December 31, 2014

The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.

I have been reading the book Desiring God, by John Piper. This morning I came across a lengthy quote of George Mueller's that I feel compelled to share with you:
While I was staying at Nailsworth, it pleased the Lord to teach me a truth, irrespective of human instrumentality, as far as I know, the benefit of which I have not lost, though now... more than forty years have passed away.

December 27, 2014

unnoticed creepers

Jude is an amazingly compact little letter. There are big ideas and mind-blowing examples. There is so much in there... and such passionate words: Jude is eager, under compulsion, appealing, contending, etc. (and that is just in verse 3!)

I am preaching on a portion of Jude tomorrow, verses 3 and 4. It is a portion that I have become passionate about myself. I am hoping to grab a bit of that passion that Jude clearly was overflowing with, and minister a bit of that to Edgewood tomorrow. I am hoping it is like a shot of adrenaline. I am praying, really praying, like literally... right now... that some in the audience, including myself, will walk away ready to contend for the faith because the Church (not just Edgewood) has certain people who have crept in unnoticed, just like in Jude's day:
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
(Jude 1:3-4 ESV)
These unnoticed creepers are, whether they realize it or not, perverting Grace and denying Christ. I don't want to sound over-dramatic, but I really don't want to sound under-dramatic.

December 20, 2014

The Calvinist by John Piper

The Calvinist by John Piper
See him on his knees,
Hear his constant pleas:
Heart of ev’ry aim:
“Hallowed be Your name.”
See him in the Word,
Helpless, cool, unstirred,
Heaping on the pyre
Heed until the fire.
See him with his books:
Tree beside the brooks,
Drinking at the root
Till the branch bear fruit.
See him with his pen:
Written line, and then,
Better thought preferred,
Deep from in the Word.
See him in the square,
Kept from subtle snare:
Unrelenting sleuth
On the scent of truth.
See him on the street,
Seeking to entreat,
Meek and treasuring:
“Do you know my King?”
See him in dispute,
Firm and resolute,
Driven by the fame
Of his Father’s name.
See him at his trade.
Done. The plan is made.
Men will have his skills,
If the Father wills.
See him at his meal,
Praying now to feel
Thanks and, be it graced,
God in ev’ry taste.
See him with his child:
Has he ever smiled
Such a smile before,
Playing on the floor?
See him with his wife,
Parable for life:
In this sacred scene
She is heaven’s queen.
See him stray. He groans.
“One is true,” he owns.
“What is left to me?
Fallibility.”
See him in lament
“Should I now repent?”
“Yes. And then proclaim:
All is for my fame.”
See him worshipping.
Watch the sinner sing,
Spared the burning flood
Only by the blood.
See him on the shore:
“Whence this ocean store?”
“From your God above,
Thimbleful of love.”
See him now asleep.
Watch the helpless reap
But no credit take,
Just as when awake.
See him nearing death.
Listen to his breath,
Through the ebbing pain:
Final whisper: “Gain!”
Here is this poem being read by many of my favorite authors and speakers...



The Calvinist from Desiring God on Vimeo.

A Manger Scene is on Display

Consider this, my friends today,
    when baby Jesus, in a manger lay:
    that God's glory has been put on display,
    and in a most magnificent way,
    that as a baby, now grown to man,
    he has completed his most glorious plan.
Love can be seen, but with real clarity now,
    not just through, but by pain upon his brow.
    This is how God's love is best displayed,
    when justice met mercy on the cross that day.
    And only through birth and life and death
    did resurrection show its breadth:
Sin and Satan and Death defeated,
    no hold on Christ had they completed,
    now victorious he sits upon a throne
    and we through faith in Christ alone
    by grace are cleansed from sin: atoned!
    partakers in this glorious reality
    captured by his love: complete finality.
No other name have lips ever formed,
    that took the universe in such a storm:
    glory, grace, love, justice, his name,
    every knee will bow, one day, proclaim
    but this address to him completed
    first by Mary when... "I'll call him Jesus."
So consider this, my friends today,
    when baby Jesus in a manger lay:
    that God' glory has been put on display,
    and in the most magnificent way,
    that little baby will grow to man,
    he will suffer and die according to plan.
    so bend your knee in awe today:
    a manger scene is on display.

December 13, 2014

C.S. Lewis on Praise

I have probably quoted this before, but bear with me as I find the need to quote it again ... I am typing this (not copying and pasting) from the book Desiring God by John Piper. (I type it because it helps me to consider each word in the phrase.) This particular Lewis quote comes from that book, though he is not the only one who has revisited this quote. Lewis' insight on Praise in this quote has, I am sure, helped many in their understanding of the strong connection between God's love for His people and His command that they praise Him.

... the most obvious fact about praise -- whether of God or any thing -- strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness of the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check on it. The world rings with praise -- lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game -- praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least ...  
I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: "Isn't she lovely? Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?" The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what in deed we can't help doing, about everything else we value.  
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. 
Like I said, this is C.S. Lewis speaking. It comes from his book Reflections on the Psalms. The portion that I quoted came from the book Desiring God. You can also read an article on this by Sam Storms on the Desiring God website, by clicking here: Praise: The Consummation of Joy.

Psalm 115

To Your Name Give Glory

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.

Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them.

O Israel, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.
O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.
You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.

The LORD has remembered us; he will bless us;
he will bless the house of Israel;
he will bless the house of Aaron;
he will bless those who fear the LORD,
both the small and the great.

May the LORD give you increase,
you and your children!
May you be blessed by the LORD,
who made heaven and earth!

The heavens are the LORD's heavens,
but the earth he has given to the children of man.
The dead do not praise the LORD,
nor do any who go down into silence.
But we will bless the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.
Praise the LORD!

(Psalm 115 ESV)

December 3, 2014

Psalm 5

Psalm 5
Give ear to my words, O LORD;
consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you do I pray.
O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
(How many of us can say this? How many of our voices will be heard in the morning?)
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.
(Why is it when Christians post a passage like this... many start to think... "Wow. Who hurt this guy?" or "Man. What's bugging him?" or possibly "Oh. He's that sort of person.")
But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
in the fear of you.
Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.
(It is important to understand that a good way to motivate yourself and direct yourself is to contrast yourself with others. I know, I know... we aren't supposed to compare ourselves with others, that is not exactly what I mean. It is important to take a step back and see which direction you are headed. It is so easy to say that you are on the Lord's side, but if you can take a step back, and there is no sharp contrast between you and "the wicked" then you might need to reevaluate.)
For there is no truth in their mouth;
their inmost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave;
they flatter with their tongue.
Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.
(Once again the contrast. Once again... if I were to simply post this, it would seem over-zealous or drastic or I could get accused of ignoring grace. Why is this? Is this not scripture? Is this not true? If not for the grace of God, this would be all of our destinies. It is only by grace that we are saved.)
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O LORD;
you cover him with favor as with a shield.
(Here is that Grace. Here is that display of faith. Taking refuge is not ultimately something you "do" to inherit God's grace... it is a demonstration of what God has done in you.)

Thanks for reading through this Psalm.

December 2, 2014

Psalm 4:1-3

A portion of my scripture reading this morning...  

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
      You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
     O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?
     Selah
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
     the Lord hears when I call to him.
Psalm 4:1-3 (ESV) 

November 24, 2014

New Book from Desiring God

A couple of days ago Desiring God released a new book that sounds interesting. The title is Mom Enough: The Fearless Mother's Heart and Hope, and it is a compilation book by the following authors: Christina Fox, Gloria Furman, Christine Hoover, Rachel Jankovic, Rachel Pieh Jones, Carolyn McCulley, and Trillia Newbell. The book is edited by Tony and Karalee Reinke.

The Desiring God website describes the book in a blog post this way:
Our new book cuts through the nonsense of competitive mothering. Eight bright women expose the spiritual corruption of it and explore how gospel grace is relevant for the daily trials and worries of motherhood. In the trenches, these moms have learned to redirect their hope and trust from the shifting sands of popular opinion to the unchanging all-sufficiency of God.
I haven't actually read this book yet, but it sounds interesting, so I am sharing it for all of the mothers in my life that I know.

There are three digital formats of this book that are currently free and will work on your kindle or ipad. You can find these free versions by clicking here.

November 15, 2014

November 14, 2014

Strategy of the month for November

The strategy is "questioning" and the character is The Question.

Free Advent Devotional

In a recent post on the Desiring God website, the new Advent Devotional by John Piper has been made available. The book can be purchased through Amazon as a paperback or a Kindle e-book, but Desiring God has made the pdf available as a download for free. 

Here is the description of this book (and Advent) from the Desiring God website:
Advent is for adoring Jesus. 
The Christmas season is one of the busiest times of the year. But it is also a season of reflection and preparation for that special day when we mark Immanuel’s coming—the arrival of our eternal God in our own frail humanity. 
This is the greatest of history’s many wonders, something too stupendous to celebrate just on one day. Advent is a way of lengthening and intensifying the joy of Christmas. 
These 25 brief devotional readings from John Piper begin on December 1 and carry us to Christmas Day. Our hope is that God would use these meditations to deepen and sweeten your adoration of Jesus and help you keep him at the center of your Christmas season.
Head on over to the Desiring God website and download this devotional today. Read it with me through the holiday season.

November 13, 2014

not for incarnation's sake

"... Jesus did not become incarnate for incarnations sake, as if the incarnation were itself sufficient to save his people. Our plight is not that we are finite, that we are not-God; and the remedy for our plight is not some new metaphysical connection to God. Rather, our plight is ethical: We have sinned, and therefore we are in a state of personal estrangement from our Creator. Jesus' in carnation was a means of bringing about reconciliation between ourselves and God."
~John M. Frame (pg. 899 Systematic Theology)

This is really important.

How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home by Derek W.H. Thomas - Book Review

I finished reading the book How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home on the bus, on my way to school this morning. I don't remember exactly when I started this book, but it was my "morning plug and chug" book.

How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home, by Derek Thomas is a book that is an exposition of Romans 8. Each chapter deals with a few verses from the chapter, explaining their meaning and their application in the Christian life, according to the larger context of the Epistle to the Romans.

The Gospel truly does bring us all the way home. The Gospel message is not just for those who are hearing it for the first time. It is not the message that gets you to be a Christian, but is never revisited... The Gospel is for when you were saved, when you are being saved, and for when you will be saved.  The Christian lives and breathes the Gospel. We are to preach it to ourselves and remind ourselves of the Gospel every day of our lives. This book does a wonderful job of highlighting how the Gospel flows to every part of the Christian's life and being.

There are three things about this book that I would like to point out:

1) This book had a very "Pastoral" feel. While reading it, I felt as if I was being shepherded by a brother in Christ... someone sharing their learning experiences with this chapter in the Bible. I would assume that Derek Thomas is a pastor of a church, and I would make the guess that this book was an outpouring of a sermon series that he had worked (and preached) through at his church.

2) This book is very helpful. I suppose that this point could probably fit into the previous point, but not every helpful book is pastoral in nature. These two things don't always go hand-in-hand, but in the case of this book they were arm-in-arm. With each passing chapter, I found myself applying some point or other that Derek Thomas was making. Quite often there were aspects of the teaching that were directly applicable to that very day when I was actually doing the reading in the morning. Several times there were issues that sprang up one day, and the next morning, while I was reading, I found something perfectly relevant to the issue from the previous day. These are my favorite sort of books.

3) This book was full of relevant quotes. Sometimes when I read a book that is full of quotes, it is almost as if the author is attempting to show-off his literary prowess. It can feel bragadoscious to keep quoting obscure portions of text from famous authors. That was not the case with this book. I found many, if not all of the quotes that he shared to be very fitting for the occasion, and would often serve as a summary of one teaching or other that he was attempting to get across.


November 11, 2014

November 9, 2014

Sermon Doodling

I often doodle in order to concentrate. Here is this morning's doodle.

November 8, 2014

Preaching Christ Crucified

I am currently preaching through The Gospel According to John at Church. I don't remember how long ago we started this expositional process, but much has happened along the way, and I am nearing the end of that journey. We started John 18 two weeks ago, (There was a missionary visiting our church last week.) and I am planning on finishing chapter 18 and possibly 19 tomorrow. These are the chapters in John that cover the crucifixion of Christ.

This is more emotional for me than I realized it would be. I have found myself angered by the treatment of Jesus... and yet I know that I am hoping (even though I already know) that He will make it to the end. I know that my only hope is if He accomplishes this task. This thought process, along with experiencing Jesus' ministry through the eyes of John, has opened my eyes to some deeper aspects of preaching.

To convert a long conversation into a semi-short blog post, I will simply say that I am beginning to embrace the concept of preaching Christ Crucified, as Paul describes it in I Corinthians 1:23. I am no longer interested in attaining the praise and admiration of my listeners. I no longer try to phrase things so as to not offend or cause people to stumble. The Cross of Christ is a stumbling block... it is a rock of offense... Why would I attempt to avoid this? I am called to preach Christ.

In Spurgeon's sermon on I Corinthians 1:23, we can read these thoughts:

November 7, 2014

Photo Friday - Blissful

"Blissful" is the title for this week's Photo Friday submission. For my entry, I have posted a picture of a bunny I found in my yard.



November 4, 2014

Desktop Background November 2014

I used to always share my new desktop background... I haven't had a new one for quite some time, but I just had to use this one when I found it. I believe it is a Ron Swanson quote.

source unknown (click to zoom)

November 3, 2014

Doodling

When I was young, I used to doodle. As I got older, my doodling dwindled. Sure, there was the occasional doodle, dangling near the end of a diagram... There was also the doodle for my darling... wife. This kept up my drawing abilities, as I would occasionally divulge in my dangling, dwindling doodling.

My youngest son also doodles. His divergent doodles have reminded me of my own desire to draw, so lately my doodling has returned. It is the dawn of a new day of doodling.

click to zoom



November 2, 2014

Mingling with Splendors

This is going to be an extended quote from the book How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home by Derek W.H. Thomas: (I believe it is worth reading all the way to the end.)

Derek Thomas introduces this lengthy quote by C.S. Lewis in this way:
Surely our vision of what lies before us is too small. Great things are in store for those who are in union with Jesus Christ. Allow C.S. Lewis to expand your idea of what glorification is:
And then he shares these thoughts from C.S. Lewis:
We are to shine as the sun, we are to be given the Morning Star. I think I begin to see what it means. In one way, of course, God has given us the Morning Star already: you can go and enjoy the gift of many fine mornings if you get up early enough. What more, you may ask, do we want? Ah, but we want so much more -- something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. 
We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words -- to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves -- that, though we cannot, yet these projections can enjoy in themselves that beauty, grace, and power of which Nature is the image. 
That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods. They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can't. They tell us that "beauty born of murmuring sound" will pass into a human face; but it won't. Or not yet. For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendor of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, maybe very near the truth as prophecy. 
At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumors that it will not always be so. 
Some day, God willing, we shall get in. 
When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch ... And in there, in beyond Nature, we shall eat of the tree of life.

November 1, 2014

A Great Decision

In October 1989, sometime near Halloween, there was a Ghost Rally hosted by the Lynch Fire Dept. I borrowed my dad's Chevy S-10 pickup, called a friend to see if they wanted to go, and then... called a girl.

Her name was Charity. I had had a crush on this girl for quite a while, but she was definitely "out of my league," if you know what I mean. It was a long shot, and I figured that at Ghost Rally would be casual enough that I could get a "yes" from this girl, even if she didn't actually like-like me.

She said yes... and she did like me.

I was eventually engaged to this girl (more than once). We were eventually married. And even though Halloween can be controversial (I guess) to some Christians, it has been redeemed for me. Twenty Five Halloweens later, we are still together and we are still getting ready to go on a Ghost Rally. I love her more now than I ever have, and I am fairly certain that asking her to that Ghost Rally was one of the best decisions that I have ever made.


For the last several years I have doctored up an old photo into a Halloween-themed image. Here is this year's rendition to celebrate 25 years.

October 29, 2014

I can't wait to enter the annex.

click to view on Amazon
I am currently reading the book How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home, by Derek Thomas. It has been an interesting book so far: well written, Biblical, and practical.

Today I ran across a quote in the book from John Calvin:  (John Calvin, commenting on I Peter 1:11)
The Church of Christ has been from the beginning so constituted, that the cross has been the way to victory, and death a passage to life ... The order is to be noticed; he mentions sufferings first, and then adds the glories which are to follow. For he intimates that this order cannot be changed or subverted; afflictions must precede glory. So there is to be understood a twofold truth in these words, -- that Christians must suffer many troubles before they enjoy glory, -- and that afflictions are not evils, because they have glory annexed to them.
Even as I type this, my thoughts are, "That is profound. Suffering is a hard truth, not a soft one... But what an important truth!"

If you are in the midst of suffering in your life, please heed the words of John Calvin. They are true words. Embrace your suffering as a preliminary to embracing your glory.

September 30, 2014

uncomfortable, palpitating, and gruesome

"Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway."
~J. R. R. Tolkien (in The Hobbit)

August 15, 2014

Classroom Teaching

It has begun again.

I have been back inside of those school walls again over the last two days. We won't have any students in our classrooms until Monday, but we are participating in our annual, obligatory institute days within the district. This is that time of year when all teachers find themselves sitting in meetings and sessions... attempting to learn how to accomplish all of the priorities that the government has sent down the proper pathways so that they can ensure that they have done everything they are supposed to do to turn teachers into good teachers... while simultaneously, these same teachers are attempting to create to-do lists of all the actual priorities that are immediately necessary for them to really be a good teacher. This can be exhausting.

Every once in awhile, during these institute days, there will be a presenter at one of these sessions who has been a teacher and remembers what it is like. Well, actually many of them have been teachers, but most only think they remember what it was like to be a teacher but they have forgotten, or quite possibly the reason why they "used to be teachers" is because they never should have been a teacher in the first place and they got out of it because they weren't very good at it, but now they are instructing other teachers how to be teachers. It's a mad, mad world.... Anyway... Every once in awhile there is a presenter who is actually a good teacher currently, and you can tell that he (or she) "gets it" ... not because they tell you such, but because they actually do "get it" and you can tell. Well, we had one of those presenters today. He presented information that we have heard before, but it made sense this time. He was interesting, he was enlightening, and most importantly for myself, he presented pertinent information.

During the presentation, he shared a quote from a guy named Lee Shulman, who is an educational psychologist. Here is the quote that he shared (I Googled it right after it was on the powerpoint):
Classroom teaching…is perhaps the most complex, most challenging, and most demanding, subtle, nuanced, and frightening activity that our species has ever invented….The only time a physician could possibly encounter a situation of comparable complexity would be in the emergency room of a hospital during a natural disaster.
~Lee Shulman, the Wisdom of Teaching
Now, obviously I don't think of teaching as something that we invented. Being a teacher is a characteristic of God that we might call communicable: It is an attribute that can also be applied to us. You could say that Classroom Teaching, as we know it, is an invention of people, but I believe that the good aspects of teaching can be traced back to the Great Teacher. But I am sharing this quote, not because I agree with the entire thing, but because much of what he says is quite accurate, especially in today's modern society. Teaching is challenging and complex, to say the least.

What always surprises me is how often one might encounter different people who love sharing a great quote about teaching or teachers... sort of like this quote or maybe even like that video where the guy talks about what teachers "make" ... but the ones who tend to talk in this positive, uplifting way are also the first in line to throw a teacher under the bus. Most specifically when their own children aren't performing well. Surely it was the teacher's fault! It is almost as if people love to glorify the occupation of teacher in a very general way, but with teachers that they actually know, they can only see their shortcomings and deficiencies. Besides... we all get the summer off every year anyway... right?!?

Well, I share this quote and my surrounding thoughts, not for my own sake, but for all of those teachers out there. It is a challenging occupation, more than most people will ever know, but it is also one of the most unappreciated jobs by those who are closest to a teacher.

Keep at it teachers!  You are giving the occupation a good name, whether those closest to you realize it or not.

August 13, 2014

contribute a verse

I can remember watching Mork and Mindy as a kid. I recall laughing at the wonderful voice performance of the genie in the lamp. I've watched Jumanji with my sister countless times. I've enjoyed Mrs. Doubtfire and Night at the Museum, but this only scratches the surface of the many unique acting and voice performances of Robin Williams.

I always felt like I could know this guy. Watching his crazy interviews and live performances reminded me of what was going on in my head most of the time. He could also be a serious actor: from Patch Adams and The Fisher King to The Awakening and Good Morning Viet Nam, he had the ability to draw you into his performance... especially with his eyes... he had kind eyes.

To be honest, his portrayal of a teacher in The Dead Poet's Society played a significant role in my decision to be a teacher myself. From the Carpe Diem whispering scene to the brilliant "Oh Captain, My Captain!" near the end of the movie, Mr. Keating (Williams) embodied, so very closely, what I wanted to be as a teacher: outside of the box. In fact, I just spent the last half hour watching Dead Poet's Society clips on YouTube.

Obviously, I am mentioning all of this because Robin Williams was found dead in his home. As far as they can tell, he committed suicide. He was struggling with depression. This isn't the first time that there has been an entertainer pass away, that I knew I would miss. But with this death I find myself genuinely sad. Mostly because many of his roles portrayed a character that was so near to the grand story, but just missed it. In this video, there is the audio from a scene in the Dead Poet's Society:

 

Robin Williams definitely contributed a verse. I am just sad because it seems that such a creative mind may have missed THE Creative Mind. I hope that before he died, he trusted in the only one who can save men's souls and write our names in the Book of Life.

August 12, 2014

Praying for your Prodigal - Book Review

I listened to Praying for Your Prodigal while painting a room in my house yesterday. It was a short book, (just a little over an hour of listening time) but it really packed some emotional punches to the gut. Please don't misunderstand me... I loved this little book, and would recommend it to others, without hesitation.

On the one hand, this book breaks down the story of the prodigal son, considering each portion of this prodigal's journey. The exposition was good, and very practical, not only for considering a prodigal's path, but also when we look back at our own personal history, and consider our own prodigal ways. I could also tell that there were some thoughts that bled over from Kyle Idleman's other book, titled Aha!

On the other hand, the portions of the book that really gripped me were the letters from parents to their prodigals that began each chapter. Some of them were heart-wrenching. Others hit really close to home. A couple of them reminded me so much of my own children, that it left me wondering about their futures. The voice talent for this book did an amazing job of drawing you into these letters... it was as if I was actually listening to some of these parents... my heart felt exposed and vulnerable. To have a child wander away from God would be like ripping your own heart out and letting it wander around unprotected... outside of its ribcage, deep in my chest.

This might steer some away from listening to an audiobook like this, but as much as we want to keep our children buried deep within our chests, we must embrace this concept that (first) God loves them more than we do and (second) God knows where they need to go to get to where they need to be. I can't say that I have completely learned this, but I am getting there.

Kyle Idleman shares a prayer at the end of each of these short chapters. I greatly appreciated these prayers. I found myself praying along with him. Though my children are not prodigals, I know that one day they may be...

I highly recommend this book to anyone that currently has a prodigal... OR IS a Prodigal. If you have wandered from the God who loves you, then know how much He loves you! He sent His own Son, Jesus, to die on a cross for you. Return in humility, and you will find your Heavenly Father waiting to throw a party!

You can find this audio book through ChristianAudio.com or Amazon.com.

August 4, 2014

by no means

I just started a surprisingly good book. I just started it this morning, and I am already on chapter 4... or maybe it is chapter 5. Either way, I am working through this book quickly, but I say, "a surprisingly good book" because it has been on my kindle for a while. Usually when I get a new good book, I try to consume it right away, but this one has been hiding in the shadows.

The book is called How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home, by Derek Thomas. I will save a synopsis for when I am ready to give the book a full review, but I do want to share a quote from the book that prompted this blogging moment.
"Of course, salvation by grace rather than our performance can be seen as a license to sin (antinomianism). Paul's response in Romans is something like this: if we are not tempted to think like that, we have not understood the gospel."
I haven't thought of it like this before. Now, Derek Thomas has just been explaining our salvation by grace and the reality that there truly is, "... no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Our salvation not depending on our performance is so wonderful, but it is a little unnerving when you begin to understand it. He goes on to say,
"Grace must raise the temptation to think we can sin as we please; if it does not, we have not understood the true extent of grace. However, at no time can we yield to the temptation to think this way, because Christians are called to a life of holiness -- holiness motivated by gratitude for all that God has done for them in the gospel of Jesus Christ."
This is so true. Like I said, I haven't thought of it this way before, but the Gospel is really scandalous! I can hardly believe it sometimes.

July 24, 2014

Blogging the Institutes #1

/begin_rambling

I have been wanting to blog more often. I find writing to be beneficial. It forces me to think, I mean, really think. Normally, thinking can seem fairly simple, but to think in such a way that would be able to convey the same thought, with all of it's nuances and fluctuations of feeling, to someone else, can be quite challenging.

Words must be picked accurately and meticulously in order to capture that firing of neurons in my brain. To then translate that sequence of fired brain cells into words that are then sent as impulses down my arms to my fingers to formulate those same words onto a computer screen on Blogger.com. And then to have this done in such a way that when all of the little 0's and 1's of the binary computer language are re-translated back into words that will show up on another's computer screen, after having traveled through the waves of the internet, as the light waves from those reconstructed letters, enter the eyes, the shapes that they create will make sense to this completely separate brain in such a way that the identical thought in the first brain will now be a new collection of fired neurons in the second brain. This is a marvelous thing.

But it has left me struggling with the blogging topics. For such a long time I simply blogged book reviews, but this blog originally had actual thoughts that I would attempt to convey through the blogging medium, though I did it quite poorly at times, that was my original intent. So... I am back at it, but needing to give myself some better direction.

I have been trying to simply blog what comes to my mind each day, when I have a chance, but have found that I have trouble picking which thought to run with. It isn't a shortage of thoughts, it is an overabundance of thoughts, but most of them are undeveloped thoughts. They simply are not specific enough to narrow it down to one blog post, and when I try to, they tend to become too burdensome to try to actually type out in a meaningful way. This post is because I am going to try something a bit different. I am going to blog through a big book... The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin. And... this is supposed to be the first post from the book, and I have already gone overboard on non-book-related conversation. Time to move on.

Since there are only two of you remaining that are continuing to read, instead of risking your loss, I will simply share a quote from the book and allow you to consider it for yourself:
Such is pure and genuine religion, namely, confidence in God coupled with serious fear - fear, which both includes in it willing reverence, and brings along with it such legitimate worship as is prescribed by the law. And it ought to be more carefully considered that all men promiscuously do homage to God, but very few truly reverence him. On all hands, there is abundance of ostentatious ceremonies, but sincerity of heart is rare. 
When you understand the nature of worship, and then couple that with the fact that it is commanded, we suddenly become acutely aware of our own need for genuine heart-change.

I promise that the next "Blogging the Institutes" posts will be more about the Institutes and less about why I am blogging about them.

/end_rambling

July 22, 2014

The Real vs. The Imitation

It shouldn't, but it always surprises me when I taste something real after I have had the imitation for a while.

I won't lie. I have gone to McDonald's and had their coffee drinks. They aren't bad. The cold ones are sort of like a milk shake... a milk shake with coffee-flavor added. I've had a few of these, but then:

A few minutes ago I ordered a small vanilla latte from Mad Goat Coffee. The picture I have posted here is after I have had my first sip. It is sublime. (Is that a good word to describe it? I am not sure.) It is blissful. It is tasty. It is coffee... not coffee-flavor added. It is the real stuff.

I am almost done sipping through it already. I am tempted to take another picture, just simply because it is almost gone... oh... I might as well... hang on...

There it is. Mostly finished... OH, and you can see my partially finished post while you are at it.

The enjoyment of this coffee left me thinking about the clear difference between the real and the imitation. As I mentioned, I don't mind that McCoffee stuff, but there is a clear difference when you taste the real thing. I know there have been times that I have grabbed one of those fast food blended drinks and thought, "This isn't that bad." But now I am sitting here wondering how I ever thought that there was a true comparison.

I don't want to make a stretch of illustration here, but this is true of churches as well. There are some great churches out there: The music team is amazing. The preaching is inspiring. The fellowship is uplifting... and so on.  But then you walk into something real, and you suddenly think, "How did I think the other thing was the real thing?"

It the book, Love into Light, the author is talking about how churches could benefit from having people who struggle with same sex attraction as a part of the community.  He goes on to say:
I fear that many Christians view their brothers and sisters who battle with SSA (Same Sex Attraction) as a threat to the community. Therefore, many SSA strugglers are phobic about homophobia. They agonize alone, for fear of rejection. However, the community needs their transparency - and they need the community. God surprises us with unexpected insights when the unspeakable is spoken. Our serene picture of community is shattered; the reality is more earthy, disappointing, and fruitful.
I love that: "... the reality is more earthy, disappointing, and fruitful." Almost sounds like a cup of coffee, doesn't it?

I hope that Edgewood Church has the great privelege of joining in community with those who struggle with SSA. I pray that God guides them to Edgewood. What can I say, I like the real stuff better.

Preach the Lion and the Lamb

As with most of the book, Chapter 7 of Love into Light by Peter Hubbard, opens with a focus and attention on Jesus:
My favorite Jonathan Edwards sermon is "The Excellency of Christ." Edwards homes in on two words in Revelation 5:5-6, where Jesus Christ is called "Lion" and "Lamb." These two animals differ greatly from one another. One "excels in strength, and in majesty of his appearance and voice." The other "excels in meekness and patience ... suitable to be offered to God." One is a hunter; the other is hunted. This unity of disparity leads Edwards to his thesis, "There is an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies in Jesus Christ." Characteristics that usually don't appear together merge in attractive symmetry: infinite exaltation and limitless condescension, highest glory and lowest humility, supreme sovereignty and perfect obedience. He is light and He is love. He is victor and victim in one. He is the just Judge and the merciful Savior. He confronted sin, overthrew tables, and walked out of His own tomb, yet He was born in a barn, ate with sinners and died as a criminal. This vision of Jesus is gargantuan and captivating, yet it is often concealed by the church. 
I love this big view of Jesus. To use his word, it is "captivating" my own preaching. Even though I still have applications in my messages, I am finding myself focusing more and more on the great worth and supreme  majesty of Jesus. But Peter Hubbard is saying that this view of Jesus "is often concealed by the church." Do you agree? In what way does he mean this? He goes on to say:
The body of Christ generally prefers a more manageable, monochromatic vision of Jesus. Our religious sensibilities seem to prefer either the Jesus who can "tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them," or else the Jesus who desires to care for rebels "as a hen gathers her brood under her wings." We want only one or the other, not both together.  
Whenever Jesus' followers exclusively reflect Lion-ness or Lamb-ness, the "admirable conjunction" dissolves into ugliness. 
It is so extremely important to maintain this focus on the true Jesus. Not a Jesus that we decide on, but the Jesus of the scriptures.

July 18, 2014

Photo Friday: Solitude

Solitude

My Photo Friday participation photo for this week: The key word was "Solitude." Since I am sitting alone at a coffee shop, I decided to snap a shot of my solitary table, with my solitary cup of coffee, next to my solitary computer.

July 14, 2014

Foundation by Isaac Asimov - Book Review

I am fascinated by old(er) Science Fiction. I am aware that some of it can be extremely dated. There are some aspects and terminology, that we now know is simply non-sensical. But I still find these books to be quite interesting.

I am drawn to books by authors that have almost defined the genre. Names that get tossed around by the best of the new authors as one who inspired them. Isaac Asimov is one of those names and The Foundation Series belongs to those books that could be considered classics in their area.

In the front leaf of the first book of The Foundation Series, we can read:
Three great classics from the annals of science fiction - Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation - describe the events which transpire over a period of more than a thousand years, resulting in the erection of an ideal universal ruling corporation.  
In Foundation, Isaac Asimov draws a compelling portrait of the Foundation's embryonic development and rise to peripheral power - domination of kingdoms on the outskirts of the Galaxy.
Unlike most books that I have encountered, there is no real attempt to stick with one or two main characters throughout the series. In fact, even in the first book, there are several smaller stories that deal with different "crises" in the timeline of the Foundation... the Foundation being the establishment of a small colony at the far edges of the Milky Way Galaxy, planted there by a scientist attempting to shorten the "dark ages" between Galaxy-Wide Empires.

The book is very grand in it's scale, and I can already see in it inspirations that may have impacted others in the broader scope of popular SciFi movies and television. I can also tell that Asimov has drawn from Earth's own history in the ideas of the rise and fall of empires and the ages that span between these conglomerations of people and technological advances.

Even though the book is broken into smaller stories with different characters, I didn't feel disconnected from the flow of events. Quite often when a book is broken up, if there isn't at least one main character to hold my devotion, I can tend to walk away from the book. With Asimov, he introduces you to the new characters quickly enough to draw you in. I also began to feel like the foundation itself and the "history" of this galaxy became the central characters.

If you are into SciFi and you also have an appreciation for things that were once new, then I would like to encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and give it a read. With the links provided in this blog post, you can get to an Amazon Kindle copy that is only around $4.99 with links to New and Used Foundation Paperbacks for even cheaper.

July 12, 2014

Weakness is the Way by J.I. Packer - Book Review

Weakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our Strength by J.I. Packer is a fairly short book. I finished it in just a few settings (sittings?). The book begins with Packer defining weakness and then pointing us in a right direction for thinking about this topic from a Scriptural perspective. The rest of the book deals with the following more specific topics: Christ and the Christian's Calling, Christ and the Christian's Giving, and then Christ and the Christian's Hoping.

I absolutely enjoyed this book. I could tell that J. I. Packer was writing from his years of experience in life and in his Biblical studies. He is a thinking person. When I think of weakness in scripture, I don't automatically go to a Christian's Giving. I might head toward the topic of Calling or Hoping, but not Giving. As he explains it though, it absolutely makes sense. Listening to a thinking person, or reading a thinking author always gets me thinking.

To give you a taste of this, consider what Packer states near the beginning of the book:
For what is weakness? The idea from first to last is inadequacy. We talk about physical weakness, meaning that there is a lack of vigor and energy and perhaps bodily health so that one cannot manhandle furniture or tackle heavy yard jobs. We talk about intellectual weakness, meaning inability for some forms of brainwork, as for instance C. S. Lewis's almost total inability to do math, and my own messiness in that area. We talk about personal weakness, indicating thereby that a person lacks resolution, firmness of character, dignity, and the capacity to command. We talk about a weak position when a person lacks needed resources and cannot move situations forward or influence events as desired. We talk about relational weakness when persons who should be leading and guiding fail to do so -- weak parents, weak pastors, and so on. Every day finds us affirming the inadequacy of others at point after point.
He goes on to state:
The truth, however, is that in many respects, and certainly in spiritual matters, we are all weak and inadequate, and we need to face it. Sin, which disrupts all relationships, has disabled us all across the board. We need to be aware of our limitations and to let this awareness work in us humility and self-distrust, and a realization of our helplessness on our own. Thus we may learn our need to depend on Christ, our Savior and Lord, at every turn of the road, to practice that dependence as one of the constant habits of our heart, and hereby to discover what Paul discovered before us: "when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).
As I already mentioned, the remainder of the book plays out three other topics as they relate to weakness. These three focal points of weakness aren't arbitrarily chosen, they come from an expository look at 2 Corinthians to discover what this life of weakness looks like in those three areas.


coffee house

I am not sure what this says about me, but if I could, I would sit in a coffee house several hours a day. I sat at Mad Goat Coffee in Danville yesterday for about 4 hours. I didn't even realize I had been there that long until I was ready to leave. (Actually, I guess I should say, "I didn't even realize I had been here that long..." ...considering that I am currently in Mad Goat as I am typing this.)

If I could just find a job that would allow me to read, study, and write throughout most of my day... that would be bliss. I get giddy just thinking about the prospect. What jobs are there like that? ... jobs that could actually support a family? I am guessing that teacher and pastor of a small local church are not the occupations to choose from in order to have extra time to read and think...

If there is anyone out there in the world that would like to hire me to read books and drink coffee, please comment on this post.

:)

I'm Going Free (Jailbreak) - Vertical Church Band (Lyric Video)

I first heard this song at the Act Like Men Conference, but I had forgot about it. It just popped back in my head today, and I am thinking that this would be great for Edgewood Baptist Church!









Let me know if you like this song...

July 9, 2014

Upward I Look And See Him There

Before the throne of God above 
I have a strong, a perfect plea. 
A great high Priest whose Name is Love 
Who ever lives and pleads for me. 
My name is graven on His hands, 
My name is written on His heart. 
I know that while in heaven He stands 
No tongue can bid me thence depart. 
When Satan tempts me to despair 
And tells me of the guilt within, 
Upward I look and see Him there 
Who made an end to all my sin. 
Because the sinless Savior died 
My sinful soul is counted free. 
For God the just is satisfied 
To look on Him and pardon me...

(As quoted in Love Into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church by Peter Hubbard) Song by Charitee Lees Bancroft and Vikki Cook, (c)1997 Sovereign Grace Worship (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing).

July 8, 2014

But In Jesus We Are Renamed

I am currently preparing for a Wednesday Night Bible Study with my people at Edgewood, using the book Love Into Light by Peter Hubbard. (My review is here.) I have thoroughly enjoyed this book the second time through. I am only in Chapter 5, but I am remembering so many things I loved about this book.

Chapter 5 deals with labels... our names... how we are identified. After going through some fascinating discussion on the Biblical history of names and naming things, from Adam being named by God and Eve being named by Adam, to the anonymous mass attempting to make a name for themselves at Babel and God choosing an unknown man named Abram and renaming him Abraham... He states an issue involved this way: "...who we think we are tends to reinterpret what we hear." He follows this statement with this paragraph:
"In our culture, formal names do not carry the same significance as in the Bible. However, we know what it means to be named. The 'wimp,' the 'fat kid,' and 'the loser' all feel the shame of living with an undesirable identity. The kids who are labeled 'gifted' and 'brain' feel the waves of approval and pressure that can shape how they view themselves and perform. As adults, these labels do not typically disappear. They become more subtle and convoluted. Our hearts long to 'make a name' for ourselves. We gather fragments of desire, reputation, and accomplishments and glue then together into an identity: 'rebel,' 'jock,' 'supermom,' 'entrepreneur,' 'life of the party,' 'chick magnet,' 'gay guy,' etc. Most of us feel a mixture of fatalism, assent, and chagrin about our not-always-chosen but fully operative identities.  
But in Jesus, we are renamed.
He leaves that last sentence as a paragraph in itself. He goes from there to explain how we are renamed in Jesus. It is fascinating. It is remarkable. And it draws me to worship.

July 7, 2014

Old People and their Technology!

I regularly rant (in my house) against the "evils" of video games and television. I do this, not primarily against the content of these technological advances, though that can be an issue, but against the time-wasting aspect that usage of these forms of entertainment are connected to. Don't get me wrong, I can enjoy a good show as much as the next person, but I have never thought to myself, "Wow. I should have spent more time playing games." or "Boy, I wish I could go back to my youth and watch more television."

This isn't just an issue with the young. There is no denying it, we all have seen many an elderly person waste away watching television, but even that isn't the prime issue. It is those who, in their 50's and 60's, are now living entirely for themselves. They feel that they have put in their time and now it is "all about me." I am sure they would not say these words, but their lives are vacation after vacation after vacation... in one form or another. We were simply not made to exist that way, and we do not continue to live and breathe simply for ourselves and our enjoyment.

J.I. Packer, hits on the realities of this in his book, Weakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our Strength . The side-shoot of this topic is the resulting bleakness of life as one grows older. Many are simply "waiting for the end." Consider this quote from his book:
"Hope springs eternal in the human breast," declared Alexander Pope in his usual pompous way, but that is not all the story. For the first half of people's lives, spontaneous hope does indeed spur them forward. Children hope to do this and that when they grow up; teens hope to go places and do things when they have some money; newlyweds hope for a good income, a good place to live, and good-quality children; established couples hope for the day when the children will be off their hands and they are free to cruise, tour, and see the world. But what then? There comes a point at which the elderly and those who, as we say, are getting on realize that of all the things they wanted to do, they have done all they can, and the rest are now permanently out of reach ("life's too short," we say wryly). 
Yet life goes on. Today, indeed, people live longer than once they did, but the common experience is that extended and extreme age brings only bleak boredom and a diminished sense of the good life as consisting merely of three meals a day, television to watch, and a bed at night. Whether, as bodily health fades and minds and memories run increasingly amok, any better, more enriching experience of old age is possible is a question that secular social theory has shown itself unable to answer.  
But the Bible appears to have an answer... 
He goes on from this point to begin to describe the Bible's teachings combined with his own perspectives on aging and hope.

I am enjoying reading this book by Packer. I think it was free when I purchased it. It is a bit more expensive now, but it is definitely one worth picking up.