Posts Tagged ‘Jesus

02
Dec
09

Losing My Religion?

Once when I was covering the pastor-on-call an email came through from a church member asking about whether or not we can lose our salvation. Here is my answer:

We believe that once saved, always saved.  This is known by the term “perseverance of the Saints.”  I.e. if someone is saved, and they persevere to the end of their life here on earth as saved, they are truly born again.  We hold to a reformed theology on this subject, that a truly born again individual cannot lose their faith.  John 6:38-40 shows that “every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  Another scripture is John 10:27-29 where we read “…I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish…and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”  Many more passages exist to support the view of the perseverance of the Saints including Romans 8:1 and 8:30.  Ephesians 1 says we are “sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit” and it is the “guarantee of our inheritance.”  There are so many other passages to support this perspective.  There are people who are close to the church that appear as if they have a genuine saving faith, but actually don’t. The best example I can think of is Judas who apparently exhibited saving faith but ultimately was not truly saved (Jesus called him the “devil”).  And also Jesus says in Matthew 7 “Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord” shall enter the kingdom…”  If a person exhibits behavior that does not line up with one of a saved, and sanctified individual, it calls into question whether or not they were truly saved to begin with.  As I said, we do not believe that you can lose your salvation.  The Armenian view that you can lose your salvation often uses Hebrews 6:4-6 as the main basis for their argument: 

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away,to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned – Hebrews 6:4-8 (NKJV)

In this scriptural example (reading on through verses 7 and 8), those who receive final judgment are compared to land which bears no fruit but rather bears thorns and thistles.  It appears that the author of Hebrews is referring to fruitlessness, and in scripture we see this as a sign of someone who is not a believer (see Matt 3:8-10; 7:15-20; 12:33-35). I.e. if you bear no fruit, you are likely not saved.  In John 15 Jesus says “every branch of mine that bears no fruit…” showing that there are branches that are fruitless.  Armenians use this verse to imply that branches that bear no fruit are still true branches on the vine.  We would say they are counterfeits. The term “enlightened” in verse 4 of the Hebrews passage simply means that they understand the truth of the Gospel, not that they have entered into a saving faith.  The argument for losing your faith is just not convincing enough when we have so much overwhelming evidence to support the reformed view.

27
Aug
09

Acts of Micro-Good Samaritanism

Yesterday just as I pulled up to a stoplight I noticed an SUV pulling a trailer and from this trailer was about 8 feet of chain dragging behind it. Right about that time a Harley pulled up next to me, the guy parked his bike, jumped off, fixed the chain, got back on his bike and we all pulled away. The guy on the bike didn’t say anything to the driver of the SUV. I considered that maybe they were a pair driving on the road together, but then within a few hundred feet he turned off the highway not to be seen again. Miles later the SUV made his turnoff as well, apparently having reached his destination, unaware that someone had done something kind for him, and that his life was improved as a result. He would never know it was even done, or the name or face of the guy who did it. The road was made much safer by this biker’s act of what I call micro-Good Samaritanism.

I wondered how long that chain had been dragging, and how many people had seen it, but done nothing. Nothing to warn the driver or even, as this good citizen of the road did, actually make the effort to resolve a potentially dangerous situation. He took no credit, did not even want it. He just performed a good deed for his fellow man.

We read the story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible, in the book of Luke, chapter 10. This is one of the stories recorded that Jesus himself told. The setting is a lawyer who is asking Jesus some questions regarding going to Heaven. The lawyer knows he is to love his “neighbor,” but he asks, “who is my neighbor?” At its core the story is about human kindness and mercy. Jesus defines the concept of loving-your-neighbor-as-yourself in a parable about a guy who was mugged and is lying beat up on the side of the road. Some people walked by the man who was in dire need of medical help (including a priest!), but only the Samaritan stopped, and went out of his way to help him. Later in the story we see that he cannot stay to continue to help the man so he pays for the services and departs. It is obvious the Samaritan was busy and like many of us, was on his way somewhere that was important to him. Yet he stopped and helped, sacrificing time and money for someone who was a cultural enemy.

I am not a big fan of the term “random acts of kindness.” The word “random” is popular today, it’s one of those trendy in-fashion terms that come and go. The challenge I have is that “random” implies lack of intentionality. I suggest we make it a lifestyle to take time out of our lives, the small investment of getting outside of yourself and your world, to perform intentional acts of kindness to our fellow man.

We were on a road trip once driving through a canyon highway, and I saw a car parked on the side of the highway near the road edge where a river ran deep in the canyon. I saw a little girl sitting on the ground behind the car and some adults standing some distance away. The Holy Spirit spoke to me saying one word: “stop.” I passed the car and slowly rolled to a halt some distance ahead (I had Dina and my two very young children in the car and wanted to survey the lay of the land first). What I discovered was that a woman had thrown herself from a moving car, in distress and despair, trying to commit suicide. She was now about half way down the cliff face perched on a rock. Her family members and friends were milling about, shouting, etc. not sure what to do. The little 5-year old girl was her daughter. The 911 call required a drive up the canyon in order to get service. In the end, many calls of encouragement and hope to the woman on the cliff (she wanted to finish the job by jumping again), a valiant State Trooper, a length of rope, and loving on the little girl, ended the situation with mom being reunited with her daughter in tears and many thanks from the family. We left and continued our trip.

As we drove away, I wondered how many people had driven past on the highway and did not stop? Consider this as you go about your day today, will you be intentional about spreading the love of Christ in small ways where you may not even be known, but would bring glory to God in Heaven? What act of micro-Good Samaritanism can you do for someone else, just by opening up your eyes a little bit more to the world around you?

24
May
09

The Dark (K)night – part 2

Last year I posted on the subject of the state of our culture and this was motivated by the brouhaha related to what at the time was a blockbuster new movie, the latest in the Batman franchise, The Dark Knight.  This post eventually has become the 5th most popular ever on this blog and stirred up a lot of feedback from people (on and off line).  I had not seen the movie when I wrote my original thoughts.  A few weeks ago I actually saw The Dark Night and I wrote a reply to my own original post as an update.  Read on…

I was recently on a trip and a friend loaned me “The Dark Knight” to watch on the plane. Having written this post several months back but never seeing the movie, my curiosity was piqued. I decided to pop it in and watch it on my laptop.

I had to stop the movie since the flight was over and normally I would not have finished it because I wasn’t really enjoying it that much. But then I recalled that this original posting got a lot of traffic and lots of conversation, and honestly, some people were a little upset at me. I decided to watch it to it’s conclusion so I could post this follow up.

My first impression as I watched is that the movie wasn’t as sadistic as it was originally reported to have been. Yes, the Joker was quite disturbing. They did a fine job with his makeup and Heath Ledger did a fantastic job acting quite insane, psychopathic, intelligent, and maniacal. But were elements of this movie “heinous” as I mentioned in my original post? Was this really “Saw-light?” (I will say parenthetically that the comparison to “Saw” is not unfair since the morality choice/murder/sicko-methodology combo thing would not be in The Dark Knight if it were not for that series of very popular films.)

I’ll start with positives and a cool-factor. As mentioned before, Heath Ledger did a fine job acting. And the Harvey Dent/Two face character was also well done. Honestly, the Two Face situation was a welcome surprise in the movie even if I felt that just because they *could* show us graphically how disturbing he became, I wondered why they really needed to (back to the whole should-have-been-rated-R discussion). How can you ever really go wrong with Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman? And Christian Bale is an acceptable Batman, really the best the franchise history I suppose. And the cell-phone radar thing was a really cool special effect and an idea that worked.

Fast forward to the end of the movie; my first impression had changed. I had witnessed a man cut open and a cell phone/detonation device sewn into his stomach, then blown up remotely killing everyone in the jail/police station with him. I had seen people given a moral choice in pulling a trigger and killing hundreds of men, women, and children on a ferry boat before the people on the other boat made the same choice to kill them (yes, they didn’t do it, but I will point out that the vote taken was overwhelmingly in favor of doing it). We saw a hospital blown to smithereens room by room and during that time we do not know if the patients are in their rooms or not. And yes, there are the multiple times when the Joker takes his knife and slices open people’s faces just like was apparently done to him (though we never really know how or who did it, another dangling plot line). On this last point I heard people say “yeah but you didn’t see it on screen” which basically blows me away. In my most “duh” statement I have ever written on this blog: just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean we don’t know it was done. Do you really need to see it for it to be corrupt or if it’s off screen do we somehow place it in a redemptive category? I vote not since our minds can fill in the blanks.

I didn’t like things about this movie that I guess others either a) overlook or b) somehow expect in a superhero movie: the plot line is thin and strays, I think the hero (Batman) is 2 dimensional, people pop up when you least expect with no explanation of how they got there, villains make silly choices, guys who should know better don’t, the police chief is always made out to be bumbling, Batman’s mysterious code of honor is cloaked in mysterious dialogue of mush, most of the action sequences are too dark to understand what is actually happening, and dangling plots abound. Normal fare for a superhero movie unless it’s named “Spiderman.”

There are movies I have seen that delve into the depravity of the human condition and have sparked interest in discussing redemption. Batman did not do any of that but only left lasting impressions of gross images.

In the end, I walked away with a “whatever” personal experience. The movie was not that good and the really bad guy (the Joker) didn’t get what he deserved, the really good guy (Harvey Dent) didn’t get what he deserved, and the “good” guy (Batman) didn’t get what he deserved (which is somehow where people come off calling him a “Christ figure”). But maybe America got what it deserved which was another movie with a bunch of Satan in it since we seem to love it so much.

Some say Heath Ledger went insane portraying the Joker and his death was the result of the role. It seems Mr. Ledger got so close to the devil it likely killed him. I ask you to ask yourself and the Holy Spirit why you would get close to anything that has that potential? Kind of sounds like the forbidden fruit conundrum.

09
Mar
09

U2 “No Line on the Horizon” Album Review

Okay so today I went to R&R Coffee here in the Black Forest and got a cup of Forest Mist Dark Roast (a signature blend…mmm), then I went next door to the Post Office and mailed back a washing machine part we didn’t need, I went to PetCo and bought some fish for my tropical tank, and I went to Target and bought the new album by U2 on CD.  Not a bad set of errands.  PetCo’s doing 5 for $5 tropical fish, R&R Coffee has a self service on drip that is less expensive and better than anyone around, and Target had the CD on sale.  The only thing I didn’t get a deal on was the washer pump (waste of shipping $!).  Can’t win em’ all, but in the process I got the new offering from one of rock’s most enduring bands.

First I will say that listening to Bono sing is worth the price of admission alone no matter the quality of the album.  What is that price you ask?  iTunes carries it for $9.99 album only or $17.99 which includes an hour-long movie featuring the music of the band as a part of the download (by Anton Corbjin who is the band’s favorite photographer).  Not bad.  If you prefer hard copy (and for those who lament the lost pleasure of album artwork who doesn’t?) Target has it on sale this week: album alone is $9.99 as well or you can get a cool deluxe edition for $21.99 which includes the album plus a poster, a mini book, and finally a download of aforementioned movie.  If you really want to go crazy you can get the whole thing bundled with DVD version of the movie for $64.99.  $9.99 seemed like the right choice for me although I will admit I had the deluxe edition in my hand for more than a few minutes.

Okay so with a 30+ year history behind them, who doesn’t like U2?  It used to be if someone said U2 was lame folks would give them the luxury of personal opinion, but today saying U2 is lame is like calling Bob Dylan a two-bit horseshoe farrier. Yeah, you would be called crazy.  Here’s my overarching assessment of their output over the years: they consistently outshine every other alternative band in history but they run out of gas 75% through almost every release.  It’s true.  I mean, you really have to be a major fan of their creative muse to like “Mothers of the Disappeared” for example (from “Joshua Tree”).  But 75% of U2 is 100% better than 99% of the artists in the world so who’s complaining?  If we have to suffer “Please” we still get “Do You Feel Love” (from “Pop”) or if we have to endure “Peace on Earth” we still get to revel in “Kite” (from “All That You Can’t Leave Behind”).  All that to say I always expect to enjoy most of a new U2 album, but plan to be bored or let down by a chunk of it (kind of like a new Hillsong release or the skillets at Village Inn).

For this effort they ran through a series of producers (big names like Rick Rubin) and finally landed with three guys who have consistently delivered for them over the years: Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno and a few by Steve Lillywhite.  So expect the album to have some sounds that hearken your favorite U2 stuff from previous years.

I scanned a review that said something about U2 getting criticism for their last album, “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” because they didn’t risk enough on it and this album was theoretically a response to that critique but I don’t hear it.  It sounds very much like “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” era U2 which is not to say it’s bad, I just don’t get the whole exploring-new-territory thing.  U2 on this album sounds like we would expect U2 to sound.  Anthemic, bluesy, and pulsating (all that’s missing from early U2 is the passion).  That’s why we listen to them over and over right?  U2 is a sonic soundtrack for our lives.  Our lives in the car, in the kitchen, on the bike, at work, on TV, gosh you can place U2 just about anywhere and it plays well.  So expect the familiar and that’s okay, well better than okay, it’s downright good.

“Get on Your Boots” was the first single released (to mixed reviews) and I was excited because it sounded like a band that was in fact looking to reinvent.  But as track #6 it sounds oddly out of character with the album up until that point.  The new fresh sound comes only after familiar territory.  Funny, as I listened the first time as each track came on it sounded like a different U2 album from the past.  I wonder if this was intentional by the band. Almost a retrospective without being retrospective.  I actually spent a little time linking each song to a previous U2 work, but I will spare you the list due to the length of this post.  Try it yourself, it’s fun.

As a leadoff cut “No Line on the Horizon” is a dud.  The title suggests that the band is looking forward with no boundaries which implies uncharted waters.  Can anyone else hear the blatant nod to “Until the End of the World” in the guitar riff?  That’s from 1990 and it’s funny because that song was written for a movie soundtrack where they were supposed to try and write in a style of where music would be 10 years from the writing.  They should have started the album with “Magnificent” which really shines as a classic U2 groove and overarching melodies.  Still, like a good road trip, this album gets better as it travels further and explores more.  That’s a first for U2 with me: I enjoyed the 2nd half more (One exception is “FEZ-being Born” which is out of place and belongs at the end of the album or somewhere else).  “Unknown Caller” has a rare Edge guitar solo, which was very refreshing to hear.  “White as Snow” is hauntingly beautiful (and correct me if I am wrong but isn’t that the melody line to “O Come Emmanuel”?).  Bono is in good form with his wink-of-the-eye one-liner lyrics (“gotta stand up to ego but my ego’s not really the enemy”) and the album just sounds great sonically.

So in summary, if you like U2 you will like this CD; I do and I did.  It doesn’t break new ground but it’s everything we want in U2.  Not bad for $9.99.  I can listen to it over and over again too and probably will (can’t recycle that coffee and get the same bank for the buck now can I?).

On a final, Christian worldview note, I will say that it was refreshing and nice to have Bono singing about his faith so positively on the last album, but unfortunately there’s not a ton of that going on here.  We get that old 90’s style of faith from Mr. Vox.  It’s a sardonic and slightly jaded religiosity that filters though.  I recall seeing him wearing one of those “COEXIST” hats on TV last year at an AIDS rally.  Is Jesus still the only true way to salvation for Bono or does he now espouse the ever so popular one-world religion that prevails these days?  In “Breathe” he sings, “St John Divine on the line, my pulse is fine.”  Seems he hates religion, but then again don’t we? At one time Bono and the Edge wanted to abandon their careers in music and become pastors, but that was over 20 years ago. It’s almost as if when he says “stop helping God across the road like a little old lady” in “Stand up Comedy” he’s singing to himself, the Bono-Christ.  I am happy that my faith remains unshaken.  Why don’t you all pray for Bono when you finish reading this, okay?

18
Jan
09

When all Around Has Fallen

One the best songs ever written is “When All Around Has Fallen” by Martin Smith of delirious?  This song has ministered to me over the years on many occasion.  Music has a unique quality in that, even when we are not open to it, it has the power to pierce through our human walls and drive an emotional lightening bolt or even act as warming honey to our hurting souls.   Sometimes, even at the most unsuspecting of moments, music calls and draws us out from the darkest places.  But just as powerfully, it can take an emotional and spiritual high and, just like lift to a bird or airplane, raise us up even higher than we thought possible in a magical kind of way.  It is no wonder I have come to the conclusion that music was created by God, for His purposes.  It is a supernatural thing.  

The song “When all around has fallen” acknowledges our human frailty, but also honors the true faithful.  (The line “you used to be a king here” makes me think of the times when we find ourselves on the mountaintop, and we live there for some time, there creeps in a sense of ownership and appointment by God.  Yes, God does use man to accomplish His purposes, and chooses to promote and to cast down.  This is a radical concept and reality that affects us all.  But I have seen that some people focus on the “anointing” a bit too much, often in my experience, to the point where they are looking and seeking for an anointed person, and when they find that person, they lift them up.  They feel compelled to tell that person how anointed they are and they lift that person onto a pedestal.  This can create in a person like myself a strong sense of obligation to fulfill those people’s needs and expressed desires.)

Martin Smith has a way of being open and honest in his lyric writing.  Often times I feel as if I am getting a peek into his personal journal when I listen to his music.  That certainly goes for this song.  It expresses in a profound and deep way the things I have walked through the past few weeks.  Today I was on my way back from a lunch with a dear friend and local worship pastor and I put this song on.  I stopped by our regional park and just sat and listened to it and let the words minister to me.  I’ll admit, any song that has a Jesus perspective in it sometimes comes off as irreverent to me.  I often think, “who is man to think he can identify with Jesus?”  But since I have been through a personal tragedy of lifetime-changing proportions, I am just now beginning to understand what Paul refers to in Philippians 3:10 as the “fellowship of his suffering.”

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”

This past year contained the most shocking surprise of my life; that of betrayal.  I never thought the things that transpired were possible to happen to my family and me.  But for some reason, God allowed this to happen.  I praise God that in times like this we can turn to Jesus and he will lift us up, carry us, and give us the peace that passes all understanding, reminding us that the really important things in life are unchanging.

When All Around Has Fallen

When all around has fallen your castle has been burned
You used to be a king here now no one knows your name
You live your life for honour, defender of the faith
But you’ve been crushed to pieces and no one knows your pain

Come, come lay your weary head be still my friend
Come, rise I’ll place my sword upon your shoulder
Come, rise with me

When tomorrow has been stolen and you can’t lift your head
And summer feels like winter your heart is full of stone
Though all your hopes have fallen your skin is now your only armour
Wear your scars like medals defender of the faith

Come, come lay your weary head be still my friend
Come, rise I’ll place my sword upon your shoulder
Come, come lay your faithful head, be still my friend
Come rise with me

Written by Martin Smith ©1995 Curious? Music UK

17
Oct
08

Concert of Worship

Tonight we held our Concert of Worship.  I just want to say this night was one of the most amazing and enjoyable times I have ever had playing and singing.  Right out of the gate, in the first minute of the event you could sense the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit.  It was amazing.  We had set up a bunch of things to set a really worshipful atmosphere, and when I get some pictures in I will post them for you to see.  From a special entrance to our sanctuary with multimedia stations to set people’s hearts for the evening, to a big cross set in the middle of the sanctuary, to candles, etc. it was a great evening.  The best thing about it was that people’s lives were transformed.  We had a part of the evening dedicated to allowing people to write down their burdens on pieces of paper and lay them at the foot of the cross in the center of the sanctuary (we removed almost all the chairs).  It was beautiful.  I feel priviledged to be a part of this church, to serve this body, and to have am amazing team of friends to worship with!

02
Oct
08

Song of Living Praise

Click Here to Listen: Song of Living Praise  As most of you know, we’re all about writing a new song to the Lord here at MSC.  We just recorded a Concert of Praise and over the next few months we’ll be producing it and creating our 4th CD.  In preparation for that event we recorded some of our church services and created some demos of songs so the team could rehearse with them and learn the tunes for ongoing church services and also the Concert.  I am going to start posting some of these songs out here for you all to enjoy.  First is “Song of Living Praise.”  This song was inspired by many scriptures but the keys ones are Romans 12:1 and Acts 1:8.  Here are the lyrics, enjoy the tune (recorded post-service on a Sunday morning). 

Song of Living Praise

Verse 1
You poured Your Spirit out on us
A Father’s love displayed in grace
Now that I’ve tasted living water
I sing a song of living praise

Chorus
To be a witness for Your glory
A banner of Your love
Lord I’ll live to tell the story
Of Your grace,     of Your unfailing love

Verse 2
And where Your rivers go they heal us
Now there is life where there was death
We are Your chosen generation
Our lives a song of living praise

Bridge
And I’m ready now, Lord send me out
To sing a song of a heart set free
I will be Your hands and feet

Copyright 2009 Destinysong




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