Thursday, February 25, 2010

Habits

This morning, we had gotten the kids up to get started on their morning routine.  If you're a parent, you know what that means.  Even if you're not a parent, you can guess:  get up, get dressed, brush your hair, make your bed, feed the cats.

Well, I looked down the hall, and Angie is standing in the hall by the bathroom door, which was closed.  So, naturally, I'm wondering what's happening….

"Angela, what are you doing?"

"Waiting for Sissy to get done going potty so I can brush my hair."

"Have you made your bed yet?"

"No."

"Do you think you could make your bed and then come back and brush your hair?"

"But I brush my hair after I get dressed…..oh, she's done."

Thus ended another morning exchange in our home.  Then I started thinking about this whole thing.  Why would my daughter who is, honestly, rather intelligent, not think about doing her morning in a slightly different order?  I'm so glad that we adults are so much smarter than that…

We are, aren't we? We don't do things simply out of tradition or habit, right?

There aren't things we do in our churches just because we've always done it that way?  Our services aren't dictated by the way they were last year?  Our programs?

Our spending, our methods, nothing of the sort, right?

After all, we're smarter than a slightly sleepy six-year-old, aren't we?

Proverbs 25

Proverbs 25:1 –>What's one of the smartest things you can do? Write down the wisdom of those who have gone before you.  Don't neglect that someone has, perhaps, already been there and is readily available as a reference.  One of the best gifts you can leave others is to compile existing wisdom into a usable form.

 

Proverbs 25:16-17 –>Be wary of overdoing good things.  There are consequences of getting out of balance.

 

Proverbs 25:20 –>There is more that a troubled person needs than to be told to put on a happy face and have people sing happy songs.  Notice, though, that we're talking deep, real trouble here.  Not the whininess that pervades many American lives.

 

Proverbs 25:26 –>How much have we polluted the well in the American church? How many times have the righteous given way to the wicked?  It is no wonder that we are not considered or sought out for wisdom or counsel any longer.  We have become like the trampled spring and polluted well.  The first thing to do? Dig out the mud, clean out the pollution.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Proverbs 24

Proverbs 24:1-2 –>We should be much more concerned with the character of people than the outward appearance.  Even though it is likely that evil men have things that we want, the trouble and violence necessary to acquire them are not what we should give our energy to.

 

Proverbs 24:10 –>If you don't have it went it counts, you don't have it.  Are you prepared? Are you strengthening yourself for the day of distress?

 

 

Proverbs 24:30-34 –>Why are we struggling as churches?  Why does the work go underfunded and undone? The simple answer is that we do just as the sluggard here.  We sleep, we slumber, we fold our hands to rest rather than take on the work God has given us!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dead to me!

We use that phrase in American culture to express our displeasure with someone.  We simply announce that "he's dead to me" and then proceed to ignore or downplay anything that person does.  It's an amplification of the junior high tactic of not speaking to someone.

There was, in times past, a very real sense in which people treated the living as dead as a form of passing judgment on them.  People were treated as if dead for marrying badly, choosing certain professions their family found distasteful, or even taking the wrong side in politics.  It's no way to treat another human being.  Really and truly.

Nothing in Scripture allows Christians to treat other people that way.  However, we are to act as if we are dead to certain things.  It's the opposite of our cultural behavior where we expect others to do the dying for us.  We are the ones that need to choose to die.

One of the things we need to die to is sin.  That's what Paul is referring to in Romans 6:1-4.  Sin will not roll over and die for us.  There's really no way we can kill it ourselves, but we do have the option to die ourselves.  Fortunately, we don't have to literally die, but instead that we are to identify with Christ in His death.

You see, we can't honestly expect for the temptations of this world to leave us alone.  We can't expect the old habits of our sinful nature to leave us alone.  What we have to do is be so dead as not to heed them.  The difficulty, though, is that often we try to die to sin without being alive to something else.  It's a way that our materialistic philosophy has penetrated our Christian behavior.  (note: we're not talking Madonna Materialism here.  Philosophically, materialism isn't about getting more stuff, it's that the stuff is all there is, that if something is unseen or unquantifiable, it doesn't exist.  This leads to the behavior of materialism where, since stuff is all there is, we try to get lots o'stuff.)  Materialism as a philosophy holds that after death, there's nothing.

Biblical philosophy (for that matter, most religious philosophy) teaches us the opposite: that there is much more after death than we see here.  Death is the ending of one thing, but the beginning of another.  We Christians believe that physical death is just the beginning of eternity.  Yet we try and "die to sin" without living to something else.

We've got to learn to live after our death.  After we die to sin, we have to learn to live to God's glory.  All of our pursuits, all of our energy, time, finances should be focused in that direction.  Is it?

So many of us try to live to both sin and to Christ, and yet it's clearly impossible to do so.  This is the source of our frustration as followers of Christ: we have to choose, which world do we want to live in?  We need to choose to go ahead and live as dead to this world.

 

Doug

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Punch it!

We made homemade pretzels yesterday.  Well, actually pretzel sticks, because I couldn't quite get them to roll out well enough to make the folded kind.  But, the sticks are yummy.

Back on track, I'm fairly decent when it comes to cooking.  Ann and I both enjoy being in the kitchen, and we eat well around our house.  One thing I'm not good with, to be honest, is baking.  It's just not something I've done a lot of nor had much practice with doing.  Ann bakes bread on a weekly basis, plus does cakes, cupcakes, tortillas, and a wide variety of other goodies.  I use flour, basically, to make gravy.

I decided, though, that I would tackle the pretzels.  Why? Well, I'm probably the bigger soft pretzel fanatic of the family.  Ann and the kids had just made a batch of graham crackers, so I thought I'd handle the pretzels.  Well, I got everything mixed up and then started running into a few difficulties.  We'll leave out the homophonic (same-sounding) word jokes: "You don't knead the dough right now." So I put the dough back in the bowl---I don't need it, right?  Those are jokes that I could do all night.

So, we got the dough mixed up, kneaded, and it had time to rise.  The next step in the process?

"Punch the dough to deflate it."  There were some other suggestions for if the dough is tight and such.

Now, I'm not much of a fighter, but I do have decent upper-body strength.  So, what did I do?  I hauled off and punched the dough.  I expected resistance.  Some resistance, any resistance…..so, I punched downward with a fairly large amount of force.  And that punch went straight through the dough, contacted with the (fortunately) plastic bowl and met the resistance of the countertop.  This resulted in a fist-shaped hole in the dough, a resounding "wham" heard throughout the house, and two bruised knuckles.  I expressed my pain rather loudly, resulting in Ann asking if I was ok.  (She was concerned I had fallen, because apparently the hit on the counter sounded like a 235 pound body hitting the floor.)

Why did this happen?  Simply this: words have meanings, but those meanings can be varied.  "Punch" is apparently one of those words.  In baking parlance, punch just doesn't mean what it means in karate, boxing, or self-defense!  It's meant to be a more gentle whack, simply to remove excess air from the dough.

What can I learn from the pain?  And why am I allowing you to hurt yourself laughing at me for it? (yes, you should be laughing.  It's funny.  Painful, but funny.)

First of all: Lack of experience sometimes causes us to miss the obvious.  It never occurred to me that the dough wouldn't put up a fight.  Pretzels, after all, aren't French.  So, not having any real hands-on time baking, I didn't think about 'punch' and it's possibilities.  We do that in life sometimes, we fail to see beyond the scope of our own experience.  What should we do about that?  Find people to learn from that have the experience, that have the knowledge.  Or crack open a book and read to learn from the author's experience. 

Side note on that: make sure the author's viewpoint and experience are considered.  In cooking, for example, a European cuisine manual will never mention bringing eggs to room temperature, which is necessary sometimes, because they don't refrigerate eggs.  The chicken egg has a natural coating that keeps it from spoiling at room temperature.  We wash that coating off in America, so our eggs need to be kept cold.

This need to learn from others is crucial.  Get books. Read them.  Find audio resources.  Listen to them.  Go to classes, workshops, seminars.  Sit around a table with people that know things you don't and listen to them.  Ask probing questions.  Learn from others as much as from your own experience.

A second thing to learn is for those of you who teach others: be careful what you assume the other person understands.  Don't be patronizing or condescending, but be considerate.  It had never occurred to Ann, who had already had to explain 'sticky dough' as sticking to itself, not the bowl, that I would put my best A-Team on the risen dough.  (I don't blame her, just illustrating).  So, she didn't explain 'punch.'  What terms or jargon do you use when teaching or explaining that confuses others?  How often do you do it just to keep those people confused?

I'm afraid we do this too often in church life, especially.  It's a way of holding power over others by making them feel outside by not knowing what's really happening.  It happens in teaching as well.  Really consider what you're teaching and make sure you have established an environment that makes it okay to ask questions that might sound simple.  Don't answer with a "It should be obvious, but I'll explain……"  You never know when someone's going to punch a hole in the dough.

Finally, as challenge: don't be afraid to tackle something different.  Even when it takes a little bit of pain to learn the lessons.  I had a great pretzel last night while watching a really dumb movie (Looney Tunes: Back in Action).  The pretzel made the movie worth it.  I've learned what it is to punch dough.  I had a good laugh.  My wife, who hadn't had the best day, finished the day laughing.

 

What are you afraid of doing simply because you don't know how?  What will it take to try?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Old School

I have a confession to make.  I have come to greatly enjoy the TV show Scrubs.  Not the newer spin-off of Scrubs:Med School that's on ABC, but the original series from NBC.  The newer is ok, but it lacks the zip and chemistry of the original.

Why do I class this revelation as a "confession"?  Well, there are certain TV shows that it's somewhat difficult for a Baptist preacher to admit to liking.  The first somewhat wrong TV obsession Ann and I had was Boston Legal.  Now, we've gone from legal drama to medical comedy with Scrubs.  I'm sure once we've watched the series completely through on DVD, we'll be over it.  (By the way, quick shameless plug: we're Netflix subscribers.  For about $15/month, we get a 2-DVD at a time subscription.  Free mailing.  It beats buying a DVD you'll only watch once or paying $4 at Movie Gallery to rent it.)

Well, one of the episodes on Season 2 disc 2 features an amazing guest star: Dick van Dyke.  He's playing (wait for it….) an old guy.  Well, an old doctor, Dr. Townshend.  Now, as you can imagine, there are some funny moments, but the serious part of the show examines that Dr. Townshend hasn't kept up with newer developments in the field of medicine. He's got great patient rapport and is well-liked by all of the staff.  He just hasn't kept up with new things.

This comes to a head when he pushes one of the young doctors to do a procedure the old way and this nearly kills a patient by nicking the carotid artery.  As you can imagine, that's bad.


This set me to thinking: the realities of medicine haven't changed.  Medicine is, fundamentally, the process of helping the human body to heal itself or to recover from the things it can't heal on its own.  God designed us to be remarkably resilient.  There are certain underlying truths: too much blood loss is bad, infections are bad, broken bones? bad!  Heart has to beat.  Lungs have to breathe.

Yet there are improvements in the way we as people can be involved in medicine, and you have to keep up.  Bob Kelso, the grouchy old Chief of Medicine at the hospital points out that he spends nearly every other weekend trying to catch up, that people 5 years out of med school are out of date.

It is a great reminder to all of us: the world we once lived in is no more.  It is not the world we grew up in.  It's not the world I went to college in.  And it wasn't just 9/11 that made those changes.  It was everything from the Berlin Wall to the permanent normalization of trade relations with China.  It includes the PC revolution and the cell phone boom.

It's a world that's been shaped by 'wardrobe malfunctions' and a TV channel dedicated to music videos that no longer plays music videos, that shows without scripts are as popular as shows written by experts.  It's a world where people fly airplanes into buildings over taxes and shoot up schools over bullying.  Where parents have targeted each other for cheerleader slots.  Where churches aren't always safe havens and banks aren't places to keep your money. 

So, what do we do?  We make sure that we are paying attention to what is going on out there.  We hold to the truths that are everlasting: God created us, God loves us.  We don't deserve it, but He loves us and our sin costs lives.  Our own and the lives around us, but it can be paid for eternally by Jesus Christ.  That Ecclesiastes 12:3-4 is more right than we realize.

And we strive.  To keep up, to know what's happening.  Is it easy?  No.  But we have to keep striving….

 

And just for fun, here's a Scrubs clip to enjoy: Pay special attention to the advice Dr. Kelso gives the girl in the hospital bed.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Found in sermon notes

Last night, I found where I had taken notes at the ABSC Pastor's Conference last year.  If I'm discerning chicken-scratch, my native written language, correctly, they are the notes I took during Scott Maze's sermon.  (It's entirely possible I've got the name wrong)

Since it was a Pastor's Conference, naturally the sermon is slightly directed toward the duties and work of pastors.  Preaching, especially, is the focus of this sermon.  I won't trouble you with all of what I wrote down.  Here were some of the things I wrote:

The sermon was from Malachi 2.  It's the chapter before the chapter where 90% of tithing sermons come from.  Yes, there's more good stuff in Malachi.

First thing I wrote down: "God's evaluation of us will not involve consulting the deacons." On reflection, it won't involve consulting anyone.

Next thing: "Do we communicate more about our other pursuits than our God?" When preaching, teaching, doing much of anything: am I more certain that people hear about God or about football, hunting, cooking, whatever my choice of illustration is?

Something I starred: "Do not outsource the spiritual training of your children."  That's a big deal.  We cannot put it off on others to raise our families to walk after the Lord. 

Finally, a quote from Martin Luther: "Always preach in such a way that if the people do not hate their sin they will hate you."

This is why taking notes during sermons is important….you never know when you might need the reminders!!

How do you take sermon notes?  Well, some preachers are easier to note than others.  Some even hand out pre-printed outlines or use bullet points on video projectors.  Others at least highlight their main points.  Some of us, though, are too chaotic in our style. 

What are the main things to use in note taking?

First, write down the Scripture passage.  Second, if there is a short "this sermon is about___________," write that down!  This sermon was about Intensity.  A quick note of where and when, and if it's a special occasion won't hurt your remembrance.

Second, write down short reminders of what stands out.  If the preacher isolates a point, jot it down.

Finally, notate what thoughts come to mind during the sermon.  It may be questions, thoughts, or actions.  Don't chase the rabbits too much during the sermon, but write it down.

A last note: don't misplace the notes!  A good thought is to use a notebook that you carry with you for the purpose, and then go back and review those notes. 

It really will help with retention and attention, and since we're talking about life-changing truth, isn't it good to retain it?

 

Doug

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pondering on the Gibeonites:

I've been reading through the book of Joshua, and have been thinking long and hard about chapters 9 and 10. These are the chapters that recount the interaction of the Israelites with the Gibeonites. The Israelites were supposed to completely eliminate all of the people in the Promised Land, but instead were deceived by the Gibeonites into making a peace treaty with them.

I've preached through this passage before as an illustration of making decisions without consulting God. Had the Israelites done so, they wouldn't have made the decision they made, they wouldn't have found themselves fighting a battle in Joshua 10 to protect the Gibeonites.

However, there's another aspect here. First of all, while the people's decisions are questionable, realize that no decisions by people ever surprise God. Therefore, God knew, even before Israel left Egypt, that they would make peace with Gibeon. So, what can we learn from it?

There are times when we make decisions based on false or misleading information. That's just the truth. The Israelites did it with the Gibeonites. It's happened to people in relationships, in jobs, in churches, and in politics. The question is, what do we need to learn from this story? God had this recorded for a purpose.

When we make a decision that we look back and question why we made it, are we really making progress? Joshua 9:18 records that the people grumbled against their leaders because of the peace. It's actually the first grumbling on the right side of the Jordan River. The Israelites had really gotten over complaining after 40 years of desert wandering. Yet here they were, grumbling....

But what good does it do? You can do exactly nothing to change the past. Some decisions you can't even undo, at least not without severe consequences. So, do they become a draw on you? Why should they? God is not surprised at the ill-advised decisions you've made. He's not surprised at mine either. Make the experiences you've had serve you in your growth. Joshua made the Gibeonites “hewers of wood and drawers of water” to serve the worship of the Lord God. I've not had to draw water since a few Boy Scout campouts a long time ago, but I've hewed wood recently. It's a pill, but a necessity sometimes.

Our past experiences, our own bad decisions, need to be made to serve us as we worship God. To provide us the base on which to build the sacrifice of praise and of our lives. Should they be incorporated into our normal behavior? No. We can see in 2 Samuel that the Gibeonites remained a separate people from the Israelites. Likewise, the Gibeonites of our past shouldn't be repeated, but should remain those things we look back at and refuse to replicate. Yet when we need to find a rebirth of worshiping God, where can we turn?

We wash ourselves by remembering the grace we've already seen in our lives. We warm our hearts with the knowledge of His work in us. We let the hewn wood and drawn water of our life's Gibeonites move us in our worship of God.

Doug

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Book Review: The Voice New Testament

 

To warn you up front: I get free books from Booksneeze in exchange for honest reviews.  Click on the Booksneeze link up there if you want more information.  Read my Disclosures! post to see more details on book reviews on this blog!

Today, I've got a review for you of The Voice New Testament from Thomas Nelson Publishers:

The Voice New Testament

This is actually a tough review for me to write.  Why?  I have greatly enjoyed reading The Voice.  It does an excellent job making the story of the New Testament come alive.  The use of a screenplay format for dialogue, rather than "Peter answered and said unto him….." followed by "And then John answered and said unto him…." removes some of the redundancy that the original language used.  The reading is easy.  The chapter and verse notations of traditional translations are still present and can be used for reference, but the flow of thought is followed well across the artificial divisions.

Meanwhile, there are inline devotional and study notes that highlight the meaning of the text.  These are set apart by drop-shadow boxes that make it clear they aren't part of the text.  Also, blended with the text are italicized extensions on the wording used.  These help to clarify the meanings of various statements and are, actually, a normal feature of English Bible translations dating back to William Tyndale.  (If you didn't know this, there are phrases and words in Greek that don't translate directly into English.  English translators of certain versions, like KJV and NASB and others, have italicized the words that need to be added for English usage.  Typically, it's words like pronouns or verb tense helping words.)

However, it's with some of the italicized words that my trouble with The Voice begins.  Traditionally, translators have only added words critical to English understanding of a specific word.  The team that assembled The Voice have added words that guide towards a meaning.  Here's an example, from Matthew 14:31

The ESV renders it this way: Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

The Voice renders it this way: Immediately Jesus reached for Peter and caught him.

Jesus: O you of little faith. Why did you doubt and dance back and forth between following Me and heeding fear?

The difficulty I have here is that the translators of The Voice have put a lot of extra words in the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ.  There's no original text, based on the Greek NT I have with all it's textual criticism apparatus, that has anything about "dancing back and forth." It's not there.  Not that it doesn't make sense or that it doesn't make really clear what is being said.  I'm a preacher, and I see no problem in saying that Jesus was correcting Peter for "dancing back and forth between following and fear." It's a great word picture.

Yet it's not in the text.  That bugs me.  Another part of this that bugs me is new translations of traditional words.  Ecclesia, the Bible Society that sponsored the translation wanted to try and jettison language that had too much pre-loaded assumption.  The difficulty there is how you replace those words.  For example, John the Baptist is not referred to in Matthew 14:8 as John the Teacher and Prophet.  He is referred to as "John the Baptist."  There is a footnote in The Voice that says "literally, John who immersed, to show repentance."  Except that it is literally "John who baptized" or "John who immersed." 

Also, there is the substitution of "Liberating King" for "Christ" or "Messiah."  Again, I see the point, but "Liberating King" isn't the word, and is one aspect of the identity of Jesus, but not all.

These changes will introduce difficulty for a reader of The Voice when they hear preaching and teaching or take part in discussions with other believers.  One of the earliest confessions of the church was that "Christ is Lord," in contrast with the Roman cry that "Caesar is Lord," but if one reads The Voice exclusively, they'll not know who Christ is!

This is difficult, because I really did enjoy reading The Voice.  I think it's a valuable read for people who know the Bible and who need a fresher perspective on it.  I don't think it's as good for people who are shaky on Scripture.  Unless you move all of the teaching of your church, all of the literature and preaching, all of the people, to The Voice and begin to use its terms, new believers will be spending a great deal of time confused by the differences.  I'd rather have people learn to ask questions about what the Bible means by confusing words than to have them question if their Bible is right or if the other person's Bible is right.

I think perhaps it's time for a new category, or to rename the old category of "Bible Paraphrase" to "Bible Interpretations."  The Voice would make a great lead for that category, although it would also include works like The Message.  This is a genuine effort to make Scripture understandable by those who have no background in church or understanding of church language.  It's just not quite a true translation of the original.  As such, it shouldn't be your only Bible.  Unless it's the only Bible you can get.  Then get one….because it's a whole lot better than none.

 

Doug

Proverbs 16

Proverbs 16:1 –>What plans are in our hearts? Are we prepared for the answer from the Lord about them?  I know my plans---to persevere, to tackle new challenges.  What does God say?

 

Proverbs 16:2 –>And this speaks to why God answers certain plans.  He knows why we really want what we want.

 

Proverbs 16:1-3 –>You should be noticing that this is a string of verses about future planning.  All 3 steps are necessary: Consider what's in your heart.  Ask the Lord for guidance. Examine your motives, and compare your heart to God's commands. Commit to do His will.

 

Proverbs 16:22 –>Is my discipline healthy or folly?

 

Proverbs 16:31 –>Real gray.  Not 'Just for Men' gray.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A few days

It's been a few days since I've actually posted something here on the blog.  You may have noticed.  You may not have noticed.  Either way, now you know…I haven't written much.

And no, this isn't a "I'm sorry I haven't posted, I promise to do better" post.  I'm not sorry I haven't posted.  I have been pretty intellectually lazy the past few days, a little spiritually lazy too.  So, no, I'm not sorry I haven't posted.  Only rarely should I waste your time with having nothing to say and a lot of free blog space to say it in, so there shouldn't be posts when I'm like that.

The problem is being like that.  It's not a good habit.  The intellectual and spiritual laziness thing.  It's destructive to myself, harmful to my family, and less than helpful to my church.  True, I still went to work, did the things I was supposed to do, but I did it with perhaps a bit too much of a routine attitude.

As a result of what was going on inside my own heart and mind, what I was able to produce was underwhelming.  Blog posts didn't roll.  Sermons didn't get finished because, well, they were awful.  It's not that I sinned by writing lousy half-sermons or not blogging.  The sin was internal.  The results, the evidence, is external.

This is largely what Matthew 5:21-48 is about.  The Law is based on the external evidence, but the commands to follow Christ are based on the heart, the internal attitude of the people that follow Him.  The difficulties in our lives, our marriages, and our churches are usually more based on our hearts being off-centered than our external actions.  True, we try to dress up the actions, we criticize the actions of others, but down in, it's the heart that matters.

This week, I need to make sure my heart is growing in being more right with God.

A word of caution, though: I can't see your heart.  You can't see mine.  Don't act in ways that evidence a sinful heart and then act like the actions don't reflect what is inside.  You behavior evidences your beliefs.  And yes, sometimes you and I need to do specific unnecessary actions to demonstrate what is in our hearts.  It's true in your romantic relationships, it's true in your friendships and families, and it's true at church.  Another day we'll address why it is that you and I have to do things we wouldn't normally do just for the sake of others.  But read Philippians 2:5-11 to get ready for it.

Meanwhile, I won't promise more blog posts.  I will tell you: I don't want to be back where I can't really write well again.  I will do better inside, and hopefully you'll see the evidence of it here on the outside.

 

Doug

Friday, February 12, 2010

Love and War Book Review

 

As I'm sure you've read in Disclosures!, I occasionally review books for WaterBrook/Multnomah Press.  They send me a book for free, I read it and write an honest review.  No money, no influence.  Just a free book for a book review. 

Now that the FTC has been satisfied, let's take a look at the book:  Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge.  The Eldredges lead Ransomed Heart Ministries in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and have several books about living passionately for God in the Christian life under their belt.

Love and War: Finding the Marriage You've Dreamed Of

Marriage books have got to be difficult books to write. It's a minefield of potential problems.  If you're married and write alone, what does your spouse say about your book? Do you live up to it? If you write together, are you prepared to share the labor and deal with the vulnerabilities of writing?

Into this effort plunge John and Stasi Eldredge with Love and War.  The title is certainly taken from the saying "All's fair in love and war" and relates to marriage.  How so?  The book is both an inside look at the love and war that are involved in the Eldredge's marriage.  They then take that story and share how it applies out into most marriages these days.

How does it work?  It works well.  First of all, the writing is done by both authors, but it isn't delineated by a screenplay-like "John says:" and "Stasi says:" although occasionally a paragraph features a quick parenthetical identification of the author.  Reading the book, though, gives a decent sense of personal style of both authors.

Second, there's an adequate level of transparency.  One of the challenges for a marriage is knowing what to keep private and what to share.  The Eldredges have chosen to share more than the average married couple would, but they're writing a book.  If they don't share something, you wouldn't believe they have anything to contribute.  However, they also don't go into such depths of agony and struggle in marriage that the reader is left wondering "how would anyone ever survive that?" It's a delicate balance, and they accomplish this well for my tastes.

Third, there is precious little beating around the bush in this book.  Too often when we deal with personal things, especially the close moments of marriage, we pull our punches or drop hints rather than be direct.  The result is advice that you don't really take because you don't really know what it was.  John and Stasi haven't left us that option.  You can choose not to tackle the challenges they lay before you in this book, but you know what they are.

Finally, they've done a good presentation of ways to strengthen any marriage.  Whether your marriage is going swimmingly or if you're about to drown, there's strength and help both to be found here.  Is this a substitute for personal accountability or couple-to-couple counseling? No, but they don't pretend to bring that.  Just like a doctor is sometimes more what you need than a first-aid manual, sometimes your marriage needs a real person helping.  However, there's plenty of good help here.

Personally, I'd greatly recommend this book.  I was particularly challenged by the chapter that spoke to the need of a marriage to have a common cause to accomplish.  I'm going to be praying through what that implies for our marriage and our family.

Doug

Remember, I got this free from WaterBrook/Multnomah. 

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday Morning

Well, it's Monday morning after the 44th time two football teams have played the most important game ever.  Which kind of puts that in perspective.  Here's some random Monday thoughts, because I'm not sure I can put together a complete post of any of them:

1.  It's been a good end of the week and weekend for us liberty-loving Americans.  Apparently, Congress and the Executive Branch have been mostly shut down due to snow.  That's a good thing.

2.  On a related note, the New Orleans Saints won the Superbowl.  See, Congress froze over, overfat political pigs flew---well, you get the point.  The Colts probably could have won, but they pulled their starters to save them for next week….oh, no, that was the regular season they gave up on, not the Superbowl.  However, when you start to set that pattern, can you guarantee to come out of it?

3.  Just how many bandwagon Saints fans were there?  Now, I know that many football lovers needed to pick somebody, and since the Colts are one of the rivals of my Tennessee Titans, I certainly didn't want them to win, but leave the "WHO DAT?" to the people that have "WHO DAT'd" for years.

4.  Based on the responses on Twitter, Facebook, and even in the news, this win will apparently finish solving all of New Orleans' post-Katrina problems.  (And, it seems that President Bush was keeping the Saints out of the Superbowl as part of his meanness to NO.  Thanks to President Obama, they got in, as part of his plan to fix it).  How messed up is our society to honestly believe this?  Corruption, poverty, corruption, and stupidity in government aren't going to go away from a ball game, and those things are the basic issues of NO's problems.

5.  Saw a few commercials.  Given that I'm concerned we'll get to the "Green Police" idea, I'll not buy an Audi and further the concept along.  Otherwise, I think this week I'll change zero habits based on advertising. 

6.  I'm so happy the US Government bought an ad for the Census.  After all, it's only a federal crime not to answer the census, so they really need me want to do it.  I'm surprised the IRS hasn't taken to advertising for our taxes.  Seriously, people. Where could that $2.5 million  (not counting making the ad) have gone? You could have helped 25 people with $100,000 mortgages. You could have fed and housed quite a few of DC's homeless for the duration of the winter storm.

7.  This week, Ann's going to Judsonia to see her parents.  I'm staying home.  I don't like being away from her or her away from me.  Yes, that sounds controlling or co-dependent or something.  Whatever it is you call it when you absolutely need someone in your life and don't want to be away from them? When you can be apart out of necessity but don't enjoy it? What's the word for that? Oh yeah. We call it "marriage." 

8. I heard the trial I got booted off of jury duty for is running until almost 6 every day and is going to take 3 weeks.  There will probably be a post later about my observations of that day about communication, hypocrisy, and the need for some serious community service in the Drew County Courthouse. Let's get some light bulbs changed and some paint on the walls, people.

9.  Speaking of the legal world: you should read Overlawyered.com.  It will cause you to be agitated some days, but you'll also see that there are attorneys and judges with common sense!!

10.  I'm doing the sound work for a talent show at a local school this week.  That's going to be interesting, since there are no rehearsals and I've never seen the equipment before.  I love a good challenge!!

 

Which is what today may be for all of us.  Take the challenge and go!

 

Doug

 

One more complaint: Firefox 3.6 isn't that different.  Why won't Google gears work with it?  Maybe you should have fixed that instead of buying a Superbowl ad.  Who doesn't know about Google?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Reading List as of February 2010

I've noticed several bloggers I read have posted some of the books they are reading right now.  I've also seen it in a couple of the email newsletters I get from people.  One had a quote I thought worth sharing.

It was in Chuck Baldwin's email (yes, the Chuck Baldwin that ran for President on the Constitution Party ticket in 2008) newsletter that I saw this quote: "A man is the sum of the people he associates with and the books he reads. Choose both wisely." I deleted the email, so I can't source back farther than Dr. Baldwin quoting it.

Given that, I thought I'd share a few of the books I'm reading right now:

1.  The Holy Bible. If you've read the "About me" or "Profile" section, you know I'm a Christian Pastor.  If you are a Christian and your pastor doesn't read the Bible, get a new pastor. Either change churches or get your church to change pastors.  I, personally, prefer the New American Standard Bible. Second favorite would be the New Living Translation, which is a superb improvement on the original Living Bible. (Well, they had two different philosophies of translation, of which I prefer the NLT over the LB).  I'm also a fan of the English Standard Version (ESV) and the Hard Core Southern Baptist, I mean Holman Christian Standard Bible.

2.  I picked up a book entitled Water of the Word from Amazon.com.  It's a book of prayers for one's wife.  So far, I'm liking it. It's helping me to organize my thoughts about specific ways to pray for Ann.  Which is hard, because I struggle with thinking prayer is about either asking for stuff or asking God to fix problems, and I have a hard time seeing anything in her that needs fixed. 

3.  I'm reading A Praying Life by Paul Miller, because it was one of the recommended books by Leadership Journal for "the leader's inner life."  Noticing a theme here? One area that I struggle with is having an organized prayer life.  I understand to pray without ceasing, but I'm trying to improve the quality of that praying.  Not because God hears better, but because I need to hear better.

4.  I'm reading 2 books for book reviews, one for Booksneeze and one for Waterbrook/Multnomah. (See Disclosures!) For Booksneeze, I've got The Voice New Testament and for WaterBrook/Multnomah, I've got Love and War which is about marriage.  Look for both reviews soon.

5.  For sermon research, I'm using the NICNT Series on Matthew which is good, as well as the Expositor's Bible Commentary volume on Matthew, which also has Mark and Luke, the other synoptic Gospels in it.  Philippians is my evening series, and I'm using the Ancient Christian Commentary Series for it.

6.  I'm trying to actually code a website, so I have two separate HTML, XHTML, and CSS for Dummies books.  How dummy am I on this? They have the same title.  They are different books.  I don't understand either one of them.

7. For fun, I'm reading a book about evidence of pre-Colombian, and much older, human civilization in the Americas.  We're talking trade between sub-Saharan Africa and South America, Ancient Egyptians, and more.  Seems impossible to believe, and the evidence is thin, but not much thinner than some of the evidence mainstream science uses dogmatically to insist on current evolutionary theory.  Just how do they explain that hammer in the 70 million year old rock? Anyway, Discovering the Mysteries of Ancient America is the book.  Not for people who are easily swayed into conspiracy theory.

8.  When I planned this post, I was reading Pilgrim's Progress, the newly edited edition released by Crossway Books. Then I had a doctor's appointment and had plenty of wait time. So I finished it.

9.  I also routinely read Leadership Journal and Lifeway's Biblical Illustrator in the printed magazine department.  I'm a frequent reader of several blogs.  I read my wife's blog, Emil Turner's blog, Michael Hyatt's blog, and then others as I have time.

10.  What am I looking forward to reading? Eric Metaxas has a biography on Dietrich Bonheoffer coming out soon, Robert Morgan has a book on 100 Bible Verses every Christian should memorize, and one of the co-authors of Secrets of Ancient America has a book on Lost Cities of North America.  Might reread Lord of the Rings, might not, and will probably tackle a few other novels I've heard are coming out, but I don't know when.

How long will all of this take? A while, probably.  I've got language learning to do for Polish, Koine Greek, and Biblical Hebrew.  I've sent in my application to go back to seminary, which I'll be doing by distance, which means a lot more reading. 

Why? Because I'm not satisfied with myself.  I need to learn and grow more, and I want to set that example for both my family and my church.  If we are the sum of who we know and what we read, then the people that know me also benefit from what I read, and I want to be a valuable person in their lives.

 

Doug

Oh yeah….below are Amazon.com links to most of the aforementioned literary masterpieces, as well as the wacky stuff. You sort out which!:

Thinline Bible-NASB [B-NS-ZON BLK RL -OS]
Water Of The Word: Intercession For Her
A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World
The Voice New Testament

Love and War: Finding the Marriage You've Dreamed Of
Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture)

The Gospel of Matthew (New International Commentary on the New Testament)
HTML, XHTML & CSS for Dummies [HTML XHTML & CSS FOR DUMMIE-6E]

HTML, XHTML and CSS All-In-One For Dummies

Discovering the Mysteries of Ancient America: Lost History And Legends, Unearthed And Explored
The Pilgrim's Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

3 AM. Again

Good morning, one and all!  Well, it would be nice if it were a good morning for all.  A random sample of the 123 most important people on twitter and 200 most important on Facebook indicates it's not exactly a good morning for many of us.  Why? Because we're awake at unreasonable hours for the schedule we keep.  So far, we've got some insomniacs, a few weary and delayed travelers, and we're up at our house with a case of the croup, apparently.

What's the croup? It's an inflammation of the airways that makes a kid sound like a barking seal.  It's one of those issues that makes a parent panic, want to take your child to the ER, and then discover that, guess what? Unless it's a seriously severe case of the croup, there's no medicating it.  No, really. You can treat the symptoms, but there's actually not a real root cause, and the symptoms are best treated environmentally and not pharmaceutically.

So, we've gotten the humidifier out, Ann's got Steven snuggled up in bed so that he (and she) can sleep sitting up, and we're trying to get him to calm down.  This is the 3rd instance we've had of croup with him, all in the 2 years since we moved to Monticello.  Of course, it's also all since he turned 2.  All since we've had a cat.  All since we stopped regularly breathing the Memphis pollutants.  All since he became totally stay-at-home instead of 2 days a week at a Mother's Day Out.  Since we took him out of the toddler bed.  Since he potty trained.  It's all been since his father became a regular coffee drinker.

Goodness, it's been since we……

Amazing the various things that pile up there, isn't it?  There are so many various things that impact our lives that, if you want a place to lay blame, how do you find it?  Do we place the blame on something in the air in Monticello?  Really?  Compared to Memphis?  Yet it's possible there are things in the air here from manufacturing that he can't handle….or maybe he was born into polluted air and clean air messes him up?  Is he allergic to the cats? Not likely…else it would be an everyday problem. (the cats, of course, are an everyday problem. His breathing isn't.) Is it being at home? Being potty trained? Is it the coffee?  What could we change?

Ann and I are trying to consider what behavioral factors might be influencing here, whether we're doing something that brings this up.  We might be.  It's hard to say, although tonight I'm going to make some notes of what has gone on the last 24 hours so we can refer back to it.  Right now, we just don't know.  I do know that he's now sleeping comfortably and sounding less like Darth Vader.

Sometimes we have problems like this in life.  It's not so much that we can identify the real causes, just that we have trouble.  It might be emotional, spiritual, or mental, but it happens nonetheless.  How do you handle it when it does?

How do you handle the symptoms of life when there are problems but no causes, and no real solutions?

Same way we deal with the croup around here: comfort the symptoms, calm down, and try to be mindful of what to do if it gets worse.  We also take a lot of comfort knowing it will get better.

That's what, I think, that C.S. Lewis was speaking of when he said in Mere Christianity that those Christians who have done the most good in this world are those whose minds are most firmly set in that world, meaning eternity. (That's pretty close to the quote, but my copy is at the office, and I'm at home, where I should be sleeping).  Whatever issues befall us, we need to take comfort knowing it will get better.  Knowing that, we press on.

In the meantime, take a little comfort in a close hug, a warm embrace, a cookie while everyone else is sleeping.  It will help get us through.

Doug

Monday, February 1, 2010

They did what?

Take a look at Joshua 8:34-35:

34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.

Joshua 8:34-35 (ESV)

This is shortly after the victories of the Israelites at Jericho and Ai.  Joshua has built an altar on Mount Ebal and the people are gathered to offer sacrifices and be reminded about the law.

How does Joshua go about reminding them of the law?  Well, he doesn't scratch out a leaflet with bullet points.  The first thing he does is make a copy of the law on the stones of the altar.  Now, it's possible this is a situation where the leader is credited as doing something when, in fact, he commanded it and someone else did it.  I don't know, but I do know it would have truly embedded in the carver's mind the words of that law.  I think Joshua did it himself.  So, as leader of the Israelites, he has now reminded himself of the law. 

Yet he didn't do it alone.  Joshua 8:32 says he did this in the presence of the sons of Israel.  He had an audience who watched it happen.  Now, I've never watched someone carve words into stone, but it doesn't strike me as a quick process.  The sons of Israel watched. 

Then, something happens that would boggle the minds of church service planners of today.  Look at Joshua 8:34-35 again.  (It's at the top or in the pop-up)  Joshua reads all the words of the Law.  Now, this is neither the Law as it grew into by the time of the New Testament, where you had Torah plus Midrash plus Talmud.  Neither is it just the Ten Commandments.  It's most likely the bulk of the book of Deuteronomy.  Perhaps a portion of Leviticus as well.  In other words, there's a lot to be read here. 

Which Joshua read it.  To the people of Israel.  Not just the older people.  What does it say? The women and the little ones?  Can you imagine if next Sunday you had everyone in your church, from oldest to youngest, were brought into the sanctuary and the pastor said "We're all going to be in here while I read aloud the book of John.  It'll take a few minutes, but it's important, and I want you to listen."?  You'd have a fit.  Go ahead and admit it.  Most pastors wouldn't do it because they can't handle the fidgety children in their services.  Many parents would just take their kids and walk (we have some parents that are rarely back since we lowered the maximum age in children's church because I think once you're past 10 you are way too old. We're actually at the point that 7 and up are in church.) because they can't handle it.  Not the kids.  The parents can't handle the idea of their children with them.  Non-parents would walk out because they can't worship with all of the 'distractions' around them.

In short, we'd fall apart quickly if we tried to do this.  We might could handle the reading of 3 John, but not the whole Gospel of John!  Why?  Is our hunger for God so weak?

I think it has become that weak.  The people of Israel knew they were dependent on God.  They had a foothold on the land, but didn't have enough to survive on their own.  They were surrounded by their enemies. 

Yet is our life so different?  Can we not learn to hunger for God's Word and transmit that hunger to our children?  Is it not worth it?

 

Doug

Proverbs 1 by Doug

Proverbs 1:1 –>To be known for collecting wisdom rather than for anything else.  That's a decent hope for life.

 

Proverbs 1:7 –>Fear and respect of the Lord is the beginning not the end of knowledge.  We start by knowing God.  We grow from there.

 

Proverbs 1:8 –>Are both parents teaching wisdom? Or have you assigned that role to only one parent?  What do you think that result will be? There's a reason you replace the brakes on both sides of the car at the same time.

 

Proverbs 1:10 –>Take responsibility for your own actions.  True, you were enticed, but you consented.

 

Proverbs 1:22-23 –>I've said it before: you don't have to be stupid and foolish.  Too many times we excuse ourselves by claiming that "we're not that bright."  ENOUGH!  Wisdom is calling out and available.

 

Proverbs 1:32-33 –>Catch the contrast: naive waywardness and complacency will kill and destroy.  It's not just the evil that will get you, but the simple ignoring of wisdom that takes away the ease of the dread of evil.

 

I think that wisdom also teaches us what evil to actually dread.  Which makes a difference.  I dread a great many things in this world.  Yet I don't dread eternity.

 

Doug

Service/Sermon Recap for October 25 2020

Good morning! Here are the service replays from today: Facebook Morning: YouTube Morning: Facebook evening: Wednesday Evening: And remember ...