Saturday, July 30, 2005

A Parting Shot

Here's a question inspired from Gilead. If you could grab a book immediately before you fell over dead, and thereby call your posterity to pay that text special attention, which one would you choose? Of course, the Bible is exempt.

The main character in the novel, before dismissing the whole idea as self-defeating, thought of falling with Calvin's Institutes (2nd volume) in his grip. I'm ashamed to admit my choice would be much less impressive. Maybe Pilgrim's Progress, or even Stepping Heavenward. Perhaps my i-Pod!

What about you?
Staunch but Starched

I met one of the homeschooling mothers in our neighborhood today. Their family has been here for several months, has tried many churches, but has been unable to decide on one. Her complaint against the Presbyterians is that the worship lacked emotion. I agree with her.

This is a common weakness of many churches and, as hard as it is to admit, we could learn a thing or two from the Charismatics. But I wonder if the emotion on display in many churches is rightly placed. I mean, are people delighting in God, or just enjoying the lead guitar?

Given our contemporary culture, emotion is the wrong "litmus test" for good worship. If you really must have a litmus test how about reverence and awe (Heb 12:28)? Pastor Rayburn, in this lecture, made many convincing points about the importance of proper worship. He covered a wide range of topics, but just his comments on dressing up for worship was worth listening to the lecture.

If you would go to a job interview in shorts and a tee-shirt; fine, come to worship that way. But if you'd dress up for a job interview but not for worship, it's clear which activity you don't take seriously. At a wedding when the doors open and the bride looks down the aisle, she doesn't want to see her husband-to-be in flip-flops and a Hawaiian shirt. That would show a lack of respect on his part. The same is true in worship.

Friday, July 29, 2005

House Number 10

We moved into our new house on Tuesday--this is our tenth home together! I've been too busy unpacking boxes to take any pictures, so here's a shot our friend Joe Sexton took of a house very similar to ours.

We're going to enjoy living here. The neighborhood consists of about 50 houses on one circle. We're all about the same age, so there are lots of children everywhere. This will be a great place for get togethers and I hope ministry. There are 7 other families on the circle that homeschool, and there are plenty of potential friends for Kristin and the children--that's answered prayer!

Since we have a high speed connection again, here are a couple of photos. The first one is taken at the New Mexico welcome station. The second picture is a family shot on the east side of town.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Agin' It!

I finished Pastor Peter Leithart's provocative little book Against Christianity. Here Christianity is described as it's commonly found in our culture: a private, individual, spiritual, propositional religion; i.e. an unbiblical faith. Christianity is an invention designed to keep Christians and the Church in its proper marginal place rather than the biblical view of the Church as the beginning of a new city with a distinct holy culture--the City of God. The link provides a more thorough review, so I'll only add some of my favorite quotes and points below.

Christian community is not an extra "religious layer" on social life. The Church is not a club for religious people. The Church is a way of living together before God, a new way of being human together.

The Church's mission is not to disguise herself so to slip in unnoticed and blend in with the existing culture. Her mission is to confront the existing culture with a culture of her own.

Prayer is not "quiet time" but a time of wrestling and passion. Contemporary hymnology, by contrast, gives us words for a small segment of our experience, the happy, fluffy, light experiences of life. If we are trained in prayer by contemporary praise choruses, when we face the pain and tests of life, we will lack the vocabulary to name them. Singing the Psalms makes the biblical story and biblical language part of us.

A test for your local church: which holiday receives more attention, the Fourth of July or Ascension? Mother's Day or Pentecost? Now, why is that?

Pastors see themselves as proponents of Christianity, teaching "religious" things or assisting people on their personal spiritual journeys. Pastors have lost any sense that they are overseers of a new city and that they therefore have responsibilities for governance.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

How Good and Pleasant it is

We are so happy with our new church home (Covenant of Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church). We had intended to look more at other churches, but we can't pull ourselves away! He's preaching on the means of grace, the centrality of the Church, the love of the Father for His Son's Bride; it is so good! Next week we're going to learn how to listen to a sermon. He says he's heard of folks that can listen to a sermon with their eyes shut, but "if I see people with their eyes closed, I just preach louder!" And he's already loud!

I'm still puzzled over the small size of the church. Maybe this is kind of like finding a great little hole-in-the-wall restaurant--you're bursting to tell others about what you've found, but instead you decide not to because you're greedy and don't want to share.

"How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!" (Ps 133:1)--how glad we are to find a place where we fit! "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord!'" (Ps 122:1)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A Biblical Guide to Parenting

Greg Grindinger, our pastor in Illinois, highly recommended Age of Opportunity by Paul David Trip. This gospel-drenched guide is aimed at parents of teenagers, but I'm convinced that it's not limited to just that age group. This book continues the theme of Mr. Tripp's brother's book that the goal of parenting is to shepherd the hearts of our children.

The author rejects the notion that parents must settle for merely surviving the teen years. Yet he also rejects the idea that our focus should be on getting the right behavior. This produces a short-term victory, at best, and as soon as our children are out from our system of control they will begin to act in ways that are more consistent with the true motives of their heart. Instead we are to focus on the spiritual struggle, viewing the difficult, problem situations as God-given opportunities to develop a biblical mind in your child.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Cost of Reverent Worship

We returned to the OPC church today. They use a Geneva liturgy (including weekly communion, a creed, recitation of the Law, singing from the Psalter, etc), which we enjoy. They also have an evening worship service that consists of a hymn-sing, intercessory prayer, and a sermon. The pastor is a powerful preacher, yet he comes across with the humility of a servant. I think we've found a church home!

They've been meeting since the 70s, but regrettably the body is quite small (around 100). We were surprised and pleased to meet Carol Ruvolo there today.

A block up from where we meet to worship is Calvary chapel, which I think is the largest church in town. Why do so few attend the OPC church and so many Calvary? Is it because they want to wear shorts to church, be a number, and check the box? Or to give them more credit, maybe it's because they want a better chance at good fellowship and friends for their children?

We have talked with our new friends on-base about coming to church with us. Maybe they will, but when people don't understand why we worship the way we do, it's hard to compete with the bigger, more popular churches.

This general formula seems to hold for most churches today. Emphasize doctrine or reverent worship and you'll stay small. Emphasize both and you'll be tiny. But if you maximize fellowship and kid's activities you'll get huge.

How rare it is for a church to emphasize doctrine and right worship and also be warm and hospitable!

Thursday, July 14, 2005


From our backyard today we watched a thick bolt of lightening strike the base of the mountain behind us (less than 2 miles away) and start a prairie fire. It blazed a large swath of desert brush turning the sand black and sending up a large plume of smoke.

From the comforts of home we also regularly see (and chase) large tumbleweeds and occasionally road runners and oversized hummingbirds. So far we've only seen one snake in our yard.

Every major park in Albuquerque, including the one on base, provides children up to 18 years of age "free" lunch every day throughout the summer.

Most houses don't have air conditioning but a simpler device called a swamp cooler that sits on the roof and works like a water-cooled attic fan (no thermostat).

The city of Albuquerque has "free" wireless Internet connectivity throughout the city. Meanwhile, folks in base lodging, like me, are stuck with dial-up which is creeping along at 21.6 kps. I've got some great photos but I won't be uploading them until I get something faster.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

That didn't take long (Adoption Update)

After making ourselves available last week as adoptive parents to the adoption networks we're matched already! The birthmother is due to give birth to an African American girl on 7 Aug (less than a month away!) in Birmingham, AL. It'll be great to celebrate our new baby with Kristin's parents who live in-town! The only thing that may de-rail this one is if the birthmother changes her mind and decides to parent. But I don't think she will based on her situation.

So many of these birthmothers come from strikingly broken homes--it's very sad.

Let's pray this is the one!

Monday, July 11, 2005

God is good

Thank you for remembering us in your prayers! A wonderful, Christian family checked in two doors down from us today. We spent the afternoon together, sharing dinner while the children had a grand time playing outside. They'll be great neighbors for us while we wait for our house; they have a reformed/Lutheran background, the husband has a seminary degree, and the wife is starting to homeschool. We've already agreed to take turns watching each others' children so the parents can enjoy an evening on the town.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Wal-Mart of the Christian Community

We've visited the PCA and OPC churches in Albuquerque now. Based on our experience in six states, it seems that reformed Presbyterian churches are only strong in the Southeast U.S. and in isolated pockets scattered throughout the country. Both of the churches here are small congregations and haven't grown in years. Neither church has many children; there may be one family in each body that has children similar in age to ours. Thankfully, both churches have good preaching and reverent worship.

At times like these I think how much easier moving would be if I were a mainstream evangelical. Imagine how easy finding a church must be! Every city we've been assigned to has been filled with thriving Baptist, Pentecostal, and non-denominational churches. If I was a broad evangelical I'm certain there'd always be several close churches with rooms full of children the same ages as ours.

The mega-churches are the Super Wal-Marts of the Christian community. Why drive all over town looking for stuff at little mom and pop stores when I can just go over to Wal-Mart and get everything I need?

That answer is rather simple. The tiny PCA and OPC churches in-town offer more grace and a purer gospel than even the best equipped, richest mega-churches around. That's not to say that both the PCA and OPC churches don't need significant improvement--they do. We hope to help out with that.
The next best thing to being there...

Our beloved pastor from a previous assignment now has a blog!!!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Adoption Update

In the last update I said we were matched with a birthmother in Oklahoma City who is due in November. We met with her a couple of weeks ago, and we thought the meeting went well. We spent a couple of hours getting to know each other while our children played together in the adoption lawyer's office and later at a McDonalds Playplace. Grace really hit it off with the birthmother's oldest daughter, holding hands and playing princesses together. They even wanted to ride in the same car on the way to and from McDonalds.

But last week we received a phone call that apparently our meeting raised some doubts in the birthmother's mind. She is concerned about Kristin's diabetes and that this bi-racial child will be a minority in a blonde-headed, blue-eyed family. Consequently, we have low confidence that she will place the baby with us.

Nonetheless, there is still a possibility that we will have the privilege of parenting this baby and so we are continuing our support. She is under considerable stress (emotional, financial, etc) and we want to help her find peace with this decision. We have asked the adoption firm to show her other adoptive families in an effort to find one that she thinks would be a better match.

In the meantime we have contacted the adoption networks that we were involved with before and told them that we are once again available as an adoptive family.

I realize this is rather confusing, here's a summary. We remain matched with the birthmother in OKC, but this match will come to an end if she selects a different adoptive family or we adopt a different baby before she delivers. If we haven't adopted a baby before she delivers, then we'll adopt her baby, if she is willing to place with us.

Monday, July 04, 2005

In Your Anger, Do Not Sin

I'm not known to be an angry person. Actually, there are times that I should be angry that I'm not--whether it's cowardice or apathy, I'm not sure. The past week has been difficult for us, and gave me an occasion to attempt to be Christlike in a situation that demanded I be angry.

We're living in the base Temporary Lodging Facility (TLF) until our house is ready late this month. The TLF is very appealing to the eye (and the wallet)--recently remodeled, two-bedroom, full kitchen and laundry. But the monsters come out at night--it's infested with earwigs, a black, beetle looking bug with a pincher at the tail. It's mating season and each morning we find them in the children's beds, in the towels, all over.

I've requested pesticide treatment three times--nobody has shown. I've gone through a can of Raid, a bottle of Ortho, and 3 fumigators, but military bugs die hard. Last night, with Kristin in tears, we woke the children up and checked into an off-base motel about midnight.

Today I filed a formal complaint and met with lodging management. I was able to communicate with controlled anger--I didn't blow up and I didn't back-down. They promise that the bug guy will come tomorrow. I pray he will.