Sunday, August 31, 2008

The blessings of old age

In preparing to teach a class on "What is a good church?", I've used a Google search tool to pull together people's thoughts on this from across the blogosphere. One common sentiment that pops up among bloggers is that they want a church with lots of people their own age. They especially dislike churches that are elderly.

This brought to mind how my thoughts towards the elderly have changed. There was a time when I too avoided churches with older people. In fact, for years, a church I attended had no one over 50 that I can remember.

But this changed when I prayed with an old man in the sunset of his life. He has walked with God longer than I have been alive. His body is failing him, but His God has not. His faith has stretched across time and has lasted through adversity, and this gives me hope that I, too, will not fall away.

When we don't know our elderly fathers and mothers in the faith we miss out on one means that God uses to assure us of perseverance. Just as Jacob, when dying blessed his sons, leaning on his staff to worship (Heb 11:21), so too can our fathers in the faith bless us in their worship of God.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A new job

On Tuesday I'll start my 12th job in the Air Force. That's 12 jobs in 15 years--I can't keep a job!

As work responsibilities have increased over the years, so has my satisfaction with the Air Force. This new job will be a bigger challenge than the last. And it's a good thing that we like Albuquerque, because my boss has requested that I stay here longer than a normal tour. We'll see what the Air Force Personnel Center thinks of that.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Christ the Center

Christ the Center is a fairly new podcast led by a panel of PCA and OPC pastors; I've grown to really enjoy learning more about the reformed faith this way. Here's a list of recent episodes:

The Eschatological Views of the Westminster Divines
Cultural Relevance, Mercy Ministry and the Social Gospel
The Pastor and the Academy
The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century
Recovering the Reformed Confession
Union with Christ and Twofold Grace
Reformed Church Growth
Reforming or Conforming?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Zeke's first word

A few weeks ago the kids watched the movie "Annie". The "Tomorrow" song stuck with Faith; she kept singing it for days. It even affected Zeke, who hasn't said anything other than a "momma"-sounding utterance when he's crying. But tonight at dinner he picked up Faith's refrain, and so his first word is officially "Tomorrow".

Does this word symbolically reveal anything about Zeke's laid back personality? Time will tell.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A General's Staff

Yesterday afternoon I found out that we had another tour to give at work today--we give lots of tours, many of them to high-ranking officers. But this one was different. The staff for this General Officer live in fear of him and they had me running in all directions. In 15 years of military life, I've never seen staff officers ping so hard. They took over my office, re-did the briefing slides many times this morning, asked me to call the whole building to attention when he walks in, and basically stayed on the verge of an anxiety attack the whole morning. To top it all off, one of the staff officers even had my hat for the whole visit, thinking it was his own. You probably have to be a military person to appreciate the embarrassment of missing your cover, especially with General Officers around. I was glad to see them leave, and thankfully I got my hat back.

The Reformation

This book explains the Reformation in an easy and quick manner without being uninteresting. In a fresh way the doctrines of the Reformation are presented through the lively characters of the Reformation. This link keeps the book from being academic without losing the doctrinal nature of the Reformation. My favorite chapter was "The Women of the Reformation", particularly the young life of Lady Jane Grey, the nine-day queen who at 16 years of age had a remarkable grasp on the gospel.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ouch! This hits too close to home

Ken Myers (MARS HILL AUDIO) in an article titled "That's why they call them browsers" writes on the detrimental effect that Internet-based communications has on learning and especially deep reading. Here's a summary pieced together from a few quotes that hit me the hardest.

"Carr observes that deep reading--reading that is more like prayer than basketball--is deliberately discouraged by the structure of the Web and in the business models of the Web's reigning powers. 'The faster we surf across the Web--the more links we click and pages we view--the more opportunities Google and other companies gain to collect information about us and to deed us advertisements.'"

"We are constantly lured from the important and profound to the distacting, 'interesting', piquant."

"He touches everything brought within easy reach of his mind by the constantly increasing means of transportation, information, education, and amusement, but he doesn't really absorb anything. He contents himself with having 'heard about it', he labels it with some current catchword, and shoves it aside for the next. He is a hollow man and tries to fill his emptiness with constant, reckless activity."

This article is a call to action, but I'm not sure how to go about making the change. Any ideas on how to avoid the pitfalls described here without getting completely off the Information Superhighway?

Read the whole thing.

Brushes with death

The military police knocked on our door last night, showed me a picture, and asked if I had seen this person in the last few hours. I recognized the person in the picture and joined in the search last night through the base and along Central Avenue for a suicidal friend who hours earlier had disappeared on foot with nothing but pajamas. Thankfully this person was found alive and is now getting help.

Pulling out of my neighborhood this morning on my way to work, the car up ahead was driving at idle speed and drifting between lanes. I pulled along side and clearly saw that the driver was unconscious and alone. I pulled ahead just in time to miss him as he veered into my lane and then crashed into a park bench. A small crowd formed, we felt a weak pulse, and got help. I don't know if this man is alive now.

How should we respond when brushed by death? It certainly has my attention today.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Calling out the "Apostates"

After reading the first chapter of our new book for adult Sunday school, I'm really impressed. It unashamedly presents a strong case for the centrality of the local church in God's plan and a believer's life.

The authors square off against the idea that Christians don't need the local church, facing the church's detractors, such as popular Christian pollster George Barna, head-on. Referring to 1 John 2:19 they spell out the principle that those who claim to be a Christian but separate themselves from the church may possibly be just disobedient, but "it is more likely that they are not really believers". Subltly, they mention that in past centuries those that left the church were called "apostates" not revolutionaries.

In another bold statement, the authors call Christians away from fighting for a "Christian America" through para-church organizations and urge us to expend our energies towards the edification and growth of the local church. For God has promised that His church will endure; religious liberty in America has no divine guarantee.

This book is off to a great start!

Sanctification tests

"This is a false understanding of sanctification: that a person's level of sanctification depends on their fervor. And the goal is to increase their fervor. In the New Testament, sanctification almost always is worked out in real life, not in your private activities but in your public activities. Things like how you treat your wife. Things like how you treat your kids. Things like how you treat your fellow church members. Do you call on them when they're missing? Do you take them food when they are hungy? Do you help them find jobs? Do you support the mercy and benevolence activities? Sanctification in the New Testament manifests itself in very concrete, public ways and not in things like private journaling."

White Horse Inn broadcast titled: Calling the sheep to become self-feeders?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Encouraging parents that feel inadequate and guilty

Another good Ask Pastor John:

"First, I want to encourage people that all of us feel inadequate at the front end and guilty at the back end of parenting. We think we're doing our best. We think we've hit upon a way to do this or that. Then 10 or 20 years into parenting we read a book, hear a talk, or observe another person and realize, "Whoa, that's a good idea. I never thought of that, and I never did that. What if I had done that?"

No matter how good we are as parents we wind up feeling inadequate and guilty at the end. The key for having hope and for picking up and pressing on is, first, the cross of Christ, and receiving the forgiveness for our inadequacies and our failures. Secondly—and this is really, really important—it's knowing that God rescues children from the worst of homes, homes way worse than yours."

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

1st day of school

Grace and Isaiah began the school year today at the new classical Christian school in town, Oak Grove Classical Academy. They will attend two days a week and we will continue to homeschool the remainder of the time.

Both children were eager to start school today, but Isaiah's reasons were based on a strange expectation that he would get to play drums and paint all he wants. I don't know why he thought this is what happens at school, and he was a little dejected to have spent a good portion of the day working on his handwriting and math skills. But overall it was a good start to the school year.

Monday, August 11, 2008

How can eternity influence a mother's daily tasks?

From "Ask Pastor John [Piper]":

"I believe it is a very high calling to be a mom charged with teaching everything she possibly can to one, two, or eight kids.

The women who flourish most and who delight most in that calling—and who are best at it—are not women whose lives are circumscribed by their houses. They are women who are aware of the world. They're aware of God's global purpose. They're aware of the ultimate purposes of God in history. They're aware of things in history and in the far off reaches of the world today that God is doing. And those are part of what they want to build into these children. They want to raise global Christians, world Christians.

A mother will delight most in the little baby in front of her when she has a vision of God and a vision of the world that's big enough to admit that this little child has a destiny in front of him or her and might become this or that.

If she is totally circumscribed by her little home—with no vision for the world—then I think her domestic scene is probably going to shrivel up on her, and she is going to feel that it is small and constraining. But if she sees it in the wider context of what she is a part of in the missionary enterprise, I think every detail of her life can take on a global significance, indeed, an historical significance.

I really believe that. When I used to sit down for devotions with our four boys at home my mind wasn't simply, "OK I have a duty as a dad: I'm supposed to do devotions at night." My mind was, "What will they become?"

Ralph Winter used to say that nothing has an impact on kids except what they do daily. So we did Global Prayer Digest daily, and we did devotions daily.

The goal isn't just to fulfill some little task that dads are supposed to do. Rather, you're building men who hopefully someday will have absorbed so much of God and so much of the Bible that it's going to shape their whole world. And they might wind up going to Pakistan to help build shelters for earthquake victims."

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Sheep & greener grass

In this sermon Pastor Joel Beeke shares a good anecdote about changing churches.

After a sermon he gave at a conference a woman approached him and fawned over the message saying that she wishes she could hear preaching like that at her church. Dr Beeke cautioned her that if she were to switch to his church, within a few months she would probably be tired of his preaching, too. He went on to explain that as sheep we are prone to think the grass is greener elsewhere and often it can seem that way at first. But soon the newness wears off, other grass looks greener and the cycle perpetuates.

I've experienced this first hand and have come to regret it later. Commitment in all areas of life (which should include membership in a local church) is the better approach.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Echos from last Sunday

This line from a hymn we sang in worship Sunday is taken from Phil 1:21 and expresses the longing of a Christian's heart well:

"...having known it "Christ to live," let me know it "gain to die."

Thank you, Mr. Wardlaw.

Christ, of All My Hopes the Ground
Ralph Wardlaw

Monday, August 04, 2008

Grammar Girl

I'm a product of public education. In the deep South. And I hardly paid attention. Plus my brain is like a bucket without a bottom.

Enter the Grammar Girl podcast. In about 5 minutes I'm reminded of all the things I was supposed to learn by 5th grade like,

  • "Affect" or "effect"
  • When to omit the word "that"
  • "Who" versus "Whom"

Plus 114 other things that I probably don't know about my own (and only) language. Subscribe here or search iTunes podcasts for "Grammar Girl".

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The horse and his boy

Eli has always loved horses and has ridden for several years. But today was his first time bareback.

No church, no problem?

The latest podcast of White Horse Inn is really good, especially if you're not sure why it's important to be part of a local church. The corresponding magazine articles in the current issue of Modern Reformation is also well done.