Archive for June, 2008

Read a brief interview with Tim Keller about his upcoming book, The Prodigal God.  They talked about the title (the subtitle has been changed).  A commenter found the use of prodigal in reference to God to be blasphemous.  Richard Pratt used the dictum that “meaning is use.”  Words have a range of meaning, so you must ask which is being used.  So, I looked up the various meanings of prodigal.


1. wastefully or recklessly extravagant: prodigal expenditure.
2. giving or yielding profusely; lavish (usually fol. by of or with): prodigal of smiles; prodigal with money.
3. lavishly abundant; profuse: nature’s prodigal resources.


4. a person who spends, or has spent, his or her money or substance with wasteful extravagance; spendthrift.

Not all of the uses in the range of meaning imply impropriety.  How Tim Keller is using it is determinative, not how a reader interprets it (unless we all want to become literary deconstructionists, which the aforementioned critic would quickly disavow). 

God is lavish in his love and grace, far more than we his people can be.  This is the point of the parable, that God is lavish in love and mercy while we self-righteous religious folks are anything but.  We’d rather hammer a brother over our misgivings about the title of a book.  I can be the Pharisee too … I need to repeatedly hear of God’s lavishly abundant love for me, the richness of his mercy and outpouring of his grace.  So, I’m looking forward to reading about the God who left home to bring people like me home to him.

Update: Tullian Tchividjian asked Tim about it, and got a great response.

Update #2: Between 2 Worlds (Justin Taylor) reminds us of Spurgeon’s sermon on this text-  Many Kisses for Returning Sinners, or Prodigal Love for the Prodigal Son.  Love the way he uses 2 different meaning for the same word in the same sentence.  Love Spurgeon!

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“Keep hope alive.”  Martin Luther King, Jr. knew that hope was a fragile thing.  And there is nothing Evil wants to do as much as kill hope that we might be overcome with despair.

Hope is one of those words that is easily misunderstood.  Often we think of it as a wish.  I hope the Red Sox win tonight.  But for the Christian, hope is far more profound that that.  As one whose hope is under siege, I needed to read The Dream of Hope in The Healing Path by Dan Allender.

“Hope is the quiet, sometimes incessant call to dream for the future.  The present moment is not enough to satisfy our souls completely; no matter how good or bad, the now leaves us hungering for more.  … Biblical hope is substantial faith regarding the future.”

Hope is not vague, but substantial.  It has weight to it, specifics.  And this is why hope can be so maddening.  It seems so far off at times, as if those desires are impossible to fulfill.

“Only the lenses of faith can put suffering into perspective.  When faith enables us to remember how God has redeemed portions of our past, our anticipation of when and how he will redeem us in the future increases.  … Gabriel Marcel defined hope as “a memory of the future.”

Hope looks past present suffering, aided by past deliverance.  Hope is sure God will come through, at some point, and deliver because he has a track record of delivering his people.  He has a track record of delivering me, so as I suffer I look ahead to when he eventually will reach down and lift me up.

We keep hope alive, in part, by reciting how God has delivered his people and us over time.  We remember, dragging those memories from the forgotten parts of our minds.  We rehearse God’s past faithfulness so we will lean on his future faithfulness rather than despair and give up.

“Hope focuses not on our circumstances, but on Christ’s coming and the redemption of our character.  .. My heart will never become any bigger than that in which or in whom I hope.  … Hope is a muscle that must be nourished and exercised daily to grow throug the normal nutrients of knowing and doing God’s will.  I wish hope progressed naturally and easily just as our body develops from infancy to adulthood.  Instead, hope grows through encounters that require us to risk, struggle, surrender and wait.”


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This weekend I had the privilege of officiating the wedding ceremony of a great friend who was marrying a great woman.  They are … a great couple.

Since it was nearly 2 hours away drive-time, and CavGirl was the flower girl, we ended up staying in a Residence Inn about 30 minutes away from the wedding site.  We packed up the car and headed out Friday morning, hoping to enjoy some time at the hotel before naps.  Alas, that was not to be so since it took longer to get there than I had anticipated.  It was farther north than I thought, which was advantageous when it came to going back and forth for rehearsal & the wedding with 2 toddlers.

The front desk informed us that due to a lightning strike, they would have to test the alarm system that afternoon.  But they checked our room before we even got settled in.

After I unloaded the car, I set out to iron my clothes for that evening.  I wouldn’t be able to do it with the kids down for a nap.  At that point CavWife asked about the dresses for CavGirl, and her own clothing for the festivities that night and the next.  “Huh?  What clothes?  I thought you got them?”  I was informed that I actually had to move them off my suit to load it into the car.  She was without appropriate clothing for the rehearsal and dinner to follow.   Neither of us was happy.

Now I’m checking out the LG HD LCD TVs in the rooms.  I have TV envy- the picture is so incredibly sharp.  After the kids enjoy their lunch it is off to bed for them.  I wonder, what are we eating?  Apparently I’m off to hunt up some grub for 2 starving adults.  After splitting a McDonald’s Asian salad and some McTenders we settle in for the afternoon.  All was going fabulously until I started to get ready for the rehearsal.  Suddenly the alarms for the whole building are blaring- the kids are screaming (well, they had to get up anyway).  It is so ear-piercing we take them out by the pool to calm them down.  I couldn’t even think in there.  This is the effect they wanted them to have.  But I had flashbacks to 3 am fire alarms in college.


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The struggle between faith and doubt takes place in every Christian’s heart.  Our circumstances can foster doubts.  These doubts will either drive the roots of faith deeper, or expose that our faith is misplaced such we “lose our faith.”

Dan Allender addresses this in The Wager of Faith, part of The Healing Path.  Here are some things I need to remember, and perhaps you need to remember as faith and doubt do war in your soul.

“Faith involves placing our well-being into the hands of others who we hope are committed to do us good.”

God is committed to my well-being.  Ruthlessly committed to my well-being.  This does not mean that my circumstances will be good, but that God is conforming me to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:28-9).  Not everyone is so committed to my well-being, and sometimes we are betrayed.

“Our past may blind us or distort what we consider good or bad, but our conscience continues to warn, chide, and rejoice in truthful loving. … Faith is trust in the goodness of God.”

Our own sinfulness, our particular sins and how we’ve been sinned against color our perspective.  This creates some of the doubt we experience.  We struggle to believe that God is good when life is particularly difficult.  I know I do. 


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The last few weeks have been just that.  It has been good that I am not working because I feel like I’ve been all around central Florida.  I have taken CavSon for doctor’s appointments and testing in Lakeland and Orlando.  I’ve gone to meetings about job openings in Tampa.  Lunch with pastors in Avon Park, preaching in Avon Park.  I brought the laptop to the Geek Squad in Lakeland (reason for the decrease in the number of posts, and lack of pics of the family).  Gas is $4/gallon and I’m driving more than ever.  This weekend we all head up to Brooksville for a wedding.

CavSon may have some mild hearing loss associated with the frequent ear infections experienced by children with cleft palates.  Next week I bring him back to Orlando to make sure his left ear is healthy.  Our surgeon expressed some concern about that ear.  He has begun speech therapy (no driving, the guy comes to our home).  We are trying to work on the expulsive consonants (b, p and so forth).  He has to learn how to use the muscles in his mouth.  Much of what he says is a slur of vowels right now.

CavDaughter is going everywhere on her new bike.  A friend down the street got a new bike for her birthday, and decided to give her old, smaller bike to our daughter.  She is excited to be riding it, though she has not yet learned how to use the brakes.  This makes for some interesting moments.

She’s trying to “sow her oats” as only a 3 1/2 year-old can.  We are having to address an increase in disrespect and demandingness.    This can make for a long day.

While I’m in my borrowed office, I try to look for work on-line.  Not terribly exciting.  It confirms my internal call as I await a new external call.  I’m trying to keep up with what is going on in the world (theological, political, sports etc.) but am falling way behind since I can’t surf at night.  Perhaps this is good for me.  I’m not reading as much as I’d like, either.

The return of rain also means the return of mowing season here in Florida.  My brown desert hath bloomed all green.  I will need to put in increased lawn time now.

Put it all together and I feel quite harried and pressured as the future intrudes on my present.  I’m looking forward to a few days away from it all for the wedding.  Perhaps it will clear my head and heart.  But until then, I’ve got to work on a homily.

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One of my good friends is about to be married.  He has lots of changes going on: graduated from seminary, starting a new job in a new town, and taking a bride.  We met when he rented a room from me the summer before my own marriage.  He’s lived with us 2 times since then as he underwent transitions.

I couldn’t make his official bachelor party (a Cubs game in St. Pete).  So, some friends and I locally decided to spend an evening with him saying good-bye in a guy kind of way.

That meant wings, snacks with tons of carbs, beer and Monty Python.  After spending some time talking about life on the back porch we headed in for some movies.  One of our friends has somehow had the misfortune to never seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  I’m not quite sure how he liked it yet, but when the movie abruptly ended he cried out, “That’s it?!”.  You expect something else with them?

I was reminded of my own wedding.  It was December 27th, so I was so wrapped up in the church’s Advent preparations that I couldn’t really think about the fact that I was getting married so soon.  It really didn’t hit me until I was getting ready to board my Christmas Day flight to NJ.

I wasn’t really scared, except for about 5 minutes.  I had checked into our hotel room in the afternoon of the 27th.  I took a nap and was getting ready when it hit me.  “Wow, life is about to change irrevokably.”  I figured that was a good thing, and it was.

I’m glad that this weekend I have the honor to officiate the wedding ceremony.  This one definitely one of the greatest parts of ordained ministry.  I love to see the faces of the grooms when their bride appears.  I get a front row seat to some great stuff.

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I’ve been focused on the serious side lately.  We all need distractions.  These are stories I ran across today between CavSon’s hearing evaluation and speech therapy.

God sold cocaine.  In nearby Tampa, God Lucky Howard was arrested for selling cocaine to undercover officers.  He did this within 1,000 feet of a church and public housing, so his charges are more severe.  I’m glad my God doesn’t numb my soul with drugs, but helps me face what ails me.

There is a Messiah in Siberia.  He used to be a traffic cop, and now claims he is Jesus Christ.  Sadly, over 5,000 people have left their homes and familes to join him in Siberia.  Over 10,000 people worldwide belong to the Church of the Last Testament.  That they are strict vegetarians, don’t smoke or drink says enough for me.  We could use more windmills and solar panels, though.

People are still looking for a Messiah, someone to save them from their circumstances.  The unfortunate thing is they by-pass the real Messiah and settle for lousy imitations.  Man truly is a perpetual factory of idols (Calvin).

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I’ve already considered the first 6 chapters of Paul Tripp’s Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands.  That provides a theological foundation for one another, or personal, ministry.  The rest of the book is Tripp’s model for personal ministry.

He does not lay out steps, but rather simultaneous practices: love, know, speak, do.  He explains how personal ministry is loving people, getting to know them (and their sin), speaking truth (in love) and the process of moving them from one place to another (agenda, responsibility, identity).

I found this model to be quite helpful.  It is not just helpful for pastors & counselors, but is intended to be used by normal Christians as they minister to one another.  This is a great way to train lay leaders (elders, small group leaders, ministry leaders/volunteers) in how to do personal ministry.

It is easy to understand, and contains many examples from Paul’s own personal & ministry experience.  The only constructive criticism would be to make some of the chapters shorter, and therefore easier to digest.  He covers lots of ground in those chapters, often covering 2 or more important ideas.  Those chapters would have to be broken up to effectively train people in personal ministry.

One of my favorite sections is on Establishing Agenda and Clarifying Responsibility.  In particular is the eschatological nature of the Christian life (pp. 240-1).

“Paul understands the Christian life eschatologically.  This means that today is preparation for tomorrow, and tomorrow is preparation for something else yet to come. … He is exposing our wandering hearts and foolish minds and the ways we trust our passions more than the principles of his Word.  He is calling us to forsake our own glory for his, and teaching us that the idols we pursue will never satisfy us.”

“Everything you face today is premarital preparation- living now with then in view.  In contrast, sin produces in all of us a tendency toward ‘now-ism,’ which means we forget three things: who we are (betrothed to Christ); what he is doing (preparing us for the final wedding); and what we are supposed to be doing (remaining faithful to him). … A common factor in depression is self-absorbed now-ism.  Anger is often fueled by a self-righteous now-ism.  Fear and anxiety are strengthened by an obsession with the hear and now.  Maturity and perseverance are weakened by a ‘now’ mentality.”

“We all forget that God’s primary goal is not changing our situations and relationships so that we can be happy, but changing us through our situations and relationships so that we will be holy.  We need people who love God and us enough to come alongside and help us deal with our spiritual myopia.”

This is where I am living, and where most of us live.  I see the obsession with ‘now’ crippling many.  They are running a sprint rather than a marathon.  We seek mercy (a change of circumstances) rather than grace (God changing us).  Sometimes he sends mercy (thankfully!), but often the grace comes first.  He changes us before he changes our circumstances.  He is shaping our hearts.

Personal ministry is helping one another “deal with our spiritual myopia.”  What an important, essential ministry that is missing in most churches today.

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Dan Allender’s The Healing Path is just what the doctor ordered for me.  I am finding my own current struggles being played out in its pages.  After a huge disappointment you often can’t put words or labels on things.  So this has been helpful for me to understand all that is churning in my heart and my head.

Looking for a new job is an exercise in powerlessness.  You can make yourself available and try to make contacts.  This fulfills our responsibility.  But you can’t make anyone respond to you.  Here is the powerlessness and loss of hope.  I felt so much of that last week.

I decided to use my sermon on Genesis 17:1-8, which addresses Abram’s powerlessness and God’s almighty power this past Sunday.  I needed to hear it, and I think this smallish, older church needed to remember who He is too.  [sadly, it was not recorded.  I made what I think were improvements to the sermon.  Can’t control that either.]

“God’s desire is to use our powerlessness to send us fleeing back to him.  Evil wants it to send us reeling to rely on ourselves with even greater intensity.  We unwittingly follow evil’s plan when we attempt to escape our powerlessness through martyrdom, rebellion, or disengagement.”

I have a better idea of how I tend to escape this sense of powerlessness.  I’m crying out for God to rescue me and my family.  I’m remembering that He is ultimately in control, and that He loves me.

This weekend someone approached me about a job.  Could this be that last second deliverance that God specializes in?  I don’t know.  I really like what I’ve seen thus far.  Perhaps this is the place He has been preparing me for.  There is hope- and, boy am I conflicted about that.  And in the chapter I was reading Saturday night Dan addressed his own conflict with hope during their move to Seattle.  Would he dare to hope after a big disappointment?  Would he be let down again? 

But I’m finding that I can’t help but hope.  It is a sign that I am spiritually alive and have tasted the goodness of the Lord.  I am powerless regarding the outcome of this prospect.  I am responsible to respond and participate in the process.  And to pray.

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It has been a topsy-turvy week for the Cavman.  I thought I was quite close to a new position, and it ended up not happening.  So while trying to regroup I also have to rev up a job search.

This brings up some big questions for me.  Do I just “buy time” with a job that pays the bills while continuing to look for a church position that may never materialize (oh me of little faith)?  Do I shoot for something along a career path since that church position may not materialize in the reasonably near future?

I know of one guy who couldn’t find a church position and ended up at Frito Lay and relocated north.  One day a guy knocked on his door asking if he was a pastor.  “Yeah, I was.”  He wanted him to do pulpit supply for their church.  “Sure, but I’m going to shoot straight with what the Bible teaches.”  Sure.  Before he knew it, he was their pastor and they slowly became Reformed in their theological outlook.  So, stuff happens.

The future is unknown to me.  Thankfully the god of open theism doesn’t exist, so God knows what he’s going to do with me.  I don’t know and feel quite powerless at this time.  I feel like I’m dangling over a precipice.

The last time I was in this precarious position, I was single.  Now there are a wife and 2 kids to consider and care for.  That really ups the ante, if you know what I mean.

It is difficult to figure out what to do precisely because I have this sense of calling to ministry (which has been affirmed by many).  I know it isn’t rational, or make any sense, but I feel like I’m betraying God by pursuing what could be a career position.  No one said we always make sense.  But these are the inner gyroscopes that keep on course, or discombobulate us at times.  I need time, which I don’t have, to sit and think and pray.

I know God will provide, but what will He provide?  A last second call to a church that fits fairly well?  A new career that provides well for my family?  A just-get-by job to tied me over until ….?  A friend told me to think like the Israelites in Judah- settle in for the long haul rather than put life on hold.

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It only took 22 years, which is nothing compared to 86 years.  But that is still a long time when you are a life-long Celtics’ fan.  In the 80’s we had a sense of entitlement.  The Celtics were champions or contenders nearly every year that decade thanks to Larry Joe Bird, the Chief, McHale and all the rest.

It seemed nearly anti-climatic.  The Celtics just blew the Lakers out.  It reminded me of Game 7 against the Knicks in 1984.  I was there.  It had been a tough series, and Bernard King was lighting the Celtics up.  But in the 2nd half, the just ran over the Knicks for a dominating win.  KG finally showed up, and helped the Celtics dominate Kobe and the Lakers.  The Lakers had the best player, but the Celtics clearly had the better team.  And it was one of the largest point spreads in an NBA Finals game.

This was a team that I thought wouldn’t do it when the trade rumors were circulating last summer.  But Danny Ainge put together a great supporting cast for the 3 stars.  He, not Larry or Kevin, is the first player from those glory years to put together a championship team.  He had an assist from Kevin.  Danny was much maligned, but now he should feel vindicated.  The “plan” worked perfectly.

Paul Pierce should feel vindicated too.  Many people wanted him shipped off.  There were trade rumors all the time.  People dismissed him.  Not being on a team that was able to compete, he was asked to do too much and his defense suffered.  This year he showed he could play defense.  The Captain led this Celtics team to a championship.

Ray Allen should feel vindicated.  Earlier in the playoffs he was written off as D-O-N-E.  But he had a great series, breaking the record for 3 pointers in the championship series.  This despite worrying about a sick child, and having Odom rake his face.

Doc should feel vindicated.  He was accused of being a horrible coach who should have been fired long ago.  He carried the stigma of never winning a playoff series as a coach.  Now he has coached a great Finals.  He outcoached the man wanting to surpass Red.  Danny didn’t give up on him, and he proved Danny right.  He was the right man for this team.

Indeed, how sweet it is.  Now, how about 18!

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One of the interesting things I’ve been observing lately is how complementariansim can be misrepresented by both advesaries and advocates.  Both can view the complementarian “movement”  as monolithic- all of them believe the same thing.  They have some basic foundational tenents which make them complementarian.  But some people think THEIR understanding is the only view of complementarianism.

What Complementarians Believe in Common:

  • God created men & women in His image: they are equal in dignity.
  • They differ in roles, complementing one another, but work together to achieve their God-given mission: fill the earth and subdue it.
  • Men are the covenant heads, or representatives, of their families.  This is founded in creation, and not a result of the Fall.  It is often corrupted because of the Fall.  They represent the family before God, and are held responsible for the welfare of the family.

This view is founded upon a few facts of biblical data.  First, Adam was created first.  Second, Adam received God’s instruction and he was supposed to communicate that to Eve.  Third, though Eve sinned first, sin and death entered the world and corrupted humanity because of Adam’s sin (Romans 5).  Oddly, when God describes Adam’s sin in Genesis 3, he says “you listened to/obeyed the woman.”  They reversed the creation order, to their peril.  This sets the pattern in the rest of Genesis, when husbands listen to/obey their wives without seeking God, bad things happened.  When Abram finally asked God about Sarai’s plan, he said it was what Abram should do.

This creation order is not removed in Christ, but reinforced (Ephesians 5).  Wives are told to submit to their husbands (not men in general), while men are to sacrifice for the well-being of their wives (not abuse their role for selfish means).

  • Men are also the leaders of the church.  Elders in God’s household are men, not women (1 Timothy 2-3).  Women have meaningful and important roles, and fulfill them under the authority of the Session just as a wife has a meaningful role under the headship of her husband (Proverbs 31).

These are the beliefs that all complementarians hold in common.  Feminists lump them all together.  But we see some prominent complementarians disagree on secondary issues.


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The aftermath of disappointment is very interesting.  I’ve found my default mode to be fear, rather than faith.  I’m trying to “feed faith”.  Not a blind faith, but one that is grounded in who God is.  Real faith returns to the Cross to see that God loves me and is for me.  So, I’m prayerfully reading Ephesians.  It says a lot about God and me:

  • He chose me in Christ, before creation, to be holy and blameless.
  • He has freely given me grace in Jesus whom He loves.
  • He adopted me, in Christ, because this brought Him great joy.
  • I have been redeemed, forgiven of my sins, through the sacrifical substitutionary death of Jesus.
  • God works out everything according to His plan to accomplish His purposes.
  • I have received the promised Holy Spirit to seal/mark me as “Property of Jesus” and a downpayment on the fulness of my salvation.
  • God’s power, by which He resurrected and exalted Jesus, is at work in all who believe.
  • Jesus has been exalted above all powers and authorities including search committees, personnel managers, Presidents, Congressman and Senators.
  • I was dead in sins & transgressions, followed the ways of the Evil One, gratified the cravings of my sinful nature, and was a child of wrath.
  • God, who is RICH in MERCY, had a great love for me though I was dead in my sins.
  • God made me alive with Messiah, saving me by grace.
  • I have been crafted by God in Messiah Jesus to do the good works He planned ahead of time.
  • I was separate from Messiah, a foreigner to God’s people, and without hope but have been brought near to God and God’s people by the saving death of Jesus.
  • I now belong to God’s people, and God’s household and the living temple that Jesus continues to build.

I’ve had plenty of time on my hands, and been pondering decisions past.  When I think of what a blockhead I was, I am more amazed at His love and care.  I made many dumb decisions.  I believe in providence.  As a result, I think God willed some of my blockhead decisions to reveal who I am and how stubborn (prideful, envious, greedy etc) I really am.  They were discipline- giving me over to my sin that I might repent of those heart attitudes He revealed in me. 

I’m not sure what this current round of disappointment is all about since I’m more passive in this process.  I didn’t make decisions so much as having to live with decisions others have made.  But it still exposes the dispositions of my heart.

I wonder if there is a book in there- God’s steadfast love in the midst of my foolhardiness.  I’m thinking a Blue Like Jazz sort of thing- truth thru story-telling.

I’ve also taken Dan Allender’s The Healing Path off the shelf.  Last time I read it was during a particularly painful time in life. 

“(This journey) will harden us if we attempt to do an end run around the desert, valley, or craggy peak where God compels us to walk.  It will soften, break, mold, and heal us if we choose to take the sorrow and suffering by the hand and walk by faith into the damage of our past, the struggles of our present, and our fears of the future.”

“Healing in this life is not the resolution of our past; it is the use of our past to draw us into deeper relationship with God and his purposes for our lives.”

I need to get back to on-line job applications and learning to not lean on my own understanding.

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I was communicating with a denominational leader recently.  Here’s what he said:

I am aware of forty Ministers who are seeking a change, and some of them are quite surprising. In contrast there are several churches in need of Ministers but they seem to be very hesitant to take the plunge, and so there is a weird sort of standoff as Search Committees look for the perfect man and Ministers look for the perfect church, and we still bring students under care and examine new men for the ministry. It is all very complicated.

I have heard that in the PCA, at any given time, 1/3 of the pastors are open to a change of pastorates.

What is going on with pastors?  What is going on with seach committees’ reluctance to choose a man?

In terms of pastors, I think our expectations are often askew.  We expect things to go well, and that their might be an occasional bump in the road.  We have an over-realized eschatology.  We forget our members, and we too, are depraved and struggle with sin.  We forget that just about every church we know about from the New Testament had problems, some of them very serious (Corinth & Galatia).  We forget we are called to be shepherds, and shepherding is HARD work.  It is not an easy vocation, but takes tough men whose hearts are both tough (in dealing with antagonists) and tender (when dealing with the lost and suffering).  We worship at the altar of success- looking for the greener pastures that promise us successful ministry and a life of ease.  And a big salary.  They are looking for the mythological “perfect church”.

Search Committees are formed because either their pastor unexpectedly resigned (unless he retired) or was asked to go.  In either case, they often feel rejected or burned in some sense.  They can be afraid to commit as a result.  They are paralyzed by analysis.  They forget that at some point they need to trust God.  They also worship at the altar of success- looking for a successful pastor, a track record of success etc.  People like me, with the “scarlet F” for failure, are often overlooked in favor of the discontent, but “successful” man.  They are looking for the mythological “perfect pastor.”

So … pastors with itchy feet help produce tentative search committees.  God is sovereign, but sometimes His sovereignty is disciplinary- humbling us for our stubbornness, pride and self-dependence.  Yeah, I’m looking in the mirror of the Law (James 1) to see where I need to change.  My long transition could be disciplinary, I don’t know.  I do know I need to be watchful against the deceitfulness of sin in my own heart, lest I grow bitter in this strange dance we do.  Still, it is with trepidation that I start this process all over again.

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Yesterday was not a completely sad day.  We had our court hearing for the re-adoption of CavSon.  Since only CavWife went to China, he was her legal son.  He wasn’t mine.  Great thing we weren’t divorced in the last few months 🙂 .  So we had the court date to finalize the re-adoption.

The judge asked if I had a job.  “No, I am a pastor between pastorates.  I was in PA last weekend and am hopeful they will offer me a position.”  Oh, the irony of it all.  But, in God’s providence they may be connected somehow. 

Either way, though life may be difficult for CavFamily the next few months life with us will surely be better than life in a Chinese orphanage no matter how good the care.  Here the adult-to-child ratio is 1:1.

He has adapted quite well to CavFamily thus far.  He is a mostly happy little boy.  Like any other 2 year-old there are moments when you are frustrated by a lack of listening and downright disobedience.  But we enjoy him.  He is beginning to imitate more of our speech, which is a great improvement.  He should begin speech therapy soon to help him learn to use that new soft palate of his to make the sound of consonants.

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Some of you have been checking to see what became of my trip to PA to meet with a search committee there.  It was my 2nd trip up there, and this time CavWife went with me.

The committee met last night and had a long talk about me and whether or not I was the right fit for their congregation.  I was praying for God to make His will known.

God’s will is not that I pastor that church.  It is slowly sinking in.  I think I sent out 6 new resumes tonight.  I thought it looked pretty good, and I was wrong.  What is difficult is to have people talk about how gifted you are, but not the rightly gifted guy.

Preaching Sunday may be difficult, but the text will be exactly what I need to hear, remember and practice.  And so I look to the upright purples, whose new flowers appear every morning after the old ones drop off each evening.  God’s mercies are new every morning, whether I realize it or not. 

Update: It was a huge stomach punch.  But the sermon was well-received by God’s people this morning.  I will probably need to listen to often to remind myself that God indeed is for me, and there is grace to be had if I draw near to the throne of grace.

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The rather lengthy Gods and Generals (216 minutes) is part of an even lengthier trilogy of films about the Civil War (aka the War Between the States and the War of Northern Aggression, depending on where you went to school).  This first installment focuses on the life and role of Stonewall Jackson.  It concludes 2 months prior to the battle of Gettysburg with his death after taking friendly fire.

It focuses primarily on the Southern perspective of the war, though Lt. Colonel Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels) provides a brief glimpse of a Northern perspective- and a far more philosophical one.  The Southern perspective was that the North sought to violate their land and oppress them.  Jackson’s allegience was to the State of Virginia, and what she decided he would do.  They neglect to mention anything about the initial aggression of the Confederates at Fort Sumter.  They think the Republicans as war profiteers, and Abraham Lincoln as a war monger who seeks to disrupt their civil, gentle lives.

Very surprising was an exchange between Jackson and his cook, a free African-American, after they prayed.  Mr. Lewis prayed for the freedom of the rest of his family.  Gen. Jackson told him many Conferate leaders wanted the slaves freed.  Hmmm.  So which state right were they fighting for?  Wasn’t it the right to maintain the enslavement of others?  The cook could see the contradiction.  The cook could see the gap in Stonewall Jackson’s piety.  But Stonewall couldn’t see it.

Chamberlain expressed these very sentiments.  The South saw itself as fighting a second war of independence.  But that freedom was limited to white citizens, what people like President Lincoln where trying to change.

Chamberlain talked about God periodically, but there was not glimpse into his personal piety.  Jackson would pray at the drop of a hat.  He had a very warm piety- but the acting of those scenes seemed outside the realm of my experience.  I just have to wonder if the writers and director were people of faith- because the way it was written & directed made it feel foreign to them.  Like a white guy trying to be black- it just doesn’t work.

The movie had 3 lengthy battle scenes: the battles of Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancelorsville.  They were not gory.  You certainly got the impression that the Union leaders had no concern for their men.  In battle men will die, but you should implement a strategy that gains victory at minimal cost of life.  They would march their men into strongly fortified killing fields.  God shall hold them accountable too.

If you are interested in a movie about the Civil War, there are better.  This was long, laborious and leaned toward propoganda.  I had to watch it in 3 sittings, and though some scenes were quite touching, overall it seemed too much like Gone with the Wind with flowerly language and bold statements.  Having said all that, I may now be forced to return north of the Mason-Dixon line.

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In the first half of Game 4 of the NBA Finals I was discouraged and disappointed.  I figured we still had a shot at Game 5, but the Lakers were going to win Game 4.  Afterall, Lamar Odom showed up and the Celtics were playing no defense.

They sort of gave me a glimmer of hope as they cut the Laker lead to 12 just before the Lakers put on a mini-run to push the lead back up at the half.  Ray Allen was the only one who looked like he hadn’t been replaced by an alien look-alike.  Pierce, KG, Rondo … anyone you named- horrible!

Doc needs more credit than he gets.  He didn’t panic, and he assessed the situation well.  He and his coaches did  a great job.  They worked to spread the floor and give their guys room to run the offense.  Paul Pierce gets tons of credit for 1. volunteering to guard Kobe and doing a fantastic job, 2. reminding guys to play and not look at the score, 3. leading the charge offensively in the 3rd. 

The Celtics returned to playing defense, and shut down the Lakers.  I love that the Celtics didn’t give up, which would have been very easy.  But they kept going.  Leon Powe bought KG a few minutes of rest.  Pierce was utterly exhausted when this was over.  It is a testament to Ray Allen’s conditioning that he played the whole game and still had something left for that final layup on the isolation to basically seal the victory.  He was moving all night long and had increased ball handling responsibilities with Rondo on the bench during the stretch run.


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I had to head into Lakeland today, so I borrowed CavWife’s car so I could listen to CDs.  I chose Circle Slide by the Choir and John Wayne by Terry Scott Taylor.

Circle Slide is the Choir at their moody, atmospheric best.  Derri plays lots of moody guitar, and Steve plays some very cool drum beats.  A variety of folks help them out on bass including former bassist Robin Spurs, David Miner and Mike Sauerbrey.  No Tim Chandler this time around.  The music is not as aggressive as Speckled Bird, nor as pop at Wide Eyed Wonder.  This is probably my favorite Choir album.  The title song, Circle Slide, is a metaphor of heaven.  If I Had a Yard is the longing for a better life.  Both are meloncholy.  Well, the whole album is.

This is just as obvious with A Sentimental Song.  Sort of a human version of God singing over us, tainted with sorrow- “love endures the weather.”  Merciful Eyes is about the hope for mercy when we turn from His face, a hope built up the substitutionary death of Jesus.

They return to the theme of human love in Tear for Tear:

Until by death we fade/I’ll try to trade you/grin for grin/and tear for tear.

About Love also has some interesting turns of phrase:

Sorry to call so late/ the planet turned 4 times/you’re on my mind but you’re nowhere/in my world/please kiss the little bird/God bless the cozy cage we share/you kill me/you thrill me/ you threaten my dreams girl

One of my favorite songs, period, is Restore My Soul.  It is a cry of repentance, a longing for restoration.  It is by far the hardest rock song on the album, and a concert fav.  Booming drums and driving guitars.  What more could I ask for?

On the way home I enjoyed Terry Scott Taylor’s John Wayne.  I hadn’t listened to it in quite awhile.  Musically it bridges the gap between Daniel Amos’ Motorcycle and Mr. Buechner’s Dream (yes, they had a few albums inbetween).  On this solo album he got help from Mike Roe, Derri Daugherty, Tim Chandler, Ed McTaggert, Gene Eugene and Phil Madeira.  It is full of Terry’s typically obscure lyrics (lots of metaphor), and amusing lyrics.  This is not Christian feel-goodism.  It is faith in the real world.  The best songs are Writer’s Block, Hey, John Wayne (referring to the Airport in Orange County), Big Shot and Miniature Girl.  In the country sounding Ten Gallon Hat we find these interesting lyrics:

I’ll put on a ten gallon hat/over my devil horns

It isn’t Terry’s best album, but still better than most of what is out there.

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While reading some this afternoon, I got to thinking about how pastors look at new calls.  I agree there should be alignment- basic agreement on how to do ministry.  But there are temptations that pastors experience when considering a new call.  Basically, they are tempted to think mostly of themselves.

What does this look like?  If a pastor is looking at a church as a “step up”, part of an advancement for their career, he’s thinking about himself.  We are normal sinners like the rest of you.  We can fall into the trap of thinking about career advancement- making more money, having more prestige when pastors meet, impressing those people we knew long ago.  I hate the inevitable questions when I’m at a gathering of the extended church.  It is about numbers, not maturity.  As the former pastor of a small church … I’m tempted to think I’m a loser.  We look to career advancement, rather than our identity in Christ as the solution to our ‘problem’.

If I look at it as a “great opportunity” I can be falling into the trap of thinking about me.  I’m looking for an easy gig when I focus on the opportunity.  We are looking for a place “ready to grow” or without obvious problems.  I’m thinking like a kingdom of me-builder, not necessarily one whose life is immersed in the beatitudes (poverty of spirit, meek, hungering for righteousness…).

If I avoid a “tough call” I’m probably thinking of me.  I might be thinking of the cost to my family.  But I know how messed up we are.  We usually want to avoid difficulty, and that means we only take a difficult call unless we are desperate.

A pastor looks and sees people needing a shepherd.  They see churches like most of those receiving letters in the New Testament- they have problems that require a better understanding and application of the gospel.  It is about gospel ministry, not building empires. 

The first people that need the gospel (after your family) is the congregation.  They struggle with pride, bitterness, grudges, favoritism, lust, greed, busyness etc. and need to be comforted and challenged by the gospel.  The pastor sees them as people more messed up than they realize, needing the balm of the gospel, and people that will drive you crazy.  Real ministry is messy, filled with headaches and usually grossly underpaid.  We do this for the love of Christ, not personal glory.

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