Sunday, July 24, 2011

The View from the Champion's Club

Beetz and I will be celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary this Tuesday, July 26.  That also happens to be the day that we will be leaving for our week long vacation, hindering our ability to celebrate the occasion.  So in an attempt to mark the occasion (and, let's face it, to have fun and be treated like a VIP!) I managed to score two tickets to the Champion's Club at Target field.

The Champion's Club is an elite section of seating at Target field that is not available for single game purchase.  The only way to sit in the Champion's Club is to buy an entire season package of seats, or to know someone who has.  Needless to say, my road to the Champion's Club was through the latter.

My cousin Kirk has a couple sections of seats in the Champion's Club, so a couple months ago I gave him a call and asked if he could hook me up.  Much to my surprise and delight, he was able to do so, and at a huge discount from face value, for which I am eternally grateful.

My dad made a trip to the Champion's Club with Kirk last year, and I heard all about the glories brought about by this section of seats: all-inclusive food, service, cushy seats, valet parking, and more.  So after that, I knew that the Champion's Club was an experience that I had to have.

I decided to ask Kirk for CC tickets for Betsy's and my 8th anniversary, and to surprise her with the tickets.  I made her wear a blindfold in the car on the way to the stadium so she wouldn't know where we were going.  When she took the blindfold off and saw the entrance to the club, she said, "No way!"  Her reaction was exactly what I was hoping for.

Bottom line: the Champion's Club was a great experience.  The food was amazing, the service was second to none (and it was really cool having my car parked by the valet, even if it was a piece of junk compared to the Ferraris and Porches parked nearby), the seats were great (closer than I think I've ever been to the players before), and it was a great time.

Another thing I did for our anniversary was to purchase a score board message, expressing my undying love for the Mrs.  Because we all know that nothing is true unless it's plastered on the jumbo-tron. That was pretty neat too, and Beetz really liked it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Picture of Repentance and Restoration

If you don't know who C.J Mahaney is, he's the president of Sovereign Grace Ministries - a network of churches that seeks to plant more churches and bring them to maturity.  We sing many of the worship songs produced by Sovereign Grace Music - the worship arm of SGM - at Riverview.  Having learned about SGM a few years ago, I have really appreciatee SGM's vision for ministry, their theology, and the way they operate.

This past week a friend told me that Mahaney was stepping down from his role as president due to some issues with personal sin.  This took me aback, so I decided to investigate it to learn more.  Below is a copy of Mahaney's explanation of events, the reason for his departure (a leave of absence), and his plan for repentance and reconciliation for what he has done.  May I have the kind of humility that he expresses here if and when I am confronted for my sin.

Take note of this: the man does not try to justify himself; he does not try to give his side of the story.  Rather, he admits that he has sinned, and his utmost desire is to repent and restore the broken relationships that have been caused by his sin, which in my opinion, shows the quality and validity of the man's faith.  This is the point of church discipline!  It's refreshing (dare I say exciting?) to see it work, and to see the wonderful fruit brought about by it.  Take a look at Mahaney's letter below.  Also, read about the restoration that took place between Mahaney and someone that he had sinned against here.  It's a story of an amazing work of God.

Why I'm Taking a Leave of Absence
By C.J. Mahaney

With a few potential exceptions, I will be taking a break from updating this blog for a while, and I want to share with you the reasons why and entreat you for your prayers while I am on leave.
Over the last few years some former pastors and leaders in Sovereign Grace have made charges against me and informed me about offenses they have with me as well as other leaders in Sovereign Grace. These charges are serious and they have been very grieving to read. These charges are not related to any immorality or financial impropriety, but this doesn’t minimize their serious nature, which include various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment, and hypocrisy.
I believe God is kindly disciplining me through this. I believe I have by the grace of God perceived a degree of my sin, and I have been grieved by my sin and its effects on others.  I have had the opportunity to confess my sin to some of those affected in various ways by my sin. And I am so very grateful for their forgiveness.  But I want to perceive and confess any and all sin I have committed.  Although my experience of conviction has already started—and this is an evidence of God’s mercy—I’m sure there is more for me to perceive and acknowledge.  Even with the charges I disagree with it has been beneficial to examine my soul and ask for the observation of others.  And I am resolved to take responsibility for my sin and every way my leadership has been deficient, and this would include making any appropriate confessions, public or private.  Most importantly I want to please God during this season of examination and evaluation.
So here is what I am going to do. I’ve asked to take a leave of absence in order to give time to considering these charges, examine my heart, and receive the appropriate help from others.  With the guidance of the SGM board, I would also hope to pursue reconciliation with former pastors of Sovereign Grace during this leave. I have stepped off the board and I will not be the President of Sovereign Grace Ministries during this period of examination and evaluation. In order for me to receive an objective evaluation in relation to these charges the board is securing the help of a third-party ministry that has no history of relationship with SGM. With counsel from that ministry, the board will determine the appropriate steps I should take going forward.   After processing these findings, the board will determine the appropriate steps I should take going forward.  This leave of absence will also help remove any impediment to the panel’s exploration that could potentially arise if I remained in my current position, and it will enable me to fully cooperate in the process. 
Just so you’ll know, I have also contacted David Powlison and Mark Dever and asked them to review the charges and provide me with their counsel and correction. I have enlisted them to serve me personally during this time and to ensure this process of examining my heart and life is as thorough as possible. And for the past year I have been the recipient of Ken Sande’s correction, counsel and care. That, I am grateful to say, will continue. And as you would expect I will continue to meet with the appropriate men on the board of Sovereign Grace and benefit from their correction, counsel, and care as well. I am deeply moved as I reflect on how rich I am relationally and I am humbled by the time these men are willing to spend serving me and Sovereign Grace.
My friends, I would greatly appreciate your prayers as I continue to walk through this process.  Please pray that God would give me the gift of sight where I have been blinded by my sin and others have been adversely affected by my sin. Pray that I will be convicted and experience godly sorrow resulting in reconciliation where necessary and adjustments to my heart and leadership. Thank you for praying in this way for me.
One more thing. For the past 5 years or so I have become increasingly aware of certain deficiencies in my leadership that have contributed to deficiencies in Sovereign Grace Ministries’ structure and governance, the lack of a clear and consistent process of conflict resolution and pastoral evaluation, and the number of former Sovereign Grace pastors who are offended with me/SGM.  I have met with some and by God’s grace there has been reconciliation with men like Larry Tomczak (I wish I had recognized and repented of my sin against him years ago).  This brings great joy to my soul.  In other cases, appeals for mediation have thus far been declined, but I’m hopeful this process will facilitate further reconciliation.  But beyond this, there are still issues that need to be addressed and fixed in our family of churches. And I bear a primary responsibility because it has happened on my watch and under my leadership. I have resolved that I and the Sovereign Grace team can’t effectively lead us into the future without evaluating the past, addressing these deficiencies, improving our structure, and as much as possible pursuing reconciliation with former pastors. So during this leave of absence I will not only devote all the appropriate and necessary time to the independent panel and the charges but also to doing what I can to identify where I have failed to lead us effectively in relation to pastoral evaluation and conflict resolution.
My friends, though my soul can be easily overwhelmed as I contemplate my sin and its effects on others, I am also resolved to examine my heart, address the past, and play my role in preparing SGM for a future of planting and serving churches.  And given the mercy of God portrayed in the gospel my heart is filled with hope that his good purpose for us will come to pass and cannot be frustrated. I trust there will be much grace to tell you of at the end of this process.

Psalm 128

Here's the latest psalm I've had the privilege of working with during our Summer of Psalms series at Riverview.  It's a loose arrangement of Psalm 128 from the Genevan Psalter.  I'm not going to post the recording of this one, because the recording really doesn't do it justice.  Kerry Glewwe did a great job singing it, and the band did really well playing the music.  Here's the sheet music for the arrangement I came up with if you want to plunk it out on a keyboard, and here's the original version from the psalter.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Church Membership

Here's a really good article by Matt Chandler on the biblical nature of church membership. What's the big deal about church membership, you may ask? Well, Chandler makes a good case from scripture that church membership exists in order to accomplish the following:

1. Encourage and enable Christians to submit to spiritual authority.
2. Receive spiritual care and encouragement from people in spiritually authoritative positions.
3. Keep each other accountable and restore fallen brothers through church disciplinary procedures.
4. Use church discipline and accountability to keep the church pure and undefiled.
5. Track growth - both physical and spiritual.
6. Creates a means for addressing physical and spiritual concerns within the church.
7. Creates an avenue for providing for and ministering to church members in need.
8. Keeps the body spiritually accountable to one another.

The list could go on quite a bit further, but that's pretty much what Chandler covers. Good stuff. If you're at a church and not a member, join up! It'll be good for you, both as a person and as a follower of Jesus.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Road to the World Series

Haha. I was putting together the children's bulletin for this week at Riverview and came across this maze. Each week we include a maze in the bulletin which I usually pull off of Google. I trim down any outward components to the maze to make it pretty generic. I got this one, cropped it down, and then realized that there was no solution to the maze. Hence the joke about going through the maze to get the cubs to a world series title. Haha.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Psalm 127

Here's the latest installment of our Genevan Psalms at Riverview this summer. Actually it's not the latest installment, as we've used two others since my last "Psalms" post. But it's the latest one that I've had an influence on, anyway.

For this Psalm, the idea was to have a men's group sing it. Kerry Glewwe and I worked on some syncopation and parts that deviated a bit from the original, mostly just to jazz the arrangement up and give it some life. Kerry came up with most of the parts. Then we included Eric Moteberg in the mix, and this is how it came out.

Psalm 127 by fatsjoel

We toyed around with a bunch of different ways of singing the psalm: a round, phrase extensions, modulations, etc., but in the end, time constraints forced us to keep it relatively simple. We ended up taking turns with the melody on the first verse, breaking it up into parts for verses 2 and 3, and then going back to the first verse again in unison, but also raising the melody up a step. I'm beginning to get an appreciation for the language of the psalms (ever tried to sing the word "quiver"? It ain't easy!). As is usually the case with live recordings, I thought it sounded better when we sang it than the recording makes it sound, but oh well.

The lyrics are below, and you can compare our arrangement to the original here.

UPDATE: You can also see a video of the rendition here.

Unless the Lord will build the house
It's builders toil in useless pain
The city's keepers watch in vain
Unless the Lord, it's cause espouse
No enterprise shall have success
Unless the Lord decides to bless

'Tis vain to waken in the dark
To start one's daily enterprise
And slave till night to realize
One's sustenance by endless work
For God, his gifts on us, will heap
To his beloved he gives sleep

Lo, sons are precious gifts from him
The body's fruit is his reward
The sons of youth like arrows guard
The man whose quiver's full of them
He shall be mighty in the gate
No foes shall enter his estate