Amusement (30 July)

NASA is in trouble again, this time for flying drunk astronauts on the Shuttle and/or the Russian Soyuz. Seems like every time I leave town, something bad happens here…but before we get back to too much seriousness, I thought you’d enjoy Leno’s hilarious take on the ‘Kennedy Space Center.’  Enjoy!!

“…journey on in joy!”

The day has arrived!  We’ll soon be heading off into the wild blue yonder toward Paris and then on to Kiev.  There will be no more blogging here for a time…so please check out the happenings of our trip over on our adoption blog, Наша Пригода / Our Adventure.  Cheers!


Amusement (7 July)

With our trip coming up in less than 48 hours, it’s definitely time for a little levity and a-musement around here!! In keeping with a Ukrainian theme, I found this Ukrainian Army recruiting video on YouTube that is pretty funny. The video itself is a trip, even without understanding a word of the language…but I found a transcript for it, which is absolutely hilarious. Enjoy!!

Transcript: (editorial comments in italics are mine)

Girl 1: Would you take us for a ride on your BMW?
BMW-driver: Even to the end of the world!
Assault vehicle rolls up…
Soldier: Hey,I’d like to drown some vodka, girls!
Girl 1: Just a second!
Girls surround soldier with drinks…
Girl 2: Where do you live?
Soldier: Right here- daytime at work, and at night in the clubs!
Sooooo smoooooth…
Girl 1: Which work???
Soldier: Contract of course!
Blonde girl: Contract?? marriage contract or what?
Girl 3: Army contract, stupid!
Assault vehicle drives off with girls in pursuit…
BMW driver: Hey, don’t you wanna ride on my car?
Girls: Forget it, take yourself for a ride!
Narrator: It’s about time for new heroes! with contract based service in Ukrainian armed forces!

Sure beats “An Army of One,” doesn’t it?!?

Anxiety and Joy

There has been much discussion about anxiety in our household over the past few days.  After more than two years of planning, in a matter of hours we will be embarking on our adoption trip–an international, weeks-long, life-changing event over which we have no control outside of choosing our departing flight from a short list of carriers with service to Kiev.  With the exception of that one item, every detail of the trip is totally beyond our control…and that truth has a tendency to create anxiety.

Scripture speaks to the subject of anxiety and reminds us of God’s graciously providential care, which leads us to remain calm and confident even in the midst of chaos and the storms of life. Without a doubt, my favorite passage on the subject is found in Peter’s first epistle where we read, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Pet 5.6-7, ESV, emphasis mine).  Here we are reminded that God’s great fatherly love for his children gives us confidence to present our anxieties to him with an absolute, child-like, hope-filled trust that he is able to hear our cries and grant us peace (Phil 4.7). Even if in his perfect parental wisdom he allows us to bear some of the burden for a time, we know that we neither bear an impossible burden (1 Cor 10.13) nor do we bear it in solitude (Heb 13.5)

As one who faced countless trials and stress-filled situations, Luther writes on 1 Pet 5 as one who has dealt with anxiety first-hand.  In one of his House Postils, he comforts us with these words:

The Christian must take this course [of faith] if he would proceed safely and happily in matters of the highest import.  In time of danger and in the hour of death, when, with all his worrying, he cannot discover where he is or how he is journeying, he must, with eyes, senses and thoughts closed to the world, surrender himself in faith and confidence and cast himself upon God’s hand and care and protection, and say: God has permitted me to live until this hour, without my solicitude [i.e., anxiety].  Moreoever, he has given me his beloved Son as a treasure and sure pledge of eternal life.  Therefore, my dear soul, journey on in joy.  Thou hast a faithful Father and Savior, who has taken thee into his own hand, and will preserve thee. (Luther’s Sermons, Vol 8, p.70)

Thanks be to God for these wonderful words of encouragement!  As our trip draws near, let our words echo those of Doctor Luther, “My dear soul, journey on in joy!”

What Evangelicals Are Doing Right

As I’ve looked back over previous posts, a nasty trend became obvious to me…I tend to rail against Evangelicals without writing many positive things. There are plenty of ‘grumpy Christians’ in cyberspace who write plenty of negative articles and blogs about the unfortunate state of Evangelicalism–and if we’re honest we’ll admit there are many, many problems in our circles–but I don’t want to be characterized as one of those naysayers who never has anything good to say, because the situation is far from hopeless.Country church

With these thoughts in mind, I thought I’d take some time and discuss some of the things Evangelicals are doing right. This isn’t to say that all of these areas are done well or even done at all in every congregation, but in contrast to other Christian circles (even conservative, confessional ones), Evangelicals are doing lots of things right. Here are a few:

  1. Missions and evangelism
  2. Emphasis on prayer
  3. Importance of personal devotional time
  4. Stress on personal holiness
  5. Centrality of the cross and salvation by grace alone

1. Missions and evangelism–Let’s be honest, who else besides Evangelicals is really involved in these areas? Sure, most denominations have mission arms and evangelism programs, but nobody really takes the Great Commission very seriously outside of our circles…even the majority of conservative, confessional Christians who may have their theology right (in my opinion) do a pretty lousy job here. Whatever one may think about programs or methods, Evangelicals are engaged in presenting the core truths of the gospel to the world.

2. Emphasis on prayer–While the mid-week prayer meeting is a things of the past in many places and a TBN-inspired ‘name-it-and-claim-it’ midset has creeped into our minds, a deeply-rooted belief in the effectivity and necessity of prayer still exists in Evangelical circles. Though I generally abhor bumper sticker theology, the idea that ‘Prayer Changes Things,’ is still rightly held and put into practice by Evangelical believers.

3. Importance of personal devotional time–Even though many Evangelicals resist the idea of means of grace, personal ‘quiet time’ of meditation, prayer, and Bible reading is still important to many as a time of communion with God and personal worship. In my experience, there is a marked difference in the level of maturity, humility, and Christlikeness of those believers who regularly spend time with Christ in prayer, worship, and personal devotion. To underestimate its importance is a foolhardy mistake.

4. Stress on personal holiness–If you pay attention to some of the scandalous behaviors recently exhibited by some Evangelicals, you may tend to think that personal holiness is passe, but watching the lives of parishioners in past congregations where we’ve worshiped strongly makes the case that, by-and-large, the concept of living holy lives is still alive and well. Sometimes this takes the form of legalism and works righteousness, but if I had to choose this error over debauchery under the guise of ‘freedom in Christ,’ I’d rather be associated with the former as there is a better hope for growth and redemption out of that sort of immaturity.

5. Centrality of the cross and salvation by grace alone–There is really no comparison here between Evangelicals and other Christians here. In leftward-leaning circles ‘salvation’ has come to mean just about anything other than what Scripture describes it as…freedom from male-dominated societal norms, cessation of oppression by (insert group name here), correction of social injustice, etc. Unfortunately, while Evangelicals could learn a great deal about social ministry from the left, these concepts are not salvific ends in themselves.

Despite some of my previous writings, and no doubt some of my future ones, Evangelicalism is not a sinking ship that should be abandoned. We have problems aplenty, no doubt, but the Church has always had warts, and we may be confident that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her! (Mt 16.18)

Evangelicals Don’t Get It, Part 2

I went to church this morning, but I didn’t hear the gospel, did you? With American Independence Day coming up this Wednesday, like so many Evangelicals across our great nation, this morning I was subjected to a ‘Patriotic Worship Service’ that consisted of a string of flag-waving, patriotic, God-and-country types songs followed by a gospel of 100% Law and 0% Gospel. Christ, his cross, and any mention of redemption were conspicuously absent this morning…to our detriment.
Patriotic Service

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve got more patriotic, flag-waving, red American blood in me than most folks. I consider the opportunity to serve in the military as a cadet, active duty, Reservist, and now Guardsman for the last 15 years to be one of the greatest honors an individual in this nation can be afforded. I thank God each and every day that I live in the United States of America and sincerely think this is the greatest nation ever to exist in the history of the world…but I absolutely HATE PATRIOTIC SERVICES even more than I despise having to look at the American flag in a place of prominence in our church’s sanctuary.

Why? For starters, the whole Patriotic Service implicitly suggests that the God of the bible is the King of the United States of America, and this simply ain’t the case. Not only are we not a theocratic state ruled by God but the majority of our citizens are not even Christian in any discernible way (despite what survey after survey might tell us…look around folks, it just isn’t true!). In other words, for all practical purposes, a ‘God and Country’ service is really little more than a charade. No wonder non-believers make fun of us! How blind are we to the current state of affairs?

More than this, Patriotic Services seem to imply that the U.S.A. somehow has a monopoly on God, another grave error. The bible seems pretty clear that God is the Sovereign Lord over every nation on earth, not just ours, thankfully. I shudder to think how arrogant we would have looked this morning to an international visitor who was looking to worship along with countless other Christians around the world beyond our borders. Putting an American flag in our sanctuaries in a position of honor (i.e., to the speaker’s right) over the Christian flag makes this implication rather explicit. Wouldn’t it be great if we could leave the flag out of the sanctuary all together that believers around the world might feel welcome?

What disgusts me most, however, is that these services practically place God and country on the same level, which is basic idolatry. As Christians, while we can pledge allegiance to the U.S.A., our allegiance is not primarily to our nation, no matter how great she may be. Our allegiance is also not a co-allegiance with God and country. No, our allegiance is to God above all else. If we can be faithful Christians and patriotic Americans at the same time (which I believe we currently can), great, but if the time comes when we must choose, let us not hesitate for even the briefest instant in our fidelity to Christ.

Take this with tongue firmly planted in cheek, but I’m a bit relieved that as the Fourth of July weekend passes, we will have only one more major Evangelical church holiday to look forward to. Easter is passed until next year, but so are Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, and Independence Day–all important dates on the church calendar of Evangelicalism. Our only other holiday is Christmas…and even though Evangelicals place it at the end of the year instead of the beginning (again jettisoning 2000 years of Christian tradition), at least we can all agree on its importance.