Life After the Death of a Daughter pt. 2

EmAndNice (Read pt. 1 here) The man lit his cigarette as he leaned against a rusted pickup truck. It was the early hours of the morning. The sun was just starting to peek through the trees surrounding the rear parking lot of Bloomington Hospital. Behind me my wife was giving Nicaea her first and only bath. She lovingly wipe the blood and vernix from our daughter’s lifeless body. I didn’t participate. I just stared out the window and wondered if the man was like me.

Was he overwhelmed by some tragedy? Was he escaping to his Chevy and cancer-stick to gather himself? A cigarette didn’t sound bad. All I had was a flask of whiskey. So I took a swig. Was he asking, “Why?” Was he angry?

I turned around and sat down on the couch. Why did this happen to us? Why did my only daughter have to die this way? Why now? Continue reading

The Sounds of Change

Photo on 7-22-14 at 3.06 PMThis is looking to be the summer of big announcements. I’ll get two out of the way right now. First, I’m learning to play the ukulele. Second, I’m having all my children baptized this coming Sunday. I’m slightly ashamed and embarrassed by one of these facts. I’ll let you decide which one.

I know some of my friends will find this news somewhat shocking. It is hard to imagine a man of my size and disposition playing an ukulele. I know, I know. Like I said, I’m slightly embarrassed.

The other news isn’t too surprising, right? I’ve described myself as a baptistic Presbyterian for some time. I’ve just simplified things. These days I’m just a Presbyterian.

Okay. Maybe it is a little surprising… Continue reading

Life After the Death of a Daughter pt. 1

164288_10100232039104080_330591342_nNote: I removed these posts from the internet over a year ago. I realized that parts of them were immodest and unwise. I was quite raw when I wrote them. I have decided to repost edited and revised versions of them due to the number of people asking me for a link to them. Here ya go. 

Where is her heartbeat? That question changed everything.

We were only two weeks away from our daughter’s due date. All three of our sons had come a week or two early. Anticipation was high. Any day now our first girl, Nicaea, would be snuggled in our arms.

Everything was ready for our home-birth. We were old pros. Each of our sons were born at home in a pool specially designed for water-births. All the needed materials and equipment were organized neatly in the corner of the room. All the boxes were ticked on our checklist except one.

We still had one last routine checkup with our midwife, Gay. My wife, Emily, had already seen our back-up doctor a few days before. He said everything looked good. We expected to hear the same from Gay.

Emily raced home from the grocery for the checkup. We were trying to squeeze it in before heading over to the Monroe County Fair. I had only a few hours before I need to be at work. Time was of the essence if we were going to eat Elephant Ears and ride the Tilt-a-Whirl.

Our house was like a busy intersection. Shirtless boys zipped around searching for their shoes. I quickly put away the groceries and made salami sandwiches. All the while Gay kept moving her doppler around my wife’s plump belly.

Her face increasingly wore a concerned look. Emily’s face toward a similar story.

I asked, “Is something wrong?” Gay said, “Yes. I can’t find the heartbeat.”

Everything stopped. It was quiet. I was still. The boy’s were still. Em’s face was empty with shock.

My oldest son’s voice broke the silence.

“Is Nicaea okay?” Continue reading

Notes from the Rockies pt. 2

ElkI’m happy to inform the world that no one was eaten by a bear after three days of camping two miles about sea level.

We didn’t even see a bear. Well, maybe. It was a possibly moving brownish blob on the side of a mountain far away in the distance. Who knows?

Regardless, we saw a ton of wildlife, especially inside Rocky Mountain National Park. There were elk everywhere. We woke up to a herd grazing 100 yards from our campsite. We also saw a Bighorn Sheep, a young moose, a Pika, Mule Deer, a Yellow-bellied Marmot, a Heather Vole, and a coyote.

We saw some cool birds but I haven’t a clue what they are properly called. I’ll settle with a general categorizing of them as perdy birdies.

Camping is kind of fun. Kinda. Stories around a camp fire, the soothing sounds of mountain winds, and an all around more direct contact with creation are all neat stuff. But I’m also a fan of modern comforts. For example, I’m fan of not worrying about a cougar or a bear attacking me when nature calls in the middle of the night. So, there are positives and negatives when it comes to camping in the Rockies.

One of positives of camping for me is the inability to sleep in. I was up every morning at 5:00ish AM MST. This afforded me some extra time to read, pray, and meditate. I spent several hours working through things at a little cafe called Coffee on the Rocks a few miles from our campground.

One thing I reflected on is how I have changed theologically since moving to Bloomington, IN… Continue reading

Notes from the Rockies pt. 1

CliffLife has been a whirlwind of weird for the last several years.

I planted a church. I join a card counting team. I had five kids. I uprooted a church plant. I quit a card counting team. I moved away from a town I loved. I was a subject of documentary. I enrolled in a Pastors College. I became embroiled in some intense workplace drama. I lost a child to a rare in utero disease. I graduated from a Pastors College.

Those are just the highlights or, in a few instances, the lowlights. Its been a wild ride with only fleeting moments of reflection…

Continue reading

Ken Jennings is Overrated: Evangelism Myths pt. 2

03-30-14-Alex-Trebek-Ken-Jennings-ftrI convert from atheism to Christianity my sophomore year at Lawrenceburg High School in Southern Indiana. Being freshly reborn, I was eager to take advantage of any opportunity to preach the gospel to my classmates. Such an opportunity presented itself when I was assigned a report for my English class on Jonathan Edward’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

Writing has never been my forte. I have a form dyslexia that makes it difficult for me to discern differences between words as I write or type. The result is that things I write often don’t make a lick of sense. But talking is different. I’ve always possessed the gift of gab. That is to say, I’m fairly quick on my feet when it comes to verbal exchanges. This assignment was particularly helpful since it not only included a written report but also a short speech that was given to the class in the form of a defense of your thesis or basic conclusion.

This was my moment. I would use my Edwards speech to gain a public pulpit to preach sin and grace to captive audience. Revival would break out. Songs would be written and stories told. It would be awesome or so I thought…

The day finally came. I gave my speech. I did pretty decent job. I focused on how God was just in condemning us to hell for sin and that the only means of salvation was Jesus Christ. I finished by asking if anyone had any questions. Probably ten hands flew up in a class generally packed with apathetic peers.

Yes!
Revival!
Move over Whitfield!

I ready myself for cries of “what must we do to be saved?” Instead, I got a punch in the gut.

“What do you think about human cloning? Do clones have souls?”

Uh…

“Do you think marijuana should be legalized? Genesis say it is okay?”

Well…

“Do you believe in alien a life? There are UFOs in Ezekiel, right?

Say what?

No one had any interest in the central topic (aka the gospel). They only wanted to talk about issues that were at best tangentially connected.

I tried my best to answer the questions but I was new Christian. I stumbled over my words. I contradicted myself. I failed. Ken Jennings I was not. It was very discouraging.

This experience drove me to read up on every hot topic I could find. I gobbled up every apologetics book I could find. I honed my skills by street preaching at Florence Mall or Fountain Square. Never again would I be caught off guard by a question. I would find an answer for every objection.

But this was the wrong lesson to be learned.

It took me four years to figure that out. My problem wasn’t that I was unprepared to answer certain questions. The problem was that I let people draw me away from the gospel into secondary matters. The pagan always prefers a topical wild goose chases over discussing sin and repentance. The want to talk about everything but the gospel. But you can’t let that happen. The gospel is the end all-be all.

The Christian evangelist doesn’t need an answer for everything. Matter of fact, there aren’t even answers for many questions. I haven’t a clue if there is life on some planet in Alpha Centauri. Maybe, maybe not. I doubt it. But I do know that every single man on earth will stand before the judgment throne and they’ll need a Savior. That is a certainty.

Listen up, you don’t need to know everything to evangelize. Theological know-it-all isn’t a perquisite to be an evangelist. That is a myth. You only need to know the gospel. You need to love God. That is it.

Can you explain sin? Can you explain judgment? Can you explain why the cross was necessary? Can you explain the promise of a new life that starts here on earth and continues in a renewed earth?

These are the issues you need to focus on. Most “intellectual” problems are just smoke screens and detours. You want to do your best to answer them. However, the gospel is what we’ve be commission to preach. Evangelism isn’t high octane Jeopardy! where you show your worth by your breadth of knowledge. Evangelism is where you declare a simple message and trust that the Holy Spirit works through the Word preached. Master that.

No Mixtapes Required: Evangelism Myths pt. 1

images“You need to have a relationship with someone before you can share the gospel with them.”

If you believe that you might as well believe in unicorns or that Catfish is documentary filmmaking. Why? Because this is a myth that the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” whispered in your ear. The true God, the Holy Trinity, has commanded us to declare the good news to strangers and friends alike.

This whole pre-evangelism friendship requirement is complete hogwash. The Bible doesn’t command us to make strangers into friends before we point out the shackle of sin and the key of the gospel. That is just a lie.

Consider that…

Jesus asked only a question or two of the rich young ruler and the Samaritan woman before striking at the heart of their sins.

Peter didn’t know everyone he preached to on Pentecost and yet he called them murderers.

Paul didn’t become best buds with all the guys on Mars Hill before pointing out the foolishness of their false gods.

There is one requirement that a person must meet before you preach the gospel to them. They must be alive. That’s it. You should preach the good news to anyone that has blood pumping through their veins.

You don’t have to take them out for drinks. Friend them on Facebook. Or share a carefully prepared mixtape.

Two quick “qualifying” points…

First, this doesn’t mean you need to be a rude or nasty. However, speaking plainly and directly is often labeled rude and nasty by our pomo culture. Don’t fret. That isn’t how God sees it.

Second, this doesn’t mean that timing is a moot point. Listening and getting to know someone isn’t a sin. It is actually a very good thing. When to bring up the gospel with someone does involve discernment. But we all usually wait too long and if you are waiting because “you gotta make deposits before you make withdraws” stop it.

You want relationships. Good. Preaching the gospel makes brothers. Just don’t get the cart in front of the horse.

When your son leads you in worship

I didn’t grow up singing many songs about Jesus unless you count Phil Collins’ use of “Lawd” in a couple his tracks. But… I’m learning them now!

Nonetheless, I’ll be playing catch up for quite some time when compared to my peers that grew up in Christian homes. Their parents, if they were faithful, taught them at least some of the glorious psalms, hymns, and songs of the Church.

What a blessing it is to grow up in a Christian family! But that has to start somewhere with someone, right? With that in mind, it is encouraging for me to watch my oldest son help lead our congregation in worship this past Palm Sunday.

He is the fine looking blond boy wearing a red shirt in the front row. How many hymns will he know when he is my age? How many will my grandchildren know? The very thought makes me tear up! While I’m on the subject, be sure to check out the resources on Clearnote Songbook. It is an excellent tool to train up your family in the worship of the Lord.

 

 

A Broken Down Christmas Gift

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Smoking Van“What is that smell?”
“I think it is our van.”

The smoke that rose from around the edge of the hood confirmed my wife’s suspicion. I needed to get us off the road. My initial attempt to move our minivan into the turning lane was met with unanticipated resistance.

Ugh. I immediately knew what was going on. We had just got the power steering leak “fixed” a few weeks back in preparation for this Christmas trip to Cincinnati. Something had clearly done come unfixed.

I managed to get the Town and Country into the parking lot of a nearby United Dairy Farmers. There are at least two good things about UDF. First, they are open on Christmas Eve. Second, they stock a lot of power steering fluid.

Sadly, it didn’t matter. The fluid splattered onto the concrete seconds after I poured it into the reservoir. This wasn’t a small leak. It was a waterfall that sucked its source dry in moments. I needed the advice of a professional.

My Bloomington mechanic told me that he was very sorry that I was stranded 3 hours away from home on Christmas Eve. He said he would be happy to look it over when we got back in town. He said not to drive it without fluid in the reservoir or it would ruin the pump. He said to get it fixed if I had to and he’d make it right. I said, “Okay.” What else could I say?

I called around town but apparently most mechanics in Cincinnati have families… Continue reading

Biblical Fatherhood Hinges on Biblical Sexuality

413u9M4i8vL._SY300_The following outline is taken from the closing chapter of Werner Neuer’s Man & Woman in Christian Perspective. It is a very helpful tool for anyone that is seeking to understand why sexuality should be a central focus of the church. It is also relevant to the subject of this blog. Biblical fatherhood is ultimately a function of biblical sexuality. You can understand one without understanding the other.

I don’t like a few of his terms (e.g. values, gender, etc) and sterilized approach to application. Those things aside, it remains one the better summations I’ve read on the subject. I hope you find it useful.

Summary of Main Points and Conclusions

1. The biblical view of the sexes can be summed up in three points:

a. The unconditional affirmation of sexuality within divinely set boundaries as a good creation of God.

b. The full equality of man and woman because both were made in God’s image and fully redeemed in Christ.

c. The distinction of male and female, which involves different tasks for the sexes and a different position of man  and woman.

2. The biblical ordering of the sexes consist in the man being seen as the head of the woman and the woman as supporter of the man (Gen. 2).

3. Headship for the man means:

a. The task of leadership and direction in marriage, church and society.

b. The acceptance of this leadership in dedicated selfless love, imitating Christ.

4. The position of supporter for the woman means:

a. Loving subordination under male leadership.

b. Completing the man by her special gifts as a woman.

5. The biblical ordering of man and woman (male superordination and female subordination) is an ordering in love, is sanctified by love and is also limited by it.

a. It is sanctified by love in that it reflects the eternal, inner trinitarian love of God (1 Cor 11:3) and the covenant of love between Christ and the church (Eph 5:22ff.).

b. It is limited by love, since love makes impossible every type of arbitrary male despotism and every slavish subjection of women.

6. As an ordinance of creation the biblical ordering of man and woman fundamentally applies to everyone, since it rests on the created nature of male and female.  Continue reading