Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Eat This Book in 2015

If you don't plan to feed your soul in 2015, you're likely to suffer from spiritual anemia.

Jesus made it very clear in Matthew 4:4, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

So, right about now is a great time to make a plan. If you want to peruse a plethora of options, you can find them here.

If you want a really simple approach, you can print out a copy of this Bible bookmark and stick it in your Bible. Check off the books as you finish them, and you'll easily know what ground you've covered and where to go next.

So, if you eat the Word in 2015, do you know what you can expect to happen? You have God's word that you will experience blessing. Rootedness and stability. Soul-satisfaction. Fruitfulness. Durability. Soul-flourishing.

Psalm 1:1-4
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Sound good? Are you hungry? Eat this book in 2015.

Monday, December 29, 2014

How Not To Make Disciples

If nothing else, let's make this one resolution for 2015: that we will actually seek to make disciples, not just read or think or talk about making disciples.

A convicting and refreshingly clear video of Francis Chan: 

Matthew 28:18-20
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

McGarvey Christmas Letter

Dear family & friends,

Merry Christmas! For the annual McGarvey family round-up, we’ll go with a sort of year-in-pictures / kid interview format.

I’d love to begin with a picture that captures my sentiments exactly for my sweet wife of 18 years.

Hannah recently put together a little slide show of pictures of us for our 18th anniversary. One of the things Beth said after viewing it captures well how very gracious God has been. She said, “As I watched the slideshow, I realized that it didn’t kick up any bad or painful memories.” What grace to produce and preserve such peace in our marriage over the years!

I was a pirate in a former life. Beth was an indie rocker. We're perfect for each other.
This covenant love has produced quite a lot – most notably these five wonderful image bearers:

Ben (3) is one funny guy. He keeps us all smiling.
Do not -- I repeat -- do not try to take this guy's burger. He might bite!
Actually, he's quite the gentlemanly defender and protector.
Ben sometimes moonlights as a boy-king in the Far East.
Excerpts from the interview with Ben: 

If you were stranded on a desert island for a year what three things would you want to have? 
"What else, Ben?"
"It’s just trains."
"You need 2 more things."
"There would be plenty of that already there."
"Buckets, and a shovel."
What is your favorite thing about our family? "Mommy"
What are the most important qualities in a friend? "Mommy"
What do you want to be when you grow up? "Oh, maybe a monster."
If you could travel to one place? "Barnes & Noble"

What are your dreams for your life?
"Uh, dreams? I dreamed about mom."
"What did you dream?"
"I cried."

Favorite food? "Goldfish" (he was eating them at the time)
Favorite drink? "Apple juice."
Favorite vegetable? "Probaly broccoli"
Favorite superhero? "Oh! The Incredibles!"
Favorite color? "Oh. It’s probaly orange."
Favorite person? "Mommy!"
Favorite toy? "Trains"
Favorite thing to do? "Play with trains"

Jonathan "Jono" (7) is a wonderful combition of meekness and tenacity.

Jono got to go to his first Phillies game this year!
You never know what will emerge from the basement on Saturday mornings. 
Pronto Pups! An essential ingredient in the special "Dude Time" Dad has with Jono in MI on vacation.
Excerpts from the interview with Jono (7):

The desert island Q:
"Food -- healthy, and water, and ... supplies?"
"That last one was way too general."
"A metal detector."

If you could be in a movie you’ve seen, what character would you be? Why?
"Big Hero Six." (He hasn’t seen this movie.) "And Fred."
"Why Fred?"
"Because he’s cool and he can jump super high and shoot fire out of his mouth. He’s Fredzilla."

What is the hardest part about being your age?
"That I always have to clean up. And going to school."

What is the best part about being your age?
"I get to play Legos a lot. And I don’t have to have that much homework."

What is your favorite Bible verse and/or truth about God?
"John 3:16 ... and Eph 6:1-2"
To that second one, “Really?”
“Well, I SOMETIMES do it.”

If you could be an animal for a day, which one would you choose?
(without hesitation) "A Florida panther because they have super stealth, night vision, retractable claws, and they have really far jumping and they can climb trees very well, and they have really cute babies – BUT NOT THE BOYS!" (i.e. the boys don’t have the babies)

If you could have a time machine, what time in history would you visit?
"Definitely not the Pharaoh time, cause he would try to kill me."

If you could be a superhero, which one and why?
"Hulk, Well, no. Colossus. Because he’s superstrong, metal folds out on him and he’s invincible."
"Why do you want to be invincible?"
"Actually, I want to be Fred."

When are you the happiest?
"When I get to go to bed. And sleep in. And when I will be in heaven."

What is your favorite time of the day?
"Summer." (?)

What is your favorite thing about our family
"That they’re all hilarious." (Right back at you, Mr. Summer-is-my-favorite-time-of-day!)

If genie granted you 3 wishes, what would they be?
"Nothing, nothing, and nothing. I don’t want anything. I have plenty."

Would you want to ask for something for someone else?
"Shoes for the needy. Clothes. Food."

What do you want to be when you grow up
"An animal scientist."

If you could travel to one place, where would it be?
"Australia, because of the animals, like Tasmanian devils. I would go with armor on, because they (the animals) would attack me."

Do you have a joke to share?
"Okay. What do you call a rat that eats pie? A pirate."

Lily (10) is sweet, cheeky, spunky, and can climb like a monkey.

Lily painting an owl mug in MI during her special Daddy-Daughter date time. 
Lily's going to make a good momma someday!

Excerpts from the interview with Lily: 

Desert island Q – one year – 3 things: 
"My family, a lot of food, a Bible."

What do you think your husband will be like?
"Like you (dad) – that’s what I want." 
(I didn't prompt her. I promise! No children were bribed in the making of this Christmas letter.)

What’s your favorite childhood memory so far?
"My surprise 10th birthday party. I loved that Hannah and Talitha planned all the games." 

What is your favorite Bible verse?
"Psalm 100."
And favorite truth about God?
"To know that God is love."

What person in history would you like to meet and hang out with?
"Jesus, when he was calling all the little children to hug them. I want to hug Jesus."

When are you the happiest?
"When I get to hug mommy and daddy."

What is your favorite time of the day?
"When, on a Friday, I get home from school."

What are the most important qualities in a friend?
"They have to stick with you no matter what."

If genie granted you 3 wishes, what would they be?
"That I could fly. That I could snap my fingers like Mary Poppins and things would go back in order. A perfectly organized house."

What do you want to be when you grow up?
"A volleyball player or babysit animals – doesn’t matter what kind of animals."

If you could travel to one place?
"Either Niagra Falls, Angel Falls, or Victoria Falls."

Dreams for your life
"I want to three or four or five kids. I want to work with animals and study nature."

Do you have a joke to share?
"What did the casket say to the other casket? Is that you, coffin?"

Favorite food?
"Broccoli cheddar soup (but not in a bread bowl). Rice & angel hair spaghetti."

Sam (12) is our resident lawyer, comedian, and Marvel Comics expert.

Sam and his impressive replica of Olaf.
"007" Sam and his partners in crime-fighting
We've experimented with some new forms of discipline this year.
Excerpt from the interview with Sam: 

Desert island – one year – 3 things:
"A luxury yacht."
"Sam, you're stuck on this island for a year. No escape vehicles."
"Is it like a big island, or a small island with just like a palm tree and a coconut?"
"A smaller island, and yes, with a palm trees and coconuts." 
"Okay. Bear Grylls, all the people in my immediate family who would WANT to be there with me (nice of him to give each of us the choice), and food -- enough food and water for one year. And, a hang glider – so I can fly around the island. No, no! A flying squirrel suit! And a jet pack."
What is your favorite Bible verse and/or truth about God?
"That he’s always there for you – even when you feel like there’s no hope or something really bad has happened. No matter what’s happened, he’ll never leave you or forsake you."

If you could be an animal for a day, which one?
"A penguin – so I would actually have an excuse for liking the cold so much. And you wouldn’t make me wear a coat."

If you could have a time machine, what time in history would you visit?
"Is this like a normal time machine, or is this like the DeLorean?"
"Either one."
"I'd go to the future. BACK to the future! Probably to see where my life would be in a few years. So I would know if I need to kill a butterfly in the past."
"You know, if you do one thing different in the past it changes the entire time stream. So, if I killed a butterfly in the past, my future would be different."

What person in history would you like to meet and hang out with?
"You, dad. (again, no bribes were distributed in the making of this Christmas letter) ... Jesus. When he raised Lazarus from the dead. Also to be there a bit before to see when Lazarus died."

If you could be a superhero, which one and why?
"Quicksilver – because he’s hilarious and he’s super fast. He’s so fast that everything around him seems to be in ultra slow motion."

Favorite movie:
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Avengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy"

When are you the happiest?
"When my dad isn’t peppering me with questions for the Christmas letter."
What is your favorite time of the day?
(with a smirk) "Summer." (we had both gotten a kick out of Jono's "summer" answer)
If genie granted you 3 wishes, what would they be?
"Infinite wishes! (I’ve been preparing for that for SO LONG!)"

What do you want to be when you grow up?
"I’m not really sure. Whatever God has planned for me. ... I’d like to act in a movie."

If you could travel to one place?
"Either England, so we can hunt wild boars in a coffee shop (sorry, that's an inside joke) or New Zealand with dad – he has to be there."

Dreams for your life:
"That I will have enough money to buy my kids and my siblings' kids the best Christmas and birthday presents, and I’ll be THAT uncle. To have enough money to buy my dad a log cabin in the mountains where he can write books. And enough money so I and all my siblings and all our kids can come and visit GPA and GMA."

Hannah (14) is hard-working, conscientious, athletic and artistic.

Special daddy-daughter date time at Craig's Cruisers in MI on vacation
Hannah made 2nd team all-conference in volleyball. Beth coached the team this year.
Excerpts from the interview with Hannah: 

Desert island – one year – 3 things:
"Not a book! Pocket knife, change of clothes, and rope."

What do you think your husband will be like?
"I don’t know. Athletic. Outgoing. Considerate. Hard-working. Wants a lot of kids! Follows Jesus."

What is the hardest part about being your age?
"Having to babysit my younger siblings."

What is your favorite Bible verse?
"Philippians 4:13 & Isaiah 41:10."
Truth about God?
"He never sleeps and I can pray to him at any time because he’s always there." 

If you could be an animal for a day, which one?
"A mountain lion or grasshopper."

If you could have a time machine, what time in history would you visit?
"Back to the garden to tell Eve not to eat the fruit! ... The birth of Jesus, and when he was doing his miracles."

When are you the happiest?
"When we’re doing something as a whole family, like playing a sport or doing a craft or when we're on vacation."

What is your favorite time of the day?
"When I get to go to sleep."

What is your favorite thing about our family
"That we’re crazy and energetic."

What are the most important qualities in a friend?
"You can talk to them about anything; loving, funny."
If genie granted you 3 wishes, what would they be?
"The ability to fly, be 6’2”, and read people’s minds."

What do you want to be when you grow up?
"A kindergarten teacher, then stay-at-home mom (of 6 kids!), and a basketball or volleyball coach (like mom!)."

Favorite food?
"Broccoli cheddar soup and wings."

If you made it this far, you are to be commended! I think this is our longest Christmas letter to date.

As we head into 2015...

May the LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you his peace (Numbers 6:24-26) ... peace that only comes through Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6-7). He died in our place on the cross, in order to reconcile us to God and bless us with every spiritual blessing. May you richly experience that peace and those blessings over this Christmas season and in the year to come!

With much love,
The McGarveys -- Chris, Beth, Hannah, Sam, Lily, Jono, Ben

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Purity Thursday: The Lies of Lust, A Siren Song

If you're familiar at all with Greek mythology, you've heard of the Sirens. They were beautiful creatures that would lure sailors to certain death with their beautiful songs. Odysseus and his crew sailed by them in Homer's epic tale. Odysseus stuffed his fellow sailors' ears with wax to guard them from this suicidal temptation. He then had them lash him to the mast under orders not to untie him no matter what.

This myth is obviously a powerful illustration of the nature and power of lust's temptations. They appear beautiful, but they will eat you alive.

I recently ran across a song called "Sirens" by The Grey Havens (all you LOTR fans know where that name comes from!) on Justin Taylor's blog. See his post to find a helpful introduction, an opportunity to download the song for free, the video embedded below, and the lyrics for the song.

The lyrics are great. Be sure to read them all. Here is the chorus, a great example of how to fight for purity:
Hold on, hold on, my heart 
You once were full and sang of grace 
Hold on, hold on, my heart 
You’ve tasted joy that’s more than this
Amen. Get this song in your head to help drown out the "Siren song" of lust when her beautiful, deadly melody begins to rise. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Thanksgiving Assessment

I recently found these questions from Paul Tripp both convicting and helpful.
  • Do you find it easier to complain than to give thanks?
  • Are you easily irritated and quickly impatient?
  • Do mundane hassles get under your skin?
  • Would the people who live nearest to you characterize you as a thankful person or a complaining person?
  • Do you look at your world and find many reasons to complain because things aren’t going your way?
  • Do you look at your world and find yourself blown away at the many reasons you have every day to give thanks?
  • Do you view yourself as one who has been constantly short-changed and neglected?
  • Do you view yourself as one who has been showered with blessings?''
  • How often do you grumble “If only I had _____” or “I wish that _____ was different”?
  • How often do you whisper thanks to God or communicate thanks to those around you?
I'm not encouraged by my honest answers to these questions. I need to repent and I need grace! But God promises grace to the humble (see James 4:6). Sometimes what we most need is to see the pride underneath our ungrateful spirit. Then we can repent, be humbled, and receive the grace that gives thanks. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Purity Thursday: Lessons from Mr Lust Policeman

Lust is not a "men only" issue. These Thursday strategies for purity are for men and women. So, even though I originally wrote this one up from the perspective of Mr. Lust Policeman, it's also for Miss/Ms./Mrs. Lust Policewoman, too.

Have you ever observed a man "checking out" an attractive woman? What happened? Unless you are totally calloused and given over to lustful desires, you didn't like it. Did an impulse rise to protect this woman from the hungry, groping eyes of that jerk that couldn't keep his eyes off of her? 

Did you get angry? Did you want to say something to him? Did you start to stare at him, hoping you'd catch his eye and he'd be shamed into turning away?

These reactions can rise up on behalf of women you don’t even know. These dynamics are ratcheted way up if that woman happens to be your wife or daughter or sister or friend. Oh man. Don’t look at my wife that way. Don’t look at my daughter that way. I’ll want to knock you out.


I think there are a few lessons here for us.

First, it ought to give us a taste of the ugliness of our own lust.
What you saw was a parable of your own lust. It's ugliness ought to show and tell you about the ugliness of yours. 

Second, it ought to give us a taste of the holy fire that deserves to break out against our lust.
What if God looked at us lusting like that, and he smiled?! No wonder he says what he says about lust! If we, though we are evil, have this reaction to this evil, how does God hate this hungry, selfish, use-others-for-my-own-personal-pleasure behavior?!

Third, it ought to give us a taste of the cup of wrath that Jesus drank in our place on the cross.
Oh, the holy wrath that JUST our sexual sin deserves! Can you even imagine the raging flood of holy wrath that deserves to break over your life and mine?! (Don't flatter yourself. Think back – late elementary school…jr hi…hi school…college…over this past year.)

Fourth, this ought to put us out of taste for feeding our own lust.
Did seeing that whole episode make you sick? That nausea can serve the holy shaping of your appetites. Does your own lust ever make you sick? 

Fifth, this ought to make us hungry for lust's antithesis: holy love.
Holiness grows as love grows. Lust is not a form of love. It is its antithesis. Notice the natural progression from the prayer of 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 to exhortations in 4:1-8 (emphasis added):
1 Thessalonians 3:12 ... now may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. 
4:1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
May these few lessons from Mr Lust Policeman arrest your attention and help you keep the law - to love God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Purity Thursday: Master or Slave?

Purity strategy #4 is found in 1 Cor. 9:27. Here’s the context:
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, NAS)
Consider the clear implications:
  • You need not be a slave to your appetites. 
  • If you are a Christian, no matter how strong your lustful desires can feel, you need not be a slave to them. 
  • You are not helpless. 
  • You can exercise Spirit-empowered self-control.

Paul makes a related point a little later on in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV):
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.
God. Is. Faithful.

He will NOT let you be tempted beyond your ability.

With the temptation he will also provide the way of escape.

You can endure the temptation until it passes.

Don’t be fatalistic. Your sinful cravings will attempt to deceive you and commandeer your mind for their lustful mission – to carry the body into sin.

Have you noticed how this happens? Have you seen how your sinful flesh (i.e. your sinful nature) attempts to hijack your mind to fulfill its lustful mission with the physical flesh? It positions itself to enslave you to do its will.

You begin pretending you don’t know where this path leads. You hoodwink yourself. You pull the wool over your own mind. You begin rationalizing.

“I’m just curious.”
“I need to know what’s out there so I can help guard my kids.”
“I’m interested in the article.”

Your sinful desire also pulls in all the reinforcements it can muster.

Self-pity? Sure. If you are single, you know this narrative. If you’re married and sexually dissatisfied in your marriage, you know this narrative. Your sinful flesh, manipulative whore that it is, pulls self-pity up to its breast and nurses it along in you.

Self-justification? Absolutely. You’re tired. Purity and holiness is unrealistic in our day of easy-access titillation and porn. “What’s wrong with just…” “It’s not like I…” You begin justifying.

All of the sudden your body is ruling your actions, because you have submitted to your fleshly desires.

Do you see why Paul fights like this? Because he knows how easily we get inverted – our bodily appetites ruling our minds rather than the other way around.

So, what can you do?

You can wake up and refuse to be lust’s lackey. You can preach to yourself! Remind your mind! Tell yourself (i.e. your redeemed self), “You don’t have to be submissive to the flesh. You are not its slave. You are its master!” And then your soul can command your body. Your redeemed soul can crack the Spirit’s whip of self-control on the back of your lustful flesh and subdue it. You can then freely present your body as an instrument for righteousness.
Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (Rom 6:13 ESV)
Your mind/will can say to your body, “You are my slave. I am not your slave. I will rule you. You will not rule me. I am not an animal.”

Jesus is Lord. He has redeemed you from the slavery of sin’s tyranny. You have been bought with a price. You can and must glorify God in your body. The Father has given you the Spirit to empower you to live free and self-controlled in Christ. When your sinful appetites begin to rise up and rage, you can say to your body, (with the triune God backing you!), “I will beat you and make you my slave. You are my slave, I am not yours.”

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Grieving and Learning From Ferguson

There is so much to grieve in the wake of all that has happened in Ferguson in the last several months. "How long, O Lord? ... Come, Lord Jesus!"

We only know what has been communicated through the variety of media outlets. Only God knows, with perfect knowledge, what happened that day. Nevertheless, there is much for us to learn.

There are a lot of talking heads out there, but they are not usually filled with biblical wisdom and gospel grace. Thabiti Anyabwile is a voice filled with biblical wisdom and gospel grace. We would do well to listen. Desiring God shared the following video (on Nov 6) with some learnings for African-Americans and white Americans.

I would also encourage you to read this recent post by Thabiti. In it he recounts a dialogue with someone who was insisting he was biased in his opinions on Ferguson and the justice of the grand jury proceedings.

We all need to try to see our biases and fight against them in dialogue like this. Humble objectivity is a difficult thing. Thabiti's post does a great job of exposing some of that bias, and helping us fight against ours. He is also transparent about his own story and how easily he could have been Michael Brown. There are serious gospel conduct implications to what he shares. He then concludes with how important it is that we really believe that all people are created in the image of God.