Monday, December 31, 2012

Read NT in greek in a year

Working on a "Top books" post for 2012, and reading goals for 2013, but until then, for all those who have learned a little greek but let it slip, consider reading through the New Testament in Greek this year. Here are a couple of helpful posts on how to approach it, along with tracking calendars:

Post and Calendar by Denny Burk

Post and Calendar by Lee Irons

Set a timer for 20 minutes and read all you can for the day's segment on the schedule. Once the timer is up, read quickly through the remaining verses, reading the greek without translating (except for words you already know). This approach, over time, expands ones ability to read greek, even though it feels like you're not getting so much out of it at first.

If you're thinking of taking on this challenge, I'd love to hear about it in the comments. Might help bring a little accountability and camaraderie for both of us.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

All Jesus did...

"All Jesus did was to teach men that they loved themselves, that they were slaves, blind, sick, unhappy and sinful, that he had to deliver, enlighten, sanctify and heal them, that this would be achieved by men hating themselves and following him through his misery and death on the Cross."

-Blaise Pascal, from Pensees

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Speaking of favorite parenting works, this fall we again worked through the book Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp. This time it was with a group of young parents and the prestigous experienced couple, Rob and Teresa Smith. I have a ton, ton, ton of respect for the Smiths (right front in photo) and was very encouraged by all the parents who were involved and the hard work they put forth engaging with the material. And it was a tremendous refresher course for us as well, having an 8 year old, one in the toddler years, and one on the way in a few weeks. Without intentional effort, it is all too easy to forget the basics and revert to sloppy habits with each passing year.

Why do parents forget and get sloppy? Because the mallet of parenting will slowly beat you down like a mechanical gopher at the state fair. Enough whacks and you learn it's easier to just lay low and avoid the conflict. The idol of happiness takes over in a hurry when a mini-me flails for attention in the middle of the condiments aisle at Walmart. Every cold eye set on the situation screams "Give them whatever they want - just make it stop!!!"At that moment you wonder, "Was dijonaise really this essential?"

It seems that the natural tendency of the heart of a parent is to move toward expediency and convenience, rather than working hard and fighting for your child's heart. Praise God for friends,  resources, and the power of the Holy Spirit that all help keep us on track with applying the gospel in every parenting situation. No one does it perfectly, but yet we strive to keep the shaping of the heart at the center of our parenting goals.

So if you see the Smiths out riding their tandem bike, make sure to leave lots of room in the lane, as we want to preserve their wisdom for many more parents to absorb!

Such a happy group of parents. Lots of smiles. Notice no kids around. Coincidence?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Reading

Back in Louisville recently and  hit the bookstore with Mom. Here's our starting pile:

Many of these came from Al Mohler's summer reading list.

After much debate, thumb wrestling and staring contests, we decided on the following:

1. Blood Feud - Mom's working on this one. Explores the story of the the famous feud between the Hatfields and McCoys.

2. The Art of Intelligence - My wife grabbed this off the pile and has already finished it. She can't get enough of spies and special forces.

3. The President's Club - My choice to start with. Worked about 1/2 way through it  so far and am enjoying the insider information about a very exclusive club.

I picked up Something's Rising on my own. Can't read enough about the tragedy of mountain top removal mining in Appalachia.

Do you have any summer reading recommendations?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Favorite Parenting Books & Resources

A friend recently asked for some parenting resource recommendations. Here's an edited version of my response:

My favorite overall parenting book is Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd
Tripp. LOVE, love, love this book. So helpful in getting a parent to focus
on the child's heart (and your own) instead of just behavior. It's a great one to do with a group. Make sure to involve the Parent's Handbook, but skip the videos.

Ginger Plowman has taken Tripp's approach and applied it to the toddler years in
her book, called Don't Make Me Count to Three." One of Julie's favorites.

Baby Wise was another helpful one, though it often gets a bad rap for being too
legalistic and strict. However we found it very helpful for navigating the
first few years. I'd make sure to tell whoever reads it to take it with a
grain of salt and apply the principles with wisdom and grace and PRAYER.

Dennis and Barbara did a video series called Right from the Start
that has a workbook along with it. A young man I'm mentoring just went
through it with his wife and said it was very helpful (though he also said
the video quality was pretty poor... But the content was helpful). It is focused on the first five years of a child's life.
One not mentioned in the email, but is tied for first (with Shepherding) is a self published book by Lawrence Lucas, called The Things You'll See. Lawrence visited FamilyLife ten years ago to introduce his book on FamilyLife Today. His personality and presence was one of great poise and patience, a rare calm that brings much wisdom to parenting. He wrote the book to his adult children to pass along the parenting principles he gleaned from the book of proverbs. Great, great read, and short too, structured in one or two page chapters based on a verse of Scripture.

Leave comments with any of your favorite parenting resources and what you like about them.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Heart and Peer Pressure

There's an interesting podcast on the nature of peer pressure among adults, how it is surprisingly effective in altering behavior, more than most realize. It's a good reminder that most of us do not really know our own hearts. What we think we want, we often shun, and what we think we abhor, we often embrace, even unknowingly.

Listen to it here: Freakonomics: Riding the Herd Mentality

(Make sure to at least listen to the segment on motivations and energy use that starts at 6:40)

Thus the reason Steve Jobs did very little market research about what people wanted, proclaiming that "People won't know what they want till I show them." (paraphrased)

And of course, the famous Henry Ford quote, "If I gave people what they'd asked for, it would be a faster horse."

And then there is the biblical insight on the subject...

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"
-Jeremiah 17:9

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Value of Reading Fiction

Warning - this is a longer than average post, but there are some real zinger quotes in here from the book "Why Johnny Can't preach" and some solid recommendations at the end.

During a recent break-room conversation with a co-worker he expressed his reticence to read novels, or, as he said, "fake stories." I concurred with his assessment when he described the book he was reading. I like Ted Dekker, but he's not the pinnacle of mental stimulation. Since a fair amount of novels have passed through my paper fondling finger tips this year, it seemed like a great reason to post about some of these works, as well as the value of carving out the time to read such works. The latter discussion will come first, with a short list of works to follow.

The Value of Reading (good) Fiction 

First we should distinguish between the many types of fiction. Some categories are as follows: fantasy (both other worldly [Lord of the Rings, Start Wars, etc.] and ultra-worldly, [Hunger Games]), mystery, thrillers, romance, myths, legends, fairy tales. Then there are also styles more based in reality like literature, classics, and historical-fiction. Of the above categories, I tend to be most drawn toward classical literature, and lately, especially toward early american literature.

Reading this type of fiction often stirs my soul to action. Reading a long work affords the time to really get to know a character, and over time I come to love that character because of what they represent, qualities like courage, selflessness, integrity, honor, inner-strength, commitment to doing the right thing, lack of compromise in their character, honorable treatment of others, especially women. I find myself wanting to emulate these attributes; even wanting to be like them. This is no different than what happens with movies and TV. Watch enough of the big screen and you'll want to cut your hair like Tom Cruise, sculpt your abs like Matthew McConighay, sharpen the wit like Will Ferrell, and be cool like Rayland Givens. Thus it is no surprise that, as one commentator said, people no longer go to the movies to be entertained, but to learn how to live. But one important difference is that the impact of a good novel can be so much deeper and lasting compared to a movie.

Not long ago, sitting in a coffee shop, I overheard a conversation between a couple of High School students arguing that reading was no longer useful, how video has replaced reading as a more valuable and efficient means of learning. Really? What movie can teach one about the complexities of ancient Greek cultures and their influence on modern American life? 300? Or what movie does one watch that helps a medical student explore the inner depths of microbiology? No doubt video provides some knowledge, but it is a far cry from comprehensive. T. David Gordon, in his book Why Johnny Can't Preach says the following on the importance of reading:
Nothing of public importance can be covered in ten minutes; few important matters can even be adequately introduced in ten minutes. A culture that reads can consider what is significant because reading takes time, and that which is significant ordinarily takes time to apprehend. But a culture that is accustomed to commercial interruptions every six or seven minutes loses its ability to discuss significant matters because it has lost the patience necessary to consider them.” (p53-54)
One difference between a movie and a novel is that you get a much deeper sense of the complete person. You get to see their character played out over time, in more circumstances, and with a greater number of characters. And by the end of the story, one has more context and story to help separate the good from the bad so much more easily, and the good sticks much more firmly. Those that only watch movies lose the ability to make such discernments over time and often tend to focus merely on the greatest outward actions a person makes, rather than composing a careful picture of their character. Thus the reason a person can be praised for their accomplishments on screen, while their personal lives and treatment of other people can be a complete wreck.

Another great benefit to reading a longer work is the mental exercise of focus, of keeping up with multiple story lines and plots, and the resulting benefit of having carved out time to think, reflect, and connect deeply with a story. The story is really the greatest benefit, as it is stories that move us to action, which may be a reason Jesus often told stories. They move one to act and are highly memorable, touching the emotions in a way no didactic propositional statement can (a good biblical example is the way David reacted violently to Nathan's story based indictment of the King's actions in II Samuel 12).

Gordon offers a troubling assessment of the current state of reading: 
[American] culture has become almost illiterate regarding the close reading of texts [books in which how the thing is said is as important as what is said]. Further, our culture has become increasingly aliterate … [which describes] the phenomenon of peole who can read but do not read. (Pg 37)  
The average American adult reads fewer than nine books annually, and spends seventeen times as much time watching television as reading (including all reading – magazines, newspapers, etc.)… from 1982 to 2002, there was a 10% decline in literary reading among adults in the U.S.A. (pg. 35)
He also makes the the observation that Preachers can no longer preach because they have not learned to read. "Many ministers... will read the occasional book about history. But with few exceptions, the interest in historical writing resides in the events narrated, not in the skillfulness of the narration."The loss of connection to story, structure, and plot limits the communicators ability to unpack a key piece of the meaning of the text.

With preachers and with all citizens, especially Christians, we need people who can think deeply, to process the underlying questions of life. But if all that is ingested is meaningless dribble, one loses discernment, like struggling to tell the difference between a McDonalds hamburger patty and a fine filet-mignon. Yes, both are beef (at least we're told), but there is a vast difference between the two in quality and price.

Gordon points to media consumption as a culprit: “…much of the time the everyday noise of media is the buzz of the inconsequential, the just there.  This is neither the media’s downside nor their saving grace.  The buzz of the inconsequential is the media’s essence.  This pointlessness is precisely what we are, by and large, not free not to choose.” (p. 58) 

The result of being inundated by the pointless is a decreased sensitivity to deep issues, and a decreased tolerance for the richness of quality meat. “Our electronic media-dominated culture has robbed us of the reflection about life and its meaning that had previously been fairly common.” A few more quotes from Gordon on this:
“As a medium, reading cultivates a patient, length attention span whereas television as a medium is impatient.  One is therefore suited to what is significant; the other merely to what is insignificant.” (P. 54)
“To read poetry as it is meant to be read, you must push your way through the shallow-field perceptual mode that modern life makes habitual…. The harder it is for you to slow down, the more you need to be rescued from the twentieth century; the more you need poetry...The poet stops and stares at that which most of us merely glance at;  he pauses to notice what is humane, significant, and important.” (p. 51)
All of this points to the value of reading good quality fiction. Now to list a few that have been especially enjoyable over the last few months.

Some Recommendations

East of Eden - Steinbeck's book is a modern take on the ancient sibling rivalry between Cain and Able. One of the more fascinating parts of the book was the extended conversation around the meaning of a single Hebrew word in Genesis 4:7. Though not sexually explicit, one of the main character is a prostitute, but the character development between brothers (two sets) and two key supporting characters is rich and inspiring.

Jayber Crow - Musician Andrew Peterson said this book left him "sobbing on the floor of his office." The author, Wendell Berry tells the story of one man's journey back to his hometown where he learns about the role of community in learning about oneself. The powerful part of the main character is his commitment to true love, even when it requires great personal restraint and sacrifice. The thing I love about Berry's books is the overlap of characters. Julie, my wife, just finished Hannah Coulter, and Jayber (the town Barber) appears in the book as well. She was pretty stirred emotionally after reading it, reflecting back on how the story mirrored much of her childhood and community (Clay City, KY). Most all of Berry's novels are centered on the fictional town of Port William, KY. His emphasis on local community and culture creates a longing to see the return of small farming towns of the early 1900's.

Angel of Repose - by Wallace Stegner - Berry studied creative writing under Stegner, whose writings feature western settings and a wandering frontier feel. Reading Stegner tends to stir up longings for old adventure, taking life to places that no longer exist, like old mining towns and boot-legging trails. Stegner also does a good job of creating complex characters, exposing their flaws and their features, driving deeply to the very center of the person, helping to gain a better understanding of their motives and passions. This novel weaves together two stories, a fictional author telling the story of his grandmother, who made hard choices with her carreer and marriage, and the challenges they had to work to overcome as a couple. We also see into the affect her example had on her dying grandson, the man chronicling her life, who is facing his own crisis in a rapidly changing world.

Tale of Two Cities - by Charles Dickens. This book does a great job of helping one experience the mass of confusion surrounding the French Revolution and the fate of many caught in the blood thirsty era. The setting leaves one feeling unsettled about the stability of things we hold as absolutes, like decent government and neighborly neighbors. But it also calls one to consider the importance of ruling your own heart, of committing yourself to truth, sacrifice, and beauty, emphasized by the role of John 11:25-26 in the story.

A Picture of Dorian Gray - One of my favorite quotes (not from the book) is "Life is full of temptations disguised as small choices." This certainly describes Dorian's steady decline into a self-absorbed life, one that promises so much yet delivers so little. The part of the tale that is especially poignant is the steady desensitization of Dorian's conscience, to the point where it no longer speaks, and he no longer listens. what was once good has become evil and evil has become good. The absurdly putrid part of the book is the absurd maxims Dorian's mentor in mailaise makes throughout the book, thing like,
"The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also. "
Every young person should read this book. Even with such nonsense laced throughout, which is inherently proposed as nonsense, it is still an important read, for one is more likely to spot such nonsense in real life as a result of seeing this absurd story played out to the end.

A Summer List for Our Son

Reading is one of the most important skills a person can develop, for from it flows the ability to gain a certain level of knowledge one needs in any given area all on ones own. Like any skill, there are varying levels, and the earlier you start working at it the better. This is why we've baited our son to read good works this summer - both fiction and non-fiction - because learning never stops when you're home-schooling.
His daily reading chart with books listed on right

Here's the list of books we've asked him to read this summer. He reads 30 minutes a day from this list, and then 10 minutes from the church history series listed at the end.

  1. Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys by Robert N. Webb
  2. Just So Stories - by Rudyard Kipling
  3. Otto of the Silver Hand - by Howard Pyle
  4. Five Little Peppers and How they Grew by Margaret Sidney
  5. Child of the King - by Bill Bright and M. R. Wells

I've also bribed him to read through a church history series called History Lives. We'll go to Magic Springs at the end of the summer if he makes it through the remaining four.

Wider view with Davinci's painting over his bed. What 7 year old doesn't have this setup?
This doesn't take into account the other books he's reading on his own, like re-reading the 3-volume "Operation Red Jericho" series, The Borrowers, various volumes from the Little House series and re-readings of multiple illustrated classics.

Make sure to take some time to pick up some good books this summer. Even if you only read a few pages a day, you'll find that it does something good for the soul. and by the end of the summer, you could have knocked out a large volume, which is a pretty satisfying accomplishment. It's also a great way to keep away from watching too much TV, as Lebron James has learned. And hey, who doesn't want to be like Lebron?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Catechisms and Families

No, it wasn't because of the cover...
I mentioned in a previous post that we were trying to utilize a catechism with our family to teach theology to our children, and ourselves for that matter. We recently started meeting with a few other families on a weekly basis to study and worship together. We all have young kids, so we're using a kids version of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, or WSC for short. It's based on the Catechism for Young Children, published by Great Commission Publications.

Part of the reason we chose the WSC as a basis was because of the huge volume of resources that have been written to help explain and expand upon the catechism (two of which are mentioned below). There are other great catechisms that could have been used (such as the Heidelberg), but this gives families more options for continuing to learn and grow throughout the week.

This week we met and discussed questions 64 through 66, which are as follows:

64. Q: How long ago did Christ die?
      A: About two thousand years ago.

65. Q: How were sinners saved before Christ came?
      A: By believing in the promised Messiah.

66. Q: Before Christ came, how did believers show their faith?
      A: By offering the sacrifices God required.

We focused primarily on question 65, leaving the others for families to emphasize/discuss throughout the week.

We also choose songs to sing together that connect with these theological points, and lean heavily on songs already produced by Seeds Family worship

Here's some follow up information sent to the group to help with continuing to revisit the topics throughout the week:

Week of June 24th.
This week we covered questions 64-66, which primarily deal with how people that lived before Jesus were saved. Great topic to think about that applies directly to us today for one basic reason: believers today are saved the same way, by faith in Christ. The faith of figures in the Old Testament was in the Christ to come. Our faith is in the Christ who has come and will come again.
Our verse of the week is II Corinthians 5:7, and it’s a short one, “We walk by faith and not by sight.” We trust that God’s promises are true, even if we don’t know exactly how every single thing will turn out.  Which also reminds me of a verse you might have your family look at this week. You could simply ask the question, “What is faith?” Then turn to Hebrews 11.1, which defines faith for us: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” It is a conviction that God’s promises are true, an assurance that He can be trusted.
Thus a simple statement to explore and emphasize this week: God keeps his promises.
Also note that if you have the book Big Truths for Little Kids, these questions occur in chapter 16, page 68.
And in the book Small Talk on Big Questions, you can find stories for these questions starting on page 141.

Our songs this week started with the crowd favorite, "Jesus loves me." We also covered two songs that were scripture memory songs from previous verses of the week.
The first was based on the first and second commandments, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart...", found in Matthew 22:36-40 and Mark 12:29-31.
The other song was last weeks "verse of the week": Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you...” The verse reminds us that even though we are not able to repent on our own strength, we can call upon the Holy Spirit who gives us the ability to trust and believe, and he will answer (see also John 6:37)
You can download these songs from itunes. They are produced by “Seeds Family Worship.” Links are below:
         Love the Lord your God
         Call to me

Monday, June 18, 2012

If we could do it over...

Couple marries in bookstore: (read here)

[Note: When i say "we" that most likely means "I." And also note that I am extremely grateful for my wife and our wedding! But getting married in a bookstore... now that is... something.]

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What Can a Father do? Reflections on Camping and Leading a Family

Mid April my son and I went on a camping trip with two friends from college and their sons. In fact these guys were most likely my two closest friends in college, partly because we shared almost every class together, but even more so because of an important Bible study the three of us experienced mid-way through college. The spiritual curing that occurred while working through the book Disciplines of a Godly Man cemented our friendship in some momentous ways.

Three Young Graduates

Better looking with age...

For the past few years we've tried to connect at least once a year and bring our boys along both to sharpen ourselves spiritually but also for our boys to be around other men we respect and admire. Not that they admire me, but I’m sure they would both like for my son to grow up to be just like them (and I would too… well, in some ways). It’s always a struggle to pull off the event – between three young families there are a million legitimate reasons to cancel every year - but it is always worth it once we arrive.

What was particularly interesting to me this year was the amount of time we spent talking about faith. It's always an important part of the conversation between us but this time the focus of our conversation was especially heavy on the need for fathers to lead well in their homes. More specifically, the need for fathers to have other men both to train and encourage them, and the importance of the role of the church in equipping men to lead in their homes.

Some things never change
One of the men said that he recently approached his pastor, who is pastor of a VERY large church with MANY thousands of attenders, and he asked him, “Can you connect me with one man - just one man - who can help give me the encouragement and training to lead my family well spiritually?”

Said pastor paused, thought for a moment, and as he thought, his face began gathering at the edges, like a trash bag drawstring being slowly tugged to closure. What began as a relaxed state of thoughtful contemplation eventually puckered to a point of frustration. Presently his point of contention was revealed [I paraphrase] “I’m angry that I can only think of two men for the job, and both are already tapped out. This angers me because there should be more. Out of the thousands of men in this church, there should be more.”

My friend came away from that meeting with a renewed burden to see more men equipped in this area. Because of all the priorities to which a church can give attention, I would argue there is no other that would have a greater effect on the health of the church as the training, equipping, and encouraging of fathers to lead their families well spiritually.  

Now in the church's defense, most pastors would say this is being accomplished at some level through sermons and Bible studies. And there is definitely equipping occurring during that time. But I think most any pastor would readily agree there is much work to be done. 

So the question these two guys wrestled with and continued to bring up was: “So what can we do?” “What can we do personally within our church to help elevate this issue to a top priority for pastors and today?”

We talked about a wide array of problem areas; from the church structure to personal commitments. we also discussed tools and resources a family can use on their own, whether or not their church has a formal approach.

Near the end of the trip, we all looked at our boys and talked about the reality that we have about 10 years until they're ready to launch into adulthood. It was 20 years ago when we first met in college. It has gone so fast. What will our lives look like 10 years from now? What will our boys look like 10 years from now? What will we have done differently? That’s ½ the time since first meeting, and yet it seems so recent. The time is fleeting.

No, there wasn't a couch at the campsite. It's a 'cabin.'

Making fashion statements... and taking notes (?)
Ephesians 5:15-16 was pressed heavily upon our hearts: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” And I would add that the days are “fleeting.” We must pray for and have a sense of renewed intentionality and vigor to use these years well.

Driving home and reflecting on our weekend together, these conversations helped me to think more intentionally about the way this blog can serve men who have a similar burden. For the last few months our family has focused on developing these kinds of resources, and I plan to begin sharing more of these through this blog. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Stepping Up Production

I've posted a number of clips to a new blog about a video series we're working on at FamilyLife. It's based on Dennis Rainey's new book, Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous ManhoodYou can read more about the series here and here.

Check out a sample clip below.

And make sure to visit the blog for many more clips and info about the series:

PS - If you're in the Little Rock area and you'd like to preview the content, contact me, or leave a comment with your email address. We'll be showing all ten sessions to the men at the office in the mornings during the week of June 4-8. If we have room, and assuming you are a man, I'll see if I can get you in. You'll also have a chance to sample some of the workbook exercises and engage in some of the small group discussions.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Puts things in perspective

From world magazine:

How long could your family sustain this?

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Glorious Art of Self-Suspiscion

"It remains true nonetheless that in principle Scripture provides clear and exact guidance for every detail and department of life, and if we come to Scripture teachable and expectantly God himself will seal on our minds and hearts a clear certainty as to how we should be have in each situation that faces us. 'God hath appointed means of the cure of blindness and error,' wrote Baxter, 'Come into the light, with due self-suspicion, and impartiality, and diligently use all God's means, and avoid the causes of deceit and error, and the light of truth will at once show you the truth.'"

From J.I. Packer's The Quest for Godliness, p.113

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New Trailer for the Stepping Up Video Series

FamilyLife just released a new trailer for the Stepping Up video series (based on Dennis Rainey's book of the same name).

You can get regular updates on our production process at STEPPING UP VIDEO production blog.

Monday, February 13, 2012

P2P TV interview

Had an opportunity to be interviewed for the release of the new Passport to Purity on a local news station. The piece also featured another family from FamilyLife. View the video below, and read the article here.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

National Prayer Breakfast at Whiteman Air Force Base

On Tuesday I had the opportunity to speak at the National Prayer breakfast at Whiteman Air Force Base (read their base newspaper article here). To say it was a privilege and an honor would be a serious understatement. John Isaac was able to come along as well, which was a tremendous blessing.

Whiteman is the home of the B-2 bomber, in fact it is the only B-2 Bomber base anywhere. They have a total of 20 Bombers, each costing right at 2 BILLION dollars (yes, BILLION).

I was invited through a friend from our seminary days in Phoenix, Kevin Hostettler. While at Seminary, I was impressed with Kevin because he was a young guy who served as pastor of a small church in San Carlos, AZ - on the Indian reservation. It was quite a missions opportunity and I admired his sacrifice and service. He began to stay with our family on class nights, which lead to lots of late night conversations and theological debates, through which we both learned some things.

He is now one of the protestant chaplains at the base and set up the invitation. They really rolled out the red carpet for us, thinking through every little detail, with every minute of the day accounted for on our 5 page itinerary.

The day started with the actual prayer breakfast, where I spoke for about 15 minutes to a group of 150 or so, after a moving color guard presentation, a powerful version of the Star Spangled banner, some other songs, and some prayers and introduction.
Presenting the Colors

You can just barely see JI and I to the right. I'm the one NOT in camo...
I spoke on the theme of courage, and Dennis Rainey was gracious enough to allow me to take some books to give away. I chose the theme of courage so that I could incorporate giving away his new book for men (subtitled "A Call to Courageous Manhood.") Also gave away a copy of Barbara Rainey's book on courage, since there were some non-men in the crowd.

Most seemed to stay engaged during the talk, and they loved the books, in fact, many came looking for extra copies afterward. Also wanted to let them know about our new "Finally Home to Family" campaign that allows any active duty military free registration to one of our conferences.

Speaking without any arms.

General Vander Hamm (amazing guy with 11 home-schooled kids!) had fun ribbing me about my weak stomach in a Cessna (yes, it is sad). It was pretty intimidating to admit this in front of B-2 Pilots, but I think they could tell by looking at me that I haven't been in a high performance plane before.

General Vander Hamm Presenting a gift

Afterwards we toured a former underground Missile Launch station which was quite remarkable. Whiteman used to have 100 missiles underground, spread out over central Missouri. We could have stayed there for hours, but had to keep moving.

Drawing of Underground bunker. Ridiculous. They built 10 of these for launching the 100 missiles. Did all the construction in 2 years. Crazy amounts of concrete and dirt moved.
Map of the Missile sites. Kansas City is the Orange Blob on the Left. Each section represents 10 missiles and one launching station, spread out over many miles for safety and security.

JI Closing the 10 ton bunker door (one of two). This huge chunk of steel moved almost effortlessly.

The Command center. Guys would spend 24hr shifts in these. yuk!

This is "The Switch" (on the right above the computer keyboard). JI got to turn it. Nothing happened.

Next we were able to get up close to a genuine B-2, even met with the pilot and crew and climbed up in the cockpit. Quite a feeling to sit in the pilot seat.

You can just barely see my mug in the cabin

JI preparing to enter the cockpit

All in all it was an amazing day, filled with amazing people who serve our country and give of themselves sacrificially. It was an honor that both John Isaac and I will not be likely to forget anytime soon.

JI telling tales with the airmen

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Jonathan Edwards: A Shorter Life (Audio)

Just finished listening to the audio book A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards (a condensed version of Marsden's larger biography on Jonathan Edwards), which I downloaded for free from Christian Audio offers one free audio book a month, and though this one is no longer available for free, it is worth buying, especially if you have wanted to learn more about Edwards or about the great awakening era in early American history. This book does a great job of touching on a wide variety of topics in a short span, and it is interesting and easy on the ears.

At only five hours long, it's on the short end of audio books. If you have any kind of commute, you can add this to your mp3 player and make a better use of the drive.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bonhoeffer on Radio Today and Tomorrow

UPDATE: you can also watch the video of his talk at the National prayer breakfast here (His talk begins at about the 35 minute mark).

In November I posted about Eric Metaxas' visit to FamilyLife. We interviewed him about his new book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, both for the radio show and for a new video series for men. You can click here to listen to the radio programs today and tomorrow.

Also on the radio this week were three days of interviews with William Bennett about his new book, The Book of Man. Good interviews about an interesting book; a collection of short writings from various authors (both modern and ancient) on several manly topics. Click here to see the fascinatingly diverse table of contents. Click here to listen to all three days of interviews.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Seeds Family Worship and Passport to Purity

I've been working on an update to FamilyLife's Passport to Purity. It's a GREAT product that makes it easy for a parent to prepare their pre-teen for the years ahead, turning what could be an awkward conversation into a fun and memorable weekend.

We've partnered with Seeds Family Worship to do the scripture memory songs. I've posted a couple of samples of the new songs and some of the audio segments here.

For now, you can also purchase the old version at FamilyLife's website: Passport to Purity
(The new version is set to be available April 27th).

New Cover for P2P

Here are some sample pages from the new manual, all taken from the fifth session which covers the topic of dating.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Goal of Bible Study

The great Puritan John Owen on the goal of Bible study:
"If any expect that the Scripture should be written with respect unto opinions, notions, and speculations, to render men skillful and cunning in them, able to talk and dispute... they are mistaken. It is given to make us humble, holy, wise in spiritual things; to direct us in our duties, to relieve us in our temptations, to comfort us under troubles, to make us to love God and to live unto him... Unto this end there is a more glorious power and efficacy in on epistle, one psalm, one chapter, than in all the writings of men... he that hath not experience hereof is a stranger unto the power of God in the Scripture... Sometimes an occasional passage in a story, a word or expressions, shall contribute more to excite faith and love in our souls than a volume of learned disputations."
[as quoted from J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, emphasis his]

So true. Helpful reminder to evaluate why I study the Scriptures. Is it to exalt myself, or exalt Christ? To puff up my knowledge or to know Him? Is it because I desire a deeper intimacy with Jesus, or a greater reverence among men? The motives of the heart are often hard to understand or even uncover, but praying and seeking them out is a glorious endeavor.

[image found here]

Monday, January 23, 2012

Top books of 2011

The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard - Powerfull re-working of Owen's classic "Mortification of Sin in the Beliver." Blogged about the book here.

Wendell Berry: I went on a WB reading kick this year and consumed a bunch of his works. Introduced to him by a friend who said "If you replace every use of the word 'community' in Berry's books with the word 'church,' it would revolutionize the way we do church." For an introduction to his fiction, try Fidelity (a collection of short stories). For non-fiction, try What are People For?  Other favorites were Hannah CoulterJayber Crow, and Citizenship Papers.

Colonel Roosevelt - Third book in a trilogy of an amazing story about an amazing man. If you want to be inspired to live life at its fullest in 2012, read all three volumes in this series. Previously blogged about the first in the series here.

Unbroken - Many have raved about this story of an Olympic runner turned Japanese POW in WWII. His perseverance, resilience, and ultimately his ability to forgive is super human. The author's story ads an interesting layer, as she struggles with debilitating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Vertigo, hardly unable to even leave her bedroom at times.

How Should We Then Live? - by Francis Schaeffer. I've been a big fan of Schaeffer since being introduced to him in College. One of my seminary professors said, "Sell whatever you have, and go out today and buy his complete works." Couldn't agree more! I try to read a little of him every year. This version includes pictures of much of the art Schaeffer analyzes in the book.

A Million Ways to Die by Rick James - Crusade staff member writes about the core of living as a Christian: dying. Simple concept, yet frustratingly difficult to live out. James is witty and quick to highlight his own failures, yet inspires with some successes as well.

The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner -  Introduced to Stegner through Berry's works (Berry was a "Stegner Fellow" at Stanford). Some of the finest modern literature I've read. Similar to Steinbeck in style and regional themes. Stegner's Angle of Repose was a worthy read as well.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Long Story Short

FamilyLife recently interviewed Marty Machowski about his book of 10 minute family devotions called The Long Story Short.  Marty's goal was to make it easy for a father to lead family devotions 5 days a week. This book covers the Old Testament in 78 chapters (that's right - 78 weeks of five devotions). It's an incredibly valuable resource, as any man knows who has tried to be consistent with biblical instruction at home. Marty really does make it easy. I have a couple of friends who are using the book and it has revolutionized their approach to this time with their family. I've begun to mix in some of the readings with our family devotions and have been very pleased. You can see by the online sample that they are creative, imaginative, and biblical, and of course, most importantly, they are SHORT!

You can read more about Marty's ministry on his resource site:

You can also listen to our interviews with him: Day One and Day Two

Order the book here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tim Keller on Marriage

This week Tim Keller is on FamilyLife Today discussing his new marriage book, The Meaning of Marriage.

You can listen/download today’s program here.