Back to School

I'm really thankful to be back at seminary today because I haven't been here for three weeks. We had Spring break three weeks ago, I was in Virginia two weeks ago and I was at Presbytery meeting last week. This semester has gone by so quickly. We only have two weeks left!


Earth Day

After creating all things, God gave man and women the task of exercising dominion over all of creation:
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth. (Genesis 1:28, ESV)
At the very least, this meant that Adam and Eve were to be good stewards of all that God had given to them. They were God's representatives on earth.

As Christians we should remind ourselves of at least four things: First, all things were created for God's glory. Everything belongs to Him and it was made for Him. Second, God gave us the animals, plants, water, etc. to be used by us. The things that God created are to be used in order to enable us to live and thrive in God's world. Third, although creation was made for our use, we have the responsibility to care for God's creation. Finally, stewardship of creation does not mean worship of creation. This is the mistake that many within our culture have made. Instead of honoring God as the Sovereign Creator, they have chosen to worship creation itself. The Apostle Paul puts it this way:
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. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.(Romans 1:21-23, ESV).
When we fail to honor God, we will inevitably honor something else. We exchange the glory of the One, True God for idols. So, if we want to truly celebrate Earth Day, let us begin by repenting of our idolatry. Today is not a day to celebrate the earth, but a day to celebrate our Creator. Let us begin by honoring and thanking Him!


Advice For Drivers

After traveling to and from VA last week, I feel that it is necessary for me to give a few words of advice to my fellow drivers. So, here we go.

First, if you see a sign telling you to merge because the lane you're using is closed for construction, get over! Do not continue to drive in that lane and wait to merge at the last possible minute.

Second, if you chose to ignore the merge sign until the last possible minute, do not expect for me to let you merge in front of me. Go to the back of the line!

Third, use your hands (and not your belly) to drive your car. While I'm sure that you are hungry, you really should place your hands on the steering wheel instead of using them to hold a drink and a burger.

Fourth, if you cannot talk on your cell phone and pay attention to your driving, then get off the phone.

Fifth, please turn off your turn signal especially if it's been blinking for the last 30 miles!

Sixth, do not tailgate people, especially on the interstate. If you're in such a hurry, use another lane! They've given us more than one lane for a reason.

I'm sure that I could add more to this list, but I stop for now. Do any of you have any advice that you'd like to add?

Junk Food Cravings

I'll admit it: I like junk food. While I will gladly eat fruits and vegetables, when it comes to snack food I usually reach for a more unhealthy fare. As evidence of my junk food cravings, here are some of my favorite snack foods (and drinks): Lay's Potato Chips (plain) with Texas Pete Hot Sauce, dark sodas (Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Cheerwine), Flamin' Hot Cheetos, pickles, and hot peppers. I'm sure that I'm not the only junk-food-lover in the world, and I suspect that some of you have a few junky favorites of your own. So, what snack foods to you crave from time to time?


Passing By So Fast

Our time in VA has passed by so quickly, but we're had a great time. In case you're wondering here's a few of the things we're done so far.

On Tuesday, we celebrated Amy's birthday with family and friends. It had been 9 years since Amy's been in VA on her birthday. As you can imagine, she shed a few (happy) tears.

On Friday night we went to a high school play of the Wizard of Oz. Amy's sister Tiffany did an excellent job. I can't remember her character's name, but she was the lady who welcomed Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman, and the Lion into Emerald City with a song...and she sang beautifully. This was Alora's first play, and she loved it. She especially liked the Tinman.

Today, we went with Amy's mom to see the circus in Norfolk. This was the first time Alora or Adalynne had visited the circus. After the circus we went out to eat for Amy's birthday (since today is actually her birthday). After lunch, we went to Amy's uncle's home for a cook-out. Then, after eating, we finished up the day with a game of soccer.

Tomorrow, we'll be worshiping at Amy's home church and spending the day with family.

Then, on Monday, it's back to SC.


Engaging Visitors

Has this ever happened to you? A number of months ago Amy and I were out of town, so we decided to visit a different church on Sunday. After the service we stayed around for coffee and cake. While I would normally take the initiative to introduce myself to others, I decided to wait and see if anyone would engage us in conversation. Sadly, it never happened.

Granted, our experience may not be same as others who have visited. Maybe they were having an "off" day. Maybe the congregation normally engages visitors with zeal. Nevertheless, on the day we visited, we stood alone.

No church is perfect, and I am sure that even churches that are excellent at engaging visitors will miss the mark from time to time. The purpose of my post is not meant to focus on what churches get wrong; rather, I hope that by pointing out this deficiency, we will be encouraged to make appropriate changes.

In light of what I've said so far, I'd like for us to ponder an important question: Who should feel responsible for the visitor who stands alone? The answer is you. When someone chooses to visit your church, God has brought that person there for a purpose. It is not by chance that the person has visited. So, you should make every opportunity to engage the person.

If you are like me, I am sure that you desire for every visitor to feel welcomed. This may be their first exposure to the gospel and the Christian community. So, here are a few thoughts to keep in mind. First, engaging with visitors doesn't have to be complicated. A smile, a handshake, and a friendly "Hello" will speak volumes. Second, do not assume that someone else has already greeted the person. This is probably the biggest mistake we can make. We must recognize that the responsibility belongs to us and not to someone else.

Hopefully, the Lord will bring new people to your church this Sunday. And when He does, be ready and willing to engage them with the love of Christ.

(The cartoon shown above has been used by permission from Dave Walker at CartoonChurch.com. This CartoonChurch.com cartoon originally appeared in the Church Times and is taken from ‘My Pew: Things I have seen from it’, published by Canterbury Press.)


Virginia is for...

...family and vacations! We had a great trip from SC to VA today. The traffic was light, the girls were great, and the gas prices were low! We'll be celebrating Amy's birthday tomorrow night (even though her birthday isn't until the 18th) and enjoying time with family throughout the week.


The Darkness Has Not Overcome

On Good Friday we were reminded of the darkness that Jesus embraced on our behalf. But today we are reminded that the darkness did not prevail:
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:4-5, ESV).
The grave is empty! Jesus has risen indeed!
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:1-10, ESV).


No Creed But Christ?

Any attempt to confess what one believes is a creed. Saying "no creed but Christ" is just as much a creed as a written statement is a creed. You should see the self-contradictory problem with saying "no creed but Christ." Even though it is shorter and rather ill-conceived it is nonetheless a confession or creed. Hence, rather than liberating themselves from the snares of creeds, those who say this have actually entangled themselves in a poorly conceived one.

The Scriptures say in James 2:19, "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble! It is never enough to say that you "believe." The real question remains: what do you believe about Jesus?
--Faith of Our Fathers: A Study of the Nicene Creed by L. Charles Jackson, p.2

(You can read the first chapter from this book here.)

Our Darkness, His Light

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:33-39, ESV)
When God created the world, He said, "Let there be light" and the light appeared. He is light and in Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). Yet, there was a day when God the Son hung upon a cross in darkness. The Light of the World was surrounded by darkness. The darkness was not His own, instead it was our darkness--our sins. Yet, because He bore our darkness we can now have the light of life in Him:
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).

Three Days and Three Nights?

For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" - Matthew 12:40 (ESV)
In this brief post, "Good Friday...or was it Wednesday or Thursday?" Walter C. Kaiser Jr. explains what the biblical writers meant by three days and three nights.


The Origin of Love

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him (1 John 4:7-9, ESV).
According to John, love originates from God. Without God, love would not exist in the world because "love is from God." Furthermore, John says that "God is love." While God is more than love--He is also holy, just, merciful, etc.--He is certainly not less than love. And the greatest news about God's love is the fact that His love has been made known to us through His only Son. In his Gospel, John put it this way:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16, ESV)
In order for us to know the love of God, we must know Jesus: "All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Luke 10:22, ESV).

So, do you know the love of God that has been manifest in Jesus?


"I am the chief of sufferers also."

It's been a couple of weeks since my last "name that quote" post, so I though that it was about time for another. If you know where the following quote comes from, place your answer in the comment section. The winner will receive an all-expense-paid cruise for two from Anderson, SC to Due West, SC. Here's the quote:

"You must suffer me to go my own dark way. I have brought on myself a punishment and a danger that I cannot name. If I am the chief of sinners, I am the chief of sufferers also. I could not think that this earth contained a place for sufferings and terrors so unmanning."


Those Who Help Themselves

So, where do you think that the phrase--"Heaven helps those who help themselves"--comes from?

While quite a few people would guess that it comes from the Bible, such a guess would be incorrect. The phrase is actually derived from the fable "Hercules and the Wagoner," one of Aesop's Fables. In the fable, a man's wagon gets stuck in the mud. So, the man begins to cry out for Hercules to help him. Eventually Hercules shows up and says, "Put your shoulder to the wheel, man, and goad on your horses, and then you may call Hercules to assist you. If you won't lift a finger to help yourself, you can't expect Hercules or anyone else to come to your aid." (Aesop's Fables, #102)

The Difficulty of Defining "Love", Part II

As I mentioned in a previous post, "love" is a difficult word to define for a number of reasons. At times we define love as though it is simply an emotion. At other times we equate love with sex (i.e. "making love"). Yet, definitions such as these tend to be reductionistic and/or misguided. So

Instead of attempting to give a single definition of love, in my up-coming posts I plan put forth some of what the Bible says about the subject of love. By doing so I hope to stimulate our thinking about the nature of love. The Bible has much to say about what love is. We'll begin our exploration soon.