Monday, November 23, 2009

A Good Tired

Everyone is moving slowly at the office this morning after last night's volunteer-appreciation dinner, but we are a good tired. We have such a great church-family, and last night was a fun time to celebrate all that God has done through our ministry-volunteers this year. I hope everyone knows how much we appreciate them and what a huge impact they are making. Here's the video we finished with last night as we start to spread the word for Christmas Together 2009 - our Christmas-Eve services at Hill Country Bible Round Rock. Have a great Monday...

Staff Carol of the Bells from Hill Country Bible on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Finished the Race!

What an awesome weekend!

Barie and I did our fourth annual Getting Away to Get It Together weekend. We had a great time this year. We ran the San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon on Sunday morning in 2 hours, 25 minutes, and 58 seconds. We then spent the rest of Sunday recovering from running a half-marathon. You can watch the video of us crossing the line on the Rock 'n' Roll website - just enter in Bib Number 16446.

After the race, Barie and I spent the next two days regrouping on the home front - evaluating our relationships with God, each other, and our kids. We spent time discussing our calendar, our budget, and our priorities as a family. It was a tremendously refreshing and helpful time.

Thanks for everyone's encouragement and prayers. Now go run!

Tom Basile Video

I went to school with some great people at Dallas Theological Seminary.

One of the most interesting was Tom Basile, who was in my Spiritual Formation group during my first two years at school. Tom was serving in New York City in homeless ministry before he came to DTS, and since he graduated, he has returned to NYC to serve as the director of the Bowery Mission, a historic mission in the heart of the city.

Just this week, DTS highlighted Tom's work at the Bowery Mission in one of their promotional videos. Tom still has the infectious energy that he had when he was in school with me. Check out this wonderful video to learn about his work.

Go Tom!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Idols

I was in Exodus 20 this morning for my devotional time (as I'm following along with our study guide this week) - reading through the Ten Commandments. What struck me today was the emphasis on idolatry in the first few commandments - God is serious about making sure that we understand that He is the only real God and that we don't bow down to any other idols in our lives. I wrote in my journal today that if I can root out the idols in my heart (by His grace), then I will be in better shape to follow the rest of His commands.

I've been reading Tim Keller's new book Counterfeit Gods recently, but trying to do it slowly so that I could personally reflect on the observations that he is making. In his chapter on money, I was struck by the following insight on the hidden idolatry of greed - see if it resonates with you:
Why can't anyone in the grip of greed see it? The counterfeit god of money uses powerful sociological and psychological dynamics. Everyone tends to live in a particular socioeconomic bracket. Once you are able to afford to live in a particular neighborhood, send your children to its schools, and participate in its social life, you will find yourself surrounded by quite a number of people who have more money that you. You don't compare yourself with the rest of the world, you compare yourself to those in your bracket. The human heart always wants to justify itself and this is one of the easiest ways. You say, "I don't live as well as him or her or them. My means are modest compared to theirs." You can reason and think like that no matter how lavishly you are living. As a result, most Americans think of themselves as middle class, and only 2 percent call themselves "upper class." But the rest of the world is not fooled. When people visit here from other parts of the globe, they are staggered to see the level of materialistic comfort that the majority of Americans have come to view as necessity. (pages 52-53)
Ouch. May God open our eyes to see what we truly worship.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Sunday Night Thoughts -

I'm sitting here watching the end of the Cowboy game (good to see them win a big one) while my wife and kids are sleeping peacefully. It has been a great day today.

We've continued to preach through the gospel of Mark this morning at church - we finished chapter 12. I've enjoyed preaching through a long book - it has been one of the more challenging things I've done since we started the church two years ago. Nick is preaching next Sunday through chapter 13 (the prophetic teachings of Jesus) while Barie and I are in San Antonio for a much-needed weekend away. We're running the Rock'n'Roll half-marathon next Sunday morning, then spending two days working on our marriage and our parenting. We always love our times away together, and this year is no different.

Then, after we get back, we've only got a few weeks left until we're done with the gospel of Mark. I'm working now on summarizing what I have learned after preaching through the whole book - would love to hear from you about what you've learned. We're already working on the preaching calendar for 2010 and it looks very different - I can't wait to roll it out in December.

This afternoon I was able to rest for about an hour, which was great after working late last night and early this morning on my sermon - it took a while to figure out how to get The Office clip I needed :). Then, tonight, we gathered with two neighborhood families for dinner - what a blast. We really love these two families and enjoyed our time at dinner. After three years in our house, we love the community that we've been able to build with our neighbors. It is sad that some are already moving, but others are moving in. I thank God for our awesome neighbors.

Well - that's all I've got tonight. Get some sleep...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Book Notes Today

I haven't posted in a while, so I thought I would say a few words about what I've read recently. First, I read a book on ancient classical history - the period from the formation of the earliest Greek cultures through the Roman period.

This is a fascinating period in history for me because it defines the context for so much of the NT. Jesus lived and taught and Paul traveled in this Hellenistic world, though of course they were shaped in huge ways by Hebrew culture. Robin Lane Fox' book called The Classical World is a quick overview of a huge period of history. Fox tells the story well, though I must admit that I skimmed through some of his longer discussions about wars between different people groups during this time. What I was really looking for was information about what it would have been like to live during this period - and Fox delivers on this front. Of course, he admits that large parts of his description of ancient life are speculations built upon our study of ancient artifacts and history written later about that time period. However, what he describes is not some mystical, wonderful, enlightened world that was lost during the Dark Ages by the influence of the church (the narrative we all learned in school), but a period that was full of war and famine and incredible immorality. The cultural elites of the ancient world were all men (women were not valued or accepted, but used for reproduction) and were involved in pedophilia (using young boys for sexual gratification). Not only that, but the period was full of war (like every period of history) between people groups and strife between cultures. Fox' vivid description of the development of Greek culture (including art, philosophy, and science) reminded this reader how depraved humans are in every period. It was into this world that Christianity's message of love, charity, care for the poor, sexual purity, and gospel grace came flooding through.

As I was reading this book on ancient culture, I was handed another book by a friend to read called Atheist Delusions by David Bentley Hart. Hart's work is an academic response to the popular attacks made by New Atheism against Christianity. Hart writes at a high level and engages academic and popular positions throughout the book. His main argument is that Western culture has failed to understand the dramatic impact that the Christian gospel has had upon every facet of society. He argues persuasively that the popular atheist writes of today are standing on a Christian foundation to make their attacks against the Christian religion. Hart is a wordsmith, and his writing is devastatingly articulate in tearing down the false premises of the new class of atheist apologists. Hart rightly points to the development of care for the needy, the rights of women and slaves, and the philosophical underpinnings of an ordered world as distinctive contributions of the Christian worldview. His most provocative sections are about what happens to our worldview and treatment of others when the Christian revolution is undermined. To answer this question, he looks at the world before the Christian revolution and says that we could easily be headed back in that direction - see my notes above for why that is so scary.

Fun reading - I love history anyway, and these books are helping to fill out my reading of the Bible and the radical nature of the message of the gospel.