Posted in Uncategorized on September 28, 2009 by gospel2live

Like many of you, I love a good story.  Someone recently recommended a John Grisham novel to me, and I told him that I need to get my wife’s permission before I can pick up any good novel, because I have a difficult time stopping once I start reading.  When I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy to Sam when he was younger, I would read a chapter or two to him before bed, and then read for hours into the night after he was asleep because I was so drawn into the story and wanted to find out what happened next.

Stories can be a wonderful compliment to our Christian walk.  In fact, our entire faith rests on the story of God’s kindness to rebels through the sending of His Son, who came to live the life we should have lived, and die the death we deserved to die on the cross.  Our call as Christians is to continually retell this story of the cross, the Gospel story, to the world.  We are to be spreading the word of this story to our children, to one another, and to the world.  Our telling of stories and relating to them to understand our world better is one of the ways which reflects our being created in God’s image.

Not all story telling is good, however.  The Bible very clearly condemns gossip. (Rom 1:29; 2 Cor. 12:20; 1 Tim. 5:13)  As I was looking at the word that is translated as “gossip,” I learned that alternate interpretations of the word are “talebearer” or “whisperer.”  What is condemned is the telling of stories that hurt other people or in ways that cast a bad or deceptive shadow on them.  Politics are full of whisperers, who assist campaigns from behind the scenes by disparaging opposing candidates with lies and half-truths.  Although storytelling is something that reflects our being made in God’s image, we also must recognize that sin has marred and broken our ability to properly reflect God’s image and gossip is one of the ways that a good thing goes bad.

Sadly, our response to gossip is often to propagate it.  While the Bible teaches us to take our concerns directly to a brother or sister who has offended us, we tend to sinfully take it to everyone BUT the person at issue.  In my own life, I have been both the offender and the victim of gossip over the years.  Gossip is a cancer to a church body that often grows into conflict and dissension that is harmful to everyone involved.

Instead of spreading gossip, or even just ignoring gossip, our correct response should be to confront gossip. If someone is telling you a story about a person who is not present that reflects negatively on the person or is titillating because of its confrontational nature, you should ask if they have talked to the person about this directly.  If the answer is no, you should REFUSE to talk further of the matter until the person being talked about is present.  If the person who is gossiping will not talk to the object of their gossip, then we need to go to the person being gossiped about and get the real story as soon as possible.

I want to invite anyone who feels that I have wronged them by gossip, or any other offense, to come to me directly to talk about it.  This is not an easy thing to do, but it is a godly thing to do.  We all need to be more courageous to choose to end whatever gossip may be present in our church body, so that ultimately it is the redemptive story of Jesus’ death and resurrection that is being told, and not useless, sinful tales about one another.


It’s been awhile…

Posted in Uncategorized on September 28, 2009 by gospel2live

I have pretty much ignored this blog for most of the summer.  Largely, this was the result of being in the garage working.  However, the kayaks are done and delivered and the fall schedule is under way.  Thus, it’s time for me to catch up and return to the blog.

The finished kayaks, plus mine that I built a year ago.

The finished kayaks, plus mine that I built a year ago.

Men’s Ministry Kayak Project

Posted in Uncategorized on June 20, 2009 by gospel2live
Chuck, Jim, and Dale work at stripping the hull.

Chuck, Jim, and Dale work on stripping the hull.

I haven’t posted for awhile.  After a week at Miracle Bible Camp, we just finished a week of Vacation Bible School while working on the kayak with the guys in the afternoon and evenings.  We are building a pair of kayaks for Josh Sorvik, whose dad is a pastor friend of mine.  Josh was paralyzed in a ski accident in March.  You can follow Josh’s progress at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/joshsorvik.

I have created a photo album for the project on facebook.  You can see the album here.  I will continue to add photos as the project progresses.  We have already finished stripping the hull of the first boat.  I hope to get the forms ready for the second boat so that we can work on stripping both boats on Monday.  Although I tend to be overly optimistic on my timeframes, I hope to be able to fiberglass the outside of the kayaks by the end of the week or the first thing next week.

Most of the wood for these projects has been salvaged from siding from houses that were re-sided.  The wood was going to be burned, but we were able to take it and rip it into strips that will eventually be these boats.  On the bottom of the first boat, we have used many strips that have nail holes in them.  The symbolism of nail holes to a Christian should need no explanation.  Nonetheless, as the project continues we are reminded of the redemption that is ours through the nails that pierced the Lord Jesus.  So too, we have taken materials that were doomed to burn, and are in the process of redeeming them into something both beautiful and useful.

I’ll try to give more thoughts and updates as time allows.

Dale Skinner (78) and Hudson Erickson (2) working together on the kayak.

Dale Skinner (78) fits the final strips, while Hudson Erickson (2) pulls staples with dad's leatherman.

Are You Goverened Increasingly By God’s Word?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 4, 2009 by gospel2live

This is question two from Don Whitney’s book, Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health.  For an index to the posts in this series, click here! 

The value of the Bible cannot be overstated.  Scripture refers to itself as water, food, light, a fire and tool, a weapon, and a seed.  The Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12

If this is true, why do so many professing Christians stagger through life without having the Bible make any clear difference in their day to day lives?  If you find yourself not having a love for the Bible, your spiritual health is likely to be very weak, if not dead.  One of the marks of a growing believer in Jesus, is a growing love for the Bible and an increasing role in how it shapes our day to day decisions and activities.

Whitney points to the example of Jesus, who routinely uses scripture to teach, to respond to temptation, and to settle disputes.  Although Jesus was fully God, it should be noted that the scripture he quoted throughout his ministry had been memorized as a man.  Jesus placed a tremendous value on the scriptures.

So, what does it mean to be increasingly goverened by God’s Word?  Whitney says, “Speaking in a practical way, you know that God’s Word is growing in its influence over you when you can point to increasing numbers of beliefs and actions that have been changed because of the potency of specific texts of scripture…. You remember various turning points where you stopped or started some action or habit as a result of a new understanding of biblical truth.”

Whitney gives several specific examples of how his life has been shaped and changed by the study of scripture.  The examples have a common theme of moving from practices that are simply assumed, to an intentionality in practice that arises from the exhortations of scripture.  Instead of having an attitude of accepting a practice on the basis of no scripture preventing it, he has moved towards a positive shaping of his actions by what scripture teaches.  This moves us out of an apathetic acceptance towards a proactive molding and shaping of our actions by scripture.

Whitney recomends the following practices to develop our dependence on God’s Word:

First, we need to deepen our DESIRE for God’s Word.  We do this through sitting under good preaching in our church, and through other available means.  He again calls on us to pray through scripture and to spend time to meditate on it, not merely read it.

Second, he recommends that me make time for God’s Word.  We diligently and faithfully take time to eat our physical food.  We need to exercise the same diligence in taking time to eat our spiritual food.

Third, read the Bible daily and do not close it until you know at least one thing GOd would have you do in response to your reading.  This gets us out of the trap of reading intellectually and moves us into application.  Don’t be only a hearer of the Word, but a doer of the Word!

Fourth, he urges us to list at least five areas we have not considered from a biblical perspective and to consider one each day for the next five days.  Whitney gives a long list of possible topics to prime the pump, so that you can practice exploring topics from a biblical perspective.

Finally, he urges us to train ourselves to ask “How does the Bible speak to this?”  Learning to ask this question about more and more areas of our lives reflects an increasing desire to bring glory to God and to submit to his will for us.  It will enable us to reflect not just an intellectual faith, but a faith the comes from authentic desire and affections for out great God and savior, Jesus Christ!

Do you thirst for God?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 1, 2009 by gospel2live

This is question one from Don Whitney’s book, Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health.  For an index to the posts in this series, click here!

Whitney describes three types of “soul thirst.”  The thirst of the empty soul is  the unsatisfiable desires of the person who does not know Jesus.  They seek satisfaction from many different places, but can never be filled.  Even when empty souls seek God, they ar enot seeking the God of scripture, but rather a god that will be what they want him to be.  The only cure for this thirst is to be reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ — to come to the one who offers “living water” to all who will drink.

The second type of thirst is that of the dry soul.  This is one who has experienced the soul satisfaction of the rivers of living waters, but is experiencing a season of spiritual dryness.  Whitney gives three reasons for this condition.  First, a soul becomes dry by drinking too much of the fountain of the world.  Similar to drinking salt water, turning to the world’s pleasures will leave us thirsty in all the wrong ways.  Second, sometimes God allows us to experience a period where his presence is not clearly perceived — what the Puritans described as “God’s Desertions.”  Third, spiritual dryness may be the result of physical or mental fatigue.  Foregoing the Sabbath and not taking adequate time for rest and rejuvenation can lead us to a point where we are dry and barren spiritually.

The third type of thirst is that of the satisfied soul.  This is an increased thirst for God that comes from letting him satisfy our thirst!  Although this might seem to be a contradiction, the more we drink deeply from the soul-satisfying knowledge of God, the more we desire to drink.  God graciously allows us to crave more of His water, the more we drink.  The difference from the other thirsts is that this is deeply satisfying thirst. 

Whitney goes on to explain how spiritual thirst is actually a blessing of God.  First, God initiates spiritual thirst through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence.  Second, the purpose for which God initiates spiritual thirst is so that HE might satisfy it.  He satisfies our existing thirst and gives us a greater craving and capacity to continue drinking!  Thus, we continue to thirst and drink and thirst until we are finally able to be fully satisfied as we behold him as he is.

Whitney gives three practical steps for “thirsting after the thirst-slaker.”  First, meditate on scripture.  Don’t just read it, but think about it.  Let it swirl around so that you can taste and savor the truth in it.  With literally thousands of bits of information flowing through your mind each day, slow down and let the water of life be absorbed, and not just pass right through.  

Second, pray through scripture.  Use the words inspired by God, to talk to God.  This begins to flow naturally out of meditation as we slow down and take time to make scripture more important in our lives.

Finally, Whitney encourages us to read thirst-making writers.  Let me encourage you to consider Whitney to be one of those writers!  To get his list of these types of writers, get your hands on a copy of this book.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  Matthew 5:6

Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 1, 2009 by gospel2live

Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, by Donald Whitney, is one of the books I am currently reading.  Whitney provides these questions with scriptural guidance for why they are important to our spiritual health, and then concludes each chapter with practical steps to help cultivate the particular area of spiritual health.  God willing, I will try to post a brief summary of each chapter on the blog, so that you can take your own spiritual checkup.  Better yet, click on the link and get your own copy!

Here are the ten questions:

  1. Do you thirst for God?
  2. Are you governed increasingly by God’s Word?
  3. Are you more loving?
  4. Are you more sensitive to God’s presence?
  5. Do you have a growing concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of others?
  6. Do you delight in the Bride of Christ?
  7. Are the Spiritual Disciplines increasingly important to you?
  8. Do you still grieve over sin?
  9. Are you a quick forgiver?
  10. Do you yearn for Heaven and to be with Jesus?

 Most of us have a tendency to take our health for granted, whether physically or spiritually.  So take some time for a spiritual checkup and evaluate your own life in light of Dr. Whitney’s questions.

The Flu, the Hospital, and the Hard Days of Parenting

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2009 by gospel2live

This morning, our youngest was released from the hospital after spending a day being re-hydrated.  Last week was spent being sick and caring for the sick around our house.  We had to take turns in both departments — at least between mom, dad, and the older kids.  Our 1 and nearly 3 year old have been hit especially hard by this flu, as they have had fevers, aches, and all sorts of tummy troubles. 

Late Saturday evening, I took Harper in because he had stopped eating and drinking and had not had a wet diaper all day.  After triage, they sent me out to finish registering while they prepared the room in the ER.  On cue, Harper vomited all over me, soaking my coat and the shirt underneath.  Then, while wearing the shirt dry, I held him down while the nurses tried to get an IV line into his tiny little dehydrated veins.  It took them two tries.

Life back home wasn’t a whole lot easier — in fact, I probably had the easier assignment.  Kim didn’t have nurses to help change soiled bedding and diapers.  Her favorite chair starred as a stunt double for my shirt and took the vomit duty.

When we agreed to adopt again, we knew there would be days (and weeks!) like this.  It’s one of the things that made us think twice about starting all over again with little ones.  However, even though we just came home today, there are already evidences of God’s grace visible through the difficulties.

First, what can I say about Jim?  My dear friend picked up clothes and supplies from Kim at home, brought them to the hospital, returned to my house bearing the carseat for Hudson, and snuck back into our hospital room with a treat and some cash for supper!  I know how he hates the thought of picking up illness from us “carriers,” which only helps me to appreciate the kindness of God in enabling Jim to show us such mercy.

Kim put together clothes for me, and threw in my absolute, most comfortable, long sleeve, camo hunting T-shirt.  (Then again, maybe she was secretly hoping it would get puked on!)  She came out in wet, windy and nearly freezing weather to hang with us in the hospital for awhile Sunday afternoon, and allowed me a chance to get some fresh air and a bite to eat.

The church in Side Lake was extremely gracious to me.  Even as I called early Sunday morning to let them know I couldn’t get out there to preach, their first concern was to pray for me, assure me of their love, and encourage me.  I count it a great privilege to be able to bring them the Word of God on a (nearly!) weekly basis.

God gave opportunities for great conversations with nurses and other staff at the hospital.  Even as we were preparing to leave, two nursing students who were doing an assignment by trying to practice getting vital signs off Harper began to kill time by asking questions about parenting, marriage and faith.  As a result, I had the chance to explain that ALL of us are under God’s wrath, unless we turn to Jesus as our substitute.  Therefore, it is important for us as pastors to let people know that we are NOT good enough for heaven, but saved only because God loved us enough to save us.

Truthfully, I would not choose to have my child get sick, just to get an opportunity to share the Gospel.  However, since God had placed us in that position, I had to decide how I was going to respond.  Getting upset, complaining about my lot, being impatient, or any number of other responses would come quite naturally to me.  However, by God’s grace, I hope that the nurses, doctors, interns, janitors, and others got a glimpse of a peace that passes understanding.  Hopefully, they saw a horizontal love towards my adopted child that in some small way images the vertical love my Heavenly Father has shown me.