Thursday, December 20, 2007

Here comes Santa Claus

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus Lane
Vixen and Blitzen and all his reindeer
Pullin' on the reins
Bells are ringin', children singin'
All is merry and bright
Hang your stockings and say your prayers'
Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus Lane
He's got a bag that's filled with toys
For boys and girls again
Hear those sleigh bells jingle jangle,
Oh what a beautiful sightSo jump in bed and cover your head, 'cause Santa Claus comes tonight!

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus Lane
He doesn't care if you're rich or poor
He loves you just the same
Santa Claus knows we're all God's children
That makes everything right
So fill your hearts with Christmas cheer
'Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus Lane
He'll come around when the chimes ring out
That it's Christmas morn again
Peace on earth will come to all
If we just follow the light
So let's give thanks to the lord above
That Santa Claus comes tonight!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Off Limits

Interesting stuff.

Off Limits

Check it out.

Monday, December 3, 2007

To the Rescue

Okay, I know some of you are way too organized and have already completed your Christmas shopping, but there is another 97% who still have a least one gift to buy yet. So for all the normal people out there who still looking for that perfect gift, let me make a couple suggestions:

1. Tabletalk magazine - a monthly devotional magazine and more. Intelligent. Convicting. From Ligonier Ministries

3. The old Fat Albert and the Cosby kids on DVD

4. Tickets to Graceland

5. A genuine meteorite (a bit on the high end)

7. Stunt Driving School (Beginner's Level, of course)

As always, you can thank me later.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I'll never know how much it cost

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.
To look on Him and pardon me.
(Before the Throne of God Above)

This morning they lit the first candle of Advent, the Candle of Hope. I say 'they' due the fact 'we' arrived a bit late and, much to Emily's dismay, had to sit in the overflow "room" (a small section at the rear of the sanctuary where late-comers are placed in an effort, through shame and poor acoustics, to teach them the sin of arriving after the sanctuary doors are shut) and in the last row at that.

Hope. In the ESV, hope is mentioned 5 times in verses 24 and 25 of Romans 8. Verse 24 ends with, "For who hope for what he sees?" I do.

Well, let me explain. Granted it is not as spiritual as our hope in Christ, but I hope for a God-centered adult life for my children. On a more day-to-day application, I hope from my children an obedience that honors their mother and I. With our oldest, I see, more and more frequently, not an unquestioning obedience that Emily not simply desires but often requires to keep the day on task, but the parent honoring obedience that God requires of him.

Now our youngest still challenges me. One moment her bold defiant actions erase any spiritual growth I thought I'd achieved as anger creeps up to the surface of my flesh, then in an instant, a smile and her sweet "Sorry, Daddy," even if insincere, disarms me. Still I hope for her life to be God-centered, despite her stubbornness and ability to give rise to mine. I see little fruit in that area, but still I hope.

Who in your life have you written off? Scott asked this question as he preached this morning, only in slightly different context. Who in your life do you no longer have hope for? Who do you believe Christ can no longer redeem? Since, most often, I find myself preaching to myself through my writing, Matthew 7:6 came to mind in my defense. "Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you." Why bother with the dogs and pigs? Why should I waste my time, my energy, my life on them. Then I reread it, "Do not give to dogs what is holy." I am not holy, the preceding (and following) verses make that clear. The verse clearly refers to God's Word and God Himself.

If God has hardened someone's heart to the Gospel, sharing God's Word will be fruitless. But God does not say do not serve this person, do not pray for this person. In fact the Wesley commentary on Matthew 7:6,7, & 8 suggests that the Bible instructs us to pray for that person.

Despite my faults (they are many) and the mistakes I've made (they are even more), Emily has bound her life to mine even tighter. When I think about her love and devotion to me, especially in light of the hardships to which I've subjected her and our children, I am amazed. She demonstrates Christ's love for me. And how much more amazing that a Holy, Holy, Holy God would love me to send His Son to die for me.

Emily has not written me off. She has hope in the promise that Christ will complete this good work. Again, I am finding myself defensive. So, how many times do I have to let myself be hurt? Be let down? How many times is enough, how much pain is enough, how much sacrifice is enough, before I can write this person off, before I can move on?

I guess it depends who the example for your life is. I can think of many folks who would have told you that you have given too much of yourself already. Some may advice you to hang on a little longer. I know it can't be perfectly achieved this side of heaven, but if Christ is your example . . . Not an easy route, is it? Christ, Himself, when looking at the pain and suffering before Him asked His Father if there was another way, but in God-honoring obedience gave Himself up.

Father God, You know my sin, it is ever before me, yet You saved me. Strengthen me to love and serve as Jesus. Make me bold to share what You have done for even me. Thank you also for Emily. And, Father God, thank you for hope. Amen.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Will there be football in Heaven?

Marlon asks the best questions. Real and obvious questions that, in my pursuit to be more spiritual than you, I miss. "Will there be football in heaven?" Typically his questions send me into a state of semi-meditation as I draw from my memory scripture, sermons I've heard, and items I've read to avoid some blasphemous response. Today, I was relieved to have a such a quick response to his question: "I don't know."

He loves football, wants to play for his school, but didn't make the team because he was too small. Though a new believer, his faith is such that it's not a deal breaker, but it's important to him. He's disappointed in my answer, then adds, "I hope so."

"Me, too."

I get up and shout when the Seminoles play well (actually when they don't play well also) but I would not consider myself a football fan. Yesterday, Emmett and I were on the way home from Wal-Mart when we heard this odd sound. A quick survey revealed its source: a van painted in the the Jaguar's team colors accented by Jaguar logos of various sizes as well as the trademark paw print. I can only presume the sound was a musical horn, played too loud, bombarding those of us around him with some, very distorted, Jaguar fight song. These guys were football fans.

When does something like football cease being a God-given desire of our heart and become another self-created idol, seducing our affections from our bridegroom? To steal from Pastor Brinkman, we rarely replace God with an idol, but we decorate His throne room with them.

I'd make a good Pharisee, maybe (I might be too lazy); I know the importance of an air of righteousness. With the rich young ruler, I can say, "All these things I have kept from my youth." But God knows my heart. "You still lack o
ne thing. [Insert a command for me to give up my idols here]."

Furthermore, He calls me out, "
You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder . . . " (Matthew 5:21-30, NKJV ; You can look it up. You Navigators and Baptists have already found it. For the rest of you, it's the first book of the New Testament).

Before I realize the waves are now breaking above my knees, He sees me sinking. And just as He sent His son to satisfy His wrath against me, He sends His Spirit to sanctify me, "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weakness. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." (Romans 8:26)

So what will heaven be like? Will there be pets? Books? The ocean? I don't know. All I know is we'll be with Him, there will no more sin, and no more sadness.

In the meantime, if you hear some weird noise, don't worry; it's just His Spirit praying double time for me.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Too Long Between Posts

I don't know where to begin. There are a million things going through, or at least, have gone through my head since the last time I posted. Instead of exhausting one, perhaps I'll hit some briefly.

What are you sowing? "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap." (Gal 6:7 NKJV) I seem to remember story told by different preachers about an interview with a Native American who had been converted to Christianity in his youth. He was now middle-aged and the interviewer asked how the whole Christian walk thing was going. The Indian replied that it was as if two dogs, one Godly, one fleshly, were fighting inside him. The interviewer followed with, Well, which one wins? The one I feed the most, he replied.

So, I'm mentoring this thirteen year old boy, using the KAA program (go to 'Camps', then 'Christian Growth Training'. I'm using the Ambassador lessons. It's good stuff.). Depending on well you know me, I don't mind if you take a few minutes here to gather yourself together after, first falling out of your chair laughing, then sobbing uncontrollably for the boy. He asks some great questions. God calls us to serve others, but I am certain by doing so, we get far more out of the deal than they.

Met Cathron and Dave (Em's sister and her husband) in Franklin, NC the end of last week. They have their share of challenges and corresponding growth, but both have been rocks in my family's lives since before Emily and I were even married. It's great because their boys are several years older than ours so we get a bit of a preview of what's to come, plus we get to learn what works and what doesn't from fellow believers who, while facing challenges or admitting mistakes, desire their faith to be lived out by being 'hands and feet'. That said, Dave has been reading and is really impressed with the book unChristian.

One of the recent topics in the KAA Ambassador material was the fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22-23). First I've got a question to all you out there. The verse has a singular subject and verb ('fruit' and 'is'), then lists nine characteristics of this fruit. I've always heard it taught as nine distinct 'fruits' but that is not what the verse says (granted I only checked three translations, KJV, NKJV, and ESV). So what is it, one or nine? Secondly, we started going through the characteristics and defining them from scripture. Love was easy (well, at least to define, 1 Cor 13, not to live out accordingly). It gets especially hard when you get down to verse 7 with its "bears all things" and "endures all things." Kinda reminds me what Paul is saying back in Gal 6:1 & 2. ". . . restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted." and "Bear one another's burdens." I think too often, in an effort to keep my hands clean, I define burdens as spiritual burdens. It's the context of the chapter, and it's easier that way.

God extremely blessed me by allowing me attend, finally, a 2nd Mile Ministry youth night last night. Just a fly on the wall, but how incredible, these kids showing up on their own accord, fighting to be one of the lucky ones who'd be able to catch a ride to church with the 2MM staff. 2MM took a group of kids to KAA this summer (and last) and has organized the mentoring I taking part in. God is working through them to reach the kids in the Brentwood area of Jacksonville (just north, relatively, of downtown).

I'll wrap up with some awesome verses to go to sleep by, Rom 8:37-39: "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (ESV)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Frustrating God

How strong are you? When God calls, is anyone capable of saying no? I used to have a pastor who said, "The only person God can't save you from is yourself." In all honesty, that sucks! I'm the only one I need saving from!

I remember having lunch about that same time with a friend who was reading Watchman Nee. According to my friend's paraphrase, Nee states that you cannot change God's plans, but you can frustrate them.

Free will is alright, but it's like a car stuck in the mud. The car has all of the ability to shoot forward a 100 mile per hour (well maybe not our minivan), but unless the conditions under the tires allow, it's not going anywhere. Praise God!

If not for the sovereignty of God, all our prayers, even our very salvation, would be in jeopardy.

So, I've a friend with a problem. Mistakes, uninformed decisions, etc has led to a lousy situation. Now that friend loves God, seeks Him constantly, gives so much energy to serve Him, so why did He let this problem arise? Why did He not move others to pull along side and warn of the situation ahead? Why did He lead us here? What direction should we head now? When? How far? With what resources?

And why has He surrounded me with grace (a sermon here, a book there, here some grace, there some grace, everywhere grace, grace)? Is it just to point me to the gospel? Probably that simple. Love as I have loved, I'm back to John 15 again. I do not love as Jesus does. I cannot, yet He calls me to do so. Grace. Obedience. Beautiful, how beautiful, to see things afresh.

Existential Christianity. (Went to wikipedia just to make sure I wasn't too far off with where I am going and found they've an entry titled Christian existentialism. Then I went to the Jacksonville library site and put a hold on a couple Kierkegaard's books and a Francis Schaeffer item.) Thank God our salvation is not dependent on our obedience. Even better, Grace transforms obedience from something unobtainable to a privilege. To steal from a couple of new friends, GIGATT (God is good, all the time!)

Our life is what happens as we experience it. God has authored it from the beginning to the end. As I was telling Marlon, we cannot surprise God. It is His story. How cool it is to be part of it! So I live each second as it happens, sometimes well, frequently not. Don't get me wrong. There's food in the refrigerator; I recognize consequences, so we plan ahead, some. At the same time, I hope to avoid planning that may blind my vision to Him. It's all to His glory; even Joseph's brothers failed to hamstring or frustrate God!

So I pray for my friend. I pray for direction. I pray I keep my eyes on Him, because I cannot see at all where He will lead through the next few weeks. I pray He picks my feet up on puts them on His path, sometimes I'd rather be comfortable. Why get involved?

All I know in the end is that I am thankful that I cannot frustrate God's plans, and, also, that He can save me from myself!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Gospel, Practically

Small groups started meeting again last week.

(I've gotta stop here and almost do a completely different post in parenthesis. I love small group. There's no better place on Wednesday evening! We have a fun, laid back, kingdom seeking group. We don't get it right all the time, so I fit right in. God's been so good lately. When I'm not trying to get my head around the 'why', I get overcome with a flood of thankfulness springing forth from somewhere deep within. He's opened my heart to see Him. Joy. There's more to share on this, but it will have to be another post.)

Our small group's study (after some much needed fellowship over some finger food and desserts) is a discussion of Sunday's sermon. It's great because whatever questions you had during the preaching, you can present to the group. We've been working through Romans on Sunday, and we were talking about chapter 6. Rusty presented the question,"What does being a slave to sin mean to you?"

I slipped up and let my PCA background show (right in front of the group!). I gave a solid doctrinal answer about us understanding our position before a Holy God and thus our need for Christ's sacrifice. Everything was all fine and dandy until the question moved around the room to a gentleman new to the group.

He answered, "Well, it might not be doctrinally correct, but how I face being a slave to sin in a practical way is . . ."

What audacity! What a maroon! Study the Bible to see how to love God and serve Him practically?!? But in truth, what genius, what Christ-likeness. I wasn't much use the rest of the conversation. I was distracted. My mind kept going back to one word, practical.

So, where does my faith meet the road? I am always amazed with the honesty in the ladies' blog entries. Their observations of their own selfishness hit home. Even this blog right now, who is it for? I'd like to believe it might help someone realize that they're not the only one trying to keep their feet beneath them, but I know that at least part of the reason is that I am doing it for myself.

James has been the topic in the adult Sunday school class. Talk about making the Gospel practical! A quick skim over this small book and you'd think he's contradicting letter after letter of Paul's, but no, it's God as much as Ephesians 2. We've looked over facing trials, and started getting into the whole faith vs works funness.

How do you live the Gospel in a practical manner? I don't know exactly. I know I need to love people more by serving them. I know I've responsibilities to my wife, kids, employer, etc, but there's a lot of time left over after I fall short in those areas for me to step out in faith and serve. Anyways, what may be practical for one may not work universally.

So, beyond the general 'love and serve', what are some more specific ways we can love the world? Please share. I believe everyone should have someone outside their immediate family that they are either discipling/mentoring or at least, a peer they're walking beside. I truly believe our culture has placed an emphasis on family to the exclusion of community. I don't do this right myself, but the more I encourage the focus of our family to outside our home, God equips me a little bit more with an attitude and a will that can be bent to His.

Time with Him in prayer and the Word refreshes and strengthens. When you charge a set batteries, it's not just to have a set of charged batteries, it's to use that energy doing something. I need to remember to do something.

But it'll have to be tomorrow. I'm going to bed.

Trying Something New

I've got to talk to someone about this book, Velvet Elvis, so I've added another blog. Check out Josh's Book Club.

I'm not giving up on this blog. Actually working on a real post now.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Cool Evening, Warm Fire

Okay so it wasn't all that cool and the fire was more hot than merely warm, but the whole reason of this post is to illustrate what happens when home improvements are posted on blogs. All of a sudden I've to clean up our fire pit. I should have taken a "before" photo.

All kidding aside, I'm very happy with the result and thus thankful for Melissa's post and Eric's hard work to encourage me.

We even roasted some marshmallows!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Why do we fall?

It's kinda like spelunking.

Starting out, I was hunched over and uncomfortable. Sometimes it was so tight I found myself crawling. Muscles I never use ached. I began to doubt my decision to even come. The walls were too close, the darkness even closer. Everything in me was screaming, "Go back," but there was a hope that strengthened me, pushing me on. Oh, what peace when you yield to that hope! Then everything opens up, joy.

Everything opens up, like someone removing the blinders. And as I press on, He continues to fuel me with His hope, sharing His light. As the light disperses the darkness, more and more of the beauty and expanse of the cavern is revealed. His light even penetrates that sin I've hid within, forcing me to let go of it. The overwhelming glory of what He has revealed further proclaims His majesty and might, even His terrifying Holiness. Yet by His grace He chose me, however minuscule, to witness this glory, to share in His righteousness.

Its a journey better shared. Since we moved I've failed to cultivate a friendship with a fellow brother to the point of sharpening iron. As a husband and a father, and an employee, etc, I've sacrificed, foolishly, time and energy I should have put into my friendships. R. Kent Hughes hits the nail on the head. "Friendship is not optional. . . [you] need Christian male friends who have a same-sex understanding of the serpentine passages of your heart . . ." (Disciplines of a Godly Man)

Men have a tendency to isolate themselves. Whatever the excuse, this separation leads, ultimately, to discouragement. The Bible strengthens us, yes, and convicts us. Isolated, I have a tendency, no matter how many books or blogs I read, to feel I am the only man out there who fails. I am the only man out there who does not consistently discipline my children. I am the only man out there that is not instructing my children as God has called me. I am the only man out there that fails to continually honor, encourage and lift up my wife. I am the only man who fails to lay down his life for his wife. I am the only man out there that does not love the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength and with all my mind. Discouragement.

Knowing other men more than superficially, floods the church with grace. As I get to know the men in my church and their failings, they become more to me than the guy with the kids who sit still through the sermon and has it all together, more than the man that always asks the perfect question in Sunday school. They become genuine. As I get to know the men in my church, I am encouraged. I am able to witness the fresh fruits of His presence and His grace in areas where they struggle. I am encouraged because, as I get to know these men, I realize I am not alone.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Miscellanous Agenda

1. Reading Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis. It's made me mad a couple times. He leads right to the edge of the Gospel, capturing it differently than you'll read else where, then heads in another direction. I'm only on page 64, so I can't tell if it's intentional or not, yet. Like the Eric and Melissa said, this book will make you think. It's helped me capture some thoughts that have keeping in the dusty shadows; it's put some flesh on them. Again the disclaimer that I'm only on page 64, but the book is dangerous. It will challenge your beliefs, especially if you come from a "traditional" Christian background. You need to be strong enough to keep your footing.

2. You need to check out Red Mountain Music's Depth's of Mercy. Satisfied is incredible.

3. More on Rob Bell. The Boundless Line (a Focus on the Family blog) had some interesting things to say about comments he made while touring for his second book, Sex God. And while you're at the Boundless Line, check out some of the other entries.

4. I don't know how to describe it, but if your sense of humor is a little off, you might enjoy SteveBrownEtc. I love it and Emily just rolls her eyes. (Steve Brown's more serious side can be found at Keylife).

See ya on the flip side. (whatever that means)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Only at the Melting Pot, or Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Emily found this odd lamp on craigs list. It reminded me of the ineffective lamps at the Melting Pot, which reminded me of my one and only time of dining there. It happened something like this . . .

I dated once or twice before I met Emily. One of the differences between a dating relationship and marriage (especially after you have children) is the quality and expense of an eatery when dining out. On this particular occasion (I'm sure in an effort to impress the girl I was dating at the time), I chose the Melting Pot. She'd mentioned the place before and was, in fact, impressed (ah, success) when I pulled into the parking lot.

I'm not sure if all Melting Pot's are like the one in Tallahassee. Like the old man slowly drinking his brandy, much to the waiters' chagrin, I enjoy a clean, well lighted place. I assume they do it for atmosphere, or maybe to lower the utility bill, but the restaurant was very dimly lit. I guess it's romantic, in a medieval dungeon sort of way, the use of low wattage bulbs behind obscure orange shades, but it seemed they needed a pocket flashlight to take us to our table.

After about an hour and a half of slowly cooking my meal one bite at a time in luke warm oil, I was still hungry and looking forward to desert. During the course of the meal I managed to drink about four glasses of sweet tea, so I decided a quick restroom break was in order prior to our chocolate fondue.

After that long in a darkened chamber, one's eyes become quite adjusted to the lack of light. Which is quite unfortunate when you walk into the men's room which (I guess it is a state health department requirement) is lit with 200 watt fluorescent bulbs. I felt the fire scalding my retinas as I walked in the door.

After finishing up I stumbled my way back to the table, completely blind. The hostess, apparently familiar with the situation, pointed me toward the back of the place. I was still unable to see as I slid back into the booth. I rubbed my eyes and shared the whole ordeal, scalding and all, with my date, occasionally dipping a piece of fresh fruit into the chocolate and slowly savoring it. Why bother with the meal in this place? It's the desert everyone is really there for anyways. Plus it would have cost almost thirty dollars less and I'd still have two hours of the evening to spend with my date somewhere I'd actually be able to see her.

After sharing the story with her, and eating probably more than my share of the fruit (and I was still hungry), my eyes were finally adjusting to the flicking orange light. I could just make out my date's hair when she spoke, "What the hell are you doing?!?" It was a man's voice. I squinted and leaned toward her. It was a guy! A guy with long hair! UGH!

I quickly got up and found my date several tables over and again ate more than my share of the fruit. At least, I wasn't hungry anymore.

God Be Merciful to Me (Psalm 51)

1. God, be merciful to me;
On Thy grace I rest my plea
Plenteous in compassion Thou,
Blot out my transgressions now;
Wash me, make me pure within;
Cleanse, O cleanse me from my sin.

2. My transgressions I confess;
Grief and guilt my soul oppress.
I have sinned against Thy grace,
And provoked Thee to Thy face.
I confess Thy judgement just;
Speechless, I Thy mercy trust.

3. I am evil, born in sin;
Thou desirest truth within.
Thou alone my Savior art,
Teach Thy wisdom to my heart;
Make me pure, Thy grace bestow,
Wash me whiter than the snow.

4. Broken, humbled to the dust
By Thy wrath and judgment just,
Let my contrite heart rejoice,
And in gladness hear Thy voice;
From my sins O hide Thy face,
Blot them out in boundless grace.

5. Gracious God, my heart renew,
Make my spirit right and true.
Cast me not away from Thee,
Let Thy Spirit dwell in me;
Thy salvation's joy impart,
Steadfast make my willing heart.

6. Sinners then shall learn from me,
And return, O God, to Thee
Savior all my guilt remove,
And my tongue shall sing Thy love
Touch my silent lips, O Lord,
And my mouth shall praise accord

Friday, August 24, 2007

All the time!

I am not disciplined. My Bible reading ebbs and flows, as does the times I set aside for prayer. I am reasonably successful with the duties required by my employer, so on the occasions my discipline rolls in, tumbling on my faith like a wave on the beach, I find myself flirting with legalism and guilt. Shouldn’t I desire Paul’s dedication? Shouldn’t I lie myself down as a bondservant of Christ’s and recognize Him as my ultimate employer? Why do I not give Him the same commitment I give my earthly employer? Christ gave His life and suffered violently for my sin; what have I done for Him lately? Oops, there’s that line.

Now as the pendulum races back toward grace, I am no more disciplined than before. To be honest, I’m not all that comfortable on the grace side of the beach. I need the motivation that guilt provides as I allow it to manipulate the blessed conviction of the Holy Spirit. I need that motivation to somehow achieve something, anything that will raise me above my sin. Oh, it would be a joy if I could witness the legalism in my heart so easily. But Satan too often whispers in shadows, and too often uses the ugly truth of my failures, my sin, to keep me away from His truth, His grace, the Gospel.

Over the last few evenings, I’ve closed the day with reading Proverbs, starting at the beginning. God, so lovingly, called me to desire His word through the first couple chapters, but Satan poisoned it with guilt, using His precious Word to drive me from Him. How could I ever follow wisdom, follow His lead, as to avoid the sneers He sets for the wicked. Your own heart is much more like the heart of the wicked than His, Satan whispered.

Why should I keep reading this stuff? There’s no way I can ever deserve what He offers. Guilt laden and discouraged, I continued another nonetheless.

My son, do not forget my teaching,but let your heart keep my commandments,
for length of days and years of lifeand peace they will add to you.
Proverbs 3:1-2 ESV

Wow. His love shone in these words. “And peace they will add to you.” And His peace broke in a long curl, sweeping with a gentle strength all the way to the dune line. And as it pulled back, He washed all that guilt, the shame, the roots of legalism, the doubt of the power and significance of His grace, away. And when they tried to creep back, He used Robin’s A/C testimony to wash it away, again.

I don’t know why it still amazes me, but I love it when He gives us what we need, just as we need it.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Rejoice in the wife of your youth

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband (Pr 12:4 ESV)

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord. (Pr 18:22 ESV)

An excellent wife who can find?She is far more precious than jewels. (Pr 31:10 ESV)

I have been blessed with an excellent wife. I know I do not honor as I should. There are times I do not love her as Christ loves the church. She works diligently with no pay and few thanks. She continually sacrifices for me and the kids. She deserves so much more than I could ever give. She is smart, fun, beautiful, and makes me laugh. She seeks the Lord and encourages me more than she'll ever know. Thank you, Emily. I love you!

Sunday, July 29, 2007


His skin strained to escape the piercing cold of the park bench. A moist fog fell from the moonless night, coating everything in its path with a thick dew as it rolled out over the park. His body continued to fight for his attention. His stomach knotted in hunger, his toes aflame with the hints of frostbite, even the screeching in his head that pounded continually now could not draw his thoughts from the pit of his guilt. Where was that first mistake? When did it all gone wrong?

With clarity that had escaped him for years, he examined every step, every breath, every glance, every action. For several weeks now, he made this bench his home as he slowly rewound his life, placing each moment beneath the magnifying glass. Hundreds of would be futures spread out into the darkness like a web as he exposed poor decision after poor decision. But where was that first mistake?!

Bean appeared too tall for his age. The weight of despair had long hunched over most of the elderly homeless in the park, but Bean stood upright. The heat that comforted his hands earlier in the evening, spread from a cup of coffee to Bean. The small crumpled bag, no doubt containing the apple, and perhaps some bread, that Bean procured daily, sat beside him. Where did I first mess up? Bean would be back in the morning. He shook his head. He needed to stay focused.

How could he be so content? Bean's hope shone. What was it Bean said earlier? He meant to remember it. What was it? The cold bit at him and he shivered, drawing his thoughts out of that past. A warmth spread through him. He remembered. He'd been trying to tell Bean he did not belong here, this was not the world he knew. Bean listened. His eyes shone with understanding and compassion. All the pain of failure had poured forth with no means of restraint. And Bean listened.

When he had finally run dry, they sat, silent, as the day gently slipped away. After a brief eternity, Bean spoke, "You know, we're just beggars, all of us. Beggars telling other beggars where we've found bread."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

What is my goal?

The July 28th entry in My Utmost for His Highest opens with, "We are apt to imagine that Jesus Christ constrains us, and we obey Him, He will lead us to great success. We must never put our dreams of success as God's purpose for us; His purpose may be exactly the opposite." It calls to mind Romans 9:20 & 21, "But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, Why have you made me like this? Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?"

The Utmost entry is titled "After Obedience --- What?" After obedience? The title itself knocked me back, and how much more the words that followed. How could this man who died 90 years ago know me so well? I am not obedient, so why even glance at the other side of this insurmountable precipice? It defines obedience.

How many times have I ignored His call because I felt insufficient? Or because I've held more tightly to the guilt of my sin than to the cross and His grace? "I am not spiritual enough to . . ." "I do not read my Bible enough to . . . " "I am too sinful to . . ."

I need to be continually reminded that it is odedience to His call that strengthens me spiritually. It is obedience that draws me into His Word and aids to put my sin in its proper place. The July 28th entry puts me feet back on the road, "if we realize that obedience is the end, then each moment as it comes is precious."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Right where I began

"Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct" 1 Peter 1:13-15 (ESV)

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

I don't know why I am having such a time getting my head around this "whole man" idea. It's not the concept as much as the conviction, the conviction to bring the whole man under obedience. Like the 1 Peter verse above, the challenge is escaping from the shadow of our former selves into holiness. But what a peace it is to know that, as B.B. Warfield put it, "the redemption wrought by the Lord Jesus Christ . . . renews me in the whole man after the image of God."

What is the whole man? It is everything. Every thought and every action. It is where I spend my time and my money. It's how I choose to relate to those around me and how I choose to relate to God.

I believe it was John Calvin who said we are idol making factories. Meditating on the whole man thing this week, I've found parts of my life, of me, I've not given to Him. I have not loved the Lord my God with all my heart, or with all my soul, or with all my mind (Matthew 22:37). I've been placing idols between myself and God.

So tonight, we tried it again: family devotion. We broke out My Time with God for Students, Training Hearts Teaching Minds, and even read Romans 9 (Q.7. What are the decrees of God? provoked some interesting discussion) The boys asked good questions. It's motivating to see them thinking about God and who He is.

An idol smashed.

Whole Man, Continued

"If Christianity is really true, then it involves the whole man, including his intellect and creativeness. Christianity is not just 'dogmatically' true or 'doctrinally' true. Rather, it is true to what is there, true in the whole area of the whole man in all of life."

Francis Schaeffer

Monday, July 16, 2007

Princeton Theolgical Seminary, New Jersey

"I believe that the redemption wrought by the Lord Jesus Christ is effectually applied to all His people by the Holy Spirit, who works faith in me and thereby unites me to Christ, renews me in the whole man after the image of God, and enables me more and more to die unto sin and to live unto righteousness; until His gracious work having been completed in me, I shall be received into glory; in which great hope abiding, I must ever strive to perfect holiness in the fear of God."

B.B. Warfield, point 15 of A Brief and Untechnical Statement of the Reformed Faith

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Westminster Abbey, London, 1647

What are the duties required in the first commandment?

The duties required in the first commandment are,

the knowing and acknowledging of God to be the only true God, and our God;

and to worship and glorify him accordingly, by thinking, meditating, remembering, highly esteeming, honoring, adoring, choosing, loving, desiring, fearing of him;

believing him;

trusting, hoping, delighting, rejoicing in him;

being zealous for him;

calling upon him, giving all praise and thanks, and yielding all obedience and submission to him with the whole man;

being careful in all things to please him, and sorrowful when in anything he is offended;

and walking humbly with him.

(Westminster Larger Catechism, 1647, Question 104)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Arequipa, Peru

Without using mapquest or google maps, how do you get from the Sebastian Inlet, Florida, to Arequipa, Peru, in a pontoon boat?

I received a call this week from someone who means a great deal to me. She is just beginning the process of getting some paperwork together to complete and return to some state agency. On top of the annoyance of dealing with bureaucratic redtape (of which she's only starting to see the beginning), she facing the fact it is something she should have already done, maybe even a couple years ago. Seeing an opening, the past heaped a good portion of discouragement and condemnation on her. And, now that I reflect on it, fear.

What is fear? We fear what we cannot control. The person who called me feared the consequences of her procrastination; she feared the process and the outcome of labor that must be put forth as she works through the paperwork and bureaucracy.

It seems I recently heard a pastor teach about his need to be in control. He recognized it as a fault, a stumbling block that had caused him to fall. I remember thinking, "I know I've my own host of issues, but the need for control is not an area where I fail." What is it? Pride comes before a fall? This week revealed my need to control things. But when I do, I keep God small.

I am unable to control my past. I am unable to control others. I am unable to control the future. I am predisposed to fear these things. Again, the person who called felt the condemnation of not pursuing these avenues available to her sooner. I told her, we can't change the past, but we can act now, and that affects the future. She's no idiot. I revealed nothing new to her, but she needed to hear it spoken aloud and from someone else.

I say it all the time. God is sovereign. He is in control of all things. I know it, but my actions too often reveal I don't believe it. When I seek to take the reigns from Him, I make God small. I believe that is why "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge"; He is in control of all things. In obedience we are to relinquish all control to Him.

On the July 8th entry of My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers says, "Will is the whole man active. I cannot give up my will, I must exercise it. I must will to obey, and I must will to receive God's spirit." Will is the whole man active. Will is the whole man active. Will is the whole man active. I am not frequently active, and when I am, it is most certainly not the whole man.

Too often I consider studying and meditating on God's word, attending church, and passively praying to be the extent of my Christian walk. When the Holy Spirit convicts me, I am forced to recognize that it is not walking, it's sitting back. Some of my favorite scripture is Paul's description of the full armor of God in Ephesians. What is armor for? It is for battle. Too often I find myself making it a museum piece. "Here is the Full Armor of God fitted for Josh circa 2007. It's pristine state is a direct result of two conditions: One, years of careful maintenance, and two, it was never worn in battle."

So, how do you get from the Sebastian Inlet to Arequipa in a pontoon boat? God.

A week and a half ago, as rain built up to the south of us, my dad pulled the boat up onto the south bank of the inlet. My son played shortly with another boy on the playground, while we talked and admired the newer buildings in the park. The rain held off and we decided to head for the dock (another adventure altogether), but as we started to load up, a man walked down from a pavilion toward us. It was Jesse, the father of a boy that once worked for me. Their family and ours has grown close through multiple connections through the years. During his conversation with my father and grandfather, it came up that Brian, his son, and Neal, another boy who worked for me at one time, had been to Peru on a mission trip. How cool! God is so good.

Later that day, my wife and I headed out to the mall while my folks watched the kids. Date night at the food court. On the way, 91.9, Christian FM, gave an update on a recent mission trip to Peru to help build a radio station. Could it be? Yes. Tonight I finally remembered to check their website for the Arequipa Peru Mission 2007. There they were, no longer boys but men. Active men going to battle. Again, how cool!

Map from GoogleMaps

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Channel Marker 73: Sebastian, Fla

I love Sebastian. It's not because it wants to be known as a quaint coastal fishing village when it grows up. Last week, when driving through Sebastian on US1, passing Capt. Hiram's Resort, a small shopping area called the Village Square and hearing about their annual Clambake in November, I found they're close to pulling it off.

It's not even due to the joy I find being out on the intercoastal swimming or fishing. I've even considered the possibility that since it where I spent my high school years, and my parents still live there, that it is home to me. But my home is with my wife and kids in Jax. So, why do I love Sebastian? It's where my folks, my family, live.

With some in Micco, others scattered in Ft. Pierce and Vero, grandparents in Sebastian, it is a place to touch base with where I came from so I can more easily see where I want to go. Each one of them colors who I am in some way (there is no way I am even going to attempt to say who and how; I'll inevitably leave someone out). Too often I wander around with blinders, excusing it as being "focused". As I result I am frequently humbled to see character traits I long for my boys (even me) to emulate where I never thought to look. Being around family helps me see we all are made in the image of God.

Each visit helps me grow. I never see it when I am there. In fact, I probably devolve to some extent simply by finding myself in too comfortable of surroundings. But tonight, almost twenty-four hours since we returned home, I can see more clearly. I can see my path more easily, the highground and the snares that line the trail. I can see where I need to step up as a father, and as a husband. And I can see, too clearly, where I fail to pursue Him. Going back to the place where you grew up, where you spent those teen years that molded you, tested you, going back can shed light on old sins that still plague us.

You know I ran across an old box of letters
While I was bagging up some clothes for Goodwill
But you know I had to laugh at the same old struggles
That plagued me then are plaguing me still
I know the road is long from the ground to glory
But a boy can hope he's getting some place
But you see, I'm running from the very clothes I'm wearing
And dressed like this I'm fit for the chase

'Cause no, there is none righteous
Not one who understands
There is none who seek God
No not one, I said no not one
So I am thankful that I'm incapable

Of doing any good on my own

'Cause we're all stillborn and dead in our transgressions
We're shackled up to the sin we hold so dear
So what part can I play in the work of redemption
I can't refuse, I cannot add a thing

That is from Thankful by Caedmon's Call (an incredible song by a band that has captured my thoughts perfectly in song multiple times). Again, why do I love Sebastian? It makes me better.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mile Marker One: New Orleans

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?

I'd always loved that song, especially after reading several novels in high school set in New Orleans. Those books stirred in me a desire for a city I'd never visited. I longed to stroll through the garden district under the weight of the humid air and the perfume of the flower rich gardens, to hear the menagerie of music pouring from the doors of the bars in the French Quarter, and to see the mighty Mississippi.

Twenty years after that seed of desire was planted, I found myself, part of a group of fourteen people I really didn't know, heading for the city I've always wanted to see. Only now that city, almost two years after Katrina, needed me. This unlikely band in which God placed me included Glen. In the late eighties, Glen made his way into New Orleans to share the gospel with people of poverty-stricken Central City about the same time some shady novels about vampires and witches (books I pray my kids never pick up) placed New Orleans in my heart. Urban Impact and Castlerock Community Church ( had grown out of the vision God place before Glen. It was this ministry that would host our week in NO.

I hate being away from Emily and the kids. In our twelve and half years of marriage, I can count the times I headed off somewhere without her on one hand. Stepping outside my comfort zone, I followed His nudging and went.

NO is not the town out of those novels, or Deja Vu. But, then again, it is. If some therapist asked NO to lay down on the couch, an hour later the words "manic-depressive" would be written in huge letter across their notes. NO is a city of extremes. As you drive through the streets of Central City, you become worn yourself. The homes and yards are rundown and dilapidated. And it was this way long before Katrina. Then, two blocks over, huge oaks line St. Charles Avenue, and behind the large oaks, even larger homes. In seconds, the overwhelming poverty you'd just witnessed is washed away with the subtly ornate homes and the beauty of their yards. The beauty and the size of the homes continue to swell until you come up on Loyola and it's beautiful campus. The wealth of the area is not gaudy, but it is clearly evident.
Story after story continues to praise the work of the church in NO. It is the church feeding the poor, providing housing for the homeless, but most importantly bringing hope to NO through sharing and living the gospel. God is at work in New Orleans. Then, a couple miles down from the Urban Imapct ministry house, is Bourbon Street. I couldn't but enjoy the music pouring out of the doors of the bars. In fact I longed to stop and listen, but strip clubs, half naked women, the smell of alcohol, cigarettes, and vomit assaulted most of folks in the group and we walked faster, hearing even less music than before. There at the intersection of Bourbon and Canal, a group of kids, all black (if your white, you're in the minority in NO) playing horns. Their music inspiring many of the locals to dance and sway. Overwhelmed my group pressed on, wanting only to return to the ministry house and cleanse their senses of the sin they'd wandered through.

Generational Poverty. Vast Wealth. The gospel-driven church. Total depravity. New Orleans knows extremes. The only thing caught in the middle are the people.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

If a girl can do it . . .

Like most men, I enjoy a new toy. Watching Emily create and organize her blog fascinated me. What features can I add?! What are the bells and whistles?! I highly doubt I will compete with her diligence to post daily. Finding the time probably won't be the issue, but to jot down enough semi-coherent, or even mildly intelligent, thoughts that would hold a person's interest will be the challenge.

One thing is certain, this will be a long ride, so sit back, get comfortable, maybe even roll down the window and let the wind blow your hair around. We're going on a road trip.

Two things I request of You
(Deprive me not before I die):
Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches-
Feed me with the food allotted for me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, "Who is the Lord?"
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.
Proverbs 30:7-9 (NKJV)