Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve 2011

I'm going to a New Year's Eve party tonight, it's an 80's theme shin-dig. Unfortunately, with it being Saturday, I can't stay till midnight. I have to preach twice in the morning and teach Sunday School.

Nevertheless, I have a cool "Old School Rapper" costume to wear. Check out the hair and a little photo editing magic. Kind of a freaky picture, don't you think?

Friday, December 30, 2011

John Owen on beholding the glory of Christ

I am preaching on the Transfiguration (Mark 9:1-13) this coming Lord's Day. There is much to say about this incredible passage, but one sure outcome is a change in our life as we "behold the glory of Christ".

I like what John Owen says in his book about beholding the glory of Christ-

"In this then, I say, we may by faith behold the glory of Christ, as we shall do it by sight hereafter. If we see no glory in it, if we discern not that which is matter of eternal admiration, we walk in darkness. It is the most ineffable effect of divine wisdom and grace. Where are our hearts and minds, if we can see no glory in it? I know in the contemplation of it, it will quickly overwhelm our reason and bring our understanding into a loss; but to this loss I desire to be brought every day; for when faith can no more act itself in comprehension, when it finds the object it is fixed on too great and glorious to be brought into our minds and capacities, it will issue in holy admiration, humble adoration, and joyful thanksgiving. In and by its actings in them it fills the soul with 'joy unspeakable, and full of glory'."

Catch it Rover!

A little dog humor to close out the year...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Blue Moon in Dad's honor

Dad sharing his "special" egg nog with Shari

Eating Mom's lasagna on Christmas Eve

Our Christmas Eve traditions have stayed the same as long as I can remember.

Our day is ordered around being together as a family, eating, going to church, reading the Christmas story,opening presents, and reminiscing.

For years our Christmas Eve has looked basically the same.

For dinner, we have Mom's lasagna accompanied by meatballs and spare ribs cooked in the sauce. Almost as regular as the components of the meal was my Dad's overly dramatic praise of Mom's lasagna.

For treats we have Christmas cookies, shrimp, little smokies, and chestnuts. We'll have a couple versions of eggnog- the normal kind, and the alcoholic version my Dad concocted.

Some years we open presents before the Christmas Eve service, sometimes after. Before opening presents, I read the Christmas story. One of the blessings of this tradition is the day one of our children first read the story instead of me. The boys do their best to stay patient before getting their gifts as we always go oldest to youngest. In embellished fashion, Dad would rave about whatever gift we got him. Shari and I always have a spending limit for each other, and I always go way over it for her. Not because I'm some great husband, but because she deserves all the gifts I could give her and way more. She really likes surprises, so getting her gifts is fun.

The Christmas Eve service is a favorite of ours. I don't get to sit with my family, but I do enjoy looking at them sitting in the second row on the left as we sing the hymns and hear the Scripture read. When we do the candle lighting, I go to them first with my candle.

After the service, back at home, as we are all unwinding, Dad and I would drink a beer and eat some chestnuts. We all got a kick out of Dad and chestnuts. He was too cheap to pay for good ones so he'd buy the older ones. Without fail, half or more of the chestnuts would be rotten. He'd grumble about how you can't get good chestnuts. My mother would then remind him he got what he paid for. The beer covered the bad tasting chestnuts and we'd keep on eating just biting off the good part on the rotten ones.

I have never taken such days and occasions for granted, but it sort of feels like I have this year.

This year's dinner table had an empty seat. Dad is gone.

Mom's lasagna, meatballs, and spare ribs were as tasty as ever, but no embellished praise from Dad came forth. We opened gifts and enjoyed the generosity and surprises shared with each other, but no Dad sitting in one of the Lazy Boy's acting like the gift he just got would change his life. No egg nog this year. I'm not even sure what Dad used to put in the alcoholic variety. No chestnuts, too expensive (father like son) and it wouldn't be the same without Dad murmuring over the rotten ones. The service was beautiful and meaningful for sure, but no Dad sitting in the second pew anymore.

We were all a bit melancholy today, even the children. We all miss Pepa. At the same time, we can't imagine how much worse we would feel if it would always be like this. In this life the pain will grow duller each year, I suppose. But praise be to God for the life to come because of Christ!

So, as I finish this post I am drinking a Blue Moon in Dad's honor (he would be carrying on about my expensive taste in beer) and thinking of how much death sucks, how much I miss him, and how grateful I am for eternal life in Christ.

This pain is temporary, I know.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Favorite Christmas Movie lines

Here are some of my favorite lines from famous Christmas movies. See if you can name what movie they're from without using Google (or any other search engine)-

1. "What else can I be when I live in a world full of fools babbling "Merry Christmas" at one another? What's Christmas but a time for finding yourself a year older and not a day richer? There's nothing merry in that. If I could work my will, nephew, every idiot who goes about with "Merry Christmas" on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart."

2. "Oh no! It was a classic, mother BB-gun block. "You'll shoot your eye out!" That deadly phrase honored many times by hundreds of mothers was not surmountable by any means known to Kid-dom, but such as my mania, my desire for a Red Ryder carbine, that I immediately began to rebuild the dike."

3. "Rats. Nobody sent me a Christmas card today. I almost wish there weren't a holiday season. I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?"

4. "He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then he thought of something he hadn't before. Maybe Christmas, he thought... doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps... means a little bit more!"

And for no extra charge:

5. "I took a shower washing every body part with actual soap; including all my major crevices; including inbetween my toes and in my belly button, which I never did before but sort of enjoyed. I washed my hair with adult formula shampoo and used cream rinse for that just-washed shine. I can't seem to find my toothbrush, so I'll pick one up when I go out today. Other than that, I'm in good shape."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Handel's masterful "text painting" of 1 Corinthians 15:21-22

George Handel was one of the great "text painters" of all time. He masterfully crafted music to match the message of a given text. Several great examples of his text painting occur in Messiah as he sets Scripture to music.

My favorite might be the second song in the final part of Messiah, where we are reminded of the reality and grief of physical death. It's called "Since by man came death". There is a very dark, somber, first phrase sung to communicate the despair of our inevitable date with physical death because of Adam's sin and our inheritance of his curse. Then, in sharp contrast, there is a bright, victorious declaration of the final resurrection that will occur for all those in Christ.

Here are the words, listen to the song as you read (the first part is very soft, so listen carefully):

Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

Losing my father six months ago continues to sting. The thought of a loved one dying-even one who was a Christian and now with Christ- brings continued sadness. This song really captures how I feel (dare I say!). It is somber and depressing when declaring the reality of death because of sin. Death is because of sin, it's an aberration. The thought of my father's death will always bring a sense of pain. However, the truth of Scripture witnessing to the fact of Christ's resurrection means this pain will not last forever. It will not even last long (relatively). There will be a final resurrection for all. Those who are "in Christ" will be joyously and gloriously reunited with each other to bring praise to God.

This short song captures the truth of Scripture and has served to comfort me.

Friday, December 16, 2011

2011 Turkey Bow Kill

I'm still hunting deer as the archery season in Kansas runs until December 31.

I have seen hundreds of deer this season, many have been in shooting distance. I'm holding out for a mature buck, preferably over 4 years old. This whole season I have only seen one that ancient six-point that looked to be declined (past his prime, hence only 6 points). I missed him at what I thought was 40 yards. He turned out to be 30 yards, so I shot over him. Otherwise, I have just not seen a mature buck worthy of harvesting. I still have deer meat in my freezer and my son Nico took a doe with his rifle, so I'm not looking to take a doe right now (my tune might change as the 31st approaches).

So, this morning, while buck hunting, a group of gobblers came in range. I shot this one at 41 yards. He's a nice Tom, 8-inch beard with close to 1-inch spurs. I have his breast meat marinating in Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce as I post this.

This is the first gobbler I have ever harvested with my bow.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

No Sushi for me

I have several friends who consistently try to have me try Sushi.

Eating raw fish has never been appealing to me in the least.

This clip sealed the deal for me.


Buffalo Boy Kane scores a dandy

I can't stand penalty shoot-out's as a way to determine a winner in hockey, but this goal by Buffalo boy, Patrick Kane, sure is a dandy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Money does strange things to our perspective

Albert Pujols spent ten incredible and productive years playing for St. Louis. While in St. Louis, he and his wife contributed to many excellent charities and institutions, several being Christian. There can be no question about the great good done through the Pujols involvement in worthy organizations.

Despite their investment in the St.Louis community and the several ministries they supported, when the Los Angeles Angels offered Pujols a bigger and longer contract than St. Louis, he bolted.

Fine. That's his choice. Surely he'll always be relatively generous no matter where he lives. However...leaving the Cards for the Angels seems like its all about money and ego. I said as much on Facebook and had several Christians rip me for questioning his motives. Now, to be clear- I'm a Yankee fan and don't have a "dog in the race" regarding where Pujols ended up (well, I guess I do now..since he'll be playing for the Angels in the AL), so my comments here are only observational about a player that is often beatified in the Christian community.

Initially I accepted the criticism about questioning Sir Albert's motives. Now I don't.

More details have come out. Initially Pujols was offered a 5-year contract by the Cardinals with a slightly greater annual salary then the Angels are now going to pay him. They eventually upped their offer to ten years, $210 million dollars which is $4 million per year less than the Angels offer. Mrs. Pujols got on a local Christian radio station in St. Louis (which the Pujols apparently funded the creation of) and said some revealing things. Notice what she says-

"When it all came down, I was mad. I was mad at God because I felt like all the signs that had been being played out through the baseball field, our foundation, our restaurant, the Down Syndrome Center, my relationships, my home, my family close...I mean, we had no reason, not one reason, to want to leave. People were deceived by the numbers." (See all of her comments here)

Seriously? All those incredible, eternal things they were part of in St. Louis were threatened because St. Louis wouldn't give Pujols a ten year contract? Mad at God for this? Honestly, how can it be said that money isn't the key driver here? Mrs. Pujols statements seem so warped. God has been using them in St. Louis far beyond baseball. He could have signed the biggest contract in MLB for the next 5 years, but instead they were insulted that it wasn't for longer. I see this is telling and sad.

Sorry if I'm being too hardcore on this. Furthermore, I'm not suggesting Albert Pujols is the only one who struggles with materialism and egoism. I'm a chief offender myself. This story grates on me because of the way Mrs. Pujols makes it seem like St. Louis some how forced them out. It's like they wanted to stay, but just couldn't for the measly $130 million the Cards were offering.

Sports are so much fun to watch, but money has screwed people up bad, even "good" people. Perhaps the statement that irked me most from the beleaguered and insulted Mrs. Pujols -"It's just like put us on a team called the Angels."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Peden on the Covenant of Redemption

This is some deep stuff from Alexander Peden (an interesting character for sure), and extremely rich-

BE it known to all men, that, in the presence of the Ancient of Days, it was finally contracted, and unanimously agreed, betwixt these honourable and royal persons in the God-head, to wit, the great and infinite Lord of Heaven and earth, on the one side; and Jesus Christ, God-man, his eternal and undoubted heir, on the other side, in manner, form and effect, as follows; That forasmuch as the Lord Jesus Christ is content and obliges himself to become surety, and to fulfil the whole law; and that he shall suffer and become an offering for sin, and take the guiding [management] of all the children of God on him, and make them perfect in every good word and work; and that of his fulness they shall all receive grace for grace; and also present them, man, wife and bairns, on Heaven's floor, and lose none of them; and that he shall raise them up at the last day, and come in on Heaven's floor with all the bairns at his back: therefore, the noble Lord of Heaven and earth, on the other side, binds and obliges himself to Christ, to send all the Elect into the world, and to deliver them all fairly to Christ; and also to give him a body, flesh of their flesh and bone of their bone; and to carry Christ through in all his undertaking in that work, and to hold him by the hand: and also, let the Holy Ghost, who is our equal, go forth into the world, that he may be sharer in this great work, and also of the glory of this noble contrivance; and let him enlighten the minds of all those whom we have chosen out of the world, in the knowledge of our name; and to convince them of their lost state; and perswade and enable them to embrace and accept of his free love offer; and to support and comfort them in all their trials and tribulations, especially these for our name's sake; and to sanctifie them, soul and body, and make them fit for serving us, and dwelling with us, and singing forth the praises of the riches of our free grace in this noble contrivance, for ever and ever. Likewise, the same noble Lord of Heaven and earth doth fully covenant grace and glory, and all good things, to as many as shall be perswaded and enabled to accept and embrace you, as their Lord, King and God: and moreover, he allows the said Jesus Christ to make proclamations by his servants, to the world in his name, that all that will come and engage under his colours, he shall give them noble pay in hand for the present, and a rich inheritance for ever; with certification, that all those who will not accept of this offer, for the same cause, shall be guilty and eternally condemned from our presence, and tormented with these devils, whom we cast out from us, for their pride and rebellion, for the glory of our justice, through eternity.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Nico is very thankful and so am I

Nine years ago yesterday (December 9), I shot my first good buck with my father by my side. It's one of my most cherished memories.

I have taken my oldest son, A.J., deer hunting a couple times, both times he shot deer. It came pretty easy for him, as "luck" would have it.

My middle son, Nico, has shown the most interest in hunting as he really enjoys shooting a rifle (natural maturity will eventually take him to bow hunting). When he turned 9 last year, he was primed to go on his first deer hunt, but I wrecked my knee and couldn't walk without crutches during rifle season. We tried to hunt a few times by having friends drive us to spots and me crutching my way to a place I thought Nico could shoot a deer. Nothing worked out, we saw nothing the three times we went out in frigid temps. He was bummed and so was I.

This year has been so busy for both of us, I couldn't figure a good time to take him hunting during the 10 day Kansas rifle season. I negotiated with my helpmate to take him out of school the second day of the season so we could hunt all day. Well, we didn't see any deer within range. He was really deflated and so was I.

With the end of the season tomorrow, a day we don't hunt, it had to be today.

A good friend was taking his son hunting this morning and asked me a while back if I wanted to take Nico to the same place. He has a great hunting spot he works very hard to manage. It was a big privilege for him to ask us. Nico was stoked and so was I. We gathered our gear and headed to our spots so Nico could take a crack at shooting his first deer. From the picture above, you know Nico was successful. Now for the crazy story:

We were sitting in a blind waiting for a deer to pass through an opening, which happened about 8:15 am. Nico calmly shouldered his gun and listened to my instructions to stay calm and breathe carefully. It was a very good 3.5 year old ten-point buck. Talk about a first deer to shoot! Crazy. Anyways, the deer got closer and closer to our set up. At 90 yards I told Nico to be ready to shoot. The deer stopped broadside, and I gave Nico the go ahead to squeeze the trigger having just taken it off safety. Nico takes his time like an old pro, controls his breathing, and centers the cross hairs just behind the deer's shoulder. He pulls the trigger...and....CLICK!. The gun misfired!!! More accurately, the round in the chamber must have had a faulty primer as the hammer hit the primer, left an indentation, but didn't discharge!! I was TICKED. Poor Nico! We quick reloaded another round (it's a single-shot .243) but it was too late...the buck moved away quickly when he could tell something wasn't right in our direction. Man was I mad at the gun and the ammo!! Well, I just so happened to have brought my rifle with me. If Nico was able to harvest a deer early, our plan was to stay in the blind for me to try and take a deer. My gun is a .308 and pretty heavy. Nico is 10 and about 80 pounds. It's a bit too much gun for him, but I was not going to let him shoot his gun again should another deer present a shot. So I gave him my .308 and convinced him it wasn't much different than his .243. I could tell he was skeptical, but he, like me, was very leery of his gun. Nico was ticked and so was I!

The clock struck 9:30 AM and our friends came down the road, not far from our set up, to pick us up. We were bummed by what had transpired and my friend sympathized with us both. Still, Nico's spirits remained high having seen lots of deer that morning, especially the very respectable ten point. We needed to head back home, the 2011 gun season was effectively over for Nico...

Just then, our friend decided to drive us around his land to show how it was laid out and what he was doing to manage it for wildlife. At one point, from a distance, we could see does at the corner of an open field that tucked in to very thick, nasty, woodlot. My friend suggested we try and stalk down there and wait for a doe to step in to Nico's comfortable range. We did what he said, as he drove off leaving us there. Low and behold, eventually a good mature, fat doe stepped in to the little dirt road in front of us and Nico laid the smack down on her with my .308. It was 130 yard shot with a gun he had never held before that day. Nico thought it was cool and so did I!

So, almost to the day of the 9 year anniversary of a great hunt with my Dad, I was able to have an incredibly memorable hunt with one of my sons. Nico was very thankful for the morning and so was I.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

We must never forget

Today marks 70 years since the Japanese brutally attacked Pearl Harbor making it necessary for the U.S. to enter World War II.

The loss of life in World War II is estimated to be 50-60 million. An unfathomable number.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Handel's Disaster

I can't imagine a good reason to perform Handel's Messiah as a drama.

Here's proof-

Thursday, December 1, 2011

THE WAR gets 5 stars from Reep

When I was on study sabbatical a couple summer's ago, I picked up a used book on CD at the library. It was Ken Burns' "The War", his documentary of World War II. I never listened to it and it sat in my truck door compartment until a few weeks ago. On one of my many 90-minute trips to my favorite hunting location, I started listening to the book (8 CD's total). It is a riveting documentary. I wish I would have listened to it earlier and had my Dad listen also. He was a pretty big war buff. He would tell you that World War II was the last "necessary" war the U.S. fought. He was a veteran of the Korean War, which colored his outlook on how the U.S. Military should be used. There appears to have been an incredible unity among U.S. citizens concerning the necessity of being part of World War II, a kind of national one-mindedness seemingly long gone in our country.

As for dropping the bombs on Japan? Even Burns, the liberal political activist, seems to admit there was no real choice. The Japanese Emperor would have fought until every Japanese citizen was dead and a million allied troops with them. War is hell, no doubt.

World War II was complex, to say the least, but I think Burns does a good job simplifying the story without leaving out anything major. I quibble with some of his characterizations of allied commanders, but not majorly. Burns is of a different ideological stripe than I, and I think his lack of mentioning the role Christianity played in 1940's American culture is a poor oversight. Still, I highly recommend both his book on CD and the actual PBS documentary, which I just picked up for $20 on Ebay!! Total steal.

There are relatively few WWII vets still living. Within the next 10 years they'll probably all be gone. This documentary gave me a greater appreciation for our country and the brave people who have defended and preserved it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

David Calhoun Schaeffer interview

There's some guys at our church have come to be known as the "Schaeffer Boys".

See their website here.

Dr. David Calhoun, emeritus professor of Church History at Covenant Seminary recently preached and taught at Redeemer and the Schaeffer Boys interviewed him about his personal time with Schaeffer as well as thoughts about him.

It's a great interview.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

"Black Friday"

The Friday after Thanksgiving has come to be known as "Black Friday". On this day, most major retailers open extremely early, some as early as Midnight on Thursday or as early as 4 a.m. Friday morning. These same stores supposedly offer "great" deals on Black Friday.

Personally, the concept of Black Friday is both telling and distressing. The United States economy is based on consumption...probably more accurately- over consumption. We don't produce a whole lot any more, we just consume the world's products, in massive quantities. It's what keeps money changing hands. Black Friday shows how much we need to have our stuff, and right now.

Do we really need a special dispensation of time to buy more stuff a few hours earlier than usual? Give me a break.

Yesterday's "Black Friday" was highlighted by some crazy dude who pepper sprayed people waiting in line with him to buy stuff. Stories like this emerge every year. The video clips of hundreds of people packing the entrance of Target, or some other store, to buy more junk is pathetic.

Bluntly, I am embarrassed for my country, which is hopelessly in debt and generally given over to materialism and over consumption, when the "Black Friday" images parallel third world country villagers lining up at a humanitarian aid truck...only they are at Best Buy and Walmart.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Johnny Cash revelations from his son

I've always been appreciative of Johnny Cash, the man, and his music.

His son has recently penned a tribute to him, here's a couple excerpts I found enlightening-

I think a lot of people see him as a dark foreboding figure, and very cool. He was always cool, his charisma was powerful, but he was also a very gentle, loving, kind man. He was more focused on spiritual matters than I think a lot of people realize. His faith was paramount to him throughout his whole life, even when he was suffering from addiction, and what pulled him out when he was sick. He was not just a songwriter. He was a painter, a sketcher, a poet. He was a scholar; he studied the Bible more than anything.

The thing that mattered the most in his life was his relationship with his creator. He was educated and knew about it. He couldn’t have dealt with his addictions without it. That’s how he found redemption and peace, through prayer and connection to God.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Happy Birthday Jordan!

On this day, nine years ago, my youngest boy was born.

Here's my words of blessing to Jordy (from Psalm 127)-

Dearest Son,

The LORD will keep you from all harm— He will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Lifecycle of Pastors (personally considered)

Around 1998, about a year after coming to Redeemer

Our first sanctuary on the current property, the former Ogg residence converted in to a sanctuary (1996-2000), we still use it for our offices and youth area

I have been a pastor at Redeemer for almost 15 years. This month marks my tenth year as senior pastor. I can't believe how fast these years have passed. I am blessed to serve such a wonderful church.

I love ministry at Redeemer for a plethora of reasons, but first and foremost is the collective leadership commitment to the Doctrines of Grace and holding me accountable to preach God's Word.

Providentially, Thom Rainer just wrote an interesting post on the life cycle of pastors. I found it to be pretty close to my experience. I will paste his post below and offer my specific observations in yellow.

Almost twenty years ago, I began to note that the tenure of a pastor often follows a predictable pattern. Now, almost two decades later, I still see many of the same patterns, though I have refined the categories and time spans a bit.

I fully understand that these categories are not definitive, and there will certainly be exceptions to the rule. Nevertheless, I offer this lifecycle as a guide that I hope will prove useful to both pastors and congregations alike.

Honeymoon: Years 0 to 1

The new pastor is perceived to be the answer to all the needs and the problems of the church. He is often viewed as a hero because he is not his predecessor. Though some of his faults begin to show during this period, he is often given a pass. Expectations are high that he will be molded into the image that each congregant would like to have.

My transition to senior pastor from associate pastor was gradual as my predecessor left abruptly and I wasn't a candidate at first. In fact, I had informally started the process of considering other calls to solo pastor positions that were available. I agreed to stay on at Redeemer as the interim until they found a permanent senior pastor. I was 29 and not really ready to lead the church. Nevertheless, over a six-month period as interim, my heart and the Elder's hearts and thoughts changed and I became a candidate. In November of 2001 I was installed as the senior pastor and I did enjoy a little bit of a honeymoon, I suppose. My faults were pretty well known by this time as I had already served as an assistant/associate pastor for four years. I find it amazing they still called me to be the pastor.

Crisis: Years 1 to 3

It is now apparent that the pastor is fully human. He has not lived up to the precise expectations of many of the members. This phase includes a number of conflicts and struggles. Indeed it is the most common time that pastors choose to leave the church or they are force terminated. This single epoch of a pastoral tenure contributes more to short tenures than any other time.

I had very strong elders (and still do) who supported me and held me accountable. We (as a church) did have quite a few struggles in these years, some personal conflicts, others related to growing pains and the need for more leadership development. It seemed like every month we had a huge decision to make. The church started a school the year before I arrived as assistant pastor in 1997, so there was a heavy sense of responsibility about all the church was doing, yet we were still a pretty small church. Honestly, it was way too busy during these years to think about greener pastures. Early in to my first year, Nathan Currey came to be our assistant pastor which greatly helped us move through this epoch. Nathan was able to minister to people I am not as effective with (and he still is).

Realignment: Years 3 to 5

The number of crises begins to abate, though they do not disappear altogether. It is at this time that more and more new members come under the tenure of the new pastor. Some of the dissidents have left the church or the community. There is a realignment of loyalty and expectations of the pastor. Thus he is able to lead more effectively, and began to see some more productive years as pastor of the church.

I don't seems like there are always crises going on in church life, but I do think our overall leadership matured enough to navigate such challenges more wisely. Redeemer grew to a point of needing more space. With the concurrent growth of our school, we struggled to decide whether to build a sanctuary (we were in a "multipurpose" room that was needed for classroom expansion) or use the school gym for a while longer. I definitely felt many strains during this time frame and a heavy burden about all we were taking on weighed on me. I must say, however, I never felt alone at any time. Pastor Nathan, the Elders, and the Deacons shouldered much of the stress with me. I very much appreciate some of our more experienced elders constantly keeping us focused on prayer and consideration of God's Word in all our endeavors.

Growth: Years 5 to 10

Not all pastors have productive and joyous ministries in this period, but many do. It is not unusual for the congregation to begin to appreciate the pastor more and to follow his leadership with greater enthusiasm. Many of the battles have already been fought; and many of the conflicts have been resolved. The pastor and the entire congregation are ready to move forward in more productive ministry for the glory of God.

The beginning of this epoch was marked by the opening of our new sanctuary. The church grew quite a bit after the sanctuary was built, but still not exponentially. Redeemer isn't any kind of mega church. You might say we're the anti-mega church. At the same time, for a Reformed church with a liturgical worship style, we're probably pretty sizable. Pastor Brian came during this time frame giving us three ordained pastors. Our Session added a few more elders and the Diaconate grew as well. Our school expanded which called for quite a bit of pastoral involvement. Our school (Heritage Christian Academy) is a major ministry of the church- something built in to the DNA of Redeemer by the founding members and pastor), so our leadership is very much involved. With the church and school growing, this period has been much like Rainer describes. I do feel the congregation appreciates me, probably more than they should. There have certainly been people who have come and gone that found my ministry to them ineffective, which hurts to think about, but is reality. I think the diversity of pastoral leadership we have helps us minister to a wide range of people. If it were just me, there's no way Redeemer would be as effective as it is. Don't get me wrong, we have much to learn and many areas to improve, but the leadership is genuinely sensitive to this and always analyzing, thinking, and praying about being better shepherds. I guess a recurring theme for me at Redeemer is shared leadership with my fellow elders. That's why I have been here ten years (ten as senior pastor, 14 years total) and still love it.

Mystery: Years 10 and Beyond

There are relatively few pastors and congregations that continue their relationships beyond a period of one decade. Thus any perspective I have of long-term pastorates is inconclusive and limited. I am confident, however, that if we see more and more pastors entering their tenth year of ministry and beyond, we will see more productive and fruitful ministries in local churches across the nation.

I was kind of shocked by how infrequently pastors stay at a church for ten years. These ten years have ripped by for Shari and I. I presume nothing and know things can change quickly in church life, but I do feel like ministry is fruitful for me at Redeemer. Financial challenges have been taxing, but all churches are dealing with that these days. Even on that front I feel confident the people of God at Redeemer will answer the needs that arise in this arena and the leadership is doing a very responsible job stewarding the ministry. I can tell you honestly that any thought of Redeemer being a fruitful ministry never comes as a solo consideration. Our church is shepherded by twelve elders, not just one senior pastor. If God chooses to keep using Redeemer for His glory and the good of His people, it will be through the collection of shepherds He has appointed here, not because of me. That's why I love it here so much. That's why I can't imagine being anywhere else at this point in my life.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Jesus takes sinners by the hand...

Commenting on Jesus taking the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26) by the hand before restoring his sight, John Gill wrote-

When the Lord Jesus takes sinners by the hand, he becomes their guide and leader. A better, and safer guide they cannot have. He brings them by a way they know not, and leads them in paths they had not known before; makes darkness light before them, and crooked things straight, and does not forsake them.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

All 202 Messi goals

We may well be witnessing the greatest soccer player in history.

Lionel Messi is not yet 25 and has already scored 202 goals for Barcelona.

Kent Hughes on asking God for spiritual growth

We may and must ask for spiritual growth. But we must not lay down guidelines as to how God ought to produce this. We must not, for example, ask God to develop our spiritual lives, and then when he pulls out the shears and begins to prune say, "No, Lord, you can't do it that way!" Do not ask the Lord to make you sensitive to others, and then resent the difficult person who crosses your life at work or in the Church. God often circumvents a proud, presumptuous spirit, whereas spiritual grace may be mediated by a friendship, a discipline, or a hardship.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The time has come...

I haven't been able to post as much lately because of a torrid Fall schedule...more so than any year I remember. I'll be posting more now that the varsity soccer season is over. Of course...I will be taking two weeks vacation (plus an assortment of mornings) to engage in my favorite pastime.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Reformation Day!

I wish the Reformation of the 16th Century had not been necessary...but it was.

Here's a great depiction of Martin Luther's stand at Worms-

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tell Everyone

Notice how Jesus instructs some of the recipients of miraculous healing-

Mark 1:40-45 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

Mark 5:39-43 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Mark 7:33-36 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.

I am struck by something. In certain situations Jesus instructs people to tell no one about His miraculous works, yet they told everyone. He tells us to tell everyone, yet all too often, we tell no one.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs

As everyone knows (unless you've been on a Dell computer that crashed about this time yesterday and haven't gotten outside yet), Steve Jobs died yesterday after a lengthy battle against cancer. I suspect he lived quite a bit longer than someone without money would have. Nevertheless, as it goes with everyone, death eventually caught him.

Jobs was a genius, gifted by God with a mind that thinks on another plane from the vast majority of the human race. Apple will not be the same without him, everyone knows it. One of my biggest regrets is not switching to Apple computers five years ago. Jobs' Apple team make the best technological gadgets in the world, at least for now.

One of my favorite Steve Jobs quotations came when he responded to someone asking about his perspective on Microsoft's success-

"I am saddened, not by Microsoft’s success - I have no problem with their success. They’ve earned their success, for the most part. I have a problem with the fact that they just make really third-rate products.”

If you have used Microsoft products, then tried an Apple product, any product- you know Jobs spoke the truth here.

Jobs spoke a lot about death and the important things in life. He seemed to understand how fleeting life is and had an incredibly down to earth perspective for a guy who thinks on another level from most. I find it so sad that a man like Jobs never publicly came to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ. Unless something changed in the last few months, Jobs died an unbeliever. It's one of the stranger ironies of human life- how God can use a person to make incredible discoveries and advancements that benefit millions- yet that person doesn't acknowledge the Creator.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Much like Mr. Badman?

Perusing Pilgrim's Progress recently, I came across Bunyan's description of Mr. Badman and couldn't help think of how similar it is to many professing Christians today-

Mr. Badman..."whose religion hangs by in his house as his cloak does, and he is seldom in it except he be abroad..."

Friday, September 23, 2011


I am utterly underwhelmed with the current cast of presidential wanna-be's.

There is a rumbling from the East that there may be one worthy...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Great Post on Parenting

Justin Taylor's blog referred to an excellent post on the blindspots of homeschoolers by Rob Bradley.

As I read the article, I realized Bradley's wisdom was applicable to any and all Christian parents. I was especially struck by this statement:

I once believed and taught that a parent could follow the right biblical steps and be assured of raising children who remained faithful to God from childhood into their adult years. In fact, as a parent of young children I judged as a failure any parent whose young adult children were prodigal. However, as my own children aged and I discovered that they were self-determining individuals with their own walks with Christ, I came to the alarming realization that I had a lot of control over their outside, but not their inside. They were like all people who were faced with the choice of whether or not they were going to listen to Christ and follow him. As Christians we all encounter opportunities many times in our lives – to choose to follow Christ or not. It was a rude awakening for me when I saw that even the best parenting could not exempt a person from making the wrong choice when faced with temptation. I do believe that by our influence we can greatly increase the likelihood our children will love and follow Christ, but I see nothing in Scripture that guarantees well-trained children will never succumb to temptation.

Consider the parable of the Prodigal Son – the righteous father raised two sons who turned out sinful – one went deep into sin and then repented – the other stayed home obediently, yet was polluted with self-righteousness and bitterness. Could the Father take blame or the credit for their sinful choices? Not at all, for the story is about God the Father Himself – it is a lesson about His mercy to His children when they fail. May we learn from God’s example!

As usual, by posting a reference and link to this post I'm not giving everything Bradley says my full endorsement. I do think, however, the majority of what he says is helpful, biblical, and worthy of any Christian parent's careful consideration.

Being a Christian "hipster"

I'm always looking for ways to be a cooler pastor. This short video really helped! Off to get my Hebrew tat!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The U.S. Debt problem in terms we can all understand

President Obama gave his big speech on his plan for creating more jobs. As one would expect, he wants to print and spend billions more to create jobs.

It's amazing anyone takes him seriously.

I saw a good illustration of how bad our debt problem is in this country-

• U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
• Fed budget: $3,820,000,000,000
• New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000
• National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
• Recent budget cut: $ 38,500,000,000

Now let’s remove 8 zeros and pretend it’s a household budget.

• Annual family income: $21,700
• Money the family spent: $38,200
• New debt on the credit card: $16,500
• Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
• Total budget cuts: $385

Sure, take on more debt- makes a lot of sense.

Monday, September 5, 2011

HCA Varsity Soccer Braveheart training session

I coach the Heritage varsity soccer team with my trusty assistant, Brian.

We had a Labor Day practice this morning and captured a cool Braveheart like video of the guys running a "hill" from the pond to the field.

Our season starts tomorrow vs. St. Mary's.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Let Thy Will be Done

There is a great mystery concerning providence and God's will regarding our suffering. I like how Columbiere advises we deal with adverse circumstances that confront us-

Every morning as soon as you get up think of all the most disagreeable things that could happen to you during the day. Your house might be burnt down, you might lose your job or all your savings, or be run over, or sudden death might come to you or to a person you love. Accept these misfortunes should it please God to allow them; compel your will to agree to the sacrifice and give yourself no rest until you really feel prepared to wish or not to wish all that God may wish or not wish.

Finally, if some great misfortune should actually happen, instead of wasting time in complaint or self-pity, go throw yourself at once at the feet of your Savior and implore His grace to bear your trial with fortitude and patience. A man who has been badly wounded does not, if he is wise, chase after his assailant, but makes straight for a doctor who may save his life. Even if you wanted to confront the person responsible for your misfortune, it would still be to God you would have to go, for there can be no other cause of it than He.

So go to God, but go at once, go there and then. Let this be your first thought. Go and report to Him what He has done to you. Kiss the hands of God crucified for you, the hands that have struck you and caused you to suffer. Repeat over and over again to Him His own words to His Father while He was suffering: Not my will but thine be done. In all that Thou wishest of me, today and for always, in heaven and on earth, let Thy will be done, but let it be done on earth as it is done in heaven.

- Claude de la Columbière

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dad's Cucuzza's

When my father died on Monday, May 16, his younger brother, Charlie and wife Mary Ann left Buffalo immediately to be present for the visitation on that Thursday night and memorial service Friday morning.

My father's death left only two siblings of twelve- Charlie and Steve. Steve just passed 90 years old and not well enough physically to travel.

It was a very difficult trip for my uncle to make, saying goodbye to his older brother. When my father was laid off by Conrail (railroad) in the early 1980's, Uncle Charlie used his position at the Courier Express (one of the two Buffalo area newspapers at the time) to get my Dad a job. My father was always grateful for his kid brother getting him that job. It's the job he kept until moving to Kansas City five years ago. Despite the distance after my parents moved to Kansas City, it seemed Dad and Charlie were as close as ever by phone and occasional visits my Dad would make to Buffalo. To make matters more challenging, Uncle Charlie and Aunt Mary Ann were planning to come to Kansas City in June to take a Branson trip with my parents. Unfortunately, instead, they were coming a month earlier for a funeral. It was a very tough time for all of us, especially Uncle Charlie.

There's a neat story- another tale of God's providential kindness- I want to relay regarding my Uncle Charlie's visit in May and the pictures you see above.

When Uncle Charlie got to Olathe on May 18, I took him to see my Dad's house. Charlie was most interested in seeing Dad's garden. Gardening is in the blood of any self-respecting Sicilian, and there's great pride and joy connected to crazy vegetables that are passed between each other. My father didn't buy too many tomato plants, for instance. Instead, he had a particular group of tomato breeds he really liked. He would keep seeds and grow them year after year. My father finished planting about half his garden just a couple days before he went in to the hospital. I showed Uncle Charlie the various hanging tomato plants, the elaborate tomato cages to keep out squirrels, and several elevated wooden box structures used for eggplants and radishes. Viewing these things was a sort of link with my Dad, something Charlie needed to do as part of his mourning.

During my Dad's last couple years in Buffalo he started growing a long squash-like vegetable called a "cucuzza". He remembered eating them in soup as a child, so he grew them and gave them away to friends and relatives. When he came to Kansas he couldn't find any cucuzza seeds, but he kept looking. In late April he went to a market that had all sorts of odd vegetables so he asked the Mexican lady who was running the seed section if they had any cucuzza's. He was pretty sure she would have no idea what he was asking for, but instead, to his surprise, she knew the vegetable exactly. She got a packet and put about 20 seeds in for my Dad. He took them home and put them on his work bench in the garage. He never got to plant them.

So there I was with Uncle Charlie looking around the garage after viewing the garden. It was a somber, strange time for us both-seeing Dad's stuff just laying there as he last left it. It was weird as a son and surreal for a brother. Out of the blue Charlie talked about Dad telling him of finding and buying some cucuzza seeds. I was pretty sure Dad hadn't planted them before going in to the hospital. I glanced over Dad's cluttered work bench and saw the packet. On the front, in Dad's handwriting, underlined, and in all caps, it said "CUCUZZA". I grabbed the packet and told Uncle Charlie he needed to take them back to Buffalo and grow them. In a time of deep grief, this little action seemed to give some peace. In a way it was symbolic of how my Dad's life bore fruit in the people he knew and effected. Planting those seeds was sort of like a way of carrying on my Dad's memory . It was therapeutic for Charlie, I am sure. It was for me too.

Well, my Aunt Mary Ann just sent the above pictures of my dear Uncle Charlie, my Dad's baby brother, with the cucuzza's that came from my father's seeds. We all miss Dad, but these cucuzza's are a reminder of how a person's life bears fruit long after they are gone.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Memorial Stone for Dad

A very strange pendulum swing in emotions from yesterday to today.

From laughing and joking about my 40th birthday back to the reality of my father's death three months ago.

We had hoped to be celebrating his 80th along with my 40th, but it was not to be-for me anyways. My father has already begun his eternal celebration.

My mother had this memorial stone designed. I think she did very well. I love how Redeemer is in the background.

Creepiest birthday present ever

Leave it to Brian and Jon to give me the creepiest birthday gift ever.

Bobble Head Tony....yes, on a toilet (don't ask me and don't shoot the messenger).

The inaccuracy of the bobble head is obvious- I don't have a black computer.

Thanks Brian and Jon?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Turned 40 today- Aging is a strange thing

Since I have been at Redeemer I have crossed a few significant age thresholds- first age 25 (the youth called me a “geezer” at that point), then 30 (that was a hard one), and now, most recently I turned 40. Aging is a strange thing.

When you are very young growing up is all you want to do. You want to be old enough to call your own shots and get your own stuff. Then, when you get older, the previously unknown weight of the new responsibilities seem to squelch the novel joy of driving a car, staying out later, and having a job. The job at McDonald’s or cutting lawns tends to get old (especially when most of the money earned pays for gas and insurance) and you realize the need for more education or training. You enter a period of relative poverty while taking lots of classes and hoping there will be a job out there for you when you finally finish school. Age 20 into your mid 20‘s feel like you’re scurrying around trying to finish school, establish a job or gain a clear direction on what you should do for the rest of your life. Your 20’s are prime years, but you never really have a chance to soak in how prime they really are- you’re simply not wise and sensitive enough. One of the biggest rip-offs in life is not realizing how awesome your twenties are when you’re in them. You get in to your 30’s (usually about 30 pounds heavier) when you realize the twenties were the 10 best years of your life from a health and energy stand point. Children are coming as you push 30 and it strikes you how out of shape you’ve become. You frantically find a way to get back in to some kind of shape (by lowering the "in shape" bar considerably) as you push ahead in to your 30's. You swear you eat half as much as you used to (which probably isn’t really true) but you gain weight ten times easier. By your mid 30‘s life is running at a torrid pace- marriage, long hours at work, young kids, all sorts of challenges assail, time rips by.

As you head toward 40 it dawns on you that your prime years physically are gone. There is a sense of prime time evaporating as the mysterious threshold of 40 approaches. Maybe you, like me in my mid 30'a, talked yourself in to playing a sport you once enjoyed and were fairly good at. You still feel decent in your mid 30's, but a sense of Russian roulette with a nasty injury lingers in the back of your mind. Face it, by your late 30's you are on borrowed time athletically. The lure to capture bygone glory is strong. You are weak in resisting the lure, and the crash is hard, but the realization clear- life will be different from 40 onward. Youth and vigor will no longer suffice, you must now make it on age and treachery. You can’t help wishing you knew at 20 the things you now know at age 40. A fruitless wish indeed.

So, here I am at age 40. Some of you are thinking that’s really old and a mark of irrelevance or uncoolness. Others think I’m whining about being 40, which is still so young. For us who are just turning 40, we don’t care what either of you groups think of us, we just know our lives are probably half over or more and hair is growing on our back and in our ears.

I’m not sure if what I have just described resonates with any of you, it’s just my take. I will say this about turning 40- I’m bummed about the things I really can’t do like I used to, but very excited about what lies ahead. I usually define “prime years” in terms of physical health, but I know that’s not really the right gauge. I think prime years should have more to do with the ability to live out and apply accumulated knowledge. I hope I can live more wisely now.

In a nutshell, I hope the rest of my years are colored with more wisdom than the first 40 years. The years I have just lived have prepared me for whatever lies ahead. I needed these 40 years to get ready. The more you prepare for something, the better it is when the time comes. I view 40 as a new beginning of some kind. Sure, my life today at age 40 isn’t totally detached or different from yesterday, last month, last year, or even the last couple of years, but I am trying to maintain a mindset that says new beginning.

What is the greatest lesson I have learned that I hope makes the biggest difference going forward?

I think this is an important question for anyone and everyone, but especially those of us crossing this particular threshold.

Over these last 40 years I have become more convinced than ever of the total relevance and necessity of Christ ruling every possible aspect of my life. Jesus isn’t something that fits a certain compartment of my life- He’s lord of all of it. I have learned my life’s balance and peace is directly related to the place Christ occupies. When He’s the center, there is peace (I didn’t say happiness necessarily..nor am I saying there were no trials). When Tony is at the center and I am pursuing self- everything reeks. The words of Paul echo in my mind-

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

Christ is my life. He’s not just part of my life, He is my life. There’s nothing simple about life- it’s littered with challenges, hardships, and difficult situations. My sin consistently rears its head and messes things up. Navigating all these things depends on grasping the reality of Paul’s statement here. Christ is my life.

The way I see this lived out is also illustrated by Paul in his general life focus. He focused on three things-

1. The glory of Christ (through my maturing process in Him by the work of the Holy Spirit).

2. The advance of the Gospel (the message of being made right with God through Christ).

3. The progress of the faith of believers (to see others recognize that Christ is their life).

At age 40 I’m even more focused on pursuing these things than ever. Colossians 1:28-29 are my life verses (I'll let you look those up). Maybe my downgraded physical condition will actually serve to make me even more cognizant of my need to depend on Christ- which will serve to grow me spiritually. Such a demeanor should compel me to be more faithful in sharing the message of the gospel. I pray such a stature will allow me to be used by God to build up other believers in their faith in Christ.

Yes, aging is a strange thing, but with Christ as your life, it’s also somewhat exciting.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Great post on Pastoral Pressure by Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung captures so much of what I often feel as a pastor. Everyone experiences pressure these days, so I'm not directing you to his post to have you feel sorry for me and other pastors. But just as it is part of the pastor's calling to know his flock and their challenges, mature christians will care about what their pastor is dealing with.

Here's a part of his post. Read the whole post here.

Ask any pastor who really takes his work seriously and he will tell you of the pressures he feels in ministry—people in crisis, people leaving, people coming, people falling through the cracks, people disappointed by the pastor, people disappointing to the pastor. In the midst of this work the pastor is trying to find time for study, prayer, preparation, and family. He’s trying to improve himself, train up new leaders, meet the budget, get to know a few missionaries, champion important program, manage staff, take care of administrative details, provide for deep, accessible worship and preaching, be responsive to new ideas, listen to new concerns, be ready to help when people are in trouble.

And most pastors feel a burden for all the other things they could be doing: more evangelism, more involvement in the neighborhood, more for the poor, more for missions, more for the denomination, more for the city, more to address global concerns, more to address social concerns. There will be pastors reading this who wonder if the church is still responsive to their preaching, if the leadership will ever be responsive to his leading, if the congregation will ever grow like the churches he hears so much about. On top of all this every pastor has his own personal hurts, personal mistakes, and his own spiritual health to attend to. Who is weak and are not pastors weak?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Um...yeah...there's five loaves and two fishes

We find in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 6, the disciples wanting some time with Jesus alone after several months of missionary work around the Sea of Galilee. They tried to withdraw to a desolate place by boat, but the huge crowds still tracked them down.

Jesus had compassion on the mass of people and so taught them many things. No where does the text say the disciples were jealous or irritated, but you can sense a touch of frustration as they warn Jesus to send the crowds away before it gets dark and they have no where to get food.

And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.

At first blush the disciples come off as caring administrative types who foresee the hungry suffering of the masses and want them to be fed. Upon further review, it seems unlikely their focus is really on the crowds because it was pretty unreasonable to think the small, nearby villages would have the capacity to feed thousands of people. The disciples probably just wanted to send them off to fend for themselves so they could be with Jesus.

The tension rises as Jesus responds with an unexpected command-

But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.

Despite all they had seen from Jesus and their own witness of the miraculous when they went out "two by two" ministering in Jesus' name, they respond to Jesus' command with exasperation-

And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?

They are saying it is impossible for them to accomplish Jesus' assignment to feed 5,000 plus people. They don't have enough money to go buy the food necessary. They also calculate the cost of feeding the people at a year's wages. They are saying to Jesus- "your request is unreasonable...we can't possibly do that."

Such is often the case for us when we know God is calling us to do something. We take inventory of what we don't have to accomplish the task and declare a forfeit. We might even get frustrated with God for calling us to such a hard task or thing. Well, in this case, we learn something of how God works most often- by using our inadequate resources to manifest His power. Let's pick back up with Jesus' response to the disciples miffed "no can do" declaration-

And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”

OK. Hang with me on this. I have a theory about what just happened. It's sort of like when my son prepares to walk out the door for school with no belt declaring he can't find it. I send him upstairs to get it, he comes down in seconds saying it's not there. I think the disciples were hacked about Jesus not following their plan (to send the crowds away) and so only half-heartedly ventured about the crowd to inventory the actual food available. Are you telling me that a crowd of over 5,000 people didn't even have a stick of beef jerky between them? I don't think the disciples checked very hard.

When the text says "when they had found out, they said, 'five, and two fish.' But we know from the Apostle John's recounting of this story that a young boy had volunteered his food (five loaves and two fish) to the disciples. I think the disciples were ready, like my son, to return to Jesus quickly to declare- "Nope, no food." Instead, a little faithful boy tugs on one of their robes and offers his food to the disciples. So, begrudgingly no doubt, the disciples bring what they have to Jesus as much to say "I told you so" as anything else.

Of course, you know how the story goes-

And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.

There's lot to learn from this story. Most poignant is the way God takes meager, inadequate resources, and multiplies them. When God calls me to something, He will give me what I need to accomplish the task. It's not for me to declare "it cannot be done" if God says it can. Instead of immediately taking stock of what I don't have or whatever my manifold weaknesses are- may God help me to be more patient and careful to consider what I do have- even if it isn't much.

God seems to delight in using broken, inadequate, skewed, weak, marred, stuff to bring Glory to Himself. Take what He's given you- offer it up to Him- and watch Him bless it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Another great post by Carl Trueman

If you only have time to check out one or two blogs each day, definitely skip this one and check out Carl Trueman's instead.

He just wrote a great post that confronts the seemingly en vogue emergent-like trend that insists we challenge what our less intellectually honest parents, Sunday School teachers, etc. The title of the post is excellent, be sure to check out the whole post:

Here's a great quotation-

Over the last few years I have read dozens of pieces that tell me that it is no longer possible to believe in the historical Adam, in the Pentateuchal narratives, in a Christological reading of the Old Testament, in the Incarnation, in the resurrection, in biblical sexual ethics, and in hell; that, in doing so, I am acting irrationally and am engaged in a desperate quest for certainty. At times such sentiments sadden me; at other times they irritate. A desperate, irrational quest for certainty? How I wish that I might not be certain about a number of those things, given that they fly in the face of my socially liberal instincts.

My response to these criticisms varies depending upon the specific doctrine at issue but I would like to offer one general reply to those who write and email such. I am sorry that you have doubts; I am sorry that your Christian parents or schoolteachers screwed you up with their bad teaching; I am sorry that you can no longer believe the simple catechetical faith that you were once taught; I am sorry that the Bible seems like little more than a confused mish-mash of contradictory myths and endlessly deferred meaning. But that you struggle with doubts does not mean that those who do not struggle in the same way are simply weak-minded, in denial or bare-faced liars. Nor, more importantly, does the mere fact that you have doubts mean that those doubts are necessarily legitimate and well-grounded. Doubting on your part does not constitute a crisis of faith on mine.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Knee Saga thankfulness...and some closure

This past Saturday I participated in a sprint triathlon as a way of giving my knee a final test for recovery. It went pretty well, by my very low standards. I swam, biked, and ran about as good as I can in my current shape. I do think I can do better- I might have one more triathlon in me. My knee felt pretty good.

The truth is, my knee will never be as healthy as it once was. There will always be a damaged ligament and the scar tissue from the reconstructed portions cause regular stiffness. Still, I can walk well, ride my bike fine, and run decently. How blessed I truly am given the severity of my injury. I honestly have come to terms with the likelihood that playing soccer with my beloved RPC United in an adult league is probably no longer a reality. I got to play competitively longer than most has-beens. My competitive juices will have to find other outlets...

I have so appreciated the prayers and encouraging words from many friends since I wrecked my knee last October. It's not a big deal compared to what so many face, but it's been a trial for me. God has taught me a whole bunch through this and I'm still learning.

Would I want it to happen again? No.

Will my knee ever be completely right? No.

Would I change things? No. It's part of who I am-part of who God is making me to be.