find out what is going on inside my head. i know it is a little scary, but you will be safe. i promise.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Life is Precious

last week i took she who must be obeyed to the movies. we went to a matinee showing of expelled: no intelligence allowed. i must say, go see this movie. it does a great job of exposing the biases in the scientific community. ben stein does a masterful job of hosting and narrating the film.

for a long time, christians (and others) have been bemoaning the moral decline in this country. many have pointed specifically to the lack of value that many give human life. i cannot begin to guess the number of people that have tried to blame the devaluation of life on the legalization of abortion. they say that since roe v. wade, people seem to give the human life less worth. i will agree that it has gotten worse since then, but i do not think that is the cause. i think the legalization of abortion, as well as the number of times the procedure is performed, are further symptoms of the problem, not the cause. the last half hour, or so, of the movie confirmed for me something i have believed for many years. at least in our society, the devaluation of human life on a large scale, is rooted in the acceptance of darwinian evolution.

the acceptance of darwinian evolution has been a major component of many atrocities. the most well known of these is the rise of hitler's nazi party in germany. this would include the holocaust, but that was only the largest, most well known element. before he began his attempt to destroy the jewish race, he began with eugenics. this was the movement to prevent the reproduction of the weakest of the species. these included the disabled, whether physically or mentally. hitler believed that evolution needed a helping hand. he was to be natural selection's assistant. this led to the attempted extermination of anyone he deemed inferior. this is the natural consequence of the combination of darwinian evolution and someone with a insatiable thirst for power and control.

this is why it is so critical that we teach our children well. i do mean the facts surrounding the creation and the scriptures, but not only that. we must teach our children and others the proper view of both god and man. we must teach the truth that god is the eternal creator of the universe. he is holy and just. he is all powerful and sovereign. he is beyond compare or even understanding. man is not. man is fallen and is born with a nature that is corrupt. man has no desire to turn to or follow god, outside the call of the holy spirit. man is desperately wicked. this wickedness is redeemed by god's righteousness.

what is your view of god? how about yourself? i don't mean to imply that anyone who believes in evolution will attempt to follow in hitler's footsteps. but the line of logic is not hard to follow. does it make sense to you? what do you think?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Just Like Me

i used to listen to country music. a lot. in the last few years, i have listened almost exclusively to christian music of one variety or another. that being said, i still have a soft spot for george strait. that's right, king george. in my large sport utility vehicle, i have xm satellite radio. on xm, they are celebrating the release of king george's latest album, troubador, during the month of april by hosting strait country. this is a channel devoted to george strait music 24/7. it is good. it is very good.

i heard a song today that i had not heard in several years. it is called "the best day". it talks about a father and son. after some particular event, the son declares to the father that this may be the best day of his life. it is a very sentimental lyric, in a very simple way. i do not know why, but the words of the bridge and last chorus really affected me today. they go like this:
Standin' in a little room back of the church with our tuxes on,
Lookin' at him I say, I can't believe, son that you've grown.
He said,

Dad, this could be the best day of my life.
I've been dreamin' day and night of bein' like you.
Now it's me and her, Watchin' you and mom I've learned,
I'm the luckiest man alive, This is the best day of my life.

i want a lot of things for my sons. mostly, i want them to love jesus and serve him. i want them to have wives that are the perfect helpmeet for them. i want them to have wonderful families. i want them to have jobs and/or ministries that god uses in a powerful way. i want them to have a model of the men they should be. i want to be the kind of father for them, that if they are just like me, they will be all that god has for them. i want to be worthy of the words, "i've been dreamin' day and night of bein' like you." how am i doing? i wish you had not asked. i realize i can be pretty tough on myself, but i would have to say mediocre, at best. i have great sons. most of the time, i think it is in spite of their father, not because of him. sometimes i just do not know what to do.

writing to the church in corinth, paul says: "For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me." (1 corinthians 4:15,16) then, a little later, he says: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." (1 corinthians 11:1) according to paul, if i imitate christ, i can safely, and with confidence, urge my sons to imitate me. they will likely try to imitate me anyway, but with christ as my example, imitating me will be a good thing.

A Picture of the Church

at the church where i have the privilege to serve, in our (almost) weekly staff meeting, we are reading and discussing andrew murray's abide in me. overall, i have a mixed opinion about the book. one thing that has been pointed out several times is that murray, along with most writers of that era, make little to no allowance for the church. they seem to almost totally disregard it. they treat the process of sanctification as being solely a matter that is worked out between the individual believer and god. i do not believe this is the case. i believe the christian life is lived out in the company of other believers. most of the new testament, the epistles, were written to churches or to church leaders about leading their churches. these were groups of believers.

i was preparing to lead communion a number of months ago, and did a brief study on the topic of the lord's supper. i have decided that the act of taking communion, as described in the new testament, is a profoundly beautiful and accurate picture of the church. when we take communion, the bread and wine (or juice) represent the broken body and shed blood of jesus christ. he died for us so that we might have a right relationship (communion) with god. we are to each examine our own lives and repent of our own sins, so we do not partake in an unworthy manner. but as i studied, i realized that i could not find a single instance of the act of communion being done on an individual basis. it is always in the context of the community of believers. this is the thing that makes us a community; the members of the group have individually trusted in christ and his work on the cross. this is what we have in common. the next time you take the bread and wine (or juice), think about and rejoice in the relationship with god and with your brothers and sisters that is made possible by the body and blood you celebrate.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Music Education

over the years, i have noticed an interesting phenomenon. whenever popular musicians, of any genre, were asked about their musical training, easily half replied with some version of, "i learned to sing in church." i was reminded of this with the continued popularity of american idol. i cannot speak for this season, but i read that last season, during a group interview, that question was asked and that answer was given. in fact, out of the top ten from last season five of the contestants had some type of formal relationship with the music ministry in their church, the larger christian music industry, or both. the church has, historically speaking, been a training ground for all types of successful musicians.

i love my church. i am on staff there. i was a member there before that. it is the church where i believe god has called me to raise my family and live in community with my brothers and sisters. we are a contemporary church. it is a casual place. we have a band. we sit in chairs, as opposed to pews. we do not have a choir. we do not use hymnals. our corporate singing is led by a praise team or worship team consisting of 2-4 singers. the words of the songs we sing are projected onto the screens up front. i truly enjoy this. the songs are good. the band is of high quality. the focus is on jesus. it is a good worship experience.

it is nothing like the churches i was raised in. they were also good churches. they were churches where my father made the same choices about raising family as i have made. for the purposes of this conversation, the difference i want to point out is the use of hymnals. we used them. my current church does not. i am not a musician. i do not even pretend. i cannot sing. i cannot play any instrument. i can hardly play the radio without static. i took piano lessons for a number of years, but that money could have more easily been set on fire or flushed down the toilet. suffice it to say that i cannot play the piano. but when i look at a sheet of music or a song in a book, i do have a sense of how it should go. i attribute this mostly to growing up singing in church from a hymnal. the music was on the page accompanying the lyrics. you could see and hear the pitch go up and down.

my concern is this: with more and more churches moving to a format that projects the words to a song onto the screen, and fewer churches using printed hymnals, will there be more children who are musically illiterate? again, while i cannot truly read music, i do have a sense of it. i think this is due to the hymnal.

i believe there are many advantages to singing from projected lyrics. frankly, i like it better that way. but are we putting our children at a disadvantage? as a church, how do we handle this? as a culture or society, what is the answer?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Iron Works

about two and a half years ago, a good friend of mine believed god was leading him to start meeting weekly with a group of men. he had been very positively affected by his own involvement in a men's group and he wanted to have a similar impact in the lives of other men. i absolutely think this is what god would have us to do. this is multiplication of ministry. this is what paul meant when he said to teach faithful men so they may teach others. so a group of us banded together to invest in the lives of one another and we called this group "the iron works". we did a lot of great things together, but i believe god does many or most (maybe all) things in seasons. we have gone through a number of changes recently and the remaining core of us think it is a new season. so we are trying something different. we are trying video driven series. we have started with one called "hostage" produced by craig groeschel and the folks at last week's topic was bitterness. craig did a good job of talking about the causes of bitterness and how to root it out. he pointed out that hanging on to bitterness will ruin your life. tonight, we are looking at worry. there is one line that i particularly like: "worry is the sin of distrusting the promises and power of god." is this really not the point? if we truly trust god, will we worry? i do not mean that nothing will concern us. i am talking about real worry. if we have trust and confidence in the god that created us and saved us, what is there to worry about?

what do you worry about? do you think your worry is caused (or allowed to exist) due to a lack of trust and confidence in god? what can you do about this?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Stained Glass to Video

i like stained glass. it is not really my style to display much in my home, and i attend a contemporary church where stained glass would look out of place, but i like stained glass. i have never been to the great cathedrals of europe or even the ones here in north america, but i have seen photographs and video on television. and that brings me to my main point. i was at a conference recently and heard mark batterson speak. he said something that struck me as particularly insightful. i do not know if it was original to him or not. this is what he said: "to a post-literate generation, video is the new stained glass." this struck me as a profound statement. i have spent some time thinking through the implications of this.

i was at a funeral last year in an episcopal church. it was a beautiful old church building downtown. if you stood in the aisle and looked around the room, you would see beautifully crafted stained glass illustrations of key moments from the new testament. at the front of the room, above the alter, is a large window with the scene of the nativity. at the back of the room is a stained glass rendition of da vinci's the last supper. all around the room are windows depicting other scenes from the new testament. there is jesus' baptism, as well as the crucifixion and resurrection. this church was modeled after the old cathedrals with their wonderful imagery.

the old cathedrals were largely built in a pre-literate culture. before the printing press with movable type, anything printed was expensive and only the wealthy had any books. the average person had no way to read god's story of redemption. even in the church, which was primarily the roman church, mass was conducted in latin. people could look around the room and see pictures of the story of redemption in the stained glass windows.

as history has passed, we have gone from a pre-literate culture to a literate culture. with younger postmoderns, we are passing into a post-literate generation. it is not that they cannot read, they simply do not read. there are exceptions, but i believe these things to be largely true. young people read fewer novels, they watch movies. they read fewer short stories, they watch television and youtube. they read fewer newspapers, they get the news from television and the internet. even when they read online, it is often through interactive sites. they are allowed to comment and post video responses.

in church, video is the new stained glass. stained glass windows served to tell the story of god's redemptive plan in a format the learner could understand. video is the format younger learners understand. i am coming to believe more and more that if you are not using video in your teaching of the scripture, you are not speaking the language of part of your audience. how are you doing? who do you know that does this well?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Balanced Life II

there seem to be rhythms to life. these might best be described as ebbs and flows of life. there clearly are seasons when our jobs or ministries demand more of our time and energy and times when things seem to just click along. there are times when our families make relatively few demands of us and times when we must focus almost solely on them. i have come to the realization that our lives are not necessarily meant to be balanced so much as they should be lived in obedience to god and in the season he has placed us in.

right now, my life seems as out of balance as i have ever felt. i am finding this feeling very difficult to deal with. i like to have a plan for what i am doing and where i am going. right now there doesn't seem to be one. i am convinced that god is leading me to work in ministry as a vocation. i do not have any strong sense of what that will look like. that feeling of uncertainty is troubling. i would love to serve in my current church home. i do not know if that is what god has for me, or if that is within the capacity of the church. i am not even sure they would want me. i have some good ideas - at least i think they are good - but i don't know if they would work where we are located (or anywhere, for that matter).

i am a student. i am enrolled in college and taking a pretty heavy load, especially considering i am back in college to complete my degree after about fifteen years away. this takes a lot of time. probably too much. i have a part-time associate pastor position in my church. i probably work more than i should (for a part-time position). i say my priority is my wife then children. they might argue with that. i think i am in a season of hard work right now. i am waiting on my season of rest and rebuilding. i feel really out of balance. but i am not called to be balanced. i am called to be obedient. i am called by god to complete my education and work in a church setting. i am called by god to care for my family. i am going to screw up parts of it. when i do, i repent to the ones affected and get back at it and try not to screw up the same thing again (although i likely will).

during all my time of uncertainty, i can rely on one fact. god is good all the time; and all the time, god is good. when i feel out of balance, i can know that god always rights the scales.