Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween

OK, I admit it...I love Halloween.

The costumes, the trick-or-treat, the candy, everything.

In fact, as I write this post, I am sitting in my living room waiting for another knock on our door so I can dole out candy bars and Skittles to another cute kid.

I know that many people would say a Christian shouldn't love Halloween, but I do. I always have. It was great fun as a kid dressing up and going around the neighborhood collecting candy, and then stuffing my face with it after I got home. And then when our kids were growing up, Halloween was almost more fun for our family than Christmas. I still remember some of the more hilarious costumes our kids wore. They were usually quite creative. My favorite was the year David wore a Richard Nixon mask.

The churches I've served (until the present one) seemed to think Christian children ought to have a "Halloween alternative" (which translated means: dress up as Bible characters, Disney characters, football players, etc. - just not witches and ghosts and demons - and collect candy and stuff your face with it after you get home). I was never a big fan of those events. I have always felt that Halloween gives Christian families an unparalleled opportunity to walk around the neighborhood, meet the neighbors we rarely talk to the rest of the year, have fun with the kids, and show people we're normal. It has always bothered me that many Christians withdraw from the culture and have their "alternative" celebrations.

I know the arguments, and if you believe Christians shouldn't participate in Halloween I see your point. I just think that, as long as your kids aren't dressing up like Satan or something, it's pretty harmless. It's a time for community, for family, for being salt and light.

And eating a lot of candy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Logos Bible Software

Wow. I'm excited about a new software program I invested in for Bible study and sermon preparation. It's called Logos, and it's amazing. I got the Scholar's Library edition, which says it contains over 335 different study resources. I've been playing around with it and seeing what a help it will be to my exegesis of Bible texts.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Kingdom

I saw The Kingdom tonight. It's a brutal look at America's fragile relationship with Saudi Arabia, through a story of a terrorist attack on an American compound in Riyadh. Though fictional, the story was inspired by real events that occurred in 2003, when suicide attacks attributed to Al-Qaeda killed 35 Americans and injured more than 160.

It's a scary movie, in the sense of putting you in the heart of the tension.

I found myself getting scared that on the way home from the theater, some car bomb would go off by the roadside. It was that graphic. The bombing and gunfight sequences were amazing and terrifying.

I was a bit surprised by the politically incorrect perspective of the movie. I expected more of an anti-war, anti-American message. Americans were portrayed as genuine heroes. Unfortunately, they were way too invincible. Like comic book figures, they somehow escaped getting killed by all the bullets and rockets that came flying at them. Jennifer Garner was especially indestructible. There were also too many cute comments by the actors.

The Muslim extremists in the film were exactly that...extreme. The movie takes you into the heart and mind of the terrorists, shows you how they make car bombs and suicide vests, and gets uncomfortably close to a scene of torture.

You also get a sense of the dutiful blindness of terrorist religion. It was sad to watch as commitment to Allah drove many of the Muslims in the movie to senseless, horrific acts of murder. It was particularly uncomfortable to see children getting killed and being used as soldiers of Jihad.

As hard to watch as this movie was for me at times, what's more depressing is to realize that while I sit comfortably writing this post, that stuff is really happening over there in the Middle East. The only hope for this world is the TRUE kingdom. It's a kingdom of peace, not violence; of love, not hate...with Christ, the Prince of Peace, on the throne.

More than ever I want to pray, "Thy kingdom come!"

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Catching up

I have not posted anything for WEEKS! So, here's an overview of the Top Ten Things That Have Been Keeping Me Busy...

1) Travel. I took a week off to visit my daughter and her family in Gulfport, MS. Always a great treat! It's wonderful seeing how God is using them to build the kingdom in a place that has experienced a lot of pain. I got to spend lots of time with my grandkids. They make me happy in so many ways. Plus I brought a present back with me -- a cat named...

2) Cleopatra! She was a stray cat that showed up at my daughter's home. She was skinny and unhealthy looking, but now - thanks to some tender loving care - she's healthy and happy as can be. She's an illustration of redemption - God taking us on when we're His enemies, loving us when we're unloveable and have nothing to offer, and adopting us as His children. His love transforms us from orphans into sons and daughters. Under His loving eye, what was once duty becomes choice.

3) Ministry. It's been a fun and refreshing challenge to serve as interim pastor at my church while we look for a new senior pastor. I love preaching every week. I love the shepherding role. It keeps me in the Word and pushes me forward in faith. The people at my church are fantastic. They are excited to see what the future holds, and their excitement encourages me to be excited too.

4) Teaching. I teach a preaching lab at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. It's fulfilling helping guys hone their preaching skills. I'm inspired when a guy breaks through the fear and delivers a passionate sermon.

5) Marriage. My wife and I are still adjusting to the empty nest. It's strangely quiet around the house now that our youngest son is in college. We are being challenged to grow and stretch in new ways so that our lives don't lose the energy of earlier years.

6) Movies. I've seen Elizabeth: The Golden Age (beautiful cinematography, questionable history, great acting, sloooooowww story!), Michael Clayton (great story though it took me quite a while to figure out what was going on), Bourne Ultimatum (best action film I've seen in years, and I finally understood a Bourne movie), 3:10 to Yuma (totally engrossing).

7) Facebook. Yes that's right, I'm hooked.

8) FSU. I'm becoming a fan...although it's a miserable season for switching allegiances.

9) Car repairs. Seems that both our cars are choosing to persecute me right now. We had to get a new A/C for our '02 Kia Optima (100,000+ miles) and now the "check engine" light is on...again. Our '95 Nissan Quest (211,000+ miles) is experiencing dementia and arthritis.

10) Friendships. My wife and I are doing a marriage study with our small group that meets every Tuesday night, and it's quite good. I enjoy playing racquetball with two guys twice a week. I meet with a men's group for lunch every Monday. I am getting together often with the elders and deacons of my church and love getting to know them better. I enjoy our neighbors next door, who are also in my small group. And I play tennis sporadically on Fridays with another friend of mine. God has surrounded me with men and women I enjoy knowing and who spur me on.