Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Monday, May 28, 2007

Battle Hymn of the Republic

Memorial Day always reminds me of this line that we used to sing from The Battle Hymn of the Republic:
As He died to make men holy,
let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on.

Turns out that wasn't the original wording. But still apropos, particularly for those who are working for the Kingdom.

Here's the full set of lyrics, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.


I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on."


He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.


In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.


He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sickness stinks!

Last week it was dealing with Mrs. G's tooth extraction. This week: sick kids! I hate it when life interferes like this.

I heard someone tell a story one time about a 90-something year old lady who hadn't missed a day of church her entire life. She must not have had kids.

Hope your Lord's Day was profitable. Go enjoy a few hymns at Rebecca's place.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Hitchens/Wilson Debate on Christianity Today

Christianity Today is sponsoring a debate between between Christopher Hitchens and Doug Wilson. Here are the links so far:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Has anyone been following this debate? If so, I'm curious what your take is.

If I were Hitchens, the last person on earth I'd want to debate over the internet would be Doug Wilson. Pastor Wilson is smart, he's wry, and the way he writes appeals to the younger generation--much in the same way I think Hitchens stuff appeals to those of no-faith. If I were him, I'd be afraid of losing my target audience.

I also wouldn't use Scripture to prove my point. His attempt to explain the Good Samaritan as a nice, moral story that tells us to love each other was lame. Truly an exercise in missing the point. But frankly, even if he was good with Scripture, again, it's Doug Wilson we're talking about here. I disagree with some of his theology, but the guy sure knows his Bible.

Finally, I know of at least one person from the other side who thinks "the question is lame." Maybe he's right. I find myself wondering what question would be better to demonstrate the unerring brilliance and clear-headed rational thinking of the atheist camp. If I find out, I'll let you know.

In the meantime, since the atheist folks put such a premium on rationality, I keep wondering what evidence atheism has to back up its claim. Does it really hold together as a system? But maybe I'm expecting too much by looking for a coherent system. My friend the atheist puts it this way:
No-one... and I mean no-one... (even Chris) is claiming atheism (the non-belief in gods) provides any "rational basis" for anything other than not believing in gods.
That clears everything up.

Update: Here are all the links:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Marin Luther on True Righteousness

Inspired by Ms. Upward Call (that's Mrs. Buggy to you, Mister!), I'm posting my own "dead theologian" quote. This is Martin Luther, taken from his commentary on Romans, specifically Chapter 1.

Because of our natural and spiritual gifts, men may regard us as wise, righteous and good. But God does not regard us as such, especially not if we so esteem ourselves. We therefore must reamin so humble, as if we as yet had nothing, but were still waiting for the tender mercies of God, who for Christ's sake regards us as wise and righteous. There are many who indeed for God's sake, regard temporal blessings as nothing and gladly renounce them, as, for example, Jews and heretics. But there are very few who regard also their spiritual gifts and good works as nothing, seeking to obtain only the righteousness of Christ. Of this Jews and heretics are incapable, though without this no one can be saved. They invariable desire and hope that their own {righteousness} will be esteemed and rewarded by God. But His verdict forever stands: "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy" (Rom 9:16).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Soundbite: Could This Be Our Next President?

Forget about the Republican debate. This is what you should watch. Kinda makes you wonder--we did pretty well with an actor the last time...

Monday, May 14, 2007

I Saw The Light

Saul's sovereign salvation

By Gummby

You can squeeze this in as part 6b of the Light series. Other parts can be found here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

As I read Buggy's Light of the World post, I felt like I wanted to expand on this wonderful story of Saul's salvation. By God's grace and sovereignty, we studied this very passage recently in church.

I want to focus here on who God saved. If there was ever a person we could look at in Scripture and say,"Yep, that guy is beyond saving" by judging their outward appearance, Saul would be our guy. He's just finished watching (or perhaps even presiding over) the stoning of Stephen, and his zeal for his religion is so great that he goes to the Chief Priests to get letters to follow these accursed followers of "the Way" even into foreign cities, so that they may be brought back and held accountable for their crimes. Their blasphemy against the one, holy God, whom they mock by following this imposter Jesus.

So when did God save Saul? Was it as Saul started moving in the right direction? Nope. Notice Acts 9:1: "But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord..." There was no indication that he would turn around anytime soon.

This is just like God. He saves us while we are still turned completely away from Him. It starts while we were yet sinners.

There may be some reading this who have been witnessing to someone and felt that that person was "too far gone;" although you know God could save him, you might doubt in your heart that He would ever do so.

But if there ever was such a person, at least in Scripture's accounts, surely Saul was that person. Yet God was pleased to save him in His own time. So I hope this will serve as an encouragement and a reminder that no matter what we see on the outside, there is never anyone who is too far from God to be saved. There is never anyone who might not turn from darkness and into His glorious light.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Here's a family picture--my kids, my brother's kids, my brother and his wife, my wife's parents, my parents (sorry, for leaving you guys out before, Mom!), and my wife and I. Unfortunately we're missing my sister & her husband (Aunt Jennie & Uncle Rob as they are known around here), as well as the grandparents, but this covers more of the family than just about any picture I have.

Want some free Science Fiction?

Not sure how long this will last, but Fictionwise is offering free downloads of short stories nominated for this year's Nebula ballot (the Nebula awards are this weekend). You have to sign up for an account, but with the multi-reader options, there ought to be at least one format that everyone can read.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Seven Random Things

Cent meme-tagged me, and it is so rare these days to get something like this (as well as being able to carve out time to write it), that I was happy to do it.

Here are the rules:
Each player starts with 7 random facts/habits about themselves. People who are tagged need to write on their own blog about their seven things, as well as these rules. You need to choose 7 people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them that they have been tagged and to read your blog! I think it's way more fun to leave it open, 'cause who knows when they'll read it. Besides, it's pretty lame to tag people with a meme to get them to read your blog.

1. I would like to write a book one day, but I'm a slow writer. My average writing time per (non-fluffy) post is prolly about 2 hours. My only hope to get something done may be NaNoWriMo.

2. Bugblaster, Simon the slightly agnostic Atheist (link omitted), and I all have the same IQ score.

3. I was a licensed Private Invstigator in the state of Arizona for about two years.

4. At various times in my career, I have considered becoming a lawyer, a day trader, a university professor, and a pastor.

5. On at least two occasions that I can remember, I have held over a million dollars in my hands. Check, not cash. But still.

6. My only futures market trade was in the dreadful (and now defunct) ISDEX futures; it had no liquidity, and looking back, I was most likely picked off by the market maker sitting down there on the KCBT.

7. It is very unusual for me to be reading less than three books at the same time (though not all at once--I'm not Al Mohler, after all). Perhpas this is why I'm the only one I can think of who will take longer to read Stephen Charnock's Existence and Attributes of God than Kim.

I don't think there are 7 people left in the Blogosphere who haven't done this. Nevertheless, I'll give it a try.

Nate the Great
The Main Family
DNA Dude
Rebecca of the Yukon (who probably doesn't do memes, but I just gotta try. Just think of it: 7 random things from one of the most deliberate bloggers in the 'sphere--how could you not want to see that?)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

What About Sin?

I'm suspicious of big churches.

It may be simple cynicism, but I have to guess it's pretty hard to get 5,000 people into a single building by telling them they are sinners who need to be saved by God. There are exceptions to this. But I think it's worth looking into.

Today I'm considering a local church whose pastor does lots of radio spots. Every single one of them are full of friendly music and nice words about (presumably) what God wants for your life and how welcome you are at his church. I say "presumably" because I can't actually remember a spot where he talks about God.

Anyway, this gentleman is also a book writer, and his most recent book is geared toward men--showing them how to win. At what? At life, I guess. I don't know.

I went to the website for the church, and they have the typical statement of faith and beliefs--nothing I would look at and say "woah, big fella--we need to talk." In fact, it sounds like a pretty ok place--trying to bring the Jesus of Scriptures to people where they are.

And let's face it, if there is one thing that a lot of good churches don't do very well, it's welcome people where they are. I think we've somehow arrived at this notion that people need to be somewhat together before they get together with God, and we seem to lose track of the reality that broken people will have busted up lives.

We need to extend our grace and love to them while at the same time reserving our judgement for our own lives. We need to stop expecting sinners to act like saints, and realize that sometimes those who have it together externally are by far the worst off, because they don't recognize their need for a savior. Or, to quote Jesus,"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:31-32, ESV).

That said, I still have a problem with Mr. Motivational's church. I'll admit that it took me awhile to boil it down. It's actually kinda subtle--and I probably wouldn't have found it if I hadn't gone to website knowing what I know about this guy. The problem is this: there's no "sin" anywhere.

Oh, yeah, it's in the statement of faith mentioned above, but when you look at the actual messages, it's pretty hard to find. (I would say impossible, but maybe I just didn't look hard enough).

Trying to give them a fair (if somewhat biased) shake, I went to the blog of the pastor and his two associates. Between the three, I found lots of sports anecdotes, motivational statements about being or becoming a winner, blurbs on leadership, and a list of the top 5 hamburger places in Little Rock, but only 1 reference to sin, and none to holiness. (I tested my own blog with the same search, BTW, and I only got 2 references to holiness--the last one was in May of 2006--yikes!).

In the history section of the website, it says the church was founded because the head pastor found other churches "boring and irrelevant." I got no problem with that. The problem is that the Gospel is neither boring or irrelevant. How could it be, except to those who don't understand what sin is, and why it is so bad. Who don't understand the message that they are saved from the sin that so dominated their lives that they were prisoners with no hope of escape.

What has my brief jaunt yielded? Just this: if a church never spends time talking about God's justice and man's sin, and people never grasp God's holiness, then they have a skewed view of God. Before too long "sin" becomes a meaningless word--it means addictions, imperfections, mistakes--anything you want it to mean but never what God says it means: "Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness." (1 John 3:4, ESV).

God doesn't want us to be "winners;" He wants us to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, which will more than likely make most of us losers--as if we weren't already. But God loves losers, because it is through them that He is most glorified. Why? So that no flesh might boast in the presence of God," but that "he who boasts would boast in the Lord," Jesus Christ our savior. (1 Cor 1:29, 31)

Monday, May 07, 2007

Too Funny Not To Share

I don't usually link to stuff at YouTube. I have neither the time nor inclination to sift through the rubbish to find the gems. I usually only go there when I receive the link from someone else. This clip is no exception.

The basic premise is that they are taking a new minivan and "momming" it, a take-off to that show which I won't name because this is a family blog.

For those with kids, especially young ones, make sure you set aside all beverages before watching this. You've been warned.

I must admit to being a bit bewildered by the Zima sponsorship. Perhaps the message is that after having your brand new van "mommed," you'd probably want a Zima (or four) to take the edge off.

Anyway, here's Mom My Ride.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Light of the World

by bugblaster

I started this series on light here at Still Reforming on January 18, but never finished it. In typically lazy fashion I've since reposted the first five of seven at my own blog to avoid writing something new, but finally worked up the wherewithal to do number six. There is no telling when seven may be delivered, but here is six, simulcast on Chez Kneel and Still Reforming.

This is part 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 on the subject of Light
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
--- John 8:12

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.”
--- Matthew 5:14,15

So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
--- John 12:35-36

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”
--- John 12:44-46

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
--- Luke 2:29-32

Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles--
the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”
--- Matthew 4:12-16

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.
--- Matthew 17:1-2
In Acts 22, Galatians 1 and Acts 26, we hear from Paul’s own mouth the story of his conversion, starting of course with what came before…

First off, the former Pharisee formerly known as Saul was brilliant. He’s not shy about it, but neither is he groundlessly bragging. It’s just a fact. He exceeded all his peers in his studies. He learned at the feet of a master, and throws Gamaliel’s name around as if it isn’t really that impressive to himself, but knowing that it certainly is impressive to his listeners. Saul was an up and comer who upped, came, and kept on going.

Saul was a Pharisee of Pharisees, and he probably wouldn’t have been your best friend if you were a weebly-wobbly sort of Pharisee. Saul was the real deal, and he held your feet to the fire if you went apostate from the true Jewish faith, which was after all, the Pharisee manifestation of that faith. He was sort of like the Military Police of the Pharisees. His zeal for God was famous, and Christ-followers quaked at his approach. They did well to quake, because Saul would rather see them dead than continue in the Way of Christ. Hey, he had even held the coats of the mob that executed Stephen, so that they wouldn’t have to put on dusty jackets after they had smashed Stephen’s head in with rocks. What a considerate fellow!

In his own words, Saul acted violently.

Saul was traveling to Damascus in order to arrest male and female followers of Christ, imprison them, attempt to force them to recant, bring them back home in chains, and if necessary cast his vote for their execution. Saul was ruthless and relentless. He was a robocop. Saul was the embodiment of the wrath of God, or so he believed.

We despair to see Saul in our world today. Saul is everywhere. Yes, we have pharisaicism of a sort in our churches today (we call it legalism), but those aren’t Sauls. Think of your stoniest worstest new-law-imposing legalist name-of-Christian-wearer, and you won’t have a Saul. You see, Christianity is the way. Jesus said that He is the Light of the world. Jesus said that his followers are the light of the world. Not a light, but the light. True Christianity stands square in the circle of the only light that there is, but un-Christianity and anti-Christianity and post-Christianity stagger unawares in darkness. Saul was not a legalist Christian. No! Saul was anti-Christian. Saul was anti-Christ. Saul was in the dark, and he had no desire to approach the Light. He only wanted to quench it.

There are Sauls in our world today that are offended by the cross of Christ, and by the notion that it was necessary because of their sin. There are Sauls in our world today that are outraged at the stance against sin taken by Christ and by his true followers. There are Sauls in our world today that are quite simply against Christian beliefs and against Christ. There are Sauls in our world today that are prepared to make it their mission to impede the spread of the Gospel, and to fight against it. There are Sauls in our world today that ridicule or persecute the followers of Christ. There are Sauls in our world today that are prepared to impose forced recantation. There are Sauls in our world today that are prepared to injure, imprison, torture and yes, dance for joy at the murder of Christians. Some places afford these Sauls the circumstance and opportunity to follow their path to its chosen end. Some places don’t allow them that full opportunity. Yet.

Necati Aydin, Tilman Geske, and Ugar Yuksel encountered five well-developed Sauls in Malatya, Turkey on Resurrection Sunday (eastern dating) April 18, 2007.

But back to the road…without warning, as unexpected as any intervention could be, God changes Saul from the outside. God chooses and changes. God shines the light and banishes the darkness.
In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me.
--- Acts 26:12,13
"...a light from heaven, brighter than the sun…" That’s pretty bright, isn’t it? Set yourself on that road for a moment. There is none of the noise and bustle associated with our highways, just a grim group of men walking north in the silence and heat. Then, at the height of the day, when the searing middle eastern sun is almost directly overhead, the blindingly bright sun is suddenly only second best. A light that radiates more intensely than the sun is shining on you from above. Never before seen! What is your reaction?
And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” And I said, “Who are you, Lord?” And the Lord said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”
--- Acts 26:14,15
You’re not stupid. This can only be from and of God. Jesus, the very person that you revile, is the source of a light brighter than the sun. The people that you have been persecuting are his followers. They are on the side of light, which means of course that you are on the side of dark, and always have been. God Himself is saying that when you persecute his followers, you persecute Him. You’ve been trying to injure the God of the universe! The zealous hateful cause to which you have devoted your existence has been all wrong, and your lifetime of study in what you thought was wisdom has merely been one long fool’s errand. It seems clear that the gavel will now fall, and that you are about to experience the wrath of God in person, and that not through a self-appointed proxy. How do you feel at this moment?
“But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles--to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”
--- Acts 26:16-18
God does not give the prostrate Saul much time to absorb the shock, nausea, remorse, regret and raw terror that surely must have been racking and washing over him. God does not give Saul time to consider whether he would like to choose to follow this light. No, as we said earlier, God did the choosing. “But rise and stand upon your feet…” God didn’t ask. God commanded.

God changed Saul into the man that we know as Paul. Saul had nothing to do with the transformation. He already knew the details of the Gospel, and had already rejected Christ repeatedly. Saul had already heard Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7, but instead of choosing light, he had embraced dark and decided to cheerlead a murder. On his own, Saul did not and would not come to truth. But God brought the light to Saul and enveloped him in it. Then He chased away the darkness, and matter of factly told Paul that Jesus was his new master.

Why was God sending Paul on a new life mission?

Answer: “…to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

To open the eyes of those in darkness, so that they can see the light, so that they can turn from the gloom to the glory, so that they can flee Satan and abide in Christ, and so that they can be justified by faith and rest with the righteous forever. In short, to preach the Gospel, to be another manifestation of the Light of the World, instead of just another dark and violent Saul.

This is what we should take from Malatya. God is not surprised by those events, and from days of old He planned them for his glory and our good. The Protestant Church of Smyrna did not ask us to pray for success in the war on terror, but they did ask that we pray for the church in Turkey, and that we pray for the five Sauls that murdered the martyrs. Remember, good came out of the stoning of Stephen, because God meant it for good.

We were all Sauls. That but for God’s grace would I be.

Reflect the Light of the world to the world today, okay?