Monday, January 29, 2007

Allergic Reactions or Velcro is Godly

It's pretty hard to think straight when your kid is filling your entire house with the shrillest screams ever to belt forth from the deepest bosom of a six month old. That's what's been happening around the Via house from about 6:30 tonight until 9:30.

Zeke has the flu. Not fun for anyone. The doctor put him on Amoxicillin tonight for the first time and I think he's having an allergic reaction to it. Inconsolable crying by the child makes for incoherent thinking and unprocessable (?) babbling for the parents. As a parent, or for anyone for that matter, it's hard to take. You always want your kids to be happy, healthy, hardy, and hairy. Well, maybe not the latter. You always want them to be enjoying the most out of life - i.e. to get the most use out of that 2-day old pampers swaddler (velcro tabs are a wonderful thing) - to get the most out of the month-old french fries gleefully discovered in hidden crevices of the carseat.

And so, when they're sick, life is not fun. Life is bad. Life is loud.

I wish I could get inside their little minds and figure out exactly what it is that's going on, because they can't communicate it yet. They want to. They try to. But they can't.

Hanging on the wall of our office is a beautiful painting of Africa. Superimposed over the continent are two young African children with swollen bellies and tired, distressed faces. Off to the side are written these words from Psalm 10:17-18

17 You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,

18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.

The shrieking, shrill cries of God's children always bothers Him. He hears them. He comes to their rescue. He knows what's going on inside of them even when they don't know quite how to communicate it. He loves to come to their defense from wicked men. He loves when they put their trust in Him. He loves when young men from the Dinka tribe of Sudan flee South from the LRA as refugees to Uganda providentially to be put in the path of a white man from Virginia who preaches the Gospel on the side of a basketball court and they put their faith in the only One who can heal all oppression (This happened to me and my dad last December in Uganda).

So, the next time I hear my children cry, I hope that I stop and recount the way God is moving and working around the world, hearing the cries of His children and coming to their defense. I hope that you'll stop and recount how God has come to Your defense, and then thank Him.

And pray for little Zeke. He'll make it. Pray for Tasha more. Especially when I'm gone during the day. More importantly, pray for the oppressed and afflicted people around the world that God the Father is drawing to Himself.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Calvary and Peyton

This past Sunday night we had an exciting time of worship at Calvary Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, NC. This was a great kick-off to our new ministry as our first official booking. There was a great spirit of worship in that place and a great turnout despite the adverse weather conditions.

And of course, lest we forget, the night was topped off by Indy's 38-34 come-back win over New England. Man, I wish I could strum the guitar at the level Peyton throws the football. Not with the same strength or torque, mind you, lest I punch my fist clear through the soundhole and out the exterior body concave. But, shall I say, with the same degree of excellence and amazingness. Yes, amazingness. He's so unbelievable. You know, Peyton was asked one time,

"What advice do you offer teen(s) who are pressured by friends to do drugs?"

He responded,

"You have to choose your friends wisely and try to keep yourself out of difficult situations. Rely on your faith, family & friends."

Man, now that's amazingness. You can read more of such questions and responses on Peyton's site.

But anyway, Ben, you're doing an awesome job at Calvary. Keep it up. Thanks for having us down.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Imago Dei

I wanted to publicly thank Sarah Tarabocchia at Imago Dei Photography for doing such an amazing job on our photos last week. You should definitely check out her work, and if you're ever in the Richmond, VA area and need a pro to take your picture, look her up. Her site is Hopefully we'll have her pics on our site very soon. Thanks so much, Sarah.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Teeth and Changes

Earlier tonight I was on the computer checking e-mail when Rainy came running in the room cheering, "Teeth!" That's a one-word sentence that means, "Daddy, it's time for you to help me brush my teeth." It used to be that I would have to do all the work on her little nibblers. But now she pretty much takes the wheel and scrubs her little pearlies until she's ready for the next meal. Or until I put the breaks on.

She doesn't really need me in there. I think she just likes the company in the bathroom. So, it's sort of this routine we've got going. It's unbelievable how she's growing up. And Zeke too.

It would've been impossible to imagine a year ago all the changes that have happened in our family in the past few months. The kids are growing and changing. Areyna will be getting her driver's license soon. Not quite. The Lord is blessing as we work to get our ministry off the ground. He's providing the right contacts and the right people each step of the way. We've got some awesome people believing in what we're doing and assisting in many different ways. We're so grateful for that. Change is good.

Change keeps us on our toes. Change helps to wrap the unchanging message of Christ in a fresh package. Not that it needs any help. Don't get me wrong. His Word speaks for itself. We just have to make sure we change the right things - the methods, not the message.

So, I'm sitting here wondering where my kids will be in 10 years. 20 years. Where will I be? What will be the state of the church in 10 years? What will be the spiritual climate of America? Will my kids be walking with Jesus Christ intimately? Will they long to love and serve Him with their lives? I just wonder what challenges my kids will face in 10 years. In 20 years.

This last issue of Relevant magazine posed the question to several current church leaders, "What do you see as the greatest challenge for young Christians in the next 10 years?" Here's what Mark Driscoll said,

"There is a strong drift toward the hard theological left. Some emergent types want to recast Jesus . . . I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. I fear some are becoming more cultural than Christian, and without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians, and more and more confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critics of Christianity."

Bottom line? Whatever changes take place in my kids' lives, in my personal life, in my church, in my ministry, or wherever, I better make sure that the culture-penetrating, life-changing message of Christ doesn't change. I better make sure I always and fully communicate it to my kids. I better make sure they know the real Jesus of Scripture, not some Abercrombie-wearing, tree-hugging Jesus that 8th-graders want to be their homeboy. That's not the Jesus that my kids will know. That's not the Jesus that I will preach about or sing to. And that's not going to change.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Ethical Dilemmas in Islamic Pursuits

I have a lot of respect for my brother-in-law. On two separate occasions in the past 5 years his army unit was deployed first to Afghanistan and then to Iraq. He has seen and experienced in a few years what most people experience in a lifetime.

This last time that we got together over Christmas, we talked and shared stuff together like never before. He respects the efforts of our current U.S. administration in seeking to bring democratic reform and policy to the Arab world. But, as a committed follower of Christ, he also has a keen understanding that there is a bigger mission at hand that cannot be attained by mere behavioral and structural changes. He understands that this is a heart issue. He explained to me that though our efforts as a country to bring diplomatic change were noble, the real change must happen in the heart of the Arab world to whom Christ came to save.

And so lately I’ve been struggling in my spirit on this issue. I’ve especially been contemplating the responsibility I have as a Christian who lives in America to reach the heart of these precious people. I’m grateful for Christian apologists like Emir and Ergun Caner who were raised as Turkish Muslims, later found Christ, and are now defending their Christian faith to Muslim clerics and Christian skeptics on an international platform. I praise God for that.

One of the things to which my brother-in-law opened my eyes is the growing economic repercussions of radical Islam. He told me how mosques are sprouting up all over northern Africa in places where there are virtually no Muslim converts. This begs several questions: Why this advancement? And how is it being financed? As we pondered these questions together, it struck me. Why the advancement? Because Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the world, despite negative media attention from radicals. They are confident in their growing success and want to win the world. How is it being financed? Well, I have an educated guess. Oil.

And here is where the struggle begins for me. Since the number one natural resource of the Middle East allows me, as a Christian in America, to go anywhere I want to go via automotive transportation, am I helping the spread and proselytization of Islam every time I fill up at the BP? Do I finance a mosque when I take a road trip? Do I spread Islamic ideals when I commute to work? What are the ethics involved in this dilemma? And how do I help reach the heart of Muslims even in our own country from a biblical standpoint? Should believers be more environmentally aware and involved? And is that even possible without veering to the theological left?

I have a pretty good churchy answer. And I have some even better biblical solutions and conclusions, but I’d love to hear some feedback from some of you first before I post them.