Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sermon Title and Outline for Sunday

A Vision for Westminster Youth Ministries

1. How I Got Here: 3 reason I chose to do Youth Ministry
a. My own experience


b. What Jonathan Edwards Saw


c. What I Saw


2. Where We Are: What I have been harpin' on for 2 years
a. Our Chief End


b. Our Biggest Problem


c. Our Only Hope


3. Three Consistent Challenges
a. A culture of drunken teenagers


b. "Can't, I got practice."


c. Loving God and Hating Your Neighbor


4. A Vision for the Future
a. An ascendence of affection for Jesus


b. An ability to articulate belief


c. An amalgamation of fath and life

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Are Americans Really That Sex-Crazed?

This story on the front page of FoxNews.com this morning set a few alarm bells ringing in my head. Not because I was afraid it might be right. Indeed, something rang a bell when I read this study was publicized by the Guttmacher Institute. I could not understand why but for some reason I had this feeling born of a vague memory that there was some relationship between the Guttmacher Institute, who conducted the study and Planned Parenthood.

I was right.

Here is some info from their website to get you acquainted with the Guttmacher Institute:

The Guttmacher Institute is a nonprofit organization focused on sexual and reproductive health research, policy analysis and public education. The Guttmacher Institute publishes Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, International Family Planning Perspectives, The Guttmacher Policy Review and special reports on topics pertaining to sexual and reproductive health and rights. The Institute's mission is to protect the reproductive choices of all women and men in the United States and throughout the world. It is to support their ability to obtain the information and services needed to achieve their full human rights, safeguard their health and exercise their individual responsibilities in regard to sexual behavior and relationships, reproduction and family formation.

The Institute was named to honor a distinguished obstetrician-gynecologist, author and leader in reproductive rights, Alan F. Guttmacher. During his presidency of Planned Parenthood Federation of America in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dr. Guttmacher saw the need for the institution that now bears his name and nurtured its development within the Federation. The Alan Guttmacher Institute was incorporated as an independent, not-for-profit organization in 1977.


And so we should expect this when we read such statements as, "This is reality-check research," said the study's author, Lawrence Finer. "Premarital sex is normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades."

And, "The data clearly show that the majority of older teens and adults have already had sex before marriage, which calls into question the federal government's funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for 12- to 29-year-olds,"

And now the money-qoute...wait for it...

"It would be more effective," Finer said, "to provide young people with the skills and information they need to be safe once they become sexually active — which nearly everyone eventually will."

Allow me to sum up. So, since, acoording to their study it is normal to have premarital sex we should no longer encourage abstinence for teenagers but simply seek to make sex healthy. In other words, they are going to do it anyway, so lets make it safe. Damn that George W. Bush and his puritanical ethics.

So let's assume (although I am not convinced) the survey is correct and it is true that 95 percent of Americans have premarital sex. Does this mean we should simply give them information on safer sex practices and condoms? Well, that depends. If you do not want men and women to have sex till marriage then you would conclude we should do more in the way of encouraging abstinence. However, if you simply do not care or actually want to encourage a culture of sex at anytime with anyone as long as its "safe" then this is good news and capitulation is the order of the day.

Don't get me wrong. I assume at least half of the students I work with will have premarital sex and that is far too many. So even if the study was off by 45% there is reason for sadness.

I have a call into some officials regarding the nature of the study. I want to know some details about how the participants are selected, if they are paid for participation and I want to know if there are regional statistices available. For instance, I want to know if most of respondents are urban, where are they from, places like New York or Tupelo. I will update as soon as a "specialist" calls me back.

**Update: My call was returned from a specialist at the cdc (Center of Disease Control...read govt. bureaucracy) who while very nice could answer none of my questions. I only really wanted to know how the particapants were empl0yed in the study (were they selected or purely random?) and were they compensated?

My second question could not be answered. The first question was kinda answered. I was told the particapants were randomly chosen. Good enough. However, there must be some kind of process though for it seems to me that every survey must be done "randomly." I want to know what that process is. I say this because I asked the specialist if there was a group randomly selected then another group chosen based on some criteria. The specialist said that "sounded right." I am no expert in conducting a survey but this seems like a good way to skew results.

Stay tuned. I was told I could talk to a supervisor after the holidays. So I will call next week.

Monday, December 18, 2006

You Might Be A Redneck If...



One of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors is Black Rednecks and White Liberals by Thomas Sowell. I am reading it for second time now. Here is a qoute from the first chapter of the same title...




The painful irony is that those who make this accusation (studying hard is "acting white") are themselves "acting white when they perpetuate a redneck culture from a bygone era. Even such a modern ghetto creation as gangsta rap echoes the violence, arrogance, loose sexuality and self dramatization common for centuries in white redneck culture, andspeaks in exaggerated cadences common in the oratory of rednceks in the antebellum South and those parts of Britain from which their ancestors came.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Are you Censorious?


I am.

Pastor Lauterbach has been blogging his way through Edward's Charity and It's Fruits, specifically the section on Censoriousness, which I believe is chapter 5.

What is censoriousness? A disposition to think evil of others.

His discussion is in two parts.

Part One
Part Two


Friday, December 08, 2006

Download Audio Version of Pilgrim's Progress for Free!


Just use the coupon code DEC2006 during checkout from christianaudio.com.

The Seeds of Intellectual Destruction






Wanna know where they came from? Read this

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Great New Blog


I want to introduce my audience to the best new blog on the block. It is called Pro-Existence and it is run by Rick and Nancy Pearcey of The Pearcey Report. The Pearcey Report is my homepage because it is the best site on the net for long hard looks at reality. Their passion for believers developing a biblical worldview is my own passion. Rick used to be an editor at Human Events and has worked with World magazine. Nancy is the author of my favorite book, Total Truth. If you have not read Total Truth, go get it now...especially if you work with students.

I commend to you everything they put their hands on
.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Head, Call Me

So, I got this new-fangled cell phone which does everything but the dishes. But the terrible thing is I now have lost all the numbers in my old phone. So anyone who I might call or might call me needs to please put your numbers in the comment section. Or you can call my cell which i would enjoy because I bought a 10 second ringtone of Like A Rolling Stone by Dylan..."How does it feel...How does it feel?"...it makes me smile everytime.

I tried to find a picture of My best friend, JonathanHead on the web but I could not. Anyway, head I need you to call me so I can get your number...and just to talk.

Happy Thanksgiving







Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Excellent Book on Reagan


So I have been working on a few books while I am recovering from back surgery. I have been slowly reading Suffering and the Sovereignty of God by John Piper, The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and The Crusader by Paul Kengor. And I have finished the Crusader and I am sorry I did. I could never have guessed how much I would love this book.


"Why?" you ask.


Well, it was one of those books that was so much more than I expected. I expected a fairly simple work of praise for the Gipper. But it was oh so much more. Actually the book was a veritable education on cold war policy. I learned an amzing amount of things I would have never heard in my political science classes in college. Granted so much of the NSDDs were not released as declassified till recently but still there was much i would have liked to have known in college that I never heard.


Like what?


1. Did you know that Nancy reagan was often at odds on Ronnie's decisions, especially those he new would procure him more enemies? Usually, if what he decided to do was directed on by the morality of the issue, he was very lonely in the process. This included when Nancy disagreed.


2. Did you know there is evidence from KGB files Ted Kennedy wanted to work with the Soviets to derail Reagan's landslide election in 84?


3. Did you know that Reagan's "Evil Empire" speech was full of recognitions of America's past and present sins?


4. Did you know one of the things reagan detested the most about Communism was its Atheistic character?


5. Did you know Reagan hated nuclear weaponry? He never romaticized them or assumed they were a given part of reality. He saw that the only hope was one of America's buidup so as to bankrupt the USSR and then end the making of nuclear weapons.


6. Did you know Pope John Paul was an integral part of not only Solidarity but the whole fight against atheistic communism?


And there is so much more. The caricatures of Reagan will never stand up to history. He was not only a man of character informed by his faith but was a compassionate president who was willing to be maligned if it meant the fall of communism.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Surgery Tomorrow Morning

Tomorrow morning I will be having out-patient surgery on my herniated disc. Am I excited about going under the knife, albeit a small knife? No. But I am really excited anout releif from the immemse unending pain I have had now for about a month.

I will have to rest for two weeks. No driving for a week. And I cannot pick up anything weighing more than 10 pounds for 6 weeks. The good news is I can do most of my job and read a lot, not to mention maintain this blog.

Thanks for any prayers offered up for me and my family.

Update: The surgery was a success and I am home. I did have to stay overnight because of some spinal fluid leakage. It has given me a headache but that is about it and it will go away soon. No aches or pains in the leg or back. All praise to God in heaven.

It's the End of the World As We Know It


Entertaining and sobering, Mark Steyn's newest foray into the apologetics for the saving of Western civilization is a must read for culture-ofiles like myself.
With damning demographic evidence and a whirlwind of worldview analysis, I am convinced it is a tragic sin he is not part of the President's cabinet. Check that. He should be the cabinet. For he waxes eloquent and sanely on domestic and foreign, economic and political.
His most penetrating observations are reserved for those ideas that are the most obvious. Liberals and the great majority of Republicans cannot see these truths though they are as obvious as there own nose. of course their own nose is obscured by the cocktail party invitation staring them in the face. What is this which Steyn sees and others ignore?
We are at war with an ideological enemy.
We can call it them whatever we want. Islamic extremists. Fascists. All true. But the fact is they have an ideology that drives them.
One of the most poignant moments in the book, Steyn makes a statement that set it all before and opened up vistas of reality I had only dreamed could be real. OK, I knew they were real he just said it better than anyone else. In a discussion about the left's bizarre priorities he states, "In their bizarre prioritization of 'a woman's right to choose,' feminists have helped ensure that European women will end their days in a culture that doesn't accord women the right to choose anything." (16)
Another?
When discussing the FREE TIBET bumper sticker on a VW "movement",..."Idealism as inertia is the hallmark of the movement." Beautiful. Like Van Gogh the words are before my mind's eye. Gorgeous and devastating words. For the progressive hippies obviously are wearing no clothes...or deodorant.
Steyn calls it...its the end of the world as we know it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It's A Herniated Disk

I got the results from my MRI. And I do indeed have a herniated disk/disc. I have an appointment on Friday in Jackson with a neurosurgeon. His name is John Davis and he has come highly recommended.

My Prediction

Republicans will hold both the Senate and the House
UPDATE: We have lost the house
UPDATE: And we will most likely lose the Senate. Obviously, my optimism and confidence in the conservative majority in this nation was ill-informed.

"Just a Joke"

Monday, November 06, 2006

Why Vote If You Are Disillusioned?

This is a pretty good article by Piper giving reasons to vote even if you are disillusioned with the candidates.

However, I will say this is one of the few times I will disagree with Piper on something. And I take no pleasure in it. You see, I do not buy the "argument" or charge that President Bush is arrogant. I disagree with this assessment for a few reasons.

1. First, a personal one. I was recently called arrogant buy a group of men because of my steadfast confidence on an issue in the denomination I serve in. No reason was given save my demeanor, I "came across that way." Hogwash. I thought I was right and they thought they were right. So of course, I, the youngest in the room at 34 and in the minority was seen as the arrogant. So I no longer will trade in the marketplace of ideas with such accusations. They are pretty mush irrelevant and penny-anty.

2. Mush is said about Bush's swagger and confidence. The same kinds of things were said about Washington, Lincoln, Reagan, and Churchill. This is not to mention Luther, Calvin, et al. Men of prominence are almost always shot with this verbal projectile. It doesn't kill them it just colors them and diverts discussions and debates about reality which can actually be and must be reckoned with.

3. My guess is Bush is much more humble than most can imagine. Or should I say, unsure of himself. My guess is he is the very opposite of myself. I am terrible and come across awkward in small groups and and in private conversation. I then over-compensate and treat the situatio as if I am talking to a big group. You see, in private casual conversation I stutter terribly. But I never do when I am in teaching mode. Never. So, guess which I prefer? I prefer situations where I am in charge and instructing people.

4. Arrogance makes demands and Bush does so much pleading it is hard for me to call him arrogant.

5. Why call Bush arrogant when his detractors are Pelosi, Kennedy (Mary Jo Kepechne has no comment), Kerry, Chavez, Michael Moore and the rest of the liberal cultural elites? Arrogance manifests itself in the policies of liberals who think they should raise your taxes because they know better how to spend your money. It is also manifest in partial birth abortion and gay marriage ammendments. To talk about demeanor and swagger is misguided if well-meaning.

To be honest, I love Piper so much more than Bush that I cannot stand disagreeing with him on this issue. But I feel compelled. Feel free to call me arrogant.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Laid Up


Well, I have not been blogging for a few days. The reason? I have been literally laid up for about 2 weeks. My physical therapist thinks I have a herniated disk which I think is putting some crazy pressure on my sciatic nerve. Walking has literally been a pain in the butt...and my entire left leg.

The good news is I am much better. My mobility is better abd the pain level has been reduced significantly through therapy and some good old-fashioned bed rest. However, I will still have an MRI on Monday...a first for me.

The irony is I once was blind but now I see.

No. Really.

Someone from my church donated lasik eye surgery to me. So I now see 20/20. No contacts. No glasses. It is probably the closest this side of the Jordan I will be to experiencing a miracle of biblical proportions. I am so grateful for what it is done for me physically and how it has given me new insight on the miracles of the Bible. More on that in a later post.

Also, I need to point out what a wonderful woman my wife is. She has pretty much taken care of the whole family. She has been at our bec-and-call (sic?) for days even though she has also been under the weather. Man, is she great and it is a pleasure to see more of her greatness the longer we live together and love together.

Hopefully more posts next week...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Third Day in Jackson

To be honest, I had no idea when I planned to take my Sr. High students to Jackson to see Third Day in concert that I would enjoy it as much as I did. As a matter of fact I really expected to be disappointed. Having seen a lot of bands in concert in my short 35 years, I was prepared to be colored unimpressed. After all, I saw them back in the late 90's and while I enjoyed some of the show, I felt as if they were trying to justify what they did with an altar call and a sermon. And I hate the bait and switch. But the show I went to on Sunday night was nothing like it.

The show was phenomenal. The only other concert I could compare it to is U2 in St. Louis in November of '01. And this one might have been better for me but more on that later. Every facet of this show was great: the sound, lights, effects, intimacy with crowd, song choice...everything was enjoyable. Oh yeah and it was loud.

And my students loved it. They not only had fun but some were moved. And I do not have a group of kids easy to move. For them most everything is fodder for humor only. They are cursed with a lack of seriousness. But they seriously enjoyed this show and expect it too yield some results for spiritual growth.

And you see this is what I did not expect. A concert? It was a concert but there was more to it than that. There was a whole of praying and talking about real life between songs. No sermons, just honest heartfelt and not canned talking.

And I needed to hear it too. I am far too intellectual for my own good. And my desire to be the smartest guy in the room impedes my need for simple expressions of faith in Jesus. it may not be cool to sing...

I want to sing a song for You, Lord
Lord, for You I want to sing a song
And I want to lift my voice to Heaven
And listen to the angels sing along

A song of Your faithfulness
A song of Your grace
And of Your loving kindness
To the glory of Your name
With everything that's in me,
Lord Listen to me say
I want to sing a song for You
I want to sing a son

I want to live my life for You, Lord
Lord, for You I want to live my life
And I want to praise the name of Jesus
And Pray above all things You're glorified

And I sing about Your mercy
And I sing about Your love
Your goodness, Lord
Your righteousnessI want to sing

And we'll sing holy, holy, holy
We'll sing holy, holy, holy
We'll shout holy, holy
Are You Lord almighty

...But it sure was "good" (Psalm 147:1).

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sorry About This Post...



As if I needed another reason to not like Timberland or his music; we now get this...

"Justin Timberlake's single 'SexyBack' makes men feel gay.

Hip-hop producer Timbaland, who duets with Justin on the worldwide hit, thinks the song can make a straight man question his sexuality."

Monday, October 09, 2006

Patty Griffin Sings Her Truth #2

If she did an album singing the alpabet...I would buy it.

Friday, October 06, 2006

"Shoot Me First"


Here is the story of the week if you ask me.

Since I work with High School students I am intensely interested anytime a teenager does the unexpected and the extraordinary. And this is extraordinary. I work with about 35 6th through 12th graders and I do not have one who would have even entertained such an idea. OK, maybe one. But he is the only one I can imagine acting heroically in any situation.

But this story highlights what I am after. I want students who believe "for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain." I want students so captured by the glory of Christ and so full of affection for the glory of God and so enthused with the gospel, courage coupled with love is natural.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Abortion in the News

This one is a story about Ms Magazine 'releasing its fall issue next week with a cover story titled "We Had Abortions," accompanied by the names of thousands of women nationwide who signed a petition making that declaration.'

The saddest moment os the AP story:

Tyffine Jones, 27, of Jackson, Miss., said she had no hesitation about signing _ although she lives in a state where restrictions on abortion are tough and all but one abortion clinic has been closed.

Jones said she got an abortion 10 years ago _ enduring harassment from protesters when she entered the clinic _ in order to finish high school. She went on to become the first member of her family to graduate from college, and hopes at some point to attend law school.

"I wanted to do something bigger with myself _ I didn't want to be stopped by anything," she said in a telephone interview.

Unbelievable.


"...they not only do them but give hearty approval to those who practice them."
- Romans 1:32


The second is this story. Money qoute..."Ultrasound images which show 12-week-old foetuses sucking their thumbs and walking in the womb are dangerously misleading, a group of scientists warned today."
The reason for all this talk of abortion is the high Court will be taking up partial birth abortion when it meets in the coming days.

Partial Birth Abortion = killing a baby before it full exits the birth canal.

Audio from The 2006 Desiring God National Conference

These are a must. You can download or listen through streaming. They are beyond good as they represent the clearset voices in the modern American church. The titles of the messages are as follows

David Wells: The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World

Justin Taylor, John Piper, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll: A Conversation with the Pastors

Voddie Baucham: The Supremacy of Christ and Truth in a Postmodern World

Tim Keller: The Supremacy of Christ and the Gospel in a Postmodern World

Mark Driscoll: The Supremacy of Christ and the Church in a Postmodern World

Justin Taylor, Voddie Baucham, John Piper, D. A. Carson, David Wells: Speaker Panel

D. A. Carson: The Supremacy of Christ and Love in a Postmodern World

John Piper: The Supremacy of Christ and Joy in a Postmodern World

Monday, October 02, 2006

Lectures By Os Guinness From Veritas Forum

What an aamzing Find!!! thanks to JT over at Between Two Worlds. And yes he is directly related to the Guinness of Stout Beer fame.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Downloads From New Attitude



I just recently discovered this new website and it is chock full of resources. Here is a link to some mp3 downloads I would heartily recommend. The titles are:



The Truth:Rediscovering Humble Orthodoxy
By Joshua Harris


The Mission:Reaching the World Next Door
By Eric Simmons


Cultural Discernment from aBiblical Worldview
By Dr. Albert Mohler


Cultural Discernment from aBiblical Worldview
By Dr. Albert Mohler


Also, New Attitude is liveblogging the Desiring God National Conference with D. A. Carson, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll and of course John Piper.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I Have Been Watching Two-A-Days

Well, this is my second highly critical post in a row of boob-tube programming. You will have to excuse me as we only recently procured cable services again. We usually do not have cable as it typically sucks out my braincells and keeps me from reading and interacting with my family.

Also this is my second post on television and it's intersection with football. This post regarding the MTV hit show, Two-A-Days is much more serious than the first. The first was simply frustrating and I have not given it much thought since posted. However, this is not the case with the present subject.

There are a few reasons why I have been watching Two-A-Days (here via the internet).

1. Most of the High School Students I work with are watching the show. It is and I quote, "better than Laguna Beach." SO, I was intrigued.

2. I am from Birmingham and my last address in God's country was in Hoover. Hoover is a suburb of Birmingham.

3. My nephew played on a couple of the state championship teams of Hoover High football and my niece was on the dance team. She will more than likely show up on the show if she has not already.

So needless to say my interest was piqued with sufficient reason for tuning in and suffering through more mindlessness.

Let me say up front the show has some qualities that make it genuinely entertaining. It has a few truly encouraging moments. There is not much ammunition given for those who would love to find reasons for berating the South. And the editing and music make for some intense game-time moments.

But that is about it...Really. Now that might be enough for my students (much to my chagrin) but it is not enough for me. The negatives overshadow the positives to the point of rendering the positives negligible.

So what is wrong with it?

Let me start with a few subtle things:

1. Since when do we suspend the rules of common decency and allow coaches to berate and degrade players in the name of motivation? The simple fact is these coaches come off as bullies growling and barking out obscene-laced insults: You're an embarrassment, dumbass, etc. No teacher would ever get away with this in the classroom. A DHS worker would be called to the scene if a parent spoke to a child this way. Hoover wins for certain and this is obviously the price the administration is willing to pay along with parents and players.

2. It is hard for me to believe that allowing a TV show to film throughout the day does not affect the culture of a school. Watching the show online has left me wondering how ho-hum the rest of school-life might be if you are a cheerleader or football player. And of course, the question must be asked if there will be residual affects for those not part of the cheerleading squad or the team. Maybe not...But celebrity has a way of separating itself from the common.

3. Speaking of celebrity...has it ever built character?

4. What kind of parent lets a TV camera pan across their teenage girl's body in a bikini? Not to mention the making out in the pool!?


Some of the above are heinous. Maybe not all of them. This final point is damning.

There is a theme running through the first four episodes and it is not the drama between Arrogant Alex and clueless Kristin. The theme is that for Hoover High and the city of Hoover, football is a religion. It is even stated by Alex, "Welcome to Hoover, Alabama...Where football is a religion and the players are celebrities." A cook at a local restaurant agrees. That should be an indictment not a cause celebre'.

Now that might be just innocent but ignorant use of jargon...except for the fact the team chaplain says and does far worse.

The team chaplain (name withheld here but made public on the show) is also a student pastor at one of the largest churches in Birmingham, just a few footballs fields away from the High School. Everything he says is in the context of the prayer breakfast for the athletes and cheerleaders previous to school on the day of the game. And he says things that made my heart hurt. If anyone ever said what he does to my students, I would publicly disavow them. I would call every parent and write a letter. From rooftops I well yell, "NO."

"OK, but what does he say"? The following is a list of the most obviously heinous that cannot be written off as edited. I will analyze as I list them.

1. "Let them know they (the opposing team from out of state) have come to the state of Alabama where football is King." So, I know it is possible that he said this after a devotional he gave. But even if that is the case, how can any team chaplain and minister of the gospel want anyone to prove that football is King...anywhere. Shouldn't a team chaplain yearn and labor in prayer for football players, etc. to play as if Christ is King? If football is King in the state of Alabama, then should he not have said it as a rebuke. This is simply an encouragement for these young men and women to be idolaters. Perhaps he did not mean it that way. But this pastor is older than me and I am almost 35. He should have known better. What a tragedy.

2. After letting them know he will be reading from Luke 12:35ff., he says, "Tonight there's a thief coming, there's a thief coming at Wildcat Field and they're trying to take everything you worked for..." He says other things about how they should play but those might have been edited in. But the quote above was not edited. He said those exact words. Now this will only be seen for what it is if we look at the passage he reads to the students...

"Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."

So Jesus is saying that we ought to be ready for his return and as we do not know when a thief is coming to our house we will not know when he is coming. Jesus is comparing his stealth in returning to a thief.

The problem is the team chaplain for the Hoover Buccaneers proceeds to use this passage to say a thief is coming to take away victory from the Buccaneers. So not only is this bad hermeneutics but this is twisting theology to motivate footballs to "get up in their grill...stick it in their earhole and knock them off their feet." Listen, this is not just a slip of the tongue. This is not a semantic issue. This is bordering on blasphemy.

3. In the fourth episode, again during a prayer breakfast the team chaplain says, "Be a bold witness for the Buccaneers." And again let me say this was not edited. He might have also said, "Be a bold witness for Christ." Possible. Not likely though. A trend has already been set that leads me to believe he was truly concerned that the players not embarrass their community or school...he actually said such things in episode three.

Since I am a youth pastor, I take such things to heart and head. I have tried to examine myself to see if I have implicitly communicated such things. The fact of the matter is sports is a religion where I lived in Hoover and where I live now. there would be very little difference in my town if people once or twice a week walked out in the middle of a field and bowed to "the great maker of the ball that is thrown and kicked and hit and caught." Sports is a priority and their affection for Christ is a hobby.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"The Ballad of Big Mike"



This story about Michael Oher, the offensive tackle for the Ole Miss Rebels is enough to make even a Auburn fan cry.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Young, Restless, REFORMED


This is a very interesting article on the resurgence of Reformed pastors and pew-sitters in Baptist churches. Of course, that bastion of Calvinist sanity, John Piper is a major part of the article. I was very surprised that Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle was not part of the discussion. He is a Calvinist, a Baptist and very young. Oh yeah, he is the pastor of the largest church in Seattle, the most unchurched city in the country.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews

Last week, I finished trudging through the alternately entertaining and frustrating Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews. Entertaining because it is Bob Dylan we are talking about; enigmatic and engaging, forthright and unforgiving, liberal and conservative. Frustrating because there was far too much repetition. Let me repeat, there was too much repetition.

Three are three kinds of people in this world. There are those who hate Dylan for a myriad of reasons, the least of which is his voice. Some are still mad about Masters of War or With God on Our Side. But there are many, many of us who love his music. And there are two kinds of us who want every album even if our wallet forbids such a monumental task.

There are those of us who because of his talent and legend of mythic proportions take his statements as pronouncements as if from the highest of peaks – on the level of the Oracle of Delphi. He is not to be challenged since he is after all, Bob Dylan. I am not sure if such people think one day they will have an opportunity to be his friend or what.

But I am of a different stripe. I am a fan of Dylan and my “fan-ness” keeps growing year after year. I only own about twelve albums of his so some would think I am not much of a fan. But there it is. However, I am quote willing to see inane and stupidity in everyone. And let’s face it, Dylan should be no exception. He has made some bizarre statements. And I am not one of those who will be sold on the idea that he was always trying to put off interviewers with dumb responses to dumb questions. He did this to be sure in the 60s but not so much in the 70’s and after.

The thing is, his interviews in the 60’s were at least interesting compared to some of the interviews in the 70’s. He was trying to be profound…I think. But usually he talks like some new-age guru discussing the color of the number nine and “disappearing through walls.” Renaldo & Clara is the subject de jour of these interviews…and man is it painful at some points.

But I really want to talk about the most bizarre and irresponsible thing he said in the whole book. This is from a 1986 interview with Rolling Stone. The interviewer is Toby Creswell.

TC: There's a lot of red-baiting going on again.

BD: That's been going on since the Fifties.

TC: The cold war seems to be coming back.

BD: I don't think it ever went away, you know. It just lays low for a while. People need something to hate, you've got to hate something. As soon as your old enough, people try to make you hate something or somebody. Blacks are a little easier, Communists you can't really see. The early Christians were like Communists. The Roman Empire treated the Early Christians the same way as the Western world treats the Communists.

TC: So it doesn't really change?

BD: No, things don't, it's just got a different name on it. There's always someone you're told you've got to step on so you can rise up a little higher.

Now, I understand what he is trying to say. But the only resemblance between the Christians in the Roman Empire and Cold War Communists is that some people did not like either of them. But the differences need to be pointed out. Christians in the Roman Empire were martyred or stepped on because they would not participate in the Emperor cult. Cold War communists were disliked because of their infiltration of the US Government and their influence over foreign and domestic policy coupled with their murderous reign throughout the Soviet Empire.

This bothers me so much because I am reading Mao by Chang and Halliday. You see, Mao, as a communist is responsible for the deaths of 70 million people…during peacetime. Add to that the more than 60 million killed in the short life of the Soviet Union. Comparing Christians and communists is like comparing God and Satan because they both have people that do not like them.

And so I am consistently amazed at how often Dylan gets reality right in his lyrics and then botches it in his interviews.

However, I do want to point to two things which were interesting because I am sure the interviewer felt the need to nod in agreement but probably found it impossible to understand…since Dylan said it. They are both from Rolling Stone which makes it them all the funnier.

The first is from an interview in July of ’86.

"Well, for me, there is no right and there is no left. There's truth and there's untruth, y'know? There's honesty and there's hypocrisy. Look in the Bible: you don't see nothing about right or left. I hate to keep beating people over the head with the Bible, but that's the only instrument I know, the only thing that stays true."

I would have loved to have seen the interviewer’s face…here is another from a Rolling Stone interview printed in December in of 2001 but the interview took place just a few weeks after the terrorist attacks.

RS: Do you have any hope for the situation we find ourselves in?

Dylan: I don’t really know what I could tell you. I don’t consider myself an educator or an explainer. You see what it is that I do, and that’s what I’ve always done. But it is time now for great men to come forward. With small men, no great thing can be accomplished at the moment. Those people in charge, I’m sure they’ve read Sun – Tzu, who wrote The Art of War in the sixth century. In there he says, “If you know the enemy and know youself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself and not your enemy, for every victory gained you will suffer a defeat.” And he goes on to say, “If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Whoever’s in charge, I’m sure they would have read that. Things will have to change. And one of these things that will have to change: People will have to change their internal world.

Hah! Dylan the hawk?

I love it…Dylan favorably quoting Sun – Tzu.

Anyway, the book is a must read for Dylan fans. There is a lot of comedy and insight from him and otherwise. His dodging of questions he does not want to answer is always fun to read. You can sometimes feel the interviewer squirm. So whether you are the kind of fan who feels as if Dylan and you could be friends or you are like me and feel free to love his music, warts and all it is a great read. I actually think Dylan would like me more though…

Monday, September 18, 2006

Covenience over Belief

Update: The article was in the Greenwood Commonwealth on Fraiday, September 22.

The following is an article I wrote for the "Religion Page" of my local paper, The Greenwood Commonwealth. For months they published my pieces and asked for more. Now there is a new person in charge of this page and I have yet to be published. Hummm?

Most fans of Dylan are willing to admit he has a few albums that missed the target. One of those is Knocked Out Loaded released in 1986. It gets panned all over the place. I have not heard all of it. But I do know one song from that album. And ironically, it is one of my favorites.

Brownsville Girl is the one song that critics and fans alike see greatness in. It is a greatness seeking the size of a horizon. Just over 11 minutes long (or short?) it’s a narrative I am almost always trying to get my head around. Mostly this is because it is full of images of the Desert, the Southwest and Dylan standing in line waiting to see Gregory Peck movies. Tthere is plenty of nourishment for the imagination. The sedate verses and a rapturous chorus are forever locked up in my mind’s safe. Like an heirloom, I pull them out and look them over and run my hands along the contours and edges.

There is one line I might actually call my favorite of all his many lines. It is a line he puts in the mouth of this Brownsville Girl,

You always said people don't do what they believe in,
they just do what's most convenient, then they repent.

Cynical? Maybe a little. But lets face it, rings true wouldn’t you say? There is enough of this lived out before all the world for us to say it is true for the great majority.

Liberal, conservative, rich, poor, white, black, young, old, non-Christian and Christian alike are under this indictment. More and more this may be what separates Western Civilization with its enemies. We may scoff at the beliefs of Islamic Militants. We may hate and decry their suicide bombings and their taking of innocent life. But we must acknowledge - what they are doing is a result of what they believe in.

Us? We choose Convenience.


The modern day Christian, mired in the values of Western Civilization has heard the siren song of convenience and crashes against the craggy rocks of unbelief. Convenience buys us comfort and gadgets. It trades in the currency of a conviction-less culture. Its poison ignored, convenience courses through our veins infecting all we cavort with.

Those who confess belief in Christ have so little affection for him their unbelief is conspicuous. The belief is stated, the unbelief is lived out. And it is lived out through tens of thousands of lives shot through with a lust for what is convenient. We are afraid of losing respect, status and a million little 30 second false gospels beamed into our homes. And so we choose what’s most convenient, then we repent.

The repentance the Brownsville Girl is not repentance at all. This repentance is the “just kidding” after a startling insult. Problem is, real repentance fights against being convenient. A rebel admitting his hatred to the King’s rule and his need for amnesty is never convenient. Admitting the presence of the 400 pound gorilla in the corner vitiates against our sense of convenience. We must now do something…which is real repentance and belief.

Therefore it is real hard to not think of the many Christians throughout the World who are not lulled to sleep by the love songs of the free West. They are martyred. They are ripped from their families. They are ridiculed and they are thrown to the lions, metaphorically speaking and otherwise. When pressed on what they believe, they count the cost and then they “do what they believe in.” Like their King they refuse “whats most convenient” and find themselves “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” – Hebrews 12:2.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Popular Mechanics Debunks Loony 9/11 Myths


This is the famously popular article (for everyone except those who are part of the MSM) which is the basis for the book, Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts.

The article is fascinating and makes the conspiracy theorists look like...well, conspiracy theorists. There is a lot of unintentional humor making it very hard to parody these guys. Satire is all but impossible. The only thing that could make these conspiracy theorists sound more ridiculous is if they implicated the not dead yet Colonel Sanders "with his wee beady eyes."

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Tribute to William Joseph Wik



As part of the 2,996 campaign to remember the victims of 9/11 I am posting my tribute to William Joseph Wik...who went back in. A hero.

William Joseph Wik A Gift for His Bravery
September 24, 2001


The rescue workers who pulled William Wik from the World Trade Center ruins figured he was a firefighter. He wore the same gloves as the five firemen he was found with, and a flashlight and radio lay near his body, his wife said.

But Wik, 44, worked on the 92nd floor of Tower Two for Aon Corp. and apparently had volunteered to help emergency workers when he was killed during the terrorist assault.

His wife, Kathleen Wik, counts herself among the lucky because his body was recovered and properly buried last week. Many families have not been as fortunate.

"I got him back because he helped the firemen," Kathleen Wik said. "That was my gift for his bravery."

New York City police officers delivered Wik's wallet and wedding band to his Yonkers home on Sept. 15, a day after he was found.

Kathleen Wik said her own farewell to her husband, touching the rose tattoo on his upper left arm before his funeral.

She laughed about the tattoo, something her husband had done in his youth that he tried to hide under long- sleeved shirts as an adult. She now plans to get a similar rose tattoo.

"No one would believe he had a tattoo because he looked so conservative," Kathleen Wik said. "He was quiet and unassuming."

Wik was an assistant director in risk management services for Aon. He started his job in May after working for a company in White Plains.

He spent his weekends and free time with his children - Tricia, 16, Katie, 12, and Danny, 8 - and whatever athletic or musical activities they were involved in. "At this point in our lives, our hobbies were the kids," Kathleen Wik said.

Besides his wife and children, Wik is survived by his mother, Carol Wik of Sag Harbor; brothers Tommy Wik of Sag Harbor and Ray Wik of Florida and sister Kathy Simon of Southampton. He was buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Valhalla.

-- Ann L. Kim (Newsday)
Sept. 20, 2001


His family held a funeral for William Wik Tuesday. But they have other memorials planned for the 44-year-old husband and father of three.

Wik, of Crestwood, N.Y., was killed when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. In May, he had started work for Aon Corp. as an assistant director.

Wik loved caring for tomato plants in his home garden. His son, Danny, 8, has taken over that task.

Wik had a rose tattoo on his upper left arm. His family and friends are getting rose tattoos, too, his wife Kathleen said, "but not as big and maybe not in as obvious a place."

When the first hijacked plane struck the north tower of the World Trade Center, Wik saw it from the 92nd floor of the south tower, where he was in a meeting. He called his wife.

"Kathy, I have a lot of people to deal with here," she recalled her husband saying.

Wik's body was found in the rubble of the south tower. He was wearing firefighters' gloves, clutching a police radio in one hand and a firefighters' flashlight in the other, she said.

"Because he did what he did and was brave enough to pitch in, I found him," she said. "I saw his tattoo and I kissed his arm."
--Ted Gregory (The Chicago Tribune)


A Hero

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Justin Taylor's Primer on all Things Emerging and Emergent



I strongly recommend reading Justin Taylor's An Emerging Church Primer. He has a way of cutting through the fog. If you have read or are planning to read dome Donald Miller or Brian McLaren, I recommend this article. And read it slowly and often.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Swinging!!!



Thanks to Mitch McGinnis for the embed help!!!

A Must Read for...Well, Anyone


I have read a good bit on the abortion issue for about 10 years now and I have not read anything as well-written and as driven by logic and truth as this defining work by Ramesh Ponnuru. There is probably no other book that will have the impact this book has on ending the tragedy we foolishly call Abortion.

Do not let the dark title, The Party of Death, fool you. This book is full of light. It dispels darkness by calling it what it is. Those who would argue for giving peace a chance have no qualms about sticking a fork in a fetus' head and sucking the brains out. The title is good and right and just.

Hans Rookmaaker and Art


While I was at Jr. High RYM I picked up Art And the Christian Mind: The Life And Work of H. R. Rookmaaker Laurel Gasque. A thoroughly good read, it opened a new world of reflections on art by a scholar of not only art but the Bible...not to mention Jazz. The book is an excellent tribute to a man who is only rivalled by Schaeffer in his understanding of how artistic expression is a reflection of the artist's view of reality.

After reading the above biography on Rookmaaker I was hungry for anything else I could find. So I ordered, from www.goodtheology.com Modern Art and the Death of a Culture. All I can say is I have never really read anything like it. If you like it when Schaeffer waxes eloguent on all things Art. This will give you the fix you have probably been longing for. Here is a taste worth the wait for...

"Christian art is nothing special. It is sound, healthy, good art. It is art that is line with the God-given structures of art, one which has a loving and free view on reality, one which is good and true. In a way there is no specifically Christian art. One can distinguish only good and bad art, art which is sound and good from art which is false and weird in its insight into reality. This is so whether it is painting or drama or music. Christians, however full of faith they may be, can still make bad art. They may be sinful and weak, or they might not have much talent. On the other hand a non-Christian can make a thing a beauty, a joy for ever - provided that he remains within the scope of the norms for art, provided that he works out of the fullness of his humanity, and does not glory in the depraved or in iniquity or glorify the devil.

So a work of art is not good when we know that the artist was a Christian: it is good when we perceive it to be good. Nor is a work bad if we know the artist was a hater of God." (p. 228)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

William Joseph Wik: Husband


Not many were able to bury their loved ones who died at the WTC on 9/11. William Wik's wife was one of the few. Considering the circumstances, you cannot blame her for feeling as if she received a gift when she buried her beloved husband and the father of their three children.

Before his funeral she said her goodbyes to him and reached out to touch a tatoo he kept hidden under long-sleeve shirts. What was once a youthful indiscretion has now become an icon for his wife, Kathleen. Whether she has done so or not I am unsure but she at one time planned on getting a similar tatoo as a reminder.

"Kathy, I have a lot of people to deal with here."

William saw the first plane hit the the north tower while in a meeting on the 92nd floor of the south tower. When he called his wife, he was emphatically told to get out. Hi response was, "I have a lot of people to deal with here." Katleen says she was not surprised.

In a world shot through with selfishness and comfort-seeking hollow men I am refreshed to hear the story of William Wik. Would I get out immediately? Would I seek after my own comfort? Would I want to stay and help? Would I risk anything at the price of my own skin?

I hope so.

Courage is a rare thing. Sure we plenty of strength, born of hours at the gym. But is strength born of courage something men, young and old aspire to?

More to come...

Friday, August 25, 2006

Excellent response to Maken's Response

Andreas Kostenberger responds to Debbie Maken's response to his writing, The Gift of Singleness. Mrs. Maken wrote Getting Serious About Getting Married: Rethinking the Gift of Singleness. My thoughts on her book are in the post below.


http://discerningthetimes.blogspot.com/2006/03/rethinking-biblical-paradigms.html

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

2,996: A Tribute to 9/11 Victims

Name: William J. Wik
Age: 44
Killed at: World Trade Center
From country: USA
From city: Crestwood
From state: N.Y.

Mr. Wik is the victim of 9/11 that I have the privilege to commemorate in the lead up to the 5 year anniversary. May I do him justice and not show any disrespect to his family or his memory.

I will every couple days write some reflection on this tragic event and Mr. Wik.

I just do not want to forget that day.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Summer From Hell in the Mississippi Delta

Right now, the temp outside is 102, so I am guessing a heat index as high as 108. Now that is rough enough. But Mywife just arrived at the church with kids in tow because our AC has quit blowing cold air. Let's hope and pray that we only need some freon...otherwise we are spending the night at the church.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

My New Favorite Website

I have enjoyed youtube for awhile now. But until last night I had never thought of putting videos of my kids on the site so the grandparents can enjoy them. It really is a fascinating thing to be able to do what seemed impossible just a few years ago.

Now if I could just learn how to embed in my blog...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Lme3cYG5CQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kPzv0H4oXg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8raPBpNcHIY

Monday, August 07, 2006

Impassioned Orthodoxy

I have linked to my church's homepage where you will find a great sermon by my pastor and friend, McKay Caston. It was an outstanding, passionate and fearless sermon.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I Had No Idea...

The foollowing article by yours truly was published in the Greenwood Commonwealth on Friday

Is God Dead?

It was in 1882 when Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher first made the shocking statement, "Gott ist tot." God is dead. And as a confessing and believing Christian, teacher and leader, I must confess that I agree. Allow me to explain.

God is not dead in any objective sense. He lives and reigns in the heavens. He upholds the Universe by the power of his hand. And in the person of Jesus, He intercedes continually for those of us who believe the Gospel. God is not dead in the way a person is physically dead. This is not what I mean or what Nietzsche meant.

So what did he mean?

Well, simply put, he meant God was now irrelevant and belief in him served no real purpose except as a polite fiction. A philosopher or theologian would say that God serves no “teleological” function (telos, end or purpose). He has no purpose. Nietzsche’s purpose in saying “God is dead” was to point out the absurdity of an absolute moral code without a belief in God. He foresaw the twentieth-century’s global rejection of a transcendent moral order and the resulting bloodshed with clarity.

What do I mean though?

Actually, when I say “God is dead,” I mean something a little different. Again, he is not physically dead. But for so many people in this town and ten thousand more throughout the Bible Belt and beyond, God is believed in and even called a Savior and yet is irrelevant. He plays second fiddle (at best) to wealth, beauty, sex, Sports – our kid’s sports, jobs and every other thing under the sun. Education is only a way to get more money and support your family and never a way to know more of the reality God created. He is patronized with a visit to church on Sunday and Monday he is ignored. We buy and sell and consume and give not a thought of whether any of it will betray to the watching world that God reigns…or even exists. For so many God is dead. And he is dead for those who will cancel life with all its demands and then move heaven and earth to remove a blemish from their face or watch a game. But they will treat the pursuit of “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” like a hobby.

The good news is that God does have a purpose and it may not be what you think it is. God exists for God. The chief end of God, according to John Piper (and the Bible) is the glorification of God, himself. If God had affections for anything higher than himself he would be an idolater. He alone must be, for all eternity, riveted upon the exaltation of himself. And this should not surprise us. Consider 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…” In other words, God the Father sent God the Son to die in our place so that we might get God. God did not send Jesus so God would get us. God sent Jesus so that we would be able to glorify God for his mercy (Romans 15:9).

Perhaps, for those whose lives betray a belief in a virtually lifeless God, they have assumed that God was fixated on their value and not his own value. They have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. And so placing themselves at the center of all reality, they think very little about the Sovereign God of the Universe. He might as well be dead.But God, treated as dead beckons, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” he says Come and see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God” (Isaiah 55:1,2; 2 Cor. 4:

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Desiring God National Conference


Featuring:

Mark Driscoll

Tim Keller

David Wells

John Piper

Man, do I want to be there...

"That's My New Swingset"


As I have been out of town for a couple, I have poseted nothing new. I thought I would start with a Emma Caroline and Knox.

Monday, July 03, 2006

New Article in Greenwood Commonwealth

Beer is Not the Problem

Granted, alcoholism is a problem. Drunk-driving is a problem. Under-age drinking is a problem. Selling beer to minors is a problem. There are a lot of problems surrounding the existence of alcohol. But beer is not the problem.

Now, this is not the opinion of everyone. The nation’s largest Evangelical denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution recently on alcohol which expresses their "total opposition to the . . . consuming of alcoholic beverages." In other words…beer is the problem.

I do not bring this up merely to criticize the SBC. I have a profound respect for the denomination I grew up in. Also, they are joined by the vast majority of evangelicals in their belief that it is wrong for anyone to drink alcohol. Having given this caveat, let me say, I am convinced that institutional prohibition of alcohol and the blaming of alcohol itself are wrong postitions. They are devoid of logic, biblical and otherwise.

So if beer is not the problem…what is? If we can’t blame alcohol for the social ills of alcoholism, drunk-driving, promiscuity and illegal activity, what can we blame?

In a word…ourselves.

John Calvin, the 17th century Genevan Reformer made the memorable point, “Our hearts are ‘idol factories’, and our words and actions are shaped by the pursuit of things our heart craves.” Our hearts, the symbol for our affections, churn out things to satisfy us. Our hearts long to be satisfied and they will be satisfied by something. And so we make idols out of the things our hearts long for: family, sex, cars, houses, and possibly even alcohol. However, we know because of the biblical testimony that all these “possible idols” are good in and of themselves…except for maybe alcohol.

And yet the Bible never condemns alcohol. Indeed, Jesus makes water out of wine and uses wine as a metaphor when teaching. Jesus was obviously no teetotaler as he was accused of being a drunk. Paul tells Timothy to drink wine for his stomach. David credits God with wine to gladden the heart of man.

However, there are prohibitions against getting drunk. But that should tell us something. There are no condemnations of sex but there are condemnations of sexual activity outside of marriage, there is also no condemnation of alcohol, only condemnation of the abuse of alcohol. Sex is not the problem and beer is not the problem. The problem is we struggle to love the Giver more than the gifts. Our hearts are truly idol factories.

Consider the words of Martin Luther, “We must not...reject [or] condemn anything because it is abused. This would result in utter confusion. God has commanded us in Deut. 4 not to lift up our eyes to the sun (and the moon and the stars), etc., that we may not worship them, for they are created to serve all nations. But there are many people who worship the sun and the stars. Therefore we propose to rush in and pull the sun and stars from the skies. No, we had better let it be. Again, wine and women bring many a man to misery and make a fool of him (Ecclus. 19:2; 31:30); so we kill all the women and pour out all the wine…Indeed, if we want to drive away our worst enemy, the one who does us the most harm, we shall have to kill ourselves, for we have no greater enemy than our own heart, as the prophet, Jer. 17, says, "The heart of man is crooked…".

“But Matt, you work with teenagers…and they will think it is ok to drink now!” Actually, no. They already do it and if you think drinking beer is their problem, you are tragically na├»ve.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

This can only be good for the country



Bush examining Piper's book, Life as a Vapor

Monday, June 05, 2006

Friday, June 02, 2006

In Today's Greenwood Commonwealth

Evangelical Compassion and Illegal Immigration
By: Matt Redmond

In an AP article dated May 19 regarding illegal immigration, Richard N. Ostling points out the virtual silence of Evangelical Protestants. His assumption is that among other things Evangelicals are “struggling to balance compassion with respect for law and order.” He moves on to quote the Washington spokesman for the National Association of Evangelicals, who says, “Evangelical leaders are concerned that our voice be a biblical voice that does not send the wrong signal to the growing Latino community.” He then continues to express his opinion about the unbiblical position of turning millions of illegal immigrants into felons. Of course, it is really geography which makes them felons. Near the end of the article Ostling quotes an “evangelical specialist” at the Ethics and Public Policy Center who asks, “How do you seal the borders without seeming to lack compassion?” without waiting for an answer.

Now we have it, don’t we? Perhaps it is a foregone conclusion for Evangelicals; the issue is really one of compassion. I have guessed as much though the only evangelical I have actually discussed it with is my wife.

There may be a number of issues that require little thought for conviction but this issue requires more so than say, murder or the like. The directives are not quite as clear. For there are certainly many persons in this great land who feel strongly that to close the borders by building a wall, deporting the illegals who are here and prosecuting those who have hired them is, well…not very compassionate.

As a thoroughly conservative Evangelical, I would like to argue for the converse.
I would argue that if we grant we compassion to the illegal immigrant we are not being very compassionate to the legal immigrant or those born here. The legal immigrant has much patience and hope done the paperwork and waited. And waited. To simply “forgive” and reward through amnesty those who have cut in line has in effect rendered the line of no value. And it has told those who wait they are patient…suckers.

As Caesar’s appetite grows, it becomes harder for me to gladly part with what is his. But alas we taxpayers are richly rewarded with infrastructure and the security procured by our military. And so are the illegal immigrants! And yet the illegal immigrant has paid no state and federal income tax. This is the same as walking into a store and expecting free merchandise. The storekeeper hands over the goods. Why? Because you are already there. This is preposterous and we have a name for it. “Give me that which I refuse to pay for!”

The inevitable question will involve “where is the grace and mercy you evangelicals talk so much about”? I get squeamish about saying it is irrelevant. But in a way they are. And in true diplomatic fashion, they are relevant. Grace and mercy are not excuses for a breaking of the law. Indeed, they are reasons for submitting to the laws of the land (Romans 13). And forgiveness? Of course, as we walk them to the back of the line…behind those who have waited wanted to enter legally.

If we decide we will show compassion to illegal immigrants by granting them amnesty we must also acknowledge that we will be showing a lack of compassion to law-abiding citizens… naturalized and otherwise.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Sweet Home...

From National Review Online...

You could also argue that Idol has given Alabama an unexpected superiority in the union—Hicks hails from the state, as does Season 2 winner Ruben Studdard and Season 4 runner-up Bo Bice. So this begs the question: Does Alabama have a good GOP presidential candidate to offer? And can he or she carry a tune?

Condi is from the Heart of Dixie!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Local Paper is Desperate to Fill Space

The following is in today's paper...

Cruel Compassion for Illegals

Of all the discussions surrounding the immigration issue regarding illegals there is one question I have heard no one ask. Of course, the reason for this could be it is not a very important question to ask. Some questions may be very interesting and entertaining to mull and chew on and yet be no more important than questions that are never really asked. So at the risk of sounding preposterous allow me to ask what I suppose is an unasked question.

What makes anyone think that amnesty (or not prosecuting illegals) is compassionate?

You see, there is a lot of talk about our need to be compassionate toward those who have entered our land illegally. And since I desire to be compassionate as most do, I of course admit that those who exhort us to such behavior are to be agreed with. However it is here where I must part ways with most people. I would, in fact, call it patent cruelty to grant amnesty to these who have turned their noses up at the laws of our land.

Now I do realize that this is the direct antithesis of all the theses given. This is true for those who argue for amnesty and those who argue against it. Those who argue for amnesty do so because of their assumption that it is the most compassionate position to take. Those who argue against anything that smells like amnesty assume that compassion is either not part of the equation or is reserved for citizens who are hurt by lax immigration policies. I agree with the first who believes we should show compassion to the illegals but I disagree with the policy of amnesty. I agree with the second who wants to prosecute the illegals and send them packing but I disagree with the notion of compassion not being a necessary factor in our decision making.

In other words, I believe the most compassionate action our country could undertake is to punish those who have broken our laws and send them to the very end of the line.

Parents will understand this instinctively. For if a child is not punished for bad behavior, the very lack of punishment will redound to more poor behavior. Indeed, if the child is rewarded for his bad behavior a parent can only expect more of the same. The correction of a child by a parent is intrinsically a kind thing. Consequently, the worst a parent can do is to not punish their children. A parent does punish lying simply because they lied but also with the hope they will see the inherent wrongness of lying and will not do the same in the future. Punishment proves compassion.

It should be no wonder that punishing criminals in our country is a kindness to them. Punishment and prosecution that follow a blatant disregard for our laws naturally exhibit the very worth of the law or laws which were broken. It is gift to those who have never seen what is good to see clearly what is bad. Only those with no remorse disagree.

To my chagrin, this tack would never be ventured by the politicians of our day. For we have bought into a worldview which assumes the most compassionate thing we can do is let people get away with criminal behavior. This may affect us little, but I can only guess that it will be to the detriment of our country and its youngest inhabitants: legal and illegal.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A Classical Christian School in Greenwood

On Tuesday May 9th my wife and I met with two other couples to begin praying towards the formation of a Classical Christian School. The time was fruitful and full of constructive dreaming and praying. We will continue to meet and pray every 10 days to 2 weeks for a couple more months. From the beginning we have decided this is not to be a venture founded upon or characterized by negative polemics regarding other schooling options. This is simply the kind of schooling we want for our children and for the community for Greenwood. Also we being very up front about this dream of ours. We want no impressions of secrecy. This has been fruitful so far. A few very encouraging things have happened since we prayed that first night.

1. We have been encouraged by others who seek another option for educating their children toward a biblical worldview.

2. We let the elders of our church know of our dream and plans so they would not be blindsided by such information.

3. I told my youth about the dream and got nothing but positive feedback from them. This was very surprising as they all attend the same private school in the area. They thought it sounded "neat" and another option in our community is needed.

Our next meeting is Tuesday the 23rd of May

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Evangelical Compassion and Immigration

Having read two articles on the virtual silence of Evangelicals on the immigration issue, I thought I would weigh in. The silence is said to be because of the tension between respect for the laws of the land and the desire to show compassion. However, I would and will argue that the two are not in tension in the immigration debate. In fact the converse is true. The rule of law and compassion are intrinsically harmonious.

As an evangelical whose conservative ideology is driven by his theology I cannot agree with the President (which grieves me) on this issue. My worldview will not allow it.

The following are a few of the reasons why.

1. In the OT Scriptures it was very hard for a person to become a proselyte/citizen of Israel. There is a reason why grown men wince at the mention of circumcision. And the dietary laws were no picnic either. The rule of law dictated the conditions by which a person would be able to claim citizenship in Israel. However, whenever ana alien(immigrant) is discussed in the OT law he or she is expected to keep the Law and the Jews are expected to love them (Lev. 18 and 19).

2. In the NT Scriptures such ideas of citizenship were not even on the table. Jesus spoke of the stranger/alien among the Israelites as one born under the Old Covenant. Also, he and the rest of Israel lived and did any ruling at all under the thumb of Rome. They were not a Sovereign nation as the USA is. Of course, they were to show kindness/compassion...they had no other option according to the principles of their faith and the dictates of Rome.

3. It is no act of compassion towards the illegal alien to reward him or her for willingly and unnecessarily breaking the laws of this land. For under our President's plan we not only forgive past sins, we reward the law-breakers for their productivity and ingenuity at breaking the law. Since when is it compassionate or kind to reward people for breaking the law? Every parent and teacher understands the consequences of rewarding bad behavior. It begets bad behavior.

4. It is hard for me to believe that injustice is not being done when we forgive the illegal acts of some and prosecute and punish the same acts by others. But this is what is being done. Those who have committed identity fraud and social security fraud will be not only forgiven they will credited with s.s. benefits based on work they did previous to becoming legal. This betrays a radical disregrad for the rule of law and an affection for political posturing. This is the height of injustice as it not only excuses wrong behavior but calls it right behavior.

5. Also, if laws are passed that in effect show compassion to the illegal immigrant through amnesty, this is no kindness for everyone else. It is an insult to the law-abiding citizen/taxpayer who is expected to submit to the laws of the land and hand over a significant portion of his wages. It is an affront to those who will invariably miss out on job opportunities because they are legal and must be paid at least minimum wage and for that reason are passed over. And it does injury to those who have waited and will continue to wait to enter this country legally.

6. The Republicans of Congress were rightly aghast at how President Clinton and his administration thumbed their noses at the rule of law by lying to a Grand Jury and then caring not a whit for the implications. Is it not the same when our Commander in Chief refuses to enforce the laws already on the books regarding illegal immigrants and those who hire and abet them?

7. "But Matt, where is your sense of love and grace and mercy?" The Bible, which gives meaning to these terms, clearly outlines the role of goevernmental authority in regard to illegal activity. Paul in Romans 13 speaks of the purpose of the "governing authorities" and how they were put there by God for our good. Whose good? Those who have "good conduct." "For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good and you will recieve his approval" (v. 3). You see, the rule of law and its enforcement is a good gift given by God for those who do not resist it. "But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain" (v.4). The most compassionate thing the President and our leaders in Washington can do is not bear the "sword in vain."

To argue for Christian compassion and tolerance and and then put no meat on the bones of such terms is dangerous. We end up wishing for and arguing for the very things we are against. There is no tension between the rule of law and compassion. I would argue that to selectively ignore the rule of law is to show a tragic lack of compassion