Monday, December 29, 2008

Resolved To...

This Sunday I am beginning to preach through the book of Ecclesiastes. I have been reading and mediating on the great wisdom and regret found throughout the pages penned by King Solomon many years ago.

King Solomon was a man of great resources. Nothing was beyond his grasp. In my study I heard one pastor compare him as a combination of Bill Gates, Hugh Hefner, and Albert Einstein. Solomon had the world at his fingertips yet he declared, "Meaningless! Meaningless!" in the opening verses of this book after exploring every life option.

My study so far is causing me to contemplate the aim of my life. I am reminiscing on my younger years and the folly and futility of many of my hopes and dreams of achieving contentment while traveling down the wrong road. I distinctly remember being greatly let down inside when I earned my brown shirt after completing Hellweek. When an empty void set in, I thought the contentment would come when I officially became a Navy SEAL and was awarded a did not. Romans 8:20 says, "For the creation was subjected to frustration (or futility)..." The verse goes on to shed some positive light, but you have to look that up on your own. Here it explains that we the creation are subject to frustration, or futility, in this life time. Nothing the world, that apart from God, satifies. Oh do we try with money, booze, drugs, sex, things that cause our adrenaline glands to fire, etc. But in the end it is never enough. Mic Jager sings what we are bound to feel as we chase what the world offers, "I can't get no satisfaction." My life confirms what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that nothing "Under the Sun" satisfies. It is only when we look beyond the sun to the heavens can we find contenment in Christ.

I used to feel like I discovered this reality late in life, but as I grow older "late in life" keeps creeping up! As I reflect at the age of 34, I feel as though I wised up early on some ten to fifteen years ago. At 34, and quickly approaching 2009, I am encouraged by an old young man. Let me explain. The picture of the old guy above to the left is Johnathan Edwards (October 5, 1703 - March 22, 1758). He is one of the great preachers of American history, yet he impressed me most as a young man.

Let me ask you a question. What were you doing at the age of 17? What were you thinking about between the age of 17-22? I know that there isn't much I am proud of during this time frame in my own life and I believe that is true for many people...especially Americans and Europeans (if they were willing to acknowledge their life in light of God's standard). When Jonathan Edwards was this age he penned 70 resolutions that are simply astounding.

I have posted them below. I encourage you to slowly read them. Meditate on them. How old do you suspect that one would have to be to write with such wisdom, detph, and conviction? The very last entry is August 17, 1723. Did yo notice his birthday? October 5, 1703 meaning that he turned 20 almost two months after he penned his last resolution!

I would love to comment on just about every resolution. Maybe I will some day. But for now, I am simply going to re-read them and pray that many of them would sear my heart in a manner that would allow me to apply them in my own life this year.

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Being sensible that I am unable to do any thing without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him, by his grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved, to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved, so to do, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.

2. Resolved, To be continually endeavouring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the forementioned things.

3. Resolved, If ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, Never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God, nor be, nor suffer it, if I can possibly avoid it.

5. Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.

6. Resolved, To live with all my might, while I do live.

7. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.

8. Resolved, To act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings, as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God. Vid. July 30.

9. Resolved, To think much, on all occasions, of my dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

11. Resolved, When I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder. xxi

12. Resolved, If I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.

13. Resolved, To be endeavouring to find out fit objects of liberality and charity.

14. Resolved, Never to do any thing out of revenge.

15. Resolved, Never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings.

16. Resolved, Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

17. Resolved, That I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

18. Resolved, To live so, at all times, as I think is best in my most devout frames, and when I have the clearest notions of the things of the gospel, and another world.

19. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour before I should hear the last trump.

20. Resolved, To maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.

21. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him.

22. Resolved, To endeavour to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigour, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.

23. Resolved, Frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs, and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the fourth Resolution.

24. Resolved, Whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavour to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.

25. Resolved, To examine carefully and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and so direct all my forces against it.

26. Resolved, To cast away such things as I find do abate my assurance.

27. Resolved, Never wilfully to omit any thing, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.

28. Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

29. Resolved, Never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession which I cannot hope God will accept.

30. Resolved, To strive every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.

31. Resolved, Never to say any thing at all against any body, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of christian honour, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said any thing against any one, to bring it to, and try it strictly by, the test of this Resolution.

32. Resolved, To be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that, in Prov. xx. 6. ‘A faithful man, who can find?’ may not be partly fulfilled in me.

33. Resolved, To do always what I can towards making, maintaining, and preserving peace, when it can be done without an overbalancing detriment in other respects. Dec. 26, 1722.

34. Resolved, In narrations, never to speak any thing but the pure and simple verity.

35. Resolved, Whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question was resolved. Dec. 18, 1722.

36. Resolved, Never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call to it. Dec. 19, 1722.

37. Resolved, To inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent,—what sin I have committed,—and wherein I have denied myself;—also, at the end of every week, month, and year. Dec. 22 and 26, 1722.

38. Resolved, Never to utter any thing that is sportive, or matter of laughter, on a Lord’s day. Sabbath evening, Dec. 23, 1722.

39. Resolved, Never to do any thing, of which I so much question the lawfulness, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards, whether it be lawful or not; unless I as much question the lawfulness of the omission.

40. Resolved, To inquire every night before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking. Jan. 7, 1723.

41. Resolved, to ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.

42. Resolved, Frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism, which I solemnly renewed when I was received into the communion of the church, and which I have solemnly re-made this 12th day of January, 1723.

43. Resolved, Never, henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s; agreeably to what is to be found in Saturday, Jan. 12th. Jan. 12, 1723.

44. Resolved, That no other end but religion shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. Jan. 12, 1723.

45. Resolved, Never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. Jan. 12 and 13, 1723.

46. Resolved, Never to allow the least measure of any fretting or uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved, to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eye; and to be especially careful of it with respect to any of our family.

47. Resolved, To endeavour, to my utmost, to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented and easy, compassionate and generous, humble and meek, submissive and obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable and even, patient, moderate, forgiving, and sincere, temper; and to do, at all times, what such a temper would xxii lead me to; and to examine strictly, at the end of every week, whether I have so done. Sabbath morning, May 5, 1723.

48. Resolved, Constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or not; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. May 26, 1723.

49. Resolved, That this never shall be, if I can help it.

50. Resolved, That I will act so, as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. July 5, 1723.

51. Resolved, That I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.

52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.

53. Resolved, To improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.

54. Resolved, Whenever I hear anything spoken in commendation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, that I will endeavour to imitate it. July 8, 1723.

55. Resolved, To endeavour, to my utmost, so to act, as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven and hell torments. July 8, 1723.

56. Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

57. Resolved, When I fear misfortunes and adversity, to examine whether I have done my duty, and resolve to do it and let the event be just as Providence orders it. I will, as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty and my sin. June 9, and July 13, 1723.

58. Resolved, Not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness, and benignity. May 27, and July 13, 1723.

59. Resolved, When I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times. May 12, July 11, and July 13.

60. Resolved, Whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4 and 13, 1723.

61. Resolved, That I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it—that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, &c. May 21, and July 13, 1723.

62. Resolved, Never to do any thing but my duty, and then, according to Eph. vi. 6-8. to do it willingly and cheerfully, as unto the Lord, and not to man: knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall be receive of the Lord. June 25, and July 13, 1723.

63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true lustre, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, To act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. Jan. 14, and July 13, 1723.

64. Resolved, When I find those ”groanings which cannot be uttered,“ of which the apostle speaks, and those ”breathings of soul for the longing it hath,” of which the psalmist speaks, Psalm cxix. 20. that I will promote them to the utmost of my power; and that I will not be weary of earnestly endeavouring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23, and Aug. 10, 1723.

65. Resolved, Very much to exercise myself in this, all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness of which I am capable, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him, all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance, according to Dr. Manton’s Sermon on the 119th Psalm,. July 26, and Aug. 10, 1723.

66. Resolved, That I will endeavour always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking, in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.

67. Resolved, After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them; what good I have got by them; and, what I might have got by them.

68. Resolved, To confess frankly to myself, all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

69. Resolved, Always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Aug. 11, 1723.

70. Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak. Aug. 17, 1723.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

"For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

-Isaiah 9:6

This day is not special because of gifts or food, as nice as those things are! This day IS special because some 2,000 years ago Jesus was born and the world was turn upside down, or right-side up.

Yes, Jesus was born some 2,000 years ago, but it has only been about 12 years since Jesus came into my heart. I am so thankful for my relationship with Him. He has done such a fine work in and through my life. I am so thankful for my God--Jesus.

My prayer is that Jesus would enter into your life this day and that your life would be forever changed.

Merry Christmas each and every one of you!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Heavy Heart

This Monday there was a horrible accident in San Diego. With failing engines, a pilot was attempting to land his F-18 at Marine Corp Air Station Miramar. The pilot had to eject in the last few seconds as the second engine failed. The plane ended up crashing into a residential neighborhood killing four people-mother, daughter, and two grand-daughters. At some point, the father Mr. Yoon received word that his mother-in-law, wife, and daughters were gone. Horrible.

My hearts and prayers are with Mr. Yoon. I am thankful for his forgiveness to the pilot (who, no doubt, is suffering with the guilt of this accident).

Suffering always brings about the profound, impossible to answer, theological question: "Why?" Which is often followed up with this question: "How can a good God allow this to happen?" These are important questions, which I will not answer fully in this post.

In the Bible there is a story about a man Job who lost everything. His immediate response was, "Naked I cam from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD" (Job 1:21). There is profound insight in this response. In fact, this passage has brought me great comfort through many difficulties-particularly the miscarriage of our child a few years back.

Some things I try to keep in mind in the midst of these tragedies:
  1. Sin and the consequences of sin are real. Therefore, we experience the wrath of sin in many ways.
  2. God is good, faithful, sovereign, etc. Therefore, we can trust that nothing slipped by God. He is working behind the scenes and we can trust that He is working in the midst of the pain. We are told in Romans that all things work together for good for those who love Him.
  3. This life is but a vapor, eternity is forever. We often measure things from cradle to grave, not in light of eternity.
This is really a shoddy exposition on suffering. In the midst of meditating on this great tragedy, Horatio Spafford's story has come to mind. Okay, for those of you who don't know this name, let me share about his story in brief. Here is a brief sketch:
  1. Only son died.
  2. Lost everything in the Great Chicago fire.
  3. Family vacation to Europe (Family left first, then he was going to catch up). Boat sinks all four daughters die. Wife sends telegram, "Saved alone."
  4. He departs immediately to be with his wife.
  5. Sailing over the tragic spot he wrote, "It is Well with My Soul"
The words in this hymn are powerful...especially in light of the story:

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Cross of Christ

I have been preaching through the Gospel of John for most of this year...I can't quite remember when I started, but I believe it was just before Easter. Tomorrow I am preaching on John chapter 19--the crucifixion of Christ.

As I have been studying, I have found this particular chapter to be quite sterile, or a factual, account of the crucifixion of Jesus. Christian hold this historical event quite high, but why?

The "why" of the cross is super important. I would suggest that it is the difference between eternity with God in heaven and eternity apart from God in hell.

It seems I was raised my whole life being taught Jesus' death as factual, but the "why" was never explained to me, or I didn't care, until I was about 22, or so, during a pretty volatile time in my life. When God opened my heart to the importance of the cross, my life was radically changed. I am so thankful for the work God has done in my life. No explanation is necessary for those of you who knew me then! But the simple fact is that I would not have the marriage or family that I have today apart from Christ.

Here are some points that I hope to cover tomorrow:

1. The message of the cross is foolishness to those who don't believe, but is the power of God to those who are believers. 1 Corinthians 1:18

2. Simply understanding the facts of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) will not make you right with God, you must place your trust in Jesus for your salvation. Let my give a brief, horrible, illustration. It is one thing to believe there is a chair in your house, it is an entirely different situation to believe that there is a chair, then to trust that the chair can hold you, and then to actually sit in the chair. We are told in the Bible that the process is something like this: 1) Hear the Gospel, 2) trust in Jesus, 3) you are saved and given the Holy Spirit as a promise. Ephesians 1:13

3. Through the cross the sinner becomes a new creation and is reconciled with God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19.

4. This love that the Christian has received then compels us to share this love in a sacrificial way with others. 2 Corinthians 5:14-16.

5. We, who believe, are ambassadors for Christ in this world to share this available reconciliation with those who are apart from Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21

I would implore you to consider what God desires of you. Maybe it is time for you to surrender and give you life to Christ for salvation or service? I encourage you to go to a Bible believing church tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow is a very special day! I must admit that this is one of my favorite holidays. I can't wait for tomorrows festivities of eating Turkey, Ham, and all the fixins! Not to mention the apple personal favorite!

I am so thankful to God for how He has blessed me tremendously. I wish all of you a wonderful thanksgiving day. May you be blessed!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why I Voted "Yes" on Prop 8

Yes, I know, the election is over. Although, the battle over Proposition 8 is not. I believe the next few years in our nation will prove to be very interesting. In light of this, I thought I would share my thoughts on this issue.

Quite frankly, I am not sure where to start. The intensity and passion on both sides is quite high thus making communication between two groups difficult. Shamefully, violence is on the rise and I may be subjecting myself to some attacks for posting on this issue.

A disclaimer. I do not hate gay people. In fact, I profoundly love a lesbian family member who is "married." I have had friends and neighbors who are committed gay couples. I cannot say that I have had an unpleasant, or un-cordial, encounter with a gay person.

It is unlikely, actually impossible, that I will fully cover my thoughts on this subject in this blog. My intent is to address a few talking points that are on my mind.

1. World View. We each have one. I attempt to develop my world view through the lens of Scripture as I believe firmly that this is God's revealed Word to humanity. I believe the Bible is the ultimate authority on every issue.

2. Biblical understanding of marriage. Marriage is first described in Genesis 1-2 with the creation of Adam and Eve. The Bible describes Adam's life as being incomplete without Eve and therefore God created woman and a helpmate for Adam. This was very good in the sight of God.

One primary purpose of this union was to multiply. Thus, marriage is the building block of family and ultimately society. Throughout the Scriptures marriage is affirmed as being between one man and one woman (please note that there are examples of all sorts of things within Scripture that are not affirmed by God). The issue of family (natural family that occurs between a man and woman following sexual relations) is the main reason why government is involved in this issue--to protect children and the building block of society: family.

3. Biblical understanding of homosexuality. I wish there was a gentle way to address this topic. We live in such a "politically correct" society that is filled with all sorts of hypocrisy and inconsistency. Leviticus 18:22 is clear: "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination." Within this context there are all kinds of commands given to humans concerning sexual conduct (i.e. a man shouldn't have sex with relatives, a woman and her daughter or granddaughters, during menstrual cycles, other people's wives, animals, etc, etc). God is pretty clear concerning the context by which sexual relations are blessed by God: within the committed relationship of marriage. Period.

4. Varying levels of sin--a word on hate. I do confess that many Christians have handled the sin issue of homosexuality in a very unbalanced manner. I don't necessarily think that homosexual relationships are more sinful than other ones that are more accepted (i.e. See Romans 1:26-32). However, I am prone to be more understanding of a child who is disobedient to his parents, or a man who is having sex out of wedlock, or a drunkard--manly becuase those are sins are more common to non-homosexual people. I am less comfortable in homosexual settings because that is not my background, but by no means do I believe they are worse on the "sin-scale."

That being said, I do believe homosexual intercourse is sinful and I believe God will bring judgment on all sin. I admit that Christians could do a better job of "hating the sin" and "loving the sinner." But in Christians defense, they are often perceived as being hateful simply because homosexual people generally find their identity in their particular choice of sin. Therefore, any criticism, or varying perspective, is perceived as an attack on them personally.

5. Homosexuality and Racism. I believe this is a horrible comparison. First, homosexuals and heterosexuals all have the same rights (i.e. freedom of speech, to bear arms, to vote, etc, etc). We all can marry one of the opposite gender, none of us can marry someone of the same gender. Second, homosexual couples do have many of the same benefits of married couples (i.e. they can buy property together and they can visit one another in the hospital, etc). Third, homosexual people are allowed to practice their lifestyle freely in our country. I actually find it quite offensive that proponents of homosexual marriage would compare this to the atrocities of the racial history of America.

6. Let's compare apples with apples and oranges with oranges. I don't think this needs much explaining. One Man + One Woman does not equal One Man + One Man or One Woman + One Woman. None of these three things are the same thing. The NFL is the NFL, MLB is MLB, NHL is the NHL...they are what they are. Marriage is man and woman...nothing else. Man and man or woman and woman are in essence something else.

7. Where does the logic take us? I had a conversation in recent months when I pressed the logic of my homosexual friend. Should we then also allow for people to marry their cats, dogs, horses, cars, planes, you fill in the blank. He was appalled and quickly offended that I could compare his relationship to these other examples! Quite frankly, I felt his response was a bit hypocritical and ironic. The homosexual position for wanting to be included within the definition of marriage is linked to emotional reasoning (i.e. their love for one another, etc). I don't know about you, but I know a number of people who have far superior relationships with their animals and possessions than they do other people. Quite frankly, I don't know why, or how, those pushing for homosexual marriage can oppose marriage to other items? Please be logically consistent in your argument.

8. What about my freedoms? If Proposition 8 is shot down, how long do you think it will be before a discrimination suit is filed against me or another pastor in California who believes that marriage is between a man and a woman alone and refuses services to a gay couple? A nano-second? There are already lawsuits being filed against fertility doctors who refuse to artificially inseminate gay couples etc... What about their rights?

9. The state of traditional marriage today. All this being said, I believe the worst attack on marriage has been the total lack of respect for this union between man and woman before God. People today burn through marriages faster than I burn through my socks. I know this is sad, but I don't buy socks that often... For those of you who are pro traditional marriage, I encourage you to esteem and cherish your marriage! I cannot control society as a whole (although I try to influence it for good), I can cultivate a marriage and family that God desires within my own boundaries.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thomas E. Retzer

Today was Veteran's Day. I was able to participate in a small community ceremony at the Valley Center Cemetery. Today I was the Rev. Hanson my new identity in life. A different twist in the road after 12 years as a Navy SEAL.

People often confuse Veteran's Day with Memorial Day. There are probably a few reasons, but today it struck me in a new way. Two Veterans shared their story and it was apparent that their memories of their time in the service (one still active duty) were related to their friends--especially the ones who have given all.

I know this is true for me today. I will never be able to hear the Star Spangled Banner the way I did before my naiveness concerning freedom was lost. Before June 23, 2003 it was fairly cheap. Yes, I knew that people had sacrificed all for this great country of ours, but none that I have ever known. This all changed on that dreadful day.

It was on this tragic day that I received one of the worst calls of my life. I had just come off my 12-8am shift of working Hellweek and had hit the rack when Jake called. He fought to insure that I was awake, "Gunnar, wake up. This is serious." I replied, "Jake, cut to the chase I am tired and I have to work again tonight." He stated with a trembling voice, "Tommy was shot and killed last night in Afghanistan."

I don't know that I have processed those words yet. I was at the funeral, I have visited his grave, yet it is hard to believe that this man who was so full of life is gone. I know he has no regrets and wouldn't change a thing. I am honored to have known and served by this man--a true hero.

Thanks for the memories Tommy. I am thankful for your sacrifice.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Are You Pro-Choice?

I am currently pursuing a doctoral degree. I attended a seminar last summer that rocked my world. The issue was abortion. During the seminar, we met the founder and director of an organization that is fighting to repeal the misinformation that people have concerning abortion.

The majority of Americans seem quite content living under an allusion that abortion is all about a women's rights and claim many reasons to justify the act of abortion. You may be included, I know I was. If this is you, I implore you to watch the posted video so that you gain understanding concerning the truth of abortion.

God used this seminar to shake me to my core. It culminated January 2008, as I found myself pastor of Valley Baptist Church and preaching every Sunday. The Sanctity of Human Life Sunday was fast approaching and I had to decide would I comment on the issue. Many factors seemed to be at play. First I stumbled across a chapter in John Pipers books, "Brothers, We Are Not Professionals" that challenged pastors on this topic. I felt like such a coward. Then, I realized that I was finishing First Timothy the Sunday before Sanctity of Human Life Sunday...what would I do? I had no excuses. Ultimately, I decided that I needed to take a stand. I would preach on the topic from a biblical vantage point. This was the hardest sermon I have ever preached. I came with great personal pain, anger, and sorrow.

In my heart I don't think that someone can remain "pro-choice" after viewing this posted video, yet I know that I am wrong because many people are involved in this "medical procedure" day in and day out and are not moved by their actions. Our conscience's truly are seared concerning this subject.

To you apathetic Christian I implore you to watch the video and ask yourself, "What does God think about this?" Do you say, "Personally, I would never do it. But, I could never tell someone else what to do." Really? Watch the video, then tell me that!

There are a few things that I want to say specifically on this matter:

1. If you have been involved in abortion (both female and male), Jesus has paid the penalty for you sin. Forgiveness is available to you if you ask Him. Forgiveness and consequence are two separate matters. Once forgiven, I believe it can take many years to sort through the guilt, shame, and scars.

2. I believe aborted children are resting in the arms of God. They are safe with Him.

3. Concerning abortion to day. This is murder. We must act to defend the lives of the innocent. I am not suggesting that we murder abortionist, but we must rise up and help the helpless somehow.

Please people, watch this video. Let it hurt. Let the tears flow. Be ignorant no more!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

President-Elect Obama

Tuesday, November 4, 2008 was, without question, a historic day for the United States of America.

I am happy for President-elect Obama and what he has accomplished and my heart goes out to him as I imagine this is bitter sweet with the passing of his grandmother.

My prayer for our country is that we can finally close the door on racism and move forward. Clearly, there is no limit to what a man or woman can achieve in this fine country because of the color of their skin. We cannot change the past, but we can choose to let it remain there and move forward.

There is no doubt that I wish this monumental event would have occurred with a conservative African American, but there is no reason to wish in hind-sight!

To my conservative Christian friends, I would like to point out a couple words of encouragement and instruction from the Bible.

First, God appoints leaders--both good and bad (Romans 13:1). We can trust in His sovereignty and control over world events. We long for the day when He ultimately restores creation according to His standard. There is nothing out of, or beyond, God's control.

Second, we are to pray "on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity" (1 Timothy 2:1-2). The bottom line is the presidency is a difficult job. Period. If there was ever a time for us to be praying for our president and national leaders, today is the day. Why don't we commit to pray for our leaders on a regular basis?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fireproof YOUR Marriage!

Last Thursday I had the treat of officiating the marriage of two of my very good friends Dave and Kacey Langat! I am so happy for them. I have been praying that God would bring Dave a godly woman for many years--He did! There is much to the story, but all I want to share is that God delivered in a might way. If you are single and desire to be married, trust and honor God...He will provide in His timing!

Anna's mom spent the morning with Grace, so Anna and I decided we would spend the day at the movies...a double header (Anna's first time). We saw "An American Carol" and "Fireproof."

The second movie was amazing. If you are married, I HIGHLY encourage you to make plans and take your spouse on a date. My suggestion: See the movie, then go to dinner! This movie will encourage and motivate you in powerful ways.

I love my wife so much and am so thankful for her. She is a great wife and mome...God has blessed me indeed!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Shame...

There is much that can be said about OJ. One aspect that hit me today, especially in the wake of my studying Ecclesiastes, is that OJ had it all. He was an extremely gifted athlete and made tremendous amounts of money.

His football career opened the door to Hollywood, where he made a few movies--The Naked Gun, probably is most notable (in my humble estimation). None of this remembered in history...for the murder trial and now this conviction will certainly leave a huge mark on his memory.

The lesson I am taught is that money and fame will not satisfy what only the Creator can. We try so hard to fill that void in our hearts with stuff--booze, drugs, material stuff, work...but in the end it rarely satisfies.

I hesitate saying that OJ has totally wasted his life. You see Jesus longs to redeem him. Hopefully OJ will meet his Maker while he spends some time away...

May OJ's example teach us all a valuable lesson: Don't waste your life!

Friday, October 3, 2008

In Search of Hapiness

Happiness. We all seem to seek it, but few know where it is found. The presidential campaign, along with the media, seem to paint the picture that Americans are, in large part, unhappy. Is this true? I suspect it is for the most part.

In preparation for preaching through the book of Ecclesiastes, I have been studying up through reading the book itself along with commentaries.

In David Jeremiah's book "Searching for Heaven on Earth", he cites some fascinating information. CNN recently reported on the "Happiness Index" which found that these countries have some of the happiest people: Nigeria, Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador, and Puerto Rico! The USA came in 16th place, Australia 20th, and Great Britain 24th! Anything seem odd to you with this report? Apparently, wealth has little connection to happiness. I believe Dennis Prager has been saying this for some time on his "Happiness Hour."

Okay, so your response may be similar to the father in "Fiddler on the Roof", "Then may the Lord smite me with it [wealth]!" I concede, I too have had similar feelings about desiring wealth. Don't we all? We chase, succeed a little, then realize we are no happier then when we began.

It seems happiness is a byproduct of something greater. John Piper has suggested that happiness is essentially obtained as we are most satisfied in God. I am finding that this is true in my life. My prayer is that I don't get off track and seek the pleasures of this world to satisfy my longing for happiness that can only be fulfilled in Christ Jesus.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Here We Go Again...

I have taken a long absence from blogging. We will see how long this lasts. Things have been interesting in the political realm and world in general, so hopefully I will stay motivated to blog on a fairly regularly basis.

No promises....

Anyone have any topic suggestions?