12.31.2009

Day 52, Top Ten of 2009 Memories.


This should be a quick abbreviated list of what I think were the greatest memories of 2009, that I can recollect.

#10, The last chapel service in Iraq, where I completed the entire book of Hebrews. Preaching every single verse for 15 months, while deployed. Over 120 services, and 600 plus counseling sessions.


#9, Sitting on top of my CHU, in Iraq with my laptop in hand and my Chaplain Assistant rotating the satellite dish to eventually get a signal. The laptop eventually erupts with a green bar, and signal, ...thus that night...Jessica and I talked with video for the first time in 5 months over the satellite internet network.


#8, Riding on a riverboat with Mark & Melissa Reid in London with crystal blue skies, with Big Ben and the Tower Bridge slowly passing overhead.


#7, Giving MAJ David Raugh, the final haircut in a barber chair that mysteriously showed up in my office in Baghdad, before he would be promoted to LTC, and leave a couple of weeks prior our departure.


#6, The official sit down in Apartment 8075, 2B after moving from 8061. A cool glass of Culligan water, and the sense that this new abode will be home soon.


#5, Driving with the in-laws and Jessica through Germany, Austria, Italy, France, parts of Switzerland, and who knows where else in the 2008 Explorer.


#4, Getting offered a job at Arlington Cemetery, only to have it 'revoked' months later. Struggle through weeks of disappointment, then receive news for Lifeway that I would be writing for them. Not real sure how to say this, because they obviously are no where near the same 'level', but it was that moment that you knew God was giving you some sunshine in the clouds to let you know that you will make it, and that He hasn't forgotten you.

#3, Riding bikes with my wife up and down the beach in Hilton Head, SC. Not really sure when to stop and turn around, and not really sure how far we came. Who cares!?!? We are on vacation.


#2, The "Welcome Home" party and Banner at my mom's house, in June. My Sister and her children had made a banner, that said "Welcome Home". My mom and Dan, had made a wonderful meal and we just sat around and were thankful that God had allowed me to come see my family after my Iraq tour.


AND FINALLY,

#1, "The Hug". Many of you saw it. Standing in formation after arriving back from Iraq, in a Gym. Jessica was wearing a pink top, (she told me this is how I would see her in the crowd.) The prayer was over, the final "DISMISS" was given. I turned only for about 3 feet to meet my wife face to face. The moment was more than priceless. It was better than, "I DO" on April 23, 2005. It was, "I did it. Let's go home.", May 23, 2009.

12.21.2009

Day 51, Multi-Campus Churches; Good or Bad?


In yesterday's USA Today, the lead story on the front paper was "New Face of evangelism 1 Church, multiple sites". The writer goes one to cite several different new church leaders, and their current understand and 'take' on the 'new face' idea of having a central head church, and multiple other campuses. The main pastor would basically, only go to each church to preach, and thus be traveling the rest of Sunday to get to each location. This varies greatly from the traditional pastor who does all the counseling, preaching, fostering discipleship at one location.

Some churches have even set up a type of video-cast that the pastor would only need to preach in one central location, while the other congregations would only need to plug into the video feed and watch their pastor via a streaming download.

Now, as I thought about this, I wondered what the natural response would be for me. Is this really new? Would I like being the pastor traveling around all day? Would I want to sit and listen to a screen preaching to me? Does this draw the church together or separate it? I don't know.

I do know that this 'traveling preaching' is nothing new. George Whitfield did it all through America, thus creating the fertile ground for the Awakenings, of 1740's.

So here's my short take/or observations:
1. There are a handful of preachers that I would definitely would say could do something like this, Yet does this make an emphasis on the preacher or the message. John Piper, for instance, and incredible orator/preacher...but the expansion of his preaching ministry like this, could inhibit those who are in those various areas to take up the calling in their own life, and become preachers.

2. Does this create a 'superstar' mentality that I believe that all ministers already struggle with so greatly.

3. Yet again, some churches would be served by having quality preaching each week, even if it meant it came via internet/videofeed or whatever.

These are just three observations. I am just bringing it to the surface, because I read it, and was intrigued enough at the Shoppette to buy a paper.

Bottomline: How would you feel if your pastor was a traveling preacher? Would you feel this centralizes your church or do you feel this would be the vehicle that your church would reach more people, plant more churches, in your area? Always be about reforming your views, to what the Scripture teaches us. I am not convinced either way on this issue,... whether this is particularly good or bad,...

as long as Christ is preached, who gives a rip.

12.18.2009

Day 50, My First Writing Assignment for Lifeway.

About 2 years ago, I stepped out of Youth/College ministry to become a Army Chaplain. I have to admit from time to time, I truly long for the local church. The fellowship of gathering together with believers of like-denominational thinking, even though the SBC is quite a motley of 'like-thinkers'. In addition, just having a good heart felt conversation with people who are much older. ((In case you didn't know, there are few people in the Army over 45 years old,...if they are they are Colonels or Sergeants Majors.)

With my desires to participate in the local church, while still being a Army Chaplain, I didn't know how I would be able to serve. Just recently, Lifeway, the SBC Publisher for Sunday School material contacted me to write a brief commentary on one of their upcoming Sunday School units. I know its not a book or a life change autobiography, but I feel God truly gave this opportunity to encourage me.

Now, the excitement begins. I have about 4 passages of Scripture, I get to legitimately tear to pieces and pour myself over in order to prayerfully give some insight to teachers. I am not looking for a Pulitzer, but I am praying that first God would be honored, that Christ would be clearly seen, and that some teacher would be encouraged to convey the Scriptures with passion.

Pray for me. I hope this is a way I can provide something back to the local church.

12.16.2009

Day 49, A Canon of Scripture?

In my early seminary years after I resolved my personal conflict, with the 'Doctrines of Grace', I preceded to read a great deal about apologetics. This is basically the way in which a person can defend their faith by giving legitimate reasoning and defense from Scripture. Being a very arrogant and immature, I thought that I was reaching my pinnacle of knowledge and would soar like a vulture waiting for any conversation that remotely brought up 'theology', and I would swoop in to devour my 'ill-informed' prey.

Through a course of about 5 years now, 3 in Full-time ministry, and 2 in Active Duty Army...I have noticed that my desire to answer these questions has still remained, but with different intentions. I do believe that I truly want to answer questions that Soldiers have in regards to the Scriptures and theology, because I pray that not that the 'intellect' is tickled, or my back warmed by their praise, but that hopefully,...they will return again to the Scriptures and their hearts awakened by the Spirit of truth.

Ok...so here's the deal? Most of the time, soldiers love to think they have STUMPED the CHUMP. They love to ask about Dinosaurs, and if God could make a rock big enough that he couldn't move,...etc. BUT, I have recently thought about this, and most of the time the most often asked question is not in regards to the Problem of Evil (which is 2nd),...but it often revolves around the authenticity of the Scriptures.
Most soldiers, think that the Scriptures are merely 'corrupted' due to years of copying...and that they are riddled with errors. No longer do you hear, "I can't understand it...(as in my day where KJV was the typical standard)"...most of them recognize the innumerable variations found at the book store.

Do these variations help or hinder the message? A teen study Bible,....NIV...NSRV, CSB, CEV, ...policeman's version,...the hunters bible (in camo)...we have all seen them.

SO, my soldiers see all these as different 'translations'....and assume with all these variations that there is NO WAY POSSIBLE that we have the original language of the Scriptures in tact. Hard to believe?

Yesterday, I did have a soldier come to me and ask... "Chaplain, how did we get the Bible?" It shocked me...We talked about how the oral tradition of old,...later was written down,...the authority of Prophets...the Law...the Eyewitness accounts of the Life of Jesus,...the validity of the stories being written down so soon after the event,...the 20 centuries of the Bible being examined on a weekly basis by hundreds of thousands of pastors/teachers...the internal cohesiveness of all the stories both Old Testament and New Testament,...Council of Trent,...etc.

Now,...I love to read Church History and pray if the Lord permits,...I will go back and study even more,...but...ultimately...

Sitting beside someone and engaging them as individuals...listening to their questions,...and answering the best way you know God has prepared for you to answer...HUMBLY...that's why I do what I do.

Bottomline: So, do you have any solid hope for the reason you believe that 66 book collection you have in your room right now? Could you explain it? I am not sure if I gave all the right answers, actually I had to go back and tell the guy later I totally missed a fact,...Don't be shy. Defend your faith.

12.11.2009

Day 48, The "Get Out!" Storytime.

About four days ago, Jessica and I were riding down the Autobahn discussing the events of the upcoming week and various dinners we would have. A typical discussion, when your husband plans all the time, and your wife is an obsessive Chef.

As we were planning, we trailed off on a topic that we rarely discuss,...previous dates in our lives. This instantly digressed into a situation that I will gladly share. We called it, our personal, "GET OUT!" stories.

This is the scenario. You are a teenager or college student, dating person X. You are traveling from point A to point B, in a vehicle. I am not sure if it matters or not, but one of the individuals gets HIGHLY upset, enough that the time in the car is just TOO LONG, and the current PRESENCES of that person is causing utter disturbia (if that's a word). THUS, the only solution is :

1. QUICKLY STOP THE CAR.
2. YELL or RAISE YOUR VOICE, "GET OUT!"; "SERIOUSLY, GET OUT!"
or
1. SAY, "PULL THIS CAR OVER, I WANT OUT!"
2. QUICKLY STOPPING THE CAR, and EXITING THE VEHICLE.

Now mind you, Jessica and I laughed and discussed this for about 20 minutes. This was our 'private' talk, so I will not BLOG, about my personal past. Oh, how things change over the years. BUT Stories, like... "THE GET OUT STORYTIME"...will forever be a good time for Jessica and I.

Bottomline: The past relationships of many young married couples can oftentimes cause terrible marriage threatening problems. Knowing when and how mature your marriage is good, before jumping into long discussions about your teenage 'high-school' sweetheart...and 'fun-times' you had in college. We all have things we would like to leave in the past, and that is understandable. BUT, there are some things like, "the Get out storytime", which when properly administered in your family, will not cause problems...but will secure your marriage; due to the fact that you both emphasize the change of maturity from THEN to NOW. Speaking of the past as a learning time, opposed to glamorizing it, can always build security in the present and hope for the future.

12.07.2009

Day 47, Challenge to All Married Men.


I am 34 years old, currently. Since the age of 15 years old, I have driven pretty regularly. My first vehicle was a 1973 Ford F-100, basically a farm truck that we fixed up to suffice my teenage desires to have a 'cool' vehicle. My senior year of High School, I purchased (with the aide of my aunt) a 1992 Sunbird, the dreaded teal that was in style during the early 90's. It served well through my college years, and later on in 2000, I purchased my first New Volkswagen Jetta, TDI. Without any doubt, my favorite car. To wrap up my vehicle buys, Jessica and I sold our cars when we came to Germany, under some poor information flow that our cars weren't ready for the Autobahn,...yet as we arrived we bought a 2008 4x4 Explorer. A very nice ride for the often icy terrain that we experience here in Baumholder.

Now, I say all this to put forward my driving record.
Since the age of 16:

1. 1 Ticket in the Black Truck, for rolling through a stop sign (due to no power steering). (1992)
2. Bumped a lady on HWY 78, at the K-mart intersection in front of South Gwinnett High School, 1994. (she hit the brakes, and put it in reverse in an intersection!!)
3. 1 Ticket in my Teal Sunbird, excessive speeding (I passed a Campus Cop in a merging lane and made him mad,...long story). (1995)
4. 1 Speeding Ticket 2000, in a rental van trying to catch a speeding Singles Pastor who had the map, that I didn't have in my vehicle.

THAT IS IT. Yes, an absolutely clean driving record now for nearly 10 years.

On the other hand,my loving wife, with her verbal permission, I can say does not have the stellar achievement:

Since 2005 (our wedding),
1. Three minor wrecks with inanimate objects, Later 2005, March 2008, and December 2008.
2. One speeding Ticket on Gillom Hill, a common speed trap in Barbourville, KY. 2005.
3. Currently awaiting the Germany, mail-prize for getting the FLASH of a traffic camera,on the autobahn.


What's the bottomline:
Ok. This is not a slam on my wife's ability to circumvent rocks, guard rails, or buildings. Ok, it might be. YET, here's my question: What is the proper response when they come in with tears in their eyes or a shaky voice over the phone saying that they have wrecked the vehicle? Or I think I got a ticket today? There's the right response that wants to ask, "Are you ok?"; second, "Is the car drivable?"; BUT SERIOUSLY,...what is the response? You can't bring her home ground her, or send her to bed with no dinner...or take the keys away?

So, my solution: Blog about it. And Yes, Jessica knows. I asked, she laughed and said...you better write something funny, your blog is been really dry & heavy lately (with a smirk).

So, here' to you my wreckless Euro driver!

12.04.2009

Day 46, Biblical Counseling


This coming Sunday I have been asked to preach at a local church, Trinity Reformed Church in Landstuhl. Seeing that it is Advent season, the pastor/elder, Brent Sadler, encouraged me to take a look at Psalms 23, with particular emphasis on verse 4. Since my 'assignment', I feverishly attacked my library. Pulling every commentary, historical background, imagery,...anything I could get my hands on just to make sure that I was not launching out on preparing this sermon in vain.

One commentator said, that this passage is the "John 3:16" of the Old Testament. I would wholeheartedly agree. Which is wonderful, but also causes some great distress. WHY you ask? Because, I have heard this passage preached 1,000 times ...quoted in movies...etc, etc. Therefore, I want to be fresh with my thinking, which could easily be recounting why this passage has been so comforting to so many.

As I labored, and even today continue in this task, I frequently get knocks on my office door for counseling or appointments. These aren't interruptions, just opportunities. Seeing 30 individuals a month, one on one, far exceeds any ministry goals that I ever dreamed.

Yet, just recently this week, as I labored over Psalms 23:4,...I prayed for insight and understanding. The knock came, right on time. The soldier very upset and overwhelmed with grief over some issues. As I began to simply categorize his problems, then set up each with a reasonable course of action solution, my heart began to pound,...I knew this soldier did not need 'just another remedy'. My mind rushed to recount the entire Psalm in my mind...would this be the solace for this soldier? I cringed,...surely not. I continued with my seemingly easy to solve method. YET, the conviction to press into the Scripture became overwhelming,...the next thing I know...I am recounting how King David had some serious problems too. He was in a world of 'dung' a lot. And the only comfort he had was in the presence of the 'Shepherd', "The Lord is my shepherd".

There in my office, I explained verse 4 as if he were my only audience for this upcoming sermon. He listened intently, seeing relief show in his face as we pressed over and over, the only hope we have is resting in the presences and person of Jesus Christ.

Bottomline: Sometimes I truly think that we really believe that our labors can only be quantified if they are recognized by the masses. That somehow, numerically, we feel appreciated. This week, I realized that the sermon this Sunday has already been preached. This time it wasn't for me, but for this lone soldier. All the exposition, and studying culminating not to 1,000's to hear or 35,000 (like Whitfield in London), but 1 soldier...in a basement office. That's Biblical Counseling.

12.01.2009

Day 45, Meditation during Christmas.


Yesterday, Jessica and I sat down after having a wonderful, plum-stuffed pork loin with stuffing, to read a new book that we have started for the Advent season. The book is "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.", edited by Nancy Gutherie. It basically is a compilation of various reformed pastors/thinkers upon the topic of Christmas.

Last night, our very first reading was quite challenging. Jessica was really excited about reading it seeing that it was written by George Whitfield, knowing that I would delight in hearing his thoughts apart from the biography I am reading on him.

You could clearly tell as Jessica read aloud that this was 1730's English. It was difficult at first to understand, but just like listen to Shakespeare, your mind eventually clicks and you can understand a majority of it. Jessica continued to read, and I closed my eyes and listened to her.

With a smile she finished up the last couple of sentences, we both sat and pondered the brief message. In short, during the Christmas Holidays...should we not have more conversations regarding Christ,...should we not make him a much more central theme than our 'playing cards and going to plays'...should we not meditate on His coming.

I thought for a second after it was over to this Whitfield challenge,...and my first response was, "HOW DO I DO THAT?". But, for atleast for my home,...we have started just by reading this short book. We atleast have have directed 15 minutes of our evening to thoughtfully considering Christ. It is not an intense Bible Study and Hymns at Bldg. 8075, but it is a start.

What will you do this Christmas to meditate on Christ more? Will you be content with another year of trivial 'traditions' or will you do your best to raise your affections to the one who gave his life for your forgiveness and righteousness? My recommendation is an "Advent" book which centralizes on a passage of Scripture. Our write your own for your family. Use the Bible as your guide.