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.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Question: Leviticus; the Answer: Hebrews

This is one of those days where I read an amazing article on Tabletalk Magazine, and without trying to I read it again on the website.

It is the article where Benjamin Shaw explores the biblical dichotomy of clean versus unclean.

While studying the book of Hebrews this semester, I read about the book of Leviticus and realize: Leviticus is the question, Hebrews is the answer.

Our God is so holy and we are so not.  Without cleansing we cannot approach this perfect God or we will burn.

Leviticus 11-15 showed all the ways the Israelites had to cleanse themselves before they could approach God.  They had to stay away from any "unclean" food.  They had to abandon their houses if mildew showed up.  They had to sacrifice a lamb to the priest at the temple only to sin right away and have to be cleansed again.

This was God's way of showing them that they cannot ever come clean before our holy God by this treadmill of rituals.  This is where Hebrews steps in:

9:13-14, "For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God."

God let these people labor until Christ came simply to show them that they cannot be clean and stay clean on their own time.  A perfect man had to live the perfect life and then take the punishment for us.  It's by his blood we are clean and we don't have to keep renewing the contract.  His blood was for one time.

I sang "Ancient Words" yesterday in church.  It has a lyric that says: 

Holy words of our Faith
Handed down to this age
Came to us through sacrifice
Oh heed the faithful words of Christ

I meant to sing "faithful" during the practice before the service.  It wasn't even 9:00 and I was tired.  I mindlessly sang "faithless."  Ugh.

Mistake or not, that is no small error.  That borders on blasphemy.  If I lived in the Old Testament, I would have to bring a lamb to be slaughtered by a priest.  Afterward, I'd end up sinning again.  I would lose the salvation status that I have just earned by that lamb.

Now that I live in the New Testament, Christ was slaughtered for me.  He offered the perfect sacrifice of himself.  And he never sins, so he doesn't have to do it again.  And when I approach God for forgiveness, he now sees Christ's sacrifice and not my crappy version.

There are people who live under the name of Christ that still believe you have to keep your salvation status up because you lose it every time a peccadillo comes along, which is many times a day.  They are shocked when you think that they have to work for their salvation, but their system says otherwise.  If I was in that church, I'm sure I would have to go talk to a priest.  Then I'd have to say a prayer five times a day and do some community service.

"By these means, the people maintained, rather, regularly restored their cleanness before God through the ordinary course of life."
These folks still live in the Old Testament.  They do not live with the hope that Jesus paid their sin only one time and that's it.  They can't even approach him directly.  While the New Testament says that he is our priest and intercessor before God, they still like to approach a human priest or even someone deceased.  This is an absolute insult to God and what Christ has done for us.

And this logic leaks into all denominations.  (Not to step on any friends' toes, but here goes) Some have to say "Hail Mary"s, some have to speak in tongues, some need to be rebaptized, some need to end global warming.  We are always tempted to try to add to what Christ has done which shows we still do not trust him.  Just ourselves.  After my lyrical slip yesterday I seriously wanted to just do the song again.  Or bang my head against the pulpit.  Thank God that in the next two services I got it right because I looked to Jesus and not to my own memory.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

the prowling lion versus the Lion of Judah

I never quite know how to react when people say that Satan is preventing them from doing something.

This Sunday, there was an excellent sermon about not incurring debt.  Without the video, sound, power point, etc., we would still have a sermon based on the Word of God and pointing people to Jesus and not to materials.  Souls would be enlightened, and church would happen.

But life happens.  The power point presentation would not load up.  The video would only play the sound and not the picture.  The mics would give feedback, which never happens.  My husband Tim, who works with all that was like, it was like a gremlin got into the system.  The pastor said, it was like Satan didn't want me to preach this sermon but God overcame it.

It was a good conclusion but one I still ponder.  We know that since Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, Satan has no control over us.  He is defeated and cannot hurt his church.  God's grace comes through and his Holy Spirit works miracles in the otherwise dead congregation who can do nothing apart from God's grace.

But then, evil still happens and will happen until the Lord comes back.  1 Peter 5:8 gives a sober reminder that our enemy the devil prowls about like a roaring lion waiting for someone to devour.

But the more dominant Lion of Judah is the one in control.  The little lion does nothing unless the big Lion allows it.

So the glitches happened in the technology in the service because God is still in control.  Why would he let this happen?  Maybe it underlines the fact that this was an important sermon.  Debt accrues because people think things and prestige will make them happy and save them from low-quality lives.  But this doesn't happen because they spend money on useless things and have nothing with which to feed their kids.

It is really important that we place our value on Jesus and follow his direction for our lives and not go out and buy the next iPhone.  It's not wrong to have an iPhone, but it is wrong when it becomes more important that Jesus and the people that he loves.  It becomes wrong when you can't feed yourself and have to get welfare, but you still were able to afford an iPhone.  I could see Satan wanting to stop this sermon from happening because he wants to distract us all from the true riches of Christ and his life that never fades or grows old, and he wants to get us trapped by having to pay for the newest technology that will already be obsolete next year.  Then we have a pile of debt and cannot go on missions or get our kids to college because we spent all our money on the next temporary fad.

Tim brought up something that had happened at Big Picture Con the week before.  He had a film in the short film festival that didn't win but still did really good in the voting poll by the audience.  The film that did win the voting poll but not the contest was a film called Checkmate, except Checkmate was in German and I can't pronounce that at the moment.

This film was the first to be shown, but when it started getting into the story, it stopped playing and would not continue.  We had to wait until the end of the festival to watch the whole thing after they found another file on the internet.

When I first saw the first half of Checkmate, I thought it was another lame video about a young kid or a woman groaning about life and its ennui.  When I saw the whole thing, I thought it was the best video and had a wonderful message.

This young boy is trying to ask this girl out who already dates the popular guy.  This boy is a quiet boy who plays the Chess that you find on Star Trek.  Life is like Chess.  You have to make hard decisions.  They may be good or bad, and you still may lose, but you have to keep playing.

In the long run, we see a hilarious exchange where he tries to woo the girl but to no avail.  This time around, he lost the game.  But you keep playing.

Satan doesn't want messages like that to circulate.  Even if the other team scores once, he wants us to stop the game completely and give up.

I cannot get over the fact that this young woman named Brittany, who is my age and newly wed, wants to go ahead and end her life with the help of a physician on November 1 because she got diagnosed with terminal cancer.  No consideration for her husband or her joyous bridesmaids in her wedding picture.  She says it would be more dignified to take her own life than to go through the long painful process of chemo.

She's wrong.  Every day is worth living.  Even the days ruined by a weakened chemo body are worth living.  God wants Brittany to live and continue playing until he decides to take her life as he only has the right to do so as he gave it to her.  Satan wants her to just throw in the towel and abandon her new husband and her loved ones because of her vanity.  This is not dignity.  This is mutiny.

Yes, the devil prowls about like a lion, but the verse before says to cast your cares on Christ, the dominant Lion, because he cares for you.  I suppose he still lets Satan prowl to call our attention to these things.  And if this is the case, please Lord, do not let Brittany and her doctors follow through with their anti-life plan.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Mortifying Sin: the Wrong and the Right Way

I've been reading "The Mortification of Sin" by John Owen along with Reading Classics Together on Tim Challies' blog.  John Owen's words flow with such depth and passion.  At the same time, I can't pay attention really well so sometimes I get lost.  That was not the case last night.

The whole theme of his book has been an exposition of Romans 8:13.  In the ESV it says, "For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."  Owen's tagline is "Be killing sin or it will be killing you."

For the rest of the book, Owen shows how people try to kill sin the wrong way, using their own penances and rituals.  Instead, he wants them to leave human effort and come to Jesus to be changed.

There is only so many ways you can say this concept, but nothing is more important in reaching salvation and being sanctified in the Holy Spirit.

Basically, Owen says that people try to mortify sin, but they do it the wrong way.

He reached a point in his treatise where he gives the example of Peter's speech in Acts 2.  In verses 29-36, Peter explains how David died but looked forward to the resurrection.

God loved David, but without his help, David was a wicked man indeed.  In himself, there was nothing good.  But because of his faith in God's promise to send an eternal king on his throne, David died with the hope of living again and with the hope of freedom from sin.

"This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses."  God raised his eternal Son from the dead.  Why did Jesus die?  Because we are so hopelessly lost in our sins.  On our own, we will not come to God for salvation but always look to whatever we can do.  Jesus loved us so much that he lived the only perfect human life and then died under God's wrath that humans deserve.  Since he was perfect, he could not stay dead, and since he was the perfect sacrifice, we are not enamored with our sins anymore.

"Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."

The penitent ones heard what Peter said and were "cut to the heart."  If I was among the crowd, I would think, "The only good man on the planet died so that I could be free from sin.  What must I do to repay him?"

This is what the folks asked.  Did Peter say to go wash seven times in the Jordan?  Did he say complete five years of a discipleship course?  Did he tell them to pray five times a day to some heavenly sponsor?

No, he simply said, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."

All they needed to come to Jesus.  The Holy Spirit would baptize them, and they could finally be fit to enter God's presence.  And if a man of the household came to the Lord, his children and wife and servants could also be baptized and be considered holy because of him.  Simply coming to Jesus makes no only myself clean, but also makes my whole family clean by association (though not necessarily individually saved.  They are still considered holy along with me and we must pray for Jesus to truly lead their hearts.) 

The bottom line: quit trying to find holiness apart from simply resting in Jesus.  He will make you holy.  The people you love are also holy because of you in their lives, so treat them as inside the faith and let Jesus change them.   Remember to forgive them as the Lord forgave you.  What you did to Jesus is way worse than what they've done to you or anyone else.  Trust the Lord to change their hearts and simply love them in the process. 

I close with this 2nd Chapter of Acts song:


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Did you catch his face? Was it 10538?

This is another adventure in Evidence Unseen, the apologetics book I have been reading on my Kindle.  But it is more because it leads to music.

The author goes into detail about how atheists will try to find meaning in this world and life, but without God there really is no meaning.  If this world was a result of an explosion and other non-entities such as chance, then there is no meaning and all we have are biological fatalism. 

He gives the illustration of a master artist who one day let his 3-year-old nephew splatter paint all over a canvas.  That evening, he invited some critics over and showed him his nephew's painting, but then he told them he had made the painting.

So the art critics invented meaning after meaning about all the splotches and spatters arranged by the nephew.

Finally the artist gives in and tells them that this painting was created by his nephew this afternoon after he let him fling paint all over it.

Some of the critics left all angry because their deep meanings suddenly became meaningless.  But some stayed still drawing meaning out of the blotches even after the artist told them that it had no meaning.

Sometimes I feel like the art critics who stay after the big let-down when it comes to the "10538 Overture."  By Electric Light Orchestra.

It's lyrics are simple:

Did you see your friend crying from his eyes today?
Did you see him run through the streets and far away?
Did you see him run? Did you see him fall?
Did his life flash by at the bedroom door?

Did you hear the news, came across the air today?
Someone has been found on the rocks down in the bay
Did you see him hide? Did you see him crawl?
Does his life mean more than it did before?

Did you see that man running through the streets today?
Did you catch his face? Was it 10538?

My meaning: When I listen to these words and the amazing orchestral rock sounds, it has such meaning to me.  There is this man who does not fit in society roaming the streets all alone in life.  Does he have a name?  Why doesn't someone reach out to him?

Jeff Lynne's meaning: According to wikipedia, he simply wanted to write a song about an escaped prisoner who had a number and not a name.  He had a tune intended to be an orchestral masterpiece.  He then got inspired to write lyrics and the recording engineers added guitars and violins and all kinds of decoration.  The song became their first hit as ELO.

But all the same, Jeff Lynne would not have written the song down if it hadn't at least a subconscious meaning for him.  It has meaning.  It has an author, and lyrics and tunes don't just happen.  The same way, that guy's nephew gave the painting meaning when he spattered it with paint.  We don't know it, but the 3-year-old isn't a zombie robot.  He's a human with his own volition and ideas.

So really, I think this argument might fail in trying to logically prove God's existence to people who believe the earth has no specific origin.  Whether people realize the meaning or not, the earth was created.  It is clearly created by someone intelligent.  How can you study something like childbirth or planetary motion and not see that this could not have arisen from a non-entity?  How can you look at human progress and not see the original artist behind all these people?  Cities and internets and technology do not come as a result of biological synapses.  Someone invented it, and someone fashioned the man to have his desires and ideas.  This is no accident.  This is a planned work of a loving God who knows what he wants and who he loves.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Happenstance and Wedding Rehearsals

I downloaded this book to my Kindle and started reading it yesterday.  It is called Evidence Unseen by James Rochford. 

I've only read one chapter so far, and it is indeed a clever book on Christian apologetics.

I thought I'd bring up one of the evidences and also recall my own wedding rehearsal. 

My sister-in-law gets married this Saturday.  She will have a normal rehearsal and dinner afterwards.

When I got married to her brother over a year ago, we did something different.  We rented a pavilion in Clark Park.  We could only rent for the afternoon so we decided to do a lunch instead of a dinner.  We also had my favorite barbecue place cater for the occasion.  Sadly Glenn's BBQ is closed now, but praise God it was open long enough to cater my rehearsal.

We had a lovely luncheon, a vast cross section of bridesmaids, groomsmen, and family, played some Cornhole, and even got to sit in the pavilion while it rained.  I can't think of any rehearsal dinner that can top that.  I look back with pride on that day.  (Not that Bethany's won't be good.  I'm still happy with the way mine turned out.)

But the thing is, if there is no God in the universe, and nobody made us, then we really have no choices as to decide if we want a traditional wedding rehearsal dinner or a casual picnic in the park.  Every decision we make is based on biological chain reactions and would have happened anyway.  In fact, neither rehearsal would have happened because marriage is something that doesn't just happen.  It's planned.  In a Godless world, we would just be amoebas going around and reproducing asexually with anyone and everyone, only following our pheromones. 

But we know that this is not true because we know we consciously make decisions every day.  We have a subconscious that makes us more than animal.  The fact that Bethany and I have two different kinds of rehearsals, much less weddings in general, show that we in fact both make decisions and that the outcomes were not just inevitable.  There has to be a God in the universe making sense of all of this.

This is the huge difference between fate and God's predestination.  Without God, things just happen.  With God, it is all planned and all has a purpose.

Ephesians 1:3-6, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

We have one situation where we are purposeless chemical reactions.  We have another much better and more real situation where God plans our lives while still making us responsible for our own personal decisions.  In fact, even from the atheist perspective, the idea of two cells coming together to create a different life is proof enough that it had to be planned and that there is a God.  How much better to believe in our colorful Yahweh who created us to all be unique and loved us even when we hated him and sent Jesus to live for us and to take our punishment on the cross.  How can people live without such a believe giving them backbone?

Friday, September 26, 2014

God of this City

Yesterday I wrote my thoughts on the book "A Timeless Place" and on land conservation and urban cancers.

This made me think about the song "God of this City."  Chris Tomlin's version of the song is more known, but it was written by an Irish group called Bluetree.

Apparently, this group went to play worship music in Cambodia.  They ended up playing for a brothel.  Sex slavery is very strong over there.  It made Aaron Boyd, the lead singer, wonder what more Christians could do to stop this.  Why do we still let this happen?

From their website: “We went back home asking, ‘How does this all work? Whose responsibility is it to see these girls released from prostitution and transformed…because if I just pray over the city and nothing happens, then it’s God’s fault, right?’ It’s very easy to push that over on God, but Scripture tells us to go into the world and love people.”

I think this is a sign of me going back and forth between amillennial views and postmillennial views.  They are both postmillennial, but it depends on if I believe the millennium has already happened or not. I still think it has and that we are in the last days.  If I did not think that Jesus was going to come back for another 1000 years, I would despair.

But just the same, he's going to create a new heaven and a new earth.  And I'll never stop being shocked over this: he does it through us.  He saved his elect through the substitutional atonement of Jesus on the cross.  We anticipate resurrection because Jesus came back to life.  But now that we are considered one body with Christ, Jesus commands us to not only spread the Gospel all over the world, but to also help make this place more like heaven with each step we take.  The eternal kingdom will be on this earth, and God honors us by commanding us to help.  We don't even deserve to be alive, but he calls us to help.

And that means helping young girls and boys come out of prostitution.  It means influencing women to not get abortions and letting people know the freedom from homosexual attraction.  It means we should have healthcare sharing programs and land conservation, and we should also build cities and buildings but still maintain the original beauty of God's creation.  We should care for all life, human and animal.

Sometimes, I worry about people taking a Charles Finney view of Jesus.  The view that he was more of a great moral example for us instead of our payment for our sin.  They are wrong.  Jesus's perfect life has been imputed to us and our gross sins all piled onto him.  He took your hell if you believe in him and will never experience it.  And you will rise up with him because Jesus could not stay dead.

All the more James's words in the second chapter of his epistle ring true: "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[b] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

Our works don't save us.  And we have faith that our contributions will be successful.  But because of our faith, we should strive to bring people to justice and Jesus.  We can do this knowing that Jesus finished the job.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Timeless Place

Recently I decided to start reading a volume of Reader's Digest's Condensed Books from 1971.  It's borrowed from my grandfather's vast collection.  I finished the first novel:

A Timeless Place by Ellen Bromfield Geld.

The daughter of a famous author and her husband now take care of her father's farm after his passing.  She has one son fighting in the Vietnam war, a 17-year-old daughter, and a young son named Michael.  From what I can tell, I think this is her father's sister who lives there, too: Aunt Elizabeth.  Btw, her name is Cass Fagan, her husband is Dan, and her first two children are Steve and Leah.  Her late father was the author Thomas Barr.

Apparently Thomas Barr had this farm, and his writing was so successful that people would come from all over the world to see his farm country in Sutter Valley, Ohio, to see his inspiration.

Now that Barr has passed on, the town wants to try to preserve his memory by building a highway through the farm and the mountain and adding a resort and restaurants.  Cass, however, knows that this is not what her dad would have wanted.  Sutter Valley just speaks to Cass and her family in ways that nothing does.  Time passes by, but the land never changes.  If they built that highway, it would ruin one of Dan's most successful crops. 

Ultimately I agree with the protagonists.  It would be terrible to take some private property and build a highway over it just to bring more revenue into the state.  Especially when the owners do not want to relinquish.  I think that eminent domain is unconstitutional and that builders need to respect people's wishes to not raze their house and property.

A part of me, however, does not disagree with the Mayor of that town.  It would be nice to make Thomas Barr's land more accessible to handicapped people.  In fact, Steve loses his leg in the war, and it would be great for him.  I love the country, but sometimes I need some civilization and try to find the nearest Wal-Mart.

But all I know is that my hometown of Conyers, GA was a small rural town outside of Atlanta.  Then in 1996, the Olympics came and they built the GA Int'l Horsepark.  Then they built apartment complexes, a super Wal-Mart, IHOP, O'Charleys, restaurants, a new movie theater, and it's like they could not stop building.  There were nice houses and barns torn down to make way for this.  Along with the new businesses, the less refined people started moving into town and now Conyers is rather urban.  It's not safe like it used to be.

So yeah, the bug for money and advancement can really ruin a much cherished place.  But it can also enhance it.

I love Sky Valley, GA and Franklin, NC.  They are two towns next to each other in the mountains with beautiful national parks and mountain vistas.  My family goes there every year between Christmas and New Year's Day.  It feels like you are in heaven when you settle into the condo in Sky Valley.

But I am so glad that nearby Franklin has restaurants and even the Fun Factory.  A little progress is nice.  The Highlands nearby are also lovely and have nice tourist attractions without ruining the area.

But there is also a difference between the Highlands in NC and Helen, GA where they keep building really cute putt-putt places and tourist junk shops that really have nothing to do with the town.  The restaurants are over priced, and when Tim took me there, we were more excited about the Huddle House than we were about the restaurants.

If done properly, adding revenue to a country area can be a good thing.  Too much, and it could turn into the Conyers of today or even Gatlinburg which is completely a tourist town, now.

At least recently, Conyers added some parks and trails to the town, making it much more interesting.  I love those.  There's a trail in the city of Greenville, SC that also adds some green space back into the otherwise concrete desert.

The thing is, God created the planet.  And he did not feel the most satisfied until he build humans.  and it was his intention for humans to build cities and create inventions and learn how to go inside and change the weather.  We are created in his image, so we must do what we can to cultivate this land and let it change with the times.

But we also must remember to not cut down every single tree and pave up mountains.  We must not pave paradise and build a parking lot like Joni Mitchell suggests.  We still need a place for animals to live without too much change to their habitats.  And certainly, we must never trash the environment.

We also don't have to worry about destroying the planet either.  Our God won't allow that.  In Genesis 8:22, he promised Noah that seedtime and harvest, day and night, would never cease.  And in Revelation, he promises a New Heaven and New Earth that will be right here on a renewed version of this planet.  God intended for us to build cities, and he also will stop of from completely sapping up all our resources.

I think just now, people are figuring out how to contribute to God's creation on his terms without completely destroying his products.  The Gospel Coalition has a group called Every Square Inch.  Quoting Abraham Kuyper, Jesus takes every square inch of this planet and calls it "mine."  They are finding ways to care for the environment but in ways that also benefits people.  It's really exciting to see what happens if the Lord continues this.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Things I learned about for King and Country

I first heard of them from the song "The Proof of your Love."  I liked the song but thought they were just okay.

Then this summer, they released their single, "Fix My Eyes."  Then the guys spoke and I noticed a British accent!

They're British!  Perfect for this Doctor Who and ELO and all British Culture fan girl.

Then I listened to them on YouTube.  I seriously think that this band is a good alternative to Keane.

Finally, they were interviewed on Joy FM.

First thing I learned: Their sister is Rebecca St. James.
2. If she is their sister, then they are not British.  They're Australian.
3. Wikipedia calls them the Australian "Coldplay."  I agree.
4. Granted, they live in Nashville.  But they did retain their accents.

Finally, this song has such good instrumentation.  It is also a good call to keep your eyes on Jesus.  Even if your friends leave, you lose your job for unfair reasons, someone dies, even if you are trying to get health insurance, none of this matters.  You have to fix your eyes on Jesus.  He will be the only reason you will keep getting up in the morning.  He is the only reason you can ever be satisfied with life and the only hope.  You get distracted and look to yourself, you will fail.  You have to fix your eyes on Jesus.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Shouldn't a lead singer define a band?

Amazingly, I'm not going to talk about For King and Country today.  Their new album is out, and I'll get it next time I'm at LifeWay.  Still highly anticipated.

Yesterday another band put out a new album that I've liked a long time: Flyleaf.

They are the featured band on New Release Tuesday this week.

A listen to their new single, "Set Me on Fire," I heard that the lead singer's vocals were much better and seeing the video today, she's more polished.  I was really happy for Lacey.

Then I kept listening and learning the song on guitar and realized, wait: she looks and sounds different from Lacey Mosley Sturm because she is a different person.  This is Kristen May.

It made me like the song slightly less.  I still think the song is great, but now I have to reconsider what I think of Flyleaf and whether they should change their name.

It seems like Lacey herself blossomed.  She got married, had a baby, and then decided to leave the band to focus on her family.  Now she wrote a book which will be released in October.  It's about her Christian journey.  Baker Publishing has five interview videos with her pointing to what seems to be a lovely book.

You don't have to watch them in order, but it does seem that Lacey has come to a place in her life where she is happy to be a wife and mother who loves the Lord.

What about Flyleaf though?  They all claim to be Christians, but Lacey is the one who made it obviously so.  I think Kristen May is a good direction for the band, but I'm just not sure if they are Flyleaf anymore.

I felt the same when Michael Tait became lead singer of the Newsboys.  It's not really them anymore.

What defines a band anyway?  Shouldn't the lead singer be a factor in deciding whether the band is the same or not?

What you think?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Perfect love casts out your constant companion, I mean fear

Doctor Who intrigues me.  I'm an evangelical young earth creationist who loves Jesus and loves Ken Ham.

The BBC is quite possibly Richard Dawkins's evangelistic program.

And the same time, British culture is so alluring to me.  Nothing is so alluring as Doctor Who.  I love the characters, the relationships, the stories, and just the British awkwardness.  But the writers make it no secret that they are atheists.

So last night's episode, "Listen" intrigued me.  It opens with the Doctor asking, "Why do you talk out loud even though you know nobody is listening?  Or is it nobody?"  He then spends the rest of the episode interviewing people with that same question.  My answer: "It sounds like you might believe in God."

Stuff like this is why I love the Doctor.  Yes they are atheists, and yes, they don't mind letting you know, but they also present their information in a way that God might possibly still exist.  No matter, how hard they try to suppress him, it is obvious that God exists, or else nothing in the universe would make sense.  Paul is so right in Romans 1.

So the Doctor and his current sidekick, Clara, decide this non-entity has a name.  It's fear.  "Fear is okay.  It is your constant companion.  It makes you either crumble or stronger, but it is the one thing that stays with you."

Man, what a bleak outlook on life.  I know the atheists love to tell people like me that we invent God to make ourselves feel more comfortable about death and life's meaning.  Even if that was true, do they have anything better to offer me?  Do I really want to give up my hope of a God who saves and a Jesus who never leaves and a time that never ends in exchange for a dead universe that ends and is barren where fear is my only companion?

In church this morning, I sang the words of "In Christ Alone."  It has the words, "No guilt in life, no fear in death.  This is the power of Christ in me.  From life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny."  Amen.  How comforting to know that Doctor Who is only a fairy tale. Jesus is the reality and life's only meaning.  I just don't see how people want so badly to control their own lives and their own moralities that they would rather live in a world where fear is their only companion.

But we are friends with Fear.  His name is Jesus.  If our fear is directed to him, then we're complete.  He receives our fear, and is completely disappears, replaced by his Spirit.

1 John 4:13-21:
"By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot[a] love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother."

Perfect love casts out fear.  Yes we will fear, but we take Fear and accept him as a friend and he changes that into eternal Love and Life.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

My Hair Points to the Sky...

...The place I want to be.

At the start of this post I really have no clue what I'm writing about.  I just know a lot is on my mind.

Musically: I'm starting to like this band called For King and Country more and more.  They have a great song called "Fix My Eyes."  It's my new theme song.  Their new album comes out in two Tuesdays.  LifeWay has a display for it.  I don't think it will go over in that neighborhood, but they are British, and being a Doctor Who and ELO fan, I love that.  They don't sound like Keane, but I think of them when I hear them.

What do you do when there is an outspoken civil rights activist who is also pro-life and stands up for Conservative beliefs and has relatives whose birthdays we celebrate as holidays?  I personally look up to that person and would love to join the cause.  What do you do if she came into the store you work at for the third time last Monday since you've worked there this year?  I mean, she's just there looking at the clearance items and the bargain fiction books.  How does one proceed other than ask if there is anything I can help with?  Maybe that is it.  Maybe I should just ask her that in her pro-life and civil rights activism.

Working at LW, you are encouraged to share connection stories with the staff.  They can be anonymous or have your name on them.  Either way, what if you get a really good one but it has so many personal aspects that you are hesitant to share it?  A lady comes in looking for books about reaching gay people.  She has a friend who is considering the lifestyle.  I myself am concerned about this issue as a former youth pastor who volunteers at a pregnancy center and longs for people to learn to follow the Lord and not their desires.  I myself burn with passion but learned that it's not a sin to love someone of your same gender.  It's a sin to make it sexual.  (And I'm happily married to a man, but was still raised in a highly sexual society that has not left me unscathed).  I was really touched by that shopper.  She asked, "Are there churches that have programs for this thing?"

I honestly wish there was a clear answer for that.  I know the church I attend has Celebrate Recovery and deals with all "hurts, habits, and hangups."  Perhaps we could start dealing with this at our pregnancy centers.  There was Exodus International and I'm sad to say that it's gone away due to people reverting back to their old lifestyles.  There are outspoken Christians who have same-sex attraction such as Sam Alberry who follow the Lord and lead conferences for the Gospel Coalition.

And a civil rights leader comes to shop at LifeWay.  Just as we are just now starting to have peace with people who have darker shades of skin than me, although the Dream still has a long way to go, can we learn to realize that our deep passions for our friends are not a sexual calling, but a gift from God to love people and lead them to Jesus?  To care for people's needs before our own?  To find more constructive ways to channel our desires like in music or sports?  What if we learn how to mortify the deeds of the flesh by not focusing on not thinking of the elephant in the room, but by focusing on God and what he wants?  Jesus is the only way to find meaning for all your passions and dreams.  His plan really does work.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fences and Yancey

And this summer I led a 1st grade class through the Jungle Safari VBS at CBC.  It was one of the best things I've done since getting married.  There is no greater hope than leading children to the Lord and hoping that they get it and it sticks to adulthood.

The curriculum from Standard Publishing (which I sold to the people at LifeWay in a way) had music from this singer named Yancey.  Who is Yancey?  I assume she's just this young chick who writes children's music for Standard Publishing.  But she's actually really good.  She has short, spiked hair with a highlight, dresses in punk clothes, and rocks with a bunch of kids in the background.  One of her songs was good enough that we started singing it in the chapel service.

Here is the link to the song, and it actually is a good one.

What became of this revelation for me?  It reminded me of the year I enjoyed Paramore.  It was a brief spell, but it was also a time when I was trying to influence younger kids.  I went through an escapism period where I liked Twilight and therefore Paramore.  And I knew young girls who are easily influenced by this.  I'm actually really sorry for that.

But Paramore has this one good song called "Fences."  It really makes you think of the teen celebrity culture.  You think of young people like Miley Cyrus who were raised in a certain mold as a minor.  She makes a stand for Christ and celibacy before marriage.  Then she turns 18 and kicks loose and now she swings on a wrecking ball in mostly her birthday suit.  What happened?

Not defending her or anything, but trying to understand, this chick had to be mature and wholesome with no direction as to its meaning or relevance.  Disney presented her the luxurious life of fame, food, friends, and attraction.  Then she left any statement she used to have about Jesus and decides to experiment.  To her, Jesus and goodness were just her TV image.  She grew up as a TV personality and is just know trying to figure out who she really is.  But at this time or exploring is now permanently on camera for all to see and to influence young girls.  Even if she goes on to repent, which I hope she does, she will still have this permanent record of he folly as she went through adolescent crisis.

I love how "Fences," sung by another young lady who is famous, claims Christianity, but is not real clear on how it changes her life, pleads with these young stars, male of female, to set up boundaries and fences to protect them from the dangling millions offered by Disney.  They feel like they have to do everything their manager says, and they get some joy out of it, but they are dying on camera because they abandoned faith in God for this quick temporary pleasure in order to get sponsors.  When you are famous, it is hard to have a private life.  In fact, I feel really sorry for such kids as Miley, Justin, and even recently departed such as Shirley Temple.  Even if, like Shirley Temple, you grow up into respectable adulthood, you still live the Truman Show.  You have no private life and any slip-ups from time to time get published into history.  Shirley was pro-choice for a spell in the 70s.  Justin got arrested.  We all know the story of Britney, Timberlake, and Lohan.

If only they had heard "Live Differently" by Yancey when they grew up.  Yes, they will stand out, but then again, they'd stand out.  Read Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend.  Learn to tell people no even if it risks your career.  And seriously, you can earn fame when your more mature enough to handle it.

PS hope the video works.