Monday, January 26, 2015

Put Another Nickle in

The Lord willing, I will start leading music in the summer at CCS's after school program/ summer camp.  I'm up to the challenge but also wondering where to start.

I have two friends who write songs for children.  When I was still a youth pastor and Googled "Catechism" I found a website for a woman who wrote songs for WSC questions.  Then, in 2012 I had remembered that someone at Refuge had told me that she went to a Reformed Presbyterian church in Covington.  Years after she told me that, I remembered, looked it up online, and started going to the Sunday evening service.  Turns out the same woman who writes the WSC songs is the pastor's wife and a now good friend of mine.  Judy gave me some of her albums and some of those songs may come into play.

I also grew up listening to this song called "Simeon's Lullaby" by the woman duo, Wendy and Mary.  One time my parents played it for a church we went to, and the bulletin said that they were friends of us.  That would be like saying we were friends with Simon and Garfunkel.  But thanks to facebook, Mary is a friend of mine these days.  Between her and Judy, there are plenty of plans I can follow in leading children in music.

My favorite growing up, however, is still Psalty the Blue Song Book.  A blue book with a face who sings songs with kids about Jesus.  I still sing "Amen, Praise the Lord," and the "Butterfly Song" from time to time.  He has so many catchy Scripture songs that have motions and dances and pictures.

I mentioned some of my ideas and heard that last year when someone lead music, the favorite song was "Locomotion."  So now I'm also listening to old songs like "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed."  How can I get a good mix of songs with good theology and just for fun songs and be fun but informative?  If any people I mention in this post read this, what would you recommend?  At least I have until after Memorial Day to figure it out.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Lady Huntingdon and the Lost Man

I'm posting an excerpt from Charles Spurgeon's sermon  "The Blood-Shedding."

    Let me tell a story to show how Christ saves souls.  Mr. Whitefield had a brother, who had been     like him an earnest Christian, but he had backslidden; he went far from the ways of godliness; and one afternoon, after he had been recovered from his backsliding, he was sitting in a room in a chapel-house.  He had heard his brother preach the day before, and his poor conscience had been cut to the very quick.  Said Whitefield's brother, when he was at tea, "I am a lost man," and he groaned and cried, and could neither eat nor drink.  Said Lady Huntingdon, who sat opposite, "What did you say, Mr. Whitefield?" "Madam," said he, "I said I am a lost man."  "I'm glad of it," said she; "I'm glad of it."  "Your ladyship, how can you say so?  It is cruel to say you are glad that I am a lost man."  "I repeat it, sir," said she; "I am heartily glad of it."  He looked at her, more and more astonished at her barbarity.  "I am glad of it," said she, "because it is written, 'The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.'"  With tears rolling down his cheeks, he said, "What a precious Scripture; and how is it that it comes with such force to me?  O! madam," said he, "madam, I bless God for that; then he will save me; I trust my soul in his hands; he has forgiven me."  He went outside the house, felt ill, fell upon the ground, and expired.  I may have a lost man here this morning.  As I cannot say much, I will leave you, good people; you do not want any thing.

Read the rest of the sermon.  You will see why I wear a shirt with this guy's face on it.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Interpreter's House

I don't plan on blogging much about Pilgrim's Progress, but I had more trouble with chapter 2, so I will write it out for clarification.

Christian has passed the Wicket Gate and has been sent to Interpreter's House.  He sees seven different rooms and without commentary, I was much confused.

Commentary from Derek Thomas's teaching series: every preacher of the Gospel is an interpreter.  Every church is an interpreter's house.  So here are 6 of the rooms and then I will consider the one room that disturbs me.

1. Christian sees a picture of a serious man looking toward heaven, holding a book in his hand and having a crown on his head.  This is a preacher, a man blessed with ability to lead other people to God's Truth.

2. Here, a man sweeps a room, but he only makes it more dusty.  A woman comes in and pours water on everything, then it is finally clean.  This is a picture of someone trying to find salvation by works and good deeds.  He only makes things worse.  Only Jesus, the Gospel, makes him clean.

3. Two children named Passion and Patience.  Passion is a worldly guy who must have everything now.  Patience gets to have everything for eternity because he was willing to wait for it, to trust God's promises no matter how slow.

4. A fireplace with a fire that grows despite someone throwing water on it.  Behind the place, Christian sees someone pouring oil on the fire to keep it going.  As a Christian, the world will do its best to douse your fire.  The Holy Spirit pours oil on it and keeps it going.

5. A man in armor with a sword.  The Christian life is a constant battle until we reach heaven.

7. A man rising out of bed trembling because he had a dream where God's judgment came and he got left behind.  This is not the Left Behind series.  This is simply a man coming to two roads: the popular one that leads to futility or the smaller, narrower road that leads to Eternal life.  What will he take?

6.  The disturbing one.  Christian talks to a man in an iron cage.  This man used to be a pilgrim too, but he turned away from his faith and now he cannot repent due to his hardened heart.  This scene comes from Hebrews 6, the passage that for me both confirms eternal predestination for me, but also challenges it.  People do come and lead the Christian faith and cause good.  But we also see people become more enamored with the world's values who then turn their back on Jesus.  This is a very serious warning to the true believers that even though salvation is a gift that can never be lost, they still are responsible for continuing in holiness.  The good news is that the Holy Spirit will fan this flame.  The bad news is that people still try to keep it going by their own efforts which never worked.

An example is Judas.  He was Jesus's disciple and worked with the 11 ministering and spreading the Gospel through Judea.  He betrayed Jesus, sold him to be arrested by the Jews, had Jesus crucified, and then hanged himself, never coming to a true release of trusting in Jesus's grace.  This was not the way with all of them.  Peter denied Jesus three times, but Jesus did bring him back.  Paul put people to death because he was against Christianity, but Jesus brought him back.  The thing is, there are people that God passes by in salvation.  They may look like savory ministers for a while but they are not and they fall away never to return.

I saw a meme on facebook recently.  It asked what religion the person was, and that person replied, whatever leads to the light.  Sadly, unless your faith is in Jesus, that light will only be the fires of hell and eternal gloom.  Jesus really is the only way to salvation.  God did not have to send any way to salvation, but he sent Jesus.  We must strive to continue following him with abandon and stop trying to contribute anything to our salvation or decide that what we think is better.  Nothing is better than Jesus and following his will.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Mr. Copper

One of my favorite Doctor Who moments is in the episode with David Tennant where aliens made a replica of the Titanic in space.  It was a Christmas episode where viewers became afraid that angels would throw their halos at them and slice them.

In this episode is an "earthologist" named Mr. Copper.  He knows all kinds of facts about planet Earth, or thinks he does, and tells all the people.

"I shall be taking you to Old London town in the country of UK, ruled over by Good King Wenceslas. Now human beings worship the great god Santa, a creature with fearsome claws and his wife Mary. And every Christmas Eve, the people of UK go to war with the country of Turkey. They then eat the Turkey people for Christmas dinner, like savages!"

This famed earthologist got many things wrong when describing the UK and Christmas.  I always think of Mr. Copper when a well-meaning person writes information that exposes how much they don't really know about a subject.

I peruse a volume of the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which is written by many people.  Some are accurate when they describe philosophies.  When they bring up Christian topics, however, they seem lost like Mr. Copper.

In the article "American Philosophy" they say this about the Puritans:
"The Puritans agreed with many of the principles of Calvinism.  They believed that God is absolutely sovereign and that man, beset with original sin, is totally dependent upon him.  Salvation cannot be earned by virtuous works; God has foreordained who shall be elected to the "Society of Saints," although presumably the performance of good works predisposes man's soul to receive God's grace."

Up until the italicized part, I mostly agree.  Yes, the Puritans were Calvinists.  Yes, we Calvinists believe that man is completely dependent on God and contributes nothing to his salvation.  Yes, we believe God foreordained the elect.

What is this "Society of Saints"?  In seminary and in all my reading of the Gospel Coalition, Ligonier, and other blogs, that term is nowhere.  We do not have anything we call a Society of Saints.  I can see where they get the idea because we do believe in the communion of the saints that can never change throughout history.  But no, there is no Society of Saints.

"Good works predispose man's soul to receive God's grace."  No they don't.  We just established that nothing predisposes a soul to receive God's grace.  God gives people grace because he wants to based on no condition.  Romans 9 is explicit in this when Paul talks of Isaac and Ishmael and then Jacob and Esau.  God chose Jacob to have his special blessing when Jacob and Esau were still in the womb.  They were both scoundrels who did unforgivable things, but God went with Jacob because he wanted to bless Jacob with Jesus's lineage. 

Now, we do believe that a person who displays good works is saved, but good works do not predispose a person to be saved.  Without being arbitrary, salvation is completely free of conditions, but still based on God's plan.

Back to Mr. Copper:
"It has often been pointed out that the Puritans' rejection of the authority of the church and their stress on the privacy of man's relation to God manifested a certain individualism."

What?  Rejected the authority of the church?  Never.  Their theocracy proves that.  It's such a misunderstanding from the outside that Protestants reject church authority because of their split from the Roman Church.  But no, Christ established the Church and will always have the complete authority.  Protestants and puritans simply reject the leadership of the Pope and to a lesser extent, the Queen of England for the Anglican Church.

The things we reject rely on meaningless rituals, place a man or governor on Christ's throne as head of the church when Christ is the church's only head and husband.  Without saying that the Prots don't also rely on rituals, oh we do, the church we reject places salvation value only on following rituals of good works and penance rather than simply trusting Christ's permanent payment for sin alone.  But other than that, we wholeheartedly follow the church and say with the church fathers, "If the Church is not your mother, then God is not your father."

Ultimately, Mr. Copper will never quite understand unless the Holy Spirit illumines him.  At least for the episode in question, the Tenth Doctor did send him to live on earth and learn the true earthology.  It is always my hope that the Holy Spirit changes a person so that he or she can truly understand Christ's headship, exclusivity, and why the reformation is far from over until Christ returns.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

He says Yes

I still look back on my life in the past decade and still wonder at where God has led me.

2004 -- I was at Trevecca in Nashville
2007 -- I was at Erskine in Due West, SC
2008 -- Mom got diagnosed with rare adrenal cancer that was already stage 4
2009 -- Mom went home to be with the Lord.  Dad and Andrew lived at home and I had one year left at Erskine.
2010 -- I moved back to Conyers, began volunteering at Refuge Pregnancy Center, got involved with a young adult group out of Grace Community Fellowship in Snellville, and became children's minister at Trinity EPC in Loganville.
2011 -- A lady moved into our house to care for Andrew.  I started attending Clayton State University.  Dad moved five minutes away to live with his dad and brother.  I was not able to go to the GCF group anymore, but I did start attending BCM.
2012 -- I went to a BCM small group at the leader's house and sat on a couch next to Tim.
2013 -- I married the same Tim and we moved in with Dad, Pappy, and uncle Delmous.  Andrew and Mary still lived at the house I grew up in.  I worked at the LifeWay on Cleveland Avenue in Atlanta
2014 -- Mary moved to Florida, Tim and I moved into my old house with Andrew, and now I'm greatly involved at my church and my job which happen to be the same place.

I see myself in 2004, and I see where God has led me.  I feel amazed, baffled, grateful, and fulfilled.

This past Sunday at CBC, the sermon was about "ask, and it shall be given to you."
Recently, I was floored by Paul's statement in 2 Corinthians 1, "Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory."

Every promise in God is yes.  If you ask God for something, he will give it to you.  But I agree with Brooks when he said that God has not always answered my prayers with a yes.  He said no to many boys that I liked up until I met Tim.  He said no to healing my mother from cancer in this life.  He said no to many jobs and situations that I wanted.

But he did answer my prayer and he did give me what I needed.  I wanted a husband in 2004.  I finally married him in 2013.  After breaking my heart, with guys named Chris, guys named Michael, and one really close friend at Erskine who was the last one I liked before I met Tim, he answered yes to my question by letting me meet Tim at the BCM leader's house.

He answered my prayer by taking my mother home to live with him.  But he still said yes.  We wanted her healing.  He gave her the perfect healing with no sin or any troubles.  I look forward to the new heaven and new earth that He will build when he comes again.

And I certainly have not become a famous singer in Nashville, a long-term missionary in Ukraine, or traveled the country on a book-signing tour.  But I spent one year as a missionary in South Atlanta at LifeWay, I am now in a band at church, I now teach at that church's school, and I am more involved with children's ministry.

So I look back and times when I went out of my mind wondering where God would lead me.  I still have those times.  But if God made a promise and made a will, then it will end in a yes.  It certainly will not be yessed today or possibly even in this life.  If it does, that will be great, but I look forward to the ultimate yes when Jesus comes to rule his universe.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Pure lips, hot coals, and first grade

I think it's been more than a month since I blogged.  First, I ran out of hours to work at LifeWay and had plenty of time to blog and write.  Then I got a job at my church's school in the afterschool program.  Then I got busy with that.  Then I hosted all my in-laws for Thanksgiving.

And now I finally find time to blog.

The first thing I learned on my second week of subbing for the afterschool program is that children love to tattle on each other.  There is no greater display of man's total depravity than a 1st grade class.  They pout when you say no.  They touch each other.  Sometimes, they get violent.  And they always tell the teacher when somebody said a bad word or won't share.

I just have to smile.  What else can I do?  But if I could teach them that they are all sinners and need to go to Jesus for forgiveness and also to forgive their friends, how would I do that?

I take the example of telling on somebody because he said the "S-word."  Is this the actual S-word, "stupid," or "shut-up"?

I don't know.  Either way, we all are aware that our mouths are not the cleanest.  I thought of one time where a man in the bible had unclean lips and then he met God.

In Isaiah 6, the king Uzziah, the king who had been king for 50 years, had just died.  This same king, who loved the Lord, made a mistake of burning incense when only the priests could do that, and then he talked back to the priests, and then God gave him leprosy for the rest of his life while his son ruled. 

Now he is gone, and Isaiah wakes up and finds himself in heaven's throne room.  A reminder, despite his flaws, Uzziah loved the Lord, and Isaiah was probably one of the more faithful people in that era.  He saw "the Lord sitting on his throne, the train of his robe filling the temple," and all his angels covering their faces from his perfect glory.  Isaiah then has a breakdown and fears his immediate doom.

He is face to face with our perfect God and creator who has every right to dispose of him for even one sin.

"And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”"

But the good thing is that although Isaiah has uttered blasphemies and profanities with his lips, Jesus shows him mercy.  He sends and angel to him with a coal from the altar to burn all the eww off of his lips.  It burns, but it feels so good.  And we know it's Jesus because his cleansing came from the altar where he was sacrificed before the world began.

Immediately, God called him to be prophet to the idolatrous nation of Judah through the reigns of king Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh.  History says that Isaiah lost his life for the gospel during Manasseh's reign.

So, what do you do when your friend says the S-word or any other crude word?  You pray for him.  When a kid tells me that her friend said such-and-such, I tell her to pray for that child.  I can't clean her lips.  Her friend can't clean her lips.  She can't clean her own lips.  But Jesus can do all that.  And once they really know Jesus, they will be frightened by their own unworthiness and relieved by his mercy that they will be able to speak with purity because he's saved them. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Palliative Caring

On the day that I write this, it is one more week until the infamous Brittany Maynard ends her life with the help of a physician unless she comes to her senses.  This story makes me rage with anger.  She is a beautiful young woman, age 29, newly married, and now she wants to end her life because of her stage 4 cancer diagnosis.

I understand.  Treating cancer is a nightmare.  The cures are worse than the disease.  It is agony to see someone you love wasting away through cancer, and when they do pass away we feel relieved that they do not have any more pain.

However, if the death panel follows through with their plans to erase Brittany from existence, this will only lead to more killing.  We already have children aborted over issues that are not life threatening such as Down’s syndrome or a kidney disease diagnosis that turns out negative.  Now we will have clever magicians who take advantage of the bad news of a positive cancer diagnosis and misdirect these young, impressionable people that assisted suicide is the most compassionate choice.

If Brittany does follow through with her plan, she will still be beautiful, and her family will not have to spend so much money looking for a treatment.  Who are her husband, friends, and family anyway?  Why do they not make more effort to keep this young woman alive until God decides to take her?  Is money really that much more important than the life that is still vibrant?  Are they calling this compassion so that they can sleep at night?

I know a woman who found stage 4 cancer on her adrenal gland.  Stephanie, my mother, made the decision to keep living.  Dad, Andrew, and I kept her alive until the following January.  It was March when we got the news.  It was mom who determined that she would live and exhaust all resources to find a cure for this disease.  She braved chemo, her body weakened, her hair fell out, and she did this so that she could still be here to care for her aging mother, my dad, Andrew, and me.

When January came around, we felt so much pain to see Mom on Hospice.  One day she could drive and eat at the Mexican restaurant.  The next day, she went to the hospital.  After all exhausted resources, Mom and Dad opted out of any treatments when the cancer only spread in December.  When Hospice started, we slowly saw Mom go through pain and eventually delirium.  When she finally did pass away on January 21, 2009, we were relieved because we knew she was perfectly healed and living with her heavenly Father.

I am so glad that nobody ever suggested that my mother take her life that March or April when she received the diagnosis.  We would have missed out on the months of praying for her, believing for a miracle, helping the medical community research for a cure, and generally reaching out to the world with God’s love and our hope in Jesus.

We also got to grow closer to members of our church who would drive Mom to surgeries and chemo sessions.  That is how I got close to my friend Erin that summer whose mother would take care of my mother.

The good news is that I know my mother is alive with the Lord.  The bad news is that I feel that Brittany does not even know Jesus.  If she succeeds in committing suicide, then that will only commence her eternity of enduring God’s wrath.

No, I do not believe that suicide is unforgiveable.  However, Brittany does not act in the heat of the moment.  She has had a whole month to ponder over this and still insists on taking matters into her own hands instead of trusting God to do amazing works with her and her “loved” ones the way he did in the life of my mother.  She trusts in herself and not in Jesus, and that will land her in hell for eternity, an ending much worse than stage 4 brain cancer and chemo deterioration.  How much more will the physicians suffer who influenced her to make this rash decision?

I end with a quotation from Joni Eareckson Tada.  If anyone has wanted to die throughout her decades of wheelchair confinement, Joni would have as much excuse to end it as anybody else.  However, she just turned 65 years old and has accomplished so much for the name of the Lord.

“Like many, my heart broke when I recently watched Brittany Maynard's video in which she outlined her plans to die through physician-assisted suicide. No one – absolutely no one – welcomes the pain that dealing with a terminal disease invariably brings, and it's clear that this young woman is firm in her convictions. But if I could park my wheelchair beside her, I would tell her how the love of Jesus has sustained me through my chronic pain, quadriplegia and cancer.”

Joni has lived from age 17 to 65 in a wheel chair influencing the world because her focus was on people other than herself.  While Brittany throws a tantrum about “my decision,” Joni has saved the lives of disabled people all over the world, provided retreats for them, provided wheelchairs, written songs, painted paintings with a paint brush in her mouth, and has even been nominated for an Academy award.  And she has not stopped.  Her care for other people was more important than her decision.

Brittany, please, I implore you, refuse to choose.  Your final days are worth every second of the pain if only you would think about how you can help your family and the world to live and not shrug an apathetic shoulder to death which is already defeated by Jesus.