Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Catching Up

Well, this has blog been dormant long enough. Things have been very busy in our life as we . . . well, live life. There has been a basketball tournament, snow removal, lots of school, teaching preparation, snow removal, doctor's visits, snow removal, and the extra busyness that goes in when I am finishing a project up for a deadline.

It is time to be honest. When I am doing work for someone and get to the end of their project, I am quite frankly tired of the project. Usually when I have about two to three weeks left until I am done, I really get the urge to move on to something different.

The actual ending has the following components. During the installation the customer is excited because they are seeing it all go together for the first time. For me, the installation is anti-climatic. I have lived with the project in varying degrees for at least the last six months and the happy feeling that have is that I don't have to think about it any longer and I can move on to new challenges. Recently, after building and installing a very complicated piece, the customer looked at me and said, "It is absolutely beautiful! Did you have any idea it would look like this?" My response was, "Yes. It turned out exactly how I pictured it in my head over a year ago." So for them, they were seeing it for the first time and were excited. For me, I was seeing what I had been seeing all along.

With all of that stated, there is a funny story about the recent completion of a project. Last week, I finished up the last final details of various projects for a customer that I have been working with for the last year. Actually, the first project I did for them started over 3 years ago. Anyway, last week I was done and when I finish a job I file all of my drawings, work documents, and everything related to the project together into my "Finished Work" file. As I was putting this project into the file, I commented to Caleb that there is a happy feeling of finality when I actually file away the project. He looks at me and ask, "Dad, how much did you charge them to build all of that?" "It was pretty expensive," I replied. "Was it $2,000.00?" he asked. I said, "No, it was more than that." "Was it $100,000!?" he asked. I just laughed at him. The fact that an eleven year old mind can have a $98,000.00 jump in the price amused me.

The first week of the Sunday school class went very well. We made it through the introduction and the first point on the outline this last Sunday. We were actually suppose to start two weeks ago, but that Sunday morning we canceled church due to an ice storm that came through. I may or may not be teaching again this week due to a special speaker coming or not coming, but I would guess that I have at least a couple of weeks left yet in this short series.

It has been awhile since a mentioned how Kim is doing, so I will give a brief update on her. She still is suffering from the same symptoms she has been, so actually, not much has changed. The doctors have been trying some different medications with her to help ease that pain, but none of them have been completely effective. Her symptoms still vary in intensity from week to week or day to day seemingly without reason. She has started to see a chiropractor to see if she can get any relief there. At this point we are unsure what else to do.

Well, that is all for now. I will try and maintain a regular blogging schedule, but I have some major deadlines approaching so I can't make any promises.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


As I was preparing to teach the next couple of weeks I came across this history I thought I would share.

As the teenager of a heathen father and a Christian mother living in North Africa during the late 300's AD, young Augustine would fill his life with the passions of whatever he set his heart upon. Rejecting the pleading of his mother to become a believer and follower of Christ, he pursued education and specifically, pursued fulfilling the desires of his flesh through all manners of sexual lust. Before he was twenty, he had taken a concubine that he would keep for the next 15 years. He had this to say about those years, "I went to Carthage, where I found myself in the midst of a hissing cauldron of lust. . . . My real need was for you, my God, who are the food of the soul. I was not aware of this hunger." "I was willing to steal, and steal I did, although I was not compelled by any lack." "I was at the top of the school of rhetoric. I was pleased with my superior status and swollen with conceit. . . . It was my ambition to be a good speaker, for the unhallowed and inane purpose of gratifying human vanity."

As he lived his life, devoted to pleasures of selfishness, he drew ever nearer to God through various theological and often heretical studies. In his early thirties he came under the teaching of the great preacher Ambrose where he began to realize his need for something more. However, he could not reconcile his need for God with the sinful desires of his flesh. That is until August of 386. At 32 years of age, while in a garden with his friend, Alypius, the following exchange between Augustine and a Holy God took place, an exchange that fought for fleshly desires with irresistible grace.

"There was a small garden attached to the house where we lodged. . . . I now found myself driven by the tumult in my breast to take refuge in this garden, where no one could interrupt that fierce struggle in which I was my own contestant. . . . I was beside myself with madness that would bring me sanity. I was dying a death that would bring me life. . . . I was frantic, overcome by violent anger with myself for not accepting your will and entering into your covenant. . . . I tore my hair and hammered my forehead with my fists; I locked my fingers and hugged my knees.

I was held back by mere trifles. . . They plucked at my garment of flesh and whispered, "Are you going to dismiss us? From this moment we shall never be with you again, for ever and ever.". . . And while I stood trembling at the barrier, on the other side I could see the chaste beauty of Continence in all her serene, unsullied joy, as she modestly beckoned me to cross over and to hesitate no more. She stretched out loving hands to welcome and embrace me.

I flung myself down beneath a fig tree and gave way to the tears which now streamed from my eyes . . . In my misery I kept crying, "How long shall I go on saying 'tomorrow, tomorrow'? Why not now? Why not make an end of my ugly sins at this moment?" . . . All at once I heard the singsong voice of a child in a nearby house. Whether it was the voice of a boy or a girl I cannot say, but again and again it repeated the refrain 'Take it and read, take it and read.' At this I looked up, thinking hard whether there was any kind of game in which children used to chant words like these, but I could not remember ever hearing them before. I stemmed my flood of tears and stood up, telling myself that this could only be a divine command to open my book of Scripture and read the first passage on which my eyes should fall.
So I hurried back to the place where Alypius was sitting . . . seized [the book of Paul's epistles] and opened it, and in silence I read the first passage on which my eyes fell: "Not in reveling in drunkenness, not in lust and wantonness, not in quarrels and rivalries. Rather, arm yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ; spend no more thought on nature and nature's appetites" (Romans 13:13-14). I had no wish to read more and no need to do so. For in an instant, as I came to the end of the sentence, it was as though the light of confidence flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled."

Later, in his book, Confessions, Augustine would write this about his conversion experience.

"During all those years, where was my free will? What was the hidden, secret place from which it was summoned in a moment, so that I might bend my neck to your easy yoke . . .? How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose . . ! You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood, you who outshine all light, yet are hidden deeper than any secret in our hearts, you who surpass all honor, though not in the eyes of men who see all honor in themselves. . . . O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation." (Bold emphasis mine)

As I consider the testimony of Augustine, I am compelled and convicted to give to God all of my "fruitless joys" and find in Him my "sovereign joy", complete happiness and contentment in Him alone. Consider also with me this statement by C.S. Lewis, "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." May His grace enable us to taste and see and treasure Him above all and to find in Him . . . Him, infinite joy.

All italics are quotes of Augustine taken from the book The Legacy of Sovereign Joy by John Piper

Monday, February 11, 2008

Two Weeks in Africa

I've added a new blog link to my sidebar. It is a blog for a missions team from our church that is on their way to South Africa. The team is leaving tomorrow and will be back in two weeks. We are very excited for them and look forward to seeing how God is working in Capetown when they get back. If you would like to see what a short term missions team looks like in action, then follow along on their blog.

As a slightly connected side note, on Caedmon's Call's latest album, they have a song called "Two Weeks in Africa." The lyrics follow.

Johannesburg to Capetown,
the plane had barely touched down.
She was taking photos for the friends back home.
This was always where she felt her heart belonged.
She was finally here,
the sky was bright and clear.

(Two weeks....)
And we all can feel the calling,
(Two weeks....)
to make the world a little smaller.
And so a girl got on a plane,
for two weeks in Africa.

Johannesburg to Houston,
she came home on a mountain.
But school was starting, things kept moving on.
Before you knew it, seven years had gone.
She found a picture of her,
standing, smiling,
arms around the starving kids.
She swore not to forget,
she swore not to forget...

(Two weeks....)
And we all can feel the calling,
(Two weeks....)
to make the world a little smaller.
And so a girl got on a plane,
for two weeks in Africa.

And if we follow our dear sun
to where the stars are not familiar.
Faces turn to numbers,
numbers fall like manna from the sky.
Why, oh why?
Oh Father, why?
One village in Malawi now has water running pure and clean.
One church alive in Kenya's full of truth and love and medicine.

We put the walls up, but Jesus keeps them standing.
He doesn't need us, but He lets us put our hands in.
So we can see, His love is bigger than you and me.

(Two weeks....)
And we all can feel the calling,
(Two weeks....)
to make the world a little smaller.
And so a girl got on a plane,
for two weeks in Africa.

Friday, February 8, 2008

An Invitation

I have been extended the opportunity to teach one of our church's adult Family Bible Hour classes over the next couple of weeks. This class has been going through the book of Acts verse by verse and this week we will be discussing the Jerusalem council in chapter 15. I will not be teaching this week, but in the next couple of weeks following this coming Sunday I will be teaching the class. When I substitute for the class, we will leave the book of Acts behind and move forward into early church history to discuss the creeds, confessions, and councils of the early church fathers and what role those events play in our lives today. We will be discussing dates, people with names no one can pronounce, and lot's of various "ism's" (asceticism, antonomianism, Pelagianism, etc.) So, if you are in the area and would like to fall asleep to the sound of my voice, we would love to have you. Actually, it should be a very interesting study and I am looking forward to teaching the class. As a result of my study preparation over the next few weeks, there may be a related post or two that ends up here. If you've managed to read this far consider yourself officially invited to attend.

Monday, February 4, 2008


Currently, I am reading Tim Challies book The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment and I am enjoying it very much. When I am finished I will attempt to provide a short review of the book, but today I would like to draw a thought out of one of the quotes he has in the book.

While discussing the fact of how the Bible was attacked 30 years ago on the basis of its inerrancy, Challies comments on how the fight for the Bible has now changed to another attack in our present age. He quotes the late James Montgomery Boice on what that current war is, "Inerrancy is not the most critical issue facing the church today. The most serious issue, I believe, is the Bible's sufficiency." Boice, who was one of the leaders against the attack on the Bible's inerrancy years ago, articulates perfectly the severity of the problem.

Now, I don't exactly have a pulse on the heartbeat of the evangelical church of today, but I do know my heart and my own weaknesses. And it is in examining my heart that I am able to agree with Boice.

When I am faced with the various issues of life, how do I react? Most often it is to try and fix the problem. You know, "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get it done." Do my actions relay that I believe that the Bible truly has the answer to every problem I face? Are my reactions an indication of what I verbally say, that the Word is the living Truth that applies to every area of my life? How do you react to your everyday issues? Do you answer them with Scripture or are you like me and attempt to work your "me-centered" theology to fix the problem?

Yesterday in church we sang a line from a song that says, "Truths unchanged from the dawn of time, that will echo down from eternity." What good does it do for us to say in our churches, our job, or conversations with our friends that we believe that the Bible is without mistake and then spend our lives applying pop psychology instead of the real Truth? What difference could you and I make for His kingdom if others saw in us that the Bible held the answer to every issue we face? Weird? Yes. Different? Yes. Bizarre to hold onto the ideals of a dusty book instead of applying the Dr. Phil's of the world? Yes. At least to those on the outside looking in, but we are called to be different and weird and to do it so that others can see in us just how incredible Christ in us is.

I like how Sara Groves in her song, "The Word", put into music our need for His Word and how often we put it on the back burner. I, like her, need to "rediscover, all the ground that I have covered."

"I've done every devotional
Been every place emotional
Trying to hear a new word from God
And I think it's very odd,
that while I attempt to help myself
My Bible sits upon my shelf
With every promise I could ever need

People are getting fit for Truth
Like they're buying a new tailored suit
Does it fit across the shoulders
Will it fade when it gets older
We throw ideas that aren't in style
In the Salvation Army pile
And search for something more to meet our needs

I think it's time I rediscover
All the ground that I have covered, like
Seek Ye first (what a verse)
We are pressed but not crushed,
perplexed but don't despair.
We are persecuted but not abandoned
We are no longer slaves
we are daughters and sons,
and when we are weak
we are very strong

And neither death nor life
nor present nor future
nor depth nor height
can keep us from the love of Christ
And the Word I need
is the Word that was
Who put on flesh to dwell with us.
In the beginning....

And the Word was
And the Word is
And the Word will be

Friday, February 1, 2008

Effects of the Weather

On Tuesday of this past week the temperature outside went from the mid to upper 30's in the morning to -30 below zero with windchills by midnight of the same day. That type of 60 degree swing is not exactly normal, but the saying in Wisconsin has always been, "If you don't like the weather, wait a day." Those cold temperatures can really make the air dry and we realized yesterday just how dry it had gotten in the house. Hannah walked across the room, sat down on the couch, and this is what we got! It was our impromptu science experiment for yesterday!