Friday, December 11, 2009


Many of you know that I answered the call to serve another congregation. On Sunday, November 29, I moved from New Castle, PA to Evanston, Illinois to serve as the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Evanston.

Thanks for your love, prayers, and godly encouragement. Here are a few things that I am either learning or I am being reminded of:

1. No matter where I go the Lord is there Psalm 139: 7-12

2. God's Word is the same no matter where we go Psalm 119:105

3. People are essentially the same. It's a different place, different culture, different sights and sounds, but at the end of the day people need to love and be loved. People are searching for the meaning of life. I have the blessed task of pointing them to Christ. I Corinthians 8:6

4. Christian Community and friendship is the sweetest thing in the world. The folks of First Presbyterian Church in Evanston have opened their hearts to our family in the short time we have been here. We are members of the body Christ. Race, wealth, education, and other such matters are peripheral. Acts 2: 42-47

5. I love my wife and kids and I can't wait until this phase of separation ends. Thanks for praying for us and loving us. We are praying for you too!

The power of a praying life

Dr. David Jeremiah gives a wonderful exhortation to all us regarding the freedom that comes from holding regular office with God--read on...

(Daniel) knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.
Daniel 6:10

Dr. L. Nelson Bell, a missionary surgeon in China, is best remembered today as the father-in-law of evangelist Billy Graham. In A Foreign Devil in China, John Pollock wrote: "Most important of all was Nelson Bell's discipline of devotional life. Early every morning he had a cup of coffee and went to his desk for about an hour of Bible study and prayer. He set himself to master the content and meaning of the Bible, devising such study schemes as looking up every Old Testament reference which occurs in the New Testament and typing it out. Then he turned to prayer, for friends, colleagues, and patients, praying especially for every patient listed for operation that day… This cycle of reading and prayer did not strike Nelson as formidable but vital."
Similar statements can be found in the biography of almost every effective Christian servant. Daniel prayed "as was his custom," regardless of outside influences. This example of committed prayer is a role model for all of us to follow. It must be a vital part of the daily routines of those used of Him.

It isn't the length of time I spend in my quiet time, though I usually take an hour, but there is a carry-over of the activity of prayer, the attitude of prayer, that marks the rest of the day.
Dr. Stephen Olford

Comfort in God's Word

I am currently reading through Randy Alcorn's book, If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil. The book has greatly encouraged me in my thinking about suffering and the goodness of God. The two are not incompatible as some have tried to suggest. The following is one of many thought provoking quotes contained in the book.

Martin Niemoller, a courageous German pastor, spent years in a concentration camp because he spoke against the ungodly influence that Adolf Hitler’s regime exerted on the German church. Neimoller later said about the Bible,

What did this book mean to me during the long and weary years of solitary confinement and then for the last four years at Dachau? The Word of God was simply everything to me- comfort and strength, guidance and hope, master of my days and companion of my nights, the bread which kept me from starvation and the water of life that refreshed my soul.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Power of Gratitude

Robert Emmons, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and psychology professor Michael McCullough of the University of Miami, have long been interested in the role gratitude plays in physical and emotional well being. They took three groups of volunteers and randomly assigned them to focus on one of three things each week: hassles, things for which they were grateful, and ordinary life events.

The first group concentrated on everything that went wrong or that irritated them. The second group honed in on situations they felt enhanced their lives, such as, "My boyfriend is so kind and caring—I'm lucky to have him." The third group recalled recent everyday events, such as, "I went shoe shopping."

The results: The people who focused on gratitude were happier. They saw their lives in favorable terms. They reported fewer negative physical symptoms such as headaches or colds, and they were active in many ways that were good for them. Those who were grateful quite simply enjoyed a higher quality of life.

Emmons was surprised. "This is not just something that makes people happy, like a positive-thinking/optimism kind of thing. A feeling of gratitude really gets people to do something, to become more pro-social, more compassionate." Such was not the case in either of the other two groups.

In 1 Thessalonians 5: 17-18, we have a wonderful little triplet: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. The Apostle Paul seems to think we can be thankful despite the challenges. We can't always be "happy"; but we can always choose to be thankful and joyful whatever the circumstances. This is God's will for us.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Reformed Worship

In part, Reformed worship comes from an Augustinian understanding of salvation and God's irresistible grace. Left to ourselves, Augustine believed that humans do not possess the moral capacity to willingly and freely seek after God. Our natural inclination is to see after what we find pleasing in our own eyes. We accept this portrayal of our condition as accurate and biblical. We were without God and hope in this world, but now through Christ Jesus, we who were once far off, have been brought near through the blood of Jesus Ephesians 2: 12-13. Furthermore, the hallmark of Reformed worship is the appeal to the authority of the bible over Church tradition. Ultimately, we worship not for mutual edification but to give glory to God. Worship, in this tradition is not for our good, tastes, likes, dislikes, styles of music, but for God and God alone Psalm 115:1.

The following is Augustine's prayer after being lost in sin and then found by God. Don't miss his ardent focus on loving God!

"Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient, O Beauty so new. Too late have I loved you! You were within me but I was outside myself, and there I sought you! In my weakness I ran after the beauty of the things you have made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The things you have made kept me from you - the things which would have no being unless they existed in you! You have called, you have cried, and you have pierced my deafness. You have radiated forth, you have shined out brightly, and you have dispelled my blindness. You have sent forth your fragrance, and I have breathed it in, and I long for you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you. You have touched me, and I ardently desire your peace."

St Augustine, Bishop, Writer, Doctor

Our chief work

As you prepare yourself to worship God this Sunday and everyday, I offer to you the insightful words of Augustine of Hippo. May the thought of worshipping God as your highest calling fill each heart with unspeakable joy!

"Your chief work is to praise God. And He in turn will satisfy your deepest desires by his beauty, inspiring you to praise him with ever greater devotion. If you dislike priaing God, and find excuses for aoiding it, it is becuase you love yourself too much. Be dissatisfied with yourself. Seek satisfaction in him who made you, and only then find satisfaction in yourself as part of his creation".
Augustine 354-430
Select Readings by Robert Van De Weyer

Friday, November 6, 2009

What Would Jesus Do?

What Would Jesus Do?

A movie worth seeing

Some of you know that I enjoy watching movies that are engaging and push me to think about life, faith and culture.

Inspired by a true story, The Blind Side, depicts the life of 15 year old Michael Oher (pronounced oar), abandoned by his crack-addicted parents, seemed doomed to a life of imminent destruction, but was rescued and adopted by a wealthy, white, solidly evangelical family, played by Sandra Bullock

I plan to see this movie when it comes out November 20 because it addresses issues that matter to me: race, adoption, faith in action, rich Christians in an age of hunger, compassion, and the difference caring Christians can make in a troubled, broken world.

Sandra Bullock, who played the role of Leigh Anne Touhy, shared her concerns about Christian people:
One of my biggest issues has always been people who use their faith and their religion as a banner but don't do the right things, yet still go, 'I'm a good Christian and I go to church and this is the way you should live your life,'" said Bullock. "And I'm like, you know, do not give me a lecture about how to live my life when you go to church every week but I know you are still sneaking around on your wife. And I told Leigh Anne in a live interview, one of my largest concerns getting involved with this project was that whole banner-waving thing because it scares me, and I've had experiences that haven't been great with people like that. I don't buy a lot of people who use that banner as their shield. But she was so open and honest and forthright with me I thought, wow, I've finally met someone who practices but doesn't preach."

Bullock's next comment suggested that the Touhy's newfound fame has provided them fresh opportunities to impact others with the hope that they have. "I now have faith in those who say they represent a faith," Bullock commented. "I finally met people who walk the walk."

To read the rest of the article go here

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Trusting in the Lord or trusting in self?

On Sunday, I have the privilege of leading our congregation in an exposition of Psalm 115: 1-18. I am calling the message, "Trusting in the Lord." During my reading I found this wonderful quote from Lloyd Ogilve in 12 Steps to living without fear.

"Our need to be in charge of ourselves, others, and situations often makes our relationship with Christ life's biggest power struggle. We are reluctant to relinquish our control and allow Him to run our lives. We may believe in Him and be active in the church and Christian causes, but trusting Him as Lord of everything in life can be scary.

Even though we pray about our challenges and problems, all too often what we really want is strength to accomplish what we've already decided is best for ourselves and others. Meanwhile we press on with our own priorities and plans. We remain the script writer, casting director, choreographer, and producer of the drama of our own lives, in which we are the star performer."

Monday, November 2, 2009

Count it all Joy

I have a friend who radiates joy, not because his life is easy, but because he habitually recognizes God's presence in the midst of all human suffering, his own as well as others'. ... My friend's joy is contagious. The more I am with him, the more I catch glimpses of the sun shining through the clouds. Yes, I know there is a sun, even though the skies are covered with clouds. While my friend always spoke about the sun, I kept speaking about the clouds, until one day I realized that it was the sun that allowed me to see the clouds.

Those who keep speaking about the sun while walking under a cloudy sky are messengers of hope, the true saints of our day.

Henri J. Nouwen in Here and Now: Living in the Spirit.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Power of God's Presence

In Hearing God, Dallas Willard writes:

My oldest brother, J. I. Willard, served for over 30 years as a minister under the blessing of God. But his entry into the ministry came through long and intense struggles with personal and financial issues.
One evening he faced a major decision that had to be made the next day, a decision that would commit him for years into the future. He prayed long into the night, falling asleep at around 1:30 a.m. But, he relates, at 2:00 a.m. "that room lit up with the glory of God. I saw a figure. I did not see a face, but I recognized it to be the person of Christ. I felt a hand on my shoulder, and I heard a voice that said, 'Feed my sheep.'"
As has been the case for many others who have been given such experiences, the presence of God almost overwhelmed his consciousness, and it also transformed various aspects of his personality. He was suddenly living in the study of the Bible, memorizing much of it without trying to do so, even though his days were spent in hard physical labor. He had been painfully addicted to tobacco all of his adult life; desire for it was removed without his asking. According to him, the "aroma" of that room full of the presence of God has stayed with him ever since.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Major Marriage Killers Wreaking Havoc on Families Today

Dr. James Dobson identifies 12 ways marriages are being destroyed today:

1. Over commitment and physical exhaustion
This condition is especially insidious for young couples who are trying to get started in a profession or in school. Do not try to go to college, work full time, have baby, manage toddler, fix up a house and start a business at the same time. It sounds ridiculous, but many young couples do just that, and are then surprised when their marriages fall apart. The only time they see each other is when they are worn out!

2. Excessive credit and conflict over how money will be spent
Pay cash for consumable items or don’t buy. Don’t spend more on a house or a car than you can afford, leaving too little resources for dating, short trips, baby sitters, etc. Allocate your finds with wisdom.

3. Selfishness
There are two kinds of people in the world, the givers and the takers. A marriage between two givers can be a beautiful thing. Friction is inevitable for a giver and a taker. But two takers can claw each other to pieces with a period of weeks.

4. Unhealthy relationships with in-laws
If either the husband or wife has not been fully emancipated from the parents, it is best not to live near them. Autonomy is difficult for some mothers and fathers to grant.

5. Unrealistic expectations
Some couples come into marriage anticipating rose-covered cottages, walks down primrose lanes and unmitigated joy. There is no way a marriage between two imperfect human beings can deliver on that expectation. The late counselor Jean Lush believed, and I agree, that this romantic illusion is particularly characteristic of American women, who expect more from their husbands than they are capable of providing.

6. Space invaders
My concern is for those who violate the “breathing room” needed by their partners, quickly suffocating them and destroying the attraction between them. Jealousy is one way the phenomenon manifests itself. Another is a poor self-concept, which leads the insecure spouse to build a cage around the other. It often suffocates the relationship. Love must be free and it must be confident.

7. Sexual frustration and its partner; the greener grass of infidelity. It is a deadly combination

8. Business Collapse
Failure in work does bad things to men especially. Their agitation over financial reverses sometimes sublimates to anger within the family.

9. Business Success
It is almost as risky to succeed wildly as it is to fail miserably in business. King Solomon wrote: Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Proverbs 30:8. It is true.

10. Getting married too young
Girls who marry between 14 and 17 years of age are more than twice as likely to divorce as those who marry at 18 or 19 years of age. Those who marry at 18 or 19 are 1.5 times as likely to divorce as those marry in their 20s. The pressures of adolescence and the stresses of adoption and the stresses of early married life do not mix well. Finish the first before taking on the second.

11. Alcohol and substance abuse
These are notorious killers, not only of marriages but also of the people who indulge excessively. It has been said that upward of a third of all Americans and Canadians are close family members of an alcoholic.

12. Pornography, gambling and other addictions
It should be obvious to everyone that the human personality is flawed. During an introductory stage, people think they can tamper with various enticements, such as pornography, gambling, hard drugs, etc., without being hurt. Indeed, many do walk away unaffected. For some, however, there is a weakness and vulnerability that is unknown until too late. Such people then become addicted to something that tears at the fabric of the family. This warning many seem foolish and even prudish to readers, but I’ve made a 20-year study of those who wreck lives. Their problem begins in experimentation with a known vice and ultimately ends in death – or the death of a marriage. These are a few of the common marriage killers. But in truth, the list is virtually limitless. If you are going to beat the odds and maintain an intimate, long-term marriage, you must take the task seriously.

Sins of the father

Standing in our local hardware store buying bulbs, I look up at the in-store television and saw this huge mushroom shaped silver object floating in the sky. I had no idea what I was looking at. Later that night I learned that the object in the sky was a homemade balloon that supposedly broke from its tether with a 6 year old boy inside.
The next day, every network brought wall-to-wall interviews of the Heene family and their close encounter with disaster. Everyone I knew breathed sighs of relief that Mr. Heene’s son Falcon was not in the balloon but was safely “hiding” in their attic.
Sympathy for Richard Heene evaporated like ice on a hot griddle when the world discovered that the whole incident was a massive hoax to attract publicity, fame, and money.
As a father raising boys, my emotions went from shock, anger, to sorrow. Sorrow because that’s not what fathers are called to do.

• Fathers are accountable to God for the nurture and spiritual development of their children. Paul says of fathers,” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
• Fathers are to model the character of God. “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you.” Deuteronomy 8:5
• Fathers are called to model integrity, honesty and humility. So much of what children learn is more caught, than taught. They will remember what we do more than what we say.

What kind of life lesson is Richard Heene teaching his children? Undoubtedly, the lesson is, “It's ok to lie when trying to achieve personal ambitions.” He seemed willing to sacrifice his family on the altar of fame and the pursuit of money. How tragic.

Let me be careful: I am not a perfect father. I am sure I have made my share of mistakes. While I could never do what Richard Heene did, my heart is in constant need of spiritual renovation. May the Lord help every father live with joy the words of Paul, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” This is the greatest safeguard against selfish ambition.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Faith No More: What Athiest learned from debating religious people around the world

Famous athiest, Christopher Hitchens speaks openly and somewhat honestly about what he is learning from his ongoing debates with Christian thinkers. Here's a sample quote:

Wilson (Pastor Douglas Wilson, who is a senior fellow at New St. Andrew's College) isn't one of those evasive Christians who mumble apologetically about how some of the Bible stories are really just "metaphors." He is willing to maintain very staunchly that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and that his sacrifice redeems our state of sin, which in turn is the outcome of our rebellion against God. He doesn't waffle when asked why God allows so much evil and suffering—of course he "allows" it since it is the inescapable state of rebellious sinners. I much prefer this sincerity to the vague and Python-esque witterings of the interfaith and ecumenical groups who barely respect their own traditions and who look upon faith as just another word for community organizing.

Read the rest of the article here

The Praying Christian

One of the Soul Food small groups meeting at the church on Thursdays is starting at new study on prayer. Chad Ubry's group would love to have you come and learn more about the theology and practice of prayer.

In preparation for that group I invite you to read a recent post written on the Resurgence Blog by Winfield Bevins, an Acts 29 Pastor - Outer Banks, North Carolina.

Before You Pray
Every believer can have a dynamic personal prayer life. The Bible gives us the keys that we need to develop a powerful prayer life. Scripture is full of examples of men and women who walked with God and used prayer to impact their world, and you can do the same thing through prayer.
However, before praying, there are four things that we should take into consideration.
1. Schedule a regular prayer time.
Find a time every day to spend in prayer. The important thing is that we should be consistent. The psalmist said that he prayed seven times a day.
2. Choose a private place to pray.
A prayer closet could be anywhere as long as it is private. You can use your garage, pantry, front porch, or any other creative place where you can get alone with God. Some people pray while driving in their car and others pray while working out or running.
3. Try to limit distractions.
Don't pray in the same room where you watch television or are tempted by other activities.
4. Have a prayer list to guide your prayers. You should pray for your family, friends, church, etc. This will ensure that you don't forget important things to pray for.

Passing the Gospel to the next Generation

I invite you to read Psalm 78: 1-7 in order to make sense of the following thoughts. Some call this a historical psalm because it looks back on the history of Israel and how Almighty God sustained his people. The longing of this historical psalm is that God's people would remember and never forget the greatness of God and then pass to the coming generation this intimate knowledge of God.

Scientists know that light travels at the speed of 5.87 trillion miles a year. They also know that the galaxy of which our solar system is a part is about 100,000 light years in diameter—about 587,000 trillion miles. It is one of about a million galaxies in the optical range of our most powerful telescopes. It has been estimated that in our galaxy there are more than 200 billion stars. The sun is one of them, a modest star burning at about 6,000 degrees centigrade on the surface and traveling in an orbit at 135 miles per second, which means it will take about 250 million years to complete a revolution around the galaxy.

Scientists know these things and are awed by them. And they say, “If there is a personal God, as the Christians say, who spoke this universe into being, then there is a certain respect and reverence and wonder and dread that would have to come through when we in the church talk about him and when we worship him.”(From Let the Nations be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions by Dr. John Piper)

When our passion and zeal for God is weak, then our mission of telling the next generation will be weak. Churches that are not centered on the exaltation of the majesty and beauty of God will scarcely kindle a fervent fire and example for the next generation.

Those coming behind us will see the disparity between our bold claims about God and the blandness of our engagement with God. The future of many of our mainline churches depend on how well we passionately know God through Jesus Christ and pass on faith to the next generation.

I have heard it said on many occasions, "Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living!" What will we pass on to the generation coming behind us?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Single-minded preaching

On preaching his first sermon to his congregation at Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, Charles Spurgeon explains to the members of the church where he stands and what the defining concern of his ministry will be.

His first words from the pulpit that day were:
I would propose that the subject of the ministry of this house, as long as this platform shall stand, and as long as this house shall be frequented by worshipers, shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, "It is Jesus Christ." My venerated predecessor, Dr. Gill, has left a [theological heritage] admirable and excellent in its way. But the [legacy] to which I would pin and bind myself forever, God helping me, Jesus Christ, who is the arm and substance of the gospel, who is in Himself all theology, the incarnation of every precious truth.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why the church matters

There are many compelling reasons why the Church is integral to our faith in Jesus Christ. Martin Luther fleshes out another very practical reason for the church...

No man should be alone when he opposes Satan. The church and the ministry of the Word were instituted for this purpose, that hands may be joined together and one may help another. If the prayer of one doesn't help, the prayer of another will.

Martin Luther, "Martin Luther--The Early Years," Christian History, no. 34.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Knowing and doing God's will

I Kings 13: 1-33 illustrates the importance of obeying God. Jeroboam, the renegade king of the 10 breakaway tribes of Israel was steadily overturning every semblance of Yahweh's commandments and ways.

The Lord called an unnamed prophet to visit the king while he was busy preparing sacrifices for the idolatrous golden calf. The unnamed prophet boldly denouced the king's practices:

"Then at the Lord’s command, he shouted, “O altar, altar! This is what the Lord says: A child named Josiah will be born into the dynasty of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests from the pagan shrines who come here to burn incense, and human bones will be burned on you.” I Kings 13: 2

Filled with rage, Jeroboam stretched out his hand to have the prophet arrested but God paralyzed the king's hand and he was unable to pull it back. In humility, the pompous king begs the prophet to pray for him so God might heal his paralyzed hand. So the man of God prayed to the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored and he could move it again.

As a gesture of kindness, the now chastened king tries to invite the man of God to come to his palace for a meal. The prophet refused: "For the Lord gave me this command: ‘You must not eat or drink anything while you are there, and do not return to Judah by the same way you came.’ ” So he left Bethel and went home another way." I kings 13: 9

The man's resolve to fully obey God was thwarted by a fellow prophet who used lies and manipulation to convince the man of God to bend God's word. The result was very tragic. Instead of going home as commanded by the Lord, he went to the home of the elderly prophet for a meal. His disobedience resulted in his death. On his way from the elderly prophet's house a lion attacked him and killed him.

Judith and I read this story several times this morning, noting the importance of listening and obeying God. Well intentioned people often try to redirect our lives. Sometimes it's important to listen to the wisdom of others; other times we have to reject their advice. We must never allow people's advice or opinion to sway us from God's revealed will. This story clearly illustrates the difficulty which is sometimes involved in discerning the true word of God. Difficulty because there is often a fine line between an arrogant know-it-all-attitude, and a confident, humble, settled assurance in God's word. May the Lord help us to confidently, and unswervingly walk in His truth!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Word of Encouragement

Jesus is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. How?

He was tempted in every way as we are but he did not sin. Some people wonder how Jesus could understand our struggle with sin since He Himself is sinless. A surgeon may have performed hundreds of operations without ever having had surgery himself. On the other hand, a person may know nothing of surgery in spite of having had many operations himself. If you were to be operated on, which person would you choose to perform the surgery? Merely experiencing something doesn't necessarily give us an understanding of it. Jesus never sinned, yet He understands sin better than any of us. He has seen it more clearly and fought it more diligently than any of us ever could.

Jesus knows about your temptation. He sees your struggles; he sees where you are falling and he is able to help you overcome the things that defeat you. He sees your struggles with drugs and alcohol; he knows the shame you feel about the things that weaken you; that relationship that is not good for you; your struggles with over eating; your search for significance, your lust for more and more things. He knows your strength is almost gone. He says to you come to me and I will give you rest. Come to me and I will forgive, cleanse, renew, restore and change you. A broken and contrite heart our God will not despise.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How To Profit from Bible Reading

Reading Eugene Peterson's book, Eat This Book, I was reminded of the importance reading my bible. His testimony about long distance running helped me understand that I read the bible so that I can obey God.

At age 35 I bought running shoes and began enjoying the smooth rhythms of long-distance running. Soon I was competing in 10K races every month or so, and then a marathon once a year. By then I was subscribing to and reading three running magazines! Then I pulled a muscle and couldn't run for a couple of months. Those magazines were still all over the house, but I never opened one. The moment I resumed running, though, I started reading again.

That's when I realized that my reading was an extension of something I was a part of. I was reading for companionship and affirmation of the experience of running. I learned a few things along the way, but mostly it was to deepen my world of running. If I wasn't running, there was nothing to deepen.

The parallel with reading Scripture is striking. If I'm not living in active response to the living God, reading about his creation/salvation/holiness won't hold my interest for long. The most important question isn't "What does this mean," but "What can I obey?" Simple obedience will open up our lives to a text more quickly than any number of Bible studies, dictionaries, and concordances.

Fighting Temptation

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis offer us profound wisdom when it comes to understanding temptation's power in our lives:

No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means.

This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting it, not by giving in. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.

That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it.

Accepted at God's table

In his book, Connecting, Larry Crabb writes:

A friend of mine was raised in an angry family. Mealtimes were either silent or sarcastically noisy. Down the street was an old-fashioned house with a big porch where a happy family lived. My friend told me that when he was about ten, he began excusing himself from his dinner table as soon as he could without being yelled at, and walking to the old-fashioned house down the street. If he arrived during dinnertime, he would crawl under the porch and just sit there, listening to the sounds of laughter.
When he told me this story, I asked him to imagine what it would have been like if the father in the house somehow knew he was huddled beneath the porch and sent his son to invite him in. I asked him to envision what it would have meant to him to accept the invitation, to sit at the table, to accidentally spill his glass of water, and hear the father roar with delight, "Get him more water! And a dry shirt! I want him to enjoy the meal!"
Crabb goes on to say, "We need to hear the Father laugh. Change depends on experiencing the character of God."

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale votes Sunday to keep pastor -- South Florida

Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale votes Sunday to keep pastor -- South Florida

Posted using ShareThis

Pray for the people and pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

In its heyday, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, founded by Dr. D. James Kennedy, was famous for its evangelism ministry (Evangelism Explosion), its schools, seminary, and strong religious and politically conservative views. Dr. Kennedy died back on September 5, 2007.

In March 2009, the church called the grandson of famous evangelist Billy Graham to become the second pastor in the church's 50 year history. Pastor Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin), 37, has been on the job less than a year and already factions in the church have called for his ouster. At a specially called congregational meeting in early September 2009, the congregation voted to retain Tullian as their pastor.

Unfortunately, just last week over 400 members defected from the congregation to form a new church. How could a once thriving church be so embroiled in this kind of conflict and division? From what I can gather, some of the members appreciative of Dr. Kennedy's ministry are concerned about the pace of change happening in the church. Over the summer, several members of the church choir were upset at the speed of changes under Tchividjian, including what they felt were a watering down of evangelism, political advocacy and traditional worship.

Are these issues that important to divide and weaken this congregation? I don't think so. However, when it comes to church traditions in North America, people will go the mat over the most amazing things (I have heard of churches splitting over hymnals).

Please let us join together and remember the pastor and his family and all the members of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. I am sure the unbelieving community in Fort Lauderdale are shaking their heads and laughing at these Christians.

Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mixed Message?

Mark Galli, the senior managing editor of Christianity Today, raises the question many of us are asking. He challenges us as orthodox believers to ask ourselves how we can argue for the sanctity of marriage and behave like heterosexual hypocrites:

We cannot very well argue for the sanctity of marriage as a crucial social institution while we blithely go about divorcing and approving of remarriage at a rate that destabilizes marriage. We cannot say that an institution, like the state, has a perfect right to insist on certain values and behavior from its citizens while we refuse to submit to denominational or local church authority. We cannot tell gay couples that marriage is about something much larger than self-fulfillment when we, like the rest of heterosexual culture, delay marriage until we can experience life, and delay having children until we can enjoy each other for a few years.

In short, we have been perfect hypocrites on this issue. Until we admit that, and take steps to amend our ways, our cries of alarm about gay marriage will echo off into oblivion. To read the whole article click here

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Meeting God in the desert

Psalm 63: 1-11 was birthed in the wilderness of Judah. David's son, Absalom viciously pursued his father, trying to kill him and take control of the throne. In the life-sapping heat, with everything on the line, instead of destroying him, the experience created within him an insatiable thirst for God. Read about his narrow escape from Absalom in 2 Samuel 15: 23, 28

Humanly speaking this does not make sense. Fear, stress, threats, danger, normally give way to high levels of toxic anxiety. David turns to God and earnestly seeks God in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Ps. 63: 1

What happened as he searched for God? He saw the power and glory of God Psalm 63: 2
He found the steadfast love of God to be better than securing his life. Psalm 63:3-4
As he meditated on God during the late hours of the night he found that God alone was his help. The threat of danger could not remove his joy. He simply rested in the shadow of God's protective wings and sang songs of praise. His secret was to cling to God Psalm 63: 8

Fully confident that God was with him, he could look at his enemies and confidently declare their defeat. Psalm 63: 6-11

Sounds like a fairy tale? Sounds like a polyannish view of life? Only if you have a limited view of God. How big is your understanding of God? A shallow view of God will weaken you.
The way to face the harsh realities of life is to seek God, cling to God while in the desert times of life; while the enemy is after you. It is then that you see the power and glory of God.

Lord, like David we are going through desert times right now. We are on the verge of giving up because of money pressures, sickness, family pressures, unemployment pressures and other fears. Forgive us for trying to solve our troubles without your power. We look to you; we cling to you. We are assured that you will help and uphold us. To you be all glory and praise. Amen

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Prayer for protection against temptation

Temptation is a battle that all Christians face. This is not an exaggeration. The following prayer was written by the great 16th Century reformer Martin Luther. Read this prayer and be strengthened by God's power to fight the good fight.

Dear Father,
Grant us grace that we may have control over the lust of the flesh. Help us to resist its desire to eat, to drink, to sleep overmuch, to be idle, to be slothful. Help us by fasting, by moderation in food and dress and sleep and work, by watching and labor, to bring the flesh into subjection and fit it for good works.

Help us to fasten its evil, unchaste inclination and all its desires and incitements with Christ upon the Cross, and to slay them so that we may not consent to any of its allurements, nor follow them. Help us when we see a beautiful person, or image or any other creature, that it may not be be a temptation, but an occasion for love of chastity and for praising Thee in Thy creatures. When we hear sweet sounds and feel things that please the senses, help us to seek therein not lust, but Thy praise and honor.

Preserve us from the great vice of avarice and the desire for the riches of this world. Keep us, that we may not seek this world's honor and power, nor consent to the desire for them.Preserve us, that the world's deceit, presences, and false promises may not move us to walk in its ways.

Preserve us, that the wickedness and the adversities of the world may not lead us to impatience, revenge, wrath, or other vices. Help us to renounce the world's lies and deceits, its promises and unfaithfulness, and all its good and evil (as we have already promised in baptism to do), to abide firmly in this renunciation, and to grow therein from day to day.

Preserve us from the suggestions of the devil, that we may not consent to pride, become self-satisfied, and despise others for the sake of riches, rank, power, knowledge, beauty, or other good gifts of Thine. Preserve us, that we fall not into hatred or envy for any cause. Preserve us, that we yield not to despair, that great temptation of our faith, neither now nor at our last hour.

Have in Thy keeping, heavenly Father, all who strive and labor against these great and manifold temptations. Strengthen those who are yet standing; raise up all those who have fallen and are overcome; and to all of us grant Thy grace, that in this miserable and uncertain life, incessantly surrounded by so many enemies, we may fight with constancy, and with a firm and kinghtly faith, and win the everlasting crown.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh

When White House press secretary Robert Gibbs announced in May that the Obama Administration had chosen to hold the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh, Pa., the press corps broke out laughing. It's tough to blame them. The meeting, which started today and includes top financial officials from the world's 20 largest economies, carries with it a hefty security burden.

One article I read says, “While the designation is certainly an honor, hosting the G-20 doesn't really have economic benefits. In addition to security concerns, the host pays a premium. To hold March's meeting of the G-20, London shelled out an estimated $131 million - a big number for any city to absorb, and more than four times the expected cost. With fewer than 4,000 people expected to attend the Pittsburgh summit, experts say the local economy should see a boost of only about $8 million. And while the U.S. government is covering many of the city's costs, the Pittsburgh city council had to temporarily shift $16 million in funding to cover outlays that they say will be reimbursed eventually.”

The fact that 85% of the world's economy is represented in this group of 20 nations makes it an important event for this region of the country. But we also know that a wisdom greater than the G-20 leaders will be needed to heal our broken world. Pray that Almighty God grants wisdom to them in this and future summits.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Atheist camp to give children 'godless alternative

According to the UK newspaper The Guardian, Richard Dawkins is helping to fund an atheist summer camp for children. No kidding. Imagine how exciting this will be—

Children will learn about how they were an accident—No, not mom and dad’s accident, but a cosmic accident! They will learn how life is meaningless! How there is no ultimate foundation for morality! And they will learn that love has no eternal significance, but is only a biological impulse compelling us to protect and perpetuate the species! How comforting. How pathetic.

On the other hand, these all do make for very scary campfire stories.

“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”—Matthew 18:6

Friday, September 18, 2009

What People Expect From The Church

I am still here. I haven't been writing much lately. Since coming back from Jamaica, I have been dealing with many things on my plate.

I want to share something I have been reading and thinking about: Willow Creek Association of Churches recently published a brief survey called Focus: The top ten things people want and need from you and your church.

Their survey results show that there are 5 expectations people have of their church. I want to hear your comments. Are these expectations real in your life? Do you have similar expectations of FPC?

1. Spiritual Guidance
Help me understand the bible in greater depth
Help me develop a personal relationship with Christ
Encourage me to take responsibility for my own spiritual growth

2. Accountability and Impact
FPC helps me develop relationships that encourage accountability
Provide opportunities to grow spiritually through relationships with others
Empowers me to go out on my own to make a significant impact in the lives of others

3. Belonging
Helps me feel like I belong
Helps me in my time of emotional need
Provides compelling worship services

4. Ownership
Sets clear expectations about what it means to be part of the church
Inspires such a sense of ownership that the church becomes an important part of who I am

5. Serving
Promotes a strong serving culture that is widely recognized by the local community
Provides opportunities to serve those in need

So how does this square with your expectations of FPC? Also, why not pass these thoughts on to your friends in the church who may not get this and give them a chance to respond?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

For God Alone I Wait

While in Jamaica a few weeks ago planning the funeral service for my father-in-law, we were overcome with a range of emotions. We battled anger, deep loss, disappointment, fear, tiredness, and anxiety.

During a season of prayer and casting the full weight of the situation on God, we were led to an oasis of truth that completely satisfied our thirst. God knows your name; God knows where you are and what you are going through.

I need you to slow down, or better, stop whatever you are doing and read Psalm 62: 1-12. See what you think. Isn't this a refreshing word from God?

On God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. Psalm 62: 1-2

The same ideas are repeated in Ps. 62: 5-7
Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.

We leaned with all our might on these precious words and they kept us going and continue to reshape how we deal with all the challenges before us even to this very moment. We are confident that every moment of our lives is before Almighty God. Our greatest need is for our soul to unplug from the drugs and stimulants of our time and simply plug into God and wait for him.

Are you anxious? Distracted? Frustrated? Bitter? Angry? Overcome by a spirit of unforgiveness? Then wait in silence on God and allow his powerful presence to wash away the junk of sin and fill you with unspeakable joy, repose, and peace.

Lord, grant to each of us a longing and thirst to know you and be satisfied in you alone. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Deformity of Christ

The deformity of Christ forms you. If he had not willed to be deformed, you would not have recovered the form which you had lost. Deformed, he hung upon the cross. But his deformity is the source of our beauty. In this life let us hold fast to the deformity of Christ. Let us carry the sign of his deformity on our forehead. Let us not be ashamed of the deformity of Christ. Let us look with eyes of wonder at his deformity, for therein is the perfect justice of God. (From Augustine's Discourses on the Psalms)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Our National Anthem

On Friday, Whitney Houston gave her first public concert in over 7 years on GMA in Central Park, New York City. We can only pray that God will use her voice to bring glory to his name, having brought her through years of drug addiction and near death.
I still think this rendition of the National Anthem is one her best performances ever! She sang this song at Super Bowl XXV in 1991.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Are we becoming a nation of Hindus?

This fascinating question is answered by Dr. Al Mohler president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He writes in response to a recent Newsweek article about the same subject. Here's a sample from his article:

"Those who argue that all religions are essentially the same reveal the fact that they know little about these very different belief systems. The worldview of Christianity is, for example, radically different from the belief structure of Buddhism (some forms of which may actually claim to resist the very idea of beliefs)..."

Do you agree with his conclusions? Should Christians in America be concerned?
Go here to to read the article

How to ruin a family

In his book, What’s so Amazing About Grace, Phillip Yancy tells about the history of the effects of a single sin on four generations. Daisy was born in 1898, the eighth of ten children. Her father was a mean, abusive drunk who kicked his wife out of the house. All ten children cried, begging their father not to put their mother out, but he wouldn’t budge. He sent her away, saying he never wanted to see her again. In time, most of the children were farmed out to relatives or went to live with their mother, but Daisy stayed with her Dad until she was old enough to leave home.

Finally, her dad “guttered out” and stumbled into a rescue mission where he had to “earn” his dinner by listening to a sermon. When the preacher gave the invitation, he went forward to accept Christ because it seemed the “polite thing to do.” But to his surprise, the sinner’s prayer took. His life began to change. He sobered up and began seeking out his children, begging them for forgiveness for the way he’d treated them. At first, they were suspicious of the old man, thinking he was just trying to get into their good graces so he could hit them up for drinking money, but to their surprise, he was sincere and they all forgave him. Everyone, that is, except Daisy. Like he’d said to her mother, “she never wanted to see him again as long as she lived.” Even though he lived just eight houses from her for 5 years, she never visited him and never forgave him.

Daisy swore she would never be like her father, and she never was a drunk, but she had the same unforgiving, abusive spirit. She was harsh with her six children and was verbally abusive with them—especially with Margaret. Margaret swore she would be different than her mother, and she was never abusive, but she was unbending and harsh with her four children, but was especially harsh with her son Michael, kicking him out of the house saying, “I never want to see you again…”

She got her wish. For twenty-six years, they never spoke. Michael doesn’t have any children, but he has gone from one relationship to another and Yancy says that he has said that he “never wants to see his wife again.”

Four generations. One sin. The son learned it from the mother who learned it from her mother who learned it from her father. Over a hundred years have passed and the sin flourishes and wrecks havoc in the lives of the old drunk’s descendants.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Safe and Secure

Last night our bible study group focused on the words of Jesus from John 10: 1-38. Jesus, the good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He knows his sheep, they hear his voice and they follow him.

Most important of all, Jesus says, I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. May father who has given them to me is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. John 10: 28-29

How precious is the thought that our lives are forever secure in Christ. We did not choose Christ; he chose us. F. F. Bruce in his commentary on John says it this way:

"Physical life may be destroyed, but those who are united by faith to the Son of God, those who belong to the flock of the true Shepherd, can never lose real life, for he keeps it secure. God and Christ are together engaged to protect believers. Whom Christ protects, God protects; whom Christ keeps in his hand, God keeps in his. No one is powerful enough to snatch anyone or anything from the hand of God!" Amen

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Narcissism Epidemic

If you are raising kids, grandkids, or mentoring children, you definitely want to listen to this insightful conversation between Professor Michael Horton and Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me and The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the age of entitlement.

See if you can set aside 35-40 good minutes and you will learn so much about the culture of narcissism that plagues churches, families, schools, and just about every sector of American society. Click here to listen and learn

A parable of Grace

This story has made the rounds on the internet for quite some time now. I am not sure if it is true, but it has a profound Biblical truth about God's grace:

A store owner was tacking a sign above his door that read "Puppies For Sale." Signs like that have a way of attracting small children and sure enough, a little boy appeared under the store owner's sign.

"How much are you going to sell the puppies for?" he asked. The store owner replied, "Anywhere from $30 to $50." The little boy reached in his pocket and pulled out some change.

"I have $2.37," he said. "Can I please look at them?"

The store owner smiled and whistled and out of the kennel came Lady, who ran down the aisle of his store followed by five teeny, tiny balls of fur. One puppy was lagging considerably behind. Immediately the little boy singled out the lagging, limping puppy and said, "What's wrong with that little dog?" The store owner explained that the veterinarian had examined the little puppy and had discovered it didn't have a hip socket. It would always limp. It would always be lame.

The little boy became excited. "That is the little puppy that I want to buy." The store owner said, "No, you don't want to buy that little dog. If you really want him, I'll just give him to you." The little boy got quite upset. He looked straight into the store owner's eyes, pointing his finger, and said, "I don't want you to give him to me. That little dog is worth every bit as much as all the other dogs and I'll pay full price. In fact, I'll give you $2.37 now, and 50 cents a month until I have him paid for." The store owner countered, "You really don't want to buy this little dog. He is never going to be able to run and play with you like the other puppies."

To this, the little boy reached down and rolled up his pant leg to reveal a badly twisted, crippled left leg supported by a big metal brace. He looked up at the store owner and softly replied, "Well, I don't run so well myself, and the little puppy will need someone who understands!"

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Home Sweet Home

My wife and I spent a very challenging week in Jamaica handling all the details of her father's funeral. The service celebrating the life of Garth Thomson proclaimed the hope of the resurrection through Jesus Christ. It was wonderful to be with family and friends and find mutual hope encouragement through Christ.

But we are glad to be home! Thanks for your prayers, cards and support.

This Could Happen To Us!

Just a few days ago, the Lutheran Church (ELCA) voted to allow the ordination of clergy who are in "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships." My dismay upon hearing this news was immediately followed by the realization that "This could happen to us." Friends, let our prayers for our Lutheran brothers and sisters be joined with stronger-than-ever determination to preserve both a biblical view of marriage and our own constitutional integrity! Click here to see the entire article

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Death where is your victory?

For those of you know us, I would like to ask that you pray for my wife's family. This past Tuesday we heard the sad news that her father, Garth Thomson died of what seems to be a heart attack in Jamaica. Judith has now lost her brother, mother and father. We are confident that God does all things well Isaiah 45:7.

Her father was a believer in Jesus Christ and we are resting on the promises of God's word, Philippians 1: 21.

It is hard for all of us here in America and especially for her family in Jamaica. We do not grieve though as those who have no hope. "For we believe that since Jesus died and rose again, God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep" I Thessalonians 4:14.

Without the hope of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our loss would be unbearable! I Corinthians 15: 17-19: And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Beheaded for their faith in Jesus Christ

I read today that three Nigerian pastors were behead during recent clashes between the Nigerian government and Islamic extremists. Go here

A few reactions after reading the story:

1. Christians in America are blessed. We have the freedom to worship and serve God, yet the American church is spiritually cold. Go figure!

2. These men did not die in vain. Jesus said, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord" Revelation 14:13. Indeed, all who would live godly in Jesus Christ will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12

3. Pray for these dear pastors' families, their churches, and that the cause of Christ would exponentially grow in Nigeria because of the deaths of these men of God.

Serving the needs of vulnerable children

Dr. Wes Stafford, president and CEO of Compassion International, is one of the most compassionate servants of God I have ever heard! Out of a childhood of physical and sexual abuse while a missionary kid in Africa, Dr. Stafford was called by God to serve the needs of the world's poorest children.

A group of leaders from FPC heard this man's moving testimony yesterday at Willow Creek's Leadership Summit. Reading his book, Too Small To Ignore: Why the Least of These Matters Most is a worthy investment of your time. To learn more about Wes Stafford and other Summit speakers, go here

Prayer and Politics

Reading Psalm 58: 1-11, I couldn't resist thinking about the character of some politicians in our nation. The writer seems fed up with irresponsible leadership. Psalm 58:1-2 encapsulates the theme of the song.
"Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods(rulers)?
Do you judge the children of man uprightly?
Sadly, the answer is no.

Political leaders are first and foremost servants. All decisions, private and public should reflect concern for constituents. Unfortunately, the writer sees leaders whose hearts and hands focus on devising wrongs and dealing out violence. Psalm 58:2

Psalm 58: 3-5 describes their character: deviancy and falsehood are their birth-inheritance; they carry a poison within, and are incorrigible like a deaf cobra that stops its ears. In other words, they are insensitive to those they serve.

Psalm 58:6-9, the writer appeals to God. Much of what's here is not literal but symbolic. Is it unchristian to pray this way for unjust political leaders? It's like praying for God to bankrupt those leaders and countries that protect sex-trafficking; who sell arms to other countries; who profit from the cocaine industry. If these rulers, so set in their ways and policies, refuse to side with mercy and compassion, what is wrong with asking God to bring them down?
Notice the five word pictures:
1. Water running off the surface of the ground, or they come to nothing Psalm 58:7
2. A discharged arrow which withers and falls to the ground Psalm 58:7
3. A slug that goes away melting, leaving only an empty shell Psalm 58:8
4. A pregnancy that issues in stillbirth Psalm 58:8
5. Before a pots feels heat from thorns set ablaze, God blows them away, Psalm 58:9

Finally, he holds out hope of vindication, Psalm 58:10-11. This is also pretty rough language and rattles our modern sensibilities. How do we pray these words? The answers aren't all clear, but we'll keep reading for more insight. One thing we do know, there is a God who judges the earth! Psalm 58: 11

Father, you are the only true and just ruler. All your thoughts toward us are good. Teach us how to engage responsibly in the politics of our day. Teach us how, as ordinary citizens, to hold elected officials accountable. We know that earthly governments are flawed, so while we work, we await the fullness of your government Isaiah 9:6-7. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen

Friday, August 7, 2009

A song from a cave

Psalm 57: 1-11 is the "cave" psalm. David pleads to God for mercy because Saul, his enemy is closing in on him I Sam. 22:1. From the shadows of he cave he takes refuge in the shadow of God's wings. I like his play on words: he runs into the cave knowing full well that real refuge is found solely in God.

May I encourage you to continue reading through the Psalm? Sit with David; speak to God through his speech. Internalize his words and make them yours. So when he says, "I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me," own these words because the same God who encircled David in the dampness of that cave, still listens to our prayers, our laments and our pleas for mercy.

David is a realist. He doesn't have a "Pollyannish" view on life that expects God to immunize us from enemies, and trouble. Psalm 57: 4 Rather, he seems to understand that our world and its people are flawed by sin. He does not look for salvation in or through the world. He looks to the Maker of heaven and earth: God will send from heaven and save me, Psalm 57: 3

While he is fully awake to the dangers of the hour they do not restrict the mainspring of his heart: the exaltation and worship of Almighty God. Psalm 57: 5, 10-11. This is what I wish for all of us as we make our pilgrimage through this world filled with danger.

No weapon fashioned against us will succeed, Isaiah 54:17. David believes that the nets and the pits fashioned for his destruction will in the end become a source of punishment for the enemies of God. Psalm 57: 6

Knowing that God is greater than all the plans of evil people, he chooses to be steadfast; he sings; he makes melody right in the cave, that could potentially be his grave. Psalm 57: 7-9

Oh God, the troubles of this world surge high above our heads. We often despair for our safety, and for the safety of those we love. We are not being hunted by Saul, but you have told us that the Devil, like a roaring lion is on the loose, seeking to devour your saints in the world. Like David, we pray for a steadfast heart, a heart filled with signing, melody, and complete trust in you. All that matters for us is that now and for all time, you will be exalted O God above the heavens, on the earth, and in our lives. Amen

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Jesus was not seeker sensitive

I am not trying to be controversial or insensitive, but I can't help but notice how Jesus' direct, demanding call on people's lives differs from our 21st century, low-grade, anemic, anything-goes approach to discipleship. John 6: 26-27,53-58

His demand to believe, turn from dependence on human ability, to complete reliance on His words caused many to turn back and no longer walk with him. John 6:66

I am so weak and wishy-washy. Deep down I would be troubled if people walked away from me or left the church. My need to be needed so clouds my ministry to people. I am least helpful as a pastor when my goal is to tell people what they want to hear. I am most effective when I give people the words of Jesus, not my words. I am most helpful when I serve the way Jesus served: he placed truth above popularity and human praise.

They say the truth hurts and I agree. If telling the truth results in people being offended, leave the church or become angry, I think I am doing faithful gospel ministry. What do you think? Is it possible to speak the truth and lead from this basis without people being offended? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The lies we believe

Have you ever heard of the human potential movement? It flowered in the 1960’s; its basic premise says there is a vast, untapped, reservoir of power, divinity within human beings that needs to be tapped in order to live a happy and successful life.

A very famous TV celebrity is trying to convert the world by encouraging everyone to read a book called The Secret. On their website this is what they say:
The Secret reveals the most powerful law in the universe. The knowledge of this law has run like a golden thread through the lives and the teachings of all the prophets, seers, sages and saviors in the world's history, and through the lives of all truly great men and women. All that they have ever accomplished or attained has been done in full accordance with this most powerful law. Without exception, every human being has the ability to transform any weakness or suffering into strength, power, perfect peace, health, and abundance. The Secret reveals the natural law that is governing all lives. By applying the knowledge of this law, you can change every aspect of your life.

Sadly, elements of the Christian community have bought into this big, juicy, satanic lie. Scores of health and wealth preachers on TV are busy hawking this lie to countless millions of gullible hearers.

According to Hebrews 2: 6-8, there is no question that we are made in the image of God; there is no question that human beings possess amazing, wonderful, exquisite beauties; we are made a little lower than the angels!

But what the secret won’t tell you is that since the fall of Adam and Eve and sin's corrosive effect on every human being since, the world is not on a path of love and harmony, and peace. Check the annals of history pockmarked with two World wars, Holocaust, civil wars, Vietnam War, Korean War, Iraqi War, 911, and numerous daily local, personal atrocities.

There is no hidden "secret" to improving the world that lies in mankind just waiting to be mined. The solution for life, for the world, does not lie within us; we are part of the problem. The solution comes from outside of us.

Hebrews 2: 9-What do we see? We see him – namely Jesus, who was also made a little lower than the angels, he was crowned with glory and honor so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. Instead of seeking some mystical, hidden secret, seek Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life!

Watch out for cheap grace

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace.
Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheap-jack's wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices...

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
From The Cost of Discipleship By Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Making the most of the Lord's Day

Christians believe that everyday belongs to the Lord. Christians do not subscribe to the view that Sunday is holier than other days of the week. The Lordship of Christ means He has dominion over every square inch of our lives. The same God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is worshiped on Sunday, remains constant, all seeing, all powerful, Monday through Saturday.

Worship is a lifestyle and never an event, or an episode that Christians do on certain days of the week. Christians dedicate all 168 hours of the week as an expression of what it means to live under the sway of God's kingdom. Paul, speaking to the intellectual elites of Athens said, "For in him we live and move and have our being" Acts 17: 28. Therefore, "Whatever we do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" Colossians 3:17.

Taken together, these two verses and many others, form the basis for why Christians live with the constant awareness of being in the presence of God.

However, there are dedicated times for corporate worship. On the first day of the week Jesus was raised victoriously over death and the grave. In light of the resurrection of Jesus, early Christians eventually transitioned away from Sabbath worship to worship on the first day of the week. In Acts 20:7, Paul met with Christians in Ephesus before departing for Jerusalem. This is the first reference in Acts to worship on Sunday.

In 1 Cor. 16:2 the phrase, first day of every week reoccurs. This is a Jewish expression for Sunday, and similar to the phrase used in the Gospels to describe the day of the week on which Jesus rose from the dead (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). This shows that Christians gathered for worship on Sunday, not Saturday (cf. Acts 20:7; Rev. 1:10), in order to acknowledge the crucial importance of Christ's resurrection.

In one sense, Sunday is the Christian's Sabbath. Not in the legalistic sense of the Old Testament, but in the sense that we show our devotion, our love, and our commitment to Jesus Christ. Sunday is the day we commit ourselves to the church gathered in worship. Gathered as one people, our main project is that together we may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:6

Unfortunately, family life today is one of struggle against the pressures of busyness and the loss of a sacred center. Our culture does not care about the values of gathered worship on the first day of the week. We should not expect any special favors from our culture. We do not look to culture for help in living transformed Christian lives. We take our cues from Scripture's invitation to live a radical discipleship that runs counter to the values of culture.

This means we ask ourselves and each other very hard questions such as: should we support sporting events, work, shopping, or other major commitments that bind us and keep us from gathering with the family of God for worship and nurture? Should we allow dominant culture to dictate key priorities, and then give God what's left?

There are no easy answers here! We are not under law but under grace Romans 6:14. There will be times when we do things on a Sunday, such as vacation, time with family, work, etc. that prevent us from being part of a worship gathering. But if we claim to be under the Lordship of Christ, yet his will has no influence in how we expend the 168 hours of each week, then it's time to re-examine the depth of our faith.

Here are some ideas for making Sunday central to your family
1. Make it your goal to be with God's people in worship each week
2. Try to schedule all your work and recreation in the first 6 days of each week
3. Prepare for Sunday worship as early as Friday - make sure clothes are ready, food is prepared, and especially on Saturday night, try to get to bed by a decent hour so that everyone wakes up rested and ready to give honor to the Lord.
4. Pray for the pastor and the church staff through the week. Pray that God's Spirit would empower those who have a vital role in leading worship, preaching and teaching, playing music, greeting and ushering.
5. Review the Scriptures for each week's worship ahead of time
6. Involve your children where possible. Encourage your family to prepare their tithe/offerings ahead of time. Help them understand that giving is a joyful response to God's bounty.
7. Gather with a readiness to sing, pray, encourage others, confess, and listen to the word of God read and proclaimed
8. When the worship time ends, worship doesn't end. Follow up at home with added discussion. Review the worship, the message, and talk about how to obey the Word God in one's daily life.

We are what we worship. Where our treasure is there will our heart be also (Matt. 6: 21. Make God our treasure and worship becomes the active pursuit and enjoyment of Him, the lover of our soul.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Fear and Faith

In Psalm 56 David running is and hiding from King Saul. As a safety measure, he decides to hide among the Philistines of Gath. While there, the servants of King Achish exposed his identity (1 Samuel 21:10-15). David was much afraid of Achish the King of Gath. He thought they were going to either kill him or hand him over to Saul.

In that moment of crisis, David prayed for God's grace to intervene and protect him from his enemies.Psalm 56: 1-2

In the very next breath he moves from fear to faith: When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? Psalm 56: 3-4

Have you ever been so afraid that you felt your mind and body shutting down? What kind of circumstances are you going through right now that you think will defeat you?

Weaving in and out of the Psalm, David moves repeatedly from crisis to confidence in God. He faces his fear, names it, prays about it, and acts in a way that is counter to his fear. Psalm 56: 8-9

In the end, crippling fear is destroyed by robust theology: I know that God is for me, Psalm 56: 9. Sound theology comes from time in God's word. David finally shows in Psalm 56: 10-11,the relationship between trusting God and knowing his word. That's the key to ovecoming fear.

Gracious God, in these days when so many things are happening to induce fear and anxiety - a failing economy, personal debt, deadly viruses - help us to take our eyes off the circumstances and focus on your sovereignty as revealed in your precious Word. Amen

Friday, July 31, 2009

Fearing God

Dr. R. C. Sproul, (born and raised in Pittsburgh and attended Westminster College!)pastor and theologian, writes about the difference between being afraid of God and Fearing God:

I recently heard a young Christian remark, "I have no fear of dying." When I heard this comment I thought to myself, "I wish I could say that." Read the rest of the article here

Christ in a meaningless world

I am almost through reading a book written by David F. Wells, professor of historical and systematic theology at Gordon Conwell Seminary. The book is called Above All Earthly Pow'rs: Christ in a postmodern world.

Throughout the book so far he shows the emptiness and futility of human efforts to find meaning without God. Even in the church we have become such pragmatists that we think we can solve the church problems of our day without the help of the Holy Spirit.

Here's one of many helpful quotes:

We can search for the Kingdom of God, pray for it, and look for it, but only God can bring it about. The Kingdom is God's to give and to take away; it is only ours to enter and accept. We can inherit it, possess it, or refuse to enter it; we can preach it, but is is God's to establish. We receive, we do not take; we enter, but we do not seize; we come as subjects in his Kingdom, not as monarchs in our own.

As God's people at FPC, we are called to humility and complete dependence on God to do his work through us. FPC, along with other churches are called to be signs of the Kingdom of God in our world. May God so help us to live his visible reign in us for all to see.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

What's your favorite inspirational movie?

Here's mine! Chariot's of Fire. This opening scene gives me chills and reminds me of every Christian's call to run the race with patient endurance looking unto Jesus, the architect of our faith!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Communion Service This Sunday

This Sunday we gather to celebrate the Lord's Supper; I hope you will join us. John Calvin, the 16th century reformer, reminds us of the importance of this sacrament:

God has received us, once for all, into his family, to hold us not only as servants but as sons and daughters. Thereafter, to fulfill the duties of a most excellent Father concerned for his offspring, he undertakes also to nourish us throughout the course of our life. And not content with that alone, he has willed, by giving his pledge to assure us of this continuing liberality. To this end, therefore, he has, through the hand of his only begotten Son, given to his church another sacrament, that is, a spiritual banquet wherein Christ attests himself to be the life-giving bread, upon which our souls feed unto true and blessed immortality. John 6:51

The Lord's Supper reminds us that sin is costly; grace is powerful; God is holy; Christ is coming again and we are one body in Christ!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

When Friends Betray

David, or the person who penned this song was not perfect. He displays such godly reserve in the face of betrayal from close friends. God's grace has truly nested in his heart. Psalm 55: 1-23

Nothing stings like hypocrisy and betrayal. Nothing is more deadly than being stabbed in the back by someone you trusted. Psalm 55 chronicles the emotional pain of this man of God.

Read Psalm 55: 1-8, feel your pulse quicken. You can almost feel his pain. You can see into his heart through his choice of words: restless, moan, complaint, anguish, terror, fear, trembling, horror. In Psalm 55: 6-7, he wants to run and hide. Ever feel like you want to get away from the troubles around you? This is how David felt.

The source of his pain is in Psalm 55: 12-14: Essentially he says, I have been betrayed not by an enemy, that I could handle, I have been betrayed by my best friend! This person was my close companion; we went to worship together, gave mutual counsel to each other, but he did major harm to me. We don't know the nature of the betrayal but it must have been horrific.

How does he cope? Psalm 55: 22, "Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved." Our only defense is God. God will never leave us or forsake us, or betray us. Don't put your trust in people; they are weak and their flesh will fail. Trust in God.

O God, I pray for those who read these words; who are bleeding from the "knife wounds" of betrayal and deceit. Help them to forgive. Help them to look to you, for you are unchanging and utterly dependable. Teach us, precious Lord what it means to unload our burdens and emotional baggage before you in prayer. You will set us in place, immovable, unbreakable. Through Christ, our Savior and God, amen.

Courageous Christianity

What you are about to read is part of a letter written back in the early 2nd century by an unnamed disciple of Jesus Christ. The letter was written to defend Christianity from those who hate and persecute Christ followers. Do you think the character of Christians in the 21st Century is as distinct, or are we too cozy with the attitudes of modern day culture?

"For Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country or language or custom. They do not live in cities of their own; they do not use a peculiar form of speech; they do not follow an eccentric manner of life. This doctrine of theirs has not been discovered by the ingenuity and deep thought of acquisitive men, nor do they put forward a merely human teaching, as some people do....They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey established laws, but in their own lives they go far beyond what the laws require.

They love all men, and by all men are persecuted. They are unknown, and still they are condemned; they are put to death, and yet they are brought to life. They are poor, and yet they make many rich; they are completely destitute, and yet they enjoy complete abundance. They are dishonored, and in their very dishonor are glorified; they are defamed, and are vindicated. They are reviled, and yet they bless; when they are affronted, they still pay due respect. When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; undergoing punishment, they rejoice because they are brought to life. They are treated by the Jews as foreigners and enemies, and are hunted down by the Greeks; and all the time those who hate them find it impossible to justify their enmity."
It's no wonder early Christians turned their world upside down!
Anonymous, "Letter to Diognetus"