Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Some Goals for 2011

  • No more letting vocational stress follow me home where it creates a grumpy, distracted husband & father.
  • More dates with my wife.
  • More one-on-one time spent with individual kids... including a father/son overnight outing with the 13 year old.
  • A return to the wonderful grace & discipline of Scripture memory.  Lead the family in this as well. 
  • My closet will be awesomely organized & kept that way. People will cross state lines just to see this marvel of human orderliness.
  • I will finally move completely out of the boxes that are still embarrassingly stacked up in the corners of my office.
  • Take a few fun, quick family roadtrips.  
  • Bicycle more.  Find a great trail.
  • Know & love the sport of soccer better so that I might be a more useful coach.
  • More diligence in the kids' Bible classes.
  • I'm doing at least 40,000 pushups this year.
  • Outside the pushups, I hope to exercise at least twice a week.  If I hit 3 times a week, I'll seriously impress myself.
  • Repair the backyard fence.
  • Seriously think about getting a puppy.
  • Develop a wider, broader sphere of friendships in Decatur.  
  • Subscribe to the local newspaper & read it.
  • Eat in a more healthy fashion.  Sometimes.  Maybe.
  • Continue to get back into the joy of reading outside of "work."
  • Never let my e-mail inbox # exceed 25.
  • Mature in the "shepherding" aspect of being a pastor. 
  • Visit 2 RUF ministers in the state of Alabama & seek to encourage them in the greatness of their work.
  • Prayerfully see the Lord begin to raise up the next generation of elders & deacons at DPC.
  • Learn how to play poker.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rocket to Narnia!

I love the Chronicles of Narnia... in fact, I regularly check closets for Narnia... just in case I can get in this time. So when the nearby U.S. Space & Rocket Center announced that they were going to have a traveling Narnia exhibit, I was all over it.

However, we probably wouldn't have made it (the admission price for the seven of us was a bit daunting) if it weren't for a kind and generous family in the church who gave us the gift of enjoying the Narnia exhibit as a Christmas present! That was awesome!

And what's also awesome is that the whole of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center is still waiting to be explored by my family. We didn't see much more than the Narnia exhibit this time, but I got a small taste of what all is there. What a cool place! Can't wait to visit it again.

100 Great Things About Living in Alabama:

#65... The U.S. Space & Rocket Center

Monday, December 27, 2010

Introducing Leah!

I'm late on this one because the picture was trapped in a computer that was not cooperating. But meet baby Leah, who has been worshipping with us since her arrival into this world not too long ago.

Welcome, Leah! May the grace, peace, and love of the Lord Jesus be yours always!

"'Let the little children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.' And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them."
-- Mark 10.14-16

Parent Me

I'm not a follower of Christian Hip Hop... I'm just not that cool. But a friend recently pointed me to the "Parent Me" video by the artist JSon. This is a faithful & trustworthy saying...

See it here.

Farewell to the Bailey family

Yesterday's worship at DPC had that strange mixture of joy and sadness when you must say farewell to friends, brothers, & sisters in Christ. We'll miss you Rob, Scotty, Robert, Alex, Nikolas, & Cameron (being held by Margie in the last photo above).

May the Lord bless you & keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Cards

I love reading Christmas cards!

But today we received one in the mail from a wonderful friend who happens to be a doctor.

I'm on my way to the pharmacy now to get it translated.

Recommended Christmas Reading with Children

My kids & I love this...

The illustrations, the tales, the characters, the fun, the full-color letters themselves... it's 110 pages of joy! But be sure to get this latest edition.  It contains letters & pictures & other material missing from earlier editions.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


One of the most disheartening things about the evangelical church these days is how quickly people will divide up & fight over matters of eschatology. The denominational context in which I serve the Lord Jesus vocationally (the Presbyterian Church in America) self-consciously does not divide over matters of eschatology. You'll find all sorts of eschatological views in the PCA, and I think that's very healthy.

But in some recent reading, I was struck by how the book of Revelation -- a book upon which six billion interpretive schemes have been laid -- is bookended with simple declarations that the prophecies within the book refer (mostly) to things on the near horizon for that generation.

Revelation 1.1: The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John...

Revelation 22.6: And he said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place...

Those words -- in the first & last chapters -- bracket the whole. And there are other such words in the body of the book itself. Interesting. Especially when you connect it with certain statements that Jesus made (see, for example Matthew 23.36 & 24.34) about what "that generation" will witness.

In 70 A.D. the Lord God sovereignly reorganized the whole world around the death & resurrection of Jesus. Jerusalem was destroyed & the 1,000-year age of the Temple (930 BC - 70 AD) was ended.

That's pretty significant.  It seems that much of what Revelation speaks to is the 70 A.D. event.  But, of course, that's just a picture of what the final appearance of the Lord Jesus will be like.  Then the world will indeed be reorganized completely, in a way we can hardly imagine now.  "No longer will there be anything accursed..."  (Revelation 22.3).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Luther on Preaching & Preachers

"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

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I enjoyed this review...

Does C.S. Lewis' Christian message come through in 'Dawn Treader'?

Dr. Tom Snyder and Dr. Ted Baehr 

Editor's Note: If you have not read the book or seen the movie, please be aware there are some plot spoilers in the following discussion.

Erudite Christian author and evangelist/philosopher C.S. Lewis was pretty clear about the basic Christian symbolism in the seven books of his children's classic, "The Chronicles of Narnia."

For instance, the author once wrote about the character of Aslan, the Son of the Emperor Beyond the Sea:
"He is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question, 'What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia, and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?'" Lewis said.

This is what happens in the first book, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," which tells the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through Aslan the lion, its effect on Edward's regeneration, redemption and salvation as well as the healing of Narnia from the curse of the White Witch.

Lewis continues this Christian symbolism in the third book, "Voyage of the Dawn Treader," which 20th Century Fox is releasing as a movie Friday, Dec. 10. Although the movie skips over some of the Christian symbolism from the book and changes the plot to be more dramatic and cohesive, much of the symbolism is still there.
C.S. Lewis writes in such a way that there are layers of meaning in "The Chronicles of Narnia," as explained in the book "Narnia Beckons." Clothes, for instance, have various different meanings. By putting on the robes in the wardrobe, the children are clothing themselves in effect in their future royal robes.

Most of the greatest writers write on several levels. Shakespeare most often wrote on at least three levels: the spiritual – such as when Hamlet ponders "to be or not to be"; the mundane or material – such as when Hamlet deals with Polonius; and the fleshly nature – as when Hamlet deals with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Lewis and Tolkien went way beyond this. Lewis's work dealt with many levels, including a cosmology that brought the spiritual world into the material world, what the Irish like Lewis would call "a thin place."

The church used to look at reality in terms of many different levels, such as the kerygma, or message, which is presented clearly here in this movie; the incarnational, which is the presence of God as manifested in Aslan; and, the sacramental, which is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. In other words, regarding the sacramental, when a married person wears a ring, the ring is not the marriage; it is an outward sign of the spiritual condition of being married. This is missing in the movie to a degree, although the filmmakers have done an incredible job of capturing some allegorical and metaphorical meaning.

Today, Christian evangelicals usually focus on the message, Catholics often focus on the sacramental and others, such as traditional mainline Protestants, focus on the incarnational – and so, the different groups of the church can barely understand each other. C.S. Lewis understood this and was trying to bring it all together.
In one way, both the book and the movie as a whole tell the story of a Christian pilgrimage to a sacred side, the border between Narnia and Aslan's country, i.e. heaven.

That journey begins with a symbolic baptism when Lucy, Edward and their silly, mean cousin, Eustace, suddenly find themselves in the Narnia ocean near the Dawn Treader, on which King Caspian is leading an expedition to find the seven lost lords who were friends of his father.

Both in the book and the movie, the seven lost lords remind us of the seven churches in Revelation and the seven angels associated with those churches, to whom Jesus Christ asks John to write individual letters, as well as the seven deadly, cardinal sins. Some of that symbolism remains, so that it is clear that the lord who fell into the dragon lake and turned into gold succumbed to greed, but much of the other symbolism is sacrificed for the more dramatic plot.

One of the greatest, most moving, episodes in the book and the movie is the special transformation, repentance, rebirth and baptism Eustace undergoes when he is changed into a dragon because of his sinfulness and greed.
The image of the dragon scales covering Eustace remind us visually of his and our grotesque sinful nature.
Eventually, Eustace recognizes his need for salvation and deliverance from his sin. Full of repentance, he tries to scrape the dragon scales off by himself, but he needs Aslan, the symbolic representation of Jesus, to step in and deliver Eustace from his sinful nature and baptize him. This is the regeneration, salvation and baptism of Eustace. In effect, Eustace is "born again" (see John 3:1-21).

Eustace isn't the only character undergoing a spiritual journey in "Voyage of the Dawn Treader."

For example, with Aslan's help, Lucy must avoid the temptation to be more like her sister Susan, who is outwardly beautiful but has drifted away from her belief in Aslan.

There's also the example of Reepicheep the Adventurous Mouse. Reepicheep longs to actually travel to Aslan's "country" beyond the sea, the representation of heaven in the Narnia chronicles. Aslan tells him and the others, however, that, once they go to Aslan's country, they cannot return. Thus, Reepicheep, who sails alone atop a giant blue wave to enter Aslan's country, is like Elijah, the great prophet who didn't die but entered heaven in bodily form.

This scene is probably the emotional high point of the entire book and movie.

At the boundary between Narnia and Aslan's country, Aslan tells Lucy and Edmund that he exists in their world too.

"But there I have another name," he says. "You must learn how to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little while, you may know me better there."
Aslan is, of course, referring to Jesus Christ, the incarnate deity in our human world (in the books, Narnia is depicted as an animal world to where humans from Earth have found their way, which is why Aslan appears like a lion, a reference to Jesus Christ as the "Lion of Judah" in Revelation 5:5).

A succinct summary of who Jesus Christ is, can be found in the beautiful passage in Colossians 1:15-17 (NLT):
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can't see – such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.

The good news about the new movie version is that it keeps Aslan's important reference to Jesus Christ in this piece of dialogue.

In the book, during the visit to the Dark Island, Aslan continues this comparison with Jesus by sending an albatross that at first "looked like a cross" to lead them out of the darkness and into the light.

Finally, in the movie and the book, as the Dawn Treader sails nears Aslan's country, the light from the sun gets brighter and brighter, and everyone's vision is improved by the ocean water, which has gotten sweeter and sweeter.

The symbolism of the water and light refers to the light that Jesus Christ brings to men, and the water refers to the power of the Holy Spirit that fills us when we put our faith and trust in God through Jesus Christ.

As Jesus tells the woman at the well in John 4:14, "Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

These are just some of the Christian and biblical references and themes in the Christian worldview reflected by "Voyage of the Dawn Treader." MOVIEGUIDE® encourages people to explore the other Christian symbols and themes in the book and the movie, such as the images of Aslan's banquet table and the theme of overcoming temptation.

As far as the books themselves go, a great place to start is "Narnia Beckons" by MOVIEGUIDE® Founder and Publisher Dr. Ted Baehr and Dr. James Baehr, available at

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"'And a Redeemer will come to Zion... those in Jacob who turn from transgression,' declares the LORD."  Isaiah 59.20

My favoritest Advent hymn:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.


O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.


O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.


O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.


O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.


O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.


O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.


made me laugh

Heard this joke today...

Bob:  God, how long is a million years to you?

God:  It is but a second, Bob.

Bob:  God, how much is a million dollars to you?

God:  It is but a penny to me.

Bob:  God, can I have a penny?

God:  Just a second.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Morning Prayer

"The entire day receives order and discipline when it acquires unity. This unity must be sought and found in morning prayer. It is confirmed in work. The morning prayer determines the day. Squandered time of which we are ashamed, temptations to which we succumb, weakness and lack of courage in work, disorganization and lack of discipline in our thoughts and in our conversation with other men,all have their own origin most often in the neglect of morning prayer. Order and distribution of our time become more firm where they originate in prayer. Temptations which accompany the working day will be conquered on the basis of the morning breakthrough to God. Decisions, demanded by work, become easier and simpler where they are made not in the fear of men but only in the sight of God. 'Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men' (Colossians 3:23). Even mechanical work is done in a more patient way if it arises from the recognition of God and his command. The powers to work take hold, therefore, at the place where we have prayed to God. He wants to give us today the power which we need for our work.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from his wonderful book
Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, pp 64-65

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Just got this note about Dr. Roger Nicole, a Christian scholar & author, whose works I've read here & there...

Dr. Roger Nicole... is turning 95 on Dec. 10. He is currently in the hospital. [A friend of Dr. Nicole's] said, "I just returned from a visit with Dr. Nicole. I feel that I have been in the presence of a great saint so eager to meet his Savior." She reports that Dr. Nicole said to her “I’m ready to go, I’m actually quite comfortable, nothing hurts, I’m not hungry. I actually thought dying was going to be a lot harder. I’m thankful to be in the hospital. Whether I die here or at the Village is inconsequential. It’s a lot more important where I lived and how. I’m not afraid of judgment because all my sins have been wiped out completely by the blood of Jesus Christ. All I look forward to is the joy of the life to come.”

May we all be as ready & as welcoming when our appointed day comes.

The Faith of Children

"I will say broadly that I have more confidence in the spiritual life of the children that I have received into this church than I have in the spiritual condition of the adults thus received. I will go even further than that and say that I have usually found a clearer knowledge of the gospel and a warmer love to Christ in the child converts than in the man converts. I will astonish you still more by saying that I have sometimes met a deeper spiritual experience in children of 10 and 12 than I have in certain persons of 50 or 60!"
-- Charles Spurgeon

D.L. Moody once returned from an evangelistic meeting and reported that he had had "two and a half conversions." Someone asked him, "You mean two adults and a child?" Moody responded: "No, two children and an adult!" ... two children who still had their whole lives to give, and an adult who only had half a life left to give

"Jesus Himself received little children, and there can be no ground for supposing they did not there and then in some measure respond to his love. From the earliest days of infancy a child responds to stimuli, and particularly to the loving care of its mother.... If a child responds to his mother's care, may he not respond also to the care of God?"
-- from a study paper commissioned by the Church of Scotland

There is nothing like the heart of a child being brought up to love Jesus from infancy!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Surprise Hallelujah Chorus in a Mall Food Court

Have you seen this yet?  Click here.

This is a basically a lightning bolt of truth flashing briefly in the midst of this world that we live in.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Seeds of These United States of America

Date: November 11, 1620

Place: Aboard the Mayflower, anchored off the coast of Cape Cod

Background: 102 passengers (including 34 children) have just spent seven weeks crossing the ocean from England. Of the 102 passengers, 16 men, 11 women, & 14 children were Pilgrims, seeking religious freedom in America.

Problem: They had made arrangements with the Virginia Company to settle just south of the Hudson River, within the northernmost boundary of the Virginia Colony. But fierce winds blew their ship off course... to the north... to Cape Cod. They decide to settle in Cape Cod, but here they are on their own -- not under the jurisdiction of the Virginia Company. Some of those on ship (non-Pilgrim bonded servants & contracted labor) see this as an opportunity to rebel. The Pilgrim leadership see that they must act quickly to prevent a mutiny.

Solution: The Pilgrims write up The Mayflower Compact...

In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, Ireland, king, Defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian Faith and honor of our King and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid, and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony. Unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign King James of England.... Anno Domini 1620.

This was the first time in recorded history that free people covenanted together to form a civil government with the authority to enact laws that those same people who formed the government promised to obey.

Thankful Pilgrims: Before leaving Europe, the Pilgrims had knelt on the dock and prayed for God's blessings on their voyage. And now... "Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven." So wrote William Bradford.

The Rest of the Story: During their first winter 47 people died... including 13 of the 18 women. Only three families were left intact. But these humble Christians became the seed of what would become these United States of America.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

You Only Get So Many Sunrises In This Life

... and one of my favorites so far was spent just the other day with my dad (who took the picture above) & my oldest boy, out in the woods, waiting for the 16 point buck that never showed up.  As they say, the best times to hunt are usually right before you show up and right after you leave.

100 Great Things About Living in Alabama:

#9... Making Fun Memories with Extended Family

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Bible

We believe that this Holy Scripture contains the will of God completely and that everything one must believe to be saved is sufficiently taught in it. For since the entire manner of service which God requires of us is described in it at great length, no one-- even an apostle or an angel from heaven, as Paul says-- ought to teach other than what the Holy Scriptures have already taught us. For since it is forbidden to add to or subtract from the Word of God, this plainly demonstrates that the teaching is perfect and complete in all respects.

Therefore we must not consider human writings-- no matter how holy their authors may have been-- equal to the divine writings; nor may we put custom, nor the majority, nor age, nor the passage of time or persons, nor councils, decrees, or official decisions above the truth of God, for truth is above everything else. For all human beings are liars by nature and more vain than vanity itself.

Therefore we reject with all our hearts everything that does not agree with this infallible rule, as we are taught to do by the apostles when they say, "Test the spirits to see if they are of God," and also, "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house."

(Taken from The Belgic Confession, Article 7)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

And He Shall Reign Forever and Ever.

At precisely 12:00 noon a few days ago shoppers at Macy's were surprised when 600 fellow shoppers (or so they presumed) suddenly burst into Handel's Hallelujah Chorus.  It's a beautiful scene.  You can see the video by clicking here.

But do they know about whom they're singing?  Can we taste the glory of the one who reigns forever?


Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! 
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! 

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! 

The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever, forever and ever,

King of kings, and Lord of lords,
King of kings, and Lord of lords, 
And Lord of lords,
And He shall reign,
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings, forever and ever,
And Lord of lords,
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords! 
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Worst Part About Being Religious

You know that Jesus of Nazareth is the worst enemy of religion.  What he said & what he did spells the end of mere religion.  Christians don't seek to become "religious"... rather, they rest in the fact that they belong to Jesus Christ, and they rejoice to live the life of a free child of God.

Religion says:  Live in such a way as to merit God's favor.  You've got to stay on your treadmill and earn your way.

Therefore religious people can never be honest & transparent about who they really are... not even with themselves.  There's no "safe place" to do so!  They know of no place where grace is abounding to the hardest of sinners.  They only know that they better be good because they're getting graded.

If you're religious you can never really "see" your sin, because your whole future depends on your achieving a certain amount of righteousness & goodness.  You can't really see the unflattering truth about yourself and your heart, because that would run against your entire program.  Your program is to make yourself "look" good.

So... you're not really interested in seeing evidence to the contrary.  You can't be.  And if the evidence is there, you'll find some way to blind yourself to it.  You'll deny it.  You'll excuse it.  You'll blame others.  You'll put on the smiley face, but always have to hide something behind your back.

But in Christ there is a safe place to be honest about your sin.  The Lord Jesus died for sinners.  Run to the cross.  It's the place of deliverance.  It's grace abounding to the hardest of sinners.


“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate."
-- The Lord Jesus

“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant....
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."
-- The Gospel According to Isaiah

Thursday, November 11, 2010

from the desk of the president... 147 years ago

Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day

Washington, D.C. March 30, 1863

Senator James Harlan of Iowa, whose daughter later married President Lincoln's son Robert, introduced this Resolution in the Senate on March 2, 1863. The Resolution asked President Lincoln to proclaim a national day of prayer and fasting. The Resolution was adopted on March 3, and signed by Lincoln on March 30, one month before the fast day was observed.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.

And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

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

Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Fall

Patrick Morley describing The Fall...

The Bible doesn't describe a utopian world free of pain. Instead, the Bible describes the world exactly as we see it--a Fallen world, but not without what Frances Schaeffer called "leftover beauty." The Fall explains why we must look at the blazing beauty of a blood red sunrise through thick glasses that grace the bridge of a crooked, runny nose. Because of the Fall we lock our doors, say what we shouldn't, don't say what we should, do our work while feeling the prick of thorns, get our hearts broken, suffer, grow old, and die. Thus, we must manage our lives against the Fall. I must manage against the Fall in you. You must manage against the Fall in me. And we each must manage against the Fall within ourselves. The Fall is an offense to human reason but, once accepted, it makes perfect sense of the human condition.

In the Bible, the thorn becomes the symbol of the curse, the fall (Genesis 3.18).  And this is exactly what Jesus accepted for us on the cross (Mark 15.17, etc.).

"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.'"  Galatians 3.13

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Voting as an Act of Obedience & Wisdom

"No nation can say, 'We are the people of God,' in the sense that Israel could say it in the Old Testament.  Today, God plans to bless the world through the church, which is a spiritual nation scattered through the political nations of the world and representing the gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ wherever it goes.  The church is not a political organization, but Christians have the right to be political people.  In a democracy, every citizen has the right to enter the political arena and shed all the truth and light they can.  To do so is an act of obedience to the Lord.  In a democracy, we submit to our leaders, in part by adopting their system.  So to vote and write letters to our leaders is both a privilege and a duty.  Our leaders bid us to vote and Paul says we should submit to them.  Indeed, if we have wisdom and opportunity to make it public, failure to do so is not just a failure of duty, it is a waste."

-- Daniel Doriani

"We the People  of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Article I
Section 1
All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Section 2
1:  The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

-- The United States Constitution

Thursday, October 28, 2010

493 years ago...

On October 31, 1517 a monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses (or arguments) to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany.

The next day (November 1) was going to be "All Saints Day" & the pope had decreed that all visitors to the Castle Church on All Saints Day who venerated the relics and gave a contribution could reduce their time in purgatory by over one million years.

(The Castle Church housed more than 17,000 relics -- the largest collection in Germany.  Among the relics they claimed to have were four strands of hair from the Virgin Mary, a piece of straw from the baby Jesus' manger, a nail from the cross, and a piece of bread from the Last Supper.)

Luther himself use to believe that veneration of relics & these kinds of financial contributions to the church (usually in the form of buying indulgences) was of some great spiritual value -- earning him salvation.  But the Lord had now graciously brought Luther out of this darkness of superstition & empty works. The Lord had brought this man to the light of a living faith in Jesus Christ.

Luther:  "Christ alone can forgive sins!  The pope has no power to forgive or to free souls from purgatory.  If he had such power why does he not release everyone from purgatory at once?  Why does he not do it free of charge?"

Hence the 95 Theses or arguments against such things as the sale of indulgences... on October 31, 1517... on the "eve" of "All Saints Day"... "All Hallow's Eve"... Halloween.

This is the date usually given for the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

The breakthrough to Luther's "discovery" of the gospel probably began two years earlier when Luther was lecturing on the Apostle Paul's epistle to the Romans.

Romans 1.17 speaks of the gospel (literally "good news") of Jesus Christ as a revelation of the "righteousness" or "justice" of God... but that was precisely what Luther found to be so unbearable about God!  How is the "righteous justice" of God (which Luther had been taught to understand as the punishment of sinners) "good news?"

After a long & bitter struggle, Luther came to a rather surprising answer...

In his own words:  "I greatly longed to understand Paul's Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, 'the justice of God,' because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust.  My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him.  Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant.

"Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that 'the just shall live by his faith.'  Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith.  Thereupon I felt myself reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.  The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the 'justice of God' had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love.  This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven....

"If you have a true faith that Christ in your Savior, then at once you have a gracious God, for faith leads you in and opens up God's heart and will, that you should see pure grace and overflowing love.  This it is to behold God in faith that you should look upon his fatherly, friendly heart, in which there is no anger nor ungraciousness.  He who sees God as angry does not see him rightly but looks only on a curtain, as if a dark cloud had been drawn across his face."

Fall Festival, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Joe Cool vs. Jesus

Brett McCracken wrote a very interesting article in the Wall Street Journal not long ago. It's called "The Perils of 'Wannabe Cool' Christianity."

Here are the last two ridiculously-good paragraphs of the article:

If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that "cool Christianity" is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don't want cool as much as we want real.

If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it's easy or trendy or popular. It's because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It's because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It's not because we want more of the same.

Exactly right. The church must value real over cool... we must value Jesus over trendy... we must value truth over image.

To read the whole article, click here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Into Your Hands

With faith in the Lord Christ, Christians can even face death in the same manner that our Savior Jesus did. Do you remember what Jesus said, when he knew that his work on earth was done?

"'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!' And having said this, he breathed his last." (Luke 23.46)

Archibald Alexander faced death this way. Alexander was the first president of Princeton Theological Seminary -- the first Presbyterian seminary in America. Alexander was not only the first president, he was actually the only faculty member the seminary had for the first year.

In the first fall he had three students... in the first spring he had six more... in the first summer five more.

His small, modest home served as the seminary library, chapel, & classroom. The students not only studied in his home, but also shared in the Alexander family's worship. Small but great beginnings.

But the seminary grew...& Archibald Alexander continued to teach there until his death, on October 22 (today), 1851 -- 39 years after the seminary's founding.

Knowing that his death was approaching, Archibald Alexander wrote this prayer to The God Who Wakes The Dead:

"O most merciful God!... Thou has a perfect right to dispose of me, in that manner which will most effectively promote thy glory: And I know that whatever Thou dost is right, and wise, and good. ...And when my spirit leaves this clay tenement, Lord Jesus receive it! Send some of the blessed angels to convey my inexperienced soul to the mansion which Thy love has prepared. And O! let me be so situated, though in the lowest rank, that I may behold Thy glory. May I have an abundant entrance administered unto me in the kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; for whose sake and in whose name, I ask all these things. Amen."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Go Dawgs!

We watch so little television that it makes no sense for us to have cable or satellite channels. We never even think about... except for during college football season.

If only they sold the channels one at a time...

"He's fair. He treats us all the same -- like dogs."
~Henry Jordan, on his football coach, Vince Lombardi

"Football isn't a contact sport; it's a collision sport. Dancing is a contact sport."
~Coach Vince Lombardi

"He could take his 'n beat yours, then take yours 'n beat his."
~Coach Duffy Daughtery, referring to Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant

"You can only really yell at the players you trust."
~Coach Bill Parcells

"Football combines the two worst features of American life. It is violence punctuated by committee meetings."
~George Will

"If a man watches three football games in a row, he should be declared legally dead."
~Erma Bombeck

100 Great Things About Living in Alabama:


Here are some great quotes from Jack Cristil, the announcer for Mississippi State football games. This was from the Egg Bowl a couple of years ago... when State was having a pretty rough season...

“The QB and the receiver weren’t on the same page there; but hey, it’s only week eleven.”

“Handoff to Dixon. And Dixon is murdered on the play.”

After Ole Miss went up 17-0 in the 1st Quarter: “They are going to have to send in their second kickoff coverage unit because the first unit is going to tire out with all of these kickoffs.”

“Ole Miss has just scored and we don’t know who scored because No. 85 isn’t listed on their roster. It’s academic at this point.”

After an MSU holding call, “Well, if you can’t block ‘em, hold ‘em!
John Correro: “One can only hope so, Jack.”

“It’s third down and so long, you will need surveying equipment to see how much is needed for a first down.”

“There are only 45 seconds left. Maybe Ole Miss won’t score another touchdown. In the 1st quarter that is.”

“Coming up on the end of the quarter – the third quarter, that is. We’ve still got another one to play."

“At the end of the third quarter, Ole Miss barely out in front, 38-0.”

“Ole Miss has punted once today for a grand total of 12 yards. They ought to improve on that with this next punt.” (Laughter in the background as he was saying it)

“Let’s punt it again. McAdams has to punt it a lot in his final game as a Bulldog.”

In the 4th Quarter: “For the record both teams have all of their timeouts left. So, that ought to make it fun.”

“Well, what do you know? The Rebels have put a couple of backup linemen in the game.”

“Mercifully, the clock continues to run.”

“About 3 minutes left, many fans have long been gone. In fact, some of them are probably already home by now.”

“Chris Relf can throw it long. He cannot throw it accurately, but he can throw it long.”

“Well, that’s only a loss of 9 there. So, it’s only third and 19.”

“A great many of the 55,000 fans have left the game now (45-0), they might even be home now watching on TV”.

“It’s 4th down and 24 yards to go, this ought to dictate a punt right now.”
John Correro: “One can only hope so, Jack.”

“Well, the Bulldogs take a delay of game. That backs them up to their 4 where it will be fourth and 31. We just wanted to make sure McAdams had plenty of room to kick the ball because he has such a powerful leg.”

“That’s it. Ballgame over. Ole Miss noses out Mississippi State, 45-0.”

“Sonic drive of the game….My drive home to Tupelo, MS I guarantee you that is my drive of the game.” Then he proceeded to give his home address.