Thursday, August 31, 2006

N.T.Wright - interesting fellow

Some of you know that I find N.T. Wright to be a facinating, yet extremely academic writer. I read and reread his stuff and am just beginning to get some of it. He has been very useful in helping me understand some Jewish culture at the time of Christ and his early followers.

If you read my friend Dan's Blog, you will read that in due time John Piper will be publising a book attacking some of N.T. Wright's views - read blog entry here. Piper believes N.T. Wright has unorthodox views in regards to justification and imputation, two Reformed doctrines Piper (and I) treasure deeply.

I have been reading various articles lately to catch up on those who stand against N.T. Wright's ideas. If you want to read up on these articles, you can visit them below -

"Justification by Faith is the Answer: What is the Question?" by Stephen Westerholm* - probably one of the easisest reads and best articulated

"N.T. Wright on Justification" by Charles Hill

"The Attractions of the New Perspective(s) on Paul" - Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Inc.

Understanding Imputation - an mp3 messsage

"Reformed Confessionalims and the New Perspective on Paul" by Kim Riddlebarger


Monday, August 28, 2006

Tickets to the Gun Show . . .

I work with one of the coolest men on the face of the planet. He is very smart. He knows stuff about birds, theology, civil war history, philospohy, ministry, family life, and his vocabulary is huge. So all weekend in Boone I kept seeing signs for a gun show and I felt it was my responsibility to make sure people got their directions right and found the gun show that the whole town was talking about.

I love you Pastor Steve, and consider it a rare privilege to serve the Body of Christ with you.

Our Kickoff

We had a little BBQ and pool party at the Des Moines YMCA Camp this past Saturday. I liked it!!

Intro to Bill Kynes Primer on Hermeneutics

Bill Kynes is a Evangelical Free Church pastor who is addressing postmodernism and the reading of scripture. His first chapter is provided for our perusal on the Inter-VArsity press website found here

Did I read that sign right??

Toilet out of order. Please use floor below

In a laundromat:

Automatic washing machines: please remove all your clothes when the light goes out.

In a London department store:

Bargain basement upstairs.

In an office:

Would the person who took the step ladder yesterday please bring it back or further steps will be taken.

In an office:

After tea break staff should empty the teapot and stand upside down on the draining board.

Outside a secondhand shop:

We exchange anything - bicycles, washing machines, etc. Why not bring your wife along and get a wonderful bargain?

Notice in health food shop window:

Closed due to illness.

Spotted in a safari park:

Elephants please stay in your car. (I sure hope so.)

Seen during a conference:

For anyone who has children and doesn't know it, there is a day care on the 1st floor.

Notice in a farmer's field:

The farmer allows walkers to cross the field for free, but the bull charges.

Message on a leaflet:

If you cannot read, this leaflet will tell you how to get lessons.

On a repair shop door:

We can repair anything. (Please knock hard on the door - the bell doesn't work.)

Friday, August 25, 2006

What do you think?

In a recent article by Christianity Today (see it here), they report that Clean Flicks has lots its ability to manipulate Hollywood films in order to remove swearing, violence and sexual scenes. Hollywood feels the removal of such scenes infringes on the art and creativity that is intentionally put into films to make them the best they can be.

What do you think? Does a person have the right to edit what is viewed in their own home? Why can ABC remove scenes when they show a film on TV, but Clean Flicks cannot on a DVD a person orders online?

I am torn. I agree that some movies dramatic effect would be missed if some of the thematic elements were removed. "Shawshank Redemption" and "American History X" would lose its power without the horrible gang rape scenes and vulgarity attached to prison life. "The Passion of the Christ" and "Schindler's List" would not present the real past without the horrifying violence. Some romance movies would fail to present the passion of individuals without bedroom scenes.

I question, however, whether an individual cannot choose to have those items removed over their own personal convictions. If I have the option to fast forward through things I consider garbage, why can't I just have them removed entirely from a DVD? In a few years will Hollywood sue me for a violation of artistic rights if I just watch 90% of the scenes of a movie because 10% of the movie violates my personal convictions?

Express your thoughts . . .

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The books craze continues . . .

1. One book that changed your life:
"Desiring God" by John Piper - I loved the book itself and it increased my passion to know God and experience Him, but even more important is how Piper introduced me to rich Calvinistic theology.

Piercing the Darkness
2. One book that you’ve read more than once:
"Piercing the Darkness" by Frank Peretti

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
The Bible.

4. One book that made you laugh:
"How to Talk to a Liberal if You Must" by Ann Coulter

My Name Is Asher Lev
5. One book that made you cry:
"My Name is Asher Lev" by Chaim Potok

6. One book that you wish had been written:
"The Continued Tales of Asher Lev"

7. One book that you wish had never been written:
I like Dan Leman's answer
Personally, I think a lot of Martin Luther's theology went a bit over the top.
One book . . . that's a tough one . . . "Mein Kampf" by Adolph Hitler

A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada
8. The book(s) you are currently reading:
"The History of Christianity in the United States and Canada" by Mark Noll (seminary class)
"The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne (reading out loud with my wife)
"The God Who is There" by Francis Shaeffer (my book at the office)
"The Lord of my Rocking Boat" by Carole Mayhall (my book at home)

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
"The Wind and the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame
Complete "The Cost of Discipleship" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Finish "Jesus" and "The Resurrection of the Son of God" by N.T. Wright

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

my bud mark

Mark Hennager and I go a bit back. I met Mark when he was a spry 7th grade student at First Evangelical Free Church of Ames. I had the privilege of serving as his small group leader when I was a young pup freshmen at Iowa State University. I had a few other ministry opportunities with him before I graduated as well. For the past 7 years we've kept in touch. We've emailed, chatted online, eaten some food together, and shared life. I have always admired his perseverance in life. He has a great personality, a good heart, and a sharp mind. I have prayed many prayers for this young man and trust the sovereign God for great things in his future. Pray for him as he starts his second year at the University of Northern Iowa and takes on anothe reason of rugby. I love this guy!

baptisms are cool

Baptism is the Christian rite of passage that Jesus commanded all his followers to obey in Matthew 28:19-20. When a person recognizes their sin and commits to following their risen savior Jesus Christ, an amazing spiritual change takes place (2 Cor. 5:17). We enter into a new spiritual relationship and covenant with the Living God. In the Old Testament God entered into a physical covenant with the people of Israel. They would be his special and chosen people on the earth. To mark this physical covenant, the Israelist performed the physical rite of circumcision. In our new spiritual covenant, no physical rite is sufficient. Baptism does not save a human from hell, it is only a response to the new spiritual reality that occurred at the moment of conversion. Baptism is a picture of us dying with Christ (going under the water) and being raised again.

Two students were baptised on August 6th. I really loved the service!!

I am so proud of the faith that is lived out by Drew and Chuck.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Pictures of our group at Surge 2006

Our kids played lots of card games. Mostly Egyptian Rat Screw, Kings in the corner and Combs (like spoons but with combs). When I fell asleep, I think they even slipped in some games of Texas Hold'em. They also helped me construct a cross with 2 sticks and electrical tape. The Boy Scouts would have been proud. We also did a high and low ropes' course. Everyone successfully climbed to the top tower in one fashion or another and then took the zip line down for a little fun. We went boating, jet skiing, had a great time on huge inflatables in a little bay of the lake, and spent some time swimming in a pool and the lake. We had sessions every night, quiet times every morning, competitions, and late night adventures. surge 2006 was awesome!

Ashley, Pierce, Anthony, Brian and Dustin . . . 5 amazing junior high students.

A special thanks to Valley Church for hosting and doing so much work. Also, it was a delight to worship with Westchester and Johnston E-Free churches.

God is great, God is good.

I need to get to my sermon prep for the week. My senior pastor is on a vacation with his son (kayaking in Canada). He left me some work to do. Pray that I can get all this done, keep remodeling the kitchen with my dear wife, and work a bit on my new seminary class.

Did I mention that students are awesome!!

American Idols - SURGE 2006

Surge Message on Idols

I was able to give a message at a junior mini-camp called Surge last Wednesday night. We were on the Lake of the Ozarks in Roach, MO. It was a great night with some amazing junior high students all around the Des Moines area. Enjoy the pic of the room of students and feel free to read the message.

I love Youth Ministry!

My Grandma Mary Ann's Going Home Service - August 8, 2006

Opening Prayer:

The Lord be with you. (and also with you)
Let us pray:
Father God, we praise you for those who have finished their race of faith and are now at rest in You. We thank you for the years we have had with those who have been so dear to us who are now gone from this earth. Especially we praise you for Mary Ann whom you have graciously received into your presence. To all these grant your peace. Let your light shine on them; and help us to believe in You who we have not seen and where we have not seen. Guide us through our years to come and bring us at last ultimately to yourself and to them we have loved. We long for our final home not made with the hands of men, but through Jesus Christ our Lord, whom we pray, Amen.


It’s easy to joke that my Grandma Mary Ann was a hard-nose woman. Most everyone who ever met her knew that she was a tough lady who did not back down. She didn’t retire until almost 75 years of life. She went through the very painful 80s farm crisis with Grandpa George. Soon afterwards she watched her husband of over 40 years die too soon. It’s been a long, tiring road for my grandma. She’s been waiting and wanting to go to Jesus for quite some time.

Our family really believes Isaiah 61 reflects the powerful work Jesus Christ has done in Grandma’s life over these many difficult decades. Isaiah 61 paints a picture of God’s grace being poured out, “To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified." NKJV The Lord Jesus Christ’s grace has marked Grandma’s life for a long time.

I know there are friends and family in this room who may know Mary Ann better than I do, but I feel a little like an expert on her life. I played lots of card games with her and croquet in the yard, joined her on a few walks with her old dog Mitzi, and like all her family received numerous letters filled with advice and newspaper and magazine clippings explaining the correct way for living. Whenever we came to visit Grandma in my younger years, I slept in her bed and we’d talk until the wee hours of the night about life and faith. Then when she came to visit us after we moved, she would sleep in my bed when she came to visit. I treasure those many late night hours hearing Grandma’s heart for her family, friends and Lord.

I won’t forget my Grandma’s strong-willed personality and the very fitting sign that hung in her home and eventually her room at Hillcrest that read, “I’m not bossy, I just have better ideas.” It fit her well. MaryAnn was viewed as an expert on many facets of life: making instant coffee, burning garbage, cooking, rock finding, picture hanging, and most importantly an expert on caring, laughing, and loving life. I think if you asked Grandma what she was an expert on, she just might say, “Basically everything.”

Though her stubbornness came through when you met her, another thing I will remember and what I have heard over and over again from other friends and family is that she was full of grace.

She absolutely spoiled her grandchildren with time and attention, love and gifts. We found out just recently that many of us have been quite confident that they were each Grandma’s favorite. She spoiled her grandchildren with baseball games in the backyard, an endless supply of pop-cicles, fantastic Christmas presents when she couldn’t afford much at all, hours of Nick-at-Nite and laughter, and visits whenever possible.

Her oldest grandchild, Michael Wagonseil wrote these words just a few days ago, “You have always been my most devoted supporter. That support has carried me further than I have ever allowed you to know. Just hearing, “I love you sugar, remember you’re my number one,” would make me soar! Super-G is an understatement! I love you Grandma!

The next oldest grandchild Stacy (Wagonseil) Hennessey put it like this, “You have not only been a fantastic Grandma but truly a great friend and confidant.” Both her granddaughters Stacy and Sara expressed many rich memories of cards, letters, phone calls, and being a trooper all the way to the end.

Other family memories expressed were her trips to Walmart for licorice, eating dessert before large meals to ensure the most important element of the meal was put away first, and she would occasionally put the tooth paste on the brush for her grandchildren even when they had grown into their late twenties  Though at the time we felt silly and childish when she did things like that, we all know she was just trying to bless us, serve us, and make life a little easier for us. One of God’s greatest blessings near the end of her life was Mary Ann’s big 80th birthday bash last summer. I want to say thank you to many of her friends from Sumner who were a part of that special day with her extended family.

Other things we will never forget about grandma is her passion for people and being social. Many people knew that Mary Ann would never be seen in public without a fresh coating of bright red lipstick. She loved being a part of the United Methodist Church. She loved the sisterhood of the PEO. I learned last night at the visitation that Grandma helped start the Christian Women’s Group in Sumner in 1977, serving as the first chairmen. She was a member for all 25 years of its existence. She also gave tons of her money toward Christian organizations and humanitarian agencies. Late in life some of her own family thought she was a little nuts to give so much of her money away, but that was always Grandma. She sacrificed herself to bring blessings to others . . . even if it cost something of herself.

Local Sumner friends remember her many questions of concern. Though Grandma was a very private person, she would sometimes get frustrated when others would hold back things concerning their lives. She loved knowing the juicy details . . . often she took those things before her Lord in prayer. It was common for Grandma to write letters and make phone calls to friends and acquaintances in the hospital. One close friend told me she never once saw Mary Ann get angry. And the United Methodist women told me Grandma was known for making sure coffee cups were kept full during socials.

This amazing demonstration of grace came from her deep faith in Jesus Christ. It was not until mid-life before Grandma recognized her deep need for Jesus in her life. One thing that I remember Grandma expressing was that no one was good enough to deserve heaven. We all need grace. We all need to make our own personal decision to follow Christ. When Grandma understood this herself, she prayed to receive God’s forgiveness. She believed that Jesus died for her sins. This faith transformed her life.

I think if Grandma could leave behind a few choice words today they would be about the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s why it’s important to use this funeral and this time of reflection on the life of one follower of Christ as a moment to think about our own lives. I know for a fact Mary Ann prayed for her whole family and special friends everyday. She may be looking down on us and saying another prayer on our behalf. That we might glean something from God’s Word this morning that would touch our lives just a bit.

The passage from 2 Timothy 4:6-8 reflected well Grandma’s passion to follow God to the end. The Apostle Paul’s words could have been her own, “7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

This passage shows very clearly that the Lord is a righteous judge. God has declared in His Word that we are all sinners and deserve death. This is a fair and right judgment because each of us have turned from God and gone our own sinful way. But we know of God’s grace, amidst judgment, when we remember that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” The hope of heaven and God’s reward is only possible for those who have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. We need to have faith in Jesus Christ and believe desperately that he lived and died for us and rose again triumphing over death. When we enter into a personal relationship and press on in this new race of Christian faith, we have the great hope of eternal reward heaven. Maybe today you need to put your faith in Jesus for the first time or maybe today is a time to recommit to living a life of total commitment.

What will you do with Jesus Christ today?

Will you receive Jesus into your life?

Do you know the God that Mary Ann loved, served, and is now rejoicing over in heaven?

Remember, believing in Jesus is not merely an intellectual decision. It’s not about agreeing to some set of facts. Being a true Christian involves an intimate love relationship with God. He becomes our Father. We become his children. We talk to him in prayer and thank Him in songs of praise. It’s a new life, all old things pass away and new things come. Eternal life is a free gift from God. We cannot try to earn it. Just like when we received small gifts and letters from Mary Ann with joy, the only response to the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus is to receive it with joy.

Psalms 116:15 reads, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.”

There is something special about the death of a faithful Christian saint. Christian funerals are always bitter-sweet moments. The Lord finds great delight in bringing his saints home Him. Jesus said he was leaving to prepare a place for his followers, and what joy it must be for God to bring one of His saints into the heavenly kingdom and show them their new home. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.

Mary Ann will be missed here on earth. Who else will use phrases like, “We’re off like a dirty shirt,” “My stars and garters,” and “Fish hooks and hammer handles?” I think my Aunt Paula put it best when thinking of Mary Ann's  life and love, “Though she never approved of all we did and said, she always accepted us where we were in our lives. Each daughter and grandchild [and friend] considered her a friend and confidant. We all depended on her prayers and she never failed us.”

We love you Mary Ann.

Thank you Jesus for her 81 years of life. She was one of your blessings that you send to make the world a little better place. We didn’t deserve her, but we are thankful we got her. Dick Howe put it well this morning when he said, “We’re losing a great one.”

Would you pray with me?

Dearest Jesus, we thank you for the time we had with Mary Ann. She was loved much and she loved much. Help us to mourn. Help us to rejoice. Seal those memories of our dear mother, grandmother, and friend. We pray her faith and focus on Jesus Christ would challenge each of us this day to reexamine our own faith in the Savior of the world. Guide us oh Lord, we pray in the holy name of Je