Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cheering up daddy

Ok, well, since this is my blog, I get to brag a bit about my family.

This is my daughter, Rachel. She's 5 1/2.

I love this picture.

She just started kindergarten last fall. Very outgoing - the type who will run up to you and give you a hug, whether she knows you or not. And, as I'm increasingly discovering, she's very sensitive.

We'd recently gotten some bad news regarding my job, and I was talking with my wife on the phone about what was going on. Rachel didn't hear the conversation, but she heard enough of my wife's responses to understand that daddy was upset about something. As soon as Tamara hung up, Rachel came up to her and told her that she thought daddy was sad, and wanted to do something to cheer him up. "Like what?" Tamara asked.

"Well, first we could go play tag in the park, then we could blow bubbles, then we'll go to his favorite fish taco place, and then we'll go get him a peanut butter and chocolate ice cream cone!"

"Wow, that sounds like a lot, Rachel - why don't you tell dad when we get home?

"No, no - it has to be a surprise!"

So that's what I got. We didn't have time for tag & bubble-blowing, but we did get fish tacos and ice cream. And I gained a new appreciation for the caring and sensitive nature of my precious daughter who loved her daddy and wanted to do whatever she could to cheer him up.

Y'know what? It worked.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Shack

Recently, I've been reading a fascinating book by Wm. Paul Young entitled... you guessed it... "The Shack." It was given to me by a friend, and at first I was a bit skeptical about it. I had neither the time nor the inclination to read another novel about someone's supposed encounter with God. But I have to say that this book was a pleasant surprise. For one, it's actually very well-written; it engages you and draws you in and I found myself unable to put it down for long periods of time. For another, it actually has pretty good theology in it. Though the writer personifies the Trinity as a large, jovial black woman (God the Father), a big-nosed, Middle Eastern carpenter (Jesus), and a small, ethereal Asian woman (Holy Spirit), it is neither disrespectful nor unimaginable. In fact, the more you read it, the more it becomes plausible to imagine the Godhead assuming these various roles if they were to appear in human form.

The book centers around Mack, a father of four whose youngest girl was kidnapped and murdered. As a father of a precocious five-year-old, I could immediately imagine the pain and torment that he undergoes as he struggles to reconcile his guilt, fear and anger. Honestly, there were several times when I was unable to continue reading as I found my eyesight suddenly being blurred by tears.

He receives an invitation to return to the site of his daughter's murder - only now it becomes transformed into a place of peace and tranquility. He spends a few days there, and his interactions with each member of the Trinity is truly impressive from a literary standpoint. The author admirably describes the various characteristics of each one, and provided what I believe to be a credible apologetic for how and why God allows evil in this world.

I read a lot of books, and I've rarely been as engaged as I was in reading this one. If there's one book you should put on your list for 2009, it should be The Shack.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I Wonder, Do You Know Him?

Dr. Shadrach Meshach (S.M.) Lockridge was the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church here in San Diego from 1953 to 1993. Listen to his three minute description of our King of Kings.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

First Sermon

Well, a few hours ago I preached my first "real" sermon - with a pulpit and everything! Surprisingly, I wasn't nearly as nervous as I had previously thought I would be. No doubt the prayers and support of family and friends helped in that regard.

I had a few accolades when I was finished (maybe *because* I was finished?), with people telling me that they thought I did a great job, etc. Now, of course it's nice to receive "attaboys" for something you've done, but in this case all I was really concerned with was whether or not people *really* got something out of my sermon. I was acutely aware of the fact that I am not pursuing this line of work for any sort of personal gratification or "will to power." I'm doing it because I want to share the Good News of what Jesus Christ has done/is doing/will do in our lives and I seem to be blessed with certain talents in relating that message in a clear way.

I don't ever want this to be about me - not 5 months, 5 years, or 50 years from now.

Lord, may you and you alone receive the glory and honor for any work I may do on this earth.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gran Torino

Went and saw Gran Torino last Friday, and came away impressed. In my opinion, this is one of Clint Eastwood's best movies. He plays a cantankerous old Korean War vet whose wife has recently passed away and who finds himself living alone, alienated from his family, and surrounded by Hmong neighbors whom he doesn't understand. I won't give it all away, for you must go see this movie for yourself. There's a great deal of character development throughout, along with a strong theme of redemption. There's a lot of humor here, too, and fans of Eastwood will no doubt enjoy several of the scenes where he confronts would-be thugs or teaches a young teenager how to talk "like a man."

I'll be very surprised if this movies isn't at least nominated for a few Oscars at the next Academy Awards.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


I'll be preaching my first "public" message this Wednesday, and thought I'd use as my topic the idea of undulation. I wish I could say this is an original subject, but it is not. I first came across the idea years back when reading C.S. Lewis' book The Screwtape Letters. In it, an older demon (Screwtape) has a series of conversations with his young nephew & protégé, Wormwood. Here's an excerpt:

“Humans are amphibians--half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation--the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks.”


We must realize that “the law of undulation” is a natural part of our human existence. Periods of growth and vitality will alternate with periods of dryness and dullness. Being or becoming a Christian does not free us from this cycle, but it does allow us to change our perspective. Are you married? Well, whether you've been married for 3 months or 30 years - has your life been a continuous stretch of wedded bliss? No? If it's been like mine, it's a series of ups and downs. This holds true for every aspect of our lives - work, family, football - as we've seen in the recent Chargers season - and everything else.

Now, quite naturally...




I'm always leery when I hear something about the "prosperity gospel" - that's the idea that God wants all of his children to be healthy, wealthy, popular and successful. For one thing, Jesus didn't seem to live up to those standards, and neither did the Apostle Paul. Look at II Corinthians 11:23-30 and read Paul's description of all the hardships he's endured. Doesn't seem to be the normal "career track" of one who follows God, does it? But look at what Paul says in the very next chapter, in 12:9-10:

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

So here's Paul, one of the pillars of the early church, and he's gone through more pain and suffering than likely any of us will have to endure in our lifetime. Is he bitter? Is he resentful? No! In fact, he actually boasts about his weakness and suffering! Why? Because in his weakness, the power of God became necessary, and the only thing Paul was willing to boast about was what Christ was able to do in him and through him during those times of trial and difficulty. And, if you let him, he will do the exact same thing in your life.

Now, based on this I am convinced that what we naturally tend to view as good and bad is actually mistaken. If we were to spell it out, we would probably say something like this:


That which benefits me or makes me happy = good

That which hurts me or makes me unhappy = bad

But God uses a different paradigm. I think His would look something like this:


That which brings you closer to me = good

That which takes you farther away from me = bad

Hebrews 12:7,11 says:

"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

Another excerpt from Lewis' book:

“Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs--to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with, the better. He cannot "tempt" to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles.”

Recently I've had some tribulations concerning a continuation of my military orders, with the (unexpected) result that I've not been paid in the last 7 weeks - which is rather hard to manage in an expensive place like San Diego. But as frustrating as the situation is, I've noticed a few areas where God is at work in my life. For one, He's teaching me a lot about patience and not being in control - something that doesn't come naturally for me. For another, my faith is increasing as I have to rely on Him to provide for our basic needs - we still have to pay our mortgage and other bills, buy food, gas, etc.

The key to shifting paradigms is that we must learn to take our eyes off of ourselves & our problems and instead look to God. We must try to see what it is that He is trying to teach us in the midst of these trials, even if we don't yet have the perspective to put it all into context.

James 1:2,3 tells us:

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance."

There must be a building of strength before there can be a testing of strength. In the military, a new recruit/candidate must endure boot camp/OCS and then go through other training to be a Navy SEAL, Special Forces, Ranger or Airborne qualified, etc. before they are ever sent out on a mission. In each case, there is a tremendous amount of training and strength building before these men and women are ever tested. You don't just grab a recruit and hand 'em a rifle and send 'em off to Afghanistan - they have to learn how to use it. They have to be trained and built up. They have to learn endurance and perseverance - otherwise, there's a good chance they'll never complete the mission. And this training isn't just a one-shot deal; it's on-going. Faith, endurance and patience are not attributes that develop in calm, serene places where all of our needs are continually met. They are produced in austere environments where we feel battered, bruised and in need. They develop as we recognize that we alone do not possess the necessary traits to see us through - we must rely on God and His provision. We must be continually strengthened by trying circumstance in order to develop the perseverance that will hold us in good stead for when we are truly tested.

So my challenge is for you to look at your circumstances in light of what the Bible tells us, not on the basis of what your human emotions want you to think or feel. Whatever your circumstances are - whether your trials are at work, in your marriage, or wherever - look for the lessons God is trying to teach you. Endure. Persevere.

“Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks ‘round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Brave New World

Ok, here goes…

As more and more of my friends and acquaintances have joined the blogosphere, I finally decided that I would throw my hat in the ring, as it were. If nothing else, it will give me an opportunity to express my thoughts and considerations on the various and sundry things that intersect with my life on a daily basis. Occasionally deep, possibly funny, probably rambling… but that’s pretty much what life is like, no?