Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Marriage Seminar in Marion, IA

I'm very excited for an upcoming marriage event at Cornerstone Church (Marion, Iowa).

“6 Hours for Us” is open to anyone who is married or preparing for marriage regardless of faith or background. Our speakers will discuss the various trials and turning points in their marriages. One couple has three children still at home; another couple are near empty-nesters who have also navigated marriage through 20+ years in law enforcement.

Cost: $35 per couple (includes lunch and conference materials)
Time/Location: 9:30AM-3:30PM at Cornerstone Church Facility

Online registration at Eventbrite: https://goo.gl/tXoDRf

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Quote of the Day

"Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next." - William Ralph Inge

Friday, December 29, 2017

Book Review - Original Sin: A Cultural History by Alan Jacobs

Alan Jacobs (now professor at Baylor University) wrote his Original Sin book in 2009. It's a fun ride of a read through Western history (with a few anecdotes from the East) on why humans are the way they are. For Jacobs, the three competing options are benign, divine, or fallen.

Humans could be benign arrivals in the evolutionary scheme of history. Simply put, we are what we are. Sometimes people go so far to call humans "noble savages," meaning we are born with goodness in us. Or we're blank slates that can go either direction morally. If we've become "evil," it's society or education or something else that brought about that turn of events. It's nurture, not nature that deserves the blame.

Humans are sometimes painted in the glowing light of divinity. This may be a religious/mystical view or a evolutionary view that puts humans at the heights of moral goodness. This could be a noble savage idea that goes further and says we begin noble, stay noble, and may go even further than that. It could refer to a divine spark in us that is actualized throughout our lives.

The view that Jacob holds out, as well as orthodox Christianity, is that humans are actually fallen beings. There is a bi-polar nature in the humanity--we do what we don't want to do, and it's in our nature. Call it an illness, a brokenness, or a bent moral will, but humans and their history make much more sense if we reject benign and divine suggestions and deal with the real problem--the human heart.

Monday, December 18, 2017

My favorite reads in 2017

In no particular order...

The magnificent two-volume biography of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Iain Murray.

What is the Mission of the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert. Possibly the most readable and complete book on this subject for pastors and non-pastors.

Home to Harmony by Philip Gulley (a fun, fictional journey of the life and hometown of a small church pastor...sadly, Philip Gulley's non-fiction writings on the church, theology, and Christian practice do not reflect historic or orthodox Christianity.). We also enjoyed reading aloud a few of the Jeeves' books by P.G. Wodehouse this year.

More in the Ender's Series by Orson Scott Card (Xenocide, Children of the Mind, Ender's Shadow). These sci-fi fantasy books feel like a guilty pleasure sometimes, but the insights Card brings up with regard to humanity, justice, and God are profound at times.

Reread of C.S. Lewis' Four Loves. Click here for my review from earlier in the year.

Twelve Ways Your Phone is Changing You. A book I also reviewed in 2017. If you aren't reading something to consider our technology shapes us, consider this title as a worthy choice.

Old Paths, New Power: Awakening Your Church through Prayer and the Ministry of the Word by Daniel Henderson. The book's premise is simple, the writing is clearly the work of a novice, but it brings home truths I need to hear again and again.

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter. A fascinating and haunting read, courtesy of my Marion Library Card.

The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith. This 1774 book reads like Dickens.

Iain Murray's Revival and Revivalism. Any person desiring a true revival of God should read this historic text on how some have sought revival at the sake of truth.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Just Do It - Technology Fast(s)

I embraced two different soul-training exercises over the past few days that brought me much life:

1. I took 30 hours off from email Friday-Saturday.
2. I left my phone at home for 3.5 hours this morning and just spent time with God.

Instead of acting on inclinations to call people, I just prayed for them. Instead of filling moments of boredom, I just sat and thought or prayed or rested my mind.

The result: peace from God...a freedom from gadgets and people.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Christmas Eve Service 2017 for Marion and Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Each year our Cornerstone Church family and friends celebrate Christmas with a night of worship, Word, and candle lighting. There is always room for one more…come and worship the King with us.

Where: Cornerstone Church's Facility (925 Blairs Ferry Road, Marion, Iowa, across the street from Q-Dogs BBQ--please access our entrance via Lyons Lane)

When: 6:00PM, December 24, 2017

What: Scripture readings, Christmas Carols, a Christmas meditation, and special music.

We will have normal worship services on December 24 and 31 at 9:25AM at 925 Blairs Ferry Road in Marion, Iowa 52302.

More info on our church here: www.cornerstone-marion.org

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Your Phones and Your Soul


Every generation of Christians faces new obstacles for clinging to Christ. In our lives today, one of the most deadly tools Satan uses for destroying our souls is our phones. These precious technological devices go with us wherever we go, promising that all boredom can be undone, and connectivity is a click away. At the same time, they zap us from deep meditation on Christ, slow prayer before the LORD, and presence before God and others.

The Southern Baptist Seminary recently posted an article by a pastor from Alabama. This pastor has been on the same journey as me (reading almost all the same books this year) regarding technology and the Christian. His insights are worth our time and meditation.

Click here to read, and as you read, consider 1 step of application you might enlist to grow closer to Christ: http://equip.sbts.edu/article/take-cross-put-phone-follow/

Tips for Technological Sanity and Respect (for you and others):

- Turn off all notifications from email, social media, and apps. Don’t invite distractions into your life.

- Keep phone and messaging on silent or vibrate as much as possible.

- Have periods each day (1-3 hours periodically throughout the day) and each week (24 hours) where your phone is totally off or on silent and you avoid a computer or tablet.

- Leave phones in designated locations for the evening (not your pocket). Be present with the people in your home.

- Leave phone in car (best) or turned off in purse/pocket during appointments, meals, concerts, movies, and meetings. Use the “emergency rule” sparingly. The emergency rule allows you to inform your host or guest that you need to leave your phone on for an expected and important call. If you haven’t utilized the “emergency rule,” do not look at your phone until the event is over.

Friday, October 20, 2017

False Teaching and those Who've Found the Light...

I sent this to my congregation today; thought you'd find it interesting if you hadn't come across it yet...

Since many of you have relationships with friends and family influenced by the dangerous heresy of "Health and Wealth" (also known as "The Word of Faith" movement), please give this 90 minutes podcast a listen. This is an interview of Costi Hinn, the nephew of the false teacher Benny Hinn. Costi has left the Health and Wealth movement and has embraced the Christ who calls us to pick up our cross to follow and suffer. The reason I so appreciate this interview is that Costi Hinn still loves his uncle and those who haven't seen the light. It's a thought-provoking interview. There was also a September 20th, 2017 Christianity Today article by Costi Hinn entitled, "Benny Hinn is My Uncle but Prosperity Preaching Isn't for Me."

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Hugh Hefner's Legacy in My Life

The man has been dead for many weeks. His business almost stole my soul. He was not and is not my enemy, for my Enemy is not flesh and blood. By the grace of God, my first look in Hefner's deadly magazine was not the last word on the man God is making me to be.

More on God's redemption in my life can be read here...warning: this is not PG.

https://blog.efca.org/blog/theology-culture/how-i-started-road-pornography-and-how-i-got-free

“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.” 
― John Newton

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Tragedy Fatigue

With a new crisis of epic proportions every week, I have felt the weight of tragedy fatigue. Just in the past days, two twenty year old died in a car crash in our county and over 50 people died a horrific death in Las Vegas. In the past several months, there have been other shootings, natural disasters, and international conflict. How is a finite person able to face all of these and still function?

On top of the fatigue, we experience social expectations to Tweet this or Post on Facebook that in order to show our solidarity. Woe to us if we forget to mention it or speak on another subject because then we'll be insensitive or uncaring. That adds a whole new layer to the sense of guilt and obligation on facing tragedies.

I offer two words on this...

The first is, "Loving your neighbor" is primarily about the real people, in plain sight, that need your care and attention. Though the world clamors at you to worry about "the big stuff" in "the big places," we need to minister to the wounded around us. You don't need to go running for regional and national emergencies; they will find you one day in your backyard. So today, a good way to respond to tragedies afar is to look for the just as real wounded among you. Love them, encourage them, call them, and be available to them.

Second, prayerfully consider simple acts of kindness to those afar. In the New Testament, Christians from all across Europe were sending money to famine-effected Jerusalem. There is a precedent for intentional care beyond your geographic locality. But don't feel guilty for sending a generous cash donation and bowing before the LORD in prayer. It may be all you can do...and it may be exactly what is needed. God will raise up "helpers" in each place. Churches have developed disciples in these locations for these very purposes. Support them in prayer...ensure they have the resources they need to love the neighbors among them.

God cares about the big hurts and the little hurts. He sent His Son to end the suffering by suffering on the Cross. Jesus' resurrection confirms that one day all will be made right. Those who know and believe in Jesus today can rest in the sure knowledge that Heaven is coming...a New Earth will dawn. Until then, we seek God's blessing on all aspects currently impacted by the Fall.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Can I really pray about THAT?

In rereading C.S. Lewis' "Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer," I was struck by Lewis' rebuke of Malcolm who squabbles over if we should only bring "big prayers to God." Sometimes I too wonder if my prayers are of the sort that a Christian man should be bringing to God in the first place. Lewis' corrects Malcolm (and me) by reminding me that God can sort through the "rightness" or "smallness" of my prayers. He'd rather me show up before Him honestly with what is on my heart and mind than put forth only "fancy-dress" prayers that are of a "higher nature."

Lewis concludes: "And perhaps, as those who do not turn to God in petty trials will have no habit or such resort to help them when the great trials come, so those who have not learned to ask Him for childish things will have less readiness to ask Him for the great ones. We must not be too high-minded. I fancy we may sometimes be deterred from small prayers by a sense of our own dignity rather than God's."

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A stirring song...Johnny Cash


The Man Comes Around

"And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder
One of the four beasts saying,
'Come and see.' and I saw, and behold a white horse"
There's a man goin' 'round takin' names
And he decides who to free and who to blame
Everybody won't be treated all the same
There'll be a golden ladder reachin' down
When the man comes around
The hairs on your arm will stand up
At the terror in each sip and in each sup
Will you partake of that last offered cup
Or disappear into the potter's ground?
When the man comes around
Hear the trumpets hear the pipers
One hundred million angels singin'
Multitudes are marchin' to the big kettledrum
Voices callin', voices cryin'
Some are born and some are dyin'
It's alpha and omega's kingdom come
And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree
The virgins are all trimming their wicks
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree
It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks
Till armageddon no shalam, no shalom
Then the father hen will call his chickens home
The wise man will bow down before the throne
And at his feet they'll cast their golden crowns
When the man comes around
Whoever is unjust let him be unjust still
Whoever is righteous let him be righteous still
Whoever is filthy let him be filthy still
Listen to the words long written down
When the man comes around
Hear the trumpets hear the pipers
One hundred million angels singin'
Multitudes are marchin' to the big kettledrum
Voices callin', voices cryin'
Some are born and some are dyin'
It's alpha and omega's kingdom come
And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree
The virgins are all trimming their wicks
The whirlwind is in the thorn trees
It's hard for thee to kick against the prick
In measured hundredweight and penny pound
When the man comes around
"And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts
And I looked, and behold a pale horse
And his name that sat on him was death, and hell followed with him"
Songwriters: JOHNNY CASH
© BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

"We're broken, but we won't bend."

What does it mean to be a Christ-follower?

Such a question creates a series of debates. Those on the left claim those on the right "aren't real Christians," and likewise, those on the right question the legitimacy of those on the left. Catholics dubbed Protestants the "estranged brethren" who meet in "eccliastical communities" (which aren't a part of the real Church nor are real churches). Protestants wonder if Catholics have drowned the gospel in a sea of Papal Encylicals, Dogma, and Sacramants.

The banner I'm choosing to wave is that "Christ followers are broken before God but unbending before the world." Those who come to God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit believing that salvation is by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9) can be assured of God's mercies. As the great St. Augustine reminds us, “God gives where he finds empty hands.” When we come broken before God, we find a God who loves to save.

But with brokenness, there must be a courage to not bend. If there is a God, a God known, and thus known through the written Scriptures, we must heed that voice above all others. We bow and bend before God and His Word, but we do not bow or bend to the influences of the world (Note: the Bible uses the term "world" to refer to the fallen, God-opposing, God-repellant culture that permeates every society, generation, and century.) 

So, whether left, right, Protestant, or Catholic, can you cry out with me, "We're broken, but we won't bend."

Jesus says anyone can come, with any burden, for a rest that no one else can give. He also says that if we refuse to honor His name and Lordship before our earthly audiences, he will refuse to honor us before the heavenly audience.

Matthew 11:28-29 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 10:32-33 "Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Christians, remember that those who identify as "transgender" are people...

Despite a person's cultural, moral, and religious views on transgenderism and gender dysphoria, we must continue to uphold the dignity of human persons. Jesus warns against anger, name calling, and "blowing off" other persons (Matthew 5:21-26). Those who lash out with cruel lips are in danger of the fires of hell. Rather, let us engage people and issues with tenderness and truth.

I particularly appreciated this recent post by Andrew Walker,
5 Things Every Christian Must Know About the Transgender Debate