Saturday, May 31, 2008

Family Vacations -- Dads, Listen Up

Pastor Dave, Gerri and the kids started a vacation this week and they are in MI as we speak. Please pray for them as they step outside of their normal routines and spend time as a family.

For many of you, summer is the time when you take vacations because your kids are out of school. My family hopes to take a few weeks off in the middle of July. Here is some wise counsel (that I never heard before) by C. J. Mahaney to fathers and husbands on FAMILY VACATIONS.

How does this sound (wives you can pay me later):
And you will know you are serving and leading effectively on your vacation when you fall into bed at night more exhausted than at the end of the most grueling day of work. The father must enter family vacations committed to serve, lead, plan, initiate, and work, and do all this with joy. This isn’t your time to rest. Only your wife deserves to rest on vacation (because no one works harder than she does the rest of the year).
Mahaney warns families (and especially dads) to not assume that vacations will go great just because you have time off or because you are at a "relaxing" location. He challenges Christian dads to be intentional in serving their families resulting in a God-glorifying, grace-filled, relationship-building, memory-making time together.

See part 1, part 2, and part 3. Here's the outline of lessons:
1. A Servant Heart
2. A Tone-Setting Attitude
3. An Awareness of Indwelling Sin
4. Studying Your Family
5. Skillful Surprises
6. Intentionally Together
7. Gratefulness to God

By the way -- the picture is of me, my sister Janelle and my sister Katie in the middle 80s.

Discerning What to Read and What You Read


Tim Challies observes:

Around the world some 120,000 new books are published each year. That adds up to ten thousand every month; over 300 each and every day. Americans buy over 4.5 million books every day, including many of these new titles. This adds up to over 1.5 billion books per year that are consumed within America. Yet even this totals only 35% of the books that are sold worldwide. While it might seem that television and the Internet are decreasing our love for reading, it is clear that books sell better today than at any other time in history.

As the number of books rolling of the presses increases, the discernment of Christians decreases. Local churches are finding it increasingly difficult (and tragically, increasingly unnecessary) to equip their people to discern good from bad, better from best.


That is why Tim Challies has started a website called discerningreader.com in order to promote good books to the glory of God and to warn people of books that dishonor God with their thoughts and content under disguise of a Christian label or publisher. The website states:

Discerning Reader is a site dedicated to promoting good books--books that bring honor to God. At the same time, we hope to help Christians avoid being unduly influenced by books and teachers that are not honoring to God.

We do not seek to be harsh or judgmental. Rather, we seek only to be discerning as we compare books to the written Word of God. We let the words of authors speak for themselves and simply hold the books up to the light of Scripture. In doing so, we are building a database of reviews which we feel cast a discerning light on the books that are found in Christians homes, churches and bookstores.

I recommend bookmarking discerningreader.com as a helpful resource.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Happy Birthday - Buddy Patz

As I said yesterday -- Today is my son's birthday. Four years ago we were given a gift of stewardship for a brief season of life. I thank God for the past, present and future joys of having Paul as my son.

Paul is currently attached to a stuffed animal dog named "Puppy." If you know Paul, you know Puppy. here is a fun video I made for Him and Puppy.



"The Puppy Song"


C. S. Lewis' MERE CHRISTIANITY Online


One of my favorite books,
Mere Christianity, is now free online to read and print (see here). If you have not read this classic you should.

If you want to get a sampling start by reading chapter 18 (my favorite) called "The Great Sin."

Here are the first two paragraphs:

I now come to that part of Christian morals where they differ most sharply from all other morals. There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. I have heard people admit that they are bad-tempered, or that they cannot keep their heads about girls or drink, or even that they are cowards. I do not think I have ever heard anyone who was not a Christian accuse himself of this vice. And at the same time I have very seldom met anyone, who was not a Christian, who showed the slightest mercy to it in others. There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.

The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility. You may remember, when I was talking about sexual morality, I warned you that the centre of Christian morals did not lie there. Well, now, we have come to the centre. According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.




Distinguishing Between Discipline and Correction


It is important for parents and children to know the difference between discipline and punishment. Parents must always discipline. Everyone who is a child of God needs to know that God never punishes His children, but He is always disciplining them (see Hebrews 12:5-11).

Doug Wilson in his wise book, Standing on the Promises: A Handbook for Biblical Childrearing writes the following about the distinctions between discipline and punishment:

We like to paint with a broad brush. In the modern world discriminating is a bad word, and so we very rarely are. This is especially true of those areas which bear a superfi­cial resemblance to anything else—whether or not there are profound differences on a more basic level. The dif­ference between discipline and punishment is one such distinction, and one which all diligent parents must mas­ter regardless. And so what is the distinction? Discipline is corrective; it seeks to accomplish a change in the one being disciplined. Punishment is meted out in the simple interests of justice.

In bringing up children, parents should be disciplin­ing them. In hanging a murderer, the civil magistrate is not disciplining—he is punishing. One of the reasons our so­ciety is so unsafe is that the magistrate should be punish­ing, and he isn't; he should not be disciplining, and he is trying to. God disciplines His people as He takes them through the daily process of their sanctification. He has their final glorification in view, and all His discipline works toward that end. But on the last day, He shall punish the wicked. When God finally pitches the ungodly away from Himself, He will have no intention of their subsequent improvement.


To read the entire chapter "Love and Security Through Godly Discipline" click here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Paul Stephan Lewis Patz - 4 Years Old


Tomorrow my first born son will turn 4 years old. Paul Stephan Lewis Patz was born on May 30th, 2004 on a Sunday morning. I praise God for my little "Buddy."

Paul (AKA "Buddy") is a tender-hearted kid that would notice if you got a haircut and compliment you on it. Buddy enjoys the Packers with dad and he enjoys watching almost any sport that I am watching. He likes to play sports and he enjoys going with me to softball practice, games or anything else I can take him with me to. He is also the kind of boy who will wear about 4 outfits in one day depending on his mood (this frustrates Molly). The other day he wore a Packer jersey, plaid shorts (tan and blue), and white and blue sock with skate board shoes. Of course he chose that outfit. He is the kind of kid who will walk by you while playing and say -- "love ya dad." He is very intelligent and concepts and memorization come very easy to him. I think he will do good in school with little work.

It is my earnest desire and prayer that Paul will live a life with a passion to know, love and glorify his Creator!

Here are some videos I made for his birthday with pictures of Paul set to some of his favorite worship songs:


BLESSED BE YOUR NAME




HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD




O, PRAISE HIM

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Delusion of Self-Sovereignty


I love the tittle of this sermon by Paul David Tripp on James 4:13-17 called -- "The Delusion of Self-Sovereignty." Tripp, an author and biblical counselor (see here), preaches every Sunday night at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and is preaching through the book of James. You can watch or listen (either online or by downloading) to the sermon series here, and if you would like to listen to or watch the sermon that I mentioned -- here is the sermon link and the outline of the sermon:

Delusion of Self-Sovereignty

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
-James 4:13-17

Six Dangers of Self-Sovereignty

  1. Self-Sovereignty puts me in the center of my universe.

God and God alone belongs at the center of our universe.

  1. Self-Sovereignty is subtly driven by the purposes and pleasures of material acquisition and profit.

“Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”

  1. Self-Sovereignty denies mystery.

”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life?”

  1. Self-Sovereignty forgets eternity.

“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

  1. Self-Sovereignty fails to live submissively.

“Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ ”

  1. Self-Sovereignty is propelled by a wrong definition of sin.

“As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

Sin in its essence is a matter of what rules and controls your heart. It is pride and self-rule in the face of the sovereign grace and the sovereign rule of God.

How do we overcome this delusion?

We run to the foot of the cross. Jesus is our example and source of forgiveness and freedom from the delusion of self-sovereignty.

Looking to Moses to Follow Jesus - Sermon

Here are my sermon notes for Sunday, May 25, 2008. In the sermon I gave the challenge to look to Moses' example of faith in his decision to forsake the status, privilege and sinful pleasures of Egypt to embrace reproach with Christ and the reward that is found in God.

Here is the passage.

Hebrews 11:24-26 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, (25) choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. (26) He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.


Here is the the sermon manuscript -- "Looking to Moses to Follow Jesus"

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Addicted to a Spiritual "Crack"

Paul David Tripp recently published a powerfully piercing book on the human heart called "Quest for More: Living for Something Bigger than You." I recommend the careful reading of this book. It is well written with few wasted words.

In chapter 2 he talks about our pursuit of satisfaction in small things that were never meant to satisfy and which become like "spiritual crack." I will let you read from pages 30-31.


When the enemy somehow tricks you into squeezing the size of your life to the size of your personal dreams, wants, and needs, he has got you right where he wants you. He has won a victory every time he successfully tempts you to exchange the God-centered more for which you were created, replacing it with one of the endless catalog of me-centered "mores" that dangle before us in this fallen world. His lie is this: "Transcendence is really found when you live at the center of your world." Or, "Ultimate joy and satisfaction is found when you live for you."

Now you may be saying, "Come on, Paul, I'm biblically smart enough to know that that isn't true!" You probably do, but the struggle I am describing very often takes place inside the borders of good theology and regular participation in the scheduled programs of the church. It is possible, and maybe even quite regular, to participate in these things and still be settling, in the little moments of my daily existence, for much, much less than the transcendence for which you were created. Things as mundane as wardrobe, menu, schedule, workload, location, traffic, weather, being right, getting affirmed, money, housing, employment, gardens, family rooms, sex, leisure, who's in the bathroom first, who did what with my newspaper, who ate the last of the cereal, etc.—all of which are important in some way—rise to a spiritually dangerous level of importance in the heat of the moment. These are the moments we live in every day. The normal day is a 24-hour collection of little moments. Day after day, week after week, and year after year, these little moments set the character of a person's life.

When little things become the big thing for which I consistently fight, I have forsaken transcendence for the temporary shadow glories of creation. The temporary satisfaction and pleasure that I get will not last. These things are like spiritual crack; they will give me a quick emotional or spiritual rush, while leaving me unfilled and hungering for the next rush.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Is it OK to be Angry at God?


I was recently faced with this question--is it OK to be angry with God?

There are many Christians who answer this question with a strong affirmative -- YES!
For examples read this section from the Quest Study Bible or more thoroughly (and what I have heard from people before) in this article called "Go Ahead, Be Angry at God."


I agree with John Piper (I am sure you are not surprised -- right!) who wrote an article called "Is It Ever Right to Be Angry at God?" and answered the question with a NO--It is never right! I encourage you to read the whole article so you get the complete context but he sums his answer up by saying:

But when we get angry at a person, we are displeased with a choice they made and an act they performed. Anger at a person always implies strong disapproval. If you are angry at me, you think I have done something I should not have done.

This is why being angry at God is never right. It is wrong - always wrong - to disapprove of God for what he does and permits. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" (Genesis 18:25). It is arrogant for finite, sinful creatures to disapprove of God for what he does and permits. We may weep over the pain. We may be angry at sin and Satan. But God does only what is right. "Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments" (Revelation 16:7).

He then advises us not to "stuff our feelings" but to confess our struggles with God:

But many who say it is right to be angry with God really mean it is right to express anger at God. When they hear me say it is wrong to be angry with God, they think I mean "stuff your feelings and be a hypocrite." That's not what I mean. I mean it is always wrong to disapprove of God in any of his judgments.

But if we do experience the sinful emotion of anger at God, what then? Shall we add the sin of hypocrisy to the sin of anger? No. If we feel it, we should confess it to God. He knows it anyway. He sees our hearts. If anger at God is in our heart, we may as well tell him so, and then tell him we are sorry, and ask him to help us put it away by faith in his goodness and wisdom.

When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he removed forever the wrath of God from our lives. God's disposition to us now is entirely mercy, even when severe and disciplinary (Romans 8:1). Therefore, doubly shall those in Christ turn away from the terrible specter of anger at God. We may cry, in agony, "My God, My God, where are you?" But we will follow soon with, "Into your hands I commit my spirit."

I think this is helpful and biblical counsel on the subject.


The Puritans had much to say on suffering and the sovereignty of God and how we respond to God in thoughts and words. I recommend the follow two:

  1. "The Art of Divine Contentment" by Thomas Watson that you can read online here.
  2. "Seasonable Counsel: Or, Advice to Suffers" by John Bunyan which you can read online here.
I will conclude with a quote from Bunyan in his introduction to "Advice to Suffers":

Why then should we think that our innocent lives will exempt us from sufferings, or that troubles shall do us such harm? For verily it is for our present and future good that our God doth send them upon us. I count therefore, that such things are necessary for the health of our souls, as bodily pains and labour are for [the health of] the body. People that live high, and in idleness, bring diseases upon the body: and they that live in all fullness of gospel-ordinances, and are not exercised with trials, grow gross, are diseased and full of bad humours in their souls. And though this may to some seem strange: yet our day has given us such an experimental proof of the truth thereof, as has not been known for some ages past.

Alas! we have need of those bitter pills, at which we so winch and shuck: and it will be well if at last we be purged as we should thereby. I am sure we are but little the better as yet, though the physician has had us so long in hand. Some bad humours may possibly ere long be driven out: but at present the disease is so high, that it makes some professors fear more a consumption will be made in their purses by these doses, than they desire to be made better in their souls thereby. I see that I still have need of these trials; and if God will by these judge me as he judges his saints, that I may not be condemned with the world, I will cry, Grace, grace for ever.

Friday, May 23, 2008

From the Worries of a Dad of a Five Year Old Girl

When I read yesterday that Stephen Curtis Chapman's five year old daughter, Maria Sue, died earlier that day after being accidentally hit by a vehicle driven by her teenager brother--I cringed and avoided reading the rest of the story or watching any videos covering the tragedy. It was too painful to think about. I have a five year old daughter, Grace (in the picture), and it brings me much worry and fear to think about her being in the same shoes (or me in the father's).

I have to admit that this is something I worry about on a regular basis--"what if something happen to my kids?" What if they got a form of leukemia? skin cancer? what if they got hit by a car on the corner by our house? what if...?

Quite often I fight this worry with an argument that goes something like -- "OK, Daniel, be rational. What are the odds of that happening? Not very high."

Or, I will do what I did this morning as I was leaving the house (and the kids were already playing in the year) -- I will use the Chapman accident as a reminder to be extra careful-- so I said to my wife: "Molly, we need to be extra careful to always watch for kids when we are backing out of the driveway!"

Now, of course it's wise to learn from experiences. We would be foolish if we failed to glean from the the experiences of others. But this is hardly a sturdy foundation to build my faith on--I WILL BE MORE CAREFUL AND THEREFORE AVOID ALL ACCIDENTS.

As I reflect on the death of Maria Sue and especially as I imagine the grief and pain of the parents, I was reminded of a chapter I read a few months ago from Ed Welch's Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest. In it, Welch gave me very helpful advice in fighting the sinful practice of worry about the "what ifs" of life by pondering the promise of tomorrow's grace with a fresh perspective. Here are some excerpts (from pages 139-146):
If you read only one section, read the 3rd section.

GRACE FOR TOMORROW

Worry and fear are always looking ahead. When the thing we dread is upon us, we usually do well. Anticipation is the killer. In light of God's generosity and patience and his offer of comfort and wisdom we should expect him to speak to us about the near future, and he does.

He tells us that there is nothing in the future that can interfere with our kingdom mission. If the difficulty you anticipate comes upon you, you will receive grace to know God's love and grace to love someone else (1 Cor. 10:13). If you get in the car accident you dread, you will have grace to know that God is with you, and you will have grace to bear fruit ever in that difficult situation. If your loved one dies before you, you will have grace to know God's comfort and to shine brightly as you reflect your Father's glory. If poverty knocks on your door, you will have grace to trust your King and know that poverty cannot detract from your privilege of being an ambassador who blesses others in his name. As children and stew­ards who aren't in control but trust the One who is, the assurance of such grace is a blessing.

Were you hoping for more? Well, as you might guess by now, there is more. All you have to do is keep the manna story in mind [see Exodus 16]. Remember that God gave the Israelites grace to trust and obey him when they left Egypt, just as we are given even more grace for faith and obedience when the wil­derness is ahead. But they were also given more unexpected grace than they could have predicted or imagined.

GRACE DOES NOT MEAN WE ARE SHIELDED FROM HARSHIP

You never hear God reasoning this way with anxious people: "What are the odds of that happening? You don't need to worry." "Don't worry; I won't let bad things happen to you." God does not promise grace that remove hardships.

If our child is very sick, we want to believe that grace means that God will heal the child. If we have just been laid off from a job and have no financial cushion, we want to believe that grace means we will be hired tomorrow by an even more stable company, and that the old company will apologize for its egregious mistake with a huge severance package. But that is not the promise. God does not promise that earthly life in his kingdom will be easier than life in our own kingdom. Instead, he indicates that in the kingdom of heaven we will be familiar with the sufferings of Christ. We will experience hardships. We will not be spared the difficulties of life. Compared with life outside the kingdom, suffering will be more intense, if only because we love others more deeply.

This seems to take us back where we began. What we fear really might overtake us. The bridge really could fall. The plane really could be infiltrated by terrorists. My spouse really could be unfaithful. At first, this would seem to drive us right back to our attempts at controlling our world. Though such attempts might not help, at least we feel like we are doing something.


GRACE: WE WON'T HAVE TO TAKE THE EXAM UNTIL WE HAVE HAD THE CLASS

Among my assorted fears and anxieties is the fear of suffocation, espe­cially through drowning. It doesn't exert itself too often; it usually makes an appearance after news reports of tsunamis, movies such as Titanic, and celebratory pile-ups after a World Cup goal or NFL touchdown on TV. I begin wondering just how many teammates it will take to finally crush the hero on the bottom. What does tomorrow's manna, future grace, have to do with such fears?

It doesn't say that I will be spared suffocation. What it says is that, if I am called to death by asphyxiation, I will have grace when that time comes. What does that mean? I don't know. I can't imagine such grace. I can't imag­ine anything that would make drowning tolerable. And that is exactly what we should expect: at this moment, I don't have grace to drown because I am not drowning! Of course I will worry if I try to envision a drowning scenario. I will project the grace I have received for today onto tomorrow, not compre­hending that I will receive grace as needed tomorrow.

We have to go slowly on this one because it is so essential in our battle with worry and fear. Let's say that you are taking a class, and the first thing the instructor does is hand out a test. As you scan it, you know nothing. Little signs and symbols, words you have never seen—your anxi­ety level rises with each question. You have failed the class before it has even begun!

Then the teacher interrupts, "Did I tell you that this will be your final exam? You don't have to take this now, and you don't know any of this now, but trust me. By the time the class is over you will actually know this. You'll be amazed at how well prepared you will be."

Everyone breathes a sigh of relief. Nothing has really changed. There will be a final exam at the end of the course, and you would fail it if you took it now, but you have no worries. When the time comes to take the test, you will have received the "grace" that you need to do well.

Are you worried about the future? You are looking at tomorrow as if it was a final exam and you haven't yet taken the class. Of course you panic at the thought. But you haven't considered that you will go through the class before you have to take the final. You will be given all the grace you need when you need it.

What form might that grace take? Be careful here. When we try to imagine grace in some future situations, we might still be resting in our­selves. We want specific confirmation that there will be grace, and we want to calm ourselves not by trusting in the Gracious One but in seeing the future. If I am called to drown, I don't know what grace I will receive. Hav­ing never had it, I can't imagine it, and since God gives much more than we ask my prediction no doubt would fall far short. It is enough to know that I will receive grace. I will know the presence of the Spirit and I will die, or be rescued, in a way that pleases the Lord.


My heart goes out to the Chapman family. I pray and trust that God will lavish them with grace at this time. Here is a video I watched this morning at Fox News.com


R4G -4: "You Can't Just Outlaw Religion"


Timothy Keller in the first chapter of his book, The Reason for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism (R4G), makes the argument that outlawing religion will never bring and end to religion and especially Christianity. He then states what he means:



But this has not happened, and this "secularization thesis" is now largely discredited. Virtually all major religions are growing in number of adherents. Christianity's growth, especially in the developing world, has been explosive. There are now six times more Anglicans in Nigeria alone than there are in all of the United States. There are more Presbyterians in Ghana than in the United States and Scotland combined. Korea has gone from 1 percent to 40 percent Christian in a hundred years, and experts believe the same thing is going to happen in China. If there are half a billion Chinese Chris­tians fifty years from now, that will change the course of human history. In most cases, the Christianity that is growing is not the more secularized, belief-thin versions predicted by the sociologists. Rather, it is a robust supernaturalist kind of faith, with belief in miracles, Scriptural authority, and personal conversion.

Because of the vitality of religious faith in the world, efforts to suppress or control it often serve only to make it stronger. When the Chinese Communists expelled Western missionaries after World War II, they thought they were killing off Christianity in China. Instead, this move only served to make the leadership of the Chi­nese church more indigenous and therefore to strengthen it (p. 6).


Howling With Laughter -- Brian Regan


Justin Taylor posted a clip of comedian Brian Regan about the "Me Monster" called "I Walked on the Moon." Last year my brother-in-law introduced me to Regan. He is an excellent comedian who is actually wholesome. I like the way he displays the many paradoxes of life of which we are accustomed and don't think twice about them. Here are some hilarious clips of some of his gigs. He has a website at http://www.brianregan.com/. When I watched some of these clips, I was howling with laughter. Enjoy.



I Walked on the Moon: "Beware of the Me-monster"




The Emergency Room Part 1 -- "Why don't they have valet parking at the hospital?"




The Emergency Room Part 2




The Walkie Talkie
-- What a name for a military invention!




The Ironing Board
-- Have you ever thought of how stupid they are designed?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

American Idol and the 2008 Presidential Election

OK, I usually mock people who watch American Idol. Almost everything about the popular Fox hit repulses me. I guess I have to admit I haven't given the show a try, but I don't care to anytime soon. However, I thought this blog from the Weekly Standard was interested and amusing as it compares the winner of the American Idol to John McCain. Sadly, by the time November comes around the campaign will have wore us all out and we will be ready for an American Idol showdown between the two front runners.

American Idol and the 2008 Election

The American Idol finale last night provided a ray of hope for the McCain campaign. How is that, you ask? Follow along with me on the most tortured political analogy of the decade. If. You. Dare!

Okay, so the Idol final pitted David Cook against David Archuleta. For non-Idol watchers, Cook is a 25-year-old (which is ancient in Idol years) semi-professional rocker who was making ends meet as a bartender. He's got a very interesting voice and a ton of stage presence. He's also in possession of some fine musicianship, with a good eye for arrangements and a taste for the sometimes off-beat.


Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Rebelution -- Alex and Brett Harris


If you are a teenager or care about them, please consider this:
I recently heard about a newer Christian youth ministry by two 19 year olds called "The
Rebelution." There website can be found here. Alex and Brett Harris, who are younger brothers of Joshua Harris, started this ministry to challenge teenagers to "rebel" against the western youth culture of low expectations and teenagers. This low expectation for teenagers is just is prevalent in the church and Christian homes. The Harris brothers have just released a book that they wrote called "Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations." In it they begin:

Most people don't expect you to understand what we're going to tell you in this book. And even if you understand, they don't expect you to care. And even if you care, they don't expect you to do anything about it. And even if you do something about it, they don't expect it to last.

Well, we do.

This is a different kind of teen book. Check online or walk through your local bookstore. You'll find plenty of books written by fortysomethings who, like, totally understand what it's like being a teenager. You'll find a lot of cheap, throwaway books for teens, because young people today aren't supposed to care much about books, or see any reason to keep them around. And you'll find a wide selection of books where you never have to read anything twice--because it's been dumbed down. Like, just for you.

What you're holding in your hands right now is a challenging, hardcover book for teens by two teens who believe our generation is ready for a change. Ready for something that doesn't promise a whole new life if you'll just buy the right pair of jeans or use the right kind of deodorant. We believe our generation is ready to rethink what teens are capable of doing and becoming. And we've noticed that once wrong ideas are debunked and cleared away, our generation is quick to choose a better way, even if it's also more difficult.

We're nineteen-year-old twin brothers, born and raised in Oregon, taught at home by our parents, and striving to follow Christ as best we can. We've made more than our share of mistakes. And although we don't think "average teenagers" exist, there is nothing all that extraordinary about us personally.

Here is a great video by John Piper mentioning this ministry:




Here is a preview of "The Rebelution Tour":

Jesus Rescued His Enemies - Spurgeon

While studying for a sermon this morning, I came across this powerful illustration by Charles Spurgeon regarding the fact that Jesus rescued His enemies who continued to hate Him and revile Him while He was in the very act of saving their souls. This section is found in a sermon on Hebrews 12:2 called "The Shameful Sufferer."


Picture yourself to-day going home from this hall. You have an enemy who all his life long has been your enemy. His father was your enemy, and he is your enemy too. There is never a day passes but you try to win his friendship; but he spits upon your kindness, and curses your name. He does injury to your friends, and there is not a stone he leaves unturned to do you plumage.

As you are going home to-day, you see a house on fire; the flames are raging, and the smoke is ascending up in one black column to heaven. Crowds gather in the street, and you are told there is a man in the upper chamber who must be burnt to death. No one can save him. You say, "Why that is my enemy's house;" and you see him at the window. It is your own enemy—the very man; he is about to be burnt. Full of lovingkindness, you say, "I will save that man if I can." He sees you approach the house; he puts his head from the window and curses you. "An everlasting blast upon you!" he says; "I would rather perish than that you should save me." Do you imagine yourself then, dashing through the smoke, and climbing the blazing staircase to save him; and can you conceive that when you get near him he struggles with you, and tries to roll you in the flames? Can you conceive your love to be so potent, that you can perish in the flames rather than leave him to be burned? You say, "I could not do it; it is above flesh and blood to do it."

But Jesus did it. We hated him, we despised him, and, when he came to save us, we rejected him. When his Holy Spirit comes into our hearts to strive with us, we resist him; but he will save us; nay, he himself braved the fire that he might snatch us as brands from eternal burning. The joy of Jesus was the joy of saving sinners. The great motive, then, with Christ, in enduring all this, was, that he might save us.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Homeschool, Christian School or Public School?

My daughter, Grace (5), is entering kindergarten age. We are faced with the question--'What are we going to do?"

I am a pastor with families in my church who send their kids to Christian schools, public schools and (most popularly) who homeschool?

This a very serious and emotional charged topic and many Christians (our church included) who hold strong views on one position or another and act less than charitable to others in the same church who hold another position.

Josh Harris (author of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" and "Stop Dating the Church") is a pastor in Maryland and he has some wise and pastorally helpful comments in this video clip below:

Functioning as a Part of the Body of Christ - Sermon

In our "Following Jesus" series at Grace Church I preached this weekend on "Functioning as a Part of the Body of Christ. Here is the sermon manuscript and her is the sermon audio (right click and then click on "save link as").

Here is an excerpt from the sermon:

...Suppose God said to forgiven man that his plan was to create a new humanity of all the people who trust in His crucified and Risen Son and that they will form one organism called “The Body of Christ” or the Church and will be united together in Christ in a special way that by being united together the Son will restore them to the likeness of God that was intended for them in the original Creation. This God and His Son will use this united people, the church—the body of Christ, to show the world the glory, the wisdom, the love, the patience and the mercy of God and His Son—Jesus Christ. Now suppose many people who have been saved by this God say with their thoughts and their actions – “no thank you God. I don’t need to be a functioning and closely knit part of the body that you have formed. I know I need to be made like you originally intended and I need to glorify you but I can and will do it without the encumbering body and restrictive organism called the church.” How ungrateful, foolish, and arrogant would we be to say that to God! Yet so many Christians by their lives and attitudes do this very thing. Oh, they may admit that they are part of the big C Church but they do not submit themselves to real people in a local church with their time, money, energy, gifts and commitment...

"Rolling-Stone Christians" by Spurgeon


On Sunday I concluded my sermon with this illustration by Charles Spurgeon. He challenges professing believers who think it's OK to be a Christian without giving one's self to the church. He calls them a "rolling-stone Christians." Enjoy and be challenge (Spurgeon knows how to speak with wit and piercing conviction):

I know there are some who say, “Well, I have given myself to the Lord, but I do not intend to give myself to the church.”

Now why not?

“Because I can be a Christian without it.”

Are you quite clear about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord’s commands as by being obedient?

What is a brick made for? To help build a house. It is of no use for that brick to tell you that it is just as good a brick while it is kicking about on the ground as it would be in the house. It is a good-for-nothing-brick.

So you rolling-stone Christians. I do not believe that you are answering your purpose. You are living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live, and you are much to blame for the injury you do.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Consumerism and the Church


I am preparing a sermon on "Functioning as a Part of the Body of Christ" for this Sunday and I have been thinking and reading about the concept of how many in the church (including Grace Church) are consumeristic in their approach to the church. What do I mean? Many people view the church in terms of what I can get for myself from the church, be it spiritual food or good feelings about God. Many, without realizing it, ask themselves -- "what can I get for my tithe or use of a Sunday morning? This church or that church?"

Paul David Tripp writes:

I am persuaded that the church today has many more consumers than committed participants. Sure, Joe and Sheila may volunteer for a specific activity like VBS or a diaconal project, but this frequently falls woefully short of the “everyone, all the time” model of the New Testament. Our tendency toward ecclesiastical consumerism has seriously weakened the church. For most of us, church is merely an event we attend or an organization we belong to. We do not see it as a calling that shapes our entire life. (Paul David Tripp – Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, p. XII)


I came across this article today from Leadership Magazine by Skye Jethani that you can read here.

Here are a few quotes that stood out to me:

When we approach Christianity as consumers rather than seeing it as a comprehensive way of life, an interpretive set of beliefs and values, Christianity becomes just one more brand we consume along with Gap, Apple, and Starbucks to express identity. And the demotion of Jesus Christ from Lord to label means to live as a Christian no longer carries an expectation of obedience and good works, but rather the perpetual consumption of Christian merchandise and experiences—music, books, t-shirts, conferences, and jewelry....

Approaching Christianity as a brand (rather than a worldview) explains why the majority of people who identify themselves as born-again Christians live no differently than other Americans. According to George Barna, most churchgoers have not adopted a biblical worldview, they have simply added a Jesus fish on the bumper of their unregenerate consumer identities. As Mark Riddle observes, "Conversion in the U.S. seems to mean we've exchanged some of our shopping at Wal-Mart, Blockbuster, and Borders for the Christian bookstore down the street. We've taken our lack of purchasing control to God's store, where we buy our office supplies in Jesus name."

Ultimately we shouldn't be surprised that American Christianity has succumbed to the pervasive power of consumerism. Alan Wolf, a leading sociologist and the director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, has concluded that, "In the United States culture has transformed Christ, as well as all other religions found within these shores. In every aspect of the religious life, American faith has met American culture—and American culture has triumphed."


I also would recommend the reading of this article -- "The Danger of Consumerism"

Friday, May 16, 2008

Prince Caspian -- Your Thoughts?


It has been 2 1/2 years since the first Chronicles of Narnia movie came out. It was December 9th to be exact and I didn't have to look that up, not because I am a movie fanatic but because I (and many at Grace Church) remember the night with much grief. On December 9th, 2005, the night of the release of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," Bethany and Hannah Pearson and Angie Carlson (teen in the Grace Church youth group) were involved in car accident that took the life of Hannah and severely injured the bodies of Bethany and Angie. Their recoveries are miracles of God to this day!

Today (May 16th) is the release of the second move -- "Prince Caspian." (here are the local listings of show times for this movie)

I guess that many of your will go and see this move in the next few weeks and I would like to get your thoughts and observations about the movie. Here are some suggested questions:
Did you like it? Dislike it? Why?
Do you think the movie gives an accurate portrayal of Lewis' book?
What lessons do you think it teaches us?
How does it point us to follow Jesus? Or not?
What was your favorite part?
Where did they mess up in the theatrical version?
etc.
Please write your thoughts in the "post a comment" section below. I would love to hear your observations.

Below is the trailer of the movie from Youtube.

One More Savior Than I Deserve!


Justin Taylor is a friend from when I was at Bethlehem Baptist Church and he has a must-read Blog called "Between Two Worlds." You need to add this blog to your RSS feeds or igoogle.

Recently he wrote and brief article for the "New Attitude" conference on Jesus as the only way of salvation entitled "One More Way to God than I Deserve." I suggest reading it and watching the video clip of R. C. Sproul about Jesus being only and how gracious God is to do it that way. It is very power -- you can view it below.

Taylor writes:
What we need to do—by God’s grace and through prayer and through winsome communication—is to seek to show that the ultimate response to the question, “How can there be only one way to God?” is “How could the only wise and righteous God be so kind and merciful and gracious to provide a way for me to know him?” In other words, the correct answer to the question, “How many ways are there to God?” is: One more than I deserve.



Do Plants Have Rights?


I read this article yesterday in the Weekly Standard about the Swiss government who are looking into the protection of the "dignity" of plant life.

Wesley Smith brings up some good points that relate to the nature of man (what does the Bible say about man in relationship to beasts and plants?), there difference from animals, what defines humanity, etc. Here is the article in the link below:

"The Silent Scream of the Asparagus"

Psalms 8:3-9 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, (4) what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (5) Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. (6) You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, (7) all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, (8) the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. (9) O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalms 104:14-15 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth (15) and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man's heart.

R4G -3: "Christianity Leads to Love Those Who Differ"

At the end of chapter one, Keller points out that true Christianity, in contrast to "religion" leads to love and receptivity to others who are different:

It is common to say that "fundamentalism" leads to violence, yet as we have seen, all of us have fundamental, unprovable faith-commitments that we think are superior to those of others. The real question, then, is which fundamentals will lead their believers to be the most loving and receptive to those with whom they differ'? Which set of unavoidably exclusive beliefs will lead us to humble, peace-loving behavior?

One of the paradoxes of history is the relationship between the beliefs and the practices of the early Christians as compared to those of the culture around them.

The Greco-Roman world's religious views were open and seem­ingly tolerant—everyone had his or her own God. The practices of the culture were quite brutal, however. The Greco-Roman world was highly stratified economically, with a huge distance between the rich and poor. By contrast, Christians insisted that there was only one true God, the dying Savior Jesus Christ. Their lives and practices were, however, remarkably welcoming to those that the culture marginalized. The early Christians mixed people from dif­ferent races and classes in ways that seemed scandalous to those around them. The Greco-Roman world tended to despise the poor, but Christians gave generously not only to their own poor but to those of other faiths. In broader society, women had very low sta­tus, being subjected to high levels of female infanticide, forced mar­riages, and lack of economic equality. Christianity afforded women much greater security and equality than had previously existed in the ancient classical world. During the terrible urban plagues of the first two centuries, Christians cared for all the sick and dying in the city, often at the cost of their lives.

Why would such an exclusive belief system lead to behavior that was so open to others? It was because Christians had within their belief system the strongest possible resource for practicing sacrificial service, generosity, and peace-making. At the very heart of their view of reality was a man who died for his enemies, praying for their for­giveness. Reflection on this could only lead to a radically different way of dealing with those who were different from them. It meant they could not act in violence and oppression toward their oppo­nents.

We cannot skip lightly over the fact that there have been injus­tices done by the church in the name of Christ, yet who can deny that the force of Christians' most fundamental beliefs can be a powerful impetus for peace-making in our troubled world?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

R4G -2: "Christianity Can Save the World"


Here is a section from the end of chapter one of The Reason for God by Timothy Keller that relates to my previous blog.

He discusses how true Christianity should lead us to humility and love as well as a proper understanding of how unbelievers can be "good" and "moral" -- even surpassing believers. He writes:

I've argued against the effectiveness of all the main efforts to address the divisiveness of religion in our world today. Yet I strongly sympathize with their purpose. Religion can certainly be one of the major threats to world peace. At the beginning of the chapter I outlined the "slippery slope" that every religion tends to set up in the human heart. This slippery slope leads all too easily to oppression. However, within Christianity—robust, orthodox Christianity—there are rich resources that can make its followers agents for peace on earth. Christianity has within itself remark­able power to explain and expunge the divisive tendencies within the human heart.

Christianity provides a firm basis for respecting people of other faiths. Jesus assumes that nonbelievers in the culture around them will gladly recognize much Christian behavior as "good" (Matthew 5:16; cf. 1 Peter 2:12). That assumes some overlap between the Christian constellation of values and those of any particular cul­ture and of any other religion. Why would this overlap exist? Christians believe that all human beings are made in the image of God, capable of goodness and wisdom. The Biblical doctrine of the universal image of God, therefore, leads Christians to expect non-believers will be better than any of their mistaken beliefs could make them. The Biblical doctrine of universal sinfulness also leads Christians to expect believers will be worse in practice than their orthodox beliefs should make them. So there will be plenty of ground for respectful cooperation.

Christianity not only leads its members to believe people of other faiths have goodness and wisdom to offer, it also leads them to expect that many will live lives morally superior to their own. Most people in our culture believe that, if there is a God, we can relate to him and go to heaven through leading a good life. Let's call this the "moral improvement" view. Christianity teaches the very opposite. In the Christian understanding, Jesus does not tell us how to live so we can merit salvation. Rather, he comes to for­give and save us through his life and death in our place. God's grace does not come to people who morally outperform others, but to those who admit their failure to perform and who acknowledge their need for a Savior.

Christians, then, should expect to find nonbelievers who are much nicer, kinder, wiser, and better than they are. Why? Christian believers are not accepted by God because of their moral perfor­mance, wisdom, or virtue, but because of Christ's work on their behalf. Most religions and philosophies of life assume that one's spiritual status depends on your religious attainments. This natu­rally leads adherents to feel superior to those who don't believe and behave as they do. The Christian gospel, in any case, should not have that effect (pp. 18-19).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Men -- Learn to Read and Love Good Books!

I love books. Sometimes I like books that I don't end up reading. But I like books. I like the smell of books. I like the look of a lot of books. I like to go to book stories and buy more books. I like to order books from Amazon.com and I get excited whenever I see the box in the mail. I like old books and new books. I like small books and big books. I like books.

So, I guess I have to admit that I am a bit biased when I read this article in defense of reading books (books that are founded on the Bible). Bias aside, this article makes sense and it should challenge men (and women) who are serious about growing as Christians (which true disciples will be) to read and to learn to enjoy reading (common sense: if you enjoy something you will do it more often). Here is a blurb of the section I read in Douglas Wilson's book -- Mother Kirk on "Men and Books." I linked the entire section below the quote:

These things cannot be accomplished by men who will not or cannot read. This is more than a practical point; it is a theological one. It is unfortunate, but there are many Christians who believe in the supremacy of Scripture, but who do not believe in the fruitfulness of Scripture. For example, if a pastor is reading a work of systematic theology, some well-meaning soul will gently admonish him to put aside the works of men, and devote himself to the study of Scripture alone. Such an admonition, although quite well-intentioned, is actually dishonoring to the Scrip­tures.

For suppose someone does devote himself to the study of Scripture alone. He pours over it, and he is saturated in its teaching. It can be said of him what Spurgeon said of John Bunyan—prick him anywhere and his blood would run bibline. Will such a brother learn anything? The answer is obvious—he will learn a tremendous amount. Look at Bunyan!

But having learned so much, is it permissible for him to share any­thing that he has learned with other Christians? May he teach? Or must we interrupt any such conversation to admonish listeners not to listen to the words of a mere man?

Whenever the Book has been honored and studied, the result has always been countless multitudes of books — the inevitable fruit of that study.

To read the entire section you can do so here.

R4G -1: "Religion's Slippery Slope"


Yesterday I began read Timothy Keller new book The Reason for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism (R4G). Keller is a pastor in New York's hip Manhattan of a church of 5000 people--mostly young and single. Keller's church is not a typical seeker-sensitive megachurch but a church that focus on sound preaching that centers on Gospel-believing and living (which permeates all of life).

The book is an apologetic of the Christian faith and he begins by discussing the criticism of Christianity and religion in general--that it brings war and strife and world peace will never be possible while it remains in this world. He warns of the slippery slope of religion:

It is widely believed that one of the main barriers to world peace is religion, and especially the major traditional religions with their ex­clusive claims to superiority. It may surprise you that though I am a Christian minister I agree with this. Religion, generally speaking, tends to create a slippery slope in the heart. Each religion informs its followers that they have "the truth," and this naturally leads them to feel superior to those with differing beliefs. Also, a religion tells its followers that they are saved and connected to God by devotedly performing that truth. This moves them to separate from those who are less devoted and pure in life. Therefore, it is easy for one religious group to stereotype and caricature other ones. Once this situation exists it can easily spiral down into the marginalization of others or even to active oppression, abuse, or violence against them.

I like how he gives a practical description of "religion" -- "religion informs its followers that they have the 'truth,' and this natural leads them to feel superior...religion tells its followers that they are saved and connected to God by devotedly performing the truth."

Religion does this but not true Christianity. He spells out the difference later on at the end of chapter (which I plan to blog later on). The Gospel of Jesus does not move us toward a feeling of superiority because it is not about our performance of the truth but of the Truth's performance (namely on the cross) for our failures and sin that sets us free and gives us life.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

"So that They Should Hope in God" - Sermon Notes

Here is my sermon that, Lord willing I will preach this morning at Grace Church. I hope that reading it will make sense. I only proofread it once and it is primarily meant to be preached not read.

May God bless His WORD and our LITTLE ONES with HOPE IN GOD!

Psalms 78:4,7 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done… [7] so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Gospel When You Discipline Your Child


Far too often, it is easy to think that the "discipline of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4) is getting them to conform and to do what they need to do (or, rather what you want them to do). You reward good and punish bad--simple. However, if this is all that we do, we are teaching them about God but in a dangerous and distorted way. We can never make God happy by doing good enough—we never could--that is why He sent His Son. God is not happy with us because we did enough things right on our own, but on account of the work of His Son on the Cross who makes us clean and helps us fight against sin. This is our only hope as well as our kids -- do we teach them this?


I want to read a scenario from a book and recommend it to you. It is called Everyday Talk: Talking Freely and Naturally about God with Your Children by John A. Younts. You can read the enter chapter here.

Here is an example of how you can lead your children to the power of the gospel. For the purpose of this discussion we will look only at Sarah's response, although Brandon also needs attention.

You hear a loud cry coming from the children's room. You walk into the room and discover that Sarah, your four-year-old daughter, has just hit Brandon, your three-year-old son, because he wouldn't give her the toy she wanted. You take Sarah into your room and administer the appropriate discipline. Sarah sadly tells you she knows that she should not have hit Brandon, but she just was so angry with him that she did it anyway. She tells you that she just can't do it, she can't obey and be good.

What do you say as a parent?

Response # 1 Mom replies with an even but stern voice, "Well, Sarah, that is what discipline is for. Eventually, you will learn that it is wrong to hit when you're angry. If Mommy disciplines you enough times you will get the message. Please don't hit Brandon any more. We don't solve problems by hitting."

Response # 2 Mom replies with a tone of exasperation. "I know Sarah, you always say that. But, you just have to learn to be good. How many times must mommy spank you? You shouldn't do something you know is wrong. Maybe someday you will change."

Response # 3 Mom replies in anger, "Sarah, if you wanted to be good and stop hitting Brandon, you would. Mommy is really losing patience with you. Your father and I are going to have a long talk when he gets home. This has got to stop. This is the fourth time this week."

Response # 4 Mom responds in dejected frustration, "Sarah, I don't know what to do with you. Mommy has tried and tried to teach you what is right. I just don't know what to do. I can't seem to make you change. I just don't know what to do."

All of these responses are performance-based. They result in broken relationships, not healthy ones. Mom is treating Sarah as if she could solve her problem with sin by responding in her own strength, simply by doing what Mommy says. "Just do it," she says, in effect. The problem is that Sarah, like everyone else on planet Earth, can't do good in her own strength. All of these first four responses might produce a fine Pharisee, but they will not lead to new life in Christ for your child.

Contrast the first four responses with this next one.

Response # 5 Mom replies with warmth and understanding, "Sarah, I know you can't obey by yourself. I know that. But that is why Jesus died on the cross, because we can't do it ourselves. Remember the Bible says that Jesus died so that we would have new life. You can't obey in your own strength, but you can obey in Jesus' strength. Let's pray right now and ask Jesus to help."

"Dear God, please help me to obey you and love you. I just can't do it by myself. Please forgive me for hitting Brandon. Please help me to trust you. I know that you are the only one who can help me be different and turn my heart to you. Please help me to obey Mommy and to obey you. In Jesus' name, Amen."

This simple little prayer addresses the issues at hand. Sarah needs Jesus to help her to obey. Sarah acknowledges that she must change. She turns to Christ for help.

At this point I can imagine someone thinking, "What four-year-old child is going to come up with that prayer? Are you kidding me?!?"

Your four-year-old can "come up with this prayer" the same way the disciples came up with the Lord's Prayer. You teach it to her, just as Jesus taught the Lord's Prayer to the disciples. Luke 11 records that Jesus taught His disciples His prayer word for word. This is how you start with your children. Help them pray by teaching them word for word what to say to God. Teach your children to pray phrase by phrase, by repeating each phrase after you say it. Jesus didn't wait for His disciples to become spiritual enough to know what to pray and how to pray. He told them what to say and how to pray, word for word. Spirituality doesn't come by waiting for it to appear. Spirituality comes by teach­ing what the Holy Spirit has written at the time it is needed. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He taught them word for word—in the middle of their everyday lives. Jesus taught his disciples everyday prayer.

As a parent you must exercise patience as you pray this prayer and others like it over and over again with your children. By doing this you are teaching your children that you can't be a good parent in your own strength either. As your children repeat this prayer, you also pray that God would honor His word and hear the plea of this child who is in deep need of God's love and mercy and power to obey. After they learn to follow the pattern of prayer you provide, they will eventually begin to formulate their own prayers, following that example. This is the power of the gospel. It is the greatest gift that you can give to your child.