Sunday, December 31, 2006

Getting ready to preach

I'm preaching this Sunday and next Sunday at HCBC Pflugerville on life-changing relationships. I'm talking this week about how we are created in the image of a relational God (Triune), and we most reflect our Maker when we live in self-giving, forgiving community. I hope to communicate the why behind living in authentic community today. Next Sunday, I'll be preaching on how life-change actually happens as we invite biblical feedback into our lives from others around us. I hope to communicate using biblical examples how honest, godly feedback can transform our paradigms for life.

Both of these messages are close to my heart since I am constantly ministering to people who are living disconnected lives, or as Randy Frazee describes it, lives of crowded loneliness. We have lots of acquaintances, but very few (if any) close friends who know us deeply and authentically. I would add to Frazee's diagnosis the fact that we live in a world of wired isolation. I think we feel good about our connectedness because we have lots of names in our palm pilots, lots of numbers in our cell phone, lots of friends on MySpace, but again can feel very lonely in the midst of all that. Gallup has said that 2/3 of Americans have intense feelings of loneliness from time to time. We are wired to crowds of people, but again, know very few of them at a deep, personal level.

My prayer is that we can move beyond the religion of individualism that impacts so many of us and actually connect at a personal level with others in the church and the community.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Blood Diamond

I went with my dad and Mike, another member of our family, to see the movie Blood Diamond last night. It was gripping and terrifying and heart-wrenching all at the same time. I had heard that the movie was powerful, but even with high expectations, I was impressed. The story is set during the civil conflict in Sierra Leone during the late 90's. Of course, the story is fictional, but the circumstances that the story is set in actually happened. It is a chilling reminder of the darkness that envelopes our world and the darkness that treads deep in our own hearts. The movie is also a snapshot of how the American consumer drives many conflicts around the world without even knowing about it. Our global economy is really something.

You can read more about the current situation with conflict diamonds HERE.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Symbolic for Some, Life-Changing for Others

Merry Christmas from the Ferguson home 2006. We had a wonderful morning full of wide-eyed kids, new toys, new clothes, and a birthday cake for Jesus. The boys especially liked the fact that Jesus' birthday called for a slice of cake after breakfast. This must be something special if they get to eat cake after breakfast. As with all Christmas days, many will say how the symbols of the days are trans-cultural and even trans-religions, reminding us that the message of the Savior's birth is really an ancient metaphor for the hope that exists for all ordinary people. The story of His birth is claimed by all people as a reminder of how humble beginnings can lead to exalted status in the end.

However, the truth of Christmas is life-changing for those who have trusted in the baby born this day. No other God who is worshiped in this world cared enough to step out of eternity, enter our darkness, and invade our depravity so that we could have eternal fellowship with Father God. Today is not just a time to remember the symbol of the Christian holiday, but a time to encounter the living Jesus. He really came, He really died, He really rose again. The baby who grew into a man lives today, not just in an ancient book that points back to His life, but in reality. He sits at the right hand of the Father today, ready to come back to claim His creation for His eternal glory.

May Your Christmas be more that a day off work, a day between shopping days, or a time to simply give and receive. May it be a time to think on the Living One who was and is and is to come. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Missio Dei

Dr. Mark Young, a professor of missions at DTS, preached a four day message series in chapel in October called Mission Dei, or Mission of God, where he explored the idea that the foundational theological framework of the early church was missional. In other words, the apostles and early church fathers never considered the fact that Christianity would become a "state" religion, but rather that as missionaries of Jesus Christ, they were called to speak the truth of the gospel to a hostile world. The mission of God to bring worshipers to Himself from all peoples, tribes, and tongues through the message of Jesus was the central understanding behind their lifestyles and theology. In other words, if our churches and personal lives are not being lived on mission with God in the world, then we will get bogged down in internal debates among the troops and forget about the central biblical framework of the early church.

I see and feel this all the time as I interact with other pastors and lay people from other churches. The decision of church leadership to center the life of the local church around the mission of God changes everything that a church does. It impacts the way we spend money, the way we use our time, the way we raise our families. In other words, a church without a clear understanding of God's work in the world will end up wasting time and energy and money on their own agenda. Personally, I feel blessed to be in an environment where the leadership of the Hill Country Bible Church understands the mission of God and feels the weight of the immanent return of Jesus in how we respond to this mission. My prayer for all of us is that we will return to a missional theology that drives us to ask the right questions to engage a lost and hurting world and missional living that drives us to sacrifice our personal comfort for the glory of God.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

God's Guidelines So Out of Date

This news report on new research related to premarital sex shows that very few people actually wait until their wedding night to have sex (around 5%). As a youth pastor who has worked with students for years and a father of three boys, this saddens my heart at a deep level. Our culture does not help our young men and women obey the Lord in this area. The pressure to be sexually active before marriage is strong. I can't remember the last time a TV or movie character was championed because of their obedience to God in this area. But beyond culture, our own depravity makes obedience in this area extremely hard. I know the struggles that young people face in this area; Barie and I dated for four years before we were married in college. However, God has blessed our marriage relationship because we reserved sex for our wedding night. I know that God gives us grace and forgives couples who stumble in this area, but I also know the rewards that go with waiting. May God help more of our young people follow this "out-of-date" biblical guideline so that they can celebrate increased sexual intimacy in their marriage.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Time magazine, really?

So this year's person of the year from Time Magazine is You. You read it right - they are (as many have done for years now) recognizing the exalted place of the individual in our technical age. And so we have another excuse to buy into the lie that the universe revolves around me and my desires. How we can live in a universe as vast as ours and still believe that we are the star in the show amazes me. I interact with people all day who have bought into that kind of thinking and ended up destroying their lives. They are dieing because of living for the their own glory and fulfillment. I like how John Piper says it:

"The point is this: we were made to know and treasure the glory of God above all things; and when we trade that treasure for images, everything is disordered. The sun of God's glory was made to shine at the center of the solar system of our soul. When it does, all the planets for our life are held in their proper orbit. But when the sun is displaced, everything flies apart. The healing of the soul begins by restoring the glory of God to its flaming, all-attracting place at the center. We are all starved for the glory of God, not self. No one goes to the Grand Canyon to increase self-esteem. Why do we go? Because there is greater healing for the soul in beholding the splendor than there is in beholding self. Indeed, what could be more ludicrous in a vast and glorious universe like this than a human being, on the speck called earth, standing in front of a mirror trying to find significance in his own self-image? It is a great sadness that this is the gospel of the modern world."

Sorry, Time - You is just a poser of the One who really deserves all the glory.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Great Christmas Party

We invited our new neighbors over to our house last night for a two-hour get-to-know-ya Christmas party. There are 12 homes on our street, and 8 of the families were here. It was awesome to get to know everyone. Everybody seemed really excited to get to know each other and find out who was living next to them. We gave everyone a copy of Piper's book, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, as a Christmas gift in the hope that they would be encouraged to think on Christ during the craziness that is the American commercial Christmas season. Both Barie and I hope that this is the beginning of some great new friendships on our street. Looks promising!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Life-Change

I had the unique opportunity to lead a lady named Julie to faith in Christ this week. She came into our offices needing some marriage counseling on Tuesday morning, and I was set up to help her out. She had attended the church only a few times, but God was really moving in her life to draw her to Jesus. She was searching for meaning and purpose in her life. She said that she had grown up around church, but that it had been so long since she had been. I told her I didn't want to assume that she had heard or understood the gospel, so I took some time to walk her through the meaning of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. I shared the bridge illustration of how faith in Christ could connect her to God for the first time. She said she had never heard what I was sharing with her. It was amazing to watch God work on her heart as she prayed to receive Christ right there in my office. We gave her a Bible and are getting her connected to long-term discipleship. It is days like these that keep me going - seeing real life-change happen before my eyes.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Kyle Lake Family Settles

Some of you had kept up with the story of Kyle Lake, the young pastor in Waco who suddenly went to be the Lord because of a terrible accident during a baptism at the church. Barie and I were at UBC for a year while we were at Baylor. I just saw this note today in the Waco paper that his family had settled with the electrical company that installed the baptistery heaters. I'm glad to see that they settled, & I hope that his family has been taken care of by the company. My prayers continue to be with his wife and three kids.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

fun times...

I've been terrible about blogging over the last week. Life is going at a pace that is too fast right now. I guess everyone struggles to find time during the Holiday season. We had our second vision meeting on Sunday evening for the church plant, and it went really well. We had a neat time of worship and time to start building new relationships in the group. I'll post more on the church plant blog later this week.

In personal news, some of our heroes, Horace and Retta Heathman (a couple we know from our days back at Mt. Calm), came to see us yesterday. It had been too long since we had time together with them. They are one of those couples who simply walks with God and encourages all those around them. Just as we have been busy with our kids and ministry, they have been extremely busy with a project God has laid on their hearts: to build a Christian retreat center on their land outside of Waco. It has been amazing to see how they have been faithful to pursue the Lord's will for them later in their life. I pray that I am running hard after God in my later years and not simply sitting around enjoying what I did when I was young. They are a testimony to perseverance in ministry and faithfulness to the call over many, many years. We had a great time catching up with them yesterday afternoon.

We also enjoyed getting some time together with my parents this weekend. They came down on Saturday so that Mom could go with Barie to the women's Christmas event at our church in Pflugerville. One of our old neighbors, Callie, also went with Barie. They had a great time. Dad and I took the boys (all 3!) to Gatti-land, a local Round Rock pizza place that has a pizza buffet and tons of games for the kids. You have never seen so many people in one restaurant as we saw on Saturday night. We braved the elements so that the boys could enjoy the games, but I doubt that my dad will ever venture to the "pizza place" again. ;)

On Sunday afternoon (before the vision meeting), we took the boys to what our association called a "winter wonderland." They brought in two and a half truckloads of ice and made enough snow on this hill in our neighborhood for the kids to sled down. Let's just say that we were not prepared for the cold wind, the cold snow, or the amount of mud at the bottom of the hill. Another fun memory...but not so much wanting to ever do it again. It took Barie a whole load of laundry and a whole bottle of spray and wash to get the mud out of my clothes and the boys clothes.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Ikea

Walked the new Ikea in Round Rock tonight with my beautiful bride. We had our date night tonight, and since we figured we would never make it through the whole store with all three kids, we decided to go tonight and enjoy ourselves. The place is really something to see - I especially enjoyed seeing the small apartments that said "living in 536 sq ft" and showed how you could really live in a small amount of space if you didn't mind sitting on the toilet and being able to touch the refrigerator in the kitchen.

Overall impressions: there is a novelty about the place since you really won't find many other large home furnishing stores with a Swedish cafeteria in the middle of them (by the way, meatballs are good, salmon is bad). They really do have more stuff than I have ever seen under one roof. There is stuff there you would never know you needed until you visited and took a walk through the store.

On the flip side, however, the place is not built for people who shop like I do. My wife loved walking through all the model rooms and seeing everything for sale. She said it sparked creative ideas that she would use later. When I shop, on the other hand, I always go in knowing what I need to get and on a mission to get it. I very rarely browse through a store just looking at stuff. But Ikea is built to do just that. If you went in knowing that you wanted something specific and asked an Ikea employee where you could find that, you might get a blank stare or at best, a general area of the store. I'm much more a Home Depot kind of guy - you know, "yes, sir, you can find that 6 foot ladder on sale on aisle 15b." That's what I'm talking about.

Anyway, neat place - won't go back anytime soon unless I'm just craving one of their fresh cinnamon roles. ;)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Parenting

Like I said in my previous post, Barie and I had a great time this week getting away to talk about life, marriage, and parenting, and to review passages of Scripture that have to do with each. We learned a lot and discussed passionately what God is teaching us in the area of parenting. On that front, I want to highly recommend Tedd Tripp's book Shepherding a Child's Heart for everyone who is trying to raise kids who love God and have an abiding faith in the Lord Jesus. Tripp's material is so refreshing in how he places the gospel at the center of parenting and not just behavior correction. His book is saturated with Scripture (especially the Proverbs) as he tries to speak to parenting with biblical wisdom. His main premise is that most parenting today deals with behavior modification without ever addressing the root causes in the heart. His little book is easy to read and completely challenging to think about - he even does a good job addressing the heart of the parent and how that impacts the way we relate to our kids. I encourage every parent to get a copy.

Also - Cowboys win in style on Thanksgiving, A&M beats Texas for the first time in seven years, and the Mavs beat the Spurs in San Antonio to stretch their streak to eight in a row...could this weekend get any better? ;)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Barie and I have wrapped up a wonderful couple of days alone without the kids and are feeling rejuvenated and refocused in our marriage and our parenting. I have much to celebrate and be thankful for in 2006. I am most thankful this year for...

...a wife who knows me and continues to love me well.
...three healthy, awesome boys who are growing up so quickly and teaching me tons about the love of my Father.
...an awesome church family and a group of elders, pastors, and leaders who are calling me to go deeper with Christ every day.
...generous grandparents who love their grandchildren deeply.
...God's grace at work in my life.
...times of gut-busting laughter with my friends and family.
...God's bountiful provision for all of my needs.
...the sacrifice of our soldiers to keep us safe.
...turkey and dressing and broccoli-rice casserole.
...not having much to do today besides watch the Cowboy game at 3:00pm.

Have a great Holiday!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Wild Weekend

On Saturday morning, we had our second prayer walk for the church plant in Round Rock. You can read more about the prayer walk & read testimonies of those who were there on the RR-N blog HERE.

On Saturday night, our church hosted our Thanksgiving Back service where we enjoy a turkey and dressing dinner with our church family and take up a benevolence offering to fund the benevolence ministry of the church all year. It was an exciting time to give back from the many blessings God has given us all year.

On Sunday, we had to drive into Dallas because a friend of the family passed away in East Texas and she requested that I perform her funeral. She had been close friends with my grandmother for over 60 years. It was an honor to do her graveside service in Gilmer, TX yesterday with all of her friends and family there. She was an African-American lady, and the funeral had a different cultural feel than I am used to, but it was really awesome. Everyone shared deeply from their hearts about how Mrs. Hattie Camp had impacted them and lived out the love of Jesus for 94 years. Rest in peace with Jesus, Mrs. Hattie.

Other exciting news from this weekend - our good friends from Houston, Nick and Jada, had their new baby last night at 4:30 AM. And after having two girls, they finally got a boy. Congrats go out to the happy parents of a new healthy baby boy!

Life and death in the same weekend; life is precious. Let's enjoy every day that God gives us!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New Devotional Blog & $66 Hotel

I've got some new devotional thoughts on my other site (& I've committed myself to be more diligent in posting there what God is teaching me in His Word).

Also, if you haven't checked out Hotwire (www.hotwire.com) for booking travel stuff, you are missing out. Barie and I are spending two nights away soon and we booked our hotel through Hotwire. We got a 4-star hotel for $66 a night. Not bad, huh? You can't tell what hotel you're getting when you sign up, but you can select a certain region. We wanted to be close to the Dallas area (because we're taking the kids to the grandparents), but we didn't really care about where we stayed & we got a sweet deal.

We are using our two nights away to do our "getting away to get it together" trip. Bill Wellons published a book by that title that talks about getting away every once in a while (maybe once a year) to pray and think strategically about what you're doing as a family and where you are headed. Barie and I are super excited to have some special time carved out just to talk and think about what God wants us to do with our family over the next year (and spend some romantic time together without the kids). :)

Monday, November 13, 2006

6 kids?

So - we had a weird night tonight. We have started swapping kids with another family from our church every week so that they can go on a date one week and we can go on a date the other week. It really is a great set-up and we are enjoying the time with the kids and the free date nights. But, tonight was special - the other couple (Bret & Tomi) was dropping off their two boys and we were getting ready to handle five kids for a few hours while they went out for the evening. Considering the fact that we have three boys, we really have the better side of this agreement. Anyway, a few minutes after they arrived with their two boys, one of our new neighbors shows up at our front door with her two-year old girl. The mom speaks very little English and is trying to communicate to us (we think) that dad had to work late and she had to go take a test at her school & needs to leave the daughter with us. Now, remember this is not our next-door neighbor - they live across the street and down about three houses and we have met them only once before at the neighborhood cook-out. So, long story short, we had six kids in our house for about two and a half hours tonight. And you know what I'm thinking? Three is a good number.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Good Press

Our work for the Lord is not dependent on good press, but it is good to see our movement praised for the work we do in the world that rarely gets noticed (not at the rate of our scandals anyway). Read it here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Too Funny...

Ouch

Jon Stewart tore up Haggard last night on The Daily Show. The clip from the Jesus Camp movie is unbelievable. To me, Stewart is typical of how many young people see Christianity today. Check it out here.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Voting Tomorrow

SO - tomorrow is finally election day. I'm glad to vote & I hope every one of you take your responsibility seriously & go vote. I have had more heartburn over my voting choices this year than most previous years, but I've finally made up my mind. Off to the polls tomorrow. And thanks to God's mercy, we will not have to watch any more political ads starting tomorrow night! For some challenging thoughts on how biblical values impact the whole spectrum of political issues, check out Jim Wallis' post on his blog here. I don't agree with everything that Jim writes, but his views have definitely stretched my thinking lately. Have a great election day

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Heavy Heart

I always struggle with disillusionment whenever it is revealed that a major Christian leader has been living a double life. The last few months have just brought on more of that than I am used to. The latest, of course, has been highly-publicized (all over national news) because Pastor Ted Haggard was the president of a national evangelical organization. You can read Haggard's statement that was read to his congregation this morning on New Life Church's website here. I am thankful that the church's leadership has dealt with Haggard's moral failure quickly and graciously, but it still weighs heavily on my heart for two reasons. One, I am scared that too many of our spiritual shepherds have become isolated because they believe (rightly or wrongly) that people will not respect their leadership if they know what really goes on in their hearts and minds. Barie and I have had many conversations over the last few days about this very thing - is there someone in each of our lives that we can be totally transparent with? Is there someone who can get to know the depths of our depravity and still show us grace and love? I think very few of us have those type of relationships, and the Enemy uses that to his advantage.

The second reason that my heart is heavy over this whole deal is the realization that we can become so deceived in our sin to believe 1) that we'll never get caught, 2) that what we are doing is not really that bad, and 3) that we can continue to teach and read God's Word while living in open sin. I know that Jeremiah 17:9 that the heart is deceitful above all else, but I still don't think I realize how deceived I can become. I hope and pray for all those in Christian leadership that they have men and women around them who can help them see their deception, and that they have soft hearts to hear correction and repent. I also pray for my own heart, that God will change it and redeem my desires. I'm realizing all over again that changing behavior is empty if the heart is not transformed as well.

Friday, November 03, 2006

So Sad, But...

My Mavs threw it away last night & couldn't keep their winning streak against the Spurs going from the playoffs last year. To say the least, I was humbled at elder meeting this morning by having to face our defeat. Actually, I didn't get to watch much of the game last night because I sat down to view the game & my wife decided it was time for us to have a heart-to-heart. We rarely find time to have deep, soul-searching conversations anymore with three little kids, so Barie decided last night was the night. During the Mavs game.

But before you feel too sad for me, my wife did comment after our hour-long conversation that I am always more attractive to her after we have long talks. I don't think I will ever understand the female brain, but if that is all it takes to help her find me more attractive, I've got think of some more stuff for us to talk about when I get home from work today.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

NBA season starts

While I'm having a hard time getting excited about the Cowboys this year (though I was really impressed with Romo's opening performance) & my Rangers never seem to get their act together over the course of a long season, I have to tell you that I'm feeling good about basketball season this year. The Heat took it in the teeth last night from a young Bulls team (welcome back from the off-season, champions, with a 42 point loss). I'm already ready to call their season over - how old is Shaq now? ;)

I've got a friendly wager going with an elder at our church who loves the Spurs about the opening game tomorrow night. We've agreed to wear the other team's jersey if our team looses. With everyone back for the Mavs, Avery in the driver's seat, and the team looking good, I'm confident he'll be buying a Mavs jersey very soon. You with me?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Wow!

We had an amazing turn out for our first vision meeting for the church plant last night - almost 100 people came to hear about what God is leading us to do in planting a life-changing church in North Round Rock. I'm excited to see how God leads each one of these families as they pray through the decision of whether or not to join us in reaching north Round Rock. Thanks for your prayers and support through this time.

We had Kade's birthday party this Saturday, as he turns 3 tomorrow. It was a great time to see our family and some of our friends...I'm sure Barie will have some pics up on her blog soon of all the craziness that was Kade's third birthday party.

Lot's of work to do, now - must run!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Big weekend...

Our oldest son, Kade, is turning 3 yrs old on Halloween Day, but we are having his birthday party this Saturday morning. I can't believe my son is already turning 3. It really feels like he was just born yesterday. I know everyone says that time goes by so fast - but you don't really believe it until you start seeing your kids grow up right in front of you. It makes me want to make sure that we enjoy every moment and that I take seriously the stewardship responsibility I've been given from God to invest wisely in his life.

Then, Sunday evening, we have our first vision meeting for the church plant. I'm really excited to see who God brings us, to see the team that comes together to plant a life-changing church in north Round Rock.

Beyond that, we've got people coming over for dinner one night, we've got a project to work on, and we've got family in town. Never a dull moment in my family!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Eternal Justice

Just finished a short book by Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, who, as sixteen year-old young man, was sent to a German concentration camp (actually several camps) during the last two years of World War II. Wiesel's tale is so powerful and gut-wrenching. It is one of those books I've needed to read for a while, but wasn't sure that I was ready to process the information I knew I would find inside. Wiesel's writing has a minimalist style, so that he says so little about the devastating events that he witnessed. Some of the most riveting passages for me had to do with the Jews struggle for faith in the face of horrendous evil. As Wiesel says in the intro, I'm sure that language limits the ability to communicate the horrors that he witnessed, but his efforts helped me again to process what I believe about following a crucified Savior and about eternal justice. In my mind, if I didn't believe that justice will finally be done when this life is over, there are moments where I'm not sure I could continue. But I do believe that every man and woman will stand before a holy God after this life, and that every believer will face the judgment seat of Christ. And that we will all give an account, and that all will be made right. The Bible says this is true, but books like this help me to know why belief in eternal justice is so important. I hope we never forget the evil done to the Jews during WWII, and that we never doubt the depravity of our own hearts to commit tremendous evil.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Sneetches

So, now we are in the habit of praying with the boys each evening after we get done with our baths and reading a book by Dr. Seuss called Sneetches. Kade asks the same questions every time we read it (about what certain things are), but he loves the pictures and the rhyme scheme. He asks for the same book every night. But you know what? This short story by Dr. Seuss is awesome - talking about how we judge others based on small things we can't change that don't really matter. It is a story about how foolish we must seem to those on the outside of our culture for elevating people to a high place of respect for exterior, temporary traits. It is a story about how we seek to be a part of the "in crowd" so bad that we are willing to compromise common sense and eternal values.

In all truth, I think Barie and I are getting more out of it than Kade is. He loves the pictures and the sounds of the words (like Sylvester McMonkey McBean), but we are hearing the message: what matters most is our character, not our appearance. I wish I could communicate like Dr. Seuss.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

New Website

The temporary website for the church plant is now live at www.hcbcrrn.com. You can also link from there to the blog that has updated info about what is happening with the plant. If you are not on the distribution list for our prayer requests for the church plant and want to be, make sure you let me know so that I can add you.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Life in Transition

I've had a lot of time to think about transition over the last year. Lots of new relationships and new responsibilities. New cities, new homes, new jobs, new challenges. Though I think most people are too tied to stability as a personal value to risk for God, I can say that I now know why stability is so alluring. Strong friendships are hard to build (by which, I mean time demanding), and when life moves you around, friendships change drastically. You never completely loose contact with people, but relationships definitely change whenever you don't see people daily like you used to. So what have I learned through all this transition, especially relationally?

First, I need deep friendships. I think all of us do - we may be too proud to recognize this, but we all need friends who will have the hard conversations with us, pray with us through difficult circumstances, listen to us carry on about our insecurities, and help carry our burdens. We need friends who will walk the second mile with us, who we know care about us deeply.

Second, my best friend will always be my wife. One thing I did not understand before marriage was that Barie will go with me anywhere and other people will not. She is such a grace-filled, truth-telling, God-honoring wife. But more than that, I am treasuring her more as the deepest friend and companion I will have in this life.

And third, I need to walk closer to Jesus. Transition and new starts tend to strip away a lot of facades that we seem to build in order to maintain a public persona. But also, major transition forces us to reevaluate our source of identity. I have found that though I thought my personal identity was secure in Christ, I can so quickly find it in my relationships and my position. Changing both relationships and positions have reminded me that I must cling to Jesus for personal purpose and identity. I need Him more than I have ever even understood.

What have major transitions taught you about yourself, God, and life?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

what's been happening...

Lot's to talk about and so little time...

We've officially moved into our first home (that we own, I mean). It is amazing how your perspective on your house changes when you actually own it - like trying to take care of it a little more. We have always kept a clean home, but now we own this house. Of course, keeping it in one piece with three little boys who have fluids coming out of every orifice in their bodies is a little difficult. But the house looks good right now anyway!

We spent all of last week painting the entire house, and now I know why I don't do that for a living. Unbelievable amount of work to paint a whole house (every room), especially when your wife has a desire to "show her personality" by adding color throughout the house. It looks really good, but I will be great if I don't have pick up a roller or a brush for a while. My odds are not improving, however, since we didn't finish the master bathroom and Barie is already asking when I'm going to get on that.

Church planting stuff is cruising along now and picking up speed. The first email prayer letter went out this last week, and we are setting up our first prayer walk for a week from Saturday. It should be great to get out and walk some of the neighborhoods that we are trying to reach. Barie and I got a chance to meet a bunch of our neighbors on Sunday evening because the builder of our neighborhood threw a block-party for all the new residents. It was great to get to know everyone. It seems really promising - like we are going to have some awesome relationships in our neighborhood. I can't get over how many of our neighbors are newly-weds, married two years or less. It feels strange to be married 6.5 years and feel like we're one of the most experienced on our streets. Having three kids has made Barie and I feel like we are learning how to do this marriage thing right all over again.

I did some research on the churches in Round Rock over the last couple of weeks, and the numbers are very interesting. We called every single church in Round Rock (from all theological perspectives, including the 2 Catholic churches), and found that on a typical Sunday morning, about 20,000 people attend any kind of church in RR. If you add up the total seating capacity of every church in RR (so that they were all full for all their services), the total number could get to 25,000 before every church was full. Considering that the city has 87,000 residents now and is expected to have 100,000 by 2010, the need for a new church plant in the city is evident. Very few of our neighbors I interacted with on Sunday evening attend a church, so we are looking forward to many awesome spiritual conversations in the years to come.

More later...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

We are reconnected!

Cable, Phone, Internet - all connected today at the new house.
Glad to be reconnected to the outside world, but sad in some ways because of the peace and quiet we enjoyed the last few days (except for crying babies).
More to come soon...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Closing Day

So, as we get ready to buy our first home this morning, I'm thinking a few things...

...that I hope I never have to write another check for the amount I will this morning to close on our house.
...that I'm glad my wife is in charge of picking paint colors and decorations for our home, because if I did it, the house would be one color and have only sports posters on the walls. Thank God for a wonderful woman in my life!
...that one of the funniest moments in my life so far was taking the boys to the final walk through yesterday and having them run as fast and as hard as they could through the empty house (and stop to ask me every 2 minutes, "daddy, can we run around?")
...that one of the not-so-funniest moments in my life will come soon when those same boys decide they don't like the newness of the house and find ways to break it in.
...that I am blessed beyond measure, that God's grace in my life is overwhelming.
...that we have a new neighborhood with lots of new families to get to know and having boys that never meet a stranger makes getting to know people a lot easier.
...that life goes by fast if we don't take time to sit and reflect and think and ask hard questions.
...that we should never stop dreaming about what God has in store for us in our future, that we should not cling to stability and safety as the highest values of life.
...that the church plant is really going to happen in 10 months.
...we have lots of work to do.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Closing Tuesday...

Our final walk through is tomorrow afternoon and we are closing Tuesday morning. The anticipation about actually landing somewhere is overwhelming. Buying our first home. Planting our first church. Raising our three boys. Loving my wife. Life is so good that I'm a little nervous. :) Have a great week! Hopefully, we'll have some pics up soon of the new crib in Round Rock.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Two Good Reads...

...on the supremacy of Christ and the practice of doing church in a postmodern world.

John Burke's book (pastor of Gateway Church here in Austin, TX) is written from a pastoral perspective. John is trying to address questions related to how we reach the emerging generations with the gospel of Jesus Christ. He makes a compelling presentation based on his experience as the lead pastor of a church planted to reach 20 and 30 somethings. His book is full of amazing stories of life-change that occurred because his church had open arms and hearts toward searching and broken people. John writes about creating a culture of compassion and healing, a culture that welcomes people with all their baggage and relates to those people because we all have baggage. I appreciate his pastoral call to church leaders to realize that church will be messy when we actively reach unchurched people. He has had many of the hard conversations with those who were initially hostile to Christ, so he is not speaking from a purely academic perspective. Gateway church is living out the culture he presents in this book. His chapters on answering tough questions about other religions and homosexuality are some of his best in my opinions. His book is an excellent reminder that reaching a post-Christian culture will take humility in our hearts and grace from our lips.

On the flip side, David Wells book Above All Earthly Powers is a theological look at the supremacy of Jesus Christ in a postmodern culture. Wells' book is an excellent look at the vacant spirituality of American postmodern culture and a strong biblical call to uphold a high Christological in response. Wells' chapters analyzing the parallels between the gnosticism of first-century culture and the spirituality of postmodern western culture are fascinating. He does excellent work showing the emptiness of postmodern pursuits (much like the emptiness of modern pursuits) and how the authority of the person and work of Jesus speak into this culture. Wells' book is a response to many who desire to compromise a biblical Christology for the sake of engaging a postmodern spirituality. His books does a good job showing the weaknesses of these attempts and pokes holes in many postmodern attempts to weaken an orthodox view of Christ's eternal supremacy. Just as every pastor needs to read Burke's book to know what a gracious pastoral response to postmodern people should look like, every pastor also needs to read Wells' book to understand what a thoroughly biblical response to postmodern philosophy should look like. Both are challenging reads in much different ways.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Blogging Slow-Down

FYI - I probably won't be blogging much over the next few weeks as we pack and move to Round Rock. I'll try to post every few days, but no promises - life is crazy on this end. Close date on the new house is two weeks from Tuesday, and we have to get out of the rent house by the following Saturday. Fun times! I'm ready to be done with these boxes for a while. :)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

New Blog

FYI - my wife has started a blog for our family pics (http://fergusonhome.blogspot.com/), and my blog will have less family stuff on it and more of my thoughts about life, faith, and culture. Enjoy the pics from Barie.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

All I Can Say...

after watching Dallas look terrible against Jacksonville today (is the end near for Bledsoe?)...

and watching UT totally choke against Ohio State (Colt will need some time to develop)...

...is Sic 'em Bears for winning 47-10 (I really don't care that Baylor beat Northwestern State - we have to enjoy them when we can ;-).

Saturday, September 09, 2006

This Week...

Kamden decided he was going to be a preacher...
We took all three boys to church for the first time - thanks, Granny for the outfits...

The newest member of the family finally got healthy - now if we can just get his umbilical cord to fall off...
We had first day of school this week for Kade (Mother's Day Out), so Kamden decided to get in on the action...
Kade had a great first day at school.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

New devotional...

HERE, about being sent like Jesus.

Medical Bills...

As we have taken our turn on the hospital merry-go-round over the last few months, I have been thinking about the strange world of health insurance. We have great insurance coverage through my work that covers our family. If we didn't, we would be in serious trouble after having Kamden's ear-tubes put in, Barie having a baby, and then the baby being in the hospital for four days with meningitis. We will still shoulder our share of these medical costs, but every day I think about those families who have medical issues and don't have any kind of medical insurance. A report I just read the other day said that almost 47 million Americans don't have any kind of healthy insurance. Now, I know some people choose to work independently and decide to not get insurance, but there are many, many people who simply can't get insurance. The crazy part for me about the whole system is that our doctors and hospitals send bills to the insurance company & our insurance company has negotiated rates that bring down the total bills before the insurance even kicks in. For example, when Kamden was in the hospital for 15 minutes for his ear-tube surgery, the hospital (not the doctor or the anesthesiologist, just the hospital) billed us for $1400, but the insurance max for that procedure was $700. So, not only do we have help with the bills through our insurance, we actually have a discounted rate because we have insurance. In the end, someone who doesn't have any insurance gets stuck with the higher bill and the whole bill. It's no wonder that people can go under with medical bills quickly, especially when they don't have insurance.

Monday, September 04, 2006

What will never get old...

A few thoughts about what I love about being a dad,
the things in my life that will never get old...

...teaching my sons about the nature and character of God.
...holding a newborn and watching him smile in his sleep.
...hearing "Daddy" screamed when I walk in the door from a long day at work.
...watching the boys learn something new and using new words that we didn't know they knew.
...running through the sprinkler in the front yard.
...having an excuse to watch Tom and Jerry reruns before bed.
...singing songs at the top of our lungs and dancing with all our strength.
...seeing expressions of joy when the boys get the courage to do something new they were afraid to do before (like climb to the top of the McDonald's playground).
...having my boy wake me up with a tap on my arm wanting to just crawl in bed with me.
...showing the boys how to play sports, ride bikes, fish, and do other outdoor activities.
...reading books to the boys and hearing them quote the lines before they can even read.
...wrestling on the floor and creating dog-piles with the boys.
...laughing so hard from tickling each other than we can't breathe.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

What I've learned...

A few observations about life now that we are outnumbered in the home; a few nuggets that will shape my life for the next two decades...

...there will always be someone crying, upset, or hurt in my house who needs attention.
...illness that starts with one family member will most likely travel through all the kids and then to the parents.
...sleep is taken for granted until you don't have it any more.
...free time is for people without kids and with grown kids.
...we will keep a few grocery stores in business with the quantity of food we put away (Sam's, here we come...)
...my wife is a super-hero who manages to take care of all these boys during the day while I'm at work and still think about my needs.
...the day we move beyond diapers will be a beautiful day.
...the amount of love one person can have for his kids continue to amaze me.
...we will always need help from others to make it work (thank you grandparents and church family).
...my hobbies will forever include changing batteries, reading children's books, fixing toys, finding missing pieces, and breaking up fights.
...we've seen more vomit in the last three years than I saw in my whole life up to that point.
...chaos is the rule, not the exception.
...we must stay on our knees, as God teaches us quickly the limits of our own self-sufficiency.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

And we're home...

We got home from the hospital yesterday afternoon and got a call from the doctor last night confirming what they had suspected - that Kale's meningitis was from a common virus that would take its course and get out of his system without any damage. Kale is continuing to eat well (he's already over 11 lbs.), and we are all extremely glad to be home. Kade went with me to church this morning at Pflugerville, and he was glad to get out of the house for a while. We are now praying that we have some time to adjust to three at home before we move to Round Rock in October. Thanks again to everyone for helping us get through the last week - your love and encouragement were tremendous.

By the way - did you see the article in the Austin paper today that says that high school football coaches around the state make an average of $31,000 more a year than equally tenured and qualified teachers? As both of my parents are educators, I've heard my fair share of speeches on this throughout the years - you have any thoughts on this?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

We're Headed Home...

...thanks for your prayers! We just got word from the doctor that everything has come back negative (including the HSV virus test) and that we are going to be able to leave later today to come home! This means that Kale has a weaker strain of virus that he will defeat by himself. We are so thankful for the good report & looking forward to getting home with our new son (again). Just be praying for Kamden (our 17 month old) who is still throwing up at home as he tries to get over this same bug. Thanks so much. We give glory and thanks to God for His grace on our family. Blessings...

Friday, August 25, 2006

Kale Update...

The 24-hr & 36-hr results on the bacterial culture came back negative which is a praise. We are waiting for the 48-hr culture results tonight before they totally rule out bacterial meningitis. If they rule out any kind of bacterial infection, then we are for sure dealing with a viral meningitis. In that case, they will discontinue the antibiotics & continue the anti-viral medicine. The anti-viral medicine is for one serious strain of virus that they are testing for (that test comes back tomorrow). If the test tomorrow is negative, then we are most likely dealing with a common virus that Kale will fight off by himself, and we will probably come home Saturday evening late or Sunday. Continue to pray that all the tests come back with good reports & that we don't all go crazy in this little hospital room. Also please pray for the rest of my family at home (my mom and the other two boys). I know Kade and Kamden are not sure what is going on and why Mom and Dad are not home. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

We need your prayers...

...today we got a shock when our newborn Kale was sent to the ER at Children's Hospital Austin by his pediatrician for running a high fever. When we arrived downtown, the medical team at Children's Hospital took all kinds of fluids from our 10-day old son, including spinal fluid. They are always suspicious of meningitis when a newborn has a high fever, and this turned out to be the correct diagnosis for Kale. His spinal fluid was infected (the initial tests show), and now the only question is whether he has viral or bacterial meningitis. We are praying that he has the viral form (which is the easier to fight off), but the doctors are treating him for the bacterial just in case. We will get the full results from the cultures tomorrow & should know what exactly we are dealing with. Best case scenario, we will be out of here by Friday night or Saturday morning. Please pray that Kale's body will quickly heal from this serious infection in his spinal fluid and that he has no long-term damage.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Intense Evening...

...and not just because of a screaming newborn. One of our friends from Ovilla, Kurt McBride, works for the Midlothian Police Department. Kurt is a former Marine, and one of the leaders of the regional SWAT team that gets called out for major law enforcement issues. Well, one of those happened last night in Midlothian, as a 25-yr-old guy decided to barricade himself in his apartment with a gun. Police showed up to investigate a window that had been broken by a bullet in the apartment complex. When they approached the apartment of the shooter, he opened fire and hit three police officers and one state trooper. As the stand-off began, Kurt's team was called in. Many of Kurt's friends were praying for his safety last night as they faced this dangerous situation. The officers went into the apartment around 11:00 PM last night and found that the guy had committed suicide. The four officers who were shot are in good condition, and Kurt is unharmed. Dangerous world we live in, huh? Midlothian is a small Ellis County town. And I know this will shock that little community. Let's pray that there will be godly men and women who point people to Christ during this time. Here's the Dallas Morning News link HERE for the whole story.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Book Review: The Present Future

Reggie McNeal has written an interesting book about the challenges that the church (read Western church) must deal with as we seek to reach a post-Christian culture. His basic premise is that the church must reclaim its missionary status and wake up from its denial about the state of American culture today. He makes a strong case that within a few generations, this missional shift will become required, but that if we can get ahead of the curve, we can have a greater impact with the gospel in our generation. He doesn't really say anything new about becoming more missional in our culture, but simply rings the bell for existing Western churches that have become comfortable with their status and circumstances to rethink the Great Commission and how they would have to change to become more serious about reaching those far from Christ. Most of his questions have to do with what the "church" in America would look like if we were organized around missional involvement rather than ministry to the saints. The question everyone in the church must answer: if the church does not become more missional today, what will our culture look like in 30 years? Doing what we are doing now, but only better, will not reach my generation. McNeal's stats (from Thom Rainer's study) reinforce these ideas: % of each generation who can articulate evangelical faith in Jesus: 65% - builders, 35% - boomers, 15% - busters, 4% - bridgers. I am a church planter primarily because of my understanding of God's call on my life, but also because of the lack of missionary zeal in established churches (and my lack of patience with slow change that comes in redirecting the Titanic), and so I needed no convincing that the challenges that McNeal raises are for real. Rather, I need more insights into what a missional church really looks like. How do we structure staff and elders and ministries so that people are not required to spend all their free time at the church but being the church in the community? This is not just a question of theology, but a question of practicality. McNeal adds some thoughts about raising missionary awareness in our congregations and releasing God's people into missionary service, but as I'm sure he has seen few churches doing this well, he adds few details. I appreciated that his book is not about solutions, but really about raising questions - and from that angle, he is completely successful. He gave me some great thoughts in helping to explain my own zeal for the missional church to others in the church.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Congrats to Paul...

Since I never thought he would actually get married (ha!), I have to take time on my blog to say a quick congratulations to Paul Williamson, the children's minister at FBOvilla who recently got engaged to Anna, his sweetheart. While the Hallams and us have known that they were destined to be together since 2004, we are thankful that Paul and Anna finally came around to see our wisdom. Paul sent out the announcement by email today to everyone, so I'm guessing the families have put their stamp of approval on this wonderful couple. From my inside sources, it is with much fear and trembling (& prayer) that Dwight & Gwynne have given their blessing to Anna's choice in a husband. They finally decided to get on board after learning that Paul had spent so much time in our home learning what a quality marriage really looks like! All joking aside, these two are some of the best people I know, and I am so excited that Paul will have someone else to cook for him besides my wife. Praying God's best on the new couple...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Big Day At Home...

We've had a big day at home today playing as a family and getting to know life with three kiddos. Kade is all about his younger brother and wants to spend lots of time loving on him and hugging him (we have to make sure he doesn't squish him with hugs :0). Kamden is not really sure what has happened to his world as the baby - he likes to kiss on Kale, but I'm know he's confused about why mom can't pick him up right now as she recovers from delivery. But all in all, the boys are great & life has just added a whole new level of speed and complexity!

This morning, we decided to count all the money in Kade's piggy bank in order for him to buy his first bike. He's been collecting money from my pockets (and Papa's pockets) for about a year, and today we finally counted. He had almost $52! Plenty of money to get his first real bike and a spiderman helmet (thank you, Wal-Mart). You can probably guess how excited he was about life today! He only had one fall off the bike in afternoon riding (good thing the spidey helmet protected his head)!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

We're home...

Since they design hospital rooms to make you claustrophobic after a few hours in order to get you out the door, we decided to pack up last night and come home. It is truly amazing how different we feel after having our third than we did having our first. We are just as excited about Kale's birth, but we have been so much more relaxed and calm through the whole process. Even the idea that we would pack up and come home after 24 hours would never have crossed our minds three years ago when Kade was born. But, anyway, we are back home - mom is resting well & recovering quickly. The older brothers are not sure what to do with their new brother & both are a little sick today. But they are fascinated by Kale, and I'm sure that they will quickly make him a member of the tough-brother club. They already seemed confused about why he won't play with them like they play with each other. But if the last three years have taught us anything, that day will be here too soon. We're enjoying every last minute. Here's a quick pic of Kale after he got cleaned up...

Friday, August 11, 2006

Announcing Kale Preston Ferguson...

Today at 3:45 PM, our third son, Kale Preston Ferguson, was born. He was a healthy 9 lbs. 11 oz. and 19 1/4 in.! Barie did great all day during labor, and she is in awesome spirits now that the baby is here. Thanks for your prayers and support. We are so thankful to God for His incredible grace on our family. He has again blessed us with a beautiful baby boy. Here are some of the first pictures before he even had his bath. He's in the nursery right now getting cleaned up, so I'll have some more pics up later...

*Mom & Dad before leaving for the hospital this morning at 6:45 AM.


*Mom & Kale share a second together after he arrives.

*Kale gets on the scales and weighs in at an amazing 9 lbs., 11 oz.

*Kale's brothers show up and want to spend time with Mommy & Kale.


*Mom & Dad finally catch a moment with their new son.

We've started...

We're at the hospital right now in Round Rock (which has free wireless access - how cool is that?). The doctor decided to go ahead and induce labor today. We should have the baby some time soon! I'll try to get pictures, etc. posted as soon as baby Kale is born. We covet your prayers today for a safe and healthy delivery and baby! Thanks for your support. Talk to you later today...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

It's August in Texas....

...when you have triple-degree heat in the shade.
...when the Rangers are falling apart in the summer heat in a terrible division.
...when families are finishing up vacations to get ready for school starting.
...when yards are turning shades of brown in response to lack of rain.
...when waterparks are always crowded with lots of kids.
...when it stays daylight way too late to get kids to go to bed on time.
...when we start dreaming about the cool weather just around the corner (in October).
...when we take a second to say thanks for all the amazing ways God worked in summer 2006.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Props for a tough sermon...

I need to give a shout-out to the pastor of HCBC Pflugerville, Danny Box, for delivering a really good sermon on a really tough topic today, the use of the sign gifts in the church today. I'm pretty sure that this is the only time in my life as a Christian that I have heard a sermon on this topic. Danny's message today was another good reminder for me about why preaching expositionally is so important (he's preaching through 1 Corinthians) - it forces us to cover topics we might otherwise never choose to preach. You can hear his sermon HERE. Also, since I believe the pastor needs to be the chief theologian for the church, I was glad to hear a pastor step up to the plate and tackle a tough theological issue with authority, sincerity, and love. While this type of sermon doesn't lend itself easily to life-application (and therefore wouldn't be healthy for a long-term diet), it does help the people in the church to think biblically and theologically about their use of the spiritual gifts. Rock on...

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Is Anybody the Real Deal?

Several items in the news cycle this last few weeks have reminded me why people are so jaded and cynical about anyway who claims moral authority or integrity. We read about sports athletes who cheat or politicians who steal or ministers who are sexually immoral or greedy, and we wonder with everyone else, is anyone the real deal? I have thought for many years that what I crave (and what I think most people crave) is authenticity from their leaders. They desire to follow people who are the same with every audience they come in contact with - people of integrity who do what they say they are going to do and actually believe what they proclaim. People who call us to greater heights not just with their lips but with their lives. I want the world to know that those kind of people exist - I am working with many of them right now. But I understand that the battle for trust and credibility in our culture today takes time. And so I pray for more leaders who are honest about their faults and who lead from a position of authenticity instead of hypocrisy. And I pray that my life would continue to be transformed every day by the grace of Jesus so that those who follow my leadership would be able to say with confidence, he's the real deal.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

End of the Spear

Barie and I watched the movie tonight called End of the Spear. It is the film about the impact of the 5 missionaries who gave their lives in the Ecuadorian jungle in the 1950s in order to take the gospel to one of the indigenous tribes in the region called the Woudani. The film centers around Nate Saint, the missionary pilot, because it was Nate sister, Rachel, who ended up spending her life with the Woudani people and seeing their whole tribal life transformed by the power of the gospel. Before this tribe was introduced to the Lord and His Word, they were killing each other at an unprecedented rate, risking the elimination of the entire tribe. But after the efforts of the five missionaries & their families in the 1950s and Rachel Saint's lifetime of work, the tribe found new life in Jesus Christ. Nick Saint's son, Steve Saint, moved his family from the US to live with the Woudani in 1995 after his aunt Rachel died of cancer. The film is a riveting and emotional retelling of this famous story, and one that needs to be retold frequently to remind us of the sacrifice required to take the gospel to every people group on the planet.

Monday, July 31, 2006

How will it all end?

You might be thinking I'm talking about Barie's pregnancy :) but I'm actually writing about the conflict in the Middle East. I understand the conflict over there as well as someone reading the newspaper over here can, but I am at a loss for seeing how a real solution will materialize. I mean can't we understand the pain of each side...?

Israel. How would we as Americans react if we lived with enemies all around us who prayed every day for our demise? I don't think we can underestimate what the American military would do if a group of Canadian terrorists suddenly crossed the northern border and attacked a northern American city, killed several American soldiers, and kidnapped several more. If the Canadian government didn't help us in pursuing those terrorists immediately, I'm not sure Canada would still exist a few days later. The uproar from the American public would be unbelievable. Why? Because, unlike Israel, we live in peace and prosperity every day of the year. I have yet to fear my weekly trip to the grocery store or pizza joint or coffee shop. The American response to that kind of hatred and fear would be overwhelming. So, I understand Israel's concern - how can they live another day with terrorists groups all around who wish their demise & have support from other nations in the region?

Lebanon. The American church has to understand that according to some estimates around 40% of the Lebanese population is Christian. Not that that number makes us care about civilian casualties any more, but it simply reminds us that when the church sits by and supports Israel's actions at all costs, many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering. Yesterday, in one of Israel's attacks attempting to drive out the Hezbollah gorillas, an errant bomb killed 57 civilians, most of them children trying to stay away from the attacks. Read about the details HERE. How can we ignore the fact that many bystanders and children are suffering and dying in what seems to be a never ending struggle? Your heart has to break for the people of Lebanon who just spent most of the past 15 years rebuilding much of their infrastructure only to see it blown apart again by Israeli warplanes. You have to weep for those suffering from endless war and poverty in their country.

So back to my original question...how will it all end? As a Christian, I am called by God to be engaged in the world and to love people, and so I pray for peace. I believe I must call my government to work hard for justice around the world. However, my hope is not in any man or woman or nation-state. I see heads of state running here and there, making speeches, going through days and weeks of diplomacy hoping to save lives. But they are not the ultimate answer. Only Jesus Christ can change the wicked hearts of men. And only Jesus' reign on the earth will bring complete peace and justice to the world. And so, until that day when He returns to right all wrongs and set up His kingdom on the earth, I say with Him, blessed are the peacemakers, and I proclaim that my hope is only in the Living God (see Psalm 42).

Friday, July 28, 2006

Two Yr Olds Can Swim?

So Kade finished his two week swim lessons today & dad made a special trip to the pool to see how much he had learned. Is a two-yr-old supposed to jump off the diving board and swim to the side? I'm still afraid of jumping off the diving board. Enjoy the pics...


Remembering the past...

makes me excited about the future. The last two days I have been working on my filing system up at work for two reasons. One, I needed to purge the last parts of my current stuff and move toward a filing system that better supports my sermons & church planting ideas, and two, I'm in the process of moving over to HCBC Pflugerville full time. During this effort, I came across many letters, notes, and personal reflections on my last 7 years of ministry. I read an entire journal from my first summer in ministry (on a youth revival team) that one of my team members wrote that I hadn't read in years. I looked over notes from awesome youth events we had in Ovilla that God used to shape students' lives. I scanned letters from students and parents about how God was working through our youth ministry. And I was suddenly overwhelmed by the awe of being used by God for His purposes. Remembering what God has done in my past gets me very excited about what He has planned for the future. I can't wait to see how God uses this next adventure to grow my faith, transform my life, and bring others to Himself. As you look back over what God has done in your past & see His sovereign hand at work, what gets you excited about your future?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Stay Tuned...

Barie's trip to the doctor today provided some surprising news - she has already started the move toward delivery. The doctor said the baby was engaged & she had dilated already to a three. It's a surprise to us because it took Barie forever to get to a three with the first two babies. We are just waiting for regular contractions or broken water & we'll be on our way to have this baby. Pray for everything to happen quickly so Barie can finally get some good rest (sleep has come really hard these last few weeks). So, as I said in the title, stay tuned...

Monday, July 24, 2006

Listening to the Message

If you guys use iTunes & your iPod, you need to go to a website called audible.com, because they have a deal where if you sign up for their service (which is free for 14 day), you can download three free audio books. Go HERE and check out what they are offering. I downloaded three books, including Peterson's The Message, and I have been listening to it the last few nights...awesome. You can cancel the service before the 14 days is up and it doesn't cost you anything. Props to Adam Brunson for the tip...

I'll have more on the reverse-engineered life over the rest of this week (after my wife and I have a few more discussions on this topic). If you want to think ahead, we are working on four areas of our lives where we want to process what kind of people we want to be: spiritually, physically, emotionally, and with our family. More thoughts to come...

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Reverse-Engineered Life

I've been thinking a lot the last week about who I want to be (and what I want to model for the people in my church). I've been praying that the Lord would help me think clearly about the end goal so that I can make sure I'm moving in the right direction. I believe now more than ever that we roll through most of life without ever taking time to ask the question, "am I becoming the kind of person that I want to be?" Life goes so fast (especially with children) that we are consistently busy in our lives that we very rarely take time to work on our lives. But, if we stopped for a minute to ask if we were becoming the kind of people God wants us to be, we might be forced into some life-changes. I'll post some thoughts in the next couple of weeks about the kind of man I hope to be (by God's grace) so that you can see what I'm talking about specifically, but for now I'm curious if you ever take the time to reflect on who you are becoming or if you find yourself simply trying to keep up with the daily pace of life....

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Praise from Retta's family...

We have been praying for Horace & Retta's family (Daughter & Son-in-law & two grandkids) over the last week because they have been trapped in Lebanon. Retta's Son-In-Law is originally from Lebanon, & the family was over there visiting extended family for a few weeks this summer. Just as they were getting ready to head back to the US, the whole conflict exploded & they were trapped with 25,000 other Americans in Lebanon. We are so glad to report that we got word today from Retta that her family was able to evacuate today from the country! They are heading to France for a few days, but then should be back in the US by the 27th of July. We are thankful to God for their safe return from a very dangerous situation.

Mom's report from New Orleans

Mom & Dad returned from their anniversary trip to New Orleans this week & Mom sent out this update on what impact their trip had on them. My friend Nick (student pastor in Houston) just got back from a mission trip in New Orleans & I know he would echo many of these comments from my discussion with him. Here are Mom's thoughts...

After visiting New Orleans and the Mississippi Coast line last week with Bob, I feel compelled to write and tell you about it. We had no idea what to expect, but Bob and I wanted to see if things were improving after Katrina. I can't think of enough adjectives to describe the devastation, but heartbreaking and sad are among the first that come to my mind. We stayed the the Monteleone Hotel in the French Quarter, and the French Quarter looks fine. We stayed at this hotel on our honeymoon 30 years ago, and it is still lovely. The French Quarter and the area along the river only received minimum wind damage and did not flood. However, there were very few people there, and that was the case throughout most of the French Quarter. Everyone we encountered was very appreciative that we were there and were very gracious to us. Tourism is the #2 industry in New Orleans after the port, and it is very depressed. Many of the businesses in the French Quarter were not open, or were operating with a reduced staff. The D-Day Museum was open again, and it was wonderful.. The museum did not flood, but it did sustain considerable damage from vandalism.
Although it sounds tasteless, we took a Katrina Tour with Grey Lines. We would not have understood the immensity of the situation without this tour. About 85% of New Orleans was under water for three weeks, and only about 50% of the city now has electricity and water restored. Downtown skyscrappers, neighborhoods, shopping malls, hospitals, colleges, schools, etc. were destoryed and are either boarded up, or no one has touched them since August 30. The harbor on Lake Pontchatrain has boats on top of each other, in pieces everywhere, and only the roads around the area have been cleared.
Hopefully, the storms stay away from this area this summer, and the levees and flood gates that they are working on will help the situation. Our tour guide stayed during Katrina, but he admitted that he will be among the first to leave if it happens again. He did remind us numerous times that it was a "mandatory evacuation" , and that people made the choice to stay. The 300,000 + cars were evidence that people could have left, but decided not to go. The cars have been removed from the downtown area of the city, but we saw many ruined cars still in the neighborhoods.

When we left New Orleans we drove across Mississippi to Biloxi and could not believe the damage done by Katrina to that area. The roads are clear, but we still saw ruined boats beside the road, houses in shambles, and mounds of trash and rubble. At least in this area, they did not have the flooding, and most areas look like they are at least working on things. A couple of the big casinos in Biloxi are up and running, and some of the others are set to open.We felt much more hopeful about this area, but they still have a long way to go, too.

In closing, please remember this area and its people in your thoughts and prayers. I know that the government and many charitable agencies are helping, but it is such a massive job, that they will need our help for a long time. Please visit the area if possible and encourage others to go, too. They need us!!!

Elizabeth
Thanks Mom for the reminder.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Introducing Round Rock, TX

As we are looking to plant Hill Country Bible Church North Round Rock in 2007, I thought you might be interested to read a little about our new town. The city was recently voted as the 48th best place to live in America from Money Magazine. You can read Money's short description on Round Rock here. The stats that jump off the page to me are the fact that RR is a financial affluent community & and a young community (median age of 29.5) - lots of prayers to pray and people to reach...

Saturday, July 15, 2006

T minus 3 weeks

We are about 3 weeks away from Barie's due date with baby number 3. She is really feeling pregnant at this point (like she wasn't before?!) and ready to not be pregnant for a while. She is gone to a scrapbooking retreat this weekend to have some time away from the boys and get some much needed rest. Though I would probably rather have a gun to my head that spend three days with a room full of women scrapbooking, my lovely wife absolutely loves it. Another proof that God created the sexes different. My parents are in town to help with the boys this weekend, and though we had a great time at the church's Summerfest Street Festival last night (along with about 6,000 other people!), we miss mom when she is gone. Have a great time, love, but come back soon!

Middle East Peace...

We got a call this week from a long-time friend who has family who was visiting relatives in Lebanon when war broke out there this week. They are having a difficult time getting out of the country because Israel has bombed the major airport in Beirut and destroyed most of the major roads leaving Lebanon in an attempt to keep their captured soldiers from being taken to Syria or Iran. In my lifetime, I cannot remember a time of real peace in the Middle East. My heart breaks for those children who have grown up knowing nothing but war and destruction and terrorism. I am praying today for long-term peace in the world this morning, but believing in the total depravity of humanity as much as I do, I am especially praying for Jesus' return.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

30 Years...

I have to send out props to my parents for celebrating 30 years of marriage this week. They have spent the last several days in New Orleans, re-living their honeymoon from many years ago. Of course, New Orleans is not exactly the same that it was thirty years ago, since they have moved from horse and buggy to motorized transportation, but my parents have been able to stay at the same hotel they stayed at before. In a world when many families fall apart (I'd quote the stats to you, but it just makes me depressed), I am thankful to God to have parents who have made it this far and still love to be together. I have always learned from my parents one essential to a good marriage, and I pass it on to everyone in Keith's Corner today: laugh with each other and laugh often. My parents have been through ups and downs together like every relationship, but they continue to make each other laugh. And their joy in each other puts a smile on my face as well. Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Challenging Read...

As I've continued over the years to be challenged about how my understanding of Jesus have shaped my social views, I have become increasingly uncomfortable with some of my uncritical assumptions about the world. Shane Claiborne has reinforced many of my thoughts in his new work called Irresistible Revolution. Shane grew up in a suburban evangelical church, and yet he grew increasingly unsatisfied with how his faith was addressing incredible social injustices around the world. He wanted to know how those who followed after the Jesus of the NT could care so little (in their actions) about the needs of those suffering from the impact of poverty, racism, war, and injustice around the world. His book is not written to get us all to move into the urban ghettos and make our own clothes, but it is intended to challenge some of our major culture assumptions that we take to the New Testament. While more and more evangelicals are taking up the banner of addressing social issues (which I applaud), we must couple that with a primary concern for sharing that eternal hope is only found in faith in Jesus Christ.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Funniest commercials...

I don't normally like commercials, but something about the new Mac commercials have me cracking up (and I don't even use a Mac). If you haven't seen their new take on the whole Mac-PC discussion, you have to watch these. Props to their marketing department for some excellent creativity (simple, hilarious, and memorable).

Backyard Bible Clubs

Barie and I appreciate your prayers for our backyard Bible club this week. Our church does a huge summer program called the Great Adventure every year that combines Bible clubs all over the area with a huge summer-fest event this weekend and several weeks of mission trips throughout July and early August. Anyway, we were crazy enough to think we could host one with Barie in her 9th month of pregnancy. It's all good - she's a trooper, and we believe God has great things in store for this week.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Bono in Africa...

There is a great free download on iTunes with Bono & Brian Williams (from NBC) in Africa updating Bono's work in fighting extreme poverty and devastating illness. Bono's words about seeing the heart and work of God among the poor continues to strike a chord in my heart. I read the continuous references in the NT about remembering the poor and the widow, but I feel so disconnected from most of that ministry. I hope that as we plant a suburban church in a growing metropolitan area, we continue to grow a heart for pouring resources and energy into helping the least among us. My hope is ultimately in sharing the gospel with every one (the rich and the poor), but I also understand that Jesus couldn't have been clearer when he said:

'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' Matthew 24.45

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Nothing to it...

Kamden came out of his ear-tube surgery with flying colors. We got to the hospital early, and they got us out of there by about 9:30 AM. The surgery itself was all of about ten minutes, and Kamden woke up after about an extra five minutes. The doctor said that Kamden had lots of fluid behind his ear drums, so he thought it was a great move for us to go ahead and get the surgery done. Hopefully, our happy kid will be even happier now that he doesn't have to struggle with all those ear infections. Thanks for the prayers!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Early Morning Surgery...

Your prayers are appreciated as Kamden has tubes put in his ears tomorrow morning. We are hoping this takes care of his continuous ear infections (6 since the beginning of the year). And you can pray that I will stay awake taking him to the hospital at 6:15 in the morning. What's up with that? I'll post an update later tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Dependence in an Independent Time

Today we celebrate our independence from England which was declared by Thomas Jefferson and the continental congress in 1776. 230 years ago, our nation was begun as a free and independent state, as the Declaration of Independence describes our new condition multiple times. As Christians today, maybe one of the greatest struggles we have today is submission to authority and understanding that God has structured life so that each one of us is dependent on others for our growth and survival. As Americans, we would like to think that we can do everything without help. Most Americans have run down the road of believing that we don't need help raising our kids or growing as people of character or doing significant things for others. The Bible would say otherwise. First, we desperately need God. The Bible is clear that we are unable to even breath without the providence of Almighty God. The highest height of pride is to believe that we can survive and thrive without acknowledging the Creator who gave us life and breath. God has wired the world so that a man's soul will wilt and die without being tied to his Maker. We need God. Second, we need each other. We are dependent on the body of Christ to encourage us and build us up and train us and challenge us when we are stuck in a rut, unable to take the next step in becoming like Jesus. We need help as parents, as spouses, as citizens, as children, as leaders, as followers. We need each other. It saddens me today to see how many people think they can do it on their own. I hope that we don't fall into that trap of believing that going it alone will produce any good lasting fruit from our lives.

On this July 4th, let's remember that we live in a great independent nation, but are wired by God to be dependent people.