Hebrews 12:1-2

"..let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." - Hebrews 12:1-2

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Aim of Jesus' Preaching

There was much positive energy in the initial eagerness of the crowds that followed Jesus. He might have harnassed that and doubled or tripled the size of His congregation.

He did not do that. He did the exact opposite - deliberately. Again, He was not interested in increasing the ranks of halfhearted disciples. His preaching had one aim: to declare truth, not to win accolades from the audience. For those who were interested in hearing the truth, He did not make it easier to receive. What He did instead was make it impossible to ignore.
-- p.160, The Jesus You Can't Ignore by John MacArthur

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The State of the Union 2010 - My Thoughts

I am getting ready to read through and listen to the State of the Union address that the President gave last night (video). Below are my thoughts as the speech unfolds. Any quotes have been taken directly from the official White House transcript.
One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by a severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt. Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we acted -– immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed.
It would seem to me that there was no effort made to reduce the government debt during the past year. In fact, quite the contrary seems self-evident. The worst of that storm is yet to come and will be felt most keenly by our children and their children.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Gospel Often Offends

"In other words, the difference between Jesus and the Pharisees was not that they had differing customs regarding how to observe the Sabbath; it was that they held contradictory views on the way of salvation. That truth was too important to bury under the blanket of artificial civility. The gospel must be defended against lies and false teaching, and the fact that gospel truth often offends event he most distinguished religios people is never a reason for trying to tame the message or tone it down. Jesus Himself is our model for that."
-- p.126, The Jesus You Can't Ignore by John MacArthur

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Student Loans

Since I graduated from undergraduate school in May of 1999, I have carried a student loan debt that I did a pretty good job of ignoring. There were several periods of time when the loan was put into hardship deferral, and several more months where I simply was unable to make the payment (not the recommended method).

When we got married, I carried this debt into our new family. At the time, it was the only debt we had, but we were not focussed on it at the time and so it lingered on in our lives. Lisa headed back to school and we financed part of that through a family member loan. So, for the past years we have had these two education debts. A couple of years passed and we ended up buying a new(er) car and got a 5 year loan for that. We were doing pretty good financially (or so we thought).

Hope For Haiti Now - TuesdayTunes

Lisa and I caught the first portion of the "Hope For Haiti Now" telethon last week, that has raised over $61 million at this point in time. Below are some of my favorite performances from the evening. You can purchase the album here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Still -TuesdayTunes

Lyrics for "Still" by Watermark

The more I get alone
The more I see I need to get alone more, more
Cause just when I think that I'm alone
Your Spirit calls out to me
And even silence has a song
Cause that's when you come
Sing over me

Still, let me be still
Let me be OK
With the quiet in my heart
Still, I want to be still
I'm so quick to move
Instead of listening to you
Shut my mouth
Crush my pride
Give me the tears
Of a broken life,

Oh this world, it falls around me
And flutters all it's beauty in my eyes
But let me choose the solitude
Simplicity has always simply changed my life
Cause even stillness makes me move
Cause that's when my heart
Learns to dance with you

Still, let me be still
Let me be OK
With the quiet in my heart
Still, I want to be still
I'm so quick to move
Instead of listening to you
I'm your child
Tame my heart
To me impart

La la la la la, Hold me
La la la la la, Cleanse me
La la la la la, Change me, Oh God
Change me while I am
Still, let me be still
And know that you are God
And you are always enough
Still, I want to be still
To take all that I am
And simply lift it up

Shut my mouth
Crush my pride
Give me the tears
Of a broken life,

Our Response to Haiti is Deadly

Reading this story about Haiti this morning, I was shocked by this line:
A U.S. Air Force C-17 circumvented airport congestion by dropping 55,000 pounds -- about 40 pallets -- of bottled water and food into Haiti on Monday, the first U.S. airdrop of supplies.
The first airdrop of supplies into a nation that has basically zero infrastructure left just took place yesterday?!??!
Almost one full week after the initial 7.0 magnitude earthquake?
That's right.
The quake happened at 3:53:10 last Tuesday and the first airdrop of supplies happened the following Monday after 6 days of struggling to get aid in through the overcrowded airport.

It is 681 miles from Miami, Fl to Haiti.
That means that it took approximately 144 hours to moves 40 pallets of goods almost 700 miles. That's an average travel time of just under 5 miles per hour (4.729 to be exact). That means that if you could walk on water, you could have walked to Haiti and delivered a bottle of water faster than this first airdrop took place.

I guess that I have been assuming that we were doing airdrops from day 2 (last Wednesday) and assumed that we were getting supplies to the people who desperately needed them. It took us 2 days to begin airdrops in Banda Aceh, Indonesia after the tsunami there and that is on the other side of the globe (over 6,000 miles from Hawaii).

Why is it taking us so long to figure out how to attach some parachutes to some pallets of water and food and fly it to a place that is less than a 4 hour roundtrip away?

In my opinion, FEMA Administrator Fugate has got some explaining to do.
After Hurricane Katrina, our President caught a lot of flack for telling Mr. Brown he did a "heck of a job" with hurricane Katrina response, most of it altogether justified and deserved in my opinion. With an understanding that this is not on US soil and there are other nations involved, how do we not look at Mr. Fugate's response and question its effectiveness?

Do we need to try and work within the confines of the international community and get "permission" to carry out missions in their country? Sure. But while all of that bureaucracy is taking place, you load the planes and get them airborne. If you don't get the "all clear" to enter their airspace before you arrive you can either continue circling the island or simply fly over it and drop your supplies. Let's face it, Haiti is not going to shoot you out of the sky and the people need the supplies you would be delivering. Sure, some countries might raise a stink about us violating their sovereign rights as a nation or whatever, but I am pretty sure the people of Haiti and the government of Haiti would be quick to overlook such a deviation from international protocol.

In my opinion, something is terribly broken with how we have responded to this disaster. And I fear that many Haitians have paid for the delay with their lives.

Annoyed by "Lost"?

(HT: Michael Kelley)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Defending Truth

"Jesus knew something evangelicals often forget: Truth doesn't defeat error by waging a public relations campaign. The struggle between truth and error is spiritual warfare, and truth has no way to defeat falsehood except by exposing and refuting lies and false teaching. That calls for candor and clarity, boldness and precision - and sometimes more severity than congeniality."
-- p.70, The Jesus You Can't Ignore by John MacArthur

Saturday, January 16, 2010

REALMnotes - Ekklesia (Belonging to a Church)

Group Questions
What does it mean to be a member of a church?
Is there really any reason to become a member of a church?
Is it okay to not join a church and go to several different ones consistently?
Are there any real benefits of plugging in to a local church body?
What are some characteristics of a healthy church?
What makes you a “good” member of a church?

To Think About
When it comes to being a Christian, are you a Consumer or a Contributor?
Are you currently helping the church to grow more Christ-like (healthy)?
Are there things you can do to be a more helpful, encouraging member of the body?

When we came back from the group time, we had quite a bit of discussion about what the questions meant by “the church” (local body). We worked our way through that, as well as discussing why a small group Bible study or active involvement in a parachurch organization is not a replacement for the church (Biblical leadership structure, accountability, church discipline, etc). This is in no way a condemnation of parachurch organizations, for they do play a roll in teaching and reaching the lost. And we should be a part of a small group Bible study, in order to grow in a deeper understanding of our faith as well as to build relationships with others that can help encourage us and keep us accountable.

Coming out of that discussion, we focused on Romans 12:3-21.
- We are the body of Christ
- We have been given different gifts to aid the body of Christ
- We are commanded to love other members of the body

The importance of church membership cannot be understated. We are commanded by Scripture to not stop meeting together as Christians (Hebrews 10:25). We are instructed in how to set up the structure of the church (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1), so it is evident that we are meant to be a part of it. We are told how we should use our gifts within the church as well as outside the church, in order to bring God glory.

Scripture References (used in talk and in the preparation):
Acts 2:45-47
Acts 9:26-28
Romans 12:3-21
1 Corinthians 5:9-13
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Ephesians 4:11-16
Ephesians 5:25-32
1 Timothy 3
Titus 1
Hebrews 10:25

Friday, January 15, 2010

Confidence During Suffering

"Jesus, you know my life is in your hands."

May the Lord grant me such faith when I find myself in a place of suffering.

Praying for those in Haiti.
Lord have mercy.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haitian Earthquake - The Wrath of God?

This is a huge portion of the post "Does God hate Haiti?" which was written by Al Mohler. I felt it incredibly compelling and appropriate to quote it extensively:
Even as boots are finally hitting the ground and relief efforts are reaching the island, estimates of the death toll range as high as 500,000...

In truth, it is hard not to describe the earthquake as a disaster of biblical proportions. It certainly looks as if the wrath of God has fallen upon the Caribbean nation. Add to this the fact that Haiti is well known for its history of religious syncretism -- mixing elements of various faiths, including occult practices. The nation is known for voodoo, sorcery, and a Catholic tradition that has been greatly influenced by the occult.
Haiti's history is a catalog of political disasters, one after the other. In one account of the nation's fight for independence from the French in the late 18th century, representatives of the nation are said to have made a pact with the Devil to throw off the French. According to this account, the Haitians considered the French as Catholics and wanted to side with whomever would oppose the French. Thus, some would use that tradition to explain all that has marked the tragedy of Haitian history -- including now the earthquake of January 12, 2010.
Does God hate Haiti? That is the conclusion reached by many, who point to the earthquake as a sign of God's direct and observable judgment...
God does judge the nations -- all of them -- and God will judge the nations. His judgment is perfect and his justice is sure. He rules over all the nations and his sovereign will is demonstrated in the rising and falling of nations and empires and peoples. Every molecule of matter obeys his command, and the earthquakes reveal his reign -- as do the tides of relief and assistance flowing into Haiti right now.

A faithful Christian cannot accept the claim that God is a bystander in world events. The Bible clearly claims the sovereign rule of God over all his creation, all of the time. We have no right to claim that God was surprised by the earthquake in Haiti, or to allow that God could not have prevented it from happening.

God's rule over creation involves both direct and indirect acts, but his rule is constant. The universe, even after the consequences of the Fall, still demonstrates the character of God in all its dimensions, objects, and occurrences. And yet, we have no right to claim that we know why a disaster like the earthquake in Haiti happened at just that place and at just that moment.

The arrogance of human presumption is a real and present danger. We can trace the effects of a drunk driver to a car accident, but we cannot trace the effects of voodoo to an earthquake -- at least not so directly. Will God judge Haiti for its spiritual darkness? Of course. Is the judgment of God something we can claim to understand in this sense -- in the present? No, we are not given that knowledge. Jesus himself warned his disciples against this kind of presumption.

Does God hate Haiti? God hates sin, and will punish both individual sinners and nations. But that means that every individual and every nation will be found guilty when measured by the standard of God's perfect righteousness. God does hate sin, but if God merely hated Haiti, there would be no missionaries there; there would be no aid streaming to the nation; there would be no rescue efforts -- there would be no hope.

The earthquake in Haiti, like every other earthly disaster, reminds us that creation groans under the weight of sin and the judgment of God. This is true for every cell in our bodies, even as it is for the crust of the earth at every point on the globe. The entire cosmos awaits the revelation of the glory of the coming Lord. Creation cries out for the hope of the New Creation.

In other words, the earthquake reminds us that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only real message of hope. The cross of Christ declares that Jesus loves Haiti -- and the Haitian people are the objects of his love. Christ would have us show the Haitian nation his love, and share his Gospel. In the midst of this unspeakable tragedy, Christ would have us rush to aid the suffering people of Haiti, and rush to tell the Haitian people of his love, his cross, and salvation in his name alone.

Everything about the tragedy in Haiti points to our need for redemption. This tragedy may lead to a new openness to the Gospel among the Haitian people. That will be to the glory of God. In the meantime, Christ's people must do everything we can to alleviate the suffering, bind up the wounded, and comfort the grieving. If Christ's people are called to do this, how can we say that God hates Haiti?
If you have any doubts about this, take your Bible and turn to John 3:16. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." That is God's message to Haiti.
Please consider donating to one of the many relief organizations, which includes Compassion International who is already on the ground working in Haiti.Visit their Crisis Update page for the latest news from their people.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Twice As Good - TuesdayTunes

For my wife, Lisa:

Lyrics to "Twice As Good" from Sara Groves' album "Fireflies And Songs"

When I am down and need to cry till morning,
I know just where I am going.
When I'm in need of sweet commiseration
To speak out loud.
Raise a glass to friendship
And to knowing you don't have to go alone.
We'll raise out hearts to share each other's burdens
On this road.

Every burden I have carried,
Every joy - it's understood.
Life with you is half as hard,
And twice as good.

With my good news you're dancing on the table:
Baby's born, to celebration.
The joy of life, oh what a sweet communion,
Shared with you.

Every burden I have carried,
Every joy--it's understood.
Life with you is half as hard,
And twice as good.

Every burden I have carried,
Every joy--it's understood.
Life with you is half as hard,
And twice as good.

I know we're growing older,
Can you imagine what that will bring?
It's all a mystery to me now,
Except this one thing:
It'll be half as hard, and twice as good.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Letting Go - TuesdayTunes

Lyrics for "Letting Go" by Matt Maher

I stand in awe of you
And everything you've done for me.
You speak your words into my life
And where you are is where I want to be.

I stand before you, Lord.
Humbled by the love you give away.
A widow's mite, my will and pride.
It's all I have to offer anyway.

I'm holding onto your love.
I'm letting go of myself.
I'll say so long to everything else.
I just want to be in your arms.
I just want to be in your arms.
Moving ever closer to your heart.
To your heart.