Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Things We Want

I apologize ahead of time for this long post, but it has been a long time coming to this point...

Over the last 3 or 4 months, Audrea and I have been seeking God's wisdom on what we should do about our house situation. We have had our house on the market since March 2007, have had around 65 showings, and only one offer but that fell through because of finances. Due to the shift in the economy--major drop in house values--we now are facing an upside-down mortgage (i.e. we owe more on it than what we could sell it for.) We knew that selling our house was going to be difficult to do financially and as far as we could see, we wouldn't have enough cash to give over at a closing if we did sell our house (yes, we would have to write a check to get rid of our house).

In that time, we had been approached by 4 different individuals about various, potentially lucrative business opportunities. On each of those, I had no desire to pursue them. Only a sense of "need" seemed to be a driving motivator. However, on the last opportunity, we talked with many individuals whom God has blessed with much wisdom. Each of those individuals told us a strange phrase, "Don't make a decision based on money." When trying to understand what they meant, the best clarification came when my father-in-law said, "Imagine all things being equal and no financial crunch, what are the benefits of pursuing this opportunity--spiritually?" The only thing I could see is that it would take us further away from our goal of going to Southern Seminary, and worse, would further distance me from the longer term goal of full-time pastoral ministry. That convinced me not to pursue the final opportunity either.

In thinking about all of the potential options on the table for us, a new option presented itself: Move to Kentucky and rent a house instead of buy a house. In the meantime, our house in Minnesota can be "staged" for just the right presentation and can be shown at any time with no impact on our family. In addition, in the meantime, I can take at least one class per semester on campus while we wait for the house to sell. Once the house sells in Minnesota, I'll decrease my working hours back to part-time and go back into the swing of seminary full-time. God has truly blessed me with a wonderful employer who has told us that they want me to continue to be a Skyline employee and will send work my way from Green Bay. (There is also some potential for an onsite contract in Louisville, but otherwise it would be from my home office.)

Over the last 3 weeks then, we have been searching for a house to rent in Louisville in the neighborhood of the seminary. Our friends, Josh and Gretchen, have been such a wonderful blessing to us by being our eyes-and-ears-on-the-ground. We lined up 3 properties for them to go and tour for us. They would take pictures and video and then post them online for us to review. We recognize this was a sacrifice of time on their part and have sworn to repay them in Krispy Kremes and Starbucks. We are so grateful for their help!

We found a wonderful bungalow with a large yard and empty lot next door, plenty of room to live, work, and homeschool, and a very nice couple who own the place. There is a room for an office/library (for my library that has quickly become the size of a standard church library!), a partially finished basement where we will setup a little schoolroom to teach the children in, and a decent size dining room to have company over.

On February 11th, Berger Allied Moving Company will be coming and loading a truck (we're doing all the packing now) and will head off towards Louisville. We'll leave then and arrive there sometime between the 14th and the 16th. We are overwhelmed at the fact that we have less than three weeks to finish packing, but are incredibly excited! Though we will now be 9 hours from mom and dad Walther (this is one of the difficult and sad things about the move), we will now be within a 3 to 4 hour drive of almost all of other family members (including most of my brothers and sisters!). Savannah's favorite part is that we will be 90 miles from her Uncle Rick and Aunt Karen Elliott who just happen to own a farm with horses!!

I close with an image of my mother's father--Harold Graves--and a little note that my mom found one day tucked into a book. We don't know who my grandfather intended this note to be for, but all of us children have adopted it as a note to us personally. We know that God is the source of our satisfaction in life. And the things we want (like homes, schools, money, family, toys, etc) will not in themselves ultimately bring us satisfaction in life. (The satisfaction we do derive from them are mere tastes of the goodness of the character of God Himself.) When we find our delight in God Himself, we will be truly satisfied!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Goof on the Roof, and the State of Contemporary Masculinity

Men, get off the roof and get on the stick being who God wants us to be!


via Gender Blog by Owen Strachan on 1/23/08

Owen Strachan is a former intern at Capitol Hill Baptist Church and is presently a Ph.D. student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in historical theology.  He and his wife live in Highland Park, Illinois.  You can read more of his thoughts on biblical masculinity at his blog. - David Kotter

I was reading the Sunday edition of the Louisville Courier-Journal when I came across this news nugget in the sports pages (I googled it to find out more). Apparently, some guy in Baltimore (he doesn't deserve to be named here) camped out on the roof of a Baltimore bar as a publicity stunt until the Ravens, the city's football team, either broke their nine-game losing streak or fired their head coach. The stunt crashed when the ex-wife of the man called the police due to the man's failure to pay multiple years of child support.

So let's get this straight. This guy cares so much about the Ravens that he will sleep on the roof of a bar for weeks--in the bitter Baltimore winter--but he can't rouse himself over a multiple-year period to pay his child support? This is a situation for which no comment is worthy.

However, this is a blog, and I want to write, and you expect me to do so, and so I will. This little episode, I think, shows a great deal about the state of manhood in the current day. We have here a man so devoted to his sports team--his hobby--that he does not even support his child. This is an extreme situation, but does it not tell us something about men in the current day? We are so interested in games--the fixation of boys--that we neglect the things of men. This man is a particularly depressing spectacle, but he is one of many men in the current day who idolize games and pastimes and who neglect the basic duties of manhood, the responsibilities upon which love is held constant, children are cared for, and societies are built upon.

Not many Christian men will take their love of games to the extent that this man did. However, a story like this should cause men who very much enjoy sports--men like me--to take stock of the extent of their passion for games. It is not wrong to enjoy sports; sports can be a good gift to us if held in proper perspective; but we Christian men, who have families and churches and jobs, should take care that we do not allow sports to dominate our waking hours. We should make sure that our families come way before our pastimes. Most of us should probably turn the television off for a number of hours each week and dig in to the Word, play with our kids, and serve our churches. We cannot allow sports and games and hobbies to devour our lives, our homes, our families, as they do for so many men in America today. We have a family to lead, a wife to love, and a Lord, a Savior who gave His blood for a kingdom cause, to magnify.


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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Will on Keys

Yesterday, Will took his first stab at playing the piano. Here's a recording of his first opus.

Friday, January 18, 2008

3-Year Old Hermeneutics

This week for morning devotions with the children, Audrea was reading in the book of Numbers to the children. Numbers 11:1-3:

And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the LORD, and the fire died down. So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the LORD burned among them.

After she was done reading, she had the two younger girls draw a picture of what the story was about and then tell her what they learned about God and about themselves. Savannah was to write a paragraph doing the same.

Sometimes in seminary, people get so deep in the thick of learning how to interpret the Bible that they totally "miss the forest for the trees." It's very common for guys to absolutely miss the whole point of a paragraph. When I hear a sermon like that, I think to myself, "Did he think about the big picture?" Typically, God is trying to tell us one major thing. That's the point of hermeneutics--the science of interpretation--to learn how to get the point! And in preaching, the key is to get to the point!

Tonight when I reviewed the girls' school work after supper, I realized that those guys (and I know that I've been one of them at times!) need to learn how to see the point and get to the point! Elayna, my youngest daughter, put the lesson of this paragraph from Numbers quite succinctly:

"They complained and they got fire."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sinéad's Theology

A good chunk of my favorite music to listen to comes from the good folks across the pond in Ireland. Of course at the top of my list is U2, but cohabitating with Bono and the boys you'll find Van Morrison, The Cranberries, Clannad, and Enya. And then there's Sinéad O' Connor. Her voice to me at times has that haunting wail that I seem to just associate with Irish laments. Last June, Sinéad came out with a new 2-disc album called "Theology." The whole thing is completely original music and how is a seminary student to pass up a CD with a title like that?!

On her website about the recording she comments about the influence of prophetic scripture on her lyrics: "I read Isaiah and took the lines from it that I liked and adapted them so they rhymed. My desire was not to use anything that perpetuated the myth of a God character being angry and aggressive."

This probably sounds very strange to those of you who aren't accustomed to reading stuff from the liberation or feminist theology camp, but I've had the opportunity to interact with that kind of writing and when I come across these comments, my first reaction is always, "huh?"

How can you say that God is not angry or aggressive when you read things in the same book she was looking at such as Isaiah 5:25 where it says: "Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still."

Or, Isaiah 9:17, "Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over their young men, and has no compassion on their fatherless and widows; for everyone is godless and an evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still."

Or, Isaiah 54:8-10, 16-17, "'In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,' says the Lord, your Redeemer. 'This is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you. Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and produces a weapon for its purpose. I have also created the ravager to destroy; no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.”

It is texts like these that make it extremely evident that God is an aggressive God of anger but is also a God of deep, compassionate love. Yet, I do understand that we all come to the text with presuppositions. So if you come to it with a system of thought that begins with the proposition that God is whoever you want him to be, or the proposition that Christianity as we have it is the result of a patriachal-dominated tradition where the "truth" has been manipulated by men to fit their chauvinistic desires, then you'll come to entirely different answers in your exegesis.

Yet, all that being said, the CD is worth listening to and enjoying for her incredible talent. It's also fantastic to see her exploring the issues and wrestling questions, even though not providing any answers: "'Theology' seeks not to offer immediate answers or a universal panacea; but instead provokes timely and thoughtful questions from an artist who is still pushing herself and inviting her audience to come with her."

The most interesting lyric I want to leave you thinking about is this from "Out of the Depths":
I've heard religion say that you are to be feared,
but I don't buy into everything I hear
And it seems to me that you're hostage to those roots
that were made by religion and not by you.
And I'm wondering whether you'll ever get yourself free.

It's so clear that along with everyone else, Sinéad is longing for untainted religion. Yet when we present the Faith we have, it must be separated from the system of religion that has been developed over the millenia by corrupted sinful men. It won't be until the Judgment that all the wrongs of history are avenged, that the curse is lifted, and things are then the way they're supposed to be. Until then, as C.S. Lewis put it, "Nothing is yet in its true form."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Survival of the Fittest

I've been reading Darwin on Trial over the last couple of weeks for a Philosophy of Religion class at Southern. The current chapter is analyzing the argumentation of natural selection. I couldn't help but think of one of the funny Far Side strips in my collection:

Monday, January 14, 2008

Grace Instead of Grace

In John 1:16, the Apostle says that from the Word-made-flesh we received χαριν αντι χαριτος. This phrase has been translated in almost all of the modern translations as "grace upon grace" or "one blessing after another" (NIV). The KJV gets it right here--"grace for grace". Gramatically, the preposition should be translated as "instead of." As I was reading this morning, D. A. Carson argues convincingly that it should be translated that way and addresses the common objections to his viewpoint. It's worth the time to read his comments on vv.1-18.

Essentially, John is saying that in the law, we had been given grace; but in Jesus Christ we have received even greater grace. Whether or not you agree that there is a Covenant of Grace lying behind all of the covenants given, you must agree with this: God is the God of All Grace. When Moses asked God to show Himself to him, he said this: "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin..."

While it sounds good and is theologically true to say "grace upon grace" or "one blessing after another", it seems as Carson puts it, "to miss the point." v17 comes along and explains what "grace instead of grace" means by starting the whole verse with the "for". "Because" in the law we received grace, but in Christ we have received even greater grace.

Say what you want about the TNIV (which most of its criticisms are deserving from what I've read), but it gets this particular verses translated right on the nose: "Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given." Isn't it amazing to be called a child of God, the God who will continue to abound in grace forever and ever?!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Fundamentalism and Moon Boots

One of the primary reasons why I strongly wish to identify myself with so-called Conservative Evangelicals and less and less with Fundamentalists is their focus on separation. As my good friend, Cory, has summarized their mentality: "It's just you and me, brother, but I'm not so sure about you."

I was listening to Sara Groves yesterday and thought that she expresses poetically what I think the outcome of a separatist mentality breeds:

"To the Moon" by Sara Groves,
from the "Add to the Beauty" CD

It was there in the bulletin
We're leaving soon
After the bake sale to raise funds for fuel
The rocket is ready and we're going to
Take our church to the moon

There'll be no one there to tell us we're odd
No one to change our opinions of God
Just lots of rocks and this dusty sod
Here at our church on the moon

We know our liberties
we know our rights
We know how to fight a very good fight
Just get that last bag there and turn out the light
We're taking our church to the moon
We're taking our church to the moon
We'll be leaving soon

Of course, if you're an astute fellow, you may be inclined to think this posting itself is a bit of hypocritical behavior: He's wishing to separate himself from Separatists because of their insistence on separation.

But I should be clear on this: I do not wish to "separate" from my dear Fundamentalist friends in the sense of ostracizing, rather I'm wishing that if I have to be pigeon-holed into a label, then please don't put the "Fundamentalist" label on me. By God's grace, I'll never abandon my friends in that camp. In the last three years, I've developed friendships with men that I will always be bouncing ideas and questions off of.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

This Is So Like My Mom!

This story is great! It so sounds like my mom. I know she pulled a similar stunt (of course not advertising it) with my brother when finding a cooler of beer outside his window then dumping it all down the toilet. It also reminded me of the time my car wouldn't start and had to get to work. I called my dad and asked him to take a look at it when he got home from work. When he drove it up to work and gave me the keys, I'll never forget him asking, "Whose cigarettes are those in the glove compartment?" "Uhh... those are my friends. I think he left them there." (Sorry, Brian, you were my scapegoat!) I'm sure he didn't believe a word of it but interestingly left it alone.

The funny thing is--if I ever would buy Savannah a car (which I probably never would) and find some illegal substance (or alcohol if she was under 21)--I'd do the exact same thing (except for the humiliation part)! What do you think you would do?


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via Cold Fusion Guy by Jim Peet on 1/9/08

'Meanest mom on planet' sells son's car


After finding alcohol in her son's car, she decided to sell the car and share her 19-year-old's misdeed with everyone -- by placing an ad in the local newspaper.

The ad reads: "OLDS 1999 Intrigue. Totally uncool parents who obviously don't love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet."

Comment: Way to go Mom!


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Monday, January 07, 2008

Big Will

Here's Big Will at 6 months in a 12-months outfit. Audrea was pulling out 12 mos outfits today to find ones that fit him and many of them were too tight! When I came home from work he was sporting a pair of 18 mos jammies from Grandma Connie.