Friday, December 26, 2014

Best Books of 2014 According To...

I certainly don't endorse all of the books on the lists below; however, it's good to know what books others are soaking up. I usually have bookmarks in several books, and I'm thankful that this year I'm finding more time to read. I hope to soon complete Susan Cain's Quiet, Albert Mohler's The Conviction to Lead, and Byron & Robin Yawn's What Every Woman Wishes Her Father Had Told Her. I'm enjoying all three books and hope to complete several book reviews during the break.

Amazon's Best Books of 2014

Barnes & Noble Best of 2014

Christianity Today's 2015 Book Awards

goodreads Choice Awards 2014

The Gospel Coalition's Best Books of 2014

2014 National Book Awards

NPR's Guide to 2014's Great Reads

Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2014

The Wall Street Journal's Best Books of 2014

The Washington Post's Ten Best Books of 2014

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Five Funky Lay's Chip Flavors

I tend to be what some might call an adventurous eater. Over the years I've eaten a wide variety of animals (and their special animal parts), both raw and cooked. Basically, if the animal wasn't endangered or alive, I would eat it (to the glory of God of course). When I moved to Korea in 2002, I started blogging about the unique dishes that found their way to my stomach. Although I've slowed down in my search for funky foods, I do enjoy trying different snacks that others might shy away from. Below are five funky Lay's chip flavors that seem normal to me now. With the exception of the sour plum and melon, I would be fine eating any of the chip flavors below. I think the sour plum and melon is a bit too funky, but the other flavors fall under the "I'll eat them if they're being served, but I won't buy them" rule. They're not cool ranch Doritos, but they are deep fried slices of potato. Yum.

Sweetie Barbecued Pork
Fermented Soy Bean Prawn
Italian Red Meat

Wildly Grilled Rib
Sour Plum & Melon

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Thank You For Stealing My Wife's iPhone

Earlier this month, Megan had an iPhone 4 and a nice chunk of change swiped. That can put a little damper on your day, but we must rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances, right? Below are ten reasons why I am thankful Megan's iPhone is being used by someone else.

1. Friends encouraged us with gifts and words of kindness.
2. I was able to bless Megan with my iPhone 5.
3. I was reminded how all we have is simply on loan, and that a new home free from bills, anger, and prison cells is being prepared for me.
4. I was also reminded how wealthy I am, and how much of the world lives in extreme poverty.
5. I thought of Scripture that states how we have a Sovereign God of justice, mercy, hope, and peace.
6. I was tested and had to tap into the Spirit's power in order to have Christlike thoughts.
7. I prayed for the thief, Megan, and myself.
8. I fought my sin nature and focused on the finished work of the cross.
9. It gave me another opportunity to teach my children and 6th graders how we live in a sinful world that the Son of Man will restore.
10. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

Sea Salt and Chocolate Flavor Lay's Chips, Anyone?

One of the great things about living in the Middle Kingdom is how you're exposed to some peculiar snacks. Our local e-mart is scheduled to close at the end of the month so last night I took advantage of the reduced prices and purchased some sea salt and chocolate flavor Lay's chips. I'm glad the chips were on sale because I got ripped off. The chocolate flava' is funky, and I prefer more salt on my chips. Fortunately, my kiddos found the chips tasty so all was not lost. What I would like to see the Lay's company do is dip their chips in chocolate and wrap it crispy, salty, bacon. Now that would be a winner. Yum. If you're interested in learning more about the unique chip flavors found in China, check out these links: hot & sour fish soup, cheese lobster, fun wasabi shrimp, spicy green peppercorn fish, and seaweed.

Seaweed Pringles, Anyone?

The white American in me likes Pringles, and the Japanese in me likes seaweed, but there is not enough white American and Japanese in me to purchase seaweed flavored Pringles again. The seaweed flavor isn't strong, but the subtleness confuses me and messes up the Pringles. The Pringles are pretty though, and the green in them would present themselves well at any Christmas party. If you're interested in learning more about the unique chip flavors found in China, check out these links: hot & sour fish soupcheese lobsterfun wasabi shrimp, and spicy green peppercorn fish.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Are You a Spiritual Discerner? Matthew 7:1-23

The Parable of the Lost Son - Luke 15:11-32

How Do You Respond to God? Job 42:1-6

Wick's 2014 Highlights

It's that time of the year when I reflect on how our Father has blessed me. Here are past Wickersham highlights: 2010, 2011, 2012, & 2013

January - On the 21st we celebrated having Josiah for one year. He has rocked our world.

February - To the surprise of many, I announce that I would not be serving as the middle school principal after June. I am thankful to be able to return to the classroom and be one of Rose's teachers.

March - I started using an iPad at work in preparation for the August rollout for TIS students in grades 3-6. The larger screen enabled me to increase my Hill Climb scores exponentially.

April - A few other TIS educators and I attended a learning innovation symposium at Shekou International School in Shenzhen, China. I gained a better understanding of how iPads can be more than video game devices.

May - I coached Rose and a group of 5th-grade girls en route to winning the ISCOT elementary soccer championship. We are the champions, my friends. And we'll keep on fighting 'til the end. We are the champions.

June - Dr. Klootwyk performed ACL reconstruction and repaired the meniscus in my right knee, 16 years after he performed ACL reconstruction on my left knee. Both injuries are the result of playing the greatest sport in the world, soccer.

July - Megan and I celebrated ten years of marriage. Megan gifted me with some home decor that contained a Martin Luther quote: "Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave." I started crying like a baby.

August - I returned to the classroom after four years of being a middle school principal. To say I enjoy teaching sixth graders the Word and His world is quite the understatement.

September - For the first time in five years, I find myself coaching in some middle school soccer games. To my delight, the majority of the sixth-grade girls, including Rose, come out for the team.

October - Grace played in her first official soccer games, and I got to serve as her coach. Grace went into beast mode scoring eight goals while helping her third-grade squad to a 3-2 tournament record. I look forward to more fun on the field in the spring.

November - My Lady Eagles squad placed second in the seven team ISC middle school soccer tournament. The girls busted their butts all season, and we had a great deal of fun. After the soccer season, I added 6th and 7th-grade girls volleyball to my coaching resume.

December - My first semester back in the classroom after a four-year absence comes to a completion. I had a ton of fun and look forward to 2015!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Joshua Weigel's The Butterfly Circus

This morning I was told about this award-winning short film that stars motivational speaker, Nick Vujicic. I highly recommend spending 20 minutes to watch the film. My eyes got a little wet in the closing scenes. I think Tianjin's smog is getting to me.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving Messages 2014

In 2010 and 2011 I posted some Thanksgiving links that attracted some attention during the American Thanksgiving holiday season. Below are some new links that explain why we should be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving: The Noblest and Most Joy-Giving Sacrifice by Randy Alcorn (Eternal Perspective Ministries)

Feasting on Thanksgiving by John Bloom (desiring God)

When Jesus Hates Thanksgiving ... by Denny Burk (Boyce College)

Rekindling the Gratitude by John MacArthur (Grace to You)

Take Time to Give Thanks
 by Nate Shurden (The Christward Collective)

Free Downloads from R.C. Sproul (Ligonier Ministries)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Reviewing Ravi Zacharias' The Lotus and the Cross

The Purchase: Earlier this month I purchased Ravi ZachariasThe Lotus and the Cross from the Amazon China site, and once again I was pleased with Amazon China's fast and reliable services. The Amazon China site continues to improve their imported book selection, and I was glad to have finally read The Lotus and the Cross. The Lotus and the Cross is a book I purchased as a gift over a decade ago, and it was on my Amazon Wish List for several years. I don't often read fiction, but the story of Jesus having a conversation with Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) intrigued me.

The Author: Ravi Zacharias is an Indian-born Christian apologist and author who has spoken at top universities such as Harvard and Oxford. I became a fan of Dr. Zacharias soon after moving to China when I read his book, Jesus Among Other Gods. The Lotus and the Cross is a much quicker read at less than 90 pages. It should be noted that there are numerous pages throughout the book containing only one sentence from the story. Dr. Zacharias traveled to India and a few Southeast Asian nations in researching for The Lotus and the Cross.

The Recommendation: Although there are many critics of the book, there are also many who give high praise for The Lotus and the Cross. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to Christians and those who have a general interest in Buddhism or religion. If you are a devout Buddhist, you might not like Dr. Zacharias' interpretation of Buddhism. Dr. Zacharias covered the basic teachings of Siddhartha Gautama and not the many complex schools of thoughts and ethnic traditions within Buddhism. Although I would have liked the story to have continued, I appreciated Zacharias' epilogue and believe his book can and has provided good food for thought.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Reviewing Curtis Allen's Does God Listen to Rap?: Christians and the World's Most Controversial Music

I became a fan of rap during my upper elementary years when I sported red parachute pants and wore out a breakdance cassette tape on my Toshiba boom box. You gotta love the 80s. Although I no longer wear pants with zippers all of over them, I still often listen to rap. My rap collection has changed quite a bit over the years. No longer do I listen to what I would now deem as controversial crap, but instead what many would have to respect for great theological depth and creative artistry.

Last year when I saw that Curtis Allen, one of my favorite rappers, released a book about rap, you know I dropped the paper, pronto! Does God Listen to Rap? taught me not only a great deal about how rap music came to be but about the differences between much of the rap music I listen to today. It really was a fascinating read. Below you can read the chapter contents. Perhaps many would not be interested in this book, but if you have ever enjoyed the music of Lecrae, Trip Lee, or Shai Linne, I highly recommend checking out Does God Listen to Rap? The book is easy-to-read, has received glowing reviews, and points you to the One who gave us music. Peace out.

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD! Psalm 150:6
  1. Reformed Rap? The Story Behind This Book
  2. Dirty Roots - The Origins of Rap
  3. Rotten Fruit - The Influence of Rap
  4. The Indictment of Origin - What's Missing from Heaven's Playlist
  5. The Acquittal of Conversion - God is a Redeemer
  6. Rap and the Mission of the Church - Of Similarity and Sin

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Reviewing Keith Mathison's A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture

How old is the universe? R.C. Sproul, who provides the book's foreword, was asked this question at the 2012 Ligonier Ministries National Conference. Dr. Keith Mathison explores the question and more in this very short book. If you are a believer who has any interest in science, you might enjoy reading A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture. I do believe some will expect a more in-depth analysis of the topic. Below are the titles and summaries of the seven chapters.
  1. All Truth is God's Truth - A God-centered view of truth
  2. General and Special Revelation - What is the Reformed distinction?
  3. Interpreting General and Special Revelation - An examination of Martin Luther's and John Calvin's responses to new sixteenth-century astronomical theories
  4. Luther, Calvin, and Copernicus - How can we learn from the mistakes of others?
  5. Earthly Things and Heavenly Things - The fall's impact on human reasoning
  6. When Science and Scripture Conflict - How should Christians respond?
  7. The Age of the Universe and Genesis 1 - Dr. Sproul's answer

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Reviewing Christie Reenders' Pockets Full of Popcorn

Pockets Full of Popcorn is a cute 20-page children's story that takes place where I live, the great city of Tianjin, China. As you read about a cold winter day adventure of two young girls and their mom, you're provided a glimpse of the unique Tianjin culture. An appropriate "Chinese" font is used throughout the book and Chinese translation is provided on every story page. At the back of the book, you're provided additional information about ten aspects of Chinese culture encountered on this fun popcorn outing. A glossary of eight Chinese words used in the story is also provided. These words are found in red throughout the story. The illustrations by Feng Ai Dong are in a folk art style and lend well to the story. Colors are bright, people are smiling, and different scenes of daily life are shown. I recommend this book to those who have children and an interest in Chinese culture. If you have any connection to Tianjin, perhaps this book would be of interest to you as well. I look forward to reading to my son more adventures from Christie in her "Seasons of Living in China" series.

The Names of the Wickersham Kids

Why Grace Noel?

A mini roller coaster in Tianjin
Megan and I had some difficulty agreeing on what name to select for our first child. We had difficulty agreeing upon the name until I mentioned Grace. I am a trophy of grace. I’ve committed countless sins over the course of my life yet the God of the universe is actually going to give me a child to raise up. Wow. That’s grace – a God-given gift that I, a wrath-deserving sinner, don’t deserve. And Noel? It’s a word meaning the birth of Christ. That’s the name of our first, Grace Noel. An interracial couple giving a Chinese nine-month-old names of Latin and French origins. Makes perfect sense to me.

Why Rosalie?

Tianjin Olympic Center Stadium
Our second and oldest child came to our family having already been named Rose. Great name. I’m so thankful I wasn’t introduced to a four-year-old Jezebel or Delilah back in 2006. I like stressing Rose’s name in verses and songs that state how Christ rose from the grave. Megan and I wanted to modify Rose’s name though since she was joining our forever family and becoming an official Wickersham. Sort of a Sarai to Sarah thing. We chose Rosalie since Lee is Megan’s middle name, and in honor of one of Megan’s aunts.

Why Josiah Lee?  

King Josiah, King of Judah from approximately 640 to 609 B.C. and an ancestor of the Son of Man, had great influence from an early age. You can read about him in 2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34-35 and learn how he responded to God’s Word honorably by living obediently to God’s commands. King Josiah was a God-fearing leader of religious reform who restored the observance of the Passover, renewed the covenant, repaired the temple, removed witches and mediums from the land, and rediscovered the Book of the Law. I hope our Josiah can not only be like King Josiah but like the true and better Josiah, Jesus Christ.

So there you have it - Grace Noel, Rosalie, and Josiah. I’m floored our Heavenly Father has chosen me to be the father of these three amazing kiddos. They have been a tremendous blessing to us, and I look forward to seeing how their lives shape out.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Waiting for our food at the Waffle House in Avon, Indiana (June 2014)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Reviewing R.C. Sproul's Does God Control Everything?

It's a question that is often hotly debated - Does God control everything? If you don't know the answer to this question or if you are unable to defend your answer well, I highly recommend R.C. Sproul's Does God Control Everything? I have strong views concerning this subject matter, and Pastor Sproul's use of Scripture gave me an even greater understanding of several vital doctrines. Reading Does God Control Everything? will help you learn the difference between providence and foreknowledge, God's sovereign ordination, and the doctrine of concurrence. The book's 80 pages are divided into the following five chapters and can be read in no time:
  1. What Is Providence?
  2. God Makes It All Happen
  3. God or Chance?
  4. Is God Responsible for Human Wickedness?
  5. What About Human Freedom? 
If the topics seem difficult or uninteresting, I encourage you to still give this free eBook a chance. Does God Control Everything? is written for the layman, and covers topics that we simply should not ignore.

The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. Psalm 103:19

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Reviewing Kevin DeYoung's Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem

Prior to this school year, the past four years were the busiest time in my life. I accepted a new job as a divisional principal, completed an M.Ed. in educational administration, moved to a new school building, moved to a couple new apartment complexes, adopted a third child, and tore my ACL for a second time. I read Kevin DeYoung's Crazy Busy in December when I wasn't feeling crazy busy, and it's the second book by Pastor DeYoung I've read. Once again I wasn't disappointed. I found Pastor DeYoung's award-winning book to be a quick and enjoyable read. Crazy Busy is less than 130 pages and is endorsed by numerous big Christian names, many of whom are authors and musicians that have blessed me. Although Crazy Busy didn't cause me to make radical changes in my life, it did cause me to rethink my priorities in life. I'm happy to say life doesn't feel crazy busy now, and I'm thankful our Father has given me this time to slow down and smell the roses. Below are the ten chapter titles.
  1. Hello, My Name Is Busy
  2. Here, There, and Gone: Three Dangers to Avoid
  3. The Killer P's - Diagnosis #1: You Are Beset with Many Manifestations of Pride
  4. The Terror of Total Obligation - Diagnosis #2: You Are Trying to Do What God Does Not Expect You to Do
  5. Mission Creep - Diagnosis #3: You Can't Serve Others without Setting Priorities
  6. A Cruel Kindergarchy - Diagnosis #4: You Need to Stop Freaking Out about Your Kids
  7. Deep Calls to Deep - Diagnosis #5: You Are Letting the Screen Strangle Your Soul
  8. Rhythm and Blues - Diagnosis #6: You'd Better Rest Yourself before You Wreck Yourself
  9. Embracing the Burdens of Busyness - Diagnosis #7: You Suffer More because You Don't Expect to Suffer at All
  10. The One Thing You Must Do
He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30

Crazy Busy - Justin Taylor Interviews Kevin DeYoung from Crossway on Vimeo.

Reviewing R.C. Sproul's Can I Have Joy in My Life?

Contrary to what some pastors teach, we cannot have our best life now. Life will be downright tough at times and that can certainly make it difficult to be the most chipper person in the world. It is possible though to have joy during life's most challenging circumstances. Last year I chose to read R.C. Sproul's Can I Have Joy in My Life? because various struggles in my life were attempting to steal joy from me. Can I Have Joy in My Life? is only 51 pages and consists of the five chapters listed below. Section headings are listed in parentheses.
  1. Don't Worry, Be Joyful (How Can We Rejoice Always?, The Way to Recover Joy)
  2. Counting It All Joy (Looking to the Bright Future, Trusting God Through Calamities)
  3. How Do You Spell Joy? (Elation and Dejection, Rejoicing Even in Losses, The Best Way to Spell Joy)
  4. The Greatest Joy (Guilt and Joy, Confusing Pleasure and Joy)
  5. Fullness of Joy (Life Through the Vine)
Pastor Sproul had a profound impact on me when I first became a believer (and he continues to teach me much) so I had to take advantage of this offer to add another book of his to my library. I'm glad I did. I recommend downloading this free eBook, one of 20 free books in a series from R.C. Sproul. Can I Have Joy in My Life can help you see what joy is and where true joy can be found.

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Monday, September 22, 2014

Reviewing Randy Alcorn's If God is Good: Why Do We Hurt?

Another Randy Alcorn booklet I've recently read is If God is Good: Why Do We Hurt? A few years ago Megan purchased the 500-page version for me, but it continues to be a part of a stack of books I've yet to tackle. I was able to read the 75-page booklet on a recent trip, and if you desire to have a better understanding about the hurts of the world, Randy Alcorn can provide you the answers to this not so fun topic. As in previous books I've read by Mr. Alcorn, you'll find his answers supported with pages of Scripture. Below are the questions Mr. Alcorn, a man who has certainly experienced some suffering, handles with grace and truth. Check it out.

  • Introduction: The Search We All Share
  • How Is Suffering Related to Evil?
  • Where Do Evil and Suffering Come From?
  • What Causes Natural Disasters?
  • What Common Explanations Are Given for Evil and Suffering?
  • Doesn't the Reality of Evil and Suffering Expose God's Limitations?
  • Why Doesn't God Immediately Bring Evil and Suffering to an End?
  • Why Doesn't God Eliminate the Worst Forms of Evil and Suffering?
  • Can We Be Sure That Someday We'll Be Free of Suffering and Evil?
  • How True Are the "Health and Wealth Theology" Claims About Escaping Suffering?
  • Why Hasn't God Made the Reasons for Our Suffering More Clear?
  • Can We Really Trust God to Use Our Suffering for Good?
  • Is Suffering Really Necessary to Build Our Character? 
  • What's the Right Way to Respond to Our Suffering?
  • Since Suffering Is Inevitable, How Can I Prepare for It?
  • Jesus - The Only Answer Bigger Than the Questions

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Why I Like Living in Tianjin, China

Yesterday a Chinese security guard asked me how long I've lived in Tianjin. He was quite surprised when I told him I've been here for more than 11 years. When I tell foreigners this, it's not uncommon for them to remark, "You must like the city." I would actually prefer living in a van down by the Ohio River, not in a city of approximately 12 million people. Despite this, there is much I appreciate about living here, and below are ten of those things.

1. Hanging out with and making new friends
2. Eating street food, especially yang rou chuanr
3. Chinese kids practicing their English skills with me
4. Riding my 100cc motorbike on the mean streets of TJ
5. Coaching my daughters and other young girls the world's greatest sport
6. Constantly learning new aspects of this ever-changing city and culture
7. Worshipping with people from around the world at our international fellowship
8. Stumbling upon a special western find that I had no idea was being sold in the city
9. Teaching sixth graders the Good Book and geography at Tianjin International School
10. Living in a nice apartment complex with easy access to huge malls and yummy restaurants

Friday, September 19, 2014

Reviewing Vance Christie's Hudson Taylor: Gospel Pioneer to China

Three years ago when my former pastor paid me a visit in Tianjin, he gave me Vance Christie's biography about Hudson Taylor. Pastor Dimmick really couldn't have given me much better of a gift. I don't often read biographies, but whenever I have done so, I usually find the reads to be quite enjoyable. Vance Christie's book is definitely in that enjoyable category. Hudson Taylor: Gospel Pioneer to China is a 200-page book about a man who left the United Kingdom in 1853 to serve in the Middle Kingdom for 50 years. In the 19 chapters, you'll read some absolutely amazing accounts. Hudson Taylor faced a great deal of heartache and opposition; however, he remained committed to the work God called him to. Although the writing is simple enough for some of my sixth graders to handle, the book should engage most adults who enjoy Christian biographies. Tim Challies, my favorite blogger, gives his endorsement of the book, and you can add me to that list. Please know should you ever hear me complain about how challenging my life is overseas, you have permission to slap this book across my face. Xie xie.

Reviewing Randy Alcorn's Heaven: Biblical Answers to Common Questions

Aside from the Good Book, Randy Alcorn's Heaven is my favorite book. Randy Alcorn has taught me much about my future home and although you may not agree with everything he says, his book will very likely make you think deeply and smile often. If you're not up for a 500-pager with tiny font, I recommend his 60-page booklet. There are many who have misunderstandings about Heaven, and this booklet can provide you solid answers supported by Scripture. Below are the book's contents.

  • Introduction
  • The Present Heaven and Future Heaven
  • Will Heaven (the New Earth) Be an Actual Place?
  • What Will Heaven Be Like?
  • What Will We Look Like in Heaven?
  • What Will We Do for All Eternity?
  • What Will Our Relationship with God Be Like?
  • Won't Heaven Be Boring?
  • Will There Be Animals on the New Earth?
  • Will We Have Our Own Homes in Heaven?
  • What Won't Be in Heaven?
  • Will Time No Longer Exist in Heaven?
  • Will We Know Everything When We Get to Heaven?
  • Will We Remember What Happened on Earth?
  • Can Those in the Present Heaven See What's Happening on Earth?
  • If People in Heaven Are Aware of Bad Things Happening on Earth, How Could It Really Be Heaven?
  • Will We Be Reunited with and Recognize Our Loved Ones in Heaven?
  • Will There Be Marriage and Family in Heaven?
  • How Can We Know for Sure That We'll Go to Heaven?

If you have any interest in knowing the answers to the above questions (if you don't, check your heart rate) or desire to share the Good News with others, spend a buck and have the book delivered to your computer in seconds. Don't be a cheapskate.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. Revelation 21:1

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What I Miss About Indiana

Although my citizenship is in Heaven (Philippians 3:20) and nearly half of my life has been spent overseas (the past eleven in Tianjin, China), I have strong Hoosier roots. I'm super thankful for the summer breaks I get to spend in the great state of Indiana. There is much I miss about life in the Crossroads of America, and below are ten things I miss about living there.

1. Hanging out with family & friends
2. Driving a truck on long country roads
3. Worshipping at reformed church services
4. Juggling a soccer ball on a freshly cut lawn
5. Being able to check out a ton of books at the local library
6. Observing wildlife - gray squirrels, cottontail rabbits, white-tailed deer
7. Seeing amazing blue skies and giant white clouds nearly on a daily basis
8. Fishing in peaceful locations - largemouth bass, white crappie, longear sunfish
9. Eating homestyle cooking - pork tenderloins, catfish fillets, chicken n' dumplins
10. Going to parks - little league baseball games, swimming pools, creative playgrounds

Reviewing John Piper's Don't Waste Your Life

Recently after delivering a Sunday message, I was asked if I read a lot of books by John Piper. That made me chuckle because I've read more of his books than books by any other author. I first read his book, Don't Waste Your Life, over a decade ago shortly after the book's release and not too long after my move to China. I wasn't a very mature Christian back then (and I still have a ton to learn), but despite the seriousness of Don't Waste Your Life, it's easy to understand and can be enjoyed by believers and nonbelievers in all stages of life. This can't be said about all of Pastor Piper's books since some of his books are poetic pieces or highly academic.

Don't Waste Your Life is a 190-page book that is filled with Scripture and divided into the ten chapters listed below. I read the book as part of a small group study in which we tackled a very manageable one chapter a week. A group study edition, group study kit, and study guide are now available.

1. My Search for a Single Passion to Live By
2. Breakthrough - the Beauty of Christ, My Joy
3. Boasting Only in the Cross, The Blazing Center of the Glory of God
4. Magnifying Christ Through Pain and Death
5. Risk is Right - Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It
6. The Goal of Life - Gladly Making Others Glad in God
7. Living to Prove He is More Precious Than Life
8. Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5
9. The Majesty of Christ in Missions and Mercy - A Plea to This Generation
10. My Prayer - Let None Say in the End, "I've Wasted It"

Perhaps the biggest impact the book made on me was an illustration found in chapter three concerning a Reader’s Digest article. The article talked about a couple that retired early so they could ride a boat, play softball, and collects seashells in Florida. Unfortunately, this is the American dream so many are wasting their lives on.

If you are interested in learning how this tough life is supposed to be lived, I recommend Pastor Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life. You won’t get a feel-good message, but you will be pointed to the one who can make your life mean more than riding motorbikes, playing soccer, and collecting Starbuck mugs.

to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. Romans 16:27

Reviewing C.J. Mahaney's Don't Waste Your Sports

Sports have always been a big part of my life, but unfortunately, much of my involvement in sports has been for the wrong reasons. Although I can’t change the past, today I try to make my playing and coaching to be glorifying to God. Pastor Mahaney’s 50-page booklet can help you understand what that entails. Whether you’re a high school athlete, soccer mom, or coaching adults, Don’t Waste Your Sports is for anyone who wants to honor God through athletics. The six short chapters listed below can be read in less than an hour.

1. Sports at Their Best—and Worst
2. What Are Sports Really For?
3. Meeting God before the Opening Tip
4. Play to the Glory of God
5. Sports Idols
6. Your Next Game

At the end of the book, there are application and discussion questions for athletes and parents. I recommend that athletic directors provide the booklet to their coaches and discuss the material before their respective seasons get underway. It’s important we realize that sports are gifts from God so we compete in a way that shows humility, grace, and a heart of thankfulness.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Happy 10th Anniversary, Megan!

I don't want to place too much importance to numbers in the Bible, but many scholars consider the number ten to be a number of perfection (The Ten Commandments, the ten northern tribes of Israel, tithing, etc.). It also happens to be the number of years Megan and I have been married. Although I have been astronomically far from being the perfect husband, God brought us together perfectly in holy matrimony after a nearly three-year long-distance relationship. To celebrate our ten years of marriage, I would like to share ten ways Megan has pointed me to the perfect man and our only Savior, Jesus Christ.

1. Megan has loved me not only when I've been super nice and smellin' real good, but when I've been at my absolute worst. Megan has loved me even when I've been a complete blockhead.
2. Megan has brought joy into my life even when I've been a little high-strung and forgetting the big picture. She knows how to bring a smile to my face, a task that has been challenging for many.
3. Megan has helped provide me peace even when Mr. Wick has been more like Mr. Whack. Megan reminds me that God is sovereign and that we are to rejoice even during the darkest of times.
4. Megan has displayed the utmost patience despite my repetitive middle school humor that has been known to cross the line. She has displayed patience despite the immature and idiotic statements that have come out of my big mouth.
5. Megan has taught me much about kindness. How she interacts with friends and complete strangers shows who she belongs to and reminds me that I have much to learn.
6. I see the Father of Lights producing more and more goodness out of Megan. I am blessed to partner with Megan as we play a minor role in Kingdom work.
7. Megan is all about faithfulness - to me, her children, our community, and most importantly, to God. I certainly wouldn't be who I am had God not placed Megan in my life.
8. I grew up thinking toughness was a fruit of the Spirit, but Megan helps me remember that gentleness is where it is at. I can't just be a warrior; I need to be a tender warrior.
9. When others have wronged Megan, she has shown self-control when I would have given my mean face. Instead of trying to control a situation like me, she'll remain calm and pray about the matter.
10. Megan is a woman of truth who truly sharpens me. I can count on her to provide me different perspectives in a manner that is honest and respectful. I'm so thankful God has gifted me with Megan these past ten years, and I look forward to seeing how He will work in our lives in the future.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Cancer Does Suck, But...

Over the years several close family members of mine have been stricken by cancer. This includes my American aunt and grandfather, Japanese grandparents, and my mother-in-law. I, of course, would never in a million years ever wish cancer on someone; however, I am thankful that canceramniotic band constriction, dementiadiabetes, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, strokes, and other medical conditions my family members have battled can be opportunities to cling to the cross and witness to the goodness and hope found in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May He be given all of the glory during the pain-free and painful times of our lives.

Noah Spivey from The Summit Church on Vimeo.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Difficult Days, A Divine Deliverer

I recently started my ninth reading of the longest book in the Good Book, the Book of Jeremiah. If you need to be reminded how easy you have it and how good God is, this is the book for you. I'm puzzled how I can forget how difficult Jeremiah's life was, yet it happens. Here are some eye-opening facts about the Prophet Jeremiah that can provide us the right perspective on life:
  • Jeremiah was told he couldn't marry or have children (Jeremiah 16:2), and he preached the truth with dogged determination for 40 years. 
  • The people desired Jeremiah's death and discarded God's message. 
  • Jeremiah felt depressed, discouraged, and deserted, and he really started to doubt God's plan for him.
  •  Although Jeremiah has much to say about death and destruction, we see that God is the deliverer of the good news. 
  • Jeremiah did not just weep, but he was dedicated, and it was God who helped him to go the distance.
I do not understand everything we have to go through, but I know God is good and He is there for us. Sometimes I get furious about the injustice in the world, heartbroken about the personal challenges family and friends are facing, and pessimistic about dilemmas I must help resolve. At times I complain and want to quit, but I know our Father's grace is sufficient. I must look to the cross and remember that Sunday is coming. I look forward to the day when you, me, and Jeremiah can talk about the greatness of God.

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Son of Man Raised

1. The Resurrection proves that the Son of Man is the omnipotent God victorious over sin and death. We can trust Him.
2. The Resurrection confirms that God's wrath was satisfied and our debt was paid in full. We are forgiven for our sins.
3. The Resurrection assures us that we serve a living Savior who continues to intercede for us. We are to be envied.
4. The Resurrection guarantees our future resurrection. We are alive.

Victorious. Washed. Prized. New. Let's make sure we are constantly sharing this good news of blessed hope.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, who he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If the Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:12-20

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

From Principal to Teacher

In a couple of months, I will move across the hallway from my second office to my sixth classroom. Many of my present duties will change as I transition from a middle school principal to a classroom teacher. Although I am excited about the change, there is still much to be done in my present position. Below is some of what the next school year will look like which I'll give more thought to when the summer hits. I will go from...

1. assigning teachers to spring trip teams to chaperoning the sixth-grade spring to Liaoning Province.
2. emceeing major House events to sponsoring House 4 - a mixed group of more than 20 middle school boys and girls who meet once a week and compete against four other Houses.
3. presenting faculty devotionals several times a year to facilitating the middle school team devotionals.
4. providing advisory resources and schedules to advising a small group of sixth-grade students.
5. speaking at middle school assemblies on a monthly basis to emceeing the assemblies on a weekly basis.
6. visiting the cafeteria occasionally to serving lunch duty every Friday.
7. watching middle school athletic events to coaching the middle school girls' soccer squad.

Serving as a principal these past four years has blessed me in numerous ways, and I look forward to seeing what our Father will do in the coming months. I'm blessed to work with such a great team of teachers who understand the great responsibilities we have, and the great expectations that are placed on us.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. James 3:1

Thursday, March 27, 2014

How Can We Inherit Eternal Life?

1. The Problemo: We must understand that a holy God made us in His image (Genesis 1:26), but that we are wretched sinners (Romans 3:23) who deserve to be eternally separated in Hell from God's love (Romans 6:23).

2. The Solution: We must believe Jesus, God's perfect Son, died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (1 Peter 2:24) and that He resurrected (rose from the dead) three days later. Jesus is the only way to the Father, and He is the only way to satisfy God's wrath (extreme anger).

3. Our Response: If we receive God's gift of salvation in faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), we will be:
    A. regenerated (We are made spiritually new),
    B. converted (We repent of our sins and trust in Jesus for salvation),
    C. justified (We are forgiven of our sins and declared righteous),
    D. adopted into God's family (We are reconciled with God and become His child),
    E. and through the Holy Spirit, sanctified (We become more like Jesus as we live our lives for
         God's glory - 1 Corinthians 10:31).

4. The Future: When we die or when Jesus returns, we will go to Heaven with resurrected bodies (glorification) to worship God forever (Revelation 21-22:5). All creation will be restored, and it will be da' bomb diggity!

Do you believe this? Do you believe For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)? Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved (Romans 10:9-10). This is the way to a life of purpose. To deepen that life, you will want to:

1. Rely on the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16).
2. Read, study, memorize, meditate on, and share God's Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
3. Constantly pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
4. Learn from Godly people and worship with them (Hebrews 10:25).
5. Serve others joyfully in Christ (1 Peter 4:10).

to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen (Romans 16:27).

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Power of the Resurrection

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For God has put all things in subjection under his feet." But when it says, "all things are put in subjection," it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Eating Dogs and Talking Dogs

Last weekend we discovered a nice-looking restaurant near our apartment complex that serves man's best friend. I wouldn't have known that it was a dog restaurant, but I have a smart wife who can read Chinese hieroglyphics. I used to have a reputation of chomping down on some interesting things such as entire fish, the reproductive organs of different animals, and various raw meats (including dog), but I do have my limits. Although it's certainly permissible to eat meat (e.g., Matthew 3:4, Matthew 14:17-20, Romans 14:1-3), I take serious issue with eating endangered animals or animals that are still alive. That's pretty twisted. I do believe there will be a day when I'll be eating meat substitutes with enhanced taste buds (e.g., Mark 14:25, Revelation 22:1-2), and my meals will be far greater than any beef jerky, bacon wrapped shrimp, and Buffalo wings I have consumed. Perhaps I'll even enjoy these meals with talking dogs. Chew on that one.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

What Mistakes Did I Make As A Middle School Principal?

As I finish my fourth and final year as a middle school principal (at least for the near future), I've been pondering how God has used me and what I could have done better. If I had a do-over, these are three things I would do differently:

1. Not Respond To Emails So Quickly - If you wait to answer emails, you can often provide better answers or an answer may not even be needed because the matter gets resolved.

2. Not Accept So Many Unscheduled Meetings - Telling a person that you don't have a minute and scheduling a meeting with that person can enable you to have a better meeting and be more productive.

3. Not Place Work Responsibilities Ahead of Family Time - Who is more important: your colleagues or your family? Too often we bring our work to home when in many cases it needs to stay at work. Don't blur the lines.

I made a ton more mistakes than what I mentioned above, and I certainly continue to mess up, but I'm extremely thankful to work in a great community of believers and to have such a patient and gracious family. More importantly, I'm thankful for the merciful Father who never gives up on me, the Spirit who works in me, and for the Son who said, "It is finished."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Is War Ever Justifiable?

John Adams, the second president of the United States, said, "I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy." Do you believe war is ever justifiable? Explain. This was a question we challenged our 115 middle school students with recently, and three groups said war is always unjustifiable, one group said war can be justifiable, and one group gave the pros and cons to both sides. I can understand why the majority of young people would think war could never be justified.

I'm a certified U.S. history teacher who has visited the Independence Hall of Koreathe Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museumthe Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum, and the War Remnants Museum (Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam) so you could say I've educated myself a little about the atrocities of war. To say war can be ugly and horrible is quite the understatement. We are an absolutely sick bunch, but unfortunately, there are times when wars should take place.

I am all for being peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) and loving our enemies (Matthew 5:44); however, I'm not going to simply pray for someone who breaks into my home. I'm definitely going to pray, but I'm also going to make war because I have a duty to protect my family. Wickamania will be unleashed, and it ain't gonna be pretty. We have a duty to forcefully protect human life against those who forcefully attempt to harm human life. To take a pacifist route would most likely result in more violence and harm being done. If pacifism was biblical, we should not only get rid of the military but police officers. Can we say absolute chaos?

The bottom line is the world is filled with sinful people, and sometimes the only way to stop sinful people from killing others is to go to war (e.g., American slave owners, Hitler). God is clearly not against every war. There are numerous Bible verses showing that the sovereign LORD of hosts (armies) is not a pacifist (e.g., Deuteronomy 20:16-17, 1 Samuel 15:18, Ecclesiastes 3:8). When Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, returns, he will make war (Revelation 19:11-21). We should be constantly praying for wisdom and peace, but we must understand that there will always be conflict until we see the New Heavens and New Earth. Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

God is Not Dead

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ten Things I'm Looking Forward To As I Return To Teaching

Two days ago a number of people were quite surprised to hear that I will no longer be serving as the middle school principal at Tianjin International School. The Father has placed on my heart a desire to teach middle school students His Word and the world He has created. In no particular order, below are ten things I look forward to as I return to teaching sixth graders.

1. Performing in skits with students
2. Going on spring trips
3. Creating units and lessons
4. Collaborating with other teachers
5. Assisting students with their schoolwork
6. Using an iPad for instruction
7. Students asking deep questions
8. Biblically integrating content
9. Seeing hearts transformed
10. Having my daughter Rose in my classes

Ten Things I'll Miss About Being a Principal

Two days ago I announced that after this school year I will no longer be serving as the middle school principal at Tianjin International School. After four years as an administrator, I will be returning to my former position of teaching sixth graders the Good Book and social studies. I am excited that I'll be back in the classroom full-time, but there will certainly be some aspects of my job that I'll miss. In no particular order, below are ten things I'll miss about being a principal.

1. Congratulating a student for being accepted to our school
2. Interviewing an excellent teaching candidate
3. Working closely with like-minded administrators
4. Presenting information to parents about school programs
5. Speaking at student assemblies on a monthly basis
6. Making decisions that enhance the school's appearance
7. Engaging students during classroom observations
8. Creating and improving school programs
9. Emceeing major school and divisional events
10. Helping and praying with so many teachers, parents, and students

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Do You Hear Me, God? Are You Listening?

God hears everything because He’s omniscient. 1 John 3:20 says for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. This does not mean God “listens” to everything though. Some things we think and say God may find to be flat out ridiculous, so He chooses to flat out ignore us (e.g., Psalm 66:18, Isaiah 1:15, Jeremiah 14:10-12, Matthew 6:5). Perhaps you’ve said to a child, “You may be hearing what I’m saying, but you’re not listening to me.” Hearing and listening have different meanings. Listening requires a response.

You can pray to God, and He will hear your prayer; however, He may not listen to it. His answer could very well be complete silence. In fact, if you are living your life however you like, you shouldn’t expect God to answer your prayers in a way that pleases you. Why should anyone expect any answers from God if they don’t believe He exists and if they choose to live however they want? All people need to first and foremost repent of their sins and place their faith in Christ.

If you are living a life following Christ, you still can’t expect God to always answer your prayers in a way that pleases you. We are sinful creatures with sinful desires. Sometimes our prayers can be downright unbiblical. I’ve been guilty of being more concerned about what others are thinking about my prayers than about truly praising and thanking God during my prayers. Nice, Wick. Despite my flawed prayers, God is gracious and merciful (Psalm 86:15).

God is so good yet He is also wonderfully mysterious. We often can’t comprehend God. The Prophet Isaiah reminds us, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:9) God's ways are also perfect therefore we know He answers our prayers perfectly all the time. Psalm 145:17 tells us how the Lord is righteous in all His ways. We can trust God whether He answers our prayers with a yes, no, or wait.

Are you trusting in God with all your heart or are you leaning on your own understanding? Have you submitted to the Son of Man in all your ways? Only God can make your paths straight. Submit to the all-knowing King of the Universe who answers all prayers perfectly.

“I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” Isaiah 42:8