Saturday, February 21, 2015

Cooper's first Monster Jam, pt. 2

Cooper's joy all night was so much fun to be around. I mean, I like Monster Jam and it was a great show, but doing it with my son was awesome.

Before the show started they had a bunch of people out driving around remote control Monster Jam trucks, which really kept Cooper's attention for a good 15 minutes. Which was also the number of times he let me know that he'd really like one of those sometime.

FedExForum is tight quarters for monster trucks, so they can't do as many tricks as the football stadiums, but it was still a great show ...

The trucks started off with a Wheelie Competition, plus they had a Donut Competition and raced before doing the ultimate freestyle round ...

We bought some headphones that day that are made for going to gun ranges, which was good, because it was so loud Cooper actually requested to wear them the whole time ...

Max-D doing his thing ...

Cooper was very much impressed with the Freestyle Motorcycle guys who jumped the ramps and did tricks, flips, all kinds of sweet moves ...

Then there was Megasaurus, a tank that turned into a dinosaur to "eat" a car while breathing fire. Cooper wasn't sure whether it was super cool or super terrifying ...

Friday, February 20, 2015

Cooper's first Monster Jam

Saturday, Feb. 14 I took Cooper to see his first Monster Jam show in person at the FedExForum here in Memphis ...

We got there early to enjoy the Pit Party where fans can get up close to the trucks and meet the drivers ...

Cooper's favorite heading in is Captain's Curse, so that's where we went first to meet Alex Blackwell ...

That's Tom Meents back there, driver of Max-D (Maximum Destruction). This was Meents first time in Memphis, and it was awesome. Meents is one of the top three exciting drivers on the whole circuit. He drives a monster truck like you would drive a remote control car - crazy, fun and somehow never gets destroyed.

Bounty Hunter is always good for some cool tricks. That's Jim Cretin. His wife was next to us, Dawn Cretin, driver of Scarlet Bandit.

This is Lee O'Donnell, driving NEA Police that night. He used to drive Iron Man, which Cooper loved, but Marvel ended their agreement with Monster Jam recently, so O'Donnell is freelancing. I just loved that in person the truck looked like the spaceship from "Flight of the Navigator."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Return to the Restoring God

My Sunday School lesson from Feb. 15, 2015 ...

Sunday we continued our study in Nehemiah, moving into chapter 9 when the past sins of the Jews were revisited in an acknowledgement that they messed up a lot and needed reconciliation with God.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** The people repented.

--- In the last session (Nehemiah 8), the people had listened and understood as the law was read to them; they had been away from God’s Word for a long time. As a result of hearing the law, the people realized their sin, both personally and as a group, and they began to confess their sin to God.

THE GREAT GOD (Neh. 9:32)

32 So now, our God—the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God who keeps His gracious covenant—do not view lightly all the hardships that have afflicted us, our kings and leaders, our priests and prophets, our ancestors and all Your people, from the days of the Assyrian kings until today.

*** Confession is good for the soul.

--- The Israelites acknowledge their sin and dependence on God.

--- Nehemiah’s people recognized that their ancestors and they had behaved arrogantly, rebelling against their benevolent God. Time and again they turned aside from God and His loving direction. The people’s sin resulted in chastisement and bondage, yet God remained forgiving and merciful. He fulfilled His promises despite their sin. When the Israelites forsook the Lord, He removed His protective hand and they suffered under oppressive enemies. When they cried to God, He rescued and redeemed them. This cycle continued over centuries, yet God never abandoned His people.

--- Once the people had confessed and were forgiven, they could see God in this fresh, big way – “great, mighty and awe-inspiring.” God’s greatness is intimately related to His goodness.

--- We, too, can call on the Lord in our times of trouble. Our great God loves us and wants to restore us as we turn from our sins and return to Him. However, we must approach God in repentance, with reverence and awe.

--- In a simple way, confessing sin is recognizing sin as God does—with no sugar-coating or excuses. Have you ever tried to withhold a confession, as if God wouldn’t know?

*** QUESTION - Why is it easy to identify and point out sin in other people? Why is it hard to identify and confess sin in our own lives?

THE CONFESSION (Neh. 9:33-35)

33 You are righteous concerning all that has come on us, because You have acted faithfully, while we have acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, leaders, priests, and ancestors did not obey Your law or listen to Your commands and warnings You gave them. 35 When they were in their kingdom, with Your abundant goodness that You gave them, and in the spacious and fertile land You set before them, they would not serve You or turn from their wicked ways.

*** It is by God’s grace that we are saved.

--- Nehemiah and his people understood that the only way they might seek God’s forgiveness and restoration was in God’s goodness and grace. You are not entitled to a problem-free life regardless of how you act.

--- Verse 33 stresses that while God acts faithfully, we act wickedly, therefore we need to confess. 1 John 1:9 says: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

--- QUESTION - What does unconfessed sin do to our relationship with God? How does prompt confession of sin impact our relationship with God? (Unconfessed sin always breaks our fellowship with God.)

--- C. S. Lewis said: “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” In what ways have you seen sin be a gradual, slippery slope?

--- Even when the people sinned, they remained His people. Whenever they repented and returned to the Lord, He graciously received them as a forgiving father receives a repentant son (see the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:20 - So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.).

--- QUESTION - Why do we reject God’s warnings? What makes us keep sinning?

*** Two steps forward, one step back.

--- Nehemiah chapter 9 looks back at the history of Israel and a history of spiritual failure. They would be blessed, then get stiff-necked and fall into sin. God would have mercy and save them. Then it would start all over again.

THE REQUEST (Neh. 9:36-37)

36 Here we are today, slaves in the land You gave our ancestors so that they could enjoy its fruit and its goodness. Here we are—slaves in it! 37 Its abundant harvest goes to the kings You have set over us, because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and our livestock as they please. We are in great distress.

*** QUESTION - What was the “great distress” the people were experiencing? (They were slaves where they should have been free, they paid taxes that left them poor, their “abundant harvest” was taken by the kings).

--- The people’s words of confession were honest and heartfelt. After confession comes their request. After God had worked to get the Jews back to the Promised Land, rebuild the Temple and restore Jerusalem, they were still under foreign control. How could they enjoy the land that God gave them if they were practically slaves in it? Yet they took responsibility for their predicament.

*** The New Covenant provided the ultimate way that confession is good for the soul.

--- Romans 10:9-13: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

TAKE AWAY POINTS

*** Evaluate your prayer life this week. Is there a heavier emphasis on “asking” in your prayer time? Is there enough emphasis on “confession?”

*** Carve out some quiet time this week to ask God if there’s any unconfessed sin you need to address.

*** Thank God for his forgiveness and grace that allows you to be saved despite your sins.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cooper and Penny in Jeffersonville, pt. 3

Gabriel practicing his trumpet, Cooper on the Wii, everyone else relaxing.

Celebrating Gabriel's 15th birthday!

Lunch at A Very Nice Restaurant. No, really, that's the name.

Cooper really enjoyed dessert at the cupcake shop.

Cooper and Nate playing on the Wii.

Big breakfast on the morning we had to go home.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Cooper and Penny in Jeffersonville, pt. 1

At Pizza King for dinner. A train that brings drinks, and you can play video games at the table? Winner!

At the park by the Ohio River walking bridge ...

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Cooper and Penny at the Louisville Science Museum, pt. 1

Good times with science, with Dad, Stephanie and Bill joining us ...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cooper and Penny at Dinosaur World, pt. 1

Visiting Dad, Stacy and Gabe and Nate, and Stephanie and Bill, in Jeffersonville, Indiana in January. We stopped at Dinosaur World in Cave City, Kentucky, on the way, where we met up with Dad ...