Thursday, December 30, 2010

Swagger Wagon

For over a decade we drove our little family everywhere in a 1997 Dodge Caravan that we nick-named "Moby" (guess what color it was.) This is for you Moby, long may you run, long may you run...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Why We Worship the Way We Do

Several years ago our session of elders read and was profoundly challenged and encouraged by a book called "The Lord's Service" by Jeffrey Myers. The book is a biblical rationale for a form of worship that Myers' calls "covenant renewal." In the five minute video (below) Pastor Doug Wilson briefly explains the essence of the covenant renewal pattern. And then farther below is an excerpt from our weekly bulletin explaining the same.

Covenant Renewal Worship from Canon Wired on Vimeo.



The essence of true worship is covenant renewal. Lord’s Day worship is a time when God reaffirms His covenant relation to His people, communing with, informing and transforming them, and then re-sending them into the world in order to remake the world after the heavenly priorities, patterns and protocols revealed to them in God’s presence.

The rhythm of worship is antiphonal: Throughout the service, God speaks to us and we respond.

The mode of worship is spiritual and incarnational: We worship God with our spirits, our hands, and our voices, employing various appropriate bodily postures.

Call to worship: God comes near and calls His people out of the world to gather in His presence. He graciously takes hold of us and brings us near to Himself

Confession and Forgiveness: God reminds us what He has done for us in Christ and declares His interest in restoring us again to His favor in Christ. We confess our sins and God absolves us of guilt. God graciously reminds us that we bear the name Christian and are members of His family in Christ. He tears us from our old sinful ways and renews His love for us in Christ.

Consecration: God speaks to us through his Word read, sung and preached. We, His people, respond by giving ourselves and our gifts as fitting offerings.

Communion: God invites us to commune with Him at His Table, and we respond by memorializing His covenant and enjoying His faithful provisions at the family feast.

Commission and Benediction: God blesses us and charges us to extend His kingdom into the future and into the world, making disciples of all nations. We are dismissed from God's special presence, transformed, renewed and equipped for this task.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Extravagant Mercy

Although it is right and good for us to note and be thankful for God's special kindness to His people over the millennia, we should also be careful to note and marvel at God's common kindness to those who hate Him and His ways. As Jesus reminded us in the Sermon on the Mount, our heavenly Father "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."

Christians afflicted by the "Last Days Madness" hype of our day tend to ignore or downplay the data presented in the video below because it doesn't support their "countdown to Armageddon" scenarios. Liberals likewise ignore or downplay the same data because it decreases the perceived need for more and more government intervention.

The gifts of longevity and wealth are not to be confused with the blessings of divine forgiveness and eternal life. However, that said, we should gratefully acknowledge both the gifts and the giver just the same. Enjoy.



"Pretty neat, huh?"

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mr. Etiquette-Person



Dear Mr. Etiquette-Person, When someone informs you that they are "courting", what is the proper response?

Wondering in Wenatchee


Dear Wondering, Before I suggest what you should say, let me begin by indicating what you should not say: "Congratulations!" Given that the commencement of courtship is merely the beginning of a process, it's a bit premature to congratulate someone for doing so. It's kind of like congratulating a race-car driver for starting his engine before the big race ("Hey Jimmie Johnson, good job!!!") Better to say something like, "Thanks for letting us know, we'll be praying for you" and save the congratulations for the the announcement of the engagement.

MEP


Dear Mr. Etiquette-Person, Then why did you "congratulate" a couple last evening when you heard that they were courting?

Still Wondering in Wenatchee



Dear SWiW, Because I am, as the Monty Python troupers were fond of saying, "a silly person."

MEP

Monday, November 22, 2010

Especially Eternal Suffering



From John Piper’s address to the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization:

"One truth is that when the gospel takes root in our souls it impels us out toward the alleviation of all unjust suffering in this age. That’s what love does!

The other truth is that when the gospel takes root in our souls it awakens us to the horrible reality of eternal suffering in hell, under the wrath of a just and omnipotent God. And it impels us to rescue the perishing, and to warn people to flee from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10).

I plead with you. Don’t choose between those two truths. Embrace them both. It doesn’t mean we all spend our time in the same way. God forbid. But it means we let the Bible define reality and define love.

Could Lausanne say—could the evangelical church say—we Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering? I hope we can say that. But if we feel resistant to saying “especially eternal suffering,” or if we feel resistant to saying “we care about all suffering in this age,” then either we have a defective view of hell or a defective heart.

I pray that Lausanne would have neither."

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

International Security Threat Levels



•The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats, and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved”. Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross”. The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940, when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance”. The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

•The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let’s get the Bastards”. They don’t have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

•The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide”. The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender”. The rise as precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France’s white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country’s military capability.

•Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing”. Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides”.

•The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs”. They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbor” and “Lose”.

•Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

•The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

•Canada doesn’t have any alert levels.

•New Zealand has raised its security levels – from “baaa” to “BAAAA”. Because of continuing defense cutbacks, New Zealand has only one more level of escalation, which is “I hope Australia will come and rescue us”.

•Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from “No worries” to “She’ll be alright, mate”. Three more escalation levels remain: “Crikey!”, “I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend” and “The barbie is cancelled”. So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.
(From the website The Whole Garden Will Bow)

HT: Samuel Stephen Thomas

Way Back Home

Here is a new short film featuring the skills of the amazing Danny MacAskill. Sit back an enjoy the beautiful Scottish vistas, stirring Celtic music and plenty of "How the heck does he do that?"-street-biking-meets-scenic-Scotland. Amazing. Really.



(HT: Ken Johnson)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What God is Up to When Life is Hard



In Knowing God (p. 97, my emphases) J. I. Packer writes about how to understand the “unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things” that happen to us. What do they mean?

"Simply that God in his wisdom means to make something of us which we have not attained yet, and he is dealing with us accordingly."

Then Packer ponders the possible purposes God might have in mind for you:

"Perhaps he means to strengthen us in patience, good humor, compassion, humility, or meekness, by giving us some extra practice in exercising these graces under especially difficult conditions.

Perhaps he has new lessons in self-denial and self-distrust to teach us.

Perhaps he wishes to break us of complacency, or unreality, or undetected forms of pride and conceit.

Perhaps his purpose is simply to draw us closer to himself in conscious communion with him; for it is often the case, as all the saints know, that fellowship with the Father and the Son is most vivid and sweet, and Christian joy is greatest, when the cross is heaviest. . . .

Or perhaps God is preparing us for forms of service of which at present we have no inkling."

He goes on:

"We may be frankly bewildered at things that happen to us, but God knows exactly what he is doing, and what he is after, in his handling of our affairs.

Always, and in everything, he is wise: we shall see that hereafter, even where we never saw it here. . . .

Meanwhile, we ought not to hesitate to trust his wisdom, even when he leaves us in the dark."

But how should we respond to baffling and trying situations when cannot now see God’s purpose in them?

"First, by taking them as from God, and asking ourselves what reactions to them, and in them, the gospel of God requires of us;

second, by seeking God’s face specifically about them."

“If we do these two things,” Packer writes, “we shall never find ourselves wholly in the dark as to God’s purpose in our troubles.”

(Justin Taylor)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Mark of Unction



"When the unction of God is upon the preacher of Word, people will go away saying, not "What a great preacher!" but rather, "Truly God is in this place! How great and glorious He is!" (Eric Alexander in What is Biblical Preaching?)

Grace is Wild



"In this congregation, you have heard much about the grace of God. But when you hear much of anything, it is easy for that word to become a theological buzz word—the grace of God is just one of those Bible phrases, right? And since we all think we know what the Bible is about, we just drop into our moralistic groove and go.

But grace is wild. Grace unsettles everything. Grace overflows the banks. Grace messes up your hair. Grace is not tame. Grace makes the pious begin to fear the evils of antinomianism. And this is an ungrounded fear, but unless we are making the devout nervous, we are not preaching grace as we ought.

Grace liberates us from guilt, and enables us to live before God as we ought to, in accordance with His law, simply because we want to. The law is inscribed on our hearts, and not on the tablets of stone, over there. More than that, grace liberates us from false guilt, from the lying standards of the devil, concocted to provide you with perpetual torment. Let me give just one example.

An American woman who is happy about her weight is as rare as a comet. If she lives guilt-free concerning what she eats, she is a rare specimen. If that one woman is here this morning, she can ignore the rest of this . . . but for the rest of you, listen to the grace of God. Hear these words from God. God the Father doesn’t care that you weigh that extra 15 pounds. Neither does the Holy Spirit. Jesus doesn’t care about that ten pounds either. Not even a little bit. If God cared about this, He would have put something about it in the Bible. Well, if He doesn’t care, who does? Well, the devil does. He loves to accuse. All those boney women in the clothes catalogs care—they wouldn’t be sneering that way at you if they didn’t care. All those women’s magazine at the supermarket care—why can’t you be made out of bones and silicon? What could be more natural?

If we fear the Lord, we will listen to His Word. And when we listen, we hear words of grace." (Douglas Wilson)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Maia the Mountain Dog II


I took Maia the Mountain Dog out to explore a new trail today. The trail is a part of the Sage Hills trail system and is a wonderful addition to an already great place to ride. Here are some pics if you are interested.

Snomobikin'

We just had to give it one more try, but instead of mountain-biking, we wound up snomobiking. Have a nice winter Horselake Mountain Road. So-long Stairway to Heaven. Bye-bye Bermuda Triangle. See-ya Suspendend in Paradise. It's been real, Road Rage. See y'all next spring!



Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Pansy Pastors



If we persist in feminizing the qualifications for ministers (empathetic, emotion-driven, sweet, caring, nurturing, etc.) we will very soon find ourselves in the awkward situation where women (according to our unbiblical definition of the office) are more qualified than men to serve as ministers. The ranks of the weepy, cardigan-wearing empaths do seem to be waxing even as the "Sons of Thunder" are waning. Too bad. So how do we get out of this mess? Douglas Wilson opines:

"If we recognize that the Word of God not only excludes women from becoming women ministers, but also excludes men from becoming women ministers as well, we will be on the road to recovery." (Why Ministers Must Be Men, p. 43)

Must Ministers Be Men?



Athanasius Press has an excellent little series of books called "Answers in an Hour." In their latest offering in the series, Douglas Wilson tackles the thorny issue of women in ordained ministry in his book entitled, Why Ministers Must Be Men.

Wilson notes that Paul, following the tradition of the Old Testament, fully sanctioned women "prophesying" while firmly denying them the prerogative to sit in judgment (diakrino) of the prophesies spoken in the first century worship services. And from this concludes:

"The issue is prophecy, not women. The thing that Scripture so plainly describes women doing (declaring inspired words of God) is something that we don't find men doing today either. Women are not excluded from this while men keep right on going. The Scriptures are now complete, and what only men could do in the first century is what only men can do now." (WMMBM, p. 32)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Maia the Mountain Dog



Taking Mondays off works well for my weekly routine, but it usually means that I'm riding alone in the foothills of Wenatchee. But, it looks like I might have a new mountain-bike-buddy: Maia the Mountain Dog.

The first time I took her with me, she waited for me as I chugged uphill and I waited for her as we zoomed downhill. Maia's FTFPD (Full-Time-Four-Paw-Drive) is much more efficient than my OMOWD (Old-Man-One-Wheel-Drive.)

But today, Maia led both uphill and downhill. Even at the very end of the three-hour ride she still had enough energy to chase "squirrels" off trail, bounding through the brush like an antelope . Here are a few pics if you're interested.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Kevin Bacon at New St. Andrews

Okay, admittedly I'm some sort of NSA "insider-geek." I knew personally the first four graduates of NSA, I have 2 1/4 children who graduated from this college, and I sat on the NSA board of trustees for 3 years. So I cannot gage whether or not anyone else will enjoy this short film. But I chortled and laughed my way through the whole enchilada. More, more, more!.........

Friday, November 05, 2010

True Gospel Preaching

"The Reformation was a revival of true gospel preaching, and such gospel preaching always comes down to the point of decision. Good preaching is aimed at the will; all good preaching aims at conversion. If the people are not converted, they need to be. If they are, then a message aiming at true conversion will encourage them, not beat them up. As Luther put it, we are called to a lifetime of repentance.

Good preaching reminds every Christian soul that we live before the God who sees and knows the heart, and who will sift those hearts in the great day of judgment. The problem arises when the need for true conversion is moved from the declaration of the gospel to the membership interview. The former declares the truth with the understanding that only God can see the heart. The latter, in the name of God seeing the heart, pretends that the minister and elders can see the heart." (Douglas Wilson)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Center of True Preaching

"If we are truly to understand Christian preaching, we must see Jesus Christ as its center. First we must see Jesus as the fulfillment of generations of preaching and teaching that went before him, and second we must see Jesus as the type, or perhaps prototype, of generations of preaching that have followed him. He is both the pattern of preaching and the gospel to be preached" (Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures, Vol. 1, p. 8)

HT: Doug Wilson

Our Crafty Adversary



"Of course Satan can attack but never ultimately destroy true Christian faith, because we are preserved by grace. Therefore he seeks to destroy our enjoyment of the grace of God. In this, sadly, he frequently succeeds." (Sinclair Ferguson, By Grace Alone)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Doing Badly

"Anything worth doing, is worth doing badly." (G.K. Chesterton)



The really worthwhile endeavors in life are not mastered immediately. Painting (see above), lovemaking, singing, beer-making, writing, conversation, witnessing, bible-reading, etc. are all acquired skills that require persistent effort (and many failures along the way) to do them well.

Chesterton is not arguing for mediocrity in anything, but rather wants us to have permission to fail repeatedly on our way to proficiency, excellence and joy in all things "worth doing."

P.S. There is actually a website called "The Museum of Bad Art" subtitled "Art too bad to be ignored." The site is true to its name, but, to misquote Janet Jackson, "What have you done for [art] lately?"

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Sad Little Charade

Here is a four-minute video, without words, presenting a romantic view of life without God and with nothing beyond the grave, which, to me begs the question: "How do unbelievers get out of bed in the morning?"

Fallen from Sascha Geddert on Vimeo.



Similarly, around the turn of the 20th century the famous atheist Bertrand Russel wrote:

"Such, in outline, but even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world which Science presents for our belief. Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals henceforward must find a home.

That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins — all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.

Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built."


Praise be to God, we are saved, not only from sin and death, but also from purposelessness and the sad little self-deceiving charade of importing (read: "fabricating") meaning into our otherwise meaningless lives. Soli deo gloria!

HT: Justin Taylor

Friday, October 15, 2010

When Writing About Those With Whom You Disagree



Here is a link to a post whose leaven I pray, by the grace of God, works its way through the entire loaf of Christendom.

HT: Jim Saemens

Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Beast of Revelation Identified

The first few segments of this extended series of Youtube videos are a little cheesy, but interesting nonetheless. But when the series finally gets to Dr. Kenneth Gentry's address at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, FL, the content and presentation turn rock solid. I attended this very conference with Josh Appel in 1999 and had a fun time watching the Christians around me unfamiliar with the "Post-mill" paradigm listen to and process Dr. Gentry's arguments. Enjoy.(To listen to the rest of the segments go to YouTube.com and type in "The Beast of Revelation Identified.")

Alas and Did My Savior Die

After Jason and Aileen's wedding down in Enterprise, OR, some of us Trinity saints stayed around long enough on Sunday to worship with our CREC brethren at Christ Covenant Church. For the communion music we were introduced to the music ministry of Nathan Clark George. Below is a sample. Enjoy.



HT: Justin Taylor

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Keller Ferry Kampin'



When our kids were growing up, we camped at Keller Ferry for eight-or-ten years running with the Aumell family. After a hiatus of five-or-six years we decided to do a "reunion campout" this fall. As always, we had a wonderful time. If you are interested, here are a few pics.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Fruitful Labor



"For to me mto live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell." (Philippians 1:21-22)

Although Paul was desirous to be "absent from the body and present with the Lord" he in no way despised his time on earth and fully understood his duty to make good use of it. Echoing Paul's thoughts, Richard Baxter (1615-1691), wrote this:

"We are members of the world of of the Church, and must labor to do good to many; and therefore we have greater work to do on earth than merely securing our own salvation. We are entrusted with our Master's talents for His service, to do our best in our places, to propagate His truth and grace, to edify His Church, honor His cause, and promote the salvation of as many souls as we can. All this is to be done on earth, if we would secure the end of all in heaven." (Richard Baxter, Dying Thoughts, pg. 5)

Amen, brother Baxter.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Not a Rock, Nor an Island



Paul Simon was wrong. We are neither rocks nor islands and do feel the pain of isolation. Toby Sumpter has well crafted paragraph on the communal aspect of salvation that you can read here. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Atheists Don't Have No Songs

In these days of culutrual decline, it's a constant temptation to forget the Church's enormous contribution to the world of art. But thankfully the Lord delights, occasionally, to raise up someone who denies God's existence in order to remind God's people that He does indeed exist, and is actively blessing His creation (including those who hate Him) with music and song, poetry and hymnody. Go figure.

Favorite lines:
"Born-again sing 'He is risen', but no one ever wrote a tune for godless existentialism."
"Catholics dress-up for Mass and listen to Gregorian chants. Atheists just take a pass, watch football in their underpants."



HT: Doug Wilson/Nathaniel Carswell

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Common Sense vs Learned Reason

"We have elevated common sense above learned reason. Magazine editors and network executives make writers cut references and words they think most people won't know - even though everybody has Wikipedia. We are becoming a country that believes the rich have earned their money but the well educated have not earned their intellectual superiority. This leads to a nation that idolizes the Kardashians." (Joel Stein in Time Magazine August 23, 2010)

Stein is commenting on society in general, but his observation applies easily to the Church as well. When entering in to discussions about liturgy, music, missions, preaching/teaching and community we would all do well to discern whether our current position on the current consideration is an unstudied-prejudice or a studied-conviction. And then, and only then, enter into the debate with a modesty befitting our actual understanding of the issue.

Stein continues, "Yes, it's unfair that much of our future is determined by what we did in high school, as if we were some Soviet Olympic team. But until we come up with a better system, if I have brain surgery, I want it done by a doctor who went to an amazing medical school. Just like I want my Brazilian jujitsu instructor to have a red belt, my prisoners of war to be rescued by a Navy Seal and my technical support phone operator to speak passable English. In fact, I wish more jobs had clear forms of elitism. Specifically, building contractors."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tronson Ridge Trial



My son Jason dropped Doug and me off at the Mission Ridge parking lot at 6:30am. From there we biked west on the Liberty-Beehive Road, north along the Tronson Ridge Trail, up and down Sand Hill, up Peavine Canyon and then down No. 2 Canyon to Wenatchee. Thirty-seven miles of breathtaking vistas, a gain of 5800 vertical feet, one gi-normous rattlesnake and 8 1/2 hours of good company and edifying conversation.

This was definitely a "bucket-list" ride. For several years I've been admiring Tronson Ridge from the east and wondering what it would be like to ride down the trail that follows its spine. About half-way down Tronson Ridge, Doug and I agreed that we would encourage some of our friends to ride this trail, but only the ones that we don't very much like.



As we were descending the east side of Sand Hill Doug was (as usual) a minute or two ahead of me. As I zoomed down the track I had to stop suddenly to avoid running over a rattlesnake that was coiled up in the middle of the two-foot wide path. The serpent showed no signs of moving on so I hiked my bike through some sticker-bushes to get around him. I caught up to Doug a few minutes later he asked me why I was delayed. When I showed him a picture of the rattler he grinned and said, "Oh yeah, I just bunny-hopped* that." (Sheesh!)



If you're interested you can see the whole buncha pictures here.

*Definition of "bunny-hop": Some mountain-bikers (like Doug) ride clipped into, i.e. attached to, their pedals and can, by throwing the weight of their torsos upward, "hop" their bikes one-to-two feet in the air as the hurtle down the trail.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Music, Poetry, and Prose

(Exodus 15:2) The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

The Creator God of the universe has a very intimate and fundamental relationship with music. Note that Moses and the children of Israel did not declare "The LORD inspires my singing." No, they sang, "The LORD is my song." If this is true (and it is) then Peter Kreeft's statement (see below) cannot be construed as mere hyperbole.

"Music is not ornamented poetry, and poetry is not ornamented prose.
Poetry is fallen music, and prose is fallen poetry.
Prose is not the original language; it is poetry made practical.
Even poetry is not the original language; it is music made speakable, it is the words of music separated from their music.
In the beginning was music."
(Peter Kreeft, The Philosophy of Tolkien, p. 162.)

HT: Justin Taylor

Pop Tarts

As someone who grew up eating this food-like substance, I really enjoy the quote and video below. Can I get a witness?

"There’s a new Pop-Tarts cafĂ© opening in Times Square. Finally, a way to enjoy Pop-Tarts without the hassle of making them myself." (Jimmy Fallon)

Friday, August 06, 2010

Now Unto Jehovah (Psalm 29)

This is a test. I just discovered a nifty little tool for sharing original music called "Sound Cloud." In theory, you'll be able to listen to a track off my CD, "Thy Rod and Thy Staff." Now Unto Jehovah (Psalm 29) by ghelsel

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Frodo and Me

"A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." (King Solomon)



Most Mondays I take a longer than usual bike-ride up into the hills above Wenatchee. About two-thirds of the way up there is a rock upon which I like to sit, reflect and pray through events and conversation of the previous week and to begin praying for the events and conversations of the coming week. At some point, surrounded by the handiwork of Yahweh, I am quite regularly "undone" by the greatness of God's grace to me, and the huge accumulation of divine blessings that keep pouring into my life despite my ongoing sin and rebellion.

And somewhere near the top of that wholly undeserved "heap-o-blessings" are the cadre of friends that I have at Trinity Church who are aptly represented in the words of Merry (below.) My cup runneth over. May the Lord grant me grace to be the same for them.



“It does not seem that I can trust anyone,” said Frodo.

“It all depends on what you mean,” put in Merry. “You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin–to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours–closer than you yourself keep it. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo. Anyway: there it is. We know most of what Gandalf has told you. We know a good deal about the ring. We are horribly afraid–but we are coming with you; or following you like hounds.”

–J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (Houghton Mifflin 1994), 103

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Keith Getty on Writing Hymns



Keith Getty is the co-author of one of my favorite modern hymns: In Christ Alone. Here are his thoughts on the disciplines and purposes of hymn-writing and congregational singing.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Communion Hymn



Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away,
Slain for us: and we remember
The promise made that all who come in faith
Find forgiveness at the cross.

So we share in this Bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice,
As a sign of our bonds of peace
Around the table of the King.

The body of our Savior, Jesus Christ,
Torn for you: eat and remember
The wounds that heal, the death that brings us life,
Paid the price to make us one.

The blood that cleanses every stain of sin,
Shed for you: drink and remember
He drained death’s cup that all may enter in
To receive the life of God.

And so with thankfulness and faith
We rise to respond: and to remember.
Our call to follow in the steps of Christ
As His body here on earth.

As we share in His suffering,
We proclaim: Christ will come again!
And we’ll join in the feast of heaven
Around the table of the King.

Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn), Stuart Townend, Keith and Kristyn Getty (copyright 2007 Thankyou Music)

HT: Justin Taylor

Monday, July 26, 2010

At the Crossroads (Reasons for moving on to another church)



As the pastor of a church both populated by people who have left other churches, and depopulated by people who have left to attend other churches, I really appreciate the wisdom of this article by Jason Helopoulos which you can read here.

HT: Justin Taylor

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Book Review: What Is Worship Music?

What Is Worship Music?: Basics of the Faith SeriesWhat Is Worship Music?: Basics of the Faith Series by Paul S. Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


In this excellent and pithy little booklet, Paul Jones begins by outlining the twin problems underlying and provoking the “worship wars” of our time: A failure to study and apply the biblical principles regarding worship music, and consumerism:

“Worship music is at the center of controversy, being one of the most divisive issues in the church, as it has been for decades. Somehow we have come to define worship services almost exclusively on the basis of musical style. "Contemporary," "traditional," "blended," or "classical" worship services receive their labels from the type of music included and that music's accoutrements, which can run the gamut from liturgical robes and pipe organs to flip-flops and digital drum sets. While legitimate differences exist in the music of various people groups, the postmodern church has tended toward "pop" culture as its pragmatic answer for music, and toward youth pop culture in particular. I fear that this is an enormous mistake. We need to be following biblical principles for worship music, not the world, youth culture, or ideas based on mistaken notions of success.
In some places, biblical worship principles are entirely ignored; in many others, they have not been thoroughly explored...”

“Consumerism tells us that if we are "paying" we should get what we want. So congregational factions and individuals wrestle for equal representation or dominance, to ensure that their musical desires are satisfied in the church where they are "customers," whether or not they are members. Trained church musicians are frequently forced to take liberal church posts to survive because conservative churches, by and large, do not value, hire, or support them. Amateurs end up leading worship music when and where they should not, sometimes by default, sometimes by design.
The result: church music is adrift in a sea of trends, being blown about by the wind of every opinion, regardless of how modestly informed these may be.” (pp. 5-7)

Jones then introduces the threefold structure of the booklet with yet another call to base our conclusions about worship music on what the Bible says regarding such:

“Based on biblical evidence, music properly fulfills three roles in the context of worship: praise, prayer, and proclamation. Praise is the lauding of God for his acts sand attributes, acknowledging his supremacy in all things. Prayer is communication addressed to God. Proclamation encompasses any activity that proclaims the Word of God - quotation, explanation, teaching, and preaching. Praise, prayer, and proclamation are the roles of psalmody and hymnody, of vocal music and instrumental music. They extend to congregation and choir, to layperson and minister; to organist and guitarist. And when worship music is properly fulfilling these roles according to biblical principles, discord dissipates, unity increases, and the Spirit utilizes music for its highest purpose, for man's chief purpose - to glorify the triune God.
For our worship music to be biblical, it must find its themes, principles, and qualities in Scripture. Careful consideration and implementation of what God has revealed will correct aberrations in practice. This short volume seeks to interact with biblical evidence concerning music in order to arrive at biblical principles for the local church.” (pg. 7)

If Jones is right, and “church music is adrift in a sea of trends, being blown about by the wind of every opinion, regardless of how modestly informed these may be” then this little booklet is a good start towards getting church music anchored once more in the truth of God’s Word.


View all my reviews >>

Book Review: Last Call

Last Call: The Rise and Fall of ProhibitionLast Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


What do the rise of feminism, pietism, socialism, The Klan, xenophobia (the irrational fear of people from other places), Henry Ford, nativism, income tax, organized crime, "big-brother" and big government have in common? As Daniel Okrent cogently and very entertainingly explains: The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibiting the manufacture and sale of "intoxicating beverages" in the USA, or "Prohibition" for short.

Okrent's insights regarding the rise and fall of prohibition are lucid and informative, and his prose is colorful and eminently readable. Would that all history books were this enjoyable to read!

The chapters on Wayne Wheeler were worth the price of the book alone. Wayne Wheeler who once wielded more influence upon both houses of Congress than any individual or PAC before or since his "reign" as the director of the "Anti Saloon League."

View all my reviews >>

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Andy McKee

As they say, "Scratch a guitarist, and you'll find a frustrated drummer." Enjoy.



HT: Russell Woods

Twenty-nine and Counting...

Twenty-nine years ago on July 11th, Ellen and I pledged our love and commitment to one another. And for twenty-nine years God has granted us the grace to make good on our vows. Soli deo gloria!



To celebrate our first 29 years together we got away for a night at Desert Canyon, a brunch at Blueberry Hill and a day on Lake Chelan with our buddies Tom and Karen. Truly our cups runneth over! Here are a few pics if you're interested.

Summer Fun...

Bekah grabbin' some big air...


David grindin' the wake...


Scraggly old dude pretending to wakeboard...


Danielle staying dry and looking good...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

C. S. Lewis on "Ordinate Love"

"He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." (Jesus)

“[Sensual love] ceases to be a devil when it ceases to be a god. So many things—nay every real thing—is good if only it will be humble and ordinate.” (C.S. Lewis from a 1940 letter)

“When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. Insofar as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.” (C.S. Lewis from a 1952 letter)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Marks of the Messenger



Mack Stiles ends his excellent book with this, "Evangelism is not a duty to perform. It's a privilege we're granted. The privilege is ours. The greatest thing about evangelism is that we get to do it - you and me. Somehow the great Creator God allows us - protoplasmic specks in the universe - to partner with Him in His grand design. It's a wonder and a mystery. To be healthy - really healthy - not just in evangelism, but in all our spiritual life, is to have a glimpse of what it means to take hold of that privilege in faith, with truth, through love, and in boldness and faithfulness to the praise of His glorious grace."

Most books on evangelism focus on the content of the message and practical helps in sharing the Gospel. Stiles touches on both of these aspects, but emphasizes the need to live out the Gospel in Gospel-esqe community before attempting to share the Gospel.

The subtitle says it all: "Knowing, Living and Speaking the Gospel."

For those already eager to share their faith with others, and for those who are lacking motivation to do so, I would heartily recommend this pithy little book.

Counseling 101

"Most people's problems are just a failure to be oriented to the Gospel - a failure to grasp and believe it through and through." (Richard Lovelace)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Acts 30 Network


(L to R: Terry Tollefson, me, Ben Alexander, Doug Wilson, Toby Sumpter, Jay Barfield and Alan Burrow )

The Knox Presbytery of the CREC (of which I am currently the presiding minister) recently gathered in Moscow, Idaho for a couple of days of worship, feasting and roundtable discussions. Although we missed our brethren who could not join us, we still had a thoroughly enjoyable and edifying time. I count it a great privilege to call these men my co-laborers in this small corner of Christ's vineyard.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I'm Late, I'm late, for a very important date...



First a quote from Christian Mathematician/Philosopher Blaise Pascal: "I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room."

Ouch.

Now, here is Peter Kreeft’s restatements and commentary on Pascal's observation (more ouch):

"We ought to have much more time, more leisure, than our ancestors did, because technology, which is the most obvious and radical difference between their lives and ours, is essentially a series of time-saving devices.

In ancient societies, if you were rich you had slaves to do the menial work so that you could be freed to enjoy your leisure time. Life was like a vacation for the rich because the poor slaves were their machines. . . .

[But] now that everyone has slave-substitutes (machines), why doesn’t everyone enjoy the leisurely, vacationy lifestyle of the ancient rich? Why have we killed time instead of saving it? . . .

We want to complexify our lives. We don’t have to, we want to. We wanted to be harried and hassled and busy. Unconsciously, we want the very things we complain about. For if we had leisure, we would look at ourselves and listen to our hearts and see the great gaping hold in our hearts and be terrified, because that hole is so big that nothing but God can fill it.

So we run around like conscientious little bugs, scared rabbits, dancing attendance on our machines, our slaves, and making them our masters. We think we want peace and silence and freedom and leisure, but deep down we know that this would be unendurable to us, like a dark and empty room without distractions where we would be forced to confront ourselves. . .

If you are typically modern, your life is like a mansion with a terrifying hole right in the middle of the living-room floor. So you paper over the hole with a very busy wallpaper pattern to distract yourself. You find a rhinoceros in the middle of your house. The rhinoceros is wretchedness and death. How in the world can you hide a rhinoceros? Easy: cover it with a million mice. Multiple diversions." (Peter Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans, Pascal’s Pensees Edited, Outlined, and Explained)

HT: Justin Taylor

Men, Men, Men, Men...



HT: Russell Woods

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Narnian Cosomology

As a lifelong fan of Narnia, the first time I heard Michael Ward's theories about Lewis' children's tales I thought to myself, "He's on something." However, the more I read and consider Ward's thesis, the more I find myself thinking, "He's onto something." Enjoy.



HT: Andrew Peterson

Goodnight



Death is not, as we so often hear these days, "a part of life." Death is an enemy. But it is, praise God, a defeated enemy as the hymn below reminds us. I strongly encourage you to listen to Matthew Smith's hauntingly beautiful arrangement of this old German hymnn here as you (yes, you) prepare for the inevitable "glorious defeat" that all of us will one day experience for a time. Enjoy.

Goodnight
I journey forth rejoicing
From this dark vale of tears,
To heavenly joy and freedom,
From earthly bonds and fears;
Where Christ our Lord shall gather
All His redeemed again,
His kingdom to inherit.
Goodnight, goodnight till then!

Why thus so sadly weeping,
Beloved ones of my heart?
The Lord is good and gracious,
Though now He bids us part.
Oft have we met in gladness.
And we shall meet again,
All sorrow left behind us.
Goodnight, goodnight till then!

I go to see His glory,
Whom we have loved below:
I go, the blessed angels,
The holy saints to know.
Our lovely ones departed,
I go to find again,
And wait for you to join us.
Goodnight, goodnight till then!

I hear the Saviour calling,
The joyful hour has come:
The angel guards are ready
To guide me to our home,
Where Christ our Lord shall gather
All His redeemed again,
His kingdom to inherit.
Goodnight, goodnight till then!

HT: Justin Taylor

Happy Independence Day!



HT: Justin Taylor

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Merritt Lake

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!




Here are some pictures from a recent hike in to Merritt Lake, just east of Stevens Pass. The picture of Josiah is from our two-night stay at Merritt Lake some eighteen years ago.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

"Father, have I done something wrong?"



(1 Corinthians 11:28-29) But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

Some time ago, one of our church families with young children was out of town for the weekend and wound up worshipping at a church in the town where they were visiting friends. The church with whom they worshipped do not practice paedo-communion, and therefore were the small children not served the bread and wine of the Lord’s Table. The littlest saint in this family was very disturbed to see the elements pass by him and he began to cry plaintively. And after both bread and wine had passed by these dear ones who have grown wonderfully accustomed to weekly communion, one of them turned to her parents and queried pitifully, “Father, have I done something wrong?”

This little one’s question demonstrated that she understood the meaning and import of the Lord’s Table even better than the elders who had excluded her from the Table. She correctly knew herself to be a genuine member of Christ’s body with all of its attendant duties and privileges. And she also rightly understood that the only biblical ground for being excluded; in other words, ex-communionated; (i.e. excommun-icated); would be serious sin in a hardened state of impenitence. And so her question, “Father, have I done something wrong?”

This little saint’s query evidenced that she was in perfect accord with Paul’s command to rightly “discern the Lord’s body.” She was recognizing the body of Christ seated all around her, and herself as a bona-fide member in good standing of that body. And hence her legitimate distress regarding her apparent severing from the body of her Savior. And hence her eagerness to know and repent of any misdeeds in order to be restored to her people, her Lord and the glad fellowship of his Table.

This covenant meal, this feast of feasts was intended to strengthen, not sap faith; to encourage belief, not erode it. So come young and old, come male and female; come red, yellow, black and white (all precious in the Savior’s sight) come healthy and come infirm; come sound of mind and struggling; come strong and come weak, so long as you…"Come and welcome to the Table of Our Lord."

Friday, July 02, 2010

Seeker Sensitive? You Bet!



(Romans 3:10-12) As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

I am occasionally asked if Trinity Church is a “seeker sensitive church”, and I always respond enthusiastically that we are indeed such, but then immediately add that I would like the opportunity to define the term “seeker” from God’s Word.

According to Paul’s letter to the Romans there is not a single son-of-Adam or daughter-of-Eve that could legitimately be called a seeker of God. Note Paul’s use of the superlative, “There is none that seeketh after God.” Although we would very much like to flatter our race, and more specifically ourselves with the notion that we are all to some degree seeking after God and ultimate truth, God’s Word is painfully and contrarily clear on this score, “There is none that seeketh after God.”

But if that is the case (and it is) then how can Trinity Church be a seeker sensitive church? How can we truly we be mindful of, sensitive to, and catering to the tastes and desires of seekers if there are none? Well, although there are no seekers in the line of Adam, the Scriptures do identify One who truly seeks: the second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to what he says about himself and his mission in Luke’s Gospel: “This day is salvation come to this house… For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Jesus is the seeker, as are all who have been united to him by faith. But our seeking is the fruit of our union with Christ, not the cause of it. And so, regenerated by his Holy Spirit, we evidence our new life, not by kowtowing to the whims and fancies of men who hate God, but rather, by ordering ourselves, our worship and indeed our very lives according to the desires and dictates of him who saved us by his blood. For he sought us and bought us while we were yet sinners, and yet without the strength to pursue him (Romans 5:6ff).

"And me, and me!" (A Communion Meditation)



(Matthew 18:2-3) And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Some time ago, in The LORD’s Service of one of our sister-churches, a wee-toddler; a small girl barely over a year old, saw the bread being distributed during this Supper, and began cheerfully saying, "And me. And me."

This is something we all need to learn how to say, because it is right at the heart of biblical faith. This is the child-like approach that Jesus required of us. It is relatively easy to believe propositions in the third person. Jesus died for sinners, and there are certainly sinners out there. They do this and that. God has elected certain sinners for salvation, and they certainly are blessed. They have come to Christ in truth, and have responded to the Word in faith. They are true believers, and we are glad for them.

This is all true enough, and quite proper to say. But we need to grow in the kind of faith that knows how to intrude itself. Christ died for sinners, the preacher says. "And me", you say. This is my body which is broken for you, the minister declares. "And me", you say to yourself, anchoring the point. This is the cup of the new testament, which is for the remission of the sins for many. And me.

But we do not stop there. Once we are assured that, yes, this includes the referent of “and me”, we learn to rest in this, growing in faith, and we learn to look around. I am not the only one. God has been kind to us, and I am only here as one of His people. It is not just me, but and me. This is for all the saints, not one solitary person. This is for all the saints gathered in this room. And… me.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Women Working Outside the Home

On the issue of "women working outside the home" we (the Church) seem to spend a lot of time running in the ditches on either side of the path prescribed by God's Word. We either allow/encourage our wives/moms to pursue their own careers outside and irrespective of their homes, or we insist that any-and-all womanly work outside the domicile is prohibited by God and thereby to be abhorred and avoided at all costs.

Pastor Wilson has some helpful comments for Christians who are eager to understand and apply God's Word in this very important area of Kingdom life.

Ask Doug: Women working outside the home from Canon Wired on Vimeo.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Limited vs. Limited Atonement



Justin Taylor over at Between Two Worlds has an excellent discussion starter on the doctrine of limited atonement which you can (and really should) read here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Post About Two Things I've Never Understood



"The U.S. should have won against Slovenia but a referee disallowed the winning goal for no apparent reason. This referee is very lucky that we don’t care about soccer." (Jimmy Kimmel)

"Universal Studios’ 'Harry Potter' theme park opened today. At the front gate, there's a sign that says, 'You must be this nerdy to ride this ride.'" (Jimmy Fallon)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Preacher's Qualifications



"A good preacher should have these qualities and virtues: first, to teach systematically; second, he should have a ready wit; third, he should be eloquent; fourth, he should have a good voice; fifth, a good memory; sixth, he should know when to make an end; seventh, he should be sure of his doctrine; eighth, he should venture and engage body and blood, wealth and honour, in the world; ninth, he should suffer himself to be mocked and jeered of everyone." (Martin Luther, Table-Talk)

This is just the sort of list that provokes us preachers to cry out with Paul, "Who is sufficient for these things!?" And remember, if your preacher lacks any, or all, of these "qualities and virtues" please pray specifically for him. For as someone once noted, "We can do more than pray. But we cannot do anything until we have prayed."

Friday, June 18, 2010

Baptism III: Baptism and Testimony (cont.)



"Thou are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Mark 1:11)

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." (Ephesians 1:3)

As noted already (in Baptism and Testimony II) the testimony given at Jesus' baptism was a divine testimony wherein the Father declared to His Son, "I love you and you belong to me." And it was also noted that this benediction is given to every person who receives the water of baptism. For as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, God our Father gives us "all spiritual blessings...in Christ."

But note when this benediction was given to Jesus. Before Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. Before Jesus' temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane. And before every temptation in between the wilderness and the garden wherein he was "tempted in all points, even as we are, yet without sin."

Jesus, the perfect man and forerunner of our faith, was not required to prove himself before he received his Father's benediction. No, rather it was the Father's benediction faithfully received by Jesus that enabled him to stand up to the Devil in the wilderness and bow humbly before his Father in the garden.

God delights to frontload the Gospel equation with grace. Breathtakingly reckless grace. The Bible knows nothing of baptism contingent upon a "credible profession." Jesus baptized disciples in John 4 that he knew would desert him in droves a scant two chapters later in John 6. The apostles baptized individuals and entire households on the barest of professions of faith with zero time to examine the intensity, veracity or longevity of those professions.

Why? You ask. Because baptism was never intended to outwardly represent a pre-existing inward reality. Neither Jesus nor the apostles ever denied the water of baptism to anyone until they could demonstrate that their conversions were genuine. Rather, they were given the water and its ever-present benediction as a potent and abiding testimony for the initializing and strengthening of their faith. As Martin Luther noted:

"The anabaptists pretend that children, not as yet having reason, ought not to receive baptism. I answer: That reason in no way contributes to faith. Nay, in that children are destitute of reason, they are all the more fit and proper recipients of baptism. For reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but - more frequently than not - struggles against the Divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God. If God can communicate the Holy Ghost to grown persons, he can, a fortiori, communicate it to young children. Faith comes of the Word of God, when this is heard; little children hear that Word when they receive baptism, and therewith they receive also faith." (Martin Luther, Table Talk CCCLIII, 1569)

So here's the good news Christian: God's dealing with you is frontloaded with grace. Long before your trials and temptations and irrespective of your performance, God's testimony to you in your baptism is this, "I love you child, and you belong to me." This testimony is not given to you as a reward for being intelligent, good or faithful; rather it is given for the inception and increase of these things. As always, you need only receive and believe what God is saying to you.

In the divine economy, godliness is never a prerequisite for grace, and intelligence is never a prerequisite for revelation. Rather grace gives rise to godliness, and revelation begets intelligence. And, as I say often, "If this is not true then I quit yesterday."

The Mystery of Election



"The famous American Bible teacher Donald Grey Barnhouse (1895–1960) often used an illustration to help people make sense of election. He asked them to imagine a cross like the one on which Jesus died, only so large that it had a door in it. Over the door were these words from Revelation: “Whosoever will may come.” These words represent the free and universal offer of the gospel. By God’s grace, the message of salvation is for everyone. Every man, woman, and child who will come to the cross is invited to believe in Jesus Christ and enter eternal life.

On the other side of the door a happy surprise awaits the one who believes and enters. From the inside, anyone glancing back can see these words from Ephesians written above the door: “Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.” Election is best understood in hindsight, for it is only after coming to Christ that one can know whether one has been chosen in Christ. Those who make a decision for Christ find that God made a decision for them in eternity past." (Phllip Ryken, The Message of Salvation)

HT: Justin Taylor

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Futbol!



Here are three random thoughts about soccer: 1) I am one of the world's worst soccer players, and I have the story to prove it. 2) One of my nephews just earned a collegiate soccer scholarship (way-to-go Kyle!). 3) Although I admire the incredible athleticism of the sport, I just don't "get it" enough to actually watch soccer on TV, or on a boat with a goat, or in a box with a fox, etc.

And from the banter of the late-night comedians, it would appear that this American is not alone. Viz:

"It’s a great day for the world, as the World Cup begins. On behalf of all Americans, I’d like to say, 'Eh.'"

"There are a lot of differences between basketball and soccer. For instance, in basketball, something happens."

"The best way to watch soccer matches is to TiVo them and watch them at double speed. That way you can see them not scoring goals much faster."

"In the U.S., soccer’s popularity ranges somewhere between Jon Gosselin and people that give out raisins on Halloween."

"The reason Americans don’t get into soccer is because the scores are too low. They should make each goal worth two points, and then maybe let the players use their hands, and then maybe add some hoops and a basketball. Americans would watch that."

Top Ten Reasons Americans Don't Like Soccer
10. Too many foreigners
9. Loud horns make it hard to nap through boring parts
8. Bench-clearing brawls not as much fun without bats or sticks
7. No theme song asking if we are ready for some soccer
6. Not enough 'roids
5. Lots of players with umlauts in their names
4. Americans too busy reading
3. Doesn't have the heart-pounding action of a 5-hour baseball game
2. No TV timeouts means fewer snack breaks to stuff our fat faces
1. Too much kicking, not enough rasslin'

P.S. For all you soccer fans that are right now struggling with "hooligan" thoughts about me, and indulging a fantasy that involves me, a blindfold and a penalty kick, I can only say with Seinfeld's uber-pathetic George Costanza, "It's not you, it's me."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I Get Tired



I don’t smoke
I don’t dip, I don’t chew
I won’t even hold the hands
Of girls that do

I don’t believe “this Bud’s for me”
I’ve never tasted wine
Lips that have touched alcohol
Will never touch mine

I do my best for my religion
But being good enough
For God’s a full time job
And I get tired


The TV is verboten
‘Cept for TBN
I burned my devil music
Just to prove I’m heaven’s friend

I won’t watch a movie
Rated over PG
My mom checks all my magazines
For hints of nudity

I do my best for my religion
But being good enough
For God’s a full time job
And I get tired


I never double park
I give my blood at the school
I’m very pleasant to my neighbors
And I keep the Golden Rule

I render taxes to the IRS
I pay my debts on time
For each dollar that I earn at work
I give the church a dime

The more commands I learn
The tighter the noose on my neck feels
They say I’ve found rest in Him
But it wouldn’t seem so yet


I do door to door campaigning
To diffuse religious views
I did a “Walk-a-thon for Jesus”
In my Reebok running shoes

I’m most devoted to devotions
Never miss “My Daily Bread”
I tried to memorize my Bible
But the words fell out’ve my head

I need a rest from my religion
This being good enough
For God’s a full time job
And I get tired


Gene Helsel

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Baptism II: Baptism and Testimony



When you hear the words “baptism” and “testimony” what do you think of? Most modern Christians immediately think of the testimonies that people give shortly before or after they are baptized. But few think of the only testimony in all of scripture that accompanied a baptism.

Before I proceed I would like to make it clear that I am “pro-testimony.” I have often been edified by hearing the accounts of God’s grace to others, and the strange, ordinary and wonderful providences that brought those people to faith in Jesus Christ. However, having said that, I have reservations about the sort of testimonies that are given at baptisms that either obscure or replace altogether the only baptismal testimony for which there is biblical warrant/precedent. I am of course referring to the divine testimony that was given at Jesus’ baptism.

Directly following Jesus’ baptism a voice boomed from heaven, bearing testimony regarding Jesus’ relation to God. The essence of the Father’s testimony concerning His Son was this: “I love you and you belong to me.” Matthew and Mark have slightly differing accounts of this testimony, and the difference is both exceedingly profound and eminently helpful.

And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:17)

And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Mark 1:11)

Matthew highlights the testimony given by God to the people, “This is my beloved Son…” While Mark highlights the testimony given by God to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son…” But note that in either case, God’s (not Jesus’) testimony was the central focus and therefore indicates the central meaning/import of baptism which is simply this: God’s sacramental declaration to the recipient of the water, “I love you and you belong to me.” And note that this declaration was given for the benefit of the one being baptized and for those who bore witness to the baptism. The testimony of baptism is vitally important for the recipient and for the community of faith.

Martin Luther was once asked what benefit a baptized believer had that an un-baptized believer did not. Luther replied, “Well, his baptism.” By which Luther meant the abiding testimony of God’s love and favor objectively and irrevocably applied to the body of the believer in the water of baptism.