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

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Covenant seminary courses on your iPod

Covenant seminary has begun to offer (for free!) several of their classes via podcast. So far there's Dr Calhoun's reformation and modern church history, an Old Testament history course, Dr Doriani's life and teachings of Jesus, a class on Christian ethics, and one on youth ministry.

In iTunes, go to music store, select Podcasts, and type in "Covenant Seminary" in the search window.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Noble Savages of Northern New Mexico

We're currently spending some time in Taos--my first time here. It's picturesque and still largely an undeveloped land of mountains, streams, and prairies. Today we took the tour of Taos Pueblo, where multi-storied adobe buildings have been continuously inhabited for over 1000 years.

Our tour guide repeatedly emphasized the religious nature of the Taos pueblo people as uncorrupted by the influences of civilization. They lived in innocent harmony with nature, were generous, faithful and selfless.

Our guide's monologue was full of disdain for Christianity--which apparently had been forced upon them hundreds of years ago. We entered the pueblo's Roman Catholic church to find an icon of Mother Nature elevated over an image of Jesus Christ, and learned that parishioners choose during the service which god they worship. But she made it clear that the younger, hipper natives reject the Christian faith.

Anthropologists have constructed an idyllic but imaginary past for the native American peoples that has largely been accepted in our culture, but all sentimentalism aside, these people are still in their sins and without Christ.

Here's another reminder that foreign mission fields exist within our own borders--in our own backyard. The reservations scattered throughout our country--sovereign nations--deserve more missions-minded attention and prayer.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Mix bad theology and the Internet, and what do you get?

The Cyber-Church of Jesus Christ Childfree

Pullquote: "Jesus is known to have tolerated children in his close vicinity on two occasions." Apparently, the rest of the time He considered them to be distractions.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The PCA: a Missional Church?

The brutal truth: the PCA is not being used by God to convert many in our country to the Christian faith. According to our denominational statistics for last year the entire PCA had a net growth of only 74 members by profession of faith. 83% of churches in my denomination had 5 or less adult conversions that led to membership. To hear more about this and some analysis listen to Randy Pope's message from General Assembly last month.

While that is a major concern for prayer and action, I am heartened by how missional my local PCA church is. Tens of thousands of dollars, a large percentage for our small church, go to local and foreign missions. Admittedly, giving is only one part of what it really means to be missional, but it is an important part.

The session unashamedly declares that when faced with either putting refrigerated air in the sanctuary or funding the spread of the gospel to Muslim refugees in Greece, there's no contest over where the money will go. We could have a much nicer looking facility, and maybe some day we will, but for now there are too many more urgent needs to address.

God has used our church's mission mindset to motivate Kristin and I to reconsider what more we can do. One idea we have heard of from others and have begun to implement is to systematically step down our "standard of living" spending (e.g. home supplies, restaurants, entertainment, etc) incrementally, freeing up this money for giving. I bring up this action carefully, knowing that it can be perceived as boasting and prideful, but I genuinely don't think that is my motivation. I needed to hear of this approach to increased giving, and by mentioning it here I hope that others reading this may also find the joy that comes from using less and giving away more.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The surest way to learn... to prepare to teach. Next Sunday I will speak on the Fifth Commandment for about an hour. If I didn't prepare for this lesson, I would have nothing more than a couple of simple, disjointed things to say about this subject. It would be shameful to treat such an important topic so lightly.

It is not without reason that Scripture warns those that teach of greater judgment. There are many dangers. A boring lesson fails to call people to action. An exciting but erroneous lesson can do great harm. And teaching to impress others, rather than to serve them, will lead to a fall for you and your people. But a desire to truly serve those you teach is great motivation for hours of preparation.

It's regretful that we naturally do not like to study the Word in depth. But we can be thankful for forcing functions like teaching. Its joy lies just over a hill of preparation.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

My sin is pride

That's a song title off a recently released bluegrass CD that I enjoy, and a fitting autobiographical statement.

Suffering, the necessity of it and our cowardly avoidance of it, is a recurring blog theme here. I know too little of it myself. I think back to days before children when I would relish evenings for their entertainment and mornings for sleeping in, ambivalent to Scriptural responsibilities that called for me to make use of that brief, less encumbered time with intensified service in Word and deed. Now that the pattern of ease has been set, it is hard to alter course.

But more on my mind this week is the deadly danger to suffering and sacrifice--it is pride's fuel. Generous giving, fasting, abstinence from all manner of vice is fine food for the flesh. As has been said, even my repentance wants repenting of.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Monday, July 03, 2006

You can't see me!

This little prairie dog jumped the wall around our backyard yesterday and soon found out what Border Collies do. Our dog corralled it into the corner or our backporch, but then didn't know what to do with it. The prairie dog stayed facing into this corner, in full view of all of us, for a long time, apparently thinking that if it cannot see us then we must not be able to see it!

This made a great illustration of our children's catechism question 11:

Q. Can you see God?
A. No, I cannot see God, but He can always see me

After that teaching point I took a shovel and...chased it out of our yard.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


I love this picture of think he got into the show?