Wednesday, November 28, 2007

No Posting for Awhile

My family and I have some things that we have to do over the course of the next week. Please pray for us. I won't be posting much for the next few days.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Getting Plugged In

I have to say that church leaders are often pretty lousy at giving advice to new members, and even old ones, on how to get "plugged-in" at their local church. Usually, the advice is to seek out some area of ministry and start serving there. In my opinion, this generally leads to profound guilt in the listener because: a) They don't know where to start looking and b) they have no idea what they want to do. This problem is especially bad in smaller churches because many ministries are already running quite well, and even if they aren't, the over-worked people in them are amazingly incapable of accepting help. In the end, the pew-sitter may wind up slinking off to another church that will grant them blessed anonymity and better music.

Instead of telling people to simply serve, why don't we encourage them to simply build relationships with those in the church. That's much more fun and gratifying, and it is much more Biblical. Teaching disciples to love one another is how the world will know that we are Christ's, not if we teach them to simply 'work'. If you are new to a church, make an effort to get together with another family for lunch after church. Begin cultivating true friendships that will lead to accountability. The upshot of this is that after making such friendships, one will inevitably be drawn into the ministry network of one's friends. Even if it doesn't, trying to make friends, and even being a friend, is a very needful ministry in itself. Indeed, it may be the must needed one of all. So make friends at church. Invite people over to eat popcorn and watch football or whatever. It'll make a healthier church if you do.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

10 Dumb Things I've Done Since Being Married

Just for fun, I thought I'd share 10 Dumb things I've done in my marriage for your edification. These are off the top off my head and done in under 10 minutes, and they are not in order of dumbness:

#10 I once compared my wife's spaghetti unfavorably with my mothers.

#9 Just after my wife received a scheduled dose of potocin to begin labor, our doctor and anesthesiologist were called away on an emergency. I tried to break the tension with a joke. I said, "Well, now you'll at least get to feel one good contraction before the epidural." One contraction later and the joke was not funny at all.

#8 Early in my marriage, I gave an honest answer about a less-than-stellar food experiment my wife slaved over. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

#7 I tried to convince my wife that it would be a good idea for me to go to the "Together for the Gospel" Conference a week before the baby was due.

#6 I once shaved off my beard on a whim and came to bed, nearly inducing a heart-attack when my wife saw a strange man in the bedroom.

#5 The inability to distinguish between permission and approval is a constant dumb mistake. The tip off: When the wife's arms are crossed, her brows are furrowed, and she fires off, "Fine! Do what you want to!" That doesn't mean you necessarily should.

#4 I once mentioned how much money we could save if we would change the car oil ourselves.

#3 I interpreted the request for "help" with the post-pregnancy diet to mean that I should point out that ice cream and potato chips are fattening.

#2 I once thought it would be a good idea if I was in charge of balancing the checkbook. Apparently, "keeping up with it in my head" doesn't cut it with the wife.

#1 I got stuck on 8 things and asked my wife for help. Let's just say I found out that this list could be much longer.

Hopefully my idiocy will be to your benefit, and we can rest assured that I have grown in sanctification from each blunder. Amen.

When Play is Work

By the grace of God, I have a healthy, wonderful son who will turn three in December. By the further grace of God, I have another on the way who will be born in April. I am so very grateful for them and for my wife. I am blessed beyond measure.

Having said that, I will confess that keeping up with a two year old is tough work. For now, the boy genuinely covets my attention...all the time. The day is coming when he will avoid me like I'm some unclean thing, so I should treasure all of these moments while I can. However, like every male born after the fall, I have other responsibilities that also demand my attention, and not all of that labor is easy. It can be tiresome, mind and heart-wearying work, and that does not leave much energy for my beloved son.

At least once a week, my son and I have a three hour play-fest. Usually, this is on Monday night while the wife is away at women's Bible study. I am not always up for a play-fest. My son only knows a few games. We can wrestle, work puzzles, or we can throw the ball. His favorite, and it seems that all games turn into this quickly, is wrestling. My son has the energy to pound me for three solid hours without a break. I sincerely worry for other nursery children if our discipline fails. Of course with me he never gets beat up; a nursery kid with a good jab may curb his enthusiasm.

All of this reminiscing has been to make a very important point: it is very easy to neglect the tiresome duty of play, especially when one is already worn out. I can very easily pop in a "Little Einsteins" video and be set for the evening, but that's not a way to show affection. Little boys need hugs and zuberts and tickle tortures and bear hugs and papa's to pound on. Is your child a glorious gift from God or isn't he? Then go to the work of play, I doubt that you will come to regret it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Date With Death

I'm going to die. The only thing that could possibly prevent such a fate is the return of the Lord Jesus, and I have no idea if that will happen. I will have to meet death like everyone before me, and it is likely that it will test me like no other trial I have ever endured.

I firmly believe that the date, time, and means of my death are firmly fixed on God's calendar. I cannot alter it one moment, nor would I if I could. I will die precisely when God means me to, and it will be at the perfect time for me and all who love God. I believe that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him, don't you?

In the meantime, I am jogging to stay healthy. In the near future, I hope to expand my exercise regiment to work on other muscle groups. I do not do this stave off the inevitable encroachment of death. I do it, to paraphrase Jonathan Edwards, "to live with all my might while I yet live." If I die skinny and otherwise healthy at 35 of a massive heart attack, it is better than dying fat and unhealthy at 35 of a massive heart attack. It is good because I will have died a good steward of the only body I've been in, and I believe that pleases the Lord. Living is not the opposite of dying; there is more to life than a pulse and brain waves and unclogged arteries.

I live every day with an eye on death, my final foe. I once had a friend who speculated on what would be the best day of his life outside of the day he was saved. He thought it might be the day he met his wife, or his wedding day, or perhaps the birth of a child. He asked me what I thought. I said, "I am living so that the day that I die will be the greatest day of my life." He looked puzzled. I said, "In that moment when death comes, if life truly flashes before our eyes, then I want to look back and remember the day that I met my wife and remember that I treated her with integrity. I want to remember my wedding day and every day after and know that I loved her as closely as I could to how Christ loves His church. I want to remember my children and that I raised them to know Christ, and that I shared my joy in His love at their rising up and when we walked in the way and when they went to bed. I want to know, as I lay dying, that nothing I did in my life ever contradicted my love for the Savior. If that is the case, then that will truly be the greatest day of my life."

Death is an enemy and an old foe. I believe it was John Piper who said that the power of death lies in his ability to take away all that we hold dear. He steals our dreams, our loved ones, and all our hopes in this life. So we recoil at him and hate him because he would rob us of all earthly treasure. The way to conquer is to know all the threats and power of the enemy, Certainly, he is coming to take all that we hold dear in this life, and he is an unstoppable foe. He cannot be beaten by diet and exercise, nor can he be bribed by riches. He will not spare the young or the old or the innocent. Yet, the Christian may triumph because when he comes, we hold one thing to be more dear than anything this world holds, something so precious that when death comes, we count that day gain. In that moment, our enemy will usher us into the presence of the King. It is gain to be with the King! That is where are heart is and that is where our true treasure lies. Death has lost his sting and the grave has no victory, for in Christ is eternal life, and in His presence is the fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore. John Piper helped me see this, as have many of God's other magnificent conquerors.

I am resolved with Jonathan Edwards to live with all of my might while I yet live. I am resolved to meet death with a clear conscience and with an eye that looks over his shoulder to see a risen Lord. Death has a destiny as well. His cruelty is coming to an end. "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive...Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death" (1 Cor. 15:22, 24-26). May the grant us the faith to overcome this last and great foe, and may we so train ourselves in God's Word and be so entranced with His gospel that even our dying will be full of grace and utterly victorious.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Wisdom from Richard Sibbes

Occasionally, I like to go back and peruse a good book. This nugget of wisdom displays the beauty of Sibbes language and the great mystery and comfort of ministry. Hope you'll enjoy it:

We feel by experience the breath of the Spirit go along with the breath of the ministers. For the reason the apostle knits these two together: 'Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings' (1 Thess. 5:19, 20). Nathan, by a few words, blew up the decaying sparks in David. Rather than that God will suffer his fire in us to die, he will send some Nathan or other, and something always is left in us to join with the Word, as of the same nature with it; as a coal that has fire in it will quickly gather more fire to it. Smoking flax will easily take fire.

This is from his most excellent book, The Bruised Reed. It is an excellent resource for those struggling in the faith, and it is a great rebuke for those of us who tend to be impatient with the struggles of others.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Just for JD

I can't tell you how many inches that would be, but this is what it would look like. Notice in the pucker picture that the fish's head is as big as mine. I suppose my ability to put this picture up indicates that my jealousy has subsided.

S. Louisiana Fishin'

That's me and my brother-in-law with two Red Fish we hauled in simultaneously Friday. We caught a boat load, as you can see. Those are two 150 gallon coolers, if I'm not mistaken. That's a lot of Red Fish, Drum, and Flounder. Ah, Venice!

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Christian as the Greatest American Hero

I was reflecting yesterday on the prideful goofiness that so often marks my life and it reminded me of a show I used to watch as a kid. The show was called "The Greatest American Hero," and the premise of the show revolved around a schoolteacher named Ralph Hinkley. Ralph was minding his own business on a school field-trip when aliens dropped out of the sky and gave him a superhero suit. This suit basically made him Superman, and his charge from the aliens was to go about doing good and fighting evil. There was only one problem. As Ralph was leaving the scene, he lost the instruction booklet to the suit. This meant that he sort of bumbled along learning how to use his powers by trial and error. If Ralph ever stopped evil, it was usually as by an accident of his gifts, not because of their skillful use.

I think that evangelicals like myself are about as close to the reality of the Greatest American Hero that you will ever see. Though we give great homage and honor to the Bible, most are about as knowledgeable about its contents as Ralph Hinkley was the instructions to his "red jammies." Even those who are familiar with doctrine often disregard truth for pragmatism with impunity. The resulting comedy is to watch pastors flail about like Hinkley in flight. We think that we are accomplishing great things for the kingdom via movement, and sometimes we actually do get things accomplished. We just don't realize how idiotic we look to the casual observer, and we are oblivious to how much easier it would be if we took a little time to study the instructions.

Take, for example, a sincere Christian moved to do missionary work. They may have 50 wrong motivations for doing so. They may go because they feel sorry for the people of the world who are "starving for the gospel." Even a cursory understanding of theology ought to be enough to reveal that, far from being gospel-hungry, people actually bear great animosity to God and His Christ. We do not take into account the great depravity of man, nor the cultural tribulation that will result in this endeavor. Yet off we go, flying haphazardly to the far reaches of the globe to preach the gospel, armed with power of the Holy Spirit. It turns out that He is sufficiently powerful to overcome any obstacles despite our comedy of errors.

Whilst we are busy crashing into walls through ignorance and folly, the Holy Spirit is busy blessing the gospel we can barely handle coherently. Often, the result is that folks are actually brought into the kingdom, though this is often accomplished in spite of and not so much because of the messenger. To compound the comedy, it is often the case that the messenger then begins to think that it was actually his method that brought about the desired result in the people. Other Great American Heroes then begin to emulate the quirks of another, and so the entire movement is engulfed with pastors looking more like a flying Bozo than Superman.

I am still learning to walk in the Spirit by faith each day, and I confess that I am often more Ralph Hinkley-like than Christ-like. I am also quite glad that the glory of God is manifested through the power and message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that clowns like myself are given such an amazing gift as the Holy Spirit. I simply lament that we do not pay more attention to and have more faith in the instructions God has so graciously provided.

And yes, I do actually sit around and think about stuff like this.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Evil of Gambling

My sin has found me out yet again. For some reason, in a fit of arrogance and pride, I made a wager with my wife five years ago over the Alabama/LSU match-up. I, being the Alabama alum, promised that I would wear an LSU tie on Sunday morning following the game if the Tigers overcame us, and for the fifth year running, I have to preach in that gaudy tie. The LSU Tigers pulled it off 41-34. May this never happen again, and may my wife have to wear a Crimson and White dress for the next ten years after this game. Meanwhile, I shall repent in dust and ashes. Amen.