Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Still My Soul Will Sing

The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me singing when the evening comes.

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore.

(-Matt Redman, 10,000 Reasons)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Why Baptize Babies?

This is an edited excerpt from my final Omnibus V paper. We'd been reading a section of Calvin's Institutes on the sacraments -

It is a rather daunting task to argue with John Calvin. 

There are so many, many true things that he teaches, but I do definitely disagree with him on the subject of paedocommunion. Calvin believes that the Supper is intended only for those of "riper years, who...are fit to bear solid food." He says that the only ones who should be allowed to come to the Table, are the ones who are able to examine themselves. "How, pray," he asks, "can we require infants to commemorate any event of which they have no understanding?” 

He has a point. 

But that is not at all the way that I see it. Instead, I think of a family - since we, believers, are a part of God’s family. Even the newest little baby is a central member of our household. We teach him, hold him, nurture him, talk to him - he is one of us. We feed this child from the earliest hour of his birth. Imagine if we said to our baby: “See all of us eating, little one? Only we, fully grown and mature people, can partake of food. Only when you understand where this food comes from, and how we get it, can you join us at our family table. When you’re big and strong, then we will feed you. But not before. Because right now you’re not old enough to appreciate it.” That is, in essence, what we’re telling our children when we forbid them from coming to the Lord’s Table. 

We must understand Communion before we receive Communion? What about those who never will understand it, no matter how old they grow? There are people who will always have the minds of children, and they cannot understand. But God loves the least of these, the youngest child, the feeblest mind, just as much as he loves the strongest. I believe that a little child born into a Christian family has a special seal placed on her. She is a covenant child. As such, she is given the privilege to receive God’s special blessings and nourishment. She needs to be fed just as much as we, grown-up people, do. If we want her to grow up a Christian, we must treat her like one of us - like a little Christian. Not like a little pagan. 

We are told very potently in scripture that “He that eats and drinks in an unworthy manner, eats and drinks judgement to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” (1 Corinthians 11:29). So what is a worthy manner? And what is an unworthy manner? Some people take this verse to mean that those taking communion need to be fully aware what is happening. Babies cannot understand the sacrifice, the redemption, and the blessings, they might argue, therefore babies should never be given communion. But, you can’t just take scripture out of context. Paul was writing this letter to the Corinthians. And these Corinthians were having some very specific and troubling problems involving the Lord’s Supper. They were contentious and had many divisions among themselves. They were coming to the Table without resolving these arguments; they were coming with purposeful anger and bitterness inside of them. And many of them were coming to get drunk on the wine. The people were unrepentant and malicious toward one another. Paul realized what a serious problem this was: These people were coming to the Table of redemption and forgiveness and sacrifice, without enough humility to forgive their neighbor for insulting them. This situation is very different from letting a little child come, even if they have not “examined” him or herself, per se. 

Jesus tells us all to have faith like a child. Even the youngest infant is capable of having faith of sorts. When his mother nurses him, he does not understand that he will grow weak without this food, all he knows is that his mother is feeding him and that it is good. And for him, that is enough. 
I think our view of baptism goes back to our view of children. If we trust that He has claimed our children as His own and believe that they are a part of the Covenant family, then we cannot help but believe that their Father wants to feed them. When we do not baptize the covenant children, and so prevent them from eating and drinking, we are denying them the blessings that God has promised them. 

They need food to become strong, so how can we require strength from them before they are even fed? As C.S. Lewis so rightly put it, “The command, after all, was ‘Take, eat’; not ‘Take, understand.’”


Monday, April 22, 2013

What About Creator Day?

So, today is Earth Day. It's the day that we are supposed to honor our planet; to celebrate the "power" of nature.

Today's theme is climate change. We are to become aware of all of the things we have been doing to wrong our earth, and what we should do to change those things. Apparently, we've been over-developing, exhausting our natural resources, spreading litter, chopping down too many trees. . . in short, we are "aggravating climate change".

Now, first off, it is our duty to try to take care of the earth. God gave us this beautiful world and we should be gratefully caring for it. We shouldn't just go around chopping down all the trees, we shouldn't kill animals for no reason. We have to be careful not to waste our blessings, or to destroy beauty. . . .

What's an earth day without a Creator?

What's the point in those environmentalists celebrating the life around them, when they actively support the death of the thousands of little babies who will be murdered today? It's a depraved culture that would fight more for the life of a whale than for the life of a child. As Mark Hall, lead singer of Casting Crowns, put it - ..."we're sung to sleep by philosophies that save the trees and kill the children."

We have traded the truth about God for a lie. And we are worshipping and serving the creation, rather than the Creator. 

Apparently, we think we've got the whole world in our hands, instead of His. And since we have no real control over anything that happens to us, that's a dangerous place to be. "In His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind." (Job 12:10). 

So, yes, celebrate life. Love this earth --- God made it for us to love. Rejoice in the beauty around you. But rejoice because there is the Creator who called it good. Celebrate because we were created and put here on this hurtling globe, hung in space, to play a part of the true Story. Celebrate because you were given a chance to live. And use that chance.  Don't hold anything back. Use yourself up until there is absolutely nothing left to give. When you are emptied of everything else, God fills you with Himself.

Rejoice because the One who forms light and creates darkness, who makes well-being and creates calamity (Isaiah 45:7) --- rejoice because He knows you. "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine." (Isaiah 43:1). 


Thursday, April 18, 2013

We Pass By Ourselves Without Wondering...

It's Only Friday

This is a video about Good Friday. But, actually, I think that it's also about living everyday here on earth. 

Children are shot, doctors brutally murder, fathers abuse, mothers leave, people die, people kill, people hate. Satan laughs. And if that was the end of the story, then we would have every reason to despair. . . 

But, that's not the end. It's only the middle. And it's always darkest just before the sun comes up. Right now, it's Friday. It's only Friday. And Sunday's coming. 

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." (Revelation 21:4)


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Better Than a Hallelujah

Beautiful song. And a good reminder that God sometimes loves our broken cries for forgiveness, and our tears of remorse for what we've done wrong, better even than a hallelujah.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Calvin and Hobbes

Where There Is No Vision

"Where there is no vision, the people perish." 
(Proverbs 29:18)

We are a postmodern culture - 

Our society absolutely assures us that there are no absolutes. Screams are elevated to the same level with Mona Lisas, or Sistine Chapel Ceilings, or Pietas

Nobody's right, nobody's wrong. And what's more, there is no right or wrong. "You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, the only way, it does not exist." (Nietzsche). 

No point in living. No point in dying. Because you only exist in the first place as the result of an accident. You are an accident, I am an accident, this world is an accident. This universe is an awful joke. 

Kill the young. Kill the old. Kill the weak. They get in the way. Life is worth nothing.

There is no big story to life, instead we are all trapped inside our own little worlds, blinded by our own little experiences. And we will never be able to see the truth. 

Our culture tells us glumly that the only way through life is to drift through, float through, tossed by every wind. Progress is nothing but an illusion, and so this world is always under construction. Nothing really ever gets done, but people just keep on running. Like hamsters in a wheel. Always running, working, traveling. But they're going nowhere. 

God tells us that when we have no vision, we will perish (proverbs 29:18). If we are content to meander through life with no point and no purpose, no reason for anything we do, then we are condemning ourselves. People without passion will never survive Satan's attacks.

Even though we, Christians, don't necessarily believe all that junk about there being no right or wrong, we are still often influenced by the postmodernism screaming at us around every corner. Our society encourages us to be passive. Whatever, man. Whatever. There's no point in being determined or strong about anything. There's nothing worth fighting for, because, really, there's nothing worth loving either. If everyone and everything around us is only a freak of nature, if we have no one to answer to for our actions, if when we die, that's the end of everything, then why be principled? Why be faithful to your spouse? Why fight for anything? Who's to say that gay marriage is not right? Who's to say what "right" even is?. . . Passivity will kill us.

. . .Unless we do something. Our culture is starving for passion. In a world where everything is permissible, we have to be the ones to speak up when things are wrong. In a world where loyalty has been left behind, we have to be fiercely faithful. In a world where everything is random and accidental, we have to actively search for the Artist's plan in every moment of our lives. In a world where there are no principles, we have to share the Truth. In a world where God is dead. . . we have to live for our risen Redeemer.

Love boldly. Bold love scares people. It threatens to take them far outside their comfort zone. The greatest love is to lay your life down. 

Fight for the vision of a redeemed world and redeemed sinners. Fight for beauty, truth, and goodness.

You will have to make a choice though --- If you go with the flow and passively accept the world and all its lies, you will be popular, normal, cool. 
Upset the norm, and know that the world will hate you. But it hated Him first, so I wouldn't really take it as an insult. 


Thursday, April 11, 2013

"And rain will make the flowers grow..." 
(-Eponine, Les Miserables)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

When It's Gone. . .

      His name was Alex. He had lived all of his uneventful life in the little, white house with the big porches on the corner of Camden Lane with his dad, and his mom, and his sister, Natalie. His brother, Dave used to live there too, before he moved away to college. “Goodbye.” he had said the day he left. “I’m sure this old town won’t forget me, but, by golly, I’m going to try to forget it.” It was just that kind of a town. The lazy kind that often causes you to feel like molasses being slowly poured through your life. Alex had never minded it much. He rather enjoyed the crawling speed. It left him more time to think, and to read. Reading was probably what he did best. He read everything he could get his hands on. And he was always hungering for more. He had never really liked causing trouble, never had the desire to play video games, never was much good at football. All of this combined, classified him as an A+ failure among the boys. And the girls...well, they stayed well away from him. And he returned the compliment. 
Dave had been one of the best players on the football team, and everyone had expected that Alex would join when he entered high school. But he made it clear that he would rather go fishing or work on his treehouse.  He didn’t have any friends from school. Nobody seemed to understand him. He would rather sit on his front porch and watch a sunset than go to a party. He didn’t even like watching TV. No, he didn’t have any friends, but he wasn’t lonely. He found companionship in his books, or even in the crickets chirping on a summer evening. He would have been happy if he had gone on living his carefree, peaceful life on Camden Lane until the end of his days. But, of course, that not the way things happen. 
Year after year slipped away like water through your fingers until, before he knew it, he was standing in front of the principal of Lakeview High, dressed in a light blue robe and cap, receiving a roll of paper tied with a blue ribbon. This paper certified that he had received a government approved education, which really meant nothing to Alex. But it also symbolized his plane ticket to Dallas...and to college. He had no desire to leave. In fact, he would much rather stay right where he was. But, his father would hear nothing of it. 
“You were enough of a disappointment as a child.” he said. “You’re going to make something of yourself, not just sit around here listening to the wind in the trees for the rest of your life. You’re going to make me proud, and you’re going to leave this town open-mouthed.” 
Alex had never bothered arguing with his father before, and he didn’t now. And so, he left. Though it must be confessed that he went with tears in his eyes. For four long years, he worked and studied and made good grades. He won more awards than he could keep track of. He was at the head of his class in physics and calculus. Nobody could believe what he had achieved. “He can do anything if he puts his mind to it,” Alex’s father told everyone proudly. 
When Alex at last emerged from the university, clothed in another robe, this time a black one, he was admired and envied by everyone who knew him. He had filled his head with  facts, and charts, and dates, and formulas, but as for wisdom, he hadn’t gained any. 

       He seemed content now. He was no longer a failure. But he was no longer himself either. He was a different person. He didn’t really miss the little white house with the big porches, or Camden Lane anymore. He didn’t have any time for fishing. Life, to him, looked changed now; less beautiful; less simple. He could have no longer contented himself by merely listening to crickets on a summer evening. Now, he would rather listen to the radio. Sunsets no longer held him captive by their magical spell. He had some impressive scientific explanation for them. He still read, but not for enjoyment. 
He had gained a love of academic achievement, and lost his love of life. 

       He only saw the little white house one more time, when he happened to be driving within a few miles of Camden Lane. His mother had passed away a few years before, Natalie was at college, and his father lived with Dave’s family now, so they had sold the little house. Alex just couldn’t resist the urge to see the old place again. As he drove along the quiet streets where he had spent his entire childhood, it brought back memories; memories that were painful now, because, though he would never have admitted it, he realized that he missed them in a way. The house looked the same as it always had, except for a fresh coat of white paint. The climbing roses on the railings had grown a little, and so had the crepe myrtle trees. There were two children blowing bubbles and laughing in the front yard. It seemed like such a short time ago that he was there playing or sitting on the big front porch. He didn’t stop. He just drifted slowly by gazing back in the past at a life that had ceased to exist. The children stopped their play and stared agape at the shiny, new car and the sophisticated young man. He supposed that he should have been honored, but instead he felt a little self-conscious. As he drove away from the little town and got back on the interstate, he was surprised to feel an unfamiliar lump in his throat. He swallowed and shook his head, and then he clicked on the radio. “There’s nothing to miss.” he tried to tell himself. “I made my dad proud, and I left that old town open-mouthed.” But somehow, he couldn’t quite make himself believe it.


"We only get one chance, so listen to the wind, cause when it's gone, it won't be back again." (When It's Gone)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Just by existing and creating things --- whether art, or music, or books --- we automatically undo the philosophy of a Creator-less, or Artist-less, world. . .

I thought this quote was really interesting -

"When Jackson Pollock created, he was imitating."

"He wanted his canvases to look like the world, and the world he saw was an accident, an explosion. But the world he saw wasn't actually art. It had no artist, and so he worked very hard to kill himself in relationship to his canvas."

"But he failed. He always failed, because he was, and that gave his art an artist --- his own existence was a refutation of all he tried to preach."

"He could punch holes in the bottoms of cans and swing them from ropes, but he was still the one buying rope, arranging the canvas on the floor and swinging. His art was never as accidental as reality. It was fundamentally false (in his world), because it had a creator --- an advantage the Grand Canyon, Victoria Falls, the white cliffs of Dover, and the planet Jupiter didn't have." 

-N.D. Wilson 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Standing Strong

George Whitefield and John Wesley.

They were contemporaries. Both Christian men, working alongside one another some of the time. But, often, their views clashed. Big doctrinal differences forged their way between the two. They were once friends, but, as time went on, their separations became clearer and clearer.

People watched their disputes. They knew that those two great men would surely not be able to get along together at all anymore. Such deep differences; such strong opinions. And those two things do not often mix well, not matter how long you stir them.

One day, someone, hoping to rile Whitefield, asked him, "Sir, do you expect you will see John Wesley in Heaven?"

Whitefield looked up. "No," he said.

But then, he went on. "John Wesley will be so close to the Throne of Glory, and I will be so far away, that I will hardly get a glimpse of him." 

If only we all would take that attitude in the midst of any differences with fellow Christians. We are all one. By fighting against a brother or sister, we are fighting against ourselves. And that weakens the whole body. We need to fight against those differences instead of the people. We have to stand strong together so that our differences cannot divide us. The world notices that because it's something that goes against human nature.

Humility keeps the Light shining brightly.