Big Week For Baby A

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So last week our foster daughter and Sarabeth went to Florida to visit her family. According to Sarabeth, our little girl did wonderful on the airplane, so if you’re stuck on a plane with a crying baby and an overwhelmed mother, you can bet it’s not my wife or daughter.

Well, Baby A did two things this week which I’m thankful she didn’t do in Florida while I was at home here in Kentucky.

Two days ago, Sarabeth was holding Baby A and the dachshunds began licking her feet and Baby A just laughed, and laughed. Part of me thinks she began laughing so hard because she figured out that she could laugh! Probably one of the best sounds I’ve ever heard.

And this morning, just moments ago, Baby A rolled over. First onto her belly then onto her back.

Needless to say, Sarabeth and I are very proud. In fact, after I write this post, I’m going to probably start drafting up her college resume.

Baby A, proficient at giggling and rolling over. My aspirations include being an attentive audience member at local comedy clubs and teaching fire drills (“stop, drop, and rooollllll”).

On the grand scheme of things, I’m sure these aren’t really big happenings. I’m sure back in colonial times it was like, “Look Pa, Junior just took his first step.”

“‘Bout dog-gone time. Hand him that there pile of wood and he can take it out back and chop it for the fire.”

But then, is it such a big deal when we do the things we do? Like, get a job, or pass an important exam, or earn one of those Fortune 500 Company jackets? To us, those are pretty significant deals.

But I wonder what God thinks. After all, have you ever created an entire cosmos? Have you ever begotten a living creature (or made one out of the dust)? Have you ever walked on water unassisted, or calmed a storm, or healed a blind man with mud?

Yet, God is pleased with us. Just like Sarabeth and I are pleased with our daughter for the littlest of things (but mostly for going to sleep!) – things that we’ve been doing ourselves for 30-plus years. Things that human beings all over the globe, all across the span of time have been mastering since the Garden.

All of Heaven rejoices when we enter into adoption by God as His child. A great cloud of witnesses hangs over the mist to marvel at our spiritual accomplishments and cheer us on to further endeavors, challenges those ghosts have likely bested while they were like us.

So, yeah. I’m pretty proud of my little girl. But then again, I’d be just as proud if she never rolled over.

A World at War, Good Friday, and Frodo

wwiOn April 6, 97 years ago, America formally declared war on Germany, entering World War I.

It is Good Friday, the day Christ invaded our enemies and our sins.

Both were major events. Both would see devastating setbacks (so it would seem), but Americans and Christ came out victorious in the end.

I’ve heard it asked, “Why is it called Good Friday?”

If you’re not familiar with the whole passion_of_the_christChristian picture, it may seem rather odd that we celebrate the day our Saviour was beaten and crucified.

But like many wars, it was necessary for Christ to enter into battle in order to declare victory in the end.

You can’t be an official opponent if you don’t enter into a war. You can’t claim victory over that war unless you enter into battle, on the winning side. And you can’t fight the battle effectively unless you believe in the cause you’re fighting for.

Jesus knew the cause of His fight, He entered into the battle, and eventually declared victory three days later by stepping out of that tomb. Though our culture downplays it, there are many things worth fighting for, and Jesus seemed to think that your very soul was worth the fight.

If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you better believe that when He took those punches to the nose, He was thinking of you.

When the soldiers shoved the crown of thorns on His head, He endured it for you.

When the Father looked down on His Son savagely being nailed to the cross, He knew full well that in the end, you would be able to declare victory next to His Son and stand innocent before Him on the day of Judgement.

It is Good Friday because it is a prelude to the real celebration that is to take place this coming Sunday.

frodo_cryingLike every normal person, my wife and I absolutely love the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Although we marvel at the brilliant filmmaking, we don’t necessarily enjoy all the hurt and anguish Frodo is put through.

But we know it’s part of the story. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we really only love the movies because of the last half hour of the last movie which is saturated in victory and redemption.

But those final scenes mean nothing without the 9+ hours of war and anguish preceeding them.

In the same way, you can’t appreciate the miracle of Easter unless you understand the goodness of Christ’s crucifixion.

One step further: You can’t fully celebrate the miracle of Easter unless you recognize the goodness of you yourself being crucified with Christ.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

Have a very Good Friday and declare war on your sins.

The Ultimate Man’s Man

I don’t know where they originated from or who had the idea to start them, but I love those Chuck Norris jokes. Here’s a few of my favorites for your enjoyment:chuck 1

Chuck Norris threw a grenade and killed 50 people, then it exploded.

When Chuck Norris crosses the steet the cars have to look both ways.

Chuck Norris has a diary. It’s called the Guinness Book of World Records.

When Chuck Norris was born he drove his mom home from the hospital.

Chuck Norris was once on Celebrity Wheel of Fortune and was the first to spin. The next 29 minutes of the show consisted of everyone standing around awkwardly, waiting for the wheel to stop.

We all have a different idea of what the ultimate man’s man is like, or should be like. Some equate it with Chuck Norris, and some link modern manhood to Homer Simpson, doing away with the Spartacus persona altogether.

Leadership, fatherhood and husbandry ought to be as simple and straightforward  as it’s laid out in the second part of the creation account in Genesis 2. This is the world God intended history to build itself upon. A world where God is worshiped as Lord over all, and His children exercise sinless dominion over the earth and submit to the prospective roles God has given them as men and women, husbands and wives.

I’ve heard it said that Adam and Eve were more prone to sin because they didn’t have life lessons to learn from. What is left out of that assumption is that Adam had direct and intimate communication with the Father of heavenly lights. One has to assume that a conversation with the Lord, without the existence of sin, had to result in the deepest form of spiritual, physical, and emotional satisfaction that could possibly be attained. True, Adam didn’t have support groups to meet with once a week, but he took nightly and daily strolls with the keeper of all wisdom and truth. The Word (whether in flesh or in spirit) picked berries with Adam and lead him beside streams of flowing water, and no doubt taught him about life and all that the earth had to offer him. No careful reader of the Genesis account can come to the conclusion that Adam’s sin (and Eve’s for that matter) was committed as a result of pure naivety. Even in the brief second chapter of Genesis, Moses makes very clear to us that God lays the example of true manhood for Adam in plain sight. As is stated in A Guide to Biblical Manhood by Randy Stinson and Dan Dumas, manhood is summarized as such: Leadership, provision, protection.

The Lord, in His infinite wisdom and knowledge of what His beloved creatures needed most, lead Adam to the garden (v. 15a), employed him there (v.15b), thus providing for his basic needs, and protected him from death by instructing him not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (v.17). These are just a few examples among many where God lead by example.

But God knew that even in his sinless state, Adam wasn’t able to follow perfectly in His steps, so He created a helper, Eve, suitable to propel him to exhaust his leadership over the garden. This is why we are to heed the advise of our wives as long as it is based off of Scripture, because we cannot follow God alone, so unreachable are His ways. Still, we are to look to Him as our sole example. We can and should look to others who are further along in bringing God glory through spiritual maturity and Christ-likeness, but we must not let those people replace the One we are to strive to be like. That is why God came down in the form of a man so that there would be a tangible, living, breathing example of how we could go about striving to be like God.

In what other ways do you see God demonstrating the role of biblical manhood throughout the Scriptures? (And, list your favorite Chuck Norris quotes.)

What Christians Fear Most

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Sometimes I feel like a monster.

Not when I lose my temper. When that happens, I’m just being a typical fallen human – my old fleshly self.

But sometimes I feel like a monster from Monstropolis. You know, the ones from Monsters Inc. who are afraid of children.

Sounds silly, doesn’t it?

But we’re not much brighter. We fear man.

We clamor for man’s approval and stop at nothing to gain the respect of the masses.

And if we’re honest with ourselves, on our worst days, we’d rather be judged by God than by our bosses.

This is the wrong way of living. Jesus is very clear in Matthew 10:28: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.”

We’re so anxious to please others and remain certain not to offend ignorant people with the Gospel, but we’d much rather offend the One who commanded us to do just that!

Think about it. There are plenty of reasons why we don’t witness the way we ought. Laziness and carelessness may be at the top of the list, but fear is most certainly right up there.

Why won’t you witness to your boss? Because you’re afraid of getting fired.

Why won’t you witness to your neighbor? Because you’re afraid of making future front yard conversations terse and awkward.

Remember. These people who do not know the Gospel are as harmless as a child in Monstropolis. You have the Holy Spirit fighting with you, and enabling you to carry on the task.

Easter’s coming up. Invite someone to church. Just a simple, harmless invitation.

After all, who doesn’t like an invitation somewhere, right?

And don’t loose sight of who the real enemy is: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

Don’t be like the monsters who are scared of little children. Know who your real enemy is and realize the potential – through Christ – they’re keeping you from.

Behind Curtain Number 2

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I’m sitting in the waiting room of Toyota’s repair/service section and the flatscreen TV is showing “Let’s Make a Deal.” And I’ve got to tell you, that’s an addicting show! This is why I never turn the TV on during the day when I’m at home.

You all know how the show works. It didn’t take long for me to realize two patterns:

1) The chosen contestants are required to act as loud and obnoxious as possible, and

2) The audience will always suggest opening the Big Box.

Even if the contestant is holding a $4,700 check in his hand, and he’s faced with the decision to keep the money or see what’s in the Big Box, the audience will go nuts pestering him to look in the Box.

I think that’s because they have nothing on the line and really, they’re just curious.

We’re all curious, aren’t we? The good thing about the Bible is that it lays it all out on the line. There are few secrets in the Bible.

But Satan keeps most of the world’s pleasures in the Big Box. And when we choose to see what’s in the Big Box, we’re forfeiting the truth of the Bible every time.

Today, you will be faced with many temptations and decisions. You will be given the choice of following God’s Word, or experience the promised sensation of keeping money that doesn’t belong to you, feel the so-called power of dominating your wife or kids, lie to a friend, or cheat on a test.

You should see the looks on these people’s faces when they exchange a $1,000 check with what’s in the Big Box and it turns out to be a platter of cheese. Or a giant stuffed green dinosaur.

Sure, the Big Box holds some great things sometimes, like an all-expense paid trip to Canada, or an entertainment set, complete with surround sound. But honestly, when I’m already holding a $1,000 check, I can spend it on anything I want. I might not need an entertainment set, or I might rather go to Spain than Canada (not to be picky).

So when you’re confronted with making a worldly choice, and you’re equipped with the priceless Word of God, it always comes down to foolishness when we disarm ourselves and choose what’s in the Big Box, no matter how glamorous or pleasurable it may be.

The Silver Coins – A Parable

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Once there lived a father and a son. The father loved his son very much as did the son love his father. One day the father said to his son, “You’re old enough now to perform a chore for me. I want you to take this silver coin, travel across the country and deliver it to the king. If, for any reason you lose the coin, come back to me and I will give you another one.” The boy, feeling very sure of himself took the coin and began his long journey across the country.

When he came to the town, he was interested in the things they were selling. So he bought a piece of candy from one of the booths with his father’s silver coin. Upon doing this, the boy felt sick to his stomach and knew that he had let his father down. He returned home to his father with a broken heart. But the father did not scold him nor punish him like he thought he would do. Instead the father smiled and gave his son another silver coin and said, “Now, be careful when you cross through that first town. Don’t stop to look at anything.”

The boy was soon on his way, thankful and glad for his father’s reassurance. When he got to the town, the boy did not slow down like he did the first time. This time he picked up speed and ran all the way through without stopping. When he reached the end of the town, the boy was tired and had to slow down.

At the end of the town was the woods, and sure that he was safe from any danger, the boy strolled along carelessly. Before he reached the end of the woods, a beaver came out from behind a tree and told the boy that he would cut down a tree and provide a bridge for the river up ahead… but it would cost him one silver coin. The boy agreed to this, because he wasn’t prepared to go swimming. Upon giving the beaver the silver coin, he realized that there would be no point in continuing on in his journey without the payment due to the king. So the boy, very much ashamed at his lack of preparation, turned around to collect yet another silver coin from his father.

The father’s heart melted when he saw his son coming home with his shoulders slumped and head hung low. The son cried to his father, “I’m so sorry.” And the father spoke these words to him: “Here is another silver coin. Take it, and do not simply walk through the town letting your eyes fall on whatever is available, and do not let your guard down when you enter into the woods. Run as fast as you can, stopping for no one for you know now that you cannot trust the people there.”

So once again, the young boy set off across the country, running through the town, and running even faster still through the woods. When he reached the river at the end of the woods, he noticed that a tree lay across stretching to the other side, just like the beaver promised to do. But he also noticed that the river was no deeper than the height of his ankles; it was more like a stream.

The boy continued to walk on past the woods, being very exhausted by now and was breaking quite a sweat. When he cleared out of the woods completely, the boy found himself at the foot of a windy road leading up a high mountain. The boy pressed on, though slow as a snail because he was still trying to catch his breath from the long run. Half way up the mountain, the boy came upon a wishing well. Now everybody knows the law of the wishing well. One tosses his money in and makes a wish. So the boy tossed his silver coin in and wished for a dozen more silver coins. The well told him to go home and ask his father.

Dumbfounded and empty-handed the boy returned home and apologized to his father once again. Certain that his father would scold him this time, the boy found himself to be very hesitant when he entered into his father’s house. But the father did not scold his son this time either. Instead, the father gave him another silver coin and said, “Be a bit more careful this time. Make sure you hurry through the town, run through the woods stopping for nobody because you know the woods people cannot be trusted, and make haste up the mountain as fast as you can, wishing only that you make it to the top.” With these words the father hugged his son and sent him on his way once more.

The son did what his father told him and hurried through the first town, ran through the woods, and made haste up the mountain. But in each new terrain, the son somehow lost his silver coin either by being careless and losing it or giving it away or spending it on something ultimately worthless. And each time the son found himself empty-handed, he returned home to his father, who was always waiting with another silver coin and a smile. Needless to say, the boy got his wish and he received more than a dozen silver coins – one at a time, of course.

         One day when the boy returned home yet again to apologize to his father, the boy said, “Father, every time you send me out on the same quest, and every time I fail you. How come, when I return home to apologize, you’re never angry at me?”

         The father’s response was simple, and it was then and there that the boy understood his father’s compassion. The father said, “My son, the tragedy isn’t that you make mistakes. The tragedy would be if you never returned at all.”

-Andrew Toy

 

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Some Great Christian Music Part I

Even though I’m a Christian, I don’t particularly enjoy Christian music that much – especially its contemporary contributions. I do like a lot of hymns, but even those can get quite repetitive, depending on how they’re led by certain worship leaders. The Psalms implores us to sing a new song to God, and often, I feel like many Christian songs are just copycats of previous Christian songs from the 90s, both in lyrics and in tune.

I’ve provided a partial list of Christian songs (and singers) whom I’ve really come to enjoy and respect. Even if you’re not a Christian, I invite you to listen in to some genuine Christian music that I believe is real, authentic, and different from other shallower songs you might have encountered in this genre.

What Do I know of Holy by Addison Road

This song was particularly meaningful for me at a turning point in my life a few years ago when I was confronted with some big sin issues I was trapped in. The song here reminded me that there is a God who is much bigger than me and my issues and even my sin. And yes, that He is mighty to save, but even that thought, those words, don’t even scratch the surface of the magnitude of God’s saving power.

Other recommended songs by Addison Road – “Hope Now”, “Run”, “Fight Another Day”, “Need You Now”.

Canaan Bound by Andrew Peterson

I wrote about Andrew Peterson in a previous blog post which you should check out here. If his lyrics don’t move you and send shivers down your spine and cause you to just thank the Lord for the beauty of words and language, then I just don’t know what to tell you. Peterson is one of the few Christian artists who breaks free from the “contemporary Christian mold” and offers the most refreshing Christian music out there.

Other recommended songs by Andrew Peterson – “Dancing in the Minefields”, “Little Boy Heart Alive”, the entire “Love and Thunder” album.

There is a Higher Throne – Keith and Kristyn Getty

Sarabeth and I saw this Irish couple in concert last Christmas which I wrote about here. They’re known as the modern-day hymn writers. You’ve probably sung their most notorious song, “In Christ Alone” in church – one of the select few I haven’t gotten burnt out on. I’m thankful for their music, because every now and then, their songs really do take me to a higher, better place if I’m just still and quiet enough.

Other recommended songs by Keith and Kristyn Getty – “Creation Sings the Father’s Song”, “When Trials Come”, “The Power of the Cross”, and their entire “Joy – An Irish Christmas” album.

Your Love by Brandon Heath

This is the most contemporary song in this list, but for some reason it resonates with me. The lyrics say it all: that all we need in this life is God’s love, and really, it’s all we have to give back to him, though it may not be much – He’ll take it anyway.

Also, check out “Jesus in Disguise” by Brandon Heath.

Share with us some of your favorite Christian music.