Friday, December 31, 2010

Marriage is Dying

My sermon for Mike Vernon and Renee Swisher's wedding is quoted below. I was "inspired" so to speak by reading Peter Leithart's A Great Mystery: Fourteen Wedding Sermonswhich had a chapter on marriage being death. Here's what I will say tonight:
Just one month ago, Time Magazine’s cover asked the question “Who Needs Marriage?” What the article in that cover story went on to show was that many in our nation and culture view marriage as an optional thing. The author, Belinda Luscombe argues that marriage is “in purely practical terms just not as necessary as it used to be,” she has a rationale to back up her argument. “Neither men nor women need to be married to have sex or companionship or professional success or respect or even children.” This is the prevailing opinion of our culture. Marriage is dying.

But, we read in God’s Word that marriage isn’t an optional thing or just an afterthought but at the core of God’s plan for our lives (Read Genesis 2:18-25)

It wasn’t good that man and woman be alone, so God created the institution of marriage. God set this apart to be the foundation of our lives and society.

And tonight, I want you to remember that to have a successful marriage you must remember that marriage is dying. No, don’t just look to culture and what it says. Look to God. Notice that God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam and from him created marriage. In other words, for marriage to thrive, you both must die to yourselves and to all the selfish things you would live for. God has told us that our lives are to be governed by 2 realities: loving God and loving others. So, die to yourselves and love God. As God is the priority of your life, loving Renee, Mike and loving Mike, Renee, will inevitably follow.

We know this is the standard because this love is found in God Himself. God didn’t choose selfishness in showing His love for us, but while we were still sinners Christ died for us. And Christ gave Himself for us rather than choosing His own way or the path that was most convenient. For Him to love His people, dying had to occur. Today, Mike & Renee, remember that marriage is dying, and see if you don’t look like your Lord and Savior. May God allow you to live this way.

Planning in the New Year

Each year, I try to find a big hairy audacious goal for the large roles I play in life (Husband/Father, Pastor, Christian, Human). My husband/father goals usually relate to serving my wife and children better (obviously). My role as a pastor might include a goal to be more humble or to lead with a different emphasis. My role as a Christian includes specific aims I hope to achieve spiritually. And the human involves physical things like diet and exercise.

Some tools I've found helpful over the year(s) are:

Don Whitney's Questions To Ask At The Start of A Year

A worksheet for Mark Driscoll's sermon The Biblical Man

Plodding through a Word.doc of brainstorms from the previous year

What emerges after spending time in these things includes clarification as to what are the big areas needing attention which I plan to attack in the coming year. So...there you go. Take it for what it's worth. But plan so that the Gospel is more deeply rooted in all that you are in the coming year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pray for Sudan

The Africa Inland Mission urges us to Pray for Sudan. Here's the need:
Sudan – Africa ’s largest nation – needs our prayers. A referendum to decide whether the already semi-autonomous south will secede from the north is scheduled for January 9, 2011. This land has already seen two million die as a result of over two decades of civil war between the north and oil-rich south. Pray that this will not happen again.
We are urged to pray for:
• Please pray for peace and acceptance of the results of the referendum, whatever they may be.
• Pray for those organizing the referendum; that all preparations will be made in time, and that the process would be fair.
• Pray for Sudan ’s leaders: President Salva Kiir in the South, and President Omar al-Bashir in the North.
• Pray that AIM ministries in Sudan will be able to continue, and that God will continue to open doors for more outreach in this nation that so needs the Prince of Peace.
• Pray that the Church in Sudan will play a large part in the reconciliation process in Sudan and that it will take the lead in holistic development.
• Pray for AIM’s team of missionaries who currently serve in southern Sudan and desire to stay.
Will you join others in praying for these needs.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gospel Centered Life Collections

There are a couple of great collections of "Gospel Centered" resources on the web:

Monergism's Gospel Centered Life page

Timmy Brister's Gospel Centered Reader

Take time to work through these articles and, better yet, apply them to your heart, life and ministry.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kevin DeYoung on Caring for Pastor

Kevin DeYoung presents a helpful post on how you can care for your pastor. I would agree with his conclusions on how this helps the body. And, am blessed to have a body and leadership team that provides for me in such ways. If you wonder why such things are so important, read DeYoung on Give Your Pastor A Break.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Weekend Recap - Losing Jesus?

Yesterday's sermon, Losing Jesus from Luke 2:41-52, is now online. In this sermon, I draw applications from Jesus' parents losing Jesus to how we so easily lose the Gospel and drift from the core foundational realities that are to define our life. I think it was C.J. Mahaney who urged his listeners (in sermons on the Cross-Centered life from New Attitude 2001) to "tighten our grip on the Gospel -- no days off allowed." Too often we relax and subtly drift from the message of first importance. This was the heart of my sermon: for you to not drift from the Gospel but to hold fast to it.

I know we had a lot of people out visiting family, as well. I hope you had a great weekend and continue to delight in your Savior through these days.

Friday, December 24, 2010

What Christmas Is All About...

...from someone who researched the matter fully:
The Birth of Jesus Christ

2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
-- Luke 2:1-20

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Couple of Christmas Songs Explained...

Of the Father's Love Begotten by Kevin DeYoung

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus by Ligon Duncan

Hope you are reveling in these deep truths this season.

Is 'zat you Santa Claus?

Lots of confusion about, as the guy asks on top of the Polar Express on one's "opinion on the big man". Kevin DeYoung gives us great help with this two part series on Santa Claus with the Baby in Bethlehem. Here's his brilliant conclusion:
So this Christmas, give gifts if you like. We will in our family. Receive them all with thanksgiving. But do not forget what we need most–salvation from our sins. This is one gift the real St. Nicholas would not have overlooked. In fact, I’m convinced, if given the opportunity, he would have loved to be there with the shepherds and the angels, bowing down around the manger in Bethlehem. And I bet he would have brought a present too.

Kevin DeYoung "Santa Claus with the Baby in Bethlehem" (Part 1, Part 2)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mapping America...

Darrin Patrick author of Church Planter and Pastor at The Journey in STL tweeted this NT times tool "Mapping America." You basically can enter a zip code and it shows you the "neighborhood demographics" for where you live. When I entered the ones for our town, I was struck by the need and the "lostness" that exist here. Oh that God would allow us to reach these so that His glory is seen.

A Gift Idea (yes, it's do-able even this late in the game)...

...a gift of grace in the words we say. In a blog post from earlier this month, C.J. Mahaney offers this wise counsel: "Buying the appropriate Christmas gift for someone requires that we know and study them. But this is no less true of our conversations.

So as you consider certain individuals, and seek to buy meaningful gifts for them, also consider how you can give them grace through your words."

It's not too late, you can impart this gift every day.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hope for the "Average" Church...

You might know that "the median church in the U.S. has 75 regular participants in worship on Sunday mornings." (Stats here) While many pastors would love to be in the mega-church, the simple fact of the matter is that many are called to more "meager pastures."

I found great hope and encouragement, therefore, in a message given at the 2010 Sovereign Grace Pastor's Conference entitled, "The Advantage of the Small(er) Church". We often don't think of smaller churches as having much to offer. But, Loftness, with typical Sovereign Grace Ministries humility, finds the evidences of grace prevalent in churches of this size and urges us to get after our Lord's work with renewed vigor. I think leadership teams, in particular, of smaller churches would benefit from this message.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Now is the time... invite people to church...

So says Doug Wolter:
I saw this statistic today and thought it was worthy to share:

Top Five Times People Are Open To Considering Matters Of Faith…

* #5 – After the birth of a baby (28%)
* #4 – After a natural disaster (34%)
* #3 – After a major national crisis i.e. 9/11 (38%)
* #2 – During the Easter season (38%)
* #1 – During the Christmas season (47%)
Might be a time to see if others would join you to celebrate the Savior!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weekend Recap - Peace

Today's in the books and to recap the Lord's day, had a fine AM, looking at Peace from Luke 2:13-14. Our world's definition of peace and the peace that comes from God are two different things. Jesus came so that we might have open access to God Himself. It is only through Jesus, who came to save His people from their sins, that the unrighteous are made righteous. It was an amazing morning.

Tonight, our church gathered and we worshipped using Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God music. Our people always walk awed by God and His descending to earth for us through this musical. At any rate, we're full. Looking forward to a great week celebrating these foundational truths.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Weekend Preview - Peace

Tomorrow, Lord willing, we will look at Luke 2:13-14 and the announcement by a group of the heavenly host giving glory to God and proclaiming peace through the birth of Jesus Christ. So...peace will be our theme.

Here's a great quote on peace to prep you:

Graeme Goldsworthy in Prayer and the Knowledge of God:
Peace is not an inner calm and serenity (although it may from time to time produce this effect), but our reconciliation with the God we have offended by our rebellion against him. (p.166)

Our issues with lacking peace aren't so much about others as the vertical relationship we have with God. Therefore, come Sunday, planning to see the reconciliation offered you through Jesus.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Help for Your Christmas Get-Togethers...

...from Peacemaker Ministries (Peacemeal Weekly Devotional):
In many situations, the best way to resolve a conflict is simply to overlook the personal offenses of others. This approach is highly commended throughout Scripture:
"A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense" (Prov. 19:11; cf. 12:16; 15:18; 20:3).

"Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out" (Prov. 17:14; cf. 26:17).

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8; cf. Prov. 10:12; 17:9)

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love" (Eph. 4:2).

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Col. 3:13; cf. Eph. 4:32).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Gospel Shaped Christmas...

Stephen Altrogge had a great post over at Crossway entitled When the Gospel Transforms Your Christmas Expectations. Here's how he began to engage:
I have certain expectations when it comes to Christmas. I expect to drink egg nog, even though I don’t really like it. I expect to listen to hours upon hours of Christmas carols. I expect to watch the movie Elf. I expect to drive around with my family and look at Christmas lights. And I expect to get some gifts. Twenty-eight years of Christmas experience has taught me what to expect.

But how would I feel if some of my expectations weren’t met? What if I didn’t get to do the things that I so look forward to? No Elf. No Christmas lights. No nog. No gifts. Could I be happy? Could I be content? Could I rejoice in what I have instead of what I don’t have?
He then goes on to show all that we have received in the Gospel: namely, Forgiveness, Fellowship with God, Freedom. How about you? if all the "stuff" of Christmas was tossed, would you still have joy? Great question. Allow this article to shape you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On Nativity Scenes, Christian Liberty, Etc.

I love reading Mark Lauterbach's Gospel Driven Life site. Today, he had a post entitled Liberty, legalism and Christmas which answered the question offered by some religious zealots that having a nativity scene is a violation of the 2nd commandment (to not make any "graven image"). Here's a section I especially enjoyed:
So, hear me clearly -- to walk with God we must make those choices and do it knowing that we are pleasing to God. But Romans 14 says we dare not step into the role of law-giver and judge -- despising or judging. I am personally tempted to despise men who add to the Word of God. That is sin in my heart.

Read Romans 14 carefully -- stew in it, soak in it -- it is remarkable. In it, God answers ten thousand secondary questions that would rise in all the cultures of the world where the Gospel is believed. Paul was wise -- he knew that when we start into the answering of all those questions and application and start developing a list of appendices to the Law, we are on a path of diversion from the purposes of God and the freedom of the Gospel.
Why don't you check out the post for yourself.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Weekend Recap - Joy

This weekend's sermon from Sunday AM is now online. It is entitled Joy from Luke 2:8-12. The sermon sought to reason how the Gospel is good news of great joy.

After the AM service, we had our Annual Member's meeting, affirming one lay elder and 4 men as deacons. We also approved the 2011 Budget.

In the PM, the joy continued as Ben Cornish shared with us of the Gospel's advance in Australia. We are rejoicing in his partnership with us in the Gospel. Awesome day.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

O Holy Night (Gospelicious Version)

Today in our corporate worship, Mandy Swisher blessed us with O Holy Night, done with different lyrics than we know. Some commented on where I found them, so here's the links and the lyrics themselves.

Bob Kauflin's List of Songs for Christmas 2010 pointed me to...

Kevin Hartnett's version of O Holy Night:
Verse One (Placide Cappeau, trans. John S. Dwight)

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Verse Two (Kevin Hartnett)

Humbly He lay, Creator come as creature,
Born on the floor of a hay-scattered stall.
True Son of God, yet bearing human feature,
He entered earth to reverse Adam’s fall.
In towering grace, He laid aside His glory,
And in our place, was sacrificed for sin.
Fall on your knees! O hear the gospel story!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Verse Three (Kevin Hartnett)

Come then to Him Who lies within the manger,
With joyful shepherds, proclaim Him as Lord.
Let not the Promised Son remain a stranger;
In reverent worship, make Christ your Adored.
Eternal life is theirs who will receive Him;
With grace and peace, their lives He will adorn.
Fall on your knees! Receive the Gift of heaven!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

verses two and three copyright (c) 2007 Kevin Hartnett.
As you read them, don't you see how it makes the song so much more Gospelicious?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

31 - ways or flavors for praying for your children...

...found in this helpful post from Bob Hostetler. If you're like me, you want to pray for your kids. You know that God has to work in them or there really isn't much hope. You want Him to do His work. You just start rehearsing the same old things. These 31 ways would be a different thing you could emphasize each day of the month. I use Google Calendar to remind me of Psalms of the Day, Scripture memory for the week and could easily incorporate this.

Also, Andrew Case's book Setting Their Hope in God is helpful for me these days in praying for my children. Whatever you use, though, Pray!

Gospel Centered Christmas Devotions for Families

Found these 4 simple devotionals for families to use during days leading up to Christmas. What is so amazing about them is that they point to the Gospel in practical, inviting ways. So, enjoy.

(HT: Life Together)

Friday, December 10, 2010

So what about Santa?

Mark Driscoll gives three options:
'Tis the season . . . for parents to decide if they will tell the truth about Santa.

When it comes to cultural issues like Santa, Christians have three options: (1) we can reject it, (2) we can receive it, or (3) we can redeem it.

Since Santa is so pervasive in our culture, it is nearly impossible to simply reject Santa as part of our annual cultural landscape. Still, as parents we don't feel we can simply receive the entire story of Santa because there is a lot of myth built on top of a true story.
Read the rest of the post for info on how the Driscoll's seek to redeem this.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Knowing Heretics

There's nothing new under the sun so says Ecclesiastes. Last night, my Wed PM class, which is working through Lloyd Jones excellent work on 1 John entitled Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John, came face to face with the Doctor's opinion on this as it relates to the truth of Jesus. He said, in his explanation of 1 John 4:2-3, the following:
There is no modern heresy. All the clever people who propound their apparently new ideas about Christ are simply repeating what has already been said; there have literally been no new heresies since the first centuries. (p.415)
In that regard, then, let me recommend a series over on the Resurgence entitled Know Your Heretics. It is great know these things so that when things come up, we can "test the spirits" and have some measure of discernment against the standard of Christ.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Weekend Recap - Love

Today, the second week of Advent featured some great singing and reveling in God's love for us through a very familiar place. The sermon, Love, from John 3:16 is now online. During one part of the sermon, I was pressing how many times our appreciation for the Gospel is much like our appreciation for "black socks". We really do need them, but it really isn't what we want. Similarly, most Christians know they need the Gospel but what they really want is for God to make them healthy, wealthy and blessed. Being passionate for those things over and against the Gospel is treating the amazing gift of love in Jesus like "black socks."

It was a great morning. Just got out of Missions Committee meeting, much to be excited about there with potential opportunities for ministry soon. Anticipate rich fellowship tonight in small group as well. Hope you had a great Lord's Day.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Christmas Traditions

Here's a great post from Life2gether on Our Christmas Traditions with lots of practical tips for families. I sent this to Meg last season and we plan on doing some of these things this season.
* Advent Calendar – This has been a fun way for our family to count down the days in anticipation of Christ’s coming. The kids take turns as we talk about the Christmas story. Be sure to choose a calendar that centers on the birth of Jesus!

* What God Wants for Christmas – This is a great interactive kid-friendly nativity – with seven gift boxes, a colorful pop-up, and an illustrated poem that we’ve used for the last couple years. It’s a fun way to talk about the Christmas story together. (available at

* Christmas Devotion Jar – Looking for devotions to do with your kids? All you need to do is cut out red, green, and white little strips of paper and write Christmas verse(s) to read together, or craft/activity to do together, or creative ways to reach out to others. Put the slips of paper in a jar, decorate the outside, and set it on the dinner table to pick one out each night.

* Christmas Cookies – We take an evening and let our kids help us make cookies that they themselves deliver to teachers, neighborhood friends, special babysitters, people in need, etc.

* Scripture Memory – The best way we’ve found to memorize a passage of Scripture is by putting it to song. Thankfully the folks at SEEDS Family Worship have done just that. On the Seeds of Encouragement CD, the song Joy is taken right from Luke 2:8-14. Great song!

* Listen to Christ-Centered Christmas Music – As we travel, we try to have a few good CD’s that exalt Christ during this Christmas season. Our kids seem to like Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man by Sovereign Grace Ministries the best.

* Re-enact the Christmas story
– Every year we have fun acting out the story from Luke 2. We actually do it with Jaime’ sister and family and video the whole thing. It’s pretty funny!

* Serving and Giving Together – Christmas is a time of giving. This year we made and delivered Thanksgiving baskets to needy people in our community and hope to deliver Christmas baskets as well. We also gather our old clothes and toys and give them to Goodwill. Our kids really enjoyed it.

What are some of your Christmas traditions? Feel free to share.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Ask for Correction - I Dare You!

Saw this on the Peacemaker Ministries website: Asking for Correction. Ken Sande writes:
Since character growth is a lifelong challenge, I am going through this process again by asking my family and a few friends and coworkers for their loving correction. Realizing that lasting change comes only as God works in my heart, I am digging deeper this time. I am asking these people to help me identify the desires of my heart that give rise to ungodly behavior, and to pray for me as I seek God's help for change.

I have developed two short letters that ask seven questions. The answers will help me see myself more clearly. One letter is for family and friends, and the other is for co-workers. The questions include the following:

* Please describe three character qualities, behaviors, or attitudes in me that have disappointed, annoyed, or offended you or others, or seemed to undermine my witness for Christ. Give specific examples, if possible.
* What things have you seen me make idols out of? (An idol is any desire—even for good things—that I have elevated to a demand, become excessively preoccupied with, looked to for security, had to have in order to be content, or allowed to control me.)
* If there were just one change God would bring about in me in the next six months, what would you pray it would be?
These are great thoughts for us as we pursue holiness. So...

pursue it!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Must Listens: Tullian & Chandler

2 more amazing audio resources came available in recent days and, in God's grace, they are available for free...

This past Lord's Day, Tullian Tchividjian preached at Covenant Life Church on Jesus + Nothing = Everything from Colossians 1:9-14. There are amazing quotes and lines and truths from this that you simply must listen to. He discusses the 2 manners in which legalism tries to sink its tentacles into our lives, which was very enlightening. But take time and listen.

Also, 9Marks just released their leadership interview for the month. It is entitled Engaging Your Generation and features Matt Chandler. They summarize this interview as: "Matt Chandler discusses his past year, his approach to preaching, and what it takes to engage this generation with the gospel."

Grab both of these and be edified and built up.