Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Beach bums . . .

Vacation was wonderful. I think we could become professional beach bums. Our house was a block from the beach, and that's where you would have found us . . . every day, all day. After we had enough of the beach, we'd head back to the pool and hot tub. Then, we'd eat lots of good food in the evening and decide on what fun activity to do together. It was a rough life . . . it's hard being back.

More pics . . .

Goofing around on the deck - Me, Joy, Megan, Jenna

Brian giving me grief before our pool volleyball game

How we inevitably ended up every evening

The house and all us peeps

Megan and Joy - BFFs

The "older folks", ha ha . . . the parentals

The "kids"

He can still throw me over his shoulder

A portion of my immediate fam

Some of that good food . . . get'em cook'in young

Oh, more good food of course

Anyone for a homemade donut? At 8:30am? You know you're on vacation . . .


Brian caught me checking my work email

They couldn't resist a good burying in the sand

Brothers, post-burial

More lounging

On a date

Gorgeous sunset

So, we're back. I'm back to work, and Brian headed back to school yesterday. And, Brian will be coaching football soon. It's that time of year . . .

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

OBX . . . here we come!

Here we are back when we were young'ins . . . back in 2006 . . . we were merely engaged innocent kids . . . ok, I guess that was only 2 years ago, and I was already getting "old."

There ain't nothing like a sunset up on Jockey's Ridge . . .

The 4-day countdown to vacation has begun in the Hand house! We cannot wait! We'll join 12 others down in OBX -- family and friends. All we do is relax . . . and eat good food, of course.

Stay tuned for vacation pictures in a week or so.

Senior High Girls

Last week, we had our annual dinner out at Macaroni Grill . . . a favorite for most of us. We had a fun time hearing about the missions trip that the youth group just did to Washington Heights, NY. And, we brainstormed about the fall . . . talking about various activities and services we could do. Any youth leaders out there with creative ways that girls can serve the church? (They always have plenty of ideas of how to have fun . . . ).

Some things we have in mind for this fall are (all with a Bible study lesson at them): an apple-picking day at an orchard and then lots of apple pie baking and applesauce making. A day to make homemade bread and soup. We have a youth retreat in September to Harvey Cedars, NJ. A sleepover and then Color Me Mine in the morning. (We paint pottery at Color Me Mine, and the girls want to make Christmas presents there). We'll make Christmas cards for shut-ins and college students. And, we do Christmas shopping and a brunch in December. As for service projects: we usually make meals for families or new moms, we usually help with WIC (Women in the Church) events, I'd love for us to work with the local crisis pregnancy center, any other ideas out there?!!!! Also, any great material you're found for senior high girls to study. We're just finishing J. I. Packer's study on Hope. It's been great.

Phillies games

We must admit: we love going to baseball games. I get Hall of Fame tickets through my work and free parking, so we never pass those up.

I simply love a crowd and love sports. So, I'm sold. And, having played softball for more than 10 years, I simply love the game. We've at least been to 4 games this season. Here we are . . .

and here I am trying to twist Brian's head off . . . not really . . . there is no denying, I am goofyAh, the beautiful field
Me and a BFF, Krissy
Krista and Dave, church friends
Mike teaching Jenna a lesson . . . don't root for the Pirates!!!
Jenna, me and Krista

Monday, August 11, 2008

(Brian again)

This is going to be some kind of record for me...two posts in less than a month.

Anyway this is a new Study Bible which is to be released October 15, 2008. Among the contributors to this new Bible is Vern S. Poythress, and member of our church and Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminay. My first imprressions of this Bible from what I can see on the website is that it is quite impressive.

  • 1.3 million words of study notes!!!
  • 20,000 notes!
  • Over 50 articles—including articles on the Bible’s authority, reliability, and interpretation; on biblical archaeology, theology, worship, prayer, and personal application.
  • Over 200 full-color maps—created with the latest digital technology, satellite images, and archaeological research; printed in full color throughout the Bible.
  • 200-plus charts—offering key insights and in-depth analysis in clear, concise outline form; located throughout the Bible.
  • 80,000 cross-references!!
  • 40 all-new illustrations—including full-color renderings and architectural diagrams of the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, Solomon’s temple, Herod’s temple, the city of Jerusalem in Jesus’ time and throughout the history of Israel, and many more.

This is really incredible with full color maps throughout the Bible to bring context to where books were written, color illustrations of Archaeological points of interest, you must check out the website for it does more justice to it than I can. They include sample pages for you to view.

For years I have been a fan of the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible. This Bible is what I have used for the last 5 years and comes in the NIV translation. It has a great wealth of reference materials including great documents of the Faith contained in the back of the Bible. It is a companion to the Reformation Study Bible, ESV, which came out first and had all the same study notes, but did not contain the extra documents in the back making the NIV version superior.

Personally I am a fan of the ESV translation, it is a more literal word for word translation than the NIV yet retains the readability of the NIV that something like the KJV lacks. It is a rather new translation first being released in 2001 and has been growing in popularity around the world as many churches now use it as their standard translation. If you are unfamiliar with the translation I invite you to check it out it can take some getting used to especially if you have been accustomed to one translation you whole life, but give it time.

I only wish I could design a custom study Bible that combined all the features I wanted into one volume.... then again I would probably find that when I was finished I would have a Bible to large to carry around. Oh well. If you are interested, I think this is the best price available

Blessings as you Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Tim 2:15

I found a video intro too!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Great New Book

(Brian here).

What is adolescence? What is a teenager? What should be expected of teens? What should teens expect from themselves?

In this new book, Do Hard Things, twin teenage brothers, Alex and Brett Harris tackle these and many other "hard" questions and provide great answers and a refreshing perspective on the realization of the gifts, talents, and opportunities that God has given to teenagers.

I honestly feel as though I have know these guys, or at least I should know them. With each new page they express ideas that I have had for some time and have been trying to express to my students.

Look at the statistics, 2 out of 3 young people walk away from the faith they have been raised in. Why does this happen? I personally feel that we as adults, for years have dropped the ball. We don't expect much out of our teens, we don't expect them the really take their faith seriously. We expect them not to go out drinking, not to smoke pot, not to have sex, and to show up for church most weeks, and if they fall asleep in Sunday school...well at least they came. The teen who has a deep personal relationship with Jesus, who is involved in ministry, and who tries to make their choices based on what the Bible says more often than by what their friends say has become the exception. And what is the result...exactly what we expect. But we rationalize, "that's just the way teens are" or "this is just the culture they are growing up in" surely they have plenty of time to get serious in their 20's.

But this is not how the Bible views it. The Bible has no concept of the words teenager or adolescent. Rather Paul exhorts Timothy to not allow others to look down on him because of his youth but to set an example. In 1 John, John writes to young men because they are strong, and because the word of God lives in them and they have overcome the evil one. Timothy is a young man with great responsibility, wisdom, and maturity; David is a young man when he defeats Goliath, Joseph is a young man when he becomes great in Egypt and ends up saving God's people, Daniel is a young man, John the beloved apostle, Joshua, Samuel, all men who did great things at a young age. But we don't expect this from our teens.

I think one of the issues is that we don't provide many opportunities for them to discover their gifts and abilities. Sure we have pool parties, and lock-ins, fellowship events, and scavenger hunts, but how many "fun and easy" events do we have when compared to "hard service" events? And how many of the service events are they really responsible for. They help out with VBS, and go on a missions trip, some out reach events and the like, and these are all very good things and I don't not intend to be hard on them. But what I am talking about is how often are we willing to let them really have responsibility for a service project? Let them plan it, let them get creative and put their ideas into practice, let them experience the difficulty and hardship that can come from such ministry, not just in the safe environments were everything is all set up and they can't fail. I still think that we should be there to help and to provide wise council, but I think we would really be surprised with how enthusiastic they will be and just what they are capable of if we allow it.

One of the things that holds us back from doing this is that it can take a lot of effort on our part. It is hard work to disciple someone and it is often easier, and sometimes more effective for us to just do it ourselves. We wouldn't want a ministry to suffer in the the hands of unskilled workers who don't have experience. When we have this mentality we make a few mistakes. One is that the ministry will suffer. If we think this, we have placed to much worth in the work that we do and not enough in the work that God does with what we do. Second it takes a lot of work to train people up in the ways of righteousness... that should be obvious. Third would be to assume that teens are unskilled. While they may not have discovered or perfected all of their skills (who has?) they are Christians, and as such they have the Holy Spirit and this is the singular qualification needed by anyone to be effective in ministry. Not every ministry, we have different gifts but in ministry in general. Lastly they are a part of the body and as such we adults NEED them if we as a body are to live up to our calling.

What I have found is that when I expect a lot out of my students I get a huge return. I have also found that I need to be more faithful in expecting great things from them. We published a post back in February or March about an event my Sunday school class did. Our church has a monthly meal for homeless/ low income people from the community. The youth serve is this ministry periodically but not much is expected from them. So they show up and hand out some food and do it with a smile and then goof off and then hand out some more. Then the people who do this every month end up cleaning up the kitchen and doing all the hard work. This time was going to be different though. I told them they would have full responsibility for the month we served. They needed to plan the menu, cook the food or recruit others from the church to cook, set up the tables and chairs, plate and serve the food and do all the clean up and anything else that needed to be done. The deacon in charge came to our class and gave us a list of all the responsibilities that needed to be taken care of. Each week we set aside some time in class to prepare, I offered some help in getting a group of several food items that had been done in the past and they selected the menu. We all came in the night before and made the main course, a home made soup, dessert, and prepared for the following day. The kids were amazing, we had a great turn out and they were really excited and all said "we need to do this more often". One of the big things they want is to be taken seriously, to give them responsibility, and let them really serve. But this shouldn't be a surprise, you can't really live the Christian life without serving in some way. A Christianity that is self focused and not others focused is no Christianity at all.

Anyway I really recommend the book to everyone. Most who read this are not teens, if you have kids or are involved with kids in anyway, read this book, one of the best things we can do for them is to expect big things from them and to guide them and be there to provide wisdom and encouragement. For teens, if there is nothing expected of you, you need to expect big things from yourself and set your own bar. The book is fun and filled with personal stories from teens all over the world who have broken from this pattern of low expectations.

It is nearly 2 am and I apologize for the long post. Enjoy the book.