Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My 20th High School Reunion

Faithful Reepicheep readers no doubt noticed the lull in posts from last Friday through Monday. I was in Western New York (Buffalo area) to attend my 20th High School Reunion festivities. We had events Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

I graduated from Grand Island High School in 1989 along with approximately 300 other graduates. My good friend and fellow pastor at Redeemer, Nathan Currey, also graduated from GIHS that year. Religiously, Grand Island is predominantly Roman Catholic. The vast majority of my friends, including myself, were raised Catholic, most would still consider themselves RC. A few of us left Romanism for various evangelical churches, but not many. Out of my class of 300, only Nathan and I are ordained ministers of any stripe, something I find interesting.

My last couple of years of High School were a bit complex for me. Christ gripped my heart when I was a young teen but I struggled to live out my faith until my junior year of high school. The main catalyst in helping me grow in Christ and start to be less of a hypocrite was the accountability of a bible-preaching church, a caring youth pastor, and friends who were of like mind and pursuit. Still, I struggled with any kind of consistency in those years of high school. I think friends knew I was "religious", but I don't know if they could tell much more. I dropped out of the party scene by the time I was a junior, friends noticed and acted a touch differently toward me, but by no means did they ditch me. People generally didn't move from Grand Island so most of my buddies were long-time friends. Most would say they were "Christians" of the Roman Catholic variety, however they would balk at the notion of fundamentalist Christianity that seemed to sport a "holier than thou" attitude with all sorts of bible-talk. I might have carried myself like that a little as the church I attended identified itself with fundamentalism and struggled with some inexplicable legalisms (e.g. they were pretty outspoken on the purported sin of alcohol...something relatively hard to understand among the people I knew...and to me still). I was never completely comfortable with the idea of being a fundamentalist, but I wasn't comfortable with being Roman Catholic either. Eventually, as you know, I settled in to the Reformed tradition because I think it has the best biblical balance of life and doctrine.

All this to say I had only maintained contact with a few of my high school friends these 20 years since graduation. Many of my fellow graduates stayed in the Western New York area, from time to time I would hear about their lives and whereabouts. The ones who left WNY generally went further East, some south, but none to the Midwest that I am aware of. I figured some heard I was a pastor and probably laughed a bit. I don't blame them, I still laugh myself.

Then, about six months ago I got on Facebook. It seemed like a huge wave of re-connections followed as I found myself back in contact with a hundred or more of my former GIHS classmates. At the same time reunion plans were being announced dozens of my former classmates were re-uniting on Facebook. I started to have meaningful interaction with a dozen or more old friends. I discovered many friends had gone through or were presently going through very difficult times related to their health, marriage, or vocation. I found that quite a few of my old friends were now trusting Christ and growing spiritually. I learned that quite a few more seemed to be searching spiritually, looking for truth. I have sent several copies of Tim Keller's excellent book, A Reason for God, to dear GIHS friends of mine.

Sometimes Christians will suggest you can't have genuine friendships with people who are not also Christians. I agree that Christian friendships go deeper than all others because of our mutual, eternal union with Christ, however, I have some very faithful friends who would say they do not trust Christ as I do (or as Scripture requires). This time I have just spent with many of them has grown my love for each of them and my desire for them to be in a right relationship with God through Christ. At each of the events this past weekend I tried to make contact with everyone I knew just to learn of what was happening in their life and to know how to pray for them. I don't know what God's will is for my old classmates, but I do earnestly desire that He would give me some opportunities to be a vessel of His grace to them and see many come to faith in Christ. I think I get what Paul means when he said-

Romans 9:1-3 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

Thomas Boston on our response to Justification

I just enjoyed reading a wonderful sermon/treatise on Justification by Thomas Boston. It's worth the read. He concludes with some "application" points in light of the doctrine-

I shall conclude this use of exhortation with a few directions.

- Labour to get your hearts wrought up to a deep concern for a pardoned state. And for this cause, believe your miserable state by nature, that ye are once condemned. Take a view of the holy, righteous law, and your innumerable transgressions of it, besides your sinful nature. Look to the flaming justice of God? behold it in the case of the damned, in the case of Christ suffering, and see what a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God.

- Go to God in Christ, and confess your sins, and condemn yourselves. Lay them out before God with shame and confusion of face, with their several aggravations. Make a full and free confession, insisting most on those sins that have been most dishonouring to God in you. Acknowledge yourselves justly condemned by the law, and God to be righteous, if he should put the sentence into execution.

- Solemnly and sincerely accept of Christ in the covenant of grace held forth in the gospel. Receive him with his righteousness, and enter under the covert of his blood. And lay all your guilt over on him, believing his ability and willingness to remove it. And accepting of Christ for justification and sanctification, ye shall be accepted and pardoned.

To justified persons: This privilege calls you to several duties.

- Love the Lord, and love him much, for much is forgiven you. This may be oil to that holy flame, and therefore love will continue in heaven for ever.

- Be of a forgiving disposition, Eph. 4.ult. 'Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you.' The same Saviour that brought in remission of sins, binds us to love our enemies. And the bitter revengeful spirit against those we think have wronged us, is a sad sign that our own sin is unforgiven of God, Matt. 4.12. 'Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.' They who have found what a dreadful weight sin unpardoned is, and have at length got it removed, will thereby be helped to forgive.

- Walk humbly. Ye are justified, but it is by the righteousness of another. Ye are pardoned, but it was procured to you by the satisfaction of a Saviour. Your debt is paid, your discharge is got up; but thanks to free grace, not to you, for it.

- Bear your troubles and crosses in a world patiently.—Your life that was forfeited by sin is safe by grace; therefore take thankfully any troubles you meet with. For why should a living man complain, especially one that deserved to die, and yet is adjudged to life?

- Lastly, Walk tenderly. God pardoning a sinner, dismisseth him as Christ did the penitent adulteress, John 12.11. 'Go, and sin no more.' Let not your broken bones be forgotten, but walk softly all your years. And if ye be pardoned, shew it by your holy and tender walk.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson (1958 – 2009)

(1982 promo picture for Thriller)

Michael Jackson died today at the age of 50. He was an indisputable force in pop music and culture.

From what I observed Michael Jackson was an uber-talented, eccentric, confused, bizarre, and tragic individual whose life seemed to be built on the sand.

"All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the Word of the Lord endures forever"
I Peter 1:24-25

When will he get it?

As President Obama gallivants around the globe "repairing" relations with various countries he insists the Bush administration damaged I wonder when he'll realize that some countries just plain hate us and no amount of sweet talking and apologizing for being American will dissuade them?

Case and point- Iran (not to mention N. Korea, Venezuela, and Russia). Obama has been extremely soft in his rhetoric concerning the recently fixed Iranian election. He has offered a few token "I hope the Iranian people have their votes counted" type statements, but overall has been trying to tip-toe around the leading state-sponsors of Islamic terrorism around the world. So what does he get for his soft touch? Ahmadinejad rips him today saying he's no different than George Bush toward Iran.

Kim Jong Il doesn't respect Obama, Chavez and his regime knows Obama wants to look like the prince of peace so he is trying to suck up to him, Russia is salivating, and Iran gets closer to nuclear capability each month. George Bush and friends had myriads of diplomatic deficiencies, but their underlying realization that multiple countries and regimes hate America and want our country to suffer and fall was right. Obama is a gifted diplomat, I just don't think he gets the rules people like Kim Jong Il, Hugo Chavez, Vladimir Putin, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad play by or the worldview lense through which they see.

I haven't even mentioned China.

I hope he gets it soon.

My "new" Gary Fisher

OK, I'm not a serious bike rider but I'm serious when I ride.

My recent 177 mile trek on the Katy Trail put a beating on my trusty circa 2001 Gary Fisher Nirvana hybrid so I when I returned a decision had to be made. Should I buy a new hybrid or overhaul my faithful steed? Tough choice, both would be costly endeavors to do it right.

After the Katy trip I had my bike parked in my office and I couldn't stop thinking- "This is an awesome bike...I can't part with it...there's nothing cooler out there". So I called Bob Albright, an elder at Redeemer and owner of Midwest Cyclery to receive counsel concerning what an overhaul would mean in terms of added performance, technology improvement (an 8 year old bike is old considering multiple recent advances in cyclery), longevity, and cost. After talking with Bob, I became convinced it was time to give my Gary Fisher a face lift and some new life. Instead of spending a bunch of money on a new bike, I spent a bunch of money making an old one newer and pretty unique. I'm sure it's the only 2001 Gary Fisher Nirvana with the particular upgrades I have made. Bob did a great job with this make over! Here she is now-

The biggest improvement are the wheels. These Aksium sealed bearing bad boys are lighter and stronger. Secondly, the new Sora crankset has more teeth and thus will have more power and speed. I also replaced/upgraded the rear cassette, chain, pedals, tires, tubes, etc. I'm starting to train for a sprint triathlon in August, so I can't wait to start working my "new" Gary Fisher.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Obama Healthcare....oh boy.

Historic Win for U.S. Soccer Team

The U.S. men's soccer team had a lackluster Confederations Cup going until it pulled a near miracle 3 goal performance against Egypt to advance to the semi-final game against world powerhouse Spain. Going in to the game Spain was ranked #1 in the world, the U.S. team is something like #14 right now.

The U.S. team beat the Spaniards 2-0 in a very well played match which is already being dubbed the biggest soccer win for the U.S. team ever.

The U.S. men's national team has been inconsistent throughout the ongoing World Cup qualifying matches and in to this Confederations Cup. They can be frustrating to watch at times, but for this past week they seem to have found some chemistry and put together two stellar wins.

What bodes well for U.S. soccer is the player contribution the relatively young American professional soccer league (Major League Soccer). The best U.S. players have historically left the States to play in Europe, but the trend is waning. The U.S. roster that just beat Spain has 23 players. 13 of those players are current MLS players or have recent MLS experience. MLS is still not considered a premiere league but it is definitely rising in stock by its improving quality and growing number of players making their mark on the U.S. National Team.

This victory against Spain isn't quite on the level of the 1980 Olympics U.S. hockey team over the Soviets, but it's close.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Theodore Beza on the gift of faith

We are at this point such enemies of our own salvation, because of our natural corruption , that if God had merely contented Himself to tell us that we shall find our salvation in Jesus Christ, we would only mock it; thus has the world always done and will do until the end . Even more, if He added nothing more than to tell us also that the means whereby we experience the efficacy of this remedy against eternal death is to believe in Jesus Christ, that would profit us nothing. For, in all this, we are more than dumb, deaf, and blind through the corruption of our nature. It would be no more possible for us even to wish to believe than it would be for a dead man to fly. It is necessary therefore that with all this, the good Father, who chose us for His glory, should come to multiply His mercy towards His enemies. In declaring to us that He has given His own only Son so that whosoever takes hold of Him by faith should not perish, He creates also in us this instrument of faith which He requires from us.

Now, the faith of which we speak does not consist only in believing that God is God, and that the contents of His Word are true:- for the devils indeed have this faith, and it only makes them tremble -- But we call 'faith' a certain knowledge which, by His grace and goodness alone, the Holy Spirit engraves more and more in the hearts of the elect of God. By this knowledge, each of them, being assured in his heart of his election, appropriates to himself and applies to himself the promise of his salvation in Jesus Christ.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Nathan gets his gator sighting...

We're getting ready to leave Orlando to go back to Kansas City today and Nathan finally got what he came for.

Nathan has been moaning about not seeing an alligator from day one. Yesterday after the final session of General Assembly there was a huge thunderstorm with heavy rains. As we ran back to our room we saw several gators swimming in the lake near the resort we are in. It was too rainy to get a picture so Nathan set out early this morning to capture a gator on film.

The above picture is the prize Nathan was waiting for.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pastor Nathan fishes devilish balloon from Sanctuary Elipse

During the VBS closing program last Friday disaster struck when a helium inflated mylar balloon left the hands of some careless 7 year old and stuck some 40 feet above and stood out conspicuously in the elipse portion of the Redeemer sanctuary.

Being heavy laden with engineer-types, all sorts of suggestions were made to get the big red eye sore balloon off the ceiling before worship on Sunday. One brother wanted to shoot it with a laser. I was seriously contemplating using my pellet gun. My favorite suggestion was to fill the sanctuary with Hydrogen (can you say "Hindenburg"?) so the helium balloon would be heavier and descend. Of course we could have had a lift company come out and remove it for several hundred dollars. In the end we decided to wait it out and let it fall on it's own, but knowing helium filled mylar balloons can have a half life of 50 years I was irritated by the thought of doing nothing.

Sunday came and it was indeed a distraction, to me anyways. After the evening gathering I had decided I'm shooting the sucker down if it didn't show signs of dropping soon. Then, my trusty associate and McGyver-like friend Pastor Nathan got to work. He happened to have his fishing poll at church as a VBS prop for the week prior (btw- Nathan is hoping I am not "inflating" the story) and together with Mitch Cervinka thought of a plan. He would attach another helium balloon-with a loop of masking tape on top- to the end of the fishing line and raise it to retrieve the balloon and bring it down.

Balloon Fishing from Travis Shanahan on Vimeo.

As you can see, the plan worked flawlessly and the devilish balloon was fished from the ceiling Sunday night.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Hard work of General Assembly

Slaving over the details of Church Polity, struggling during long hours of deliberation, laboring to make sound decisions...

All the difficult work of General Assembly in Orlando, Florida.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

37th General Assembly of the PCA

Sorry I haven't been blogging much lately. The last few weeks have provided a pretty torrid schedule for me.

Right now I am in Orlando, Florida at our denomination's annual General Assembly. I was blessed by the convening of the Assembly tonight which included the opening worship service and selection of the 2009 Moderator.

As I always say- Presbyterianism is the worst form of church government, except ALL the rest.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Kudos to O'Reilly on this one

Despite his popularity (something he reminds viewers about constantly) I don't care much for Bill O'Reilly's approach. Still, this interchange with a radical pro-abortion advocate is worthy of appreciation.

George Tiller was a straight up butcher who became a millionaire dismembering babies. Period. Calling him a hero is no different then calling Hitler the same. Joan Walsh here notes that only 1% of all abortions occur in the third trimester, however, remember, even if we assume she's giving the right stats, that still makes 100,000 plus such abortions each year!!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Jordan learns to ride a bike

Dougie and Nico coaching Jordan before his inaugural ride.

Older brother Nico helping Jordan ride in to history.

Jordan is off!

Tuesday was a monumental day, my son Jordan learned to ride his bike.

Jordan is six and a half years old. My other boys learned to ride their bikes when they were five. Jordan is actually more athletic and coordinated than AJ and Nico, but he has been relatively chicken to try and ride his bike.
He came home wanting me to kick a soccer ball with him in the back yard as he always does every minute of most days. He's been stubborn about trying to ride his bike, so I decided to do a little motivating by way of strategic leveraging (manipulating). I told him I would not kick a ball around with him until he learned to ride his bike. His buddy Doug was over who quickly encouraged him to try and ride his bike. Within 10 minutes Doug and Nico helped Jordan ride his bike up and down the street. It was great.
Then, shortly after finishing his fifth or sixth pass in front of the house, Jordan said- "Daddy, will you kick the soccer ball with me now"?

Pretty cool.

RPC U wins championship, bids farewell to the Peruvian Predator

We have a soccer team made up primarily of RPC members that plays in an indoor league on Thursday nights. Tonight we won our 5th championship after moving up a division- we even went undefeated this session. We're old, not in great shape, but we know each other and play as a team. Where skills have eroded and physical prowess fail us, we have learned to put treachery in their place.

Beyond soccer, we love the fellowship with each other. It's lots of fun. Tonight was unusually special as we bid farewell to #5, Tomi "The Peruvian Predator" Ardiles. He has completed a three year fellowship in pulmonary medicine and has taken a job in his home state of Arizona. He will no longer suit up in RPC blue on Thursday nights. We will miss him greatly.

There are murmurs his number may be retired soon...

Go RPC United!!!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tozer on Pragmatism in the Church

A.W. Tozer was right on when he wrote this in the early 1960's. It's still applicable today:

The nervous compulsion to get things done is found everywhere among us. We are affected by a kind of religious tic, a deep inner necessity to accomplish something that can be seen and photographed and evaluated in terms of size, numbers, speed and distance. We travel a prodigious number of miles, talk to unbelievably large crowds, publish an astonishing amount of religious literature, collect huge sums of money, build vast numbers of churches and amass staggering debts for our children to pay. Christian leaders compete with each other in the field of impressive statistics, and in so doing often acquire peptic ulcers, have nervous breaks or die of heart attacks while still relatively young.

Right here is where the pragmatic philosophy comes into its own. It asks no embarrassing questions about the wisdom of what we are doing or even about the morality of it. it accepts our chosen ends as right and good and casts about for efficient means and ways to get them accomplished. When it discovers something that works it soon finds a text to justify it, "consecrates" it to the Lord and plunges ahead. Next a magazine article is written about it, then a book, and finally the inventor is granted an honorary degree. After that any question about the scripturalness of things or even the moral validity of them is completely swept away. You cannot argue with success. The method works; ergo, it must be good.

The weakness of all this is its tragic shortsightedness. It never takes the long view of religious activity, indeed it dare not do so, but goes cheerfully on believing that because it works it is both good and true. It is satisfied with present success and shakes off any suggestion that its works may go up in smoke in the day of Christ.

As one fairly familiar with the contemporary religious scene, I say without hesitation that a part, a very large part, of the activities carried on today in evangelical circles are not only influenced by pragmatism but almost completely controlled by it. Religious methodology is geared to it; it appears large in our youth meetings; magazines and books constantly glorify it; conventions are dominated by it; and the whole religious atmosphere is alive with it.

What shall we do to break its power over us? The answer is simple. We must acknowledge the right of Jesus Christ to control the activities of His church. The New Testament contains full instructions, not only about what we are to believe but what we are to do and how we are to go about doing it. Any deviation from those instructions is a denial of the Lordship of Christ. I say the answer is simple, but it is not easy for it requires that we obey God rather than man, and that always brings down the wrath of the religious majority. It is not a question of knowing what to do; we can easily learn that from the Scriptures. It is a question of whether or not we have the courage to do it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Katy Ride Highlights

One of our morning starts on the Katy Trail

A typical view on the Katy Trail
Contrary to the fabrications of Brian, I didn't text very much at all. Instead, I took pictures and chronicled our trip on Facebook. This picture is taken while I wait for Bob to fix his tire.
On the third day we had to ride around 70 miles. Storms were forecasted throughout the day. This rain-lightning-hail cell approached quickly. Brian and I were able to find shelter in a neat country store while Tomi and Bob got caught. They got pretty wet...we got some pizza. Such is life on the trail.

This is a 350-year old Burr Oak Tree near McBaine, MO. It is the national champion of Burr Oak Trees, a truly magnificent specimen. This is taken from half a mile away. It would take 10 people with outstretched arms to wrap around this old boy.

Waiting for Bob to fix something...

My trusty steed- a circa 2001 Gary Fisher Nirvana.

Our 177-mile journey started Sunday afternoon and ended Wednesday morning. The ride was a wonderful experience challenging me mentally and physically in unique ways. In addition to the challenge, it was a special time with three dear brothers in Christ.

The highlights are too numerous to mention, but finishing the last 26 miles from Augusta to St. Charles Wednesday morning proved to be the most satisfying part of the ride for me. It rained a bit on Tuesday making the trail pretty soft. Then it rained off and on all night Tuesday in to Wednesday morning. There were also initial forecasts of spotted, but heavy lightning Wednesday morning when we were going to finish the ride. The other guys decided the 150 miles they had travelled in 2.5 days was enough and didn't choose to finish it out on Wednesday given the rain, trail conditions, and possible lightning. I initially agreed to end my ride there in Augusta but wanted to wait till morning to see if the lightning was still in the forecast. Early Wednesday I checked the weather and while there were light showers persisting, NO LIGHTING. I knew I had to finish the course. The others wished me well, enjoyed their breakfast and warm accommodations while I ventured out to get to St. Charles.

The trail was pretty soft lots of the way making the going slow. I can be stubborn with stuff like this, so I rode on. It was awesome to watch the miles whittle down until I could see the tunnel for St. Charles and reached my final goal. I was soaked, cold, muddy, but exhilarated.

Enjoying an Augusta micro-brew after 150 miles in 2.5 days

A "Man VS Wild" like pose as I ride a lonely road to finish the trek. I am battle worn and saddle sore by this point, but only 6 miles to go in the rain.

I praise God for His grace in letting us take this trip and the many great moments we enjoyed.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Katy Ride Update #2

Well, sorry about no pics. I can't figure out how to send them to my blog via my Blackberry. Tonight we are staying at the home of Collin and Gina Wamsley, former members of Redeemer.

Today we rode 50 miles. Our backsides are pretty sore. We have about 70 miles to ride tomorrow, all the way to Augusta, MO. Missouri has a beautiful landscape. Above is a picture of a Burr Oak tree that is supposed to be 350 years old. The other picture is from Boonville, Missouri and is the typical depot we come up on whenever we pass through a town.

The trail is in good shape, tremendous scenery, fun times with friends, lots of waiting on Brian to catch up, and great sleep when my head hits the pillow tonight.