Monday, December 31, 2007

Resolutions

It's that time of year. Everyone is talking about resolutions. Most people I'm hearing from aren't making them, because they never seem to be able to keep them. Today, I found a link to some incredible resolutions made by Jonathan Edwards. If you have a few minutes, they are a good read and a good reminder about keeping our life focused on Christ.

You can read them here...

Favorites of 2007

Here are some of my favorites from 2007:

Favorite Blog:
blog.worship.com - A variety of information. Some good freebies every now and then. I really liked the series on the Greatest Need of the American Church.

Favorite Coffee: (I started drinking coffee back in October)
Maxwell House French Roast - though I just had some Kenya from my Starbucks Sampler - Thanks Crystal - and it runs a close second. I really like the Nestle French Vanilla Creamer too.

Favorite TV Show:
Heroes. This has been the first year that I can remember watching so little TV. Our life is so crazy now that we don't follow any particular show anymore. But I have been following Heroes online. I think I'm addicted.

Favorite Album:
United We Stand - Hillsong United. This one's not even close. I love Hillsong United and I can still listen to this album over and over. I still think that in Heaven everyone will have an Australian accent.

Favorite Moment:
I'm afraid this one's a tie. When Nancy asked the Lord into her life on Christmas Eve, that had to be one of the great moments of the year.

The other moment that comes to mind was an evening service at Camp. The evangelist preached a tremendous message on forgiveness and after the message we sang Kristian Stanfill's version of Jesus Paid it All. To hear about 80 kids singing "O praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!" was an amazing experience I will never forget.

Favorite Scripture:
The Lord's Prayer. It changed my life. I don't think I'll ever be the same. Hallowed Be Thy Name is how we should all be praying.

You Gotta Hear This

I'm going to try and start posting new music that I find on Tuesdays. I'll also try to post the set that our praise team did the previous Sunday. If you have something new that you really like, please let me know about it. I love to share great music.

For the first Music Tuesday - I'm already cheating. I haven't bought the CD, but I listened to the samples on iTunes and listened to the song Yesterday, Today, Forever by Vicky Beeching on Youtube.



Set List for Sunday Morning December 30th:
Come, Now is the Time to Worship
Holy is the Lord
How Great is our God
We Fall Down

Sunday Night:
Trading My Sorrows
Love the Lord
Shout to the Lord
Lord I Give You Me

Bless Back Continues

This has been amazing. Yesterday at church one woman shared her Bless Back story. Her family used their Bless Back money to make pies and then deliver them to others. She delivered a pie to her sister whom she hadn't seen in a year. They had been having a disagreement, but her sister welcomed her in.

I think the most exciting thing to happen from the Bless Back Challenge is how everyone is looking for an opportunity to serve. I'm wondering why we didn't do this sooner. :)

You can read all the stories on the Bless Back Page.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

I Made It!

I know everyone is pretty leary about setting goals and New Year's resolutions and all that. But back in November I set a goal to create 30 posts in the month of December. And this is post #32. Yeah!!! Sometimes you actually can keep a goal! :)

If you are setting some goals for this coming year, I encourage you - don't quit. I may not keep up the pace that I have set in December, but I hope to post more than just 2 or 3 times a month. I hope to keep on pace for about 1 per day. If you have a blog, let me know. I always love to read what other people are thinking.

Happy New Year!

Through the Bible in One Year

I think I'm going to give a go at reading through the entire Bible in 2008. I found an excellent tool to help me with this goal. If you already subscribe to some blogs or rss feeds, you can actually have your daily scripture reading delivered to you by RSS. (I think you can also have it emailed if you like that better. )

I think I'm going to try the ESV. Here's the feed for that one.
http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/share/rss2.0/every.day.in.the.word/

If you want to try a different translation check out
http://www.biblereadthrough.com/readthrough/index.cfm


I'll keep you updated on how this turns out.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Let's Get Together

Today I am reading from Romans 15

5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

One heart. One mouth.

This is what we should strive for - unity without the loss of truth. This isn't always easy. Everyone has an opinion, even me! But the Lord's word reminds us to work together for His glory.

Lord, help me to set MY feelings aside for YOUR glory.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Friday is for Photos

I gave out my nice seasonal shot last week. This shot is way out of season, but it was the first one that I came across while looking through my recent photos that I really liked. This picture was taken at the Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur, IL.


The Weak Faithed Vegetarian.

I know you were hoping to read some great article about Vegetarians, but this idea actually comes from Romans 14.
2 One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.

Paul uses this chapter to remind us that we are not to cause our brother to stumble. I like to sum up this chapter with the idea of principle vs. preference. When something is a biblically founded principle, we need to stand firm on that issue. But when something is a preference, we need to allow some latitude in how that particular matter is carried out and viewed. Of course the problem is determining whether an issue is a principle or a preference. This is where the third "P" comes into play - prayer.

My favorite verse from this passage is verse 17...
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

Lord, help me to focus on the most important things. Let my life be about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It's Not Easy Being Green.

No offence to Kermit the Frog. I am a big Muppet Fan. But that's a post for another day.

I was able to have a good discussion with some of my wife's family over the holiday's concerning the topic of environmentalism and Christianity. Here is the blog article that really got me to thinking.

I imagine we all could do a little better as far as it relates to being good stewards of this planet. My concern is how much emphasis should we place on the environment versus the souls of our neighbors and others around the globe.

I'm considering starting with some small steps to make our house a little more environmentally friendly, but I sure don't want to major on the minors here. I still think that there are bigger issues at stake. I don't want to place my focus on the temporary when I know it should be on the eternal. I'm sure that God is pleased when we take care of the resources he has left in our care.

But I never want to value a bear, or seal, or whale or tree over the soul of a human being.

I think this issue is going to take an increasing place of prominence in the evangelical church. I think it won't be long that instead of speaking out on abortion and homosexuality, the "evangelical" church will be speaking out on environmental issues and obesity.

If you have a take on this issue, I'd love to hear it.

You Should Be In Debt

"You should be in debt." Bet you haven't heard that one too much.
Romans 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

Actually the scriptures say that we should not be in debt except the debt we have to love one another. It's amazing - if we will keep this one commandment - to love your neighbor as yourself - we'll actually end up keeping the whole second half of the ten commandments.

So whom do you owe?

Lord, help me this week to continue paying on my debt to my neighbors - those you have placed in my path.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Best Christmas Present Ever!

I think I may have received the best present ever last night at our Christmas Eve service. A friend of mine who has been coming to our services for quite a while gave her life to God last night. We didn't have an altar call, but she came forward to the piano bench after the dismissal prayer. She had been "fighting" for a while and last night she decided to give in and follow Christ. It was a fantastic close to a good service and a good year.

Thank you Lord for working even when we're not always paying attention.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Do it Again!

This video clip has provided tons of entertainment for me and my son. We also showed it at Church Sunday as a reminder to "get out of the boat." Usually when you take a faith risk - you are so rewarded you want to do it again. This video really demonstrates that idea.


More Bless Back


I was excited about spending my 5 dollars and prayed and contemplated what to do. My first idea was to buy some of those self-heating hot chocolates from Wal-mart and then hand them out to construction workers along with a "Be My Guest" invite card for the church. Unfortunately, Wal-mart was all out of those hot-chocolates. (If I get some time, I'll post about how they started my coffee addiction.)



So for my second idea I got to thinking about the people that have to work Christmas day. (Wouldn't that be a bummer!) So I decided to try and get together a goodie basket for our local Police Department for those guys and gals who would be working on Christmas day. My son hadn't figured out what to do with his $5 yet, so he decided to join in. We had a lot of fun just going around to local businesses and trying to see who else wanted to be part of this project.

Our first success story was the local CVS. They girl at the counter asked what we needed and what we were doing this for and then she donated 2 2-liters of soda. That may not sound like much to some, but we were so excited that someone was willing to help, it was a lot to us.

Our next success was Produce Plus. They gave us some home-made goods. We were thrilled. We then ventured to some of the bigger stores in town, but they had a lot of paperwork to fill out. We filled out most of it, but never heard back from them. I'm guessing they had probably already given away their budget for the year.

We then went to dollar tree and this wonderful manager told us she would get together some baskets for our project. We were thrilled! Finally we hit up a couple of Friends - Mr. Purcell & Mr. Smith to add to our project and my wife added a little more.

So today we headed back to the Dollar Tree, not sure what to expect, and they joined together with the Shoe Department to purchase a HUGE meat tray and bread. My son and I had decided that we would spend most of our cash at the store that donated the most towards our gift. So Dollar Tree won! It was fun to watch my boy as he loaded up the cart with $1 items. We had a ball. We came back to church and put together our letter and our Christmas Card to share who all had participated in our project.

All together, I'd say we turned our $10 into about $100 worth of goods for our Christmas Surprise. We had called ahead to the Police Department and found out there were 8 officers working Christmas day. So we feel like we had a pretty good supply of snacks for their Christmas.

I talked it over with my wife, and I think we may have started a new Christmas Tradition. We hope next year to find someone else who has to work on Christmas Day and find some way to be a blessing to them.

Merry Christmas!

And a big thanks to the churches who helped with the Bless Back idea.

Occasionally Generous...

When I was preparing for the first "Bless Back" message I came across this verse from 2 Corinthians 9
11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

The phrase that keeps sticking with me is that God doesn't want us to be occasionally generous - he wants us to be generous on every occasion.

My prayer this time of year is that God would help me to not just do something nice every once in a while, but this would be a habit. After all, He has blessed me so that I can Bless Back!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Fear God, Honor the King.

As I read Romans 13 today, I'm reminded to honor and respect those who are placed in authority over me.
Romans 13:7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

But something always comes to mind when I read verses like these. I am supposed to honor those in authority - but I am to fear the Lord.
1 Peter 2:17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

God, please help me not to be afraid of anyone but you. Let me live a life free from the fear of man.

Google Reader

Enjoy reading blogs, but hate going to everybody's page to check and see if they have posted anything new? Google Reader may be for you!

Some of you may happen to understand all of the stuff about RSS feeds, XML, ATOM, etc... But for the rest of us - there's Google Reader. I'm sure there are lots of good blog readers out there. But I really like google reader because I can log into different machines and still get to read my current blogs.

I think you need a Google account to use reader - but don't worry, it's FREE!

If you want to keep up on certain blogs, log into the reader and then just add them to your list of blog subscriptions. Then whenever you go to Google Reader, you'll get the latest posts all in one place. I love it!

Friday is for Photos

Here goes nothing...

I like to follow Scot McKnight's Blog - Jesus Creed. He has something called "Friday is for Friends." He's an avid reader and does lots of book reviews. I'm a terrible reader, but I love to take pictures. I think what I'm going to try is to post one of my own pictures each Friday. We'll see how long this lasts. But hey, it's worth a shot.

So here goes the picture for today... (If you click on it, you can get a full res shot)

I shot this picture while shooting Christmas lights at a friends house. I love the lights and the little bit of snow. Hope you enjoy it.


and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy & Sad?

Can you be both happy and sad? This seems where I find myself this week. I'm still in Romans 12 in my devotions today. And this verse is the one that pops out to me.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

This is a time of year that I do a lot of rejoicing. I know for some the holidays are sad time, but for most they truly are the "Most Wonderful Time of the Year". I am looking forward to spending time with my family and my kids and hopefully I'll get to see a few nieces and nephews as well. I love rejoicing together. We just love to be together. The Lord has been so good to our family.

But this past weekend my wife lost her Grandad. It has been very hard, partly because it came as a shock. He was in relatively good health. When I think about my wife's family - I hurt and cry because this is so hard on them. Grandad was so important to so many.

I think the Lord tells us to rejoice and mourn - because it's one way of turning attention away from ourselves to others who need to be loved. And I think he also tells us this that we might connect with people who are far from God and bring them closer to Him.

Lord, give me grace to rejoice and to mourn and to even do both at almost the same time when you call me to. Thank you for putting people in my life to connect with. You have been so good to me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Me and More Me.

Why is it that God's word just hits you right in the stomach sometimes. The passage I'm reading in my devotions has already been used by God in my life to draw me close to him. It's some of the most practical advice for pleasing God that is given in all the scriptures.
Romans 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

When I was in college God used this very passage to break me and bring Revival to my own soul. It has always been precious to me. But this morning as I read it, I reflect on some words from the message yesterday from Phillipians 2:3
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

I'm reminded of my greatest weakness. The love of myself above God and above others. It's my constant battle. I DO want to love God above all things. I DO want to love my neighbor as myself. I pray almost daily that my children will love God more than anything else. But it's amazing how ambition and pride, and sometimes just plain pity can creep in.

Lord, please help me to honor others above myself. Please let it start within my own family and help me to truly lose sight of everything else but the Hallowing of Your Name and the Glory of Your Kingdom. I'm fighting, but I've got to have your help.

Bless Back!

Talk about a blessing! It is so amazing how God's Word is continually confirmed. Yesterday at our Church was Bless Back Sunday. We invited our people to be part of the Bless Back Challenge. Everyone who attended services yesterday - and believe me with all the ice and snow it wasn't easy to get there - received and envelope with a small blessing of $5 inside. One person received an envelope with $100. They were challenged to use their blessing to share the love of Christ within the next two weeks.

Psalm 67:1-2 was our key text:

1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, Selah 2 that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.

We are hoping that our blessing will be used to make God's name great among all nations, starting right here in our own community. We encouraged people to treat their "blessing" as a talent. And to pray that it might be multiplied instead of buried in the ground. (Matthew 25).

As I receive stories I will be posting a few on this blog and the rest at www.pennsweb.com/blessback.htm

I have already received a fantastic story and I had to share it.

One of the ladies in our church had an idea for her $5 almost as soon as she received it. She told me that she had to pray about it first, but she was very excited. I received a call this morning about her blessing - and I was blessed just to hear how God was already at work.

This lady went to her work place and was very concerned about one of her co-workers. This particular co-worker had been through a rough period in her life and yesterday seemed to only add fuel to the fire. She had very little income for gas and for food, and to top it off she received two traffic tickets. We've all had those moments where we wondered if it could get any worse. Well, our church friend found out about the need and shared with some of her co-workers her Bless Back Challenge. Through the generosity of other co-workers they were able to raise $115 dollars and some groceries for their friend in need.

I was blown away!

Once again it's amazing what God can do with little if we will give it to him. Please continue to pray for this situation, that this dear person will be able to find the grace of God in the midst of her hurting. And stay tuned for more Bless Back stories.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Exercise Your Strengths or Improve your Weaknesses?

What is a better use of your life? To do what your good at or to try and be better at the things that you're not so good at?

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.


I often find myself comparing myself to other pastors. Why isn't our work growing faster? Why don't I speak as well as that pastor does? Should I visit the sick more often or spend time in study? Should I work on the web or the blog or head up a service project?

I think passage is a good reminder that the church is a body. We have different parts and different gifts. We need to let people with different gifts be different. And we don't need to feel guilty when we don't possess someone else's gifts.

In Memory of Bill Hayes

Today has been a pretty rough day. My wife's grandfather passed away this morning. He was a tremendous man. He was a great father and grandfather, and a devoted husband who has taken care of his wife and made good on the promise "for better or for worse." My wife's grandmother has been homebound for many years now and Grandpa was faithful to her all those days.

He was also ornery. One of my favorite sayings of his was "Different Prices, Different People, Different Days." If you showed up to buy something, it might just depend on how he was feeling - and more important - how he felt about you as to what price you would get. He never liked being told what he was going to do - especially by the government. He had great taste in TV shows. He loved WKRP and Andy Griffith. He had high standards. He wanted things done a certain way. And he would work with you until you did it "right."

He loved to talk about theology and politics. He always had a story and a joke on hand. This life just won't be the same without him.

We miss you Grandpa. We hope to see you soon.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Politics Anyone?

I'm not much in to politics, but I found this Candidate Match Game to be very interesting. Check it out and see what you think.

What does it say about you when your "Top 3" are split between Democrats and Republicans?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Whoops! I Missed that Call.

Have you ever made a prediction only to end up looking like a fool?

Here is a quote from Bob Jones to Billy Graham when Billy was debating about leaving Bob Jones College.

“Billy, if you leave and throw your life away at a little country Bible school, the chances are you’ll never be heard of. At best all you could amount to would be a poor country Baptist preacher somewhere out in the sticks.”

-- Seasons of Refreshing -- page 250 -- Keith Hardman


Of course, Billy did leave and the rest is history.

In View of God's Mercy

"In view of God's mercy" - that must be one of the most difficult statements to fully appreciate in all of the scriptures.

Romans 12:1-2 says
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

How wide is God's mercy? How far reaching? I can only understand a glimpse of it, and it is more than I can bear. I deserve the pit of Hell. I deserve punishment for my transgression. I deserve justice - but I don't want that. Instead, God gives me mercy. He sends His son. Jesus dies and He takes my Hell and my punishment and my "justice." God gives me mercy.

In view of this - what could I ever hold back from God? Nothing. And that is the exact point of this passage. In light of what God has done for us, how can we keep anything from Him? We must give him everything and pray that He would use it to accomplish His good, pleasing and perftect will.

Lord, Thank you. I don't know what else to say. I'm in awe of your mercy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

To God Be the Glory

I was talking with my brother yesterday and he expressed his awe about this passage in Romans. It was such a blessing to him and yet it was almost impossible for him to put into words what it meant to him so that he could share that blessing with others.
Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" 35 "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

If you want to hear this in song check out Andrew Peterson's Appendix A. It's called Doxology.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Simple Truth.

This passage in Romans reminded me of a simple truth. We are saved by grace through faith, we are rejected because of unbelief. This is a constant truth in the scriptures. And it shows up here again in Romans 11:

20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Somebody's Gotta Preach

Reading through Romans some more today, and hearing some of the same ideas from the Lord.

Romans 10:14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?


Preaching is not always popular. Peace-making brings persecution. I think we have to be careful when some want to minimize "preaching" because we're afraid people don't connect with it. Some might say it is an out-dated mode of connecting with people. While I do believe that creative art and drama and music all can do some "preaching" - it's not the same. I believe there will always be a need for people to proclaim the gospel and make plain the scriptures. Because this is how people come to faith. In this same passage Paul says...
17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

We need people to communicate the truth of the Gospel through their lives and their creativity. But we also still need preachers to go forth and boldy proclaim the word and the WORD.

Afraid to Hate.

Big thanks to Jacob Riggs at AFrayedKnot for sparking these thoughts with his post on "How Young Americans View Christianity." After I watched the video clip about the book UnChristian, it really got my mind spinning. I've spent some time this morning looking over the UnChristian Website and I have found a lot of interesting information. I'd highly recommend Christians to read it over. I have a feeling this may be a small group study that we pursue in the near future.

After a quick skim of information, this really stood out to me:
The Perceptions of Christianity from Outsiders age 16 to 29... (I believe this information comes from Barna)

1. Antihomosexual - 91%
2. Judgemental - 87%
3. Hypocritical - 85%
4. Sheltered - 78%
5. Too Political - 75%
6. Proselytizers - 70%

In other words Christians (or at least the term "Christian") have a reputation more for their anger and hatred than their love. I'm sure we need to be very careful about these stats. One of my favorite quotes is:
42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot. :)

But my guess is the general statement that this is what "Christians" are known for is probably true. When I watched the video clip about the book, my mind started racing.

Should we be afraid to hate? I'm not talking about hating people, but I'm sure there are those who would. But aren't there some things we are supposed to hate? And if you hate some things won't it show? Are you supposed to hide your hatred? I guess we are afraid to show our hatred, because it probably shows our hypocrisy. Maybe we are hating the wrong things?

A young soldier in our church when called on to pray almost always prays "Lord, help us to love the things your love and hate the things you hate." And I have to say, Amen! Please don't get me wrong - I'm not calling for people to hate and not love. There must be a balance. But I think that maybe we are headed in a direction of love and no hate.

So I had to remind myself - what does God hate? The simplest explanation probably comes from Proverbs 6:
16 There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19 a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

The reality is that Jesus hates some things. In Revelation 2:6 Jesus says:
But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

I guess what I am thinking is that if we hate some things, it will probably affect how we are perceived. We better be sure that we are hating the right things. We also better be sure we are loving the right things.

I hope Christians - maybe I should say the Church - are known for the things they love and they actions they take for those things. But I think we better also be known for the things we hate. I hope that we won't be afraid to hate, but that we will truly be passionate about the things that God has a passion for.

Lord, forgive me for my own hypocrisy, and let my passion be all about your passion and let my heart be filled with the things you love and hate.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Born Again, Saved, Justified, Christ following, Member of the Way.

Just what do you call someone who is headed for heaven?

Thankful.

Other than that it can get really confusing anymore. Are you born again? A Christian? A Christ-follower? A member of the Way? Have you been SAVED? Justified? Regenerated?

In my last post I was looking at the changing of evangelism. Is the emphasis on who you are - or what you believe. I don't think it was coincidental that my devotions this morning were from Romans 10:

8 But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

The who and the what are both important. How do you know if someone is headed for heaven? Only God knows that. But the scripture lets us know that these people are people who confess AND believe.

I guess to me it doesn't matter much what you call people headed for heaven. I just hope we can see many more of them in our time.

Is Evangelism Changing?

When I was a kid at my home church in Decatur, I remember going on visitation. I remember handing out "God's Simple Plan of Salvation" tracts and one of our leaders being chased down by a German shepherd. :) Basically our goal and hope was that someone would read the tract agree with the information and pray the sinner's prayer.

As I grew older there seemed to be less emphasis on this type of evangelism and more on what was termed "lifestyle" evangelism. Basically we would try to live like Jesus would live and hopefully people would see that we were different from the rest of the world, and they would ask us why and we could tell them our salvation story. Our hope was by seeing that we were different, they would want what we had and ask Christ into their life.

I found this quote today from Out of Ur:
"The old paradigm of evangelism was a transactional sharing of the gospel. I would try to get people to intellectually agree with me. But the new paradigm is different, an approach in which I invite you to walk alongside me, examine my life, and see evidence of the truth, and hopefully there will be something compelling that you see. It's a no-strings-attached invitation to enter my life as I follow Jesus."

-Ken Fong is the senior pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles. Taken from "5 Kinds of Christians" in the Fall 2007 issue of Leadership journal.

Is this any different than what we've been calling "lifestyle" evangelism? I guess the difference is that the emphasis is not on agreeing intellectually, or winning some sort of holy argument, but examining who I am as much as what I believe.

I tend to think the "what" is pretty important. I guess this could be where the church is changing. What do you think?

If you're interested in the changing church culture you also want to check out a great read about 5 kinds of Christians at Christianity today. It reminds us that our culture is changing, but it also emphasizes the need for Biblical Literacy.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Zealous for God

I've been working on the theme for the next year - "Chasing God." Today in my devotions I was reminded that there are quite a few people who are chasing God, but that's not the only thing that matters. You must chase God with knowledge...

Romans 10:1 Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. 4 Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

I think this knowledge is a "head" knowledge AND a "heart" knowledge. I know in some circles people are saying "I need deeper teaching." But what can be deeper than actually applying what you are learning? Yet on the other hand it is not enough for someone to say - "I'm seeking God." How are they "seeking God?" That is the real question. It matters.

Again, righteousness comes by faith. That is the point. We must seek God on His terms and His terms are faith and repentance. His terms are accepting the work of Christ on the Cross as our own and trusting that work instead of our own.

Lord, please help me to chase you, but to do it on your terms.

Monday, December 03, 2007

I Hate Esau.

Tough stuff.

Romand 9:13 Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

Some have used this passage to say that God hates some and has already damned them to Hell. And he loves some and has destined them for Glory. I do agree with that assesment, but I base it upon God's foreknowledge. I know that there is a lot of disagreement out there about foreknowledge. But I think God damns and loves based upon how we respond to Christ. I think that is Biblical.

This whole chapter is a strong reminder to me that not all Israel is Israel and not everyone who is going to church is THE Church and not everyone who proclaims the name Christian or Christ-Follower is truly a disciple.

A righteousness that is by faith.

Lord, help us to walk by faith and not by sight, and not by stumbling over the law or the "stumbling stone."

Get out the Kleenex

Kudos to Kim and Scott for sending this video clip my way. We used it in Church yesterday and it was a powerful reminder of God's love for us and that we can find HOPE in the face of loss.




This is one of those things that really is worth passing along.

"God gave his son too. He understands. He will always understand. He will always - jut run to Him." -- Logan.


Everybody who belongs to Jesus belongs to everybody who belongs to Jesus?

This article - Church "R" Us - was an interesting read. I'm a little concerned with the idea that "I love everybody" because I love the Church. I guess, I'm not sure that all those people that Steve Brown mentions are really in the Church. They all should be loved, don't get me wrong. But I still think we need lines that identify "in" and "out." After all - even Jesus had those lines - Sheep and wolves, wheat and tares etc...

But this quote he attributes to Wesley from that article really got my attention.
"Everybody who belongs to Jesus belongs to everybody who belongs to Jesus."

Some people think our church is weird because we often still use the terms "Brother" and "Sister". But these terms serve a purpose. They remind us that we are family. And that has big implications on how we live. If I view an older man as my Father - I'm less likely to lose my temper and more likely to speak respectfully to him. If I view a younger women as my sister, I'm less likely to view her as an object of desire and more likely to view her as someone to be protected.

This idea of family also means that - yes we often disagree - but we are still family. And we are still bound to love and care for each other - even when we disagree.

I belong to everyone who belongs to Jesus.

Great quote.

Friday, November 30, 2007

B-R-O-K-E-N

After going through the Beatitudes, I feel like brokenness is one of the big holes in our churches today. People - in my observation - just aren't broken over sin or souls much anymore. They are sorry for consequences. They even care for others, but they don't mourn for others. Jesus said, "Blessed are those that mourn." I think when the church gets back to hurting over sin and soul, we will see Revival.

Paul was truly broken in Romans 9...

Romans 9:1 I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel.

Did you hear that? A Penn paraphrase would sound something like this:

"I'm serious about this - God knows how serious I am - I am broken. -B-R-O-K-E-N-

If by going to Hell, my brothers could know Chirst - I would go. I want them to know Him. They must know Him!"

When is the last time you were broken? Lord, help us to mourn.

If you want to read more about this passage check out "Damned for the Beloved" from DesiringGod.org

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Condemnation

Condemnation.

What you might expect from someone who was better than everyone else. I don't just mean better; I mean perfect.

And yet...

Romans 8:31b If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Jesus will not condemn us. He will and is interceding for us.

His purpose was not condemnation, but salvation.

John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

Why is it so easy for us to cast the first stone? We are not without sin. Jesus was. And yet again he says "I do not condemn."

John 8:10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11 "No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."

Lord forgive me for every moment that I think I'm better, and that I should bring down judgment on someone else's mistakes and sins. Help me understand what it means to desire mercy and not sacrifice.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Trust Me.

Trust Me. That's what God is saying to me from Romans 8:28-30.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

The whole end of chapter 8 is so uplifting, but it can also be very challenging.

God is working good... My nephew dies.
God is working good... My cousin has cancer.
God is working good... My good friend is struggling just to get by.
God is working good... I can't seem to do anything right.

God is making us into the likeness of Jesus. He will accomplish this task. Here's where the 'trust me" part comes in. I don't understand so many things. Some of them can hurt like crazy. Why does God allow them? I'm not gonna go into all the theological ramifications of God & Evil. But practically speaking, it's just plain hard to deal with sometimes.

The hope goes back to that "Glory Revealed" thing. The present suffering - it doesn't compare. God says, "Trust Me."

I guess what I'm saying this morning is "I'm trying." I believe, help my unbelief.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Glory Revealed...

No - this isn't a post about the album - though I would love to hear it sometime. :)

Tonight I'm reading Romans 8:18-21 and listening to Crowder singing "Stars" and "How Great".

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

If only I could get a glimpse of what is to come. The Glory to be revealed. Creation will be liberated and so will we. Do I really grown for my adoption as a Son and the redemption of my body? Paul was so hungry. Oh I wish that I would be so consumed with the beauty of Christ that I would hunger like that.

How Great Your Love for Us, How Great our Love for You that Grace would Cover Us. What a Glorious Day!

Afraid of Nothing but God.

It's easy to fear. Fear often surrounds us. But this verse in Romans 8 really encouraged me about this.

Romans 8:6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;

When the mind of the sinful man steps in, we begin to live in light of death instead of life. We live out of fear. We fear dying. We fear people's opinions. We fear everything and instead of risk-taking, we crawl into our shell of fear.

If we have the Spirit our mind should be about life. Real LIFE!. Eternal Life. Peace that surpasses understanding. Pray that the Spirit of God would control your thinking, and that you would be afraid of nothing. Nothing but God that is.

Lord, please forgive me when my fear controls my life rather than your Spirit. You have been so gracious to me!

P.S.
After posting this item, I found a great story that sums up the point. You can check it out here...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Powerful Video Clip - Lifehouse's Everything Skit

I saw this one last week and it has really stayed in my thinking. You can click an view the video here or watch the embed below.


2 Incredible Quotes

Two quotes that really got me to thinking today...
"Fidelity is a virtue; fidelity as an act of self-justification is obnoxious." -- Scot McKnight. http://www.jesuscreed.org/?p=3056


"Excellence in the Church is not a means to an end, it is an act of worship." -- Steven Furtick. http://www.stevenfurtick.com/elevation/god-deserves-excellence/


Pretty powerful stuff. I think I've been around some folks, and I myself sometimes have used fidelity as an act of self-justification. We have been faithful to point out the flaws in others that we might look better -- that people might know we are in the right. I think the Biblical picture of this is the Pharisee. Most of us would decry anyone who would label us this way, but when we speak of purity without love and pointing to our own righteousness, this is exactly the label we deserve.

This second quote was so good I did a quick check on google to see if it was original with Mr. Furtick. As far as I can tell, he's the first one to word it this way. I love this idea. Excellence isn't a program to reach more people and get more money and be more efficient. Excellence is an act of worship! Think about that one for a while. The cathredal that took 300 years to build -- not a statement of the glory of man, but an act of worship given for the glory of God. Demanding excellence in every aspect of church life can be a good thing when it is not a goal for building a better business, but when it is viewed as an act of worshipping the Almighty.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Does God Accept Dirty Money?

I've always felt that if somebody won the lottery and wanted to give some money to the church, or if someone had earned money by "questionable means" and gave some of that money to the church, that it could be accepted. After all, it would be taking money from a possible "bad" use and using it towards the kingdom. And isn't the love of money the problem, not money itself?


Well, I came across a scripture a few days back, and it's been working on me.

Deuteronomy 23:17 No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute. 18 You must not bring the earnings of a female prostitute or of a male prostitute into the house of the LORD your God to pay any vow, because the LORD your God detests them both.

God didn't want the gift gained by sin to pay any vow. If God didn't want gifts given by any sinner, I don't think there would be any money in the offering plate. But this text makes me question the idea of accepting "dirty" money in the church. I think there are still more factors to consider, but I brought this whole thing up because of what this passage made me do.

This text made me question my opinion and submit it to the truth of scripture. How many "Christians" today are living contrary to the word of God because they "feel" this or that is ok for them. I've actually heard of people saying "I don't care what the Bible says" here is what I think or feel about this or that.

This passage reminded me that no matter how old I get, or how much information I take in, I must always yield my opinions to the Lord's truth.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Weekend at Bernie's and Time Management.

Do you ever have a day or an hour that you wish you could take back?

A couple of months ago, my daughter and I were up late and I saw that the movie "Weekend at Bernie's" was going to be on the tube and for some reason I remembered this movie to be hilarious. So I thought we'd watch it. I kept waiting for the funny parts to come. And waiting. And waiting. My daughter didn't think it was all that funny either. I'm guessing I must have been unbelievably tired the first time I watched it and maybe it was one of the moments when anything would have been funny.

Yesterday at church we started the seven deadly sins. The first sin we examined was sloth. It's contrasting virtue is diligence and we spent quite a bit of time looking into the idea of making the most of our time. And now when I'm discussing wasting time - I simply refer to my "Weekend at Bernie's" experience. Two hours of my life, gone forever. We were reminded to live diligently and passionately. I would encourage you this week to make the most of your 24 each and every day.

Romans 12:11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It's MY MONEY!

Do you ever feel like you give God 10 percent and you get to do what you please with the rest? I have felt that way. Verses like these in Deuteronomy say something different...


Deut 8:17 You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.


Truth is, without God we have nothing. He gives us the ability to produce wealth. Every penny we have is only by God's grace. So why wouldn't we give it back to Him with joy?



I never want to come across as hungry for money or as begging people as though God doesn't have the resources to take care of His purposes. But lately I feel as though I have shyed away from talking about money openly with God's people. And it really shouldn't be something that we fear. It's all His anyway.



Lord, help me to give with the same joy that I have when I receive your blessings in my life. My I never forget that it's all yours.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Blessed are the Pure

God does it again. When I think there is no other way to understand a certain passage, God enlightens me again. Purity. What do you think of when you hear this word? Clean. Absence of dirt, filth, etc... What does a pure person look like or even a pure heart?

God rearranged my thinking once again yesterday. Purity is not just about being clean it is mainly about having a single mind. It is about being focused on one thing. That one thing is God. What's the greatest commandment?
Matthew 22:37 Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'

Notice the "all" in the above verse. Purity is singleness of heart and mind.
James 4:8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Notice the problem with the people who needed purification -- they were double minded. You can't be pure if your focused on God and something else. You can't serve both God and money. You can't serve both God and anything. You can only serve God if you want to have a pure heart. Stay focused. Keep your heart fixed on Christ.

Here's a quote from someone whose heart was hungry for God...
Psalm 57:7--"My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed" -- David
.

Thank God for Mercy.

In my devotions this morning...

Deuteronomy 4:29 But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him. 31 For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath.
I'll never understand it, but I'm so thankful for God's mercy. His willingness to so often NOT give us what we deserve. He is a gracious and compassionate God. He will abundantly pardon.

Lord, help me seek you today with all my heart and all my soul. Help me to never stop chasing you.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Faith Works

I started my devotions in Deuteronomy today. And then something really hit me pretty hard. Faith works. I think sometimes when I speak of imagining faith I think about stepping aside and watching God put on a show. But when we look at the scriptures faith often involves someone taking a risk. Someone taking action.

In Deuteronomy 1 we see God's promise - to give Israel it's own land - would only come to pass when the people were willing to act in faith. Their fear and their lack of faith in God prohibits them from taking hold of God's promises. Maybe they thought God was going to send them the deed in the mail? He expected action on their part.

Ultimately, God would do the work. God would bring the walls of Jericho down, but the people still had to take action. They still had to walk around the walls and they still had to fight when the walls came down.

I hope this isn't "spiritualizing" the text too much, but I'm afraid I'm often like the 10 spies. I know what God says, but I'm not sure I'm bold enough to act on His promise. I'd rather just sit back and watch the show.

So think about this...

Peter had to take that first step out of the boat.
Moses had to pick up that snake
Elisha had to throw out the stick to for the axe head
Abraham had to tote his promised son Isaac up the mountain
David had to sling the stones

Just how many of the great examples of faith are also examples of great action. Saints working out their faith with fear and trembling of the Almighty, but also in great boldness. Maybe we should change our thinking just a bit. You've always heard - "Let Go and Let God." Maybe we should be saying "Take Hold and Let God."

Of course the hardest part is knowing whether it is God speaking or just your own ambition. After Peter initiates the idea, Jesus says come. The Lord told Moses to pick up the snake. The Lord told Abraham to carry his son up the mountain. When we are sure it is God speaking, I think it makes it much easier to act in faith.

Lord, help me to discern your will even in the smallest of things that I may act in the boldest of ways when you call. I want to act, I want to take risks for your kingdom, and I want Your Name to be hallowed.

100 Posts.

Can't believe it! I actually hit 100 posts. I guess it's pretty sad when you post about posts! :) Nevertheless, I have lasted longer than I thought I would. So I guess maybe I better post something somewhat worthwhile.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Fascinated with Technology

I'm really showing my geek side today. I'm so amazed with the versatility of XMLand RSS feeds. I finally figured out how to have web pages show the titles - and sometimes the descriptions of different feeds or blogs.

I think this is going to come in very handy for my own email newsletter and other email newsletters that I'm working on. It provides current data without having to change a page. I love that!

Oh well, enough blabbering about RSS.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Numbers...

3000 people brought into the kingdom in one day.
1 godly deacon lying dead near the feet of Saul
185,000 dead Assyrians
4 men lowering their friend through the roof
12 legions of angels at the Lord's disposal
12 apostles turned the world upside down
70 x 7 We should forgive
5000 men fed with
5 loaves and 2 fishes
3 old rusty nails
2 widow's mites
1 way to reconciliation with God

What does it mean to say "It's all about the numbers?" I was reading Steven Furtick's blog on this subject and it really made me think. It really is about the numbers, but I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Let me see if I can express what's been going through my mind. Usually when I hear the phrase it's all about the numbers it's coming from the mouth of one of two kinds of people:
Group 1 - Ambitious people who desire to see great change in their community and who are defending their "success" to group #2. They promote "All about the numbers" as a very good and important indicator of God's blessing.

Group 2 - People who desire to see change in their community who are defending their "failure" to group #1. They use "All about the numbers" with a negative connotation to point out that there is more to godly success than a large crowd, a big budget, and a lot of baptisms.
Numbers can be very helpful. They help us evaluate and understand. Sometimes they cause us to give glory to God. Sometimes they tempt us to glory in ourselves. Sometimes God called for a count. Sometimes Satan did.
1 Chronicles 21:1 Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.
Should we be more concerned about how many "show up" or how many "grow up?"

The problem with numbers is that the big church can feel their methods are justified because of large numbers. "We must be doing the right thing, we have lots of attendance, lots of money, lots of staff, lots of blog hits, lots of listeners to our podcast" and so on.

But all to often the same intense focus with numbers exists in the small church. "We must be doing the wrong things, we're not growing in size, the budget is sinking, we're struggling to get by."

In such a market driven world numbers are everywhere. Businesses, Politicians, School Testing, Athletes, you name it, are all judged by numbers. It is no wonder that the way we look at the local church is no different. I get frustrated with the numbers. I'm frustrated that our own local church doesn't see more decisions, more changed lives, more giving, etc... I'm also frustrated that sometimes I let numbers dictate my "mood" at the church service. I'm frustrated that sometimes I'm so shallow that I look for the riches of the Pharisees and miss the generous sacrifices of the widow.

People Matter because Numbers matter? No. Numbers matter, because people matter.

Lord, let me be excited about numbers that bring You glory and forgive me when I seek praise or add guilt because of my own pride in numbers.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Reaching the Unchurched

I was grateful to be able to visit one of my friends who is starting a new work in Illinois. I was very excited to see what they were doing. Their atmosphere is very casual, but also extremely welcoming. The music was good and the invitation was not a traditional come forward type of invitation, but it was moving and called for committment.

I think some of these things may very well help them reach those that other churches are not connecting with. This church is already doing well and I expect great things of them in the months to come.

I was checking out the blog of Steven Furtick http://www.stevenfurtick.com/ and he had some pretty interesting things to say about growth. I guess one of the interesting things that I find as I listen to some of the church planters is that even though they are doing things in a different way they are still preaching the Bible. They are still putting Christ at the center. Perry Noble is even preaching a whole series on Hell. (He saw 110 people come to Christ after the first sermon by the way) I guess what I am saying is that all of the naysayers and critics (of which I am sometimes the latter) are concerned that with new methodologies the message will change. But what I am seeing is the message is still the same for most of the guys that I am following.

There are exceptions and some of them make me very angry. But for the most part the heart of these churches is the heartbeat of God. They desire to see lives changed by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that God will help them reach their goals and their desires.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Lead Us, Deliver Us

These are the last two of the seven petitions. I think they go together. We should be pleading with the Lord to lead us through testing and out of temptation. We need the Lord to deliver us from evil and the evil one. I think this is one of those areas that we just need to ask, seek and knock. We don't have what we need because we don't ask. I think another problem, is that often times we are so self-sufficient and independent that we don't cling to the Lord as we should.

When we leave the black and white areas into the gray areas we will need the Lord's guidance. When we have to choose between the good thing and the best thing we need the Lord's help. When we follow Him with reckless abandon we will find that this prayer comes more naturally.

Lord help us to follow you at any cost and to depend on you for every day. Guide us and Lead us.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The National Association of Free Will Baptists 2007

Just got back from the NAFWB that was hosted in Little Rock, Arksansas. Our church family had a great time. I was privileged to work with some of the convention staff. They were down to earth and taught me a few things with the time I spent with them. I enjoyed the speakers and especially loved the music. If you want to read more about the convention check out www.onemag.org.

Here is one of my favorite pictures from the week...









Next year is Charleston, West Virginia. Make plans to come!

The Poor in Spirit

We are starting a new series at Calvary. Kingdom Characteristics. We started with the idea of being poor in spirit. We say we depend upon God, but do we live that way? I'm pretty self sufficient. At least I like to think that I am. We pride ourselves in being strong and able and independent. Jesus speaks just the opposite. He is looking for the crippled, the blind, the sick. He comes to give them strength. He uses them for His glory.

Lord help me not to just say I need you, but to truly lean on you for strength with each day that I live.

Forgive Us Our Debts

Forgive Us. I'm pretty good at praying forgive ME. But with this part of the Lord's prayer we are again reminded that sometimes sin is a corporate thing. We need to intercede on behalf of others. When is the last time you prayed for God to forgive US?

Another very interesting thought is presented here...Is your own forgiveness conditioned on your willingness to forgive others? Let's just say it this way - we have been forgiven so much, how in the world could we not forgive another?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Giving Your Very Best

We had another good day of services at church today. We reminded to give God our very best. I showed the "death crawl" clip from Facing The Giants. If you want to check it out click here or check out the embedded video below.



God also answered a huge prayer for me this morning. I am so thankful when God answers a specific prayer.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Again, with the Lord's Prayer we are reminded it is about US, not about ME. We live in a time and place where we rarely need DAILY bread. Most of us have weekly bread and some even have monthly bread. We aren't worried about where our next meal will come from, we have stocked shelves and freezers.

But "Give us our daily bread" is about more than just needing food each day. I've come to realize that this is a prayer to God asking for strength for the day. Strength to do the tasks that God wants us to do. We should pray for God's will to be done, and then pray that God will supply what we need to do His will.

Sometimes daily bread is finances, sometimes it is rest, sometimes it is courage, sometimes it is discernment, but what I've come to realize is that I need DAILY bread. We need DAILY bread. We need to depend upon God daily.

Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done

I should have mentioned this in the last post, but here are the seven petitions:

Thy Name be hallowed
Thy Kingdom come
Thy Will be done
Give us our daily bread
Forgive us our debts
Lead us not into temptation
Deliver us from evil

Notice the first three are all about God and the last 4 concern us. The Lord's prayer begins and ends with the Father. It is good for prayer to begin with God. I'm afraid more often than not, my prayers begin with me. But this is not the model given by our Lord.

Praying "Thy Kingdom come" is maybe the most difficult part of the Lord's prayer for me. It means that I desire God's kingdom above my own. I have often wished that I would accomplish certain objectives before the Lord's return. But praying Thy Kingdom Come means setting aside my goals for the goal of the master.

Praying "Thy Kingdom Come" means seeking God's kingdom on earth here and now. It means seeking out justice for the oppressed and the fatherless. It means keeping ourselves from being polluted by the world. In it, but not of it.

Praying "Thy Will Be Done" is another check on our motivation. Am I praying that God's will be done, or that MY will be done?

The Lord's prayer so far is more about God and less about us. Can you pray this way?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Hallowed Be Thy Name

This phrase, hallowed be Thy Name, is probably the key to the whole Lord's prayer to me. We pray for many things, sometimes we pray for a "good" day or an easy way, or a safe trip. Sometimes we pray for our loved ones or friends to be healed. But when we ask for these things, what is our motivation?

This is the whole key to prayer. We must seek the honoring of God's name. His Glory is our ultimate motivation. There are many Old Testament passages that remind us that we are to be about the glory of God's name. The past week I saw this idea in the story of Elijah and Mt. Carmel.
1 Kings 18:36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again."

Notice again, that this was done so that God's name would be hallowed.
Isaiah 26:8 Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.

This has changed my prayers. I still fight selfish ambition. But I am working on my prayer life that my requests would truly be that God's Name would be Hallowed.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Our Father Which Art In Heaven

I just briefly want to relate some of the things that I learned from the series on the Lord's prayer. It has truly changed the way that I pray.

One of the main ideas that caught my eye was this - never once does the model prayer use the word, I or me or my. Think about that. Try to pray without ever using the words I or me or my. It's almost impossible. Yet that is the model prayer.

The prayer has seven main petitions that I will look at in the next few posts. It begins with Our Father. This brought a few things to my mind...
  • Our, not my, but OUR.
  • Father. This really humbles me as I enter into prayer. God is the Father. We are the sons and daughters. He is to be respected as Father.
  • Father. God is our Father. WOW! Think on that one for just a second. You belong to the creator of the universe. He desires to hear from you.
  • Which art in Heaven. God's ways are higher than ours. He is the God of the universe. I am the little sand pebble on the beach. He knows what is best. He is in control. His perspective is perfect.

So lately as I enter into prayer I find myself starting with Our Father. It helps me remember I'm not alone, I have brothers and sisters to remember too. It helps humble me and yet it encourages me to bring petition to the Father. I try to remember that I need to seek Him. His is the only way.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Whew! I made it through June.

If you'll notice the dates between the last blog post and this one you'll see that I have missed an entire month. June was crazy! Vacation Bible School, Camp Hope, CTS Fund Raisers, Baseball, Basketball, and all kinds of other odds and ends.

I must say that even though it was crazy, it was enjoyable. I hope over the next week to blog about the different events in June. The Lord's prayer has so much more meaning to me now. Camp was fantastic! 1 Kings has been a tremendous encouragement in my devotional life. And I have pictures galore - if I can ever get them edited and published.

Stay tuned, hopefully I'll have some posts this week.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Compromise

Compromise. Is it ever right to compromise?

Main Entry: 1com·pro·mise
Pronunciation: 'käm-pr&-"mIz
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, mutual promise to abide by an arbiter's decision, from Anglo-French compromisse, from Latin compromissum, from neuter of compromissus, past participle of compromittere to promise mutually, from com- + promittere to promise -- more at PROMISE

1a: settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions 1b : something intermediate between or blending qualities of two
different things
2: a concession to something derogatory or prejudicial

1a happens all the time in marriage. Mutal concession. In my opinion, this is usually a good thing.

What about definition 2a. Is it ever right to compromise like this?

Let me ask you this question first, then we'll look at the Bible story behind it.

Suppose someone comes to you, seeking God. You pray with them and something very powerful happens. They find God. They now know the God that you love so much. As they leave, they make a small request of your approval. They will be humbling themselves before the icon of a false religion in order to show submission to those in authority over them. But in their heart they will only be thinking of their love toward God.

If you give them your approval are you leading them astray? If you don't give them your approval are you placing too much of a weight on someone so young in the faith?

Here's what Elisha did...

2 Kings 5:17 "If you will not," said Naaman, "please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD. 18 But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this." 19 "Go in peace," Elisha said.
Go in peace? What? If someone asked you for permission to go and bow down to a false god, would you tell them Shalom?

What this says to me is that sometimes things aren't as cut-and-dried as they seem. I believe that Naaman's heart was now given to God. He would not offer and offering to any other God but Jehovah from now on. But out of respect for the king who needed Naaman's strength, he would enter the temple and bow. Naaman asked for permission and Elisha, I believe, Elisha gave it to him.

"Concession to the derogatory" or "mutual concession" - sometimes it's a fine line. With the Holy Spirit and the Word of God as our Guide may we find the discernment to know when to say "Go in Peace" and when to say "You man of God, flee these things".

Wash and be Cleansed

Talk about getting hit right between the eyes. After another enlightening discussion with a good friend, I see in myself desiring to see God move around me. I want to see lives changed and souls crying out their love for Christ in worship, and in obedience.

The problem is this: I think I know how God will do it. Then I don't understand why he doesn't act as I expect. Why doesn't God work my way? So then comes 2 Kings 5. Awesome. Naaman, a great man learns that he can be healed of his leprosy. He is told that the Great God can cleanse him, but he must obey His servant.

Naaman expects that God will allow the prophet to wave his hand over the spots and he will be immediately healed. That's how God works after all. We all know that. But what does the prophet do? He tells Naaman to go take a bath in the Jordan river, of all places. Naaman is irate. Why would He do it this way. I won't stoop that low. Thankfully his servant has some sense. If God told you to do some great thing wouldn't you do it? Surely, is the obvious answer. So if he asks you to wash and be cleansed why not do such a simple act?

Here's the scripture...

2 Kings 5:8 When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: "Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel." 9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha's house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, "Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed."

11 But Naaman went away angry and said, "I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn't I wash in them and be cleansed?" So he turned and went off in a rage.

13 Naaman's servants went to him and said, "My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, 'Wash and be cleansed'!" 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.


I'm so like Naaman. God, I need your help. I want to change my community. I want to see lives transformed by the power of your gospel. Everybody knows you use (Revival Meetings, Celebrity Speakers, Fancy Outreach Cards, Servant Evangelism Events, Crazy Gimmicks, A slick Children's Ministry, a fabulous Youth Pastor, Evangelistic Drama, a Good Band, a Good Choir, put the latest church growth strategy in here) to change lives and change communities.

So what does God tell me to do - pray the Lord's prayer. Yep. That's right. Our Father, who art in Heaven. Hallowed be THY name. THY kingdom come. THY will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Then he has me read 2 Kings 5. If I told you to do the "great" things wouldn't you do them? So why not spend time in prayer like I ask you. Trust me.

Our Father. Please, help us to trust you. Help us to dip in the muddy Jordan even when we wonder why you would work that way. Let us not desire to succeed. But desire to do your will, O God.

Long Time No Blog

I was afraid this would happen. At least I lasted longer than I thought I would at first. My blogging has slowed down to a crawl.

Whenever I blog from my devotions I remember so much better. But usually it works out just like tonight. I've had another good scripture reading, but it is 11:10. Lately, I've been giving in and just going to bed, but tonight - with the Lord's help - I'm staying up.

So read the next couple of posts with this in mind - my mind is sleepy, but stepping ahead anyways. :)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Leaving for Love

I started devotions in Ruth yesterday. I am amazed at her love for Naomi. After losing her husband, she chooses to return to Naomi's homeland and forsake her own. Her level of compassion is amazing. When she gets to the fields in chapter 2 to glean the grain, Boaz takes special note of her sacrifice...
Ruth 2:11 Boaz replied, "I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge."

Ruth leaves her parents and her home to come to a strange place and a new people. Boaz encourages her in her faith by praying for blessings to come to her by the LORD under whose wings she has taken refuge.

Lord, let me be willing to show compassion even when it means leaving the familiar. Let me be reminded that I am always under your wings.

Dear Jesus.

When preparing for the "Teach Us to Pray" series, I was reminded about something I had heard a while back. Is it proper to pray to Jesus? If you'll notice the model prayer, we are instructed to pray to the Father. We pray to the Father in the name of Jesus. Is it improper to pray to Jesus? Well here are some other scriptures that might answer that question...

The Words of Jesus… John 14:13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

The Words of Stephen… Acts 7:59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.

The Words of John and the Church… Revelation 22:20He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

So while it is our model to Pray to our Father in Heaven. Praying to Jesus is also biblical.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Local Bar or The Local Church?

The Local Bar or the Local Church?

In which place do people feel more welcomed?
In which place do people think they are less likely to be judged?
In which place are they more likely to find a listening ear?
In which place can they really be themselves?
In which place will they be able to find hope?
In which place will they find more hypocrites?
In which place will they find their needs met?

Just recently we went through a study on the second birth. Regeneration. We were reminded of the words of Jesus, "You MUST be born again." I think this is the difference in the local bar and the local church. The local bar says you can remain in your sins, we'll love you anyways. The local church says, we'll love you by showing you that Christ can lift you out of your sins.

This is such a fine line. We must be accepting of sinners (we are still sinners) and yet we must push away from the sin. How can we foster an environment at our place of worship among our churches that welcomes the sinner, that doesn't judge them, but offers them real hope? How can we create a place where they will find a listening ear and have their needs met? How can we build a place were they can see real people changed by their relationship with Christ?

Our message should say, "Come as you are." But our lives should say "Don't stay in your sins." The heart that has been regenerated has a love for the things of God. This heart begins loving what God loves and hating what He hates. Sometimes I wonder how many "unregenerate" hearts sit in pews week after week.

If all we ever do is allow people to come and feel comfortable wallowing in their sins, then we are no better than the local bar. But if all we ever do is judge and condemn people so they never make it into our lives then we will fail in our mission. Pray that we can find the balance and walk even as our Lord did.

A friend of sinners.

A lover of God.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Creativity and Effectiveness

I recently read something that Rick Warren said at a church growth conference called "Q". You can read it here. (Thanks to Jon Cannon for pointing this out)

Mr. Warren had a quote that has really stuck with me.
"The problem with a lot of churches today is they would rather be creative than effective."

Is this true? I think that often times creativity works WITH effectiveness. This may just be semantics. It really depends on how you define the terms. I have a great appreciation for creativity, and I admire creative people. I also desire to be effective, practical, and solution oriented. I'm not sure there has to be a disconnect between the too.

I can understand that sometimes we may get so wrapped up in making the song beautiful, or the building beautiful, or coming up with the "great" illustration that we can forget to spend time on what works. So what works? What is effective?

My next question is this: Is there any difference regarding this idea by size or philosophy of churches? Are small churches more creative and less effective? Are large churches less creative and more effective? Some would say that small churches are both uncreative and ineffective. Are "emerging" churches - I hate to even use the term because it means so many different things to so many - are they more creative and therefore less effective?

Take a look at this article from Out of Ur and see if it weighs in on this discussion. Let me say up front - I'm thankful for large growing churches - I wish that our local church was growing by leaps and bounds. But I also enjoyed this article because it reminded me that reaching people with gospel isn't easy.

So is it...
Creative = Effective
Creative OR Effective
Creative AND Effective

What do you think?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Intentional.

Intentional. That's one powerful word. Intentional foul. That's two shots and they get the ball back, Baby! It may be the difference between murder and manslaughter. Intent. What the Lord has been reminding me lately is that we should live all of our lives with intent. We should be living on purpose.

It seems like whenever I hear missionaries speak these days they are talking about how they are trying to reach their culture. For the most part they aren't just putting up a sign outside a building and saying come and see what we're about. They are picking places, and people who they think may need the love of Christ. They go to these places with the intent of making a difference in that space.

I'm hoping that I can do the same. This summer I'm going to be working especially hard at living intentionally as it comes to the places where my kids will be playing sports. Pray that I will be able to truly show the love of Christ to the people that I will be meeting.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Too Late.

In my devotions today, I came across this from John 8.
21 Once more Jesus said to them, "I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come."
This verse really hit hard with me. Here you see a group of people who will come to the realization of their need for a savior, but it will be too late for them. They will die in their sins.

How many people are around me looking for a Savior? I pray that I will be a light that they might find him before it is too late.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Mary Vs. Martha

We had a great time with CTS at the Peace FWB Church in Granite City today. If I get some time later in the week I'll try to post some pictures.

One of the kids' dramas really hit home with me. It was about Mary and Martha. The way it was written, Martha was busy doing all of the social justice things. She was helping with the environment and working at an animal shelter - reading the Bible to dogs. :)

What struck me was Martha was portrayed as the "undiscerning" one because she was choosing to help her community over going to Bible Study and faithfully attending Sunday Morning Church. After all, Mary was wise enough to be at Bible Study and Sunday Services.

What does the scripture say?

Luke 10
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

41 "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."


So my question is this...What does Mary look like today? Is she at the Bible Study - or working in the Homeless Shelter? Or some place else altogether? If Mary was here with us today - where would she be spending the majority of her time?

How do you sit at the feet of Jesus?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Mere Appearances...

How often I find myself judging something or someone by mere appearances. You'd think I would know better by now. In John chapter seven, Jesus is dealing with this issue. His own family has misjudged him, the Pharisees have misjudged him, and the people all around him are misjudging him.

After debating with them about Moses and Circumcision he gives this quote...
24 "Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment."

So what is a "right" judgment?

Here are a few ideas...
Matthew 9:13 "But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Matthew 23:23 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

Micah 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

Justice, Mercy, Faithfulness, Righteousness, Peace, & Joy - here are the factors to help make a right judgment. How are we doing?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hope for the Hokies

The passion movement is offering free music in light of the VT tragedy to hopefully be an encouragement. Passion artists - Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, Matt Redman, and Charlie Hall each have a song you can download for free or download all of them.

Just go to www.hopeforthehokies.com

My Favorite Verse in the Bible

I get in trouble with my church family because I'm always saying, "This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible". I'm one of those people with a lot of favorites.

Here's the verse of the Day from Bible Gateway...
1 Peter 1:18-19
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

Question: How much is the worth of a soul?
Answer: How much is the blood of Jesus worth?

God loves us so much. We need to value others as He does. I need this reminder daily. That's why this is one of my favorite verses.

By the way if you want to get the RSS of verse of the day, it's on the front page of www.biblegateway.com

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Picture of Faith

I've had a few special friends in my life who have taught me what faith is by their example, much more than by their words. When folks are in difficult times and they still cling to God's words, that to me is faith. Very simply, faith is taking God at his word. John 4 gives us a similar example...

46Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. 48"Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders," Jesus told him, "you will never believe." 49The royal official said, "Sir, come down before my child dies." 50Jesus replied, "You may go. Your son will live." The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, "The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour." 53Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live." So he and all his household believed.

Notice the phrase - "The man took Jesus at his word and departed". He believed and he acted on that belief. That is faith. I pray that in the midst of difficult circumstances, especially like the ones we have seen this week at Virginia Tech, I will take the Lord at His word.