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Showing posts from 2010

Showing Them a Light

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“We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

Madeleine L’Engle

Stairwell to the Servants Quarters

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I am so full of myself and my own importance. If I am not noticed and my work not recognized, I grow sullen. (For instance, why don't more people read my blog?!) Then I read of Jesus' service to his disciples in John 13. He takes up the basin and towel and washes their feet, a job that was usually reserved for Gentile servants. It was beneath the Master, but He did not regard it as such.
"The stairway to the ministry is not a grand staircase but a back stairwell that leads down to the servants quarters."
-Edmund Clowney

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy... Prayer Warrior

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Eric Metaxas has written a terrific biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Reading it (which I highly recommend) has prompted me to pull my books by Bonhoeffer off the shelf (alas, I only have two) and read the man himself. His little prayer book on the Psalms is rich and rewarding and prods me to do more than just read about prayer:
The phrase "learning to pray" sounds strange to us. If the heart does not overflow and begin to pray by itself, we say, it will never "learn" to pray. But it is a dangerous error, surely very widespread among Christians, to think that the heart can pray by itself. For then we confuse wishes, hopes, sighs, laments, rejoicings--all of which the heart can do by itself--with prayer. And we confuse earth and heaven, man and God. Prayer does not mean simply to pour out one's heart. It means rather to find the way to God and speak with him, whether the heart is full or empty. No man can do that by himself. For that he needs Jesus Christ.

Read Them and Weep

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OK--I know I'm biased. I studied Bible and Biblical Languages in college and grad school. I have a passion for God's Word. That's why I majored in it and am spending my life teaching and preaching it. But as I tell my kids, the Bible is the most important thing you will ever study. Don't just take my word for it. God has a few things to say about His Word. (See Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Psalm 119; Proverbs 30:6; Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 5:18; Revelation 22:19.) Consider, also, what some of our past presidents have said. Read them and weep.
"It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible." George Washington, 1st President

"I have examined all religions, and the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world." John Adams, 2nd President

"Almighty God hath created the mind free . . I know but one code of morality for men whether acting singly or collectively . . Nothing is more certainly written in the Book of Life than that …

Begin Again, Believe Again

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I have a new friend (via Facebook). Her name is Sharon Hersh. She has written a book called Begin Again, Believe Again. Here is an excerpt of a recent blog on the same theme. Perhaps you'll find a friend in her as well.
I haven’t written a blog for a long time. I have a lot of excuses. It was a rough summer, and yet despite the vicissitudes of hope and despair of the past months this new book hits the bookstore shelves October 29, 2010. I can’t think of a better theme for my own heart and life right now than Begin Again, Believe Again. Perhaps the most important word in the title of this book is again. Whatever season of life we are in, we inevitably face the opportunity to try again, risk again, hope again, forgive again, love again –to begin again and believe again. I am coming to believe that the word again is probably one of the most important and difficult words to live out. Whether it’s beginning a diet again, a relationship again, sobriety again, a letter to a long-lo…

What's Out There?

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Here is a passage from Elisabeth Elliot's Keep a Quiet Heart. Besides my wife, Heather, and my mom, Alice, she has more than any other woman shaped my thinking, feeling and (hopefully) some of my doing. The data from the Time magazine article may be dated, but her point remains. Check her science and check out her faith. Seriously, read anything she has written. Start here.
Time magazine once reported the discovery of the most massive object ever detected in the universe. The odd thing is nobody knows what it is. The Kitt Peak telescope picked up two quasars ("intensely bright bodies so far away that the light they emit travels for billions of years before reaching the earth") which seemed to be identical, an occurrence astronomers consider about as likely as finding two people with identical fingerprints. Something called a "gravitation lens" seemed to be bending the light (get that!) from a single quasar in such a way as to produce two identical images. Nothin…

Tomorrow Is None of My Business

Here's my quote for the day:
"Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now." Keep a Quiet Heart, Elisabeth Elliot

I Love Soccer

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My son loves soccer. And what my son loves I love--except for apple sauce. I don't really even like apple sauce. But soccer? I can get into this game. When I was growing up in Western Nebraska, soccer wasn't even an option. Now I love the game. That's why I'm excited about the possibility of having the FIFA World Cup hosted in the USA--because Eli is excited about it.

The Forgotten God

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Here are some quotes from Francis Chan’s The Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, David C. Cook, 2009:

“God created feelings. Sure, like anything else, they can be misused and abused. But the intent and purpose of feelings came from God. Since he created emotions, why is it difficult to believe that he himself has emotions? The Spirit is grieved when there is a breach in relationship, whether it be relationship with God or relationship with other people. When we are disunified, unloving, hateful, jealous, gossipy, etc., that is when we grieve the Spirit of God. And since he is the creator of emotions, I believe that the Spirit grieves more deeply than we can even understand … I pray for the day when believers care more about the Spirit’s grief than their own. In fact, I pray that some of you readers would be broken over the grief you’ve placed on the Holy Spirit. So broken that you actually put down this book and work to resolve any conflicts you have with ot…

Please Preach Christ

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There is a lot of chatter (on line and off) about Christ-centered preaching. This can only be a good thing I think. I would hope that all Christian preachers could agree that we should follow the apostle Paul (who was following Christ) when he aimed at preaching "Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). We should heed the warning of Jesus who reprimanded those who were diligent students of the Bible but failed to see how they bear witness to him (John 5:39). Jesus also showed his disciples that in order to interpret Scripture rightly you must see how it all pertains to him (Luke 24:25-27, 44-47). A lot of the discussion centers around how you actually go about doing this. (The guys who continue to debate whether or not this is necessary need the metaphorical bash to the head or kick in the pants.) There is no question that the how to's are hard. In fact, apart from the Spirit of God they are impossible. We need to start (and proceed) by recognizing that. Ther…

Only Sinners Need Apply

One of the common objections to Christianity is that Christians are a bunch of lousy hypocrites, people who call out other people for being sinners, but who still sin themselves. R. C. Sproul has a great answer for this objection in Reasons to Believe:
What happens is that people observe church members sinning. They reason within themselves, “That person professes to be a Christian. Christians aren’t supposed to sin. That person is sinning; therefore, he is a hypocrite.” The unspoken assumption is that a Christian is one who claims he does not sin. It reality just the opposite is the case. For a Christian to be a Christian, he must first be a sinner. Being a sinner is a prerequisite for being a church member. The Christian church is one of the few organizations in the world that requires a public acknowledgment of sin as a condition for membership. In one sense the church has fewer hypocrites than any institution because by definition the church is a haven for sinners. If the church cl…

Please Preach

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Last night I confessed a fetish to my church. OK, so there were only 15 there at the time, but it was a surly confession nonetheless. I have a book fetish. I can't seem to get enough of them. I sometimes buy a half dozen books in a months time--sometimes more. The book of books tells us that "of the making of books there is no end" (Ecc. 12:12) and I think I need to read--well not all of them, but my "need to read" stack is piling higher and higher. One of the caring souls in our congregation reminded me that we have a library, so I need not purchase so many books. Another countered that you're not supposed to mark up library books (which of course I do a lot of). I must confess that neither one of these helpful comments helped much.

With that being said, I am reading a great book by Philip Jensen called "The Archer and the Arrow." It's about preaching the very words of God, aimed mostly at preachers. But he gives a very clear definition to pre…

New Worship Songs

Yesterday Dale Chapel taught from Psalm 144 to wrap up our Songs of Summer series at Redlands Community Church. He did a fabulous job and got me thinking (he always does). He made a comment about new songs being new (or new again) to us even when they are familiar. He gave the example of singing "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" at different times in his life. Each time we sings of God's faithfulness it takes on new meaning because now looking back we can see it afresh.

Of course, there are some great new worship songs being written today. I've posted some of them on our church's website. Music has and always will play a vital role in our worship and praise God he is still giving us great songs to sing! Read the quotes below from William Temple, former archbishop of Canterbury, and check out some new songs:
To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the hea…

Atheists Don't Have No Songs

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I love music. Always have, always will. My earliest memories are of my mom and dad making music in church. My mom played the piano. My dad directed the choir. I sang even as a young kid before I could read or write. Now I do all three. One reason is that I have a song to sing. I always have songs going on in my head. Happy songs. Sad songs. Silly songs. Holy songs. At any given moment I might break out into song (often embarrassment of my kids in public places).

I'm glad I have a song to sing. I have a lot of things I like to sing about--my wife, my kids, the great outdoors, my country, my favorite pass times and favorite places... My favorite songs to sing are God songs (as Elijah calls them). Ancient, modern, fast, slow, contemporary, traditional, classical, popular, folk, Anglo, Latino, Celtic, Israeli, African, Asian--I like all types. If it's a solid, Scripturally sound, singable song, I'll sing it and enjoy doing it.

In light of this, you've got to view this silly…

Thinking about Rocks

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On Sundays this summer, we started doing a children's sermon during the morning worship service. Here's how it works. One of the children brings something in a black box (something that fits inside, is not alive, and is approved by mom or dad). I open up to box and use the object to teach a Scriptural lesson. This can be challenging.

This past Sunday, Alexandra brought a piece of coral rock in the black box. I talked about God being our Rock and Fortress and Jesus being the Rock on which we build our lives. Of course, I've been thinking about rocks all week. (Funny I've been thinking more this week about the kid's sermon than the "adult" one.)

I came across this brief article by George Grant in Approaching the Throne of Grace: A Parish Presbyterian Church Prayer Booklet. This is what I wish I would have said, but then it wouldn't have been a "children's sermon":
I was reminded of a well-known English nursery rhymne
Mistress Mary, quite…

Ever Green and Full of Sap

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I love old people. One day I will be old and I hope I will still be loved. (To my eleven-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son, I am old and they still love me.)

Have you heard the story of "The Wooden Bowl"?
A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year grandson. The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. "We must do something about Grandfather," said the son. "I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor". So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed their dinners together.

Since Grandfather had brok…

Life Flows through Relationships

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“Death creates an economy that makes life precious. One of the ways of naming that preciousness is friendship.”
--Stanley Hauerwas
Heather and I just returned from a two-week trip to Nashville and back. Along the way we lost luggage, fought colds, ate everything from Kentucky and Tennessee BBQ (I think TN won) to Georgia's best blueberry pie, did loads of laundry, and saw lots and lots of friends (although I am beating Heather in the "Facebook friend" challenge, she in reality has way more friends than me--and I'm OK with that--really!). Even when we were "by ourselves" at the Country Inn and Suites, our friends from Cape Coral were just across the hall (and I'm very OK with that--really!).

Oliver Claassen, a pastor-mentor of mine, once said that ministry flows through relationships. I've found that to be true. My version is that life flows through relationships. (I don't think Oliver would mind my edit.) Think about it--you would not be alive toda…

Help Haiti Concert

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In July, Redlands Community Church will be sending a team to Haiti to assist Pastor and Mrs. Jovin in their efforts of caring for hundreds of people left homeless in the aftermath of the January 12 earthquake in Port-au-Prince. The team will be transporting needed medical and clothing supplies for the "tent city" that has sprung up outside the Jovin's home, as well as assisting them on a construction project at their church and school property.

On Wednesday, June 2nd Redlands will hold a Help Haiti Concert to inform our church family about how they can be involved in this project. Please join us Wednesday for our family meal at 6:00 pm and concert at 7:00 pm. An offering will be to go toward supplies for the trip. Details at redlandscommunitychurch.org.

Room for God

As a child, I learned this southern gospel classic by Ira Stamphill:
I've got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we'll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold
I also learned from John 14 that Jesus told his disciples of the place He was going to prepare for them. In verse 2 Jesus says, "In my Father's house are many rooms (KJV, "mansions" - Gk., monai, "dwelling places"), if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" In verse 23 he says, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home (Gk., mone, "room, dwelling place") with him." This is quite remarkable. Not only is Jesus preparing a place for his people. He and the Father (and the Spirit)are indwelling his people. He is not only making a home for us--we are being made a home for him.

How can I (…

Prayer Is Hard Work

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Prayer is hard work. It's a struggle for me and when I do pray I don't do it too well. So why do it? Well, it's commanded for one (2 Thessalonians 5:17 and Philippians 4:6). And it's necessary. If I need God--if I can't do anything without him (Psalm 42:2; John 15:5), then I need to pray. Prayer is a (chief) means that God accomplishes his will on earth. That we have the privilege to play a part in "bringing heaven to earth" is awe-inspiring.

Amy Carmichael knew about "bringing heaven to earth" and she knew about the importance of prayer. Here are some private notes she wrote to her "Family" (hundreds of children and their helpers, both Indian and European) in Dohnavur, South India, to help them prepare for a special day of prayer:

WITH WHAT DID I STRUGGLE?

1. With all that says to me, what is the use of your praying? So many others, who know more of prayer than you do, are praying. What difference does it make whether you pray or not? A…

God's Way of Changing the World

Heather and I have been reading Scripture Union's Encounter with God for years. It's a daily devotional that takes us through the New Testament twice and the Old Testament once in a five year cycle. Today's reading is Hebrews 11:32-40, the last portion of the "hall of faith" which reads like a who's who of Old Testament characters: Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel. Their military and governing accomplishments are impressive. But others suffered mocking and flogging, imprisonment, stoning, being sawed in two, death by a sword. Even those who were mighty "were made strong out of weakness." The SU writer comments:
In western democracies, one notable way to influence society and promote your values is by mobilizing a large voting block that can have a significant impact on elections. Christians, in pursuit of their values, may go that route, too. But our passage today describes a radically different approach for influencing society. Instead…

If I Had the Time (and Money)

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The New Canaan Society is a group of men (they call themselves 'brudders') who meet on a weekly basis. Its not a church group, a bible study, an accountability group, a speaker forum or a men’s fellowship. It’s just men joined by the common desire to experience deep and lasting friendships, with each other and with Jesus. You can read about how the group got started here. They have speakers like Os Guinness, Luis Palau, Tim Keller, Miroslav Volf, Chuck Colson, Rick Warren and Dave Dravecky. Plus the guys that MC--Skip Bowlinski and Eric Metaxas--are ridiculously funny. There is an infectious joy about these guys that seems to be (happily) contagious. Their love for Christ is spreading. There are NCS chapters popping up all over the place. Each year they have a retreat. This year it is March 5th-7th in Hot Springs, VA. If I had the time (and money) I'd go with some guy friends (you know what I mean). James Hunter is one of the speakers. I've read his work since college …

Atheist Christopher Hitchens Knows What a Christian Is

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In a recent interview, Christopher Hitchens, the fervent atheist and author of God Is Not Great, showed he has a much clearer understanding of what it means to be a Christian than the Unitarian minister, who claims to be a Christian, interviewing him.

Marilyn Sewell: The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make a distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

Christopher Hitchens: I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

Click here to read the rest of the interview.

HT: Randy Alcorn

The (Wo)man Who Walked 1,000 Miles

1 Kings 10 records the account of the Queen of Sheba who traveled 1,000 miles to see the reputed splendor of Solomon. He answered all her questions. There was nothing he could not explain to her. She was left breathless. It wasn't just his wisdom and prosperity that surpassed the reports she had heard. It was also the joy of the people who served him. "Happy are your men!" Bathsheba observed, "Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!"

It was a good reflection on Solomon that the people in his kingdom served with joy. Those who serve Christ with joy are a good reflection on him. Am I happy to serve my King? What about those in my care? Is my wife happy to have me as a husband? Are my children happy to have me as a dad? Is my church happy to have me as a pastor? The joy of those in my care is a good reflection on me.

In light of this I should seek to maximize my joy in God (which should be easy--there is no better king to ser…

Haiti Relief

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On Tuesday, January 12, Haiti was hit by a 7.0 earthquake. There is extensive damage to structures in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding area. Hundreds of thousands were killed and millions are without homes. The conditions in Haiti were terrible. Now they are even worse. In terms of natural disasters, this is the worst case scenario. I've been to Haiti and seen the need, so I'm compelled to help in the relief and recovery effort and call others to do the same. Here's how.

Emergency Response

Pray. Let all the media coverage on Haiti inform what you pray about in the morning, at breakfast, during lunch, at the dinner table with your family, as you sit in your living room in the evening, and as you drift off to sleep. Let the gospel shape how you pray. Pray with great confidence that the God who has come to us in Jesus has not forgotten us or the people of Haiti.

Pray as a family. Pray as a small group. Pray as a church. Pray.

Give. Donate money to reputable organizations that a…