Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Favorites of 2008

(Here's Last Year's Favorites, just in case you are interested.)

Here are some of my favorites from 2008...

Favorite Blog:
www.smashingmagazine.com - This has to be the most incredible design site for anyone who works with the web. I've really enjoyed it this year.

Favorite Coffee:
I've really started liking Folger's House Blend. But I've also started putting some whip cream and chocolate into some stronger coffee to make an evening snack. Boy is that good.

Favorite TV Show/Movie:
I don't really have a favorite TV show this year, haven't really been keeping up with much. I have watched a little bit of Heroes, but it doesn't seem as good as last year. I really liked the movie Bella and would highly recommend it. You can check it out on one of my previous posts...

Favorite Album:
I loved Gullahorn's album Room to Breathe. You can check out other's favorites by reading the comments at the bottom of my last music post.

Favorite Moment:
Getting my ear pierced. Yep. I know it's strange. But that has to be my most memorable experience from this year. E-Team singing is a close second.

Favorite Scripture:
Psalm 63:3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.

Favorite Photo:
I love this picture from St. Croix.

If you have a list of your favorites, feel free to put a link in the comments. Jeff got me started on this last year. Here's his list.

Thanks to those of you who have kept up with the blog over the last year. Stay tuned, I have what I think is an interesting idea for 2009. We'll see if it actually comes to pass.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bible Reading Plans

It's that time of year again, time to consider a Bible Reading Plan. I have really enjoyed going through the ESV online. Every Day in the Word has been a really good plan. I highly recommend it.

I'm considering some other options this year and Between Two Worlds has mentioned quite a few in this post.

If you haven't tried reading through the Bible in a while, I'd encourage you to give it a shot.

Speaking Up...

I had an interesting encounter at Walmart tonight. A woman in front of me was buying some cigarettes, but she didn't have any ID. She seemed very familiar to me. She began to share the date of her birth with the clerk, and then I was almost positive that I knew her.

Usually at this point, I would just keep quiet and wonder, but for some reason, tonight I was bold enough to ask. Turns out she remembered me, and we went to Junior High and High School together. I wonder how many times I mess up by not speaking up.

Tonight's reading reminds me that I need to speak up for the unborn as well...

Proverbs 31:8 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. 9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Lord, help me to be bold and speak as You lead.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Diamond Hard Hearts

Found this phrase in today's reading...

Zechariah 7:12 They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the Lord of hosts.


Lord, please help keep me from a "diamond-hard" heart.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Music Tuesday - Merry Christmas

My kids picked the winners for this year's giveaway. Congratulations to Jeff T. and Jacob. Your presents should be in your Inbox. Thank you to everyone for sharing some of their favorite music with us.

If you're looking for some new music you might want to check out Patrol's The Best Faith-Inspired Albums of 2008. I think you'll be really surprised what's NOT on this list. These aren't your typical "Christian" albums.

Also, if you have never listened to Sandra McCracken - you seriously need to. You can get her sampler free from NoiseTrade.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Can the Blues Make You Happy?

I'm not exactly sure why, but whenever I hear good blues music, instead of feeling sad, it makes me incredibly happy. I must be one twisted individual.

For your viewing pleasure Mr. Freddie King...

You also may want to check out B.B. King's rendition with Gladys Knight and Etta James.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Are We The New Freaks?

I don't know anything about Carl Trueman, but JT (Justin Taylor) from Between Two Worlds has highlighted a couple of his posts these past few days.

Here's what's scary...

It appears Mr. Trueman and I were watching the same edition of the Rachel Maddow Show and it stirred both of us the same way. He wrote this piece after watching that show. I wrote my own "Troubled" parts 1 and 2 after I saw the show.

I have been really thinking about what I see because of this incident and lo and behold Mr. Trueman has another post, Goodbye Larry King and Hello Jerry Springer, and it is exactly what I've been thinking. He words it so well. I wish I could have done the same. Here are a couple of quotes...

What is becoming increasingly clear is that the day is probably not far off when those who regard homosexual practice as wrong will be consistently presented as the moral, cultural and intellectual equivalents of white supremacists...

You can have the hippest soul patch in town, and quote Coldplay lyrics till the cows come home; but oppose homosexuality and the only television program interested in having you appear will soon be The Jerry Springer Show when the audience has become bored of baiting the Klan crazies. Indeed, evangelicals will be the new freaks.


I think he makes a good case for our response. Be sure to read the end of the article. Basically, we must hold firm to the scriptures and also look at people as people, not labels. Don't become the "hatemongers" that some claim we are.

I hope I'm not depressing some of you out there. I see some great opportunities ahead for the church. I appreciate all of the comments reminding us that we aren't here to please people or put on a nice PR campaign. I am in total agreement.
But what I think we are seeing right before our eyes is the beginning of the "freakization" of evangelical, dare I say biblical, Christianity. We are going to need to prepare our churches for living in this new world.

The Kingdom Comes

I often pray the Lord's prayer.  It has become my guide for prayer since we went through it as a series a couple of years ago.  I pray that the Kingdom will come.  In today's reading, it does come.

Revelation 11:15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” 

Lord, I look forward to the day, when we no longer pray "Your Kingdom Come," because it will have arrived.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Is There Any Reason for Urgency?

The Lord is going to bring judgment, but also wonder and beauty. He isn't indifferent. He will act.

Zephaniah 1:12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill.’

Lord, make me bold in You.

Troubled. Obama and Warren Part 1

I'm really troubled tonight because of all the noise about Obama picking Rick Warren to say a prayer at his inauguration. I'm troubled for different reasons...

(Click here for Part 2)

First, when we finished our study this fall on the book UnChristian we were left with the impression that if the church began to change certain behaviors our reputation among our nation would dramatically improve.

For example: if Christians focused on having civil dialogue with those around us -- even those we disagree with -- people would come to respect us.

If we, the church, started really working for finding a cure for AIDS and/or helping out the HIV community, -- people would come to respect us.

But here is a person (and believe you me I am not a Warren fanatic by anyone's stretch of the imagination) who is doing both of these things. He is encouraging dialogue. Who else got both presidential nominees to come together? He is working hard for HIV/Aids. Which I find truly commendable. And yet what is the opinion of those in our nation?

Homophobe. Insulting. Arrogant. Liar. And these are the nice words.

I'm really not sure that being "civil" and working for HIV/Aids is going to change the rep of the church all that much. I think we must be civil and we need to work for social causes such as this, but I'm not putting my hope in changing the way the world views the church.

Recently, one of my devotional passages reminded me about this:

1 John 3:13 Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.

also
John 15:18"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

I'm not trying to fly the martyr flag here. I'm just being reminded again that maybe the world as a whole will never see the church as people of grace and truth, because of the hardness of their hearts.

Where this battle will be won is at the individual level. Respect, love, service, and dare I say it -- truth - combined with God's Spirit will win the hearts and souls of men and women.

(Click here for Part 2)

Troubled. Obama and Warren Part 2.

(See Part 1 here)

Here's the other thing that is really bothering me... I'm not sure how to handle this tension of morality vs. freedom. "Do the right thing" vs. "Everyone should be free to live as they please as long it doesn't hurt someone else."

I know this is no new question, but how do we live the Christ-like life in a pluralist/democratic environment? I am a sinner, I try to err on the side of grace. I don't want people to feel judged and condemned, I want them to feel loved. I am a Christian, I must obediently live and speak the truth. I can't compromise the gospel and I need to be clear about truth of Christ in my speaking.

I need to serve and to speak. This is a both/and proposition, not an either/or proposition.

If I have an unbelieving friend who is living in an adulterous relationship, can we still be friends? I think I can still be friendly, and loving, and do my best to keep the lines of communication open. I think I can still be a good friend. But will they think much of my friendship if I say that their relationship is wrong?

How can you tell someone that you believe their choices are wrong, and yet have them feel loved in the process? I've had my choices questioned before, and I usually didn't feel "loved." I felt criticized, judged, marginalized, but not usually loved.

This is hard stuff.

This will probably be what divides this nation, if the truth speakers keep speaking.

Is there a way to "stand for truth" and still find respect among civil and reasonable people with dissenting opinions? I would like to think there is. But I'm not sure that respect is always reasonable to expect.

Do you respect a racist? Would you sit down and have a nice chat with your good buddy from the Aryan Nation or the KKK? Maybe you would. Would they want to sit down and have coffee with you?

From what I'm hearing in the media - this is how some are viewing Warren and other Christians who feel that homosexuality is wrong. They think that people with this viewpoint are just like the racists of the 50's and 60's and their views should not be tolerated. They should be scolded, marginalized, and even laughed at, but their viewpoints should not be in the mainstream.

Welcome to the 21st Century in America. I'm afraid Bible believing Christians have a difficult task ahead. Don't expect respect. I don't think it's coming.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Friday is for Photos - Good Intentions

Good Intentions
(Click on the image to see a higher resolution picture)


I took this photo last year at my friends' home. They have a lovely tree, and they were kind enough to let me take some snapshots of their decorations. I worked on this picture just a bit to make it into a Christmas card. Unfortunately, last year I took the picture after they had already sent out their cards, and this year we totally forgot I had taken the shot.

I hate for it to go to waste.

So from me and Mike and Donna, to all of you on the web -- Merry Christmas!

P.S.
Click on the picture - you really need to see this one at full resolution to enjoy it!

Tell Somebody...

Two links that you should check out if you haven't already...

1. Mohler talking about how more evangelicals are not holding to the exclusivity of the gospel.

2. This video of Penn (from Penn & Teller) sharing how someone witnessed to him. You gotta see this one.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Music Tuesday - 2 Free Album Giveaways

I've had a lot of fun giving away music throughout the year, but what's amazing is how many times no one would take me up on the offer. So with all the money I've saved, I'm going to try giving away two album downloads on iTunes.

Of course, as with all giveaways, there is a catch. Here's this one...

This giveaway will be a drawing. In order to participate you need to share what you think is your favorite song or favorite album that you heard in 2008. (The song/album can be from any year, but this year is when you really came to enjoy it.) You will need to post your comments on the blog -- facebook comments won't count.

I will draw from the names next Tuesday, December 23rd, and the two winners will receive one free email gift certificate for $10 from iTunes for the music of YOUR CHOICE. So you can get an album or you can choose 10 different songs if you wish.

Here's my favorite album of the year:

Room to Breathe from Andy Gullahorn. This album isn't his latest, but I just found it this year. (Thanks Jackie!) I listen to a lot of stuff, but I keep coming back to this one.

So what's your favorite album or song this year?


Calvary Setlist for December 14th

Born in Bethlehem
Tell Me the Story of Jesus
Angels We Have Heard on High
Noel

A Week Late

I preached a message on peace a week ago, but somehow I missed this passage.
2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. 3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth;then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. 5 And he shall be their peace.

Jesus didn't come to bring peace, but a sword. And yet, He is our peace. He really is.

Loving What God Loves

We say it a lot in our church...God's will is simple.

Love what God loves and hate what God hates.

Somehow we get mixed up. Looks like we weren't the first...

Micah 33:1 And I said: Hear, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Is it not for you to know justice?— 2 you who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin from off my people and their flesh from off their bones, 3 who eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them, and break their bones in pieces and chop them up like meat in a pot, like flesh in a cauldron.

Illinois is in trouble because our leaders are not loving the good and yet we act like everything is ok. Again, we should have learned this by now.

Micah 3:11 Its heads give judgment for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money; yet they lean on the Lord and say, “Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us.”

Lord, help us to love the good and hate the evil. Help us to cling to Your ways in this mixed up, upside-down world.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Like a Weaned Child...

Just enough independence to realize my dependence upon the Lord.

Psalm 131:1 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3 O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.

Lord, I don't have all the answers. Your ways are so much higher. Help me to quiet my soul in your presence. I need you.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday is for Photos - #24

#24 is my Favorite!
(Click on the image to see a higher resolution picture)

It's been a tough year for the Lady Rockets, but I'm really proud of my "B." She does an amazing job considering the genes that handicap her. She plays hard, and she gets better as she goes.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Shut Up then Put Up

Lately I've been doing a lot of talking. It comes with the "job." Sermons, Bible Studies, Counseling, etc... Sometimes I just get tired of hearing myself talk. I want to see some action in my own life. Then along comes this great reminder:

1 John 3:18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.


Lord, please help me to stop talking so much and start doing more.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

What Will You Be Doing at His Coming?

From today's reading:

1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

Have you ever wondered what you'll be doing when the Lord returns? All of this talk of Advent has me thinking about the Lord's coming. How will I be found? I hope I'll be found watching and working for His Kingdom to come.

I remember Bro. Swain leading this old hymn in my church home back in Decatur, but the words still ring true...

"Oh can we say we are ready brother, ready for the soul's bright home? Say will he find you and me still watching? Waiting, waiting when the Lord shall come."

Lord, help me to watch and work and wait for Your kingdom.

What's on Your Christmas Playlist?

What do you like to listen to during the Holiday Season? Does anyone have a list that's as crazy as this one?

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas - Vince Guaraldi Trio
  • These Are Special Times - Celine Dion
  • Behold the Lamb - Andrew Peterson
  • A Christmas Together - John Denver & the Muppets
  • Christmas With Elvis - Elvis Presley
  • A Jazzy Christmas - Steve Newcomb Trio

I think if I just had some Boys II Men - it would really round out the list.

What's on your Christmas Playlist?

Monday, December 01, 2008

James and the Giant Advent Conspiracy

Yesterday we started Advent for the first time at our Church. I think it is really going to be a meaningful experience for us. I decided to show the Advent Conspiracy video clip just to help people get into the right mindset.


I was not planning on our church joining in on the Living Water project - though I'm glad many are. We are already doing some things locally. After the service yesterday, James - one of the kids in my Sunday School Class - comes up to me and wants to find out what he can do to help the water project.

Then today I get this note on my desk...


No wonder Jesus asks us to have the faith of a little child.

Idea Nation

I'm not sure where this site is headed, but it has some cool possibilities. Check out Idea Nation.




Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fishin' in Heaven.

The other day my son asked me if there would be fishing in heaven. I think this came after the discussion when my wife didn't think there would be deer hunting in heaven. Can you tell that we live in Southern Illinois?

Well in my devotions today, I think I have an answer. There will be fishing in Heaven - if Ezekiel's prophecy is about the kingdom to come...


Ezekiel 47:9 And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. 10 Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea.

I wonder how big the crappie are in the lakes of the New Heaven and Earth?

Enough or Excess?

We just finished our Don't Waste Your Life Series and ended on the topic of the American Dream. As we took a close look at our loves, I was reminded that this question "Enough or Excess?" is not an easy one.

Here's just a sample:
  • How do you know when to eat at your favorite restaurant or instead give that money to Feed the Hungry?
  • How do you know when to carpet your own house or pay to help carpet the church house?
  • How do you know when to pay for that nice get away trip or to pay to send your favorite missionary on a trip where they will be sharing the gospel?

The answer lies in contentment. A person who is truly content seems to make these decisions with thankfulness and ease. I am not this person.

How do you make decisions like this on a daily basis? How do you decide when to spend something on yourself and when to give it away?

I'd love to hear your answers. I do abound in the Lord's blessings. But I'm not sure if I "know how to abound" as Paul did in Philippians 4.

If you want to read a great story about contentment, check out The Rich Family in Church.

HT: Crystal.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sometimes You Still Must Take Off Your Shoes

Is nothing sacred?

For most all of my life I have distinguished between the sacred and the secular. A couple of years ago we did a series called God at Work and I realized that I had been compartmentalizing my life. I had God compartments, and then compartments that were God-less or secular. After listening to some Michael Frost, I decided to try and start seeing God at Work.

I began looking for God in the secular as well as the sacred. And I found that He is there. (No surprise for most of you, but for someone who lived in an evangelical bubble this was a wake up call.)

I was amazed to see the beauty of God outside of the sanctuary. To realize that he could be present in a song by U2 or Coldplay just as much as a song by Tomlin or United. To realize that changing oil could be just as valuable to the kingdom as preaching a Sunday Sermon.

And while I think I'm getting better at seeing God in the secular, it's passages like this one from Ezekiel that remind me that just because God is in the secular it does not mean that He is common.


Ezekiel 44:23 They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.


There are still times we must take off our shoes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Are You Celebrating Advent?

Our church family is going to celebrate Advent this year. As far as I know, our church has never participated in this celebration. As I understand it, this tradition is most common in liturgical churches. I haven't heard of too many Baptist churches celebrating Advent. I have heard of some holding a "Hanging of the Greens" Service, but not much more than this.

I'm just really curious. Does your family or church family celebrate advent? What does it mean for you? Does it help you keep Christ at the center of Christmas?

If you are a pastor that has led your church through the Advent Season, how did Advent help your church and what elements did you find helpful?

How did I miss this one?

I love prophecies about the resurrection from the Old Testament. But for some reason I don't remember this one from Ezekiel 37...

11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”

That's pretty clear evidence of the promise of resurrection. What a day that will be!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Never Satisfied

Why is it that we are never satisfied?

Proverbs 27:20 Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied,
and never satisfied are the eyes of man.


Lord, let us be satisfied in You.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Music Tuesday - Shadowfeet

I heard a song on the radio coming home from church last night. I thought the name of it was "Still Standing." That's the only part I could remember. The voice was beautiful, someone I knew I'd heard before, but couldn't quite place it. So I looked it up tonight on iTunes. Turns out that the song is actually named Shadowfeet. Brooke Fraser is the artist. That immediately answered why I like the song.

Many of my favorite Hillsong United songs - None But Jesus, Hosanna, Lead Me to the Cross - they are all sung by Brooke. Next to Christy Nockels, Brooke may be my favorite female artist. Tremendous voice.

So if you haven't heard it already, you may want to check out Shadowfeet.



Tuesday Giveaway:
First person to reply to this post can get Shadowfeet as an iTunes gift.

Calvary Setlist for November 9th, 2008:
Great and Mighty
Holy is the Lord
How Great Thou Art
We Fall Down

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Our Gracious God...

Our God does not "enjoy" our pain. His desire is for us to turn and live...

Ezekiel 18:23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?...32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”


Thank you Lord, for being so gracious.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Friday is for Photos - Serenity Now

Serenity Now
(Click on the image to see a higher resolution picture)


My daughter and I took a trip to Pyramid State Park last weekend. We did some hiking and a little fishing and just enjoyed spending the day together. There must have been 100 lakes and ponds in this park. If you enjoy hiking and water, you ought to check it out.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Overwhelmed.

Bills.

Elections.

To-do lists.

Kids.

Overwhelmed.

Sometimes life does that. But when is the last time you were overwhelmed because you had been in the presence of God?
Ezekiel 3:15 And I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days.

Ezekiel sits for 7 days because he was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by God.

Lord, I need you. Please help me to see you.

Music Tuesday - Justin McRoberts


The Question isn't are you gonna die - you're gonna die. Will you be done livin' when you do?

Listening to some Justin McRoberts. Another good FREE download from noisetrade.com. The album is Deconstruction. And so far my favorite song is Done Living. You can listen for free over at Rhapsody.

You can check out the video here. Or watch it below.



Tuesday Giveaway:

Are you kidding? You can download the whole album for free from NoiseTrade. :)

Calvary Setlist for November 2nd:
Above All
Are You Washed in the Blood
Trading My Sorrows
Special - One Thing.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Beautiful Frames...of Dust?

A reminder from the Psalmist - even the Sweetest Frames are dust...

Psalm 103:14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Unchanged...

Great song...
Margaret Becker - Unchanged.

Even better scripture...

Hebrews 1:10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”

God, I find such comfort in this truth. You are forever unchanged. Thank you.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sometimes It's Best not to Listen

It's easy to be hard on the gossiper for their loose tongue. But the gossip would be stopped real quick if no one would listen...

Proverbs 26:20 For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.


Lord, forgive me when I keep the fire going.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Land of Images

I know Jeremiah wasn't talking about the good ole US of A, but this phrase still strikes of America to me...

Jeremiah 50:38b For it is a land of images,and they are mad over idols.


The psalmist also has something to say about this...

Psalm 97:7 All worshipers of images are put to shame,who make their boast in worthless idols;worship him, all you gods!

It's amazing how often this happens with this Bible reading program - something from an entirely different passage just fits with how God is speaking in the first passage.

The Violent God...

Something about this verse struck home with me...

Jeremiah 48:10 “Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord with slackness, and cursed is he who keeps back his sword from bloodshed.

The context for this verse is the fury of God's wrath being poured out on Moab for their wickedness. The sword of God's vengeance is being delivered, and cursed is the one who refuses to deliver it.

This verse reminds me that I serve a holy God. He doesn't just demand a good effort. He demands my heart and soul for His kingdom.

Lord, please help me to be disciplined and effective in my work for the Kingdom. But most of all, let my heart be full of passion as I fight in this spiritual war.

Making the Most of Your Meeting

I'm really proud to work with the guys on the Illinois Mission Board. We're pretty far spread out. One member of our board is from Chicago, one from over by St. Louis, and the others in between. It's not easy for us to meet face to face, and it's not cheap either.

But today the guys on the Board took a shot at using Skype for a conference call. The call clarity wasn't bad for the most part. It's not the same as a face to face meeting, but it has a big upside...

1. We saved a ton of time. For most of us meeting face to face means about 4-5 hours in traveling time.

2. We saved money. A normal meeting often costs over $500 in mileage and expenses. The Skype teleconference was free so we saved the mileage expense and we weren't out any money for the call either.

I'm sure that we'll still meet face to face as needed, but this looks like a pretty good solution for meeting and saving some money and some minutes.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sometimes We're Just Stupid.

Why do we forget that God is watching, both for love and for rebuke?

Psalm 94:8 Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise? 9 He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? 10 He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke? He who teaches man knowledge—11 the Lord—knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath.

If God made the eye, don't you think he can see you? If God built your eardrum, don't you think he can hear you? There really is nothing hidden from the Lord.

Lord, help me to live mindful of the truth that you know everything in my heart.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday is for Photos - Fall Color

Fall Color
(Click on the image to see a higher resolution picture)


I enjoy fall colors. This picture has tons of different colors in it, and yet somehow it all seems to go together.

Teaching or Training?

My brother said something to me during our last visit to Grandma's house that stuck with me.

"Is your church teaching believers or training them?"

Are we just doing classroom work, or do we have "labs" too? We need a lot more apprentices and journeymen (and women) in the church. Instead we have a lot of people "stuck in the warehouse."

The warehouse idea comes from a great read from Ed Stetzer called Simply Missional. This is not a short blog post, but it expresses so well how the church should be in the world. I would encourage anyone who is interested in being the church instead of going to church to check it out.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Don't Waste Your Life.

Psalm 89:46 How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire? 47 Remember how short my time is! For what vanity you have created all the children of man! 48 What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah

Lord, time is short. Draw me close and use me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Besides Voting, What are You doing about Abortion?

It is my guess that most people abhor abortion, but perhaps some see it as some sort of necessary evil. I see it as unecessary evil. But with all the rhetoric flying around these past few weeks about abortion and Obama, I'm wondering - what am I really doing to help bring an end to abortion?



Some may say that it is futile thinking to try and "end" abortion. Some probably said the same thing about slavery. But I'm glad that great people took a stand to end slavery and I hope some day that abortion will be ended through the efforts of other great saints.


Abortion is so awful, so despicable, so abhorrent that I have to think it will, indeed, be abolished some day. It is my hope and even my conviction that we will someday regard it as we now regard slavery. We will shake our heads and wonder how we could ever have lived in such a society. Children will learn in school of society's ambivalence to so great an evil and express proper shock and disgust. And I hope and pray that Christians will lead this fight and ascribe all glory to God when the battle is finally won. -- Challies



So what can we do besides push a button or fill in a square on voting days? To me, that's not much. Here's some ideas - I'd love for you to add your own.

1. Pray. (Lord help me here, keep this on my heart and mind. Forgive me for not praying enough about this problem.)


2. Help single moms in your circle of influence. If I understand correctly the stats are showing that abortions are actually going down in the teenage years, but up in other ages. We need to love those who are in need.

3. Help your local pregnancy care center. I can't say enough about this one. These folks are doing so much good on this issue. They need are support however we can give it. Money, baby supplies, counselors, techs, and most of all prayer, we need to resource these people.

4. Show others the value of life. I'm not a big movie watcher, but if you haven't seen Bella you really should. I think it is one of the best examples of how to speak into someone's life about a controversial topic without dragging out the bullhorn. (If you don't understand the bullhorn, let me know and I'll do a post on that.) Whether it's our kids or our co-workers we need to be encouraging everyone about the value of life and about how not to waste it.


5. Consider Adoption. If we say, "What about adoption?" to mothers who are considering abortion, we need to ask ourselves them same question. I know it's not right for everyone, but have we really considered this? I know many of you have considered and have adopted. You are special people in my book!


What else would you add?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Good Days Ahead...

I'm enjoying the Lord's guiding hand now, but I also greatly anticipate what is ahead...

Jeremiah 32:37 Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. 38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.

Lord, thank you for making a way to this glorious day.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Just Making Memories or Ear Piercing--The Hard Way.

I always wondered what it felt like to have your ear pierced, but no longer do I wonder...

This weekend Grandpa Penn came down to take the guys fishing. We got up early and headed out to the lake in the Jon Boat. We really had a great day catching fish and just spending time together.

The weather was great - this was the first good cold fall weekend. The leaves were turning and there was a mist on the water. (That's a picture of Old Kinmundy Lake.)

My son started us off with a nice catch. It was also a lot of fun to see the Largemouth hit Grandpa's frog lure on the top of the water. I even had a lot of fun setting the hook on some Largemouth myself. But later in the afternoon, someone set the hook on me!

That's right - one of my fishing buddies was making a cast and on their back swing caught a hold of my right ear with an Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp Wide Gap Worm Hook. And yes, the way you are cringing right now is exactly how it feels!

At first it felt like someone just slapped me really hard across the right side of my face, but then I quickly realized that something else was attached to my previously undisturbed lobe. Not only that, but about 5 seconds after I realized what had happened, I thought I had a fish on my own pole. At least this time I can claim the "big one got away" because of my new instant piercing.

Grandpa examined his patient and the barb was only partially through my lobe.
You don't pull a barb back out the way it went in without ripping flesh. Instead it must go through - and it wasn't quite through yet. Grandpa cut off the back end of the hook to see if he could push it through. I don't know if he just has a soft heart or if maybe my grimace kept him from pulling the barb through with the red plyers, but he decided against pulling it through himself.

Now my frustration level really started rising. I knew this meant we had to end our fishing day and I would have to go and wait in an E.R. room for probably a few hours. We headed in to the boat dock and just as I got out of the boat my wife called. All I heard from her was laughing. Of course, it really is pretty funny - unless your the one with a new red worm hook hanging from your lobe.

I finally made it to the hospital after we took the boat home and waited - for about 2 hrs. The doctor gave me a shot to numb the ear, and then shoved the hook the rest of the way through and now I have a hole in my ear.


On days like these I'm reminded of one of my Mom's favorite phrases...
"We're just makin' memories."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Amen.

1 Timothy 1:17 To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.

Amen.

Letting Go of God's Promise...

You better check me on this one, but the more I think about it, the more it interests me. Sometimes we need to let go of God's previous blessings. Hananiah has prophesied that in two years, God will break the back of Nebuchadnezzar and set His people free from the King's bondage. Hananiah symbolically breaks a wooden yoke that was on Jeremiah's back. But unfortunately Hananiah was not a true prophet...

12 Sometime after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke-bars from off the neck of Jeremiah the prophet, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13 “Go, tell Hananiah, ‘Thus says the Lord: You have broken wooden bars, but you have made in their place bars of iron. 14 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have put upon the neck of all these nations an iron yoke to serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they shall serve him, for I have given to him even the beasts of the field.’”

Many would suffer who listened to Hananiah's words, instead of the true word from God in Jeremiah. They would be punished for their false hope in God's previous promise. I know that God had promised blessings and cursings, and in this destruction God was honoring those promises, but think of it from the guy on the street perspective.

One preacher is saying, "God will free us from our oppressor. Don't leave this land of promise no matter what the reason. God has great plans for us even still. He will deliver very soon."

The other preacher is saying "God is punishing you for your sins. You need to leave the land of promise and be faithful to me in a foreign land. I will bring you again someday, but for now you need to let go."

Which preacher would you listen to? Can you imagine what modern day America would do to Jeremiah? How dare you say this is God's punishment upon us! God gave us this land, why would he take it away?

(Of course the catch was, Jeremiah prophesied that the other prophet would die in a year - and he did! kinda makes you want to believe him.)

Well here's the rest of the story...
15 “Because you have said, ‘The Lord has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,’ 16 thus says the Lord concerning the king who sits on the throne of David, and concerning all the people who dwell in this city, your kinsmen who did not go out with you into exile: 17 ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, behold, I am sending on them sword, famine, and pestilence, and I will make them like vile figs that are so rotten they cannot be eaten. 18 I will pursue them with sword, famine, and pestilence, and will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, a terror, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, 19 because they did not pay attention to my words, declares the Lord, that I persistently sent to you by my servants the prophets, but you would not listen, declares the Lord.’


Have you ever had to let go of God's promise because of your sin or someone else's sin?

Tough stuff.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Not My Words...

From today's reading...
Jeremiah 23:21 “I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. 22 But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.

Lord, I'm tired of my words. Let me stand in Your council. Give me Your words. Turn me from my evil ways. Let me help your people turn from their evil ways.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Strike the Match

Whenever I read this passage I think of my buddy David, and the way that he felt this verse expressed his desire to preach...

Jeremiah 20:9 If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.


Lord, strike the match in my heart - set a fire in my bones to speak Your words.

Help Me Please!

This has been driving me crazy and I can't stand to keep quiet about it anymore. Maybe I'm just missing something here, but why do "Christians" on the web use the phrase "OMG?"

If I understand this correctly OMG stands for "Oh My God!" - is this correct? If this is correct why do believers use this text? I know that taking the name of the Lord in vain goes way beyond just using his name as a profanity or vanity, but it does include those things as well doesn't it?

Have I lost it? Am I just way out of touch or something?

Tonight I was reading the comments for a Jeremy Camp song, and the first commenter used this text to lead off their praise of his album.

I just don't get it. You don't think enough of God to carefully use His name, but you love "Christian" music?

I've seen this from different youth pastors and youth workers as they share their excitement about something they are posting. Again, I don't mean to bring down wrath on anyone - I need all the grace I can get - but somehow this just doesn't click with me. If I'm missing something or if it stands for something else, please let me know. But if not, please help me teach believers to respect God's name - even if it means avoiding this TLA (Three Letter Acronym) on the web.

Thank you.

Does Your Life Make Jesus Look Beautiful?

We've just entered week 2 of our series "Don't Waste Your Life." I think it is already connecting well. One of the questions we are asking is "What makes Jesus look beautiful?"

Another way to think about this is to ask yourself who in your life loves Christ and how can you tell? Sunday morning I was reminded that what our community needs to see is a church that is really in love with Jesus and one that loves the people that He loves.

Sunday Night we followed this up with a concert of prayer and the Lord continued to cement this type of thinking in our hearts. Please keep praying for this series.

We are hoping to have a special speaker this Sunday, but she has really been battling her health. Please pray with us that if it is the Lord's will she will be able to come this Sunday.

Friday, October 10, 2008

No Earthquakes Yet...

Sometimes it is easy for me to play the blame game along with everyone else. And it is even easier to go into "Eeyore" mode.

"It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily. "So it is." "And freezing." "Is it?" "Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately." -- Winnie the Pooh

But today's reading brings real hope in the midst of despair.

Jeremiah 14:22b Are you not he, O Lord our God?We set our hope on you, for you do all these things.

"All these things" are not just wonderful beautiful things, but they are terrible and difficult things. The Lord is punishing his people. But at least in this instance his people are responding as they should. They are setting their hope in God, because He alone is Lord and our God.

Lord, help us in the midst of economic chaos to set our hope in You.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

We Need More Red Faces...

How can you tell when someone has no shame? They forget how to blush.

From Webster:
Main Entry: 2blush
Function:intransitive verb
Etymology:Middle English blusshen, from Old English blyscan to redden; akin to Old English blysa flame, Old High German bluhhen to burn brightly
Date:15th century
1 : to become red in the face especially from shame, modesty, or confusion
2
: to feel shame or embarrassment


Jeremiah 8:12 Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Struggling to Lead

This past month has been harder than usual on me for some reason. I'm seeing more now than ever the need to develop leaders and to equip the members instead of being the "professional" minster. But it seems to be harder and harder to accomplish this task. Even this past Sunday I was reminded of my inadequacy, but also of the power of God's word and His truth.

This passage from Colossians really connected with me tonight...

Colossians 1:28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.


Lord, help me to toil and struggle with Your energy to present Your church, mature.

Monday, October 06, 2008

A Nation Such as This

I know that America and Israel are not the same, but somehow as I read this passage tonight, I couldn't help but wonder if we are guilty of the same sins, and if we shouldn't expect some of the same punishment.

Jeremiah 5:7 “How can I pardon you? Your children have forsaken me and have sworn by those who are no gods. When I fed them to the full, they committed adultery and trooped to the houses of whores. 8 They were well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing for his neighbor's wife. 9 Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the Lord; and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?

25
Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you. 26 For wicked men are found among my people; they lurk like fowlers lying in wait. They set a trap; they catch men. 27 Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; therefore they have become great and rich; 28 they have grown fat and sleek. They know no bounds in deeds of evil; they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. 29 Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the Lord, and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?”


Friday, September 26, 2008

Where Do We Go From Here?

This passage from Ephesians 5 really troubled me...

3 But immorality (sexual vice) and all impurity [[b]of lustful, rich, wasteful living] or greediness must not even be named among you, as is fitting and proper among saints (God's consecrated people). (Amplified Bible)

Paul says this stuff is not even supposed to be named among those who follow Christ. But in most of these areas in the American church, it appears that we are no different than the world. How do we get out of this mess?

How do we balance the idea that we (church) should be a place for messed up people, with the idea that people who love Christ should not even have vices like these named in our presence. This reminds me of an old post -the Local Bar or the Local Church.

To some extent all of us are messed up. But here I'm reminded that we need to leave the mess. Again our Lord's words about acceptance and repentance from John 8:11 ring out here...
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."

Afraid of the Wrong Things

The economy is a mess, and the war on terror looms, but who should we really be afraid of?
Isaiah 51:12 “I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, 13 and have forgotten the Lord, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, and you fear continually all the day because of the wrath of the oppressor, when he sets himself to destroy? And where is the wrath of the oppressor?

Lord, please forgive me when I fear others more than I fear You.

Friday is for Photos - Needing a Caption

How would you fill in the negative space?
(Click on the image to see a higher resolution picture)


I was trying to see what kind of shot I could come up with today. I know that I can't use this because of the branding, but I still like the shot. What would you type on the side? It looks like it's begging for some sort of title.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Scottish Prophet?

I really enjoyed this quote and the discussion over at Boundless Line.

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage. -- Alexander Tyler (A Scottish professor) - 1897


HT: Boundless.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Show Mercy or Preach the Gospel?

I know...you don't have to choose. D.A. Carson has an outstanding article on this very topic. I'll go ahead and spoil the conclusion for you.

Still, we returned again and again to this pointed question: Granted that we ought to be engaged in acts of mercy, what safeguards can be set in place so as to minimize the risk that the deeds of mercy will finally swamp the proclamation of the gospel and the passionate desire to see men and women reconciled to God by faith in Christ Jesus and his atoning death and resurrection?


1. Realize the difference between the activity of the church as a whole vs the church as individual believers.

2. Preach about Hell.

This one is worth your time.

HT: JT

Music Tuesday - Aaron Keyes - Psalm 62

Hymns are making a comeback. I found this from New Song Cafe on Youtube. This song has a strong melody and it sticks with you. The words are tremendous and I love how Aaron brings in the old hymn O Praise Him.

This song is a "cracker." Watch the video clip - then it will make sense. We hope to be singing this song very soon. I actually have a chord chart that I made in G if anyone needs it, send me a note. What other "modern" hymns have you found that you like?

By the way - Aaron has a bunch of chord charts for his songs and other songs on his website. You may want to check it out.






Tuesday Giveaway
First person to reply can have Psalm 62 as an iTunes gift song.

Winner:
Conway.

Calvary Setlist for September 21st, 2008
Here I Am to Worship
Love the Lord
Worthy is the Lamb
How Great Thou Art

Save Us From Us

From today's reading...

Isaiah 43:11 I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior.

Our God is a jealous God. He alone knows the future and He lifts up and destroys at His desire. He is salvation. Alone. There is no other.

Lord, forgive me, when I think I can be part of salvation. Forgive me for not totally relying upon you. Lord again, make me desperate - make us desperate for you. Save us from us dear God.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Did Hezekiah Play a Strat or a Les Paul?

This past week I've been learning about some of the differences between the Fender Stratocaster and the Gibson/Epiphone Les Paul. I really like the tone of the Les Paul by the way. Maybe someday I'll get to use one on a regular basis.

Tonight I found this passage from Isaiah that speaks about Hezekiah's joy in his life being extended...

Isaiah 38:20 The Lord will save me, and we will play my music on stringed instruments all the days of our lives, at the house of the Lord.

I wonder what kind of stringed instrument Hezekiah used? I'm glad I get to work with a church that likes to hear many different kinds of stringed instruments. (And even a little percussion too!)

What is Permissible?

I'm getting really excited about our upcoming series - Don't Waste Your Life. One of the ideas that John Piper conveys in the book is about the "permissible things." Some people want to know what is permissible. They want to know what they can get away with and still be a Christian. That IS wasting your life. What I want to know is... What makes Christ look like the treasure He really is? That's how Piper words it and it is really starting to resonate with me.

Here's a passage from my recent devotions that works with this very idea...

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Lord, help my life to show what a Treasure You really are.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Requirement for Comment.

While reading another post about voting and pro-life I came across this requirement for posting a comment...

Also, please feel free to comment below. After initially thinking I would not open comments, I have decided to do so. However, I would ask one thing - if you wish to offer a critique of Obama's views on abortion, you must list at least one concrete step you have taken besides voting to end the scourge of abortion in our nation.

While I don't agree with a lot that the writer had to say, I thought his comment procedure was pretty sharp. This could be useful in a lot of situations. Before you can share your opinion, list something concrete you have done towards solving the problem.

I think I have said this before, but it is worth repeating. It's great to vote for what you feel is important, but even better to really invest yourself in helping to bring the "change" that is needed.

I hope that God will help pro-lifers on both sides of the aisle to put an end to abortion, and to bring courage and hope to the mothers who face these situations.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday is for Photos - St.Croix Friends

St. Croix Friends
(Click on the image to see a higher resolution picture)


I've had almost zero opportunities to take some pictures. I going through withdrawals. :) But I love looking through my St. Croix pics. So here's another one of the friends we made while we were there. Brooklyn even used her face painting skills she learned from this event on our own Family Fun Night just a few weeks ago. Thanks again to everyone in the Islands for such a memorable time.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Heroes

No this isn't about the show - though it does premiere next Monday. :)

I have some people in my life who have impacted me greatly. People like my grandpa, Wallace Malone. People like my friend Rick, who has shown me how to love in difficult circumstances. People like Tom Johnson, who has shown me what faith is really about. And I have another one who is teaching me to enjoy every day, every breath, every beautiful moment. Her name is Stacey, and she is my cousin, and I am amazed at her hope.

She reminds me how valuable every day is and how to find joy in each day. You can follow her story at CaringBridge. Check it out, I know you'll be blessed.

Good Days Ahead...

Who can wait for a day like this one?

Isaiah 25:7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Lord, we long for the day when you will swallow up death forever. May your kingdom come.