Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book Review: The Westminster Directory of Public Worship

The Westminster Directory of Public Worship (1645) discussed by Mark Dever & Sinclair Ferguson  By far the best part of this book was the section by Sinclair Ferguson explaining the position of the Puritans in regards to preaching and the history behind the writing of the Westminster Confessions and Directory.  I was amazed by how unbiblical and Roman Catholic much of the liturgy seemed.  The section on preaching was very helpful and insightful, but most of the rest of the Directory sees to have been a great improvement at the time but to need still greater improvement at this present time.  There is definitely a need for the church to be continually reforming.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Review: "Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire" by Jim Cymbala

Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire (1997) by Jim Cymbala This is a very good book that focuses on the need for prayer (and the lack thereof) in churches today.  He does a very good job of balancing the sovereignty of God with the responsibility of people, which is a difficult task indeed when handling the topic of prayer.  His call is simple and straight-forward, we need to stop focusing on the unimportant and come back to seeking God.  This book caused me on many occasions to stop and spend time seeking the face of God and cry out to Him through prayer.  I believe that this is a book I will recommend to many people in the future, as well as reading it semi-regularly myself.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fourth Week of Advent - Emmanuel, God With Us

As we come to this last Sunday of advent our attention naturally turns toward Bethlehem, toward the manger, to the birth of our Lord and Redeemer, the Son of Man and the Son of God.  Jesus Christ, God in the flesh.  What we see at Christmas is the infinite, all-powerful, everlasting God taking on human flesh, being made in human likeness, and living amongst His created beings as Emmanuel, God with us.
To say that God is with us implies that at some point He was not, at least not in that intimate, Fatherly, saving fashion.  We don’t often think about that, about existence without God.  Have you ever been alone?  Distanced or estranged from family and friends, with no one to listen or care or draw near?  What did you desire in that moment, in that space of time?  To be understood?  Loved?  A caring voice?  A reassuring smile?  When we are alone we desire nothing more than the presence of another and that is what we received in the face of Jesus Christ, God with us.
What joy this brings!  When once alone, we have been brought into fellowship; when once a slave, we have been made family; when once an enemy, we have been given friendship!
As we light this last advent candle, we cannot really understand the joy that comes from knowing God is with us unless we first truly grasp how utterly alone we were.  It is good for us to spend time reflecting upon who we were before Christ, so that we can fully experience the joy that comes from knowing that God is with us.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Book Review: "Worship Matters" by Bob Kauflin

Worship Matters (2008) by Bob Kauflin  This is an excellent book that focuses around leading the singing portion of a church service.  The first two sections of the book (The Leader and The Task) are excellent but somewhat slow going at times due to the extremely theoretical nature to them (although Bob mixes many personal stories and experiences into these sections).  The next two sections (Healthy Tensions and Right Relationships) are much more applicational.  I would recommend this book to anyone who takes part in leading singing or is interested in learning more about worship, but for those who are short on time I would HIGHLY recommend simply reading Section 3 - Healthy Tensions.

Song Worth Sharing

This song pretty much sums up how where I've been at for the past few weeks.

So, I was sitting trying to pray about 1 1/2 weeks back and wrote two lines which I then tried to put into a song.  The lines were:
"Lord I just want you
Need you to break through"

So yeah, I tried and tried to write something from that, and all I could come up with was a melody.  So then I was humming that for a while, and started realizing it was the melody to a song.  After trying to figure out what the song was literally for about 4 days I got some words to it and looked it up on google, and wah-lah, here it is.  So, the funny thing is, this song that I've been humming (not knowing the words) for a while now is exactly what I've been feeling and thinking and trying to pray, so yeah, kinda crazy.  God actually brought me the song at the right time though, not too early or not too late.

So enjoy (FYI, in case you don't get this the first time through, this song is talking to God)


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Third Week of Advent - The Love of a Deliverer

Have you ever delivered someone from something?  Maybe it was a friend from a bully at school, or maybe it was your child who got a speeding ticket or spent the night in jail.  We don’t often use the term “deliverer” in our everyday speech.  It comes from the Latin “deliberare” and literally means “to free away from”, or to free from the grip of.
What have you been delivered from?
What does it take to deliver someone, to be someone’s deliverer?  If you deliver a friend from a bully, it may require your own comfort or your wellbeing.  If it is your child from a speeding ticket, it may require some of your hard earned money.  If it is your child from jail it may require your hard earned money, your comfort, AND your reputation.  By becoming a deliverer one always puts themselves in a position of jeopardy.  If you are to free someone or something from another’s grip you always put yourself at risk in the process.
What have you been delivered from?
As we light the third advent candle and think about the love that God displayed in sending his only Son to earth, let us remember that love is sacrifice.  No one possesses love more than the one who would lay down their life for a friend.  But Jesus, our deliverer, in coming to earth to set us free from the grips of sin, laid down his life for his enemies!
How great a love!  How great a friend!  How great a deliverer!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Purifying Effects of Our Hope in our Future Glory

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise...when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation - but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.  For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, "Abba,  Father."  Now if we are children, then we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed....Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?....But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.  For in Christ Jesus neither [following the law] or [not following the law] has any value.  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Are you suffering?  Are you suffering the effects of sin either from within or without?  We see sin in our own hearts and lives and we feel the sin from those around us that hurt us or discourage us.  These verses from Galatians and Romans remind us that our current sufferings are only temporary, and are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  Did you know that the glory of Christ will be revealed in you?  Does your heart and soul groan under the burden of sin?  Does your spirit groan within you, begging God to remove sin from your life and from your heart?  Be reminded and encouraged that by faith we eagerly await, through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.  We will receive a future glory, we will be transformed into the image and conformed to the likeness of Christ.  Right now our chains are gone, but then our sin will be gone!!  Hallelujah, what a savior!  What a promise.  What a redemption.  We were bought from slavery, we were set free from death and the grasp of sin, and one day we will be brought into perfection.

So be encouraged, keep fighting sin because yours is the victory in Christ Jesus.  Walk in the Spirit, putting to death the misdeeds of the body.  Commune with God in prayer, eagerly expecting and awaiting the glory that is to be yours.  In the words of John "I write this to you so that you will not sin, but when you do sin we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins...We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands."  And he goes on to say "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Second Week of Advent - Our Hope in the Fountain of Living Water

In our world it is difficult to understand the idea of thirst and the desire that one can have for water.  Water is such a basic human need that when it goes unfilled it is literally impossible to focus on anything else.  I don’t understand what it means to be thirsty, so thirsty that it consumes me.  So thirsty that I would give anything for a drink of water, that I can’t think of anything but water.  I feel so dry…dry…dry…  This consumes my thoughts and feelings and desires and everything that I am in this moment.  That is what it means to thirst.
The imagery of thirsting after Jesus as for a fountain of water has been lost on us.  Thirsting for water?  Why?  If I’m thirsty for water then I just go to the spigot and get a drink.  And so with Jesus, when he says that he is the fountain of living water, when he says that he who is thirsty should come and I will give to him to drink, we imagine him to be something like a spigot.
When we thirst we come and turn the spigot on, and when we don’t we leave it behind.  And if we turn the spigot and nothing comes out we just go to another source to fulfill our desires.  So we fill ourselves with the soda of this world and the milk of the earth, rather than waiting on the fountain of living water.
As we light this second advent candle and think of the hope that we have in Christ, let us be reminded of Him as the fountain of living water, the one who gives freely to all who thirst after him, and let us wait on the Lord in eager expectation of the salvation that is ours.  Let us echo with the prophet when he says “as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”
Let us be reminded of our hope, and wait expectantly for the one who will quench every thirst.  Let us not be so consumed with the now that we fill ourselves with the soda of this world that will not satisfy, but instead let us look forward to the blessed hope that has been revealed in the face of Jesus Christ, waiting to be filled with the fullness of Him who is that which we truly thirst after.  May we allow ourselves to be thirsty for the Way, and the Truth, and the Life rather than being so quickly satisfied with that which will only make our stomachs sick.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Shopping

I question whether I should even be posting this, but it is something that has been on my mind.  I welcome any thoughts that come from this, whether they align with things I have said or question there validity.  Feel free to comment (I need all the Christmas shopping help I can get.....)

How should a Christian approach the cultural tradition of gift giving associated with Christmas?  What things should a Christian purchase for friends and family that points to the gospel and reflects the influence of the gospel in our lives?  I guess what I'm trying to say is this, as believers we are to be transformed by the grace given us through Jesus' sacrifice for us, and the truth of Scripture, and this transformation is to touch every area of our life, even our eating and drinking (Galatians 3).  If this is the case, then it means that the way in which we buy and give presents should be a reflection of the gospel at work in our hearts.

So here are some truths of Scripture, that to me seem to be inherently contradicted in the tradition of gift giving.

1) In James it says that we are not to judge another by their material possessions.  We are not to value one friend above another because of their financial situation.  This is in direct contradiction to the common practice of giving to those we think will give to us.  It is considered rude to not give presents to those who give to you, however it seems that the Scriptural teaching would be that we should give to those who CANNOT possibly give in return.  And this is in line with the gospel as well, which teaches that while we were yet sinners, completely and utterly unable to repay God, He came and gave us the greatest gift possible.

2) Jesus teaches in a number of different places against the hoarding of wealth or storing up treasures on earth.  In fact, he encourages the selling of our possessions in order to give the proceeds to those who are in real need.  I always struggle to know WHAT to buy for people around Christmas time.  I have no problem giving to others, I will frequently throughout the year give to those who are in need, but what do you buy for someone who needs nothing?  Should we even be buying things for those who need nothing?  I struggle to buy jewelry for someone who already has enough to wear a different set of earrings and different pair of jeans everyday for two weeks, a different shirt everyday for a month.  I think through the presents that I have bought around Christmas time, and I don't know of any time that I was really giving to address a real need.  So then I have to wonder, by my giving am I causing another to violate the very teachings of Scripture, and thereby, rather than imparting life as I should as one given life through the gospel, I am rather teaching them to desire material possessions as equal to or more important than God?

3) Jesus teaches that it is better to tie a millstone around our neck and be drowned than to teach a little one to sin.  I think of the things that we teach our children around Christmas about the joy of giving and receiving gifts.  How we teach them that we just cannot live correctly if we don't have a Christmas tree, lights, and presents.  The phrases that come out of people's mouth to their children about the NEED for buying presents, the priorities that are taught in the name of tradition, and I can't help but see these things as being in contradiction to Scripture.  If we were half as good at teaching our children the devastating nature of sin and our need for a savior as we are at teaching them how to find the perfect Christmas deals and the perfect Christmas presents we wouldn't have half as many children walking away from the church.  If we were half as adamant about the "right" nature of baptism and the "right" modes of repentance as were were about the "right" way to celebrate Christmas, maybe our children would see that God is really of importance to us and that our walk with him is a reality.

These are not easy things to address.  They are things that are so ingrained in our culture that they often don't even seem wrong on the outside.  We just do things the way they've always been done and assume they are right.  But what does God think of your Christmas shopping?  I'm definitely not saying that you should not go out and shop this year, but I think that there should be a healthy dose of considering why you are doing it, how you go about it, and what you will be buying.

In the end, my desire is that God be glorified through every action in our life.  My desire is that our hearts be right before God, that we not put things over him as more important, and that our love shines forth for all the world to see.  I will be out doing Christmas shopping this year.  I will lovingly give gifts to those whom I care about.  I will struggle, as everyone else, with what to get for them, and probably, like everyone else, end up getting them what they already have.  But my desire, above everything else, is that through my giving they may see the Gift that they have been given in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, and that they might come to love him more and desire his presence in their life.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

First Week of Advent - Preparation for a King

How would you feel if I was to tell you today that a King was coming over to your house for lunch?  That in our midst right now is the king of an entire nation, a people, and you are responsible for preparing lunch and a resting place for him amidst his travels.
The responsibility of preparing for a King has been lost to us.  The thought of preparing the way for anyone of greatness doesn’t even occur in our minds.  With the advent of TV, where those of high standing enter our homes every day without us even needing to give a second thought, to think of the advent, or coming, of a king makes no impression upon us.
But today, as we light the first candle of the advent wreath, to remind ourselves of the coming of our king, let us take some time to reflect on the thought that the King, the One and Only, made his dwelling among us.  Let us prepare our hearts and our minds for the advent of one who is greater and far above all else that we can think or imagine.
It reminds me of the verse where Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”  Let us prepare our hearts today for the advent of our Savior, that he may come in and eat with us, our heart united with our King.


I've never been a huge fan of Christmas.  Go ahead, flog me, shun me, beat me, or kill me, but its just the truth.  Like many other Christians, I don't like the materialism that has come along with it, the coveting and discontentment and fighting and bickering that results.  I like Christmas trees in the church about as much as I like the American flag, I see both as icons that we have heightened to mean as much to us as the gospel itself, things that we have elevated to the point of making them idols, and therefore they should be abolished.  But at its heart, even this is not the reason that I have not been a huge fan of Christmas.
I see Christian holidays as a manifestation of the desire humans seem to inherently possess for religious observance.  Now I know that many of you will say that I am reading way too much into this, but all I have to say is consider the number of people who attend a Christmas Eve service or Easter Sunday service as compared to the rest of the year.  Paul makes reference in Colossians, Romans, and Galatians to the freedom that Christians have to NOT observe holidays (which was in stark contrast to all the religions around them at the time) although in all of these places he never condemns the practice of observing holidays.  So, like Paul, I neither condone nor reject holidays, but I simply feel that there is the tendency in holidays to become religiously legalistic and focused on things other than the gospel and Christ, so I detect a danger in them.

Having stated these things, this year I am required to plan music for the "Christmas season" and have had to prepare Advent readings.  I originally dreaded this, the whole "Christmas season" tends to grate on me a bit, with the false "cheer" and "hope" that goes along with it, and I often feel that our society has progressed to the point and has taken over Christmas to the extent that Christians observance of Christmas is quickly becoming just another way of being "relevant" and of bending to the world rather than asking the world to bend to us.
As I thought more about it, though, I started to see the value of these things in a fresh and new light.  Having prepared for advent at this point, and having thought through what it means and should mean to the Christian, I have come to see the following attributes of advent as valuable.
1) Advent is to remind us of the expectancy that the Jews pre-Christ had in looking forward to the Messiah.   It is to remind us that, just as they were expectant that God would move and do things amongst them, we should be expectant of the hand of God in our lives, and of his immanent return.  This expectancy has been lost for many Christians today.
2) I also see the value, as much as I resisted it at first, of turning the Church's focus from the culture to Christ.  This is something that must be done every day of our lives, and it is not done by blindly ignoring the culture around us, but rather by carefully considering what we have come to believe about ourselves and our desires and then resubmitting ourselves to God and Scripture, repenting of the wrong beliefs we have had about what we deserve or even need and asking God to fill us with truth.  In this way, I think that it can be appropriate to approach advent as a "counter-cultural" Christmas season.
3) The very essence of Christmas as a legalistic observance by many in our culture gives us opportunities to share the gospel.  While we must be careful that we don't fall into the same traps, we should also join Paul in saying "but what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice."  So no matter the motives of our culture in flooding our churches on Christmas Eve, we ought to rejoice in the gospel being preached.

Having said all of this, I decided to post the advent readings that I have written for our services for the next 4 weeks.  These are meant to focus our hearts and minds on the meaning of Jesus coming to earth.  In the coming weeks, allow yourself to meditate upon this man who had no place to lay his head, who gave up the comforts of heaven to come to earth, who humbled himself to the place of a servant, who gives us hope in things outside the material world in which we live.  Allow yourself to step back from the busyness of our culture, and the passionate lusts that those around us submit themselves to, and instead to passionately lust after God, who is able to more fully fill you than anything else ever will.  Don't forget God this Christmas season, but rather embrace him, love him, desire him, share him, and focus on him.

Enjoy the Christmas parties, and the fun of decorating, and the joy of giving and receiving presents, and the love of family and friends, and the hope of days off from work.  But do not do these things as ends within themselves, but rather do them with your eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the hand of the Father.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Weed Control - Thoughts on Strongholds

Yesterday I was working in my flowerbed (for about 10 hours…) and came up with an illustration.  I wrote it out for Dana and thought I would share it here.

So, yesterday as I was working, I came up with an illustration of what a stronghold is.  I don’t know how well this will work writing it out, I feel like I talk better than I write…  But anyways, so I was actually working through the dirt, under the surface, which a lot of gardeners don’t do, and like, you come across these clumps of roots, and from experience I know what roots belong to different plants.  So, I know which are the good ones and which are the bad ones, and one reason that my flowerbed is so weedless is because when I’m working in the dirt I ALWAYS pick out the bad roots and toss them.  But then I got towards the back of the flowerbed, where I don’t work as often, and some of the roots were really thick, so I pulled out the clumps, but there were still bits of roots left.  So this is what I realized.
Sometimes there’s things that take root, through a little seed here or a little plant there, and it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.  Some things get pulled out, but others get left.  At first, we barely notice, but then it starts to not look that good so we start to pull the weeds (the things above the surface that are noticeable).  What we don’t realize, though, is that under the surface there are roots forming, and so it seems that while we’re pulling so many weeds, the more we pull the more that come up.  And so, what we need is to have the dirt completely turned over, to have what’s inside revealed, and pick through keeping the good and tossing the bad.  And what I realized is that those roots that build up over time are like strongholds, and we can have divine strongholds and evil strongholds.  They start with an unchecked thought here, or a bad attitude there, and then they become a way of thinking, they become ingrained, and if they go unchecked they will soon take root and create a clump, so that when one little weed is pulled it doesn’t even begin to reach the problem.  Once the stronghold is established, then, it’s not enough to turn the surface and pull out the roots, because there are so many little pieces of it that we can’t possibly get it all out at once, so what it takes is the removal of as much as possible, and then every time a weed appears we must once again turn the surface, look inside, and find the root of it, pulling out as much as possible, and with much care and precision and work, overtime the stronghold will disappear.
Another side to it is that when there are good roots put in a place where the bad ones are being pulled out, they choke out the bad.  So if we are careful to add good in the places where we are pulling out the bad, while also pulling out the bad, we will create strongholds of good thoughts and attitudes.
This should be our desire in working with children.  We should be quick to point out to them, not their wrong actions or behaviors, but instead their wrong ways of thinking and feeling.  If we were to get less annoyed with their unsightly weeds and instead be more concerned with their wrong beliefs and attitudes we would be much more loving, caring, and nurturing in the way that we treat them, much more understanding when they do wrong, and see much more fruit in their growth.  We should become less concerned about weed control (controlling the actions) and much more concerned with root control (changing beliefs and attitudes, pulling out the harmful and planting the good) so that our children (and us) may become places of divine strongholds in our thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs, and then when the summer comes and the plants are all up, we will see the fruit of the Spirit rather than the fruit of the flesh and we will be able to use our time to harvest rather than constantly tiring ourselves in the useless and fruitless pulling of weeds.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

David's Desire to Build the Temple

1 Chronicles 17 (the same story can be found in 2 Samuel 7)

I recently reread the somewhat well-known story from the Old Testament when David expresses his desire to build a house for God. I was struck by the fact that what I was commonly taught, that David's desire was good and that he should, in some ways, be pitied because he was not allowed to build the temple, seems to simply not be accurate based on the passage. I will break down two things that I saw in this passage, which I believe would be accurate applications to draw to our own lives, but which stand in direct contradiction to what I was always taught as a common interpretation.

Point 1
What was David's motive? "I'm living in cedar God should be". What is God's answer? "Did I ever say I needed to live in cedar?" Application - maybe instead of building a house for God David should have reevaluated his own standards of living and come to the point of living more simply. This would seem to be more inline with other passages such as Isaiah 5:8-30, Matthew 8:20, Ecclesiastes 5:10, Luke 12:13-21, Hebrews 13:5, etc, etc, etc...

Point 2
We all from time to time struggle with this idea that we in some way can give something to God. We want to see God as needy so that we can feel good about being able to help him. I think that we can see this in David's desire and God's response. David says, "Here I am living in a palace of cedar while the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under a tent". Nathan says that he should do what he had in mind because God is with him, but then God comes and corrects David through Nathan.

I'll break down God's response -

I have never needed anything - verses 4-6 This stands in stark contrast to the gods of the surrounding nations who needed houses built for them. God, instead, dwelt wherever he desired. (On a mountain, in a bush, in the tent, in a cloud)

You and the nation of Israel have always been in need - verses 7-10

I will build you a house - verse 10, expounded in 11-14

Basically, David for a second forgets his place, he forgets that God is God and he is not, and he desires to give God what he perceives he has. God, however, is quick to remind him that anything that he has was given to him by God, and to prove this God says that he will give him even more. I love when God comes back to David and says, "I declare to you that the Lord will build a house for you". Why do we not teach this?

May you live in the ever present awareness that God is God and you are not. May you remember that all good gifts are from above, that anything you have is not your own, that even you yourself are not your own but were bought at a price. May you not desire riches or fame, may you not bring God down to your level of materialism, may you instead move beyond our culture to live a life pleasing to the Lord in every way as you properly understand his Word of Truth.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Call to Prayer Through Anguish

Here's a video I would highly recommend watching.

I can say there's truth to what he's saying because I've been baptized with anguish at times, but it really hit home about God not desiring for a flash of emotion, for us to feel it and pray for an hour and then get up and leave it behind, but He's looking for people who are so caught up in Him, who so desire to see Him move, that they stay in that place of anguish, of brokenness over the state of things, that they are willing to cry out night and day.

I realized something else too, I feel like I've moved from this place of anguish because I've started to feel like there's something I can do, I've started to deceive myself into believing that I can change things, and until that pride is broken true anguish and prayer will not be born.  When we have hope in anything except God and what He is doing or will do we will not be truly broken over the state of things in His church.

Father, break my heart within me.  Reveal to me your will and your desires.  Open my eyes to see what needs to be done.  Cause us to weep and mourn over the state of our hearts and of the hearts within our congregations.  Grow within us a desire for you and your heavenly kingdom so that the things of this world become unpleasant and dry and even painful.  Lead us towards you.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Worth a Read #2

This is a blog that I follow, and this story is definitely worth a read.  I hope that some day I am able to write like this...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Spiritual Hobby-Horses

We all have spiritual hobby horses.  Those things that bother us in the Church and if you get us talking about them we could go on for hours and hours.  We have it in our minds that if the Church just got this ONE thing right then it would be healthy and grow.  We beat up our pastors because they don't preach on this enough, and we think that it should be stressed every Sunday morning, and night, and Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday, and maybe even send out an email Saturday night before the service to remind everyone.
For some it's evangelism, for some it's prayer, for some it's service, for some it's worship, and the list goes on and on.
I have my hobby horses too, things that I think the Church needs, and I constantly have to fight these things.  It can make preaching or preparing worship services difficult, because every pastor has to fight the urge to get up front every Sunday and say the same thing over and over because if people could just get past this one thing then everything would be all better.
I believe that this is the benefit of being guided by the Bible, of preaching straight through a book, or having a schedule of Scripture that guides worship planning, because it protects us from just emphasizing what we desire and see.  As we teach through Scripture and read through Scripture, through ALL of it, we start to see God's hobby horses.  We start to see that these things that we thought were so important are rarely mentioned in Scripture.  While they are important to God, maybe they're not the MOST important to God.  I think that this makes reading through whole books of the Bible and striving to read through ALL of the books of the Bible consistently is a good practice.  It tunes our hearts and our minds to the will of God and allows us to see what God considers important and the hobby horses that He stresses.
So, if your pastor preaches through books of the Bible, maybe you should be less critical of the topics that he preaches on.  Maybe instead of telling him to stress things that he isn't stressing you should look into your own heart and see if you are out of balance.  Maybe you should try a little harder to get off of your hobby horse and get onto God's hobby horse, the gospel.  Because you can't read anywhere in the Bible too long without running across the fact that we are guilty sinners in the hands of a great God who has taken away all of our guilt and shame and pronounced us holy and blameless on the basis of His works rather than our own so that we can now live by His Spirit and in His righteousness by His grace.  The gospel rings out loud and clear from every page of Scripture and is the hobby horse with which God addresses all other things.
Stop emphasizing worship, or prayer, or service, and start emphasizing the gospel in your own life, and then see how God uses you in others lives to accomplish the same.
And if your pastor doesn't preach through books of the Bible, if he consistently teaches the gospel more than all other things, maybe you should write an email, or get on the phone, or drive over to his office, and thank him for all the hard works he does, because trust me, it takes much work for him to get off of his hobby horses each week and present you with the truth of God's word.  Instead of trying to get him onto your hobby horse, take time to thank him for presenting God's hobby horse.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Worth a Read

Whenever I post a poem I am always keenly aware of most people's distaste for and inability to understand poetry.  However, I found this one to be very easily understood and I liked it a lot.  The interesting thing, to me, is that if you look at many of the principles in this poem they are Scriptural and could be called Christlike.  So we must always keep in mind that the way to becoming these things is not a road of trying, I've seen too many people try to be something they are not, rather it is a transformation of the mind AND heart through humility, prayer, and meditating on Scripture.  Enjoy.


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Christ as the Center 2

So I did a post last week about Christ being the center of everything that we do rather than an attachment, which is a whole lot easier to say and think about as a concept than to actually live out.  I didn't feel, though, like I really fully and effectively communicated what I was thinking.  Last night I was talking about the post and came up with this perfect sentence, which is what I was looking for when I wrote it, that covered everything and made it so clear and wrapped it all up in one simple sentence.  And now I can't remember it....

So here's my best reconstruction, and hopefully this gives you something more to think about and chew on, and maybe even effects how you live your life in the future.

It's a matter of living all of our life in light of our relationship with Christ rather than fitting our relationship with Christ into all of our life.  Its living our life with Christ as the source, the headwaters, so that so that all of life flows from it, rather than living our life with Christ as the pipe through which everything else flows.  Does that make sense?  So instead of things of life coming about and then we take them and try to flow them through our "Christian filter" or think of them in terms of our relationship with Christ, our relationship with Christ should BE the originator of everything in our life. Instead of things flowing THROUGH it, they should flow FROM it.  Instead of trying to see how things fit into our Christian walk or even IF they fit into our Christian walk, they should be a result of our Christian walk.

So I don't know if that's actually helpful to anyone else.  It's just a different way of looking at it, but I know that for me sometimes I just need that different way to see or think about it.  And it can apply to anything that we do, jobs, the college we pick, books we read, friends we have, car we drive, how often we eat out, what we eat.  And this doesn't mean that we have to be a "super-Christian" and only talk to Christian people and read Christian books and go to Christian schools and have Christian friends.  In fact, I think that if we were to start to take our walk with Christ more seriously and live everything in light of Him, with Him as the source, we would look a whole lot LESS "Christian" than we do now.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Book Review: Catch up...

50 Crucial Questions About Manhood and Womanhood (1992) by John Piper & Wayne Grudem (10/27/10)

The Presence Based Church (2003) by Terry Teykl  (10/29/10)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Transformed and Transfixed - The Effects of Sin and The Effects of The Gospel

(Facebook Note - October 9, 2009)

Genesis 3 - 7Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked... 8And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God

2 Corinthians 3 - 16But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

The effect of sin on Adam and Eve is that their "eyes were opened and they knew that they were naked". When we sin, our eyes are opened to our flesh. We suddenly see things about us that we don't like, and we become focused on ourselves so that our vision is clouded by the things around us. In this way, a veil is placed over the eyes of our spirit so that we can no longer see God. After Adam and Eve's eyes were opened to their flesh they could no longer stand the presence of the Lord. They were afraid and hid. Lost in the flesh, unable to see anything but their nakedness and shame, they were separated from God. In the same way, every time that we allow ourselves, the affections of our hearts, to turn to anything but God, our eyes are opened to our flesh, we begin to see our humanness and lose focus on God. The power of the gospel is a power of transformation. As a result of the gospel we are now able to live in the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4) We were once walking in darkness, in the darkness of the flesh, with our eyes clouded and veiled to the King of light, but in His mercy the Lord tore the veil. In the greatest display of His character, he poured out His wrath upon himself, so that His justice could be fully satisfied, as he showed us His mercy and grace, and in this way the greatest expression of love that ever was or will be shown was displayed.
When we have allowed this message of the gospel to fully penetrate our souls, we will be transformed and transfixed. Transformed because the eyes of our soul will turn from the flesh and to the Spirit, and transfixed as we will be no longer capable to do anything but gaze upon the beauty of our Lord.
It is far better to live by the Spirit than to be able to tell right from wrong. I have friends that have asked me, "How can you know right from wrong unless you have first experienced wrong?" Basically, this was their excuse to sin, they were seeking right by experiencing wrong. They are absolutely right! You cannot know right from wrong without experiencing wrong, but, "20Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 21In the Law it is written:
"Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people,
but even then they will not listen to me," (Isaiah 28:11-12) says the Lord." 1 Corinthians 14:20-21. And do you know what the rest of the passage in Isaiah says? "So then the Word of the Lord to them will become: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there - so that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured." Isaiah 28:13. If we seek out evil in order to know what is right the, Word of the Lord will become veiled to us and we will lack understanding.
But we do not seek out evil! Right? It is not so blatant in our lives, many of us would never use the pursuit of what is right as an excuse to do what is wrong, but many of us are seeking to delineate right from wrong. We take areas of our lives and break them down to the smallest pieces to see if we are doing right or if we are doing wrong. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve didn't have to think about whether their actions were right or not, they simply were. As they walked in the Spirit, unaware of the flesh, perfectly focused on God, their actions were appropriate. But, as soon as their eyes were opened to the flesh, and to sin, they started to worry about everything, suddenly everything that had been right appeared slightly wrong. So often this is how we live our lives even as Christians. We become so focused on our flesh and on right and wrong that we forget that it is more important to God that we have a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17) (it is pride to think that we can discover for ourselves what is right and wrong, or that we can even walk these things out). We forget that to worship God is not to follow rules. To give glory to God is not to watch every little area of our life. ("These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish." Isaiah 29:13-14) Why do you come before God? Why do you read His Word? Why do you go to church or consider God in your devotions? Are you seeking to know right from wrong? Do you approach God in order to fashion a system of knowing when you are following or when you are straying? Your heart is veiled! You approach only with your lips and not with your heart! Open your heart to the Lord. Open your heart to His gospel. Consider His glory. Look at His works and be astounded. We should not approach the Bible, church, or devotions as a way of knowing right and wrong, we should approach them with a desire to SEE GOD. To have the veil of our hearts removed so that we can be transformed by his power, and transfixed by His glory. Our desire should be to gaze upon the beauty of our God until all other things become dim around us. Until it doesn't matter what the flesh looks like, all that matters is the Spirit and walking according to it. It is far better to walk in the Spirit than to know right from wrong. Gaze upon the beauty of our God and be transformed by His power and grace.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Christ as the Center

I haven't been able to see Dana much for the past several weeks because she's been busy with school and I've been working a lot and there's just been a lot of different things going on.  But my relationship with God has been great, like, He's just been calling me to sweet times of prayer and worship and seeing His hand moving in and through me.  Then the other night Dana and I got to hang out and it was really good, we drove up to Bethlehem so we had a total of two hours in the car, which always results in good conversation.  And throughout the night we were able to talk about our relationship with Christ and we prayed together (I don't want you to see us as super-spiritual, we talked about a lot of other things throughout the night too) and I left her house praising God, thanking Him for Dana and for the night that we had.

So then something struck me.  I know people who struggle in their relationship with God when their spouse is away.  Like, if their spouse leaves for a month or so (on good terms) and they don't have much contact, they just struggle spiritually to talk to God and walk with Him each day.  But then I've talked to other people who, when their spouse leaves for a time, find their relationship with God very much enhanced.  They have more time to spend with God and feel more committed to Him, and their relationship just grows so much.

Now, I'm not married, so that can play a huge part here, so I may come back in another 10 years and say this post was a bunch of huie, but that's to be seen.  But I realized last night driving home, I've been in a dating relationship before where I struggled spiritually when we had more intimate and heart-to-heart times, and when our relationship was more distant, I actually enjoyed sweeter times with Jesus.  And that was no fault of the other person, I've known that, the problem was my heart, but it made me wonder last night: What's different?  What made me struggle spiritually in that relationship but find with this relationship that it really seems to have no effect on my walk with Christ?

Here's what I realized.  I love Dana, and I only love Dana, because I feel that God has called me to her.  To a romantic that sounds really bad, in fact, it almost sounds "unloving", or like it isn't love.  I don't have space to clarify that issue here, so maybe that will be another blog post, but the point here is that I love Dana BECAUSE I love God.  And we've actually seen this in our relationship, where when my relationship with Christ is suffering, my relationship with Dana suffers.  But its not the other way around.

So basically I have this picture in my head that I'm trying to communicate and feel like I'm doing a really bad job at....or like its going to take me 5 pages to say it..... Basically, I've been at a place where I was trying to be in a relationship AND be a Christian, instead of being in that relationship BECAUSE I was a Christian.  This can relate to any area of life.  Work, school, friends, hobbies, vacations.  If we do this things BECAUSE we love God, then in them our relationship with God will flourish.  I've seen people work a job that they hate but do it because they have to, and the whole time they were wishing they could be "serving God" when if we would all just see that what we are doing COULD BE service to God, and then if we were to take a different perspective on it and go to work BECAUSE we love God, instead of loving God despite going to work, our Christian walks would be much more consistent and our love for Christ much more evident.

Abide in the vine, for without Him you can do NOTHING.

Monday, October 18, 2010


I was meditating on Philippians 4:4-7, and specifically on the difference between prayer and petition (supplication) and why both are spoken of. Through this study I ended up in Ephesians 6, specifically verses 17-18. I started to get into the Greek and found that there really isn't any reason (that I have found yet) to divide verses 17 and 18, which is huge if you start to think about it, because it really could (and possibly should??) be translated:

"And take up the helmet of salvation, and the spirit's sword, which is God's word, through (by means of, this word indicates the instrument of an action) all prayer and petition (specifically stated needs) praying in every season (singular noun that denotes location) in spirit (again, location)"

Now to make it a little more clear I'm going to simplify what is said, this is not a true translation because I'm removing some phrases, but it is not really a paraphrase either, I'm simply trying to bring some things to light by emphasizing things in the Greek that are lost in our typical English translations.

"And take up the spirit's sword, which is God's word, by means of all prayer and petition praying in every season in spirit"

There are so many points that I would love to make here, but I don't have time, so I may come back to further dissect this later, but for now...

1) We often emphasize in modern evangelical circles the need to take up the Word of God (i.e. the Bible), but how often to we emphasize taking up God's word through the instrument of prayer and petition? This can be taken in two ways:
a) I have always been a strong advocate of praying Scripture. I have never had a strong Scriptural reason for doing this, but I just saw that it had power in my life, and that it was the strongest weapon we have in prayer. (see all verses about God's word and it's power) If we are to pray according to the will of God, what better way than by praying God's Word (Scripture)?
b) There is no textual reason to understand "God's word" to mean the Bible alone. (There is a whole study we could do here on the fact that the Greek word "rhema" is used instead of the word "logos", but that will be for another day.) In fact, I think that textually speaking, we should NOT confine God's word to the Bible in this context, BECAUSE it specifically says that the means by which we take up the word of God is through prayer and petition. When we pray, God speaks! We are to take hold of "word of God" through prayer, I think of all the references in Acts where believers did just this, seeking God's face in prayer and then doing what He said WHEN HE SPOKE (one specific instance on my mind now is Acts 13:1-3, read it).

2) I have often heard this verse used as a proponent of "praying all the time" or "at all times". Now, while I think that this practice of praying all the time, or keeping a constant stream or prayer to God, is important, it's not what this verse is talking about! How can I say that? Well:
a) The Greek word translated "at" is "en" and the words "all times" are "panti kairo". First, these words are in the dative (which can also be locative (think location)) and when "en" is used with the dative form it ALWAYS MEANS LOCATION and should therefore be translated "in" NOT "at" (this may seem small, but it's actually a huge deal when you get into it).
b) "Panti" can mean "all" or "every". I'm honestly not sure if there is an indication from the context which it means here, but its not that important, which is why I didn't take the time to find out.
c) There are three Greek words for "time". Without getting into all of it, the word used here is "kairo" and has the specific connotations of a season. Its not a specific length of time, but is rather the characteristics of a period. In fact, its not even referring to "time" as we think of it with a clock, but its rather talking about opportunities or seasons of life. So what its saying, no matter where you find yourself in life, be praying. Oh, and this noun is in the singular, which is why I translated it "every season" rather than "all seasons".
(so you don't think I'm making this up see here and here)
d) So what can be learned here? I think that we have too often emphasized the fact that we can "pray all the time" and therefore implied that we don't need to have a "time of prayer". However, I think that to understand properly what is being spoken of here, we are actually to have a specific time where we stop to "take up" our sword by praying. And this is to happen in all seasons, whether we are spiritually healthy or spiritually weak, whether we see a need for a sword or feel like the battle is slowing or has waned for the moment. No matter the season we find ourselves in we are to be taking time to pray in spirit, so that we might not ever be found without a word of God.
I think it also teaches us about how we should approach prayer. We should approach God in prayer with the active expectation that he will give us a word. Whatever that means or looks like, we should be receiving (the word for "take up" can also be translated "receive") or "taking up" words of God through prayer. Whether this be through the Word that we already have, or words that God will speak, we should approach prayer with the expectation that we will receive a response from the One who hears.

(I must put this note at the bottom. I am fairly confident of the Scriptural accuracy and consistency with the Greek text in the things I have put forth here. However, I am both young in the faith and in my study of Greek and the Bible, so it is very possible I have overlooked something in my Greek analysis or Biblical interpretation. If you think that there are any errors contained within this post feel free to comment. Also, the Greek text I used was obtained from this website, so I hope that it is sound, I did not compare it to the hard copy Greek text that I have.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Writing and Thought

This blog entry was in my Google Reader today (which I haven't checked for a few months...) and I found it to be worth sharing. The entire thing is very well done and worth reading, but this one thesis stuck out to me specifically.

Writing and thought.
I write not because I know but because I want to know. Among scholars today, there is no error more pervasive than writerly Docetism. The Docetic heresy divides idea from style; it is the belief that one can have clear thoughts regardless of the clarity of their expression, or that one first has an idea which is subsequently communicated through the neutral medium of prose. But between idea and form there is a mystical union of natures; to write well is to think well. Language is not the external adornment of thought. It is thought itself, the blood and tissue of the idea.

This is something that I have noticed in my own personal life that has bothered me recently. It seems that when I sit down to write everything is very scattered and I often find it difficult to express myself. Also, when I am talking a lot of times I struggle to come up with the words or to express what I am "thinking". What I have begun to realize, however, is that its not so much a that I am struggling to express myself, but that I am really struggling to think. I find my thoughts very scattered, as scattered as my writing and sentences, as scattered as the schedule of my life.
Actually, this ties back into his fourth thesis, Writing and Discipline, very well. I have found that there was a certain level of discipline inherent in the education system I have been a part of thus far in my life, but without the presence of that system my level of personal discipline has greatly decreased. And without the level of discipline that I have had in my life thus far, I have found that my ability to think and process information and therefore to communicate with other individuals has greatly decreased.
So I find myself with a great need for enough discipline to think.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Excitement and Praise

In the past month or so I have been getting feedback from people that the music in our worship services has been too slow. They say that we need more upbeat music and excitement. I agree with them that things have been slow, more reflective and contemplative, somewhat because I think that's needed and somewhat because that's just where I've been at. But just because that's what I'm experiencing doesn't mean that everyone else is and that doesn't mean that its the right place to be. So I'm torn between this place of understanding that praise is a joyful thing, something that I have experienced, but also knowing that it can be a very fake thing. I'm struggling to really know where the congregation is at and how to lead them to a place of true excitement and praise of our Lord and Savior rather than conjured up energy from a song or short experience.

I guess I look at the congregation and my question is, where are all of them at? What are they praising God for? Are they excited about God and I am not? Am I leading them in or to a place where they aren't or aren't prepared to go? Or am I keeping them in a place that they are already past and need to move past? Or are these people who are requesting faster music just bored by God on a Sunday morning and looking for something to enthrall them?

I guess what it comes down to is this:
We have a desire to be excited, we have a drive for something that will get us so caught up that we forget ourselves and just get lost in that thing. So some turn to sports for that excitement that they desire, yelling and cheering and getting all caught up. Some turn to nature, taking long hikes and seeing awe inspiring views. Some turn to music, looking for a bass or drums that will just make your heart pound and raise your blood pressure. Some people look to drugs, or to sex, or to work, or to recreation, or to TV, or to friendship after friendship. But my desire is to be excited and enthralled and awed by God. I want God to raise my blood pressure and amaze me with the thing He has done. I want God to excite me and make me want to get up and sing. I don't want to get excited because of a moving story, powerful music, or an amazing picture. And therefore I don't want to lead the congregation to excitement based on these things. Instead, I want us to be excited by the hand of God moving, to see the hand of God moving and to praise Him for THAT. To actually be willing to dance before Him, because if we're seeking excitement in a worship service but we aren't willing to dance then we aren't actually seeking God or godly excitement.

So, I don't think its wrong to be excited, in fact I think that we should be excited. But, quite frankly, I haven't been super excited recently over God, which I think is wrong and I am working on. But I just see it as being easy to force excitement rather than waiting on God, seeking His face, and then when He shows up falling on the floor in awe and then jumping up and dancing. I would rather take the real thing 10 times in my life than to force it 52 Sundays a year for the rest of my life and never actually feel the excitement and energy that comes from getting a glimpse, however small, of what God has done and is doing.

I think that the heart of our excitement should be the Gospel, so I need to dig into the Gospel more and understand it more fully until I find myself at the place that I am excited and rejoicing over what God did. But I am left wondering how I can, in a 5 minute call to worship on a Sunday morning, bring everyone else in on all of this and encourage them to be excited about the most exciting thing in the universe rather than settling for the blood pulsing result of fast paced, energizing music.

May you be called by our Father to a place of pure joy and excitement from Him. May you not get caught up in all that this world has to offer, missing the real goal of God honoring, Christ exalting, Spirit initiated praise of our God that makes you at the same moment want to dance on a table and bow on your knees. May you not seek excitement, energy, an experience, joy, or even love, but instead seek our God in all of His glorious radiance, and seek to better know and love Him who came to die in your place so that you might live.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Pledge My Allegiance To....

[I wrote this in May of this year but never published it because I felt it may be too pointed. However, these are my opinions and convictions from reading, contemplating, and meditating on Scripture and history. You are free to disagree with me, in fact, I encourage you to test what I say rather than taking it at face value, but this is what I believe.]

I was at a Christian highschool graduation tonight. There was a good size class, many people who had attended Christian school their entire life and learned the truth of the Bible and hopefully are walking in a relationship with God. The ceremony started out with a procession of the flags followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and a singing of the National Anthem.

I was reminded again that a large mass of American Christians everyday are pledging allegiance to this great country in which we were born. I choose not to pledge allegiance. Many of you may be aware of my belief that it is wrong to harm another individual even for sins against other people, society, or God based on Jesus' restatement of the eye for an eye principal (Matthew 5:38-48), however my conviction about the pledge of allegiance is a different issue entirely.

I must start with some definitions, for the people who have said these words all of their life but never took the time to sit back and think about what they meant.

Pledge - To offer or guarantee by a solemn binding promise. Synonyms are "devote, promise". I think that in our culture we have lost some of the understanding of this concept, we do whatever seems best at the time even if we've already agreed to something else. We do what's fun and nice rather than committing ourselves. Jesus talks about this when he says that we are not to swear (pledge) by anything, he is not saying that it is wrong to commit ourselves, but rather he goes on to say that every "Yes" and "No" should be in our mind a commitment. We as Christians should not have to swear or pledge, because we are pledged to everything and everyone we say yes to or agree/align ourselves with. However, this is not my issue with saying the pledge.

Allegiance - Loyalty or devotion to some person, group, or cause. Synonyms are "devotion, dedication" Loyalty implies a steadfast and devoted attachment that is not easily turned aside, and devotion is earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc...

How many Christians realize that when they say the Pledge of Allegiance they are earnestly attaching themselves to a steadfast, devoted, earnest attachment to a body of individuals who are in no way affiliated with Christ or His work in this world? And this is a binding life-long commitment that should never be broken. No matter what the actions of that body of individuals is, when you pledge your allegiance to them you say that you will follow with them, you are attached to them, no matter what. I believe that as followers of Christ we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Can a man have two masters? Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. We understand in the church today that it is not right for a Christian to attach themselves to a non-believer in the covenant of marriage, but yet we teach that it is fine and even good for them to attach themselves to a whole body of individuals who want nothing to do with God and even fight against Him. Have you pledged your allegiance to this group? Do you pledge your allegiance to them? Or do you pledge your allegiance to God and His Church? Are you fully devoted to Christ and to spreading the Gospel, not American ideals, all over the world and this nation? Are you devoted to Christian teaching and fellowship (Acts 2), other believers in brotherly love (Romans 12:10), to the service of the saints (1 Corinthians 16), to prayer (Colossians 4), to Scripture (1 Timothy 4), and to doing what is good (Titus 3)?

May you see through the lie that freedom and democracy are as important as grace, peace, and love. May you see that you are not your own, you were bought with a price, and so you may not give yourself away by attaching yourself to a governing body. May you see that God may call you to Iraq to share the Gospel, and you would soon find yourself in the very place that you have been pledging allegiance against. May you be devoted to the church and the furtherance of the Gospel, not attaching yourselves to things of this world that will not last, but rather seeing the eternal in the temporary. Do not be yoked together with [attached to] unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? But rather attach yourself to Christ, the author and the finisher of your faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Thoughts on Hope in Light of the Gospel

(Facebook Note - November 2, 2009)

I wrote this up for a friend recently and then decided to share it with everyone.

So, you mentioned feeling hopeless. I realized last Spring that that's what I was feeling, and then I stumbled across 1 Peter 1:13 which says, "Set your hope FULLY on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed."

I want to tell you an amazing message. We have messed up in every way. We continue to mess up every day. Even our good works are as filthy rags in the sight of God (Isaiah 64:6). The good we ought to do we do not do (Rom 7). We deserve the wrath of God. And there is NOTHING that we can do to change that. NOTHING. (John 15:1-8) We can do all we want and not get one bit closer to God. So God, in his infinite mercy, made himself sin for us so that in HIM we might become righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21). God chose to crush himself for our sake (Isaiah 53:10). He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24) So that we might be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:15) So that we might behold God and know Him (2 Corinthians 3:18). And now there is no condemnation. There is no need to carry guilt or the burden of sin in our lives (Rom 8; Matthew 11:28-30)

So, God chose to make himself an offering in our place. There was/is nothing that we can or could ever do to be worthy. But now we can approach with confidence because of what He did. What a Savior. What a God.

Ok, now, you may be saying, "Yeah, I already know all of that. That's the gospel and I'm a Christian. I believed that long ago and was washed clean. And what does all of that have to do with hope?" Well, what people often don't realize is that the gospel message applies to all areas of our life. We should never let the message of the cross move far from the forefront of our mind. We should live every situation out in consideration of how the cross applies to it (there are a number of scriptures I could point out that enumerate this point, but I want to get to my point.) So anyways, I thought it might be helpful for you to spend some time meditating on the gospel. Thinking over what a savior we have.

And this is our hope. Our hope is in God. Our hope is in Christ. Our hope is in the grace that he has given us through Christ. We can know that he is serious about this because he CRUSHED HIMSELF for our sake, so how much more will he provide for our every day living. So what is left for us to do but to trust in Him. Now, I know that all of this is much easier said than done, and I have many days that this is not what my life looks like, but I strive to be more impacted by the message that Christ died in my place. To be more effected by the truth that I can do NOTHING (John 15:5). To be more humbled by the fact that any fruit that I see in my life has nothing to do with me but everything to do with Him. (Colossians 1:9-10) These things all just leave me searching out His word to know Him more and understand what he desires, and to spend time in prayer recognizing that I can do nothing apart from him. And living my life as a living sacrifice (Heb 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:15) And that is our hope. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 Our hope is that we have been reconciled to God and can live in light of that.

Monday, September 27, 2010


As I've said other times, Father Ryan is not the best of poets. His verse is fairly simplistic and his words oftentimes not beautiful. I find, however, that in the very simplicity is the beauty because you see him as a common person, such as ourselves, living an everyday life, and in that I can connect and identify with his poetry in a way that I often cannot with flowery and "beautiful" speech.

By: Father Ryan

The tears that trickled down our eyes,
They do not touch the earth to-day;
But soar like angels to the skies,
And, like the angels, may not die;
For ah ! our immortality
Flows thro' each tear - sounds in each sigh.

What waves of tears surge o'er the deep
Of sorrow in our restless souls!
And they are strong, not weak, who weep
Those drops from out the sea that rolls
Within their hearts forevermore;
Without a depth - without a shore.

But ah ! the tears that are not wept,
The tears that never outward fall;
The tears that grief for years has kept
Within us - they are best of all:
The tears our eyes shall never know,
Are dearer than the tears that flow.

Each night upon earth's flowers below,
The dew comes down from darkest skies,
And every night our tears of woe
Go up like dews to Paradise,
To keep in bloom, and make more fair,
The flowers of crowns we yet shall wear.

For ah ! the surest way to God
Is up the lonely streams of tears,
That flow when bending 'neath His rod,
And fill the tide of earthly years.
On laughter's billows hearts are tossed
On waves of tears no heart is lost.

Flow on, ye tears! and bear me home;
Flow not! ye tears of deeper woe;
Flow on, ye tears!that are but foam
Of deeper waves that will not flow.
A little while - I reach the shore
Where tears flow not forevermore!

Psalm 56:3-11 (NASB)

3When I am afraid,
I will put my trust in You.
4In God, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid
What can mere man do to me?
5All day long they distort my words;
All their thoughts are against me for evil.
6They attack, they lurk,
They watch my steps,
As they have waited to take my life.
7Because of wickedness, cast them forth,
In anger put down the peoples, O God!
8You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle Are they not in Your book?
9Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call;
This I know, that God is for me.
10In God, whose word I praise,
In the LORD, whose word I praise,
11In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Thoughts on the Kingdom of God

Written August 15, 2009

We want to see the Kingdom of God come so many people ask what does the kingdom look like and then they seek to live in that way. The better question is how does the kingdom come, then seek that. The kingdom is present where the will of God is done, where the Spirit is in power. Where there are regenerate people. To seek the kingdom of God is to seek the salvation of souls. We need to stop seeking peace on earth, happiness, good families, morality, etc... If we were to instead seek to lead peole to Christ and then teach them to walk in the Spirit, not to live morally but to walk in the Spirit, then the attributes of the kingdom would follow.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Food For Thought

Excerpt from "False and True Knowledge"

Why did my parents send me to the schools
That I with knowledge might enrich my mind
Since the desire to know first made men fools
And did corrupt the root of all mankind?

- Sir John Davies

Friday, September 24, 2010

How God Shrinks and Grows...

This is something that I wrote to Dana yesterday in the course of a Yahoo chat, but I felt that it was appropriate to share.

It seems to me that singing, do i say this, when we're going through difficulty we more easily recognize our need for God and therefore God becomes much bigger in our eyes, so then when we sing it is easier to really let go and worship him. But when everything is going well, then God becomes smaller in our eyes, so we look to songs more for their truth content in order to show us God, rather than enjoying songs that allow us to just let go and praise God for who we see He to be. I've been noticing that in my own life recently at least, like, I feel like God has become so small in my eyes and therefore it just becomes harder to really worship, because worship is giving God glory
because He is so great, so then I find it harder to really connect with songs and music and know what songs what to call it...usher you into the presence of God I guess. So, I'm feeling the need for some adversity so I can become smaller again and I see God for how big He really is.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Something Different

So I know that this is a little out of the ordinary for my blog, but I found this and couldn't help but post it....I hope you enjoy.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Walking in Truth

While I do not always agree with Way of the Master and their approach to sharing the gospel, this audio clip that they put together was excellent. This is a sharp contrast between the message of American Christianity that is so prevalent in our day and the message of the Bible that is so often lost and even criticized by many people in the church.

Many Christians have allowed our minds to be filled with the messages of this culture and the influence of humanist psychology. So often I allow myself to get lost in the nice and fluffy messages that our culture gives, the band-aids that allow us to gloss over the true, deep, and pervasive problem of our heart. So often I fall prey to believing that its enough that people are "getting better", that their life circumstances have improved, that they are living a more fulfilling life. These things are good, I want to help people and to see them in the right frame of mind, but I also pray that they might be broken before God so that he might restore in them that mind and heart that is his own, because I know that otherwise these things are completely worthless.

May we know our Bible so well that we are not taken captive by the winds of "knowledge" that blow to and fro around us. May our hearts be more set on Christ than on what is comfortable, nice, or easy to hear and understand. May we allow ourselves to be troubled by this God of the universe, remembering that it is He who made us and not us who make Him. May we stop creating for ourselves a god, fashioning what he looks like and how he should act, and instead look to God as He is. May we return to a fear of the Lord, a holy reverence for His Majesty.


Another good note on the topic can be found here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

More Social Psychology

Here's more from my study of power through the framework of Symbolic Interactionism. This section may need some more editing because it is still fairly wordy, basically the whole point is that power is negotiated through interaction. The one theory that I present focuses on the power one has in assigning labels to another while the second theory focuses on the power that one has in choosing who can assign labels to them. If you're not interested in this stuff, then don't read it :]

The main difference between Identity Theory and Labeling Theory can be seen in the focus of the individual who is the subject. In Symbolic Interactionism an individual's role in the situation is seen as being based on the reflected appraisals they receive from those around them. According to Identity Theory, however, the individual doesn't passively accept these assigned roles but rather actively seeks those who will positively regard their identity, hence giving them positive reflected appraisals. Thus identity theory focuses on the individual as an active creator of their identity who seeks out those who will affirm their self-perceived identity. (Jackson et al.) Labeling theory, on the other hand, simply focuses on how the individual responds to labels attached to them. In labeling theory, then, the individual is not as active in choosing their identity, rather, they conceptualize themselves as a significant other by looking at themselves through the labels others have attributed to them. (Adams et al 2003; Matsueda 1992) In summary, identity theory looks at the process by which individuals seek out those who will give positive reflected appraisals of their identity while labeling theory looks at the process by which one can influence others' identity through the use of labels. This relates to power because identity theory gives insight into the power that an individual has in creating their own identity by selecting the contexts in which they interact and how they interact in hostile contexts. Labeling theory, on the other hand, gives insight into the power that people have over others' identities, especially in the formative stages of those identities, through their interactions with them. Either theory by itself gives an incomplete view of the picture, because both of them paint one person as passive and the other as active, but when taken together these two theories portray two actors on a stage, both actively negotiating the definitions of situations and roles to which the other must respond.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Gospel in Poetry

Excerpt from "Christ's Victory and Triumph Part III. Christ's Triumph Over Death"

And yet the Son is humbled for the slave,
And yet the slave is proud before the Son:
Yet the Creator for his creature gave
Himself, and yet the creature hastes to run
From his Creator, and self-good doth shun;
And yet the Prince, and God himself doth cry
To man, his traitor, pardon not to fly:
Yet man is God, and traitor doth his Prince defy.

Who is it sees not that he nothing is,
But he that nothing sees? What weaker breast,
Since Adam's armour fail'd, dares warrant his?
That, made by God of all his creatures best,
Straight made himself the worst of all the rest:
If any strength we have, it is to ill;
But all the good is God's, both power and will:
The dead man cannot rise, though he himself may kill.

A tree was first the instrument of strife,
Where Eve to sin her soul did prostitute;
A tree is now the instrument of life,
Though ill that trunk, and this fair body suit:
Ah cursed tree, and yet O blessed fruit!
That death to Him, this life to us doth give:
Strange is the cure, when things past cure revive,
And the Physician dies to make the patient live.

Giles Fletcher

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How to Read Poetry

Excerpt from Introductory Essay to "Sacred Poetry of the Seventeenth Century including the whole of Giles Fletcher's Christ's Victory and Triumph.....In Two Volumes"

"It is an error that the purpose of poetry is to merely afford an elegant pastime, or to supply a pleasing but aimless excitement. This mistake, so fatal to the just influence of some of the noblest effortrs of the human mind, we may expect to find prevailing in an age distinguished at once by the love of pleasure, and an eager devotion to the affairs of life. The delicate slaves of luxury, contented with the stimulus which animated verse applies to the imagination, and the edge it imparts to the sensibility, willingly rest here in their appreciation of its worth: the enjoyment, and still more the application, of what lies beyond, demands an exertion of the higher faculties of the mind to whish they are unaccustomed, and which they therefore decline with disgust."

- R.C.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Look What the Lord Has Done

So ever since I came to West Chester one thing that struck me was that there are over 4 Christian groups on campus but they never really interact. I've been praying for unity between the groups for 3 years now and its been awesome seeing God put things together. I can't even begin to tell you of all the ways, the most prominent was a "meeting" that occurred in the student union in October when the leaders of the 3 largest groups on campus just "happened" to all meet up at the same time. It was completely unplanned, but there was a guy telling another person about his vision to see God unite the campus groups, so I butted in and said that I had the same vision, and next thing you know there's 9 of us there all talking about this and praying for together.

Fast-forward 6 months and we were working on putting together the first meeting with all the groups at once. It was originally scheduled for last Monday, so I took off work, but then there was trouble securing a room so the date changed to this Monday. I had a dilemma, though, because I work until 9 but the meeting started at 8, and since I had already taken off last week I couldn't take off again. So I was just going to show up late to the meeting, around 9:15 instead of 8...but then I found out Friday that I had an RA meeting at 9, so I just wasn't going to make it to this worship night.

Today, then, I found out that the RA meeting had been pushed back to 9:30. So I was thinking about all this stuff and realized that I hadn't told people that I wouldn't be there at all, because some of them were expecting me to be late, so I was thinking about telling them and I was going to say, "I really wanted to go, but stuff keeps coming up and the doors are closing. I don't always think closed doors mean we should stop trying, sometimes they're a test of dedication, but I've tried everything I can and it just seems God doesn't want me there." I was thinking about this as I was walking to work and I was going to text it once I got there.

So, I walked into work, and Sean said, "The grills not working." (There's a convenience store and a grill and I'm really there to help man the grill.) Apparently yesterday "someone" ripped a hole into the propane tank so there wasn't any propane for the grill. So I called Karen, my supervisor, and asked, "Do you really want me working since the grill is closed?" She said, "I'd rather not, but I figured I'd give you the hours."

So basically, a date change, room change, and hole in a propane tank later, God worked it out so I could be at the meeting. It was awesome, seeing all those people together praising God, seeing people there that I've seen around campus and never had any clue that they were believers, praying together for God to reach the campus for him. But I think that for me, the greatest thing, the coolest thing about the whole night, was that I wasn't supposed to be there. Everything that we do is only by the Spirit and the grace of God, but sometimes its easy to forget that, so it was nice to have a night like tonight where God could refocus me and remind me that its not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit that we will prevail.

Power Within Situations: Warning - This Post May Make You Think!!!!

Another person and I are leading a class in a 45 minutes structured discussion tomorrow. Her topic is violence against women and I am analyzing power through the theoretical framework of Symbolic Interactionism (SI). This is my opening statement, I'm opening with the question for them to lightly discuss and then I'm diving into the theory. I thought some of you might enjoy reading and thinking about this and I would love to hear your reactions/thoughts. My big question, though, is does this all make sense? Am I explaining it in a way that is understandable?

How would you define power, either institutionally or interpersonally? What causes someone to have power?

According to Symbolic Interactionism power is the ability to define the situation, define others' roles within a situation, or to reject the definitions imposed upon oneself. SI looks at all social structures and social actions as interactions between individuals in which all parties involved play the part of an actor and an observer. In other words a person does something, as an actor, and then they observe the situation, their own actions as well as the actions and reactions of others, this then leads into their next social action. The observations and actions that people make are in the context of the definition of the situation and the understanding of one's role within that situation, and these definitions and roles can change at any point throughout the interaction.

A perfect example of these things is a classroom. You walk in and there is a framework that you act within. This is a classroom, you are to sit down, at a certain point a professor will walk in and start to teach the class. Now imagine that you enter a class midway through the semester and all of the students are sitting at their desks. Your definition of the situation from previous experience causes you to expect that your professor will walk in about 3 minutes before class, get ready, and then lecture. Your role, and the role of your fellow classmates, is to sit and wait. Now imagine that 3 minutes till the start of class your professor isn't there. You may start to wonder why and perhaps come to the conclusion that they got stuck in traffic on the way, or maybe they had a meeting that ran late. Your definition of the situation has just changed, and your actions within that definition may change as well. You may pull out a book to read until the professor gets there, or you may get frustrated that class will start late, or you may lean over to the person next to you and see if they know what's going on. After 3 minutes class should now be starting. At this point, one of the students in the front of the classroom gets up and says that your professor will not be coming to class today because something came up and that they, this student, will be teaching the class instead. You now have an alternate definition of the situation presented to you, as well as an alternate role for someone in that situation. You have a choice now, will you accept their definition and role or will you reject it? If you sit and listen, then that person has now exerted power over you by forcing their definitions onto you, but if you get up and walk out because you don't want to hear a lecture from a fellow student, then you have exerted power by rejecting these definitions.

Now, obviously this example is made to starkly display the concepts, but if you start to see life in this way you realize that there is something to it. Many people have criticized SI because they say that it can only handle concepts related to everday interaction, such as the above example, but this can also help us to understand institutional power. Consider laws, they are nothing more than definitions of situations and of roles within those situations. But you see, power is not just forcing definitions onto others, it is the ABILITY to do so. So one is in power when they have some advantage that others do not that allows them to change others definitions, and even enforce those definitions. This leads us back to the topic of violence, because it can be seen that often violence is an attempt to get someone to do something that they don't want, or to maintain one's own definitions when others have rejected them. Violence is a form of power, an ability to project one's own definitions of the situation and other's roles within the situation, used in every day interaction.