Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Parental Discrimination

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

It's Not Rocket Science

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

Straightened Out (Again)

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

Mixed Up

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

Giving Rebukes

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

A Gag Order

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

Hospice: a Valley of Vision

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

Farm Chores

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.

Scoopin' Poop

Friday, November 19, 2004

Christianity and Humanism

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

Waking Up

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

Military stops sponsoring Boy Scouts of America due to organization's religious rules

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

Adoption Update

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

Peace Talks

"Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
but let them not turn back to folly."

I need to put Psalm 85 to memory...it's glorious!

Friday, November 12, 2004

Free Pink T-Shirts Get Women in the Army

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

One Less Mormon

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:

Hi, Tim:

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

Home-Schooled & Home-Churched

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

Things Too Wonderful

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

Combat Boots

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.
Bork Specter!

Add your voice to the growing throng who are objecting to Sen Specter as potential Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Examples of e-mail, fax, and phone messages can be found here.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Stepping onto a Roller Coaster Blind-folded

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

Tired of the same old news?

For fair and balanced coverage of American evangelicalism check out: http://www.larknews.com