Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Powers Boothe on '24'



Isn't he the perfect pick for evil Vice President Daniels?

Monday, April 23, 2007

What to think about in times of trial

Here's one of my favorite hymns. It was written by Henry Lyte in 1824. The mindset contained in this hymn is so contrary to what we typically think when we suffer. That's why we need this hymn!


Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition,
All I’ve sought or hoped or known.
Yet how rich is my condition!
God and heaven are still my own.

Let the world despise and leave me,
They have left my Savior, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me;
Thou art not, like them, untrue.
O while Thou dost smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love, and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me,
Show Thy face and all is bright.

Man may trouble and distress me,
’Twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me;
Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, ’tis not in grief to harm me
While Thy love is left to me;
Oh, ’twere not in joy to charm me,
Were that joy unmixed with Thee.

Go, then, earthly fame and treasure,
Come disaster, scorn and pain
In Thy service, pain is pleasure,
With Thy favor, loss is gain
I have called Thee Abba Father,
I have stayed my heart on Thee
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather;
All must work for good to me.

Soul, then know thy full salvation
Rise o’er sin and fear and care
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
Think what Father’s smiles are thine,
Think that Jesus died to win thee,
Child of heaven, canst thou repine.

Haste thee on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith, and winged by prayer.
Heaven’s eternal days before thee,
God’s own hand shall guide us there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission,
Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope shall change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Able not to sin?

In my small group last week, we got into a discussion on the nature of the new birth. The question arose, Is it possible for the Christian not to ever sin? Several of us replied yes, it is theoretically possible. We based that on the fact that as Christians we have "died to sin" - that is, died to its power over us as well as its condemnation of us.

Romans 6 teaches this. Paul says, "We were therefore buried with [Christ] through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:4). Paul goes on to say that "sin shall no longer be your master" (Romans 6:14). Because of our union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, we have been "set free from sin" (Romans 6:7). At the cross, the flesh has been mortally wounded; "the body ruled by sin [has been] done away with" (Romans 6:6). We have been "brought from death to life" (Romans 6:13).

What this means practically is that when tempted to sin, I can look sin in the eye and say, "Sin, you do not tell me what to do. You are no longer my master. The risen life of Christ now defines me, you don't. The person I have become in Christ is not your slave; rather, you are my slave. I say to you, be gone. I count myself dead to you and alive to God."

Theologians since the time of Augustine have talked about the four-fold state of man. At creation, Adam had both the power to sin and the power to not sin (posse non peccare et posse peccare). After the fall in the Garden of Eden, man lost the will to obey God and became unable not to sin (non posse non peccare). However, when a person is regenerated by the Holy Spirit, he or she becomes able again not to sin (posse non peccare). While that is a wonderful thing, it's not the ultimate blessing. The ultimate blessing is not being able to sin (non posse peccare) - a blessing reserved for us in heaven. (Note that our state in heaven will be better and more glorious than the state Adam was in before he fell!)

So the believer is able, by grace through faith, not to sin.

However, an honest Christian will say this is not his or her daily experience. It is certainly not mine. I have sinned and do sin a lot, and I know I'm a believer in Christ! The Bible even says in 1 John 1:8, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us."

Interestingly, the same Paul who wrote Romans 6 also wrote Romans 7, in which he confessed, "I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing" (Romans 7:19). Paul experienced a daily struggle with indwelling sin. Some of the battles with sin he won, but others he lost. He had to admit that even after regeneration he was "a wretched man" in need of the grace of God (Romans 7:24-25).

So even though it is theoretically possible, in a moment-by-moment sort of way, to not bow to the temptation to sin, the fact is we do not actually reach a state of sinless perfection. And I would add that people who claim to have reached that point do not know themselves very well at all, and are probably extremely guilty of the sin of pride.

The vestiges of sin must be engaged in battle and fought with determination each and every moment. I must "put to death" those ugly traits that used to characterize me (Colossians 3:5). I must flee my idols (1 John 5:21). I must not "indulge the sinful nature" (Galatians 5:13). In my struggle with sin I cannot just "let go and let God," as many put it. Instead, the flesh is still so strong in me that I must arm myself with the arsenal of God and throw myself into the fight with everything I've got.

But there's a practical beauty to this idea that as a converted person I am "able not to sin." It gives me power to resist sin. It is the gospel I preach to myself in the heat of temptation. I find that it frequently kills the power of sin when I remind myself, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. I have been raised up with Christ and seated with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. Sin is no longer my master, because I am not under the law, but under grace" (Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 2:6, Romans 6:14).

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Movie wasteland

Anyone seen a good movie lately? Seems like I haven't seen a good one in the longest time.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Exciting days for Michael!

My son Michael (the 4th of our four kids) is almost a college student! Yesterday he came home from school with his graduation cap & gown and his graduation announcements in hand. So my wife and I ooh'd and ahh'd over those things, remembering how exciting the final weeks of high school were for us (many years ago!).

And then today I went out with Michael to help him shop for his combination birthday/graduation present...a laptop computer. He needs one for FSU next fall. We got a good deal on a Gateway notebook at Best Buy.

When he walked out of the store with his new laptop, I thought - "It's really true...my little boy is a man and he's about to leave home for college!!"

I am so proud of Michael. He has been a leader at school and church, and a delight to have in our family. He is talented, sensitive, serious about his faith but able to be really funny and have a good time. One of the many things I admire about him is his ability to relate to all types of people. He knows how to be a witness for Christ without being exclusive and intimidated by people who are different from him. He and I have several things in common: we are both introverted, we like a lot of the same classic rock bands, and we laugh at most of the same things. We both also really like pot roast.

Way to go, Michael!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Lent

Lent is over and so is my dessert fast. Overall I'm surprised by how successfully I was able to turn down desserts. After a week or two it was not a big deal anymore. I plan to reduce (though not eliminate) desserts as much as possible from here on out. I ate a lot more fruit and vegetables during Lent, and I don't want to get out of that habit.

Now...what do I need to eliminate next? Diet Coke? NEVER!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

24 surprise

Wow, Jack Bauer threw us quite a twist in 24 last night! I won't give it away for those who haven't watched it yet, but I like what happened. Now we have an exciting second-half-of-the-season to look forward to!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Sanjaya!

OK, I admit it, I like watching American Idol. And by now everyone knows that the talk of this season is Sanjaya Malakar.

He can't sing as well as the other contestants, but every week enough people vote for him that he stays in the running to be the next American Idol...while people much more talented than he is get booted off the show.

A columnist for the Washington Post calls Sanjaya "the Heather Mills of American Idol. Instead of dancing without a leg, he's singing without a vocal cord. A talent amputee."

A writer for the Chicago Tribune says "the show's judges have labeled his performances 'a little pitchy' so often he could qualify for the Cy Young Award."

Despite his bad press, tons of people love him. And Howard Stern is urging all his listeners to keep voting for Sanjaya, I guess as a practical joke played on the nation.

I thought about Sanjaya today, and believe it or not I actually got a spiritual insight: Christians are like Sanjaya. We keep screwing up, but we're still in the game. We fall woefully short, but at the end of the day we're still in God's family, and He's not letting go of us!

Satan levels his critical eye at us and points out all the ridiculous things we do. But after the votes are tallied, we're still standing! Why? Because Jesus votes for us, and His vote trumps everyone else's. At the last day, when the performances come to an end and we're gathered in front of THE judge (not Simon, Paula, and Randy), to everyone's surprise we'll be vindicated, while many people far nicer and more talented and more successful than we are will be cast into the lake of fire.

I know I'm carrying things WAY too far (!), but when I heard Sanjaya getting bashed on talk radio and read all the searing critiques of Sanjaya on the web, it reminded me of the unmerited love of God for undeserving people like me.

Friday, April 06, 2007

What I'm reading...

To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up without a Father by Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz. He shares a very personal glimpse into his struggles to see God as his Father, which I could identify with very well. Miller always gets me to think deeply and personally about my walk with God, even when I disagree with him. When I put his books down I want to journal or something, just to process further what I've read.

Real Christianity, by William Wilberforce. This book is a modern adaptation by Bob Beltz of Wilberforce's work first published in 1797 entitled Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Higher and Middle Classes in This Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity (quite a title, huh?!). It's a straightforward book that clarifies what it is that makes someone a Christian. Wilberforce was the driving force behind the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. This book is an inspiring look into the man's heart and theology. Would that a government leader in modern times could write so powerfully and Biblically about the nature of true salvation!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Palm Sunday

I worshiped today at the church my son-in-law Scott pastors - Handsboro Presbyterian Church in Gulfport, Mississippi. He delivered a great Palm Sunday sermon from Mark 11 on the two disciples who obeyed Jesus' very strange command to go find a donkey colt, untie it, and bring it to Him. Scott related that to our need to be ready and obedient whenever Jesus calls us to do something the world might find preposterous.

I am proud of my daughter and son-in-law because they said yes to God's "preposterous" call last year to come to Gulfport, a small town ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. The presbytery was looking for a pastor to come help two different Presbyterian churches get back on track after years of decline and Katrina-related physical damage had almost finished them off. As both a parent and a pastor, it is exciting for me to see how Scott & Rebecca have brought life and love to these congregations. In a real sense, I see them as similar to the two disciples whom Jesus sent on that important mission of finding a colt for Him to ride on Palm Sunday.

God's Kingdom advances in obscure places through ordinary people as they obey God's call, however strange it may happen to be.

(The top picture shows you what Handsboro's building looked like after Katrina, and the bottom picture is what it looks like today.)