Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Four Years of Sweetness.

This little lady turned 4 today. And though it's killing me not to have a 3-year-old anymore, I do think she makes a lovely 4-year-old.

Her first name - Caitlin - means "Pure" & her middle name is the same as her mother's... & that's wonderfully appropriate because she is, in so many ways, the authentic, unmixed, genuine, real & true daughter of her mother. And that is awesome. God has been very good to me and my family.

One of my favorite things about this girl is her sincere affection for Jesus, whom - as Peter says in 1 Peter 1.8 - she has not seen, but she loves. When we tell her another story or another truth about Jesus, she will often say to us, "But I want to SEE Jesus! I love him! I want to see him NOW!" ... & sometimes she says this with tears.

Funniest Moment of the Day: She unwraps the 6 or 7 princess figurines she was given by her siblings, and her 9-year-old brother says, "Hey, let me see those princesses. They're going to have a WAR!" Yes, there are definite differences between boys & girls. And as the father of both boys and girls, I take great delight in every single one of those beautiful, God-given differences.

My prayer for you, Caitlin, is that your faith will grow abundantly and your love for all the things of God and the people of God will increase, as you grow in steadfastness and faith (1 Thessalonians 1.3,4).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

...1 Peter 1.3-9

Monday, February 27, 2012

Theology - The Study of God

C.H. Spurgeon -- the 20 year old pastor of New Park Street Chapel in Southwark, England -- opened his sermon with these words on the Lord's Day morning of January 7, 1855:

It has been said by someone that "the proper study of mankind is man." I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God's elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.
There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, "Behold I am wise." But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumbline cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass's colt; and with solemn exclamation, "I am but of yesterday, and know nothing." No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God....
But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe.... The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing
will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity.
And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead's deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead. It is to that subject that I invite you this morning.

Charles Spurgeon... the master of sermon introductions.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Imagination Exceeding Obedience

Ponder this C.S. Lewis-ism:

"Those like myself, whose imagination far exceeds their obedience are subject to a just penalty; we easily imagine conditions far higher than any we have really reached. If we describe what we have imagined we may make others, and make ourselves, believe that we have really been there."

Every honest teacher of the Bible feels the weight of Lewis' self-diagnosis here. To teach the Bible well, you are frequently called upon to describe conditions of godliness and obedience that are far higher than any you have really, consistently reached.

And yet, as the Apostle Paul says in that glorious passage in 2 Corinthians 4, "Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, 'I believed, and so I spoke,' we also believe, and so we also speak."

May God give his grace to all of us to "really go there" -- in Lewis' words -- whenever we open the Word of Life and -- like Ezra of old -- set our hearts to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and then to teach it, as God gives us opportunity (Ezra 7.10).

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Most Extraordinary Thing in the World

"The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children."

~ G.K. Chesterton


Fantastic book! Forty short reflections on the Sacrament of Communion, the Lord's Supper, the Table of our Lord, the Eucharist... whatever your tradition may call it. In many evangelical traditions there's a tendency to minimize the meaning of the sacraments, as an overreaction against other tendencies that do the opposite. But it's time to stop expressing our theology by exceptions & by reactions. In doing so, we have lost much. This book is a beautiful call to recover a high, Biblical view of Communion as a Means of Grace. I'd encourage every Christian to read this book!

A great book weaving together some fascinating history of what this world use to be like, the role that beer has played in the story of this world (& the church), the long-standing legacy of a godly family, some beautiful examples of what it means to think through the doctrine of vocation with serious-minded faith, and humbling stories on "the good that wealth can do" -- to borrow a chapter title.

The first time I read this to my two youngest sons they were too young to continue on into The Lord of the Rings. So... naturally, I had to read it to them again, now that they're old enough to continue the journey. Always a joy to read this to children. And I've still got one more child to go. And she's already developed a fondness for dragons!

If someone you care for is caught up in the world of homosexuality -- which our culture is heedlessly promoting (see Romans 1) -- this would be a good book to read & then give to them (if they were interested in accepting it). I wish the first chapter had actually been the last chapter. The strong evangelism with which the book starts might be better received after the honesty of the struggles that the book relates. But aside from that, I think it's probably a very, very helpful book. The chapter written by the lady who came out of lesbianism is worth the price of the book itself. By God's grace she has become a Deborah - a "mother in Israel" - a mother in the church. All three authors know what they are talking about, from personal experience. Some parts are frankly difficult for heterosexuals to read, but no one can doubt the integrity, the candor, or the honesty of the authors.

Also recently enjoyed reading some Sherlock Holmes stories to my oldest daughter. Haven't seen the second of the recent Sherlock Holmes movies yet, but I hear it's even better than the first. Fun stories to read... especially around the fireplace after a cold, foggy/misty day... with hot chocolate in hand.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine Wisdom

The following is a brief article that R.C. Sproul, Jr. just sent out via his blog. What you need to know to understand all the dimensions of this post is that he lost his wife (for a time anyway - one day Jesus will personally reunite them) to death just a few weeks back - middle of December, I think it was.

Valentine the Brave

by RC Sproul Jr.
As a rule, men are relational dolts. From an early age girls develop sophisticated communications arrays, whereby they are able to simultaneously translate what anyone says, whether with words, expression or body language, into what they actually mean. They know from birth that when a genteel southern woman tells them, “Well bless your heart” that war has been declared. Men, on the other hand, are tone deaf and body language blind.
Women in turn understand the intricacies of social interaction. They don’t have to be told to write thank you notes; they compose them on the way home from a dinner with friends. They don’t have to be told to send out birth announcements- they start filling them out while in labor. Men, on the other hand, bring their favorite beer to a buddy’s barbecue not as a “host gift” but to make sure there is enough. We watch SportsCenter during labor.

Which is why, perhaps, western culture has constructed one day a year for us, to make it simple. We know our marching orders- a card, flowers or candy, perhaps a gift and a nice romantic dinner for two. We can do that, once, or twice, or four times a year- birthday, Mother’s Day, and the hardest one, our anniversary. When we succeed on these days we tell our wives that we really are trying. We really do love them, and want them to know. We’re fighting our man weaknesses as best as we are able.

What we ought to be doing, however, is fighting her woman weaknesses. The Bible calls us to dwell with our wives with understanding (I Peter 3:7). Women, by and large, crave security. They are given to relational worry. When husbands and wives fight, often the husband is merely annoyed, while the wife fears the end is near. Peter doesn’t call us to turn our wives into men, but calls men to see it from her point of view. We fight her fears by putting her at ease.

A godly husband, then is not one who four times a year takes up the aggravating task of trying to be relational, in order to keep his wife from getting grumpy. Instead a godly husband is tasked with the constant call of communicating his love and commitment to his wife. This is not a few days a year, but every day. Too often husbands get frustrated, even offended by this hard reality. “Doesn’t she think I’m a man of my word? I promised ‘Until death do us part’ and I meant it.”

Such reasoning shows our relational weakness. She doesn’t want to know that she can count on you to grimly see your vow through to the end. She wants to know that you would make it all over again today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. She doesn’t want to know that you will stay with her, but that you want to stay with her.

A year ago on Valentine’s Day I bought my wife a nice gift, and we shared a nice meal together. There were not candles on a linen covered table. There was no table. Denise was in a hospital bed, having been diagnosed with leukemia just days before. Chemotherapy had already begun to erode her appetite for food. Assurance, however, she still desired. She apologized for our surroundings for our celebration. What I heard was “Please tell me we will be okay.” I replied, “Our location is this- we are in the loving hands of our heavenly Father, who will never leave us nor forsake us. And I, by His grace, will joyfully walk with you every step of the way. There is no place I would rather be than right beside you.”

My counsel for you today is to get the flowers. Enjoy a nice meal together. But tomorrow stop, hold her chin, look her in the eye and tell her, “I give thanks to God for you. I would marry you all over again. You are a joy in my life.” And then, the day after that, do it again. Repeat.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

8 Minutes, 14 Seconds

Garvan Byrne was born with a very rare disease that made him stop growing at age 5.

He left this world at age 12.

But not before he confessed his child-like faith in "a very loving Jesus."

You can watch it by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Common Ground

The Common Ground Marriage Weekend
starts this Friday!

Click HERE for the conference schedule.

Marriage is meant for oneness--to be a relationship of mutual support--but it often brings tension and relational frustration. Marriage is hard but it doesn't have to lead to hardened and divided hearts. The difficulty of marriage can actually turn you toward the Lord when you let him soften your heart and guide you toward rest and togetherness (Common Ground) with your spouse.

There are unique ways God calls a husband and wife toward Common Ground and participating in this seminar will help you understand the unique pathway you can follow as a husband or a wife that will take you through a hardened heart toward genuine togetherness. Participating in the weekend will give you a richer understanding of what a redemptive marriage looks like, uncover the core obstacles that get in the way of marital togetherness, help you more clearly identify your path toward togetherness and provide you with a refreshing and hope-filled view of how the Gospel and marriage compliment one another.

Our speaker will be Dr. Gordon Bals, founder and director of Daymark Pastoral Counseling. He speaks regularly on the topic of marriage and loves to help couples hear the Scriptures in redemptive and life-giving ways so that they have more understanding, passion, and faith to demonstrate the love they have for each other.