Saturday, February 27, 2010

Vampire mania

Here's an excerpt from Penguins & Golden Calves by Madeline L'Engle:

Many bestselling books today offer despair to a world crying out for hope...Why are vampires so hugely popular in books today? Do they offer to their readers a promise of immortality that seems more real to them that that affirmed by a church which stumbles over the Resurrection? Are vampires taking up where their church leaves off? Satan quickly moves into such openings. I asked one vampire fan, "Is that really the kind of immortality you want? Do you want to live at the expense of some else's life, someone you have to kill?"
"Well, but not all vampires do that."
"Yes, they do. There's no other way for a vampire to go on living but to drink a living person's blood."
Jesus did not drink other people's blood. He gave us His own--a very different thing. Would vampires be so popular if we remembered that?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


“Work worthy of the vocation to which you’ve been called” (Ephesians 4:1). The Apostle Paul is urging us to take seriously the path God has planned out for us. We’re to seek His will and follow it with integrity.

At my Army retirement ceremony I stated how God was redirecting my calling from military to civilian ministry. Afterwards my Executive Officer, a fellow Lieutenant Colonel, came up to me and said he had no idea what I meant by a “calling”. I was stunned, especially since this Field Grade officer was immensely dedicated to the Army.

Many people lack a sense of calling. Certain few professions are considered callings, like teaching, the pastorate, and healthcare…but what does that mean with regard to other lines of work? If we’re not in one of the “called” professions are we free to pursue whatever captures our interest? Does it matter what we do? Some are relieved that they don’t feel called. But no one is exempt in God’s providence.

One reason some people feel a lack of job satisfaction is due to a lack of calling. Peter Kreeft observes, “If you do not believe in what you do, you cannot love it.” “It’s just a job,” and Paul’s admonition doesn’t apply…so they think.

In The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky tells of two hospital cleaning crews--one with a high sense of calling, and one without. The workers who saw their labor as “just a job” disliked cleaning, felt it was a low-level, demeaning job, and thus only performed the minimum required work. The workers who felt their work was a calling believed they were bettering the lives of patients, visitors, and staff. They enjoyed cleaning, did more than was required, interacted with people, and saw themselves as having an impact on wellness as part of the healing environment.

A good friend of mine called himself an “ordained plumber.” He got it right! It matters what we do, and God has a plan for our lives, for each of us. We need to seek His will and follow it. Charles Spurgeon urged, “There is no comfort more desirable than the confidence that you have aimed at doing your Lord’s will.”


Romans 5:1-2: "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God."

We are placed in new relationship to God, resulting in peace. “We are no longer the objects of God’s displeasure” (Hodge). A popular definition of justification is this: it’s “just as if I’d never sinned.” The only righteousness God accepts is His own. Jesus supplies what God demands. As a result, the weight of our guilt is gone. We are already in Heaven legally--and there is no hassle at the border!

Forgiveness is negative--justification is positive. Forgiveness deals with sin that has been committed and pardoned; justification deals with the new position and relationship of the restored believer. Justification is a permanent yet progressive gift.

This new position results in “peace”--not referring to calm serenity but the resolution of conflict/cessation of hostility; a condition, not a feeling. God is at peace with us. The war/conflict is over; we’ve accepted God’s terms for peace. Those who rely on works to save can have no peace.

What does it mean to you personally to have peace with God?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ironies in Jacob's life

The ironies of Jacob’s life…or what goes around, comes around!

Jacob deceives...........................Jacob is deceived

He doesn’t respect the first-born sibling...He marries first-born Leah

He follows his mother’s scheme...He flees, never sees her again

He schemes to get the inheritance...He arrives at Haran with nothing

Birthright deal with Esau......Laban deals for 7-yr employment

He wears Esau’s clothes....................Leah’s veiled in bridal attire

He relies on Isaac’s blindness.............It is dark in the tent

He serves Isaac a goat (not game)...Goat’s blood on Joseph’s robe

Esau has to live with the outcome..........Jacob gets unwanted wife

His parents have favorite siblings...Jacob sadly has a favored wife


I know of a minister who pretty much "beats up" his congregation every Sunday, confronting them with their sinful short-comings, exhorting them to strive for an unattainable level of personal holiness, then sending them on their way home feeling miserable. A lot of people come into church already feeling defeated--they sure don't need to depart feeling worse. I've always believed that a major purpose of preaching is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I speak as a wounded healer to wounded people every Sunday. I minister out of my own pain, and hold out hope to hurting people. That doesn't mean pastors shouldn't challenge their congregations, but exhortation needs to come within the context of exegetical preaching. Let the Holy Spirit, through the Scriptures, do the convicting.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Thanks to television and movies, many people simply do not read books anymore. I think what helped me to attain a love for reading was growing up in Germany without television. I visited the Post Library often and have retained my reading lifestyle to this day. Bookstores are my favorite place to hang out, and I enjoy talking about books with friends. I wouldn't have survived seminary without being a good reader. I can point to certain books that have changed the way I think and which have helped me to grow. And I always have a stack I'm working on. I read professional books but also novels, to be balanced. I attend a monthly clergy gathering where we discuss particular books. I understand that some people learn by hearing, which makes listening to MP3 lecture valuable, or books on CD. I have certain blogs I follow, like Between Two Worlds by Justin Taylor. But I am always with a book. I'm no genius, so I rely on my reading to learn. I remember a guy in college who said when he graduated he wasn't going to read another book...I don't think he got the point of college. A lifetime of learning requires that we continue exploring ideas. We read stories to expand our imagination. We read the Bible to learn God's will. Western writer Louis L'Amour said that he dropped out of schol because "it was interfering with my education." The reason he was such an enjoyable writer was simple--he was an avid reader. We should all develop a love for books and keep them close at all times. We'll not only learn some things; we'll be better people.