"Faith in the living God and his Son Jesus Christ is always the result of the new birth, and can never exist except in the regenerate. Whoever has faith is a saved man." - C.H. Spurgeon from His sermon Faith and Regeneration
Bethlehem Baptist Church (where John Piper serves as teacher elder) has recently launched a new website and is going to begin using a new logo. I think the site is sharp-looking and contains a lot of valuable information. However, all the content could be its primary drawback; it will depend, I guess, on how user friendly the different links and pages are.
Here is an excerpt of what Piper had to say about the new logo and website... We love the way the green color breathes with life -- the gift Christ bought for us on the cross. And we see the circles as people coming to the cross and exploding to the world. We think the new logo captures more of the vision of Treasuring Christ Together, since Christ is at the center of it and because it works for all the campuses, not just downtown. May the Lord make us living, Christ-exalting, cross-centered, and gathering worshippers and world witnesses!So is green the 'in' color for church websites these days? (Mars Hill)
A few people at work have asked me why I participate in lent if I am not Catholic or Lutheran. I try to explain to them that I do it because I want to join with the greater Christian church in focusing more intently on Jesus' presence in my life leading up to Easter. Usually that is enough. But there is another reason which I think is best illustrated with a story.
Last week we have hired a couple new team members to boost our scheduling options during the Lent season. One of the new guys has seemed to catch on very quickly. The other guy is not coming along quite as speedily. Yesterday, while I was working with new guy #2 in the kitchen, I was having an internal struggle over how to proceed with him. On one hand I don't want to waste a lot of time and money training a guy who is not going to be around for the long haul. Yet on the other hand I was questioning my own impatience with the training process. I am the kind of person who expects people to 'get it' qu…
It is just after midnight and I had to run something outside to my mailbox. I was wearing a T-shirt and trying to convince myself that I could walk for miles and not get cold. The delusion didn't last long. By the time I got back to my front door I was freezing and thinking about, "How horrible it must be to freeze to death."
Can you imagine? The shivering and shaking would be too much to handle. As I was thinking about dying by freezing I prayed a pray of thankfulness. God has given me so much more than I need. My house stays warm all winter and cool all summer. We have more blankets and jackets than we need. We are so blessed.
Watching my brother play has given me the bug for my former hockey glory days. So this morning I went to the local rink and skated in a 6:15 am pick-up game. It is the first time I've played since this summer and it reminded me of two things: 1) how much I love the sport, & 2) how completely out of shape I am.
This summer I had the chance to write my first published article for a quarterly Bethel Seminary publication called Heart & Mind magazine. The piece was focused on a woman who 11 weeks doing an internship in Romania. It was good learning experience for me in writing and I'm thankful that I was given the opportunity.
It was an exciting night for my alma mater as the Bethel University Royals beat St. Olaf 6-3 to win their first MIAC Championship ever. Despite the slippery snowy conditions the Balvin family headed across town to watch my brother Jeff play and we were not disappointed. Jeff played an inspired third period, which including scoring when one of the most awesome goals I have seen all year.
Picking up the puck at the offense blue line Jeff cruised down the zone diagonally towards the net. He faked a move towards the middle and then slide back to the outside creating a sharp angle at the net. The fake got the goalie to dip his shoulder down just low enough so that Jeff could 'roof' the puck up into the upper part of the net. I think I might have kicked the girl sitting in front of me when I leaped off the bleachers to celebrate.
It was a fun night and the success is a long time coming for the Bethel hockey program. Here's a link to the official game story: Bethel claims f…
Mark Batterson shares a good reminder when he writes, I just know that if I let my kids grow up without any strategy or intentionality I'll regret it the rest of my life. I want to mentor and disciple my kids. I want to be as proactive as I can possibly be. Nothing is as challenging. Nothing is more important.The tension between wanting your kids to know you love them and the need to discipline and train them for healthy functioning adulthood can be difficult. I want more than anything else for my kids to grow up knowing that Jesus and their dad delight in them. But sometimes I have to make the choice to bring unpleasantness into their world for their greater long term good.
I agree with Mark that parents need to very intentional with their kids. Haphazarded parenting is a big mistake. You don't always see the full effects of 'parenting without a purpose' when the children are young, but as they grow older they develop as products of their environments. I don't w…
We face a multitude of situations everyday where we must make a decision to behave one way or another. Either we can choose to be happy, or we can choose to be upset. We can choose to focus on the positive, or we can choose to focus on the negative. We can celebrate who 'good' we've got it, or we can dwell on how 'bad' things seem to be. We can make the best of a situation, or we can wallow in despair and complaining.
It reminds me a lot of the Israelites in the book of Exodus. Rather than focusing on the good things (like how God rescued them from horrible slavery, how God was visibly present to them in a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, and how he constantly was providing for their needs) the stiff-necked people complained about not having enough water and about God only providing them bread to eat. (Read what happened when God does give them meat, it is not a pretty ending)
Over the course of lent I am asking God to help me see my own weaknesses and…
I heard a quote today that seems to have providential timing in my life. I was driving home after a long day and listening to a John Piper sermon on marriage when he used the phrase "redemptive seperation." Then he remarked that there are times when separation in a marriage is necessary because by staying together the offending party may be "enabling the other to sin." You can read the whole sermon here.
I had been praying a lot today for some friends who are going through a hard time. I needed some wisdom and I feel like God gave it to me through the podcast. I don't really know what to do or what to say, so I am praying that God would be real and that he would show up in some amazing ways. Marriage is a difficult thing, every day, and yet God gave it to man and woman for their benefit and for the benefit of the world.
John Ortberg shared his 10 deadly sins of preaching at the National Pastor's Convention.1. The temptation to be inauthentic 2. The temptation to live for recognition 3. The temptation to live in fear 4. The temptation to compare 5. The temptation to exaggerate 6. The temptation to feel chronically inadequate 7. The temptation of pride 8. The temptation to manipulate 9. The temptation of envy 10. The temptation of anger(HT: Preaching Now email)
Fully aware that today is the beginning of lent I went a little overboard on my caloric intake yesterday, so now I have experienced the meaning of Fat Tuesday.
I am truly excited about Lent this year. In the past I have done some of the smaller, relatively easy and safe Lent practices like giving up soda. But this year I am going to do something more significant with the faith that God will bring blessings and breakthroughs into my life. I hope to share more of this journey as time unfolds.
My deepest desire is to live for Christ and to represent the values of the cross in everything that I say and do. For the next 40 days I want to make the life and death of Christ deeply personal. I know that there is nothing magical about 'lent' but it is a time when Christians can all unite around their faith and their desire to take the cross seriously.
How about you? What are you doing to intentionally focus your life on Jesus?
For some great sermons, devotionals and Lent information check o…
Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI has done a website overhaul that looks very sharp and is worth checking out. I love the simple use of space, the green font and the black and white photography.
If I was a designer I think this would be my style. I really like it when things that look clean and uncluttered. The large white margins on the page seem to make the photographs central and they grab my eye immediately. Plus, the rectangular shape of the photos defines the space sharply and places everything within a certain order and structure.
Does anyone know if this kind of design has a specific name? Or could you point me to some art/interior design that utilizes some of the this I am so terribly describing?
(Oh yeah...in case you didn't know...Mars Hill is pastored by some dude named Rob Bell.)
You may (or may not) have realized that I turned the comments feature back on. Here's a couple reasons why I made the decision.
Reason #1 - Conversation While I completely believe that blogging can be a personal endeavor, I cannot argue with the idea that it holds great potential for conversation with people of all different perspectives.
Reason #2 - Curiosity This one is simple. I am curious about who is actually reading this blog. And for what it is worth, I just found out yesterday that my Grandpa reads it. How cool is that!
My wife and I have been spending our Sunday afternoons with friends watching and discussing some DVD segments from Lee Strobel'sFaith Under Fire small group series. The DVD is set up so that groups of people watch small segments of debate between two informed guests. Strobel moderates the debate and adds some of his own commentary before and after the guest segments. The two questions we have seen debated so far are...
1. Is the supernatural real? 2. Is Jesus merely a Prophet or is he the Son of God?
The video segments have been interesting but they are extremely short. I feel like there is not enough time alloted to really get a handle on what each guest is trying to say. Just as you are getting a taste of the different arguments the video cuts off and encourages you to discuss your opinions with small group members.
As we have been talking through the questions above we keep wondering how two intelligent people could arrive at such different conclusions about the same things. In…
Bob Franquiz is a pastor down in Florida whose blog I read. He just had a baby girl and he posted this quote, which rings so true in my own life.... "There comes a time in a man's life which you cannot know, when he sees the first smile of his baby girl. He knows he must change the world for her..." (Admiral Jarok from Star Trek: TNG)
It happened today. As I was driving through the parking lot at work an older woman walked across the road in front of my truck. Trying to be polite I took my foot of the gas and slowed down until she was out of the way. Then, as I proceeded by her, she turned and yelled at me to slow down. My instant reaction was to rev the engine a couple times and then drive off.
As soon as I did that I was ashamed. How stupid. That lady is a potential customer of my store and if she sees me walk into the restaurant she's not ever coming in to eat. More importantly than that, doing what I did takes away from my ability to ever share Jesus with her. By acting like a jerk I am closing myself off from relationship with her.
A couple weeks ago a similar thing occurred. I was on the freeway near work and I changed lanes to pass some slower cars. When I went past a woman in an SUV she used her finger (a specific one actually) to show me her true feelin…
I thought The Office was great tonight. Anytime Jim is pulling pranks on Dwight you have a instant classic. Tonight was no except. I'm revealed that it was such a good show. In my opinion the last few weeks have been kind of weak. I was starting to lose faith. And btw, what happened to Andy? That dude drove me nuts but he was hilarious. And now he's just vanished. I wish they would have been more clear in writing him off.
Also, I saw the new Mac/PC commercial tonight dissing on Microsoft Vista. Excellent writing and very funny. I like all the Mac/PC commercials but this new one is probably my favorite.
My brother at Bethel University asked me to answer a few questions for a paper he is working on for an Organizational Behavioral class. Apparently I represent the 'Nexter' generation (1980-2000). Here are the questions and my responses; kind of interesting stuff to think about (especially question #2).
Q: What do you or people your age think about the older generation of people, like our parents and why? (for example- old, slow, smart, wise, patient, lazy/ hardworking, stubborn, crazy, fun etc.)
Let me preface by saying that these reflections from my own mental collage of stories, research, documentaries and conversations. They are in no way authoritative, and they make no claim to be 100% accuracy or inerrancy.
I think that my parents grew up during a time of societal transition (late 50's and early 60's).The people of my grandparents generation were hard-working folks influenced by the lasting effects of the Great Depression and ongoing global conf…
In many ways our kids' actions are a perfect reflection of the things they pick up from mommy and daddy. Which means that sometimes you have to look at the behaviour of your kids and face hard truths about yourself.
My kids are picking their nose constantly; to the point of even delaying bedtime by digging out a booger and then coming down the stairs to display it for me. This kind of nasal obsession could only mean one thing - I pick my nose way to much!
Dang, as if I didn't have enough behavioral patterns to work on right now!
After church on Sunday the family and I made a quick stop at home to grab some equipment and then we headed to the local outdoor hockey rink to give Jacob a try at ice skating. Our only attempt of 2006 ended after 15 minutes, leaving me with a sore back and seeing Jacob make very little progress. But now it is a year later and I thought the young Gretzky would be more up to the challenge.
After spending 10 minutes getting on his snow pants, jacket, stocking hat, and nearly too small skates we finally made it onto the ice (you can see some pics here). For some foolish reason I was subconsciously expecting Jacob to pick up skating almost instantly. I quickly realized this was not the case and started getting visibly frustrated with him. The longer it took him to meet my expectations the more short and angry I became. My response to his inability was to act out my frustration by jerking his body around and speaking harshly to him. The result of my childish behaviour was that Jacob was…
If you are a husband, a father, a single man or woman, a pastor, a teenager, a college student, a minister to youth or young adults, a single mother, or a wife (get the point - this includes everyone)...you NEED to listen to Mark Driscoll's Feb. 4 message on the Book of Ruth. It is probably one of the Top 5 messages I have heard from him.
While teaching on the story of Boaz redeeming Ruth in Ruth 4:1-12 Driscoll speaks extremely honestly and fatherly to the people in his church. There is a ton of wisdom in his words, especially in his words for young, single men. It is a message that is filled with advice on how to not only love Jesus, but how to live a God-honoring life.
I am so serious about this that I am willing to make CD's of the message and mail them to anyone who emails or calls me requesting a copy. If you want to download or watch the message yourself you can follow this link to the Mars Hill Church page devoted to the series.
The Resurgence blog has a great set of talks by Mark Driscoll on Preaching and Teaching Jesus from Scripture. You can get podcasts, vodcasts, and talking notes here. I heard a great quote from the Puritans in one of the talks. Driscoll quoted, "The same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay."This means that our preaching will not appeal to everyone. And nor should we expect it to. Some of the things that we say will connect with people and the Spirit will use our words to bring hope and life to people. But these same words may cause other people to reject truth or harden their hearts. As preachers we should not expect to have everyone love our sermons. Which is alright because the fanfare of all people is not a preacher's goal anyway. Preaching is about communicating and declaring the love of Christ and the truth of the Bible.
A couple years ago Stephanie and I attended a one day marriage conference. One of the main challenges we heard there was for husbands and wives to pray together every day. This was one of those challenges that came with a 'no if's, and's, or but's' clause. Unfortunately our good intentions after that day were somehow thwarted by the flow of life.
However, when the new year rolled around one of my resolutions was to pick up this prayer practice again. I believe that it has made a major difference. Praying together every night forces Stephanie and I to come together as a couple, both physically and emotionally. It provides an opportunity for us to share intimate feelings, concerns, praises, worries, and hopes. By laying out our hearts before God in prayer we are opening ourselves up to one another and carving out space to be vulnerable and authentic.
We have found that by bringing ourselves to God we end up drawing closer to one another. Think of an equilateral …
In case you were concerned about the black rings around Izzy's eyes in the picture below here is the explanation. She and her Daddy were playing with Mommy's eye liner. In the pictures below our little raccoon was making her brother laugh by repeatedly saying 'poopey.'
Came across this command while reading through Exodus... Exodus 22:18“You shall not permit a sorceress to live." It made me think of a couple years ago when a friend of mine was going through some pretty rough times. I remember her sharing with a group of us friends that she had gone/or was considering going to talk to a psychic. My counsel was that this wasn't a good idea, but I was amazed by the fact that there wasn't a strong consensus around the table. Some of my Christian friends seemed to think that it wouldn't be a big deal considering it was probably fake anyway.
Maybe it is because pastors don't preach about this very often, but I would venture to guess that a majority of Christians don't give much thought to the idea of psychics, horoscopes, and other astrological/spiritual things. But apparently, according to Exodus 22:18, these kinds of forces are a big deal to God.
Those of us who proclaim belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior must be wise. We …
I am so excited about the fact that my son Jacob is in love with the game of hockey. Not quite sure if I could handle being a goalie parent, but at least he is getting into the spirit of things. Almost every time we play hockey together Jacob will randomly announce that he is going to the penalty box for 2 minutes, or other times he says the the Zamboni is coming out on the ice so he has to take off his helmet and go to the living room (locker room).
Tonight we are planning to put some jerseys on and play a little one-on-one. How fun is being a dad, eh. For a couple more hockey pics, and many other random Balvin family poses, check out our Flickr site. Be sure to leave a comment there so we know whose visiting.
*Update - Izzy joined the fun for a couple seconds. If you couldn't tell...Daddy really likes the Maple Leafs.
During January I was having some problems starting my S10 truck. I figured it was the starter going bad but I never had a chance (or the funds) to fix it. It got so bad that Stephanie and I would have to push the truck and pop the clutch to get it going. I know it sounds crazy but doing that kind of thing with her really made me feel good, it was a moment that solidified out marriage.
But, since that is not a scenario that could continue forever I had to bite the bullet and buy the part last week. Thankfully a friend was able to install it for me and get the truck starting again.
Until the next day.
When I woke up to start my truck and drive to work nothing happened. I had a meeting so I had to drive to work in my wife's van, but before I left I removed the battery and got it tested. The test said the battery was good, which left a bad connection somewhere in the electrical system as the most likely explanation for the non-start. Bummer.
When we picked Jacob up from his Sunday school class today we asked his teacher if he had colored any pictures. She told us that he hadn't; instead of drawing Jacob was building lego brick towers and then knocking them down.
Later, as Stephanie and I were driving home, we were laughing about how Jacob is becoming such a 'little boy.' I remarked at how frustrating I found it growing up to spend five minutes building a tower and then knocking it all down in just seconds. Knowing that the tower would fall so much more quickly than the time it took to build it removed all the fun for me. I guess the same metaphor works with raking leaves into a huge pile and then jumping in them, or cooking a wonderful meal and then scarfing it all down.
My wife pointed out that the whole concept would be a good sermon illustration. Instantly I knew what she was talking about. Building, knocking down, and rebuilding a tower could be a metaphor for my life the last couple years. All the hard wor…
This is a list of some of the excuses and behaviors my kids have used to avoid taking their nap today (and almost every other time they lay down in their beds)...
1. I need a drink of water 2. I want my clothes off 3. I have a booger (both my kids pick out a booger almost every night before they fall asleep) 4. I need my 'Elmo' or 'Doll' 5. I am not tired 6. Leave the door open 7. I don't know how to go to sleep 8. Turn on the radio 9. I want a different blankey 10. It is hard to go to sleep
I have no idea how Stephanie gets through this everyday. It makes me so upset when they won't just lay down and sleep. And then I feel guilty about over reacting or getting too angry. Plus, I remember being a kid myself and how much I hated having to go to sleep; I still hate going to sleep.
It all makes me wonder how Jesus would handle the situation. Because that is truly how I want to do it. I thank God for using my kids to show me my own sinfulness and also for using them to make me…
My brother Jeff is a Junior at Bethel University and he plays hockey there. Bethel is enjoying one of its greatest seasons, and has a legitimate chance at winning the MIAC Championship for the first time ever. I am proud to say that my brother is a major contributing factor to this.
Last weekend the Royals sweep a two game series with Gustavus College. Gustavus was previously undefeated in league play. In game one (Bethel 4-Gustavus 3), Jeff scored the tying goal and assisted on the game winner. The next night (Bethel 3-Gustavus 2)Jeff added an assist on a game winning goal with :32 seconds remaining.
Yesterday Bethel easily defeated Concordia-Moorhead 8-2. Jeff had an assist and one of the more unique goals I have seen this year. After taking a shot from a bad angle, Jeff picked up the puck behind the net and shot it (intentionally) from behind the goal, banking it in off the goalie's butt. It is a shot that he and I practiced hundred…
16 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
This is a great post from the ESV blog about the dangers and responsibilities of Christians of blog. I am re-posting it in it's entirety. The bold parts are the things I found most important. Last week’s post on New Testament social networks appeared on the front page of news site Digg over the weekend, giving us a month’s worth of traffic in a few days’ time. We want to reflect on what happens when a Christian blog experiences a fleeting burst of popularity from non-Christian or even anti-Christian sources.Unlike some sites, this blog doesn’t focus on evangelism. It doesn’t overtly try to convert you to Christianity, largely because we assume that most of you are already Christian or at least sympathetic to Christianity. But every public Christian endeavor has an element of evangelism—you can’t help it: non-Christians watch your actions, hear your words, note your attitude.Blogging magnifies this scrutiny. Anyone from anywhere in the world can come across any of your posts for an…