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:

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:

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.

“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

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

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Insights from Pastor John Welch

“Pray for your pastor. Pray for his body, that he may be kept strong and spared many years. Pray for his soul, that he may be kept humble and holy, a burning and shining light. Pray for his .ministry, that it may be abundantly blessed, that he may be anointed to preach good tidings. Let there be no secret prayer without naming him before your God, no family prayer without carrying your pastor in your hearts to God.”

Please lift up your pastor (and me) in this way :)

Thursday, July 13, 2017


The faith of a child is a faith that says this moment is enough; I'm safe; I'm protected; I'm loved.

I saw this dependent delight as I rode for the sixth time down the same water slide in the Wisconsin Dells with my 5 year old. He was with his dad, on a mini yellow raft, and the joy was palpable. The joy didn't weaken after each ride; it deepened.

Like others before me, my mind went to some famous paragraphs from the pen of G.K. Chesterton:

The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life.

The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.

It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.

Orthodoxy, 1908

Thursday, July 06, 2017

How Christians Should Celebrate Independence Day...

Those who know me personally know that I'm not keen on trying devotion to Jesus and patriotism. Certainly, patriotism in and of itself isn't a vice. It is much better to love your fellow citizens and honor government, than to embrace martial law and indifference to civic responsibilities.

That being said, morality exists on a fluctuating scale. For instance, isn't loving all people and nations and honoring all people and nations more noble than giving favoritism to a particular people group (even your own)? Why should Americans have the right to life and liberty but not Liberians? I'm not saying that America has any plan to destroy life and liberty globally, but I do wonder sometimes if our attitudes and expectations for American freedoms extend beyond our geographic borders. Likewise, I wonder sometimes if we baptize American action without comparing it to honor, character, virtue, and love. Thus, this blog post gives a bit of my political meanderings on the back side of our nations' 1776 declaration:

#1: We should mourn the beginning of rebellion and bloodshed. 1776 was a day when mostly British citizens rebelled against their king and country, committing treason, and entered into mortal combat with their nation's comrades. Was their action justified? Well, that depends on if you believe a country has a right to tax and control its colonial interests over a large body of water (think Guam and Puerto Rico). Now, since the Enlightenment, the rule of the governed is supposedly given by consent, so yes, citizens have a "right" to revolt. But the same arguments were used by the Confederacy during the Civil War when the Federal Government acted in similar British fashion to believe this type of succession was not justified. All this to say, beware of a black and white history. The choice to declare independence was a grave one (even if justified). Lives, families, and nations were torn in two at a very high cost. This should be a holy day of profound sobriety, not a reckless day of jubilation and glee.

#2: We should honor the honorable actions of both Americans and Brits, and deplore the heinous actions of both Americans and Brits. On both sides of this conflict, many men and women distinguished themselves with heroism and sacrifice. On both sides of this conflict, guilt and cruelty abounded. Thankfully, good historians have corrected the history books to show that we had a mixed bag on both sides of the conflict. This sort of attitude should extend to the almost 250 years of war history of our country. Not every conflict and not every soldier have distinguished themselves with honor. Certainly, many have been noble, but not all. Woe to Christian Churches, in particular, who ignore this reality. Our hero is Jesus Christ who gave himself for the guilty. We do injustice to the Gospel when the greatest honors on Sunday mornings go to military personnel. Soldiering is just as morally challenging as business and parenting and plumbing. You can do it sacrificially, or selfishly, heroically, or hedonistically. I've been personally blessed by the great veterans of our country, and I thank you. You've entered dangerous zones to serve those who cannot defend themselves. Note well, that I am also certain that some of your actions were done sinfully. The shed blood of Jesus Christ can cover your sins. You can be free of guilt for your actions. No calling, even soldiering, is rosy or baptized, but the cleansing power of Jesus (marked by baptism) is for all peoples and all callings. Grace is available to you. Lord, forgive us as well, for the sins of our nation. We are not guiltless. Be merciful, yes, O God, and bless America (and Great Britain, China, and Indonesia).

#3: We should hold our country's privileges with gratitude, discernment, and humility. First, say thank you, that this country has things many countries do not. These are gifts from God. Second, hold all privileges with discernment. It's possible we use freedom to lose freedom. We can grant so much indulgence to individuals that we become slaves to our indulgence. Freedom, like electricity, is costly and powerful and should be held carefully. Finally, be humble. Seeming peace and order can be stolen in a moment. Bombs fall, dictators rise, and rebellions spring up. At a fundamental level, all these spring from the condition of individual human hearts. So, how's your heart? Are you caring for your neighbor's soul? Are you willing to speak hard words in hard situations so we don't fall prey to the mindless, "patriotism" that has sprung up in countries that began to believe their country had the right to extend itself into other lands "for their good" or "the global good?" Oh, that we'd be grateful, discerning, and humble. Give us wisdom when we seek to help other nations. Give us grace when we fail.

Pray for our leaders. They have a difficult job. Pray they know the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Three sermons still resonating in my soul...

I just read a blog about one person's 5 most impact sermons in their life, so it got me thinking and I could think of 3.

1. First, I remember attending my first or second college meeting of the Iowa State Navigators in the Memorial Union. Ron Shimkus, a mid-50s, staff leader spoke from Revelation chapter 2. The passage included Jesus' direct words to the 1st century church in Ephesus. The entire sermon focused on Jesus' declaration that the church in Ephesus had "lost its first love." A "Christian church" that had quit loving Jesus is a church about to become defunct. It's true of churches and it's true of Christians. I was convicted that Jesus needed to be my first love. I needed to pursue Him in prayer, the Word, and obedience. The temptations of college grew dim in the light of the glory of Jesus.

2. The second "sermon" that stands out is actually a recorded lecture by Tim Keller that he first presented in 2003, but I listened to it sometime in 2008-2009. It's one of the few things I've ever listened to that I immediately relistened to, and then again, and then again. I've told people over the years that I've had 3 or 4 conversions in my Christian life. I believed in Christ Jesus for the first time around age 10-11, when I first heard of God's forgiveness through the Cross of Jesus and my need to personally repent and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. I had "another conversion" when I was 15 or 16 when a preacher helped me totally rest in God's grace for salvation. I didn't need to "do good, Christian things" to be saved; I needed to find my only hope, peace, and joy in the Triune God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then in college, I was converted again through the various teachings of John Piper and college pastors and ministries in Ames, Iowa, that rightly taught that God is glorified most when I find my deepest satisfaction in Him. Worship was no longer duty, but a delight. My 4th conversion occurred, while jogging on the South Platte River trail in Littleton, CO, while listening to Pastor Tim Keller talk to me about the depths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You too can be "reconverted" by listening to this powerful lecture: (After you listen to this lecture, spend some time on the website, taking in all the free sermons available.)

3. The third "sermon" is once again, not a sermon, but a short message from Larry Austin to a leadership training class on a random Thursday evening Spring 2007 at the First Evangelical Free Church in Boone. I don't remember much, but I remember this line, "There is a huge difference between productivity and fruitfulness." That is, Christians and churches and pastors can do a lot of stuff, but it might end up having no eternal or spiritual value. All fruitfulness flows from intimacy with Jesus Christ (cf. John 15). If our souls become disconnected to Jesus, we offer nothing to those under our care. The teachings of Peter Scazzero (a fantastic 2-day event while I was at Denver Seminary plus his books), Dallas Willard (a week long class in seminary and a 2-day encounter in Green Lake, WI, plus his books), and Henri Nouwen (books alone) have helped me believe and practice this more and more.

I listen to 3-10 sermons per week while driving and jogging. Though I can't at the moment think of another sermon that stands out, I am indebted to the preaching ministries of Dan Leman, John Piper, Tim Keller, Mark Dever, and so many others (Dick Lucas, Alistair Begg, Paul Tripp, Zack Eswine, Don Carson, and the print sermons of Charles Spurgeon, Charles Simeon, Jonathan Edwards, Alexander Maclaren, John Calvin, John Wesley, and so many others.)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Pain of Ministry

The pain of ministry ever lingers,
  As sheep shepherds keep watch,
The Enemy reaches with creeping fingers,
  Condemning all for every botch.

We spy wolves seeking success,
  Attack the fold, they make a mess,
The flock sees not persistent duress,
  They mistake claws for sweet caress.

Oh my finite impotence,
  Oh my inability apparent,
I save none outside the fence,
  Nor bring any into God's tent.

Like all, my weakness I must bring,
  Each transgression's weight too much,
To the bloody cross of suffering,
  I seek healing, a potent touch.

There alone is the soul's content,
  There alone each sheep must flee,
Where the Father commanded Son sent,
  Where life bought for me, for thee.

So, now I go and bring my sorrows,
  To a King crucified, not dead,
The one who holds all the morrows,
  I, a member, He, the Head.

Friday, June 16, 2017

A fascinating USA Today Article that questions "Born This Way"

On about page 4, one researcher (labeled as an "activist-academic in sex") argues that sexuality is biopsychosocial (related to biology, psychology and the social world). That's one of the best descriptions I've ever heard from someone in the scientific community regarding the dynamic of human personality, preferences, orientation, etc. 

One key difference in the scientific community and Christianity is that science studies what "is," and has no category for what "should be." Christianity believes in ethics and norms. Genesis chapters 1-3 reveal that the world is not as it "is" supposed to be. We've lost our connection to God, the earth, and one another (we see these explained in Genesis 3). There's been a breakdown within our selves. The term for this is "original sin." There's also a breakdown in the world; it is "fallen." It doesn't function as it is supposed to (think natural disasters, climate change, disease). Likewise, relationships are corrupted by shame, pride, and abuse.

So, let's go back to this term biopsychosocial, which I think is a useful label for the make-up of a human person. Christians would be ok with this term, but put it in the context of original sin and a fallen world. Thus, our biology is corrupt; our minds are corrupt; and our social world is fallen. Thus, we should question the summation of our biopsychosocial make-up. Every aspect of our world and lives and minds is "off" at some level (including our gender and sexuality--whether LGTBAQ, Straight, or something else). 

This is why we all need Holy Scripture to detail what is right, good, true, and beautiful (because we need an accurate scale to judge our world and souls). Likewise, we need the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin and unrighteousness and then empower us by His grace to turn away from all that is "off" from God's Word and turn toward the path that leads to life, beauty, holiness, and love. We see life, beauty, holiness, and love most preeminently in the life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, a perfect human who honored the commands and teachings of God and then offered His life for the sins of others. He lived the life we were supposed to live, and then He took the death we deserved.

Heal us Jesus. We're all off at multiple levels, prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love...take our hearts and seal them, O Lord, seal them for the courts above. Praise God, His grace is big enough to save and sanctify anyone.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Nine real solutions to feeling tired all the time

One of the recurring things I hear from my own soul and from people both within my church and among friends and family is they feel persistently tired, never fully rested, and always out of sorts.

So, I see a recurring pattern of people being asked at work, church, or a community organization to give up a few more hours to serve or help or participate. The person feels overwhelmed and says, "I can't," and that they need a night, a week, or a month to recover from this sense of fatigue.

But it turns out this person is always tired, always out of sorts, always needing more hours, more nights off, more personal time, more "me time," and the like. Clearly, the solutions they have taken haven't really dealt with the fatigue. Where might they turn?

Here are some collected thoughts from someone who has read a lot on health, rest, the Sabbath, spiritual growth, and maintaining a healthy balance on life:

#1: Make choices for the good of others. One of the most draining, life-sucking, soul-destroying things we can do is live for ourselves. Jesus warned that if we attempt to gain the whole world (think personal happiness and peace) we will lose our soul. The only way to truly save our soul (the greatest peace and rest imaginable) is to lay our lives down. I believe many people are exhausted because they spend an exorbitant amount of their lives trying to satisfy their soul. They keep saying they're tired and need to rest, but it's only feeding the me-monster that will only get more hungry for more personal pleasure and happiness. Contrast this way of living with Jesus. He sacrificially died for you and me and the sins of the world. He did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). This is why Jesus can give peace and rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28-30; John 14:27-28). If you want deep rest, you'll probably be physically tired. Mother Teresa was tired. Every good, young mom is tired. Great Presidents are tired. Great humans are tired. But, they know a deeper rest, something sweeter than sleeping in, a day-off, or a Chinese buffet.

#2: Avoid screens at least 1 hour before a predetermined bedtime, if not entirely. The light of screens and the suspense of TV shows and sports all work against actually going to bed and resting peacefully. The guy who says, "I can't fall asleep until midnight," is the guy who keeps watching shows until his eyelids droop, well beyond when they would droop if the lights and TV were off. Maybe you thought this additional Netflix show would make you happy, but it turns out, it just made you tired.

#3: Find your sleep rhythm. Most people sleep best if they go to bed and rise at the same hours every night (including weekends!). Adults should find their best pattern, and that usually falls in the 7-9 hour window. Less than 7 or 8 is normally a killer, but more than 9 is more likely to cause lethargy than a sense of restfulness. Know thyself, and then accept the hand God's dealt you.

#4: Take a full Sabbath every week, on the same day (if at all possible). God designed the human body for 6 days of work and one day of Sabbath. Sabbath is a day to remember God's good gifts. Sabbath is a day for play, enjoying creation, getting outside, eating good food, and avoiding work-for-pay activities. Sabbath is always a day to pray, to worship God in community, to worship God individually, to worship God with your family, and to remember His grace and mercy. Feel free to be creative. Our family goes from 5PM Friday to 5PM Saturday (I work Sundays). Others go 5PM Saturday to 5PM Sunday, or from 7AM Sunday to 7AM Monday. If you work on the weekend, see if you can find an employer who will give you a consistent day for a Sabbath.

#5: Work hard the other 6 days. Generally speaking, humans were made to work during all the daylight hours. So when the sun is out, we should keep working. If we work hard when we're supposed to, our body will go to bed when we want it too. Some experts speculate we don't rest well because we aren't working well. We play or doddle when we should work, and then when we should be resting and relaxing, we have to catch up on the work we missed earlier.

#6: Take strategic breaks during the day. The reason most of us never feel rested is we are actually in a constant state of motion, attention, or work every minute of every day of every week. We go from work, to home, to projects, to housework, to kids' activities, to long trips, to church meetings. But since it is humanly impossible to not rest and recuperate, we accept poor substitutes to break up our day that never satisfy our body or soul. For example:
  1. The internet: We feel overwhelmed, so we check our email or social media or the news. Such things are never restful. We replace one unrestful activity (our actual responsibilities) with another unrestful activity (internet). Sure, we got a mental break from our actual responsibilities, but we never rested truly. It would have been better to go for a fifteen minute walk outside or a 5 minute prayer break, but since those things don't look like work, we avoid them.
  2. Eating: Our bodies get run down and so we want to appease that feeling with food, but too often we stuff our bodies with bad fuel. We need vitamins and nutrients, but those don't taste as good or have as quick of a reaction as sugar, fat, and caffeine. As a result, we eat foods that cause drastic highs and lows (which tax the body on both ends), and now we don't have enough energy to fuel a good day, nor the kind of health that allows for good sleep.

#7: If you are feeling tired, today, eat supper and then go to bed. Many studies suggest that "sleeping in" has limited to no value on getting caught up on sleep (for instance click here).  Take a night or two and just go to bed after supper. If you wake up in the middle of the night, stay off your phone, computer, or TV, and keep the lights off. Breathe easy, don't panic, and just wait till your body goes back to sleep.

#8: Exercise regularly. You can walk, run, life weights, swim, or play a sport, but you probably should do something (for longevity sake, jogging is the hands-down winner). Especially, if you work in the white collar world, odds are your body hasn't used enough energy. And just in case you haven't heard, sitting IS the new smoking. So move, your body everyday, and 75 minutes a week at a vigorous level. You'll sleep and feel better, and you'll probably live longer too.

#9: Embrace your humanity. This is really the point to all the eight solutions that proceed it, but just in case you haven't picked up what I'm putting down, let me get specific. You are a finite, human person who has limits. You can believe the lie that Adam and Eve believed in the Garden that you can go your own way and do your own thing and still feel happy and restful. Or you can confess your humanity, your selfishness, and your unwillingness to submit to God. You can confess that you've blamed God for feeling tired or unhealthy or unrestful, and look in the mirror and see your own pride, presumption, and unwillingness to live based on reality. Your demands for happiness and control expose a sinful heart, a desire to take God's place. So confess this as sin, nonsense, and death. Cry out to Jesus for forgiveness. Ask the Holy Spirit to come and rule in your life, and then live according to your finite position. Obey God; follow His commandments; honor the body He's giving you; use it to serve others; and don't worship at the gods of television, entertainment, and self. Let God be God, and yourself an undeserving recipient of His grace.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Why Christianity Should Die...

Reasons why Christianity should die...

Reason #1: Jesus and the first Christians were lunatics. Jesus claimed to be one with God, able to forgive sin, and preexistent to the Jewish patriarch Abraham. The early Christians claimed that a crucified Jesus had resurrected and appeared to many, including 500 people at one time. They died (some murdered even) professing this to be true, even claiming Jesus was a divine being worthy of worship (something no sane Jew would ever do). They even put these ideas in stories Christians call the New Testament, which leads me to reason #2...

Reason #2: The New Testament is full of contradictions. One gospel account says there were 2 angels at the resurrection of Jesus, another mentions only 1. Some gospel accounts have Jesus having supernatural abilities to read minds and predict the future, others depict Jesus as ignorant of future events and unable to do miraculous works. Clearly, the lunatics (see reason #1) did not sit down to collaborate and ensure we'd have a consistent story-line. If they were smarter, they would have worked out these kinks in the first century to ensure consistent ideas and practices. This naturally leads to reasons #3...

Reason #3: Christians are inconsistent practitioners. Christianity is a divided mess. They have pacifists and war-mongers. They have Mary-worshipping Catholics and Bible-worshipping Evangelicals. They allow Mother Teresa and George W. Bush to both claim to be Christians. In history, the Catholics kill Lutherans, the Lutherans kill Baptists, and the Baptists kill liberals (at least in the voting box). Why does such a divided, confused, and inconsistent religion still exist in the 21st century? Why hasn't this thing died off yet? It almost proves Christianity's belief in sin, ignorance, and the fallenness of humanity (but we can't give them that). It's almost as if something (or Someone) is behind all this. This makes me think of yet another reason...

Reason #4: Christians believe God is the power behind everything. Christians believe God created the world. Christians believe God is the ultimate cause behind all that happens in history (some Christians even say, God plans and purposes the evil actions of humans and demons). Such backward, pre-scientific, premodern, neanderthal ideas should have died. Surely, science and human thought can work out the origins of the universe, morality, and human dignity without looking to answers outside of space and time. Who needs God to know what's right and wrong? Hasn't all the wonderful things of the 20th century proven that science and atheism make countries more wholesome and peaceful? (Just don't look at the Soviet massacres, the evolutionary morality that propelled Hitler's Aryan race and the Holocaust, or the horrors of communist China and Vietnam, or the culture of death that has slaughtered millions of babies in the name of progress in the "enlightened" nations of the West.) Keep pointing those fingers at the lunatic Christians and their belief in a single deity who rules the cosmos. Such idiocy...oh, and one final reason.

Reason #5: Christians will never know till death if they are right. You can't test their beliefs in a laboratory. All their ideas are "pie in the sky," hopes of heaven. They think future happiness is to be postponed, that personal sacrifice and acts of love now are the way to ensure long-term, eternal joy. Such fools turn away from certain forms of physical pleasure and sexuality. They miss out now on what could be theirs, putting all their hopes in a future they won't even know is true until they die. They prize martyrs who gave up their lives for love and religion, but we know those martyrs were just lunatics. Mother Teresa was a fool. Eric Liddell an idiot. Christian doctors giving their lives among Ebola patients are crazy. Missionaries who give up the bliss of Western civilization to feed the hungry and share the message of Christianity don't have a clue. Darwin is right: it's all about survival of the fittest. The way to honor my species is to grow strong, populate widely, and ignore the weak. Let science be king and all else proven liars.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Book Review: 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke

Neil Postman’s classic on the nature of television received the intriguing title, Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985). Jacques Ellul penned The Technological Bluff (1990). Now in 2017, Tony Reinke writes a fantastic book, filled with penetrating theological insight, rigorous research, and probing analysis on the nature of the smartphone and its users, and the only thing that falls flat is the less-than-alluring title, Twelve Ways Your Phone is Changing You.

In 2016, Time magazine declared the iPhone as the most influential gadget of all time. The world of smartphones is far different from the world of silent movies or Atari. To minister in such a world, the church needs an army of servants, teachers, and shepherds who can personally find freedom from lurking smartphone dangers. Only then can we assist others to handle these amazing gadgets to the glory of God.

But what if you struggle with smartphone abuse as I do? For instance, my smartphone overuse at home is the most common argument between my wife and me. My kids will sometimes stand in front of me and say, “Dad, I thought you weren’t working today,” while I sneak in a quick email. Quite unconsciously, in the middle of meetings (that in my pride I have determined as boring) I will pull out my phone to check my favorite teams’ sports scores.

To whom shall we go? Answer: Jesus, and Reinke’s book can help. This book cannot save you, but the God to whom this book points can.

Each chapter stirs our affections, challenging us to look away from our device and instead toward our satisfying Redeemer and Creator. In the end, Reinke’s counsel related to the smartphone turns out to be a tutorial on human engagement with all technologies.

With compelling sentences, Reinke forces theological inquiry in the face of technological temptation: “What if the rhythms of Snapchat selfies and our star-studded Instagram feeds are exposing the dimness of our future hope?” He offers a well-crafted turn of phrase, one after another, such as, “The clicks of our fingertips reveal the dark motives of our hearts, and every sin—every double-tap and every click—will be accounted for.”

Later in the book, Reinke argues, “It is better to lose the capacity to scroll for pornography than have your whole body thrown into hell.” Fitting words for someone like myself, greatly thankful that God freed me from a pornography addiction before the onset of smartphones. Sadly, this dark sin still shackles others with Tinder, chat rooms, and images squalling feverishly for lost souls in cyberspace. Others racked with crippling loneliness turn to their phones to deal with relational fears, believing the lie that through a few million microprocessors and network connections isolation will end.

So, read the book. Find freedom in Christ. And Crossway, after this book goes through its first printing, consider a retitling of the book (the existing title can serve as a subtitle), such as, Swiping Our Souls to Death, Seeking a Screen Savior, or iSwipe Therefore iAm.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

A Review "Revenge of the Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter"

In 1989, I spent hours playing "Think Quick" on my father's new computer (the Atari got put aside to investigate this new game fought out on keyboard instead of joystick). This adventure/learning game captured my attention. It was the dawning of digital for me personally. It promised adventure, excitement, and the thrill of victory. I mastered the game, tasted sweet victory, and now almost 30 years later, I wonder if I was the thing mastered, if the technology took more than it gave, if it over promised and under delivered?

These are the running concerns in David Jax's 2016 work Revenge of the Analog. Jax's journalistic talents show up throughout the book. You feel the tension of the digital download generation. You feel the sense of lostness in a world of constant streaming sound. Soon you too see the hope of owning a record player, touching the plastic mold, marveling over the album cover, and placing that needle carefully upon the record so that sound flows forth.

Jax includes the insights of technology gurus such as MIT Professor Sherry Turkle who observes, “It [technology] promises friendship but can only deliver performance.”

He takes you on a tour of the famous Camp Walden, where technology is still nearly banned for weeks of a kid's summer. Then, he askes the Camp director why technology is at odds with the purposes at Camp Wadlen. “[Sol] Birenbaum [head of Camp Walden] didn’t hesitate to answer. ‘We look at the heart of what we do, and it is interpersonal relationships.’” (page 236, epilogue)

Sure, the iPhone has it benefits, but to bow before its (near-idol like) promises and power can only mean a loss of humanity. Life was meant to be felt, shared, and experienced with human persons. Or as Jax explains, “Ultimately, analog pursuits connect us to one another in a vastly deep way than any digital technology can. They allow bonds to form in real time and physical spaces, which transcend language and our ability to communicate with just words and symbols.” (239, epilogue)

Jax's book is a fun tour of several aspects of life (schools, work, music, games, films, etc.) that all show that digital cannot and should not be received without a wary eye. What Jax's book lacks is thoughtful theological and philosophical reflections on why digital doesn't satisfy (Turkle is one of the few exceptions).

For those looking for deeper answers than a journalistic tour of the world, you'll need to turn to the likes of Neil Postman's classic, Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985) or Jacques Ellul's The Technological Bluff (1990). And there's a fantastic new book (2017) by Tony Reinke (don't let the less than thrilling title fool you) Twelve Ways Your Phone is Changing You.

Here are a few nuggets to encourage you to read Reinke's book:

 “What if the rhythms of Snapchat selfies and our star-studded Instagram feeds are exposing the dimness of our future hope?”

“The clicks of our fingertips reveal the dark motives of our hearts, and every sin—every double-tap and every click—will be accounted for.”

Jax's book is a fun snapshot of culture. It's the other books that better ask and answer why culture and souls cannot find hope or salvation in the promises and patterns of digital living.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Quote of the Day: John Chysostom (349-407)

“The gospel produces the exact opposite of what people want and expect, but it is that very fact which persuades them to accept it in the end."

Monday, May 01, 2017

A Review "For the Glory"

Duncan Hamilton's 2016 biography of the famed Olympic great, Eric Liddell, For the Glory details a modern tragedy in the vein of an ancient Greco-Roman demigod.

Like all great tragedies, the life behind the tragedy speaks volumes for centuries. Liddell gave up a near certain 100 meter gold in 1924 to honor his views of the Christian Sabbath. He gave up future Olympic glory to keep his vow to missionary work in a dangerous mission in late 1920s China. He honored his missionary agency's request to stay in enemy occupied territory when WWII erupted. Like other non-combatants, he was held in a war camp for simply being British when Japan was at war. He sacrificed for the sake of other inmates day in and day out for over 18 months. He loved, he forgave, he served, and 5 months prior to his war camp's release, he took his last breath.

Eric Liddell (immortalized in both athleticism and character in Chariots of Fire) was a full soul, not just a great body. His dedication to excellence, service, and humility comes across as an act, but it's near perfection for 4 and 1/2 decades has no holes, no guile, no gild. In fact, the one missing piece of Duncan Hamilton's rich story is the power behind the life. Hamilton paints Liddell as a saint, and surely he was. But saints aren't built by human hands. Truths Liddell conveys over and over, but truths that get lost in Hamilton's account.

Hamilton notes that Liddell based his life on the Sermon on the Mount. Liddell even penned a short devotional work on the truths of the Sermon. The secret to his whole life (and the life of any who would follow after God) was summarily described by Liddell as "knowing God." One quote in a work by Liddell noted this, "A disciple is one who knows God personally, and who learns from Jesus Christ, who most perfectly revealed God. One word stands out from all others as the key to knowing God, to having his peace and assurance in your heart; it is obedience."

The centrality to Liddell's life was focusing on Jesus Christ, the one who perfectly revealed God. Only in Jesus Christ can someone have peace and assurance in the heart. Obedience will follow, indeed. But obedience flows from faith. We don't obey to be saved, but we obey because we're saved.

So read Hamilton's majestic book on a majestic person, but know that the power, peace, and assurance, the fueled Eric Liddell was Jesus Christ--his life, his death, his resurrection. As I read Liddell's life, I saw a life of glorious renewal and the power of God's grace. It exposed that I fell short of God's holy standard. But the solution isn't to lace up and try to run like Eric. The solution is to know the God that Eric knew.

This God allowed Eric to write these words, the very last words to come from his pen, words that speak to hope beyond this life, hope procured by Jesus Christ's bloody death and glorious resurrection, words that can be true for all who put their trust in Jesus Christ. These words: "All will be well."

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Being Gay is Not a Sin

You can quote me on this...but do read the whole post first.

Gay is a physical and/or emotional and/or erotic attraction to a person of the same gender. This is similar to a definition I found on the online Merriam Webster dictionary that reads, "sexually attracted to someone who is the same sex."

Are people born gay? From various scientific and psychological articles, the general consensus is probably some are, and probably some aren't.

Do people choose to be gay? From various scientific and psychological articles, the general consensus is probably some do, probably some don't.

The condition, feeling, and experience of being gay is not sin. Anyone who is gay or has a close friend or family who is gay knows that many who are or feel gay wish they didn't. It's a difficult cross to bear, even in a permissive 21st century culture. Who wants to be the topic of every other media post and social media interaction?

I have friends and family with both unwanted same-sex attraction and others who welcome their orientation. I love them both and pray my friendships deepen.

Let's move on...

The condition, feeling, and experience of being straight is not sin.

Now, it is possible for straight people to sin. It is possible for gay people to sin.

A straight person is sinning if they engage in a sexual relationship with their sibling, no matter how consensual the action is done, even by adults. Even if they say they are naturally attracted to their sibling, it is still sin. Even if they say, they are born attracted to their sibling, it is still sin. Even if they find it pleasurable, say it is not harming anyone else, and take measures to prevent pregnancy...still sin.

Likewise, a straight person is sinning if they engage in a polygamous relationship, no matter how consensual. A straight person is sinning if they engage in an adulterous relationship, no matter how consensual.

These are moral positions held by most people for centuries. These are moral positions held by Christians for centuries because they are the plain reading of Scripture in both the Old and New Testament. We could add bestiality and pedophilia as other practices that are sin regardless of consent, feeling naturally attracted to, and arguing no one is harmed.

In a similar manner, because I believe the Bible is more sane, trustworthy, and sure than the changing waves of culture, I also think when gay people engage in consensual sexual activity they are also outside the moral bounds set by God and Scripture. This activity (not their condition or feelings or attractions) is what the Bible says is sin. (contrary to new attempts at interpreting the Bible, the Bible does not condone homosexual practice...see Kevin DeYoung's What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?)

Throw in Jesus' warning that lusting sexually is also our hearts engaging in adulterous sin, every person reading this post is guilty before God. No one (NO ONE) is sexually whole. All are broken, struggle with seemingly natural desires that go beyond moral bounds, and thereby hurt others, hurt themselves, and sin against God.

Three responses are in order. We must first turn to God for forgiveness of sin through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. He alone can atone for our sin. He alone can give us the Holy Spirit to enable repentance from sexual sin and dangerous attractions outside moral bounds.

Second, we must continue to uphold moral truths for our lives (first! to avoid hypocrisy, see Matthew 7:1-2) and then for others as well. God's Word is light. We do no one a favor by consenting to the dangerous darkness that always hides the truth. Paul warns us in Romans 1 (a passage that mentions the sin of homosexual practice beside envy, greed, and gossip) that we should not approve of any moral transgression that keeps people from God and the truth.

Three, we must treat people engaged in sexual sin with love, respect, and honor because they are made in God's image. Yes, we can share the Good News of Jesus Christ and invite people to repentance. This will involve years of welcoming them into your home and life, lots of listening, and lots of prayer. Many will refuse to see what seems plain to you in the Bible, but don't forget, you too resisted God and re-read the Bible to make it say what allowed you to keep on doing what you wanted to do (and if you're like me are probably doing this very thing in some area of your life right now). Only God's penetrating and illuminating grace can free people from sin to see and live the truth. Only God saves, and praise God, He saves sinners like you and me.

Monday, April 17, 2017

An argument for being a "Late Adapter"

Definition: A late adapter is somebody who is slow to embrace a new product, technology, or idea.

Let's be honest, if you're involved in technology, social media, and popular idea conversations, it can be very embarrassing to "not be in the know." 10 years ago, you were mocked if you said "I just posted on Twitter," and quickly corrected, "No, buddy, you tweeted." Technological snobbery is as ripe as an October apple.

And so, we're tempted to try and embrace all new technological tools, Apps, and online networks, just to avoid the fear of being "on the out." So an invitation to LinkedIn, requires an immediate new account. An invite to Snapchat requires your humble submission.

You go out and buy the newest I-Phone, Amazon Echo, and GalaxyS-400, just in case this new technology turns out to be the sliced bread you've been missing.But if you're anything like me, 3 days later, you're hundreds of dollars poorer, and your life is as full or empty as it was a week ago.

Oh, and did I mention the accumulating paper weights of technological devices that we're not sure if we're supposed to throw away or donate to charity.

With this in mind, let me offer 3 arguments for being a late adapter (whether it's the next App or next device):

1. Old things have proven value. Many "new" items turn out to be a big bust. Also, new stuff have glitches to be worked out. My touch screen PDA of 2004 was useless in under 12 months. My 2004 myspace account lasted less than a year before Facebook proved its superior value. My Kindle e-reader of 2011 had a 6 month shelf-life before I could achieve everything and more with a different device. I wasted time and money purchasing and learning a device that turned out to not serve me well. Let a device or app be proven of its value before you attempt to adapt it to your life.

2. There is nothing new under the sun. The deepest longings of human souls have never been met nor will be met by human ingenuity. Our hearts long for what only eternity can satisfy; the next gadget will never measure up.

3. Eyes on the future, betray our responsibility for the present. If you're always looking for that new thing, for a new experience, to solve those new problems, you'll miss the responsibilities facing you today. Not to mention, most of these responsibilities are solved through the ordinary actions of love, communication, forgiveness, hard work, and emotional presence (things that devices can't conjure up if they tried).

So, be a late adapter...and just so you know, being a later adapter doesn't mean you go out and buy a rotary phone. It might look like this:

1) Wait for a new device or APP to be in the market 6-12 months before reading reviews and considering to purchase it.

2) Find wise, responsible, successful people, and ask them what Apps they use and avoid.

3) Talk to these same people about how they manage their technology overall.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Embrace Your Weakness

"Our problem is not our weaknesses; God's grace is up to the task. Our problem is our delusions of strength that keep us from seeking the grace that strengthens us in our weakness." - Paul David Tripp

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

As I lie horizontal in bed with intense back pain...

Thomas Watson (1620-1686): "It is God that has put me in this condition; he could have raised me higher, if he pleased, but that might have been a snare to me: he has done it in wisdom and love; therefore I will sit down satisfied with my condition."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Temporarily Abled

I am one of those red-blooded Americans who only gets sick a few days a year, has only broken a few bones in the midst of sporting activities, and been blessed with fully functional arms and legs since birth. I have never been called "disabled" or "handicapped."

But in reading Andy Crouch's 2014 book, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, I was struck by the reality that I am only "temporarily abled." That is, like many, one day my back will ache, my knees will deteriorate, and my functional arms and legs may cease to function. My heart will one day quit beating and my lungs will take in a final breath. Then, death.

So, how should I use my season of temporary ablement? Should I squander it on reckless eating, drug use, and dangerous activities? Or just maybe, is this temporary season of strength for the benefit and stewardship of others less abled?

Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Mark 10:42-45 (NIV)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Easter and Good Friday Services in Marion and Cedar Rapids, Iowa

I hope you can join us for our 2017 Holy Week celebrations with Cornerstone Church.

Good Friday April 14, 6:00PM: We will be doing a combined Good Friday worship service with the congregation of Northbrook Baptist Church at our location, 925 Blairs Ferry Road, Marion.

Easter Sunday April 16: See all the festivities below that will take place at The Warehouse (925 Blairs Ferry Road) on Easter Morning!
    9:00AM: Easter Brunch (no cost)
    9:25AM: Resurrection Sunday Worship Service

May God richly bless Cedar Rapids and Marion, Iowa this Easter Season.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

C.S. Lewis on the Fall of Humanity into Sin...

Once again, the great Oxford Don summarizes well difficult theological topics:

God might have arrested this process by miracle: but this - to speak in somewhat irreverent metaphor - would have been to decline the problem which God had set Himself when He created the world, the problem of expressing His goodness through the total drama of a world containing free agents, in spite of, and by means of, their rebellion against Him. The symbol of a drama, a symphony, or a dance, is here useful to correct a certain absurdity which may arise if we talk too much of God planning and creating the world process for good and of that good being frustrated by the free will of the creatures. This may raise the ridiculous idea that the Fall took God by surprise and upset His plan, or else - more ridiculously still - that God planned the whole thing for conditions which, He well knew, were never going to be realised. In fact, of course, God saw the crucifixion in the act of creating the first nebula. The world is a dance in which good, descending from God, is disturbed by evil arising from the creatures, and the resulting conflict is resolved by God's own assumption of the suffering nature which evil produces. The doctrine of the free Fall asserts that the evil which thus makes the fuel or raw material for the second and more complex kind of good is not God's contribution but man's. This does not mean that if man had remained innocent God could not then have contrived an equally splendid symphonic whole - supposing that we insist on asking such questions. But it must always be remembered that when we talk of what might have happened, of contingencies outside the whole actuality, we do not really know what we are talking about. There are no times or places outside the existing universe in which all this 'could happen' or 'could have happened'. I think the most significant way of stating the real freedom of man is to say that if there are other rational species than man, existing in some other part of the actual universe, then it is not necessary to suppose that they also have fallen.

Chapter 5, "The Fall of Man," in The Problem of Pain (1962).

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

I was born this way...

I was born with a short temper.

I was born with an appreciation for sports.

I was born with a tendency to overeat.

I was born with a love for nature and the great outdoors.

I was born with sexual attractions for women besides my wife.

I was born with a love for excessive TV watching.

I was born with a love for knowledge acquisition, preferably through reading.

I was born with a desire to be in control and to overpower people.

I was born with a penchant toward sarcasm and cruelty.

Which of these natural tenancies should I develop? Which should I restrain? Which are morally and socially beneficial?

Being born a certain way in no way determines its goodness, so I've decided to turn to Holy Scripture and to be guided by its teachings, as revealed and fulfilled through Jesus Christ (see this post for those who wonder how Christians determine which laws from the Old Testament are still in play).

Beware of arguments that suggest "how I feel" means "how I should act." Moral philosophers call this creating "ought" where there is only "is." Morality stands outside of nature (supernatural). Any morality that shifts with culture ends up not being morality at all because it's been relegated to a natural entity. But when I allow an outside morality to serve as the standard of moral actions and behaviors, it is certain that I will fall short, experience shame, and feel guilt.

Turns out, contrary to modern ears, shame and guilt are exactly how you should feel when you go against morality. Shame and guilt are gifts, designed to send us toward healing, hope, and forgiveness. And where can we turn to feel this way, to know this forgiveness? Only Jesus. He identified with those most shamed and most guilty in his day (prostitutes, criminals, sexual deviants). He loved them; extended them forgiveness; invited them to repentance; and said that surely the kingdom of God is for such as these. And so I come with all my deviant natural tendencies...O Lord, receive me again, through your cleansing and sacrificial blood.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

What is THE WORK to be done?

Quote of the month:

Samuel Davies (1723-1761): "It is an easy thing to make a noise in the world, to flourish and harangue, to dazzle the crowd and set them all agape; but deeply to imbibe the Spirit of Christianity, to maintain a secret walk with God, to be holy as he is holy--this is the labour, this is the work."

From Iain Murray's Revival and Revivalism (1994).

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The (Pied) Piper or Mr. (W)Right?

There's an ancient legend about the city of Rome involving two mysterious characters.

The first was named Mr. Right. He was a bishop from a far away land. He came to explain an ancient document in the land of Rome. It had been penned by a martyr about two millennia prior.

For many years, the people of Rome had come to believe the letter spoke about how a person was to be brought into a right relationship with the King. They believed it expressed hope in someone who had purchased justice for them at the price of his own blood. They thought it described them as guilty and needing to be declared innocent. They thought it was a story about another doing a great work that could be credited to their account.

But Mr. Right arrived to correct them. Instead, he said, no my friends, this is a story about exiles coming home. It's a story about enemies of the people, enemies that have been defeated. All you need to do is come home through the work of the enemy-killer. When you get there, he'll put a sign on you that says "you're in." There's no transaction, no credit, to purchased justice. It's a declarative statement that you're already in.

Moments later, a mysteriously dressed Piper, arrived and bellowed out a tune unsuitable for most ears, but compelling to some. This Piper said, "If all that occurs is a declarative statement, that "you're already in," then why do you need to come in at all? Beware of Mr. Right, warned the Piper. You are guilty, and the King is angry. You're worse than exiles; you are enemies. Either you die for your enmity or you believe in the One who died for your enmity. This One is the very Son of the King. Either you take what He earned or get what you earned. There must be a transaction, a gift of credit, and purchased justice. Listen to this tune. Do not tune this out.

As the legend goes, Mr. Right led some on a journey far from where any had traveled before. In like manner, the Piper convinced some as well. Where these mysterious figures will take their convinced crowds is only known by the great King. All that's left is that ancient Roman will we read it? What does it really say? You too can study it's contents: The Letter to the Romans by the Apostle Paul.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Can you believe such ideas? From crawlers to soarers!

"Ridiculous, just ridiculous," muttered Chris, the caterpillar, to his neighboring companion Stu. Chris continued, "Caroline, up there, has been going on and on about this great change she's going to have for the last 3 days. She says, she'll crawl into a little ball of silk, and a few weeks later, says she'll be soaring with wings."

Stu in his slow and southern drawl, "I reckon she's been duped by them relig-i-ous fanatics who keep saying the same thing. But everyone of them soon disappears. I wouldn't trust any ol' cult that promises to soar and then lo and behold, they's gone in a blink of an eye."

"Yep," Chris commented with the nod of the heard, "Keep your thoracic legs on the ground is what I always say. Hmph, flying, soaring...we're caterpillar's for god-sake, we're bulky, pedestrian beasts who should keep our heads on the ground not in the clouds."

"I'm fixing to stay on God's green earth as long as I can. You won't get me crawling into one of them's cocoon. Who knows what happens in there...most of the time, I finds one of thems, cut open with no caterpillar left inside."

"Yeah, Caroline keeps saying, we're not meant to stay as caterpillars, that we were meant to fly. She says, it's our destiny, and only fools would choose the ground over the sky. Who's the fool? I've got all the grass I need; what am I going to find to eat in midair? And she keeps babbling about beautiful wings and breathtaking views; why can't we just be content with who we are? We're fine. We're fine."

"I feel so judged when I listen to her," continued Chris, "Her holier than thou attitude makes me bristle. She says, the change is all done by the Creator and Metamorphesizer, but that's just her way of saying, I'm special and you're not. We'll see who has the last laugh."

13 days later

"Stu, how you been? It's been a while, eh? Have you heard the news, Caroline up and disappeared into that silk ball, and then this morning there was a break in the ball and she's nowhere to be found."

"Is she okay? What did they do to her? I miss her so."

"Crazy religious fanatics; we gotta stop these guys."

"Stu, Chris, look up here..."

Stu and Chris struggle, but are able to turn their heads just enough clockwise to peer upwards.

"It's Caroline!! The change is complete; I'm a new thing. Isn't it amazing!"

"Caroline? What? Who are you really? What have you done with our friend? Did you eat her? Get away from me."

But then Chris looked over and Stu was marveling wide-mouthed at the flying creature above him. "Is it really you, Caroline? Is this what happens when you crawl in?"

"Yes, Stu, it's available to you. You have to give up that life to get this life, but it's worth. The Creator and Metamorphesizer is no respecter of bugs. You just have to trust His ways of death to life."

"Liar! You just want to eat my friend and ruin his life. Stay away you flying vampire. Take your lies and your wings elsewhere."

"O, Stu, don't listen to Chris. He does not have eyes to see or ears to hear. Trust and obey for there is no other way, to be happy and whole, you must die and be reborn."

Friday, February 10, 2017

Evangelical Mom sues Fitbit for her lack of fitness

Newark, NJ: "I just don't want other women to experience the anguish I did in 2016," says Carolyn Jones in response to our inquiries to her recent court action. "Several of the "If" speakers had on a Fitbit; why did it work for them and not me? I'm not a bit fit," says Jones, "Talk about false advertising. I wore that thing every waking hour of every day in 2016, and I'm still 30 pounds overweight."

Sarah Gillespie stands with her friend. "We were praying for Carolyn all year, read two Christian dieting books, and even had a healing service. We did everything to ensure Carolyn's success, but another piece of overpriced technology failed us again. I hope she gets every penny."

Fitbit has attempted mediation to settle out of court. They claim their devices simply track fitness, not ensure fitness. 

"Well if that's the case," responded Jones to our questions, "they shouldn't use phony advertising of healthy individuals donning a Fitbit."

Jones says she will not be fooled in 2017. She has joined a Christian essential oils club that offer supplements to cure the appetite.


Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Listen to Maya

“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” -Maya Angelou

Contra: The famous athlete caught cheating, says, "I'm very sorry; I wasn't acting like myself." The cruel adolescent after smearing a person's good name, "Nah, man, I was only joking."

There is always a place to apologize, confess a wrongdoing, and say, "This is not the person I want to be." Such a response is more credible. It affirms our actions reveal our character. It is who we are. But it acknowledges we fall short of the moral bar, and we are willing to accept the consequences of past actions and the sacrifices necessary to never repeat them.

If you've been wronged by someone, be leery of empty promises. Wait for change.

If you keep doing the same thing, don't believe your own hype, this is who you are. God can change you. There is hope at the cross. 

Monday, February 06, 2017

What we know in our 30s that we hope you'd learn at 18...

Innovation is not original.

Hmm, but innovation means a new idea or a new method, and to be original refers to something inventive or unusual.

Yes, but the stark difference is that originality cannot be copied, imitated, or improved upon.

What I wish every kid approaching 18 would know and what many in their young 20s could gain from understanding is that innovation for innovation sake is not only unoriginal, but often times a dangerous turn away from beautiful originality.

Some things cannot be improved upon. Innovation only tarnishes. For instance, a walk amid the colors, smells, and temperature of fall is simple fare. The only way to ruin such a walk is to try to capture the moment with your smart phone. Your innovative device serves as a vacuum cleaner sucking up all that was perfectly common. (Read more on the danger of such devices here: digital-heroin-how-screens-turn-kids-into-psychotic-junkies/)

Much could be said for all the innovative religious practices. Jesus on the cross, dying for sinners, is the original idea. But new ideas ask questions like, "Did Jesus really die?" Or "Who is really a sinner?" Immediately the original work of beauty is tarnished by this banal innovation. Or maybe we play rock music so loud that we "awe" the audience. Two problems here: first, it's a congregation, not an audience. Second, congregations are supposed to participate and sing, not just listen. No thank you innovation. What about a Bible preacher who is now simply a "Speaker" or "Communicator" who uses an electronic tablet? The medium is the message...we no longer revere the Word, we revere the worker. We no longer evaluate the message based on Biblical fidelity, but on communicative flare.

Innovation is not original.

Beware the substitutes.

Find the real.

Settle there.