A Marriage Worth Working On


Sunday has been a day all about marriage.

At Harvest, the sermon was on the first sin (from Genesis 3:7-13), and it’s destructive effect on relationships with each other (including marriage) and with God. It was a very challenging look at how we sinfully fight and try to control and manipulate each other, rather than submit to God and one another in humility and repentance.

Later, we, along with more than 50 others, spent the afternoon celebrating the 25th wedding anniversary of Chris & Kimberly, a wonderful couple who invest so much of themselves in other people. They have a passion for discipling others and seeing them grow in holiness.

I could go on about them ad nauseum, but I think the best thing I could say is that they’re awesome people and we want to be like them when we grow up.

When I wasn’t toddler-wrangling at the party, I found it really interesting listening to the way people spoke of them in little speeches and toasts, particularly what their children said. Listening to them share how much they love and respect their parents and how their faith has been affected by them is really encouraging. I see these things, and I hear these things, and I can’t help but think, “I really hope my kids will be able to say things like that when Emily and I are celebrating our 25th anniversary.” Not due to any sort of need to be lauded, but really, because I want my children to be positively impacted by my faith. That Emily and I both can say to Abigail and our future kids, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).

Emily and I love to read a book together. It’s part of how we encourage each other to grow, spiritually (aside from my regularly asking, “So what’d you read in your Bible today?”). [Read more…]

A Living Sacrifice

We are loaded down with too many good things, more than we can need. The good things we cling to are more than money. We hoard our resources, our gifts, our time, our families, our friends. As we begin to practice regular giving, we begin to see how ludicrous it is to hold on to the abundance God has given us and merely repeat the words, “Thank you.”

Francis Chan, Crazy Love

I’m listening to Francis Chan’s Crazy Love while I’m writing this. This is a very challenging and convicting book, to be sure. It’s about taking the words of the Bible seriously. About living like Jesus really matters to you.

As I’ve been listening to Chan speak, I am reminded of Paul’s words, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1), and I find myself asking, “What am I holding back?”

A question that’s been on my mind today has been, “How much of myself should I be giving away here, on a blog, for anyone to see? How much of myself should I share with those around me?”

And the answer I keep coming to is, “All of me.”

If my life is not my own, how can I not share who I am & what God is teaching me with others, not just here, but with those closest to me?

If my life is not my own, what risks am I willing to take for the sake of the gospel?

Big questions with answers that have some scary implications.

So here’s my question for you, dear reader; do see your life as not your own?

If so, what risk are you willing to take for the sake of the gospel today?

Fun Dad moments

I have a great little girl. She’s funny, smart and I have no doubt she’ll be a boy-magnet when she’s in her teens (because she’s pretty like her mom… also, that’s not to say she’s going to be boy-crazy, because I don’t think she will be).

We have had a lot of fun moments this week, so I thought I’d share a few:

  1. Listening to her shout “Jesus!” when I signed his name (one of the only things I know in sign-language).
  2. When I asked her if it was time to come out of the bathtub, she responded, “No, I’ll stay in bathtub.”
  3. Singing songs as a family and listening to her sing back to us parts of Amazing Grace and Jesus Loves Me.
  4. Watching as Abigail announced she was making “Monster faces.”
  5. Getting a running hug when I got up at nine on Saturday morning.

It’s things like that that make me glad to be a dad.


Driving for Jesus

So we’re going on a bit of a road-trip today.

This morning, we’re heading up to Harriston to drop Abigail off with my Mom for a couple days, and hopefully pick up some delicious baked goods at the Harriston Bakery. From there, we are off to Toronto for a high-school friend of Emily’s wedding, which will be outdoors and a potluck (hence the need for delicious baked goods). Then, we will drive back home to get some sleep.

We’re looking at about 6 hours of driving.

But here’s the thing: I really hate driving that much. Other drivers make me angry. They’re selfish, impatient and won’t get out of my way, dangit! (After all, I have places to go.) And like a good Canadian, I hate Toronto.

Because I get frustrated on the road often, especially whenever I have to drive to Toronto, I frequently find myself meditating on 1 Cor. 10:31:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Imagine driving to the glory of God. What does that look like? For me, it means finding ways to redeem the time. For six hours, I get to spend time with my wife, four of which are just the two of us. We can listen to some good teaching via the iPod or an audio book (I’ve got three to listen to – Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and Crazy Love). We can talk about what God is teaching us through our study of the Bible. We can talk about what we hope the future will bring.

Just looking at the short list above, there are some pretty great ways to use the time and drive for Jesus.

What about you, dear reader? What are some ways you redeem your drive time, and drive to the glory of God?

When Talking to Family…

As many of you know (because I’ve written about it often here), for a long time, I’ve lamented my lack of initiative in more pro-actively sharing my faith with my family. It’s been a subject of prayer for both Emily and myself, to overcome our fear and speak freely. Because, if our faith actually makes a difference in our lives, we should talk about it.

Having just come back from a couple of days in Grand Bend, Ontario, with my in-laws, I can say that I did get an opportunity to do exactly that, when we got on the subject of the church; and more specifically, the things we believe are important for our family within a church.

We talked about the power of the Scripture, and that when it’s proclaimed with joyous passion—as though Jesus actually makes a difference in your life—it is a beautiful thing.

We talked about discipleship, and how church leaders need to be the kind of men who can confidently say, “Follow me as I follow Christ!”

We talked about the importance of church-planting and missions, because a focus on these inevitably fuels discipleship and enables future leaders to grow in and exercise the gifts God has given them.

And, we talked about male-elder governments, and why we believe that only men should hold the office of pastor. We talked about gender roles, and why we believe the distinction is necessary. This was a particularly difficult part of our conversations, as Emily’s mother is very much the dominant personality on most issues, and a product of the feminist movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s. There were times when I could see her tense and even a bit of anger start to rise up. But we persevered.

We kept our comments clear. We avoided rabbit trails and most importantly, we kept Jesus central.

Honestly, I don’t know what the results of this will be. I’m hoping that it will lead to more conversations. For now, that would be enough for me.

I am grateful to God that this opportunity was not wasted.

May He use it as He wills.

The Mini-Holiday Begins!

We’re heading to Grand Bend for a couple of days today, which will be very exciting. I’m trying to learn how to Sabbath, because this is one of my great sins; I simply do not know how to just chill out.

So if the weather is good, I’ll be sitting near the beach in my jeans and sneakers and reading Don’t Waste Your Life and probably a couple other books (I’m a fast reader), and playing with Abigail while she joyfully screams, “Look at me, Daddy!”

No email to check. No phone to answer.

It should be awesome.

What shall I read?

Summer is now upon us (I understand it’s the greatest week and a half of our lives here in Canada), and that means three things:

  1. It’s going to be sticky and hot in my house for the next three months (it’s old and lacks air conditioning)
  2. I’m actually going to take some real time off this summer (three days next week and one week in August, I think)
  3. It’s time for a Summer reading list!

I really dig books, so much so that I have a backlog of things to read (I’ve got the pile down to 9 or so). I want to get through at least some of these.

Here’s what’s on the list:

  1. Lord, Change My Attitude by James MacDonald
  2. God’s Passion for His Glory by John Piper
  3. The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics by, obviously, C.S. Lewis (I’m partly through Mere Christianity now—note, this contains seven books)
  4. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis
  5. The Apostolic Fathers
  6. Leading with Love by Alexander Strauch
  7. The Confessions by Augustine
  8. The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
  9. Selections from the Spurgeon Sermon Archives

My question for you, my friends out there, is which should I read first? Or is there a book that needs to be added to the list?

A Great End to a So-So Day

Today was, in large part, a day I’d like to forget altogether. But there’s something about spending some time playing with my little girl that’s refreshing. It’s amazing what a few minutes of fun can do.

Praise God for toddlers who want to do nothing more than “Daddy run!”


My Heroes in the Faith

Matt at EV recently wrote about who he considered his heroes in the faith—those people whose lives have been an encouragement and a model for his own.

I’ve been thinking about that question for a few days now. I’ve answered this question in part over at Evangelical Village in an interview, looking at three people who’ve impacted my faith. There, I answered Matt Chandler of the Village Church, my friend Adam Duguay, and my lovely wife Emily. Those three have all made a huge impact on me (and one without having ever met me, thanks to the wonders of modern technology).

But I’ve found it to limit myself, simply because there are so many. The Apostle Paul is a huge influence, in part because he is the greatest example of God’s grace to sinful humanity. A murderer of Christian men and women, saved by Jesus to become His instrument.

His disciple, Timothy, who was beaten to death in Ephesus for contending for the gospel.

Men like John Piper, Tom Carson, Charles Spurgeon, Chris Matthisen, and so many others all are men I look to as an example of the pursuit of holiness.

But in thinking about this subject, I came across an article by John Piper called Hero Worship and Holy Emulation. Because it deals with this very subject, I felt it would be appropriate to share an excerpt:

What is the meaning of the attention given to well-known pastors? What does the desire for autographs and photographs mean? The negative meaning would be something akin to name-dropping. Our egos are massaged if we can say we know someone famous. You see this on blogs with words like “my friend Barack” and the like. And I presume that, for some, an autograph or a photo has the same ego-boost.

However, I don’t assume the worst of people. There are other possible motives. We will see this below. But it is good to emphasize that all of this is more dangerous to our souls than bullets and bombs. Pride is more fatal than death.

When I say “our souls” I mean all of us—the signature-seeker, the signer, and the cynic who condemns it all (on his very public blog). There is no escaping this new world. The question is, How do we navigate it for the glory of Christ, the crucifixion of self, the spread of truth, the deepening of faith, and the empowering of sacrificial love?

Here is one small contribution. In spite of all the legitimate warnings against hero worship, I want to risk waving a flag for holy emulation—which includes realistic admiration. Hero worship means admiring someone for unholy reasons and seeing all he does as admirable (whether it’s sin or not). Holy emulation, on the other hand, sees evidences of God’s grace, and admires them for Christ’s sake, and wants to learn from them and grow in them.

May we not make idols of our influences; they are a poor substitute for our Savior.

I Have No Words

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If for some reason the video above isn’t working, here’s an edited clip from youtube:

The Challenge: What Have I Learned?

It barely seems like it, but the challenge has come to an end. After six weeks of no theology books and no podcasts, what have I learned?

Quite a bit.

I’ve been learning that my convictions are my own, and not the regurgitated opinions of other men who are smarter than me. The distinction of biblical manhood and womanhood, the need for a love of Scripture and sound doctrine within the Church, God’s complete sovereignty; I don’t believe these things because I’ve read them in books written by guys I like, but because I’m seeing them within the pages of Scripture. This is a very exciting thing for me, as it is a sign that I am slowing maturing.

The downside of maturing is I’ve been confronted more than ever by my own sin and iniquity. My selfishness and my pride have been brought to the forefront and the Spirit is working in me as I work on these issues. He is making me (slowly) a wiser, and less irritable man than I’ve been known to be. I am a very critical thinker, which in some ways is a very good thing, but in other ways it can be absolutely devastating. I can get so caught up on a niggling detail that I miss the forest for the trees, and become very judgmental and mean-spirited. [Read more…]

A Day Off: Celebrating 3 Years of Marriage


Today is a very special day; Emily and I are celebrating our third anniversary. God has grown us greatly over the last three years, and in this last one in particular. From becoming parents, my change in career, Emily becoming a successful homemaker and illustrator, and so many other amazing changes in our lives… it’s been a great three years, and I’m looking forward to the next 60, by God’s grace.

In honor of this, we are taking the day off and going to the happiest place in Burlington: Ikea! We’re looking forward to a fun morning/early afternoon of shopping and eating Swedish meatballs.

Maybe we’ll find a good deal on a coffee table and a dresser.

Happy Wednesday!

Week Five: Am I an Adrenaline Junkie?

This week, at the request of my mentor, I’ve been reading a book called Adrenaline and Stress, by Dr. Archibald D. Hart. Because of the recent events in our lives at the Armstrong home, we’ve all been feeling a greater deal of stress, and the truth is, I’ve never learned to manage stress well.

I always thought that I was immune to stress. That I could handle it, because, well, “I’m a man.”

Stress “helped” me function. It made me more productive. For five years, I worked a job with extreme deadlines and unrealistic expectations. 60 hour weeks were the norm. And I could do it. When I left there, I didn’t know quite what to do with myself at Compassion, because I didn’t have the enormous workload. I was actually stressed about not having anything to do. Now, the opposite is the case. But here’s the thing:  I have a great deal of trouble relaxing. I don’t vacation well. I don’t know how to take time off. And I don’t sleep much or well.

[Read more…]

Week Four: A Step in Faith

It’s a short update this week, and admittedly vague, but I actually learned the most in the fourth week of the challenge than in any of the previous weeks. This post is very much a follow up to last week’s on finding direction; if you have a moment, please do give it a read as it will give some further context to what I’m talking about here.

I’ve been contemplating on the words of my mentor regarding God ordaining the recent events of my life to draw me closer to Him, and to move knowledge from my head to my heart. Something I think that needs to happen in this is also taking action on ideas that have been in my head for more than a year.

Almost two years ago, I had a dream that didn’t make any sense to me at the time as it involved me doing things I didn’t have the skills for. This dream freaked me out for a number of reasons, the most primary being that it involved public speaking. Up until fairly recently, I was one of the worst public speakers you’d ever see. I could barely string together a sentence when people were watching. Once, my friend (and former supervisor) Richard counted more than 40 “uhs” and “ums” in a 5 minute report. In college, we always used to make fun of how awkward my hand gestures were during presentations (it was like I was beating eggs the entire time).

In January 2008, I joined Toastmasters at the request of my employer, and I’ve actually become a good speaker. Not brilliant, by any stretch, but I can definitely hold an audience’s attention. I’m honestly not ready to talk about what that dream was yet (publicly), but I can say that public speaking is no longer the issue it was for me.

This week, I’m taking a step in faith and sending an email that I probably wouldn’t have sent if it hadn’t been for Chris’ encouragement. This is a scary thing for me to do, as I don’t know what the outcome will be. Maybe nothing. Maybe something big. I really don’t know.

Only time will tell.