Friday, December 29, 2006

I went to jail, finally

After 4 weeks of being "providentially hindered" by lockdowns and snowstorms, this week I was finally able to teach the inmates in a nearby prison. I'm substituting for a couple of weeks while a faithful brother, who has labored here with the Word for several years, takes a break.

To be brutally honest, I didn't look forward to going. Going to a place where you can expect to be scammed, lied to, and maybe even physically harmed isn't very appealing to me. But my friend deserved a break and I wanted to be able to better pray for him and his ministry. So God strengthened me to ignore my feelings and do the responsible thing.

Next to me in the bedroom-sized chapel was a large whiteboard filled with religious terms translated into Arabic. Besides the Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses are also active in the prison. And then some of the prisoners have appointed themselves as Apostles and Prophets. The true Christians in prison are indeed like sheep without a Shepherd.

Before I began my lecture on the 10 commandments one of the men in attendance informed me that he did not like it when teachers preach against other religions; he said, "it tears down my faith." Since I was teaching on the First Commandment ("You shall have no other gods before me") I didn't expect to please him.

The study turned out fine and we had a good season of prayer afterwards. My feelings towards these men have warmed, too. Next week it won't be as hard to go back.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The benefits of serving

When we moved here Kristin and I decided to get involved serving Christ in our community. When we failed to do this in other assignments those times were drier and less content. Isn't that ironic? Contentment eluded us until we stopped focusing on ourselves.

Kristin has been volunteering at the local Crisis Pregnancy Center. Like other mercy ministries in this country, there's mercy given and there's mercy abused. There are those that want free ultrasounds, etc, just because their insurance won't cover them and they don't want to spend their own money. There has even been a woman who called the CPC trying to sell her baby to the highest bidder. Amazingly, she became irate when the CPC wasn't interested in making a wager.

Last week there was a young teenage girl whose mom doesn't let her date yet now has a positive pregnancy test. The equally young boyfriend came in with her and is very scared. The only thing keeping the girl from getting an abortion is the $300 that Planned Parenthood (next building over) charges. So I'm thankful for the free counseling, ultrasounds, and prayer that the CPC provides. It opens your eyes to the needs lying just below the surface in the people all around you.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Worship tips from a 4 year old

At the start of tonight's worship service Isaiah spouted out these important reminders to us:

- Keep your eyes on the pastor
- Don't talk too loud
- Don't pick your nose
- Don't wipe it on your pants when you do
- Don't stick your feet up in the air
- Sing when you're supposed to

As it turns out, he didn't live up to his own standard, except for the picking the nose part (we think). It's hard to keep a 4 year old still on Christmas Eve.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Our secret worship plan for 2007

Kristin and I have decided what helps we'll use next year for our private worship, or "secret worship" as the Confession calls it.

Carson modifies Robert Murray M'Cheyne's Bible reading plan. Each day there are four sections from the Bible to be read, usually each section is one chapter in length. The first two in italics are for family reading. Carson's devotion of the day comes from one of the family's readings and enlightens the reader on the biblical content of the passage with application. The other two chapters are for private reading. If a person reads all four chapters including the devotion, he or she will read the New Testament and Psalms twice and the rest of the Bible once in a year.

This prayer-help was recommended from a Mars Hill audio book. John Baillie (1886-1960) was a Scottish theologian and a Calvinist. His greatest work was this compilation of prayers. It is arranged into prayers for each morning and evening of 31 days, plus extra prayers for Sundays. The odd-numbered (right-side) pages have the prayers, while the even-numbered pages are empty for your own notes. The prayers are a combination of ancient prayers, various Christian liturgies, Scripture, and Baillie's own writing. It is written in elegant King James English, but it is certainly accessible to anyone who can read.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The (snowball) fight before Christmas

We sneaked over to the Overbeeks this afternoon for a kids vs. adults melee.

Monday, December 18, 2006

What third world Presbyterians can teach us

We spent an enjoyable evening with some friends who hosted a family who will soon be moving to the Philippines with Mission to the World. I asked him if his time among Filipino Presbyterians has revealed any blind spots in Western Presbyterianism. He responded with, "the doctrine of the Holy Spirit." We have a hard time believing in spiritual warfare, demon-possession, and the like, but I'm told it's more apparent in the East.

Kristin and I had an unusually tough day today; it was more than just a typical bad homeschooling day. There was a painful phone call, weird bills in the mail that have to be straightened out, and medical bureaucracies that choose today to be obstinate.

We ended the day frustrated and feeling defeated, but also thinking back to last night's discussion that maybe this could be spiritual warfare. If it is, the gospel reminds me that God has a good purpose in these things, too.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Grace turned 7 last month and celebrated with bowling with her best friend.

Eli turned 9 today and celebrated last week with an evening at "Nickel City" and a sleepover with 2 friends.

Monday, December 11, 2006


A cloudy Monday and a tedious workday was suddenly brightened when I was given an opportunity to present the Gospel to a co-worker who was raised a Unitarian but is now agnostic.

God's providence in these matters is always intriguing. Earlier in the day I walked over to his part of the building to get some info I need for a project. At that moment he was leading a heated conversation supporting a recent Court decision to stop giving special benefits to prisoners for participating in a Christian prison ministry. I did not enter into the conversation, got the info I needed and went back to my part of the building. Later, at the water cooler, he walked up and wanted me to know he wasn't putting down Christianity. This led to a natural discussion about his beliefs; I wasn't surprised to learn he believed that if he is good enough he'll be taken care of when he dies because if there is a God he must be good. Referring to the 10 commandments, I talked with him about God's holiness, our problem with a holy God, and the only solution that we have in Jesus as a substitute for us.

He listened with some interest as I exhorted him to consider the claims of the Bible and its trustworthiness for teaching us what to believe about God and us. What a great way to brighten up an otherwise dull Monday.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Front page for religious feminists

The above-the-fold, front page headline in today's Albuquerque newspaper is "Female Pastors Discuss the Trials and Rewards of Their Chosen Career Path." There is no timely news event that justifies the prominent place in the paper; it's simply a puff piece for religious feminists.

Of course it opens with Galatians 3:28 (i.e. there is no male or female in Christ, we all are one), and how that verse means so much to female pastors everywhere. One wonders how any pastor can, with clear conscience, apply this verse in such an unfounded way. As expected, there is scant mention given to the solid Biblical reasons for excluding women from the pastorate (1 Tim 2:12, for starters). Instead evangelicals and Roman Catholics are portrayed as following tradition--an apparently out-moded and discriminatory tradition.

To understand the Biblical position more fully, check out the Council on Biblical Womanhood and Manhood.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Reproaches or Riches, is that a choice for us?

In an attempt to get back to blogging, I put this post to you in the form of a question.

Consider Hebrews 11:26,

He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

Is Moses' choice -- which included the denial of earthly treasures -- a choice that American Christians should make today? What would this look like? and what doesn't it look like?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Teaching young children to listen to sermons

I've passed Cotton Mather's list of a Father's Resolutions around for years, and still find fresh ways to apply its principles with my children.

The latest example is teaching my older three children (8,7,4) to listen to the Sunday sermon. Cotton Mather says to "single out some Scriptural sentences of the greatest importance...They shall quickly get those golden sayings by heart, and be rewarded with silver or gold, or some good thing, when they do it." Here's how I apply this for a sermon.

Read to them on Saturday night the passage to be preached and single out some key portion telling them to listen for what the pastor says about that during the sermon, and that if they can correctly answer a simple question I will direct to them at Sunday evening family worship they will be rewarded with a special snack at dessert time (food is a great motivator for my kiddos).

For instance, today the pastor preached on Col 1:12, "giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light." Last night I asked them to listen for "qualify" and be prepared to tell me what that word means and how we are qualified. Tonight in family worship I asked each of my older children a question appropriate for their age. For my 4-year old it was a simple Yes or No question. For my 7 year old it was to define qualify. For my almost 9-year old it was to explain how we as sinners can be qualified to receive such an inheritance.

They each earned a special snack and I gained the satisfaction of knowing that even little children can listen profitably to a sermon if the parents are willing to do a little preparation and follow-up work.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Strength for the narrow, hard way

Our Lord characterizes the life his followers are on as a narrow path; we are to avoid the wide and easy way that leads to destruction. He plainly tells us that this way is going to be hard, but it alone leads to life (Matthew 7:13-end).

But doesn't he tell us just a little later that his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30)? How do we reconcile this?

That was answered for me in the sermon last week. Preaching on Colossians 1:11, we learned that God strengthens us for all endurance and patience with joy. Like someone who is carrying a heavy load successfully, God's power enables us to abide under difficult circumstances and strengthens us to patiently deal with difficult people.

The power of God that conquered our sinful soul is available to us in our life of faith as we journey down a narrow and hard way. But remember, few are those that know this way.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Crowding out God with the things of God

We all know busyness. As more things are tacked onto the to-do list (especially this time of year), we realize we're no longer focused on Jesus. Ironically, time with God can be easily substituted by time with church work. We rush through our personal devotion so we can work on our next lesson; we skimp on prayer because our time was spent practicing a musical piece for Lord's Day worship.

B.B. Warfield's address The Religious Life of Theological Students is a helpful reminder of the danger and privilege of routinely handling divine things.

He asks, "are you, by this constant contact with divine things, growing in holiness, becoming every day more and more men of God? If not, you are hardening! If you do not find Christ in the conference room [we could easily substitute "private worship"] it is because you do not take him there with you. If after an ordinary day's work you are too weary to close the day with common prayer, it is because the impulse to prayer is weak in your heart. If there is no fire in the pulpit it falls to you to kindle it in the pews. No man can fail to meet with God in the sanctuary if he takes God there with him. How easy it is to roll the blame of our cold hearts over upon the shoulders of our religious leaders!"

"Do you prosecute your daily tasks as students of theology as "religious exercises"? If you do not, look to yourselves: it is surely not all right with the spiritual condition of that man who can busy himself daily with divine things, with a cold and impassive heart."

Friday, November 17, 2006

Do the work of an evangelist

On my brief trip home to South Carolina this week I was able to share the gospel with someone very dear to me. I've been asking God to make me an evangelist; here are two principles that have come to mind, I believe, as a result of those prayers.

1. Be prepared for rejection (persecution is normal for Christians) but don't underestimate what God may do when the gospel is spoken.

2. Hold together both a love for the person and a love for Christ. Since Heaven and Hell are realities, speaking the gospel to an unbeliever shows true love for them. Also, speaking the gospel is an act of love to Christ because it spreads His glory and increases his fame.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Changing Gods

Why did the English convert to Christianity but not the Japanese (at least, not yet significantly)? Why did African slaves exchange ancestral deities for the Triune God but the Navajo people have not? God's providence in this area is mysterious, but Slave Religion sheds light on the intriguing history of the transformation of the African religions into evangelical Christianity.

It's stunning to consider how thoroughly African religions were abandoned once slaves entered America, but what makes this story really interesting is how God brought the gospel to an enslaved people despite the wicked efforts of many white Christians (who couldn't envision a life without slaves) and many abolitionists (who neglected evangelizing the blacks). Small numbers of missionaries played a significant part, but so did other providential factors such as forced integration with white families and the absence of a continuing diaspora. Within a few generations the hold of traditional African religion was severely weakened in America and mass conversion ensued. To generalize, a whole people group changed their God!

This book (first published 25 years ago, but lately updated) strengthens my hope that heady days of evangelization still lay ahead. No people group is "closed" or too hard to reach with the gospel. As time ticks on more and more amazing histories of God's redemptive providence with whole people groups will be recorded. Let the nations be glad!

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Sorry for the lack of posts here recently. As I transition into active service as a church elder again it's been a challenge to faithfully maintain my other vows (marriage vows, children's baptismal vows, promises to friends and family, and oath of office) and also not lose focus on my personal walk with Jesus. The blog and a couple other things had to be curtailed.

I've been traveling some recently and was able to do some good reading and helpful listening. Here are the general topics: religion of the African slaves and the mass conversion of this people group to Christianity, neighborhood evangelism and persecution, the spiritual life of theological students, and the nature of personal sacrifice.

I'd like to come back and post more specifically on some of this material soon. If any of the topics especially interest you, let me know and that'll encourage me to get started.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Reformation Day 2006

Three things to do today to show gratitude to God for the Reformation:

1. Read your own Bible in your own language

2. Pray directly to God without anyone going in between

3. Rediscover the Gospel today and everyday - the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Children and their grandparents

Does it seem like most of the families around you are waiting longer to start having children? I don't mean that to sound like a universally bad thing, sometimes it makes sense. But many of the people my age (35) that I work with and live around are just now thinking about having children, and I wonder what the consequences are if this is a large trend.

Growing up I didn't know my grandparents hardly at all. This was probably due to the age of my parents when I was born and some past family conflict. My frequent moves across the country have only increased the emotional distance with my extended family. I really don't know what I'm missing, but I think it's probably significant.

I wasn't smart enough to know beforehand that having children in my twenties would allow our parents and our children more years to know and enjoy each other, but thankfully it's working out that way pretty well despite the distance. If we were just now having our first child, like so many around us, I think our parents would be too old to enjoy them in the same way they have over the last decade.

While the age you become a parent might not matter, biologically, as much as it used to, it seems that age still matters very much for grandparenting. Family planning affects more than just parent and child, it strengthens or weakens at least three generations of your family.

"May you see your children's children!" Psalm 128:6

Monday, October 23, 2006

Better late than never

My essay on the Transformation of Islamic Mass Culture was published in the Journal of Political Violence and Terrorism this month after 14 months of edits and revisions. The abstract can be read here. This is my first published piece.

Today after way too many weeks I finished Covenant Seminary's course on Church History (from the Reformation to present). David Calhoun gave the lectures. I had the privilege to take a class with him in person a few years back; he's everything you'd want in a seminary professor. I looked at the other courses they have for free on-line; I think I'll go with Jerram Barrs' course on apologetics and outreach. Kristin and I enjoyed sitting through a different class he taught once before. Calhoun and Barrs share a love for Francis Schaeffer's work. The time they spent with him has clearly shaped them and it is my hope that it will form me.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Supremacy of Christ

May Christ reign in all our lives. This powerful short video may help us see that our thoughts of Christ have been too small and may enlarge them.

The audio for the rest of this message and the other speakers who spoke on related topics is available for free here

I've listened to most of the messages; they're helping me know this massive Christ better.

HT: Barb

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Butter fingers

Faith's hair is finally growing back (she pulled a lot out as a newborn). In this dry climate we occasionally rub in a little oil. This leads to a trip to the sink since the oil prefers my hands more than Faith's hair.

As I listened to a great sermon on Sunday about God's grace, I thought that grace must also be slippery stuff; it's so hard for me to hold onto from week to week. As if grace was a greased pig scampering around the pin while I chased hard after it, occasionally touching it but never getting a good hold.

But that's backwards, isn't it? It's me that's greasy, like my hands after I tend to Faith's hair. I realize most Sundays that somehow I've gone and lost my grip on grace again. But the relief comes when I see that it is grace that has a strong hold of me. And I will never slip through His fingers.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Balloon Fiesta Glow-deo

I returned from a business trip yesterday in time to take the family out for our first visit to the famous Albuquerque balloon fiesta. This was the special shape balloon glow. A loveley evening; one I hope the children will remember fondly.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The bad thing about being Presbyterian

Last night I went inside a PCUSA church for a boy scout function. The PCUSA is the large, mainline, liberal denomination; I belong to the PCA which is a much smaller and more conservative Presbyterian denomination. I hate that when people ask me what church I belong to, I can't just say "Presbyterian." To do that may result in an endorsement of the PCUSA church.

I've become familiar with a couple of fine PCUSA churches recently, which had tempered my negative opinion of the PCUSA. But the church I visited last night in Albuquerque rekindled my disdain. The troop met in the sanctuary which gave me an opportunity to peruse their pew Bible and hymnal. Both are of the "inclusive" variety, which means that masculine references about God and man are often replaced with generic terms like Lord and humankind. On the hymnal's page of creeds the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed each come in two versions, traditional and ecumenical. The ecumenical versions are neutered and make other changes that baffle me.

On the way home Eli asked what kind of church that was. I grimaced and told him it was Presbyterian. But that led to a good discussion about Biblical authority.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

100 Years and Counting

My grandfather turned 100 on Friday; here's a kind news article about his 83 years of Gospel ministry.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"Add your little bit, and pray that others will be called to add their little bits until it is enough"

Kristin stumbled across a blog that immediately hooked her and now me. A Presbyterian pastor in Oregon is telling the story (as it unfolds) of his travels to Ethiopia to adopt two children from an orphanage. His words and photos are deeply moving. We've written for info about this orphanage since we've been thinking and feeling that 2007 may be the time to adopt one more time.

If you would benefit from a godly dose of compassion in action, read Pastor's Pensees.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

My day in prison

I spent yesterday at Torrance County Detention Facility, a multi-level "correctional institution" receiving training for prison ministry. A man in our church ministers here and this class was required for me to join him.

I'd like to share some observations from my day behind bars and rolls of barbed wire. The prison is a business. All the guards, warden, etc are contractors. Security for visitors wanting into the prison was less than the airport. This may explain why heroin had recently been found in the federal cellblock. The saddest part of the day was watching the young children coming to the prison to visit their fathers.

The class was set up by the prison chaplain and was open to anyone who wanted to be trained to minister in the prison. Of my classmates there were 5 pentacostal/charismatic types, one Jehovah's witness, and one muslim. The chapel bookshelves have an unsound selection of Christian publications that mirrors the type of Christians that come to minister to the inmates. Also many of the prisoners there don't speak English (lots of Mexican nationals) and there were only a couple of Christians books and Bibles in Spanish.

Overall, I learned that there is plenty of need for sound teaching from the body of Christ in this prison. Regrettably, the zeal of the pentacostals -- often zeal without much knowledge I am afraid -- has the largest presence.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Monday, September 25, 2006

Pictures from the Grand Canyon State

Here are a few photos from our week in Arizona. We stayed in Flagstaff (Luke AFB recreation area) and got to the Canyon twice, once by train. On the drive back to New Mexico we stopped at the Petrified National Forest and the Painted Desert.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Off to the Grand Canyon

I fell out of my normal posting rhythm last week while fighting a bug in Seattle and preparing for a Sunday school class. Posts will be sporadic this week, too, while the Baileys enjoy a first visit to the Grand Canyon. The weather forecast looks like we'll be there just before the snow season starts!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Reason #429 why I love Kristin

All her life Kristin has had a heart for missions in Africa. I love that I have to reign her back and speak patience on this (usually it's the other way around). Due to her Type 1 diabetes she's always been told she can't go. By the way, she also has always been told that she could never have response to that I quote Isaiah with a hearty, "ha HA!"

We are missionaries wherever we are. I'm currently in Seattle and had dinner tonight with a group of large-salaried corporate folks. I'm to be a ambassador for Christ to them, but all they wanted to talk about is getting another drink and toys that I could never afford.

I'm trying to understand the difference between these rich Seattle folks and the dirt poor Africa ones. Seattle has good churches, the Bible in their own language, other Christians to reach them, and very few physical needs. It's the opposite where Kristin wants to be. Orphans are on her heart. Kristin's health is on mine. God has given me an awesome wife and I'd like her to be around as long as possible.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Called to be the scum of the world

"For to _____ to live is Christ" (Phil 1:21). Dare we plug our name in that blank with uncrossed fingers? Is Paul's lifestyle normative for us or not? He was a spectacle to the world, a fool, weak, and held in disrepute (1 Cor 4:9-10). And when he says "imitate me" (vs 16) we receive a divine call to become the "scum of the world" (vs 13), loving our enemies, rejoicing in suffering, serving the least of these, plucking out what leads us to sin, loving Christ more than anyone or anything.

Borrowing a question from this month's Tabletalk, "if you are following Jesus and indwelled by the third person of the Trinity, how can your life not be radical? If the demands of Jesus are so extraordinary, and if you have God inside of you, how come you live such ordinary lives?"

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A map for young men questioning their career

Many men I know, especially those early in a career, struggle with job contentment. I have too, but with time I may have gotten a couple blocks farther down that road. A map of how I've learned contentment may be beneficial for those a little behind.

Understand the difference between seeking excellence and seeking glory; the first is your duty, the second is wrong-headed. If you are striving to make a certain rank or position in the company; this may be a pursuit of glory rather than excellence. Col 3:23 speaks of working heartily in whatever you do. So we are not to be mediocre at our work, but excellent. We trust God for things like promotions, assignments, etc.

Second, I consider myself a tentmaker. My career is only part of my identity and serves to provide for my family, neighbors (i.e. defense of the nation) and church. It also provides access to a ripe mission field. Family and church are also my vocations, and they have non-negotiable responsibilities that must not be neglected. Since my job is only one of my vocations I should not expect it to provide complete satisfaction. But when I work diligently at each of my vocations then I enjoy contentment.

Others write more and better about vocation than I do. Martin Luther's revolutionary teachings on this are ably and accessibly communicated in this book by Gene Edward Veith of WORLD magazine and Patrick Henry College.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Labor Day Weekend Hikes

I got in two hikes over a long weekend; one in the Sandias (here in Albuquerque) and the other in the Jemez area south of Santa Fe.

The first set of pictures are from our Sandia climb. If you look close in this photo you can see a nice size prairie rattlesnake that scurried off the trail as we approached and rattled until we passed.

I took this shot of my co-workers 2-miles up on a pedestal at the crest.

This set of pictures is from the Tent Rocks hike in the Jemez mountains. The slot canyon was our favorite part of the trail.

Monday, September 04, 2006

"Wonderful naked guys"...funny things my kids say

Last night during family worship Kristin and I were tickled by Grace's and Isaiah's responses to questions I posed them in all seriousness.

I described to the children a field in which was hidden a pearl of great price. They could either walk past this field because they had others things to do or instead stop what they were doing and focus on finding this most valuable jewel. In the context of family worship and Scripture reading I thought it would be clear that I was describing the importance of listening to the reading of the Gospel. So when I asked the children if they were going to hunt for that pearl tonight, Grace surprised me by forcefully declaring, "NO! My treasure is in heaven; I'm NOT going to look for any jewels on earth!"

A little later in family worship I repeated a question my pastor asked during the sermon that morning. If you only had 5 minutes left to live and all the most important people in your life around you, what would you say to them? Eli and Grace answered as intended, mentioning the Gospel, Jesus, etc. I came to Isaiah for his answer, which was simply, "Goodbye!"

The title of this post comes from today's family hike through the Tent Rocks canyon. As we were making our way back down the trail, which winds through a wonderful slot canyon, another couple was coming up the narrow passageway. The man was bounding up the trail and from Isaiah's height he could only see his upper half, which was "skins." Intrigued, Isaiah loudly blurted out, "Oh, look naked men!" And then as the man came fully in view (and with his girlfriend giggling), Isaiah saw that he was not really naked and so corrected himself loudly, "He has pants! Wonderful!"

I gotta get rid of that shirt with Grant's picture on it!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A simple way to pray

Kristin's father recommended a short book on prayer; it's A Simple Way to Pray which centers on the 34-page letter Martin Luther wrote to his longtime friend and barber on prayer.

Luther was pivotal in reforming prayer, which in his time was largely stale, heartless repetition. He showed how prayer is to be a Word-centered conversation with God by taking the Ten Commandments one day, a Psalm, the Creed, or the Lord's Prayer the next day and use them as flint and steel to kindle a flame in his heart. He would first consider the instruction in each line of these texts and then express his thankfulness to God for giving us such gracious direction to live by. He would then confess that he has sinned against this commandment his whole life in thought, word and action. Lastly, he would petition God with particulars and give every argument he could think of to move God to fulfill his wish concerning this text.

In the midst of such thoughts if the Spirit began to preach in his heart he would honor Him by letting go of this prayer plan; he would then be still and listen to Him. But as Dietrich Bohnhoffer, another famous German Lutheran, has said, "Oh how rare it is to find a soul quiet enough to hear God speak!"

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Blood, guts, and eternity

Today I had a self-aid, buddy-care class; recurring training for military folks. Part of the class entails watching a gratuitously bloody film instructing us how to handle a whole range of battlefield injuries. It's not for the squeamish.

High-energy explosives and chemical/biological agents create very nasty casualty situations. I think all servicemen (and regrettably servicewomen, too) shudder to think of themselves being injured in such grotesque ways. We are all afraid of the reality of this kind of death.

I've heard about a recent survey showing that the average American only thinks about death rarely (I forget the exact statistic), but I know the folks in my class did today. And these words come to mind, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28)

If we are repulsed at the thought of blood and guts, shouldn't we show more concern about the conscious, eternal torment that our family, friends, and neighors will suffer if they die without Christ?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Heart Murmurs

Monday mornings the rescue mission serves sausage, biscuits, and gravy. I would estimate that we serve about 200 helpings for breakfast (but I'm a poor judge of crowds); each person can have as much as they want.

A few of the folks we serve grumble if the biscuit is occasionally a hot dog bun or if the side of fruit isn't as fresh as he'd like. My observation has been that it's only the "Regulars" that complain.

This points out a heart murmur of our own.

We are all recipients of mercy that we did not deserve. Christians are the "Regulars" and know it. But how often do we murmur because the mercy that God chooses to give us isn't exactly what we were craving?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Why are you still here?

The Lord invigorated me in corporate worship this morning! A large part of that was through an outstanding sermon taking up the end of the Gospel of Matthew.

The title of this post refers to a piercing question from the sermon. If we are saved, then why are we still here?

As pastor pointed out, it can't be primarily for fellowship. That is better had in Heaven. It can't be primarily to further our understanding of God's truth. That, too, would be better done in Heaven. It can't be primarily for worship. Again, Heaven. Therefore, according to the Gospel of Matthew, the reason why we are still here is primarily to make disciples.

The sermon then ripped-up the consciences of the congregation by demanding us to consider, are we living in obedience to the great commission of Jesus Christ?

An audio recording of the sermon should be available here soon.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

707 to Mt Pisgah

I've been thinking today about 2 Cor 5:7, "walk by faith and not by sight." Too often, I'm afraid we're better described by "out of sight, out of mind." Since we don't see God, the Church Triumphant, Heaven, or Hell, we live as if they're not there at all.

Until faith turns to sight, I combat unbelief by surrounding myself with tangible things that remind me of that invisible world around me. This week Hymn #707 in the Trinity Hymnal has been a great source of encouragement; it's Henry Lyte's "Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken."

To get that Mt. Pisgah experience in preparation for the Lord's Day, enjoy this.

Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
what a Father's smile is thine,
what a Savior died to win thee:
child of heav'n shouldst thou repine?

Hasten on from grace to glory,
armed by faith and winged by prayer;
heav'n's eternal day's before thee,
God's own hand shall guide thee there.

Soon shall close thy earthly mission,
swift shall pass thy pilgrim days;
hope shall change to glad fruition,
faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pensive, prideful, angst-filled heart

If we had lunch together and I was feeling candid, here's what I'd want to talk about.

I'd let it slip out that I lost sleep on Sunday night thinking about an idea Kristin had to reach our neighbors with the gospel. And I had to get up early the next morning because that's the day I serve breakfast at the rescue mission. All that feeds my busy pride.

It upsets me to see how careless, casual, and aimless many Christians are when they worship God publicly. Don't they know how special a means of grace corporate worship is and that they should come expectantly to it? I wouldn't mention that I'm having trouble worshiping with gladness. All that feeds my busy pride.

I would tell you about an old friend of mine, who is my age, and who just sold their house and bought an RV so they could travel every weekend. This gives me a great lead-in to two of my favorite convictions (such a pious sounding word): the ungodly temptation towards a life of ease, and not valuing community. I wouldn't tell you what I've been thinking about my neighbors and co-workers. All that feeds my busy pride.

That should be enough during a meal with you to create the impression I'm looking for. All that feeds my busy pride.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A FABulous day

We celebrate today the one year anniversary of receiving Faith Alethea Bailey into our family. Thank you, Lord for such a sweet gift!

Happiness is...a good, new book

Kristin and I are excited about the announcement of a new biography of Elizabeth Prentiss, author of one of our favorite books, Stepping Heavenward. Here's part of Sinclair Ferguson's endorsement of the new biography,
This is a gently written portrait of a remarkable—and honest—woman: "I am so vehement, so positive, and lay down the law so!" she wrote (know anyone like that?), but added, "I believe the grace of God can cure faults of all sorts, be they deep-seated or external."

Sharon James traces their [Elizabeth and George Prentiss] lives--with fascinating glimpses into nineteenth century society. Here is a real love story. Their empathy with one another (each lost their father when they were around nine years old), their deep pleasure in each other as recorded in their letters, and much else makes this book a delight to read. But it is also a tale of struggle and sorrow.

"More Love to Thee, O Christ" well sums up the theme. It is a sensitive and sensible account of Christian living, marriage, motherhood and ministry.

The Church suffers from a lack of edifying, well-written biographies of honorable Christian women. For my wife and daughters' sake, I hope this book brings a powerful example to inspire them.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Caring for the most precious thing on earth

I had some extra time in the airport yesterday and finished reading Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch (see link for a balanced review). Strauch is well read in this area, which means a very enjoyable part of the book was the quotes from others.

Since elders are often tentmakers (i.e. they have another vocation outside the church), they must adopt a sacrificial lifestyle. This led to my favorite line in the book,
Tentmakers must live a pruned life and literally find leisure and rest in the rhythm of serving Christ (Mt 11:28).

Later in the book he returns to this theme, "they [elders] bear the misunderstanding and sins of others so that the assembly may live in peace. They lose sleep so that others may rest. They make great personal sacrifices of time and energy for the welfare of others."

The puritan Richard Baxter, always a source of great quotes, admonishes elders,
Can you not hear Christ saying, "Did I die for these people and will you then refuse to look after them? Were they worth my blood, and are they not worth your labor? Did I come down from Heaven to seek and save the lost, and will you refuse to go next door, or to the next street or village to seek them?

In closing, Strauch points out that to God the Church is the most precious thing on earth. An elder performs an exceedingly excellent work; one that is worthy of the sacrifice of one's life.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Fighting over the remote control

I'm working in Wichita, Kansas all week.

When I'm at home my family responsibilities keep TV and movies almost entirely out of my life. But when I'm on the road I have more free time and I find that entertainment is still a strong distraction.

I planned to use my free time during this trip to keep up with my Bible study plan and finish a book I brought. But it's been a hard struggle to keep the TV set off.

What joy I've had the last two nights when I've succeeded! Both those times of private worship were much more satisfying than anything the TV could have offered. I also am glad that I used the time to lift up friends in need through prayer rather than amuse myself flipping channels.

A verse that Kristin and I recently learned has been helpful, "I will set before my eyes nothing that is worthless." (Psalm 101:3)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Faith Turns 1

One sign of a loving church is that she remembers your children's birthdays. Before we could sit down for worship this morning several folks wished Faith a Happy Birthday. Dan, the burly man who ministers in the prisons, brought cupcakes and led us in the birthday song!

This evening we had a family celebration; something Faith will probably only remember through pictures like these.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Carving your own idol

The bleating of Amalekite sheep brought down the first king of Israel. When confronted by Samuel why they were not "devoted to destruction" as the Lord commanded, Saul piously explained it would be more honoring to God to sacrifice them later over in Gilgal. We would do well to consider Samuel's reply:
Presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.1 Sam 15:23

How very common it is today for people to presume about God! And we see in this verse what idolatry this is! We imagine we know what God is like and what He would like from us. Truth be told we know very little about God because we know very little about the Scriptures. Rather than approaching the Bible longing to learn more and looking to God himself to open to us his own word, we find it much easier to simply presume. And this is how we carve our own idols.

J.I. Packer has wisely asked, "We profess our anxiety to keep clear of legalistic bondage, but are we not in much greater danger of Antinomian license?"

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Please pray

If you haven't thought to yet, please stop and thank God that the airliner terror plot was foiled. How very merciful of our Lord to prevent this wicked plan. May His mercy endure forever!

How depraved must a person be to plot the mass murder of thousands of women, children, and non-combatants? How evil are our enemies! Events like this prove that the "imprecatory Psalms" (Psalm 83 for instance) have an important place in the Scripture and in the Christian's prayer life. Please pray that our enemies' plans would come to nothing, their plots continue to be foiled, and their cause be crushed.

It is not out of personal hatred that I urge you to pray against the Islamists. Why are we taught to pray for God’s judgment on the enemy? So that they will be converted! How often do we see God’s judgment leading men to repentance!

“O Christ, come in power and show forth the glory of God. Bring judgment to the wicked that they may seek you . . . and if not, O God, destroy all who won’t bow to you. Let them know that only you, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.” (from James Adams, author of War Psalms of the Prince of Peace)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Desert Cloudburst

Sunday afternoon erupted and turned our house into waterfront property for a few hours. In the photo below a neighbor and I have waded out into the street in front of our houses to make sure the curb drains aren't clogged.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Talking to loved ones about co-habitation

Someone close to me has decided to move to a large city and live with his girlfriend. I was asked to speak to him about marriage, but after thinking about it, decided not to. However, when I called him today I did have something important to say.

I struggled with how to handle the situation. He hasn't been part of a church for years and has no evidence of saving faith. So reprimanding him for not living like a follower of Jesus if he doesn't love Jesus just didn't make sense.

But I did remind him that his baptism (I was present years ago when he was baptized) calls him to be a true follower of Christ. And since he is moving to a large city, and in a sense starting over there, I told him this would be a great time to get started with church again. Once I get his new address I plan to provide some recommendations.

Should we expect people to live like Christians sexually (and in other ways) if they don't value communion with God? The right approach is to treat the problem (lack of fellowship with God) not the symptoms (co-habitation). How would you handle this situation? Co-habitation is so commonplace that if someone close to you isn't doing it now, they probably will be soon.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Horse Camp

Eli and Grace took part in a horse camp this week. Eli took first place in barrel racing and they both had a great time.

And while the big kids were away, Glory had a friend over.

Una and Glory

Friday, August 04, 2006

My new neighbor

Sometimes God's providence is so obvious. I have a new neighbor as of today, but I've known him for over a year from work. We have had a little conversation before about the gospel; I see no way to consider him a believer. Living beside him will be a test to see how much I'm willing to die to self in order to love my neighbors and the gospel.

I've been listening to an edgy conference series on being missional in the context where God has you. Their basic message updates the 80s' church growth mantra "every member is a minister" [where the focus is church-inward] and declares that "every member is a missionary" [focus is church-outward].

An outgoing friend of ours from Ohio had a neighbor two-doors down move away that they had never met; she was surprised to learn that they were going to the mission field. This seemed out-of-place--why go to the effort of moving to a mission field if you don't even bother to meet your neighbors where you are?

My new neighbor is radically different than me. He has very different interests, and I'll have to decide which ones are legitimate for me to be involved with in order to reach him. It must have took an amazing love for the Apostle Paul to be all things to all men so that some might be saved; that's what I need.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

To love mercy

We have not loved to show mercy in the past. God calls us to start.

Today I had an orientation tour at the Albuquerque Rescue Mission, a gospel ministry to the homeless supported by our church. I'll start serving breakfast there next week. Tomorrow Kristin has her orientation at CareNet, an "abortion alternative" in town. I think her experience as an adoptive mother could be a real service there.

We're looking for a mercy ministry that our whole family can participate in together (in the past we've visited nursing homes, but we don't know of any close by). It's important to Kristin and I that our children grow up serving others and seeing their parents serve others.

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

Monday, July 31, 2006

Going casual

Occasionally in the evenings Kristin and I will ask each other about the Scriptures we each read during private worship that morning. It's a test question that reveals if we're treating God's Word too lightly and just going through the motions.

Evidence "A" that I've been reading God's Word too casually is when I'm unable to remember much of what I read a little later when I try to pray about it. To combat casual reading I've started to write down the most pray-able passages of Scripture from my morning and evening readings. This notebook serves as a memory jogger during prayer and forces me to slow down and ingest a little more of what God is saying.

Since I'm talking about "Quiet Time," have you read what my friend Mark recently wrote? It's an enjoyable, satirical blog post that pokes a little fun at some of the silly and ineffective religious doings that we're so skilled at.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Feel the force of truth

After hearing for years and from a number of people how good this book is, I finally checked it out of our church library. This book represents a lifetime of study for J.I. Packer and his collected writings on the life and faith of the Puritans.

Many folks have no desire for theology. Others study theology in a way that feeds pride and hardens the heart. This book is a powerful and pervasive remedy to both. Packer touches effectively on seemingly everything, from prayer to match-making to evangelism to vocation and beyond, bringing out the best quotations from a treasure chest full of Puritan theology.

And this is a practical book--an excellent tutorial on how to root and live your life in Scripture. I filled 4 pages of my journal with quotes from Packer and the puritans; more than any other book I've read in years. These men are to be like godly fathers to us--let us not forsake their instruction.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


A book I just finished lamented the loss of self-examination among Christians today. In light of the situation, here are a few diagnostic questions worth considering:

If your church were to close down tomorrow would the neighborhood it's in miss it? How about the minority communities in your area, would they notice if your church went away?

If you were to move away tomorrow would anyone miss your gifts and service?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

When momma is happy [in Jesus], everyone's happy

If somehow my whole world was transfigured into that mythical land of Narnia, right about now I would be the one saying, "Aslan is on the move."

What a joy to see my wife grow in her love for Jesus. It delights this husbandman's heart to hear her urging me and the children to go on short-term mission. And she loves the church, often caring for the children of others so their parents can be refreshed. I am so grateful for her weekly meetings with a couple other ladies from church (who are also our neighbors) and their desire to become that virtuous woman whom God highly esteems.

She is my helper in salvation; she stirs me up to faith, love, and good works. She warns and helps me against sin and all temptations. She joins in God's worship in the family. She comforts me in the hopes of life eternal.

"May you rejoice in the wife of your youth." Proverbs 5:18

Friday, July 21, 2006

Evangelizing the suburbs

Al Mohler's radio program aired an episode last week that is worth making time for. The show was about the difficulties in having a vibrant spiritual life when you live in the 'burbs. It can be found here.

One problem I see is that most Christians have adopted a style of evangelism that is incompatible with the insular life of the suburbs. If we advocate relationship-based evangelism, where you want to know someone well prior to sharing the gospel with them, how can this be done when you usually only see your neighbors as they're pulling into the garage just before the door comes down behind them?

Evangelism in the suburbs is seldom successful because building relationships in the suburbs is seldom successful.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Working for the weekend

We're back home. Our mountain vacation gave me plenty of extra time (while the family was sleeping) to finish two messages I'll give this weekend at our church's men's retreat.

I've profited greatly from Christian biographies over the years and will now get to share this gift by presenting a message on the life of reformed missionary John G. Paton (leaning heavily on John Piper's message from a few years ago).

My second message was more difficult to prepare, but I finally found a title that I like: "The Role of Islam in the Providence of God." I'll get to use my master's degree research again, but the message has been updated significantly since last year thanks to some new sources that have come to my attention.

Should be a great weekend! And before that I get to see some old friends in Texas!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Friday, July 14, 2006

Enchantment Circle Pictures

Our little family reunion is a lot of fun for the children--and their grandparents. Our kiddos get some extended time with their cousin, and we're all enjoying what is called the "Enchantment Circle"--Taos, Angel Fire, Eagle Nest, and Red River.
Isaiah and cousin Parker (also 4 yrs of age) playing in the creek behind our Adobe.
Racing in Red River
Roasting marshmellows over the Kiva
Boating in Angel Fire