before it will fire up.

11. People arriving to rescue you generally get ambushed by the monster, so don't rely on them as your only means of escape. In fact, expect to be surprised and delayed by encountering their flayed corpse at some point.

12. Do not call the police as they are either evil and will turn you in or will not believe you and laugh at you. Either way, you must handle the problem yourself.

13. If you are using a gun to combat the all-comsuming evil, it is a good idea to quickly find a new means of defense, because no matter how much ammo you have, you'll run out just before you kill the monster.

14. If you have defeated the monster, pay close attention to the camera, if it pans away for no apparent reason at all, get out of there.

15. Skeptics are always proved wrong in some horrible, nasty, painful way. Be a believer.

16. If you are a child, don't panic! Monsters only attack promiscuous teenagers. Children can NOT be killed in a movie, only possessed or absorbed. So cheer up!

17. If you've beaten the monster into a bloody pulp and you're sure he must be dead, take the opportunity to dismember, burn, eat, blow up or otherwise utterly destroy him.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

We don't read and write poetry because it's cute.

We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race and the human race is filled with passion.

The following is a poem by John Donne (1572-1631), Holy Sonnet XIV: "Batter My Heart"

I love the imagery and forcefulness with which Donne wants God to work in his life. I'm also struck by the passion contained herein.

(WARNING: Donne doesn't seem to agree with or desire the "God is a gentleman" theory.)
Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

One of the interesting and potentially ironic things about the Christian faith is the fact that the human soul is in such bondage to sin that it needs to be set free. To be truly free the soul must first be rescued from the bondage of sin, but then recaptured and subdued by God as we are "prone to wander" as we remember in the hymn "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing."

As the Bride of Christ, He sought us and bought us with His redeeming blood. He loved us ere we knew Him and all our love is due Him.

If at the core of conversion is a change in the affections, as the lovers of the darkness become lovers of the Light of the World, then Donne really gets it.

Note again the end:
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
The human race is filled with passion, and our passionate love for sin and darkness and all things evil has to be overcome as our passionate love is turned toward righteousness and light and things godly as we then love God and others.


Monday, October 09, 2006

I ate fiberglass insulation. It wasn't cotton candy like the guy said... my tummy itches.

The following is an article that will appear this week in the Wylie News and Murphy Monitor. It recounts the saga of my ear slooge, including my trip to the hospital, in some way attempting to link it to the deceptive nature of sin.

Deception of Sin Can Be Infectious to Your Soul

Despite fighting a middle ear infection, I had to catch a plane to St. Louis last week. On the flight the pressure on my ear was killing me, but on the descent a hard pop brought relief. I could even hear again.

However, over the next few days the pain only intensified. When I returned home, I went straight from Love Field to the Emergency Room.

Lo and behold, that relief I experienced was not a good thing. It was my eardrum rupturing. That temporary pleasure was deceptive as the consequences were brutal. An outer ear infection was added to hearing loss and a middle ear infection. In short, much pain.

The deceptive nature of that experience reminded me of a Bible verse that speaks of "sin's deceitfulness" (Heb 3:13). But how is it that sin is deceptive and what is sin anyway?

Sin is essentially doing what God does not want us to do or not doing what God wants us to do, particularly that which He has revealed to us about His likes & dislikes in the Bible. He also makes it clear in Scripture that His rules are for our own good, just as a parent gives rules to children to keep them safe.

So, if we understand that sin is what is bad for us, then why do we sin? Why do we do what God would not want us to do? Just as a child disobeys because he/she doesn’t believe that obedience will be better for him/her, we sin because we think we'll find joy.

Sin appears enticing, but that’s the deception. Sin says God’s ways are not best for us, and that disobedience will be of greater benefit. While it may feel good momentarily, sin is also deceptive in that it always promises more than it delivers. Plus, the consequences are infection of the soul.

Sin may promise a temporary pleasure, but brings detrimental side effects. In contrast, listening to God may appear to have temporary pain, but with lasting positive results. God can be trusted and there is blessing in doing what He says, for our own good and to fight off infection.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Rule Number 76: No excuses. Play like a champion!

Not my original work, but I think it works on many levels.


To make it possible for everyone to attend church this Sunday, we are going to have a special "No Excuses Sunday."

Cots will be placed in the foyer for those who say, "Sunday is my only day to sleep in."

There will be a special section with lounge chairs for those who feel that our pews are too hard.

Eye drops will be available for those with tired eyes from watching TV late Saturday night.

We will have steel helmets for those who say, "The roof would cave in if I ever came to church."

Blankets will be furnished for those who think the church is too cold, and fans for those who say it is too hot.

Scorecards will be available for those who wish to list the hypocrites present.

Relatives and friends will be in attendance for those who can't go to church and cook dinner, too.

We will distribute "Stamp Out Stewardship" buttons for those that feel the church is always asking for money.

One section will be devoted to trees and grass for those who like to seek God in nature.

Doctors and nurses will be in attendance for those who plan to be sick on Sunday.

The sanctuary will be decorated with both Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies for those who never have seen the church without them.

We will provide hearing aids for those who can't hear the preacher and cotton wool for those who think he's too loud!

Hope to see you there!

(miss anyone/anything?)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Puttin' on the foil!

Tonight the hockey season starts.

The 2005-06 Pacific Division champion Dallas Stars will take on 'Lanche in Colorado.

Game One of 82 ... let's get two points. This is step one toward securing Lord Stanely's Cup.


We're puttin' on the foil to hoist that bad boy once again!

Monday, October 02, 2006

That had not occurred to us, Dude.

The following is an article that will appear this week in the Wylie News and Murphy Monitor.

It has to do with something that does not often occur to folks, going to God with needs as we humbly cast our cares on Him.

Needing Superhuman Assistance

Recently at Providence Church we had a new air conditioner delivered. There were three men, good-sized lads, a truck and a crane. The crane picked the old unit up off the roof and lowered it down to the ground. They unhooked it and then hoisted up the new one. The thing was huge and the crane slowly took it up and out of sight as it passed the roof line.

I asked myself, “Self, why did they need the crane? How did they know to call in the crane?”

Myself thought those were silly questions. These men would not need to strain in the Texas heat for an extended period of time in order to realize they needed superhuman assistance. They were wise enough to see the job as needing such help before the first bead of sweat.

Then I asked myself, “Self, why aren’t we more like that? Why don’t we recognize the enormity of things in our lives and call for superhuman assistance through prayer?”

For most of us, prayer is the last resort. We seek God’s help after, and only after, we’ve labored on our own, probably looking as foolish as those men might have if they would have tried to put that air conditioner on the roof by themselves.

As a man, I’m familiar with male pride, the aversion to getting help. But even kids develop the “I can do it myself!” mindset. For humans, there’s a lack of humility, a lack perceived need which prevents seeking help, even from God.

The Apostle Peter commands us to humble ourselves before God that He will lift us up and the means of the humbling is “casting all your cares on Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

The Christian life starts with recognition that we can’t do it ourselves; we can’t save ourselves from our sins. We need the sacrifice of Jesus and His righteousness. But even after one becomes a Christian, one still lives a life of dependence. We lean on God in prayer. If you never have, call for His superhuman assistance by believing in Christ and regularly in prayer.

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