Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Prayer For The New Year

A Puritan prayer, entitled "New Year," from the book, "The Valley Of Vision."

O Lord, length of days does not profit me except the days are passed in your presence, in your service, to your glory.

Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides, sustains, sanctifies, and aids every hour, that I may not be one moment apart from you but may rely on your Spirit to supply every thought, speak in every word, direct every step, prosper every work, build up every mote of faith, and give me a desire to show forth your praise, testify to your love, and advance your kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year with you, O father, as my harbor, the Son at my helm, and the HOly Spirit filling my sails.

Guide me to heaven with my lamp burning, my ear open to your call, my heart full of love, my soul free.

GIve me your grace to sanctify, your comforts to cheer, your wisdom to teach, your right hand to guide, your counsel to instruct, your law to judge, and your presence to stabilize.

May your fear be my awe, your triumphs my joy.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Double Homicide?

I saw this story on the 10:00 news on channel 11 tonight (watch the video on the right sidebar, or read the story).

To summarize, it's a tragic story of a young Minneapolis girl, 15 year old Annshalike Hamilton, who was brutally murdered by way of blunt force trauma. Her body was found a couple weeks ago inside a North Minneapolis garage. After the autopsy results came back police discovered that Annshalike was 6 to 7 months pregnant at the time of her death. Upon this discovery, police have now categorized the crime that took Annshalike's life as a "double homicide." Please pray for Annshalike's family as they mourn.

I don't want to diminish in any way the tragedy that is the loss of Annshalike's life, but in mourning her death we must also, as the police have rightly noted by terming the murder as a double homicide, mourn the loss of the life of the unborn child within her.

If you are at all even a casual reader of this blog, you already know where I'm going with this: the only way that Annshalike's murder can be categorized as a double homicide is if the thing inside her was a living human being. Pro-choice supporters claim that fetuses indeed are not living beings, and can therefore be selectively eliminated. But if that's the case, why is Annshalike's murder categorized as a double homicide? If they ever catch the murderer(s) who brutally murdered Annshalike, I think they would be wise to use this as their defense. It makes sense, doesn't it?

The outright hypocrisy of describing this loss of life as a double homicide, yet at the same time insisting that abortion is NOT the taking of a life is simply mind boggling and disgusting. I am continually shocked and (since it involves the taking of innocent life) disgusted by the lack of the ability to think reasonably and logically by those on the pro-choice (or as I have taken to calling it, "pro-death") side of the abortion debate regularly display. It simply does not make sense: a baby cannot be a human being in one sense (like in this case, murder) and not in another sense (like in abortion).

This is one of the oldest and most foundational principles of philosophy: the law of non-contradiction. It states that "A" and "Non-A" cannot be equal in the same form or sense at the same time. In plain language, it's impossible for something be both true and not true at the same time and in the same context. For example, a table cannot be both made entirely of wood and not made entirely of wood at the same time. You've either got two different tables or two different contexts. You can't have both at the same time. In the case of unborn children, they can't be living beings and not living beings at the same time and in the same context. So then, to say that Annshalike's unborn child was murdered, but to say that children are NOT murdered through the act of abortion is a violation of the law of non-contradiction. It just simply can't be. Either killing unborn children in any context is murder or it isn't. It logically can't be both.

The inability of pro-choice supporters to understand this basic, elementary concept is baffling. In the mean time, keep Annshalike's family in your prayers. They are experiencing twice the grief in this tragedy.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Rate My Church

After my message today, a few people came up to me asking about the website I referenced: Feel free to go there, however you should know that the site has been closed down and isn't active anymore. Apparently people from churches were using the rating system to advertise for their church, and the site operators didn't take kindly to it, so they shut it down. You can, however, still look at how churches were rated.

Also, if you check out the website, you should know that it is part of a larger network of sites that stem from This is a website that I plan to blog about in the future, because I find a lot of what they do to be pretty unbiblical. You have been warned!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Whole Story

I recently read an article about the marking of World's AIDS Day which occurred a few weeks ago. Apparently as part of the activities there was a forum on global health that was hosted by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback church in California. The article went on to talk about President Bush's activity in the PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) program, and how under the Bush administration, an estimated 10 million lives have been saved due to PEPFAR funding since 2003. 10 million! In his introduction of the president, Warren said, "No man in history, no world leader, has done more for global health than President George W. Bush." That's an astounding and weighty endorsement. The article's author goes on to say that he personally visited Rwanda in the past year and was able to see the impact that the PEPFAR program was having first hand. He says, "...I saw evidence of PEPFAR’s work everywhere. Its importance to Africa’s efforts in the fight against AIDS cannot be overstated."

As I read the article, I was amazed and confused at the same time. Amazed, because I was impressed with the positive results that the program has been having in AIDS ridden countries of the world. Confused, because this story has not hit the major news media. Why in the world is this not front page news? Why are these statistics not leading the top of the broadcast news? 10 million lives have been directly affected! Countless number of lives have been radically changed and given hope due to this program.

Working in ministry, I have a personal philosophy that states that I will never miss an opprotunity to brag about the things I am doing in my job. In other words, if I have a chance to tell people about the good things that are going on in the ministry of the church, I will always jump at that chance. I consider it a part of my job to make known the way God is working in and through people for his glory. Considering all of the bad news in the world and America today, you'd think the media would jump at the chance to brag about something good that our country is doing...but they haven't.

Why not? You already know the typical right-wing answer I'm going to give: media bias. Think about it, why else would this not be reported? There's absolutely nothing negative about it. In fact, everything about the story is absolutely fantastic news. The only reason I can see for not reporting this story is that the mainstream media doesn't want to credit President Bush with ANYTHING positive. They only want to shoot him in the back as often as possible, and have thus completely ignored this story.

Also, I find it interesting that the author of the article I read was one Cameron Strang, editor of Relevant Magazine. I have posted in the past about how Strang tends toward the liberal side when it comes to social issues, and how he accuses the Right of not caring enough when it comes to things like poverty and fighting disease. In fact, here are Strang's words: "However, and this is where many on the right miss it, the example Jesus set for us to stand up for the defense of the innocent does not end at birth. Just as they do for abortion, Christians should be on the forefront of standing against things that take millions of innocent lives around the world every day - systemic poverty, preventable disease, unnecessary wars, slavery, genocide. The list goes on." And now we have Strang writing about how no one else in earth's history has done more for AIDS than George W. Bush (who by the way, is a republican). Apparently those on the right DO get it, Cameron!

This brings up another point: there has been a liberal tendency when it comes to social issues in the ranks of up and coming evangelical Christians who echo Strang's comments that conservatives don't care enough for social issues. What do they say about this story? I'm not trying to justify any one particular political group here, but those who say that conservative Christians don't care about social issues are flat out wrong, and this story helps to prove it (not to mention the fact that Christians dominate the statistics when it comes to standing up for social justice in EVERY area. Christians are the ones who build hosptials, open shelters, feed the hungry, treat the sick, etc.).

All this leads me to a question that I don't know the answer to: is it possible that many thousands of Christians voted for Barack Obama in this past election based upon the errant observation that conservative Christians don't care about social justice? If so, they were uninformed, because conservative Christians certainly do care about social issues as evidenced by this story. Also, if such Christians made their electoral decisions based upon the seeming lack of compassion by conservatives, then that means their thoughts were influenced by a biased media that refuses to report on stories like this. Why would they not report on it? Because if they did, people would see that conservative Christians really are compassionate, and DO care about social justice, and would therefore not choose to elect the Messiah of the mainstream media: Barack Obama. Take for example the title of Strang's article: "Bush's Unexpected Legacy," referring to the fact that he has done more for global health than any other individual in history. Why does Strang find this legacy as being "unexpected?" Because he has listened to ridiculous rhetoric and bought into the fact that conservatives don't care about people, which is simply not true.

It's time for people to wake up and make their decisions based upon what is actually happening, and not just on what the media says is happening. Start thinking for yourself and stop letting others think for you!

Friday, December 12, 2008



The Mississippi Baptist Convention recently collected 50 million pennies and ressurrected a display outside the state legislature to hold them in. Why 50 million? Because that's the estimated number of babies that have been aborted since 1973 via Rove vs. Wade.

It's easy to get lost in the numbers (4,000 abortions per day since 1973 is approximately 50 million), but seeing it like this inspires a completely different kind of reaction.

The memorial, called the "Memorial to the Missing" weighs 300,000 pounds and contains a half million dollars - all in pennies. The plaque that is attached to the memorial reads thusly:

"Before you is a collection of 50 million pennies! Each penny represents one child who has been aborted since the Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade in 1973. A penny like a baby seems to be so small and sometimes of very little worth, but when seen in a collection of 50 million it becomes enormous.

Each coin is a person, but in many cases it also represents the difficult process of decision-making, fear, and loneliness. While some speak of pro-choice, these babies had no choice. While some speak of a mother's right to control her own body, 50 million babies were not given their right to live.

Fifty million missing children represented by these pennies must be cause for us to stop, pray, consider what we are doing as a nation, ask God to forgive us, seek ways to help those who are struggling with the decision, and look to the Lord to restore each of us."

You can read more about the memorial here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

To whoever was kind enough to shovel the sidewalk in front of my house today, thank you! I really appreciate it. I was planning to carve some time out of my already busy schedule to take care of it, and I was blessed by not having to worry about it. I am amazed at the way God works. I had a TON of stuff to do today, and thanks to someone's kindness, shoveling my sidewalk wasn't one of them.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I Ain't Got Time To Blog

I suppose the very existence of this text contradicts the title of this post, but it's mostly true nonetheless. I think that my current schedule at this point in my life is perhaps the most time-consuming that it's ever been (and my blog is taking the biggest hit!).

A few months ago I realized that I was always either at work, in my car driving to work, or in my office at home...working (on stuff for my job or for school). I counted out the hours in my week and here's what I came up with:

40 hours per week for my job. It should be noted that I get paid for 40 hours, but I usually end up putting in more than that. It's just one of the perks that comes with being in ministry. I have friends who think I'm an idiot for working such weird and long hours, but I actually enjoy it. I love my job.

12 hours per week preparing for the early church service at Riverview. I'm privileged to be able to lead worship and preach at the early service at the church, however everything I do is strictly on a volunteer basis - it's not a part of my job description. Preparing a 25 minute message, getting the worship songs and other elements of the service together takes a LOT of time.

12 hours per week studying and doing homework. I started seminary this past summer, and I've been trying to go full time, at which I've been far. Most of my school work gets done at home in my office late at night after everyone else has gone to bed.

So when my week begins, I automatically take 64 hours right off the top - those hours are spoken for, and they are vital for maintaining what I do at my job and for school. But then when you throw in the fact that I'm a husband, father, and homeowner, things start to get difficult. 64 divided by seven days equals approximately 9 hours per day. In other words, if I worked seven days a week, I'd work 9 hours each day. However, this isn't usually how I spread it out (at least not ideally!). I try to do five 12 hour days usually, spreading out the work load of each area in each day.

While it all sounds nice, and it might look like I've got it together, things are coming a bit unraveled. I've been sick recently, and I think it's due to a lack of sleep, bad eating, and just being too busy. Also, my fuse has significantly shortened with my wife and kid. It's difficult to throw all of those things into the mix and still be everything to everybody (it should be noted that I realize that I can't be everything to everybody, but I try to do what I can however, even that is tough).

Something's got to change in order for me to maintain my sanity, and I think I've figured it out. I'm going to cut back on my school credits per semester. For example, I was planning to drive down to Sioux Falls for two weeks in January to take a J-Term class and pick up three credits. I don't think I would survive the trip. My wife (who's expecting by the way - oh yeah, add that into the mix too!) would go nuts being by herself for two weeks, my kid would have nowhere to go and no one to care for him, I'd have to take time off work and would get behind as a result, and my message prep for church would probably end up taking the back burner during those weeks - something I'm not willing to do. So I cancelled the J-Term trip, and I'm going to scale back the amount of credits I take in the spring semester. It's not much of a down scale, but I think it'll work Maybe then I'll have more time to blog (for the both of you who read this)!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

The title of this blog may seem like an odd question to most, considering that celebrating Christmas seems as normal as anything else in the world. I ask the question because I've been doing some reading of old-school theologians who seemed to think that Christmas was a worldly practice of pagan origins, and not to be partaken of by Christians. Also, I have a friend that is adamantly anti-Christmas, mostly for the same reasons, so I thought I would check it out.

At our early service at Riverview (the service which I have the privilege of being involved in) we pray a "Puritan Prayer" every week. These prayers are usually excerpted from the book "The Valley Of Vision," which is a collection of Puritan prayers and devotionals. I appreciated the prayers myself because they are laden with scripture and theology - they have a tendency to very accurately sum up the condition of man, the nature of God, and the relationship between the two in each of the prayers, no matter the subject or topic.

Also, I've been thinking about this because we just started our Advent services at Riverview this week. And if you didn't know it, the Puritans were unashamedly anti-Christmas, so trying to find Puritan material with a Christmas theme was a difficult task. Knowing that the Puritans were so very solid on most of their theology, I became curious as to why they took such a hard stand against celebrating Christmas. Here's some of what I found (NOTE: I'm not implying I agree with the Puritans here, I'm just giving you their reasoning for their position):

1) The whole idea of Christmas (celebrating the birth of Christ) is not biblical. Believers are not instructed or expected to commemorate the birth of Christ.

2) Christmas began as a Roman Catholic tradition. Even the English word, "Christmas" is derived from the Latin, "Christes Maesse," meaning "Mass of Christ," a Eucharistic service.

3) Many Roman Catholic traditions were founded on pagan holidays. When Romans converted to Christianity, several retained the celebration of their pagan religious roots. These celebrations crept into the church and soon became tradition. The Puritans saw no reason for celebrating something that had pagan roots. Even activities such as gift giving, Christmas lights, and Christmas trees, find their roots in pagan religion.

4) The idea that Jesus was born on December 25th is not biblical. In fact, we can't know the exact date of Christ's birth, so then to celebrate it on any day is unbiblical.

These are just a few reasons why the Puritans and other theologians of old declined to participate in Christmas celebrations.

A little more recently though, in the early 20th century, A.W. Pink spoke out against Christmas celebrations as well. His arguments (from scripture, by the way) are given here.

Even my theological hero, Charles Spurgeon spoke thusly of Christmas:

When it can be proved that the observance of Christmas whitsuntide, and other Popish festivals was ever instituted by a divine statute, we also will attend to them, but not till then. It is as much our duty to reject the traditions of men, as to observe the ordinances of the Lord. We ask concerning every rite and rubric, "Is this a law of the God of Jacob?" and if it be not clearly so, it is of no authority with us, who walk in Christian liberty.

Spurgeon's argument seems to be that celebrations such as Christmas had connections to man-made Roman religious practices, and that to expect a Christian to partake was not biblical. However, I don't think he was as hard lined as this statement leads one to believe. Later he comments:

We venture to assert, that if there be any day in the year, of which we may be pretty sure that it was not the day on which the Savior was born, it is the twenty-fifth of December. Nevertheless, since, the current on men's thoughts is led this way just now, and I see no evil in the current itself, I shall neither justify nor condemn, by endeavoring to lead your thoughts in the same direction. Since it is lawful, and even laudable, to meditate upon the incarnation of the Lord upon any day of the year, it cannot be in the power of other men's superstitions to render such a meditation improper for today.

I take this to mean that, although Christmas is indeed a man-made celebration, it certainly cannot be a bad thing. As Spurgeon rightly notes, meditating on the incarnation of Christ is an admirable practice on any day of the year. If we choose to do it on December 25th, then so be it. Additionally, I detect a tone in Spurgeon's remark that also implies that Christmas must not be the only time of year we meditate on the incarnation. I think Spurgeon's biggest fears for celebrating Christmas are communicated by this:

There are those who, on December 25th, will pretend to exhibit joy in the remembrance of our Savior's birth, but they
will not seek their pleasure in the Savior. Joy in Immanuel would be a poor sort of mirth to them.

Here I think Spurgeon is saying that if and when Christmas becomes nothing more than a secular holiday that has no religious or spiritual significance, and is instead focused on secularism (materialism?), it should not be partaken of by believers. I agree with him. The question for me (and you) then is, has Christmas become what Spurgeon described? And if so, should we as believers participate (at least in the consumerism and gift-giving)?

We are certainly much further removed from the pagan and Roman Catholic traditions of the past than the Puritans were, or even Spurgeon and Pink were. Perhaps we are excused because we celebrate Christmas ignorant of the pagan traditions that surround it? Or is it possible to usurp Christmas's original meaning? In other words, is it possible for us to use something that was meant for evil, for good (that's assuming that our celebration of Christmas is still true and pure)?

These are the conclusions and justifications for celebrating Christmas that I think Dan Fortner comes to, as evidenced here:

Without fail, at this time every year, I receive numerous letters, pamphlets, and tracts denouncing the evils of Christmas as a pagan religious holiday. I fully agree that no believer should ever observe pagan religious holidays like Christmas and Easter. We must never incorporate pagan customs into the worship of our God.

We must not observe any religious holiday. We should attach no spiritual, religious significance to any day. Yet, we do not need to act like super-pious religious idiots over a day that has absolutely no religious significance. I would never teach a child that such a thing as Santa Claus exist, or that Christ was born on Christmas day. But, as Paul said concerning idols, Santa Claus is nothing and Christmas is nothing.

Did you know that every day of the week, every planet in the universe, and many of the CARS we drive are named after pagan gods? Yet, we still call Sunday Sunday, Mars Mars, and a Saturn a Saturn. No one would ever dream of calling us pagans for doing so. We worship our God on Sunday, and would laugh at anyone who suggested that we observe the pagan Roman holiday called “Sun’s Day” in doing so. If your car is a Saturn, use it for the glory of God; and laugh at anyone who thinks that you are worshipping the Roman god of agriculture by driving it.

We must not, and I trust do not, worship Christmas trees and lights, or even attach spiritual significance to Christmas day. However, I do suggest that we seize this opportunity afforded us by Divine providence to tell people who Christ is, why he came into this world, what he did, and how they may obtain his salvation. It is no accident that once every year every human
being in the world is confronted with the fact that the Son of God assumed human flesh and came into the world to save men.

Certainly, no one can think that it is wrong for believers, during this season of the year, to express thanks and praise
to God for his unspeakable gift, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is never wrong, but always right to think of him, speak of him, and sing his praise. Rather than not singing Watts’ grand old hymn, Joy To The World, we ought to sing it year round.

While I loathe the religiosity of this holiday season, the silly plays, the idolatrous pictures and representations of Christ and
the angels of God, and pretense of spirituality by people who have no interest in the glory of God, I am delighted for this season of the year (for any season) that brings families together, encourages kindness and good will, and promotes thoughtfulness of and generosity to others. It is perfectly all right to exchange gifts with and send cards to family and friends. (I cannot imagine a reason for anyone objecting to that!) But I suggest that each of us find a way to acknowledge and do something special for someone from whom we expect nothing, maybe even from someone from whom we expect abuse. “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

This whole discussion may seem trivial and a waste of time to some, but I think it's important to know why we do what we do, and why we think about certain things the way we do. These things will define our worship, so we better have a good understanding of their implications. In the time of Amos the prophet, the people were condemned because they were offering God false worship based upon errant presuppositions about their religion and their worship. Their worship had become hollow, empty, and based on pagan worship practices (Amos 5). I certainly don't want to be a part of any of that! All the more reason to understand our holiday celebrations.

Anyway, just some thoughts that have been kicking around in my head.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Proclamation of Thanksgiving

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

It Won't Be Long, Now.

I was doing my usual monthly check of my MySpace account tonight (I hardly ever check my MySpace anymore), and decided to peruse the "Most Popular Blogs" on MySpace. This is something I've done just for kicks from time to time. I usually gravitate towards the "Religion and Spirituality" blog category. It's almost always full of ridiculous and pointless evolution or homosexuality debates. I must confess that I used to partake in such discussions, but have since found them to be pointless and even potentially damaging to the faith. Nonetheless, I'm still entertained by reading about the war of words between the atheists and the Christians.

One particular blog that caught my eye tonight was this one, titled "The Dumbest and Most Ignorant Christians On MySpace" (with a title like that how could I not read it?!). In the blog, the author (an atheist) quotes several Christians that he has had debates (more like cussing, belittling, and patronizing) with, and then goes on to expound upon their ignorance and mental incapacities as displayed by their profession of faith.

Nothing in the blog was of particular interest to me - all just stuff I've seen and heard a million times before. But this blog had several things that caught my eye: in the midst of the text of the blog were several "motivational posters." You know the ones - the kind that are done for laughs. I usually love those things, and I've made several of my own. These were quite different, however. They mocked Christians for being stupid and lacking reason, which is fine - I'm not going to lose sleep over that. But check this out:

If you're not catching the implication here, it's that the moral judgment that led ancient Romans to kill and murder Christians by feeding them to lions and other wild animals was not only justifiable, but noble. In other words, whoever made this poster feels that the deaths of Christians would be a beneficial thing for society and mankind in general. While I understand that there is some satire involved here, it's absolutely way over the top, unacceptable, and tasteless. Imagine if I made a poster that brandished a picture of piles of bodies of Jews who had been killed in concentration camps in World War II, and then labeled it, "Jews: the Nazis had the right idea." You would be well within your rights to label me a hate-filled bigot who, by the very action of creating such a poster, represents a potential danger to Jews who are currently alive and practicing their faith. Is the scenario any different when it comes to this poster and its maker's atitude toward Christians?

While I was amazed by the existence of the poster, I was even more amazed that it remained on MySpace. We live in a country that is hyper-sensitive to any kind of bigotry or hate, but apparently that same sensitivity doesn't apply to Christians in this country. Why has this image not been forcefully removed? It is clearly hateful and bigoted.

But while I imply that I am shocked (and to at least some degree I am) by this poster, it also is somewhat to be expected. Jesus said that the world would hate those who followed him because the world hated him first. So then, since the world hates him, it's going to hate us because we follow him. So in many ways, things like this are to be expected. And guess what: it's only going to get worse. The era of religious freedom that this country has enjoyed for the past 200 plus years is coming to a close, and Christians will be the ones who suffer most because they tend to promote morality and righteousness (or at least they should). And since morality and righteousness are in sever decline in this country, Christians can expect more posters joking about how they should be put to death. And one day, Christians can expect the threats to be followed through on. It won't be long, now.

Lord Jesus come quickly.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Latest Time-Waster

I accidentally came across this site, where users create graphs and charts based upon phony statistics in made-up categories. The resulting charts and graphs can be pretty funny. Some of my favorites are graphs of: People Who Hate Snakes And The Intesity Of Their Hate; Laser Pen Usage; Relative Greenness of Grass; Relevance of George Washington Carver Innovations; Uses of Q-tips; Football According To John Madden; Morning Radio; How My Pack of Gum Is Consumed.

If you go to you can find a bunch of fun graphs to check out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Theological Drift

Last weekend my sister called me and asked if I'd heard about all of the "controversy" going on at Northwestern College, my alma mater. I told her that no, I hadn't heard about anything controversial that was going on at Northwestern. She proceeded to send me a link to this website. Some unidentified affiliates of the college formed this website that contains documents that spell out the entire affair. To save you a lot of reading time, let me summarize what I gleaned from the site and the documents found therein: it turns out that some faculty members and trustees from the board have begun to feel that there is a bit of a "theological drift" toward postmodernism and liberalism at the college that has taken place over the last several years. These faculty members and trustees have expressed their concerns to the administration and, despite promises that there would be no repercussions for their opinions, some of them have since been demoted or replaced. And to further the tension, the faculty was surveyed and it was found that at least 44% of the faculty feels that there is a spirit of "fear and mistrust" present on the campus. That doesn't sound too good!

As a graduate of Northwestern I am concerned about the potential of theological drift (however my experiences as a student weren't necessarily laden with solid, conservative, traditional theology - a lot of my professors had somewhat of a "I'm not going to tell you what's right, I want you to figure out what's right" kind of attitude about theology, which is fine and to be expected at the undergraduate level, except when people think heresy is right. At that point a professor needs to step in.). I certainly don't want to see Northwestern tend towards liberalism and postmodernism.

For more info on the scandal, check out my sister's blog - she summarizes the whole situation nicely.

There's a forum to address the controversy scheduled for students, faculty, and alumni this Thursday. I plan to attend.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

American Martyrdom

One of my sisters recently found herself in the unwanted position of potentially having to end a friendship for the sake of the gospel. My sister had been witnessing to one of her friends, and this woman was very closed to the things of God - she wanted nothing to do with him, and she thought that anybody who was a Christian was a judgmental, bigoted, jerk (which is odd, considering that she's friends with my sister!). It finally came to a head a few weeks ago: the woman became very angry at my sister's insistence on biblical truth, and she flipped her lid. My sister didn't want it to happen, but the relationship is most likely over - all because this woman hates God. I told my sister that it was the right thing to do, and to try to compromise and remain friends with her would be compromising the truth and the gospel. My sister sent her an email explaining that her motives were pure, and that she harbored no ill-will towards her. To my knowledge, no response to her email has come as of yet.

A couple weeks ago, the Sunday School class at my church that I frequent (Don't Waste Your Life) was talking about risk, and specifically, risk for the sake of the gospel and the glory of God. As Americans, I think we have a hard time risking things in our life for the glory of God mostly because we live in such a safe country that prides itself on religious freedom. Christians in other countries fear persecution or even martyrdom for their faith. We suffer no such thing in this country.

What then can I risk for Christ? To answer this question, you need to start thinking outside of the box. First, you need to take physical harm, pain, or death out of the picture because again, those aren't things we worry about in America. Therefore, risk in our context is probably something more like risking finances or possessions by giving them to ministry, or risking relationships by entering into them with the specific intention of delivering the gospel. As my sister can testify to, people's hearts are naturally hard and don't want to have anything to do with the gospel. Knowing that then, and entering into a relationship for the specific purpose of preaching the gospel could have seemingly disastrous consequences. In other words...risk.

I recently came across a good article that basically says what I've said above. Rick James, the article's author, makes the case that martyrdom in the USA has nothing to do with pain and death. Instead it has everything to do with the potential death of your reputation, or the potential death of a relationship you are in for the sake of the gospel. I highly recommend the article to you.

The catch is, however, that Christians in this country usually only risk if they're forced into it. In other words, people only stand up for the gospel and biblical truth if they're forced into a corner. That's a completely defensive and backwards attitude. Christians need to be intentionally entering into relationships knowing that both their reputation and the relationship itself is on the line because of the gospel, and they need to be willing to sacrifice both for the sake of God's word going forth.

As stated earlier, Christians in other countriese are persecuted and killed for their faith. We face nothing of the sort in our country. Our response to that fact? Praise God that he has blessed us with religious freedom. Our second response should be an undying willingness (and actually, eagerness) to risk our reputation and friendship with others for the sake of the gospel.

When compared to what Christians in other countries go through, American martyrdom really isn't that bad.

(Note: I am by no means equating the minor "pain in the butt" type of persecution that Americans experience to the persecution that Christians experience over seas. The two are not comparable. I am simply saying that any "persecution" that might be experienced in America is extremely tolerable, and we should be living our lives in such a way as to seek it out for the glory of the gospel.)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

God's Universe

The subtitle of this blog is: "This is God's universe, so he does things his way. Now, you may have a better way of doing things, but you don't have a universe."

That's one of my favorite quotes from the late expositor and pastor J. Vernon McGee. I appreciate it so much because it's a simple way of stating many truths that I need to be slapped in the face with from time to time, such as:

1) God is the Creator God.
2) God is sovereign over his creation.
3) Man is sovereign over nothing.
4) Man is puny and nothing when compared to God.
5) The reasoning and wisdom of man is futile when compared to that of God.

Good things for me to remember.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Change Ain't Going To Be Easy

First of all, let me say that this is not a post that is going to rip on the electoral college. I think it's a fair and good way to run the presidential elections. What I want to focus on here is the illusion that this is an Obama-nation. A lot of people are rejoicing that we have finally voted for change as a country. But change from what? The answer that everyone is giving is, the divissive and unproductive Bush administration. Did we really move toward change though, or did we merely put a new face on the division of this country? A look at the popular vote shows that not much has actually changed. Consider the following:

In the 2000 election, Al Gore won the popular vote by a mere half million votes. That's about as close as it gets. Our country was clearly divided down the middle.

In the 2004 election, George Bush won the popular vote by by three million votes over John Kerry - 50.7% to 48.3% respectively. A little bigger margin, but for all intents and purposes, the country was still essentially divided down the middle.

Barack Obama has won the 2008 election in what has been declared an electoral college landslide. But again, the popular vote says differently. Obama won the popular vote by a mere 7 million votes - 52.3% compared to McCain's 46.3%. Remember how angry people were in 2000 because the popular vote was so close, but Bush won the election? They felt unrepresented, and they were angry that so many in the country were markedly against the Bush administration, and yet they still found themselves under its rule. Well, you don't have much difference between the 2000 and the 2008 elections. Once again - for yet another presidency - our nation is essentially divided down the middle.

What's the point? Why analyze the popular vote? Because although the electoral college implies that this country wants change, 46.3% of Americans have said differently, which brings up all kinds of speculation on the "change" that has been thrown around for the last 2 years. Change isn't going to be easy, because almost half of the country doesn't want change. All of you people rejoicing that change has finally come should realize this - especially those in government - those who are responsible to the people. Perhaps the smarter thing to do would be to recognize the division, rather than celebrate the illusion of change.

Barack's election is not a sign of change. If anything, we're still in a year 2000 mentality of division.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Am I A Racist?

I'm a bit confused. I think I might be a racist.

On my way home tonight, I was listening to AM 1500's election night coverage, hosted by Dave Thompson, a staunch conservative, and A.L. Brown, a raving liberal. Given the pairing, I suppose it was balanced coverage.

During my ride home, I heard that things weren't looking good for McCain, and listened to the results of the Minnesota senate and house races. As things began to look better and better for Obama, A.L Brown piped up for a couple minutes and said something to the effect of (almost in tears, by the way): "I am so proud of this country and its people, because in this election it has shown that it has finally gotten over the racial divide, and now we have proven that anyone can do anything. We have shown that anyone can become president - black or white," or something to that effect. His main point was the fact that Obama was steadily being elected our next president was a sign of how race relations in this country were finally getting better. When A.L. finished his diatribe, Dave Thompson - who is usually not at a loss for words - seemed to not know what to say. I think I know why he had that problem, because I had it as well.

When I got home and turned on the TV, I heard the same message from NBC (by this time, Obama had been declared the winner): "we are finally a country that will elect a black man," again, not their exact words, but that was definitely the message. And this message was repeated over and over again, by pundit after pundit: "We have finally come to a place in our history where we can look past our differences and elect a black president." Statistics were given to support this idea, such as: "45% of white men voted for Obama - see how far we've come?"

This puts me in an odd position, because I voted against Obama. I don't want him to be president. I don't want him to lead our country. I fear the direction that our country will take under his leadership. By A.L Brown's reasoning, and also by the reasoning of those at NBC, I have not progressed, I have not come to a place where I am comfortable with a black president, I have apparently not overcome the racial divide in this country, because I voted for McCain. The message put forth by Brown and NBC is that a vote for Obama means that you are a progressive, diversity-loving, tolerant, person. A vote for McCain means that you are not ready for a black president, and your vote against him is a sign of your prejudice and unwillingness to conform to racial equality. Or in other words, if you didn't vote for Obama, you're a racist. Since when did electing a black man become the litmus test for racial tolerance in this country? You'd think it would be defined by our unity and willingness to live together as Americans in every day, normal situations.

As I have been thinking about this for the past couple hours, I am becoming angry. How dare they imply that I am not ready or willing to elect a black man (this is the implication that is made, whether your like it or not)? How dare they imply that my vote for McCain means I let skin color influence me? I've never been one to demand apologies, but I might start now. This line of thinking is very offensive. It paints me and every other person in this country that didn't vote for Obama as racists. Obama's skin color didn't sway my vote - I didn't vote for Obama because he's a pro-death (abortion) socialist. If it were Joe Biden on the top of the ticket instead of Obama I'd vote against him too, because he likewise is a pro-death socialist. One's white, one's black. They both think the same way, and I couldn't be more on the polar opposite of what they have to offer. And if I did vote for Obama, I would feel extremely patronized - as if voters need a pat on the back from the likes of A.L Brown and NBC for doing the right thing and electing a black man. What a joke.

This whole sentiment is not new - it has been going on throughout the whole campaign. There's been plenty of people who have implied that if you don't vote for Obama, you're a racist, and you're just not voting for him because he's black. Nothing could be further from the truth. See the above paragraph.

So according to the media and A.L. Brown, I'm a racist. I beg to differ.

Customer Service - It Does Exist!

A couple weeks ago I bought the 2007 Video Illustration set of videos from Bluefish TV. They're a company that makes short videos that can be used as illustrations, discussion starters, and just good things to get you thinking for church groups/Bible studies, etc. The set also included a bunch of background videos and pictures that can be used for power point presentations.

I was pretty jazzed to receive the set, as our church is starting to break some ground in the technological and multi-media realm. But as I sorted through the contents of my package, I realized that one of the DVD's that had been sent to me was missing. What actually happened is that the packaging for 2 of the DVD's had gotten mixed up, or in other words, I received the wrong DVD in the wrong packaging. The whole mix up resulted in me not getting one of the DVD's that had been promised in the package.

I called Bluefish and told them about the problem, hoping that they would send me out an individual copy of the DVD I was missing. I talked to a super nice guy named Eric, who told me he'd tell his supervisor about the problem and get back to me. About an hour later, Eric called me back and said that they were very sorry for the mixup, and as a result they'd like to send me the 2009 Video Illustrations pack for free! The 2007 and 2009 video illustration sets are $200.00 apiece, so when I heard that, I was floored. I greatfully accepted his offer, and thanked him for their kindness and their willingness to satisfy me - the customer.

A lot of times you hear horror stories about how poorly people are treated by companies. Nothing could have been further from the truth in my experience with Bluefish. I will gladly give them more of my business, and I encourage you to do the same.

Monday, November 3, 2008

In Praise of Single Issue Voting

Check out this excellent article from this month's WORLD magazine, by Tony Woodlief. He brings up several points that I've been thinking for a long time now, but have not been able to verbalize. Basically, it comes down to this - abortion is the only issue. If abortion really truly is the taking of a life, then nothing else matters at this point in our nation's history. Here's Tony's article:

I have become something I once reviled: a single-issue voter. I used to think that a wise voter tries to discern each candidate's intentions on major issues, and then casts his vote based on an assessment of who will do the greatest overall good—or the least evil. I thought those voters who support a candidate based on a single issue—whether he will increase school funding, say, or lower taxes—were shirking their duty to consider the full ramifications of putting someone in office. What good is electing someone who is "right" on one thing, I thought, if he gets everything else disastrously wrong? This was the reasoning I used as I congratulated myself for wisely apportioning my votes based on utilitarian calculations.

Now I suspect this sort of calculation misses something. I've become convinced that a nation which sanctions the extinguishing of unborn children, and further, the outright execution of near-term infants, doesn't deserve admiration even if it gets every other policy right.

I used to include abortion as part of my voting calculus, mind you, but only a part. What if a candidate is pro-life, for example, but favors disastrous tax and trade policies that would consign people to lower living standards? Or what if he wants to use our military in pursuit of ill-defined foreign policy goals? Shouldn't these things factor into my equation?
Those other issues certainly affect a country's safety, prosperity, and greatness. But I've come to believe that a nation that tolerates destruction of innocents deserves neither safety nor prosperity nor greatness. We've descended into barbarism, and it poisons how we treat the elderly, the incapacitated, even ourselves. We shouldn't be surprised, having made life a utilitarian calculation, that more and more humans become inconvenient.

It's certainly true that there are other issues that ought to concern Christians, like the sanctity of marriage, and how we treat the mentally ill, the elderly, and children who have been born. But abortion is, in my view, the touchstone. Get this one wrong and your moral compass can guide you in nothing else.

There are complications. Does it really matter, for example, if a county supervisor is pro-life? Maybe so. Years ago the late-term abortionist George Tiller expanded his murderous facility in Wichita, Kan., with little trouble, even as local authorities harassed pro-life groups. The battle over abortion is being waged locally, and it makes all the difference in the world whether officials welcome abortionists with open arms, gutlessly tolerate them for fear of legal trouble, or actually get down to the business of scrutinizing their activities with a fine-toothed comb.

Even worse in the Wichita case, the city's mayor during this period advertised himself as pro-life. Hence an additional problem for the single-minded voter: Many candidates claim this label, yet they have no intention of taking action. The ones who will act, meanwhile, may be far less electable. Voters who don't care about abortion can tolerate a candidate who pays lip-service to the Bible-thumpers. But there's a danger they'll write him off as a nut if he devotes significant energy to the cause once in office.

There's also the challenge that a genuine and committed opponent of abortion may win office, work to end this abomination, and simultaneously arm regimes that slaughter innocents in other countries. If we oppose the murder of unborn infants not because they are cute, but because the execution of innocents is evil, then we have to apply this standard throughout our politics. I always thought the single-issue voter didn't have to think, but maybe that's not the case. There are indeed complications.

Yet there is also painful clarity that comes with single-mindedness. Jobs, highways, schools, economic growth—none of these matter if we're willing to sanction murder to get them. Perhaps my mentality is a recipe for political isolation for Christians, for the losing of elections, and maybe even a loss of national greatness. I worry that the alternative, however, is to lose something far greater, which is our ability to discern good from evil, and to act accordingly.

The Divine Butler

You should check this out. It's a tad on the long side, but it's worth the watch, and it might answer some questions about politics and what not.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Political Ads

Like everyone else who lives in America, I'm not what you would consider a "fan" of political ads. They're just a bunch of ranting about misleading subjects designed to get you to hate a person enough to not vote for him or her. Republicans and Democrats are both guilty of this. Also, the ads tend to be full of stuff that's just not true (again, both parties are guilty of this). I especially like the Al Franken ad that says something to the effect of, "Only one candidate in this election has never voted for a congressional pay raise - Al Franken." Well, to my knowledge, Franken has never been in congress, so he's never HAD the opportunity to vote for a congressional pay raise, so of course he hasn't voted for one! That's like me saying, "Joel Detlefsen has never voted for a congressional pay raise." You'd think I'm an idiot because I've never had the chance to vote for such a thing. Also, Dean Barkley, the Independent candidate was only in congress for something like eight days - did he vote for a pay raise in that amount of time, and if so, why? He wouldn't be around to enjoy it. You see, political ads are just dumb.

This political season introduced me to Ashwin Madia, a democrat who's running against Eric Paulsen for a seat in congress. Before this election season, I've never heard of Ashwin Madia, but republican ads would have me believe that he is a liar, and a worthless human being. I'm sorry, but I can't make that judgment simply by a 30 second TV spot! I can understand negative campaigning, but trying to persuade people to feel angst against someone they've never met (or heard of until a month ago) seems pretty wrong to me.

My wife commented tonight that she can't wait until Wednesday, because all of the political ads will be off the air. That got me thinking: if the political ads are true, and these people are the lowest scum on the face of the earth, and they represent us in congress, shouldn't they be running all year long? If these people really are as bad as the ads say they are, isn't that worth reporting to us in February and March, even if it's not an election year? Lying is lying, and stealing is stealing, whether it's an election year or not. The whole political system is extremely screwed up - your own politicians, whether you're a republican or democrat - only think it's important to report the evil of their opponents to you when their own butt is on the line. In other words, they'll only speak out against what's wrong and stand up for what's right when they need YOU to re-elect them. The rest of the time, they're just as guilty as the people they're railing against. Something is very screwed up with that line of thinking, and it needs to stop. Remember that the next time you think about making a campaign contribution.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Is Abortion As Relevant As Poverty?

A couple months ago, I subscribed to Relevant Magazine. I figured it would be beneficial since I'm not too immersed in pop culture these days and I didn't really want to pay for Rolling Stone. I've received a few issues now, and for the most part I've at least appreciated being kept abreast on current Christian music, issues, ideas, and other crap.

My first interaction with the magazine came when I followed a link that said a "high profile" evangelical had backed out of a commitment to pray at the Democratic National Convention. I read the news story and first learned about Cameron Strang and his magazine (and to be fair, I commended his decision to not pray at the convention). I then subsequently subscribed to the magazine. But now that I've received a few issues and had the opportunity to read Mr. Strang's columns, I'm starting to have second thoughts.

This month's issue features an article by Strang entitled "What It Means To Be Whole-Life" (I wanted to link the article here, but it isn't available on their website yet - check back in a few days). In the article Strang identifies his differences with the democratic party by citing the abortion issue:

"My primary disagreement with the democratic my belief that life begins at conception, and it is our moral duty to protect innocent lives. To me, that is not just a matter of faith; it is a matter of objective fact."

I commend Strang for his beliefs, and I share them, however I found myself adamantly disagreeing with Strang as he went on:

"However, and this is where many on the right miss it, the example Jesus set for us to stand up for the defense of the innocent does not end at birth. Just as they do for abortion, Christians should be on the forefront of standing against things that take millions of innocent lives around tehworld every day - systemic poverty, preventable disease, unnecessary wars, slavery, genocide. The list goes on."

There has been a recent movement amongst Christians and politics that has for some reason placed the abortion issue on the back burner. I recently heard a talk radio host say that abortion is an "old and tired issue." It seems that this thinking has permeated into the Christian realm as well, and now Christians (like Strang) are either equating or elevating issues like poverty and disease above the abortion issue, and likewise asserting that Christians either haven't or aren't doing enough about these things. I've got a couple of problems with this line of thinking:

Abortion and poverty aren't comparable. To say that Christians need to speak out about poverty on the same level as abortion is not correct. Our country has experienced 50 million abortions since Roe V. Wade. That's 4,400 baby deaths per day. I understand that things like poverty and disease take an incredibly large number of lives each day as well, but there is at least one significant difference: poverty and disease occurs amongst people who have been born - amongst people who have the ability to do something about their poverty or disease. Unborn children have no recourse - no action that they can take to protect themselves, no voice even, to protest to the action being taken against them. Thus, we are their voice. Also, the crime being committed against unborn children is far more violent and immediate than poverty or disease. So then to say that poverty is as much an immediate concern as abortion is inaccurate.

I also take issue with Strang in that Jesus didn't tell Christians to push the government to make social reforms, he told Christians to do it themselves. You will never find Jesus in scripture telling his disciples to write their congressman and push them to feed hungry people. He told them that they themselves should feed the hungry people. The responsibility lies on Christians to do the work, not on Christians to push others to do the work. This is usually the reasoning that a lot of Christians have used to justify their support of Barack Obama, but they haven't read their Bibles closely. Change (a buzz-word I'm beginning to deplore) comes through the gospel and the Christians who preach it (see this post for more on that) - not through government and politics. In that case then, Strang is wrong when he says that social reform needs to be in the forefront of a Christian's political thought (To be fair, you may find some double-speak in this statement, in that abortion is a political issue and Christians are attempting to use the political system in order to see it overturned. That's fair. However, I think there's a difference because the government has endorsed and justified this practice, and has legitimized the practice in the eyes of the public. Therefore, it seems reasonable to use the political system to fight against it. Also, we must never lose focus in that our immediate concern is for life. What would be the easiest, quickest, most efficient way to save life in regards to abortion? Overturning Roe V. Wade. Also on the other hand, several non-political pro-life actions have been taken by Christians and Christian organizations to combat abortion. So in that sense, there is much that is being done outside the political realm).

Lastly, I am dissappointed in Strang's ignorance of history. He says that "Just as they do for abortion, Christians should be on the forefront of standing against things that take millions of innocent lives around the world every day - systemic poverty, preventable disease, unnecessary wars, slavery, genocide." Well, I don't know where Mr. Strang's been, but Christians have ALWAYS been on the forefront of standing against poverty, disease, war, slavery, genocide, and any other barbaric practice the history of this world has ever seen. Christians are ALWAYS the ones who build the hospitals, feed the hungry, care for the sick, speak out against slavery (William Wilberforce, anyone? Not to mention all those missionaries who are active but don't get the headlines), and protect the innocent. Here's an interesting fact for ya: the largest demographic by far of parents who adopt children are, you guessed it, Christians. Why? BECAUSE we care. BECAUSE we are on the front lines. BECAUSE we obey Jesus. BECAUSE we stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves. Check the facts. History backs me up on this. No other group has done more for this world and those who inhabit it than those faithful Jesus-following Christians who follow his example. So then to say that Christians either don't care or aren't vigilant about these issues is ignorant, and actually, a bit insulting. Check your history books, Cameron.

Strang concludes his article by encouraging his readers not to be "pro-life" but instead, "whole-life." Strang says:

"...we need to embrace a more holistic definition of Christ's love and example. We need to be "whole-life." Whole-life means standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. It means seeing a need...and giving your life to serve it....Being whole-life means living out Jesus' example in our world today - fighting injustice, promoting life, being good stewards of our natural and financial resources, and showing God's love in a tangible way."

I'd actually take Strang's corny catch phrase one step further and say that Christians should be "Whole-Eternal-Life." In other words, even if we save babies, cure disease, end world hunger, and bring an end to all wars, people still need a Savior. Filling their stomach won't save their souls. We must never lose sight of the gospel in any social endeavor.

Believe me, I'm not trying to justify anyone or any group of people by saying these things. There are of course still many ways that we as Jesus followers can and should be standing up for justice, and again, I think we are. If anything, though, Strang is correct in that the battle is never over - it's a matter of eternal vigilence. We can't just be standing around, patting ourselves on the back for our good acts of charity - we always need to be standing up for justice. If indeed Christians have become lax in this area, they need to read the Bible and get busy. Let's just not lose sight of history and the truth.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Politics, Activism, And The Gospel

I found this great article by Johnny Mac in my email and thought I would post it here. It's definitely not the typical evangelical diatribe. It is however, a good reminder that our hope is in the power of the gospel to transform hearts and lives - not politicians or governments. If only Christians put as much time into studying and reading their Bibles as they did into politics and government...

With the nation focused on the November elections, we thought a post on politics might be appropriate. The point of this article is not that we should abstain from any participation in the political process, but rather that we must keep our priorities straight as Christians. After all, the gospel, not politics, is the only true solution to our nation’s moral crisis.

We can’t protect or expand the cause of Christ by human political and social activism, no matter how great or sincere the efforts. Ours is a spiritual battle waged against worldly ideologies and dogmas arrayed against God, and we achieve victory over them only with the weapon of Scripture. The apostle Paul writes: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

We must reject all that is ungodly and false and never compromise God’s standards of righteousness. We can do that in part by desiring the improvement of society’s moral standards and by approving of measures that would conform government more toward righteousness. We do grieve over the rampant indecency, vulgarity, lack of courtesy and respect for others, deceitfulness, self-indulgent materialism, and violence that is corroding society. But in our efforts to support what is good and wholesome, reject what is evil and corrupt, and make a profoundly positive impact on our culture, we must use God’s methods and maintain scriptural priorities.

God is not calling us to wage a culture war that would seek to transform our countries into “Christian nations.” To devote all, or even most, of our time, energy, money, and strategy to putting a facade of morality on the world or over our governmental and political institutions is to badly misunderstand our roles as Christians in a spiritually lost world.

God has above all else called the church to bring sinful people to salvation through Jesus Christ. Even as the apostle Paul described his mission to unbelievers, so it is the primary task of all Christians to reach out to the lost “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me [Christ]” (Acts 26:18; cf. Ex. 19:6; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9).

If we do not evangelize the lost and make disciples of new converts, nothing else we do for people--no matter how beneficial it seems--is of any eternal consequence. Whether a person is an atheist or a theist, a criminal or a model citizen, sexually promiscuous and perverse or strictly moral and virtuous, a greedy materialist or a gracious philanthropist--if he does not have a saving relationship to Christ, he is going to hell. It makes no difference if an unsaved person is for or against abortion, a political liberal or a conservative, a prostitute or a police officer, he will spend eternity apart from God unless he repents and believes the gospel.

When the church takes a stance that emphasizes political activism and social moralizing, it always diverts energy and resources away from evangelization. Such an antagonistic position toward the established secular culture invariably leads believers to feel hostile not only to unsaved government leaders with whom they disagree, but also antagonistic toward the unsaved residents of that culture--neighbors and fellow citizens they ought to love, pray for, and share the gospel with. To me it is unthinkable that we become enemies of the very people we seek to win to Christ, our potential brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Author John Seel pens words that apply in principle to Christians everywhere and summarize well the believer’s perspective on political involvement:

A politicized faith not only blurs our priorities, but weakens our loyalties. Our primary citizenship is not on earth but in heaven. … Though few evangelicals would deny this truth in theory, the language of our spiritual citizenship frequently gets wrapped in the red, white and blue. Rather than acting as resident aliens of a heavenly kingdom, too often we sound [and act] like resident apologists for a Christian America. … Unless we reject the false reliance on the illusion of Christian America, evangelicalism will continue to distort the gospel and thwart a genuine biblical identity….American evangelicalism is now covered by layers and layers of historically shaped attitudes that obscure our original biblical core. (The Evangelical Pulpit [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993], 106-7)

By means of faithful preaching and godly living, believers are to be the conscience of whatever nation they reside in. You can confront the culture not with the political and social activism of man’s wisdom, but with the spiritual power of God’s Word. Using temporal methods to promote legislative and judicial change, and resorting to external efforts of lobbying and intimidation to achieve some sort of “Christian morality” in society is not our calling--and has no eternal value. Only the gospel rescues sinners from sin, death, and hell.

Friday, October 24, 2008

If I Were A Muslim, I'd Be Furious.

I was doing my usual duty on Facebook tonight when I came across a link posted by one of my friends (actually a guy I haven't seen in 10 years) that showed me the "Obama Tax Calculator." It's a widget that supposedly calculates the size of tax cut that Obama is going to give, after you input your gross income, dependents, etc. (although the whole thing is a bit of a joke, because there's no way Obama can do all the things he says he's going to do and give a tax cut to 95% of the middle class - but that's another blog for another time).

After finding out how astronomically huge my Obama tax cut would be (supposedly $1000, compared to McCain's shabby $320), I stumbled my way over to the official Barack Obama website. It was my first time on the site, so I had a good chuckle as I looked everything over. But then I came to a graphic and link about half way down the page on the right hand side that said: "Fight the Smears. Help push back on the false and divisive methods of our opponents." Being the sick kind of person who likes conflict, that's the first place I clicked. What I found absolutely amazed me (dare I say, shocked me?).

The "Fight the Smears" link takes you to a page that lists several of the attacks and negative campaigns that have been leveled against Barack Obama, accompanied by a button next to each issue that reads, "Get the Facts." Apparently when you follow that link, you learn about the truth that clears up the "lies" that Obama's opponents have been perpetrating.

Now for what I found to be shocking (seriously, I can't believe they're getting away with this): about two thirds of the way down the page, one of the "smears" that is reported is that Barack Obama either has had in the past or currently has some ties to the Muslim faith. That's right - apparently saying that someone is a Muslim is a smear tactic! The Obama website defiantly states: "Barack Obama is a committed Christian, not a Muslim." (emphasis on Muslim is original) Can you believe that? The Obama campaign has basically said that to be a Muslim is a sub-par, undesirable state of being, and our candidate has nothing to do with it! If I were a Muslim, I would be a tad offended!

I then followed the "Get the Facts" button and found this (I couldn't be more honest when I say that I am blown away that this was on the Obama website): "Barack Obama is a committed Christian. He was sworn into the Senate on his family Bible. He has regularly attended church with his wife and daughters for years. But shameful, shadowy attackers have been lying about Barack’s religion, claiming he is a Muslim instead of a committed Christian. When people fabricate stories about someone’s faith to denigrate them politically, that’s an attack on people of all faiths." (emphasis mine)

I couldn't believe that when I read it! Let's break that sentence in italics down: "Shameful shadowy attackers..." Apparently if someone says you're a Muslim, it's shameful. "...have been lying about Barack's religion..." This is going to sound like I'm a member of the nerdy God Squad, but I could care less if someone was slandering my religion, because everything about me (the way I live my faith) says otherwise. In other words, if anyone called me a Muslim, everyone who knew me would know that it's not true, because I follow none of the Muslim traditions. In fact, my life is a display of the Christian faith, so there's no question, and any accusation to the contrary would be meaningless. Apparently, the case is different for Barack. "...claiming that he is a Muslim instead of a committed Christian." Understand that my surprise over this whole statement isn't so much over the fact that Obama is a Muslim and/or Christian so much as it is that I can't believe that the political correctness nazis haven't crucified him over this statement and this section of his website. It is overtly anti-Muslim, and extremely "intolerant" (I use this word only for dramatic affect, not because I personally think it's intolerant - at least be consistent, liberals).

There are several other things on the "Fight the Smears" page that I found to be interesting (interesting in a roll-on-the-floor-laughing-because-they're-so-absurd sort of way. For example the fact that you have to tell people you're ok with the the pledge of allegiance is in and of itself a little odd, or that you consider water to be "ridiculous," or that there is such a thing as a "radical anti-abortionist" - is that the same thing as being "radically pro-life?" If so, sign me up).

My shock over this webpage is mostly born out of amazement that the knee-jerk society we live in today is either a) knowingly allowing this seemingly obvious religious bigotry to take place (a fact that is extremely hypocritical, if it is), or b) completely blind to it because of their undying, Messiah-like devotion to Barack Obama. Take your pick - either way is pretty scary.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Mercy of God In Accidents

My wife and I recently went to Atlanta, Georgia to attend the Deeper conference put on by Living Waters. It was a fantastic conference, and I can't wait to go again next year. Check this post for some info on the conference.

My wife wanted to fly to the conference, but I insisted that we drive for a few reasons: 1) I love to drive, especially long distances; 2) I've never been through Tennesee, and I wanted to go throug their (although, next time it would be nice to go through Tennesee in the daytime - it's hard to see any of the Blue Ridge mountains at night!); 3) I'm fat, and I don't fit into airplane seats. Thus, we made the 17 hour one way trip, leaving at about 2:30 PM on Tuesday afternoon and arriving in Canton, Georgia (the location of our hotel) at about 8:30 AM on Wednesday. The week in Georgia was a blast, as we did some sight seeing and attended the conference.

We left Canton at approximately 4:00 PM on Saturday afternoon. I drove until about 8:00 PM, and then Betsy took over until about 10:00 PM. We switched, and I volunteered to drive until 5:00 AM or so, so Betsy could sleep. And then when she took over in the early morning, I would take some time to sleep as well.

During the entire trip down to Georgia I had been seeing a lot of deer lying dead on the highway, and being October, I knew that deer were out and about, and that I needed to be wary of them being on the road. Thankfully, though, we didn't have any problems on the way down, and the trip went smoothly.

The possibility of seeing a deer was still in my mind during the return trip to Minnesota, and I devised a plan of what I would do if I were to encounter a deer on the road: I would slam on the brakes, but I would not swerve - I would rather hit a deer then swerve into the forrest on one side of the highway, or the ditch on the other. Hitting a deer is better than rolling over, or running into a tree! Unfortunately, I never got a chance for my plan to play out, becuase at approximately 2:30 in the morning during our return trip to Minnesota, we were barrelling down Highway 27 in northern Missouri, about 50 miles south of the Iowa border, and a large buck dove headlong into my left front fender. His right shoulder slammed against my headlight, completely removing it, and the rest of his body mangled my hood and bent the fender into the front left tire. His head smashed against my windshield, right in front of my face, leaving a large spot of deer saliva on the glass and cracking the windshield. When his head connected with the glass his antlers broke, and I could hear them sail over my car and land on the pavement.

The entire incident happened before I could even think about stepping on the brakes. In fact, I don't think I even touched the brake pedal until AFTER the whole ordeal had occurred. I did slam on the brakes, however, mostly out of instinct, and my car screeched to a halt over the next 100 feet, leaving black tire skid marks on the pavement.

My wife had been asleep the entire time, but woke up quite quickly, and in a bit of shock. A Missouri state trooper happened along the highway after about 5 minutes, and he and I were able to locate the dead deer in the median of the highway. If anything, I can take consolation that the deer most likely broke its neck upon impact and was killed instantly.

I've been thinking a lot about this incident - it's the first (and hopefully last) time I've ever hit a deer. Betsy and I are very blessed to have not been injured in the crash. A friend of mine in high school hit a deer once, and his windshield collapsed onto his face, breaking his nose and cutting him up very badly. Nothing of the sort happened to us, though. If anything, an event like this has shown me how God has worked in my life. That sounds kind of weird. How is obliterating a deer with my new car evidence of how God has been working in me? Believe it or not, I think this event is an evidence of God's mercy. Here are some examples of God's mercy in my life, as evidenced by this event:

1) God has been merciful by blessing Betsy and I so that we were able to afford a new car.
2) God has shown mercy by giving us loving families who were willing to care for our son while we went away.
3) God showed mercy by providing the resources we needed in order to be able to go to the Deeper conference.
4) God's mercy was evident in that we had safe travel for our trip down to the conference.
5) God blessed us by sparing us from injury in the accident.
6) Our car was not so damaged that it couldn't be driving. We were able to continue the trip without having to have the car towed.
7) God has shown mercy by making us able to afford car insurance.

This list could go on and on, and could be confined merely to this one instance. For example, I could still note that: we were able to afford some sight-seeing; we were able to afford meals on the trip; we stayed healthy during the trip; and on and on the list goes. God is merciful in so many ways that I don't even realize - there are so many things that we take for granted. The fact that I am breathing right now is evidence of the mercy of God. This is especially astounding when I think that I have done nothing to merit the mercy that God shows me. In fact, I deserve the opposite! I don't deserve a new car, good insurance, a loving family, safety, or anything!

When I think about God's mercy in this event in my life, I start to think about all the other times where God stepped in and I didn't even realize it - and they were probably much greater than this one! Bible commentator Matthew Henry knew how to see God's mercy in everything. He was once mugged and robbed, and ended up writing this in his journal: "Let me be thankful first, because I was never robbed before; second, because they took my purse and not my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed."

Granted, smashing into a deer on a highway is indeed an odd place to discover the mercy of God, but it's there. The key is to realize it and then praise him for it, which is what I'm doing.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Deeper Update

Today saw day one of the Deeper conference, and it absolutely lived up to my expectations. I was blessed by the teaching of Ray Comfort, E.Z., Johnny Hunt, Paul Washer, and Kirk Cameron. The highlights of the day came when I got to meet most of these guys (check here for some updated pics).

Here are some of the things that I was particularly impressed by:

1. Ray Comfort's straightforward message about there being NO excuse to not be involved in sharing our faith (he was much more straightforward in this message than I have seen/heard from him before), and his admonission for Christians to get over their lame excuses and get busy.

2. Although it wasn't the main point of his message, Emeal "E.Z" Zwayne got me to think about something I hadn't thought of before: the depth of Jesus' humility in the incarnation, and especially in the crucifixion. Think about it: Jesus made himself subservient to his own creation. He was not only limited by his own humanity, but he also allowed himself to be mocked by tongues that he created. He allowed himself to be slandered by brains that he had formed with his own hands. He allowed himself to be hung on a cross, made by a tree that he had fashioned. He allowed elements from the earth itself to be formed into nails that would pierce his hands. The thought of the Creator allowing his own creation to abuse him is astounding in the context of the gospel - knowing who we are and who he is.

3. Paul Washer hit it out of the park, as he usually does. I especially appreciated his breakout session, where he talked about the several problems with the four spiritual laws (I know that's a huge statement that really requires more explanation, but I don't have time right now - I'll get into it some other time!).

4. The time of worship was really incredible - just one piano and 2500 voices. Also, there were several readings throughout the singing which aided in focusing on God.

So far, the trip and the conference have been worth the 34 hour, 2100 mile round trip! I'm looking forward to day two.

All The Way To Georgia

My wife and I are on a brief excursion to the state of Georgia to attend the Deeper Conference (check out this post to learn more about Deeper. Also, NOTE: check out these pics from our trip. I'll be updating them each day as the trip continues.).

After leaving Saint Paul at 2:30 PM Tuesday afternoon, we arrived in Canton, Georgia at about 8:30 AM Wednesday morning. We slept for a good portion of the day on Wednesday and then we took the day today (Thursday) to check out a couple of Georgia's tourist offerings, and we had the opportunity to sit in on a live taping of Wretched, a TV show on the Family Network. Here's some brief info on each of our experiences today:

1. We started off the day at the Georgia Aquarium. Before coming to the aquarium, I had heard a lot about it: the fact that it's the biggest in the world, and boasts over 10,000 animals. Before going further, I should mention that I'm somewhat of an aquarium snob - I really like to visit aquariums for some reason. I find them very interesting. That being said, I was really disappointed in the Georgia Aquarium, probably for two reasons: a) it had been too hyped up to me - I was expecting to be blown away; b) I've been to other really nice aquariums, so I was expecting the Georgia Aquarium to surpass them. It didn't happen. The aquarium in Cincinnati is still tops on my list.

2. We then moved on to attend a live taping of Wretched. I was interested in this because I've been a fan of Way of the Master radio since its inception, and a fan of Todd Friel since even before that. Todd Friel used to be based in the Twin Cities, but then moved to Atlanta in order to do the TV show. A couple weeks ago, I received an email from the folks who were putting on the Deeper conference, and they offered Deeper attendees an opportunity to attend a taping of the show, and also a tour of the radio studios. We accepted. The taping was a lot of fun, and really interesting to watch. The show consisted of three segments, all of which Friel was able to film in one take each! He's very talented, creative, and humorous.

3. Our final stop of the day was at Stone Mountain - the largest tourist attraction in Georgia. Stone Mountain is an extremely large granite deposit - the largest exposed deposite on earth. And in the center of the mountain is carved a large relief of a few key Confederate Civil War generals. The relief is informally considered to be the Mt. Rushmore of the South. The Stone Mountain was absolutely amazing and awe inspiring. I was reminded of my visit to Devil's Tower in Wyoming, as the two attractions are very similar - a gigantic rock sticking up out of the ground for no apparent reason. Yeah, I know, that doesn't sound too amazing, but it really was incredible. There was also a lot of interesting Civil War information at the park.

The night was topped off by hanging out with one of my friends who has moved on to Greenville, South Carolina. Greenville is about 2 hours away from Atlanta, so we met in between and had a good time (my first, and probably last, experience at a sushi bar!)

As of right now, I have finally found some free time to post some pictures from the trip so far, and I am eagerly anticipating the start of the Deeper conference, which starts tomorrow (actually today!) at 1:00 PM. I can't wait (and then the 17 hour drive home!) Check back tomorrow for more pics of the conference.

P.S. This is the first time we've been away from the Fergeson for so long. We can't wait to see him! We're coming, Fergie!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

28 Years Closer To The Grave

It just now dawned on me that my birthday is on Saturday. It's not like I didn't know it was coming, but I just realized now that I'll soon be 28 years old. It's almost as if a light bulb went on in my head.

I've taken to measuring time - specifically years - as "(fill in the blank) years closer to the grave." For example, come this Saturday I will be 28 years closer to the grave. My wife gets mad at me and tells me I'm morbid, and to be honest, I do it partially for shock value and to get a laugh. But there's also a lot of truth in that: as of Saturday, 28 years of my life will be complete, never to be lived again. It makes one think about what he did with those 28 years...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Obama Camp

Remember this movie?

It's called Jesus camp, and it enjoyed some mild publicity and exposure when it came out a couple years ago. It was made by liberals who wanted to warn us about the dangers of religion, and the way kids in this country are educated and "indoctrinated" (a word that is misunderstood - everyone is indoctrinated with something) into believing Christianity. The only problem is that the makers of this movie chose to use an extreme, charismatic minority sect of Christianity, so the video is full of crazy people speaking in tongues. I agree with the people who made the movie: those people are weird. But to imply that this small segment of Christians represents the whole is very dishonest. The movie also makes several points about how these crazy Christians are all extreme right wing activists who are raising up an army that will kill anyone or anything who stands in their path. Take this clip from the movie for example:

I think we can all agree that the people in this movie are a) at least a little weird, and b) not reading their Bible properly. Can we agree on that? Can we agree that these folks don't represent mainstream American Christianity? Good.

Now check this out. Considering the liberal persuasion voiced by the makers of Jesus Camp, I am going to make the assumption that they support Barack Obama. I wonder if they've seen these videos:

Cute, right? Actually I thought it was just as creepy as those Jesus Camp clips (especially the choir director - creepy!) Now take a look at this one to get a more militant view of the Obama "indoctrination" (hey, that's what it is, right?):

Notice any similarities between the Obama clips and the Jesus Camp clips? They look pretty similar to me: they're both full of wackos.