Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Calvinism is back! (I didn't know it went anywhere)

John Calvin's Institutes swayed me to the Reformed Faith, although I admit the first version I read was an abridgement by Timothy Tow.

Over the years I have become more and more convinced Calvin was right about many if not most things. His mastery of the biblical text, a deep knowledge of Church History and scholarship, an awareness of the corruption of Romanism in his day combined to make him one of the most valuable Pastor/Theologians God has ever gifted the church with. Certain elements of Calvinistic theology have found a resurgence in our times. The Christian Science Monitor published a good article about this phenomenon. It's definitely worth the read. Click the link below.

If you haven't read Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, you don't know Calvin yet. At the same time his legacy is everywhere and you have probably benefited- expository preaching, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Reformed tradition in general, an emphasis on the sovereignty and glory of God, to name a few. Men like the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Isaac Watts, Charles Spurgeon, the old Princeton Seminary (pre-1929) Professors, J.I. Packer, Alec Motyer, John Stott, James Boice, John Piper, RC Sproul, Jerry Bridges, D. James Kennedy, and countless others rightfully latched on to Calvin's clear understanding of the gospel and the study of soteriology (salvation) greatly strengthening the Church the world over.

I pray daily for a modern Reformation, like unto the one John Calvin helped lead in the 16th Century. May the people of God once again find their joy in glorifying the true and living God and proclaiming the gospel of sovereign grace as the Holy Scriptures so clearly compel us.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Trueman on knowing Church History

I have become a regular reader of Reformation 21, mostly because of the posts by Carl Trueman. I very much enjoy his insights and communication style. One of his recent posts details his recent trip to Rome and some teaching opportunities he had among Roman Catholics. Read his post here.

Here's a brief excerpt of Trueman's post that resonated with me as I am currently in the midst of studying Papal history for my doctoral work:

It is self-serving for a church historian to say this - though being self-serving does not make it any less true - that a knowledge of Catholicism is vital for Protestants, and vice versa. The theological and ecclesiastical upheavals of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, shaped as they undoubtedly were by wider factors such as economic, cultural, and political changes, are central to what both Catholicism and Protestantism became.

Catholicism is not simply Protestantism with different doctrines; while we share a common grounding in Nicea and Chalcedon, the two faiths have differing views of authority, of the sacraments, of the nature and function of faith, and of the nature of the church. In an era which oscillates between neglecting history and simply regarding history as something negative or oppressive, it is easy to lose sight of the significance of these differences and reduce them to Swift's Lilliputian struggles over which end of a boiled egg should be removed at the breakfast table; or to misunderstand the differences completely, and, as with the gentle priest who chaired my seminar in Trento, see them as purely matters of seditious individual ambition and the abuse of religious power.

Only a careful, articulate education in the history of Catholicism will help Protestants truly to understand it and, where necessary, argue against it; and the same holds true for Catholics. We cannot even agree to differ with any integrity if we have not taken the time to learn each other's history.

Rayburn on Philippians 2:1-4

Philippians 2:1-4 1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Paul’s argument runs like this. Look, if you are a Christian you must practice love and unity with other believers. It is the inevitable, the inexorable logic of your faith. You can’t argue that other believers don’t deserve your love, because you didn’t deserve Christ’s and yet he gave it to you! You can’t say that your interests are more important than theirs because Christ’s interests were certainly more important than yours, but he put your interests first. He had every right to look to his own interests and he looked to yours instead. You can’t say you love him if you don’t show yourself willing and ready to please him and he has said that what pleases him is to have his followers love one another. If you know the love of Christ, the glory of it, you can’t not love someone who also knows that love. You can’t look down on someone, you can’t hate someone, you can’t dismiss someone whom Christ loves as much as he loves you! Such a thing would be to dishonor the love of Christ, not to thank him for it and adorn it in your life. Christians can’t be selfish who have been saved from sin and death by infinite acts of selflessness.

There is an inescapable logic here and every true Christian knows it! As Augustine said of himself and his Christian friend Alypius, “we were washed in the same blood!” But every Christian is obliged not only to say that about every other Christian but then to treat the other accordingly. You love Christ when you love those Christ loves. He said that himself in many different ways and, had he never said it, we would still have known it to be so.

- Dr. Robert Rayburn (commenting on Philippians 2:1-4)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"Special Music" at Redeemer some day?

Words escape sure to watch through to 1:59 at least.

Piper on the Emergent Church

John Piper here addresses the Emergent Church movement (though he calls it the "emerging" church a few times at the begining, when he calls out McClaren and Bell, he's referring to the Emergent Church- the theologically liberal branch of the wider so-called "emerging" church).

HT: Andrew

Monday, March 22, 2010

Kinzer speaks boldly for life on the floor of the Kansas House of Representatives

Here's a great account of what happened yesterday during debate about passing a bill that would put greater restrictions on late term abortions in Kansas.

Lance Kinzer, a member of Redeemer and representative of Olathe, Kansas in the House, spoke words of necessary conviction that I pray will have an impact on the legislators present.

KS House endorses greater restrictions on late abortions

Legislation endorsed by the House would eliminate a mental health exemption in the state’s late-term abortion law.

State law currently outlaws abortions after the 22nd week unless a doctor concludes the procedure is necessary to preserve the health of the woman.

Courts have previously held that “health” must include mental health. Abortion rights opponents say it's a loophole that allows late-term abortions on demand.

The bill, which passed an initial vote of 85-30 Monday, would say that mental impairments or disorders aren’t enough to justify a late-term abortion. A final vote is set for Tuesday.

No known late-term abortions have been performed in Kansas since the slaying last year of abortion provider George Tiller. Supporters said the bill is needed to ensure that, going forward, doctors can’t use potentially trumped up mental health diagnoses to justify late-term abortions.

“The simple reality is once you say a mental condition or emotional condition can justify the performance of a late-term abortion there’s simply no way to draw a rational line,” said Rep. Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican.

Opponents predicted the bill would be struck down in the courts and that lawmakers should leave the decision to physicians.

“This is a choice no one should have to make but a doctor and a woman,” said Rep. Annie Kuether, a Topeka Democrat. “It doesn’t belong on the House floor.”

When critics of the measure said the Legislature has better things to do than debate abortion, Kinzer dropped the legal arguments and fired back.

"What we say about this question… defines a whole lot more than the amount of money we put in a budget or how we devise a school finance formula," he said. "Those issues are important. But the issue of how we define when life begins… if we say our laws do not extend to protect those unborn children at that stage, then it says something very deep, very dark and very disturbing about where we are as a culture."

Absolutely Ridiculous

Lionel Messi is on a seemingly unstoppable tear. Unbelievable goal the other day-

Do the Arithmetic- it's a sad day for America

The continued expansion of government control and intervention coupled with massive spending increases make it difficult to be optimistic about our country's future. I have no doubt President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and the rest of their cohorts who voted in favor of Obamacare yesterday think they are making a more perfect union.

For those of us who think the ballooning national debt is a key indicator of our nation's health and prosperity, the country is in desperate straits carrying a sense of falling that is undeniable. From a human perspective it's a sad day.

The financial facts of this bill were continually ignored by the 219 members of the House who voted on this massive entitlement bill. An Op Ed piece in the New York Times (of all sources) laid out the truth about this bill which will soon become law:

The Real Arithmetic of Health Care Reform

Arlington, Va.

ON Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office reported that, if enacted, the latest health care reform legislation would, over the next 10 years, cost about $950 billion, but because it would raise some revenues and lower some costs, it would also lower federal deficits by $138 billion. In other words, a bill that would set up two new entitlement spending programs — health insurance subsidies and long-term health care benefits — would actually improve the nation’s bottom line.

Could this really be true? How can the budget office give a green light to a bill that commits the federal government to spending nearly $1 trillion more over the next 10 years?

The answer, unfortunately, is that the budget office is required to take written legislation at face value and not second-guess the plausibility of what it is handed. So fantasy in, fantasy out.

In reality, if you strip out all the gimmicks and budgetary games and rework the calculus, a wholly different picture emerges: The health care reform legislation would raise, not lower, federal deficits, by $562 billion.

Gimmick No. 1 is the way the bill front-loads revenues and backloads spending. That is, the taxes and fees it calls for are set to begin immediately, but its new subsidies would be deferred so that the first 10 years of revenue would be used to pay for only 6 years of spending.

Even worse, some costs are left out entirely. To operate the new programs over the first 10 years, future Congresses would need to vote for $114 billion in additional annual spending. But this so-called discretionary spending is excluded from the Congressional Budget Office’s tabulation.

Consider, too, the fate of the $70 billion in premiums expected to be raised in the first 10 years for the legislation’s new long-term health care insurance program. This money is counted as deficit reduction, but the benefits it is intended to finance are assumed not to materialize in the first 10 years, so they appear nowhere in the cost of the legislation.

Another vivid example of how the legislation manipulates revenues is the provision to have corporations deposit $8 billion in higher estimated tax payments in 2014, thereby meeting fiscal targets for the first five years. But since the corporations’ actual taxes would be unchanged, the money would need to be refunded the next year. The net effect is simply to shift dollars from 2015 to 2014.

In addition to this accounting sleight of hand, the legislation would blithely rob Peter to pay Paul. For example, it would use $53 billion in anticipated higher Social Security taxes to offset health care spending. Social Security revenues are expected to rise as employers shift from paying for health insurance to paying higher wages. But if workers have higher wages, they will also qualify for increased Social Security benefits when they retire. So the extra money raised from payroll taxes is already spoken for. (Indeed, it is unlikely to be enough to keep Social Security solvent.) It cannot be used for lowering the deficit.

A government takeover of all federally financed student loans — which obviously has nothing to do with health care — is rolled into the bill because it is expected to generate $19 billion in deficit reduction.

Finally, in perhaps the most amazing bit of unrealistic accounting, the legislation proposes to trim $463 billion from Medicare spending and use it to finance insurance subsidies. But Medicare is already bleeding red ink, and the health care bill has no reforms that would enable the program to operate more cheaply in the future. Instead, Congress is likely to continue to regularly override scheduled cuts in payments to Medicare doctors and other providers.

Removing the unrealistic annual Medicare savings ($463 billion) and the stolen annual revenues from Social Security and long-term care insurance ($123 billion), and adding in the annual spending that so far is not accounted for ($114 billion) quickly generates additional deficits of $562 billion in the first 10 years. And the nation would be on the hook for two more entitlement programs rapidly expanding as far as the eye can see.

The bottom line is that Congress would spend a lot more; steal funds from education, Social Security and long-term care to cover the gap; and promise that future Congresses will make up for it by taxing more and spending less.

The stakes could not be higher. As documented in another recent budget office analysis, the federal deficit is already expected to exceed at least $700 billion every year over the next decade, doubling the national debt to more than $20 trillion. By 2020, the federal deficit — the amount the government must borrow to meet its expenses — is projected to be $1.2 trillion, $900 billion of which represents interest on previous debt.

The health care legislation would only increase this crushing debt. It is a clear indication that Congress does not realize the urgency of putting America’s fiscal house in order.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Epic Battle

Talk about an epic battle! This is one of the many things that makes hockey so great.

No this isn't meant to be a metaphor for Zach and me lately. If it was a metaphor, I'd be the guy in red...but then Zach would point out that guy has a devil on his sweater.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kent Hughes on Philippians 1:27-30

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Paul to the Philippians 1:27-30)

“Standing together- striving side by side- without fear- as full recipients of his dual graces of salvation and suffering- this is worthy of the gospel- this is full citizenship” – R. Kent Hughes

Hans Kung on the Pope's responsibility in the Roman Catholic Church's Child Sex Abuse Scandal

Hans Kung is a controversial figure among Roman Catholics. Nevertheless, his latest post concerning the Pope's responsibility in the Roman Catholic child sex abuse scandal cannot be ignored.

Read it here.

One noteworthy statement from Kung's article:

"Why does the pope continue to assert that what he calls "holy" celibacy is a "precious gift", thus ignoring the biblical teaching that explicitly permits and even encourages marriage for all office holders in the Church? Celibacy is not "holy"; it is not even "fortunate"; it is "unfortunate", for it excludes many perfectly good candidates from the priesthood and forces numerous priests out of their office, simply because they want to marry. The rule of celibacy is not a truth of faith, but a church law going back to the 11th Century; it should have been abolished already in the 16th Century, when it was trenchantly criticized by the Reformers."

Friday, March 19, 2010

More Messi

Sports, for me, provide a bit of an escape from the frustrations of life (as my last 3 posts may have exhibited).

Lionel Messi is the greatest soccer player in the world right now. At age 22 he still has his prime years ahead. He may well be the greatest player ever, only time will tell. Check out the two clips below. These are goals from just this year alone. The first contains 10 different goals he scored this year. The second is a 3-goal performance against Valencia last week. The last is a goal he scored just a couple of days ago.

Sheer brilliance.

Wilson on who will pay for Health Care Bill if it becomes law

Doug Wilson is a controversial figure in the Reformed world for various reasons. Whatever you think of his theology, he has a keen knack for analyzing politics and recently posted a very accurate analysis concerning the reality of how the near $1 trillion dollar Health Care Bill will be paid for should it become law.

The Dems are playing for the long term. They know they will take a bath in the mid-terms for doing this, but if they can get this thing established as a fixture before then, it is worth it to them. The Republicans are very, very bad at reversing things like this, and the Democrats are counting on that ineptitude. They have no reasons not to count on it.

On the bright side, pigs don't fly. As Margaret Thatcher once put it, God bless her, the problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people's money. We are about at that point -- the money we are spreading about with such wanton abandon right now is money which is, for the most part, non-existent. That means we are at a place where the jolly man, who is broke, who has nonetheless been buying drinks for the house, is going to have go outside for a minute to stick somebody up. That somebody is you, mon frere.

Ryan on the alleged savings of Health Care bill

Thursday, March 18, 2010

March Madness indeed

Public opinion polls indicate a majority of Americans have turned against the Obama administration's health care "reform" plan.

The House will consider two measures Sunday: an $875 billion plan that the Senate passed in December and the revised $940 billion measure.

If the $875 billion Senate bill passes, it will go to President Obama's desk to be signed into law. If the revisions are approved, they still will have to clear the Senate.

Our country is $12 trillion dollars (that's trillion with a "T") in the hole. This plan will sink us $1 Trillion deeper and cannot be proven to actually impact the health care access challenges currently faced or the economy in a positive way. Most Congress people haven't even read the bill in it's entirety! Obviously, many think the bill will mean a decrease in health care quality and a serious negative impact on the economy immediately and for the long term.

A poll taken in recent days shows 55% of the American population to oppose this legislation.

Despite the clear opinion of the people, President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and a great number of elected officials drive on to pass this bill.

Indeed- March Madness.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Benny Hinn unleashes...

I'm not sure how to categorize this clip.

Below is a clip with Bennie Hinn rebuking Joel Osteen! He even threatens to punch Osteen for waffling when Larry King asked him if Jesus was the only way. Hinn then goes on to lay waste to "seeker sensitive" churches who are, according to Hinn, concerned more about people in their pews than in heaven. Of course, Hinn isn't concerned with attracting huge crowds right?

Having just preached about God still using preaching that comes from bad motives, I won't say more, this clip is just weird.

Cherishing every moment

No, they're not shooting Jordy. There's a broken beer bottle to the left.

It's Spring Break and my day off so I decided to load the boys in the truck and head out hunting before it got light. Coyotes are in season year round in Kansas, so there's always something to shoot (which is good). They're tough hunting this time of the year as the weather warms and they're gorging themselves on mice, rabbits, and bovine afterbirth, but still worth a try. In any case, the boys love to hike around the woods and find stuff. Of course they brought their sling shots.

We set up two different times trying to call in a coyote. We didn't see any. I don't think any were moving, but even if they were, it was impossible keeping my youngest son still enough to hope one would come in. The anxious waiting was still fun. We did see several deer, a few turkeys, and had a bunch of crows come in to my calling.

In between sits we hiked through several draws, up a sizable ridge and shot various inanimate objects with sling shots. We probably covered 6-7 miles total. I'm trying to think what could be better than hanging with my sons, hiking, camo-wearing, off-roading in my newly raised truck a bit, counting hawks, sling shot shooting, cow bone collecting (Jordan found a rib bone early can see it sitting in front of his left leg), various poop and track (deer, turkey, coyote) identification, and all sorts of great conversations?

Memorable quotes of the morning:

AJ (11): "Look Dad, I think I found a snake's backbone!"

Nico (9): After coming upon a freshly dug coyote den "Jordan, you climb in there, I'll shoot the coyote with my sling shot if he comes out"

Jordan (7): After finding a squirrel-eaten portion of cow pelvis bone "Samson killed lots of people with one of these"

I know this time with them will be over way too soon.

Please God, help me cherish every moment.

Monday, March 15, 2010

This must happen more than dog owners will admit

It's been a while since I've posted anything dog related. This has to happen more than dog owners care to admit.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

God is pursuing His own Glory

In reading Philippians so far it is clear that Paul is concerned with three things:

1. The Glory of Christ

2. The Advance of the Gospel

3. The Progress of the faith of believers

The first of these is enhanced by the second two. As the gospel is advanced and people come to Christ, God is glorified. As believers grow in grace and bear spiritual fruit, God is glorified.

All of this has served to remind me that God is pursuing His glory. Paul's statement in Philippians 1:21 makes more sense in light of this reality:

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

This verse is sandwiched between statements about the Glory of Christ (1:10,18,20, and 26) so living for Christ means living for God's glory- our chief end, our main purpose.

Living means Christ being magnified in and through our lives.

Your greatest satisfaction will be in doing God’s Will, living for Christ. If you are not living for Christ, you will not have satisfaction- you will have constant discontentment, discomfort, and unrest. The goal of God is Christ’s glory, not our idol worship. The goal of God is to magnify the name of Christ, not to satisfy our lusts. The goal of God is to exalt the name of Jesus in all the earth, not pander to our latest obsession. The goal of God is the lifting up of Christ for people to look and live, not to grant us all the physical pleasures we think we are entitled to. The goal of God is to cause men and women to rejoice at the revealing of Messiah, not to make us more rich, powerful, popular, or whatever it is we have turned life’s focus over to.

The reason so many people in the world are miserable is because they lack the truth about what is really important, what really matters in this life and our overall existence. What’s so sad is that many Christians have seemed to rise no farther in their understanding of ultimate purpose than unbelievers.

Praise God for granting us a clear purpose. We live for Christ and His glory, by His grace. To live is Christ.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Calvin on Philippians 1:21

I have come to one of my favorite portions of Scripture. Naturally I wanted to see Calvin's comments on Philippians 1:21.

1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain

"He declares that it is indifferent to him, and is all one, whether he lives or dies, because, having Christ, he reckons both to be gain. And assuredly it is Christ alone that makes us happy both in death and in life; otherwise, if death is miserable, life is in no degree happier; so that it is difficult to determine whether it is more advantageous to live or to die out of Christ. On the other hand, let Christ be with us, and he will bless our life as well as our death, so that both will be happy and desirable for us."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Felich Foster far

I wanted to update you on our foster/adoption journey as it has become one of the most transformational endeavors our family has ever experienced.

Almost three years ago Shari and I decided to try and adopt a baby through a local private agency specializing in domestic adoptions. Our initial desire was prompted by several interests- helping orphans, combating abortion, and the personal desire for another child. As time went on we quickly discovered there are very few babies to adopt in the U.S. Abortion has devastated the population of adoptable babies once most commonly used to supply prospective adoptive parents with children. There are currently thousands of couples wanting to adopt a child with very few available in the U.S. Arguments in favor of abortion because children would be born in poverty or in to some kind of neglect are simply groundless- there are many families willing and waiting to offer these children loving homes.

After 16 months of waiting and paying a few thousand dollars, we decided to pull out of the private adoption process sensing God was calling us to something similar, yet different- foster care. There are a few families in our church who have been foster parents, one that has a foster child they are in the process of adopting. Shari and I came to a peace about the idea of fostering, regardless of whether we’d ever have a chance to adopt. It took us several months to get licensed, then about 5 months before we received our first placement.

I can’t post the names of the children we’ve had or put pictures up, but I can tell you a few things. Since last October we have had seven placements. The first was the most impacting. We took in a 16 month old toddler because he suffered serious burns over 40% of his body when his parents left him unattended near a newly lit hibachi grill. My wife and mother drove a couple hours away to pick him up at a hospital burn center where he had been for almost 10 days. He was wrapped in gauze and in extreme pain every time we had to re-dress his bandages. Many trips to the local burn clinic and doctor’s office made him a labor intensive placement but my family fell in love with him. We had him for over two months before his grandparents were granted foster custody of him. It was brutal saying goodbye, especially for Shari who nursed him back to health, but after the grief of saying goodbye was done, we really sensed a peace from God that we had ministered to one of the “least of these”. By God’s grace, the grandparents have befriended us and we have been able to see him several times allowing my boys to continue their relationship with him. I am praying God would draw their whole family to Christ.
In the last 6 months we also had twin boys (ages 2 and 3) for a short time, one was a “crack baby” and struggled with all sorts of behavioral issues. They wore us out with their energy. I had to stick one of my boys on each of them at all times or they would start a fight with each other in minutes. Eventually they seemed to melt in to our family well enough, just in time to be placed in a different home so they could be together with their older sister.

Our most challenging placement only lasted 10 days. We had twin, five month old, baby girls who were basically blind (they suffer from Aniridia, a condition that renders their iris non functional). They were part of a larger sibling group so we had them just long enough for our foster agency to find a foster home that could take the whole sibling group. They were challenging because of their blindness. You may not realize how much of a connection is made with a child when you can look at them and they can see you. Absent sight, talking and touching is the chief way to let them know you are there and caring for them. My oldest son really had a soft spot for them. He was very hurt when we had to say goodbye, but again, we had a sense of God’s peace about doing His will.

Our latest and current placement is a six-week old baby girl. She came to us with multiple fractures in her ribs and trauma to both legs. It is surmised that she was shaken and dropped. There is a criminal investigation going on concerning her, so we are very likely to have her for several months. She’s a beautiful little girl. She’s fussy right now (maybe that’s how girls are? Ha ha), but a real delight to our family. Shari loves dressing her up…11 years of repressed girl-dressing has exploded on this little one.

So what to make of all this? Wow. Foster care is transformational to say the least. Foster care for small children (we are licensed for 0-5 years old) impacts the entire household as all have to help-there is no escape for anyone. My wife is an awesome mother and supreme nurturer. My boys have responded far better than I could have imagined caring for and loving every child. The whole experience has made me believe that I might not be too old for another baby after all. I think having these children has impacted our church family and friends also. I know several families are thinking and praying about foster care.

The hardest thing is the idea of saying goodbye and letting go. I won’t kid you, it’s very tough. If you don’t want to experience relational pain, don’t be a foster parent. At the same time, there’s a peace that passes understanding when doing this. We honestly try to think of these little ones as if they were Christ Himself. The babies might not know who we are and won’t remember us, but Jesus does and will. It’s a way to say “thank you” to Christ for what He’s done for us. For some inexplicable reason I feel like we’ll get to meet these children again, hopefully in heaven.
I do think we’ll eventually have an opportunity to adopt one of these foster children, which would be a joy, but even if we don’t, we’re sure this is what we should do right now.

Beck gives some church membership advice...

I'm not a big fan of Glenn Beck. He's a tad too alarmist for my taste but the age of infotainment has made him a controversial star.

He did make some interesting statements about the the concept of "social justice" promoted by certain churches. I'm cautious about taking church attendance/membership advice from a Mormon, but his comments are worth checking out here.

Telling advice

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. - Hebrews 4:12

I can think of no more important task for the Church than to teach and preach the Holy Word of God.

I have many Roman Catholic friends and family. I was not a casual Catholic when I was a growing up. I tried with all my might to be a good Catholic. Thankfully I heard the gospel of God's grace from a few local evangelical churches in my neighborhood as they were conducting various outreach ministries teaching and distributing bibles which I read. Now, as a Christian who identifies himself with the Reformed tradition, I still read Catholic blogs and news services quite regularly and actually have been studying Papal history for the past 6 months for doctoral work. Our liturgical style of worship at Redeemer attracts many Roman Catholics who are searching so I seem to find myself talking about Romanism and Popery quite regularly.

I'm not citing the following post from the Catholic News Service as some kind of cheap shot but rather as an example of what so ails the Roman Church. I think Romanism hurts the vast majority of those who stay aligned with it, so that's why I write about it so often.
In my 18 years of trying my best to be a good Catholic I could hardly find a priest or a nun who had a high enough view of the bible to teach from it regularly and consistently let alone give me a clear explanation of the gospel. I faithfully attended C.C.D. class (which stands for Confraternity of Christian Doctrine established by the Roman Church largely in response to the Protestant Reformation) and learned quite a bit about Roman dogma with very little bible content. In fairness, I did have one woman who was quite learned, at least in the apocryphal sections of the bible. She eventually referred me to the priest to complete my studies in private and at home because my questions were "distracting" and "off subject". Crazy questions I would ask, you know, like "how can I know for sure I am right with God?" and "I always feel guilty about my sin, what do I do?". Distacting stuff like that. I had 7 different priests in my time as a Papist, so it's not like I just happened to get one who didn't teach Scripture. On Sunday morning none departed from the missalette's particular short Scripture reading and no homily was ever more than 15 minutes that I can remember. "Mass" would take 45-50 minutes: 10-15 for the Homily and 30-40 to turn the bread and wine into Jesus-but strangely we almost never drank the cup, a Eucharistic minister some how was able to do it for us.

I have many friends who were some version of protestant and have since become Roman Catholic- they know their bibles pretty well from their protestant upbringing. Their view of the bible seems to have changed, but they are devout enough and always ready to defend the seemingly wildest of Roman doctrines. Make no mistake, such folks represents a relatively small group among the one billion people who are counted as Roman Catholics. Most Roman Catholics are biblically illiterate and clueless about Christology, let alone soteriology, etc. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of protestants who fit the same description, and for essentially the same reason- a disregard for the preaching and teaching of the Word of God.

On this point, regarding Romanism- here's an example of what I am talking about (posted yesterday on Catholic News Service):

Homilies should be under eight minutes long, says head of synod office

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Homilies should be no longer than eight minutes -- a listener's average attention span, said the head of the synod office.

Priests and deacons should also avoid reading straight from a text and instead work from notes so that they can have eye contact with the people in the pews, said Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops.

In a new book titled, "The Word of God," the archbishop highlighted some tips that came out of the 2008 Synod of Bishops on the Bible. The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, reproduced a few passages from the book in its March 10 edition.

The archbishop wrote that it's not unusual for preachers to recognize that they have less-than-perfect communications skills or that they struggle with preparing homilies. Everyone should spend an appropriate amount of time to craft a well-prepared and relevant sermon for Mass, he said.

He said Pope Benedict XVI starts working on his Sunday homilies on the preceding Monday so that there is plenty of time to reflect on the Scripture readings from which the homily will draw.

Archbishop Eterovic praised an initiative by the archdiocese of Paris, called "Improving Homilies," that has been offering courses and guidelines for priests and deacons

Among the guidelines' many helpful suggestions, he said, is that "the homily in general should not go over eight, minutes -- the average amount of time for a listener to concentrate."

A preacher would do well to find inspiration from not just the Bible, but from the newspaper, too, so that the homily can address the current concerns facing the world or the local community, he said. A homily can also offer ideas for what people can do after Mass in the way of prayer, readings, and activities at home, work or in society to help carry out Gospel teachings.

Homilies can be written out, Archbishop Eterovic said, but a preacher should work from brief notes or a bare outline that lets him follow the logical path of his talk while still being able to engage and look at the congregation.

With so little biblical instruction it's no wonder there's such confusion about life and doctrine in the Roman Church. The constant Catholic claims of unity are only true if the unifying factor is general ignorance of Church doctrine and the Bible. Eight minute homilies? It takes 5 minutes to properly introduce a text of Scripture and read it.

I can hear the responses now- "Tony, I'm sorry for your experience, but that's not the way it is at my Parish". Honestly, I'll bet it is. I'm not expecting my formerly protestant friends to admit this fact, but I still think it's generally true across the RC board. The problem is, you won't know it's true until your children go through "the system". Then you'll see. Deuteronomy 6 is a tough passage to live out in Roman Catholic life, since you get no help from the Church.
I think there are some former protestants who are now Papists still reading their bibles privately or as families, maybe a handful of born and bred RC's also, but most are not. I don't think anything has changed since I was Catholic. Like I said, I still stay in touch with many of my RC friends and family. I am pretty sure what I say is true across the board. This is largely because of the Roman Catholic Church's neglect of the robust preaching of God's Word regularly. Eight minute homilies? Good grief. It should take 5 minutes to plead with God in prayer at the end of a sermon.

Here's the thing- if priests started preaching the Word of God straight through something magnificent would happen. There would be a Reformation. The RC response to the notion of another Reformation- "look how divided you protestants are after your "reformation"-such division couldn't be God's Will." My response-stop kidding yourself about how unified the Roman Church is. If you think an ardent clergy and 10-20% of the Roman Church "faithful" agreeing on some body of Church doctrine and the Pope's authority constitutes unity in the larger Roman Church you're beyond reason. Is ignorance and neglect of God's Word God's Will? Is feeding Christ's sheep so miserably God's Will? Come on now.
I do think division is sinful. It's a total shame Christians are so divided. There is something worse, however- being "unified" in damnable unbelief and ignorance.

Romanism needs another Reformation and it will happen when the bible is taught and preached with boldness and power.
Maybe there's a reason Rome seems to be pushing eight minute homilies. I think it's pretty telling.

Who ya gonna call?

Talk about an interesting story. I'm guessing I couldn't get an honorary membership in the Association of Exorcists.

Read about the Vatican's Chief exorcist here

A most shocking line:

"Father Gabriele Amorth, 85, who has been the Vatican's chief exorcist for 25 years and says he has dealt with 70,000 cases of demonic possession, said that the consequences of satanic infiltration included power struggles at the Vatican as well as "cardinals who do not believe in Jesus, and bishops who are linked to the Demon".

HT: Brian M

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Operation Hickification on F-150

I love my truck. Not more than Jesus, His Church, or my family, but I love my truck.

I decided to slap a little redneck on it by putting a grill guard on, raising it 3 inches, and putting bigger, more aggressive tires on. I actually do a good bit of off-roading going to and from hunting locations, so improving my traction and climbing ability serves a very important purpose.

I didn't want to break the bank making these various advancements so I opted for ordering a lift kit and having some grease monkey friends help me put it in. It's a labor intensive job and you have to have the right tools, but you can save tons of money doing so. There are more extreme lifts you can put on a pick up like mine, but they void the factory warranty and jack up your insurance. 3 inches was as far as I could take her up.

Here's the progression of "Operation Hickification" (the process of making my vehicle more fitting for the hick and redneck I have been accused of becoming):

My F-150 at normal factory height with new grille guard installed (front)

My F-150 being raised in my friends garage in order to get at "all four corners" at once. Manly stuff...

I worked on installing the aluminum lift blocks under the rear leaf springs (shiny things on either side of pumpkin) while Robert and Dan started taking apart the front end in preparation to add the lift mounts to the strut assemblies.

No greater friend is there than one who will open his garage to you and help you with a manly install!! Robert is an RPC member who loves to turn a wrench!

Robert puts the 3-inch extension on the top of the strut assembly. This is the largest extension you can put on the factory assembly.

Dan, Robert's friend, is building his own drag racing car in Robert's garage. We were glad he was on hand to help us get the lift kit in.

My F-150 after the lift kit has been put on. Very studly. 31 inch factory tires, however. Not for long.

My F-150 with the new Bridgestone Revo 33 inch tires mounted. Ready to rock and roll, climb, mud, and do some serious damage!! Yeeeeeeehaaaaawwwww!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why the name "Heritage Christian Academy"?

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!” - Psalm 33:12

One challenge of merging two existing schools is establishing a new identity. Both schools liked the names they had, but agreed it's best to rename in order to bring unity of thought and mission to the newly established school. I helped with the name decision and wrote a lengthy explanation for why "Heritage Christian Academy" was chosen. A shorter version was distributed to the school families, here's the longer version:

We ought to be ever mindful of the gracious heritage God has blessed us with. Heritage is a concept that draws upon the past in order to move bravely and faithfully in to the future. We can be sure of God’s provision as we move in to the future because of his clearly demonstrated faithfulness in the past.

We have a national heritage unique in human history. America is a nation founded upon Christian principles and conviction. William Bradford, one of the original pilgrims to America, said it well-

“We verily believe and trust the Lord is with us, unto Whom and Whose service we have given ourselves in many trials, and that He will graciously prosper our endeavors according to the simplicity of our hearts therein.”

The Mayflower Compact stated boldly-

“Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia”

The Declaration of Independence reveals a heritage of godly dependence-

"We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness...We, therefore, the representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States...”

The General of the Continental Army and our first President is described thus by Henry Muhlenberg-

"His Excellency General Washington rode around among his army yesterday and admonished each and every one to fear God, to put away the wickedness that has set in and become so general, and to practice the Christian virtues. From all appearances, this gentleman does not belong to the so-called world of society, for he respects God's Word, believes in the atonement through Christ, and bears himself in humility and gentleness. Therefore, the Lord God has also singularly, yea, marvelously, preserved him from harm in the midst of countless perils, ambuscades, fatigues, etc., and has hitherto graciously held him in His hand as a chosen vessel."

Certainly Scripture speaks of the great blessing a Christian heritage is to a nation-

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!” - Psalm 33:12

A Christian heritage is woven in to the fabric of our nation’s being . Beyond this national heritage of devotion to God, we recognize a more personal heritage from our Lord- the children he has so graciously blessed us with. The Psalmist captures this reality-

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” - Psalm 127:3

The value of our children to their God cannot be underestimated or ignored. This is why God, through Moses, challenges all Christian parents so poignantly-

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6:5-9

The clear hand of God’s blessing and heritage challenges us to move boldly in to the future. Past grace means present confidence and expectation for the days and years ahead. We believe wholeheartedly that God is doing a work in His people just as He always has. We affirm the Psalmist’s blessed declaration-

“For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage” - Psalm 94:14

In addition to a national heritage of Christianity and the personal heritage of our children, God has also given us a rich local heritage of faith.

In 1974 Berean Bible Church founded Berean Christian School for the express purpose of equipping students to pass on a heritage of faith in Christ by impressing God’s Word on their lives. Berean has been faithful to this task, by God’s grace, for the past 36 years.

For the same purpose, Redeemer Presbyterian Church founded Westminster Christian Academy in 1996 and has been growing in size and effectiveness for these past 14 years, again, by God’s grace.

In the Fall of 2009 leaders from both schools began to dream about the possibility of joining efforts. What greater opportunity for discipleship, training, and academic advancement would there be if these two schools joined their passion, efforts, and resources? It soon became the joint consensus that a Berean-Westminster merger would be a tremendous benefit and great enhancement to Christian Education in South Johnson County. Joined together, these schools could be more effective for the Kingdom of God and the passing on of their Christian heritage.

As a result of God’s guidance and grace, Kansas City will have a new Christian school this Fall. Remembering the Christian heritage of our nation, answering God’s call to cultivate the personal heritage of our children, and drawing strength from the joint heritages of two schools- Heritage Christian Academy will open its doors in August of 2010.

Powlison on the use of Psychiatric Drugs

David Powlison is a gifted biblical counselor with CCEF who recently wrote "Seeing with New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition through the Lens of Scripture". We, the pastors of Redeemer, have benefited greatly from his various works. His teaching on pastoral/biblical counseling is worthy of any pastors consideration.

One of the more controversial subjects when counseling people in the church is the use of psychiatric drugs. The number of people on such drugs is really staggering. It has come to the point where a person could visit his or her doctor, complain about feeling depressed and walk out with a prescription for an anti-depressant. So how should such powerful medications be viewed? When we counsel at Redeemer we don't tell people to stop taking the medications that have been prescribed, we do hope to help the person get to the root of the issue that plagues them however.

Powlison has some helpful comments in this brief clip:

Monday, March 8, 2010

Friday, March 5, 2010

Happy Birthday A.J.!

Dear A.J.,

On the occasion of your 11th Birthday, I want to speak words of blessing to you adapted from Scripture (1 Corinthians 1:9-12).

The the day you were known to us in your mother's womb I have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

A.J., may you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered you from the domain of darkness and transferred you to the kingdom of his beloved Son,in whom you have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Love, Your Father

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Peruvian Comedian "interviews" Jimmy Conrad

The Kansas City Wizards are training in Arizona readying themselves for the start of the 2010 campaign. A mysterious reporter (with very broken English) caught Wizards all-star defender Jimmy Conrad for an interview.

The two questions posed to Conrad are indeed suspicious. The first has to do with Conrad's opinion about people who put lift kits on their pick up trucks (an obvious question to ask a world class soccer player, right?). It just so happens I am doing that to my truck (in order to slap a little "redneck" on it). The second question is asking Conrad to give advice to RPC United (Redeemer's stellar Thursday night D division indoor soccer team). The answer Jimmy gives is twofold and exactly what I had to constantly tell a certain Peruvian defender (who sounds remarkably like the interviewer) when he would constantly take wild, towering shots on the opponents goal leaving RPC attackers with nothing to do but run back after the huge rebound or opposing team's free kick.

Why HCA is so important to my family

(Classes of 2021, 2019, 2017:HERITAGE CHRISTIAN ACADEMY)

I am entering my 14th year of ministry at Redeemer this May. We view it as one of God's greatest acts of grace to us having us in this place. One of the main reasons I was excited to come to Redeemer in 1997 was their effort to establish a school soon after the church began. I couldn't believe a 60-member church was going to start a Christian school (named Westminster no less!).

We knew this is the place we wanted to be. Every year with Redeemer and Westminster has been more enriching than the year before. Now we are coming to another exciting transition.

Our church school, Westminster Christian Academy is going to merge together with another Christian school starting next fall to form "Heritage Christian Academy". It will still remain under the oversight of Redeemer, but it will be bigger, two campuses, and have a whole new level of excitement and anticipation.

I speak and write often on the subject of Christian Education and worldview training, but in this post I want to share why this school is so important to my family.

My wife Shari grew up in an evangelical home, went to a bible-believing church, and attended a solid Christian school from later elementary through to high school. I grew up in a morally upright Roman Catholic home, attended Mass regularly (and then some), and attended Western NY suburban public schools all the way through.

Shari doesn't remember a day when Christ was not her Savior, although she does remember being prompted to "pray the prayer" to be sure she was saved. I remember being terrified of God most of my early years. Like many (if not most) Roman Catholic youth, I heard no clear, biblical explanation of how I could be right with God. Basically I needed to keep coming to Mass, confession, stay respectful, give some money, etc. I lived in constant palpable fear until I heard a clear explanation of Christ's totally sufficient substitution for me on the Cross given by a baptist preacher in an outdoor bible club across the street from my house at age 12 or so.

I think it's fair to say Shari's struggle with sin has primarily been internal battling legalism and being judgmental. My struggle with sin has probably been more external (though I battle those things too) battling various sins of the flesh. We were both believers as young people, but floundering a bit with how to mature. We both had solid Christian mentors who pointed us toward Moody Bible Institute for college. There we met friends and were exposed to teaching that started to shine the light of grace on our view of God, His Word, and His dealings with us and the World. We were both Christians, but there was a "grace awakening" starting to happen as we grew. We met at Moody when Shari was a freshman and I was a junior. I was very sure I wanted to marry her early on in our relationship. I had never met someone like her. She was perfect for me in every way, especially in her spiritual journey.

By the time we met I was pretty well reformed. By reformed I mean that I had come to grasp the doctrines of God's sovereign grace. Or better put- the doctrines of grace had grasped me. The words of Ephesians 2:5-10 came alive:

"Even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

The realization that my salvation was by God and for God radically changed my outlook on my life and purpose. Understanding that true biblical grace means God having mercy on me and taking me as His own child because of the work of Christ on my behalf, despite my actually deserving His wrath, continues to stagger me each day. Amazing grace never gets old to me. God's love for me, a sinner, because of Jesus and not based on anything I could do or have done, is truly a sweet sound.

I started to understand biblical grace toward the end of college and so did Shari as we prepared to marry. After marrying we lived in Wichita as Shari worked on her Elementary Ed degree at the local state university. Boy was that an eye opener about current educational philosophies and practices. She student taught at one of the area public schools just before graduating in 1995 . It was during those two years in Wichita we began to really discuss how we would disciple our children some day, if God would so bless us. Our individual experiences combined with studying the bible, and observing the choices and practices of people who already had children fueled and formed our thinking. We became members of a local PCA church where the doctrines of grace were faithfully preached helping us to continue to grow in grace. At Evangel PCA we were the youth sponsors helping to disciple junior high and high school students.

We moved to St. Louis in 1995 for me to attend Covenant Seminary. Shari got her first teaching job as second grade teacher at West County Christian school. The first year in St. Louis brought us to a new level of consideration of God's grace. I think we grew more together and in Christ in our first year of seminary than any year prior. The formal study of God's Word, the preaching we received at our new church, our need to be more dependent on one another being far from any family, and God's faithful work on our hearts made us fall more deeply in love with God's grace. At Covenant we started to think and pray about having children more earnestly. It became clearer to us that God works very powerfully in the lives of families. We could see that a chief manifestation of His grace came through His work in homes and to children in that context. We also observed how fruitful the community of grace was in nurturing homes. A strong, healthy alliance between the church and families seemed to really bolster the spiritual formation of young people.

In this light the verses we spent quite a bit of time considering are given in the context of community yet focused on the task of Christian families-

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

Please notice the corporate call this is- "Hear, O Israel (the church)". Then the specific focus on teaching our children in the home and "by the way". One thing we were convinced of, we weren't going to give over the training of our children to unbelievers. I know many committed Christians disagree with my rigidity on this point, but I just can't reconcile the call to discipleship illustrated in this passage (and Ephesians 6) with putting our children in schools that oppose God (remember, without the fear of God, there is no wisdom or knowledge/Proverbs 1:7). Beyond the unbelief and humanistic religion promoted in state schools, we lose 9,000 hours of discipleship time between K and 8th grade when we have them there. Shari and I have never been zealots about how you choose to fulfill Deuteronomy 6 (Christian School/Home School/whatever), but we we are pretty settled sending them to unbelievers for such precious hours couldn't be our plan.

Don't get me wrong, we have never believed or suggested that solid believing students can't come through public schools, we know several who have. Further, we're not saying that sending your child to a Christian school or home schooling them will guarantee spiritual strength and a victorious Christian life- we've seen several students from those practices struggle greatly or have seemed to fall away all together. By and large, however, having a strong partnership between church-family-and school can be a very powerful spiritually nurturing influence in a young persons life. We've seen that many times over. Think of the mandate of Deuteronomy 6 and be honest about your plan to obey what God has said.

So, in 1996 when I was reporting to my Presbytery in Kansas, I met the former pastor of Redeemer after he gave a report of the new church school they had just started in Overland Park. The church was only a couple years old itself, less than 60 people attending, and they bought land and started a school. "How crazy", I remember thinking. "How cool", I also remember thinking. After giving his report, he mentioned needing an intern for the summer. I made a beeline to him and inquired about what he needed. Long story short, Shari and I moved to Overland Park for the summer of 1997 between my second and third (last) year at seminary to do a three month internship and have basically been ministering here ever since. Summer intern to assistant pastor to associate pastor to senior pastor. The time has ripped by. I remember turning 25 my first summer at RPC. I turn 39 this August. Wow.

In 1999, a year after arriving at Redeemer, we had our first child. Our church school, Westminster, was in it's third year with 40 students or so. I was involved at Westminster in quite a few different ways. I taught some, I was the gym teacher (basically we played dodgeball every day), I led many of the weekly chapels, and did whatever I could do to help and promote the school. Each year my involvement grew as did my appreciation for Christian education. At the same time I came to learn how sensitive the developing and running of a school is, not to mention we were trying to bring a church plant to some kind of maturity. It was a struggle, I won't kid you. It still is. I understand why many pastors and churches don't endeavor to plant and grow a church and a school. I quickly learned that a school does not grow a church. It just doesn't. It seems people have all sorts of convictions and ideas about how they'll school their children. It also seems very easy to offend people when talking about the subject, another reason why many pastors and churches don't try to tackle a school ministry. I have learned alot about Christian Ed., parenting, priorities, philosophies, over these years. I still have much to learn.

But back to the main point- our oldest son started kindergarten 6 years ago at Westminster. The same sister in Christ who watched him as a baby for us on Tuesday afternoons was his first teacher. All three of my sons are now at Westminster (they all had Jenny for kindergarten as well!). I cannot tell you how truly grateful we are for what Westminster has meant for our family and the effort to carry out Deuteronomy 6. Shari and I cannot disciple our children alone. We lack in so many ways, but God gives us His community. He gives spiritual gifts to his church and I want my children to have access to the benefits of those gifts. Westminster has been one way for that to happen and we have seen amazing spiritual growth in each of our boys. Church-family-school in sync. It's been so very encouraging. Perfect? Without flaws? No challenges? Of course not. What church, family, or school do these describe?

All the previous build up and background was to say that Westminster has exceeded all we dreamed about and discussed before having children. It has provided the exact help, encouragement, and reinforcement, we hoped for. It has been a crucible for sanctification as our boys learn to get along with others who are the same in some ways, but very different in others. They are confronted with all sorts of neat spiritual growth-spawning stuff and we love it, even the challenging community stuff that is inevitable. I could go on and on.

So, as the Westminster epoch ends and the Heritage era begins, I want to give public praise to God for what He has done in our lives through the one and for what He'll do in the future through the other.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! -Psalm 33:12