Friday, March 30, 2007

My Hero

My dad's birthday was last week. For the first time I can remember, we didn't celebrate it on March 22nd. This was because Allison and I were at Godspell that night, he was working through some complicated situations at work, and in reality none of us had seen each other for any significant amount of time in about two weeks. So we decided to postpone it for a week and celebrate on Wednesday night, the only night when I didn't have rehearsal.

It was a wonderful feeling to sit back, relax, and honor my dad by just being with him and talking with him. That got me thinking, and today I thought I would honor my dad in public. I want the world to know what a great man he is.

One of the most important things about him is his love for God and his Word. Every time when we're walking through conflict, he is able to pull out a Scripture that perfectly applies to the situation at hand. He loves to spend his time in God's Word, sometimes hours just sitting and reading and meditating and praying. He has always been an example to me in this area, and I can only hope that one day I will have as much Scripture treasured up in my heart as he does.

He is one of the wisest people I know. There have been so many times when he has sat down with me for hours at a time to walk me through this sin issue or that struggle. I'm a very logical person who has to see all sides of the issue before I'll admit to something, so time and time again we would talk through "Okay, what were your heart motives there? How could that be considered a sin? etc." Through it all he would be kind but firm, helping me to see my sin and put it to death. He has the ability to ask questions that move beyond the surface and get straight to the heart. So much of what I've learned about viewing life through a biblical lens I learned from him.

He has very high standards, especially when it comes to entertainment. Throughout my childhood he watched what came into our house very closely. We didn't have TV when I was little because of this, and so the only shows we watched were Wishbone and Magic School Bus on PBS. Although back then I didn't like it too much, today I am so greatful that we are not a TV family. Today we have cable, but it almost never comes on. Instead, we sit in the living room and talk and laugh. The only exception is every Sunday afternoon between September and December when we order buffalo wings and watch the Redskins game on FOX. But even that is a family activity that we all do together, and just enjoy each other's company (hopefully next year we'll also be able to enjoy a winning season, too, but I'll take the family). He never wanted the TV to be something that's always on in the background, and it's not. And personally, I feel we are a stronger family for it.

The family is his top priority. Dinner is one of the most special times of the day because he has always made it a point to be home for dinner. We spend an average of half-an-hour sitting at the table as a family, and we have had so many amazing conversations because of that. He works hard 24-7 to provide for us and yet still manages to make it home for dinner almost every night. It's one of those small things that makes a world of difference in how a family lives together, and we owe it to him making it a priority.

He still loves his mom and his brothers and sisters. He calls my grandma at least once a week to talk, and will talk for hours. His brothers are his best friends, and he talks to them all the time as well. People like to give horror stories about their extended families, but I've never been able to identify, because my extended family is wonderful, and my dad has always made sure that we get to see them relatively often.

He's one of the hardest workers I know. He carries a lot of stress at work as co-owner of his company, but I never hear him complain. I don't know how he does it, but when he starts something he always finishes it. I've learned so much from him, and although my work ethic still needs work, I wouldn't even have one if it wasn't for his amazing example.

One of the most amazing things about him is that, even though he's always under so much stress, he still is one of the most fun-loving people I know. His sense of humor is hysterical (and I inherited it to a large degree), and there's nothing he loves better than to play with his kids. When we were little he wrestled, now he plays football or even Ghost Recon with us, but he just loves to have fun with his family.

We are two very different people. We look pretty similar, and we have the same sense of humor, but I am your poster student, and he is your poster outdoorsman. He was a biology major; I want to be a history major. My favorite activities are reading and blogging; his favorite activities are hunting, fishing, and camping. We are so dissimilar in so many ways, but he still takes an interest in the things that I do. He embraces me for who I am and doesn't try to make me into a miniature version of himself. He supports me in all my pursuits and loves to see me succeed.

He loves my mom more than any other person on earth. The two of them are just as in love with each other as the day they got married, maybe more so. In him I have the image of a wonderful husband, one who loves, leads, respects, and supports his wife with all of his heart.

He has this amazing talent for talking to people. It doesn't matter who the person is, he can start a conversation with them and within ten minutes know their whole background and possibly their life story, and then he finds ways to witness to them, reach out to them, and become their friend. It doesn't surprise me that for fifteen years he worked as a salesman, and an amazing one at that (he won Top Performer for Abbott Labs several times, and even won a trip to Puerto Rico). He's helped me gain some of his skills, although I'm still a far-cry from a good conversationalist. But I'm learning, and I have some amazing help.
He and my mom love opening up our home. One year for Christmas dinner we invited a Taiwanese family that we met through an immersion program at Montgomery College. We're still friends with the family to this day. Another year we invited some people over for Easter dinner from church. One was a single lady that my dad had met while ushering who was new to the church. The other was a lady we met in church that morning and who was sitting right in front of us. When he discovered that she didn't have anywhere to go for Easter, he invited her over. Last summer there was a desparate call for help from the Pastor's College: one of the students was moving down with his family, but the house they were going to live in was not ready for them yet. With barely a second thought, he and my mom opened up their home, even though it was during one of the busiest times of our lives when he was just returning from a fishing trip to Canada with my brothers and my mom and sister were leaving for France for two weeks (not to mention I was gone somewhere or other). The Kurtzs became close friends, and we are still in touch with them. I've learned so much about sacrificial giving at home from him.

Probably my favorite memory of us so far was the weekend when he surprised me for my 16th birthday and took me up to New York City. We took the city by storm, watching two Broadway shows (The Lion King and Phantom of the Opera) and seeing most of the major sights in just two days. We just had a blast being together and seeing the city on our own.

I can only hope that one day I am half the man he is. We've had our disagreements and conflicts, we have different interests in a lot of things, but there is no other man I would rather have for my father. Dad, I love you, and I hope that we'll have another 45 years together to glory in God's goodness together.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Grey Balloons

The characters in the beginning of CLC's Godspell are people you'd see any day at the train station. A sales executive with a briefcase in hand. A sports jock with her iPod cord dangling from her ear. A homeless guy begging for spare change. One by one they hurl out their philosophies of life into the universe, using the words of Socrates, Galileo, da Vinci, and Sartre. They are all in the same train car, but they live worlds apart. They are completely and utterly alone.

One of the images is especially poignant. A harried mom is dragging her kid across the stage, talking on her cell phone, when a balloon salesman approaches her. The kid begins begging for a balloon, until the exasperated mother shells out the money for the trinket and yanks the kid out of the station. What makes it so interesting is that the balloons are grey. As a matter of fact, almost everything on the stage is grey. All the clothing is grey. All the accessories are grey. But what really gets the point across is that even the balloons are grey. The whole picture carries a feeling of despair, of hopelessness. In what kind of world are balloons grey?

When the director conceived this interpretation of the prologue, she focused on the balloons. In the process of explaining the concept to the actors, she made a comment that I will never forget: "Life without God is like a grey balloon." That's the point she was trying to make in the whole prologue. These are people without God. They live and interact with people, but they are alone. Their lives are falling apart. They are without hope, without real purpose. That is, until Jesus comes along with good news. Suddenly the whole stage fills with color as the handyman, the student, the runaway are suddenly dressed in the brightest shades of red, blue, green, and yellow. Life suddenly has meaning, and nothing is the same after that.

"Life without God is like a grey balloon." What does that mean exactly? Well, what is a balloon? A balloon is a sign of festivity. They appear at birthdays, at dances, anywhere where people are having fun. Kids love balloons, amazed at how they float in the air, and they love the bright colors and goofy designs that often appear on them. Balloons are fun. And yet what do you do with a grey balloon? All of a sudden the festivities aren't so festive anymore. If all your balloons are grey, where is the color? Even something as happy as a balloon isn't happy anymore when it becomes grey. It is the ultimate sign of hopelessness.

That's what life without God is like. Even the happy things lose their joy. Life is hopeless, purposeless, meaningless. We seek after things to give us pleasure, but they don't fulfill. They feel worthless and empty. We run around, grabbing onto this balloon and that one, hoping that it will be something other than grey. But it isn't. They never are.

Then this guy comes around. He tells us that he has a place where life is full of purpose. He has color and laughter and festivity. Most importantly, he even has a red balloon that's just for you. "This balloon used to be grey," he says, smiling, "but I found a way to make it red. Welcome to true joy." Then you see his hands, which are marred by these two enormous scars, and you realize where the red came from. You look at him, shocked. But he smiles, and places the balloon in your hand. "It's okay," he says, "I did it because I love you."

The hopelessness is gone. Life has a purpose again. You can experience true joy because of the sacrifice that this man made to give you a life with a red balloon.
(Photo credits: Kate Price and Kristen Leigh)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Chronicle of God's Grace

Well, I have to say that my "sabbatical" was a very good idea. I'll probably be picking back up again this week since our rehearsal schedule is a lot lighter, but I thought I would direct those who are interested to a post I wrote on my Xanga about my experiences during production week for Godspell. I make it a point to try and avoid lots of personal details on this blog, at least when it comes to names, places, and specific events in my life, because there are a lot of people who read this who don't know any of those names, places, or specific events, and nobody wants to read the diary of someone they don't know personally. However, I have learned so much about God's grace this week that I just had to pass it on to the world at large. I'm going to excerpt the most important parts here:

Throughout the week, as everything was going wrong with the weather, rehearsal plans, and sickness, as we were losing cast members left and right and performing with a third of the cast as understudies, we all were constantly being reminded to trust in God. What became my theme verse for the week was a verse that Anna had read during prayer on Saturday morning:

You keep him in perfect peace
Whose mind is stayed on you,
Because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

I had to keep my mind stayed on God the whole week, and so did everyone else. All of us had periods of discouragement, but God was so good to keep bringing us back to him, and we were drawn together as a cast through the trials. It was marvelous to see how God worked...

The amazing thing is how God's grace has been manifested in the peace he gave all of us this week, through all the problems and setbacks and sicknesses. Mrs. Mays can be commended for always keeping our eyes focused on God's grace and providence whenever things went wrong, setting the right tone for the whole week. I am amazed at the grace God gave those people who are sick and those people subbing in for them. He has helped everyone, even the understudies, perform at an incredibly high level, and most importantly to proclaim the gospel to over 2000 people. I am just so amazed at how God works through adversity to bring us closer to him.

God is so good :)

(Props to Kate Price for the photos)

Monday, March 19, 2007

And now for a word from our sponsors...

Well, I have all kinds of things to say in this whole predestination argument...but it's going to have to wait. Life has become absolutely nuts for the primary reason that it's production week for Godspell! Nonstop rehearsals since Thursday only broken up by classes, homework, and graduation planning. Not to mention looking for scholarships...

Anyway, my point is that I have decided to take a break from this blog for the next week, and possibly the following week as well. I'm sure that Claire, Peter, and Paul will still have many good things to say on the subject by then, plus I'll be able to do a little brushing up on what I believe in the meantime.

Just to clarify for Claire, I am an essentially Reformed charismatic, meaning that I hold to most of the basic tenets of Calvinism (i.e. TULIP), although I differ in many important respects (i.e. baptism), and I believe that the Holy Spirit is still active and gives miraculous gifts to the church. For a more detailed summary, click here.

Can't wait to see you all again in a few weeks! Pray for Godspell, with God's grace it will be quite a show!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Line Cannot Comprehend the Cube, Part 2

So my post on election stirred up some controversy, albeit a little belated. I thought this would be as good a time as any to examine the biblical evidence for predestination. One of the things that Karyn and Claire keep saying is stuff along the lines of "It just doesn't make sense that God would..." or "it doesn't seem in accordance with God's character that he would..." What I think is that we need to leave that kind of conjecture behind and examine what the Bible says on the topic (many thanks to Joe for his help in compiling these).

First we need to figure out what is man's state before God.
  • Romans 3:10-12 says “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside."
  • Isaiah 64:7 says “There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you."

There are many more verses throughout Scripture, but I think we can safely concede that the biblical view is that man is inherently evil and has no ability to save himself or even make a choice to save himself.

Second, we need to figure out what God says he does when he saves us. Here the evidence is also very clear. I've already addressed one verse on this topic, but I'll quote it again here because it is so vital to our understanding.
  • Ephesians 1:3-5 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will."
  • John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you."
  • Ezekiel 36:26 "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."

I could go on, but the overwhelming biblical pattern is one in which God chooses us. You'll notice that none of these verses say anything about God merely knowing what we would choose, but he takes an active role in choosing us before time. God is not passive, he is active.

Finally, I want to clarify what man's purpose here on earth is. If you look in the Westminster Catechism, which accurately sums up Scripture on this topic, it says this: "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever." This carries the implicit assumption, which is further borne out it Scripture, that God's chief purpose in everything he does is to bring himself glory. He loves people, he redeems people, but ultimately he does it to bring glory to himself since he is infinitely worthy of glory.

This, I believe, goes a long way in answering Claire's main question, which I'll restate here: Why would God create man to damn him? It really comes down to this: God created man and predestined him to sin because it would bring him greater glory to redeem them. In the gospel, he shows his wondrous love, his wrath, his mercy, his justice, and his holiness in one action. To draw sinners to himself brings him glory.

Here's my question for Claire and Karyn: if God allows humans to make independent choices that he has no control over, how is he sovereign over anything? How can he control anything that happens anywhere? If we're the ones making all the decisions, and God has nothing to do with it, then God has no ability to "work all things together for good." He is merely a passive bystander, watching and occasionally sticking his hand in when things get too out of control. One thing you said, Karyn, really scared me: "God did know that would happen, but he didn't want it to." So you're saying that something can happen contrary to the will of God? That would seem to completely deny his sovereignty.

Speaking of sticking his hand in, you did acknowledge that God does interfere sometimes. So are you saying that it is loving for him to interfere with someone's free will occasionally (as he did with Pharaoh), just not all the time? I don't quite understand that argument.

I'm also not saying that God wants men to go to hell. As you said, he loves all men and wishes for all men to be saved. However, here's the deal (and something I haven't been emphasizing like I should): although God predestines all things to happen, he also holds men accountable for their actions done by their free will (see my definition of free will back in my original post). Man chose sin, and here's the difference in the picture of salvation as seen by Calvinists and Arminians:

God stands at the door of Heaven with His arms outstretched, inviting all to come. Yet all men without exception are running in the opposite direction towards Hell as hard as they can go. So God, in election, graciously reaches out and stops this one, and that one, and this one over here, and that one over there, and effectually draws them to Himself by changing their hearts, making them willing to come. Election keeps no one out of Heaven who would otherwise have been there, but it keeps a whole multitude of folks out of Hell who would otherwise have been there! Were it not for election, Heaven would be an empty place, and Hell would be bursting at the seams!" That does put a different complexion on the thing, doesn't it? -Mark Webb

God does not save all, and he does not want any to go to Hell. But it brings him the most glory to save some instead of all. How is that? I don't know, it's one of those things I don't quite understand, but I believe it because Scripture says it's so.

Finally, I just want to address Claire's interpretation of Ephesians 1:3-5. It says nor implies nowhere in the passage that God predestines ALL of us as you said. If he did, that would mean that we have the ability to do something completely contrary to his will. We are able to contradict God. No, in the passage it gives the very clear idea that those God predestined to be adopted, he also adopted. There are no lost causes in those whom God chooses.

In your responses to this, make sure you bring it back to Scripture. Ultimately, everything that does not come back to Scripture is conjecture that means very little without solid backing. Bring me Scripture that demonstrates the fact that we all have free will of the kind you describe.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Meditations on Romans II

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened...Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. --Romans 1:18-21, 32

We've spent a lot of time on this passage in Bible class this year, as we've used it as the platform for discussing the question "Does man know God and know sin?" It's a hard question. If man does know God and know that he's a sinner, than he is fully responsible for all his actions, but if he doesn't know God and doesn't know that he's a sinner, that would seem to remove any guilt from him for his sin.

This passage states pretty clearly, though, that man does know God and his character. But, importantly, they rebel and refuse to recognize him as their God, becoming futile in their thinking. What exactly does that mean? Essentially, it means that they lose their ability to reason effectively, to use their minds to find God. God created all things good, including our mental faculties, but because man rebels, he is unable to use his reason to get him to God. This doesn't mean that non-Christians are stupid, but it does mean that their thinking is flawed and there are certain things they cannot get on their own by unaided reason.

This idea is the basis for presuppositionalism, which states that as a Christian, we can't start on "neutral ground" in our apologetics. As Christians, we have had our thinking mostly restored, but when we try to abandon Scripture and start from a neutral point, we are basically putting ourselves back on the level of non-believers, abandoning the gift that God has given us. Saying, as C.S. Lewis does in Mere Christianity, "Let's see how far we can get on our own steam," is an insult to God and the gift that he's given us. We are called to use the reason he has given us as a tool, not as an ultimate authority.

This ended up coming out slightly hodge-podge, but hopefully the general idea comes out. I am obviously a presuppositionalist, and I'd love to discuss this with anyone who's interested.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

One of those days

So today was just one of those days. I'm still recovering from a nasty cold, I saw firsthand the effects of a close friend's rebellion, I was distracted during church by a bunch of rebellious kids, the senior meeting didn't go nearly as well as we'd hoped, I got in a fight with my mom, and life just seemed like it couldn't get much worse. After reconciling with my mom, she made the comment, "You know, it's days like this that make me long for heaven." After we had finished talking, I came down to my room but couldn't think of anything to do, so I started thinking about heaven. Then I decided to turn on some music, and it dawned on me to make myself a mix of songs about heaven. After sorting through many good songs in my collection, here's the final mix I came up with.

"Foreverandever, Etc." by David Crowder*Band
"Perfect Day" by Josh Bates
"I'll Fly Away" by Jars of Clay
"When I Get Where I'm Going" by Brad Paisley
"Smile" by Chris Rice
"Elijah" by Rich Mullins
"Homesick" by MercyMe
"Great Expectations" by Steven Curtis Chapman
"On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand" by Jars of Clay
"Up Where We Belong" by BeBe and CeCe
"Before the Throne" by Sovereign Grace
"Our Happy Home" by David Crowder*Band
"Breakfast Table" by Chris Rice
"Ready for a World" by FFH
"Take Me Away" by Sarah Kelley
"One of These Days" by FFH
"I Can Only Imagine" by MercyMe

I can wholeheartedly suggest that you track down all of these songs and buy them and listen to them when you're feeling down. I know that nothing ecourages me more than the thought of heaven, where conflict will be gone and we'll rest forever in the light of his glorious face. So like my mom said, I can seize on days like these to meditate on the glories of the future. There's a reason Hope is one of the three things that remain in 1 Corinthians 13, it's what keeps us going when nothing else will.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Line Cannot Comprehend the Cube

No, this will not be an exhaustive treatise on the issue of Free Will and Election. I don't have time for that. However, I do have some thoughts that aren't mine and are quite profound. It all grew out of a conversation we were having last night during the Godspell dinner break. We began talking about this issue, and Eli quoted Randy Alcorn as saying "Free will and election are parallel lines that meet in heaven." I thought that was a profound way of saying it. I am a firm believer in the doctrine of predestination, but at the same time I believe that man does have free will. How does this work? How can I believe both? It basically comes down to two things.

First, I believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. It tells us all that we need to know. I also believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. What it tells us is totally true. So the way I approach this question is as follows: 1) The Bible tells us clearly that God plans out our steps and directs our actions. But 2) the Bible also tells us clearly that we are held responsible for our actions. I know that both of these facts are completely true, but in my finite human mind I cannot completely match them up. They are an apparent contradiction, a paradox. I can work as much as possible to reconcile the two facts, but I must never downplay either fact.

Second, what I find to be the best reconciliation between the two is from Jonathan Edwards. He said (and this is a paraphrase since I can't find the exact quote), "Free will is the ability to choose that which we most desire." The definition of free will is terribly important to this whole discussion, and this is the best definition I've been able to find. Edwards goes on to explain that while we are perfectly free to choose what we most desire, because of our sinful natures we can only ever choose sin. It takes God to reach down and transform our desires so that we begin to desire good things. We don't reach for him. So we find that in this definition, we are able to uphold, to a certain extent, both free will and predestination.

This helps us to a point, but it still leaves us with questions about God authoring sin, how we still have much freedom in choosing anything, etc. Here is my very Calvinistic answer: It's a mystery to me. And I'm okay with that. My Apologetics teacher Nathan Sasser once said that Arminianism is the refuge for people afraid of mystery. They don't want to believe that there's anything they can't understand, so they've decided to play down predestination and play up free will in order for things to make sense to them. It takes a truly humble man, though, to be able to admit that he doesn't know something. That's where I stand on this and many other doctrinal topics. I seek to understand them as much as I can, but I must eventually cede that I am like a line, and God is like a cube. How can I possibly comprehend what is in a complete other dimension?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Odds and Ends VI

So I've been sick all week, but am finally getting better (except for this nasty headcold that's decided to stick around). That explains my apparent abandoning of the Romans meditations...hopefully they'll be back next week. So in lieu of a more intelligent post, here are this week's Odds and Ends.
  • The Resolved Conference was a few weeks ago, and all the messages (from greats such as John MacArthur, C.J. Mahaney, and John Piper) are available as a free download here. Can't wait to listen to them. (HT Challies)
  • This has been a good week for Dan Phillips. First there was his post about God's goodness that I mentioned a few days ago, and then he gave this meditation on the death of John Piper's father earlier this week (see below for key quote). May all our epitaphs be "What he had, he used."


  • The fight of the century! Barney versus Hip Hop Harry! Who will win? I think it's pretty clear cut (I've never seen little kids do moves quite like that before).
  • FCN is convinced that George Washington didn't exist, and they're holding the Washington Seminar to discuss it. Anyone interested?
  • For those of you who missed the Oscars, here is one of the most amazing choirs ever performing scenes from classic movies.
  • My pal John Benefiel sent me this link...I dunno, you think Google might be spying on us?



It's funny, isn't it? Some single people will get married, some won't. But all think about it. We think a lot about many things that may or may not ever happen to us. But the one thing that is about as statistically certain — our death — many seemingly never give much serious thought. --Dan Phillips


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

In awe of God's goodness

So as I was writing yesterday's post, I wasn't feeling so great (which is obvious from some of the stuff I wrote down). After taking my temperature, my parents decided that I had a fever and that I should skip Bible class and rest. I promptly took a three-and-a-half hour nap. Of course, with my schedule for this week, that was the last thing I wanted to do. I had a major research paper due that afternoon, I had to start on my incredibly difficult Hillsdale Honors' Application, and I had several hours of Latin homework to finish by this time this morning. Obviously, I was feeling a little discouraged, wondering why on earth I would have to get sick on that day of all days. Then I stumbled across an article by Dan Phillips on trusting God, and he had this quote that helped me throughout the rest of the day:

Christian friend, if you are going to believe what you say you believe, then there are only two kinds of situations:

1. Situations in which you will see God's goodness immediately.
2. Situations in which you will see God's goodness eventually.

This is another of those marvelous truths that I so quickly lose sight of. God is ALWAYS good, no matter what the situation may be. I was then able to pass the same wisdom on to a friend dealing with chronic illness and lifted her up as well. So thank you Dan Phillips for your timely wisdom, and thank you God for your everlasting goodness!

(By the way, I'm still sick this morning, so if you could pray for me, I'd greatly appreciate it.)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Meditations on Romans I

For the last month or so I've been reading through Romans, and when I finished it was so good I started again. This time, to help me meditate more on the truth I'm reading, I thought that it would be a good thing to blog through selected portions, since I think best when I'm writing, and I write best when I'm typing, and I'm most likely to type when I blog (welcome to my life). So this is a part of my devotions, but I hope you can benefit from my thoughts.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

This verse is an important one to church history, for it is the one that changed Martin Luther's heart and helped reveal to him the idea of "salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone." I just want to briefly go through each phrase here with some thoughts.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel: Am I ashamed of the gospel? Being ashamed is when I avoid the gospel and don't live my life with it in view, thinking "that's for unbelievers, I don't need it anymore." We need it every day and every moment, so am I embracing it?

For it is the power of God for salvation: the gospel is so amazing in that it is able to save! What other message do you know that can save? Not the message that a book or movie is trying to teach you, not the politician's message to give the poor more money or to do something in Iraq. Only the gospel can save, because contained in the gospel is the truth that Christ died to save sinners, including me. He gave his life for me as an atoning sacrifice in my place so that I could live forever with God!

To everyone who believes, to the Jew first and then to the Gentile: the gospel can save anyone! Just think about that: it doesn't matter who you are or what you've done. You can be a goody two-shoes church kid, a serial murderer, or anyone in between. It doesn't matter, because Christ died for all! This means that we never have to give up hope on someone, because they could at any time have their hearts changed by the Holy Spirit, no matter how far away they may seem. On the flip side, everybody needs the gospel! It doesn't matter who you are or how good you act or how much money you give to charity, you still need the gospel for your salvation.

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith": As my pastor Robin Boisvert said yesterday, "Faith and repentence are not the gospel, it is the hand we reach out to take hold of the gospel." And the most amazing thing is that, even as we're reaching out that hand, even that move is empowered by God! This is such a crucial truth that we often take for granted, but the only way we can be saved is not through anything we do, but through accepting what Christ has done for us. Through faith in what he has done for us, we can live forever with God.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Welcome to Socialism, thanks for your freedom

Reading through my paper today, I came across two different articles with a common theme. First, on the front page of the Washington Times Metro section was an article that began thus:

[Maryland] Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. wants to increase Maryland's sales tax on gasoline by 12 cents a gallon, part of a revenue plan that also includes bringing 15,500 slot machines to the state and cutting government positions. "There's going to be cuts, there's going to be slots, there's going to be tax increases," Mr. Miller said yesterday. "And it's going to be tough for some people, but they're going to have to suck it up and move forward for the good of the state."

Is anyone else worried about that last statement? "The good of the state?" Sounds like something else in recent memory. (Hint: it was officially declared dead in 1991.)

Then, moving deeper into Metro, there was an interesting article about subtitles in Switzerland and how you can see almost any movie in up to six different languages in a single theater. But stuck in the middle of the article was this little detour:

A fondness for subtitles is not the only difference between Swiss and American movie theaters; consider the Swiss movie ratings, which are both more varied and more rigid than their U.S. counterparts. A movie can be rated K/6, K/8, K/10, J/12 or J/14, which means a child or teen has to be that age to view it. Babies and toddlers are banned unless a special family matinee is advertised. Parental discretion is not allowed. "No babies, no young children. We have a different approach to movies than the United States," says Charlottte Waltert, an employee at Zurich's Arthouse Alba theater.

That means you must be at least 8 to see "Happy Feet" and "Flushed Away," while "Night at the Museum" and "An Inconvenient Truth" are reserved for those 10 and older. "The Holiday" and "Eragon" can be seen by those 12 and older, but you must be at least 14 to view "Casino Royale" or "Deja Vu."

Whatever happened to parental discretion? No, it's the government's job to decide what your children can and can't watch. Parents can just take a backseat and let the government take over education, the workplace, and now it appears the movie theater.

Is anyone else worried about how much these version of socialism sounds like communism?