Monday, September 29, 2008

Pray for the Persecuted...

...that God will be glorified.

Paulas from Nepal posted a prayer request for the persecution going on in a village in India.

Warning: there are images that may disturb some people.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Photos in My Office

My Christmas present is installed and the place is clean enough to be comfortable in. My Sunday School Professor, David Moss, built a desk for my office: the Christmas present from my wife, Lois. It took him awhile because he has been teaching at the local college and had been getting ready for a mission trip to Nepal. After he got back, he got it assembled and brought it to the house so I could finish it. Now was our turn. Lois and the kids went to Venezuela and then I went to Venezuela. I came back, finished the desk and went to London. While I was in London, my father-in-law installed the desk. however, all the old furniture was still in the office and it was mess. I started going through all the old stuff and got much of it moved into the new desk. Then Lois and the kids got back from Venezuela. She had a bad fibromyalgia flare for a couple of weeks. now she's feeling a little better and has decided to organize the house including the rest of the office. A couple nights ago the office was straightened up but a lot of stuff was in boxes in the living room so we couldn't read the Bible in there - so we read the Bible in the cleaned-up office. Here are the photos:

Birch panels and cherry flatstock. It was designed to fit the awkward space in my office. Maybe sometime in the not-too distant future, we'll have David make a hutch to go with it.

Feeding the family before bed: You can see Luke's legs. I would have gotten picture of Luke and Hope sitting in the recliner together (they were cute), but they didn't cooperate after I snapped Paul's picture and Bible time isn't a photo shoot, so I didn't want to turn it into one - just to get a quick natural shot of the beauty I see in my family. That yellow thing behind Lois is a kid-sized desk for homeschool. Paul actually can't read his Bible, but he likes to have one since everyone else does.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Mixed-Discipline Humor

A. Why did the fe-mail server reject the forward advances of the e-mail server?

B. Because he had attachment issues.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Traditional Venezuelan Music

This year, the youth of Salvation Baptist Church in Cabimas treated us to some traditional Venezuelan music. It is probably of African and Indian influence rather than the more tonal European influence that Venezuela also has. To analyze this by Western contemporary music standards, it's in 6/8 time. The bass drum is played with a stick that has small notches in it. You hold the stick on the head of the drum and rub your hand along the notches to produce a light thrumming bass sound. The tenor drum is louder. Interestingly, neither one accents the down beat, but rather plays on the upbeats. If you try to figure out the beats according to these lower drums, you'll get lost. Listen to the upper percussion for downbeats.

Note the melody is not very melodic and the harmony only comes from the small 4-stringed guitar. This produces music that is more chanted than sung. This was an "aha" moment for me. Much of the modern music they like to listen to there resembles rap music, but it's not rap music. I think that is comes from an ear for this traditional music that is very rythmic and chanty. The following is a Christian song. Enjoy:



When you think of traditional Christian music, I bet you don't think of this.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The DNA of God

I received a sideways compliment recently. Hearing of my involvement with missions to Venezuela, I was asked by Michael Horner while we were in London if I had some Hispanic heritage. I don't as such and said as much. I'm not very dark compared to many, but I'm dark enough to have made the Hispanics at work wonder if I was Hispanic. So, I understand where the question came from. I went on to explain my mutt heritage: English, German, Irish and other north European, Cherokee, and something unknown that seems to be Mediterranean of some sort. Michael mused that he noticed that people of mixed heritage do tend to be physically strong and attractive people.

Where does one go with a comment like that? I duly appreciated it, although I've never seen myself as particularly attractive. So I opened up a discourse on genetic speciation and the reintroduction of lost genetic potential in isolated populations. (It's okay - he understands these things. One of the things I enjoyed in London was the intellectual capital represented in our group.)

At precisely the same time as this was taking place in London my wife, Lois, and our kids were spending time in the Sierra de Perijá with the Yukpa Indians. I had wondered from an anthropological perspective of their level of homogeneity. After they got back top civilization, Lois posted some photos from their time there and I noticed striking morphological clues that this tribe had likely been genetically isolated for some time. While she respectfully didn't get any photos, she offered recently that there was an alarmingly high incidence of physical deformity in the tribe. That's an indicator that the population size has remained small enough to lose the genetic variety necessary to cover genetic defects. In other words, people can't find mates in their own ethnicity that aren't too closely related to them. That's the problem with Kinism. (By the way, it also evidences that speciation does not result in eventual mutation.)

Also in London with our group were several people from South Africa. Our purpose was to minister to an ethnic group who vacations in London in the summer. Remarkable about the presence of the South Africans is that there were white and black South Africans working side by side. I remember the years of Apartheid and how God changed all that seemingly overnight. There are still racial tensions in South Africa, but the testimony of our brothers and sisters we met in London is that God had changed their hearts. Now, with new hearts for the people of God here were two ethnicities formerly at great odds working side-by-side to reconcile yet a third ethnicity to the One who reconciles all things.

Genetic information is what causes all living things to reproduce after their own kind. Young are produced in the image of their parents. If this is observed then could it not also be observed that God creates his spiritual children after His spiritual likeness? This is DNA that comes directly from God. It is inextricable from the existence of those who have His DNA. Just as physiological DNA determines our basic morphologies, spiritual DNA determines our basic spiritual nature. We don't need a good mix of genes to give us healthy spiritual DNA, however, because God gives His children spiritual DNA that is perfect and incorruptible. Inasmuch as we are His, we possess His beauty. It doesn't matter what your human ethnicity or physical DNA - if you are a child of God, you are beautiful.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Venezuela 2008 Video

Last night was the share service at church for the Venezuela trip this summer. Here's the video for it:



The traditional Venezuelan music was performed for us by the youth of the church we ministered with. I have a full-length version of it and plan to post it in the very near future.

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Revival: What Is It?

What is Revival?

It's not merely a rhetorical question. Do we have a good idea of what it is?

Many say, "There needs to be a revival in the Church." What do they mean when they say this? Do they mean that we need to get a special speaker for a few days to come and preach each night ending with a big altar call where everyone in the whole church comes down front and rededicates themselves to God? How often has that happened... really?

Perhaps we see our church is full of apathetic Christians who come to church week in and week out and we see a church across town who seem to be really having a good time on Sunday morning and even throughout the week. They have some cool programs that we don't have and we want to be more like them. A revival in MY church - so we can be more like that other church over there.

Perhaps we see our country is becoming rife with sin and perversion for the first time in our history. We think that the Church turned away from God, let the unrighteous political ones take prayer out of our schools and we will be destroyed as a country. The only way out of this mess is for the Church to turn back to God so that we can make the country the Utopian Camelot it used to be. This is called revival.

So who is at fault for the fact that people haven't stayed faithful to God and need a revival?

If the need for revival is in your home church, the pastor may be at fault. You've heard Pastor Joe from the 50,000-member Prestonwood Fellowship Tabernacle in Virginia City, Nevada. He's been on the radio for five years now and has become the most sought-after evangelistic speaker in all the Christian churches across North America. His messages are always Biblical and no one at your dead church really knows who he is. Reverend Elliot Coldwater sure doesn't. You haven't been able to stay awake in his sermons for a solid year now, they're so boring.

Or maybe your pastor, Bro Townsend, preaches just fine, but he's so full of himself. When he came everyone thought that he could really bring new life to the church. However, he is really pushing all these changes like giving more of the budget of the church to missions. The church hasn't made budget in 20 years. You certainly don't have enough for something as foreign as missions. Or maybe he actually wants people to be missionaries. Maybe he will tell you that you are called to Africa. How scary is that? Do they even have electricity in Africa? You might miss the next season of American Idol or something. That's why your church needs revival.

Perhaps your pastor really is bad. Your pastor, Dr Lybald, doesn't even think Jesus was really God. He certainly doesn't believe any of the miracles really happened. No one left in the church really has the wits to do anything about it.

What if the problem with your pastor is not that he's making bad changes or preaching lies. Maybe you really do want to be a missionary to Africa and you really love his preaching, but your poor pastor can't get anything changed because of those few old fogeys in the church that really don't want change. They gossip about your pastor all the time behind his back and about the horrible changes he wants to make that might actually bring new people into the church. "Why, the church is just fine the way that it is," they say.

What if the people who are really fueling the need for revival are those new people that keep joining? They bring new ideas. Maybe they want the church to play silly camp music with guitars and drums for worship. Or maybe they want to ditch the pews and put sofas and lazy boys in a big circle all over the sanctuary.

For the country, perhaps all of Christendom needs to be revived. The pews are empty. People need to go to church. People you don't know are doing all kinds of things that you don't know and none of it is what they shouldn't be doing. But you have seen the trends. There has to be an answer for it all and the solution is for everyone to just come back to God. And you are doing the right thing by voicing your knowledge and wisdom about the whole thing as one of the few left who really, truly know God. You don't need to share your faith because you just did: "People need to get back to God." That's all you need to say. You're not going to share your faith because people are going to hell in a handbasket all right and you're not going to have your fingerprints on it.

There's not a single one of us that has all the right answers. What can we say about the trends we see? What kinds of judgments can we level at the Church in general that will change a thing? It does no good to sit back and complain about the state of things and not do anything to change it, especially if you realize that you are operating in ignorance.

But there are some things that we can know for sure. We know that God is living. We know that He is active in his creation. We know that He intends for us to know something about Him, including what He has done for us. So we also know some of the key things He has done for us. One of these things is that He has come to each of His children and given us life in the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.


The word "revivial" means to bring back to life. To be revived means that the one being revived was once alive, died and was brought back to life. Does anyone intend to imply that people who need revival were once saved, lost their salvation and need to be re-saved? Well, often "to be revived" is intended figuratively. Someone has lost consciousness by something other than natural means and has had consciousness restored. They have been alive, but the appearance of life has waned temporarily. This can happen spiritually.

The answer is that we can rely on God to fulfill His purpose. If God's purpose involves immediate revival, it will happen. If God's purpose doesn't involve immediate revival, it won't. If we are concerned about it, then our first recourse is to pray about it, for only God can produce the results. If you want revival, your first prayer should be that He start with you. Your first act of revival is to direct your praise to God and enjoy His fellowship. If you really want change then you need to seek His will. If you are filled with the Holy Spirit, trust Him not to lie to you. Test the spirits however, that you don't listen to another spirit believing it to be God. How do you do this? Read the Bible. It's God's special revelation.

There's more. If you want to be revived, expect there to be changes in your life. You can't expect God to change other people without being willing for your life to be changed.

This has an application for the church as a corporate entity. If you want to see your church revived, it must change. The Hebrews succeeded as God's people in one regard: they were the people through whom the Christ came. There was one big way they failed. Their purpose was to be God's revelation to the world. Everything from their history and God's activities among them was intended to be His revelation to the world. Their part was to proclaim this for all people. They failed.

The purpose of the Church on earth is summed up in the Great Commission. As God's people, we are left here to bring the revelation of God: His incarnation, atoning work and resurrection.

Not every church is capable of sending missionaries. Christ tells the few failthful left in The Church in Thyatira in Rev 2:24-26 that merely holding on to the truth in the face of satanic lies is enough of a testimony. But He tells them that those who remain steadfast will be given the power over the nations. The edict is to do what we can and leave the results up to God. God will provide for the flfillment of His purposes.

So, trust God, praise Him and work to help reveal Him to others. That's where revivial happens.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thirteen Years of Secure Borders and a Happy Nest

Men and women are different. It's just an observation I have. I'm going to make another observation and anyone with any considerable education or experience with family counseling or psychotherapy may be able to refine or refute this untrained observation. Also, this observation isn't absolute. it's the sort of observation that is the recognition of a tendency and is not necessarily true in every case.

Men tend to be focused outward. They like to go out, explore, establish borders and assume responsibility for all under their care. Men gain self-respect this way and they expect others to respect their authority. Men are created this way.

Women, especially after they are married, tend to be nesters. Rather than securing borders, they draw in to a single location. They need to protect the nest. Before marriage, they may show interest in the man and follow him out to patrol his borders. After marriage, this changes somewhat to the chagrin of the man.

These patterns can manifest themselves in different ways and to various degrees. A man may find his borders in his occupation, posessions and sporting preferences. A woman may find her nest in her children, her career or her crafts.

Men argue over the location of borders. Women argue over the upkeep of the nest.

Men need to be respected for their borders. Women need to be loved for their nests.

If women change their mode after marrying, men are often perplexed by the change. What happened to the woman who used to follow him out to the borders? He often mistakenly misinterprets this as a waning of respect for his borders. He feels no longer respected. Sometimes the woman actually loses respect for the man and the perception is not a misinterpretation at all. Many men respond by enforcing borders in the nest. Women often misperceive this as a loss of love because their nest is being violated. They respond by marginalizing the man in the nest. She may allow him a small out-of-the way spot for his border to be, but he better leave the rest of the nest alone. She may even feel that the man is supposed to have a particular role in the nest and better leave his borders to take his place in her nest.

Because the nest is within the borders, but the borders are ultimately outside the nest, the conflict is centered in the nest - the realm of the woman. Any disagreement that ensues is debated in terms of the nest, not the borders. This is why the woman often seems to win all the arguments.

I got into a discussion with a few men (godly men) the other night where they made light of the fact that their wives typically win all the arguments. One man is a Christian counsellor, another is a physician, and another is a young fellow who is yet unmarried. The physician joked that the counsellor might actually win arguments with his wife. The young man noted with disdain that this was what he had to look forward to.

I had to speak up at this point. I begged to brag on my wife. I joked that she lets me win some arguments. Then with all seriousness I added that we don't argue. (In fact, we have only raised our voices at each other in anger for about ten seconds in the past thirteen years.) If we disagree on anything we seek God's will for us with all fear and trembling with the gift of our marriage to each other. Being involved in missions and ministry, we recognize that our enemy doesn't like who we are, Who we belong to, and what we are doing and will try to thwart any success we have in the name of our Lord. This is true for our marriage as well. If any couple claims to not have any difficulties with their marriage, they are either not in God's will or are lying.

I thank God for my wife daily. She respects my borders and I love her nest. My borders aren't perfect and her nest isn't perfect, but we are made perfect in grace through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today, we turn thirteen years old. Happy Anniversary, Honey! I look forward to many more years with you in the service of our Lord.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

When Does Life Begin?

You're out of touch if you haven't heard any arguments in the historic and ongoing abortion debate. Here are some of the different opinions on when life begins:

  1. Conception - when the sperm fertilizes the egg
  2. Heartbeat - when the baby's heart begins to pump blood
  3. Nervous system activity - when the baby can feel pain
  4. Viability - capacity to exist unaided outside the womb
  5. Birth - the point the body of the baby fully emerges from the birth canal or is surgically removed from the uterus by C-section (this is the view that supports partial-birth abortion)
  6. Breathing - when the baby is sucking air, aided or unaided.
  7. When the child is wanted - this supports euthanasia where the baby can be killed as though the preganancy was aborted (apparently Obama's view since he supports allowing surviving babies of botched abortions to die)

The problem with all of these views is that the arguments are made purely on existential grounds. Most of my fellow pro-lifers quote the Bible, which is good, but they don't follow the foundational logic of the Bible when they move to the debate on when life begins.

Jeremiah 1:5

5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
And before you were born I consecrated you;
I have appointed you a prophet to the nations."

Psalm 139

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

Consider also the definition of life. Many understand the Biblical definitions of death. There is the death of the body, but the soul is not annihilated. Spiritual death is not complete destruction; spiritual death is separation from God. The same distinction can be made with life. We know that animals have life. Genesis presents them as "living" although they do not have the same spiritual relationship with God that we were created to have. They are physically alive, but they have no spiritual life. Human beings have physical life, but more importantly, we have souls that will not cease to exist. Even more importantly, for the children of God He has given eternal life that although our bodies may die momentarily, we cannot die and will be raised up as Christ was raised up from the dead.

Even before we were born, there are passages that hold a view that we yet existed in our fathers' loins.

Existential arguments fall apart. We look for a moment in time when life begins to support an understanding of our reverence for the gift of life that God has given us and the corect observation that we were created in the image of God. But when does this life begin? If it begins at conception, it seems reasonable to place the value on the unique DNA. "Here," we say, "is the indication that this is no mere piece of dead flesh. It is unique from the mother.

However, what do we say of identical twins? If the uniqueness of the DNA is all-important, then identical twins are not two people, but one. Therefore, if this argument is true we could expect to discover which is the right one and kill the other. After all, the other is no better than a clone.

Take the importance of DNA to the other extreme. If DNA is all-important, should we not mourn the death of each cell that dies on our bodies? Each cell of my body contains a complete set of my DNA. It's amazing to think that each of us started off as a single one of these cells. So, if I slough off a few skin cells, an important part of me has died in the process because each one of those cells contain all of who I am in them. When I urinate, dead blood cells are taken away from my body. Each one of them carries my essence in their DNA, or so the argument goes, so I should mourn their loss. Do we not mourn the loss of an entire appendage when something is amputated? Why not a measly few cells?

Philosophers like Kierkegaard and Nietzsche taught us that existence preceeds essence. That means that the things of this temporal world determine the truth value of any concievable intangible thing. This stands contrary to what Plato considered in his idea of the logos. He held that there is a world where everything is perfect and this world is a mere shadow of that world and the logos was a particular manifestation of these shadows. This implies that the perfect, or ideological, world is foundational to the imperfect, or temporal, world. John agreed to some extent when he defined logos in the person of Jesus Christ.

So, if our life in these bodies is temporal and God gives is eternal life, then is the eternal not foundational to the temporal? To argue otherwise is to deny our Creator. That's why existentialism is fundamentally atheistic. So, what is life in this temporal world? Do we identify a nere begninning and ending for pragmatic purposes? If it is merely a pragmatic exercise, then we have the cart before the horse. Without life, there is no need for pragmatism. Pragmatism exists for the purpose of serving life and therefore cannot adequately define life.

Rather, intent is the method whereby life is manifest in this world. Intent is the stuff of spirituality. We know the Bible where we are told that the law can only condemn us. The difference between following the law and being righteous is intent. The difference between spiritual life and death is the intent of the Creator to His creation. The difference between life and death in the body is the response of creation to the intent of the Creator. His intentions are not fully known to us, but we can only respond to what He has given us to know. Our existence is not ours, but the manifestation of our spiritual essence, for some death and for some life, but for all a body to bear this truth in temporal life.

Therefore, it is not simply that there are people who no longer exist or who do not exist yet, but all people ever have an absolute condition of earthly life for the purpose of glorifying God, whether spiritually alive or dead. If one is a singe cell, one is alive. If one loses many cells through natural processes throughout one's life and yet bodily lives, one retains an existential center of existence for the purpose of bearing God's eternal purpose in life. It is not the body that is the center of life, but the Spirit of God who gives life. That's why abortion is wrong. Life does not begin. Life is given.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Land of Opportunity - Knowing Your Boundaries

My church has a Wednesday night teaching ministry called Equipping University. We offer a variety of classes, most of which are theologically oriented, some are missions or ministry oriented, yet others are geared toward living the Christian life. I've always been drawn to the theology and evangelism classes. However, most of what is taught are things I already know, so it's come to be more of a series of refresher courses than anything. However, this semester I've started attending a course on establishing personal boundaries. This class helps students understand what we are responsible for and what we are not.

I've heard many Christians bemoan the spiritual state of the union of the United States. Many of these same people also bemoan the spiritual state of the "Church" in the United States. I hear such things commonly uttered as the following:

"If people would only turn back to God this would be a great nation again."
"The Church needs to stand up for what is right."
"If the Church hadn't let them take prayer out of the schools..."
"We need to elect godly people to the highest offices of the United States."
"We need a revival in the Church."

These comments are well and good, but combined they don't make much sense. I want a country that's nice to live like any other. I want my family to be safe. I want to have all kinds of opportunities to do the kind of work I love and the freedom to pursue my happiness and comfort.

The problem is this: God's people, whether the Hebrews as we read of them in the Old Testament or the Church, has never thrived well spiritually in such an environment for any significant amount of time in history. Where the living is good in this world, the concerns for the Kingdom of Heaven wane. While all things are possible with God, He is most glorified when His people demonstrate faith, hope, joy and love through hardship. It's not important the material gifts that God gives, but the spiritual gifts.

We can tell people the truth of God, but we cannot make them accept it. We can pass laws in the government, but we cannot make people follow them. Our actions and speech affects other people, but we cannot be held responsible for their actions. We can be responsible to someone else, but not responsible for someone else (I'm not talking about our young children). That's the first rule of setting good boundaries. I learned that in my class.

Furthermore, we cannot reasonably expect to grow the church in faith and complain about ghosts of persecution. It is typically persecution that purifies the church. Who do we fear? Do we fear those who would persecute us or the One who gives them the power to do so? The One who gives them the power to persecute us is also the one who is strengthening us through the ordeal. He also suffered persecution to the point of a horrible death.

I have prayed for opportunities to serve our Lord and He has opened up several doors in a very short period of time. There's no way that I can do all of them and each one has difficult hurdles that must be overcome. Three involve full-time missions overseas. Two involve staying here, but effectively leaving my church to serve in another, keeping in mind that I have some ministry there already.

One practical application of boundaries is in being able to say no, which I must do to at least 4 of these opportunities. I think God is trying to teach me something about boundaries. More importantly, I think He's trying to teach me how to better trust all of my opportunities to the One who is truly in charge.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Who is an African-American?

I keep hearing/reading patent lies and I won't go through them all - just one: Barak Obama, if elected, will not legally be the nation's first African-American president. Why is this? Because he's not, by legal definition, an African-American. His father was from Africa, but was mostly Arabic, not African. Which makes me ask questions:

1) Would Obama's father be an Arab-African?
2) If true, would Obama be half Arab-African-American?
3) Do many American's consider white South Africans who move to the US to be African-American?
4) If a white missionary couple from the United States bear and raise children in Africa, would their kids be considered American-African?

Think about these things for awhile and you realize how silly the whole thing is.

I recently did some missions with some South Africans, both black and white on the same team, where we ministered to yet another ethnic group altogether. The question was never asked, but one of the white South Africans answered it anyway. He said that he considers how there was a day when Apartheid was the rule in his county. God changed his heart as well as the hearts of white and black South Africans alike. Now they work side-by-side to bring the gospel to yet another group of people. That's what he said and I believe it by what I saw of them.

It matters not who will be the "first" of any kind of people to fill any kind of position. This goes for Sarah Palin as well as Barak Obama. I like Palin, but not because she's a woman - and I'm getting tired of hearing people say that she's "championing the cause of women". She has good principles beyond that and the fortitude to stick with them. That should be enough.

I don't like Obama. I haven't seen anything he's ever done that backs up his rhetoric and I detest the fact that he demonstrably champions infanticide: the killing of human beings from botched abortions, not to mention abortion itself. If that makes me a songle-issue voter, so be it. I'd rather be a single-issue voter over the issue of infanticide than over the issue of racial or gender identity.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

The Prayer at the DNC vs. the Prayer of a Real Christian

With regarding practical theology, here's the prayer offered by Donald Miller at the DNC:



Here's the transcript:

...will you please join me for a few moments of reflection as we close our evening in prayer?

Father God,
  • This week, as the world looks on, help the leaders in this room create a civil dialogue about our future.
We need you, God, as individuals and also as a nation. We need you to protect us from our enemies, but also from ourselves, because we are easily tempted toward apathy.
  • Give us a passion to advance opportunities for the least of these, for widows and orphans, for single moms and childrens whose fathers have left.
  • Give us the eyes to see them, and the ears to hear them, and the hands to serve them.
  • But Help us serve people, not just causes. And stand up to specific injustices rather than vague notions.
  • Give those in this room who have power, along with those who will meet next week, the courage to work together to finally provide health care to those who don’t have any, and a living wage so families can thrive rather than struggle.
  • Help us figure out how to pay teachers what they deserve and give children an opportunity to get a college education.
  • And Help us figure out the balance between economic opportunity and corporate gluttony.
We have tried to figure out these problems ourselves but they are still there. So we need your help.
  • Father, will you restore our moral standing in the world?
  • A lot of people don’t like us but that’s because they don’t know the heart of the average American.
  • And will you give us favor and forgiveness, along with our allies around the world?
  • Help us be an example of humility and strength once again.
  • Lastly, father, unify us. Even in our diversity help us see how much we have in common. And unify us not just in our ideas and in our sentiments—but in our actions, as we look around and figure out something we can do to help create an America even greater than the one we have come to cherish.
God we know that you are good. Thank you for blessing us in so many ways as Americans. I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice. Let Him be our example. Amen.

With the understanding that this was written down ahead of time, I offer a few thoughts:

"This week, as the world looks on, help the leaders in this room create a civil dialogue about our future."

But when the world isn't looking...?
" the leaders...create a civil dialog..." rather than "...please create a civil dialog..."
"...leaders in this room..." What about leaders elsewhere?
"...a civil dialog..." This is a good acknowledgment that they need to work on this. The DNC has been pretty good about being rhetorically uncivil.
"...dialog about our future." What good does merely talking about it do?
"...about our future." Rather than acknowledging that God holds our future in His hands.

Ok, I'm already tired of tearing this thing apart. I could do this with every phrase offered here, but I'm not. It's a very poor prayer.

Bait and switch time.

All good and decent Christians pray poor prayers to one degree or another. Our minds are still much polluted from contact with a fallen world. We are ignorant of much truth. We look through a glass dimly. We are still being sanctified. Between the Holy Spirit guarding the intent of our hearts and Christ offering intercession on our behalf, the Father knows and understand the desires of His children.

As you pray for wisdom for those in office and those compaigning, understand that you still need to pray for wisdom for yourself as well. Approach the throne of God with a humble heart, with fear and trembling. However, approach with confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit and the work of Christ.

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Practical Theology

David Moss spoke today about knowing God - why knowledge doesn't often result in increased faith when it should. (I may post excerpts of the lesson when the audio becomes available.) As he spoke the image came to mind of a boat floating nicely on the water. In the boat was Christ saying, "I am the boat. Get in and be rescued." However, we too often have a tendency to swim about the boat wondering if it would tip over if we got in instead of simply getting in. We may wonder if when we got in and leaned way over we would fall off instead of simply getting in and sitting properly.

You see, we have Christ in the boat demonstrating His capacity to hold our weight. What more information do we need for salvation? None. That's why the simplest person can understand salvation.

I had a long talk with a missionary the other day. He asked about my education and convictions. I was specific about my current theological understanding. Afterward he said simply, "I believe in a practical theology." Theology is practical. All good sermons end in application. However, the implication in this statement is that there is some theology that is not practical.

There is only the most basic understanding we need in order to get in the boat trusting it to float. We don't need to understand things like displacement, boat construction and particulars on how to deal with others on the boat and those not in the boat yet. We don't need to understand the dangers of a storm at sea. All we need to know is that the boat will float through all circumstances.

However, additional knowledge is practical. Understanding things like how to deal with other people on the boat and off the boat is obvious. Understanding why we need to know these things is helpful to knowing our obedience as part of God's redemptive plan as the Body of Christ. For things like displacement (penal substitution) and boat construction (nature of God) practicality is not immediately obvious. However, such things encourage us, reinforce our trust in the boat and give us cause to praise God.

You see, the pursuit of practicality too often focuses on us when we need to focus on God. The purpose for our salvation is not that we are redeemed, but that God has redeemed His creation. You see the slight difference in focus? I'm a compatibilist. That means that I hold no logical tension between God's sovereignty and man's free will, limited as it is. When I approach the topic, I always rhetorically acknowledge God's sovereignty first. He must be exalted. However, this often makes anti-Calvinists upset. They too often rhetorically place man's free will (and they don't believe it to be limited) first.

Let's think backwards through the gospel. The boat will float. Jesus' work on the cross can be trusted. Why do we need to understand this if we are in our own boat that will float? So, we need to understand that we have no other boat that will float. We are sinners and have stood in rebellion against God often relying on our own self-sufficiency. However, we are not sufficient. How do we know that we have sinned and cannot save ourselves? We have to first understand that God is Holy. He is our Creator. He is the Author of Life. He can do no wrong.

God must first be exalted.

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