December 31, 2009

Good News for the New Year

1 John 1:1-10

The Word that gives life
was from the beginning,
and this is the one
our message is about.
Our ears have heard,
our own eyes have seen,
and our hands touched
this Word.

The one who gives life appeared! We saw it happen, and we are witnesses to what we have seen. Now we are telling you about this eternal life that was with the Father and appeared to us. We are telling you what we have seen and heard, so that you may share in this life with us. And we share in it with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing to tell you these things, because this makes us truly happy.

Jesus told us that God is light and doesn’t have any darkness in him. Now we are telling you.

If we say that we share in life with God and keep on living in the dark, we are lying and are not living by the truth. But if we live in the light, as God does, we share in life with each other. And the blood of his Son Jesus washes all our sins away. If we say that we have not sinned, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth isn’t in our hearts. But if we confess our sins to God, he can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away.

If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and his message isn’t in our hearts.

 

December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from the Fullers

 

What is a Friend?

Earlier this year I posted a story about how God had restored a very special friendship to me. I received this poem in the mail from my dear friend. It seems that at Christmastime, I am most thankful for my friends, and I have been blessed with many!!  

What is a friend? I will tell you.
It is a person with whom you dare to be yourself.
Your soul can be naked with him.
He seems to ask of you to put on nothing,
Only to be what you are.

He does not want you to be better or worse.

When you are with him,
You feel as a prisoner feels
Who has been declared innocent.
You can say what you think,
So long as it is genuinely you.

He understands those contradictions in your nature
That lead others to misjudge you.

With him you breathe freely.
You can avow your little vanities,
And envies,
And hates,
And vicious sparks,
Your meanness
And absurdities
And, in opening them up to him,
They are lost, dissolved in the white ocean of his loyalty.

He understands.
You do not need to be careful.
You can abuse him,
Neglect him,
Tolerate him.

Best of all, you can keep still with him.
It makes no matter, he likes you.
He is like fire that purges to the bone.

He understands, he understands!

You can weep with him,
Sing with him,
Laugh with him,
Pray with him.

Through it all—and underneath
He sees, he knows, and he loves you.

A friend? What is a friend?

Just one, I repeat,
With whom you dare to be yourself.

 

Merry Christmas - In the First Light of a New Day

 

December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas - From Go Fish

Two from one of my favorite bands

Christmas With a Capital “C”

Mary, Did You Know?

 

December 23, 2009

Celtic Merry Christmas

Pay attention to the words of the second verse - outstanding statement of accurate biblical theology. Fantastic!

 

Peace on earth; good-will to men

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Henry W. Longfellow

I

heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep!
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

 

December 22, 2009

December 21, 2009

Happy Global Warming!!

Another 12 Days of Christmas

I tried to post this song last Christmas, but it was removed from YouTube shortly after I posted it. Hopefully this time it will stay up long enough for everyone to enjoy it. These guys are great!

 

December 20, 2009

Merry Christmas from the Silent Monks

Keep watching this video through the opening Gregorian chant portion. At about 1:49 into the video it goes into Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”. You’ll love it!

 

December 19, 2009

And the snow came down!

It’s now almost 10:00 at night. The snow has been falling for more than 24 hours and another 9 hours is forecast. We now have in excess of two feet of snow on the ground with drifts up to four feet. It is magnificently beautiful. Our God is so creative and such a lover of beauty.

Job 37:4-13
God’s majestic voice thunders his commands,
creating miracles too marvelous for us to understand.

Snow and heavy rainstorms make us stop and think about God’s power, and they force animals to seek shelter.

The windstorms of winter strike, and the breath of God freezes streams and rivers.

Rain clouds filled with lightning appear at God’s command, traveling across the sky to release their cargo—sometimes as punishment for sin, sometimes as kindness.

Our church at 3:00 pm today
A tree in our side yard at about 3:00 pm
Our hurricane lamp
Our neighbor across the street (notice the deer tracks through our front yard)

 

We woke to a mantle of white

The snow started falling lightly at around 8:30 last night. The forecast called for 10 to 16 inches of snow by this afternoon with continued accumulation beyond that into tomorrow morning. By 10:00 pm the snow was covering all the grass and the road.

This morning (about 6:00 am), we woke to this. And it’s coming down with fervor right now—about five hours later. We have at least 3 more inches of accumulation since I took these pictures early this morning.

View from the left side of our front porch

View from the right side of our front porch

 

December 18, 2009

Commonwealth, but not for everyone

I

am a proud Virginian. I love the history of this state. I love the scenery. I love the rich heritage. But while Virginia is first in my heart in many ways, THIS first is a terrible thing. Virginia is the first state I have heard of that has laws on the books allowing for active infanticide!

On December 11th, in Rustburg, Virginia, police responded to a call that a woman was in labor. According to this news story from the Lynchburg News & Advance:

They said the baby was under bedding and had been suffocated by her mother. Investigators said because the mother and baby were still connected by the umbilical cord and placenta, state law does not consider the baby to be a separate life. Therefore, the mother cannot be charged.

When I was in college, almost 30 years ago, I read a book titled A Reasonable Proposition. This book was a fictional book about what a person might propose after becoming comfortable with decriminalized abortion. It was a theory about where the so-called “slippery slide” might eventually take us. It included decriminalized infanticide. At the time, I thought the author was really going a good bit over the top in his theorizing. Apparently not.

The News & Advance article goes on to say:

Investigators said the baby’s father was upset when he showed up at the home after deputies.

“He was very upset. I think the grandparents were upset. I believe everyone was upset, except for the person who should have been upset, the mother,” said Emerson.

This is a shameful day for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

 

Merry Christmas - from a Reformed perspective

HT: Sherry Harlan DeFrank

 

December 17, 2009

Merry Christmas - Christmas Wrap

These two songs sound very dated, but I loved them when they were first released. I’ve never liked Rap music, but DC Talk was the one group that I thought put out some pretty good music in that genre.

Merry Christmas - From DC Talk

 

December 16, 2009

Front Royal cotton

My wife took this gorgeous picture of spent cotton while we were exploring Skyline Drive a few weeks ago. Our son was fascinated by the cotton plants, some of which still held their silky substance inside partially opened pods. He even found some unopened pods and opened them to see what the insides looked like. He picked a few to take to school to share with his classmates.

We’re often struck with pride in our son’s ability to notice beauty in places that other folks may overlook. God’s intricate creation is every bit as wonderful as his expansive creation.

Not blind faith – reasonable faith

I have recently had the opportunity to discuss the existence (or non-existence) of God with people who are thinkers. I call them “thinkers” as against those who seem to be moved more by emotion than by rational thought. In today’s postmodern society there is no lack of those who live life riding the waves of their emotions. But there are precious few who put their brains in gear and approach a topic from a rational, reasoning perspective. I truly appreciate those who do this—even when their rationale brings them to a position that does not recognize the existence of God.

So when I found this excerpt below from R.C. Sproul’s Now That’s a Good Question, I thought I should share it here for those of you who have followed one of those recent conversations.

We’re living in a day during which reason itself is suspect among Christians, and somehow it is more admirable simply to affirm our faith and ask people to take what we tell them strictly on blind faith. Yet the Bible tells us, “Come now, let us reason together”s (Isa. 1:18), and the Scriptures enjoin us to be prepared to give a reason for the hope within us (1 Pet. 3:15).

Isaiah 1:18

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord: “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

I remember that in grade school sometimes we could have open-book tests in math class. The advantage of it was that we could flip to the back of the book, where they had the answers to the problems. If we didn’t know how to get the right answer, at least we knew what the right answer was. There’s sort of a “back of the book” way that we can approach our friends on the existence of God.

The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1 that God has revealed himself to every human being and that every person knows that there is a God. The judgment of God is not that people fail to come to a knowledge of God, but rather that they refuse to acknowledge what they know to be true. If that’s true, then we come into the discussion armed with the information—means by which the person already knows that there is a God, although he or she is not yet acknowledging that. Now, what can we do? Can we just say, “You’re a dirty liar. Why don’t you tell the truth and tell us that you really know there is a God?” That’s not the approach I suggest. Sometimes this knowledge of God is so repressed or stifled that people have only a vague comprehension about the character or existence of God. And many of the questions they ask are honest questions.

It’s important that we respect people’s questions. The late Francis Schaeffer had a ministry at L’Abri in Switzerland, where he specialized in outreach to intellectuals who were professed atheists. He felt that it was his obligation to give honest answers to honest questions. When we discuss questions like the existence of God, we need to be prepared to explain why we are persuaded that God exists.

1 Peter 3:15,16

In your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

I don’t have time right now to go over the cosmological argument for the existence of God, but I think it’s valid. Briefly, if something exists now, something has always existed from all eternity or there would be nothing. Somehow, somewhere, someone or something must have the power of being within himself, and that one who has the power of being within himself we call God. That’s how I would start the discussion: “How has this world come into being? How has this cup come into being? How has anything come into being?” and then focus attention there.

R.C. Sproul, Now That’s a Good Question, Question 7.12, 1996 Tyndale House Publishers

 

December 15, 2009

Merry Christmas - Voices of Liberty

 

Have yourself a contextual Christmas!

1 John 1:1–5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

W

hen we think of the Christmas story, we tend to think of the narratives written by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Those are the classic stories of Christ’s birth—the ones we read each year to the kids in our Sunday school classes and to our families on Christmas Day. But the apostle John wrote of Christ’s birth as well. And while John’s gospel has the reputation of being a bit more “warm and fuzzy” because it shows God’s love for mankind so clearly, John’s telling of Christ’s birth doesn’t contain the warm fuzzies that the other gospel narratives contain. We don’t hear about the shepherds, the star, the inn with no room, the manger, the wise men, or the journey for the census. John’s narrative is chock-full of theology and gets to the heart of why Jesus came to the earth.

But the thing that jumped out at me when our pastor preached an Advent sermon from John 1:1–13 this past Sunday was how quickly we can get our theology off-track by pulling things out of context.

It is obvious right from the start that John wants to address some theology in his telling of Christ’s birth. He begins his story not in Judea or Bethlehem, but before the creation of the world. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In so doing, he addresses the fact that Jesus Christ is eternally existent with the Father. Then he goes on to show that Jesus was the actual Creator of all things: All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

John 1:9–11

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

The narrative goes on and talks about John the Baptist, whose job it was to declare the coming of the Christ. And then John’s narrative comes to the part that makes us view John’s gospel as the warm fuzzy—the comfortable gospel. This is the reason that Campus Crusade for Christ and so many others hand out small books containing only the Gospel of John. John presents the gospel message to everyone, just as we are all commanded to do: He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. These words from John 1:11-12 are so familiar that most Christians can quote them from a very early age. But so many young people grow up with a skewed understanding of the theology John is proclaiming here. They sense the wonderful offer (and it is truly wonderful) being offered to all people: “believe in Jesus and you will be saved.” And this is the good news—the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, our failure to teach our children the remainder of the sentence (found in verse 13) has caused a tremendous amount of theological problems. Those problems have contributed to the high pressure tactics common at revival meetings and door-to-door evangelism. They have also contributed to many people’s belief that they are saved when in fact they are not. Many Christians tell folks that if they’ll just “pray the prayer” or “walk down the aisle to make a profession of faith” they are saved. They further the problem by telling those folks, “once saved, always saved.” In essence, they tell these folks who walked the aisle or prayed the “Sinner’s Prayer” that they are now in—they don’t have to worry about it any more. That nothing they could do now could separate them from the Father’s love. And while their intentions are honorable, they do these folks a tremendous disservice.

John 1:12–13

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Yes, God’s love is extravagant and free. Yes, He saves believers permanently and “no man can pluck them from [His] hand.” But John 1:13 carries the concept forward a bit and puts a deeper theological twist to the gospel message. John 1:13 explains exactly who will receive Jesus—exactly who will believe in His name and be given the right to become the children of God.

John 1:13 says: who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Imagine a discussion of unconditional election and effectual (irresistible) grace right here in the story of Christ’s birth. The gospel message is to be proclaimed to all, but those who will respond will do so not because of their ethnic or religious heritage (not of blood), and not because of the faith of their forefathers (the will of the flesh), and not because of the their own contribution of faith (the will of man), but they will respond because of the will of God. The very God who created the universe and all that is in it came to earth to provide the sacrifice for all those who He himself wills to believe.

This is the birth of the total Sovereign over all. What a wonderful season. What wonderful theological concepts. To God alone be the glory! Soli Deo gloria!

 

December 12, 2009

Merry Christmas from Dixie

I love the south. It's a hard thing to explain to someone who doesn't feel it deep down inside themselves. But those of us who are truly southerners understand.

Merry Christmas, from Dixie

 

December 11, 2009

Merry Christmas - Carol of the Bells

I’d like to introduce you to “Celtic Women.” I had never heard of this group before, but while searching for some good Christmas videos to share with you I came across a few from this group. And they are all very impressive. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

 

December 09, 2009

A joyful noise

Psalm 95:1–2 Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

Psalm 98:4,6 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!

 

The right to keep and bear arms

I had to take the picture of this great bumper sticker when I saw it. The name of the gun shop is Stonewall Arms, named after General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and the town the store is located in is appropriately named “Winchester, Virginia.”

 

Huh?

It’s not often that you read a news article with the headline: “Jesus Christ dumped from jury pool for disruption,” but that is the headline of a story that includes the following excerpts:

Efforts to reach Christ for comment were unsuccessful.

...

But Turner said unlike some Jefferson County residents, Christ didn’t try to get out of jury duty and was “perfectly happy to serve.”

Perhaps this is one of the reasons folks have trouble taking Christians seriously.

 

December 08, 2009

Merry Christmas from John Mellenkamp

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

 

December 07, 2009

Merry Christmas - PDQ Bach style

I was introduced to the delightful PDQ Bach when I was in high school and have loved his music ever since. Here are a few of his Christmas carols for your dining and dancing pleasure. Let’s kick off the Christmas season in fine baroque style:

O Little Town of Hackensack

Throw the Yule Log On, Uncle John

With or without the comma

Good King Kong

And one bonus track for your further enjoyment. Dim the lights, pour some wine, cuddle up with the one you love and let the romance envelope you as you immerse yourself in this phenomenal fare (Renaissance fair?) ... hmmmm.

My Bonnie Lass, She Smelleth

 

A humble servant of servants

B

eing the son of a pastor, I grew up having a particular focus on folks in positions of leadership in the local church. I saw the good, the bad, and the ugly. Blessed, as I was, with a father who is an outstanding pastor, I didn’t see much of the bad and none of the ugly until well after I had moved out on my own—and I have seen more and more of it in recent years.

The primary ugly feature that I have seen in elders and pastors for the past decade or so has been egotism and elitism. This had become so prevalent in my experience that I had begun to despair of the possibility that there were any humble ministers of God remaining. Over the past few years I have observed that the increase in this elitist attitude among pastors has grown widespread and this has become a great burden to me.

I praise God that the pastor of our current church is a humble man with a heart for God and the people under his ministry. It is a huge relief to see this characteristic in a pastor again. And it was brought to mind by a very interesting post at the IX Marks blog titled “Can Someone Who Is 29 Years Old Be a Senior Pastor?” A response to “On the Principle of the Presiding Elder,” this post shows the humility that is a biblical requirement of those who would lead God’s people:


In our church, we practice a "first among equals" approach. This is just a natural development:

  1. I was the first elder here and served by myself for some time.
  2. I do 90% of the Sunday morning preaching. I used to do all the Sunday night preaching as well. A certain amount of authority accrues with that. This is also true with the other elders in our church. While we're all "equal", some elders will have more authority in the congregation than others by virtue of their teaching and care for the congregation.
  3. This is my job and my life. I spend all day every day thinking about this stuff (except when I'm thinking about this or this). The other non-staff elders are committed, but they have day jobs to attend to as well.

I do not, however, take the title "Senior Pastor". The other elder on the church's payroll and I just go by "pastor" and the other elders (not on the church's payroll) for the most part go by "elder" rather than "pastor". We do this for a few reasons:

  1. This is how normal English speaking church-goers use those words. When we say "pastor", we usually mean "elder on staff" or something like that. I realize there are exceptions and it's not a Biblical distinction, but I think Reformed people are weird enough. Let's try and be normal whenever we can.
  2. I don't take the title "Senior Pastor" (or even the honorific "Reverend") because I have authority issues, so I am constitutionally allergic to inflated titles. Plus, when I started the church I was 29; nothing seemed very "senior" about me.
  3. Also, Jesus seems to think it's a dumb idea [see verse below].

Matthew 23:5-12

They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

A few precautions:

  1. Because elders are godly men, some may naturally be deferential towards authority. So a pastor in the "first among equals" position will need to work hard to draw the other elders out and get them involved in the decision making process. So in our elders meetings, I try to wait until every other elder has spoken before I state my opinion. That way they say what they really think rather than adjusting their thoughts to come in line with my opinion.
  2. Our hearts are prone to self-worship. We all secretly believe that we know what we're doing and don't need much help. We need to cultivate humility and actually listen to what our fellow elders are saying. This helps them to develop as leaders and helps to avoid a monarchy. Plus, it's great to have a group of men to share the blame the burden of leadership genuinely.

Praise God for humble church leaders. They’re quite rare, and just like a rare coin or a rare gem they are quite valuable.

 

December 06, 2009

I love Front Royal - Christmas edition

W

hen God moved us from Lynchburg this past August, we were disappointed to be leaving Lynchburg and we were a bit scared about what to expect. But we knew that God is in control of all our circumstances and that he loves to show his love for us in amazing ways.

The view from our bedroom window yesterday morning

When God opened a house for us in Front Royal, Virginia, we had no idea what a wonderful town Front Royal is. But we did recognize immediately that God had given us the house of our dreams—a 1940 farmhouse with the original large windows and hardwood floors, but with updated appliances and heating and air conditioning.

Our dining room during breakfast (snow out the back porch)

But as we’ve gotten to know the town and the surrounding Shenandoah Valley area better, we’ve come to realize that the entire package is an amazing gift of love from God. The entrance to Skyline Drive is across the street from our son’s high school, giving us access to one of the most beautiful drives in the United States whenever we feel the desire to enjoy its sights. The Shenandoah River is less than a mile from our house and may be accessed without even leaving our neighborhood. And to make it even better, just before the river is one of the most scenic railroad junctions around. Our son loves it.

View of the snow from the kitchen window

My wife has greatly enjoyed decorating our farmhouse for each season and couldn’t wait for December so she could begin decorating for Christmas. We already have a Christmas tree on our front wrap-around porch and another one in our dining room. We will be purchasing a tree for the living room sometime in the next week or so. The stairs are decorated with a real pine needle garland and colored beads. There are wreaths and ornaments hanging from many of the doors and windows. The Christmas candles are out on the coffee tables and side tables. Our nativity scene is set up in the entry foyer, a musical porcelain face of Saint Nicholas is hanging in the dining room, and Christmas stockings are hung on the fireplace mantle and at the top of the stairs. It is beautiful and we were getting into the Christmas spirit very nicely.

And then God reminded us of his great blessings by unleashing six inches of fresh, soft snow.

We saw the forecast for snow early in the morning and soft flakes of snow began falling right on time at about 7:00 in the morning. The light snow turned to heavy falling snow (light and feathery flakes, but lots and lots of them) by about 10:00. And it kept snowing heavily until about 5:30 in the evening. By that time there was a deep covering of snow everywhere and Front Royal had turned into a winter wonderland that defies description. Truth be told, these pictures really don’t do it justice either. The scene was magnificent—all day long.

Kim is not typically a snow lover, but we all decided to head to the center of town where the Christmas tree is displayed in the town’s gazebo to see how it looked with snow falling. And we were not disappointed. The yearly Christkindlmarkt was underway, so many townsfolk were there enjoying the gorgeous snowstorm. Quite a few children and their parents were rolling snowballs to make snow men in the town square around the Christmas tree. Christmas carols boomed from the public address system around the town square. People walking around the town stopped to greet one another and couldn’t hide their enthusiastic joy in the falling snow.

We, of course, had our cameras in hand and took many pictures. But at one point I was overcome with emotion and had to wipe the tears from my eyes. I stopped for a moment and thanked God for loving us so very much and for giving us such a beautiful world—and, personally, such a beautiful town to live in.

I hope you don’t mind my very personal post. I really wanted to share some of the photos with you. But even more, I want to shout God’s praises from the rooftops. In spite of our sinfulness. In spite of our lack of faith and trust. God blesses man daily with the most incredible artistry imaginable.

Thank you, God, you are awesome!

Kim walking next to the Front Royal caboose
David the Christmas engineer

 

December 05, 2009

Dixieland snow

It snowed today! And Front Royal turned into a winter wonderland.

Pictures will be forthcoming, but for now I will simply replace the header, taken from almost the same vantage point as the previous header photo—just one week later and quite a bit earlier in the day.

Last Saturday evening

This morning

Front Royal is so beautiful!

 

Merry Christmas - from Washington, DC

 

December 04, 2009

Sweet Comfort

I

n 1980 I was attending Baptist Bible College. As a music major, I tended to hang out in the music building most of the time—perhaps a bit too much. I managed to find a way into a locked archive room where I found some amazing treasures. There was sheet music, instruments, old 78-rpm glass records—a wealth of interesting items. And there were records of contemporary Christian rock and jazz bands. This was music we were not allowed to listen to at the school. And I took full advantage of my find.

Among the wealth of music I found a record from the Sweet Comfort Band, a Christian jazz-fusion group that just knocked my socks off. They were phenomenal musicians and they had a great message in their songs. I wished so much that I could share this music with my friends at the time, but since this style of music was outlawed at the college and because I had found it by breaking into a locked archive closet, I thought it best to keep it to myself.

Today I ran across a video of one of the songs from that album. You may recognize the lead singer as Bryan Duncan, who is still producing outstanding Christian music today.

Sweet Comfort – Get Ready

Years later, Sweet Comfort’s lead singer, Bryan Duncan, is still producing quality music with a fantastic message. This performance from 2007 encourages those who have not yet trusted in Christ to make that move NOW! And his message has not changed at all from what he was saying in People Get Ready.

Bryan Duncan - Step By Step

This last one is an appeal to those who didn’t know that they needed to get ready and they didn’t know that they needed to keep moving forward in the Lord step-by-step. This is the appeal given to those folks from Jesus:

I Loved You With My Life

Thirty years later, I still love this group. And I pray that God is using their message to reveal himself to those who need to find him. And I pray that he is pulling them into his family through Bryan’s music.

 

December 03, 2009

Merry Christmas - Pie Jesu

T

his Christmas video is very special.

As I looked for videos to post this Christmas, I settled on the piece “Pie Jesu.” And as I began looking for a good video I came across such notables as Charlotte Church and Placido Domingo. And then I remembered. The best version of this I’ve ever seen—perhaps from a slightly biased perspective—but nevertheless, a simply phenomenal performance.

Here’s a young lady named Brooke Fuller wishing you all a Merry Christmas.

 

Why Does God Allow Evil, Part 2

Psalm 73

A psalm of Asaph.

 1 Truly God is good to Israel,
      to those whose hearts are pure.
 2 But as for me, I almost lost my footing.
      My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone.
 3 For I envied the proud
      when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.
 4 They seem to live such painless lives;
      their bodies are so healthy and strong.
 5 They don’t have troubles like other people;
      they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else.
 6 They wear pride like a jeweled necklace
      and clothe themselves with cruelty.
 7 These fat cats have everything
      their hearts could ever wish for!
 8 They scoff and speak only evil;
      in their pride they seek to crush others.
 9 They boast against the very heavens,
      and their words strut throughout the earth.
 10 And so the people are dismayed and confused,
      drinking in all their words.
 11 “What does God know?” they ask.
      “Does the Most High even know what’s happening?”
 12 Look at these wicked people—
      enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.

 13 Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?
      Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?
 14 I get nothing but trouble all day long;
      every morning brings me pain.

 15 If I had really spoken this way to others,
      I would have been a traitor to your people.
 16 So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper.
      But what a difficult task it is!
 17 Then I went into your sanctuary, O God,
      and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.
 18 Truly, you put them on a slippery path
      and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction.
 19 In an instant they are destroyed,
      completely swept away by terrors.
 20 When you arise, O Lord,
      you will laugh at their silly ideas
      as a person laughs at dreams in the morning.

 21 Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
      and I was all torn up inside.
 22 I was so foolish and ignorant—
      I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
 23 Yet I still belong to you;
      you hold my right hand.
 24 You guide me with your counsel,
      leading me to a glorious destiny.
 25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
      I desire you more than anything on earth.
 26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
      but God remains the strength of my heart;
      he is mine forever.

 27 Those who desert him will perish,
      for you destroy those who abandon you.
 28 But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
      I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter,
      and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.

A Facebook post by a young friend made me turn to this passage again this morning. I believe it is my favorite Psalm. Rich posted something a short while ago, Why Does God Allow Evil in the World? I think this psalm answers that question—God is being merciful just now. He is storing up, saving His wrath for the day of destruction when the wicked will feel the full penalty of their disobedience. Meanwhile, He draws men to Him, and by saving the ungodly, God shows His incredible mercy toward sinful men.

Paul reminded Timothy of this truth when he wrote, “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16).

A better question would be this, What IF God did take care of evil in the world? Suppose today, this next moment, God decided enough was enough, and today He was going to make it right—no more evil would exist on this planet. What would this world look like? How many of us would remain standing in our own righteousness? Instead, Peter tells us, “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Yes, God is demonstrating His patience toward us by withholding His wrath for a time. The question is, will we respond to His mercy, His free gift of salvation, or will we stubbornly store up wrath for the day of destruction?

 

December 01, 2009

Did you notice? It’s December!

Merry Christmas

 

Holier than thou? I think not...

1 Corinthians 1:27-31

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."

A

man lies on the ground, no pulse, no heartbeat. Medical personnel arrive, administer drugs, CPR, and a defibrilator. His heart rhythm starts once again. Was he dead? Did he choose to come back to life?

It’s the same with men, who are dead in sin. We need God to reach down to us, to “quicken” us, or give us life. Then when He offers us the free gift of salvation, who could ever reject it? But dead men make no choices.

God chose us, and gave us eternal life. “It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus” He awakened us from the dead—freed us from the power that sin was exercising over us. Any righteousness we have has been credited to us. Why? So that not one of us will ever be able to say we earned or deserved the grace that He has bestowed on us. We are not able to keep ourselves from falling away, either, only He can do that—and he promised us that He would in John chapter 6. So when we’re tempted to think we’ve got a corner on righteousness, let’s take a look back at what we WERE and realize that what we ARE and what we WILL BE are a result of the work of God’s grace in and through us “so that no one may boast before Him.” Instead, let’s give credit where credit is due—put your boast IN THE LORD!

 

November 30, 2009

What is love?

“W

ords mean things,” says Rush Limbaugh. And, at least on this topic, however simple that phrase may seem, he has it dead right. Words mean things. And when, for whatever the reason, we purposely change the meaning of a word, we do a disservice to those we are communicating with.

I recently had a conversation with Mary about the definition of the word joy and the definition of the word happiness. I believe those two words mean essentially the same thing, but Evangelical Christianity has waged a multi-generational campaign to shift the definitions of those words in order to make an excuse for God, who promises us joy. Folks have rightly determined that most of us are not particularly happy most of the time. So well-meaning Christians have redefined the terms. Happiness now means the surface bubbly, giggly giddiness that comes from experiencing something you really enjoy. And joy (be sure to add the reverb in your mind since this is a very serious theological term now) is that unique deep down state that a Christian has for some mystical reason that causes him to be joyful even though everything in his life is heading down the tubes. That way we can assuage our consciences by saying to our friends, “I’m really, really sad and greatly depressed, but I have the joy of the Lord."

Hogwash!

We don’t need to give God an out. If he says we will experience joy in Him, and we are not experiencing happiness (which means the same thing), the fault is ours—it’s not a definitional breakdown.

That’s not, however, the topic of this post. That was to set the foundation for the definition of the term love. Mary and I are still having an ongoing discussion about happiness and joy, and we still disagree on those definitions. But I think we both agree with John Piper on the definition of love found in the following excerpt from his book, Don’t Waste Your Life. I am posting this because our friend Tim brought up an interesting question about how God could be a loving God if he has created some people who are destined for hell. Hopefully this excerpt will explain, more eloquently than I ever could, the true definition of the term love and what that love should look like.

W

e waste our lives when we do not pray and think and dream and plan and work toward magnifying God in all spheres of life. God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that he really is. In the night sky of this world God appears to most people, if at all, like a pinprick of light in a heaven of darkness. But he created us and called us to make him look like what he really is. This is what it means to be created in the image of God. We are meant to image forth in the world what he is really like.

Does Being Loved Mean Being Made Much Of?

For many people, this is not obviously an act of love. They do not feel loved when they are told that God created them for his glory. They feel used. This is understandable given the way love has been almost completely distorted in our world. For most people, to be loved is to be made much of. Almost everything in our Western culture serves this distortion of love. We are taught in a thousand ways that love means increasing someone’s self-esteem. Love is helping someone feel good about themselves. Love is giving someone a mirror and helping him like what he sees. This is not what the Bible means by the love of God. Love is doing what is best for someone. But making self the object of our highest affections is not best for us. It is, in fact, a lethal distraction. We were made to see and savor God—and savoring him, to be supremely satisfied, and thus spread in all the world the worth of his presence. Not to show people the all-satisfying God is not to love them. To make them feel good about themselves when they were made to feel good about seeing God is like taking someone to the Alps and locking them in a room full of mirrors.

Pathological at the Grand Canyon

The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness. Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and contemplating your own greatness is pathological. At such moments we are made for a magnificent joy that comes from outside ourselves. And each of these rare and precious moments in life—beside the Canyon, before the Alps, under the stars—is an echo of a far greater excellence, namely, the glory of God. That is why the Bible says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).

Sometimes people say that they cannot believe that, if there is a God, he would take interest in such a tiny speck of reality called humanity on Planet Earth. The universe, they say, is so vast, it makes man utterly insignificant. Why would God have bothered to create such a microscopic speck called the earth and humanity and then get involved with us?

Beneath this question is a fundamental failure to see what the universe is about. It is about the greatness of God, not the significance of man. God made man small and the universe big to say something about himself. And he says it for us to learn and enjoy—namely, that he is infinitely great and powerful and wise and beautiful. The more the Hubble Telescope sends back to us about the unfathomable depths of space, the more we should stand in awe of God. The disproportion between us and the universe is a parable about the disproportion between us and God. And it is an understatement. But the point is not to nullify us but to glorify him.

Loving People Means Pointing Them to the
All-Satisfying God

Now back to what it means to be loved. The idea has been almost totally distorted. Love has to do with showing a dying soul the life-giving beauty of the glory of God, especially his grace. Yes, as we will see, we show God’s glory in a hundred practical ways that include care about food and clothes and shelter and health. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Every good work should be a revelation of the glory of God. What makes the good deed an act of love is not the raw act, but the passion and the sacrifice to make God himself known as glorious. Not to aim to show God is not to love, because God is what we need most deeply. And to have all else without him is to perish in the end. The Bible says that you can give away all that you have and deliver your body to be burned and have not love (1 Corinthians 13:3). If you don’t point people to God for everlasting joy, you don’t love. You waste your life.

John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life

 

November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Matthias Claudius (1740–1815)

I thank thee, God, and like a child
Rejoice as for a Christmas gift,
That I am living—just alive—
Just for this human face I wear,
That I can see the sun, the sea,
The hills and grass and leafy trees,
And walk beneath the host of stars
And watch the lovely moon above.

T

hanksgiving is the holiday intended for me. I tend to build up momentum, rushing from here to there and back again. Busy with work. Busy with personal chores. Busy, busy, busy. All that busy-ness tends to distract my mind from the things I need so much to focus on.

I begin to pay more attention to the things that get in the way of my efforts at accomplishment. I pay attention to the traffic, the weather, the little aches and pains of life. I pay attention to the difficulties with getting personal affairs in order and I pay attention to the struggles of work and dealing with others. And I forget to pay attention to the wonderful blessings of our God, who shows his great love to us every single day.

Paul Stromberg Rees

If thankfulness arises through prosperity, well and good. But what are you going to do when the prosperity fails? If thankfulness springs up through health, well and good. But what will you do when disease makes you bedridden? Must you then become glum or bitter? But now, supposing it is through our dear Lord Christ that you cultivate the fine art of thanksgiving, then what? Then money in the bank, however useful, does not have me at its mercy: if I lose it, I can still offer thanks.

When the Puritans brought their unique culture to the shores of early America, they brought attitudes and philosophies that would be a great benefit to us all if we were to grasp a hold on them again. Humility was a characteristic of those early Puritans. Humility and dependence on God for their lot in life formed the foundation of the Puritan's thought processes and way of living.

The touted “Puritan work ethic” spread through early America and allowed our nation to build into a strong and independent force that eventually worked its way to the top of the heap, becoming the world’s “superpower.” And as the Puritans worked hard each day, dealt honestly with their neighbors and with their customers, and kept honesty and openness at the forefront of their business dealings, God prospered our nation.

John Henry Jowett

Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.

Although they recognized the benefits of their labors and their way of business, they did not take personal credit for the products of their labors. After long and hard hours and realizing the fruits of their labors, they turned to God in thankfulness. This was their way because they recognized that they could do nothing without God’s favor.

This Puritan thankfulness for God’s blessing eventually worked its way into a national holiday. Yes, they were grateful to the natives of this land who helped them through long cold hard winters. They were grateful to the Indians for teaching them about corn. But their primary thankfulness was not directed to the Indians any more than it was directed to themselves for their hard work and honest labor. Those early Americans recognized God’s hand in all of the blessings around them. Their thankfulness was to God and it was intended to make the statement to their children and to their newfound native friends that they recognized their reliance on God’s providence.

Erwin W. Lutzer

It’s only when we choose to give praise for the rough spots in life that we will begin to see them from God’s perspective. If we don’t give thanks in all things, we are living in unbelief, for we are assuming that our circumstances are not controlled by a God who loves us! I’m not saying that you should give thanks for sin, but you can thank God for how he will use that sin to teach, to rebuke, or to challenge you.

Today our nation celebrates Thanksgiving. It is the one holiday that is directed to God’s bounty. It doesn’t typically involve parties (well, maybe football parties in the afternoon) or revelry. It typically involves families and friends gathering around the table spread with God’s bounty. Many of those families will begin their meal with something they don’t do the rest of the year. They will turn to God in a prayer of thankfulness.

Today I thank God for his blessings. Today I thank God for his care. Today I thank God for his protection and provision.

Today I thank God for Thanksgiving.

Just the word thanksgiving prompts the spirit of humility. Genuine gratitude to God for his mercy, his abundance, his protection, his smile of favor. Life simplifies itself.
—Charles Swindoll

 

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted' for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have show kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d dy of October, A.D. 1789.

(signed) G. Washington

 

November 23, 2009

I love Front Royal

W

hen I was a child, my family had a yearly tradition that involved touring the Luray Caverns, driving Skyline Drive, and then stopping on the way home at an apple orchard to pick a few bushels of apples. I loved those times. The caverns were impressive, the apples were delicious and fun to pick, and the incredible display of color in the leaves along Skyline Drive was intense and awe-inspiring.

Little did I know back in those days that we would one day live in Front Royal, just about two miles from the entrance to Skyline Drive. So this past Saturday we took advantage of our proximity and decided to drive a little ways along Skyline Drive to get some pictures—even though it is now heading into winter and the leaves are almost all gone.

It was gorgeous—as I imagine it is any time of the year.

When we got back home, Kim flipped through some of our Virginia Living magazines and found an article about Skyline Drive. I wanted to share it with you.

75 Years Ago

Skyline Drive

It was a one-two knockout punch: First, the Great Depression hit in 1929, then 1930 began the worst drought in Virginia history.

The combined crisis left Appalachian-area apple pickers desperate for jobs, and in January of 1931 the federal government sent help from the Federal Drought Relief Appropriation. The money was to employ laborers and contractors in a large construction project. It would keep them busy for the next six years and literally put Virginia on the map.

The idea had been first floated seven years earlier, in a report from the Southern Appalachian National Park Commission. The group recommended establishing a national park in the Shenandoah area, but the report also included an ambitious footnote:

“The greatest single feature, however, is a possible skyline drive along the mountain top, following a continuous ridge and looking westerly on the Shenandoah Valley, from 2,500 to 3,500 feet below, and also commanding a view of the Piedmont Plain stretching easterly to the Washington Monument, which landmark may be seen on a clear day.... Few scenic drives in the world could surpass it.”

Herbert Hoover was all for it; he loved the Blue Ridge enough to have established a permanent Presidential trout fishing camp on the Rapidan river. Federal money was secured, but the land still had to be acquired.

Most of it was farmland. Federal law forbade the government from seizing property, so the job fell to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Although some acreage was donated, most was acquired through condemning it, then negotiating a reasonable purchase price with the farmer and giving the land to the Federal Government.

David checking out fresh cotton

There were far more squatters than landowners living in the path of the Drive, and in evicting them the Federal Government tried to avoid sparking another messy protest movement as had recently happned in the Great Smoky Mountains. Over 500 families were displaced in Virginia. All were offered resettlement assistance, including Federal programs for purchasing land in three new homestead areas on each side of the Blue Ridge.

As the work progressed, North Carolina also realized the economic value such a project would create. State legislators proposed extending the Skyline Drive to connect the Shenandoah and Smoky Mountain national parks. A plan modeled on the Virginia project was approved, and work began on the Blue Ridge Parkway in 1935.

The Virginia project went quickly, considering all of the blasting, grading, paving, landscaping, rail-building, and the digging and lining of the 670-foot-long Mary’s Rock tunnel.

The first section of the drive was opened in 1934, with the entire 105-mile road finished and paved by the fall of 1939. Over 4,000 workers and 13 contracting companies (four from Virginia) made it happen, at a total cost of just over $1.6 million government dollars.

Today, the Skyline Drive remains one of the most traveled recreational roads in the nation—about 2 million people drive it each year. It stretches from Front Royal to Rockfish Gap, with a 35-mph speed limit the entire way, offering the same magnificent views and peaceful foray into Appalachian Virginia as it did 75 years ago.

Kim, enjoying the final moments of our drive

 

November 22, 2009

The earth displays the handiwork of God

O

ur new hometown is a delightful place with many wonderful surprises for those who take the time to look. But one feature of our town is not a surprise to most people who travel through Front Royal, Virginia.

Skyline Drive is an unbelievably beautiful 105-mile-long drive along the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The drive sees many visitors during the fall foliage peak, but the drive is absolutely beautiful 365 days per year.

So yesterday we decided to drive along this road that begins across the street from our son’s high school. The entrance to Skyline Drive is about two miles from our house. We drove about 20 miles of the 105-mile length yesterday and took quite a few pictures. The current blog header is one of those pictures. This photo was taken about five miles from our house and about three miles after the entrance to Skyline Drive. As we were leaving the Drive for the day, we stopped here to take pictures as the sun set.

God has blessed us so greatly by moving us here and we are thoroughly enjoying his handiwork all around us. I’ll share a few more photos tomorrow and will give you some information about this wonderful drive.

 

November 19, 2009

A rose tulip by any other name

I

t is no novelty, then, that I am preaching; no new doctrine. I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines, that are called by nickname “Calvinism,” but which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus. By this truth I make a pilgrimage into [the] past, and as I go, I see father after father, confessor after confessor, martyr after martyr, standing up to shake hands with me....

Taking these things to be the standard of my faith, I see the land of the ancients peopled with my brethren; I behold multitudes who confess the same as I do, and acknowledge that this is the religion of God’s own church

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, as quoted by David Steele and Curtis Thomas in The Five Points of Calvinism (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1963), p. 8.

 

November 17, 2009

Pray for our government

R

eading in my bible today, I was reminded of how important it is for us to regularly plead with God about our leaders. I was especially moved to pray for our president.

Psalm 109:8

Okay. I’m just joking. But we really should be praying for our leaders.

 

November 15, 2009

Meditation

T

he winds of change can really have an impact when you’re not grounded. I believe my lack of deep roots has caused me to be blown and battered about over this past year. Rather than looking at my own contributions to the faulty foundation I concentrated on the winds caused by those around me. This is not good.

So as I began today with my personal devotional time, I pulled out a book I have not read in quite some time, The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis. I turned to Book Two: The Interior Life and began to read from the beginning:

“The kingdom of God is within you,” says the Lord (Luke 17:21).

Turn, then, to God with all your heart. Forsake this wretched world and your soul shall find rest. Learn to despise external things, to devote yourself to those that are within, and you will see the kingdom of God come unto you, that kingdom which is peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, gifts not given to the impious.

Christ will come to you offering His consolation, if you prepare a fit dwelling for Him in your heart, whose beauty and glory, wherein He takes delight, are all from within. His visits with the inward man are frequent, His communion sweet and full of consolation, His peace great, and His intimacy wonderful indeed.

Therefore, faithful soul, prepare your heart for this Bridegroom that He may come and dwell within you; He Himself says: “If any one love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and will make Our abode with him” John 14:23.

Thomas à Kempis

Do not place much confidence in weak and mortal man, helpful and friendly though he be; and do not grieve too much if he sometimes opposes and contradicts you. Those who are with us today may be against us tomorrow, and vice versa, for men change with the wind. Place all your trust in God; let Him be your fear and your love. He will answer for you; He will do what is best for you.

Wow. How could I have forgotten where to look for that peace and solace that all of us so desperately seek, but which I had not experienced for some time? I had looked for shelter from the storms of life and had accepted that shelter from men—never a particularly good choice. Those men eventually moved on to other plans, leaving me facing a storm and wondering how to protect my family from it.

In spite of my seemingly perpetually weak faith God blessed greatly, providing us a home and a church and educational needs for my son. He patiently waited for me to turn again and recognize the true source of comfort and consolation—himself.

Had you but once entered into perfect communion with Jesus or tasted a little of His ardent love, you would care nothing at all for your own comfort or discomfort but would rejoice in the reproach you suffer; for love of Him makes a man despise himself....

He who tastes life as it really is, not as men say or think it is, is indeed wise with the wisdom of God rather than of men.

Time to get back to ground level and work on my foundation.

All quotes from The Imitation of Christ
Book Two, Chapter One

 

November 14, 2009

Stratford Hall

I haven’t commented on my header photos lately, but thought I ought to at least identify today’s subject. This photo is of Stratford Hall, the birthplace of Robert E. Lee and of his great-grandfather, “Lighthorse” Henry Lee, signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Stratford Hall is in Virginia’s Northern Neck, so it is not easily accessible by roads, although it was a thriving port 200 years ago due to its easy accessibility from the water. This house was featured in the Mel Gibson movie “The Patriot” in the scene when the revolutionaries blow up the ship and the clueless woman says, “Oh goodie—fireworks!”

If you live anywhere near Virginia’s Northern Neck or across the River in Maryland, take advantage of your proximity by visiting Stratford Hall. I would recommend a visit on July 4th when the Hall hosts various events and has myriad 18th and 19th century period actors to help deliver the full immersion experience. You’ll love it.

November 13, 2009

It’s Friday!!!

W

hen Mary and I were going to college together (about a quarter-century ago) I was a trumpet player. In fact, I was majoring in music with a trumpet proficiency (until I switched to voice because it seemed easier). And Maynard Ferguson was my favorite trumpet player.

Unfortunately, a health issue caused me to lose my ability to play the trumpet—not that I was ever able to do what Maynard can do, or even come close.

The loss of control of my lip muscles brought some fear with regard to Mary’s recent surgery and we’re praising God for retaining her ability to play the clarinet. Perhaps the fact that she’s good and I was a slouch played into the final outcomes in our individual cases. Hmmmm.

Anyway, as the weekend kicks off, here’s a video from back in those days (circa 1980) of my favorite trumpet player playing “Give It One.” And the tenor sax in the middle of the song is my tribute to Mary. I just couldn’t find an actual clarinet. A tenor sax is basically a clarinet with a bit more testosterone.

Maynard rocks!

 

November 12, 2009

Why does God allow evil in the world?

D

on Carson is one of my favorite authors. I had the honor of teaching a class using one of his books as the textbook and foundation for the curriculum. He’s a deep thinker and a solid biblical theologian.

Some of our recent conversations here have brought up the question of why, if he does exist, would God allow evil to happen in the world. This is a difficult question and one that comes up regularly in a world filled with so much evil and suffering. Don Carson attempts to answer this question in this video:

.

 

November 11, 2009

Interesting observations

I

n A Tale of Two Shootings, columnist Scott Wheeler made some interesting observations:

  1. Obama’s response to the shooting death of abortion doctor, George Tiller:
    I am shocked and outraged!
  2. Obama’s response to the Fort Hood shooting of 12 American soldiers by a self-proclaimed Muslim jihadist:
    I would caution against jumping to conclusions.

Wheeler also pointed out another apparent inconsistency in the Obama admistration’s response to domestic terrorism:

  1. Janet Napolitano’s activity following the Fort Hood terrorist attack on multiple American soldiers:
    The Department is now working to deflect any backlash against American Muslims following Thursday’s rampage by a Muslim soldier.
  2. Janet Napolitano’s activity earlier this year:
    The Department issued a report cautioning against the domestic threats of “right-wing extremism” and right-wing groups that might use issues such as abortion as a recruiting tool.

Interesting observations that kind of make one wonder exactly who our government is trying to protect these days. Read Wheeler’s article here.