Friday, September 30, 2011

Some Simple Christian Living Guidelines

Psalm 15.
1Who may live on your holy mountain?
 2 The one whose walk is blameless,
   who does what is righteous,
   who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
   who does no wrong to a neighbor,
   and casts no slur on others;
4 who despises a vile person
   but honors those who fear the LORD;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
   and does not change their mind;
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
   who does not accept a bribe against the innocent. 
Whoever does these things
   will never be shaken.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Andrew Brought Himself for "A" Day

This week in preschool Andrew was supposed to bring in something from home that began with the corresponding letter of the day.  Since we left Andrew's backpack in the car we were unaware of this.

On the first day, when the teacher asked the students to get their letter "A" items Andrew said he didn't have anything.  His teacher was very quick and wise, and she responded, "Yes you do.  What's your name start with?"  And Andrew said, "Andrew starts with A.  Oh yeah, I brought Andrew today!"

So, for letter "A" day Andrew brought himself!

What a great job by that teacher to turn a potentially negative, embarrassing situation into a positive one where my child felt good about himself.  So glad to know that is the environment my son spends his day in.  Way to go, and thanks to Ms. Hall!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I've Had It With Loneliness

My brother Jeff sent me these notes.  They were from a sermon series he heard at Eagle Brook Church.  There is some great nuggets in here if you or a friend are dealing with feelings of loneliness.  I especially like Q #3 because most people never go to that level of introspection in their lives but it is an important discipline to have from time to time.  No one should ever believe they have arrived at the best version of themselves that they have to offer the world.  Because of the damage of sin we all have things to work on until that day when Jesus makes us wholly complete.

Watch the sermon: I've Had It With Loneliness

3 Types of Loneliness:
-situational (eating alone in the lunchroom)
-seasonal (i.e kid leaves for college)
- chronic

4 Questions to Overcome Loneliness:
1. Are you trusting God?  Really?  Romans 15:13 "AS you TRUST in Him"

- continually know and trust God working in your life and honestly ask yourself how much you are truly trusting in God
Josh 1:5

2. Have you identified your "home team"?

-make a list--write down these people (bob had 18) in order-- i.e spouse, kids, in-laws, friends
-these are the people you call when you have a flat tire--the people who know everything that is wrong with you and still like you:), not just people who drift in and out of your life
-there is a certain oneness you have with other believers that you cannot have with non believers
-start investing in these people and let them know that--dont overlook the people God puts in front of you each day
-if your marriage is not your home team, something is wrong

3. Have you dealt with your relational barriers?

-these are habits you have that might be pushing people away and keeping you lonely (Col 3:5-11)
-the fastest way to loneliness if to lead an immoral, sexually careless life--you cannot build a family/marriage/home with these type of behaviors
"you just don't see people who are successful in life who are hotheads" - Henry Cloud
-Relational builders traits (Godly, genuine, generous, humor, energetic, depth, problem solvers)
-Relational barrier traits (needy, whiny, 1-issue people, lazy, pushy, jokesters, self absorbed)

4. Have you taken initiative?  Honestly?

-if you are lonely, what ARE YOU DOING about it?  
- start a group, service or volunteer- take a step
-make the call

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Wife is Racing in a Duathlon - She's Amazing!

Tomorrow morning my wife is participating the MN Iron Girl Duathlon in Bloomington, MN.  The race consists of 2 mi run, 22 mi bike, 2 mi run.  I am so happy for Stephanie that she is taking on this challenge.  Last summer Stephanie did a mini-triathlon in Northfield, but she didn't enjoy the swimming too much so this year's duathlon is perfect.

What impresses me the most is Stephanie's perseverance and commitment to training despite that the fact that she hates running and has felt sick.  As part of her training she ran in the Jesse James Days 5K earlier this month.  I can't wait to pack up the kids and head up to Bloomington tomorrow to cheer her on.  It's going to be awesome!

Run Stephanie Run!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Life of the Beloved: A Reflection on Friendship and Being Known

Stephanie and I have a meeting tonight with some friends who have invested much in our lives.  This group of men and women cared for us as we recovered from my wrong choices years ago, and we have met with them periodically ever since for prayer, guidance, accountability, encouragement, and on-going care.  They have given up time from their own families and colleagues, skipped potential vacations and trips, given financially, put their recommendation and word on the line, and they have done it all out of their love for us, and their love for Jesus Christ.  The more I reflect the more grateful I am for them and the many Christians brothers and sisters like them.

I thought of my friends specifically today as I finished reading Henri Nouwen's book The Life of the Beloved.  Nouwen was a Catholic priest whose books have always resonated with me.  He writes about Christ meditatively based on his own emotions, struggles, insights, and reflections.  I am touched by the vulnerability that comes out in his writing and inspired by his obvious love of Christ and desire to know Him more intimately.

The Life of the Beloved is a letter written to a close friend published as a book.  Nouwen struggled for much of his life to find a lasting closeness and intimacy with his fellow man and woman.  In many of his writings he reveals a yearning to love and be loved, know and be known, more deeply.  As I read the book today I thought of my own friends and the way we spur one another on to life in this world, and life with Christ. It is much better to be well-known by a few (intimacy) than to be well-known by many (popularity).  being popular was Nouwen's problem, and the desire for notoriety one of my greatest temptations.

The desire for notoriety because of some cosmic contribution to the world gets in the way of living vulnerably and contently with those around you.  Facebook friends and Twitter followers give the illusion of popularity, but when the technology is turned off you are left with what is  true.  It is then you must look at yourself and ask, "Are you striving to be well-known, or to be well-known?"  In one you will find satisfaction and joy, and in the other is an on-going struggle to be fulfilled and deeply loved not just for what you do, but for who you are.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pat Robertson is Wrong

For the record, I think Pat Robertson spoke very foolishly recently with his remarks about Alzheimer's and Divorce.  The following is a great statement from Joni Eareckson Tada regarding the issue.
“Any marriage has its challenges, but add a serious disability and they can, at times, seem overwhelming. This is why God instituted marriage as a lifelong commitment – Heaven knows it requires vows, solemn and serious, to weather a couple through the demands of disability." 
“I was dismayed when this week Pat Robertson said to a nationwide audience that Alzheimer's disease is a kind of death that makes divorce justifiable. When a Christian leader views marriage on a sliding scale, what does this say to the millions of couples who must deal daily with catastrophic injuries and illnesses?" 
“At the Joni and Friends International Disability Center, we encounter thousands of couples who, despite living with serious disabling conditions, showcase the grace of God in their weakness every day. Marriage is designed to be a picture of God’s sacrificial love for us. Alzheimer’s disease is never an ‘accident’ in a marriage; it falls under the purview of God’s sovereignty. In the case of someone with Alzheimer's, this means God's unconditional and sacrificial love has an opportunity to be even more gloriously displayed in a life together!”
Russel Moore offers more helpful words on the error of Robertson's thinking and the reality that marriage is to reflect the relationship of Christ to his church.  

Marriage, the Scripture tells us, is an icon of something deeper, more ancient, more mysterious. The marriage union is a sign, the Apostle Paul announces, of the mystery of Christ and his church (Eph. 5). The husband, then, is to love his wife “as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25). This love is defined not as the hormonal surge of romance but as a self-sacrificial crucifixion of self. The husband pictures Christ when he loves his wife by giving himself up for her.
At the arrest of Christ, his Bride, the church, forgot who she was, and denied who he was. He didn’t divorce her. He didn’t leave.
The Bride of Christ fled his side, and went back to their old ways of life. When Jesus came to them after the resurrection, the church was about the very thing they were doing when Jesus found them in the first place: out on the boats with their nets. Jesus didn’t leave. He stood by his words, stood by his Bride, even to the Place of the Skull, and beyond.
A woman or a man with Alzheimer’s can’t do anything for you. There’s no romance, no sex, no partnership, not even companionship. That’s just the point. Because marriage is a Christ/church icon, a man loves his wife as his own flesh. He cannot sever her off from him simply because she isn’t “useful” anymore.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Blow It Up...Put It Back Together

Blow it up, put it back together.

That's a phrase my wife Stephanie and I use to correspond with our celebration handshake.  I know it annoys my neighbor which one reason we do it so much. However there is another, much more important reason - since we've started using this phrase we've come to realize it is actually a phrase that has a lot of meaning for us and the story of our life together.

We have gone through some pretty hard things during our 9 year run.  Always the Lord has been faithful to meet our needs and sustain us through the darkest times.  He is good.

I am usually the primary player in the 'blow it up' phase.  I never have bad intentions, it is just that I have struggled for a long time acting like the rules that govern everyone else don't apply to me.  I look for a way around the rule, or try to slide by on some technicality, foolishly thinking it will all work out in my favor.

I believe it is most often God's grace and not his wrath when hard times befall us.  In his mercy God 'blows up' our lives in order that we might repent and turn to him.  Trouble brings us to our knees and makes us refocus upwardly instead of inwardly.  It is after things blow up, that they can then come back together.

Much needs to be said about the goodness of my wife in our marriage.  More than once I have given her good reason to end our marital covenant, but by the strength of Jesus she has offered me forgiveness and the chance to rebuild trust and love.  In Christ we have been able 'put it back together' - slowly.

I believe marriage is, by God's design, a picture of the relationship between Jesus Christ and his church.  No matter how many times people sin and blow up their relationship with God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, they are offered forgiveness and a chance to put the relationship back together.

I wouldn't have picked out the path I've walked, but I wouldn't trade it in for a different one either.  I thank my wife, and I thank my Savior for the love and grace offered to me in my errors, and I am confident that the same love and grace is available to you as well, if you will confess your sin and repent of your wrong doing.

Friday, September 09, 2011

9 Ways to Glorify God at Work

Our church talks a lot about being ministers in the marketplace.  Every believer should strive to be the pastor of their place of business.  This post by John Piper is helpful on thinking about Glorifying God in the Workplace.

1. Dependance
2. Integrity
3. Skill
4. Corporate Shaping
5. Impact
6. Communication
7. Love
8. Money
9. Thanks

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Islam & Christianity, 9/11 Reflection

At church last Sunday we talked about some of the differences between Christians and Muslims.  It was a good sermon and I was reminded of the freedom I have as a follower of Jesus.  Unlike Islam, Christianity is not based on a set of divines directives that must be followed 'or else,' rather, Christianity is based on the love and forgiveness of God demonstrated by the giving of his Son Jesus to die on a cross for our sins.

I'm grateful that my salvation is not predicated on perfect behavior because I would fall far short of the holiness standards of God.  My freedom as a Christian is not to do anything I please and expect forgiveness, but rather to live each day with an honest effort to please Christ, and to know assuredly that my failures will be forgiven.  Thanks be to God for rescuing me because of his great love for me when I could not rescue myself.

In the coming days there will likely be much talk about Islam and Muslims.  The acts of September 11, 2001 brought the Islamic faith to the forefront for many people and as we approach the 10 year anniversary of the Trade Center tragedies, Christians will have the opportunity to reflect on their own faith and the great salvation freely given to them through Christ.  May we all thank God for his gift, and we may strive, albeit imperfectly, to live the life Christ calls us to life, a life marked with love, kindness, generosity, and forgiveness....even to our Muslim neighbors and colleagues.  

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Izzy's ABC Prayer of Salvation

On Sunday night the daily devotional book I was reading to the kids told a story about a father who pulled his car over to the side of the road in a response to a warning light that was illuminated in the dashboard.  His kids wanted to ignore the warning and get to grandma's house, but he reminded them of the importance to responding to warnings right away.

The story illustrated the concept of Hebrews 2:3 which says, "how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?"  The point was: if God is tugging at your heart don't ignore it because you don't know what will happen to you if you delay response to the warning light of the Holy Spirit.

After reading the story I asked the kids if any of them felt like God was telling them something.  Izzy said yes and so we all read through the little guide on the back page of the booklet that outlines the ABCs of response to God.
A= Admit you are a sinner
B= Believe Jesus died for your sins and was raised again
C= Choose to accept Jesus forgiveness and obey His Word
I asked Izzy if she wanted to pray through those letters and she said yes!  Stephanie joined us in the room and we prayed we Isabelle.  I led her in a repeat after me type prayer and she admitted her sins, believed in Jesus, and said she was choosing to follow him!  It was all pretty cool and I was so happy for her responding in that way.  I pray that the Lord would continue to grow inside of her and draw her closer to himself each day.

Monday, September 05, 2011

This Fall Brings Many Transitions for Our Family

Fall is absolutely my favorite season of the year.  Some of things I enjoy during fall are the trees changing color, NFL and NCAA football beginning, lawn mowing coming to a halt, and perfect temperatures for being outside at orchards, bonfires, and playgrounds.

This fall is a unique one for our family.  This fall is marked by major transitions.  First, after two months of training I begin my new role as Operations Assistant Manager with Walmart.  I have enjoyed being in multiple stores and meeting lots of great people, but I am ready to take on the challenge of being in position and being a leader in my own store.

Second, Stephanie begins her new position as a 6th grade teacher at St. Dominic's School in Northfield.  Stephanie was a long term substitute at St. Dominic's last year and was offered a full-time position this year.  She has spent a ton of time preparing her classroom and lesson plans for tomorrow when the students come back to school.

Speaking of students returning to school, the third major transition for our family is that starting tomorrow all three of our children will be in school full-time.  Jacob is starting second grade, Isabelle first, and Andrew will be in all-day pre-K.  I can not believe I have three kids in school.  The phrase "time flies" is in a sense unknowable until you actually experience.  To be 31 and at this phase of life is mind-boggling.

A fourth major transition this fall is the transfer of Jacob from the public elementary school to St. Dominic's.  Stephanie and I prayed and sought a lot of counsel on this decision, and in the end it made more sense to have Jacob with his siblings and mother at the same school.  The cost of private school was a prohibiting factor, but it was overcome with the benefits of religious instruction, time with family and mother, not having to balance competing school schedules, quality of educational environment, and the anecdotes offered by other people.  Jacob will miss many friends from his old school but he is excited about the many new friends he will make.  Jacob is gifted by the Lord at reaching out and meeting new friends and I am confident he will do well.

It seems life is always on the move for this Balvin tribe.  I appreciate your prayers as we make this transitions.  Please pray for confidence and courage for the kids, wisdom and patience for the parents, and togetherness and love for the whole family.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Deep Roots

Here's a few quotes that have had me thinking recently...

Matt Chandler, in regards to intentionally spending time dealing with our 'junk' while we are still young,
"Deep roots almost never come up with the first pull."
Dr. James Dobson radio show guest _______,
"Obedience brings the breakthroughs."
"Our character carves out our future."