Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Shamelss plug, version 2.0

Since I am so thoroughly diligent in maintaining and regularly posting to this blog, it is obvious that what I really need is...another blog! But I have nevertheless launched out into the brave new world of trying to maintain more than one. The new site is called A Step Further and is designed for a pretty limited audience-those people who patiently listen to me preach each week and try to gain something of value for their spiritual life from that message. It is designed to give them some additional content to ponder and study to do, along with providing a public forum to interact with me about the Scriptures. If you are part of that illustrious group, or you aren't but your curiosity about my biblical-theological thinking can't ever be fully sated, point your browser over to http://furtherstep.blogspot.com and find me there as well as here. No doubt I'll need to alert the folks at Blogger to be prepared for all the hits...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

In case you were wondering...

...the Sulawesi Torajaland is outstanding. It's a heavy, slow, dark coffee, which is just what I want in the morning, when I am heavy, slow, and dark. So glad we ordered the 5 lb. bag of it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

From the department of shameless plugs...

Blogging is an inherently narcissistic affair. To write a blog, you have to be at least self-centered enough to believe that your thoughts are worth publishing. Since I have maintained this blog, I must be at least that narcissistic, no? Anyway, since I have this little corner of the Internet devoted to me and my important-enough-to-share thoughts, I thought I'd encourage my band of faithful readers to check out a truly great product I've discovered from a tiny little coffee roastery based in Dallas.

Marks' Brothers Big World Coffee Roasters has become the official coffee addict's supplier for The Bullhorn and his sweetie, the Horn Herd Mom. (Full Disclosure: Greg, one of the owners, is also a friend and we formerly served on staff together at a church in Iowa). They offer six varieties of premium coffees from around the world. Each is different, each is roasted in a way that brings out the unique flavors of its type, and each is good. I ordered a 5 lb. bag of the Sulawesi Torajaland for our house, and two friends ordered the Brazilian Yellow Bourbon and the Tanzanian Peaberry, respectively. I also got a small bag of the Ethiopian Sidamo in the bargain.

We ordered last week. They roasted it last week after we ordered, and it arrived via Fed-Ex on Friday. Great service, and the product is awesome. We made the Sidamo this morning at our house, and you really can taste the blueberry notes in this coffee, just like they say. It's a bit mild for my taste, more of a soft morning coffee caress than a "Whoa! That's COFFEE!" haymaker, but very good and suitable for all-day consumption. I'm really looking forward to the Sulawesi, which is a much more powerful variety with a darker roast.

Anyway, if you're a coffee junkie, I encourage you to check it out. You won't regret it.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Biblical Church Growth

As a pastor, I have occasion to read a great number of books about the Church-analyzing its problems, castigating its failures, and even occasionally, celebrating its successes (there are darn few of those books to read!). But as I lead our people through the book of Acts, here's what I find there:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
-Acts 2:42-47
Now obviously, there are some things about the early church's practice which cannot be replicated today (no apostles, for one thing; no temple for another; and we can debate "signs and wonders"). But many parts of this description remain doable, if difficult. We could still devote ourselves to the apostles teaching much more than is the case in the average American church. We could certainly be more devoted to prayer and relationships with one another. We could all decide to view our possessions less as "ours" than as "the Lord's" and use them to a much greater extent to relieve suffering in the Body of Christ. If we did this last thing, we might even experience the "glad and generous hearts" part, leading us to praise God and toward favor with all our neighbors. And if we did all that, can there be any doubt that the growth in numbers described in verse 47 would be far behind? After all, who could stay away from a community like that?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Monkeys at the zoo

Last Saturday, Karen and I decided to put our zoo membership to good use. Here's one of the exhibits:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Shark jumping greenies of Euroland

Since this is the Bullhorn blog, perhaps it's time to give you the latest news from Europe about regulating other bovine, er...emissions. The Times of London reports:
A cow tax of €13 per animal has been mooted in Ireland, while Denmark is discussing a levy as high as €80 per cow to offset the potential penalties each country faces from European Union legislation aimed at combating global warming.

The proposed levies are opposed vigorously by farming groups. The Irish Farmers' Association said that the cattle industry would move to South America to avoid EU taxes.

Livestock contribute 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases believed to cause global warming, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. The Danish Tax Commission estimates that a cow will emit four tonnes of methane a year in burps and flatulence, compared with 2.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide for an average car.

When one of the biggest problems in the world is cows' digestive processes, we are at the point where the green folks have morphed from serious people who want to protect the environment for future generations to people who don't know that they are the butt of their own joke.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Father of the year

The longer I have been a dad, the more I realize how much my children need me to just be around them and share my life with them. I'm a long way from being father of the year (despite the title of this post), but they simply want me to be with them. I find that fact simply amazing. Yesterday, I beat both the girls pretty soundly at checkers, but they were happy just to have me play with them. Nathan, John and I sat and watched part of a hunting show on the DVR and read a book together because they said, "Dad, I want you to spend time with me." None of this qualifies me for any kind of award. It's just the normal stuff that we do a lot of at our house. But I still find it deeply humbling.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Weight of Glory

The perceptive among you may have noticed that I re-captioned the photos of my family and added some new ones. If you are wondering why I gave the pictures the captions I did, here's the reason...

As many of you no doubt are aware, I am a devoted fan of C. S. Lewis. He writes with a lucidity and intelligence that I only wish for. Two of the scenes that never fail to touch me emotionally in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (both in the book and the movie version) is the coronation scene at the end, where the children are given their throne names (King Edmund, the Just, etc.), and the scene where Peter is knighted (Sir Peter Wolfsbane). Aslan gives the children names that are based not much on what they have done, but based on how he sees them, which is in some deep way more accurate than than either the childrens' own self-perception, or the external view of them that others may have. After all, Peter does not kill the wolf through an abundance of skill or swordsmanship, but more through what might be called "luck" (grace?) than anything else. And yet just after that, Peter leads the army into battle as commanding general against overwhelming odds. And who really knows what sort of rulers the children will make before they have even ruled? It must be said, only Aslan. And so Aslan gives them names into which they grow.

It occurs to me that the same thing is the case with us. God justifies us despite our sinfulness, and from then on views us as higher and better than we might otherwise see ourselves. Revelation says that the "overcomer" will receive a "white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it" (v. 2:17). Perhaps this is our "throne name," which was given to us by God at the moment of our justifiation and into which we have somehow grown as we matured in Christ? I wonder, what will my name be? What will yours? What if we treated one another with the recognition of who we shall be, rather than who we are today?
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and godesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other toward one or other of these destinations...There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. --C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory


After receiving numerous comments about the "bullness" of my previous heading photo, I realized that something which I had barely noticed before had now become obvious every time I looked at the page. Consequently, I looked for a replacement whose maleness is less distinct in the photo. I hope this helps my more delicate readers.

Fear & Loathing

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. -- 2 Tim. 1:7
Somewhere around September of last year, when it was becoming clear that Barack Obama was going to win the election, I began to notice that fear and loathing had replaced joy and hope in the minds of a lot of people (including me, at times). This is due to a lot of factors: the ridiculous decline in the Dow, job losses all around, and not least, the radical leftism of our new president. I have recently become convicted about this, as the verse above has been rolling through my mind a lot in the past two weeks. After all, what does it say about me as a Christian if I place more emphasis in my life on the disasters that have befallen our nation than on Jesus, the Lord of Heaven and Earth?

So while I am still concerned that the America that emerges from our current crises will be a vastly different America than the one I love and want to raise my children in, it is not, ultimately, to America, it's ideals, and its historic nature that my primary allegiance lies. It is rather, to God and God alone in whom I must place my trust, remembering that it is He who sets up kings and tears them down. I have decided to focus my energies and thoughts on what remains unchanged: God is still sovereign and still ultimately rules this country and its people. My mission from Him is still the same-to make Jesus famous in all the earth regardless of cost, trial, or personal inconvenience. If the country moves further into the darkness and toward less freedom, then the glorious freedom of the sons of God and the light of Gospel must begin to shine all the brighter. There is a day coming when there will be a new heaven and new earth, in which righteousness dwells, when the Lord will descend from heaven with a shout, and so we will await our Savior from there, rather than from Springfield, or Washington, or any such earthbound place.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Carol Miles

Our church lost one of its family members the other night. Carol Miles was the daughter of Will and Norma Haare, both of whom are pillars of the CBC community. Carol was married to Paul for almost 24 years, and was an employee at Caterpillar for 32. She loved Jesus, her family, her husband, fishing and camping, and her dog Jake. Three and a half years of cancer and cancer treatments eventually overwhelmed her body and she passed into glory Wednesday, March 4th, at 7:10 p.m. at the age of 52. R. I. P.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

State of the Union

Is it me, or does today's political situation run the risk of making the entire nation into cynics? I find myself wondering, day-to-day, if I am simply insufficiently "connected" to get the benefit of what's being passed as "vital," "economy saving" legislation. This poster sums it up for a lot of people, I think.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Sometimes, it's easy for me as a pastor to spend so much time exhorting that I forget to encourage my people. So the recent EQUIP Conference here in Peoria was good exhortation for me. I had two sessions with my buddy Bill Allison, one of which was on shepherding volunteers (a major part of my pastoral task). In it, he gave us the acronym SHOE, which stands for:

Specify: Tell them exactly what they did right.
Heart: Share from your heart your feelings about what they did.
Off: Let the compliment "hang there" in the air for a second.
Encourage: Tell them to keep doing what they've been doing.

Simple, practical, easy to do. Man, where have I been part of the time?


For those of you on the RSS, you might not notice that I have changed layouts. I got bored with the old one, so I've made a few updates.

To all of you reading this: Thanks for reading and paying attention to my ramblings all these months. I hope you're still enjoying the journey.

Geeks of the World, Unite!

There was a time, during my high school and college years, when I would have readily identified with all of the items on what follows. I give you the Periodic Table of Awesomeness. I have a few quibbles, here and there, but mostly, the awesomeness is there.

The Mouth of the South

Karen got me a present last week: Classic Clower Power, a "best of" compilation of the best comedy bits of Jerry Clower, who was the Blue Collar Comedy tour by himself back in the day. I had most of these on vinyl LP when I was a kid, but who knows where that record went. Jerry was a born-again Southern Baptist who talked about growing up "country" back in the days "when Coke was still cola, a joint was a bad place to be, back before Nixon lied to us all on TV." (Man, I miss Merle Haggard on the radio...).

Anyway, here's just a taste:

Now he tells us...

Watching the Dow's ongoing slide (2,000+ points since the inauguration), I think I can safely say that I know what President Obama meant when he was talking about "change." Change is what is going to be left in our pockets after he is done taxing, borrowing, and spending us deeper into recession.

I can't put my arms...up

Yesterday was my first day in the free weight room over at the gym after a long hiatus. So today I am in the hurt bag. My chest, triceps, biceps, and shoulders are all sore. Ibuprofen is my new best friend. But I'm determined to recapture some of my former strength, even if it makes me look like I am suffering from some strange disease for a week or two.