31 August 2011

Some recent teachings

The pastors at Cedarcreek allow some of us guys the honor of teaching God's word occasionally at church.  Here are two teachings that I did this year.  The first was a teaching I did on Psalm 51, my favorite psalm.  The second was a part of our summer sermon series, Antique Words Roadshow.  I taught on the atonement on July 4th weekend. 

08 August 2011

Heather's August 4 update

WOW the adoption roller coaster never ceases to amaze me. So here is what has happened since my last e-mail.....



We received all our needed documents for our dossier and sent it to our home study agency!


We sent out our I600 form to USCIS (it is basically a form that pre-approves us to bring a foreign child to the US) and we received confirmation that is was received and being processed.


So now what right? So here is what is next....

1. Our dossier has to go to the State of WI for authentication. I am not sure what that does other than cost more money!

2. Then the dossier goes to the Haitian US consulate for more authentication.

3. Then our dossier gets translated into french.

4. Then our dossier is sent to our orphanage!!!

5. After that there is a lot of court stuff but these are the steps we need to pray for at this time.


We are also waiting for our I 600 approval...

1. Now we are waiting to get our finger printing appointment.

2. Once we are fingerprinted then we wait for our approval.


As soon as we have our dossier at the orphange and our I 600 approval then we can go visit the children. We are hoping to travel for a visit at the end of October!!!! Also once all of our paperwork is in country then we would be allowed to bring home our children on humanitian parole if there was another massive natural disaster.


I had a neat experience today that was totally God created. We are in the process of starting to gather fabric to make more pillow case dresses to give to the girls in the orphanage. Someone had posted on freecycle that they had fabric to give. So I went to pick it up today and met a woman named Cecile that had a beautiful accent but I couldn't place it. Then she started speaking french to her children! I couldn't believe it. Finally someone who speaks french! After talking to her I found out that her husband was a doctor and she used to be a french translator for the U of M and they would be happy to translated our referral papers! They also have a five year old daughter who would love to have a friend who speaks their language! Plus she wants to help us make dresses! How cool is God! I was just giddy as I pulled out of her driveway.


Some of you may know that Tropical Storm Emily is on its way to hit Haiti tonight. Port-Au-Prince where our children live is at the most risk at this point. Most people have chosen not to evacuate. Reserves are on guard to help as soon as it is needed. There will be flooding at the very least. I have no idea how safe the orphanage is from flooding. Please be praying for the orphanage and staff as well as the people still living in the tent cities.


So please pray for

1. Our dossier to get authenticated quickly with the State of WI

2. For us to get a quick date for our fingerprinting

3. For tropical storm Emily to sprinkle a light rain across Haiti tonight so that everyone is safe.


Thank-you for your prayers. I can't wait to update you and tell you the answers to our prayers!

Heather



01 August 2011

Are you a Diver or a Dabbler?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Brings us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.
-TS Eliot 


I don't know a lot about ducks, but I do know that there are 2 primary types:  the diving duck and the dabbling duck.  Diving ducks, such as canvasbacks, are strong swimmers who go deep beneath the surface to feed.  They are often found on large bodies of water.  Dabbling ducks, like mallards, feed along the surface.  They awkwardly tip into the water before bobbing back out.  They rarely dive and tend to limit themselves to small bodies of water like ponds.  Interestingly, dabbling ducks also tend to be very vocal birds. 

I think many of us in our Christian lives may tend toward dabbling.  For example, if you have come to know me at all in the past few years, you probably know that I enjoy reading.  I spend a good deal of time reading books, but perhaps in even greater measure, I read blogs.  I use a program called Google reader, which allows me to catalog dozens of different, interesting blogs.  Every day, this provides me with perhaps 75-100 different articles to "read".  I also check in on the Drudge Report a few times per day, a website that catalogs various news headlines.  Unfortunately, this leaves me a bit like a dabbling duck, not going deeply to feed, but rather skimming the surface, scooping up bits and pieces here and there. 

I think this tendency to dabble is a dangerous trend among modern evangelicals.  Young Christians are much more likely to be heard saying, "Mark Driscoll said..." or "I read ... on Piper's blog" or "Rick Warren Tweeted..."  (For what it is worth, it is to my shame that I can easily identify with any of these sayings).  I can envision several possible consequences.
  1. This schizophrenic form of reading will leave us a mile wide and and inch thick--in other words, dabblers.  We may be able to share great theological soundbites without really having wrestled through the nuanced implications of theology, or on a more basic level the Bible.  In a paraphrase of the Eliot quote above, one must ask, "Where is the Bible we have lost in books?  Where are the books we have lost in blogs?"  Our capacity for growth in knowledge and wisdom is progressively usurped by disjointed information presented on 10,000 webpages and podcasts.    
  2. Our failure to grapple with theologically complex material on our own and instead to listen to the talking heads of the day leaves us unsure of what to believe.  I think too often, we envision our disjointed, electronic lives as a way of growing in virtue and character when what really happens is that we are left knowing what Paul Washer said, rather than what God's word has to say.  In other words we may be freakishly big-headed with no Biblical foundation of support, which makes us unsteady and prone to fall. 
  3. It may create in us a sense of hagiography, which Justin Taylor defined as "the uncritical and adulatory description of the life of a hero of the faith".  Those who line up for autographs from your favorite Christian celebrity (think musicians or celebrity pastors) may be guilty of hagiography.  For me, the thought of lunch with John Piper would make me excited and nervous (okay, giddy) and this raises significant concerns for me.  This form of celebrity worship is dangerous because it is idolatry. 
When Paul and Silas were in Berea (Acts 17), the Bereans were not credited for having asked another popular preacher if what Paul and Silas said was true, but rather, "having received the word with eagerness, they searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so" (Acts 17:11).  As Christians, our eagerness should be for the word of God, not the latest sermon by a famous pastor. 

Is there anything to be done about this? 
  • First, I think it is important to acknowledge that the desire to learn about God is good and right.  I believe that for most of us, the goal of reading blogs and watching celebrity pastors is to learn more about God.  Indeed, I have learned a great deal from men like Mark Driscoll, John MacArthur, John Piper, and Francis Chan.  However, we need to remember that these men are not the be all end all.  They don't know you and you don't really know them, which leads to the second point.
  • Find a Bible-believing church and commit to being involved.  For most of us, Paul Washer is not your pastor.  He is unable to speak into your life in any meaningful way.  He may have some great, convicting thoughts, but he is not your shepherd.  You do not have the opportunity to watch his life unfold and neither can he watch yours.  The way to accomplish that is to find a church, fellowship with other believers, and mutually submit with others there.  The New Testament makes no mention of lone gun Christianity--we are called to be a part of a body of believers.  Paul established churches, where teaching, fellowship, encouragement and discipline happen. 
  • Repent of any hagiography to which you may be prone.  If you find yourself worshipping evangelical leaders rather than God, you are engaged in a form of idolatry. 
  • Look at your reading and prayer habits.  Do you race through your Bible reading so you can listen to another sermon?  Do you read the Bible at all?  Do you pray?  If the amount of time you spend reading and meditating upon God's word is disproportionately overshadowed by the time you spend listening to sermons, your balance is likely off.  The other Christian material we read should serve to deepen our understanding of God and His Word and should not be an end in and of itself. 
  • Wrestle with actual books rather than listening to podcasted sermons.  As Travis Allen wrote, "learn about them (e.g., Puritans) through big, thick books, not blog articles."  Perhaps focus on learning more deeply about a given topic (e.g., church history) or given person (e.g., John Calvin) rather than on a disconnected set of ideas.  Another option is to listen to audio books or online classes.  These options should develop a more connected thinking.
  • When you do encounter the teaching of others, allow it to drive you back to scripture and see if what you are reading fits.  Take notes.  Write out your thoughts and pray about it.  This will help to solidify thinking. 
  • Go out and talk to other people.  Find out what is going on in their lives.  When opportunity presents, talk about God and His work.  You will gain much more traction living real life with real people than listening to all of the sermons that MacArthur ever preached (there are over 3000, if you are keeping track). 
What I wrote here is really hard for me.  On some level, I am comfortable with how I currently do things.  I like checking out my reader several times per day and posting things of interest.  Yet I expect I would grow more deeply if I were to follow my own advice.  I once passed along a brief article in a devotional to one of my pastors.  The article entitled "A Tale of Two Corners" by Kevin DeYoung, was reproduced here.  It is a worthwhile read, providing a good deal of wisdom to all Christians.