Friday, July 25, 2008

Gilroy Garlic Festival

A lot of garlic infused food tasting, a lot of walking, and more than enough sun later, we are finally back in our hotel room after a great day at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Lots of garlic. Then there was some more garlic. And finally, you guessed it, more garlic. We had a pretty good time. Take a look at some pictures we took today:

Garlic Cooking at its finest.

Garlic Roasted Turkey Legs.

Garlic Corn.

Garlic Bathrooms! :-)

And, of course, garlic ice cream!

Allie got her face painted.

And so did Kate.

We took our picture in front of this huge, flaming garlic.

We also got to take our picture with "Mr. Garlic!"

Tomorrow we are on our way to Gilroy Gardens (formerly called Bonfante Gardens). According to their website, Gilroy Gardens "is California's only horticultural theme park designed for families with young children and garden lovers featuring 21 rides, 27 attractions, 6 majestic gardens and the world famous Circus Trees." I don't know how good the circus performing trees will be, but I'll let you know tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gilroy Garlic Gorge

Well, maybe not a gorge, but our family is traveling to Gilroy, CA tomorrow to partake in the Gilroy Garlic Festival. We have often wanted to take a trip up to Gilroy during the festival season, but never have had the chance (or planning) to do so until this year. So, early tomorrow morning all five of us will be driving up to Gilroy to get in on the garlic action! I will be trying to update this blog as we are there to let all of you in on the details of our trip.

Who knows, maybe we'll even get to meet this guy:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bible Reading

An excerpt from a J.C. Ryle tract called Bible Reading:
You live in a world where your soul is in constant danger. Enemies are round you on every side. Your own heart is deceitful. Bad examples are numerous. Satan is always laboring to lead you astray. Above all false doctrine and false teachers of every kind abound. This is your great danger.

To be safe you must be well armed. You must provide yourself with the weapons which God has given you for your help. You must store your mind with Holy Scripture. This is to be well armed.

Arm yourself with a thorough knowledge of the written word of God. Read your Bible regularly. Become familiar with your Bible. . . . Neglect your Bible and nothing that I know of can prevent you from error if a plausible advocate of false teaching shall happen to meet you. Make it a rule to believe nothing except it can be proved from Scripture. The Bible alone is infallible. . . . Do you really use your Bible as much as you ought?

There are many today, who believe the Bible, yet read it very little. Does your conscience tell you that you are one of these persons?

If so, you are the man that is likely to get little help from the Bible in time of need. Trial is a sifting experience. . . . Your store of Bible consolations may one day run very low.

If so, you are the man that is unlikely to become established in the truth. I shall not be surprised to hear that you are troubled with doubts and questions about assurance, grace, faith, perseverance, etc. The devil is an old and cunning enemy. He can quote Scripture readily enough when he pleases. Now you are not sufficiently ready with your weapons to fight a good fight with him. . . . Your sword is held loosely in your hand.

If so, you are the man that is likely to make mistakes in life. I shall not wonder if I am told that you have problems in your marriage, problems with your children, problems about the conduct of your family and about the company you keep. The world you steer through is full of rocks, shoals and sandbanks. You are not sufficiently familiar either with lighthouses or charts.

If so, you are the man who is likely to be carried away by some false teacher for a time. It will not surprise me if I hear that one of these clever eloquent men who can make a convincing presentation is leading you into error. You are in need of ballast (truth); no wonder if you are tossed to and fro like a cork on the waves.

All these are uncomfortable situations. I want you to escape them all. Take the advice I offer you today. Do not merely read your Bible a little—but read it a great deal. . . . Remember your many enemies. Be armed!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Testing the RSS Feed

Please excuse this post. I am trying to test out the RSS Feed. This will be deleted later. Thanks.

Quote of the Week - God's Free Gift of Faith

Ah, Sovereign Lord! The doctrine of eternal punishment terrifies, but the doctrine of unconditional election shatters. We thought we were the masters of our own fate; we supposed that we could be saved whenever we pleased. But now we find - and our hearts confirm the Bible's teaching in this - that unless You act to save us, we will be lost. We are trapped in ourselves until you set us free. We are the willing victims of our own insane animosity to You. We claim to seek You even when we are hiding from You, and we pretend to desire Your truth even when we are devising ways of suppressing it. If You change us, we will live. If You abandon us to our free will, we will perish.
Father, grant that those of us who are Christians may never detract from Your glory by supposing that our faith is anything other than Your free gift. And grant that those who do not yet know You may recognize their true position - under Your judgement and at Your mercy - and may realize the urgency of seeking Your grace. To the glory of Jesus, amen.

David Clotfelter, Sinners in the Hands of a Good God: Reconciling Divine Judgement and Mercy

Thursday, July 17, 2008

On Boasting - Part 4

In my prior three posts on boasting (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), I have begun to talk through six different ways in which I see, as Christians, that we can easily boast. I do not exclude myself from those who boast in things other than in Christ, as I am learning and growing in this area as well. I am hoping that in bringing up what Jerry Bridges would call this "respectable sin" in the lives of Christians, that we can work on becoming less prideful in anything other than in Christ and more trusting of Him who has saved us.

Here is a list of the six areas of boasting that I have been covering:
  1. Boasting in our faith
  2. Boasting in our morality
  3. Boasting in correct doctrine
  4. Boasting in life circumstances (whether good or bad)
  5. Boasting in achievement
  6. Boasting in our independent spirit
The first four have been covered in my previous posts on boasting, and I will be covering the last two today.

Boasting in achievement
The Bibles does teach that there is generally a cause-and-effect relationship between how we work, and the reward that comes to us. In Proverbs 13:4, it says, "The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied." In the proverb regarding the ant, Solomon says, "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man" (Proverbs 6:10-11).

We are also exhorted in our ministry to work diligently. Paul tells Timothy, "
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved" (emphasis mine). Paul also tells us that he is diligent as well. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, he says, "...I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."

However, the Bible also tells us that all of our successes are directly under the sovereign control of God (1 Samuel 2:7, Haggai 1:5-6). Two people in the same job can both work diligently, but one is promoted over the other. Two students in the same class can both work diligently, but one excels and get good grades, while the other does not. Why is this the case? God, under His sovereignty, gives one person more opportunity, more intellectual ability, more comprehension than the other. Whatever the case may be, God says that
He is the one who causes one to succeed and the other to fail. It is He who gives the ability and opportunity to succeed. It is not our own doing.

Are we proud of our successes apart from giving glory to God for them? We can often see this pride in others, for instance, when someone lets everyone know how successful they are because of their own hard work. But the rest of us who do not brag in such a way can also be offensive to God when we talk about our own successes or the success of our children without any acknowledgement of the gracious blessing of God.

Jerry Bridges, in
Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, says this about how we can work to aviod this sin when speaking of our children's accomplishments:
Like most families, my wife and I receive a lot of Christmas letters with family news from friends and acquaintances we have made over the years. Occasionally, one of the letters might say something like this: "Our son, John, graduated summa cum laude from [some prestigious university such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, or MIT]." Now, there is nothing wrong with communicating this good news to family and friends. But stated in the above fashion, the letter conveys the idea, "Isn't our son smart!" with no acknowledgement that his intellectual ability came from God.

If we want to avoid the subtle sin of pride in the achievements of our children, we might say something like this: "Our son, John, graduated summa cum laude from [fill in the prestigious university]. We deeply acknowledge that John's intellectual abilities come from God, and we are profoundly grateful to Him. We know that God does not choose to endow every child with the abilities He has given John. We have tried to instill this grateful attitude in John and to teach him that his academic abilities are a stewardship entrusted to him by God to be used to serve others and to glorify God."
Another aspect of boasting in achievement is the desire for recognition from man. If you find that you have this desire, two principles from Scripture may help:
  1. Luke 17:10 says, "So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'"
  2. Psalm 75:6-7 says, "For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgement, putting down one and lifting up another."
I deserve nothing, and all I do receive, including recognition, is only of His grace. Therefore, if I don't receive recognition, I will not fret. All is of grace.

Boasting in our independent spirit
This type of boasting may express itself in the following attitudes:
  1. A resistance to authority
  2. An unteachable attitude
These two attitudes often go hand-in-hand. We see them often in the youth of today. But these attitudes are not only prevalent in the youth, but in all of us in one degree or another.

The Bible is quite clear on the matter of submitting to those in authority, especially spiritual authority. Hebrews 13:17 says, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you." Submission to the Scriptures in this area will allow us to be teachable people, able to respond readily to the challenges of being discipled by another.

Jerry Bridges speaks to this well,
I sometimes encounter this attitude [of resistance to authority] in teaching the Bible to other adults. Often, a response to something I am teaching is, "Well, I think thus and such." No appeal to Scripture is made; it is only the person's opinion. Yet in his or her mind, that opinion is authoritative. There is no willingness to grapple with the teaching of scripture.
Yet the Bible strongly teaches the value of a teachable attitude (Proverbs 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 5:1, 7:1). Do you have someone in your life who has your best interests at heart and can speak to those and other similar issues with wise, biblical counsel? Are you submitting to those who are potentially more mature in the faith who can help you grow up to become a more mature Christian yourself, able to help others? Seeking out these mentors of the faith is a step in the right direction in battling this boastful sin.

The six areas of boastfulness that we have covered in this series are, I would imagine, subtle sins that each of us must deal with in our lives. Many of the boastful sins that I have mentioned may not have initially seemed like sins to you at all. In fact, that is why they are so subversive within the Christian community. Even if we do regard these as sins, we often see them in others before we see them in ourselves.

I would strongly exhort you to pray over the sin of boastfulness in your life. I have been doing so, and will continue to do so, working daily to humble myself before God, always remembering God's promise in Isaiah 66:2, "...But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word."
"...Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." - 1 Peter 5:5-7

Truly Reformed

OK. You caught me. My next post was going to wrap up the boasting series I have been working through, but I came across this little gem on the web and had to share it with all of you. It's a blog post by Ray Ortlund, pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, TN.
I believe in the sovereignty of God, the Five Points of Calvinism, the Solas of the Reformation, I believe that grace precedes faith in regeneration. Theologically, I am Reformed. Sociologically, I am simply a Christian – or at least I want to be. The tricky thing about our hearts is that they can turn even a good thing into an engine of oppression. It happens when our theological distinctives make us aloof from other Christians. That’s when, functionally, we relocate ourselves outside the gospel and inside Galatianism.

The Judaizers in Galatia did not see their distinctive – the rite of circumcision – as problematic. They could claim biblical authority for it in Genesis 17 and the Abrahamic covenant. But their distinctive functioned as an addition to the all-sufficiency of Jesus himself. Today the flash point is not circumcision. It can be Reformed theology. But no matter how well argued our position is biblically, if it functions in our hearts as an addition to Jesus, it ends up as a form of legalistic divisiveness.
He concludes:
What unifies the church is the gospel. What defines the gospel is the Bible. What interprets the Bible correctly is a hermeneutic centered on Jesus Christ crucified, the all-sufficient Savior of sinners, who gives himself away on terms of radical grace to all alike. What proves that that gospel hermeneutic has captured our hearts is that we are not looking down on other believers but lifting them up, not seeing ourselves as better but grateful for their contribution to the cause, not standing aloof but embracing them freely, not wishing they would become like us but serving them in love (Galatians 5:13).

My Reformed friend, can you move among other Christian groups and really enjoy them? Do you admire them? Even if you disagree with them in some ways, do you learn from them? What is the emotional tilt of your heart – toward them or away from them? If your Reformed theology has morphed functionally into Galatian sociology, the remedy is not to abandon your Reformed theology. The remedy is to take your Reformed theology to a deeper level. Let it reduce you to Jesus only. Let it humble you. Let this gracious doctrine make you a fun person to be around. The proof that we are Reformed will be all the wonderful Christians we discover around us who are not Reformed. Amazing people. Heroic people. Blood-bought people. People with whom we are eternally one – in Christ alone.
Read the whole thing.

Friday, July 4, 2008

e*p*t Positive

"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate." - Psalm 127:3-5
Sorry folks. I've been out of touch here for a while now. A little bit has been going on in our family as of late. As you can already guess, June and I just found out that the Lord has blessed us with another pregnancy. Another newcomer to our family, still in the womb, will arrive, God willing, around the end of February 2009.

At first, we were shocked at the news and a little overwhelmed. We had not been trying to get pregnant, and, in fact, had actually been actively trying not to get pregnant (because we thought that we knew better). But God must have had other plans. This caused some distress on our part, wondering how we would be able to effectively raise four children all 5 years and under. But we realized that this kind of thinking was not trust in our God, but, rather, worldly anxiety. The kind of anxiety that the Lord tells us to cast upon Him (Philippians 4:6). The kind of attitude that does not trust in God for his providence in every situation. God is sovereign and in control of all that happens to us. He is the one who forms us (Psalm 139:13-14). He is the one who establishes our steps (Proverbs 16:9). He is the one who accomplishes all of His purposes (Isaiah 46:9-10). We need to be of steadfast mind, trusting in Him alone (Isaiah 26:3).

We have come to the place where we continue to trust in God for this new birth. We are going to trust Him continually in the raising of our children, however difficult that may be at times. It is only through this trust that we will find His peace lavished on us. And, this trust gives us an exciting anticipation for what He has in store for our family. We are excited for this new birth in our family and are excited to see how God will bless us yet again with a new member of our family.

The verse above (Psalm 127:3-5) reminds me that our children are arrows that we will be using to send out against the enemy. Arrows that we can use to send out to accomplish the purpose of God. Throughout the Bible, God uses the arrow imagery to depict those whom He sends out for his purpose. It's exciting to read these passages about Joash (2 Kings 13:14-19) and about the Messiah (Isaiah 49:1-3), where God used the arrow imagery to show how he would save Israel from their enemies and from themselves for His glory. Maybe, someday, my children will be arrows that I can shoot out against the enemy to accomplish God's purpose as well.

"Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, 'You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.'" - Isaiah 49:1-3
P.S. I plan on completing the series on Boasting in my next post. Sorry for the tardiness.