Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: Top Albums

The number ten is so last year. Below are my 9 favorite albums 0f the year 2010.

I got this one for free at a conference. Of the ten songs, there are five that I never listen to. The other five are excellent and some of my favorite worship songs.

Imagine if Bruce Springsteen, Wilco and Johnny Cash all raised a kid and made him go to church. This album would be the outcome. DNA tests on McMillan are inconclusive.

Very diverse mix tape highlighting the talents of popular as well as lesser known gospel rappers. A sample from Dr. Eric Mason sets the tone of the record from the very first track. "You don't just do missions. You are a missionary."

Trip Lee gets better with every album. This one seems to have the most commercial appeal and, as is the case with all Reach Records artists, presents the gospel in a very clear and uncompromising manner. If you hate rap, you'll hate this album because well, it's a rap album.

This one is fairly typical for a Jack Johnson record but typical for Jack Johnson is still very good.

Andrew Peterson is such a good songwriter that I can't imagine him releasing an album that I don't like. Unless of course he goes techno and stops writing words for his songs. Don't laugh, others have tried it before.

Mayer said that Continuum was like a record by The Police and this one was like a Neal Young record. That pretty much sums it up. Rough around the edges, not as good as the last one and not for everyone but still a good record. My wife and I saw him in concert during his tour for this album. I'm pretty sure he waved at me from the stage.

These guys have been around for a while but I just came across them this year. They come from North Carolina and their style is quite unique. They sound like The Old Crow Medicine Show would like to sound. Their style is best described as mountain music for a new generation with a touch of punk rock swagger thrown in. Add Rick Rubin at the production helm and you have a masterpiece.

The songs on this album are very well written. I'm not sure where these guys land theologically but most of their songs get you thinking vertically. One example listed below is the song Ill of Want that shows the void that is left from all the world has to offer. Jesus' words to the woman at the well about drinking and never thirsting again come to mind.

I am sick with wanting
And it's evil and it's daunting
How I let everything I cherish lay to waste
I am lost in greed this time, it's definately me
I point fingers but there's no one there to blame

I need for something
Not let me break it down again
I need for something
But not more medicine

I am sick with wanting
And it's evil how it's got me
And everyday is worse than the one before
The more I have the more I think:
I'm almost where I need to be
If only I could get a little more

I need for something
Now let me break it down again
I need for something
But not more medicine

Something has me (Something has me)
Oh something has me (Something has me)
Acting like someone I don't wanna be
Something has me (Something has me)
Oh something has me (Something has me)
Acting like someone I know isn't me
Ill with want and poisoned by this ugly greed

Temporary is my time
Ain't nothin on this world that's mine
Except the will I found to carry on
Free is not your right to choose
It's answering what's asked of you
To give the love you find until it's gone

I need for something
Now let me break it down again
I need for something
But not more medicine

Something has me (Something has me)
Oh something has me (Something has me)
Acting like someone I don't wanna be
Something has me (Something has me)
Oh something has me (Something has me)
Acting like someone I know isn't me
Ill with want and poisoned by this ugly greed
Ill with want and poisoned by this ugly greed

Lecrae doesn't have the convenience that most other rappers have. An artist like Soulja Boy doesn't have to put together a great album. All that's needed is one catchy dance song in the midst of a sea of garbage and sales are through the roof. There's not a song on Rehab that will spark the next dance craze. However, this is a great album.

Rappers like Lecrae are traveling down a very narrow road with endless cliffs on both sides. A misstep to one side and everything just comes across as a moralistic anti-gang and drug crusade. On the other side there is the threat of compromising the message in an effort to gain more commercial appeal. See the duo GRITS for an example of both mistakes.

Lecrae manages his steps wisely by standing firm on gospel truth while at the same time growing in creativity with each new project. Rehab is a continuation of that growth. So no mega dance hit. Just a well-crafted hip-hop album that just so happens to carry a strong gospel message with it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Favorite Books of 2010

I was blessed to be able to read a lot of good books in 2010 and listed below are my favorites from the year. Quite a few of them were written and released before 2010 but I didn't get around to reading them until this year therefore, they make this year's cut. I have included 14 books on the list, not because that number carries some sort of deep spiritual meaning but because I really enjoyed all of these books. For what it's worth, these books are listed in order so the number 14 means that you should buy the book because you would probably like it. The number one means that reading that book will instantly change your life. If you don't read it, there's probably something wrong with you and you should see a doctor.

Happy reading!

This is an excellent short story that shows how money does change things but not always for the best.

In the words of Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Diddy, "Mo money, mo problems."

A detailed explanation of how the Steelers of the 70s were built, why they mattered to their struggling community and what made their rivalry with the Cowboys so great. As an added bonus, the Cowboys are the bad guys in this book so that should help you get through ESPN's endless coverage of that fading empire.

If you, like me, are especially weak in matters of church history this short book is for you. The authors use Edwards' writings as commentary on current evangelical trends and norms in a way that familiarizes the reader with America's greatest theologian by highlighting the relevance of his timeless writings. Also, if for some reason you get invited to one of those parties where people wear knickers and speak latin to each other, you can give this a quick read and you might be able to contribute to the conversation.

If there is anything in your church that is a hinderance to the fulfillment of the Great Commission, it needs to be dealt with quickly and decisively.

See above quote by Mr. P. Diddy regarding the increasing amount of money and it's relation to the amount of problems in one's life.

The people who laugh-off Ron Paul as a crazy old man with weird ideas usually seem to fall into two categories. First, there are those who have heard a lot from the maniacal end of Paul's fan base but have never actually read or listened to the man himself. Second, there are those who are fans/beneficiaries of the very aspects of big government that Paul would eliminate were he given the chance. In politics, everybody's for eliminating waste until it's their sacred cow that's considered waste.

Kevin DeYoung is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. In this book, he breaks down the Heidelberg Catechism into easy to read daily portions that helps readers to clearly see the gospel and its implications from an ancient document they might not otherwise be aware of.

Jesus isn't a member of the GOP.

Settle down democrats, he's not a part of your group either.

When we view the gospel through the lenses of our political leanings and what Fox News (or MSNBC) tells us to believe, we miss the gospel.

There were a lot of good books written about money in 2010 and I think this is the best one. Duren's motivation for missional giving is not based on guilt but on God's sovereignty and grace. God created everything so nothing really belongs to us. What has been given to us is solely a result of God's generosity. Christians who take their faith seriously will consider how they can model the generosity of their Maker and Life-giver and Sustainer.

If you know a Muslim and care anything about explaining the gospel to them in a respectful, accurate and understandable way, you'll read this short book and do what it says.

In Scandalous, D.A. Carson gives a very helpful and easy to understand explanation of the meaning behind the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you've ever found yourself around Easter time asking, "What's the point of all this cross and empty tomb stuff", this one is for you. If you often find yourself at Easter asking, "What's the point behind all of these eggs and bunnies?" this book will not help you. But, that is an excellent question.

Why do some ideas take off and change the world while others are left on the chopping block in some board room? Gladwell gives a well written and even better researched answer to that question. If you are in a leadership position and care about making an impact, you should give this book a shot.

This is an old school classic. Sproul helps us to see that holiness is not just another one of God's attributes but instead it is his essence. For such a weighty topic, this book is very easy to read and very practical.

In my short time on earth and in the church I have seen Christians fall into two traps in regards to matters of justice. On the one end there are those who only care about feeding the hungry, caring for orphans so on and so on at the expense of the gospel. This is what we would commonly refer to as liberalism or the social gospel. At the other end are those who only care about evangelism. Their implied message is, "Here's how to get saved so you can go to Heaven whenever you and your family die from that AIDS thingy I'd rather not do anything about. Good luck." Keller shows us the pitfalls of both extremes but also helps us to see how we can merge what is right about the two and land on the gospel.

As is the case with his other books, Keller has done the church a great service in writing Generous Justice.

Up Next: The Year in Music

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Is About Separation, Loneliness and Despair

Christmas is about separation, loneliness and despair.

I know, I sound like a cross between Ebenezer Scrooge and Friedrich Nietzsche. Believe it or not, this is actually a fact that runs throughout the Biblical storyline. Think about it. Why did Jesus have to come in the first place? If God does everything for a specific purpose, surely the birth of Jesus would be no exception.

From the beginning of the Bible we see a story of humans living, from one degree or another, in separation from God. Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden. Moses wasn’t allowed to look fully at the presence of God. David often wondered where God was. The common strand that runs throughout all of these lives is sin. Sin is a falling short of God’s standard of perfect holiness. Our problem is not that we have a few bad habits here and there. Our problem is that we are born with a disease called sin that separates us from our Creator. That’s where the loneliness and despair come in.

Thankfully, the story doesn’t stop there. Jesus allowed himself to be born into a world that would pierce and crush his body. This baby would grow up to know despair. Jesus took on flesh so that he could dwell among other fleshly creatures only to be rejected by them. He knew loneliness. Jesus left his rightful place in heaven to come to earth and endure the wrath of God in our place. God’s Son knew separation.

So Christmas is about separation, loneliness and despair – for Jesus. He would endure these things on behalf of his people. So now, through repentance from our sins and faith in Immanuel, Christmas is about something else too. For the people Jesus came to save, Christmas is about redemption, communion and joy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

What I Learned During My Summer Vacation

I spent last week with my family in sunny St. Augustine, Florida and had a blast. The week I spend with my wife and kids on the beach is one of my favorite times of the year. What follows is a list of what I learned.

1. As much as it pains me to say it,

I like the Atlantic better than the Gulf.

Saying this reminds me of the first time I tried cornbread with sugar in it and thought, “Hey, this doesn’t taste like burlap” only too feel like I was dishonoring my grandmother if I took one more bite. I haven’t had sweetened cornbread since.

I grew up going to the Gulf. People I grew up with believed that if you lived a good enough life you got to go to Panama City Beach when you died. What’s not to love about the Gulf?

Here’s one thing. It’s the airbrush t-shirt capital of the world. I think there’s a law somewhere on the books that requires any visitor of any gulf beach to purchase an airbrushed t-shirt before leaving. There are bonus points for the picture of sunglasses with your name in one lens and your BFF/boyfriend/dog’s name on the other lens. If you can’t afford the extra ink for the sunglasses a simple letter n sandwiched between two squiggly lines will suffice. See example below.




Panama City

Spring Break


I saw none of that in St. Augustine. If you think that means I got ripped off you should probably stop reading this and get back to Farmville. Instead we went to a beach town that forces you to reflect on a cool theologian from Hippo. Also, there are waves in the Atlantic Ocean. Usually the only time you see waves in the Gulf is when you look behind the lunatic from The Weather Channel standing on the beach telling us how windy it is just before another hurricane makes landfall.

Another great thing about St. Augustine was the lack of current and former frat boys loaded up on PBR and Molly Hatchet looking to impress the ladies with their new tan. The drunken frat boy at the beach is annoying. The drunken 47 year old former frat boy at the beach is criminal. Both seem to prefer the Gulf to the Atlantic and this gives the final and decisive death blow to the Gulf. Sorry Gulf. It was a good run but we’re through.

2. I’m proud of both of my sons.

Last year, my oldest son was scared to jump off the side of the pool while I was holding his hand. This year, he couldn’t stop. He also enjoyed getting obliterated by waves. It’s a real relief to see your son do a non-voluntary cartwheel thanks to a runaway wave only to pop up out of the water begging for more.

My youngest son hated the ocean when he first saw it. By the end of the week he was digging in the mud, trying to catch crabs and surfing. I’m exaggerating on the trying to catch crabs part. He’s also really good at walking up to complete strangers and getting all up on their towels and staring at them like they’re from Alabama. I, on the other hand, am not good at explaining my way out those situations.

Along with the fun of playing in the waves, it’s also a great joy to see your kid’s relief when you tell them they are allowed to do a number one in the ocean. So if you’re ever at the beach and you see my boys standing in the ocean, be sure to drop by and say hello.

3. Walking on the beach with the love of your life

is greatly underrated.

No matter how many times you hear about this kind of thing or read it in sappy poems or see it in cheesy romance films, it still doesn’t get old. It actually exceeds expectations. I don’t really know why but it does. This year we met people from Pittsburgh and wrote messages in the sand for people to read later on. Here’s the one I wrote.

Please Help Me!!!

Marsha made me erase it before I could leave a license plate number.

4. Northern Florida is for sale.

Some woman named Jean is the seller and she has billboards up all over northern Florida. I wish I was rich so I could buy Gainesville and turn it in to the north Florida extension of the University of Georgia.

5. Southern Georgia is the billboard capital of America.

You may not know this but there is a law in many south Georgia counties that requires billboards to be no further apart than 37 inches. Also, they must be yellow, contain grammatical errors and every fifth one must have something to do with the adult entertainment industry. This has done wonders for the landscape down that way. Highway Advertising Engineering is currently the most popular major at Valdosta State University. Go Blazers!

6. Tough economic times

call for creative advertising.

The billboard (yes this was located in south Georgia) read, “Heated Pool”. Unfortunately, this sign failed to include a translation for the word “heated”. When we drove a bit further we saw a concrete pond covered by a green house that was at least 20 years old. No one was using the heated pool at the moment we drove by.

7. Tough economic times

call for small businesses to be versatile.

I learned this lesson in south Georgia as well. I drove by a huge pickem-up truck (local vernacular) pulling a huge trailer. The logo on the side of the trailer said “Victory Lane Mobile Chapel”, and then just below the logo, “and racing team”. This is a lesson for all churches that have fallen on hard economic times. Take it on the road and start a racing team on the side. I hear a Victory Lane cosmetics line is coming in the fall.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


What should Christians make of the Psalms that ask God to curse other people? Rob Plummer gives a short explanation of how to interpret these Psalms as well as how these Psalms display the gospel.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Five Lessons I Learned at Church Last Sunday

The guy coming in halfway through my sermon wasn’t interested in looking for a place to sit.

I notice lots of things while I’m preaching: the sleepers, the doodlers, and the people that leave early. These things can be discouraging but rarely are they distracting. Maybe almost a decade of speaking in front of continuously texting teenagers has prepared me to look boldly in the face of distraction and snicker. I should have been in The Men Who Stare at Goats.

But what happened last Sunday really distracted me. When this particular guest came in, I assumed he would quietly pull up a pew on the back row. By the time he was halfway down our center aisle I ruled that one out. Maybe he’s related to one of the ladies on the front row and is coming down to surprise grandma and enjoy the last few minutes of church. I ruled that one out when he found his way up the steps and onto our platform where he gently took hold of my left arm to whisper in my ear.

Maybe it’s because I was preaching at the time but I was in full theological mode when he came up on the stage. No thoughts of the UFC. That came about a day later. I was expecting this to be somebody that stayed up all night with Jesus watching Benny Hinn and just had to show up to tell us all what he learned. I immediately thought of the order of our worship service and was prepared to rebuke him back to Paul and Jan land. Instead, another rebuke was in order.

“I want to talk to one of the women in your church.”

Sometimes people say things to you that require much prayer, soul-searching and wisdom-seeking. This wasn’t one of those times. I told this obviously distraught stranger that there was no way he could do that and to sit down somewhere so I could talk to him at the end of the service. Thankfully, he cooperated. I then continued to finish out a sermon to a bunch of people who had no idea what I was saying because they were too busy worrying about what the guy on the front row had up his sleeve, or in his pocket, taped to is chest or strapped around his ankle. Who can blame them?

Churches need the leadership of many godly men.

Providentially, I was preaching on Peter’s command to the elders in 1 Peter 5 when our friend paid us a visit. My point was that the biblical way for churches to be run is not by committees or power hungry, wanna-be CEO pastors. Instead, the pastor should work with other men to lead and direct the church. When I finished preaching, closed things out and went down to meet this man, I got to see several men who, as usual, stepped up in that leadership role. I think there were men around the entire room, ready to step in when needed. It reminded me of those wrestling matches on TV when I was a kid where a bunch of wrestlers stood around the outside of the ring with leather straps to keep one or both of the actual wrestlers from running away. The only differences this time were that the men in my church were wearing the leather straps instead of holding them and they were not wearing tights. At least not that I could tell.

So all of these men were on guard in case something went down. But they were also there for something else. When I finished talking and praying with the stranger, several of these men embraced him, cried with him or counseled him. There were men who were just there to serve, men who were there to instruct and counsel and men who did both. More than ever, I saw my sermon text played out immediately after I was done preaching it.

The after is much worse than the during.

It’s a lot like when you’re first learning how to drive and one day you're acting like an idiot behind the wheel and almost drive under a gas tanker. You don’t think much of it right at the moment but about 45 seconds after the fact your heart is somewhere up in your esophagus and beating six times faster than it should be.

It was the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit that pulled me through this weird incident and allowed me to finish the task at hand without developing a chain-smoking habit. Sure, we could point to adrenalin and I think that’s a very real help in those types of situations and even in mine but even adrenalin falls under the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

It was also the grace of God that allowed me to have the kind of fear that I felt two hours after all of this. That’s when people started calling and visiting to check on me and publicly thanking God for His protection. That’s when I really realized, “Hey, this has happened a lot of times in churches and not ended so well.” It was God’s grace that not only protected all of us but opened our eyes to things we need to do better. And that brings us to number four.

Churches must take security seriously.

I feel like such a wimp for saying that. I imagine Jim Elliot, Nate Saint and every other Christian martyr looking down on me with a frown. I’m pretty sure that’s not the case but it still doesn’t stop me from thinking about it.

The reality is that the world is getting more and more crazy and churches are some of the most vulnerable places in our society. That’s why Towaliga Baptist Church will be relocating to a beautiful, used, slightly damaged compound in Waco, Texas.

Okay, maybe not.

Instead, I do feel that all churches must be strategic and equipped when it comes to security. Most churches in the south are equipped. You’d be hard pressed to find a man in church that’s not carrying a gun, knife, throwing star, bow staff or tack hammer. But all of that is worthless if there’s no strategy. All the weapons in the world will only be reactionary if there is not a strategic plan for security. I never thought I’d be thinking about this kind of thing but I am and if you are in a leadership position at your church I hope you are too.

Never underestimate the power of a hurting heart.

I live and minister in a part of the United States that puts way too much emphasis on walking the aisle. I truly think that many here believe in salvation by grace through aisle walking. This trend makes evangelism very difficult because so many people think they are okay with God because they walked down an aisle. Others feel they can’t get anywhere in a relationship with God because they are too scared to walk down an aisle at the end of a service to say a prayer. In the south, aisle walking is both highly reverenced and highly feared.

I share that bit of context to highlight what kind of grief this man was enduring. Not only was he not ashamed to walk down an aisle, he was willing to do it in a room full of strangers during the middle of a sermon. Again, this aisle walking did nothing for him but I think that it does show just how broken this man’s heart was. When I was in seminary, a professor told me that there is a broken heart on every pew. He forgot to tell me that some of those broken hearts bypass the pews all together and come straight up on stage with you.

That’s what I learned at church last week and I’m really looking forward to this week.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

John Mark McMillan | Death In His Grave

Here's the chorus.

"On Friday a Thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The man Jesus Christ
Laid death in His grave."

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Lie of Free Love and Safe Sex

"Seeking to 'free' sexual love from its old communal restraints, we have 'freed' it also from its meaning, its responsibility, and its exaltation. And we have made it more dangerous. 'Sexual liberation' is as much a fraud and as great a failure as the 'peaceful atom.' We are now living in a sexual atmosphere so polluted and embittered that women must look on virtually any man as a potential assailant, and a man must look on virtually any woman as a potential accuser. The idea that this situation can be corrected by the courts and the police only compounds the disorder and the danger. And in the midst of this acid rainfall of predation and recrimination, we presume to teach our young people that sex can be made 'safe' - by the use, inevitably, of purchased drugs and devices. What a lie! Sex was never safe, and it is less safe now than it has ever been."

Wendell Berry

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why I'll Miss Lost

I enjoy a good television show. I always have. For many in my circles, this is an abomination.

"What kind of a knuckle-dragging cave man watches TV when there are so many books to be read and people to talk to and work to be done!"

I love reading and being around people and preparing for sermons but I also enjoy watching television shows and movies that are well done and thought provoking. So count me in the cave man category. If you happen to be in the Kill Your Television crowd that sees something as tame as The Andy Griffith Show as work of Satan himself you should stop reading this now. Besides, what are you doing looking at my blog?

Television, like most everything else in our world, has its place in moderation. Moving in excess either way can lead to legalism or license. Too much of any electronic media will turn your brain to mush, remove you from the real world and lead to idolatry. There are many Christians who do not own TVs and that is good. However, these people must be on the lookout against isolation. There are many more Christians who enjoy TV and we have to be on the lookout against over-consumption. The pitfalls lie on both sides of the fence.

In our house, we are very selective about what we watch on TV. The TV is never just on for background noise. One of the shows that made it through our invisible filter is, in my opinion, the most well written character driven show on television - Saved by the Bell. No wait, I mean Lost.

The final episode of Lost aired on Sunday and I liked it. It did not end with all of our questions answered and it was a bit of a messy ending that created even more questions. But I think that this is where so-called Christian films need to learn a lesson. After sitting through Facing the Giants, I didn’t care what happened to the coach and his family and his team. There are two reasons for my apathy. First, the script was not compelling and the characters played more like points to a sermon than they did people. It was as if I had no investment in the characters so why should I care what happened to them.

Also, the end of the movie answered every single one of those questions. The multiple trophies on the mantle and the kids in the background and the new truck pretty much left us with no remaining questions. Ooops. I forgot to add the term spoiler alert at the beginning of this paragraph. My bad.

The great thing about the gospel is that when things end up messy and situations leave us with more questions than answers we know that all of our questions and searching and doubts find their fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Of course, Lost did not come to that conclusion but it is interesting when a show with polar bears in the jungle hits closer to reality than one about football players or firefighters.

So as you can tell I enjoyed watching Lost. What follows are a few other reasons why.

My Wife

For the past six years I would spend an hour a week watching Lost with my wife. In that time, we’ve lived in three different cities, worked several different jobs and had two kids. A lot changed during that six year run but I am so thankful for the constant friendship I have with my wife. I’ll miss our conversations the next morning over breakfast where we try to figure out who Desmond represents or who the good guys are. I love my wife and I am thankful for all that we share together. We have only been married for not quite seven years but almost all of my favorite memories involve her. Lost is just one of those memories.

The Script

Lost was a weird show and there was a lot that did not make sense. I’ll never deny that. The show certainly isn’t for everyone. However, it is nice to see a show that was actually written and done so with some thought. Almost everything on television is a contest or a sneak peak into someone else’s so called reality. Lost was a story that didn’t pretend to be real. Yet somehow it seems more real than the song and dance competitions and high school romance documentaries that have taken over prime time television. On a side note, I still believe that most reality shows do have scripts. You just aren’t supposed to know about it. You didn’t hear it from me.

The Vertical

I watch and react to Lost sort of like I listen and react to U2. I don’t know Bono’s thoughts on the Trinity or atonement of Christ. I don’t even know if he’s a believer. I hope he is. But when I listen to U2 I can’t help but think vertically. There is something about their music that makes me wonder what it has to do with the gospel.

Lost is the same way for me. As you can tell from the final sequence of the final episode, the writers are not Christ-followers but the themes they included during the show caused me to think about and discuss with friends the parallel themes of redemption and grace and sin. Watching Lost made me think and talk about my thoughts.

The Worldview

Watching Lost reminded me that the world is full of people who are not like me and don’t think or believe like me. The final episode was sort of an all roads lead to home, new age view of the afterlife. I was sad when I saw that, not because it didn’t end the way I wanted it too but because billions of people actually believe that living a good life gets you a good life when your current one is over.

The gospel reminds us that none of us can live a good enough life to inherit eternal life. It is only through the perfect life of Christ, His death in our place as the subject of God’s wrath and his resurrection from the grave that we can enjoy eternal life. Our faith must be in Him through repentance, not in our friends and our efforts during the journey. Lost reminds me of the lostness of the world I live in.

The Conviction

Lost was a character driven show. It was impossible to consistently watch the show without becoming emotionally invested. You wanted to see Jack stop striving for perfection and Charlie get off of the heroin. But at the end of the day, Jack and Charlie are just characters.

I’m reminded that there are real people in my church and community that are seeking salvation through good works. I’m reminded that every week I preach to people who are being eaten alive by addiction’s empty promises. Shame on me for being more heart broken over a character on television than a real person in my city or church. Lost reminds me that the sin and brokenness represented by the island are only glimpses of the real pain and depravity in the world.

So if you missed out on Lost you may be glad that you did. But if you’re okay with TV shows that are different from the norm and make you think you should try Lost. I’m sure a box set of the entire series will be out in a few months. Start selling blood platelets now and by August you should be able to afford a copy.

"See you in another life."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Love: Easier Said Than Done

Here's a quote from Russell Moore.

Some Christians rattle on and on about “The Family” while neglecting their kids. Some Christians “fight” for “social justice” by “raising consciousness” about “The Poor” while judging their friends on how trendy their clothes are. Some Christians pontificate about “The Church” while rolling their eyes at the people in their actual congregations. Some Christians are dogmatic about “The Truth” while they’re self-deceived about their own slavery to sin.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Beastie Boys vs Martin Luther

A while back, Beastie Boy Adam Yauch (aka MCA) found out that he had mouth cancer. Things weren't looking good for a while but Yauch appears to be making a good recovery. Here's how he says he's dealing with his cancer.

"a few friends and i are meditating at the same time twice a day. 9:30am and 6:30pm eastern standard time, for about an hour and half.

we are picturing smashing apart all of the cancer cells in the world.

we are visualizing taking the energy away from the cancer, and then sending it back at the cancer as lightening bolts that will break apart the DNA and RNA of the cells. if you have the time, please join us in whipping up this lightening storm. mind over matter......

if you prefer to sit then sit, but if you are not used to meditating, or sitting quietly doesn't sound like fun, put on some music and dance while you do the visualization, and if you want to do it at some other time, or picture curing some other illness that's fine too. yoko will be joining the meditation by visualizing all of us dancing with joy to celebrate the world without cancer. all variations are welcome. this is really just being done with a wish for all beings to be cured of all illnesses and to find true lasting happiness. i'll also be saying prayers for the earthquake victims in tibet, so join in on that if you can too. please feel free to pass this onto anyone who you think may find it interesting.

with all my love,

adam yauch

An even longer while back, Martin Luther found out that his daughter Magdalena had the plague. He prayed ferverently for her healing. At her funeral, as men were driving nails into her coffin, this is what Luther said.

"Hammer away! On dooms day she'll rise again."

Although both of these quotes show faith, only one shows faith of any substance. Yauch is searching for "all beings to be cured of all illnesses" on this earth through human effort. It is as if he is saying, "If we could just get more people to meditate then we could all enjoy our nice utopia." Throw in Check Your Head as a soundtrack and you're set.

Luther knew that none of us can escape the painful effects of death on this earth no matter how hard we try. He finds his hope, not in greater works of meditation power or even in greater faith but in the work that has already been done by Christ. The Bible never promised that Jesus' followers would live lives free of disease and suffering on this earth but it does promise that they would live without those pains when Jesus returns to rule the earth that He will make new (Romans 8:18-25; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). It is at this point that those who have repented and put their faith in Christ will be able to "dance with joy" over not just a world without cancer but the eternal and glorious and pure rule of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pray for Adam Yauch's mouth to be healed of cancer. More importantly, pray that Adam Yauch and the countless other people you know and don't know who are wasting their faith on hopeless sources that cannot save would repent and believe in the gospel so that their hearts can be healed of the damning effects of sin.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Marks of the Messenger

Last week I was at a conference for pastor's called Together for the Gospel. One of the perks of this conference is the massive amount of books they give away. I think I came home with 27. One of those was Marks of the Messenger by J. Mack Stiles.

In this book, Stiles writes, "Te be a healthy evangelist means to love brothers and sisters. This is a spiritual reality that has huge ramifications, so if you have any desire to be a healthy evangelist, move beyond thinking of our Christian community as a self-help tool and move toward what Jesus desires in Christian community: observable love and unity among true believers."

Stiles point is clear and simple. If you want your church to reach the lost, your church has to love each other. Stiles goes on to give 16 ways that churches can reach the lost through love and unity within the body. They are paraphrased below.

1. Go to a church that takes the gospel seriously and presents it clearly (Hebrews 10:25).
2. Take membership seriously.
4. Even if they pay more, turn down jobs that will compete with your devotion to the church.
5. Plan family vacations around your church's schedule. Perhaps consider using a vacation to do a short term missions trip with another family.
6. Develop a church covenant that expresses the love and devotion that must be present.
7. Use your house as a hospitality extension of the church building.
8 Practice church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17).
9. Respect the authority of the church (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).
10. Be quick to ask for and receive forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32; Matthew 5:23-24).
11. Take care of those with physical needs in the church (Romans 12:13).
12. Pray for one another (Ephesians 6:18).
13. Have sympathy for other believers (Romans 12:15).
14. Disciple one another. Don't be afraid to ask each other, "How are things spiritually?"
15. Do evangelism together (Philippians 1:27; Acts 2:42-47).

Some of these may seem quite a bit unusual but I think that they are more faithful to the Bible than telling strangers on the street, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life" or, even worse, doing nothing at all.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Random Thoughts

I'm a pretty random kind of a guy. Here are some of my random thoughts from the week.

Signs That This Aint Your Grandpa's Easter Egg Hunt
1. It's your responsibility to hide the eggs and you don't see fit to remember how many eggs you hid. Check.

2. When the lady in charge asks you at the end if all the eggs have been found you hope for the best and give her the thumbs up. Check.

3. After the kids find what appears to be all of the eggs, they have to gather all of the eggs into a pot to be distributed evenly among everyone. Check. Joseph Stalin would have loved this Easter egg hunt. It'll take me a year to deprogram my son after this one.

The sight of next years hunt

4. You leave early and upon backing out of your parking space hear the sound that happens when a truck tire rolls over a forgotten and uncounted Easter egg. Check.

Reality Television?
I affectionately refer to one of my wife's favorite shows as "The Worst Show in the History of Ever". You might be more familiar with it's given name, The Biggest Loser. In case you're not here's the synopsis. Ten or so morbidly obese people spend a few months on some ranch with over the top personal trainers and try to get down to a manageable size. Each week, one person is voted off the show. The last one standing wins a big bag of money that he can then take home to spend on a doughnut hamburger at the state fair so that he can be invited back for next season. It's not irresponsibility, it's job security.

"It's my off day."

When The Biggest Loser is on TV it's sort of like driving by a train wreck or being in a room with Saved by the Bell reruns on. You know it's going to be bad but you just can't make yourself look away.

Here's one scenario that seems to happen on each episode. One of the contestants has such a hard time getting past that 2 minute wall on the treadmill that they have an emotional breakdown. At this point, one of the trainers rushes over to trade in the physical therapy for the emotional kind. It's at this moment that every contestant says the exact same thing.
"I've just been putting others first my whole life. It's time for me to start thinking about myself first."

What happens to you if you think of others too much

Oh really? So let me get this straight. You've spent your whole life going to nursing homes, helping orphans, volunteering with some adult literacy program and low and behold, the next thing you know you tip the scales at 714 pounds. Man, who knew that a life of servanthood could take such a toll on the body. Lottie Moon and Mother Theresa must have weighted 1000 pounds each.

Communication Breakdown
Some lady called me this week and left the following message.

"Well, I'm gonna hafta go head and cawl you back."

That's it. No name and no number.

I can't wait for her to call back.

Most likely candidate

That's enough randomness for now.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Southern Baptists and Country Music

In an interview in The Towers, Russell Moore explains the link between Southern Baptists and country music.

"The difference between Cash and Rascal Flatts is the difference between a prophetic, marginalized Baptist witness and the slick packaged product of Southern Baptist success."

Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Unpardonable Sin

You've probably worried, at least once in your life, that you've committed some sin that Jesus wont or can't forgive. If so, you'll find this article from Ed Welch very helpful and encouraging.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Jeremy Williams' New House

A year or so ago, my friend Jeremy Williams shared his testimony with our church. Jeremy is a husband, father of two and the head coach of the Greenville Patriots football team. Jeremy's young son is paralyzed from the waist down and Jeremy has been suffering from ALS for two years now. Through all of this, Jeremy has remained faithful to Christ and has served as an example to many of how to remain Christ-centered while suffering.

This week, the folks at ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition decided to give the Williams family a new home. They began demolition and reconstruction this week and the show is expected to air in a month or two.

Pray that the gospel would continue to spread as outlets like Extreme Makeover tell Jeremy's story. Pray for Jeremy and his son to be healed. Pray for the folks swinging hammers this week in Pine Mountain that do not already know Jesus to repent and come to faith in Christ as they do this great work for Jeremy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Aiming at the Wrong Target

Is it possible for a church to be socially minded and evangelistically driven and still get it all wrong?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

We've Come a Long Way Since Pong

What Jesus says about hell:

"And if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell." Matthew 5:27-30

What a liberal theologian says about hell:

"Unending torment speaks to me of sadism, not justice." John Wenham

What a televangelist says about hell:

"A person is in hell when he has lost his self-esteem." Robert Schuller

What a video game says about hell:

Wow! This version of the promo from EA has been pulled by CBS and a tamer version will be aired during the Super Bowl. No word yet on whether they will keep the clip of the three headed snake vomiting. Have fun explaining that one to the kids. However, if the Oakland Raiders ever make it to the Super Bowl again this would be a very appropriate commercial.

Often, Jesus is presented as a fun-loving hippy that knows how to please a crowd and is really good at avoiding controversial subjects. This, however, is not the Jesus of the Bible. The real Jesus, as presented in the Bible, speaks frequently of hell and he doesn't present it as a fairy tale or a really bad day. Instead, Jesus explains hell as a place of eternal torment and separation from God (Matthew 8:11-12; 25:31-46).

The liberal theologian misses this because he considers the concept of a real hell to be unjust. The televangelist misses it because he compares it to having a really bad day. The video game ad misses Jesus' point because it relegates hell to a marketing ploy that pushes the envelope to sell a few games. In essence, each misses the point of what Jesus, and the rest of scripture, teaches about hell because they fail to understand the weight of human sin in contrast to the holiness of God.

To say that a just God would never send someone to hell is to misunderstand both justice and sin. It's sort of like asking how a just judge could send a convicted killer to prison. Being nice is not always the same as being just.

To say that hell is the loss of self-esteem is an attempt to shovel sand onto the flames of hell. It is a selfish thing to say because it removes Jesus Christ from His rightful place as the center of all things and replaces him with my emotional needs. Who needs Jesus to escape the flames of hell when a quick pep talk from Dr. Phil will do?

As Christians we must preach, teach and talk about hell as it is presented in the Bible. We are in the midst of a culture that has seen hell explained away as a cool concept for a video game or man's failure to understand how great he truly is. There is more to salvation than simply not going to hell. True discipleship has no room for Get Out of Hell Free cards. However, hell is a part of the salvation story. The Church would do well to recognize the foolishness of looking forward to eternal life with Christ while not caring about friends and neighbors and strangers who are on their way to a real hell with real fire.

Now you know what to say to your kid when he asks you about the three-headed snake throwing up in the video game commercial during the Super Bowl.