Thursday, January 29, 2015

Reviewing R.C. Sproul's Can I Be Sure I'm Saved?

I thought I was saved when I was a teenager, and for about a decade I told others I was a believer when it just wasn't true. I was baptized at a small Southern Baptist church when I was 22, but it wasn't until I was 26 years old when I became a bona fide believer in the Risen One. I was confused about my salvation for many years, but the Father does not want us to be confused. The god of this age does. The Father wants us to be clear about whether we belong to Him and if we're going to Heaven when we pass away (or when His Son returns).

2 Peter 1:10 states, Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. Confidently knowing where you stand with the Son of Man and what He'll say on Judgment Day can be known right now. If you struggle with doubts concerning whether you truly know the Prince of Peace, whether you have eternal life, whether you'll be going to Heaven, I recommend reading R.C. Sproul's Can I Be Sure I'm Saved?In this 70-page booklet, R.C. Sproul once again provides solid teaching in a logical fashion. Below are the titles of the five chapters and simple summaries.
  1. The Struggle for Assurance - What is assurance?
  2. Four Kinds of People - Two are saved and two are not
  3. False Assurance - What are the dangers?
  4. Gaining True Assurance - How can we get assurance of salvation?
  5. The Source of Full Assurance - Do you love Him?
Don't be confused about whether you're going to Heaven or Hell. If you are, spend an hour reading Sproul's Can I Be Sure I'm Saved? and hopefully, you can have that peace that surpasses all understanding.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, John 1:12

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Story of the Wickersham Adoptions

For the most part, the post below was written 1.5 years ago by Megan.

Our Father has blessed us with three pretty cool kids, all brought to us by the miracle of adoption. Their stories are different, and yet through each story, we see clearly our Father’s faithfulness and care. 

Our middle child, Grace Noel, was the first to join the Wickersham clan. In September of 2005 Grace was brought to her county’s orphanage as a newborn, and she lived in foster care until the day we traveled to Hubei Province to meet her. Grace was nine months when we first met her and seemed to have been well cared for by her foster family. She was developmentally on track, emotionally resilient, chubby, and alert. Although Grace was quite reserved in her first few days with us, by the end of our first week together she was already giggling and wrestling with me. In the following months, she bonded quickly to us, and her transition seemed nearly seamless. Grace is now nine and in the 3rd grade. She is bright and creative, forever performing skits for her family to watch. She enjoys school and playing outside on her scooter or on rollerblades.

Our oldest daughter, Rosalie, was brought to the Tianjin orphanage when she was just two months old. Not long after, she underwent surgery to repair spinal meningocele. She spent most of her early years in foster care, and then in December of 2006 joined our family as our own foster daughter. She was four and a half. Because the circumstances of her arrival in our family were unusual, the legal process of the adoption itself was complex and lengthy. Dad truly moved mountains during this period of time, removing obstacles and granting us favor in the hearts and minds of those in positions of influence. He also graciously made a way for her to remain in our care for the entire duration of this process! In May of 2010, when Rose was eight years old, her adoption was completed. Finally, the law reflected what we had felt in our hearts and been experiencing as a family for years; she was our daughter. Rose is now 12 and one of my 6th-grade students. She is fun-loving and hangs out with a diverse group of people. Rose especially enjoys sports and participates in soccer, volleyball, and basketball.

Our youngest child, Josiah Lee, joined our family in January of 2012. Josiah spent the first year of his life in an orphanage and was 14 months old when our family traveled to Henan Province to meet him. Although he was a bit out of sorts in our first hours together, it wasn’t long before he began to show his charm! In those early weeks, we saw a boy ready to laugh, entertain, and make friends wherever he went.  He is truly a performer at heart, happiest when he has the attention of an adoring crowd, which he’s found in his two big sisters! He’s been with us for two years now, and it’s impossible to imagine life without him.

Our family has been shaped, blessed, and transformed by adoption. We have certainly been blessed and changed through the gift of our three children, as well as through the responsibility and joy of parenting. Our family has experienced the joy-filled side of adoption. However, it is the loss and pain inherent in each adoption story that has been the place of seeing the good news more clearly. As parents, we are thankful for the way that our children’s stories have caused us to enter into shades of loss and pain that we never experienced in our own childhoods. We are humbled at the way our Father has used us to be a part of His restoration and redemption. Through the gift of these three beautiful children, we have been given countless opportunities to reflect on earthly adoption and its parallels in the spiritual realm, as we are all – by his great mercy - adopted children in the family of God.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27

2014 Indy Eleven Soccer Camp - Westfield/Grand Park

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Beautiful Game: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

I first began kicking a soccer ball as a seven-year-old when living in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil. Since that time, the beautiful game has contributed to countless wonderful memories for nearly thirty-five years. It has been a great deal of fun competing against such talented players and teams both as a player and coach. I truly hope to continue to add to those memories for many years to come.

Kicking a ball has also resulted in numerous serious injuries for me - head contusions, sprained ankles, hairline fractures, and torn ligaments and cartilage. I have never played professionally, and I really don't know how professional athletes do it game in and game out. I had a second ACL reconstruction this past summer, and it certainly hasn't always been a rip-roaring time.

Although my right knee feels slightly funky and I've lost the afterburner speed I once had, I'm thankful I can still step on the field (albeit a less competitive one) and make some things happen. I'm thankful that I can make my sixth-grade boys laugh when I whiz a ball by one of them or make third-grade girls clap when I juggle a ball with my head, shoulders, and knees. I look forward to the day when I will be able to do these things without any kind of pain or fear of injury. I look forward to the day when I can play the beautiful game in that brand-spankin' new body playing in that brand-spankin' new home. It's going to be nothing short of awesome.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. 2 Corinthians 4:17

U13 TIS Lady Eagles - Fall 2014 (7 wins, 3 losses, 6 ties)

I'm So Thankful My Son Josiah Only Has One Hand

I'm so thankful my son Josiah only has one hand. If Josiah were born with two hands, he wouldn't be my son. Josiah was probably born to Chinese peasant farmers who didn't know what was wrong with their son. Amniotic bands severed his left hand and that makes life a little more challenging for Josiah. I'm thankful for the way our Father designed Josiah, and I'm especially thankful that He chose me to be Josiah's father. Sometimes Josiah is a big pain in the butt (literally, like the time he bit my butt), but I can't imagine what life would be like without him. I love how Josiah always wants to watch monster truck shows on YouTube, how he loves to dance to my pathetic beatboxing, and how he wants to use my electric razor whenever I'm shaving. I never thought I wanted to have a son, but I'm so thankful my Father changed my heart. I'm so thankful my Father created Josiah with only one hand.

learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. Isaiah 1:17

Josiah is always ready to ride on daddy's motorbike (with a helmet of course).

Friday, January 9, 2015

Reviewing Theodore J. Kowalski's Case Studies on Educational Administration

Typically I'm not a fan of textbooks, but Case Studies on Educational Administration can actually make for an interesting read. Theodore Kowalski provides 24 unique case studies that help educators think about possible job scenarios, ways to tackle them, and the solutions that can come about. An introduction identifying key concepts and areas for reflection are provided before each case study, and each study ends with three parts:

1. Problem framing
2. Questions and suggested activities
3. Suggested reading and references

I read this book for a grad class I took at CIU, and it was good for me to discuss the case studies with my classmates. The book helped us formulate important questions we wouldn't have asked, share mistakes we could have avoided, and figure out how to resolve complex matters in the right way. The studies cover a wide range of issues involving weak administrators, maverick school board members, tough students, and more. Each case requires you to:

1. See the situation correctly
2. Devise possible solutions to the problem (s)
3. Use facts to respond to politics and emotions
4. Develop and integrate knowledge as you imagine being in the situation

I recommend this book to any school administrator or anyone who is considering being a principal. The cases are generally only four to eight pages long, and they would be good to discuss amongst administrators and other school leaders.

Reviewing Mark L. Vincent's Speaking About Money: Reducing the Tension

The most popular book of all time has much to say about money. The Good Shepherd talks about money more than any other subject. It is often said that matters concerning money are what couples argue about the most. Money may not be the most important thing we have, but don't tell a poor person that money isn't important. Because money is important, I took a grad course about raising funds and resources. Mark Vincent's book, Speaking About Money, was one of three books I read for the class. The 144-page book is divided into three parts and ten chapters.

Part I. Christian beliefs about money
Chapter 1 - Christian beliefs about money
Chapter 2 - Your life with money
Chapter 3 - Money messages
Part II. Perceptions about money
Chapter 4 - How people construct money perceptions
Part III. Talking about money in the church
Chapter 5 - The leader's role
Chapter 6 - Worship and money
Chapter 7 - Preparing the ground for talking about money
Chapter 8 - Leading people through money decisions
Chapter 9 - Communicating about money management
Chapter 10 - Planning for change

The book's primary audience is faith-based nonprofit leaders, Christian school leaders, and pastors; however, Scripture isn't introduced until page 39. On page 50 there is a quote stating that money is evil, but this is an incorrect view. 1 Timothy 6:10 states that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, not money itself. Despite these observations, Speaking About Money provides practical information and shows us what it means to be good stewards. Additionally, three useful appendices are provided - a glossary, index, and selected bibliography.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The 2014-15 Wickersham Christmas Break

Sometimes when you think about being away from family in the States or about exotic vacations friends are taking in Southeast Asia, you can start believing your Christmas break wasn't so fun. I wish I could give Satan, the father of lies, a karate chop to the face. That would be cool. Thankfully I don't need to do that 'cause the Son of Man has already given the death blow to the guy. Below are ten most excellent things the Wickershams experienced during the Christmas break (and it ain't even over).

1. The kiddos went to a giant play place that was new to us and got their bounce on. Megan and I went on a date at a nearby bench - I brought us McDonald's.
2. Rose and Grace went ice skating with their friends at the Galaxy Mall. No bones were broken.
3. I watched the Hobbit with Rose (I purchased it quite some time ago, but just hadn't gotten around to watching it). Hobbit 2 is playing in our home this weekend so I'll be ready for #3 when it's released in China later this month.
4. We received a warm greeting at a delicious restaurant we hadn't visited in awhile.
5. We spent New Year's Eve at a Holiday Inn in a part of the city we hadn't really explored.
6. Grace and Josiah were super excited to buy some Lego sets with their Christmas money. The prices didn't get me super excited, but their smiles were worth it.
7. We went to a couple of special birthday celebrations (#16 for a TIS student and the big 40 for a colleague).
8. We rode the public bus and subway a few times and have a better understanding of how to get around in this massive city of millions.
9. We sang Christmas carols in our neighborhood and had our annual Christmas Eve gathering in our apartment. Some friends came over the next evening as well.
10. We celebrated the Son of Man's birth, death, and resurrection, and we continue to do.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Reviewing Ray Pritchard's Let's Go Straight to Bethlehem

I downloaded Let's Go Straight to Bethlehem in late November and used it for our family devotionals last month. I see us using the 51-page book again next year. 25 devotionals are provided, and almost all of them begin with Scripture. The devotionals conclude with prayers of one to two sentences. Each devotional is approximately two iPad pages, and they are nicely organized with spaces between short paragraphs, bullets, number lists, and key phrases are italicized. Although the devotionals were simple enough for my third-grade daughter to be fully engaged, there were a couple of times when I was really impacted by the creative wording or was provided information that I hadn't thought of before. There were three occasions during our devotionals when I changed the wording or elaborated on what was being stated (e.g., prophecy, magi, will); however, this did not take away from the book. If you're looking for a simple, but solid Advent devotional, I recommend Dr. Pritchard's book, Let's Go Straight To Bethlehem.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6