Friday, December 31, 2010

Thinking about Christ in 2011


As I preached through Philippians the last year and a half, I came to chapter 4, verses 8-9 a few months ago-

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Despite having taught on this passage many times over the years, not to mention translating it from Greek as part of my advanced Greek studies at Moody, I missed a profound application of this text. It struck me that thinking about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, etc. has to refer most vividly to thinking about Christ. There is only one person that fits the description above- the Lord Jesus.

So, as I was coming to the end of Philippians I was praying about what to preach next. This passage basically says that thinking about "these things" will work toward the practicing of the various directions the Apostles gave. Thinking on Christ will help us be obedient. So, as we think about Jesus, we will be compelled to follow His commands and as a result, experience God's peace. This thought process led me to the gospels where the most vivid picture of Jesus is given. I want to study Jesus in 2011. Yes we study Jesus every time we open the text of Scripture, but for 2011 we are going to imagine being in the early first century crowd that witnessed Jesus while He was ministering on earth.

Which gospel? Well, I have already preached through John in my time at Redeemer. I refer to Matthew and Luke constantly (and will get to those as an exposition some day, Lord willing). That leaves Mark. So Mark it is. Probably the oldest gospel account and the swiftest moving.

We are going to think about Christ as we study Him in the gospel of Mark in 2011 at Redeemer. I am putting the finishing touches on sermon #1 right now. May God be honored and His people edified.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Knee Update

Time for knee rehab update:

Here's my knee the night of October 14-



Here's my knee on October 15, after it had been put back in to place the night before. Pretty swollen, ligaments trashed (below).

Here's my knee the day after surgery on November 17 (below). I got a "new" ACL and the outside of my knee ligaments (the "Post lateral Corner") had to be sowed back together. I have a slight tear in my PCL, which was not repaired. I'll have to live with that. It should be OK. My doctor tells me 15-20 NFL lineman out of 100 have slightly torn PCL's. Major point of praise: if the PCL was torn any worse, it would have required a complicated reconstruction and my recovery would have been even worse. Also, my meniscus (cartilage) was undamaged! The radical dislocation actually served to avoid the meniscus getting pressed and damaged. Long term, this is good news.

(below) Here's my knee on November 22, 5 days after surgery when the bandages were removed and changed out. I have six scars total: two long ones, the rest are from the arthroscope.

I was immobile for 4 weeks after surgery. No weight bearing the whole time. On December 11 I was released to start physical therapy. I started immediately and have completed 9 sessions over the past 3 weeks. Here's my leg (below) today on December 30.

There is quite a bit of atrophy in my quads and calf, but it's improving well. I will have some swelling for the next several weeks as I do various exercises and such. It's definitely looking more like an actual knee. It feels sturdy. The big obstacle for me now is to regain range of motion in my knee despite having a lot of scar tissue from the four weeks of immobility. It's slow going at physical therapy and super difficult. I want to avoid a future surgical procedure to shave off scar tissue.

(below)My big "zipper" scar is a bit nicer to look at while maintaining a manly "yes, I did something pretty brutal to myself and therefore am more of a man than you" look.

I really appreciate the prayers many of you have offered for me. It means very much to me. My wife and kids have been absolutely stellar and seriously humbling the way they have served me during this time.

I have a few goals, Lord willing:

1. I would like to ride the Katy Trail with Brian again this late May.
2. I would like to do a triathlon or two this summer.
3. Bonus: Climb a mountain in Colorado this summer (this one might be too much that soon, coming down is actually the hardest on knees- very hard).

Please keep praying for me! Thanks!!

Grill Update


We got our grill!!

As a rite of passage in to manhood, I had my three boys assist me with the purchase and pick up.

Please notice the nasty look the lady in the background is giving us. Could it be she didn't like how the older two tried to stuff the youngest one in the grill before racing about 50 yards toward the check out line? I don't know.

I didn't get to cook on in tonight...but something is getting roasted very soon.

Youth Pastor Shenanigans

Brian, our beloved youth pastor, decides to spend his day off recruiting three innocent RPC youth to carry out an attack on Pastor Nathan's aquarium.

Initially Brian wanted to put a full sized Bass in Nathan's tank, but had to settle for this giant crab instead.



Brian even tries to indict me by suggesting I was an eyewitness to this dastardly deed. For the record, I had nothing to do with this act of desecration. I was probably in my office studying or praying, or something, when this heinous act took place.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

NEW GRILL TOMORROW=Manliness


I played the Christmas gift thing masterfully this year. When various family members asked me a few months ago what I wanted for Christmas, I told each of them a gift card or cash for a new grill. Such a gift would be the most thoughtful thing they could do for me (and I would love them more for it).

Several faithful family and friends- who now have greater status in my life- came through well over the last few days of gift giving. I compiled almost enough to buy a marked down (out of season) Char Broil, stainless steel, porcelain coated 4-burner grill (pictured above). The grill is regularly $350, I'm scoring it for $200. I'm stoked...no pun intended.

We have had the same old piece of junk grill since we moved to KC in 1997. I have overhauled the guts of the thing three times and it needs it again. No more I say! I'm picking it up tomorrow and we'll be eating burgers on Thursday night!

There are few relationships more intimate and profound than a man and his grill.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Foster/Adoption challenge worth considering


I just read a post by a pastor, David Platt, who ministers to a 4,000-member church in Alabama.

Check out what he reports-

One day I called up the Department of Human Resources in Shelby County, Alabama, where our church is located, and asked, “How many families would you need in order to take care of all the foster and adoption needs that we have in our county?”

The woman I was talking to laughed.

I said, “No, really, if a miracle were to take place, how many families would be sufficient to cover all the different needs you have?”

She replied, “It would be a miracle if we had 150 more families.”

When I shared this conversation with our church, over 160 families signed up to help with foster care and adoption. We don’t want even one child in our county to be without a loving home. It’s not the way of the American Dream. It doesn’t add to our comfort, prosperity, or ease. But we are discovering the indescribable joy of sacrificial love for others, and along the way we are learning more about the inexpressible wonder of God’s sacrificial love for us.

Redeemer isn't that big of a church...but still, this has me thinking...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas


Our candlelight service of lessons and carols on Christmas Eve is one of my favorite "special" worship services during the year. Here's a couple pictures taken by Jason Schaitel before (below) the service began and during the candle lighting (above).
Of all the OT verses forecasting the coming of Christ, there is a particular phrase I love which comes at the end of this section in Isaiah 9-

6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

It brings great joy to know the zeal of the Lord has accomplished redemption for all those who believe on Christ.

Candlelight Service of Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve at Redeemer


If you are in the Kansas City area and your church is not meeting for worship tonight, come join us in worshiping Christ this evening at 7pm at Redeemer.


It is a traditional candlelight service of lessons and carols.


Redeemer Presbyterian Church

9333 W. 159th Street

Overland Park, KS

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Nuge on the Second Amendment

There are different ways to make a case. Here's Ted Nugent's approach to the Second Amendment-



As an owner of multiple guns, I agree with the right to bear arms and the essence of Ted's argument. I might choose a different way to articulate said support.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Brief Dawn Treader Reaction


I saw Voyage of the Dawn Treader a couple nights ago.

Overall I was underwhelmed. It was OK. Better than Caspian, but not as good as Wardrobe.

Eustace was casted perfectly- both as a boy and a dragon. I found Lucy's infatuation with being as beautiful as Susan to be overdone. Caspian was pretty flat as a character. The movie moved swiftly, to the point of not providing enough background information about several characters and places (Coriakin, to name one character only slightly explained as well as various intriguing islands that are given almost no explanation). The main story line was kept intact, however they failed to include some of Reepicheep's most profound lines as he readied to sail toward Aslan's Country. Reep was better in this movie than the previous one, but only slightly. They didn't shy away from Aslan's clear reference to Christ as he said goodbye to Edmund and Lucy, for which I am grateful.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Piper on the "Bible-oriented" preacher


In a recent post, John Piper compared the "entertainment-oriented" preacher with the "Bible-oriented" preacher:

The Bible-oriented preacher wants the congregation to know that his words, if they have any abiding worth, are in accord with God's words. He wants this to be obvious to them. That is part of his humility and his authority. Therefore, he constantly tries to show the people that his ideas are coming from the Bible. He is hesitant to go too far toward points that are not demonstrable from the Bible.

His stories and illustrations are constrained and reined in by his hesitancy to lead the consciousness of his hearers away from the sense that this message is based on and expressive of what the Bible says. A sense of submission to the Bible and a sense that the Bible alone has words of true and lasting significance for our people mark the Bible-oriented preacher, but not the entertainment-oriented preacher.

People leave the preaching of the Bible-oriented preacher with a sense that the Bible is supremely authoritative and important and wonderfully good news. They feel less entertained than struck at the greatness of God and the weighty power of his word.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Italians are just more exciting...

Here's a vivid display of Italian energy and excitement...


C.S. Lewis was wrong about one thing...


Despite his brilliance, C.S. Lewis was a humble man. A recent post about him brings this feature of his personality to light-

C.S. Lewis was talking to his lawyer one day when the attorney told him he had to decide where his earnings would go after his death.

Lewis, who had already written “The Chronicles of Narnia” book series, told the lawyer he
didn’t need to worry.

After I’ve been dead five years, no one will read anything I’ve written,” Lewis said.

Wow.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bono challenges the Church



Don't let his lack of precision with Scripture hinder a right sense of conviction that should come upon us as Christians regarding the issue of AIDS (particularly in Africa).

This interview is, at very least, extremely interesting.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nathan Clark George in Concert Sunday Night


Don't miss Nathan Clark George in concert with Mark Stoffel and Ross Sermons this Sunday night at 6pm

9333 W. 159th Street, Overland Park,KS

Free

Performing songs from his newly released Christmas album "Still"

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Incredible Design

I found this on another blog. It's absolutely incredible...and another display of God's intelligent design. Watch it to the end, it's worth it.

Ps. 104:24 "How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kansas City says goodbye to Wolff and Conrad



Major League Soccer is a business. Today it was made official that Josh Wolff and Jimmy Conrad, two relatively long time Wizards, were picked up by other teams. Very simply, both were out of contract at the end of the past season and the Sporks (my new favorite name for "Sporting Kansas City") did not renew with either veteran.

Josh Wolff played two stints with the Wizards for a total of 144 games. For most of his time with KC the forward was an efficient scorer and a tireless chaser. During the 2009 season Wolff had a very solid year erasing any doubts that his age (he was 32 at the time) and two ACL surgeries would hinder his production. Unfortunately this past season Wolff hit a wall. He seemed a step slower, a death sentence for a soccer forward. Professional soccer is a cruel world, in the end young legs dethrone older ones. Wolff still performed admirably as a sub, but his $200k plus salary is too much for such a role player. Wolff moves on to DC United for the 2011 season. He finished his time in Kansas City with 144 games played and 43 goals. He has served on the U.S. Men's National team in 52 games (called "caps") scoring 9 goals. He was a member of the 2002 U.S. World Cup team. On a personal note- I met Josh Wolff at a local restaurant a little over a year ago. We had a ten minute conversation about various issues related to the way MLS works and the challenges of being a player with contracts that are so screwy. I found him to be very personable and dedicated. Best wishes to Josh Wolff and his family going forward.

Jimmy Conrad has been the heart and soul of Kansas City soccer since his arrival from the San Jose Earthquakes in 2003. Conrad immediately established himself as one of the premier defenders in MLS and was constantly rumored to be heading to play in one of the higher leagues over seas. He won "Defender of the Year" honors in 2004 and served as the Wizards Captain for three seasons. Like Wolff, Conrad has been a part of the U.S. Men's National team and played in the 2006 World Cup. Jimmy Conrad played 8 seasons and 204 games with the Kansas City Wizards. Jimmy Conrad has been our family's collective favorite. Up till this past year he has been as solid as they come. I would tell my sons- "If you want to see how center back is played, watch Conrad's every move". This past season was a difficult one for Conrad. He just wasn't himself. He made errors totally uncharacteristic of him. I think the problem is more than age. He was never a speedster, just extremely smart and nasty tough. Something happened when Vermes took the helm as coach and Conrad was stripped of the "C" at the beginning of the 2010 campaign. Many of us figured it was Jimmy's last year as a Wizard. I am sure Conrad would admit 2010 was a season to forget, but I would like to offer a simple defense. Since Nick Garcia left three seasons ago, Conrad has been given about a dozen different partners at center back, several of them rookies. It would be very hard for any experienced center back to do well switching partners in the middle back that much. Conrad definitely has a year or two as a starter left in him, but not with Thomas or Besler as his partner. Again, on a personal note, I have met Jimmy Conrad several times and he has even participated in some ridiculous spoof videos for us when we've asked him to be a clown. He's a class guy with a real heart for the community in which he lives. I understand why Conrad was let go, although not as much as I get the Wolff move. I am disappointed our last picture of such a significant player in the KC franchise has to be Jimmy with an awkward half smile on his face being forced to model the new Sporting Kansas City jersey. Why did the Wizards brass make him do that if they knew they weren't going to bring him back? There will always be something that sets wrong with me about that night and the way Conrad looked modeling the new Sporks shirt. Best wishes to Jimmy Conrad and family as the move to California for him to play for Chivas USA.

Owens blames others? No way!


It should be no surprise that Terrell Owens is blaming the coaching staff of his latest team, the Cincinnati Bengals, for his personal failure to live up to the millions paid to him and the teams shortfall on wins. He has a 100% consistent record of said practice playing for San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, Buffalo, and Cincinnati. That's a lot of teams and coaching staffs to fault for failure in a relatively short period.

It's too bad coaches don't learn something about ubertalented, super destructive players before it's too late- what they will add to your team for a short time is WAY less than the damage they do on a team while their there and even after their gone.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The comeback starts today...




I'm pretty pumped today. My doctor allowed me to put weight on my leg again today after 4 weeks of no weight bearing. My cuts are healed up, the structure of the knee is ready for physical therapy starting tomorrow morning.

I'm ready to go. Praise God!

12 Doctrines of Christmas

Ok, this is super funny...


>


With the exception of Amillennialism and Credo-baptism, this is a solid song.


Thanks Shane!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Topeka Capital Journal: "Hunter makes his 1-Legged stand"


Right after a post about battling narcissism I'll point you to a story that is in Sunday's Topeka-Capital Journal.

The writer is Marc Murrell and he did an excellent job relaying the story. He contacted me after seeing my post on a bow hunting website where I told the story of my whirlwind 2010 bow hunting season. Click on the link to read:


I love his subtitle: A knee in need of reconstruction won't stand between a hunter and his deer-hunting passion. My wife on the other hand, thinks such a description proves I'm a psycho.

Friday, December 10, 2010

True Confession of a Narcissistically Challenged Pastor

Dear Tony,
God can use a jack ass to accomplish His will. Seriously- He can. Trust me. get over yourself!
Sincerely,
Balaam

Leaders often get blamed too much for things going poorly and praised too much for things going well. As a pastor I get a certain amount of criticism as well as praise- it comes with the calling. I suspect every pastor wrestles with how to handle criticism and praise. An article I just read on a leadership website really challenged my narcissistic tendencies.

When I am thinking straight I know any ministry effectiveness that occurs in our church or school isn't because of me. There is no example in Scripture, apart from Jesus, where a ministry leader is the reason for spiritual fruit. God uses people in leadership roles to do His will, which differs from saying that Moses was the reason Israel was redeemed from the hands of the Egyptians or Joshua was responsible for taking Canaan. Even Paul is clear about the real power behind his ministry efforts- it wasn't his skill, intelligence, or craftiness. Spiritual fruit comes from one source- the Spirit of God by the will of God made possible by the work of the Son of God. God needs no man to build His Kingdom. I am absolutely unnecessary for God to bring glory to Himself. I should get over myself and any notion that our church and school are in anyway "successful" because of me.

Despite knowing that God doesn't need me to give spiritual health and growth to Redeemer or Heritage, my flesh struggles when credit isn't given for all I've supposedly done. It's a pathetic, but an honest revelation of my sinful desire to be recognized and appreciated. Our church ministers in an "upwardly mobile" suburb possessing a culture of people who thrive on the approval of man. My people struggle with this culture as do I. Professional status is a high premium around here. I can see narcissism in others, but am loathe to admit I fit right in all too often. The article I mentioned earlier is written by a pastor that expresses the same thing I find in myself all too often. Pastor J.R. Kerr writes-

It was a silly thing to do, but I couldn't stop myself. During a "get to know you" conversation with a few acquaintances and a man from the church I serve, we were talking about interests, passions, and areas of ministry. I tried to keep the focus on others at the table. But then it happened.

The man from my church made a statement that I interpreted as making light of me. The fuse was lit, and within a few moments I managed to work into the conversation the areas where I was leading and the wide impact of those projects. I subtly reminded everyone what our church had accomplished in the city. I even managed to throw in some attendance figures for good measure. I pushed everyone else out of the conversation's spotlight.

When it was over, I felt like I had binged on junk food. Self-loathing set in: I hate when I do this, and I hate it even more when I do it as a servant of Christ. Why do I keep falling into this temptation?


I can see how God's people struggle with the approval of man and a certain amount of narcissism and I grieve for the lack of peace this brings them. Being honest, I feel it myself. May God help the pastors and people of churches in this place (and the many places like ours) to seek the glory of Christ alone.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

RPC and a Glorious Sunrise





Nathan took these beautiful pictures of Redeemer against a glorious sunrise on Sunday morning.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Why do we miss the benefit of praising God during Advent (and beyond)?

Hand it to Linus-he understood the true meaning of Christmas

I'm preaching five sermons during Advent that seek to draw our attention to some of the special callings of the season. These are callings that pertain year round for sure, but Advent and Christmas tend to evoke an openness to thinking about God's work of redemption in light of the hymns, readings, sermons, and gatherings we have. Indeed, for most Christians, Advent is a special time of the year. My sermons are focusing on this special time by suggesting five actions to exercise during Advent and Christmas. Here are the titles:

Advent is a time to Ponder
Advent is a time to Praise
Advent is a time to Party
Advent is a time to Plan
Advent is a time to Proclaim.

Tomorrow, in light of the various passages that show the spontaneous praise the birth of Christ brought. I'll attempt to show how praising God is not only our response to God's works of creation and redemption, but also what we were designed for. We are made to worship God. When we are not worshiping God or are otherwise distracted from giving praise to God, our lives will reflect an unrest and discontentment, at the very least. In short, praising and worshiping God brings Him glory, but it also brings us peace and contentment doing what we are created to do. Praising God is actually a huge benefit to us.

I have been thinking about the reasons we miss the benefit of praising God even during a season when it seems so much is geared toward outward acts of worshipping God. There might be a distraction that is pulling you away from praising God for sending Christ. To assist in praising God, here are a few possible distractions that might be hindering you right now:

A strained or broken relationship is causing unrest and unsettledness that distracts you from focusing on Christ and His gift in coming for you. If it's with your spouse or child, it's almost an all-consuming burden. If it's with a more distant relative, friend, or co-worker, whenever there's a lull in activity, your mind fixates on that damaged relationship.

An uncertain job situation is stressing you out. The economy and sense of widespread societal anxiety is in the forefront of your mind because week to week you’re not sure if you’ll keep your job. You’re stressed to a point of having difficulty thinking of God and what He has done and is doing for you.

A financial burden that consumes you and makes you anxious. A time where money has to be spent for gifts and various appeals for money in the form of offerings or bell ringers makes it tough for you to think of God’s supreme gift when you’re worried about your provisions.

A health issue has you occupied, maybe even scared. Perhaps a medical test looms and your fearful of what it will reveal. Maybe you’re in great pain and discomfort and it’s difficult to concentrate on what I’m saying let alone praise God for sending Christ to save us. Physical discomfort seems to dominate you.

A child is not walking with Christ so it makes it hard for you to think about the depth of God's love that would prompt Him to send Christ for you. You love Jesus and want your kids to love Jesus- the fact that one of them doesn’t trust Christ causes a conflict in your celebration.

Maybe, to be very frank, you're so enthralled with your children and their life and activities, that you don't have time to make a special effort to slow down and ponder all the incarnation of Jesus means. This child worship is ever present throughout the year, but all sorts of added activities during the holidays puts the squeeze on your child centered devotion and you never get to put your eyes on Christ. You're simply too busy watching and catering to junior to praise God for redemption and all his many graces to you. Oh, you're worshiping during Advent alright...just not Jesus.

Something at work or school is sucking the energy out of you. A big project is taking your spare time. A paper is due that demands a huge amount of your energy. You’re gaze is on the project or assignment- on making the grade before the deadline or semester’s end. "I’ll enjoy Christmas when this task or that assignment is done", you might think.

Maybe you’re so busy getting ready to travel, buying gifts, planning activities, going to Christmas parties, all the while maintaining your usual busy schedule, that you don’t have time to contemplate praising God for sending Christ. You’re so busy celebrating "Christmas time", that you don’t have the opportunity to actually experience what the coming of Christ means and provides.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bono: a man of thoughtful action

I am not a huge fan of post 2000 U2 but I am one who appreciates Bono (their lead singer) greatly. The man has been a solid humanitarian for the last decade like no other celebrity.

I have heard he is a Christian, but haven't seen enough said or written by him to be clear on what he believes. What cannot be denied, however, is his compassion for people with AIDS in Africa and his appreciation for what the U.S. has done to help. I'm not endorsing Bono's organization as such, because I just don't know that much about it. Nevertheless I am impressed with this interview. It depicts a thoughtful man of action.


Qatar gets the 2022 World Cup?


How ridiculous.

FIFA (international Soccer governing body) is about as legitimate as the committee that oversees the Olympics (IOC). They follow the money, that's the only explanation for awarding the biggest sporting event on the planet to Qatar. Qatar has less than 2 million people and has virtually no impact on the health and development of international soccer, apart from the money it must have paid to win this bid. Qatar has LOTS of money.

Japan, Korea, Australia, and the United States were the other contenders. While I would have loved for the U.S. to win the bid, I actually thought Australia deserved it most out of this group. It doesn't matter now, Qatar wins.

Please, for my beloved Buffalo...


For years my fellow Buffalonians and I have grieved, suffered, and endured untold psychological torture and social oppression due to our beloved sports teams. The Bills and Sabres have taken us to the brink of glory several times, only to leave us at the altar of shame and despair. To be from Buffalo is to be beat down, skeptical, battle worn, and ragged out. There are many of us who are the dispersed people of Buffalo, living across the country, who long for our home teams to bring the city pride and respect. The chuckles of mocking people when speaking of the Bills and Sabres take their toll on Buffalo's loyal population. How much can one region take? To what limit can the misery of a sports town be pressed before final darkness descends? Oh the pain...the sheer torture of it all, to be from Buffalo and love her so.

Both teams have been in need of new ownership for years.

Perhaps a light shines in a dark place? Is it possible there may be one on the horizon who can take us there? Will the immeasurable suffering of the good people of Western New York be mitigated, even stopped? Can it be that we might see an owner who will actually bring Lord Stanley to the place of ultimate appreciation.

God only knows what is in store for the Buffalo/Niagara Falls region and the well deserving fans of that beautiful, snow laden, blue collar, beef on weck eating, chicken finger sub consuming, bleu cheese drenched wing chowing, Labbatt's guzzling, Tim Horton donut pounding, irrational Democrat voting, place of my birth.

I beg Terry Pegula to buy the Sabres!!!! Please, please, please... Maybe the Bills too?