Monday, August 18, 2008

s'more fishin'

It's been just over two weeks since I last posted. That can be explained. I spent about one week without internet, and then spent one week in 5 different states: Indiana (of course), Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky. Attended two funerals, one wedding and a Creation Museum. I was supposed to take a vacation in there as well but that never materialized.

I went out fishing today at Center Lake in Warsaw, IN and caught a small mess of bluegill, one largemouth bass and one perch. All were not really keepers, so they all went back to their homes. The pics below are of the bass and perch.

largemouth bass


Sunday, August 03, 2008

Fishing Time!

On Tuesday, July 29th, my father-in-law gave us a jon boat with all the "stuff". Trolling motor, fishing poles, vests & seat cushions, etc, etc. Not having gone out on a boat in a while, you can imagine how excited we were to be able to fish the lakes around us. And we have!!
Here's my eldest daughter as we cruised Saturday morning in search of fish. We were on Center Lake in Warsaw, IN. She had a ball - and she's one of them cutest fishing partners I've ever had!
Patrick & I went out Saturday night after dinner to see if we could improve on our fishing luck. We caught several nice bluegill and he caught this nice largemouth as we floated over to the boat launch on Center Lake. Below is a video of him dealing with his catch - I still laugh over it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Church campout - Chain O' Lakes

Wow. Does our church know how to eat or what? God has definitely blessed us - not only with an abundance of food, but people that know how to cook. We had around 130 people out at the campground for dinner on Saturday night.

Not only can we eat, but we traditionally play a huge euchre tournament after dinner. While it no longer lasts into the early morning hours, it's still a lot of fun and a lot of competition. The Netzleys pulled off a huge win this year!

I love speaking at the campground on Sunday. I wish I could do it every year. In fact, I wish every service was this way, but then it wouldn't be special would it? I spoke on "Servants must share the message of hope" based on Mark 2:13-17 and the example of Jesus as the servant of God, giving hope to Levi / Matthew.

This was the first year for me to enter the horseshoe tournament. Jason Stover and I were paired together and went undefeated into the championship round (beginners luck). We then were promptly beaten twice by Mark and Eric. It was a great time of fellowship with these guys and their families.

If I would have approached the championship game a bit more seriously perhaps we would have won! What a great weekend we had heading out to Chain O' Lakes state park in Albion, IN.

Tree of Life

Today I took my wife on a "date". It was to the Tree of Life bookstore & cafe in Winona Lake, IN. You must check out their site and go grab a cup of joe there! They have wonderful drinks!!

Our barista was Sherrie, our former church secretary. She is one of the few people that understands that if you're going to drink coffee then it must be strong coffee!! No sock-water coffee here! She seems to really be enjoying this job and did a wonderful job on our drinks.

Here's the menu, but you can read it online better by visiting their site! My wife had a raspberry and banana smoothie while I had the "after dinner mint" - a coffee drink with Irish cream, Oreos and whip cream. Yeah, it's not necessarily a 'healthy' drink... but it was very good!

If you're in the Warsaw / Winona Lake area, I strongly suggest that you go to the Tree of Life bookstore on the campus of Grace College & Grace Theological Seminary. You will find a wonderful bookstore with a ton of books, clothing and gifts available at reasonable prices as well as an over the top great coffee cafe.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I didn't catch his name. His name is not important, after all he was just "hired help". But the way he responded to his task caught my eye. Not only did he do exactly what his boss wanted him to do, and he did it well, but he did it totally relying on God. He demonstrated exactly the way I want to live. You can read all about it here.

He was Abraham's servant. This is what he did that I want to do:
  • listened carefully to the task.
  • asked good questions to clarify the task.
  • committed himself to the task, taking everything he would need for the task.
  • then he prayed specifically about the task - asking God for divine guidance.
  • he got involved in the task - "putting feet to his prayers".
  • in the midst of the task, he watched, fully expecting God to answer his specific prayers.
  • upon realizing God's answer to the task, he gave God praise for His guidance.
  • he told others about how God allowed him to accomplish the task his boss asked him to do.
  • finally he reported the task completed to his boss.
Some nameless servant "out there" showing all of us how to live. I'm good with that. Now... how can I put this into practice?

I'm sipping on some of the last fine grinds of my whole bean Mocha Java from Gevalia. Even though the sun is shining brightly, the temps are down a little and drinking the joe isn't uncomfortable.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Smack down in Youth Group

Here's a fun game to try in youth group: "Smack-down". I think it's self-explanatory! We did it while we were waiting on our parents to get done with their meeting:

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Wispy Weekend Whispers

Just a couple of random happenings:
This morning I am consuming my favorite Gevalia coffee: Mocha Java. I have brewed it strong and have added just the right amount of creamer. It is wonderful. I am drinking it out of my Caribou Coffee mug that I bought while away on our anniversary weekend. I first discovered Caribou Coffee in Tinley Park, IL where my folks lived. Every time I would visit them I had to get the Mocha from Caribou. One of the few downsides of living in a rural area is that there aren't near as many coffee shops as necessary to sustain life. I bought the mug because I firmly believe that drinking coffee is an experience, not just a vice. (self-justification alert) I explained to my wife that every time I drink from the Caribou Coffee mug I think of our anniversary weekend and the time spent together. The same holds true for my Starbucks mug - (purchased in Seattle while on a missions trip to Ron & Susan Hand's hospitality house to the military). I think of them every time I drink from it. I bought a NYPD mug this last weekend as we were in New York for our teen camp. I'll always remember the guys I took out to NY and the good times we had traveling back and forth. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
Last night we were invited spontaneously to play tennis with friends, Dan & Lindsey. What an awesome time we had! I had not played tennis since 1991 - and probably only played 2 or 3 times in my life. It was great exercise and a lot of fun. I think we are planning on doing more of this in the future. Of course, afterwards we had to get some sweet tea from McDonalds. I think I finally fell into bed around midnight.
This morning I read of Christ's willingness to heal the leper. I often wonder why Christ didn't heal everyone he came into contact with. The same is true with salvation. He, offered to the world, is not accepted by all. But as one who has been touched by His work on the cross, I offer my thanks and gratitude. May your life also be touched by the healing hand of Jesus!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Video compilation of pictures from our WOL Island trip

"Join All the Glorious Names" by Isaac Watts - 1707

So this hymn is only like 300 years old but it really packs a powerful punch! Especially these last three stanzas which I've copied below. If you would like to read the entire hymn (I highly recommend it) please click here to go to the "cyberhymnal". It's a very familiar tune.

My dear almighty Lord,My Conqueror and my King,
Thy scepter and Thy sword,Thy reigning grace I sing:
Thine is the power; behold I sit
In willing bonds beneath Thy feet.

Now let my soul arise,And tread the tempter down;
My Captain leads me forthTo conquest and a crown:
A feeble saint shall win the day,
Though death and hell obstruct the way.

Should all the hosts of death,And powers of hell unknown,
Put their most dreadful forms Of rage and mischief on,
I shall be safe, for Christ displays
Superior power, and guardian grace.

Hope in the Midst of Circumstances

Hope in the Midst of Circumstances: a Look at Lamentations 3:21-25

Lamentations 3:21-25
This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.
22 The LORD's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness.
24 "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him."
25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.
When one is beat down by the circumstances of life, (and Jeremiah was - just read the two verses prior to my quoted passage), they are in dire need of hope. Is hope an emotion? Is hope some dream-like platitude we hand out to our brothers & sisters in Christ? Can hope be a reality in the most troubling times of life? Let's examine this passage.
Where is the focus of Jeremiah when he declares that he has found hope? I think he has focused on 6 things:
  • YHWH's lovingkindness - can you appreciate the varying facets of our English translations? ESV - steadfast love; KJV - mercies; NET - loyal kindness; NLT - faithful love; NIV - great love. What a beautiful picture begins to form in our minds as we focus on this enduring love our God has for us!
  • This lovingkindness never ceases...or similarly, because of them we are not consumed!
  • Jeremiah also focuses on YHWH's compassions or mercies. Similar to the lovingkindnesses of God, but in addition to them as well.
  • These compassions never fail: ESV - never come to an end! Oh, the unlimited compassion of God!
  • The lovingkindnesses and compassions of YHWH are new every morning!
  • and His faithfulness (to us) is great, or abundant!

On what do you focus during the troubling times of life? Jeremiah makes a concious effort, he exercises his will, to focus on God. Because of this focus, he begins to realize hope.

What then becomes his 'new' reality. In other words, what does Jeremiah realize as a result of this intense willful focus on his God and His goodness towards him?

  • v.24 - Jehovah is my portion - my possession, the territory on which I reside. He is mine, I am His - what can man, or nature or evil do to me to place me outside His love? Nothing!

As we focus on the goodness of God to us, in the midst of these difficult days, and as we realize our reality in Him, let us not forget our duty:

  • v. 25 - we are to wait for Him. there is an implication of tenseness and eagerness in this waiting. We are to look for Him with eager expectation of His moving in our lives. To wait for God with steadfast endurance is a great expression of our faith in Him. We endure, patiently, in confident hope that God will decisively act on our behalf. This is waiting.
  • v.25 - we are to seek Him. This is not a haphazard, check the box devotional time. It is to seek with care, to inquire of Him. To be intent on finding God and search Him out. There is passion implied here. It is worship.

What then is your focus in your difficult days? Have you forgotten God? Have you misplaced the reminders of His love and kindness towards you? Do you understand and have you realized your reality in Him? Are you fulfilling your duty? As you begin to focus on God, you will soon be able to say with the prophet Jeremiah:

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have HOPE.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A nothern New Yorker has solved the fuel crisis...

I have no idea who owns these vehicles, but they're great! I saw them as I was heading from Schroon Lake, NY traveling to the Ticonderoga ferry as I planned to make a trip to Vermont. Someone is pretty creative - and has a great sense of humor. But honestly, I'm glad they're not in my front yard.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Trying to catch you up...

I see that it is already Wednesday and I haven't posted much in the way from Monday and Tuesday! I am finding it hard to keep up the blogging side of camp. If pictures could speak a thousand words, then these will have to do for those two days.

The first picture is of Pine Pavilion - the meeting place for all the teens. They have all their sessions here and their nightly speakers come to the pavilion. It is the general meeting place on the Island.
Here you can see Chris and Patrick going through the high ropes course. I have video as well, and many more pictures, but they (the video) take too much time to upload and publish - so these couple of pictures will have to do. Both guys did really good - had some moments where they had to overcome their minds / fears, but they both got through it with flying colors! (and much faster than I ever could do it!!) Colin and Aaron were both swimming at this point - and I couldn't be in two places at once... but they had fun swimming too!

On Tuesday we had something new called "youth group family time" - and we'll have that again on Thursday. It was just a half hour designed for youth leaders to hang out with their teens in a quiet place and talk about the week. Our guys talked about stuff they're struggling with this week (from homesickness to patience in dealing with others) and stuff they're learning as well. Jimmy DeYoung has been the speaker all week and our guys really like him! Quote, "I didn't know Revelation could be so cool!" (I like that!) After this time, they had a run around the Island. I think it's called "Robbie's Run" or something like that. This first picture is of one of the staff members instructing all the teens on where to go and how to line up, etc. Our guys did a walk / run / sprint of the Island. Or so they told me, I simply walked over to the finish line and waited for them. We also played paintball after lunch on Tuesday. Despite the looks on their faces, our guys enjoyed it and had a lot of fun. I, however, have 12 welts from being "Davey Crockett" in our "remember the Alamo" game. Somehow the teens thought that was funny.
I'll try to post more later, but rest assured that our guys are doing well and enjoying their stay. They are also learning a lot about God and His Word, which is great too. Tonight is the campfire, where they will be challenged to give God their whole life. I'm praying along those lines for them, you pray too.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Misc Pics from Sunday on the Rock

If you click on the swimming picture you will get a better view of who's in the water. You can see Aaron, Colin and Patrick's heads as they are treading water for 5 minutes. This was after they swam 2 full laps in the deep end. All of them qualified and passed their swim tests!

Christopher getting re-hydrated again. I think he has two Gatorades here and already downed a water bottle before I got this picture. He is soooo excited too! lol...

Christopher and 3 other guys setting up to play Nintendo Wii's tennis game. It plays a lot harder than it looks.

We watched several rounds of speed paintball yesterday. Tuesday we will play regular paintball at 130p on the far side of the Island. This was kind of fun to watch, but went too fast for the amount of money it costs to play.

Carpetball on the Rock 08

One of the favorite things to past your free time on the WOL Island is to play "Carpetball". It is a game simply designed with a wooden trough and 7 billards balls. Each competitor sets up three balls in front of a pocket. The opponent then hurls a billard ball towards their balls in an attempt to knock all three balls into the pocket. This goes back and forth until all the balls are in the pocket. Below are two videos of our teens playing carpetball. (I think they want me to build one of these things for our youth group!)

Soccer is also a big game to play - the teens participate in pick-up games in an area designed for soccer and dodgeball. The video below shows Chris (red shirt) playing soccer during his free time yesterday.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Two video comments from the Falls...

These videos take forever to upload, but I'm trying! =) Here's two of them, enjoy:

Sunday on the Rock...

Today I woke at 7:30am feeling very refreshed from the night's rest. The accommodations are very nice. I enjoyed a wonderful breakfast of pancakes, sausage, potatoes, juice and coffee this morning. I enjoyed reading from Isaiah 55 as I sat on 'my balcony' off my room. The weather today has just been tremendous. Blue skies, moderate temperatures and a little breeze. I enjoyed the morning worship hour with Joe Jordan as he discussed the "Battle for Truth". It was a good challenge.

After the morning worship, we enjoyed a wonderful buffet of prime rib, shrimp, potato / leek soup, asparagus, salad and rolls. There were even more items, but I am trying to keep to a single serving / plate at each meal. One can really get carried away here.

I was able to get to the Island around 130p and caught the guys just heading out for their swim test. They all passed (Patrick, Aaron and Colin) - Chris decided not to swim (due to not having shorts!)...and he didn't want mine. lol... After they passed the test, they headed to the deep water to swim. I caught up with Chris playing soccer with one of his cabin counselors. Afterwards, they all were explaining carpet ball to me, and I even gave it a try. Although I had a good start, I quickly got beat. We just hung out after that: watched some paintball, played some Wii at the imagination station, drank some pop, and talked about what we were going to do the rest of the week.

I left the group around 545p because the Island had a steak cookout for youth leaders - and I felt I just had to go. I came back to the room and then down to where I could pick up the internet to post some updates. I left my camera in my room - so the pics / videos from today will have to wait till later. I'll probably post them tomorrow.

I also made contact with Ryan Williamson (our former WOL missionary) and am looking forward to spending time with him later in the week. I'll try to get an update for the church as well. So far, this is what has been happening. I'll hook back up with the guys for lunch and then spend the rest of the day with them.

Video of Emergency Vehicle from I-90 West accident

(Don't worry, I wasn't driving when I 'filmed' this. We were already at a standstill)

Getting to "the Rock"...

The events of the this day, as I see them from my room at the Word of Life Inn located in Schroon Lake, New York:

This morning we got an non-anticipated “early” start by 8:30 as we left Batavia, NY. We were staying at the Best Western Crown & Suites, and I highly recommend a stay there if you are ever in the Batavia / Buffalo area. The room was very spacious, clean and comfortable. The breakfast was hot and cold with items such as: waffles, eggs & sausage, cold cereals, bagels, donuts and muffins. It was a very wonderful breakfast.

But alas, I had not gotten any coffee with my breakfast, so 15 miles down the road I pulled into the service plaza and ordered a large mocha from Tim Horton’s. I was a little aggravated by the wait at Tim Horton’s but it was just a short period of time down the road when I realized God was gracious in allowing us to be delayed. We came upon traffic slowing to a stop, with emergency vehicles shortly on our back bumper. A very serious accident brought west bound I-90 traffic to a halt. We were stuck on the interstate for just over an hour. We took some random pictures, autographed the white line on the side of the road and then decided to pass out our bottled water supply to those around us. We took a black marker and wrote “FREE WATER” on our cooler and carried it down the side of the interstate. We passed out several when the cry came down the road “We’re starting to move!” We ran, carrying the cooler, back the 3-400 yards to the van. (At least those watching us got a good laugh!) And then, we were underway.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. We made good time and arrived at the registration center for camp about an hour later than anticipated. Everything went smoothly as we registered, turned in all meds and got heads checked for lice. Then off to the Island where we met our counselor, John, and were taken to the cabin. We then signed up for some activities for later in the week like paintball and the party barge. I left the teens around 5pm and headed back to the WOL Inn where I checked in and entered my room.

My room is on the third level of one of the buildings on the WOL complex. It has it’s own balcony overlooking the back of the property, with a mountain just several hundred feet away. It is a spacious, relaxing room. I got cleaned up and went to the wonderful buffet they had prepared. Prime rib, raspberry stuffed chicken, some wonderful Tilapia and excellent pasta and sugared carrots. I also grabbed a generous slice of chocolate cake. Being by myself is not something I enjoy when I eat – especially when everyone else it seems has full tables. But God had something in mind and I found a table with two men sitting at it with an available chair. I then introduced myself and had a very encouraging dinner getting to know Chris and Bob from St. Louis. I was able to share some scripture with Chris as he and his family were going through some tough times recently. I also found out that he will be at the NANC conference in October that I will be attending! How cool is God!!!

I got back to my room, wrote my kids at home some postcards and decided to update this blog. I hope to post it Sunday along with corresponding pictures. I anticipate some time to post both to my youtube account and facebook account. Continue to pray for our guys at camp, that God will work graciously in their lives.

Friday, July 04, 2008

almost midnight, and all is well...

Just wanted to post a couple pics from the trip so far. We've made it safely to Batavia, NY and enjoyed the fireworks over Niagara Falls... well, some of us did. Some of the teens were less than impressed with the Falls and the fireworks. Guess it's hard to impress them in this day and age of high tech computer animation, etc, etc. We're having a great time so far - will try to post more tomorrow on one of our rest stops.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

4th of July plans...

Tomorrow we head out. It'll be 4th of July and I'll be taking 4 teenage guys to the Word of Life Island (the Rock) in Schroon Lake, NY. We'll be staying overnight in Batavia, NY, and hopefully seeing the fireworks over Niagara Falls. It will be my intention to blog our activities - however, I'm not good at doing such a thing. One of my teens in Peru on a short-term missions trip does such a better job. Maybe I need to hire it out! I just got a new camera too, so maybe that will be my motivation. Below is my son, Patrick, getting the last minute things around. Me? I haven't even started packing yet.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A half-day's work:

This morning my coffee pot (my alarm) went off at 6:45 a.m. I struggled to get out of bed. I was well on my way to work this morning by 7:30 and had already accomplished one task: "fixing" the water heater. There is a gray "smart box" on top of the water heater that controls so many different things; it was this box that kept tripping the "water too hot" signal. I bled off the hot water (and it was really hot!) and then reset the box and it seemed to do the trick. By 10:00 a.m. I received a call from my wife about our sump pump not working. Seems it seized up and wasn't doing it's job. A quick trip to Lowe's to replace it (I had just installed it in February) and we were back in business. When I got home to switch out the pumps, the house smelled awful. Like burnt something or other. My wife had had a grease fire and threw the pan out the side door, along with the foot-high flames. This is not proper handling of a grease fire. Here is a site that can explain to you how to deal with grease fires, both out of control and those not yet out of control. It's very important to know what to do. My wife's grandmother had a grease fire that burnt a good portion of her home, as well as took her life, all due to mishandling of the fire. Please, please educate yourself to these things! After leaving the house to return to work, I saw some money blowing across the highway. I stopped, turned around and picked up a folded.....$1 bill. Good times! (all this happened before noon today!)

I thank God for watching over my family these past several hours. From providing us with the ability and resources to fix/replace household items to safely guiding us through small 'emergencies' God has been faithful. He alone is worthy of our praise.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Notes on Our Ongoing Need of Redemption as Christians

Here is an excerpt from a great article, and a great challenge. You can read the rest John Hendryx's article here:

When the Lord opened my heart to the gospel in December of 1985, He set me on a radical new course, having delivered me from a wild life which was characterized by various anti-social behaviors, selfishness, drugs, crime, and the occult. Out of the most unlikely place, as I was reading the Scripture, the Lord revealed to me my lost condition: that I was without hope save in the mercy of Jesus Christ alone. In a moment, the Holy Spirit graciously united me to Christ, adopted me into God’s family, turning me from my idols to serve the Living and True God. I reflect back with awe as I consider that during the honeymoon period of my newly granted life in Christ, how the Lord actually poured out on me an extraordinary grace to overcome some of my previous bad habits and gave me a remarkable heart for prayer, especially for the lost. With zeal and great affection my greatest desire was to follow and obey the Lord. He stirred my heart to pray for a couple hours each morning as I arose, knowing that I must call down blessing from God if I was to have any power to live effectively during this age. And the result was much fruitfulness and effective personal and corporate ministry to the glory of God.

Well one day in His great wisdom … and for His sovereign good purposes, God decided to remove part of that extraordinary initial grace. I don’t know if you have had a similar experience but the first years after conversion I felt invincible, that all sins were there to be overcome and souls were there to be harvested. There was a zeal that felt as if I would never fall, yet one day, perhaps due to my great personal and ministry success, and God wanting to show me what was really dormant in my heart, allowed a subtle pride began to creep in. Even though I knew intellectually that my conversion and newfound devotion were all a gift from God, there was self-righteousness which entered my heart in my daily life. I began to believe the lie which presumed that it was my own zeal, my own prayers and my own obedience which kept me in good standing with God. As a result, Christ’s finished work became increasingly minimized by my own efforts and activism. The result was fruitlessness and sin. And when I fell into sin I would hold in the guilt because I considered repentance as something more related to what people do at the beginning of their Christian life. I feared to look at myself in the mirror of God’s word and so hesitated to acknowledge my weakness. Christians were not supposed to be like this, especially me. Pride kept me from recognizing how largely dependant I still needed to be on Christ every day. Being in a far away land I was not able to access good teaching or shepherding, and my understanding became distorted by my sin. A moralistic strain became somewhat more evident in my Christian walk. I had become too reliant on my successful walk in the past and forgot, that all I had was wholly of the Lord, a gift from Christ and not something self-generated. [...]

It's not a heart issue

That's basically what my cardiologist said. "My cardiologist" - lol... I've only seen this doctor one time. But it sounds cool, in a weird medical sort of way. I've been experiencing a lot of chest pain - as in all day every day. The pain that I feel most often is dull, just like someone is leaning on your chest with their elbow. But at times it increase in intensity and severity - and once I thought I was having a heart attack.

That started all kinds of medical testing: stress tests, nuclear tests, cat scans, x-rays, etc. I bought at least one BMW for a doctor that I am aware of. It's really expensive, all these tests - but we have the best health care system in the world and I appreciate the doctors taking advantage of all that is available to us.

So, yesterday I went to the cardio-doc and he was very certain that I don't have any blockages. He thinks it may be some sort of inflammation or something. So I start the rounds of anti-inflammatory meds and have one more test, an echo-cardiogram, at the end of next month. Prayerfully all the testing will then be done and I can get on with normal activities.

There is so much to be thankful for: good docs, great technology and God's gracious dealing thus far with my health.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lite Summer

So the posting here is dwindling in frequency. That's due to a hectic schedule all the way until school starts in August. I will say that I've thought a lot about posting - and that doesn't really matter at all.

We've just returned from our annual Sr.High Retreat. I was challenged by our speaker, Dwayne Berna in his sessions on accepting "God's Deal" for our lives. As he walked through Matthew 4 and referred back to Genesis 3, I was reminded that while Satan is creative, he certainly uses no new material in his dealing with mankind.

And even while I know that, I still choose to accept his deal rather than God's...much too often for my liking. So, what do you do? I will confess, repent and decidedly move forward in my progress of becoming more like Christ. I must. To quit is unthinkable to me.

Dwayne gave me a lot to think about, and I'm beginning to process all of it today. If you'd like to see pics from the retreat, check out my facebook page. God gave us a great weekend & for that I am very grateful.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day.

Yesterday it happened again. It hasn't happened for a while, but it did yesterday. In all places, it was the auto parts store. I was buying a light for the trailer I just built, and was getting checked out at the cashier's counter. The guy behind the counter smiled and kindly asked, "Would you like to buy a gift card for your dad?"

He didn't know. It just hit me weird. Dad has been gone now for three years, June 2nd. Three years and still I stood there.

I was awkwardly trying to figure out how to answer, and this guy just looked at me puzzled as I sputtered out a "No, that's okay". I thought I should tell him that my dad was dead. And it still hurts. But he was just trying to help me in my Father's Day purchases. He had no idea what was happening in my head.

As I was leaving the parking lot, my head still kind of reeling, this verse came to me: Psalm 68:3, "A father to the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation." I understand what the verse means...and I guess I'm not really "fatherless", just separated from dad - but this verse was a real comfort to me yesterday.

My wife and kids made my father's day even sweeter. My wife purchased a Hershey's Special Dark chocolate bar for me, and my kids told me a couple times today, "Happy Father's Day, Dad". My oldest daughter, 8, even thanked God at our dinner prayer for today being Father's Day. And when I looked up upon her "amen", she was smiling at me.

It's been a good day. God is good all the time, and fills the voids left when death rips a hole in the soul.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

My garden leads to God.... hopefully

Moving into our home in September of 2005 was a monumental decision. The location was perfect, we thought, as it is directly across from the high school. Being a youth pastor, all kinds of visions of huge youth gatherings in my basement were rolling around my head. And now, three years later, none of those have taken place. Why not?

As we moved in, we also were very excited about beginning a garden the following Spring. We planted heavily, fought the deer, squirrels and occasional ground-hogs to harvest wonderful crops. The garden caught the eyes of our neighbors. So, with neighbors on either side of us, we contributed to their evening meals with beans, zuchinni, corn, peas, strawberries and tomatoes. Unbeknownst to us, there was a 'neighborhood' joke about how no-one could grow tomatoes. And then we showed up. Last year we had 36 tomato plants. Yes, you read that right, 36 tomato plants. And our neighbors took notice.

Last night as I got home from a long day at the office, and then youth group, I wandered out to the garden. It was about 9pm. As I turned on my sprinkler system, I heard a neighbor holler something at me. It was a neighbor I had not met yet, and so I walked down the hill and introduced myself. About 40 minutes later, I left, having met her and her husband. They shared the joke about the tomato growing and kept commenting on how good our garden looks already. I assured them that they would get tomatoes this year. They were politely arguing but, they are going to get the tomatoes. Even if I have to buy the best from the produce stand.

This is an unreached family in my "backyard". I am going to continue to take the produce that God blesses us with and reach into these homes surrounding me. Already we have forged strong relationships with 3 of our neighbors, and now there is an opportunity for a fourth. With one family we are now able to discuss Biblical topics and give advice - they even ask for prayer. With one elderly neighbor, she keeps commenting on how we are "good neighbors" and prayerfully we will have inroads to show her and her husband how a life transformed by the love of Christ lives.

Does my garden lead to God? I don't know, but I am willing to use every tool available to reach the lost community around me. But what about the high school kids? Oh - I have several that walk through my yard each day. Maybe I can think of something to get them to stop and talk. With God's leading, perhaps we can see a spiritual harvest.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Thank you, American Veterans!

Thanks to all the vets who willingly sacrificed so that I could live in freedom. May God bless you all.

Frisbee Golf... with a slipped disc

Saturday I took four of my teens from the youth group to play Frisbee Golf at Little Big Horn Golf Course in Warsaw. They were part of the team that earned the right to go above the other teams in youth group. We had a great time - didn't quite make 18 holes, but learned a lot about disc golf and each other. My back was hurting by time we were done, due to it being out of place. The doctor is supposedly working on that - but time will tell. After the golf, we headed to Hacienda and enjoyed some wonderful chips, salsa and Mexican food. (all except for Jonathon who decided that popcorn shrimp sounded better).

Can I challenge you to read Psalm 104 today? It is 35 verses long, but so encouraging from the standpoint of seeing God interact, not only with man, but with His creation as well. He alone is worthy of praise!! These verses from Ps.104:

I will sing praise to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
Let my meditation be pleasing to Him;
As for me, I shall be glad in the Lord.

Have you made that conscious decision to rejoice, praise and be glad in God? Can I encourage you to do so? God bless,

Friday, May 23, 2008

death in the city

"The church in our generation needs reformation, revival, and constructive revolution.

At times men think of the two words, reformation and revival, as standing in contrast one to the other, but this is a mistake. Both words are related to the word restore.

Reformation refers to a restoration to pure doctrine; revival refers to a restoration in the Christian’s life. Reformation speaks of a return to the teachings of Scripture; revival speaks of a life brought into its proper relationship with the Holy Spirit.

The great moments of church history have come when these two restorations have simultaneously come into action so that the church has returned to pure doctrine and the lives of the Christians in the church have known the power of the Holy Spirit. There cannot be true revival unless there has been reformation; and reformation is not complete without revival.

Such a combination of reformation and revival would be revolutionary in our day – revolutionary in our individual lives as Christians, revolutionary not only in reference to the liberal church but constructively revolutionary in the evangelical, orthodox church as well.

May we be those who know the reality of both reformation and revival so that this poor dark world may have an exhibition of a portion of the church returned to both pure doctrine and Spirit-filled life."

~Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City, lectures from 1968

What I'm thinking and all that Jazz...

Today's post is just an eclectic mix of my thoughts over the last 24 hours. So buckle up and keep your hands inside the car at all times, because the trip through my mind is about to begin!

Yesterday was a pretty good day overall. It started early and went late. It included some awesome "used" book purchases, some killer food and mellow tunes. I went to what is becoming my fav used bookstore, the Green Banana located on Winona Ave in Warsaw. I walked out $6.99 poorer, but six books richer: Following Christ and Far from Home, both by Joseph Stowell, Desiring God by John Piper, Reason to Believe by RC Sproul, Bad News for Modern Man by Franky Schaeffer & Death in the City, by Francis Schaeffer. Awesome!

Then after dinner, my wife, son Patrick and I walked across the street to the Warsaw Community High School. There they were putting on a "taste of the town" followed up by the Jazz Cafe. So, we ate even more food, things like: Pizza, Bourbon chicken, Tomatoe Bisque, dainty pastries, meatballs, avacado dip and Ritters Frozen Yogurt - washed down with some Courthouse coffee of course!

The Jazz bands from the middle schools (Edgewood and Lakeview) were very good, but I must say that the WCHS Jazz Band was flat out awesome. My two fav songs of the evening were "Bein' Green" and "Zoot Suit Riot". Two of my teens from the youth group were playing in the HS band: Christropher C. on Trumpet and his older brother Kirk on Trombone. Good job guys!

When we got home from that I plowed through a new author that Kirk (see above) turned me on to. Joel C. Rosenberg. The book I started last night and finished today was titled, "The Last Days". Excellent and exciting reading! Good stuff!!

Finally, today I returned to my doctor because I continue to have chest pains. You'll recall that I went to the ER some time back with chest pains and they were unsure what was happening. They cleared by heart and lungs - everything is good there, so we are kinda scratching our heads on this one. I have some different medication to try for the next two weeks and then its back to the doc. We'll see what happens!

Okay, rides over! Unbuckle and disembark to your right. Thanks for stopping by today.

Monday, May 19, 2008

1 Thessalonians 5:9, 10

1 Thessalonians 5:9-10
9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.

Let's think devotionally about these verses:
  • God has not destined us for wrath - How blessed I am, and undeserving, of the grace of God. Not that I am good in and of myself, but because of His mercy He is saving me.
  • but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ - There is salvation in no other name, no other person, but the Person of Jesus Christ. How true the words of my Savior, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life"
  • who died for us - How precious the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ! It is through this awesome sacrifice that I am being saved!
  • that whether we are awake or asleep - Eternal life is NOW continuing into the 'future'!
  • we may live together with Him - Threaten me with death? There is no sweeter threat! Not only do I have the blessed hope of being in the presence of my Savior and Lord in the near future, but I also have the blessed assurance and comfort of His Spirit which indwells me and fills me to do His will.
I love God's Word and I will continual place my trust in my sovereign Lord to bring me to His presence.

An attempt in parody...

A forum I frequent had a post delving into Christian Contemporary Music, it's pro's and cons. I altered it slightly to shed light into the silliness of the arguments. Enjoy!

In recent years, it seems like just about every church in America has adopted the contemporary offering style - you know, the type with the one gallon buckets, sometimes in various colors, sometimes left in the back of the sanctuary or even in the foyer - definitely the type that does NOT go over well at PCC. What's your opinion -do you like it, or would you much rather prefer traditional taking of the offering, complete with fake brass plates and peeling red / green velvet?

I am not a big fan of contemporary offerings. While I was growing up, I never was a part of any churches that did this - in the IFB circles I was raised in, contemporary offerings were almost considered apostasy. My parents never gave into those sterile, plastic buckets, and still don't. In fact, I don't really like contemporary offerings in general. I don't really have anything against them - I've just never developed a taste for it, even though I give regularly at my church.

I greatly prefer traditional offering plates, even if they are considered old-fashioned and outdated by a lot of modern Christians. There are a lot of offering plates out there that are really wonderful old plates, plates carried by our Bible-believing ancestors through some tough times and that have endured for many, many years before a new group of Christians decided that they needed to go the way of the typewriter and the library card catalog. I'm afraid that, with the wide-spreadness of contemporary offering containers in many churches, many of these great offering plates will be lost for good.

I also dislike contemporary offering buckets for other reasons. One is that, in some of the churches I've been in, people just seem to give nonchalantly, giving the same amount over and over and over. Not that traditional offerings are not collected nonchalantly too sometimes, but I've noticed it more in these megachurches.

Also, the theology concerning contemporary plastic buckets is weak. While many traditional offering plates help us deal with issues such as forgiveness, redemption, salvation, faith, etc, (as we reflect on their passing during the traditional offertory) many contemporary giving opportunities deal mostly, or only, with praising God. Some of these plastic giving containers are used, by overly tolerant churches, to avoid upsetting people by merely suggesting that they MIGHT actually be sinners and in danger of going to hell without Christ.

However, my dislike of contemporary giving containers makes it kind of tough as a single person. Just about every church in my area that has a decent-sized singles group does the plastic bucket thing. The ones that stick to traditional offering plates are very small, very traditional churches with virtually no singles - all the people my age in these kind of churches are more likely than not, married, and usually with kids in tow. So when I'm church hunting (which I'm in the process of right now) I have to decide whether I want to simply tolerate the buckets in order to make some relationships in the singles group, or stick to traditional offering plates and be a very single, single. I know fellowship isn't the most important thing about a church, but it is still a very important component nonetheless.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Trinity Sunday

Today we celebrated Trinity Sunday - or the first Sunday after Pentecost. We did so in community with a fellow church in our tiny town of Oswego, IN. Our church, Calvary Baptist and First Baptist of Oswego joined as we annually do to worship and fellowship together. We were to hold the services outside, but the weather was a bit windy and too cool for many of our older saints - so, we worshiped together in our Fellowship Hall. We tie this weekend into the events of Oswego Trader Days - a time of period correct camping, cooking and fun located just south of our property. We also hold our Annual Community Garage Sale - opening our property and facilities to the public to come and sell their wares. It is a pretty packed weekend!

Our speaker was missionary Fred Burklin, retired from Greater European Mission. While retired, he is actively traveling with his wife, speaking and lecturing around the world. An amazing older man, with incredible energy and passion for his Lord! He spoke today on Psalm 145, the notes I took reproduced below:

1. My God is King - vv.1-2
  • God is sovereign
  • Submission to God is obedience
  • We need to also be loyal - involved in daily worship
2. My God is Great - vv.3-7
  • God is unsearchable
  • God is full of surprises - goodness & correction
  • He displays wondrous works
  • He is majestic
  • He is full of abundant goodness
  • He is righteous
3. My God is Merciful - vv.8-10
  • Jesus intercedes on our behalf, we receive the mercy of the Father
  • God is merciful and patient
  • God is impartial
4. My God is Ruler - vv.11-13
  • God is glorious
  • God is eternal
  • God is majestic
5. My God is Caring - vv.14-17
  • All of us have fallen / failed
  • God is an encourager
  • God lifts up the dejected
6. My God is Close - vv.18-20
  • He is near to the sincere
  • He desires a relationship with us / would that we desire a relationship with Him
  • He protects
  • Do you love / fear Him with all your heart and might?
7. My God is Praiseworthy - v.21
  • Talk about Him!
  • All are invited to a relationship with Him!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Marriage: Religious Institution or Social Construct?

This was the question put out by Charlie Bucher & his morning crew on AM 1190 (WOWO - Ft. Wayne) during their "Morning News & Views" segment. At least four people, maybe five, all sputtered and stuttered their way to tip-toe through such a "sensitive" topic. Of course, this "news story" is driven by the decision by the California courts to legalize and recognize "gay" marriage. It is an interesting question. However, I was surprised at the hesitancy of the news crew to address the issue straightforth. Comments varied but were along the lines of: marriage is for those who love each other, homosexuals can't help themselves because they're born that way - so they ought to be able to enjoy marriage, marriage is a religious and social thing because it's been that way for a "bazillion" years, etc, etc.

It is very simple to answer the question of whether marriage is a religious instituion or social construct. But to answer it will depend on your view of God's Word. If you believe it to be the authoritative book that has everything pertaining to life and Godliness, then the question is readily answered. Until you hold that view, you will struggle with being politically correct and speaking at the risk of offense. I hold the former view. I believe God's Word is the authoritative rule in my life. If I struggle with what it says, I struggle with God. If I come to a moment when I must choose between my thoughts on an issue or God's thoughts on an issue - I must choose God's thoughts and ways.

Marriage is an institution set up by God, ordained by Him at the time of the creation of Adam and Eve. It is not an issue of "Law", or man's construct. Moses didn't come up with marriage - God did. God's sacred plan for mankind is that a man leave mother and father and cleave to his wife, becoming one flesh. This isn't just God condoning a sexual union. One flesh goes much farther than that. Thus we see God's boundaries for marriage. One man - one woman - intimacy apart from all others. In the entirity of Scripture we see marriage fleshed out as the Holy Spirit revealed more through the writers of His Word.

I see marriage concisely defined well in the Westminster Confession of Faith, from which I partially quote: "...Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with an holy seed; and for the preventing of uncleanness (sexual impropriety, including, but not limited to homosexuality)..."

Marriage is not a social construct. It is an institution ordained by God, initiated by God and held in sacred esteem by God. To distort it is to defiantly fly in the face of a Holy God. There is no other option for mankind to consider - it does not matter what the courts of this land may say - God has given us His best for us in the text of Scripture. To follow it is to ensure joy, peace and happiness as promised by Jesus Christ. To disobey is to invite the wrath of the Almighty.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My son & his first art show entry...

My eldest son, Brice, entered an art show at Warsaw Community High School. The picture to his right is his entry - I think it's pretty cool. He has a natural talent for all things artistic.

A couple more entries that I thought were interesting:

The "zombie" picture was done by a Heather Piper - I don't know her, but I liked her stuff.

This painting is done by Shay Dixon. I seriously would pay some cash for it!

Monday, May 12, 2008

God, How Could You?

There is seemingly an incredible amount of tragedy hitting this planet as of late. Cyclones take the lives of tens of thousands; tornadoes scream across the Midwest, flinging souls into eternity; Earthquakes undulate the ground and in one fell swoop cause the death toll to sky-rocket in China. Even more are injured - maimed for life, both physically and mentally.

Okay, God. How could you do this? Where is the God of love, grace, patience and goodness that we hear so often about?

Circumstances like these were contemporary in Jesus' day. Hear the words of Luke as recorded in his first account:

Luke 13:1-5
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And He answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this fate? "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. "Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

Is there any sense to the tragedy taking place around us?

Perhaps the greatest sense we can take away from these biblical current events and even our news events of today is the message that Jesus Christ tried to relate in Luke's account. That is, these events should drive us to our need of repentance. Not only that, the events of the day should cause us to realize that we need to be reaching out to those around us, explaining their need for repentance before they perish. The six o'clock news should be in reality one of the greatest evangelistic motivators in our homes. Thousands over the last several days have entered eternity - all with or without Christ.

God, impress that in our hearts today.

Now We Can Sing...

As I perused my daily "Google Reader" feeds, I came across this video from FIDE-O. I thought it good enough to share.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

IRONMAN: the review

Last night was "date night". A quick check of the movie listings online confirmed my suspicions that there wasn't much to go see. Until, I saw: IronMan. Now, I am not a sci-fi guy, nor am I a superheroes guy, but neither have I seen a movie in a long time! So, as my wife asked my what we might be doing on this special occasion, I suggested, "IronMan". A weak smile was the only response. I reassured her that we would catch something to eat...somewhere. I was again surprised by the cost of a movie ticket: $7.50 (x2) and the 'required' movie snacks: popcorn & sodas, in a combo, $11.25. Outrageous. The theater was full - which also goes to prove my assertions that people really aren't deciding whether they should buy gas or buy food. (that's another topic).

The movie started - and I must say that I was very pleased with it, almost in it's entirety. The movie, rated PG-13, could have easily been PG if they had left out one gratuitous bed scene (partial nudity) and about 3 'curse' words. Those small factors are the only things I have 'against' this movie. It was pure entertainment and did not disappoint. Even for a guy who isn't really into this stuff - I kept trying to anticipate what would happen - and was surprised at almost every turn. I enjoyed it... and so did my wife.

Oh, and lest you think I got cheap on the meal - we went out to AppleBees afterward. Of course, we used a gift card someone graciously gave us. Overall cost of the date was: $26.25, with the $25 gift card totally covering our meal. She had chicken alfredo, I had the smaller portion of the riblets. We both brought leftovers home (probably due to eating all that popcorn at the theater).

Summary: If you have a chance to see IronMan, do so. If you miss it, it would be a great flick to pick up on DVD. Don't sweat it if you miss it, although it was pretty cool to see on the big screen. About 3.5 out of 5 stars. And, if fate should allow that you have a gift card for AppleBees in your wallet when you see the movie - try the riblets, they're delicious.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Maintaining Humility in Religious Leadership

I spent some time in John 9 today. Perhaps you are well aware of the story. A beggar man, blind from his birth, is healed by Christ. Quite clearly Jesus explains that this man's condition was not a result of his sin, nor his parent's sin, but so that "the works of God might be displayed in him". (Quick aside: Are you willing to endure what most equate to suffering so that God might receive glory in your life?) As the man follow's the instructions of Christ, he washes the mud from his eyes in the pool of Siloam. Immediately he can see. What a joy that must have been! The crowd witnessing this miraculous experience begin to question him. They eventually bring him to the Pharisees - the religious leaders of the day. This poor beggar man is interrogated by the Pharisees as to the circumstances surrounding the event. They drag his parents in and question them. There is a lot of uncertainty sweeping through the crowd. As this poor, beggar man continues to insist on his experience, he makes this statement concerning the Christ: "If this man were not from God, he could do nothing". That's when the religious leaders, the Pharisees, lose their cool. Their pride spills out of their mouths, "You were born in sin, and would you teach us? And they cast him out."

The shame of leadership unwilling to accept in humility instruction from one who experienced the touch of Christ. Leadership in the church today needs to take a quick lesson from this passage. We get caught up in our knowledge...our degrees...our mastery of the text. Often when one who just begins to experience the touch of Jesus Christ in their lives shares with us their experience, we scoff - perhaps inside our hearts, but scoff nonetheless. Perhaps we try to quickly instruct them in the finer points of our own theology, pulling apart their 'straw man' bit by bit. The end result? A castaway.

There is a point in time to deal with the finer issues of theology. Theology is vitally important. The weightier things of Scripture are a necessity in our lives. However, there should be a humility in church leadership today, to listen. To listen. To hear what our sheep tell us. To rejoice with them as they experience the work of Christ in their lives. Then, as we rejoice with them, we should be in humility encouraging them in the Word. May we as pastors, elders, missionaries, teachers, professors, instructors of every kind never look down our collective noses at these who are "born in utter sin" and then cast them out as unworthy to handle the truths of a life touched by Christ. How quickly we forget why we are in the position we are in.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Gevalia's Costa Rica Java

Is good stuff! Today I opened a new bag of coffee beans - Costa Rica from Gevalia. Well, I had a little trouble trying to open the sealed foil bag. Normally I take my wife's good sewing scissors and cut the bag open... but today all I could find in the drawers were my kid's plastic craft scissors. Finally after hacking my through the metallic barrier, I was rewarded with the rich scent of java. It is one of my fav blends from Gevalia. I added the stiff brew to my breakfast which consisted of: 2 Tylenol and 1 Prilosec. Yeah, I was hurting this morning. We had a church softball game last night and I did some serious earth-moving with my slide into second base. That translates to "sore body" this morning. I didn't sleep well last night. That's all breakfast would have been had it not been for my wife graciously making me some whole wheat muffins. I appreciate that! Not much to report on here today - rainy and dull gray which makes it hard to concentrate. I'll end on a positive note: I finally finished parsing all my Greek text in Ephesians 1. Now, on to translating and syntax, etc. Have a great day!

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Green Banana...

I'm a sucker for a good book. And so today, with my wife, I found myself in a 'new' used book store, called the Green Banana, in Warsaw. I ended up spending $5.55 plus tax on the following books:
  • Be Mature: How to Break the Mold of Spiritual Immaturity - and Grow up in Christ by Warren Weirsbe
  • Be Hopeful: How to Make the Best of Times out of Your Worst of Times by Warren Weirsbe, and
  • The Acts of the Apostles by Charles Ryrie
In the mail I received a copy of James White's book: The King James Only Controversy. I'll be reading it in conjunction with a class I am watching on DVD from Master's Seminary. I'll have to make some notes and jot down my thoughts on these books.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Opportunity to see President Clinton

My oldest son and I had the opportunity to attend a rally held across the street at the Warsaw Community High School. I've never seen a "live" President in all my 40 years, so I thought this was too good to pass up, regardless of political views. Some pictures are attached. If you'd like to see more, checkout my facebook page.