Friday, July 29, 2011

Great Way to End a Monday

Best way bring a Monday to a successful conclusion...

Take a picnic to Rhodes Ferry Park & enjoy the live music, while watching daughters dance in the field & sons climb trees or throw rocks in the river, trying to hit the dead catfish. You might enjoy watching people tubing behind a boat, and then realize you know them! And if you're really fortunate, they'll pull up to the dock & take you for a ride. Then a train will come right by the park or cross the bridge going over the river. And the animal shelter volunteers are all over the place, walking all the great dogs you might adopt... if only you had enough time to enjoy a dog. And when you meet the folks whose kids are playing with your kids, they're inevitably going to be wonderful people.

100 Great Things About Living in Alabama:

#40... Concerts by the River

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Precious in the sight of Yahweh is the death of his saints. (Psalm 116)

John Stott
April 27, 1921 - July 27, 2011

John Stott was a great pastor, author, & teacher. I've loved every single one of his books I've had the joy of opening. He went to see his Savior yesterday, at the age of 90.

If you've not read a book by Stott, do yourself a favor & pick one up. I'd recommend Basic Christianity as a great gateway into Stott, but click here for a complete bibliography if you wanted to go deeper.

Some John Stott Quotes:

As a typical adolescent, I was aware of two things about myself, though doubtless I could not have articulated them in these terms then. First, if there was a God, I was estranged from him. I tried to find him, but he seemed to be enveloped in a fog I could not penetrate. Secondly, I was defeated. I knew the kind of person I was, and also the kind of person I longed to be. Between the ideal and the reality there was a great gulf fixed. I had high ideals but a weak will. . . . [W]hat brought me to Christ was this sense of defeat and of estrangement, and the astonishing news that the historic Christ offered to meet the very needs of which I was conscious.

The Christian life is not just our own private affair. If we have been born again into God's family, not only has he become our Father but every other Christian believer in the world, whatever his nation or denomination, has become our brother or sister in Christ. … But it is no good supposing that membership of the universal Church of Christ is enough; we must belong to some local branch of it. … Every Christian's place is in a local church. … sharing in its worship, its fellowship, and its witness.
Basic Christianity

If you find it hard to believe in God, I strongly advise you to begin your search not with philosophical questions about the existence and being of God, but with Jesus of Nazareth. … If you read again the story of Jesus, and read it as an honest and humble seeker, Jesus Christ is able to reveal himself to you, and thus make God. … real to you.
I Believe in God

The modern world detests authority but worships relevance. … Our Christian conviction is that the Bible has both authority and relevance. … and that the secret of both is Jesus Christ.
Culture and the Bible

The Gospel is good news of mercy to the undeserving. The symbol of the religion of Jesus is the cross, not the scales.
Christian Mission in the Modern World

Social responsibility becomes an aspect not of Christian mission only, but also of Christian conversion. It is impossible to be truly converted to God without being thereby converted to our neighbor.
Christian Mission in the Modern World

Sin and the child of God are incompatible. They may occasionally meet; they cannot live together in harmony.
The Letters of John

God's Word is designed to make us Christians, not scientists, and to lead us to eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. It was not God's intention to reveal in Scripture what human beings could discover by their own investigations and experiments.
Christian Basics

God is a peacemaker. Jesus Christ is a peacemaker. So, if we want to be God's children and Christ's disciples, we must be peacemakers too.
Decisive Issues Facing Christians Today

The incentive to peacemaking is love, but it degenerates into appeasement whenever justice is ignored. To forgive and to ask for forgiveness are both costly exercises. All authentic Christian peacemaking exhibits the love and justice—and so the pain—of the cross.
The Cross of Christ

It is never enough to have pity on the victims of injustice if we do nothing to change the unjust situation itself.
The Cross of Christ

Monday, July 25, 2011

Listening to Jesus in the Church

A.W. Tozer wrote this in the 1960's...

"The nervous compulsion to get things done is found everywhere among us. We are affected by a kind of religious tic, a deep inner necessity to accomplish something that can be seen and photographed and evaluated in terms of size, numbers, speed and distance. We travel a prodigious number of miles, talk to unbelievably large crowds, publish an astonishing amount of religious literature, collect huge sums of money, build vast numbers of churches and amass staggering debts for our children to pay. Christian leaders compete with each other in the field of impressive statistics, and in so doing often acquire peptic ulcers, have nervous breaks or die of heart attacks while still relatively young.

Right here is where the pragmatic philosophy comes into its own. It asks no embarrassing questions about the wisdom of what we are doing or even about the morality of it. It accepts our chosen ends as right and good and casts about for efficient means and ways to get them accomplished. When it discovers something that works it soon finds a text to justify it, 'consecrates' it to the Lord and plunges ahead. Next a magazine article is written about it, then a book, and finally the inventor is granted an honorary degree. After that any question about the scripturalness of things or even the moral validity of them is completely swept away. You cannot argue with success. The method works; ergo, it must be good.

The weakness of all this is its tragic shortsightedness. It never takes the long view of religious activity, indeed it dare not do so, but goes cheerfully on believing that because it works it is both good and true. It is satisfied with present success and shakes off any suggestion that its works may go up in smoke in the day of Christ.

As one fairly familiar with the contemporary religious scene, I say without hesitation that a part, a very large part, of the activities carried on today in evangelical circles are not only influenced by pragmatism but almost completely controlled by it. Religious methodology is geared to it; it appears large in our youth meetings; magazines and books constantly glorify it; conventions are dominated by it; and the whole religious atmosphere is alive with it.

What shall we do to break its power over us? The answer is simple. We must acknowledge the right of Jesus Christ to control the activities of His church. The New Testament contains full instructions, not only about what we are to believe but what we are to do and how we are to go about doing it. Any deviation from those instructions is a denial of the Lordship of Christ. I say the answer is simple, but it is not easy for it requires that we obey God rather than man, and that always brings down the wrath of the religious majority. It is not a question of knowing what to do; we can easily learn that from the Scriptures. It is a question of whether or not we have the courage to do it."

Friday, July 22, 2011

From Yesterday's Newspaper...

Regarding the SEC Western Division Championship, I feel it's only fair to give Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, & Ole Miss this warning ahead of time. If you wish to surrender now, everyone will understand.

From Brett Hudson of the Decatur Daily

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen: winner.

When Mullen told the press that he only uses about 60 percent of his playbook in a year because that's all that applies to a given team, he cemented himself as an excellent ball coach.

Why? Because that proved that he's a personnel coach.

Personnel coaches are coaches that adapt their systems to the talent they have available, which are foils to scheme coaches who run the same scheme regardless of talent...... It looks like Mullen...... is ready to cement himself as an excellent football coach. Which he is: the rest of the nation just doesn't know it yet.

From Jay G. Tate of the Montgomery Advertiser

Mississippi State hasn't challenged for a Western Division title in nearly a decade, but many believe this is the year things change for the Bulldogs.

And their coach isn't scared to discuss his optimism.

Mullen..... has said all along that advancing to the SEC championship game and beyond is his goal.

Fewer people laugh at that prognostication these days.

"I think people maybe can look and say: Hey, it's not as amusing; they actually have a chance to do it," Mullen said. "I think everybody understands how hard the SEC West is. The task this year is not going to be any easier for us than it was last year to get to Atlanta."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Farmers' Market Day!

A favorite thing to do on a Saturday morning: Go to the Decatur / Morgan County Farmer's Market & get all kinds of delicious peppers, corn, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peaches, & all sorts of other nutritious awesomeness... & wonder what delicious masterpiece my beautiful wife will have cooked up for us for dinner that night.

This last Saturday was Corn Day at the Farmer's Market. That's right. Free. Corn. On. The. Cob. I am not worthy.

"The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese." ~G.K. Chesterton

"Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity." ~Voltaire

"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating." ~Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, Pavarotti, My Own Story

"All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast." ~John Gunther

"Never work before breakfast; if you have to work before breakfast, eat your breakfast first." ~Josh Billings

"It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato." ~Lewis Grizzard

100 Great Things About Living in Alabama:

#31... The Farmer's Market

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Jonah & the Whale

(no, it wasn't really 02/01/2006 when this picture was taken...need to get that fixed)

This is VBS week at DPC, and I've had a blast being with all the children off & on throughout the week.

Thanks to all the volunteers who are working together to pull this off!

And thanks to Cindy, our Interim Children's Ministry Director for leading us!

We've been working through the story of Jonah, a wonderful story of the mercies of God.

Enjoy the following tidbits from Frederick Buechner's fun little book, Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who's Who:

Within a few minutes of swallowing the prophet Jonah, the whale suffered a severe attack of acid indigestion, and it's not hard to see why. Jonah had a disposition that was enough to curdle milk.

When God ordered him to go to Ninevah and tell them there to shape up and get saved, the expression on Jonah's face was that of a man who has just gotten a whiff of trouble in his septic tank. In the first place, the Ninevites were foreigners and thus off his beat. In the second place, far from wanting to see them get saved, nothing would have pleased him more than to see them get what he thought they had coming to them.

It was as the result of a desperate attempt to get himself out of the assignment that he got himself swallowed by the whale instead; but the whale couldn't stomach him for long, and in the end Jonah went ahead, and with a little more prodding from God, did what he'd been told. He hated every minute of it, however, and when the Ninevites succumbed to his eloquence and promised to shape up, he sat down under a leafy castor oil plant to shade him from the blistering sun and smouldered inwardly. It was an opening that God could not resist.

He caused the castor oil plant to shrivel up to the last leaf, and when Jonah got all upset at being back in the ghastly heat again, God pretended to misunderstand what was bugging him.

"Here you all, all upset out of pity for one small castor oil plant that has shrived up," he said, "so what's wrong with having pity for this whole place that's headed for Hell in a handcart if something's not done about it?" (Jonah 4.10-11)

It is one of the rare instances in the Old Testament of God's wry sense of humor, and it seems almost certain that Johan didn't fail to appreciate it.

If it was actually a whale that swallowed Jonah on his voyage to Tarshish, it couldn't have been the kind of right whale you find in those waters because their gullets aren't big enough. Maybe it was a sperm whale because they can handle something the size of a prophet without batting an eye. Or maybe, since the Hebrew word means only "great fish," it wasn't a whale at all but a man-eating shark, some of whom attains lengths as great as thirty feet. But whatever it was, this much is certain.

No matter how deep it dove and no matter how dark the inside of its belly, no depth or darkness was enough to drown out the sound of Jonah's prayer. "I am cast out from thy presence. How shall I again look upon thy holy temple?" (Jonah 2.4) the intractable and waterlogged old man called out from sixty fathoms, and Yahweh heard him, and answered him, and Jonah's relief at being delivered from the whale can hardly have been any greater than the whale's at being delivered from Jonah

Sacrificial Love

Last night I took my older two kids to a lecture by John Granger, who has written a number of books & articles on the Harry Potter series. Wow, what a stimulating lecture! There are so many fascinating literary allusions and thoughtful symbols of faith within those books; it's much more than at first meets the eye.

But even just the bare story itself is made up of layer upon layer of unpacking what sacrificial love looks like & what it actually requires of us.

These are really books for grown ups.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Colson on Casey Anthony & Justice

Interesting article here by Chuck Colson on a subject that's on everyone's minds & lips at the moment... including the waitress at IHOP who served breakfast to a friend & me this morning. I'm also inclined to be more troubled by the outcome we have than if we had the opposite outcome, but Colson makes some very good points:

Establishing Justice
Guilt, Innocence and Due Process

July 07, 2011

At the end of the long and emotionally charged murder trial of Casey Anthony, a prominent CNN reporter laid aside any shred of journalistic objectivity and fumed, “Somewhere out there, the Devil is dancing tonight.”

The reporter was directing her anger at the jury, which found Ms. Anthony innocent of the murder of her young daughter. But after 33 days in court and eleven hours of deliberation, the jury simply found too many holes in the evidence to prove that Anthony was guilty beyond all reasonable doubt.

Now the millions of Americans who followed the made-for-TV drama on cable news, there was no doubt that Ms. Anthony was guilty. And why would they think otherwise?

The tragic death occurred almost three years ago. Since then, the media have breathlessly covered the sad story. They crammed every question of innocence and guilt and the details of the murder into emotionally charged, ratings-friendly, five-minute blocks. Let’s be generous and say that this kind of coverage merely fuels public outrage -- and it certainly does nothing to help the public rationally weigh the evidence of the case.

But then again, that’s not the public’s, or the media’s, job.

That job belongs to the judge and jury, thank God. And I mean that literally. Standards of evidence are so stringent in our legal system because the stakes are so high: depriving a person of his liberty or even his life.

Before that happens, the elements of the crime, all of them, must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. If this sounds “soft” to you, then the Old Testament was “soft.” We find in Numbers 35 and Deuteronomy 17 the requirement that there be more than one eyewitness to convict anyone of murder. God so abhors convicting the innocent that bearing false witness in a capital case is a capital offense in itself!

Contrary to the CNN reporter’s claim about Satan, what truly puts a giddyup in the Devil’s two-step is lawlessness and chaos, which is why God instituted government and gave us law.

But, in the Biblical view, law is about more than preserving order, as important as that is -- it is about establishing justice, which means requiring rules, not just about right and wrong, but how we determine who is right and who is wrong.

Think about the prophets: in addition to denouncing Israel’s apostasy and infidelity, they denounced wrong-doing in the courts and the misdeeds of those entrusted with establishing justice.

Hard as it may be to accept, a properly-functioning justice system will make mistakes: we are talking about human beings, after all. Sometimes people we believe to be guilty will go free.

And sometimes prosecutors are overzealous, as we saw in the case of Dominque Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund. His behavior may have been deplorable, but the prosecutors were irresponsible.

Then there are those wrongly-convicted, some of whom may be sitting on death row.

As a Christian, it’s these miscarriages of justice that disturb me more. If Anthony is guilty, she’s got to live with the consequences and the nightmares of what she did. I am confident that God will see that justice is ultimately done. That’s His job. Ours is working for a society where justice, as the Scriptures define it, is done today.