Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fourteen Years

I am no doubt the most blessed of all men. Shari and I celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary today. The Proverbs contain a prophecy that is an obvious forecast of my wife:

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her,and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm,all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax,and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant;she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it;with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff,and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household,for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself;her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them;she delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing,and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom,and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed;her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently,but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands,and let her works praise her in the gates.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The rich, young, delusional ruler (part 3)

The young ruler reveals yet another delusion in his response to Jesus’ citing of the commands he must follow. The Lord Jesus says-
Luke 18:20 “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ”

Most of us would be very depressed having received such a statement about what our obedience must look like to be right with God. Yet the young ruler, very sure of his righteousness, takes note of Jesus’ words- familiar to any devout Jew- the last five commandments having to do with our duty to our fellow men-and makes a remarkable statement in verse 21-

Luke 18:21 And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.”

Imagine that! Jesus says that you must not commit adultery, not murder, not steal, not lie, and honor your father and your mother. The man says he has broken none of them! In a sense, the man might be right. At least he might genuinely believe himself to have kept these. Remember, the old Jewish way of thinking of these commands pertained to the outward activity not the thoughts of the heart. It was Jesus who clarified if a man hates his brother he was guilty of murder. It was Jesus who said if you look at a woman lustfully you are guilty of adultery. To the religious, works-focused Jew, it might be possible to say with some confidence that you have never committed adultery, murder, or stolen anything Perhaps the outward works-oriented Jew could say he had never told a lie nor disobeyed his parents. Really, the ruler’s statement makes some sense if you consider how he probably viewed obedience to these commandments. Among many other things, what Jesus does in His coming is to bring clarity to these ageless commands. God has always been concerned with the heart. The heart is manifested by our actions. Hate begets murder. Lust begets adultery. Covetousness or envy begets stealing (I sound like Yoda here). Sin starts in the heart. Making our outward actions look holy doesn't necessarily indicate we are truly holy.

Yes, to the watching public, the man was righteous and blameless. To God, who could see his heart, he was guilty. The corruption of our heart renders our works as filthy to the Lord. Isaiah captured this long ago:

Isaiah 64:6 But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousness are like filthy rags;

The man had a serious delusion about his righteousness. He misunderstood a fundamental truth of fallen man, including himself:

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?

The man had a serious delusion about his depravity. Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, one of the most influential preachers of the last century made this amazing statement about his own his own depravity (what? A preacher depraved? horrors!):

They see only what which is good in me; they see me only at my best. I shudder when I realize how unworthy I am and how ignorant they are of the dark and hidden recesses of my soul where all that is devilish and hideous reigns supreme, at times breaking through onto the surface and causing a turmoil that God and I alone know of.

The fact of man's total depravity is doctrine rarely preached anymore. Why don’t we feel as wicked as the doctrine says we are? For the same reason that a fish doesn’t feel wet- because it is immersed.

The Rich Young Ruler was deluded about his righteousness. Why did Jesus pose such a response to the man? Why did he respond to the man’s question about inheriting eternal life as he did? I believe Jesus was holding forth a portion of the Decalogue in order to test the man’s understanding of himself. If the man had responded, “Master, I have sinned in many ways according to Thy Law”, it would have show him ripe for salvation. In fact, an honest understanding of our unrighteousness when confronted by the sinless Christ may indicate regeneration has already occurred. Our profession of faith in Christ then serves as the fruit of being born again.

We have to get over the delusion that man is somehow basically good or mostly good. According to God’s authoritative word-

Romans 3:10 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Provocative post on liturgy

Pastor Jeff Meyers (Providence PCA in St. Louis) posted a thought provoking post on why some conservative presbyterians don't like liturgy on his blog. It's the second part of a longer post- it's worth a read for sure- Corrigenda Denuo

Get Out Of Debt

We began teaching the Crown Financial Ministries small group study several years ago. The Crown study is an absolute must for every believer, I really believe this. Much of it is plain, biblical, common sense. In the small group context, however, a greater awareness and accountability happens and this seriously assists the effectiveness of the study. This skit done on SNL a while back is a great example of something very obvious, but overlooked too often today.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bob Costas on Bonds

I just got back from watching my beloved Yankees lose to the Royals. The Yanks took 3 out of 4 during this KC trip, but tonight they looked flat. I was also at the 9-4 NY victory Monday night-much better game. Got to see Rocket pitch, probably for the last time in person. Kaufman Stadium is a great place for a game- especially when the 26-time World Champs are in town. I'm doing my best to indoctrinate my boys with the ways of Yankee baseball. I know I am succeeding as my oldest son asked me-at a Royals game in KC- why there are people wearing Royals garb at the game! Tonight I was especially hoping to see A-Rod hit number 500 (home run)- an incredible feat at his age, he should break it any game now.

Speaking of homers-although, of the illegitimate variety- and in light of my earlier post about Barry "juiced" Bonds, check out what Bob Costas' response to Bond's recently calling him a midget-

NEW YORK -- A day after Barry Bonds called him a "little midget man who knows (nothing) about baseball,'' broadcaster Bob Costas said he wasn't upset with the San Francisco Giants slugger and responded with a jab of his own.
"As anyone can plainly see, I'm 5-6½ and a strapping 150, and unlike some people, I came by all of it naturally,'' Costas said Thursday in a telephone interview.

On this week's edition of HBO's "Costas Now,'' commissioner Bud Selig, Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling and chemist Patrick Arnold discussed Bonds, his pursuit of Hank Aaron's home run record and suspicions that Bonds has used steroids. Schilling and Arnold said they believed Bonds had taken performance-enhancing drugs.

Bonds viewed at least part of the show before Wednesday's game against Atlanta.
"I've actually always had a pretty cordial relationship with Barry,'' Costas said. "I have no ill feelings toward him personally. I regard him as one of the greatest players of all time who got inauthentic boost and then became a superhuman player. I wish him no ill whatsoever.''

Pretty witty response on the part of Costas...pretty true also.

The rich, young, delusional ruler (part 2)

The rich young ruler has a second delusion- a delusion about how one “inherits” eternal life.
The opening verse certainly sets the stage for how Jesus will approach this delusional religious man. He shows his misconception of what is good, but in the same breath shows his misconception about how one is granted eternal life. Verse 18 is short, but it tells us a lot. Notice what question the man poses to Jesus in verse 18 once more-

“Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

I sense a misapprehension of the gospel. Consider just three words in verse 18- GOOD, DO, & INHERIT. Do you see how closely the man links being good and doing things with earning salvation? This simple sentence reveals a whole misconstruction of our relationship with God. This verse sets the stage for how Jesus will proceed with this man. The man thinks that you must do something, follow a set of rules, complete a check list, in order to gain favor with God. It is clear in the way he words his question. The irony is that he does use the correct wording concerning how we receive salvation or eternal life. It is indeed an inheritance. This is for sure.

How is an inheritance received? Someone else earns money or obtains a precious item and wills it to you. An inheritance, strictly speaking, is not earned. It is a gracious bestowment to a person who is related to the giver. The man makes a common mistake: He assumes that inheritance of eternal life is connected to our righteousness. In essence, we do something that requires God to reward us. We behave righteously, so God must give us something for our behavior. The man believes his righteous works merit favor from God. In essence, he asks Jesus, "what must I do to require God to accept me in to his Kingdom". There could hardly be a more serious error in understanding.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Great MRI news!

I had an MRI on my knee Monday. Today I got the results and am exceedingly happy and grateful to God. As expected, I have a slight tear in my MCL, which will heal in 3-6 weeks. I also have a bone bruise that will take a while longer to heal. Last, and most importantly- I have no cartilage damage and my ACL is fine! I'm pumped. Praise God! It still feels pretty sore and somewhat immobile, but knowing there's no serious damage and I can get back to working out with in a couple of weeks is a real blessing. Thank you for your prayers.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The rich, young, delusional ruler

Luke 18:18-23 Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ” And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.

I would like to suggest the so-called "rich young ruler" Jesus interacted with displayed several delusions which remain common among people today. I'll mention the first today and a couple more over the next several days.

First off, a delusion is defined as "A false belief or opinion; a fixed, dominating, or persistent false mental conception resistant to reason with regard to actual things or matters of fact".

Delusion #1- About what is “good”

The young man addresses Jesus appropriately, but not with full knowledge. He begins in verse 18-

Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Instead of simply Rabbi, Master, or Teacher, the young ruler calls Jesus “good”.
Of course, no one would quibble with the young ruler’s address, in fact, I would adamantly agree with designating Jesus as “good”. But notice how Jesus responds to the young inquirer-

“Why do you call Me good?"

What an amazing way to address an enquirer- for Jesus to be able to go to the heart of the man’s problem simply in listening to how He is addressed. Talk about quick perception! The man called Jesus good and Jesus immediately seizes upon the opportunity by asking him what he means. What’s the big deal with such an address? Why does Jesus respond this way? After all, we commonly call things good. In fact, often enough I hear people label another person as "a good person". I might say to one of my sons- "good boy". Why is it that Jesus responds to the young ruler’s choice to call him “good” teacher? Very simply, Jesus knows that a person's understanding of what is good will show much about their view of themselves, their fellow men, and God. Jesus wasn’t being rude, he was simply going for the heart of the matter. He was no small talker. As one writer has said, “the young man can’t understand anything else Jesus will tell him unless he grasps that our relative standards of goodness are much, much different than God’s absolute goodness and God’s standard of righteousness". So, without letting the man retort, Christ says-

No one is good but One, that is, God.

Jesus isn’t denying his divinity. On the contrary, He is simply seeing if the man knows with whom he speaks. Jesus' answer here is sort of like what he said to the woman at the well when he said-
John 4:10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

He knows the man has only a delusion or misconception of what good really is. When Jesus hears “good” and “eternal life” in the same sentence, it prompts Him to begin teaching the young man because he is under some serious delusions. It seems to me the first delusion is his misunderstanding of what and who is actually "good". It's not me, that's for sure.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Dumbest Dog You Will Ever See

Clear evidence regarding the intelligence of the canine species.

Barry who?

Barry Bonds is two home runs away from tying Hank Aaron's all-time home run record of 755, three from breaking it. Barring a huge anomaly, Bonds will accomplish this feat before the middle of August, if not sooner- maybe next week.

In my mind, if Bond's breaks the record, it is illegitimate. It is all but certain Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs for a 3-5 year period- a period that saw his statistics go through the roof at an age (35...believe me, things start breaking down at this ripe old age) when players are historically in a steep statistical decline. He gained 43 pounds from his early days in Pittsburgh and the list of evidences for performance enhancing drugs go on. If you haven't read the Sports Illustrated article on Bonds, you should. Even if only a fraction is true, it's enough to keep from acknowledging Bonds as the new home run king.

Here's my take on what should happen to Bonds and his legacy: On a personal level (the level he cares about so much) he should be stripped of his home runs from 1999 to now. I'm not suggesting his team should be punished, such a thing is impossible and impractical. I'm just suggesting Bonds not be rewarded for breaking a sacred record because he juiced. This might surprise you, but I think Bonds should still be in the Hall of Fame, provided he confess his guilt in this area he has denied for so long. Even taking away his last 250 home runs gives him 500 home runs. Additionally, before his juicing epoch, he was close to a .300 hitter with a hoard of RBI's and stolen bases. Before 1999 he was an 8-time all star. In the field Bonds is a 5-time golden glove outfielder before he became slow and muscle-bound. He has won silver slugger awards as well as the coveted MVP award before juicing. Barry Bonds was a tremendous player before he chose to take steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. His only real career deficit is the lack of a World Series Championship (a true team accomplishment, something Barry doesn't care as much about). I think he is Hall of Fame worthy just based on his pre-steroid stats and accomplishments.

He has chosen to make a mockery of the game by denying his drug use. Clearly he knows how illegitimate his latest accomplishments are, what else causes him to lie about taking enhancers? I think he was motivated to roid up because of Mark McGwire's obvious usage, so he justifies it that way. Still though, as the son of Bobby Bonds and godson of the great Willie Mays, he must realize his name will be put in a revered place in baseball lore. He has to know he doesn't deserve that- not when his record-breaking numbers are artificial.
It's sad for sure. The league doesn't have power to do much about the past, but it does have a chance to guard it's legacy. This can be done by disallowing Bonds last 250 or so home runs. He deserves a place in history, just not the one he is about to obtain if considered the new home run king.
see new opinion poll on the right column

Friday, July 20, 2007

Dog Fighting

I have heard of dog fighting for years, it's not a new phenomenon. Dog fighting has suddenly become more noticeable because of a high profile individuals alleged involvement. Michael Vick, the tremendously talented athlete paid millions to quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, has been indicted along with three others, for "conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture" known as "Bad Newz Kennels", operating over a period of six years from a base at a 15-acre property he owns near Smithfield, Virginia. They face $350,000 in fines and six years in prison if convicted of the federal charges. If he is guilty, I hope he gets every bit of 6 years in prison.

Dog fighting is explained by Wikipedia in the following way:

Dog fighting is a fight between game dogs, involving the actual pitting of two dogs against each other in a pit or a ring to fight for the entertainment of the spectators, and for the purpose of gambling. In addition, respected dogs generate income for their owners from stud fees. It is commonly considered a blood sport, as the dogs literally bite and rip the flesh off of one another while the onlookers root and place bets on which dog will win the match. Dog fighting is illegal in most countries and has been linked to organized crime and gangs.

After the fight, both dogs are usually critically wounded, often with massive bleeding, ruptured lungs, broken bones, and other life-threatening injuries. Generally, the loser of a match dies or is killed, unless he has any salvage value to his owner. When dogs are killed after a match, they are often shot and not euthanized. The animals that survive generally never see a veterinarian.

The Michael Vick case is shedding needed light on this horrible practice, which is a good thing.

It's no secret- I'm not a fan of dogs. Generally, in their domesticated form, I think they are nasty, smelly, gross mongrels. I do, however, appreciate the apparent need some people (indeed, many of my good friends...) have to own a dog as a pet. I don't share that need, but I acknowledge the legitimacy of others to pursue such a form of dominion (even if I think keeping a large carnivore in a relatively small environment stretches the dominion mandate).

The matter of dog fighting is upsetting on a very basic level as it offends simple human sensibilities (even despite our inherent depravity), yet, it also rails against man's God-ordained mandate to exercise dominion over the creation.

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

God has given mankind dominion over the creation, I believe this means we are the caretakers of creation, not plunderers or pillagers of the same. To pinpoint further, I think dominion means managing the creation, indeed managing the animal population for God's glory and attendant human benefit. There is a sense in which God's creation is man's sacred trust. Would God want us to be cruel to His creation, that is, to inflict undo pain upon them? I think not. Obviously, on some level, it "hurts" an animal to die when they are taken for food, but when harvested humanely, such hurt or suffering is drastically limited. Such management, in my biblical opinion, is allowable (for food) and necessary (for population control in many areas).

Cruelty, on the other hand, is what something like dog fighting is and I believe it to be sinful. It runs counter to the dominion mandate described in Genesis 1 (and again in Genesis 9). I'm teaching my boys to hunt, but not to be cruel. If they are going to take a creature's life, it has to be inside the bounds of the laws of the state, it must be done so humanely, and they must eat it. I do my best to live by this. I think it is in line with God's intention regarding our relationship with creation. It is in this light that I voice my opposition to dog fighting and hope for a stiff penalty to be meted out against those who promote such a practice.

In closing, to switch gears- I wish the media (and certain congressmen-like Sen. Byrd of W.Va)would be as outraged at the barbaric practice of human abortion as they are about dog fighting. Both are sinful, but one is exponentially more so.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bum Knee

Looks like I tore up my knee last night.

I was playing soccer and gloriously tripped over myself trying to make a move. I knew I was hurt, my right ankle "rolled" and my knee more or less hyper-extended. It wasn't pretty and it felt pretty awful. I only wish it would have happened while scoring on a bicycle kick to win the game. Instead it happened five minutes after we started and I was more or less alone. Nice one Tony.

The pain died down a few minutes after the initial injury and I was able to hobble around and test the leg a bit. I thought I might just have had a sprain but after a few minutes, the pain isolated in and around my knee. I iced it a few times throughout the night. When I woke up, I could barely walk.

I went to the doctor this afternoon. His initial opinion is my ACL is O.K. Praise God. That was my chief concern. ACL injuries are the most serious of all knee injuries and require "rebuilding". ACL surgery means a long road to recovery and it's never really the same. After physically examining me, the doctor believes I have most likely torn my MCL and damaged my medial meniscus (cartilage "pad" in the knee joint). I did the same thing to my left knee when I was in college and had it repaired surgically 15 years ago this month. His diagnosis cannot be confirmed until I have an MRI early next week. The ligament tear will heal on it's own. The meniscus will not. If it's damaged, I'll need to have minor surgery soon. The surgery will be minor, but the rehab will take some time for me.

I'm bummed about this for a couple reasons. I've been trying to get back in to some kind of shape. I'm way beyond caring too much about how I look and I have no visions of regaining some kind of athletic glory, I just want to be more healthy and a better example to my boys (and the flock I serve, for that matter). I've been running 3 miles every other day and eating better. I've actually dropped 20 pounds in the last 2 1/2 months without using some kind of "fad" diet (I've done those...they work for a while). This is kind of a set back. Kind of demoralizing, humanly speaking.

The biggest challenge for me is watching what I eat. I struggle with the sin of gluttony and always have. I used to be able to stay at a "good" weight because I played sports and was generally very active, but I have always eaten too much (gluttons can be skinny or obese...being "overweight" isn't all there is too it). Over the last ten years I've put on the pounds because I eat too much and exercise too little. In general, I have failed to use self-control. With some brotherly accountability I have been seeing victory in this area lately and I'm feeling physically better and better. Messing up my knee stinks for this reason.

Now...I'm done whining. I'll get my MRI soon and I'll do my best to rehab back. Hopefully my ACL is in fact, O.K. (which I'm praying for right now!). Lord willing, I'll be able to bring my level of exercise back up soon. I sure would appreciate your prayers on my behalf for my knee and the related matters I've mentioned here. I'll keep you posted.

By the way, I do know and believe in Romans 8:28-29, I just don't feel like hearing it quoted right now.

New Feature on Reepicheep- The Opinion Poll

In an effort to entertain and inform my faithful readership-beginning this week I will post an opinion poll. Like my posts, these polls will vary in seriousness. You can see the inaugural opinion poll deals with one of the most important questions in life...I look forward to your weekly participation on these polls.
The weekly opinion poll will appear on the right hand column.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bot flies can get to your head

Imagine having this thing squirming under your skin! This story is cool-

Squirming Fly Larvae Pulled From Man's Head
Wednesday, July 18, 2007 /Associated Pres

CARBONDALE, Colo. — Doctors thought the strange, bleeding bumps on Aaron Dallas' head might be from gnat bites or shingles. Then the bumps started moving.
A doctor found five active bot fly larvae living beneath the skin atop Dallas' head.
"I'd put my hand back there and feel them moving. I thought it was blood coursing through my head," Dallas told the (Glenwood Springs) Post Independent.
"I could hear them. I actually thought I was going crazy."
Dallas said he likely received the larval infestation while on a trip to Belize this summer. Bot fly infections are not uncommon in parts of Central and South America.
Adult bot flies are hairy and look like bees, without bristles. The larvae, which are about one-third the size of a penny, were living in a pit 2- to 3- millimeters wide. They were removed Thursday.
"It was weird and traumatic," said Dallas, of Carbondale. "I would get this pain that would drop me to my knees."

After a specialist told him he might have shingles, Dallas tried different creams and salves. But the pain only got worse.
"When I saw him again, it was pretty obvious something else was going on," said Dr. Kimball Spence, who could see the spots moving on Dallas' head. "There's an open pit. You see a little activity, not necessarily the larvae, but a fluctuation of the fluid in the pit."
Dallas' wife, Midge Dallas, teased him about it.
"I told him, 'I will love you through your maggots,'" she told the newspaper.
But Dallas saw little to laugh about.
"It's much funnier to everyone else," he said. "It makes my stomach turn over. It was cruel."

So...don't be so sure that's only a pimple you have had for a couple weeks!
I've seen some cool Bot fly "hatchings" on various Youtube videos sent my way. Nothing like it!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Misapplication of truth misrepresents God and misjudges other people

Job is a book that has no known date. Job was most likely alive around the time of Abraham, however we are not sure when the book was actually written. The book of Job is some 42 chapters long and it tells a vivid story. Interestingly, the book is classified not as a narrative but rather as a book of poetry, and indeed this designation is proper. One commentary on the book aptly states- “The contents of the book, together with its artistic and elegant style, place it among the literary masterpieces of all time”.

Of all the lessons to be learned from Job, perhaps what strikes me most is what Job's "friend" Eliphaz says to him and what it displays-

Misapplication of truth misrepresents God and misjudges other people.

I think Eliphaz misapplies truth about God which serves to misrpresent God to other people and ultimately prompts him to misjudge Job and his situation. Consider a few passages from Job and test my theory-

Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.

The book starts off very explicitly stating that Job’s character was above reproach. Obviously, being a son of Adam like us all he was a sinner. However, his account with God and Man was clean. He was a morally upright person. The text tells us he had a large family and many, many possessions. He was blessed in every way by God. Look with me now at what develops in verses 6-12:

Job 1:6-12 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.7 And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”9 So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing?10 “Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.11 “But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Essentially, the Devil was having a debate of sorts with God. The Devil was basically saying that people only followed God because He did good things for them. The Devil was accusing God of bribing people for their affection. God responds to Satan by saying Job is an example of one who is faithful regardless of his physical circumstances. The Devil scoffs at this notion. God, interestingly, grants Satan access to Job, but all the while remains in control by forbidding Satan to harm Job’s body. So Satan goes out to disprove the faith of Job and so to disprove God Himself. In the last part of Chapter 1 Satan causes things to happen that kill all of Job’s children except his wife. Calamity upon calamity occur to Job’s children and extended family. The nightmare of every mom and dad happens to Job- inside of one day he loses all his children. Yes Job had much in the way of material blessings, but no more costly investment existed than the investment of years in the lives of his children, yet all perished before Job’s eyes! Utterly unfathomable to me. The chapter closes with Job in total despair. Still though, notice what is said about Job:

Job 1:22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

Satan, surely frustrated, returns to God and asks for permission to attack Job’s health. He may have been tough when others around him were attacked physically and died, but he won’t be so faithful and true when his own body is ravaged by disease. So God grants Satan this request, but does not allow Satan to take Job’s life. Satan strikes Job immediately with a painful, debilitating plague. Job laments and deplores the day he was born, but never curses God even when his wife tells him he should do so and die! So there is Job, ravaged with painful boils, the kind of elevated sours that look like huge pimples. They look like tumors popping out all over his body. They itch and ooze. Seriously nasty. They disfigure his face and are sore all over- even on the bottom of his feet the text states. There is Job, picking up pieces of broken pottery to scratch his torturous itching, boil-filled skin. Unable to stand on his own infected feet nor able to lay comfortably on an infected backside and legs, Job reels in agony wishing he would never have been born, but never cursing God. Look at his reaction to his wife when she tells him to curse God and die in verse 10 of chapter 2:

Job 2:10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”

In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job was a wealthy, influential man. He was no doubt known throughout the ancient land. Word of his demise traveled fast. Imagine, in our day, if Bill Gates suddenly lost his company to bankruptcy. Imagine if his family was killed in some tragic plane crash. Imagine then, that he was struck down with Cancer or some other painful, agonizing illness. The world would certainly take notice and wonder. Eventually the word of Job’s collapse traveled to friends of his who lived far off. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were three of his friends who got word of Job’s misfortune. Perhaps they were old college buddies, maybe old business partners, the text doesn’t explain the origin of their friendship. All we know is that these friends did care enough to travel and see their hurting friend Job. It is most likely true that these friends were genuine in their desire to help their suffering friend. They probably all meant well. There is no indication that any of these men have anything but care and respect for Job. What is interesting about the speeches these three friends give Job is how they overestimate their grasp of truth as they preach to Job about his sins. Yes, the book of Job is certainly about faithfulness in suffering. But a valuable secondary lesson is learned through the three friends and their misapplication of truth. From their comments to Job, we can see how the book of Job subtlely reveals the arrogance of pontificating about what we think is true about God. Don’t get me wrong, there are clear truths about God that we should be diligent to affirm and uphold. What is happening in Job, however, concerns three people who think they know why God does what he does and then tries to judge another person in light of that belief. The lesson we learn from Job's friends is this:

Misapplication of truth misrepresents God and misjudges other people.
Misapplication => Misrepresenting God => Misjudging people

Here are Job’s three friends. They have come to Job in order to help him out of his mess or to help him understand why he is in the predicament he is in. As Job sits or lies there in a heap, each of the three friends give a speech of sorts explaining to Job what has gone wrong. Consider just one of those speeches-

Job 4:1-2 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said:2 “If one attempts a word with you, will you become weary? But who can withhold himself from speaking?

Eliphaz starts by saying- I know you are hurting and suffering. Words probably won’t help, they might make you more weary. But I can’t stand watching this anymore. I must tell you what I think the problem is:

3 Surely you have instructed many, And you have strengthened weak hands.4 Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, And you have strengthened the feeble knees;5 But now it comes upon you, and you are weary; It touches you, and you are troubled.6 Is not your reverence your confidence? And the integrity of your ways your hope?7 “Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off?

Here Eliphaz reveals what he believes about God. He reveals what he thinks is true and begins to apply it to Job. He states, “Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off?”. In this statement we can gather the whole of his message to Job. He is saying, “Job, there must be some sin in your life that has caused the hand of God to come down upon you.” In so many words, Eliphaz states that God does not allow calamity into the lives of those who live uprightly. For Eliphaz, if you are living righteously, you will be blessed. Hardship only comes when you are not living right, so Job must have sinned. He goes on-

8 Even as I have seen, Those who plow iniquity And sow trouble reap the same.9 By the blast of God they perish, And by the breath of His anger they are consumed.

Eliphaz says that life is as simple as this- what you reap you sow. You mess up, you will die. I am sure some would agree with Eliphaz...he is right on according to biblical theology. The New Testament states clearly in 1 and 2 Corinthians, and the book of Galatians- “what a man sows, he will also reap”. Of course sowing and reaping is true. When we are entangled in sin, we are in fact sowing bad seeds that will come back to choke us. Suffering and hardship are the natural results of sin. Here's what I think Eliphaz, and many others, miss- The principle behind sowing and reaping is not that God stands waiting to zap anyone who sins, but rather that sin yields natural consequences. He fundamentally characterizes God as some kind of cosmic killjoy standing by with a huge lightning bolt in heaven ready to throw it at us as soon as we sin. Eliphaz latches on to a partial truth and applies it fully to Job without considering a very important distinction between punishment and discipline.

I think Scripture is clear, God does not ever punish his children. Let me say it again, if you are a Child of God going through a trial or suffering greatly, it is not a punishment you are receiving from God. We are all guilty of misunderstanding here. How many of us have committed some sin or some series of sin and when something bad happens to us we feel like God must be getting us back. Well he is not. He is not getting you back for your sin because Christ took that sin we committed and put it on Himself and God poured out his punitive wrath once and for all on His own Son. Punishment for the sin of believers was delivered upon Christ. God never punishes his Children. On the other hand, God does discipline His children. Why does he discipline? I don’t know. Sometimes things are going great in our spiritual lives and our walk with the Lord and the Lord allows hardship and trial into our lives to make us stronger. To build us and teach us further. Other times we are sinning and God acts to get our attention. In most cases only the person undergoing the trial and God know which of these are true. In most cases its probably a mixture of both. Eliphaz erred greatly by taking what he thought was a truth and ramming it down poor old Job’s throat. You will notice that Eliphaz says a lot of right things about God, look with me in Chapter 5, starting at verse 10-
Job 5:10-17 He gives rain on the earth, And sends waters on the fields.11 He sets on high those who are lowly, And those who mourn are lifted to safety.12 He frustrates the devices of the crafty, So that their hands cannot carry out their plans.13 He catches the wise in their own craftiness, And the counsel of the cunning comes quickly upon them.14 They meet with darkness in the daytime, And grope at noontime as in the night.15 But He saves the needy from the sword, From the mouth of the mighty, And from their hand.16 So the poor have hope, And injustice shuts her mouth.17 “Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.

Do you see where Eliphaz is amiss? He gets most of the truth right. The problem is that he extrapolates from his very elementary grasp of the truth to judge his friend Job. As he is waxing poetically, he applies what he believes to be the truth, he does so in such a way that Job is driven deeper in to despair. Yes, there are definite errors in his theology, but there are also many truths Eliphaz touches on. The problem is Job doesn’t really need a spurious theological commentary right now. He needs the loving comfort of a friend. Instead he receives a lesson in systematic theology. The words of Paul in 1 Corinthians echo from the future-

1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.

You can say all the right things in all the wrong ways and in doing so obscure the message in such a way that brings others down instead of up. Eliphaz thinks he knows the truth, but he doesn’t. And the truth he does have a handle on he delivers in an unloving way.

Misapplication of truth misrepresents God and misjudges other people.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Blue Screen of Death

I am not at all computer savy. I know enough to function and that's just right for me. Today, while attempting to complete various administrative tasks and begin preliminary study for my sermon, the dreaded blue screen popped up on my office computer. I couldn't get the computer to re-boot. I called our faithful deacon who is also a "computer guy" for a diagnosis. In his usual understated way he said, "we call that the 'blue screen of death'". You know, computer geeks have their own culture and language.

Just Great. This couldn't have happened in the three weeks prior to today, when I didn't have sermons and lessons to prepare.

It appears my hard drive is gone. Thankfully I have most of my stuff backed up to our server and a bunch of stuff on CD's. Still, I feel violated, taken advantage of, and cheated.

This is the second hard drive I have lost. Come on Dell! What's up?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Rambling, non-technical post on why ministry at Redeemer is so exciting...

I'm just going to write what's on my heart tonight, since I don't have a sermon on my mind like most Saturdays (praise God for Pastor Nathan).
Since I was in the tenth grade I have been reasonably certain God was calling me to gospel ministry in one form or another. I went to Moody to learn the bible and Covenant Seminary to learn how to pastor. If I had it to do over again, I would go to both of these places again- in a heartbeat.

During my middle year of seminary, I was invited to serve as the ministerial intern at Redeemer. When I arrived in May of 1997 I found Redeemer to be an exciting, relatively new church plant. It was different than other church plants I was familiar with because it was committed to a church/school (parochial) model and possessed a traditional, somewhat liturgical philosophy of worship. I was amazed by God's providence as it was exactly what Shari and I prayed for and previously thought didn't exist. Sure, there are lots of "traditional" churches, but few as young and committed to Christian Education as Redeemer. I learned much under Pastor Mark Merritt's ministry at Redeemer and will be forever grateful for the vast exposure to pastoral ministry he provided. While I didn't expect we would be at Redeemer long-term, I knew what I was learning would be valuable for planting a church like Redeemer or helping an existing church embrace a similar vision.

Providentially, after Mark's departure in 2001, I was chosen as the new pastor. It was a complex and difficult time when the transition took place. I really didn't have a "honeymoon" period and very honestly, although we were eight years old as a church, we were not yet established. I was the third pastor in those eight years, not atypical for a church plant started from a small core group, but nevertheless trying for the congregation and eldership. Looking back, I'm still amazed the congregation chose me- being 29 years old and not all that experienced. Maybe I was too young...heck, maybe I still am? At any rate, when I took my vows to become the senior pastor, in my heart, I was taking them for the long term. I have never viewed Redeemer as some kind of step to something "bigger", instead, I have a driving belief that God has His hand upon our Church, and I am to do all I can to stay out of God's way while being faithful to tend flock. We, the eldership of Redeemer, have made plenty of mistakes over the years. We are under no allusions that Redeemer's spiritual growth is because of anything we have concocted. At the same time, I have observed a genuine, selfless concern for the flock on the part of the elders that I believe God is blessing. Each of us has learned a thousand lessons about shepherding over these past ten years, for some, longer than that. I think my confidence in the future is grounded in the faithfulness of God to bring up such men to co-lead this flock.

This brings me to the point of my rambling, grateful post- ministry at Redeemer is exciting because there is so much left to do! We are about the never-ending task (earthly speaking) of worshiping our God (well, this is for eternity!), studying His Word, and proclaiming His gospel to the World...all the while growing as a community! I can't think of a ministry that has more potential than Redeemer. I will admit I tend to bore easily. Before becoming the pastor at Redeemer I confess to being a bit anxious about contentment. I wondered if I could ever be at one place for very long. This past May we quietly celebrated ten years of ministry at Redeemer, our first pastorate out of seminary. These ten years absolutely ripped by. Where did they go? There were trials, joys, heartaches, milestones, and all sorts of other experiences that made time progress at warp speed. My wife is opposite of me, she doesn't like change and is very comfortable with a steady routine. Redeemer is a rare blend of the traditional and the progressive. It's a perfect place for Shari and I to minister. I don't tell my church enough- I'm the most blessed pastor alive to be here- I'm sure of it! Sometimes I get too busy and too driven about all that's going on and has to take place for the next transition (we're always in some kind of transition) to stop and smell the roses...I mean the tulips (of course)... with our church family. We're in this together Redeemer, and I couldn't be happier about that!

As far as numeric growth goes, I honestly haven't given it more thought than I have to. Certainly I pay attention to numbers because pastoral approach varies depending on flock size. Still, I have never once felt pressure from our elders to be bringing more people in. I confess, sometimes I feel like I might be holding Redeemer back in this department- if I were a better preacher, a better administrator, a better this or that, maybe Redeemer would be growing more? There are many churches close to us that are growing at a much greater numeric rate than Redeemer, no doubt. Then I have this overwhelming sense of peace about what God is doing here. Further, I am convinced-beyond a shadow of a doubt and in light of His turning the world upside down with 13 Apostles- that God could use our "little" church in a greater way than all the mega churches combined, if He wills. God is growing us deep as He widens us. I can see this, slowly but surely. I really have come to the place where I believe my job is to keep the main purpose of my ministry simple (preach God's sovereign grace [the bible], equip, exhort, encourage, pray, and administer the sacraments) and never forget this is God's Church. I am really not that important to this whole equation. This reality is incredibly freeing to me. It really is.

Humanly speaking, I hope I stay at Redeemer my whole life, but I know that might not be God's Will. In fact, my regular prayer is to never be a hindrance to this ministry. If and when this happens, I will step away. It's not my ministry.

I yearn passionately to see Redeemer become a veritable citadel for Reformation and multi-generational gospel light in Overland Park, the Mid-west, the U.S., and the world. He definitely doesn't need me for that...and that's more than cool with me, it's empowering!

With all the theological incorrectness I can muster and speaking emotionally more than techinically- my job...our job...is to stay out of God's way and do nothing to rob His glory. Just you wait and see what He will do!

I'm telling you, these are exciting times. Let us keep in mind the Psalm depicted in the cartoon above. It is the same verse that appears inside my wedding band and the verse that now appears on Redeemer's sanctuary cornerstone.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Talking to Dogs

I just heard a person talking to their dog as they walked by our house. My kids wondered what the dog could be thinking as the person muttered to it. Immediately "The Far Side" came to mind- the cartoon above in particular. Funny stuff.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Reminds me again of why I left the Roman Catholic Church

At least four people sent me links to the Pope's recent comments affirming pre-Vatican II dogma concerning Christians who were outside the Roman Catholic Church. Very simply, Pope Benedict has contradicted the decision of the Vatican II Council by stating non-Roman Catholic Churches were not true churches but merely ecclesial communities and therefore did not have the "means of salvation." Benedict states, "Christ 'established here on earth' only one Church," The other communities "cannot be called 'churches' in the proper sense" because they do not have apostolic succession -- the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ's original apostles -- and therefore their priestly ordinations are not valid.

Such comments strike at the reason I chose to leave the Roman Catholic Church. Quite simply, I think the office of Pope has no biblical basis and so just as Benedict questions the legitimacy of non-Roman Catholic Churches, I also question the legitimacy of the Roman Catholic Church. I'm certainly not suggesting there are not genuine believers in the Roman Catholic Church, just that the church is unbiblically governed and fraught with theological error.

The Roman Catholic insistence and affirmation of some sort of "apostolic succession" is what ultimately renders the Roman Catholic Church erroneous. I believe the Church of Christ is to be governed by Apostolic authority, however, this refers to the deposit of revelation God gave to His Prophets and Apostles, otherwise known as the Holy Scriptures. The Scriptures, therefore, are the locus of authority for the Church- not a Pope. I take seriously the aims of Christ's prayer concerning the Church in John 17:20-21 where He prays-

"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me."

To what does "their word" refer? It's the Word of the Apostles, ultimately, the Word of God- the Bible. Unity, yes. At the expense of the truth, no. The Roman Catholic church is so riddled with biblical and theological error that it seems beyond repair. I'm all for reform, however it would start with the Pope repenting and divesting his office forever. There cannot be unity among Christians without agreement on something as simple as authority. Who has it, the Pope or the Scriptures?

Very simply, when I made the cognitive choice to leave the Roman Catholic Church, here are some of the main points of biblical disagreement that prompted me toward the Reformed Church:

- Salvation is by grace alone through faith, and not by our own good works.
- The Bible alone is the authoritative Word of God for our lives—not church tradition or what the Pope says.
- All believers are priests of God, anointed in Christ to serve him always, everywhere, in all they do.
- God gave us two sacraments, baptism and communion, which are signs and seals of God’s promises (not seven).
- A clergy’s blessing of the communion bread and wine do not really turn them into the actual body and blood of Christ.
- The original sinful condition in which we are born as well as our actual sins are all fully washed away by Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross.
- Prayer should be directed to God alone through Christ, not to or through "saints" or Mary.

Pope Benedict can certainly say what he wants to say, he's the Pope. That's the way it works in the Roman Catholic Church.

He's following a long Papal tradition, one called error.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Thinking about the idea of chemical imbalance

Pastor Nathan has been teaching a basic introduction to biblical counseling during our evening study on Sunday nights. His teaching has made me think again on the concept of "chemical imbalance" being the cause of various so-called mental illnesses.

I know there is much debate concerning the use of psychotropic or psychoactive drugs among Christians. In my pastoral experience I have counseled several people readily willing to view their problem through spiritual lenses- to seek God's perspective on their trial. They say they are open and willing to consider how sin might be figuring in to their discomfort (their own sin or sin committed against them) or other presenting issues that prompt them to speak with me. All too often, however, I have heard a brother or sister in Christ say something like this- "the bible is good and can certainly help, but if there's a chemical imbalance in the brain, "medicine" is needed to help bring balance".

On the surface, I agree. If there is indeed a chemical imbalance in the brain, perhaps there is a medicinal "cure" or response that can bring back balance? Makes good basic sense. So, my next question is this: how can a chemical imbalance be determined? What test is there so a doctor might know how to help bring balance to the "chemicals" in a person's brain? "chemical imbalance" is used to explain various kinds of mental "illnesses". Certainly there is an objective way to determine what kind of imbalance a person has. Right? Further, given the incredibly powerful nature of psychotropic drugs (they're essentially in the class of narcotic), it makes good sense we would want to know the severity of the chemical imbalance in order to assign proper dosage, etc. Right?

I have high blood pressure. This can be objectively verified by taking my blood pressure. Part of the problem, no doubt, is I'm overweight. Another part of the equation is a family history of high blood pressure. I take a low dosage of a medication to regulate my blood pressure. It works, but I have regular check ups to be sure I am taking the right dosage. They take my blood pressure and determine if a change needs to take place. I am on an ACE inhibitor, a relatively safe drug with few side effects, if any. It has no effect on my brain, even if I wanted to claim it does...ha ha.

Back to the psychotropic and psychoactive drug scenario: these drugs, unlike a blood pressure medication, are very powerful. They at very least effect the level of neurotransmitters in the brain. Obviously, you would think, one would want a reasonably certain idea of the severity of the chemical imbalance occurring before prescribing such a mind-altering (literally) "medication". Right?

This is where I continually become concerned and a bit suspicious.

I have searched and searched. I have asked doctor after doctor. I have read many articles. I have spoken to people far more expert than me on this subject. I have yet to find anyone who knows of an objective medical test that can diagnose a "chemical imbalance" in the brain. The closest thing to a test for "chemical imbalance" I could find is the Positron Emission Tomography (PET Scans) which can test for biological changes in the brain. Of course, the changes can only be observed and not really interpreted. I have also been told by a doctor that changes in levels of neurotransmitter metabolites are detectable in urine and cerebrospinal fluid , however, like the PET scan, interpreting the level changes is difficult at very best. Such tests don't tell "why" or "how" but rather "what".

Here's the truth, as I have come to learn it-and I am open to correction for sure- Psychiatric diagnoses are most commonly made based on criteria outlined in diagnostic manuals, primarily through reference to the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)". This manual is basically a compilation of various "disorders" observed by members of the American Psychiatry Association. It lists disorders, based on clinical observation, and what behavioral symptoms identify a given disorder. No medical tests, just the opinions and observations of a select group of psychiatrists.

In reality, "psychiatric diagnoses" rely upon a physician's judgments about a patient's medical history, clinical evaluation of symptoms, and most concerning- from patient response to psychiatric drugs!

In other words- there is no real test to determine if there really is a "chemical imbalance" or "illness"!!!! Yet, statistics say that almost 20% of American adults are taking some kind of psychotropic drug! Further, 67% of those who go to their doctor complaining of depression will be offered an antidepressant or psychotropic drug! Scores of children and teens are given ridilin to treat "ADHD" (attention deficit hyperactive disorder). Ridilin is a psychotropic drug. It's long term effects on a developing adolescent brain are not yet known. No medical test to determine ADHD. No blood draw. Just the doctor's opinion based on what the parents or teachers say. This is incredible to me. A person is basically at the mercy of his/her doctor to play around with doses of a powerful, mind-altering drug, until you "feel" better. No objective medical test. None. Wow.

Earlier I said I was "concerned and a bit suspicious". I am concerned because of the subjective way so-called chemical imbalances are diagnosed (the doctor's clinical judgment alone). I am suspicious because I think someone or some people are getting rich from this exploding business. I think many psychiatrists mean well and really believe in what they are doing. Still, it seems to me, psychiatry is pseudo science at best. It doesn't seem that any one is ever cured of their chemical imbalance (how would we know?), so they are continually reliant upon the "doctor". Convenient. Further, the pharmaceutical companies are getting absolutely fat over this explosion of psychotropic drug sales. Convenient once again.

I don't doubt the reality of depression and other mental afflictions, etc. Furthermore, I am not telling anyone reading this to stop taking what has been prescribed- that could be very dangerous. I do think every believer should seriously analyze the issue and honestly assess what and why they are doing what they are doing. I question the way we look at "mental illness" as Christians and how such a thing is being treated in our day. I'm not saying there is no use for psychotropic drugs. I know of cases where a person, for whatever reason, became a danger to him or herself and in essence had to be tranquilized. The particular anti-depressant they were given acted as a sedative of sorts. Maybe it saved their life? I don't know. By voicing these thoughts I'm only suggesting that we rethink the reality of a so-called "chemical imbalance" and the popular practice of treating it with powerful psychotropic drugs.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Back from a Mountain Top Experience

I'm back from Colorado. What a great time we had as a family, one of the best ever. Our annual Summer vacation has been to Western New York to see my parents for the past 14 years. Since my parents moved here last Fall, we had to find a different destination (that was cost friendly also). We decided on Horn Creek based on various recommendations I have received over the years from different friends. Our expectations were exceeded, we hope to return next year!

I won't bore you with details of our family vacation, I'll just give you a few highlights:

1. Family time- we spent virtually all day, every day together. My parents came with us also, this was a great blessing. I have no memory of my grandparents, only one was alive when I was born, and she died shortly thereafter. It has always been my prayer that my children would have meaningful relationships with their grandparents. By God's grace, with Shari's folks just 2 1/2 hours away and my parents 1.5 miles from us- this is happening. A whole week together really enhanced this.

2. God's glorious creation- I am convinced Colorado is one of the most beautiful states in this country. The mountains are awe-some. The camp is at 9000 feet up the Sangre de Cristo mountain range (just below Horn Peak). The scenery is breathtaking, the weather is temperate, and the wildlife is plentiful. While I felt naked hiking through elk/mule deer/antelope country without my bow, it was nevertheless thrilling to see these various animals in their natural environment. I hiked several miles every day and never got enough of the Lord's Earth.

3. Special Memories- Of the several new memories made as a family, a 10 mile hike with Shari and AJ is the most vivid. We climbed to 12,500 feet in order to get to the "Horn Lakes", which are between two of the peaks you see above. This was a 10 mile round trip hike/climb. When I signed the three of us up, the guide said it was open to those who were 8 years old and up. It was listed as an "intermediate" difficulty level hike, so I signed up AJ, who is 8 years old. As it turned out, he was the only 8 year old to complete the hike this Summer and he joins a relatively short list of those who have ever made the hike at his age. I was one proud Daddy, I admit it. He was such a soldier. I know he takes after me in one area- he didn't stop talking on the whole first leg of the hike! That's hard to do when you're trying to breath at 12,000 feet! Shari and I hope to climb Horn Peak next year. I have some more weight to lose before I do that...

4. New Friends- It was a nice change to be relatively anonymous. I love being a pastor and further love the sheep God has given to my (our) care, but a little time away from being a corporate leader was nice. We didn't know anyone, so all the people we met were new friends. One couple was from Shawnee, Kansas! Small world. We hope to keep in touch with some of these people, maybe even see them again next year.

5. Times of Worship- As Providence would have it, the worship leader for the week was Nathan Clark George. He is the son of a PCA minister in Illinois and an extremely gifted singer/songwriter. He is also licensed to preach by his presbytery and an all-around wonderful brother with a heart for Christ. I will write a separate blog reviewing and recommending his music, but for now I'll say he did a tremendous service for God's glory by leading us every day in worship. In addition to Nathan's ministry, a baptist brother from California, Pastor Tim Pettey, led us in a topical/biblical study entitled "Becoming A Family God Can Use". His straight-forward, creative teaching on being a biblical family was a real blessing to me personally and to everyone in attendance.

6. No email, cell phone, or blog access- I didn't really miss any of these, too busy. I am glad to have them back though.