Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Be Sure to Check This Out!

Our church is sponsoring a conference May 16-18 featuring Donald Whitney. It should be a blessed time of growth and learning!

An Alternative to TULIP

I read recently in a book by R.C. Sproul about five alternative points of Calvinism: RSDEP. They are definitely less easy to remember than TULIP, but I do believe they make the meaning of the acrostic clearer. Here's why:

Radical Corruption instead of Total Depravity
(This emphasizes that we are not as bad as we possibly could be, just that our sin totally permeates our being and that no area is not affected by it.)

Sovereign Election instead of Unconditional Election
(This emphasizes that we do not know why God chose us, but that it was totally up to his sovereign choice.)

Definite Atonement instead of Limited Atonement
(This emphasizes that Christ's death would definitely save the elect. Even though his death didn't lack the power to save everybody, that was not God's plan, and it only definitely saved the elect.)

Effectual Grace instead of Irresistible Grace
(God's grace is resistible in a sense, in that sinners fight against it, but it is not ultimately resistible; it is effectual.)

Preservation of the Saints instead of Perseverance of the Saints
(This emphasizes that our continued preservation is totally due to God's grace.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

Camping With Friends in the Spring...Ahhhhhh!

We had a magnificent, glorious, unforgettable, delightful (you get the idea) time camping this past weekend. Seth took so many fantastic pictures, that it's difficult to choose. He told me he wasn't even going to try, hence I've done my best to give you a sample. Enjoy!

We couldn't see the Brazos River from the campground, but it was only a hop, skip, and a jump away, so we went down several times. I must confess that it wasn't quite as beautiful as it looks in the picture (told ya Seth was a good photographer!), but it was nice, nonetheless, and the whole area was amazingly green and lush.


Spring wildflowers.

Seth was quite the outdoorsman on this trip, setting up his own tent and cooking food over the fire, including wild onions we picked in the woods.

You could also call him Fire Builder Extraordinaire.

We hurried down to the river as soon as we got our tents set up.

Is that a snake?

Anna and I take hammock installation very seriously.

The hammock proved to be a huge hit. It was quite the roadside attraction, and was almost never empty.

We're off to take on the wilderness!

Newsflash: wood chopping is now a spectator sport.

We had a huge thunderstorm Friday night, and some poor souls found themselves beyond damp in the morning. Thankfully, Saturday was beautiful and sunny, so everything dried out.

There were about 50 people on this camping trip. Wow! A large percentage of us went hiking together on Saturday afternoon. Over the mud and through the woods, down to the river we go. We don't know the way, but we'll get there today.....okay, I can't think of any more.

It was a long way for short legs!

What is it about boys and mud?

Lewis and Clark?

Maybe girls like mud too.

We sat around the campfire both nights, talking, laughing, roasting marshmallows...

...being silly...

...and playing music.

We were thankful that the forecasted rain held off so we could have a worship service Sunday morning. It was a special time of singing and sharing insights from God's Word.

We had a such a great time on our camping trip that we couldn't even stand up right!!

We're Home!

Last night we got home from a camping trip to Stephen F. Austin State Park with a bunch of friends and families from church. It was absolutely fantastic! I don't have time to write more, but you can read Ray's reports here and here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

April Newsletter

From Laura, 9 … This past week I’ve been working on a needlepoint project. It is a picture of Mary and Jesus. I’ve been enjoying working on it. It took awhile for me to understand the right stitch though.

From Becca, 11 … I just finished making a dollhouse for some furniture Laura has. I got a cardboard box that was 10 inches tall and cut a piece of cardboard that slid into it for the second floor. The shorter flaps I cut off and the longer flaps I made to look like big wooden doors. From the outside it looks like a wardrobe. I made a latch with a tongue depressor and some pieces of cardboard. For the insides I glued paper on the floors and ceilings and on the downstairs I glued real wallpaper. I made a window with pink paper for the curtains and a picture from a magazine of green hills. To get from the downstairs to the upstairs, I made a rope ladder, but it is very hard to see against the wallpaper since they’re both kind of white. I had lot of fun making it.

From Seth, 15 During these past few weeks, I’ve been learning how to build web pages with HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language). I have been using an online tutorial to learn. Since I don’t actually have a website, I am practicing by creating an HTML document in Notepad and viewing the results in our browser. It has been pretty fun. Right now I think the most fun part is writing complicated codes and having it do what I wanted it to do! Once I learn more I also think it will be fun to do more design instead of just trying out all the codes I learn.

From Anna, 18 … I’ve been reading the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew this week, and was particularly struck by chapter 6, verses 33-34: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” It is so easy to get caught up in the future, to be thinking about what I will be doing, or wondering when such-and-such will happen, but that’s not my job. My responsibility is to be faithful today, to seek the kingdom and righteousness of God in every moment, in whatever I am doing. Tomorrow is to be left in God’s sovereign, omnipotent hands. He will add “all these things” in His own good time.

From John, 23 … Houston must be the rotten wood capital of America. Any house in the city with wood siding older than 20 years probably has some rotten wood on it. Leave it unattended for a century, and you will probably have a pile of soft sticks and dirt. Several times over the last few years, I have done wood rot remediation, where I chip out all the soft wood, patch with new wood, smooth the surface, and paint, creating an invisible repair. I was recently thinking about how sin can be like rotten wood. We can live our lives looking normal and moral on the outside, while hidden sins are quietly eating away at our spiritual strength. A rotten board can look strong, but when you press on it, it crumbles. It has been a reminder to me to make sure that my walk with the Lord is not superficial, but goes to the core of my being. That way, I’ll be ready when the pressure comes.

From Katie, 26 … I went on a bicycle ride today, and it reminded me how much I enjoy it. I hadn't been bike riding for quite a while, but it's such a great way to get some exercise while also enjoying the outdoors. It was fun to see the signs of spring: birds out and about, wildflowers blooming, butterflies, and I even saw a deer. Imagine that, a deer in the middle of Houston! So, I think I'll try to go bicycling more often. I just need to figure out what to do about...ahem...saddle soreness.

From Judith … On April 6 Gerald went to Scotland for 12 days. That’s the longest time apart that we have had in our thirty years of marriage. There have been a few one-week stints apart and several weekends mostly for teaching Crown seminars. I’m not trying to elicit any sympathy here, especially from the women I know who are apart from their husbands often, sometimes for very long periods. I’m only just reflecting on this new experience for me. I held up fine the first week, but by the second week, it had gotten old.

During the weekdays it was no different than when he is at work in Houston. Evenings felt strange but similar to when he works late or is at our church’s monthly men’s meeting. On the weekend of his absence, we had a Saturday outing and Sunday church, so that helped the time pass. We missed him more significantly during family devotions when I awkwardly led them. Nights were the hardest time. When the children were in bed, and I was heading off to bed alone, I sorely missed him. I had trouble going to bed, getting to sleep, and sleeping well. I woke early and usually couldn't get back to sleep. I considered having some of the children sleep with me, but never did. I realized how vital that time with Gerald is to me each day. We visit, we pray, he rubs my back – it’s simply a sweet time of the day.

Needless to say, much to my relief and joy, Gerald arrived home on April 18! I have a renewed appreciation for what my life with him means to me. Also, I’m sleeping better now.

From Gerald … Well, I am back from Scotland. It was a bit of an adventure for me, as I do not travel much. I made it to Aberdeen in less than one day, but it took my suitcase six days to make the same trip. That gave me an excuse to check out the local ASDA store (part of the Wal-Mart family).

Most of my days were spent in meetings; after all, it was a business trip and they wanted to get their money’s worth out of all of us. The purpose of the meetings was to evaluate the next version of the database software that I help to administer. Our team included members from Houston (TX), Edmonton (Alberta, Canada), Aberdeen (Scotland), and Shanghai (China). In addition to our meetings, we needed to continue to maintain user support, so we put in long work days.

We were able to sample the local cuisine (eating very well indeed). Some of the new foods for me included haggis, neeps, and tatties; fish and chips; jackets; sticky toffee pudding; clootie dumplings; lumpy-bumpy; and black (blood) pudding.

On the weekend, we were able to do some sightseeing in downtown Aberdeen and also to drive to the highlands, where we toured a castle and a distillery, and were able to see lots of great scenery.

I very much missed being with my family and it was really good to get back home again.

Our Love, Gerald, Judith, Katie, John, Anna, Seth, Becca, and Laura

Real Men Use PCs (or, Please Don't Punch Me!)

It is with no small amount of hesitation and trepidation that we step into the current fray going on about Macs vs. PCs. However, our father's thoughts on the matter, which he shared last night, we have deemed worthy of publication:

"Everyone who really works uses a PC. Macs are for those artsy types. I don't understand why they refuse to make Macs with more than one mouse button! I use four buttons and a scroll wheel!"

Well, there you have it: the opinion of our favorite engineer.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Inside a Cell

Click here for a video representation of the inner workings of just one of your cells! I think it's incredible, even if I don't know what half of it represents. There is no way this could have evolved by chance out of nothing!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Growth


Isn't it amazing what can happen in just a little more than four weeks?

The promise of harvest!

By the way, this is our 100th post! Many thanks to our readers for motivating us to keep it going.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Coming Down From the Mountain

Have you ever had a “mountain-top” experience? Maybe it was a mission trip, or an inspiring conference, or a spiritual retreat. These times can be exhilarating, and God often uses them to shake us up and open our eyes. I’ve found in my own life, though, that the excitement I experience fades away with time. I get back to my normal life, and the resolutions I made are forgotten. The feeling of spiritual euphoria somehow gets lost in the midst of my day-in, day-out activities.

I’ve learned a few things from these times in my life. First, strive for change that lasts. Life is a never-ending process of becoming more like Christ, and God usually works on us bit by bit. If I present myself with a long list of things I must do better, it often just leads to frustration. I have to be patient with the process, and ask God to show me what he wants me to be learning now. That will then lead to something else, and the journey towards maturity continues.

I’ve also learned the importance of being ready to do whatever God asks of me. As God reveals his will to me, it’s my job to simply say yes. There should be no task I’m unwilling to do and no place I’m unwilling to go. It’s important to live in a constant state of expectation, ready for the next adventure God has for me.

Finally, I’ve learned that sometimes when you tell God you’re ready to go anywhere and do whatever he asks, he says, “Good. Now I want you to stay right where you are. This can be a disappointment when you finally get to the place of willing obedience, of trusting that God will equip you for whatever he asks you to do. You might think, “What? You’re not sending me to Mongolia after all?” The important truth is that we are to serve God and live to give him glory no matter where he places us. Adventures with God don’t always involve doing something dramatic.

So, the lesson in a nutshell is to live a life of willing obedience and joyful contentment.

Woodpecker Update

Our woodpeckers have babies now! We can hear them cheeping in the hole, and have seen the parents bringing them food. A few times, when a parent has brought food, we've actually caught a glimpse of the beak of one of the babies as it comes up to get the food! It has been so interesting to watch this facet of God's creation.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stepping Back in Time

This morning I used a homemade quill pen, ink, and candlelight to inscribe my journal entry. It was amazing to me to think how laborious it would have been for the prolific writers of the 18th century. With today's ballpoint pens, pencils, erasers, and word processors it is hard to appreciate the effort expended by those writers. For example, I am reading David Brainerd's diary, and its 300 or so pages were probably entirely written with quill pen and ink!


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Birthday Party

This past Saturday we went to the 12th birthday party of a girl at church. There were a lot of people from church there, so it was nice to fellowship with them in such an informal enviroment.Near the park were some woods, which was absolutly fantastic. After the meal Katie agreed to go exploring with me. She faithfully followed me down every path we came to, scrambled down hills, held a log for me so it wouldn't tip over while I stood on it, posed on a rotting tree, sacrificed her shirt to hold berries, etc., etc.
We got back from our exploration jaunt just in time to watch the Pinata. It was very tough, but it did finally break.
After the breaking of the Pinata several of us went to pick more berries in the berry fields Katie and I had found.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Signed, The Happy Family

We stop at Sam's Club every Sunday after church because it's on the way, and a few of the workers there recognize us. As you know, if you've read this blog for very long, we are not a very inconspicuous family. Well today, the lady who marks off receipts got all excited and said, "It's my favorite family! I love seeing you! Y'all are so happy, and so.....clean!!"

We gave our usual thank you and you're so sweet and all that, and as we moved on, what did we hear her say?

"Goodbye, Happy Family!"

Maybe we should tell her our name.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Life of a Rose





"A voice says, "Call out."
Then he answered, "What shall I call out?"
All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
When the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.
--Isaiah 40:6-8

(Note: These are not all of the same rose, by the way)

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Tragedy of Generational Unfaithfulness

A couple of different areas of study intersected for me recently, and I was rather shocked at what I found.

I read a biography of William Wilberforce, (Amazing Grace, by Eric Metaxas, an excellent read) and, in reading about him, learned a fair bit about James Stephen.

James Stephen was a lawyer in the West Indies, so he saw the horrors of slavery first-hand. He was a deeply religious Christian, and what he saw inspired him with a lasting hatred of the slave trade. He once said that he would rather be on friendly terms with the murderer of his son than support the slave trade.

Because of his first-hand knowledge, he was an invaluable source of information to Wilberforce and others who were working for abolition back in England. Upon his return to England, he continued working for abolition.

He became a part of the Clapham group, which also included Wilberforce, and several others. The Claphamites worked tirelessly for abolition, but also for many other causes, including schools for the poor and the founding of freed slave colonies in Africa. After the death of his wife, Stephen ended up marrying Wilberforce's sister Sally, connecting him even more closely to the great abolitionist.

So, anyway, I was going through my British Literature textbook and came to Virginia Woolf. She was an author known for her creativity and highly cultured mind. She, along with two siblings, founded the Bloomsbury Group, which sought to establish a "refined society," but threw off all religious and moral restraints. She was prone to mental breakdowns, and ultimately committed suicide by drowning in 1941, at the age of 59, when she was afraid that she was losing her mind completely.

Her father, Sir Leslie Stephen, was a Victorian agnostic. He entered the Anglican priesthood to please his father, but eventually left it after becoming disillusioned with the faith he realized he'd never had. Although he opposed orthodox religion, he staunchly held on to conventional standards of morality. It was his children, including Virginia Woolf, who rejected the ethics, as well as the doctrine, of Christianity.

Sir Leslie Stephen's father was Sir James Stephen. Sir James was an evangelical Anglican who held a variety of prominent posts and participated in the Clapham Group. It was he who actually drafted the measure to abolish slavery altogether in 1833. Despite his other accomplishments, he lost his children. One daughter became a Quaker; all his other children abandoned any kind of religious faith.

By now, you've probably guessed where this is going. Sir James's father was James Stephen, the close associate and brother-in-law of William Wilberforce.

In four generations, we see the descent from an ardent abolitionist motivated by his faith to a libertine, despairing authoress. Really though, the significant jump was between the dedicated evangelical Anglican Sir James Stephen, who failed to pass on the faith, and his agnostic son, Sir Leslie. In one generation, the godly legacy of preceding generations was lost. Virginia Woolf merely took and lived out her father's beliefs to their logical end.

Every generation must pass on the baton. It only takes one to undo the work of generations.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Why I Choose to Believe the Bible

I choose to believe the Bible because it is a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies, and they claim to be divine rather than human in origin.

--Dr. Voddie Baucham Jr.

Read more here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The "Logic" of Evolutionists

I read this yesterday in a back issue of Creation magazine:

"The 'logic' of evolutionists is in effect often as follows:

1. Evolution is change over time.
2. Animals have been observed to change over time.
3. Therefore, all animals evolved from a common ancestor which arose spontaneously from inorganic chemicals.


Something should look very suspicious here. Change over time does not imply that all living things have a single common ancestor. Points one and three involve two different definitions of evolution. Evolutionists define evolution as mere change, then they "bait-and-switch" to mean descent of all organisms from a common ancestor. Changing the definition of a word in the middle of an argument, is a logical fallacy known as equivocation. Evolutionists have been using this tactic for years to pull the wool over people's eyes."

--Creation magazine, Vol. 29, No. 3, pp. 44

To the Land of Kilts and Castles

Last Sunday our beloved father went to Scotland for a two-week business trip. We miss him much. Thankfully we have been able to use e-mail and instant message to keep somewhat in-touch. His Internet has been a bit sporadic though. The strangest times have definitely been doing family worship and singing at a nursing home without him, since he usually leads those events. He says he is doing fine except for not having his luggage yet, and that he is working long, but productive, hours. He also said he is having some interesting food experiences, such as: haggis, neeps, tatties, blood pudding, and sticky toffee pudding.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Being Short Has Its Perks

I had to duck.

(Picture of a five-and-a-half foot door in one of the San Antonio Missions)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Nice Place to Work, Huh?

Take it from me, you can put up with a lot when you get to run a conference in a place like this.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

March Newsletter

From Laura, 9 … On March 14th and 15th the whole family went to San Antonio. The first day we saw the Mission San Jose. It was interesting to see all the Catholic churches and what some of their beliefs were. In the evening we went to a concert with Canadian dancers. There were a lot of old ladies in the audience. The next day we went to the Alamo. I thought it was interesting to learn how much of it was knocked down. For lunch we went to a Mexican restaurant. Katie had recommended it to us as a “restaurant with good food.” She was right.

From Becca, 11 … I finished the cross stitch project, and so I started a new project. I actually started it a very long time ago, but got tired of it. It is a picture of a fat owl. Instead of Xs, it is just diagonal lines. I am using yarn and a big fat needle. The cloth is a special stiff cloth with big holes in it and the picture that I am making is printed on it. When I’m done you won’t be able to see the cloth at all, just yarn.

From Seth, 15 … During the past few days Grandpa and Grandma (Papa’s parents) were in town visiting us, so we went to Galveston to visit some museums. Something funny happened after we were done with the first museum and back at our van to decide what to do next. The lot we had parked in was bordered by streets on two sides, a building on another, and what looked like low-end housing on the other. While we were standing around next to our van, we saw a young man in maybe the third or fourth floor of the low-end housing looking out his window with binoculars. We thought this was amusing and waved at him when he looked at us. Things got more exciting when Becca got out our binoculars and looked back at the guy. He gave her a thumbs-up. He then turned around and said something to someone else in the room and started motioning for Becca to stay put. We all waited in rapt anticipation. Then, climaxing the situation, he started waving an orange sign that boldly proclaimed, “Hello!!” We think that the other person in the room wrote the sign for him. We left the lot greatly humored.

From Anna, 18… One highlight of the San Antonio trip was the Buckhorn museum. It was mostly taxidermy animals, but it also had other things, like a wax exhibit of Texas history, a church built out of matches, furniture built out of horns, and a tree trunk that was carved with amazing intricacy. There were some very unusual animal specimens, such as an elephant head, a gorilla, a two-headed calf, a pair of deer with their antlers tangled together, and a walrus head. I really enjoyed it.

I guess I’m growing up. I turned eighteen last week, and got my driver’s license the week before. On the one hand, it’s exciting to be taking on some of the privileges and responsibilities of adulthood, but on the other hand, it’s sobering. Am I headed the right direction? Am I maturing in my relationship with God, as well as physically and mentally? Am I using my time in the way I should? Are my priorities and goals what God would have them be? I know that there is no magical age when I’ll have “arrived,” but it’s good to stop and take stock of where I am. Even though I’ll be in progress the rest of my life, there are still milestones to be marked along the way.

From John, 23 … Katie, Anna, and I have been taking a New Testament survey class through our church for the last couple of months. Part of our assignment for the class was to read the entire New Testament. I had read every part of it before, but never sequentially and never in the space of two months. Doing this has really helped me to see not only the unity of the message of Scripture but also the difference in style among the different writers. Reading the New Testament in such a short time has made it seem less like an ocean that stretches to the horizon, and more like a lake whose opposite bank is visible. A lake that is bottomless in depth, of course, but still something whose size can be comprehended.

From Katie, 26 … I never thought I’d say this, but I’m getting burned out on folk dancing. It’s still a fun hobby, but being so involved and doing all the performances has gotten old. John and I have been dancing long enough that the challenge and excitement of learning has gone away. We’re also getting tired of being around the people. We’ve had very few opportunities to share our faith with them, and so it’s just draining being around them so much. It seems strange to say it, but we’re also tired of all the attention and compliments we get. It’s a nice pat on the back, but a steady stream of flattery year after year has made us feel like trophies, not real people. We’re tired of being the energy for the group, the token young people who are going to “preserve folk dancing for the next generation.” I’m tired of being told how cute I am all the time. I’ve decided that man cannot live by compliments alone.

From Judith … Uninspired and without additional news and will try to chime in next month!

From Gerald … Also uninspired and without additional news and will try to chime in next month!

Our Love, Gerald, Judith, Katie, John, Anna, Seth, Becca, and Laura