Showing posts from 2012

Called to Serve

I recently received a Merry Christmas message from Steve Rice, a friend and colleague of many years--great words for the close of this year: Why am I doing this? We have all asked ourselves this question at some time or another in our work. It is usually at a time when things are not going well or the way we expected them. It is when morale is down and service has become a drudgery instead of a joy. We often can get lost in the myopic view of the every day and lose sight of the big picture.
So it can be helpful to stop in the 'busy'ness of service and remind ourselves why we work so hard and toil with such diligence. Why do we spend our time, our skill, our resources on projects that we may or may not see personal results from? The simple answer is we have all been called to serve.
We have been called to serve to make this world a better place. We have been called to serve our fellow men in all their plights. We have been called to serve each other and pass on to others as we hav…

Being a Better Friend than Job's

Last Friday's tragedy in Newtown, CT has left a whole community (if not the country) reeling in waves of grief. How could this happen and why? Could something like this be avoided? How can we protect our children? How can we stop such violence? The onslaught of advice from experts in crime prevention, legislation, mental health, education, family counseling, medicine, religious groups and the like has been overwhelming. Most of it is well-intended and much of it can be beneficial, but could it be too much too soon? Rain is good, a torrent can be deeply damaging. This becomes clear when some use the occasion as a soap box for their social or political agenda. All kinds of issues are brought up that have little to do with the horrific circumstances. Thinking we know much more than we do, we end up sounding like Job's friends. At least they sat with Job in silence for 7 days. We could use more of that. Pause. Weep. Grieve. Listen. Lend a hand, a shoulder, a hug. Of course there …

Christmas List

Here are three simple items for my Christmas list this year:
To have more time with friends who have more faith than I do. It is wonderful to have a living,
breathing, walking example beside you as you walk through life. Faith-filled friends give a godly infection.
“Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” Philippians 3:17
Secondly, to get rid of everything doubtful in my life this year.
“Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”  2 Corinthians 7:1
I hope to avoid degrading and defiling entertainments and distractions that eat away at the life of the Spirit in me.
The third item is for mastery of my tongue.
“Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.” 1 Peter 3:10
Here is a resolution for my kids to consider, a paraphrase of Jonathan Edwards’ statement …

The Next Global Meltdown

In Aftershock authors David and Robert Wiedemer and Cindy Spitzer write about the next global meltdown. Despite the risk of sounding like "Chicken Little," here is their executive summary:
What is a bubble?An asset value that temporarily booms and eventually busts, based on changing investor psychology, rather than on underlying fundamental economic drivers that are sustainable over time.
What is a bubble economy?An economy that grows in a virtuous upward spiral of multiple rising bubbles (real estate, stocks, private debt, dollar, and government debt) that interact to drive each other up,a dn that will inevitably fall in a vicious downward spiral as each falling bubble puts downward pressure on the rest, eventually pulling the whole economy down.
What is the bubblequake?Phase I of the popping of the bubble economy, including he fall of the real estate bubble, private debt bubble, stock market bubble, and discretionary spending bubble.
What is the aftershock?Phase II of the popp…

Billy Graham on Life, Marriage, and Freedom


A Prayer of Martin Luther

Behold, Lord, an empty vessel that needs to be filled. My Lord, fill it. I am weak in the faith; strengthen me. I am cold in love; warm me and make me fervent, that my love may go out to my neighbor. I do not have a strong and firm faith; at times I doubt and am unable to trust you altogether. O Lord, help me. Strengthen my faith and trust in you. In you I have sealed the treasure of all I have. I am poor; you are rich and came to be merciful to the poor. I am a sinner; you are upright. With me, there is an abundance of sin; in you is the fullness of righteousness. Therefore I will will remain with you, of whom I can receive, but to whom I may not give. Amen.

The Limits of Politics

Bringing up politics in polite company is a great way to ruin a pleasant evening meal--so says T. M. Moore in his insightful brief study, The Limits of Politics: What Government Can and Cannot Do. With general elections coming up in November it's a timely topic. He begins by stating that government in necessary, but not necessarily evil.
Politics is often seen as the black sheep of family America – a source of disappointment and disgust, who only comes around at certain times, but from whom we’re never entirely separate. But politics is simply the science of government. Politics describes the ways people in society organize their relationships and apportion the exercise of power in an effort to establish order and maintain peace. The problem is not with politics, as, doubtless, most of us realize, but with politicians. Politics is a noble science, and the practice of politics can be a way to bring glory to God and much good to people. That politics has come to be associated with c…

Doing Life Together While Living Far Apart

Our friends are moving. Our youngest daughter is upset, but I think that my wife and I are the ones who are devastated  We've enjoyed BBQ and the big games. We've babysat for each other. We've borrowed tools and shared eggs and sugar. And who's going to watch our dog? Good neighbors are really hard to find. 

Doing life together is what family does by default. It's what friends do by choice. Then there is the body of Christ. The church family is supposed to "do life together". But that's increasingly hard when many of its members live so far apart. Tim Chester lays out the following options:
1. Join or plant local churches  I wonder how many churches people pass as they drive half an hour to church each Sunday. Some will be dead and ready for burial. But many will be good churches. They may not be as good as the church people attend. But they may be faithful and engaged in their locality. Why do people do this?It reflects a consumer mentality. We shop fo…

In God We Trust

Here's a great reminder during this election year from my prof. John Frame:
But what the Bible would teach us above all in this situation is this: we should not put our trust in government, private industry, or economic theory, whether capitalist or socialist. All of these have failed us miserably in the present crisis, and many times in history. We should not be looking to government to make us wealthy or to deal with the sins that have led our nation to this point in history. Now as ever, we should trust only in “the name of the Lord our God” (Ps. 20:7), the name of Jesus Christ.

Why the Chick-fil-A Flap Matters

I love Chick-fil-A. We don't have one in our town, so when we travel, it's a treat to get their Chargrilled Chicken Club Sandwich smothered in extra Honey Roasted BBQ sauce. It's enough to make my mouth water just thinking about it. So when all the commotion surrounding Dan Cathy's defense of "the biblical definition of the family unit" broke loose, I saw it as just another opportunity to go to one of my favorite restaurants. Nevermind that the nearest one is over 20 miles away.
But, of course, much more is at stake than a good chicken sandwich. Marriage and family issues are vital to the health of any society. What we believe about what constitutes a marriage matters immensely. The reaction to Dan Cathy's comments--both pro and con--are evidence of this fact. In the end, truth matters and people will stand up for what they believe in. My appeal to those who stand for traditional marriage (which I enthusiastically embrace) and those who are pressing for no…

Taking (and Handing over) the Wheel

During the summer months when our family takes a road trip, I end up doing most of the driving. I like it that way. It gives me what I like to call a "modicum of monarchy." Somehow being behind the wheel makes me think I'm in control. In reality, lot of other factors like the weather, traffic, and (rightfully) my wife are there to remind me that I'm not a monarch. I'm really more of a chauffeur. Nevertheless, I like being behind the wheel.

There is a down side to this, of course. That means that I can't watch the movies the kids are enjoying at 70 mph. I can't catch up on email and texts like my wife, Heather, in the "shotgun" chair. I can't read the stack of books I brought along on the trip. I can't even listen to "my music" via earbuds because I only have one good ear. (Believe me, I've tried all these things and I would not recommend them.)

There seems to be a lesson here. Being in the driver's seat gives you some s…

Staying Local

Jim Elliot, one of the 1956 missionary martyrs to the Huaorani in Ecuador, once said, "Wherever you are be all there. Live every moment you know to be the will of God to the hilt." He was getting at the notion of "faithful presence," as put forth in To Change the World, by James Davison Hunter. We live in a world of distraction and escapism. What Jim and James are both calling us to is what could be called localized living. My grandmother would just call it living.

What for many generations was just fantasy has now become commonplace. Hundreds of thousands of people will jet to London to see the Olympic games later this month. Hundreds of millions more will watch the games on TV and online. It is as if the whole world is converging on England. The same thing will happen in Brazil for the World Cup in two years and then the next Olympic games in 2016. The digital generation can "be anywhere, anytime" via the internet--a new breed of electronic teleporters a…

Women in Church Leadership

The role of women in the Church is crucial for its health and growth. Just as women were active during Jesus’ ministry and in the early church, so women are actively ministering in the church today. Without their efforts the work of the church would be severely hampered. That being said, when we address the role of women in the church we need to remember that Scripture is our sole and sufficient guide in this matter, as in all others. The creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 shows that the Lord determined that man should be head of the woman, who was made from man in order to be his glory and helper. Basing his teachings on the order of creation and the example set by the Son in freely submitting to the Father’s headship, Paul requires a woman to submit voluntarily to her husband’s leadership and to the leadership established by Christ for the church which is limited to men (1 Tim. 2:11-13). Women can serve in any capacity in the church along side men, except in the role as officers (1…

15 Reasons Why I Stayed in the Church

On Mondays, I sometimes slip into the "I'd rather be an ice cream truck driver" blues. Anyone who is a pastor will understand these "after Sunday doldrums." Of course, you don't have to be a pastor to wonder why in the world we put up with one another in the body of Christ. Plenty of people are throwing in the towel, or just moving on to the next group of misfit believers. Why have I stayed? 

I was born on Sunday, August 6th, 1967 (in the same hospital as Brad Pitt, but that's for another post). The next Sunday I was in church. Since then, I can count the number of times I have missed Sunday worship on one hand (and that's really not an exaggeration). I am a son (and grandson) of a preacher man and now I'm a preacher with a son (and two daughters). My whole life has revolved around this wonderful, marvelous, but not yet "without spot or wrinkle" Body we call the Church. With all that my parents went through as leaders in the Church, and…

Why We Need a King

I'm starting a sermon series on the book of Judges tomorrow. It is a confusing and sometimes offensive book to many. Murder, treachery, immorality, slavery, sorcery, genocide fill its pages. Why do I think this book deserves a close study? Why would I even say it is needful in our day? Because our time is much like their's when "everyone did what was right in his own eyes." In both places where this phrase occurs (17:6 and 21:25) it is linked to the telling statement: "there was no king in Israel."

This points to the theme of Judges, an apology for the Davidic monarchy. Without a righteous king to rule, people slide into ruin, apostasy and chaos. Indeed, as the book progresses, things go from bad to worse. The only hindrances to hellish conditions are the judges that God raises up when the people cry out for deliverance.

If we are not able to rule ourselves righteously, we will be ruled by another. If we do not master ourselves, we will be mastered. Our effo…

The Need for Strong Marriages

My friend Eric Metaxas asserts, "If strong marriages are the foundation of a healthy society, we've got a lot of repair work to do."

He cites several alarming statistics. In 2010, for the first time in our history, married couples no longer form the majority of American households. In 1950, married couples made up 78 percent of all households. In 2010, they made up only 48 percent of American households--a nearly forty percent decline! Furthermore married couples with kids comprise only 20 percent of households in America. This makes me, a man married to the same woman for 18 years with three kids, a rare breed in America. Dare I say an endangered species?

I am not trying to toot my own horn. I am making a humble plea for couple to get married and remain faithful to their wedding vows. Examine the raw data. Fidelity in marriage results in more wealth, better health, and more prosperous children. The statistics all point to the same conclusion: If you want your kids to do…

The Face of Jesus

The face of Jesus:
marred more than any man--
spit upon,
the beard plucked,
twisted in pain--For my salvation.
A glorious face, now.
Let its light shine on me, O Light of Life.
Let Your radiance fall on me, Sun and Savior,
Lighten my darkness.
Then grant me this by Your grace:
That I, in turn, may give
"The light of the knowledge of the glory of God" (2 Cor 4:6 AV)
As I see it in the face of Jesus Christ.
--Elisabeth Elliot, A Lamp for My Feet

Not the Sexiest Way to Worship

Recently I was asked about the worship at Redlands, the Presbyterian church I pastor. "What's with all the responsive readings and prayer recitations? I thought we were Protestants." I knew what he was getting at. The order of worship seemed a little too ordered. It seemed like we were just going through the motions (though as Presbyterians we really don't do any "motions"). I reminded him that we do want to avoid being rote, but there is nothing wrong with routine. This reminded me of a recent blog post by John Haralson. He explains their practice at Grace Seattle: We follow an ancient liturgical pattern in our worship, drawing from the wisdom of Christians who have gone before us. Every Sunday we renew our commitment to God, offer him our prayers and gifts, confess our sins, receive forgiveness, hear from God’s word, and celebrate the Lord’s Supper together. In other words, not much changes from week to week. Sure, we sing different songs, pray slightly d…

Works of Art

A friend of mine recently wrote me about his attitude toward his children. I thought it was worth passing along:
Why don't I see the beauty that God has placed all around me – my children?  I see work – not works of art.  I see busyness – not joyful and eternal business.  I see inconvenience, not scenes of heaven.  Daily I prove that my pride means so much to me.Especially in light of the recent shooting in Ohio, I want to hug my kids, pray with and for them, and be more grateful for the gifts of God they are.

Stronger for the Shaking

When I was a kid growing up I often heard that the Biblical word for "tempt" and "test" was the same. I have since learned that this is indeed true. It is still puzzling to me. The same temptation from Satan can be a testing from God (e.g. David's census 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21).

William Gurnall, the 17th century Anglican, explains how God uses Satan's temptations in his classic work, Christian in Complete Armour.
God makes Satan's temptations the courier of His love to the saints...And what did Satan get for all the energy he spent on Job, but to let that holy man know at last how dearly God loved him? The devil thought he had the game in his own hands when he got Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. He supposed he now had man in the same predicament as himself. But did he catch God by surprise? Of course not! God knew the outcome before the match was ever begun and used Satan's temptation to usher in that great gospel plot of saving man by Ch…

Two Ways We Get Life Wrong

The 'Parable of the Prodigal Son' found in Luke 15 is really the story of two lost sons. The younger son was estranged from the father by breaking the rules. The older son was estranged from the father by keeping them. Both were seeking to live life on their own terms, apart from a loving relationship with the father. Tim Chester, from the Crowded House, explains how this dynamic works. There are two ways we get life wrong.1. We want to be our own Lord instead of JesusIn other words, I replace Jesus as Lord with Tim as Lord. I run my life my way. I want to be in charge. That often leads to behaviour that by moral standards is bad: ‘sex and drugs and rock-n-roll’. We do not think Jesus is enough. We do not think the rule of Jesus is the good life. So we replace Jesus with others things.But there is a second way we can get life wrong.2. We want to be our own Saviour instead of JesusIn other words, I replace Jesus as Saviour with Tim as saviour. I want to save myself by doing goo…

A Bonhoeffer Moment

In case you missed this or haven't seen it yet, you really owe it to yourself to watch this video. Eric's talk begins 35 mins in (on the C-SPAN video below) and ends with him leading the 3,500 assembled (including the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State) in singing “Amazing Grace”. This may be the most important 30 minutes you spend today.

As Eric says, this is a Bonhoeffer moment. As Christians, we need to lovingly, yet with full conviction stand for religious liberty, the freedom of conscience, traditional marriage, and the protection of all human life.

Here are two first steps. First, get informed and add your voice to the the more than500,000 people who have read and signed the Manhattan Declaration. And then share it with others on Facebook, Twitter, and by email.

Second, please take 60 seconds and sign this petition to the President and let him know that you want him to stand for religious liberty.

Chuck Colson and Timothy George on this issue in Christianity T…

The “Life-Fire” of God’s Word

In 1854, at the age of twenty and just four years after his conversion, Charles H. Spurgeon became pastor of London’s New Park Street Church. His ministry grew so much that the 6,000-seat Metropolitan Tabernacle was built to accommodate the congregation. In “The Mustard Seed: A Sermon for the Sabbath-School Teacher” he spoke of the power of the gospel, and his words extende to the whole of Scripture. The human can never rival the divine, for it lacks the life-fire. It is better to preach five words of God’s Word than five million words of man’s wisdom. Men’s words may seem to be the wiser and more attractive, but there is no heavenly life in them. Within God’s Word, however simple it may be, there dwells an omnipotence like that of God, from whose lips it came.

The Book that Would Understand Me

From Princeton philosopher Emile Cailliet (in Eternity Magazine, July 1974):
I was born in a small village of France and received an education that was naturalistic to the core. This could possibly have had a great deal to do with the fact that I did not even see a Bible before I reached the age of twenty-three.To say that this naturalistically inspired education proved of little help through front-line experiences as a lad of twenty in World War I would amount to quite an understatement. When your own buddy - at the time speaking to you of his mother - dies standing in front of you, a bullet in his chest, what use is the sophistry of naturalism? Was there a meaning to it all?One night a bullet got me, too. An American field ambulance crew saved my life and later the use of a badly shattered arm was restored. After a nine-month stay at the hospital, I was discharged and resumed graduate work.During my stay at the American hospital, I had married a Scotch-Irish girl whom I had met in Ge…

Fewer Meetings, More Parties

This past weekend we were invited to one party (a going away party for a friend) and threw another (Emily's 13th birthday party). Both were a blast and reminded me that we "should do this more often." Then I read the following today regarding Jesus' calling of Levi, the tax collector and the party that ensued.
"We seem to have forgotten an important dimension of what Christianity is all about: the kingdom of God is a party. Our Jesus was and is the Lord of the party" (Tony Campolo).Probably the main thing my friends and I would miss if our church didn't exist would be our community parties! I think this is born from a conviction that parties can be a sign of the kingdom if they deliberately include those on the outside, those considered unacceptable by others. Today's story once again powerfully demonstrates Jesus' focus on people on the margins, with parties as a key element. In Jesus' day tax officials were extortionists, Roman collaborator…