Friday, May 28, 2010

Looking bad and looking to Jesus

Yesterday afternoon a well assembled fleet of volunteers helped Amy and I move out of our rented condo to a house. So until we get the place more liveable, or until our refrigerator arrives, we'll be staying with some good and hospitable friends. After spending a day of packing and unloading, we were quite tired but began to reflect with the other couple on the joys of raising children. 

As I read in Gospel Powered Parenting-and this was probably the best part of the book-parents and those involved in Christian Ed (Sunday school teachers, nursery or youth volunteers) parent and teach with eternity in view. Paul beautifully sums up this mission in Colossians 1:28: "that we may present everyone mature in Christ."

So while our goal for parenting and teaching is for the gospel to save our children and students from sin's punishment/power/presence, God's goal for children/students actually looks quite similar.
We were discussing how Connar would some day soon, if not already, make us look bad. That's a sad way of looking it at, but I think probably fairly accurate until we regularly repent. Part of his behavior will be our own shortcomings as parents and part will be his own strong will. Then Amy and I reflected on this with our present company and had these thoughts:

1.) Parenting/teaching will make us look bad (like Madonna pictured above), but the plus side of this is that we'll have to look elsewhere for our righteousness. Instead of looking to Connar to make us feel worthy, we have to look to Jesus for all (NOT JUST A GOOD PART OF IT) our righteousness and approval. So in some ways, children are just as influential in the parents/teachers grasp of the gospel as parents/teachers are influential in their children/students' grasp of the gospel.

2.) We all agreed that parents/teachers with children who are well behaved and look good on the outside will have a harder time not remembering Jesus' righteousness. Instead such parents will have to take special pains to keep from parading their children around as "poster children" and looking to them to find worth before others.  Such parents/teachers will remember their own hard work, prayer, study-and they should because these are necessary-but may forget the X factor: the work of the Holy Spirit. The longer I've been involved to some degree in children/youth/college ministry over the last 10 years, the only way to explain why kids get none/some/all of the gospel is the ministry of God's Spirit. So I guess that's a good place to start in prayer.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Getting back soon

Finally heading back to West Virginia after vacationing in sunny Florida for a little over a week. We'll hit the ground running by moving stuff into the new house and then closing on Friday. Hopefully I'll be back blogging again early next week.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Another reason I hate vampires

My family is enjoying some much appreciated, if not much needed rest and relaxation on vacation down in sunny Florida. But just when we thought we could relax on baby names, a stupid vampire movie had to come out and ruin everything. Last night at the dinner table my brother broke the bad news to me that "Cullen" has now become one of the most popular boy names due to it being the Vampire surname of one of the toothy protagonists.

So with that name most likely gone (I just don't want "Cullen" to be among a zillion other "Cullen's"), it's back to the drawing board. This is unfamiliar territory for Amy and I, since we had Connar picked out before we were even engaged. And let's just say there's not been quite the consensus on names this go around.

Well I guess the age old proverb is proved true, "Once you get a great boy name picked out, you always need to first check the box office to see if it will become too popular." I wonder why "Frodo" never took off with the Lord of the Rings trilogy?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Steve Jobs the Porn Nazi?

"No porn for you....," says Steve Jobs, well in so many words. He doesn't want porn to be available on his mobile devices, and is willing to hold his ground against many critics. This might not be enough for you to shell out the money for an apple product, but it certainly makes you think about it. While pornography is an offense to a holy God, it is also a sin against men, women, and children. I don't know if Jobs is a Christian or not, but if he isn't, 3 out of 4 isn't too bad, eh? Another example of how humanity might be Totally Depraved (inability to ultimately please God and choose Jesus), but not Utterly Depraved (as bad as we could possibly be), and so it is still able to do numerous socially "good" actions. And we should be thankful for this truth, especially for people in powerful positions.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wine on a Saturday morning?

I had a glass of wine this past Saturday at 10 am. Now before you think I'm an alcoholic, let me explain. 

In I Corinthians Paul gives us a warning from the Lord about taking the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner. It seems that some of the folks were hogging the bread, while others didn't get any, and some were apparently getting drunk (I Cor 11). So obviously they used real wine, and probably plenty of it-at least some did! Now I don't think I had I've ever been a part of a celebration of the Lord's Supper where I've even had the opportunity to overeat or get drunk. That is until Saturday, kind of.
At presbytery, the gathering of the PCA elders and pastors (Teaching elders) in a given geographic area-which for us is basically the whole state of WV-we celebrated the Lord's Supper in a different manner. Instead of small grape juice cups, we had an actual glass of wine: half-filled. 

I was actually sipping it even while we sang the concluding hymn. It was great.

This was quite a unique experience, and one which wouldn't jive in many places. And I get that (for alcoholics and logistics of larger churches who actually HAVE to get out of the movie theater by noon), and I'm not arguing it necessarily should. But I also wonder if maybe it shouldn't be too unique.....I wonder if it more closely resembles what Jesus intended when He instituted the Lord's Supper. A meal and a drink (that is bigger than a tiny communion cup).

One of the purposes for this church celebrating this sacrament in this way was clearly to give us a foretaste of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb at the end of time. Jesus alludes to a future meal of which this meal is but a foretaste (Matthew 26:29), and that is why they have wine glasses of grape juice and wine to get the "feeling" of a real meal.

Having a glass (half-full or half-empty depending on your perspective!) of wine certainly gave me a greater foretaste and got me more excited NOW of what is to come THEN. In fact, I'm still kind of excited. I really am.

Should your church ever happen to celebrate the Lord's Supper with a glass or small cup of wine, it is 100% more enjoyable when a decent bottle of wine is used as opposed to an officially Jewish wine called Manichewitz. Believe me, I know from experience.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday for Prophecy

When I preached my sermon "Stand in the place where you live" on Jonah 3 a few weeks ago for the conclusion of our missions week, I didn't really touch on something that has caused some confusion and perhaps heresy along the way. Since the prophets section in the Christian bible make up a decent, but largely mysterious part of the bible, I figured it might be worth revisiting a verse in Jonah:

"When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it."
There are a few questions which arise from this passage which will may help us understand the overall purpose of prophesy, and in turn the prophetic books, and ultimately the New Testament as well.

1.) Is Jonah a false prophet because what he said didn't come true? Because Moses reminded the people in Deuteronomy 18:22 that a false prophet's prophesy would not come true. That's one way you could tell he wasn't from the Lord. But prophesy isn't primarily for prediction but for covenant mediation. If the prophet prophesies disaster, destruction, or death, it is usually out of God's love, calling the people to repent. If they repent, then the disaster, destruction, or death could be averted, prolonged, or dismissed. 

As I was reading Jeremiah 18 this morning, I was reminded of one of this truth. A potter was doing his thing and making pots and made some different than others. By way of analogy, God said based upon the level of the repentance of the people, the ultimate Potter would determine how he should shape the pots (outcome). Even if the destruction of the city were prophesied, God could reverse that. And he often gave multiple chances for repentance and restoration. And if the success of the city were prophesied, and then they continued dwelling in sin, then it could be destroyed. That's why Nineveh was destroyed and you have what I call the "sequel" of Jonah: Nahum. This is about the prophesy of destruction of Nineveh. 

Why? They didn't continue in repentance but turned away from repentance/faith and fell into their previous sins of injustice and cruelty, among others.
The take away from seeing prophesy as covenant mediation and not primarily prediction is that you spend less time trying to match current events with OT prophesy and more time actually examining your own heart or the heart of your church and regularly repenting. Even when personal or corporate disaster seems certain, who knows, perhaps God would relent and bring about a change or revival? Some cal this the "Who Knows Principle?" David's son's life was not spared, but Hezekiah's life was prolonged even after direct, seemingly concrete prophesy of death.

Or when times are smooth sailing (church is doing well, family life is great, Bucs are back on top, etc....), we might not get lulled to sleep and neglect regular repentance like Nineveh and Jerusalem.

There are other questions like, "Does God really change his mind but not character?" and will be addressed another day. Definitely not a Friday.


There was a commercial-though I can't remember who it was for-that featured a man with an opportunity to receive a "collect" call from Bob Gottababieetzaboi. The man promptly did not accept that call and passed the info on to his wife. He said, "It was Bob, he had a baby, and its a boy." After the results of the ultra-sound yesterday, consider me Geoff Gottababieetzaboi.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Finally a need-to-know basis where we need to know

One of the great lines from any movie, especially from a movie that wasn't THAT good, is The Rock's "You are on a need-to-know basis and you don't need to know." That's been a theme for the last year of our lives when we didn't know how long we would be at our last church, where we'd be going, if we'd be involved in church planting, how we could get Amy covered for insurance with her "pre-existing" pregnancy condition, etc....I kept asking God for answers but He would regularly, though inaudibly, reply with these words.

So we unwillingly learned to live with the uncertainty of not knowing things we didn't "need-to-know" (though I of course differed with the Lord on this matter!). Today, we have a chance to be invited into a bit of knowledge: finding out whether that "baby in mama's belly" (as we described him/her to Connar to get him used to someone else entering and re-arranging his universe as he knows it) is a boy or a girl.

We've just had so much uncertainty in the last year, and lived a life of complete surprises, that when God does offer a glimpse into what the future may hold, we're going to jump on it like a 4th quarter fumble. Today we're thankful God will be letting us in on this one, and tomorrow we'll be back to uncertainty!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Raquel's thoughts on marriage and "free" sexuality

The other day I was randomly looking at and (though no one can be 100% "fair & balanced," this seems a good way to try to stay as balanced as possible!), and came across some thoughts on sexuality and marriage from former sex symbol (which means finding an appropriate image to put on a blog was very difficult) Raquel Welch.

Because all people are made in the image of God and still retain that image-albeit tarnished, like the statue of liberty-non-believers can display real truth. Such, I think, is the case here as Welch
examines the negative effects of the sexual revolution and birth control for both men and women, and the overall institution of marriage. Despite the attacks on marriage from many today, Welch truly upholds this institution. Now she may not admit it is necessarily God-ordained, but she does go pretty far in the right direction, describing it as the central aspect of a healthy society. Perhaps some of these same thoughts might be more spelled out in her destined-to-be-a-classic book Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage.

Last night Ellen the Degenerate responded to American Idol's duet "Have you ever really loved a women?" by saying "Yes, I have." So I guess that made this little tid-bit a bit more refreshing. Anyhow, here's an excerpt.

It remains this way. These days, nobody seems able to "keep it in their pants" or honor a commitment! Raising the question: Is marriage still a viable option? I'm ashamed to admit that I myself have been married four times, and yet I still feel that it is the cornerstone of civilization, an essential institution that stabilizes society, provides a sanctuary for children and saves us from anarchy.

In stark contrast, a lack of sexual inhibitions, or as some call it, "sexual freedom," has taken the caution and discernment out of choosing a sexual partner, which used to be the equivalent of choosing a life partner. Without a commitment, the trust and loyalty between couples of childbearing age is missing, and obviously leads to incidents of infidelity. No one seems immune.

Monday, May 10, 2010

uncomfortable prayer of increase/decrease

Sometimes there are prayers for increase in scripture like Jabez's. But don't forget others which may be harder, but far more rewarding.

For some reason, this past Sunday, I began to think about John the Baptist's desire that "he must increase, but I must decrease." Perhaps I thought that because my "assistant pastor" (I preached two weeks in a row) had left for a brief vacation/NASCAR race and I was the main L.I.C. : Lad In Charge.

The music team prayed this wonderfully Christ-centered truth. I mean does it get more Christ-centered than that? Then I prayed this before I preached. And I believe it 'worked.'

I felt excited to deliver a message which promoted a God-centered gospel as opposed to a "diet"/me-centered gospel that orients the gospel around my personal comfort and plans as opposed to compassion for others. A diet gospel will always leave us angry, but a God-centered gospel will replace that anger with compassion. That was my main point.

When preaching and expounding narratives like Jonah, especially when I re-tell the stories in an anachronistic vernacular, like "Jonah channeled his inner McGuiver or Bear Gryllis and constructed a make-shift stand," it can be hard to transition from exposition-illustration-application. Instead my illustrations came by way of analogy rather than stories of what the truth would look like if believed and applied.

As a result, it felt choppy, and I even forgot one of my sub-points which I used alliteration to help others memorize: non-Christians are still Created in His image and Clueless (needing the Spirit to change our nature and give us a "clue.") so God still shows them Compassion.

Yet I was the one who felt clueless! So at the end, I definitely felt like I "decreased." And so that bummed me out a bit.

However someone came up to me afterward and said, "You were preaching right to me" and then I heard of a teenager who basically repeated some of the illustrations and the truth they were illustrating. They had gotten the message. It seemed God had answered my prayer, both parts of it! I had not "performed" my craft as well as I had liked (so I had decreased), but at least to some, Jesus had increased.

Remember that when you pray this prayer, you "decreasing" might mean you don't look so good (in front of friends, co-workers, families, neighbors), but in the end, Jesus just may look a whole lot better to others as a result of this prayer. Don't forget the goal in preaching, teaching, child-rearing, working, playing: that He and His Kingdom might increase while we and our might decrease.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Another Tebow response

Now that Tim Tebow has graduated from the University of Florida, and has caught on with his new team the Denver Broncos, I can root for him without any strings attached. I'm not a Tebow worshiper, as I know, like any of us, he has warts. We all do, and that's what makes idolatry so heinous: we forsake the Holy One and instead worship created, wart-filled human beings.

But I am a Tebow fan, and one of the things I like about him is the response he elicits from teammates, coaches, fans, commentators, and opposing players. I've posted on this before, but the Tebow response always interests (not amazes) me. It mirrors the response Christians should expect as we live out our faith. Some people will hate us, some people will respect us.

We will be hated for everything we believe, but we are also to be salt and light, and our love/actions will make some folks big fans of us.

Mike Florio of "" is not a friend of the gospel. Nevertheless, Tebow, over time, has earned his respect while at the same time has caused others like Ray Lewis to speak against him-though often without sufficient reason.

What Mr. Ray Lewis fails to realize is that former Buccaneer Coach Jon Gruden spent time with all of the top 4 quarterbacks coming out of college. And Gruden likes EVERYONE until they actually play for him; and then neither like each other once that happens!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Big "busts" and I cannot lie...

A few years ago, a quarterback out of LSU named JaMarcus Russell entered the NFL as the number 1 overall draft pick of the Oakland Raiders. He held out for more money his rookie year, and ended up missing at least half the season. It only went downhill from there as he was just released, and now stands to be considered the biggest draft bust of all time. I wonder if that does anything to one's psyche?

I mean if I were considered the biggest bust of an assistant pastor of all time, or you were considered the biggest bust of an accountant, businessmen, doctor, contractor, mom, what would that label do to you? That could be tough.

It's tough to be thought of as a "bust," yet the apostle Paul reminds us of good news for all "busts." In Phil 3, all of the accolades and praise of man he achieved and received, are now counted as "rubbish." Some have translated this more as "crap" then trash. Regardless, the important part is that the commendation of Christ via his credited righteousness makes being a bust small potatoes.

And this is written from a Jamarcus Russell type rabbi working his way up toward the Jewish hall of fame. After following Christ, he would also have been labeled a "bust" by all of his peers, family, countrymen.
I think that's worth considering.

But who knows what God is doing when we fail and are labeled a bust. While Jesus was "failing" and being considered a bust, even by scumbag criminals, God the Father was really doing something quite amazing. Check out what was happening behind the scenes: "He disarmed the rulers and authorities, putting them to open shame by triumphing over them in him (Christ)" Col 2:15.

The gospel is indeed good news for busts, no matter how big.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

How can I pray for you?

Instead of a standard missions conference, which hadn't received the desired attendance over the last few years, Redeemer went with a missions week instead. This week was marked by a season of prayer/prayer meeting for personal/communal revival, an ice-cream evangelism workshop, a local but soon-to-be ongoing mission project, faith promise giving, and various donations to local and foreign missions. Our hope was that every member would somehow participate and be touched by Jesus' commission to make disciples of all nations. By spreading out mission opportunities over the week, many more participated this year.

Anyhow, I figured a brief article borrowed from
Justin Taylor's blog was quite apropos as a missions/evangelism follow-up. In our culture, one simple but often forgotten phrase seems to open up the door to the gospel, perhaps more than any other: "How can I pray for you?" It seems a more loving way to move towards sharing the gospel than other evangelism methods which start out telling folks they are adulterers, murderers, and thieves. Check out the article here.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Some pre-destinational love questions

Caution: I'm not a pre-destination nazi, and it is not my mission in life to try to convince people of this doctrine. I'm not angry with you if you don't believe it. However, when I come across it in my reading, I may mention it from time to time. And I've been reading Jeremiah lately for my personal devotion time and came across this the other day: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

A few thoughts filled my mind that morning.

1.) Jeremiah did not choose to be a prophet; he was chosen before he drew his first breath. Even before that, really. The deduction that I've heard a number of folks make regarding pre-destination is that if there is no choice, then there can be no love. Love implies a choice, and God would never "force" Himself on you. If God chooses people, then love doesn't really come into play. Love has to be chosen for it to be love.

But did Jeremiah not love God? I would tend to think "yes." I mean after all, God was just about his only friend; you know the age-old expression that "friends don't put friends in cisterns and leave them for dead (Jer 38)." Only an Ethiopian eunuch cared enough to gather some folks to rescue him. Always good to make friends with eunuchs.

My point is, that God's predetermined call (of which Jeremiah had no choice) didn't negate Jeremiah's love for Him. Moreover, I think it actually moved Jeremiah to love Him. It sustained him when no one else loved him.

2.) Foreknowledge-We can't escape the word "predestination" in the bible. The word is connected to "foreknowledge" in Romans 8 and seems to be the basis for his choosing us in I Peter 1:2. This has often led folks to believe that foreknowledge means, "God saw what choice I would make, and then he chose me." The problem with that concept is that is not what foreknowledge seems to mean. Especially here.

"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you."

This foreknowledge doesn't imply a choice in the future to be made, but of God's placing His love personally and specifically upon you. Some sort of relationship is established even before Jeremiah realizes who God is and what He's done for him. Now of course Jeremiah has to confess for himself, but if God "knew" him first, clearly there is no doubt that he will.

This is an offensive topic, and one in which there is much disagreement. Most Christians don't believe in predestination, but I simply wanted to share some thoughts in a passage I was recently reading. Regardless of where you end up with this doctrine, I just thought I'd throw my question into the whole "love implies a choice" and "foreknowledge" deal.