Saturday, June 30, 2007

Aloha Maui

As you can see, we've had a wonderful time together here. Today we say "Aloha" to Maui and get on a plane back to the mainland.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Back to the Mainland Tomorrow

Notice the green sea turtle in the sand? We saw real ones like that in the ocean!

Very windy at the top of Haleakala volcano! Anna & Sophie earned Junior Ranger badges here too.

Coldstone Creamery Ice Cream on Front Street in Lahaina at Sunset.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

More Fun on Maui

Samoan Fire Dancer at last night's Polynesian Luau. Sophie and Anna say that people shouldn't play with fire like that.
The tropical sun got us yesterday, so this afternoon we avoided the beach and visited the Maui Ocean Center Aquarium. The Sharks and Manta Rays were shocking!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Bodyboarding at My Favorite Beach

Girls rip. They are tough as nails and are not afraid of getting tossed into the sand by a 4 foot wave. I couldn't be prouder.

We took these photos today at Fleming Beach Park on West Maui. If you ask me, this is the best beach in the world. Soft sand, great waves, lifeguards, good shade, and a stunning view toward Molokai.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Book Review: Grace Based Parenting

As I was browsing the shelves of one of my favorite small bookstores a few months ago, I saw this title and quickly put it in the pile of books I wanted to buy. Now that I'm finished with my series of reviews on postmodernism and apologetic preaching, I can finally read and review books on other topics. While packing for this sabbatical, I looked through my library for books to take with me and I saw this title again: Grace Based Parenting. I knew immediately that I must read this book.
If you wrote a parenting book, what would you choose for a title? Maybe "Bold Parenting", or "Smart & Savvy Parenting" or "Tough Love Parenting"? I would probably choose something like "How to Raise Girls Who Can Play with You Like Boys But Are Still Girly Enough to Be Cute." The problem with these titles is that they don't capture God's heart in parenting. Think about how our heavenly Father relates to His children. If you could only choose one word to describe God's fatherly love and care toward you, what word would you choose?
Grace is that one word. And Tim Kimmel's Grace Based Parenting is now near the top of my top 5 parenting books. Kimmel surveys a biblical matrix for parenting and concludes that kids need a secure love, a significant purpose and a strong hope. Love, purpose and hope like this only come as a gracious gift from God the Father through His Son Jesus by the working of the Holy Spirit. Parents leading their family into godliness are God's primary means for delivering these gracious gifts to kids. And grace based parenting gives kids the freedom that they need: freedom to be different, freedom to be vulnerable, freedom to be candid and freedom to make mistakes.
This book is based on a solid theological foundation of God's boundless grace. It provides parents with a philosophy of parenting that avoids many errors. Practical examples abound. My favorite was: "Should I let my Christian child get that tatoo of their favorite Bible verse?" Most helpfully, this book inspired me to look to God my Father for more grace today and to keep on parenting my girls with abundant grace.
Grace Based Parenting, Dr. Tim Kimmel, W Publishing Group/Thomas Nelson, 2004

Friday, June 22, 2007

Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay

We took a slow flight from Las Vegas to Honolulu yesterday. Here we are on Oahu at Hanauma Bay yesterday evening. Anna and Sophie are bravely snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. This is how we plan to spend the day today.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Narrows at Zion National Park

Canyoneering was our adventure today. Here are Megan and the girls in the Virgin River Narrows at Zion National Park. The cliffs on either side go up as much as 1500 feet!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Goblin Valley

Here's the photo of the day from our sabbatical.

Location: Goblin Valley State Park, Southern Utah

Trivial Fact: Scenes from Galaxy Quest (starring Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver and Allan Rickman) were filmed at this location.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Book Review: Apologetic Preaching

No, this is not a book about saying you’re sorry as you preach. Instead, this is a book about preaching in a postmodern culture. Craig Loscalzo challenges preachers to fulfill their call to preach mystery in an age of information, to preach hope in an era of skepticism, to preach confidence in a time of doubt and to preach truth in a climate of relativism. In late summer of 2002, I was able to visit Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, where Dr. Loscalzo serves as pastor. It is a large, architecturally-traditional church atop one of the rolling hills in the southern suburbs. Central Kentucky has a long history of Christian preaching. But Craig Loscalzo thinks times have changed. “We live and preach between times,” he says. [11] The modern way of thinking is giving way to postmodern thinking across the country, from the East Coast to the West Coast, and including the Bible Belt.

What are some of the characteristics of this postmodern-ism? First, “The postmodern world appears less likely to be seduced by technology’s promises…Technology has not rid the world of evil that breeds in the depths of human hearts.” [15] In New York City in 2001, people flew hi-tech airplanes into hi-tech buildings and thousands died. Just over 60 years ago in Auschwitz and Birkenau, hi-tech trains hauled countless Eastern European Jews to hi-tech gas chambers. People who live in this postmodern world no longer hope for a technologically-driven utopia like some in previous generations did. Yet, most postmodernists still have lots of cool electronic gadgets. Even this preacher has a video iPod and a cell phone with a built-in camera.

“Postmodernism also applauds the end of modernism’s love affair with objectivity and reason as the sole arbiters of truth.” [16] Personal experience and personal perspective have become paramount in the average person’s understanding of reality. Particularly in matters of religion and politics, what matters most is individual interpretation.

Loscalzo outlines a number of other changes as well. The proliferation of choices in the marketplace contributes to an environment of choice in all metaphysical matters. Modern autonomous individualism is giving way to a postmodern resurgence of communities, each with its own language and sources of meaning. A pervasive attitude of suspicion affects all relationships, especially those where one person is seeking to persuade another of the truthfulness of a particular position. Not all of these changes are bad, teaches Loscalzo, and preachers do better when they take these views seriously and address them “from a collaborative rather than adversarial stance.” [20] The most important value that preachers must adopt to communicate effectively with postmodernists is authenticity. Furthermore, “apologetic preaching requires ministers to reclaim the mantle of theologian for the church.” [25] Loscalzo advocates a variety of styles of preaching, emphasizing the use of stories for illustrations, narrative preaching and non-linear inductive methods of reasoning.

Some preachers may find the chapter-closing example sermons to be most helpful as they work to communicate well with postmodern listeners. While example sermons might fit an evangelistic preaching opportunity outside of a Sunday church service, I would not recommend them as good examples for preaching to an established congregation on the Lord’s Day. Expositional preaching ought to be the main diet of the gathered community of believers and the postmodern tendencies of our hearers in church can be respected and corrected as needed with expositional sermons. I found the following sentence most helpful: “By intentionally looking for places of connection between the gospel and the postmodern world – being careful not to demonize postmodernism – we will move our listeners by identifying with their life experiences.” [77] Loscalzo particularly emphasizes using his methods of apologetic preaching during Christmas and Easter services, since many attend church only on those occasions.

While containing a helpful overview of the issues that preachers face today, I do not recommend this book. If you want to learn how to more effectively preach to people with postmodern sensibilities, read a book like Postmodern Times by Gene Edward Veith to get a sense of the cultural implications of this movement, then read sermons by authentically Spirit-empowered preachers from the pre-modern and modern eras such as John Crysostom, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, then read books like Between Two Worlds by John Stott, then study your Bible and preach the Word.

Apologetic Preaching, Craig A. Loscalzo, IVP, 2000

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

On the Road to South Dakota

As promised, here are some photos from the beginning of our sabbatical.
First stop: The Oregon Trail Ruts outside Guernsey, Wyoming

Then, Fort Laramie National Historic Site, where thankfully the root beer bar was open!

And earlier today, a tour of Wind Cave National Park. Can you believe that little hole goes on for over 120 miles underground?

Book Review: Disarming the Secular Gods

If you were to write a book on Christian apologetics, what title would you choose? Peter C. Moore would have chosen Out of the Iron Furnace: Exit Routes from Today’s Secular Faiths. I’m not sure which I like better, that title or the one actually given the book by its publisher. But I am sure that I like Moore’s approach to the task of defending the Christian faith when skeptics make their case against it. Moore defends the claims of Christians against the attacks of a host of –isms and employs the methods of both presuppositionalist and evidentialist Christian philosophy. Moore is a well-educated and well-traveled Anglican, so if you read this book, get ready for that. In the opening chapter, he laments over how “much that has gone by in the name of evangelism has been manipulative, anti-intellectual and culture-bound.” [20] As a Baptist who has sat through far too many extended “invitations” tacked onto the end of sermons, I must say that I agree.

Here is perhaps the most helpful line I learned from Moore for use in conversations with skeptics: “You may be right in what you say is wrong, but are you right in what you say is right?” [32] Obviously, all skeptics have some sort of critique of Christianity as they understand it. While conversing with skeptics, Moore builds bridges by going as far as he can with their criticisms. Before too long, he seeks to show how the other worldview is not able to be lived out consistently. Then, he respectfully shows his opponent the superiority of the Christian gospel.

In his chapter on the “New Age” movement, Moore helpfully highlights its essential mysticism, monism, syncretism and atheism blended with “spirituality.” The contrast between the impersonal emphasis of the “New Age” movement and the personal language of the Bible is striking. Our God speaks clearly in particular words to a particular people at particular points in human history. Therefore, “we must hold on to the significance of who we are and being with a resolute determination neither to dissolve our identity into the impersonal, mystical Absolute nor to surrender our rationality to a one-sided intuitive, elite path to insight, but rather to listen to the still small voice that addresses us as whole people.” [60]

Moore provides his readers with succinctly devastating critiques of a variety of skeptical perspectives. He concludes that “Humanism, by seeking a way to elevate us from mere corporeality, robs us of the ability to find our true dignity in our relationship to God. It first turns us into gods, and then proceeds to smash the very idols it has made.” [82] He highlights how relativists, like humanists, “cheerfully claim values like humility, love and compassion for their own system, even if they have no final reason for choosing them over their opposites.” [101] He explains how narcissism is “not a thought-out view of the world with merits which must be given due weight alongside the merits of other systems. It is, rather, a flight from responsible decision making and in its worst forms an implosion of the self in upon itself that renders impossible what normal people call maturity.” [117] The real reason agnostics refuse to consider Christianity with an open mind is not because there is not enough evidence, rather “they have accepted a faith that will not permit that consideration.” [143] Pragmatism drives the “faith” of many “Christians” today, who “present the gospel as believable not because it is true, but because it is workable.” [158] But all must live in a world with real suffering, and pragmatists have no means of suffering with hope. Hedonists are confronted with the twin realities that “pleasure and pain can be easily confused” [178] and that “Loneliness and meaninglessness dog the steps of the hedonist and narcissist alike.” [181]

Do you know anyone who self-identifies as a hedonist, or a narcissist, or a relativist, or a pragmatist? I don’t either. But Moore is right when he says that “This does not mean that their world view is not shaped largely by one or more of these isms.” [196] While one might quibble with Moore on a number of his off-hand theological comments, he makes a greater point that “to establish the truth of any system we need to examine not only what it says is wrong, but also what it says is right.” [198] Even though this book is nearly 20 years old, Christians who want to train themselves to be godly apologists will be well served by reading this book.

Disarming the Secular Gods, Peter C. Moore, IVP, 1989

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Taking a Sabbatical

It's official. While we continue to search for a new church to be part of, today we begin a 5-week sabbatical. The kids finished school today and my leave from ministry at Cornerstone Church is transitioning into a great family adventure. Today we finalized our plans. From this Sunday, June 10th to Saturday, July 14th, we will travel to:
  • Wyoming and South Dakota for a one-week camping trip
  • Back to our home in Superior to regroup and repack for a few days
  • Out west to Utah's National Parks
  • On to Las Vegas, where we will catch a cheap flight to Hawaii
  • With a quick stop on Oahu and then 8 days on Maui
  • Back to Vegas late one night and then on to Hoover Dam the next day
  • Across Northern Arizona to drop in on the Smiley Family and visit the Grand Canyon
  • On to Northern New Mexico where we will join Megan's family for 4th of July week
  • Back East to Branson, Missouri and Table Rock Lake where we will join Scott's family for another week
  • And finally back across Kansas just in time for Bryan & Stephanie's wedding in Boulder on July 15th.
Stop back soon for updates from the road and hopefully some good photos.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Book Review: The Passion-Driven Sermon

Here are some questions that have been on my mind lately: "What is the role and responsibility of a pastor as a preacher?" While visiting other churches and listening to a few preachers who are far-more experienced than myself, I have wondered: "Did God really commission the preacher to be the dispenser of the infinite number of how-to's necessary for navigating daily life effectively?" Is the goal of preaching to answer all of the questions that people are asking? If it is, I'm in deep trouble, because I'm not a spiritual guru with infinite knowledge.

These questions have been on my mind because they are the questions that Jim Shaddix poses to preachers and congregations in The Passion-Driven Sermon. Dr. Shaddix, former professor of preaching at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, is now the preaching pastor at Riverside Baptist Church in Denver. He was also kind enough to take me out to lunch a few weeks ago and help me with some problems I'm facing as a pastor and a preacher. This book outlines a practical theology of pastoral preaching that is driven by a passion for the glory of God - a passion to be jointly possessed by the pastor and the people.

Shaddix' practical theology of preaching is firmly committed to the expositional preaching of the Bible. He warns the church against the dangers of pragmatism and the temptation for pastors to neglect their ministry as shepherds who lead and feed God's people with His Word. Regarding seeker-oriented messages he asks the obvious question: Where will the most number of lost people always be, inside or outside the church? The obvious answer is outside, and therefore he exhorts pastors to preach in a way that is primarily directed at shaping the people of God into the image of Christ through the explanation and application of God's Word in the power of the Spirit. The connection of the power of the Spirit and the authority of the Bible is found often throughout the book as Shaddix makes his Biblical, philosophical and practical points about preaching.

Here are a few quotes that I especially appreciated:

"There is a hidden cry in every human soul to know the glory of God!" [102]

"The effectiveness of pastoral preaching cannot and should not be gauged by what happens at the altar on Sunday morning or by what parishioners say as they shake the minister's hand at the back of the church after the service. The effectiveness of pastoral preaching must be guaged by whether or not we who listen to preaching look more like Jesus this year than we did this time last year." [94]

"It is far more important for the shepherd to teach people to think Christianly than to act rightly." [115]

"Pastoral preaching somehow has to move beyond individual instruction and announce ethical mandates that describe morality in communal terms." [119]

"As the pastor grows confident in the supernatural power of God's Word, however, and adds to his confidence strong convictions about the practice of biblical exposition, he can be certain that the potent power of God will always be in his preaching. Why? The power of God does not rest pragmatically in the preacher but intrinsically in the truth of God's Word." [145]

This morning I will be finishing a sermon from Psalm 66 that I am scheduled to preach on Sunday. I am seeking to apply what I've learned in this book as prepare for this sermon. But more than anything, I'm looking forward to spending most of my day with God today, meeting with Him in His Word, allowing Him to work in my mind and heart, becoming saturated with the truth of Psalm 66, so that I might proclaim it with a real passion for God's glory.