Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 Year in Review

The biggest news this year is the birth of David Aaron Southerland. He was born on August 20, 2013. We actually knew we were expecting when I wrote last years "Year in Review" but we had not yet let the cat out of the bag yet. David is our ninth child and fifth son. As I write this he is four months old. It is a blessing to have young children though I am in my mid 40's. I suspect that the "empty nest syndrome" that tends to affect many of my peers will be a long time coming. When David is 20, I'll be 65. In the meantime, God has entrusted Sheri and I with parenting children from 20 years old down to newborn, simultaneously! This year has certainly given us challenges to handle from children across the spectrum of age.

Since I started with David, I'll move on to Melody. Melody is talking very well now. She's quite the little ham! Definitely not a low maintenance child. But she is a joy. We have started attending a homeschool co-op this year. At first Melody wasn't happy with the idea. But she warmed up fast and now asks us about it frequently.

Samuel is growing fast. He's joined Sarah in asking good questions during family worship and Bible reading time. I love to see him learn. I hope to teach him correctly and train him to be a man of God.

Sarah continues to ask good questions. The big question that I love to hear from her that she seemed to ask me frequently this year is, "Will you read the Bible with me?" How can I refuse? Sarah has become a very big help to Sheri this year. She helps out with both David and Melody. Both of them love her too. Sarah loves to draw and read Melody books. She also has developed a love of chess and asks me to play quite a bit. One of Sarah's favorite bedtime questions is, "Would you tell me a story about when you were a kid?"

Paton has improved in his violin playing. Not only did he play a solo at his recital this year, but his instructor asked him to also play along with the younger students so that he could help to lead them in playing their songs. Paton is taking French this year in co-op.

Justin is growing like a weed. He's about to catch me. He's doing well in co-op too. He's taking anatomy. He's also been enjoying playing chess. He's become very good at it beating me and my dad from time to time. He's been playing chess online with my dad, so that keeps his skills sharp.

Brianna is 16 and is currently in the middle of the driving portion of driver's ed. She hasn't seemed quite as anxious to get her license as Brittney and Michael were. I'm thinking that's due to a couple of reasons. First, she doesn't have the money to buy herself a car yet (and I can't afford to get her one). Next, Michael and/or Brittney are always going somewhere and Brianna can tag along easily. But even still, I've spent some time in the car with her, and I expect we'll be doing it more frequently in the coming months.

Michael turned 18 this year. For the past couple of months he's been working as a driver's helper for UPS. He taught himself to play the guitar and has been playing at church. Michael signed up for a couple of 5K runs this year. He and Brittney have challenged each other to give up sugar except for "special occasions." So, even though the "special occasions" or holidays seem to be whatever days are even remotely considered a holiday (like Columbus Day), they are still doing a lot better than they were previously.

Brittney continues to excel in her bootmaking skills. Her first pair of cowboy boots were her own. She attended the boot and saddle show this year. Her instructor said that she should enter her boots in the contest there. But she didn't want to put her boots on the shelf until after the contest. So she opted not to enter. After seeing the rest of the entries, it seemed likely she could have won in her division. She also completed a pair of awesome boots for me this year! If anyone reading this would like to get on the waiting list for boots, she's ready to start taking customers now.

Things going on with me include two new jobs for this year. I started contracting at Dolese Brothers in February and wrapped it up in July. I went from there to CSI, where I am in a full time salaried position as a government contractor at Tinker Air Force base. I'm doing ASP .NET C# MVC programming. I've also got a project going with a friend I met in Tennessee while we were living there from 2001-2005. John Lovelace is a landman for the oil and gas industry. I've been working with him since March on a Windows program for landmen. This will allow users to enter information and generate reports. It's been a slow go, trying to squeeze in time during lunch breaks and some late nights after getting the kids in bed. It's tough for me to do programming during late hours, so that doesn't happen much. In spite of the challenges, I hope to have something to bring to the market within the next month or two. This is a C# ADO .NET Windows application running SQL Server.

Time is flying. It seems that every trip I make around the sun I pick up speed. I can't believe that we've been in Oklahoma for almost eight years. There's much to like about living in this state, though there's always hope that we'll eventually be back "home" in Texas. Because while my kids have identified themselves as "Okies" I'll always be a Texan at heart.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What's In It For Me?

“WIIFM” This is the sacred cow of our capitalistic culture. Do you want to sell a product or service? The simple formula is that you need to show a prospective consumer all the benefits they can derive from buying your particular product or service. If you buy my brand of hair gel, men, then the ladies will fight each other for the chance to go out with you. You will prosper in everything you do. You’ll be a money magnet. In fact, this hair gel will literally give you the appearance of being 21. So if you’re too young, this will scream “man” (even if you’re 12). If you’re too old, this amazing product will take you back to the prime of your life. However, supplies are limited, so stock up today!
So, maybe hype and benefits may be acceptable in the consumer marketplace (though I even tire of seeing it there). However, more and more we are seeing this type of philosophy invading the church. In the “Word of Faith” camp, from whence I came, the emphasis is on your own personal “power” supposedly granted to you by the Holy Spirit. You no longer pray for the Lord to heal someone. Rather you simply “command” it to be done, with the obligatory magic words, “…in the name of Jesus…” tacked on to the end. Personal prophecies abound promising children to barren women, financial gain to the down and out, and supernatural healing to those in chronic pain. What’s not to like about this message? After all, it’s all about me, isn’t it?

Unfortunately this “me driven” mentality is not isolated to the ”Health, Wealth, and Prosperity” crowd. It’s tentacles have invaded the song service of many Reformed churches. Traditional hymns, which declare the glory of God, such as A Mighty Fortress is Our God, O Sacred Head Now Wounded, or Man of Sorrows, have been replaced with “feel good,” “me affirming” modern “praise” songs.

Consider the chorus to the song, “I Am Free” by Jon Egar:
I am free to run
I am free to run
I am free to dance
I am free to dance
I am free to live for You
I am free to live for You
I am free
I am free

Who is the subject of that “praise” song? I am. Now compare that with the hymn, O Sacred Head Now Wounded:
Verse 1
O sacred Head now wounded
With grief and shame weighed down
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns Thine only crown
How pale Thou art with anguish
With sore abuse and scorn

How does that visage lanquish
Which once was bright as morn

Verse 2
What Thou my Lord has suffered
Was all for sinners' gain
Mine mine was the transgression
But Thine the deadly pain
Lo here I fall my Savior
'Tis I deserve Thy place
Look on me with Thy favor
Assist me with Thy grace

Verse 3
What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee dearest Friend
For this Thy dying sorrow
Thy pity without end
O make me Thine forever
And should I fainting be
Lord let me never never
Outlive my love to Thee

In this song we predominately hear about the Lord Jesus Christ. Now I will admit that “I” do show up in this song as well. How so? “’Tis I deserve thy place…” That’s a far cry from “I am a free to run. I am free to dance,” don’t you think?
Some may accuse me of dissing all modern music. This is not so. Give me a song like “In Christ Alone” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. Recently that song made headlines because the PCUSA wanted to alter it for inclusion in their watered down hymn book. Thankfully the authors stood strong and refused to remove the theologically sound line of “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied.”

So then, what makes a song appropriate for singing in a corporate worship service? Ask yourself, “What’s in it for me?” If the music makes that clear, then it’s probably not appropriate. A question that is 1000 times better is, “What’s in it for Christ?” He alone deserves all glory, praise, and honor. We deserve nothing but hell.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Why is He Knocking?

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." - Rev 3:20

Is this verse an invitation to sinners to "accept Jesus into their heart" as is preached in many modern churches? Let's look at the context of this verse in order to determine the intended audience. The first verse in this section is v. 14, "And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write..." The last verse in this section and the chapter (v. 22) reads, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” So then, the intended audience is not the unconverted sinner, but rather the church. In fact the previous verse, v. 19 says, "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent." Jesus' offer to come in and eat with a person is a calling to His own to renew their fellowship with Him. This isn't a pathetic Jesus wishing more people would just "accept Him." This is our saviour, our beloved, knocking, as He does in Song of Solomon 5:2 desiring fellowship with the ones He loves.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Arrows to Archers

I wanted to let my readers know of something exciting that I have in the works. In January I started a new website called Arrows to Archers ( Right now, it's just a blog. But my plans are bigger than that. I want to start a podcast, as well as a youtube channel for it. Also, I am currently working on an ebook that I hope to make available in the next few months.

What is Arrows to Archers? I'm glad you asked. :-) You may have read on this blog some of what I've done in the past for my children when they turn 13. See for a description of what I did for my oldest son. The purpose of Arrows to Archers is to help other parents do the same for their children. In my opinion the greatest need right now is for godly young men. So, for the time being anyway, I'm going to concentrate on what a father and mother can do in order to train their sons to be godly men, who will someday lead their own families. Thus the title of the blog/ministry/business (I'm not how to refer to it), "Arrows to Archers." Arrows to Archers comes from Psalm 127:3-5

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127:3–5, ESV)

The premise is that our sons are arrows in our quiver. These same arrows will be the archers of the next generation who will have their own arrows eventually, and so on until the Lord returns.

My vision for Arrows to Archers is to offer help and resources to other parents so that they can train their sons to lead their own households. I want to make help available in a variety of ways. Most of the resources will be free, but I will honestly tell you that would love to concentrate on this full time. So if I can shape this in such a way so that it can support my family then I will be living my passion by helping others. We will see what the Lord does with this. At the same time I never want lack of resources to prevent other parents from pouring into the life of their children.

I am just getting started, and I need to spruce up the website as I get time. But I invite you to join me in the journey and stop by and join in the conversation.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Is Hell Simply This Life?

I was discussing the topic of hell with a friend of mine. Apparently they have been influenced by the popular opinion that hell, as has been taught by the church (and the scriptures, by the way), does not exist. They take the clear teachings of scripture and allegorize them away, offering an explanation that "hell is this life with all its woes and troubles."

Certainly this life has its share of woes and troubles. However, this is due to sin, and the fall of man in the garden of Eden. In my morning reading this morning I read in Matthew 13 about the parable of the wheat and the weeds. Thank the Lord that the disciples did not "get it" when Jesus told the parable originally. Because of their lack of understanding our Lord spells it out for us by offering the absolute true interpretation. Now, if the whole concept of hell was only contained in the parables themselves, then maybe we could walk away and disagree on the interpretation. However, when Jesus Christ Himself gives us the interpretation plainly, we can't expect that He adds allegory into His interpretation. He is, after all, unfolding the mystery to His disciples, not seeking it to cloud it over as He had done with the crowds. Let's read Matthew 13:36-43.

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:36–43, ESV)

When does Jesus say this is going to happen? "Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. This is not something that is happening in this life. Rather, as can be easily observed, there are many sinners who are truly living their "best life now." Wealth and luxury in this life are not reserved for God's people. In fact, commonly quite the opposite is true. But at the end of the age, when the books are opened, those who are not found written in the Book of Life will be cast into the fiery furnace. The imagery of fire and burning is a consistent theme throughout scripture whenever the topic of hell is discussed. If this were an allegorical device, surely the metaphors would change. Look at such passages that try to give people the sense of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. Look at Matthew 13 in its greater context.

In v. 24 it is compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. In v. 31 it is compared to a grain of mustard seed. In v. 33 it is compared to leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour. In v. 44 it is compared with a treasure hidden in a field. In v. 45 it is compared with a merchant in search of fine pearls. In v. 47 it is compared with a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. Yet, consistently throughout scripture hell is pictured as eternal burning.

I continue to post topics like these in the hope that my friend will listen to the clear teaching from scripture. I don't make this stuff up. I only herald what I read in the scripture. My deep desire is that at the end of the age I would not see my friend cast into that fiery furnace, but rather walk into the fulness of the Kingdom of Heaven along with those whom God has redeemed.