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.