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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Stealing Jesus, Saving Christmas

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And  this will be a sign for you:  you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  - Luke 2:10-12

I was watching the local news tonight, and heard a report that someone is going around stealing Baby Jesus figurines and statues from Nativity scenes. As I thought about the story, I came to this conclusion:

I want to say thank you to the Nativity Scene Bandit(s), whoever he/she/they are. While I don't condone your stealing, I believe that God has providentially used your unacceptable act for good. Now before anyone begins to think that I've completely flipped out, I will explain with the much provided help of the Scriptures.
Your act has helped me to remember that while Christmas is the time of year that we commemorate the birth of the Christ-Child, we sometimes have a great oversight in regards to the implications of that birth (Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 2:30-32). The gift that is attained in the birth of Jesus doesn't stop there; it is only the beginning (John 1:1-5; Hebrews 1:1-4). Just as it can be seen in your theft, Jesus is no longer in the manger (Luke 2:40; John 1:14). He was born with a purpose - to save those whom would believe in him from certain sin and death, and bring them into eternal life with himself (John 3:16, 6:37, 44). Through his life, death, and resurrection our sins are forgiven (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2, 4:10). Now being righteous through his work and at peace with God, we as a result offer up ourselves to God and to our fellow man through the gift of faith and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we now offer up ourselves as living sacrifices knowing that nothing can separate us from his love or unity with God (Romans 5:1-21, 8:1-39).
So, there may be some sort of statement that you're trying to make by doing what you've done. But what you must realize is this -- there's nothing left to do (or steal) that Jesus hasn't already done for us (Matthew 12:29; Isaiah 53:12).
Besides...it's much more satisfying and assuring to know that you a securely in the grasp of the Good Shepherd, never again to be snatched from his hands than it is to go around snatching fake plastic baby dolls from Nativity Scenes (John 10:27-30). I'm just sayin'...

"No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found..." - Joy to the World by Isaac Watts (1719)

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”  - Luke 2:14

Soli Deo Gloria - Merry Xmas,

The Virgin Birth


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Friday, December 18, 2009

"Enjoy Prosperity..., but When Hard Times Strike..."

This is an excerpt from a sermon given by my friend and personal Pastor Dr. Bob Roane during his Sunday school class at Christ E.P. Church. I wanted to share his message with everyone.

Ecclesiastes 7:14: Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life." (NLT)

The first part of the verse is easy to understand, yet I still manage to forget how the Lord Jesus has blessed me. To compare myself with others, imagine shrinking global population to 100 people, with all existing ratios unchanged:

There would be 57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 from the Western hemisphere (North and South) and 8 Africans. 70 non-Christian, 30 Christian.
50% of the world's wealth would be in the hands of only 6 people (all citizens of the US). 80 live in substandard housing; 70 are unable to read; 50 suffer from malnutrition.
1 would be near death; 1 near birth. Only 1 with a college education; no one would own a computer.

How can I be cheerless when the Lord provides for me so richly? Instead of comparing myself with others who have more, Christ shows me billions who have less. In material and spiritual advantages, God has lavished His gifts upon us. So let us give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for us with things to enjoy, not selfishly, but as occasions for glorifying Him and doing good to others-as stewards. He creates a lifestyle of thanks-living in us which involves attitudes and actions, behaviors and beliefs, character and conduct.

God rebuked Old Testament Israel for ungratefulness because they did not serve Him with gladness after He showed them such abundant kindness-all undeserved. In the New Testament He groups ungratefulness with scandalous sins and declares that failing to honor Jesus as God or giving thanks to Him is a mark of pagans with foolish and darkened hearts.

Because happy hours and sunny days don't last, Ecclesiastes 7:14 says, "When hard times strike, realize that both [merry and miserable moments] come from God. The Hebrew word for adversity covers all negative situations-bad, sad, disagreeable, displeasing, distressing, hurtful and painful. This wide range of meaning is what the Apostle James means when he says that we face trials of many kinds. The Lord calls us to face reality (not deny it); to confront it (not refuse it); to consider and learn what He is trying to teach us. Unpleasant days come from our Heavenly Father's hand as surely as pleasant ones.

As I read this, I thought about an old friend who recently went through a tough breakup and subsequently had a good friend pass away. He has spoken much about wondering why God has been making him suffer so much and why has God turned his back on him. Suffering is not God turning his back on us. Adversity is what is sometimes needed to make us realize how much we need to lean on and gain strength from Him because we are not capable of doing it alone. So what are we to do when we suffer? Here are some questions to ponder.

Am I being punished by God by sin? Confess known sin.

Is Satan attacking me as I try to survive as a Christian? Call on God for strength.

Is my suffering due to some unknown reason? Don't draw inward from the pain. Proclaim your faith in God, know that he cares and wait patiently for his aid.

Is my suffering a result of natural consequences for which I am not directly responsible? Recognize that in a sinful world, both good and evil people suffer. But the good person has a promise from God that his or her suffering will one day come to an end.
Sola Gratia,

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Bless the Mother of Jesus, but Mainly Be the Mother of Jesus: John Piper on the Veneration of Mary

This is from today's Desiring God post :

The veneration given to Mary in the Roman Catholic church is beyond what is warranted by the New Testament. In fact, it is astonishing how little we see of Mary in the New Testament. Let us honor her unique motherhood. Let us count her blessed as the mother of our incarnate Lord. But let us not put her on a pedestal that neither she nor Jesus would have approved of.

After she turns up with the disciples praying in the upper room in Acts 1:14, she is never mentioned again in the New Testament. This is astonishing to anyone who thinks that the veneration of Mary was an essential part of early church life. It was not important enough to be mentioned in any of the New Testament books after Acts...

Read the rest of the article.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Sword v. The Cross: A Case Study

How deep a contrast between "Radical Islam" and true "Radical" Christianity. I pray that all who truly confess Christ be encouraged by our brother's bravery (John 15:13).

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- A Christian janitor died saving the lives of Muslims in the suicide attack at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan, officials say...

"As a Christian, a person of minority, he stood in front of the Taliban to protect the university."  (more)

Soli Deo Gloria,

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Sunday, November 01, 2009

For All The Saints...

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  - Romans 1:7

Psalm 97:10

Soli Deo Gloria,

Monday, October 05, 2009

With Bad Intentions: Matthew 5:21-26

"For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God." - James 1:20

Reading the words of Christ in this passage (Matt. 5:21-26) takes us back to the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-16).  This is a pivotal story in the course of mankind, as well as the very beginning of the case study on human anger.  The anger that is produced in the heart of Cain is so closely linked to the type of anger here in this passage due to the fact that it is anger without cause. It is important to note that Jesus is not saying that all anger is wrong. He himself got angry on several occasions (Matt. 21:12, Mark 16:14). The anger that is discussed here is not a righteous anger, but one that is born out of our sinful nature that seeks to covet and destroy (Romans 3:10-18). Cain didn't just decide to murder his brother on a whim; it was premeditated (Genesis 4:8). To examine it closely we will see that he hated his brother because of his willingness to do right by God (Genesis 4:6-7). Cain, desiring to have the approval of God himself, decides that it would be so much easier to eliminate the obstacle (than to do right by God as he is told). His unjust anger was the precursor to the crime. He has killed his brother in his heart long before he actually laid a hand on him.

And so it is with all of us (James 3:8-10, 4:1-3). How often do we call names out of anger or speak ill of another person? This is something that we should really give a lot of thought to for good reasons:

1. All men are created in the image of God.

Man is a peculiar creature because of this very distinction. Therefore, God takes the shedding of man's blood very seriously. To degrade, disfigure, or destroy another human is to attack the very image of God. If you stop to consider all of the crimes against humanity throughout the ages, it will be clear that before any form of physical abuse, oppression , or genocide ever took place...there was poisonous rhetoric that began to flow out of the mouths of certain individuals. Spilling forth from a heart of darkness came the wrath of Cain that set the course of bloodshed into motion. So it is with all men in their fallen, unregenerate state. Any unjust attack on the character of our fellow man is an attack on the Creator himself (Genesis 9:5-6). We must be conscious of this before we speak in judgment on anyone (John 7:24) .

2. Christ brings about reconciliation for both us and God and one another.

Being followers in Christ we must remember what he truly accomplishes in his earthly ministry. The key theme is reconciliation from start to finish. Because Christ has died for our sins, thereby reconciling us to God. In turn, as we are being conformed everyday more and more to the image of our Savior by the Holy Spirit, we will in turn out of our love for God, be reconciled with our fellow man. We will not regard them only as there status allows or by the size of there pocket books, or whatever petty means by which we judge, but we will see all men the same: even though the image has been shattered, ALL men, women, and children are made in the image of the Creator, which gives them infinite worth in the sight of the Lord. After all, God sent his Son to earth, in the form of a man, to bring man into his presence and to glorify his name throughout the earth. This is where man's true identity lies in Christ - not as some sort of cosmic mistake that slithered out of some sort of primordial ooze and then grew legs. And if it is important enough for God to crush his own Son for our sake, how much more important should it be for us to do the same. It is through reconciliation that the gospel is born (Matt. 5:7; Rom. 5:10;  2 Cor. 5:18-20, 7:10-12).

3. Failing to carry this out has serious consequences - both physically and spiritually.

We cannot ignore Jesus' warning at the end of this passage. Several things must be taken into consideration. The first is that reconciliation should come before sacrifice. If we know that we have wronged someone or that someone has something against us, we should take care of that before we go before the alter. To go without being reconciled only produces a hardness of heart on both parts; our sin of impenitence will only serve to incite the sin of vengeance in the hearts the one who has been wronged. As we heard it said be fore, two wrongs don't make a right...and in this case the seeds of anger planted will reap wrath on all sides the wrath of Cain in our own hearts, and even worse still, the wrath of God on our vengeful, slanderous, murderous hearts (Psalm 79:12, Isaiah 65: 6-7, Matt. 18:23-35, Luke 6:38) . 

So let us turn away from our sin, by accepting the reconciliation with God through Christ, who turns away the wrath of God, and in doing so we shall be able to learn how to turn away our wrath against our own kind as we are commanded; Let's put anger in its proper place - towards the sin in our own lives (Rom. 8:13, 12:17-21; Eph. 4:26-27; 1 John 3:11-16; 1 Peter 3:18).

"An I for an I will never satisfy 'til there's nothin' left to see." - Derek Webb

Soli Deo Gloria,

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Brewing Conviction: The Legacy of Arthur Guinness

I ran across this article from a tweet that I recieved the other day. What a better way can anyone think of to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the world's greatest beer(in my not so humble opinion)! This piece gives some great insight on the man who started it all. May we all be so passionate about the affairs and afflictions of the world as Arthur Guinness (1 Corinthians 10:31)...

What makes this an interesting event is not simply that it marks 25o years of brewing for Ireland’s national beer, but rather that the man behind the beer is so remarkable.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Plastic Jesus: The Indictment on Western Christianity

"America ain't Christian; we just practicin' the ritual..." - Lecrae
I saw this clip and thought about the unfortunate reality that it represents of Christianity in our culture. Pray for authentic knowledge and love for Christ in the Visible Church. Authentic worship that makes Christ himself more visible to the watching world. And even more, go and make disciples. It's not our job to get conversions...
but it is our job to tell the the story (the WHOLE story) right.

Matthew 7:21-23, Luke 9:35, 1 John 2:5-6; 3:18, Revelation 2:4-5

Soli Deo Gloria,

Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor of Love

Just wanted to take some time out on this day to wish you all a happy Labor Day.  And as we head back into the workforce tomorrow, remember that we work for the greatest Boss in the world...everything is sacred. Do it 'til we're done (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26, 9:10; Matthew 11:28-30; John 6:29; 1 Corinthians 10:31, 15:10; Philippians 1:6, 2:12-13; Colossians 3:17, 3:23-24, James 2:14-26).

And here's some Tuesday morning theme music...pick it up here.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Sunday, September 06, 2009

And Now...A Morey Moment: For the Love of God

I must confess something. I love Robert Morey. Some of my friends don't really care for him too much because they say that he's "crazy". I have to agree, but that's the very reason that I love him! He's crazy like a fox...I'm talking "Batman Crazy".

Here he is tackling the topic of the Love of God. Enjoy. I know I did...

Soli Deo Gloria,

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Evangel Lies: Picket Signs of the Times

The Phelps family of Westboro Baptist Church is at it again. This time, they've decided to protest the funeral of Walter Cronkite. If you're like me when I first heard this little tidbit of info, you're asking, "Ummm...why?". But the article makes it all clear. Apparently, it is because Walter Cronkite is a "fag-lover":

“We protest all this holy Cronkite worship. He was no hero to God. On his Cronkite Watch, America was surrendered to the fag-agenda. Ergo, Cronkite is now in Hell. And that’s the way it is. God hates Cronkite. “

That statement would fall under the category of Passing Judgement 101; and not of a righteous kind (John 7:24). What they propagate is a completely twisted view of the "gospel" - replete with picket signs and derogatory catch-phrase t-shirts:

"Our only message is love God and he’ll bless you...disobey God and he’ll destroy you.”

Hate to be a killjoy, Phelps family, but this is not THE Gospel. It's just judgement - that's all and nothing else (Matt. 7:3-5).

Where's the salvation? Where's the redemption of sins? Where's CHRIST!! Telling people to come to God without giving them the means by which to come? The idea of Christianity being touted by Fred Phelps and his WBC congregation is the antithesis of the way that we are to communicate the message of Christianity to a world that is lost. Until Jesus Christ comes again, we are to preach the Good News that Christ died to save the ungodly - that Jesus is the way for us to be reconciled to God for our sins. The reason that these men, women, and (unfortunately) children show up at funerals and picket the dead (while name calling), is because it is what they identify with spiritually - Death. It is a doctrine of death separated from the One who gives life (John 3:16, 6:44). This family has overstepped their boundaries by bringing final judgement on the world, when Christ has not yet done so (John 12:47-48).

They talk of love for God, yet they ignore the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20). Are we to warn of the wrath to come? Absolutely! But, we are also to tell them of The Way out (Acts 17:22-33). Without this, what you see is what you get - which is nothing. Just blind men screaming at other blind men about how blind they are. Truth is, the WBC members need to be saved just as badly as the people that they protest against. They fail to see that they have little effect on the audience (other than to maybe anger a few), reducing them to a self-seeking, media-circus sideshow; irrelevant fodder for the masses.

To the Westboro Baptist Community:

My prayer for you is this:

May you be convicted of your own sins (Rom. 3:23), and repent. Seek the Lord Jesus Christ while he may be found. Submit to the whole counsel of God as it has been given to us in the Scriptures (Matt. 7:2, Luke 6:37-38, Rom. 2:1). May the Love of Christ compel you so that you may learn to have love for those whom Christ loves (Matt. 11:19, Luke 15:2). Give way to the Great Commission of our Lord...(2 Cor. 5:20, Jude 1:23)

It's about being sent to make disciples, not sending people to Hell (Luke 5:32).

Soli Deo Gloria,

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mr. Puritan: Regeneration & Fruit of Faith

Mr. Puritan gives a brief explanation of John 3:1-5...

for further study: John 1:13, Ezekiel 36:25-27, Mark 16:16, Luke 17:20-21, Acts 2:38, Ephesians 5:26, Titus 3:5, Hebrews 10:22, John 10:9; 14:6.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Friday, July 17, 2009

Breaking Bad: The Gospel According to Matt. 5:17-20

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

Growing up, I had this passage explained to me on several occasions, but I can say in all honesty, none of those explanations ever gave me any sort of feelings of eternal peace or rest in Jesus. The way that those in charge of my spiritual formation explained this passage to me sounded something like this:

"Now that we've accepted Jesus, we have to do everything in our power to follow his commandments, or else we won't receive our reward in heaven."

This is more or less a composite of several explanations, but the implication remains the same. Even recently, I heard a well-meaning minister urge his congregation to follow the Savior using this same sentiment. The problem with approaching this passage in this manner is that it:

(1) will only drive us to despair.
(2) unless we look to Jesus himself as the key to interpreting this passage, we will miss the point altogether.

Jesus coming to fulfill the law is not meant to be seen merely as a parroting of what Moses brought to the people of Israel (Hebrews 3:1-6). The Pharisees accused Him of breaking the law because they (much like so many of us today) did not see Jesus as THE fulfillment of the OT law and prophecy(Matthew 17:1-5, Rom. 3:21). Therefore, they spent their time manufacturing righteousness. It is important to remember that the Pharisees were extremely lawful. Their righteousness was founded upon this very fact (they also believed that it was their lawful righteousness that would usher in the Messiah and his kingdom). However, their fanatical need to fulfill the law via their own abilities left them lopsided; for they neglected the greater issues and purpose of the law (Rom. 3:21, Gal. 3:24). This led them and the people that they were supposed to be serving into total despair. While they were so busy following the law, as well as making up new ones to keep, they ignored the law altogether (Matthew 23:1-39).

And so it is with us. When we look to ourselves or a jury of our peers as a parameter for our righteousness, it will lead us to nothing less than many sleepless nights (Matthew 10:28). By these standards, when are we ever good enough? Especially when we take into account the law of God, which we are all guilty of breaking. We are all aware of the fact the we just don't measure up. So we, like our first parents, spend our lives making suits of fig leaves; trying to hide the truth of how flawed we are (Gen. 3:1-7, 1 John 1:8,10; 2:4).

Enter the despair. We know that we're not right (Psalm 14: 3, Eccl. 7:20, Rom. 3:9-18). We just don't want anyone else to find out. But a leaf that isn't attached to vine begins to wither (John 15:1-5). If we keep cutting down the forest to make the suit, we run out of resources. No more leaves or even a tree to hide behind. What do we do then when left to face the judgement of the law, naked and ashamed (Jer. 2:35)?

But there is good news, even within this passage. It is Jesus that is the righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees through his life and death (Romans 10:4-13). The Apostle Paul appropriately points to Jesus as the answer to the treacherous natural state of our humanity. He shows us that if we attempt to live by the letter of the law, we are justly condemned for our inability to follow it . In pointing out his own inability to follow the law, he himself is driven to despair, but calls to remembrance the salvation that he has in Jesus and gives glory to God for giving us the Son (Romans 7:13-25).

No one is good enough to save themselves and we already stand condemned (John 3:18). The notion that we can somehow clean ourselves up enough to be acceptable before God is akin to taking a bath in dirty water (Job 14:4, Isaiah 64:6). It accomplishes nothing. But God, in his mercy, sent his Son to live under the law faithfully. In his justice, he sacrificed his Son as an unblemished offering for my sinful disregard for his law (2 Cor. 5:21). And for his glory, he raised his Son, so that those that he came to save may be raised with him, giving all glory to God for being just, and the justifier of their faith (Rom. 3:23-26, 1 Cor. 15:20-23). Furthermore, in his faithfulness, he gives us the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who bears witness to our surety in Christ (2 Cor. 1:22, Eph. 1:13-14), and gives us the ability to obey his commands (Ezek. 36:26-27, Matt. 22:34-40, Gal. 5:22-23, 1 John 4:19, 21).

Contrary to popular belief (and Poor Richard's Almanac), the Lord does not "help those who help themselves". For that, we should thankful.

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. - Galatians 3:10-14

Soli Deo Gloria,


Friday, July 10, 2009

Seeking What He Sought: The Legacy of John Calvin

Today is the 500th anniversary of french protestant theologian, John Calvin. I was surprised to see how much controversy has come about due to the "festivities". Some in the christian (Protestant) community argue that it is idolatry to celebrate/venerate a man. I've read several articles today before beginning to write this - both pro and con - and now would like to share my personal thoughts as I weigh in on the issue.

I've said it before: there is a fine line between veneration and idolatry. Unfortunately, sometimes that line gets crossed, even by some within reformed (Calvinistic) theology circles. However, I don't believe that this is what's going on here. This is the quincentennial celebration of the life and legacy of Calvin. To my knowledge, it is not made a habit to celebrate the birth of Calvin every year on such a grand scale. This is a milestone, nothing more.

Truth is, the Protestant community is indebted to John Calvin. Calvin's Institutes of Christian Religion was the first work to systematize the Protestant Christian Faith. Also, he is not appreciated for being the statesman that he was. The governmental/constitutional structure of the United States owes a great deal of gratitude to Calvin. But, these facts, as well as many other examples, go largely unmentioned. He is a much more pivotal figure in history, who doesn't get as much attention as some others in Christian history, due to his lack of flamboyance.

That being said, I'm pretty sure that Calvin himself wouldn't want his life to be memorialized in any way. So, is there a way to honor the man, while not dishonoring his wishes? Or greater still: can we honor him in a way that doesn't cross over into idolatry?

In the words of Bruce Lee,

"It is like a finger pointing at the moon; if you concentrate too much on the finger, you miss all of that heavenly glory!"

We should see the life of Calvin as that finger. Not seeking the seeker, but seeking what he sought: that Christ be magnified in all things (John 1:7-8, 6:29). This was the chief end of everything that Calvin ever said, did, or penned (Mark 12:29-31). As we remember him today, remember more importantly to thank God for the likes of John Calvin. Also, pray that we, as the Church, will have a heart akin to Calvin:

One that is offered promptly and sincerely to the work and glory of the Lord being expressed in all areas of life, to all creatures everywhere, as truth for all time.

"Set before [man], as the prime motive of his existence, zeal to illustrate the glory of God" - John Calvin

Happy Birthday, Mr. Calvin!

Soli Deo Gloria,

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Day The Music Died: The Life and Death of Michael Jackson

"A man is more that the sum of his deeds". That's what I said audibly to myself as I watched parts of the Michael Jackson memorial service yesterday. I didn't even realize that I was talking out loud until that very moment (I surprised myself, actually). But the reason for such a response came as a knee-jerk reaction to what the pundits on television were saying, and seeing the crowds of people. There is a fine line between veneration and idolatry and I believe that yesterday, on some level, that line was crossed - and with reckless abandon.

That being said, I have to point out that Jackson did indeed have a gift for performance and music. His God-given talent makes the work of so many others pale in comparison. No one can take that away from him. But, what seemed to be getting lost in the shuffle of the celebration of his life was...well...his life. Every commentator and interview talked about "what he gave us". The positivity of his music and his message ruled the day. There was no doubt about the concentrated effort to whitewash so many aspects of his life under the guise of celebrating the music. This is what struck me to be the most peculiar:

"We are here to celebrate the gift of music that he gave to us."
"He gave so much to so many through his music."
"We will always have his music to cherish."
"His legacy is his music."

No one really talked much (at least not in the meaningful way) about the legacy of the man himself. I'm not even talking about the accusations of child molestation. After all, legally, he was never found guilty of those charges - regardless of the shadow that was cast by those allegations. Besides, I believe that there where shadows cast much broader, bigger, and earlier in his life that led to other situations. There is one question that remains in all of this: While everyone is celebrating the music, was anyone really paying attention? Many of the songs that didn't have as much commercial success (especially in his later years) told quite a tale of a person in distress. But that's just too depressing. So, we go ahead and we make him up. But here, I'll say it again:

A man is more than the sum of his deeds (Isaiah 64:6).

Here lies Michael Jackson - a man apart.
A broken man who died of a broken heart.
From childhood to the bitter end, we bled him dry,
Now we all shout, "why God, why?!"
He was loved by millions, yet never felt loved at all.
He could never grow up because he felt so small.

I read where one fan stated that, "he was more important than Jesus". Here is where the problem lies. Too many saw him as a savior of sorts, but he didn't have the Savior. He began to give himself over to a distorted view of self and love. He repeatedly changed his appearance because he just couldn't accept himself; never fully understanding that our true identity is found in Christ (Acts 17:29, 1 Cor. 15:10, Colossians 1:15-16). So the music, in essence, became his salvation. It was through it that he would gain an identity and feel some semblance of love and worth. The only problem is that it left him lacking. So he always had to have more. It was through it that he sought immortality - failing to realize that you can never find permanent comfort in a temporal world (Matt. 6:19-20, James 4:14, 1 Peter 1:24). I believe that Quincy Jones said it best when he stated that not being grounded in the realization that you were made as a "vessel for the Divine" can have serious consequences (Acts 17:28, Romans 1:28). Michael was the King of Pop, not the King of Kings. But sadly, he was all too often surrounded by people who made too much of him and not enough of Christ, which tragically left nothing of him at all (Eccl. 5:7, John 3:30, Phil. 3:8). And now, sadly, it is a lesson that he has learned too late (Hebrews 9:27).

The death of Michael Jackson should have been mourned properly - both publicly and privately. I say this in hopes that maybe he is the figure big enough to show both those in the entertainment world and those of us who enjoy the dangers in putting too much stock in things and people of this world.

Eventually the music stops for everyone. On June 25, 2009, it stopped for Michael Jackson (Luke 9:25, 1 Cor. 10:31)...

Soli Deo Gloria,

Saturday, July 04, 2009

God Bless America!

In celebration of our Independence Day I wanted to send a shout from our great nation's 1st president:

"It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for all his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor." - George Washington

Didn't think George Washington used the word God much or at all did you? Well, it turns out that many of the stories of George being either a non believer or Deist like many of the other founding fathers was rather inaccurate to say the least. George didn't often loudly or profoundly share his faith but many of his writings and speeches are filled with a deep spirituality and belief in one almighty God. The excerpt from above comes from the first Thanksgiving Proclamation under the new Constitution given on October 3, 1789. (More on that subject to come later...)

It's been a sad couple of weeks here as we've lost four stars from different walks of life but all significant in their own way and sure to missed by many. RIP...Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Billy Mays and Steve "Air" McNair. I had the pleasure to wait on Steve about six months ago and I am so pleased to say that he was such a kind and respectful soul. I've had the pleasure and displeasure on many occasions to take care of many "stars" during the time I spent working in restaurants and he was one of the coolest I ever met. He didn't ask for much and was just excited when his food got to the table just enjoyed a quiet meal with a friend and treated everyone who came around like friends and I really appreciated that and will always remember that about him. Unexpected deaths like these remind me of how thankful I am for God's grace that allows me to wake up everyday and worship and praise him for we can never know when he is going to call us to come home to be with him.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! (Psalms 100:4)

Sola Gratia,

Johnny "Big Black"

Let Freedom Ring

"There is nothing plainer than this rule, that we are to use our liberty if it tends to the edification of our neighbor." - John Calvin

I've done a lot of writing on liberty recently in the Mr. Puritan series...so let's take the day off to celebrate! Thank God today for our truest liberation.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Consistent Ethic of Human Life: The Murder of George Diller

A Man on the street gives more than his opinion on the murder of renowned abortion doctor, George Diller...

Soli Deo Gloria,

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Captivating Language: Vocabulary As A Means of Grace

**To be fair to all who read this, I must warn you right off the bat that this entry contains a topic with some language that some may find a little harsh, or offensive.  Some may even consider it to be downright vulgar, but that's okay.  Read at your own discretion.  - Shon

Christian singer/songwriter Derek Webb's latest release has been put on hold by his record company.  If you are a fan of his music, you know by now that Webb is no stranger to controversy.  However, this time it appears that some of the content is just too much for the label to handle...(more here)

The majority, but not all, of controversy seems to revolve around one song in particular, which contains the word "shit". Much of the context of the usage is unknown, but some have stated that it is about the Christian community's treatment of certain groups of people (race, sexuality, etc.). In the light of scripture, what is it that makes the use of this word so bad? Granted, it is considered by the majority to be "offensive", but what is it that makes a stand alone word a sin?

This is a topic that I've actually had experience with first hand. At my old church, this very topic came up when we were talking about taking the Lord's name in vain and swearing.  The problem with most seemed to be a vocabulary issue on the basis that no one seemed to have a clear understanding of what either of these things truly meant. The pastor leading the bible study gave a great example of the use of  the highest of all the "swear words", God Damn. He gave the example of a seminary professor that frivolously taught students to say these words in several different languages.

"Now, which is worse? What this professor was doing, or calling something a 'God-damned lie'? The professor is teaching people to just arbitrarily throw this phrase around for the purpose of amusement.  But there may be a time when the phrase is appropriate. We have to be careful in how and when we say things.  Those words should not be taken in vain or lightly, but sometimes a God-damned lie is just a God-damned lie." 

Obviously some were offended, but you also could see the light start to go on.  This isn't about vernacular, this is about the situation. Here's an example:

The serpent tells Eve that she will not surely die if she eats of the tree of knowledge (Genesis 3:4).  Now, would it be a sin to call that a God-damned lie?  Absolutely not. However, it is wrong for me to invoke the name of God to damn someone or something.  That would be taking the Lord's name in vain and speaking where God has not spoken. It is more sinful for me to say "God wills it" when I have no authority to do so, than it is for me to utter a four letter word that may offend cultural sensibilities.

Now, before you rally the pitchfork brigade, we have to make sure that we understand these things from a biblical perspective.  Here is where most would make a case against using such language by quoting Ephesians 4:29. But we must take note of the verse, for it says clear "as fits the occasion".  Words are given in order for us to appropriately communicate or convey our message. That sentence alone would make no sense to someone who lacked the vocabulary to comprehend it (i.e., a child). So, I would have to find another way to say it.  There is plenty of strong language in Scripture itself.  One of the first verses that comes to mind is Paul speaking Philippians 3:7-11. In verse 8, we see the word rubbish being used, but this has been cleaned up over the years by translators.  The actual translation of the word is dung. That's right.  So if I were explaining this verse to someone, and I said that what Paul is trying to say there is that he counts everything else as shit in comparison to knowing Christ, would I be wrong?  I guess you could say that it all depends on who I'm talking to.  If it were a five year old, disdain would most definitely be warranted. But what if I'm sharing the Gospel with an inmate, gang member, or a biker (not of the Lance Armstrong variety)? After all, I could replace dung with quite a few words that I'm sure would offend someone: Boo-Boo, Dookie, Crap, Feces, Doo-Doo, Poop...the list could go on and on, and we haven't even touched other languages yet.  It will all depend on the understanding of the person with whom I'm speaking and what end I'm trying to accomplish (Colossians 4:5-6).  This is truly what decides whether the words we use are profane or not.

Soli Deo Gloria, 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Winfrey/Puritan: Mr. Puritan Goes on the "O" Show

It appears that our friend, Mr. Puritan, is becoming a pretty popular guy...

As a result of his public forum debate/discussion with President Obama, Mr. Puritan is invited to be a guest on Oprah's Web Show to discuss Religion, Spirituality, Liberty, and Freedom.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

HSWTB? Presents: Mr. Puritan Goes To Washington

Good Evening.

Since this is my 100th entry, I wanted to do something a little bit different...

Have you ever wondered what would happen if one of the original founders of this great land of ours was able to have dialogue with say...I don't know...President Obama?! Me too!! The only problem is that I don't have a time machine, so I came up with the next best thing. I decided to try my hand at movie making. It's an independent film, so forgive the production value, but I think that the dialogue is worthwhile.

So without further ado, I present for your approval...

Mr. Puritan Goes To Washington!!!
Soli Deo Gloria,

Friday, May 01, 2009

How to Kill and Be Killed 101: The Real Reason That People Go To Hell

Often times, you will hear Christians say that the reason that people go to hell is because they failed to believe that Jesus is the Messiah and the One true Lord and Savior. However, if we examine the scriptures carefully, we will see that this is just not the case. I know this statement may seem a little confusing at first glance, but let's unpack this notion carefully.

It is safe for all who are Christians to affirm and proclaim that if you don't believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ that you will go to Hell. What is not safe to affirm or proclaim is that this is the reason that you are going to Hell in the first place (which is the implication that the statement seems to lend itself). We must remember that Jesus' life and death were sacrificial, not damning. Jesus died to bring us to God, not to further solidify our condemnation. I think that one of the problems for the confusion is that we have a strong tendency to read John 3:16 and then stop there, never paying attention to how Jesus explains the implications of it in the verses that follow (John 3:17-18). People end up in Hell, not because the don't believe in Jesus (first and foremost), but because they are in fact sinners deserving of punishment.  When a person rejects Christ as the Messiah and the salvation of their soul, it simply shows that God is just in his judgement in sending anyone to hell, due to their hostility toward him (John 3:19-20, Romans 8:7).

This may just all sound like an exercise in mere semantics or hair-splitting, but it is much more than that.  The implications on the way we do evangelism and view sin (both our own and that of others) run very deep.  First of all, as far as evangelism is concerned, a misunderstanding of what Jesus actually accomplishes in life, death and resurrection will serve to diminish the threat of our already existing condemnation.  In other words, people will never truly understand what they are being saved from.  This ties right into the second point; since our condemnation doesn't proceed salvation under these implications (i.e. "God loves you, and has a wonderful plan for your life"), the need to accept Jesus will be diminished as well.  After all, if you don't know that you're sick, why would you need a physician?  This leaves wiggle room for us sinners to run to our "works".  We are all rich young rulers at heart - ready to deceive ourselves into believing that we are good enough on our own.  Therefore, accepting Christ becomes superfluous.  This is where true danger lies; as we have seen in passages of scripture above, natural man will sooner leave it than take it.

We must remember that there is no good news without the bad news first.  But, the bad news is not that unbelief will surely send you to Hell.  The bad news is that we're going to Hell already (and rightfully so!).  But a prodigal God has been gracious and has provided a substitute in his own son, and laid the punishment due squarely on his shoulders.  All we must do is repent of our sins and believe in him who has paid the debt for us (Isaiah 53:5, Acts 17:30-31, Romans 5:12-21).

When you hear it put that way, why would you ever want to screw that up?  It's our only hope...at the Cross is where we are forgiven, not condemned (John 12:31-33, Romans 3:21-26, 1 John 2:2; 4:10).

Soli Deo Gloria,

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Relying on Egypt: The Sovereignty of God and The Recession pt. 2

Sure you're angry about what has recently happened with AIG...

But can you really say that you are surprised?!  After all that has been revealed about America's business corporations and their mismanagement of funds (most importantly, other people's funds), this should come as no big shocker.  I will be as bold to say that the shock should have worn off after the Enron/Tyco scandals of yesteryear.  The bottom line is this:  Big business of these United States needs a major overhaul and is in desperate need of a review in the Puritan/Protestant Work Ethic.  It may seem like a strange thing to say in our day, but much of this can be traced back to an abandonment of biblical principles in regards to work.  However, God is still at work during this time of massive financial corruption.  John Piper sheds some insight on this matter here:

So everything is being brought to the forefront.  But, I think that it's safe to say that we can't completely lay all of the blame solely on the shoulders of "Wall Street".  We have to take some of the blame ourselves, don't we?  I know, I know -- but just put the pitchfork down and here me out for a second.  I was thinking about this the other day; isn't a lot of what we see going on a direct result of the greed on "Main Street"?  We have to have some culpability.  We're angry because our trust has been betrayed.  For that, we should be.  But why did we trust them in the first place?  I believe that in many cases it was because of the promise of prosperity.  We buy into the idea of the promise of something for nothing.  All we have to do is sit back and watch the grass grow, then, BAM!!  Mo' Money, Mo' Money, Mo' Money!  How do ponzi schemes happen? As P.T. Barnum so eloquently put it, "There's a sucker born every minute".  How do people get put into homes with upside down mortgages?  In most cases (not all), it involves a willing participant who allows themselves to suckered in by the allure of promises that cannot deliver.

Truth be told, the only place where the promise of something for nothing can be found is in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  In these times of financial and social dereliction, there is no message that needs to be proclaimed more than this (Isaiah 31:1-6, 55:1).

Soli Deo Gloria,

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Coming Evangelical Collapse

I heard this topic being discussed this week on Issues, etc. - For what it's worth I think that the writer of this article is dead on.  My only disagreement would be in the timeline...I would think that this would all begin to happen much sooner.  This is  exactly what Francis Schaeffer predicted would happen in his day.  For more on the subject,  you can get it here.

We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the "Protestant" 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.

This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.

Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I'm convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close. (more...)

Soli Deo Gloria,

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