Friday, November 30, 2012

Indoor campfire

Now that it's just about winter and nice and chilly outside at night (although it's still so warm during the days here!), I was going to build a little fire for some smores. Unfortunately, I've come down with another cold and am feeling yucky. It probably doesn't help that I slept so poorly last night and fell asleep at 5am, ugh.
So we decided to move the campfire indoors. The boys and girl didn't mind. I love how we can just have so much fun doing whatever as a family. Of course, doing whatever with chocolate never hurts. We've set aside Friday nights as our family fun nights doing different things for fun together.
And did I mention that we got a fake tree? It's so nice! The whole family is loving it and looking forward to celebrating Christ's birth all month long.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

#21 - Serving God on the Christian School Board

Since coming to Alameda Bible Church, I was automatically put on the school board of our Christian school - Victory Christian School. I did not go to private Christian school though Sandy did for HS. Andrew went to Christian school in KS for 2 years, and I was on the corporate board there for a year.
So I don't have a ton of Christian school experience but the principal gave me this book. I wanted to learn more so I recently finished reading Serving God on the Christian School Board by Roy Lowrie Jr.

Dr. Lowrie had some really good points. Since most of you aren't serving God on a school board, I won't give you the summary of the book but just some bullet points of things that were insightful more for my future use than yours! :)
  • Over a period of years, the board's performance in long range planning becomes evident. This is a strong influence on the school because it touches every area of development, such as the master site plan, the projection of enrollment, the projection of facilities, the projection of needed faculty, and the projection of finances. An ineffectual board will not perform well in this area, and the school will suffer because of the lack of foresight.
  • The board should define its major responsibilities in writing and revise this statement periodically as warranted. The definition of board responsibilities should be studied regularly by the board president to keep his leadership in step with the responsibilities. The definition should be  reviewed by the entire board to keep their work in focus.
  • The board is responsible for establishing the major policies by which the school is governed...Every board member and the principal should have an up-to-date board policy manual.
  • The principal is the chief school administrator, but he works under the school board. It is a serious problem for a school administrator to have disrespect for the board, or fail to follow its mandates or directives to him. Similarly, it is a serious mistake for a board to abdicate its responsibility for final authority.
  • Sub-committees which function properly expedite the board's work and keep the board from a serious problem in efficiency: operating as a committee of the whole.
  • Salaries are very important to Christian school personnel and must be treated carefully and fairly by the board...It takes steady pressure over a period of years to build up salaries and fringe benefits to reasonable levels.
  • Part of the administrative growth process for the principle is an annual evaluation of his performance.
  • No child should have to take an academic penalty in order to get a Christian education.
  • Each meeting of the board, whether regular or special, should begin with the reading of appropriate Scripture followed by prayer. Fellowship among board members is nurtured when each board member takes a turn leading devotions, instead of one or two members leading every time.
Dr. Lowrie had lots of good ideas. His experience really showed through. However, I did and do still have one question in mind - what is the theological basis for the Christian school? Maybe that gets addressed in another of his books. But he simply assumes that a Christian school should exist and doesn't give any biblical basis to truly guide it's existence and role, especially in light of the Bible's clear commands for fathers to teach and train their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Regardless, this was a very useful book for Christian schools like ours.

Monday, November 26, 2012

#20 - Rescuing Ambition

Are you an ambitious person? I never thought of myself as particularly ambitious. I have no desire to write books, get a PhD, preach at conferences or other churches, etc. But as I look at all the effort and energy I spend on my personal disciplines, my family and my church ministry, I realized that I do have quite a few ambitions.
In Dave Harvey's book, Rescuing Ambition, he explains that we all have ambition, whether we realize it or not. We all have desires or dreams or wants or hopes. The question is, do you know what drives you and do you know how strong that drive is? "Recognizing the impulse isn't a big deal. The trick is getting a handle on how deep it runs and how much it determines what we do. This impulse is so big, it can determine how we respond to Jesus himself."

The key is not to suppress our ambitions or to crush our desires though. What we need to do is to focus our ambition or glory seeking on the only one who can truly fulfill our ambitions. "God doesn't oppose glory-seeking; he commends it. And what's more astounding, he rewards it with eternal life. But there's a condition. We must seek a certain type of glory. We're to hunger, crave, earnestly desire - to be ambitious for - the glory that comes from God." [italics his]

Harvey then unpacks how we exchange godly ambition for selfish ambition. Greatness for smallness. Our fears, our joys, our failures, our successes, our contentment and our complaints all are reflection of the glory that we are truly seeking in our hearts whether we realize it or not. But the key to godly ambition is not so much what we do for God but who we become while we seek to do things for God. Here are some gems:
  • He doesn't need us to get things done, but he delights to use us, so he must shape us for his service.
  • God defines productivity differently. For God, productivity is wrapped up in transformation, in who we're becoming, not in what we're accomplishing
  • A good ambition becomes a selfish ambition when it's our only ambition. In the Bible that's called idolatry.
  • When our inner world isn't open to scrutiny, our outer world eventually collapses. If you ever find yourself insisting your motives are unpolluted - Maybe what I said wasn't right, but my motives were pure - get out of the shadows and back to your Bible.
  • "Ambitions for self may be quite modest...Ambitions for God, however, if they are to be worthy, can never be modest. There is something inherently inappropriate about cherishing small ambitions for God." John Stott
  • Since Paul's ambitions were not selfish, he could live with them unfulfilled. Sure, he had dreams and desires - but they were God-focused, not Paul-focused. If they remained unsatisfied, that was God's business. So Paul was able to aspire for more while resting peacefully in what God provided. He hungered for more but was happy with less. Deferred dreams didn't eat away at him. Paul could be at peace in the present without abandoning hopes for the future.
  • "If we have not what we desire, we have more than we deserve." Thomas Watson
  • In the shadow of failure we find humbling grace. We learn that we're limited. We discover that God is more interested in who we're becoming than in what we're achieving. We find our definition not in our failures or successes but in Christ.
  • Today many groups unite around a common interest, sprinkle in some Scripture, and view it as their church...I think that happens a lot today for some believers. Rather than fostering a Christianity lived out in the church, some Christians unintentionally replace the church and encourage detachment. That's not biblical Christianity.
  • "There's a great gulf between the Christianity that wrestles with whether to worship at the cost of imprisonment and death, and the Christianity that wrestles with whether the kids should play soccer on Sunday mornings." John Piper
Harvey concludes the books with something I have never given much thought - succession. I have never been the senior pastor before and have never had the opportunity to even consider succession. But I came to realize that if I want to provide for a God-glorifying and smooth succession to the next generation, I need to work on that now.

"My generation started this church, laid its foundations, established its culture, and developed its vision. And we have the potential to turn all that into a monument to the past. The test of a good church is its ability to retain its core biblical values as it passes from one generation to the next. The test of good church leadership is to entrust what we love to younger men - and let them lead it...We're at the moment of decision on that right now. We all feel it. Do we look back and hold onto what had so much meaning for us in the heady days of our youth? Or do we prepare for the future and turn the thing over to leaders who see it with clearer vision than we possess?" One of the pastors at Harvey's church.

After 19 years as Senior Pastor, Harvey turned his role over to a man 20 year his junior. C.J. Mahaney did a similar thing for Josh Harris. I have always thought that you are in your best ministry years in your 50's. You have the experience and perspective of 20+ years of ministry. Would I be willing to disciple and groom someone to take over my role in 20 years when I am in my prime ministry years? The last thing I want is to build my life to be a monument to the past.

I recommend this book. It had lots of good thoughts and probed into my heart in uncomfortably profitable ways. Harvey's style is light and fairly humorous which is not my personal favorite, but he uses it in a way that takes the edge of his more serious moments.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Merry Christmas!

We haven't always been to regular on this family tradition, but we have tried to decorate for Christmas the weekend after Thanksgiving. This year we made it.
But before we got after it, Andrew made me my birthday breakfast. We didn't have time on the day of my birthday for breakfast so he cooked it today. It tasted great! I can't believe Andrew is cooking for me now!
Then we started with our first ever artificial Christmas tree. We have bought real trees for 15 years, but this year we decided to go for a 9 foot faker!
It was a lot neater and cleaner than the true trees. I liked that.
And a lot taller and easier! I'm a convert already.
Everyone enjoyed the decorating and listening to Christmas music.
Well, we did have one casualty. King Herod must have gotten to one of the wise men when we weren't looking.
And after a busy morning, ta dah!
Here's the dusk view. Praise God for His glorious gift of Jesus Christ our Savior!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy birthday to me

Yesterday, I celebrated my birthday with the family. It was a pretty low key affair, but it was great.
Sandy cooked me a fabulous meal - grilled rib eye, mashed potatoes and caesar salad. I had 2 little Indian children.
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Then Emery recited "Indian Children" by Annette Wynne. My favorite line was: "And at night, bears prowling around!"
We were so full from dinner that we had to wait until bed time before we ate dessert. Yummy!
I almost forgot to mention - I had a special birthday treat. God allowed me to share the Gospel with my barber on my birthday! He even passed on his contact info and asked for more information about getting a Bible. What a way to top off a great day!

Monday, November 19, 2012

#19 - The Meaning of Marriage

I'm about to hit my 15 year wedding anniversary. I am by no means an expert on marriage, but I've read several books on marriage and being a husband. I've gone through a few classes on marriage in church. And not to too my own horn, but I do have quite a bit of expertise in a couple of areas of marraige - how NOT to commmunicate and how to have a very selfish perspective of marriage! :)
I like to read at least one book on marriage every year because I want to have a great marriage, and I want to keep improving as a husband. I want to love my wife more and more, and better and better every year. She's worth it!

This year, I read Tim Keller's book, The Meaning of Marriage. If you are a post-baby boomer generation, probably under 40 and are married or want to be, this is the best single book on marriage you can read. I love John Piper's This Momentary Marriage and I think that's the best book that discusses the roles of husband and wife. But Keller's is perfectly titled The Meaning of Marriage as he nails the biblical meaning of marriage in the postmodern cultural context of today.

I have never read a book that so ably understands the idols, temptations and cultural influences of my generation and yet provides such a clear and compelling biblical solution for it. He perfectly unpacks the lie of the search for a soul mate and applies the Gospel remedy for it. He exposes the idolatrous selfishness inherent in the fear of commitment and renovates the soul with courage that is complete only in Christ. Keller is masterful.

Here are some gems, there were so many!:
  • A marriage based not on self-denial but self-fulfillment will require a low- or no-maintenance partner who meets your needs while making almost no claims on you. Simply put – today people are asking far too much in the marriage partner.
  • Disenchantment, ‘the end of the honeymoon,’ is common and has been for centuries. It is normal, even inescapable. But the depth of disillusionment people experience in our time is something new, as is the speed with which marriage collapses. In our day, something has intensified this natural experience and turned it toxic. It is the illusion that if we find our one true soul mate, everything wrong with us will be healed; but that makes the lover into God, and no human being can live up to that.
  • Marriage used to be about us, but now it is about me. But ironically, this newer view of marriage actually puts a crushing burden of expectation on marriage and on spouses in a way that more traditional understandings never did. And it leaves us desperately trapped between both unrealistic longings for and terrible fears about marriage.
  • The Christian principle that needs to be at work is Spirit generated selflessness – not thinking less of yourself or more of yourself but thinking of yourself less. It means taking your mind off yourself and realizing that in Christ your needs are going to be met and are, in fact, being met so that you don’t look at your spouse as your savior.
  • When you first fall in love, you think you love the person, but you don’t really. You can’t know who the person is right away. That takes years. You actually love your idea of the person – and that is always, at first, one-dimensional and somewhat mistaken…romantic flings are so intoxicating largely because the person is actually in love with a fantasy rather than a real human being. 
  • Parents out of ‘love,’ can spoil their children. Spouses, out of ‘love,’ can enable destructive behavior in each other. The reason this happens is that we are above all afraid of the displeasure of the beloved. We are afraid that he or she will be angry and say harsh things, and we cannot bear that. This only affirms that we don’t really love the person and his or her best interest. We love the affection and esteem we are getting from that person.
  • When over the years someone has seen you at your worst, and knows you with all your strengths and flaws, yet commits him- or herself to you wholly, it is a consummate experience. To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.
  • He loved us, not because we were lovely to him, but to make us lovely. That is why I am going to love my spouse.
  • Your marriage will slowly die if your spouse senses that he or she is not the first priority in your life [best friend]…If your spouse does not feel that you are putting him or her first, then by definition, you aren’t. And when that happens, your marriage is dying.
  • If you don’t see your mate’s deep flaws and weaknesses and dependencies, you’re not even in the game. But if you don’t get excited about the person your spouse has already grown into and will become, you aren’t tapping into the power of spiritual friendship. The goal is to see something absolutely ravishing that God is making of the beloved. You see even now flashes of glory. You want to help your spouse become the person God wants him or her to be.
  • It will help a great deal to say, ‘I hate it when he does that, but that is not truly him. That is not permanent.’ It will help even more to work together to agree on what is the dross [sinful habits and character] and what is the gold [righteous habits and character] in each other so you can say, ‘This is the real you, this is the real me, this is what God wants us to be, and this is what has got to go. And we’ve got to work together against it.’
  • Your marriage will go either into a truth-without-love mode, with constant fighting , or a shallow love-without-truth mode, in which both partners simply avoid the underlying problems.
  • The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.
  • Romance, sex, laughter, and plain fun are the by-products of this process of sanctification, refinement, glorification. Those things are important, but they can’t keep the marriage going through years and years of ordinary life. What keeps the marriage going is your commitment to your spouse’s holiness. You’re committed to his or her beauty. You’re committed to his greatness and perfection. You’re committed to her honesty and passion for the things of God. That’s your job as a spouse. Any lesser goal than that, any smaller purpose, and you’re just playing at being married. 
  • The gospel can fill our hearts with God’s love so that you can handle it when your spouse fails to love you as he or she should. That frees us to see our spouse’s sins and flaws to the bottom – and speak of them – and yet still love and accept our spouse fully. And when, by the power of the gospel, our spouse experiences that same kind of truthful yet committed love, it enables our spouses to show us that same kind of transforming love when the time comes for it.
My only difference of opinion is regarding the chapter on the roles of husband and wife and how they are applied in a marriage. Keller (and his wife who wrote the chapter) espouses biblical headship and submission but is purposely vague and somewhat open as to how that can be applied. I agree with him in principle but would approach the application differently. However, that is a topic that is best suited for the local church and with individuals who have personal relationships with one another. So it is a minor quibble. If you haven't read the book yet, I highly recommend it!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

1 Year in ABQ!

By the grace of God, I have just passed my 1 year anniversary as the senior pastor / preaching pastor / only pastor! at Alameda Bible Church. I have been trying to gather my thoughts on this significant (to me) yet very insignificant (to God and probably most people) achievement.

I try not to make a big deal of this pastoral role as somehow more difficult or demanding than any other pastoral / elder role or that I'm somehow more special than other Christians because I know that biblically I am not. I am just a sinner saved by grace like every other Christian. But at the same time, I do acknowledge that there are unique challenges and demands that come with this role.

I think when Sandy and I go on our Lee family retreat later this year and get time away to truly think about the year without the daily distractions of life, I'll have more coherent thoughts. But amidst the business of everyday demands and responsibilities, I thought it would be good to put my thoughts down in writing at this juncture.

First off, the positives of being the senior pastor:
1. I am surprised at how spiritually enriching and fun it is to study and preach every week

I say that because I was not born a preacher. I don't have any interest in being up front and being the center of attention unlike most senior pastors I know. I had also heard and seen firsthand from friends that the demands of preaching every week can get burdensome. It seems odd to say this in some respects, but studying the Word of God all week along with pressure of wrestling with a new text every Sunday and coming up with a clear, engaging, powerful and even winsom sermon that both convicts and encourages everyone to turn from sin and live for Christ with renewed vigor can be difficult for mortal men to bear. Add to that, every Sunday everyone in the church can judge your performance and let you know exactly what they think, and it can often add up to a difficult job description.

Yet for some reason, at this point at least, I am not too concerned about the pressures and am just loving, studying the Scriptures for what it does for me. It makes me think greater thoughts about God, about His Word and about my salvation. My studies have led to deep conviction of sinful attitudes especially and renewed love for the Gospel in my life. I feel so blessed to study and preach the Word. I recognize that I am not the most gifted preacher / speaker and maybe this helps alleviate the stress in my life as the expectations are lower. But I am just happy to worship God through my preaching. Hopefully everyone else is benefiting too! :)

2. In a lot of respects, it hasn't been that different from other pastoral positions and ministry

This has been a joy because I love ministry. I'm not sure what I expected, but when it comes down to it, you have to study God's Word, preach, teach, pray, love your brothers and sisters in Christ, share the Gospel, make ministry plans and carry them out. The ins and outs are fairly similar to when I was a children's pastor, youth pastor, singles ministry leader, pastoral intern, college pastor and equipping pastor. I do a lot more preaching and teaching in my current role so the proportions are different, but I do pretty much the same things, and I love to do these things.

But despite the positives, there have been a couple of challenges that did surprise me.

1. Being the senior pastor amplifies everything

I don't feel more pressure or responsibility being the senior pastor, but I do feel like it amplifies everything in my life. I struggled with how to describe this effect, but the best word I could come up with is amplification. Because I stand up in front of the church and preach twice every Sunday, everything about me is amplified, specifically my negatives. If I struggle with sin in my life, it feels amplified. If I make mistakes with people during the week, it is amplified. If I am physically tired or emotionally drained, it is amplified when I stand up front to preach the Word.

I don't think the positives in my life are amplified or if they are, they are amplified to a lesser degree. But maybe I'm wrong on that. Regardless, having your spiritual state amplified in front of everyone every week can be taxing. It has caused me to depend more and more on the Gospel for my righteousness, but I must admit, this is a big personal challenge.

2. It has been a lot more demanding on all my family

I think this one has more to do with going from a somewhat larger church to a smaller church. For my kids, they have had to make several sacrifices which has been hard to bear as a father. They are older than the last time we moved so they miss their friends and their old life in KS. We had some dear brothers and sisters in Christ that we left and still miss.

My wife has also had to make sacrifices in her new role as well. We are still figuring it all out so it's a moving target at this stage. But I do appreciate her willingness to be my helper and best friend through the challenges of trying to figure out a new life once again.

It's definitely been a good year. God has manifested His sovereign goodness in big and small ways. I am thankful for His continual sustaining power in my life. God is good, always.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bible tiger dad

Have you heard of the tiger mom? Well, I'm the Bible tiger dad. I relentless drill my kids on Bible verses! Even though they memorized verses for speech meet and memorize verses for school every week, we still memorize verses that I like to tailor to what they need for their individual spiritual needs.
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Emery did 1 Corinthians 10:24.
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As did Matt. They are both working on building a better relationship with each other and Andrew. He's already memorized that one.
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And Andrew has been working on choosing good friends - Proverbs 13:20 and 1 Corinthians 15:33.
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Lest you think we never have fun, here's some spontaneous dance party going on! 2 of the 3 like to dance. Matt not so much. Thanks Frank for the fun mix.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Las Golondrinas

Emery and Matt recently took a field trip with their class to one of those living history museums - Las Golondrinas.
They went back in time and did all sorts of things that people used to do.
Didn't everyone stick their heads in holes for pictures?
It seems like sticking your head in a hole was a theme that day.
I think the kids enjoyed their day though not every part of it from the looks of Matt! I guess he was sad that he couldn't stick his head through a hole for this part.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween

I guess we've started to hit the tweens or whatever it's called these days. Andrew didn't want to go trick or treating for the first time. He chilled out at home. He was looking forward to giving out candy though we only had a few kids (and 1 adult) stop by.
But Emery and Matt were very excited to get some candy. Our little princess and our star wars commander were ready to go. I didn't realize Matt had grown so much this year. The costume fit him fine last Halloween, but he was showing off quite a bit of calf this year.
This year, they hit the jackpot.
We like to pick up a costume right after Halloween. Can't beat 50% off. So Matt is going to be Wolverine next year.
Even Wolverine has to practice piano everyday.