pecaspers: a Blog in transition

January 21, 2013

MLK and Inauguration Day 2013

If you don’t live under a rock, then you know that today was both the presidential inauguration and the public celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. Much was made during the ceremonies in Washington D.C. of the way Dr. King’s “Dream” was on display as fulfilled in the re-inauguration of the United States of America’s first Black president. But that’s kind of ridiculous if you think about it.

To quote King, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Like it or not, there were plenty of people who voted for and against Barack Obama just because he is Black. Interestingly enough, he’s actually bi-racial. King’s dream wasn’t that Black people would overtake White people in positions of power and influence. The dream is that people’s moral character will be seen for what it is without reference at all to the color of their skin. The dream is not reached until we stop talking about the first Black, Latino, Asian, or whatever whoever. When a person’s race doesn’t enter into the equation of how good a man or woman someone is, then we’ll be on the way. (Side note: My point here isn’t to argue for or against President Obama’s character.)

I’ll happily admit we’ve made a lot of progress. And of course, first [insert race/gender] [insert significant achievement]s occur as a sign of that progress. My own denomination elected Fred Luter as President of the Southern Baptist Convention this year; he’s the first Black President of the SBC. However, we have not arrived in a post-racial America until the hype is all and only about a person and not his or her skin. We have not arrived in a post-racial America until people stop throwing “he’s Black” into conversations when it isn’t actually important to the story being told–you know what I’m talking about. We have not arrived in a post-racial America until there’s a recognition of the fact that Black folks and White folks and Asian folks and every other kind of folks do in fact have some real cultural differences but that we’re all, more importantly, just folks. Folks created in the image of God. Folks diversified into many nations, tribes, and tongues by God and for His glory. Folks who all need salvation from their sin by Jesus the Son of the one true and living God. Folks who will all one day bow their knees and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Pray for President Barack Obama; not because he’s Black, but because he’s the President of the United States of America.

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December 20, 2012

Philosophy of Ministry

A church that I’m really excited to hear back from asked for some more information on me. One of the things they asked for was my “philosophy of ministry.” Below is what I’m sending them. I hope it is the kind of thing they were looking for since I found a wide range of examples of what people and churches were calling by that title.

Philosophy of Ministry

I believe God has called me to equip, encourage, and mobilize His people to be on mission for Him in their daily lives and throughout the world. I am convinced that the best way for me to fulfill this calling is by being pastor of a local church and staying with that church for many years. Developing a healthy church full of healthy Christians which reproduce more of both is the desire of my heart following after being a faithful Christ-follower, husband, and father.

God has revealed in Scripture that He builds the church and that He gives each local church the leaders and members it needs to grow to maturity (Matthew 16:18, 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, Hebrews 2:4, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:11-16). According to Scripture, it is the duty of every follower of Christ to, empowered by the Holy Spirit, make disciples of people from all nations by baptizing and teaching them to obey Christ because we are all His witnesses (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:45-49, John 20:21-22, Acts 1:7-8). It is therefore not my primary duty as a pastor to do all the work of ministry myself, but to serve the church by equipping every member—directly or indirectly—to do the work to which each one has been called (Ephesians 4).

The task of any pastor, according to the Bible, is to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you,” (1 Peter 5:1). Pastoring is shepherding, and shepherding consists of feeding the sheep, protecting the sheep, and guiding the sheep. Any good shepherd will himself also always be seeking to sharpen his tools and develop his skills, gifts, and abilities (1 Timothy 4:7-16). The focus of pastoral work is “prayer and . . . the ministry of the word,” (Acts 6:4). Prayer and the word of God are what the pastor uses to feed, protect, and guide the sheep as well as to train himself.

A pastor/shepherd serves his flock as an under-shepherd of the Good Shepherd. He does so humbly, remembering that the Good Shepherd is also the Lamb of God who stooped to be one of us so that He could die to take away our sin. The sheep do not belong to the under-shepherd, but he cares for them as if they did because he loves them and the One to whom they do belong and because he will be held accountable for them; he is not merely a hired hand (John 10:11-13, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 5:1-4).

I fear that many churches are perpetuating their own decline because they keep hiring hired hands who are later hired away by other churches. I believe churches have suffered a great deal in the not-so-tender care of such men. I believe that pastors have suffered a great deal by being treated as if they were merely hired men—some so much that they began to act like it. I don’t want that to be me. I hope to plant my life in a church and stay long enough for there to be a crop of men fully equipped for ministry as shepherds within the church from which to choose the next pastor twenty or thirty years down the road. I hope to lead a church to actively push back the darkness and advance the gospel into places it has never gone before by sending members and not only money. I have vision for a church where at least 1% of the members are serving as missionaries/church-planters, at least 10% of the members have been on some cross-cultural mission trip in the past year, and 100% have done at least some short-term international missions at some point in their life. I hope to take what has been entrusted to me and teach it to other faithful men who will be able to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2).

God, help me.

November 5, 2012

Presidential Election Prediction and Commentary

I’ve pretty much held my tongue until now. Perhaps a grassroots movement would have begun if I put this forward sooner, but I doubt it.

Barak Obama will win. Let me tell you why. Democrats are still all going to vote for President Obama. Republicans aren’t all going to vote for Romney. Remember all those Christian Republican voters who didn’t come out and vote for McCain? Many of them aren’t coming out to vote for Romney either. Many independent voters who would go Republican for a strong candidate aren’t going to vote for Romney. Independent voters who typically go Democrat certainly aren’t going to flip for Romney. And then you have people like me.

I voted for Bob Dole, I voted for George W. Bush twice, and I voted for McCain. I kind of liked Dole, but I probably didn’t know as much about him as I thought I did. I don’t know if I’d vote for him if he were up this year; it’s possible. I liked the W. No, he wasn’t a perfect president. I didn’t like all he’ll be remembered for, but I still think he is a good man – – perhaps evidenced best in his withdrawal from the political scene after his presidency. I didn’t like McCain. McCain was a big-government, Washington-tainted, moderate Republican. I did appreciate the fact that he had actually served in the military. At any rate, I voted for McCain because I bought the “lesser of two evils” argument. However, I knew Obama was going to trounce McCain.

My mind has changed. In what way does choosing the lesser of two evils actually make sense to the Christian worldview? Given that choice, shouldn’t we choose neither? If you lock me in a room, duct tape a gun to my hand, and force me to shot either my wife or my son; I’m not pulling the trigger. But the situation isn’t that limited. We’ve been lied to by both democrats and republicans telling us we have a two-party system. We don’t have a two-party system. We have a system that is dominated by two parties, and that’s not the same thing. Did you know that you can vote for anybody you want to who meets the constitutional criteria for being president? Anybody, even if they aren’t a party candidate, they don’t even have to be on the ballot. You can write someone in. So that’s what I’m going to do, I’m writing in Ron Paul.

Why Ron Paul? It’s not because I agree with him on every issue. It’s definitely not because he has any chance at winning. I’m voting for Ron Paul because he’s the one guy I can think to write in that might show up in some statistically significant way in the polling data. I’m voting for him in an attempt to say to the Republican party, and in a small way to the Democrats too, that I’m sick of them picking some loser who’s been doing nothing but running for president in step-by-step fashion for the last twenty to thirty years. If the best you can do is put up a moderate guy who adopts Obama’s winning strategy of saying whatever you tell him the people he’s talking to at that moment want to hear, then I’m just going to vote for someone else.

Here’s the reality folks. I’m more afraid of 8 years of Romney, or 4 years of Romney followed by 4-8 years of some other liberal Dem, than I am of 4 more years of Obama. Obama is fighting a Republican House of Representatives, and he could be about to face a Republican controlled Senate too. I’m pretty sure the more-or-less-conservatives will keep him in check for his next term. Hopefully they’ll have the intestinal and testicular fortitude to live up to their constitutional duty to throw down some checking and balancing on his executive ordering and declaring ways. But can you imagine what a mess of nonsense would get pushed through by Romney and a piggy-eyed Congress (especially if it’s both houses)? Now, if Obama wins AND Republicans lose the House and stay the minority in the Senate…maybe the Mayans were on to something. If Romney wins and the Democrats get both houses, then we’re back to Romney losing in 4 years to an all lady Clinton/Pelosi ticket or something equally maddening.

Please go vote. Vote for whoever you want to be your president. I don’t want either of the front-runners, so I’m voting for someone else.

Whatever you do, don’t believe the hype. Don’t believe Fox News, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, or anybody else when they tell you why Mitt couldn’t unite the Republican base…unless they say “Gotcha, we knew he’d lose! I can’t believe you let us pull this off. Will you let us convince you Obama 2016 is a good idea too?”

Don’t believe hype, no matter who is feeding it to you.

P.S. For all you Christians rocking a Romney/Ryan sticker on you bumper right over your Jesus fish, think about this. Obama may be pro-choice and in favor of redefining marriage, but when Romney says “God bless America!” he has a completely different definition of the nature and identity of that God and how he relates to humanity than you do.

SomebodyBetter2016

June 22, 2012

A Preemptive Word on the SBC Annual Meeting

What follows was originally composed as my contribution to the Tallassee Ministerial Alliance column in the Tallassee Tribune. This is the article before I or the paper’s editors cut it to fit the allowed space. I wrote it prior to the SBC Annual Meeting and it–as far as I know–appeared in the paper on Tuesday, June 19, the first day of the actual Convention.

I am a Southern Baptist. (Curious about what that means? Look at the Baptist Faith and Message tab on http://www.sbc.net.) This week, thousands of Southern Baptists are gathering in New Orleans, La. for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Because of this, you will likely hear many things in the news in the coming days about what Southern Baptists are saying and doing at the Convention. I beg you, please don’t judge us too harshly.

I’m always ashamed of some of the ridiculous things that come out of the Convention. I can tell you that someone will say something stupid about alcohol, race-relations, politics, environmentalism, homosexuality, the King James Version of the Bible, and many other issues of both major and minor significance to the general population. Media outlets will handle these things with differing degrees of malice or kindness depending on how they prefer to spin things. You need to understand that the Annual Meeting operates as an effectively open forum for anyone sent as a messenger from a Southern Baptist church. Just because someone says it at the Convention doesn’t mean much. Just because the SBC votes for or against some statement doesn’t mean that all Southern Baptists now agree on that issue–many Southern Baptists can’t even agree on what it means to be Southern Baptist. Most importantly, remember that every fifteen second sound bite you hear coming out of my SBC brethren has been ripped out of a greater context.

What you probably won’t hear much about is the real reason that Southern Baptists convene. The SBC exists so Southern Baptist churches can cooperate together in fulfilling the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus says to His followers, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (HCSB). Though we do much else, the SBC ultimately exists for the primary purpose of sending missionaries to all nations (read “nations” as people groups with distinct culture and language, not politically recognized countries) for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus.

A disciple is nothing less than a person who has been baptized–identifying with Jesus Christ in His death, burial, resurrection–and is being taught to obey all that He commanded. The only reason one gets baptized and seeks to learn and obey is because he or she believes the gospel. Simply put, the gospel is the good news that God exists and He is good, that all mankind has rebelled against Him in sin, that Jesus is God-become-man who suffered in our place the punishment for our sin so we could have a relationship with God, and finally that we are all accountable before God to turn from all our own attempts to please Him and rely solely on what He has already accomplished in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So remember, don’t accept the spin the talking heads on cable news and internet bloggers will put on the SBC Annual Meeting. Feel free to ask of what you hear, “How does this serve to advance the gospel?” But before you throw stones at me and my SBC friends, ask the same question of every aspect of your own life. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory,” (1 Corinthians 10:31, HCSB). Oh that we would all be all about the gospel for the glory of God. You are welcome for all the opportunities to bring this gospel naturally into your conversations with your lost friends, relatives, co-workers, and complete strangers that our Annual Meeting will provide you.

Addendum: I am happy to report that I was largely wrong in my expectations for the Convention. I watched/listened to the vast majority of the meeting via live streaming and didn’t hear nearly as much nonsense as expected–hardly any at all, in fact. The importance of the gospel and our Great Commission was this year’s main focus, but Fred Luder’s election as our first Black president is what seems to be getting all the press. That’s pretty good, I’d say.

March 8, 2012

What Do You Want To Be?

Filed under: Culture,Ministry,Possibly Prophetic — pecaspers @ 9:08 PM
Tags: , , , ,

“No one ever says, ‘I want to be a junkie when I grow up.'”

That was the punch-line of a public service announcement intended to keep kids off drugs from years ago. That PSA started with images of a ballerina and other typical childhood dream jobs with children’s voices saying what they wanted to be when they grew up. Then you see someone running from and caught by the cops in slow-mo, and you hear the line above. It’s a pretty clever commercial, but it’s probably lost on most of its target audience.

You see, if you want to be a ballerina, a firefighter, a school teacher, an astronaut, or whatever, then you have to work at it. You go to school, you practice, you go through training, you discipline yourself or submit to an authority who disciplines you, you make sacrifices of your time, all so that you can be the thing you are striving toward. The clever twist is that it is the same with being a junkie. A drug addiction is expensive, takes up a vast amount of the addict’s time, will cause certain relationships to be cut off, and typically progresses from so-called gateway drugs to substances most readers wouldn’t know exist. It takes commitment to be a junkie; the obvious problem being that it is a chemical dependence driving the commitment, and it’s not one drug users think about ahead of time.

However, nobody just starts free-basing heroine. Similarly, no one who tried out as a walk-on at Auburn University or the University of Alabama would become the starting quarterback having never played football, or even worked out, a day in his life. So what’s this got to do with the Christian life? As D. A. Carson puts it, “People do not drift toward holiness.”

And so I ask: what do you want to be? Do you want to be a godly man or woman? Do you want to be a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ? Do you want to be an encourager to those around you? Do you want to be a good wife or husband? Do you want to be a mentor to the leaders of tomorrow? Do you want to be a helper to the helpless? Do you want to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom? Do you want to be like Jesus?

No one ever says, “I want to be CEO Christian when I grow up.” (CEO Christians are those people who attend church on Christmas and Easter only.) No one ever says, “I want to be a bitter deacon who makes life hard for the pastor when I grow up.” No one ever says, “I want to be the old woman responsible for stopping every potentially great move of God in my church with a furrowed brow and the words ‘We’ve never done that before.'”

What are you doing to become what you want to become? What are doing to keep from becoming something you would never want to be? What are you doing to keep your church from being just another stagnant and declining North American church? What are YOU doing to make the transition from where you are to something greater/bigger/better/more glorious?

…or do you just want to be wasted?

November 25, 2011

Office Depot: Not Taking Care of Customers

Filed under: My Life in General — pecaspers @ 2:29 PM
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I just sent the following comments to Office Depot in light of my Black Friday experience there this morning.

I was a door buster at the 1761 MONTGOMERY HIGHWAY, Hoover, AL location. My wife and I arrived about 30 minutes before doors opened at 6. When we entered the line, we were asked what we were there to get and my wife said we were there for the 2TB Seagate external Hard Drive and a 16 GB SD card. We were told that these were not voucher items and given a list of where to find sale items in the store.

We waited, doors opened, we were greeted pleasantly, everybody entered. When we got to the display for the hard drives, nothing marked the special, and the placard that matched the sale paper had a tag that said “See Associate for Assistance” (or something like that), so my wife found an associate. When we told him what we were looking for, another customer said “Grab two while you’re back there.” The associate went to look for the item and discovered that this store had none of the 2TB hard drives.

Meanwhile, I had the Assistant Store Manager, Van, help me find the SD card. Since he had to look up which one it was on the computer, I had him check the hard drive again. The system again said that there was an inventory of 0 in stock, and on the screen there was a button to check other locations.

I expressed some frustration to Van, the Assistant Store Manager, that it’s wrong for a store to advertise a sale on items they don’t have. Van indicated that this was a common problem with Office Depot, that (at this store at least) they often didn’t receive the inventory they needed to meet demands. I don’t think Van got the point, but I assured Van that my problem wasn’t with him personally.

My problem isn’t that I wasn’t one of the lucky few who got the deal. NO ONE got the deal. Your company lied to me, the other guy who wanted one, and everyone else in this part of Birmingham. I heard it straight from two of your employees that the main item I wanted to purchase wasn’t in stock when the store opened.

What’s worse, is that absolutely no attempt was made to remedy the situation. Van didn’t offer to check the other locations on the computer, Van didn’t apologize for not having what we came in for, there was no offer to order one and let us pick it up later or have it delivered.

I put the SD card down, and we walked out.

By the time we made it to Office Max, they were sold out of the same item. They, however, had a table where all there [I realize this shoud be their] biggest sale items had actually been. I also got confirmation from three of their employees that they did have them in stock; one very nice employee showed us where she had marked it off her sale paper when they had sold out of them.

As I told Van, I will not be coming back to Office Depot. I do not like the way you take care of business.

Please respond ONLY if you will make good on the offer of $69.99 for a 2 TB Seagate external hard drive.

Let me hear your thoughts. Is this an appropriate response? As a Christian, should I just suffer the injustice? Do I have no cause to try to help Office Depot correct their failures? I know if I were in charge of a company that was failing the consumer, that’s something I would WANT to get feedback on.

October 31, 2011

Halloween and Christmas

Filed under: Culture,My Life in General — pecaspers @ 9:16 PM
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I was in Wal-mart when they started putting out the Halloween costumes a month or so ago. Then I rounded a corner and found myself faced with Christmas decorations. I’ve become accustomed to the Christmas stuff coming out before Thanksgiving, but to see Christmas lights, ornaments, and garland already gracing the shelves before the leaves had started to turn was a little bit of a shock. Yet that’s not the point of this post.

I love Halloween. I’ve always loved it. It’s mostly because I love to dress up in costumes. (What? That’s not weird. It’s not like I go to conventions or anything…but maybe that’s because I lack the free time and disposable income…I digress.) Halloween is also the holiday I’ve had the most success with over the years; I can’t think of any major heart-aches or social breakdowns associated with my Halloween history. And then, of course, there is all the candy. That’s why it bugs me when Christians get so down on Halloween and people who celebrate it.

My Halloween philosophy: I celebrate Halloween like everyone else celebrates Christmas.

By “everyone else,” I mean anyone who isn’t a devoted follower of the Christ whose birth Christmas commemorates. For most people, they completely neglect the fact that there is a specifically Christ-focused meaning behind Christmas. (Don’t give me that whole, “Christmas is only a pagan holiday!” crap. Read up on some real church history before you echo the oft-repeated errors you’ve heard.) I realize that Halloween came about because of a intermingling of European
pagan spiritism and pre-Reformation Catholic Christianity. It can’t be avoided that present-day Wiccans and other neo-Paganists have adopted Halloween as their holiday. I don’t care much about that just like I don’t get all frenzied up about ousting Santa Claus from Christmas. I like costumes, candy, and parties.

You see, most people don’t care that Christmas is about the actual birth of God as a human child so that He could live a sinless life so that He could die as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of all humanity so we could repent and believe the good news. Most people just like getting dressed up, getting/giving gifts, and going to parties. Did you see the Christmas episode of Glee last year. The Jewish characters, the atheistic characters, the characters with no discernible religious beliefs, everybody celebrated Christmas. Have you seen the movies that come out in November and December–[Insert Character here] Saves Christmas, A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas, etc. Contrary to all the “Happy Holidays” hullabaloo that surfaces every year, most everybody loves Christmas. Why can they all enjoy a Christian holiday without serving Christ, but I’m supposed to shun a holiday with no basis in reality?

What do I mean by no basis in reality. Well, lost souls don’t really wander aimlessly on All Hallows Eve. The demons aren’t really on the prowl looking for goodies and causing trouble the night before All Saints Day. Satan has no greater power this night than any other. Hell is no nearer to Earth on October 31. I get to enjoy Halloween because at its foundation there is only folk-lore and superstition, and those things aren’t even what the holiday is about anymore. Ask any six year-old, Halloween is about costumes and candy. I don’t have to believe in those other things to enjoy putting on a costume and eating candy. If everyone else gets to swap presents and go to Christmas parties without believing in–or even considering–the TRUTH of Christ, then I see no reason I can’t enjoy Halloween.

The vast majority of people in my culture don’t think of Halloween as having any religious significance. No non-Christian is going to look at my enjoyment of Halloween and say, “I can’t believe you like costumes and candy, you hypocrite. I hate your Jesus because of you.” What’s sad is that the conflict about Halloween always seems to come from Christians. Isn’t it a bit…well, hypocritical to demand that schools have fall parties and harvest festivals because “we” disapprove of Halloween and then cry “foul” when other people demand that schools have winter festivals and holiday parties because they disapprove of Christmas?

Maybe I’m wrong. What do you think?

September 11, 2011

9/11 for the Tallassee Tribune

It’s Sunday night, September 11, 2011 as I write. It’s Tuesday or later when you’re reading it. It was Tuesday on September 11 ten years ago. I don’t know what the Tallassee Tribune had in it that day; I wasn’t a Tallassee resident back then. I was a student at Auburn University, and I remember that day in more detail than any other day in my life. It’s safe to say that you probably remember that day with graphic clarity as well. My facebook feed attests to this as it is currently populated by memories, pledges to never forget, and references to that day which changed this nation forever in many ways. Back then, there was no facebook, no Twitter, and texting hadn’t truly gone mainstream. In 2001, most of us still got our up-to-the-minute news from old-fashioned T.V. and radio.

Among the teens I know, they don’t remember much. They were in second grade or younger, but even they knew something big was happening. Many of my peers’ accounts follow this pattern: I was in class when somebody told us that planes had flown into the World Trade Center. Some classes were canceled, some were held in defiance of the terrorists’ intention to disrupt our lives, but Auburn University gave everybody a free pass to skip class if they chose as I recall. I was in the Auburn University Marching Band then; that was the only class I went to that day. Almost all of us came, but no one seemed to know what to say when we got there. We began practice by playing the national anthem, and then we rehearsed because we had to be ready for pre-game and half-time on Saturday.

Everyone everywhere seemed to be struggling with the dual realities that things were never going to be the same, but things had to get back to normal even if it was a “new normal.” In the wake of 9/11, people flooded into churches. People wanted hope, comfort, to mourn, maybe just to not be alone. Whatever the case, they came. Some were coming back, others for the first time. Some thought 9/11 was going to propel us into an awakening of the gospel across our land. That’s not what happened.

Part of that “new normal” was the same spiritual complacency that we had before. The people who had run to the Church for various reasons, all left for one reason, the same reason that people usually leave the Church. They didn’t know God. They came to a church to meet some need–maybe it was met, maybe it wasn’t–but eventually they stopped coming because nothing held them there. That is a far greater tragedy. People came into our churches and did not hear the life-changing gospel and were not everlastingly introduced to the one true and living God. Equally condemning is that many people have come to our churches for years because some need is being met other than their need for a saving relationship with the Creator.

The reason any Christian church exists is to make disciples of Jesus Christ by baptizing them in His name and teaching them to obey everything He commanded, which includes that they themselves are to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). That is our purpose, and we might as well close our doors if reproducing disciples are not being made no matter whatever lesser good we might be doing. On the 100th anniversary of 9/11, all those people who poured into our churches will be dead. It won’t matter what we did for them if we did not simultaneously introduce them to Christ. A man who turned to the church and found momentary comfort but did not repent and believe will be no better off than one who turned to alcohol.

———-Above Is the First Draft, Below Is the Draft I Submitted———-

It’s Sunday night, September 11, 2011 as I write. It’s Tuesday or later as you read. It was Tuesday on September 11 ten years ago. I don’t know what was in the Tallassee Tribune that day; I wasn’t a Tallassee resident back then. I was a student at Auburn University, and I remember that day in more detail than any other day in my life. You probably remember that day with graphic clarity as well. My facebook feed attests to this; it is currently populated by memories, pledges to never forget, and references to that day which changed this nation forever in so many ways. Back then, there was no facebook, no Twitter, and texting hadn’t truly gone mainstream. In 2001, most of us still got our up-to-the-minute news from old-fashioned T.V. and radio. We stayed fixed on them for days because we didn’t know what else to do.

In the wake of 9/11, churches were flooded. People wanted hope, comfort, to mourn, maybe just to not be alone. Whatever the case, they came. Some were coming back, others for the first time. Many thought 9/11 was going to propel us into an awakening of the gospel across our land. It did not. Part of the “new normal” was the same spiritual complacency from before. The people who’d run to the Church for various reasons all left for one reason, the reason people usually leave the Church. They didn’t know God.

They came to church to meet some need–maybe it was met, maybe it wasn’t–but eventually they stopped coming because nothing held them there. That is a far greater tragedy. People came into our churches and did not hear the life-changing gospel and were not everlastingly introduced to the one true and living God. Equally condemning is that people have come to our churches for years because we meet a need other than their need for a saving relationship with the Creator, and too many of us are OK with that.

The reason any Christian church exists is to make disciples of Jesus Christ by baptizing them in His name and teaching them to obey everything He commanded, which includes that they themselves are to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). That is our purpose, and we might as well close our doors if reproducing disciples are not being made no matter whatever lesser good we might be doing. On the 100th anniversary of 9/11, all those people who poured into our churches will be dead. It won’t matter what we did for them if we did not simultaneously introduce them to Christ. A man who turned to the church and found momentary comfort but did not repent and believe will be in hell with everyone else who did not.

There’s plenty of retrospection going on, and rightly so. But we in the church need to look forward and to look to Christ and His purposes. We sing, “This is my Father’s world, o let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” ‎Greg Key, a youth pastor friend of mine posted this on his facebook wall: “We are no closer to Jesus now than we were 10 years ago.” I fear he is right. But what will you do about it?

September 8, 2011

So the last time I posted was in March…

Filed under: My Life in General — pecaspers @ 11:37 PM
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It’s been too long. I have shown a terrible lack of discipline in my posting. That’s kind of funny…no, not funny. That’s sad because I’ve been preaching the need for devotion and discipline to my youth for months now. A few people have told me they enjoy my writing (one is a man who reads dozens–if not hundreds–of books a year, so he would know what’s what when it comes to a good read), and this is a talent I need to cultivate if there is a chance that I might impart some blessing to my readers and glorify my God in it.

This blog isn’t the only place I write. I’ve had a couple of articles in the Tallassee Tribune‘s Religion section as a member of the Tallassee Ministerial Alliance. One of these days, I’ll post the original articles here–“original” meaning as they were written before I had to cut them down to 450-ish words. I’ve also done a little more writing on my vampire book. That’s right, it’s going to be a Christian vampire book. Let me disambiguate that: it’s going to be a novel about vampires from a Christian worldview; you cannot have a Christian vampire. Curious how that works? You’ll have to wait and read it when it comes out. Fine. If I can get a solid first chapter, then I’ll post it on here.

The vampire book is an idea that’s been rolling around in my head since the first Twilight movie came out. That’s were I keep far too much of my writing, in my head. I get some pretty great ideas and form some pretty amazing lines of thought/argument/reasoning, but then I get out of the shower, off the toilet, out of the bed, etc., and they’re gone. They come back to mind for more ruminating occasionally, but they get the full fleshing out of either pen or keyboard far too seldom.

And thus we have this post. This is that “I’ve been away for a while but now I’m back” that punctuates the blogs of we who let our blogs go fallow from time to time. My sister’s sister-in-law (which, in fact, does not make her my sister-in-law) has been posting a series of photographs with a little snippet of text on facebook* each day (I’m pretty sure she’s going for one a day) in September. That’s what made me think about hitting my blog again. I thought about waiting to start on October one, but waiting seemed quite self-defeating.

I’m shooting for one post a day. Prepare for some randomness, perhaps some full on stream of consciousness even. Let’s see how it goes.

*[You can put that squiggly, red line there all you want to, spell checker, but I’m not going to capitalize the “f” in facebook. If Zuckerberg wanted it capitalized, he would have capitalized it.]

March 15, 2011

In Memorium of Malachi Peterson-Caspers

Filed under: My Life in General,New Home — pecaspers @ 12:00 AM
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I sat down in my recliner and my cat didn’t come try to jump in my lap. That made me sad.

I went to the back bathroom a little while ago, and there’s not a litter box in there anymore. That made me sad.

I went into the nursery earlier and as I left it, I realized it didn’t matter anymore if I left that door open. That made me sad.

I swept the kitchen this afternoon, and now there is no more little bits of cat food in the corner, because there is no longer a food bowl there. That made me sad.

I put the body of my most constantly present and unconditionally loving friend, comforter, and confidant (except for the Holy Spirit of God) into the ground today. And that makes me sad.

But we do not mourn like those who have no hope! (1 Thessalonians 4:13) And we are blessed in our mourning because we shall be comforted! (Matthew 5:4) That gives me comfort.

Jessica, Peter, and I gathered in our back yard today to have a funeral for our beloved cat Malachi. If you find that strange, then I pity you for having such a small and hard heart. If you question the validity of a Christian funeral for a cat, then you need to keep reading because what follows is the essence of my message at the funeral, albeit more fully developed here.

God, in His Word, has not clearly revealed the eternal destiny of animals. In the beginning, when God made everything, He spoke animals into being and they were formed out of the ground (Genesis 1:24, 2:19). That is to say that they are made from the same dirt from which Man was made. The LORD did not breath into them his spirit, but he did put the breath of life into them. And everything that the LORD made was declared good; there was no sin, there was no death, all that God created was meant to last for all eternity. Man fell, and all creation was cursed, but in the beginning, even cats were meant to live forever.

Scripture is clear that though the animal kingdom has been placed under the authority of Man, all creatures belong ultimately to God. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, He feeds the ravens and the lions, He knows every time a sparrow lands on the ground (Psalm 50:10, Psalm 104:21, Psalm 147:9, Matthew 10:29). God displays His goodness and glory through the way he has made and provides for his creatures (Job 38-41, Matthew 6:26). Animals are part of God’s good creation and He cares for them, and this is clearly taught in Scripture.

Isaiah speaks of the new heavens and the new earth as having animals, re-created and living in peace just as God’s people are (Isaiah 11:6-9; 65:17, 25). In Revelation 21:5 the Lamb of God calls out from His throne, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And so we might yet hope to see our beloved pets made new in the eternal Kingdom of God.

In this life, Malachi was a good kitty. He was well-behaved and well-loved, and he brought a great deal of happiness to our home. We are thankful to God for the gift of the time we had with Malachi. And he will live on in our memories if nowhere else. He is in no more pain. He died wrapped in a blanket he loved to sleep on, warmed by the morning sun, breathing fresh spring air, hearing birds sing, outside…and without anyone telling him to get back inside.

Now Malachi sleeps in death, and this is the way of all things. We were brought forth from the ground, and to the ground we return. But while I don’t know for certain if I will ever see my cat again, I do know for certain that my eternal destiny is clear. Jessica and I know that Jesus Christ has died on our behalf. Our bodies will one day “sleep,” but we will never truly die. THIS is our joy, that while we lay our kitty-friend to rest, we know that our own souls will one day loose these mortal coils and rise to be with Him who has already risen from the dead.

And we rejoiced at the amazing grace that God has given us. Then I placed my friend’s body in the ground, still wrapped in that blanket, with almost every appearance that he was merely curled up asleep in that cardboard box. And I covered the box with dirt, and I planted a tree over him. The tree came from the yard of our first home, and so now we will leave both a part of our first home and a part of our family here if/whenever God calls us away from this place. But like I said, this is the way of things. And we do not mourn like those who have no hope.

Do you have that same hope? Malachi does not bear the weight of moral responsibility like you and I do. While they have to endure the same curse placed on Man who was given authority over them, animals will not stand and be judged by God. Malachi will either be present in the new creation, or he won’t. You will rise and be judged, though. All fall short of God’s standard of perfection–all but God Himself, which is why the Son came to this earth as one of us. It’s why He lived a perfect life (a life you could not live), so that He could die as a perfect sacrifice (to pay completely a penalty you could not pay eternally). And that is why He rose from the dead, because He had paid it all, death could not hold Him. Death cannot hold you if your trust is all and only in the shed blood of Jesus. But if it’s not, then Death already has you. You are held morally responsible by God because you bear His image. You are not just an animal.

It will be a hard thing to get used to not having Malachi around. I think that’s what makes me so sad. I’ve really enjoyed his presence for the last almost three years. But life goes on, and we’ll get used to life without a cat now. So there’s the transition.

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