Monthly Archives: August 2013

Following Christ whatever the cost

Drafted: Why Chris Norman Said No to the NFL is an encouraging video about following Christ. It is the testimony of Chris Norman, star linebacker for the Michigan State Spartans. After graduation, he turned down the NFL to enter seminary and become a pastor.

I found the video especially encouraging as it dovetailed nicely with the series I have been preaching on the life of Abraham. Like Abraham, Chris felt God calling him to leave behind the security of a familiar life. In Chris’ case, it meant the riches and status football would bring. Friends told him he was making a mistake, but he felt certain he should follow Christ and invest in eternity.

Great story.

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Posted by on August 31, 2013 in NFL, Sports, Videos


Preview of Coming Attractions

Whenever I go to the movies, I always make sure I am in my seat when the previews start. I enjoy catching a glimpse of the new films that are coming out. I get a good sense of which ones I will pay to see, which ones I will wait until they come out on DVD, and which ones I will skip altogether.

I started the habit of doing the same thing when I preach. Whenever I preach the last message in a series, I give the congregation a “preview of coming attractions.” Here’s what I will preview to our congregation at First Central Baptist Church this Sunday.

Preview of coming attractions

On Sunday, September 8, our church will host a Walk Thru the Bible Old Testament Live Event. As an instructor with WTB since 1987, I’d say the Walk Thru events provide a fun, creative, interactive way of gaining an overview of the Scriptures in one day. During the OT event, you will learn the entire Old Testament in just a few hours, and learn it so well you can repeat it to a friend in less than three minutes.

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On September 15, we will begin a six-week series asking the question, “What makes a great church?” We will answer the question with a phrase I borrowed from Rick Warren, “A great commitment to the great commandment and the great commission makes a great church.” The fourth and fifth weeks will feature guest missionaries as it is part of our annual mission emphasis.

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From October 27 – May 2014, we will be studying Paul’s first letter to Timothy. Paul describes how the church is to be structured and function. It will be a helpful study as our church makes the transition from a deacon-led congregation to an elder-led congregation.

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Career advice from Calvin & Hobbes

“Bill Watterson: A cartoonist’s advice” is a tribute to the creator of Calvin & Hobbes from the mind of Gavin Aung Than. The article gives some of Watterson’s background and why he quit cartooning when he did. It also speaks highly of the need for perseverance and following your dreams in pursuing a career.

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Posted by on August 28, 2013 in Fun, Passion, Work


How can you raise your son to be a hero?

Raising boys by designBook Review: Raising Boys by Design: What the Bible and brain science reveal about what your son needs to thrive, by Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D. and Michael Gurian, with Ann McMurray

As a parent, how can you raise your son to be a hero? How can you help him achieve great things? How can you help him grow to be the strong loving man God created him to be? The answer to those questions lies at the heart of Gregory Jantz and Michael Gurian’s book, Raising Boys by Design: What the Bible and brain science reveal about what your son needs to thrive.

The theme of the book is summed up by the authors,

Raising Boys by Design begins from the perspective that God has designed boys to value and strive toward the mantle of maleness and that our culture is very hard on that maleness. Often a boy’s natural energy is seen as disruptive. A boy’s inquisitiveness is seen as disrespect for authority. A boy’s competitiveness and his fits and starts at leadership are seen as presumptive or flawed. A boy’s resilience is seen as uncaring and even too harsh. A boy’s tenacity is seen as arrogance. Many of the strengths designed into a particular boy become suspect or devalued. Gradually, the boy either instinctively rebels against this harsh interpretation of his inner self or withdraws into a deep loneliness.

With that in mind, the authors set out to integrate the Bible with brain science in design-based parenting, and try to equip parents to integrate biblical truths with scientific outcomes in an intentional, thoughtful approach to helping our sons thrive in every area of life.

The book works from the theory that, although boys and girls reflect the image of God and share many characteristics, the inherent differences between male and female are vitally important. Michael’s research in brain science shows this (as you will see in chapter 2). I (Gregg) believe that Christians and readers of the Bible already intuit what science is showing. In Genesis 1:27 we read, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Girls and boys, like women and men, are equal in God’s eyes, but they are different. Those differences are inherent within the construct of creation, designed into us by the will of God.

In the various chapters, the authors explain what a boy learns from mom as well as from dad, how to protect and support a boy’s emotional life, developing healthy sexuality in boys and young men, helping sons do well in school, and the impact of technology on a boy.

A very helpful chapter describes how to use rites of passage to help your son become HEROIC:

  • Honor – A man does what is right.
  • Enterprise – A man works hard at useful work.
  • Responsibility – A man takes responsibility.
  • Originality – A man is an individual within a whole.
  • Intimacy – A man learns how to love.
  • Creativity – A man is committed to changing the world.

I found three sections of the book especially helpful. Each chapter ends with a section entitled, “Next Steps” where the authors give numerous practical and doable ideas for implementing the concepts in your son’s life. A second helpful section is found in the chapter on technology. The authors provide “A developmental design for technology use” where they describe what type and amount of technology is appropriate at each stage of a boy’s life, from birth through high school. That alone is worth the price of the book. The third helpful section is in the chapter on using rites of passage to help raise our sons. It reminded me of Raising a Modern-Day Knight, by Robert Lewis. The two books could be used alongside each other.

The book is easy to read and understand. It is very practical. Though my children are grown, I still thought of ways I could use it to help equip young families in my church. I would recommend the book to young parents.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Books, Parenting, Quotes


A Match Made in Heaven

Is God sovereign? Are people responsible? So goes the age-old theological debate. Personally, I believe the answer is “Yes!” God is sovereign. People are responsible.

Genesis 24, the longest chapter in Genesis, deals with Abraham finding a bride for Isaac. The chapter weaves together the twin themes of God’s providence and human responsibility. On the one hand, God is the sole cause of all the events of the story. He was deliberately behind the scenes, directing the people and the events. His providential dealings prevent many potential mishaps from occurring. On the other hand, the servant carried out his assignment. He trusted God, looking in prayer for God’s leading. He was motivated by his loyalty to the covenant. He praised God before the assignment was completed.

twoheatsbeatasoneAbraham is now 140 and Isaac is 40 years old (Genesis 25:20). Sarah has been dead for three years (23:1). Since God’s promise requires children and descendents, Abraham sets out to find a suitable wife for Isaac. Knowing that the Canaanites were under a curse (9:25-27), Abraham sends his trusted servant back to the old country to find a bride from among Abraham’s relatives (24:1-9). He is confident that God will lead his servant to the right girl.

It is popular today for parents to allow their children to make up their own mind about spiritual things. We are told to give them free rein in making their own choices. In contrast, verses 1-9 remind me that we have the responsibility of ensuring that God’s plan continues to the next generation. Like Abraham, we do what we can to make success possible, but we also rely on God for the outcome.

Sarah watering the camelsIn 24:10-27, the servant carries out his master’s plan. After completing the journey, the servant prays for success (24:12-14). Rather than merely saying, “God bless my efforts,” he lays out a very specific request. He asks God to bring a girl who would not only offer him a drink of water (common courtesy given to a traveler), but who would also offer to fetch water for his animals.

On the surface, that sounds like a reasonable request. However, when you examine the details, you realize how extraordinary it is. The servant had 10 camels. A thirsty camel can drink 25 gallons of water. The bucket at the well holds about 2-3 gallons. That would require 80-100 trips to the well. Considering it takes a camel about 10 minutes to drink its fill, we’re talking 1 ½ – 2 hours of hot, sweaty work.

Before his prayer is complete, a girl approaches the servant and offers him a drink of water (24:15). She also offers to water his camels. “Has God answered my prayer?” he asks himself (24:21). He discovers that the girl is Rebekah, a niece of Abraham. He praises God for leading him each step of the way (24:27). He praises God for leading through the ordinary and the extraordinary.

PraiseWe can be confident that the Lord will lead us as we serve him. We must pray for guidance, but we must also praise God for his answers.

In 24:28-60, the servant meets Rebekah’s family and tells them the story of Abraham and Isaac. He is hopeful they will recognize God’s providence (24:49). Rebekah’s father and brother conclude that God is indeed in this situation and they give their approval to the match (24:50-51). When the servant proposes leaving immediately for the homeward journey, they say, “What’s the rush?” (24:54-55). Knowing that delayed obedience is disobedience, the servant pushes for an immediate answer and departure. Rebekah agrees (24:57-58) and off they go.

This section points out that our primary motivation should be to follow God’s leading. It also reminds me that we must not delay obeying God’s instructions.

In 24:61-67, the servant has the joy of introducing Isaac to his new bride. He joyfully retells the story of how God led and prospered his efforts.

Like the servant, we can be confident the Lord will complete the work he has begun. And like the servant, we should tell others what God has done for us.

This is the synopsis of a sermon preached at First Central Baptist Church on August 25, 2013. It is part of a series on the life of Abraham. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


Opening Day at Fenway (Westfield)

This weekend, I have the pleasure/privilege to be one of the umpires for the 5th Annual 9/11 Memorial Wiffle Ball Tournament at Fenway Westfield. The field is a 1/4 scale replica of Boston’s Fenway Park built in the backyard of Chris & Jen Dolan’s home in Westfield, MA. During the opening ceremonies, Chris explained that the 9/11 tourney honors the members of our military who died in action since 9/11/2001. Part of the funds raised help students at Community Christian School in Westfield, MA, and the remainder goes into a fund helping children of fallen soldiers.

Tonight, Carol and I attended the opening ceremonies which included the Melha Highlander’s bagpipe brigade from Springfield, MA. The opening game was between the Terminators, a group of students from Westfield vs. the Enforcers, all members of the DA’s office. It was a fun way to start the weekend. The fun will continue when I umpire tomorrow afternoon.

Who knows, this umpiring gig could become an annual tradition. Then again, maybe next year our church should try to field a team.

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Posted by on August 23, 2013 in Fun, Photos, Sports


A successful softball campaign

Congratulations to the First Central Baptist Church Softball Team. After too many rainouts to count, we made the playoffs. We won our semifinal matchup and played for the championship. Although we lost, we still ended the 2013 campaign in Second Place.

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Go Eastlake LL!

While we no longer live in the Pacific Northwest, we still root for at least one of their sports teams. We have been following the adventures of the Eastlake Little League team from Sammamish, WA, in this week’s Little League World Series. Last night they defeated a team from Urbandale, IA, to reach the U.S. semifinals. Since our house backed up to East Sammamish Park where Eastlake LL played their games, the team essentially played in our backyard. In addition, each of our three children played in Eastlake’s baseball and softball programs over the years. So it gives us added interest in rooting the team on to victory. Go Eastlake!


Posted by on August 20, 2013 in Sammamish, Sports, Washington State


Russell Orchards in Ipswich

We stopped by Russell Orchards in Ipswich with the hope of picking blueberries and raspberries. To our disappointment, that section of the orchard was closed for field maintenance. Instead, we had to be content with watching the farm animals and eating an apple cider donut.


Posted by on August 19, 2013 in Massachusetts, Photos


Lowell, MA

This morning we visited the Lowell National Historical Park, which celebrates the beginning of the industrial revolution in America. We watched a film that gives the history of the rise, fall, and rebirth of the city over the past 200 years. From there we took a tour of the Patucket Canal and listened as a park ranger explained how the canals were built and helped foster the climate of the industrial revolution. It was a fascinating tour.

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Posted by on August 19, 2013 in Massachusetts, Photos