Monday, August 30, 2010

Good post on Glenn Beck "revival"

Russell Moore provides a solid analysis of the strange rally that took place in Washington, DC this past weekend. Here's an excerpt-

"A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that they’ve heard the gospel, right there in the nation’s capital."

Read the entire post here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How foster care has changed our family

After our third boy was identified in a sonogram, Shari and I agreed we would pray about adopting a girl. The masculine genes are just too strong in the Felich line (ha ha!). We started the private adoption process but quicky discovered it to be very expensive and difficult to actually find a baby who was adoptable. Abortion has seriously lessened the supply of adoptable babies. We had discussed foster care several times over the years but became more serious after talking to a family in our church who had gone through the process and had a current placement. We prayed long and hard about what God wanted our family to do. Two years ago this month we started the licensing process and despite challenges and some days where we wonder what we did, we are sure this is God's calling for us right now.

Our licensing process took about 8 months. Our first placement happened exactly a year ago. Over this past year we have had seven different little ones in our home. Our latest placement, a seriously cute baby girl, has been with us since March 5. Foster care has changed our family.

So far the blessings have outweighed the difficulties, but there are challenges. Becoming licensed takes some time. Attending a ten-week class is the required first step in licensing. A home study follows and a few additional interviews. Further, there are various safety requirements for your house, which for us meant putting an e-gress window in our basement and a few other minor modifications. Each year there is a re-licensing process which isn’t as tough as initial licensing, but keeping up your CPR certification and other little things requires time and attention. After licensing the toughest challenge is the initial adjustment when a new child or children are suddenly in your home. It’s a shock at first, especially when you tend to be a routine oriented household. Initially it’s a disruption when the child or children are added to your family structure. Connected to this challenge is the difficulty with parting when the child goes back to their home or to another care provider. Our first placement lasted almost 10 weeks. Little Xavier was burned over a good portion of his torso when he was placed with us. Caring for his wounds several times a day created a bond with him that was special. It was very tough giving him back, I won’t kid you. We praise God for an ongoing relationship with his grandparents that means getting to see him every few months, but we know this is not usually the case.

The great blessing of foster care, however, trumps all challenges- having a relationship with a child who needs a loving family for a time. What a blessing to the child, but I’ll tell you what- what a blessing to our family! I am convinced we have been blessed more by the children we have cared for than us being a blessing to them. Caring for a needy little one takes your eyes off self and turns them to the needs of one of the “least of these” (see Matthew 10:42, 25:40, and Hebrews 6:10). Our boys still struggle with sibling rivalry and selfishness (being like their father), but our various foster children have evoked compassion and selflessness in each of them like we’ve never seen before. Our little foster baby girl is treated like royalty by the boys. They absolutely LOVE her. It’s great for them to love her, and it’s great for her to be loved.

We’re not sure what the future holds as foster parents, we’d love to adopt but are content to foster children if the Lord wills. I do not think everyone should be a foster parent, nor do I ever want to put a guilt trip on people about fostering. We are not super Christians or somehow special for doing this. I get the creeps when people pour on praise for being foster parents. Seriously, it's not that big of a sacrifice when you consider what I have just said. It might even be a bit selfish considering what a blessing it is to us. If God calls you to do something, He gives the grace necessary to do it.

So no guilt trips from me about what you should do...BUT.. I do think Redeemer has some wonderful families who could provide loving homes for children in need. I am sure there are similarly wonderful non-Redeemer Reepicheep readers who would also be a blessing to children in need.

Will you pray about possibly becoming a foster care family? The need is great.

Nouthetic counseling?

Just kidding...I can't see Pastor Nathan doing this...

Insane Crash

How did this kid survive?

Investigating if he was wearing his seat belt? Are they serious?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I am a hole-riddled, long sunk wooden boat...

If the sea represents the righteous, just, and holy standard of God, I am a hole-riddled, long sunk wooden boat on the bottom. I never could float on this perfect sea, I was never sturdy enough to stay atop the waves for even a moment. From the time I have existed there was no other possibility for me but to sink under the weight of the water with my countless holes and gashes. There was never time for any water to be scooped out before sinking, my structural devastation was just too far reaching and catastrophic. The speed and immediacy of the engulfing water never gave opportunity to devise a plan for escape. In my condition, self-rescue from the crashing, crushing weight of sea was impossible. If the sea represents the righteous, just, and holy standard of God, I am a hole-riddled, long sunk wooden boat on the bottom. Now as I rest on the bottom of the sea my decay only hastens. Sea worms eat my hull and eels slide through my many holes making them bigger. My wood is waterlogged and infested with weeds and bugs that make me weaker by the day. If you put a hand on me you'd probably break me and get a muddy, mossy, useless fistful of soggy timber. I'm really no good to anyone in this state, and the weight of the water seems heavier each day-my strength only decreases. There is no possible way of fixing myself and no man would have any chance at making me sea worthy- I am beyond any person's genius or expert repair, I only await my total disintegration. If the sea represents the righteous, just, and holy standard of God, I am a hole-riddled, long sunk wooden boat on the bottom. Laying, rotting, falling apart, there is time to contemplate the impossible weight above and around me. I can't complain against the sea because I have no right, it is only doing what it should whereas I have never done likewise. I have only failed. Honesty forces me to admit I have never been worthy of this sea. Now my state only grows worse as my structure erodes and degrades. If the sea represents the righteous, just, and holy standard of God, I am a hole-riddled, long sunk wooden boat on the bottom. I could protest my state, but what would I say? "It's not fair that I am hole ridden and unable to ride on the sea?" Is the sea to blame for my incapacity? Is the sea at fault because my breaches allowed it to come in, sink me, and continue to crush me? Is the sea culpable for my failure to maintain integrity? I can certainly claim the sea has victimized me, but I know it is not true. The problem is me, not the sea. Now my predicament grows worse by the day. If the sea represents the righteous, just, and holy standard of God, I am a hole-riddled, long sunk wooden boat on the bottom. How can I be salvaged? I am unsalvageable. I am beyond help. I can never float. So long as I remain as I am, I will eventually turn to watery, spongey, mud. Something from without must make me float because nothing from within is able.

Something has stirred the sea above, I feel it churning. The whole of the ocean is moving now, the storm on top must be fierce. I can see the bottom of another boat floating above me. It is getting pummeled and thrashed by the sea. If the sea represents the righteous, just, and holy standard of God, I am a hole-riddled, long sunk wooden boat on the bottom. But the storm that is attacking above is starting to move me from my sandy grave. For some reason I am not breaking up, I am almost floating in the unspeakably violent undercurrent. The boat above is being punished by the storm of this sea. But I am floating upward somehow closer to the other boat, the one that is being pounded. How that boat remains afloat on this relentless, angry, sea, is beyond me. What has happened now? The waves have churned me up and over and out! I find myself on the top of a wave and set down inside the other boat! Suddenly the sea stops frothing and shifting, a calm comes over it. I am now resting in the other boat. The sun begins to dry my wood, but I am safe now, no matter what. I am in a sure, steady, and sea worthy boat that has taken the wrath of the sea. This strong and able boat has rescued me. If the sea represents the righteous, just, and holy standard of God, I am a hole-riddled, wooden boat that could not take the wrath of the sea and so I sunk. The second boat could and did take the wrath of the sea and then saved me. The second boat represents Christ, who keeps me safe now, for I am now in Him.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A handful...

Anyone who has been a Christian for a while knows better than to say his or her good deeds earned their salvation. I do think, however, many professing Christians struggle with how their works and perceived spiritual accomplishments relate to God's view of them. We may not think our actions earn us favor with God in terms of our salvation, but I do think we often find confidence that God loves us or accepts us more because of the good things we do. If we do our daily devotions God is more pleased with us. If we tithe it counts for something with God. If we help someone repair their flat tire it earns some kind of extra favor with God. I have had momentary lapses of discernment about my works when someone compliments me for something like preaching, teaching, or another other part of my pastoral function. After receiving the compliment, for a moment, I think to myself, "God must be happy with what I just did." Just being honest- I tend to think pretty highly of my "good works" and spiritual "accomplishments" and all too often forget that NONE of my works are meritorious. Any "good" thing I do is only acceptable to God by virtue of His accepting my Savior's righteousness in place of mine (which isn't really any righteousness at all). So my works are redeemed by my union with Christ by faith. Yes, Christians should obey God (do good works), but not with any notion that God loves us based on such works or that we merit favor with God because of them. When we do good works or experience spiritual growth, it is a gift of God's grace, not something we personally mustered as a way to earn favor with God.
* It reminds me...

I have been changing quite a few diapers again these past months. In the past year we have had 7 foster children, several have been in diapers. We have had our current foster baby since March. Changing her diaper has caused many a flashback to some traumatic episodes with my sons. One such episode found me absolutely stunned after cracking open one of their diapers. I couldn't believe how much he had produced. With his diaper still undone I retreated from his diaper changing table and lunged across the room to get some extra baby wipes. Before I could return to hold his hands back and start cleaning him, he had reached down and grabbed a handful of stuff and was holding it up to me like an offering. He had a quirky smile and his hand out with "stuff" in and over it as if I would be happy to take it from him. It was gross, smelly, and a touch disturbing. I had to clean in between every one of his little fingers...

What my son did is the same thing we do every time we think one of our works or actions somehow makes God love us more or is otherwise meritorious. God looks at such works and accomplishments- apart from Christ- as we hold them out to him, and sees them them just as I saw my son's offering for what it was.

Paul was vivid about his accomplishments as they related to God's acceptance of Him-

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ... (Philippians 3:7-8)

As you may or may not know, the word here translated "rubbish" refers to dung.

*Of course, I could never use such an illustration in a sermon...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A nice lesson on priorities...

I am sure this will mess up someone's fantasy football team, but it's a great story nevertheless.

23-year old Glen Coffee is giving up a bundle of money to retire from the NFL already. Check out his reasoning-

"It was a struggle for a long time. Actually when I look back I feel I never should have entered the draft in the first place. Football was no longer my dream. I found Christ in college. It changed my views on everything. But I still was a football player because it was expected of me, it was something I did all my life. I was basically wasting the (49ers') time."

Friday, August 13, 2010

“…One thing I know; that though I was blind, now I see”

I taught on John 9 my last week at Horn Creek and was once again struck by Jesus' healing of the man born blind. It's truly an amazing and revealing interchange between Jesus, the man born blind, the crowds, the man's family, and the Pharisees:

One of my favorite parts of the story is the interchange between the man who Jesus grants sight and the Pharisees. The Pharisees couldn't wrap their heads around what had just happened. Everyone in town knew the man was born blind. There was no doubt he was miraculously granted sight. It's possible he had no eyeballs or severely deformed ones and he could now see. The people who saw him after the miracle did a double take asking-is this the same guy? They clearly concluded he was the same guy. No question. The Pharisees hated that he was giving credit to Jesus for the miracle. They tried to discredit the miracle by saying Jesus did it on the Sabbath. That angle was squelched by some in their own ranks due to the sheer magnitude of what had been done. So the formerly blind man is telling everyone he knows that Jesus just gave him sight causing a huge stir and varied reactions.

The Pharisees are learned, educated, well-credentialed, and probably wealthy. The man born blind was a beggar, essentially disowned by his family, who the Pharisees thought was paying for his sins or the sins of his parents by being blind. I wonder what awful things the Pharisees murmured when they walked by the blind beggar for years?

Then Jesus gives the man sight. With heightened hearing from years of blindness, imagine what the world now looked like to the man as he heard all the sounds he had always known but now could look and see what made them! You know what must have overwhelmed him? For years he listened to voices speak viciously about him. He no doubt listened to hundreds of conversations about himself with no way to respond or make eye contact. He had to know he was an uneducated, begging, freak show and example of what sin does to the Pharisees. Now, in an instant, he can see the faces to whom the deriding voices belonged. They could not hide their judgmental sneers any longer being now revealed to the man they disparaged for so many years.

The best part of the interchange in John 9 happens here:

John 9:24 So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.”25 He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.”

The guy cuts through all the Pharisees' ridiculous bickering about who healed the man and how it was done to say- I was blind, now I see!! The rest of the interchange between the formerly blind, uneducated, simpleton and the highly educated and decorated Pharisees is priceless-

26 Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?”27 He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?”28 Then they reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples.29 “We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.”30 The man answered and said to them, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes!" 31 “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.32 “Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind.33 “If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.”34 They answered and said to him, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they cast him out.

Wow! The guy was schooling them so they picked up their jacks and went home! The formerly blind man revealed their folly before all onlookers applying simple logic. What a story! Of course, it's not complete without seeing what happens last to the man as he meets Jesus once again-

35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”36 He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”37 And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.”38 Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wizards Stadium coming along

The new KC Wizards soccer-specific stadium is supposed to be done by next June. It's coming along nicely.

Classic Comment from Harry Reid

Here is an absolutely priceless quotation from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made yesterday-

"I don't know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican."

I'm no fan of Republicans or Democrats...but right now I'll go with anyone who is running against congress people who voted for the bailouts or health care "reform" debacle of a bill. The Democrats overwhelmingly voted for these irresponsible bills and should be held accountable by voters. The polls seem to say the Dem's are in trouble in the Senate and the House. Good. They should be.
As for Reid's comment above, it's clearly an attempt to draw on general Hispanic dissatisfaction with the immigration law activities of Arizona and the Republican sponsorship of the bill. Nice try on Reid's part, but I doubt such rhetoric will save his sinking political ship.
I don't know anyone with a modicum of common sense or intelligence who would vote for Harry Reid in November. Let's hope Mr. Reid is gone from any facet of government as soon as legally possible.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Thoughtful Prayer

So we're spending some time in family worship and prayer last night and the boys take their turns praying. A.J. with total seriousness and a touch of concern prays- "Dear Lord, please help Dad remember how to preach."

Sorry about all the family stuff, I just finished my sabbatical and a family vacation, so that's what's on my mind. I'll return to regular blogging soon.

Monday, August 9, 2010

PCA Member Martyred in Afghanistan

Perhaps you have heard of the Taliban claiming responsibility for the cold-blooded murder of a team of Christian medical/humanitarian relief workers in Afghanistan. I have a friend from Moody who served in Afghanistan for 10 years and endured many close calls with the Taliban. World Magazine's Mindy Belz reports the brutal killing and actually quotes my friend's wife (Rachel Schaus) below-

On Sunday evening as members of an international fellowship in Kabul gathered to remember and celebrate the lives of 10 humanitarian aid workers killed during a medical mission to Afghanistan's northern province of Badakhshan, details of their lives and events leading up to their deaths continued to emerge.

Gunmen apparently surrounded the team as they crossed into Nuristan Province from remote Badakhshan late last week, shot them at close range, then raided their vehicles and belongings. The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility, one of the most brutal attacks on aid workers since war began in 2001, saying they were foreign spies and accusing them of spreading Christianity.

The team, organized by International Assistance Mission (IAM), included six Americans, four Aghans, a German, and a Briton. Two of the Afghans escaped death: One fled to his hometown of Jalalabad following the attack; the other, a driver sources say is suspected of aiding in the attack, returned to Kabul, where Afghan police arrested him. Bodies of the remaining team members were airlifted to Kabul on Sunday, with U.S. embassy personnel taking custody of the remains of Americans. Autopsies are planned as part of an embassy investigation.

Team leader Tom Little, 64, an optometrist from New York who had worked in Afghanistan since 1976, was a fluent Dari speaker and helped to establish an eye hospital in Kabul that was overrun and shut down by the Taliban in 1996. He made treks to remote areas of the country in what fellow aid workers referred to as "eye camps" and was said to treat Taliban fighters though they briefly kicked him out of the country in 2001.

Among the aid community Little and his wife Libby were widely known for holding pancake dinners every Friday night that sometimes topped 100 in attendance. "People just had to bring their own toppings, and Tom would stand at the griddle and make hundreds of pancakes each week," said Rachel Schaus, a humanitarian worker in Kabul for more than a decade and a neighbor. Schaus said Little successfully intervened during a robbery attempt at her own home, as gunmen held her, her husband, and two young children during the early days of war in 2001.

"Tom yelled, 'O bacha, chee maykuni?' which means, 'Little boy, what are you doing?'—words chosen to shame our robbers—and after pointing their guns at him, they fled the house," recalled Schaus.

Dan Terry, 63, was another veteran of Afghanistan aid work and close friend of Little. He had worked in the country since 1971, married a Finnish aid worker named Seija in 1976, and raised three daughters there. Just a week ago in Kabul, with Terry on "his trek north," I listened as Seija recounted over dinner their family surviving Soviet occupation, civil war, and Taliban takeover. They worked for a time in a remote village in the mountains west of Kabul, 9,000 feet above sea level. The Taliban once jailed Terry for overstaying his visa, and he made friends with fellow prisoners whom he witnessed being beaten. Terry and his wife had just returned to Afghanistan from the United States for the medical mission to Badakhshan: "This is the work and the people that we love," she told me. On Sunday Seija told friends the only way she could identify her husband's body, after he had been shot multiple times, was by his beard.

"Dan Terry and Tom Little were men of faith and made no secret of that," wrote BBC journalist and friend Kate Clark on a blog following the killings.

But aid workers who knew the IAM team said they were on a mission to provide medical care, not to proselytize, or attempt to convert Muslims to Christianity. IAM is registered as a Christian charity working on development projects in Afghanistan going back to 1966. Executive director Dirk Frans told media that the group does not engage in evangelism efforts. In fact, non-governmental organizations registered to work in Afghanistan must adhere to the "Principles of Conduct for The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement," which state that "aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious standpoint."

Aid groups with Christian roots have come under increasing scrutiny in Afghanistan, following the May release of a videotape showing baptisms and prayers services allegedly instigated by Western aid workers ("Kill the Christians," June 18, 2010). Since that time two groups had their work in Afghanistan suspended. Several others, including IAM, have been the object of investigations, with Ministry of Economy officials showing up to scrutinize hiring practices, internal audits, and other paperwork.

All members of the IAM team were volunteers—the group does not pay salaries—and several had given up lucrative practices to work in Afghanistan. Karen Woo, 36, the British member of the group and a surgeon, left a job in a private clinic in London. A message posted last March on the website Bridge Afghanistan said she was "flat broke and living in a war zone but enjoying helping people in great need."

Other Americans on the team included Glenn Lapp, 40, a nurse from Lancaster, Pa., and member of the Mennonite Central Committee; Thomas Grams, 50, a dentist from Durango, Colo., who worked with Global Dental Relief; Cheryl Beckett, 32, of Ovensville, Ohio, a specialist in mother-child health;
and Brian Carderelli, 21, a student whose parents teach at the International School of Kabul.

ByFaith, our denominational magazine, offers some clarifying details about Brian Carderelli, who was apparently a member of a PCA church in Virginia.

Brian Carderelli, a member of Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Harrisonburg, Va., was killed in Afghanistan while working with a medical team in Nuristan. He was 25. According to information released by the church, “Carderelli was a 2009 graduate of James Madison University who, after graduation, volunteered in many capacities. He loved people and was particularly concerned for the poor.”

Carderelli had been in Afghanistan since last September and was serving the International Assistance Mission using his photography and videography skills to produce promotional materials and donor reports. Two doctors had invited Carderelli on the Nuristan trip to document their work.

Brian Carderelli was an Eagle Scout who loved the outdoors. In his spare time, he enjoyed photographing the beauty of Afghanistan and its people. He was compiling an album of photos titled, “The Beauty--It’s Not All War.”

According to a church email, Carderelli was killed as he used his talents and training to show the love of Christ to the poor and disadvantaged.

La Cosa Nostra Felich

I spent my last Saturday of family vacation at Elitch Gardens in Denver having a blast riding rides with my boys before returning to KC today. Check out the picture we did.