Monday, December 29, 2008

Where Do You Fight Your Battles?

Several days ago while reading Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest, I ran across the idea of where battles are fought. He suggested that battles are to be fought internally, before God. If you wait to fight it externally, you’ve already lost. Today, scanning through radio stations, I found Ravi Zacharias on Focus on the Family. I only caught the last thirty seconds of the show, but he referred to fighting private battles.

So where do you fight your battles? Lately, I feel I’ve been bumbling from one battle to another, accidently turning from certain defeat into another front, all the while miraculously keeping my head like some mixed-up combination of Maxwell Smart and Mr. Magoo. Some I have not fought privately first. The others, I cannot seem to remember the lessons the private battle taught, nor the techniques for victory it revealed.

What these battles have reminded me is the importance of preparation. The first to Biblical examples of battle preparation that came to mind were David rejecting Saul’s armor, then selecting the stones prior to battle with Goliath and the second, God trimming the number of Gideon’s troops before his battle. Both examples ignore human reasoning, but instead both David and Gideon are left to rely on the only one that could win the fight.

In The Green Letters, Miles Stanford suggests that once you try to fight a battle you’ve lost. Though we may not see the immediate victory in our battles (and I dare suggest that what we would consider a victory, may not be what God has decided would be a victory), they are complete and we are victorious. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 ESV)

Not that we shouldn’t prepare. Paul even uses the imagery of battle preparation in the sixth chapter of his letter to the Ephesians when reminding them (and us) to “be strong in the Lord.” But more on preparation later.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Lustful Thoughts

Young women of Jerusalem, I charge you, by the gazelles and the wild does of the field: do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time. Song of Solomon 2:7 (HCSB)

Young women of Jerusalem, I charge you, by the gazelles and the wild does of the field: do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time. Song of Solomon 3:5 (HCSB)
Young women of Jerusalem, I charge you: do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time. Song of Solomon 8:4 (HCSB)
I've been reading Mark Driscoll's Porn-Again Christian. It's a short (and very frank) e-book written for men about God's view of sex presented in stark contrast with fallen man's view of sex. I don't know if I'd recommend it to any female. If you're married and you're curious, have your husband read it first; he'll know if it will offend you or not. I've read some to Emily. Almost from sentence to sentence she'll flip from "that's good stuff" to "he's a chauvinist pig". That's the extent of my warning.
It sounds as if his church is mainly 20-somethings, typically unchurched, and apparently sex, God's view of sex, is a common question presented to him. On the Mars Hill Blog, there is a Christian Sex Q&A (another thing I've read to Emily where she responded as I mentioned above) and also a sermon series called The Peasant Princess: A Love Story from the Song of Songs.
Anyways, some where while reading through all this literature one point really jumped out at me: "do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time." In other words, we should not stir up sexual/romantic passions outside of marriage.
In Porn-Again Christian, Driscoll says, "The purpose of pornography is clearly lust. And, lust for anyone but your wife is condemned by God as a grievous evil repeatedly throughout both the Old and New Testament."
Lust.
I happened to be around three woman, probably all in their thirties, the other night as they discussed Twilight.
"The Twilight thing is not going to work out this weekend," said one.
"Don't worry about it," answered the second. "I've already seen it twice."
To which the first girl said, "Me, too." Followed by a round of schoolgirl giggles and some Twilight movie commentary that was basically addressed in this manner (I hope I'm remembering the names right):
"Ooohh, Edward."
"Well, I prefer Jacob."
"Mmmmmm."
"Why would these two guys be fighting over such a stupid girl?"
Lust. The stirring up and the awakening of passion outside of marriage. There may not be sex, but just like pornography for men, these books, after reading numerous blog comments by women who have read them, stir up passions and awaken desires that are to be only for your spouse. And to market this to our teen girls, calling it acceptable because of the lack of violence and physical sex, is dangerous.
As to what stirs the passions of a teen boy vs. a teen girl (or even a husband and a wife), I'm guessing most of us know. To allow a teen girl (or woman) to stir up her passions through the 'romance' of any book series, is the same as giving a teen boy a copy of Playboy and calling it okay. Both of these kids can be intelligent enough to recognize the object of their lust is fictional, but the lust exists just the same.
Credits: The image above was taken from Mark Driscoll's Blog.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why is deflation bad?

I'm still trying to figure it out. I'll write more later, but this is a neat article, followed by some very amusing, sometimes sarcastic, and even intelligent comments.

Do you know why deflation is bad?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Padeobaptism and Amillennial Eschatology

These big words always create an awkwardness for me when we have a baptism service at our church. For those who do not know, Em and I go to an Evangelical Free church. Technically it's not a denomination but an association, but if you are not familiar with their approach, our church, Eastside Community, has a 'reformed baptist' feel. We have many baptists/former baptists at our church; they're probably the largest chunk of those who attend. Reformed meaning a commitment to the sovereignty of God with a theological approach summarized in T.U.L.I.P., and baptist in the sense that they are credobaptist and hold a premillennial view of the end times.
I am not a debater. I am not quick witted or a gifted oral communicator. When I have the chance to sit and think, I can usually put my worlds together enough through writing that I can communicate my thoughts to those reading. I know we are called to be able to give a defense of the Gospel, unless I was in a class of fifth or sixth graders, I'm sure my arguments for the Gospel would not stand against an atheist with a bit of mental stamina. Likewise, since the folks at our church are no slouches in their knowledge of theology and quick to present a defense of their beliefs in a logical, scriptural manner, I rarely bring up the that I feel they are wrong in both areas I previously mentioned.
I'm not sure why, but I've always questioned premillennial eschatology; not in an active sense, but something about it concerned me though I never sought to find out what about it seemed out of place. The churches I was in as a young christian did not require me to define my theological beliefs. Infant baptism has been a part of every church I've been a member of until now. In fact, most of my theological growth occurred in a Presbyterian church (PCA) under a pastor that grew up in a baptist church. Until college his belief in the rapture and believer's baptism was solid, but as he studied further he found those beliefs challenged until they succumbed to that belief both infant baptist and an amillennial approach to endtimes more accurately fit the the teachings of the Bible. That church was also made of a large chunk of baptists/former baptists. Perhaps they suffered the same discomfort I feel now.
I have missed every baptism service at Eastside to date. Emily was there for the service this morning. I stayed at home with two sick kids. In the past the baptism services always occurred during the Sunday evening service, an easy service to miss. This morning, if needed, I was to assist the baptees out of the baptismal and provide them with towels. Though I love to serve, it was going to be awkward.
This evening I've been thinking. We chose Eastside because of their great teaching commitment to reformed theology and expository teaching, but also because though credobaptists, they would not require our children who were baptised as infants to be re-baptised when they become members. This was a major problem for us prior to Eastside. We attended Em's aunt's church, a baptist church, and developed some strong friendships, but new to baptist teachings, when we realized the kids, as well as Emily, would be required to be baptised again for us to join, we were forced to leave in search of another body of believers. Anyways, back to what I was thinking, Elise is our last child, outside a miracle or adoption. Emily had her tubes tied after Elise. Four kids were enough for us. But what if we were to have another child. Committed to a convenantal approach of theology, I believe baptism is to the New Testament church, what circumcision was in the Old Testament. Circumcision was a outward expression of the Spirit-given faith that was required of a man and all the males in his household. Hebrew infants were circumcised to show their position in the family of believers though they had not believed themselves. Given the language of the New Testament, households being baptised, etc it is clear to me this was the view of baptism held in the early church. Again, if we were to have another child, I'd desire the child to be baptised as instructed by scripture. If the church I am currently attending would not baptise that child, am I attending the right church?
Fishing for commitments to credobapitism among the men of Eastside at our retreat this weekend, I joked that it would be so much easier if we sought more traditional reformed roots and simply sprinkled the baptism candidates instead of all the work it took to get the baptismal ready. Though the reactions were not hostile by any means, the suggestion was firmly rejected.
I don't believe my amillennial approach to eschatology would be a hill to die on, but I feel stronger toward the baptism issue. I've a meeting tomorrow night with some men from church regarding some other things, but I'm going to bring it up. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I really didn't notice that I was different from the other kids until high school. It's a shocking thing to find out at that age. There's a lot of peer pressure at that time in one's life; you'd think someone wouldn't have pointed it out to you.
I always assumed I was like my family. There were never any huge signs that pointed me in the direction to see that I was different. So there I was in history class, I still remember it clearly. Mrs. Graham, the best history teacher I remember having, passed out the test. It was not your standard test, but a test that analyzed who you were. It was the self-graded sort of test where you get so many points depending on how much you agree or disagree with about thirty or forty statements. A couple questions caused me to pause and think but all-in-all I believe I was one of the first finished.
"If you scored between 30 and 50 raise your hand," directed Mrs. Graham. Those in that range complied, then lowered their hands at her prompting. Mrs. Graham continued asking everyone to raise their hands for certain scores and the first few groups covered everyone in the class, except me. Then she went through several score ranges where no one raised their hand, until finally she asked if anyone scored higher. Not realizing what quality was evaluated by this test or how different I was, I raised my hand, solo and unashamed. Heck all my friends were in this class. They knew me; I had nothing to hide.
"This test," explained Mrs. Graham, "shows where you land on the political spectrum. The lower the score, the more to the left you fall in your political values. The higher the score the more to the right. Josh, you're about here." Everyone followed her finger as it slowly slid to the right side of the political spectrum poster above my desk, stopping just before edge of the board. Then they all looked at me in shock. I might as well of had leprosy. They wondered, as did I, how could this kid - black combat boots, black army surplus pants, black wax trax records t-shirt, even hair dyed black - this kid - be conservative?
It troubled me all the way home on the bus. Some things started to make sense, though, like how I always identified with Michael J. Fox's character on Family Ties.
This memory was just sparked a couple nights ago. The night before the election, my mom called. We talked for a long time, I tried to explain why I could not vote for Obama (see previous post) and why George Bush was not an idiot (I regularly get practice at this one at work). She then shared with me that when I was just a kid (I was born in 1970) I'd watch the hearing against Nixon instead of cartoons. She'd go about her chores around the house then come in and I'd explain what had been going on. I don't remember this, I'll have to take her word on it, but it helps explain some things.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Maybe if I write it out, I'll understand, but I cannot grasp the excitement for Obama as our next President. Don't get me wrong, I won't be whining for four years, "Well, he's not my president." I just can't get my head around how people sincerely believe it is governments role to provide for the underprivileged.

A pro-life guy myself, I understand that government must protect the oppressed and victims of injustice (Obama's support of partial birth abortion causes me to question if he's really concerned about victims of injustice). I get that much.

One clip on youtube had a lady saying that she is so excited about Obama being elected because she will not have to worry about paying her mortgage or putting gas in her car because he would help. What? People truly believe that is the role of government? There's no way. She has to be the exception.

She's not. Listening to people today at work, reading blogs, facebook statuses, etc, it's quite apparent that about 52% of us want government to take care of us. Not in the traditional national defense sense, but they want government to control gas prices, home prices; they want government to buy back all these bad loans, but want government to make sure banks keep lending to the folks they should not have been previously lending. Government has to make sure everyone has enough to eat, somewhere to sleep, that rich people share there money with those without; it needs to make sure everyone has health care.

Government is to make sure everyone plays nice in the sandbox; that everyone is treated fairly and that depends on who's definition of fair, because if you're a baby that miraculously survived an abortion, it's only fair for you to die, by their definition. But it is not fair to look at a suspected terrorists phone records. It's fair to compare our military to Hitler's stormtroopers while at the same time classifying terrorists as freedom fighters.

You know, besides the military (and that's most likely due to their training; maybe if all government employees had to experience similar training, I'd have a different opinion), I've not been all that impressed with the effectiveness or efficiency anything government has done. Just look at Fannie Mae, airport security, or the education system. Imagine what health care will look like run by the government.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Abortion and divorce. I've been put into the position to reflect on both lately.

It's one of those things you know, but it's hard to live out. Rick preached on Isaiah 40 Sunday. I was struck by the idea that the nations are as dust on the scales to God. Here I am about to go nuts over the election, and this nation is just dust. How much less important this election! Talk having your priorities screwed up.
Do not get me wrong. I know the right answers (sometimes) and kept telling myself, Hey, the next president will be of God's choosing, no matter how anxious I get over it. But then I'd just get anxious all over again.
Do you have a problem living as if God is truly sovereign? I know we say that God is sovereign all the time, especially in a reformed church like Eastside, but do we believe it?
God is sovereign, but what are we going to do if so-and-so gets elected?
God is sovereign, but what if the marriage amendment does not pass?
God is sovereign, but what about my marriage? Should I get I divorce? I'm tired of trying to hold it together.
God is sovereign, but look at the injustice so many in our town suffer.
God is sovereign, but __________________ (fill in the blank)
As soon as I say 'but' I place myself ahead of God. He is sovereign. The story is all about Him. It is not about me. And what an amazing fact that He has called us to be part of that story; not as characters, but as means to glorify Him. And, to steal from John Piper, God desires we enjoy Him by glorifying Him.
My marriage is not about what I can get out of it. It's not about what I have to put into it. It's not about Emily's or my shortcomings as parents, or as husband and wife. It's not even about our love for each other. My marriage is about glorifying God.
Not that I want everyone wearing bracelets like the WWJD craze (unless I get a cut), but what would it look like if we approached life asking how can I glorify God through this situation? through this project? through this conflict?
(an aside, I remember a story I once heard perhaps by my old pastor, Dan Hendley. Anyways, he was in a Christian book store and saw a cap with WWJD on it. He asked the clerk what it meant. 'What Would Jesus Do', she answered. To which he responded, 'I don't think He'd spend $15 on that hat.')
And in regard to abortion, I'll write more later.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Myth of the Post Modern

I am a skeptic.

Last Saturday at the Peacemaker conference I sat in on a class titled Post-Modernism and The Local Church (Why Do They Want an iPod Church?). At ninety minutes, it was much too short, more of an introduction than any sort of in-depth study.

Just for a bit of credibility, I am a former philosophy major that saw more job security in pursuing poli sci. Not to mislead anyone, I've no degree; instead I've turned my energies increasingly toward my family, and to God (unfortunately in that order, though in recent years I've desired to seek to keep God above the idols scattered around me).

I've some grasp of Modern vs Post-Modern as generally discussed in the class, but was surprised when the instructor divided the class, basically into two groups: the Boomers (less post-modern) and Gen X, Y, etc (more post-modern). Holding tightly to post-modern as defined by today's twenty-somethings, he suggested that this new generation, the post-modern generation, approached life with a worldview so contrary to anything the boomers held dear it constituted more than a difference in outlooks between generations.

Given the term post-modern has been in use for over a hundred years and has had it's fair share of critics since it was first proposed, to suggest that technology has added to the schism that just happens to land at a major generation crux, is lacking.

Words have force. As a definition, a label, limits the thing described, it also focuses it's strength. To refuse to label, define, something, may expand it's reach, but it is weakened, more akin to a breeze than the crushing blow of a thing defined.

Today's post-modernists (they're right to reject this definition, as it somewhat contrary to their worldview) may oppose labels for themselves and most definitions in general, but, socially minded, many are strong advocates for the oppressed, the poor, the underprivileged. An incredible thing, this sense of social justice, that too many Christians have wrongly sacrificed on the alter of patriotism, of America.

The world is changing. Who knows where technology (or the economy, or politics) will land us in ten, twenty, or even fifty years, but this generation, which embraces all that technology offers, is no reaction to modernism. It is the continuing cycle of rejection of the previous generations values, ideals. It is even a rejection, in part, of the benefits of the technology it embraces. As the boomers grow older, tempering their values against the rough edges of experience and self-preservation, they become legitimate targets of this idealistic youth. As the boomers, though tempered, continue to worship self and not the creator, this new generation passionately seeks to push hedonism to previously uncharted territory.

All their values align too well with the values we held in high school (we were going to change the world, you know), just as they aligned with each previous generation, especially here in the US. The youth have always been more socially minded. Maybe this generation does have a greater sense of community that reaches across racial and social/economic divides, but after catching a snip-it of My Sweet Sixteen on MTV, it doesn't appear so (don't watch it - it's trash); no more than previous waves of youths over the history of the world. I'm more inclined to agree with the words of the Preacher:

Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.

Ecclesiastes 1:10

Monday, September 15, 2008

Let My People Think

On occasion I can interject a witty phrase in a timely manner. Usually, though, it is sometime later in the day (or the next morning) that the perfect 'zinger' comes to mind.

('Zinger' being defined as a word or group of words that concisely represent my point of view in a convincing manner. Ideally the 'zinger' is both humorous and thought-provoking. Worldly, the 'zinger' is often biting. I shy away from the vicious, yet when desiring something a little edgier, I choose sarcasm instead, which, in all honesty, does not come off much better.)

It's a beautiful thing to see humor and intelligence come together in a defense of the Bible, of Christ, and even God Himself. No one does it better than Ravi Zacharias.

RZIM has a daily devotional/thought-provoking email (A Slice of Infinity) to which I subscribe but often fail to read. Several days ago, Jill Carattini posted a piece call Scandalous Windows. A very good read. Convicting. About midway through she observes:

"Ours too are the cries of a desperate people, wrought with a sense of longing, yet burdened by a sense of depravity."

Yep.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Focus on the Family's Unplugged on Twilight

To be honest, I've been waiting for this. Contains spoilers (thanks for the warning Melissa!)

Read it here.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Give me Your Eyes . . . updated

This is an incredible song with amazing lyrics, convicting lyrics. I must confess I get so hung up on the minor struggles in my family and I, and the immediate sphere of influence around us that I am completely blind to the pain and troubles of those I am continually find myself in contact with.

Lord, give me Your Eyes so I can see. Amen.

Here's the video I found today (Monday)




Or

Listen here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Remembering Frances


I've always been impressed with how well I dealt with the severe blow and unexpected redirection Frances provided almost four years ago. Especially now, it is so easy to see God's hand guiding, protecting, loving us.


But tonight I'm watching Fay find her way up to Jacksonville, and I can feel the anxiety build slowly in me. When all is going well, it is easy to have that confident reliance in God, that "the Lord gives and the Lord takes away" faith. Then, in the other direction, how easy it is to be blind to His faithfulness and His blessings when weighed down with what He has taken away.


I don't know God's plan for us over the next few days. But if I'm honest, that's not completely true. I know He is working all things for the good of those who love Him. What else do I need to know?


2004 was rough year for Emily and I. God used Frances to move us out of our routine and closer to Him. It pained us to leave our church, our friends, our family. We're still trying to adapt to a home almost half the size of Palm Bay home.


Choosing to trust Him, to believe that "God is good all the time", even when storms approach, even as you clean up the mess they leave behind (even through the pain), is all you can do sometimes. In my life, it took God taking away things I placed between He and I that I might have the vision to choose Him.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tagged?


Emily had to explain the rules to me (since she tagged me, she felt obligated). While I struggled to get my head around Rule #4, Mike tagged me, too. Now Emily has called 'no-tag-backs' so I will falter on that point Rule #4. Here are the rules, for what it's worth:


1. Link the person who tagged you.
2. Mention the rules on your blog.
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks you possess.
4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them.
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.


Six unspectacular quirks:


1. I check the weather online about twenty-plus times a day.
2. I'm addicted to air-popped popcorn.
3. I dislike dreaming.
4. I can't wear wet socks.
5. Despite Emily's vocal objections, I'm still hopeful I'll have, one day, a motorcycle with a sidecar.
6. Though I pursued poli-sci in a former life, I cannot tolerate political emails.


I've never been too good with rules or keeping chains going, nor can I think of six people outside of those I've seen getting tagged over the past couple days.


Completely unrelated, your life will be incomplete until you check out the Cover Tune Grab Bag.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kill Your TV?


I don't know why, but I've been watching the Olympics. I've never been interested before. Though not I'm athletic by any means, I believe it's the typical male's over developed sense of competitiveness. Men can create a competition out of anything. I've found myself jumping up and down shouting at and cheering on some swimmer, half the world away (so you've got to be loud), I've never heard of prior to reading their name on the screen thirty seconds before. Then in the middle of my little victory dance back and forth in front of the television (being mindful that Emily is attempting to go back to sleep after being startled awake after my sudden yelping), in middle of all that excitement emerges the destroyer of my desire to watch any sporting event on television, commercials.


Not that they're all bad. I've learned that the corporate machine in America (especially car companies) loves nature and has been the leading force in the green movement. Also, Olympians desire McDonald's food more than any gold medal. I've been taught that I can do it, and they can help. I've come to know that Barack has never been on a construction site if he thinks the same hands that install roofs would ever be trusted to even touch a solar panel. And, I've learned that NBC can't promote a show from their fall line-up without sex.

That sucks.

I'm a just about a month and a half from having a teenage boy about the house. It would be nice to be able to watch some sports with him and his brothers. No, not all the commercials are trash, but enough are. I can steer clear of the lousy shows on tv these days, but how do you avoid the commercials? My folks mute the tv at every commercial break, but you still get the images of women in various states of undress.

So what do you do? I'm going to turn it off (well, right after Michael Phelps swims again in a few minutes. Go USA!)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Extreme Home Take Over


Ever wonder what happens to the extreme home make-over families?


Monday, July 28, 2008

The Dark Knight


Saw the new Batman movie yesterday. It is good. Extremely well written. I concur with Chris that this film is easily in my top five of all time.

Last week, I read Andrew Klavan's thoughts on the film. I definitely appreciate his insight.

I'll be getting back to the tv thing soon. Thanks for you patience.
In the meantime, do you agree with Mr. Klavan? What are your top five movies?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Apologies

Emily said I sounded mean. She's pretty good about seeing things like that. If she was right, I am sorry. It wasn't my intention to offend, even if was only my wife.

I still believe my original goal is quite important, though I did not achieve it; it will have to be reworked my point later. I don't want to get away from the tv thing.

Again, my apologies to anyone else I wronged.

-Joshua

Monday, July 14, 2008

Is TV Bad?

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

A long time friend of Emily's made some interesting observations in her post regarding children's television. While I agree with her general theme that we need to be mindful to what our children are exposed, it prompted several other questions in my mind:

1. When should children be exposed to 'the world'?

2. Is the (dare I say it) 'liberal' slant of PBS programming dangerous in a Christian home where the parents (or parent) are actively involved in their children's lives and teaching them who God is?

3. With the popularity of shows like Oprah, Friends, Sex and the City, etc., even among many Christians, why are we only worried about the kids?

I'm going to work backward, starting with question 3. But it will be later this week. Until then, what do you think?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How to Enjoy


Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

enjoy
1. To receive pleasure or satisfaction from.
2. To have the use or benefit of: enjoys good health.

Maybe I need to break down and revisit my attempt to finish Piper's Desiring God. Maybe I need to read my Bible more. Maybe I need to pray more. I don't know.

What I do know is that I do not know how to enjoy myself without wondering if I'm just wasting time, energy, money, or some other resource that would better serve to glorify God by some other means.

According to the Shorter Catechism (quoted above), we're to glorify God and enjoy Him, not ourselves, right?

I feel like I'm in some old cartoon where there's an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Only I feel there are two devils whispering.

"Let your hair down," one argues. "You're only hung up on God's blessings because you cannot accept His grace. Just like His gift of salvation, you want to earn it. You can't. Get over it and rest in His grace. Rest in the blessings He's given you. Suffering will return soon enough, so rest now."

But the other is just as persuasive. "How can you feel comfortable spending a most of the week at the beach? Granted it's not large funds being spent, you still have debts to be paid. Should not your energies be focused first on those obligations? Yes, you're payments are made on time, but there's still a balance to be paid. Not just that, but when was the last time you really gave sacrificially? When have you suffered because of your giving? When was the last time you gave all? I'm not just talking money, but what about giving up your time, or your energy, or your comfort to serve?"

I know God blesses me constantly. Fifty things just popped into my mind from the last couple days. I trust He is sovereign. And as a result I need to trust when He brings peace as well as suffering. At the same time I must be obedient. That means loving "the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."

The place I've been before, but it seems distant now, is where I seek to glorify Him and enjoy Him before anything else. I'm not a fool, nor a legalist (is that a word?). I am certain without His grace, without His Spirit, I'll never be moved toward such a goal. But once I am seeking only Him, once I have removed every desire for anything before Him, crushed every idol, no matter what is happening around me whether it is suffering, or peace, or vacations at the beach, if He is object of my enjoyment, I've hit the mark.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Look Busy


"And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen."  (Matthew 22:10-14, ESV)

"If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned." (John 15:6, ESV)

"I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth." (Revelation 3:15,16, ESV)

 

I cannot remember the first place it caught my eye.  It may have been on some biker's helmet; one of those small stickers with the catchy, typically un-Biblical sayings.  This guy must have been dealing with some issues with God, because two stickers, almost side by side, mentioned Jesus.  The first one, "Jesus loves you, but everyone else thinks you're a jerk" (Only a more colorful word for jerk), besides the uncreative, vulgar language, wasn't all that offensive.  The second one, though, highlighted the grasp of God this man possessed, yet he mocked Him.  It read, "Jesus is coming, look busy."

If you did not (a) reject God, and (b) have some understanding of scripture, this would not be funny.  Or, maybe I'm just not giving the guy enough credit.  Perhaps it was a sharp criticism of the busyness of the Church, yet it's rejection of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  Social action and service is a staple of a believer's life in Christ, but when the cost of service is the sacrifice of doctrine, it's time to reevaluate who you're serving.

If you know me, you know I'm no fan of 'herd mentality.'  I was working on my facebook profile and it has a place for political views.  Facebook really wants you to pick a political party so it can not just group you with like minded people, but target more advertising toward you.  But I couldn't find "conservative, anti-isolationist and moralistic libertarian, with a social conscious, an interest in conservation, and a love for the constitution" as a political party so I just typed in "Undecided."  I can often be cynical, questioning everything.  Even 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, "but test everything; hold fast what is good."  As a benefit of my instant reaction to doubt everything I am told, I can now hold firmly to and build my life on the fact that God is good, all the time.

And I've to test myself, too. "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves." (2 Corinthians 13:5a)  Too often I dismiss the incredible gravity of God's grace when I've my feet beneath me.  And when I don't, its weight humbles me, breaks me, and draws me to Him.  It's in the tension between grace and obedience that I ask myself this question:

Bad or good, am I dressed for the feast, or just a wedding crasher?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Careful What You Pray For . . .

I'm letting go
Of the life I planned for me
And my dreams
Losing control
Of my destiny
Feels like I'm falling and that's what it's like to believe
So I'm letting go

-Francesca Battistelli - I'm Letting Go
From the album My Paper Heart

No matter what it takes I will offer,
Everything I am I give to you
Even unto death I will follow,
No matter what the price I will give to you now

-Jeremy Camp - No Matter What It Takes
From the album Beyond Measure

When I made up my mind
And my heart along with that
To live not for myself
But yet for God
Somebody said
Do you know what you are getting yourself into?

-Relient K - Getting Into You
From the album Two Lefts Don't Make A Right...

The three songs above are getting pretty good rotation on air1 lately. All three convict me. If I'm not good at waiting, letting go is another degree of challenge altogether. The sermon series at our church, though exploring 1 Corinthians, Isaiah, ect, over a couple years seems to hover around the concept of idols. More specifically the need to identify and destroy any idol in our life as they separate us from God.

I'm learning to let go of my plans and dreams. I am learning to desire Him, and His plans and dreams for me.

When Emily and I were engaged we asked someone we respected how we could be sure our desire to be married was God's desire for us. First he asked if we sought God first, if we did, then the desires of our hearts were His desires. Yeah. Kinda like Descartes' "I think therefore I am."

Knowing where God has led me and where I am right now, I did not truly desire God first at the time. To be honest, I'm a lot like the old Methodist preacher Robert Robinson (assuming Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing is autobiographical):

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

"Prone to leave the God I love." It seems like a contradiction, but how rich the truth of a Christian's life this side of glory. Every time I sing the words, I am pained that I fail the very One I love. But it is He that can seal our hearts, not us. It is He who binds us in His goodness so that we can never wander too far.

This goodness, this grace, amazing grace, draws us to Him. Like the 'woman of the city' in Luke 7, I understand what it means to be forgiven much, very much. And now that I focus my will that I may be nearer to Him (despite my wandering flesh), I dare pray the songs above, even "no matter what the price I will give to you now." How freeing it is to also pray, "Father God, that You may be glorified, do what You need to do in my life: take my hopes, my dreams, my desires, take anything that prevents me from truly following You. Open the eyes of my heart. Amen"

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Waiting

"Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God." Luke 23:50, 51 (NKJV)

"Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!" Psalm 27:14 (ESV)

It was a Sunday early in our marriage. We were visiting Emily's mom in Jacksonville. Emily's sister, Cathron, and her family were here also. Church was out and being hungry, we headed to Olive Garden for lunch. Most of Jacksonville's, at least Arlington's, after-church crowd also appeared to desire Italian for lunch; they were on the waiting list prior to our arrival. We were told to expect a 30-35 minute wait.

It seems like it was a warm day, so all of those waiting to eat, including the 9 or 10 in our party, were uncomfortably close to each other in the small vestibule . I enjoyed having some time to catch up with everyone, but this is a good time to reiterate some very important facts:

1. Everyone was hungry,

2. We had young children with us,

3. It was Sunday, after-church, and

4. We were all very hungry.

We patiently waited, even watching some who came in after us receive tables before us. When we were not seated (our party of 9 or 10) at the expected 30-35 minutes, a quiet discontent began to surface in all the adults of our party, except me. 45 minutes into our wait, the quiet discontent had grown into the adults of our party, except me, sharing critical comments that were clearly audible to those around us, as well as to the hostesses, whom they were intended to sting. A few minutes later the adults of our party (again, except me) were so disgusted, not just with the wait, but also with being misled about the length of the wait, they decided we were leaving.

It is here that I wish I could claim to suffer from some disorder characterized by crazed lunacy brought on by a lack of food, or crowds, or Sunday afternoons.

Leave?!? I was beside myself. We'd just invested nearly an hour of our time and patience to get a table and now we were leaving?!? We're the next party on the list, it's Sunday afternoon; where were we going to go to have less of a wait? Being a man of discipline, and willpower, I bit my tongue and quietly pressed through the crowded vestibule as these thoughts tumbled over one another in my head.

But once I was outside I (please remember I was hungry) my thoughts exploded from within in an attention grabbing verbal tirade that could be heard all over the parking lot. I stomped around in my madness, all the while blurting out my disbelief that we were leaving. As my blood boiled I turned my back on my party, still shouting, and headed for the car.

I don't know if it was because she was my wife, or if there was some sort of flipping of a coin, but Emily followed me out to the car. With the expertise of Jack Hanna coaxing a rabid animal into cage, she led me back into the restaurant. Our party was now seated. I humbly grabbed a chair on the kids' end of the table and surveyed the stares from the patrons at the surrounding tables. It was obvious many assumed I was out on a weekend pass.

We have a hard time waiting.

What are you waiting for?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Live Writer, Etc

Bored, I actually went to my Windows Live home page to see what was there.  Web surfing is the armchair quarterback's version of exploration.  Almost all the excitement, but without the intoxicating rush of adrenaline one gets just before death at the hand of some aboriginal you've angered, intentionally or otherwise.  Deftly wielding my mouse as if a machete, I find myself  looking through the viney clutter of sidebar ads at a new tool called Live Writer.  I've only skimmed the numerous tools it provides a for your blog entries.  Perhaps it'll inspire me to be somewhat more creative.  We'll see.  I would not recommend anyone hold their breath.

She & Him are playing in the background as I type (an mp3 album download from amazon).  She is Zoey Deschanel (she was in Elf).  Him is M.Ward.  It's a mellow, sixties-esque, indie/folk/country sound.  It's very mellow.  And very cool.  You can download a free mp3 from download.com, or just listen.

Karma?  My wife's a hoot.  Please don't worry too much for her (in this area, at least); she's not converting to hinduism.

Goodnight, Gracie.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Different Things

I don’t know why I’m posting anything. I’m tired and it’s way too late to say anything creative, inspiring, or humorous. Emily’s been awesome with her posts. I’m excited to see Melissa and Eric had a great vacation, as well as the O’Donnell’s, though I am, along with everyone else it appears, missing Robin’s posts. And the political landscape has changed with Cobra Commander entering the presidential race.

It has been very busy here. Colette (Emily’s sister) and Warren were here last week. The boys had a fantastic time spending time with their cousins out at the cabins of Hanna Park, as well as Elise. Emily’s mom captured some of Anna-Kate’s and Elise’s time together. The week before that the boys celebrated spring break with various nights spent away from home with friends or at Gramma’s. Several times while at Gramma’s they’d head out to mow just as the rain came in for the afternoon. They are either very lucky or budding meteorologists.

As Emily posted, this past weekend we attended a marriage conference hosted at our church. Emily and I have our moments of conflict (another of Emily’s posts), but I did not truly see the need for us to attend the conference, save for the time we’d get to spend together. What an encouraging message of the sacredness of marriage. Wow. I don’t want to say he wasn’t convicting, because he was; it’s just that it was 100% guilt-free. No matter the state of your marriage, I can’t imagine not walking out of there standing a bit more upright and closer together. Our church has posted the audio. It’s well worth hearing.

Pupa and Nana are visiting this week. Again Emily beat me with her post. Emmett is enjoying some time out at Hanna Park with them again tonight. Tomorrow night, we’ll be at the Y for rock climbing, the Cummer Museum and Gardens for a little sophistication, and then off to one of the boys’ favorite restaurants, CiCi’s, for dinner.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Largest Loser; Phase One is Over

April 2nd we wrapped it up. Curtis took home the big money, losing 41 pounds (about 20% of his body weight). Donnie, a sleeper til the last few weeks, ended up losing about 35 lbs (15%). Ray and I lost about 30 lbs each (13% and 14% respectively). Bob brought up the rear with a loss of almost 23 pounds (10%). He admitted at the end that 20 lbs was all he planned on losing, not believing the rest of us would even come close. All together, the five of us lost almost 160 pounds in the three months of the contest. It was much fun.

Phase Two starts the 10th.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sowing & Reaping


John-Thomas will be climbing in his first competition this weekend. Being in Gainesville, we thought we'd look up Mike, his godfather, and catch up some while we were down there. Em tried calling with no success. So tonight, I googled and googled for about twenty minutes trying different keywords until I tracked down what I hope is a good email address. But he's now in California.

Mike and I went to high school together. For quite some time, I'd say we were best friends. Mike gave me my first Bible. No big gospel spiel, just a simple challenge, five minutes a day. I never succeeded; it was more like five minutes a month. Only recently have I managed his original proposition. Still, God used his concern for me to plant the seed that others would harvest. In fact, when Mike and Tami were married, quite some time ago, Mike introduced me at the rehearsal dinner as his 'heathen friend'. It was greeted by a bunch of nervous laughter by Tami's Southern Baptist family.

God blessed Mike with charisma. He'd make friends instantly whether in a boardroom or working with at-risk kids. I've never known him to hold back; he has always been daring and honest, and appreciated for it. I've missed much of his adult life, but the little I remember from high school (it's been fun reflecting on all the stuff we did: powder-puff cheerleadering, publishing an underground newspaper, working on the literary magazine, drama, plays, multiple classes, near expulsion our junior year, prom, skipping school to go to Vero, etc, etc), coupled with the times we've caught up over the years, God has always been with him, throughout multiple challenges and blessings. I've forgotten how much I miss him. I hope it is a good email address.

* * *
It was five or six years after Mike gave me that Bible, that I gave my life to Christ (as much as a dead man can offer anything!). Emily patiently and carefully led me toward Him, as my eyes were gradually opened. A million little things had to fall in place, and they did. God is good.

* * *
So who planted the Gospel in your life? Who harvested? Are you still in contact with them? Not just that, but in whose life are you planting? Harvesting?

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Weight Gain Buddha


Donnie's the buddha's buddy this week. I'm down to 194.2 lbs after a week of not losing anything. I'm excited about the weight loss, but the contest itself has been just as much fun.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Distracted?


Are you ever distracted in church? I don't know what it was this morning, but, boy, I could not reel in my thoughts at all during any of the worship songs/hymns. Even my note taking during the sermon was sketchy, and it was a good sermon.


But then during the communion music, God allowed me pull it together. Wow. What an awesome God! To seek me, find me, and draw me to Himself, despite my best efforts.


The time during communion, resting in Him, so refreshed my soul. I could not help but wonder, though, imagine the mountain top if I'd been as in tune during the whole service! God is good, all the time.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Does Clutter Make you Fat?


I am so ripping off Robin's title (Does clutter make you fat?, February 9th). It's a great title. I've written at least three entries for this title so far (two explaining why it does and one detailing why it won’t), but deleted each one. Today, during my class, I wrote six pages of notes so that I can finally post something.


Does clutter make you fat? No. But it will keep you fat. Ever since Robin wrote that blog entry, the title has been rolling around in my head. What is clutter? Around the home it’s either necessary items not in their proper place (school books scattered in the hall) or it can simply be too much of things we really don’t need (I’m not a big fan of the ‘knick-knack’). In our lives, it’s pretty much the same.


I’ve been trying to clean up the clutter in my life, all the things that are not in their proper place and all the things I really don’t need. Things like Emily, the kids, my job, even my health are all necessary responsibilities with which God has blessed me. But they all need to be kept in their proper place, namely second to God. Still other things (tv) need to trimmed back (or removed all together) especially if I am working on the responsibilities I mentioned as necessary.


One big thing lately is my health. For a while I’ve tried to use Emily and the kids as a motivation to lose weight and be healthier, but it took the competition at work to kick start me. Exercise and diet will not guarantee a life without trouble, but the odds are it will be longer and a better quality. For so long I could not see beyond the momentary satisfaction of sautéed shrimp over rice, or pancakes, or snicker-doodles. Exercise, whether jumping rope or walking at the Y, and learning to just say no to brownies, has really been lousy during the moment, but, boy, after losing almost twenty pounds, I feel so much better. One of the guys in the competition has been able to quit his insulin because his sugar’s been okay. It’s that kind of thing that keeps me plugging along.


I’m not saying I’ll never have another brownie, maybe after I get my weight under control. God wants us to enjoy his creation. But like an alcoholic, I’ve used food as an escape from the moment. I convinced myself that I’d done something to deserve that Reese’s cup. Also like an alcoholic, going cold turkey is the best way for me; cold turkey slices over a bed of baby spinach leaves.


But I need to clean up the other clutter, too. Especially any clutter I’ve stacked in front of God, clutter I use to escape. Even my pursuit to lose weight can become an idol. Too many of the things that provide an instant, temporary joy become idols to me, such as sleeping in, tv, web surfing, movies, etc. They’re not necessarily evil on their own, but once I give them a better seat at the table than God, they’re clutter.


God must be first. He has decided to bless me in so many ways. I know He is sovereign, but I am called to be a good steward, even with His blessings.


Lord, help me identify and smash the idols cluttering my view of You. And Lord, please help me rest in Your grace while serving obediently. Be my escape. Amen.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Conversion


Pastor Brinkman taught on missions today during the education hour. I'm ripping this point off him. He credited the source correctly on the power point, but I cannot remember.


Our conversion is three-fold: 1) our commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, 2) our commitment to the Church, and 3) our commitment to the world.


In other words, are you passionate about Christ? Are you passionate about the Church? Are you passionate about the world?


He went on to quote several other folks (John Piper stands out the strongest) to present the idea that missions is foundational to good theology. I believe it was Piper who said you are either a Goer, a Sender, or Disobedient. If missions is not on your theological must-do list, it's time to re-evaluate the list.


I did not take good notes so if you want to hear it for yourself click here.

(Emily told me to add a weigh-in update from last Wednesday. I won last week, losing just over 4 lbs from the week before. I'm currently in 2nd overall with a weight loss of 19.2 lbs and under 200 lbs for the 1st time in many years. I never thought I could do it. There's a cost. I haven't had more than a couple pieces of bread since the first of the year, and maybe a couple bites of pasta and ice cream, oh, and a couple cookies. Do not be discouraged. God is good and will give you the will power. If you really want to lose weight, just like if you want to give your life over to Him, it WILL require sacrifice. It will cost you. Commitment, in almost every case, requires a radical restructuring of your priorities. Some say weight loss is not worth giving up desert, bread, or pasta. Some say they can focus their life on a holy God while not avoiding the trash on tv or in movies (I hate having to give up movies; I so wanted to see Jumper) such as sex outside of marriage and sexually suggestive humor. I'm down to only one tv show, Lost, and the previews for next week look like I'm going to have to give it up also. I don't want to come off legalistic or self-righteous or harsh. I fail in every way I've mentioned above. Let me repeat that, I fail in every eay I listed above, and more. But I am trying to be practical. The old programmers maxim works outside of writing code: garbage in, garbage out; physically and spiritually.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Quick Update

Still losing, down 14.6 lbs so far. Donnie and Ray both went up, a little, from last week. Curtis is still chugging along, winning the past two weeks, for a total of 19.2 lbs. He's almost reached his goal of 180. Maybe that will slow him down so I can have a chance to catch up and win a week or two before the end on April 2nd. Since Donnie gained the most, his desk is now host to an ugly wooden budha holding a hot dog. I'll trying to get a photo. It's really ugly.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sacrifice

I'd like to believe I sacrifice for the sake of others. I know what it means to sacrifice. I've sacrificed my enjoyment of flour tortillas and biscuits to lose weight. I constantly sacrifice time for myself to spend time with the kids, at extra church activities, or even when someone calls and asks for my help on something.

But that's not really sacrifice.

Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood." Mark 12:41-44

Sacrifice is giving what is inconvenient. Mercy requires a sacrifice of your time, and usually a part of your heart. It does not fit into your schedule. It will mess up your plans. You will get hurt and dirty. If I only give up my sin (commonly in my case, a persistent self-centeredness) that is not sacrifice. I find my sacrifice is often out of my 'abundance' and has rarely, if ever, been my 'whole livelihood.'



(This week's weigh in: Ray was the big loser again, another 4.4 pounds, for a total of 17.8. I only lost another 1.4, for a total of 11 pounds. Our group has lost a total of 59 pounds in the first three weeks. Yea, Ray!)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Largest Loser: Week 3 Weigh-in

Way to go Ray! At least I moved up to third for this week!

..................Week 2 ........Week 3 .......Weight Loss...... Percentage .........Ranking
Josh.......... 212.2 ............207.4........... 4.8 .......................2.26% ....................3
Ray........... 236.0 ...........229.4 ............6.6....................... 2.80% ...................1
Curtis .......195.8 ............191............... 4.8 ........................2.45% ...................2
Bob ...........210.8............ 209 ..............1.8 ........................0.85% ...................5
Don ...........220.4 ............217.4 ...........3.0....................... 1.36% ...................4

Totals....... 1075.2 ..........1054.2 ........21.0 ......................1.95%

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Largest Loser

Okay. The guys I work with, including myself needed to lose some weight. Knowing that men are naturally driven by competition, we drafted some rules:

1. Initial weigh-in date is January 2, 2008. Entry fee is $20.00. Subsequent weigh-ins will occur each Wednesday through April 2, 2008 (13 weeks in all). Each subsequent week of participation requires $5.00 at weigh-in, or your next work day if you are off on Weigh-in Wednesday.
2. Prizes. All fees are non-refundable. 100% of entry fee will be applied to final pay-out on April 2nd. Weekly payout will be based on the previous week’s weight and will be $10.00. The remaining amount of the funds collected each week will be added to the April 2nd payout.
3. Determining Winners. Weight loss will be calculated as a percentage of initial weight. For example, if initial weight of two people is 250 lbs and 220 lbs, and their weight loss is 50 lbs and 46 lbs, respectively, the one who loss 46 lbs wins because they loss 21% of their initial weight, versus 20% of the other contestant.
4. During initial weigh-in pockets will be emptied. All weigh-ins will occur without shoes.
Any cheating will be dealt with according to the severity of the offense. Providing other contestants with cakes, cookies, shrimp pies, or other baked goods, even if excepted willingly, may be considered cheating.
5. Unexpected circumstances. Only accidental loss of digits or limbs, will count as lost weight. If death occurs, whether by lack of food or exercise, the last recorded weigh-in weight will be considered your final weight. If irritability results in death at the hand of your spouse, your last recorded weigh-in weight will be considered your final weight and she will still be required to contribute your weekly fee for all weeks remaining.
6. No dropping out without doctor-approved illness.

Today was our first competitive day. Only losing 4.8 lbs (2.2%), I came in fourth. Curtis lost 5.8 (2.88%), Ray lost 6.8 (2.8%), Donnie lost 5.2 (2.4%)and Bob lost 4.0 (1.8%). So one week is behind us. Curtis took home the $10.00. It's going to be more challenging than I originally thought. But we lost 26.6 lbs collectively in the first week! How cool is that?