Family man

I’ve mentioned Andrew Peterson before; he’s a guy with a lot of talent whose book I reviewed a while back, and he’s also a talented musician, singer, and songwriter.

One of Andrew’s songs that I love is “Family Man”-- it’s one of those songs that I wonder at how he ever performs live, because I don’t understand how he doesn’t choke up with tears.

Well, others love this song too. One church staffer created a video for the song, and it’s a pretty incredible video. Take a look:


"Family Man" from Trevor Little on Vimeo.

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Our bluegrass church

Some of you may not know that we have a professional bluegrass band in our congregation, called Cypress Creek. At least, we have a significant part of it-- two full members of the band (and one who regularly joins them) are members of our church.

They’re a lot of fun, and they’re also really good. They play gigs all over the mid-south, and every now and then we get a bluegrass number as an offertory or for special music during worship.

They’ll also be playing at the Vicky Williams Benefit that the church is holding and hosting in early August. If you’re able (and you’re in the area), come out on August 9th from 4-8pm and hear Cypress Creek.

Update: Sorry about the bad link from earlier; I was using an old link. To make up for it, I’ve posted THREE videos now!

Here they are in the studio:





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Update from Ridgehaven

All is well as we spend this week at Ridgehaven, the PCA’s camp and conference center in the mountains of North Carolina. I’m speaking for the Senior High group that is here-- about 40 campers-- and we’re also enjoying something close to a vacation at the same time.

So far, I’ve spoken twice; tonight, I’ll speak on the idea that we are saved by grace alone. During the course of the week, I’ll be presenting the essentials of reformation theology-- the “Solas”-- over the course of nine talks. I pray that these are useful for the Spirit to work truth into the hearts of these students.

Needless to say, I won’t be blogging much this week. If you don’t hear from me again, this is why!

Please pray for our trip to be both restful and a good ministry to those around us. See you soon...
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Sermon texts for July 2008

Here are the texts for this month’s sermons. You’ll note that again this month, I’ll be gone for the last Sunday of the month, and a guest preacher will bring the Word for us.

UPDATE: I won’t have a guest preacher on the last Sunday after all.
UPDATE #2: I adjusted the text for this Sunday!

July 6
Luke 6:1-11 -- Sabbath Restrictions? Or Sabbath Freedom?
July 13 Luke 6:12-16 -- Appointing Twelve
July 20 Luke 6:17-26 -- Blessings & Woes
July 27 Luke 6:27-38 -- Love for others
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Wildlife Watch, July 2008

It’s been a while since I’ve given an update on the wildlife around the church-- but that doesn’t mean it has been absent.

This summer has been inconsistent: sometimes the heat has appearently kept all the creatures under cover and in the shade; at other times, I’ve seen them out in force.

This morning, two does walked by the windows of my study, just as they have done so many times before. Again, it looked to be a mother and daughter-- though I think the daughter must be a yearling, not a fawn, since she didn’t have any hint of spots. Is this the same mother-daughter pair I saw so often last fall?

Earlier in the week I saw a group of them grazing in the field behind the church-- all does. There were at least five, but it was dusk and difficult to tell, especially because the grass was quite tall.

I’m certain that I’ll see more and more as the fall approaches. Now back to work...
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Swamped

Slow blogging these days-- mainly because I’m a little swamped with work. I’m getting ready to spend next week at Ridgehaven, where I’ll be speaking to a group of Sr. High students. It should be a great week-- Marcie and I have always enjoyed it when I’ve spoken there before-- but I have a good bit of prep to do for the nine times I’ll speak (all to the same group-- not repeating any of the material). So forgive me if the blog is quiet for this week and next; I’m focused.

Talk to you soon.
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Self-assessment and life plans

Following up on my comments about health and risk, the next question about personal health assessment-- regardless of how you scored on the tests-- is, “what are you going to do about it?”

This is where
a recent post from Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, is very helpful. Michael gives a concise yet complete guide for creating a “Life Plan” which is a self-assessment of how things are in your life, how you want them to be, and how you will get from one to the other.

For example, Michael talks about assessing his own health-- which he is generally happy with (Michael has completed two half-marathons in the past 18 months, so he’s in pretty decent health)-- and where his concerns are. He says:

here’s what I wrote a couple of weeks ago in my Health account: • I feel great. My stamina is great. It's been a long time since I have been sick. • I feel good about my weight and my overall fitness. • I am running (or cross-training) four days a week for at least 60 minutes. • I am not presently doing any strength training. I am concerned this will eventually catch up with me. • I am eating pretty well, but I could be more consistent in choosing more healthy foods.I would share more, but, frankly, it’s too personal.


Michael has a lot of good report of what he learned from doing his life plan, and he even offers a basic template you can download for creating one of your own.

I think this is a solid idea; whether it is related to health, family life, career, church and ministry involvement, or other areas of life, most of us don’t put enough thought and reflection into what lies ahead-- or how easy it will be to get there. Thanks, Michael, for giving us some great food for thought.
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Health and risk

I’ve got something of an awful family history health-wise, with Diabetes coming down from one side of my family tree and heart disease/attacks coming from both; add to that the prominence of things like breast cancer (my mother and her mother both had it) and Lupus (my grandmother and one other relative), and suddenly Marcie is justifiably anxious about my health and longevity.

Which is why I was very interested to find this set of risk-assessment quizzes from the School of Medicine of Washington University in St. Louis, in partnership with Barnes Jewish Hospital and the Siteman Cancer Research Center. It offers a brief but comprehensive quiz that will assess your degree of risk for Diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Osteoperosis, and twelve types of Cancer.

I’ve worked through a handful of them, and I’m pleased with my results:
  • Diabetes = below average risk
  • Heart disease = much below average
  • Stroke = below average
  • Prostate Cancer = below average
  • Lung Cancer = much below average

Keep in mind, all this quiz can do is assess what degree you are “at risk” for these health issues. A clean or encouraging word from this helpful site is great, but it doesn’t excuse you from attending to your body’s health needs through exercise, dietary discipline, and keeping stress and anxiety levels in check.

That’s why I especially appreciate that, when they return your quiz results, they also include suggestions for how to improve your scores, as well as buttons that answer questions such as, “what makes up my risk?” and “what does my risk mean?” Beyond the basic quiz results, these folks offer a surprising amount of information in an interactive, semi-personalized format.
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Are you wit' us, or agin' us?

In light of yesterday’s post on single-issue voting, I’ll offer this post that re-covers the ideas that started it, plus the counter-points to those ideas.

I’m not throwing my support behind either candidate– and I don’t care to share who I’m voting for. I think there’s a good case to be made for a conservative on both sides, and I understand the “I’m socio-politically conservative and I’m voting for Obama” side completely.

Here’s the gist of that argument:
  1. Single-issue voting is wrong and unbiblical.
  2. Even if it were not, we’ve been told that “the next president will end legalized abortion through judicial appointments” since the 80s– has it happened yet?
  3. If that’s not reason enough to be skeptical, there is arguable evidence that abortion actually was reduced more under Clinton than Bush– so why is the default assumption that a Republican president will be better for the pro-life position? (Oh yeah: because the whole argument goes, the distant possibility of total elimination of legalized abortions is more important than the more likely possibility of reduction of legalized abortions.)
  4. A vote for McCain is a guarantee for continued waging of war that is unjust and has little possibility of ending soon or with effective outcome. A vote for Obama is at least a solid chance of ending that much sooner.
  5. The grim predictions of all who oppose Obama is that he is an extreme liberal who will be the enemy of people of faith. The last time we heard this was, of course, when President Bill Clinton was elected. But really, Clinton didn’t end up being that bad, and it is hard to argue that the U.S. suffered or got worse under his presidency. Why should we believe it this time around?
  6. Isn’t it natural to want to believe that all of the talk of change, a new tone, and truly productive political process is true? Even the most cynical among us must surely WANT it to be true.
So there is my take on the case for Obama from a conservative’s perspective. Now, here’s the argument for the other side: why should a Christian/conservative/moderate (or even liberal) vote for John McCain?
  1. Single-issue voting is wrong and unbiblical. (And just as many conservatives oppose Obama because of his position on abortion, many others oppose McCain because of his position on the Iraq War.)
  2. Even if it were not, the Iraq War is a commitment we have made as a nation-- good or ill-- and we ought to take that commitment seriously enough to see it through to completion. Yes, we’ve been involved in it for over five years; we were in Vietnam for 16 years, and our failure there was largely due to growing apathy and opposition toward the later stages, even when some evidence of success had shown up. The recent reports of the positive effects of the “surge” ought to be enough to at least slow down the urgency to pull out as soon as possible. So the next president will at least need to be open-minded to the matters at hand, and not dogmatically committed to immediate withdrawal. We may not “win” this war, but we can certainly finish well.
  3. McCain, though fairly moderate on many issues, has a solid record of “pro-life” support and congressional/senatorial voting. So if we ARE inclined toward the single-issue agenda that consumes so many Christians, he’s your guy!
  4. A vote for McCain may actually be a pretty good balance of conservative and moderate positions, appealing more to many of the younger generation of folks who don’t identify purely with a right-wing, conservative agenda.
  5. While McCain has, at best, been very tight-lipped about his personal beliefs and faith (to my knowledge he’s never gone on record stating that he considers himself a Christian or any other belief), he HAS shown himself to be friendly to Christians and other people of faith.
  6. McCain’s lack of Obama-like charisma doesn’t alter the fact that he speaks boldly of change as well; plus, his years of political and military experience bolster his claims of being able to be the leader we need to get true bi-partisan change effected.
That said, there are reasons why many believers may not wish to vote for EITHER of them! Whether it encourages you to a write-in (Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee are two names I often hear about as write-ins) or to go the “none of the above” route, here are a few more thoughts on the two presumptive candidates:
  • Neither candidate is a distinctively Christian candidate; Obama, who has openly discussed his faith, recently resigned his membership from a congregation that espouses Black Liberation Theology in a denomination that is probably the most theologically liberal denomination that still considers itself to be “Christian;” now he is, I presume, an unchurched theological liberal. McCain, as I mentioned, has NO open declaration of faith or belief on record, and when asked by Christians about his faith instead refers to the inspiration he has found in the faith of others. This may not be a deal-breaker for everyone-- I would rather see the “best” man in place than an adequate Christian-- but it’s probably a factor for most Christians.
  • Both candidates talk a LOT about change-- which may be good-- but have yet to really spell out what said change would really mean, at least in a way that has gotten through to the general audiences. In other words, nothing like the “lock box” of 2000 has really emerged. Time will tell; in the historic scheme of elections, it is very early (even though it seems like it has been going on forever already, and we still have six months left).
  • While so much talk about change is bantered about, we’ve still got a growing economic crisis and an over-dependence on petroleum. We know what they’ll do about the Iraq War and the military action in Afghanistan, but what will they do about the economy? How will they solve our oil dependence problem? We’ve heard the soundbite niceties that represent, at best, short-term relief; I’m not sure if either candidate has a solid plan (or even an idea) about how they will lead the nation to true solutions over the long-term.
  • Almost everyone I know seems fairly dis-satisfied with our candidate selection. Apart from those who have really been wowed by Obama’s style and charisma, most people I’ve talked to feel like both candidates represent something of a blasé option.
There it is: my assessment of the presidential race as it stands today. I hope this is, at least, food for thought.

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Why single-issue voting is unbiblical

In honor of Independence Day, I thought I would offer up a post that simultaneously speaks to our context and government, the Kingdom of God, and the current events of our political process. (I’m also taking this opportunity to respond to a question posed to me over at my friend Megan’s blog.)

Why is single-issue voting unbiblical?

I’ll work through this issue from the most practical to the most theological (but hopefully that’s a false dichotomy, and there are shades of each at the opposite ends of the spectrum).
  • Even someone with a die-hard “culture war” perspective has to begin to wonder if the culture war has been lost. If you follow principles of just war (which biblical Christians ought to feel obligated to do), and you appropriate these principles into the culture wars as well (after all, they are just a violent in many ways), the principle of “probability of success” has to give you pause. If your single issue is abortion or defining marriage, don’t you wonder if we’ve already lost those wars? (Ditto for other single issues.)
  • It is difficult to be a truly consistent single-issue voter. (Really, it’s difficult to be consistent about political issues in general; it’s just that the single-issue voter invites greater scrutiny of his or her consistency.) Most who hold up abortion as the defining issue, for example, claim (rightly, I believe) that abortion is murder. What, then, is the desired end-goal? To have would-be mothers arrested and tried for murder if they have an abortion performed? At least they should be tried as accessories to murder. Likewise, some claim that the definition of marriage as only that between a man and a woman is the ultimate issue of this year’s elections; they don’t want to allow same-sex couples to define their relationships under the terminology of marriage. But the outcries were far fewer when family courts began to grant same-sex couples the right to adopt, thereby allowing them to functionally define their relationships under the terminology of family.
  • Another difficulty in single-issue voting is the problem of which single-issue you decide is the most important. How do you decide? Even the most carefully-reasoned decision here necessarily excludes a number of vital issues. The decision will inevitably be at least shaped by your cultural context: your race, your socio-economic circumstances, your geography of origin. Morality has a role, but in the end deciding on one single issue as arbiter political decisions is a moral and ethical coin-toss. This sort of relativism is inherently contrary to biblical reasoning.
  • Whatever the single-issue is does NOT encompass the whole of any candidate’s platform or worldview. Thus, we may find that we are inadvertently supporting and aligning ourselves with a candidate with whom we utterly disagree on another issue. This is not always taboo, and there are times when we can and should join with those with differences for the sake of a particular effort; nevertheless, to do so thoughtlessly or ignorantly (because you simply weren’t paying attention to or concerned about other issues) is not being consistent to a biblical worldview of engaging and interacting with culture and world.
  • (Closely related to the third point) It is impossible for ANY single issue to be elevated as more important than others from a strictly biblical perspective. Suppose the most aggressively anti-Christian legislation were at stake-- say, making it illegal for Christians to gather for worship, punishable by death-- would that rise to the top as most important? Would defending our “right” to gather for worship (the loss of which has never stopped the Christian church from gathering over the centuries) be more important than the biblical mandate to care for the poor or evangelize the lost? Would it be consistent to have argued for these several decades that opposing abortion is the most important endeavor the church can undertake (yes, I’ve actually been told exactly that) and suddenly to switch issues?
  • Single-issue voting represents a segmentation of life into nicely compartmentalized concepts, as if they are completely unrelated. But the Bible clearly portrays a world where such things are inherently connected. Scripture shows us connections we can’t make in a segmented view, such as the value of building codes as a part of loving our neighbor as ourselves (Deut. 22:8). We can see these connections in our world today, as well. One person suggested recently that the solution to the economic crisis we’re in would be to cut governmental spending, which he fleshed out as, “get[ting] out of schooling, Social Security, and welfare.” Many Christians may agree. But the truth is that our society isn’t prepared for the fall-out for the reduction of governmental support in ANY of these areas, and until we establish a foundational structure for replacing ALL governmental education (and not just for the wealthy Christians, but for poor Christians and non-Christians as well), we ought not begin demanding that the government “get out of schooling.” Likewise, if abortion were outlawed tomorrow, the needs in adoption, health care, and social support for unwed and low-income mothers/families would go through the roof within months, and the demands on our educational, legal, and criminal systems would increase over the next two decades. We HAVE to understand the connections and obligations that each issue requires of other issues, and single-issue voting ignores that irresponsibly. After all, approximately 34% of our tax dollars go directly to supporting social programs; does YOUR church’s budget come even close to that much given toward benevolence? Let’s get our spending priorities in order in the church before we start worrying about the speck in the eye of our government.
  • Scripture covers a multitude of issues that are at play in a socio-political system. If we based our assessment of what issues are the “most important” for Christians on what the Bible teaches about social and political issues, we would have to include issues of the sanctity of life and family values, of course; but we would also have to include matters of war and peace, social care for the poor, education, and racial and ethnic equality. Furthermore, a biblical view of the sanctity of life, for example, might begin with addressing abortion, but it goes far beyond that to include care for the sick, the elderly, and a host of issues that our bio-medical advances have raised for us. Yet few “pro-life” Christians I know can truly say they are more than simply “anti-abortion”-- they simply haven’t thought through what the fullest sense of the idea of being pro-life means, nor what they implications are from a socio-political viewpoint.
  • The “greatest commandment” wasn’t “Do not murder” OR “Do not commit adultery,” though most Republican Christians I know seem to suggest that it was one (or both) by their single-issue emphases. The greatest commandment, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength,” at least implies a whole-life devotion to God, which effectively nullifies the justification of single-issue voting. But if the inclination for single-issue voting persists, what does the second-greatest commandment imply? Wouldn’t “love your neighbor as yourself” lend credence to a single-issue emphasis on social issues like poverty, health care, or welfare?
These are just some rambling thoughts; a fair amount of this was shooting from the hip. I’d welcome any interaction about these.
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Baby news

Many of you know that we are expecting twins in late fall.

You may NOT know that we visited the doctor today and had an ultrasound. Both babies are healthy and right on track for growth and development.

And, it turns out, both are girls.
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A note to sitters about TV

For all the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other babysitters out there, here’s a rule of thumb about appropriate TV shows:

Don’t assume that it’s safe or appropriate to watch just because it is animated or drawn.

We were recently at someone’s house for a visit, and they don’t have young children. (No, you don’t know them.) One of these adults turned on the TV for Jack and Molly while we (Marcie and I) were in another part of the house. When I came in, they were watching a show that was an animated cartoon-- so the assumption was that it would be a safe show for them. But, in fact, it was a show with a fair amount of violence and themes that we would prefer to introduce our children to more gradually and through a different channel (sorry about the pun) of communication other than television.

It is difficult to grasp the amount of animated TV available these days, especially if you don’t have children under 20. I can name six or seven distinct channels that show animated productions, and some show only animated stuff. There is plenty of stuff that is animated, but is not even marketed to very young children. There is at least as much stuff that
IS marketed to children Jack and Molly’s age, but that we don’t want them watching. Many of these shows regularly portray one or more of the following behaviors and/or ideas as both appropriate and acceptable:
  • Crude language/joking
  • Disrespect for other people/their possessions
  • Whining and complaining
  • Jokes/mischief at others’ expense
  • Moral relativism
  • An almost religious/spiritual environmentalism
  • Thoughtless foolishness
Now, it’s true that many of the above are common behaviors/ideas among even young children, and many of the shows that are on portray exactly that: children acting like children. But something changes when any of these are shown on a show that makes them seem normal and right, and even appealing. Marcie and I simply aren’t willing to expose our children to that; they’ll get enough of it without feeding it to them through the TV.

On the other hand, the best shows deal with many of the same themes in a way that is good and helpful. Disney produced a show called “Recess” for a few years that frequently portrayed authoritative adults (usually school teachers) in a foreboding and somewhat intimidating manner; however, the show also regularly added in a plot development where the adults that appeared fearsome were shown to be caring, likeable people with normal lives. A show that our kids watch, called “Max and Ruby,” has older sister Ruby displaying a condescending and bossy attitude to her little brother Max in almost every episode; the resolution of every plotline, though, has Ruby realizing that there was something she didn’t know at work, and humility and appreciation were in order.

There are good shows on for children, and I appreciate that many production houses that market to younger children strive to offer some vallue in their shows, even if it is something on the order of a portrayal of decision-making in social circumstances. But it’s a safe bet that the parents of children you know have some distinct preferences about what their kids watch. If you don’t know what these preferences are, be sure to ask before you reach for the clicker.
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Books for June 2008

June was full of travel, which in this case meant substantially less reading for me. I feel a little bit starved of books, and hope that I’ll recover somewhat in July and August.

At any rate, here are the couple of books I read in June:

Effective Small Churches in the Twenty-First Century by Carl S. Dudley is a very helpful book that is based on thorough and useful research. Dudley deals with the data and concepts that arose from his study, so many of the ideas here are fresh and not found elsewhere (in other words, this one takes you beyond the "conventional wisdom” about small churches). A bit of a slow read at parts, but generally good stuff. (8+)

“The Vision Thing” by Don K. Clements. Clements is a retired PCA Pastor who now does consulting through Metokos Ministries, working with churches in helping them develop a useful vision for their congregation. He freely admits that he has borrowed heavily from Aubrey Malphurs’s Developing a Vision for Ministry in the 21st Century, but he does a good job of summarizing that book in this small volume. Clements clearly knows how to coach churches in this process, and his knowledge comes through in the book. He writes with a conversational style, and it’s not difficult to get a fair grasp of what is needed for vision-casting through this little book. (8)
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Quick thoughts on the Psalms

We’re just back from vacation, and as I wind down I thought I would throw out a couple of thoughts about the Psalms I had while driving home. These are motivated from things I saw and heard during our trip.

First, unlike the rest of Scripture the numbers don’t represent chapters; they represent the Psalms themselves. Thus, it is not correct to say, “I’ll read from Psalms 23, verse 2” because that would connote that you’re reading from chapter 23 of the Psalms. In fact, you are reading from Psalm #23, or simply Psalm 23 (note the lack of a plural “s” on the end). By the way, it’s the same in your hymnals: you aren’t turning to page so-and-so, but hymn # so-and-so.

Next: someone was telling me about what they do in their worship service (as far as readings go), and they said, “we have an Old Testament reading, a reading from Psalms, and a New Testament reading.” I’ve also heard before someone describing their devotional practice thusly: “I read a chapter from the Old Testament, a Psalm, a Proverb, and a chapter from the New Testament daily.” Here’s the thing, folks: Psalms is a part of the Old Testament! (So is Proverbs, incidentally.) So it is redandant and unclear to say, “we have an Old Testament reading and a reading from the Psalms.” I assume that these are two separate readings; one from the Psalms and one from another part-- perhaps the historical books? Or the major or minor prophets? It’s great that your liturgy includes two Old Testament readings, and that there is a weekly reading from the Psalms. And it would also be helpful to more accurately describe the other reading. (If it sounds like I’m nit-picking, realize that this person said something about this several times in the conversation, leading me to believe that it wasn’t just a semantic mistake.)

Finally, the Psalms include a peculiar aspect that isn’t present anywhere else in Scripture: they have verses that aren’t numbered. At the beginning of many Psalms, there will be a comment that reads something like, “a Psalm of ascents” or “to be sung to the tune of ‘Doe of the morning’” or somesuch. These comments are part of the original text, and are a part of the inspired Scripture just like the rest of the verses. During my vacation I heard a sermon on one of the Psalms, and this pastor included this unnumbered verse in his reading; but I have heard many other people (including some pastors) read a Psalm in its entirety, only skipping over this opening comment. It’s part of the text! So it should be read and considered just like the rest of the text. (The numbers to the Psalms are NOT part of the original, inspired text.)
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