Thursday, July 30, 2009

I wish I had a dime...

I wish I had a dime for every time I've heard some pastor say: "The Christian life is not about religion, it's about relationship." In the pastor's mind these are two polar opposites, mutually exclusive, oil and water. "Religion" is spoken of with contempt. "Religion" is bad, evil, hypocritical, Pharisaical, outward, pretentious, deplorable, detestable and abominable to God. "Relationship" is spoken of in glowing terms as wonderful, happy, pleasing to God, genuine, real, unhypocritical, authentic and good. And that of course is what this ministry, pastor, church is all about. "We're not into religion, we're into relationship." Sounds very good and spiritual. But is it true? This "truism" has always sounded a bit odd to me, and the other day I figured out why. It's simply not true. It's a falsism.

Religion and relationship are not mutually exclusive. To say that they are is to make a false dichotomy. It is both/and- and not either/or. In the Apostle Paul's first letter to Timothy he says: "We know that the law is good if a man uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for good men but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious..."

Here Paul is saying that to not be religious, God-seeking, holy, upright, devout, religious, Christ-honoring, God-pleasing, blameless, religious, humble, kind, gracious,etc.- is bad, not good, not pleasing to God, ungodly, sinful, fill in the blank. In other words, in God's words, it is good to be religious. To be irreligious is to be without relgion, and to be instead impious, undevout, wicked, sinful, evil.

And James the half-brother of our Lord says this: "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." So true religion according to James means control your yapper, help the helpless and keep your nose clean.

Religion is inescapable. Everyone is religious. Everyone worships someone or something. Either the Creator God, or His creation or creatures. Which is why idolatry is so often addressed in both testaments. So the issue is not whether one is religious or not. The issue is whether one is practicing a self-deceptive and worthless religion, or living out a religion that pleases God. And if your religion is of the God-pleasing variety, you'll be walking (by faith) in good "relationship" with your Lord, and with His people. True religion is relationship.

Wish List

Here's my wish list for the month of August, the rest of 2009, and on into the future...

1. Employment at a Christian high school for 2009-'10 year teaching Literature and Doctrine

2. Progress, dominion, strength, endurance, diligence, focus, purpose, industry

3. Clarity of thought and unmuddled decision-making, direction, guidance, grace, perseverance, persistence, prudence

4. Redemption of my time, life, minutes, hours, days, months, years and decades- which at 47 years of age, I've probably only got three or four left (decades that is)

5. Wisdom, love, service, silence, prayer, blessing, obedience, faithfulness, faith

6. Discernment, discretion, sound judgment, self-control, self-denial, self-discipline, understanding, insight, a tight rein on my tongue, restraint

7. To be extremely productive and very fruitful for the kingdom of God in Christ Jesus. To seek ever-increasing knowledge, love, service, giving, wisdom and truth.

Please keep me in your prayers.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Been almost three months since I last posted anything. Too busy living life I guess. Peace.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wedding Homily for Luke & Vicky Ryan

Well, here we are on the same beach where Charlton Heston saw what was left of the Statue of Liberty at the end of the movie The Planet of the Apes. And Tony Stark's house where he developed 'Iron Man' technology to go out and save the world, it was right up there on the top of those cliffs. But those were pretend and make believe- this is real.

Today this beach which has been a favorite movie location for many films is now the location for a much grander and amazing occasion- your wedding, and the beginning of your life together. Many actors have stood here to film their scenes. But now God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and all of us, even the dolphins, pelicans, sea lions and whales, stand here with you at this scenic place to witness the start of something real -a new family and household- Luke and Vicky Ryan

Here are seven practical thoughts for the reality of your marriage:

  1. Place each other like seals over your hearts. An indelible stamp like a tattoo, on your souls. Promise together to honor Jesus by serving and blessing each other. Feelings will ebb and flow over time. Remember the loving God who loved you first. Remember also that God promises that two are better than one, and choose to love each other through the ups and downs of life. Growth in marital grace will continue until the day one of you departs and you are separated by death. So appreciate, treasure, forgive, and bless each other for as long as you have each other.

  1. This wedding is almost over! You’re nearly married! Which means you don't yet have any experience of what it's really like to be married. Go slow. It's going to take some time to learn to live together. Be patient. Cut each other some slack. Don't demand perfection. Don't expect your spouse to read your mind. Use words. Talk and then listen attentively. Don't finish each other's sentences- it's rude. Ask each other about needs, desires, wants, expectations, hopes, dreams, goals and visions for the present, and also the future. Take time to regularly sync up your schedules and talk about the upcoming week, month, and year. Make some plans and set some goals, believe God's Word, and step out in faith and courage. Ask God to make you very fruitful and extremely productive for His kingdom and glory.

3. There's a lot of busy-ness to the task of keeping a home together. Errands, budgeting, laundry, banking, cooking, shopping, taxes, working, paying bills, figuring out insurance, changing the oil in the car, and on and on in a never ending list. Embrace the repetitiveness of life together, prioritize the 'to do' list together, and share the work. If you divide tasks, be sure you both know the basic details and both have input in any decisions. Vicky- if the two of you can't come to an agreement- God has given Luke the fearful responsibility of making the final choice. Support him! And both of you- agree on a saving, giving and spending plan and stick to it!

4. Serve God together. Maybe volunteer for a position at your church, or offer your home as a meeting place, or work for an event or an organization you believe is doing good things that honor God. You will bless and greatly encourage many people, yourselves included. Invite people into your home and love them with a listening ear, good counsel, food, fellowship and hospitality. Include the less fortunate: the disabled or handicapped, the immigrant or foreign student, and the single mother or widow. Be compassionate, tender-hearted and kind.

5. Remind each other of your heavenly citizenship. Walk in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit. Keep the joy of the LORD your strength. Meditate together in God's eternal Word. Walk with the wise and grow wise, and depart the company of fools who bring harm and destruction in their path. Lay aside pride, conceit and haughtiness, and be humble, teachable & gracious. Remember that you are beloved children of the great and good King of heaven. Seek first His kingdom and righteousness. Lay aside the sin that so easily entangles and run your race with endurance so as to finish well. Don't let the world, the flesh or the devil get you down, but stay prayerful and walk in the grace and love of Jesus Christ.

6. Don't worry and fret about the future over which you have no control anyway. God the Father is in sovereign control of everything -including the all the details. Present your requests to Him with a thankful heart, and He'll give you His peace that surpasses all comprehension. Then together make plans, and ask, seek and knock. Look for opportunities, knowing that 'man makes his plans, but God directs his steps'.

7. Remember that you're not alone. You have friends and family that are praying for you. Jesus Himself is praying for you at the right hand of God the Father. But we're here for you too. Take a moment right now to look around- and see who is here with you today. We are here to help you in difficulties and rejoice with you in prosperity. We love you. Even better – God loves you and nothing can separate you from His love. It is the most valuable thing in the universe- more valuable than all the gold or silver that has ever existed. His love burns like a forest fire that cannot be put out by oceans of water. And it is stronger than death- at the end of your lives God’s love will take you past the valley of darkness and up into that better country where every tear will be wiped away by Jesus Himself.

May God bless you and keep you, lift up the light of His countenance upon you, and give you His peace. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Crisis Intervention

"The hour has come!" said the Badger at last with great solemnity.
"What hour?" asked the Rat uneasily, glancing at the clock on the mantelpiece.
"Whose hour, you should rather say," replied the Badger. "Why, Toad's hour! The hour of Toad! I said I would take him in hand as soon as the winter was well over, and I'm going to take him in hand to-day!"
"Toad's hour, of course!" cried the Mole delightedly. "Hooray! I remember now! We'll teach him to be a sensible Toad!" ...

"Now, then!" he [Badger] said to the Toad, when the four of them stood together in the hall, "first of all, take those ridiculous things off!"
"Shan't!" replied Toad, with great spirit. "What is the meaning of this gross outrage? I demand an instant explanation."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Busy People

Realized the other day that good theology shows up everywhere. For instance-Richard Scarry's Busy People books and videos for children that I used to read and watch with my nieces Marina and Evangeline when they were younger. The reformational theology of the priesthood of believers, that everyone, no matter what their vocation, could glorify God by doing their work diligently and masterfully. One didn't need to hole up in a monastary and pray all day long to please God. But ordinary people who loved Jesus, could be salt and light in the world by working hard at their various jobs, provide for their families and be a rich blessing to their communities and world. Delivering mail, putting out fires, baking bread, milking cows, teaching and instructing, cleaning and ironing, prepping and cooking, consulting, programming: anything one did that wasn't obviously in conflict with God's law, where one worked hard, stayed busy, and made oneself useful and productive- pleased and honored the Creator. Work and dominion is what we as people, (or talking critters by Richard Scarry) were made for. And we are to work hard and be diligent with a good attitude and cheerful obedience to God's commands and providences. In other words, have the attitude and demeanor of Pig Will, not Pig Won't. Be cheerful, optimistic, goal-oriented, focused, diligent, disciplined and faithful, not grumbly, lazy, complainy, fussy, whiny, scowling, murmuring, eye-rolling and angry. Pig Will is the wise man (pig) of proverbs and Pig Won't the foolish man (until he repents). Yes, be a Pig Will and the LORD with be with you and bless the work of your hands, world without end.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Planet Narnia

Do yourself a favor and read Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis, by Michael Ward. It's an amazing book that will end up being a classic work of literary criticism/appreciation, if it isn't already. Dr. Ward even invented/discovered a new literary word/term to describe the underlying tone/feel/atmosphere of a story. (Could I just have put any more slashes in two sentences?) I'm not telling you what the new word is because I want you to get this book and discover it for yourself.

When you go to read the Chronicles of Narnia again, you'll see them through new eyes, and read them with a much greater depth of understanding than you ever did before.

Janet and I went to hear Dr. Ward at Seattle Pacific University late last year. It was an outstanding lecture, and the book has been absolutely eye-opening. You can listen to the lecture here:

(in the Q&A about an hour into it, I asked a question about dragons in Narnia, esp in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)

Check out Dr. Ward's website at Buy the book and mark it up. It'll be a great legacy to leave your children and your children's children for many generations.

Evidently the BBC is doing a documentary film on Michael Ward's incredible discovery and is airing it around Easter in Great Britain

Enjoy your springtime book!


Monday, March 2, 2009

Isaiah excerpt (ch 63)

I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD,
the deeds for which He is to be praised,
according to all the LORD has done for us-
yes, the many good things He has done
for the house of Israel,
according to His compassion and many kindnesses.
He said, "Surely they are my people,
sons who will not be false to me";
and so He became their Savior.
In all their distress He too was distressed,
and the angel of His presence saved them.
In His love and mercy He redeemed them;
He lifted them up and carried them
all the days of old.
Yet they rebelled
and grieved His Holy Spirit,
So He turned and became their enemy
and He Himself fought against them.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

one of my "life verses"

It's Wednesday Feb 25, 5pm. Just woke up from a two and a half hour nap since I've contracted a nasty cold. Went to the Mars Hill Shoreline Men's Prayer thingy this morning and had an encouraging and uplifting time as usual, despite not feeling great. It's always good to be with like-minded brothers who fear God and seek His face. Steve Tompkins, our campus pastor, asked for prayer since he will be prepping for and preaching three times this Sunday, since Mark Driscoll will be taking the week off. Steve said he's going to be talking about Christ's call of Peter (to leave his nets and become a fisher of men.) But when Steve first said he was going to be addressing the call of Peter to ministry, my mind jumped to the book of Acts where Peter is called to preach the gospel to the house of Cornelius, a household of God-fearing Gentiles who needed a preacher to tell them about the person, work, ministry, sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus. And who were all baptized by the Holy Spirit after they believed the gospel.

And furthermore from this amazing section of Scripture cometh one of my "life verses", which, when taken out of context is very applicable to yours truly. Acts 10:10 "And he [Peter] became very hungry and wanted to eat something, but while he was waiting for the meal to be prepared, he went into a trance..." :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

a good sermon

I love reading a good sermon just before I fall asleep. JC Ryle, Charles Spurgeon, RM McCheyne, Jonathan Edwards. Something staunch right before I zee out. Also a good comedic novel like Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm does the trick too. I saw the movie first, but the book is even better.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

heavy sigh of great contentment

Sunshine. Blue skies. Clear and cold. What a lovely day! Went for a late afternoon run down by the Edmonds waterfront on the boardwalks and beaches. Got sweaty and tired. Came home to a hot shower and made myself a chicken breast sandwich with bacon, lettuce, onion, tomato, mayo and some garlic goat cheese spread and munched it down with potato chips. Yes it was delicious. God told me in some very tangible ways today that He loves me. I FELT, SENSED, TASTED, EXPERIENCED the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. And then to top it off my beautiful wife Janet gave me a big hug after I emptied the dishwasher and posted something on the blog. Later this evening-American Idol, popcorn, a chapter of Planet Narnia, a sermon by Jonathan Edwards, and a sound night's sleep in a comfortable bed under warm blankets with fluffy pillows, snuggled next to Janet. Heavy sigh of great contentment. G'nite.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

interested in eschatology

Check out this gold mine:

It's many of the best sermons from some of the greatest preachers of Christendom. Do yourself a favor and read a sermon or five. Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, JC Ryle- all here :)

And if you're interested in eschatology visit for some excellent books from a postmillenial / biblically optimistic perspective. Well-researched and very readable books that will help anyone bewildered by the ridiculousness of dispensational premillenialism or depressed by the Eeyore-ish gloominess of amillenialism. I've met Dr. Gentry on several occasions and have nearly all his books. He's a gracious, wise, thoughtful, humble man with compelling arguments. I highly recommend him to you.

There's also an excellent book by Keith Mathison, published by P&R (Presbyterian and Reformed) called Postmillenialism- An Eschatology of Hope, which is an outstanding follow-up to Dr. Gentry's books. I've also met Keith a couple times, and he's also gracious, gentle and wise. He's also written an excellent book on the Lord's Supper called Given for You which explains what John Calvin and the Reformers taught about communion.

Both Ken and Keith have been faithful husbands and fathers and pastors, and are good men of faith and practice. I've learned much from their books and their lives. Ken also has some lectures on Youtube on the book of Revelation. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

a slice of heaven

What is it about a hot, steaming big mug of coffee? It's comforting, warm, welcoming, sustaining, reviving, smells good, looks good, tastes good. When I was visiting Salzburg Austria with my sister and wife one time, I had a Viennese caffe mit schlagoober- that is, a latte with whipped cream. I was tired and worn out from traveling and walking and looking at castles, churches and museums. But then a man with a white shirt and a black vest brought me the most lovely looking latte I'd seen, and it was a slice of heaven- home away from home on the other side of planet earth.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

the great dragon

"I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring..." Neh. 2:13

"In that day the LORD with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea." Isa. 27:1

"Rejoice not, O Philistia, all of you, that the rod that struck you is broken, for from the serpent's root will come forth an adder, and its fruit will be a flying fiery serpent." Isa. 14:29

"An oracle on the beasts of the Negeb: Through a land of trouble and anguish, from where come the lioness and the lion, the adder and the flying fiery serpent, they carry their riches on the backs of donkeys, and their treasures on the humps of camels, to a people that cannot profit them." Isa. 30:6

"And another sign appeared in heaven: behold a great red dragon..." Rev. 12:3a

"Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world- he was thrown down to earth, and his angels were thrown down with him." Rev. 12:7-9

Giants? Witches? Ghosts and Spirits? Dragons? Sea Monsters? Talking Animals? All in the Bible. Perhaps Lewis, Tolkien, and Rowling didn't write so much fantasy after all.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

theology throwdown

Big thanks to my wife Janet who suggested the name, and my sister Jenny who talked me through it. Like to thank the Academy...