Thursday, July 31, 2003

Physical Training

After 10 years of stationary bike testing, the Air Force has decided to return to a timed run, push-ups, and sit-ups as its measure of fitness. I support the decision, but will be negatively impacted. Ninety minutes every week on the stationary bike gives me a great opportunity to read WORLD magazine and keep my eargate active with Basement tapes, MARS HILLs, Piper sermons, etc.

I think reading while running is probably as dangerous as drinking and driving. And if I get above a trot, my antiquated CD player skips more than my 3-year old daughter.

To be truthful, reading and listening are my motivations for working out. Guess I'll pull-out the old portable tape player. I wish there were a better selection of Christian books on tape or MP-3.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Fear and Trembling

The connection between body and spirit is eerie. A gentle, civil rebuke from a respected acquaintance caused my body temperature to rise and my forehead to bead with perspiration. When in the presence of my Colonel, try as I may, I cannot feel at ease. Perhaps it's a good thing if I'm disembodied when I meet God. How could my body stand before His holy presence?

Monday, July 28, 2003

As I mentioned last week, here's an attempt to capture the essence of Edward's work on God's Glory, The End for Which God Created the World. I appreciate Piper's climactic introduction and clarifying footnotes (see God's Passion for His Glory).


First, consider that we frequently toss around the word "glory" but seldom sufficiently define what glory means. Edwards does. Glory is:
- "weighty", literally translated from the Hebrew and Greek
- the outshining of the internal greatness or excellency of God
- the excellent brightness and fullness of the divinity diffused and overflowing
- the communication of God's fullness
- often implying honor
- often used interchangeably in Scripture with "praise" or "Name"

Why is Man's Chief End to Glorify God?
1. God must necessarily value most that which is supremely valuable
2. God, being infinitely the greatest and best of all Beings, is most valuable; thus He values Himself most of all
3. God, out of highest respect to Himself, exerts Himself to make His glorious attributes known
4. Since God loves His own excellency, it is fitting for Him to value the love others have for His excellency
5. God in seeking His own glory from creatures seeks the good of His creatures; by exalting Himself He displays the one Reality in the universe that can satisfy our souls.
6. Thus our chief end is also our only satisfying source of happiness. Our delight in God is part of God's delight in Himself, and therefore our happiness is also His happiness.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Inter-Racial Reading
As we begin the adoption process we're hit right away with numerous moral and sovereignty issues. Other than not being allowed to adopt a Caucasian child, everything else is our prerogative. Our simple desire is to care for widows and orphans by providing an adoptive option for women who otherwise might turn to abortion. Should we stop here and trust that God will not give us a child that we can't handle? Or would it be wise to consider the type of child that's the best fit for our family and limit our interest to this? Either way, it's very likely that our next child won't look like their blonde, blued-eyed siblings. We'd like to profit from others' wisdom on interracial families. I'm looking for good material, but am striking out so far.
Why Christians Here Think We're Weird:
- We don't have cable TV
- We have more than 2 children and want more
- We homeschool
- We're Reformed, Covenantal Presbyterians
- We're willing to leave town to go to church
- Our children's names
- We don't like the Christian radio stations
- We don't like the Christian bookstores
- We're not a fan of AWANA

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Scrutinizing Small Groups
(Note: Corrected on 29 Jul based on comments from reader)

Most of the churches in my past had small groups. Over the years, I've been part of many at home and at work. The last couple revealed a serious problem of the small group: seldom did anyone come with questions, but instead statements disguised as questions. There's a strong feeling of equality between the leader's (aka teacher) instruction and the rest of the group's (aka students) opinions. This kind of group really has no students, and so no one learns anything of value.

I noticed that small groups are being questioned within part of the reformed community. Ligonier's Tape of the Month includes balanced remarks by R.C. Sproul using James 3:1 to warn that not many should presume to be teachers; his words were aimed right at small groups. The Highlands Study Center site links to an article that is more strongly opposed to them. Small groups need to beware of James 3:1.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

What is the Chief End of Man?

This familiar catechism question tells us that glorifying God and enjoying Him forever is the reason we were made. But how much instruction have you received on God's glory? We know we should do all things to the glory of God, but I suspect that most folks couldn't explain how or why.

This morning I finished John Piper's God's Passion for His Glory which essentially is a long preface by Piper and then Jonathan Edward's The End for Which God Created the World. I find Edwards always exhaustive to read, largely due to his slow, methodical way of making his propositions. But this tendency becomes a strength when he grapples with the glory of God. I plan to post some of the book's highlights here within the next week.

But my question today is since we know glorifying God is so important, indeed ultimate, why do we hear so little teaching on glory? The most I can recall over years of sermons, radio programs, books, etc is that glory means weighty. That's not much to build your life around. Edwards gives us a marvelous trove of insight into this supreme passion of God.
New Neighbors

Several of the houses around us are vacant. My wife and I are praying for good neighbors. We certainly welcome unbelievers that are ripe for the gospel, but it'd be nice to have some Christians, too! The more like-minded the better.

When I saw a moving-truck unloading at a house down the street, I headed over to welcome the new family and was stunned to find out I know this guy! We were stationed at Scott AFB together where he showed a strong Christian witness in the workplace. I don't know much about his wife, but she stays at home and they have four young children.

The odds of getting new neighbors you already know is staggering; and clearly points to Providence. I'm excited to see what He has in store!

Friday, July 18, 2003

Blood on My Head

As I read through Acts, it's obvious that Paul shares the prophet Ezekiel's burden (see Ez 33:4-6) to be guiltless of other's condemnation by declaring God's word to them. In Acts 20:26 notice that if Paul even hesitates to proclaim the whole will of God, or as the ESV states "anything that is profitable", then the people's blood will be upon his head when he stands before God.

On one hand, there is reason enough to evangelize since Jesus is worthy of the full reward of His suffering and the honor due His name; but I must also consider the other motives for spreading His name. First, He commands it of me. Second, Paul shows that the office of watchman didn't end with Ezekiel. It is required of me to declare whatever is profitable to others lest their blood be upon my head.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Plastic Jesus

We cubicle-dwellers tend to decorate our cubes like college kids adorn their dorm rooms. Cube-decor presents a desired image to the watching world. Most people go for a mix of levity (Dilbert, cheap toys, etc), family (children's photos) and success (award plaques and the like). But, a lot of people also add a religious touch. For instance, the guy down the hall has a "Jesus loves you" screen-saver.

When my cube was in San Antonio, the religious knick-knacks we're mostly of the Catholic variety; statuettes of saints and the Virgin Mary were the standard. Here in the cubes of the Bible Belt, Jesus is nearly omnipresent. But more than just the smile on these images is plastic. The religion in this region brings God down to more "useful" level. Many love God just for His gifts; and nothing keeps them from these gifts except Satan and their wavering faith. Their view of man is too high, too deserving of blessing. Regrettably, this seems to be the dominant strain in the "black churches" in this area. Sadly, the typical faith of the local white folk never goes beyond a Vacation Bible School level of knowledge concerning God. There's no desire to know God more, and therefore no real desire or delight in God.

What is my role in a region saturated with "gospel-lite"? Is it that of prophet; facing persecution from God's people for calling them back to a deeper understanding of God and themselves?

Monday, July 14, 2003

Lunch with the Like-Minded

Kristin and I were invited to lunch with two couples after church. After months of arid relationships it was refreshing to break bread with people that are like-minded. What's even better is that I see in these couples a possible answer to our prayer for someone to disciple us.

Consider for instance what this reformed, homeschooling couple did years ago when they decided that caring for "widows and orphans" must go beyond occasional financial support. They opened their home to numbers of racially diverse children and unwanted babies. A large collage of foster children posted in their kitchen testify that their faith is not without works.

Kristin and I are now looking into how we can "go and do likewise".

Friday, July 11, 2003

The "Greatest Generation"?

One of the local reformed churches we've been attending held a "Men of the Covenant" meeting last night. I was excited and looked forward to getting to know the men better. I was disappointed.

I arrived on-time and walked into the meeting where the average age was in the 70s! I was hoping to get to know some of the senior generation (which have been largely absent in my past churches) but also expected some men more my age. There were none.

I sat at a table with a few of the gentlemen and my respect quickly soared upon learning they had been farmers and served in WWII. But my respect quickly plummeted when their talk soon turned to "n*ggers" and lingered there! And to a lesser degree, the loose women of their military youth.

As ludicrous as this sounds after dinner we sang "Jesus loves me" and "Jesus loves the little children" and a couple of hymns from an old worn Armenian hymnal. This all felt awkward. Then we ended with a brief devotion (by the way I was the only man that brought his Bible). I was already in dismay at this time, and nothing in the devotion really changed my opinion about this group.

Is this a racist church? Is this an Armenian church? I don't think so on either count. But it appears the church leadership permits inconsistency to run unchecked among its base of senior members. It would be difficult to admonish 70 year old men that have had a life-long problem with race and doctrine. Their love for Christ hasn't penetrated the core of who they are. But the church's love for Christ demands that His Bride be spotless.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Capt Mom Goes Off to War

The journalist in this great article from the Washington Times (July 4, 2003) perceives what so many contemporary women are missing--motherhood is supremely valuable.

Capt. Mom Goes To War
By Maggie Gallagher

Perhaps in honor of the Fourth of July, Family Circle in its current issue
tells the story of Capt. Mom going to war.

Melody Charles not only had a 1-year-old, but also was eight months pregnant when the Twin Towers fell. "My officer in charge told me he would try to give me as much time with the baby as he could," Melody said, "but I had to be ready to go by spring."

The Army is in the business of fighting and killing, not nurturing. Women as
well as men who join are naturally well-drilled in putting first things first. As a captain married to a major, Melody was required to file plans about who would take care of the kids if both she and her husband were called to serve. Fortunately, her country did not ask that sacrifice, this time.

So this is what her children sacrificed for you and me: At 9 months old,
Jonah was too young to comprehend his mother's absence, according to the
story. But 2-year-old Jacob understood perfectly well when Mommy told him
she was leaving.

"He ran out of the bedroom screaming, 'No, Daddy. No, Daddy.'" husband Mike

Mom and Dad held him all night. The next morning, when Jacob woke up, Mommy
was gone. He walked into the bathroom with his blanket and lay down on the
rug she stands on when getting ready for work.

For two days, Jacob threw up after every meal. Every day he asked, "Where's
Mama?" "Mama's in the war," Daddy replied.

For Mama in the war, it was also hard, of course. In her Uzbekistan base
camp, Melody cried herself to sleep every night.

"It helped knowing that other people with children were in just as much
agony," Melody says now. "You get through it because one day, it's your turn
to cry and the next day it's someone else's."

Melody chose this way of life. Plus, Melody had the consolation of a whole
Army of people telling her she was doing the right thing: "If I'm not
willing to fight to protect our nation and our way of life, it won't be
there for my children. So by going, I'm really caring for them."

After six months, Capt. Mom returned home.

"My baby didn't recognize me," Melody recalls. "He wouldn't let me pick him
up that first day." Jacob did remember her, and reacted by alternating
between "being overly needy and pushing her away."

Today family life is back to normal: Capt. Mom, Maj. Dad and kids are
close-knit and loving, deeply appreciative of the time they have together,
aware that simple togetherness cannot, for a military Mom and Dad, be taken
for granted.

A happy story of noble sentiments, patriotic sacrifice and family love,
right? Why else would it appear in a magazine called Family Circle?
Yes, it is a story of all these things, but something more, too. It is an
ongoing story about the process of convincing women there are other, more
important bonds than the one we have with our babies. Any mother cannot help
noticing what a horror story lies at the heart of this patriotic, upbeat

No, you cannot blame the Army. It is doing its job, based on policies set by
civilians. Nor can you blame Melody for following through on her vow to
serve her country in time of war.

So I hope the upbeat ending is true - that Jacob and baby Jonah do not
suffer any permanent damage from Mommy's mysterious six-month disappearance.

I know the Army, as it persuades young women to sign up and re-enlist, has
no clue whether this is true. But surely for Jacob and Jonah, a six-month
sentence of suffering is more than enough.

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

I recently purchased Bluegrass Mountain Revival, a 2-CD set of music focusing on the Gospel side of Bluegrass. I highly recommend it. It's upbeat, well-produced, and has a range of sound from fiddle to mouth harp to banjo. Christian Book Distributers ( has it on sale for $9.99

Monday, July 07, 2003

Loving God for His Gifts

Jesus' popularity peaked after healing and feeding multitudes. The crowd of followers quickly dwindled to just a few after He spoke of eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

In a sense am I like the multitude that turned away? I'm in with the Lord for all the plainly good things He promises. But when faced with a difficult teaching do I turn away? Rather than grapple to understand what He says through the Apostles do I prefer to just stay in the fog and not follow Him in the tough sayings?

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

I must be a Glory-Hound

Each time the military re-assigns me I go through a period of depression. Not clinical depression, but just a feeling of general dissatisfaction. I think I've figured out why. During each assignment I've found some way to be significant, either at work or church. But then every two to three years the military moves me and I'm "nobody" again. So the root of the depression seems to be a longing for the glory I once had. Sick man that I am! Instead of desiring my own glory in this life, I must learn to long for God's glory.