Friday, February 25, 2005

A Weekend in Cincinnati

I love conferences. Gifted speakers, info packets, booktables, lunch on the town...I enjoy it all. Kristin and I are spending most of this weekend in Cincinnati with several friends attending Tedd Tripp's Shepherding a Child's Heart conference. We just finished the first evening; it was inspirational. Can't wait to get up in the morning and go back.

The conference

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Fun for Families with Hi-Tech Toys

A friend told me about Geocaching this week. In case I'm not the last one to hear about this, here's what it's about.

If you have a basic hand-held GPS device, you find stuff hidden in parks and places near where you live. Use this web site to see what is hidden close to you and then grab your GPS and go find it. It's basically a hi-tech treasure-hunt; sounds like a fun outing for Dad and the children.

Plus it's a great excuse to buy another electronic gizmo...

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Moon Worship and Old Ladies' Tears

I've taken my family to our neighborhood Lutheran church (Missouri Synod) on two recent Sundays. Each visit has its own little story.

On our first visit we sat in the back pew just in front of the glass-plated cry room. There is a good deal of unannounced standing and sitting in the liturgy, but when the congregation popped to their feet, we were able to snatch and grab and get our children up with only a slight delay. My very beautiful wife, who looks her most beautiful on the Lord's Day, had charge of our youngest son who is a wiggler-of-the-pew. During one of these standing drills a mother in the cry room somehow managed to get my wife's attention (through some kind of telepathic female-communications link), contorted her face, and repeatedly thrusted her finger in the direction of that part of my wife poetically known as "the booty". My life-long Presbyterian bride, perhaps in a moment of Scottish rebellion, was mooning the cry room! I thought I had broken her of this habit during our past visits to Baptist churches, but... She insists that one of the children were to blame, but I have my doubts.

The second visit resulted in an altogether different, and sweet, story. We took our place in the back pew. Since Lutherans practice closed communion, during that part of the liturgy we sit and try to follow-along in the Lutheran hymnal while everyone else goes to the alter by rows. I was a little surprised that the elderly lady next to Kristin did not go forward when it was time, and then I noticed her leg braces. A moment later I looked up from the hymnal to see her standing, leaning on the pew in front of us. And there beside her was the pastor, in full vestments, with the most compassionate look on his face holding out to her the bread and the wine. He looked straight into her eyes and boldly announced the beautiful words of the Lutheran communion. I wish I could remember exactly what he said, but it obviously deeply touched this elderly lady for when she sat down next to us she was weeping tears of worship and gratitude! And so were we.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Robert E. Lee

Here are a couple of notes on Steven Wilkins' book on the character of Robert E. Lee, Call of Duty.

It's an easy read; a book I look forward to putting in my sons' hands when they're young men. Rather than focus on the battles of the Civil War, which plenty other works do, this book captures the distinctly Christian Gentlemanship of General Lee throughout his life (pre- and post-war). His magnanimous service to the nation after the war, despite continued humiliation and personal tragedy, is especially remarkable.

Here are a couple favorite quotes from the book.

Regarding the importance of states' rights Lee prophetically wrote,
I yet believe that the maintenance of the rights and authority reserved to the states and to the people, not only essential to the adjustment and balance of the general system, but the safeguard to the continuance of a free government. I consider it as the chief source of stability to our political system, whereas the consolidation of the states into one vast republic sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home...

Regarding perseverance, Lee said,
The truth is this: the march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Blogs: Helpful or Harmful?

Ken Myers of MARS HILL AUDIO presents good reasons not to blog, but I have learned several helpful things from those that do. Two recent examples:

1. From Holy Experience I picked up this Jim Elliot quote, "Wherever you are, be all there." This reminder is especially useful for warding off daydreams during math class.

2. More importantly, a post on pietism at Bunnie Diehl has caused me to focus more on "God's love for us" than "our love for God". A reader defined pietism as "making our love for God the main focus of Christianity, instead of His love for us." A clear-cut way to apply this distinction is with worship music. Contemporary songs like I want to Know You are "our love for God" kind of songs. On the other hand, the best hymns are often the "God's love for us" type. Consider this line from Not What My Hands Have Done:

Thy love to me O God,
Not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest,
And set my spirit free!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Social Order Gospel

The Gospel is big. A friend used to define the Gospel by saying it's Genesis 1 through Revelation 22. I'd add that it's also all the necessary inferences from Scripture. The Gospel is big enough to break into chunks, which is where our problem comes in. We over emphasize a certain part of the Gospel and neglect the rest.

Liberal Protestants are known for their emphasis on helping the poor and needy, certainly part of the Gospel, but not nearly all of it. Their myopic tendency has left them with only a social gospel; strong on giving, weak at saving.

I fear Reformed Protestants have fallen into a similar snare. Too often, the emphasis of our preaching, books, lectures is no longer Christ and Him crucified. The centrality of the Gospel may still be present but it is no longer the emphasis. The Gospel chunk we latch onto is social order. We focus on biblical relationships between husband and wife, children and parents, young and old, church and state. We are right for teaching these things, but wrong for dwelling here. These are not the Gospel's central message, but results of it.

Methodists have a social gospel, but what we are making is a social order gospel. It's as diluted as the liberals' version. We need to emphasize Jesus. Emphasize Him crucified for us. Emphasize the forgiveness of our sins. "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel." (2 Tim 2:8)
On Alert

From our Adoption Network person:
The URGENT situation I emailed out on Friday and had to email family Presentation Letters to .... the baby was born Yesterday morning at 6:30 Am so the attorney did not meet with mom until last night - she is looking over the Letters today and hopes to have a decision by tonight. I will phone the selected couple once I hear. All of you are on alert that you should plan to travel tomorrow if you are the selected family as baby will be released on Monday.

Hope to be calling one of you this evening!!!

And we hope to get "the call".

We're thankful that more than one family is ready (on very short notice) to open their Christian home to this child. Our trust is in the sovereign Lord, and we are joyfully expectant of what our future holds.

[Update at 5:45pm: Birthmother selected another family]

Saturday, February 12, 2005

One of the Best Sounds a Parent Can Hear

Eli (7) reading his new "big person" Bible on his own.

Like Music to My Ears...

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Remember Foreigner?

Kristin was getting directions to an indoor playground at a local Methodist church. She stumbled across their order of worship for last Sunday, the music included:

Crystal Lewis &
Kirk Franklin

Chris Tomlin

"In The Secret"
Andy Park

"Your Love is Better
Than Life"
Wes Tuttle

"I Want to Know
What Love Is"

"We're Pressing On"
Mark Condon

I probably wouldn't enjoy singing any of this in a corporate worship service, but I can't start to imagine worshipping to Foreigner's "I want to know what love is"! That is, unless you're worshipping rockstars from the '80s...

rock on......
Overalls Victorious!

Just what do we teach our children?!? It's not always what we think! While dressing Isaiah this morning he sang a piece of the hymn, Come Thou Almighty King, which we taught him last month. But instead of "over all victorious", his version has "Overalls, victorious!"

This isn't the first time we've been surprised with our children's hymnody. I think it was our oldest who until recently substituted "Blessed Tennessee" for "Blessed Trinity" in Holy, Holy, Holy.

Here he is in his "Overalls Victorious"

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Call Me Ishmael

I'm nearing the end of two weeks of mid-terms with just a Satellite Communications take-home exam standing in the way. But this exam is so out of my league that I'm up much of the night and a grump to be around during the day. It's disappointing that I have let one little test cause so much havoc in my family's life.

This morning I was meditating on the time when Abraham was told to cast out Hagar and Ishmael for dishonoring the child of promise. They were soon lost in the desert, thirsty and in despair, completely oblivious to the oasis in front of their noses. Instead of calling out to God for help, instead of remembering the promises of God, instead of returning to the blessing-bearer, they wallowed in self-pity and frustration. Sounds like someone else I know.

Graciously, God has opened my eyes and I've regained my perspective. I've repented to my family and, who knows?, maybe I can even figure out how to talk to satellites.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Split-P Soup

Today I listened to John Frame's lecture "Machen's Warrior Children" from last year's Auburn Avenue Pastor's Conference. This hour-long investment should be mandatory listening for every American Presbyterian thunderpuppy, especially bloggers! He outlines 22 of the controversies within our fences, some resulting splits, and then magnanimously states that Presbyterians don't know when to stop fighting.

I have campaign patches from only a couple of the battles he mentioned, but surprisingly, I've been a captive to one-side of some of these controversies without even realizing it!

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Zondervan and Family Christian Bookstores, Fie!

Although the NIV Bible was $30 cheaper, since it is copyrighted by Zondervan who publishes the grossly inaccurate TNIV, when we bought my son’s first “non-kiddie” Bible tonight we went for the ESV.

And although the local Family Christian Bookstore is nicer and conveniently located, since it has taken the Sabbath away from its employees, we bought that pricy ESV from a little mom and pop Christian bookseller in a corner shop downtown.

It's satisfying to purchase on principle rather than the pocketbook.
You Spell Like a Cow

My 7-year old son had a spelling test this morning in which he was asked to spell chicken. We were amused to learn that he spells it "chikin", just like the Chick-Fil-A cows. Mmmm, makes me hungry just thinking about it.

Friday, February 04, 2005

A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Church Universal

We look for a church that has BOTH reformational doctrine and preaches Christ to believers. We have other preferences (e.g. liturgical worship), but the two essentials are covered in that first sentence. Both parts of that statement require unpacking; here’s a start:

For us reformational doctrine is broader than any one denomination. Because we move often and doctrine is not the only factor in our decision, we may end up as part of a Presbyterian church, a Reformed Episcopal, a Lutheran church, etc.

What we mean by “preaches Christ to believers” is that the pastor should emphasize the centrality of the Gospel in the life of believers. We need to regularly hear from the pulpit about the objective work of Christ on the cross “for us and for our salvation”. The preaching of the Gospel should not be neglected nor should it be primarily for unbelievers. Regrettably, our experience has been that Christ is not preached to believers in many churches we’ve visited.

What do you do if a church affirms all the right doctrine, but fails to focus on preaching the centrality of the Gospel? If there is another body where Christ is preached to believers, we look there, even if it means giving up some doctrine. What use is doctrine if Christ be not preached?

Our approach has drawbacks (lack of commitment to one denomination, long searches for the right church, etc). I know this makes some nervous. We are open to better ideas (and bitter critiques).

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Forgotten Passages

"Sodomite" is the inflammatory label of choice for describing militant homosexuals. But as often the case when pointing the finger, three stare back at you. Consider this forgotten passage from Ezekiel 16:49 (ESV),

Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.

It was apathy for the poor and needy, pride, and prosperous ease that brought the vengeance of the Lord upon the Sodomites. Sound like anyone you know?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Paper or Plastic?

Our experience with churches over the years generally falls into grocery bag categories--paper or plastic.

Most reformed churches look perfect on paper--all the right doctrines trumpeted, the right books plugged, the right distinctives affirmed. The church sounds absolutely great, until you spend some time there. Then you find that they're paper-thin, coldly impenitent, and over their need for the centrality of the Gospel. It's hard to live in a paper house, and so not many do.

Most folks are part of the Plastic Church of Evangelicalism. There you have plastic smiles to match plastic "statements of faith". This is the big tent where anything goes, a fitting place for Cirque Du Soleil worship. These are often "warm" places, partly due to their friendliness, but also because they give more heat than light.

If Paper, be stationary, formal but inviting. In other words, be known more for reforming than for being reformed. And if Plastic, be molded into something of value. Plentiful is not the goal. Plastic bags are plentiful, but filled with trash and things babies do.