Thursday, November 30, 2006

Christmas Questions / Traditions...

As many of you know, we have a son and this year will be his first Christmas. Meg and I are asking lots of questions of those much wiser than we about how we can best equip him to celebrate Christ this Christmas. So what traditions does your family practice and how do they help foster godliness in you? Also, related to that, any wisdom on how we can deal with our world's fascination with Santa Claus? We don't want to lie to Andrew and "play the Santa" and we don't want Andrew to grow up thinking he is so much smarter than all those who really believe in Santa. How do we handle this as parents? Any wisdom you can offer will be helpful. If you aren't married or with children, think back to your childhood and offer comments from that experience. Thanks.

Being a Pastor...

While in seminary, I remember fondly Pat Morgan handing me the following sheet of paper one day as a means of encouragement. It is from Gregory the Great's The Book of Pastoral Rule, Chapter 1, and according to Pat, "paraphrased and embellished according to his own presuppositions." He writes:
No one presumes to teach an art until he has learned it with all the effort of his mind and heart. What folly is it then for the unskillful and ignorant to assume pastoral authority since the overseeing of souls is the art of arts! For who can deny that the ailments of the thoughts of men are more occult than the ailments of the body? And yet it is all too common for men who have no knowledge whatever of spiritual precepts to boldly appoint themselves physicians of the heart even though no one who is ignorant of drugs and their effects would dare to represent themselves publicly as physicians of the body! But because of God's providence in ordering the times and events so that the powerful are inclined towards religious activity, there are some who desire to gain notariety through the outward show of the pastor's office in the holy church. They desire to appear as teachers, they covet superiority to others, and, as the Truth attests, they seek the first salutations in the marketplace, the first rooms at the feasts, the first seats in assemblies, being all the less able to administer worthily the office of pastor as they have reached the overseer's position of humility by pride and self aggrandizement. Curiously, this unskillfulness of the shepherd's doubt less suits often the desires of those who are subject to them; curious because, though it is the shepherd's own fault that he is ignorant, in his wanton and reckless judgment, he, through his very ignorance causes those who follow him to stumble. For indeed those persons who dare upon the pastoral office ignorantly are eyes who in the face of highest dignity are blind, having undertaken the road without spying the way beforehand; those who follow them are the stooped over backsides of the same wretched creature. And so, when the eyes are blinded, the back is bent, because when those who lead lose the light of knowledge, those who follow are bowed down to carry the burden of their own sins.

What a great reminder of the high and holy calling upon pastors to be men of God first and foremost.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"Savior" - New Christmas CD

Sovereign Grace Ministries has released a Christmas CD entitled "Savior."

More information, including a free song download is available on the "Savior" page of their website.

In answer to the question, "Why do we celebrate Christmas?" they provide the following answer...
In one sense, the answer is easy: We celebrate the coming of Jesus. But in another sense the answer is beyond our comprehension: The eternal God became a man. The infinite One took on human form. The Holy One came to live with sinners. The Savior came to bear our sins and bring us to God.
I finally got my copy of this CD in the mail today and have enjoyed it thoroughly. I already feel my awareness of the divine mystery found in the incarnation is heightened due to this wonderful project which will serve the body of Christ so well. As with any resource Sovereign Grace produces, you will find a Cross-centered emphasis. Visit the site and you too can partake of the benefits this project brings.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

How People Change -- X RAY QUESTIONS (Part 3)

(here are the rest of the questions...)

25) What do you think about most often? In the morning, to what does your mind drift instinctively? When you are doing a menial task or driving alone in your car, what captures your mind? What is your mindset?

26) What do you talk about? What occupies your conversations with others? What subjects do you tend to discuss over and over with your friends? The Bible says it is out of the heart that our mouths speak.

27) How do you spend your time? What are your daily priorities? What things do you invest time in every day?

28) What are your fantasies? What are your dreams at night? What do you daydream about?

29) What is your belief system? What beliefs do you hold about life, God, yourself, others? What is your worldview? What is the personal "mythology" that structures the way you interpret things? What are your specific beliefs about your present situation? What do you value?

30) What are your idols or false gods? In what do you place yoru trust or set your hopes? What do you consistently turn to or regularly seek? Where do you take refuge? Who is the savior, judge, controller of your world? Whom do you serve? What voice controls you?

31) In what ways do you live for yourself?

32) In what ways do you live as a slave to the Devil? Where are you susceptible to his lies? Where do you give in to deceit?

33) When do you say, "If only..."? Our "if onlys" actually define our vision of paradise. They picture our biggest fears and greatest disappointments. They can reveal where we tend to envy others. They picture where we wish we could rewrite our life story. They picture where we are dissatisfied and what we crave.

34) What instinctively feels right to you? What are your opinions -- those things that you feel are true?

"These questions can help you think more clearly and deeply about why you do the things you do. They can give you a better idea of which things typically morph from good to god in your life. These discoveries are a blessing because they help you to see how truly lavish the grace of God is.

"The model of change we are considering in this book calls each of us to honest self-examination.

I hope you can take the time for some honest self-examination and the result would be more holiness and glorifying and enjoying God in all of life for you.

How People Change -- X-Ray Questions (Part 2)

The questions continue...

12) Whose performance matters to you? This question digs out self-reliance or self-righteousness. It digs out living through another. Do you get depressed when you are wrong or when you fail? Have you pinned your hopes on another person? Are you too dependent on the performance of your husband, wife, children or friends?

13) Whom must you please? Whose opinion counts? From whom do you desire approval or fear rejection? Whose value system do you measure yourself against? In whose eyes are you living?

14) Who are your role models? Who are the people you respect? Who do you want to be like? Who is your "idol"? (In our culture, this word is used for role model.)

15) What do you desperately hope will last in your life? What do you feel must always be there? What can't you live without?

16) How do you define success or failure in any particular situation? Are your standards God's standards? Do you define success as the ability to reach your goals? The respect and approval of others? Is it defined by a certain position or the ability to maintain a certain lifestyle? By affluence? By appearance? By acceptance? By location? By accomplishment?

17) What makes you feel rich, secure, and prosperous? The possession, experience, and enjoyment of what would make you happy? The Bible uses the metaphor of treasure here.

18) What would bring you the greatest pleasure? The greatest misery?

19) Whose political power would make everything better for you? Don't just think in a national sense. Think about the workplace and the church. Whose agenda would you like to see succeed and why?

20) Whose victory and success would make your life happy? How do you define victory and success?

21) What do you see as your rights? Whst do you feel entitled to? What do you feel is your right to expect, seek, require, or demand?

22) In what situations do you feel pressured or tense? When do you feel confident and relaxed? When you are pressured, where do you turn? What do you think about? What do you fear? What do you seek to escape from? What do you escape to?

23) What do you really want out of life? What payoff are you seeking from the things you do? What is the return you are working for?

24) What do you pray for? The fact that we pray does not necessarily mean we are where we should be spiritually. On the contrary, prayer can be a key revealer of the idols of our hearts. Prayer can reveal patterns of self-centeredness, self-righteousness, materialism, fear of man, etc.

(more to come...)

How People Change -- XRAY QUESTIONS, pt. 1

While on vacation last week, I finished up How People Change, the most recent offering by Paul David Tripp and Timothy Lane. This book gives a great overview of how change happens from a biblical perspective.

One moving part of the book was this part found on pp.162ff. Here is how they lead into it:
"An essential element of growing in grace is a willingness to look at what fuels the ungodly responses in your life. 'Purify your hearts,' says James. Look at what you've allowed to become more attractive to you than the Lord. 'Wash your hands,' he continues. Exchange your sinful responses for godly ones. It is all by grace, but that does not mean we are passive! Christian growth is warfare. It is worth doing the hard work of discovering what leads us away from this glorious God.

"The questions that follow can help you do this more effectively. Repentance is not true repentance unless it is specific and intelligent. We don't sin in the abstract; we sin in concrete, particular ways. Since that is true, we need to take an honest look at our lives -- both heart and behavior. Spiritual awareness is a blessing. Through it we can experience change. Use these questions to turn away from idols and turn to the mercy and power of Christ. As you do, don't forget that you are married to Christ. His assets are your assets. Your sin has been dealt with at the Cross and you don't have to be afraid to take a good look at yourself!

X-Ray Questions (originally formulated by David Powlison in his course Dynamics of Biblical Change and used in the book by his permission)

1) What do you love? Is there something you love more than God or your neighbor?

2) What do you want? What do you desire? What do you crave, long for, wish? Whose desires do you obey?

3) What do you seek? What are your personal expectations and goals? What are your intentions? What are you working for?

4) Where do you bank your hopes? WHat hope are you working toward or building your life around?

5) What do you fear? Fear is the flip side of desire. For example, if I desire your acceptance, then I fear your rejection.

6) What do you feel like doing? This is a synonym for desire. Sometimes we feel like eating a gallon of ice cream, or staying in bed, or refusing to talk, etc.

7) What do you think you need? In most cases a person's felt needs picture his or her idol cravings. Often what we have called necessities are actually deceptive masters that rule our hearts. They control us because they seem plausible. They don't seem so bad on the surface and it isn't sin to want them. However, I must not be ruled by the "need" to feel good about myself, to feel loved and accepted, to feel some sense of accomplishment, to have financial security, to experience good health, to live a life that is organized, pain-free, and happy.

8) WHat are your plans, agendas, strategies, and intentions designed to accomplish? What are you really going after in the situations and relationships of life? What are you really working to get?

9) WHat makes you tick? What sun does your planet revolve around? Where do you find your garden of delight? What lights up your world? What food sustains your life? What really matters to you? What are you living for?

10) Where do you find refuge, safety, comfort, and escape? When you are fearful, discouraged, and upset, where do you run? Do you run to God for comfort and safety or to something else? (To food, to others, to work, to solitude?)

11) What do you trust? Do you functionally rest in the Lord? Do you find your sense of well-being in His presence and promises? Or do you rest in something or someone else?

(more to come later...)

Articles For Women

The recent Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, published by CBMW is written by women, for women. Sovereign Grace Ministries has allowed the women of GirlTalk to post links for the following articles:
Homemaking Internship by Carolyn Mahaney
Future Homemakers by Nicole Whitacre
When You Don't Have a Better Half: Encouraging Biblical Roles for Single Women by Carolyn McCulley

The Nativity Story -- Worth My Time?

Al Mohler answers YES! He says the movie, The Nativity Story, is in season and on message. He was able to see a media preview of the movie and feels, overall, that it gets at the basic story that we find in Scripture. He says:
When it comes to the virgin birth, the divinity, and the saving mission of the Christ Child, the movie never blinks. Cinematographers may find fault with the presentation of the angels and the voice of God, but I have the sense that where the director had to choose between accuracy and artistry, accuracy often won. For that decision Christians should be thankful.
Maybe this movie is worth your time as you celebrate the birth of Christ this holiday season.

Monday, November 27, 2006

When People Are Big and God Is Small

Ed Welch has written an incredible book entitled When People Are Big and God Is Small. I read this on my recent vacation. It is subtitled "Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency and the Fear of Man." I have found in my own life that I consistently wrestle with the temptation to be liked and am afraid of what people will think if I make a decision with which they are not happy. This book was a welcome tonic to this problem.

Justin Taylor recently summarized the content of this book as follows:
In order to fear God, not man, here are the steps Welch sets forth in his book, which I've just started and would warmly commend:

Step 1: Recognize that the fear of man is a major theme both in the Bible and in your own life.

Step 2: Identify where your fear of man has been intensified by people in your past.

Step 3: Identify where your fear of man has been intensified by the assumptions of the world.

Step 4: Understand and grow in the fear of the Lord. The person who fears God will fear nothing else.

Step 5: Examine where your desires have been too big. When we fear people, people are big, our desires are even bigger, and God is small.

Step 6: Rejoice that God has covered your shame, protected you from danger, and accepted you. He has filled you with love.

Step 7: Need other people less, love other people more. Out of obedience to Christ, and as a response to his love toward you, pursue others in love.
If you are struggling in this area, I would encourage you to read this book. It read fairly easily and is part of CCEF's Resources for Changing Lives Series.

Application from 11/26...

This sermon should be up on the web by now. We looked at the example of Jesus the Preacher from Mark 1:35-39. Jesus was an incredible preacher and came for this purpose. What really stuck out to me was the devotion of Jesus to spend time with His Father. After a grueling Sabbath, with teaching, many healings and casting out unclean spirits. It is the Son of God Himself who got up early in the morning while it was still dark to pray. If the Son of God needed this, how much more do I?

Furthermore, the disciples, who should have been following their Lord's example, are hunting Him down to do more miracles. Jesus responds with a different agenda -- He has come to preach.

Jesus is a great Preacher. His example inspires what He has called me to do.

Application from 11/19...

Our Sunday sermon on 11/19, which should be up the web now, was on Jesus the Healer. The text was Mark 1:29-34. What struck me was the heart of compassion found in Jesus. He healed Simon's mother-in-law and did this so that she could be more devoted to service. God is still able to heal today. I think I said something like, "Sometimes God's sustaining grace is magnified by allowing us to bear a sickness; sometimes God's healing grace is magnified by allowing sickness to be defeated in our lives. Either way, God is the One behind it all."

Jesus is the Healer and One in whom we can find refuge during times of trouble.

Back from Vacation...

I am finally back and in the blogosphere. Spent last week, November 20-25 in that great tourist trap, Branson, MO, with Meg, Andrew and my side of the family. We enjoyed turkey and lots of food. I also enjoyed 3 books -- which I will discuss in subsequent posts. At any rate, I am happy to be back in the saddle and look forward to full week of blogging.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sermon at Youth Evangelism Conference...

Paul Washer is his name, doing missions to the glory of God is His game. If you haven't heard this sermon yet, you are doing yourself a disservice. Here is what says about it...
This is a Shockingly Powerful & Biblical message preached to about 5,000 youth in a day when youth are appealed to through shallow and worldly means. At one point in this sermon the 5,000 Youth are clapping and yelling BUT THEN the preacher makes a comment that CHANGES THE WHOLE ATMOSPHERE TO WHERE YOU COULD HAVE HEARD A PIN DROP... As you can imagine, the preacher was never invited back.

Christians and Tipping in Restaurants...

In a fascinating subject to dialogue about, Justin Taylor has a post linking to some thoughts on Christians and tipping (evidently we don't do a very good job in this. Meanwhile, Thabiti offers some thoughts on this from another angle. With whom do you side?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Applications from Sunday, 11/12...

Sunday's sermon is up and online, here is the link to the *.mp3. The sermon was on the authority of Jesus out of Mark 1:21-28. There were lots of issues to discuss, like the Messianic Secret and the significance of an exorcism. All these events point to the absolute authority of Jesus. I was reading John Piper's latest book, What Jesus Demands From The World, this weekend and he writes:
Authority refers to the right and power to hold sway in a given relationship. So a father has authority over his children, but not necessarily over his neighbor. An army lieutenant has authority over his platoon, but not over the company commander. A teacher has authority over the students in the classroom, ubt not over their parents. An office manager has authority over the secretaries, but not over the CEO.

We see a picture of the meaning of authority in the story of Jesus' encounter with the Roman centourian. THe officer wanted Jesus to heal his servant but did not feel worthy to have Jesus come into his home. So he said to Jesus, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it" (Matt. 8:8-9). In other words, authority is the right and power to have your subordinates do what you choose for them to do.

That is the authority Jesus has over everyone and everything. "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." The phrase "heaven and earth" is meant to include everything. Therefore, everyone and everything is subordinate to Jesus. Every human. Every angel. Every demon. The devil himself. And all the natural world and what happens in it.
My outline was pretty simple:
1) Jesus demonstrates authority in what He says (21-22)
2) Jesus demonstrates authority in what He does (23-28)

After this sermon, I thought of these applications for my own life:
1) Take God's Word Seriously. (It's given by someOne with authority)
2) Act Like I've Been Changed (by an Authoritative One)
3) Don't Act Authoritative in Place of Christ. (squelch pride)
4) Making Excuses for a Lack of Obedience Is Challenging Christ's Authority
5) Remember Who's Lord!

How are you in submitting to the awesome authority of Christ?

9 Marks Newsletter - Nov/Dec 06

The 9Marks Newsletter for November/December of 2006 is online. Here is the pdf link.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Slow Blogging this week...

Sorry for the slow blogging this week. Things have been a little hectic with a lot of things happening. We had a tremendous Bible Conference. I believe all of the main sessions are online now at the church's website. Furthermore, yesterday, I had the privilege of being a part of a funeral service for Nadine Frye. Needless to say, both of these events have been taxing on my time. There has been so much news with the elections, the Ted Haggard scandal, and other assundries. For now, I will point you to the upcoming week where I will post some helpful links in that regard. I am looking forward to being back in the pulpit this coming Lord's Day. We will be looking at the Authority of Jesus from Mark 1:21-28. Hope to see you there.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Fall Bible Conference...

This Sunday, November 5th, our church begins its Fall Bible Conference looking at the book of Psalms. My good friend, Joe Braden, is coming to expose the Word of God to us. Sunday morning, 10:15AM, Joe will be speaking on Psalm 1 and in the evening at 6PM, Joe will bring a message on Psalm 2. It is through understanding these two Psalms, that the entire Psalms can be understood. Then on Monday night, at 7PM, we will look at Psalm 3. Joe's wife, Diane, will also be with us. The Ladies of our church are planning a time of fellowship with her on Tuesday the 7th from 11:30AM to 1PM. Then that evening at 6:30, Joe will be speaking on the calling to be men in our day at the Men & Boys Chili Supper.

I am hoping that God revives our hearts by His Word this weekend. Hope to see you there.


Just finished reading the book Psychobabble by Richard Ganz. The book is subtitled, "The Failure of Modern Psychology and the Biblical Alternative." This book was published by Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL in 1993. I have been doing a lot of reading in this field recently being very aware of my deficiency in pastoral counseling. This book was a refreshing treatment of this subject. While it exposed the secularism underlying much of what the modern schools of psychological thought, it brought us back to the Scriptural remedy for the problems of life--church body life. The recent Journal of Biblical Counseling featured an entire issue related to this subject matter of how counseling relates to the entire church. Psychobabble points us as leaders and Christians back to where the NT takes us for problems -- the local churches where we hold one another accountable, pray for one another and see God do the impossible in restoring us. I commend this book to any leader wanting a larger view of the church or for those of us who need reminders that our efforts are worth it. It has given me a fresh love for Christ's bride.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Cross and Christian Ministry...

Finished a couple of days ago D.A. Carson's book The Cross and Christian Ministry, subtitled "Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians." This book has come highly recommended to me from many involved in ministry and my procrastination in not reading it was brought to a halt when I found it on a book table at the Desiring God National Conference in Minneapolis last month. I don't think it is an overstatement to say that every pastor should read this book. At only 137 pages, it should be too great of a task, but the content is such that must be mastered by pastors.

There are numerous places I could quote from. Carson does such an excellent job at bringing a concluding thought of application based on what he has read. Here is one such excerpt...
Christian leaders dare not overlook their responsibility to lead the people of God in living that is in conformity with the gospel. That is why Paul urges people to live a life worthy of the calling they have received (Eph. 4:1). It is why Paul prays that believers may live a life worthy of the Lord, the crucified Messiah, and may please Him in every way (Col. 1:10). And if the people of God dig in their heels in disobedience, there may come a time for Christian leaders to admonish, to rebuke, and ultimately to discipline firmly those who take the name of Christ but do not care to follow him. THe sterner steps must never be taken hastily or lightly. But sometimes they must be taken. That is part of the responsibility of Christian leadership.
If you are looking for a book that is Biblically based, you need to look no further than this book. Carson, with painstaking precision, lays open to text in honest exposition to allow the text to apply to us as leaders. I commend this book and find myself profoundly shaped by what I read.

Fall Family Festival

Last night, October 31, our church did a fall family festival. It was a huge success. We had a moonwalk, video game, snake in the grass tunnel game and many others which were things kids could do to get candy. All in all God seemed to bless us with a huge success for at the least the following reasons:
  • Many people in our church came out to serve others. We had a total of 15 different booths going on at one time. That means that about 10% of our congregation was involved in leading some sort of booth for the children of our church.
  • This event brought people who aren't normally associated with our church into our church. I think it was Tim Keller who said, "If your church shut down, would anyone in your community care?" Doing an event like this has a positive impact on the witness in our community. I think probably 1/3 of the people present had no regular involvement in the life of our church.
  • Serving children establishes us as Biblically great. In describing what true greatness was, Jesus took a child and put him/her on his lap and said, "Whoever serves these little ones are great in my kingdom." Doing an event like this is something that God smiles upon.

Thanks to all of our people who were involved giving of their time, helping clean up, doing something creative and stepping outside of their comfort zones--all in the name of love for children in our church and community. Blessings to you all. And praise God for such a wonderful night.