Saturday, May 30, 2009

Another 9 Observations on Parenting

1. Kids who say "There's nothing to do" all day suddenly have a lot to do at bedtime.

2. Your closest friends and family, those who profess greatest love for you, will buy gifts for your kids with 2 criteria in mind: what puts out the most decibels and what requires the most batteries.

3. Of the 168 hours in a week, the ones when your family fights the most are the 2 that precede Sunday morning church. (They are therefore apt reminders of why we need Christ.)

4. To little kids, shoes belong on the table, and food belongs on the floor.

5. Consider the kid who isn't doing what he's supposed to be doing: not only is he not doing it, but he's also slowing done those who are doing what they're supposed to be doing.

6. When looking through a telescope, a little kid will always keep the wrong eye open.

7. Little kids love to be naked from the waist down.

8. Several factors contribute to the younger children "getting away with" more than the older ones, including parental exhaustion, parental apathy, and a certain amount of mental illness.

9. "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." (3 Jn 4 NIV)

Friday, May 29, 2009

The First Great Awakening

The First Great Awakening occurred in New England, 1740-1742.

I am currently reading Jonathan Edwards' account of what took place in his A Narrative of Surprising Conversions. Jonathan Edwards was minister at the church in Northampton, Massachusetts, at the time of this awakening. What follows is a summary of the first section.

This area was a relatively godly area.

My grandfather had 5 "harvests" (where several came to the Lord at once) during his 60 years of ministry here. (Edwards served with his grandfather at the church during his grandfather's last few years of ministry.)

After the last "harvest" was over, a far more degenerate time set in.

But then the evil lessened in the community, particularly among young people.

There began to be a remarkable religious concern at a nearby village, particularly on the occasion of 3 different deaths in the community.

Doctrinal heresy threatened, but it actually strengthened the people here, because it caused people to be concerned about the truth.

"And then it was, in the latter part of December, that the Spirit of God began extraordinarily to set in, and wonderfully to work amongst us." There were 5 or 6 conversions.

A seriousness about Christianity spread. People became heavenly-minded, so that all conversations around town were about spiritual and eternal matters. ("... all other talk ... was soon thrown by; all the conversation, in all companies and upon all occasions, was upon these things only, unless so much as was necessary for people carrying on their ordinary secular business. Other discourse than of the things of religion would scarcely be tolerated in any company. The minds of people were wonderfully taken off from the world ...")

There were conversions daily. Congregational worship became quite alive. Christ and salvation were the topics of conversations everywhere.

There were many skeptics who came to town to see what was occurring, and they left convinced that the work done was of the Lord.

Other towns soon experienced the same divine work, and news of what God was doing in other towns kept our own work going.

Further, God was also working in similar ways in Connecticut and in some parts of the Jerseys.

This divine work was universal in that it was across all age groups; not just young people, but the elderly and children, too.

Great numbers of people came to the Lord, at least 300 people in our town--an equal number of men and women.

This work of the Holy Spirit include both the quickening of lax Christians as well as the regeneration of unbelievers.

Don't you yearn for the Holy Spirit to come in power to Fort Wayne this way?

Forest View Turns 1

It was one year ago today that I started this blog. I credit a couple things for the start.

1. After blogging our trip to China, several people mentioned I should continue blogging. (But what made the blog worthwhile and easy for me then was what I was blogging about, i.e., the trip to China and Callie's adoption, and not the process itself.)

2. Abraham Piper, son of John Piper, prompted me, both through exhortation and example. I followed his blog and saw that he got a lot of great discussions going through his posts (something I have failed to do). He also did a piece at the Desiring God website on 6 reasons why pastors should blog. I was persuaded.

That's the story. At this point I plan to continue blogging, though who knows how long.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tongue in Cheek

My dad sent me and 300 other people various "threes" about himself, and then he asked us to respond. So I did. Here's some of what I sent.

3 dogs I'll never own
--Pug, German Shepherd, Canine

3 daily menu selections for my dad if he comes to live with me in his old age
--tomato soup, yogurt, tofu

3 things my parents should've warned me about
--adjustable rate mortgages, missionary kids, Jeff

3 names I considered for my kids and subsequently rejected
--Gladys, Grace, Dagmar

3 jokes my dad has only told me once

3 things my dad never seems to forget
--how good potato chips are, how to email, where the closest dollar store is at

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"A Church That Rocks" Isn't My Criteron in Looking for a Church

I received a flyer from a local church recently with the following copy:

People avoid church for all kinds of reasons.

"It's boring!"
"All they want is my money."
"The music is lame!"

[Church name] is not like that ... we're different!

You'll enjoy great rock music, messages that make sense (and make you laugh), plus hundreds of cool, outgoing people and great programs for kids.

It's church without snoring. You are invited.

Come check it out this Sunday!

If that's what church is about, I think I'd rather sleep in Sunday mornings.

I'm not interested in a church that rocks or has relevant music--I've got a radio that works. I'm not interested in messages that make me laugh--I've got a TV; for that matter, I've got a few collections of Calvin & Hobbes. I'm not interested in hundreds of cool people--I'm not cool, so finding common interests may be a bit of a challenge. I'm not interested in hundreds of outgoing people--I'm an introvert, and I really don't feel like being overwhelmed.

So why go to church? Here are a few reasons that come to mind:
  1. To meet with the living God (1 Tim 3:15)
  2. To know and understand truth (1 Tim 3:15)
  3. To avoid being hardened by sin's deceitfulness (Heb 3:13)
  4. To glorify God with other like-minded disciples (Rom 15:5-6)
  5. To be strengthened in the faith and to also strengthen others in their faith (Rom 1:11-12; 1 Cor 12:7)
  6. To pray with other believers (Mt 18:19-20; 21:13)
  7. To search the Scriptures with other believers (Acts 17:11)
  8. To help me not be conformed to the pattern of this world but transformed by the renewing of my mind (Rom 12:2)
  9. To confess my sins that I might be prayed for and healed (Jas 5:16)

As a pastor, I am not interested in keeping up with trends to attract people to attending church. I am interested in preaching to people's needs, their deepest needs that they may not even recognize but are there nonetheless. I am interested in attracting people and keeping people because the Holy Spirit is at work in us.

If I attract them with laughter and rockin' music, and if I keep them with laughter and rockin' music, so what? Church attendance doesn't save. What saves is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Part of the gospel is the recognition of sin and guilt before God. That's not fun, but it is necessary.

Praying Expecting God's Answers

I am struggling with specific teaching on prayer that claims we should pray expecting God will answer our prayers as we ask.

Recently I finished a book by E. M. Bounds. I loved 20 of the 21 chapters, but I really struggled with his chapter that taught that we should expect answered prayers all the time. If our prayers are not answered, something is wrong with our praying.

Now I'm reading Andrew Murray, and in the first 10 chapters, he has 2 chapters that essentially teach the same thing. The whole testimony of Scripture is that God answers prayer, and while both of these guys lived died a century ago, I think were they alive today, they wouldn't have much to do with the teaching that goes "Of course God answers every prayer--Yes, No, or Wait."

My outlook on prayer has been a father-small child outlook. Children ask many things. Some of them can be answered "Of course," while others must be answered "No" or "Not now" because the child doesn't understand what he's asking.

Murray starts with the Fatherliness of God, too, but in his model we understand the Father's will to a much greater degree and pray in line with that, thus expecting the answers to our persistent prayers.

Bounds and Murray do make much more sense of some passages that I've had to qualify, particularly the ones that talk about asking anything in the Lord's name and it will be ours.

My experience rallies against this teaching (which in fact may be biblical). So how do I improve my prayer life? How do I fix it? How do I line it up more with Scripture? How do I pray in such a way that God will answer "Yes" all the time?

For instance, prayers for salvation: isn't it God's will that all be saved? So how come people I pray salvation for aren't saved? Is my praying faulty?

"Lord, teach me to pray."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

9 Movies I Enjoy Watching on Occasion

  1. Hoodwinked
  2. The Philadelphia Story
  3. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  4. El Dorado
  5. The Hunt for Red October
  6. Amadeus
  7. Les Miserables (with Richard Jordan)
  8. Gettysburg
  9. The Big Sleep (the Bogey & Bacall one)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

One Year Ago

We met and received Callie into our family one year ago today.

Read about it here and here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Arminian Myth #4

From Roger E. Olson's Arminian Theology, a wonderful read on understanding Arminianism.

See my coverage of Myths 1-3.

Myth #4: The heart of Arminianism is belief in free will.

Truth: The true heart of Arminian theology is God's loving and just character; the formal principle of Arminianism is the universal will of God for salvation.

The heart of Arminianism is the character of God as revealed in Scripture.

Arminians believe in free will because "it is everywhere assumed in the Bible" and because it is necessary to protect God's reputation.

Further, Arminians do not object to the idea that God directs human choice and actions; they just object to the idea that he controls all of them, especially evil and sinful ones.

Why do Arminians object to belief that God controls all human decisions and actions by his ordaining power?
  • Not because of a prior or basic commitment to human freedom
  • Not because they don't believe in God's ordaining power. They do. He orders and controls many things, and if he wanted to control every human decision and action, he could.
  • Real reason: That belief makes God the author of sin and evil. Therefore, he is not wholly good, which is inconsistent with the biblical picture of God.
Arminians begin with God's goodness and end with free will. They don't begin with free will.

Arminians don't believe God ordains evil. Rather, he permits it and brings good out of it.

Jacob Arminius argued against Calvinism, not because it violated free will, but because it impugned God, making him the author of sin. He said, "From these premises [that all things, including the Fall, are inviolably decreed by God] we deduce ... that God really sins.... that God is the only sinner ... that sin is not sin" (p. 105).

His problem? "This doctrine is repugnant to the nature of God" (p. 105).

John Wesley argued against Calvinism for the same reason. Regarding Calvinist belief in unconditional election and double predestination: "The merciful God appears as a capricious tyrant more deceptive and cruel than the devil himself, and the human person an automaton" (pp. 108-109).

Other prominent Arminians, such as Episcopius, Pope and Miley, took as their starting point God's absolute goodness in Jesus Christ.

John Miley: "The doctrine of reprobation is disproved by the universality of the atonement; by the divine sincerity in the universal overture of salvation in Christ; by the universal love of God" (pp. 112-113).