The Triumphant Return of #ThankfulThursday

1. I’m thankful for my wife. This seems like a gimme, but I’ll give you an example. Around May and early June of this year, I was 25 pounds heavier, and my cholesterol was THIRTY points higher.  Since getting married, my beloved has made it her mission to help me pursue a healthy lifestyle, while still staying on a budget. She writes meal-plans, she bargain shops, she cooks from scratch.  My life and health are literally, quantitatively better because of her. 

2. I’m thankful for my accountability partners. I’ve been meeting with the same two guys for about a year and a half, and it’s been a challenging and beneficial time. I appreciate having men I can be totally honest with, who will call me out on stuff when I’m slipping into laziness or selfishness. Not only that, but they’re the type of guys who will lend a helping hand when you need it, no matter the inconvenience. True friends.

3. I’m thankful for my job. Though it can be frustrating, my job really is a gift. God has given me a good job that I’ve had for over a decade. I make a good living and am able to provide for my household. On days when I think i’d rather be driving a bread truck, I need to remember this. I need to be more thankful.

4. I’m thankful for my church. I am part of a great church, where I’ve been serving for more than 9 years as a Bible study teacher for twentysomething singles. It has been a singular honor and privilege to be part of this church, and to be part of that “Young Professionals” group. When it comes time to leave, that will be a hard thing.

And on a much less serious note:

5. I’m thankful for football. Particularly, that the NFL season is about to start. I don’t get caught up on college football like most guys, but for some reason, I just enjoy pro football. Even if it’s my beloved and beleaguered Texans. 

6. I’m thankful for the return of “Doctor Who.” Because that show is awesome. I’m excited to see Peter Capaldi’s take on the character. And it just so happens, the (new-apartment-mandated) cable TV will be installed the day before. That’s providence, folks.

7. I’m thankful for Labor Day. An entire day spent with my lovely bride, and it won’t involve moving boxes or dealing with other people. I can’t wait.

 

YOUR TURN: What are you thankful for, this fine Thursday? Comment below!

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Web’s Wednesday Wisdom: A Prayer Request

[“Web’s Wednesday Wisdom” is a regular feature here at the 4thDaveBlog. You can follow Webster Hunt on Twitter at “@livingheart.”]

All I have this week is a prayer request for Sheena and I.

1) Pray for Sheena’s countenance as she continues to deal with the effects of her illness. We’re getting to a stage in this where we’ll have to choose things that will have a long-standing effect on how we deal with her illness from here on out, and it is becoming easier to lose heart.

2) Pray for me. I find plenty of place to try and justify myself when I sin, citing this and that struggle and loss as a reason for my actions, but because Jesus is Who He is, and His Holy Spirit is Who He is, and God the Father is Who He is, the only thing I do is stack sin upon sin.

I know that most of you don’t know us personally, and like I’ve said before, my primary audience is my own local church Body. But for those of you in Christ whom I have not met, and likely will not meet till He comes and brings an end to all these present things, please bring us before our Lord and Father.  

 

Triple-play Tuesday: Moving Pictures, Moving Apartments, and READER POLL!!!

Here’s a couple quick hits in the midst of a busy week.

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Movie Recommendation: “The Hundred-Foot Journey”

Just saw this one over the weekend. “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is a sweet and savory story about a family of Indian refugees who end up in France and open up a restaurant across the street from an established, successful, “Michelin-star”-rated restaurant. The two narrative threads of the film involve the patriarch of the Indian family (played by Om Puri) locked in culinary battle with the owner of the French restaurant (played by Helen Mirren), while the man’s son Hassan (Manish Dayal) develops his food-craft until he becomes one of the top chefs in France. Success, for Hassan, doesn’t come without a price. The question, then: is Hassan willing to give up everything to be the best?

This movie made me hungry. I think that’s a mark in its favor. Through all the discussion about food and class, innovation and tradition, there is an overwhelming theme of how we both stay connected to and transcend the bonds of our history and family. The portrayals are all believable and enjoyable. I found myself sympathizing with and rooting for every character in one way or another. And in the end, I walked out with a smile on my face (and a growling belly).

“The Hundred-Foot Journey” is rated PG. There is some language, and some implied sensuality.  It’s a good movie for date night, girls night out, or a dinner/movie event.

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Moving is exhausting work. Grueling work. I’m tired, folks.

My wife and I are transitioning from one apartment to another. I’m responsible for the “official” and “documentary” aspects of this transition: change of address, switching utilities, getting volunteers to help load and unload furniture, etc.

Last night, we were at the new place for a few hours, cleaning bathrooms and unpacking kitchen items. My wife was excited to get to open up and set up many of our wedding presents, which sat patiently in their boxes for the last two months in anticipation of a new home.

As we sat on the floor of our new dining room eating dinner, using an upturned basket as a makeshift (and slightly unsteady) table, I couldn’t help but feel grateful. So much has changed in the last two years. I’m in a totally different place than I expected back then, and I couldn’t be happier about it. God is gracious in leading me here, and I’m thankful to Him for all these good gifts.

I really don’t have much else to say on that. 

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READER POLL QUESTION: Speaking of going to the movies, what’s your favorite movie this summer? Of the ones I’ve seen in the last three months* (Godzilla, X-Men, Planet of the Apes, Guardians), I have to go with “Guardians of the Galaxy” as my favorite thus far.  Easily the best time I’ve had at the movies in a while.

Agree? Disagree? I am Groot?  Answer in the comments!

 

 

*Since April is definitely spring and not early summer, I’m not counting “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”–which easily wins my “favorite movie of 2014” award so far. At least until I see “Unbroken” or “Big Hero 6.”

Web(b)’s Wednesday Wisdom: “Local Blogging While You Eavesdrop”

[“Web’s Wednesday Wisdom” is a weekly feature by Webster Hunt here at the 4thDaveBlog. You can follow Webster Hunt on Twitter.]

The man preaching the sermon you will be listening to is my local pastor, Mark Webb. He’s one of those unsung, small-church heroes who diligently does the work of an overseer week in and out, in caring for his people both by teaching them from the Scriptures and by caring for them personally, as he has the means and ability. He will probably not fill a stadium so that people will rush to hear him preach, but he will definitely go to his Master and hear “Well done, good and faithful servant,”  and receive his reward with joy and gladness. I thank God for every week that He determines that it’s better for us that he remains.

(PS – as he himself has said, the scripture is clear that there is honor due to the servant who faithfully does the work His Master assigns. I’ll just leave that here.)

The reason I’m bringing him up before I give a few notes on the sermon he preached on Sunday is because he’s MY pastor. He’s the elder responsible for personally teaching myself and my fellow local members the scriptures. He knows my wife and I. He has looked into our eyeballs, he has prayed for us, he knows our lives in part – he has existed in the same space and time as we have on more than one occasion, and knows others who have also done that. He’s the one that I’m supposed to submit to, given he is preaching the Scriptures and leading according to them – and oh, boy does he! The Lord has been good to Grace Bible Church. John Piper isn’t my local pastor. Neither is MacArthur. And no matter how much I enjoy what they write, neither is Dan Phillips nor Frank Turk (who isn’t a pastor, so I guess he technically doesn’t count, but mentioning him without Mr. Phillips would be like mentioning coffee without doughnuts).

This man labors over sermons that are going to affect his congregants. He’s not preaching His hobby horses. In fact, when he was going through Philippians, after preaching the context of that wonderful cluster of verses in chapter 2, namely 5-11, he took two weeks, at the request of the body, to address the Christological aspects of those verses. For us. So that we could learn and be edified. It was not bothersome to remind us of what he already knew, what some of us already knew. It was his honor and privilege for the sake of the sanctification of the Body of believers of our Master, the Lord Jesus, to go through those things again.

So I want to keep with all that I said last week, concerning how anyone can be anything on the internet, and let you hear from the man who shepherds the local body I am a member of.

Its title is “The Father Delivering Up His Son” http://www.gracemessenger.com/index.php?id=1399

As you listen (if you listen) here are some notes I took down to help you think through the text – they’re drawn from , and even sometimes quoted from, the sermon, so let me be clear that these are Pastor Mark Webb’s words and thoughts and working throughs, and not mine – unless I note it. I will say that this is probably the best sermon I’ve ever heard concerning the doctrine of election, and even of limited atonement, because of this over-arching theme:

 

THAT GOD WILL NOT BE THWARTED IN ACCOMPLISHING WHAT HE SET OUT TO DO.

AND HE DECIDED TO SAVE FOR HIMSELF A PARTICULAR PEOPLE AT THE EXCLUSION OF OTHERS.

 

If you can’t buy those two things, then I doubly suggest you listen and work through this text.

*He’s preaching from Romans 8:31-32, concerning how God did not spare Christ, but rather delivered him up for us.

*Consider these three things in light of that verse:

 1) That God is a God of purpose and plan

   a) In v31, “these things”, Paul is drawing a conclusion from v28, where we see that for all those called according to His purpose, all things work together for good.

   b) In v29, we see that those whom He foreknew He also predestined, also called, also justified, and also glorified. The same group of people at the beginning of the “Golden Chain” are the same group of people at the end – none are lost or gained, all are there, all are completed purposefully.

   c) Because God knew in eternity past who was going to be with him in eternity future, you can’t use “foreknowledge” to escape the doctrine of election. Because if God foreknows anyone or anything, that thing is set. If God knows it, it’s going to happen exactly the way He knew it would.

   d) Notice he foreknew a “Who” not a “What.

   e) Ask yourself, if you’re a Christian, “What was his criteria for saving ME?”

   f) Ask, “What did the crucifixion have to do with this plan to save a people?” and then read Acts 2:22-            23. You see it?

   In that first part,  there are especially two quotes worth remembering:
   I) Our responsibility is to God’s revealed will, not His secret will.

   II) If you go to hell It will not be because you weren’t elected. It will be because you’re a sinner,     rebelling in the face of God. It will be because you refused the grace of Christ Jesus.

 

2) That He is a God absolutely determined to bring into effect that purpose

   a) That God would not spare His own Son, but rather gave Him up, sheds light on the determination of God to save for Himself a people.

   b) Note the cost of saving for Himself a people.

   c) There must have been no other way to effect His purpose, considering the immense cost to effect His plan, whereby the greatest possession God had, that He would have spared could he have, he delivers up.

   d) Why wasn’t there another way?

   e) We must consider the problem to see why there was no other way.

   f) Sin is the most obvious obstacle, but once we consider what sin is – cosmic treason against a Holy God that cannot look at the least sin with the least amount of satisfaction – we realize that God is the real obstacle. If he could simply overlook sin, there’d be no obstacle. But He will not.

   g) The God who cannot look upon the least sin and be satisfied, nor the least sinner, is determined to save those same sinners. Amazing.

   h) But to do that a substitute is required – not just any, but one able to suffer, one perfect and Holy, and one of infinite value to equal and satisfy the infinite offense of sin.

   i) In all of this, we see that God will stop at nothing to save His people. To affect His plan, the highest possible price He could have paid, He did.

 

 3) That from our POV, God is a God of love

   *And honestly, this is the one I forget the most. Yes, definitely, God did what He did according to the    council of His own Triune will, and He did it to glorify His Name and the Name of His Son Jesus, but He did it because He loved His people. Keep listening.

   a) God thought it good to deliver up His Son, to gain you and me. It’s not how wonderful I am. God gave up His Son to love us, His people. He thought that worth doing. Why?

   b) Theologically, He did it for His own glory and purpose. Phenominally, He did it because He loves me. He loves His people.

   c) God’s love is not simply more, it’s different. He chose us in spite of us, not because of us.

   d) God’s love is based on will, not on emotion. He loves us because He wants to. He doesn’t love because of us, but because He is love. And He decided to set His love upon us and He chose to love us.

   e) God’s love was purposed, executed, determined to win and save its object. He will not be denied the object of His love, He will win His people. That’s the love of God. Nothing will thwart Him from securing the object of His love *might I add, even “free will” – He will do and accomplish what He has set out to do and accomplish*.

   f) Read Romans 8: 38-39 and see Paul’s own convinced mind as a conclusion of all he’s said so far.

In closing Pastor Webb mentions that for any man, to effect, that  the only hope we have is that there is a God who WILL save His people, and whose purposes to do that will not be thwarted.

And finally, for those of you reading who are NOT Christians, remember this:
1) Sinner, do you want a savior (considering the only one is the Jesus you just heard about)? Do you? Well, I’ve got good news… you can have him! *The scriptures promise that, friends.*

2) Lost man: your duty is to trust Christ, not probe the secret councils of God.

 

Tuesday Top 5: Favorite Childhood Books/Series

As I said in my last post, I read the annotated edition of The Phantom Tollbooth, and loved it. That got me thinking about books I loved as a child. So here’s a list of five of my favorite books/series in my formative (mostly pre-high-school) years.

  • The Chronicles of Narnia, by CS Lewis. I read this series about 4 times through during grade school, with the exception of “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” which only got 3 readings. (I didn’t appreciate it or “The Horse and His Boy” when I was growing up, but I learned to love them as an adult.) I loved the adventure, and I loved Aslan, whom I knew early on was a picture of Jesus. Only when I re-read the books as an adult did I realize just how theologically rich they are. While the eschatology of “The Last Battle” still makes me uncomfortable, I’m a huge fan of both Lewis and these books.
  • The Magic Bicycle (The “Spirit Flyer” series), by John Bibee. Another Christian allegory, this time centered around a boy and his friends who discover a, well, magic bicycle. A bicycle with spiritual warfare powers, actually. And as evil forces begin infiltrating the town (under the guise of a toy store, or a town-wide contest with a creepy black scoreboard), the boy and his friends use the bikes to discover what’s going on and try to stop it.  While the writing is a far cry from Narnia-standards, it was really entertaining for me when I was in fifth grade.
  • Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen. This is a survival story about a thirteen year old boy who is stranded in the woods with only a jacket and his hatchet, and he is forced to survive on his own. I think every boy goes through a phase when stories like this fascinate them. I was never the outdoorsy, adventurous type in real life, but I often found escapes in books and imagined how I would survive on my own. (I never read the other books in the series, but I loved this one.)
  • Morris the Moose Goes to School, by Bernard Wiseman. This is the first book I ever remembered loving, and I still have my copy after all this time. This is one of those hardcover books that’s less than 20 pages–perfect for little ones.  Here’s the story, if you’re curious: Morris the Moose goes to the store to buy candy, but he doesn’t know how to  read or count. So he goes to school, learns to count, plays with the children, and has a great time. I credit this book with my life-long love of reading, education, and candy.
  • (tie) The Cooper Kids stories / The Oath, by Frank Peretti. Frank Peretti fueled my teenaged love of both treasure-hunting adventure and supernatural-tinged horror, all the while keeping it within the faith. So before I was a fan of Indiana Jones and the writing of Stephen King, I was fully in the Peretti camp.  I read the Cooper Kids adventures in 5th grade, and The Oath in high school, and loved them both. And the cover art for The Oath? Sweet.

So there you go. Sure, I read lots of things in my early years, but these stick out to me as some of my favorites.

What books/book-series did you love as a child/teenager?  Comment below!

Friday Five: On My Reading List

I started taking the bus to work a few weeks ago. In addition to the huge financial savings and the substantial lowering of my stress levels, using public transit has given me more time to pray, rest, listen to podcasts, and especially read.  So here are five good books I’ve read lately:

Die Empty by Todd Henry:  I’m about halfway through this one, and I’ve already decided that I need to purchase it and read it at least two more times in the next year. Henry challenges the reader to be more focused on contributing something to the world. He argues that too many people reach the end of their lives with their best work still inside them. Rather, he writes, we need to “die empty”–to start living with the intention of pouring out all the great work we have to contribute to the world, so that when we get to the end of our lives, we won’t regret not finishing or producing or accomplishing our personal best during our lifetimes.  This book is very challenging.  High, high recommendation.

The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster: I remembered reading this one as a kid, but could not recall anything about it. Oh my word, this book is fantastic. It’s a delightful read for anyone who loves language. I can’t wait to read it to my children one day.  No matter your age, I think it would do you good to read this one (or read it again). The big takeaway from the story: the world is amazing, and there’s lots to do and no time to waste.  The annotated edition is also lots of fun, with a great deal of behind-the-scenes info on the writing and illustrating of the book, as well as some interesting commentary on the unique origins of certain phrases and ideas.

The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller: If you’re married, about to get married, or want to get married someday, you need to read this book. The Kellers present a thoroughly Gospel-saturated view of what marriage is and could be. It is theologically lofty, yet so ground-level practical. The Kellers challenge the reader with concepts that are both familiar and foreign, written in an intelligent and clear manner. The chapter on “Loving the Other” was very helpful for me in really understanding the challenges of day-to-day married life, the last couple of months.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: I wanted some good fiction, something whimsical, something mysterious. The Night Circus fit the bill. The story of a mysterious and magical carnival, and a battle between two magicians and their surrogates. Love, tragedy, and mystery swirl around the narrative like smoke. The prose is dreamy and whimsical. To be fair, the ending felt a little abrupt, but I read through the novel in the space of a few days, so the whole thing moved swiftly for me. If you like stories full of mystery and magic, you may like this one as well.

Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand: I’ve recommended this book to everyone I know. Unbroken tells the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic track star who joined the Air Force during WWII and was shot down over enemy waters. The book recounts Zamperini’s struggle to survive as a castaway and as a prisoner of war. The inhumanities of war are starkly displayed, and Zamperini’s determination to never give in to them will inspire you. The best part, though, is the story of redemption that weaves its way through Zamperini’s life. This amazing story will be coming to theaters at Christmas, but I highly recommend that you read it first. The truth will be so much grander than anything put on screen. Consider this my highest recommendation. This book could very likely be my favorite thing to read all year.

 

Web’s Wednesday Wisdom: “It’s All Fun and Games”

Anyone can be anything on the internet.

When I blog, when I Facebook, when I Tweet, I’m taking the choicest pieces of my character and putting them on display. Sometimes my intention is to bring attention to Christ and His perfection and glory. Sometimes my intention is to look good and be praised for what a sharp fellow I am. But whatever I’m doing on the internet, I’m mediating it – I’m doing it right now! And I’m betting on you taking what I write for granted and moving along. Sure, we might comment back and forth, and there’s bound to be a meme thrown in there if you give me enough time to exercise my witty humor, but since we’re engaging each other over a medium in which we can put the best ingredients and set the others aside, we’re both going to come up with something much like an artificial sweetener – definitely not the real thing, but close enough for all practical purposes.

And that’s all fine and good for entertainment.

But I know a darker, more deceptive side of me that enjoys the anonymity of the internet. It’s the side that prefers “Paper Pastors” (as one good brother put it here) that “don’t know me from Adam,” to the flesh and blood ones who will get all up in my business. It prefers virtual friendships that can end with little more than an “Unfollow” an “Unfriend” or a “Block” to the real ones where I’ll sometimes be rebuked, reproved, and by grace, restored. It’s the side that wants to look good to everyone when I post about how important it is to be diligent in attending and heartfully worshiping in the assigned days of corporate worship of our Lord with my local body, when I haven’t attended a service in so long when I was able to, that I have to re-up my membership. Shorter, a good brother has put it this way concerning unbelief, but I’ll re-work it here, as it fits: “It’s just lazy.”

A friend of mine – who knows me in real-life, and was kind of a driving force behind my blogging this – has had me deeply thinking about the cons list of social media, following this and that blog, and making sure I keep step with whatever good brother I’ve elevated to a place I should not. And don’t get me wrong: I’m in no way speaking ill of those men (mostly older, more mature) who’ve studied hard, who’ve learned by experience, who’ve followed Christ faithfully and have distilled those years of wisdom into Tweets, and blog posts, and Facebook statuses: men who “write well to be read well,” men who’ve become a menace that must be stopped to the seemingly “endless line of clowns that keep coming out of the internet clown car,” men who’ve taken on strange fires with the water of the Word – their efforts have been to the glory of Christ and to the betterment of His Church, and we would be missing something without them.

But what those good brothers intended for in those things, to be used to make me more useful in my local body and to my pastor who is serving faithfully, doing his duty as an overseer, I take instead and use them to become anything I want under the cover of the internet’s anonymity. I become a great debater – I know the facts and can lay them out by bullet points, but can’t bring myself to talk with a co-worker about the Gospel that I claim to know so well. I become the internet preacher, linking to this blog and commenting on that happening and explaining some Scripture, when I can’t bring myself to join my fellow Christians in corporate worship because they don’t believe every jot and tittle that I do.

And then there’s the one where I become the blogger who expects you to read and submit to every truth that I drum out, when all the while I refuse to submit to my local assembly, the outposts of Christ in this world, the Body of Christ, to the preaching of the word there, the administrations of the sacraments there, the worship in song and prayer and giving there, even such a little thing as submitting my writing as though the members who see me in the flesh, unmediated by the internet, are going to read it and call me out when I try to pull a fast one.

Anonymity is fun sometimes. You can’t tell me you don’t follow a parody account on Twitter, so hush it. But when we’re being whatever we want to be on the internet at the cost of being what we’re called to be in the Scriptures – many members contributing to the life of one Body – then pray that we lose an eye, because otherwise, it’s just all fun and games.

Minimal Monday: Letting Go of Stuff

My wife and I are in the midst of paying off our debts. We’re trying to become more “gazelle intense,” so one of the ways we’re looking to do this is to sell some Stuff.

I have a lot of Stuff. I like Stuff. Stuff is fun. Stuff is fun to buy. It’s fun to own. It’s fun to lend.  “Oh, you haven’t heard/read/watched this certain bit of Stuff? I happen to own that Stuff. It’s in my vast Stuff library/discography/cabinet.”  

But Stuff is Stuff. And Stuff is heavy, when you have to move.  So as the prospect of packing up and relocating to another place in the neighborhood looms over the next month, I’m finding myself a little more eager to get rid of some Stuff so I don’t have to pack it into the HaulStuff truck. 

I took a bin of Stuff to Half-Price Stuff.  I got $30 bucks for a large bin that I was hoping would bring more than double that.  Frustrating. So now some audio Stuff is up for sale on Facebook, so I can maybe get a little more value out of my Stuff. (Let me know if you want the link.)

A friend of mine commented on that post, “But 4thDave, you’re selling your college self!”

Which I am, in a sense. All the musical Stuff I fought so hard to keep, or to repurchase after having to sell it the first time–I’m letting it go. Maybe, in some small way, I’m letting a bit more of my college self go, too. The boy-man who graduated from college and listed to the bands of my younger years is no longer here. He’s been replaced by an older, hopefully-wiser man-man who is embracing a new life with an amazing wife and some important goals ahead of him. A life and goals that are only complicated and crowded by a lot of unnecessary Stuff.

Maybe I’ll miss one or two of the Stuff I’m selling, once in a blue moon. But I doubt it. When I decided what to sell, and I divided my musical Stuff into the “Keep” and “Sell” piles (the sheep on my right hand and the goats on my left), there were several items I had forgotten that I even owned.  They didn’t mean anything to me. And if they don’t mean anything to me when I own them, they won’t mean anything to me when I let them go.

Lots of things to slim down in my life. My Stuff pile is the first.

The tower of boxes of BookStuff in my closet, however? That’s not going anywhere. Even I have limits.

Resumption. (Again.)

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends.

I just wanted to jump in here to let you know that I’m still alive, and that I think i’m gonna start writing on this site again. I don’t know if anyone even checks anymore. Maybe Web. Or my wife. (I have a WIFE now, blog. That’s CRAZY.)

At any rate, I think this next age of the blog will be a little themed–based on the days of the week. So: Mondays will be about marriage, or ministry, or Muppets. Whatever’s on my mind. Wednesdays will be what’s new in my life; or they could be guest posts from my blog-buddy Webster Hunt. Fridays will be faith, or fun, or…Funyons. Okay, I haven’t thought this through entirely.

I’m going to try to post at least once or twice a week. Quick hit posts. Dan Phillips wisely pointed out today that if I haven’t earned enough cred to have you hang in there for long posts, you won’t stick around. And I think I’ve burned any good rapport with my many absences and half-hearted blog attempts.

So, dear friends and constant readers, I’m inviting you to come back. Check the blog out once in a while. Anyway.

See you on Monday!

Further up and further in,

Dave