Thursday, January 31, 2008

It's About Time news has announced that some man (moron) built a 76 foot, 22,000-pound pencil. All I have to say is, "It's About Time--the void in my heart is now officially filled."

Monday, January 28, 2008

Are You Happy Today?

How optimistic are you right now about the world? Is it getting better? Is it getting worse? Do you have doubts in your mind about the state of Christianity in the world right now? Is Christianity on the brink of being snuffed out? Are we losing the battle?

The great tendency for the church is to be pessimistic about the expansion of the Kingdom of God. As we look around ourselves we see rampant sin and hard-hearted rejection of Jesus. Abortion, drunkenness, gossip, homosexuality, adultery, homicide--things seem to be looking down for Christianity. It appears as if we are losing the battle.

Are you tempted with such pessimism? Now I do not want to pull the wool over my eyes and pretend as if things are not as bad as they actually are. However, Christians must never have a pessimistic attitude about the expansion of Christ's kingdom. Often times we forget the parable of the mustard seed given by Jesus.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

Often times we Christians forget that we are on the winning team. Our pessismism usually comes from a misunderstanding which places America at the center and heart of God's activity in the world. The fact is that Christ's Kingdom is rapidly growing outside of America.

Take encouragement my friends! We are not on the losing team. Our efforts are not in vain. Right now, Christ is winning the battle--His kingdom is expanding. Not only this, but we know that the victory is sure. Do not lament over the gross rebellion evidenced throughout our land as if we were not winning the battle.

Take the victorious message of the cross to a lost world without fear. Advance with a song in your heart and a smile on your face knowing that the state of our nation is no threat to the victory of our King. March forward triumphantly with the Good News, knowing that their rebellion will not thwart God and His purposes. Don't get so bogged down by all the needs in the world that you lose sight of whose team you are on.

Because the message of the cross is sovereignly "revealed" by "my father who is in heaven," we know that the "gates of death cannot overpower it" (by the way, this is how Matthew 16 should be read).

Christian, stop your moping and groaning in prayer and advance with the message that cannot be stopped or thwarted! There is a place for grief, but it must never smolder the flame of victory.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Logos Bible Software Rocks the Planet Off Its Axis

For all of you nim-wits out there who aspire to learn Greek and Hebrew:

A few months ago while my mom was out visiting Baby James (notice that I didn't say she came out to visit us), I jokingly told her that I wanted her to buy me the "Logos Bible Software: Orignal Languages Library." Well, surprisingly she said, "I'll get that for you. Go get my computer, I will buy it right now."

I tried to convince her to not buy it--I just didn't want her to spend so much money (haha, yeah right). Anyway, she bought it for me.

Let me just tell you, this "Logos Bible Software: Original Languages Library" has revolutionized my study of the Greek New Testament.

Most people say that the thing that motivates them the most to study and learn the original languages is the glory of God. Not me. The thing that motivates me is the amount of money I have poured into all of my Greek reference materials. Just kidding.

I was thinking about going into the details of why learning the languages is important for pastors--it's the Bible for crying out loud--but I won't do that here. My purpose here is to highly recommend this Logos Bible Software to anyone who wants to learn the languages. It is well worth the cost. It makes learning the languages much more enjoyable. You don't have to flip thousands of pages (literally) in order to find the meaning of just one word.

So, if you want it here are my suggestions:
1. Go ask your mom
2. Go make some rich friends and con them into buying it.
3. Refinance your house and use the monies to buy it.
4. Sell your car--this software is much more important than transportation.
5. Make one of those fake printing press thingies: KIDDING
6. Whatever you do, don't try and buy it with your own money. Unless, of course, you have adequate overdraft protection.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Lesson From the Young Physician

Considering the title, you probably think this is going to be a post about Jesus. Well, it's not.

Last time James was in the hospital the Lord taught me a great lesson about ministry. Let me explain. Most of James' medical work has been done at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH. As many know, Dartmouth has a medical college attached to it. As a result, there are just as many Resident Doctors--those in the final steps of their education--as there are full blown doctors. Being a Resident Doctor is equivalent to being a Student Teacher. After completing their residency they then become full fledged doctors.

Kristal and I were impressed with almost every single Resident Doctor we had (and we have had a bunch of them). I learned a lot about being a young minister from these Resident Doctors because we are both in much the same position--doctors diagnose and help people with physical problems while pastors diagnose and help people with spiritual problems. One of the not so good Resident Doctors reminded me of a great number of seminary students I know (and I hope I am not one of them).

This certain Resident Doctor (about 29 years old or so), unlike any of the other Residents or full blown doctors, came into James' hospital room, asked us how we were doing, and then immediately began telling us that our fears were invalid and silly. He spent no time talking to us about James' symptoms or history--he merely spouted off some medical terms and said, "I see this all the time." and then he left. When he left I said, "Beware Jimmy, I think I might have just saw myself."

There is always great danger in learning when it is not connected with real life. What I saw in this Resident was a wealth of unusable knowledge. This Resident failed to understand that medical issues do not happen in a vacuum. Without a knowledge of a persons circumstances and history it is almost impossible to diagnose the issue. The best doctors let the patient (or in our case, the patient's parents) do more talking than himself/herself. Because the best doctors understand that medical issues do not happen in a vacuum.

This same sort of thing happens with young ministers. In the ministry, a lack of maturity often times rears its head in the same way. Spiritual problems do not happen in a vacuum--there are always causes. Young students learn new things and have the tendency to uncompassionately attack people with what they know as if mere knowledge is sufficient. Mere knowledge is not sufficient. If biblical knowledge is to be useful it must be connected with great compassion and a great understanding of the specific situation being dealt with.

This does not mean that book learning is bad. Doctors need the knowledge or they would have no basis for giving an accurate diagnosis. Knowledge is essential, but it must be coupled with compassion, understanding, and knowledge of the situation.

The Lord is still teaching me these invaluable lessons. I still have a tendency to immediately brand someone a false convert as soon as I hear of gross rebellion.

Listen to the seasoned doctor C.S. Lewis talk about true spirituality,

"Some of us who seem quite nice people may, in fact, have made so little use of a good heredity and a good upbringing that we are really worse than those whom we regard as fiends. Can we be quite certain how we should have behaved if we had been saddled with the same psychological outfit, and then with the bad upbringing, and then with the power, say, of Himmler? That is why Christians are told not to judge. We see only the results which a man's choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it" (Mere Christianity, pg 86-87).
How quickly do we brand people and jump to conclusions without knowing the person, his disposition, his upbringing, or circumstances. The way many of us young students gauge spirituality is so very immature.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Eschatology is Life: The Rest is Just Details

Now that's a Christian t-shirt that could bring in the big bucks. If I could only find a way to twist a scripture, convincing my fellow believers that they are out of the will of God if they don't buy my new "Eschatology is Life: The Rest is Just Details" t-shirt, I could make millions. Or maybe I can make it look like one of those totally sweet Abercrombie and Fitch t-shirts--It could become a racy Christian fad (to the glory of God, of course) for teeny boppers and old gray haired men who are torn between their love for eschatology and a desire to dress their age (a love for eschatology always wins in the end). If I were only a marketing specialist, I would be in a place where I wouldn't even have to trust God or ask for my daily bread. The possibilities are endless.

For those of you who don't know me, this is what I like to call satire.

Anyway, onto the outcome of our latest poll on eschatology (the study of the end times). I was surprised by the outcome: 1 Historical Premil, 8 Amil, 0 Dispensational, 1 Postmil, 4 Don't know's, 0 Don't Care's, and 0 Have never heard of these terms.

I did not realize that there are so many of like mind who come to this blog. Personally, I voted "I don't know." I really am torn between the Amil and Historical Premil positions. In this post I am not going to take you through what the Scriptures teach about eschatology. Rather, I am going to just say a few important things about eschatology in general.

1. Fellowship should never be broken over eschatological views. Great grace and humility should accompany a person's end times position. There is no eschatological view which is essential for saving faith. End times issues should be considered debatable, non-divisive issues--in the same category as things like sabbath observance, predestination, politics, spiritual gifts, music, and other issues like this. Christians can and will think differently on these things because we see dimly as through a mirror in this time between the times. Sheer immaturity is what causes Christians to divide over issues like eschatology (and the other issues listed above).

2. Just because eschatology is a debatable issue does not mean that it is unimportant. Many neglect eschatology as if it were never talked about in the Scriptures. Eschatology is talked about in the Scriptures just as much as any other doctrine. It is the primary theme in the book of Revelation and in 1 and 2 Thessalonians. It is talked about in detail in the Gospels, and here and there throughout the letters of Paul and Peter. It is also discussed in some detail in the Old Testament--Daniel, Ezekiel, etc. No, we should not divide over it, but we should take it very seriously. We should also speak out against (but not divide over) certain eschatological views that seem to go against other important doctrines of Scripture. For example, I would never refuse fellowship with a full-fledged dispensational, but I would speak out against their view that the sacrificial system will be reinstated during the millenium because it goes against the entire book of Hebrews.

3. In our study of eschatology, it is just as important, if not more, to know why the author (of whatever book) is talking about eschatology than it is to know the specifics of what the author is actually saying about eschatology. This may seem like splitting hairs, but I do think it is important. Many get so bogged down with trying to nail down the exact chronology of end times events that they fail to understand why end times events are talked about in the first place. End times events are hardly ever talked about in the Scriptures for the express purpose of giving us a detailed chronology of what is going to happen. It is written to help Christians live their everyday lives in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. End times doctrine is first and foremost to help us in our everyday lives.

4. It is of utmost importance to know how apocalyptic literature works before we go to the book of Revelation to gain a better understanding of what the Bible has to say about the end times. Apocalyptic literature functions a certain way. Unless we know how it functions, we do not have a point of reference when it comes to interpreting it. Apocalyptic literature is a literary genre like poetry or narrative. And, just like poetry and narrative, it can only be read and interpreted correctly when done so following the rules of interpreting that particular literary genre. Thus, apocalyptic literature cannot be read in the same way that we read the Gospels, or Paul's letter, or the Psalms.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Baby James Prayer Update--1/18/07

It has been a few weeks since I have done an update on James. You can see the hose part of James' g-tube in the picture. If you can't tell, he was being fed when the picture was taken--hence the syringe full of formula.

1. Praise the Lord! James' EEG test results came back and there was absolutely no seizure activity. This was a huge answer to prayer.

2. Praise the Lord! James had a vision test and everything is normal.

3. Praise the Lord! James is growing now that we can feed him through his g-tube.

4. Continue to pray for James' motor development--he is still way behind. He is making little, yet noticeable progress every week (except in the area of eating orally). James' therapist and doctors fit him to an adaptive chair to specifically help his motor development. Be praying that it comes in faster than it usually does. They told us 3-6 months.

5. James is really starting to come out of his shell. He is such a joy to have around. He always laughs. He is much smarter than I thought--he thinks I am the funniest of all. He takes after his father--good discernment.

6. We are looking into getting him a helmet to fix his flat head. Pray that the Lord would give us discernment on this.

7. Praise the Lord! James is FINALLY letting Kristal and I sleep through the night.

8. James' neurologist wants to do another MRI of James' brain. He also wants to do another spinal tap, blood work, and urine sample to continue to make sure that they haven't missed something. They also want to do a hearing test. We do not know when this will happen. Be praying because they will have to sedate him to do all these things.

9. Pray for my parents. My dad is having a lot of health issues (kidney stones, numbness throughout his body, sleep apnia, etc.). Also, my dad is looking at getting a new job. The economy in NV is so poor that the fencing industry has almost stopped. They are looking at jobs in both the Seattle, WA and the Phoenix, AZ areas. Pray that the Lord would grant him a job that both pays well and is easy on his body. Pray for them financially as it is expensive to move. Also, pray for my mom as she is taking care of my 15 year old cousin.

God has been so good to us. Thanks for your persistent prayers.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Urgent Prayer Request

One of my good friends from high school, Katie, has some urgent medically related prayer requests. I will briefly state the requests:

-Her grandma had a heart attack and is having quadruple bypass surgery.

-Her dad, on his way to the hospital to be with her grandma, had to go to the emergency room--they think he has a bleeding ulcer.

-Her mom, at the hospital with her grandma, is having heart palpitations.

Please pray for Katie and her family. Katie has been keeping everyone updated on her blog.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The End Must be Near!

On my way to check my email at, an article entitled "Don't Send in the Clowns" caught my eye. Apparently, researchers from the University of Sheffield polled children to find out what they think about clowns. The result was unanimous--children are not partial to clowns.

My first thought was, "The Book of Revelation has to talk about this somewhere. We got the war in Iraq, nation-wide economic hardship, global warming, a prevailing paranoia of being bar-coded (for those out of the Dispensational loop, bar coded refers to being officially branded with the mark of the beast by having a bar code inserted into your right hand or forehead. Ok, so bar-coding is my own term), and now... and now... children have declared their suspicion of clowns! Surely it must be in there somewhere, anywhere. I might have to twist some Greek to find it. Maybe i'll have to ignore context. Who knows! What I do know is that it must be in there."

Actually, my first thought was, "Where on earth have you been? You actually had to spend thousands of dollars to figure out that clowns are the freakiest, sanity-stealing phenomenon on the face of the planet?"

Either way, the end must be near. Oh well.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Has God Cast You Out?

Technically, my semester/quarter has not yet started. However, I have been studying for both of my classes for a few weeks now. I have already posted quite a lot on my class in Isaiah, but haven't shared anything I have learned from my Missions course. Well, thats about to change.

For my Missions class, I get to read "Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survery" by A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee. I am only 50 pages into it and am already hooked.

In Chapter 3, the authors discuss what the Gospels (specifically) have to say about missions. As would be expected, a good chunk of the chapter was dedicated to Matthew 9:35-38.

"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
This is what the authors had to say about this passage:
"Christ's command has an urgency not usually captured in today's translations. First, the harvest often was a metaphor for the end times, and every framer knew the importance of getting a harvest in once it was ready. Second, the Greek word translated as "send out" means to thrust violently (it is also used for expelling demons from people). A farmer who hired laborers to harvest the crop, knowing the importance of gathering in the harvest before it rots, might not be gentle in getting lackadaisical workers out into the field. The fact that two thousand years have intervened since this event took place does not lessen the urgency" (pg 41-42).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Church Growth: Sign Me Up

While studying at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, I sat under one of the most gifted scholars of the New Testament, Dr. Alan Tomlinson.

The Lord used Dr. Tomlinson to produce in me a passion for reading the New Testament in its 1st Century context. He would always say, "Where do we need to be, everybody? Not in the 16th Century or the 21st Century, but in the 1st Century." I am forever indebted to his teaching and influence.

One of the most helpful things I learned from Dr. Tomlinson was from an introductory lecture on the book of Acts. In this lecture he laid forth three principles of church growth that can be gleaned from the book of Acts. You will find these principles to be quite a bit different from the principles widely accepted in todays present Christian context.

3 P's of Church Growth in the Book of Acts

1. Prayer
2. Proclamation (of the Gospel)
3. Persecution

As D.A. Carson would say, "Put that in your theological pipe and smoke it."

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Nancy Leigh DeMoss on Suffering

I heard the teaching of Nancy Leigh DeMoss for the first time this morning on my way to Panera to do some studying. I do not know how biblically solid she is or anything, but she had some excellent things to say this morning on the topic of why God's children get the shaft while His enemies seem to flourish. The lesson revolved around the narrative about Hannah and her struggle with infertility.

I was especially encouraged when she said, "God’s will is exactly what you and I would choose if we knew what God knows."

Read that again and think about it. You can listen to (or read) this same program by clicking here.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Radical Prophecy

For my class on Isaiah, I am reading a book by D. Brent Sandy entitled Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic. I am only on chapter 2, but have found it to be an excellent read thus far. Sandy gives a general overview of prophecy in the first chapter.

One of the things I love about prophecy is the cutting edge, extreme language of the prophets. When the Old Testament prophets speak of the holiness and wrath of God, it makes you want to run and hide in a cave. But when they speak of the love of God your heart revolts. "NO WAY! There is no way God could be that kind! How could He possibly still love and redeem such an obstinate, sinful people?" I love the prophets because the character of God is so clearly portrayed.

In talking on this same subject, Sandy said,

"As a billboard for God's hatred of sin, prophecy speaks boldly to the point. Anyone who fails to see the message is terribly near-sighted. And as a sign of God's everlasting love, prophecy speaks tenderly to the heart. Unfortunately, those who fail to read the billboards advertising God's anger probably miss the signs announcing his love as well. One cannot be understood without the other."
I give a hearty "Amen" to Sandy here. I am afraid that in an attempt to protect the warm fuzziness of the love of God from the heat of the wrath and anger of God, many have ended up losing the love of God. It is simply impossible to understand the love of God apart from an understanding of how much God hates sin. One simply cannot understand the love of God apart from an understanding of what sinners deserve as a result of their rebellion. The love of God losses its meaning when divorced from His hatred of and wrath toward sin.

This is what makes the prophets so attractive--the love of God shines infinitely brighter than the sun because it is seen in light of the sinfulness of man. The wrath of God forces us to our knees in humble petition because it is seen in the context of his love. Folks, God is extreme--extremely infinite in all of His ways.

While you are at it, check out my brother's (Luke) post on the book of Hosea. In this post he explains the overarching message of Hosea. You will see the infinite love and holiness of God portrayed in all of it's splendor. After reading Luke's post, read the actual book of Hosea!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

James Update 1/3/07

An important update: James has been doing some things that made the doctors think he might be having seizures (if you have been keeping up with James' progress you will know this). Because of this, they hooked him up to a take home EEG unit (thingy). Well, an EEG reads the electric impulses of his brain. It can detect seizure activity. A standard EEG test lasts about 20 minutes or so. James already had one of these and the results were normal. The doctors thought it was necessary to have him put on a 24 hour EEG test to get a more thorough examination. This is a necessity because the EEG can only detect the type of seizure they presume he might be having in the exact moment he is having it. Thus, they sent us home with a mobile EEG unit (thingy). We just had it taken off yesterday. Be praying the results come back normal.

The EEG was absolutely inconvenient. His head was completely wrapped in gauze, because the EEG is merely a bunch of long, skinny wires glued to his head. Without the gauze he looks like a machine man. If they didn't gauze his head up, his hands would be so entwined in the mess of wires that not even the jaws of life would get him out.

Before getting the EEG on his head, we had an appointment with the infant developmental team. The meeting was both informative and a bit challenging. It was informative because Kristal and I feel like we know more about James and his needs. It was challenging because both of the doctors on the developmental team spoke with us about James' progress down the road.

Up to this point the developmental doctors have been telling us, "All kids with brain injuries heal differently from their specific injury. There is no way to predict how James is going to jump back from the injury he incurred as an infant. There is nothing we can do but to wait for James to call the shots. James is at high risk for severe motor skill disabilities. We are not sure how severe his disabilities will be, but we know that he will have them."

Well, James is almost 9 months old now and so the doctors on the developmental team are beginning to see exactly how his brain injury has impacted him. As of right now, they are convinced that James' motor skill inabilities are going to be more on the severe side.

This came as a sort of a "rude awakening" for Kristal and I. It is one thing to hear the doctor say, "Your son is at high risk for severe motor skill disabilities." it is another to hear, "Your son is now showing us that he does and will continue to have sever motor skill disabilities."

They are not sure what aspects of James' motor skills will be effected severely, they just know that he will struggle for the rest of his life. Right now they know enough to tell us that his brain damage has impacted him greatly, but they do not know enough yet to tell us precisely where it will effect him the most.

They confirmed that his problems with eating, his inability to hold up his head consistently, his inability to roll over, his inability grasp toys, and his inability to hold concentration are not the result of getting a late start, these things are the result of his brain injury. It is not as if James is too fat to move, or that he is not motivated to grow developmentally, it is that he has had brain damage, which is effecting almost every aspect of his motor development.

The doctor said, "James' issue with holding up his head and eating are not going to be fixed over night. He is not going to merely just learn to do these things--his brain injury is preventing him from doing these things."

One positive thing that the doctors told us is that James' cognitive abilities will not be greatly hindered. The doctor said, "James' ability to reason etc. will be essentially normal. He will probably have missing pieces here and there, but will have normal reasoning abilities, for the most part." This was encouraging to hear.

The developmental doctors are also concerned about his hips. One of his legs seems longer than the other. They are concerned that his hip may not be forming correctly. We are going to look further into this.

James' physical therapist (who is really cool) is looking into getting him some adaptive equipment. Adaptive equipment is designed to help people with disabilities cope with life easier. He will be getting a special adaptive feeding seat, bath tub seat, and things like this.

Although much of this news sounds a bit scary for us, we are happy to at least know where we are heading and how to take care of him.

Yesterday we had to take him back to the hospital to get his EEG unit (thingy) taken off. We were away from the house from 11 am to 8 pm. James did super well. This is the longest he has been away from the house since he went to the hospital before Christmas. He is getting much easier to take in public. This is a huge blessing.

We know that God is super huge and super compassionate and hears our every little prayer on behalf of James. We pray expectantly, knowing that God will only do what is best for His glory and our growth. We know that God is in the business of playing "April Fools" jokes on doctors. Considering the fact that He is infinitely powerful and infinitely compassionate, we know that it would only be for an infinitely good reason that God would not heal James from his brain injury.

We thank the Lord for giving us James. The Lord has already used him in more ways than we can count.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Hardness of Heart: Isaiah 3:9

As noted in a previous post, I have begun my study in the book of Isaiah. I was reading through Isaiah a couple days ago and was struck by 3:9: "The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves."

The culture in which we live immediately mocks anyone who declares another to be more wicked than himself. Of course, we ought to be careful to not hypocritically brand others as "worse than us." However, Scripture often times unashamedly identifies hardness of heart.

Isaiah laments over the depth of Israel's rebellion by saying, "They parade their sin like Sodom, they do not hide it." Israel had fallen so far that they were no longer ashamed of their obstinate ways. They were no longer simply rebellious, they had fallen to a new level of defilement.

Is not America in a similar situation? Think of Las Vegas and its sex crazed advertisement, "What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas." Think of San Francisco and it's unashamed homosexuality. What about the rejection of the Lordship of Christ? What about the greed present in us all. Is our sin our boast?

No one is ashamed. Our hearts have grown so hard that we can longer detect our defilement. In what ways has such callousness crept into the church? In what ways has it crept into our own lives.

Isaiah 3:9 reminds me of Jeremiah 8:12: "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed, nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; In the time of their punishment they shall be cast down, says the LORD."

Let us repent of our own hardheartedness. Let us intercede on behalf of our nation. Let us "become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life" (Philippians 2:15-16).

God is a God of grace, but he is also a holy God. In Isaiah, He offered Israel grace if they would only receive it and repent of their sins. They refused God and his demands. Thus, God sent the Babylonians to judge them for their sin.

We must not test the Lord or presume upon His grace. Let us act now while God is still showing us favor. He is so gracious my friends. His promises are true. Let us strive after them.