pecaspers: a Blog in transition

February 28, 2016

Making the Race Harder

We went to Burger King for dinner tonight because our kids needed some time running around on a playground and… No, no “and,” the playground was the deciding factor.

After most of the food was consumed and the simple enjoyment of climb, slide, run, repeat wore off, my very competitive son challenged my wife to a race. Up the playset, down the twisty slides, the first one back wins. So that was fun for a few rounds with Mommy and/or Sister. Then Daddy got in on the action. Then we took a break, ate a couple more fries, split a cookie four ways, etc. 

Racing resumed with an added trip up the playset and down the double slide. Mommy sat out a couple rounds watching the baby while I let my boy win and my girl came in a distant third. When Mommy entered into the final race (leaving me to sit out), the course changed again. This time it was Mommy who made the race harder. Too hard for herself, in fact. The race became this: up the playset, down the twisty slides, back up the playset, down the double slide, through the tunnel under the playset, and back to start. 

That tunnel is easy for a 5 year-old to run through. Not so for his 20-something mommy; she had to crawl. It was hard to watch. Do I laugh, do I encourage, do I feel sorry for my sweet wife struggling to finish a meaningless race against our son?

Here’s where I landed.

I laughed at and with my wife, I cheered for her as she crawled to an embarrassing defeat of her own design, and I felt sorry for all of us humans for all the times we’ve made the race harder for ourselves. 

In the Bible, the author of the letter to the Hebrews writes at one point, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:1,‬ ‭ESV‬‬).

Adding needless complexity can make things better when you’re talking playground fun. That’s not the case with life in general nor with the Christian life in particular. God has good things for you to experience for your enjoyment, hardships he intends you to endure for the sake of developing your character, and comfort to give you so that you can comfort others (note: only hurting people need comforting). So the life your Father in Heaven wants for you will be a hard enough race to run, hard in an ultimately good way mind you.

The trouble is that we make the hard-in-a-good-way race harder in a bad way when we deviate from the course set before us. We add trips into dark valleys only to have to climb steep cliffs to get back out. We stop to attend to some distraction and let the race get away from us such that we must run all the harder to catch up. We pick up extra weights which we’re told add to the fun but merely add to the difficulty of running the race. 

My father-in-law runs marathons. I can’t imagine him getting halfway through the Boston Marathon in April and deciding to run an extra mile off the course to pick up a Big Mac, a pack of cigarettes, and pair of 20-pound dumbbells, you know, just to make the race more interesting. That’s insane. No one does that. I also can’t imagine him cutting down a sidestreet to shorten the race. That’s cheating, and it disqualifies one from finishing and receiving any award.

So why do we do that kind of thing so often? Usually, it’s because we aren’t thinking about the consequences of our actions, like my wife who didn’t think about how she would get through a tunnel designed for children. You get to make many real choices in life, but you never get to choose the consequences of your choices. 

Think about it.

Are you making the race harder for yourself? How is that working for you? What do you need to do to get back on course? (Hint: Give Hebrews 11 & 12 a read for starters.)

January 6, 2016

Jesus Selfies

Filed under: There's a Sermon Illustration in There Somewhere — pecaspers @ 10:01 AM

  

My two year old daughter has a tiny plastic camera. When you look through the view finder, you see pictures with basic Bible truths. One of them has a cartoon Jesus in it. She likes to “take pictures” of everything and everyone, including herself. The funny thing is that no matter what she she points the came at the pictures always show biblical truth and Jesus.

What about you? If someone takes a snapshot of your life, is the truth of God displayed there? Do you see Jesus in your selfies?

April 19, 2014

Gardens, Trees, Falling, and Rising

Filed under: Ministry,My Life in General,Tallassee Tribune drafts — pecaspers @ 9:10 PM

[The following was submitted to The Tallassee Tribune as a contributed article from the Tallassee Ministerial Alliance. An edited version will appear in the April 22 edition of the paper.]

In Genesis 3, the story of the fall of man is told. It’s the history of how the first man and woman broke God’s single, simple command and the curses that came to all creation because of their rebellion. It’s a story that takes place in a garden, involves a tree, and ends with people leaving a place they should have stayed. As a result of our first parents’ disobedience, shame and fear caused them to feebly attempt to hide their nakedness and hide from God. This original sin which we are all heirs to brought separation between humanity and God.

In the aftermath, God gives both curses and blessings. The earth is cursed with thistles and thorns, making man’s work a struggle against the land. Man must now sweat for his bread. The man and all his kind will die and be buried, returning to the earth from which he was made. The woman will now suffer great pain in childbearing, and she will be under the stress of filling a role of submission with a heart-desire to rule over her husband. The man and woman must also leave the garden behind.

The serpent was cursed too, but a promise of future blessing came with its curse. God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel,” (Genesis 3:15, ESV). This is what Biblical scholars call the proto-evangelion, the first-gospel. Here, so close to the beginning, we are given the promise that a man would come, the offspring of a woman, who would destroy the serpent though he would also be struck himself. Throughout the Old Testament, the details about this promised one are sketched out in types, shadows, forerunners, and foretellings–individuals and events that pointed to the One who would overcome the power of sin and death.

God blessed the man and woman he had created to bear His image by not destroying them outright as their sin deserved. They certainly died spiritually that day, but God mercifully spared their physical lives for it still pleased Him to work His good plan through them. God also clothed them; He made adequate coverings for their bodies from the skins of animals. Again this points to the way of things with God, blood was shed to cover man’s sin.

And so we come to the celebration of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, or Easter as it’s popularly called. Jesus was a man born of, in earthly terms, only a woman; he was outside the line of inheritance for Adam’s sin yet still the offspring of woman. The ancient serpent Satan struck him a mighty blow, it seemed at first. In a garden, this man who was the “bread of life” sweat drops of blood in anguish as he struggled in prayer over the things only He knew were about to come. This son of woman willingly submitted himself to the hands of ungodly rulers to endure pain greater than childbirth. Jesus, blameless as He was, took a punishment he did not deserve and forgave those who tortured and killed Him. He wore a crown of thorns on His righteous head, thorns which grew from the ground He had cursed because of sin. His clothes were striped from him; much of his own skin was stripped from him, too. He was shamefully hung naked on a cross, on a tree re-shaped for one cruel purpose. He died on that tree, and his lifeless body was taken down and placed in a tomb.

And in all this, he undid the curse. We began in a garden, and Jesus’ tomb was in another garden. A tomb is where a dead person is supposed to stay, but Jesus left His garden tomb behind. The great great turn around of history had begun. What looked like the end turned out to be a set up for a new beginning.

Because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we who are naturally born sinful sons and daughters of Adam and Eve can be supernaturally reborn sons and daughters of God. Because Jesus overcame death and the grave, we can know that death is not our end but have hope for the coming resurrection to eternal life. Because Jesus lived as one of us and remained sinless, we can hope to sin less and less as we live by the same Holy Spirit that was in Him. Because Jesus bore our guilt and shame on the cross, we have no reason to hide in fear from God, instead we can run to Him as our loving Father who has been anticipating our return.

The cross of Christ undoes the fall of man for all who will have it and all its glorious ramifications. This is what Easter Sunday is about. This is what every Sunday is about. This is what every moment of every day is supposed to be about. Is this what you are about? Let’s be about sharing this message until He comes again.

January 27, 2014

New Year, New Bible

This is my new Bible.

20140125-130515.jpg
It’s, as you can see, a Chronological Life Application Study Bible in the New Living Translation.

For a while now, I’ve read through a different translation of the Bible each year. It wasn’t all that intentional at first, but I’m on a pretty good streak. (Of years, I mean. Day to day, it’s rare that I string more than a week together without something derailing at least one day’s extended reading time.) Sometimes, I’ve chosen to simply read book by book through a regular version of the Bible. The rest of the time has been spent working through various study Bibles, reading every last note and article along the way. I’ve gone through The McArthur Study Bible in the NASB translation, The Holman Illustrated Study Bible in–obviously–the HCSB (scathing review pending), The Daily Bible in the old NIV, as well as at least one round through the old NIV, and twice through the ESV.

It’s not complicated. Reading 3 chapters a day carries you through the whole Bible in a year. Typically, you can read only 15 minutes a day and be on track to finish in a year. Reading a study Bible with all it’s notes and such will mean that you either spend more time reading or cover less ground each day of course. I typically read complete “episodes,” which is to say I’m looking for natural breaks in the narrative as places to stop. Sometimes that’s hard, but most of the Bible really is in story form. There are also more reading plans out there than you can shake a hardback KJV at. In fact, many Bibles have one or more reading plans mapped out in some of their supplemental materials.

This year, the Bible of choice is the previously mentioned and pictured Chronological Life Application Study Bible in the NLT. I went Chronological because I found the format very helpful at connecting concurrent events across various books the last time I read a chronologically ordered Bible some years ago. I went Life Application Study Bible because I wanted a study Bible that was less scholar-directed and more average-Joe oriented. So far, it’s been good for my soul to see some simple truths highlighted and applied to everyday life, even my everyday life. I went New Living Translation because I wanted read the whole New Living Translation. That’s supposed to sound obvious. I like the NLT in general. If you are looking to do in depth Bible Study, then it’s not the way to go because it is very interpretive and fluid in the translation philosophy. However, that’s precisely what makes it so easy to read, and that readability is what makes it such a popular translation. So because I know some of my people will be using it, I want to have experienced all of it as well. Besides that, I enjoy the flavor of many of the translation choices, for lack of a better way to put it.

20140125-142702.jpg

I’m not posting any of this to say “Hey, look at how awesome I am at reading my Bible.” I am trying to encourage you that Bible reading isn’t that hard and is super rewarding. You can’t deeply understand any one part of the Bible if you don’t have a basic familiarity with the whole thing. That’s not to say you can’t be a Christian until you’ve read the Bible, but what kind of Christian are you if you’ve never read the whole story of the Christ? Do you not want to know this God you claim to worship? Too many “Christians” are like the people Moses led out of Egypt who when confronted with the power and glory of God revealing Himself on the mountain said, basically, “You go hear from God, then come back and tell us about it.” (It’s in Exodus, which you know if you are a Bible reader.) Those people died in the wilderness because they didn’t really know and trust God, and that’s my fear for a person who calls him/herself a Christian but refuses to take up the discipline of Bible reading. “Pastor, you go hear from God, and then come back and tell me about it.” Are you asking someone to tell you about the light rather than opening your eyes?

Hopefully that last paragraph wasn’t for you. I read the Bible because I love the Bible because the Bible tells me about God because He loves us and wants us to know and love Him. God wrote a book. Have you read it? Why would anyone ever stop?

January 25, 2014

Test Post, Let’s Simplify

Filed under: My Life in General — pecaspers @ 9:10 PM
Tags:

This is a test. This is only a test. If successful, this post will verify that Paul E. Caspers’s blog is syndicated through NetworkedBlogs.com which also posts automatically to Twitter, @pecaspers, which then gets forwarded to his Facebook timeline.

If this had been an actual post, there would have been something interesting here. There is not.

This is only a test.

😛

The Empty Shelf Challenge

In advance of 2014, blogger/author/thinker Jon Acuff issued “The Empty Shelf Challenge.” The essence of the challenge is to clear a shelf and post pics of it filling up as you read books throughout the year. There is even a special board on Pinterest for it. (I can’t for the life of me figure out how to link to a particular board from within the Pinterest app, so no link for you unless or until I edit this post from my laptop.) I accepted the challenge while at my in-laws’ over Christmas, but obviously couldn’t clear a shelf until I got home.

Doh-tee-doh, it’s late January. I guess that makes it the perfect time to get around to clearing a shelf and posting my first complete read of the new year.

So, here is my empty shelf pictured with the Kindle I got for Christmas and the pouch my awesome wife crocheted for it.

20140125-104351.jpg

And here is my first finished book.

20140125-104519.jpg

Title: The Snow Queen

Author: Hans Christian Andersen

Cost: FREE! (At least, it was when I got it.)

Thoughts: I wanted to see how Andersen’s fairy tale related to The story told in Disney’s Frozen. It doesn’t. The two stories are in absolutely no way related, no matter what the credits of the movie might say.

Anderson’s Snow Queen is actually pretty tangential to the story bearing her name. Her heart is “frozen,” and she tries to entrap an unfortunately willing boy. The boy’s childhood playmate, a little girl, goes on a quest to find him, and it is this girl who is the focus of Anderson’s story. Neither of these characters–nor any others, nor the plot, nor any major theme besides self-sacrificial love–make it from Andersen to Disney. Queen Elsa ends Frozen (exceedingly vague spoiler alert) embracing the fact that people love her and she does not need to fear their rejection or hatred, and so she is able to wield her power to the benefit of her kingdom. Tim Burton and Quentin Tarrintino would have to be brought in to tell a story dark and twisted enough to turn Elsa into Andersen’s Snow Queen.

That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy Frozen. I loved it. It’s the best thing Disney has produced in house for quite a while. It’s also the one of the clearest depictions of what “true love” is about.

In it’s own right, The Snow Queen is…well…weird. The timescale is weird. It touches briefly on a wide range of topics in a weird way. Parts of the story are weirdly dark. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating kind if weird. This work is “fantastic” in the older sense of the word. Reality is bent away for the sake of telling a story that is somewhat allegorical and begs to be referenced. It was, by no means, what I was expecting; however, I enjoyed experiencing it, weird as it was.

January 23, 2014

Pain in My…

Filed under: My Life in General — pecaspers @ 3:22 PM

Something went wrong in my neck back in June 2013, which manifested itself as pain that began in my shoulder but had developed into pain/numbness/tingling down my entire right arm–from shoulder to fingers–by September. It was getting better through chiropractic care, until some unknown action caused a full blown herniation of one of the discs in my neck in late October or early November. That left me in constant pain–bearable if still, severe if trying to do much of anything, and excruciating if I made a wrong move.

And like so, I switched to a general practitioner who got me on pain meds and referred me to a neurosurgeon. I gave at-home-traction a try, but ultimately ended up getting a vertebral fusion. I’ve been in recovery mode for seven weeks as of today. Sadly, that means that I’m probably not going to get much better than I am, which is bad because I’m not great.

Hopefully, the neurosurgeon will have good news when I go back to see him on Monday. As it stands, two of my fingers and the back of my forearm are still partly numb, my incision site still feels funny (forgive the technical terminology), I get tired easily, and it often feels like someone is pressing a hot rock into my back but not in a good way. Your ongoing prayers are appreciated.

This was part of a different post, but it ruined the line of thought to keep it there. Chances are good that I’ll be mining these last couple months for all sorts of thoughtful gold, and that’s why wanted to go ahead and post this without any additional commentary.

January 22, 2014

Whiners All

My son is sometimes quite the whiner. The other day he was crying because he wanted to both eat and wear some candy jewelry, which he was already wearing and had permission to eat. Another day he had a full-blown meltdown because I pulled his pants up for him. In fact, that previous sentence could have ended with a hundred different benign actions and would still have been true. Don’t get me wrong; I love my son, and he is awesome most of the time. However, he is like any other three year-old and throws a fit over little things regularly. He has plenty of time to grow out of it.

God could say the same about me. He could tell you of how often I let little things get me down. What kind of little things? It really doesn’t matter. Pain, conflict, fear, difficult circumstances of any sort are all little things in comparison to God and His Kingdom. And that isn’t me making light of whatever troubles you or I might face; it’s me inviting you to step back and get a better perspective on the suffering common to all of us and specific to each of us. This is for all of us because, if you are honest, you have to admit with me that we’re all whiners sometimes.

The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal,” (ESV). We must keep in mind that Paul had seen plenty of affliction that we would naturally categorize as neither light nor momentary. He had already seen plenty of rejection by his own people including being stoned and left for dead. Eventually, he would endure beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, and danger from all sides. However, if you back up in 2 Corinthians 4, you’ll see that Paul endures all (and encourages all Christians to endure all) because the good news is in him and his greatest joy is in getting it out.

God, in His goodness, made a way for sinful people like Paul, me, and you to be brought into a right relationship with Him through the sacrificial death of Jesus–God in human flesh. This is the message Paul suffered to spread so that people would hear it and believe it and turn to God in response to it. Paul looked beyond his present troubles in thanksgiving for those who were receiving salvation by faith in Christ Jesus through his labor; he says as much in the early part of many of his letters. As we progress into 2014 and beyond, I wonder how much more Kingdom impact we would have on those around us if we would complain less and express thankfulness more, focus on our troubles less and consider the gospel more. Let’s find out. What do you say?

[This article was submitted to the Tallassee Tribune on behalf of the Tallassee Ministerial Alliance for the January 21 edition of the paper.]

November 18, 2013

Thanksgiving TMA Article

Filed under: Culture,Ministry,My Life in General,Tallassee Tribune drafts — pecaspers @ 2:38 PM

[This is a draft of my article printed in the Tallassee Tribune on behalf of the Tallassee Ministerial Alliance for the week of November 19, 2013.]

There is this thing called the Internet; maybe you have heard of it. It’s kind of like newspaper, radio, television, video games, shopping malls, bars, and old-time country back porches all rolled into one. On the Internet, there are all sorts of places to post your thoughts. As November began, I started seeing many of my friends, far and near, post things they are thankful for. If you are on the Internet, then you probably noticed this too. In fact, I’m also doing this, but I’m a few days behind at the moment. Anyway, it got me thinking. Who are all these people thankful to?

All the people posting their thanksgivings on various social media platforms aren’t Christians. Likewise, not everyone who will gather with friends and family around a roast turkey (or a deep fried one or a block of tofurkey or whatever) in celebration of our American Thanksgiving holiday is a Christian. Some seem to be thankful to a vague notion of God which isn’t true to His character, and others seem to be thankful to the impersonal universe in general. You can’t really give thanks to a God you don’t know.

I know that when I say I’m thankful for something general–like my church or clean tap water–I mean that I am thankful toward the one true and living God who has revealed Himself through history as recorded in the Bible and through the person and work of Jesus Christ. That God is the one to whom all my thanksgiving is ultimately directed.

Psalm 100 is a great Scripture to consider as we approach Thanksgiving:
“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.”
(Psalm 100, ESV)

What about you? Who are your thanks toward? Do you know the God who made you? Do you know His steadfast love that He put on display by covering for all you faults, failures, and faithlessness through His sacrificial death on a cross?

Many people are guilty of receiving God’s good gifts and turning to something or someone else to say thank you. Or, perhaps worse, they’re not giving thanks at all.

For my part, I’d like to thank you for taking a moment with me to consider how we ought to give thanks for “Every good gift and every perfect gift…from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change,” (James 1:17). Let’s praise God for who He is. Let’s thank God for what He’s done. And as often as we have opportunity, let’s point people to salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ so that they may join us in thanksgiving to the glory of God.

October 14, 2013

Random Recommended Readings

These are some articles I’ve read over the past few months. Each one has been sitting as an open tab in my browser since reading them so that I wouldn’t forget to share it somewhere. So, here you go; I’m sharing. There really isn’t an overarching theme other than that I think they were all worth reading. Enjoy!

The Blazing Center – “I Don’t Remember Chemistry and I’m Not Homeless”

More Than Dodgeball – “How to Defuse a Bomb”

Desiring God – “Six Benefits of Ordinary Daily Devotions”

Russell Moore – “What’s at Stake with Internet Pornography”

The Gospel Coalition – “Predators in the Pews: Protecting against Child Abuse in Your Church”

Morf Magazine – “Miley Cyrus and the Church”

Michael J Kruger – “The Complete Series: Ten Basic Facts about the New Testament Canon that Every Christian Should Memorize”

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.