Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Remix Culture

I was reading today about the how a new form of art today is basically stealing from the cultural milieu (that may be the first time I've ever written milieu)  and making it your own in some way.  This has different forms, from sampling and mixing to mashups.  Perhaps the most notorious purveyor  is Gregg Gillis aka Girl Talk who is produced by illegal art.  And there in lies the problem or at least the question.  How much of today's music and art and film is legitimate and how much is blatant stealing and re purposing of others ideas?  How do we protect artists and give them motivation to create and provide the right rewards when their work is what brings the dollars rolling in?

The other reality is that art has always been a call and response.  One person taking influence and concepts from other artists and speaking new value into them, challenging these innovations or using them as a jumping point.  If you go to any art show there will always be an interplay between artists.  This brief article about Matisse and Picasso really brings that to light.  I think this reality blurs the line all the more...sure artists of the past had to reproduce elements of art on their own, and that made it more difficult to "steal" or incorporate someone else's work.  That said, there are new mediums, new artistic forms and opportunities and those influences can be more easily co-opted.  Is that necessarily wrong?

This same question is asked of pastors as many preach books that others have written, they simply take titles and themes from other pastors and authors and present them as they try to make them there own.  Is this legit?  Where is the line?  For me, I want my inspiration to always be God's Word.  So it is my building block, his word is my starting point. I try to preach exegetically, and to address our church and cultural situation.  I will read commentaries, occasionally listen to another sermon on a topic and even take an illustration that fits a theme from another source, but I also try to give the credit to the original source or at least from the source I borrowed from.  In some ways, that is where mashups and sampling always pays homage to the original and gives the credit back since its real source is not meant to be hidden but presented in the light.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Sanctity of Marriage

The Pew Research Center Recently released new findings and changing attitudes toward what marriage and family mean these days.  Read more in this Time Article.  It is a very interesting and telling study, basically it says that we still want to get married (95% of respondents under 30) but think marriage is a fading cultural institution (44% of that same age group think marriage will become extinct).  It shows that people who embrace marriage now more than ever are healthier and wealthier.  They live longer and make on average 41% more than singles.  Children of married parents achieve higher grades, and have better behavior than children of divorces.  Marriage is a gift and its benefits seen in society.  

And yet...

We devalue it, Americans see it as a fine choice, one they would like for themselves but not for everyone.  And not for better or worse.  

Divorce is actually declining, but cohabitation is way way up.  Cohabiting couples break up at much higher rates than marrieds even when kids are involved.

According to the study half of kids who are born to unmarried mothers were to people who were living together, over 50% of those mothers thought they would end up marrying the father, 5 years later only 16% were married.  

We are destroying the institution and destroying our nation, to give in to our personal whims and wishes  as we fail to keep our vows and commitments before each other, our friends and our God.  

Pray for your married friends and your marriages.  I'll pray for yours and mine.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

veterans day

Typically Veterans day is one of those holidays I don't really think about.  It's a day off for the kids and maybe something I should mention at church.  I was thinking about it yesterday as I explained to Simone why she didn't have school.  (She was not happy about a day off) Anyway, I told her how it is a time when we think about he people who have served in the army. And a day we commit to remembering them and thanking them for our service.  

The reality is I don't know many people in the military, and for me it's just one more area that is removed from my life.  An area I don't think about because it doesn't connect with my day to day living.  Like food.  I don't live on a farm, butcher animals or anything like that so I don't think about the process, the care and the effort it takes to give me chicken for dinner.  Since I don't think about it, I don't care.  

I don't care about veterans.  I don't really care about all the neighbors around me, because I don't know them. They don't impact me.  God wants me to love my neighbors. He wants me to care.  So this year, at the prompting of my 3 year old daughter. I'm being thankful for their sacrifice. I'm thinking about what people give up so that I can live the life I have.  I'm thankful that people would be willing to give everything, for me. And I'm reminded once again of the ONE who intentionally gave it all, for me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

All We Need is Love, and someone to tell us No.

I've been thinking about a "Theology of No" lately.  I think this really started as I was praying about different things and often getting a no from God.  My life changed back in 1999 when there was a ministry job at the (Syracuse Rescue mission) that I was sure I should get and sure I would get.  When I was told No by God my life was redirected.  5 months later, God had me in a different ministry (Bethesda Mission in Harrisburg) a very similar job, but in the same community as my future wife.  
When God said no, I was heartbroken and confused.  I wanted answers and I didn't get them for a long time. But now I see when God says no, he knows what he's doing.

Now that I'm a father, a loving father. I say no a lot.  My kids ask for a lot of stuff, but they are getting used to hearing no.  Sometimes it is very easy for me to say no, often its very hard.  Usually my kids requests are well within my power to accomplish.  Can I have ice cream, candy, McDonalds etc.  Often I think, I could give it too them, its in my power it will make them happy and what harm is there in saying yes.  The problem is if I always said yes there could be problems.  My kids could eventually get obese.  Happens a lot in America, am I right?  My kids could get spoiled. Again pretty common. 

Sometimes my kids ask me to intervene when kids at the playground have hit them.  They know they can't hit back. They come to me tell me the problem and ask me to step in and alter their situation.  Spare them the trouble, the fear the pain the hard stuff.  I always tell them to tell the other person that it's not OK.  Tell them to stop and that it's not nice.  It's hard, usually they just try to avoid the problem.  Once in a while they will address the person head on.  Once in a while they will stand up and confront the hardship and things will get better.  If they do that, and things still aren't changing, then I'll step in.

When people today think about God and his love they think like a child.  God has the power to step in and change things, he has the power to fix my situation, to make it easier.  If He loved me he'd do it.  We often parent like that, to the detriment of our kids.  I think we learn from our heavenly father, see that saying No is a part of his plan.  Its often how he teaches us.  He teaches us that getting everything we want is not healthy for us.  That always serving our impulses and desires and selfishness is destructive to ourselves and those around us.  As a parent the hard part is knowing when, why, and how to say no.  As a child of God, we need to accept the no, and consider what God is trying to teach us by saying no, (or even wait).  Do I need to face the trial, do I need to confront the person I'm having trouble with (most likely)  do I need to stop running and avoiding the things in my life that stress me out?  Do I need to grow up?  

Lord God, Father in heaven help us all to accept your no, to learn from the situation and to pursue the good things you have before us even if it gets a little muddy and murky and difficult on the way.  Amen

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Christ Alone

I read this today. A while back my focus in these things changed a bit.  I hope and pray that this will continue to refine my posts as God refine's my heart.

I am no longer my own blogger, but Thine, O Lord.

Refine me with each post how You will, rank me how You will.
Put me to service, or put me to suffering.
Let me post for Thee or be put aside for Thee,
Lifted high, only for Thee, or brought low, all for Thee.
Do with me and each post whatever you will, because You alone know best.

Let me not strive but submit Let me not compete but care
Let me not desire hits but holiness
Let me be a follower, instead of seeking followers.

Let my blog be full of Thee, and let it be empty of me.
Let me crave all things of Thee, let me care nothing of this world.
Let my words be worthy of the greatest of audiences: You.
And You are enough.

May I write not for subscribers… but only for Thy smile.
May my daily affirmation be in the surety of my atonement,
not the size of my audience.
May my identity be in the innumerable graces of Christ,
never, God forbid, the numbers of my comments.
May the only words that matter in my life not be the ones I write on a screen ---
but the ones I live with my skin.

I freely and heartily yield every sentence, every title, every post, every comment… or no comments… all to Thine pleasure and perfect will.

My only fame is that I bear Your name
My only glory is the gift of Your Grace
My only readership, Your eyes that seek to and fro to find a heart hard after You.
Make this so, oh Lord…

Yahweh, You alone are my God, not Google
Jesus, You alone are my Savior, not site meters
And Holy Spirit, You alone are my Comforter, not comments

So be it, today, yesterday, and every post to come.

This is my prayer I have made on earth and over this keyboard… let it be ratified in heaven.

Copyright 2010, Ann Voskamp @ www.aholyexperience.com   All rights reserved. Please do not copy, paste text or reprint.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Christian. Real. Music.

Click the playlist now. 


Ok continue
I know about a year ago I said that I'd be featuring music on Tuesdays.  I apologize that it's a Friday.  I also apologize that instead of about 50 musical selections I've provided precisely 3 to date.  As I said back then if I don't start listening to new music I will become old.  I think that's the case.  I have a wife who is 30!  And I was a cradle robber. So I must be ancient.  To fight off the inevitable.  I bring you Mumford and Sons, a British band that's pretty folksy as per my liking, but even more than that this band writes about disappointment imperfection and this broken world.  Within that there are hints that God alone has the answer.  Check out  The Cave's lyrics and the playlist that is at your immediate right.

It's empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you've left behind

The harvest left no food for you to eat
You cannibal, you meat-eater, you see
But I have seen the same
I know the shame in your defeat

But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

Cause I have other things to fill my time
You take what is yours and I'll take mine
Now let me at the truth
Which will refresh my broken mind

So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears

But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker's hand

So make your siren's call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be

And I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

They aren't all Christian, but I do think that the main singer is.  The great thing is they bring these songs to the masses.  Most of the time the truths of Jesus aren't at the forefront, but the fact that we live in a broken world and that we ourselves are broken and want, hope and know that there is something more and better out there comes through over and again.  That's what people resonate with.

That's half of the gospel. In the past people didn't like to hear that part.  People didn't believe or didn't want to accept that humanity is the problem.  But today people don't try to pretend the brokenness doesn't exist.  Today people doubt the solution.  They doubt that God would allow bad things to happen to people at judgment.  But I do think this is where we start talking about the good news today. We talk about the problems with gov't we talk about the 27 million slaves, we talk about pedophilia and sexual slavery. We talk about how I hurt the people I love the most with angry words, by ignoring my kids when they keep pushing for more of my time, becoming frustrated and bored of my parents, friends, wife.  We share that we are broken people and that the solution doesn't come from a bunch of broken people, but from a perfect God.  

Grace and Peace to you all

Thursday, September 30, 2010


As a church we voted to move and to change our church name.  We voted unanimously.  We voted because we want to be salt and light and provide ourselves with better opportunities to do that.  We'll be in a better location to reach Indians, we'll be in a better sized worship facility, we'll be in a more visible location. We'll be meeting on Sunday mornings, which makes sense for believers and is a bit easier on families with kids.  We have made all these choices in an effort to take a step forward as a church.

Shajan John our retreat speaker this year, talked about how to step forward you have to leave the ground you are on.  This is often the most difficult part. And in many ways, I'm sad about leaving the relationships and opportunities in Westchester behind. My eyes are opened anew to the opportunities here as I see chances to engage Gabe's kindergarten class and soccer team. We have neighbors who have been friends for the past couple of years. All of these things as well as the relationships with the people of Grace make this step forward difficult.  But, often it is the difficult things that are best.  There are still more difficult steps for us to take, things we need to change, ways we need to grow as a church.  This step is not the endpoint of the journey.  Only the very first step.  

Please pray for us. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Most of the church today doesn't really take Jesus lifestyle seriously.  We put a lot of pop psychology in there to make the calls to self sacrifice and eternally giving to others in there to make it palatable and sensible.  

I can do that pretty easily as well.  

Oswald Chambers devotional spells out that we need to give, trust follow Jesus at all times.  This faith is impossible without Christ.  Thank God he came to save us from ourselves.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


My kids Gabe and Simone just started school.  I just started coaching Gabe's soccer team and our church is going to be starting to minister in a new setting.  It's got me thinking about new beginnings and how just starting something new opens up tons of new opportunities.  I know new things can be tough to take on.  It's a lot easier and safer to do the same old same old, but sometimes the same old gets boring stagnant and in need of change.  

So we take on these new challenges with prayer, because new beginnings have a lot of risk to them. Fortunately we have a God who can help since was around in the (very) beginning.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Not long ago I wrote about being in God's creation and the affect that has on us.  How it reconnects us with His presence. How it demonstrates His creative power, and how awe of God restores us to right relationship with him.  Well this last week we went on a retreat at a beautiful conference center right on Lake Geneva.  Beautiful weather, perfect water and lot's of green. The perfect retreat.

Interestingly, we also talked about going on the offensive. About bringing the message of redemption and hope to a dark and overwhelmed world.  I think more than just being able to escape from the day to day, that is really the point of a retreat.  

In battle a retreat is strategic.  Things aren't working, we are overwhelmed, we are losing our position and ourselves.  So we take a step back.  Reorganize, re-prioritize and once settled re-deploy.  I usually think of a retreat as a diversion from the day to day.  But this year, I saw it as a call to renewed purpose.  It was an important lesson. 

Thanks be to God, who leads us in his triumph! thanks be to God who's got the victory!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Best websites

Time's list of best websites is out.  I didn't make it.  Maybe next year. When I post more than once a month...

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Rains Came Down and the Floods Came Up

This week is surprisingly a good one, that is when one considers the fact that the town I live in just went through massive flooding, when I was on vacation.  Check out these photos to get an idea of the damage. It' pretty insane. I read in one article that there was 60 billion gallons of water dropped on Chicagoland. As I said. Insane.  We had 4 feet of water in the basement.  I spent 13 hours today dragging stuff out.  We lost some memories and some stuff and a lot of carpet and drywall and we might need a new washer dryer air conditioner and furnace. But I also learned some things and have had my heart put right, and for that I thank God.

I have been reading here about a gratitude list.  And figured now is a good time to thank God for lot's of things.  

1) I thank God for getting us out of Chicago on Friday night, before we were planning and mere hours before the flood.  Now my wife and kids are with the rest of my family vacationing as they should be. 
2) I thank God for my Dad who happened to have a layover in Chicago and could hop off the flight to help me take apart the basement.
3) I thank God for this time with my Dad.
4) I thank God that there was a flight and a seat available for me the moment we drove into Denver so I could come home asap.
5) I thank God that on that flight I was able to sit next to, talk to, and pray for a woman who had just lost her sister. A 48 year old mother of 2 and grandmother of 2.
6)  I thank God for the modern conveniences I take for granted. 
7)  I thank God for all the stuff we have.
8) I thank God for the chance to clear some of that stuff out.
9) I thank God for making our time dealing with all of this headache pretty easy. We weren't here to experience the stress, when I arrived the flooding in my neighborhood had receded so that I could drive up to my door.

I also learned that no matter what you do you can't protect things or people perfectly.  Your stuff, and your kids can't be held onto too tightly.  I mean they need to be held onto tightly, your kids need to be loved, but no matter what, things will happen. When they do we all we can do is trust God. We need to trust that he is in control, that all those things I can be thankful for in this hard situation are a product of his divine intervention. I don't know what will happen to Star. This woman that I spoke to on the plane and prayed with, but I do hope she comes to know Jesus as he works in her now to draw her to himself. 

On the drive we listened to a CD my mom made for the kids, they were about family mostly, but one I really like (my adaptation) goes

All I really need is God's song in my heart, food in my belly, and love in my family.  


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vows: With my Body I thee Worship

Since I re-read the vows that Dani and I said at our wedding I've been really thinking a lot about the phrase, "With my body I thee worship,  and with all my worldly goods I thee endow." This phrase while surprising to many of us as American Christians I think uncovers 2 of the areas of constant marital strife.  Our sexual relationships and our financial ones.  Today I'm going to deal a little bit with the sexual relationship side of things and later address finances.

The first thing we need to discuss is the idea of worship.  Fundamentally worship is giving appropriate worth to someone or something.  So when we worship God we ascribe to him the majesty and glory he deserves.  When we worship our spouses, we don't elevate them over and above God instead we give them appropriate value which places our spouse in a secondary position beneath God.  Of course, a spouse can become an idol, but in this context it speaks to honoring our spouses, and that we live out that appropriate honor, by giving our spouses what they deserve and desire through intimacy.

It has often been said that men desire respect in the husband/wife relationships more than anything.  That as the head, and leader of the family, a man desires his reasons and opinions and decisions to not be challenged and undermined.  Of course, constructive challenges and criticisms are often necessary, and the wise and loving husband will seek his wife's input and perspective on decisions in order to include her, understand her and care for her needs and well being.  In short to show her love. 

This same situation applies to the marriage bed.

3The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent...

So here we see that both spouses should seek to fulfill each other sexually whenever the other is interested. I believe this supports the primary desires of husbands and wives.  

Husbands who desire respect experience a woman's acceptance of his advances as respect. Her willingness affirms that he is worthy and she wants to express and reward that. In the same way that he wants his wife to accept his decisions as wise and good he wants his wife to accept his advances. He wants his wife to submit to his will and choices both in life and in the bedroom. When she says yes, she is in essence saying you are good, I trust you and want to please you. However, when the advances are denied it undermines that respect.  Men don't want excuses, I'm too tired, I'm too busy, headache, whatever.  All those things communicate, you aren't good enough for me. I'd rather sleep, work, clean whatever than be with you. That is some pretty crappy stuff to rank beneath. All of those things communicate the opposite of respect and certainly don't give a husband the worth he is due. 

Women want to be given appropriate value and worth as well, and men need to remember that and realize how we can love our wives in a way they feel worthy. Women desire to FEEL loved, rather than respected.  For most of us men, if our wives will give it up at all times, (which is God's plan btw, and is  awesome) we'd likely stop doing all the loving, caring things that score us enough points to actually get us what we want. Its our sinful and selfish nature.  Honestly, If I wasn't regularly rejected I wouldn't try so hard to make SURE it happens "this time."  If I wasn't regularly rejected, my negligence would probably make my wife feel used, rather than honored.  It would make my wife feel unappreciated and not loved.  And I think this is the key for guys.  That is, make sure that we listen to and understand our wives preferences and needs and not simply expect that she be available.  Then we will seek to do the things for her, that make her feel loved. In response she'll want to be available. So give the massages, buy the flowers, just cuddle (I don't get it either!) all those things just because we want to honor our wives with our bodies, not because we want to get something out of it. We need to love through doing the things that she enjoys and that give her pleasure and not simply expect her to bend to your (my) preferences.  Because if we do that, women feel used and not like she is being given appropriate worth.  
So the command to both husband and wife, the promise Dani and I both made is that we will worship each other with our bodies. For me that means putting her first, loving, caring, serving, giving, all the time no stopping, no putting my self first. All her all the time.  

I just hope she is reading this, and is way better at her job than I am at mine. 

Monday, July 19, 2010


This past weekend Dani and I went to a wedding.  It's always a good reminder for those of us married to hear others taking those vows, making that promise. To love:  to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. I think it helps us to refocus on the part we play in making things work.  It reminds us of the difficult commitment we have made, but that indeed we did commit.  It reminds us of the joy and expectancy and hope of that day, a hope that still exists in us all as we continue to grow in that love or at least striving for that beautiful perfect love that we know exists.

Sometimes in that pursuit however, we get lost.  We get things backwards and messed up. I was reflecting on my vows.  The Old English vows written by Thomas Cranmer.  It's usually presented like this, "with all that I am and all that I have, I honor you." but the original reads this, "With my body I thee worship and with all my worldly goods I thee endow. Pretty big difference, right? I mean you can see the heart of the original in the revision.  It's a lot more palatable to modern sensibilities, but it loses the power of the original and the thrust of what marriage really is.  Marriage is a complete commitment to the other person for their good.  Usually we get married because we love who we are when we are with that person.  They make us happier, or smarter, or safer, or braver, or whatever, but all too often we love ourselves when we are with them.  Marriage and life together helps us to learn what it is to love someone.  

We see this progression in Song of Solomon.  in 2:16 it says this 

My lover is mine and I am his.

In 6:3 the order changes

I am my lover's and my lover is mine; 

In 7:10 we see a further evolution

10 I belong to my lover,
       and his desire is for me.

Notice how in the first verse (pre-wedding) the beloved is focused on possessing her spouse.  He is mine.  First and foremost this is about what he can do for me.  This is essential and a normal part of our growing into love.   The same thing happens in our relationship with Jesus.  We want what he can do for us.  So we accept the proposal.  

However, that's not the aim.  That's not what we hope for and ultimately, a possessive me focused relationship is unsatisfying.  In Chapter 6 we still see possession, we still see ownership, but we see the order changed.  There is a recognition of belonging to the other person, we begin to give up our rights to ourself. We begin to understand love as a place to give, but our sense of self and rights and desires are not eradicated.

In chapter 7, we see the difference.  A complete abandonment of self interest of possessing and owning the other.  We are now free to give ourselves completely to our spouse.  Here is the beautiful thing though.  She knows she is loved.  She knows her husbands heart is committed to her and without that love we don't get to this point.  There can be relationships where someone gives up their rights to themselves, and it's a messed up out of whack relationship that does not honor God.  There can be relationships where men demand women serve them and give themselves up for them, abusive, oppressive relationships. There can be relationships where women control their husbands, manipulating, nagging and operating in a way to suck all the joy out of the relationship in order to get what they want.   There are a lot of ways to mess up a relationship, for sure. But there is only one way to get it right, and that is for both spouses to see that every aspect of marriage is about caring for the other.  Giving all that you have and all that you are to each other.  That means mentally and emotionally, that means spiritually and physically and that means financially and sexually.  This is where we pick up these vows that Dani and I said 8 years ago.  

These are areas of conflict for a lot of couples, but these need to be areas that we both see as essential to the health of our relationships.  We need to seek to serve and care for and love each other through these areas. I'm going to deal with how to do that in later posts since this is already a monster as it is.  Here is a good article in the meantime.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


A while back my son got lost.  I started to freak out and panic.  I was so panicked I started yelling out "Gabe!" Of course this was done in public to the other parents judgmental and derisive looks. Eventually, I found him.  I was upset.  I've decided some time when we are out I will hide on him so that he feels the panic and fear that I felt.  I'll have to think of something else to help him understand the humiliation I felt by exposing my poor parenting to people I don't even know....

Ok, so actually I'm not going to do that.  I've already dealt with it with the words I forgive you.  Sure, I said some other stuff before those words. But I can and did forgive him because I don't need to have justice in the situation. I don't need to make sure things are fair because I was "wronged." I get a chance to forgive and in forgiveness we find mercy.

These days justice especially social justice is often held up as the highest moral virtue.  Maybe Love still holds the #1 spot, but we hear a lot about justice.  And I think justice is important and essential and I love that our God is a just God who will judge the evil and hate and all the things that bring about pain in our world. I'm glad for all the ways and chances we have to be involved in bringing justice to broken people and systems. I think the church needs to take a greater stand against oppression and unfairness inherent in America.  But I think it is important that we remember a few other things about God and the role of Justice, Mercy and Grace in the redemptive story

Justice is getting what you deserve, what is fair. I have a lot of things that I don't necessarily deserve more than others just because I was born at a certain time in a certain family, had certain opportunities.  All things where its not fair that I had an advantage and others didn't and so I want to work to provide fair structures and opportunities for all people. But there is another side to justice, to fairness.  I hurt people I love.  I get angry and impatient. sometimes people get mad back, but sometimes they can't exact justice and I get away with injustice. We all do. Ask my kids.

Mercy is not getting what you deserve.  For all the wrongs that we do we could get justice. God keeps track of them. Some of the people in our lives keep track of them and hold them against us. In reality that is fair, it is just it is right.  But there is another way.  A way of forgiveness.  A way to say, I know you wronged me but I'm not going to hold it against you.  That is the story of Jonah. I'll be preaching on it through July and into August. I'm excited to learn more about mercy and God's compassion for individuals, and nations and even animals. And I'm really really grateful for mercy.  Mercy extended by God, by my family especially by my wife, by my church and friends. Mercy should be met with gratitude.

Grace is getting what we don't deserve. So basically grace is beyond justice and beyond mercy.  It is something that we can't earn. It is something that goes beyond forgiveness. It is something that looks at all our failures and wrongs and the hurtful things we do and say.  It sees the times we turn our backs on justice.  It says in spite of all that, in spite of the evil in your past and in your heart. I will not only forgive you, I will bless you.  When we understand true Justice we can understand the good news.  We get to see the gospel and grace for what they are:  The true gift of God.

Friday, June 25, 2010

New Eyes

I got new glasses last week. I like them a lot, but I'm not sure if they are the reason I'm seeing the world more clearly.  On Monday I walked and prayed for an hour and the sky was a deep blue, the clouds a brilliant white.  The leaves seemed greener too. All the beauty had me thinking about our Creator and what we lose by being insulated from this world, inside all the time.  Stuck looking at concrete and brick.  We are becoming an increasingly atheistic people, especially in large cities.  Scripture often speaks of how creation demonstrates who God is.
Ps 19: The heavens declare the glory of God;
       the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

 2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
       night after night they display knowledge.

Romans 1:20
20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

When I was younger I would go hiking, escape to the woods and let God's creative power work in me. I was reconnected with his immensity as I saw myself as a speck once again.  One of my favorite illustrations of his hugeness is:

Imagine a grapefruit.  Ok That grapefruit is the Sun, now imagine a grain of sand 35 feet away. that is the earth, the moon a speck of sand would be a half inch from the first grain of sand.  Now Imagine another grapefruit 2000 miles away. that's alpha centauri the nest closest star.  Now recognize that there are at least 100 billion stars (maybe 400 billion?) in the Milky way all about 1600 miles from each other using this same scale.  And at least 100 Billion galaxies in the Universe maybe 500 billion.  Think about how huge the universe is and that somehow it is always expanding.  Now you are one of 6 billion particles on that tiny grain of sand, and for some reason you think everything revolves around you.

 Psalm 84 what is man that you are mindful of him,
       the son of man that you care for him?

yet he does...

Monday, June 21, 2010


God has given me more time, desire and passion for His Word recently.  I've been doing devotions with my wife, reading The Pursuit of God by Tozer and reconnecting with a couple of spiritual mentors.  My faith is being refreshed and I'm being transformed, at least my passion for God is returning and as I am faithful and responsive to God's will and call to empty ourselves for those around us I will be transformed continually.

This is one passage that cut deep.

It (The veil of self that blinds us to God) is woven of the fine threads of the self-life, the hyphenated sins of the human spirit. They are
not something we do, they are something we are, and therein lies both their subtlety and their power.
To be specific, the self-sins are these: self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency,
self-admiration, self-love and a host of others like them. They dwell too deep within us and
are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention till the light of God is focused upon them.
The grosser manifestations of these sins, egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion, are strangely
tolerated in Christian leaders even in circles of impeccable orthodoxy. They are so much in evidence
as actually, for many people, to become identified with the gospel. I trust it is not a cynical observation
to say that they appear these days to be a requisite for popularity in some sections of the Church
visible. Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little

I am self focused (so are you), but seek to have them mind of Christ. (so should you)

 5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
 6Who, being in very nature God,
      did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
 7but made himself nothing,
      taking the very nature of a servant,
      being made in human likeness.
 8And being found in appearance as a man,
      he humbled himself
      and became obedient to death—
         even death on a cross!
 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
      and gave him the name that is above every name,
 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
      in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
      to the glory of God the Father.

Pray with me Tozer's prayer

Lord, how excellent are Thy ways, and how devious and dark are the ways of man. Show us how to die, that we may
rise again to newness of life. Rend the veil of our self-life from the top down as Thou didst rend the veil of the Temple. We
would draw near in full assurance of faith. We would dwell with Thee in daily experience here on this earth so that we
may be accustomed to the glory when we enter Thy heaven to dwell with Thee there. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

My hope is I can have more of God changing me in the blog and less focus on correcting the incorrect thinking of culture

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ah, Statistics

It's funny how everyone has research to defend their position.  Today there was an article in Time on Lesbian parents and their high performing kids.

This was my response to the article

It's easy to see the variables in the study that are problematic.  1) self reporting being the most obvious  "the parents agreed to answer questions about their children's social skills, academic performance and behavior at five follow-up times over the 17-year study period. "

2. The study should be compared not to all hetero couples but those who chose artificial insemination due to fertility issues for consistency and as a control.  Obviously choosing this path is intentional parenting and has a great financial investment, therefore better schools opportunity etc.   

3. The finding concerning whether a separation happens is interesting in that it produced no discernible difference.  

 We need to be discerning readers. I know I spend a lot of time reading things other than Scripture. But I find that the more time I spend reading books other that God's Word, even Christian books, especially church books I begin to focus on what I can do and get all these ideas about how to manipulate God's World...for his own good.  So to have hearts and minds aligned with Christ to be able to "give an answer for our hope" we must make the Bible the plumb line, the starting point for all things. Only then will we have  insight into fallen perspectives around us whether they be the lies of evil intent and errors of good intent.  

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Right Again

I mentioned these flawed arguments for lowering the drinking age a while ago. It seems we have confirmation that despite all the talk about maturity with regards to alcohol the Europeans aren't really any better than what we profess to be.

No inconveniences please

The CEO BP the other day said he just wanted his life back. Please everyone who will forever be affected by the negligence and errors of my company, but all of your criticism is not good for my day to day well being.  

Sadly, I think this is how all of us operate. Maybe most of us if I'm being generous.  We really don't care what else is happening in the world as long as I get to do my thing.  We don't get out of our comfort zones because it would be too tough. We don't serve others because it would take too much time.  We don't like people cutting in front of us in traffic, or even traffic because it impinges on my desires right now.  

It's easy to point our fingers at the entitled and uber wealthy. I just need to keep looking back at my own life and remember. I'm not really any better. Christ is. 

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Guilt Post

Are there things in your life that you know you should do, but you just can't bring yourself to do them? Either you are too busy, or too unmotivated or too bored with those things or you feel so bad for ignoring it for so long that it's hard to muster up the courage/motivation/effort to do it again?

Me too.

But then when you finally do it.  There is relief. There is comfort.  There is the joy that you had all those other times you exercised, did your devotions, went to church or Bible study, made dinner for your wife, gave her a massage, cleaned...anything.  Guilt can be a good thing.  It's just when we let it linger for too long it becomes bad.  When we still feel bad today about not exercising that one day last month.  God wants us to forget what is behind and strain toward what lies ahead.  Here's to another post.  Maybe even soon.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Following the Wrong Crowd II

Just like individuals, I think we need to realize that there is a wrong crowd for countries.  For some reason America wants to be Europe.  I know I already wrote about how I favor the health care bill, but only for a short time as a corrective to the broken system of today.  Soon this system will be equally broken and it should be overturned and not run indefinitely.

Anyway, I always hear these people saying how our young people would be such responsible drinkers if only we lowered the drinking age to 18 like Europe.  This article speaks to the problems of alcohol in England and particularly Scotland.  The fighting, damage to public property and health care expense due to drunks.

"And shockingly expensive, costing Scotland $3.2 billion a year in lost productivity and additional expenditure for health services, the police and other public-sector institutions. Scots are the world's eighth-heaviest drinkers, and a casual visitor to Glasgow could easily conclude that they top the league in public Bacchanalian drunkenness".
One plan to curb the epidemic?  Raise the drinking age to 21. Who is following who?

We already talked about Greece and its debt problems.  Why do we want to be like Europe's declining nations?  How is that the way forward for the US?  This should be a warning for the US, as Europe turns its back on God it declines in prominence, population, and productivity.  China on the other hand is seeing a flourish of churches and the gospel is growing there as it ascends to unprecedented heights,  it's eerily similar to the rise of Korea not so long ago. 

We should all be following Christ.  Just like Paul said in I cor 11:1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. Or in Philippians 2:5-11
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
 6Who, being in very nature God,
      did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
 7but made himself nothing,
      taking the very nature of a servant,
      being made in human likeness.
 8And being found in appearance as a man,
      he humbled himself
      and became obedient to death—
         even death on a cross!
 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
      and gave him the name that is above every name,
 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
      in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
      to the glory of God the Father.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Following the Wrong Crowd

My mom always told me be careful who I associate with.  I needed to make sure that my friends were bringing me in the right direction. I always feel like I had good friends and bad friends.  Some friends I new who were more well behaved than myself and others who were trouble, at least relative to me.  I thought I was kind of the middle player in my group of friends. I asked the kids in the confirmation class who were their good friends and who were their bad friends.  The boys knew exactly what I was talking about, but one student said she didn't think she had any bad friends.  I took that either to mean she was the bad friend.  She said she had just distanced herself from those she felt had been pulling her down.

Either way I think there is something wrong with that. We need to surround ourselves with people who inspire us to walk closely with Christ. The people who influence us should be those who draw us toward Christ. But we also need to be deep enough into the lives of others that we don't simply avoid the "bad" people.  We need to engage and love and draw them toward Christ.  We can't do this if they don't know us or care what we say or think.  So let's try to find those people on both sides of us.  Those we can influence for the good, but also those that can help us stay grounded and pursuing our Lord and Savior.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Money Makes the World Go Round

Money get away
Get a good job with more pay
And your O.K.

Money, it's a gas
Grab that cash with both hands
And make a stash

New car, caviar, four star daydream
Think I'll buy me a football team

Money get back
I'm all right Jack
Keep your hands off my stack

Money, it's a hit
Don't give me that
Do goody good bullshit

I'm in the hi-fidelity
First class traveling set
And I think I need a Lear jet

That's the beginning of the Pink Floyd song if you click through you can hear the rest of it.

Here is another link from Time about paying/bribing kids to do well in school. Honestly, it works.  That is their point, but they have also shown financial incentives to be the most effective motivator in losing weight and other matters that should be dictated by willpower.  Basically, the point we are teaching our kids is the Almighty Dollar is more important than the Almighty God.  That's pretty much how America is set up already, but I think we know there is more to life than stuff.

That's why the church is so important we are commanded to give, of our selves of our money for the sake of others.  Once you can do that, once you can say no to the god of wealth you are free to do anything just cause you want to and not because someone is going to pay  to do it.  Good luck finding people to pay you to lose weight or change whatever your bad habits are when it  isn't a scientific study....

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A sign of the times?

In a recent Time magazine

Ready for Your Biometric Social Security Card?

We see the most recent effort to adopt a marker that the Bible seemingly predicts as a sign of the end times and a takeover of the anti Christ. 

Revelation 13:16He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.

So basically the idea is there is this mark, 666 which promotes the system of man over the system of God.  We need to get the mark to continue functioning in the marketplace.  Which obviously is the focus of this effort.  The plan would be your fingerpring (hand) or retinal scan (forehead?) would serve as a bio identity marker so that we don't have any illegal immigrants sneaking in. 

While I"m not saying this is the end or this is the actual mark I am saying this is scary, and this is something that we should be very wary of.  Any effort like this should be roundly criticized, not only for it's cost, but also for it's stance that people need to buy into the nation state system in order to be treated like human beings.  This is one area that I widely disagree with the republican party and America in general.  I like free trade and outsourcing. I think opportunity for those in countries with less wealth and opportunity than America is a good thing.  I think spreading the wealth around via the extended free market makes a lot more sense than protectionism for America's poor when the foreign poor are willing to work a lot harder.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care Reform

In all things concerning the state I try to think about them theologically.  I basically want to look at things beginning with a human nature that is corrupt and sinful.  So in that regard I believe that this reform in the short term can be a very good thing.

1)  The current system is broken, competition is no longer working in the favor of the people rather insurers are finding more and better ways to rescind and deny coverage to individuals.  Health expenses are way too hi, litigation out of control, there are lots of problems and while there are lots of good fixes many of these options haven't been put forward.

2) Republican options for tort reform and increasing competition across state lines were the better fiscal options due primarily to the fact that it would direct people's greed (and sinfulness) toward better pricing, but the trade off is it does not insentivize better care.  Republicans corrupt and greedy in their own right, did not bring about these ideas when they had a chance to because they were more focused on pocketing the lobbyist money that has them fighting so hard right now.

3) The current system will help end some of the abuses and make health care more affordable for everyone, at the same time it will likely cost people more. To say that we are going to provide more care seems logically connected to the fact that more care= more money.  I do think there will be some administrative, lobbying and marketing salaries that will be cut and will have an immediate impact and lower prices in the short term.

The Bad thing is that every system by scientific law, becomes more disorganized. Every institution by human nature becomes more corrupt more abused.  In this light I'm a huge fan of reform, major drastic reform like this as long as we can do it again in about 15-20 years.  Because in 10 years all of the loopholes and ways to manipulate the current law will be exposed and those in power will be abusing a new set of regulations to their gain, thereby negating the effectiveness and efficiency of this bill. 

I also believe that  the abortion language is loose enough that if later generations want to alter it and fund it they will be able to.  I do appreciate Obama's signing of the executive order, I think Stupak has been brave facing heat and criticism from both sides.  I think he's probably right in saying that the republicans just want to politicize the bill further and that if he is confident in the presidential order than I am ok with his position.

The last thing I want to talk about is why does America want to be like Europe?  Europe seems ahead of us in that it is a post Christian region and a place where the State has taken the place of the church providing social services, and care in the name of equality to everyone.  However, Europe is in deep financial trouble.  Much more so than the US.  Iceland went completely bankrupt last year.  Greece would be if it hadn't become part of the Eu and adopted the Euro. Spain, Portugal Italy Ireland are in the same place.  England is on the verge of plunging back into recession.  Europe is a mess, and the answers we come up with are...let's be more like Europe.  People in the states are worried, and with the passage of this bill we likely should be more worried.  So lets all enjoy the shake up in health care, the immediate savings and the way that entrenched power brokers have to release their tyrannical hold on the American people.  But let's also prepare for another long protracted health care debate in 20 years as new public servants find new ways to get their hands on money that is supposed to be by the people and for the people.

Praise God that sin has been conquered in the resurrection of his Son and that we won't need to worry about this forever.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St Patty's Day

Ok figured I'd stop in and give you this.  10 things you didn't know about your favorite Holiday imported from Ireland.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Farewell Vancouver Olympics

The  Olympics are over. The winter Olympics are over and I'm actually kind of sad.  I miss it, and I don't even like winter sports.   But as always the Olympics are about more than the competition, they are about national pride and the global community coming together. 
One thing I've been thinking about is why these Olympics are doing so much better than in 06, in terms of viewers?   I think it has something to do with the recession.   Not the people are saving money,  staying home and watching TV reasons either.  No I think it  has more to do with our national psyche.  Let me explain,

When I was young there was nothing as important as the Olympics, primarily the Summer Olympics as it was a showdown between the USA and the USSR.  It was a civilized sporting event intent on showing global superiority. In 1980 and 84 these tensions led to boycotts of the Olympic games, but in 1988 every victory validated the democratic system over the oppressive communist state, the investment of every American was real. As a kid I'd stay up late and watch hoping in our country, in our best, in our country and in our way of life. 

Since these tension and drama filled competitions the games have lost some luster, there isn't nearly as much on the line, the sports aren't all that mainstream and national pride isn't as important since we don't have as many competitors on the global stage.  Or at least we didn't in 2006.  

Now, in 2010, we have a little bit more of a need to see the US do well. In the middle of this recession we are reeling as a nation, unsure about our future.  We know things are bad and nations like China and India are gaining on us in prosperity and production.  We realize that the system we were once champions and advocates of has let us down and we are now wondering, "Is the USA still the land of dreams?"  I think this question is one reason we tuned in, in such larger numbers.  Even though we could find results on the internet before the events aired, we waited.  We watched, we hoped, we invested.  There were even people who were comparing the Hockey Final to the 1980 Hockey Final when the college kids from the USA beat the best team in the world from Russia.  That event not only had way more political drama, (Canada isn't quite the evil empire that Russia was, eh?) it also featured a much greater disparity in the talent level of the teams.  But here is the key.  America loves an underdog story and in both situations America was the underdog, and so we cheered, we tuned in we hoped in the promise of America.  Basically that promise is if you commit to something you can accomplish anything.  No matter where you come from you can get ahead.
Sadly, that story has come into doubt here in the US.  People see the way the deck is stacked in favor of the rich, people are noticing that the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer and wonder if America will ever be the same, if the promise really exists.  People want to hope and they want real change.  But they don't want to change.  We keep wanting things to get easier, to be handed to us, and we forget that what made America great was our Protestant work ethic.  The fact that we as Christians work not for a paycheck (primarily) instead we work to the best of our ability to please God who has given us gifts and abilities to benefit others and his kingdom.  So let's continue to hope in America, to watch the Olympics, (in 2012) to believe in  the promise of America, but also remember that that promise only works if Christ is working in us.  If his goodness is permeating how we live and act and think.  Let's  keep Christ and not ourselves as central and America will once again be the nation that stood up and shown the light as a city on the hill.

It seems like so long ago that a dark cloud hung over these Olympics as the life of a young Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili was taken due to neglecting on an insanely fast course that had people complaining before the tragedy about it's safety.  But just as life often teaches us from even the darkest times, light and hope break through.  There are numerous stories of individuals within and from outside of the luging community joining together to support the family and memory of Nodar.