Sunday, June 26, 2011

Too Loud

I really dig this picture.
I took it during the Kaposia Days parade, which goes right down our street. Jamie was on the curb with a bunch of other kids from church, trying to collect as much candy as he could from the people in the parade. At one point, a group of guys on motorcycles came driving by in circles. They were pretty loud, and Ferg seems to have an aversion to even semi-loud noises recently. He thought the motorcycles were cool, but he wasn't much of a fan of the loud exhaust.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Potato Gun

Grr. This is one of those things I wish they had when I was a kid. Or maybe they did, but if they did I have never seen one before.

I bought two of these today at the Kaposia Days carnival. It's a potato gun. A little hand held piece of plastic that, when shoved into a potato, removes a small piece of the potato as a projectile and uses air pressure to shoot the "small fry" at whom or whatever you wish. I love it. It's incredibly fun and addicting to use. On the walk home from the carnival I just kept shoving it into the potato and shooting it at the kids. They loved it. It doesn't hurt at all, and it's a lot of fun. All one needs to use the thing is a potato, or other hard vegetable (like carrots, although I haven't tried anything but a potato yet). It probably shoots 20 feet or so. I had the whole potato pretty much done by the time we got home.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Almost (saved)

I really dig this. The guy's definitely got a way with words, and theology for that matter. It's kind of like Def Comedy Jam: Christian Poetry Style. What? The transcription is below, but you really need to hear him recite the poem to get the full effect.

one of the most dangerous terms in English diction
if it could be translated into audio it would sound like
pbb-bb-bb-bb from the saxophone of Lisa Simpson
two words designed and strategically combined
to form the biggest oxymoron in the history of mankind

But see, as far as the world's concerned, you could live your life vile
and could almost get away with murder if you have a nice smile
you could almost meet folks just to almost sleep around
and stop at your local clinic while you almost had a child.

See, "almost" is no stranger to Satan. Here's proof:
he only tells lies when they're almost the truth
and it's amazing in our incompleteness we find complacence
but if almost is one of Lucifer's many traits
then we are inadvertently good Satan impersonations

But on the contrary, Christ did his job fully
and he proved he was God when he died on the cross like it was his duty
and to pardon my iniquities that I commited rudely
he resurrected from the grave just to tell death to excuse me

But excuse me, this is your life and that's something I can't impose on
but your body is God's home which was a loan about to get forclosed on
See, an almost Christian looks right but lives wrong
Can't stand the conviction in Romans so they sit down to be comforted in Psalms

Never understood worship but loved to sing songs like I surrender all. . .MOST
Cuz it's far to expensive for you to spend your life on something that doesn't appeal to your five senses
see, nowadays, Christianity is like a Louis rag--
no function or use but we just rock it cuz it's stylish
not righteous, but right-ish

So now all God sees is a pile of Ishmael's when he intended for Isaac's
and we're moved by how we feel so we're saved when we feel like it
so technically we've never really been saved we merely tried it.
So no wonder why we're never sold out when we return it after we buy it

Now let me break it down because you need to beware
that your life could lack the very standards that need to be there
Cuz on that final day of judgment while God's receiving his heir
will he say, Son, well done or [spits] medium rare!

Because even by worldly standards it would be highly insane
to start spending all of your money days before you almost get paid
like parents, you wouldn't send your kids to a school that's almost safe
and ladies, would you really date a man who claims he's almost straight?

And this is the very thing about God that we all try to get around
but his standards are like between two mountains--no middle ground
so a halfway life is unprofitable to you
cuz after all the Sunday service, Bible studies, and prayer meetings
and everything that goes between, God will say I never knew you

But that's not even the worst part of living your life as neutral
it's that you were once arctic but it is your warmness that is causing him to spew you
and this is the very thing that had me
I was bound and held down by the unforgiving gravity of my spiritual reality
I was a Christian, or at least I portrayed the fantasy

With a filthy personal life but a "God bless you brother, how you doin' sister?" personality
I was a male enveloped by guilt because I was stamped a sinner
I said I was a male enveloped by guilt because I was stamped a sinner
My message couldn't be received because I didn't represent the sender yet I was almost delivered

Till that one day when I totally, absolutely and completely surrendered
I took heed to a modern prophet who proclaimed it was time for change
now I'm no longer bound to sin point-blank off the chain

You can ask Umar Abdul Mutallab, he'll tell you the same--
you don't almost go to jail when you almost blow up a plane
like you don't almost go to hell when you almost get saved

Despised the cross that he was slain and thus the cause for which he came
but don't worry i'm almost done, but before i leave this stage
we have all worked in sin and death was minimum wage
I said we've all worked in sin and death was minimum wage
but if it wasn't for Christ we would have almost got paid

Monday, June 20, 2011

You Can Do Anything You Put Your Mind To

My dad emailed me this video. Along with the web address he (my dad) said, "'Amazing' and 'inspiring' only begin to describe this guy." That's for sure. It just goes to show that you can do anything you want to do if you want to do it badly enough. It also goes to show that "disabled" and "special needs" are relative terms. Pretty cool. Maybe this dude will come and do my brakes.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Our household lost a member today. Bartholomew, our eldest cat, went to wherever cats go when they die. He had been sick for a while now, and it finally got to a point where he just needed to be done. For about the past two months we've noticed that he had slowed down a lot, and was losing weight. At first we just kind of chalked it up to his age, although we've never been sure just how old he was.

But as time went by, we noticed that the weight loss didn't stop, and he was getting skinnier and skinnier, which is significant, because he was a BIG cat. Over the past two weeks he literally became skin and bones. And over the last week, I don't think he was eating or drinking. I tried to give him some milk on Tuesday night (something he would usually kill for), but he showed no interest. He was also having trouble standing up, and his walking was kind of strange too. To top it off, he would lie around in the weirdest places. Last night I found him lying in the kitchen, with his face right up next to the kitchen cupboards. I'm not sure if he knew where he was. He may have been losing his eyesight too. His eyes had sunk very far back into his head. Kind of creepy looking, actually. I asked the vet today what could have caused that, and she said it was probably due to dehydration.

But through all of this, Bartholomew remained in good spirits. He never seemed to be in any pain. He could still walk well enough to get up and down the basement stairs (although his appearances upstairs were few and far between; he had pretty much been living in the basement for the past two months). He even kept purring, even up till the minute he died. Because of all this, we originally decided that we would just let him go naturally. If he wasn't in pain, why not just let nature take its course? Turns out watching something slowly die is not a very pleasant experience.

Earlier this week I was sitting with him late one night, and he just looked haggard. I decided that I would take him in to be put to sleep on Thursday, which is my day off. My plans changed last night, though, as I sat with him again, and he just looked miserable (it was at this time that I became pretty certain his vision was almost gone). I decided to take him in first thing today (Wednesday) and to just let him be done with life. He was ready.

Before I left I took Jamie aside and told him that I was going to take Bartholomew to a special hospital for kitties, and that he wouldn't be coming back. He was going there to die. Jamie looked sad, but said he didn't want to pet Bartholomew or say goodbye. I can understand that. Over the past couple of weeks, since the time that I first told Ferg that Bartholomew was sick, Jamie has wanted to pray for him every night before bed.

We went to the vet at 9:00 this morning and went to the room designated for this kind of thing. Barth and I sat in the room while the doctor got ready. He sat next to me on the couch, purring, while I scratched the underside of his neck, which was his favorite. After a while the doctor came in, and I put Barth on the table. He lied down without any protestation, which was another sign of his deteriorating condition (nobody tells him what to do!). They shaved a bit of hair off the inside of his right hind leg, and slowly injected whatever it is they use to put cats to sleep. He was gone within a minute.

What is affecting me the most about his death was probably the fact that Bartholomew was one of the first things that Beetz and I "did" after getting married. He's about the one thing that has been with us throughout our entire marriage so far. So I wasn't just putting a pet to sleep. I was putting to rest something that's been a part of our lives and marriage for the past seven plus years. It's almost as though Barth symbolized something about our marriage (I know that sounds weird, and maybe even sappy, but that's the best way I can think to describe it).

After Beetz and I got married we decided we wanted a pet, and she had a cousin who was looking to get rid of a cat. So Bartholomew first came to live with us while we were still living with Beetz's parents. I remember that when he first came to our house he ran immediately into our closet and refused to come out. But we were able to lure him out with some Ready-Whip. He liked whipped cream.

Bartholomew's original name was "Meowzer," which neither Beetz nor I cared for. We decided to rename him, and to give him an obscure name. We were going through names one night, and Betsy came up with Bartholomew. It stuck.

We were told that he was "around 7" when we got him back in 2003. He had been with us for almost 8 years, so I guess that made him "around 15." While certainly not overly aged, I guess around 15 is a good run for a cat.

He was famous around our house for his condescending attitude and his propensity to hiss at us. But still, he was a lot of fun. I used to play with him by walking my fingers toward him, which he hated. He would his and bat at my fingers with his paws, and even try to get my hand in some kind of a death grip so he could bite me. I don't know if he was actually annoyed or if he was just having fun with me. I like to think he was having fun. I was.

I was also probably his best friend in the house. He would always want to sit with me, and he'd sit on my lap and then head-butt my chin to get me to pet him. Sometimes it got annoying, but I'd pet him right now if I could. He also enjoyed sleeping on my chest while I was asleep, although I didn't enjoy it at all. I don't know how many times I woke up in the middle of the night with his extremely loud purring literally right in my face.

We gave him the nickname "Barfy" for reasons that you can probably guess. He had a very sensitive stomach, and even though he liked milk and whipped cream so much, his stomach couldn't handle it. He'd puke it up within a few hours. In fact, he puked a lot. Hence the nickname. It was a common occurrence for us to come home from somewhere and find a pile of barf on the floor. Even though we'll miss him, we certainly won't miss his puking!

This is one of the last pictures of Bartholomew that we took, taken probably a few days ago. I wanted to get one last shot of him with the kids before he went.

Since Barth was a long-haired cat he tended to get a lot of knots in his hair. Because of this we actually got him shaved a few times while we had him. They always gave him the "lion cut." This basically means that they shaved everything on him except his mane, his paws, and the tip of his tail. I don't think he liked it much, but it was pretty funny looking.

Bartholomew was also the subject of some of the de-motivational posters I've made over the years.

This one features both of our cats - Bartholomew and Martha. The caption is in reference to a bit of an inside joke between Beetz and I.

Martha is now lying in the middle of the living room floor as I type this. I wonder if she's wondering where Bartholomew is. They were never really buds, but who knows.

Thanks for the memories, Bartholomew.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Psalm 124

Each summer at Riverview, Pastor Wick preaches on the psalms. This summer he'll be covering Psalms 124-134. After next summer he'll have preached through all 150 psalms. Pretty cool.

Anyway, for this summer's series, I proposed that we somehow integrate the Genevan Psalter into our worship. I found this website a couple years ago (which I've posted about before) which has a lot of info about the Genevan Psalter, and even free recordings of each psalm, as well as the sheet music for each psalm. I've even done some research on the psalter, as well as on Reformation era worship music, so being a nerd, this site was a treasure trove for me.

If you listen to any of the recordings of the psalms, you'll quickly realize that many of the tunes (composed in the 16th century) don't really lend themselves too well to corporate worship. They're actually more of a chant style than anything else. So I figured that if we were to have soloists sing the psalms in our worship services, we'd probably have to do a bit of rearranging.

This past Sunday was the first of our summer psalms series, so I figured I'd put myself out there and be the guinea pig to see if arranging these psalms for solo performances would work out. I think it went well. A recording of my arrangement is below, as well as a recording of the original arrangement from the psalter. I didn't alter any of the words, and I tried to incorporate as much of the original "melody" (if it can be called that) as I could. It's not the greatest recording, considering it was recorded live in church, and I'm not sure what that sound is in the beginning. See what you think.

My arrangement of Psalm 124
Psalm 124 - Credit by fatsjoel

And here's the original version from the Genevan Psalter.

The lyrics of Psalm 124:
Let Israel now say in thankfulness
That if the Lord had not our right maintained
And if the Lord had not with us remained
When cruel men against us rose to strive
We'd surely have been swallowed up alive

Yea when their wrath against us fiercely rose
Then would the tide o'er us have spread its wave
The raging stream would have become our grave
The surging flood, in proudly swelling roll,
Most surely would have overwhelmed us all

Blest be the Lord who made us not their prey
As fromt he fowler's net a bird may flee
So from their broken snare did we go free
Our only help is in God's holy name
He made the earth and all the heav'nly frame

Kerry Glewwe stepped in and added a harmony vocal. My sister Susan was on the violin. I played my acoustic and sang the melody. I don't usually get nervous before I sing/speak/preach anymore, but this time was different. This was the first time I had ever done any finger picking on the guitar while singing at the same time (at least for an audience). So I was a bit nervous. Thankfully the chords weren't too bad, and there weren't any barre chords, so I was able to get through it without too many goof-ups. But to make matters even more uncertain, when I came out onto the platform during Pastor Wick's closing prayer, i noticed that my tuning pedal wasn't on (and if the pedal isn't on, you don't get any sound). It automatically turns on if and when an instrument is plugged into it. A quick check of my cords confirmed that my guitar indeed was plugged in, so the battery must have failed at some point during the sermon. So, while Pastor Wick was closing the sermon in prayer, I quickly turned off my amp, unplugged my guitar from the pedal and went straight into the amp. Thankfully it worked.

Overall, I thought using the psalm added nicely to the worship service, and I look forward to arranging more of the psalms throughout the summer.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Hypocrisy of Abortion

Just read this article on abortion. I don't want to say the abortion argument is old or stale, because the fight against the taking of life can never get old. Nevertheless, the arguments are out there, the evidence is out there, but people won't listen. It shows how hypocritically inconsistent our society is. Here are a couple inconsistencies this article pointed out:

1. We say that a woman should have rights over her own body, but we disregard the rights of the unborn child.

2. We charge people with two counts of murder, and we mourn and record to separate deaths in the event of a death or murder of a pregnant mother, but we do not consider the unborn baby to be worthy of life when it comes to abortion.

3. Doctors and scientists are constantly coming up with new ways of treating premature babies in order to save their lives, even when they are extremely early, while we tend to think that the earlier the better when it comes to abortion.

4. The law holds dead beat dads accountable - forcing them to fulfill some of their parental duties, but fathers have no say over whether or not their partner can/should have an abortion.

5. Our society (rightly) condemns racism, yet it seems as though abortion clinics have a significant target market: minorities. A large number of abortion clinics are located in low-income, minority neighborhoods.

At the very least, abortion advocates need to admit to these inconsistencies. How are they explained? Am I misunderstanding them? Is there a reason why we consider unborn babies to be life in some instances and not others? Or are we really just that hypocritical? I think a little honest societal self-examination would reveal that abortion is really just a matter of convenience. Babies take up a lot of time and resources and commitment. So our country is pro-life when it's convenient.

What is the pro-abortion answer to these inconsistencies? I suspect there isn't one.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

If You Erase Hell, You Don't Have a Gospel

Francis Chan has joined the conversation about hell, spurred on by Rob Bell's "Love Wins." In the book, Chan apparently looks at the scriptural view of eternity and "the things we've made up." Take a look at the video introduction that Chan gives. It's pretty good. Chan has said some things in the past that haven't sat well with me, but he's also said a lot of stuff I agree with. Most notably from this short clip, when talking about things like hell or eternity, Chan says that people often say things like, "I could never believe in a God that..." or "My God doesn't..." fill in the blank. Chan notes that when people say things like this, they're actually subverting God's knowledge with their own reasoning. In other words, they're saying that they know better than God (or, as Ray Comfort would say, they've fashioned a god in their own image - one that is acceptable to them). But, like Chan says, God's thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are his ways our ways. So when something like hell doesn't seem to make sense, we need to remember that that's to be expected for a lot of theological topics. God simply doesn't think the way we do (you can read the Relevant Magazine interview with Chan here).

I first heard of Chan's literary endeavors by way of the Huffington Post. John Shore, their religion blogger, wrote this post completely slamming Chan "and his ilk" for their views on hell. Shore says that in reality, all anyone who talks definitively about hell is doing is fear mongering. They're just trying to get their way by using fear. Shore says that most people who reject Christianity do so because of the doctrine of hell - they can't believe in a God that would submit anyone to eternal punishment. Shore further argues (using "flawless logic") that, since Christians can't have certainty on an issue like hell, and since a Christian can be wrong about hell and still go to heaven, and since the doctrine of hell turns of so many would-be believers, then "evangelicals should shut-up about hell."

There are an immensity of flaws in Shore's so-called "flawless logic." First, it assumes that John Shore's understanding of hell is universal. He makes conclusions based on what he believes and applies them to everyone. Admittedly, this is hard to get away from in any argument, considering we all have our own beliefs and think and operate out of them. Even conclusions I draw about hell (as you will see further down this post) are based on my own beliefs (but I think I have good reasons for believing them). So to ever insist that your thinking is "flawless" is arrogant and almost certainly incorrect, to say the least.

Secondly, it presupposes that a person can be wrong about the existence of hell and go to heaven. This is a significant theological presupposition. Can a person not believe in hell and still rightly believe the gospel? My first inclination would be to say that no, a person cannot be truly saved without believing in hell. To not believe in hell and eternal punishment for sin would be to not fully understand the gospel. If Jesus came to earth to die and save sinners from God's wrath and eternal punishment for sin (which, admittedly, is my own theological presupposition, but is one that is shared by orthodoxy and history), then believing in hell is part of believing the gospel. If there's no hell, then why do I even need to be saved? For a better life? For inner peace? Nope. None of those things pan out (using flawless logic, of course). And what do I need to be saved from? Why do I even need a Savior? A little bit of logical thinking through scripture and the logic of the gospel demands that hell be a reality. The gospel doesn't work - nor is it worthy of believing - if there is no hell.

Thirdly, Shore implies that Christians should preach a palatable message to the masses, rather than something that might turn them off. According to Shore, since people are so turned off by the doctrine of hell, we shouldn't say anything about it. Well, the problem with this is that the gospel, by nature, turns people off. Again, I think I have orthodoxy, tradition, and history - let alone scripture - on my side here. Nowhere in the Bible is the gospel described as something that is easy to accept. It essentially tells those who would believe it that they've pretty much been wrong about everything in their life up until now, and that they are worthless sinners, deserving of eternal punishment. Who wants to hear that? That's not much of a warm and fuzzy! The good news though, of course, is that Jesus came and died to take the punishment you deserved so that you could live forever with God. But in order to believe that good news, you first have to admit to and believe the bad news. Believing the gospel takes an inhuman amount of humility, so no, it's not easy to hear, and yes, it absolutely turns people off. But to tweak the message to make it easier to receive is to distort the meaning of it. Yes, people are turned off by hell. That's kind of the point.

Another thing that got me about Shore's article is that it did exactly what so many people criticized conservative evangelicals for when Rob Bell's book came out. There were an incredible amount of Bell supporters that blasted anyone who dared critique Bell, his book, or his ideas before the book actually came out. There were people accusing others of attacking the man without engaging in edifying debate, and not hearing him out before condemning him. Well, it looks like that rule only goes one way, considering Chan's book won't come out until July. Hey liberals: since you're so concerned with hearing people out before they're criticized for their ideas, I'd like John Shore's head on a platter, please. Oh wait, that's not going to happen.

I wish that someone would write a book talking about the essential nature of the doctrine of hell to the overarching message of the gospel. That's what we need to understand. Actually, such a book probably already exists, but it most certainly wasn't written by a hipster in Christian pop culture, so it will therefore get absolutely no attention. That's a shame. But we don't really need Rob Bell, Francis Chan, or anyone else to write a book for us about hell. God already took care of that. Let's read that book and come up with some ideas about hell. What we read should cause us to think seriously about hell. What I like about Chan's approach is that it takes this topic seriously. He says that if there's even a possibility of hell, we've got a lot of thinking and praying to do, which I think is a good suggestion.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Why We Do Family Nights

Desiring God posted this article from 1983 by John Piper. It's called "Toward a Theology of Church Picnics." In the article, Piper explains some of the theological reasons for getting together as a church outside of regular church hours just for hanging out.

While I didn't articulate them to the church as well as Piper does in this short article, these are the exact reasons why we hold a Family Night ministry at Riverview.

The theme verse for our Family Nights (at least this summer, and perhaps on into the future) is 1 Thessalonians 3.12 - "...and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all..." In my opinion, the only way you can really "increase and abound in love for one another" is if you spend time with people and get to know them. Yes, Sunday mornings offer a bit of this kind of interaction, but not really enough. A lot of the interaction that takes place between people between Sunday School and the service pretty much takes place on the surface.

I think just getting to know each other is a huge part of our ministry at Riverview. The more we know each other, the more we love each other, the more united we become in Christ. So yes, there are some pretty deep theological reasons for having a church picnic.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Everything Dies

Had an interesting experience today with the Ferguson. Our eldest cat, Bartholomew, made a rare appearance on the main floor of the house this morning. I was getting dressed, and Ferg saw him come into the room. He seemed excited, and he went to play with Bartholomew (which usually tends to be kind of rough), and I said, "Be careful with him, he's sick. He's going to die soon."

While I don't know this for certain, I'm pretty sure that Bartholomew is on his last legs. We've noticed that over the past month or so, he's slowed down a lot. And he's lost a ton of weight. He used to be an absolutely gigantic cat - not just in girth, but in height too. Very lion-like (especially when shaved like this). Now he's just skin and bones. He spends most of his time on a chair in the basement, just taking it easy and sleeping. Other than that, he doesn't appear to be in any pain, and he's in good spirits. He still comes up to me and wants to be petted, and he still purrs like crazy. If he were suffering at all we'd definitely take him to the vet, but for now everything seems to be OK - he's just slowly going down hill, which is to be expected with a cat his age.

Anyway, we have been talking about Barth's impending demise for a few weeks now, even around the kids. We haven't held anything from them. That's why I unabashedly told Ferg, "He's sick. He's going to die soon." It's nothing different than what we've told him the last few weeks. But this morning, something must have clicked in Ferg's head when I said this, because he got an incredibly sad look on his face, and the tears slowly started to fall. I gave him a hug, and then he went to see Mom and give her a hug too. Rather than get into a sin and death talk, we just decided that for now he should know that things eventually die. And we made sure to let him know that this is part of the way God has made the world. Things die (and pretty soon, we'll begin talking about why they die). He seemed to be able to accept that.

Eventually the tears went away, the cat went back down into the basement, and everything was hunky dory again. It's interesting to see how much kids can understand.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cosmic Treason

Todd Friel has a great illustration to flesh out the severity of sin. He says that the severity of sin is dependent upon the one against whom the sin is committed, and the consequence for the sin follows likewise. In other words, when one offends someone with very little authority, the consequences are less severe. But when one offends someone of a higher authority, the punishment is greater. His illustration follows thusly:

If I lie to my child, what can he do to me? Nothing. He's a child! If I lie to my wife, what will happen? I might sleep on the couch. If I lie to her again, she might leave me. If I lie to my boss, I could get fired. If I lie to the government, I could go to jail.

In each circumstance, the offense is the same, but the severity of the sin (the level of offense taken) changes based upon whom the sin was committed against.

The same is true with God. We often times will justify "small" sins by saying they are no big deal. When we do this, we put God int he place of our "child." It's not a big deal, and he won't care. And why would he get angry about such a small thing? But what we're missing is who and what God really is: the Creator of the universe and absolute Moral Lawgiver. to him, all sin is detestable and deplorable, no matter what size (or how insignificant we might think it is).

I "like" Desiring God on my Facebook page, and they quite frequently post quotes from several reformed theologians and pastors throughout history. Today's quote from Jonathan Edwards was quite relevant, and I though, profound: “Any sin is more or less heinous depending upon the honor and majesty of the one whom we had offended. Since God is of infinite honor, infinite majesty, and infinite holiness, the slightest sin is of infinite consequence. The slightest sin is nothing less than cosmic treason when we realize against whom we have sinned.”

"Cosmic treason." Wow. When see God for who he is, as Edwards says, "of infinite honor, infinite majesty, and infinite holiness," sin is a big deal. And it shows us all the more how glorious the gospel is. God forgave me of cosmic treason.