Friday, December 31, 2004
The mailman dropped off an invitation to a New Year's Eve Miracle Service just in time. Dr. Leon "Doc" Stutzman will be at Christ Cathedral in downtown Dayton this evening. The mailer asks those questions of eternal consequence: "What will 2005 be like?", "Will I have the good things I desire?", and most importantly, "What must I do to thrive in 2005?"
(This may SHOCK you, but there's no mention of "taking up your cross", "unless a seed falls to the ground and dies", etc)
Below is a personal note from the KRAZY KOOL "Doc". I think he's plagiarizing an advertisement for the psychic hotline.
Maybe next year they'll do palm readings, too.
Thursday, December 30, 2004
To open a post with "Today, my wife almost slipped into a coma", seems out of place on a blog, but it's true. Kristin has had diabetes since she was three and today her insulin pump malfunctioned. We didn't catch it until her blood sugar reading was off the scale of the meter. This bad situation was complicated by being stuck on the interstate, an hour from home and the insulin she desperately needed. As she battled to stay conscious my thoughts turned to the opening line in the Heidelberg Catechism answer #28, "we can be patient when things go against us." God saw us home safely and in a few hours, thanks to a few heavy doses of synthetic insulin, she was up and around.
It's sobering to be so dependent on something outside of you, that without it, you'd die in a matter of hours. We are all this way, our life is a vapor, and void of what is needed to support life. Thanks be to God for the manifold ways He preserves each of us. And thanks be to the Great Physician who not only delivers us from diseases, but more importantly, from sin.
Father of mercies,
hear me for Jesus' sake.
My heart is an unspent tsunami of sin,
a torrent of corruption since childhood days,
flowing on in every part of my being.
You alone hold back my terror and dismay,
without your grace to constrain, I fall on all in my way.
Pour oil on my troubled waters,
swallow up this poisoned ocean and,
give me summer weather in my heart.
Adapted from Valley of Vision
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
I wish this MARS HILL AUDIO letter could be discussed face to face with every evangelical Christian in America. It is the best, most succinct, smoking gun I've seen regarding worldliness in today's church. Below are a few pull-quotes, but I hope you will make some time to digest this letter in its entirety.
As long as the Great Commission is understood only as a matter of somehow getting our contemporaries to assent to our message, Christians will be tempted to recast the message in likeable, plausible terms. [But] Christian faith is both more radically inward than mere belief (transforming our loves and hopes) and more decisively outward (reorganizing our actions). Jesus did not die, rise, and ascend to change something in our hearts and leave it at that, but thereby to change
everything. "Evangelism-as-sales-talk" is never so ambitious.
One way that Christians have escaped the ramified demands of discipleship, especially in the shape of our cultural lives, is to assume that the sphere of Creation and the sphere of Redemption are intrinsically separate. So our salvation is understood as a "spiritual" matter, an inner transformation, while our social and cultural lives can continue to be lived in accordance with the allegedly neutral, value-free, mechanical principles established by economists, sociologists, and other scientific experts.
In consequence, the settings for our gathered worship have been transformed from sanctuaries, portals of mysteries and arresting awe, into loud, throbbing Skinner boxes of engineered stimulus and response. From my own informal research, it would seem that the prevailing attitudes among Christians toward art and beauty, toward work and the modern ideal of efficiency, toward the ordering of time and the valuing of place, are statistically no different than those of non-believers.
My nagging obsession is to try to encourage Christians to wrestle more deeply with the consequences of our faith in the world, and to be more alert to the ways the world has diluted our faithfulness.
While Kristin ran some errands today, I taught through most of our daily curriculum with the children. A few months have passed since the last time I did this. The children’s academic progress may be imperceptible to Kristin who works with them everyday, but to me it is dramatic. Congratulations to my wife!
Next week I’ll start the most difficult semester in my degree program. After the children go off to bed I’ll be spending time with Advanced Engineering Mathematics instead of Angels in the Architecture. While my personal reading will be largely displaced by academics, I hope to make up for it in the audio department.
Thanks to a handy iPod (a very nice Christmas present) I can redeem some of the time lost snow-shoveling, commuting, and PT. MP-3 downloads are usually cheap, yet free ones are even better. So far, I’ve cued up Jeff Meyer’s series on Authentic Spirituality, the Desiring God National Conference “Sex and (surprise!) the Supremacy of Christ”, and the latest edition of St Anne’s Pub.
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Behold, there went out a sower to sow,
a father who had a young son to grow.
And it came to pass, as he sowed,
some seed he wished he hadn't of throwed.
Kernals of anger and pits of rage,
Slipped through fingers and into the clay.
The sower lamented, 'you reap what you sow,
no matter how small, the weeds quickly grow'.
Remorseful, the man sought pardon from the boy,
And found firmly planted not bitterness but joy.
Astonished, this sower looked back in his path,
the fowls of the air devoured the seeds of wrath.
Monday, December 27, 2004
Here is a comforting verse for those that feel ostracized for their convictions.
And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness...it shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. Is 35:8 (ESV)
There are some, even of our own family and friends, who think we are foolish because of things that we abstain from and things that we choose to support. But here God promises us that even if we are fools (and we may be!) He will not let us stray. And He will never let us go.
How gracious of God to not write off the fools. We should go and do likewise.
Sunday, December 26, 2004
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Here's an invitation to the Christmas Eve Services at Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCUSA); the ad ran in the Dayton Daily News.
See how they struck out "faithful"? How symbolic of them!
If you can't read the print in the ad, here's what it says,
Absolute faith is not a requirement in our church. An open heart is. Come join us as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. And you may just find that faith is the greatest Christmas present of all.
Absolute faith? What does that mean? It mustn't be important since it's not a requirement in their church,...even though it may be "the greatest Christmas gift of all."
Like many PCUSA churches, they have a beautiful cathedral--what a shame. Our Presbyterian church (OPC) meets in a basketball/multi-purpose court in a Seventh Day Adventist facility. But we get to worship a beautiful God. And that's way better.
Friday, December 24, 2004
There is a swath of neglected Scripture that, if it were read, would rebuke and transcend Christmas-—I am speaking of the prophets. Christmas has a tendency to overly focus on Christ’s humiliation and neglect His exaltation. If we want to know what it means to long for the Messiah, if we want to know what the advent of Christ is bringing us, then we must listen to the voices of Isaiah, Joel, Micah and the like.
By putting ourselves in the shoes of our Old Testament fathers, we begin to see that Biblical faith is more than just trusting God to save me. Faith is believing God will do all that He says He’ll do in the world.
A quick study of the prophets’ writings concerning the coming of the Messiah brought out the following themes:
1. Perfect justice will be served, the proud will be humiliated, and all our and His enemies will be utterly defeated
2. The gospel will triumph throughout every nation, tribe, and tongue
3. Christ is bringing shalom, that is, He will make all things as they ought to be!
While we should remember the past event of Christ’s birth, we must not fail to also imitate the prophets by looking forward with expectancy, hope, comfort, and joy to the never-failing growth and certain consummation of His kingdom.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
I'd like to pass on a Christmas reminder that someone gave me today. Don't be the kind of Christian that makes a big to-do about celebrating a holiday all the while failing to be faithful in weightier matters like loving our neighbors, showing mercy to our children, and being gracious to our spouse.
A 16-inch blanket of snow provided many opportunities to help neighbors here. Our unplowed street caught cars like flypaper in a pigsty. While pushing a conversion van through the snow-clogged street I heaved and sent my hand right through one of the brake light covers. Cracking the cover isn't exactly what I or they had in mind when I offered to help.
Here's holiday tip #2, when you help a neighbor try not to break any of his stuff.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
This part of the country is blanketed in a dry snow today. It snowed all day and isn't supposed to stop until tomorrow afternoon.
I grew up in South Carolina, so I seldom had the opportunity to play in a Winter Wonderland, much less see a White Christmas. There's a lot of latent snowball fighting and sledding pent up in me. Today I enjoyed some of those boyhood longings. Eli, at 7 yrs, is at a great age to experience this too.
However, I did stand-out as the Southerner on my block. I was shoveling my drive-way when the neighbor across the street pulls out his snowblower. It must have been a signal because his next-door neighbor soon revved his up. And moments later the neighbor on the other side fired up the MOASB (mother of all snow blowers) which can spew snow across the street. The South may pride itself over monster trucks, but now I know that Yankees have the coolest snow toys.
6 inches and deepening by the moment
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
I can think of no other Christian doctrine that has been attacked as repeatedly and ferociously as has the incarnation of Christ. Yet each blow against orthodoxy has been met by God in a mighty way, triumphing time and again through courageous men and thus preserving a truth essential to our salvation.
Over 1,500 years ago in Nicea our fathers fought against those in powerful political positions to expel the claim that Christ was a created being, and to proclaim that He is eternally existent and of the same essence with the Father. The decision of the Council of Nicea, so ancient to us, is a sword that continues to divide and mark true Christians from false professors.
In Chalcedon, just a hundred years later, the sword was unsheathed again. The foe to be vanquished was confusing the two natures of Christ in order to place the state as the divine ruler on earth. To them the state was THE incarnation of divinity in history. Who is man's savior? It is Caesar. Once again the heretics had the political clout, but our fathers at Chalcedon held their ground and insisted on the integrity of the incarnation, very man of very man, and very God of very God, two natures in union without confusion. Boldly the sword rang out, "Anathema to him who believes otherwise!"
Throughout the ages the incarnation has become well-worn battleground. It is the Kosovo, the Palestine of all doctrinal warfare. Whether it's J. Gresham Machen fighting the Liberalism of last century, or us battling this week's edition of Newsweek, we are to be faithful and valiant remembering that He came to bring not peace, but a sword.
He has preserved the truth of the incarnation this many years, and may He continue to demolish all arguments that dare to set itself up against Him.
Monday, December 20, 2004
Somehow my children, who have no sense of time, know that we're within the 5-day window before Christmas. They are spastic. They are abnormally silly. They are infectiously giddy.
My parental tendency is to "get grinchy" over what I perceive as a lower standard of behavior. Some proven grinchy tactics: threaten them with bags of coal, frown more, use the evil eye AND wave the arms, whatever it takes to return to normalcy.
But no, not this year. I will not be the Grinch (repeat this 50 times). I WILL turn the blind eye to kids bouncing off walls, levitating during meals, vibrating in their beds.
This year will be different. This year reinforcements are coming. The grandparents arrive tomorrow. They are fresh. They are patient. They are bringing me presents.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
It looks like we'll add baby #4 by Febuary! There are several birthmothers that we match well with, so we feel confident that the time is short. The crib has been reassembled. The rocking chair dusted off. The baby monitor plugged in. Gotta get some diapers still. And oh yeah, a name!
My wife and I have a hard time settling on girl names, while the boy names come easy. Neither of us is certain about the name we want, and we're sparring (good naturedly, of course!) over who will have the final say if we can't agree. I reminded my dear wife that it was Adam who did the naming, so if we can't agree then I must pick the name. She was quick to reply that while Adam did name the animals and his wife, he did not name the children. This it appears from Scripture was done by Eve. Score one for Kristin.
Our pattern has been to name daughters after virtues or attributes of God (e.g. Grace); we're open to suggestions.
Friday, December 17, 2004
Those inside Air Forces circles have been watching the high-level fall-out from a lack of integrity involving replacing our aging tankers (i.e. in-air refueling aircraft). The top lady in Air Force acquisitions is behind bars, her boss has resigned and so has the Secretary of the Air Force. Other General Officer promotions and assignments have been blocked. It all stems from integrity issues in how we acquire weapon systems.
I'm an acquisitions officer; my job is to buy weapons that kill people and break things. I'm half-way through a year-long school that teaches me how to design, acquire, and employ the most technological weapons the world has ever known. I've spent hours and hours learning about designing crispness into the architecture of weapons. I've been tested on how well I can design concordance between different views of weapon models. Etc, etc.
But in light of the on-going scandal involving acquisitions, our biggest problem is not how do we keep our technological advantage over our enemies. What we need is ethics. Historically, with some exceptions (i.e. General Fogleman), this topic has been treated about as seriously as the "safety brief". It appears we could all use some straight talk on integrity.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
was the license plate on a new, red corvette that passed me while I was driving the van to homeschool gym. This morning we enjoyed a special Nutcracker performance for children. And this evening we joined some other families and went caroling through the neighborhood. I'm the richest man on earth, and the NOMOKDS lifestyle sure sounds boring.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
The best studying I did during Finals Week was in preparation for Eli's birthday party. It's been cold and wet here and with 13 seven-year olds stuck in the house fueled by cake and candy, I made sure we had a full slate of indoor games to play. We played Blindfolded Tag, Pantomimes, Spider Races, Stare-Off, Swat the Blindman, and the favorite of all, the One-Legged Chicken Fight. I think Doug Phillips would have been proud. And I accomplished my goal: prove that boys can have a great time without doing sissy things, playing video games, or using batteries. The moms were happy that no one got hurt.
As Still As They Got
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Mrs. Carri Uram is one of the South's quiet heroines. With the support of her church, she leads a small adoption network that specializes in finding Christian homes for hard-to-place babies. I've seen them succeed when many larger, better-staffed Christian agencies don't even try.
In the edition of WORLD magazine that I received today I see that they published her comment regarding Marvin Olasky's recent article on transracial adoption. There she says,
Marvin Olasky's column on adoption was wonderful ("Giving Thanks," Nov. 20). As the director of an adoption ministry, I appreciate his encouragement to the Christian community to adopt children who don't have dozens of families clamoring for them. I find it sad, yet bitterly ironic, that thousands of people may pray silently on the roadside as a quiet witness against abortion on Sunday, but Monday morning I'm desperately seeking one family for a black baby. Many believers don't see the correlation between their pro-life stance and adopting "hard-to-place" children.
New York Daily News
December 14, 2004
The Women Of War
In Iraq, death knows no front line, nor gender
By Richard Sisk, Daily News Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - America's women in uniform have been fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan in ways never foreseen under the restrictions on women in combat.
Through last week, 27 women had been killed in Iraq and five in Afghanistan and more than 230 had earned the Purple Heart for wounds inflicted by the enemy, according to Pentagon records.
Among those fatally injured in Iraq was Army 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment Sgt. Linda Jimenez, 39, of Brooklyn, who fell into a bomb crater on patrol in November last year and later died at an Army hospital.
The military's 1994 rules limit women's exposure to combat by barring them from serving in front-line infantry, armor and most artillery units, but the enemy's ambushes and terrorist tactics have altered the rules.
Women driving a truck in Iraq or walking a beat as a military policewoman in "support" units in Iraq have instantly taken up the role of the combat grunt, engaging in running firefights with hit-and-run insurgents.
"I think what changed is that Iraq is different," said Army airborne Capt. Kellie McCoy, who shot her way out of an enemy ambush in September 2003 to earn the Bronze Star with combat "V" for valor under fire.
"Our doctrine [on women in combat] was suited for wars with front lines," McCoy said. "In Iraq, the front line is everywhere. Once you leave the [base] camp, you're on the front line," she said.
The new reality of war - and the performance of women in the field - has prompted the Army to examine whether it should formally change its 1994 rules.
"The assignment of women is one of several issues under review" as the Army converts its heavy divisions into lighter and faster combat brigades, said Maj. Elizabeth Robbins, an Army spokeswoman.
"We're not at the point of reaching a decision" on whether mixed military units of men and women would be put on the battlefield alongside all-male land combat units, Robbins said, but the possibility will be discussed with Congress.
But with the concept of the front line erased, the current roster of 224,000 women who make up about 16% of the active-duty military of 1.4 million has taken up duties never envisioned by the 1.8 million women who preceded them in uniform since the American Revolution.
In Vietnam, only eight of the more than 58,000 troops killed were women, and they were all unarmed Army and Air Force nurses, according to the Women in Military Service for America (WIMSA) Foundation.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, the women carry weapons. They have been killed and wounded by roadside bombs, mortar attacks and small-arms fire.
Women such as McCoy have led men in battle, and women have flown war planes off carrier decks to bomb enemy positions.
The most recent death was that of the Army's 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion Sgt. Cari Gasiewicz, 28, of Depew, N.Y. Gasiewicz's convoy was hit by two roadside bombs near Baghdad on Dec. 4.
"With each conflict, women are used more than in the previous conflict," said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught in assessing the evolving roles of women in uniform.
"In Vietnam, we were restricted on where we could go, we didn't go out on convoys," said Vaught, a Vietnam vet and president of the WIMSA Foundation.
"More than ever before, the military is accepting that women are there to do a job," Vaught said. "If the job takes them in harm's way, well, that's the way it is."
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Finals week is upon me. WARNING: The discombobulation meter is pegging.
Today during lunch at school a woman at my table in the midst of a lengthy and rambling monologue threw in this, "God has set me free to be who I am. Because he loves me just the way I am."
Since none of our earlier 'conversation' even hinted of religion I was completely unprepared for the remark. Who knows whether a response would have been beneficial, but if I was quicker I would have replied with, "Who told you that!?! Don't say that "God loves me just as I am"--He's not satified with that. He loves you the way Jesus is. He frees you from self-centeredness so you can become like His Son."
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
The church of one of my Baptist friends just voted on a new senior pastor. Before the vote he was asked to give his testimony, which went like this...
"I come from a broken home. My dad and mom split up when I was a young kid; dad left, leaving mom to raise the four of us. We had a rough childhood--alcohol, fights, etc. None of us knew the Lord. Eventually my mom re-married a Baptist deacon and through him we heard the gospel. Each of us came to faith in Christ..."
The church was duly impressed by this man's conversion experience and voted him in. Praise God for remarkable conversions, but I long for a day when our churches seek a truly impressive testimony, one like this...
"I come from 7 generations of parents, grandparents, and great grandparents who were all life-long worshipers of Christ Jesus. I never knew a day without family worship, and never knew a day when I haven't loved Christ. Yes, there were tough days growing up, but my father and mother taught me the promises which weather tough times. And by the grace of God, I've raised children who love and serve the Lord in the church. Any questions?"
Monday, December 06, 2004
A friend of mine is contemplating whether to move towards Calvinism or Arminianism. He asked me to review an article by the Calvary Chapel folks which asserts the benefits of a neutral position.
You've probably heard the argument before...both Arminians and Calvinists have good proof texts supporting their position and both sides have godly men we respect, so we can't decide. What we'll do is be charitable to both while affirming neither.
This is just a nice way of saying that Scripture isn't clear enough on the atonement of Christ, the nature of God, and the nature of man to decide between two polar opposite positions like Calvinism and Arminianism. The issue is the clarity of Scripture.
Yes, there are proof texts for both sides. The mistake people make is not realizing that proof-texting has its limits--and almost anything can be proof-texted.
Foundational doctrines are by definition 'whole Bible' doctrines which means to understand them rightly you have to do more than find a couple of verses that support your position.
I hope this helps my friend get off the fence, it gets uncomfortable after a while.
Sunday, December 05, 2004
A newlywed young lady admired the charming beauty of Mrs. Ecclesia, the eldest lady in her fellowship. Once at a small gathering of women, the younger ventured to ask the older how it was that her beauty seemed to ever-increase.
The aged woman received the question gladly and gave the following reply.
"I remember when you were four years old how you loved to play dress up. And even now, as a new bride, I see that you still enjoy pretty clothing. So do I. What may surprise you though is how important my beauty is to my husband. My dear, a good husband is the key to beauty.
As I talk to you now, I’m reminded of the things he’s said to me. He loves stories; oh, you should hear the stories he tells! He knows so much about the women of old, how they were adorned, and how great was their reward. He’s nourished me with words about the worth of a gentle and quiet spirit. He’s washed away my silly notions of beauty. Most important of all, he’s promised that one day we shall be one flesh—that is, one day I will be as beautiful as him.
Your girlhood love of dress up pointed to something very important. It’s a picture of what a good husband does. He adorns you with splendor so that little by little no wrinkle, no blemish, nor any such thing, is left. My dear, a good husband is the key to beauty.”
Friday, December 03, 2004
Another toll that moving takes on your church experience is membership class. Each time we move we wind up in the Inquirers' class again. It's like having to repeat 1st grade. We've repeated 6 times in 10 years. Even though we are building quite the collection of glitzy 3-ring binders, maybe next time we'll try to CLEP out.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
Next week I'll meet with the assignment folks to plan my next move. We won't leave until June, but it's hard not to start thinking about it.
The most difficult part of a move has become finding a church home. As my understanding of Scripture improves, the effort to find the right church toughens exponentially. Consider this chart of our assignment history:
Year----Loc.---Churches Visited-----Time to Decide
Are we doomed to repeat this cycle with each move? I hope not. Sometimes we long for the parish system where you take what you get. But when the local churches are nearly dead and another one 30 minutes away is a great fit, we know where we'll be.
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
I don't mean to sound like a "victim", but you tell me if this sounds right. Today I learned that a large adoption agency that caters to minority adoptions won't accept our portfolio because they have an "infertility requirement". Only infertile couples can adopt through them.
Don't they think there's some value in having parenting experience? Don't they realize the benefits of having older brothers and sisters?
It's not that I don't want infertile couples to adopt--I do. But shouldn't the birthmother have a say? If she looks at the different portfolios and decides to place her baby with an infertile couple, fine by me. But I got a hunch that some birhtmothers would value an adoptive family with a proven track record of good parenting.
Monday, November 29, 2004
On a recent Mars Hill Audio Ken Myers pointed out that Rocket Science is easy--it's just chemistry and physics. Human relationships...now, those are the tough things! There's no formula or scientific theorem that can be employed with predictable results. An engineer friend of mine added that human relationships are like a complex formula with many, many undefined variables.
My 6 year old son has been experimenting with the full range of human emotions; I really don't know what to expect from one moment to the next. Lately, however, we've been troubled by the amount of anger and bitterness he's expressed.
It's disturbing to realize how much he mirrors me. When I don't get my time or space I let my children feel it, just like he does when his sister gets in his way. When I want one of my children to stop doing something, I force them to comply. Again, he does the same with his brother and sister.
So there is one incontrovertible law governing all human relationships. You reap what you sow (Gal 6:7).
Sunday, November 28, 2004
The Lord's Day is good medicine. My mixed-up feelings were overpowered through a good lesson on the Church and a fine sermon on the Church's Husband. Time spent this evening with the Gospel of Isaiah chased away the last patch of gray sky.
My favorite part of the sermon:
Our marriage relationship teaches our children about a relationship with God. If a husband fails to teach his wife, then he is telling his family that Christ is an unfaithful prophet. If a husband neglects to pray for his wife, then he is teaching the family that Christ is a non-interceding Priest. If a husband fails to lead his home, he is saying that Christ is an abdicating King.
My studies in Isaiah are in preparation for the Wednesday morning Bible Study. As part of Advent, I want the group to understand what it meant for an Old Testament believer to long for the coming of the Messiah. My goal is for them to understand that faith is more than just believing God will save me. Faith is believing all that God says He will do in the world. The prophets remind us that the coming of the King brings personal salvation, but also much more.
Friday, November 26, 2004
Blame it on all the moves and different churches I've been part of, but I feel like Eric Carle's Mixed-Up Chameleon.
Part of me is shaped by John Piper and his passion for the Supremacy of Christ in all things, his screaming to my heart about missions, his repugnance at the thought of a cushy retirement.
Part of me is formed by R.C. Sproul Jr and his simple, separate, deliberate lifestyle, his love for children, his hatred of Leviathan, his mockery of yuppie-evangelicals.
Part of me is crafted by Mark Balthrop and his impassioned preaching to believe God's promises, his heart for the centrality of the Church, his love of covenant renewal liturgy, his insistence that God is proactively out for our good.
Like the mixed-up chameleon I turn cold and gray if I don't get fed in each of these areas. And lately I've been about as gray as a Dayton sky in November.
Thursday, November 25, 2004
While I was lifting in the gym yesterday one of my classmates came up to me, and I asked what he was doing for Thanksgiving. He's inviting an exchange student from Morocco over; I told him that was great because so few of the international students ever get to visit an American family at home. He then said that since this student is Muslim he asked him to say the prayer for them.
I wiped my sweaty face with my towel to hide a scowl.
He then went on to tell me that his family and the people from his small town were not as educated and just didn't know how much Islam and Christianity have in common--that they have the same values.
More face wiping with the towel.
It's been a couple of years since I last had a conversation of this sort. That time I became enraged and spewed out my objections: they understand neither Christianity nor Islam; they are just a pawn of the MSM, etc. I sounded exasperated. I did a lot of arm-waving. That was not a successful tactic.
This time I did better. I asked him if he had read the Koran--No. I calmly pointed out that for Christians Jesus is much more than a prophet. I told him that salvation is by grace through faith alone, which Muslims find absurd. I told him that he needs to move beyond a superficial understanding of religion. He needs to re-think his views because beliefs have consequences. I ended by explaining that while I disagree with him, I don't dislike him.
Our conversation ended peacefully. He went for a run, I continued on the leg press. I'm curious to see where our relationship goes.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
My pastor talked about different approaches to witnessing yesterday. He singled out those in the tradition of placing gospel tracks on urinals as conflating good motives with bad means. I wondered: is this only a habit of men? Are there tracks in the stalls of the ladies' room, too?
I've been watching with interest what is going on at the Air Force Academy. They have yet to fully recover from a rape scandal of a couple of years ago, and now the leadership is facing another fracas. This time the problem is overt expressions of Christianity. A few months ago a survey revealed that non-Christian cadets felt pressured by the Christian cadets and faculty. Examples of this oppression were the faculty's advertisement in the newspaper citing Jesus Christ as the only answer for the world's problems, and the football coach's banner in the locker-room that touted "I am a member of Team Jesus Christ."
I find the witnessing techniques of these cadets and staff only slightly better than the urinal style. But my heart goes out to them, for they have stepped in it now. The Academy leadership, under pressure from the "tolerance" brigade and in the name of "ending religious discrimination" is taking steps to muzzle public displays of religious expression. Both the long-running ad in the paper and the banner in the locker room are gone. The order of the day is more "religious tolerance" training.
My fear in all this is that the leadership of the military will go too far and make a policy that classifies evangelism as a form of religious discrimination. This grim possibility may already be surfacing at the highest levels in the military as evidenced in these remarks on the situation from the Secretary of the Air Force, "Our policy is clear. Tolerance of gender, racial, ethnic and religious diversity is required at our Air Force." I fail to see how religious diversity has been threatened by the cadets and faculty's actions.
Ironic, isn't it, that religious expression can be gagged in the name of religious tolerance?
Sunday, November 21, 2004
After what I consider to be my conversion to Christ 11 years ago, I was discipled by Rod, a PCA pastor. When we met, his family had recently moved to San Antonio to start a church plant and were homeschooling their 4 children. He poured himself into this new Christian. And as I witnessed his enthusiasm and love for his wife, I yearned to be a husband like him some day. His wife, Jan, taught Kristin how to be a keeper at home and how a mother lives the Gospel in front of her children. After a few years the military moved us away, but our love and debt to this family remains.
Their children are now mostly in their teens and Rod is currently pastoring in Atlanta. Jan has been fighting terminal cancer for a couple of years and for several months has been close to death. Yet God has granted both Jan and Rod a mighty faith. Here's a part of a note we received from Rod today:
Here in this strange place (hospice) he’s giving Jan and me a renewed vision for the kingdom, and for kingdom work. Hospice can be a place of vision. Isn’t that a strange note. Since Jan has been in this facility every patient in it has passed away except her.
Early this morning part of Jan’s and my conversation included expressions of how blessed we are, what a sweet life we have, how deeply we sense the Lord’s peace and satisfaction, and how encouraged we are in spite of all the odds and circumstances. We spoke of the reasons for the sweetness of our lives…things like how much in love we are with each other, how our love has grown through the 28 years that we’ve been married, how blessed we are with our children, how we adore them and they us, how blessed we are with good friends who love us and care for us, and how much we sense the Lord’s love and delight in us, and his nearness.
We’re learning that God wants us to believe him. He wants us to believe him for a great many things…things way beyond what we have believed him for in the past…not just physical healing (that’s just a little part of it), but other kingdom things,… taking risks for the kingdom that we’d never have considered before. All this to say…our lives are rich. No regrets. No laments. Full of vision.
Praise the Lord! Jan’s condition has so much improved that she is going home from the hospice on Monday. She is eating well, talking, eyes open, using her left hand some (a few days ago the left hand was completely dysfunctional), getting out of bed for necessary things (with a little help from me), worshiping, singing, going for strolls in the garden in her wheelchair, and watching Andy Griffith. All of this just doesn’t add up to being in a hospice. She wants to go home and so she will. I’m equipping the house to care for her and we’ll be moving home on Monday morning.
If there’s ever a place to get kicked out of it's a hospice facility.
Eleven years later and I still want to be a believer like Pastor Rod some day. And Jan, more than ever, is showing how a mother lives the Gospel in front of her children.
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Kristin and Eli joined another homeschooling family in volunteering their morning at a 150-year old farm. Eli pumped water from the well, pitched hay from the hayloft, fed and watered the cows, horses, and pigs. Oh yeah, barn chores weren't done until somebody took care of the fertilizer.
Friday, November 19, 2004
It's surprising how many times I've bought stuff based on recommendations from bloggers I like. And each time I've really enjoyed what I got. One of my favorite CDs came this way, based on a plug by Rick Saenz over at DryCreek Chronicles. It's bluegrass of course: Hot Rize's live performance called "So Long of a Journey".
As they open the performance I've always been puzzled by the introduction of Pete Wernick, the famed Dr. Banjo, as also the President of the Family of Humanists. I finally got around to looking them up and was surprised to strongly agree with Humanists at one point.
From their web site, they say, "Humanism is rapidly becoming the standard in educated societies". That's true. The fundamental values of this group mirror those of mainstream culture. Here's what they say:
Morality should be judged by what is best for humanity and the world around us. People are more important than dogma or ideology.
Nature is all of reality. We do not know of credible evidence of supernatural beings. The universe is evolved and motivated by unchanging natural laws.
Reason and the Scientific Method are the most trustworthy routes to knowledge. Knowledge is a tool to be applied with compassion and empathy for humanitarian purposes.
Democracy is humanism applied to government. Civil rights must be guaranteed for all segments of society and for unpopular as well as majority opinions.
Humanism is a process of continuing inquiry. It evolves as we develop new ideas and re-examine the old ideas in light of new experience
Is that not the majority view of pop culture today? Public schools, politics, academia, media, etc? And sadly, much of the Church has to be added to that list. Christianity today has largely adopted humanism's values. This reminds me of Machen's great, little book, Christianity and Liberalism. It's as relevant to the Church today as it ever has been. Humanist-Christianity isn't Christianity at all - but something else; some other religion that has nothing to do with God, Jesus or the Bible.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
After teaching on the promises of God to Abraham (and to us) in my little Bible Study, I received this e-mail from one of the attendees:
"Many thanks, yet again my brother! I've never heard a view taught other than disp premill. I'm excited about searching His word to compare these [views]."
It's rewarding being the guy who gets to wake others up to the richness of historic Christianity. The problem of course is that I have so little knowledge of it. I'm like the boy among a hungry multitude who brings a little bread and fish to His Lord. He takes my bit of bread, blesses it abundantly, and is somehow able to satisfy those around me with it.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
It's common for military units to sponsor Boy Scout troops. Many of us were once Boy Scouts and see the military as a natural progression for a young man. An AP article reports on a case argued and recently won by the ACLU that will weaken this link simply because a Scout's pledge includes believing in God.
Once again "separation of church and state" has become separation of God and government--two completely different ideas. Government as an institution is accountable to God who made it. Our government's embarrassment to even acknowledge God increases. A government that holds Him in low regard, will itself be cursed. "Blessed are those that bless you, and cursed are those that curse You."
Monday, November 15, 2004
Since writing about all the ups and downs of our efforts to adopt probably wouldn't be beneficial, I will try to only relate significant progress.
Sometimes progress is painful. We learned today that the birthmother in Alabama rejected us. In our view we were a good match. She wanted an "educated, Christian family." We'd love a bi-racial baby girl like hers. All the qualifications matched. But in her view we were too blond-headed and blue-eyed, we wouldn't "blend well".
But this is progress. For the first time a birthmother really could have chosen my family as a home for her baby. It's no small effort to get to this stage in the process.
Rejection is not a "happy feeling", but the assurance of a sovereign God is. The same God who cares for the fatherless and the least among us, in His time, will bring us together.
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Friday, November 12, 2004
The Army National Guard, which has fallen short of recruiting goals during the fighting in Iraq, is trying new marketing ideas here in Ohio. One especially upsetting idea is to use pink t-shirts to recruit more women.
The pink T-shirts bear the words "Soldier Girl" to get the attention of potential recruits. The first order of 800 went quickly.
"A lot of young ladies are under the impression they can't be feminine if they join the military," Sgt. Weston said. "I wanted to dispel that myth."
Thursday, November 11, 2004
It's been awhile since I've blogged about Michael from Taiwan. He's an exchange officer here. We became friends and I was able to explain the gospel to him a couple of months ago. He was newly involved with the Mormons, but said he was disappointed that they seldom read the Bible. I invited him to a Bible Study at school and to my home.
Since then the quarter ended and we've only seen each other once. He's down to just a few weeks before he moves back home, and so I decided to e-mail him and explain why he shouldn't return to the Mormon church. Here was part of his response:
Appreciate for your helpful recommendations in my choosing beliefs. Actually, some other beloved sisters and brothers have given me the similar opinions about Mormon, and I think you are right.Even if I am still reading Bible and discussing with other Christians, I think I won't go back to Mormon again.
I praise God that Michael and I struck up a quick but genuine friendship and that God is leading him to a safe place to grow in the knowledge and love of our Savior.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Several of the most active home-schooling families we've met here have no commitment to a local church. They are very vocal about their faith and are dedicated to raising their family to the glory of God. Yet they float between several churches having friends in each but obligations to none. Some even have prominent roles in the local home-school organizations. This should not be.
I rankled a friend's feathers recently by suggesting that the reason for all this is the same maverick spirit that led them to home-school. They saw the faults of the public school system and knew they could do better. And for that I can applaud them. But when it comes to the Church, we shouldn't have an I-can-do-it-better-myself kind of spirit.
Even though many local churches are in shambles and in ways are bad influences for our children, we are not to go our own way. As Doug Wilson has written, "the Church is our mother, and the law of God requires us to honor our mothers." (Mother Kirk)
If home-schoolers aren't teaching their children to be life-long worshipers in the pew and pulpit then they're not raising them for God's glory. For His glory is in the Church (Eph 3:21). She is "the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation." (WCF 25:2).
Sunday, November 07, 2004
Amazing love! The Son sent to suffer in my stead,
the Spirit added to teach, comfort, and yearn.
The ministry of angels to wall me round,
All heaven serves a poor worm!
All promises in Christ Jesus are yea and amen,
a finished work needs no addition!
He hast spoken them, and they shall be done,
He cannot lie, and none can change His position.
Worthy of adoration greater than my dull heart can provide,
"You who seek God, let your hearts revive" (Ps 69:32)
Saturday, November 06, 2004
When I was a boy one of the common put-downs in our neighborhood was, "Your mother wears combat boots!" In that era it was implausible to imagine a lady in BDUs. I guess I've gotten used to seeing it, but tonight was a new low. When driving onto base after dark my wife and I were surprised to see that both gate guards on duty were female. It's rather pathetic to use young ladies to protect a military installation. To add to the disgrace, they attracted the interest of a couple young men who were hanging out in their cars and flirting with them. It looked more like a cruising strip than a base perimeter.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
As of this week our adoption portfolio is being passed around to different adoption agencies. We now wait for the Lord to move the heart of a birthmother to choose us. That could happen this week...or not at all.
Kristin and I are preparing for what I think will be the most heart-wrenching phase of this process. This week has proved right my hunch. Already there's a birthmother that lives in our parent's town (!!) who is due in just three weeks. Even though the "odds" are against this working out for us, the possibility of having a new baby in our family by the end of this month makes us shake with excitement and quake with anxiety. The situation sounds so good to us, the let down is going to hurt a little if things don't work out.
Not knowing what lies around the bend, or if the next hill turns into a loop is a difficult way to pass the time. For me I feel like I did when Kristin was in labor--wanting the baby to come soon and with as little harm to my wife as possible.
In preparation for this emotional roller-coaster, we're memorizing Question 28 from the Heidelberg:
Q. How does the knowledge of God's creation and providence help us?
A. We can be patient when things go against us,
thankful when things go well,
and for the future we can have
good confidence in our faithful God and Father
that nothing will separate us from his love.
All creatures are so completely in his hand
that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Sunday, October 31, 2004
No doubt, there's a lot at stake in Tuesday's election, and much to be worked up about. But oh!, if just a fraction of Christians' election zeal could be directed towards reforming the Church! Sure, we need godly leaders in both the state and the church. But which have we labored for more earnestly? Which have we prayed for more passionately? Which was on the mind of most Christians today--the election or the Reformation? The answer is obvious.
I won't call the election a "grand diversion", but can you imagine if we focused on reformation in the Church like we do the election of a president--what a dramatic impact she would have on our nation and its cultures! Sadly, the Church is in such shambles, it's hard to even visualize what a second Reformation would look like.
Today we've celebrated God's faithfulness to the Church in the Reformation. How timely! Although all eyes will be on Tuesday, we know the need of the hour is not political but theological and cast our eyes on the Day when the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever (Rev 11:5).
Saturday, October 30, 2004
One of the men in my Bible Study is a second lieutenant and has been married for about a year. I like him a lot; he was homeschooled all his life and he's very eager to learn from God's Word. For what it's worth, he's no wimp--this week he won the base's push-up contest by cranking out 140 reps in less than two minutes! But when it comes to his new role as a husband, he's still doing girl push-ups.
His wife, like so many new officers' wives, had to adjust to post-college life. In her mind the alternatives were either sit at home or get a job. Most go the job route--these couples are known as DINKs (Double-Income, No Kids). My friend's wife chose this route, but last week she decided that one job wasn't enough and added a Saturday job down at the Mall.
When I was a lieutenant Kristin worked, too. But since having children, we see now that the options for a newly-wed wife are not limited to sitting at home or sitting in a cubicle. A much better way for a young lady to spend this time is to learn from the young mothers in her congregation by serving them. Offer to help them with the children when the husband is away, and use this time to watch and learn.
I gave this advice to my stout lieutenant friend. But frankly I don't think he yet has what it takes to pull off this feat of strength.
Monday, October 25, 2004
I was talking last night to my wife about the gnawing feeling in my gut at the end of most days that I've been too harsh with my oldest son. I regret that most days I spend too much time either lecturing or discplining him. Kristin correctly pointed out the need for some one-on-one fun time. We're trying out a local chapter of the Christian Service Brigade, where fathers and sons get together once a week and do guy stuff together. Last time we made a marshmallow shooter. Next time we'll go hiking.
But I want to avoid falling into the "peace at any price" trap. In order to reduce the friction between us, it's tempting to negotiate the discipline standard with Eli. But that would be Esau's mistake, trading eternal joy for only a moment of satisfaction.
Rather like the Cat in the Hat who thinks he can bounce on the ball while balancing books, a rake, a boat, a cake, and a cranky fish, it's hard to hold up the rules of my house all day without bouncing off the walls. Often I become too lenient or a tyrant. Thanks be to God for forgiveness and a promise to work in me what is pleasing to Him.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
So I stopped by the base hospital to get my prescriptions since I left in such a hurry yesterday to get Grace to ballet class on time. As I drove up I noticed (as usual) several cars that were illegally parked. One stuck out--it was big and old. Well, lo and behold as we are sitting there waiting for my number to be called, who should walk up to get a prescription filled, but Elvis in complete array. It was so funny to see his presence in a military hospital pharmacy and the various people's reactions. The kids, of course, had no clue who he was, but did notice that he drew a lot of attention to himself. It has kept me laughing to myself all day.
Tim adds: Of course, not even Elvis could shake up the folks behind the counter. They checked his ID card and gave him his meds.
Sunday, October 17, 2004
At the little Bible Study I lead so early on Wednesday mornings I was happy to have the opportunity to remind the folks there that the Promised Land is just that--it's a real land. It's not heaven. As expected, this raised eyebrows.
No doubt that Heaven is an amazing place, but it is the intermediary state. Our real home is the New Heavens and the New Earth. There our glorified body and soul together will reign and rule, albeit in some mysterious way.
This weekend my wife and I have longed a little more for the Final State. I've had some kind of virus that's kept me in bed most of the weekend, and she is having a hard time controlling her diabetes. So neither of us are thinking very straight--but we are prompted to think about Shalom, when everything will be as it ought to be.
Friday, October 15, 2004
Last night we finished our state-mandated, social-worker led, adoption training. In Ohio the requirement is 12 hours of class. The material covered a host of sociological issues: cultural diversity, discipline, neglect, abuse, various disorders, etc. As you might expect, all was very PC (e.g. pro-homosexual, anti-spanking, etc). Fortunately, we only had to listen, not agree.
With that over there are only a couple of things left outstanding. Part of the requirement for completing a homestudy is to read any two books on adoption. There is a great need for biblically-informed books written to parents considering adoption. This strikes me as strange given the parallels to spiritual adoption and the Pro-Life emphasis on adoption as the alternative to abortion.
Sunday, October 10, 2004
Today we read a letter from a missionary family in our denomination who wrote to our church just before returning to a country that is aggressively persecuting Christians.
We want you to be aware of how the situation in XXX is developing. (After our return, our communications will necessarily be very circumspect because they may be scrutinized by the government.) You've been praying for the persecuted brethren in XXX, but it has not pleased our God at this time to end it. In fact, the persecution has reportedly intensified. Two of the three pastors arrested near the end of May (6 a.m. on a Sunday morning), whom we thought would be released on bail, instead were moved to a prison described as a dungeon, at the end of August. No longer can their families bring them food and provisions. Then many, many Christian families were arrested, having been betrayed by neighbors. One rough estimate was that 700 were imprisoned, and that included men, women, and children.
This faithful missionary family strengthened through the Psalms to not shrink back, has since arrived in the land of persecution. They reminded us to use the weapons we have to help our imprisoned brethren. Spiritual weapons, like prayer, are the effective weapons in a war that is basically spiritual.
I praise God for their determination to not shrink back, despite the threat, and their faith that the Gospel is the power of God that no one can thwart. "Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. The body they may kill. God's truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever!"
The symbolism of the bread stood out today in the Sermon and the Supper.
Our pastor, in his sermon, referred to the brokenness of man. This explains every one of our sins, whether it's the sin of homosexuality or the sin of responding to homosexuality in an insensitive, "God hates fags" kind of way. Covenantally, Adam's unfaithfulness broke my life, and everyone else's.
But thanks be to God, Christ was sent to bind up the broken, to open the prison of those who are bound (Is 61:1). How does He do this? In the Supper we are reminded that our Lord's body was broken for us. He was broken for our brokenness.
Yet the Holy One would not see corruption; He has been raised imperishable. Covenantally, the Second Adam's faithfulness heals and binds up our brokenness even now. And He'll continue until we're raised in glory.
"Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven." (1 Cor 15:49)
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Eli has been coughing so much we decided to fight for a doctor's appointment (no easy feat under TRICARE). When Kristin and the children arrived and began to describe his symptoms, the doctor's eye 'bout jumped out of his head (pardon the technical, medical language) and he herded them off to an "isolation room". Two REAL doctors (as opposed to a PA or an intern which is common) put him through a 2-hour series of test. The diagnosis..."beats me". One says whooping cough. Another thinks pneumonia. That M.D., instead of prescribing Codeine, recommended beer or strong whiskey (I like him).
When he's not barking like a trained seal, Eli is actually fine and energetic. And he rather likes his mask. So far, the only other family member that sounds like him is the dog, and that's normal. But she has launched several attempts to steal the blue mask.
The Masked Man
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
The famous essay of C.S. Lewis, "The Weight of Glory", opens with a Mike Tyson knock-out punch that landed squarely on the jaw of my life and parenting.
If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. You see what happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstitenence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself.
The factory setting on my life is set to selfishness. As a Christian, I've sought to live unselfishly, and taught my children to treat each other unselfishly ("Eli, don't hog that ball...Grace don't be selfish about what you want to listen to..."). I needed this corrective. Denying myself pleasure is not the point. Seeking the good of the other person, which often involves denying yourself, is.
Monday, October 04, 2004
Whether it's sliding down the hill in our backyard on top of cardboard boxes, or using the same box to set up a bunny trap, it doesn't take a high-priced theme park to have fun. Children are happy simply frolicking and sporting with their parents. No admission fee required.
At our next assignment we hope to find a house with acreage like my boyhood farm. As they grow, boys need room to bat and shoot and explore. I feel sorry for those who are stuck in a quarter-acre plot in the middle of Suburbia.
Ever since we ordered Little Bear's Outdoor Adventure Guide for the All-American Boy, Eli has anxiously awaited the postman's daily visit. Seeing our son ecstatic over a book pleased us, yet it does seem that Vision Forum's general delivery is slower than most.
Saturday, October 02, 2004
In our parenting experience, there are lots of ups and downs in our children's obedience. Consider my 6-year old son. Recently at a McDonald's Playland he voluntarily decided to help some little children enjoy the climbing and sliding equipment. He held their hand while encouraging them that they could do it. The parents of these children were watching him and after a while called him over. They said that their children had always pitched a fit here because they were too scared to climb and wanted help but no one would. They were so glad that their children were now having a good time that they gave my son $5. This is the most money he has ever made.
And then there's the down side. Through the homeschooling network, we've found a great babysitter here. We've used her several times and have been very impressed with how she prepares activities for the children that don't revolve around videos. This week we used her twice while attending adoption training. At the end of one of the sessions she candidly told my wife that she's doesn't want to watch our children any more if she continues to receive disrespect from my oldest son. He thought her planned activities were "too babyish" and had no scruples about telling her.
Our children are young in their sanctification and it often shows. Yet we are to believe God's promises for our children. He is watching over them, too. And He will not let them go; He will finish the job. He will use the ordinary means of parental discipline to make them holy in heart and conduct.
Sunday, September 26, 2004
Tucked away in a cabin in the woods of Michigan I was able to finish off a couple of books. Mother Kirk (Doug Wilson) was an excellent "gap-filler" for anyone who, like me, once thought that "Reformed" meant nothing more than affirming God's sovereignty in salvation.
The other book was On Being Black and Reformed by Anthony Carter. Since this topic is rarely considered, a brief review is worthwhile. There are two separate messages in the book for two different audiences. First, it's a well-thought out appeal for African-American Christians to adopt the biblical and historic Christian faith. Second, it's an appeal to white, reformed Christians to learn from the African-American experience. And that's where I want to dwell.
According to the author, theology is local. Whether it's German Lutheran, Dutch or Scottish Reformed or even Northern and Southern Presbyterianism, theology has consistently had a distinct ethnicity or culture. And for America, our articulation of reformed theology needs to include the African-American Christian experience.
Specifically, the African-American experience is one of a dominated people forced to live on the fringe of an affluent society. It's the cry of a people who live lives of want and need in a land of plenty. It is the cry of the nation of Israel in exile. Yet, white American Christianity is so far removed from "sojourning" that it rarely connects with this important motif of the Christian life. This hinders our understanding and expression of the Christian life as a pilgrimage through a foreign land.
Through African-American history God has sovereignly given to American Christianity a people who have experienced pilgrimage in a foreign land. "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land (Ps 137:4)?" Look to the black Christian experience as an example.
Friday, September 24, 2004
Our week in Michigan was fantastic! We made some great memories at the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore (on Lake Michigan). None of us had ever seen such scenery. The hilly hardwood forest covering thousands of acres began to burst into fall color while we were there. We lumbered down a dirt road notched out of the forest and then parked the van. A short trail through the thick woods suddenly brought us onto a beautiful untouched beach that stretched for miles up the coast. No condos, no high-rise hotels, just an invigorating mixture of fresh mountain air and cool sea breeze. A combination we've never experienced. We could have stayed and played forever.
Sleeping Bear LakeShore
We also had heard much about the Dune Climb and thought we'd give it a visit. This towering mountain of sand has been blown into place by the storms of the Great Lake. We kicked off our shoes and raced up the near-vertical sandhill that stretched unendingly up to the sky. We all expected to have a good view of the lake from the top of this hill, but instead were surprised by a short flat stretch and then another steep, long hill. By this time Eli had been struck blind by the blowing sand, which was also heating up our bare feet. Grace and I re-doubled our enthusiasm about the vista over the hill and dashed off. What fools! Again another short flat stretch and then a tall hill. By this time our children were exhausted, our lips were splitting, our legs were twitching, and we were the grumpy Israelites wandering in the desert wilderness for who knows how long! I decided to scout out the next hill and if the Promised Sea was not in sight we'd head back to the pleasures of the van. But having wasted all my energy stupidly-sprinting up the first two hills I was only able to ascend the third on all fours. Alas, but more of the same. We fully acknowledged that the Dune Climb had beat us and moped back down the mountain. Later we found out that what we thought was only one hill was actually a 4-mile stretch of mounting sand!
Sunday, September 19, 2004
During a conversation with my Christian friends in Illinois it became apparent that in their minds the ideal Church for today is the primitive Church, as described in the book of Acts. They continue to go back to that Book as their guide and final authority on what the Church today should be doing. And of course, they're right, to a limited extent.
But beyond that limited extent, they're dangerously mistaken. For instance, I can look back to the day of my conversion and enjoy how God was working in my life at that time. Do I want to go back to that time? NO! Scripture is clear--we should not stay as babes in Christ but mature to manhood in Him.
Scripture is also clear that God was not done with the Church in the book of Acts. Rather He would perfect it over time. If you really want the Primitive Church, you'll have to give up the Trinity, the canon of Scripture, the nature of Christ, etc. These all came later.
My friends shy away from Church History, I guess for them the differing traditions contradict and cover up any noticeable development of the Church. It should be no surprise that tares have grown up with the wheat, but that shouldn't keep us from learning from what the Church has already wrestled over.
My friends and I have been raised in the age of television. We live in an affluent culture, free from persecution, but not free from postmodernism. We don't hold a candle to the flame of our spiritual fathers and their devotion to Sola Scriptura. To put aside the wisdom of the ages and try to figure it out for ourselves is dangerous indeed.
Saturday, September 18, 2004
During our visit to Illinois I had a great conversation with some men I respect concerning whether preaching is beneficial to little children. I, along with the Reformers, affirm that it very much is.
The Second Helvetic Confession (1566) stated this boldly, “the preaching of the Word of God, is the Word of God.” The Heidelberg Catechism says that preaching opens and closes the kingdom of heaven (Q83, 84). Consider the Westminster Larger Catechism,
Q155. How is the Word made effectual to salvation?If a congregation understands that preaching is the primary (but not exclusive) way of hearing the voice of Christ, it will change how they listen to preaching. They will be eager to sit under the preached word. Indeed they will yearn to hear the voice of Christ and submit to it. What voice would they rather hear than the voice of Christ?
A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions; of building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.
And no child is too young to hear His voice. Consider “baby David” (Ps 22:9-10; 71:5-6), “baby Timothy” (2 Tim 3:15), and “baby John” (Lk 1:15).
If parents understand that preaching is the primary tool of the Holy Spirit to produce faith, and that it is primarily through preaching that we hear the Shepherd’s voice, they would want even the littlest lambs to be present. To send them out of the room during the sermon would be a denial of the efficacy of preaching and inconsistent with what we desire for them.
There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any words like yours. Amen.
Friday, September 10, 2004
Finals week is over! After being couped up studying and testing all week (with no blog time), I'm ready for a road trip! Tomorrow, we're heading to see some friends and worship over in Illinois. Then we're bound for a cabin in the woods around Lake Michigan in time to catch the
In other news, this week also proved fruitful for discipleship. Two baptist friends that I study the Bible with suddenly have a great, and it seems, authentic interest in reformed theology. They've never heard about the doctrines of grace. They told me they just want to know the truth, and they seem refreshed to hear biblical theology.
We'll start a new study next week in Genesis. I look forward to showing them God's intervening grace from page 1 of the Bible. I also invited Michael (from Taiwan) to attend and he seems interested. I'm praying that he will.
Thursday, September 02, 2004
In our reading of Acts 2:1-11 we see that Jesus keeps His promise to send the Holy Spirit to those that wait in Jerusalem. And indeed He came with power!
I don't think it's a stretch to say that our Lord still does this. Those that wait in the New Jerusalem, that is the Church, receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Our own shorter catechism says that the Holy Spirit ordinarily works through the preaching, sacraments, and prayer to "build us up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation." (see WSC 88-89)
Create in us clean hearts, O God, and renew a right spirit within us. Cast us not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from us! (Ps 51)
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
The school I'm in puts me in-touch with international students from 10 or so nations. Over the last month I've enjoyed forming a relationship with Chia-hwa (who goes by Michael). He's a captain in Taiwan's military and has been here for about 18 months working on a Master's degree.
He's fascinated with the idea of homeschooling (first he ever heard of it). Today this on-going conversation matured into a discussion of the Gospel. The Mormons reached him in Taiwan several years ago and he has been in LDS-led Bible Studies off and on since then. But thankfully he has been somewhat frustrated that they keep studying the Book of Mormon when he wants to study the Bible. I was delighted to explain the true Gospel to him and offer to study the Bible with him.
What a joy and opportunity to reach Taiwan with the Gospel, all from the comfort of a computer lab in Dayton, Ohio!
Monday, August 30, 2004
Through a number of sources it came to my attention recently that I need a corrective in an area of my thinking. Since being introduced to the Highlands Study Center a couple of years ago, I've realized that my life should be different that those without Christ. The way I educate my children, what I find pleasure in, my rejection of yuppie sensibilities are some ways that I think we successfully demonstrate that.
These are good distinctives, and there are plenty more to wrestle over. Yet these by themselves are not the sorts of things that should show our simple, separate and deliberate lifestyle. The radical difference between my family and Christ-less ones should be our love for each other, our joy in the Lord, in short, the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
So it's good that our family is different than the pagan down the street. Yet it's self-defeating trying to be a reforming, homeschooling family without faith, hope, and love.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Several times Jesus commended the faith of individuals who were considered outside of God's covenant people. Think of the centurion seeking healing for his servant (Lk 7) and the daring faith of the Canaanite Woman (Mt 15). Contrast this with the lack of faith He found in Israel. Those that grew up with the promises failed to believe them, while those from outside counted on them being true.
Should I then be surprised to find strong faith in people who belong to a church that is less biblical than mine? We who understand more of God's word, are we not also slow to believe?
Sunday, August 22, 2004
I heard a story recently about a man who wanted to achieve the effect of a great novel in only a few words. He wanted to capture the tension, the relationships that make a novel so meaningful, but do it without the length. His result was one sentence long: "For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never worn".
A little over a week ago my mom stumbled across Candy, a 16 year-old girl who was about 2 months pregnant. A couple of years ago, Candy's mom died suddenly of an aneurysm while playing cards with the children. Her dad is an alcoholic. Candy has grown up dirt poor in a trailer I wouldn't kennel my dog in. She's currently on probation from school for fighting, and cries a lot.
The news of her pregnancy was not an occasion for joy. The truant officer had warned her that if she gets pregnant she'll be sent to Juvenile Justice. Her boyfriend told her that he'd also go to jail because he's 19 and she's only a minor. Candy's father wanted the abortion done by this weekend.
My mom, who aborted a baby decades ago and only recently realized what she's done, aggressively intervened for Candy's little baby. She quickly asked us if we'd take this child and call it our own, which we whole-heartedly agreed to do, and then pleaded with the family's grandmother, father, and older sisters, to let the child live and enjoy life in our home.
She contacted adoption lawyers, adoption counselors, and for the past week labored to dissuade the family from abortion. Gradually, the tide started to turn. On Thursday, the grandmother supported adoption. On Friday, Candy's father changed his mind and said it was up to Candy.
I suppose there's some law in South Carolina that before you can have an abortion you must watch their film. Candy's sisters told mom that Candy couldn't make it through the film without changing her mind. Regrettably, they were wrong. Mom received a phone call yesterday, saying that Candy miscarried. The baby's gone.
Whether she miscarried or aborted I don't know. But I did learn some things about the pressures a pregnant teenager faces, and that since abortion is legal it creates an "easy out" that's hard to resist.
Friday, August 20, 2004
Our four-year old daughter, Grace, was startled this week by all the signs posted in the front yard of many of the houses in our neighborhood. She thought everyone was putting their house up "For Sale". Kristin explained that the signs are for the upcoming election of a president.
My daughter said, "Do they say George Washington?"
"No", my wife replied while driving the van out of the neighborhood.
"Why not?" wondered Grace from the second row.
"Because he's dead."
"Does Daddy know?!?", exclaimed Grace.
Mom replied sympathetically with a "Yes, Dear".
"What did he die of?", asked Grace.
"uh...I don't know", said Kristin, which satisfied our daughter's curiosity for presidential happenings.
Moments ago I finished a math test in which I did very poorly. After preparing for this test for many extra hours, I still scored well below the class average. How hard it is to not be discouraged, but rather to rightly understand this humbling experience...
My sin is to look on my faults and be discouraged.
You have made me what I am, and placed me where I am;
help me to acquiesce in your sovereign pleasure.
I forget to submit to Your will, and fail to be quiet there.
But Scripture teaches me that your active will
reveals a steadfast purpose for my good,
and this quietens my soul and makes me love You.
All my distresses and apprehensions prove
that this is but Christ's school,
to make me fit for greater service
by teaching me the great lesson of humility.
(Selections from Valley Vision)
Thursday, August 12, 2004
School can be a survival-of-the-fittest experience, despite all the talk about “cooperate and graduate”. When a classmate doesn’t understand the lecture or homework, rare is the person that takes the time to help him out. Understandably, we all have plenty to do already, just like the religious leaders that passed by the beaten-down man along the way.
Here again is where the Gospel should make a radical difference in our life. When we see someone who obviously needs help, we should be willing to set aside our plans for a while and give him a hand.
Monday, August 09, 2004
And he entered the temple, and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer,' but you have made it a den of robbers."...And he was teaching daily...the people were hanging on his words. Selection from Luke 19:45-48
Christ didn't stop cleaning things up after this bit of rough-housing. He continues this work, driving out some from the Church while teaching others daily.
And for a different purpose, whip in hand (or a rod if you prefer), He beats on me now. But if He strikes me with a rod I will not be driven out. Indeed if He strikes me with the rod, He will save my soul from Sheol (Prov 23:13-14).
O Christ, daily drive-out and teach-in. And may I hang on Your words.
The pressure is on here at school. The time period between mid-terms and finals, with all the projects and papers coming due, is said to be the most stressful period. I certainly feel the stress. Sometimes I wonder if God hasn't blinded me to higher learning--I lack the eyes to "see" a math problem many others find straightforward. But what has my hopes up is that some of my fellow students are feeling the stress, too. This is a welcome thing, because now I can finally see a need in their lives. And it creates a teaching opportunity for the Gospel.
Sometimes we fail to consider that the Gospel applies to more than fixing our sin problem. Yes, that is our largest problem, and one we greatly underestimate and neglect. But how gracious that the Gospel also includes promises from God to help us in our stressful times and in all our difficulties.
What comfort are found in promises like these!
"Cast all your anxieties upon Him, for He cares for you" 1 Pet 5:7
"Our God is a very present help in times of trouble." Ps 46:1
"Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest...For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" Mt 11:28,30
"The LORD remembers us and will bless us: He will bless the house of Israel, he will bless the house of Aaron, he will bless those who fear the LORD - small and great alike. May the LORD make you increase, both you and your children" Ps 115:12-14
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" Rom 8:28
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
Today was a harvest day. The tiny Bible study I've been attending finished reading the first chapter of Titus. After discussing it, one of the men who attend said he was struck at the need for an elder-led church and when he moves in a few months he plans to look for one. Since his background is fundamentalist Baptist, he asked for some help in finding the right church. He's also recently determined to homeschool his children and is starting right away.
What a joy to see a brother journey down the path of reformation!
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
We receive e-mails like the one below pretty frequently. Most of the situations involve a church-going girl who becomes pregnant by a young man of a different race. The young girls' parents rule out abortion. But the birthfather isn't popping the question. Adoption is their solution.
And then there are some situations, like the one below, that are sadder and criminal (or seems like it ought to be).
This birthmother is borderline mentally retarded and she used drugs during the first trimester. Her last three drug tests have been negative. She is getting routine prenatal care but she still drinks alcohol daily. She placed through us 6 years ago and the little boy is smart and beautiful. The fees are $11,000 and I don't think she is going to have any living expenses because her bills are paid by the government. She is due in November but does not want to know the sex of the child. I know this is a difficult situation but if you have any families that would be open to this, could you please let me know? The BM is getting anxious and wants to look at families.
Monday, August 02, 2004
Perhaps you've seen young children enthusiastically try to steer a shopping cart down an aisle. They usually spend more time stuck on the side of the aisle than they do going forward.
There may be a parallel here to how we discipline children. How do we consistently correct our children without exasperating them? Lately, this aisle has seemed mighty thin as we bump from the too tough side right over to the too lenient side.
Perhaps this is only because we're still learning how to drive the big shopping cart.
Sunday, August 01, 2004
Help me to see that although I am in the wilderness
it is not all briars and barrenness.
I have bread from heaven, streams from the rock,
light by day, fire by night,
thy dwelling place and thy mercy seat.
I am sometimes discouraged by the way,
but though winding
and trying it is safe and short;
My great high priest stands in the waters,
and will open me a passage,
and beyond is a better country.
excerpted from Valley from Vision
After talking with many adoption agencies here in Ohio we've asked Jewish Family Services to conduct our homestudy. I hadn't considered them until I heard from a classmate that they "tolerated" his convictions regarding biblical discipline of children. We contacted them and have a good first impression. We'll meet together for the first time this week.
To say the least, it's disappointing that the Christian adoption agencies we tried first were just as skeptical of biblical discipline as the secular ones.
I wonder...can the adoption process be taken back from the State, like the pioneers of homeschooling did with education? Why couldn't a church's elders, who are accountable for me and my household before God, vouch that my home is and will remain safe for a child, and the State accept that? Isn't there a need for adoption pioneers to rise up in the Church and find a way to welcome into the Kingdom of God these thousands of orphaned children?
Saturday, July 31, 2004
Isaiah, like most 2-year olds, loves french fries. Especially McDonald's variety. But he also likes rootbeer, a word a little too big for him to pronounce.
This explains the strange looks we enjoy when we walk into McDonalds and he excitedly calls out for "Beer! Beer! Beer!"
Friday, July 30, 2004
We've decided that the local Reformed Episcopal church is not right for us at this time. But among the many things we like about it, I'd like to point out one thing in particular.
Communion is received by beggars alone. Down on my knees, arms stretched upward and hands cupped, I wait for the bread of heaven and the cup of the New Covenant. Body and soul, I acknowledge my righteousness is as filthy rags and so here I beg hungering and thirsting for a righteousness not my own. And then through the Church, Christ feeds me, and I am satisfied.
What a powerful picture of the Gospel!
Sunday, July 25, 2004
In this town of around 500,000 no church is a perfect fit for us. So trying to decide on the right church requires trade-offs. The question is what do you give up? Liturgy? Doctrine? Community?
Our tendency has been to hold-on to doctrine. Usually this comes at the expense of community, which explains why we drove 45 minutes to worship in Georgia. But while there we also discovered liturgy. The price of doctrine in Dayton seems higher and may require trading-off both community and liturgy.
I'm also re-valuing community. I'd like my children to have friends close enough that they see each other a lot. I'd like for my family to be in a church that is able to serve its community. Is this possible in a church where the people are spread out across several counties?
If a church has doctrine but its people are not able to serve one another, and outsiders, as a church, is the price of a common doctrine too high?
Saturday, July 24, 2004
Some neighborhood children we hadn't met yet were selling lemonade down the street. 50 cents a cup. There sign also says for another half-dollar you can hold a live toad! We overlooked any sanitary violations and went for the lemonade.
I asked the 4-year old proprietor what his proceeds were going towards. His assistant, an older sister, told me that he's saving up for a new game for his game boy.
A game-boy at 4 years old? Maybe this is why I don't see many boys playing outside anymore.
Friday, July 23, 2004
I first heard this phrase in response to the Southern Baptist petition to remove their children from the government schools. I commended them for it, too. After the SBC convention, I asked around and found someone who was there when the issue came up. According to this person, the general response was that "it was too strong"; however, I think a committee was formed to study it.
Don't you hate it when you present a topic with thorough Biblical references and your audience doesn't even come up with some Scriptures of their own before dismissing your position as "too strong"?
At school, I've joined some Baptist friends in an informal Bible Study. One of these friends longs for the resurrection of the Promise Keepers and the other was a very active supporter of the Federal Marriage Amendment. But during our study the first friend couldn't find Titus on his own, and the other had never heard of the account where God initiated the covenant with Abraham. Just more proof that we need to focus on the health of the Church before we start fixing things outside.
I was pleased to see WORLD address "third" political parties and especially the Constitution Party (see 17 July issue). Mr. Veith argued that a vote for the Constitution Party during the presidential election is a vote for the Democrats and will likely lock-in more liberal Supreme Court Justices. However, he supported the idea of electing stronger Christian statesmen at lower levels in order to build a grassroots movement that some day may be ready for the national election.
I'm still left with a nagging objection to this approach. If I vote for the party that most closely aligns with my convictions, not only do I vote my conscience, but as more and more voters do this, won't the major parties be led to find out why their base has left them? And wouldn't this be a strong encouragement to reform?
But if I vote Republican, only in the hope of defeating the Democrats, how would they get the signal to reform?