This week's photo is a bridge in Fredericksburg, Virginia, during one of our rare snow storms. Fredericksburg is a wonderful town. Visit it if you ever get the chance. But do it soon, the rapidly expanding creep of the big city (Washington, DC) is rapidly overtaking this once relatively rural town.
December 30, 2007
Last week I posted a few pictures of Washington, D.C., with the Christmas decorations brightening the early morning streets [Read that post.] Today my son and I were walking the streets of our hometown, Lynchburg, Va. I thought it would be nice to post a photo of this altogether different city with one of its Christmas decorations. My family really loves Lynchburg. It is a beautiful city with true depth of character. And the city is made more beautiful by the delightful people who live there. I'd invite you to visit, but I know that you would do the same thing we did once we visitedyou'd pack up your family and move there. And eventually it would be just like Washington, D.C.overcrowded.
But seriously, if you get the chance to visit Lynchburg, do so. You'll thoroughly enjoy it.
December 29, 2007
My father has just entered the world of blogging. He will be using web log technology to communicate with his Sunday school class and others who may be interested in their topics of study.
If you get the chance, check out the Navigators Blog and join the bible study discussions.
December 27, 2007
Many of us feel a bit of letdown after Christmas has ended. The month-long excitement of the season ends suddenly with almost no decrescendo. The anticipation begins to build around Thanksgiving and increases steadily and seemingly exponentially with each day until Christmas Day arrives. The surrounding events (visits with family and friends, Christmas pageants, special church services, Christmas caroling, etc.) increase as the big day approaches.
But then the day is over. The presents have been unwrapped. The wrappings and bows have been thrown away or stored for next year's use. And although the tree remains in the living room and the lights still shine on the houses for a few more days, they seem to be simply a leftover and to not have any true reason for being there.
As with everything else, our son's version of the "Post-Christmas Blues" is extreme. It displays itself with a severity that is almost impossible to describe. And I tend to react to this each year rather than remembering that it happens each year and being prepared for it. Can this annual post-Christmas emotional meltdown provide an opportunity for teaching?
December 25, 2007
Following our family tradition, our son could not get to sleep on Christmas Eve until well past 2:00 am. He came into our room to get us up to open presents at 5:14am. In between those hours, we had to put out the presents "from Santa." So lack of sleep is the order of the day.
But we had a good time and our son is enjoying his presents. He's building a K'nex "Starburst Spinner" right now. K'nex are amazing. Much better than the Erector Sets we used to have as children. In fact, here it is in completed form:
Last night our church had a candlelight Christmas Eve worship service. Several people sang special music and our youth pastor read the delightful Tale of the Three Trees, which you may read more about here. The congregation sang Christmas carols, one of the men presented a message about the fact that Christ came "to save his people from their sins." We all held candles and sang "Silent Night" at the end of the service. When the song was finished, together we extinguished our candles. It was a wonderful reverential time.
Praise the Lord for the wonderful salvation he has prepared for his people. No other religion solves the problem of human sin by God dying to pay the penalty of that sinbecause no other religion is the True religion. What a wonderful God we worship and love.
December 24, 2007
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
I have thought a lot recently about the need to reclaim "horizontal" worship. The emphasis on "vertical" worship that has been so popular in recent years has led to a self-centered, self-absorbed music experience in our churches. The congregants are directed to worship with their God and to not care about what those around them may think (the Christian version of: "Wave your hands in the air like you just don't care," I guess). And the worship leaders have presented songs that are designed for personal communion with God at best or simply for emotional stimulation at worst. Gone is the concept of corporate worship, in which we edify the brothers and worship OUR God who gave His life to redeem US.
Bob Kauflin gives some solid guidance on this directive from Paul in his post on Addressing One Another in Psalms Hymns and Spiritual Songs. In this article Kauflin discusses practices that hinder horizontal awareness in worship:
Over the years, most of us have developed a few practices that can hinder any benefit we might receive from addressing one another as we sing.
- Singing songs that lack biblical substance or doctrinal depth. If the songs we’re singing are primarily subjective, and focused on how we feel, what we’re doing, or some other subjective element, we’re not going to have much to say to each other.
- Thinking that “worship” means closing my eyes, raising my hands, and blocking out everyone else around me. I’ve had many profound moments like that, as I’ve focused in an undistracted way on the words I’m singing and the Savior I’m singing to. But being Spirit-filled should actually make us more aware of others, not less. Many of the songs we sing aren’t even directed towards God. Crown Him with Many Crowns, Before the Throne of God Above, and Amazing Grace, are a few that come to mind. So when I lead I probably have my eyes open more than half the time. I’m looking around, addressing others, celebrating the fact that we can glory in Jesus Christ together. I do that even when I’m not leading, sometimes turning to someone beside me to rejoice in God’s grace. I want to benefit from the fact that I’m with the people of God.
- Singing alone. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with praising God on my own. But in the age of iPods, earphones, and Internet downloads, it’s easy to lose our appreciation for singing with the church. The Spirit intends us to join our hearts to each other as well as to Christ when we sing.
December 21, 2007
Hush, All Ye Sounds of War
Hush, all ye sounds of war, Ye nations all be still, A voice of heav'nly joy Steals over vale and hill, O hear the angels sing The captive world's release, This day is born in Bethlehem The Prince of Peace
No more divided be, Ye families of men, Old enmity forget, Old friendship knit again, In the new year of God Let brothers' love increase, This day is born in Behtlehem The Prince of Peace
William H. Draper, 18551933
December 18, 2007
Although there are many people trying to eliminate Christmas from our nation, there is still evidence that even in a jaded city like Washington, DC, people still love this holiday. The picture above is 10th Street and the building that covers the majority of the photo (on the left side of the photo) is my office building there. We are 10 blocks from the Capitol building, about 3 blocks from the White House, and 5 blocks from the Washington Monument. It's hard to see from the above picture, but there are wreaths and bows hanging on the building lights.
Around the corner from my office there are lighted snowflakes on each of the lampposts. The picture to the left is one of those snowflakes. Without a tripod, at this time of morning I would not be able to handhold a photo of a distant shot lining these up, but it really is a beautiful sight to see the repeating patterns of these snowflakes.
But my favorite shot from this morning was the one to the right. This is the lobby of my office building, which is shared by a luxury hotel. It's a little hard to see at this size, but there are Christmas trees on each floor and evergreen garland and red bows on the railings. A gorgeous scene to look at while I wait for my 6:00 am Starbucks coffee. I took this photo while I was waiting in line at Starbucks, which is also attached to the hotel lobby.
I don't like the "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" or the use of Santa Claus and Christmas trees while eliminating manger scenes, but I still love the sense of peace and joy that accompanies the Christmas season. Rather than fighting the culture warriors opposed to all things Christmas, we should take advantage of the fact that this season still evokes a sense of "peace to men of goodwill."
December 12, 2007
We all think the music we listened to when we were young was the best music ever. We remember fondly music that probably wasn't really all that good, but has such emotional ties that we still appreciate it years later. I have purchased CDs of rock bands that I loved as a teenager, only to find out that the additional years and a greater understanding of quality music has removed the enjoyment from some of these less-than-stellar bands of my childhood.
There are a few bands whose musicianship stands up to the test of time. I have collected a few CDs and DVDs of some of my childhood favorites who are still sounding good many years later. I have DVDs of Kenny Loggins, James Taylor, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Earth Wind & Fire, Yes, Peter Frampton, and the Doobie Bros. that I watch regularly. All of these musicians seem to have gotten better with time and put on quite a show in their later middle-age years. I even have a DVD of a good concert by Barry Manilow (who I couldn't stand when I was young) that is actually quite good.
But the band that I always thought was the best band in history recently reformed to do a charity fund-raising concert. As a teenager I thought there would never be a band that would be better than this band. I now have another 30 years behind me and a college education in musical performance to help me judge musical quality. This video shows the best band ever (and I still think that today) playing as 60-year-old men. They still rock. They're still awesome. They're still the best. Today's young musicians should be inspired (or embarrased).
As Led Zeppelin said, The Song Remains the Same:
December 11, 2007
I am getting excited about the political campaign of Governor Mike Huckabee. I met Gov. Huckabee about a decade ago through my involvements in pro-life activism and was very impressed with him at the time. But I have been cautious regarding his current campaign for nomination by the Republican Party.
The more I watch him in this campaign season, the more excited I get. Today I read an article from almost a decade ago that reports a speech he gave to a group of evangelical ministers in Salt Lake City. The quotes in this article reveal Gov. Huckabee to be right on the money about some very serious issues facing the United States today. Read the article. I hope it excites you as much as it excites me.
Go Mike Huckabee!
December 10, 2007
December 06, 2007
A decade ago I was an employee of a pro-life political activism organization. As a strong advocate of the sanctity of life, I felt compelled to push what I thought to be right through political activism, letter- and article-writing, and even intimidation at times.
Then at a pro-life rally sponsored by my organization, I heard an outstanding sermon by the Rev. Flip Benham of Operation Rescue/Operation Save America. Pastor Benham encouraged us to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our neighbors and those we come in contact with. His presentation gave me a completely new (and, I believe, more biblically accurate) view of pro-life activism.
Part of the problem is that we American Christians tend to cherish our nation more highly than we cherish Jesus Christ. If the U.S. is our highest treasure, we will work primarily to keep our nation safe and secure. If we treasure Christ most highly, we will work primarily to share what he has done to secure our salvation with our neighbors and friends. It is not abandoning our patriotism to proclaim Christ, and we should still be involved in the political process, but we should not consider politics our highest priority.
This post from Pulpit Magazine (John MacArthur's blog) deals with this issue. Please read this post and consider how you may properly set your political and evangelistic priorities to bring them into line with Scriptural mandates.
December 05, 2007
December 04, 2007
There's a place in most of us where the rain is pretty much constant, the shadows are always long, and the woods are full of monsters. It is good to have a voice in which the terrors of such a place can be articulated and its geography partially described, without denying the sunshine and clarity that fill so much of our ordinary lives.
But when we are kept from being able to voice this portion of our lives, this area of life seems to overcome the sunlit and clear portions like a slow-moving, but ever-creeping fog.
December 03, 2007
I'm not in the habit of endorsing candidates. I doubt that my endorsement would provide any more votes than my own anyway. But I have to share this video. I believe that the United States is at a crossroads. Will we, as a nation, follow the path of our founding fathers and continue our coinage slogan "In God We Trust," or will we turn the direction of the European nations and stake our claim in the sovereignty of man?
I like Mike Huckaby's view: