A Gracious Place

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Romans 9:1-3

I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers…(NIV)
I was reminded yesterday that my eyes have been dry for my unbelieving friends. Lord, give me the “sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” for these souls. This is the heart of Paul. This is the heart of Christ.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Tired Brain

I'm in the library, trying to work on my thesis. One of the many benefits to wireless internet in the library is that one can procrastinate so efficiently by making a tour of his or her favorite blogs. Apparently I haven't been here for awhile (this post is over a week old). Anyway, I thought it was funny, and worth pointing out. Hopefully it distracted you from something important as well as it did me.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Seminary Made Easy

Since my Eschatology professor made it clear today that I am not allowed to use Wikipedia as a source for my research paper, I decided to head on over to the bookstore to take a look at some other sources. This series caught my eye. Apparently, these are pocket guides designed for new believers. In a short, little book, you can have “Prayer made easy,” “Bible research made easy,” even “Scripture memory made easy.” The books are inexpensive too. ;-)

Now, I know they tell me not to judge a book by its cover…but do they have to tempt me by making it so easy? In all fairness, the author has a laudable goal. I am always on the prowl for simple, introductory books that I can put into the hands of beginners. In fairness, there is a high probability that the author had little-to-no say in determining the titles for the books in this series. Titles, these days, are designed to sell books. And in this case, it will probably work. Since, we all know that spiritual disciplines are not at all easy, titles that claim to make them so are particularly enticing, especially after I’ve enjoyed my delicious microwaveable entrée. Let’s face it; these same books titled in such a way to imply the hard work any of these disciplines entail would simply never sell. Of course, these matters can be dealt with in the preface, after one has already purchased the book (notice how the subtitle says, “an easy-to-understand pocket reference guide”).

Again, I don’t mean to mock or nitpick. Everything I’ve mocked has caught up with me (e.g., my "little" brothers, Matt and Eric). In fact, I would not be surprised if, after surveying this series more closely, I actually liked the contents enough to commend the books. On the other hand, I can also hear myself saying to a friend new to the faith, “Now, you need to understand that the title implies more than it ought. Don’t be surprised if you find it extremely difficult to foster these disciplines in your walk. You have real enemies, including yourself, which militate against anything 'easy' in the spiritual life. Paul calls the journey a fight because it is hard. Even Jesus said, ‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,’ when referring to prayer.”

After my new friend looses consciousness from my long, drawn-out disclaimer. I’ll resuscitate him with some instant coffee, and we can enjoy together the insight gleaned from these four-dollar pocket guides. Here’s the one I can use for my paper.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Team Hoyt

Monday, January 15, 2007

Six Months, Three Weeks

Saturday, January 13, 2007

PowerPoint and Bibles

John Mark raised a good question on his blog regarding the use of PowerPoint to display the scriptures during sermons. I’ve had the same thoughts and questions turning in my mind, so I thought I’d try to post some of my musings.

My preaching professor last semester said he does not like to use PowerPoint at all during his sermons, because he wants people to listen to him. Especially during the “text” portion of his sermon. If he has taken the time to polish his dramatic reading of the text, sometimes he’ll even tell the congregation to look at him and listen as he reads (or quotes) the Scriptures. At this point, he argues, PowerPoint is distracting.

However, this same professor admits the usefulness of PowerPoint in preaching when he wants to demonstrate to the congregation how to study and mark their bibles. For example, perhaps he will highlight repeated words, etc.

I think there are benefits to encouraging the congregation to bring their bibles, to open them, and to follow along during the sermon. I encourage people to bring the same Bible (their primary Bible) every time. Over a period of weeks and years, their brains will start to remember where things are. They will begin to be people of the text, who can find things in their Bibles. The spatial relationships of the words on the pages gives the brain an additional “hook” for the memory. (Admittedly, the use of electronic Bibles makes this seem less important, especially with slick search features.) (Also, in private study, I encourage using many different Bibles, translations, helps etc., to avoid over-familiarity and to encourage contemplative thought.) I think it is good for children to see their parents carry, follow along in, and mark their Bibles. I think it is good for parents to encourage their children to do the same. At home, seeing Mom or Dad’s well-worn Bible on the table can be a reminder that we are families of the text.

John Mark mentions that an overemphasis on following along in Bibles can make unchurched visitors feel overly uncomfortable, and that PowerPoint can help. I agree. Finding creative ways to emphasize the importance of the text without being inhospitable is the balance at which you want to aim. Perhaps PowerPoint slides are like training wheels. You need them to learn the basics, but over time want to encourage people to ride without them. You also don’t want to be a community that actually worships the Bible. Confusing road signs for destinations is tragic.

All that to say, be purposeful. If you use PowerPoint, use it for good reasons, and occasionally explain what those reasons are. If you decide not to use it, think of ways to be hospitable to the visitors. Over time, hopefully the congregation is growing in their knowledge and love of the Scriptures, and the Glorious God they reveal.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

More Christmas Pics

Me & Matt
Originally uploaded by dandeelines.
Would you trust this man to pick out your clothes? ;-) Click on the pic to see more of our holiday. Sorry, I didn't get the pictures off the in-laws' camera before we left, so I'm missing stills of Diedra's fam (I only took video at their place).

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Gravity and Grace

The following excerpt is from Philip Yancey’s What’s So Amazing About Grace? (271-272).

[Simone] Weil concluded that two great forces rule the universe: gravity and grace. Gravity causes one body to attract other bodies so that it continually enlarges by absorbing more and more of the universe into itself. Something like this same force operates in human beings. We too want to expand to acquire, to swell in significance. The desire to “be as gods,” after all, led Adam and Eve to rebel.

Emotionally, Weil concluded, we humans operate by laws as fixed as Newton’s. “All the natural movements of the soul are controlled by laws analogous to those of physical gravity. Grace is the only exception.” Most of us remain trapped in the gravitational field of self-love, and thus we “fill up all the fissures through which grace might pass.”

About the same time Weil was writing, another refugee from the Nazis, Karl Barth, made the comment that Jesus’ gift of forgiveness, of grace, was to him more astonishing than Jesus’ miracles. Miracles broke the physical laws of the universe; forgiveness broke the moral rules. “The beginning of good is perceived in the midst of bad…. The simplicity and comprehensiveness of grace–who shall measure it?”

My question is, "How's your gravitational pull?" Are your desires to keep, collect, and control overruling generosity and gratitude? Are you swelling to the size of the sun, binding all your friends and relatives to orbit you? Or are you shrinking-releasing others to relate freely without the constraint of your needy expectations? Do you constantly cry, "I'm not being fed!" Or are you beginning to feed the hungry mouths all around you? Only a Gospel-saturated view of the Trinity can possibly begin to change our greed into grace.

I'm convicted as I write. As we prepare the apartment for the baby, a lot of "stuff" has to go. My desire to keep seems so much stronger than my desire to give. My attitude is especially stinky set in contrast to the overwhelming benevolence of others who are donating much needed supplies.

How's your gravitational pull?

Lord, forgive me for my selfish heart, ever demanding. Grant me the grace to stop forcing others to serve me and feed me and give to me, and help me to serve others, feed others, and give generously. Thank you for your condescension; grant me the grace to condescend.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Happy Birthday, Diedra!

The third was Diedra's birthday. We had a low-key gathering at Buergers' house. We enjoyed a delicious chocolate cheesecake while we watched our football team get destroyed. Anyway, earlier that afternoon, we were notified by our leasing office that we would be receiving new carpet! Happy Birthday Diedra! She's been wanting new carpet for a long time, and she asks every time we renew our lease. They usually just give us a complimentary cleaning. The carpet guys came this morning and did the entire job in less than three hours! Mark (a friend from Baylor) came over and helped me shuffle the furniture from room to room as they laid the carpet. It looks and feels great! Nice and clean for our new addition.

Happy New Year

We went to Indiana for a week over the Christmas Holiday. We had a good time with both families. Dan's highlights include: (1) telling the fam that we're having a girl, (2) a "family" ultrasound provided by one of the Docs my mom works for, (3) "farming" with David and Lyndon, (4) helicopter flying with Dad, (5) hot-tubbin' with my brothers (and folks), (5) eating, (6) playing with the nephews, (7) eating, (8) shooting clay pigeons with the inlaws (guys), (9) visiting with the extended fam, (10) waffles with Grandpa and Grandma, (11) a Gegner party, (12) eating, (13) 34 hours in the car (well, maybe not so much of a highlight).