Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's time to make a plan

With 2009 just a month away it's crunch time! A question needs to be answered in the next few days that will affect every day of your life in the coming year; what will you use for private worship? Husbands, this is the time to plan together with your wife so that you can encourage each other to keep at it when you hit tough times.

Kristin and I talked about it yesterday; we'll either stick with D.A. Carson's For the Love of God (a Bible reading plan and brief commentary that takes you through the whole Bible once a year and the New Testament twice) or we'll see what Tabletalk is going to cover next year. Carson's devotional is reliably good and at times exceptional; I wish volume 3 were available! I like Bob Pod's idea to use Matthew Henry's commentary too; it'd be even simpler if someone would divide them up into daily portions.

Whatever you choose, choose quickly, January 1 will sneak up on you.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pocket tools

Now that Thanksgiving is over some of us have found that it is possible to give thanks without a thankful heart. Extra time around family can reveal new layers of selfishness, often resulting in sinful anger. I've made use this weekend of a great tool for dealing with sinful anger in my life and recommend it to others for its very simple yet powerful help. This booklet is a summary of the Puritan Richard Baxter's writings on anger; it's small enough to easily fit into your pants pocket and laid out clearly enough to direct an angry temper towards peace.

One of the common complaints of reading the Puritans is the length. The Pocket Puritans series puts their power of exposition and application easily within reach.

Other topics covered in the Pocket Puritan series: lust, faith, heaven. It could be the best $3.60 you ever spend.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The only things we create that will last forever

"As parents the only thing we ever create that will last through all eternity is children. Your children will be there before the judgement seat of Christ. And these dear children that I see week by week growing up are going to last for all eternity. They're going to last forever and forever and forever. That means the most important thing in my existence is how I bring my children to Christ."

Hear the rest of Dr Ferguson's sermon (#8) from a recent parenting conference. It's very encouraging.

The last great change of all

From this morning's prayer in The Valley of Vision:

"Every new duty calls for more grace than I now possess,
but not more than is found in thee.

Do thou be with me, and prepare me for all
the smiles of prosperity, the frowns of adversity,
the losses of substance, the death of friends,
the days of darkness, the changes of life,
and the last great change of all."

Yes, Lord, while my country talks about its "change", remind me of the last great change of all, when You will make all things right--and may it begin with me.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Actions, Habits, Character

Have you ever thought you knew something only to meet someone else who shows you all that you're missing? That's what Whyte's book on the characters of Pilgrim's Progress is doing for me and has done for many through the years. In the past I enjoyed the urgency of Christian's journey and the characters he encountered along the way. But I missed the fundamental point; where do I show up in each of these characters and what will I do about it? Whyte's book illumines and helps, pointing out that actions lead to habits and habits become character. So does this sermon based on Whyte's book. If you need more godly character in your life I recommend both!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tripping over the tiles

I accompanied my pastor last night on a shepherding visit. The older man we visited lives in a retirement center and joked with us about how before we arrived he tripped over some tiles near the dining hall and entertained the other residents with his quick footwork trying to avoid a painful fall. It sounds like the residents receive great and regular medical care, but we'd all prefer if he didn't need it.

As I reflected on this enjoyable visit while driving home a parallel between the retirement center and the church hit me. Residents in a center like his are frequently in need of physicians and medical attention. They are frail physically and want good doctors that will care well for them. Likewise, as members of a church we are spiritually frail--prone to trip over the tiles if you will--and frequently in need of a physician of the soul. I'm thankful that our church has a good one.

Monday, November 17, 2008

"What then will this child be?"

My Bible reading plan has me in the beginning of the Gospel of Luke and so I get to enjoy one of my favorite parts of the Christmas story, the birth of John to Elizabeth and Zechariah. I especially enjoy the squabbling over what to name the child. Elizabeth proposes "John" to which the extended family and neighbors (!) scoff since no one else in their family has that name. They turn to the mysteriously mute father for his ruling. Zechariah asks for a tablet and writes "His name is John." Immediately his tongue is loosed and he speaks blessing God.

The extended family and neighbors, outgunned by Providence, respond in wonder and fear asking, "What then will this child be?" Again, Zechariah has the answer, which I will give in short here, "this child will point others to Jesus."

That doesn't sound too unusual; why, we can all do that. Perhaps that is why Jesus says of John, "the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." So I take up the words of a man's newly loosened tongue and pray for my soon to be 9-year old daughter. As she "grows and becomes strong in spirit" may she "give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A dangerous journey together

We're just about one week from the start of our study of the greatest book besides the Bible. I look forward to taking the journey again, this time with my friends from church. Don't forget to pick up a copy of The Pilgrim's Progress if you don't already have one.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm thankful my wife is "busy at home"

From today's Air Force News...

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. - A childcare center on Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque may close at the beginning of the year unless a government sponsor steps in soon.

The Shandiin Development Center's previous sponsor pulled out after base security said marijuana and drug paraphernalia were found in the cars of three workers last month.

Those workers were immediately fired, and the remaining teachers tested negative for drugs.

In distress

AP/Jerome Delay
Protegee, carrying her sibling on her back, cries as she looks for her parents through the village of Kiwanja, north of Goma, eastern Congo on Thursday Nov. 6. A fragile cease-fire in Congo appeared to be unraveling Thursday as the U.N. said battles between warlord Laurent Nkunda’s rebels and the army spread to another town in the volatile country’s east.

"Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."
James 1:27

Pray that Christians may do their little bit towards widows and orphans and call others to do their little bit until it is enough.

HT: Amy

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Good news to go

All the audio from the conference I attended recently on our Adoption in Christ and what it means for orphans is now available for free download.

I especially recommend these two messages:

Rick Phillips - “The Good News of Adoption

Carl Robbins - “Adoption and the Multi-Ethnic Family of God

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

To those worthy of our thanks

"Two Fridays ago musician Steven Curtis Chapman met Corpsman Thomas McBride. He had been wounded in action in Afghanistan and tragically had lost part of his leg. Steven was deeply moved by this man and the sacrifice he had made for this country. In response and with gratitude to Corpsman McBride and all who have served America, Steven penned a new song, “Thomas McBride.” It’s Steven’s great privilege, that this song was delivered this week to Corspman McBride by the President of the United States, George W Bush.

On this week that marks Veterans Day 2008, we pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of the men and women who in defense of our freedom have bravely worn the uniform of the United States. To mark the week, Steven is making available, via streaming audio, this simple demo he recorded of the new song."

Hear the New Song By Steven Curtis Chapman, Thomas McBride

HT: Michelle's Blessings

A strong sense of yieldedness to God

They can keep their horse-drawn buggies, but I'll take their "profound ability to absorb adversity" any day.

HT: Christ is deeper still

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Rules for Dating (according to a 10 yr old boy)

Eli was recently "promoted" to the next higher Sunday school class. Today they studied one of the best love stories of all time, Isaac and Rebekah. The denominational curriculum we use took this opportunity to discuss some principles for dating. Eli, putting his mind to this subject for his first time, came up with some additional rules for dates.

Don't kiss anybody
Don't dance; just go out to eat.
Dates can be embarrassing so go in disguise.
If you are out to eat close your eyes when anybody kisses anybody else.
When anybody talks about dating plug your ears.
TOP SECRET: don't tell any girls you like them.
Never make eye contact; look away.
At school sit in the back row so nobody can look at you.
If you send a valentine card don't put your name on it.
Never give a girl flowers.
Never go to weddings.
Close your eyes when people kiss in movies.
Never spy on girls unless it's your sister because if you're caught you are in big trouble.
Never get behind a girl in the lunch line.

Thanks to Sunday school teachers Haley and Dan for instilling a healthy fear of "the other" in my boy. I don't think I have to worry about Eli getting any dates for the next few decades!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A face for interracial families

If I put aside politics, parties, and policies for a moment and instead consider the social effect of this election, it is truly worthy of wonder. Many commentators are remarking on the significance of electing our first African-American president and what it signals for race relations in our culture. Most of the attention focuses on a more accepting white community (without putting it in those words).

I, too, hope this is a lasting change, yet my hope is that both black and white communities will become more accepting of interracial families. When people look at my family, instead of seeing different races, will they instead draw a parallel to the upbringing of Barack? Before when people saw a white mama holding a black baby they probably didn't have a category for that, but now interacial families have a face--the face of a president.
A young Barack held by his mother
A young Faith held by her father

Saturday, November 01, 2008

A day-long dose of good news

I'm in South Carolina to consume vast quantities of pork BBQ (vinegar-based!) and other delectables that only Southerners really know how to make. I also came to see my mother and brother (and his wife) and, quite coincidentally, to attend the Together for Adoption Conference today in Greenville.

The "Together" refers in part to the conference speakers from various denominational backgrounds. Forgive me for bragging on my own "team" a little but the Presbyterian preachers (Rick Phillips and Carl Robbins) represented in force! I wish I could have heard these messages back when Kristin and I were first considering adoption--they were very stirring and biblically-insightful. I'll put up a link to them next week when they're on-line, but for now here are a few choice quotes.

"When you hear the word adoption, do your thoughts move to the horizontal (families adopting children) or do they move vertically (God adopting us)?"
Dan Cruver

[note: test question for whether our thoughts are biblically-calibrated]

"'Relationship with God' talk doesn't have much content to it unless you know what we've been saved to"
Rick Phillips

[note: while we may have a strong sense of what we're saved from we suffer from not appreciating what Adoption has saved us to]

"Our manner of adopting: we want white, blond-headed, perfect babies. But God adopted those who were his enemies and had no merits."
Rick Phillips

"The most potent form of evangelism and discipleship is adoption."
Rick Phillips

"Any denial of our togetherness with Christians of other races on the horizontal plane is a denial of Adoption on the vertical plane! And is working against Christ!"
Carl Robbins

"God adopts transracially; He has crossed the boundaries"[ should we].
Carl Robbins

"The 'end' of our Adoption [in Christ] is not horizontal adoption but the ultimate goal is for earth to become like heaven. God uses us for this purpose."
Tullian Tchividjian

"God is not in the process of giving it [the world] all up but gaining it all back. Christians should engage the world and solve the orphan care problem."
Tullian Tchividjian

There was also a great group of exhibitors representing foster care and adoption ministries. I visited every table and will bring some materials to church with me for those that would like to see them.