Sunday, July 30, 2006

Why does God save anybody?

As I watch "Amazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism" I am pondering more and more the grace of God and how undeserved it is. Here are a quote from Charles Spurgeon and an article from the Canons of Dort that relates to grace. Give these things some thought. Expect to be reading more about grace and calvinism as I begin to get some of my thoughts together.

"Why did God love Jacob and hate Esau? I can tell you why God loved Jacob; it is soverein grace! There was nothing in Jacob that could make God love him; there was everything about him that might have made God hate him as much as He did Esau, and a great deal more. But it was because God is infinitely gracious that He loved Jacob and because He is sovereign in His dispensation of His grace that He chose Jacob as an object of that love. Jacob was loved by God simply on the footing of FREE GRACE.
Why did God hate Esau? Why does God hate any man? I defy anyone to give any answer but this... because that man DESERVES to be hated. No reply but that can be true. If God deals severely with any person, it is because that person deserves all that he gets."
- C.H. Spurgeon

Article 15: Responses to God's GraceGod does not owe this grace to anyone. For what could God owe to one who has nothing to give that can be paid back? Indeed, what could God owe to one who has nothing of one's own to give but sin and falsehood? Therefore the person who receives this grace owes and gives eternal thanks to God alone; the person who does not receive it either does not care at all about these spiritual things and is self-satisfied in this condition, or else in self-assurance foolishly boasts about having something which is lacking. Furthermore, following the example of the Apostles, we are to think and to speak in the most favorable way about those who outwardly profess their faith and better their lives, for the inner chambers of the heart are unknown to us. But for others who have not yet been called, we are to pray to the God who calls things that do not exist as though they did. In no way, however, are we to pride ourselves as better than they, as though we had distinguished ourselves from them.
- The Canons of Dort

Friday, July 28, 2006

Roll Tide...

As I was reading Russell Moore's blog today I got a chuckle out of his commentary on the new college sports Bible T-shirts. The teams highlighted are Alabama and Auburn (for those who aren't aware the are huge rivals in the state of Alabama-and I've declared Alabama).

University of Alabama fans can get a shirt that, quoting Ezekiel 20:29, reads on the front: "Then I said to them, what is this HIGH PLACE you go to?" On the other side, it says, "It is called BAMAh to this day." Auburn fans can buy a shirt with a citation from the Proverbs: "The way of an EAGLE in the sky." The Auburn shirt is, of course, orange and the Alabama shirt, red. -Russell Moore.

But I'll be ok if I never run out and buy one. Not being a big fan of Christian merchandising, all I could do was shake my head when I read this.

Check out Russell Moore's blog to read his take on the matter.

The weeks end, well sort of...

Work here in Lakeshore has not ceased. There is still lots to be done. Though now that the summer is beginning to wind down, the number of groups that are coming have decreased as well. So here comes the plug :) We are still looking for folks to come down, if you or your church or you know a church who are interested or even have a slight interst please shoot me an email or call 608.642.1464 There is still years of work ahead of the folks here in south Mississippi and we are committed to helping this community rebuild. If you have been here before spread the word about what is going on around Lakeshore.

Teams this week are still busy working. There are some folks painting the outside of Ms. Reddford's home, doing plumbing/electrical work in the church office, continuing to construct Ms. Lynn's house, help in the warehouse and the store, and do many other tasks. We are grateful for each volunteer that has come to help and for what they have contributed to each task.

The distribution center here on the grounds is still a source for many to come to get food, clothing, and other supplies. The past two Wednesdays we have had 462 people come through each day. While Friday and Saturday are a bit slower, I would still say we often get 200+ on those days. These are a couple of pictures of the distribution center.

I have talked with my family back home some and was happy to hear my dad's report from the doctor concerning his heart. From what my sister tells me (she translates all that medicalese into something I can understand) things are looking pretty good. Praise God!

I also got visitor today. Casey, a friend of my pastor back home, stopped by on his way from Alabama to Texas. He was in for about an hour and a half, but it was great spending time with him and getting to know him. It was also a great little break from the busyness around here.

Lately many of my evenings I have spent walking the beach with my friend Sharon from New Jersey. Though the gulf water is like a bath tub, it is still relaxing to walk up and down the beach through the water watching the sun set, stepping over the jelly fish, shells, broken things, and dead fish.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Framing Up...

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Pslams 62 5-7

Friday has come and almost gone, the weeks are flying by. But as time goes on, more and more is being done in the community. At the end of last week I posted a picture of Ms. Lynn's house, which was just subflooring on top of pylons. This week the house has been framed up and shingles are going on to the roof. Teams have been working hard to get this house going. I have been impressed on how quickly it has come together.

Other teams this week and in weeks past have been working on Ms. Lambert's trailer. The trailer has been flooded, gutted, and is beginning to be restored. Though I'll admit the first time I say the trailer it was in rough shape, but after I was out there this afternoon I saw that it is coming together. It is great to see Ms. Lambert smiling and loving on the volunteers that have come to serve and love the folks in Lakeshore, Waveland, and Bay St. Louis.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

quick update

There’s still much going on here in Lakeshore. As teams continue to work houses are being built, roofs are being shingled, yards are being cleaned, and people are being ministered to. I know the Gospel is being shared by teams that are coming here and that the Lord is using that message to draw people to Himself.

Today I spent a good bit of my morning working in the warehouse (the gym of the elementary school) with a team from Texas picking up supplies/food to put into the distribution center for the folks in the community. There are still days when 400+ people come through the distribution center.

As time goes on here I am realizing a good night’s sleep does a lot for a person. Not forgetting to mention the more important time in prayer and reading God’s Word. At the moment, I am working my way through 1 Corinthians, as well as, reading “Let the Nations Be Glad” by John Piper. I am enjoying Piper’s book a good bit, though I haven’t had a whole lot of time to devote to reading it. It’s definitely worth reading.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The week in review

Things are busy as usual in Lakeshore, but praise God for the people who are still coming to volunteer in the Lakeshore community. This week was also the Family Bible Conference which went very well. There was not a huge turn out, but the folks that did come heard some great truth preached by Pastor Dave Stephenson of Grace Bible Church in Atlanta, GA. The children also learned truth during the morning VBS and enjoyed a movie in the evenings, on Wednesday night the children sang the songs they had learned during VBS and taught the adults the words and motions to one song.

We have had teams from all over (Washington State, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma) working out in the community and on the property. This week they have been working on demolishing a couple of houses, cleaning up yards, painting, framing up houses, setting pylons for houses, doing electrical work, plumbing, flooring, stocking shelves in the distribution center, sorting boxes in the warehouse, and other things that I am sure have slipped my mind.

One resident in the community and church member, Ms. Reddford, has been fun to get to know. She is such a blessing to the community, the church, and to me. Ms. Reddford is I think in her 70’s and has Parkinson’s, but she’s sharp and quick witted and a lot of fun to joke around with. After the storm Ms. Reddford had the opportunity to leave the area, but choose to stay just to be close to her church. She then bought a trailer that had been flooded. The church looked at it and wasn’t sure if they were going to be able to fix it. They decided that they couldn’t, but they told her they could build her a house. It is a cute little house. In the past couple of weeks I have seen the house come from just the shell of the house to putting up drywall and now painting. Soon we will be painting the outside. Ms. Reddford asked Pastor Don and me one day what color she should paint the outside of her house. We told her pink (I think it’d be cute), she told us no. So we have joked around with her about painting her house pink, then on of the teams this week put pink polka dots on one of the closet walls in her house. She couldn’t stop talking about the paint job, she got a kick out of it. Lord willing, the last few things will get taken care of inside her house soon and she’ll be able to move in.

Another thing taking place this week in the beginning of the building of Ms. Lynn’s house. A couple weeks ago we had teams out at the property cleaning it off and making it suitable to build a house. Then dirt was brought in and now there’s subflooring on the pylons. Ms. Lynn is a church member and has been very faithful to work in the distribution center from early on.

Last week I was blessed by a visit from Teresa Brunner, a friend from my church back in Wisconsin. It was great to see her and see the excitement that beamed from her as she saw some progress, since our trip here in March.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

New trailer

The week has barely begun, but it is already moving at a fast pace. This week we are getting ready for about 210 volunteers, and we are working on getting things lined up for each of the teams, depending on the skill level of the groups. This week there will also be a Bible conference going on, put on by a church from Atlanta, GA. In the mornings there will be VBS and the evening study will be for adults and the children will have other activities. This morning was the first sermon from the series, and from what I heard I think this will be a good Bible conference.

In other news I have graduated from living in a shipping crate to a mobile home. It's a nice little place. It gives me a place to play guitar, if I find time later in the evenings, without waking up my neighbors.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Very Brief update

Much has happened in the past week. Monday night we had a beach party out on the gulf coast. We originally wanted to do fireworks as well as have a big cookout for everyone in the community. But due to the burn ban we were unable to have the fireworks show. But we did get to serve a lot of people hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken sandwiches on the beach. We have had teams from Georgia, Alabama, and California here this week working in the kitchen, on the church property, at the sawmill, and in the community in peoples homes and yards. The distribution center is still open Wednesday – Saturday and many people are still coming in to get food, clothing, toiletries, and other items. Ms. Bea and Ms. Lynn are working hard to keep the shelves stocked so people can continue to get things.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Spurgeon quote relevant to recent conversations

"I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite sure that if God had not chosen me I should never have chosen him; and I am sure he chose me before I was born, or else he never would have chosen me afterwards; and he must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why he should have looked upon me with special love. So I am forced to accept that doctrine," (Lectures, book 2, page 47).

shrimp, pickles, and dancing

Saturday was a semi-slow day. We have very few volunteers around, which allowed for a little bit of a break. Because there was so few volunteers, Chris our cook, made us all sorts of seafood for dinner. We had catfish, shrimp, shrimp scampi, hush puppies, and coleslaw. It was a great meal. I tell you, the shrimp they have here isn’t anything like the shrimp (bait) they serve in WI.

For the evening I was able to get away with Justin and Daniel (2 volunteers from AL), Chris our cook, and a Lakeshore resident and we went to the crab festival in Bay St. Louis. I tell you, that is quite the event. They got crab roulette (I don’t know what it’s really called, but it is where crabs crawl off the board and whatever number they crawled off at is the winning number kind of like roulette.) People get really into it. They have a ton of crabs and shrimp and other things that I am not used to seeing for food at fairs, and more things are fried than I knew you could fry (though they don’t have the fried cheese curds, which still tops my list). We rode a couple of rides, I ate my first fried pickles (that was interesting), and we danced/watched others dance.

It was a great day after the busyness of the week. And as for how I am getting used to the southern culture…I am still trying to get use to some of the phrases. I’m sure there are times when someone uses a phrase that I don’t understand and I stand there with a confused look on my face. It’s different than WI, but I really kind of like it here.

On a side note:

This is a picture of the water that had come in recently in glass beer bottles from the Miller brewing company. I will admit at first it was weird to see people walking around drinking out of these 32 oz. beer bottles.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Series of random thoughts

I know I have been a bit inconsistent with keeping the blog updated. But what can I say, life can be a little busy at times. There are days that I cannot put into enough words to truly explain. So what you get is a bunch of random thoughts, put together in some way. I tried to make as much sense of my thoughts as I could.

As I sit here and reflect on the week, I can't help but think about God's grace. Grace that has gotten volunteers through the day, grace that has been given to residents of Lakeshore who have lost everything, grace by which I have been saved, grace that is only given by the Lord and Savior. Fully deserving of death and hell, He gives eternal life to me a sinner who was so wrapped up in sin. I know I never deserve to be called a child of God, but I am grateful beyond what my words can describe that He's called me.

It is grace that is given that overcomes obstacles. On our own we are inconsistent and undependable, I am glad the He has not left us to operate under our own power. It is my prayer for myself and other believers that we would not try or want to operate by our own power, but desire to be bound to Christ who gives grace.

I agree in prayer/song with those who have sang:

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to thee:
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O, take and seal it;
Seal it for thy courts above.

I like what John Piper has to say about this song
"Make your goodness like fetter a chain that binds my wandering heart to you Seal my heart with an unbreakable bond for the courts of heaven. In other words: Keep me! Preserve me! Defeat every rising rebellion! Overcome every niggling doubt! Deliver from every destructive temptation! Nullify every fatal allurement! Expose every demonic deception! Tear down every arrogant argument. Shape me! Incline me! Hold me! Master me! Do whatever you must do to keep me trusting you and fearing you till Jesus comes or calls"

I hope that this would be our prayer. To be bound to God and have my heart sealed for the courts above and to do whatever it takes to keep me trusting and fearing the God who saves the most undeserving.

On a side note:
Things in Lakeshore are busy. this past week we had somewhere around 10 teams of volunteers that were out working in the community. Tasks that they were working on varied from cleaning yards, gutting houses, putting up drywall and siding and insulation, laying carpet, and all sorts of other things.

I have been able to get around more and meet some of the Lakeshore residents. There have been times that all I could do was give them a hug as they tell me of losing family members, homes, and possessions. But it is my prayer that as teams go in and work on these peoples homes that the residents will be given hope and that the gospel message would be presented to those who are not yet followers of Christ.