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