Thursday, April 30, 2009

Book Review - Bible Doctrine

In Bible Doctrine, a condensed version of his longer Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem provides an excellent resource for study groups, Sunday School classes or individual study. When I first purchased this book to use in teaching a youth Sunday School class, I was a little hesitant as most Bible doctrine books I had seen either oversimplified things or was so difficult to understand it made teaching from it almost impossible. However, Grudem’s writing style here was simple and quite easy to understand, yet at the same time did not sacrifice key elements of doctrine in order to obtain that simplicity.

Grudem covers what he views as seven key topics of Christianity: The Doctrines of the Word of God, God, Man, Christ and the Holy Spirit, Application of Redemption, the Church, and the Future. Each is divided up into several chapters that read very much like a class outline. There are review questions, application questions, special terms and Scripture memory passages at the end of each chapter.

What I especially appreciate about Grudem is the way in which he presents varying viewpoints on issues that have presented some disagreement. Because this book seems designed for classroom use, space does not allow him to dive into all the nuances of each argument, yet he still manages to present most, if not all sides quite fairly, presenting Scriptural arguments used to support each. While he divulges which view he holds to, he does it in such a way as to encourage the reader to further study the issue and decide for himself.

For example, while discussing the topic of Creation under the Doctrine of God, he briefly touches on the fact that many evangelicals disagree on the age of the earth. He presents arguments for both an old and a young earth, with Scriptural support and interpretation for each. His conclusion was that while “Scripture seems to be more easily understood to suggest (but not to require) a young earth view…. It should be said at this point that, with the information we now have, it is not at all easy to decide this question with certainty. The possibility must be left open that God has chosen not to give us enough information to come to a clear decision on this question and the real test of faithfulness to him may be the degree to which we can act charitably toward those who in good conscience and full belief in God’s Word hold to a different position on this matter.” (p.139)

It is with this wisdom that Grudem approaches many of the topics and one of the main reasons I would highly recommend this book, especially for beginners of theological study. It’s ease of use and understandability make it a valuable addition to any bookshelf.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dark Helmet

May the schwartz be with you!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

You Get a Line and I'll Get a Pole...

I’m not sure what it is about fishing that little boys (and some big boys) like. I remember the few times that I went fishing when I was little. The first thing I caught? My dad! Yep, accidentally hooked him. Sorry Pops! Anyway, Carlos had been begging me for some time to take him fishing. Now, I’m not much of a fisherman. Actually, I’m not at all a fisherman! I don’t know the first thing about baits, lures, reels, or even what kind of fish I’m looking at even if it were staring me bug-eyed in the face.

But when I heard that Boones Mill would be having its 3rd annual Maggodee Children’s Fishing Rodeo last weekend, I thought it would be a great thing for Carlos, Jeremiah and I to go to and spend some time together while fishing. Jeremiah was very excited about his fishing pole, mainly because it was red and blue with a picture of Spiderman on it. Carlos insisted his pole was of Batman since it was all black. Saturday morning, we drove down to Boones Mill and joined many other families along the river trying to catch the unsuspecting fish. And since the creek was going to be well stocked with over 1,500 fish, I figured the chances were pretty good that we’d catch at least one. The fish, sadly, thought otherwise.

Although Carlos got a little nibble on his hook, we didn’t catch a single fish. He was rather upset because he saw lots of other people all around us catching them left and right. Lesson learned: fish don’t particularly care for fake worms. Next time we’ll bring some live bait. There were even a couple of orange fish right in front of us at one point, but try as Carlos might to get them interested in his plastic bait, the fish wouldn’t even blink an eye at it. Which was to be expected I guess since fish don’t blink.

But it was still a good day drowning fake worms and enjoying the beautiful weather. There was live bluegrass music, plenty of food, a couple of rides for small children, and even some duck races every hour. I think we just might do this again.

Such concentration...

If you look closely, you can see the two orange fish.

One of the ever elusive ninja fish

Monday, April 27, 2009

Music Monday - Bless the Lord

Laura Story is another new artist that I've just recently discovered. Her music is uplifting and filled with praises to God. Many have heard her song "Indescribable" sung by Chris Tomlin. I would highly recommend her album! Here is "Bless the Lord." Stay tuned for more Music Mondays featuring Laura Story's music!

You give and take away for my good
For who am I to say what I need?
For You alone see the hidden parts of me
that need to be stripped away.

And as You begin to refine
I’m learning to let go and rely
on One who walks with me
As hard as it may be,
You’re teaching me all the while to say:

Bless the Lord, O my soul
All that’s in me bless Your name
Forget not Your power un- told
not Your glory or Your fame
For You came to heal the broken
to redeem and make me whole
Bless the Lord, O my soul.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Augmented Reality

Okay, as any of you may have guessed by now, I learned a long time ago to embrace my inner geek. So when I came across GE’s Augmented Reality web site, I exclaimed “How incredibly cool is that?!?” Just ask my wife who only looked at me with a worried expression on her face.

GE has historically had some pretty cute marketing ideas. This one is designed to promote their Smart Grid technology, billed as being a more eco-friendly by using alternate energy sources such as wind turbines and solar panels. Further, according to Wikipedia, “a smart grid delivers electricity from suppliers to consumers using digital technology to save energy, reduce cost and increase reliability.” While I don’t know all the ins and outs, pros and cons of Smart Grid Technology (sounds like a good idea, at least), I have to say that GE’s Augmented Reality is pretty cool. Check out the following video demonstration. If you want to try it out for yourself, click here. You’ll need a web cam and be able to print out a sheet of paper from the web site.

(Side note: as was pointed out to me, you have to wonder about the eco-friendliness of a promotional tool that has you print out a piece of paper only to throw it away 5 minutes later. But anyway…)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pastors and "pastors"

Some time ago, Carlos wanted so much to wear a tie or what he called a “pastor.” Not quite sure why he called it that, but it’s probably because our Pastor wears one the majority of the time. He was so excited when we got him a little clip-on tie and couldn’t wait to wear it to church. Ever since then, he, Jeremiah and Natalie have called ties a “pastor.”

This past Sunday, we were getting the kids dressed. Sarah had picked out a little “pastor” for Ben to wear. Ben would have nothing to do with it, but Natalie thought it would look good on her. She donned the “pastor” and Jeremiah exclaimed, “Natalie, you can preach now ‘cuz you have a pastor!”

That evening after the service, Carlos, ever the social butterfly, stopped to see Pastor Tim who immediately interrupted his conversation to give Carlos a hug. Carlos commented on Tim’s tie, saying that he “had a pastor too.” Then Tim said, “You know what Carlos, may I pray for you? I’ll pray that God will help you be wise as you grow and perhaps some day make you a Pastor too.” And so right then, with Carlos grinning sheepishly, Tim prayed for him and gave him a hug once more.

Why do I share this? There are some who simply play the role of being a pastor, but often it doesn’t seem to go any deeper than the tie around their neck. They’ve got the right dressing, but that’s about it. But then there are those who “rightly divide the word of God;” they weep with those who weep; they correct those who need correcting; they encourage those who are fallen; and they take the time to be an Godly influence (however small or great) to an energetic, talkative and friendly 7-year old boy by simply praying for him (and his dad!).

That’s my Pastor.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Music Monday - He Reigns

"Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, 'Hallelujah!For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory...'" (Rev.19:6-7a)

Newsboys - "He Reigns!"

Saturday, April 18, 2009

You & Me, the both of us, together!

Last Sunday and Monday, Sarah & I got to go away on a wonderful trip to Virginia Beach by ourselves. We stayed in a very nice hotel and got to walk along the waterfront for a little while. Part of the fun was that Sarah had no idea where we were going – and believe me, it was VERY hard not telling her! But before you start thinking, “You go, Stephen! You da’ man!” I have to make a confession. This was not my idea (it should have been!) and I almost screwed things up royally.

Back in late January, Sarah asked to go on a trip somewhere for her birthday in February. It didn’t matter where. She only wanted to get away for a day. Immediately, my brain went into man-mode. Or rather, it stayed in man-mode. I started scouring the internet for ideas of where to take her, what we could do, etc., etc. The problem (as I saw it) was that the weather in February was not at all conducive to much outdoor activity; there weren’t any concerts or such playing on the days we would be going on our trip; and there just wasn’t that many options for things to do. As a result, I didn’t plan anything and thought perhaps we could just “find something to do” that day.

Yeah, exactly. You can take your “’atta boy” back now.

Needless to say, Sarah was very disappointed and rightly so. We decided to postpone for a later month. So I started planning again. I had a couple of ideas, but it was mostly dependent on the weather. I still hadn’t quite gotten the hint. I hadn’t understood what Sarah wanted.

We dropped the kiddos off at a friend’s house (thank you Summer and James!!) on Sunday afternoon and traveled to Virginia Beach. Along the way, we talked about this, that and the other, just enjoying having an uninterrupted conversation. We relaxed in our hotel at the very nice Westin Hotel and enjoyed the view from our 15th floor corner room. The next day, after luxuriously sleeping in and having an in-room breakfast, we drove down to the beach and walked along the waterfront for about an hour. Then we headed off to Williamsburg to spend a few hours at Busch Gardens before heading home. It was a very nice trip!

It wasn’t until later this week that I realized where I had gone horribly wrong in planning the whole thing. When Sarah said she wanted to go on a trip, I immediately started thinking of fun things to do, interesting places to go, etc (otherwise known as “man-mode”). Even in the second round of planning, I missed the point. It didn’t matter to her what we did or where we went, she just wanted us to spend time together sans kiddos. Perhaps one of the most enjoyable parts of the trip was the journey there because we spent almost the whole trip just talking and getting to know one another more. The “doing together” didn’t matter a fraction as much as simply “being together.” Sarah spends most of her days doing, doing, doing without a lot of opportunity for us to simply relax and be together.

Any guys out there reading this, hopefully you can learn a lesson from my mistake. Sometimes, your wife simply wants to be with you. Doesn’t matter that the weather is crappy/sunny and there is nothing/everything to do. If nothing else, take a 5 hour drive together and talk about whatever comes to mind. Stay at a hotel for one night and just be together. I’ve discovered that even though I had planned these different things, what Sarah had originally wanted ended up being the best part – time spend together.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Twitter Overboard

So I’m on my way to work this morning, driving along, happily listening to my audiobook (Tony Horwitz is a pretty good writer, just finished Voyage Long and Strange and am now listening to Confederates in the Attic. Good stuff.) I glanced up at the digital billboard near Lowes/Home Depot and had to do a double take. The ad was simply a blue background, the Twitter logo, and the words “Follow Ashton Kutcher” and gave his twitter address. That’s it.

I remember thinking, “That is incredibly odd. Is this guy really that in need of attention that he pays for advertising to drive people to his twittering or tweeting or whatever it’s called?” But as with most things, there was a bigger story here. Once again, Google came to the rescue.

Apparently, Kutcher and CNN were in some kind of race to see who would be the first to reach 1 million twits – I mean followers. This more than likely explains the billboard. CNN lost by about 1,200. Now we’ll get to hear from all the talking heads and pundits about how one person gained a greater following than the giant news media that is CNN.

For all those poor saps who started following Kutcher’s or CNN’s blatherings and are now discovering that you can’t “unfollow” them, there is good news. CNET tells how to unfollow either one of them (or both!). You can thank me by following my tweets. ;)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Shocking Surpise of Susan Boyle

With shades of Paul Potts, Britain's Got Talent seems to have found its winner once again in a person who at first glance seems the most unlikeliest of vocalists. When the video first begins, the audience's and the judge's reaction to Susan Boyle was one of incredibly skepticism. They were judging her before she had even sung her first note. But then she started singing and the responses went from skepticism to adoration with lightning speed. And what a voice! Enjoy the following video of Susan Boyle singing one of my favorite pieces from Les Miserables, "I Dreamed a Dream." Embedding was disabled, but the click is well worth your time.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Music Monday - The Love of God

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Roman 8:31-39

Mercy Me singing "The Love of God"

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.


O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Newsong's "Arise My Love"

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Thoughts on the Bible Conference

Last week, we had our Spring Bible Conference at Grace Church. The guest speaker, Dr. Dennis Johnson, spoke on the Christ-centeredness of Scripture. He laid the foundation for the Bible Conference speaking from Luke 24 where Jesus, after his resurrection and on the road to Emmaus, showed the two disciples how all of Scripture pointed to himself.

The conference’s topic was a good reminder that ALL of Scripture points to Christ. I think sometimes that we view the Old Testament as good history books filled with examples for us. There are a few prophecies that are about Christ directly and we see these mainly because they are pointed out to us in the New Testament. We are told that the Temple and the sacrificial laws are shadows of and find their fulfillment in Christ. But what about those passages that don’t seem to have any connection to Christ? How do we see Christ in these verses?

One evening, we were having our family prayer time and were reading in 1 Kings 13. In this story, a nameless man of God confronts Jeroboam’s sin of idolatry. His message delivered, the man of God departs. An old prophet found out about the man of God, saddled up his donkey, and went to find the man and invite him to dinner. Pretty hospitable guy, right? Well, apparently the man of God had been told by God not to “eat bread nor drink water there” (v.17). The old prophet then lies to the man of God saying something like “Hey, what do you know? I’m a prophet too! And guess what? God told me to tell you it’s okay for you to come to my house” (v.18 – very loosely paraphrased). The man of God gives in, goes home with the old, lying, hospitable prophet, and has lunch. The old prophet then gives him a real message from God – “Because you disobeyed, you’re going to die.” Sure enough, as the man of God is riding home, a lion comes along and kills him. After we read this, Sarah asked, “So how do we see Christ in this passage?” I had no clue! But that’s when the Bible Conference’s next service helped tremendously.

Dr. Johnson’s lesson the very next morning was on recognizing Christ’s role as prophet, priest and king. “Ask every text of Scripture: ‘What aspect of Christ’s work as mediator comes into the spotlight in this passage?’
• His revealing role as prophet, enabling us to know the Father and hear his Word?
• His ruling role as king, acting with wisdom, courage and justice to assert God’s reign in the world?
• His reconciling, relationship-restoring role as priest, who gave himself for us and ever lives to intercede for us before the Father…and to bring us into that Holy Place?”

Further, when we read a passage and ask these questions, we can look for an example of either what Christ is or what Christ is not. Armed with this, I went back to the 1 Kings passage to see how Christ can be seen. What I found was awesome, to say the least.

Since the passage was already talking about a person as prophet, I thought I’d start with that since it seemed the most obvious. How was Christ’s role as prophet being spotlighted? The man of God already had God’s word revealed to him. He knew the law and knew what he was supposed to do. But the old prophet came along and said something completely different, in essence doing away with and contradicting God’s Word. This is directly opposite of what Christ said he does in Matt.5:17 – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” On the one hand, you’ve got a prophet that attempts to change what God has said. He is the antithesis of Christ. The result is that the law is broken and death is brought about. On the other hand, you’ve got a Prophet (Christ) that doesn’t change anything, but rather brings God’s word to fulfillment. The result is the law is fulfilled and life is given!

This discovery turned a rather odd story into one where Christ’s role as Prophet can be seen and where we get an Old Testament glimpse of a New Testament truth. It definitely has me eager to “search the Scriptures” for more of such glimpses.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Music Monday - For the Glory of Your Name

This an artist I hadn't heard before. Here is Michelle Tumes singing "For the Glory of Your Name."

Friday, April 3, 2009

Free Audiobook for April


The free audiobook download for April, So Beautiful: God's Divine Design for Life and the Church is something of a first for christianaudio. The audiobook version is actually being released before the print book is even available! This brand new book from author and theologian Len Sweet (The Gospel According to Starbucks) is a fresh look at God's church.

What is commonly known as DNA today was called " pretty!" when it was discovered years ago, and over the course of his ministry, author Leonard Sweet has discovered that this divine design also informs God's blueprint for the church. In this seminal work, he shares the woven strands that form the church: missional, relational, and incarnational. Sweet declares that this secret is So Beautiful!

Using the poignant life of John Newton as a touchstone, Sweet calls for the re-union of these three essential, complementary strands of the Christian life. Far from a novel idea, Sweet shows how this structure is God's original intent and shares the simply beautiful design for His church.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cat's in the Cradle

Carlos has this game that he likes to play. I use the word “game” loosely since most of the time he plays it after he has gotten in trouble over something. After being corrected on something, he’ll ask me if I had to do this or that when I was a little boy. For example, he might be complaining about the fact that bed time is fast approaching and ask, “Papi, did you have to go to bed at 8:00 when you were little?” Or upon seeing some undesirable food items on his plate, he’ll ask, “Papi, did you have to eat all your food when you were little?” And so on.

The underlying cause behind the question is to compare his state in life to mine and see if they match up or to see if there is any perceived unfairness. And to be honest, it got to be very annoying and I would end up dismissing his question by answering “It doesn’t matter what I got to do.”

The more I thought about this though, the more I realized that what I got to do when I was little did in fact matter. My parents did make me eat all my food (even the detested broccoli!); I did have a set bed time; I did have chores and schoolwork, etc. And I had all these things because my parents knew something I didn’t know. Well, a lot of somethings, actually. They knew that the values they taught me as a child would be the same values I would have as an adult and the same values I would teach my children. They taught me not to be wasteful (“Don’t take more than you can eat”), to be grateful even for the unpleasant things (“Yes, you need to eat the broccoli”), and to be responsible (“Have you done your chores?”), among many things. They also taught me that as my parents, they had a God-given responsibility for and authority over me. Sometimes they gave explanations for directions they gave, sometimes they didn’t. But my responsibility as their child was to honor and obey them, even when I didn’t understand, agree or like it.

Now, when Carlos asks me what my life was like as a little boy, I try to tell him that yes, my parents made me do this too. And I tell him that I’m glad they did.