Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Refuse Stick Figure Virtue


We love to use our personality type and other versions of our natural "wiring" as an excuse.
"I'm an introvert."
In other words, I can't come out of my shell and love people like that.
"I'm an extrovert."
In other words, I don't like to sit alone and still for very long with the Lord, and I don't really like to read or think deeply.

Of course we're all going to have our strengths and weaknesses, but don't we want to grow and become more like Jesus?

How about this:

Enough of accepting static, reductionistic, one-sided personhood. We know it is God's will that we be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). And he most certainly wasn't one-sided. The grace of God is stronger than our excuses. There's no reason for us to remain stick figure humans, when well-rounded, multi-faceted, Christlike humanity is ours for the taking.


So, let's push back on our weaknesses and un-Christlike inclinations of soul. Let’s go deep like introverts and move toward people like extroverts for the sake of love...to become more and more like Jesus. 

He loved people proactively and he retreated to be alone with his Father and pray.
He was tough and tender.
He was lion-hearted and meek.
He was thick-skinned and soft-hearted.
He loved in word and deed.

Let’s not sell the grace of God short! 

Do we have to choose tenderness or toughness? NO! 
People or tasks? No!
Compassion or courage? No! 

Enough either/or.
Let’s go for both, in Jesus' name.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Intro to 1 Corinthians & Getting Hungry For Sunday

We start our study through 1 Corinthians this Sunday. We'll be considering the whole of chapter 1.

Any time you spend familiarizing yourself with the book as a whole will help keep you from "losing the forest for the trees." A good study Bible (like the ESV Study Bible) can provide this kind of introduction and overview.

The Bible Project videos are another great way to gain an introduction and overview of any Bible book. Here's the one for 1 Corinthians:



In addition, I would encourage you each week to read over the upcoming sermon text several times before Sunday. Try to get a grasp on what it's all about. Write down any questions that pop up and see if repeated reading and thinking will yield answers. Take some time to pray over the passage and ask God to prepare your heart for it and pour out his blessing on our church as we meet together.

The Puritans used to talk about Sunday's as "the market day for the soul." We don't have "market days" anymore, but you can easily picture the old village "market day." All the farmers and artisans peddled their wares such that there was a rich supply of provisions to stock up on for the week. Sunday should be like that. A rich feast of grace and truth for the soul to stock up on for the week ahead. Pray that it would happen.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Speaking Truth to the Power of Temptation

C.S. Lewis:
“The great discovery for me was that the attack does not last forever. It is the devil's lie that the only escape from the temptation is through yielding. After prolonged resistance it will go away: what seemed yesterday impossible to turn one's mind from will today be utterly unenchanted, insipid, tedious.” 
--Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, 3:920; from a 1958 letter to 'Mr. Pitman'--emphasis original


1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

James 4:7-8
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. ...

Thursday, January 26, 2017

10 Things You Should Know about Abortion by Scott Klusendorf

Scott Klusendorf is a powerful advocate for the Pro-Life position. He is the president of Life Training Institute and an author of several books. He wrote a post for the Crossway blog entitled, "10 Things You Should Know about Abortion." It's a short and very helpful primer for the pro-life position.

Here are a few of the "10 Things" he wants us to know:
1. Pro-life advocates present a formal case for their position.
  • It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. 
  • Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being. 
  • Therefore, abortion is wrong.
3. That abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being is conceded by many who perform and defend the practice. 
  • Feminist Camille Paglia frankly admits, "abortion is murder, the extermination of the powerless by the powerful. Liberals for the most part have shrunk from facing the ethical consequences of their embrace of abortion, which results in the annihilation of concrete individuals and not just clumps of insensate tissue." 
9. Abortion-victim photography changes the narrative.
  • "When someone holds up a model of a six-month-old fetus and a pair of surgical scissors, we say 'choice' and we lose," writes feminist Naomi Wolf.
10. The remedy for post-abortion guilt is not avoidance. It's forgiveness.
  • Post-abortion men and women do not need an excuse. They need an exchange: Christ's righteousness for their sinfulness. Like all forgiven sinners, post-abortion men and women can live each day assured God accepts them on the basis of Christ's righteousness, not their own.
 Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Spiritual Adolescence and The Humble Gratitude of Heaven

Children are usually blissfully oblivious to the sacrifices and cost their parents pay to care for them. Financial burdens, emotional tolls, heavy investments of time and energy.

Sometimes a child surprises you with unsolicited recognition and appreciation for costly investment, but most of it goes unnoticed and unappreciated. As parents, we don’t even require that they realize it all. “He’ll never know….” It's the glory of parental love. 

As the child gets older, we do resist the roots of dishonor and entitlement that entangle our teenage soul. Sometimes we resist righteously. Sometimes (read: more often) we rant and rave. Neither strategy can seem to be all that effective. Teenagers are not typically paragons of gratitude and appreciation. 

But if it's happened once, it's happened a thousand times. The take-it-for-granted, frequently disappointed or complainy teenager grows up and becomes a parent. And then so much of the sacrificial love and generosity of their parents come into clearer focus. They begin to see it, and appreciate it. 

This post is not about parents commiserating or rejoicing over these phenomena. Instead, it's an opportunity to see ourselves for the "clueless teens" we are. And then to look ahead to the day when we will finally grow up. One of these days, we’re going to really appreciate all that God has done for us through Christ and by his Spirit!

1 Corinthians 13:12 
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
Until then, we absolutely need to awaken to the megatons of mercy and grace God lavishes us with every day. We most certainly need to cultivate a humble, grateful heart.

Even so, we're still pretty clueless.

But on the Day when we know fully, our newfound and deep experiential knowledge of the Father's love will not be met with chiding and sarcastic parental retorts. "Oh, really! It's about time! Took you long enough!" Oh, no. There will only be a bright smile on the fatherly Face of faces, and there will well up within us deeper joy and humbler gratitude and happier praise than we ever thought possible.

Monday, January 23, 2017

No Fine Print With Jesus

Good leaders are up front about the costs, as well as the benefits, of following them.
Bad leaders love to inflate the benefits, while hiding or minimizing the costs. 

Jesus is a good leader.
Satan is a bad leader.

Matthew Henry, “Satan shows the best, but hides the worst, because his best will not [counterbalance] his worst; but Christ’s will abundantly.”

Jesus,
"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it." (Mark 8:34-35)
Satan,
"But the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'" (Genesis 3:4-5)
There's no fine print with Jesus.

Friday, January 20, 2017

John Piper On Inauguration Day

I'm wrestling deeply with the reality and implications of Donald Trump becoming the 45th president of the United States. Perhaps you are wrestling, too. I appreciated John Piper's post entitled, "How to Live Under an Unqualified President." I encourage you to read it.

He begins like this:
Today we will inaugurate a man to the presidency of the United States who is morally unqualified to be there. This is important to say just now because not to see it and feel it will add to the collapsing vision of leadership that enabled him to be nominated and elected.
He explains why he is unqualified, and then goes on to talk about what leadership is and why it's so important. Here are a few of the reasons he gives:
A leader should lead. That is, he should set the pace, define the path, embody the vision, and inspire emulation. He himself should be what he is calling others to be. That is what it means to lead. Donald Trump is not such an embodiment of what we want the citizens of America to be. In important ways, he is the opposite. 
A leader should be a good example for our young people in matters of character and moral uprightness and civility. Few parents would say to their young people: strive to be like Donald Trump. That is a great sadness. 
A leader should not model the success of immoral behavior, and thus further destigmatize and normalize evils which, if spread, will bring discredit and ruin to our nation. To reward Donald Trump’s immoral behavior with the presidency does just that — it says to our children, and to the world, that these evils are not that bad, and can be embraced with no great negative consequences.
Again, read the whole thing to see how he then gives some helpful historical perspective to remind us that we are not the first Christians to live under unqualified leadership. In fact, for many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, and throughout history, their situation has been much, much worse. There is grace and wisdom for this. So he closes with 7 suggestions for how we should then live under President Trump.

Psalm 16 - A Brief Fighter Verse Meditation

Psalm 16:2
I say to Yahweh, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you." 
Augustine
The sum of our goods, and our perfect good, is God. We must not fall short of this, nor seek anything beyond it; the first is dangerous, the other impossible.
Psalm 16:5, 8, 9
Yahweh is my chosen portion and my cup.... I have set Yahweh always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.
C.S. Lewis (They Stand Together, Walter Hooper, ed., (New York, 1979), page 465. Italics original.):
I think one may be quite rid of the old haunting suspicion — which raises its head in every temptation — that there is something else than God, some other country into which he forbids us to trespass, some kind of delight which he ‘doesn’t appreciate’ or just chooses to forbid, but which would be real delight if only we were allowed to get it. The thing just isn’t there. Whatever we desire is either what God is trying to give us as quickly as he can, or else a false picture of what he is trying to give us, a false picture which would not attract us for a moment if we saw the real thing. . . . He knows what we want, even in our vilest acts. He is longing to give it to us. . . . The truth is that evil is not a real thing at all, like God. It is simply good spoiled. . . . You know what the biologists mean by a parasite — an animal that lives on another animal. Evil is a parasite. It is there only because good is there for it to spoil and confuse.
Psalm 16:11
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Gratitude: What's In It For Me?

I was struck recently by an NPR article entitled, "Feeling Less Grateful? Some People Are Just Wired That Way."

The article asks whether gratitude is really as beneficial as so many claim.

Wait a minute. Stop and think about that.

Is there something in gratitude for me? If so, great. I'll cultivate some thanksgiving. If not, then I shouldn't beat myself up if I don't value or practice it that much.

A few sound bites:
...not everyone experiences gratitude as a positive force in their life. ... 
Does that mean that people who experience gratitude as negative should push through it anyway in pursuit of some benefit? "That's a big 'I don't know,'" says [Anthony] Ahrens [professor of psychology at American University]. "We will need data to answer that." ... 
Gratitude is clearly associated with physical and mental well-being. It's linked to better sleep. People who are more grateful seem to have more energy, less depression and possibly even a lower risk of heart disease. Those positive associations hold for both the trait of gratitude — that is, being a generally grateful person — and the state of gratitude — a temporary behavior or feeling, says Philip Watkins, a professor of psychology at Eastern Washington University. But, some of the broader claims about the benefits of gratitude aren't backed up by science, says Watkins.
Basically, the article is saying we need more data to better assess the real value of gratitude. It seems beneficial. Some studies seem to make that clear. But if it turns out that the claims are inflated, then by all means let's stop blowing so much hot air about how important gratitude is to our well-being.

So, the question seems to be, "What is the real street value of gratitude?"

Leave it to our narcissistic, neuropsychology-is-king generation to come up with this crazy utilitarian approach to gratitude.

Then again, if there is no God-from-whom-all-blessings-flow, whether you give thanks or not is really a matter of what's in it for you.

Just don't let the irony escape you.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

McGarvey New Year Letter

Dear family and friends,

For the annual McGarvey update, we're going to go month by month and hit some highlights, mainly by means of pictures.

January 

Sam continues to enjoy theater and hone his acting skills. He had several opportunities to do so in 2016, beginning with his role as the White King in "Wonderland" (based on Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass) for the Carousel Performing Arts Center.

Big Sis proudly poses with the White King post performance

February

Jono turned 9 and had a blast at his Minecraft themed birthday party, where the three women in his life rocked the party planning. Jono was also hired by Five Below to be their leprechaun greeter. I believe this photo was taken after he was asked for the 47th time where was his pot of gold ("Duh, it's at the end of the rainbow!").

* The thing about Jono being hired by Five Below - it's a joke.
This is just the kind of thing that happens when we take our kids out.
We try to do so only when necessary. 
Hannah had a great basketball season last winter. She even received all conference honors!

March 

The McGarvey's headed to Texas. Chris's dad was surprised on Christmas (2015) when his wife Yvolene gave him a calendar saying we were coming for a visit. She had worked it out to fly us down for the kids' spring break (Thank you, Yvolene!).

Flight delay with 5 kids? As long as you have bananas, it's no sweat.

With GPA & Yvolene (and Ollie) at their house.

April

Sam turned 14. 

Hannah tried her hand at Lacrosse for the first time and received the award for "most improved player."


May 

Jono played little league baseball for the first time and enjoyed learning the game. 



June

Sam participated in another Carousel production. 

"Prince Frank" and company at the curtain call

We enjoyed a wonderful visit from Nana!

At the rock wall in Alapocas Run State Park

It's never serious for long with these five

We also took a very fun family vacation in FL (despite dad stepping on a huge nail a few days before we were scheduled to depart). Never thought we'd go to Disney (for a variety of reasons), but we did, and we had a great time. The trip also afforded us the opportunity to visit Chris's sister Jenn and her husband Canas on our way down. It was great to see them on their own turf in Savannah, GA. 



July 

Beth and the kids drove out to Chicago to spend one last time at 1928 Dorset Drive. Ama & Papa Russell sold the house they lived in for over 25 years and downsized. It was quite the reunion. All but one of the 17 grandkids were able to be there. 


Sam was asked to play the Mad Hatter at a special event at an art studio in Chester, PA. He made the costume himself (Hannah did the make-up) and had to be in character for three hours for all comers to the "Mad Hatter Tea Party" open house. His was a surprise and delight to his "guests."


He and Jono also participated in the Missoula Children's Theater "Tour in Your Town" production of Jungle Book. It's a unique program where the traveling theater company arrives in town, holds auditions and casts on Monday, holds practice daily that week, and then performs the show on Friday afternoon and evening. Sam played Tabaqui and Jono was one of several who together played Kaa (the snake).


August

Hannah turned 16(!) and began driving! She's a good driver, and hasn't given her parents too many additional gray hairs...yet.

This is the picture Beth took on the way home from the DMV.
The smile says it all.

Ama and Papa Russell made several trips in 2016 to join the McGarvey family chaos. In August, we were able to celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary together!



Thanks to a friend, we once again spent a fun day at Hershey Park before school started back in session.
Beth's idea to organize our seating this way to catch a pic with 6 of our 7


As the start of school approached, volleyball season got started for Hannah, and Sam decided he wanted to play football. Lily also got started with her first year of volleyball on the middle school team. It was, at times, a bit of a challenge logistically, but we had a lot of fun following their seasons. Beth also coached the JV girls volleyball team, and was an assistant coach for the Varsity girls.

The Lions had their best season in school history,
ranking in the top 10 in the state of DE and making it to the 2nd round of the state tournament.
Sam ended up playing the same position Papa played in college,
and he was able to pick Papa's number for his jersey!
Lily was thrilled to start volleyball!
And then...school started. All 5 are now in school. Hannah in 11th, Sam in 9th, Lily in 6th, Jono in 4th, and Ben in Kindergarten!


September

September is hereby dubbed "random picture" month:
Come to our house and you might be greeted by this guy...

...or this crew!

Sometimes you need to be spontaneous, get your PJ's on and head out for ice cream!
Lily is going to make a great babysitter!
She is always happy when she has Avery on her hip!

Lily is a nature lover.
On a daddy-daughter date to Ashland Nature Center, Lily impressed our guide with her ability to spot things.
Here she found a monarch butterfly caterpillar. Can you?

October 

Ben turned 5!

The birthday boy sporting his blue ribbon!
I think he won first prize in the "cutest 5 year old" division.
Annual family outing to go apple picking and eat apple cider cinnamon donuts!


November

Lily turned 12!

The Cubs won The World Series!

We celebrated Thanksgiving with Ama and Papa at the house they are renting for a year in Wheaton.


While there, Dad took Hannah for a Wheaton College prospective student visit. This can't be happening! (That's our student tour guide on the right)


December

Chris and Beth celebrate their 20th anniversary! Whoo-hoo! We're still happily married!

We actually celebrated early at Thanksgiving so we could spend an overnight in Chicago!
We closed out the year at Nana's. We enjoyed time with Chris's sister's family, as well as Zsi-Zsi Ann.



The most important highlights in 2016, whether our circumstances felt like highlights or lowlights, whether we even recognized them or appreciated them, were the unceasing, overabundant, daily measures of steadfast love and mercy from our faithful God.
"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23)
And every bit of that love and mercy was purchased for us on the cross by Jesus, our tender Savior and sovereign King. 
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing." (Ephesians 1:3)
And so we end, appropriately, with Ben singing The Doxology (it's in video format, but there is only audio):



Amen.

With love,
The McGarveys