Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tell him what he’s won, Bob. A new marriage!

In my sermon on Sunday I preached on the topic of Solus Christus (Christ Alone) from Acts 4:12 and its surrounding context.

I was commenting on the real reason for going to church and coming to Christ. I said something to the effect of "Jesus doesn't fix marriages. He fixes people from the inside out and subsequently their marriages are changed."

My point was that we've lost Christ's uniqueness of being a Savior from sin(fulness), but instead have tried to become utilitarian in our approach toward Christ and church.

What can Jesus (and the church) do for me? But they set their aim too long, merely wanting happier marriages and so forth.

Ironically, perhaps, I got a postcard in the mail inviting me to a church in the area. The following are the advertised sermon titles intended to draw me in:
  • Helping Your Husband Maximize His Potential
  • Giving Your Wife What She Really Wants
  • Making Sex Sizzle
  • Team Parenting
  • Mastering Your Money Together

Am I wrong or are people missing the greatness of Christ and what He alone can do?

Solus Christus: The Erosion Of Christ-Centered Faith

As evangelical faith becomes secularized, its interests have been blurred with those of the culture. The result is a loss of absolute values, permissive individualism, and a substitution of wholeness for holiness, recovery for repentance, intuition for truth, feeling for belief, chance for providence, and immediate gratification for enduring hope. Christ and his cross have moved from the center of our vision.

Thesis Two: Solus Christus

We reaffirm that our salvation is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to the Father.

We deny that the gospel is preached if Christ's substitutionary work is not declared and faith in Christ and his work is not solicited.
- The Cambridge Declaration

*For further discussion, read Craig Larson's article, Preaching that Promotes Self-Centeredness: How to avoid stirring up the wrong motives.*

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

His girlfriend gave up her toe!

I'm often used as a theological sounding board.

People have many questions, but over the years I've noticed that some (if not most) of their questions aren't that practical. Most arise out of speculative curiosity, particularly with regard to heaven.

The following are some questions about heaven I've been asked over the years. Seen any of these before? Some answers come easier than others and we can be more certain of some than others.

I share these for your speculative pleasure and welcome any comments/answers you might have.

1. Will we get to see our pets again in heaven?

2. What age will we be in heaven? Will a child still be young mentally?

3. Can our loved ones who have preceded us to heaven see us as we live our lives? Are they really looking down on us? If so, does it make them sad to see us in hard times?

4. Are there different levels of heaven? What will that look like?

5. Will I see my (unborn) baby in heaven?

6. Do we become angels when we die?

7. If somebody's cremated, can God put it all back together again?

8. If I get married twice, who will be my wife in heaven? Will we even have "gender" as we know it?

9. Will we eat & drink in heaven?

10. Will we recognize each other in heaven?

11. When we die, do we go straight to heaven? Are we hanging out somewhere until Christ comes? Is that heaven's lobby or something?

12. Won't I be sad in heaven knowing my loved ones are in hell?

13. What will we do to occupy our time in heaven?

14. Will we be able to see God in heaven? What will He look like? (i.e., will He have a form)

15. Will we see Jesus still in human flesh in heaven?

16. Will we remember our earthly lives and miss our friends and/or still have "childhood scars" or bad memories?

17. Do/Can people really die and go to heaven and then come back on the operating table?

18. Will we be able to sin in heaven? If not, does that mean we'll be robots?

19. If I donate a kidney or a toe (for example), will I get it back in heaven?

20. Will we be omniscient in heaven? (i.e., will we know it all then?)

21. Will we wear clothes in heaven? Or will we see we're naked and yet feel no shame?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sounds like somebody's got a case of the Mondays.

If you really want to obey Proverbs 6:6-11, start with this video.

Read these Phrases from a Man's Thesaurus.

Read about Why people believe weird things about money.
"Would you rather earn $50,000 a year while other people make $25,000, or would you rather earn $100,000 a year while other people get $250,000? Assume for the moment that prices of goods and services will stay the same.

Surprisingly -- stunningly, in fact -- research shows that the majority of people select the first option; they would rather make twice as much as others even if that meant earning half as much as they could otherwise have. How irrational is that?"

Read about Starbucks experiment with $1 coffee with free refills. That's what I'm talkin' 'bout!

Read about 10 actors who died in their 20s.

Read about the cost of raising children.

Watch a video of Bill Clinton nodding off at a MLK event. (HT Jade)

Scope out a list of the 31 Southern Baptist Convention Resolutions on Racism (Race Relations) from the SBC Annual Meetings.

Read about Diane Keaton's UNCENSORED use of the "F-Bomb" on Good Morning America and what such action represents about our country's entertainment industry. (Personally, I've been down on Diane Keaton ever since she killed Michael Corrleone's son via abortion in Godfather II.)

about what should a growing church do: Satellites v. Church Plants.
"With respect to satellite campuses, I think one of the reasons churches don't plant churches is that there's a danger that the mission and message of the sending church will get diluted through the generations. Satellite campuses address that problem by keeping the church plants on message."

Scope out the 50 greatest fictional weapons of all time.

Read as Rev takes us through a discussion of "Why stay in the SBC?"

Read about how the Dallas Cowboys were originally the Dallas Rangers, the team that snagged the defensive coach of the NY football Giants, Tom Landry, with a 5-year coaching contract. This new team would be in direct competition with the Dallas Texans, who would leave after a while, since they couldn't take the heat.
"The landing of Landry was the second major coup scored over the fledgling American League by the Murchison-Wynne combination in the fantastic battle for professional football patronage in Dallas next season.

They snatched up the coveted No. 1 draft choice of the Dallas Texans, Don Meredith, the Southern Methodist forward passing star, by signing him to a “personal services contract” even before the National League held its annual selection meeting. Meredith generally was regarded as the top pro prize among graduating collegians, with Billy Cannon, the Louisiana State halfback, his only close challenger in evaluation of talent scouts."

Read as Johnny Mac asks & answers, "What is the pastor’s responsibility, besides preaching and studying?"

46 MILLION aborted babies since Roe vs. Wade
35 years ago. Check this out in an attempt to get your mind around such a figure. Be sure to click on the "grid" graphic and the little blue dot at the bottom. (HT Ray Fowler)

Read about the greatest understatement ever made. (Hint: see Genesis 1:16)

Read this Christianity Today review of Brian McLaren's Everything Must Change. The review is entitled, Everything Hasn't Changed. I've yet to finish the book, but will try to weigh-in as (or if) I do.

Read Why price promotions aren't the best marketing strategy - Discounts don't drive up sales.
"An increase in sales at a lower price frequently came at the expense of future sales at the full price."

Check out a recent interview with Amy Grant about her success, her marriage, and advice to young starlets.
"The Christian music superstar says she made mistakes when she was younger--they just weren't shown on YouTube."

Read How We Would Fight Steroids If We Really Meant It.

100 books that every child should read:
Part 1: Early years
Part 2: Middle years
Part 3: Early teens

Read The New Testament: Final Answers to Rhetorical Questions.

Check out some FREE Lingonier Ministries audio & video archives, including some Together for the Gospel 2006 action (with more to come).

One has to wonder about the power of an endorsement. Here are some recent endorsements.

Read about the 5 Nastiest Presidential Elections in History.
"What you may not know is that mudslinging isn’t exactly a new tactic. And I’m not talking as recent as Nixon and Kennedy… nope, the nasty rumors and talk of mistresses and morals go as far back as George Washington."

This is so wrong ... and ill-advised. Read about the adulterating woman who wanted to rub out the wife of the man she was adulterating with.
"A US woman was arrested this week after she allegedly tried to hire a hitman to murder her married lover's wife by posting an ad on the popular website craigslist, law enforcement officials said Sunday."

Read about the guy solicited an undercover police officer to rub someone out.

I've heard of maternity leave and perhaps bereavement leave, but read about "heart-ache" leave in Japan.
"Staff aged 24 years or younger can take one day off per year, while those between 25 and 29 can take two days off and those older can take three days off, the company said."

This is NOT SMART! Read about the man who stole from a charity ... Chuck Norris' charity. Oh, it's on!

A generation or two ago, these probably weren't necessary. But now I have to urge everyone everywhere to stop what you're doing and view these baby dos and don'ts.

Ever heard of couples who never fight? They may not live long to tell about it. Read about how arguments among couples could prolong their lives.
"Preliminary results from a survey of married couples suggest that disputing husbands and wives who hold in their anger die earlier than expressive couples."

Read about one preacher's distinction between preparation & presentation.

Surely this is met with appreciation. Read about Mexico's innovative efforts to provide grope-free bus rides for its female passengers. What a world we live in!

Read about the "Tiger Woods Effect."
"When he's in the field, everyone else plays worse. How Tiger throws off golf's incentive structure."

Read about the surprising end to this police escort.
"A police officer agreed to escort a car containing a pregnant woman to the hospital only to find the car was stolen — and the woman wasn't pregnant."

Comment of the Week:
"O great. I come over here for a noble cause, to find out more about the persecuted church for my pastoral prayer, and end up satisfying the flesh watching [hockey] fights! Now there is some irony. :)"(Timothy)
" ... I can't get away from the fact that embryos are tiny, little human beings. They're tiny little people. ... And you cannot take human life to make somebody else's human life improved."
- Anne Graham Lotz on her opposition to embryonic stem cell research


Saturday, January 26, 2008

First rule of Fight Club, you do not talk about Fight Club. Second rule of Fight Club, you DO NOT talk about Fight Club.

I don't know if you noticed, but hockey season has started up. I took the kids to a game and we were blessed with a fight as the silver lining in a Stars loss.

My oldest daughter asked me, "Why are they fighting" and "Why do they let them fight?"

I tried to explain that it was part of the game. They'll have to serve some penalty time, but it's a good way for the goons to keep the other team honest and to get your own team motivated.

You know ... it's kind of hard to explain why they allow fighting in hockey and in no other sport of its kind. But I did try.

I'm not sure she understood it all, but I'm glad they allow fighting in hockey. I know some would love to see it done away with, but I'm not one of them.

Incidentally, here is a neat resource: (HT Tony)

Here are a few selections for your viewing pleasure:

Grant Marshall of the Stars (in white) is "giving the business" to Kelly Buchberger of the Edmonton Oilers. Get sum!

This next one is a beauty. It's hard to enjoy anything more than the Avalance & Red Wings pounding on each other. But in this one you also get a rare treat, the goalies squaring off. Patrick Roy vs. Chris Osgood. It's all good.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Without God I am nothing. I am the tool by which He works His will.

I'm sharing with you (first) a "Letter to the Editor" type letter I wrote that appears in this week's SBTexan (1/21/2008), "the Newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention."

It is in response to recent coverage of the "Building Bridges: Southern Baptists and Calvinism" conference (audio). However, they also printed a letter expressing sentiment much different than my own in the same issue. I'll share it (second) as well as a few comments in response.

I want to commend the SBTexan on publishing more than one perspective on this issue.

Calvinism coverage helpful

Thanks so much for your recent articles about the conference dealing with the question of Calvinism in the SBC (Dec 24 TEXAN). In an era of divisiveness theological hostility, it’s encouraging to see my beloved SBC lovingly discussion a topic such as Calvinism.

Although Spurgeon labeled it a “nickname” for the Gospel, Calvinism is often caricatured and vehemently attacked. Calvinists are not allowed define Calvinism and attackers often display a lack of openness to some of the more “difficult” passages.

Some will be concerned that the percentage of those embracing Reformed theology has been increasing for decades (particularly among younger pastors), but others (myself included) see this as a natural outgrowth of the diligence done in the past to herald the authority of the Bible, it’s inerrancy and sufficiency.

Add to this the affection for expository preaching and new generations are trying to let the text speak for itself, even passages that don’t readily fit into our way of seeing things (e.g., Gen 50:20; 1 Sam 2:25; Prov 21:1; John 6:44; Acts 13:48; 16:14; Eph 1:3-12; etc.).

Historically, we’ve had both the Reformed and the more Revivalistic within the SBC. I don’t expect that to change, but a conference like this helps us all to honestly approach those with whom we disagree without resorting to vitriolic rhetoric or labels of heresy.

Thanks for helping us better understand each other as both strive to honor Christ through the evangelization of the planet.

Eric “Gunny” Hartman, Pastor
Providence Church, Garland

Calvinism false doctrine

When it comes to false doctrines, what difference does the history of the SBC make? History, associations and friendships have nothing to do with it.

If the doctrine of 'Total Depravity' means that we are just as sinful as Satan can get us to be, I agree with it. If it means we cannot act toward God, it is refuted by Isaiah 45:22, which says, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God and there is none else."

The doctrine of unconditional election is refuted by Jesus' attempt to get through to even Judas Iscariot, the one who would betray him, at the Last Supper.

Limited atonement is also refuted by Isaiah 45:22, as well as 2 Peter 3:9.

Stephen refuted the doctrine of irresistible grace when he told the elders, scribes, the high priest and his accusers, "... ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye."

Preservation of the saints is the only doctrine that the Calvinists have gotten right.

Now there is one more question to be answered. "Can two walk together expect they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3). My question is: why do we even want to walk together with proponents of false doctrines.

Joseph Regel, pastor
FBC Laneville

Since I have written previously on the issues of Calvinism & Hyper-Calvinism and the T.U.L.I.P., I defer to those treatments for extensive coverage. I will try to limit my response to Pastor Regel's thoughts.

I appreciate Pastor Regel's attempt to use Scripture as his basis for not liking Calvinism; that isn't always the case. However, I would assert that his selections don't do for him what he might think.

First, Isaiah 45:22 (or any other verse like it) does not refute "Total Depravity." Just because we ought to do something, doesn't mean we are able to do it. That's his assumption, but he neglects the texts that explicitly assert we "cannot act toward God" apart from divine aid (e.g., John 6:44, 65). After the fall, humans lost not the obligation to love God with their entire being and others as themselves, but they lost the desire to do so, thanks to a heart that is desperately wicked (Jer 17:9). They can't because they don't want to, and that is the nature of the freedom/bondage of the will.

For further elaboration of the rationalistic assumption, I refer you to a nice tidbit about the deviations of Arminianism and Hyper-Calvinism based on rational assumption. I also give you the following words of wisdom:
"To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect."
-John Owen

Second, with regard to Judas and unconditional election, this is where I'd love for him to elaborate. I don't see Jesus "attempt to get through to Judas Iscariot," but rather Jesus provides us with the harsh reality that Judas is beyond saving--he's destined for destruction, in order to fulfill Scripture (John 17:12).

Besides, Pastor Regel seems here to be arguing against election in general, not merely unconditional election in particular. The Arminian believes in election as well, and would believe that Jesus would already know the destiny of each individual, including Judas. The difference is that the Arminian believes God made that choice before the person was born, but with a view to what the person would do in the future with regard to Christ. In other words, it's conditional on how he/she would respond. The Calvinist believes the same, but that the choice is not conditioned on something in the person or that the person will do. Instead, it's God's prerogative that enables the person to respond to the Gospel, which He does for His elect.

Third, "limited atonement" is generally the highest hurdle with regard to acceptance of the so-called "5 Points," and there are admittedly some passages that don't seem to fit in that regard, at least not at a first glance. That being said, Isaiah 45:22 does not contribute much to this discussion, if anything. In fact, none of the "whosoever will" passages do.

The Bible is true. Whoever believes on the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. Calvinists wouldn't/shouldn't deny that. The reality is, however, that the only ones who will come are those who have been chosen by the Father, as Christ's sheep. They are the only ones who will know His voice and answer that call (John 10:2-5). That's why He lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11, 15). That's why Christ died for His bride, the church (Eph 5:25).

The lingo "limited atonement" is not as helpful as it could be, for all except universalists "limit" the atonement in some form or fashion, in what it accomplishes and/or for whom it was accomplished. The Arminian limits the atonement in that Jesus didn't save anyone, but merely made possible the salvation of those who have the opportunity to hear the Gospel and will respond appropriately. In that sense, none could have been saved or some could have, but nothing is certain. One might also make the case that the Arminian also limits the atonement in that Christ did not die for all the sins of everyone, for the sin of unbelief is not atoned for. If a person does not believe, then that person's sins are not forgiven and the person must pay for them in hell. Consequently, those same sins are punished twice, once on the cross by Jesus and again by the person in hell.

The Calvinist limits the atonement in number also, but not in effectiveness. That is, it secured the salvation of the elect, the sheep, the church. In that sense, Jesus accomplished exactly what He set out to do, to redeem those given to Him by the Father.

More could be said on the doctrine of the extent of the atonement, but for the sake of brevity I will defer to J. I. Packer's accessible Introduction to John Owen's Death of Death in the Death of Christ (which also deals with this issue).

With regard to 2 Peter 3:9 I will just say that there are many questions that need to be asked before we assume the meaning. First, who are the "you" being addressed that section? If it's Christians or the elect, then you have no issues. Also, does this text mean that people perish and God can't stop it (cf. Job 42:2; Ps 115:3), if He's not willing that any should? Lastly, what promise (singular) is in view? God has promised salvation only to those who believe, so that is the group being addressed and the group for whom God will be faithful.

Honestly, this passage could get its own post, so I'll leave it at that, but would be happy to dialog further in the comments section or direct you to other resources.

Fourth, this leads us to "irresistible grace," which I think Pastor Regel doesn't quite understand. But, in all fairness to him, the nomenclature doesn't help, which is why I'm not a fan of some of the verbiage and have suggested alternatives.

Irresistible grace does not mean that no one can or will resist the Spirit. What it simply means is that God's elect will come to Christ, in His way and in His timing. This is because he predestined them and will subsequently (effectually) call them and then justify them, etc. (cf. Rom 8:29-30). I might put it simply in the words of Jesus: "All that the Father gives me will come to me" (John 6:37).

Fifth, I'm glad we agree on something (i.e., preservation of the saints). But, I would probably muddy the waters by mentioning that eternal security is not the same thing as the "Perseverence/Preservation of the Saints."

Finally, there are Calvinistic folks who ask the same question about the Arminians in the SBC, why would we want to keep them around? Why would Calvinists want to "walk together with proponents of false doctrines"?

I guess I'm one of those deluded enough to think that both can co-exist with mutual love and respect, but with an openness and willingness to be corrected when & where necessary, according to the Scriptures.

I don't believe that the Calvinists in the SBC want to eliminate Arminians or non-Calvinists ... okay, at least not all of the Calvinists anyway.

But, I do believe the Calvinists in the SBC want to be treated with respect and not have their view caricatured with straw men and ad hominem arguments.

I'm not campaigning, necessarily, for some Rodney King theology ("Why can't we all just get along?"), as much as I am for Christian communication about theology. By Christian I mean in manner of presentation (i.e., irenic) as well as material used in argumentation (i.e., the Scriptures).

To that end I recommend Roger Nicole's Polemic Theology: How to Deal with Those Who Differ from Us.

As for my theology ... Without God I am nothing. I am the tool by which He works His will.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Men don’t follow titles; they follow courage.

Since football season is over, my thoughts turn to baseball. During the offseason, the Cardinals have been making some deals, some more painful than others.
Jim Edmonds won't be wearing the "birds on the bat" in 2008. The Cardinals Nation mourns the departure of the 4-time All Star and 8-time gold glover. But, he didn't just play awesome defense, he won the Silver Slugger award in 2004, the best batting average at his position.
"Jimmy Baseball" was my favorite player after the Ozzie era. Ozzie had such range at shortstop, just as Jimmy had incredible range in center field.

My favorite of all time is Bob Gibson and I may be overly nostalgic, but Edmonds makes my top 10 and perhaps even my top 5.

He's no lock for the Hall of Fame, but I so enjoyed watching him play, and I'm not alone. In all honestly, however, I would yell at him before every AB knowing they might as well just spot the pitcher an 0-2 count to save everyone the time and aggravation.

Next to only Ken Griffey, Jr., Edmonds had the sweetest left-handed swing in baseball. His dramatic catches and clutch hitting solidified his reputation while with the Angels, but he only added to it as a Cardinal.

In the 2004 NLCS, with the Cardinals down to the disAstros 3 games to 2, Jimmy's "walk off" homer (3:05 of video) in the 12th inning set up a Game 7 in St. Louis against Roger Clemens. That night, at a critical point in the game, Jimmy laid out horizontally, running away from the ball to snag one of the greatest catches I've ever seen (2:50 of video). The Cardinals went to the World Series.

Here's a great tribute video for his 8 years in St. Louis.

It's been said that 70% of the earth is covered by water, and the other 30% is covered by Jim Edmonds, and I believe it.

His courageous play made him a leader on the team, for men don't follow titles; they follow courage. Such a courageous player/leader will be hard to replace.

Thanks for the memories, Jim Edmonds.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Never apologize and never explain -- it's a sign of weakness.

Fred is dropping out of the presidential race.

I'm disappointed, but not surprised. He's not placed well in the primaries, never doing better than the bronze medal.

He had shown such great promise.
"Poll averages showed he went from second place nationally in early September to fifth this week."

I would have liked to have seen him campaign harder, but competition among the candidates for the same group of voters (i.e., evangelicals) likely didn't help him any.

I'm concerned for the GOP as I no longer see a conservative in the bunch, save Ron Paul, but he's finished ever worse than Fred.

Thanks for exploring the possibility, Fred.

What's next for Fred?
"As for Thompson’s future, there has been speculation he could be angling for vice president."

P.S. From Fred himself:
"Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for President of the United States. I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort. Jeri and I will always be grateful for the encouragement and friendship of so many wonderful people."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sounds like somebody's got a case of the Mondays.

A new "true men of genius" guy. I remember this guy from college! "Oooww, that's kind of creepy." (HT The Higgins)

Read as John Piper shares some timely thoughts: Don't Waste Martin Luther King Weekend.

Read as Historians fear MLK's legacy being lost.
She believes it's important for Americans in 2008 to remember how disliked King was before his death in April 1968.

"If we forget that, then it seems like the only people we can get behind must be popular," Harris-Lacewell said. "Following King meant following the unpopular road, not the popular one."

Read about how White separatists "celebrated" Martin Luther King day via protest in Jena, La.
"Chants of "No KKK" from the mostly college-age counter-demonstrators were met with a chant from the separatists that contained a racial epithet."

Read as Texas takes the gold ... as biggest carbon polluter.

Isn't this cruel AND unsual? Read as Lindsay Lohan's punishment is to serve time in a morgue.

Read about The incredible shrinking field of Catholic presidential candidates.

This is somewhat encouraging: US abortions at lowest rate since 1974. 1.2 million?! It's hard to be too excited about that.

Read as Stephen Dubner notes the one issue missing from the presidential campaigns: Crime.

Read about the Golfweek editor fired for noose cover.
"Ten days after a Golf Channel anchor was suspended for her use of "lynch" in commentary on Tiger Woods, an editor was fired Friday for illustrating the controversy with a noose on the cover of Golfweek magazine."

Listen to RC Sproul's message on God's Sovereignty.

Read the Top 10 Things You Hate to Hear in the Car. I have to add an 11th: "Are we there yet?"

Read the Wall Street Journal's thoughts on church discipline: Banned From Church. In response, read Tom Ascol's thoughts.

Read as Lionel Woods ponders the question, "What Would You Do as a Reformed Slave?"
"As I hear so many times “Sunday is the most segregated day” (especially in the south) we must not forget, that it wasn’t our choice! We were forced to segregate because whites would rather get preaching from a dog than worship with a “colored”. The ball was never in our courts to begin with. We were the victim and not the perpetrator. So here is the question ..."

Read the results of a study that declare Caffeine Doubles Miscarriage Risk.

Poetic justice? Read about a robbery gone not as planned.
"Police say a man accidentally shot himself in the groin as he was robbing a convenience store."

Read as Brother Hank commends and defends the faculty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for adding cowboy hats as an option for formal academic regalia.

Read about the design flaw that caused the Minneapolis bridge collapse.

Read about how the students didn't rat out the culprits in the school's food fight, even though tempted with $30.

Read about the passing of Suzanne Pleshette, the co-star of one of the greatest shows of all time, The Bob Newhart Show.

This is a great resource. Scope out Operation World online.
"The primary purpose of Operation World is PRAYER!"

Read about How to Attain Serenity Before Giving a Speech.

Read as Johnny Mac ask and answers Why Preach the Word?
"Second, preaching the Word is the only right way to preach because it brings the preacher into direct contact with the mind of the Holy Spirit, the author of Scripture. It is for that reason that the preacher of the Word finds the process of study and discovery to be even more rewarding than the preaching that results from it, gratifying as that can be."

Comment of the Week:
"MLK's words are as enduring as an Everlasting Gobstopper." (Oilcan)
"Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact."
-George Eliot


Sunday, January 20, 2008

You see ... abortion is a deceptive issue.

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

In that regard, check out and here's some good stuff from John Piper:

15 Pro-Life Truths to Speak

"You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." - Jesus Christ
  1. Existing fetal homicide laws make a man guilty of manslaughter if he kills the baby in a mother's womb (except in the case of abortion).
  2. Fetal surgery is performed on babies in the womb to save them while another child the same age is being legally destroyed.
  3. Babies can sometimes survive on their own at 23 or 24 weeks, but abortion is legal beyond this limit.
  4. Living on its own is not the criterion of human personhood, as we know from the use of respirators and dialysis.
  5. Size is irrelevant to human personhood, as we know from the difference between a one-week-old and a six-year-old.
  6. Developed reasoning powers are not the criterion of personhood, as we know from the capacities of three-month-old babies.
  7. Infants in the womb are human beings scientifically by virtue of their genetic make up.
  8. Ultrasound has given a stunning window on the womb that shows the unborn at eight weeks sucking his thumb, recoiling from pricking, responding to sound. All the organs are present, the brain is functioning, the heart is pumping, the liver is making blood cells, the kidneys are cleaning fluids, and there is a fingerprint. Virtually all abortions happen later than this date.
  9. Justice dictates that when two legitimate rights conflict, the limitation of rights that does the least harm is the most just. Bearing a child for adoption does less harm than killing him.
  10. Justice dictates that when either of two people must be inconvenienced or hurt to alleviate their united predicament, the one who bore the greater responsibility for the predicament should bear more of the inconvenience or hurt to alleviate it.
  11. Justice dictates that a person may not coerce harm on another person by threatening voluntary harm on themselves.
  12. The outcast and the disadvantaged and exploited are to be cared for in a special way, especially those with no voice of their own.
  13. What is happening in the womb is the unique person-nurturing work of God, who alone has the right to give and take life.
  14. There are countless clinics that offer life and hope to both mother and child (and father and parents), with care of every kind lovingly provided by people who will meet every need they can.
  15. Jesus Christ can forgive all sins, and will give all who trusts him the help they need to do everything that life requires.


Friday, January 18, 2008

What is any life without the pursuit of a dream?

The following is an article I wrote that will appear in next week's Murphy Messenger, our local paper.
“Living the Dream”

January 21st was a day off for many. The country honored the man who fueled the "Civil Rights" movement, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In 1896, Plessy vs. Ferguson had legitimized "separate but equal" as the way society could treat black Americans. There was nothing wrong sending black & white kids to different schools, or having black & white restaurants, or black & white water fountains. Sadly, there was also nothing wrong with black & white churches, as is still the thinking of many. (Incidentally, I have a dream that the ethnic co-mingling of worshippers will one day become the norm.)

In 1954, Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas overturned the 1896 decision, at least officially. Men like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were needed to begin the process of making the decision a reality.

Dr. King had a dream that the nation would rise up and live out the full meaning of its creed, that all men are created equal. He had a dream that people would be judged by the content of their character, instead of by the color of their skin.

His dream is gradually becoming a reality, but we’re not there yet, nor will we bet there without intentional effort. But we’re fortunate in Murphy, to have the opportunity to interact with different types of people, as we strive to live out his dream.

In fact, I would say our diversity is one of the greatest attributes of Murphy, Texas. Most probably moved here because of schools or price per square foot, but one of the things I appreciate most about Murphy is the multitude of ethnic groups represented. What a joy it was for me when my daughter’s best friends in kindergarten were an African American girl and a girl from Vietnam.

In Murphy we have the unique opportunity to enjoy neighbors of various backgrounds and ethnicities. I encourage you to honor the efforts and vision of Dr. King by developing relationships with your neighbors who differ from you, learning from each other in the process.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

Today would be the 79th birthday of one Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Monday, the nation will celebrate his impact & legacy in forcing the nation to do a little introspection and begin to address some of its lingering sin.

A Baptist minister, Dr. King has been regarded as the chief leader of the Civil Rights movement of the 50s & 60s. In addressing inequality in the country based on skin color, he led through example of non-violence and a willingness to pay the price for his civil disobedience. (cf. last year's post on his letter from the Birmingham Jail)

The zenith of his efforts may be the March for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963. On the steps of the memorial honoring the man who wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, Dr. King delivered the “I Have a Dream Speech.”

It is a speech appreciated by fans of rhetoric, but also a major catalyst for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

I encourage you to (1) ponder that speech (text below) and (2) watch & listen (17:27) to Dr. King sober and stir the heart of the nation to bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history
as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"


Monday, January 14, 2008

Sounds like somebody's got a case of the Mondays.

This is how one Texas church emphasizes missions--the Missions Linebacker. (HT Benji)

Read Calvin the Evangelist by RTS professor Frank James, III.
"Calvin didn't just plant small fledgling churches; he planted mega-churches that in turn planted more churches. ... If Calvin is taken as a model, Reformed theology ought to produce not only the best theologians. but also the best pastors and missionaries."

Read about Four health changes can prolong life 14 years.
"People who drink moderately, exercise, quit smoking and eat five servings of fruit and vegetables each day live on average 14 years longer than people who adopt none of these behaviors."

Read about folks getting fired for NOT smoking!

Read about the Golf Channel (honestly, there is apparently a whole channel for "golf") who was suspended for saying that young players who wanted to challenge Tiger Woods should "lynch him in a back alley."

Read this LA Times piece about the effects of abortion on fathers: Changing Abortion's Pronoun. (HT Jade)
His fiancee's sister told him about the abortion after it was over. Baier remembers that he cried. The next weeks and months go black. He knows he drank far too much. He and his fiancee fought until they broke up. "I hated the world," he said.

Read the Secret to Winning at Rock, Paper, Scissors.
"Research shows that stone, also called rock, is the most popular of the three possible moves in the game. That means that your opponent is likely to choose paper, because they will expect to you to start the game with stone. By going with scissors, you achieve an early victory."

Scope out
the 10 Best Roller Coasters on Earth.

Read Tim Challies' thoughts on Inerrancy: What it does and does not mean.

Read about the meanest mom on earth, who advertised and sold her son's car after finding alcohol in it. I love the ad she placed:
"OLDS 1999 Intrigue. Totally uncool parents who obviously don't love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet."

Read about John Kerry's endorsement of Barak Obama.

Read about Jodi Benson's (the voice of Ariel in "The Little Mermaid") Christian faith & thoughts on making movies. (HT Ray Fowler)
"My life verse is John 15:5. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” People tell me, “You have a great voice and you can do this or that.” I really can do nothing, but God has given me specific gifts. It’s the only way I can get anything done."

Read Dr. Patterson's booklet Anatomy of a Reformation (pdf) about reforming the SBC. (HT Straight Out of the SWBTS Blogosphere)

Watch Fred Thompson's campaign video.

Read a transcript of the SC Republican debate (1/10/2008). A good night for Fred Thompson.

Read Thabiti Anyabwile's great list of books on evangelism.

Which is worse, visiting a brothel or working in one?
Read about a couple in the middle of a divorce that may be arguing that topic.
"A Polish man got the shock of his life when he visited a brothel and spotted his wife among the establishment's employees."

Read about the hunting dog that shot his owner.
"I've been in law enforcement 20 years and this is probably the strangest one I've had," said Chambers County Sheriff Joe LaRive.

Do you have a miserable job? Read about 3 Signs of a Miserable Job and 3 Remedies for Job Misery.

Read A look at 2 possible GOP ticket pairings: Choose or Lose?
"I see two teams forming out there. A moderate McCain/Huckabee ticket vs. the conservative Romney/Thompson ticket."

Read speculations about what Martin Luther would be like if he was just starting out in ministry today.
"Would a 29 year old Luther wear a suit when preaching in today's culture? Would he ever wear a robe? Would he wear jeans in Sunday church meetings?"

Take the test. Could you pass 8th grade science?

Read Just How Dangerous Is Police Work?
"Generally, police are about three times as likely to be killed on the job as the average American. It isn't among the top ten most dangerous professions, falling well behind logging, fishing, driving a cab, trash collecting, farming, and truck driving."

Read about Hannah Montana getting busted for using a body double on stage.

Read 20 reasons to read good (Chritian) books.
9. You will be able to practically apply Paul’s command to think upon “wholesome” things

This is truly disturbing. Read about the mom who confessed she killed her autistic child, on her 2nd attempt.

Read about another reason for families to have dinner together: Family meals may lower girls' eating disorder risk.

You gotta love all the qualifiers and caveats, but read that More Sun Exposure May Be Good For Some People.

Read about how Clinton & Obama are clashing over "race" issues.
"Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama have become embroiled in racially tinged disputes as large numbers of black voters prepare to get their first say in the Democratic presidential campaign."

Read about the scrub who lost his arm hanging out the passenger side of his best friend's ride trying to holler at the ladies.

Read about the retired pastor who supports Russian seminary by the making & selling of birdhouse.

Read about how 45% of Chicago doctors recommend placebos.

Lionel Woods comments about generational curses.
Read about how Dr. Tony Evans teaches generational curses (Part 1 - Part 2)
Read So what is the big deal? My Issue with Generational Curses

Comment of the Week:
"My wife doesn't like the idea of a medicine that would make us never sleep. She thinks crime would increase." (Mark T)
"Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher."
-Flannery O'Connor


Sunday, January 13, 2008

I'm gonna ask directions to the next huge, embarrassing failure.

By now you know. The Cowboys lost.

Well, my thoughts ...

Well, part of me felt that coming on after the Redskins game. It wasn't a shock, but one of the bigger sports disappointments I've experienced in a long time.

The Cowboys were the better team with more time for preparation and more rest. They were playing at home. They should have won.

Fingers will be pointed at the offense, and there's some validity for such, since they only scored 17 points. More were needed, but the did put together 2 90+ yard touchdown drives in the first half, including one that consumed more than 10 minutes over 20 plays. Even their field goal drive was 16 plays. My point being, the offense moved the ball and gave the defense a rest, but they certainly missed opportunities due to lack of execution. The play of the offensive line in the 2nd half was disappointing, especially since that line contains 3 of the 5 starters for the Pro-Bowl.

I'm more disappointed with the defense. The Giants' opening drive demonstrated an offense ready to play and a defense lacking intensity. Poor tackling plagued them on that drive and throughout the game.

Worse still was giving up the touchdown before the half, with less than a minute left. I wasn't surprised they gave up points, I just kind of felt that was going to happen. Giving up the touchdown, however, was inexcusable.

The Cowboys offense played well that first half, very well, and if the defense would have had that same intensity and level of execution, the game would not have been tied at the half.

14-3 is more along the lines of what the score should have been. If that would have been so, then I think you have a much less motivated Giants team in the 3rd quarter. Instead, they were still fired up and started to manhandle the Cowboys offensive line.

Per Giants defensive end Michael Strahan: "That TD was huge . . . we have a chance" he said was their thinking at halftime.

Sloopy tackling, absurd penalties, and dropped passes ... those are the marks of a less intense and/or inadequately coached team.

I know the defense only gave up 7 points in the second half, but that drive further demonstrated the gap between the intensity of the two teams. The Giants were hungrier. They were more physical. They were more intimidating. They were more disciplined. They were more focused.

You can't coach speed and you can't teach hustle. Football is a game of controlled emotion and passion and energy. The inferior team was superior in those areas.
"We played with no emotion – the same way we did in Washington," CB Terence Newman said. "Everybody knows you can't flip the switch."
When you have 12 Pro-Bowlers* and the other team has 1 AND you're playing at home AND you have all your starters healthy AND you've had an extra week of rest AND the other team travels in back to back games AND the other team has spares and practice squad players in the secondary AND their star receiver is hobbled AND their tight end (Shockey) who normally lights you up is injured AND you should be the hungrier team (coach & QB both searching for redemption with their first playoff win and the other QB got his last week) ...

THEN you are expected to win the game and you should.
Thus, I would submit to you that this teams has more to be ashamed of and sad about than last year's. The expectations were higher, but they were realistic expectations.

Last year the better team won and the Cowboys lost on an "oops" play on the road. This year there was much blame to go around and it had nothing to do with Tony Romo going to Mexico for vacation. In fact, he played a pretty good game, and I feel bad for him having to hold the bag for another off-seaon since it ended on an intercepted desperation end zone pass.
As a team, they let themselves down and the fans will feel let down as well.

I was embarrassed to be a Cowboys fan last night, even worse than I was when we got beat in the first round by the Arizona Cardinals at home in 1998 by the score of 20-7. That was a huge, embarrassing failure. But this was worse.

13-3 means nothing, but makes the sting of a loss that much worse. Patrick Crayton said it best, "I would have preferred to have gone 8-8 and won a playoff game."

First the Mavericks, now the Cowboys. Pull the truck over ... I'm gonna ask directions to the next huge, embarrassing failure

*12 Pro-Bowlers is a team record, which is impressive, but also makes this seismic loss a 9.8 on the Choke Scale.

Still, congratulations are in order for:
WR Terrell Owens*
OT Flozell Adams*
OG Leonard Davis*
C Andre Gurode*
TE Jason Witten*
QB Tony Romo
RB Marion Barber
OLB DeMarcus Ware*
CB Terence Newman
FS Roy Williams
FS Ken Hamlin
Kicker Nick Folk

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Look how they massacred my boy!

I have to tell you about the most expensive haircut of my life ...
My son and I had been needing haircuts for a while, so we went to a place where we could use a coupon. I won't tell you the name of the place, but only say it wasn't so "great" after all.

As we were nearing completion, I looked all the way across the "salon" and even without my glasses I could see a distinct horizontal line across Eric Jr.'s head.

For the record, I had not requested a bowl cut for him, but for them to blend from the short to the longer hair on top. Even after having a more advanced helper relieve the stylist, his cranium was still sub-par.

What about my own? I didn't fare much better. When spun around, I put on my glasses and saw some serious lack of blend. I asked if she could try to "erase that line" and she gave it another go.

However, even after that it wasn't right. She tried to tell me that it was because my hair was a bit wet, as though I'd never had a haircut before.

Well, it wasn't the worst haircut I've ever received. That was when I was 15 in the Waterloo train station in London. My dad let me go first, which meant I got the "one-armed" barber.

It wasn't the worst (some buddy cuts at A&M were more heinous), but it was the worst haircut I ever had to pay for.

In fact, for the first time in my life I was REALLY tempted to not pay for a haircut. But, the ladies were nice as can be, so we paid, but I made sure Victoria & her brother both got 2 lollipops out of the deal.

I hoped the bad haircut was obvious only to me and that it wasn't so bad. Besides, it will grow back, right?

When I got home, my wife was not impressed. She said we should go back there and make them fix our heads. I told her that it wasn't so much a question of their being willing, but rather their being able.

She said something to the effect of, "Well, he's 4, so it's not that big of a deal. But you're the pastor of a church, you can't stand in front of people on Sunday looking like that!"

At her vehement behest, we went to a proper barbershop. You know, the kind where it smells like a mixture of Brylcreem & cigars and George Jones always seems to be playing in the background.

They fixed me up as we talked about the Cowboys, completing the most expensive haircut of my life.

From here on out, I'm back on the barbershop plan exclusively. But, if you see Eric Jr., try not to give him a complex as you see how they massacred my boy.

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