Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Watching the News Really is Making Us Dumb.

Kevin DeYoung has written another insightful post on how the news makes us dumb based on this out-of-print book.

Here is his description of the fundamental flaws in how "news" is delivered to us through the mainstream media.
How the News Works
Christians talk a lot about having a world and life view whereby we can discern the news from a biblical perspective. That’s a wonderful goal, so long as we are discerning about all the subtle ways the nature of news itself distorts our view of reality.
  • The news exaggerates the extent of disaster in the world. Scandal sells. Tragedy sells. Controversy sells. Sure, the nightly news may end with a 60 second feel-good story or a funny YouTube clip, but the constant drumbeat of the news is bad news. The news reports on murders, abuse, war, disease, shootings, hurricanes, safety recalls, and airline crashes with complete disregard for whether these bad things have actually been getting better. Did you know that the rate of domestic violence related arrests in the NFL has decreased under Roger Goodell? Did you know that NFL players are half as likely to commit domestic violence as men in their 20′s in the general population? Everyone agrees a two-game suspension was woefully inadequate, and we all know what Ray Rice did was reprehensible.  What we don’t know is how many athletes consistently do the right thing or how to place this incident into a larger framework.
  • The news entices us into over reactions. Don’t waste a crisis, right? Anytime something breakdown or someone cracks up you will hear plaintive cries–some well-intentioned, others manipulative–to do something, anything, right now!! Especially in the frothing world that is the Twitterverse, we are expected to respond immediately to whatever might the scandal du jour. And if you don’t do something–and by that I mean, if you don’t call on someone else to do something–then you are bound to be this week’s social media pariah. As Sommerville notes wryly, “Of course news is not authorized to offer forgiveness, but it compensates by inviting us to join in blaming others” (121).
  • The news over-emphasizes the role government should play our lives. This is true whether you get your news from the leftwing or the rightwing because so much of the news is about politics. In fact, oftentimes the political class and the media class act as if the other is only reality worth noticing: politicians strategize to win the 24-news cycles; media outlets talk incessantly about the latest political dish (64). And when they talk politics, it’s rarely about the “first things” behind our political disputes. It’s about outrage, opinion polls, who’s hot and who’s not in Washington. Politics has become a perpetual campaign, and most of the reporting is about the horse race not the horses. The ceaseless energy spent reporting on politics reinforces the erroneous notion that government is the proper focus of our attention and the entity most likely to solve our problems (77).
Read the whole thing here. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hogrefe Hawkeye Game.

My family attempts to attend at least one Iowa Hawkeye football game each season. It has been a few years since my wife and I were able to go, but we made it this year. It was the Hawkeyes' come from behind victory against Ball State. Go Hawks!

Here is the first shot from high above the field in the outer reaches of historic Kinnick Stadium. It was a beautiful, sunny day!

And here is my uncle Gary photo-bombing us over my left shoulder.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Key to Connecting With Others at Your Church.

"When Someone Reaches Out, Reach Back." That is Christine Hoover's advice for people who are new at a church or who have struggled to really feel connected at church. Hoover is an author and has been a regular "greeter" at her church for the past six years. I'd encourage you to read her article as it has a lot of practical advice and wisdom for everyone who regular attends church.

Here is a taste:
But I also now have a unique perspective on how people approach visiting churches and trying to connect in them (or at least connecting in ours). I've seen all variety of ways that people approach being new, but I can usually tell on their second or third visit who will be the most "successful" at connecting within the church and who will most likely struggle.

The gist of it is this: the people who tend to struggle to connect are those who take a long while to reach out for the hands that are extended to them. I used to get so discouraged about those who remained on the fringe or who gave up coming no matter what we did to include them and reach out to them, but now I recognize that, at some point, they have to reach back and there is nothing we can do to make them reach back. I do think it is the church's primarily responsibility to reach first; a visitor should not feel the primary weight of figuring out how to connect. But if the new one rebuffs the hand that comes toward them, many times people will give them "space" until they're ready to jump in. The new one may then be left to feel that they have to make the first advances.

Perhaps you're the "new one" right now--you're brand new to a church or you're looking for one because you've moved. As a person who often interacts with newbies, here are some encouragements I would offer you:
(Read her encouragements here.)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Put The Sin of Irritability to Death.

Jon Bloom at Desiring God gave us a gift with this post of the sin of being irritable and help to overcome it. Read it here.

Here is a helpful part of it.
Our irritability never has its roots in the soils of righteousness. It springs out of the soil of selfishness and springs up fast, like the sin-weed that it is. We get irritated or easily provoked, not when God’s righteousness or justice is scorned, but when something we want is being denied, delayed, or disrupted. It works like this:
  • When I’m weary I want rest, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m sick or in pain I want relief, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m preoccupied I want uninterrupted focus, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m running late I want to avoid appearing negligent, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m disappointed I want my desire fulfilled, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m fearful I want escape from a threat, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m uncertain I want certainty, preferably reassuring, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m enjoying something I want to continue until I wish to be done, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
The reason irritability is unloving, unrighteous anger is that it is a selfish response to an obstacle to our desire. What we desire may not be sinful, but a selfish response to its denial, delay, or disruption is a failure to trust God at all times (Psalm 62:8) — and often a failure to value, love, and serve another human soul.
Jesus didn’t die for our punctuality, earthly reputation, convenience, or our leisure. But he did die for souls. It is likely that the worth of the soul(s) we’re irritable with is infinitely more precious to God than the thing we desire. We must not dishonor God, whose image that person bears, by being irritable with them. There are necessary times for considered, thoughtful, measured, righteous, loving anger at priceless but sinful souls. But there is never a right time for irritability. Love is not irritable.
Read the whole thing here

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Swedish Bible Reading Method.

A few weeks ago Tim Challies posted a description of The Swedish Bible Reading Method. I learned this simple method from David Helm's book One to One Bible Reading (which is a very helpful little book!). I have been recommending this method to those at Oakdale ever since. It is a very helpful way to read the Bible especially if you are reading and discussing the Bible with somebody else. I also greatly enjoy the fact that it is called the "Swedish Method." Since many of the folks at Oakdale are Swedish. For that reason I tell them this is also the most simple Bible reading method and anyone can do it, that's why its known as "Swedish." 
I thought it would be good to share it with you as I thought Tim did a great job presenting the method. Click here to see the whole thing.

The Swedish Method is one super-simple way to read the Bible with others, and may be especially effective for reading with small groups of teens or with individual new Christians. One of the advantages is that it requires few resources and little planning, but can still be very rewarding. Here is how it works.
Begin by praying, asking God to speak through his word. Then read a short Bible passage aloud (10-15 verses is ideal). Instruct each person to go back over the passage on their own while being on the lookout for three things:
Swedish Method
Read the whole thing here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Maybe Being Adequate Really is Enough for Our Kids.

Encouraging article here from Christel Humphrey titled: The Pitfalls of Parenting Out of Fear and Peer Pressure.

Adequate is unacceptable

Whether it be breastfeeding, early potty training, baby yoga, baby sign language, mandarin for preschoolers, early reading, Baby Mozart, a whole foods diet or competitive sports for preschoolers, it seems to be extremely important to have your child excel their peers developmentally.

To only do adequately for your child is unacceptable. Excellence is what's required. There seems to be a competitive spirit that is cleverly masked as "just wanting what's best for your child."

Seeing some of these competitive and prideful attitudes in my own heart has really made me think about my priorities. I'm not sure I want to swing over to the 'free-range kids' style parenting (a movement sparked when Lenore Skenazy wrote a column for the New York Sun titled “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Take The Subway Alone”). But I don't want to remain in the 'helicopter' camp either.

A wise woman once counseled me, "There is something to be said for adequate. An adequate education, an adequately cleaned house, etc.." I think she may be on to something. What are we so afraid of? Why would it be so bad for our child to be merely average in some areas of their life (as they inevitably will be anyway.)
Read the whole thing here

Friday, September 19, 2014

Treasures of Everlasting Might In Our Jehovah Dwell.

Earlier this year I shared a hymn by John Newton each Friday for a few weeks. Great hymns are just great poems that are focused on giving praise to God and teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ which are then put to music. Great Gospel-declaring, God-glorifying hymns bring immense joy and strength to my soul as I read, sing and listen to them. If you find they don't do much for you, then it's probably because you just have not encountered some of the best ones.

Isaac Watts was a pastor and hymn-writer of the late 1600's and early 1700's in England. He is quite
well-known for his hymns in the western world today, but back in his days he was probably more well-known as a logician. He was the author of a very popular textbook on Logic. Along with John Newton, Watts is one of my favorite hymn writers.

Most of Watts' hymns are taken right out of the Scriptures and that is definitely the case with the one below. It is based primarily on Isaiah 27-30, along with a clear reference to Isaiah 40 at the end.

1) Whence do our mournful thoughts arise?  And where's our courage fled?
Have restless sin and raging hell   Struck all our comforts dead?

2) Have we forgot th' almighty name   That form'd the earth and sea?
And can an all-creating arm   Grow weary or decay?

3) Treasures of everlasting might   In our Jehovah dwell:
He gives the conquest to the weak   And treads their foes to hell.

4) Mere mortal power shall fade and die,   And youthful vigour cease;
But we that wait upon the Lord   Shall feel our strength increase.

5) The saints shall mount on eagles' wings,  And taste the promis'd bliss,
Till their unwearied feet arrive  Where perfect pleasure is.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Seed Grows, I Know Not How.

One of the most encouraging paragraphs in all of Scripture for preachers is Mark 4:26-29 (read it here). The image is a similar one to the parable of the sower (also known as the parable of the soils) which Mark records Jesus teaching at the beginning of Mark 4. In Mark 4:26-29 we again have a sower, or a farmer scattering seed on the ground, which is a description of what preachers do whenever they preach. They are scattering the Word of God out upon the soils of the hearts of the hearers. Sometimes the seed takes root and grows, other times temptations and persecutions and the cares of this world can choke out the sprout that came up.

In Mark 4:26-29, we are given the perspective of the sower after he has scattered the seed on the soil. Jesus says that after he has finished scattering the seed, "He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how." That is it. Once the sower has completed scattering the seed which is proclaiming the Word of God to those who are there to listen, his work is essentially completed. For "He sleeps." But the seed of the Word that has fallen on the hearts of his listeners now sprout and grow, basically on their own as vs. 28 explains. The sower or the preacher, "knows not how" it grows, but it does.

Preachers, at least the faithful ones, spend hours preparing sermons each week. Then on the Lord's Day they pour out their hearts before their congregations. All of their study time, all of their preparation, all of their writing comes flowing out of them, like seeds being scattered all over the room. And then the preacher goes home and sleeps. What did he accomplish with all that hard work? Was anything of any good accomplished? Was his ministry effective? The answer is he really doesn't know. But he will get up the next morning and begin the process over again, because he trusts the Word of His Lord. "The seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how."

Growth is always a slow process, which is described in vs. 28, "The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear." It takes time to go through those stages. It does not happen over night. We can't stare at wheat and actually see the progress happening, we just simply trust it is and over time, by God's grace it will become evident that growth is taking place. Jesus wants us to know that that is how it is with the ministry of the Word as well. Faith takes time to grow and mature. We usually have no idea what is going on in the hearts of the people who hear us preach. But if we are blessed to remain in a place for an extended period of time, we will also be blessed to see the fruit. The growth of at least some of the people will be evident. We will not know how they have grown, but they have as they listened to the Word of God faithfully proclaimed week after week. For "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reflections From This Past Lord's Day at Oakdale.

We had a special speaker come and preach God's Word this past Lord's Day at Oakdale Evangelical Free Church. Terry Baxter is the co-founder and executive director of Global Compassion Network. He has served as a pastor, and an evangelist, and is now also running for the Iowa State House of Representatives in district 8.

Terry's message was titled, "Preparing His Bride for His Soon Return."  He spoke a little from Ephesians 5:25-27, then mostly from 2 Chronicles 7:11-14. Terry's main theme from these texts were that Christ is and will "present His church to Himself in splendor, without spot of wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27). Christ will accomplish this through sending revival to His church, and revival will come soon since His return will be soon. Terry then revealed the seven key principles of revival from God's Word found in 2 Chronicles 7:11-14.

There were two main truths that stood out to me in the message. The ironic thing is that they were nothing new. Nothing out of the ordinary. They are just basic truths and what should be common practices for disciples of Christ and churches everywhere. They were the fact that in order for a church to see renewal and revival they must be faithfully preaching the Word of God and praying for God's work of transformation to come to their lives and the lives of those around them.

That is it. The Word of God and Prayer. How often do we hear this? How many times have you heard sermons on the importance of the Word of God and Prayer in the Christian's life and in the life of a congregation, and yet we struggle to actually read God's Word consistently, and please don't ask us how often we pray!

One thing I have heard so often from people who are supposed to be disciples of Christ is how we need to "keep things fresh" on Sunday mornings. You know, maybe do something a little different then just preaching sermons and praying. Like what will make all the difference in the life of our church is if we do something creative every other week that's never been done before. Some would rather hear people share about their lives then to hear what God would have to say to us in His Word. Yet, true, Biblical revival will never come to a church that ignores His Word and believes they are too busy being creative to take time to pray. God's people will never be fed unless its shepherds are committed to providing meals filled with the meat of God's Word with the goal of proclaiming the whole counsel of God.

I was challenged and encouraged to think about revival and to believe that God can do it and will do it. May we long for Him, and faithfully listen to His Word and cry out to Him in prayer.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Barn Razing.

Our church decided it was time to tear down the old barn that stood behind our house (the parsonage). This barn used to house the Oakdale pastor's horse, milking cow, and chickens.
Here is a look at the back side. I believe the little 2 x 8 ft. addition that is sticking out was put in so the pastor could store his car in the barn back in the 50's. 

We used the barn to provide shelter for our dog Scout, until we had to move her to my sister's place. It also was used to store the church's lawn mower for the past several years.
Here is our friend Vernon moving his excavator off the trailer to tear it down.

Packer and Luther were very excited to watch this from the window. Unfortunately, we were not able to stay to watch the barn razing as we had family plans for the day.
Our backyard sure looks different now. We can see the trees along the river behind our house. I discovered yesterday morning that wild turkeys like to roost there.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ten Ways to Excercise Christlike Headship for Husbands.

From Owen Strachan at CBMW:

10. Christlike male headship means that you see the spiritual nourishment of your wife as your primary duty (Eph. 5:28-30). This doesn’t happen by accident; it happens as, on a regular basis, you open the Bible with her, pray with her, and talk about God with her. You don’t need to be a global theologian to read the Bible and pray the Bible, right?

9. Christlike male headship means that you love just one wife. Like Jesus, who loved only his bride, you have eyes for no one else. You save up your affection for her. You live on a continual mission to treasure her and to make her feel treasured.

8. Christlike male headship means that you train yourself to know the Lord in a vibrant way. You recognize that your family will only flourish under your leadership when you are flourishing in Christ. This means being in the Word regularly and praying regularly and being a faithful church member. You don’t have to be a spiritual all-star, future biographers poring over your Moleskins for clues into your thinking. You do need to be faithful to your Savior by the Spirit’s awesome power (Romans 6, 8).

7. Christlike male headship means on date night/vacations, you think first, “What would she like to do?” not, “What would I like to do?” If you’re on vacation or a date, you’re first trying to find activities she would enjoy. With apologies to 1990s-era bracelets, I try to ask myself, WWBL—what would Bethany like? For you, this may mean that you forgo a war museum, a basketball or baseball game, or a superhero movie. Then, not only do you find something she would like to do, but you enter into it fully. You’re present with her. She will love you for it.

6. Christlike male headship means that at dinner, after a long day at work, you hold the baby so your wife, frazzled from kids and home, can eat first. Your food is getting cold; your stomach is growling. You are hungry, and mannishly so. But you hold your child so that the woman who sacrificially gives 100% of her energy each day to care for your children can, at the very least, eat a hot meal. You can’t make childraising easy; it’s always challenging. You can, however, make it more pleasurable.
Read the whole article (and the top 5 exercises) here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Brothers, Are You Making an Idol of Football?

Pastor Kevin DeYoung has another insightful and very helpful article for each of us guys who enjoy our football. Read it here.

Here is my favorite paragraph:
Americans love football like the rest of the world loves. . . .football. Except in our football the action takes place six seconds at a time and the players pretend they are NOT hurt.

Then here are his three questions to help diagnose possible football idolatry:
1. Is ministry and worship on the Lord's Day compromised by my allegiance to football on Saturday and Sunday?
2.  Are my emotions all out of whack?
3. Can my conversation go deeper than football?
Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Some Help to Protect Yourself Online.

Tim Challies has done us a favor by sharing these 5 things to protect ourselves from online bandits who want to hack into our personal accounts. Read the whole thing here for it all to make sense, but here are his 5 things:

1) Use Good Passwords.

2) Use Unique Passwords.

3) Use Two-Factor Authentication.

4) Use a Password Manager.

5) Schedule an Audit. 

Read the explanations here.