Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Enter Ivory Tower

If you haven't noticed, I haven't written in a while. Right now I am in the heat of battle with my classes at seminary. My "Introduction to World Missions" course has been sucking every spare minute of my life away. I have never had a class that has expected so much work out me. I have literally given up every aspect of my life to merely do the minimal work for the class. I have never had a class that has pulled me away from what is most important (family, ministry, etc.) as this one has. I have been studying from 8 am till 10 pm, Monday through Saturday (Ok, so I don't go straight through: I take a 30 min break for lunch and an hour break for supper). The good thing is that I have learned a lot. But, as a result, I have not been writing much on my blog. This class will be over in less than two weeks--until that time I will not be very regular in my writing. In the meantime I will be putting up pictures of James and stuff like that (I know, thats the main reason most of you come here anyway.)

Please pray for me during these next two weeks. Pray that the Lord would give me supernatural ability to get all of my work done on time--pray that I would produce quality work. Most of all, pray that I would retain it and that it would be useful for ministry in the future. Pray for Kristal as I am not able to help much with James. Pray for Kelly (my mother-in-law) as she is having to pick up where I cannot help.

Also, James is doing really well. Please continue to pray. He is starting to get congested and is throwing up again. We are praying that he is not coming down with RSV again (the doctor said it was a possibility). Aside from all of this, he is really progressing. Kristal has been working with him a lot lately on his motor development. She is such a good mommy.

Anyway, pray for me as I enter my theological ivory tower divorced from the world, family and ministry. I have already been in the tower for a few weeks and cannot wait to get back to normalcy.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Whew: That Was A Close One!

As Kristal, James, and I were on our way home from a doctor appointment last week:

I was driving down the road minding my own business. I take a gander to my left and see a cop car. I see a woman inside the car looking at me. Immediately she flips her lights on, does a uey, and pulls me over.

She approaches the car: "Sir do you know why I pulled you over?"

Honestly, I hadn't a clue.

Apparently, I was doing 52 in a 35. I do not want to make excuses, but I can say that it was not intentional. Those of you who have known me for a while are probably laughing. Those of you who haven't known me for a while do not realize that I am a "speed nazi."

I got a speeding ticket in June of 2000 while I was on my way to my brother's rehearsal diner. I am a tightwad and so never wanted to get a ticket again (costs too much money--and you thought I obeyed the law out of righteousness--HA!).

I cannot even count how many times my dad constructed me: "Jim, you are going too slow. You are a hazard to the safety of others. Go with the flow of traffic!" Time and time again I heard this from his lips.

Well, in the same way that Jesus will come like a theif in the night, the cop puts his radar on you like a thief in the night. You don't know when it is coming ("unawares" is a good choice of words here). Luckily, because of my good driving record, she didn't write me a ticket! She slapped me with a warning.

I want to thank all of my sponsors. I especially want to thank the NH police department for extending their grace to me by not giving me a ticket. I want to thank my lovely bride for consoling me while Officer Lady Cop computed my information. I want to thank my handsome son for giving her the "evil eye" as we pulled away (he has a rear facing car seat!). I want to thank my dad for encouraging me to break the law. I want to thank the Lord for all of the opportunities I will now have to royally tick off untold numbers of other drivers for driving under the speed limit. Things are looking up for the Snowden household today. If things continue to go like they have so far in 2008 we will have a busy thanksgiving day this coming November.

Well, I guess it is time to go back t0 driving like an old woman. I will once again not go with the flow of traffic. I will once again be a huge traffic hazard. And why? Why will I become a hazard? To save a buck!

By the way, I did not take a picture of the cop after she pulled me over. I got this off the internet somewhere.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

We've Fenced Ourselves In! Part III

I want to wrap this series up by quoting something that John Oswalt (the guy in the picture) said in his commentary on Isaiah about this idea of a "remnant." By the way, his commentary is excellent--I recommend it to anyone desiring to do a study on the book of Isaiah.

"The concept of the remnant tends to go in and out of fashion, depending on the state of the church at a given time. When the church has been strong and moving forward, the emphasis has tended to be on the idea of participating in the coming kingdom of God. But when the church has felt persecuted and was in a state of little or no growth, the 'remnant' theology has tended to be more popular. Some of both emphases are probably needed in every time. In a time of growth and seeming power, we need to ask whether we are producing more chaff than wheat and whether there is fruit here that will stand a blasting drought. At the same time, when the situation is difficult, the 'remnant' must remember that they are the reprsentatives of a kingdom that cannot fail."
Oswalt continues:
"There are two great dangers in a 'remnant mentality,' closely related to each other. (1) One may be called 'ghett0-ization.' That is, those who believe themselves to be the righteous remnant will withdraw into a protective cocoon secure in their own righteousness and so cease to have the effect of salt and light in the world that Jesus commanded us to have (Matt. 5:13-16). (2) the other danger is self-pity. Here we take on a kind of 'hang-dog' mentality, where we are always feeling sorry for ourselves as the last vestiges of whatever God is trying to do. But if we are secure in the promises of God and rely on God and not on human power, our own or that of the state, we can dare to live in the open with quiet confidence and humble joy."*

Where do we begin? How do we pull ourselves out of our reformed ruts? It begins with prayer. But we must not stop there. We must be intentional about this--we must plan. We must implement the plan we make (of course, always being open to new directions that the Spirit may lead us in). Do not delay. Let us rise above the paralyzing fears of being influenced by the world. Act upon this before it becomes mere theory.

*John Oswalt, The NIV Application Commentary: Isaiah. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 183.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

We've Fenced Ourselves In! Part II

I think it would be helpful, in our discussion about Christianity's responsibility to be salt and light in the midst of the world, to discuss the idea of a "remnant." In the Old testament much is said about a remnant within the nation of Israel. What is a remnant? Well, the nation of Israel was the national people of God. On the whole, Israel was a disobedient, hard-hearted nation. However, there was a small group of obedient, God-fearing Israelites tucked within the larger group of disobedient, hard-hearted Israelites. This small group of people was called the remnant.

We see the same thing today: there is a large group of people who profess to be the people of God; we call this the professing church of Jesus Christ. The majority within this large group do not know God nor do they take obedience to His word seriously. Tucked within this large group of professing Christians we find a small group of people who are truly following Christ. This smaller group of obedient Christians can correctly be seen as the New Testament counterpart of the Old Testament remnant.

Because the larger group (professing Christianity) tends to care so little about obedience to Christ and His demands, they often times follow the ways of our culture more than they do the ways of Christ. The remnant looks on with a heavy heart knowing that things are wrong. The tendency for the remnant is to go overboard in their rejection of those parts of Christianity which give full fledge allegiance to the culture. As the remnant sees this, she immediately has the urge to flee culture so as not to be infiltrated by the world. She sees the danger of it all. She has seen how the influences of the world have caused the greater part of Christianity to completely neglect Christ and his word. To avoid this she separates herself completely.

I believe this is what we have going on in reformed circles today. Out of a fear of being infiltrated by the world, we have fled. We have seen the negative influences of the culture upon Christianity and so we have high tailed it to a safe, comfortable place untouched by the world.

The only problem is that we have put ourselves in a position to not do what we were made to do--light up the darkness. We have created an evangelistic strategy out of fear rather than out of faith and obedience.

I will put up at least one more post on this subject. I know, you will be waiting with baited breath.

Monday, February 11, 2008

We've Fenced Ourselves In!

As of late, I have been terribly burdened by an evident withdrawal from the world among my reformed brethren. By withdrawal from the world I am not referring to a refusal to buy into the world's world view or standard of righteousness. Rather I am referring to a tendency to hide from the world out of a fear of being influenced by her. There is a tendency to be so afraid of the world that we run to our little barricaded, fenced-in forts to hide from her influence.

This is a safe way of playing Christianity.

However, it is hard to be a light in the darkness when we never engage the darkness. There is a prevailing tendency in reformed churches to act as if the main purpose of the church was to "hold the fort down." No, the main purpose of the church is to expand the kingdom of God.

The problem is that we have, out of a fear of being influenced by the world, built towering walls to keep the world out of our doors. The reason this is so bad is because the walls that we have built to protect ourselves are actually blocking us from infiltrating the world.

This is not something you see with Christ: He did not gather his disciples and run off to the hills to be free from influence. No! He hit the world head on. He went out among them like a fish in water.

He hung out with the sinners, prosititutes, and tax collectors.

The slogan I am hearing from reformed people these days is, "Retreat." But this was not the slogan of Christ. The slogan of Christ was, "Pursue! Overcome!"

For some reason we forget the promise given in 1 John 5 that the evil one cannot touch us. This is not license for Christians to go out and indulge. We must be discerning. However, this is a call for reformed folk to stop neglecting the command of the great commission out of a debilitating fear of being influenced by the world. The fact is that the light will overcome the darkness.

I am not sure if it will be tomorrow or the day after, but I will add another post to this topic.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

An Update on Ol' Poopy Pants

For those of you who are still waiting for another update on James: He is now out of the hospital. We left at 8:00 pm Wednesday night. James is doing really well. His congestion is much better and he is back to his smiley self. The only thing in need of prayer at this point is his eating. For a while there, he wasn't able to eat anything without throwing it up. Right now he is eating a little over half of what he was eating before he was sick. We are increasing his feeds little by little everyday, but we have to go slow with it because he struggles with holding it down. Pray that he would continue to increase to where he was before he was sick. Also, pray for him tomorrow: Kristal is going to start trying to feed him orally again tomorrow. He absolutely refused to eat orally while he was sick (we fed him solely through his g-tube). Pray that he learns to enjoy eating orally again.

The Lord has been so good to us. The Lord clearly did a miracle on Tuesday night. When Kristal and I went to bed he was in desperate need of oxygen and an IV. Well, when we woke up he was breathing 5 percentages better without the oxygen than he was the night before with the aid of oxygen. Thank you so much for your prayers. Both Kristal and I have learned so much through our trials with James. We had a couple lengthy conversations about what the Lord has been teaching us through our struggles. Both of us are encouraged more than ever. We serve a faithful God.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

DJ Jazzy James

The Lord has been good. Last night when we went to bed we lamented the fact that we would probably not be leaving the hospital for a while. Well, this morning when we woke up the nurse came in and told us that they took James off his oxygen early this morning. They still have the tubes in his nose just in case, but his breathing is much better.

About 15 minutes after posting yesterday, the doctor decided it was time to put an IV in. They did not want him to get more dehydrated and thus go further backwards. Well, the IV is still in, BUT James has been holding his food down really well. He hasn't thrown up since last night around 8 pm (and his 8pm barf fiasco was on the smaller side of things). The doctor just (as I am typing this) came in and informed us that they are going to start trying to feed James 3 oz (about 1/4 of a can of soda) every 3 hours. She said if he can keep 3 oz down without throwing any up until this evening, we might be able to go home.

Since we have been to the hospital James has not cracked one smile (which is unlike him). Well, this morning he has been smiling all over the place. He is much more awake and energetic.

Things seem to be looking up for DJ Jazzy James. We are not sure when we will be leaving, but we are hopeful that it will be sooner than later. Please continue to pray that James would continue to fight through this nasty RSV.

Also, they took another x-ray of his chest and his lungs were Kristal clear (haha)--no more pneumonia.

Heck, what do you know, God does answer prayer. I guess it is not a waste of time getting on your knees praying to the invisible God. Hmmm... I guess his promises are true.

Well folks, continue to pray. Continue to sick God on James--He seems to know how to deal with that "untreatable" monster, RSV.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Encouraging Word on Prayer

I love seminary. Those who don't need to get a life. The fact is that seminary is a place where you are forced to read excellent things about the most glorious Being in all of existence. Some call it "cemetery," thinking it is a place that drys the soul like a sponge in a microwave. Well, maybe that is the way it was back in the 90's, but, let me fill you in as one who lives the seminary life, seminary (if approached correctly) is invaluable. I thank the Lord for it.

Anyway, let me give you a taste of why I like it so much. A few weeks ago I was reading in one of the text books for my "World Missions" class entitled Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. This text is a compilation of over 140 different articles written on the topic of Christian Missions by a variety of authors. I was reading an article entitled "Prayer: Rebelling Against the Status Quo" by David Wells. I wish I had time to comment on the quotes I am going to put up, but unfortunately I don't--you will have to fill the blanks in yourself.

Check out what Wells had to say about prayer. I have two (rather lengthy) quotes.

"What, then, is the nature of petitionary prayer? It is, in essence, rebellion--rebellion against the world in its falleness, the absolute and undying refusal to accept as normal what is pervasively abnormal. It is, in this its negative aspect, the refusal of every agenda, every scheme, every interpretation that is at odds with the norm as originally established by God. As such, it is itself an expression of the unbridgeable chasm that separates Good from Evil, the declaration that Evil is not a variation on Good but its antithesis.

Or, to put it the other way around, to come to an acceptance of life 'as it is,' to accept it on its own terms--which means acknowledging the inevitability of the way it works--is to surrender a Christian view of God. This resignation to what is abnormal has within it the hidden and unrecognized assumption that the power of God to change the world, to overcome Evil by Good, will not be actualized.

Nothing destroys petitionary prayer (and with it, a Christian view of God) as quickly as resignation. 'At all times,' Jesus declared, 'we should pray' and not 'lose heart,' thereby acquiescing to what is (Luke 18:1)."
Wells continues:
"Secularism is that attitude that sees life as an end in itself. Life, it is thought, is severed from any relationship to God. Consequently the only norm or 'given' in life, whether for meaning or for morals, is the world as it is. With this, it is argued, we must come to terms; to seek some other referrent around which to structure our lives is futile and 'escapist.' It is not only that God, the object of peitionary prayer, has often become indistinct, but that his relationship to the world is seen in a new way. And it is a way that does not violate secular assumption. God may be 'present' and 'active' in the world, but it is not a presence and an activity that changes anything.

Against all of this, it must be asserted that petitionary prayer only flourishes where there is a twofold belief: first, that God's name is hallowed too irregularly, his kingdom has come too little, and his will is done too infrequently; second, that God himself can change this situation. Petitionary prayer, therefore, is the expression of the hope that life as we meet it, on the one hand, can be otherwise and, on the other hand, that it ought to be otherwise. it is therefore impossible to seek to live in God's world on his terms, doing his work in a way that is consistent with who he is, without engaging in regular prayer." *
I will not add too much to what Wells has said. It will suffice just to say that what Wells says here in no way contradicts the fact that God knows better than we do and thus does not always answer our prayers the way we "think" He should. Wells is not suggesting that God does not have a unique and transcendent way of fulfilling his purposes in a fallen world.

The fact is that many things "ought" to be different, and whether we think we know why they are not the way they should be or not, we ought to be on our faces before God asking Him to make it right. This doesn't mean that we ask as if we knew exactly how to make it right. It also does not mean that we know what the exact right thing would be (people who think they have the mind of God down to a science scare the hee-bee-gee-bee's out of me). It does mean that we know that things are not right, and that we want God to do whatever He deems best, trusting completely that He will do what is best.

I hope this was as much of encouragement to you as it was to me.

*David Wells, "Prayer: Rebelling Against the Status Quo" in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, editors: Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne (Carlisle, United Kingdom: Paternoster Press, 1999), 143.

James Update 2/05/08

Well, as of Sunday, James' pneumonia and RSV was not getting any better, so they decided to admit him to the hospital. It is Tuesday and there is no end to our hospital visit in sight. Here are some things you can be praying for:

-James is on oxygen right now, because the RSV is making his breathing labored. When he falls asleep and relaxes, his oxygen saturation goes down too low. If his oxygen saturation numbers do not rise we cannot go home.

-James is not able to hold anything down. As soon as we put something in his belly, he throws it up. His diapers are starting to be noticeably drier and drier. Pray that he does not get dehydrated to the point of needing an IV.

-James is extremely hungry and so is crying every moment that he is awake.

-Pray for Kristal and I (especially Kristal--she never gets a break from him) that we get some sleep. James has been up in the night because of hunger.

-Pray for me as I continue to try and get all my school work done. I was thankful that I met my reading goal yesterday (Yes, I make school work goals every morning when I get up--yep, I'm a geek). But I think things are going to be much more difficult today, because James is not sleeping as much as he did yesterday.

-Pray that the Lord would open opportunities for us to share the gospel with the nurses and doctors.

-Continue to pray for my parents in their moving and job situation.

Thanks for persisting with us in prayer. Kristal and I are both extremely exhausted. I think the both us are starting to get somewhat tired of hospitals. Pray that we would embrace the work the Lord has for us. Apparently we haven't been busy enough about mixing among the people of our community letting our light shine in the darkness--God has a way of getting us where He wants us. We are thankful for whatever reason the Lord has us here. But, we are also ready to go home. This hospital visit has been extra difficult, because it is the first visit where I have had to continue my schooling while we are here. This effects both Kristal and I. It effects Kristal because I cannot be a helping hand. It effects me because it is hard to not be a helping hand. I am thankful for my mother-in-law (Kelly). She has come up to the hospital to help out. Anyway, keep praying. The Lord is mighty to heal.

Oh, do you like the picture. Those are his new ear muffs. He gets overstimulated by loud sounds easily. Actually, they are to muffle the loud ramblings of our pastor--Moe. Haha.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Prayer Update 2/1/07

Time for a James update:

We had to take James to the doctor today because he had a 101.8 degree temperature. Last night he started throwing up and was having troubled breathing.

The doctor took an x-ray of his lungs to make sure he didn't get anything in his lungs while throwing up last night, and she also sucked some boogers out of his head to see if he has RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus). Well, leave it to James: He's got both--he has pneumonia and RSV.

The pneumonia has not had time to get very bad and so will be easily taken care of with the help of antibiotics. The RSV is untreatable. The doctor said that some kids with RSV are hardly effected by it all--the only symptoms they get are a snotty nose, congestion, and a cough. Other kids, however, are much more effected by it--the Doctor said that some kids with RSV spend up to 2 weeks in the hospital. The main concern is that we do not want the congestion to get so bad that it makes breathing difficult.

Please pray for James and both his pneumonia and RSV. Pray that he does not become severely effected by the RSV. We are thankful that he is not in pain--he's just lethargic and coughfy (new word--chalk me up).

Also, continue to pray for my parents. My dad is really not doing well health wise. His medical problems are not emergencies, but he is very uncomfortable. He has a blood clot in his arm and a kidney stone surgery in about 2 weeks among many other things. Also, pray for my parents as they look for a place to move. Pray that my dad finds a job.

Thanks for persisting with us in prayer.

Top Ten Best TV Shows

So here is my "Top 10 Best Tv Show List." You will find that I have a pretty boring TV Life.

10. Really big Things: This is a relatively new show hosted by Matt Rogers. He travels the world looking for massive construction. He is a large meat head and likes to fit the part. He says lots of meat head things and gets excited about big metal things and fire and destruction and other things and stuff like that (haha). You can also see quite a lot of cool things. Ok, so you don't learn hardly anything, but it is a good show to watch after studying for 10 hours straight. You know, when you just want to sit like a vegetable and mindlessly get your mind of anything to do with words, numbers, ideas, and other "things of that nature" ("things of that nature" is a quote I picked up from the Governator).
9. The O'reilly Factor: I can feel the surge of people leaving my blog as I type this. Bill O'Reilly comes across a big-headed, pompous jerk. I hate to admit this in public... but... I like the guy. In my opinion, he is, by far, the most fair and balanced anchor on tv. I watch him for two reasons: 1. I like his ideas, and 2. I like watching him "bloviate" (anyone who watches the show will pick up what I'm putting down). Anyway, 1 and 3/11 thumbs up to Bill.
8. Build it Bigger: This show, hosted by Danny Forster, is slowly becoming one of my favorites. Danny travels around the world looking for large construction. He is a high energy geek who gets overly excited about little things--this is what makes the show. He is like watching an eighth grader pack his belongings to go on a fishing trip. Also, it is cool to see the massive construction and how they do it all.
7. Iron Chef America: Iron Chef America is an intense gourmet cooking competition. I was going to put this one last, but knew that people probably wouldn't read the rest of the list thinking that it was going to be too boring. If you don't like my shows then go watch your own TV (sorry, I take this sort of thing personal). Anyway, Iron Chef America, hosted by the interesting Alton Brown, is fun to watch. Personally, my favorite chef to watch is Bobby Flay. I know... I know... i'm not scoring points with the Gen-X'ers on this one.
6. Wow Wow Wubbzy: And you thought that I didn't watch television with my son. Every time Wow Wow Wubbzy comes on James starts laughing, smiling, and uncontrollably throwing his arms in the air (oh yeah, and drools in the process). Anyway, Wow Wow Wubbzy is a hit for 10 month olds and their parents.
5. Dog Whisperer: Cesar Millan is by far the coolest Mexican on TV. I really like watching the Dog Whisperer--it is amazing how quickly he can change the entire personality of dogs. You are probably already beginning to see that my top 10 list is much the same as that of the average middle-aged woman--Oh Well. Have you ever seen Cesar get bitten by a dog? I wonder how many times he has been bitten. I lost track at ummm... somewhere around 23. I am surprised he still has hands. Maybe he is part Mexican part machine or something--I wouldn't be surprised.
4. Survivor Man: Believe it or not, Survivorman is one of those survival shows--I know... hard to believe. It is hosted by the most savvy Canadian alive, Les Stroud. If I were making this top 10 list a year ago, Survivorman would have been #1, but the show this past season was pretty lame. He just didn't seem to do anything new or crazy--what is the point of doing a survival show if you don't do anything crazy? However, I have high hopes for the next season. If anyone comes to any understanding of how he stays so clean throughout his survival trips, fill me in.
3. Dirty Jobs: Mike Roe travels across the country finding the most disgustingly dirty jobs out there. The best part of the show is Mike and his witty humor. While watching the show I get the feeling that Mike is the sort of guy who never shuts up. Anyway, Dirty Jobs takes a strong 3rd.
2. Man vs. Wild: This is a survival show hosted by Bear Grylls. Bear has a cool accent, eats 3 day old dead zebras raw, climbs lots of things, and does stuff that would cause me to poop my pants. Anyway, this is an excellent show--you can learn lots about staying alive and stuff--which is nice... if you think about it.

And my #1 favorite show is...
1. Holmes on Homes: This has quickly become my favorite. There are a lot of crooked construction contractors out there. Mike Holmes has dedicated his life to helping people who have been ripped off by such contractors. He goes through houses messed up by contractors and redoes everything that was done wrong FOR FREE (oh, and did I mention that he makes made cash for doing so. Who would of thought: you can help people AND get rich in the process. SIGN ME UP!). I am convinced that this show applies to my spiritual life, but I can't quite make the connection--someone acting like they know what they are doing comes into the houses of uninformed people and messes everything up and then Mike has to come in and fix everything--Nope, still can't make the connection. Holmes is extremely smart and knows most construction trades very well. This show is by far the best show on TV at this point. If you disagree with me I will just build a wall around you so you can't get out--because that is something I know how to do because I watch Holmes on Homes. I have got to get me some of those overalls--This guy I once knew told me that wearing overalls actually changes your DNA. Anyway, he died from salmonella poisoning 3 months after filling me in. Hmmm...????

So what did you think of my incredibly boring Top 10 TV Shows list? Making this list was very therapeutic for me--now I know why my life leans on the "not too eventful" side of things. I trust that you noticed that there was nothing about Lost, CSI, House, or any of those other shows. I guess murder mysteries and car chases put me to sleep--haha. Actually, Kristal and I just don't like all the violence and cleavage that is scattered throughout most shows. Not saying that you are in sin if you watch those shows, just saying that you are of the devil. Haha. Anyway, I like my shows so leave them alone. If you think I am nonspiritual because I watch tv I have some advice for you: Get off the computer and go read your Bible. Haha, I should be a Christian comedian.