Wednesday, December 29, 2010

When women and children shouldn't go first

In the scriptures there are examples of women stepping up and leading their families and passing on their faith from one generation to the next. One example is Timothy, who's MiMi and Mama, not Pa-Pa or Da-Da somehow played a role in Timothy's faith (2 Tim 15). I think there plenty of lads today who have had mothers who spiritually impacted them. I want to emphasize the importance of godly women in the spiritual formation in the church.

With that stated, when father abdicates spiritual responsibility in the house, there is a lasting effect. This article discusses and reflects on a Swiss study on church attendance and the concomitant disastrous result of fathers skipping out on corporate worship. Certainly a thought provoking article on the necessity of men in the church.

The results aren't pretty, but they are pretty obvious. When Dad is not there worshiping with his kids, his kids very likely won't be worshiping as adults. If the church in general primarily targets women and children, then soon there may be only women.

I'm very thankful for it and commend it to you. It has me really thinking more on the role of men in children's ministry at home and at the church.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Journey of the Magi revisited

My favorite poet, and I say that word favorite loosely, because I haven't picked up his collection in a while, is T.S. Eliot. And my favorite poem by my favorite poet would have to be "The Journey of the Magi." 

Eliot creatively ponders their journey to see the toddler Jesus and then what it would have been like on the "ride" home. Perhaps it is because I share such a fascination with these characters that I'm drawn to this poem? Perhaps it is the "real" nature of the struggle of these Magi instead of the sentimental glamorization of the Xmas characters?  Now this poem is not as easy to understand as "The Night before Christmas," but this poem is filled with much more amazing and deep, and even dark (but honest and real) Christmas reflections. Here are just two which have stuck out to me over the years.

1.) The uneasiness the Magi would have had upon returning to their homelands. They had been in the presence of the true King, for which their hearts truly desired. Now they would have to return home and be counselors to lesser kings. They even longed for another death: Christ's and their own, for the two are linked together. There is a healthy dissatisfaction which comes from living in this fallen world. In fact, it should be the same with all of us if we've ever met the true King, in whose presence we will one day bask in glory!

2.) The Magi are aware that this new King will be one who will have to die. The good news comes just as much in his death as in his birth.

Anyhow, without further shaping your own experience, here's the best Christmas poem ever written (in my opinion of course!)

"A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The was deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter."
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires gong out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty, and charging high prices.:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Flawed leadership?

As an earlier post mentioned, I was impressed by the leadership of a young Tampa Bay Buccaneer quarterback calling out older players who doing things like getting arrested. And I was equally unimpressed with the young coach not disciplining the players the way Tony Dungy would have.

But at least Buccaneer coach Raheem "the Dream" Morris is growing in his leadership. Most people talk about the colossal collapse of the New York Giants to the Philadephia Eagles on Sunday because most people who like football were watching that game. But another collapse happened in Tampa when play-off chances for the Bucs were just about shot by a heartbreaking loss to the Detroit Lions (losers of 27 straight road games) led by a third-string QB. It's just that very few people were watching; the games are still blacked out in Tampa b/c they can't sell them out anymore!

Anyhow, Raheem chose to play it safe, and not allow his QB to win the game. Instead, the Bucs chose 3 running plays to run time off the clock. The answer was a field goal instead of a touchdown, and the defense caved once again, giving up the game tying field goal. Then they gave up the game losing field goal in OT.

On Monday he admitted he made a bad decision and would do it differently next time. Tom Coughlin, the Giants coach, took blame for the loss, but didn't question anything he did-though others have rightly questioned his approach to the onside kick. These seem to represent two different leadership styles.

If I'm a player, I want to follow a coach who can evaluate, admit mistakes, and learn from them. This is the kind of leadership I appreciate, and I think I'm not alone. Kids need to hear parents say, "Sorry, I made a mistake there." Wives need this from husbands, as do congregants from their pastor. People tend to follow flawed folks who admit mistakes more so than those with "perceived perfection." At least that's been my experience. 

All leadership is flawed. But never confessing any flaws is ironically a sure-fire way to further flaw your leadership.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Caroling and why its worth freezing for a bit

I'm no caroling historian, but I think Christmas caroling was more common in yesteryear. Fortunately the tradition was already alive and well at Redeemer. So it only took one phone call for me to ask someone to set it up and everything was a go.

We went caroling last Wed night with well over 30 people, comprising everyone from children to youth to those who might qualify for a senior discount. In previous years, the church has caroled in neighborhoods going from house to house. "Blind caroling" can be a fun endeavor, but folks can quickly get discouraged when people come to the door and say, "You should just go to the next house." That happened the previous year.

Since the youth had already caroled to and mingled with a local nursing home, I felt it necessary to carol to those who would certainly appreciate it: some of the young at heart in our own congregation. 

So, with highs in the 20's (if that), and a rare day of no snowfall, we hit up 5 houses and brought joy to a number of folks who really appreciated it. I think caroling accomplished a number of things, but here are several reasons why I think its worth the effort.
1.) While its a lost art, this is a way to love those who are young at heart but who may qualify for special age-based discounts. Other people may not feel loved by caroling, as evidenced by them not coming to the door or telling you to leave, but certainly some folks appreciate it. It's a great way to show that you love them in a way that is well received. I think its necessary to care for those outside the church family in nursing homes, as well as those within the church family. Neither group should be ignored.

2.) It brings the carolers joy. There wasn't anyone I talked to-other than Connar, who melted down by the last house saying, "No sing! No sing!", and he's only 2 and was freezing and tired-who didn't have a blast. Getting the church together to sing songs about Jesus is good for the soul. Joy begets joy, and others' joy increases my joy. Your joy helps others and others help you. And we all needed this in 20 degree weather. And we still need it for the 20 degree weather of life.

3.) Good cross section of church. We had children, jr high and sr high youth, adults, single, parents, seniors all together. We needed to have the youth do a caroling trip of their own for logistical purposes, but having them together with the rest of the body is always a good thing. This is a time where kids who like to sing can be around others of all ages who like to sing and minister together.

I think next year I'd like to add some mingling to the caroling because it was very hard to turn down hot chocolate several times over. That would have been another great way to show love. But all in all, a great time. I hope that you get the opportunity to partake in caroling next year wherever you are. It may not be your bag, and small children may preclude you from going (probably not the best idea to bring a 2 yr old), but it is something worth considering.

Friday, December 17, 2010

From Freeman to Freemen

One of the songs on the Seeds Worship CD's is I Timothy 4:12. It comes on after, "The Rock song" as Connar calls it (Psalm 40:1-2), and says, just like the verse, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young. But set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity." I actually wrote that verse down from memory (although I forgot 'speech' and had 'faith' in the wrong place) BECAUSE of the CD's. They are helpful for adults, so that they can memorize scripture along with the children. I'll never stop recommending those things.

When Tampa Bay drafted QB Josh Freeman out of Kansas State last year, I was disappointed. But I'll admit that I was wrong on what he would bring on and off the field. This verse came to mind after Freeman called out his team for the recent string of arrests. Former FSU linebacker was tasered and arrested on Monday morning and Freeman apparently had enough. As a quarterback, he is supposed to be the leader on the field. But he is also probably the youngest player on the team, born in January 1988! If you do the math, and I just did, that makes him only 22 years old right now.

Since his coach, also the youngest coach in the league, has done little to actually discipline such players by taking away their most prized possession (a game check via suspension), Freeman has taken it upon himself to not only set the example, but to make sure others follow that example.

I don't know if Freeman is a Christian. He may be-I've seen nothing to doubt that he is, and I do think I spotted the WWJD bracelet on him once and in this picture (I didn't think they still made those things). But in calling these players out, not fearful of being the youngest one around, he is certainly following Jesus' command to Timothy.

This is a fine example, and one in which I wish I would follow better myself. When the Bucs players get arrested, it reflects poorly on someone. Usually the coach, and the organization as a whole. When Christians walk according to their own flesh, whether in a public venue or in their own homes, it reflects poorly on Christ and His church as a whole.

So I'm thankful for Freeman. And I also hope all those who think they are too young to offer anything, will set the example for believers of all ages. And when older believers dishonor Christ (and don't realize it, or refuse to change), I hope the younger ones can speak with love and the boldness of Free-men (sorry, I had to). Because in Christ we are truly free to fight for the honor of Christ and his reputation in the world. God isn't afraid to use the young (or old for that matter), so we shouldn't be afraid to be used, eh?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Henderson's Santa reflections

I shared some Santa reflections from Pastor Mark Driscoll on yesterday's post. Here are some Henderson reflections on Santa and his place in OUR Christmas season-I'm not writing this to tell you what to do, but to give another example of thinking through a cultural issue. As should be the case, these reflections are informed by scripture, our own experiences, interaction with culture (taking what's good, tweaking what's unclear, and tossing what's bad), and interaction with Christian community (folks like parents, pastors, and friends).

1.)  Not pretending he isn't there. A well known pastor/theologian wrote with a fatherly pride indicating his toddler son had no clue who Santa was. When in a store his son said, "Daddy, who is that funny looking man?" Everyone of course gave him looks of disdain, which he proudly took. I don't want our children to be unaware of the cultural milieu around them. We want Connar to be aware that Santa is out there, and he is associated with Christmas. Just as children need to be aware that not everyone worships Jesus, children need to be aware that for many, Christmas=Santa and presents ALONE. In addition, Santa is part of our American culture, and to love Americans, we can't pretend Santa isn't out there. That's not loving our neighbors well. I'm indebted to his systematic theology of the church at seminary, but have to part ways with him here.

2.) Making Jesus big. One pastor told me, "Geoff, Jesus is big enough to fill the season, so we talk him up every chance we get during Christmas." While I don't want our children to be ignorant of Santa, we try to talk about Jesus every chance we get. From the fisher price nativity scene, to the little devotional book Beginning with God at Christmas put out by the GoodBook Company, to baking cookies for neighbors to baking Jesus a birthday cake, we talk up Jesus as much as possible. We do have a dancing Santa in the house, but the nativity gets the most attention. We were planning on seeing Santa in the firetruck (the firetruck would have been the main draw for Connar), but b/c it wasn't a priority, it fell through the cracks. Making Jesus big is the primary reason why we make Santa smaller. He is big in the bible, and in particular, these birth narratives where wise men actually worship a little child.

3.) Thanks and Grace.  Parents/Grandparents should be acknowledged and thanked for gifts. I'm not sure anyone has ever written "thankyou" notes to Santa-though I could be wrong. But if they did, its obviously a waste of paper and stamps. Amy and I think its important for our kids to thank their parents and grandparents who graciously give them gifts. Connar, and Cade next year, will get presents simply because they are our children and we love them, not because Santa saw they were good kids. And certainly not b/c those freaky Elf-on-a-Shelf things told Santa my kids were good. Connar hears, "Jesus makes you a good boy" all the time. I'd be more likely to drag one of those things behind my car on a West Virginia potholed road then put one in my house.

4.) Trust. We want our kids to be able to trust us, and I just can't get behind the perpetuation of a myth for several years. However, I do think that pragmatically this is the weakest argument against Santa celebration. I don't know of anyone today who doesn't trust their parents or doesn't trust in Jesus b/c parents "lied" to them about Santa. In fact I've witnessed the opposite; parents who celebrated Santa and their kids love Jesus. Maybe parent hypocrisy or lack of training their children, but Santa? Still, I'm on board with the principle of trust, and it does make sense to me. It isn't the primary reason for downplaying Santa for us. But it does crack the top 5.

5.) History. When Connar gets older, we'll probably put Santa in a proper historical context and explore the character of Saint Nicholas. Then we can emulate the character of giving presents to those in need.

In conclusion, all parents have to decide what they will do with Santa. I don't think a death-to-Santa type of thinking is the way to go. I also don't think we should culturally embrace anything without thinking through it with a Christ centered grid, and in community. But whatever you decide, remember that if Christ is truly your Lord, you can walk around in freedom, not fearing the disapproval or craving the respect from those with whom you differ-including me. No condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Isn't Jesus awesome?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What to do with Santa?

Pastor Mark Driscoll, has written a thoughtful piece for the Washington Post on how he celebrates Christmas, and what role Santa Claus plays in it. This is well worth the read, regardless of what you decide or have decided about Santa.

The most powerful Christmas decoration I've seen is one my parents used to have: Santa bending the knee and praying to baby Jesus. Still sticks with me. Regardless of whether you build up the Santa myth, contextualize it, or play it down, consider thinking critically through all issues, and let the King of Kings reign in your heart and house.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bring back the Wow

Just finished rereading the scripture passage I preached yesterday at Redeemer, and listening to the sermon. If you missed it, you can listen here  or download it here under "The Christmas Flip-Flop"

I also wanted to put up Bono's manger reflection. I hope that this amazing incarnation story never ceases to amaze us. It doesn't need to evoke tears as it did for him one Xmas Eve, but how can it not make us say, "Wow!" After the sermon I spoke with a couple who felt the same way. When a pastor can hear people speaking more highly of Jesus, his prayers for a "good sermon" have been answered. It just doesn't get any better than that. The goal for the whole worship service is that people would be talking about and celebrating the tri-une God.

May this Advent season, when we celebrate Christ's first coming and long for his return, be dominated by the awe of God's son born in straw poverty. Like Bono said, "What poetry!"

What I forgot to mention in my sermon when I reference this quote is that Bono wasn't given star treatment that Xmas Eve service. He didn't have a seat saved for him! That only moved him closer to the humility of Jesus and enhanced his experience. Here's the quote and introduction.

This reflection on Christmas occurred after Bono had just returned home, to Dublin, from a long tour with U2. On Christmas Eve Bono went to the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where Jonathan Swift was dean. Apparently he was given a really poor seat, one obstructed by a pillar, making it even more difficult for him to keep his eyes open…but it was there that this Christmas story struck him like never before. He writes:
“The idea that God, if there is a force of Logic and Love in the universe, that it would seek to explain itself is amazing enough. That it would seek to explain itself and describe itself by becoming a child born in straw poverty, in sh&$ and straw…a child… I just thought: “Wow!” Just the poetry … Unknowable love, unknowable power, describes itself as the most vulnerable. There it was. I was sitting there, and it’s not that it hadn’t struck me before, but tears came streaming down my face, and I saw the genius of this, utter genius of picking a particular point in time and deciding to turn on this.”

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Choosing choo-choo over the Jets; UPDATED

I was disappointed with the first hour of The Sing Off on Monday night. Teeny-bopper music, some risque moves, snotty and snooty folks, and the standard "Paula Abdoul-esque" critique (saying something without saying anything) from Pussycat Doll judge. Then in the 2nd hour, they brought out the groups which were actually good. Everything changed. The music included "instruments," the sounds were good, and the judges were blown away. In the end, the 2nd half redeemed the first. So I hope you at least got to hear Committed, a black gospel group which performed a Maroon 5 song. Solid.

With that said, I came across a fascinating and telling post about a former NY Jets player who declined their offer of a contract. The Jets, much like the Bucs, have lost several safeties do to injuries (the Bucs also lost one to drugs as well), and have been desperately searching for replacements. Keith Fitzhugh, released by the Jets on Sept 4th, has enjoyed his new job working for a railroad. Because his return would only be for several weeks, why leave the train station when he has a steady job? He'd be released after the season ended.

For Connar my 2 year old, who loves trains, this would be a no-brainer. Stay with the choo-choo's. 

But Fitzhugh is also taking care of his disabled father who can't work, and that definitely played into his decision. As a result of that, I found this story worthy of promoting.

The NFL has power. But it doesn't have supreme power over some. That may show up next year in a lockout (I'm hoping it won't be the case, but that may be a good thing for sports fans). Regardless, it is great to see a player who would can choose principle and parent care over the money, fame, experience, and fun offered by the NFL. Now I don't want to say that he couldn't have said "yes" to the Jets. He certainly could have.
But the fact that he COULD say No, not the fact that he HAD to say No, reveals to us that the NFL is not his idol. Watching a game, rooting for a team, spending money on a team is not bad in and of itself. Yet it's a different story when we HAVE to watch, spend money on, root for, play, at the expense of other things which may be clearly commanded: corporate worship, loving family, taking care of parents, giving, etc... It is not saying YES to football that is bad. It is when we CAN'T say no, that we know, football has become an idol.
I'm sure I'll have to eat my words soon, but putting this stuff down on paper is one way to hold myself accountable!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Despite Bucs loss, someone is still singing off

Well, yesterday, Mr. McCoy and my Buccaneers fell once again to the evil that is the Atlanta Falcons. I didn't get to watch the game due to Fox deciding to show the lowly Cowboys and Colts instead, but it was probably best that I missed the game. The Bucs successfully snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory, by blowing a 10 point lead with 10 minutes to go. Either McCoy regressed spiritually, or the entire defensive line simply got outplayed yet again. No sacks. Again, another reason why it can be dangerous to equate God's approval of you with personal or team performance.

On a completely unrelated note, and musical one at that, I'm excited that "The Sing Off" is on again. This is the 2nd season of an acapela group competition where voices don't simply throw out musical instruments; the voices can actually replicate the instruments. That's my favorite part.
It's really quite amazing what singers can do with their voices, and definitely commend this show based upon last years performances. These folks would be great to have in your back pocket if your sound system suddenly went down.

I think they could do without Nick Lechey, and the flaky Pussycat Doll judge, but for the most part they get out of the way. Ben Folds Five front man and the Boys II Men judge usually do their part to add to the performances.

The show airs tonight at 8 pm, and will go on for 5 nights, ending Dec 20th. If you get a chance to DVR it, I think it will be worth your time to see what it looks like to truly get the most out of God's great gift of the human voice.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

If blaming is bad, what about praising God for football success?

A majority of this week's posts have been about football: more specifically blaming God for football mistakes.

Here's a story about Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT and first round draft pick Gerald McCoy where this player does the opposite of Steve Johnson. He actually credits God for his improved play in recent weeks. Here's an excerpt from the St Pete Times.

"My spiritual life, what was happening, I was swaying away from that," McCoy said. "I was kind of doing things the way I wanted to do it. God had a plan for my life, and I wasn't living according to how His plan was. "Once I got back on track is when things started to really make a quick transformation. Two games, three sacks, it happens that fast. You've got to stay on track with God, and things work out for you."

First of all I have to say that I heard McCoy being interviewed on the Dan Patrick radio show, and he was very mature, classy, humble, and a godly lad.

In light of the respect I already have for this 21-22 year old,  I'd simply like to throw out a question: "Since its never a good idea to blame God as the reason for your bad play, is it ALWAYS good to cite God as the reason for your good play?"

It is always good to attribute your God-given ability to, well, God. It is always good to attribute your opportunity to God; some folks just don't get the opportunity because of coaching situations, injuries, family tragedies, etc...

But while attributing ability, opportunity, and even success to God, athletes need to be very careful in attempting to explain WHY God has granted those things. This can actually become quite dangerous.

God does bless people when they return to Him, but HOW He does that is His business. We don't get a vote. God could be graciously (unmerited) blessing McCoy after He wandered and returned, that his poor play was God's way of getting his attention. But its also possible, that McCoy, a rookie, has simply begun to learn to play within the system now.
 There are numerous examples of God raising up athletes for seasons of their lives for a specific purpose and then setting them down. Pittsburgh Steeler's Tommy Maddox comes to mind, as does Shaun King for the Bucs, both of whom are professing Christians. Both had A season of playing at a high level before being deposed.

Who knows why God exalted them for a bit, and then humbled them shortly after? Was it moral failure? Did God exalt them because they returned to the Lord? Did He simply want them to glorify Him in different places through defeat? No idea.

To assume we know WHY God allows Christian athletes, businessmen, or pastors to excel is to assume a very simple and reductionist view of God. It equates walking with God with outward success in life; aka the "prosperity gospel." God simply becomes a vending machine with the currency of good works used to squeeze something out of Him.

In conclusion, I think it is awesome McCoy recognizes God's Sovereignty in His success. I just wish he and other Christian athletes wouldn't draw such a necessary connection between faith and success. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

A prophet and king unwelcome in home town

Jesus coined the phrase "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household (Matthew 13:57)." While he was born in Bethlehem, he grew up in Nazareth. People there had a hard time really getting behind the fact that while Jesus was fully human, he was also fully God (of course this was hard for the first 300 or so years of the church, but they always seemed to have the sense of it being true despite taking some time to agree upon the precise orthodox language). They saw Jesus as Mary and Joseph's kid, who like all the other kids, did kid things (though not sinfully-I'd love to see what Jesus was like as a youth!), and now was a grown up telling people he was more than just a dude. So Jesus was not respected in his home town as even a prophet, much less a King, even though he did nothing wrong.

It seems a king is also not without honor except in his hometown as well. Lebron James, aka "King James" returned to his hometown-at least in the vicinity of-Cleveland with a similar reception. Except he received boos instead of disbelief. But these were well deserved boos seeing as he did jilt his hometown on national TV via his self-promoting TV special to head to Miami. The city reflected upon James and his actions, and the best way to dishonor this lesser King. Fortunately they stayed within the confines of the law and didn't need the bail money they had set aside, as some had talked about on Jim Rome's show.

So prophet and king aren't welcomed in home towns. I wonder about priests...Where is Priest Holmes now?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Steve Johnson Tweet Take 3

This is my final Steve Johnson Twitter take. Again, this is not to pile on one man's mistake, but simply to consider our own response to "dropping passes" in our lives. He's probably a cool cat, and he probably loves Jesus just as much as I do. Although, one could make an argument that if his life was so structured as his tweet- he "praised God 24/7" so that good things can happen, and is mad when they don't-that's really not love at all but attempted manipulation. God can't be manipulated like people, so don't try. But I don't want to read too much more into his tweet, so this take is more on the public nature of twitter and facebook.

There is a powerful scene in The Apostle, one of my favorite movies of all time, where Robert Duvall is literally yelling and screaming at God, wondering what in the world is happening to him. The neighbors call up fairly perturbed and ask what the deal is. His mother answers to something to the effect of, "Sometimes Sonny talks to God, sometimes he yells."

God can take our frustrations. He can take our yelling. We don't need to be gentle as though He gets His feelings hurt by us. We just need to couch everything in the fact that He is God, and we are not. He's privy to more than we are, and He love us more than we love ourselves (hard to believe, but true). But with that pre-supposition in our heads (our hearts may be miles away), we can lay our souls bare before him. I think we can even yell and cry out.

But bearing your soul and frustrations before Him is one thing. Bearing your unfiltered frustrations with God and others before the world is another.

Facebook and Twitter can be great things. But they are not good places to lay your soul bare, and air dirty laundry that you have with your spouse, children, siblings, and frustrations with God. Such venues dishonor ALL of the aforementioned. God doesn't do that with us, and he doesn't let others do that to us (Matthew 18). 

Frustrations are best done in real community, not cyber-community. A small group, a close friend, a pastor, elder, are 100% better than Facebook in this regard. These are safe places to be frustrated which don't dishonor anyone. Of course the best person is the person with whom you are frustrated.

Mike Florio of, though not a believer to my knowledge, offers some sage advice on what we can learn from Johnson's tweet:

The possible lesson?  Prayer is best left between the person sending it, and the entity receiving it.

Unless your prayer is something that you want repeated throughout generations, like those Puritan prayers in The Valley of Vision, Florio has a good point.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Steve Johnson Tweet Take 2

Other folks, perhaps smarter, with blogs more well read, have blogged about Steve Johnson's tweet. One thoughtful, albeit lengthy response is here.

Before moving on, I will say that Johnson tried to recant his tweet here. Nevertheless, since his tweet raised some interesting questions, I'm going to give my "take two" on Johnson's shot at God. This take is more aimed at a question, then at Johnson.

You regularly see QB's pointing to the sky for touchdown catches, as well as some who give praise to Jesus for a win. So if God makes you win, then does God make you lose? If God makes you catch the pass, then does God make you drop the pass? If you can credit Him for the win, shouldn't you be able to blame Him for the loss?


God is providentially involved in all of life, even evil things which people do to us (Gen 50:20). I prefer to use the word, "allow." He allows us to drop passes, catch passes, remember our spelling words, or forget something on the SAT. He is in charge of all things, and nothing is out of His control. Jesus calmed the storm in Matthew 8, and showing how even weather systems are powerless against his will. But Jesus often lets weather systems run their course too. Are they his fault? Well he did allow them...

At what level was God involved in Johnson's drop (he actually had 5 in the game), I don't know. And I don't care, and neither should we. While football is often the center of our universe, it isn't the center of God's universe. I don't think he cares a whole lot about the outcome of the game. He could run that operation like Angels in the Outfield, or just allow normal cause and effect and differing levels of skills and coaching to be the deciding factor.

The problem is that the one who wins is the one who gets the microphone, and so all we hear is, "Thank you Jesus for this win." We rarely get to hear the loser speak, which is what reporters would do if I had any say. But after Johnson's tweet, maybe I don't want Christian football players who just lost the game get in front of the mic. Twitter, like it or not, is perhaps even more powerful a tool than TV now.

In the end, good receivers, whether Christian or non-Christian, make touchdown catches at the end of the game. They just do. It is not wrong for them to take some credit in making a great catch.

Ultimately, in the end, God allows us to both catch and drop passes. When you catch it, remember who gave you the ability to catch it-whether you mention Jesus in the interview or not. I don't think Christ is dishonored when you don't throw out his name by giving him credit for the win. 

But when you drop it, recognize your part in it all, and then remember who gave you the ability to deal with the drop.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Steve Johnson Tweet Take 1

I just came across this fascinating post about how Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson blamed God for dropping a touchdown pass in O.T. against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He actually tweeted it.


Here's a few takes on this tweet

1.) We often think like this don't we? That we've been good, so we should make the over the should proverbial touch down catch in life. Anything we get should be a reward, right? I'm not blasting this guy, because I sometimes I think this way. I reveal it by anger or over frustration at dropped balls in my life. While I do have a twitter account, I don't tweet, so it doesn't get to CNN, or even out the door.
2.) David's laments before God sometimes bear a slight resemblance to this. Check out Psalm 73:13-14.

"...All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning."

In other words, I've tried to honor you, but the "other guy" has it made in the shade while I'm the one getting the shaft

So where is the difference? Other than the fact that one was inspired by the Holy Spirit and the other one inspired by the frustration of losing, there is a difference in direction.

The Psalms point us to Jesus. Ultimately, Jesus said all of the Psalms pointed to him (Luke 24). While we are free to, and should express these frustrating feelings to the Lord, we need to realize that Jesus lived out the frustrations in these Psalms. He truly was 100% innocent, and had 100% clean hands, and 100% clean heart, and yet he took upon himself the frustrations of life in this world. At the cross, he experienced the frustration of being publicly scorned by those who were in the wrong. And just as he was vindicated by rising from the grave, so too will we who are united with him by faith. It just won't be because we praised God 24/7; it will be because of Jesus.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Powerful testimony

Here is a powerful testimony from a North Korean girl at the recent Lusanne Congres that I mentioned in my sermon today. Definitely worth checking out to see what the Lord has done in her life, and shows how those who seek to stop the gospel only end up spreading it further.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Some good Xmas tunes

We put up the family Xmas tree on this lovely, but very cold, WV Friday-after-Thanksgiving day. I had some help from a number of festive (not to be confused with "festivus") Xmas albums on the I-pod. Of course the usuals like The Chieftans (family tradition) showed up large, along with Point of Grace (for Amy). But many songs came courtesy of You can download a plethora of solid Xmas albumes at this site. I have most of the titles on the first page, and many have already added to my enjoyment of the season. If you're looking for some good tunes, definitely give this site a whirl.

If you have any Xmas suggestions, or albums to stay away from, please comment.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A pragmatic Childress gets an extension one year and fired the next

After another unproductive Brett Favre performance, the Minnesota Vikings finally fired coach Brad Childress. The coach who took them (though it was probably Favre who "took" them) to within a field goal of the Super Bowl (though they didn't get a chance to kick the field goal b/c Favre threw an interception), was fired after signing an extension through 2013. A near hero one year, and 10 weeks later the goat. 

Two years ago I pondered whether or not coaxing Favre out of retirement, the 2nd time, was a 'good' idea; both ethically and pragmatically. I felt like while it wasn't a positively ethical decision (it ignored the hard work of the previously starting QB's), it was pragmatically a good decision: they won. For the pragmatist, if it works, then it is good.

This year, I wondered the same two things when Childress tried to coax Farve out of retirement, for the 3rd time. This time sending players down to Mississippi, while instructing others to lie about their whereabouts. How other Viking players wouldn't find out IMMEDIATELY about the media circus that is Favre is beyond me. 

So Favre came back, skipping training camp again, and has so far led the league in interceptions. Pragmatically the decision was a bad one. It didn't work. Ethically the decision was also a bad one, filled with lies and lack of respect for the quarterbacks in training camp. 

Childress found out about the blessing and curses of pragmatism. He got a 3 year extension because the Favre decision worked last year. But he found the dangers of pragmatism as well; things that work one year don't always work the next year. At least an ethically based decision is right or wrong on the front end, and you don't have to wait till half the season is over before you know if you made the right decision!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Republocrat: more thoughts than a review

A good friend of mine at Redeemer let me borrow a book he recommended called Republocrat by Carl Trueman. I don't read a bunch of political books, but this one was definitely worth the read. And it was short, so that always helps me. 

While I'm not sure I would ever be buddies with Dr. Trueman (although I have to admit his eclecticism in everything besides worship-he's an exclusive Psalm singer-does make me want to chat with him some time), his writing style is absolutely marvelous. If you like good writing, albeit a few longer than usual sentences here and there, you'll at least like his style. It really drew me in; I'm a fan of good writing.

I think Trueman's main point with Republocrat is to serve as an "outsider" to expose the inconsistencies within both parties, and to challenge the notion that either of them directly come to us from the bible. Since his audience would seem to be "the Right" and "Religious Right," he spends a good part of his time addressing those who believe Fox News really is "fair and balanced." Instead he lists examples of how this "fair and balanced" news program, owned by Rupert Murdoch, is driven by money, greed, and an ideology.

I've already shared my two cents on how NO ONE is fair and balanced; we all have biases. And that's OK, just recognize them, and recognize them in your news programs.

The harshest thrust of his criticism seems directed toward Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reiley. Contrary to modern evangelical opinion, these folks aren't our prophets. Trueman argues that they are regularly logically inconsistent, ignorant, and misguided, and gives some examples why he feels this way.

The tone might (Brits are just different, so this just might be a cultural difference) have been a bit on the harsh side, but it was filled with fun, clever, witty sarcasm. And he blasts both the left and the right.

Overall, I think he leaves the reader with several positive a-political challenges, but here is his strongest point.

Get your news from multiple places, and don't assume that CNN, MSNBC, or FOXNEWS has a monopoly on what's "really" happening. Use the mind that God has given you to develop informed opinions.
I definitely recommend this book to both ends of the spectrum: political die-hards or politically indifferent. Not everything he says you or I will agree with (that's the case with every book but the bible) in regards to political thought. However, in regards to philosophy-how you arrive at your political thought and opinions-I think this read could be incredibly helpful and allow you to enter into healthy dialog with some different folks.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nietzsche's somewhat helpful diagnosis

Ever since seminary, I've really enjoyed philosophy. Philosophers, like it or not, really shape not only the intellectual elite but the general populous as well. Philosophy eventually drips down to the level of pop culture. It can become dangerous because philosophy doesn't look so esoteric anymore. It simply looks like what normal people think. 

But philosophy, even that which comes from seriously anti-Christian philosophers, can still help point us to Jesus. Even folks like Neitzsche, who coined the phrase "God is dead," can be quite helpful in our sanctification. Men and women are made in the image of God and therefore can say true things about the world, regardless of how hostile they are to Jesus.

Let me explain. Nietzsche's commentary on humanity was that everyone simply exerts their "will to power" over others. Morality, especially that coming from the church, was simply the church trying to get you to conform to their pattern of life. Morality is simply another form of power play (not to be confused with hockey "power play" where one team has more players on the ice; I still don't get that). 

Before we throw the baby (or rather the anti-Christian philosopher) out with the bath water, let's consider the fact that he may be right in some way. 

It comes down to the heart issue. What is the motivation for wanting our kids to behave at school? What is the motivation for a pastor wanting someone in his congregation to come back to worship after he's been absent for awhile? Why would you counsel a teen to stop dating his/her unbelieving boyfriend/girlfriend or not date at all?

Could our motivation be "Neitzschean?" Of course! We can care about what others think of our kids, pastors can see people as "nickels and noses," and we can have as an end goal that others simply look like us.

That's what Paul warned the Judaizers were doing in the letter to the Galatians; they simply wanted followers and folks to look like them! Paul was well aware of this "will to power" well before young Frederic was!

So what's the solution? How do we escape pure skepticism and pessimism, thinking everyone has a legitimate gripe in saying, "You just want to mold me to look like you!" We need to examine our hearts and decide what our goal really is for our children, our congregation, and our teenagers. Is it for them to look like ME, or is it to look like Jesus?

Is it for your good (will it make things easier and make you look better) or is it for their good (that they will choose life-Psalm 1, instead of walking in the path death-Deut 30:19) If Jesus is our ultimate aim, then we can honestly say, as Paul says, "Follow me as I follow the example of Christ" (I Cor 11). We can confidently explain to others, while examining our own hearts, that there is a difference in our will to power and Jesus' rightful will to power over all.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When doing the right thing costs you a game

Sunday was a good day of football for half the teams that played. For the other half of the teams it was a bad day, I guess. That's always the case, right? But for the Houston Texans (really creative name), it was probably, a particularly perturbing day indeed.
On a Hail Mary 50 yard pass into the end zone with no time left, the defensive back batted the ball down instead of going for the interception. While I've never been a defensive football player, or played organized football before, I'm told he did exactly what he was supposed to do. Unfortunately doing the "right" thing cost him and his team; the ball he batted down landed right into the hands of a Jacksonville receiver who stepped in the endzone for the game-winning touchdown. You can watch the video here.

He did the right thing but it turned out not to work out in his favor. I can imagine that next time he will try to go for the interception, the personal stats, and abandon doing the right thing. And I don't blame him.

Often as Christians, we choose to do the right thing in loving others but the result turns out to be, at least proverbially, a touchdown for the other team. For instance, as a church we were planning on having a large number of folks assist Charleston's Union Mission in sorting food from their recent food drive last night. Unfortunately a large donor backed out, and food didn't come in for us to sort. So a number of eager folks received news that we wouldn't be sorting food.

I was really bummed. I bet others were as well. Anytime we choose to serve others, we have a great opportunity to be let down. It might be the un-churched person who agrees to come to church with you, but doesn't answer the door when you stop by to pick him/her up. It could mean that you could get sick, get fleas or lice, when you love and invite folks into your home. You're doing the right thing, but getting the "wrong" results.

If we only look at the result of our actions by our sight, we will become pessimistic pragmatists. If I can see right now a "good" ("good"=MY PLANS) result of my actions, I'll serve and love others. But if I don't like what I see, then I'll stop doing what's right. Its not worth having a "touchdown" scored on me.

Yet for Christians, doing the right thing means that we'll be disappointed sometimes. Maybe even often, especially in mercy ministry. It means that we'll be hurt sometimes. And I hate that, and I want to just say, "Forget it!"

But let us not stop doing what is right as we love others, even with the concomitant hurt and disappointment which will inevitably come from it. When you are hurt or disappointed, remember the smiles and respect we ultimately need come our Heavenly Father. Let's keep on truckin' despite what the earthly scoreboard and our pragmatic sight-dominated hearts tell us and instead see things with renewed eyes of faith.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Amazon eventually caves

It looks like has finally removed the controversial pro-pedaphilia book from their website one day after reportedly holding their ground. Was it capitalism that motivated them to sell it in the first place? Obviously they're after the bottom dollar. Was it capitalism that motivated them to then remove it from their website? A boycott was called for; they would have probably lost more money than they would have gained from the sell of the book. I guess this is one example where capitalism, albeit inadvertently, had a public morally beneficial outcome.

But some questions still remain for me. What would have happened if hadn't removed this content? Would it be morally wrong to continue to order "Christian" (or any books for that matter) from such an entity? I now order all my books, as well as most other things through, because its easy and free shipping. Should I have stopped?

Even though this e-book was removed, this article actually mentions some other questionable stuff. Should the sell of questionable material stop me from buying good material from them?

When is an economic boycott necessitated? Should we rely solely on such means, or is it better to have government play a more hand's on role and not rely on the consumer in such situations? Since all legislation is essentially moral in nature, would this even be much of a stretch to assume that the Federal government should intervene?

Free speech, (the moral category which justified the publishing of this book) which we Americans love, is obviously a slippery slope. And I presume the question of how it should be regulated will not be getting any easier.

I'm not attempting to answer any questions, but simply passing on questions which I'm now beginning to ponder.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Spicing things up during drier times

I've heard from several different folks recently about how their devotional time with the Lord has been a little slow. Folks who are in the Word, reading daily or fairly daily, haven't been experiencing "rich" times they once experienced. 

We've all come across periods of time when this is the case. And by the way, these "dry periods" don't necessarily mean that you're not walking with the Lord (although of course you can quench the Spirit's work by continued unrepentant sin). More often than not, this can be a way God is actually growing your faith through His silence. We have to learn to remain faithful to the Lord even when He's feels silent, and encourage others to do so as well. He's still there, but sometimes He's more silent. Some Psalms attest to this fact and call for God not to be silent (Psalm 35). Yet God is at work still, making our faith less dependent upon our experience and more dependent upon His character. Here are a few things that have helped me during such a silent period.

1.) Read some narratives. These narratives in the bible are enjoyable. There is nothing wrong with spending your devotional time reading and enjoying them. We are supposed to enjoy them. The cool thing is that they're inspired by God and He uses these stories to point us to Christ, the main character of all stories. Take a break and read Genesis, Judges, Kings, the Gospels, Acts, etc...
2.) "Spice up" your devotional life by supplementing some reading in addition to the scriptures. You don't need to add more time, but feel free to split it up with some good devotional reading and scripture. I'm now going through Ezekiel, but also have benefited from Sinclair Ferguson's In Christ Alone: Living the gospel centered life. This book is filled with 5-10 minute readings that are more of a systematic theology in small doses.

Amy is now going through John Piper's A Godward Life to supplement her scripture reading and it has been very helpful. 

Anyhow, here are just a few examples of things that have helped me. Feel free to comment and add some other things which have helped you in the "drier" devotional times.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I'll trade you a ticket for an autograph

Here's an interesting post on how Baltimore Raven's running back Ray Rice got out of a ticket by offering an autograph for the police officer's son. Obviously we don't know this happened because of the police officer's pang of conscience, but because Rice tweeted it.

It is telling how we all like to brag about getting away with stuff. Such is the natural state of the heart.

All I can say for Rice is, at least he didn't play the "Do you know who I am?" card. At least we don't think he did because it wasn't in his tweet.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Pastor Coming out of the Closet

One of the blogs I follow every now and then is church plant guru and Lifeway Research head Ed Stetzer. Here is one of his recent posts about a prominent mega-church pastor who recently came out of the closet. If you want to, you can actually see a video of Jim Swilley addressing his congregation. I've watched about 20 minutes of it, and it is pretty sad and frustrating. Instead of stepping down, or taking a leave of absence, this man has spent time actually defending his position by the "I was born this way and can't go against my nature" stance. Not that he had any credibility to begin with, but he compared those who speak against his stance with those telling a woman how she should feel while in labor or in PMS. Yikes.

Here are just a few thoughts. Ed has some good, gracious and truthful ones on his post as well.

1.) This is an example of the weakness of an unaccountable charismatic/pentecostal lifestyle where God just "speaks to you" all the time and tells you this or that. When folks play the "God told me so card," we need not be afraid to say, "Actually, no He didn't." He says right here in His Word the very opposite thing you're saying. Don't think "God told me so" is a trump card. God's Word is the trump card.

2.) Just because one may feel gay attractions, regardless if those have been there since the age of 4-as this man claims-doesn't mean that you should act on them. Henri Nouwen, a well known author and Catholic Priest, reportedly lived with same sex attraction but chose to remain chaste (who knows what he would have done if he weren't a priest-but that's really beside the point). This man is currently celibate, and plans to remain that way, but wouldn't make any promises about the future. So we can rest assure that homosexuals actively seeking (not struggling) and living in homosexual relationships will not not be convicted through his preaching.

3.) Swilley claims that he is called to preach the gospel; he is as sure of that as he is of his sexual orientation. Unfortunately there is a huge segment of life which the gospel is not reaching for him and won't for those sitting under his preaching. But WE all need a sober reminder that the gospel is a proclamation that Jesus is Lord over all of life: our sexuality, our finances, our marriages, our politics, our hobbies. Its easy to point the finger at this lad, without considering any areas where Christ isn't being submitted to as Lord in our own lives. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Kingdom Costumes: We won't get fooled again?

One thing about the gospel message-all that God has done/is doing/will do for His people in Christ-is that you never outgrow your need of it. No matter how much you grow in your faith, begin displaying the fruit of the Spirit, see your love for others increase, you always need Jesus' forgiveness, love, encouragement, and power. 

Here's a reminder from Paul Tripp, who wrote Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands, about how much we still need the gospel because we masquerade in costumes which make others think we are Kingdom centered, yet we really just care about our own kingdoms. Pretty convicting. From mothers who desire obedient children to pastors who look for a spiritually vibrant and growing congregations, none of us have 100% pure motives. They look good from the outside, but we often fool others, and even ourselves. But Jesus isn't fooled one bit.

Now some might consider this morbid, or defeatist, to think that just about everything we do has tainted motives. Maybe even praying with your kids!

But its not. Knowing your messed-up heart motivations makes you run to Jesus, and bring your dreams and desires to Him. Knowing that you need the gospel, makes you cherish and want the gospel that much more. Someone posted this article on facebook and said that it "stirred the pot."

I really can't see why, because I'm beginning to get more of a glimpse of my own heart and need for Jesus. I hope the same for you, and that as a result, you see the Holy Spirit produce more Christ-centered love in your relationships as opposed to self-centered love masquerading as the real deal.

As The Who once sang, my hope is this: "We won't get fooled again."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Making Room at the Leadership Table

I just finished reading the book Sticky Teams, by Larry Osborne. While I won't write a review of the book here, or anywhere for that matter, I did want to pass on some info which may be helpful for anyone in any church at any size. 

Osborne has pastored a church in California called North Coast Church for 3 decades and has humbly, but confidently, passed on some principles which he thinks will help create solid leadership teams. I didn't feel like he sought out to give a formula for church growth-though his church has long since reached "Mega" status-but to help lay down leadership principles which he has learned throughout the years. So I really appreciated that.

What he did well was give numerous practical examples of how to build a team. Of course I'm not a senior pastor of a huge church, but then again most people aren't. Yet I found a number of chapters  helpful for anyone involved in ministry in a local church. One particular chapter seemed apropos for all churches: "Making Room at the Top-Why young eagles don't stay."

One thing which will ensure a church not to grow numerically, and only grow older and older without any influx of new folks, is the unwillingness of existing leadership to make room for new leaders. Over a prolonged period of time, this will leave a huge generation gap as developing leaders have no place to serve.

In regards to the practicality of actually applying this principle, Osborne recognizes it is incredibly hard and painstaking. He applies many of these principles to volunteer or staff teams, saying, "No one ever decides to change seats on their own."

However, I don't think this is always the case, as I've seen some evidence of the opposite here at Redeemer: leaders passing off areas of leadership to newer (not necessarily younger) faces. From allowing a newer person to oversee any area of children's ministry, to training someone for projector/Media shout duties, we're moving in the right direction. So I've seen this spirit of "making room" at Redeemer, and will pray it continues as the church matures.

Making room at the leadership table simply involves a desire to see new leadership raised up. A good leader is always raising up new leaders, and making room at the table by training others, scooting over, and sharing responsibilities/decision making.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

When going to church might get yourself killed

Here is another story of violent persecution against believers. These folks were attacked and killed while actually worshiping inside their church in the Middle East.

Let me supply a few brief "takes:"
1.) It just makes you wonder where we've gone wrong in America, where corporate worship is just an option among many to do on a Sunday morning. If you're too tired, have sporting events, just need a break, family time, don't like the rain, etc...And if its snowing or sleeting, then forget about it. It's just too dangerous.
Yet why is it different in other countries, where folks WANT to gather for worship, and even risk their lives to do so? Is Jesus more precious to them?
I wonder what church attendance would be like in America if it were actually dangerous to go to church. If you were actually risking your life to gather together for worship, would it inspire the adventurous, curtail the cautious, or give life to the nominal believer?

We don't need to feel guilty for living in America, but I think looking at the suffering of other believers around the world really exposes our idol of comfort and safety.

2.) While a number of folks in the pews would probably articulate a description of the Trinity that might in some ways be heretical (a pastor once told me this and I tend to believe him), no one would argue that the Trinity is actually three gods. Even though no one can fully understand how three Persons can be distinct and yet equal in power and glory, we still know that somehow God is still one God. 

And we know that but Muslims don't. We are very much a polytheistic religion to them, as you can see in this article. Such is the title Christians get for claiming that Jesus is who He claims Himself to be. All three persons and their equality are very much present in Jesus' dialog with His disciples in John 14 in case you think you're taking crazy pills when you believe in the Triune God.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Doubt like a child

Last night, before I arrived home to watch the waning minutes of the Bucs victory over the Arizona Cardinals, I had the opportunity to lead yet another discussion on the Nickel Creek's "Doubting Thomas." This time it was with Redeemer's Jr. High. 

Of course I made the mistake of not explaining what a "doubting Thomas" was (you just can't assume biblical literacy, although I'm pretty sure Doubting Thomas is used as a secular term as well), and that was my fault. But once we got past that, discussion, along with the craziness of 15 middle-schoolers in a small room, flowed like the New River.

One thing I found very interesting with the Jr. High was their attention to detail with the song lyrics. They wanted to know what every line meant. I didn't get that with the Sr. High's. 

But what I found most profound was their quick, without hesitation answer to my question, "So, what would you say are some of the things you doubt?" The Sr High didn't say anything. The Jr. High kids said everything. 

They were unashamed, as they should be, to admit doubting and having some questions about key doctrinal issues. Of course some of them weren't really doubts, and many of the questions had legitimate answers with which we'll follow up. Yet there were some serious doubts present.

But the cool thing is that their questions and doubts were brought before a community: to each other and to their leaders. Youth group had become a safe place. I had them read Jude 22, which is not your most commonly read verse in the world, but very apropos to doubts: "Have mercy on those who doubt." They were already applying that verse, with of course, having no idea who the heck Jude was.

No one felt ashamed to admit he/she wondered about what heaven was like, if it is was real at all, and who all would be there.

I don't tend to like the attention span of Jr Highers, but I do love their honesty. If they keep these doubts inside, we don't have a clue they exist. Yet what freedom we have to bring our doubts to Jesus (Mark 9:23-24)-that's where we ended the discussion. Doubts love to be alone and stay as far away from Jesus as possible because they know they can't survive in Christ centered community.

While this seems the opposite of having "faith like a child," which Jesus saw and praised in children, I think he would have also praised this honesty as well, saying, "doubt like a child." After all a child like faith isn't afraid to admit where it falls short.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Following in little brother's footsteps

Who doesn't love a good story of second chances, redemption, and Buccaneers football? Well, I might have gone a little overboard on the latter, but this is a cool story about how an older brother and convicted felon, followed the path of his younger brother to play football at the University of Illinois. Since the lad did hard time in West Virginia, I'm thinking he may actually be from West Virginia, so that might interest some of the readership. Check it out here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Henderson Halloween in Hurricane

Halloween in Hurricane W.V. runs a bit differently that Halloween in Bradenton, or Halloween in any place for that matter where I've lived the past 33 years. Its more of a socialist style. The powers that be regulate WHEN trick-or-treating will take place; this year it was Thursday, Oct 28th from 6-8 pm. Kind of weird, but this Halloween provided a number of great opportunities. 

We had some friends from our old apartment complex come over and share a meal with us. Then afterward Strawberry Shortcake and Batman traversed the neighborhood roads, forgetting all that we taught them about the evils of the street. I got to meet several neighbors, who had otherwise seemed to care very little that we had moved in near them. In addition, we received some more invitations to play with some families in the "younger" neighborhood just below ours (yes, here in hilly WV, neighborhoods are often below or above each other!).

If your conviction keeps you inside for Halloween, then that's fine with me. But I wanted to share how the Devil's holiday opened up some future evangelistic and friendship opportunities for the Henderson's. At least for us, I hardly think Satan was pleased with our evening.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Yoke of Jesus longed for by Old Test folks

While reading through Lamentations, I came across a moving passage that sent me running to Jesus and thought I'd share it with you.

Lamentations 1:14 "My transgressions were bound into a yoke; by his hand they were fastened together; they were set upon my neck; he caused my strength to fail; the Lord gave me into the hands of those whom I cannot withstand."

Israel, after years and years of unfaithfulness to the Lord, highlighted by idolatry and social injustices and oppression, was sent into exile. Most of them were taken out of the land that they loved, the land they were promised by God Himself. However, he told them that if they didn't follow Him faithfully, they would be given the old "heave-ho." This is spelled out clearly in Deuteronomy 28.

Jeremiah really examines and reflects upon the depths they have fallen. Like a one hit wonder, they were on top for a time, and now they are on the bottom. And they are now experiencing the punishment, for a season, for their unfaithfulness. They are given but a taste of ultimate judgment, the experience of carrying their sins around their necks.

But there is hope to come. Jesus calls people to believe and follow Him, and he promises the opposite of this passage. Instead of carrying the yoke of sin, in Matthew 11:30, He claims "my yoke is easy and my burden is light." That's way better.

How is this the case? Well, for one thing, Jesus experienced the wrath of God for us, being exiled from the love of the Father while on the cross. Israel's exile foreshadowed Jesus' exile.

The yoke of a Christian's sin has been carried by another. So it is good to lament, and right for Jeremiah, or whoever wrote that book, to lament. But because of our vantage point, lamentations can ultimately end up in praise.