2007-10-31 0 comments

The scary thing about Halloween

Out on assignment in the southern coalfields of West Virginia, I came across an announcement for a special Halloween service at an area church. It read, "Out with Satan, in with Jesus." The service, it suggested, was a way for good Christian kids to avoid celebrating a pagan holiday.

It's not an uncommon reaction to what is both the most vilified and enjoyed of cultural celebrations. And the issue here, I'm afraid, is not a new one. It's another example of Christians with good intentions avoiding the very culture they are trying to transform.

Paul understood this. During one of his missionary journeys, recounted in Acts 17, Paul visits Athens. While there, he spends a little time getting to know the city, studying its idols, its philosophy and its art. Only then did he attempt to persuade the "learned men of Athens" about the Jesus he'd discovered.

The lesson? Paul didn't come in blindly, ignoring the customs and traditions of the city he was trying to transform. He made it a point to talk to these people using words and philosophies that they understood. Don't misunderstand. He didn't capitulate on anything. He still told the truth of the Gospel, unflinchingly revealing Jesus as the way, the truth and the life. What he didn't do was present himself ignorant of all things save his knowledge of the one true thing.

The result? "Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, 'We will hear you again about this.' So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed ..." (Acts 17:32-34a)

Therefore, my contention is that we do a disservice to our reputation in culture by ignoring those things culture finds enjoyable. Again, like Paul, we shouldn't engage culture to the point of sin. I can't walk into a bar, get blasted on gin and tonics and then explain to God that I was only engaging culture as Paul did. That's sin. What isn't sin is becoming conversant and understanding of things culture holds dear. Worse still, what does culture think of us when we deny our children a little fun because someone thinks something is evil? We only ratify the images the world has of us as backward, culturally ignorant and helplessly intolerant radicals.

Were the old traditions upon which Halloween is based evil in nature? Maybe. But that doesn't change the fact that the holiday we celebrate now bears little resemblance to those traditions. Also, don't misunderstand. There are aspects of Halloween that we shouldn't celebrate. We don't celebrate death. Sin is the separation from God, and scripture says the wages of sin is death. Death comes from sin. Therefore death is one of a Christian's foremost enemies.

But, please, don't deny your kids some Laffy Taffy just because you think it's Satan's day. Instead, have a little fun watching your kids transform into lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) Just make sure that afterward, you tell them about Jesus, the only one who can make real transformation possible.

Here's some interesting Halloween-related links ...

Sorry. They don't exists. Paul wrote, "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." End of story.

(You can find out various takes on the history of Halloween by clicking the links here, here and here.)

2007-10-29 0 comments

Quick clicks ...

You should head over to Parables, Poems and & Songs, a new blog from my friend, Randy Browning. God has blessed him with a talent to express his heart's longing, and Randy is sharing it with a world desperate to hear that there's someone out there who loves them.

That person's name is Jesus, and Randy wants to tell you about Him in a very unique way.

Also, there's an interesting idea going on over at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. My favorite pastor west of the Mississippi, Mark Driscoll, is inviting people to submit a question -- any question -- on which people can vote. The winning question will be answered by Mark in a sermon in the new year. Cool idea, huh?

Head over to Mars Hill Church's "Ask Anything" site here and submit a question, vote on what others have submitted or just browse the selections. While there, you can post your thoughts on the questions and engage others in meaningful dialogue.

Grace and Peace ...
2007-10-26 0 comments

Want to tell people about Jesus?

Here's a great article about modern evangelism and the dos and don'ts of telling people about Jesus.

(A hint ... not everyone responds well to being told they are going to hell.)

See the article here.

Also, the holidays are coming up, and with them a time that most people -- nonBelievers, too -- get in the spirit of giving.

To that end, there's a series of links on the right-hand side of the page under the heading "CHANCES TO SERVE." Check them out.

2007-10-24 0 comments

I still haven't found what I'm looking for

The license plate on the back of my car says nothing about who I am. Two letters, four numbers and that's it.

For others, license plates are meant to convey identity, social status, whimsical fancy or a love of dogs. Some extol the virtues of Blah Blah University's football team or the driver's propensity for lead-footedness ... I saw one recently that said, simply, "IGOFAST." I presume the driver wasn't talking about skipping his next meal.

(Some favorites? "1MPG" [on a Hummer]; PMS 247; "NOSUP4U" [for all the "Seinfeld" fans]; "EMCSQRD"; "HANSOLO"; "OBX ASAP")

The most baffling, recently, was this one: "E DRAVEN." Don't know what it means?

It's a character from the 1990s cult fave "The Crow." It's also one of the most bizarre -- and disturbing -- license plates I've seen.

Oh, no, not because of the movie. Sure, it's dark, violent, profane ... in short, "The Crow" earns its R rating. What bothers me so much about that license plate is what it represents: yet another person seeking fulfillment in a place where it can never be found.

Think I'm overstating it a bit? Maybe. Maybe it's just that someone really, really likes that movie. But look at the cars around you some time. More than just status symbols -- that concept is nothing new; people have been idolizing their cars since the first Model T rolled off the line -- cars these days convey messages about who we are.

There are trucks with "In Memory Of ..." decals in the back window, moving monuments to the dead. You'll rarely find a car without a bumper sticker. I have them, too. Vanity plates aren't the end of it ... most cars have decorative plates on the front of the car, too. Graduation tassels and/or flowery leis hang from rearview mirrors. All of these things, at the very least, are meant to illustrate a person's individuality. On a deeper level, they are totems.

A week or so ago, I posted this piece of scripture:

"Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.'"

This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,' says the LORD. 'You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?' declares the LORD Almighty. 'Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.'" (Haggai 1:5-9)

Ever read that passage? I hadn't until recently. Then, the very day I read it, I saw that "E DRAVEN" license plate and instantly thought of how so many people in this world are searching for something ... and they don't even know what it is.

They look in a bottle, filled with a temporary strength and courage that only leaves them weak and fearful. They look in the arms of a stranger, giving themselves away again and again in search of something that will put a smile on their face but instead leaves them empty. They look in pills and needles and smoke which, for a time, wraps them in warmth yet leaves them bitterly cold. They look in academic achievement, their families, clubs, groups, bands, games, cars and, yes, even movies. They all result in the same thing: plants that don't produce harvest, houses that God does not honor. Haggai, some 500 years before the birth of Christ, nailed it on the head.

A preacher once gave a sermon in which he used a wooden figure as a prop. In the center of that wooden man was a perfectly round hole, and he illustrated this point very simply and powerfully. He'd try to put in pieces of paper --representing diplomas -- but they didn't fill it completely. He'd try a Matchbox car, and it wouldn't fit at all. One by one, each thing he tried only left that void as empty as the moment it was cut out of the wooden figure. St. Augustine said it best when he referred to "a God-shaped void." We all have it, and nothing can fill it except, well, God.

Our world is hurting, and inherent in that pain is the search that all humans undertake. For some its an active search. Some think they've found it. Others know they have. What do you know? Late at night, when you're alone, where do you hurt? Is it painful because your search for truth isn't going anywhere? Come to Jesus.

U2's Bono sings, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Indeed.

(Oh, by the way, did you figure out that license plate at the top of the post? When you figure it out, it will hit you "right between the eyes.")

copyright andrew j. beckner, 2007. all rights under copyright reserved worldwide. for reprinting information, e-mail to Ephesians514@gmail.com

2007-10-22 0 comments

Oh well ...

So much for getting out of town this past weekend, because this happened:

No, no ... not the kid. I've had her for a couple years now. I'm talking about the busted ankle. My wife and I were headed out the door for a weekend alone together -- I mean, we were this close, I kid you not -- and I miss a step, fall on the outside edge of my foot and, pow! I spend three hours in the ER. Fun times.
At least it isn't broken.
More tomorrow ...
2007-10-19 0 comments

Out of town ...

My wife and I, praise God, are getting out of town this weekend -- alone -- for some R&R. It's rare in the hustle and bustle of raising two kids and our careers that we get any time for the two of us, so I'm thankful God is allowing us the opportunity to be man and wife for 30 or so hours. Hey, it's not much but we'll take it.

So before I left town I thought I'd post some random items.



I'VE READ OSWALD Chambers' "My Utmost for His Highest" regularly for nearly four years now, and it always amazes me how each year a new entry jumps out at me and really grabs hold. I'll come across an entry that bears the unmistakeable sign of Godly inspiration -- notes scribbled furiously in the margins and sentences underlined in whatever shade of ink was handy when God spoke. But, invariably, lightning rarely strikes twice. The next year, I might shrug at the same text and simply move on.

Conversely, I'll come across an entry that through the years bore no brunt of my pen yet speaks so powerfully and unexpectedly that it stirs something way down deep inside. The entry for October 18 did just that.

You can read it here, if you want. Or, instead, just chew on this statement: "The test of my love for Jesus is the practical one; all the rest is sentimental jargon." Whew!

What's so amazing is that God recognizes the place we occupy at any given time -- mentally, spiritually and emotionally -- and has something to offer us at each. The Word is truly alive.

AS AN ADDENDUM to yesterday's entry on how ahead of His time Jesus was in relating to women, I came across something on the opposite end of the religious spectrum.

To contrast what we know of Jesus' attitudes on women, here are some passages from the Koran, the Muslim holy book.

"Men are the protectors And maintainers of women, Because Allah has given The one more (strength) Than the other, and because They support them From their means. Therefore the righteous women Are devoutly obedient, and guard In (the husband’s) absence What Allah would have them guard. As to those women On whose part ye fear Disloyalty and ill-conduct, Admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); But if they return to obedience, Seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, Great (above you all)."

"The woman remarked: 'What is wrong with our common sense and with religion?' He (Muhammad, the Islamic messiah) observed: 'Your lack of common sense (can be well judged from the fact) that the evidence of two women is equal to one man, that is a proof of the lack of common sense.' ... The Prophet (the blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) said: 'Isn’t the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?' The women said: 'Yes.' He said: 'This is because of the deficiency of her mind.'"

Oh, and the Koran also teaches that women ungrateful to their husbands can look forward to spending eternity in Hell and that Muslim men are allowed to have sex with their female servants.
DO YOURSELF a favor and pre-order this book. It's gonna be a good one.
MY FRIEND and co-worker Jim Hale writes a great weekly column called "Mountain Monergism." He has some great insights on Christian life. Check him out here.
UBER-THEOLOGIST John Piper had a great post the other day about people's reluctance to talk about their faith, insisting that, in the words of many a politician, "My faith is a private matter." I once interviewed John Edwards when he was running for vice president back in 2004, and that was his answer to a point-blank question about his religious views. He said he was a Christian but wouldn't go into specific details on just what he did or did not believe. What a wimp.
Have a great weekend and, while you're at it, pray for Chrysalis (for those who know what I'm talking about).
Grace and peace.
2007-10-18 0 comments

Was Jesus a feminist?

"Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him."
-Sojourner Truth, 1851

Christians are the only social group against whom it is culturally acceptable to make fun. Political correctness has touched everyone except us. It's gotten so ridiculous that when an actor called a homosexual castmate a derogatory epithet recently, he was forced by the network to go to rehab. Yes, rehab. Now, you need rehabilitated just for calling someone an ugly name. Apparently, being a jerk is as addictive as heroin.

Prejudice against evangelical Christians is exceedingly frustrating, so much that I often want to the un-Christian thing and lash out. But there's that pesky "turn the other cheek" admonition from Jesus, so I begrugingly accept that as gospel (which, of course, it is. Literally.)

So, the next best thing is to refute some of the misconceptions about Christianity. Today, we'll look at gender issues.

First, some background. The role of women in the Church has changed dramatically in recent decades to mirror cultural shifts as well. After largely being dead following the women's suffrage movement in the early 20th Century, feminism hit its stride in the 1960s. In 1963, Betty Friedan published "The Feminine Mystique," a book whose thesis was that women are more than homemakers and mothers -- indeed, the book "criticized the idea that women could only find fulfillment through childbearing and homemaking" and "hypothesizes that women are victims of a false belief system that requires them to find identity and meaning in their lives through their husbands and children." This, Friedan argued, meant that women had no identity apart from that forced upon them by marriage and family.

Then, in the economic boom of post-World War II America, more and more women entered the workforce to supply their families with additional income. Thus, more and more families could now live in more luxurious settings than was possible a generation before. Suburbia flourished.

So, my generation is perhaps the first to fully integrate women into the larger cultural landscape -- in the workplace, in political life and, yes, in the Church.

(That's not to say it's been a smooth transition. There are still some wide disparities among denominations and what roles those differing groups assign women.)

It's safe to say, then, that my generation -- and, by extension, the generations that will come after -- view women much differently and with more reverance and a greater degree of acceptance than those that preceeded it dating all the way back to the genesis of American social life.

But you know what's funny? If you look at today's attitudes toward women compared with those of a certain Jewish carpenter living in Palestine in, say, the first century A.D., you'll find that Jesus was ahead of His time -- a true renaissance man.

See, Jesus broke all sorts of barriers, and that was part of the reason He was so threatening to the religious establishment. He hung out with tax collectors and lepers, poor people and prostitutes. So it should come as no surprise that He embraced women as a vital part of His ministry and His inner circle.

Trivia time: according to John's gospel, who was the first person to whom Jesus explicitly revealed He was the Messiah? It wasn't Peter, it wasn't James and it wasn't John. It was a woman -- and, just for good measure, she was from a social group that was discriminated against and, at the time she met Jesus, had been divorced five times and was in a sexual relationship with a man that wasn't her husband.

"The woman said, 'I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.' Then Jesus declared, 'I who speak to you am he.'" (John 4:25, 26, NIV ... read the entire story here.)

What's more, remember the first person Jesus met after His resurrection? Yep, it was a woman. After Mary Magdalene encounters the empty tomb, she retreats to the garden, weeping. Jesus appears to her even before a reunion with The Father!

"Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" (John 20:17, ESV)

So we see that two of the key moments in Jesus' earthly life -- the revelation of His divinity and His resurrection -- were first revealed to women.

Other key moments from the life of Christ in which women were prominent include Mary's anointing of His feet (see John 12:1-8; in other gospels as well), Jesus' teaching that His mercy overrides Levitical law (see John 8:2-11), an eldery, widowed prophetess being rewarded in her dedication to prayer and fasting by meeting the baby Jesus (see Luke 2:36-38) and the pure face that women were an integral part of His inner circle (see Luke 8:1-3). And this is by no means a comprehensive list.

And those attitudes didn't end with His ascension. Among the apostle Paul's key people was a husband/wife ministerial team, Priscilla and Aquila. You can read about them in Acts 18 in general but Acts 18:24-28 specifically (which is a great story and you should read it to see their importance to the early church.) In that passage, Priscilla is mentioned before her husband. Coincidence?

Further, Paul writes reverently about women in Colossians 3:19 -- "Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them;" Ephesians 5:25 -- "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her;" and, in regards to equality, Galatians 3:26-28 -- "for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith ... there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (emphasis mine)"

Of course, Christians throughout history have not always followed the plan. Man is always twisting and corrupting scripture to his own ends.

But looking at the biblical ideal and the intent of Christ, women aren't just valued as much as men. They are realized as the true treasures of God that they are.

(copyright andrew j. beckner, 2007. all rights under copyright reserved worldwide. e-mail ephesians514@gmail.com for reprinting information.)

2007-10-15 0 comments

Victory ... over everything?

My back hurts. Right now, at this moment — and it doesn't matter if you read this now or two months from now — it still hurts.

When I was a kid, I used to wonder why in the world so many older people talked about wanting to go do Heaven. Now, when I wake up stiff every morning — the result of a bad accident I had more than four years ago that broke two vertebrae in my lower back — I have no problem relating to the desire to depart this earthly life and enter into eternal rest.

Oh, I'm not suicidal. I enjoy and embrace life. It's just that, increasingly, I understand how wonderful Heaven must be. For one thing, my back won't hurt anymore.

Yet, there are those who would tell you that my pain only exists because I lack the requisite faith to see myself healed. I hate getting into areas of doctrine and/or theological differences, but — and this is not as gently as I could put it — that's a bunch of baloney.

Let me put it another way: making a decision to follow Christ is not a magic wand. I don't repent of my sins, ask Jesus to direct my life and live for Him and — voila! — life is perfect. It just doesn't work that way. I'll still have flat tires, broken bones, arguments with my wife, bounced checks. That's not living in defeat vs. living in victory. It's reality. It's living in a fallen world.

For instance, I spent, oh, around 10 years living apart from a daily walk with Christ. I became a Christian at a young age, but as I grew older I grew distant with God. The end result of that lifestyle choice was that I embraced a life of sin as readily as I had once embraced a relationship with Jesus. I lived carnally, viscerally. I drank copious amounts of alcohol. I abused drugs. I spoke harshly with people. I dishonored my parents.

When this prodigal son returned and I embraced a relationship with Jesus after my accident, He forgave me of those indiscretions. As the song says, He tossed my sin as far as the east is from the west ... from one scarred hand to another. But He did not cast a magic spell and eliminate my memory of who I was. I still painfully remember the life I led. I'm still street smart. I still can close my eyes and see things in the portals of my mind that I would rather forget ever having seen.

One of the most tragic consequences of Adam and Eve's ill-fated decision in the Garden of Eden was their loss of innocence — "Who said you were naked?" — and the byproduct of it. We are therefore not only tainted by their (and our) sin and the curse it heaped upon humanity, but we have lost our collective innocence. Yes, we are born with an innocent mind -- tabula rosa -- but we were born into sin nontheless, and it only takes living into a world largely governed by that sin to strip us of a beautiful state of being ... that of innocence. Yes, God restores that innocence at the moment we decide to confess our sins and live our lives for Him, but that's only part of the equation.

See, I believe that the only part of our innocence that's restored is in our hearts. Our minds, tragically enough, are forever tainted. Again, Jesus doesn't remember my sinful state, but I do. I am no longer innocent, and cannot be until that time when God fulfills the promise Jesus made when He said, "Behold, I make all things new." When I enter into His presence at the end of my life, I will be made new — free of the taint of sin both on my heart and on my mind.

Yet, when some Christian leaders talk of "total victory" — when they say that all you need to do is follow Jesus and He will heal your broken back, give you that Lexus and make your estranged father talk to you again — well, that's dangerous because it sounds as if being a Christian is like winning the lottery. Again, it doesn't work that way. Now, God is very capable of making all of those things happen. But just because He can doesn't mean He will. The beauty of His omniscience is that He understands what is best for us even when we don't.

That's why I wholeheartedly agree with the video above.

If you believe, as Joel Osteen does, that total victory means a perfectly wonderful life if — and only if — you have the requisite faith to fix all your problems, i.e., that you "claim" that victory ... well, that flies in the face of scripture. Let's look at some examples.

2 Chronicles, chapters 14, 15 and 16 recounts the story of Asa, the great-great grandson of King David. Here was a guy who, as king of Judah, turned God's people away from false gods after yearsof sinful living. What was his reward? His country was attacked by a massive army. Yes, Asa defeated the Cushites (modern-day Ethiopia), but undoubtedly hundreds of his people were killed in the battle.

How about 2 Corinthians 12:7-10? Here we see Paul, probably the most important man in the history of the early church, praying to God to take away a "thorn in his flesh." Scholars have debated for centuries what this "thorn" was, but it's irrelevant to our discussion here. The point is, here is a giant of faith, a pillar of Christ's church, and he is sorely afflicted. Yet, despite his entreaties to God, he was not delivered. Why couldn't he just "claim total victory?"

Later, in the first chapter of Philippians, Paul, writing from prison, is clearly a little depressed, talking of how his "suffering in my imprisonment" leads him to "desire ... to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better." Being in prison doesn't sound like "total victory," especially considering he eventually was beheaded.

Then, there's Peter, who not only recognized that trials and tribulations are a part of the Christian's life, but that, indeed, they are necessary. In 1 Peter 1:4-7, he recognizes the joy of the Christian life, but instead of saying that joy is found in daily living, Peter calls it an "inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (emphasis mine.) He is therefore saying that the fullness of joy isn't to be revealed until the last time, i.e., until you are dead! In the meantime, life's not a cakewalk. Further, Peter writes that trials and tribulations actually serve to make us stronger, that our faith is "tested by fire." Why? So that it "may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

Oh, and read Hebrews 12:3-13, too.

Now, contrast all of that with Joel Osteen's contention that "whatever I touch will prosper and succeed." That's rubbish. As Christians, our treasure is stored in jars of clay — not jars of gold.

Then there's the cultural perspective. We Generation Xers are naturally a little jaded about things. It's no wonder that many of us view this Deepak Chopra/Oprah Winfrey style of theology that Osteen espouses as more than a little suspect. At best, we dismiss it. At worst, we are offended because we feel patronized.

Now, don't get me wrong here. I'd hate for anyone to leave here with the idea that life sucks and that Christians are no better off than non-believers. That's certainly not the case. Life in Christ is joy, and we would do well to remember that so long as we don't lose sight of the fact that our joy can never be complete while we live here, in this body and on this plane of existence.

Furthermore, the wonderful thing about having Christ in your life is having that blessed assurance that when life does suck, we have peace in the hope that is found in Jesus.

So, in the end, it's not that we suffer that matters. It's how we react to that suffering. Do we sulk, or do we seek?

(copyright andrew j. beckner, 2007. all rights under copyright reserved worldwide. e-mail ephesians514@gmail.com for reprinting information.)
2007-10-14 0 comments

for week ending October 13 ...

Before we get to the news, you might check out the sidebar on the right hand side of the page ... I've added some new digital knick-knacks there that are worth seeing. Be sure to visit the tag board, which allows for real-time instant messaging and/or online chat right here on the site. It can also serve as something of a guest book ... just type in your name, your Web site (if applicable) and your message. Hope you'll leave me a message.
And for those of you who know what I'm talking about, pray for Chrysalis ...
Anyway, on to the news ...
I'd like to think that Dubya only said this to be politically correct -- but then I realize that he's not up for re-election. The fear, then, is that the guy actually believes this. Sigh ... one of our biggest battles is against religious pluralism, and it doesn't help when the leader of the free world, a man who professes to be a Christian, makes a foolish statement like this.
Man, I can't wait to read this book. I just wonder if, after his experience, how close he came to learning the Truth. It reminds me of Bruce Feiler's "Walking the Bible," (which is a great read, by the way). If only Feiler had gone farther than the Pentateuch, he may have learned a whole lot more ... like who God is (and He's not Allah, either, Mr. Bush.)
A good, unobjective look at my favorite pastor west of the Mississippi.
Itchy ears and tongues of fire (Christianity Today)
Good, loving treatment of the subject. After all, what do you do with active and practicing homosexuals who say they are secure in their salvation? As the article points out, how about 2 Timothy 4:3,4 -- "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions ..." That time is already here.
2007-10-12 0 comments

Walk #63 -- Part Two

So, here's part two of the Kanawha Valley Men's Walk to Emmaus #63 pictures. Thanks again to my dad for taking the shots. The final installment -- of the Fourth Day meeting -- is on tap.

Tables of James and Andrew

The Tables of John and Peter

Dan worships

You guys are eating again!?!

Mark Withrow and Randy Browning

Mike Harvey delves into the Word.

Faces only a mother could love

Barry gets a hug ... GLORY!!!


Give careful thought to your ways

"Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.'
"This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,' says the LORD. 'You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?' declares the LORD Almighty. 'Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.'"

(Haggai 1:5-9)

An obscure passage, to be sure -- does anyone preach out of Haggai? -- but there's some good stuff here. Stay tuned ...
2007-10-09 0 comments

Kanawha Valley Men's Walk to Emmaus #63

OK, so here's some video and pictures, as promised. (Big thanks to my dad, who took the pics and shot the video.) Look for more in the coming days, including some shots from the Fourth Day meeting.

I had some problems uploading video directly to the post, so here are some direct links instead.

Frank the caterpillar, part one:

Frank the caterpillar, part two:

How about one more round of De Colores?

Alonzo tells the powerful story of a life changed by Christ.

"Long have I desired to share this supper with you."

You ask me, the guy on the right is better lookin'.

Frank checks his makeup with a little help from Richie.

2007-10-05 0 comments

Potpourri: Prodigal — Multimedia slideshow

How appropos ...

See the slideshow here.

See the accompanying story here.

Potpourri: Jesus Hardcore — Reaching angry, white, mosh-pit guys

There are a lot of non-traditional mission fields right here in America.

Check out this one.
2007-10-03 0 comments

Quote of the Day

"The issue isn't why a loving God would allow humans to go to Hell. It's why a just God would allow humans into Heaven. He should be saying, 'Hey, I've seen what you've done with your place. You're not coming into My House.'"
2007-10-02 0 comments


"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate."
(Luke 15:20-24)

Now there's my favorite parable. I know, I know. Predictable. I don't care. Fact is, that parable more closely resembles my life than any other. It's almost spooky, it's so doggone accurate.

But on my way to work tonight, listening to Keith Green's song "The Prodigal Son Suite," -- which is most excellent, by the way -- something struck me that never had before: the son's father gave him the very tools he used to nearly ruin his life.

It's an integral part of the story, but I'd always dismissed it as a plot point. The real story was how the son abandonded his upbringing in favor of visceral experience.

Maybe I'm not explaining myself well -- it happens. Let's look at it from the metaphoric perspective instead. After all, that's what parables were.

In telling the story, Jesus symbolizes our journey from the depths of sin to the redeption that's found in His grace. At the most basic level, it's a metaphor for our being born into unlimited potential through a life in Him but, because of man's sin nature, that potential is squandered and can only be redeemed by the recognition that our life's most basic need is a relationship with The Father.

But what about those of us for whom the story of The Prodigal Son is deeply personal? It's that way for me. For me, it's more than a story that I was born into sin and that, as a young boy, I realized it, asked for forgiveness and for the strength to live for Him. It's because I lived for Him, then threw Him aside like so much lint out of my pocket. And it's why the realization that God gave me certain skills and gifts and talents that actually allowed me to do a greater disservice to Him is so painful. After all, what greater insult to God than to take those divinely appointed skills and squander them? Aaron was a gifted public speaker, endowed by God. The modern equivalent is if he were to use it as a foul-mouthed comedian.

Hence, we see here another level of tragedy to an already tragic story.

Ah, but with God, there's always a silver lining. And it is this: despite knowing that we can use our resources for personal gain at the cost to the Kingdom, God still endows us with those tools He deems it necessary to see that His work is done and that He is glorified. That's a beautiful reality, because it is yet another example of His boundless love. He sees our potential for Him, not our potential for the world.

What we have, then, is a story of redepmtion, love -- and divine optimis

(copyright andrew j. beckner, 2007. all rights under copyright reserved worldwide. e-mail ephesians514@gmail.com for reprinting information.)
2007-10-01 0 comments

To the guys of Walk #63 ...

Did not our hearts burn within us?

(And, by the way, I'll be posting some pics -- and maybe even some video -- in the coming days of Kanawha Valley Men's Walk to Emmaus #63. What an amazing time spent in the presence of our Lord.)