Top Ten Banners of 2008

OK, it’s that time of the year when we look back over the past 12 months for certain highlights of the blogging world. For our first look back, I would like to look at the top 10 banners I used on my blog since they were all creative endeavors on my part. These are not in any certain order, and I only have eight of them. I work on getting 10 for next year.

Number Eight
Etched glass. I took this looking out the front door of my doctor’s office here in Aiken. This is not my favorite by far. I only used it for a couple of days, and then pulled it down for something else. It was still worth a mention.


Number Seven
This is the current banner, and I loved it because of the color. It’s perfect for the fall and was much easier to do than some of them.

Number Six
This one is my absolute favorite. You can see why. It’s Andrew when he was about 13 months old. He had just started to walk with some confidence and we went out hiking one day. Before we could get ready, he walked over to the car and I snapped the picture. It’s one of my favorite pictures of Andy, and we have the full copy on our wall.

Number Five
This is of the industrial complex in downtown Augusta, GA. It’s a museum now, and not much industry to it. I love the way I was able to balance it out.

Number Four
Although I didn’t take the picture, it’s of Mt. Everest, I like this one because this is when I realized I could make my own banners, make the Possession something unique to me. I would love to go and take some shots of Mt. Everest someday. But as for climbing it, I will leave that to those who like toying with death.
Number Three
This was another early attempt at a banner. It’s OK.

Number Two
I really needed a tripod to get the clarity on this shot. I didn’t have one at the time, but I do now that my Sweetie bought me one for Christmas. I hope to take some awesome morning shots soon.
Number One
This is one of the early attempts that I really liked and I did this for the church’s web site. We needed something that said Aiken! This is both downtown, and reflective of the horse culture we have. I think I got both on this one.
OK, vote for your favorite and let me know which one you like in the comments section. I would post a poll, but that’s a bit complicated for my mindset this afternoon.

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Penn Jillette and a Bible

Apparently, a man gave Penn Jillette, of Penn & Teller fame, a Bible and it really moved Penn. No, he is not a believer. He is an atheist. But the kindness which the man showed towards Penn was enough to make him stop and think. Penn points out that if Christians really believe in heaven and hell the way that we say we do, then it is not very loving to not tell others about Christ. In other words, since we do believe those things, then we need to tell others of Christ. Realize, this is coming from an atheist. This should stir our hearts into action.

Watch the video. It’s a lesson to all of us that the fruits of the Spirit in our lives, are often times more powerful than our words. Just a reminder of those fruits:

Galatians 5:22ff But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Happy Birthday Andy!

Today is my son’s fourth birthday! We are hoping to have some cake, surprise him with some more gifts, go to the zoo and have a wonderful day celebrating the fact that God has blessed him with four years.

I know four years is not much time at all to you and me. But to his world, four years is a lifetime. We have really been blessed by the LORD with Andy. He is such a great boy. I hope and pray that the LORD will bless him with many, many more.

Michael Horton and the Greatest Threat to Orthodox Christianity

Michael Horton, one of my favorite authors, had a live chat back in October at the Washington Post Viewpoint and some of the problems in American Christianity today. He has recently written a book entitled Christless Christianity, which I have ordered and can’t wait to start reading. In his online chat, he has some brilliant answers to good questions, one of which is the following:

Norfolk, Va.: What do you consider to be the greatest threat to Orthodox (biblical) Christianity today?

Michael S. Horton: Shallowness. It is far worse than heresy. At least heretics take the gospel seriously enough to distort and deny it. And heresy always makes the church think more deeply about what it believes and why it believes it. However, shallowness is deadly for the Christian Faith.

If you just need some helpful advice, encouragement, inspiration, and uplift from your religion, you just need enough water to get your feet wet. A few slogans and insights will suffice. But Christianity bets all its chips on certain events that happened in history. “If Christ is not raised,” Paul said, “then we are of all people the most to be pitied.” After all, he says, we are false witnesses-perjurers-and Jesus is a fraud. You have not lived a happier, healthier, more fulfilling life if Christ was not raised from the dead; you’ve been duped, and we’re accomplices in that, Paul said (1 Corinthians 15).

The gospel is not a religious feeling, a spiritual journey within, or pious advice. It is a story in the words of the British playwright Dorothy Sayers, “the greatest story ever told.” From this unfolding drama of redemption from Genesis to Revelation arise doctrines, which lead to wonder and thanksgiving, motivating grateful love and service to our neighbors. All of this requires that we submit to the discipline of listening, understanding, and growing in our faith.

But we are channel-surfers. We like to create our own soothing sampler of New Age mysticism, self-help lingo, conservative ideas about virtue, and maybe something to help us keep our kids sober and celibate. Accommodating to this shallow narcissism, churches have largely abandoned their responsibility to teach the rising generations even the basics of the Faith.

Generic religion and spirituality can survive a mindless conservatism or a mindless liberalism, but Christianity cannot. It thrives in an atmosphere of questioning, engaging, wrestling, listening, and reading. If we are only looking for whatever “works”-for the moment, at least for what’s entertaining, fun, or affirming, we will always be spiritual infants, if Christians at all.

I think he nails much of the problem in Christianity. We are so consumed with the moment and what serves us for and in the moment that we fail to see the greater reality of the gospel and our greater need of repentance. We have become a church filled with Christian infants. It’s really easy to spot. Just watch someone, or yourself, the next time a real trial arises. Do you accept it from God’s hand as a means of sanctification, or start playing the blame game. If the latter, and a believer, then you are showing your immaturity. Absolutely nothing arises in our lives that the Lord does not allow, or ordained.

We will never understand the deeper truths of Christianity as long as we remain shallow. There is no room in the Christian life for being shallow.

Peace on Earth!

During Advent, I like to challenge my congregation with honest thoughts about Christ’s first coming, by pointing out how much of our belief about the first coming, has been shaped by the culture of Christmas. For instance, Christmas is not a Scripturally mandated holiday. So if the foolish atheists were somehow to make it illegal to celebrated the holiday, we shouldn’t get up in arms about it. It’s not a silver-bullet issue, meaning one worth dying over.

Another notion that tends to be put forth is that Christ came to bring peace to all men. We get this from carols and cards that read: “Peace on earth, goodwill to men.” I guess the implication is that since Christ came, He is bringing peace and goodwill to everyone on the face of the earth.

But that is never implied in scripture or the verse cited. Luke 2:14 “ Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” That is how it has been typically translated, the problem is that it should be translated “toward men of goodwill.” This would mean towards those of HIS pleasure.

The ESV renders the verse:
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

I think that is a better translation. Why? Simply ask the question: with whom is God pleased? It is only Jesus Christ that the Father is truly pleased. The rest of us have God’s wrath resting upon us because of our sin, until we believe in Christ for salvation. Then and only then, do we have the Father’s pleasure. Not based upon our belief, but based upon Christ’s righteousness which is given to us at the moment of belief.

This means that we are pleasing to the Father, because of His pleasure in the Son. Only those who are in Christ are pleasing to the Father. The point is that the general goodwill that is so often thought of at Christmas time, is not available to those who reject Christ. It only comes to those who are in Christ.

The understand of goodwill is also found in the peace that Christ brings. Again, ask the question: does this mean that Christ will come and give us peace on earth as in the absence of wars? Not at all. He even said that there would always be wars and rumors of war. So what kind of peace is He offering in His first advent? The peace we need to find between us and God.

As I pointed out earlier, God’s wrath rests upon all of us because of our sin against Him. We need that wrath removed, and Christ does that for those who believe in His death on the cross. His work was to bring atonement for our sins with the Father by paying that debt we owe. We cannot pay it ourselves, but Christ can and does. His sacrifice was sufficient to pay for all our sins. This brings us true and lasting peace with the Father, for we no longer owe a debt of sin towards Him. Christ has paid the debt, and that opens the door of heaven for the believer. That is the true peace that is spoken of in Luke 2:14.

Who is that peace given to? Only those who believe in Christ for salvation.

African Swallows vs. European Swallows

OK, Julie and I had a dialogue on swallows in our comment sections. She was writing about birds on her blog and it reminded me that Monty Python had a scene about swallows in one of their movies. I couldn’t remember the movie, and she said it was the Holy Grail, which was quite an irreverent, but funny movie. The point is that is sent me looking for the clip to share with you to which I found the following. This is Lord of the Rings meets Monty Python.

And this is the last clip concerning swallows from the movie, Holy Grail… which is quite irreverent.

Hugging Children

I was simply trying to get Andy to play.

He was sitting on my lap, in the bleachers of the gym of St. John’s United Methodist Church. We were going through our Tuesday-Thursday ritual of dropping him off at Mother’s Day Out, when he started acting like a scared 3 year old, instead of the typical, “It’s-my-world, get-out-of-the-way” three year old.

Everything had been fine up until the point of actually getting him in the room with his teachers and the other children. He had on his Sonic sunglasses, his bear, Apple, and his coat. He didn’t mind not having his cowboy hat and took his time doing everything. He took his time putting Apple into Joey’s car seat. He took his time getting into his own car seat. Getting out of the car… he took his time. He was on Andy Time.

I suspected nothing at all. Then we got to his classroom, and he took off. “I want to go home…” I chased him down the hall of St. John’s and finally stopped. I realized that if I chased him, he would run. So I sat down in a chair outside the director’s office and let him come to me. He did.

Climbing up into my lap he made it clear that he didn’t want to stay. We just sat there for several minutes and I reminded him that not only would he be safe, but that Jesus was watching over him as well.

He finally consented to going to his room and I thought I was in the clear. Andy had other plans. He didn’t want to give up Apple, even though the class was heading for the gym. I finally convinced him to give up Apple and I carried him to the gym behind the rest of the class. As the teacher threw out the balls to play with, I hoped to get him interested in playing and he would feel comfortable letting me head for the office.

That did happen, but not before the unintended consequence. We were sitting on the bleachers when one of his friends brought us a ball. His friend wanted to play with Andy, and was trying to help me. I tried to get Andy to take the ball, but he wouldn’t.

So I took the ball and hit it up into the air. His friend brought it back. “Andy, watch. Let me try and hit the ceiling with the ball.” I hit it again. His friend ran after it and brought it back. I hit it again. One of the other children brought me her ball to hit. I did so. Next thing you know, all the children were bringing me their balls, asking me to hit theirs into the air so they could chase them down and bring them back. I had 10 or 15 children doing this over and over again.

Before long, Andy vacated my lap to play with some of the other children, and two little girls climbed up into my lap. I kept thinking to myself, “don’t these children get loved at home?” The two girls were precious, but seemed to just want me to hold them. Do their fathers love on them? How could they be so wanting of love? They were darlings.

I let them crawl in my lap and just sit there as I hit the balls for other children. I finally asked Andy, “is it alright if I go to the office now?”

His standard reply, “Four more minutes.” OK, I could hold out for four more minutes. I couldn’t help but enjoy every moment with these children. It was an unexpected bright spot in the day.

A few moments later, Andy grabbed the hand of one of the younger boys. He had done the same thing on Tuesday, when the boy was crying. He looked up at me and let me know I could go to work. He was happy and content again. I gave him a hug… and them the little boy who’s hand he was holding, and then one of the little girls, and another little girl. I had to give out about five hugs before I could leave. Once they were content, I headed for the door.

By the way, my intern Fred has just told me that it is International Hug Day. So if you see an international, give them a hug!

What???

Kim Riddlebarger has a section on his blog entitled: Who Said That? He gives the quote, and all his students and congregation members try to guess who said it. Here is his latest:

“The way forward for theological education will be deeply interfaith, or it will fail. The fact is our lives are now interfaith, in bone-deep ways. We live in interfaith families; we eat Middle Eastern food for lunch, kosher for dinner. … We have hymns on our iPods, yoga mats in our backpacks, Torah prayers by our bedsides. “

You are not supposed to Google the quote, but I did and found that it was the president of Union Theological Seminary in New York, he Rev. Serene Jones. Apparently she believes that by eating Chinese food, we become Chinese in our beliefs. What drivel is this. That is really taking the cliche, “You are what you eat!” to an entire new level. She is saying, “You believe what you eat.”

If this is a sample of what Union Theological Seminary has to offer, then it is not much of a theological seminary. Why spend all that money to get a degree believing such drivel. You can make that up in a coffee bar, and, become Colombian in the process. No wonder the American church is in such a dismal state.

Snippet on Sunday Morning…

Here is just a snippet of a conversation Andy and I were having as we were getting ready for church on Sunday morning. Since it was my week off, I was taking the opportunity to worship with our sister church up the road because I wanted to hear their new assistant pastor preach. I’m glad I did. He gave a solid sermon.

But in getting ready, I told Andy that I was going to be sitting with him in worship. His reply, “Is Mommy going to preach?”

I got a full hearty laugh out of that one.