Saturday, June 30, 2012

Staying Classy

This was me today, staying classy during the heat of the afternoon.
At least I had kids with me, though.

Post 301

UPDATE: Since I wrote this post I have realized that the total number of posts reported by the Blogger Dashboard includes unpublished drafts.  This means that I technically only have 286 published posts, but 302 (now) posts including the unpublished drafts.  Oh well.  I'll guess I'll have to do another "300th Post" post at some time in the future.

Looking at my Blogger Dashboard reveals that the post just below this one was the 300th post on this blog.  Huh.  That's a lot.

When I finished my master's degree, I went back and counted up all the words of all the papers I wrote and assignments I completed in order to get a Master's of Divinity.  I don't remember the exact word count from all of those writings, but I do recall that the total was over 290,000 words for all of my graduate level writing.  A quick Google search revealed that the word count of the average novel these days is about 70,000 words.  That means that in seminary I wrote the equivalent of 4 novels (in number of words, not quality or style of writing, that is).  That's a lot too.  I wonder how many "novels worth" of words I've written on this blog so far?

I really enjoy blogging, even if it might seem from looking at the sidebar to the right that I don't, considering that there are several months in between posts sometimes.  I see it is a kind of journaling through my life and thoughts, and hopefully someone besides myself will profit from it.  I've thought in the past that this process is worthwhile if, for no other reason, than that my kids could some day come back and read all of the stuff I've written and learn a bit more about their dad during their pre-existent or early existence years.  My own dad wrote a bit once about his experience with polio as a child.  I read it a few years ago and found it fascinating.

Lord willing, there will be another 300, or 301 posts to come.

What's the Purpose of Corporate Worship?

The Worship, Music, & Arts Committee at Riverview recently decided to formulate an order of worship to help guide us in how we think about and conduct worship.  A theology of worship is basically an understanding of what God says about worship.  I'm really happy about the committee's decision to develop such a document.  I think it will be helpful and beneficial.  I've been tasked by the Committee to develop a draft of a theology of worship and present it at the next meeting.  Needless to say, this is an area in which I've done a lot of thinking and research in the past, so it should be just a matter of collecting my thoughts and putting them down on paper.

I did want to do some more research for this process, however, so I picked up and reread the first chapter of D.A. Carson's Worship by the Book.  This is a collection of essays from different pastors and authors that deal with worship from a variety of Christian traditions.  The essays are really good, but the meat of the book is really embodied in the first chapter, which was written by Carson.  In it, Carson basically presents his own succinct theology of worship.  In doing so, he dialogues with the ideas presented in David Peterson's book, Engaging with God.  Peterson's book is a more formal and thorough theology of worship, which Carson cites several times.

One of the main ideas that Peterson works with is what he believes to be the purpose of corporate worship: unity in the church.  That is, Peterson believes that the primary purpose for Christians to come together and worship together is not necessarily worship, per say, but is in fact, Christians coming together to unite under the banner of Christ and edify each other through interpersonal relationships.  Needless to say, this was an idea that I had been heretofore unfamiliar with, and as I continued reading I found it to be intriguing.

Peterson believes that, since New Testament believers are commanded to do all things to the glory of God, then all of life is essentially worship.  After all, if we are to worship in such seemingly mundane activities as eating and drinking, then it almost seems redundant to gather formally for something that I can do at the supper table.  So Peterson concludes that since everything we do is to have worship at its center, then gathering for corporate worship must have a purpose other than just...worship.  Peterson finds that the purpose for this gathering is, as already stated, unity and edification of the believers in a local church.

Carson seems to think that this understanding, while interesting, is a bit too simplistic, and maybe a little too informed by some material from the gospels, considering how worship took place in the temple and the synagogues.  I'm not sure what I think about it yet.  My first impression is that I like it.  After all, there are undeniable reasons for corporate worship other than "just" worship, and unity and edification are certainly ones that we see in scripture.  But I also think that to say that there is nothing gained by gathering together to worship with others for the sake of worship is, as Carson would say, understating the purpose of such a gathering, both biblically and practically.

I have since purchased Peterson's book and look forward to reading it over the next week or so during our trip to Florida (more on that in the days to come).

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ed Young's Take on Reformed Theology

Huh.  That's about all I've got to say about this video (the anti-Reformed theology rant starts at about 27:00).  There's just not much more that can be said about someone who is so willfully ignorant about Reformed theology.  Obviously I disagree with everything the distinguished Pastor Young Jr. says in this rant.  In fact, I think his presentation of what Reformed theology is and its implications on ecclesiology was so over-the-top ludicrous it almost demands no response.  It's easily recognizable as something that is reactionary, full of over-reaching generalizations, and logical fallacies.  See here and here to get some context on Ed Young Jr.  This guy is the king of pragmatic, so-called "sexy" ministry for the purpose of getting results.  If you follow the links, you'll soon see that for him to say that Reformed people are only into "sexy" theology and the social gospel (which is strange - I've never equated the Reformed crowd to be too much into the social gospel) for the sake of looking good is a case of the pot calling the kettle black if ever there was one.

Since so many people are responding to this particular rant against Reformed theology (and probably doing so much better than I can), I'll just say two things in response to this rant:

1. I'm always amused when someone accuses someone else, or a group of people, of putting God "in a box."  This phrase implies that the one accused of putting God "in a box" has God figured out, and can therefore define him and control him by putting him, "in a box."  The irony of this accusation is that to suggest that a person could presume to put God in a box is, in itself, putting God "in a box."  That is, if you say that no one can figure out God enough to put him in a box, you're making a claim that you at least know enough about him to be able to claim that he cannot be "boxed."  Isn't this assertion, at least to some extent, putting God in a box?

We all have boxes that we put God into.  In fact, we are forced to box God in at some points simply because we are linear beings.  We put God into the boxes of space and time quite frequently.  So instead of accusing others of putting God in a box, let's just admit that we've all got a nice set of boxes that we frequently put God in.  Admittedly, Reformed folks can be guilty of this as a result of their theological construct, but so can and does everyone with any kind of theological construct (which is everybody).

2. What I believe is the one and only valid objection Ed Young brought up against Reformed theology is also probably the most widely known and easily answerable one.  He claims that most Reformed folks don't care about evangelism or winning lost people to Christ.  He supports this claim by calling Reformed churches to account for their supposed small baptism numbers (read this little bit about reporting numbers, then get back to me, Pastor Young).  This is a common objection that mostly stems from the Reformed doctrine of election, and usually manifests itself in questions like this: "If God has already predestined people to be saved, then why bother with evangelism?  If God has elected people to be saved unto eternal life before the foundation of the world, then what is the motivation for preaching the gospel?  For outreach?  For missions? (UPDATE: Tim Challies has posted some very helpful thoughts on Calvinism and evangelism.  You can read his post here.)

Again, this is a common question, and it has (I think) an easy answer - an answer that Ed Young even mentioned in his rant: we don't know whom God has predestined.  Has God predestined believers from before the foundation of the world?  Yes.  But I have no idea who those people are.  Additionally, God has commanded believers to go to all corners of the earth to preach the gospel, presumably for the sake of partnering with God in his purpose of bringing the salvation of the elect to fruition.  When we combine these two ideas, we come up with the notion that God has indeed ordained those who have been saved from before the foundation of the world, and he is using, in his sovereignty, the preaching of those who would be obedient to his great commission to complete the work that he began before the world was created.  The motivation for what I'll call "Reformed Evangelism," then, is obedience to God - not inflating baptism numbers, church attendance, or even the potential salvation of lost souls.

That last part is kind of tricky.  Do I preach so that souls might be saved?  Yes.  Do I want people to hear and believe the gospel unto salvation?  Absolutely!  But since God has predestined those who would come to salvation, it would be incorrect to assume that the salvation of lost souls is dependent upon my willingness to preach.  In other words, Reformed theology says that nobody goes to hell because Christians were too lazy and didn't preach.  Our motivation for evangelism is obedience, nothing more and nothing less.  I preach the gospel not because I think it might save souls (after all, God already has that covered), but because I want to be obedient to what God has called me to do as a Christian, and because I want to be a part of the incredible things God is doing in the world (saving lost people being chief among them).

Put simply, then, anyone who holds to Reformed theology but has no urgency for evangelism is guilty of two things: 1) not holding to a true and right understanding of Reformed theology, and more importantly, 2) living in disobedience to God and his word.  Evangelism isn't unimportant to Reformed crowds - it is of vital importance, because it has to do with obedience.

The biblical case study for what I've just described above is that of Esther.  Esther wisely realizes that, in her situation, God would do what he would do (save the Jews), and if she didn't want to be a part of what he was doing in the world, he would find someone who was.  Her motivation for approaching the king unrequested, then, was not saving the Jews (although that was certainly in her mind), but it was first and foremost, obedience to God.  To reiterate then, if I am disobedient and choose not to preach the gospel, God will find someone who will.  That's not a position I want to be in.  I want to be obedient.  Read Esther 4 for all the details and to see how this "works."

Above all, I guess I'm just disappointed that he did this.  It seems rather low-brow and amateurish.  Let's rise above this kind of stuff.  It certainly doesn't help the state of the church in America, and it makes us all look rather uneducated (on that note, how did Young not come across these answers to the objections to Reformed theology he raises in his schooling?  He says he knows the Greek and Hebrew and theology behind it, although it sure didn't seem so from the clip).  Let's all resolve to treat each other better in the public square and put some time and effort into studying and researching claims and arguments before we comment on them.  And I don't say this lightly.  I certainly have my own bit of repenting to do when it comes to this.  One need not peruse the pages of this very blog for too long to find my own shortcomings!

Soli Deo gloria, Pastor Young.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Visual Theology

Tim Challies has been doing a wonderful series on his blog entitled "Visual Theology."  These posts are comprised of theological infographics - graphics that detail some bit of theology.  I have found them to be fascinating and visually stimulating.  I'm a sucker for a good infographic, though.  They're a great way of communicating information.  I hope Challies puts out several more of these, which he is doing for free, by the way.  Here are the ones he has shared so far.  Click on the images to be taken to Challies' site and download them for free.

John Wesley Teaches You How to Sing in 4 Sentences

I just read this marvelous sentiment from John Wesley today and wanted to share it here.  This is taken from Select Hymns with Tunes Annext: Designed Chiefly for the use of the People Called Methodists.

"Above all, sing spiritually.  Have an eye to God in every word you sing.  Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature.  In order to do this, attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he comes in the clouds of heaven."

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Our senior high students just returned from camp today, and as people do in this day in age, they immediately began flooding my Facebook feed with pictures and camp-related status updates.  It got me thinking about my own experiences at camp.

I first visited Village Creek Bible Camp when I was just a young boy.  In fact, I think my family started going when I was just barely old enough to begin forming memories that lasted on into my later years.  In other words, I was pretty young.  When i made it into third grade I started going to summer camps with other kids my age.  I kept going at least once every year through, I think, my freshman year of high school.  By that time, camp just wasn't my thing.  I was somewhat of an introverted loner, and needless to say, the camp environment isn't very conducive to introverted loners.  But although I stopped going to the summer camps, I still attended Youth Quake every year in the fall.  But the fact that I stopped going after I was in high school, and the fact that I was somewhat of an introvert through most of my life doesn't mean that camp did not have a significant impact on my life, both physically and spiritually.  I can still vividly remember most of my experiences at camp, my counselors, and the week-long friendships I developed over the years.  I can even remember many of the camp pastors that spoke to me as a child and teenager, even their faces and the content of their messages.

It kind of goes without saying that camp can be a huge part of a kid's life, and it can have a huge impact on the way kids are formed spiritually.  In recent years I have been honored to be down at camp several times, being that camp pastor that I can remember so vividly from my own experiences.  It's been my pleasure to go down to camp each year (several times per year, even) to preach to the kids that are down there.  I've been able to preach to senior highers, junior highers, and most recently, "Junior Campers."  Junior Campers are kids between 3rd and 6th grade.  Having been the camp pastor for multiple age groups, I can say that I prefer to be a part of the Junior Camps the most.  The kids are still young enough that they don't care about boys or girls, or how they look, and none of them are too cool to have fun and just be themselves.  It's fun to see the kids just let loose.

But one thing I've noticed at camp since I've been an adult, and particularly a camp pastor, is that the camp pastor bears an incredible responsibility for sound teaching and preaching when giving messages to kids in the camp environment.  Camp can be a very emotionally manipulative place.  This isn't by design, nor is it the goal of the camp's ministry to be emotionally manipulative - it just sort of happens.  Village Creek doesn't allow kids to have access to TV, MP3 players, internet, computers, etc.  Basically, the kids are stripped of all the modern accommodations they are accustomed to at home, and are forced to "rough it" for a week.  It really forces kids out of their comfort zones relationally, and invites them to use the time for spiritual endeavors and to build relationships.

Well, what tends to happen when kids are separated from everything they're comfortable with in their normal lives, including their parents, they're pretty much open to anything you have to say.  Literally.  I could preach for a week that God wants the kids to believe that the sky is green, and I'm pretty sure most of them would adopt that into their worldview by week's end.  Therefore, it seems to me that the minister has to be all the more careful about the message he or she preaches while at camp, because the kids will believe it.

Some camp pastors realize this incredible responsibility, but most, sadly, don't.  Again, I don't think this is necessarily the camp's problem, or that they could actually do anything to prevent this from happening - it just happens.  It falls on the minister to be aware of the emotional state of the kids, and what the camp experience does to kids emotionally, and then to preach in light of that reality.  I find it to be dangerous, and even irresponsible, to burden kids (which one can do even with the gospel message) with teaching about what they should do, or what they shouldn't do.  Kids in this situation often do and commit to things they aren't ready to do and haven't thought through.  Then when they leave camp and the emotional high departs, they feel either like failures or phonies, or because the emotional high leaves, their supposed commitment to the faith departs as well.  In the end, the only actual thing they experienced during the week was a surging of emotions.  I've seen this happen with every age of kids.

This leads to the most dangerous part of camp, in my opinion: the danger of creating false converts.  A false convert is someone who believes themselves to be truly converted to the Christian faith, but in reality, has only had an emotional response.  Camp is not the only environment where false converts are created.  A lot of "church kids" are false converts because they believe themselves to be saved due to their long-term attendance at a particular church, or because their families are Christians and they believe themselves to be saved by association.  People can also be falsely converted by emotional pulls at evangelistic meetings, concerts, Billy Graham crusades, etc.  The danger for false converts is obviously that they believe themselves to be saved but in reality they are not.  Such a person will most likely not be open or receptive to the gospel again because, according to the false convert, they are already a Christian (see 2 Peter 2.20)

Having been a camp pastor several times now, I can attest to the difficulty of preaching in the camp environment, and how hard it is to not play on the emotions of the kids.  Personally, I've made it my own policy to never have an "altar call" or give an "invitation" to believe the gospel.  I don't want to put kids in a position where they might more faith in the supposed sincerity of an emotional response than in the genuine conviction of the Holy Spirit.  Personally, I think if God can save kids who hear my preaching, he can do it with or without an altar call or an invitation.  It's not as though some kids will be lost to eternal damnation because the camp pastor doesn't invite them to say the Sinner's Prayer.  God can and will save those kids he is calling to himself in one way or another.

I have also made it a policy to accompany our Junior Campers from Riverview when they go to camp each summer, whether I'm the camp pastor for that week or not.  I figure someone needs to be there just to see what's going on, what's being preached, and how the kids react to it.  It's not likely that parents will get an accurate account from their kid when they get home (Parent: "How was camp?" Kid: "Fun!" Parent: "What did you learn?" Kid: "We learned about God.")  I'll be headed down to camp tomorrow for this very reason.  I won't be speaking at the camp (I already did that earlier this summer), but I will be there for our kids, and to see how they react to the gospel.

In general, I praise God for the ministry of Village Creek Bible Camp, both for the impact it's had on my life over the years, and also for the continuing gospel work they do in the lives of hundreds of kids who go there each year.  May they continue to follow God's leading and facilitate the preaching of the gospel in the unique ways that have been afforded to them.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Tale of Two Parades

Every year we look forward to the Kaposia Days Parade that goes right down our street in South St. Paul.  The parade is part of a larger, weekend-long celebration celebrating the anniversary of the city's founding.  Each year at the parade there are lots of cool floats, and an unbelievable amount of candy for the kids (seriously, kids get more candy from parades nowadays than I ever got for Halloween when I was a kid).  We also invite a bunch of people from church to come over and watch the parade at our house.  It's a lot of fun.

Last year I was able to snap this photo during the parade while several guys on motorcycles rode down the street.  As you can tell, it was a tad too loud for The Furgeson.  I really like this picture for some reason.
Cut to this year's parade.  Once again, there were guys on motorcycles tooling around on the street, and once again it was a bit loud for The Fergeson, although this year he didn't react so much in fear as he did in amazement at the noise.  Here's this year's pic.
I really like this picture too.  I don't consider myself as being particularly skilled in photography, but something about these pictures is just really neat (I suppose it could be that it's my own son in them!).

Aging Biblically

Watch this.

The voice on the video is one Francis Chan who is pretty widely well known these days.  I've had the privilege of hearing Chan speak on one occasion, and look forward to the next in just a few short days.  I apologize for the somewhat cornball editing of the video, and I'm not sure how using the title theme from "Braveheart" makes the video a "sermon jam," but be that as it may, I think Chan has some good stuff to think about here.

When I first watched the video, I wondered why it was titled "Aging Biblically."  I didn't hear too much in there about how to grow older in a biblical fashion.  Rather, it seems to me that what Chan was driving at is that we tend to live our lives, either in the early or later years, without a sense of eternality in view.  Chan's sentiment about living our lives in such a way that shows that we do not know when we are going to meet God, and therefore arranging our values and purposes in light of that reality, is not just for the aged, but is in fact for all believers of any age.

I do think, however, that Chan hits a nerve that is very sensitive for us Christians in the West, and particularly here in the United States.  We tend to view life as a process of gaining security as we age.  That is, we save for retirement, we plan financially, we minimize risk, we work really hard to get those things we want (whether possessions, family members, whatever), as though we have an agenda to "make it" - at least to the extent that we've achieved and obtained those things we wanted to achieve and obtain.  The question he raises, and I think it's a good one, is where do we see this pattern in scripture?  The answer is we don't.  As Chan says, what we see in scripture is a radical rejection of security for the sake and cause of Christ.  This we do, not because we have to or because it is the cultural expectation of Christianity, but because it's worth it.  Moreover, those things that can and do captivate our time and attention, especially as we get older, need to be regarded as what they are: a dung hill.  Why a dung hill?  Because that's what everything is when compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  

What I think it really boils down to is one thing: idolatry.  Loving something or someone more than we love God.  For us Christians in the U.S., I think the main idol that we worship is security: the hope that my life will be OK and that it will go essentially the way I want it to.  Then we take steps to bolster our hope in security by working over time, achieving more, saving more, and buying more.  We also might say that our main idol here in America is the idol of our present and/or future happiness.  That's why we see people hoarding and buying, and planning and saving. (see this brief article for a poignant treatment of some of the effects of idolatry)

The irony of a life committed to the idol of security is that such a life is anything but secure.  As Chan says, there are no days that are guaranteed to us; we could all be gone in an instant.  What then has our planning, saving, and time and energy put into worshiping the false gods of happiness and security gained us?  Absolutely nothing.  

Does this mean we can't or shouldn't plan for the future?  Nope.  Scripture likewise teaches that it is wise and prudent to plan for the future, and that working hard is right and good.  I think Chan's point is that, instead of putting time and energy into things that aren't guaranteed (security and happiness), let's put that same amount of time and energy into abandoning everything for Jesus.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wretched Radio, and Learning to Think Theologically

Back in the early 2000's (2001 maybe?), I discovered a Christian talk radio show called "Talk the Walk" with Todd Friel on AM980 KKMS in the Twin Cities.  I can remember the very first episode I ever heard - it was a man debating with and witnessing to people he was meeting at the State Fair (it was in the summer).  Needless to say I was intrigued, as he easily handled any questions and objections that came his way.  I made sure to tune in the next day, and heard similar content on the show.

As the State Fair wound down, the guy doing the debating and witnessing was back in the studio and talked through the issues of the day as they related to evangelical Christianity.  He talked about all sorts of things: current events, issues in the church, worship, witnessing, politics, entertainment, and just about everything you can imagine.  I remember being exposed to something I had not previously been able (willing?) to do: think theologically.  In other words, I had never been exposed to someone thinking through every day issues from scripture.  Sure, I had been to church my whole life, and by this time I was actually and genuinely a Christian.  But there was a significant disconnect between my thinking and scripture.  I had never been taught to examine all of my life in light of what I knew to be true about God and man, as revealed in scripture.  This all began to change when I started listening to Todd Friel on Talk the Walk.

As time went on, I made sure to never miss an episode of "Talk the Walk."  I listened to it every day, and recommended it to all my friends and family members.  I grew immensely as I listened to Todd think through issues using scripture and theology.  It was a huge part of my growth at that time.

After a couple years, Todd left "Talk the Walk," which was locally broadcast, and KKMS in order to do "Way of the Master Radio" with Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron, a nationally syndicated show.  The show's content remained essentially the same, except it now included live witnessing encounters between Todd and people on the street over the phone.
And then, after a couple of years with Way of the Master, Todd Friel left (amicably) to do his own TV show in addition to the radio show.  The TV show is called "Wretched," and the radio show is aptly titled "Wretched Radio."  The radio show isn't broadcast in the Twin Cities anymore, so I download the podcasts each day for the meager price of $5.00 a month.  It's the best money I spend in my entire budget.  For this amount I get full access to the daily TV shows and podcasts (which are essentially the same, although the podcast is two hours a day, whereas the TV show is only a half hour a day - needless to say, I prefer the podcast).

One other thing that needs to be mentioned in a post like this, and especially in light of what I've already said, is that the primary way a person learns to think theologically is through familiarity with and dedication to the Bible.  In this sense, the best thing a person can do to learn to think theologically is to learn to read the Bible.  Learn to read the Bible?  Isn't it just reading?  No, it's not just reading.  It's connecting what has been read to real life.  This is not as easy as it sounds, and it is definitely a skill that comes with time, practice, prayer, and humility.  The Spirit is a part of this process just as much as we are.

That being said, I owe a lot of my spiritual growth and maturity to Todd Friel and the ways he's taught me to think through life and scripture (and he's a pretty funny guy, too; the shows aren't just interesting, they're pretty entertaining).  I would recommend that any Christian interested in getting down and dirty with connecting scripture to real life subscribe to Wretched and listen to these podcasts and grow in your ability to think theologically.  Your life will change.  Seriously.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What Do I Need to Know About Heaven?

There have been quite a few books released lately about people taking supposed trips to heaven and back.  Each of these authors have claimed have visited heaven as a result of a near-death experience and claim that the visit was for the purpose of God giving new revelation about what heaven is like.  I have several problems with these books, and I would warn Christians to stay away from them.  They are completely unnecessary, as you will see, and are, for the most part, untrue (and I can say this with certainty).

One thing that I've made a habit of over the past few months is daily reading Tim Challies' excellent blog site.  If you're not familiar with Tim, you should be.  He's an excellent writer and he runs a great blog.  In addition to his theologically deep and sound reflections, he has a daily "a la carte" post in which he shares interesting things he has found on the internet. I highly recommend his site.

Anywho, yesterday Challies wrote a piece on all of these "I've been to heaven" books and he explains from scripture why they are, for the most part, bunk.  He's got a lot of great points, and rather than summarize them here, I'll just refer you to Tim's post.

I would like to point out what I think is the biggest problem with these books, in addition to the problems that Challies points out, although Tim does touch on this issue in his treatment.  It seems to me that all of these accounts of visiting heaven necessarily implicate the Bible as being an insufficient source of revelation.  In other words, when it comes to the subject of heaven the supposed necessity of having people visit heaven for the purpose of describing it to those of us who have never been, seems to suggest that the Bible is incomplete, at least when it comes to this issue.  That is, hasn't God told us enough (or all we need to know) about heaven?  Isn't God's word complete?  Do I really need more information about heaven?  And if I do need to know more, doesn't that imply that the word of God is at least somehow insufficient?

Challies makes a great point that at the end of the book of Revelation, John asserts that the canon of scripture is closed - nothing more can be added to it.  In fact, if anyone does add to it, he is cursed.  What does that say about these folks telling us they have the "real scoop" on heaven?

I have the same problem with the couple of books that supposedly tell the tale of people who have been to hell and back for the purpose of warning the masses of the atrocities of eternal damnation.  Wait, doesn't the Bible already do that for us?  Do we really need someone to tell us that hell is bad?  I'm pretty sure that subject is already closed.

God has told us all we need to know about heaven.  And if our information is incomplete, it is so for a reason.  What reason?  I don't know.  But God knew what he was doing when he inspired scripture and gave Paul and John visions of heaven.  That's all we need.

The Next Chapter for Steve Saint

A couple years ago I shared this video on my blog.  It features Steve Saint (son of missionary martyr Nate Saint) and the Maverick, a flying car prototype (pictured at right) innovated and developed by his company iTec.  I really appreciate Steve Saint for a few reasons: 1) he's a really smart guy, and 2) he and his company are doing really cool things and innovating new technology for the purpose of using it on the mission field.  They're not doing it for money - they're doing it for the purpose of making missions work more effective and for the purpose of being able to reach those hard-to-reach places on the earth where the gospel has not been preached.

This was the motivation behind the Maverick.  Saint and his associates wanted to create an air vehicle that could take off from tight spaces and that didn't need a landing strip or runway in order to be airborne.  They saw several uses for such a vehicle in transporting goods and supplies into very remote locations, and how medical missionaries could use the car to transport patients from the jungle to a hospital.  Just really cool stuff.  And when you think that these guys are coming up with this stuff for the purpose of expanding the work of the gospel, it just becomes all the more cool.

I just read today, however that Steve Saint was badly injured last week in an accident, testing some new technology developed by his company.  Again, this was technology that would be used in the mission field.  The information about just what kind of technology he was testing is a little vague, but the result is that he has almost completely lost the use of his arms and legs, and that there is swelling on his spinal cord, which, at the time of this posting, he is undergoing surgery to relieve.

He just released this video (see below) yesterday about his accident and the treatment he's going through, and how this experience has changed enforced his worldview and his faith.  Here's a guy who is not wasting his life.  Take a look at this and be encouraged by a man who knows his God and knows his place in God's plan.

For the Kids

You often hear teachers say that they get into teaching for the kids.  That if they could know that they had impacted the life of just one child, all their hard work, time, and effort would have paid off.  Maybe you could say the same thing about ministers, although if that's why I got into ministry, it appears I'm going to be disappointed.

As I've mentioned before, I recently graduated from Bethel Seminary.  The people of Riverview, unbeknownst to me, planned a rather lavish reception for me to celebrate my graduation.  Also unbeknownst to me, several people gave me cards with congratulations and significant monetary gifts.  One family passed along a card with personalized messages from both of their two children.  The dad of the family told me that his son, while writing his message to me, asked his dad how to spell the word "believe."  The dad felt his heart warm, as he imagined his son writing a message to the effect of "Thanks for helping me believe in Jesus, Pastor Joel."  After the boy had finished his message the dad took a look at it and found this:

"Hi Joel.  I can't believe you're going to be a pastor."

Needless to say, the parents put a word of explanation with the card so I wouldn't be too depressed.  But when I think about it, I find myself agreeing: I can't believe I'm going to be a pastor either!