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.