March 31, 2009

Some comfort in difficult times

My friend A. Kay Daniel posted a wonderful article on her blog. Just like the rest of us, she's struggling with the craziness that is impacting our world so much right now. This post is a wonderful respite from the storm.

March 30, 2009

Shadow boxing

Imagine, for a moment, that the village idiot is boxing with his own shadow, fighting an invisible enemy while the real enemy creeps up behind him, finally overtaking him with ease. That's the picture I got this morning when I was thinking about the believer's real enemies.

There are a couple of enemies that continually sneak up on us while we are fighting the imagined ones. We get so distracted by fighting evil in this world that we aren't prepared when the real enemies attack. Paul speaks about these enemies in a letter to the Corinthians, and another to the Ephesians.  

Our flesh:

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

A truly invisible enemy, Satan and his minions:

Ephesians 6:10-13

A final word: Be strong with the Lord's mighty power. Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms. Use every piece of God's armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm.

It is so important to remember that we are not fighting "flesh and blood", but the invisible enemy that could sink us when we are not looking. We often confuse the evil "outside" and spend all of our energy trying to redeem the culture, save our union, or making sure our brothers and sisters aren't engaged in some sin. It's not that we should never engage in fighting evil in the world, but it's important to identify the real enemy. We are fighting the lusts of our flesh, and when we aren't looking, we could easily lose the struggle and become disqualified. We've seen enough of that disqualification in recent days among the leadership in evangelical churches. And we're fighting an enemy that hopes to sink the church by disqualifying believers one by one.  

I've allowed this to happen in my own life WAY TOO MANY times. I'm in the process of repentance and restoration in a couple of areas of my life—both relating to good stewardship of God's resources. While I was busy slaying perceived giants in my world, a small weevil crept into the grain and threatened to destroy it.

I encourage you to check your armor and your focus. Make sure you pay attention to the enemies that could sink you as well as the flesh and blood enemies of our world. It is important that we maintain good stewardship and integrity so that our message isn't maligned by our behavior. If we focus enough energy on the real enemy, we'll be qualified soldiers with authority to fight in the flesh and blood battles of our day.

March 29, 2009

Blog Header - March 29, 2009

Today's blog header is a photo of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. The River is the Potomac and if you could look a bit further to the left you would see the infamous Watergate Condominiums where G. Gordon Liddy and Chuck Colson illegally entered the Democratic Headquarters by order of President Richard Nixon.

I took this photo from the banquet balcony of the Sequoia Restaurant at the Maryland/Virginia Fast 50 Event last September. This is a beautiful area of Washington, just a short distance from the Lincoln Memorial, the C&O Canal, and the Francis Scott Key bridge.

March 28, 2009

Fun with Photoshop

A couple days ago I posted a photo of my friend Kelly and her friend Jennifer that I had taken outside our church last Sunday. A commenter asked some questions about how I ended up with that photo. I thought I'd answer those questions in this post.

Can you explain how you took this beautiful picture and what kind of background you used. Did you use an SLR digital camera? Was it somewhere in your church? Do you have 2 sources of light above?

One of the reasons that this picture works so well is that it has two beautiful women in it. That's always a good place to start. We didn't have much time between worship team practice and the beginning of the worship service, so we just ran outside to the front door of our church. I asked the ladies to stand on the grass a little ways away from the building so I could throw the background out of focus by using a shallow depth of field. The church building is not the best looking building around, so I thought the shallow depth of field would help to remove that distraction from the photo. As you can see in the original photo (the color image below), it didn't really help.

I used a Canon 50D digital SLR with a Canon 28mm to 70mm f/2.8 lens. I set the camera to aperture priority and set the aperture to f/4.5. The camera's exposure meter came up with a shutter speed of 250th/sec, which I complied with.

The light sources were the sun, which was behind the ladies at a relatively low angle (around 10:00 am) and my Canon flash, which I used as fill flash to brighten their faces because of the strong back-lighting.

When I decided to put the photo on the blog, I just had to manipulate it in Photoshop. I thoroughly enjoy doing portrait photography with Photoshop. I love black & white and I like to tweak the photos slightly when I post them on the blog to give my blog a unique look.

In this case I added a Gradient Map adjustment layer with a foreground of pure black and a background of pure white. That produces a nice high-contrast black & white that is reminiscent of Ansel Adams' photography.

Then I sampled the darkest color I could find in the hair (Jennifer's hair—the young lady on the right side of the pic). I used that color to paint out the background so that there would be no distraction at all. Once the majority of the background had been painted out, I lowered the opacity of the paint brush and carefully brushed around their hair so that the hair would blend well into the black background. There's a bit of glow around Jennifer's hair because I didn't have the time to be real careful with this process. I wanted to get the photo onto the blog before our Wednesday night worship team practice so I could tell Kelly about it.

I added a little bit of grain to make it look more like a negative film photograph rather than digital. If you'd like to see the other photos I took that morning, they may be found here in full resolution. They won't be there for long though, I just posted them there so Jennifer could get prints made if she wanted to. So you'll have to check them out within the next week.

John Rich - making sense

It amazes me that the people of our nation are not flooding Washington to decry the despicable things being perpetrated against them by the Obama administration. The daily discoveries of new ways the bailout money is being misused are piling up so quickly that it's hard to be surprised anymore.

I think John Rich is much more in touch with the common man in the United States than our government officials.

By the way - this video was not made by John Rich, so excuse the typos such as "tricle," instead of "trickle" and "DeNiro," instead of "denero."

March 26, 2009

Something Special

I wrote this poem almost 23 years ago—but it seems very fitting right now to me.  I thought I'd share it with our readers.  By the way, I married that "something special" 21 years ago!

I wanted something special
That I sought with all my heart.
But I never asked my Father
If He would have a part.

Into my new adventure,
I sprang full force, head on.
Despite my zeal I failed and found
My “something special” gone!

I cried, “Oh Heavenly Father,
I’ve done it o’er again!
I rushed ahead without you.
My efforts were in vain.”

He whispered gently to me,
“My child it’s not too late.
I’ll give you something better
If you will simply wait.”

”If you will only trust Me
And let Me have My way,
You’ll find My plans are better
Than any you could lay.”

And so I waited, trusted,
For eternity it seemed.
But sure enough, My Father’s plans
Were better than I’d dreamed!

So if you have a treasure,
Lay it at the Father’s feet.
You’ll find His plans are better
And He’ll make your joy complete.

Old friends and impromptu portraits

This past Sunday we had a visitor at our church. The visitor was new to me, but not to many of the folks who have been here for decades. This was the daughter of one of the previous pastors. In fact, she and our current pianist were babies in the church nursery together. It was fun to watch them get reacquainted. And, as it turns out, this young lady has a phenomenal voice and sang with our worship team during the service.

I noticed that our pianist kept raising her pocket camera to take pictures of her old friend while we were practicing the music prior to the church service. So I leaned over at one point and asked if she'd like me to grab my camera and take a picture of the two of them together. She said, "yes," and one of the pictures is below. They look happy, don't they?

It's great to see old friends. God is good!

Blog Header - March 26, 2009

Today's blog header was just a random picture that I wanted to play with. So I put the title of my blog on the shirt of the guy in the background - kind of out of focus since the shirt is out of the photo's focus depth of field. I kinda liked the result.

March 25, 2009

He wasn’t kidding about “Change”

Obama has made many policy moves that I disagree with and his election and success has motivated the liberals on the Hill to push things they would not have considered just a few months ago. But as problematic and dangerous as many of those things have been, this one is absolutely frightening!

A new Bill is making its way through Congress right now. HR 1388 deals with the establishment of what is being termed "The Obama Youth Brigade." Its official name is “Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act” or the “GIVE Act.”

This Act would establish a youth organization reminiscent of the infamous “Hitler Youth Program” as described at (HT: Scott Hart).

Those involved in the GIVE youth program would be required to follow some guidelines that I think most of America would find shocking. In particular, it seems to me that no Christians (or other committed religious people) could be involved in this youth program.

Here are some excerpts from HR1388, currently being considered by Congress:


Section 125 (42 U.S.C. 12575) is amended to read as follows:


(a) Prohibited Activities- A participant in an approved national service position under this subtitle may not engage in the following activities:

(1) Attempting to influence legislation.

(2) Organizing or engaging in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes.

(7) Engaging in religious instruction, conducting worship services, providing instruction as part of a program that includes mandatory religious instruction or worship, constructing or operating facilities devoted to religious instruction or worship, maintaining facilities primarily or inherently devoted to religious instruction or worship, or engaging in any form of religious proselytization.

And here's another document worth considering in light of this new Bill, the Constitution of the United States of America:


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

March 24, 2009

God is busy!

This is quite certainly not a true story—but I wish it were. This would be great to watch.

If you don't know GOD, don't make stupid remarks!!!!!!

A United States Marine was attending some college courses between assignments. He had completed missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the courses had a professor who was an avowed atheist, and a member of the ACLU.

One day the professor shocked the class when he came in. He looked to the ceiling and flatly stated, “God, if you are real then I want you to knock me off this platform. I’ll give you exactly 15 minutes.” The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop.

Ten minutes went by and the professor proclaimed, “Here I am, God, I’m still waiting.”

It got down to the last couple of minutes when the Marine got out of his chair, went up to the professor and cold-cocked him, knocking him off the platform. The professor was out cold. The Marine went back to his seat and sat there, silently.

The other students were shocked and stunned, and sat there looking on in silence. The professor eventually came to, noticeably shaken, looked at the Marine and asked, “What in the world is the matter with you? Why did you do that?”

The Marine calmly replied, “God was too busy today protecting America’s soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid stuff and act like an idiot. So He sent me.”

The classroom erupted in cheers! spoof

March 23, 2009

Absolute Surrender

1 Kings 20:1-4
And Ben-hadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together: and there were thirty and two kings with him, and horses, and chariots: and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it. And he sent messengers to Ahab king of Israel into the city, and said unto him, Thus saith Ben-hadad, Thy silver and thy gold is mine; thy wives also and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine. And the king of Israel answered and said, My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine and all that I have

What Ben Hadad asked was absolute surrender; and what Ahab gave was what was asked of him—absolute surrender. I want to use these words: “My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine, and all that I have,” as the words of absolute surrender with which every child of God ought to yield himself to his Father. We have heard it before, but we need to hear it very definitely—the condition of God’s blessing is absolute surrender of all into His hands. Praise God! If our hearts are willing for that, there is no end to what God will do for us, and to the blessing God will bestow.

Absolute surrender—let me tell you where I got those words. I used them myself often, and you have heard them numberless times. But in Scotland once I was in a company where we were talking about the condition of Christ’s Church, and what the great need of the Church and of believers is; and there was in our company a godly worker who has much to do in training workers, and I asked him what he would say was the great need of the Church, and the message that ought to be preached. He answered very quietly and simply and determinedly:

“Absolute surrender to God is the one thing.”

The words struck me as never before. And that man began to tell how, in the workers with whom he had to deal, he finds that if they are sound on that point, even though they be backward, they are willing to be taught and helped, and they always improve; whereas others who are not sound there very often go back and leave the work. The condition for obtaining God’s full blessing is absolute surrender to Him.

And now, I desire by God’s grace to give to you this message—that your God in Heaven answers the prayers which you have offered for blessing on yourselves and for blessing on those around you by this one demand: Are you willing to surrender yourselves absolutely into His hands? What is our answer to be? God knows there are hundreds of hearts who have said it, and there are hundreds more who long to say it but hardly dare to do so. And there are hearts who have said it, but who have yet miserably failed, and who feel themselves condemned because they did not find the secret of the power to live that life. May God have a word for all! Let me say, first of all, that God claims it from us.

Absolute Surrender and Other Addresses, by Andrew Murray, ©2007

Before the River Came

I love 4 Him. Their hymns album is one of my all-time favorite albums. But this song is probably my favorite song that they sing. The message is something that I need to listen to regularly.

March 22, 2009

Blog Header - March 22, 2009

Today's blog header is a photo from the beautiful Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson's retreat home. This bato was part of the July 4th festivities at Poplar Forest in 2008. It is similar to the type of boat that John Lynch likely used to cross the James River when he first established what is now known as Lynchburg.

March 21, 2009

"It is but a flesh wound"

After an amazingly busy week with loads of work, Friday's work finally ended and we began to look forward to the weekend. Kim and I went outside to read while David rode his bike up and down the street. I lit the firepit and stoked it with wood to take the chill off the evening air. In about an hour, I was planning to fire up the wood grill and cook steaks for dinner. We settled in for what we expected to be an enjoyable evening.

Then David said, "watch how far I lean when I take this corner up here." We watched as David zipped past us on the street. We could hear the click of the gears changing as he raised the gears to accelerate to ever quickening speeds. Then he took the corner.

He leaned the bike much further than he needed to in order to safely navigate the turn. In fact, he leaned it over about as far as he might have leaned it had he been placing it on the ground to go play with something else. We heard the skid and saw his body bounce off the blacktop.

He jumped up and inspected his leg and immediately began shrieking.

I ran to help him and found a half-dollar sized gaping hole at least an inch deep. It was absolutely disgusting looking. We rushed him to the hospital where, after David's leg was quickly bandaged by the intake personnel, we waited in the waiting room for about 6 hours. Then we were called to a room where a doctor examined the wound, asked some questions, and ordered an X-ray.

Lots of waiting, then the X-ray. Lots of waiting, then the explanation that his wound had torn everything out, not just ripped the flesh - but actually removed about a cubic inch and a half of his leg in the shin area just below the knee. He chipped the top of one of his bones below the knee, but had not torn ligaments or muscle.

So we waited and then the doctor cleaned the wound carefully, deep down inside the gaping hole. She used tweezers to pull out tiny pieces of gravel (and some that were not so tiny). And then, about 8 hours after we had arrived at the hospital, they put the final dressings on his leg, told us to see the orthopedic doctor in about a week and sent us home. We arrived home early this morning and crawled into bed at about 2:00 this morning.

David is now on crutches with orders to keep his leg elevated and to not put any pressure on his leg. He will be doing that for about a week and then will see the orthopedic doctor who may order further inactivity. David is not a sedentary type of boy. So it will be an interesting few weeks ahead of us.

What excitement.

March 19, 2009

Blog Header - March 18, 2009

Today's blog header is from the gorgeous Barboursville Vineyards. This vineyard was once the home of Governor Barbour, a personal friend of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson built a house modeled after his famous Monticello for Governor Barbour. The house is like a small Monticello, complete with octagonal central area of the house with a wing on either side.

Governor Barbour's house was likely very similar to Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest home, which Jefferson lived in after leaving political life.

One of Jefferson's dreams was to launch the wine industry in the newly formed United States. He regularly gave grape vines and shoots to friends in the hopes that they would be able to grow grapes that could yield good wine. But the unique vegetation diseases here in the New World would not allow the cultivation of European grapes, so Jefferson's dream was not realized during his lifetime. The native grapes of North America yield what many in Jefferson's day described as a "putrid beverage."

It wasn't until years later that a grape grower thought of grafting the European grapes onto the North American grapevine roots. This enabled the European grapes to resist the disease that had frustrated Jefferson's attempts at grape growing and allowed the wine industry in the United States to begin.

The home that Jefferson built for Governor Barbour has long since burned to the ground, leaving only the basic shell of a foundation and most of the brick walls. The property fell into disuse and grew brambles and weeds until the 1980s when an Italian viticulturist purchased the property and began Barboursville Vineyards and Winery. The Barboursville wines are now considered some of the best wines produced in the United States. And Barboursville Octagon has been described by many wine experts as the best wine available today.

I think it's fitting that Thomas Jefferson's dream has finally been fulfilled on the property of his dear friend, Governor Barbour.

March 18, 2009

Good Samaritan parks car for clueless motorist

This is just great. It reminds me of my sister trying to park a car.

March 17, 2009


I'm a fan of American Idol. Although I don't watch every show, I do try to keep up with what's going on. And I have my favorites that I root for as the show progresses.

One of the contestants two years ago was an outspoken Christian young lady. Mandisa was probably noticed and remembered mostly for standing up to Simon when he said something mean to her. But her method of standing up to him was very unique. She mentioned that what he had said had hurt her, and then, without waiting for a response from Simon, she said, "But I forgive you. If Jesus can forgive me for all that I've done, I can certainly forgive you for saying something that hurt me."

Mandisa made it to the final few, but did not win the competition that year. But she has just released her first album and it fits perfectly with what she demonstrated during the show. I think the first song on the album reveals her focus, "My Deliverer."

Click the play button in the box to the left. You can enjoy every single song on the entire album in high quality. Then go out and make a statement by purchasing this album.

Presidential disappointment

I have been disappointed in presidents over the years—basically every president since Ronald Reagan has proven to be a disappointment. I chose to vote for a third-party candidate after George H.W. Bush turned his back on his pledge: "read my lips, no new taxes." Although I didn't have high hopes for Bill Clinton, his dishonesty before the grand jury was appalling to me and caused great damage to his credibility from that point on. George W. Bush was better than his father and way better than Bill Clinton, but was a huge disappointment when it came to certain aspects of his enforcement of the Constitution—thus showing that he lied when he took his oath of office.

But President Barack Obama has flung himself (and our nation with him) into such strong departures from his campaign promises that it boggles the mind. Never would I have thought such dishonesty could be so blatantly presented from the Oval Office without expectation of a citizen uprising.

I truly fear for the health of our nation. Unless President Barack Obama is stopped by Congress, by the people, or by God I think the final chapters of our nation are being written.

Let's pray that God will speak to the heart of our president and will draw him to the truth. And I think we should pray that our nation's leadership will begin to recognize again the value of honesty and truth.

March 16, 2009

Christ - our Advocate

Dan Phillips, at Pyromaniacs, reported on a Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology session question and answer time that included the following question and Steve Lawson's answer:

How does Christ's intercession mesh with justification?

Satan brings charges against us before God day and night; and we have an Advocate before the Father, pleading His own merits on our behalf.

This may have been abundantly obvious to everyone else, but I was really struck with the truth of this statement and with the obvious departure from human advocates. Human advocates or defense lawyers argue the innocence or degree of innocence of their client.

But as Christ's clients we are as guilty as can be. So when Satan levels a charge against us, Jesus cannot advise us to plead "not guilty," nor will he try to defend us on some merits we have earned. He defends us on His merits.

What a comfort.

Beauty in the night

My son loves the space shuttle. He desperately wanted to see a space shuttle launch when we went to Florida (Disney World) the summer before last. The launch that had been scheduled for the week of our visit was postponed, so he didn't get to see the actual launch. But we did visit Kennedy Space Center and he got to see a shuttle up close and even go into part of it. He was able to touch space shuttle tires that had actually been in space.

So we visit NASA's web site quite often to keep up with what's going on in the space shuttle program. This morning I found this photo at their web site. And it is simply gorgeous.

March 15, 2009

Looking for that blessed hope

Psalm 73:21-28

Once I was bitter and brokenhearted.
I was stupid and ignorant, and I treated you as a wild animal would.
But I never really left you, and you hold my right hand.
Your advice has been my guide, and later you will welcome me in glory.

In heaven I have only you, and on this earth you are all I want.
My body and mind may fail, but you are my strength and my choice forever.
Powerful Lord God, all who stay far from you will be lost, and you will destroy those who are unfaithful.

It is good for me to be near you. I choose you as my protector, and I will tell about your wonderful deeds.

March 14, 2009

10 years old?

I really wish I could have played guitar this well when I was 10 years old.

...or 20 years old

...or 30 years old

...or 40 years old

I've got about two and a half years left until 50—think I'll make it?

Blog Header - March 15, 2009

Today's blog header is a photo I took at the Lynchburg Market. The sign usually says "Lynchburg Market" and not "By His Grace - For His Glory." This photo was taken with my first digital camera (a Canon 30D digital SLR) and the sensor was a bit dusty, so you can see some dark spots on the photo. I could have cleaned those up when I was playing in Photoshop, but I kind of liked the grunge feel of the dirty sensor picture.

March 13, 2009

And so it begins...

We have been warned for a while now that religious persecution was coming to America. Many people have said that post-Christian America would no longer tolerate the freedom of religion for which it was founded now that the principles of Christianity have been jettisoned. More and more, it appears that these warnings and predictions were right.

A recent report from WRAL's local news tells us about a judge who has ordered that three home-schooled children must be switched from homeschooling and placed back in the public school system. These children have reportedly tested two years above their grade levels, and yet the judge determined that their education is deficient. According to the news article, "all sides agree the children have thrived with home school," and yet the judge ruled that they be moved back to public school after four years of successful homeschooling stating that he was "concerned about the children's religion-based science curriculum." Apparently getting their answers about science from the One who created science is not the preferred method.

The judge also said, "the children [should] be exposed to mainstream science, even if they eventually choose to believe creationism over evolution." In a solidly oxymoronic way, the judge also proclaimed the the children's lessons' religious slant is the root of the problem and, on the other hand he said, "it's not about religion."

While the judge is clearly ruling in an anti-Christianity way, the mother who homeschooled these children produced an oxymoron of her own, which is what first propelled this case into the eyes of the court system. Venessa Mills, the mother of the three children, said, "My teaching is strictly out of the Bible, and it's very clear. It is very evident so I just choose to follow the Bible." And yet the judge in this case is not presiding over a home school rights case. This is actually a divorce case. So apparently Venessa Mills is not choosing to follow all of the Bible, but just those portions that deal with certain aspects of her children's education.

It's a mess and we Christians should brace ourselves for what appears to be the gathering onslaught of religious intolerance and persecution. But we also must hold ourselves to biblical standards and not just use the Bible in those areas we are more comfortable with. It's not going to be easy.

March 12, 2009

Blog Header - March 11, 2009

Today's blog header is from the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. The plaques on this wall contain the names of the soldiers who gave their lives in the service of their nation during the Overlord offensive on D-Day. Another wall mirrors this one with the names of all the allied soldiers who died that day. It is an awe-inspiring sight.

March 11, 2009

Petition to maintain "Conscience Clause"

Imagine a Christian pro-life doctor being asked to perform an abortion. This doctor is being asked to do something that, although it is legal, is in opposition to his religious beliefs.

This issue of conscience prompted President George Bush to sign into law what has been termed "The Conscience Clause." Here's Wikipedia's explanation of this:

Conscience clauses are clauses in laws in some parts of the United States which permit pharmacists, physicians, and other providers of health care not to provide certain medical services for reasons of religion or conscience. Those who choose not to provide services may not be disciplined or discriminated against. The provision is most frequently enacted in connection with issues relating to reproduction, such as abortion, sterilization, and contraception, (hence the term provider conscience is used) but may include any phase of patient care.

Health care providers opposed to abortion or contraception support the clauses because without them, they would be obliged to supply lawful professional services to which they objected, and potentially be subject to disciplinary or legal action for refusing. [more...]

President Barack Obama is set to overturn this law. He has stated his intention to do so. If you would like to voice your opposition to this initiative, please follow the link below and sign the petition.

Sign the petition to keep the conscience clause here. The Be Heard Project.

Don't let me be an embarrassment

Almost thirty years ago I was studying to be a performing musician. I wanted primarily to perform in church and to lead choirs, orchestras and smaller ensembles. But I had a problem with stage fright. Those of you who have heard me sing may understand why it might frighten me. It probably caused some fright for those listening as well.

But I digress.

Soon after I got married we were attending a small Southern Baptist church in Northern Virginia. I had been asked to sing special music and had carefully chosen a song that I thought held a particularly appropriate message for the congregation of that church. I had met with the pastor and had tried to find a song that fit well with what he was teaching at the time.

I don't remember what song I was singing that day or what the pastor was preaching on. But I do remember the fact that I really wanted the congregation to hear the words. I knew that my stage fright had at times caused such a problem that the audience was not likely to hear the message of what I was singing. So before I sang that day, I prayed that God would communicate his message to the people through my song. I told God that it didn't matter if I fell flat on my face musically or if I was embarrassed, but that my only desire was for Christ to be magnified and for the congregation to be edified.

As I strode to the platform to sing, I sensed a tremendous calm. I sang that song and things went well. It was the first time in my life that I had ever felt the complete and total lack of stage fright.

I'm sure many folks could produce theories involving the psychology of why I lost my stage fright in that instance. But I think that the truth of the matter is that I had finally placed my focus where it needed to be—not on myself, but on Christ.

Psalm 69:6
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me,
O Lord God of hosts;
let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me,
O God of Israel.

In our recent discussions about end time and fear, this topic came up and it reminded me of that special music performance 20 or so years ago. Fear can be debilitating and we should not succumb to it. As I read Psalm 69 first thing this morning, the sixth verse just jumped out at me and reminded me of that event two decades ago. May I not be an embarrassment to Christians. May I not bring dishonor to the name of Christ. In my weakness, frailty, and fear, it would seem easy for me to do such a thing. But "his strength is made perfect in weakness." God's power is seen when his weak and frail vessels show no fear in the face of fearful events.

My prayer as we approach what appears to be scary times, is that God will work through me, in spite of my tendency to fear and in spite of my weakness, and will draw others to himself as I share the gospel with them. The days are short. There is not much time left. It is time for us to be about the business of Christ. May my fear not get in the way of that business and block or obfuscate the message. May I not be an embarrassment.

March 10, 2009

Honk if I'm paying your mortgage

Just thought some of you might like the products at this site.

March 09, 2009

Countdown to Armageddon

I really enjoy listening to Ray Pritchard. He has visited our church as a guest speaker, and he is so plain speaking. I also enjoy reading the devotionals he sends periodically. In light of our present topic on future events, here is a link to a podcast from Rev. Pritchard. I am not certain where I place Matthew 24 on the timeline of future events, but the message itself is very encouraging AND motivating. We must return to the business of evangelism and put the culture war in second place. While we must do what we can to promote righteous living, we must look beyond the moment to the future—of the very people we often oppose. Let us work diligently to bring the gospel to each soul!! Hope you enjoy this link and that it spurs further discussion.

Rioting and looting to come?

Pastor David Wilkerson, author of The Cross and the Switchblade, has issued An Urgent Message about what he has called "an earth-shattering calamity."

Although I do not think the Holy Spirit speaks these prophetic messages to people today—at least not in nations that have easy access to the Bible, I do think he is putting words to a general feeling of unrest that is sweeping the globe. The world is changing and the world that seemed a bit out of whack a few years ago seems to have lost all semblance of order.

These are potentially very scary times and we Christians must keep our focus on Christ. Wilkerson's predictions may not come to fruition in exactly the way he has spoken them, but it is quite likely that civil unrest will spark actions that scare all of us. We must be prepared to share the good news of Jesus Christ with those who have not yet turned to Christ for their salvation and comfort.


Here's Pastor John Piper's take on David Wilkerson's prophetic message. As usual, it's right on the money.
HT: SimpleGifts3 - Indelible Grace

March 08, 2009

Enjoying the warm weather

Last weekend we had snow on the ground—about eight inches of it. The high temperatures during the week seldom made it to the freezing mark and the nighttime temperatures were in the single digits and teens most days.

But then on Friday the weather began to get warmer. Friday evening we even sat out in the yard for a while while David rode his bike up and down the street. It was in the low 60s and we were glad for the little glimpse of warmth. I didn't realize how powerful the sun was until my skin began to feel tight. I now have a glowing complexion (glow-in-the-dark might be a better description of my skin right now). So it seems that we are headed out of winter and into spring. And none too soon, in my estimation.

Well ... that was just a sampling of things to come. Yesterday (Saturday) the high temperature was almost 80 degrees. The sky was clear and blue with some wispy clouds. A mild breeze blew most of the day. It was simply a fantastic day.

The flower I posted yesterday seemed to be reveling in the new warmth and sunshine after having received the watering of the melting snow. And we decided to go outside and enjoy God's hint of spring too. Kim and I sat in our Adirondack chairs and read while David rode his bike, played basketball and football, and climbed trees.

After a while, David decided that he wanted to read too, but in typical David fashion he found a very comfortable way to do it. He pulled his wagon to the side of the road, put a pillow on the wagon to make it more comfortable, and laid down in the wagon. He was all set with his book lying on the ground below his head and his tube of Pringles potato chips at the ready. What more could a teenage boy want?

Blog Header - March 8, 2009

Today's blog header photo was taken at Poplar Forest on July 4, 2008. Poplar Forest was Thomas Jefferson's home after he left political life. It is a small Monticello and is a truly wonderful place to visit. (And it's just down the street and around the corner from our house.)

The family seen here plays period roles at various historic events around Virginia. They were a fun family to talk to and were quite knowledgeable about Poplar Forest and other historic Virginia points of interest. The mother demonstrated the method early Americans used to make many items from flax—including wigs and hair extensions. Pretty cool stuff.

March 07, 2009

God's beautiful earth

I love the change of seasons and see beauty in all of them. But sometimes I forget to look and appreciate.

Wild flowers that sprang up in
our yard this week.

The title of the movie "The Color Purple" comes from a simple phrase in that movie when a young girl walking through a field with a friend notices a small wild violet flower and stops to appreciate it. She tells her friend that she thinks God does not like it when we don't notice the color purple. Although in the movie it was phrased in a somewhat crude way, I think that concept has some truth in it.

God's glory and majesty are all around us in the world he has created to be our home.

With the economic picture becoming more and more bleak and the future of our nation resting in seemingly dangerously inept hands, I am tempted to forget that our God is in total control. We are to rest in him—to find our comfort in him, not in our economy, our savings, our government, or anything other than him.

Thomas Goodwin
The Gospel mentions not riches, honours, beauty, pleasures; it passes these over in silence, which yet the Old Testament everywhere makes promise of. They were then children, and God pleased them with the promise of these toys and rattles, as taking with them. But in the Gospel He has shown us He has provided some better things for us; things spiritual and heavenly.

And today God reminded me of his beauty, glory, and majesty. And he used the color purple to remind me that he is ultimately sovereign over all matters. He has truly created a wonderful world for us to live in. But our great hope and sure foundation is in the fact that our future will be so much better.

March 05, 2009

Biblical Authority Unleashed--
Authenticity of the Old Testament

A continuation of yesterday's Biblical Authority Unleashed - Authenticity of the New Testament. Today we'll cover the authenticity of the Old Testament. This comes from The New Defender's Study Bible.

Biblical Authority Unleashed

Authenticity of the Old Testament

New Testament Attestation

  • Traditional authorship accepted by Christ (Luke 24:27; John 5:46–47; Matthew 24:15–21; etc.).
  • Included 320 direct quotations from the Old Testament, plus hundreds of allusions.
  • Confirmation in the New Testament of supernatural events recorded in the Old Testament (Matthew 19:4–5; Luke 17:26; John 6:32; Matthew 12:39–40; etc.).

Preservation of the Hebrew Text

  • Over 1,000 hand-copied manuscripts of the Masoretic Text available.
  • Meticulous study and compilation of all earlier texts by the Masoretes in AD 500.
  • Extremely careful copying and cross-checking by the Hebrew scribes.
  • Completion of writing and editing about the time of Ezra, with probably the first Old Testament canon developed at that time.
  • Careful preservation and transmission from still earlier times.

Indirect Confirmation of Old Testament Text

  • Other ancient versions (Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, Samaritan, etc.).
  • Dead Sea Scrolls (containing most or all of Old Testament).
  • Acceptance by Jews and early Christians.
  • Old Testament quotations in pre-Christian writings.
  • Archaeological confirmations.
    • High culture, writing skills, etc., long before Abraham.
    • Geographical and historical accuracy.
    • Superiority of biblical records to the ethnic myths.
  • Witness of Passover to Mosaic authorship.
  • Claims of writers; universal acceptance by Jews.

The biblical text as we have it is authentic, confirmed wherever it can be tested. Completely separate from the question of divine inspiration, the text has been accurately transmitted from the original writings. Furthermore, the most difficult part to believe in the Old Testament (the Creation and the Flood) is supported by all true science, and the most difficult to believe in the New Testament (the bodily resurrection of Christ) is confirmed by all sound history.

March 04, 2009

Biblical Authority Unleashed--
Authenticity of the New Testament

I just read this outstanding defense of biblical authority and wanted to share it with you. This comes from The New Defender's Study Bible.

Biblical Authority Unleashed

Although none of the original manuscripts written by Moses or Paul or the other biblical writers have been preserved (no doubt providentially; otherwise they might have become objects of worship), we can have full confidence in the integrity and canonicity of the text as transmitted to us. Some of the considerations supporting this confidence are summarized below.

Authenticity of the New Testament Text

Logical Basis of Confidence in the Text

  • Over 20,000 hand-copied manuscripts of the Greek text are in existence, far more than for any other documents of comparable [age].
  • Some papyrus fragments, especially of John, are preserved from the middle of the second century.
  • Although there are some differences in the pre-served manuscripts, there is no doubt that at least 95% of the text is intact [whole and undamaged] from the [time the apostles lived]
  • The complete text of all New Testament books was available to those who lived at the same time as the apostles, and they were satisfied with it.
  • In particular, the portrait of Christ as given in the New Testament was accepted as authentic (accu-rate and true) by the earliest Christians.
  • The conclusion is that the New Testament as we now have it is substantially identical with the original writings.

Secondary Attestations of Authority

  • Hundreds of quotations are included in the writings of the early church fathers, probably adequate to construct the entire New Testament, if necessary.
  • Accuracy of most New Testament historical and geographical references has been confirmed by archaeological and historical research, and no such reference has been found in error.
  • The New Testament books were originally written in Koine Greek, the common language of the New Testament era, rather than classical Greek.
  • Consistency of church ordinances (baptism, Lord’s supper) as practiced by the early church prior to the circulation and collection of the New Testament books, with their initiation as described therein, can only be explained if the documents were authentic.

Blog Header - March 4, 2009

Today's blog header photo was taken just last week at the Kemper Street railway station in Lynchburg, Virginia. It's an unusually attractive station and even has a small nature and wildlife office in it with real animals on display for the kids (and curious adults) to see.

And because Lynchburg is so far away from the big cities, the commuter rail is open only at night—from 9:00 pm to 6:30 am on weekdays (weeknights?).

March 03, 2009

A snow day treat

Mmmmm! This is good!

My wife gets to put up cool recipes on her blog and make everyone's mouths water. So I thought it was time for me to do something similar—except that my recipe is going to be presented "man-style."

We got almost a foot of soft, powdery snow yesterday. So it was a perfect day for one of my son's favorite treats: Snow Cream.

Here's the recipe. Be sure to follow the directions exactly as it most likely will not taste right if you don't use just the right ingredients:

Snow Cream

1)   Grab a big mixing bowl and carry it outside
2)   Clear off the top of some fresh snow.
3)   Scoop up the snow beneath with the big mixing bowl. Don’t dig so deeply that you scoop up grass, dirt, or mud.
4)   Shake the excess snow off of your shoes before re-entering the house (unless you want Mom to unleash the wrath of Kahn on you). Then go to the kitchen.
5)   Add some vanilla extract to the snow bowl.
6)   Dump a bunch of sugar or other unnatural sweetener into the bowl of snow. (More or less to taste.)
7)   Pour some milk or cream into the bowl—just enough to allow the ingredients to mix together, not so much that it makes it liquidy.
8)   Stir the snow, vanilla, sugar, and milk with a large wooden spoon, or a large metal spoon, or another large instrument of stirring. Mix well.
9)   Scoop resulting snow cream into bowls. Sit at the table. Eat.
10)   In between bites, proclaim loudly, "Mmmmm!" From time to time intersperse a loud, "This is good!"

The source of true comfort

True Comfort Is to Be Sought in God Alone

Whatever I can desire or imagine for my own comfort I look for not here but hereafter. For if I alone should have all the world’s comforts and could enjoy all its delights, it is certain that they could not long endure. Therefore, my soul, you cannot enjoy full consolation or perfect delight except in God, the Consoler of the poor and the Helper of the humble. Wait a little, my soul, wait for the divine promise and you will have an abundance of all good things in heaven. If you desire these present things too much, you will lose those which are everlasting and heavenly. Use temporal things but desire eternal things. You cannot be satisfied with any temporal goods because you were not created to enjoy them. Even if you possessed all created things you could not be happy and blessed; for in God, Who created all these things, your whole blessedness and happiness consists—not indeed such happiness as is seen and praised by lovers of the world, but such as that for which the good and faithful servants of Christ wait, and of which the spiritual and pure of heart, whose conversation is in heaven, sometime have a foretaste.

Vain and brief is all human consolation. But that which is received inwardly from the Truth is blessed and true. The devout man carries his Consoler, Jesus, everywhere with him, and he says to Him: “Be with me, Lord Jesus, in every place and at all times. Let this be my consolation, to be willing to forego all human comforting. And if Your consolation be wanting to me, let Your will and just trial of me be my greatest comfort. For You will not always be angry, nor will You threaten forever.”

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, Chapter 17

March 02, 2009

We woke to a blanket of snow

The view from the front door of our porch.

We knew the forecast. We knew school had been canceled. But when we went to bed there was just a dusting of snow on the ground and the snow had stopped falling.

The view from the back door of our porch

But it seemed quite bright all through the night. I kept waking up and thinking it was later than I usually wake up because of the brightness outside. But it was just shortly after midnight the first time I woke up and shortly after 2:00 am the second time. I think the sound of the wind and the brightness outside were the causes of my lack of sleep. But when I finally got up at around 5:00, the ground was covered with snow. As you can see from the above photo, the road in front of our house is not even identifiable. The total accumulation is around seven inches.

And it is beautiful.

And right on time—on this day of the largest snowfall of the year in Washington, DC, they're having a march against global warming. I sure hope their protest works. We can't stand too much more of this warming trend. It might melt the snow.

Sign of the times

Big Brother? Mark of the Beast?

What exactly is being proposed here?

Blog Header - March 2, 2009

Today's blog header is another one of the ones I created for a support group blog for victims of spousal abuse. Of course, the title of my blog was not on that version of it. I like the fact that the woman in this photo is looking somewhere out of frame. It makes me curious.

March 01, 2009

Happy anniversary, Joe & Abigail

One year ago today our dear friends Joe and Abigail were married in the sight of God and in the presence of supportive friends and family who recognize God's gift of marriage and the importance of Christ as the foundation of marriage.

For the past year, the things proclaimed at their marriage ceremony have been actively played out in their lives before our eyes. Joe and Abigail are a wonderful couple and their marriage and their lives proclaim Christ clearly to the watching world.

If you're particularly curious about what was proclaimed at their wedding, read these.

They now have a 10-week old baby and are adding Christian parenting to their already full plate of new adventures.

Happy anniversary, Joe and Abigail!

By the way—this picture was taken at church this morning.