Saturday, May 06, 2006

Together for the Gospel

A lot has happened since the last post. One of the biggest things was a trip to Louisville, Kentucky for the Together for the Gospel Conference. About thirty pastors and TBI students from Bethlehem left at 6:00 AM on Tuesday, April 25, for Louisville. We took the church bus and van, and made the trip in about fourteen hours. While it was long, it was also filled with good conversation and a chance to rest and read.

On Wednesday morning, we had breakfast with Tom Schreiner, professor of New Testament Studies at Southern Seminary, and then went to chapel at the seminary, where R.C. Sproul gave the address. After chapel we had lunch with a bunch of TBI alumni and Pastor John Piper who flew in from his sabbatical in Cambridge, England to speak at the conference. It was good to see Pastor again and hear about his studies. A new book will come out from these studies, I am sure.

After a stroll around the Southern Seminary campus, we headed to the conference in downtown Louisville. The conference was put together by four friends from different denominations who are "Together for the Gospel." They are Mark Dever, pastor of Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC; Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary; C.J. Mahaney, pastor of Covenant Life Church in Maryland; and Ligon Duncan III, pastor of First Presbyterion Church in Jackson, Mississippi. For the conference, they invited three guests, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, and John MacArthur. It was a delightful three days of fantastic sermons, worship, and encouragement for pastors. While these men differed on certain issues (like the mode of baptism), they certainly agree on the gospel. It was a joy.

Click on the title to this post for a link to the T4G website. You can download each man's talk for a small fee. I think the two best talks were John Piper's and Ligon Duncan's. Pastor Piper spoke on why expositional preaching is particularly glorifying to God. Duncan spoke on preaching from the Old Testament. Please download these and listen to them. Even if you never preach, they are worth hearing.

I arrived back early on Saturday, April 29, and spent the rest of the weekend catching up with Wendy and the kids. What a joy it is to come home.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Twins Win! Twins Win!

Last Saturday night, April 15, Chase and I had the good pleasure of attending a Minnesota Twins baseball game in the Metrodome. The Twins were playing the Yankees, who happen to be Chase's favorite baseball team. I am sure that this is a travesty to Alex Bejerano and Tim Wines, who taught me to enjoy baseball, and consequently hated the Yankees. Oh, well. I think Chase mostly likes the Yankees because they have a bunch of former Seattle Mariners.

The Twins started out very well, getting up to a quick 4-0 lead. Unfortunately, they couldn't hold their lead, and ended up down by one, 5-4, going into the ninth inning.

The Twins were able to hold off the Yankees in the eighth inning. The Yanks brought in Mariano Rivera at the end of the eighth to try for a five-out save. He shut the Twins down.

On to the ninth. Yankees were at bat first, and were taken care of relatively easily. Three outs left for the home team. The first guy (I don't know their names; I am not from Minnesota) got on base. The second guy got on base. Then the king of saves, Mariano Rivera, struck out the next two Twins batters. The situation was this: down by one, bottom of the ninth, two outs, and facing arguably the games' best closer. The Metrodome was so loud you couldn't hear yourself yell.

The fifth batter hit a single to right field driving in both runs to win the game.

Twins Win! Twins Win!

Chase was bummed, for the mighty Yankees fell, but the two of us, we had a great time. It is good to be a dad.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Out of the Silent Planet

Many years ago, a trilogy of books was placed on my shelves as a gift. The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis, despite good intentions, has sat there ever since. Have you ever wondered what causes good intentions to never come to fruition?

Well, this last Christmas, I grabbed the first of the three off the shelf as a diversion. And diversion it was. "Out of the Silent Planet", despite being sixty years old, was an amazingly good science fiction novel. Yes, of course, the technology was rather like watching a black and white TV spot of Flash Gordon, but that was easily overcome as the story unfolded and the characters developed.

C.S. Lewis, if nothing else, understood human nature. He was unbelievably in tune with the way that we all think and feel. He could understand and then write about thoughts and feelings that make us say, "yeah, that's me." It is disconcerting at times, because typically it is our sin that he exposes. How could he understand the things that motivate me better than I can?

Anyway, the trilogy follows a gent named, Ransom, who finds himself the unwitting hostage on a space voyage to the planet Mars, also known as Malacandra. There he has several adventures, befriends the natives, and finally has a long discussion with the angelic ruler of the planet. For those of us with a Christian worldview, we can easily see themes that are near and dear throughout the story, but it is not nearly as alleghorical as Narnia. In fact, I don't think it is alleghorical at all.

If you are looking for something to read that is not your ordinary pop-culture fodder, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of this gem. You won't want to put it down, and your mind will be engaged. It is certainly more valuable to read than say...the Da Vinci Code.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Maundy Thursday

It is amazing to me how quickly time flies. I wanted to write about this last Thursday, and am just now getting to it.

As part of the Easter season at Bethlehem Baptist, we have a service on the Thursday before Easter. It is called the Maundy Thursday service. Maundy Thursday is sometimes called Holy Thursday and is meant to commemorate the last supper of Jesus.

Bethlehem makes the service very solemn and dark. We have a fifteen foot wooden cross at the center of the stage area lit with somber lights. Then two readers read the Passion story. The readings are intermixed with hymns about Christ's death.

After the reading and singing, a communion meditation is given and the congregation takes communion. Finally, everyone leaves the sanctuary (and out to their cars) in complete silence with all the lights turned out.

It is a deep way to commemorate the Last Supper and to begin to prepare for Easter Sunday.

The Lord has risen!
The Lord has risen, indeed!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Jackson's Island

The following sentence is controversial: We are reading Huckleberry Finn to the kids before bed. Despite the controversial nature of that, it was quite interesting to stand on the bank of the Mississippi River tonight and skip rocks.

The weather has been fine, in the upper fifties, and the sun has been shining, so we visited with some friends and walked down to the famous river. It was fun to think about the history attached to that river, and in particular the story of Huck Finn and his friend Jim, the slave. They traveled down the Mississippi from Jackson's Island, somewhere between Illinois and Missouri.

What was the river like then? What did it look like? Did rocks skip any better then than they do now?

For those of you in Washington or Oregon, think twice the next time you cross the mighty Columbia. What was it like for Lewis and Clark? What was it like for Hudson when he founded Fort Vancouver. Hey, I know, take a sunny afternoon this summer and go down and explore Fort Vancouver again. It is worth your time.

We will try and visit Fort Snelling in our part of the world. Then we can compare notes.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

TBI in Three Years

After much prayer and discussion, Wendy and I decided that we would extend our time in TBI to three years. The Bethlehem Institute is set up to be a two year program, with the option of a third year extension. Essentially, the second year of work is split into two halves.

So, next year my classes will include Preaching, Jonathan Edwards, Practical Theology and Galatians. The third year will include Hebrew (eight week summer course), Hebrew Exegesis, Genesis 1-4, and a yet undetermined Greek Bible exegesis course.

This will put off the final completion of an MDiv for another year, but the value of a less hectic schedule and increased time to study and reflect, as well as more time to be with Wendy and kids is too much to pass up.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Men Like These

I know that seminary professors do not make the top-fifty-most-famous-people edition of your favorite tabloid; however, it is amazing to me how many truly amazing men I have had the chance to meet since coming to Minneapolis.

Everyone needs a hero, and of course, John Piper is mine. However, I have several other heroes who are all of the same ilk: extremely brilliant, bible-saturated, God-fearing, Christ-exalting, and well seminary professors. In the last year and a half, I have met most of my heroes. John Piper in August 2004, Tom Steller in October 2004, Tom Schreiner and Wayne Grudem in November 2005, and Grudem again in March 2006.

I am also finding new heroes since we have been here. For instance, Sam Storms has become a hero. He is brilliant and exalts Christ. Get this, he also asked his future wife to marry him on their first date. They have been married for 34 years. He seems like a down-home country boy, but his alter-ego has taught systematic theology at Wheaton College (which is the Harvard of evangelical institutions.) In May I will get to meet Dr. Douglas Moo, who was a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity school and is now heading up the doctoral program at Wheaton.

(I hope you all know that I am not writing this to drop names or sound cool. On the contrary, I am like a kid in the candy store who can't wait to tell everyone what he as seen!)

Last night, was definately a highlight. I was able to listen to a lecture by and shake hands with Donald A. Carson. He isn't as well known as Wayne Grudem, maybe, but he is an incredible man.

Now, forgive me for being so excited about all these men. I am more excited about Jesus Christ. But the thing about these men is that they point me to Christ in ways that few other mere mortals can do. They have such amazing grasps of the languages, and history and, most importantly, the Bible itself that they make it come alive. To listen to them both thrills me and depresses me. It thrills me because they shine light in areas that had only been darkness; and it depresses me because I don't think I could ever have the wisdom, knowledge, or insight that they have.

I pray for that often. I want to be able to teach like them. I believe that God has called us to Minnesota to teach me how to teach. And I have been blessed to sit at the feet of men like these.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Playing Chauffeur to Grudem

Nine times in two years our church holds TBI seminars that are open to the whole church and required for the TBI Track 2 guys. These seminars include topics like, Desiring God, TULIP, Future Grace, Why We Believe the Bible, etc.

Last night and this morning was the seminar on Gender Complimentarianism. This is the idea that the genders complement each other. In other words, men and women are equal before God, yet have different roles.

Because Pastor Piper is on sabbatical in Europe, he did not teach the seminar. Instead, his good friend, Dr. Wayne Grudem, taught the seminar. Since coming to BBC, this is the fourth time that I have seen Dr. Grudem live.

Dr. Grudem has had a big impact on my spiritual development as I found his major book, Systematic Theology, back in the late nineties. It has been very influential in my learning.

In getting to the point, Wendy and I had the honor of driving Dr. Grudem to and from his hotel to the seminar today. It was a joy to ride with him and talk to him about his children and family and his career.

Anyway, it was a small joy for us, and another of those neat things that have happened to us since we came to Bethlehem Baptist Church.

Snow Days

I have been meaning to write about this all week, but alas, now is my first chance to write.

Monday morning we woke up with about nine new inches of snow on the ground. This was a welcome surpise since virtually all of the previous snow had been melted and we had several days with temperatures in the fifties.

Then, on Thursday we had another seven inches of snow. So, in the space of four days we had sixteen inches of snow. It has been a lot of fun, especially for the kids. The temperature has stayed around 29-31 degrees, so it hasn't melted much.

Today, however, it is warmer and the snow is starting to melt, but since there is so much snow, it won't melt too fast.

This is probably Old Man Winter's last gasp. Spring starts in a few days.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Winter's Almost Over

Minnesota has a reputation for being cold in the winters. While there have been a few days this winter where the temperatures dipped below zero, the vast majority has been disappointing. After all, if you are going to live in a winter climate, it would be nice to actually have the climate live up to it's reputation.

Despite the poor showing of old man winter this year, there was still enough snow on the slopes for Chase to do his impression of Shaun White, the Flying Tomato. Clearly, Chase has been inspired by the Olympics.

While Chase is bent on being the next snowboarding superstar, Mackenzie is taking things a bit more on the ground. She is carefully making her way down the hill.

Kayleigh doesn't care much for snowboarding. She would rather sled down the hill and is quite the daredevil. However, it can get boring quickly, so she takes a time out on the swings.

Brooklyn and Avery share a moment in the snow.

We had a good time sledding and snowboarding while our friends were here, among other things. It was good to hang out, much like old times. Last weekend, Brooklyn and Claire celebrated their birthdays together, and we all had a fun day together!

Our friends left last Monday, so we simply tried to get back to normal this week. Jason taught two classes on Wednesday night, Arcing and Diagramming, and Theological Foundations. He is really busy right now with his Romans 9-11 class, and a seminar on TULIP.

The kids and I have been doing school and playing around the house.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Happy Birthday Dad!!!


We all wish you a happy birthday. We tried calling several times today and weren't able to get a hold of you. We trust your day was great.

We love you!

The Abell Six...

Friends are Coming! Friends are Coming!

We have exciting news. Our bestest friends are going to fly their family out from good ol' Vancouver, WA to visit us next week. Trevis and Rebecca and the kids will be here next Wednesday. It should be a great time to catch up and share life together.

Also, in case you are interested, Pastor Piper had his prostate removed on Tuesday of this week. The surgery went "beautifully." He is home now and recuperating. Please continue to pray for him, if you think of it. You can read the update here.

The kids are having a blast watching the Olympics. We normally don't watch any TV anymore, but we all enjoy the Olympics, so we have had the TV on a lot lately. Chase really enjoyed the snow boarding. Shawn White is now a household name around here. The girls are enjoying the figure skating.

It is amazing to see their imagination: the games around the house now revolve around the Olympics. They fight over who gets to be Michelle Kwan or Emily Hughes or whoever. I don't even know all their names. Well, Chase gets to be Shawn White. He is not fighting over girl names. I guess it is better than role playing Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi.

Corny Jokes

Here are some corny jokes for you. These came in an unsolicited email. I think they are common enough that I don't need to give a source. Enjoy.

1. How Do You Catch a Unique Rabbit?
Unique Up On It.

2. How Do You Catch a Tame Rabbit?
Tame Way, Unique Up On It.

3. How Do Crazy People Go Through The Forest?
They Take The Psycho Path.

4. How Do You Get Holy Water?
You Boil The Hell Out Of It.

5. What Do Fish Say When They Hit a Concrete wall?

6. What Do Eskimos Get From Sitting On The Ice too Long?

7. What Do You Call a Boomerang That Doesn't work?
A Stick.

8. What Do You Call Cheese That Isn't Yours?
Nacho Cheese.

9. What Do You Call Santa's Helpers?
Subordinate Clauses.

10. What Do You Call Four Bullfighters In Quicksand?
Quattro Sinko.

11. What Do You Get When You Cross a Snowman With a Vampire?

12. What Lies At The Bottom Of The Ocean And Twitches?
A Nervous Wreck.

13. Where Do You Find a Dog With No Legs?
Right Where You Left Him.

14. Why Do Gorillas Have Big Nostrils?
Because They Have Big Fingers.

15. What Kind Of Coffee Was Served On The Titanic?

16. Why Did Pilgrims' Pants Always Fall Down?
Because They Wore Their Belt Buckle On Their Hat.

17. What's The Difference Between a Bad Golfer And a Bad Skydiver?
A Bad Golfer Goes "Whack, Dang!"
A Bad Skydiver Goes "Dang! Whack."

Monday, February 06, 2006

Consequences of Homeschooling

Strange things are afoot at the Abell home. After a hard day of math, Mackenzie seemed to have multiplied, and Chase flat out lost his head.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Update: Jason

This last Monday through Wednesday was the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors. Over 1,200 pastors from around the world came to Minneapolis for this conference. The TBI guys all went as well. The theme of the conference was "How Must a Pastor Die." The point was that a pastor should be willing to die for the gospel of Jesus Christ. The various speakers fleshed that out with visions of missionary martyrs to local racially harmonized churches. It was a good and challenging time.

Pastor Piper, who was not the keynote speaker, did his usual biographical sketch of a hero from church history. He has done 19 or twenty of these biographies now. They are very powerful, as this one was. It was on William Tyndale. All of them are available in manuscript form at this site at Desiring God.

Tomorrow I am going to Iowa City with Pastor Tom Steller. He is doing a Perspectives on World Missions lecture and asked me to ride shotgun with him. He is my mentor during this school year. I am very blessed to have him spending time in my life right now. It is a five-hour drive each way. However, it will be fun to add another mid-west state to the growing list of states I have visited.

As for school, TBI is overwhelming. I am spending all my time on two books: The Epistle to the Hebrews and the Epistle to the Romans. We are translating our way through the entire book of Hebrews this year, but in Romans we are only focusing on chapters 9-11 this semester. The theology in both is rich, but I worry that my time is so constrained that I am only grazing the surface.

God is good, and I am not complaining. I am thrilled to have this opportunity to study deeply. My hope is that my mind will kick into gear and begin to really understand what I am studying. I pray that my affections will also stay strong.

Tomorrow comes early. Off to bed.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Social Justice

Proverbs 24:10-12 says:
If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.

Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.

If you say, "Behold, we did not know this," does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?

Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?
On the 33rd anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade supreme court decision, this passage of Scripture has increased significance. God is a God who wants his children to rescue those who are being taken away to death, he wants for us to hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. Therefore, our family did something we have never done before. All six of us, along with about 300 people from our church, and about 6,000 people from the Twin Cities, marched on the Minnesota state capital today in protest of the current laws that allow legalized abortion.

When we arrived at 2:00 PM today it was 25 degrees. It dropped to 23 degrees by the time we left. We marched around the capital lawns for about a half hour to the sound of "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes. At 2:30, we gathered on the courthouse steps, sang Amazing Grace (6,000 people!) and then heard speeches from various officials. The suprise speaker was the Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty. It is a good thing to know that our Governor is very much pro-life, and cares deeply for the un-born.

It is our prayer, as parents, that our kids can see what is truly important. In the last two years, we have tried to show them that money and houses and cars and jewelry and stuff is not what matters. Only Jesus Christ matters. And as followers of Jesus Christ, we are commanded to love others.

When Jesus was asked by a lawyer who was his neighbor, Jesus told a famous parable. The lawyer was trying to test Jesus. Jesus turned the tables on the lawyer and never answered his question. Instead Jesus asked the lawyer, "Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" The lawyer answered, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise" (Luke 10:25-37).

The question then is whether we, as 21st Century Christians, can apply this to a 21st Century problem. The question is not whether unborn babies are our neighbors. Jesus refused to answer that question. The answer is obviously yes. Of course unborn babies are our neighbors, just as much as the man who was beaten and left for dead on the side of the road was.

The question that is of utmost importance is, "Who proved to BE a neighbor?" With 33 years gone by and 46 million babies murdered, who has proved to be a neighbor? Unfortunately, the answer is not me. Until today's miniscule step, I have never been a vocal neighbor to unborn children. Certainly we have given to our local Crisis Pregnancy Center, but anyone can give money. We can also march. Maybe marching isn't for you. Fine. But can you pray? Can you pray that the sovereign God of the Universe would so move that the legal right to abortion is abolished? And then pray how you can be a neighbor in a more bold way.

For, as Proverbs says, "Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?"

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sermon and Pastoral Prayer

As I mentioned in the last post, here is a link to the sermon from last Sunday. It is well worth the read.

Before Pastor Piper preached, our Lead Pastor for Life Training prayed over the entire church. The following is his pastoral prayer:
I thank you for these people because of the grace given to them in Christ Jesus. If there's one thing we need, it's enabling grace and you are giving it!

When they don't feel steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, help them know their labor in you is not in vain.

I pray that you would keep them strong to the end, so that they will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. You are faithful.

Moses prayed that his people would have something to drink, so this morning I want to ask you to slake this people's thirst for you.

Samuel cried out to you on behalf of his people and you thundered against the Philistines, and this morning I want to cry out to you to rescue this people from deeply entrenched habits, untruthful self-talk, accomodation and double-mindedness in world view, wrongful appetites, selfishness, pornography, and our own foolishness.

Elijah prayed and you answered so the people would know that you, O Lord, are God and that you are turning their hearts back again, and this morning I want to ask you to grant the gift of faith so that this people would know that you are, and that you are a rewarder of those who diligently seek you.

I feel badly that some here are facing physical pain and deadly diseases. Some encounter great doubts of the soul and demonic oppression. Others are experiencing confusion, perplexity and darkness. There are strained and estranged relationships that ache. This people faces a sea of misery in this fallen world.

Great Shepherd of the sheep, would you grant comfort and hope to those who need it. Give a mighty break through to those who need it. Give a swift kick in the pants to those of us who would profit from that. Put your arm around the lonely. And work all things together for the good of those who love you, those who are the called according to your purpose, and conform them to the image of your son in whose name I pray.


Monday, January 09, 2006

Yesterday: A Great Day

Yesterday was a great day. It was one of those days where everything went right. First off, Pastor Piper recently announced that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and when he preached on Sunday morning, he discussed this in light of the the Christian life and the Word of God. He was in great form and his preaching was superb. Check for this sermon. I will provide a link as soon as it is posted. While Pastor Piper's disease is not a good thing, the word that was preached was fantastic. I wish you all could sit under this kind of teaching.

After church, we went to McDonalds and then traded in last years ice skates for this years ice skates. Play It Again Sports sells used skates, and we were able to trade in last years skates to offset the cost. Then we went to the park a block from our house and skated for an hour or two. All the while is was gently snowing. It was a wonderful time.

After the kids were in bed, Wendy and I finished reading the first section of a book on Pauline Theology.

What a great day!

You may think we are nuts, but such is life in Minnesota.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Here We Are

Here is a picture for those of you who want to see a current image of us. We hope that the first week of your year is going well.

All of last semester, I have been the teacher's assistant for Pastor Tom Steller's two classes on Wednesday nights. Wendy has been taking the classes. Because we have been in these classes, Wendy and I have not been able to attend the regular Wednesday night service. Last night we attended the first Wednesday service of the new year, and our first service in over five months. The Wednesday night services are a lot different than Sunday morning, but they are still wonderful. They are more homey, and we worship, and have some teaching time, and usually, get to watch a few baptisms.

Last night there were two baptisms. It was obvious that both of these people truly understood the magnitude of their sin and the magnitude of the covering afforded to them by Christ's death and resurrection. It was an honor and a joy to hear their testimonies and see them take the step of faith in being baptized.

Next week Wendy and I will be back in classes. That is good, but also sad, because we realized how much we missed the worship services on Wednesday night.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Happy New Year -- Three Days Late

Happy New Year! We wish you all a wonderful new year. May God bless you as you strive to find your joy in Him. For, as my pastor says, "God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him." So, find your satisfaction in Christ, and in doing so, you will fulfill your greatest duty to glorify him.

We are a little disappointed in the weather. It is supposed to be cold here in Minnesota, but it hasn't hardly dipped below 32 degrees for the last few weeks. The lakes are starting to thaw. Several trucks have fallen through the ice on one lake. If we have to put up with heat and humidity in the summer, I sure would like to have a worthy winter.

School starts again this coming Monday. However, I have two assignments, plus reading due on that day, so I have started studying again. Please pray for Wendy and I as we try to get back into the swing of TBI and homeschool.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Romans 15:13).