For it is by grace you have been saved...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The First Twenty Years

Back in the day, I used to crank out some sappy poetry now and again for my then bride-to-be. She has a shoe box full of notes, cards and letters; the sum total of my romantic artistry. Since today marks our 20th Wedding Anniversary, I thought I’d give it another shot. This is mainly for us, so if you are allergic to “sap” you may want to skip this.

The First Twenty Years

1989 was a very good year
Not just because college graduation was here
But because of the best day of my life
The day you agreed to be my wife

Oh, there have been other days almost as grand
Seeing each of our children draw breath in this land
And each new experience they’ve brought us
The life lessons those four have taught us

But the greatest lessons I’ve learned come from you
Like patient endurance in what I’ve dragged you through
Life as a pastor’s wife is certainly
Not the picnic it appears to be

You’ve gone with me to the mission fields up north
And places where folks have not recognized your worth
You’ve lived with so much less than you deserve
From you I’ve learned what it means to serve

Humility and faithfulness you’ve shown me
Even when I’ve acted like you should disown me
The Spirit of Christ is so real in you
No matter the trials we’ve been through

Although I’ve been called to lead and be the head
In our home, so often I’m the one being led
My goal is to some day be worthy of
Your devotion, respect and your love

I know you’re not perfect (but you are so close)
I know that your weakness occasionally shows
But I wouldn’t trade our life together
For anything, now or forever

You’ve been my best friend, my lover, even guide
That’s why I acclaim the day you became my bride
And so for all the laughter and the tears
I thank God for the last twenty years

In the years to come with all the ups and downs
I pray God blesses us both with more smiles than frowns
But whatever comes, whatever’s in store
I thank God for the next twenty more

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Painful Art of Self-Examination

My friend Paul Hambrick recently pointed out this interesting video. As I watched the poor guy load up a big ol’ shot, then whiff and hit himself, I couldn’t help but think of my own experiences in preaching.

On more than one occasion I’ll labor away over a text during the week, loading up a big ol’ shot so to speak. And then on Sunday, I unload the “shot” and lo and behold, the next thing I know it’s hitting me square in the face. God’s Word has a way of doing that sometimes.

In fact, there are many other times when the “shot” is directed at me to begin with. I’ve often told our folks that what I share with them on Sunday may be nothing more than the truth God is dealing with me about, and I’m just including them in the conversation. So often, the text I’m studying convicts me more than anything I can say to others on Sunday.

The truth is, whether the “shot” is intended for me, or whether God just does to me what He did to this boxer, self-examination is a good thing. It may not always be pleasant; in fact it rarely is. But it is helpful and healthy.

I don’t need to bring up well known texts like the Matthew 7 admonition to check our own vision before correcting that of others; you all know that. But we often need a reminder to apply it, don’t we?

Paul encourages us in both of his Corinthian letters to “examine yourselves.” It’s a healthy exercise. And it should be the focus of our hearts every time we hear the Word of God.

As always, Charles Spurgeon put it quite eloquently when he said:

“Let not any one of you, as he goeth out of the house of God, say unto his neighbor, “How did you like the preacher? What did you think of the sermon this morning?” Is that the question you should ask as you retire from God’s house? Do you come here to judge God’s servants? .... But, O men! ye should ask a question more profitable unto yourselves than this. Ye should say, “Did not such-and-such a speech strike me? Did not that exactly consort with my condition? Was that not a rebuke that I deserve, a word of reproof or of exhortation? Let me take unto myself that which I have heard, and let me not judge the preacher, for he is God’s messenger to my soul: I came up here to be judged of God’s Word, and not to judge God’s Word myself.” (New Park Street Pulpit, Vol. 4, No. 218)

Good questions whether we’re reading the Word, hearing it, or teaching it. The first “target” should always be our own hearts. It may hurt from time to time; kind of like giving yourself an uppercut. But our overall spiritual health will benefit, as will our usefulness in the kingdom.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bibliophiles Unite

I'm a bibliophile. Plain and simple. And lest the less educated out there get the wrong idea, it simply means I'm a book lover. One of my favorite quotes is from Henry Ward Beecher who said: "It is a man's duty to have books. A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessaries of life." I love books. I love reading. I love the feel of the pages, the smell of a room full of books, the way they line up on the shelves. I love being able to write in the margins, underline favorite parts to come back to later, etc.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my laptop as well. In fact, when my old laptop recently went to that big cyberspace in the sky, I thought I was lost. All my sermon files, all my notes, all my Bible study software, etc. was on that thing. Thanks to the graciousness of a friend, I’ve been able to replace that one with a newer model and retrieved most of my information, so it’s all good. It made me realize how much I do depend on the technology. But still…I love the books.

Example. I have the complete library of C. H. Spurgeon sermons on my computer. I love the search capability this affords. I love to be able to copy and paste a quote when I want. But for pleasure, I still like to pull out my 20 volume 1890’s edition of Spurgeon’s sermons. Again, the smell and feel of those books. You can even sense the age there, and it makes you feel more connected.

That’s one reason I like collecting the antique hymnals that I’ve mentioned before. In part, because they are books. They are old books. And I love ‘em.

Supper-blogger Tim Challies recently posted on the advantages of books over the new “Kindle” technology. That’s what got me thinking about this again. He calls the book the perfect technology, highlighting the “experience” of reading a book, and I couldn’t agree more. (Read his article here)

In fact, several years ago I came across a sermon illustration type story about a replacement for computers (I honestly don’t remember where this came from so apologies for not crediting the original author. If you’re out there let me know). It goes like this:

Computer Replacement

For several years we've been secretly working on the next step in technology, a replacement for computers. We think we've found it.

Announcing the new Built-in Orderly Organized Knowledge device (BOOK). It's a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It's so easy to use even a child can operate it. Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere--even sitting in an armchair by the fire--yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disk.

Here's how it works: Each BOOK is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of paper, each capable of holding thousands of bits of information. These pages are locked together with a custom-fit device called a binder that keeps the sheets in their correct sequence. The user scans each sheet optically, registering information directly into his or her brain. A flick of the finger takes the user to the next sheet.

The BOOK may be taken up at any time and used by merely opening it. The "browse" feature allows the user to move instantly to any sheet and to move forward or backward as desired. Most BOOKs come with an "index" feature that pinpoints the exact location of any selected information for instant retrieval. An optional "BOOKmark" accessory allows the user to open the BOOK to the exact place left in a previous session--even if the BOOK has been closed. BOOKmarks fit universal design standards; thus a single BOOKmark can be used in BOOKs by various manufacturers.

Portable, durable, and affordable, the BOOK is the entertainment wave of the future, and many new titles are expected soon, due to the surge in popularity of its programming tool, the Portable Erasable-Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language Stylus (PENCILS).

I just love that. Books are indeed the perfect technology. And I can’t help but believe there are many benefits besides the intake of information. It seems to me that the rise in ADHD almost directly parallels the rise of technology and the decline in plain old book reading. I have no proof of that. Just something I’ve considered a time or two. I know our kids seem to benefit from the fact that their technology time has always been limited, but their book access never has been. I think they are much better for it.

So, bibliophiles unite! Let’s take our message to the streets. Technology may be wonderful and even needful. But it will never replace the book. So stop reading online blogs and go read a book!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Growth of Homeschooling

As long as I'm just linking Dr. Mohler's posts, this one is certainly worth reading. After 11 years of homeschooling, it's nice to know we're not that alone anymore...

A Major Force in Education -- Homeschooling in America

Monday, June 1, 2009

Murder is Wrong in All Its Forms

Pro-life advocates should be quick to condemn the murder of murderers. This is not a discussion of capital punishment, which is another matter. However, the cold blooded murder of an individual is wrong, even if the victim is a cold blooded murderer himself.

Dr. Al Mohler has written a wonderful response to the murder of well known abortionist George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas. His comments are more profound than any I can offer, so I encourage you to read and consider the following from his blog (click here for original):

A Wicked Deed in Wichita -- A Test for the Pro-Life Movement

The cold-blooded murder of Dr. George Tiller on Sunday morning presents the pro-life movement in America with a crucial moral test -- will we condemn this murder in unqualified terms?

For many years, Dr. George Tiller has represented the horrific reality of the abortion industry in this nation. Infamously known to the pro-life movement in America, Tiller was known as "Tiller the Killer" because of his well-known willingness to perform late-term abortions almost no other doctor in the nation would perform. Because of Dr. George Tiller, Wichita became the destination of choice for women seeking abortions in the late third trimester.

In 1993 Tiller was shot in both arms by an assailant. His clinic was regularly protested and was once bombed. Tiller had many brushes with the law, and just weeks ago he was acquitted of charges that he had colluded with another physician to illegally justify late-term abortions.

George Tiller was shot to death Sunday morning as he was serving as an usher at Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita. Witnesses said that a lone assailant entered the church, shot Dr. Tiller with a single shot, threatened two others, and then fled the scene. A suspect was arrested hours later. Wichita police said that the unnamed suspect would likely face multiple charges as early as Monday.

Violence in response to the horror of abortion is rare, but not new. According to some news reports, Dr. Tiller was the fifth physician to be murdered by abortion opponents. In other cases, abortion clinics have been bombed and workers have been hurt or killed.

Proponents of abortion rights often charge that the rhetoric of the pro-life movement leads to violence. After all, we describe abortion as murder and point to the business of abortion as the murder of the unborn. We make clear that abortion is the taking of innocent human life and that what goes on in abortion clinics is the business of death.

We make these arguments because we know they are true. Abortion is murder. What goes on in those clinics is institutionalized homicide, often for financial profit. Abortion is a moral scandal and a national tragedy and a blight upon the American conscience.

But violence in the name of protesting abortion is immoral, unjustified, and horribly harmful to the pro-life cause. Now, the premeditated murder of Dr. George Tiller in the foyer of his church is the headline scandal -- not the abortions he performed and the cause he represented.

We have no right to take the law into our own hands in an act of criminal violence. We are not given the right to take this power into our own hands, for God has granted this power to governing authorities. The horror of abortion cannot be rightly confronted, much less corrected, by means of violence and acts outside the law and lawful means of remedy. This is not merely a legal technicality -- it is a vital test of the morality of the pro-life movement.

The Christian church has been forced by historical necessity to think through these issues again and again. The church has reached a basic moral consensus on issues of violence and governmental obedience, and this consensus requires that Christian citizens work within legal, judicial, and political means to persuade governing authorities concerning what is good, right, just, and honoring to God. Those who operate outside of this consensus and perform acts of violence are rightly understood to arrogate authority to themselves in a way that violates not only the laws of men but the law of God. Civil disobedience may be justified so long as the Christian is willing to suffer at the hands of the governing authorities, but is not justified if the citizen employs violence against the state or against other citizens.

In the case of Dr. George Tiller, the governing authorities failed again and again to fulfill their responsibility to protect all citizens, including those yet unborn. The law is dishonoring to God in its disrespect for human life. The law failed to bring George Tiller to account for what should have been seen as crimes against humanity. But this failure does not authorize others to act in the place of the government, much less in the place of God. The government must now act to prosecute and punish the murderer of Dr. George Tiller.

In October of 1859, John Brown led a violent attack upon the United States Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. A radical abolitionist, Brown had already proved himself capable of violence for his cause. In 1856 he had led a gang that brutally killed several pro-slavery figures in Kansas. The raid on Harpers Ferry led to more deaths before Brown and his surviving rebels were arrested, charged with treason, and executed.

When John Brown was arrested, Henry David Thoreau defended the man and his violence, asking: "Is it not possible that an individual may be right and a government wrong? Are laws to be enforced simply because they were made? Or declared by any number of men to be good, if they are not good?"

Those are the very questions some are tempted to ask now, but these weighty questions cannot justify violence in the name of an honorable cause. Thoreau was right about the fact that the laws allowing slavery in the United States were immoral and unjustifiable. John Brown was right when he claimed that slavery was a blight upon the nation's conscience -- a wrong that had to be ended. Brown's logic led him to treason, and he was found guilty in a court of law and punished. Thoreau would refer to Brown as an "angel of light," but Thoreau never had to live with the consequences of his own attempt to justify murder, nor did he ever acknowledge the true character of the man.

The pro-life movement in America must not wage war against abortion by following the example of John Brown. Nor can we allow ourselves the luxury of the logic of defending the indefensible along the lines of Thoreau. We must confront this great evil of abortion from a higher plane, and know that the battle is ultimately in God's hands.

Murder is murder. The law rightly affirms that the killing of Dr. George Tiller is murder. In this we must agree. We cannot rest until the law also recognizes the killing of the unborn as murder. The killing of Dr. George Tiller makes that challenge all the more difficult.

Persecution By Zoning – Addendum

Check out this link for the response from San Diego County re: the info in my previous post.

Also, here's a great snapshot from The Sacred Sandwich on the whole issue:

Coming up on a special episode of COPS: San Diego police close in on an illegal Bible study ring!