Saturday, December 22, 2012

McGarvey Christmas Letter

Dear family and friends,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

2012 in the McGarvey household was filled with lots of life and growth. To be sure, there was plenty of struggle and sin and “I’m sorry” and so on, but God’s grace is stronger and more decisive. We look back on such a wondrous ton of grace and mercy and kindness – a very conspicuous and beautifully contoured ton. We are very thankful.

Beth and I have been married 16 years now. We’ve experienced so much grace in our marriage. Each year has been grace-filled, tough patches included, but this year we’ve had a particularly sweet awareness of God’s grace toward us. We thank God for it.

And then there are these five kids…

Parenting is obviously a lot of hard work. And all that hard work doesn’t guarantee desired outcomes. Our kids are far from perfect. There were plenty of pull-your-hair-out moments (each week?!) in 2012. Dad and Mom are painfully aware of their parental sin. And yet, God has been so gracious. What a joy these children are to us! We thank God for each of them.

So…here’s the run down on the kiddos:

Hannah is 12 now and in 7th grade. She’s a great big sister (and little mother) to her siblings. She is a diligent student and enjoys participating on her school’s volleyball and basketball teams. When she has time, she likes arts and crafts and giving expression to her creative impulses. One of the highlights of this past year was that she was baptized in November. Daddy had the privilege of baptizing her. You can hear her testimony here. It’s been a deep joy to observe God’s grace at work in her life.

Sam is 10 now and in 5th grade. He has a lively imagination and sense of humor. His interests this year have ranged from Pirates of the Caribbean Legos to Captain America and the other Avengers to The Lord of the Rings books (and Legos) to the Harry Potter books. Whatever he is into, he is all in. Aimed at the right things, that trait will serve him and others well in the future. He also enjoyed participating in the school’s Drama Club this Fall, culminating in his role as Inspector Nick Kerbocker in the short play “CSI New Pork.”

Lily is 8 now and in 2nd grade. She is still our sweet little flower, and she still loves flowers. When we go to Longwood Gardens, she wants to be the family photographer and take a picture of nearly every flower she sees. Though her love of flowers has remained, her love for animals has eclipsed it. She would happily move to a farm, and her Christmas wishes are to ride horses and swim with dolphins. She wants to be a kindergarten teacher when she grows up, and regularly practices her pedagogical methods with her willing pupil Jonathan. The treehouse is regularly set up like a classroom in session.

Jono is 5 (and a ½!) now and in Kindergarten. He has happily made the transition into school and loves his teacher and all he is learning. The first day of school, he came home proud of the fact that he had grossed out his classmates. He acquired a love for dried seaweed via his best friend Daniel Ho. He packed it as his snack and relished the reaction. He loves to color, and is meticulous about his work. He is a gym rat (along with Lily) when Mom is leading practices for Hannah’s basketball team. He has a special affection for his little brother. He tells us, “I love him to life!” His explanation: “I don’t like the expression, ‘I love him to death.’” He loves to wrestle with and pummel dad, regularly pulling a Jimmy Johnny SuperFly Snuka dive onto his unsuspecting target.

Ben is now 1. He is growing so fast. It’s no wonder. He eats like a teenager. To look at him, it’s pretty obvious he’s not missing any meals; but seriously, the kid can pack it away! His interests include high speed home demolition (the boy is B.U.S.Y.), taste-testing anything he can get his hands on, removing all items from any surface he can pull up to, grabbing and throwing any ball in sight, seeing the moon at night, cruising around on the driveway in his walker-saucer thing, raiding the chip and cracker shelf in hopes of shaking food loose, music and dance (we’ve learned to decipher the “please turn on the music” grunt that gets aimed at the ipod speaker), his siblings (he lights up to each of them and they sure love him!), waving at strangers in the store (you’d think he watched the Miss America pageant one too many times), and cat wrestling (see video - note: no cats were injured in the making of this video).

We continue to be thankful for our wonderful church family at Bethel Baptist Church. They truly are our spiritual family. Chris is thankful for the privilege of being their pastor and Beth enjoys her leadership role with women’s ministry and her various other involvements. The Lord is teaching and growing us in a many ways.

This Christmas, we’ve been pondering the irony in the typical American Christmas experience. Songs fill the air painting idyllic scenes of inner (and world) peace and relational harmony. But we know better. The world is a mess, and a lot of our relationships are too. Christmas seems like irrelevance and irony for many. The season is a thorn in their flesh rather than a warm fuzzy in their stomach.

The marketeers keep preaching their gospel of acquisition. Advertisements evangelize us left and right. All you have to do is trust and obey. Happiness is right around the next consumer corner. Just receive their message into your heart and follow. You’d think we’d know better. You’d think we’d be offended by their shameless confrontational evangelism. They are bold. Their promises are disproportionately large. They never deliver. And yet we aren’t offended. We welcome this preaching. We drink it in. We pour it out on others once we’ve drunk deeply ourselves. We are dissatisfied, but we still find ourselves as harried shoppers frantically searching for the stuff to satisfy ourselves and others.

The highest and saddest irony is the posture of so many toward Christ and Christmas. They may tip their hat to the baby in the manger. They may throw him and that common crèche in with the sentimentalism and irrelevance of holiday tradition. They may reject him as the symbol of yesteryear’s religious narrowness and intolerance. And yet…if God really did take on flesh and dwell among us, to live with us and die forus, to save us from our sins – and if that is irrelevant and merely sentimental, and if the false gospel of the marketeers doesn’t offend us, if the gospel of Jesus does, then that is the sadist irony.

The world is a mess and can’t save us. A big screen TV or an iPad will not “change your life.” There are a lot of voices preaching to you this Christmas. We hope the living words of the Living Savior will rise above all the din and fill you with true and lasting peace and joy and love.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)

With much love to you all,
The McGarveys

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I Like Adoption

This is beautiful. Grab the kleenex.

Our Father's got a great big house, and through the death of his Son, he's rescuing all kinds of kids from every tongue and tribe and people and nation. Family is everything.

Rom 8:15
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"
1 John 3:1
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What Would You Say To A Leader of Hamas?

If you had the opportunity to speak to a leader of Hamas, what would you say?

Here's what Ravi Zacharias, the gifted evangelist and apologist, said:

I love the power and beauty of the "weakness" and ugliness of the cross!


Friday, November 30, 2012

Vanity Makes You Ugly

(photo credit Gareth Weeks)

Proverbs 11:22
Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.
Vanity makes you ugly. It contributes to your uglification. You know it’s true. And that’s why your vanity bothers you. You love it and you hate it. You don't want to give it up. Yet you are ashamed that you want to keep it and feed it.

You’ve seen vanity in other people.

Do you admire it? No.

Does it bother you? Yes.

What do you do? You criticize it. You mock it. You are sarcastic. You make fun. Why do you that (at least in your mind, if not out loud)? Why do you criticize and mock and make fun?

Well, because it's ugly.

True. also mock and make fun because you're trying to get the unflattering fluorescent lights of conviction off of your own vanity. You’re creating a diversion.

You keep looking in the mirror, and you don't like what you see. 
And you don't like that you keep needing to look in the mirror in hopes of liking what you see.
And you don't want others to look at your vanity (ever been in a public bathroom in front of the mirror and jumped when the door opened?).
You don't want them to see the ugliness of your vain quest for beauty. 
So you create a diversion. You try to get the attention off of your ugly vain heart. And what better target than all those vain beauty seekers out there?

This is slavery.

Jesus died to set us free. Jesus died to secure our souls with his love (not based on our performance or how we "look"). Jesus died to make us beautiful from the inside out.

The mirror is a merciless master. The truth of what we see hurts, and we try, oh we try, to cover it up. It's vain slavery. It's a chasing after the wind.

There's freedom in humbly facing the mirror of the Word (see James 1:21-25).

For the women (and men):
Proverbs 31:30
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
For the men (and women):
1 Samuel 16:7
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart."
When we look in the mirror of the Word, the truth of what we see hurts. But it's a pain that heals. Honesty and repentance over our soul's ugliness draws down the grace of God that makes us truly beautiful.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Watch this video! It is such a simple and profound presentation of the gospel of grace!


321 from Jeremy Poyner on Vimeo.

3...2...1...Go (and share it with someone)!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mark Dever on Mark 12:13-17 "Jesus Paid Taxes"

Some months back (maybe a year?), I listened to an excellent sermon by Mark Dever on Mark 12:13-17, the passage where Jesus makes the statement, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." In preparation for this past Sunday, I listened to it again. On Sunday, I recommended it as I addressed the issues of our dual citizenship as Christians. Here is the link I promised to Dever's message entitled, "Jesus Paid Taxes."

What Am I Doing When I Vote?

While I'm on the topic of voting, I found this post by Kevin DeYoung helpful.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I Am Going To Vote

I want to publicly say "Amen" to John Piper's post, "I Am Going To Vote." I hope you all at Bethel will also say (in word and deed), "Amen."

See also his "Why Vote If You Are Disillusioned?" (from 2004)
And his "Let Christians Vote As Though They Were Not Voting" (from 2008)

Friday, October 19, 2012

I Believe In Big Government

Jesus for is president!
Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
"Your kingdom come." 

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Trampoline and Ten Grand...For Adoption

I ran across this encouraging story of God's miraculous provision in a recent edition of our school newsletter.

Miracle in Franklin: Part 1 from Generous Giving on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Gospel Growth: What Do You Expect?!

Dave Kraft:
A man applied for a new job. On the questionnaire, he was asked how many years of experience he had. He wrote sixteen. During the oral interview, this question was put to him, "Do you really have sixteen years of experience, or one year repeated fifteen times?"
I've been a follower of Jesus Christ for fifty years, and I could ask myself the same question: Do I have fifty years of leaning and growing in Jesus, or on year repeated forty-nine times? Am I moving forward or treading water? Am I different today than I was last year? What specifically has changed? What am I doing differently? What have I stopped doing, and what have I started doing with God's grace? What habits have I developed or broken?
-- Dave Kraft, Leaders Who Last (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 112-13.

Friday, October 5, 2012

When God Harasses You

I was feeling particularly overwhelmed one day last week. As I headed out for a walk to pray, I knew I needed some targeted grace. My mind went to 2 Corinthians 12, so I pulled it up on my phone and read it as started to walk.

[A little quick context for those of you not familiar with what's going on in the letter to this point:

Paul's apostolic credibility had been torpedoed by some so-called "super-apostles" (see 2 Cor 11:5; 12:11). They boasted impressive resumes and undermined Paul by saying he was unimpressive. They were healthy and wealthy. He suffered too much. They spoke with eloquence and rhetorical flourish. His speech was plain and weak. They boasted of visions. He was always preaching that bloody cross. Etc. Etc. And some of the Corinthians were buying it. THAT bothered him (see 2 Cor 11:28-29). So, he decides to do a little boasting of his own. He hates to do it, but for the good of the Corinthians, to get their attention and redirect it down the narrow Calvary road, he does a little boasting of his own.

He speaks in the third person of a man who was caught up to the third heaven, who heard things that cannot be told. He is speaking of himself, but he can't stand to boast of anything except the cross of Jesus Christ. Yes, it happened. But it's not something that can bless and build up the Corinthians. He has always refused to "play this card." The goal is not to impress them with his unique and visionary celestial access. The goal is to impress them with the gospel of Jesus Christ, which gives them access to the throne of grace!]

Here's what I read (2 Cor 12:5-10, emphasis added):
On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses--though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
My mind got hooked by the word "harass" and I started meditating on Paul's divinely inspired logic. Yes, it was a messenger of Satan that harassed Paul, but God had that messenger on his leash. It was not Satan's goal to keep Paul from becoming conceited. That was God's goal. So, God ultimately ordained that Paul be harassed.

I think I got stuck on the word "harass" because it seemed to resonate with how I felt. (Disclaimer: I'm not trying to throw a pity party here. I know you don't want to be on that invite list. I am sharing this because the barrage of needs and responsibilities I couldn't keep up with felt like harassment.) I'm guessing you've felt the same way. So, I'm sharing this with you, fellow harassed struggler, because there is a lot of grace for you in this passage, just like there was for me that day.

Back to the logic of the text. God ultimately harassed Paul, to keep Paul humble. It was encouraging to realize that God intentionally harassed Paul, in order to help Paul.

God harasses Paul, to help Paul? What kind of twisted plan is this?!
No, this is not a twisted plan. This is a loving plan. Think of the alternative. God gives you gifts and blessings. And then he gives you no harassment. And then you slowly and subtly get conceited, thinking how special you must be to have such gifts and blessings. And then you get self-sufficient. And then you feel no need for all-sufficient grace. And then, you become weak -- terribly weak in your self-reliant pride. Thinking yourself strong, you are cut off from true strength. That would be a twisted, unloving plan.

So God harasses. He harasses us into weakness so that we see our utter need for his all-sufficient grace. And seeing our utter need for his all-sufficient grace, we do not begrudge or resent the harassment in our lives that keeps us weak and humble. We will welcome it. And welcoming our weakness and depending on all-sufficient grace, the power of Christ rests on us. We become content with harassment, for when we are weak, then we are strong.

That was grace to me last week. Maybe it will be grace to you this week. One of God's modus operandi: harassment, to humble you, to help you with all-sufficient grace, that you might be truly the strength of his might.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Good Guide For November 6...And Beyond

Justin Taylor provides here a great little summary of how we, as Christians, are dual citizens. As we approach November 6, we need to understand this. Go read the whole thing, but he summarizes the paradox and tension of our dual citizenry by highlighting texts like these:
Here we have no lasting city” (Heb. 13:14). Like Abraham, we look “forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).
And yet, as “sojourners and exiles (1 Pet. 2:11) we are commanded to “seek the welfare of the city . . . and pray to the LORD on its behalf” (Jer. 29:7).  ...
We are not to be of the world—but we are sent into it (John 17:15-16; cf. 1 Cor. 5:9-10).  ...
We are to keep ourselves “unstained from the world” (James 1:27)—and yet we must taste and shine like “salt and light” (Matt. 5:13-16) to a dark and rotting culture around us (cf. Phil. 2:15).
We need to grasp firmly this dual citizenship dynamic, so we can wisely navigate this election season, and beyond.

Friday, September 21, 2012

"But I'm Not A Reader"

If you are a Christian, you know that Bible reading, study, and meditation is not optional.

Now, it's not "required" in the sense that God gets ticked off if you don't tick off enough Bible reading boxes this week. It's not "mandatory" in the sense that a certain amount of Bible reading is necessary for entrance into God's good graces.

Bible reading is necessary in the way food is necessary to your body's survival; the way oxygen is necessary for breathing. It's "required" in the sense that you "do not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Moses said, in Deuteronomy 32:47, "For it is no empty word for you, but your very life."

If you call yourself a Christian and want to survive spiritually and grow (rather than resembling tumbleweed or chaff - see Jeremiah 17:5-6 & Psalm 1:4), you must read and study and meditate on God's Word.

If that sounds like a burden, it ought to bother you. If that sounds like bad news, let me remind you that this is an invitation to chew on the sweet and savory good news of the gospel!

(Now for a little hypothetical dialogue)

“But I’m not really a reader.”

How many times have I heard that?! If I only had a dollar...

So what?! I’m not really a runner – but I need to exercise!
I’m not really a person who enjoys fasting – but I need it!

Let's be honest, you will read what you need to read. For school, for work, if your job depends on it, you will read. And, you will read what you want to read. There are things that come along that you want to read. Sports Illustrated? The newspaper? That cooking or decorating magazine? That NYTimes bestseller everyone is talking about?

“I don’t really have time to read.”

Rubbish. If you are watching more than 30 minutes of TV a week, you have time to read. If you have a commute, no matter how short, you can "read" by listening to the Bible on CD or mp3.

Do you know how many books you can read in 1 year if you read for 15 min a day? Check this math:
Suppose you read slowly like I do – maybe about the same speed that you speak - 200 words a minute. If you read fifteen minutes a day for one year (say just before supper, or just before bed), you will read 5,475 minutes in the year. Multiply that by 200 words a minute, and you get 1,095,000 words that you would read in a year. Now an average serious book might have about 360 words per page. So  you would have read 3,041 pages in one year. That’s ten very substantial books. All in fifteen minutes a day.
I'm all for lots of different kinds of reading, but let's just stick with Bible reading for now. Though it varies slightly depending on the translation, the Bible contains just under a million words. Look back at the math in the quote above. You could read the entire Bible in one year in just 15 minutes a day! Don't believe me? I dare you to test the theory.

Bottom line: If you're playing the "But I'm not a reader" card, I'm calling your bluff. Just be honest, you don’t want to’d rather watch TV. If you admit that, at least you’ve been humbly honest. And God gives grace to the humble…often through what they read!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Why Do You Go To Home Group?

From Growth Groups by Colin Marshall (pp 27-28):
The formation of community is often not rooted in the gospel of Jesus’ death for sinners. Small groups can draw together on a multitude of bases: personal needs, political agenda, stage of life, interests and so on. But groups of Christians are built on one distinct and unique foundation, being children of god through faith in his Son. If the gospel is not at the heart of the group, it may be a group of Christians but it is not a Christian group.
Groups preoccupied with community tend to become problem-centered. They become highly introverted, focusing on their own needs. If community is the aim, the ideal group is open, accepting and affirming—a haven for broken, alienated lives. It is very attractive, because we all have times of hurt, grief and disappointment living in this sinful world. A group that will put its collective arm around us and give a reassuring hug is not a bad idea. But such a group becomes problem-centered. The energy of the group is directed toward those with problems, and we all have problems all the time!
Christian groups are not primarily about helping people with their problems. You probably can’t believe you just read that! It sounds positively unchristian. But it is true. The focus of Christian groups is growth, not problems.
Take the case of someone in your group who is unemployed. In a problem-centered group, she will feel free to talk about this, the group will listen and empathize. They will ask at appropriate times how the job hunt is going and even join in searching out employment for her. They will be aware of associated problems such as self-esteem, and try to talk this through. When her cash flow gets really tight, they discreetly pass round the hat and but a week’s groceries. Others who have [lost a job] in the past become particularly helpful.
What a great group to be in! Who could ask for more? You could. Such a group, although made up of Christian people, is not distinctly Christian. There are many support groups in the community which would do the same things—some better, some worse.
In a growth-centered group, all of this will be done, and more! The distinctly Christian element is to pursue growth in the knowledge of God and obedience to him. So prayers will be offered, not only for a job, but for faith in Christ, patience, endurance, avoidance of self-pity and so on. Through group and private discussion, the unemployed woman will be strengthened in the great truths of God’s providence and taught to see her situation through God’s eyes. In other words, she will be helped to grow as a Christian.
If community is the goal, the small group has become the end rather than the means. Instead of meeting to hear and respond to God in his word, the functioning of the group is central. True Christian ministry will see small groups as a means to an end, in the best sense of the phrase. In relationship with each other, we teach the gospel and pray and spur each other on toward godliness of mind and action.
To summarize, our primary reason for joining a Growth Group must not be to get closer to each other, but to grow in Christ.