Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Year in Review

I'm sitting down to write this entry after just returning from a sonogram appointment. What has happened today is characteristic of this entire year. What I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that God is sovereign and that nothing happens outside of His control. It's not that we have some battles that God wins and other battles that satan wins. Rather God orchestrates everything that comes to pass, and He is victorious over all. Satan has no power beyond what God has given him. This is a truth that has given me strength to stand in the midst of intense trial and difficulty. Today we saw that our third little baby conceived this year has no heartbeat. This comes two short weeks after seeing the heartbeat. I'd ask for a second opinion, but today's sonogram only showed 2 days of growth since the measurements a fortnight ago. While I trust in a loving God that works all things for my good, it is still hard to deal with these human emotions. There's another family in my extended family that has endured the same trial. God is working something in both our families, though it remains a mystery to us.

The year has not been entirely composed of bad news. First, as I have mentioned, God has used and continues to use the trials to bring about positive change in our lives. Next, there have been strides that the children are making in their learning and training. Brittney, Brianna, and Justin are doing well learning the piano. Brittney continues to advance in her sewing. She is being a very big blessing in sewing clothes for herself and her sisters. She even had an amazing opportunity this month to sit under the instruction of Lisa Sorrell and make herself a pair of leather ladies shoes. We did not entirely know the reputation of Mrs. Sorrell, but apparently she is a world famous bootmaker. Everyone we've talked to that knows anything about boot and shoe making knows her and admires her work. Here is her website: http://www.customboots.net/ This was a great opportunity for Brittney to learn from an expert. Brittney enjoyed it very much and may want to pursue this interest further.

Michael has established for himself a good reputation as a hard worker in our neighborhood. He is regularly hired to do flowerbeds, work on fences, weed eating, or whatever other odd jobs that need to be done. He is trying to save money for land in order to build his own home.

Brianna continues to excel in her piano playing. She is also working with Brittney in improving her sewing ability. She and Brittney are making quilts and doing an excellent job.

Justin is doing very well at the piano. He is "all boy" and loves to play outside and wrestle.

Paton is coming along very good in his reading. He now takes his turn reading during our family worship time. We have to encourage him to speak up because he's a little soft spoken. But he's doing great.

Sarah loves to play with Samuel. She got her first haircut in December.

Samuel is speaking quite a bit in sentences. Sometimes you have to guess what he's saying, but if you get it right he'll tell you. "Yes."

I have also been blessed to have a Christian brother in my life, Robert Graham. As I mentioned in my 2008 Year in Review, he hired on in October of that year. Over this past year we have become very good friends. We have a lot of discussions on the way to and from work. He lives only a mile away from me and sits in the cube right next to me at work. We've been able to save gas riding together and build each other up with Christian fellowship on a daily basis.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the blessing of my dear wife, Sheri. The things that we've been through this year, we've certainly faced them head on together. We celebrated 19 years of marriage this year. She remains a constant strength in my life. Sheri, I love you and I thank God for you.

Only the Lord knows what 2010 will bring. We would still love to move back down to Texas. Maybe the Lord will bring that about.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I Was Mugged?

The news of my mugging has been greatly exaggerated:

Anyone who tries to mug this Mike Southerland better come with more than a knife. I've got a 9mm round waiting for him. Plus, 13 more in the magazine. :-)

Vision Forum Year End Liquidation

Monday, December 14, 2009

Contemplating the Psalms

This is my prayer tonight. Thank you Father, for Your Word. So much of this Psalm hits home. Please, Lord, grant that desire in verse 9. I repent of my wickedness. Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation.

Psa 38:1-22
(1) O LORD, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.
(2) For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore.
(3) There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin.
(4) For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
(5) My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness.
(6) I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long.
(7) For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease: and there is no soundness in my flesh.
(8) I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart.
(9) Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee.
(10) My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me.
(11) My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore; and my kinsmen stand afar off.
(12) They also that seek after my life lay snares for me: and they that seek my hurt speak mischievous things, and imagine deceits all the day long.
(13) But I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth.
(14) Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs.
(15) For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God.
(16) For I said, Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me: when my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves against me.
(17) For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me.
(18) For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.
(19) But mine enemies are lively, and they are strong: and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied.
(20) They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries; because I follow the thing that good is.
(21) Forsake me not, O LORD: O my God, be not far from me.
(22) Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

True Ecumenicalism

There is an ongoing debate among "Christians" today. One camp embraces unlimited ecumenicalism. This group would have all Christians (and in some cases, all people regardless of faith) to set aside their differences and unite. Another camp, or actually several "camps" because they never unite, proclaims that unless someone holds to their particular conviction on every jot and tittle of scripture they are cursed and destined for hellfire.

So what is the answer?

Christ would have His Church united. Yet, that should never happen at the expense of compromising things that can never be comprised.

Here are some guidelines that I consider in determining with whom to unite and with whom to separate.

1. Is the message preached one of repentance of sin and embracing of salvation won for us by the sole work of Christ Jesus alone, paid for with His own blood upon the cross of crucifixion?

2. Is the message supported through scripture alone? I may disagree with my brother on his interpretation, but we must accept the Bible as the absolute inerrant Word of God. This must be the standard, or else there is no foundation for discussion.

3. Is faith alone all that is required for justification before God? God has given faith, in the first place, to whom He will. Works should never be added as a requirement for justification. Works will follow faith, not the other way around.

4. Does the message preached go out to everyone, adding no stipulation of goodness on the part of those evangelized? God's grace is sufficient to cleanse any sinner of His own choosing. There is no merit won by men, whether by works or by social status that wins any favor with God.

5. Is the message preached glorifying to God alone? In an age of self centeredness, it is becoming increasingly common for sermons to exalt man, or to offer some "life benefit" to its hearers. This may come as a shock to some, but it's really not all about us. It is all about Him.

If the answer to these questions is "yes" for your particular congregation, then, though I might not agree with you on every point, we can have true Christian fellowship. If, on the other hand, you reject one or more of these points, then how can we have any fellowship?

Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
(Amo 3:3)

This, my friend, is my take on True Ecumenicalism.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Christ at the Center

"All the Reformers said that if you read the Bible by yourself in a corner, there's no telling how many spirits you'll be filled with. That just means, as Luther said, that every man will go to hell in his own way. An external word takes the form of a corporate event. It is preached. It's not us determining for ourselves over in a corner what we believe and how we'll live. It's the obsession with the spiritual disciplines that's actually very individualistic."

- Michael Horton, "Christ at the Center", Christianity Today, November 2009