January 31, 2008

Gossip, talebearing, and prudence

I find it so difficult to control my tongue. It is very easy to join the gossip-fest or to add fuel to the fire of conversations that should not have taken place to begin with.

Unfortunately, this all-too-prevalent vice is an easy snare for many of us—partly because it is so prevalent. I know that I am likely to say disparaging things about people who I think are doing the same thing against me. It's almost like the opposite of the Golden Rule: Do unto others because they're doing unto you."

In my devotions today I read chapter four of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. I am including it in its entirety here because it is so wise and so needed:

Prudence in Action
DO NOT yield to every impulse and suggestion but consider things carefully and patiently in the light of God’s will. For very often, sad to say, we are so weak that we believe and speak evil of others rather than good. Perfect men, however, do not readily believe every talebearer, because they know that human frailty is prone to evil and is likely to appear in speech.

Not to act rashly or to cling obstinately to one’s opinion, not to believe everything people say or to spread abroad the gossip one has heard, is great wisdom.

Take counsel with a wise and conscientious man. Seek the advice of your betters in preference to following your own inclinations.

A good life makes a man wise according to God and gives him experience in many things, for the more humble he is and the more subject to God, the wiser and the more at peace he will be in all things.

January 30, 2008

Where is God when things go bad?

I stood a mendicant of God
  before His royal throne
And begged him for one priceless gift,
  which I could call my own.

I took the gift from out His hand,
  but as I would depart
I cried, “But Lord this is a thorn
  and it has pierced my heart.

This is a strange, a hurtful gift,
  which Thou hast given me.”
He said, “My child, I give good gifts
  and gave My best to thee.”

I took it home and though at first
  the cruel thorn hurt sore,
As long years passed I learned at last
  to love it more and more.

I learned He never gives a thorn
  without this added grace,
He takes the thorn to pin aside
  the veil which hides His face.

Steve Saint is the son of Nate Saint, one of the five missionaries slaughtered by the Auca Indians of Ecuador in the 1950s. He and his family continued to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Aucas (now known as the Waodani) and the resultant changes to this people group are amazing.

I recently listened to a recording of a message that Steve Saint gave at a conference on worldwide evangelism. His talk was convicting and motivating. He has a wonderful sense of the total sovereignty of God—even in the midst of such terrible things as the murder of his father.

Steve read the poem at the right to help explain the concept of God’s love and goodness shining through even the seemingly bad circumstances of our lives.

"Loving God and Neighbor Together" - Piper responds

Professor Peter Schikele of PDQ Bach fame once said, "Truth is truth. You can't have opinions about truth." That's the concept that comes roaring out of this video in torrents. May the evangelical world wake up to the truth of what John Piper presents here:

January 29, 2008

Public education for special needs kids

For seven years my wife and I have worked hard to fight for our son's education. My wife has dedicated all her resources to this, even quitting her job to fight for our son's education the year after she was named "National Photographer of the Year." She was an up-and-coming portrait photographer specializing in infants to five-year-old children. She is now a stay-at-home (stay-at-school office) mom working long and hard to make sure that our son is being included in school functions and is being taught.

Our son, Construction Dude

This has been by far the hardest battle of our lives. These children, who have tremendous difficulties in life due to their unique health-related conditions, must overcome incredible obstacles in their schools—obstacles that rise from the most unexpected places. It seems that the teachers, principals, and other school leaders tolerate these children because they are required to by law, but do everything they can to remove these children from their classrooms into "specialized" enclosed classes, which are actually classes with lower standards, stigmatized children, and institutionalized disrespect.

I have recently found a blog written by Barbara Curtis, a woman who has raised 12 children—including multiple children with Down Syndrome, one biological and the others adopted. She has posted some outstanding thoughts on this topic of special needs education

More links to related blogs and posts:

The Homeschool Family

This is just too funny! I love it

Gimme that feel good religion

I just wouldn't be doing the right thing if I did not point you to this delightfully tongue-in-cheek, but right-on-the-money post. I especially like this verse (to be sung to the tune of "Give Me That Old Time Religion:

Gimme that feel good religion
Gimme that feel good religion
Gimme that feel good religion
It's good enough for me

Fun and teary thumping Praise songs
keep repeating all those praise songs
praise songs praise songs praise songs
praise songs praise songs praise songs
praise songs praise songs praise songs
praise songs praise songs praise songs
its good enough for me

January 28, 2008

"No" means "no"

So often I feel compelled to push my point of view. I think, "surely others would see the wisdom in my way of thinking, I must have simply not stated my position clearly enough." In other words: "No one could possibly actually have a legitimate disagreement with me."

What lies behind this way of thinking, is probably a lack of trust in God's sovereign control of everything. If I truly trust God's working in all matters, I will state my case as clearly as I can, hoping that others will agree and will put into practice the things I think should be done. But when I hear the word "no," I will accept that answer and move on.

Those of you with children probably realize already that this is a lesson we regularly try to teach our children—usually a verbal lesson though; teaching by example can be much too hard.

Acts 21:12-14 When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, "Let the will of the Lord be done."

Apparently, these early Christians did not have as much of a problem with this as I do. After trying to persuade Paul to go somewhere other than Jerusalem, they accepted his answer and stopped trying to dissuade him.

Maybe someday I'll learn to be this accepting of God's will.

January 27, 2008

Mirror blog

Due to continuing problems with the commenting on this blog, I have created a mirror-blog (exact same posts, different software).

If you are having trouble commenting here, please use this link to comment at the other location:

By His grace - For His glory

Blog Header - January 27, 2008

My office in McLean, Virginia, is attached to the Ritz Carlton Hotel and to the Tysons II Galleria Mall. One day, about two years ago, we noticed that the sky became darker and darker as the day progressed. Early in the afternoon an unexpected snow storm hit. When the snow began to accumulate, I went to my car, grabbed my camera and took a few photographs from the front of my office building.

This week's header photo is that snow storm, as seen from the front door of our building, looking across the park that divides the twin office buildings that are bookends to the Ritz Carlton. We don't get a lot of snow in Northern, Virginia, so I have to capture it for posterity when it happens.

January 25, 2008

Let us be silent no more!

Throughout history, when conquering forces have subjugated the native people, the conqueror has attempted to silence the Church. They did this because churches historically have been centers for truth dispersal. If a church were allowed to spread the truth to the people, the conqueror’s propaganda would have been compromised.

"Despotism may govern without
faith, but liberty cannot"

Tyranny usually needs to silence the church because God tells us how to live as free men. Christ purchased the chains of our slavery and set us free. Just as Tyranny demands silence from the Christians, freedom demands holy living as taught in the Scriptures. When the church’s voice is silenced our freedom is lost.

In 1835 the French philosopher, Alexis de Tocqueville, wrote Democracy in America. Based on what he had learned from visiting the United States and studying her government and social constructs, de Tocqueville wrote, "Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot.... How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie is not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed? And what can be done with a people who are their own masters if they are not submissive to the Deity?"

Whenever the forces of evil have held the church under their thumb, heroes have arisen. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, these heroes have refused to bow to the authority of a ruler who opposed and despised God. These men and women of character and principle have spoken the truth when tyrannical rulers attempted to suppress that truth.

The churches of our nation have chosen to remain silent

In America we have grown so accustomed to our freedoms that recent generations have forgotten that these freedoms were won by supreme sacrifice and commitment. That which the forces of tyranny have failed to accomplish in the past has been accomplished in the United States by generation after generation living under the freedoms provided by our forefathers. Each successive generation has grown more complacent and has increasingly taken for granted the freedoms our ancestors enjoyed because they worshipped and served God. The voice of the church has been silenced.

We are no longer a Christian nation. But in the midst of increasing sinfulness the churches of our nation have chosen to remain silent. Within the walls of the Church we repeat the old doctrines and creeds but we do not live holy lives—we do not stand when the enemy says "bow." We do not lay our lives on the line to save the life of another. The legal community uses a phrase that would be good for us to understand and inculcate in our daily lives—"He who is silent is understood to consent."

The Christian songwriter Keith Green wrote, "The world is sleeping in the dark that the church just can’t fight because it’s asleep in the light." We know the truth but we have ceased to proclaim it.

"How then shall they call on him
in whom they have not believed?"

This is a call to our religious leaders and to each of us who knows the truth of Jesus Christ. We must proclaim the truth with a loud voice. We cannot let our society continue down the path of destruction known as abortion, euthanasia and infanticide. While God’s little ones are being slaughtered in the streets we cannot sit inside our pristine cathedrals and congratulate one another with prayers such as "God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are" as the Pharisee did in Luke 18. We must shout from the pulpits and then from the streets, "God be merciful to us—we are sinners." We must proclaim the truth that human life is sacred. We must become the "salt of the earth" so that God can use us in His war against evil.

Although this post is aimed at our church leaders, we all need to do our part in this battle. God has called us to be heroes. As the apostle Paul said in Romans 10:14–15: 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?

Let’s determine right now to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ from the pulpits of this land, and in so doing send the people of our churches to preach this truth in the streets. Our voices must not be silenced any longer.

Our future depends on it.

This concludes Santity of Life week. But don't let it end here. Keep working toward the right to life. Guaranteed by our Constitution as revealed in Scripture.

January 24, 2008

Why do the Conservatives hate Mike Huckabee?

The Rev. Flip Benham of Operation Save America has posted a very interesting analysis of the trend among conservative pundits such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Fred Barnes to show a visceral hatred of Mike Huckabee and his candidacy for the Republican nomination for presdent. Rev. Benham says:

Conservatism is being exposed for the enemy of Christ that it really is – it is pretend salt! The light of Christ that dwells within Huckabee is exposing Conservatism to be a greater danger to Christianity than all of the minions of hell in the Democratic Party.

Read the full article

Have we made any progress?

What the abortion statistics are saying: "Christians are winning!"
60% of Americans now believe abortion should be illegal in most cases.Coral Ridge Ministries poll, January 2005
72% of Americans now believe abortion to be wrong.Coral Ridge Ministries poll, January 2005
51% of the people in America now believe abortion to be murder – only 35% don’t.Zogby poll, Jan 2001
There has been a 13% increase in those identifying themselves as pro-life since 1995.Gallup Poll, August 2001
Teen pregnancy rates have declined in all 50 states.National "Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy" poll 2000
Teen pregnancy, birthrates, and abortions have declined each year since 1991.Center for Disease Control (CDC)
Support for Roe v. Wade has plummeted 13% among entering college freshmen since 1991.LA Times poll, June 2000
The number of medical schools teaching the abortion procedure has dropped 57% since 1987.American Medical Association (AMA)
The number of abortions performed in our nation dropped by 40 % between 1991 and 2001.Life Dynamics (LDI), January 2001
There were over 2,000 free standing abortion mills in 1990; today there are 726.LDI
Over 500 free standing abortion mills have closed in the past six years.Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI)
The number of abortionists killing children has declined almost 40% since 1991.LDI, 2001
Abortionists killing children are getting older (average age, 59). There are few young doctors to replace them because no one wants to be known as an abortionistAmerican Medical Association (AMA)
Many abortionists are losing their licenses as medical boards discover their incompetence and negligence.AMA
The callous abortion industry cover-up of the abortion/breast cancer link is being exposed.Dr. Joel Brind
The truth about hundreds of women who have died as a result of “safe,” legal abortion is being made known.Priests for Life
The employee turnover rate in abortion facilities is incredibly high.PPFA, LDI
Sexual perversion, alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce, suicide, depression, and murder are ravaging those who work in the abortion industry.American Psychiatric Association (APA)
The animosity and distrust between abortionists and their staff creates a terrible work environment.Life Dynamics Inc.
Planned Parenthood, the leading provider of abortions in our nation, is losing ground.PPFA
In 1995 Planned Parenthood had 928 affiliates. In 1999 it had 845.PPFA Annual Report 1999
In 1995 PPFA had 21,000 employees. In 1999 it had less than 17,000 employees.PPFA Annual Report 1999
The number of yearly attendees at PPFA Sex Ed Programs has plummeted by 320,000 since 1991.PPFA Annual Report 1999
People involved in the abortion industry hate what they do, they hate each other, they hate themselves, and they hate those who confront them in their sin.APA, John 15:18-19
The humanity of the little child in the womb of his mother has become almost impossible to deny, thanks to science, technology, and the bold witness of gentle Christians who have stormed the gates of hell and shown the truth in the streets of their cities.
The three individuals most instrumental in ushering in the Roe v. Wade era are today, all professing, confessing, Christians – Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe), Sandra Cano (Mary Doe), and Dr. Bernard Nathanson (founder of NARAL).
What the Abortion Industry is Saying: “We are losing!”

  1. “A little more of this and doctors just won’t do abortions. Would you? (Abortionist Warren Hern, full page ad in Rocky Mountain News, July 23, 2005, referring to Operation Save America’s National Event in Denver, July 2005).
  2. “This is a crisis, it’s increasingly impossible for women to get a service (abortion) that’s absolutely legal.” (Melinda Dubois – US News and World Report, 1998)
  3. “Hate and harassment clearly inhibit women from access to abortion. It is more difficult now to get an abortion than it was five years ago.” (Gloria Feldt of PPFA, 1997)
  4. “Abortion opponents will achieve their goal without ever having to overturn Roe v. Wade.” (Kate Michelman of NARAL, 1997)
  5. “The number of abortions in this nation has dropped twenty-nine percent in the last six years.” (Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former U.S. Surgeon General, 1998)
  6. "The anti-abortionists are winning without really winning. They scare off the younger doctors." (James Pendergraft, Abortionist – The Associated Press, 1998)

January 22, 2008

What if it gets this bad?

I have often wondered if the generation before us had stepped up to the plate when abortion was made legal and had cried out with a loud voice: "This is not right! We will not allow this to happen." How much different would the world be today? How many diseases may have been cured had millions of potential doctors not been slaughtered? How many wars might have been stopped had the millions of potential diplomats not been killed? How much different might the world be if our nation was not murdering her children at the rate of 1.5 million per year?

It's easy to point the finger at those who went before us and did not make as much of an outcry against this terrible sin. But what are we doing to stop it now? Because it's not going to get better on its own.

What if your children have to view ads like this because you did not get involved in the fight for every life of every innocent unborn child?

Maybe we shouldn't be killing babies in the first place

Many years ago, when I was in college, I was encouraged that the media elites and many in academia had begun to notice the hurdles that the abortion proponents had to jump at every turn. An article in the Chicago Tribune dated October 10, 1983, reveals the recognition of these hurdles:

If Abortion Becomes Murder

Surely when the Supreme Court decided more than a decade ago that women had an almost unrestricted right to abortion, the justices never foresaw the kind of tragedy that led, last week, to a physician being convicted of murder in connection with the termination of a pregnancy.

Dr. Raymond Showery was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges that he drowned an infant in a bucket of water and dropped the body in a plastic bag after the baby survived a hysterotomy abortion. Although the mother was reported to be 24 weeks pregnant, witnesses described the newborn as weighing 3 to 5 pounds. The bag was apparently thrown away; the infant's body was not subsequently found.

Dozens of other infants have been born alive as a result of abortions. Most are too small and too damaged by the abortion process to survive for more than a few minutes or a few hours. Most states have laws requiring that such infants be treated as other premature babies and every effort made to keep them alive.There have been other instances in which physicians have been tried on charges of killing a baby who survived abortion. Dr. Williams Waddill, accused of choking to death a 2 pound, 14 ounce girl following a saline abortion, went through two long trials, but charges were finally dismissed when neither jury could reach a verdict. Dr. Kenneth Edelin, who allegedly stalled in completing a hysterotomy abortion to make sure the baby was dead, was found guilty of manslaughter, but the Massachusetts Supreme Court reversed the decision. It is a tragic irony that physicians can be charged—and in Dr. Showery's case, convicted—for murder in killing a baby outside his mother's womb just minutes after it is perfectly legal to kill the same infant inside his mother's body. It is even more ironic that the infant who can be killed legally is probably healthy and normal; the abortion survivor who must be kept alive no matter what is almost certainly damaged by the abortion process, may suffer serious, lifelong handicaps as a result of being born so prematurely, and has parents who tried to end his life because they so intensely didn't want him.

The Supreme Court's 1973 decision legalizing abortion rested on assumptions about scientific facts that may have been dubious even at the time. Since then, new medical technology and new neonatal intensive care centers have made it possible for babies to survive after much shorter pregnancies than envisioned a decade ago. The inevitable result will be that more infants are going to survive abortion, although the odds are high that they will have serious handicaps as a result and taxpayers and health insurers will not only have to pay for expensive neonatal care for them, but perhaps lifelong institutionalization as well.

The Supreme Court isn't likely to reverse the basic thrust of Roe v. Wade, the case that made abortion legal. The court has already overturned many state and federal laws that sought to put restrictions on the access to abortion....

As Franky Schaeffer said regarding this article in his book Bad News For Modern Man, "The Tribune, while clearly seeing the absurdity of doing everything possible to kill babies in the womb at one moment and then at the next moment turning around and doing everything possible to save those same babies when the "abortion procedures" don't work, fails to make the simple, logical connection—that maybe we shouldn't be killing babies in the womb in the first place."

May God have mercy on our nation.

Bill Clinton Has a Dream - MLK Day

I'm so glad I don't have video cameras aimed at me all day long. But, although I empathize with him, I still think this is funny:

January 21, 2008

Sanctity of Life Week

January 22, 2008, marks the 35th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision in the case of Roe v. Wade, that legalized abortion and created a new "consitutional right." I will be posting my thoughts about this issue for the next five days. I begin with the reason that I take this issue very personally—my son, the one who was saved from abortion.

Thirteen years ago a young woman went to a party and came home pregnant. She had already given birth to a girl and aborted another child. This pregnancy put her in a bad position with her parents who had told her that if she were to have another child she would have to move out of their house. This young lady was counseled by many people to have an abortion. The list of people encouraging her to kill her child included her parents (the child's grandparents), some of her teachers, and even her pastor.

Our prolife son at about 15 months old

Fortunately (providentially), she chose to carry the pregnancy to term and to give birth to ... my son.

About 12 and a half years ago, this young lady came to our house and discussed her options. We did not express an interest in adopting her child; we simply gave her the information she was looking for: who could she turn to to give her an option other than having another abortion. We put her in touch with the adoption agency we were in contact with regarding our desire to adopt a child.

My wife and I have been involved in the prolife cause for all of our married lives. We have attended rallies, participated in events, and even worked for non-profit prolife activism agencies. We offered our home to young women who may be experiencing an unplanned pregnancy that had caused her to be thrown out of her house. We didn't know how to put our convictions into action. But God knew....

Twelve and a half years ago, my wife stood in the delivery room with our son's birth mother. At the doctor's direction, my wife cut the umbilical cord—a particularly moving and symbolic action. A few minutes later I was brought into the delivery room to meet my son for the first time.

Our son - Fall 2007

If not for the commitment to life that this birth mother showed, my wife and I would not have our wonderful son. We would not have experienced the many blessings that have come into our lives as a result of this boy who is growing to manhood in front of our eyes. And, as we have said many times to our son, we would still be a couple, had he not made us a family.

Praise God for those mothers who protect their children from the easy abortion that is made available to all in our society. Praise God for my son's birth mother. Praise God for my son, who made us a family.

Martin Luther King Day

Today is the day that our nation celebrates the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is good for us to celebrate the positive impact of individuals who fight for what's right. It is particularly good to see the vision of such people come to fruition in the society we live in.

William Wilberforce dedicated his life to improving the morals of English society and to the total and complete abolition of the slave trade. We can read his writings and look at the world around us and realize that his dreams have been fulfilled. We can celebrate the life of William Wilbeforce, rejoicing in the knowledge that what he worked so hard to accomplish has become a reality today.

But what of Dr. Martin Luther King's dream? We all know what his dream was—he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in our nation's capitol and told us what that dream was. Dr. King said that he had a dream that one day all men "will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Has Dr. King's dream become a reality?

In a day when the majority of people in our society proclaim that we are making personal attacks against anyone whose character we call into question, I think the answer must be "no." In a day when a Barack Obama can run for the presidency of our nation and although he never brings up the topic of the color of his skin, we hear non-stop reports (both favorable and negative) about him being "the first black man to run for the presidency," and we hear about folks complaining to Oprah Winfrey for campaigning for "the black man instead of the woman" candidate.

These are not what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., fought and died for. May we all commit ourselves to viewing and judging those around us not by the color of their skin or the nation of their origin, but by the content of their character. And I would add to that the need to judge them also by their understanding and belief in the death and resurrection of the Son of God who came to save people from every tribe, tongue, and nation—not because of the color of their skin, or because of the content of their character, but because of their great need of a Savior. I don't recommend judging them to disenfranchise them, but to target them for the proclamation of the gospel because if they do not yet believe in Jesus Christ, this is their greatest need.

January 20, 2008

Why write?

My wife asked the question on her blog, The Chosen Child, "What is a blog?" I recently read the following article, "Why Write?", in the delightful book, A Cup of Comfort for Writers, and thought that it answered the question nicely.

Why Write?

Some questions do not lend themselves to easy answers. "Why do you love him or her?" "How can you tolerate that?" "What are you doing in there?" and "Have you been drinking?" are examples of queries that make us stop and stare, our mouths hanging open. My favorite responses to these types of personal probes are, "Because!" "Nothing!" and "No!" This proves that the training of my adolescence was not a complete waste of time.

Recently, a close friend asked me why I write. Because he, too, is a writer, I assumed the question was rhetorical. After a few seconds of silence I realized he was serious and expected me to cough up an answer. Quickly reaching into my memory bank and rushing through the file marked "No-Fault Responses," I blurted out, "Because!"

He was not impressed.

Why write? If "Because!" is not a suitable answer (which it obviously isn't), then why? Having learned the danger of answering for anyone but myself, I will attempt here to give a reasonably coherent explanation of why I put myself through the scary, frustrating, exhilarating ordeal of regularly eviscerating myself on paper for all the world to see.

This is my cue to begin with the tale of my unhappy childhood, the demons that drove me and frenzied my escape into Fantasyland. Not only is that shamefully convenient, it is untrue. Yes, my childhood was unhappy. Yes, I escaped into Fantasyland. However, I could just as easily have become a serial killer, a prostitute, a child-beater, or a politician. God, in His infinite mercy, spared me, and I instead became a writer. I do not write because of my warped past; I write in spite of it. It gives me grist for the mill, but it is never anything more than grist. My passion, alone, keeps the wheel turning.

Young girls often fall in love with horses and festoon the tops of dressers and desks with the miniature likenesses of golden palominos, black stallions, or spotted appaloosas. I loved words with the same dreamy, irrational passion. The surface of every piece of furniture I owned was crowded with books and notebooks filled with my own scrawled creations.

I told stories to my sisters and wrote poetry for my grandparents. My mother would ask me to read my latest adventure to her while she soaked in a hot tub at the end of a day that had been too long. I'd sit cross-legged on the bathroom floor, my notebook in my lap, and read. Every now and again, I'd glance up at my mother, her naked shoulders resting against the back of the tub, her eyes closed. Sometimes she looked dead, and I would stop, hold my breath, and wait. Then, her sleepy voice breaking the silence, she'd say, "'The fairies made a boat of old pine needs.' Go on."

My mother was my first critic. However, as we all know, mothers make lousy critics. If I'd read Dostoevsky to her for forty minutes, she would have proclaimed it "Wonderful!" and "Exciting!" Anyone who has ever read Dostoevsky needs no further explanation.

I write because I need to write. I write because I am at the bottom of a deep well and I am trying to tell you something. I am trying to make you hear me, to be heard. I am trying to get your attention, because there is this flame inside me and I am trying to tell you about it. I want you to know the fire I feel and the hunger that eats at me.

I write because I am standing at an intersection in my life and in your life and, while you hurry past, I am recording the world around both of us. I am taking note of everything, and I want to hold it up to you, mirror-like, so you can see what I see.

I write because there are screaming things in my head, and they will not be still unless I am a witness for them, unless I tap the microphone at the top of the world, lean forward, and say, "The intensity of all that you feel cuts right through me; I feel it too. Being human is a glorious, hideous business! You are more magnificent than you ever hoped and more horrible than you ever feared!"

I write because, if I don't I will explode. I will start banging my head against the floor and, when the night comes, I will do a Goya and paint monsters on my walls, I write because the words pack themselves so tightly inside my head—with all their energy, dread, joy, hope, and abject misery—that if I cannot get them out, they will consume me.

I write because I have something to say ... about me, about you, about being alive. I write because I am a writer. I was born that way. I was also born with brown eyes. What is one to do? You play the hand you are dealt. When I think of a painter, I see someone watching the colors and shades of the world and putting them to canvas. When I think of a musician, I see someone listening hard to the rhythm of the human heart and wrapping it in melody. When I think of a writer, I see someone on his hands and knees, leaning over the spilled blood of his soul, pooling in the dirt like the blood of Abel, and hearing his lifeblood, his lifework, cry out to God, "Here is my story! Here is my truth! Someone bear witness of me!"

I write because I love to write.

Why write? Because.

Camille Moffatt, A Cup of Comfort for Writers: Inspirational stories that celebrate the literary life, edited by Collen Sell, pp. 27-31, Adams Media, Avon, Mass.

Blog Header - January 20, 2008

He sends out his command to the earth;
His word runs swiftly.
He gives snow like wool;
He scatters hoarfrost like ashes.
He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
Who can stand before his cold?
He sends out his word, and melts them;
He makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
          —Psalm 147:15–18

We had a snowstorm last week. I couldn't resist the urge to run outside and take a few pictures of what I find to be one of God's most beautiful creations—freshly fallen snow. This week's header is one of those pictures. This one was taken at about 6:00 am. The snow had just begun to fall but was accumulating rapidly. We ended up with quite a few inches of the cold powder, but in this photo there is just a slight ground covering.

January 19, 2008

Let the Nations Be Glad

Having been raised by a pastor who was deeply dedicated to evangelistic outreach, I have tremendous respect for those who have sacrificed to take the gospel message to those who have not yet heard that Christ died to save sinners. I remember the stories of great missionary heroes that my parents told us during family devotions, at dinnertime, and at bedtime. In fact, quite often our bedtime stories revolved around some of these great stories.

One of my favorite stories was the story of Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and Ed McCully—the missionaries who were determined to take the gospel message to the Auca Indians (now known as the "Waodani") of Ecuador. This native Ecuadorian tribe was history's most violent people group prior to hearing and responding to the good news of Jesus Christ. But it took the death of these men and the continued love shown by their surviving families to get the gospel message to these people in such great need.

The story is amazing. The movie, End of the Spear, and the documentary, Beyond the Gates of Splendor, about this missionary team are intense and convicting. Both are available on DVD. I hope this will encourage you to purchase both of these DVDs. You won't regret it.

The videos below were produced by Steven Curtis Chapman using footage from the documentary. Some of this footage is actual footage taken by the missionaries themselves in 1955.

In these videos it mentions that the Aucas were on the verge of extinction, but doesn't tie in the fact that the driving force behind these misionaries' intense desire to reach this people group was the fact that in John's vision of the heavenly kingdom he saw this: "After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb" (Revelation 7:9). These missionaries were concerned about the apparent danger of this people group becoming extinct without having heard the gospel message. So they realized they had to take the message immediately. What an amazing group of dedicated Christians.

January 18, 2008

Watch the Pope

I'm not sure that I get why there is a web cam aimed at a dead dude, but here it is—watch the Pope. This web cam is aimed at the tomb of Pope John Paul II. Since there are regular visitors to his tomb, at times you won't even get to see the tomb—just the backs of the visitors.


What to do when a Mormon comes to your door

One of my first forays into the world of blogging was through the outstanding apologetics ministry of James White and Alpha & Omega Ministries. In May 2005 Dr. White recommended a new blog that was being set up by one of John MacArthur's associate pastors, Phil Johnson, who had just launched the phenomenal Pyromaniac blog.

Click to visit Pyromaniacs

This blog, which later became the team blog, Pyromaniacs, has become my absolute favorite blog.

That's a long introduction to a fantastic post at that blog about preaching the good news. Check it out and if you haven't seen Pyromaniacs before, be prepared to bookmark it. It is the best blog I've ever been to.

January 17, 2008

I love Lynchburg

Our house at 6am

The weather forecast was calling for snow. I asked my boss to let me work from home in case the weather got crazy and he graciously allowed me to do so. So early this morning we kept an eye on the window to see how things were progressing.

At about 5:50am we received a call from the public school system saying that school had been cancelled due to the incoming weather situation. At about 6:00 the snow began to fall. And it fell. And it fell. And it fell some more. We ended up with a good bit of accumulation. Our son had a blast.

David shoveling

Lynchburg, a beautiful town anytime, became a delightful winter wonderland today. I had to go outside and take these pictures. The first couple of pictures were before the sun came up at around 6:30 am. The others were at around lunchtime when I went outside to watch my son go sledding down the hill in front of our house.

Thank you, Lord, for making such a beautiful temporary home for us.

Our back yard BBQ
Berries on one of our trees
Our house around noon

When quitting is a virtue

Quitting is not seen as a virtue. From a very early age we are taught that we must continue at a task until it has been completed. But C.S. Lewis points out that if anything we pursue begins to attract our attention more than our desire to know God, it is time to quit that pursuit.

As the author of the Theologia Germanica says, we may come to love knowledge—our knowing—more than the thing known: to delight not in the exercise of our talents but in the fact that they are ours, or even in the reputation they bring us. Every success in the scholar’s life increases this danger. If it becomes irresistible, he must give up his scholarly work. The time for plucking out the right eye has arrived. (C. S. Lewis, "Learning in War-Time", in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, p. 50.)

January 16, 2008

Blow your own horn?

We have learned from our society that we must proclaim our own worthiness at every turn. We must let others know what we are good at. I have attended business meetings at which the presenter admonished us that if we don't tell everyone how good we are, "no one else will."

For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.
     —Thomas à Kempis

As Christians, we are not called to boast of our own accomplishments—neither in church, in our homelife, nor at work.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 reads: "Thus says the Lord: 'Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.'"

The Imitation of Christ
Thomas à Kempis

I was reminded today of one of the side-effects of focusing on God and boasting in God rather than in ourselves—how we treat others. I am currently reading The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. The following quote from this outstanding book prompted me to think in this direction. May we all strive to follow this biblical advice:

If you wish to learn and appreciate something worth while, then love to be unknown and considered as nothing. Truly to know and despise self is the best and most perfect counsel. To think of oneself as nothing, and always to think well and highly of others is the best and most perfect wisdom. Wherefore, if you see another sin openly or commit a serious crime, do not consider yourself better, for you do not know how long you can remain in good estate. All men are frail, but you must admit that none is more frail than yourself.

January 15, 2008

Losing by seeking too hard

Michael S. Horton of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church made a statement that I found greatly encouraging:

The paradox of seeker orientation seems to be that while its watchword is evangelism, its effect has quite generally been the opposite. Instead of reaching the lost, we’re losing the reached. Having been taught themselves, our members would be the first to admonish us if our elders decided to exchange catechesis for Christian versions of MTV and Disneyland. If we transformed our Sunday-evening catechetical preaching into entertainment, we would have a mutiny on our hands

Those who have been taught properly from the Word of God, who have experienced the majesty and solemnity of true worship in liturgical or non-liturgical assembly, will revolt when new methods are introduced that lose a sense of the majesty and holiness of God. This transcends the simplistic arguments for "which style (genre) of music we should sing in church" and gets to the heart of worshiping God in spirit and in truth.

"Perhaps some of the confusion in the worship wars would be lessened if careful consideration were given to the subversion of purpose that can take place when the underlying assumptions of various social structures are mixed. When churches begin to look at the congregation as consumers and the programs of the church as products, when worship services begin to resemble a well-staged Broadway show, then maybe, just maybe the church has taken a few steps into the wrong social structure. Is the church defeating herself by fraternizing with the enemy—by being on the wrong battlefield?"
      —Maureen Bradley

If we are seeking to honor God through preaching that is bible-derived and bible-saturated, and through fellowship that is aimed at edification, and through corporate communication of our recognition of God's worth and an understanding of God's character, and through songs that proclaim God's majesty, sovereignty, and holiness...and if all these things are done in a way that is honoring to God because we have done them to the best of our (corporate) abilities—then we will move far beyond the mundane arguments of "contemporary or traditional" and will build congregations that will revolt when the conversation turns to such mundane matters as "contemporary or traditional."

Maureen Bradley has some outstanding thoughts on this subject at Worship Wars: Are We on the Right Battlefield?. May God grant today's evangelical church the desire to return to worshiping Him in spirit and in truth without trying in the process to fill the pews or to entertain. Let's leave God's work to God.

January 14, 2008

What will be your legacy?

From the cover of this video What legacy will you leave your children? Your grandchildren? Will you be remembered for the wealth and possessions you leave behind, or for the example of faith you pass down? While our culture stresses the importance of living for today, God wants us to focus on building a spiritual foundation for the future generations of our families. "In this two-part series, Voddie Baucham emphasizes the importance of leaving a multi-generational legacy. And he provides practical insight into how you can begin investing today in the spiritual future of your family.

I posted a few days ago about the outstanding Voddie Baucham. I wish so much that I could share with others the wealth of fantastic sermons that I have listened to from this man. But not many folks that I know of know who Voddie Baucham is. And it's not easy to find good videos or audio files of his sermons.

But I found one today and want to share it with you. In this sermon, Voddie discusses the concept of leaving a legacy to our children.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

So ... have you listened to the sermon yet? Did you catch the part about the fact that even unsaved birth mothers were asking the adoption agency to find "good Christian families" to adopt and raise their children? Oh, you didn't watch the video yet?

Well, what are you waiting for? Go back and watch it now. You won't regret it.

January 13, 2008

Blog Header - January 13, 2008

I created this photo for use as a background to the worship music projections for our church. The cross at the bottom right of the photo is our church's logo and the words that you can just make out are our church's slogan: "Worship, the Word, World Evangelism."

January 12, 2008

Those awful children are ruining my life!

I was suprised to find a news article that quoted psychotherapist Jeanne Safer, author of Beyond Motherhood: Choosing a Life Without Children. The title of this book shocked me almost as much as Ms. Safer's quote:

Couples without children have to know that -- for the early years, at least -- their friends will simply be less available and preoccupied. "If it's a real friendship, that will change over time

It sounds to me as if this psychotherapist and author is saying that these friends are simply excited about this new child, as they might be about a new car or other toy, and that this fascination will wear off and once again the friend will realize that her friends are much more important than mere children.

I decided to look this book up on Amazon.com and found that this book is not alone in the treatment of this topic. In fact, among the piles of books were these titles:

  • Families of Two by Laura Carroll
  • Baby Not on Board by Jennifer L. Shawne
  • Will You Be Mother?: Women Who Choose to Say No by Jane Bartlett
  • The Childless Revolution: What It Means to be Childless Today by Madelyn Cain
  • Pride And Joy: The Lives And Passions Of Women Without Children by Terri Casey
  • Maybe Baby: 28 Writers Tell the Truth About Skepticism, Infertility, Baby Lust, Childlessness, Ambivalence, and How They Made the Biggest Decision of Their Lives by Lori Leibovich
  • Women Without Children: The Reasons, the Rewards, the Regrets by Susan S. Lang, and
  • Reconceiving Women: Separating Motherhood from Female Identity by Mardy S. Ireland

All this while our nation is bordering on the edge of a negative population growth. How self-centered can you be to decide you don't want to have children because they cost so much or take up so much of your time? Apparently folks have forgotten what God says about children:

Psalm 127:3 Children are an inheritance from the LORD. They are a reward from him. The children born to a man when he is young are like arrows in the hand of a warrior. Blessed is the man who has filled his quiver with them.

January 11, 2008

Self-absorbed culture

Life sized wedding cake statue

Photos like this one from a CNN.com slideshow reveal the depths of craziness that our society has sunk to in pursuing our own glory. As you can see, this woman had a life-sized statue of herself made as her wedding cake.

The artistry is good, but the fact that it was done is appalling. I hope they haven't made plans for their 10th annivesary yet. Somehow I kind of doubt that this level of self-adulation will contribute to a lasting marriage.

Narcissus didn't even come close to us.

January 10, 2008

Family-Driven Faith

Family Driven Faith, by Voddie Baucham
Family-Driven Faith
by Voddie Baucham

I have been tremendously impacted by the preaching of Voddie Baucham. I listen to MP3 sermons in the car during my commute to and from the office. Voddie's preaching regularly brings me to tears of guilt and repentance.

I have a few heroes in the world of conservative evangelical preachers. John Piper has topped that list for about a decade. The list includes John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Alistair Begg, and Phil Johnson. Voddie Baucham has joined that list during this past year.

Here is a video in which Voddie talks about people's response to his new book, Family-Driven Faith.


In this one, Voddie discusses the general concept of "family."

January 09, 2008

Evangelical Idolatry

We are so prone to worshiping idols. Even in the Church, we are prone to this ancient sin against God. I have heard many preachers reference the obvious idols in our culture—cars, sports teams or athletic heroes, even our family—but I think the most common form of idol worship in the evangelical community is the worship of a god of our own making.

Jesus told the woman at the well that there was coming a day when those who worshiped God would worship "in spirit and in truth." Our worship of God must hold in view the God of truth. In other words, we must know who God is and worship Him. We cannot grope about in the dark, inventing a god in our own image.

The French Enlightenment writer Voltaire once said, "God made man in his image and likeness, and ever since man has been returning the favor." We love to "create" a god that suits our desires and our whims.

The most obvious presentation of this in evangelical circles is the over-emphasis of God's love to the overshadowing of God's other attributes—including justice, wrath, and holiness. We sing songs about how much God loves us ("Above All Else") and we regularly tell folks around us "God loves you." And this is true. But what is missing from the equation is the fact that God is holy and he demands payment for our sins. We must repent or we will be condemned. These are not concepts that sit well in today's self-absorbed culture.

In his book Now That's a Good Question, R.C. Sproul answers the question: What is the average Christian's understanding of God? I think his comments should be taken to heart by all of us who call ourselves "God worshipers."

I don't know what the majority view of God is in the Christian world. I can only guess from the small universe in which I live and the exposure that I have to various groups of people.

I certainly encounter a view of God that is widespread in the Christian community whereby God is somewhat reduced in scope from the biblical portrait that we have of him. He is seen as a sort of celestial grandfather who is benevolent in every respect and whose chief characteristic—and sometimes only attribute—is the attribute of love. We know that the Bible certainly puts an emphasis on the love of God and even goes so far as to say that God is love.

But I think we are in grave danger of stripping God of the fullness of his character as it is revealed in Scripture. This becomes a not-so-subtle form of idolatry. For example, if we obscure the holiness of God, or the sovereignty of God, or the wrath of God, or the justice of God, and sort of pick and choose those attributes of God that we like and then deny those that frighten us or make us uncomfortable, we've exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and we are worshiping a god who is in fact an idol. It may be a sophisticated idol—it's not one made of wood or stone or brass—but, nevertheless, the concept of God we worship must be a concept that agrees with the God who is.

I've been on a crusade for years to focus attention on the doctrine of God—the character of God. Three of my books deal with the doctrine of God the Father: The Holiness of God, Chosen by God (which focuses on God's sovereignty), and the latest one, The Character of God (which deals with the attributes of God). I wrote them intentionally as a trilogy to emphasize the character of God the Father because I think we are in grave danger of his being overlooked or distorted in the contemporary Christian world.

We have some idea of who Jesus is, and the charismatic renewal has brought much more attention to the Holy Spirit in recent years. But we almost systematically ignore God the Father. You also find that many Christians ignore the Old Testament. The whole history of the Old Testament is the revelation chiefly of God the Father. Everything we read of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit—so amplified in the New Testament—presupposes the knowledge of God the Father that is given to us in the Old Testament. I think it's a priority for the Christian community to develop a higher understanding of the character of God.

January 08, 2008

Peace amidst slander

Wise words from Charles Haddon Spurgeon:

I have often admired Martin Luther, and wondered at his composure. When all men spoke so ill of him, what did he say? Turn to that Psalm—"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble; therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." In a far inferior manner, I have been called to stand up in the position of Martin Luther, and have been made the butt of slander, a mark for laughter and scorn; but it has not broken my spirit yet, nor will it, while I am enabled to enjoy that quiescent state of—"So he giveth his beloved sleep." But thus far I beg to inform all those who choose to slander or speak ill of me, that they are very welcome to do so till they are tired of it. My motto is cedo nulli—I yield to none. I have not courted any man's love; I asked no man to attend my ministry; I preach what I like, and when I like, and as I like. Oh! happy state—to be bold, though downcast and distressed—to go and bend my knee and tell my Father all, and then to come down from my chamber, and say—

"If on my face, for thy dear name,
Shame and reproach shall be;
I'll hail reproach, and welcome shame,
For thou'lt remember me."

C.H. Spurgeon
From the Sunday evening service, March 4, 1855

January 07, 2008

Sam Shamoun Debates Nadir Ahmed

If you have the time to watch a full debate on internet video stream, check this out. Very interesting.

January 05, 2008

Blog Header - January 6, 2008

Beginning this year, I am going to change my blog header each week. Most of these headers will be photos I have taken, but a few will highlight my favorite painter—Steve Hanks. The header this week is from one of Steve Hanks' paintings.

The following quote is from the Steve Hanks web site:

Steve Hanks is one of the most sought after artists in North America today.Photo-realism with this rogue medium is difficult at best, and he is the master of it. His techniques are widely studied by students and seasoned artists alike.

I love Steve's paintings because they have a wonderful sense of respect for the family, children, women, and even pets. When I view one of his paintings, I get the feeling that I am secretly observing the actual lives of the people in the painting.

All of his paintings are done in watercolor. His use of lighting, his depiction of water, and the almost visceral sense of touch that exudes from his fabrics is without match in the art world.

Check out Steve Hanks. I hope you will become as much of a fan as I am.

Another reason to love Lynchburg

Daddy Bim's

Those who know me personally probably get tired of hearing me brag about the town I live in—Lynchburg, Virginia. It's an amazingly wonderful place full of delightful people. I'd like to brag on another outstanding feature of Lynchburg in this blog post: Daddy Bim's Barbecue!

Daddy Bims Barbecue
1905 Old Forest Rd,
Lynchburg, VA 24501

This place is amazing. As you can see from the photo above, it's basically a little hole in the wall out on a country road. But it always has quite a few cars in the parking lot and the people leaving always look like they've had a good time. But the excitement begins inside when you order some pulled pork barbecue or barbecued ribs. Their food is some of the best barbecue I've ever had.

And the people who work there are delightful. It's a wonderful hometown restaurant, the likes of which you just don't find in more urban areas.

January 04, 2008

The great hope for our nation

Barack Obama94038%
Jonathan Edwards74430%
Hilary Clinton73729%

Mike Huckaby39,81434%
Mitt Romney29,40525%
Fred Thompson15,52113%

The votes in Iowa have been cast. The polling data gave way to the actual vote counts. Sen. Barack Obama and Gov. Mike Huckaby are the big winners—REALLY big winners. After the tight polling data in the past few weeks, the political pundits were all calling a very tight race for both the Democrat and Republican nomination races. It did not turn out that way. There were decisive victories on both sides. Obama took 38% of the votes to the second- and third-place runners: Edwards with 30% and Clinton with 29%. After polling relatively close to Mitt Romney for the past few weeks with a few ups and downs on both sides, Huckaby won decisively with 34% of the votes to Romney's second-place finish with 25%. Fred Thompson came in third with a mere 13%.

I'm pleased with the process. It can be frustrating and annoying at times—especially when the seemingly never-ending political ads begin to hit the television and radio stations. But it's good to see that our country decides these things in an orderly fashion with few, if any, hiccups and without civil unrest.

I am a part of what has been called "the Religious Right." And I have accepted that moniker in the past proclaiming that it's true, "I am religious ... and I'm right." But when the dust all settles and the news agencies report how strong the Religious Right is in the American political scene, we Christians must realize that politics is not the great hope of the people in our nation. Political figures are not the great hope for our future. The great hope for the people of our nation and of all the world is the news that Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, died to pay the penalty of our rebellion against God.

Christians should be involved in the political process, even to the campaign and political activism levels. But we must not allow ourselves to place our content, comfort, and hope on the instability of the American political process. We must place our hope, our comfort and our joy in the immovable Rock, Jesus Christ.

It's not conservative or liberal, however they're defined. It's not about interpretation or the judgments of the mind It's the opposite of politics, power or prestige It's about the risen Savior, and whether we believe It's still the cross; it's still the blood of Calvary That cleanses sin and sets the captives free It's still the name, the name of Jesus That has the pow'r to save the lost It's still the cross

January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Kim and Ameera

How wonderful it is to have friends! Two years ago we moved from the Northern Virginia/Washington, D.C. suburbs to semi-rural Lynchburg, Virginia. We left the familiar faces and familiar places to go 200 miles away to make new friends and discover new places. God has blessed us through this process and has brought wonderful people into our lives. We love living in Lynchburg. But we still miss our Northern Virginia friends.

Around Christmas, we received a phone call from some friends there in Northern Virginia. They invited us to a New Year's celebration. It was so great to see them again after almost a year for one of the couples, almost two years for another couple, and more than two years for the rest of the people who came to the party.

The party-kids

We don't deserve the blessings God gives to us. And many of us think of things like the beauty of nature, health, and our spouses. But the dear friends that God brings into our lives who love us, mentor us, motivate us, and rejoice and cry with us are one of the amazing graces of our wonderful God.

This year I'm going to work on being a good friend. In spite of my deficiencies in that area, God has blessed me beyond belief with wonderful friends.

Oh, yeah ... Happy New Year!

What a dude!
Yeah, yeah. The adult is asleep and the kid ... wide awake.