A Beautiful Daughter, a Beautiful Day, and a Beautiful Place for Lunch

31 07 2008

My lovely family and I have been on vacation for the last two weeks and we’ve been in some wonderful places.  Today trumped all we’ve seen yet.  We did a little hike and as we came out of the woods, we came upon this….

We’d brought our picnic lunch and enjoyed the view and some PB ‘n J! 
I love vacation!


A New Cross?

30 07 2008

I recently have been asked to teach an evangelism class for our adult Sunday School.  In my research for this class, I came across the following quote from A. W. Tozer.  Sadly, Tozer’s description of this “new cross” reflects much of what I grew up hearing and still come across as the way to share the Gospel.

All unanouced and mostly undetected there has come in modern times a new cross into poplular evangelical circles.  It is like the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial; the differences are fundamental… This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its conent is not the same and its emphasis is not as before… The new cross does not slay the sinner; it redirects him.  It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect.  To the self assertive it says, “Come and assert yourself for Christ.” To the egotist it says, “Come and do your boasting in the Lord.” To the thrill-seeker it says, “Come and enjoy the thrill of the abundant Christian life.”  The idea behind this kind of thing may be sincere, but its sincerity does not save it from being false.  It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.  The cross is a symbol of death.  It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a person.  God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him to newness of life.  The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die.  God then bestows life, but not an improved old life.  Whoever would possess it must pass under the rod.  He must repudiate himself and concur in God’s just sentence against him.  How can this theology be translated into life?  Simply, the non-Christian must repent and believe.  He must forsake his sins and then go on to forsake himself.  Let him cover nothing, defend nothing, excuse nothing.  Let him not seek the make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God’s stern displeasure and acknowledge himself worthy to die.

Unexpected Grace in the Old Testament

28 07 2008

While discussing the worship practices of ancient Israel with a friend last year, a thought came to mind:

If Israel was commanded to only offer sacrifices at the tabernacle or temple, what did the far North tribes do with sacrifices that were required at somewhat frequent intervals (e.g. offerings for unintentional sin)?

Did they go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem every week?  Did they “store up” their offerings and bring them along during the required annual visits to the capital of Israel?  It was these questions that led me on a journey through God’s word that ultimately led me to an unexpected revelation of our Lord’s great mercy and grace.  In my study, I sought to ascertain the rule for offering sacrifices to God, observe the reality of what was practiced by Israel, and then use all that information to come to a reasonable conclusion.  I will warn that this may seem boring to start with, but if you hang tough, I think you’ll find it very exciting in the end.  Here is what I found…

The Levitical standard

My plan was to work through the scripture looking for references to sacrificial worship.  Working from the beginning, the Pentateuch provided God’s intention for how His people were to worship Him.  Here we see a strong emphasis on a centralized model of community worship that centers on the tabernacle.

Presenting offerings for sacrifice was a universal requirement of the sons of Israel (Lev 1:2) that required individual responsibility (Lev 7:29-30).  Some of the offerings were organized and attended to by the Levites alone (such as the annual atonement), but many bore special personal responsibility (such as the guilt offering).  In Leviticus, the instructions for all these offerings are to bring them to the “doorway of the tent of meeting” (Lev 1:3, 3:2, 4:4, 7:2).  Furthermore, there was to be a watchful eye for anyone slaughtering Read the rest of this entry »

Cotton Candy, Extra Innings, and Sleepy-Eyed Fireworks

25 07 2008

[For part 1 of this story, see Wednesday’s “Boys, Baseball, and a Venture into the Unknown.“]

Gabriel and I, having left the restroom (hands washed with both water and soap), headed to the concessions stand.  I was hunting for garlic fries at the request of Bryan, the Offensive Tackle. Gabe was demanding cotton candy, which the little blond hummingbird needed like gunpowder needs a spark… and I was praying the vendors were all out of sparks!

As we stood in line (I use the term “stood” very loosely) I tried to get the 5 year old firecracker to stop jumping and twirling and flailing.  We had about a half dozen “close calls” with other patrons and their recently purchased food items.  You see, Gabe is the perfect height to take most people out at the knees.  Combine his stature with his propensity to spin and kick and bounce, add in passing pedestrians whose sight is obstructed by the tray of hot dogs and beverages they just purchased, and… well… you can understand why my blood pressure was rising like a the cost of mobile home insurance at the start of tornado season!

Speaking of tornadoes, the blond tornado who was millimeters from disaster with every spin-kick, kept imploring me to allow him to purchase the one item he could not live without- sugary sweet joy on a paper cone- cotton candy.

I, trying to play the part of the responsible uncle and sensible adult, kept explaining to him that if he couldn’t stand still the five minutes we were waiting in line, there was no way I would let him put more sugar into his system via a purchase of cotton candy.  I know some of you are laughing right now, saying “Ryan, did you seriously think you could win that little battle?”  You’re right.  I knew I was on a sinking ship,his mother having already given him the money which he was holding in the air as he called for the cotton candy, but I had to at least act like I was trying!  I understand that telling him to “stand still” makes as much sense as telling a leopard to stop looking so “spotty” and a cheetah to “slow down,” but at least the momentary appearance of control (if even in my own mind) was helping me to feel that I had not completely surrendered the course of the evening.  After all, we weren’t even to the 7th inning stretch.

Well, the “discussion” continued, with the tiny tornado continuing to wreak havoc in line and my words of “you’re not getting any cotton candy if you don’t stand still” continuing to have as much effect as sponge in the ocean. But then I heard the words that gave me hope, words that encouraged me to believe that God does indeed hear the prayers of the weak and helpless and gives grace to the humble. Read the rest of this entry »

The Authority of Scripture in All Things!

24 07 2008

For those of you who have not kept up with the discussion happening over on Dave’s earlier post entitled “Righteous Revolution?”, I invite you to join in on the discussion. It has been a very stimulating conversation to say the least. In it, Dave raised a challenge for anyone to find a verse in the Bible that corroborates the statements made in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence. If you want to read my answer to Dave’s challenge you’ll have to visit the post and read it for yourself.

The point of this post is to affirm my respect for Dave’s approach as he rightly identifies that the Bible is the ultimate source of authority on any matter. After all, it is from Scripture alone that we, as Christians, derive the morals and values that direct us in our course of actions throughout life. Through the pages of Scripture alone can we learn the true heart of God. It is my desire to draw near to God, and to do that I must immerse myself in his Word and the knowledge of God that is presented therein.

Now, I’m willing to bet it would be difficult to find any christian who would deny the authority of scripture if you asked them directly. However, there are those who, sadly, deny this truth in both their actions and words. Allow me to elaborate.

As a published author I recently had the privilege of attending the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in Orlando. For those who don’t know, ICRS is the annual gathering place of all the major players in the Christian publishing world. Publishers, Booksellers, Authors, Agents, Content Creators, TV and Radio Broadcasters, and Journalists all come together to get acquainted with the latest offering of books, gifts and movies that are being created within the Christian community. The primary purpose of the show has always been for publishers to meet face-to-face with the booksellers and show off their catalog of products in person. However, it also provides a unique mechanism for other networking opportunities to exist. As an author I was able to meet with others in my field and enjoyed getting to know the passion for why they wrote what they wrote.

During my stay this year I was engaged in a brief meeting with someone who was praising a popular book that has been flying off the Christian bookshelves. The book is entitled “The Shack” and while I have not had the opportunity to read it myself, I have heard it has caused some significant controversy because of its representation of the trinity and God’s personality. You can read a detailed review here. Anyway, as our conversation continued the other individual boldly stated, “I think people need to put their theology aside and just enjoy the book for what it is because it is a anointed work and God is using it.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Baseball, Boys, and a Venture into the Unknown

23 07 2008

My writing com padres here at the Miry Clay are each blessed with two boys (with Dave having a third “sex-yet-to-be-identified” on the way).  I, on the other hand, have the joy of parenting two lovely girls.  I love my girls and there are moments (usually when some little boy is hanging from the rafters or making a “naked run” across the room) in which I say a little prayer of “thank you, God” to express my appreciation.  However, I do wonder what it would be like to take a son out fishing, playing catch or watching a ballgame together.  So this last, Friday God allowed me to venture to the other side if only for a few hours.

A group from our church was going to watch the local minor league baseball team (no, Frank, not the Mariners!) which plays at a stadium right down the road from our house.  The tickets were only $9 and the price included a hot dog, a bag of chips, and a soda.  Amy and I thought it would be fun, so we purchased tickets the week before the scheduled game.  However, Amy decided to leave on Wednesday with the girls to travel to Oregon to visit her grandmother.  Her agenda didn’t have her returning until Saturday, so there sat yours truly with two tickets and only one backside to fill the seats.  Then it hit me- I should invite my nephews!  I was able to acquire a third ticket and the adventure was on.
Read the rest of this entry »

Genesis 1 and the Encouragement of Our Hearts

22 07 2008

“It is a mighty support of faith that God creates.  He that made all things with a word, what cannot he do?  He can create strength in weakness; he can create a supply of our wants.  What a foolish question was that, ‘Can he prepare a table in the wilderness?’ (Psalm 78:19).  Cannot he that made the world do much more? ‘Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.’ (Psalm 124:8).  Rest on this God for help, who made heaven and earth.  As the work of creation is a monument of God’s power, so it is a stay of faith.  Is thy heart hard? He can with a word create softness.  Is it unclean?  He can create purity.  ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God’ (Psalm 51:10).  Is the church of God low?  He can create Jerusalem a praise (Isaiah 65:18).  There is no such golden pillar for faith to stay upon as a creating power.”  – Thomas Watson