Justice Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.

How would you feel about a book that claims that everyone eventually goes to hell?
Several years ago we had an art show at our church and people brought in all kinds of sculptures, and paintings, and we put them on display. And there was this one piece that had a quote from John Newton in it; and lots of people found this piece compeling. They’d stop and sort of stare at it, and take it in, and reflect on it—but not everybody found it that compelling. Somewhere in the course of the art show somebody attached a hand-written note to the piece, and on the note they had written: “Reality Check—He’s In Heaven.”
John Newton’s in heaven? He is? And someone knows this, for sure; and felt the need to let the rest of us know? Will only a few, select, people make it to hell? And will billions and billions of people rejoice forever in heaven? And, if that’s the case, how do you become one of the few? Is it what you believe; or what you say, or what you do, or who you know—or something that happens in your heart? Or do you need to be born with original sin, or be an atheist, or become apostate, or blaspheme, or simply live in unrepentant sin—how does one become one of these few?
And then there is the question behind the questions, the real question: What is God like? Because millions and millions of people were taught that the primary message—the center of the Gospel of Jesus—is that God is going to send you to heaven, if you just augment your life with him. And so, what gets, subtlely, sort of caught and taught is that Jesus is merely and example or a therapy and you don't have to stand as holy before God. But what kind of God is that; that we would need this therapeutic God? How could that God ever be just; how could that God ever be trusted? And how could that ever be bad news.
This is why lots of people want nothing to do with the Christian faith. They see it as an endless list of psychological crutches; and they say: “Why would I ever want to be part of that?” See, what we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about Who God is, and what God is like. What you discover in the Bible is so stunning, unexpected, and terrifying, that whatever we’ve been told or taught, the bad news is actually worse than that;worse than we could ever imagine.
The bad news is, that justice wins.
Upset yet? Too harsh? I hope you're as upset about the other one...

(Note: See this video as a reference.)

Japan

There is so much going on in the world right now. At the forefront of everyone's mind is Japan, and now Glenn Beck is playing Pat Robertson about it. The images and videos coming from Japan are just unbelievable.

 

The effects of computers graphics in movies upon my mind is saddening. It's hard to see this on the surface and be shocked. I have to keep telling myself that this isn't a movie effect. This is real. Water really is washing over that overpass. I think modern movies have numbed me to being affected greatly by tragic scenes. My heart isn't stirred until I consciously remind myself that the van I see sticking out of the water at a 45 degree angle is some family's mode of transportation that people's entire homes, schools, and businesses are being just washed away. There's nothing left. It's so sad...so tragic. My heart hearts for every family who has lost a loved one and every family who has to start again from nothing. I pray that God would bring comfort and help to the Japanese people.


This passage comes to mind.
"I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." (Genesis 9:11-16 ESV)
Though hurricanes and tsunamis will rage against our shores, God will not judge the whole world with water again. This means that there is hope in our pain, a hope that salvation may be found in God through Jesus. Jesus responded to tragedy in this way.
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-3; Luke 13:4-5 ESV)
Whether man-made devistation or random natural tragic event, the message is the same: God is full of grace and mercy. Repent! Trust Jesus for righteousness before God. For now, the rain falls upon the righteous and the wicked, but judgement will come in the end. Turn to Jesus before there is no more time to turn.

Virginia Davis Vacarro (1915-2011)

Her obituary:
A native of Warnerton and resident of Central, she died Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011, at Baton Rouge General Medical Center-Mid City. She was 96. Visiting at Rabenhorst Funeral Home East, 11000 Florida Blvd., on Tuesday, March 1, was from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. Visiting resumes at the funeral home Wednesday from 10 a.m. until religious service in the chapel at 1 p.m., conducted by John Meche. Burial in Roselawn Memorial Park. Virginia is survived by her two sons, Richard E. Rogers, and Roy W. Rogers and his wife, Belinda; granddaughter, Kimberelle Barker and her husband, Shannon; stepgrandson, Jeff Miller and his wife, Angie; great-grandchildren, John Meche and his wife, Charlee, Brandon Barker, Anna Barker, Hayden Miller and Sydney Miller; great-great-grandchildren, Amelie Meche and Judah Meche; and brothers and sisters, James Davis, Saranell Babin, Jewell Davis, Marjorie Forbes and Mary Earle. She was preceded in death by a grandson, Morris Richard Rogers; husbands, Morris R. Rogers, William B. May and Joe Vaccaro; brother, Carroll Davis; and sister, Dora Prather. Pallbearers will be Shannon Barker, John Meche, Brandon Barker, Jeff Miller, Mike Kauffman, Charles Prather and Otis Forbes. Virginia was a member of First Baptist Church of Central and the Order of Eastern Star. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to First Baptist Church of Central Building Fund.
My notes from the sermon I preached at her funeral:
When I was a boy, my great grandmother gave me a bible. Written on the inside in my great grandmother’s handwriting was the phrase, “John, the answer to all of life’s questions are found inside of this book” If this is true -if this is what she believed, then I can think of no greater honor to give her than by placing her life in the context of this book. When I walked into my great grandmother’s hospital room to see her for the last time, I thought to myself, “Wow. 96 years! This is like Hebrews 11.” I knew at that moment that Hebrews 11 would be my text for her funeral. Hebrews 11 is known to many as the hall of faith. The writer of Hebrews is recounting the deeds of the Old Testament saints done by faith in order to encourage the reader to endure in Christ and throw off sin. That is the context of which I want to place my great grandmother’s life.

Virginia was:
1. A person like all other people
Hebrews 11 describes the Old Testament saints in this way:

Abraham: By faith left his home to live in a land that was not his own.
Moses: By faith chose to face oppression with his people, the Israelites, rather than have a seat at Pharaoh's table as an honored relative
Israelites: By faith walked on dry land across the Red Sea
You would think that these people found favor with God because of their impeccable character and good deeds, but this list of acts done by faith were not all that the Bible records about their lives
Abraham: Tried (twice) to pass off his wife as his sister because he thought it would better to have another man sleep with his wife than risk being killed
Moses: Got angry at the Israelites and claimed God’s work as his own.
Israelites: Decided that God was taking too long and instead made a golden cow to worship
Why bring these things up? Because our lives -yours, mine, Virginia’s, and every person in the Bible except one -are a series of hits and misses. We do good things and evil things, wise things and unwise things, righteous things and sinful. What does this leave us to then? To hope that somehow our good deeds outnumber our bad ones? That God has a scale that can be tipped by putting coins in the coffer? This doesn’t work. Our good deeds don’t cancel out our bad deeds, not even here on earth with men. As any state trooper can tell you, it doesn’t matter how many hours a week you volunteer at the soup kitchen, if you do 51 in a 50, you have broken the law and you deserve your ticket.
Why do I bring this up? and at a funeral? because if you don’t understand that Virginia is a person like all other people with the same problem as all other people, you will miss the reason for every bit of kindness and love you received from her. You will miss the reason that she was who she was, specifically that she trusted God’s promise that something outside of herself could be the remedy for the failures, shortcomings, and sins in her life
2. who trusted God's promise
The OT saints died trusting God's promise, and he was not ashamed to be called their God (Heb 11:13-16)
[13] These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. [14] For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. [15] If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. [16] But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
(Hebrews 11:13-16 ESV)
Their desire was to be with God forever, and so they forsook their earthly home in favor of a heavenly one. God is preparing for them a heavenly city not because their good deeds outweigh their bad, but because of their faith in his promise. But what is his promise?
Paul sums it up best in 1 Cor 15:3-5
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”
God put Jesus to death in order to pay the penalty for our sin, and then raised him on the third day to show that death has no victory. This is the promise that the Old Testaments believed, that God could remove their sin, and it is the promise that Virginia believed as well.
How do you know that someone has this faith, that their desire is for a heavenly city rather than for an earthly one? You cannot do an MRI or CT scan and show that an area of someone’s brain lights up when they have faith in Christ. But with each of the people listed in this chapter, we see their actions were done in faith. All we can know of someone’s faith is how it is lived out in the things that they say and do.
I only had 26 years with Virginia, but here is what I saw:

She loved to talk to Jesus. When I had the honor of praying with her throughout my life, she prayed sincere prayers for so many of you who are sitting in this room -that God would protect you, provide for you, and draw you to himself.
She loved the Bible. She read it every night, and when it got hard to read, she got one with bigger print, and when that got hard to read, she got a magnifying glass. I grew up remembering her scribbled notes in the margins of her bible and on church bulletins. She struggled to understand and digest the deep truths of God’s word, and like it was necessary to her health, she partook of it every day.
She loved the church. She gathered faithfully with the saints to worship God, study scripture, and encourage one another on to love and good deeds.
She loved me. She was willing to take this awkward, nerdy, and sometimes downright weird boy into her home for weeks at a time to let him go to VBS, attend church, and to encourage him to place his trust in Christ as his lord and savior. In generous hospitality she let me stay with her through college, and was overjoyed that I would be doing what I am doing right now. She loved me. And I am sure that each person in this room has stories of how her faith was evidenced in their life.
3. and is now a witness whose life points to Christ (Heb 12:1-2)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

She joins with all of the OT saints and every believer in Christ in looking to us and commending us to place our trust in Christ, throw off sin, and run with endurance. 
So where do you fall? Do you believe that you are a person like every other person? Or are you trying to get by with God based upon your own merit? Do you trust God’s promise, that he has provided a way to forgive your sins in Christ? Are you throwing off your sin and running with endurance the race that God has set before you in order to have God forevermore?

Creepy

  1. Why does Jesus' beard look like it's held on with paste?
  2. Jesus does not look like he is from the Middle East.
  3. In what sense is this a competition? Ever read Revelation?
  4. This looks more like a poster for a movie where Jesus and Satan team up to stop a gang of Columbian drug lords than some sort of epic battle...


What being a Southern Baptist makes your forget about communion

If you grew up in a traditional Southern Baptist church, your communion experience probably looks like this. You get a small piece of styrofoam cracker, and a cup of Welch's Grape Juice. The cracker is tasteless and designed to dissolve on your tongue like those breath strips, and the Welch's is tart and reminds you of breakfast when you were a child. Now, I know that Southern Baptist churches aren't the only ones that use wafers and Welch's, but I am speaking from my experience here.

Recently my church has shaken things up a bit. Instead of communion being brought to you, you walk up to partake. Instead of wafers, everyone pinches from a large loaf of bread, and dips the morsel into a cup labeled W or J depending upon their conscience. Now, I've had youth camps and such where we used bread, but never in my experience of being in Southern Baptist churches have I dipped the bread. Nor has wine ever been available as an option. As I began take communion each week, I realized two important things about it that aren't emphasized in traditional Southern Baptist churches.

First, we all share in one body. When we all take our own little perfectly packaged little wafer, we lose the symbolism that comes from everyone partaking from the same loaf. As I watched people tear at the bread, I remembered that we are all part of one body, just as we all eat from one loaf.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
(1 Corinthians 12:12-13 ESV) 
Now, this is obvious from the word communion. The word means that we have a fellowship. But even that emphasis is lost when it is called "The Lord's Supper" rather than communion. I'm not saying that one title is correct. I am just saying that the emphasis on unity is often lost. The symbolism of one loaf drives the point home.

Second, communion tastes good! Woah there, John. What are you getting at? Well, a morsel of bread dipped in wine tastes like you're eating the best jellied bread in the world. A bland wafer with some Welch's just makes you want a stick of Big Red from grandma's purse. Why does this matter? Because the cross of Christ is delicious! The Son of God was beaten beyond recognition. His blood flowed out like water. It was horrific and the greatest sin ever perpetrated against God. And that act, that terrible sin, that darkest of days: it means that I get to have God forevermore, rather than eternally facing his wrath. He paid the cost of my sin, and rose again to show that God could raise me...and it is sweet to my lips. Like bread dipped in wine. Delicious.
For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
(1 Corinthians 15:16-19 ESV)
As I mourn during communion remembering that Jesus' body was broken and his blood poured out because of my sin, I delight that I am joined to the body for all eternity.

Our First Family Trip to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

My mother bought our kids a one year membership to the Audubon Institute for Christmas. This includes free passes for our family to the Audubon Zoo, the aquarium, and a reduced fare at the insectarium. We took our first family trip to the aquarium last weekend.

 

One of my favorites:

IMG_1197

A New Blog For A New Start

With the start of the new year, I started biking. To document my endeavor into cycling, I have started a new blog: More Than Coasting. Go check it out!

The Dying Wreath

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
(1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ESV)
In time my high school and college diplomas will turn yellow. The paper will eventually crumble at a touch. All of the money I have ever made will eventually be spent. My aging Macbook, my shiny new Giant bicycle, and my already aged Ford Taurus will occupy a landfill. All of the trinkets, toys, and treasures I can collect in this life will some day turn to dust. And in 100 years there will likely not be a person living who remembers hearing the sound of my voice. Like almost every other person in history, I am a rain drop in the ocean of time.

What is important then? What really matters? What is imperative on my life? All of my life comes down to this: running in a way that I might win the prize. What is the prize? God -forevermore. He is the eternal prize and the goal and the delight for anyone who attains him. Long after everything that has ever been in this age has melted away, God will remain. There are greater pleasures in him than in any dying wreath the world has to offer. Even the praise of men that may come from being an esteemed preacher of the gospel cannot compare to the pleasure of God. And if you run in such a way to get that praise, you may have it but lose the race for the prize of the universe. If we trust him for the forgiveness of our sins, then we must run in a way that shows the value of him to us.

I fail at this. I live in a country of cheap gods and cheap pleasure. It's only by the transformative work of the Spirit of God within me that I am able to run. He gives me the ability to do the hard work of being a disciple. If you're reading this today, and you are running aimlessly, then remember the prize and run for it. Think of the eternal pleasures in God that await you forevermore. If you are not even running the race, then trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sin. Stop trying to run backward on the track toward sin and turn toward God, runnig the race to win the prize

The Ten Best Movies of 2010

10. Kick Ass -There were some refreshing moments in this movie where Kick Ass fails miserably at being a crime fighter (or fumbles into victory in a non comedic way). These were the best moments of this film. The movie has some notable flaws, and probably appears on this list, because I only saw fourteen 2010 releases this year. Yet, the movie knows its audience and delivers well enough to not demand a straight to video sequel.

9. Black Swan -In this film, Aronofsky does what he always does. He makes a movie that is visceral, beautiful, and reality distorting. If you are going to go with style over substance, you have to have a LOT of style. Aronofsky pulls it off marvelously. The storyline is simple but not a thinly-veiled ripoff like some other films. This film would probably be higher up on the list, but it's extremely sexual. Even though there is no nudity in the movie, it is probably one of the most sexual that I have seen. But if you've seen Requiem for a Dream, I don't think that Aronofsky can do much to surprise you anymore.

8. Catfish -I'm not sure whether it's the movie or the controversy that surrounds it that is so entertaining, but I know this: your stomach will be cutting flips the entire time. The only drawback is that you have to resist the urge to yell at the hipsters to stop smiling so ironically.

7. Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World -This is sort of the anti-Kick Ass. The protagonist is an amazing fighter with no reason given (and none needed) as to why he can so adequately lay down the smack on some ex-boyfriends. This movie makes the list because it is novel. The fight scenes and editing really give the viewer a primer on today's teenage ADD 8 bit manga culture. Oh, and it gets the Michael Cera bump.

6. The Social Network -Jesse Eisenberg knocks one out of the park, and Fincher is brilliant. He somehow makes coding (the nerdiest most mundane activity on the planet) into a thrilling ride. The history of the rise of social networking could not have been told in an more entertaining way. You have made Pirates of Silicon Valley and Hackers very proud.

5. The Fighter -Mark Wahlberg trained for four years to play the role of Mickey Ward. His training was worth every minute. This is not a typical rags to riches story. The Fighter is full of quirky characters and humor. David O. Russell's hand shows in this aspect. Amy Adams is solid as always. Melissa Leo transforms herself completely into Alice Ward. Watch an episode of Treme and then watch this film. She is unrecognizable.

4. Winter's Bone -A harsh look at meth addiction and one girl's search for her missing father set and shot in the empoverished Ozarks. Director Deborah Granik sums it up best: "I think that the subject of meth for everybody involved – for local people and the crew – it was extremely upsetting. There is not one aspect of looking at meth that is mellow or benign: what it does to a human being’s body, their faces, their teeth. Everything about it is so vicious, and so dramatic and so relentless. There is basically not one bit of solace in that whole depiction of actual reality of it." Jennifer Lawrence hits every single mark.

3. Inception -The play within the play within the play within the play. If you put all of Christopher Nolan's other films into a blender, dump them into a glass and put whipped cream on top, what you do get? Inception. Think about it. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt...where have you been since 2005? Nice to see you're back buddy.

2. Toy Story 3 -For the second year in a row, Pixar has made me cry at the movies. Thanks guys. This is the best ending that the franchise could have had. I cannot wait to watch this with my kids in the years to come. Toy Story 3 ties for first more than it sits at second.

1. True Grit -The Coen brothers do it again. I cannot say enough about how good this movie is. Jeff Bridges is acting perfection as Rooster Cogburn. Matt Damon shows his versatility. And where in the world did Hailee Steinfeld come from? Spoiler alert: No one uses contractions in this movie, and it is music to my ears.

There were a lot of movies I didn't get to see this year. Some of them may have made my top ten if I had gotten a chance to see them. Here's my short list of movies I wanted to see this year but did not get to:
  • The Other Guys
  • Salt
  • Get Him to the Greek
  • Babies
  • A Prophet
  • The king's speech
  • Hereafter
  • Red
  • Let the Right One In
  • Waiting for Superman
  • Please Give
  • Iron Man 2
  • Splice
  • Cyrus
  • The American
Thanks for reading the list! Drop me a comment and tell me why I'm wrong or right about the best films of the year.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes ...and Christmas

Recently, I've become scared of my blog. It's wierd. I know this. The feeling is a bit like when you're supposed to call someone, but you wait too long. You know you should call, but you're embarrassed, because you didn't call. This leads to you waiting longer and being more embarrassed. Eventually, you just have to pick up the phone. So, here I go on a purge post.

We moved into a new house! It's a half shotgun in Algier's Point. The place is newly renovated. All of the fireplaces have been redone. The kitchen and bathroom are completely new, and we finally have a dishwasher. No more paper plates and long clean-ups for us! The kitchen cleans so quickly now. One problem with these old shotguns is usually that they aren't sealed well, but ours is very well insulated. It also has a yard and a white picket fence, and if you know me, then you know that is not a positive thing. It really is a wonderful place, and we are only four blocks from the Algiers Ferry, meaning that we are only four blocks from the front of the Quarter. We can take the kids on a four block walk and a short boat ride, which thrills Amelie, and be standing in front of the Aquarium of the Americas.

I would like to go into a discussion of the real estate market in the French Quarter -about how they smile at you and take your rental application for a place, knowing the whole time that they aren't going to give it to you, because you have kids. I would like to do that, but I won't. I will say this though. If you want to move into the Quarter, and you have kids, then you should buy a house there. That is the only way you will get in, because they just don't want you there. Fair housing laws don't exist in the French Quarter. The place will suddenly need renovations or some family friend will appear from thin air to rent it from the owner.

Moving along...

Christmas was great! I had four vacation days left at the end of the year and I was actually able to bridge the gap between Christmas and New Years. I was off of work for a total of ten straight days. It's never easy to go back after that. So what did I get for Christmas? Well here are a couple of the highlights. 

First up is my new Hookah! My lovely wife bought me a Mya Petite, a box of 100 coals, and three flavors of Social Smoke tobacco (Mint Chocolate, Chai, and Double Apple). The Mya is a small personal Hookah, which it perfect for me. If I ever want to smoke with someone, it does convert to a two hose hookah with an adapter. It has really high ratings all around the web. I plan on buying a second hose adapter, a washable hose, and possibly a larger bowl for it. By the way, the Mint Chocolate flavor is superb.

Another gift that I absolutely loved is the French press that my mother-in-law bought for me. I have never tasted coffee with as much flavor as that which is made by the French press. My drip pot has sat on the counter alone and unused since I brought the French press home. If you've never used a French press, here is how it works. You pull off the lid and press and put in your ground coffee. Pour in hot water after that. Stir the coffee grounds and water, and let it sit for four minutes with the press/lid on and the press pulled all the way up. After four minutes place your hand on top of the press and let the weight of your hand carry it down. All of the coffee will be trapped at the bottom under the press. Finally, pour yourself a cup of the best coffee you've ever had.

I got lots of other fun gifts. I won a machete and a pair of laptop speakers in a white elephant. The machete is going to come in handy when I have to take care of the banana trees and the bamboo in the yard. My sisters/brothers-in-law got me funny "Camping is in tents" shirt and a neat ring. My brother got me a Star Wars scanimation, and my mom got us loads of Groupon/Living Social vouchers. We are trying to cut down on the amount of money we spend eating out, so having free meals at some of New Orleans' awesome restaurants is great.

The kids...well they got a lot. Here's a video I made of the footage:



All in all it was a very good Christmas.We got to relax and spend time with family. It was a much needed break after a long and tiring season of life. I'm looking forward to 2011. I am full of hope in God as our lives are getting back on track spiritually and emotionally. God is good, and he has blessed us beyond measure with family and friends who love and care for us. Most of all he sent his Son to Earth to live the life I could not live and die the death I should have died. When I think about Christmas, I think about the God of the universe identifying with me experiencing the stress, pain, and hardships of being a human.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:1-11 ESV)


In Christ, By the Power of the Holy Spirit...

John Piper:
"I hear so many Christians murmuring about their imperfections and their failures and their addictions and their shortcomings and I see so little war! “Murmur, murmur, murmur, why am I this way?” MAKE WAR! … If you wonder how to make war go to the manual. Don’t just bellyache about your failures. MAKE WAR!"

Need more evidence?

I've said before that American culture no longer understands the Christian worldview nor is it familiar with what the Bible actually says (aside from a 6 day creation and passages about homosexuality). Need more evidence?

 

My question: why is this even news? Has it not been the position of Christianity for 2000 years that if you look upon a member of the opposite sex lustfully that you are committing adultery? The video almost quotes Jesus verbatim. Where is the news story here? Where is the controversy? It's the sermon on the mount for crying out loud! Christians, we have to wake up and realize that nobody knows what we believe any more. There are large parts of the country where people believe that Christians are just science-hating people who stick their morality into your bedroom. We have to reclaim the Christian meta narrative and show the world that Christianity is about the person and work of Jesus.

How was your labor day weekend?


It was a pretty lazy weekend for us in the beginning. I got some much needed rest on Friday night. We decided sometime Saturday afternoon that we were not going to travel out of town for the weekend. Sunday was our trip to the children's museum. Amelie had an uncanny interest in going up and down the stairs. She also went and sat on the porch swing at least three times. The best part though was when she got on Jackson's horse. She would not get off. We have to get the kid a rocking horse. Because of the crowd the museum had the Winn Dixie roped off and employees were letting kids in one at a time, so we didn't bother with a faux shopping trip. We came home just in time to see a huge second line come through, which Amelie thoroughly enjoyed. Monday was reserved for Chris and Kaitlin's barbecue at their lovely new Lakeside rental. We got to meet Nehemiah, who had a great time hanging out with his new buddy, Judah. It was a very good weekend indeed. Take a look at the pictures, or if you do not have Flash, click here to see them.

News flash! Glenn Beck is a Mormon!

From the blog of Dr. Russell Moore:
Too often, and for too long, American “Christianity” has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it. There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is also a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at heart mammon worship. The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death. The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt. Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah. 
The problem with Beck is that the God he is urging others to get back to is not the Christian God. He's the vague god of Americanism that rewards those who can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, the one that rewards "family values" and being moral polite people. The Americanistic god holds up the founders as its saints and exposits the constitution to its congregation. I know it might sound unbelievable to some of us that our nationality can become our religion, but I would point you to the Romans for an example. Every kingdom of this world will fall to the Kingdom of God, and that includes America.

Mormonism is an American religion and it reveals its roots. It tweaks Christianity to make it a religion not of grace but of works. "God worked his way up to becoming God, and if you work really hard you can become a god too." It's rubbish, and it's demonic. Jesus came to stand in the place of those who could not and would not stand before God as righteous in order to reconcile them to God. He died for his enemies. He died that "the people who are trying to subvert this nation" might worship their Almighty Creator. As people who are in the world but not of the world our only allegiance should be to the Kingdom of God. All other priorities and purposes should flow out from God's Kingdom purpose in our lives. I don't think this is Beck's mission. I think God is a section of his Americanism and not the other way around.

 Let me be clear. Hard work, family values, morality, and politeness are not bad things. They are very good things, but when they become the definition of the gospel (what will save us) rather than the effects of a life transformed by Jesus, then they have become sin for us. Also, the men and women who have fought for America have done a noble thing. As and agent of the state, God's word says that he uses them to uphold justice in the world. Furthermore, soldiers need Jesus too, so there should be Christians in the military as missionaries to our soldiers. I only mention the military, because it's usually the first question that comes up when I start questioning America.

Fashion's Free Culture



This is a great TED talk on the industries that do not have intellectual property rights, specifically the fashion industry. We definitely need a new model for music. The music industry was not always the way it is now. It used to operate more like the fashion industry does today. Want proof? Johnny Cash's Cocaine Blues. Written by Luke Jordan in 1927. Johnny tweaked the lyrics a bit. Just do a Youtube search for Leadbelly, and you will find that a lot of songs you know today by (white) artists were made famous a long time ago by Leadbelly (House of the Rising Sun, Where did you sleep last night?, Black Betty, etc). He loved to collaborate with other artists and get their takes of his songs. I don't know what a change in copyright would mean for multimillion dollar artist homes, but I am sure it would greatly raise the bar of creativity in this vocoder-driven industry.

The Better Angels of Our Nature

From Rolling Stone's interview with Katy Perry:
‘Letting go was a process,’ she says. ‘Meeting gay people, or Jewish people, and realizing that they were fine was a big part of it. Once I stopped being chaperoned, and realized I had a choice in life, I was like, “Wow, there are a lot of choices.” I began to become a sponge for all that I had missed—the music, the movies. I was as curious as the cat.’”
This is a lesson to us parents. You have to guard against telling your children that Christians are better people than those who do not believe. We may not say it explicitly, but our kids will definitely pick it up implicitly if we do not look out for it. Remember the fault of the Pharisee in Luke 18.

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” 
(Luke 18:9-14 ESV)
The Pharisee, instead of trusting God for his righteousness, trusted in the righteousness that God wrought in him. The result is that the Pharisee did not walk away justified. It's a very scary thing to think that we could miss God, because we trust in the upright character he has brought about in our lives rather than trusting him, but it's the truth. We have to be careful with our children lest they grow up with this error. Children's minds already have a legalistic bent. Mom and dad are not better than the guy down the street. We just trust that Jesus was better for us, and that God is transforming us. Mark Driscoll is fond of saying that there are two kinds of people: bad people and Jesus. We need to pray that our children's eyes would be opened to this distinction work as hard as we can to make it evident in our lives.

You could have God, but you choose light beer.

Excellent post from The Resurgence. We are far too easily pleased indeed. Be a good hedonist and go for the greatest amount of pleasure for the longest duration...and also click the link.

The Lamy Al Star and Papier Plume's Black Ink

For my recent birthday, my wonderful wife bought me a new pen. A silver-blue Lamy Al-Star fountain pen. This is the first fountain pen that I have owned, and I had been wanting one for quite a while.

The Al-Star feels wonderful. It's not too heavy but has a good weight when posted. It feels light rather than cheap. The barrel is also a great size. I don't like the large barreled pens that make me feel like I'm writing with a Crayola marker. Nor am I a fan of writing with something as skinny as a pencil. The Al-Star really hits a happy medium for a man's hand. The cap snaps onto the pen with a satisfying click. This is great, because I don't like to unscrew my pens. The Lamy is also beautiful. It has a see-through gripping section with tapered cuts so that the pen doesn't rotate while you are writing. This is a great feature for those who are relatively new to the fountain pen scene.


The Lamy brand is stamped into the Aluminum. What a nice subtle touch! The pen also features a large springy metal clip, which is by far the sturdiest clip I have had on a pen. I don't worry about clipping it to almost anything. A other notable design points are the ink window on the side that lets you see in a flash if you're running low and the two flat sides. These flat sides keep the pen from rolling off of your workspace, which is a welcome feature for those who don't like to post their pens.


One tiny gripe I do have with the pen. The Al Star is made of aluminum (hence the name), and aluminum is a rather soft metal. I've already gotten a few tiny dings on the cap from the pen being in my satchel. Now, the cheaper counterparts to the Al-Star are the Vista and Safari, which are the same pen but in plastic. The plastic versions surely would scratch and break more easily than the Al Star, but I do feel myself wanting a stainless steel version. Maybe Lamy will make one in the $70 range in the future. I do have to say, however, that the lifetime warranty more than makes up for the softness of the aluminum.


My wife bought the pen from Papier Plume. It's a great little pen and journal shop in the French Quarter  at the corner of Royal and Dumaine. They have a wonderful selection for anyone looking for a pen that cannot be found at Office Depot. They even sell wax seals! The employees there are nice and knowledgable. I went back in about a month after my wife bought the pen to get a converter and a bottle of ink. I got my converter and ink along with a great (and educational) conversation about fountain pens. Back in May, they actually had a Homo Sapien Fountain Pen by Visconti. It's made of lava rock and costs $600! Someone actually came through and bought the pen. Anyway, the lady who was working basically told me that if I am satisfied with the weight and barrel size of my pen, then there is no need to buy a new one. There essentially is no "upgrade". I could change the nib if I like, but that's about all that might need to be done. I was impressed that she didn't try to upsell met to another pen. She did let me try out a few of them, though, in order to see what I liked best.


I wound up getting Papier Plume's black ink. They had blue and green among other colors, but black ink has always been my favorite. They bottle it themselves in the store. The bottle is quite an eyecatcher with the fleur de lis on the cap. The ink is quite nice and smooth. For only $7 I got enough ink to last me a long time.

My Current Lock Screen Background


I'm actually not experiencing any signal problems with my iPhone 4. I just thought that this was hilarious. If you want to use the picture for your own iPhone, just click the image below to see it full sized.

A Day at the Museum



We went to the New Orleans Children's Museum over the weekend. I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to try out the camera on my iPhone 4 and iMovie for iPhone. The whole video was shot and edited on the iPhone 4. When the video starts playing you can switch it to HD. I think it looks great for being a phone. I really have no need to buy a Flip any more.

What I learned at LSU

If I learned nothing else in my four year degree program at LSU, I learned this: In order to properly refute an argument, you have to present the argument correctly. Seems simple right? If I do not understand what you are trying to say, then I (except by accident) cannot give any refutation that will be true. Why? Well, because I am not refuting the actual argument but an argument that I made up. It's the straw man fallacy. I put up a straw man, and then I proceed to knock him down, which is much easier than knocking down a real man. In our postmodern context with its erosion of a meta-narrative, all information is power. All information is spun to suit a particular need. Let me give a few examples.

Now, if you know me, you know I am not big fan of President Obama's policies. But I received an email forward yesterday with this picture of President Obama and the caption "What's missing at Barack Hussein Obama's press conference?" Here's the picture:


The email then immediately plops down these comparison pictures:


So what's missing? That's right! Presidents Bush, Clinton, H.W. Bush, and Reagan all love the American flag and are patriots. President Obama does not. He apparently hates the flag and wants to destroy it, which is why he became president. But wait! The email forward neglects to show these pictures to you (Thank you Snopes.com!):


These are all photographs of presidents (the same ones shown above with American flags and LBJ thrown in for lagniappe) giving press conferences without the American flag behind them! How diligently did the person who made the email forward search for images of other presidents without flags behind them? My guess would be not at all.

Another example of this is the following clip from Ergun Caner:



Now, many of you may know me to be a Calvinist. I try not to be a snob about my theological positions, and I do not make Calvinism a requirement for salvation as some people do. Nor am I unwilling to work with (and be close friends with) someone who is not a Calvinist for the sake of the gospel. But Ergun Caner is quite public and vocal about his hatred of Calvinism. In general, he calls Calvinists hyper-Calvinists. I still do not know what a normal Calvinist would look like for him, but that is beside my point. In short though, if I listed out my beliefs, he would call me a hyper-Calvinist, thought I do not fall into the historical definition of that term. Now, watch the little clip one more time. Here's the context of the verse he quoted (emphasis mine):
[8] This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. [9] For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” [10] And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, [11] though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— [12] she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” [13] As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
    [14] What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! [15] For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
(Romans 9:8-15 ESV)
Now, Caner is plainly missing something! Regardless of where you fall on the issue of free will, the text is plain here. They had not been born. They had not done anything good or bad, yet God declared his purposes and they were "not because of works".

When you are going to refute someone's argument, you have to understand their argument. An informed and understanding refutation helps both the person arguing and the person refuting. Why? Because both are pushed upward toward an understanding of objective truth. When we refute or criticize without a full understanding of an argument, we are not bringing anyone to an understanding of objective truth but instead making a grab for power. Jesus encountered this with the chief priests in Luke 20:
[20:1] One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up [2] and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” [3] He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, [4] was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” [5] And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ [6] But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” [7] So they answered that they did not know where it came from. [8] And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
(Luke 20:1-8 ESV)
The chief priests were not concerned with what was actually true! They only cared about the power that they would give up by admitting the truth. Truth for them was not objective but merely useful. Jesus knew that if these people did not care about what was true, they would not be impacted by him telling them under what authority he preached the gospel. They only cared about the power and not about the truth.

How do you approach truth? Is truth in your life only useful? When you talk to someone (even about the gospel), are you trying to manipulate them, or are you trying to point them toward the greater objective Truth?