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

Life Support

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.
A Prayer of Thanksgiving for the Tsunami at Bay

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

Raise Three Cheers for Ken Myers

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.

Education Department

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.
Aid for Asia

We're looking for good ways to donate to the relief effort in Asia. Usually we use Food for the Hungry (led by a PCA pastor); but we're interested in what others are doing. Any ideas?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Fowls of the Air

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

Herding the Fools

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 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


Just making sure the jump is safe for the children...

Saturday, December 25, 2004

In the Darkness Shining (Barely)

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

O Come Emmanuel

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

Good Intentions

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

A Southerner in a Winter Wonderland

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

The Sword of Christmas

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

Holding Out for the Reinforcements

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

Baby Names

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

How to Build an Atomic Bomb

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

Happy 7th, Elijah!

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

Way to Go, Carri!

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.
"Women Are Used", retired General says, and she likes it

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

Just as "I AM"

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

Quiet Heroes

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

Get Off the Fence

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

Beauty Tips from the Bride of Christ

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

Repeating a Grade

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

Parish the Thought

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
1993----TX--------1-------------------0 mos
1997----NJ--------2-------------------1 mo
1999----IL--------2-------------------1 yr
2003----GA-------7-------------------6 mos
2004----OH-------5-------------------7 mos

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.