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.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Latest Message

I spoke this morning for my last time at HCBC NW about how our intimacy with the Lord and our dependency on the Lord help us to protect our understanding of our identity from being lost to other possible sources of identity. This sermon wraps up the first three chapters in Ephesians (protecting your identity in Jesus Christ) and concludes my preaching responsibility at NW. Check out this website to view the message. The central application of the text (to dream bigger and pray harder) has really ministered to my heart over the last week and challenged me to make sure that our church plant is always dreaming huge dreams about what God can use each one of us to do in taking the gospel to all people.