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Monthly Archives: August 2008

Why do guardian angels look so wimpy?

If you came face to face with your worst enemy, would you entrust yourself to a protector that looks like a cute little baby with wings? Would you want a girly-looking wood nymph to fight your battles for you? I don’t know about you, but these images don’t exactly engender confidence in my heart, let alone strike fear in my enemy’s heart.

I am preaching on Psalm 91 this Sunday, focusing on the security that God provides for us. One element of our security involves angelic protection (verses 11-13). Not only do angels protect us, but they allow us to be victorious in difficult situations. I was looking for some art to picture a guardian angel. But I was sorely disappointed in what I found. All the pictures I found make angels look like wimps.

Scripture teaches that God uses angels to minister to his people (Hebrews 1:14). But where are the pictures of angels with flaming swords that guarded the location of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24)? What about the angel with drawn sword ready to bring judgment on the wayward prophet, Balaam (Numbers 22:22-35)? Where is the angel that encouraged and fed Elijah during his period of depression (1 Kings 19)? Where is the angelic army with horses and chariots of fire that camped around Elisha (2 Kings 6:17)? Where are the angels that protected Daniel by shutting the mouths of the lions (Daniel 6:22)? What about the angel that brought comfort to Daniel, but only after doing battle with the prince of Persia for 21 days and being rescued by Michael, an angelic prince (Daniel 10:10-13)? We haven’t even mentioned the angels that bring judgment in the book of Revelation.

Scripture certainly portrays angels in a much more positive light than the namby-pamby effeminate ones we find in art. The angels found in Scripture give me confidence that I am protected by my heavenly Father. He has sent them to help me accomplish the task he has called me to do. The ones found in art are like eating a bowl of sugar–overly sweet and less than satisfying.

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2008 in Culture, Theology

 

Emptying the nest

This week begins a new phase of life as my younglings start leaving the nest. This post finds me driving to Los Angeles with Amanda, our middle child, as she heads to Biola University for her junior year. Since she has to be there early for R. A. (Resident Assistant) training, I am helping her drive the car that she and her brother share while at college. The end of the week, my wife and I will put our youngest child, Caitlin, on a plane to Boston, where she will begin her freshman year at Gordon College. She has to be there early to participate in La Vida, an outdoor education program required of all incoming students. Later this month, my oldest child, Jonathan, will head to Biola University, where he has three more semesters before finishing his undergraduate studies.

As I contemplate this time of transition, I appreciated Gary Thomas’ description of his feelings as his oldest daughter left for college, which he recorded in The beautiful fight. As he explains,

“My goal, with all my children, has been to raise sons and daughters of Levi. Malachi gives us a picture of what a godly child is: ‘[Levi] revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin’ (Malachi 2:5-6).

According to this passage, God wants us to maintain families that teach our daughters and sons to

  • live in awe of God,
  • revere his Word,
  • walk with him in fellowship,
  • live peacefully with others, and
  • turn others from their sin.”

I echo Gary’s sentiments. My wife, Carol, and I have done what we could in raising our children. Now, Jon, Manda, and Caitlin need to leave our home in order for God to complete his work in them. While we have missed some opportunities, we have caught many others. Rather than focus on what we have left undone, we are reminded of what God is still doing.

As parents, there is a sense in which we function as an assistant coach talking with the head coach about how we’ll get this player ready–not for a game, but for life. Carol and I can rest, realizing that God has plans and a purpose for each of our children and that he is taking the initiative. We planted a tiny seed; God will make it blossom.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2008 in Books, Family & Friends, Quotes

 

A revealing personality

“We go to church hoping that Christ will appear in the ‘temple’–a church building–but all the while God is looking at us and hoping that Christ will appear in us–the true temple of God.”  –  R. T. Nusbaum

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2008 in Quotes

 

The continuous creep towards complacency

I played varsity tennis in high school, though that is not necessarily a cause for pride. During my junior year, our team tied our first match, and lost every one after that. Yet for our school, that was a winning year. My senior year, we came in sixth in the league out of seven teams. Time to break out the foam rubber hands that proclaimed, “We’re not last!”

As a result of my athletic prowess (or lack thereof), one of my greatest fears is that I will be average. Not that average is bad. After all, it beats being below average, or worse yet, being a poor dullard who is never chosen to be on the team. My fear is that I will settle for being average, accept parity, be just “good enough,” and celebrate mediocrity.

If I give in to my natural tendencies, I will gradually become a slothful, slovenly, slacker. My inertia gets slower with every passing day. I am naturally carried along by the continuous creep towards complacency. Why try to stay one step ahead of the hounds? They are going to win anyway.

To fight against this tendency, there are two passages of Scripture that I periodically turn to for a wake up call. One is 1 Timothy 4:6-16. Paul instructs his protege, Timothy, to continue to make progress towards spiritual maturity. He encourages him to grow in his understanding of doctrine (6-10), his character (11-12), his ministry skills (13), and his understanding of his spiritual gifts and call to ministry (14). Lastly, Paul says, “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress” (15).

Like Timothy, I need to be diligent in how I live so that the people around me can see that I am making progress. I should be more mature than I was last year at this time. I should be more patient than I was two years ago. I should be more caring and compassionate than I was three years ago. And people should be able to see the difference. That kind of progress requires living with intentionality.

A second passage that both challenges and encourages me is Joshua 14. One of the great heroes of the faith was Caleb. At the age of 85 when most men are reaching for the rocking chair, he asked Joshua for the piece of land with the biggest, baddest giants. Rather than live out his days on the porch, he wanted a new challenge to conquer. Caleb reminds me that my later years should be ones of growth.

Rather than settle for OK, parity, mediocrity, or complacency, I want to make visible progress towards maturity. Having said that, I realize it will require maximum effort to resist the urge to slide for home.

“They became changed men themselves before they went out to change others.” – William Penn

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2008 in Character, Personal growth, Quotes

 

Maintaining focus

The hardest thing to tell people is, “That’s a good idea, but no, we’re not going to do it.”

I don’t like disappointing people. I don’t like to be the one who rains on someone’s parade. I don’t like being the one who quashes new ideas. But neither do I want to be a “Yes” man or a people pleaser.

If I am going to accomplish the purpose of God in my generation, I need to know what to say “Yes” to and what to say “No” to. The secret lies in knowing what my purpose is.

I had a conversation with our youth pastor this morning about that very issue. He has an outreach barbecue planned for the end of the month. Someone suggested that food was not enough to attract the neighbors and what we really needed was a concert. When he asked what I thought of the idea, I said it depends on your purpose. You have to determine what will help you accomplish your purpose and say “No” to everything else that hinders you from accomplishing the goal.

A well-meaning soul suggested that what our worship services really needed was ___________. I said I would consider the idea. The more I considered the idea, the less comfortable I felt with it. Oh, it was a good idea and would minister to people. But it would require us to redesign the purpose of our worship services.

I routinely have people who come up to me and say, What the church needs to do is ___________, which being translated means, “What you need to do is ___________.” Once again, I have to go back to reviewing my purpose and what God has called me to do. There are countless good ideas and numerous ministries that could be done. The key, at least for me, is to determine not what I could do, but what I should do. Will this idea, ministry, activity, etc., help me to accomplish what God has called me to do? If it doesn’t, I have to say “No” even if it disappoints the other person.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2008 in Church, Leadership, Personal growth