Friday, November 28, 2008

Feasting on the Battlefield.

The 23rd is truly a magnificent Psalm. Perhaps the most familiar of all the Psalms, it is one that most people have known since their childhood. People who have never been to church are familiar with the phrase, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want". This week I've pondered several things in this beautiful Psalm, but one of the last portions of it contains a concept I've not considered before. Psalm 23:5a (ESV) says, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies...".

Have you ever thought about this phrase before? There is such a protection, care, and provision offered by the Lord that, in the midst of the battle, He spreads out a feast and says, "Enjoy!". I think that, too often in my life, I get caught up in the battle....the daily events of life, that I forget to feast on the goodness of our Savior. It's easy to get sidetracked, isn't it? When there are enemies on every side and foes attacking in the areas where we are the weakest, we need to remember the feast that's sitting there for us.

But there's more! That first part of this verse tells us Who prepares the feast for us......our Shepherd. It's not just a quick "grab and go" meal, either. There is a thoughtful preparation....a huge spread....a real feast. When my Dad was still alive one of his favorite phrases when he was ready to go somewhere was, "make that soup into a sandwich and get your butts moving" (that's slightly edited :) ). This is something he picked up in the Army when he was a drill sargeant. The idea was that there is something important to do or someplace pressing to go. In the military sense, there just isn't time to sit and eat...we have to scarf the food down and continue the battle! But that hurriedness isn't present in the 23rd Psalm, is it?

Right in the sight of the enemy, our Savior carefully prepares a table for us....He serves us....and we get to sit down and slowly enjoy all of it!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Another musical treat...

This may surprise some of you who have read me regularly over the last couple of years, but I don't really like CCM (Contemporary Christian Music). The underlying philosophy of the movement as a whole is flawed; much of what the industry produces is theological tripe; and many of the performers themselves seem to want to relegate Christianity to a big emotional gush-fest. No, I honestly dislike CCM as a whole. Now having said that, there are certain singers / groups / "artists" linked with CCM who I absolutely love. These are people who tend to focus heavily on the theology of their music and not so much on the cotton candy crap that tends to define most of CCM. Some of these I've spoken of on here before, while others I haven't. In this blog entry, I just want to highlight one that I've recently discovered.

Sovereign Grace Music is a ministry of Sovereign Grace Ministries, which is led by former pastor C.J. Mahaney. Now if that name sounds familiar, he is also one of the founders of the Together For the Gospel (T4G) Annual Conference. Now, Sovereign Grace features a plethora of contributors - most of whom I've never heard prior to looking through their website. The one contributor I had heard of was one of the founding members of GLAD - another old favorite of mine. I'm not so sure that SG Music would readily identify themselves with CCM, so much as they would use terms like "worship". They have a variety of sounds and styles, but they are consistent in their pursuit of pleasing God through their music. One of the statements they make regarding this is:

"For more than twenty years, Sovereign Grace Ministries has been producing songs for congregational worship. Our goal is to provide local churches with new songs characterized by biblical truth and consuming passion that honors God. While our lyrics cover a broad variety of Scriptural topics, we continually return to God’s glory revealed in Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross—the gospel. Our hearts and lives have been transformed by the Savior, and we can’t help singing about what is “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). Like Charles Wesley, we wish we had “a thousand tongues to sing our great Redeemer’s praise.” We pray the songs we write will produce the same desire in you and your church, for the glory of God."

I would encourage you to check them out some time. I've purchased and dowloaded several of their songs from both I-Tunes and Walmart online....obviously you can purchase them directly from their website as well. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Everything's going to be OK.

He won. I doubt anybody was really surprised at the results….it seemed inevitable. In my opinion, there are three things that sealed the fate of Senator McCain (aside from a campaign that seemed poorly managed). First of all, there was the selection of Sarah Palin as running mate. While this certainly energized the base, it seemed more like a stunt than a well thought out decision. Secondly, there was the George Bush factor. Aside from being the least popular President in history, he is arguable the second worst in modern history (Jimmy Carter topping the list). While people like to point fingers at outside circumstances, Party leaders, and other things; the fact is that under his Presidency America has become a less stable country than it was 8 years ago. Job markets are down, bankruptcy is up, the housing market collapsed, the national debt is at an all-time high, and we are engaged in two separate wars. His message to Americans the day after 9/11 was “take a vacation and spend some money” – during the last great American war, the message was “sacrifice”. I could go on, but you get the picture. The fact that McCain is a member of the same political Party as Bush handicapped him from the get-go. Frankly, it would have been shocking for America to elect a Republican President again this year. The third thing that hurt McCain was really the death blow to his chances – he seemed to be overcoming these other two items fine (against all odds). That third issue was the melt-down of our financial markets. I’m not sure that it’s fair for McCain to have taken the hit for this, but he did and it sealed the deal for Senator Obama.

So, what now? I’ve been reading Christian bloggers as well as comments to Christian blogs around the internet and there seems to be an overwhelming fear, sadness, and even anger over the fact that, in a couple of months we will be saying the words “President Obama”. I’m going to make a bold prediction here, folks…..are you ready for it? Here it is:


Presidents tend to go toward the center once in office. Even Senator Obama became more and more “centrist” as the campaign wore on. Granted, he will push some clearly leftist social policies, and he will almost certainly offer up some extremely liberal fiscal policies (not exactly a major change), but our world will likely not change all that much. Think about the last 6 or so Presidents. Outside of Jimmy Carter all these guys worked hard with the other side. Even President Bush did that during his first term (not so much during his second term, though). We’ll know more about how Senator Obama’s Presidency will look in the next week or so as he begins to name his Cabinet. I think you can expect to hear some names like Joe Lieberman and some moderate Republicans and Democrats named to it. If I’m wrong and he names a completely liberal Cabinet….well, we’ll only have him in office for one term.

In the mean time, friends, take heart! The world was supposed to end when President Clinton was elected, but that ended up not being so bad after all. I’ve heard and seen people make claims that President-elect Obama is a radical, Israel hating, un-American, socialistic, communistic, United States hating, terrorist loving, fanatic. I have news for you…..those sorts of guys don’t get elected to become President. Besides, if all that were actually true, his Presidency wouldn’t even last a full term.

On the positive side of this whole thing, it was certainly a privilege to be able to witness such an historical election during my lifetime. Despite all my major quibbles with Obama’s stances on several key social and moral issues, I wish him well. He’s inheriting perhaps the biggest messes that any President has inherited during my lifetime. He’s got a tough job ahead of him, not the least of which is attempting to live up to all the hype. I hope and pray that his is a good Presidency…one of peace and prosperity to this nation.

On a personal note, not many people know that I was born in Mississippi. As a child I spent nearly every summer in one of the more racially intense parts of the state – “Mississippi Burning” territory. Racial segregation was still a way of life down there even 20 – 25 years ago. When I was 10 years old (25 years ago) all the pools in town were “private”. That meant that only paying “members” were allowed in. I was a white kid who wasn’t a member, but I could get in to any pool I wanted. During my teenage years I made several black friends there on the basketball court. When I would go to the pool to swim, these friends would always come by, stand outside the fence, and talk to us….it was normal to them. The white kids got to swim in the nice pools in town; the black kids got to swim in the rivers and creeks. This was indicative of the attitudes of the time….the black man was simply not on the same level as the white man.

When I was back there last year for my Grandmother’s funeral, I noticed that a lot had changed. The old remnants of hard-core segregation are a little more difficult to see now. While there are still some racial tensions there, it’s not as overt or intense. The black man is generally not treated as a second-class citizen there these days. All that said, I’ll have to admit that there’s a part of me that is truly thrilled to see a black man elected as President of the United States of America. It’s historic. While I didn’t stay up to watch many of the election results come in last night, I caught some of the morning news shows this morning. It was moving to see the emotional reactions. A camera panned to Jesse Jackson – a man who spent a lot of time working with MLK during the height of the Civil Rights movement. He was in tears as he was hit with the realization that the first black President of the United States had just been elected. Regardless of how I feel about Jackson or Obama, it was a moving picture. This moment in American history is one we can applaud…one that, when our grandchildren ask about it, we’ll be able to say….”I was there”.