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Being purposeful at Christmas time

We seem to struggle every year with relating the reality of why we celebrate Christmas with our children. It seems that every year we talk about how “this year is going to different” and we are going to be purposeful in teaching the Christmas story to our family throughout the entire Christmas season (Thanksgiving to Christmas…) However, every year I get to about the 23rd of December and realize that I’ve failed yet again amidst the busyness of the season. I would like to encourage you to be purposeful starting now and make sure your family is focused on the story of Christ this year. I have found what I think will be a great resource for us and wanted to share it with you as well.

The website is at YouVersion.com. You will need to enter an email address and a password for access to the reading plans. (I gave them my info about 6 months ago and have only gotten 2 emails or so – both useful, so they shouldn’t spam you or anything). Here is what they say about the Christmas Reading plan:

“If you start the “Rediscovering the Christmas Season” plan on December 1, you can experience the true Christmas story—direct from the source, along with supporting material to help you understand its significance—just in time for Christmas Day.”

As a side note, if you have an Android, iPhone, or Blackberry you can get an incredible free app from them that has tons of different Bible versions, reading plans, etc. It’s a great tool.

If you don’t already have a plan for studying through the Christmas story this year, maybe this will be something you can find useful in your family as well.

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The Jesus Storybook Bible

My wife came home from church the other day with this book.  It was highly recommended by a couple at church that have young children as an excellent “story” Bible to read with them. 

Now, I’ve seen plenty of storybook Bibles, and for the most part I’ve been unimpressed.  They’re obviously not a “literal” translation of the Bible so generally authors can take plenty of liberties in telling the story(s) in whatever manner they choose.  I’ve not really seen one that tells the story the way I believe the Bible would have it be told.  So, you could color me skeptical at first glance.

When Julie sat down and started reading the introduction, I realized that not all storybook Bibles are created equal.  I am now eagerly looking forward to reading through this with our kids. 

With apologies to the author here is the introduction:

God wrote, “I love you” – he wrote it in the sky, and on the earth, and under the sea.  He wrote his message everywhere!  Because God created everything in his world to reflect him like a mirror – to show us what he is like, to help us know him, to make our hearts sing.

The way a kitten chases her tail.  The way red poppies grow wild.  The way a dolphin swims.

And God put it into words, too, and wrote it in a book called “the Bible.” 

Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do.  The Bible certainly does have some rules in it.  They show you how life works best.  But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing.  It’s about God and what he has done.

Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy.  The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all.  They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose).  They get afraid and run away.  At times they are downright mean. 

No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes.  The Bible is most of all a Story.  It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure.  It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the one he loves.  It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about this Story is – it’s true.

There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story.  The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story.  And at the center of the Story, there is a baby.  Every Story in the Bible whispers his name.  He is like the missing piece in a puzzle – the piece tha makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture. 

And this is no ordinary baby.  This is the Child upon whom everything would depend.  This is the Child who would one day – but wait.  Our Story starts where all good stories start.  Right at the very beginning…”

I got goosebumps just typing that last part.  What an excellent intro!  I’m not sure if the entire book will live up to that intro, but I’m definitely excited about reading through it with our kids and finding out. 

As I was listening to Julie read that the first time, all I could think about was how many Christian adults don’t even really understand what the Bible really is.  Do you?  I’m hoping this will be another great tool we have to communicate the gospel to our kids, while understanding at the same time that it is, of course, a paraphrase of the Bible and is certainly no substitute for the real thing. 

Click here to get more info about “The Jesus Storybook Bible.”

Is error in doctrine always sin?

This is how Tim Challies started a blog post a couple of months ago, and it captured my attention. 

When we first started attending our church, and first came to understand, and agree with Reformed teaching; I found myself to be a complete zealot.  I KNEW that what I believed was an absolute truth, and any wavering from that doctrine was false, and if it wasn’t sinful, it was definitely leading someone down the path.  I was constantly arguing with friends who believed a few things different from me.  I browbeat people with scripture and old Spurgeon and Luther quotes.  I think I actually enjoyed it.  It made me feel superior, it made me feel special, as if I had been revealed some secret knowledge that others weren’t privy to. 

Over the years, though, as I’ve matured in my faith, I’ve been able to have a much better understanding of God’s grace for his people.  Don’t get me wrong, I still believe all that Calvinist (“TULIP”) doctrine, I do believe it is correct theology.  But, I am also much more humble in that belief.  After all, as any good Calvinist would say, whatever grace God has lavished upon me, I have done absolutely nothing to deserve it, and in fact deserve eternal separation from him.  So, how can I be proud of that? 

Someone actually said to me recently, that I may be too lenient towards some in my acquaintance that believe some slightly different secondary doctrine.  How awesome is that?  Maybe I’m not so much of a jerk anymore…well, that might be going too far!  At the very least though, God has worked some subtle changes in my heart and for that I’m thankful. 

As for that Challies post, here’s some of his analysis:

Now it is obvious that there are times when differences in doctrine reflect sin. A person who preaches that Jesus Christ is something other than divine is teaching an awful and divisive heresy and that error is sinful, pure and simple. A person who teaches that homosexuality is a legitimate lifestyle that the Bible condones is likewise teaching grievous error and error that can be easily proven so from the Bible. But what happens when the error deals with issues of lesser consequence? What happens when one teacher preaches a sermon defending the baptism of believers while another preaches a sermon defending the baptism of children? Obviously one of the two men must be wrong. But is one of them being sinful in teaching what is wrong? Or think of an issue like eschatology where two very fine and godly men may have completely different understandings of the end times. When they teach their differing conclusions, is one of them actually being sinful?

He has identified three principles that he believes are useful when thinking about this subject.  Please click over to his site to check them out.  Maybe they’ll be helpful to you too.

Latest Legacy Trip

This past weekend I was able to attend my fifth Legacy Adventures weekend, the second trip I’ve made with my oldest son Adam.  Each trip is unique, but at the core of it, they’re also all the same.  I went back and read the very first post I made on this blog and realized it all still applies every time.  So, probably because I’m lazy, I’m just going to repost it here.  Dads – raising kids is serious business, opportunities like these won’t always be there, take advantage of them while you can.  As we were sharing Saturday night, one of the dads spoke just a few words, but they may have been the most important of the night.  (Speaking about the very first Legacy weekend he said)”I was there 4 years ago.  Afterwards, I didn’t do anything, and now I only get to see my kids 3 days a week.” 

The following was originally posted here on January 24th, 2010:

For my first post, I’m going to go back to an email I wrote some friends last year in explanation of what Legacy Adventures is and what my first experience with them was.  I’ve edited it a little for adult content (just kidding), I just took a few things out that don’t pertain here…enjoy and check out Legacy Adventures here.

“I felt compelled to share with you guys about something I’ve attended a couple of times now that has had a profound effect on my relationship with my kids, as well as my relationship with God.  About a year ago a friend began telling me about this thing called “Legacy Adventures” he had attended, and how awesome it was.  As he told it, it was a father/son camping trip where you go out to the woods and shoot BB guns, bows and arrows, go fishing, build stuff, etc.  Guy stuff.  He said that it was an amazing trip with just he and his son, and that he got to have some time with other dads that were struggling through life the same way he was: how to be a good dad, how to be the spiritual leader in their house, you get the idea.  He couldn’t wait to go on another trip, and as time went on he felt called to join the ministry and is now on the leadership team.

Well, I put it off and put it off, but finally in April decided to sign up for the May Father/Daughter trip.  The only person I knew going in was that my friend was the co-leader of that particular trip, so I actually wouldn’t be spending much time with him or anything because he would be fairly busy while we were there.  This is not a situation I am normally comfortable in.  As I told him later, we were up on the rim and I felt like I left my comfort zone at home.  Anyway, not knowing what to expect I was fairly apprehensive about the whole thing.  Jasmine however, was very excited about the opportunity to have me all to herself.  We drove up there on Saturday morning and got to the campsite around 10.  Set up the tent, had lunch and split into different groups for the afternoon activities.  For this particular trip there were three different activities:  shooting gallery (BB Guns, Bows, hatchet throwing) –- the girls really seemed to dig this by the way, probably because it’s not stuff they usually do — , then a craft (we made a pot and planted seeds), then blindfolded painting where your partner tells you what to paint and you try to do it blindfolded.  Every activity was a lot of fun, and it provided some insight into Jasmine’s personality for me.  The other thing that was awesome about the activities was just how purposeful they all were.  At the outset of each activity our leader explained the purpose behind that particular activity, and what it symbolized.  Fantastic stuff.

That night, after the girls were in their beds, the men talked around the campfire with the leader doing some teaching from the Bible as well as sharing personal things from his walk.  Outside of the fact that I was spending a day and a half straight with just Jasmine, this time was the highlight of my trip.  I never would have thought I would say that, but it was.  Trust me on that.

Next day was some “daughter directed” free time and pretty much a camp wrap up.  So all in all, it requires a commitment of Saturday 7 am to around 2 or 3 Sunday afternoon.  Some of the trips are actually to places that have cabins to stay in.  On those trips, you drive up Friday night since there’s not tents to set up.  Two nights instead of one.

As for the “camping” part.  I am honestly not a camper, I know some of you are so this is no big deal.  For the rest of us let me say this.  EASY CAMPING.  Basically you bring clothes, a tent, and sleeping bags and you’re good.  They take care of all the food and the cooking.  They even set up some port a potty type toilets that are really good.  The tough stuff is taken care of!

…I really just wanted to reiterate that I think this is something that almost all dads could use.  How many of us really get one on one time with our kids in an environment where we can do fun stuff, and pay attention to them (with no distractions), and also get some encouragement in our relationship with God?  I would say, not too many opportunities like that.

Some of you I have already spoken with about this and some of you I haven’t for whatever reason.  One last thing – this is for kids age 5 and up (otherwise too young to do most of the stuff), and I would suggest that even if you have more than one kid of a gender, you only take one with you per trip.  Obviously, it’s no big deal if you do take more than one, however I think it takes quite a bit away from giving each child that special alone time with Dad.  I hope you will all pray about whether this is something you may be able to attend in the future.”

Make it important to build a Legacy with your kids, and with your family.  Check out attending one of these weekends.  It may change your life.

www.legacyadventures.org

50 Posts?

I was looking at my blog today, thinking about how much I have neglected it for the last couple months, and realized something that shocked me. I have written 50 posts. That seems like a big number. I don’t consider myself a great writer or even someone who has very interesting things to say most of the time. But somehow I did find something to say, about 50 times in the last few months. Along the way, I even picked up some people that read this thing regularly (or at least get it delivered to their email box, which is good enough for me!)

My friend wrote a post on his blog recently that sums up my issues with writing lately, and he’s a much better writer than me, so I’ll just say ditto:

…For those of you that could care less about my writing plight, the point here is that our own neglect is often the very cause of our dwindling inspiration. As was the case before the creation of this blog, the more time I spent without writing, the more my drive sank in to the proverbial “toilet.” Imagine that, you actually lose interest in things when you fail to spend time doing them! I would suggest that this is the case for most of the things in our lives; relationships included.

The challenge then, is how willing we are to include some things, all the while knowing that it will be at the exclusion of something else. As I have written about previously, the activities of our lives say a lot about what we find important. We may not necessarily like what we see at first, but what purpose do priorities serve if they don’t cause us to make some revisions now and then?

What a wake up call to me.  “The activities of our lives say a lot about what we find important.”

I don’t have much else to say on this subject, I just wanted to let my small band of readers know that I’m back, and I’m excited to do some writing.  So buckle up, because here we go.

Too busy to blog

I haven’t been able to write much lately, unfortunately this is a time at work where I am travelling a lot and am generally very busy. I look forward to getting back to a normal life flow, but for now this is how it’s going to be. My writing will be very sporadic and probably will include more links and things to other sites for the next few weeks.

The Headley Home

To start it off I wanted to link to the blog of some friends of mine. They recently became foster parents and keep a sometimes funny, always thought provoking blog about their experiences. Check it out here.

Page CXVI

Page CXVI is a band that has played a number of times at our church, and I always enjoy their music.  The have recently released their second “Hymns” project, and for a very limite time, their first Hymns project is available to download for free off their site.  It’s a great deal, for some great music.  While you’re there pick up the second project for a very reasonable price too! 

Kid Quote

I just have a quick kid quote because I find the way they look at things sometimes to be funny.  Michael was sick a few weeks ago and in the beginning he had a headache, but the second day he was experiencing flu like symptoms.  On that second day Julie asked him how he was feeling and he said, “My headache is in my stomach now.”

A Father’s Letter

This is an amazing letter one man wrote to his son. It’s just beautiful, and the older my kids get the more relevant this becomes:

” I am now 43, and as I sit here writing this letter to you I cannot help but wonder where the past 17 years of my life have gone. I found a box of pictures yesterday that took me back. You were so little; I was so young. Today you stand eye to eye with your dad, and I can no longer carry you in my own strength.

Your strawberry hair has turned rust and your face is in need of a shave. Your voice is a deep baritone and your hands are as big as my own. But as I look into your eyes I still connect with the silent conversations we had at those 2AM feedings—when all our dreams were so young, fresh and new.”

That is a small excerpt.  Follow the link and read the whole thing at the blog “Wrestling with an Angel.”


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