Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Proclaiming Without Living

I'm finally getting to Ken Myers letter (from Mars Hill Audio) that he sent out sometime in May. Assertions, like this one, hit hard:

I believe that Christians make a great mistake if they separate proclamation, that is, the announcing of the basic truths of the Gospel, from faithfulness, that is, the living out of all of the consequences of the Gospel.

The rest of his letter is powerful, too, but the quote above resonates most strongly with me at this time. In the past I have prayed, sought out, and took opportunities to proclaim the Gospel to those around me. But admittedly, my life lacked some basic consequences of the Gospel, such as, love for my neighbors, mercy, compassion, service.

It's my heart's desire here to both proclaim the Gospel while also consistently, clearly living out the claims of the Gospel.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

A Mad Baptism

Some new friends from church invited me to join them on a regular canoe trip down one of the rivers here in the Dayton area. This time it was the Mad River, named after a local hero here, not because of any Bermuda-triangle like effect.

As the only unexperienced canoe-man, I rode as a spectator. After about 5 minutes of turns and scenic straight-aways I received the Mad Baptism. It's as close to death as I've ever been.

The bend in the river was narrow and tight, requiring the canoe to sweep out 90 degrees and then back another 90 very quickly. At the entrance to the bend was a large felled tree with thick limbs and branches, many submerged. The tree had been skinned barkless by the force of the current as the water rushed into the bend.

Unknown to us at the time, our canoe, newly out of the shop after a lengthy repair, was a sluggish turner. As we approached the bend, the canoe lumbered slowly in the direction of the turn, but not nearly quick enough. We lightheartedly mused about this and prepared for a light bump into the tree. The last thing above water that I remember was hearing the front of the canoe tap the tree.

In a flash, quicker than can be believed, the entire 3-man canoe was sunk deep, fully submerged in a split second. Underwater and unable to see at all I felt something on top of my head and something else over my shoulders. Oblivious to my peril, here I was, still smiling, thinking I would pop back up in an instant. That feeling soon passed as I struggled to surface but was unable.

How I eventually surfaced I don't know. But when I came up, there I was wedged in among the limbs of that fallen tree. The current was strong enough to pin me to the limb in front of me. I looked up and saw the two bobbing heads of my friends and thanked my Savior.

You can understand my amazement and delight, when listening to a sermon the next day, I heard:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown. Isaiah 43:1-2

Monday, June 28, 2004

Happy Second Birthday, Isaiah

Birthday Q&A with our 2-year old:

Q. How old are you?
A. Good.

Q. What's your name?
A. Baby.

Q. What's YOUR name?
A. Yea-yeah
*sounds kinda like Isaiah

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Conversational English and the Gospel

We're almost at the end of our 6-week stay in the apartment complex. What has surprised me the most hasn't just been how loud footsteps from the apartment above can be, but how cosmopolitan this apartment community is.

Much more than anywhere else I've lived, the nations are gathered here. This is largely due to the homogeneous (read yuppie) neighborhoods I lived in for most of my adult life.

I've heard many different languages while walking the dog near the community pool and tennis court. Last week I started asking some of the people about their backgrounds. There are a lot of Asian families, some Africans, and even one Arab family that I've seen so far.

These families have been friendly and enjoy meeting other people that live here. For many of them English is a second language, this seems especially true for the young mothers I've seen. It seems that a church could easily reach-out to this multi-ethnic community by offering conversational English classes to the ladies. Through the relationships that would be formed over time, this could be a great opportunity to proclaim the gospel to other cultures.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

A Work of Necessity

Just after sunrise I saw a strange sight off in the distance while taking Glory out for a morning stroll. From afar it looked like a drunk cat wearing a straw hat. For several minutes the dog and I stood staring at this thing that was aimlessly wandering around the field, occasionally bumping into a tree or a curb in the parking lot.

As we neared the strange animal, we saw that here is a poor little raccoon with its head completely stuck inside a metal can. Who knows how long it had wandered around. The can must of prevented it from realizing that a very eager Border Collie was near by. The raccoon was totally oblivious to our presence.

Being the Sabbath and thinking that perhaps this is like a "donkey that fell into a pit", I decided to help. Here at last, a work of necessity! My first attempt was to kick the can from its side, hoping it would free the raccoon while I remained at a comfortable distance. This resulted in the raccoon spinning around in the air, but landing with the can still firmly in place. A more gentle approach was required. I stepped on the metal can with one foot and this allowed the creature to dig its claws into the ground and free itself.

At this point I thought the fun was over, although Glory laid down in front of it as a sign of friendship (she has no mean bone in her body). But the raccoon was in a bad mood and let her know it with a hiss and growl. We turned to go back to the apartment, but the raccoon, realizing it had no clue where it was, decided to follow us at a comfortable distance.

The furry raccoon decided that our van was a safe looking place and I spent several minutes trying to coax it out from underneath. This failed and it decided to seek better shelter from the engine compartment. So once again the raccoon was stuck in a metal can.

It stayed in our van until we had to leave for church. I opened up the hood and there it was staring at me from on top of the battery! It refused to leap out, and I couldn't succeed in prying it out with the stick I had, so it got a free ride to church this morning (a 30 minute drive). Once there I opened up the hood and as far as I know it hopped out during worship.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Here's Eli enjoying an easy homemade game.

It's called "Double-Ball" and I'm told it's about 800 years old. It's an early Native American form of Lacrosse. All you need is a smooth stick, 2 tennis balls, and a sock. Tie the balls in the sock so that there's a knot in the middle. You use the stick to pass and catch the double-ball.

Besides being fun for a young child to make, it's also pretty easy to throw and catch over long distances. Young boys who aren't quite ready to catch a touchdown pass or an over-the-shoulder pop-fly, can enjoy snagging a long bomb from their dad's stick.

Becoming Uriah Heep

The hypocritically humble Uriah Heep from Charles Dicken's own favorite, David Copperfield , had good reason to at least feel humble. After all, compared to those around him, his conditions were quite humble.

I can relate to Uriah Heep. Everyone else seems either better off or more gifted than me. Wallowing in the mire of self-deprecation, I can start hating more than just my shortcomings. Of course it starts with hating myself, forgetting that "by the grace of God I am what I am and His grace toward me was not in vain". But with that comes ill feelings towards my classmates, who are ahead of me only because they had better college math teachers than I did. This spills over into anger towards my family for not understanding my needs, my teachers for their inability to teach at my level, and on and on.

A better approach is needed. I must do my best, for when Paul says, "whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord", I suppose this includes Calculus, too. But beyond that I am to trust our Sovereign God. His plan cannot be thwarted. And remarkably, He is out for my good. I can trust Him even though the hill is difficult and there any many "signs" telling me to despair and turn some other way.

Falling behind my classmates in every subject is a humbling experience. I am not going to rise to the top of this class. This is true in many other areas of my life. There are many great things that I will never be. But I am comforted by the words of a reformed Scot preacher Andrew Bonar (1810-1892), "The Lord shows me that He wishes me to be one of the common Levites who carry the pins".

After all, the true heroes are not the intellectual geniuses, the sports stars, the bold and the beautiful. But instead, the real heroes, the ones for whom the world is not worthy, are those who diligently seek the one true Rewarder.

I can stop wringing my hands and instead fold them.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Go to the Ant

Kristin spent the day at a Ladies Retreat hosted by the church we've been attending, Covenant Presbyterian. The speaker was Judy Rogers. Our whole family has enjoyed her music since we learned of her during our time in Georgia.

The mothers at this church have been getting together frequently, which has helped Kristin and our children get out of the apartment and make friends. I especially like an exhortation I saw from the pastor's wife. She wrote, "remember to schedule your life
around YOUR church not fit your church into your life's SCHEDULE.:-)".

Friday, June 11, 2004

From Doug Wilson's blog, concerning the Ronald Reagan funeral...

The comment I want to make here concerns that which is before us right now, as we consider the funeral and the events surrounding the funeral. The events of the last week have shown us (in the civil realm) the potency of symbols and the power of liturgy. Ideas are important, and ideas have consequences. But liturgy has consequences also. Liturgy moves people, and it is not an irrational and emotional display when it does so. In many ways, and on many levels, Reagan was a class act. How he has left us has been no exception. This has been a grand example of what C.S. Lewis described with the Middle English word solempne -- a joyful and august solemnity.

The striking thing about this is that it represents the polar opposite of most worship in most evangelical and Reformed churches.

Spankers Need Not Apply

I wrote earlier about the difficulty in finding a trustworthy agency to do our homestudy. Since then we've received the list of adoption agencies that the local Crisis Pregnancy Center uses for referring birthmothers.

Today I contacted two of those agencies. Both look down on any form of "physical discipline". Both think that spanking could be okay if it's a last resort, done with only an open hand (no wooden sticks, etc), and rare (one said 8 times in a childhood).

I understand that these policies are intended to protect the children, who in the case of young children have often been abused by their birth parents. But the policies leave no room for biblical discipline in the adoptive family. And of more concern to me right now, paying a social worker to come to my house for a homestudy and find that we "abuse" our children, is a tremendously risky proposal.

We deeply want to care for and raise another child, especially one who would otherwise be without a loving, Christian family. But we seem blocked by the very folks whose job is to find loving Christian families for needy children.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

The 'Nevers' of the Gospel

O Lord, may I,

Never rest in a system of doctrine that does not teach me to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, or help me to live soberly, righteously, godly;

Never rely on my own convictions and resolutions, but be strong in thee and in thy might;

Never cease to find thy grace sufficient in all my duties, trials, and conflicts;

Never forget to repair to thee in all my distresses and troubles, in all the dissatisfactions experienced in creature comforts;

Never fail to retreat to him who is full of grace and truth, the friend that loveth at all times, who can do exceeding abundantly for me;

Never confine my religion to extraordinary occasions, but acknowledge thee in all my ways

Never limit my devotions to particular seasons but be in thy fear all the day long;


adapted from The Valley of Vision

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Witnessing from Weakness

I've been thinking about my classmates here at AFIT. Since we spend so much time together, including lunch most days, it's probably the best assignment I've had to speak of Christ and the gospel. However, since my classmates are all at least a decade past the college years, it would be easy for me to write them off as past their "formative years". But I see no such evangelism-exemption in Scripture.

The more challenging obstacle for me is my class-ranking. Many, perhaps most, of my classmates are better suited than me for a technical master's degree. I am far from being the brightest student in class. Since these folks know me through my performance in class, this will affect my attempts to evangelize. When I witness, it will be from a position of weakness. When I speak to them about the wisdom of God it will be "that guy who we have to help in calculus and programming" who is talking.

Yet, God often honors the efforts of those who are seen as weak by their hearers. Think of Paul before rulers. Or on Mars Hill. Or think of simple fisherman before the Sanhedrin.

This really may be my best opportunity at evangelism.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

The Heart of Anger

I appreciate blogs like Buried Treasure that don't hide the fact that neither our children nor us are perfect.

In that spirit, I've mentioned before the struggles we have with sinful anger in our children and our parenting. Kristin and I recently read the only book on this subject I know of, The Heart of Anger, by Lou Priolo.

I was initially skeptical of the book, since most of the Christian "How-To" books seem to forget the gospel. They make you think that if you do these 7 things then your marriage will be better, your job more satisfying, etc. They almost all fail to mention the essential role of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying us, and also the means He primarily uses (the preaching of the Word, the Sacraments, and prayer).

However, this book was good, it avoided those errors more than most. As far as addressing how to avoid sinful anger, I found it helpful. For instance, it pointed out from Proverbs a couple dozen ways that parents can provoke their children to anger.

I also thought the author did well to address the parent's crucial task of ensuring that positive behavior replaces poor behavior. He says, "biblical discipline involves correcting wrong behavior by practicing right behavior, with the right attitude, for the right reason, until the right behavior becomes habitual". For example, when my son says something mean to his sister, he should not only apologize, but also restate his remark to her appropriately (words, tone, and non-verbal communication).

Lastly, I found the book similar in tone and theological perspective to Shepherding a Child's Heart.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Kyriosity warned me, but it came too late, we had our first adoption meeting with the Lutheran Social Services agency.

I was foolish enough to think that since this was part of the Lutheran church (forgetting altogether about the unorthodoxy of some Lutheran denominations), they would have a Biblical approach to their homestudy.

We met with one of their social workers to understand their homestudy process. Since spanking would come up in the homestudy, I asked upfront about their view; I expected a Christian explanation. But what I got was the view of any government social worker...."There is always a better option than physical punishment (their term). Perhaps as a last resort, but there is always a better way..."

He then went on to say (warn?!) that another family, who had applied to be a foster family, was discovered to have spanked their children. That family lost permission to foster or adopt and are currently under investigation.

This agency seems to me to be just a government agency with "Lutheran" as their first name.

Why is it so hard to find someone to do a homestudy from a Biblical perspective?
Sorry for the lack of posting. Most of my wrestling this week has been with calculus. We've covered 23 chapters in 4 days of class. And since the last time I thought about a derivative was 11 years ago, I'm having trouble keeping up.