Sunday, December 30, 2007

Welcome to the UK!

I have decided that there are two things in this life that I absolutely love: sleep and coffee. Unfortunately, it does not square that you should have one with the other for it typically occurs that you have one without the other (or because you do not have one you have one you get the other). At this moment, I would prefer either and I am without both.

Traveling to London Friday evening, I did not sleep at all. Upon arrival, three hours after getting through customs, searching for lost baggage, and my first game of Crazy 8's, I was privileged to eek out roughly 45 minutes of quality nap time. About 9:00pm I was able to return to sleep and granted approximately three more hours. After that, however, there has come no rest for this weary traveler. Thus, I have spent the last six hours here in the hotel lobby as to not wake my roommate and be presented with the opportunity to study. Good times, I must say, although disturbing that the hotel staff has rendered me homeless.

God was gracious to provide two flights over that were coupled with great conversation and true fellowship. On a walkabout He again supplied the opportunity to converse with a Muslim man and a Jehovah's Witness concerning the condition of their souls. I trust that the Lord might be merciful to water any truth that I may have planted and erase any error that I may have caused.

Hopefully my baggage will arrive today and I will be comforted with a change for these now three day old garments. Also, it will come as a security knowing that twenty packages of McCormick's Mild Taco Seasoning have not come to desecration. Some things in life are more important than others. At this moment, I think my vote goes for coffee.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Don't Go to Hell, Go to Lourdes!!

I read the strangest thing yesterday. Two things, actually, and I could not help notice the striking contradiction between each. One was in a book and written in allegorical fiction while the other was actual news story representing real events with real people. What strikes me as odd, however, is that what is supposed to be allegorical was actually truth and what was supposed to be truth is nothing more than man's made up tales.

Here is the run down, but I warn you - this really sounds like a bad infomercial:
According to this article from the London Telegraph, Pope Benedict XVI has issued a decreed mititagting the time spent in purgatory. And how much would you expect to pay for such an indulgence? One Million Dollars? $500,000? How about $19.95 plus shipping and handling? Neither actually. All that is required is a trip to a little town in France.

But wait, there's more!

"In August the Vatican opened an airline service offering pilgrims direct flights from Rome to Lourdes." Now that is what I call a seeker-friendly church! What service! What a way to make people welcome! What a way to make sure EVERY member has a false sense of security and instead of trusting in the cross to pay the penalty for sins they can now trust in a stamp on their passport! Wow, sign me up!

But wait, there's more!

As an act of full disclosure, The Vatican has issued a few other requirements to be sure that you receive the proper plenary indulgences that you so rightly deserve. You are to visit not simply the city of Lourdes, but rather

"devoutly visit the following places, preferably in this order -
1) the parish baptismal font used for the Baptism of Bernadette;
2) the house of the Soubirous family called the "cachot";
3) the Grotto of Massabielle;
4) the chapel of the hospice where Bernadette made her First Communion

- and pause to reflect for an appropriate length of time at each of these Jubilee sites, concluding with the Lord's Prayer, some legitimate form of the Profession of Faith, and the Jubilee prayer or some other Marian invocation."
But be sure to act now! This offer is not available in stores, and is only valid until December 8th, 2008!!

But wait, there's more!

For nine days, and nine days only, if you visit "a blessed image of the Holy Virgin Mary of Lourdes in any church, chapel, grotto or other suitable place in which it is solemnly displayed, and in the presence of that image perform some pious act of Marian devotion, or at least pause to reflect for an appropriate length of time, concluding with the Lord's Prayer, some legitimate form of the Profession of Faith, and the Jubilee prayer or some other Marian invocation" you are still eligible for the plenary indulgences. I am sure that a quick Google Search can produce an image within a fifteen mile radius of your house. But remember, this offer is not available in stores, nor is it good until the end of 2008. You must act only between the days of February 2nd and February 11th of this coming year if you want to get in on this extraordinary deal!

But wait, there's more!

If you happen to be elderly, disabled, or for some other reason can not make the travel required, have no fear! Thankfully, the Pope has made a way for you as well! Be advised that "if, between the days of 2 and 11 February 2008, they complete a "spiritual visit" (to the aforementioned places) in the desire of their heart, recite the prayers indicated above, and trustingly offer the pains and discomforts of their own lives to God through Mary." Be sure that you make a note in your day planner, alert your in-home nurse, set your Outlook Calendar - whatever you have to do - but do not miss the days February 2-11 if you plan to truly be a part of the faithful. You early birds, don't try to get in on Fenruary 1st. Forgiveness is not available that day. And for you tardy transgressors, don't make your attempt on the 12th either - no soup for you!

In all seriousness, I wish I was making this up. I wish this were not true. I wish that 1 billion of the Roman Catholic practicioners were not being led astray in such a manner. True, not all Roman Catholics subscribe to the official teachings of the Vatican and I sincerely believe that there are some Catholics who are Christians. I also sincerely believe that there are many so-called Protestants who are not Christians. This includes Presbyterians, Methodists, Non-Denominational, and yes, even Baptists. Further, even Southern Baptists! Unfortunately, our human nature wants us to trust in a works based system rather than to throw ourselves wholly at the mercy of the cross. We want to know that we have had some small part to play in our own salvation, or at least in the lessening of the purification which we must undergo. False doctrine, false teaching, false gospel - which makes it no gospel at all.

And after reading this startling article in the morning, I read what is supposed to be allegorical fiction later in the day. In John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress the main character, Christian, is on his way to the Celestial City after entering through The Wicket Gate. Up to this point he has been weighed down immensely by a heavy burden that has been on his back from the beginning of his journey. He has attempted to rid himself of the burden to no avail. Finally, he finds the answer to relieve him from this burden that has so easily entangled him and weigh him down. He finds his solution; he finds the cross.
"Thus far did I come laden with my sin,
Nor could anyone ease the grief that I was in,
Until I came here. What a place is this!
Must here be the beginning of my bliss?
Must here the burden fall from off my back?
Must here be the cords that bound it to me crack?
Blessed Cross! Blessed sepulcher! Blessed rather be
The Man that there was put to shame for me."**
I will take this fiction any day.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Eph 2:8-9)

"But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace." (Rom 11:6)

**John Bunyan. Pilgrim's Progress (Lindenhurst, NY: Reformation Press, 1999), p 48

HT:Irish Calvinist

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Friday, December 14, 2007

It is Finished

Biblical scholars beware: this is not an attempt to make Scripture match my means, but the phrase is applicable nonetheless:

It is finished.

I have anticipated this day for the past ten years and I had an idea of the range of emotions that I would feel. However, as in many things in life, I am not really sure if I have lived up to any of those expectations. In fact I am a bit surprised by what has really captured my attention. As you can read in my testimony, in 1998 I was a part of the graduating class of Dover High School in Dover, DE and promptly whisked from Senior to Freshman again at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. And seemingly just as quickly as I entered the ranks of aspiring scholastics everywhere I exited without fanfare and without a degree. Today, however, I am given grace to say “it is finished.”

After a lengthy evening that merged with the morning that has yet to see an end, I entered my Church History classroom of Southeastern Bible College in order to make this part of the church, history. From Christ to Chalcedon was the subject of the exam and I believe I performed decently. This day marks a turning point in my educational career as finally it can be declared that my bachelor’s degree “is finished.” True, there are a few more steps to go, but this milestone is finished. Summa Cum Laude? Magna? How about “thank the.”

I thought that this day would bring about loud shouts of joy coupled with a hearty “hip, hip, hooray!” So far that has not been the case. Strange as it may be, I am quite humbled as I think of the grace that the Lord has provided to me in order for this day to come about. His grace was evident as He called me out of darkness and into light granting me the grace of repentance and a hope for a future. His grace was evident as He sovereignly orchestrated events in such a way that it was abundantly clear that the path of education was where I was to go. He gracefully opened doors, He gracefully closed doors, and He gracefully shed light little by little all along the way. If He had revealed it all at once, I would not have been able to take the full dose and my fears likely would have overwhelmed me. But He is gracious; He knows what He is doing. He provided, He provided, and He provided again. If this provision were contingent upon my obedience, my goodness, my faithfulness, my consistency, or my deservedness it would never have come to pass. I have failed in so many ways and at so many times and against so many people that this could not possibly be the reason. The only justifiable answer that will suffice is that in His infinite wisdom and according to His sovereign good pleasure He has deemed it good that this grace should fall to me.

“Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.” (Psalm 66:1-2)
This day has given me great reason for reflection and no matter which way I look at it, I must acknowledge that God deserves all credit and glory. That He would even let me learn the tiniest truth (for all truth is God’s truth) is an act of His grace. I was once an enemy of the cross and I was once alienated and hostile in mind doing evil deeds (Col 1:21). I am still at times hostile in mind and doing evil deeds, but His power subdues my will and bends it to His own despite my continual rebellion. For reasons only known to Him, He has graciously chosen to redeem me from destruction.
”Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.” (Psalm 66:5)
There are so many individuals and organizations that have contributed to the progression towards this day. Administrations, professors, friends, mentors, classmates, and the countless individuals who I will never recall their names but somehow in some way have made an impact on me for good. God is indeed sovereign.

However, as important as all these are, aside from the Triune God, there is only one who is worthy of mentioning by name – my wife Kimberly. No one has sacrificed as much as she has in order to see this day arrive. No one has endured more heartache, suffered the burden of financial stress, emotional anguish, and the fires of sanctification than she. I can not rightfully even include myself in this category. She has labored through sleepless nights which lead to irritability and distance on my part. She has had to endure through times of seeming separation as I was studying and preparing assignments. She has had to bear the brunt of my poor choices when I have wrongfully chosen to study rather than sit with her. And above all these, she comes in direct contact with my own sinfulness on a daily basis as she sees the unseen of who I really am. And by God’s grace, she still chooses to love me and is willing to come up under me and support the mission to which she believes that we have been called.

Kimberly, you are a trophy of His grace and I am abundantly undeserving of His provision. There is not a day that passes that I do not thank God for you multiple times, and to my shame, I do not make this clear to you. You have given so much of yourself and I trust that the Lord will reward you for such. You are “far more precious than jewels” and there is no other who I desire to make proud. The praises of men are fleeting, but the praises of a wife will last forever. I want to make you proud. “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

I love you. This day is rightly more yours than it is mine. So together we say, “It is finished.”

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Monday, December 10, 2007

How Deep the Father's Love For Us

This song is quite powerful because it is quite true. To make a wretch His treasure. It was my sin that held Him there. Why should I gain from His reward? His wounds have paid my ransom.

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Col 2:13-15)

How Deep The Father’s Love For Us

Words and Music by Stuart Townend
©1995 Kingsway's Thankyou Music

How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He would give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross
My guilt upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no powr's, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

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