Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Microsoft Word Tips

Go see these Ten Things Every Microsoft Word User Should Know. This lays things out quite clearly.

Seriously, use styles - it will save you massive amounts of time formatting your documents. Once you start using styles, you'll wonder why you didn't use them sooner and why everyone doesn't use them.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Elder Training: Part III

The third major phase of elder training was on the Book of Church Order or BCO. The BCO is basically the official set of procedures for the PCA. There are three major sections on Form of Government, Discipline, and Worship. All are quite interesting to study - but then I'm a bit of a Hobbit in enjoying detailed procedures and ceremonies for things.

The section on Form of Government lays out how a church is formed, qualifications and duties of officers (and how to ordain them), the jurisdiction of the courts of the church (the local Session, the Presbytery, and the General Assembly), and items on pastoral candidates. Much of this is on how things should work and who has responsibility for what. I often wondered about many "church terms" like "licensed to preach" and "particularized church" and the difference in ordination and installation. All that is in here.

The part on Discipline is more sad and occasionally scary to read. But then, these procedures do not happen all that frequently. According to Matthew 18, trials at the level of the Session should only be used as the last resort, when the other methods of going to someone individually or with a small number have failed to bring repentance. I'm glad we have procedures in place for such things, and I'm glad they are very rarely needed as God's spirit works to bring repentance at much earlier stages.

The third part is on Worship. Much of this is suggested - only the parts on the Sacrements and Membership Vows are required. Still, there is much good guidance here on worship, particularly on preparing ourselves for it. I don't see the PCA instituting a standard worship procedure across all churches, partly due to the wide diversity we already have. I've seen this diversity myself in the few PCA churches I have been in. Still, there is much in common. If memory seves, they all sing hymns and/or psalms, all had corporate confession of sin, all had intercessory prayer for the people, all had a sermon, and all had a benediction.

While a bit dry in some places, I recommend my fellow members of the PCA to read our BCO to better understand how we operate.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Start Them Early

You can't start too early catechising your children. We (mostly Kristy) (ok, almost entirely Kristy) have been working on the first question of the Children's Catechism with Stephen.

See what he's learned

Friday, June 23, 2006

got friends?

According to FoxNews, a recent study showed that Americans have fewer close friends than they did 20 years ago. While the sample size is miniscule (so it's hard to judge the validity) this is an interesting result. Are we becoming a more isolated group of people?

My wife is my best friend (or rather second best), and I also have a few others that I feel free to confide in. And while my relationships with many in the Church are only at the surface, there are some with whom I do feel real friendship.

If the study is accurate, I wonder if the results are different across religious beliefs. Certainly loneliness is a problem the Church is designed to solve. It's supposed to be a community of believers - a diverse group of people working for common purposes. But then, what am I doing to befriend those on the fringes?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Quality Engineering

I just saw these numbers. At the hospitals ranked in the top 5% in the country patients have:
27% lower chance of mortality and
14% lower risk of complications.

Makes you think about the quality of the institution you go see.

Source: Hospital Quality and Clinical Excellence Study by HealthGrades

Monday, June 19, 2006

Early Joys of Eldership

I've been an elder for just over a week and have already seen some of the joys of the office. My favorite elder task so far is to hear the testimonies of those who come to us for baptism and membership. Just the few I've heard so far have impressed on me the various ways the Holy Spirit works in peoples' lives to bring them to the Gospel. I think the best place in a hospital is the maternity ward - and it is certainly analogous to this task for the Session. To be there and see the new birth - what a joy! But then, as a father, I also know you have to take the new babies home and spend sleepless nights (and days) caring for them. The analogy extends to this aspect of our work as well.

I also served communion for the first time on Sunday. Until now, I sat in the pews watching the elders at the front take the elements and pass them through the congregation. I was always impressed by them somehow - and was proud when my father served. Now, I'm the one up front - leading and serving. It felt very intimate to be up there on the front row with the other officers, with Wade just a few feet away giving us the invitation and Good News. This was certainly a joy, as I need the Lord's Supper as much as anyone else there. However, once we were given the elements to distribute, I confess I was far more concerned about "messing up" than worshipping. (So what BAD THING would really happen if I passed the plate to the wrong row?) At least I didn't drop them.

Elder Training: In Memorium

Bob Jones

Friday, June 16, 2006

Elder Training: Part II

Not surprisingly, the great bulk of our training was on theology. Now, understand that I was raised in the church, have gone to Sunday School and worship nearly every Sunday of my life, went through RUF all four undergraduate years (small and large groups), have taught Sunday School, read the whole Bible a few times, and read theological books on my own. So, theology shouldn't be a problem, right?


Even with God's gracious preparation, I can hear Yoda say "Much to learn you still have." As for the training, we basically walked through the Westminster Confession of Faith mostly in order, discussing the parts and especially how we in the PCA differ from other branches of Christianity. We also discussed some controversies and where the PCA gives latitude on some issues. Sometimes I'll read a book or be in a study and think "I know this, but it's good to be reminded." More often during officer training I thought "Whoa, that's a tough question, and I need to be able to answer it." Sadly, it takes the structure of a class like this to get me to slow down, reflect, and examine how much I really understand.

At any rate, our group had a good struggle and learned much from each others' insights.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Career Change?

For the better part of the last decade I desired to be a university professor. Since early in grad school, my career related decisions have been made to point me in that direction. However, the professor job search for this hiring season didn't result in such a job (I can try again next year before funding runs out for my current position). Also, I will interview soon for a position that is not in the ivory tower of academe. It's certainly not a bad job and may be a good fit for me (there are many good reasons to take it if it is offered), but it's not where my heart has been set for some years.

I've thought much about this and have wondered if God grants me this job, why would He take away my dream? Why would He let me seek after this desire for years and pursue it in every career choice only to suddenly send me on a different road?

And so I complained in my heart against the God who created me and sustains me, who gave me my wife and son, who gave me the great job I have now, who gives me good health, who had me born into a family that loves me, who has put me in churches and with Christian friends that have helped me grow, who strengthened me to get through a PhD, who gave me my breakfast this morning, who loves me enough to sacrifice His own Son in my place, and who is my sovereign king and lord.

Praise God that He convicted me quickly to stuff the complaining and submit to His gracious providence. Praise God that He is good and that His love endures forever. Have troubles today? Think about who God is.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Elder Training: Part I

To describe the training I went through, I'll start at the very beginning (a very good place to start!): the calling and qualifications.

Sometime during my time in RUF at Clemson, I started feeling called to be a ruling elder. I can't really explain it much better than with words like desire, pull, and conviction. It's much like when I just knew I had to marry Kristy - I was compelled. This is a spiritual office, and God calls us men to it as He chooses. For those considering a church office, this is surely necessary, and I'm sorry I cannot describe it more eloquently.

At any rate, once I had some sense of this call, I would occasionally look at I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 which describe the qualifications for the office. I confess I spent most of my time pridefully considering I Timothy 3:1. I also confess I used to look on these qualifications as not that hard to achieve. Husband of one wife? Check. Not a drunkard? Check. Not a recent convert? Check.

But when you seriously read this, not with a mind to bring the standards down to meet you, but to see them as God's high standards for the office - well, I got a lump in my throat. Self-controlled? Above reproach? Manage his own household well? Holy? Disciplined? I'm certainly not each of those things all the time (all the time? ha!). But then, as our pastor said, if you think you fully meet all those qualifications, you're not ready to be an elder.

At any rate, training basically started by considering calling and qualifications.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


This morning I was ordained as a ruling elder in WPC.

Again, wow.

If you haven't seen it before, it's a very simple ceremony. During the worship service, the elect officers were called up to the front. (I was in my choir robe - it's long enough for me, but I tend to trip over it for that same reason!) Wade gave us a charge; basically, we have not "arrived" spiritually, we must work all the more to conform our lives to the pattern of Jesus, we must study God's Word even more deeply, and be dilligent in our work. We then responded to the questions for ordination and installation (all affirmative). The five of us being ordained (3 elders and 2 deacons) then kneeled and the current elders laid their hands on us and prayed over us. (yup, tripped over my robe when getting up) The elders all then shook our hands and - that's it.

I'm struck by how simple this is. Or perhaps a better word is plain. But then, that is true of the events the Bible prescribes for the life of the Church: sprinking/pouring water, eating bread, drinking wine, singing together, listening to God's Word, prayer, and the laying on of hands. Things that the simplest among us can participate in and learn from, and that the deepest thinkers will always find a mystery.

And so it begins. We have a Session meeting at 5:15 today.

Family Picture

This one is recent. We used it for a Mother's Day card. Stephen seems to grow a few inches each week, he's so big.

Friday, June 09, 2006


After several months of training, I recently stood for election to the office of ruling elder at our church - Westminster PC. I was elected by the congregation and will be ordained this coming Sunday.


I've been praying about this for many years, but here it has finally come to fruition. God has also ordained that I would not get an academic job this year (as I had hoped), and so we will stay here in Bryan for another year. This actually gives me more time to learn about "eldering" with folks I know, so this is good.

The training process was interesting and I learned a great deal, so I'll be writing more on that and some of the books I read in the coming days.

One thing that struck me as odd is that I actually feel different. That's only happened a few times in my life at major transitions, such as high school to college, marriage, the birth of Stephen, and a book or two I've read. I didn't even get that sense with my PhD (though a story in itself). So much of life is gradual change (hopefully growth), but going from non-ordained to ordained officer in the only organization that is eternal...I suppose the Holy Spirit has very much impressed this on me.