Monday, December 31, 2012

1 John 5:3 and others

I'd like to end 2012 with what we work on all year long, Bible verses! The boys and girl did a great job memorizing and improve every year.
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Here's Emery with 1 John 5:3.
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Matt got it too. He has really improved this year and is memorizing much better.
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Andrew keeps up the good work too. He's got 2 - Proverbs 18:24 and Psalm 119:63. We've been working on choosing friends wisely and Andrew has been doing a good job applying these verses too.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Night cap

It's been a little bit chilly here in the high desert at night. It feels pretty warm during the day, but at night, it can get to single digits. Our new house is actually very well insulated so we don't feel too cold, but Emery wanted to wear a night cap none-the-less.
She's a ton of fun. She also got some money to spend at Claire's for Christmas. She decided to get some fake glasses!
Am I crazy? I think she looks good in those. I'm not telling her that though. She's been wearing them non-stop.

Friday, December 28, 2012

#23 - A Personal Odyssey

I was in my local public library one day and stumbled upon the memoirs of Thomas Sowell - A Personal Odyssey.
If you haven't read anything by Thomas Sowell yet, you really should. He's an amazing communicator.
This quote pretty much encapsulates what he's all about. He explains in plan language what works in society and what simply sounds good but doesn't work. In fact, most of what sounds good, actually hurts people. A Personal Odyssey is a book that describes Sowell's very interesting life, personality and experiences. It's amazing to me that genius is always readily evident from a young age. But it never truly materializes without lots of struggle, hard work and dedication.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

#22 - Dangerous Calling

I'm a big fan of Paul Tripp. If you have not read any of his books, you really should. I think every Christian should read Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands. If you are a parent of teens or pre-teens, you should read Age of Opportunity. If you want to improve your communication skills, War of Words is great too. And if you are a pastor or elder, you really should read his latest book, Dangerous Calling.
I wish I had read this book 10 years ago. I think it would have really helped me through the hard knocks of my journey in pastoral ministry a lot. But I think God wanted me to struggle through a lot of these issues on my own. However, I'm glad that this book is available to me now as though I have identified many of these issues addressed in the book previously, I have by no means mastered them.

Tripp calls this book a "diagnostic book," that is, it is meant for pastors to examine their hearts and to help them transform through the power of the gospel. He begins the first section of the book by describing the unhealthy pastoral culture often found in many churches. Most pastors are very isolated. They do not interact with the people in the church as just another sinner saved by grace. Unfortunately, pastors feel the pressure to put on a front of super spiritual maturity and most churches want that same ideal from their pastor as well.

He peels back the layers of the heart where pastors find their identity in ministry not in Christ alone. We puff ourselves up with theological arrogance or pride in ministry skills. We develop self-righteous complaints of others or even anger. These are all dangers "unique to or intensified" in pastoral ministry.

Then Tripp spends the next section focusing on the first solution - regaining our awe of the greatness of God or what I like to call being God-centered. If we have the right view of God and His sovereign majesty in our lives and ministry, we can't help but be dependent on Him through the gospel daily which is the last section of the book. Tripp exposes the many manifestations and dangers of self-righteous pride.

Here are some gems:
  • Ministry had become my identity...I thought of myself as a pastor. That's it, bottom line..."Pastor" defined me. It was me in a way that proved to be more dangerous than I would have thought.
  • Tender, heartfelt worship is hard for a person who thinks of himself as having arrived. No one celebrates the presence and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ more than the person who has embraced his desperate and daily need of it. But ministry had redefined me. In ways I now find embarassing, it told me that I was not like everyone else, that I existed in a unique category. And if I was not like everyone else, then I didn't need what everyone else needs. Now, if you had sat down and told me all this specifically, I would have told you it was all a bunch of baloney; but it was how I acted and related.
  • When I daily admit how needy I am, daily meditate on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and daily feed on the restorative wisdom of his Word, I am propelled to share with others the grace that I am daily receving at the hands of my Savior.
  • It is my worship that enables me to lead others to worship. It is my sense of need that leads me to tenderly pastor those in need of grace. It is my joy in my identity in Christ that leads me to want to help others lives in the middle of what it means to be "in Christ." In fact, one of the things that makes a sermon compelling is that the preacher is worshiping his way through his own sermon. Having a ministry that is fueled by personal devotion has its roots in humble, heart-deep confession.
  •  Once you have closed your eyes to the evidence and quit listening to the voices of others, you are left to the blindness and self-righteousness of your yet sinful heart. This makes it very hard for you to conclude that you are the problem. No, what you will conclude is that ministry or things in your ministry is the problem.
  • Bad things happen when maturity is more defined by knowing than it is by being. Danger is afloat when you come to love the ideas more than the God whom they represent and the people they are meant to free.
  • Only deep gratitude for a suffering Savior can make a man willing to suffer in ministry. It is only a heart that is satisfied in Christ that can be spiritually content in the hardships of ministry.
  • It's only when your identity is firmly rooted in Christ that you are free from seeking to get your identity out of your ministry.
  • You can be assured that like God's leaders of old, he will face crucial personal- and ministry-choice points. In those significant moments, what will win the day and determine what he will do will be his heart because, like everyone else, it is inescapably true that whatever rules his heart will direct his life and his ministry.
  • When you forget the gospel, you begin to seek from the situations, locations, and relationships of ministry what you have already been given in Christ. You begin to look to ministry for identity, security, hope, well-being, meaning, and purpose. These are things you will only ever find vertically. They are already yours in Christ.
  • When you live out of the grace of the gospel, you quite fearing failure, you quit avoiding being known, and you quit hiding your struggles and your sin. The gospel declares that there is nothing that could ever be uncovered about you and me that hasn't already been covered by the grace of Jesus.
  • It is your admission of weakness that protects your ministry from becoming all about human reputation and kingdom building. And it is your weakness that protects you from the dangers of self-righteousness and self-reliance. It is your delusions of perceived strength and maturity, which you actually lack, that have the potential to derail and ultimately destroy your ministry. This is because when you think you are strong, you think you can live independently of the grace of Jesus and the ministry of others, although you may not know that his is what you're doing.
This is an excellent book for pastors. It really does a great job of exposing so many of the dangers and deception in the heart of a pastor. It feels like Tripp is doing spiritual heart surgery. I am constantly struggling with seeing my identity as a pastor above my identity as a child of God so I definitely appreciated the insight and solutions offered.

This is also an excellent book for elders. Not only will it help them to understand the issues and struggles that staff pastors deal with, but a lot of these heart issues apply to them as well. The solutions to dealing with these challenges are found both in the individual and in community. Having others that create a leadership culture that fosters transparency and gospel driven encouragement is vital for pastors and elders.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

This year was a simple Lee family Christmas. We did have some church family over last night but no extended family this year. Though Cancun was here in spirit for sure! The hats are a tribute to Uncle Samta. We definitely de-emphasize the gifts now that the boys and girl are older and try to really emphasize worshiping Christ. But we still love to give out gifts and use them to point to the glorious eternal gifts that wait for us in heaven.
We have been enjoying Christmas break as a family. Matt and Emz have been working on their Connect 4 skills amidst all their animal friends.
Andrew has been devouring books on our new to us kindle reader. I think he's read about 10 books in 2 weeks.
Matt has been enjoying all his new toys this morning.
I love these really casual Christmas memories of just being together as a family. God is good, always.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Program

Oi! What a week and then some. The boys and girl and us parents too have all been struggling with health. Andrew hit 104.5 and was out of school for a week. Emery and Matt both missed several days of school as well. I think this is one of the worst spells of sickness we've had in several years. But everyone got better just in time for their elementary Christmas program.
Emery and Matt sang in the choir while Andrew got the opportunity to be one of 4 main acting roles. He played a very difficult and challenging role for him - a boy named Josh.
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Matt just got his voice back the day of the play and could barely sing. Emery had recovered a bit earlier and sang with gusto! Andrew did a fabulous job with the acting. I was very proud of him. Well, I didn't actually see him live because I was so sick, I couldn't make it! But he looked great in the video that I saw of him! Sandy said he did a great job acting. I tried to upload some video but alas, it's not working for some reason. I guess you'll just have to believe me.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sad

The boys and girl (as well as their parents) have been sick for some time. Andrew got sick last Wed and spiked up to a 104.5 fever. He's still hurting. And Matt just got hit pretty bad today with a 103.5 fever. Emery is doing pretty well though she's got a bit of a cough.
Doesn't Matt look so sad and pitiful! Poor guy.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gymnastics

Mary Lou Retton look out! Well, for all of you younger folk, I guess it would Gabby Douglas! Hardly. But Emery has started gymnastics. Guess who LOVES it?!
It's a Little Gym just down the street where she works on the balance beam, floor exercises and the uneven bars. She can't wait until gymnastic days!
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After watching the boys play sports for years, she finally gets a turn to do something she wants!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Peacemaker Conference

Sandy and I went to the Peacemaker Conference almost 3 months ago! This post has been a long time coming. I've been meaning to post my thoughts about this conference but alas, good intentions. We had never been to any event sponsored by Peacemaker Ministries but have read The Peacemaker by Ken Sande and loved it. Really, if you have not read that book, YOU MUST! The book and the whole ministry is geared toward helping Christians resolve conflict biblically.
Life Together
I was a little hesitant about the conference as I had never been and didn't really know anyone who had. Although it was a wee bit outside of my very conservative (and small) theological circles, I must say that it was a very positive experience. I took away 3 things from the conference:

1. Many people there really seemed to genuinely love Jesus and the fact that He bore their sin. They seemed so grateful and thankful and happy about it. I loved it. I try to cultivate that in my own heart and love to be around people who seem to have such a genuine personal response to the gospel of Christ.

2. Keeping God's love for me at the forefront of my thoughts and identity, really puts everything else in perspective. I just don't think enough about this infinite, unconditional, supernatural, glorious love for a sinner like me. We sang a David Crowder song during one of the praise sessions. I knew the song already but had never studied the words before. They really hit home. No matter what is going on in my life, how can I lose sight of such awesome love?

And He is jealous from me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions
Eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me

And oh, how He loves us, oh Oh, how He loves us, how He loves us all

And He is jealous from me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions
Eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me

Oh, how He loves, yeah, He loves us Oh, how He loves us, oh, how He loves usO h, how He loves

And we are His portion and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If His grace is an ocean, we're all sinking
And heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don't have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way

Oh, how He loves us, oh Oh, how He loves us, how He loves
3. My identity in Christ needs to grow more. Every year, I feel like I make a lot of progress in this area - truly seeing myself as in Christ / united with Christ as my primary identity. That being in Christ is more important than anything else that happens to me in my life. But even though I know this and keep trying to apply it to my heart every day and every year, it seems like I still surprise myself with how poorly I am doing with it.

In the challenges of life and pastoral ministry, I still want to feel discouraged or melancholy about challenges, trials and unrealized plans. I still keep putting my hopes and dreams, my identity, my happiness in what I can accomplish for God or what God is doing through me, emphasis me. First and foremost, I am a redeemed sinner, a forgiven child of God. I just happened to be a husband, father and pastor right now. It doesn't seem that hard a concept to apply yet I do have such a strong willed heart to fight against the relentless overpowering waves of God's ocean of grace.

If you ever get a chance to go to a Peacemaker Conference, I'd recommend it. The workshops especially were very good.