Friday, December 29, 2006

Malachi's 3rd birthday

So we decided to celebrate Malachi's 3rd birthday while we were in Texas with family and friends. If you have kids, you know that Chucky Cheese is sheer nirvana. So off we went with our Batman balloons and cookie cake in tow.

Lots of family and friends came and ate pizza, played skee ball and danced with Chucky. He gots lots of fun presents, including CARS pajamas saying "I am Speed". We laughed at those because Malachi's nick name is "west coast," because he's totally content with taking his time with pretty much everything in life.

Everyone pulled their tickets together and he got pencils, a Batman picture frame, some stickers and various other ridiculously overpriced trinkets.
We had a blast celebrating our buddy!!!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Arbitrary Parent Rules: Malachi specific

We've realized that most of our arbitrary parent rules are directed towards our loving almost 3 years old little "cute guy"-as he calls himself.

1. You cannot sit on your sister's head.

2. You have to open your eyes when you are pretending to sleep run. (This one unfortunately was learned by way of 5-6 stitiches)

3. You must put on pants before going ANYWHERE.

4. You cannot put your "private bathroom parts" (as Selah calls it) on your sister's leapster game.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Going "New England" on people

So we've been in New England for two years total. We never really considered ourselves southerners but now having been baptized in yankeeness, we are proud of the roots from which we grew. The pride comes in southerners for the most part being kind, hospitable, and just generally friendly. We have now dubbed a new word in our house and it's called "going New England" on someone. Just the other day we were selling our bed to this slick yankee who just returned from the Donald Trump seminar on getting rich quick. Because everyone knows that Donald Trump got rich by sipping cheap coffee at some seminar in a hotel conference room.

Anyway, he was a jerk and I found myself being really unsanctified in my speech towards him. I was having to "go New England" on him. What does that mean exactly?! It means being incredibly rude, brash, sarcastic and demeaning. But if you aren't this way to most people up here then you'll get run over and taken advantage of.

In all fairness, we've met some wonderful New Englanders. But it's funny because they're usually a transplant from the midwest or a Christian. I've been praying for a nicer heart towards them and for gentler words, but it seems like I'm going the opposite direction with this. Well, we've got 1 1/2 weeks left. Thank goodness for my soul :)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving in NYC

This is us at the Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade. We woke up on Tuesday and decided to head to New York for Thaksgiving. So we canceled our plans with friends and froze the turkey and off we went. We checked out the balloons being inflated on Wed. night and then went to dinner with our friend Julie, whose apartment we stayed in for the night.

Malachi and Brad with Scooby at the Wed. night inflation.

The kids thought the balloons were so great and even bigger than our apartment!

So it rained ALL day on Thursday! We got there at 8:45, which was about 3 hours later than the people directly in front of us. And then the people around us saw that the kids were with us and they let Brad, Selah and Malachi up to the FRONT row in Times Square. The parade started at 9 am with clowns, bands and the huge balloons. The kids really liked the princesses, Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob and the Sesame Street float.
Here's our view of the parade. We had the best seats in the house, except for the hooked up kids sitting warm and dry in the MTV studios directly across from us.

We then trekked through soggy NYC to FAO Schwartz. This is a great toy store. It's the one with the big piano from the movie BIG with Tom Hanks. The kids got to play on the piano, work thomas trains, hang with life size lego creatures and gaze admiringly at all the toys. Malachi is really into Batman for the moment. So here we are with a lego life size replica.

Because it rained most of the day, Charis' view was of the plastic covering over her stroller. So this picture is simply for the record books. But here she is in FAO with Brad.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

men, sweat pants, and the 'y'

We took the kids to open gym at the YMCA today and I have officially decided that sweat pants should be banned on any male over the age of 5. Men up here in Mass. love to wear them and I just feel embarrased by even looking their way. And it seems that the same me who wear them also put an arbitrary "y" on the end of their name, even if it wasn't there on their birth certificate. There's never just a Mike or a Joe or a Tim, it's always Mikey, Joey and Timmy. And they're always wearing sweat pants at the Y.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"The New Faces of Christianity"

If you want a great read, which informs us about the state of global Christianity and how the movement of Christianity from the Global North (the West) to the Global South (Asia, Africa, South America), I must insist that you read Philip Jenkins' new book "The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South". He is the writer who was widely acclaimed by all authorities for his 2002 book, "The Next Christendom", where he traces the Church's movement "south".

In this book, he examines how this reality of the Churches exodus from the West ("the Global North") has affected the way that the Church is reading the Bible, for both better and worse.

Very engaging. Very constructive to our own walks. Helpful in prayer.
It's a great encouragement for us, that we would grow in understanding how to read the Bible in our context and how easily we can make ourselves irrelevant as Western Christians if we are not careful. It challenges us too to seek what Christianity should look like in the West.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Princess Party Extravaganza!

We now have a 5 year old in our midst! We had a great time at the "Royal Birthday Ball." There were games of treasure hunts and an apple version of hot potato (taken from Snow White...except nobody died). Brad and I conquered the castle cake. The kids all dressed up in prince and princess outfits and looked fabulous. Our Texas friends would be proud because we introduced our non-southern friends and their colons to the wonderfully processed dish of 'queso'.

Selah got some wonderful gifts almost all having to do with the princess' from Disney. She was beyond excited and bubbling over all day.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Selah's 5th Birthday

Selah's birthday has become the event of the century. She keeps saying that it's going to be the best day EVER! We're going to have a prince and princess party with games and a cake and lots of noise. I'm going to attempt a princess castle cake. I'm prone to starting huge projects and never finishing them or figuring out that there's NO way possible that I can conquer the project at hand. So think of me on Sunday as I'm stacking cakes and wrestling with icing. I'll send pictures next week of the much anticipated occasion.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Happy today by thinking about tomorrow?

That which will satisfy us the most in the future will most fixate us in the present, to enjoy what is today.

By contrast, what is illusory, promising what it cannot deliver, never satisfying as I hope, will inevitably force my eyes forward to the future, for I intuitively know the fragility of its claims, the insecurity of all hope vested in it, whether my child's education or safety, a job advancement, retirement, or whatever else. As a result, I leave today and live tomorrow.

In effect, I'm as good as dead, for living people walk around today; tomorrow doesn't exist; yesterday is no more.

This is the power of Christ: as I gladly expect his future return, the coming vindication of his people, I can rest at ease and with joy today!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Prostitutes and the Wife

The greatest temptresses I may face are named "tomorrow" and "someday". These are the loose women of Proverbs, making many promises yet allusive, all the while robbing me of wisdom and vitality. May we always remember the wife of our youth, who remains faithfully by our side, described in Proverbs 31. Her name is "Today".

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Love Your Enemies--Mt. 5 (Part 2)

How do we love our enemies?

Before we assume we understand how to love, we need to think about love itself. I was convicted this week about my inadequate understanding of love. In meditating on hatred, it was shown to me that indifference is a form of hatred. No caring, not having an opinion for the wellbeing of a fellow human being is also hatred. This broadly widens both "who" is our enemy and how it is that we may hate.

Prior to this insight, I would have said, "I don't have a hate problem. I have a loving people problem." I see now how foolish that distinction is.

Therefore, now as we look to Mt 5:43-48, we are better equipped to move from hate to love. In particular, we see that love is (1) aggressive and (2)indiscriminate.

First, notice v. 47 suggests that we should greet our enemies on the street. In other words, WE are to take the initiative. WE are to do something extraordinarily humiliating. How humbling to suck up our anger, indifference, or whatever in order to pursue the good of those who might spit on us if provoked enough. This requires our losing any sense of self. This is counter to every instinct we have. They may reject our loving advance, but was not the cross the foremost act of love, yet humiliating and rejected again and again by people daily?

Second, vv.46-47 rejects selectively loving people based on criteria preferable to us. We tend to only accept people when they are enough like us or when they can benefit us. We don't "accept" people when we withhold our affection, a place in our heart for them, unless they meet some criteria we set up. We don't have to approve of their sin, but should we not have each person we meet in our heart. What criteria do you and I set up? Being rich, being smart, being parents, being from one place of another, being well-mannered, being....?

Book Review of Osteen's "Your Best Life Now"

Check it out an excellent critique of Joel's book

Monday, October 23, 2006

Arbitrary Parent Rules: Dinnertime

So there are so many rules that we establish as parents that apart from the moment are pretty darn funny.

Arbitrary Parent Rule #1: You can't eat just ketchup for dinner.

Arbitrary Parent Rule #2: Everyone must have underwear on before we eat.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Majesty among the Mundane

As I was driving with my kids and doing errands the other day, I decided to throw my camera in the car. These are some pictures I stopped and took as we drove to the library, past baseball fields gas stations and neighborhoods. These beautiful colors framed very ordinary things, gloriously displaying His goodness as God. A very mundane morning of taking care of business. But among the morning of busyness, God reminded me that He displays Himself vividly in the details of our day, it only we are willing to look for them.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Love Your Enemies--Mt. 5 (Part 1)

In our house, we've been thinking over Mt. 5:43-48 a lot--the command to love your enemies, perhaps the most cited verse about Christian living in church history.
We wanted to share some of our thoughts as a confession of our falling short and as a reminder to us all as to how important it is.

Who are our enemies?

Those who persecute us (5:44), those who hate us (Luke 6:27), those who are blatantly unjust or are God's enemies (5:45), those who cheat us or seem traitorous (5:46), those who are national or social threats or outsiders (5:47), those who aren't even hurting us (5:46) now;

We can't love our enemies until we're honest enough to name them.

Next--"In what way are we to love them?"
Part 3--"How is it possible?"

A Great Sin--No Rest

While there are many heinous sins in the world, some sins are symptomatic of others. A person doesn't start with murder. He usually works his way "up" to that one.

I'm just wondering if the lack of Sabbath is one of those "first" sins. After all, when there is no rest, one is tired more often (from which many sins come from), one never takes time to think about life, one does not invest in relationships (love your neighbor...), one does not dedicate time for sacred devotional practices....

It's just a thought, but I find that the lack of rest arises because I think I'm too important or capable that God really needs me to keep working. I forget that believing that God is sovereign and good requires some sort of tangible expression--that means rest, for one thing.

"Sabbath" is the first act of God to which we are then called to imitate (unless you count the procreation thing, but those don't have to oppose each other either). These are just thoughts. I'd love to hear yours.

Kennedy Presidential library

We took the day off of school and life and went into "Big Boston" to see the John F. Kennedy library. It was really interesting. It was actually much more personal than we were expecting. There were several Sopranos-esqe characters outside and we reminded ourselves that the Kennedy's are still very connected. The back of the library looks over Boston harbor and the skyline.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Living in this World

As I read books from the perspective of Eastern peoples or from ancient times, I am struck with how this worldly they are. Today, for most Christians, this sounds like an insult. When you read the Bible, however, it is incredibly this worldly focused.

Our God is not like the gods of Greek mythology, battling invisible powers far removed from this world; instead, he became a man and died. In the Old Testament, he did not threaten hell, he threatened plague and exile; In the New Testament, when Jesus ascended, the angel said, why are you looking up, go....This echoes the last words of Jesus, "go into the world..."

The great hope of the New Testament is not heaven, in fact, as we typically understand it. It's the resurrection of our bodies! See this emphatic emphasis in 1 Cor. 15.

How is it then that we get so otherworldly that we become useless and irrelevant to this world now?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Theology of Oppression

Can Christian theology be written within a sphere of comfort and ease? We've been wondering this lately as we consider the destructive effects on Christianity within the wealthy West? The Bible was almost entirely written by people in them midst of struggle and frequently marginalized. The Church today is flourishing around the world in oppression while the laxity of the West slowly strangles Christendom?

Just a question.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Psalms of Prayer

Many people, including myself, have look for guidance in prayer. One of the obvious answers that easily gets overlooked in the Psalms. They capture every emotion, thought, and circumstance. When we pray the Psalms (as has been universally done by the church through history), we join the Church in prayer to God with the words he gave us.

As Bonhoeffer, the martyred German pastor, wrote, "If we prayed out of the poverty of our heart, we might pray for only what we want to pray; but God wants our prayers to be much fuller, encompassing not only our needs but the life of the whole community of God's people...the book of Psalms is teaching about how we are to come before God in the proper way." (from "The Prayer Book on the Psalms" (1940))

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Profiling Spinach

Isn't it funny that we take greater precautions against spinach lettuce than we do terrorists?

Think about it: in the recent spinach outbreak, not all spinach has e-coli, but all the e-coli outbreaks came from spinach; therefore, we took precautions to guard and check all spinach bags? We didn't check apples, cucumbers, or carrots. Why? Because all the sources of danger we knew of had been spinach. (Catching my direction yet...?)

What about terrorism and racial profiling? Not all people of middle eastern decent are terrorists! I absolutely reject any sort of generalization like that; however, would it not make sense to profile to some degree the only known source of terrorism that remains as the greatest ongoing threat today...radical Islam?

So it is that we'll protect against the microscopic forces that be, while not lifting our heads to see obvious, the real world as it is. This all seems like common sense to me.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Killer Carrot

I just read about 4 woman who are sick and possibly paralyzed from Organic Carrot Juice. This month we've also been hard-pressed to find spinach because of the e-coli outbreak from a farm in California. Spinach and organic carrot juice...these are two things that we're told are supposed to give you healthy skin, teeth, muscles, bones, good grades, great friends and maybe even lower gas prices. But there are a hand full of families in this country that are hitting McDonald's this weekend because these "healthy" foods have left their families sick and changed forever.

It's reminded me of as a Christian, how we should define 'safe.' These people ate these foods becuase they are good for you and are a part of a diet that will give you a wonderful life full of bliss. These foods were 'safe.' Are we as believers supposed to want safety? And if not, than what are we to want? Why has safety become such a mandate in this country? It's funny because as we've worked with people from around the world, we have found the people not striving for safety are often times desperate for Christ. Their safety is not guarenteed nor even desired, because they realize that with safety comes complacency and indifference.

We live in a very safe country. Therefore, we must find ways to become desperate for salvation from ourselves. No more self-help and psychological pats on the back, but Christ. A Christ that promises us heaven and the holy spirit and not a lot more in concern to this world. We need to be with the desperate and remove the distractions we have from becoming desperate ourselves.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Rest time from Martha Stewart

Harry Connick Jr. playing, New England fall blowing through our windows, homemade apple pie in the oven. 30 minutes of Martha Stewart-esque rest time and I'm good for the week. Among the chaos, sometimes time stops and we can catch our breath, even if it's just for a second.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Big 30

So today I'm 30. People have asked me if I feel older and I tell them that when I remind myself that I have 3 kids, than I feel older. Our family went to Russell Orchard and picked apples, ate apple cider donuts, had a hayride and played together. It was really fantastic. Brad is getting ready to take me to dinner, but I wanted to get some pictures posted before I forgot.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

ok honestly...Joel Osteen?

We just tried to bear a Joel Osteen sermon.
I hate being critical because Paul said in Galations to rejoice anywhere the gospel is preached, even if its out of poor motive. In Rom. 13, he basically says to each his own (within limits).

But at what point does a guy stop preaching Jesus and start preaching Dr. Phil.
He kept talking about how good we are and we just need to find the power within, overcoming the negative feelings of childhood. He never mentioned Jesus, Scripture, sin, not even God.

I don't doubt that many people in his church are Christians, and I don't presume to say Joel isn't a Christian.... but what he teaches is dangerous. Just because God has used the church for good doesn't mean God approves.

After all, God used Judas too.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Potty Training for the Strong Willed

So Brad's decided to let this be our family blog and not just his own thoughts and musings. That translates into potty humor, thoughtless ramblings and plenty of stories coming from the mouths of babes.

This one is of our 2 year old who has started potty training. This has been a goal of mine for the last six months. So the sand was falling form the hourglass, the heavens were singing and we were ready to conquer the potty.

The first day Malachi was pushing and pushing and finally pulled an Adam. He told me "God will not let me potty, God will not let me poop." I told him he needed to take credit for his lack of action and stop blaming the perennial scapegoat...God. So fast forward to day 3. More pushing, more action. This time he uses a similarly logical excuse by telling me "It's not working, I need more batteries for my penis."

We finally got him to poop and now the way we get him to go is to personify the poop. I enjoy the daddy poop the best because malachi always tells me that "He's in the workshop and will be down in 5 minutes."

While Brad's at school studying eschatology and hebrew phonetics, I'm staying busy in the area of Waste Management.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Being Missional in any Culture

Whether one is in Africa, Asia, or in America, one must consider what it means to enter a foreign culture. This includes America because ultimately we are citizens of heaven (Phil. 2) and, socially, there are many subgroups in our culture we don't understand.

In a conversation recently I had with one of the world's leading missiologists, Todd Johnson, director of the Center for World Christianity, he made the point that so many people in practice ridicule the learning of another culture, whether youth culture, postmodern culture, pop culture, Arab culture, .... In short he remarked that people basically say this: "I hate your language, I hate your culture, but, by the way, do you want Jesus?" Sounds absurd because it is absurd.

Already missionaries are coming to America from around the world. Imagine if they came to us and said something like this, not wanting to understand English, or our popular culture, or our customs,....If we're honest, we'd want no part with them. We wouldn't want to be friends. How do you think others feel when WE do this?

The Grace of God: Poverty? (2 Cor 8:1-2)

When you first read 2 Corinthians 8, it's easy to miss Paul's point. It appears to focus on the grace shown by the Macedonian church to other needy saints. In fact, it's the other way around. In 8:1, Paul explains that he writes "about the grace of God that has been given to the churches of Macedonia".

Verse 2 explains more: "...for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy AND their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part." It was God's grace not only that they would have the joy to be generous but the poverty as well. To miss this would (1) ignore the conjunction "and" first of all, but (2) to miss the entire context and argument of the passage. Paul says to the Corinthians that their difficult circumstances was a grace from God in order that their dedication to God would be manifest(:5) in genuine love (:8), exemplifying Christ's gospel (:9) so that, ultimately, God may be glorified and the needs of the saints met (9:12-15). It's the poverty of the circumstances that Paul's stresses in order to make clear how much more God is glorified in their love and faith which would otherwise be encumbered by an abundance of wealth. (This of course does not make wealth evil or useless, but this certainly challenges many Christian's self-justifying ambitions for wealth.)

Paul's citation of Ex. 16:18 in 8:15 (recalling the manna story) explains in part why the Corinthians and Macedonians could dare to be so bold in love--because they trusted God to fulfill His promises to provide as they needed, not necessarily all they wanted. In short, their giving was an act of faith in God's future grace. God satisfies!

How quickly most of us are to spurn such "grace", yet this is the whole thesis of Philippians, not to mention other passages.

The point of Paul's words is not only that God had granted them this heart to give, but that the circumstances enabled them to magnify God in the service of others. Moreover, dire circumstances teach us the difference between our professed desires (8:10-11a) and actually living out our faith (8:11b-12). We can boast of love, knowledge, and faith in comfortable times, yet affliction tests genuineness.

Finally, this passage reminds me of something John Piper has somewhere written--that we must be cured of our allusive drive to pay back our debt to God. Our good works pay off not debt. In fact, genuinely godly works put us in more debt due to the grace required from God that they be done. In other words, we should seek more grace from God and therefore go more in debt to Him. Nothing glorifies him more than infinitely increasing our debt to Him through desperate dependence!

Lord OR Savior? (2 Thess 1:8)

Can Jesus be our Savior but not our Lord?

2 Thess 1:8b is easily overlooked, that judgment comes upon "those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ".

The unfortunate yet common dichotomy between Jesus as Savior and Lord is grossly real at this point. It is thought that he can be our Savior, yet at a later point possible become our Lord; thus, some theologies unwittingly undercut obedience such that people actually believe that some isolated prayer secures their salvation despite not obeying Jesus thereafter, i.e. perseverance. Conventionally, all who make this division assume foremost that Jesus is (their) Savior--that role thought to benefit them most. However, this presumption not only excuses sin, such as apathy, and exposes our arrogant deference for convenience, but it is without logical or theological ground. Jesus can never be one's Savior without "first" being one's Lord.

First of all, only the humility of recognizing his authority over our lives will enable us to repent. Second, only Jesus as Lord has the efficacious power to save. How can he be Savior or be recognized as such if he is not sovereign over sin, death, and judgment? It is only possible to be Savior when in fact he is Lord!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

What is Hell? (2 Thess. 1:9)

The ESV translates 2 Thess 1:9, "They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might" The NIV and NRS likewise translate the first "away from" as "shut out" or "separated from", while maintaining the same translation for the second half of the verse.

These translations are unfortunate renderings of the Greek text, which consequently affects our view of hell and of God. 2 Thess. 1:3-12 is written to encourage the saints who are being persecuted and afflicted that God will certainly judge those who have afflicted them. The passage is meant to encourage Christians with a reminder of God's wrath, yet note how these translations dull the intended teaching and effect.

(1) V. 6 & 8 explicitly state an active punishment from the Lord, versus a commonly held view that condemnation is a 'passive' consequence, even wish, of the ungodly who are separated from God. [This is thought to preserve God's goodness in the eyes of those who can't swallow a just God who takes vengeance on those who reject him and persecute His people.] (2)V. 9b finishes with, "from the glory of his might". Certainly, it would be an odd thing to say that say that Paul is talking about being absent from His might as equivalent

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Appreciating Leviticus, Sacrifices, and Christ

None of the Old Testament sacrifices actually take away what we would call sin--deliberate disobedience. Notice that the so-called sins are typically more ceremonial in nature, offenses of impurity or otherwise unintentional. You will not find a sacrifice listed for deliberate sins. This is easily observed by scanning Lev. 4:2, 13, 22, 27; 5:15, 18; Numbers 15:22-24, 27-31. These passages explain that it is for UNINTENTIONAL sins that sin offerings, guilt offerings, and burnt offerings are made. In fact, it emphasizes, if anything, that the deliberate sinner is cut off or put to death.

This should not surprise us as Heb. 10:11 says what they already knew, goats and other animals don't ultimately appease for sin. Christ alone does that. Accordingly, the OT sacrifices acts as symbolic gestures of faith on the givers and foreshadows of God's promise to truly satisfy the demands of his justice through some forthcoming means of sacrifice. In other words, to paraphrase a professor of mine, if the "fake" sins demand this much bloodshed and effort, imagine what will be required for the real sins!

Monday, April 17, 2006

A Cure for Task-Driven People

Sometimes obscure passages and passing references can be the greatest antidotes.

For example, 2 Cor. 2:12-13 reads, "When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia." This verse completely perplexed me when I saw it this morning..."even though..."

No greater task exists than to preach the gospel, as Paul even says of his own life purpose in Acts 20:24. Is he contradicting himself? Is he saying, "loving people is more important than the gospel"? Absolutely not!!! There is no greater display of love that to seek others' joy in Christ for all eternity and today.

Rather here we find that Paul is not only interested in completing a task--the greatest of all tasks--but he desires the unity and fellowship of others. Most likely, from the context, Titus bore the response of the Corinthian church to Paul's first letter. Paul was jealous for their holiness, love, and fellowship in Christ. He love them. It's in the same spirit that he wrote 1 Thess. 2:8, "So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us."

We are very proficient at justifying our task-orientedness on the importance of our duty; of course, our tasks ultimately should be acts of love; yet, if they do not also carry the burden of our affections for others, we are left to ask, what is the value. NOT that this passage is anti-tasks--far from it. It is anti-tasks separated from genuine affections. (Of course, affections alone are useless too, being dead sentimentality). It smacks of 1 Cor. 13:1-4 which basically says that if I do anything--even die as a martyr--yet have not genuine love, I am nothing. So also, if I complete all my tasks and duties, but do not have the affection of Christ in my heart for another, I am nothing.

I read a vivid display of this unfortunate attitude recently, when I read the words from a church's sign, which said, "God loves you and wants to know you. There, now you can't say later that you didn't hear it." Yuck.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

How do we know we love someone?

I've been meditating on 1 John 5:1-5 for a couple of months. John poses a very practical question that every person asks (hopefully regularly): How do I(practically) love someone--my child, spouse, friend, enemy....? Too often we consider the "tasks"--provide, protect,.... Yet, love is not a matter of duty. Anyone can accomplish some tasks yet love very poorly.

I've come to conclude something quite simple, obvious in all the Bible once one sees it and thinks on it for a bit. Though initially abstract, my wrestling with the idea has proven over the years to be more practical than ANY advice on loving I've heard or read or experienced. In one sentence, it is this: Only when we savor Christ will we serve each other. This dictum, if you will, speaks to the fuel or motivation for love; after all, that's the tough part when we're tired or trying to sustain a love for someone who's not so lovable.

Consider 2 texts. First is 1 Peter 4:11, "Whoever serves, [let him serve] as one who serves by the strength that God supplies--in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ." But what is this strength, which will sustain our love while most glorifying God? Nehemiah answers us directly, "...the joy of the Lord is your strength" (8:10).

As we fight to understand and feel the weight of these verses together, we find out how it is not only possible to love others as we are commanded but also how to obey an equally explicit command, "Serve the Lord with gladness" (Ps. 100:2).

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Jack Bauer's Info

A friend of mine offered us some helpful info on Jack Bauer on his blog.

"Jack Bauer's calendar goes from March 31st to April 2nd; no one fools Jack Bauer.
If everyone on 24 followed Jack's instructions, it would be called 12.
If you wake up in the morning, it's because Jack Bauer spared your life.
Superman wears Jack Bauer pajamas.
There have been no terrorist attacks in the United States since Jack Bauer appeared on television.
When someone asks Jack Bauer how his day is going, Jack replies, "Previously on 24..."
Jack Bauer doesn't speak any foreign languages, but he can make any foreigner speak English in a matter of minutes.
When Google doesn't know the answer, it asks Jack Bauer for help.
When life gave Jack Bauer lemons, he used them to kill terrorists. Jack Bauer hates lemonade.
When Jack Bauer was a child, he made his mother finish his vegetables.
When the boogie man goes to sleep, he checks his closet for Jack Bauer.
Jack Bauer once called the Vice President "Mr. President", but realized his mistake and shot the President. Jack Bauer is never wrong.
During the commercials, Jack Bauer calls the CSI detectives and solves their crimes.
Jack Bauer can get McDonald's breakfast after 10:30. "

Christian Hedonism quote

John Piper coined this term to refer to the fact that God created us to glutton in pleasure, yet the greatest well of pleasure is Himself. In When I Don't Desire God, Piper quotes one of the best illustrations I've seen to entice us to such a life:

"It’s as old as the Puritans, like Thomas Watson, who wrote in 1692 that God counts himself more glorified when we find more happiness in his salvation:

'Would it not be an encouragement to a subject, to hear his prince say
to him, You will honor and please me very much, if you will go to
yonder mine of gold, and dig as much gold for yourself as you can
carry away? So, for God to say, Go to the ordinances, get as much
grace as you can, dig out as much salvation as you can; and the more
happiness you have, the more I shall count myself glorified.' " (p. 16-17)

See When I Don't Desire GOD

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Reflecting on the Prayer, "May I Be Accursed"

We may pray something like Paul's prayer in Romans, that we may be accursed for the salvation of others' souls, yet still be found quite lacking in the seriousness of our prayers, for we may not even be willing to suffer the humiliation and fatigue that comes in simply serving them daily for their good. Prayers of self-sacrifice do not make it reality.

We have to be aware of such Peter-like boasts; we claim we will die for Christ, yet deny him hours later, with ease, when pressed for a simple profession or act of kindness; how quickly we deny him His due glory and love when we drinking pride and despise the humiliation of the cross expressed in service, gentleness, and patience to others.

While some may actually die for a person in a single moment, though (practically) hating them daily, this too is worthless sentimentality or dutiful morality, for 1 Cor. 13:1-4 exposes the fallacious sin of sacrificing without love.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Discerning God's Will (Part 2)

One of the greatest lines of any book I've ever read sums up the whole of Christian ministry, "Missions exists because worship doesn't." (John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad). The entire Christian life is a call to enjoyment, savoring, satisfaction, and awe of the Lord Jesus. An immature faith stops at the word "obedience" never realizing the joy of it all, that obedience is not a burden for the one who has faith in Christ (1 John 5:3). Rather, salvation includes being given a new set of fundamental desires.

We are called to have a joy in Christ that transcends circumstance. Consequently, we would expect this to radically affect our understanding of God's calling. As we discern his will, one question that is so obvious that it's shocking how much I've overlooked it is this: in what would I most find myself enjoying God. This is to be distinguished from God's circumstantial blessings; I'm referring to enjoying God HIMSELF, which means that I don't call something His will because I'd really enjoy the benefit of a few added comforts. In that capacity I easily enjoy his gifts more than Him. For example, I have found an incredible awareness and availability of God in some circumstances more than others. There are certainly personality dynamics involved, but not only.

Where God calls you, He aims to be savored above every competing pleasure. If a situation is too tempting for me, because it fosters jealousy, vanity, envy, gluttony, etc., then I will invariably find my joy diminished. In some circumstances, we find His giftings of us in rhythm with His work around us. A range of factors affect this. On a future blog, I've address how we must examine how weakness to see God's will and its effect on our ability to enjoy in one situation or another.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Salvation: Forgiveness or Joy

A growing conviction I've had in the past few years is this: We have short-changed the gospel by sayingthat salvation is merely abot forgiveness and belief; I would argue that Scripture paints a much bigegr picture. Salvation is about finding the the apex of our joy in fellowship with Christ (1 Cor. 1:9). It's a very practical question: Where do we pursue the height of our joy?

The traditional way of presetning salvation (as forgiveness) makes it a one time event where someone easily stops maturing in the faith. However, when salvation IS unyielding joy in Christ, then is is a perpetual pursuit, motivated by Himself, not fear or ambition or anything else. Such a joy is ultimately satisfying.

this joy is the very reason He cam to die (see John 17:13, 24). Forgiveness simply makes such a joy possible! Joy is not an optional part of the Christian life; it is a command :"Serve the Lord with gladness" (Ps. 100:1) "Delight yourself in the Lord" (Ps. 37:4) "Rejoice in the Lord" (Phil 3:1)

Seeing and Savoring Christ

The end for which we were created is simply this: to know, savor, and show Christ. I've been slowing meditating upon the thoughts of John Piper in his book Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ.

There is NO OTHER goal to the Christian life than to be fully satisfied and joyful in Christ, not the comfort of circumstances or the appeal of applause nor the security of familiarity. I hope you'll consider getting it. his website is: ( a free copy in online there)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Selah and the Car Seat

The other day Selah was trying to strap herself into her car seat. She always likes to do it herself. She wasn’t strong enough to get the buckle locked in and immediately, she went into a panic and was utterly stressed out and in a panic. She cried out, “I can’t get it”, now in near tears, though she had only tried to do it for a total of about 3 seconds. I just sat there waiting quietly. Finally, I just said, “Why don’t you ask me for help? I’d be glad to help you if you can’t get it.” In all her frenzy, she never imagined asking the one who could help her do it quite easily. I was inches from her just waiting to be asked. She had no need for anxiety.

Isn’t it exactly the same with the Lord? For someone who hasa lot to learn about not being so anxious or stressed out, it was a bit convicting to say the least.

Monday, February 27, 2006

A Man of No Reputation

All of us, to some degree desire to be known. Some of us want to be "great" in reputation or importance. Others just simply want to be noticed. I was struck by a verse today from Philippians 2, "Philippians 2:5-8 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (v. 5-8). The NKJ beautifully translates v. 7, "he made himself of no reputation..."

We are faced with a very practical question, "Do we seek to be people of no reputation, who are nothing, emptied.....?" Any attempt to gain glory or fame inevitably begins to compete with God, for His glory. I have to ask myself, "Where in my life do I seek to be a man of no reputation?"

Rich Mullins' last CD, sung by his band after his death, has a song, "Man of No Reputation". I recommend it on the Jesus CD. Rich could never finish the song, his band said, because he would always start crying. Are we likewise awed by his humiliation? Are we drawn to it or repulsed by it?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Some thoughts on Election

By "election", I'm referring to the doctrine that God sovereignly and gracious chooses those who will be saved. That is, it's not people who ultimately choose God, but God who elects His people.

I recently talked with a dear brother about this wonderful doctrine, though it is reviled by so many in our day. Some call it "Calvinism". Whatever the term and connotations fortunately or unfortunately attached to it, we find it littered in Scripture (Romans 9; 1 Corinthians 1; Ephesians 1, etc.) Anyway, I find it one of the most refreshing and joy-inspiring doctrines in Scripture, even if it is hard to sometimes grasp intellectually or emotionally at times.

I wanted to simply offer a few thoughts that sometimes prevent good thinking and openness of this doctrine of grace (after all, that's what it is).

We typically make a very unfortunate dichotomy between God's love and his justice. We only look at one and ignore completely the other, even despising it sometimes. For example often yell about the love of God and whisper about the justice of God. We are in love with ourselves and are pretty clueless about the depth of our sin. As a result, we just expect that God would save everyone and are suprised to hear that God would condemn people. When you read the Bible, however, we see a very different perspective. They are so very aware of their sin and the wrath that ought to be justly poured out on them. They are surprised by the grace of God, not the wrath of God.

This makes all the difference, especially when understanding election; after all, since we're all sinners, we would expect a just God to condemn all. It should be surprising and a shocking act of grace if God saved ONE person; yet we "demand" he save all.

while there are infinitely more things that could be said on this topic and the questions we have about it, I'll stop at this point, urging us to consider the depths of our sin and the WHOLE nature of God. We need to read all the Bible in balance, such as verses like Romans 3:25-26, which explains that Christ came not simply (or even primarily) to save humans, but to display His justice! After all, how could he save people in love without some just demonstration of His wrath against sin. God cam to vindicate Himself, that He is a just God. He sent Christ for His OWN glory.

Is Being a Christian a Burden?

I've been studying 1 John 5:2-3 a lot recently in preparation for some teaching I'll be doing soon. It says, "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. [3] For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome."

If we're honest, a lot of us want to be like Thomas Jefferson, who cut and paste what parts of the Bible he thought were inspired and not; after all, most people I know have no idea what John was talking about here in v.3. Being a Christian feels like a huge burden sometimes. Why?

Well, this is not a unique thought in Scripture, Psalm 112:1 says, "Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!" Do you see the theme?

As we read Psalm 112 and the following verses after I John 5:2-3, we find that genuine knowledge of God, expressed as faith in Christ, naturally produces joy because we see how great our God is, both in his power and grace; as a result, we are freed from the anxieties to preserve our own interests. After all, it is God who works all things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). We are freed to live lives of mercy, justice, and concern for the poor (see Psalm 112). A person has a new ultimate loyalty and love amounting to an inexpressible joy that makes obedience itself joyful. It ceasing to be a duty--in the burdensome sense-- and becomes a delight. Is it a burden to please the ones we love? Of course not.

How much more is this true with God, the apex of joy and beauty. If we find ourselves burdened and anxious, perhaps our view of God, our faith in Christ, is too small? Who wouldn't be anxious when feeling like we're al alone in this dangerous world? Therefore, our duty and delight each day is to open wide the lenses of my mind and heart to grasp more of what I can of the vastly infinite love and power of Christ. That is the goal of each time we study, pray, converse, and serve--to seek out, believe, apply, and demonstrate the supremacy of God in Christ. By contrast, we to often seek out moral principles and neat intellectual tidbits, which work either to pacify our consciences for time or at least distract us with mental musings.

Our souls want nothing more than this.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Spurgeon on drawing people to Christ

I read a good blog tonight that qouted the following from Charles Spurgoen:

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” John 12:32

Come, ye workers, be encouraged. You fear that you cannot draw a congregation. Try the preaching of a crucified, risen, and ascended Saviour; for this is the greatest “draw” that was ever yet manifested among men. What drew you to Christ but Christ? What draws you to Him now but His own blessed self? If you have been drawn to religion by anything else, you will soon be drawn away from it; but Jesus has held you, and will hold you even to the end. Why, then, doubt His power to draw others? Go with the name of Jesus to those who have hitherto been stubborn, and see if it does not draw them.

No sort of man is beyond this drawing power. Old and young, rich and poor, ignorant and learned, depraved or amiable — all men shall feel the attractive force. Jesus is the one magnet. Let us not think of any other. Music will not draw to Jesus, neither will eloquence, logic, ceremonial, or noise. Jesus Himself must draw men to Himself; and Jesus is quite equal to the work in every case. Be not tempted by the quackeries of the day; but as workers for the Lord work in His own way, and draw with the Lord’s own cords. Draw to Christ, and draw by Christ, for then Christ will draw by you.

Discerning God's Will

Honestly, do I really expect to clarify this topic for us all in one posting? I think not. But I will offer some things I've been learning.

I think we overthink God's plan for our lives sometimes, as if God will only bless one thing in the whole world. Louie Giglio once mocked our attempts to find the center of God's will, then the micro-center of God's will, then the micro-micro-center of God's will.....

I think there are a few considerations though to guide our thoughts. First, we should certainly consider our giftings. This element is strongly emphasized in the modern church, with tests, etc. But I think we stop there too much. The next thing we should do is consider the need. Moreover, we need to consider what we would like to do. Yes, what would we like to do? We minimize that too much. In contemporary American Christianity, we too often think about where we would be miserable and then assume that's God's will. We think about what we'd like to do and assume that there's no way God would want that for us. He wants us to enjoy life (Ecc. 9:9a).

Finally, there's one element that I find never talked about. How does this or that option affect our character..drawing out Christlikeness in us or brutally exciting sin. Let's face it...we all have weaknesses wherein we would easily stumble in some capacities. Other situations draw the best from us. We should consider this last factor more. God is vitally concerned with our sanctification, our character formation. For as much as we talk about evangelism, we forget and ignore the maturing that God ultimately aims for. God wants ULTIMATELY to conform us to Christ. Let's consider that when seek to discern the Lord's will.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Ode Without Vision

A church with no vision becomes its own.
planting seeds not far from home.

So let us pray lest we soon perish,
crying, "Run and hide! Save our parish!"

Evangelism: Good News?

Mark Driscoll once likened modern evangelism methods to holding a gun to someone's mouth and saying, "Want to marry this guy? He's great. If not, he'll shoot you." Marriage by gun point.

We've lost our ability to woo. We have lost the sense of process, subtlety, patience, enjoyment, engagement, journey, art, and stillness. We have lost faith.

A book I'm reading right now implicitly posed this question to me, "Are you willing to be the good news before you begin to speak the good news?"

Both are essential aspects, so why do we so often only chose one? Why to we divide Matthew 25 from Matthew 28:18-20?

Don't Waste Your Cancer

As many of you know, John Piper just came out of surgery for prostate cancer yesterday. His the article he's written about cancer Don't Waste Your Cancer. He gives 10 ways to "waste your cancer".

1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.
3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.
4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.
5. You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.
8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.
9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.
10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.

1 Timothy Stuff

I'm trying to memorize 1 Timothy over the coming few months. Key word: "trying". By the way, that's a confession because I'm terrible at memorizing Scripture, which shouldn't be suprising because it's a disciple Satan hates, so it's going to be tough.

Anyway, I'm reminded about how much the Pastoral letters are about securing, protecting, and teaching rigth doctrine. That "theme" gets frowns today. We think of academics or irrelevant, fundamentalist preachers. But we've got it all wrong. Over and over again, Paul connects doctrine and life. What happens today is that we seepeople who are so intellectual in their doctrinal grasp that they have no practice or can't understand how anything works in the world. We see that's a problems, but we then make the mistake of throwing out rigorous, sweat-inducing yet joyful theology for fear of sacrificing "application".

What a load of crud (this is a family site :)

Paul says tat if you don't have thorough, Christological doctrine, you don't have Christian've got religion and moralism at best, hypocrisy and hell at worst. After all, anyone can put forward "practical" advice...preachers do it every week while never or rarely using the Bible.

Every day, Christians dismiss the knowledge of God with "oh, that's just theology". That's right. We're all theologians, with our ideas of God and meaning, but too often, we're just not very good theologians. To the comment "oh, that's just theology", we should reply, "Yes, and that's Paul and Jesus and David and Moses...."
Do we actually expect the God of the univese to be so simple and compact for our little minds, that we wouldn't have to labor in prayer and study to understand Him better? (which, by the way, is the source of actual joy)

The American church divided theology from praxis most strikingly in the earlier 20th century, when conservative rejected and feared their intellectual, yet liberal conterparts. now we've retreated so far that we've become anti-intellectual at best, and more to the point, anti-theological. As a result, we have dead churches dead faith, and dead practice. Only the gospel--found in a thorough life long submission to and journey with the Bible, which is all about Jesus---produces any sort of "application" worthy to be called godly.

Shall we settle for anything less?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Your comments on the Blog

I realized I had accidently prohibited replies on the blog. I've since fixed it so you can reply to any blog conversations, is you so choose.

that's all for now.

Monday, February 13, 2006

My Biblical Reflections

On this BLOG, I'll often offer some of my Biblical meditations and commentary.

You can search out scriptures by "searching" by the Biblical book title (i.e Hebrews, Ecclesiastes,...) in the search option at the top of the pace.

Ecclesiastes 9:9

"Enjoy life..."

How often do I and we disobey God on this point? The Lord tell us to always rejoice (1 Thessalonians 5:16) and to serve the Lord with gladness (Psalm 100:3).

How often I don't being caught up in all the "important" things in life. I realize it is our duty to maximize our pleasure in Him and His graciousness. It's amazing how ludicrous sin is.

My Four Year Old Feminist

The other day my daughter ad I were listeing to the radio. I turned on a song I liked and then I asked her if she liked it too. She objected that she didn't like it. I asked her why and she said that it wasn't a pretty song. "Why is it not a pretty song?" I asked. She then informed me that she only like pretty songs, not handsome songs (meaning, by men).

So for the past week, every time we get into our car, we have been facing the ongoing debate about whether she likes the same "handsome" songs we do. Where do they learn this stuff?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Poetry of Predestination

Can't sleep, but I read a great entry on Predestination from Justin Taylor's Blog. I'll quote it in full:

"On Predestination

The following poem appeared in The Continental Journal on March 11, 1779. It was entitled “On Predestination.”

If all things succeed as already agreed,

And immutable impulses rule us;

To preach and to pray, is but time thrown away,

And our teachers do nothing but fool us.

If we’re driven by fate, either this way or that,

As the carman whips up his horses,

Then no man can stray --- all go the right way,

As the stars that are fix’d in their courses.

But if by free will, we can go or stand still,

As best suits the present occasion;

Then fill up the glass, and confirm him an ass

That depends upon Predestination.

Two weeks the same newspaper published an answer by another writer:

If an all perfect mind rules over mankind,

With infinite wisdom and power;

Sure he may decree, and yet the will be free,

The deeds and events of each hour.

If scripture affirms in the plainest of terms,

The doctrine of Predestination;

We ought to believe it, and humbly receive it,

As a truth of divine revelation.

If all things advance with the force of mere chance,

Or by human free will are directed;

To preach and to pray, will be time thrown away,

Our teachers may be well rejected.

If men are deprav’d, and to vice so enslav’d,

That the heart chuses nothing but evil;

Then who goes on still by his own corrupt will,

Is driving post haste to the devil.

Then let human pride and vain cavil subside,

It is plain to a full demonstration,

That he’s a wild ass, who over his glass,

Dares ridicule Predestination.

[Cited by Charles W. Akers, “Calvinism and the American Revolution,” in The Heritage of John Calvin: Lectures, ed. John H. Bratt (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), pp. 170-171. Thanks to this lecture by Sam Storms for the reference.]"

The Children's Catechism

After writing the last entry, it made me think of some great resources that have helped us in particular with our oldest daughter. She's four and is learning about the Jesus and the Bible.

A catechism written by Christ Schlet (adapted from historical catechisms) for children can be found under The Children's Catechism.

Note that on this link there is a "Catechism for Young Children" but its much longer than we've used so-far. We've simply been using the introductory, 50 question version. It's been great. We've only had to adapt a few phrases, as we hope to introduce some of the theological jargon that she'll eventually face.

Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.

Our son Malachi was reading his Bible some time ago and was getting its meaning clearly. Let me be sure to add that, at the time, he was a few months shy of two years old. Nevertheless, he really was understanding the Bible. I know I have skeptics out there readingthis saying, "hey bro, two year olds aren't theologians yet." Ahh, you must not have kids yet.

As he was flipping through his Bible (granted a mostly picture-Bible), he would look at a page and say "Jesus", then flip a page and say "Jesus", another page, "Jesus"...flip agin..."Jesus...Jesus..." all the way through the whole Bible with each page.

He gets it. He may not know words like "propitiation", "expiation", "paedobaptism", and "postlapsarian", but he gets "Jesus"...that all God's word is about Jesus.

"Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise" (ESV, Mt. 21:16 quoting Ps. 8:2)

Pictures of Charis!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Meditation of Psalm 104

Psalm 104 is a meditation on Genesis 1. It is blatantly obvious as you can see how the psalm is broken up into seven units that parallel the seven creation days in Genesis 1.

Psalm 1 makes manifest the purpose of Genesis 1--to provoke praise to God! It (Gen. 1) is not intended to be a rigorously detailed scientific document. Gen 1 is meant to inspire awe in his creatures. We are to learn of His power and ongoing providence over nature. It is actually Hebrew poetry to be savored (Even in the English, notice the poetic parallels between Day 1 & 4, 2 & 5, 3 & 6.) Indeed, the universe declares His glory (Ps. 19.1, making manifest His nature (Rom. 1:19-20).

"May my meditation be pleasing to him as I rejoice in the Lord," (Ps. 104:34).
My joy pleases God. Said another way, if I seek to please Him in every way (Col. 1:10; 2 Cor. 5:9), then I must vehemently seek my own joy. God wants no sullen Christians. This is not mere petty happiness, which ebbs and flows based on circumstances, rather it is "in the Lord". We are to be like God in our joy. He too savored the beauty of His work, his creation, the demonstration of His glory (104:31): "It is good," (Gen 1), and then ceased His work in contentment. We have not reached our Sabbath rest yet (Heb. 4:9); but we can look at our lives, the work given to us in the Lord, and rejoice, saying "it is good."

I need to spend more time in meditation and observation of nature, that I too may say sincerely, "it is good", and more so, "He is good." As a church, we need to struggle more vigorously to enjoy Jesus, not fretting over small details and worries or the possibility that we may easily anger Him. To be sure, He has awful anger towards evil, but He is patient and gives grace to those in Christ. We need not fear. Fear kills joy.

Scripture Memorization

Joshua Harris has a great link giving advice for memorizing Scripture, a discipline I've neglect too much.

Check it out here: Dr. Andrew Davis from FBC Durham

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Family, Sex, Other...

Lauren Winner: Real Sex
John Piper: Sex and The Supremacy of God

Before You Say I Do Workbook

Worship and the Arts
Sally Morgenthaler: Worship Evangelism: Inviting Unbelievers into the Presence of God
Robert Webber: Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail : Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church


Shepherding a Child’s Heart
Standing on the Promises
Various books in the “Babywise” series

Friday, February 03, 2006

Charis has arrived

I'm sitting here watching my new daughter hiccup and pass gas, while loving it. She was born yesterday, and wow are we all tired. I got hit with a bad cold/sinus thing after the birth so I've been just wiped.

Everyone is healthy. The specs are 7 lbs 14 oz 21 inches.

People have been so gracious to us; we had dinner provided for us tonight and tommorrow. Pray for our rfreshment as you think of it.

(Her name means "Grace" in Biblical Greek)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Homosexuality: A Biological Sin?

I'll pose some thoughts for your consideration. Recent debates among so-called "emergent" leaders, Mark Driscoll and Brian McLaren, compel me to write.

I had a Christian professor, pastor, and counslor once articulate what I see as a common view among evangelicals and Christians at large. The idea is this: while homosexual actions are sin, the desire or homosexual attraction (or as some call it, "orientation" or "disposition") is not sin. Therefore, so it's said, one can want to have pervert sex, but that's not a sin, because the homosexual is naturally or biologically wired for it.

I don't buy it. Here's why--First, let's assume this line of thinking were right, that people could be created biologically to desire perversion. If this is so, we must say either one of two things. (1) we are asserting that the perverted desire is not sin, or (2) that God actually makes people physically unable not to sin.

(The latter inability is different than saying that we are born with a sin nature, inclined in our will to love and choose sin. This distinction has been well recognized and address in history. See Jonathan. Edwards' Freedom of the Will or a summary of it. After all, the moral inability is heneious, just as a child abuser is reprehensible because he loves wickedness and thus in morally unable to do righteous, again, because he chooses evil deeds. If we had a physical inability, then we don't say someone is morally accoutnable, for example, if I were tied up while my children were in a burning building. The distinction between moral inability and physical inability is crucial!)

Having said that, what do we say about the two implications of the assumed premise, which I say is wrong?

First, let me remind us that the issue being debated is whether we can say people are created homosexual. Let's not beg the question by rebutting what I say with that brute assertion, which is the point debated here.

Implication #1: Can we really say that God thinks it ok that I want something perverted, to do something sinful, and that's not wrong or of darkness. How about when Jesus said that we're adulterous if we lust in our hearts? or when he talked about how having unholy anger was equivelant to murder? (see Mt. 5-7 for Jesus' line of thought) At the heart of sin is our affections for holiness or for wickedness.

Implication #2: This idea says that God makes it physically impossible for homosexuals not to sin. Thus, sin is no longer a matter of choice or affections, but biology and chemicals! Along this line of thinking, it's theoretically possible that having arms or being hungry is sin...even though those are physically endowed to us at creation.

The fact that biology is involved in this sin is not matter; after all we're holistic, mind and body, creatures. When the spirit works, so does the body. We ought to gaurd against atheistic reductionism that makes the all actions a matter of the body and not the spirit. Even the person with a so-called "disposition" towards being an alcoholic still must make the decisive decisions to live down to that potential. What about "crack babies"? They are born with addictions, which do result from the sin of their mothers, but let us again not call something sin that does not arise from the heart, one's affections, one's mind and will.

In truth, I "naturally" sin because I have not come to love the Lord as I ought. I should be careful not to pass the blame on God's making me with a physical consitution that makes me sin without any choice or affection in my spirit, but which actually amount to my existance being a sin.

Jack Bauer, warrior for Jesus?

Ok, everytime I watch 24, I get motivated to serve Jesus even more. Is that a sick perversion of ministry or something? A guy threatens to poke some bad guys eye out until he spills his guts (perhaps literally?) and then I get excited about Jesus!

I admit I'm easily exciteable, but honestly think about it. Jack is our society's quintessential hero-type. He is sold out to the good of his country, tries to maintain his family or love life (not counting his prior infidelitites), and is willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice--even be tortured--to save the whole country or world. He's like, "I'm not with CTU. I'll go get Cummings!" and we all scream and yell.

I think it makes me think of Jesus and Paul and every other sold out missionary to the world--willing to die to self for the life of others, willing to not simply hate evil, but destroy it. The Israelites were called to literally exterminate the Canaanite pagans (despite our modern distaste for those accounts). The New Testament fulfillment-parallel is the command to "put to death" the the works of flesh (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5).

When we see the passionate commitment of Bauer, we want a hero who will likewise die for us, to save us, even if we can't witness it personally. There's also a part of us who wants to also ravage evil.

Doesn't this sound like Jesus? Doesn't this sound like the call to be missionaries in a evil world order, where we are sheep among wolves? We need pastors who will serve like Jack Bauer, or better and Jesus.

Kids and Jesus

We had a great conversation with Selah the other night. We were talking about being a Christian over dinner. She was convinced that you had to speak English in order to be a Christian. Whoever spoke Chinese or Spanish was out of the mix. We tried to explain that our Chinese friends whom we knew in China were Christians. "But they spoke English!" she replied. Indeed they did. Hmmm?

She walso wanted to know about heaven and how you get there. She said, "Do you get there in a rocking chair?"

These are the conversation you pray for but how do you even begin to answer some questions? You don't. You just love on 'em until they're able to see.

Monday, January 30, 2006

My Story

I did not grow up in a "Christian" home. We didn't go to church much. For me Sundays were about watching football. I spent my entire days watching pre-grames pre-pre-grames, and all the games themselves. Some neighbores invited me to church when I was in middle school. The girls wore short skirts and gave me attention--I liked church from then on.

The youth minister, Kevin Prather, loved me and really paid attention to me. I knew I was loved and listened to what was being taught. I had mixed feelings about it all because I thought I was a Christian because I believed in God. Kevin challenged us to read the book of James, which I did, and it made clear to me the reality of genuine faith--"faith without works is dead". Not only that, but in James 2:19, I was slammed when James says that even demons believe in one god, then shudder. I didn;t like being on their team and that pretty much rocked my theology to that point.

I was convicted of my sin but knew that being a Christian meant no pre-marital sex. I was going to get my opportunities soon, so this was a real issue. I could really forfeit what had been my highest life goal up to that point in life. So I got saved by listening to a purity talk.

I grew quickly and fell into hypocrisy perhaps even quicker, as many young leader do. From my junior year on, I gained a lot of respect but continued to walk in greater hidden sin. In college, by double life collapsed in on me and I was broken and crushed in all my pride. Then I met Carrie after transfering to Texas A&M. I learned to be loved and to love, to accept forgiveness and live in healthy relationships with others.

I had known since my junior year in high school that God wanted me to be a lead pastor. I took a youth ministry job shortly after graduating from college. It was a typically tough "first church" experience; we didn't stay there long, but I loved our students and knew there was much good done through the local church.

The hurts felt by that experience stayed with my for years; my anger towards Christians became consuming. I had been hurt by some of them from the church and I made it my mission to expose the problems in the Christians I met. I still served in ministry capacities, but my antagonism and cynicism made me an aweful Christian. It was tough living with me. It wasn't until three years after leaving our first church that God miraculously healed me. I had been running from God's call on me to be a pastor. We were overseas at the time and God sovereignly healed me, changing my heart. In that process, I had also surrendered myself anew to his service.

I am now trying to follow my Jesus in that direction. I've done the school thing, getting an M.A. in philosophy (my thesis being in Soren Kierkegaard) and an MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. I'm learning everyday to be a Christian, a husband, a father, and just simply a man. Pray for me and my family.

My Family

I have a great family, with a wife and three kids (as of now). We'd love ot have four. We'll see. My wife is my jewel, my prize, a great gift of grace. She has been a wonderful instrument of redemption for me. We got married just out of college and have moved all over the world. Her patience, boldness, wisdom, and gentleness challenge me deeply. My kids are a joy as well. A daughter, then a son, then one more daughter. Kids always make you think and examine yourself. They really love showing how much of a sinner you are; but I've loved loving them. I love that they perfect my ability to love. It's quite true that you learn a lot about our Father's love ofr us through being a parent. We have given them unusual Biblical names for a few reasons: We want their names to be prayers over their lives; we want their names to provoke spiritual dialogue; and we have reflected our journeys at the time of their birth in their names.

My mom is a hero to me. She raised me herself for the first 2 years, from age 16, without family help. She's sacrificed everything for her kids. She works hard and is incredibly honest. I've never had a real close relationship with my dad growing up, but I hope that changes. He instilled discipline in me where I needed it. I'm grateful for that. We don't really talk anymore, so pray for reconciliation, as I do love him and pray for him often, especially that he'd love Jesus. I have a much younger brother and sister. I don't get a lot of time with them, since I left the house much earlier than them and have moved all over the place. I really hope to grow closer to them as they continue to grow into adulthood.

I really enjoy having the in-laws I do. They are incredible loyal and are probably the most generous people I've ever met. My wife's side of the family gets together a lot. Most are Christians, though I'd love to know and enjoy more about how God daily works in their lives.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Some Help with Hebrews

I've always found Hebrews very difficult to undertstand. My problem has been that I've read it like a theological essay.

I realized this week that this letter is simply a sermon (13:22). It's very pastoral and basically has one objective: to encourage the readers to persevere in the faith. Let me offer a few helps as you read it.

The writer is writing to Jews ready to give up their faith for Old Covenant religion. He appeals to his readers in a variety of ways. First, he tries to demonstrate the exaltation or worth of Christ (Ch. 1-3, 4b, 5, 7). He then tries to incite them with the promises offered by God through Jesus (Ch. 4, 8, 12b). In addition, he repeatedly makes clear the dangers of falling away from the faith. Like a good pastor, he warns them of this (such as in Ch 6, 10). Also, he helps them to see how others have succeeded in faith in the past (Heb. 11). Not only that, but we should consider Jesus' perseverence amid much suffering (Ch. 12:1-3) . The writer finally explains the meaning of their trials, for we can usually endure hardship if we see the purpose (Ch. 12). Lastly, the writer of Hebrews offers some practical ways they can live holy lives (Ch. 13). It is noteworthy as well to see that the closing prayer of benediction well summarizes these points (13:20-21).

Consider Jesus.


This blog is meant to be an invitation for communal conversation, a personal inquiry, a social critique, and ultimately, a theological meditation. Blogs are simply a modern day confessional for Protestants. We've isolated ourselves within western individuality...all we have now are Blogs to confess our sins, doubts, thoughts, and successes. After all, we're not sure who is actually listening.

Feel free to reply to anything I say, but I don't promise to respond. Keep it clean. Keep it honest.

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