A Gracious Place

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

First Day

Well, we had a wonderful time in Indiana! We saw both families, went to a wedding, had three birthday parties (David, Evan, & Joel), and presented the Israel slides at church. It was go, go, go and we are exhausted, but it is always worth it.

Today is the first day of school. It will take some getting used to the new schedule. This semester I’m taking my fifth and final Greek class (unless I opt for an elective). I’m also beginning Hebrew. I have a history class covering some of the writings of John Owen (a Puritan theologian). Diedra and I will take World Missions together, since it meets on Wednesday evenings. This semester I begin my internship, which is exciting. I’ll be following a professor, doing some grading and some research. It’s packed, and we are a bit nervous about how everything will get done. Please pray for us!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Homeward Bound

Tomorrow afternoon we fly home to Indiana! We’ll get back Monday evening, just in time for the first day of classes (Tues.). We are looking forward to spending some time with the fam. We can’t wait to hold our new nephew, Owen David. Both of our families are from the same town, Goshen. So, we’ll be plenty busy. We are all very close, and our time is always way short. But we’re thankful, and excited!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Being vs. Doing, Cont.

I believe this identity crisis is rampant in our churches. When I was a kid, a Christian band put out a song which hinted at and attempted to correct some of our confusion:

You can’t go to church as some people say
the common terminology we use everyday
you can go to a building that is some thing you can do
but you can’t go to church cuz the church is you

Obviously the lyrics are lacking poetically, however I can appreciate the sentiment. Is the church the building? Or is it the group of people who gather inside the building? Nowadays we are even more confused, as evidenced by a whole genre of Christian books designed to help us “Do Church.” Now the word ‘church’ is being used to describe the collective activities of a group of people. I believe among orthodox evangelical churches, we are especially weak in our Ecclesiology, and could use some beefing up in this doctrinal area. (I think this is further evidenced by the some of the names we give our local congregations that certainly refer more to the building/activities than to the people, i.e., “temple,” “chapel,” “house of prayer,” etc.)

Briefly, the Church is primarily an ontological reality. What in the world does that mean? It must be defined primarily in terms of what it is, and only secondarily in terms of where it meets or the activities in which it engages. The Church is the bride and body of Christ; the family of the redeemed; the community of faith. Certainly she does a whole lot of things, and meets in a whole lot of places. But these are secondary and flow out of her identity.

Imagine how confused we would be if we used the same English word, “family” to describe not only our biological relations, but also the buildings (houses) in which we live. Then imagine how much more confused we would be if a genre of books came out crying, “We need to change the way we DO family.” Now family is a group of relationships, a building, and a group of activities!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these books are unneeded or unhelpful. All I’m trying to say is that we need to define the church primarily in terms of its relationship to God (and itself) and only secondarily in terms of the activities it carries out or where it meets. Why? Because what we do and where we meet flows out of who we are. Additionally, this ontological focus reminds us that each individual member within the community is valuable to God and to the community primarily because he/she is a child of God and a brother or sister in Christ. It’s easier to love one another, since we are family. It’s harder to show favoritism toward the “more gifted” or “rich,” because we understand that the Gospel renders us equally needy, and gloriously redeemed. Finally, defining ourselves primarily in terms of who we are puts God at the center because it is He who has made us who we are. (As opposed to a deeds-oriented definition that puts our attention on what we do for God). Let us first and foremost Be the Church!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Being vs. Doing

One of the most important questions I’ve wrestled with since graduating from college is, “Who am I.” Trying to wrestle with one’s identity (or personal definition) is profoundly important. Without becoming morbidly introspective, and self-absorbed, how you answer the question of identity will have some influence on how you live. I believe most of us, in 21st century America suffer from a severe identity crisis. The problem is exacerbated by our use of language. For example, we phrase an ontological (being) question to children this way, “Johnny, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Naturally, we all know that this question is not to be answered as it is asked. Little Johnny would be scolded if he answered, “A man.” Or “A person.” Or some other, literal answer (husband, father, son, etc). What we mean, by this question is functional (economic), i.e., “What would you like your occupation to be in adulthood?” Ok, Dan, now your splitting hairs like a typical theologian when we have more important issues to talk about! Before you cast stones, consider how many people go through “midlife crisis.” And consider what types of questions they are asking as they go through these traumatic mid-life experiences. Who am I? Why am I here? Why do I hate my job? Who are these strange people living in my house? Some, in rather desperate attempts to answer these questions, radically seek for a new definition. New job, new car, new family. All empty. The “What do you want to be” question reflects a confusion between who we are (being) and what we do. So, when answering questions about our identity, we include statements such as “I’m a nurse,” or “I’m a carpenter.” I would argue that this is probably due to modernity, the industrial revolution, and a secular mindset. Once God is removed from your world, there exists no meaningful reference point to answer the “Who am I” question. As we become more industrialized, the reference point for identity becomes the giant machine (our econonmy, business, etc). Then, when we become disabled, and can no longer function in the “cog” capacity, we loose all meaning. Not only that, but we can begin to see people in very utilitarian categories, loved or expended based upon their “usefulness” to society. Indeed, I hope you can see the tragedy.

So how do we properly answer the “who am I” question? As Christians, we have the correct answers. The reference point for our existence is God. Therefore the first answer is, “I’m a child of God.” Made in his image, I am different than all His other creatures. I am a new creature in Christ. I am a brother or sister to fellow believers. I am a son or daughter of my father and mother. I am a husband or wife, a parent or grandparent. My life is meaningful because I exist in relationship to God and my fellow creatures. Now, we have rightfully separated the question of occupation from the question of identity. So, if I become disabled, I can maintain a sense of meaningful existence. The answer of occupation used to be (Puritan era) referred to as “call.” So the question to little Johnny is not “What do you want to be,” but “What is your calling?” You see how God-centered that question is? The question assumes a sovereign who will employ you in His world as he chooses. If you suffer an accident, no need to worry, because your personhood is not wrapped up in your call. Your call changes, and you continue to exist. If you think that question is too “churchy,” at least ask, “What would you like to do when you grow up.” Let’s get back to defining ourselves by our relationship to God and to others instead of by our jobs or performance.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Mortal Reminder

They say St. Jerome carried a human skull around to remind himself of his mortality. I think it’s a good idea. (Well, I should clarify. I think it is good to think often of one’s mortality. I’m not sure how great an idea it is to carry around a skull in order to do so.) We ought to have a certain gravity (not morbidity, necessarily) about us. We ought to be mindful that life is short. Our enemy, death is close at hand. Now, we believers do have a resurrection hope that gives us much peace as we contemplate our short lives, and this is a good thing. However, I think I’m seeking to counteract a certain laziness my flesh enjoys that says, “I’ll take care of it tomorrow.” And an arrogance that says, “Tomorrow I’ll go to such and such place and see so and so and do this or that.” Without giving much thought to the One who holds my days in His hands. If we ponder the shortness of our lives, we may be more willing to express our love to our brothers and sisters, to our mates, and to our friends. We may feel more urgency for the lost. We may spend less time in front of the Television. We may linger a moment longer when we say goodbye, even if we are simply going off to work. Indeed, it is a good thing to say, “if the Lord wills...” Or, for that matter, to carry a skull around.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Good Weekend!

Israel Reunion
Originally uploaded by dandeelines.
We had a good weekend. Saturday we spent cleaning the apartment, trying to get the office organized for another crazy nine months of seminary. In the evening, we met up with some good friends from the Israel tour, and then had a full-fledged reunion at Fadi’s Mediterranean Grill. Good food, Great friends. Followed up with some Marble Slab and lots of laughs. Sunday was packed. I arrived early at the church to do some last minute rehearsals with Johnny B. for our duet. Then, I taught Sunday School. We are working our way through Genesis, and having a wonderful time. I taught ch. 14, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Johnny and I sang our song And Can it Be (Glad’s arrangement modified by Johnny and me). Seemed to go okay, no one ran out of the room with their hands on their ears or anything. Actually, we received a lot of positive feedback. After church we grabbed some lunch (Diedra’s famous eggs) and a quick nap. In the evening, I had the privilege of speaking for Ray Green’s youth group. That too was a blast. We talked about how the Bible fits together, emphasizing the continuity of the stories, central plot line, etc. Basically, we talked about the Good News! My favorite thing to talk about! ☺

Shameless Commercials: You may notice a couple of additions to the “Friends” links. Todd Bolen led our tour in Israel, and his blog is great. If you’re interested in Biblical archeology, or even the current situation in Israel, read through his blog. Also BiblePlaces.com is Todd’s baby, and contains a lot of very valuable resources. Todd has a huge library of high-resolution digital images of Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, etc. He has his pictures for sale, and they are cheap! I highly recommend this to anyone who is planning to be involved in teaching the Bible, or for anyone who wants to be able to picture the places he/she is studying about! Gunner is a good friend I met while on the Israel tour. He is a student at Master’s Seminary in CA. Very wise, and worth reading as well.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


Today we are praising the Lord because our new tenants are moving into 402 (that’s our house in Indiana). We are thankful for a quick turnover. We are so blessed as many of our family members worked really hard in order to get the house ready (cleaning, laying carpet, building window wells, mowing, etc.). Thank you so much! Thanks also to those of you who knew of this trial and have been praying. Please continue to pray for our former tenants, who are still in the county jail, and will probably be so at least until February. My parents have been visiting with them, and loving on them. There hearts seem soft, and open, and I’m so thankful that my folks have taken the opportunity to spread the love of Christ. May God be glorified!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

He Is Risen!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Challenging Week

Well, this is a challenging week to say the least. Tuesday I presented our Israel power point to the Senior Adults at HBC. That is probably going to be the highlight of my week! What a joy these old saints are! So gracious, and even childlike in their simple joy. I talked for about 40 minutes, then answered their questions. Then Helen, the one who invited me to speak insisted that we sing together. So we sang three or so hymns, and it was wonderful. Old saints are full of hope. They look forward to being with Jesus, and that is refreshing. They fed us a nice meal (chicken fried chicken with gravy, green beans, coleslaw and ice tea). Wednesday morning I had a meeting, then a tough evening at work. The rest of the week I need to prepare for a busy Sunday. I’m scheduled to teach Sunday school. After church we have a class cookout, and then in the evening I’m preaching at my friend’s youth group. School hasn’t even started yet, and I feel like I’m running 100 mph! The Lord is good and He encourages us. I ordered an old, out of print CD from my childhood last week, and it came this week. It’s GLAD, The A cappella Project. I think it came out in 1988. Anyway, it’s an excellent album, a mixture of hymns and sacred songs, arranged well and sung a cappella by a male ensemble. They sing about the Gospel! The words are so good and I’m convinced that human voice can be the most beautiful sound in the world. Full of hope, very encouraging. I love it.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Owen David

Introducing the newest addition. Enter July 27 for his birthday, click on "show the babies," and then click on "Owen."