Monday, December 31, 2007

Out with the old, in with the New...

Well, I have to write my final entry of this year 2007. I haven't been too consistent with this blogging machine I call the daily jolt from what I see. Perhaps I'll do better in the New Year - let me add that to my list of resolutions.

Looking back:
God has been good to me and my family over these last 365 days. (note to self: 2008 is a leap year, and I must remember to say 366 in my final post then). I'm getting to that stage in life where things are getting harder to remember. I'll turn 40 in a couple of months. With age comes difficulties - and this year has brought a few. I have noticed that I am experiencing greater difficulty in sleeping, maneuvering and hearing. Life seems to be catching up with me. The wear and tear I shrugged off for 30+ years is now playing the tortoise in this race... and winning. How I wish I would have taken care of my body when I was younger! (ahhh... youth is wasted on the young).

God has taught me a few things about myself, Himself and our relationship together. He is instilling in me the desire to persevere and finish strong in this life. Scripture seems to become very clear to me on this point - the absolute necessity of persevering. Another lesson He is teaching - one I will take into the New Year - is that I should not seek release from the circumstances, just to avoid the discomfort. How easy it is to self-medicate these days. Not only physically, but relationally, spiritually and emotionally. Another lesson: the need to be a dad not just the guy "in charge" of the family... or worse yet, not the "youth pastor" who I have to live with to my kids. This will demand greater time for them and less time for me. Yeah, it's suppose to be that way. Another lesson: cutting off the sleeves on which I wear my emotions / responses. This is especially true with those with whom I am most comfortable, like my lovely wife. How easy it has been to mistreat her.

There have been other vast lessons - some intensely personal, some not - but would prove to be incredibly boring to the average web-surfer who might stumble across this well-hidden blog. God has taken care of us providentially in amazing ways. Poultry, pork, beef and venison have all graced our freezers at no charge. Our income has been supplemented by the faithfulness and goodness of God's people. Even last night, "God's middle-man" (his self-appointed title), blessed us with an unexpected gift to aid us in our trip to Missouri. Indeed God is good.

God has worked in our ministry here at Calvary as well. I have seen teens rebel, repent and return to a loving relationship with God. All in the course of 2007. God is so good. Our youth group is growing in number and in maturity. We are very excited about the future.
I could go on and on about this past year - let's move ahead and think about '08.

Looking ahead:

What are the resolutions I have made for 2008? Here are a few:
1. Translate Ephesians. In order for me to maintain any level of proficiency with Greek, I must do this. (I've actually already started - it is proving to be an incredible task)
2. Memorize Ephesians. Yes, the book. I have taken the year and broken it down, and I think that in concentrating on 3-4 verses a week, I can get the book memorized. Much of chapter 2 is pretty much memorized, as are chapters 4-6. This will greatly aid this endeavor as I continue on in the year.
3. Read through this list of books: (I'll explain my choices at the end of the list)
  • The Mortification of Sin - John Owen
  • The Great Exchange - Jerry Bridges
  • The Doctrine of Repentance - Thomas Watson
  • Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave - Edward Welch
  • Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution - Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey and John Piper
  • Seeing with New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition Through the Lens of Scripture - David Powlison
  • The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World - Stephen J. Nichols
  • Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon - Bryan Chappell
  • Speaking the Truth in Love - David Powlison
You can see sprinkled in this list a couple of Puritan authors and a book about the Reformation. I am unsure who has suggested this, and I hesitate to assign credit inappropriately, but I heard someone (Piper?) say that for every 'contemporary' author one reads, they should read an author whose works have stood the test of time. Hence I am including some of the Puritan's works in my 'official list'. I am looking forward to reading through them. (I've actually started Owen's book and am enjoying it thoroughly). I have of course other books started that I will finish: Competent to Counsel - Jay Adams, The Reformed Pastor - Richard Baxter, A Reporter's Life - Walter Cronkite, Safely Home - Randy Alcorn, and a couple other minimal reads.
4. Improve physical well-being: This will require the loss of about 15 pounds, improved cardio care and the dreaded (already scheduled) physical. At this age of 40 - and a family history of cancer, heart disease and a host of other ailments - this will begin the annual treks to participate in various tests to watch for these types of things. An improved diet will help too.
5. Incorporate and maintain a family worship time. This has proven to be my thorn in the flesh. For whatever reason, (read: lack of discipline on my part), I have failed miserably in this endeavor. I again will attempt to improve here.
6. Begin to learn Spanish. I have tried this for several years - (enrolling in classes, only to have them cancel them due to lack of students) - I will again try to get this started. I love the Hispanic populace and desperately want to be able to communicate with them in their language.
7. Learn web-design. So as to better present our church online. This has been in the back of my mind as a goal now for a couple of years.

Oh, there are no doubt several other things I would like to get done. There are some personal and familial goals I have set that would not be appropriate to publish. The excitement of the New Year is that we can use this time as a time to re-energize our passions and desires to do well for our Savior!

One thing I will take with me into 2008 is my desire and enjoyment of strong coffee. Even as I type this out I have been enjoying Gevalia's "Dark Roast" coffee. The aroma of a strong java combined with it's somewhat sharp taste will remain a favorite of mine. Peering into my cup I see that I need a refill. It is probably a good time to shut down this most lengthy post of 07 and bid you a God-centered 08. May God bless you and yours - drop a comment now and then to let me know that you are reading. That helps me keep this random blog moving forward. God bless, and Happy New Year!!!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Blind to Truth

Having eyes, they do not see.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

We don't wrestle...

Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

My oldest son and I went to a high school wrestling match tonight. I had forgotten how intense the matches were. The teams faced each other across a large wrestling mat. Painted orange and black, the circle had the "Warsaw Tiger" painted on it. Sitting in a long row, the wrestlers peered at each other from either side. When the match started, the intensity rose. Even sitting in the stands I tensed as I watched both wrestlers strain against the other.

As I watched the match continue, I began to notice some things that I found were interesting. The physical exertion was not constant the entire match. The strain grew in intensity depending on the position of the wrestler on the mat. Some times the wrestlers would even be looking at their coaches for guidance in the middle of a move against their opponent. The teammates also played an important role. They hollered encouragement and offered bits of advice throughout the match. I also noticed that neither opponent quit until the referee blew his whistle.

Enter my thoughts on Ephesians 6:12.

In one of the only mentions of this word "struggle" or "wrestle" in the New Testament, we see it mentioned in relation to spiritual warfare. It is important to realize that our struggle is not against one another - or any other human being. I also think it is important to understand that the intensity of the conflict is never constant. Sometimes we find ourselves straining vigorously - and other times we have times of 'rest' during which we can even look to our Coach for advice. Sometimes when we find ourselves at a disadvantage spiritually, perhaps because we made a wrong choice or wrong move, we find ourselves struggling intensely trying to overcome and achieve spiritual victory. There are many times when we can hear the encouragement of fellow-believers as they offer advice and help as we struggle. And I think its important to realize that we are in this wrestling match against evil until the day the Referee blows His whistle.

High school sports or theology? God used a simple set of wrestling matches lasting no more then 45 minutes to remind me of the warfare in which I am engaged even now. It is important to understand that we wrestle for a victorious Coach - One who has faced every move of the enemy and won every time. He understands our weaknesses. His Spirit empowers us. His word guides our every move. His victory is transferable.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Who Shall Dwell on Your Holy Hill? Part 4 (finally)

As I sit here in our living room, traffic begins to pick up on the state highway outside. It's dark. And cold. The only noise that varies from the sound of automobiles going north and south is the clacking of the keys as I type and the ticking of the clock above the mantle of the fireplace. Soon the boys alarms will be going off and the school day will begin. An apple sits next to me on the couch. My coffee (Gevalia's Limited Edition, Paupa New Guinea) is situated close at hand as well.

Now is a perfect time to get back to Psalm 15 and my look at Who Shall Dwell on Your Holy Hill? We have worked through two verses in this Psalm, and now begin v.3 with this phrase: "...he does not slander with his tongue...".

This idea of slander is one of falsification, of adulterating the truth. Speaking falsehoods, presumably against one's fellow man. Perhaps it goes a bit farther then our immediate thought of "lying". Deception. Manipulation. Distorting.

My mind immediately slips back to Genesis and the serpent's conversation with Eve. Not outright lying, but surely an adulteration of truth.

The outcome of slander is destruction. Truth destroyed. People destroyed. Relationships destroyed. There is never an appropriate time to be dishonest. Let me re-state that lest, in this post-modern age in which we live, we miss it. It is never right to lie. To falsify truth. To twist truth. To adulterate truth. To distort.

I started thinking about how this practically plays out in our lives. Slander immediately takes my mind to interpersonal relationships. I don't view slander as truth distortion - at least I didn't until I started thinking about this phrase. I think we need to be more careful in how we speak about one another, to one another. We need to make sure our speech is edifying and truthful.

The opposite of slandering would be edifying, even speaking the truth in love. See Ephesians 4 for more details.

God states that if someone desires to inhabit His holy hill, they can't be characterized by a slanderous tongue. We would do well to heed this challenge. Perhaps a New Testament reading of James 3 and Matthew 12 would be in order.

My apple awaits. The kids are starting to awake. I've got about 16 hours ahead of me that I can put this challenge of not slandering with my tongue into practice.

I embrace the day.