Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Moving up in the world

We make the boys and girl help out with regular chores. I want them to contribute as part of our family with a few daily and weekly jobs. I am trying to instill in them an "old school" work ethic, not typical of their generation.

Andrew's job for the past couple of years has been clearing the table. But I decided it's time to start teaching him the art of loading the dishwasher. As with all child training, one of the side benefits is to develop greater patience in me. Teaching Andrew to load the dishwasher take 3x longer than me doing it, but I know that the benefits for him and me long term are worth the time investment.
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Right now, he's excited about the new job. I guess that will last about 2 more days. Andrew loves to start new things but follow through and completing things are less exciting to him. Matt is a very impressionable little brother. He is super excited to be doing Andrew's old job, and he can't wait to load the dishwasher and mow the lawn.

2 years - I'm 2 years away. With 2 more years of training, it'll be time to kick back, relax and watch the boys and girl DO EVERYTHING! Ha!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Residents

It's even more official. Sandy and I just became NM residents today. We registered to vote, got our driver's licenses and got our plates. We spent a couple of hours at the DMV, but I thought it'd be worse in a city this big.I wanted to get this license plate. But alas, the Land of Enchantment is all out of their famous hot air balloons.So instead I got the turquoise centennial plate. I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of turquoise. But there's a lot of it out here. Hopefully, it'll grow on me. I think this is the last major thing for us now. I can only hope. We're just about all settled in with the major stuff. Phew! It only took us a month.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What about Bob?

To our surprise, our little Matt gave himself a nickname. He goes by the name "Bob" at school. I guess everyone at school - students and teachers - call him Bob now. He's become quite the joker, constantly trying to be funny. Fortunately (or unfortunately I'm not sure which yet), most of his attempts are met with smiles at the very least. How can you not smile when he looks at you like this? He drank some chocolate milk the other day, and what appeared? The perfect joker smile.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

ABQ Aquarium

The initial excitement of moving to ABQ has worn off for the boys and girl. They are starting to miss their friends and our old lifestyle. So we've been making a special effort to do extra fun stuff in ABQ.So we hit the aquarium yesterday. I must say, the ABQ aquarium is VERY cool. It's pretty small, but it had super cool stuff. I really like aquatic life.The boys got to see some native trout up close. I think they were anticipating fishing for them soon.There were some moray eels and big old fish.They had one of those walk through tanks which are always cool.And some jellyfish too. Plus there were lots of sharks, rays, lobsters and turtles. We zipped through the aquarium in about a half hour. So we headed back to the zoo to see the other animals that we missed the first time. Did I mention that I am really impressed with that zoo?! We saw some crazy wild gorillas. I wish we had gotten some video of them running around and screaming. It was amazing!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Aseity of God

I've had a little cold the past week. Nothing too bad, but my throat was sore and I had a pretty good cough. Now that I am better, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I was thankful for something I take for granted most days - my voice.

During the time, I was sick, I couldn't speak much. So I couldn't read the Bible to the boys and girl during our evening Bible time. I am thankful that God has given me the privilege to read His Word to them. It is something I should not take for granted nor so easily forego on evenings we are busy.

Also, while I was sick, I couldn't sing. That made me real sad. What a privilege and honor and joy it is to sing to our great and glorious God. I am so looking forward to heaven where I will be able to sing, hopefully in perfect pitch, with all the saints of all time and praise God in heaven! And I will never miss a day from sickness or being tired or anything for that matter. O Glorious Day!

But in the end, I am most thankful that God never gets sick. He never gets tired. He never misses a day being God to me and to all His creation. He doesn't need vitamins, Nyquil, a humidifier, cough drops or extra rest. He is self-sufficient and needs absolutely nothing to be the all perfect, all powerful, always righteous and infinitely good and loving God of the universe. Isn't that comforting? The old theological term for this is the aseity of God. This thanksgiving, I am especially thankful that I can depend and trust in the aseity of God.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Exercise

Since it's such a beautiful day (sunny and about 60 degrees) and I'm finally feeling healthy again, plus the kids had a half day of school today, we decided to do a little exercising this afternoon and explore one of the walking trails along the Rio Grande River.The boys and girl rode their bikes while Sandy and I walked / jogged with them.At first the trail was nice and paved. But we ended up on a very wooded, dirt path that was not conducive to training wheels! There seem to be a zillion walking / biking / horse trails here. We ended up just picking one, but it wasn't the right one for us.Along the way, we did get to enjoy some beautiful homes with the Sandia Mountains in the background.We eventually found the Rio Grande and stopped to enjoy the Rio.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday commute

God has blessed me with fairly short commutes from home to work. My longest was about 1 hour when I lived in MD. When I lived in Southern CA, my commute was about 25 minutes. Though I did have to commute from 1 to 3 hours several times a month to my territory in either Riverside or San Diego county. When I lived in KS, my commute was pared down to about 7 minutes. And now?About 30 seconds. This is literally my commute.This is the view from across the street. The right building is the parsonage where we live. The left building is the church. I counted it out as 42 steps. I walk home for lunch. I walk home when I forget a book or a paper or anything. It doesn't get any better than this. I don't know how much money we're saving in gas too. I'd better stop now or else I'll get too many jealous emails from you all!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Birthday thoughts

Today is my birthday. I like celebrating my birthday because I am 1 year closer to Jesus! I also like getting older because most people think I am younger than I am. As a man who is close to 40, it is challenging to be dismissed simply because "you are young." My pride really bucks against that, and instead I need to humbly trust in the greatness of God to accomplish His good purposes through it. I have sought to take 1 Tim 4:12 to heart - Let no one look down on your youthfulness but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example to all.

I really should enjoy the fact that some people think I am in my 20's although doing the math, that would mean I would have been a teen father. And with my less than vibrant head of hair, I don't understand how people could think I am so young. But really, it's one more opportunity for me to decrease and Christ to increase in my life.
We started celebrating a little early with a yummy birthday dinner last night. My wonderful wife grilled me some fabulous rib eye steak and some of my favorite foods.The boys and girl made me some cards and gave me some presents - one gave me 6 cents, another 12 cents. Child labor doesn't pay what it used to...We couldn't quite manage a decent picture where everyone's eyes are open and looking at the camera. But somehow, the crazy picture always turns out fine - why is that?

I'm feeling a bit under the weather today, some kind of head cold and congestion. So I'm not having the wild and crazy birthday I usually have. :) But I got to preach God's Word on my birthday this morning, celebrate with my beautiful wife and the always entertaining boys and girl, and worship with my new church family. That makes it a pretty great day.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Star Spangled Banner

Our family is starting to go a little crazy hearing the national anthem. Emery's kindergarten class sings it so she's been obsessed with learning it. I played a couple of youtube videos of kids singing it, and she's been hooked for sure. She hasn't gotten the whole song down yet, but she's working on it constantly...a little too constantly.
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Friday, November 18, 2011

#23 - The Discipline of Grace

I finished The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges before we moved to ABQ. But needless to say, things have been quite crazy over the past month, and I haven't found the time or emotional resolve to write about the book. In fact, at the end of most days, I've been too drained to do much of any substantive reading, just mindless internet reading if anything. But things are starting to settle down, and I'm starting to regain some spiritual fortitude to get back at this discipline.I really loved The Pursuit of Holiness by Bridges and have heard great things about his book, Transforming Grace. In the preface of this book, Bridges explains that it relates the 2 thoughts from each of those books - personal discipline and living by grace. He explains how the relentless pursuit of holiness by personal discipline and God's sanctification needs to be motivated by His glorious grace.

  • The pursuit of holiness must be anchored in the grace of God; otherwise it is doomed to failure. That statement probably strikes many people as strange. A lot of Christians seem to think that the grace of God and the vigorous pursuit of holiness are antithetical - that is, in direct and unequivocal opposition to one another. To some, the pursuit of holiness sounds like legalism and man-made rules. To others, an emphasis on grace seems to open the door to irresponsible, sinful behavior based on the notion that God's unconditional love means we are free to sin as we please.

Unfortunately, I have been called a legalist and one who emphasizes works, not grace, because I have exhorted Christians to pursue holiness and to a high standard of commitment to the Lord. I think those people didn't understand that the key to a high standard of commitment to the Lord can only be found in a deeply held dependence on God's grace. Whether we have a good day or a bad day, we are never good enough. We always need God's grace. And the key is the conviction that Christ is enough for us so that we don't need to (really we can't) do anything else. That gives us a freedom to give everything to God because we know that we will never be good enough.
  • Regardless of our performance, we are always dependent on God's grace, His undeserved favor to those who deserve His wrath. Some days we may be more acutely conscious of our sinfulness and hence more aware of our need of His grace, but there is a never a day we can stand before Him on our own two feet of performance, when we are worthy enough to deserve His blessing.
  • Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace.
  • On a good day, as we perceive it, we tend toward self-righteous Pharisaism. On a not-so-good day we allow ourselves to wallow in a sense of failure and guilt. In fact, it may be more than not-so-good days - it may be weeks or months. We have moved away from the gospel of God's grace and have begun to try to relate to God directly on the basis of our performance rather than through Christ.
  • The gospel, applied to our hearts every day, frees us to be brutally honest with ourselves and with God. The assurance of total forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Christ means we don't have to play defensive games anymore. We don't have to rationalize and excuse our sins. We can say we told a lie instead of saying we exaggerated a bit. We can admit an unforgiving spirit instead of continuing to blame our parents for our emotional distress. We can call sin exactly what it is, regardless of how ugly and shameful it may be, because we know that Jesus bore that sin in His body on the cross. With the assurance of total forgiveness through Christ, we have no reason to hide from our sins anymore.

The Gospel is not just for unbelievers. The Gospel is not just for evangelistic sermons at Christmas and Easter. The Gospel is not just funerals and visitations with non-Christian family members. The Gospel is for all of us, every day.

  • So if we are to live by the gospel every day, our tendency to compare ourselves with other believers, not to mention unbelievers, must be put away. Rather we must measure ourselves against God's perfect standard and daily confess that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

It's ironic that those who accused me of legalism were actually the ones guilty of it. If the standard is God's perfect righteousness, we all fall short and thus all need grace all the time. The minute we lower the standard to anything else (even in the name of compassion or grace), we have created a man made, legalistic, self-righteous standard that some can merit whether we realize it or not. And thus we have lost grace in doing so.

  • It is not our contrition or sorrow for our sin, it is not our repentance, it is not even the passing of a certain number of hours during which we feel we are on some kind of probation that cleanses us. It is the blood of Christ, shed once for all on Calvary 2,000 years ago but appropriated daily or even many times a day, that cleanses our consciences and gives us a renewed sense of peace with God.

Bridges exhorts believers to preach the gospel to yourself daily.

  • To preach the gospel to yourself, then, means that you continually face up to your own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life. It means that you appropriate, again by faith, the fact that Jesus fully satisfied the law of God, that He is your propitiation, and that God's holy wrath is no longer directed toward you.
One of the greatest dangers to the church is what can be called back door legalism or salvation by grace and sanctification by works. It is a trap so easy to fall into because our sinful pride wants to deceive ourselves into thinking we are pretty good people, or at least, not as bad as some. Out of guilt, we strive to work harder, be more holy and grow more in discipline. But instead, we must let the glorious Gospel of grace be the fuel that drives our relentless, passionate pursuit of holiness.
  • This is a book about God's grace and the pursuit of holiness. You can be sure of one thing though: When you set yourself to seriously pursue holiness, you will begin to realize what an awful sinner you are. And if you are not firmly rooted in the gospel and have not learned to preach it to yourself every day, you will soon be discouraged and will slack off in your pursuit of holiness.

Bridges then spends the rest of the book outlining how various disciplines such as convictions, commitment and watching need to be developed but firmly grounded in the gospel. I highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The British are coming

Guess who's been learning about Red coats and the Revolutionary War?General Andrew Lee. He sounds like he should be in the Civil War though. Emery took her role as a soldier very seriously. I asked Matt why he was wearing goggles, and he told me they were night vision goggles - very technologically savvy red coats.
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Whether it's Sensei Andrew or General Andrew, he loves to be in charge.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Our neighborhood

We live in the city limits of ABQ. Our street is not too busy, but it clearly feels like a city. But thankfully, we live right near the only water in the area - the Rio Grande. It means big river in Spanish. Having seen the Missouri, Mississippi and Susquehanna rivers just to name a few, I was expecting a BIG river.I was a bit surprised when I first saw the Rio Grande. As you can see in the background, in a few spots, it's more like a big creek.But in other places it gets pretty grande.I have yet to go jogging here, but Sandy and her parents walked on this trail right near our house that goes right along the Rio Grande. I think the trail is pretty extensive. I foresee saw marathon training happening here eventually.I really appreciate being able to see the Sandia Mountains almost everywhere you go in ABQ. Our elevation is about 5,000 feet and the mountains go up to 10,000 or so. I eat breakfast every morning and see them when I look out our window. What a beautiful testimony to the majesty and greatness of God.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bezalel

In the book of Exodus, God commissions Bezalel to make the Tabernacle and all of the items in it such as the Ark of the Covenant, the golden lampstand and the bronze basin. It says in Exodus 35 that Bezalel was filled with the Spirit of God in wisdom, understanding, knowledge and craftsmanship to work with gold, silver, stones, wood, fabrics and linen. He had quite an extensive skill set.

We happened to be reading through this chapter last week during our family Bible time, when it struck me - Sandy's dad is just like Bezalel. He is very good with home repair, electrical, woodworking, art, golf, horticulture and even cooking. He's been doing a ton of stuff to get us unpacked and set up in our new home. But he expanded his repertoire last week.He did some ironing of fabric.So that he could sew a curtain for us.And voila - we have some privacy and it looks good too.He even helped us wash our windows. He did about 3 months of work for me in 1 week and did it better than I could have. Thanks so much to our modern day Bezalel.We had another great visit with Sandy's parents.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

My first Sunday

Today I preached my first Sunday morning sermon, and as a last minute surprise, I got to officiate my first funeral service in the evening. I don't know what I imagined my first Sunday to be like, but I know I didn't imagine this. I always wanted to be a pastor but never in my life did I think I would be the one preaching sermons and officiating funerals.

For several weeks, I had been contemplating what I would preach and say for my first sermon. At the time, I thought it was going to be a big deal. After all, this was my first sermon as "the" pastor. But after witnessing Pastor Bicker's last sermon which was probably his 2,000th or so sermon at just this church, I came to realize I was having delusions of grandeur...again. Anyone can preach 1 sermon and start into pastoral ministry. But by the grace of God, I hope I can be faithful to preach His Word with passion and accuracy for my 2,000th sermon too. So this was a good morning to contemplate my insignificance and strive for the long term.

Also, with all of the major transitions in life the last couple of weeks, let's just say, I haven't been at my spiritual finest. As a pastor, it is easy for me to feel hypocritical going up in front of others and preaching. I had a great opportunity to cast myself upon the cross of Christ again, knowing that I have nothing good to offer God but for His grace in my life. But the thought struck me, I still have nothing good to offer God even when I don't feel like a hypocrite and when I have had a good week spiritually (at least in my eyes). Regardless of my thoughts and feelings of the past week, I need to trust in the Gospel daily for my righteousness and my service to Him.

Preaching a message at a funeral is usually not something people dream of doing. I think up until a few years ago, it was probably one of the last things I wanted to do. I knew this day would come, but I was surprised that it came so quickly, on my first Sunday preaching in fact. The church was packed too - standing room only. Most of the people were not from our church, and I didn't know how many, if any, were believers.

I don't think I've ever preached a Gospel message to so many people in that type of situation. As I think back upon this evening, I am surprised that I wasn't nervous at all. Usually, in a new situation with new people, I have trouble feeling comfortable. I am so thankful to God for being so kind to me today. What a great way to start here in ABQ. Praise God!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

ABQ zoo & botanical gardens

We received an annual membership to the ABQ Zoo, Aquarium and Botanical Gardens from our FHCC family - thanks so much! Today was a pleasant day around 60 degrees so we decided to take the boys and girl out for some fun. We've all been working hard at school and home and needed a little family time out and about.Sandy's parents drove in the same day my parents flew out. They've been here all week - helping us out and having fun with the boys and girl.The ABQ zoo was the first stop, and it was quite impressive. They had a lot of animals and a lot of really cool animals. Several animals were ones we've never seen before like the black jaguar, and we've been to quite a few zoos. The exhibits were very well done so that you could see the animals very well. What are they looking at, you ask?A very lively polar bear. It helped that the animals were quite active.I had my hands full today.There aren't a lot of trees in ABQ, but they had some beautiful ones at the zoo.Matt enjoyed the ducks. It was a feeding frenzy.The boys and girl were tiring out so we headed out to the botanical gardens next.Even in the fall, it was a great place. I imagine it would be fabulous in the spring and summer. There was a Japanese garden there too - I love those. Sandy and I don't exactly match - she's city chic and I'm athletic casual.

It was a fun day, and now we know where to take our family and friends who come visit from out of town!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The tooth fairy

The tooth fairy came for a visit last night. Matt lost his first tooth! He's been very leery of pulling it himself or having anyone else pull it. But it's been so lose that it was literally horizontal. So last night, his grandpa offered to pull it out with his pain-free "magic touch."

At first, Matt was very hesitant. But he wanted it out so bad that he couldn't resist. Grandpa told him to close his eyes and then, ta-da! It was out and pain free to boot. Emery was the most excited of them all - screaming and running around the house. Matt, as you can tell, wasn't quite as expressive. I've been very happy at how well Matt has adjusted to our new life here. He was the most resistant to moving originally. He's never been in a school before and academics have not been his strength to this point. But he has really shown a maturity and responsibility that I didn't know he had. He comes home and informs us of tests and assignments that he has to do. He wants to do well and puts in the extra time to make that happen.

He's even quite popular in his class. There's only 1 other boy in his class of 6 or so kids. We asked him if he played with that boy:
Matt: Nah. He doesn't try to play with me.
Our response: Well then you should try and play with him.
Matt: I can't. Everyone else wants me to play with them. They're always telling me to play this or do that. So I don't have time.

Oh, who knew? But I saw him playing catch with that boy later on in the week at recess so I guess his celebrity status has died down. Phew.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It's raining!

Apparently, ABQ gets almost no rain. Something like 8-9 inches of rain a year with over 300 days of sunshine. But this morning, we woke up to a shower of a different kind.I've never had quite such a green lawn. I'm not sure what kind of tree we have, but it decided to shed it's leaves all in one night.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's official

This past Sunday, I was officially installed as the pastor of Alameda Bible Church. If I had any doubts (which I don't) about going through with this, it's too late now! It was actually a pretty low key thing.I was more focused on the outgoing pastor - Mal Bicker. At 78 years-old, he's been faithful to serve with integrity and humility for over 22 years. That, is far more impressive and worth celebrating to me. I am so thankful and honored to be able to carry on his faithful work for the Lord. Too often you see pastors and churches where either side has disqualified themselves from ministry or parted ways with bitterness or resentment. It is so encouraging to enter a church family and a team of elders where both sides are thankful for the other and have a solid track record of working together in unity and harmony.My parents flew out for the service. I think everyone had a good weekend.It didn't hurt that the boys and girl took their annual trip to Toys R' Us with the grandparents. Can you tell Andrew was excited?Emery was pretty pleased too.

Monday, November 7, 2011

We're back

Can you imagine life without your computer, email, internet or fb? It's amazing how much of my life involves the internet now. We've been without internet access at home for about 2 weeks. But today, we're back online. Phew! So I will be back to blogging regularly and filling you in on my thoughts about our new life at Alameda Bible Church and ABQ. Here are a couple more updates:The boys and girl are still doing well at school. Emery's kindergarten class has 8 kids including her.We decided to put the boys and girl in the same room so our other bedroom can be an office / play area / guest room depending on the time of day and who might be here. So Emery is loving being with her big brothers at night. Now every night's a sleepover.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Don't try this at home

We've moved so many times that I can't keep track any more. I think we're at 11 times in 14 years of marriage. We've moved across the country and across the parking lot. We've rented the truck and hired movers. We've packed ourselves and hired packers. I've also helped dozens of friends move too. Needless to say, I'm no stranger to moving.

Yet for some reason, this move has been the hardest of them all. Maybe it was arriving on Sat night and starting all our kids at a new school on Monday. Maybe it was moving from a small town where everything is 5 minutes away to figuring out how things work in a city of about a million people. Maybe it's that this is the 11th move and Sandy and I are too old for this. :)

God blessed us with a wonderful send off from our previous church in KS with encouragement, meals, gifts and help. He also blessed us with a wonderful reception from our new church in ABQ with hospitality, encouragement, meals, help unpacking and a wonderfully renovated parsonage. And when I think about it, we are very much moved in and almost settled into our new place in only 4 days. We've found everything that we packed away except for Sandy's study Bible. The boys and girl are adjusting very well to their new school. I really couldn't ask for more.

But unfortunately, I really am a wicked sinner and I do want more. I want internet access at my house. I want to know where everything is in the new house. I want to know how to get everywhere in the area. I want to settle into my office and work and live as if I had worked and lived here all my life.

I was convicted this morning that I have been letting the pressure of getting settled, getting ready for family coming tomorrow and getting ready to preach next week rob me of the joy of my salvation. I have been focusing on what I need to have and do to get ready for next week rather than on the truth that God is good and does good, always...no matter what my circumstances are.

So while I wouldn't wish a move on anyone. If you do go through it, I hope that God uses it to transform your heart and increase your dependence on our glorious Savior as He has for me.Thanks Beverly and Glenn for all of your hospitality and help! It was truly a fabulous blessing from God!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

700 miles

Before we drove the 700 miles to ABQ, we spent the night at the Hintz's.Matt and Nathan had one last time to pal around.Sandy hit the road first with Matt and Emz.You can't go wrong with a happy meal.After the truck got loaded up, Andrew and I caught up with them in Liberal, KS. We spent the night there and then said goodbye to Dorothy. Apparently, she had a house there. Who knew?We got in to ABQ on Sat, and the boys started school on Monday. Here's their first day at Victory Christian School.Matt started 1st grade. His class was so nice! They wrote him cards and gave him gifts. What a fabulous welcome. Matt had a great first day at school. He loved it. Praise God.While the boys were in school, Sandy and I welcomed the truck. This looks all too familiar.How long did it take us to pack all this up? I'm not sure, but it took a lot less time to get it out. We've been spending the last 2 days unpacking, and it's going very well. Thank God unpacking is a lot easier than packing.And what was Emery doing this whole time? This is pretty much it. Poor thing - she threw up 5 times on Sunday. But she seems to be all better now and will be going to school tomorrow.