Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Tragedy at the Harris Farm

Today at work I got a call from Shannon. "This is so sad," she said. I could hear Emma wailing in the background. "An animal got into the chicken coop and ate two of the chickens."

Shannon put Emma on the phone. She couldn't stop crying. I tried to console her. "Sweetie, maybe God knew that animal really needed to eat," I said in a soothing voice, using that special "daddy wisdom" we're given in these moments. "But it didn't eat them," she sobbed, "it just killed them." Um, okay, never mind.

Last spring Shannon had what I thought was a crazy idea: we would get four chickens as a homeschool project. Our neighbors were going to get chickens. It would be fun. I relented. One day we got four fluff balls with legs. They were undeniably cute.



We named them Fluffy, Afro, Nelly and Slowpoke. They lived in our kitchen, then in our basement. They grew and they began to stink up the whole house. So we hired a friend from our church to convert half of our shed into a chicken coop, complete with an outdoor cage section. The chickens grew past the cute fuzzy stage to the awkward chicken-adolescent stage. But somehow our affection for them grew.



We fed them, we gave them water, we cleaned up their poo. Our reward? For three or four months, there was no reward. No eggs. The neighbors had eggs we had none. This was a difficult time. I'd rather not talk about. But, finally, they started laying. We'd get three eggs a day. Not bad, huh? I've done the math and figured out that when you figure out the cost of the coop and the feed each egg cost about $50. Man, those were good eggs.

Then this summer my chicken, Afro, was lost to a fox. He was the slowest of the four and often left out. One night he didn't come back to the coop with the other chickens. Was it despair? Was it rebellion? Was he hanging with the wrong crowd? We'll never know. The next day a fox got him. At least that's what we guess happened. All we found of Afro was a pile of feathers.

We hoped tragedy would only strike once at the Harris Farm, but then came today. I thought losing two chickens was bad. Then tonight, actually just an hour ago, I went out to check on the lone chicken. I opened the door and found her on the ground ripped open. I heard scampering in the outdoor cage section of the coop and ran outside. Sure enough Mr. Racoon was still there. He was trapped.

I was so pickin' mad I started swinging at him with a hammer I had brought to try and patch up the coop. If you're a big racoon fan you should probably skip this part. I was doing my best to kill that little beast. The funny thing is that I actually like racoons. I read that book about the pet racoon when I was a kid. What was it's name? I can't remember, anyway I don't mind racoons but tonight all the fatherly, protective zeal of a chicken farmer came out in pure rage. I swung that hammer like an insane man. The racoon would climb up the side of the coop and I'd knock it down. I'm surprised the neighbors didn't call the cops. It was totally dark and my flashlight bobbed around, spot-lighting the racoon every few seconds and then "Wham!" It finally ran back inside the coop and climbed out the front window before I could get to it. In an instant it was gone.

I went and cleaned up the chicken with a trash bag. Gross. Earlier that night our family had held a chicken memorial service where we talked about what we liked about our chickens. Emma was doing better. Shannon had told her she could get a rabbit. Joshua Quinn was happy because his chicken was still alive. Tomorrow morning I'll have to tell him the sad news.

I know most of you are just laughing. You cold heartless brutes. But all my chicken-keeping friends around the world understand. I know you mourn with me. Goodbye, Slowpoke, Nelly and Fluffy. Thanks for the memories. Thanks for the eggs. Rest in peace.


Saturday, February 25, 2006

Spurgeon on the Lost

A pastor named Jim Donohue at Covenant Fellowship, our sister church in Philadelphia, recently shared the following quote by Charles Spurgeon at a conference on evangelism hosted by the Pastors College. It provoked me and I hope it does the same for you.
"The Holy Spirit will move them by first moving you. If you can rest
without their being saved, they will rest too. But if you are filled with an agony for them, if you cannot bear that they should be lost, you will soon find that they are uneasy too. I hope you will get into such a state that you will dream about your child or your hearer perishing for lack of Christ, and start up at once and begin to cry, 'God, give me converts or I die.' Then you will have converts."—Charles Spurgeon, The Sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon Volume 22, London:Passmore & Alabaster, 1876, 143-144.

Preaching through Luke has made me more aware of our Savior's heart for lost people. He actively seeks lost people. I want to be like Him. I want my prayers to reflect that burden. Spurgeon's words challenge me. I want to be a person who does not rest, a person who cannot bear to see lost men and women in our world perish without Christ

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Squeaky Josh Strikes Again

I was in Family Christian Bookstore today and ran into a lady who attends our church. She told me she heard me on Focus on the Family. Evidently they are replaying the original "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" message. I had no idea they were playing it.

I haven't heard that particular message for a long time. I just remember that my voice sounds really squeaky and high-pitched in it. I sound like I'm twelve. Of course I've sounded twelve for a long time.

If you're interested here's the info on the broadcast.

And here's an interview that I did with Focus several years ago.

Since we're talking about Focus on the Family...check this out. My younger brothers, Alex and Brett, who head up The Rebelution just did an article for the webzine Boundless called "Addicted to Adultescence." I'm so proud of those boys!

No Short-Cuts for Missions

I came across the following editorial from Christianity Today about Bruce Wilkinson's failed work in Africa. I read this with real sadness.
Given that Africa has often been a graveyard for missionaries, Bruce Wilkinson's sad and sudden departure probably shouldn't surprise us. In 2002, flush with celebrity, the Prayer of Jabez author determined to use his newfound wealth and influence to address Africa's tremendous social and spiritual problems. Eventually, his territory-enlarging vision narrowed to Swaziland, a tiny, impoverished kingdom abutting South Africa. Swaziland, with a population of 1.1 million people, has 70,000 orphans, mostly because of AIDS.

Wilkinson announced plans to start Dream for Africa (DFA), a $190 million project that would house 10,000 orphans on a 32,500-acre complex by the end of this year. The plan included a golf course, a dude ranch, abstinence training, and the planting of 500,000 small vegetable gardens. But facing hostile, misinformed accounts in the Swazi press and resistance from government officials, Wilkinson, 58, announced last fall he was leaving Africa and taking an early retirement from active ministry. The dream would continue, but in other hands and on a much smaller scale.

I thought the editorial was insightful and balanced. It not only commends the desire and effort of Wilkinson but critiques mistakes in execution. "Considering the world's suffering," it states, "the church needs more saints like Wilkinson, who dare greatly. But that daring must give due consideration to missions basics."

Though I didn't agree with the premise of his best-selling The Prayer of Jabez or the way many people treated the prayer as a sort of good luck charm, I respect Wilkinson's obvious love for the Savior and desire to minister to the poor and to orphans. I hope you'll join me in praying for Mr. Wilkinson and his family.

You can read the full article here.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Baby Has Arrived!

Our baby girl has finally arrived! God has been so good to us.

Shannon has had pretty rough pregnancies and deliveries but this was the best so far...though not without difficulty. She started having strong contractions at around 12am on the 15th. This was a big deal because she's never started labor on her own before.

When we went to the doctor he announced she was 4 centimeters dialated. Everything was going great until she got stuck at 9 centimeters from 5pm to 11pm. This was the "valley of despair" stage. Her cervix was swollen. Nothing was working. (At this point the guys all checked out. This is the problem with telling birth stories. You alienate the guys and you anger the women because you can't possibly give them enough detail!) During this period there were many moments when we thought a c-section was inevitable, but we kept praying and seeking to place our faith in God.

The doctor finally came in a little after 12 a.m. and announced—with a hint of annoyance—that she was checking Shannon one last time and if there was no change she was getting a c-section and that was final. When she examined her, she practically shouted, "This baby is coming out!" In just one push, Shannon gave birth at 12:22am February 16th to a 7 lb 4 oz baby girl.

We have named her Mary Katherine. Mary after the mother of Jesus who we fell in love with again during our study of Luke. And Katherine after Katherine Von Bora, the wife of Martin Luther. I'm studying Luther this year and Shannon read a biography about Katherine. We plan to call her Mary-Kate. Not Mary, mind you, but Mary-Kate. One side note: Mary-Kate was born on my parents anniversary which is pretty cool. Today they've been married 32 years.

Here are some pictures of the new Harris.

Shannon is doing great. We are praising God for the gift of this beautiful
daughter. Children are truly a gift from the Lord. Thank you for celebrating with us. Thank you all so much for your prayers. What a humbling thing to have brothers and sisters in Christ from around the world praying for us. We are so grateful. Now please continue to pray for the next twenty years or so as we seek to raise her for God's glory!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Sunday's Message

This Sunday evening, our congregation braved the snow to hear Jeff Purswell, Covenant Life pastor and dean of the Sovereign Grace Pastors College, teach on Luke 5:17-26. Jeff taught that, in the well-known story of the paralytic lowered through the roof, the fuller significance of Jesus' identity and mission is revealed. Jeff's message helps us understand and apply truths that are revealed in three participants in the event--the desperate men, the questioning critics, and the authoritative Savior.

To listen online or download it, click here.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Story Behind "The Room"


One night in 1995, while visiting Puerto Rico for a Billy Graham crusade, I had a very powerful dream. I recorded it in the form of a story and named it The Room. I had no idea then how far the story of my dream would circulate.

The article was orginally published in New Attitude magazine in 1995, and then reprinted in a chapter of my book I Kissed Dating Goodbye in 1997. It touches on the universal themes of guilt and redemption. How does a man find forgiveness for the wrongs he's committed or for the good he's left undone? Is our past something we can leave behind or forget? How can any of us know true forgiveness from a God who is holy and just?

Related Links
In a buried section of my website we gathered information about The Room. But since that page is now hard to find, I decided to post it again here.
• Read The Room

• Watch the 6-Minute Film Adaptation

• "Did Josh Really Write it?"

As the final link references, there's been a sad controversy around the authorship of the story. But the issue of central importance about the story is not it's author or its popularity, but the powerful message it communicates. The Room points to our need for a Savior who can rescue us from the punishment our sins deserve. Jesus Christ is that Savior.

Your Feedback
Over the last few years I've toyed with the idea of writing a shorter, evangelistic book that would use The Room to introduce and explain the gospel to people who don't know Jesus. I'm not sure I'm up for it, but I have always wanted to write a book that is written for a non-Christian reader—one that seeks to present the gospel in words he or she can relate to and understand. The Room seems to open the door for conversation about our guilt and need for redemption. But by itself it is incomplete—and possibly even misleading in what it fails to explain about God's wrath toward sin and the need for repentance and faith. It needs much more thorough explanation and unpacking to truly point people to salvation through Jesus Christ. That's what I'd try to do in the book.

So if you're willing to post a comment, I'd love to hear from you on one or all of the following: 1) Do you have a story of how The Room effected you when you firt read it? Or do you know of someone who was touched by it? 2) Do you think this book idea has merit? Do you think it would be useful in sharing the gospel with unbelievers? (Don't hesitate to say "no". I won't be hurt.) 3) Do you have any suggestions on what a book like the one I'm considering should include?

Any and all feedback is welcome. Some of you might remember that my third book, Sex is Not the Problem launched with a request on my website for stories and suggestions. So who knows, this post could be the start of something, too. I look forward to getting your perspective!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

For Preachers

Here's a useful article from 9 Marks Ministries. In "Expositional Imposters," Mike Gilbart-Smith writes,
"Mark Dever rightly describes Expositional Preaching as 'preaching that takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture.' However, I have heard many sermons that intend to be expositional, yet fall somewhat short. Below are seven pitfalls that one might try to avoid. Each of these pitfalls either doesn’t correctly make the message of the passage the message of the sermon, or doesn’t make it a message to that congregation at all."

I think other preachers—as well as anyone who wants to grow in being a discerning listener—will enjoy this. If you're a preacher don't be discouraged, if you're a listener don't become self-righteously critical of your pastor—I know I've made just about every mistake he lists!

Monday, February 06, 2006

"The Apostle with the Foot-Shaped Mouth"


This past Sunday I had the privilege of preaching the second message in our series from the Gospel of Luke entitled Lost and Found. The series is built around different characters in Luke who encountered the Savior. My message was on Simon Peter. The picture is by Hannah Kim, a gifted artist and member of our staff who is doing drawings to go along with the series. The following comments introduced the story from Luke 5:1-11 of Peter's calling and the miraculous catch of fish...


The Fisherman
The gospels introduce us to many memorable characters. But out of all the people and we meet as we journey with Jesus there are few that capture our attention and win our affection like the Fisherman called Simon Peter. He is boisterous and impetuous. And you can’t help but love him.

Peter had the most raw leadership ability of the disciples. He was a man who made things happen. The problem is that what he made happen wasn’t always so good. He was impulsive—a man of action who often acted or spoke before he thought.

No other follower of Christ caused as much trouble as Peter. No one spoke out of turn as frequently. In his book Twelve Ordinary Men, John MacArthur calls Peter “the Apostle with the foot-shaped mouth.”

That’s a fair description. In the gospels Peter asks the most questions. He’s usually the first to speak. He says what the others are thinking but are too timid, or too smart to say out loud.

For example in the midst of the awesome and holy moment when Jesus had been gloriously transfigured and was conversing with Moses and Elijah, it was Peter who spoke up to suggest that tents be built for the three men. Anyone else would know that the unspoken rule of a moment like that is “only the Son of God or major Old Testament figures are allowed to talk.” But good ole Peter had to pipe in.

And on another occasion the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water during a storm and were terrified. They thought he was a ghost. It was Peter who called out and asked Jesus to prove his identity by commanding him to walk to Jesus on the water. I still don’t understand what Peter was thinking in that moment. A normal person would say, “If you’re really Jesus tell me what we talked about over lunch yesterday.” But Peter wasn’t a normal person. And when Jesus called him, Peter stepped out of the boat.

I think that moment captures what Jesus loved about Peter. And what we admire. He was a man of faith. In spite of his sin and weakness he threw himself on the mercy of Christ. That’s why Jesus used him in such a unique and powerful way.

How did a man who so often said the wrong thing become the foremost messenger for the Son of God? Today we’re going to read the story of the day Jesus called Peter to follow him.

But this text is more than just Peter’s story.

In this section of Luke that shows Jesus gathering his disciples we learn some critical lessons about the kind of people that Jesus draws into his service. Through Peter’s example we’ll learn what our own response to Jesus should be. And we’ll see our Savior’s purpose for those who follow him.

You can listen to the rest of the message here. As always, your comments related to the message are welcome.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Praying for Baby's Arrival


My sweet wife Shannon is doing well, but is VERY ready to have the baby. For those who haven't heard our third (a girl) is due February 15. Unfortunately, Shannon has a track record of going late. Would you please pray that this baby will come in God's perfect timing and that His timing will be as soon as possible? We would be so grateful.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A Love for Reading

No one inspires me more in regard to study than my friend and mentor, CJ Mahaney. Check out his post at the Together for the Gospel blog on reading.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Scripture Memory

In my personal devotions I just finished John Piper's outstanding book, When I Don’t Desire God. Yesterday CJ told me it's his all-time favorite Piper book and that he was reading it again. Now there's an endorsement!

In one chapter Piper emphasizes the need for the discipline of Scripture memorization. Okay, instant guilt trip, right? This is an area I have desired to grow in and been frustrated about. Thankfully, Piper gave more than a reminder, he provided practical help. In particular gave suggestions by Dr. Andrew M. Davis on how to memorize larger sections of scripture that included some practical tips.

I've started to use this method and I'm a believer. There's no fancy trick here, but I'm now convinced of the wisdom of memorizing large sections—even whole books—versus the "a verse here and there" approach that I used in the past. I think tackling a larger section actually makes memorization easier, it helps you understand verses in context and it serves you in helping you meditate on God's word as you quote lengthier portions. So far I've worked on Isaiah 53 and I'm working on Ephesians 1.

Read Dr. Davis's article on scripture memory and then let me know what you think.

And if you'd like to comment, please share how you approach scripture memory personally and how you've seen God use this discipline in your own life.

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