Tuesday, August 31, 2010

#18 - Mere Christianity

I have not read anything by C.S. Lewis except for The Chronicles of Narnia until now.
I had heard many good things about Lewis and have known many people who have been profoundly impacted by him. I have also heard some cavaeats about Lewis' doctrine. His preface in Mere Christianity is a good example of what I have heard. He writes, "The reader should be warned that I offer no help to anyone who is hesitating between two Christian 'denominations.' You will not learn from me whether you ought to be an Anglican, a Methodist, a Presbyterian, or a Roman Catholic." Lewis' purpose in the book is to "explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times."

However, what determines a denomination from a false religion? Mormons believe that they are part of Christian belief. Jehovah's Witnesses do as well. So how do you decide what is mere Christianity and what is not? Doctrine. The Bible is the key. From this book, I concur with many that Lewis is too broad in his understanding of Christianity.

Despite that, Lewis thinks and writes brilliantly. His illustrations were amazing. His thought process, incredible. The first 2/3 of the book were quite good, especially the section on Christian morality. His chapter on humility alone was worth the read. But the last 1/3 of the book wasn't quite as tight and well conceived as the earlier parts.
Here are a few gems:
  • These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.
  • But pleasure, money, power, and safety are all, as far as they go, good things. Badness consists in pursuing them by the wrong method, or in the wrong way, or too much. I do not mean, of course, that the people who do this are not desperately wicked. I do mean that wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way.
  • I order to be bad he must have good things to want and then to pursue them in the wrong way: he must have impulses which were originally good in order to be able to pervert them...It is a real recognition that evil is a parasite, not an original thing. The powers which enable evil to carry on are powers given it by goodness.
  • Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.
  • If you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, 'How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?'
  • Pride is essentially competitive - is competitive by its very nature - while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking that others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.
  • In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that - and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison - you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud, you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.

This is not a typical Christian book read. There are very few Bible references. This book will probably not feed your soul or teach you how to grow spiritually in a typical fashion. But it will walk you through how to think about certain biblical truths and principles in a good way. Though it is not hard to read, it requires a decent amount of mental energy to think with Lewis as you read. But the effort was worth it. I see why it is considered a classic.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bat boys

No, not bat boys at the ball park. Sons of Batman? Batman is cool. I think he's one of my favorite super heroes. There's something about his tormented psyche that appeals to me for some reason.

Matt is somehow picking up this swimming thing. I am so proud of him. I guess it must be his new diet. Yesterday, he said, "From now on, I only want to eat healthy foods like vegetables." Just before he finished dinner tonight he said, "Wait. I can't eat this, right? Is it healthy?" referring to tortilla chips and taco salad. "What about cheese? Can I eat that?"

We told him it was fine. But Andrew was a bit skeptical about his new diet so he said, "Matt, that means you can't eat ice cream or candy!" Matt thought for a moment and replied, "Well, I'll just eat those on my birthday. I want to eat healthy foods so I can grow big and strong!" Give up ice cream and candy? The boy is dedicated.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Jesus + nothing =

Everything. Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and grandson of Billy Graham, coined that phrase. Jesus + nothing = everything. Simple yet profound. If we add anything to Jesus, the result is nothing. We lose everything.

Pastor Rick Holland said, "If you're struggling in your Christ-life [Christian life], it's likely that you're focusing on making Jesus a part of your life instead of the point of your life." If He's the point of your life, then all you have is Jesus. And that's everything. If He's just a part of your life, then what do you have? Nothing. Jesus + something = nothing.

What's the equation of your life? At times, I feel like the latter is more true of me than the former. But as He strips more and more away from me by His loving grace, I am getting closer and closer to nothing...which gives me everything.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The memorizer

It's funny how you can never run out of verses to memorize. There are so many still out there that Andrew needs to memorize. But he has quite a few down and here are 2 more.

We have been working hard to get Andrew to speak slowly and to enunciate. The boy goes a 1,000 miles an hour. Here's what he's saying in case you can't keep up:
  • 1 Corinthians 10:24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.
  • 1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Round and round

With our new little purchase, the boys and girl have been working hard to make that thing go round...

Emz has made a lot of progress on that thing, hasn't she? I thought that purchase was a waste of $3 at first, but apparently, she can do it...sort of.

Matt's a natural.

Andrew's a hula-hooping spaz!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fantastic tricks!

At least that's what Matt and Emery think of their new found abilities...

Emery is obviously trying to do cart wheels, but what on earth is Matt trying to do?!

Emery's been working outside and earned herself a hula hoop. Now all she needs to do is learn how to use it. :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

3rd Grade

Guess who started 3rd grade today?!That's right. After a year of homeschool, Andrew (I think) is ready to go back to school...I hope...I pray. Poor guy was a little nervous. He said he didn't feel like eating breakfast today.But a group hug made everyone feel better. Even Matt and Emzy were sad to see him go! It looks like Emery is being swallowed by us all, but she was ok. Actually, I think she loved it the most. :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


We had a couple of ninjas in the house today.Doesn't he look tough?This ninja has no idea how to look tough.

She may smile a lot, but my girl's no push over!

Monday, August 16, 2010

2 years and counting

2 years ago last month, we moved from San Gabriel, CA to Emporia, Kansas. I think milestones are a great way to remember God's faithfulness, learn from the past and have hope for the future. So lately I have been thinking about the past 2 years. I looked at some of my earlier blog posts like this one and this one and have come to 4 conclusions about our time here in Kansas:

1. God has graciously shown me more of my sinful heart
When I got here, I felt humbled and honored to even be here serving the Lord as a pastor. How quickly I have now taken that for granted. My sinful pride, selfishness and self-absorbed heart is no longer grateful to simply be saved and to serve my great God in any way shape or form. Sure, I have moments where I feel humbled and honored and grateful to be serving the Lord. But my wickedness creeps back out before I can even offer a prayer of thanksgiving!

However, this has helped me to appreciate God's infinite love for a sinner like me who keeps on sinning. Every evil thought and prideful moment has allowed me to love God more for His abounding lovingkindness and his patience with me. Praise God for the cross of Christ. Who can measure it? But I feel like I have grown to love God more as He has shown me more and more of my sinful ways.

2. Our family has grown in so many ways and been very blessed
In skimming through our picture and this blog, our family has had so many fun trips and made so many memories. Life seems quite busy, but we have managed to really enjoy our immediate family and I think, made the most of living here in Kansas.

On top of that, the spiritual strides that the boys and girl have made these past 2 years are truly a praise to God. The dozens of verses that each of them have memorized and still maintain, the steady reading of God's Word - we are about to finish 2 Kings and have not only read the 4 Gospels and Acts but Genesis to 2 Kings as well, the simple Bible study that Andrew I have started together - finished 1 John and are now doing James, and Andrew's new found faith have been a fabulous 2 years for them.

The kids have grown a lot physically too. Andrew learned to ride a bike, read regular books and play organized sports. Matt has started to read small words and has really started growing into his own. Emery is no longer a baby but a beautiful little girl now! It's amazing.

We've had a ton of fun working on our house and yard. Gardening has been a blast. And our house, inside and out has really been transformed in 2 years. Once the weather cools down and we finish painting the house, I can't wait to post the before and after pictures. They don't do justice to seeing it in person though.

3. God has allowed me to have a more prolific ministry in 2 short years than I ever thought I could
I have preached 13 sermons. I never thought I would do that so fast and feel so comfortable doing it now too. I just completed a parenting class that was so much fun to teach. The children's ministry has been renovated to say the least with almost 40 adults involved with teaching kids ages 2 to 6th grade. I'm so blessed not just with the numbers of teachers but the proactive God centered focus of the teachers.

We started an Awana program last year and are about to launch into year 2 with almost 30 workers and probably 50+ kids. I have also been in charge of our VBS the past 2 years which is quite the project involving 137 kids last year and some 80 adults. I am now in charge of our praise and worship ministries which involve almost 30 people as well. It's hard to describe the changes there, but there have been quite a few.

I have been involved with teaching adult Sunday school and children's Sunday school, training for Awana, children's ministry, praise ministry, and VBS. I have also been blessed to lead my son to Christ and another teen this past year. And 6 children made confessions of faith in Christ at VBS too!

I definitely don't deserve the fruit that I have reaped in the past 2 years, especially the last year. But God has done amazing things around me and maybe in spite of me.

4. Ministry does require certain sacrifices
Initially, things were exciting and new. Family came out to KS and we managed to get to CA fairly regularly. Our kids got to see their grandparents quite a bit...at first. But now life has settled in. And it's hard to maintain those relationships, especially during this fleeting time while the kids are young.

We appreciate our church family and building new relationships. But can't we have those along with our earthly relatives? I am continually reminding myself of Matthew 19:29 "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life."

God is good. We have had a good 2 years so far in Kansas. I am thankful that He has allowed me to be faithful for 2 years. It is not a lot to be proud of in many respects, but for a sinner like me, it is far more than I deserve. Hopefully, I'll be faithful for many more.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Morning at the Lake

We got some families together from church and met at Lake Melvern, which is about 45 minutes from our house. When we first arrived there it was pretty much just us and a flock of geese. I wish I had gotten the camera out before they all flew off. They were all standing in a straight line at the edge of the water and simultaneously marched into the water. It was pretty fun to watch. I'm just realizing that the geese in this picture are very hard to see. Sorry.
We have been here once before but there was a lot more wildlife this time in the water than the last time, including crayfish. This one is dead. There were plenty of lives one though. Just ask Peter, they kept nipping at him in the water and running across his feet. Yuck.There were also minnows and tadpoles that the boys enjoyed trying to catch. Andrew asked if we could bring one home as a pet but thankfully I didn't have a container to bring it home in. I also think it may be illegal.
They had a nice time playing with friends. I love watching them build relationships with their peers.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Last Week of Vacation

I can't believe that summer vacation is already coming to an end! Where did it go! Andrew will be starting school next Wednesday and we will be starting home school sometime shortly after that. We've been playing inside because of the scorching temperatures outside lately. (around 100 each day) So we're having lots of fun inside, playing while we can.
Gave "haircuts" before school starts. Notice Matt's technique while cutting with his finger scissors. He's been paying close attention to Mr. Kraft! (his barber)
Made frozen banana treats. Yummy and not so unhealthy!
Played super heroes. Don't ask me which super hero Matt's supposed to be. He marches to the beat of a different drum. I love how their super weapons are down the back of their shirts so they can have ready access at any point. :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More Bugs

This morning Peter was met with sounds of sporadic screaming noises from the backyard. Turned out it was the sound of me battling THE LARGEST caterpillar I have ever seen in my life! I was trimming the tomato plant and as I snipped away some branches, low and behold, there he was. Green, spotted, and right in the middle of breakfast. I once told a friend that giant crazy scary bugs that one imagines to only live in places like the Amazon jungle actually reside right here in KS! This was one of them. See it above my finger? He was about as thick as my pinky finger and maybe a little longer.
I went in to tell the kids to come out knowing that they would LOVE to see it. Andrew's first comment was, "I would never eat that!" Good to know. The next thought was to capture it and keep it until it became a moth or butterfly. The kids have been asking to make bug habitats all summer and now we had the perfect specimen to make one for. So he grabbed an old strawberry container and I proceeded to capture the caterpillar. He put up quite the fight and that's where the screams came from. I had a pair of chopsticks and was trying to pull him off the branch but he was not about to give up. He gripped that branch with all his might and every time I'd try to grab him with the chopsticks he would quickly attack the chopstick and try to bite it! That's where the screaming came in. Every time he'd attack my chopstick I would start screaming. Andrew said, "Mom, calm down!" Matthew and Emery were giggling watching their mom duke it out with a bug. And Peter is laughing his head off watching from the bedroom window. In the end, I did manage to prevail. We now have a pet caterpillar that will hopefully make for a neat science experiment in the weeks to come.This is also another creature that is common here that I HATE. I don't know what it called but it is REALLY noisy at night and they molt throughout the season leaving their disgusting carcasses around the yard. This picture does not do justice to how creepy this thing is.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fatherly pride

So last Sunday, I finished teaching a class at church. It just so happens to be a parenting class. I was talking to some folks after the class when my wife walked in to advise me that our first born, pride and joy, had just eaten a bug.When I asked him why he ate the bug, he said, "We found some dead bugs in the church. We had made a dead bug club so I just decided to do it. I was going to eat the spider, but he was yellow and looked poisonous. So I got a beetle instead because it wasn't poisonous. I washed it. Then I put it in my mouth and it didn't taste that good so I drank some water with it."

He told Sandy earlier that, "It didn't taste like anything, but it didn't feel good in between my teeth."

Thank God he washed the bug before he ate it! See, now that's some good parenting right there. I am here to answer any and all parenting questions...and some day you too, could learn the parenting secrets to having your children cleaning their bugs before they eat them.

Monday, August 9, 2010

#17 - Spurgeon by Arnold Dallimore

Charles Haddon Spurgeon has got to be one of the most well known and well respected men of Christian history.
After finishing Arnold Dallimore's biography of Spurgeon, I am beginning to understand why. Spurgeon appears to be one of the most incredible men of God the world has ever known. As a young boy, he began to read by reading Puritan works. John Owen, Richard Baxter, you name it - as a child, he was reading them. Can you believe that?!
Spurgeon became a preacher and a pastor as a teenager. And not just any preacher or pastor, the boy could PREACH! But despite his incredible abilities, he was absolutely dependent on the Lord in prayer. The kind of prayer that was not just words from your lips, but passionate, whole hearted, putting all his energy into communicating with God prayer.
Spurgeon also produced a prolific breadth of ministry. His church grew to some 4,000 to 5,000 members, he started a pastor's college, Sunday schools, orphanages, almshouses, kept up a magazine, planted churches, preached 10 times a week, was heavily involved with missions, started a colpeurter's ministry - sending out workers to sell tracts/books as an evangelistic ministry, just to name a few. In total, he started and was responsible for 66 ministries.
I guess this explains Spurgeon's very poor health. He physically suffered greatly. Ministry is hard. He regularly had to take breaks and was sent to southern France to recuperate for months at a time typically every winter. He literally gave his life for Christ.
This book was not very quotable as you will read below. But the book as a whole was inspiring. I recommend it to all. Here are some quotes:
  • A spiritual experience which is thoroughly flavored with a deep and bitter sense of sin is of great value to him that hath it. It is terrible in the drinking, but it is most wholesome in the bowels, and in the whole of the after life. Possibly, much of the flimsy piety of the present day arises from the ease with which men attain to peace and joy in these evangelistic days. We would not judge modern converts, but we certainly prefer that form of spiritual exercise which leads the soul by the way of the Weeping-cross, and makes it see its blackness before assuring it that it is 'clean every whit.' Too many think lightly of sin, and therefore think lightly of the Saviour. He who has stood before his God, convicted and condemned, with the rope about his neck, is the man to weep for joy when he is pardoned, to hate the evil which has been forgiven him, and to live to the honour of the Redeemer by whose blood he has been cleansed.
  • When someone once asked Spurgeon the secret of his success, he replied, 'My people pray for me.' He meant not prayer in the usual formal and unexpectant manner but wrestling with God in living faith that He would answer.
  • The [Metropolitan] Tabernacle [his church] was a place of almost constant activity. On each of the 7 days of the week the doors were open at 7:00 in the morning and did not close till 11:00 at night, and there were persons coming and going all the time.
  • Spurgeon required that everything in the Lord's work be done well, and he allowed nothing to be let go in a careless manner.
  • All manner of reasons were given for this sad condition [the decline and closing of churches due to a "New Theology" that proposed that the Bible is not inerrant among other false doctrines], but the prime cause was the lack of the gospel in the pulpit. All attempted substitutes failed to attract the people. Where there is no acceptance of the Bible as inerrant and a belief in the great fundamentals of the faith, there is no true Christianity, the preaching is powerless and what Spurgeon declared to his generation a hundred years ago is the outcome.
  • During the 1880's a group of American ministers visited England, prompted especially by a desire to hear some of the celebrated preachers of the land...[after visiting Joseph Parker's church, the City Temple] the Americans came away saying, 'What a wonderful preacher is Joseph Parker!' In the evening they went to hear Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. The building was much larger than the City Temple, and the congregation was twice the size. Spurgeon's voice was much more expressive and moving and his oratory noticeably superior. But they soon forgot all about the great building, the immense congregation, and the magnificent voice. They even overlooked their intention to compare the various features of the two preachers, and when the service was over they found themselves saying, 'What a wonderful Savior is Jesus Christ!'

When I lead praise on Sunday mornings, I regularly tell our praise team the same thing - hopefully, after we are done on Sunday mornings, people will NOT say how great praise was today but will instead say, 'How great is our God and Savior!'

Friday, August 6, 2010

For Grandma Lee

Last week when Peter's parents were visiting, grandma bought this outfit for Emery. Emery, like all girls, LOVES getting new clothes and could not wait to wear to wear it to church on Sunday. Grandma was not here to see her wear it so I thought I'd put a picture up for her to see just how thrilled Emery was to get to wear her "butterfly shirt." Of course, she needed the sunglasses as the final accessory to complete the outfit! Thank you Grandma! We miss you!

Col 3:12-14 and Rom 12:10

It's hard to keep up with Andrew these days in so many ways.

But this is one of the best ways. He memorizes verses faster than I can upload them! And he makes it so much fun for the little ones too.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Proverbs 10:1

Hearing your kids recite Scripture is truly one of the sweetest things in life, don't you think?

Assuming of course that they not only recite but eventually obey Scripture from the heart. This father is glad...most of the time.