Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Today is your fifth birthday. As I reflect back on your first five years, here are ten things I remember with joy:
1. One day in Ohio, I noticed you had dirt all over your face. I also noticed worms. I opened your mouth and there were more worms! You had been digging in the flower garden, found the worms, and decided to eat them.
2. Sometime in the past year, you decided that the traditional "kiss and hug" before bedtime, or when I was leaving for work, was not enough. You decided to insert a "bug," which comes out as a "bzzzz." So now, before bed, or when I'm leaving for the day, we exchange "a kiss, a bug, and a hug."
3. One morning when you were 3, I was walking down the hallway at about 6:30 and I noticed your light was on. I knocked, entered your room, and you were awake and on the floor around your toys. I said, "Luke, what are you doing?" You said, "Dad, I just have to clean my room!" You are so like your mother! I anticipate you will be keeping lists any day now.
4. Just last week, I was cleaning out a drawer full of mostly pennies. You and Katie helped me. You left the room and returned a few minutes later and handed me a dollar bill. I asked why you were giving it to me, and you said, "I was sad that you didn't have any dollars, just pennies." I tried to give it back to you, and you nearly cried, so I kept it.
5. Our times together at the coffee shop make me smile.
6. Just recently, you have started to give answers during family devotions that indicate you are understanding concepts and listening well. Sometimes your responses are astonishingly profound! I'm hopeful for you, that you will live a life that counts for Christ.
7. Watching you when one of your sisters is hurting is a treat. You don't like it when they are in pain or something is really wrong with them. The world will tell you to "be a man" and be more macho than that. Jesus would tell you, "Sensitivity to the needs of others is actually a great part of what it means to 'be a man.' Renounce the ways of the world, deny yourself, and follow me. I define 'macho,' and that not only includes toughness, but also tenderness."
8. You laugh out loud with a hearty, uninhibited, boyish laugh. I love that. I long for it sometimes.
9. I enjoy having you with me when I'm out and about in the community. I'm guessing you are learning quite a bit just by watching me interact with people. I hope you are seeing me respect all types of people, and that you remember your daddy as a man concerned about the physical and spiritual welfare of others.
10. You love your mother. You should! What I recall with joy, specifically, is how you help her with responsibilities around the house. You usually have a good attitude about working, and doing exactly what Mommy says.
So much more could be said, but these are the first ten things I thought about. I love you, Buddinsky. Happy birthday!
Giving Thanks to God,
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Year one almost down,
Not a constant frown.
Grins reveal she’s happy.
Still, no laughs for Daddy.
Trying my best tricks,
She wonders and she stares,
I sense laughter in there.
Sister brings giggles,
I just get wiggles.
Brother is like Father,
We both just try harder.
Soon she will crumble,
Belly will rumble.
Sheer joy will fill my heart,
I can’t wait ‘til she starts.
Greater laughter still,
I pray is God’s will.
To take the narrow path,
Is a promise to laugh.
Even if none here,
But joyous laughs there,
Happy will be this dad,
If Abba makes her glad!
Syndrome has some say,
Until that great day.
The curse no longer known,
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
You are four years old. You play hard. I love that.
Last night, you went to kick a ball, but you missed. Somehow, you snapped backwards sending your head into the grass and dirt. You cried. I hugged you and held you. Then I asked you what hurt, and you responded, "My brain." I tried not to chuckle outwardly, and then I said to you, "I guess you'll now be afraid to go outside and kick the ball around." You smiled and told me I was wrong, totally mistaken! I'm sure you're out there kicking the ball around today.
Monday, January 05, 2009
We have been reading Dangerous Journey together, a shortened version of Pilgrim's Progress, and you love it! I'm thrilled that you are so eager to read more, and hopeful the Lord will use it in your life.
Just two nights ago, we read chapter 6, "Vanity Fair." "Christian" and "Faithful" enter the town of "Vanity," and by the end of the chapter, Faithful is burned at the stake for his commitment to the truth, but here's what John Bunyan writes:
But I saw in my dream that, behind the crowds, there stood a chariot and horses waiting for Faithful, who (as soon as his enemies had done with him) was taken up into it, and wafted through the clouds to the sound of trumpets. So, in truth, he fared better than his friend, Christian. He would arrive first at the Celestial City, and, having been Faithful unto death, the King would give him a crown of life (pg. 79).
I read those words to you, and I couldn't keep the tears in. I know you didn't understand why. I tried to explain it to you, but God's grace and promises in Christ are not precious to you yet. I'm praying they will be one day soon.
That same night, I wrote a poem about the chapter and our experience with it. I titled it "Tears for Faithful," and I really hope you enjoy it.
With Love and Prayers,
"Tears for Faithful"
The fair was full of vanity,
Christian, Faithful, they soon would see.
Locals urged them to touch and love,
But no, their minds were fixed above.
Within a cage they found themselves,
Put there by those headed for Hell.
And then in court, indictments came,
"Faithful!" they railed, "The one we blame!"
Deceit and lies belched from their mouths,
Judgment would fall, there was no doubt.
"Hang him! Hang him!" they made their case.
But worse, they burned him at the stake.
You asked about what just transpired.
I said, "They set Faithful on fire."
But then the story takes a turn,
Faithful would live beyond the burn!
True to his name he faced the pain,
To live is Christ, to die is gain.
So when he died, he did not die,
To God on chariot he flies!
Sorrows, they ceased, and no more strife,
That day he wore the crown of life.
I could not hold my tears in tight,
They fell upon the book tonight.
You looked at me, a perplexed face,
I tried to speak of God's great grace.
The joy and awe that filled my heart,
I pray God soon to you imparts.
Monday, November 03, 2008
You don't smile much yet, but you almost always smile when I put my face close to yours. I really, really like that!
The next few months should be enlightening. Today, we go see a geneticist who will tell us how God designed you, along with giving us some specifics about Williams Syndrome. Next week, we'll be back at the heart doctor to see if your arteries are getting more narrow, remaining the same, or opening up (we are hoping for this one!). In the meantime, we will have specialists in our house to see how you are developing physically. I'm sure there are other events to look forward to, but we'll have to rely on Mommy to know where and when things are happening.
Katie and Luke think you are especially great. Katie acts like she's your mother as she often wants to hold you and carry you around. Nearly every time we are in the van going somewhere, Luke holds your hand the whole time. We even went to the Olson's house in Cameron this past weekend, and Luke held your hand the entire trip up there (50 minutes).
We love you, sweet Lilly!
Keep Smiling (especially for me),
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I’ve been a little slow writing to you, I suppose (you were born June 29!). Our lives have been quite full since your arrival—you have much to do with that, and we are thankful to the Lord for it.
Your sister and brother have adjusted quite well to your presence. Katie is like a little mother to you, and Luke sometimes gets too rough with your fragile frame, but he thinks you are quite special.
Here’s a little bit of information about your great-grandmother, from whom we got your first name (Lillian... Your middle name is from your great-grandmother on Mommy's side, so you'll have to be sure and ask her about Great-grandma Dorothy Marie): Lillian McGuire was a jewel—humble, humorous and she normally didn’t even know it, a devoted mother and deeply committed wife, the best cook I’ve ever known, and most importantly a follower of Jesus Christ. I consider it one of the great privileges the Lord has ever granted to me to have spent some time living across the hallway from her in Granddad and Grandma Burchett’s home. She lived with them toward the end of her life, after your great-granddad went to be with the Lord. Why did I enjoy getting to live across the hall from her? She was a joy to be around. She was so selfless, and always ready to listen. Oh, and did I mention her cooking? We have such fond memories of her, and wanted to honor her memory by making her first name yours.
I love you, Lilly. I am determined to be a father to you, to care for you, to exhort you with God’s Word, to discipline you when appropriate, to repent and ask for your forgiveness when I fail you, to preach the gospel to you and show you that Christ is my all, to demonstrate before you a sacrificial love for your mother, and to pray for you very often.
Welcome to our home, Lillian Marie Burchett. You are a gift from the Lord.
And thank you, Lord, for another arrow in my quiver. Give us grace and strength to sharpen her well before this arrow leaves the bow (Psalm 127:4-5).
With Joy and Prayers,
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Dear Katie and Luke:
This will probably be the last letter addressed to just the two of you. Mommy's due date has passed, and she is actually at the doctor's right now receiving counsel about the best time to deliver this baby. Katie, your room got painted pink today. I just know that your baby sister will appreciate the color since it will also be her room!
Luke, you had "daddy time" last night. We're going to have to stick together since very soon the girls are going to outnumber us. I hope to teach you how to be a servant leader.
Life is about to change a bit. I'm very excited to see how the two of you react to your baby sister. I pray often that as the years go by, you will influence her toward the Lord.
I'm very curious to see this child's personality. Mom says she has been much more like Katie was in the womb than Luke. I'm sure she'll be her own person. Our Creator is quite creative!
Grandpa and Grandma Noble are in town, and Granddad and Grandma Burchett will be here next week. These are enjoyable days. God has been good to us, hasn't He?
I love you!
With Joy and Anticipation,
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
The parents are told, “Good health is what matters.”
Yet this is purely unbiblical chatter.
The womb is the workshop where God forms and weaves.
With each baby’s design, He’s never displeased.
Creator of all babies, we give You praise!
Clarity arrives when on God we reflect.
See wisdom, see goodness, He makes no rejects.
But what about babies who live only days?
Job says, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.”
Creator of all babies, we give You praise!
So when our baby comes one day very soon,
The craftsmanship of God will exit the womb.
Either ill or healthy, God’s plan we will know.
A child in His image, Christ’s love we must show.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
At 2:30 am a couple of nights ago, I awoke to your cries (and screams) of desperation. I stumbled to your room to find you shaking and sobbing in your bed. I asked you why you were crying, and you said, "Daddy, I'm scared of the monsters!" I grabbed you in a "fatherly" way, softly told you that there are no monsters in your room, and I encouraged you to trust in God, reminding you of one of your memory verses, Psalm 56:3, "When I am afraid, I will trust in you." I then prayed with you asking the Lord to take care of you, and almost immediately you were asleep.
I loved being there for you, holding your three year-old little body tight, speaking words of hope, and praying with you. I am blessed to have this responsibility, and I am praying that nights like those affect you greatly, that truths taught by words and actions will be remembered, and then that all throughout your life, when you are afraid, you will put your trust in the Lord. I will not always be there, but if Christ is your Savior, you will have nothing to fear. Remember these promises:
"O LORD, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me. Many are saying of my soul, 'There is no deliverance for him in God.' But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to the LORD with my voice, And He answered me from His holy mountain. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustains me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God! For You have smitten all my enemies on the cheek; You have shattered the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the LORD; Your blessing be upon Your people!" (Psalm 3)
"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).
I love you, buddy. Rest in Christ.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Dear Katie and Luke:
Last week I spent four days in California at the national FIRE conference (Fellowship of Reformed Evangelicals, a fellowship of churches and individuals from around the country, and even the world, of which our church is a member). It was a glorious time. One of the best parts of this conference is the meals, and I'm not talking just about how tasty the food is! No, I mean the fellowship around the tables. Every meal is shared together with pastors, missionaries, and church members from other churches represented there. So at breakfast, lunch, and supper, I regularly found myself sitting next to different people (some I knew from a past conference) and hearing about their lives, their churches, or their work in missions.
The preaching was excellent as well. I was particularly impacted by a sermon John Crotts from Faith Bible Church preached on Paul at Mars Hill in Acts 17. I came away asking the Lord to give me the compassion for lost souls that Paul had, and Paul's confidence in the power of God in the gospel. Perhaps that sounds "so simple," but so be it, God worked in my heart and I'm already seeing the impact in my life now that I'm home. Here's something else about that sermon: It was preached by a man who seems really humble. He preached it with zeal, but without a shred of arrogance. I got to spend a little time around John the rest of the week and he is the real deal. God is so good to bring men like this into my life, even if for just a couple of days of my life. By God's grace, I am a better man because of it.
Speaking of godly men, I also was privileged to meet a man named Doug Nichols. He's an older gentleman who has done extensive missions work, even serving as the international director for a missions agency. He still carries on a significant ministry all around the world (his home base is in the Seattle area, I think), but he especially spoke to us about the needs in The Phillipines, which are massive. For example, there are 48,000 untrained pastors there. That stirred my heart. One of my dreams has been to go on short-term stints to countries where there are pastors without training and teach them. I am one of the most privileged pastors in the world with all of the training I've had here in America (seven years of schooling, several years of pastoral experience, conferences, etc.), and I desire to share with these men elsewhere what God in His mercy has been so kind to teach me. I think Mr. Ellif and I might be headed over there next summer.
By the way, Doug Nichols was not only a great encouragement (he is a tremendous "exhorter"), but he also has some hilarious stories. Remind me some day to tell you the one about how, when he was seemingly dying of cancer, he stopped off at a Dunkin' Donuts and came upon a man screaming at the lady behind the counter because she wouldn't give him a free donut. It's a classic that I don't think I will forget.
I really missed you while I was away. There were numerous times when I thought, "It sure would be great to have Patty and the kids here." Someday!
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
At our weekly elders' meetings, we have begun considering Scripture's teaching about what is often called in the present day a "call to the ministry." This peculiar phrase has found its way into the lingo of the church, but what does the Bible actually teach about this concept? We hope to find out, and then somehow share our findings so that others might benefit.
I don't have much to say about our study yet, but we paused tonight and each of us spent some time talking about how we ended up as pastors. As I was thinking about what God used in giving me the desire to serve as a pastor, I remembered something that I hadn't thought about for many years. When I was 19 or so, somebody gave me a book by John MacArthur titled Different By Design (now titled Divine Design), which is about Scripture's teaching on male and female roles in the home and church. I think I remember the Lord using that book in a couple of ways:
- I was intrigued by MacArthur's carefulness with the Bible. I found myself thinking, "I think I would enjoy teaching the Bible. If I do, I want to understand and teach the Bible the way this guy does."
- I was confronted, from all of the Scripture MacArthur referenced, with the idea that God has a design for men and women in the home and in the church. I really enjoyed learning this about God, that He was a God of order, and I found myself wanting to participate in His design. This might have been a seed planted that would eventually grow into an aspiration for "the office of overseer" (1 Timothy 3:1).
So, along with countless others who have been impacted by John MacAruthr's preaching and writings (and there are thousands of us!), I give thanks to the Lord for this faithful preacher, and I would encourage you to consider his works for yourself.Grace to You,
Friday, March 14, 2008
Dear Katie and Luke:
Mommy is off at the women's retreat with the ladies of our church, so the three of us spent this afternoon and evening together. Somehow we spent three hours at the indoor pool in the local YMCA this afternoon, we went and got a $5 pizza (and breadsticks!!!), and then we came home and eventually had popcorn and watched a little bit of a very funny 'G'-rated movie. Now the two of you are sleeping like logs. All of this is not typical of our weekly routine, but I am quite thankful God has given us times together like these! I wonder if you will remember the events of today when you are my age?
This got me thinking about something: What are some of my "fun" memories from my childhood that I thought might interest you? Here's a list that is not exhaustive:
1. There is one particular time when I was a little boy, and Grandad and Grandma Burchett, your aunt Vicki, and I were staying in a hotel somewhere, and we swam in the outdoor pool for something like three hours. I don't know where this was, but I still have a picture in my mind of the pool and the hotel that surrounded us.
2. On one other family vacation, I remember playing golf with my dad and my uncle Carlos at Jenny Wiley State Park, and Grandad shanked one and just about drilled somebody on another hole--he did nail the person's golf cart!
3. I used to ride my bike to the basketball court at Morral School and there would be numerous other middle school and high school guys there and we would play basketball for hours. These were very competitive games.
4. They may not still make the rubber ball (pink) that was extremembly bouncy, but I spent hours upon hours throwing that ball against the steps of the house or against the side of the barn and pretending I was a shortstop playing in the World Series making dramatic plays at the end of games.
5. Labor Day Weekend and the McGuire Reunion in Kentucky! Swimming, eating, watching football, and eventually playing golf until our hands were sore. Did I mention swimming? On one of those weekends, it rained hard the whole time, so all of the cousins found this big conference room and made up some kind of indoor baseball game and just had a blast. I also have fond memories of Grandad and Grandma McGuire at these reunions, mainly just their presence. On one occasion, I wore a ball cap to breakfast and Grandad McGuire made a comment about it--He was not in favor! Oops.
6. Eating Grandma McGuire's cooking. Everything she made was incredible, but specifically her biscuits and oats and her chocolate cake were stellar. In one word, "Wow!"
7. Eating my mom's vegetable soup.
8. I always enjoyed going to the barber shop with my dad. This was back when a haircut was affordable! Our barber was Gene Frederick ("Clipper"), and as a boy on each visit I just couldn't wait to get in his container and pick out a sucker or piece of bubble gum.
9. Often when we would get a heavy snow, I would go out and build a fort basically big enough to sit inside. Once it was finished, I would just sit in that work of art--sometimes for what seemed like 30 minutes without doing anything! I remember enjoying the accomplishment and how the wind was blocked.
10. Most summers, we would go to Cedar Point, one of the world's best amusement parks, as a family. This was a great time as a family, and it is where I got hooked on roller coasters! By the way, Mommy and I have been to Cedar Point together and thoroughly enjoy riding these massive coasters even in the front seat.
That's just a selection of "fun" memories. I hope some of them bring a smile to your face.
And now, I'm about to come to bed and try to find a sliver of the mattress for myself and get some sleep. The last I checked, Luke, you were spread out over half of the bed. How does a three year-old take up that much room in a queen size? This should be fun.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
We had a very enjoyable evening tonight as the four of us (well, five including the baby in Mommy's belly) plus Grandpa and Grandma Noble went out to eat in Overland Park, Kansas, and then we went over to see the rock climbing wall at Dick's Sporting Goods. Not only did we see it, but Katie, you actually got to climb it!!! You were doing so good climbing it, but then you got scared--not realizing that if you fell back you would be safe. After we encouraged you, you did fall backwards and for a brief moment, through your tears, there was a smile that said, "This is kind of fun." You wanted down after that, but you told me as we were leaving the store that you thought you would like to try it again sometime (and for only $3, it's a great deal). Luke, you were quite unhappy that you didn't get to try to climb the wall, but once you rode the escalator, and played with all of the different kinds of balls, you were very happy.
Tomorrow night is a special night in many ways for me. I will officially be set apart as one of the pastors of Christ Fellowship of Kansas City. We've been here since the end of April of last year, but I'm thankful that the process for appointing elders in our church isn't quick. There has been a period of "testing" and observation that is so often neglected in the church today. Your mother and I praise God for the time spent at First Baptist Church of Athens, but ever since we arrived here we've been convinced that we are right where we are supposed to be.
The other pastors of the church are gifts from the Lord to me. I first met Mr. Elliff in Athens (he came and preached for a few days), and since that time I've grown to truly appreciate his pastoral heart, wisdom about the local church and the Christian life, humility, and great sense of humor. He is also the most evangelistic person I have ever known. Mr. Elliff's life inspires me to "do the work of an evangelist" (2 Timothy 4:5).
Then I met Mr. Wingerd at a conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We hit it off from the beginning. His mind is full of Scripture, but so is his heart, and it shows in his pastoring and fathering. Mr. Wingerd's life inspires me to be a pastor who "accurately handles the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).
Finally, I met Mr. Chrisman. He is just plain faithful--nothing flashy, he just loves the Lord and God's people. I hope people will say that about me someday. Mr. Chrisman's life inspires me to "flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart" (2 Timothy 2:22).
How gracious of the Lord to make me an overseer with men like these!
Sleep tight, and I love you.
Monday, December 31, 2007
Dear Katie and Luke:
Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching in a little country church about 30 minutes away from Parkville. I noticed on the "attendance board" that the previous Sunday they had 23 people in attendance, but I already knew it would be a small group because I'm guessing the sanctuary could only hold about 70 people shoulder to shoulder. By the time the service started, I think they probably equaled the previous week's attendance. I came away from that church reminded again of how good God was to give me those years at a "traditional" Southern Baptist church in Ohio. Now, when I go fill in for similar churches, I think I am much better prepared to understand their struggles and encourage them.
I do wonder, though, what might happen to churches like these. This is no exaggeration: The average age in attendance had to be about 68. There was not a young family in sight. The people were very warm toward me and several seemed very engaged in the preaching even as I spent about half of the sermon speaking about the sinfulness of man and the wrath of God. But what's going to happen to a church like this, a church that is struggling mightily to get a pastor, a church full of people who may not live much longer? Perhaps that local church, which dates back to Civil War days, will simply fade away and ultimately close its doors?
When I go into churches like this one, I find myself attached to the people very quickly. I want them to succeed, yet I sense apathy among many of the people in attendance, and I hurt for their souls. Many probably think they are saved because at some point in their lives they responded to a call to come to the front at the end of a sermon "to pray to receive Jesus," actions that are nowhere taught in Scripture and which have given thousands and thousands false assurance of salvation. I sense that the true believers really, really long for something authentic and eternal. They yearn for the powerful, Spirit-annointed preaching of the Bible. They desire someone to unashamedly preach the gospel, call people to repent and believe in Christ, and leave the man-made methods in the past. For these believers, I ache as well because many have endured years and years of preaching that is not really biblical and ultimately fails to proclaim the good news, they have sat through too many church "business" meetings that resulted in hurt feelings and unseemly splits, and they've been led by sheperds that failed miserably to protect the sheep from not only cultural darkness, but wolves sitting next to them in their favorite pew.
What do I do when I'm invited to these churches? I do what I know is their only hope: I preach the word to them, and specifically the Christ Scripture proclaims. The conversion of the lost is dependent upon "the living and enduring word of God" (1 Peter 1:23), and the quickest way I can show the believers in these churches that I love them and desire their best is to preach to them the Bible (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17). A firm handshake, a friendly smile, a listening ear, and a hug or two are all very important, but ultimately they need the Bible explained and applied to their hearts. And sometimes, like yesterday, a few people will stick around after the service to talk more about what God has to say to them and their church. Those are sweet times with dear people. I'm praying God will be pleased to bless what happened yesterday, and I'm praying that their next regular preacher will preach not himself, "but Christ Jesus as Lord" (2 Cor. 4:6). That is their only hope.
For Your Joy,
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Dear Katie and Luke:
Two weekends ago I taught in a church in Las Vegas--Grace Reformed Church. On the way there, I had to change planes in Salt Lake City, and the snow-capped mountains were a joy to see. I actually got back quite late on Sunday evening because my plane out of Denver was delayed two hours (that was my layover on the way home) and then my baggage didn't come for another hour! I was happy to see you both resting peacefully, even though you were each sick. Grandpa and Grandma Noble came up from Texas to visit for the weekend, and I'm sure that made you feel better sooner.
I wrote a "bulletin insert" last week on the relationship between the divinity and humanity of Jesus. It's slated to go online in December.
This past Sunday we had a meeting of the entire church at the Heartland, and I preached, so I spent some time last week getting that sermon on Mark 4:26-29 ready. We had a large group of people there--we even had to add a couple of rows of chairs and I think we used all of the tables available for the meal.
Monday night we flew to Ohio for Thanksgiving. We didn't get into Columbus until 2:30 am. Our plane was delayed an hour in Kansas City (yes, that means we were scheduled to arrive at 1:30 am, but the tickets were only $10 on Skybus airlines!).
Yesterday, Aunt Vicki gave birth to Jordan Alexander! We will be headed to the Schaffner's on Friday, and we are all looking forward to seeing baby Jordan. Many prayers were prayed on his behalf (and his mother's) because of the complications with the birth of Kaleb.
Today we had some of Grandma Burchett's famous cinnamon cake for breakfast, and then after lunch we went to Marion for various reasons. I've decided that I'm already sick of the Christmas traffic, and we haven't even gotten through Thanksgiving!
Luke, you just handed me a "note" that says (in three year-old symbols) "I love you Daddy." I love you too, buddy. And Katie, I love you. You are both huge reasons that I am grateful to God this Thanksgiving.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Dear Katie and Luke:
In preparation for the upcoming sermon series I'm preaching, we've begun reading through Jonah during family worship. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach a message of judgment--for fun we point out our dining room window to indicate the direction of that city. But we have learned that Jonah went the opposite direction seeking to escape the presence of God--we point the opposite direction to indicate where Jonah first tried to go.
Tonight we discussed how Jonah teaches that God's purpose to save a people for Himself cannot be thwarted by His disobedient children. This, of course, is not to deny that God uses means (like the preaching of the Word) in the salvation of His people, but to say that a rebellious prophet (or church) cannot thwart God's design to save a people "from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Revelation 5:9). We went on to talk about Matthew 1:21, which says "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." He will save them.
I then mentioned to you how Christ did indeed die for His people on the cross, accomplishing their redemption (applied at the instant they put their faith in Him), and then I asked, "For Whom did Jesus die?" Katie, your answer proves that even little children can learn theology because you said, "Believers." "Yes, that's right!" I exclaimed. "He didn't die for everybody, or everybody would be saved! If He died for everybody, then it would be unjust for anybody to suffer an eternity in Hell. You are right, Katie, He died for believers, He died for those who will believe in Him, He died for the church, the chosen, the elect. " Ephesians 5:25, "Christ...loved the church and gave Himself up for her."
I'm sure some people might think it's wrong to teach such things to children, but I want you to have an accurate picture of God, not an image of God from the minds of men. I want you to know about the One true God whose purposes of grace cannot be thwarted. I want you to know about the holy and just God who has every right to send every single one of us to an eternal Hell, but Who is abundantly merciful in electing and calling and justifying and sanctifying and glorifying even one of us. I want you to know the whole story about God who "so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). I want you to know the God of the Bible.
So may the sovereign grace of God be upon you. And I plead with you, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved!
For God's Glory,
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Dear Katie and Luke:
The house of Anne Bradstreet burned down on July 18, 1666. She was 54, and she wrote a poem that I thought you might find helpful some day if you are ever faced with a similar tragedy. The language is a bit challenging, but if you read it through to the end, I think you will be blessed.
In silent night when rest I took,
I, starting up, the light did spye,
He might of All justly bereft,
Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest;
Then streight I gin my heart to chide,
Thou hast an house on high erect,
A Prise so vast as is unknown,
Friday, August 31, 2007
Dear Katie and Luke:
How can it already be the end of August? It's been over a month since I wrote you!
I had the privilege of traveling a couple of times this month, first to Oklahoma City, and then to a couple of churches north of Little Rock, Arkansas. I've already noticed on these trips that I really don't spend much time observing the different cultures and geography, but most of the time is spent engaging the people. I love to hear about their stories, their churches, their families, what God is doing in and through them. Yes, there is an occasional trip to see a historic site (like the Oklahoma City bombing memorial), but the highlight of the trips has been the people.
I think this is the right balance. It seemed to be the Apostle Paul's. I can't recall Paul writing to a church and talking about the beauty of the land where the church exists, but we do hear him say to the Thessalonians, "Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints" (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13). Don't hear me wrong: I enjoy the different scenery and truly appreciate memorials, but the ultimate joy is the time with the people.
Katie, your birthday party is tomorrow. You are beyond excited, and I can understand why, but this morning I tried to talk to you about Philippians 2:4, "(D)o not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." There is an obvious trend in our culture that reveals birthdays, especially for kids, are all about "me" and "my presents" (the same is true for weddings as "the bride's day"). I tried to communicate to you that in order to be like Jesus tomorrow (Phillipians 2:5), you should desire that all of the children that come have as much or more fun than you, and that you should be willing to give all of your gifts away to each friend that comes.
Tonight, I plan on sharing during family worship that Jesus didn't give gifts for the well-being of His "friends," He gave Himself! (Philippians 2:6-8). "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Katie and Luke, turn from your sins and put your faith in this eternal-life giving Savior who died for sinners and rose again, and then "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5).
With Ever-Deepening Love for You,
Thursday, July 12, 2007
As I sit here typing on Mr. Eppler's laptop, the two of you are asleep and so is Mommy, and each of you are sick. Mom's illness just started today (sore throat, aches, stomach issues), but your issues started earlier this week. Each of you have had a fever, then an ear infection and pink eye, and now hives as a reaction from the medicine you were taking! Luke, you asked me tonight when I was about to pray with you before bed, "Daddy, will you pray that the itchies on my legs would go away?" I did, of course.
I made a banana smoothie tonight for the first time, but I think I really made a mistake by using organic bananas! The flavor was below average, to say the least.
Mr. Elliff and his sons (Bryan & Benjamin) just arrived in South Africa on Tuesday for three weeks of ministry, but getting there wasn't easy. Benjamin had thrown up before they even boarded the first plane, and Mr. Elliff and Bryan are not feeling good, so I have heard. It seems strange for a stomach flu to be going around in July, but it apparently is as Mr. Wingerd had it recently as well.
I went to the dentist yesterday for a regular cleaning, and told him that I have been experiencing a sore left side of my jaw. He diagnosed me with something common called "TMJ" for short. The dentist, Dr. Evers, said it's almost certainly caused by grinding my teeth at night (causing my jaw to "click" and hurt). Why do I grind my teeth at night? He said it's probably stressed induced. That's interesting, because I don't really feel that stressed out. There's this tiny little fitted piece that goes over a person's two front teeth, to be worn at night, that eliminates the grinding. I think I'll be getting one next week because if I don't, my TMJ could eventually lead to bad headaches among other problems. I'm having to eat and yawn very carefully right now. I think that's why I made an attempt at blending a smoothie tonight.
I'll be going to Oklahoma City next month to Northwest Bible Church to teach a "Childhood Conversion: How Children Come to Faith in Christ" seminar and preach for them on Sunday morning. I've been in contact this evening with a gentleman in a church in Las Vegas about doing something similar. I'm looking forward to the day when I can take one of you, but Mr. Woodward will be going with me to Oklahoma.
Christ Fellowship's new website went up today. I amd still finding it hard to believe that we are here and that I'm getting to serve with such quality men, and that I'm getting to lead such godly people. The grace of God, kids, the grace of God.
Monday, June 11, 2007
When Jesus Christ died approximately 2000 years ago, He was crucified on a cross as a substitute for sinners “from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9), bearing the wrath of the Holy God for all who would ever turn from their sins and trust in Him. Some seek to deny this good news, but Jesus did accomplish the redemption of His people because God raised His Son from the dead three days after He was crucified. Christ’s resurrection proves that He is the Son of God and Lord of all, and it reveals God’s pleasure in His Son’s sacrifice in the place of sinners—Indeed, the penalty for sin has been paid for all who will, by the grace of God, trust in Jesus Christ as the crucified and resurrected Savior of sinners. I am confident that Christ suffered God’s wrath for me on the cross. What follows is a brief account of the sovereign grace of God in my life.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Dear Katie and Luke:
Kansas City is now our home. We headed out a few weeks ago, your grandfather drove like a champ the huge truck with most of our belongings (with Grandma in the passenger seat), your mother and I followed with you in the mini-van, and now we are living in Kearney, Missouri, in temporary living quarters. At first everything seemed surreal, and there was honestly a time or two when I found myself thinking, "Oh boy, what have we just done," but God is good and His will is perfect and pleasing--We are exactly where He has called us to be.
Katie, you are thoroughly enjoying all of your new friends, and the other day you caught your first fish in the pond in the back of where we are living--it was a large-mouth bass, but you told me that evening, "Dad, I caught a big-mouth bass." We had a good laugh about that one.
Luke, you, also, are thrilled to have new friends, but I honestly think you would be content if we gave you a new ball every day! You are particularly loving the outdoor environment of our new home, and I rejoice to see you learning Bible verses every Sunday night.
I've been privileged to preach two times already, and I'll be preaching and teaching numerous times over these next several months. Your mother and I are scheduled to become members of Christ Fellowship this Sunday (perhaps I'll write to you soon and include my testimony). Every Tuesday evening, I spend several hours with the elders (they are specifically working on a paper/book on divorce and remarriage), and I'm also becoming well acquainted with the offices and interworkings of Christian Communicators Worldwide. We are hopeful that the Lord will open up doors around the country for me to teach the Childhood Conversion seminar, or even other preaching opportunities.
The Lord has provided for our every need. He never fails His people. "Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen." (Philippians 4:20)
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Next Thursday at this time, the big yellow truck should be in front of our home and several young men with strong backs (plus your father) will be loading it up for the move out to Kansas City, Missouri. Mommy and I were just out there this past weekend. I taught the teens (and a few others) of our new church at a retreat that took place on Friday night and Saturday morning. I taught through 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Mark 9:43-48, and Jude 24-25--the theme was "When God's Grace Happens to Bad People." I don't often say this about events like this that I've been privileged to participate in, but I don't think the retreat could have gone much better (other than the constant need for your daddy to be a better teacher!). The young people nearly sang the roof off of the house, and they were quite engaged during the teaching times. I'm praying for long-term fruit.
This past Sunday, I had the privilege of preaching for the people who make up Christ Fellowship of Kansas City. The meeting started with a pancake breakfast which looked so good, but I didn't eat much (I rarely eat much before I preach, as you probably know by now). Then the gathering began with some of the teens and children singing. Eventually, the entire church was singing praises to our risen Lord. When I got up before the people to preach (Mark 16:1-8, especially verses 6-8), I mentioned that I was particularly emotional that morning, and I told them I thought it was for two reasons: (1) Retreats are tiring, and tired people are often emotional! (2) The Truth we sang together was quite moving! I was especially helped to delight in the redeeming work of Christ by singing "In Christ Alone" by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend.
While in Kansas City, your mother and I stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Eppler. What a gracious, Christ-loving, welcoming couple! We will be staying in their apartment for a little while once we get out to Missouri. They see our use of their apartment as an answer to prayer. We also spent many hours with Mr. and Mrs. Elliff. It was a year ago this past weekend that Mr. Elliff came out to Athens to preach. We have really grown to love the entire Elliff family. Time with the Elliff's always includes Godward discussion and many laughs (often at my expense!).
While Mommy and I were away, you stayed with Granddad and Grandma. You were waiting for us at the baggage claim at the airport, and what a reunion to grasp both of you in my arms (this time it was Luke first, then Katie)! That feeling is simply indescribable.
God is So Good,
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Dear Katie & Luke:
You surely will know what I'm about to say by the time you read this letter, but here it is: I really enjoy basketball. I can remember as a boy riding my bike to the playground at the old school building in Morral (where Grandma B. used to teach) and playing basketball with the guys for literally hours upon hours. I guess all of that practice paid off because I was evantually able to "school" Pastor B.J. in seminary.
Today the NCAA men's basketball tournament starts, and your mother and I like to fill out a bracket and compete with each other to see who does better. I keep up with college basketball a bit, she does not, yet she very well may do better than me (that really hurts to admit!).
Katie, we went to see an Ohio University men's basketball game this year. They had "turn back the clock" day and tickets were only something like 25 cents (normally $10 for the nose bleed section!!!). We had a great time together, and you especially enjoyed the half-time show--a lady on a unicycle spinning plates. This evening, I'm going with Mr. McKinney to a couple of high school games, but you wouldn't want to come because I'm confident there won't be a half-time show!
Did you know I was the varsity coach of a boy's high school basketball team for a year at a Christian School in Jackson, Tennessee? That was an experience! I had a neat group of young men, but was surprised at the zeal of some of the parents ("zeal" is a kind way of saying, "ridiculous behavior").
Frankly, I'm glad I have a new team: Starting at guard, a 43" sharp-shooter from Guysville, Ohio, Katie "Babes" Burchett, and starting at the power forward position, weighing in at 30 pounds (?) and also from Guysville, Ohio, Luke "The Tank" Burchett.
With Love (& Go Bucks!),
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Monday, January 01, 2007
An age when some profess they believed.
At the throne of grace I often implore,
“Early, Lord, from sin set her free.”
Patiently I must wait on the Lord,
For He Alone opens blind eyes.
Consistently I must proclaim the Word,
Praying the Spirit will not pass her by.
And if He comes working conviction,
Her sin, future judgment, and Christ’s beauty she will know.
Then comes God’s sovereign work of regeneration,
Resulting in repentance, faith, and obedience she will never disown.
Some in a prayer or a movement rely,
Yet these are just contrived works of our own.
What is needed is enduring trust in Christ,
And this is a gift of God’s grace alone.
(Inspired by John 1:12-13; 6:37, 44-45; 10:27; 16:7-11; 17:3)
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Sipping on your O.J., you were stricken with an awful sickness.
I reached out to caress your head, hoping to briefly relieve my boy’s infection,
Then off to work I went with a heart full of a father’s compassion.
Driving away, I began contemplating a familiar verse
The one that says God gave His only Son to reverse the curse.
Soon a thought crossed my mind as I longed to be by your side,
“God the Father sent His Son to die!”
Though He loved Him from eternity past,
In His incomparable wisdom He sent forth this Utter Righteousness.
This is astounding love for sinners like you and me
God sacrificed and raised His Son, promising eternal life for whoever believes.
You will soon be back to normal, confident of this I am
But a spiritual sickness will remain, a sinful heart you inherited from Adam.
Unlike a common illness, this spiritual ailment is infinitely beyond me
Dear Katie and Luke:
As I was slipping off to sleep last night, I started to write poetry in my mind. I put together four lines about Katie at age 4, and then I fell asleep. When I awoke, I had completely forgotten the poem (sorry Kate!), but I had a new desire--write poetry to and/or about the kids!
I think that what has inspired me to do this is my growing appreciation for hymns. Unfortunately, I didn't listen very well in school when we talked about different types of poetry, so for now I'll just try to rhyme. Nevertheless, I just wrote a poem and it was a great exercise because it stretched me to think through how to communicate events and Truth in a different way.
I hope you enjoy your father's feeble attempts.
I Love You,
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Today, you turned 2. I won't soon forget the day you were born, for more reasons than just your arrival. Let me explain: As I was sitting with you in the "transition room," the doctor came and said something like, "We're keeping a close eye on your wife because there's been a bit more bleeding than anticipated." At that moment, as I was marveling at you in my arms, I remember thinking, "Am I going to believe everything I've preached over the past couple of years about 'trusting God in the midst of trials' and 'resting in the sovereignty of God in all circumstances,' or not. It's easy to preach those truths, but you can't really know if you believe them (& Him) or not until you have to put into practice what you profess. Well, as you know, Mommy recovered admirably, and I want you to know that God was gracious to me as I did experience a peculiar peace about your mom in those moments of uncertainty that could have only come from a kind Lord who meets with and strengthens His people during trials.
I praise God that He preserved your mother, and I praise God for you, Luke. Sometimes, I walk into your room late at night when you are already in bed and sound asleep (often in a really funny position!), and I wonder things like--Will he see Christ in me? Will he hear about Christ from me clearly? Will he ever love Christ? Will he love Christ's church? Will he get married? Is he seeing in me how a man is to love his wife? Will he love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her? Is he learning from me about biblical manhood?--and then I fight back the tears (okay, sometimes I don't), and then I kneel down at your bed and pray to the Lord of heaven and earth with gratefulness for your presence in my life and with unusually strong pleadings for your conversion to Christ and that you would live a life that truly counts. Already, at age two, those are some of my favorite memories with you. I'm already looking forward to the next two years!
Happy Birthday, buddy, and I'll leave you with one of your favorite songs that expresses my heart tonight as I write this letter to you:
God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He's so good to me.
Man to Man: I love you!