Be a coronary Christian

The idea of slavery in this day and age is almost universally rejected. We have just had Presidents Day this past Monday, which is a day we use to honor many presidents. Primarily we think of great men like Abraham Lincoln, who played a pivotal role in our country’s ending the practice of slavery.

In Great Britain, the slave trade was ended in 1807 (and, slavery was abolished in 1833). The man who played the major role in that was politician William Wilberforce, who I note here because it was his deep religious conviction that led him to battle in Parlaiment for 20 years to see it through. The final vote to end the slave trade came at 4 a.m. on Feb. 24, 1807. The final vote to end slavery in total came only three days before he died in 1833.

Opening Friday is a movie called “Amazing Grace,” which tells Wilberforce’s life story. Although it is not playing here in Grand Island, I look forward to seeing it when it does play and I strongly hope others will see it as well. It is not often that a person who was a deeply committed Christian is held up for public acclaim like Wilberforce is in this movie. Because of the social issue addressed — slavery — he is held in high regard. But it is only because of his faith that he was able to accomplish this.

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Great lyrics, updated music


There has been a renewed interest the last several years in worship music, specifically hymns. Many of my favorite recording artists have recorded worship albums, among them Michael W. Smith, Third Day and Jars of Clay. Of those, I would have said that that Jars of Clay’s “Redemption Songs” has been one of my favorites for the way they breathed new life into some great, old songs through updated music.

In the last month or so, I was introduced to the music of Matthew Smith and I have to say that it has been incredibly uplifting. Smith, who has sung lead with the group Indelible Grace, released his first full-length solo album in 2006, entitled “All I Owe.” It is a collection of hymns that have been updated musically. The result is a treasure of 10 songs whose lyrics powerfully minister while sung to very accessible music.

It has been my pleasure to be introduced to great hymns like “The Lord Will Provide,”My Lord I Did Not Choose You,” and “All I Owe” while reconnecting in a new way with hymns like “Jesus I Am Resting” and “Thy Blood Was Shed For Me.” You don’t have to be a hymn-lover (although you should be!) to enjoy this album.

And if you like that, you’ll appreciate the work of Indelible Grace because the group has been devoted to putting the words of hymns to updated music. It is like finding new treasure when you hear some of these great hymns that have been brought back so we may worship God through them. And, ultimately, we can treasure God more through them.

Currently, you can buy “All I Owe’ at the iTunes Store and online (and at your local music store, if you are old school). The Indelible Grace albums are not available at the iTunes Store, but can be purchased online at the link provided.

How not to lose your faith at college

It has been a blessing to attend the same church for more than 12 years. I love my church family, and it has been wonderful to have grown closer to them by growing closer to our Heavenly Father during that time. And like all families, we have children, teach them and then send them off to the world. It is a great privilege and huge responsibility.

Each year, we have children who’ve grown up in our church who, hopefully, have heard the gospel message and God has changed their hearts. Many of those kids head off to college where, sad to say, the attitude toward people who believe in God is less than kind. It does us no good if we raise children whose faith can only survive in an incubator of the local church but shrivels when they head off to college.

That’s why I was pleased to come across an article on Focus on the Family’s e-zine (Web magazine, for those who wonder) Boundless entitled “How Not to Lose Your Faith in College.” The author shares some basic steps a youngster can take to make sure their faith is nurtured rather than hindered when they go away from home. If you have a child that is nearing the end of their high school career and will be heading away to college this fall, I’d encourage you both to read the article and talk about it together.

I’ve got your back

Today, Feb. 19, is the 62nd anniversary of the beginning of the battle at Iwo Jima during World War II. With the recent release of two movies, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, this past year there has been attention redirected to this strategic battle for this generation that seems so unwilling to stomach war.

Recently, I listened to a message from John Piper where he referenced this battle and how it applies to the mentality of a Christian. He delivered this message on Sept. 23, 2001, just after the attacks of 9/11. Even though passions have waned since then, I think the message still is important for this day:

When I first thought of this message last summer I was reading the history of the battle of Iwo Jima, an eight-mile-square island of volcanic rock 600 miles south of Tokyo. February 19, 1945, 800 American ships amassed to assault the island with its two strategic air strips. The Marines fought a total of 43 months in the Pacific in World War II, and in this one-month assault on Iwo Jima they incurred 1/3 of their total losses. They took the island, but left behind the largest cemeteries in the Pacific: 6,800 American Marines dead, most of them were 18-20 years old.

The application that I had in my mind to this message was this – and now with the crisis we are in today it is all the more powerful and relevant: We are feeling some of the reality of what it means to be at war. I was going to point out that if Christians really saw the world for what it is, we would know and feel that we are always in war. Satan is a powerful enemy, deceiver, and murderer, and he tries to highjack every good plan and purpose of your life and use it to destroy. Our own flesh and indwelling sin are like covert, welcoming bases of operation for this evil. The casualties are not only bodies lost for time, but souls lost for eternity.

A wartime mindset and a radical vigilance and a disciplined use of our spiritual armor are essential, if we are not to be lulled into the stupor of a peacetime mentality. And the armor I speak of is not sword, or bullets, or bombs, or tanks, or grenades, but the word of the cross and prayer and love and suffering for the sake of Christ. How much more do we feel this spiritual wartime sense of urgency today!

And then I was going to ask: How did these marines do it? How did they run behind each other into the thickest machine gun fire imaginable? The second battalion sent 1,688 boys ashore into the face of those guns. 1,511 were killed. 177 left the island. 91 of those were injured. What kept them going?

Of course there is no one simple answer. But one answer that came out over and over in this book, Flags of our Fathers (New York: Bantam Books, 2000), was this: Those are my buddies, and they need me. James Bradley, the author, commented, “These boys would fight to the death for one another. And that motive made them invincible” (p. 147).

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