Friday, June 05, 2009

Ecclesiastes 3:10-11a

Life's a little hectic lately, plus I haven't had much interest in writing lately. I guess my interests have been directed elsewhere. Such as this... Click Here

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Skilled Artisans, We Are

My “wicked heart will weave an excuse for impenitence out of anything.”

 –Ichabod Spencer, A Pastor’s Sketches: Conversations with Anxious Souls Concerning the Way of Salvation (Vestavia Hills, Al.: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2001), 68.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

2 Myths from American History

I'm in the middle of a Church History class this semester, and in my reading lately I was reminded of 2 myths that I used to believe from American History:

    Myth #1: Most people came to America for religious liberty. In reality, they were very much fed up with the lack of reform within, specifically, the Anglican Church (at least from a Puritan perspective) and wanted, as Mark Noll puts it, "tighter govermental control of religion than existed in the Old World." [Mark Noll, The Old Religion in the New World: The History of North American Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 74] They were seeking for purity in the Church and the State and assumed that the solution for that would come by starting over somewhere else and then tightening up that link at the new place. (Now, if you're from an Anabaptist background [i.e. Quaker, Mennonite, Amish, et al], your heritage was concerned with a government that did not dictate religious life. But if you're in a Baptist church today, you may be surprised to know that your lineage doesn't draw directly from the Anabaptists!)

    Myth #2: The founders of the US Constitution expected the First Amendment to enforce separation of church and state across the country. In reality, their intention was that this was a state matter and each state should determine what their religious life would look like. They simply did not want the national government to dictate that. In other words, it was assumed that each state would adopt specific religious elements into their makeup. As Noll pointed out (72), 12 of the states then continued to have a religious test required to be taken in order to hold public office.

How does this change or underscore what you've thought about our history and how does it impact your view of the current conditions of our country?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Questioning Technology's Value in My Life

What's funny about this is that many people assumed I wanted to stop facebook because of it taking up so much of my life. Actually, I don't spend very much time on it, but my concern, rather, is simply trying to find areas in my life that I can distance myself from technology. The nature of my present job requires that I spend 40 hours a week at the computer. I keep track of my finances using a web tool. I read (actually--scan) many blogs using a reader. I check my email frequently (and now, more than I want, my phone keeps beeping to me that I have a new email [thanks, Maranda!]). And occasionally, I write on my blog. As I was talking with Audrea the other night, we were questioning the real value in much of those activities.

I can't get away from the computer entirely because of my job. The online web tool for my finances saves me incredible amounts of time and assists me greatly in controlling spending and maximizing savings. The email seems to be a necessary evil for communication with school, work, and personal business. Aside from that, everything else could go... and I'm real close to doing that.

When I posted a status that I was considering doing this, some people assumed that it was a self-control/time consumption issue. While that is true for many, for me it's simply a distraction and entertainment source that is not adding much value to my incredibly busy life. Interesting and fun, but not extremely helpful (somewhat, but not incredibly). It seems that several of these things could be eliminated and I wouldn't suffer a bit.

Persuade me otherwise...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Key to Fighting Bitterness

Chris Brauns has written a helpful book on forgiveness: Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds. (Crossway 2008, find it here). In it he deals with bitterness and how it can consume you when you've been hurt deeply. Hear his wise counsel on fighting bitterness:
If you feel yourself wrestling with bitterness, then focus more intently on our glorious God. Savor the providence of God. He is in control of all things. He is perfectly just and cannot be unjust. Bitterness begins when we have been treated unfairly. But if we believe that God will accomplish justice, and if we are simultaneously confident that God is working all things together for our good, if that is our center, then we will beat the stuffings out of bitterness every time.

We tend to say things like, "I truly believe that Jesus died for my sins" or "I do believe that God created the world" and with the same heart allow bitterness to overwhelm us. How are those two connected, you ask? Brauns continues:
Do you doubt that God--who is so commited to justice that he sent his only begotten Son to the cross--do you doubt that he will bring justice to its rightful fruition in the end? Do you have any question that God--who spoke all things into existence, numbers the hairs on your head, and determines the times set for you and the exact places where you live--do you have any question that this God will work all things together for your good?

Remember that God works all things out for his glory and our joy. "At your right hand are pleasures evermore."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Win a Free ESV Study Bible in Calfskin Leather!

Of course, by posting this contest, I reduce my own chances of winning this. But that's okay. My mom gave me a hardback copy of the ESV Study Bible for Christmas so if I don't win, I won't be heartbroken. If I do win, I'll be sharing my ESV Study Bible with a particular young man who is struggling with alcohol abuse and nearly killed himself recently but seems to be very penitent at this time.

You too, can enter this contest by following the instructions here.

UPDATE since this original posting: As I was placing my comment on David's blog, I realized, "Why shouldn't I 'consider others better than myself' and give this young man the leather Bible if I win it? Of course, I should."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Teleportation, Invisibility, and Making the Impossible Possible

I am listening to a very, very intriguing podcast by Microsoft Technologist, Scott Hanselman, where he interviews Futurist and Theoretical Physicist, Michio Kaku. Dr. Kaku talks about the actual work of teleportation (remember Star Trek?) and invisibility (think Harry Potter's cloak, but not with humans) and other things.

Here he discusses his classification of things that are considered impossible, but he believes are actually possible in some realms and theoretically possible in the future. For instance, they have successfully made a photon teleport underneath the Danube River. Essentially what is necessary for this to happen is to reduce the photon to the amount of enough information required to reconstruct the photon. Given this possibility, people theorize that if we could reduce people down to the information they consist of (i.e. DNA) and be able to reconstruct that DNA, then we should someday be able to teleport someone or clone someone. But as philosophers have observed, this makes huge assumptions that people simply consist of information. The Bible is clear, though, that man consists of a soul and body.

Anyone interested in being the first for this laboratory experiment?

Listen to the interview here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Things That Should Inspire Awe

My friend, Devin, has made a very astute observation on her blog. First, you need to go and watch this funny/insightful interview from Conan on her blog.

Now, notice what she said at the end of her post: "True happiness is found nowhere outside of Christ. Period." Devin, you've made the connection that most people haven't: Things that should inspire awe are intended to bring joy. When God gives us Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ, we find our greatest level of happiness.

In reality, though, at this point in eternity, we only get glimpses of God's glory--that which would imbue awe. By His providence He gives us all good things to enjoy in order to point us to Him. So when I enjoy an incredibly tasty meal made by my beautiful wife, I am called to see this as only a shadow of a reflection of God's glory.

But, as this guy (unawaringly), and more awaringly by Devin, has pointed out, we are not seeing that God is good, unimaginably good. We find pleasure in the thing itself for a very brief period and then find that it stops satisfying. And what has been observed in this video is a trend, a downward spiral that is described very clearly in Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of Romans 1:18-23:
But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can't see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn't treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.

What is scary--really, terrifying--is what that passage goes on to say. Read it for yourself here.

We need water to drink that will cause us to never thirst again. We need bread to eat that we can buy without money. I can tell you where we'll find that:
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Is It Okay to Doubt Your Salvation?

Yesterday, I brought a quote from Will Metzger's Tell the Truth about false assurances of salvation. Today, I want to encourage those who are struggling in their hope of salvation. Metzger goes on to talk about these individuals who think they may have a personal relationship with God, but struggle with assurance of this knowledge. How can they know that they are secure in Christ?
"Again, the kind thing is to bring the sure Word of God, with its infallible promises, alongside the grace they find exists in their changed hearts. The Spirit will then enable believers to say with assurance, 'I am a child of God and will be forever' This great comfort and encouragement does not come through a private revelation of the Spirit (a witness of the Spirit apart from or in addition to the Bible). Assurance is effected not by imparting new revelation to a person's heart, but by applying what is already revealed in Scripture, namely, the truth that believers shall be saved." (p81)
What is Metzger saying? I have been told many times in life that after you "lead someone to the Lord", the next thing you absolutely must do is "give them assurance of their salvation." So you underscore to them that when they begin to doubt this salvation, they should remember that they asked Jesus to save them at this point in time. The eye-opening thing (at least for me) is that Metzger is saying that assurance is not our job.

Metzger goes on to point out that God wants us to be examining our lives to make sure of our calling. "He makes us restless, even to the point of questioning our salvation, so that we may not presume on his favor, but instead, relish his grace." Any confidence we have should be based on the finished work of Christ alone as revealed to us in the Word of God alone. The Bible makes it clear, though, that a result of doing that (placing confidence in the Gospel on a daily basis), will result in a changed life--specifically, patterns of sin in our life will be broken.

"Our eternal security should be focused not on remote past actions but on our present attitude toward Christ. Just as earthly parents can expect physical growth in their children, so we can expect to see a gradual change in the lives of God's children." (p81)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Is It Good to Shatter People's Hope of Salvation?

UPDATE: I added page # references to the end of these quotes.

Hear this difficult, but necessary word from Will Metzger in his book, Tell The Truth:
Is it kind to shatter a person's hope of salvation? Yes, because without scriptural grounds, it is nothing more than a false hope. A hope of acceptance by God based on such things as going forward in a meeting, praying a suggested prayer, imitating the experience of others, joining a church, attending many Christian meetings, being baptized, studying the Bible regularly, helping others, [being confirmed,] feeling good in a religious service or having a strong conviction that they are right with God is a hope not founded on biblical truths. Perhaps people may trust in the doctrine of election or in theological precision or baptism. They may have a sentimental belief in the general providence of God: "God has been good to me; God will take care of me." Yet people can be involved in any or all of these activities without ever looking to Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Lord. Without this there is no salvation. Without this there is no assurance. Let us in kindness alert these people to what Christ will say to them on the day of judgment. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?" Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' (p80-81)" (Matthew 7:21-23)"

Metzger says there are two questions: How do you become a Christian? and How do we know if we are a Christian? The first is answered by, "You become a Christian through repentance toward God and faith in Christ alone as Savior and Lord." The second is answered by looking at your life for these results:

"The first pillar of assurance is a trust in the promises of God as being promises to you. You count them true and take them personally. The second is the beginning of a change in your attitudes and actions corresponding to the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) and the marks of salvation (1 John). The third is the inner witness of God's Spirit to your spirit that you are his child (Romans 8)." (p79)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Elayna on Marriage

Recently we published a cute story about Elayna's very Victorian mindset toward marriage. We don't know where she came up with such strong puritanical views (honestly--we only joke about pre-arranged marriages :), but don't let her fool you. While she may have very high ideals, she's very occupied at the moment with her preparation. I'm having technical difficulties getting the video to embed correctly on the blog, so in the meantime click here to listen to her current issues with marriage.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Letter From Andrew

(This was read at his funeral yesterday)

A letter from Andrew to be read after his passing:

A brisk fall afternoon, the bright red and yellow leaves are falling from the trees at Round Lake Park, the sun is shining. I can feel the cool fresh air entering my lungs with every breath. I smell garlic and homemade Italian food in the wind. For you maybe it's a spring day and the flowers are blooming, or it's Christmas and the snow is falling and you are sitting with a warm mug of coffee by the fire. It's at those seemingly perfect moments that you know this all didn't happen by chance. It is not by chance that the leaves turn red in the fall, and it is not by chance that I'm not standing here reading this letter to you now.

After all the suffering I have seen thus far, there are only two things that I know are true. That I love my wife and kids so much, and that God loves me infinitely more than that. Thank you, thank you, thank you, to all who have loved, served, and prayed for us. I am so very sorry to leave you all behind, but at the same time I am so happy to be home with my maker. Everything that I love about the fall and the leaves and the fresh air and Italian cooking in the wind, pales in comparison with what it is like in the presence of Jesus. I have not eaten in a very long time, but know that I hunger no more. There is no more pain or suffering, no more tears or sorrow. Grace, AJ, and Gracie, know that God holds you in the palm of His hand especiallly now. Jesus will lead, guide, and protect you. I am confident that your mourning will turn to dancing.

Fight for joy in this. Rejoice because cancer can kill my body but it cannot kill my soul. Rejoice because my greatest sickness was cured in 2001 at the age of 20 when I believed that Jesus could forgive such great sins as mine. Rejoice because even through sickness and death God has done great things in my life, and yours. Rejoice because this is not the end, it is just the beginning.

Rejoice! Again I say rejoice!

I will see many of you soon.

Andrew W. Mark

(Hat tip to Kim)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Good God vs. Andrew's Suffering? Making Sense of It All

My friend, Bob Glenn, preached a sermon on Sunday reflecting on Andrew's suffering and death. It was so incredibly powerful, I wish you would take some time to listen to it. Briefly, here is the main reflection points:

  1. Andrew Mark's suffering and death are a sobering reminder of the brevity of life.

  2. Andrew Mark's suffering and death point indirectly to the holiness of God.

  3. Andrew Mark's suffering and death are not worth comparing with our glorious future.

  4. Andrew Mark's suffering and death only make sense in light of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

On the very provocative point #2, Bob says this:

If in spite of the heinousness of what he went through, Andrew was treated better than he deserved, and if what he really deserved was hell, and if hell is infinitely worse than any suffering here on earth no matter how severe, and if hell is as bad as God is good, then God must be awfully good.

On point #3:

Think of it like a number line ... make your suffering a negative number ... way across the page to the left of zero and make it a huge number--say, something that corresponds to what Andrew Mark suffered--let's say it's negative one million. Now, take that number and make it a positive number and multiply it by the number of the stars and you won't touch the hem of the garment [of] how much better it will be!

And finally, on point #4:

If life is all about knowing Jesus, if knowing Jesus is supremely worthy and surpassingly valuable, the most valuable thing in the universe, that's what life is all about--then Andrew's suffering and death helped him to know Jesus in a way that only those who suffer can know Him. In fact, that's the only thing that in the end makes Andrew's suffering and death meaningful. Through it he was able to know and enjoy what is supremely enjoyable in the midst of real pain--namely Christ Himself.

I hope these quotes whet your appetite to hear the rest of the sermon. You can either download it here or you can listen to it live on Todd Friel's radio show, Wretched, where he will broadcast it sometime between 2 and 4 CST today. (Yes, that's how powerful the message was--it will be broadcast nationally.)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

With Our Savior

via Grace's Journal by Grace Mark on 2/7/09

Its 11:30 am Pacific time. Just got a call from Grace that Andrew is now in the presence of our Father. We praise the Lord that he called Andrew to be His and that Andrew is now rejoicing before the throne of grace without pain or suffering.

Please continue to pray for Grace, AJ and Gracie and the rest of the family, that the peace of God would continue to be a comfort to them.

Details on the funeral will be forthcoming. It will most likely be on Tuesday and Grace and the family would love for whoever can make it to be there. Also in lieu of flowers, a fund will be set up for AJ & Gracie. More details on that to come as well, but if you are interested in contributing to that, please email and I will send you the details when I have them.

Thank you all for praying and for your encouraging remarks and for continuing to lift this dear family up in your prayers.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Never too young to guard your heart

(This post is written by Paul & Audrea's friend, Dawn)

I have the most amazing opportunity every week to teach young kids about God and His Word. They are always attentive and eager to learn and somehow remember most everything I teach them. It is a HUGE encouragement to me to see how much they learn and remember. I am blessed every week with 3 beautiful little girls, Makayla, Sabrina, and Elayna. There have been though, many a Wednesday nights or Sunday mornings where somehow I know I am at church, but I feel like Art Linkletter or Bill Cosby are present filming a secret episode of "Kids Say the Darndest Things." We added a friend last night to our Wednesday night events. Taylor, a boy, who is in Kindergarten, joined my beautiful girls. We went through our normal activities of Play-dough, coloring books and crayons, and a short Bible Story. I brought in some Kids Worship music last night to play while we ate our dinner and colored. After class, we had a bit before the kids got picked up, so I proceeded to turn the music on and they all decided to dance around and enjoy the music. They were all laughing and smiling and enjoying each others company. Sabrina decided to dance with her sister Elayna and Elayna was more than willing to enjoy that with her. Well, Taylor, my only boy, decides he wants to dance with Elayna as well, so when Sabrina finished, he made his way to Elayna and took her hands to dance. Elayna stops, plants her feet to the floor, quits smiling and laughing, and yells "NO ROMANCE BEFORE MARRIAGE!!!!!" She dropped Taylors hands and went on dancing by herself enjoying the music. I mean seriously, where is Bill Cosby and Art Linkletter when these things happen anyway? :)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

How Should Apologetics Be Used in Evangelism?

Apologetics' effectiveness in evangelism efforts is to bring people to a place where the intellectual questions are answered and put aside so that the moral choice to submit to God and believe the Gospel or not is on the table. No human argument will ever be persuasive enough to induce a true submission to God.

Friday, January 30, 2009

What I Hate About Working From Home

Audrea's job is so much harder than mine, and most of her rewards are so intangible.

She spends her whole day serving our family by cooking, cleaning, teaching, organizing, singing, shopping, saving, praying, disciplining, peacemaking, shepherding, crying, remembering, forgetting, suffering, laughing, restraining, preparing, planning, understanding, thinking, praising, rebuking, caring ... shall I go on? I could.

I spend 8 hours of my day serving my family by sitting upstairs at my computer thinking, writing, and coding. I get to listen to music all day, experience mostly peace and quiet, and have a view that is amazing. It's so unfair. It just seems like a crime.

While I truly appreciate the blessing of working from home, I hate having to stay put, do my job, and know that Audrea is doing so much more than I am doing.

This drives me to realize two things:

  1. When a husband comes home from work (or in my case, comes downstairs!) to a wife that stays at home with the children, and especially if she is one who also teaches at home, he should do whatever he possibly can to help her in fulfilling her role as wife and mother of her family. This is just as applicable to those families who are unable (or choose not) to have one parent at home: the roles of each partner do not change--the work/ministry (in my mind) would be still there to do, but would need to be done with less time available.

  2. A husband (like myself) should be motivated to work as hard as he possibly can at his job in order to honor God in the fulfilling of his role as provider and protector of his family.

One other thing that these impress on me: I love my wife more than you can even know.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

This Truly Incends Me

I'm having a hard time writing this post without displaying unbridled anger in my language... so I'll keep it simple and let it inflame you.

I double-checked with Strunk's Elements of Style, The Chicago Manual of Style, and American Psychological Association style guide and verified 1) capitalization of a personal pronoun is reserved for the first-person pronoun (however, references to deity are acceptable--Him, You, etc.) and 2) that the word--Bible--is to be capitalized when referring to the Christian scriptures.

Two sad commentaries on our American culture today:

Last Monday, before Inauguration Day, CBS published this story discussing how the Lincoln Bible would be used to be sworn on by then-President Elect Obama. Unless specifically referring to the book which Lincoln used for his inauguration, the author would refer to God's Word as simply "the bible." Five times, he or she clarified that the book to be sworn in on was simply--a bible.
While the tradition of swearing in using a Bible is simply that-tradition--it does reflect the distinctly Christian heritage the United States of America was signficantly influenced by. The Bibles used for swearing in Presidents have not just been any holy book for some miscellaneous religion: if it was a Bible, it was The Holy Bible, the testament of the Christian faith. It is denigrating to my faith and to our country's heritage to reduce it to simply "the bible"--as if it was irrelevant which religion was associated with the book.

Today, then, Audrea pointed out to me a Garrison Keillor op-ed piece in the Courier Journal. In referring to President Obama, Keillor says:

"People were being marshaled into waiting areas for each train to D.C., each of us with a Commemorative Train Ticket with a picture of Himself on it"
Did you get that? "Himself."

Specifically, note this question and answer from the Chicago Manual:
Q. Is it proper to capitalize pronouns that refer to a deity? For example, “God is willing to forgive anyone who comes to Him.”

A. Yes, although it’s not Chicago style. Capping the pronouns can imply an expression of religious faith on the part of the writer; lowercasing them leaves the writer’s beliefs unclear. The choice of style should be made with sensitivity to the type of reader you are addressing. Lowercasing is more inclusive, but it might offend in some kinds of religious literature.
So, if it wasn't obvious to you already, it should be now: People are worshipping the President as a deity, and are trying their best to relegate God to a myth.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Horse-Riding Lessons

Savannah has talked about taking horse-riding lessons for a couple years. It used to be that she would ask us to buy a horse. We told her how much work it was and how fast the poop accumulated, but that usually didn't deter her. Eventually we said, "Well, how 'bout lessons, instead, someday?" Our mistake. From that point on, she had talked about lessons. This Christmas, her favorite gift was a certificate for horse-riding lessons. According to her, "It's the best gift I've ever gotten."
There is a horse riding club right here in town, just 5 minutes away from our house that we take her to. You'll notice in the picture that she has her coat on and looks bundled up. The lessons occur in a large barn but the barn is not really heated. She loves it all the same, though.
(It isn't extremely bright in there, so you'll have to excuse the graininess of the pictures.) When I took her for one of the lessons, I was kind of nervous, considering my horse-riding accident last spring. Watching her go around the fence without any help slowly built up my confidence in her.
Meanwhile, she goes on loving horses and still talking about a career centered around horses.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Encouragement for Sufferers

Hear a good word from John Piper on proper perspective through hard times. Though his subject concerns the economy, this was encouraging to me in my present trials.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Vote for the Quads Blog!!

Hey everyone who sometimes takes a look at my blog--could you do me a favor?

My friend, Jen Murray, has a blog about her quadruplets. Please take a moment today and as often as you want (but no more than once per day) to vote for it being one of the best parenting blogs of 2008. Her blog is an encouragement to those parents who wonder how to take care of several children at once and is always an amazing display of God's grace in many ways. Her blog can be seen here and you can vote for it here.

(Funny note about how I know Jen: I met Jen when I lived in Danville and worked at the Open Door. She would come in and give me a hard time about this so-called girlfriend (aka Audrea) that must not exist since she had never met her. It wasn't until much later that I found out that she was the kid sister of my dear friend, Kirby Myers!)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Oh my... no words for this

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Morning Report: Even the porn industry wants a bailout

Finally, in this era of unprecedented government bailouts, there is an industry worthy of our tax dollars.
In a story that no sportswriter could invent, CNN last night reported that another major American industry is asking for assistance as the global financial crisis unfolds.
Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and Girls Gone Wild CEO Joe Francis said yesterday they will request that Congress allocate $5 billion for a bailout of the adult entertainment industry.
Things must be tough all over.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!!

Welcome to 2009, everyone!!!!!

My family and I wish you all a happy new year and pray that you will experience afresh God's grace throughout the whole year!